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When taking the leap into the world of online retail, one of the most important decisions to make is where you'll sell your products.
According to a recent survey, more than two thirds of online retail businesses do this using third-party ecommerce platforms*. But with so many options out there, how do you decide which is best for you?
In this article, we look at important factors to consider when choosing an ecommerce platform, review five of the most popular options, and discuss how all of this can affect your insurance needs.
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Key features of an ecommerce platform
- Pricing, transaction fees and trials
- Users and permissions
- SEO tools and support
- Payment integrations
- Customer support
Reviews of popular ecommerce platforms
Do I need insurance to use an ecommerce platform?
Key features of an ecommerce platform
Pricing, transaction fees and trials
Many online retailers start out on a tight budget, with price a key factor in any purchasing decision.
In an ideal world, there would be plenty of free ecommerce platforms to choose from. In reality, most online retail platforms charge monthly or yearly fees. And even those that appear to be free will take a cut of your sales transactions.
While you have to pay for most ecommerce platforms, many offer a free trial – giving you an opportunity to try them out before you make a long-term commitment.
Users and permissions
Will you be working alone, or will you have team members who need access to your ecommerce platform? Even if you start out as a one-person operation, it’s a good idea to think about potential growth and whether you’re likely to take on staff in the future.
Most platforms allow you to add users or link accounts to one online shop – but you may only be able to do this on more expensive plans.
You should also consider whether you can have different settings and access rights for different users. As a business owner, you’ll want full visibility over every aspect of your ecommerce platform. But you might want specific permissions for other users.
For example, while someone working in marketing may need to upload images or edit product descriptions, you may not want them to see your financial reports.
SEO tools and support
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of getting your website to rank highly on search engines like Google or Bing – making it more visible to your target audience, driving more traffic and, ultimately, increasing revenue.
As organic search is a key marketing channel for online retailers, you’ll need to think about optimising your ecommerce store. It can therefore be helpful to choose a platform that comes with built-in tools for optimising your website’s content and structure, as well as monitoring performance so you can make data-driven decisions.
If you sell online, you need a way to accept payments – so it’s essential to think about whether your ecommerce platform is compatible with different merchant services and online checkout solutions.
You might also want to think about whether it can integrate with in-person point of sale (POS) systems, as this can help you share data across different channels and gain a better understanding of your sales and customers.
If you have an issue with your payments, need help figuring out a new feature or want to chat through your subscription options, how would you like to speak to someone?
Some people prefer to send an email, while others like to pick up the phone – so it’s important to think about whether an ecommerce platform offers customer support in a way that works for you.
You might also want to think about availability and opening hours. If you did need support, would you want to do this during local business hours, or would you prefer to know someone will always be on hand to help?
Reviews of popular ecommerce platforms
Shopify: best ecommerce platform for growing businesses
In its own words, Shopify is ‘is an all-in-one commerce platform built for independent business owners to start, run, and grow their businesses online, in-store, and everywhere in between’.
Established in 2006, Shopify is now one of the most well-known platforms for online retailers. It boasts Kylie Jenner, Adele and David Beckham among its users, and it’s estimated that Shopify merchants will sell to over 700 million buyers in 2023.
Shopify offers three different plans: Basic, Shopify and Advanced. You can upgrade or downgrade your plan at any time, which is great if you're starting small but have grand ambitions.
|Cost, monthly plan||£25||£65||£344|
|Cost, annual plan||£228||£588||£3,108|
|Transaction fee, online sales||2% plus 25p||1.7% plus 25p||1.5% plus 25p|
|Transaction fee, in-person sales||1.7%||1.6%||1.5%|
Does Shopify have a free trial?
Yes – but it's only three-days long. While this gives you a bit of time to play around with the platform and check out some basic features, it might not be long enough to figure out if it really suits your needs.
Can I add extra users to my Shopify account?
How can Shopify help with SEO?
Title tags, meta descriptions, URLs and alt text are all key elements to consider when optimising an online store for search engines – and Shopify makes these fully editable. It also has some automated features that can help with SEO, like auto-generated canonical tags that are added to pages to prevent duplicate content from appearing in search results.
On top of this, you can download purpose-built integrations from the Shopify app store to help control your indexing, check keywords and speed up your store. Crucially, it has an integration with Google Analytics – one of the most popular and powerful tools for SEO.
How can I accept payments with Shopify?
