Ecommerce solutions are designed to help you start, maintain and grow your online business. It’s important to do your research, so we’ve laid out some of the options, to help you pick the solution that works for you.
Running a thriving ecommerce site isn’t all about selling products. You’ll also need to make sure you’ve got the best possible setup for sending and receiving money. It should be easy, cheap and fast - and online providers like TransferWise are here to help.
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Let’s get your new business up and running. We’ve put together a list of 12 ecommerce software solutions and platforms for small businesses - complete with some essential facts and stats you need to know.
For full pricing and details of available features visit the provider's websites. The availability of some features will depend on registration country.
A popular cloud-based ecommerce solution powering around 800,000 online shops worldwide¹, Shopify is specially designed for small and medium businesses. This means that it’s super easy to use, so you can create and customise your online shop and start selling right away.
Based in the UK, EKM is cloud-based and offers a comprehensive ecommerce platform which does pretty much everything you need. This not only means that you’ll get UK-based customer support, but you may also find that the platform is more attuned to the needs and challenges facing UK businesses.
Volusion provides an ecommerce software to over 180,000 entrepreneurs⁸, with most of the same features as its rivals. It’s a cloud-based platform offering built-in search engine optimisation (SEO), mobile capability and intuitive integration with seller sites like Amazon Marketplace and eBay. Volusion is pretty easy to use and most of its best features are built directly into the dashboard, with no need to purchase any add-ons.
PrestaShop is an open-source ecommerce solution offering a free basic plan. While it’s technically possible to run a functional site on the free plan, you are likely to need many of the add-on features – which are chargeable. PrestaShop isn’t as easy as other platforms to set up and you will need to sort and pay for hosting, a payment gateway and other essentials yourself.
Just like EKM, ShopWired is geared towards UK sellers. It’s a great value solution, offering most of the standard features you’d expect from an ecommerce platform at a very reasonable monthly cost. You’ll get a full content management system (CMS), mobile responsiveness and the chance to sell on multiple channels. You can even expand your global reach with ShopWired, as it allows visitors to view prices in their local currencies.
This large, US-based company offers three different products aimed at different enterprise levels. As well as a solution for larger businesses and one specifically for B2B and wholesaler firms, BigCommerce offers a full-featured platform for small businesses wanting to build an online shop. You can expect comprehensive, fully hosted solutions with all the bells and whistles of other top providers included. Set up is easy and quick, there are no transaction fees and there’s a trial period if you want to give BigCommerce a test run.
Same features for PLUS plan: USD 71.95 /mo and PRO plan: USD 224.95 /mo.¹³
WooCommerce is one of the most popular and widely used ecommerce solutions on the web. As of 2015, around 30% of webshops were powered by it.¹⁴ There are a couple of reasons for its popularity – firstly, it’s built on WordPress which a huge number of websites run on, making it quite easy to integrate. It’s also free (with plugins and extras available to purchase if you want to extend functionality) and designed to be user-friendly. You will need a little technical knowledge if you want to customise your online WooCommerce shop, but it’s otherwise quick and easy to get started.
Magento is a free open source ecommerce solution for small businesses and start-ups, although the company also offers an expensive advanced solution for much larger businesses with more complex needs. We’ll focus on the free, open-source version here. It doesn’t cost a penny to start using it, but you will need to pay for specialised Magento hosting.
For some small businesses and entrepreneurs, there may not be a need to invest in a full-scale ecommerce solution. Instead, sites like Etsy present an easy, affordable solution. It’s a marketplace for handmade, unique and custom art, crafts and vintage items, so it’s the perfect place for artists and makers to sell their work.
Getting started with Etsy is simple, you just need a professional set of product photos and you can open your own online shop straight away. You’ll pay a small listing fee per item, a standard monthly service cost and a commission when you sell anything. Whether Etsy takes a payment processing fee depends on the method used. For example, taking payments through PayPal is free. But don’t forget about PayPal’s conversion rates - it can be cheaper to use an alternative like TransferWise.
Amazon is another direct way to start selling, without needing to build an online shop or website from scratch. This online retail giant sells literally everything, including products by other ecommerce businesses through Amazon Marketplace and Fulfilment By Amazon (FBA).
All you need is an Amazon account to register as a seller and start listing products. Before you start selling on Amazon though, make sure you take a close look at the fees and charges to make sure the numbers add up. There are also fees which apply to certain categories of products.
