Going by the growth we have seen in the past decade, it has become clear that businesses have to capitalize on e-commerce to increase their sales exponentially. Usually, the first thing most business-owners would like to jump to is creating a website of their own. However, this requires a major investment in time since they have to figure out the ways by which a good e-commerce website can be built. This is when existing and pre-developed e-commerce platforms come to the rescue. These platforms help business-owners save a lot of time, money and effort. Then again, the question is which platform to choose, since there are several options available. In this article are three best platforms, reviewed for different criteria. Before that, here are a few factors to keep in mind when choosing an e-commerce platform.
This goes without saying – the most important factor to be considered is pricing. Every platform usually charges a monthly fee for using their service. This is usually dependent on the features they provide. It is simply not enough to go for the cheapest, however. It is also important to consider the benefits the platform would provide and choose accordingly.
Most e-commerce platforms promise to help business-owners with the setup. With the platform’s assistance, the e-commerce store can start its run right away. But sometimes, this could compromise on the entire look and feel of the online store. The brand’s identity should come through in the design of the online store, which is why you should go through the range of themes each platform offers. It is a good idea to choose a platform that offers design flexibility and has several themes, like Shopify.
If the business has a diverse range of products, the e-commerce product catalogue should be able to accommodate all categories and subcategories. Business-owners must look at all the data fields provided by the platform; will it be able to support and sell all the business’s products? It is also important to note here that certain platforms are best for selling only digital products (like E-Junkie for e-books) whereas platforms like Shopify help set up online stores and sell any product.
When checking out what a platform has to offer, the vital features to consider are shopping cart plugins and payment gateways. These are elements that could make for a very convenient or very frustrating overall shopping experience. It is important to see if these features are easy to use. Also check all backend features and integrations that help the business – like content creation, templates to upload products, accounting plugins and email marketing tools – for ease of use.
Customers are usually hesitant to make purchases via e-commerce platforms due to large scams that often happen online. It is always a good idea to check for the security credentials of the platform before zeroing in on a decision. If the platform has an SSL certificate, the customers will have a safe and secure checkout. The best e-commerce platforms, like E-Junkie and Teachable, usually have a good security system in place.
It goes without saying that a good customer support system is extremely important. It is common for e-commerce platforms to have outages or server crashes from time to time. During such times, customers will feel more secure when they have the option to contact support staff. Many e-commerce platforms provide 24/7 customer support and can be reached through different media. This will help customers resolve any technical issues that may rise.
Over a period of time, businesses are likely to expand. They might diversify product portfolios, increase inventory or even require a larger online store. The e-commerce platform you choose must be able to help owners upgrade their online stores easily without having to switch to another platform. Scaling up to meet business needs for a nominal fee should be an advantage the platform must be able to provide.
Based on these factors, here are the best platforms that help you sell your products online:
E-commerce giant Shopify started out in 2004, as an online store to sell snowboarding gear. Now, it serves as a platform to sell products online for over 500,000 merchants across 175 countries. The web application allows businesses to create an online store without having to go through the hassles of web hosting or software installation. Even those who do not have technical knowledge can make use of the platform with ease. The platform comes with a complete set of tools, features and themes to help you build a visually pleasing online store. Undoubtedly, it is one of the easiest platforms for e-commerce businesses to use.
Plans: Shopify Lite at $9 per month, Basic Shopify at $29 per month, Shopify at $79 per month, Advanced Shopify at $299 per month and Shopify Plus at negotiable prices.
- Usability: It is the most straightforward platform to use. The clean, modern background might require time to get familiar with, but is not hard to master. It comes with tools to upload products, manage inventory, organize product categories, create web pages, set up customer accounts and sort them based on location or purchases.
- Templates and Designs: An aesthetically appealing online store establishes credibility and gains the trust of the consumer. With templates and designs from Shopify, your online store can be made to look beautiful while still staying true to the brand’s identity. Users will be able to choose from over a hundred paid and free templates. The paid themes could range between $140 and $180, but this is a one-time payment.
- Mobile-Friendly: Since a huge chunk of the population uses mobile devices to shop, this is an absolutely crucial element of online stores. Shopify has a built-in feature that helps customers access online stores via their phones.
- Product Catalogue and Variants: The platform allows users to create up to 100 variants of a single product with a maximum of three options. The product options can be increased using third-party apps for a small amount.
- Abandoned Checkout Recovery: It has been observed that most customers forget to complete their checkout after adding products to their cart. The platform’s abandoned checkout recovery helps users track these customers and remind them to complete their purchase. Users will be able to access a complete list of customers who have not completed their checkout.
- App Store: With over 1,200 apps to choose from, users can add more functions to their stores. These apps also allow users to save time and energy by automating business tasks. There are apps that help users with inventory management, marketing, accounting, shipping, customer service, etc.
- Point of Sale Integration: For users in USA and Canada, Shopify provides the additional benefit of integrating a company’s online store with its physical location. The entire kit allows users to manage both online and offline sales using a single system.
- It has a 14-day free trial that helps users to try out all features at zero cost. Users can make use of this trial to figure out the kind of plan they need and the features they require.
- It is extremely easy to use. It comes with simple tools that do not require technical knowledge to use. Alternatively, users who have an understanding of HTML or CSS can edit templates for more control.
- It provides a vast number of paid and free themes that help users design stores that match their brand identity. These themes make the online store look visually appealing to customers.
- With the app store, it is easy to add features that help the business automate and manage several tasks.
- The platform’s 24/7 support via phone, online chat or email is a great advantage since assistance is provided whenever required.
