The Top eCommerce Platforms for Small Businesses
Did you know that the eCommerce industry is growing 23% year-over-year? Yet 46% of small businesses still don’t have a website. Like it or not, eCommerce is the future and in order for our businesses to grow we must adapt to that future.
Have you ever thought about selling online? Or maybe you’re already selling online but you don’t like the results you’re getting?
Either way, if you have a retail business this article is for YOU! Choosing the right eCommerce platform is an essential part of your eCommerce website development strategy and is critical for the success of your online store.
We’ll be exploring the top eCommerce platforms for small businesses along with helping you find the one that’s right for you.
Sound good? Well, let’s start learning…
A Quick Note: In order to find the best eCommerce platform for your business we need to take a look at some of the KEY points for each platform.
These key points are…
- Customer Support
Before continuing to read, we suggest keeping in mind the features above that are most important to you.
Doing so will help you make your final decision on what platform to choose as you can base that decision off the most important features for your business.
Did you know that Shopify takes up almost 20% of the total market share? Shopify was founded in 2004 by three Canadian and is one of the top eCommerce platforms in the world.
You’ve most likely heard of this platform before as it can be considered one of the most popular and top eCommerce platforms in the world (for a reason.) Shopify is used by 820,000 merchants worldwide and is definitely an option to consider if you’re just starting out or even if you’re looking to scale your business with its more expensive plans.
Pricing is a big factor to consider.
If you do have some spare change set aside you should be looking at this as an investment to make even more money down the line. Your website can be used as a tool and is an ASSET to your business.
Shopify’s pricing comes in 3 different categories as shown below.
The three plans have different features depending on the size of your business and its specific needs.
If your business is just starting out or is still relatively small we recommend going with the Basic Shopify plan which is $29 USD/month ($37 CAD/month.)
The basic plan should be perfect to get started with (you can always upgrade down the line). To see the features of all the plans click here.
Shopify’s interface is relatively easy to use and navigate. If it seems complicated at first we suggest taking an hour or so to play around and get familiar with it.
There are also many helpful videos and tutorials on YouTube to help you along the way.
Putting the time into learning the ins and outs of the platform that you’re going to use for your online business will help you in the long run.
Now, when you get to designing your website you’ll need to choose a theme.
This is made simple as you can choose from many different themes on Shopify’s theme store and can easily edit them to your liking.
We suggest checking out our guide on the best free Shopify themes to help you in choosing a theme (if you’re interested in using a free one.)
Customer support can be a deciding factor between using a certain platform or not. Using a platform with bad customer support may not be the best idea.
You may find a certain platform to have the best features but what if you soon run into problems that you can’t quite fix yourself or can’t find answers to online? You’d want to contact their customer support and most likely be hoping to get a fast response.
This is why a platform with fast, friendly, and efficient customer support is a must.
Shopify offers decent customer support as many say their support is always friendly (like customer support should be.) But they’re said to be difficult to reach via phone support if you live outside of North America, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
Final thoughts on Shopify
With decent pricing plans available, an easy to use interface made for beginners, and a decent customer support team, Shopify is an excellent option for small businesses who are looking to get started selling online.
However, like every platform, there are some cons you should be aware of…
- Many helpful functionalities require add on features (apps) that you have to pay an additional cost for
- 3rd party transaction fees can be an issue
- Professional reporting functionality is only provided on more expensive plans
Along with the cons, here are some pros to remember…
- Supports over 100 payment processors worldwide
- The option to sell both digital and physical products (Possible with Shopify’s Point of Sale system)
- Extensive self-help documentation to help you along your way
Founded in 1997, 3Dcart is a privately held technology company that is perfect for businesses looking to scale their store.
Just like Shopify, 3Dcart offers different plans to meet specific business needs. However, they have a cheaper option that is $19 CAD/month and is specified towards startup businesses (may be a good option if your just getting started with selling online.)
Another great thing about their pricing is they’re flexible to meet your needs. As stated below, 3Dcart ensures that they can make your plan specific to your business needs.
We can customize any of our plans to fit your needs. Contact our sales team at email@example.com to find out how we can add a specific feature to any plan or add extra staff users.
See this comment in 3Dcarts pricing FAQ section
This allows you to only pay for what you really need, saving you your well-earned money.
Like any platform, when you first get started things will look unfamiliar and possibly overwhelming. However, 3Dcart does a great job providing videos on how to get started using their platform.
Right after signing up you should be emailed instructional videos which should help relieve some of that stress of getting started.
