WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS TO CREATE AN E-COMMERCE SITE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

First of all, it is important to congratulate you for deciding to start a website for your small business. You would have got multiple inputs from experts and users on why it is important to be online.

Here is an article that would help you with the statistics on why a website is necessary.

Now the important decision to make. Which website builder to choose to create your website? There are obviously a lot of options with WordPress, Drupal and GoDaddy to name a few. But this is a filtered list of the ones suitable specifically for building e-commerce websites.

The investments that a small business owner would make will vary which is fine. With the options that are going to be displayed here, you can be sure that your business will have a solid start online.

The list consists of 6 website builders; website builders hand picked to build an e-commerce store.They are not arranged in any particular order.

You will find statistics, their pros and cons and who it has worked well so far. This will give a comprehensive layout for you to pick the builder you find comfortable. 

The article covers six of the best website builders out there. You will find how they stack up against one another when it comes to performing for small businesses.

  1. Shopify
  2. Wix
  3. GoDaddy
  4. Squarespace
  5. BigCommerce
  6. WordPress

Shopify

As of October 2019, Shopify has a million stores worldwide, making it unarguably one of the best. Their technological innovations were pivotal for their immense growth. 

A recent example is their introduction of 3D modelling which would be a pretty cool feature for any website. Haus, a furniture company is a good example.

Credits: shopify

Here are some of its highlights features:

  1. SSL secured website, keeping your data and the customer credentials safe.
  2. Your websites are by default responsive and have a more modern look to it.
  3. Shopify app store, offering you a wide range of add-ons to choose for further optimization.
  4. Allows third party integration for a bigger audience.
  5. Shopify Plus has a chatbot that will guide you through with all the help it can provide.
  6. Shopify has their 14-day free trial option which you can cancel anytime. You can purchase a domain name and start selling right away.

Pros

  1. Shopify being user-friendly tops the list here. Any small online merchant who has no idea how a program would look, can make an eCommerce website. Their ease of use as a customer and as a business owner is their huge plus.

Shopify allows you to get into the race with the market’s giants even without knowing any programming language. All you need to do is to customize to your taste and business requirements and you are all set.

  1. Since you would be stepping in new, you will need support. Shopify has a fraud analysis option which verifies for the payments done using a credit card. 

It intimates if any such transaction is a fraudulent one. You can check out how they pull it off and other FAQs on their help center page.

Shopify offers 24/7 customer support, with notifications of free tools and forums relating to almost any topic you can imagine.

  1. Shopify offers a 10% and 20% discount on annual and biennial plans. The best part you can switch to any plan at any point of time.
  2. Shopify has in the past been rated as the best site in sales. The site actually has certain features that are specific to your needs. This site has the highest seller score from the customers.

Cons

  1. In order to get access to their premium features, you would have to pay $299 a month

This might be possible for big enterprises but your small business might be only a few months old. The overall cost puts Shopify under the pricier options in this list. 

Their two other plans might be cheap but are not recommended for businesses that want to scale up.

  1. Shopify has their own credit card reader. This concept is a minus for people who don’t use their payment option.

No matter what plan you choose, you will be levied transaction charges, if you choose a credit card payment.

As seen before, the $299 a month plan suits any business yet they charge a 0.5% transaction fee.

  1. If your business is growing, the free trial period will not provide any value to you. Within that short frame, getting through the settings, the payments and creating your storefront is still a doubt.
  2. Like most other website builders, you cannot expect the website to have a strong built-inSEO game. You will have to optimize it by adding extensions and plugins to get the most juice out of it. Besides, the app store lags behind when comparing to the plugins that WordPress provides.

Yet there are some problems where you can’t create sub-categories and cannot customize the URL. Optimizing SEO in Shopify can be painful too. You will need an SEO consultant to take care of this job.

Who does it suit?

Shopify, with its current plans, is not the best choice for someone who is just starting out. Since their advanced features are packed in their premium plan, a small business owner might not be able to afford it on a monthly basis.

It is evident that Shopify suits for people who have big dreams and even bigger money to invest in. To conclude things, Shopify is a good option for businesses that focuses a lot on sales and can afford their prices.

