Set up a store and become an online entrepreneur
The best ecommerce website builders provide the perfect platform to take any business idea from fantasy to reality. Whether you are selling services, physical or digital products, being online is a key component in being successful. It immediately takes your brand global, giving you access to potentially millions of customers.
If you’re just starting out, you won’t need a store that packs in thousands of products and a set of comprehensive features. But, if you are already a big success offline or elsewhere, you will need a store that can cope with your catalogue.
Whatever you need, there will be an ecommerce website builder that fits your criteria and here we look at six of the most popular options to help you make the right choice.
How to choose the ecommerce website builder for you
There’s a lot to consider when looking for a website builder to create an online presence. Here we look at the elements and options that you should think about when looking to include an online store.
How much does it cost?
The price is one of the key considerations when building an online store. Each ecommerce website builder will have a selection of plans typically ranging from the basic to the advanced.
You don’t want to be paying for a package that eats heavily into your profits. But you still need to make sure that you have a package that provides you with enough space or numbers so you can add your products, and the appropriate features for the size of your store. If you have a catalogue of a hundred products, you don’t need a package that’s capable of dealing with thousands of products. Ideally, you want to start out with a package that can happily cope with your catalogue and look to upgrade when needed.
A cost that’s often forgotten is card fees and shipping. Make sure to check the rates for each package. Typically, a cheaper package will have higher card fees, so factor this into your thinking. Also, look out for special offers, but don’t forget to check what the price will be after the offer finishes. It might not be as good a deal as you might think.
What tools and features does it have?
An online store is going to be populated with products or services, so you need to check what you are going to get. Some plans – typically the lower priced plans – do not offer the option to sell services, or if they do the features are limited. So, you might need to pay more to get what you want.
If selling products – digital or physical – you need to know what capacity each plan has. Most offer the tempting proposition of unlimited products, but this can be tempered by the fact that you might have a small amount of storage. This effectively restricts how many products you can have. BigCommerce operates in a slightly different way basing each plan on sales – as soon as you reach a certain limit you are upgraded to the next plan.
Look for payment providers and transaction/card fees. You need to have access to the popular payment providers such as PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay etc and check card fees. And, don’t forget shipping rates, analytics and more advanced features that you might need. Finally, check what SEO and marketing tools are included, both are important to getting your store seen.
How easy is it to use?
Most website builders are relatively simple to use, especially when creating a straightforward website, but introducing ecommerce adds another learning level. Website builders with a strong focus on ecommerce typically have a steeper learning curve, but website builders like Wix, GoDaddy and Squarespace keep it user-friendly and are aimed at users that may not have a lot of design knowledge.
Other ecommerce website builders such as Shopify and BigCommerce are still relatively easy to grasp but they have ecommerce as their core focus, so they may take longer to learn. But if you need or want the more advanced features, you’ll have to accept the fact that you will need to take the time to get to grips with them.
What are the ecommerce templates like?
When building an ecommerce store, templates are the focus for the look of the store, so you need to know what they look like. Do they fit in with the aesthetic that you want for your store? This is very much a matter of personal taste so it’s a good idea to take a look at what each package has to offer. For example, Squarespace’s templates are a little more sophisticated than Wix and BigCommerce, but both are still very functional.
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The best ecommerce website builders you can buy in 2024
1. Shopify: Best all-round ecommerce website builder
Price when reviewed: From £19/pm (paid annually) | View offers at Shopify
If you want a website builder that’s brilliant at building an online store then Shopify should be very high on your list. It’s designed to build and manage online stores rather than as an add-on to a traditional website builder. For this reason, you jump in and start building the back end of your store: i.e adding a catalogue, payments and shipping – before you get to work on the design of your storefront.
It uses a modular system that allows users to easily add new sections to a page. The focus is to add elements that showcase your products and entice site visitors towards them. There’s a selection of top notch tools for adding products, and categorising and managing your inventory. On top of this there is a collection of comprehensive features to keep track of customer orders. It’s not as easy to use as other website builders, but it’s not a steep learning curve and when finished you have an online store that has everything you need for now and the future.
Key specs – No. of plans: 3; No. of products: Unlimited; Free domain: No; Credit card rates: 2% + 25p, 1.7% + 25p, 1.5% + 25p; Free SSL certificate: Yes
2. BigCommerce: Best ecommerce website builder for product heavy stores
Price when reviewed: From $29/pm (paid annually) | View offers at BigCommerce
BigCommerce’s heritage lies in enterprise ecommerce, so it knows a thing or two about getting a store online. Their Essentials product takes all of that knowledge and packs into a more palatable version for small businesses. But when we say small business, its Starter plan still offers online sales up to $50K per year, three storefronts, no additional transaction fees and coupons, discounts and gift cards. An impressive selection of features that is probably too much for businesses that are taking less than £4000 per month. However if you’re making more than this, you can upgrade to the next plan, but this is more than twice the price.
