6 Top Ecommerce Platforms for Do-It-Yourself Small Businesses

Ecommerce business owners cast their votes for the shopping carts and ecommerce platforms that are most tailored to the do-it-yourselfer -- no design or Web development team required.

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4. WooCommerce

"There's no better platform than WordPress for DIY websites, so it makes perfect sense to use WooCommerce, the WordPress-based ecommerce platform," says Ben Larcey, head of Marketing at Bluebird Global, who has built and run many small/DIY ecommerce sites.

"Being free and open source means you have complete control over your store without being locked into a monthly contract or proprietary software. WooCommerce is perfect for niche sites just beginning their ecommerce journey, like Arrow Leather Works, but also has the ability to scale into powering much larger stores," Larcey says. "If you're familiar with WordPress, then using WooCommerce will come naturally to you with products just being a modified blog post in the CMS."

"My favorite ecommerce platform and what I recommend to my clients is WooCommerce," says Michelle Nickolaisen, owner, Bombchelle Industries, which provides productivity how-tos & classes for freelancers and small business owners. "It's free, so there are no monthly fees that eat into your profits -- and it's easy to use," she says. Another plus: "It can be used for both digital downloads and physical products. And the amount of extensions available for it make it incredibly flexible."

5. Webs

"When we started our business it was a hobby, so we didn't want to spend too much time on building and managing the Web store," says Lisa Crowell, president, Beantown Cornhole, the makers of personalized cornhole boards and bags. "We did a lot of research and finally started a free trial with Webs.

"It was so simple and intuitive, we didn't even read the instructions," Crowell says. "We were able to quickly set up the store in minutes and decided to upgrade from the free trial. Maintenance is very easy. We can add and remove items in five minutes. We also like the flexibility of offering customers several payment options," she says. "Our website looks so professional, we seem like a bigger operation and that boosts our credibility with potential customers."

Pro plan: $16.50/month

6. 3dcart

"When people come to me for advice on launching an ecommerce store on a shoestring, we recommend 3dcart, the platform we have been on for four years," says Mitch Rezman, CMO, Windy City Parrot, experts in bird and parrot care, providing food, treats and toys for exotic birds.

"Although many people rave about ecommerce plug-ins for WordPress, they fail to look under the hood. [And] for as little as about $20 a month you get a cart with built-in linking to Google analytics, social media sharing and what's really important is a host of triggered emails based upon the actions of users," Rezman says. In addition, "abandoned carts, product reviews and so forth can all be set to deploy automatically. So if you are looking for an entry level cart with a robust set of features, I strongly recommend 3dcart."

Mini plan: $19.99/month

One Last Piece of Advice Before You Buy

"Even though there are a lot of free open-source platforms out there (e.g., Magento, xt:Commerce), it can be time-consuming to install and maintain them," warns Robert Brandl, founder and chief tester at WebsiteToolTester, independent experts who help business owners find the right website builder for their needs. "They are more powerful, but in my view a small business will almost always be better off using a hosted store solution," he says.

With hosted solutions, "there are no manual software updates required and technical things like security issues are being taken care of in the background," Brandl says. Moreover, downtime is typically not a problem. And "beginners usually appreciate the fact that these providers also offer personal support."

If you do decide to go with a hosted solution, however, before you give them your credit card number, try it out. Most ecommerce platform providers offer a 14- or 30-day free trial. This way you can play around with the different themes and features and determine if it is the right solution for you.

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a contributor to CIO.com and runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping organizations better interact with their customers, employees, and partners. In addition, she is the hands-on owner of the ecommerce retail business Prepster Pineapple Clothing

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a contributor to CIO.com and runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping organizations better interact with their customers, employees and partners.

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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