BigCommerce

Next on the list is another option similar to Shopify. BigCommerce is very close to what Shopify offers. With almost 46,000 live websites, BigCommerce has made an impact in the business world.

Here are some of the features that will catch your eyes:

  1. One simple plus is they provide a 30 day trial to test your website. 
  2. Out of all the users, 56% say that they would recommend BigCommerce.
  3. SSL secured website, keeping your data and the customer credentials safe.
  4. BigCommerce like Shopify has their own app store with over 600 apps for all sorts of purposes.

                                    Credits: Bigcommerce

BigCommerce has also their own experts in eCommerce who can be employed by you in case you are stuck. They assist to grow your shop and brand to reach a reputed status. SkullCandy, an electronics brand happens to be one of their customers that has a sleek design.

Pros

  1. Compared with Shopify, there are no limits to the staff accounts in BigCommerce. The free trial also is better as it is 30 days and not 14. Plus there are no transaction fees. Not a single penny wasted.
  2. BigCommerce supports integration between many channels. Unlike Shopify, BigCommerce does not require a third party tool. 

You can integrate with Amazon, Facebook or eBay to sell to a bigger audience. This integration and selling through multiple channels is what makes BigCommerce so successful.

  1. You can reach out to their sales team by filling out a form. Their team will contact you in 24 hours and provide all the help you need. BigCommerce has a reputation that 90% of the inquiries are solved in their first call.

Cons

  1. A common issue that you will find on the web is people complaining that BigCommerce is complex. Too complex, to the point where people find their features of less use.

The problem here is that you may end up paying for services that you will not even use. 

  1. BigCommerce is not the costliest in the list yet does not come cheap. Their basic plan is $29.95 a month which is a big no for a beginner.
  2. BigCommerce is not very user-friendly. This means that as a beginner, you will have to spend more time building the eCommerce online shop to make it live. This will require time and patience on your part.
  3. Switching over is not easy. Your site has to adapt to the BigCommerce platform and this is an issue that is commonly found in other website builders as well.
  4. When you compare with Shopify, bugs related to SEO are frequently reported by the customers. SEO may not be an issue for you but still matters for your business.

This would be a huge turnoff and seems that is why Shopify is ahead of the curve.

Who does BigCommerce suit?

BigCommerce is perfect for anyone who relies on a cart only website. With BigCommerce, it is hard to find balance between your business and your blog. Beginners with zero knowledge on front end design cannot choose this as it takes time to set up.

Since it suits better for cart only websites, businesses that are involved in a lot of sales can choose BigCommerce. Their packages start from $29.95 to their customized enterprise plan and so you might need an annual sales of $50,000 to manage the expenses.

To sum things up, if you have ventured a good deal and now planning to go online, BigCommerce could be a worthy option.

Wix

Wix is the fastest growing option in this list. Why? 

Because they are constantly improving in providing a surreal user experience. With 1.8% in the market, Wix suits everybody’s points of view.

Here are some of their uber cool features:

  1. Drag and drop website building tool which makes anyone build a website.
  2. A good number of templates and designs to choose from.
  3. They can provide you a custom domain name which will suit your niche.
  4. 8 different price plans and a free plan.

Pros

  1. Have you checked out their Editor X? You will definitely be amazed by its features. It would look like they handle things using alien tech. This might sound crazy so check this video out to get some insights.
  2. Their pricing will leave anyone impressed. Their basic and free plan (which are not recommended for business purposes) are fine. 

The other plans provide you with all the features that you will need to run your small business. The cool part here is you save a lot of cash when you choose an annual billing scheme.

  1. Wix allows your creativity to unfold. You can create video, include chatbots and let the gates open so you can experiment. This creates options for you to bring in your creativity into action.
  2. The best customer support, period. 

Wix provides parallel support through calls and email to their basic plans users. They go one notch up with their executive users, providing first priority VIP support. 

Have a look at their documentation in their Help Center. It will blow you away.

Their help center offers help to every question and issue you can think of. Which is why they are so equal or even go beyond WordPress in providing customer support.

Credits: Wix 

Cons

  1. When it comes to SEO, Wix does not really have anything to offer. It might have a wizard built in to optimize to some extent. That unfortunately is not enough when it competes against WordPress.

