The Best Small Business Ecommerce Solutions
Which Is the Best Ecommerce Platform to Move Your Business Online With?
More and more businesses were already going online before coronavirus hit; if anything, Covid-19 will only accelerate this trend.
Here 6 of the best Ecommerce site builders out there that can help you move your business online:
- 500+ professional templates
- Affordable pricing structure
- User-friendly drag-and-drop interface
- Not ideal for complex ecommerce sites
- Must pay to remove Wix ads from your site
Wix offers everything you need to run your online store from one professional Ecommerce platform. Its dedicated Ecommerce website builder lets you sell across multiple sales channels (including Facebook and Instagram), accept secure online payments, and target customers with advanced marketing tools.
With 500+ templates to choose from, WIx has website styles to suit every type of business. Thanks to Wix’s user-friendly drag-and-drop interface plus hundreds of design features, anyone with basic computer skills can build a stunning Ecommerce website. Best of all, every Wix-powered website is automatically optimized for mobile – ensuring customers can easily reach you by smartphone or tablet.
Square Online Store
- Launch for no monthly fee
- Custom domains for $12
- Easy POS integration
- Only suited to Ecommerce as secondary channel
- Fewer templates than other site builders
Square, a company best known for payment processing and point-of-sale solutions, offers all customers the opportunity to start a free online store. Square Online Store gives you more than just a professional Ecommerce site. It also gives you access to the entire suite of Square services, integrating seamlessly with payments, POS solutions, and marketing tools.
This service is better suited to businesses using Ecommerce as a secondary income channel. It is deliberately designed to help your business get online fast. For example, if you have a restaurant business, Square Online Store lets you take online orders and offer curbside pickup or delivery. If you offer some sort of service, it lets you take online booking for services you deliver remotely.
- 50+ payment gateways
- Stacks of useful integrations
- Elegant, responsive themes
- Limited number of free templates
- Quite pricey to build a big store
When it comes to helping you build an Ecommerce site, Volusion covers virtually every base. With a comprehensive site builder and responsive themes, Volusion makes it easy to create your own unique online store – in minutes. Powerful Ecommerce features come built in to your website, including secure payments, inventory management, and SEO.
The best thing about Volusion is the third-party integrations. Whatever you need, you can achieve it with add-ons from dozens of powerful apps. These include: online security (McAfee), newsletter marketing (MailChimp), shipping (FedEx), legal solution (LegalZoom), and of course payment collection (including Stripe and PayPal).
WooCommerce by Bluehost
- Affordable shopping cart solution
- Easy to manage from WordPress dashboard
- Thousands of WordPress extensions
- Not easily scalable for large enterprises
- May be difficult for novice users
WooCommerce is a trusted Ecommerce site builder powered by WordPress, one of the oldest and most-trusted website builders. BlueHost is an industry leader in web hosting. WooCommerce by BlueHost is a unique solution that combines hosting, site building, and Ecommerce. It’s great if you want an all-in-one solution to quickly build an online store.
Having a WordPress-powered Ecommerce solution is a major advantage. That’s because WordPress has a vast library with thousands of compatible extensions and multiple payment gateways. The WordPress dashboard makes it easy to customize your online site – so long as you have decent knowledge of how WordPress works.
- Free hosting and top-notch security
- Personalized, 24/7 support
- Templates from world-class designers
- Can be a bit pricey
- Not suited to getting started quickly
Squarespace, best known as the main rival to Wix and WordPress in the website building market, has gone all out with its Ecommerce solution. It’s a great option for anyone willing to spend a little more to build a slick, high-end online store. That’s because its templates are designed by world-class designers to give your store a powerful and creative look.
Subscriptions cost above average, but come jam-packed with slick designs and premium features. For example, each Squarespace comes with built-in SSL security, ensuring your customers can enter their payment details with confidence. Squarespace supports all sorts of businesses, from subscription-based businesses to selling in person to selling downloadable digital content.
- Up to 3 months free
- Strong on SEO
- 24/7 live support
- Limited free template options
- Maximum annual sales limits
BigCommerce is the number one choice for affordable Ecommerce website solutions. It promises three months free when you start up, helping you save time and money while scaling your business. While this service lacks some of the premium features found elsewhere, it has enough built-in to make it a truly valuable and affordable solution.
The BigCommerce solution has a lot of features to help accelerate your business growth. It’s particularly strong on SEO – which is great if you’re looking to generate traffic through Google. It also offers world-class security and support, including 99.99% site uptime, fraud alerts, and PCI compliance to keep your business protected around the clock.
