4 of the Best eCommerce Platforms Reviewed

To build a successful brand, and let’s face it, that’s what we all want to do… (why else would you start a business if you didn’t want it to be a success?) To be successful - you will need an amazing website.

You want to make a great first impression and make it really easy for your customers to buy your products and services.

You might be sitting there now feeling overwhelmed by the idea of setting up a website – “won’t that mean hiring a web designer?” I hear you say.

I know, when you’re starting a business, the last thing you want to hear is about additional costs! And web designers don’t come cheap, and although it is an investment worth making down the line… there is another option. Why not plan, build and run your own website? You might be surprised to hear it’s simpler than it looks.

You Don’t Need to be Web Savvy.

The truth is, you don’t need to be a web expert or a professional computer geek to be able to design your own website.

Loads of great sites have done the hard work for you and have created an easy to use platform as a start off.


The 4 Platforms I decided to look at are:
  • Weebly
  • Squarespace
  • Shopify
  • Wordpress
  • Weebly

    Weebly (I know, strange name!) boasts 40 million entrepreneurs using it monthly. So, it must have some good stuff going on mustn’t it?

The good bits: 

Drag and Drop.

This is a feature to look for on any website-building site because it makes it super easy to make a cool site. Drag and Drop simply means just that – you can drag and drop the things you want from the side bar – text box, picture, maps, video directly onto the site, making it a lot easier to design and build your site, without any need to know complicated code or computer language.

Fully Integrated Shopping Cart & Secure Checkout. This is great for ecommerce businesses. Rather than having to redirect shoppers to a different payment site, that can sometimes put off new customers especially if you’re a new brand, you can instead process all the payments through your Weebly site.

Powerful filtering options.

It’s really simple, on Weebly, to give your customers the option to filter through your products – to find that bag in the colour they are looking for or shoes in the right size.

Track your inventory.

Weebly have a great app too for your mobile so you can keep track of stock and see how well things are selling while you’re on the go!

Option to fully code your site.

OK so we know right now you don’t want to, but it’s always good to have the option to use coding and ‘computer speak’ to customize your site further, if you wanted to.

No Weebly Ads.

Once you start a subscription for your site (even at the lowest rate) there are no ads from Weebly on your site. This just makes your site seem more professional than one covered with someone else’s offers!

Weebly is an all-inclusive platform.

That means they host your site, as well as helping you build it. That means any issues at all you can contact Weebly to get sorted! And they’re on email, phone and live chat – and are lovely!

The not so good bits:

On the whole, this is a great platform! The one con I could find will probably be more of a problem in the future – but it’s worth flagging up… As Weebly are an all-inclusive platform, if in the future you want to move your site to a different host you may struggle to do this easily. Although Weebly do provide a zipfile of all your information, any blog posts etc would need to be copied and pasted manually. Definitely a consideration for anyone with a strong a business they want to see grow, and eventually need a bigger and better website

How easy is it to use? 

It's pretty simple, once you get used to it. There are loads of handy tips that pop up as you are designing the site too, which on some sites can get annoying, but Weebly have got it just right. Easy to navigate and really responsive. You can also get involved in the Weebly Community - with forums on common issues and top tips. 


How much does it all cost? 

So, it starts at nothing because you can build a free website on Weebly. However, if you want to build an eCommerce site, you'll need to choose from one of their subscriptions which range from £5-£17 a month. 

The good thing with Weebly is you won't have to pay anything extra to host your site though, all fees are included in that.  

  • SquareSpace

    SquareSpace prides itself on producing high quality drag and drop website designs.

The good bits: 

The Look.

It looks amazing. No, really. Every design on SquareSpace oozes class, sophistication and the impression that the business it advertises is quality. Which is great for your eCommerce business! First impressions count. When your customer first lands on your SquareSpace site, they will be impressed.

Tutorial Videos.

They do some great tutorial videos, which they start sending you straight away. They pretty much guide you through the process, which is good, because it is a slightly more complicated process than Weebly (as I’ll come to).

Drag and Drop

Like Weebly, SquareSpace is a drag and drop website builder – what you see is what you get. They also optimize for mobile really well on SquareSpace.

Support

SquareSpace have a thorough and well-reviewed support system, which is great to know if you’re a bit nervous about starting out. They’re there to answer your questions.

All-inclusive platform

Like Weebly, this is an all-inclusive platform.