Even though you might stick to a cart-only website, SEO is still important for your website to be ranked on Google.

  1. With Wix, everything is limited.

Limited storage, limited bandwidth and limits to your video content. And this applies to all their plans up to their executive option. Strange indeed.

  1. As a professional programmer, you will find their drag and drop way of creating a website as a dissapointment. 

You will have to choose Corvid, which is a tool to manually alter your website completely. Again technical work involved and so not an option for non-programmers. 

  1. When you are handing bulk inventories, Wix falls short with other competitors.

Startups won’t find an issue because the overall quantity is less. The bigger ones that have to stock up multiple products will struggle adding and removing items on a constant basis. Their storage as mentioned before is quite limited and lets you work in a tight space.

  1. Their integration with social media is not up to the mark.

For example, they have an app to showcase your Instagram handle , but you cannot sell on Instagram. This means that your sales will not be on other platforms like Facebook and Pinterest too.

  1. External backups are not a feature in Wix. Since they are working on it, it might play a part in the future.

Who can choose Wix?

Freelancers and people with personal branding ideas can hands down choose Wix. These are areas where people may step out of the norm and experiment with their niche specific ideas.

Small businesses can opt for Wix but when you plan to scale up, you will be forced to find other options. Also you cannot expect Wix to be 100% professional. Think ahead and plan accordingly.

Squarespace

Together with Wix, Squarespace has brought out people’s creativity. It is a viable option for small e-commerce shops because of the options that it has provided. Check out fighting eel to have a look at their beautiful template.

           Credits: squarespace

Here are some of the features:

  1. Very modern and award winning portfolio designs for your websites no matter what your niche is.
  2. They have their app to edit and manage on the go.
  3. A structure driven drag and drop website building tool.
  4. A free trial is available as well.

Pros

  1. Squarespace manages third party integration well. Really well. From logistics to social media to soundtracks and importing your products, they provide great support to manage them all under one roof.
  2. When you compare their pricing and the options they provide, you will consider this a steal. Plus you get a free domain name if you choose their annual billing option.

Four price plans starting from $12 and you save a ton of money when you choose to pay annually. Unlike Wix, they do not pose restrictions on storage, bandwidth and products.

  1. With blogs, Webinars and forums, they offer good resources for you to go through. Their 24/7 customer support is equally dope.
  2. As we speak of ecommerce, we must consider their support for inventory and their cart management. Their plans provide tools from dropping carts to managing customized storefront.
  3. Squarespace is a potential competition to WordPress in the field of blogging. If you are not into blogging, it is highly recommended to integrate it with your business. Squarespace will help a ton.

Cons

  1. Squarespace has not come up with many payment options. It applies PayPal majorly and Stripe. This is an area that they should work on.
  2. When you compare their efforts on their design, they could have focused on SEO as well. It is not that their available SEO is bad but is something that can definitely be improved.
  3. Squarespace does not offer multilingual options which could be an issue depending on people’s niche. Language could be a hurdle when you plan to sell outside in other countries.
  4. Just like with Wix, their options for backing up data are poor. Squarespace takes internal backups in situations where the site crashes. 

One way is to download the sitemap and export your content. Yet it requires external work from your end.

Who can choose Squarespace?

Squarespace offers rates that seem quite affordable. From just $12 per month, your site will be live in no time.

This makes Squarespace versatile for business owners of all shapes and sizes. Based on popular opinion, people who are managing their business and have substantial capital can choose Squarespace. 

Besides that, Squarespace is powerful for freelancers and bloggers because of their SEO features.

GoDaddy

Probably the cheapest in the list, GoDaddy is voted as the easiest site to use. It has come up with features that are convenient to be used for your eCommerce business.

Credits:Godaddy

Let us dive into their features:

  1. GoDaddy predominantly offers domain registrations with their website builder being one of their products.
  2. Pretty basic editor layouts that will help anyone to swim through their designs.
  3. GoDaddy also provides hosting at nominal prices with domain names free for the first year.
  4. Websites created also get a month’s free trial.

