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What is an eCommerce platform?

An eCommerce platform is a way to construct and create an online experience that lets you make sales and fulfill orders – no matter where your customers are or where they like to shop.

While the majority assume their eCommerce platform is just a tool that lets them list merchandise and is accept payments online, a true eCommerce platform is a lot more than that. Your eCommerce platform has to be a complete enterprise command center from which you control the entirety from inventory to marketing. It must let you process payments however need it also provides you with seamless access to all the equipment you need to sell online, consisting of your own online store.

To begin, first, you’ll need eCommerce web hosting, which is to say hosting that will scale up with your business without interruption.  Next, you’ll need shopping cart software to run with your eCommerce site. This will probably include a payment gateway for credit card processing, though if you’re already established and have a decent enough credit rating you could apply for merchant services to reduce transaction costs. 

What types of ecommerce are there?

There are four types of ecommerce: B2C (business-to-consumer), B2B (business-to-business), C2B (consumer-to-business), and C2C (consumer-to-consumer). 

  1. B2C. This refers to online selling from a business to an individual consumer. You might also hear people refer to B2C ecommerce as DTC, or direct-to-consumer. 
  2. B2B. When one business sells to another business online, it’s B2B ecommerce. These transactions include wholesale buying, when the purchasing business intends to resell at a profit, as well as for business use—things like office supplies and equipment. 
  3. C2B. Consumers also have selling power, as seen when they sell to businesses. Typically, these transactions are less traditional. A consumer might sell their influence in the form of a featured social post or they might offer a five-star review in exchange for money. 
  4. C2C. Consumers can also sell to one another, a trend that has emerged with the popularity of the sharing economy. Platforms like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay offer a place to facilitate C2C ecommerce. 

The best eCommerce platforms

1. Shopify

shopify
  • Price: Basic Shopify: $29.99/month; Shopify: $79/month; Advanced Shopify: $299/month; 10% discount on annual plans and 20% on biennial plans when paid upfront
  • Free trial length: 14 days
  • Integrated sales channels: Facebook, Instagram, Google, Walmart Marketplace, eBay, and Amazon
  • Mobile app features: Suite of mobile tools to fully manage your online business
  • Point-of-saleYes 

Shopify is perhaps the most well-known eCommerce platform available. It was set up in 2006.

The platform provides a full CMS with which users can manage the functionality and layout of their online store. Users can manage their store on the go using Shopify’s mobile apps, and the platform itself is fully responsive, meaning the store will be optimized for visitors regardless of whether they access it from a desktop computer or a mobile device. A live chat function is available which allows you to have a real-time conversation with your customers. There’s built-in support for 3D models and video too. There’s also an option to create customizable storefronts on Facebook and Instagram. One of the newer features is the store speed report.

Shopify also offers users unlimited hosting for their stores, in-depth analytics of how visitors are using the store, and functionality for marketing such as SEO optimization, a discount and coupon engine, gift cards, and email marketing tools. You can test out Shopify with a 14-day free trial.

2. Wix

wix
  • Price: Business Basic: $23/month; Business Unlimited: $27/month; Business VIP: $49/month
  • Free trial length: No free trial
  • Integrated sales channels: Facebook and Instagram require third-party app Ecwid
  • Mobile app features: The ability to manage your website, though lacks key business tools like inventory management; requires separate app to use mobile POS
  • Point-of-sale: Yes

Wix may be better known for providing an all-purpose website builder, but it’s not just templates and logos that Wix can provide, but also a fully-functional eCommerce platform. While other platforms are known for their complexity in being able to deliver an eCommerce platform for all needs, Wix offers a much simpler solution for small businesses who don’t need all the bells and whistles of an online megastore.

There are over 500 templates available to help you get the look and feel you need for your eCommerce site, and along with inventory management, you can also use Wix payments to choose from a global network of payment providers, including all major credit card companies, as well as other services such as PayPal and Stripe.

3. Bluehost + WooCommerce

bluehost-logo

Price :

  • Woocommerce Standard$12.95/mth
  • Woocommerce Premium$24.95/mth

Rather than being a standalone eCommerce platform, WooCommerce is a free plugin that can turn your WordPress website into a fully functional eCommerce website. The basic WooCommerce plugin is easy to install through WordPress, and even better is that the plugin is free to download and use.