- Besides the monthly fee, Shopify additionally also charges a transaction fee for every product the user sells on the platform. The fee is levied to cover the cost of the technology Shopify uses to power sales.
- The apps available in the store are mostly paid. This is in addition to the monthly fees users have to pay.
- For complete control, businesses might have to hire a person with knowledge of HTML and CSS.
Teachable is a platform that helps users publish and distribute courses online. Typically, these are for people looking to make money via DIY courses on any topic. Unlike a marketplace that allows potential customers to browse through a list of all courses, users can create their own pages and sell their courses individually. Using the platform’s simple interface, anyone can create and distribute their course easily.
Plans: Basic at $39 per month, Professional at $99 per month and High Volume at $299 per month.
- File Upload: Users have the option to upload almost any kind of file they want on to the platform. They can do this without any coding knowledge. Whether it is an audio, video, image, PDF or Word document, it can be uploaded to the platform easily. Users also have the option of drawing files from sources like Google Drive and Dropbox.
- Branding and Design: While content can make or break an online course, it is also important to present the subject in a way that’s visually appealing. Teachable has interesting themes that aid in presenting a good brand image to students. These themes can be added to the landing pages of the course for better visual appeal.
- Drag and Drop Builder: Without having to go through the effort of understanding web designing, users can organize and manage their courses using the drag-and-drop builder.
- Reports and Analytics: Once the user has uploaded the course, they will be able to monitor its performance. With an easy, at-a-glance data report, users can see how their course impacts learners.
- Student Communication: With popular email software like MailChimp and ConvertKit available within the platform, course creators can communicate with their students. They can provide feedback or guidance without having to use an alternate medium to communicate.
- Marketing: The Teachable blog provides users with tips to market their courses better. Cases studies and insights help users promote their courses. Users are also given coupons to promote limited period offers or course subscriptions. In addition, there are options like affiliate marketing and email marketing. Course creators can also group courses together and offer them as a package.
- The platform helps users set up their courses easily. The tools can be configured and courses can be uploaded within minutes, hassle-free.
- The customer support system is very efficient. In addition, the well-designed platform, excellent editing features and variety of integrations make it easy to sell courses online.
- Course creators will have access to the entire student list. This will help them get insights on the kind of people who opt for their courses and create relevant content to suit their needs.
- The analytics tool offers an insight into how well a course is doing; users can get this data at a glance.
- After completing the course, students will be provided with quizzes and other learning tools to test their knowledge.
- Course creators can later upgrade to a better plan if they need to maximize their distribution.
- The student interface design is very basic and poor. In contrast to the homepage, the student login has the simplest navigation tools but looks dull and unappealing.
- The biggest flaw is the lack of design flexibility. Although there are themes and templates to choose from, the range of options is very limited.
- The text editor faces bug issues from time to time. Users have to reload pages to continue editing.
E-Junkie is a shopping cart service that helps users sell digital and tangible goods on a small scale. It started out as a simple script designed to automate a sale program. Currently, it is a distributed application running on the Amazon Web Services server cloud. It features a marketplace that lists products and provides payment processing and delivery of goods. It is preferred by bloggers, artists and photographers who want to sell their products without having to invest in a full-fledged e-commerce website. It comes with complete set of tools and functions that are easy to use. With no transaction limit or fee, it is one of the most convenient platforms for online selling.
Plans: Four plans each – priced at $5, $10, $20 and $40 a month.
- Selling Products: With its inventory management tool, the user can monitor their stock and sales. Based on the weight and size of the products, the platform allows users to customize shipping charges. It has a built-in calculator that helps calculate tax and shipping costs.
- Third Party Integration: The platform is integrated with Google Analytics. Users can get detailed insights about the traffic to their website with this tool. They can also use a code snippet to integrate the shopping cart with Google Adwords, Facebook Ads or drop shipping companies.
- Payment Integration: The platform is integrated with multiple payment gateways, which include PayPal, TrialPay, 2Checkout, Braintree and Stripe. Users can add Buy Now buttons that take customers to landing pages of the payment gateways for fast checkouts.
- Marketing: Like a few other platforms, E-Junkie also enables affiliate marketing. Users can also send newsletters to customers to promote their products. However, the newsletter comes at an additional fee.
- With plans starting at just $5 per month, it is a highly affordable platform to sell goods.
- The interface is easy and convenient to use. It takes only a short while to understand the basic functions.
- The 30-day trial period is sufficient time for users to figure out if the platform is the right choice for them to sell their products.
- Customer support is provided via email or online contact forms. The platform is usually very quick in responding to queries.
- The E-Junkie blog has in-depth information on how to manage the website, along with tips on marketing.
- There is no transaction limit, bandwidth or fee.
- It is very easy to create discount codes and collect taxes on the platform.
- Users can upgrade to bigger plans if they want to expand their website.
- Since it is integrated with multiple payment gateways, it is a lot easier for customers to check out conveniently.
- The company has still not updated itself to keep up with the times. Due to its poor brand image, many users are hesitant to use the platform to sell their products.
- The interface, although easy to use, is outdated. It has not been updated to meet current requirements and offers very limited features.
If you are looking for a platform to sell products and goods, Shopify definitely is a good choice. It helps businesses set up an online store, hassle-free, for a monthly fee. For those looking to sell courses, Teachable is the go-to platform. E-Junkie is great for small businesses and individuals looking to make money from their inventory by selling them online.
Besides the factors we discussed, a very important element to consider while choosing a platform is budget. It is vital to find a platform that works efficiently while avoiding unnecessary expenses. With the e-commerce industry growing rapidly, it is important for businesses to keep up with the times and set up their businesses on online platforms.