As well as offering its own online payment gateway, Shopify Payments, Shopify has integrations with over 100 payment providers around the world.
How can I contact Shopify’s customer support?
Shopify claims to offer support in 19 languages over the phone or via email. They also have a community forum and extensive help centre.
Wix: best ecommerce platform for branding and usability
Wix is a website builder that allows you to create customised sites without any coding skills. Around 200 million users around the world have built websites using Wix’s drag-and-drop functionality.
You can turn a Wix website into a fully branded ecommerce platform by upgrading to one of three Business and eCommerce plans: Business Basic, Business Unlimited and Business VIP.
|Business Basic||Business Unlimited||Business VIP|
Does Wix have a free trial?
Sort of. While you have to pay up-front to use a premium plan, Wix’s money-back guarantee means that you can try it for 14 days and get a refund if you're not 100% satisfied.
Can I add extra users to my Wix account?
Of all the ecommerce platforms reviewed in this article, Wix has the most advanced options for adding different users, or ‘collaborators’. There are many different predefined collaborator roles – each with its own set of access rights and permissions – or you can create a custom role to cover exactly what you need.
How can Wix help with SEO?
When it comes to ecommerce platforms that support SEO, Wix is up there with the best. Not only does it have plenty of built-in features like bulk redirects and XML sitemaps, it also integrates with tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Semrush.
Wix also offers an SEO Learning Hub, which is packed with valuable advice to help you climb up the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
How can I accept payments with Wix?
Wix’s native payment solution, Wix Payments, allows you to accept major debit and credit cards, Apple Pay and other popular payment methods.
You can also connect with third-party services, including PayPal, Klarna and Stripe.
How can I contact Wix’s customer support?
The Wix Help Center is far more comprehensive than the online resources offered by many other platforms – covering pretty much everything you might need help with.
But if you do need to speak to someone, you can get support by starting a live chat or requesting a callback.
It’s worth noting that Business VIP users get priority support and can skip the line when contacting Wix’s customer care team.
SumUp: best ecommerce platform for beginners and side hustlers
Best known for card readers and POS systems, SumUp now has its own version of an ecommerce platform: the SumUp Online Store.
While it's slightly more simple than the likes of Wix and Shopify, this no-frills alternative is a great option for small businesses or side hustlers that want to get set up quickly and easily. You don’t even need a computer, everything is accessible through an app.
SumUp doesn’t charge a monthly or annual fee to use its Online Store, nor are you locked into any long-term contracts or commitments. But at 2.5%, SumUp’s transaction fees are slightly higher than some competitors’.
This is likely to be cost-effective if your online retail business is a side hustle, or if you occasionally sell online as an extension of your physical store. But if you run a larger ecommerce business, SumUp's pricing structure could end up costing you more in the long run.
Does SumUp have a free trial?
Technically, no. But because there are no monthly or annual fees, you can sign up and try it out for as long as you like.
Can I add extra users to my SumUp account?
As of February 2023, SumUp's Online Store doesn't seem to have options for adding multiple users.
How can SumUp help with SEO?
SumUp’s Online Store allows you to do some SEO basics like editing URLs, meta titles and descriptions. But compared to other ecommerce platforms, these options are fairly limited.
How can I accept payments with SumUp?
SumUp’s Online Store seamlessly integrates with SumUp’s other services – POS systems, card readers, invoicing and a business bank account.
This has plenty of advantages. You can access everything through a single login, and the 2.5% transaction fee applies to every transaction across every service.
The downside? It may not be compatible with your current payment systems.
How can I contact SumUp’s customer support?
From Monday to Friday, SumUp's in-app chat is available from 8am to 7pm. On Saturdays and Sundays, it's available from 7am to 7pm.
Outside of these hours, you can send an email or check out SumUp's support centre.
WooCommerce: best ecommerce platform for WordPress
Self-described as ‘the most customisable ecommerce platform’, WooCommerce is an open-source plugin for WordPress. It powers 3.4 million online stores, including 27% of the top million ecommerce sites.
WooCommerce is the ideal option for businesses that already use WordPress, as it acts like an extension of your existing website. But if you’ve never used WordPress before, you should expect a bit of a learning curve.
With no clear plans or pricing structure on its website, WooCommerce’s prices are incredibly opaque.
On top of this, you’ll have to pay for hosting, a domain name and an SSL certificate – which other ecommerce platforms usually provide as part of a package.
Does WooCommerce have a free trial?