However, to get the most from WooCommerce you will need to install a number of third-party plugins. This is to add features such as payment processing, inventory management, and stock control. 

Bluehost simplifies the process by providing a read-made Woocommerce platform with everything you need already installed, and that includes a shopping theme and essential plugins. Although two different plans are offered, even the Standard plan offers almost every feature you could possibly need. 

Of course, there’s web hosting underlying everything as well, meaning that you have a fully functional eCommerce platform already online as soon as you sign up to Bluehost – all that’s left for you is to add your products and set up marketing and you’re good to go.

All in all, Woocommerce is one of the best eCommerce platforms for those looking to ease themselves into starting an online retail business, whether for physical products or even digital ones, and the web hosting platform deal provided by Bluehost makes it incredibly simple to get started.

4. BigCommerce

BigCommerce
  • Price: Standard: $29.95/month; Plus: $79.95/month, or $71.95/month when paid annually; Pro: $299.95/month, or $269.96/month when paid annually; Enterprise custom pricing
  • Free trial length: 15 days
  • Integrated sales channels: Google Shopping, Facebook, price comparison engines, eBay, Amazon, Walmart, Etsy, and Instagram
  • Mobile app features: View analytics, update orders, manage inventory and products, and search for customers; some features are Android-only
  • Point-of-sale: Yes

BigCommerce is an eCommerce platform well-suited to enterprise-level software companies. Like Shopify and Wix, BigCommerce offers web hosting and lots of customization options. However, you can’t register your domain name through BigCommerce, so you’ll need to purchase and register elsewhere and port it over. 

5. Magento Commerce

Magento
  • Price: Custom pricing only
  • Free trial length: No free trial
  • Integrated sales channels: Amazon
  • Mobile app features: n/a
  • Point-of-sale: Third-party extensions available

Magento is a non-hosted eCommerce platform made for developers who want a powerful, flexible system they can customize. And while this offers many benefits for brands that want a completely tailored platform, it also presents a lot of hurdles in the form of complexity and cost. You need advanced coding and development skills to build out and manage the entire infrastructure yourself. 

Magento also lacks tools to create a seamless multichannel strategy. There’s no easy way to turn on social commerce or marketplace selling with Magento, and the same rings true for foreign currencies. So if going global is in your plans, Magento may not be the best eCommerce platform for you. 

6. PrestaShop

PrestaShop
  • Price: Free
  • Free trial length: No trial
  • Integrated sales channels: Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Facebook
  • Mobile app features: n/a
  • Point-of-sale: Available as add-on modules

PrestaShop is an affordable open-source eCommerce platform that’s great for beginning businesses that have a somewhat technical background. There’s no built-in customer support, and integrations can be hit or miss, so PrestaShop users do a lot of troubleshooting themselves with the help of the community. 

Business tools and features include inventory tracking, online shopping cart, international selling, and analytics reporting. You also have lots of control over the privacy and security settings on your PrestaShop site. 

7. Squarespace

Squarespace
  • Price: Personal: $16/month, or $12/month when paid annually; Business: $26/month, or $18/month when paid annually; Basic Commerce: $30/month, or $26/month when paid annually; Advanced Commerce: $46/month, or $40/month when paid annually; Enterprise pricing also available
  • Free trial length: 14 days, and you can opt for a one-time seven-day trial extension
  • Integrated sales channels: Shopping Feed extension to sell on Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Google Actions
  • Mobile app features: Website editing, scan shipping labels, order management, inventory management, and customer communication
  • Point-of-sale: Available via mobile app

Squarespace requires time and patience to set up if you want to sell online, not to mention there are only two payment integrations, Stripe and PayPal. If you have the budget, you may even outsource it. Once you’ve set up the eCommerce function, Squarespace has decent inventory tracking tools. 

8. Weebly

Weebly
  • Price: Free
  • Free trial length: n/a
  • Integrated sales channels: n/a
  • Mobile app features: Drag-and-drop builder, order fulfillment, inventory management, payments, analytics
  • Point-of-sale: Integrated Square POS

Weebly is a simple eCommerce website builder owned by Square. It works well if you want a small online store that doesn’t need much upkeep. You don’t need any technical expertise to operate Weebly’s platform, but it offers a very basic online store. 

You can build a store on Weebly for free. The trade-off? You can’t use your own domain name or get rid of the in-app ads until you buy a paid eCommerce plan. 

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