So with all the power behind the platform, how easy is it to use? BigCommerce’s front end is like most ecommerce builders and is based on a theme or template. And most of your choices are determined by what you choose. The Free options are limited, don’t look that great and there’s not a lot of choice. If you want something more attractive and sophisticated you need to look at the paid for theme, which is typically an additional $200-$300.
Key specs – No. of plans: 3; No. of products: Unlimited; Free domain: No; Credit card rates: 1.20% + £0.30; Free SSL certificate: Yes
3. Squarespace: Best ecommerce website builder for a quick stylish store
Price when reviewed: From £17/pm (paid annually) | View offers at Squarespace
If you want substance and style then Squarespace is a great starting point. It has built its reputation on offering pro grade templates that look smart and sophisticated, providing a perfect platform for business and ecommerce that impress. It may seem shallow, but a great looking page or website will draw in visitors, and when it comes to ecommerce you want to present your product in the best light possible.
Thankfully, Squarespace makes creating good looking ecommerce templates pretty easy. It strikes a good balance between drag-and-drop flexibility and control. The modular system makes it easy to add/move components and a grid keeps everything neatly aligned.
You will need to invest in the Business plan as a minimum as Squarespace’s lowest priced plan – Personal – does not offer any ecommerce options. This offers unlimited products, inventory and catalogue management, payment, tax and shipping tools and access to popular payment providers. But there are 3% transaction fees for product sales. To get rid of these and introduce more advanced features you’ll need to upgrade to the Commerce Basic or Advanced plan.
Key specs – No. of plans: 3; No. of products: Unlimited; Free domain: Yes; Credit card rates: 3% transaction fee; Free SSL certificate: Yes
4. Wix: Best ecommerce website builder for beginners
Price when reviewed: From £14/pm (paid annually) | View offers at Wix
If you’re new to website building and want a quick website with an online store option, Wix is a great choice. Wix is incredibly simple to get up and running and uses an easy to follow wizard-based approach. It asks a few questions about what type of site you want and the site builder guides you through quickly. This means you could have a basic site up in minutes, ready to add ecommerce functionality.
For this you will need the Wix Stores app which is free from the Wix App Market. All you need to do is hit the Add to Site button to add, but you will need the Core or Business plan to get access. Alternatively, you can work through existing stores such as Amazon, eBay and Etsy. Plus, there’s loads of other third party apps to power up your store.
Adding products is easy and you can quickly integrate online payments via PayPal or Wix’s own payment service. However, while page design looks okay, templates for products are global making it difficult to customise them. If you want something more forward thinking, you can look to third party apps or a more specialist ecommerce website builder like Squarespace or Shopify.
Key specs – No. of plans: 5; No. of products: Up to 50,000; Free domain: Yes; Credit card rates: N/A; Free SSL certificate: Yes
5. GoDaddy: Best ecommerce website builder for small businesses
Price when reviewed: From £13/pm (paid annually) | View offers at GoDaddy
GoDaddy doesn’t go big on ecommerce plans. In fact, its website builder only has one option. But what it does offer is ideal for small businesses that aren’t looking to expand beyond 5000 products. And it does add in a lot of other extras that a lot of other basic ecommerce plans might not have, such as features to schedule appointments and set up webinars and training sessions via Zoom.
Its actual store features are strong as well, with secure payment through PayPal, Square and Stripe. Alternatively, you can use GoDaddy Payments. The tools for adding and managing products in your catalogue are easy to follow and robust. Plus there is the option to sell through popular online marketplaces including Amazon and eBay. The product pages are on trend design wise and will give your pages a contemporary look and feel that adds a perceived air of professionalism.
In addition it has some great marketing and SEO tools. You can boost your traffic with the built-in SEO wizard that helps improve your ranking on Google and other big search engines, identifying relevant keywords and phrases. Plus there’s integrated marketing options that let you create eye catching email campaigns and promote products on Facebook and beyond.
Key specs – No. of plans: 1; No. of products: 5,000; Free domain: Yes; Credit card rates: N/A; Free SSL certificate: Yes
6. Square Online: Best free ecommerce website builder
Price when reviewed: From £0/pm (paid annually) | View offers at Square Online
Square is best known for being a leading digital payments service, but it also has its own online store builder – Square Online. It makes sense with its ecommerce know-how. All its plans – there’s even a free one – offer different levels of ecommerce features and it’s a great choice for building online stores for new, small or medium-sized businesses. The Free plan is basic but if you are looking to sell a few items and sell on social without any outlay, it’s a great starting point.
It’s easy to add products and arrange and organise into specific categories, you never feel overwhelmed at any point. However, its mass customisation features such as tagging and filtering aren’t as comprehensive as others like Shopify. But if you’re keeping your store small, it won’t be a problem.
Alas, Square Online is a good choice if you’re looking to sell physical or digital products, but not so much services or setting up appointments, with Squarespace and GoDaddy being a better choice for this.
Key specs – No. of plans: 3; No. of products: Unlimited; Free domain: Yes; Credit card rates: 1.4% + 25p, 1.4% + 15p; Free SSL certificate: Yes