Ecommerce business owners have many choices when it comes to shopping carts or ecommerce platforms -- almost all of which claim to be easy to deploy and manage. In reality, however, most business owners wind up hiring a designer and a Web developer to help them create the perfect ecommerce site.
That said, there are plenty of intrepid entrepreneurs (typically with some HTML and/or design experience) who truly want to build and manage their ecommerce site themselves, who don't want (or can't afford) to hire a Web designer/developer. Dozens of small ecommerce business owners share the top 6 ecommerce solutions, or shopping carts, that best deliver for the DIY crowd.
"I am a hands-on small business owner, and I designed the Artisurn.com website all by myself -- and am also able to maintain its ever-expanding and changing inventory online all by myself -- thanks to Shopify," says Irina Jordan, owner, Artisurn.com, an online marketplace of handcrafted cremation urns, jewelry and keepsakes.
"I [did] thorough research prior to launching my business six months ago, and [thought] Shopify was by far the best ecommerce platform for small businesses," she says. "It is easy to learn how to use. It has a wide variety of themes to choose from. And it has a lot of apps available to monitor your inventory, help with your shipping logistics, launch retargeting campaigns and much more."
"We use Shopify to sell digital products and not only does it look great but it performs very fast," says Jordhy Ledesma, CEO of Information Providers, a digital agency aimed at the Latino market. The reason he recommends Shopify to small business owners? "I recommend Shopify simply because of its community," he says.
"Ecommerce platforms for small businesses are largely commoditized but community remains as a big differentiator," he explains. "Community means that you will solve problems faster, get better education and find examples quicker." Moreover, when you choose an ecommerce provider with good technical support/customer service and a strong community, "your company will save both in technical costs as well as in headaches," Ledesma says.
Basic plan: $29/month
"Magento is [a] powerful [ecommerce solution] that is feature-rich out of box -- and it being owned by eBay makes it easy for [ecommerce businesses] to sell on eBay in addition to their own store," says Jerry Lee, an ecommerce consultant who now runs StoryLeather.com, a provider of custom leather phone cases, wallets and bags. "I have been able to add features as my business grew and requirements changed." Moreover, as far as open-source ecommerce solutions, Magento "is by far the most mature and sophisticated," he believes.
Tim Trampedach, the founder and president of Level X Motorsports, is also a big Magento fan, for the following reasons: "You can rent a hosted version or self-host for free. Easy startup for anyone. There are tons of extensions to customize it to your heart's content. There are plenty of docs to figure things out yourself," he says. And "the software is very modular," so it can grow with your business.
Get Going plan: $15/month
"The Success Squad [Bigcommerce's team of ecommerce experts] helped me through every step of the process from migrating my store from another platform, to in-depth training on marketing and search engine optimization," says Leslie Ciriaco, the owner of Creations by Leslie, a provider of personalized invitations, announcements and more. "I couldn't be happier with the level of support and baked-in features, including the beautiful free design templates that come standard. If you want your business to grow and succeed, Bigcommerce is the only choice."
[Author's Note: After researching and testing various ecommerce solutions, I also chose Bigcommerce for my small Hawaii-inspired clothing business Prepster Pineapple. My reasons: Good reputation/referrals. Lots of customizable templates to choose from. Good customer support and tutorials. And the pricing, $24.95/month for the Bronze plan, was reasonable. While there was a learning curve, as there is with any ecommerce solution, I found it pretty easy to set up shop with Bigcommerce and easy to manage and modify my site, for the most part. That said, I did use the services of a designer/developer to customize my Bigcommerce store, as many small business owners have done and do, and not just with Bigcommerce, and have periodically gone back to him when I can't fix or do something on my own.]
Silver plan: $34.95/month