Are you a small business looking to set up an online store and make sales?
Then you’re going to need an eCommerce Website Builder to do just that; thankfully I’ve put in the time to research, trial and test numerous eCommerce Website builders and I will be outlining today what I recommend.
The short version of this post is this. If you want to set up a professional, clean and fully-customizable store, with a range of advanced features and flexibility, at a cost-effective price, then I would strongly suggest you sign up with Shopify.
Shopify, whilst incredibly simple to use, provides a range of back-end functionality that means setting up and then running an online store is effortless and enjoyable. You don’t need to understand complicated code, nor do you need to get bogged down in the technical elements of store creation. Instead, you can run through a simple store building process, and have your store set up in as little as 20 minutes.
Before I delve deeper into the Shopify platform and outlines its benefits and perks, I will first whittle through a few questions that you may have (that I certainly had) before I decided to sign up to one of their plans.
This way you can be fully informed before you make a decision as to whether this really is the platform for you and your small business.
What is an eCommerce Website Builder
An eCommerce website builder is an all-in-one platform that gives you all that you need to build and run an online store. In a nutshell, here is what a store builder enables you to do:
- Customize Your Store Theme and Style
- Add and Sell products,
- Set up Automated Processes
- Manage Inventory,
- Accept Payments,
- Fulfill Orders
- Contact Customers
- Pay any Required Taxes
- and much more…
Now all website builders are based on two principal interfaces:
- Back End – Where you build your store and where you establish the functionality that powers how your store operates.
- Front End – This is your stores website, where your visitors can view and purchase your products (essentially this is your stores website)
As such, when looking for a eCommerce Website builder, you will want to invest in a platform that is: Easy to use, Manage, Edit and Update.
The major benefit of an effective eCommerce Website builder is that you do not need to hire expensive developers and designers, nor do you need any technical skills or knowledge.
Instead, you simply run through a simple store creation process, and when that is complete, your store is accessible and available on the web.
What to Look For in an eCommerce Website Builder?
Trying to understand what you truly need for setting up an online store is hard; finding out whats a must have can be quite complicated. I understand and I’ve been there myself.
To come to my conclusion, I researched and tested a number of eCommerce website builder providers. Cross-comparing all that they provide, i was able to identify the features that a website builder should deliver.
Here’s a list of of what you will want to look for in a store builder:
- Prioritized Security – you want your own, and visitors, information to be fully protected from the get go.
- Mobile Responsive and Optimized – you want your to load and work optimally when accessed on all devices. Particularly when your visitors access via mobile (which is increasing as the years go by)
- Professional Store – you want your store to look professional; not only to gain your visitors trust, but to also portray a strong brand image.
- Flexibility/Scale-ability – you want to be able to easily update your store so that you can scale when the time comes.
- Speed – you want your store to load promptly, which will help increase your store conversions and ensure that your visitors do not decide to ‘bounce’ and go elsewhere.
- Support – you want to be able to contact support, who are trained and versed in overcoming challenges scenarios and store complications.
- Simple To Use – you want a builder that is easy to manage, navigate and manipulate.
- Fully Customizable – you want to be able to fully customize every last aspect of your store, so that you can truly represent your business and ensure that you stand out from the crowd
- Affordable – you want to minimize your costs so that your business can make more profit. Besides, this is why you are in business.
- Extensive Functionality – you want to be able to rollout various conversion-boosting applications (or Plugins if you’re from a WordPress background) that enables you to collect and email leads, provide discounts and offers etc.
With this list in mind, I conducted extensive research into the many website builders available out there.
I wanted a builder that would tick all the boxes. Not just one or two, but all of them.
Why? Because each serves an essential purpose to having a successful business online.
What my research concluded – was that there are a lot of different eCommerce builders that try to make building an online store as easy as possible.
Unfortunately for the majority of these builders, they couldn’t deliver on all aspects above. Most of them compromised on one thing or another, whether it was functionality, price etc. And whilst this may be OK for some, its not the best for all.
Thankfully, I’ve been able to identify a website building solution that meets the criteria as documented above.
So if you’re thinking of creating a new online store for your business, then let us get started.
Best eCommerce Website Builder for Small Business
Shopify is the best eCommerce platform available on the market today.
It powers over 600,000 businesses in over 175 countries, and for very good reason.
Where Shopify is really effective is that it was designed for all business sizes, regardless of where you are today and where you can scale to.
So as a small businesses who are new to online eCommerce, its as effective as it is for global market leaders with hundreds of products in their product inventory and selling millions each year. This means that for you, Shopify will be a fantastic solution as you scale and grow your store as your business expands.
Here are the just some of Key Benefits of Shopify:
Perfect Store Design and Themes
There are more than 100 free professional and mobile-responsive/optimized themes that you can install on your store in the click of a button. As such, you can literally change the look and feel of your store in under a minute. As the themes were developed for all devices in mind, your store will look fantastic regardless of whether your visitor is using a desktop, laptop, mobile phone, tablet etc. There are also a number of industry/theme specific or general themes available so there is always a theme that will suit and best portray your business. Each theme is also fully customizable, whereby you can change every single element to your choice and preference. The granular level of customization that you can apply is what makes Shopify standout as a eCommerce website builder, and really sets it apart from other providers online.
