The life of a small business owner is definitely not an easy one…you have to consider so many important elements to ensure your business's success.
Whereas the pile of responsibilities is increasing each day. Being a one-man army means that you would also need a good ecommerce platform to build your website and grow your business.
Whether you are a beginner or have experience building websites, you probably know that choosing the right hosting platform for your e-commerce store is very important.
One of the most essential features for small business owners is whether the price of hosting meets the value provided by the platform.
We understand that if you are just starting out, price matters. This is why we've put together these tips and recommendations so that you get the most value for your money.
This list also takes into consideration the ease of use or how easy it is to set up your website and customize it.
What To Look For In The Best Ecommerce Platforms
Having the ability to choose different already built-in themes is one of the elements we wanted these top picks to contain. Because, let's face it, nobody likes to spend weeks designing their dream website, configuring it, and seeing that the end result is a disaster.
Now that you have decided to take the first step towards building your own website store you probably have no idea which platform to choose, but first, let's go over what features you should look for.
Simple Design and Set-Up
The platform that you choose should be simple to get up and running. The e-commerce website design should also be customizable. You should be able to capture your brand’s unique feel.
By using templates, you can bypass the need to hire third-party help. You can give your site a professional appearance with the right template.
As far as payment processing is concerned, whatever platform you decide on should provide cutting-edge security. Seek out one that offers SSL/HTTPS support to ensure that customer checkouts are secure and safe.
It Should Come with Plenty of Integrations
E-commerce platform integrations can give any website a modern design by adding features to your site and enhancing its functionality with just a few clicks.
The e-commerce website platform you choose should integrate easily with other marketing channels and systems. Does it offer seamless integration with social media platforms like Facebook? Is the integration seamless with the payment system you are using?
You Should Get Analytics Access
You need to be able to track certain success measurements, including website engagement figures, number of conversions, and sales totals.
If the platform can display statistics in a simple-to-understand manner, even better. The format should be just as simple to navigate through.
If you are not well-versed on terms like “CSS” or “HTML,” then make sure that the platform’s customer service team can be reached when you need them. Managing the website can get complicated once you start customizing it with extra features.
If e-commerce isn’t something that you are familiar with, then you need to be able to reach somebody who is knowledgeable when you run into problems. If you do something wrong, somebody qualified should be a phone call away to help you fix it.
Payment Options for Customers Should Be Integrated
Every customer wants a simplified digital shopping experience. Apple Pay, PayPal, and Square are several examples of e-commerce payment gateways that a digital store can utilize. Think about the types of payment your business is willing to accept when browsing e-commerce platforms to use.
What Price Will Fit Within Your Project Budget?
While some of these platforms offer standard monthly fees with variable usage rates for some extra premium features, others offer flat rates. A few of these eCommerce platforms require additional costs for app subscriptions.
Prior to any platform commitment by you, do some homework, analyze the positives and negatives, and stay within a cost structure you can afford.
We will now go over our top six recommendations of the best ecommerce platforms that can adapt to the needs of most all small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Over the years, Shopify became one of the most popular e-commerce platforms and it's slogan is "anyone, anywhere can start a business".
Having affordable plans that cater to the needs of both first-time sellers and established companies - Shopify prides itself on being easily accessible and simple to use.
The one-click website builder makes it easy to set up your website in no time. The beginner-friendly tutorials and all-round support mean that you won't be needing any coding lessons.
Having tons of features that will help you set up the website of your dreams and powerful marketing and sales tools that allow you to scale your business. The SEO-features will also make it easy to maintain your online presence and rank higher.
One of Shopify's biggest disadvantages is that it implies transaction fees for those who don't have Shopify Payments. Another big drawback is that the free templates lack variety. Thus, if you are looking to add more originality to your website, you will need to spend between $100 and $180 for a theme.
$29 per month/14 day free-trial
GrooveKart has always been out of the spotlight compared to its' competitors. Nonetheless, GrooveKart offers powerful e-commerce building features and huge potential.
One of the biggest advantages of using GrooveKart is that it keeps the costs and time you spend on your website to the minimum – great for a small business, right?
If you are tired of downloading and paying for apps, GrooveKart has built-in features that allow you to make the best use of selling and turning your business into 6-figures.
