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Best ecommerce tools: free and paid services and software for SMBs and startups

Ecommerce
(Image credit: One Photo / Shutterstock)
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Best ecommerce tools

1. Wix

2. Oberlo

3. Shopify

4. ProProfs Help Desk

5. Responsinator

Read on for our detailed analysis of each tool

With the rise of online shopping, it would be almost impossible for a business to thrive without some form of ecommerce solution. By creating an online store, you can access a broader base of customers who may never have encountered your products if you were selling to a local community from a single retail outlet.

As well as building online stores, the best ecommerce tools can help you take payments online through point-of-sale (POS) technology, manage your inventory, and answer customer queries. From a financial point of view, shifting some of your business to an ecommerce platform can also help you reduce overhead. And, if you’re working entirely online, an ecommerce platform could eliminate the need to pay rent on retail premises or to employ certain staff.

Although many small business owners fear ecommerce is the preserve of tech-savvy whiz kids, plenty of options require little or no coding skills. We’ve rounded up five of the best ecommerce tools that could help you get your online business up and running.

Wix

Choose from more than 500 design templates (Image credit: Wix)

1. Wix

Best overall choice for versatility and customization

Reasons to buy
+More than 500 designer-made templates+Coding knowledge not required+Plenty of freedom to customize your store
Reasons to avoid
-Wix-branded ads on free plan-Inventory management could be stronger

As well as being a behemoth of website building, Wix offers one of the best ecommerce tools for business owners looking to sell their goods online. The platform’s most attractive feature for those who are not particularly tech-savvy is its ease of use. 

To create your store, you can choose from more than 500 designer-made templates, which can drastically reduce the levels of stress involved in the process. If, however, you’re more confident with design, the platform gives you the option to customize every aspect, from the storefront to the checkout.

If you’re marketing your products to repeat customers, Wix’s subscription service enables you to accept recurring payments and to sell members-only content. The platform also gives you the option to accept payments via a variety of payment methods, including all major credit card companies and Stripe. 

The most significant negative you’re likely to encounter is that your store will automatically display Wix-branded ads if you opt for the free plan. Likewise, some users report frustrations with backlogs in the platform’s inventory management system.

  • Read the full review: Wix

Oberlo

Suppliers ship products on your behalf (Image credit: Oberlo)

2. Oberlo

Best overall choice for those looking for a side hustle

Reasons to buy
+Free plan available+Suppliers ship items on your behalf
Reasons to avoid
-Huge profits unlikely-Potentially slow delivery times

While you may be familiar with the image of an online seller as a hobbyist who takes to the internet to promote their homemade bracelets, you may be less familiar with the concept of dropshipping, which is the idea behind ecommerce app Oberlo. In simple terms, you act as go-between for your suppliers and customers, accepting orders via your store without keeping goods in stock yourself.  

If this model sounds appealing, the company enables you to view a set of potential products, which you can then test before adding to your store. Once you’ve sold your chosen items, your suppliers will sort out your inventory and ship the goods directly to your customers. 

If you opt for the free plan, you can sell up to 500 products and 50 orders per month. You can, however, increase these numbers with one of the company’s paid plans.

The biggest drawback we identified here is potential delivery times. At best, these can be as little as several days, but it may take up to a couple of weeks for buyers to receive their items.

Is Oberlo worth a dabble? The company itself says “it’s no get-rich-quick scheme.” While you may not want to rely on your Oberlo profits to pay your bills each month, the solution could be an effective means of earning a little extra on the side. 

Shopify

The company has a presence in more than 175 countries (Image credit: Shopify)

3. Shopify

Best overall choice for coding newbies

Reasons to buy
+Coding skills not required  +Point-of-sale functionality 
Reasons to avoid
-Not available worldwide -Limited user numbers on basic plans

If you’re a tech novice, Shopify could be the right ecommerce solution for you, as you won’t need any knowledge of coding or HTML to set up your venture. Should you encounter difficulties, you can take advantage of the platform’s 24/7 customer support.

With plans ranging from $29 to $299/user/month, the platform enables you to accept payments via all major credit cards and provides a fast checkout procedure through Shopify Pay or Apple Pay. If you plan to sell your products at markets or pop-ups, its point-of-sale technology also enables you to take payments in person.

If yours is a global organization, be aware that the company has a somewhat limited presence and is currently only available in the US, Puerto Rico, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Ireland. Although basic subscribers can upload unlimited products to their accounts, the cheapest plans only enable you to add two users to your plan.

ProProfs Help Desk

Streamline your communications with shared inboxes (Image credit: ProProfs)

4. ProProfs Help Desk

Best overall choice for streamlined customer communications

Reasons to buy
+Create unique tickets for every customer interaction+Shared inbox feature
Reasons to avoid
-Larger organizations need to invest in a paid plan-Customer support not available on free plan

Whether you’re taking your first tentative steps into the world of ecommerce or are a seasoned pro, chances are you sometimes feel inundated by questions from your customers. Cloud-based customer service software ProProfs Help Desk enables you to convert all your customer communication into unique tickets. 

Through the use of shared inboxes, your team members can then collaborate to answer these queries as quickly as possible. 

The free plan is limited to a single user, which may be adequate if you’re a sole proprietor, although you should bear in mind that this option doesn’t include customer support. Should you need to add an unlimited number of users, you’ll currently pay $12.75 per month, which is discounted from $15.

Responsinator

Test your site’s appearance across a range of devices (Image credit: Responsinator)

5. Responsinator

Best overall choice for creating multi-platform solutions

Reasons to buy
+Extremely simple to use+Interact with content on your site
Reasons to avoid
-Provides an approximate view only

Free browser-based tool Responsinator enables you to enter your website’s url into a search tool and instantly see how it will appear on some of the most common devices used by your customers. Using these insights, you can audit your website’s design for maximum possible impact.

In one of the tool’s most impressive features, you can interact with the content on your site by clicking on links and typing information into search fields. However, Responsinator will only provide an approximation of how your site will appear on mobile devices, so it’s always a good idea to test in real-life environments as well.