Posted: Tue 30th Nov 2021
If you’re looking to sell your products or services online but don’t know where to start, read on.
Buying and selling goods and services over the internet is known as e-commerce. Fortunately, there are now lots of e-commerce platforms that make it as easy as possible for your business to set up an online store.
With the help of our Enterprise Nation community of small business owners, entrepreneurs and business advisers, we’ve identified some of the best e-commerce websites currently available. We hope you find this list useful when deciding which is the best e-commerce platform for your needs.
Not sure how to build your e-commerce store?
Any good e-commerce store needs the right tech, at all times. If you’re not certain of the technology you need to set up your e-commerce store, Dell Technologies can support you with free, one-to-one tech advice. Real people, offering real advice to keep your small business ready for what’s next.
Call a Dell Technologies Advisor today on 0800 085 4878 or chat with them online at the Dell website.
Best e-commerce websites for small business
With most e-commerce platforms, you can design, build and launch your online store very easily. But that’s not all you can do. There are features that let you manage your stock, take and process orders, receive payments and so on.
It’s true that the range of e-commerce sites is vast, and that identifying one for your particular business can be challenging if you’re not sure what you’re doing. Below are some of the best e-commerce sites on the market right now.
Launched in 2006, Shopify has established itself as probably the most well-known e‑commerce platform in today’s market.
One of its main selling points is how simple the software is to use. (Indeed, Shopify itself claims that users should be able to get an online store up and running in a matter of minutes.)
Shopify allows you to tailor your business’s online store, both in terms of how it looks and how it works. You have the option of using the available templates, or customising the store’s look and feel yourself.
With its built-in content management system, you can use the platform to post content (such as blogs) and help promote and strengthen your brand. Added to that, there are CRM (customer relationship management) tools that let you market your business via email newsletters.
All in all, Shopify is a simple, user-friendly and intuitive piece of e-commerce software. Subscriptions come in the form of three different plans (Basic, Shopify and Advanced), starting at around £22 ($29) per month. Before you subscribe, you can try things out by signing up to the free 14-day trial.
Our members say…
Harry Cobbold, founder and managing director of Unfold, a business that helps start-ups and scale-ups create digital products, has this to say about Shopify.
“If you’re a smaller business with less budget to invest in an e-commerce platform, Shopify is a really solid option. You can get off to a great start as it’s intuitive, offers many of the core features inclusively and means you can focus on the more important aspects of running your business.”
“Shopify is a simple e-commerce website framework if you want to customise fast. It integrates nicely with Facebook and Instagram, although set-up does take a little more time.”
Unlike Shopify – which is a stand-alone e-commerce platform – WooCommerce is a plugin built in to WordPress. If you have a WordPress site, you can install WooCommerce and use it to set up your online store.
Because WooCommerce is a plugin, getting it up and running does require a bit of technical knowledge. Bear in mind that if you don’t have this knowhow, you may have to hire a person to do the initial set-up work for you.
To get started, you’ll need to:
pay for a hosting provider (a company whose services allow your website to be viewed and visited online)
install WordPress, if you don’t have it already
Once set up, WooCommerce is free to run and comes with the full range of
e-commerce features. They include tools for:
setting up payment and shipping options
One big advantage of the platform is the freedom it gives you to customise your store to your exact needs. With more than 50,000 integrations available, there’s almost no limit to the options you have to make your website your own. Just remember that there are extra costs for any other plugins or extensions you might use to expand WooCommerce’s functionality.
Our members say…
Harry Cobbold of Unfold says:
“For the clients we work with, our choice is often WooCommerce. If you’re an ambitious, scaling business, it really does offer everything you could want. It’s customisable, powerful and familiar to most people, so easy for client teams to work with.
“And it has the huge ecosystem of extensions which allow you to grow your business – everything from automated follow-up emails to integrations with Facebook, HubSpot and more.”
Though Wix is known more for general website-building rather than online sales, the platform does provide a straightforward solution for e-commerce. And because of its user-friendly interface, it’s really easy for business owners to get an online store up and running, no matter what their level of technical skill.
The platform has more than 800 templates to select from, although not all are necessarily geared to e-commerce. That said, there’s plenty of choice, meaning you should have no issue getting the look and feel you want for your online store.
Everything is done via simple drag-and-drop, with the option of a Developer mode if you want to dig deeper into the coding for further tweaks and customisation.
Wix has all the standard e-commerce tools and features for things such as:
accepting payments and providing payment options
building lists for email marketing
advertising on Google and Facebook
Given the platform’s popularity as a website builder, there’s also an extension marketplace. From there, you can build lots of integrations into your online store, whether it’s for accounting services like QuickBooks, automation tools such as Zapier or work management applications like Trello.
How to choose an e-commerce platform for your business
Kathryn McMann has some straightforward advice for small businesses considering setting up an online store for the first time.
“It all depends on what you want to be able to do. For me, it’s about keeping it simple, so you can get your store up and selling fast. Don’t get held back trying to be perfect and have a finished product immediately. You should be able to do everything from your mobile.
“Descriptions, branding, tone of voice, brand visuals – these are all things you can improve on later. Just keep it simple and get it out fast. Depending on the platform and the product you choose, photography could make the difference, so think about investing in a small lightbox or good ring light if needed.”
Other e-commerce software you might try
Similar to Shopify, Bigcommerce gives you access to a range of templates and themes to design and launch your store quickly. It has tools for stock management, automating shipping taxes, integration with top marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon and Google Shopping, reporting and analytics, and a full-featured content management system.
Like WooCommerce, Magento is an open-source e-commerce platform that lets you customise every aspect of your online store. However, keep in mind that this does require some level of technical knowledge, and so may not be the best option for e-commerce novices.
A fully integrated, business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce platform designed for wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers. Its main selling point is that it integrates with a number of accounting systems such as Sage and Pegasus.
When a customer orders from the e-commerce site, the order is pushed directly into the accounting system, removing the need for manual inputting.
With no upfront costs and just a monthly subscription, GOb2b is ideal for smaller businesses operating on a budget.