Starting an e-commerce business can seem like a daunting task. You know have a great product and you just want to get it in front of your audience. So how can you accomplish this without spending loads of money on your website and online advertising? And how can you make sure people will actually find you amid the storm of online shopping sites?
To simplify things, we wanted to share a few platforms we really love for e-commerce sites. They make managing your site a breeze, while still allowing you to customize the store the way you want it. And deciding which one is right for you comes down to the size and scope of your business in addition to the type of products you offer.
BIG CARTEL :: Small Stores with Big Potential
Big Cartel is catered to the small business owner. The platform boosts a simple store with a few basic options. Originally it was created as a place for artists to sell their work, whether that be bands selling t-shirts or graphic artists sharing their print designs. Because of this, Big Cartel offers a low monthly cost and smaller product quantities.
Their free Gold option offers 5 products with one product image and basic stats. The only downfall is you must use the Big Cartel domain versus your custom URL. But this free store is a great place to start, especially for businesses just trying things out. And there aren’t any contracts so you can always upgrade and switch between plans based on your growth.
The platform includes many design templates to choose from that allow you to customize to your needs. If you’re familiar with CSS and HTML you can create a completely customized site or if templates just aren’t what you’re looking for, a web designer can help you develop one. The important thing to note is that you aren’t limited to having your store look the same as every other site on the internet and you get plenty of space for your branding.
Your online store can be unique to your brand, and that’s vital for creating an awareness around your product.
Is your product offering a bit more extensive? A Shopify site may be better suited to your business.
SHOPIFY :: Unlimited Growth
Shopify is the perfect platform for businesses with a wide array of products. Like Big Cartel, the platform is customizable and flexible. They have a selection of over 100 templates that are fluid enough to customize with no background in HTML or CSS. Shopify’s Liquid templating language is easy and simple to learn. If you have a vision for your site, a designer can create it from scratch exactly the way you want it.
The Basic Monthly Plan starts at $29 but if you outgrow it, you can move all the way up to the Unlimited Monthly Plan at $179. And that’s the most you will ever pay for your site. Meaning you have an unlimited amount of bandwidth under which to operate. There’s no limit to how big your brand and store can grow. After all, that’s why you were excited to start your business in the first place.
Unlike Big Cartel, Shopify does charge a 1-2% transaction fee on many of the plans. Since Big Cartel is meant for smaller shops, this fee is eliminated. This is something to consider when choosing a platform. If your business grows large enough, you’ll absorb this fee but smaller businesses should be more conscious of this.
Both Big Cartel and Shopify are built with SEO best practices in mind. The Big Cartel store is already optimized according to Google’s recommendations. Shopify supports SEO url creation and meta tags. And it stays optimized as you make changes. A new XML sitemap is created automatically each time you edit or add to your store.
Are you too busy to take on the task of building and maintaining your own e-commerce site? Or do you need a self-hosted store for high volume transactions? There is a third option.
Fully Customized & Hosted E-Commerce Sites
If building and managing your site seems like an overwhelming task and you’d rather devote all of your time to selling and running your business, then having a custom designed, hosted and managed site may be just right for your store. Web-Envy specializes in designing and maintaining custom e-commerce stores. We use open source platforms like Magento to create a look that’s all your own.
This means that we are able to develop a fully customized storefront with complex product views and displays, yet still provide all the requisite elements of an online store like promotional codes and coupons, loyalty programs, mobile solutions and options for multi-store functionality. Because programs like Magento are a bit more complex and offer more flexibility in the design, it does require a fair amount of working knowledge of HTML/CSS and PHP/MySQL. Our team has a wealth of experience with developing, hosting and maintaining online stores for large businesses and start-ups.
A few examples of sites we’ve customized include chineselaundry.com, rlinedistributors.com and rorybeca.com.
SO HOW DO YOU CHOOSE?
You want to spend your time creating your product not managing and marketing your site. All of these platforms cater to busy business owners. Making the decision on which service to use relies heavily on your business plan and long term goals. Drafting a plan and marketing strategy before you decide on a platform is important since it’s the key driver that determines your path forward. You also must consider how much time you’d like to devote to site development and maintenance. It all comes down to the resources you have within your company. Each case is different and we’d be happy to provide additional information and further insight into these various platforms.
If you have questions on which might be right for your business or if there is a better alternative designed for you, feel free to drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.