With so many online platforms to choose from, it can be completely overwhelming and confusing to try to figure out which one’s the best fit for you and your product.
In today’s video we’re going to walk through the 4 biggest online platforms so you can finally figure out which one is right for you. Prefer to read instead of watch? Scroll down to get the scoop.
Wordpress is so tempting, especially if you’re just starting out. They really woo you with the idea that’s it's free to sign up and set up and if you’re like me, you quickly think, yes! Free sounds great!
I made that mistake with my very first website - I set it up on Wordpress because it was free and I wasn’t quite ready to make an investment in my business, even a small one. But here’s what I quickly realized - Wordpress sites are ugly.
Really really ugly.
And in order to make them pretty, you either need extensive experience coding websites, or you need to buy a pre-made theme and learn some basic coding to install it.
I was not about to launch with an ugly shop so my “free” website quickly turned into a $180 purchase.
And on top of needing to buy a theme, Wordpress isn’t set up to host a shop natively, which means you’ll need to add in apps to make it function like an actual storefront. And again, those aren’t free and they take some work to get set up.
Can you build your shop on Wordpress? Sure.
If you have a background in web design or you’re eager to learn how to code or you have a friend who swears by Wordpress and they promise to sit and build your shop with you, Wordpress is definitely an option. But I wouldn’t recommend to a beginner and honestly, if you’re looking to sell products of any sort, Wordpress isn’t my first choice for the best place build your online store.
We’re going to talk about marketplaces altogether because even though they cater to different types of customers, the pros and cons for you as a seller are pretty similar.
Think of online marketplace like Etsy or eBay or Amazon as the web version of a craft fair / holiday market / shopping mall. The benefit for you as a seller is they drive their own traffic so you're not responsible for bringing eyeballs to your online shop the way you would be if you built your own standalone website.
They're also created specifically for product-based businesses like yours, so they already have all the features and functionalities you would need to be able to sell your products and build a good-looking online shop which is very helpful. Plus it's often really easy to get started.
The investment for Etsy and eBay to jump in is also really low - it's free to create the shop.
There's a small fee every time you create a listing and they take a part of your transactions but there's no ongoing investment outside on those fees.
With Amazon they have great traffic, they bring a ton of eyeballs but they do have a monthly fee unless you're selling handmade so that's just something to know right upfront.
Again, Amazon is going to bring in their own traffic and they're going to have the tools there for you to build a shop but it's not going to be free - you will have a fee like you will with some of the other options we'll talk about next.
If you're just starting out, an online marketplace can be a great home for your first product but there are a handful of cons that you should make sure you know about:
Online marketplaces can be a great place to start your business but eventually, you're going to need a standalone website where you can build an audience you own if you want to build a real business and have more control over your own destiny.
Squarespace's claim to fame is that it helps you a professional-looking website quickly. It's less expensive than Shopify which is an option we'll talk about next and the lower price point can be really appealing, just like that free idea can be appealing with WordPress.
Squarespace does have different pricing tiers available depending on where you're starting and what kind of features you need so you can choose the price and the features that are going to make the most sense for where you are with your business today.
I originally opened my shop, The Graceful Goose, on Etsy but like I was talking about a minute ago, there came a point where I was ready to grow and scale and trying to do that through Etsy just proved to be too challenging. I didn't want to drive my own traffic there and then have that traffic go out to my competitors - I was doing all that hard work, I wanted to benefit from all the work I was doing.
So I decided it was time to start my own website.
I'd already had a bad experience with WordPress so I already knew not to go down that road and I decided to give Squarespace a try.
I thought: it's an easy product builder, they have an e-commerce option, the price is a little less expensive, let's see what they've got. And while you can build a commerce site on Squarespace, that's not what they were really created for. They were created for bloggers and people who art or design portfolios.
So if you're an artist and you're selling paintings or you're a graphic designer and you want to be able to showcase a portfolio to potential clients, Squarespace is an awesome fit but if you're going to be a true product-based business and you have a product line you want to sell or you have a single product that you really want to push out to people, Squarespace, in my opinion, is more complicated to set up and a lot less attractive.