There are more than 1,500 apps (and growing) that you can install on your store in just a couple of clicks. These apps increase the functionality of your store, and can dramatically improve how your store performs. For example, there are a number of conversion-boosting apps that you can install. Once installed and set up, these can really take your store to the next level as they are based on scientific purchasing behavior research. Apps of particular interest and examples to note, which I have used to great success, are the Scarcity Timers and Discount Popups. These are brilliant at increasing the likelihood of impulse purchases and giving your visitors a reason to become a customer. For example, the Discount Popup app provides a massive banner that takes over the screen of your store visitor. This offers a discount code (at a rate that you set) when applied at checkout.
24/7 Expert Customer Support
And not just any support, support that is well trained and versed in not only Shopify, but in eCommerce and technology in general. The 24/7 Customer support teams are experts in a variety of fields who you can contact around the clock and through the method that suits you (Live chat, email or call). So whether you want help customizing your store or apps further, or if you are experiencing a rare technical fault, they’ll always be someone there to assist.
Increased Store Speed & Performance.
The major benefit of an eCommerce Website builder is that you are purchasing an all-in-one solution whereby you can manage and control your entire store all from one place. That includes hosting!
Now if you currently run a website (or have run one in the past) you will know just how important hosting is. And if you want fast and reliable hosting, you’re going to have to pay for it (upwards of $20 a month).
Hosting is essentially the horsepower behind your website, increasing its speed and performance. Its proven that with quicker speeds comes increased likelihood of store conversions, and lower potential chances for your customers to leave your site without making a purchase.
Where a Shopify plan really provides value, is that hosting is included as part of your plan. And you’re not just getting any old regular hosting, you’re getting incredibly fast and reliable hosting, with over a 99.9% up-time record across the entire platform.
Keeping your own and your visitors information safe is critical. Being the subject of fraud, or having a store visitor/customer exposed can cost you a lot of money. Remember, you could be liable if a customer is breached on your site.
Thats why, Shopify have rolled out enhanced security on all stores as standard. This meaning, you get a free SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) on your store just by operating via their platform. Not only do SSLs dramatically increase the security on your site, meaning data and information breach are pretty much impossible, but they also increase trust from your stores visitors when they see the padlock icon in their browser.
Now, SSL’s are usually expensive to buy, and complicated to install on your site. You are probably looking at around $20 per year, and the effort involved in getting it set up and working correctly on your site can make it far more problematic.
By running your store via Shopify, on the other hand, this is all taken care of, and you are in safe hands the minute you sign up and establish your store.
Intuitive Mobile App
Like to manage your business on the go? Then Shopify will help you do just that. There is an innovative Shopify Mobile Application that you can use to manage your store, track and take care of orders etc. Its pretty inclusive of your Shopify back-end that you can access via desktop. The app also provides you with push notifications of when an order is placed on your store or if there is an order that you need to fill.
14 Day Free Trial
Now, one of the final key benefits where Shopify really stands out, is that they offer a 14 day Free Trial (where no credit card is required). This is fantastic as you can sign up, set up a store and test all of the functionality before you fully commit. The free-trial is also all inclusive, meaning that no functionality is limited nor excluded. When the 14 days are up, you can switch over to a paid plan (starting at only $29.99 a month)
Click here and you can read our full Shopify Overview Article, outlining what it is and how it works.
My Shopify Store Experience
So you can see how easy and effective it is to create a store with Shopify, I’ll quickly run you through the process and the interfaces. I documented the steps during my initial store setup:
Its a very quick and simple process to go from nothing -> fully functioning store. You can probably do this in as litttle as 20 minutes!
Firstly, you will need to sign up for a 14 day free trial by providing your email and enter your contact information.
Once you sign up the central back-end Shopify interface will load (admin panel).
This is exclusive to you, and the admins/users that you assign to log into.
This is where you create and customize your store, install and set up applications etc. Essentially, anything that loads on your store website will have been configured in the back-end here.
On the left hand side, you can go through each of the different sections, starting with your products:
You can completely customize products, manage inventory etc. You can even set up collections so that certain products can be featured in different pages/parts of your store.
By accurately entering weights and dimensions on the product page, Shopify will be able to notify you of the shipping rate you will be liable to pay.
The back-end interface is also a valuable way to keep track of your stores key stats, including your visitor counts, page views, conversions etc. you can see this view by simply clicking on the Analytics tab on the left hand side of the interface.
As mentioned previously in this article, the app store is where Shopify can really deliver. Simply by clicking the App Store button you can search for featured apps, most installed apps and new apps, all of which improve the functionality and performance of your store.
Is Shopify Right For Your Small Business?
Shopify is perfect for you if you want to launch an online store, particularly if you have no technical knowledge or coding experience.
Its a brilliant solution is you sell 1 product or 1000 products, and its inventory management system enables you to fully control your orders.
Shopify has been designed to be suitable for a wide range of business industries and niches, inclduing: fashion, jewelry, health, food, homeware, fitness, garden, furniture, sports, gadgets, toys, games etc. It literally enables you to set up a store regardless of what you sell.
As a small business wanting an online store, you probably want to get started and get up and running quickly and cost-effectively. Shopify is a complete store building solution that does just this.
Shopify has created an innovative platform and effective streamlined process, that has completely eliminated the trtaditional challenges of building an online store. They’ve revolutionized the market.
If you’ve decided that Shopify is perfect for your small business now, but not sure if it will be as you scale, consider this: brands like RedBull and Tesla operate via the Shopify platform. If it’s effective for them, then it is effective for us too!
If you want to get started with a Free Trial on Shopify, click the image below: