Deciding which e-commerce platform to use for selling your products online is something of a head-scratcher. There is an abundance of solutions available, each offering different features, business tools, plans and pricing. So how do you know which is the right one for your specific needs?
Well, it all depends on what you’re selling, how much you expect to sell and how hands-on you want to be in building your online store. Another consideration is freedom – how much control you want over branding and customisations.
To help you get cracking with your research, we’ve put together a starting point for you – a summary of the e-commerce platforms best suited for creative entrepreneurs. Let’s dive in!
One of the most highly rated platforms for selling online is Shopify. It’s a complete commerce solution packed with all the business tools you need to make sales. Not only can you quickly set up shop online (this article explains how), you can also use the platform to sell offline too – and have your inventory and stock synced accordingly.
Shopify is easily customisable. Simply choose a free or paid-for theme and make it your own using Shopify APIs and apps. You’ll manage all your products, orders and customer database within Shopify.
- Ideal for: creatives that mean big business and need a complete and scalable e-commerce platform.
- Pricing: Shopify store plans start at $29 (£21) per month for the Basic Package. You may also need a stack of third-party apps for additional functionality – the cost of these can add up. Watch out for transaction fees (up to 2%) if you don’t use Shopify Payments. If you’re strapped for cash, consider the Shopify Lite plan at $9 (£6.50) per month – you don’t get an actual Shopify store; it’s more of a checkout button that you can add to your own website.
Another notable player in the e-commerce space is BigCommerce. It’s very similar to Shopify in terms of features, pricing, and available plans (no Lite plan, however). One key difference is that there are no transaction fees with BigCommerce. Plus, many features are built-in, so you don’t need to rely on a ton of paid-for apps to get your store working how you want.
- Ideal for: creatives who prefer the convenience of built-in features and don’t need bespoke functionality.
- Pricing: the Standard plan costs $29.95 (£21.50) per month.
WooCommerce is an e-commerce plugin built for WordPress. It’s perfect if you already have a WordPress website and want to add an online store to your existing site. At the same time, you can build a store from scratch with WooCommerce (you’ll download WordPress as part of the process).
WooCommerce supports the selling of any physical or digital products. Features include multiple product variants, different payment gateways, inventory tracking and reporting.
- Ideal for: existing WordPress website owners or tech-savvy creatives that don’t mind embracing the learning curve that WordPress presents.
- Pricing: you can start using the WooCommerce plugin for free. But expect to need paid add-ons as your store grows.
Etsy is an online creative marketplace where you can buy and sell handmade physical or digital products. As an Etsy seller, you’ll get your own shopfront within the Etsy website – a one-size-fits-all template that means all stores look very similar. However, the platform attracts millions of buyers worldwide that are looking for creative products. So a lot of the legwork in getting your products in front of your audience is handled by Etsy.
- Ideal for: creators who don’t have the time or budget to set up their own online store and don’t want the hassle of sourcing traffic.
- Pricing: you’ll pay a listing fee for each product (£0.14). Etsy charges a 5% transaction fee and a 4% plus £0.20 payment processing fee whenever you sell something.
A solid all-round website builder, Squarespace offers e-commerce functionality at a reasonable monthly cost. It has a wide range of beautiful, free templates to choose from but not as many integrations as, for example, Shopify. However, much of what you’ll need is already built-in (marketing and cart tools, for instance).
- Ideal for: creatives who want more than an online store – perhaps a blog or podcast to go alongside it.
- Pricing: get started with Squarespace’s e-commerce functionality at £15 per month.
Wix is an easy-to-use website builder with a drag and drop interface and hundreds of designer-made themes to marvel over. It’s fairly easy to create a stunning product gallery and manage your store with Wix. Features include order tracking and inventory management, multiple payment gateways and the option to create promotions (coupons) and tax and shipping rules. You get to keep 100% of your sales – there are no commission or transaction fees.
- Ideal for: creatives with minimal tech know-how that want a professional-looking store at a reasonable price.
- Pricing: the Business Basic plan costs £13 per month, and that gives you unlimited products, unlimited bandwidth, a free domain for one year and supports selling via social channels.
7. Square Online
Square began as a little white card reader allowing you to accept credit card payments in a brick and mortar store or while on the go. Now, Square provides a whole suite of selling tools, including POS systems and a free online store.
The free online store lets you start selling your products for pickup or delivery with no upfront or monthly fee. You’ll only pay a fee when you make a sale. There’s an option to upgrade to a paid plan for more advanced features, such as a custom domain and removal of Square branding and ads.
- Ideal for: brick and mortar store owners already using Square for POS and now want an easy way to sell online as well.
- Pricing: set up shop online for free, but with limitations. You’ll pay a transaction fee of 1.9% to 2.9% whenever you make a sale. Paid plans start at £9 per month, billed annually.
8. Big Cartel
Big Cartel rivals Etsy, given that it’s geared up especially for creators and artists. It has an intuitive and straightforward interface, and you can set up shop in about 20 minutes. The main difference with Big Cartel compared to Etsy is that it’s not a marketplace; you’ll get your own store website, and therefore, the opportunity to build a memorable brand. However, with Big Cartel, you’re in control of driving traffic to your store – there won’t be a customer base ready and waiting for you like there is with Etsy.
- Ideal for: small creative businesses wanting freedom – control over their branding and what visitors do when browsing their store. It’s also for those that want to set up shop quickly and get back to doing what they love.
- Pricing: Start with a free site and add up to five products (custom domain allowed). For up to 500 products, the cost is $19.99 (£14.50) per month.
Before you take the plunge and choose an e-commerce platform, be sure to lay the foundations to ensure you get your online store off the ground. That means finessing your product, building a following, and working on your marketing and PR strategy.
If you’re a CE member, have a read of these two exclusive articles: How to build a successful e-commerce website and How to set up shop online. If you’re not a member yet, discover the perks of membership.
Finally, if you need to get online but don’t need e-commerce functionality just yet, read our detailed article on the best DIY web builders for brochure sites, portfolios and blogs.