Whether you’re starting a new online business or transitioning from a brick and mortar shop to an ecommerce site, or bridging your point of sale channels, you need an effective platform to sell your products from. Selling on the internet brings up a need for a different set of tools and strategies, such as online shopping carts, ecommerce platforms, virtual payment gateways and digital inventory management.
Every small business is unique, and may need a customized set of solutions to address your specific ecommerce requirements, however, there is a wealth of tools and software packages readily available that can help meet your needs without having to reinvent the technology wheel, so that you can focus on attracting leads and servicing your customers. These can be standalone software packages that you can buy off the shelf, or a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution on a cloud, or complete end-to-end platforms designed for online selling.
As you research what you need for your ecommerce business, some of the questions you could be asking yourself are:
- How hands-on do I want to be? How much do you want to do yourself and save dollars in the process, versus taking advantage of a comprehensive platform.
- How much customization do I need? The more brand-customized you want your storefront and backend fulfillment, the more expensive the solutions will be.
- How much customer/tech support do I need? If you enjoy playing with technology and prefer figuring things out yourself, there are free and lower priced options available to suit you.
Given the plethora of options available, it can be a daunting task to assess what you need. In this article, we provide you with our best recommendations in each area of your ecommerce business.
MonsterInsights is one of the most downloaded plugins for Wordpress websites because of the way it reports on real-time data to give you tracking analytics information to increase your numbers. While Google Analytics provides you with a wealth of information about your audience, most of it might seem like gobbledygook for the majority of the users. MonsterInsights makes sense of the confusing data by presenting an at-a-glance view of what is useful for you.
The free version offers a lot of features such as the sessions chart and the pageviews chart as well as your top posts and pages. But their paid version offers a long list of additional features which may make it worth purchasing. Their Plus Plan starts at $199 per year.
If you’re a new business setting up your first online storefront, Shopify is a great drag-and-drop option that has a lower learning curve. Their easy to use interface makes adding products, managing orders and tracking sales a breeze. They offer 70+ responsive themes allowing you to create a customizable storefront.
In addition to its own payment platform, Shopify is integrated with other major payment gateways such as credit cards, debit cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay, making it convenient for your customers to choose the best option for them.
Shopify’s plans start from $29 per month, which is a good starting point for a brand new business.
PayPal is the most well known one on this list, and for good reason. They have established themselves early on in the market as a reliable, reputable payment gateway for millions of businesses across the world.
The PayPal brand logo has come to indicate security and ease of use for customers. This can be especially helpful for brand new businesses or startup companies.
An additional advantage of using PayPal is that along with PayPal payments and PayPal Credit, you can also accept credit cards, debit cards, and Venmo.
Omnisend is a platform built for the intricacies of email marketing. In addition to automated email campaigns, the platform provides a one-stop-shop which includes multiple channels such as Google Ads, Facebook Messenger, SMS and push notifications, making it a more powerful experience for your customers.
More importantly, Omnisend automates sophisticated workflows by integrating its email marketing with landing pages and lead forms and signup boxes to capture leads, and tools such as as well as features like A/B testing and resending emails to unread subscribers. Their real-time dashboard provides analytical insights and click-map reporting on your marketing campaigns.
Although their free plan offers a way to test their service, Omnisend is geared more towards sales-driven ecommerce companies that need more powerful features. Their Pro plans start at $99 a month.
Social Media marketing is a catchall phrase for promoting your business on various social media channels, but things have come a long way since hiring an intern to schedule a few posts. To truly market your business via social media you need to step up your game, in comparison to your competitors.
Brand24 offers you a way to do market research on your competitors’ content and strategy so that you can monitor them all in one place, without wondering what they’re planning. In addition to being able to see all the mentions of your company, Brand24 also provides scoring charts of influencers in your industry, reporting features, as well as suggestions to take action.
Plans start at $49 per month, although you can get a 14-day free trial before you commit.