Once you’re all set up and the products are flying off the virtual shelves, it’s time to make sure you get paid. This is no problem if you’re selling in the UK, but you may face high currency conversion fees if you receive payments from customers in other countries. But don’t worry, help is at hand. Add your TransferWise borderless account to your Amazon account and withdraw your earnings directly into it for free.
Selling on eBay is just the same as on other marketplaces like Amazon, with one key difference. You can register with a free eBay account, list products and only pay fees when you sell items, but you also have the option to sell your products via auction. Many eBay business sellers prefer to use Buy It Now, the fixed price way of listing items, as it’s more like a standard ecommerce site.
eBay has a whole bundle of subscription packages and fees to familiarise yourself with. Each of these packages gives you a certain amount of product listings a month, although you’ll need to pay extra if you exceed your limit. Again, it’s a smart idea to get your calculator out and make sure your profit margins can stay healthy when selling on eBay.
We can’t tell you which is the best when it comes to ecommerce platforms. It’s all about finding the right fit for your business. We can however highlight some key things to consider, to help you narrow down your options. If you’re really boiling it down to just a few essentials, we recommend looking for solutions which score highly on:
Price: Choosing any new service will always come down to cost. Small businesses need a cost-effective solution that maximises profit and builds sales, without costing the earth. You need to find the right balance between the features you need and the cost of a monthly plan. It could be that spending a little bit more now results in healthy sales growth later on.
TrustPilot rating: Review sites should always be taken with a pinch of salt. It’s very useful to know how others have got on with an ecommerce solution, but remember that their business needs may be very different to yours. Some people have unrealistic expectations, which will always result in disappointment. However, if the same issues are mentioned time and time again, this could be a cause for concern.
Number of products: If your business grows and you want to sell more, you don’t want product restrictions holding you back. Many basic plans come with unlimited products as standard, so you don’t need to pay more if your offering grows.
Mobile responsiveness: Over half (58%) of British consumers use their smartphones for online shopping¹³, according to research by uSwitch. You simply cannot afford to be missing out on this customer base, so always look for ecommerce solutions with mobile-responsive themes.
You might have spotted above that some ecommerce platform offers are particularly good for search engine optimisation (SEO). But why is this important? Well, SEO is all about making your website easy to discover by potential customers - If consumers can’t find it, they can’t buy your products.
Built-in SEO features aim to optimise online stores for Google’s search results, which should make it easier for shoppers to find your products. There are lots of factors that make SEO work, from the simplest – properly naming products, page titles and URLs to match what customers are searching for – through to more technical aspects which can affect SEO performance, such as page-load speeds and accessibility.
So, when comparing ecommerce business systems, it’s worth taking a closer look at SEO. It isn’t always included in free plans, but you don’t necessarily want to be paying a fortune for a bolt-on.
Page load time is pretty much what it says on the tin. It’s the time it takes for each page – in this case, a product page or a click-through to checkout – to fully load.
It’s really important for SEO as well as customer service. Speed is a ranking factor for Google searches, so a slow site can see your ranking plummet. For customers, even a half-second delay can cause impatient shoppers to abandon their cart and head elsewhere.
For the very best chance of selling as many products as possible from your ecommerce site, it needs to be fast. Web users have sky-high expectations of how quickly pages should load and how fast websites should be. If they have a disappointing experience on your site, there are literally thousands of other websites for them to choose from.
Remember that a huge number of shoppers will make purchases from their smartphone or tablet, as well as browsing your site and finding information so they can make purchases later. So, your site needs to be mobile-responsive, and it needs to offer lightning-fast speeds.
Ecommerce solutions are designed to help you start, maintain and grow your online business. You won’t struggle to find ecommerce solutions, as there are many of them out there. The main problem will be sifting out the best ones, and choosing the right platform for your business.
It’s important to do your research, so we’ve laid out some of the options, to help you pick the solution that works for you.
Running a thriving ecommerce site isn’t all about selling products. You’ll also need to make sure you’ve got the best possible setup for sending and receiving money. It should be easy, cheap and fast - and online providers, like TransferWise are here to help.
- Shopify: About
- Shopify: Pricing
- Shopify: Shopping Carts
- Shopify: Marketing - SEO features
- Shopify: Themes
- EKM: Pricing
- EKM: All Features
- Volusion UK: About
- Volusion UK: Pricing
- BigCartel: Pricing
- ShopWired: Pricing
- BigCommerce: Pricing
- WooCommerce: About
- WooCommerce: Features
Sources checked on: 14-November 2019.
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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