Many businesses are looking for low-cost ecommerce builds in response to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on traditional face to face and in-store sales channels.

Ecommerce grew by over 16% in 2020, despite all the challenges we faced. While that’s less than predicted, there’s no indication that ecommerce growth is slowing. Businesses that want to remain competitive need to make ecommerce part of their plans for 2021.

A concern for many businesses is the cost of launching an ecommerce platform, but you might be surprised to know that there are some powerful low-cost options available.

Understand your ecommerce objectives

Before you start to consider the best option for your business, you will need to understand how ecommerce fits with your existing business or, if you are starting a new business, what your customers will want and expect.

In either case, it’s the perfect time to assess your online product offer and how well you meet your customers’ needs. It’s worth reviewing your supply chain and your fulfilment process to have an end-to-end view.

While you might intend to start with small steps, you will also need to have your future plans for growth firmly in your mind as you move forwards.

WordPress - tried and tested

Almost 40% of the world’s websites use WordPress and you can use it to run your ecommerce site.

WordPress is free and open source, which means that you or a developer can customize it to suit your needs. There are a range of ecommerce tools for WordPress but WooCommerce is a popular choice, and it’s also free and open source.

However, it’s not an entirely free option. You might need to buy some plugins and work with a developer to customize your site, depending on your requirements. You might also need to make a one-off payment for a theme which is optimized for ecommerce to present your content professionally. You will need to buy a domain name for your ecommerce site, and WordPress-optimized hosting and security, usually for a monthly fee.

Shopify – fast and easy

You can start out with Shopify using a 14-day free trial to test your ideas. If you decide to go ahead, your monthly fee includes a domain name and hosting, and you can choose a free theme.

However, this plan doesn't include an online store although you can offer unlimited products and a Shopify Buy button.

You can upgrade to a basic or advanced ecommerce site when you’re ready. Whichever plan you choose, you will have a software as a service (SaaS) solution that can grow with your business.

You might find page naming restrictive for your search engine optimization (SEO) plans and if you can’t or don’t want to use Shopify Payments you will need to pay transaction fees to both Shopify and your payment processor.

Magento – more mastery is needed

Magento is the world’s most popular ecommerce platform, used by some of the largest and fastest growing brands.

Magento open source is free and can provide you with ecommerce functionality. However, it’s really designed for developers so you will need to have some patience to learn how to use it or the support of someone with technical skills. Like WordPress, you will also need to arrange hosting and all the necessary ongoing support and maintenance.

Depending on your requirements, working with a developer or business partners to use the capabilities of Magento Commerce as a platform as a service (PaaS) solution could be a better option with plenty of scope for growth.

If you want themes and extensions to add to your ecommerce capabilities, these could add to your costs.

BigCommerce – getting ready for high volume sales

BigCommerce Essentials offers a powerful SaaS platform for small businesses. It has smart and easy to use themes, although they are more expensive than some other providers.

Specifically designed for high volume sales, if your sales numbers are currently low, you might find some of the set-up requirements, such as configuring your sales taxes and automated shipping requirements too complex at this early stage of your ecommerce journey.

However, BigCommerce has flexible payment options and integrates with online payment processors like Stripe, PayPal, Braintree, and Amazon, and you can also accept payments by bank transfer, check, or money order.

If you plan to list your products on marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, and Facebook, BigCommerce Channel Manager will help to streamline the process by automatically importing products you already have on your site and sharing changes across all your channels.

Cloudfy – designed for business to business ecommerce

Business to business (B2B) ecommerce is expected to grow by more than 17% for each of the next six years so, if this is your marketplace, you will need to be ready to keep pace.

While the trend is for B2B ecommerce sites to use retail (B2C) techniques,

B2B buyers have some specific expectations. Choosing a platform that has been designed to meet their requirements from the outset, like Cloudfy, can give you a significant advantage.

Buyers expect easy online research with interactive catalogs and suggestions for associated products, personalized buying experiences with competitive pricing for bulk buying, and consistency across online and offline channels, including desktop and mobile devices, call centres and face to face interactions.

As a SaaS solution in the cloud, Cloudfy has powerful B2B commerce functionality straight out of the box and offers integration options with major business systems, so it can be set up quickly and easily, and it will grow with your business.

Work with a trusted partner

At Williams Commerce we work with large brands and growing online businesses to define their business strategy. We have award-winning expertise in ecommerce, digital marketing, and business systems, so we can help you grow your business online.

We can support you with everything from defining your ecommerce strategy and choosing the best ecommerce platform through to supporting your team to build a thriving online business.

We are always interested to hear about the ecommerce plans of new and growing businesses, so please get in touch.