Pros

  1. GoDaddy is the easiest and most convenient to be used. It’s easy to build your store in a simple style. They have a $10 basic plan to their $25 Ecommerce plan that offers features specifically for a business website.
  2. Websites that are built are responsive and are supported in every platform.
  3. They provide unlimited storage space.
  4. You can customize the HTML code according to your preferences.
  5. They provide 24/7 telephone support and chat assistance.

Cons

  1. When you compare the value they offer, it will not suit a small business. You cannot add plugins and apps to optimize your website’s performance. As far as analytic tools are concerned, you will lag way behind your competitors.
  2. The websites built with their basic plans are not SSL certified. Yeah you heard that right.

All other website builders provide SSL certified websites that include in their package. People do not trust a website that is not secure and so the basic plans do not suit business websites. 

  1. Out of all the payment options, PayPal is the only one supported in their basic plans. As mentioned before, basic plans cannot be chosen for business websites
  2. SEO options are nowhere near other website builders. You will be forced to stick to a cart only website.
  3. GoDaddy does not offer the quality when compared to the modern website builders that are way ahead of their technological curve.

Who can choose GoDaddy?

First of all GoDaddy offers multiple products and a website builder is one of them. But when you compare it with giants like Shopify and BigCommerce, it does not stand a chance. 

People with very tight budgets and who do not have much improvisations to make can choose GoDaddy as a viable option.

Small businesses should not consider this as an option, especially when they want to scale up.

WordPress

WordPress holds the lion’s share in the market with 63%. Undoubtedly everyone will be familiar with its features and its powerful SEO features.

One out of every four websites online are powered by WordPress. It has also diversified its services in that almost all the sectors can set up sites in them. 

WordPress has been used by the majority of large brands including Microsoft and the rolling stones. 

Credits: WooCommerce

Here is a list of the powerful features WordPress has to offer:

  1. Unlike the previous options we came through, WordPress is an open source software which is free.
  2. Tremendously powerful SEO features built in.
  3. A simple sign up and domain name is so cheap at $5 a month.
  4. Unlike website builder platforms, creating a website requires an initial one time investment. After that, the cost will comprise of the domain name and web hosting charges.

Pros

  1. WooCommerce, the free plugin is what makes WordPress capable in ecommerce. It is the most preferred plugin to manage ecommerce websites.

WooCommerce has license upgrades and extensions that will cost you some extra cash but it depends on your business’s needs. Although you can build a store without this, having WooCommerce will reduce time and effort from your end.

There are other plugins like wp e-commerce which is also free. Yet to power it up, you will have to purchase one of their carts to get it running.

  1. Their customer support is insane. WordPress has a wide community of fellow developers who will post their knowledge. You can learn a lot and improve along the way. 
  2. In order to reap the most out of WordPress, blogging is a great way. Integrate this with your business website then you will experience a ton of traffic. Guaranteed.

Cons

  1. WordPress websites when operated alone, might fall short when it comes to site speed. You may have to optimize your images and your code to make it faster. 
  2. Being the most popular option in the market, WordPress is prone to many attacks. This includes brute force attacks that will overload your server and cause slow site speed. 
  3. If you are very new and have zero coding knowledge, you may face difficulties in the beginning. Customizing WordPress sites without technical support might be a painful thing for some business owners.

Who does WordPress suit the best?

With WordPress you can create a website for a price of $46 a year. Assuming you have a business to run, the estimate would be higher.

On a rough estimate, it might cost $500 to $1000 a year which might be expensive for beginners but not for small business owners.

WordPress is a recommended option for people who can handle these costs. This is obviously manageable for small businesses, considering the megre monthly expenses.

WordPress is in fact better suited for people who already have a WordPress site. This makes the technical stuff more familiar and hassle free. 

Summary

What you should know is that your business cannot withstand this era without a website. Whatever your option of creating your website is, optimizing it to its maximum potential is necessary.

It is high time you get your hands on the website building tool which suits your expenses and niche. This is your moment, start now!


Rahul Gulati is a founder and web consultant at DevignTech. He helps small businesses make professional websites and apps that follow a minimalist design approach. To tune up your small business website, contact him on rahulg@devigntech.com or reach out on Linkedin

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