For beginners and experts alike, Ahrefs has remained the most recommended and most used SEO tool for doing keyword research, backlink audits, and competitive analysis. Next to Google, it’s the largest site crawler with a keyword database of more than 150 million keywords in the US alone.
Search engines evaluate and rank your website based on the credibility of your backlinks. Ahrefs can be used effectively to not only view the ranking but also create a powerful backlink strategy.
Pricing plans are straightforward, starting at $99 for the Lite version of Ahrefs for 1 user.
Referral Rock offers a solid platform for automating your referral process, with tools to enroll s, track leads, and manage compensations. Although the initial pricing can seem steep, it allows you to scale up your business as your network grows.
Referral Rock also allows all kinds of referral and partner programs such as channel partners, linking, influencer marketing, among others. Their software also supports integrations with other ecommerce tools and platforms such as Hubspot, WooCommerce, Shopify and others.
Pricing is $200-$800 per month, plus they offer trial and demo prior to purchasing.
For small businesses investing in advertising through search engines such as Google Adwords and Bing Ads Editor, Optmyzr offers a way to manage your campaigns all in one place. It has a powerful one-click optimization tool which allows you to adjust your bids with one click.
In addition, Optmyzer has tools to streamline the data from Google Ads and Bing Ads, as well as analytical and reporting tools to monitor and track different market segments. This data can help target your future campaigns as well.
Pricing is steep at $250 a month, but it is a good investment for small businesses wanting to create more effective marketing campaigns.
The idea behind Antavo is to use gamification to drive sales by making customer interactions fun. Antavo offers ecommerce retailers a SaaS platform to engage with your audience, manage contests and rewards, and grow your brand awareness and loyalty.
Antavo’s omnichannel strategy provides tools to approach both offline traditional loyalty programs as well as online and mobile techniques to use with their 40+ loyalty schemes. Antavo integrates with big ecommerce platforms such as Google AdWords, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Magento and Klaviyo, making it a comprehensive platform for rewards based marketing.
Antavo offers several pricing plans, customized to your requirements.
Wix has had a rocky beginning in the ecommerce industry, however they have substantially enhanced their platform over the years, making it a go-to option for many small businesses. Some of their newer features, such as drag-and-drop website builder, instant purchase buttons, customizable checkout page, and abandoned cart recovery are all appealing features for a beginner ecommerce website.
Some of the limiting factors with Wix are its low storage space, buggy poorly tested code, and difficult to customize templates. This may mean that you will eventually need to find a different solution when you’re ready to expand.
The Business Basic plan starts at $23 per month, plus you get a 14-day free trial before you commit.
WooCommerce is a popular (and free) choice for Wordpress websites because it allows you to integrate with your existing website without having to start from scratch on a new platform. The online business operations such as managing your inventory, calculating your shipping rates, and tracking your orders and sales are performed on Wordpress.
WooCommerce Payment platform is also free with no setup charges, so you can accept credit cards and debit cards. You may also purchase add-ons to integrate with other payment gateways, as well as other ecommerce tools.
WooCommerce is free for all standard features. Additional extensions available from $29.
Volusion is a solid choice if you’re a mid-sized business looking for an easy to use ecommerce package. They provide a user-friendly dashboard to set up product pages, manage inventory and monitor sales. One feature that makes it particularly easy to navigate is that the backend matches with the front end.
One downside to keep in mind with Volusion is that they don’t provide website hosting. So if you want to use blogging and content marketing you may need to invest in that separately.
Although there are some added setup costs for premium themes and SSL certificates, the starting plan starts fairly low, at $29 per month.
3dCart is a particularly enticing choice if you want to consider marketing built into your ecommerce platform. They have a Marketing tab on their dashboard with pre-installed tools and a suggested checklist of tasks to help you with your marketing options. Unlike Volusion, their blogging platform has great features including SEO tools.
Although their store builder is not very intuitive, and doesn’t use drag-and-drop functionality, they have a user-friendly interface and hundreds of responsive themes to choose from. Another advantage to choosing 3dcart is their unlimited storage.
Lowest price plans start from $19 per month.
