We have clients and friends who ask us, “What are the best e-commerce (sometimes spelled eCommerce) platforms for small business?” We definitely have our favorites, but the selection largely depends on the answers to the following question:
- how many types of products do you sell?
- do you sell hard products or soft products (ebooks, software) and services?
- what is your projected sales volume? price per item?
- do you have technical help available to implement the e-commerce platform’s launch?
Number of Products
Some of the best e-commerce platforms for small business are much cheaper if you have a limited number of products or SKU numbers, even if you sell high volumes of those few products. Remember to count each option (color and size) as a separate product when you calculate the total number of products you offer.
Hard Products or Soft Products
With hard products, you’ll need your e-commerce site to calculate shipping and inventory. Soft products like software, apps, ebooks, and services only need an online delivery method and confirmation.
Projected Sales Volumes
Some of the best e-commerce platforms for small business are structured in a way more beneficial for smaller sales counts of big-ticket items, such as a per transaction fee. Others have a flat structure fee, favoring a high sales count of a lower priced product. Other percentages of transaction options exist, as well.
We have clients who have some complex shipping needs. Some have multiple product sizes and weights. Various groupings of the products (example, 1 large product and 2 small products) can go into a single box. This single box shipping rate is different than if ony a large item were in it. Some clients need to delineate how many items can go into a single box before a second box is needed. Shipping complexity definitely plays a large role.
All e-commerce sites have their strengths and weaknesses. Some of the best e-commerce platforms for small business are more flexible in how they can be structured and have additional robust features. These platforms often exceed the coding abilities of the small business owner. Consider the cost of hiring an outside coder for initial platform implementation and ongoing updates for adding more advanced features. Sometimes the best e-commerce platform for a small business is a simple plug-and-play option. Just know you are going to be beholden to the limited style templates and might be missing some features you ultimately need.
E-commerce Plug-in versus E-commerce Platform
WordPress is the current king of content management systems (CMS) for many small business owners.
If you don’t know a great deal about how websites are designed, picture your own car. Think of your CMS as the car’s engine hidden under the beautifully styled body (CSS) that presents itself to your views. Your site visitor, like a passenger, never sees the CMS itself. It’s where all the coding, copy and graphics for the site are input and managed.
Some of the best e-commerce platforms for small business are simple plug-ins to the WordPress CMS. (WooCommerce is an example). While these are the easiest to get up and running, consider that any upgrade to WordPress (which happens on the WordPress developers end, not yours), can cause your CMS e-commerce plug-in to not be compatible. This can either take down your entire site, or at a minimum, shut down your store. There are two remedies when this happens:
- Retrograde your version of WordPress to the previous edition. This can be a bit risky, as often, the upgrades are done for security reasons.
- Wait for the plug-in creators to update their plug-in to be compatible. Usually, this doesn’t take too much time as the plug-in developer doesn’t want to be out of the game.
It’s one of the reasons we like WooCommerce. They are on top of there game as far as staying updated with their plugin.
Among some best e-commerce platforms for small business are stand-alone applications. Many of them, like shopify, allow (and require) you to create your entire site on their platform. The benefits? They are stable and are not subject to the whims of an e-commerce plugin/ CMS upgrade (see above) taking down your store. One limitation is that most of them use a templated format to present both your store and site to your site’s visitors. This can limit the choices you have in the appearance of your site. They are also notoriously bad for Search Engine Optimization. Because they are robust stand-alone platforms, they can be more difficult to implement, and we’ve heard complaints from business owners about it being a pain to add their own pages and new content.
A Phenomenal Comparison Guide to E-commerce
We also want to provide you the tools you need to begin researching on your own. Here is one of the most comprehensive reviews of the best e-commerce platforms for small business we’ve ever seen!
Need e-commerce? At Moon & Owl, we’ll sit down with you and listen to your answers to the key questions. We’ll partner with you to select the best e-commerce platform for your small business.
Call us for a free e-commerce consultation 817-889-1487 .