They have a very rigid framework for how their pages can be shaped so even though they have drag-and-drop elements that should make it easy to create a page, they're not necessarily the most visually appealing and trying to get them to look the way you want can take a lot of extra coding and finagling and theme building.
All things considered, Squarespace is definitely an option, it's something to peek at, but it's not my favorite.
Alright so we've gone through three options:
All of those have pros but they all have some really serious cons, too, in my opinion.
It's Shopify and the reason I love Shopify so much - it's got easy to build pages just like Squarespace does but it's built specifically for product-based businesses so all the features that you need are already built into the foundation of the platform.
It has a native checkout page so it makes selling your product really simple and it's already optimized for you in the best flow to make checkout seamless for your customers. It's also very easy to integrates with different payment methods so if you want to be able to take credit cards or PayPal payments or even Amazon pay payments, it gives you all those options and it makes it super easy to add them in.
So you can give your customers the option that feels most comfortable to them to be able to make that payment and hit that Buy button.
On top of having really great basic functionality, they also have built-in cart abandon emails.
Remember how I was talking about when you're on an online marketplace, you're renting space and you can't reach back out to customers? Well with Shopify, if somebody comes to your website, you've done all the work to get them there, they put something in their cart and then they decide not to buy, you can have it set up so that an email is sent to that person (assuming they put their email address in at checkout) reminding them to come back to your shop and buy so you can recover that lost sale really quickly, really easily, without any added fees or a lot of extra work. It's just naturally built into Shopify.
They're also coming out with their own email platform to make sending emails to your customers super easy and they have a digital assistant that will help you with some of your marketing activities which is kind of crazy - the assistant's name is Kit - it's a like an AI robot that can recommend different ads you can run or emails you can send to help stay out in front of your customers and make sure that they are engaged as you continue to build out your audience and drive traffic to your website.
After my Squarespace flop, I finally decided to make the commitment and I jumped over to Shopify.
I had been hesitant because it has the $29 a month fee and I was like, "oh, do I really want a recurring membership fee?" But let me tell you what - if you're serious about building a business it's not going to take you long to be able to cover that $29 fee without any hesitation.
If you do the work to build a beautiful, customer-first shop right from the beginning that makes checkout easy, that engages your customer and gets them excited to buy your product, you're going to be able to pay that $29 fee really quickly with no problems and I learned that really fast.
So when I launched my second shop, Kindly Co, I didn't even try to dabble around with the other places, I just went straight to Shopify because I already knew from testing all the other ones that it's the place to be for product-based businesses.
Some of the other things I really love about it - as you grow and scale, let's say your business gets to be the size of like a Kylie cosmetics which is hosted on Shopify, or an Allbird sneaker which is also hosted on Shopify, they have a ton of add-on features that you can choose from to create loyalty programs to reward customers for shopping with you regularly or give them a percentage off when they refer you to friends.
They just make that really easy and natural to add into your shop as you continue to grow and give you so many different ways to really enhance that customer experience to make your shop a place your customers love to be.
Plus, probably the best part is that Shopify is that it's super user friendly. The base theme that a store comes with is already beautiful.
It's already built to be able to make a lovely product-based business, to really feature your product and make it front and center in a way that you are used to seeing when you shop on an e-commerce store. Your customers aren't going to be confused when they come to your shop, wondering if they stumbled onto a blog or somebody's MySpace page - something funky and random.
They're going to know exactly where they are and it's going to look professional right from the get-go.
So if I had to choose, if I could have started all over again and skipped trying WordPress and Squarespace, I would have gone straight to Shopify.
The other options have some pros and you can definitely - there are people who have definitely built successful product-based businesses on them - but my pick without hesitation is Shopify.
Alright, so now that we've walked through the four main platforms to consider if you're thinking about launching a product-based business, I'd love to hear from you: have you decided where you want to start your business?
And, if you're ready to launch a successful Shopify store without the overwhelm and uncertainty, click the button below to learn more about how to launch your own successful shop by the end of the week with the Launch Your Shop Kit:
I'm Michelle and can't wait to help you build the product-based business of your dreams.
After spending almost a decade helping major retailers build their businesses, I took what I learned and turned it into a 5-figure side hustle selling Nursery Art and Baby Gifts.
Now I’m taking all of those insider secrets and sharing them with you so you, too, can build a booming business!