Now you know which platform will work best for you, here are 10 tips to take your business online – and come out of this period bigger and stronger:
1. Research Your Vertical
Even if you know your vertical well, it’s worth researching your competitors’ websites and online activity before taking your own business online.
Brandwatch, a company dedicated to online market intelligence, offers a useful list of research that include:
- Tools that give you an overview of website traffic, search traffic, and keywords for any website.
- Tools that let you monitor the social media output of other companies in your vertical.
- Tools that helps you see the keywords your competitors rank for and where they have backlinks (more on that below).
2. Buy a Domain Name
The ideal domain name should reflect your brand and help grab the attention of customers who search your product/service online.
Domain name is crucial to search engine optimization (SEO). Let’s say your business sells pet supplies in the Denver metro area. Having the URL ‘DenverPetProducts.com’ will rank high when someone searches those words. If you already have strong brand recognition, then using your company name works, e.g. ‘HappyPawsPetShop.com’.
Domain names can cost anywhere from a few dollars to a few grand (and in some cases a few million), so choose carefully.
The good news is top-level domains (e.g. .com, .org., .net) no longer matter to your online presence. There are more than 1,500 active TLDs in existence, like .biz, .market, and .buzz. That means it’s now easier and more affordable to buy a great domain.
3. Create a Website / Online Store
Once you have a domain, it’s time to create your website. This too is much easier and much more affordable than it used to be, thanks to top website builders like Wix and SquareSpace and ecommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce.
For just a few dollars a month, a good website builder will give you everything you need, such as: hundreds of templates to choose from; drag-and-drop editing; and plug-ins that let you do everything from signing up new customers to securely collecting payments.
4. Beef up Your Online Security
Cybercriminals regularly try to hack ecommerce sites for customers’ personal data. The media usually only report big data breaches like the one in 2019 which saw thousands of Macy’s customers have their payment details stolen. But small businesses are not immune to cybercrime and identity theft.
At a minimum, make sure to include good SSL protection (you know a webpage has SSL if you see a padlock in the URL bar and the URL starts with HTTPS rather than HTTP. Click this link for more information on how to ensure a secure shopping cart for your online store.
5. List Your Business
There are many ways to build up your online presence. The simplest thing you can do is to list on free business directories like Yelp and (if relevant) Tripadvisor.
Google will list your website (see step #7), but you can help garner interest by asking customers to leave Google reviews and by replying to reviews to build customer trust.
6. Create Social Media Channels
Like it or not, most people are on social media. Before creating social media channels, think about which ones are best for your brand:
- Facebook is essential for virtually all businesses.
- Instagram is great for businesses that want to reach users through images.
- YouTube is the best platform for reaching users with video.
- LinkedIn is where you want to be if you’re in B2B.
- Twitter is a great place to show off among people aged 40 and under.
7. Build an Organic Search Presence
There are two ways to attract new customers on Google: paid search (Google Ads) and organic search. The way to improve your organic search presence is through SEO.
Good SEO tactics include:
- Optimizing for mobile. Most good website builders naturally make your site mobile-friendly.
- Link building. A backlink is a link created when one website links to another. These are important to Google in determining search rankings. Give backlinks to other websites and try to get reputable websites to give you backlinks too (one way to do this is with content – step #8).
- Add a sitemap. This might sound complicated, but a sitemap is actually a simple and effective way to expand your Google real estate. You know how some websites take up more space at the top of the Google search page, with home page followed by links and descriptions to 4-6 other webpages, like About Us and Contact Us? Google collects all this information from sitemaps.
- Establish your business details. Another way to capture Google real estate is by submitting your business details. That way, when someone searches for your business, a ‘knowledge panel’ comes up on the right-hand side showing your contact details, opening hours, and other information to help customers reach you.
8. Consider Paid Search
Using paid search (Google Ads) to attract new customers will be more expensive in the short term, but if your ads are successful and you target the right people, you’ll be able to bring customers who are more high-intent and willing to buy your product or service.
The beauty of paid search is that you’re able to target specific types of people, so you have a better chance of reaching the right customers. The flip side is that you have to pay for the ads, so it’s important to come up with a solid strategy before you start.
9. Content is King
Content is an incredibly effective medium for driving traffic to your site and generating interest among users. Not only does good content help you build a reputation as an authority in your business vertical, but it also ranks well on Google.
Good content doesn’t have to involve text. It can also include video, images, charts, diagrams, quizzes, white papers, and any number of other formats.
10. Build Small So You Can Adapt
It can be tempting to build everything into your website from the get-go. The one major problem with this approach is that if you build too big, it becomes harder (and more costly) to fix things down the track. Building a functional website – but without going overboard – is a great way to test the waters with your target audience and leave space for growth later on.