10 Best E-Commerce Platforms for Small Businesses
In the digital age, e-commerce continuously dominates the market and is key to a business’s success. E-commerce has only gained more status after the pandemic, with even life essentials being purchased online. With e-commerce markets forecasted to reach 8.148 trillion dollars by 2026, the future of online business appears very bright.
Building a successful e-commerce platform is by no means an easy feat, however. With daily new developments and updates on global e-commerce, even the most experienced are continuously learning how to maximize their profit with ever-changing platforms and frequently updated features. The process can be even more daunting for small-to-medium businesses (SMBs); a strong online presence allows an SMB to quickly take off and reach customers from all corners of the globe; the stakes are high, and e-commerce platforms should be chosen carefully for each SMB.
So, what makes an e-commerce platform suitable for your business?
Here, let’s first unpack the elements that make a useful e-commerce platform—one that not only gives your business good exposure on the market, but also one that saves you time and energy to operate. A solid platform would allow you to showcase the strengths of your product to the fullest. Consider the following points:
- User-friendly interface: User-friendliness is the first thing that people often assess when adopting a new e-commerce platform. A poorly designed interface can cost you one of the most valuable assets of business life–time. Not everyone has an IT background handy, so sites with an easily navigable interface is key for paving the first step in business.
- Payment gateway integrations: Next, there is the need to very carefully consider the payment channels you will accept for your business (Paypal, Apple pay, credit card, bank transfer and so forth) and whether the e-commerce platform in mind supports those payment types. Of note, this payment gateway integration of e-commerce platforms isn’t only about enabling online payments for your business. It's equally important for ensuring security of transactions, improving conversion rates, and building a wonderful customer experience. Remember that it isn’t only you using the e-commerce platform–your customers will too, and an easy payment process will encourage them to return.
- Mobile optimization: Customers now tend to do online sales on their phones–on the go, in waiting lines, or just during leisure time. To illustrate, during the 2022 holiday season in the US, around half of online sales were likely done on a mobile phone– this showcases the importance of sticking to e-commerce sites that are optimized for the phone screen. Mobile phones are likely the channel for sales for years to come, so don’t let an inefficiently designed mobile setting drive customers away from your virtual store.
- Customizability: Customers in the digital age often envision themselves using the product; they crave exclusivity and would prefer a product that seems to be made for them. Many e-commerce sites now allow you to set up options for the end product. Whether they’d like a leather backpack of a specific shade of gray with their initials carved on it, or a laptop cover from a particular type of wood for their newest Macbook, some e-commerce site’s customization options allow your shoppers to think that they are in control of their purchases.
- Scalability: Some e-commerce sites also come with the benefit of scalability– a feature that brings you more for less effort. For example, a fitness instructor might upload a digital course and see 5000 sales in one day, followed by 8000 the next week, all with minimal effort. Note, however, that not all products are scalable, so scalability can bear different levels of importance to different businesses.
- Pricing and any transaction fees involved: Even if an e-commerce platform comes with all the features you need, be sure to check whether the pricing (often a monthly subscription) is within budget. Some e-commerce platforms will take advantage of your growth and take transaction fees with every purchase. Consider the scale of your SMB and be sure to think through what these fees would mean for your business. If fees are high, the e-commerce sites should in turn bring you some degree of benefit to compensate for the additional money you have to pay.
- Support and community: There may be periods of challenge when setting up a business– especially in the beginning phases where you are still learning to operate an online store. In such times, handy, accessible support becomes key to overcoming any technical difficulties you may encounter. Good support on an e-commerce platform will save you time, allow you to focus on more important aspects of your business, and motivate you to pursue your commercial endeavors. Even better if you can find a community of users for your chosen e-commerce platform–this enables you to exchange ideas and make the very best out of the platform.
10 best e-commerce platforms for small businesses
With a set of criteria in mind, the next step is to compare e-commerce platforms and decide the best one for the size and nature of your business. There are a plethora of e-commerce platforms in competition with each other in the market, so researching the differences between them and reaching a decision will take time.
Here, consider ten popular e-commerce sites, each built with features suited for businesses with different priorities:
Initially a side hustle of three Canadian men to sell snowboards online, Shopify has quickly evolved to be the world’s largest, multinational e-commerce platform. With at least 1.7 million merchants spanning across 175 countries as of 2021, the platform's success can be attributed to its user-friendliness and its ever-growing business features. The platform comes with an extensive range of features for businesses–from product management and payment processing, all the way to the complicated process of product shipping and marketing, Shopify is there to guide any business owner regardless of their level of experience. Its partnerships with Facebook, Google, and Amazon simplify online business operations for clients.
Trusted by millions of brands, WooCommerce is an e-commerce plugin for the popular blogging site WordPress. This means that SMB businesses who are users of WordPress can blog about their products while conveniently gaining sales from WooCommerce at the same time. Easy to install, navigate, and flexibly customizable, WooCommerce is also an SMB-friendly, affordable platform: it gives new businesses a chance to experiment with their e-commerce platform for free, and neither does it take any portion of profits while a business grows.