Like Wix, WooCommerce offers a money-back guarantee rather than a free trial. If you’re not happy, you have 30 days to claim a full refund.
Can I add extra users to my WooCommerce account?
Yes, and you can adjust each team member’s permissions and access rights. By default, there are two pre-defined roles – but you can add custom roles with whichever permissions you like.
How can WooCommerce help with SEO?
Because WooCommerce runs through WordPress, it’s one of the most SEO-friendly ecommerce platforms.
While other platforms allow you to edit and optimise specific elements of your online store, WordPress gives you total control over almost every aspect of your website – as well as tons of SEO plugins.
How can I accept payments with WooCommerce?
Like many other ecommerce platforms, WooCommerce has its own self-named online payment gateway – WooCommerce Payments – that allows you to accept credit and debit cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay.
You can also integrate third-party payment methods like PayPal and Amazon Pay.
How can I contact WooCommerce’s customer support?
WooCommerce has an extensive library of documentation and tutorials. But if you can’t find the answer you’re looking for, you’ll need to fill in a form.
You can also make use of the WooCommerce Community Slack, an unofficial support channel full of developers and WooCommerce users keen to share their knowledge. And if you’re got the budget for it, the WooExpert Program can connect you with an specialist agency to help you make the most of your online store.
Amazon: best ecommerce platform for dropshipping
Requiring almost no introduction, Amazon is the global leader in ecommerce. Recent figures estimate that Amazon ships approximately 1.6 million packages a day – which works out at 18.5 orders per second.
While it doesn’t have the same opportunities for branding and customisation as other ecommerce platforms, hundreds of thousands of businesses choose Amazon for its unparalleled reach and name recognition. And its fulfilment and shipping services make it hugely popular among dropshippers.
Amazon offers two different plans: Individual, for those who sell less than 35 items a month, and Professional for those who sell more or want advanced features like sales reports.
Compared to other ecommerce platforms, Amazon’s pricing structure is quite complex. On the Individual plan, you’ll pay 75p per unit sold, while the Professional plan comes at a flat rate of £25 per month.
On top of this, Amazon charges a ‘referral fee’ for every item sold – usually between 8 and 15%, depending on the product category. You might also be charged fees for refunds and high volumes of listings – and if you choose to use Amazon’s fulfilment services, there’s a whole separate pricing structure for that as well.
Does Amazon have a free trial?
Nope. But you do have the option of starting on an Individual plan then upgrading to a Professional plan later.
Can I add extra users to my Amazon account?
You can. And as the primary account user, you’ll be able to control who can view or edit things like inventory, advertising, orders and payments.
How can Amazon help with SEO?
If you choose to sell on Amazon, SEO works slightly differently. As well as taking into account the usual best practices, you’ll need to navigate Amazon’s own search algorithm – which isn’t the same as the algorithms used by Google or Bing.
Amazon offers a step-by-step guide to optimising your product listings, and there are plenty of external tools and websites to help you figure out Amazon SEO.
How can I accept payments with Amazon?
As an Amazon seller, all your transactions will be made through Amazon Pay.
On the plus side, this saves you from having to integrate different systems. And because Amazon handles so many transactions every day, you can be fairly confident that they’ll have rigorous methods for keeping its services up and running.
The main drawback? It can take around 14 days for the money to reach your bank account.
How can I contact Amazon’s customer support?
Amazon doesn’t have a phone number or live chat. Instead, you’ll need to send a written message through a contact form, then wait for a representative to get back to you.
Do I need insurance to use an ecommerce platform?
In short, probably not – but there are some exceptions.
While you can use many ecommerce platforms without any sort of business insurance, some platforms (like Amazon) may require you to get specific covers if you reach a certain sales threshold.
But even if you don't need insurance to use your chosen ecommerce platform, you should still think about getting covered.
Whether you sell online as a full-time job or run your business as a side hustle, you’re likely to face a number of risks – from cyber-attacks to third-party damage caused by a faulty product.
Business insurance can help protect you from these risks. And Superscript’s online retail insurance has been designed to cover the things you need to succeed: dropshipping, 3PL, imports from China, and more. And to make things even easier, we don’t ask for an itemised product list.
*The survey was conducted on a sample of 295 online retailers from across the UK by consumer research provider Attest on behalf of Superscript in November 2022.
This content has been created for general information purposes and should not be taken as formal advice. Read our full disclaimer.
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