Online shopping has come a very long way in a relatively short space of time, and these days it's easy for anyone to set up their own online store. It might seem like a daunting prospect, but today's ecommerce platforms make it a breeze to get a store up and running.
If you're a designer or illustrator wanting to earn more money from your work, setting up a store to sell your own prints or clothing is a straightforward job. And if you're a web designer, being able to build ecommerce websites on trusted platforms is a great way to bring in extra clients.
There are loads of ecommerce platforms to choose from, and most of them offer free trials; to save you time, here are six of the best.
It's hard to go wrong with Shopify. Almost certainly the biggest name in ecommerce platforms, it's been around since 2006 and promises that anyone, regardless of technical and design ability, can use it to easily set up a beautiful responsive store in minutes.
Getting up and running is thoroughly straightforward; if you don't feel the need to design your own shop then there's a huge range of templates to choose from, and Shopify has its own CMS with which to manage your store, as well as mobile apps so you can run things when you're out and about.
Shopify offers unlimited hosting for stores, accepts most credit cards and features Level 1 PCI compliance and 256-bit SSL encryption; there's also 24/7 support by phone, instant messaging or email. Prices start at $29 per month and there's a 14-day trial if you want to get a feel for it.
Designed as an all-in-one ecommerce solution that gives you all the features you need to create, manage and expend your store, Volusion's keen for you to test the waters with a free 14-day trial with no credit card required.
As with most other ecommerce platforms it provides you with a set of fully customisable themes to play with, as well as an intuitive content editor; if your coding skills are up to the task then there's also a CSS editor that enables you to fine-tune your store's look. It offers hefty SEO tools as well as the ability to sell through Facebook, eBay and Amazon, and enables you to boost sale through gift cards, discounts and deals of the day.
Volusion supports most payment methods, from credit cards through to Amazon Pay, PayPal, money orders and even good old-fashioned cash, and it provides a PCI-certified secure checkout as well as a 99.9% uptime guarantee. Prices start at $29 per month.
If you want to expand your market then Bigcommerce features some really useful tools for increasing your reach. It's recently updated to include integration with Amazon and Instagram, making it easy to either list your products on Amazon or sell directly through Instagram shopping posts and stories.
Setting up your own store with Bigcommerce is nice and easy; it has plenty of templates and themes to choose from as well as the option to design your own store, and it also has its own CMS that enables you to run an entire site, not just a store, on its platform.
Bigcommerce has over 40 pre-integrated payment pathways, heavyweight security including DDOS protection and fraud alerts, plus plenty of built-in marketing and SEO tools to help with visibility. Its small business-friendly Essentials service starts at $29.95 per month, and you can test it all out with a free 15-day trial.
Need a little extra from your ecommerce platform? If so, 3dcart has some cool features that are well worth exploring. On top of all the usual online store options that you'd expect, there are also neat modules that enable you to offer a gift-wrapping service, run a loyalty programme and allow recurring orders; all useful features if you want to go the extra mile for customer service.
3dcart provides a good free selection of customisable responsive templates to work with; you can build your own store from scratch if you prefer, and 3dcart can help you set things up so that everything's at the highest possible standard. It promises 99.9% uptime and SSL certification is available if you need it, and with over 200 payment methods supported it'll be easy for your customers to hand over their money.
Pricing starts at $19 per month for a startup store, and there's a 15-day free trial available.
The trouble with the various pricing tiers available on most ecommerce platforms is that you'll find that some useful features are locked down to the more expensive plans. Not so with CoreCommerce; almost everything you get in its top-level Enterprise plan is available in some shape or form in its $19-per-month Personal plan. The only exception is custom SSL install, which we doubt will matter to you much.
CoreCommerce provides all the tools you need to set up your own online store, with customisable responsive themes as well as a design service if you'd rather not do your own build. There's a setup wizard to help you get your products online and take care of taxes, shipping and payments, plus a mobile-friendly admin system and loads of integration options for third-party ecommerce tools.
There are also over 70 payment gateways with a PCI Level 1-compliant checkout, and secure hosting via Rackspace with a 99.9% uptime guarantee. And as with most ecommerce platforms, there's a free trial available; 15 days in CoreCommerce's case.
06. Wix Stores
While you might think of Wix primarily as a website builder, it also has a sturdy ecommerce platform that enables you to sort out both your site hosting and store without having to juggle multiple accounts; perfect if you want to keep things simple.
Wix Stores has over 500 templates that you can use to build your online store, complete with pro design features and business tools, and as well as enabling you to create a custom storefront with product collections, galleries, wishlists and more. You can use it to sell through Facebook and Instagram, and its secure online checkout accepts dozens of payment methods in over 40 currencies.
There also SEO and other promotional tools to help you drive sales, and its prices start at just £13 per month for the Business Basic plan.