Whether you already own a brick and mortar store, and you want to go online, or you simply have a new business idea, starting an online shop is really easy since there are plenty of ecommerce solutions to choose from. Some of these are universal turn key solutions, which facilitate the creation of any kind of web shop, while others are simpler and highly customizable platforms to suit particular business needs.
In this article, we discuss the best ways to make an online shop both for advanced users and novices.
A good example of a ready-made eCommerce solution is Volusion. It is trusted by more than 50,000 online stores and it handles everything for you: you can choose from more 75+ templates as a starting point, which you can customize according to your needs. It comes with 15 free templates, but you can buy any of the other ones.
It is a highly secure, robust and PCI compliant ecommerce solution. You don’t have to worry about securing servers just to accept credit card payments (it supports more than 35 payment providers), storage capacity or for that matter integrating payment or CRM systems, everything has been taken care of, you just have to focus on attracting customers.
They provide shared SSL certificates, but if you want, you can use your own SSL certificate for a fee.
Overall, Volusion has more than 900 features that you can choose from like the possibility to create a blog, CDN support, eBay integration, Amazon integration, etc. It comes as a SaaS, and it has a 15-day free trial, which allows you to decide if it is the right choice for you. If you decide that it fits your needs, then you can pick from 4 paid plans starting from $15 a month up to $135 a month.
BigCommerce was founded in 2009, and ranks high among ready-made eCommerce solutions, powering around 100,000 online stores. This platform is mostly targeted for US store owners, so if your target audience is US based then it is a great choice for you.
It has a simple to use site builder tool, which allows you to create beautiful looking, responsive pages without any HTML or CSS knowledge. This being said, if you have a developer on your team s/he will be able to customize a lot of aspects of your web store.
It also has integration with other marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Google shopping, etc., so you can sell your products on a lot of different marketplaces not just your online shop.
As far as pricing goes, BigCommerce has four plans: Standard ($29.95/month), Plus ($79.95/month), Pro ($249.95 / month) and Enterprise (custom solutions).
Every plan comes with unlimited products and storage as well as unlimited staff accounts. The aspects they do differ in is the number of API calls and search method: Pro and Enterprise has faceted search for example, you can find this type of search on sites like Amazon or eBay where you can filter any search result by parameters like color, USB port and what not. There are some other differences as well, so make sure you do a bit of research to pick your plan, but of course you can upgrade any time if needed.
With BigCommerce, you can start with a free 15-day trial, and see which plan suits your needs. In the beginning you should maybe go with the Standard plan, and as your store grows and you are starting to have more customers, you can upgrade your plan as well.
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, which turns WordPress, the most popular CMS on the internet, into an ecommerce platform. WooCommerce is much more than just a simple plugin, it has its own add-ons with the help of which you can add even more functionality to it.
Both WordPress and WooCommerce are free and open source with a huge community behind them.
In terms of looks, you can choose from free or paid themes. This is the hardest part because there are endless themes created for web shops on online theme marketplaces. Almost all of them are mobile friendly. Once you have decided on a theme, you can start focusing on functionality.
If you don’t have any special requirements you are good to go with WordPress, WooCommerce and a theme. However, if you do have special requirements, then you can look around because chances are that there is a plugin or addon that already handles that certain feature you need.
If you have any issues or bottlenecks in getting a certain feature implemented, you can search for solutions online or ask on WordPress or WooCommerce community forums. If you don’t find an existing plugin or setting, then you can have it custom-made for you pretty cheaply because there are a lot of developers that you can hire for custom works.
There are a lot of great hosting companies focused in WordPress and even WooCommerce hosting from which you can choose from. They provide focused support for WooCommerce, and if you have issues with it, they can help you sort them out. Almost all of them provide so-called one-click installs, so installing WordPress and WooCommerce can be a breeze.
Setting up a WooCommerce online store involves a little bit more than a BigComerce or Volution powered online shop, but in exchange it comes with greater freedom, and it can also be cheaper. You have to find a hosting company, set up WordPress, install the WooCommerce plugin, and then add your theme, or use the one-click install provided by your host.
Starting an online store is pretty straightforward, and there are no risks involved, so there is no need to hesitate, simply go for it.
With the advent of SaaS ecommerce solutions like BigComerce and Volution, which take care of all the technicalities, an online store’s success is no longer driven by its features. The playing field is leveled, and what drives success now is marketing, great products and customer service.
If you want to take matters in your own hand and have a bit more freedom and control in your online presence, then choose WooCommerce. It has a bit of a steeper learning curve than the others, and it needs some maintenance, but it does not impose any limitations on you.
Pick the one which suits your needs better, but be nimble on your feet, because online shopping is a highly competitive area. Always be prepared to jump ship if needed, as you should never marry a technology.