Not relying on hundreds of additional apps speeds up the page loading, which is very important to e-commerce stores. It also supports marketing automation tools that allow you to save time.
If you love landing pages, then you are in for a treat. With the drag and drop builder, you can create effortless high-converting landing pages.
GrooveKart remains a mystery. Although launched in 2018, there isn't much information and buzz around it. Customer reviews are also hard to come by. It can be quite pricey if you don't choose the yearly plan.
$149 per month/$997 per year
Squarespace is simple to use but still offers impressive e-commerce website building features – perfect for small business owners.
Squarespace allows you to easily sell your products – you don't have to perform any hard configurations to your website. However, simplicity doesn't mean bleak website design – you can create highly personalized websites and use one of the many free themes.
With Squarespace, marketing is made easy – you can easily manage your promotional campaigns, discounts and work on building an extensive email list. Furthermore, your social media channels are fully integrated with Squarespace – you can easily share your news with your audience.
Another prominent advantage is that it offers built-in SEO features that guide you through the process of ranking higher in the search engines.
One of Squarespace's disadvantages is that it's not the best choice if you want to build complicated and multilingual websites. However, if you are not adding many menus that require a multi-step hierarchy, you will be fine with the platform's website building tools.
Furthermore, if you choose to go for the Business plan, there are 3% transaction fees. This results in either choosing to receive 3% less from each purchase you make or to pay for the next-tiered plan.
$12 a month
Wix eCommerce is perfect for starting out businesses looking to move their product offerings online or start a new business from scratch.
Wix eCommerce website building features can bridge the gap between your products and your target audience. One of the most significant advantages is that it is easy to create your online store – with many detailed tutorials that allow you to explore further customization.
Furthermore, Wix offers many brand building tools such as Logo Maker and business name generator - ideal for people who are still in the early stages of developing their business.
If you are looking for affordable designs, you can also choose one of the free themes and use the drag and drop features for more website utility.
The biggest disadvantage of using Wix is leaving – once you are done with Wix's hosting and want to explore other platforms, you won't be able to export your data and move your site information elsewhere.
According to a collection of reviews, Wix eCommerce lacks SEO-friendly tools that might halt your search visibility and google rankings. On top of that, Wix's templates are not highly customizable and can't be changed with ease once applied.
$23 a month
Selz is the digital and physical product selling power tool that allows you to sell from anywhere.
One of the advantages of using Selz is that it is great for digital products. If your business is focused on selling eBooks, videos, images, and other digital products, you can easily set up a system that directly sends and updates customers. You can also protect your work from copyright infringement, generate license keys, and sell with confidence.
However, Selz is not only digital products heaven – you can successfully build a highly interactive website design that fits your industry niche. Once you have set your website, you can easily create point-of-sale systems with multi-channel selling – allowing you to upscale your business.
Furthermore, Selz promises SEO tools that are created to optimize your listings and drive more traffic to your offers. If you want to maximize your content marketing, Selz also allows you to create a blog section and entertain your audience through various articles.
One of Selz's cons is that it has relatively expensive plans, built-in card processing fees, and additional fees if you do not use Selz Pay.
Even though you can customize your website look, it is still a drag and drop menu that doesn't allow you 100% creative freedom.
$29 a month
WooCommerce is the e-commerce solution of WordPress - a plugin connecting the power of blogging and selling in one.
WooCommerce is free to use because it is an open-source plugin. However, you will need a WordPress hosting platform to integrate it.
WooCommerce is the perfect choice if you seek to add blog features and an online store to your website. There are many free themes available at your disposal that allow you to make a highly-responsive website. On top of that, you can also add hundreds of useful gadgets to your store to make it more appealing.
Furthermore, it is user-friendly due to its drag and drop website building features, and if you ever find yourself in need of help, there is a huge community of users and developers that support each other.
According to reviews, one of the biggest issues with WooCommerce is that it is hard to set up your store if you have no prior knowledge in website building. Furthermore, most add-ons are free but offer premium features that can easily hook you on into paying.
Last but not least, WooCommerce is simply not a one-click ready website – you will need to spend a lot of time configuring and playing with the themes and apps until you finally find the one.
