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Trying to figure out what eCommerce platform to use can be a pain. There are so many online options now, it is difficult to see what one you really need without spending some time trying it out.
And by the time you have tried it out for a month or so, it’s unlikely that you are going to finish up and try something different.
We’ve broken it down for you so you don’t waste any time on a solution that is not a good fit for your small business. But first, let’s take a look at eCommerce in general.
eCommerce refers to the online selling of goods and services. Due to innovations in the market, you can use a dropshipping method to sell items that you don’t manufacture, store, or deliver! You only pay for the items when you actually make a sale in your store. Which means that the most important point, as always, is that you make sales on your online store.
It’s easy to lose track of the importance of optimizing sales amidst a dizzying array of plugins, niche features, and unnecessary extensions. The best eCommerce businesses have this as their focus and they reap large financial rewards. ‘Focus’ and ‘Simplicity’ are keywords for consistent success in the world of eCommerce.
There are too many variants and subcategories of eCommerce to delve into in detail. But eCommerce is essentially the sale of products and services using an online platform, and dropshipping is a huge part of this. Small businesses can use a dropshipping model due to its low barriers of entry and can use this model as a complementary business or a standalone venture.
Below, we have outlined the major eCommerce platforms, where they excel, and what the disadvantages are. This should provide a framework to choose which ones are the best for small businesses.
Shopify is probably the most well-known of all large eCommerce platforms. It has been around since 2004, originally started in Canada, and now has a huge userbase. Both physical and digital items can be sold using the Shopify platform.
Shopify offers 9 high-quality themes to choose from and caters to businesses of all sizes. The themes are mobile-friendly and very responsive. They are also very aesthetic. You start off with a ‘theme’ that you can customize to fit your brand. If the free themes are not a fit, you can always purchase premium themes for a price ranging from $100 – $180. If you do purchase a premium theme, it may not be supported by Shopify – meaning you will have to hire a developer independently.
The platform has integrations with a number of other sales channels such as Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook messenger. It has a huge list of dropshipping suppliers and is probably the market leader in terms of dropshipping applications and integrations.
Shopify was designed to be easy to use, for people without coding skills. But if you want to make changes, you can access the CSS and HTML for customization. Shopify is hosted, so you don’t have to pay for your own hosting. There are no transaction fees, it’s excellent for SEO, and is easy to use. So what’s the catch?
There are certain disadvantages associated with the Shopify platform. The first is the price. Shopify basic costs $29 a month, Shopify Standard costs $79 a month, and Shopify Advanced costs $299 a month. There are additional fees if you use payment providers other than Shopify.
Professional reporting functionality is only provided with plans of $79 a month and beyond. Sales automation tools are only provided with the $299 a month package – which is too much for practically all small businesses. While Shopify offers a lot of tools and plugins, it’s difficult for new online entrepreneurs to figure out which ones to go for and what to really focus on. Unless you use the Shopify payment gateway, you will pay a hefty 2.2% transaction fee.
Shopify uses a traditional What You See Is What You Get Editor (‘WYSIWYG’). Despite functioning perfectly, it is not quite as smooth as the drag and drop editors used by other large eCommerce platforms. You can get around this with an application – which you will have to pay for.
In sum, the core issue with Shopify is that it has been designed with upsells in mind. You pay for everything and still need to do a lot of work to understand what your site needs. The platform is easy to use, the themes are slick, and it provides everything that you could possibly want – for a price. It’s better suited for larger enterprises looking to dropship lots of products.
Bearing many similarities to Shopify, BigCommerce is another huge name in the eCommerce industry. It provides a range of customizable templates, but with a drag and drop edit instead of the WYSIWYG.
BigCommerce offers 12 responsive themes, and 130 premium themes for purchase. Like Shopify, it offers good SEO and blogging functionalities, more than enough integrations, unlimited products for dropshipping, and a number of shipping options. It also has a wide number of payment gateways.
