The Best E-Commerce Solutions For Your Small Business

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Today, selling your goods and services online has become imperative when running a business. E-commerce makes your product available to the world, through several platforms including mobile devices. In 2013, global e-commerce sales went over $1.2 Trillion. So where should you start if you want to grab a piece of this pie? Well you basically have two options:

  • Option 1: If you already have a business website, you can integrate a standalone shopping cart software to add e-commerce functionality to your site. Some of those tools are open-source, and allow you completely control the design and management of your online store. This option, generally used by big companies and experienced coders, requires a lot of technical skills, and sometimes a fully dedicated IT staff. Option 1 will not be covered in this article.
  • Option 2: Use a hosted e-commerce solution that frees you from dealing with technical issues. Those solutions will provide you with website design and hosting services, as well as features most small businesses require. Those solutions are generally payable on a monthly or annual basis.

This article focuses on hosted e-commerce solutions.

What are the features of good e-commerce solutions?

It depends on your needs. But in general good e-commerce solutions include the following features and services:

  • Website setup, hosting and security
  • Domain registration
  • Customizable site templates to design your site
  • Mobile-optimized website
  • Plan features that suit your needs in terms of bandwidth, number of products, storage and transaction fees
  • Reporting, conversion, SEO and marketing tools
  • Easy product and inventory management tools
  • Flexible tax system.
  • Multiple currencies.
  • Access to your storefront’s HTML/CSS
  • The ability to sell tangible and digital products
  • Analytics tools or integration with Google Analytics
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Several shopping cart features
  • Integration with social networks like Facebook
  • Integration with newsletter and marketing services like Mailchimp an Constant Contact
  • Access to multiple payment options like credit cards and gateways like PayPal.
  • Choice between customizable shipping rates and real-time quotes from services like UPS, FedEx or Canada Post.
  • Integration with automatic order processing tools like Ordoro, Doba or Shipwire
  • Multiple languages

Review of 3 of the best e-commerce solutions

1. BigCommerce

BigCommerce comes with tons of features including those listed above. Plus, if you have been selling items on Ebay, BigCommerce makes your transition easy by letting you sync your online store inventory with your eBay listings.

Pros: $100 Google Adwords bonus and unlimited bandwith are provided with every plan. In addition, the Abandoned Cart Saver option is provided in most of their plans.

Cons: BigCommerce is a bit more expensive than its competitors and it doesn’t allow multi-lingual storefronts.

Pricing: There are 5 plans ranging from $24.95/month (Bronze plan) to $299.95/month (Diamond plan).

2. Volusion

Volusion is a full-service e-commerce provider with design templates and customizable storefront. Volusion also provides most of the features listed above.

Pros: You can sell your products on Amazon and Ebay directly through your Volusion store. Also, within similar plans, Volusion is cheaper than BigCommerce. Finally, contrary to BigCommerce, all Volusion plans offer unlimited storage.

Cons: No plan offers unlimited Bandwidth (the maximum you can get is 35 GB). So if your site becomes very popular, it may crash because of too much traffic.

Pricing: Plan prices range from $15/month (Mini plan) to $135/month (Premium plan)

3. Shopify

Shopify is a hosted e-commerce SAAS application that allows you to sell a large variety of products. It provides several desirable features like a built-in mobile commerce shopping cart, Web design, SEO & marketing tools, inventory options, 24/7 support and security functions.

Pros: Bandwith is unlimited for every plan. Plus, the number of products you can sell in your online store is also unlimited for every plan (contrary to Volusion and BigCommerce). Finally, Shopify includes a full blogging platform to help you get involved with your customer community.

Cons: There are credit card fees. Transactions fees also apply when you use a third-party payment gateway like Paypal. Plus the trial period is not free.

Pricing: Prices range from $29/month (Basic plan) to $179/month (Unlimited plan).

Which hosted e-commerce solution should you choose?

There is a staggering number of e-commerce solutions available on the market. So your ultimate choice will depend on your budget and the features you need. In addition to the three companies reviewed in this article, I suggest you also take a look at 3D Cart, Ultra Cart and Pinnacle Cart, which offer comparable features. Most companies offer a free trial period, which allows you to test their service before signing up.

Finally, if you run a WordPress blog, and all you want is a basic way to monetize your site, shopping cart plugins like WooCommerce, GetShopped, Cart66, MarketPress or YAK are cheaper alternatives. Indeed, most of these plugins are free and you can buy extensions whenever you need extra features.

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