The not so good bits:

The choice.

Options are good, everyone likes to have choices but, there is a crazy amount of choice! Which can be daunting when you get started on your website. Once you learn to navigate through it, it is a great and easy to use site (and did we mention it looks amazing!) but at the start it can be a bit off putting.

How easy is it to use? 

It takes a bit more getting used to that Weebly, but it is still a simple drag and drop site, so easy to use. 

How much does it all cost? 

That all depends on the options you choose. SquareSpace have cheaper options for website hosting and more comprehensive eCommerce business options that include access to zero accounting software. For basic website design and hosting it starts a €111 a month, although to get your own unique web address you'll need to pay annually. 

  • Shopify

    Shopify is a dedicated ecommerce business website building site. You can load up your inventory and basically start selling.

The good bits: 

Quick and easy

It is quick and easy to set up a basic shop, which makes it a great choice if you are already selling and want to get started.

It is an all-inclusive platform

A bit like SquareSpace and Weebly, you pay for them to host your site so any problems you can go straight to Shopify.

24/7 support

The support from Shopify is one of its most talked about good bits – as they recognize your customers can shop 24/7, they are there 24/7 should you have any questions or issues with the site.

Abandoned Checkout Recovery

a lot of customers might start their order, get distracted with work, family or just general life. Shopify give you the option to nudge them and to remind them about the items in their basket. This is a great tool for ecommerce businesses.

You can add more features

there is an app store, so it makes it really easy to add features, like a blog, to your site. Which you’ll need to do, as it comes as a really basic selling site.


The not so good bits: 

Cost.

You can add features, but some of them have a cost implication. Also, some of the designs aren’t free either. Which combined with the monthly fees makes Shopify the most expensive option we’ve looked at so far.

Lock in.

Unlike Weebly who give you a zipfile of your data if you want to switch provider in the future, Shopify delete your site when you delete your account. It’s worth thinking about that if you grow and want to switch.

Liquid.

This is a fancy computer coding that isn’t the same as normal coding. This will only be an issue if you decide, in the future, to hire someone to customize your site. You’ll need a coder who knows Liquid which might be a bit more pricey.

How easy is it to use? 

Not as easy as it first appears. It takes a bit of getting used to once you’ve got beyond actually listing your products.

How much does it all cost?

This is the most expensive option so far. It starts at $29 a month and can go up to $299 a month. Then you need to add on the extra costs you might incur for additional apps and features, and if you choose a design you have to pay for. 


  • WordPress

    Wordpress is slightly different to the other three – it’s not a website builder, it’s a CMS (content management system). This just means it’s a bit more complicated to navigate.

The good bits: 

‘My site’.

Wordpress is separated into two different areas – ‘My Site’ is more like the website builder bit – and it’s beautiful and simple to use, with drag and drop features.

Blog Feature.

This is one of the best blog editors on the internet and there are loads of extras you can do with a WordPress blog to get your business out to a bigger audience.

It’s really easy to transfer to from one host to another.

The not so good bits: 

It’s not a website builder, so it doesn’t have ‘What You See Is What You Get’ you need to know a bit about basic coding.

It doesn’t have ecommerce built in.

You’d have to go for a third-party ecommerce link – it links up with Shopify for example.

You have to find a host and pay for that on top.


How easy is it to use? 

If you have a bit of an idea about coding, it’s great and easy to use but it’s the most complicated of all of the options we looked at and so for that reason I don’t think it would be my (or your) first choice. But there is loads of help and guidance so it is totally doable.

How much does it all cost? 

Prices start from £2.50 a month, but you will be billed annually. You have to add on the cost of hosting the site and also, any costs from a third-party ecommerce site.

The Verdict

Which site you choose all depends on your exact needs and your experience of creating a website. What I have found, is just how easy it is to create a website, without paying a professional. You can design, set up and manage your own website really simply with any of these tools, and for a reasonable price too! You can also see examples of amazing sites people have created using the tools to inspire you.

I reckon it will take a couple of days to get your site up and running which is pretty good going. Having a successful website is a key to building a successful brand, and it turns out it’s easier than it looks!

Having a successful website is just one of the keys to having a successful business. If you’re thinking about starting your own business and want to make it a success from the start, make sure you ask your eCommerce questions in the Facebook group or email me: [email protected] mattedmundson.com