But BigCommerce stands out from its competitors – the $29 plan offers professional reporting, automatic image optimization, unlimited bandwidth, and file storage, and AMP functionality. The basic plan offers more than its competitors. The same plan allows unlimited staff accounts, while Shopify only allows two on its basic package.
The BigCommerce $79 package also offers customer segmentation, which is a useful feature for marketing to specific segments of your customers. There are no transaction fees on any BigCommerce plan.
BigCommerce is expensive, and its pricing model is nearly identical to Shopify, though without the Lite ($9 a month) option. The standard package is $29 a month, the plus package is $79 a month, and the pro package is $299 a month.
While the BigCommerce $29 plan offers more than its competitors, it does not feature shopping cart abandonment, one of the most important sales tools at your disposal. It also comes with an annual sales limit of $50,000. In fact, all of the BigCommerce plans have an annual limit, which is not seen with other eCommerce platforms. These limits are not found on competing products such as Wix eCommerce or SquareSpace.
BigCommerce integrates with two payment gateways, like many eCommerce platforms. But Shopify integrates with over 100. BigCommerce provides 12 themes, but many of these themes are very similar. It feels as if BigCommerce offers only 5 truly distinct themes. Meanwhile, eCommerce platforms like SquareSpace provide over 100.
At the end of the day, there is little difference between a platform like Shopify and BigCommerce. The features are very nearly identical. Both offer a huge level of functionality, but you will have to pay for it.
BigCommerce is a little cheaper, as its basic package offers more functionality and it has no transaction fees.
DashNex PowerTech consists of two platforms – DashNex Pages and the Instant eCommerce Store. DashNex Pages can be used to create any website and storefront, such as freelance services, portfolio pages, lead generation pages, affiliate marketing pages, webinar events, blogging sites, and more.
The Instant eCommerce Store is used for dropshipping products similar to other large ecommerce sites but with a completely different method. The Store is focused on sales and efficiency, and has eliminated all of the excess. No plugins or apps are required with a site built on HTML.
This shortens the learning curve for small business owners. The essential tools for selling to customers are built into the infrastructure, without having to pay for themes and plugins like other providers.
For a one-time special offer of $17, you gain access to both DashNex Pages and the Instant eCommerce Store. You can build unlimited pages on the site and add unlimited products on the storefront. You pick a few products that sell well, and you market them aggressively. Training is also provided to use the platform and in terms of best selling techniques. The platform serves to educate based on a sales focus, as opposed to providing customers with every ‘widget’ under the sun.
You can also add a custom domain and benefit from 24/7 support. The platform comes with essential sales tools such as 1-click cloning, sweepstake campaigns, mobile-optimized design, and dynamic thank you pages. There are zero transaction fees on the DashNex platform.
In sum, DashNex PowerTech offers an incredible level of functionality for a fraction of the price of other eCommerce platforms. The learning curve is shorter and entrepreneurs can focus on sales instead of endless technical optimizations.
There are a few disadvantages with the DashNex platform. But it really depends on what you are looking for. Some people would prefer a drag and drop and or a more intuitive design, but this platform has opted for a simple HTML template (although there is a drag and drop editor coming soon).
This is due to its focus on sales and efficiency as opposed to aesthetics and design (on the premise that most sales are made on mobile, where the designs do not render properly on screens). Many people are concerned with neat design features, which DashNex argues to be the second most important thing to getting your website online and making sales.
At a $17 lifetime offer against a typical $79 a month package offered by major eCommerce platforms, DashNex is revolutionizing the market to a large degree. Even if it currently lacks certain features, it has more than enough for the small business owner with a sales-orientated focus.
It is simple to get up and running (they provide the domain for you in the setup process, and hosting is free) – but you do need to take time to watch a few basic tutorials to learn the ecosystem.
Wix is a very ‘friendly’ eCommerce platform. It is an easy and intuitive platform, making setting up a website a breeze for small business owners. In many ways, it is perfect for beginners. It also carries a huge level of functionality and integrations that make it a rival for competitors such as Shopify. It was created to cater to small-medium sized businesses.
Many contend that Wix is one of the best on the market right now. This is because it offers a great blend of price, ease of use, and functionality, as well as impressive sales tools. It is a very well-rounded eCom platform. Wix offers 15 payment options, though Amazon and Apple Pay are not included.
With Wix, you can build a website for free, but you can only start selling when you sign up for a premium plan. Wix offers Shopify integrations if you want to create a site on Wix and sell using Shopify – which could be the best of both worlds (Wix shines through as a web builder). There are no transaction fees and no hidden costs with Wix. It offers abandoned cart recovery and multichannel selling. The 3 Wix packages are $23, $27, and $49 per month.
Wix is a WYSIWYG editor, meaning you see how your site looks as you make changes. But it is far more intuitive and beginner-friendly than Shopify. No coding skills are required. Wix sites look very clean and professional. Over 500 templates are available, free of charge.
The Wix eCommerce platform does not offer the level of tools that are provided by Shopify and other eCommerce stores. But in terms of price and ease of use, it is a viable competitor. Its drag and drop is flawless and it is very easy to design a page, with a number of intuitive buttons.
The templates are easier to customize in comparison to Shopify and the mobile application is very well-designed. SEO and marketing capabilities on Wix eCommerce are very strong, as it has been in the site-building arena for some time.
The domain name with Wix is only free for the first year, and while you can sell unlimited products, the inventory is not the most powerful in the eCommerce market.
Another issue is too much creative freedom, which can take away from best eCommerce design practices. It can lead new online business owners to feel a little bit stumped.
But aside from these few points, Wix really shines through. It’s cheap, intuitive and offers a number of powerful eCommerce tools for sales. It does not have all the features and integrations of some of its competitors, but most of these are not necessary for a small business.
Wix eCommerce will never match the likes of Shopify in the dropshipping field, or SquareSpace in the context of creating beautiful websites. But this is not what it is trying to do.
Wix is an excellent site builder and eCommerce platform that is excellent for small business owners with less than 50 products to sell. If you are looking for a simple way to build a website that sells, look no further. It has all the functionality that you need.
Similar to Wix eCommerce, SquareSpace is an affordable platform that is excellent for small business owners. It offers 3 packages, at $18, $26, and $40 a month. Over 100 free themes are available and everything fits perfectly. Simply put, SquareSpace was designed for people looking to create minimalist, beautiful, websites. Pick a theme, make some minor changes, and launch.
SquareSpace also offers exceptional blogging and SEO capabilities, second only to WordPress. In fact, they are the only site builder that really competes with WordPress. If you have an existing blog you can import it rather easily.
It also offers strong reporting metrics through the SquareSpace Metrics application. As it is so minimalist, SquareSpace does not overload you with too many features, which can be overwhelming to new business owners. It’s also the only site builder that allows you to correctly syndicate a podcast.
In early 2020, SquareSpace did a major overhaul with the release of version 7.0. It had previously come under fire for 7.0 with a design that was almost too minimal. The mobile preview button is no longer hidden. All templates have identical features and design options, to prevent confusion and offer a level of standardization.
Fonts and colors have been improved. Previously, all text had to be changed individually, but it now cascades effortlessly. A website with many different fonts can be bad for performance. Square space allows you to launch email marketing campaigns and they acquired ‘Acquity Scheduling’ in 2019.
The themes available depend heavily on the images that are used. So you can’t simply replace the image with your own as it will mess up the design. In this sense, there is a lack of customization. It’s hard to figure out how to edit the themes for many features.
While SquareSpace offers a minimalist design, it could be a little easier to use. Compared to eCommerce platforms like Wix and Weebly, it will take a little longer to understand the SquareSpace ecosystem. It is not easy to create a multilingual site using this platform.
