A well-designed website involves more than slick graphics and eye-catching content. For small businesses that want to maximise sales, a smooth online payment system is also a key part of the package.
Fortunately, there are plenty of e-commerce platforms out there to make website building easy. What is an e-commerce platform, and what type of benefits does it offer? We’ll answer these questions in this e-commerce platform comparison.
What is an e-commerce platform?
If you need to open an online store, you will need a unique URL and domain name, web hosting services, and a website builder. On top of this, you’ll need to be able to easily integrate your business’s products and services into the website with regular updates.
The best e-commerce platforms serve as a one-stop shop for businesses, providing all these features and more. There are free e-commerce platforms for the smallest start-ups, but most work with a subscription model. Some come with a built-in payment system, while others allow you to easily connect to an external payment system.
The best e-commerce platforms
With no further ado, here are the best of the bunch:
1. Square Online
We’ll start with one of the best options for small businesses on a budget. Free e-commerce platforms like Square Online let you start selling without paying for a premium subscription up front. It’s not completely free of charge since you do still have to pay transaction fees, which is something to keep in mind when you’re working out your budget.
Plusses of this platform include its analytics tools and user-friendly design. While you won’t find a vast library of templates like in some other e-commerce platforms, it does let you play around with colour choices and fonts to create a slick, clean layout. It also supports a range of online payment systems, although you can tie it together with Square products like its POS and card reader.
Wix stands out in any e-commerce platform comparison for its affordable pricing and contemporary templates. Subscriptions start at a low monthly fee, and the platform makes it easy for beginners to get started without any coding experience. The platform’s most advanced plan includes customer support and unlimited videos on your e-commerce site. Wix sites work with external apps so there’s a high degree of customisation for your online store.
Although the platform comes with its own Wix Payments system, you can choose another payment system if preferred. Wix also has its own app, so you can add products or amend your website when you’re on the go.
Despite its name, BigCommerce is just as useful for small businesses as it is for large. For the subscription cost, BigCommerce gives access to a detailed website builder, hosting, marketing features and analytics tools. There are over 80 website themes to choose from, most of which don’t require any coding experience.
BigCommerce doesn’t offer its own payment system, but it integrates with over 20 third-party gateways so you can choose one that works. It also integrates with multiple marketing channels which means you can manage your listings and social media accounts from a central dashboard. This all-in-one platform is costlier than some more basic competitors, but it offers a free trial for one month to let you see if it’s worth the money. Another thing to note is that if you sell over a certain threshold, you’ll have to upgrade to the next plan, which is something to consider as your business grows.
Shopify is one of the UK’s most popular e-commerce platforms due its user-friendly design and payment processing capabilities. Pick and choose from a variety of different templates to build your website, adding custom features to make your online shop stand out. This platform has plenty of add-on integrations you can tack on for a fee.
As far as payments go, Shopify offers its own integrated processor. You have the freedom to choose a third-party option like Klarna or Worldpay instead, but you’ll need to pay an extra transaction fee for each sale.
The fifth and final name on our list of the best e-commerce platforms is Squarespace, a hit with style-conscious shop owners. If you want your business website to be heavy on imagery, Squarespace is one of the top options. It’s not as full of analytics features and add-ons, but it makes up for these with its selection of head-turning templates. The platform serves as a one-stop website builder, so you’ll get these designs included, along with hosting. However, you’ll need to upgrade to a Business or Commerce plan to get your online store up and running. Squarespace does connect with a few apps including Google, social media channels, and several payment processors.
Ultimately, small businesses are spoilt for choice when it comes to all-in-one e-commerce platforms. Be sure to compare pricing, features, and payment processors to find the best fit and launch your online shop.
We can help
GoCardless helps you automate payment collection, cutting down on the amount of admin your team needs to deal with when chasing invoices. Find out how GoCardless can help you with ad hoc payments or recurring payments.