Once you decide on the ecommerce platform that works for you, the hard work begins. Let's go over the steps needed to create your ecommerce store and prime it to make money.
Give Your Online Store a Name
You will need to name your e-commerce store. The name you choose is the one that your store will be stuck with, queried for, and shown on all marketing platforms that you use.
The domain that you use for your store should either match your company name, or it should be something that is just as close. Customers should have the ability to discover your site without hassle.
The URL people type in should mirror the name of your business to simplify things. Perform a query to ensure that a domain you are interested in isn’t already taken. If it is, then add another word to it – ideally one that is descriptive of your service or product (you can even use a word like “shop” or “store”).
If you aren’t able to get a domain that reflects your actual company name, consider filing a DBA for the sake of establishing brand consistency.
After settling on the store’s name, you will need to officially claim it. A domain can be purchased independently from places like Go Daddy and Hover.com .
Several e-commerce platforms (such as Squarespace) allow you to buy domain names through them directly. Regardless of the type of route you take, offer long-term registration as opposed to a short-term one.
Some domain providers allow you to pay by the month, but if possible, try to register the domain name annually (if not longer). Extended registrations come with better pricing. You’ll also be able to bypass the hassles that come with reviewing expired domains each month.
Create Content That People Actually Want To Consume
Quality websites entail more than just a good homepage. You should strive to create several pages that are dedicated to specific aspects of the business that you run. You can have pages dedicated to industry news, company updates, various blog articles, an “about” section, or a catalog of the services and products that you offer.
You should also have a “contact us” page. In addition to having a form that people can fill out to get in touch with you, you should also list your address, email, and phone number on the contact page.
If you haven’t done so already, create a logo that lingers in people’s minds. It will be seen on all of your social network profiles and website pages. Your logo will help people identify your brand, no matter what platform they see it on.
Clarify What Your Company Specializes In
Write down what your company specializes in. Your statement should be easy-to-understand. Visitors must have the ability to gauge what your niche is as soon as they land on your website’s homepage.
Feature Testimonials (Assuming You Have Some to Share)
If customers have left testimonials and reviews for you in the past, show them off. Just like you read reviews about a restaurant on Yelp before giving it your business, people will be looking for feedback about your product or service before they spend their money on it.
Your testimonials should be displayed for the world to see either on product pages or the website’s landing page. They must be easy to spot.
Strategic CTAs Should Be Placed
Simplify the process of purchasing products for visitors once they reach your website. Make sure your CTA (Call to Action) is front and center on your homepage.
For instance, you could encourage them to start buying things with a prompt that says, “Start Shopping.” After clicking that CTA, visitors will be shown your catalog.
Don’t Use Stock Photos
Stock photography will make your website look inauthentic and mediocre. Rather, introduce visuals relevant to your business.
You don’t need a graphic design background or a big budget. Canva and other websites allow you to create infographics and headers that look professional. Their templates are customizable and simple to use.
Make Your Website Easily Discoverable
You could build the perfect online store, spending an inordinate amount of money and time getting it right. But what happens if the only visitor coming to it is you?
Worry not – that scenario is completely avoidable when you use a number of marketing approaches. To ensure that you get traffic as soon as your website is launched, you will need to create some excitement and develop brand awareness about your service or product.
Use Social Media to Establish a Digital Presence
Social networks are the quickest and simplest approach to spreading the word about your business. But before you jump right into creating an account, though, you need good content on your site so people will actually read and share.
If you lack such content, then you won’t be able to stand out from the crowd, nor will you be able to engage with potential customers. If you are looking for inspiration, check out some of the competition, or influencers that are posting about services or products relevant to your niche.
Uncertain about where your starting point should be? Think about publishing a blog directly on your site. You could post articles about industry analysis, how-to manuals, or product spotlights.
Each of these content types will appeal to somebody out there. By publishing specialized content, you can establish your business as an authority in your industry.
If you’re interested in making your accounts on social media truly shine, use services offered by websites like Canva. This site, in particular, allows you to customize and create dynamic visuals that you can use for social media posts. Don’t forget – social engagement happens to be heavily stimulated by visuals.