Aside from having the fundamental features of e-commerce sites, BigCommerce’s unique advantage–one that competitors don’t yet rival– is that it offers unlimited data storage, regardless of the plan chosen. Data here can refer to data of any type–from images and catalogs to inventory and customer data, BigCommerce has your business information conveniently stored in one place. In an e-commerce world where success is strongly tied with data management, BigCommerce’s upper edge with data can be very valuable.
Wix is widely known for a tool to build websites for people with no prior experience in website construction, but its commerce features are equally well worth noting. With a myriad of templates and styles to choose from, a website on Wix is highly easy to set up, allowing anyone with no IT background to have a stunning commercial website in a matter of hours. It enables sales through a business’ e-commerce site and their social-media channels, all while laying out convenient shipping, payment, and marketing solutions for you.
5. Squarespace Commerce
A competitor of Wix, Squarespace is highly similar with regards to its features. Like Wix, it offers SEO tools (i.e., customized URLs for commercial pages and meta descriptions), easy-to-navigate blogging tools, as well as shipping and payment gateway solutions. While Wix and Squarespace have comparable commercial features, there may be certain reasons why a business would prefer one over the other. Some believe that Squarespace may be a little more useful for blog-heavy sites, for example, while others entertain the idea that Wix is more friendly for those seeking to customize more of their own sites and use SEO to the fullest. Ultimately, it is up to the seller to experiment and decide the platform that most facilitates the growth of their business.
6. Nexcess StoreBuilder
Nexcess StoreBuilder is a strategic blend of the above-mentioned WordPress and WooCommerce, which allows users to take advantage of the features of both. Coming with multiple business-friendly features, affordable, with an aesthetic range of templates and claimed as easy to use, Nexcess StoreBuilder has won the trust of many merchants. Nexcess is also transparent on its pricing— fees are paid for upfront, and you wouldn’t need to contribute any additional portion of your profits to Nexcess, thus allowing better financial planning. Better yet, Nexcess does not “lock” your business in with any long-term contracts, and you can also test out your business idea with a tentative domain name without having it directly indexed by search engines.
Designed for the slightly more tech-savvy bunch, commercetools offers an application programming interface (API) approach to their e-commerce sites. It is also composable, meaning that users can select components and assemble them in different combinations in order to meet specific website requirements, thus allowing limitless possibilities with regard to e-commerce site design. With commercetools, SMBs can customize their sites more freely without having to pay for any features that they don’t use. The cloud-native nature of commercetools implies easy deployment and scaling, hence lowering IT costs and dependency for your business.
8. Big Cartel
Big Cartel is a space for creators and artists to sell their work, and like general e-commerce platforms, it also comes with set features. Many curious sellers inquire into the difference between the widely known Etsy and Big Cartel, as both Etsy and Big Cartel seem to specialize in the niche category of artistic sellers. The biggest difference is that Big Cartel is a platform for creators to have their own standalone online shop, using their own website domain (hence creating a sense of professionalism). While Etsy doesn’t come with such a feature, creators can gain more exposure through Etsy’s big marketplace.
It is worth remembering that Big Cartel is hugely affordable as well– sellers pay a set monthly fee ( like a subscription) and the platform does not take any sales cut. The platform is also free for artists selling fewer than five products.
9. Adobe Commerce
Previously known as Magento, Adobe Commerce is another platform to consider. It is suitable for businesses of all sizes, it is scalable and can create business-to-customer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) experiences. As an Adobe product, Adobe Commerce carries the upper edge of being able to connect with Adobe Experience Manager, which facilitates the set-up of targeted campaigns and automates marketing procedures.
Gumroad is an interesting e-commerce platform as it is mainly known as a platform to sell not only physical goods, but also ideas and digital products. Businesses can sell anything– from cooking blog posts and insider instructions, to originally created emojis and language teaching material, it is flexible and a fantastic platform to experiment with unconventional ideas. With Gumroad, users can also set up features that may be otherwise time-consuming, such as monthly subscriptions.
Choosing a suitable e-commerce site is well worth your time
As shown, there are multiple things to consider when businesses choose an e-commerce platform. These business platforms can have a significant impact on not only sales but also the overall operational productivity of a business. Note-worthy, however, is that there is no one-size-fits-all e-commerce platform for all businesses. These platforms are designed for different needs, and SMBs would need to thoroughly research features and reviews of these platforms. Also, make good use of free trials to experiment with the affordances and limitations of each platform to truly know what’s best for your business.
Taking your e-commerce shop around the globe, with Acer TravelMate
Although e-commerce platforms largely involve software, selecting sturdy, reliable hardware is an equally key investment. Whether you’re traveling for your business or staying put in the office, the Acer TravelMate series offers a range of devices you can rely on to get your business done. Fast charging and coming with solid security features, it gives you the peace of mind that your device requires little attention throughout the day but also reduces the chances of malware attack. If you’re traveling to places with summer beaches or winter snow, Acer TravelMate’s rugged devices will not crack under pressure; it can also withstand unforeseen incidents, such as spills or drops during your business activities, giving you ultimate freedom in your e-commerce ventures.
Esme Lee is a science writer and editor in the UK, carrying a passion for tech copywriting. She has a background in educational neuroscience and holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge.