What’s the Best Ecommerce Platform for Small Business?

Looking for the best Ecommerce platform for your small business?

Updated 10-April-2021

We often get asked which eCommerce is best for small business. As a result, I have pulled together a list of the pros and cons against each of the most popular ecommerce platforms so you can make an educated decision without trawling the net for information!

There are a few critical factors that need to be considered when it comes to an eCommerce platform:

  1. Upfront price
  2. Ease of use
  3. Ongoing cost
  4. Ownership
  5. Transaction costs / payment gateway options

With this in mind, take a look at the following table showing a comparison:

eCommerce PlatformPrice per Month
Ease of use, wide range of features, mobile friendly, great supportCustomisation can be difficult and expensive, most enhanced features come at an extra cost, base plan has minimal inclusions, you never ‘own’ your site it always belongs to ShopifyUpfront cost typically low, most often require a theme purchase.
Shopify have improved their ongoing costs so much more affordable, however you still never own your site.
Feature rich and easy to use, great design options, SEO and marketing straight out of the box, great supportCustomisation can be difficult and expensive, abandoned cart requires upgrade, you never ‘own’ your site it always belongs to BigCommerceUpfront cost typically low.
Transaction fees are not transparent so be wary. Again, you never own your site.
WooCommerce$0Cost effective, easy to use, feature-rich, easily customisable, full ownershipGetting started requires more effort and investmentUpfront investment is higher, but once done then you can own and control your own site. Highly scalable and flexible platform.
Customer support, out-of-the-box solution, includes ticket/event management, includes reservation managementBasic plan is not a viable option for most businesses (automated sales tax not included), limited shipping options, limited marketing inclusions,  you never ‘own’ your site it always belongs to WixGreat for small restaurant and/or events holders, but other small businesses need to look at more costly plans and lose efficiency of the ‘out of the box’ solution
SquareSpaceAUD25Great templates, out of the box solution3% transaction fees can add up quickly, minimal marketing inclusions,  you never ‘own’ your site it always belongs to SquareSpaceTransaction fees are very high and may be in addition to fees charged by your payment gateway (eg. Merchant banking/PayPal etc) thus quickly eroding profits

* USD to AUD conversion based on exchange rate of AUD 1.29 to USD1 as at 5:33pm 10-April-2021


So, what is the best ecommerce platform for small business?

There are some important things to consider if you want to set up an online store and so I encourage you to take the time to read this article through.

There has been an explosion in the number of e-commerce platforms – so which are the best commerce platforms for small business, or more specifically for YOUR small business?

Perhaps you’re looking at e-commerce to:

  • Start an online business
  • Take your current product offering online
  • Your current e-commerce platform hasn’t remained competitive.
  • You have one or two products to sell and need something simple
  • You simply want to be able take payments online

How do you choose what is the right ecommerce platform for your business?

Take some time to make this decision, because once you have chosen an ecommerce platform, it will be with you for a while.  Getting the configuration of your online store right, adding in the products and creating strong foundations takes time and resources.

Moving between ecommerce platforms may be simpler if you only have a couple of products, but if you have a large product offering migrating between platforms is not a small undertaking.

So you want to choose carefully and consider the functionality your small business needs.

Questions to consider for your eCommerce website

  1. What type of products are you selling?
  2. How many products will you have online?
  3. Do you need product variations? For instance you might sell a tshirt that comes in a range of sizes and a range of colours.
  4. Where will you sell to? Australia-wide, international, local only?
  5. How will you collect payment? Paypal, Stripe, through your bank’s merchant facility?
  6. How will you calculate shipping cost?
  7. Do you want to package products, cross sell and up-sell?
  8. Will it be part of your online presence or is the store your entire online presence?

Are there other functions you also want to include?

For example:

  • Search engine optimisation features
  • Social media integration
  • Blog
  • Responsive, mobile-friendly design
  • Email newsletter integration
  • Accounting software integration
  • Event ticket sales or class bookings

Wix, Magento, Shopify, Big Commerce, SquareSpace and Woocommerce  – how to choose

While looking for an ecommerce platform for small business (and that is our focus in this article, enterprise ecommerce platform are a different kettle of fish) you will probably have heard of at least a couple of these.  With the proliferation of online ecommerce platforms, comes the challenge of avoiding paralysis by analysis.

The good news is that despite the myriad of options and considerations, it is now easier than ever to create and start selling through an online store.

From the above questions you will now know roughly what functional aspects you will need / want for your online shop, but what about the ecommerce platform itself?

  • Is it a reputable ecommerce platform, with a large community of users, active development and well supported?
  • Do people rave about the ecommerce platform (and rave for free because they have had a great experience, in other words not be a paid fan – be careful of the difference if you are reading reviews)?
  • Will you still have a website if you decide to discontinue selling products online and is this important to you, or is your site a dedicated online store and there is no business without it?
  • Are you locked into ongoing monthly fees (regardless of whether people are buying through the online store) and if they decide to raise their prices how much will it affect your profit margin?
  • Are they US-based and it is hard to configure for use in Australia?
  • Is there an exit plan?  Can you export all your data if you decide to break up with your ecommerce platform?
  • Is it simple to make your online store look professional?

Your e-commerce business is unlike any other. Whether you’re selling products, services or digital downloads, you need an e-commerce software product that fits your online store’s unique needs and requirements. – Business News Daily

Shopify versus BigCommerce versus Woocommmerce

To keep it simple I will bring the above list of platforms down to three and that is based on the above factors.  I am not going to go into tonnes of details on each one and a convincing case could be put forward for each one, but as suggested I am focused on getting a platform that will work, and work well for small business. If you really want to use the others you will.  There are also some excellent and detail reviews for ZencartVolusion and Magento here.

  • Shopify – if you want a website that is dedicated to being an online store, it is hard to go past Shopify.  It is consistently rated and reviewed as excellent.  It is versatile, easy to use, a complete hosted platform and it works really well.  It isn’t cheap though.  Consider the costs (all the costs) as it is one of the more expensive options for small business.
  • BigCommerce – BigCommerce is not only an Australian platform but it also has a lot of nice features. These features include, but not limited to blogs, newsletters and social media integration as well as SEO features.  Like Shopify it is also a hosted, dedicated ecommerce platform.
  • Woocommerce – We build WordPress websites, so we use Woocommerce a lot.  What it does and does well is it adds an ecommerce store to your WordPress website.  Woocommerce is a free plugin and can be setup very quickly.  Plus, if you use Paypal for your payment gateway there are no ongoing monthly costs other than your website hosting, which means that it is very cost effective for small business.  There are specialised features (as with all the above platforms) that you can pay for to deliver added functionality and importantly it is very SEO friendly (as all these options are). Basically Woocommerce is a no brainer if you have a WordPress website that you would like to add ecommerce to.

What’s the best ecommerce platform for small business?

Final verdict?  If I was a small business looking at ecommerce platforms then Woocommerce and Shopify would be my two picks currently.  Both will work well for an online store, with Woocommerce having the benefit that if you decide to close down the online store, you will still have a website.  However, if you want a dedicated online store then Shopify is consistently ranked as number one.

In the ever-changing world of online software, both Woocommerce and Shopify have been at the forefront for a long time and could be considered the best ecommerce platforms for small business, in different situations.  They are both easy and time efficient to use once you have the initial setup complete and deliver a professional result. If you are investing the time and resources into an ecommerce platform for your small business both will deliver on your requirements.

Further reading:

Best ecommerce platforms in 2021: website software for an online store

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