No backup feature is provided with SquareSpace, a feature commonly found through other platforms. Another disadvantage is that the page loading speeds for SquareSpace are not as fast as other platforms, which is a huge issue for online retail stores – page loading speeds have a powerful impact on bounce rate and customer conversion.
SquareSpace is designed to create websites, and not as an online store. So it lacks a lot of dropshipping functionality. It is designed more for content management than sales. But as a blogging and SEO tool, the features provided are top of the range.
SquareSpace is a very stylish and thoughtfully designed website builder. But it is best suited to bloggers, podcasters, and niche sites as opposed to a typical small business. It is for artists and those who like to create a beautiful site with excellent features. But as an eCommerce platform, it will never match the likes of Shopify. It’s not what it was designed for, despite its recent innovations.
Many point out that if Wix is like Microsoft, then SquareSpace is more like Apple. For people looking to create a beautiful website but without the time to tinker around, SquareSpace is ideal.
WooCommerce is a plugin made for WordPress sites – technically, it’s not a platform at all. But it deserves a mention for numerous reasons.
For people who do work with WordPress (the most popular content management system in the world by internet usage), it’s the perfect solution. It is easy to learn and turns the content management system that is WordPress into an online store. Due to its popularity, WooCommerce has a lot of support.
WooCommerce is completely open-source, and is very customizable. It offers hundreds of integrations with other channels such as Facebook, Instagram, eBay, Amazon, etc. It is effectively a plugin, and not an entire eCommerce platform itself. But it works. WooCommerce is also easy to scale and self- hosted.
WooCommerce and WordPress make a powerful combination together. The base plugin is free and provides all the functionality you will need to get started with an online store. But you will probably end up buying one or two modestly priced plugins as you need them.
As a free plugin, there are a lot of issues with WooCommerce. The updates do not always sync with WordPress. This can be a nightmare if you have to hire developers to continually fix these problems. As it’s self-hosted, you have to handle maintenance and updates. So while it is free, you will have to factor in other costs.
There are a huge number of features and integrations with WooCommerce. But knowing where to start and which ones to use can be a little tricky.
WooCommerce also offers a dropshipping plugin separate from its general plugin – for sellers looking to dropship items from AliExpress and other suppliers. This is not free, billed at $49 annually. But it’s still a cheap offering that comes with updates and support.
If you already use WordPress and are sticking with this platform, then WooCommerce and WooCommerce dropshipping are perfect next steps. They provide all the functionality you need to add products to your existing.
But if you are starting out as a small business without a site, then it’s probably easier to start out with an eCommerce platform directly, as opposed to learning the WordPress platform (which has its disadvantages).
Ultimately, it all depends on what you are using the eCommerce platform for. Different platforms will have different strengths and weaknesses. You might have need of a particular feature that is only available on one platform.
Right now, the DashNex Powertech platform stands out for a number of reasons:
Of course, it will still depend on where your business is and what you intend to do. If you already have a WordPress site set up for your small business and are looking to dropship some products, then a WooCommerce extension makes perfect sense.
DashNex does not have an extensive list of suppliers/integrations in comparison to Shopify or BigCommerce. But they are not looking to compete, and have a distinct selling proposition.
Aside from DashNex PowerTech, Wix is probably the best option for small business owners in general. If you are selling less than 20 unique products, then Wix is preferable to Shopify and BigCommerce. If you are already large and established, then Bigcommerce and Shopify are better options. Loosely speaking, the eCommerce platforms can be divided as:
The right eCommerce platform depends on what your preferences really are. But at $79 a month for some of the larger eCommerce platforms, you really need to have a strong justification for making this decision, when viable alternatives are available.
Small business owners should keep it simple – build a site, upload products, and focus on the things that work. Don’t make things more complex than they are with extensions, plugins, and designs that are not focused on improving sales, speed, and efficiency.
Article contributed by Rose Foster.
Rose Foster is a digital marketer, graphic designer and online entrepreneur who is keen on sharing her business knowledge and advice.