Pretty heavy question, right?
I've spent the last few months pondering this in my head. There are, of course, several variables to consider.
To name a few, there are:
- Upfront cost/fees
- Scalability - are you able to integrate new features as your store grows in popularity
- Transaction/Processing fees
- Time - Bringing your product(s) to market
Naturally, I would prefer to go to market with a minimum viable product that is a low cost to entry, has the ability to scale to meet my needs, and has the highest margins. Well, let's dive in and assess our options.
Non-developer pick: Squarespace
If you're looking to launch a new store as a side hobby and aren't willing to spend a lot of money up front, I would suggest going with Squarespace or Big Cartel. Their pricing plans, features and free themes make it an easy choice.
You can stand up an e-commerce store for $18/mo on Squarespace, not including the 3% charge per transaction. You could even upgrade your account to the Basic Commerce tier at $26 per month and pay 0% on each transaction! That's still less than Shopify's 29/mo + 2.9% + 30c transaction or Big Commerce at $29.95 and 0% transaction fees. There's also features like multi-currency support, sales channel integrations, unlimited product uploads and unlimited staff accounts which makes both their e-commerce tiers an appealing way to start a brand.
Non-developer pick on a shoestring budget: Big Cartel
Big Cartel is my budget pick. Their entry level is free (unclear if they charge a % per transaction?) and you can sell up to 5 products. The next level up is $9.99/mo and you get additional features and up to 50 products in your store. Pretty bare bones, but for many people just starting out an e-commerce business, more than enough!
Now that we got that out of the way, it's time to start getting into the nitty gritty.
My e-commerce pick: Shopify
As you might have guessed from my portfolio of work and the occasional blog post I've written in the past that I am an advocate of Shopify. I've used it in personal projects as well as client projects with great success (from Basic tier to Shopify Plus accounts). Their stock has skyrocketed by over 700% this year alone and has shown no signs of stopping. On its face, their pricing can look a little too steep, but if you look past the surface level you'll see there's actually tremendous value in building your brand on Shopify. The pricing starts to even out the more you pay upfront, naturally. For the sake of this discussion, I'm only highlighting their entry level tier.
Basic - Month to month pricing (which should satisfy most small to medium size brands) comes out to $29/mo, 2.9% + .30c for online credit cart rates. If you decide to pay the annual rate, you can save 10%, if you pay for two years upfront, you save 20%. I believe the limit upfront you can pay is for 3 years and you can save up to 30%! If you're committed to selling online, that's a great value.
- world class company - now the biggest in all of Canada! This means top shelf resources, customer support, and a great community of entrepreneurs and developers pushing the platofrm to greater heights
- savings incentives - the more you pay up front, the more you save. Period. And you get discounts on shipping you might not get with other ecommerce solutions.
- Upfront costs can be a little steep and may not be for everyone.
PS - If you use this link to sign up for an account, I get a referral fee :)
*note - they do offer a Shopify Lite plan, but that's essentially limited to a buy now button you have to copy and paste to a website (which will not be hosted by Shopify).
A solid alternative: Big Commerce
This is a pretty short and sweet endorsement, mainly because Big Commerce sports many of the same features and pricing that Shopify has, making it a suitable alternative. One of the more positive things I've seen come out of Big Commerce is their devotion to the Jam Stack and Headless Commerce.