The right e-commerce platform for small businesses can translate into a virtual shopfront working for you 24/7.
How do you choose it, though? And what are the best e-commerce solutions for small businesses in the UK?
We’ve compared the most adequate ones so that you don’t have to waste time on dozens of open tabs.
Why you need an e-commerce solution for your small business
While the high street has been struggling for a while, the UK e-commerce industry is expected to grow by 5.16% every year.
You can make the most of it either by starting an online store (which has much lower set up and running costs than brick-and-mortar operations) or by selling your existing products online as well.
Either way, a small business e-commerce:
- will be working for you seven days a week without being restricted by traditional opening times
- can be operated from virtually anywhere
- has higher margins than physical stores
- is easier to scale
And while you might be considering harnessing larger platforms like Amazon, using your own small business e-commerce website will bring you many benefits.
First of all, you’ll have full control over it. You’ll also get to grow your audience (for example, by blogging on it or linking to your socials), and you won’t have to pay any referral fees to these platforms.
A no-brainer, right?
Not every e-commerce platform for small businesses will do, though!
Things to consider when choosing an e-commerce platform for your small business
We’ve included overviews and pros and cons for each of the best e-commerce options for small businesses, but you might want to do some brainstorming before you look into them.
Your current situation and budget
- Business size
- Whether or not you also have a physical store
- The type of physical and/or digital products you sell
- How much you can invest in your e-commerce platform (monthly fees, paid templates, plugins, and premium features)
Integrations, features, and future goals
- Some e-commerce solutions offer integrations with one or more external platforms
- They can include more or less additional features through plugins or app stores
- Some humbler e-commerce platforms for small businesses might have everything you need for your limited range of products, whereas others can help you scale your company in the future
Maintaining your e-commerce platform
- Some platforms are easier to manage than others, which come with a steeper learning curve
- How techy are you? Will you do it yourself or outsource it to a professional?
7 best e-commerce platforms for small businesses: reviews, pros & cons
While there are dozens of different options out there, some are better suited for startups or large corporations.
Instead, we’ll be focusing on the best e-commerce solutions for small businesses in the UK alone.
1. Shopify – best all-in-one e-commerce option for small businesses (from £24/mo)
While most of these platforms started out as website builders, Shopify literally focuses on e-commerce… and with excellent results!
It offers three plans, so it can easily grow with your business, but even the most basic one includes unlimited products and plenty of features.
- Easy to use, and there are lots of free customisable themes
- +1000 apps to choose from for additional sales-specific features or integrations (e.g. Instagram, eBay, and Amazon)
- Built-in dropshipping tools
- Fast loading
- Includes a domain name, web hosting, free SSL certificate, and blogging options
- No transaction fees if using Shopify Payments
- Transaction fees for other payment gateways
- You’ll need a developer for certain additional features and coding (we can help!)
2. WooCommerce – best for WordPress websites (free)
If you already have or are planning on investing in the platform that powers 43% of all websites, this is the safe and secure plugin that will turn it into a successful e-commerce platform.
- The plugin itself is free, and there are no additional transaction fees
- Unlimited products (physical, digital, and affiliate)
- Supports +100 payment gateways
- Great selection of customisable themes
- Integrations and additional features through other plugins
- Best for SEO
- You must pay for a WordPress website (domain name and hosting) and some extensions separately
- Steep learning curve (but we can build and manage your WordPress e-commerce for you!)
3. Squarespace – best for design (from £15/mo)
Not the most tech-savvy business owner out there but don’t want to compromise on how your online store looks?
This all-in-one e-commerce option for small businesses gives you the most control when it comes to customisability through templates and drag-and-drop elements.
- Super easy to use: no need for plugins nor coding thanks to its themes, which you can change at any time
- Includes web hosting, domain name (free for the first year), and SSL certificate
- Unlimited products (physical, digital, and services)
- Budget-friendly, and no transaction fees for plans above the £15 business option
- Only three payment getaways: PayPal, Apple Pay, and Stripe
- No additional features via apps or plugins
- No integration options beyond Instagram
- It can be slow, especially on mobile
4. Wix – good value for money (from £13/mo)
You won’t become the next Amazon, but if you’re after a simple and beginner-friendly solution to sell physical and digital products, Wix might be all you need.
- Plenty of creative freedom: easy to customise, and you can see the impact of your design edits as you make them
- All-in-one platform including hosting and domain (free for the first year)
- Unlimited products, abandoned cart recovery, and no transaction fees even with the basic theme
- Good range of payment gateways and features, including product videos and SEO
- Not the most scalable
- Fewer themes and integrations than Shopify
- Using many apps can make your website slower… and the costs add up
5. Weebly – simple and basic (from £9/mo)
Weebly is an all-in-one platform with a humble e-commerce option for small businesses: while it doesn’t have many features, it might be all you need if your model isn’t entirely based on selling products online.
- Easy to use and maintain
- Budget-friendly solution with domain, hosting, and SSL certificate
- Unlimited products
- No transaction fees above the cheapest plan
- The cheapest plan is really limited (for example, you can’t sell digital products nor show reviews), so you’re realistically looking at £18 or £28/mo in most cases
- Only Stripe, Square, and Paypal payment getaways
- Not great for SEO
- Not always fast
- Fewer integrations than the very best e-commerce platforms for small businesses
6. Square Online – most budget-friendly (from £0/mo)
While it’s also available as a standalone online checkout option, Square Online comes with a practical website builder, too.
- Budget-friendly option including a free plan where you only pay transaction fees
- You can sell all kinds of products and services (unlimited), including tickets and donations
- Fairly easy to use
- Includes AI features that make your life easier (e.g. dividing products by category when uploading them)
- Own payment gateway but other options, too
- With paid plans, you get a custom domain for free for the first year
- Not very customisable
- Limited integrations and additional features, and PayPal is only available with premium plans
- Not ideal if you want to scale your business in the future
7. BigCommerce – easier to scale (from £22/mo)
If you’re looking for the best e-commerce platform for small businesses but are already thinking big, it might be worth paying for BigCommerce’s additional features.
- Excellent sales features that make it easier to scale your business, especially with the more expensive plans
- Several payment gateways and integrations, including Amazon, eBay, Facebook, and Pinterest
- No transaction fees
- Good for SEO
- Big jump from the basic plan to better options (£59 or even £223/mo)
- You must purchase the domain separately, and only certain plans include hosting and SSL certificates
- Not always the fastest
- Not many free themes
- Steep learning curve
- While they all include unlimited products, most plans have selling limits (e.g. $50K a year for the basic one)
So, which e-commerce platform is best for your small business?
Basically, the best e-commerce platform for your small business is the one that includes the features and integrations that you’re actually after: no point paying extra for something that you won’t be making the most of or that doesn’t complement your current situation or future goals.
In most cases, however, we believe that Shopify and WooCommerce for WordPress are the best e-commerce options for small businesses.
‘What now?!’ Let us create and take care of this new small business e-commerce for you!
Technically, you can DIY your new e-commerce website… much like you can try and fix that plumbing problem yourself and then end up voiding your warranty and turning your bathroom into a swimming pool.
Or you can set yourself up for success by leaving it to a professional. This will also save you a ton of time, both by not having to worry about building or maintaining the actual website and by not wasting months going in the wrong direction.
At BeeBrilliant!, we specialise in creating a buzz around small businesses like yours.
Once we know more about your specific needs and goals, we can recommend the best e-commerce platform for your small business, build an online store that actively helps you generate more leads and sales, and maintain it for you. Easy!