Another popular option for an online storefront is SquareSpace, known for its sleek templates and minimalistic designs. If you prefer a simple interface and don’t need a lot of features, SquareSpace is a great platform to set up shop. Some of their additional features at higher tiers include promotional pop-ups, automated shipping rates, abandoned cart recovery and SEO tools.
One feature that you may miss is that SquareSpace only supports PayPal and Stripe. And they don’t offer dropshipping.
Their ecommerce plans start at $26 for basic features.
The reason Ecwid has become more popular is that it allows you to sell well on social media. Ecwid can seamlessly sync up your products to social media markets like Facebook Marketplace or Instagram tags giving you an undeniable advantage over other ecommerce platforms that don’t offer this feature.
Ecwid has come up with a pricing model and platform that is affordable and yet offers features that other ecommerce platforms don’t. You can use Ecwid as a store plug-in so that you can convert any site into an ecommerce platform. It has a control panel that makes it easy to manage all your sales channels.
Ecwid is free for standard features, and paid plans start low at $15 per month.
If you are an online retailer as well as a brick and mortar shop, Ordoro offers a combination set of tools for both point of sale management as well as ecommerce tracking. You can set up a merchant account on Ordoro, add your suppliers and products to your system, and then create your own streamline process of taking orders, tracking your SKUs (stock keeping units), and dropshipping them.
Ordoro is a cloud based platform that’s the future of ecommerce. This is a huge advantage because it allows you to bypass downloading and maintaining the software yourself. Ordoro allows you to be completely hands-off the tech side of the platform, so you can simply focus on the sales side of your business.
The Express Plan is $59 per month, which includes shipping tools. To take advantage of the suite of inventory management tools that Ordoro provides, choose their Pro Plan for $399 a month.
Cin7 gives you a win-win if you are ready (or planning) to scale up your small business into a mid-sized or even a large scale enterprise. Cin7 is a completely automated inventory management system that allows you to bring together all aspects of your business by integrating all of your point-of-sale channels with your online processes as well as your warehouse systems.
Because Cin7 offers a centralized platform for tracking your stock and orders, your inventory is updated in real time, even allowing you to keep track of products that are transferred between locations. Another advantage to upscaling to Cin7 is that it makes it easy for you to integrate with other enterprises or bigger retailers when you are ready to do business on a larger scale.
Their starter plans start at $299 per month, but for the price, you also get access to their industry expertise as well as free consultation and recommendations of the ideal setup for your business.
Zoho Inventory is a popular inventory management software as it is built alongside its other advanced set of tools for ecommerce websites. It offers inventory management for multiple sales channels at a modest price which is ideal for a small business.
Contrary to most other inventory management systems reviewed here, Zoho Inventory offers a stand-alone system, which may be an advantage if you don’t want to deal with extra features that you don’t need. While Zoho Inventory’s focus on inventory management provides you an advanced set of tools, if you do want to expand out later on down the road, you may need to integrate it into your systems manually, using third party software.
Prices start at $29 per month for up to 10 users and 100 online orders.
If you are a QuickBooks user, you will love Fishbowl. Fishbowl offers an easy but efficient way to run your business by providing a powerful asset tracking solution while allowing you to easily export or import data with QuickBooks.
For a small business user, Fishbowl is perfect for automating your estimates, orders, purchases, sales and shipping, all in real time, even for multiple distribution channels. Similar to Zoho Inventory, Fishbowl does not integrate with other solutions, however if you are not planning to expand or incorporate your business into other models, this may be a feature, not a loss.
Fishbowl is the most expensive inventory management system on this list, starting above $4000 for a one-time license, which you may renew at an additional cost each year. If you choose not to renew, you can continue to use the service, without customer support.
TradeGecko is an easy to use software service that started out as an answer to improving inventory management at a time when the tools available were manual and inefficient. Today it is a web-based cloud platform that’s user-friendly with an easy to navigate dashboard.
