It’s 2019 and it’s easier than ever to sell online. With marketplaces like eBay, Swappa, Etsy, and Reverb, you can sell just about anything on its own, dedicated market. But it’s also easier than every to set up your very own store.
Hey everybody and welcome to Creator Toolkit, the podcast about building stuff on the web. I’m Joe Casabona and today we’re going to talk about some popular eCommerce platforms for you to start your own store.
Things You Need to Think About
When choosing your own eCommerce platform, there are a few things you should think about before going into it.
One is how much control vs. ease of use you’re looking for. In the platforms mentioned here, you’re generally giving up one for the other.
Another is budget. Think about how much you can spend today to get your store online, and how much you’re willing to re-invest in the future. Is this just a little side project to sell t-shirts, or are you building your business off the back of this shop?
Then there’s the logistics of actually running a shop. How will you do inventory, shipping, and reporting? Do you already have tool you use? Will you need to integrate them?
Answering these questions will help you ultimately determine which platform you should use. I personally think there are 2 players to choose from, but at the end I will mention a few others.
Hosted Solution: Shopify
If you want to get a shop up and running as quickly as possible, and you don’t want to worry about payment gateways, hosting, or hiring a developer, Shopify is the platform for you. It’s fully-focused on eCommerce, so it scales well and has the features an ecommerce shop would need.
It includes shopping zones, payment processing, reporting, and anything else you need to launch your shop. Plus, the pricing is right. You can get going for as little as $9/month (plus credit card fees). You’d be hard-pressed to find another platform that lets you make money so quickly for so little. I recommend starting with the $29/month plan though, because it offers a ton more flexibility (and an actual store front as opposed to buy buttons).
It also offers you the ability to sell digital products – something missing from a lot of other platforms.
Starting at Basic Shopify (the $29/mo plan), you get access to Abandoned Cart Recovery – this feature can end up recovering up to 15% in lost sales, which very well may end up paying for the whole plan!
Finally, Shopify gives you room to grow. They offer plans up to $299/month, giving you access to custom reporting, 3rd party shipping, and more.
The drawback comes in your inability to have complete control over your platform. Because Shopify is a fully hosted solution, you’re at their mercy. They’ve stood the test of time as they’ve been around 2006, but if they do something you don’t like, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it.
You’re also tied into their ecosystem. While they do have they own themes and extensions, again, you’re a bit at their mercy.
If you want complete control, there’s one platform that will give it to you: WooCommerce.
Self-Hosted Solution: WooCommerce
WooCommerce is an open source eCommerce platform that runs on top of WordPress. That means, at face value, both platforms are free.
Of-course, you’ll need to buy hosting, and I recommend that you don’t buy the cheap hosting for your eCommerce store. You’re probably looking at between $15-49/month to get started.
You also need to install WordPress and WooCommerce yourself – you’ll need to buy the domain, install the SSL certificate, add and configure WordPress, and then add and configure WooCommerce, all before you actually start building your store.
The learning curve for WooCommerce is steep, but the reward is worth it. In the end, you’ll have exactly the shop you want.
That’s also not to say there aren’t tools that make it easier. Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting gets you up and running with a WooCommerce shop in no time. It even includes Glew for reporting, and Jilt for Cart Abandonment. If you’re serious about your WooCommerce shop, I’d strongly recommend Liquid Web. There’s a link in the show notes, over at https://creatortoolkit.com/012/.
But ultimately, getting your shop just the way you want it will require more resources. You’ll need some more money, you’ll likely need to hire a developer (or spend a lot of time researching what you need to do, following tutorials, etc). It’s not as crystal clear as Shopify.
But the big benefits are that you own the site. Everything about it, from the features to the platform are yours. If WooCommerce went away tomorrow, you’d still have the code to run your shop. And chances are, there are developers who would take up the mantle of maintaining it.
You also get to make it exactly the way you want. If you have a custom design in mind, it can be done. If you have custom functionality in mind, you can have it made. WooCommerce doesn’t need to just sell products. You can sell digital goods, courses, coaching time, and more. Lots of stuff integrates with it, and therefore lots of stuff can be done with it.
So those are the 2 I would recommend. But they aren’t the only two. There’s also Magento, which is another open source platform. I chose to highlight WooCommerce because I’m more familiar with it, but I also like it better. I think there’s a bigger community behind it.
There are also other eCommerce solutions for WordPress. Easy Digital Downloads is a clear and focused solution if you want to sell digital goods.
One relatively new player in the WordPress space is BigCommerce. They are their own, hosted eCommerce solution that have been around for a while. They offer a set of tiered plans starting at $29/mo, and they have a rich feature set, like choice of payment gateway, inventory management, and they make it easy to publish to lots of other marketplaces.
Now they have WordPress integration too. So you can power your shop through BigCommerce, and load everything through your WordPress site. That means top performance on your shop, and the flexibility of WordPress as an open-source platform.
The other hosted eCommerce solution I’m a fan of is BigCartel. They cater to creators and I’ve seen them used heavily by bands selling their merch through the platform. Their pricing is very straight-forward (you’re charged by number of products), and it costs as little as $9.99/mo to start (they actually offer a free plan too that’s limited, but perfect to just test the waters).
Now you can see why answering those questions I posed in the beginning are important. Once you decide those, you can choose which platform is best for you. If it were me, I’d probably start with BigCartel if I were on a shoestring budget, or Shopify if I were serious about starting an eCommerce store. Then when the time is right, I’d move to WooCommerce.
Of-course, with Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting, you get the ease of getting started that Shopify offers, with the flexibility that WooCommerce offers. Start off slow, make changes as needed, and you don’t need to migrate. That’s a win-win-win!
For all of the show notes, head over to creatortoolkit.com/112/. If you liked this episode, please share it!
My question for you is: How are you going to build your eCommerce site? . Let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jcasabona.
Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, get out there and build something.