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Best eCommerce Platforms for Starting an Online Business for Small Businesses

Updated: Apr 26, 2022


Best eCommerce Platforms for Starting an Online Business for small businesses

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Starting an online business can be daunting. You need to know your way around digital marketing practices, social media etiquette, web traffic analytics, and more. Before all this, however, comes the foundation: your website.


If you’re selling products online, you’re going to be using an eCommerce platform and like most industries, there are a number of different options on the market.

If you’re selling products online, you’re going to be using an eCommerce platform

We’ve sifted through the eCommerce contenders and whittled them down to these great platforms. Each eCommerce platform on this list is feature-rich, well-supported, and has a stellar track record – which isn’t to say they’ll be a match for your business. Each one has its pros and cons and will fit some businesses better than others.


Read on to see how these platforms might meet (or miss) your business’s needs.

 

1. Wix

Wix eCommerce Platform with Hookle

Wix is very similar to Squarespace in that they’re both subscription-based and aimed at non-developer audiences. If you want to set up a quick and easy eCommerce website with very little learning curve then Wix might just fit your needs.


That said, Wix is very limited in its scale. Industry leaders recommend its use as an eCommerce platform for only small to mid-weight businesses due to its issues with limited loading speeds. They also limit you in how you can customize your theme.


Wix does have the capacity to support users beyond its basic features with different user tiers which can be a plus for businesses who need more digital professionals in their corner. You’ll obviously pay more for this support but for someone with little digital experience it can be instrumental in getting your eCommerce brand off the ground.



2. WooCommerce

WooCommerce eCommerce Platform with Hookle


WooCommerce is an extension of WordPress – one of the biggest and most popular website Content Management Systems (CMSs) in the world. Its major benefit is that it’s free to install and use. Like WordPress, WooCommerce is open source, meaning its code is freely available to download, repurpose, and make use of.



With millions of users worldwide, WooCommerce is well-maintained with an extensive documentation library and plenty of plugins/themes available from both official and third-party vendors. This makes scaling your eCommerce site incredibly easy and cost-effective.


While some themes and plugins are paid, there are plenty of free options available to those businesses with little starting capital. The only costs you can’t avoid will be your hosting and your domain name registration.


Also like WordPress, WooCommerce is completely customizable. That said, you have to know your way around code and WordPress development best practices to really rearrange under the hood. If you’re not comfortable with this level of access, installing a solid theme and recommended plugins will be enough to get you started.


All in all, if you’re comfortable with WordPress and/or willing to learn the ins and outs of an open-source CMS then WooCommerce is a great, cost-effective option for starting an online eCommerce business.



3. Shopify

Shopify eCommerce Platform with Hookle


Shopify is one of the leading eCommerce platforms operating today. They’re a subscription model service which means you pay a certain amount per month to host and run your eCommerce store. This subscription includes things like hosting and your domain name registration, keeping all your expenses in one basket.



The platform itself makes it incredibly easy to set up your store. If you’re a layman when it comes to CMS management or code, then Shopify takes a lot of the stress off you.


hat said, with that hand-holding comes a couple of caveats:

  • You only have access to your shop and your data for as long as you pay your subscription. Exporting information or transferring to a different platform can be complicated and frustrating – often resulting in you having to hire a developer to help with the migration.

  • You have very little ability to customize your chosen theme. Where other CMSs will allow you full access to your website’s front-end code, Shopify prefers you to stay hands-off. Extensive customizations to your website’s look or functionality can only be done by the Shopify team.

If you’re someone who prefers to hand the technical reins to a third-party platform, Shopify will likely work very well for you. They have 24/7 customer support and maintain a reliable, secure platform. For what they charge, they run a tight ship.



If, however, you want the ability to customize your store to your heart’s content or can’t justify a monthly expense, Shopify might not be a great choice.


4. Magento

Magento eCommerce Platform with Hookle

Magento is one of the most well-known eCommerce platforms in the world. Released in 2008, it started life as a Frankenstein monster of sorts – developed by a private company (Varien Inc) with


assistance from volunteers and open source software contributors. Today, after passing through a few notable hands, the platform is owned by Adobe and is been rebranded as Adobe Commerce.


This eCommerce platform is one of the more unique on this list in that it’s partly open-source and partly Software as a Service (SaaS). Users have the ability to download and implement the core files on their own servers (or those they’ve hired) making it similar to WordPress in the amount of freedom and ownership you have over your information. Alternatively, users can pay a subscription fee to access an already-hosted Magento instance.


Which route you take will depend on your company’s requirements. If keeping control of your data is of great import or you want the ability to extend and customize your website, you’ll likely want to host Magento yourself. If you prefer to work hands-off with support from a knowledgeable SaaS company, then the hosted enterprise version will likely do the trick.


Where Magento falls down a bit is in its complexity. It’s incredibly feature-intensive with a lot going on under the hood. This can be great for larger companies that need to handle a lot of products or want the ability to scale quickly. For eCommerce businesses just starting out, however, it can be a little bit overkill.


Magento is also one of the more expensive options on this list (if you opt for the enterprise version).


For businesses with limited capital, this can strike Magento off their list of possibilities.


5. Etsy

Etsy eCommerce Platform with Hookle

Etsy is an online marketplace targeted toward vendors who sell unique or handcrafted items. They can be a good foot in the door for new businesses as everything is taken care of. There’s no need to set up your own domain or hosting and your payment gateways are all set up through Etsy itself.


They do, however, charge their users a fee for listing items and they take a cut of whatever is sold. This can impact your takings on the platform significantly.



For small, sole-trader businesses who are testing out the market for their handcrafted products, Etsy is a great place to start, but once you’re established you’ll likely want to forge your own path.


6. Squarespace

Squarespace eCommerce Platform with Hookle

Squarespace is one of the industry’s leading content management system platforms. They let even the most non-tech-savvy layman set up a functional website with very little coding knowledge or experience which can be a great benefit for small businesses looking to get their products on the market with very little complication.


Like many front-end website builders, however, Squarespace can come with some pitfalls. Their model is subscription-based so you’re going to both spend more money over time and also risk having your content locked into a specific platform.


Squarespace’s functionality also takes some time to get comfortable with. They give you more customization options than a lot of other SaaS eCommerce platforms but with that access comes complexity. For businesses looking for a purely intuitive design experience, Squarespace may not fit their needs.


Choose the right eCommerce platform and focus next on marketing

Hookle - social media marketing in your pocket. For small businesses.

Hookle - social media marketing tool


The eCommerce game is fast-paced and cut-throat. You have to launch your online store using the right tools. Each of the six platforms we’ve discussed today have their benefits and downfalls.


Now you know their strengths and weaknesses a little better, you’ll be in a more knowledgeable position to decide which is right for your small business.


Succeeding with an online store may start with a solid website, but the way you market it is just as important. Social media marketing and Influencer marketing are great way to start boost your brand and drive sales – read more about partnering with influencers here.

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