With TradeGecko, once you set up an account on their platform, you can add or import your products, integrate your sales channels, add your suppliers and customers if you already have them. They offer integrations with major ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Magento and WooCommerce. Overtime, TradeGecko have expanded their online knowledge base, making their articles and demos accessible to their users, which helps first time sellers. Their dashboard helps you keep an oversight of your business at a glance.
TradeGecko is affordable to start with, and offers tier-based pricing for scaling up. Their Founder plan starts at $39 a month for one user and one sales channel, for 50 orders per month. They offer other tiers like Lite, Small Business, B2B, Premium and Pro plans as well.
For the true small business owner who is bootstrapping from scratch, you may want to consider starting with a free inventory management software like SalesBinder. It offers a suite of features for tracking, invoicing, estimating, purchasing and selling, all on a cloud-based platform that’s easy to use.
SalesBinder is a great option to migrate from manual tracking to automated management and monitoring. It offers integrations with some of the popular ecommerce platforms like WooCommerce, QuickBooks, Zapier, etc.
The Free Forever plan is free for upto 100 records and includes all its features, which makes it ideal for a small business with a limited number of inventory items. Their paid versions are also affordable, starting at $9 per month for 101 records and higher, allowing your small business to scale up when you’re ready.
Stripe has quickly risen in the payment gateway industry as one of the top payment methods because of its flexibility and versatility. Stripe is convenient to implement for ecommerce shops and small business marketplaces.
A popular feature of Stripe is to be able to set up recurring payments, such as on membership sites, or subscription services. They also provide a Stripe UI toolkit which allows you to customize your checkout process.
Stripe accepts all major credit cards and debit cards from international markets, as well as integrate with other payment options such as Apple Pay or Google Pay. With the variety of options that Stripe offers, you can’t go wrong with making it available as a convenience to your customers.
Square is a great choice for businesses that have brick and mortar locations as well as online retail stores, making it flexible for accepting payments with either option. Square Online Checkout is their ecommerce gateway where you can create a payment link for your customers. They go through a simple checkout process to complete their transaction.
Square integrates well with several ecommerce partners such as WooCommerce, OpenCart, Drupal Commerce, Magento, and many others, making it an easy choice if you already have an ecommerce platform.
They accept all major credit and debit cards, as well as Apple Pay and Google Pay.
Since iPhones are the leading mobile phone providers, constituting over 50% of the market, it would serve you well to include Apple Pay for your mobile customers. It is a digital wallet payment solution provided by Apple that allows your iOS customers to make purchases via iOS apps and online.
An undeniable advantage to using Apple Pay is that it’s a one-click purchase, bypassing filling out forms and credit cards and billing addresses. One a customer sets up their profile on Apple Pay, they can make their cashless purchases instantly, with no additional transaction fees.
One disadvantage to Apple Pay is that it is only supported on Apple products and platforms such as iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Safari browser.
Similar to Apple Pay, this is another digital wallet service provided by Google for ecommerce sites and mobile apps. Once a customer sets up their digital wallet profile on Google Pay, they can have it integrated with their bank accounts, credit and debit cards so that they can make cashless purchases instantly.
Google Pay is Google’s service to non-iOS users, made available via Android phones, tablets and watches. It is a secure payment method that reduces merchant risk and exposure to fraud, by incorporating tap-to-pay authorized purchases.
In addition, it helps that Google Pay is easy to integrate with your ecommerce platform, as well as any other payment methods you might already be using, such as Stripe, Square and Shopify.
Exclusive to Amazon customers, Amazon Pay offers an online processing service if you have an Amazon merchant account. With millions of active customers across the world, your customers likely already have an Amazon account as well, making it a flexible option to offer on your site.
Amazon Pay allows you (and your customers) to use the payment methods that they already set up with their Amazon profile, so that they can make purchases of goods and services on third party websites as well.
Amazon Pay is a reliable international payment platform that allows merchants and small businesses to sell their products across the world with secure and risk-free checkout options.
This post may contain links. If you click through and make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Read my full disclosure here: "Affiliate Marketing Disclosure"