Email Marketing is Something You Should Be Tapping Into
Another way of driving traffic towards your e-commerce store involves using email marketing for the sake of interacting with customers, potential or otherwise. On the homepage of your website, ensure that customers have a place to enter any pertinent contact info when subscribing to your newsletter.
After you begin collecting subscribers, you will need to create a riveting newsletter that contributes some sort of value. Constant Contact, MailChimp, or a similar service can be used to monitor, create, and manage email marketing campaigns.
If blogging is something you are big on, add links to a few recent posts. Doing so will add value, as well as emphasize that the emails you send aren’t just another type of sales letter. This space can be used to publish product reviews. You can also post content generated by users that you are tagged with on social media.
Be sure that you promote upcoming events. If you want people to take action, add a link or promo code of some sort.
You may have received an email from a store after you have added something to a shopping cart, but didn’t follow through on the purchase.
These kinds of emails are effective at encouraging visitors to come back to the website and reconsider buying whatever they were interested in the first time around. Abandoned cart alerts can be automated easily on many e-commerce website platforms.
Search Engine Optimization
Ranking well on search engines is very important for every small business, especially if they want to be noticed. Most people use Google between three and four times each day. As such, you need to be sure that your store’s name shows up when somebody types in a query for something you specialize in.
Ranking high on search engines entails creating content that is easy for search engines to crawl. Relevant terms should be integrated into your articles so that you rank high for them.
Create Good On-Page SEO
Internal linking helps to establish page authority. It will also help readers navigate from one page to another on your site effortlessly. If you offer visitors plenty of reading options, people will be encouraged to remain on the site for longer periods of time.
Create link structures that can be crawled to help your site get discovered by Google and other search engines easily and quickly. This allows search engines to easily determine what type of content you have. Use meaningful keywords in your URLs.
Your keyword placement should be well thought out. Many people only use keywords in their content and tend to neglect other areas. Keywords should be used in image titles, as well as in meta description tags and title tags. This is something you should never overlook!
Promotions Should Be Introduced Often and Early
People appreciate being alerted when an upcoming sale is on the way. For Generation Z and millennials, the biggest incentive to buy something is when it is part of a promotion or on sale. This begs the question – how can promotions be integrated into your digital marketing strategy? Is there a certain balance you should strive for?
Consider the following strategies. After zeroing in on a strategy that is effective for you, your new offer should be blasted across marketing campaigns and social platforms you’ve developed. A chat window can pop up anytime visitors come to your website. That way, they can be alerted of an offer they can’t refuse.
You can integrate promotions through a number of different ways:
- Use conventional routes to promote coupons and discounts. Capitalize on big retail holidays, including Cyber Monday on Black Friday.
- Offer a loyalty program (ideally one that is tiered). With it, customers will be able to access exclusive sales and content. They might even be entitled to freebies based on the amount of purchases they make.
- Create kits and bundles. Customers will appreciate knowing that they are saving money by buying products in bulk.
Analyze, Optimize, then Repeat
We can learn a lot through data. It can tell us what is working, what isn’t, and what needs to be improved on. Data is a tool you should not neglect or overlook.
Many e-commerce websites use Google Analytics and tools like it to track their KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Google Analytics allows you to create daily dashboards and customized reports. You’ll even have the ability to see real-time activity on your website.
Several KPIs to be mindful of:
- The average time that people spent on the website (or a certain landing page).
- CTR (click-through rate)
- Referral traffic
- Bounce rate
- Conversion rate
- Website traffic (which includes returning and new visitors)
After you have captured the data you need, what should be done with it? Spend some time analyzing your figures, then establish what steps you can take to improve poor numbers.
You can also try and determine how you can improve trends and keep them moving upward. Is the traffic to your website stagnant? Consider posting content on social media more often. You can also try introducing an email cadence that is more frequent.
Do you have high bounce rates? Your current landing page might need to be reworked to make your existing value proposition more enticing.
Are you experiencing lackluster CTRs? You might have to do some experiments with different colors, phrases, or button placements to determine what is most effective.
However you arrive at and whatever your numbers are in these areas, it will be a critical success factor to keep monitoring them and adjust as necessary.
This e-commerce project you’ve undertaken is not a set and forget kind of project, and it should evolve as your revenues grow.