Once you log in you’re greeted with another tutorial video to help you get started right away.
Watching these instructional videos will make the process of building your online store relatively easy to do and hopefully give you the confidence you need to succeed selling online.
The opinions on 3Dcarts customer support are on the border of good and bad.
Going through and reading some reviews on Trust Pilot, some point out that 3Dcarts customer support is virtually non-existent…
While others seem to say they offer excellent support…
I’d be wary about this if you think you’d be contacting their customer support team often.
One thing I can suggest is emailing their support team a question before paying for the plan and see for yourself how fast they respond.
You can check out their customer support page here.
Final thoughts on 3Dcart
Although 3Dcart offers cheaper pricing, there’s a slight learning curve involved in storefront design. I say this as there’s no drag-and-drop features offered like other platforms.
This can prove problematic if you aren’t to keen on spending your time learning how to customize the theme you choose. However, for individuals who can get past this learning curve and put the time into learning how to use 3Dcarts powerful features, it can prove to be a great investment.
Some cons to be aware of…
- The possibility of a non-existent customer support team
- A slight learning curve regarding the design aspect
- Expensive additional add-ons
Some pros to remember…
- Many helpful videos to get you started with using their platforms
- Powerful tools you can use to take full control over your online store
- Flexible pricing plans
PrestaShop was founded in 2008 and is a “freemium”, open-source eCommerce solution. It is currently used by 250,000 shops worldwide and is available in 60 different languages.
Unlike other platforms, PrestaShop is free to download with no pricing plans. However, where they make their money is by charging a high price for important add-ons that your store will greatly benefit from.
If you aren’t careful and don’t do your research to figure out what modules (add-ons) you need and don’t need, you may end up paying more than if you were to go with one of the other fully hosted eCommerce platforms on this list.
Along with this, you’ll have to pay for hosting from a separate web hosting service company. Hosting is required for any eCommerce platform, however, the difference Prestashop and other platforms are that hosting is built into platforms like Shopify and 3Dcart but for Prestashop, you must use a separate web hosting service company like Siteground.
This could potentially add an extra level of headaches if you’re a beginner but can give you a faster website as you can choose a hosting server closest to your target location.
Something to note: PrestaShop does have one monthly plan available. It is called PrestaShop Ready and may be of interest to you. Click here to learn more about this.
Although there are many tutorials and guides available online, if you don’t have a lot of tech experience and need multiple add-ons, PrestaShop can get complicated quickly.
One noted issue you may run into is that certain modules tend to interfere with one another, leading to a glitchy site. These technical issues can prove to be problematic and if you aren’t familiar with coding or aren’t the best at resolving technical issues on your own then this platform may not be the best option for you.
Since PrestaShop is open-source software, customer support gets a little complicated due to the fact that most of their modules and themes are created by multiple developers. In turn, a customer support agent can’t possibly know the ins and outs of every module to help with your questions.
However, PrestaShop offers a user community rich with support via services and forums. Click here to check their community page out.
Final thoughts on PrestaShop
PrestaShop seems to be ideal for tech-savvy individuals who have experience with coding or a budget to hire a developer. If that’s the case, PrestaShop is a highly customizable platform that can offer your business a large selection of modules to choose from creating unlimited possibilities.
Some cons associated with PrestaShop include…
- A decent learning curve due to the more technical aspects
- May experience bugs and glitches as you add those pricey modules onto your site (as some tend to interfere with one another)
- Although free, many add-on features such as customer support, important modules, and themes seem to be very overpriced (Which is expected considering they offer the software for free)
Here are some pros that come with using PrestaShop…
- An extensive list of beautiful themes to choose from
- Software is free to use
- A user community rich with support
Conclusion: Top eCommerce Platforms
Finding the right eCommerce platform for your business’s specific needs is critical as not all platforms are the same in terms of features. Did you find one that meets your specific needs?
If not, and with a 100% unbiased recommendation we’d suggest taking another thought about going with Shopify as it’s basic plan is perfect for any small business with a tight budget. Along with that, it is easy to set up and maintain once you get the hang of things.
Shopify is a platform we’ve been using to make our client’s websites for years and we (along with our clients) find it perfect for local retailers. Check out some of those Shopify websites below…
Let’s work together!
We’re the leading full service eCommerce agency in Toronto. Our passion is in helping small to medium size businesses reach their goals through eCommerce. We’re looking forward to speaking with you, contact us today or check out the web development services we offer here at Verdure Digital.
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