How to start an online store using a website builder?

Have you been meaning to use the Internet as a sales channel for a long time, but setting up an online shop has always seemed like too much of an expense?

Relax – you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for a web developer. It’s really easy to set up your own basic Internet store using an online website builder.

Its catalogue of features allows you to pick and choose whichever functionalities you need: from different payment methods and delivery options to automated stock management.

Your requirements:

  • very easy to use
  • small to medium-sized online shop (fewer than 1000 products)
  • sell digital and/or physical products
  • automated ordering system
  • range of standard payment options available (PayPal, credit card, etc.)
  • low or no transaction fees
  • compliant with e-commerce legislation for USA/Canada/UK
  • search engine optimized
  • customizable design
  • blog and social media integration (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
  • fast and reliable technical support
  • use of discount coupons
  • ecommerce tracking options
  • SSL encryption
  • cost: $0 – $30 per month

You don’t need

  • mulitlingual store

Our recommendations:

Shopify Logo

Shopify – the online store that can make you a champ

Shopify allows both beginners and real pros to create a professional online store that should leave no wish unfulfilled. Why? Beginners can set up an online store without any programming skills and advanced users will be able alter everything due to the very flexible “Liquid” framework. Included are professional features such as cart abandonment emails that can be set up very easily.

Even if your business grows really rapidly, chances are that you will have no reason to move it to another platform – unless you want to run a truly global store. Shopify doesn’t support multilingual web stores. Other than that, it gives you all the necessary tools you need to start smoothly and then set your path to rapid growth.

You can try Shopify 14 days for free to convince yourself. No credit card needed! If you are happy with the design and don’t want to change the template, the plan “Starter” for US $14 is available. The other plans offer more features, like telephone support, better statistics, template modification, and much more.

Find out more in our detailed Shopify review.

>> Read Shopify review

>> Visit Shopify.com

Weebly

Weebly – makes selling easy, extremely easy

If you already have a website made with Weebly and you don’t want to struggle with a complicated setup process or source code, then you should consider taking a closer look at their built-in e-commerce solution. The online shop works as easy as the rest of the website editor.

Weebly Free allows you to sell up to 5 products. That’s not much, but it’s free; if you don’t need ALL the bells and whistles, it should do the job. If you want to sell more products and need features like vouchers, then you have to pick their “Business” plan for $24. Weebly is made for beginners that want an easy solution. Because of this, you won’t find advanced features, like dozens of international payment gateways or customer accounts.

Weebly brings out regular updates that provide more features and help you to create a better online shop.

Find out more in our detailed Weebly review.

>> Read Weebly review

Squarespace Logo

Squarespace – the web store that’s also a great blog

Squarespace offers an online store in all three of its plans. The question is: how much do you want to sell? The smallest plan, called “Personal,” is a bargain at $8, but it only allows you to sell one product. If you want to sell more than 20 products, you have to pick the “Business” plan for $24, but you’ll also receive some extra functions that could come in handy for bigger online shops, such as real time carrier shipping, integrated accounting by Xero, and much more.

Squarespace has a very good blog and it’s also possible to integrate offers from the online store directly in your latest posts. That makes shopping for your customers much easier. What we’ve been really missing so far is the lack of PayPal integration in their range of payment options (well, actually the “range” is limited to Stripe so far).

Find out more in our detailed Squarespace review.

>> Read Squarespace review

ecwid logo

Ecwid – the addon that turns your existing site into a fully-fledged store

Ecwid is a particularly attractive option if you already own a website that doesn’t have an e-commerce feature. It includes an impressive range of functions, such as a massive number of integrated payment gateways for credit card payments, PayPal, and even voucher codes for special promotional offers.

You can also sell both physical and digital goods. Varying VAT rates between different states are no problem here either. The only drawback with Ecwid is that there is no real easy way for Google to index your product pages.

Find out more in our detailed Ecwid review.

>> Read Ecwid review

Do you have further requirements? Here you can find even more providers and detailed information about them.

>> Website Builder Ecommerce Comparison Chart

Examples of small business websites

Other Website Types

Online Store

Tip: Our Free Ebook

small business website ebookTo get you started, please feel free to download our eBook “Website Creation for Absolute Beginners,” completely free of charge. This will help you plan your business website and get things right from the outset.

Our reviewer

reviewer

Robert Brandl is the founder of WebsiteToolTester and he has been analyzing the market of website builders since 2009.

Your opinion

  • Anastasia

    Hi Matt thanks for this comparison. Is there a reason you did not include Big Commerce? Also would you advise against wordpress for an online store with an added commerce solution?

    • http://WebsiteToolTester.com/ Armin

      Big Commerce is not included in our overview, because we focus on small business / online shop solutions.
      WordPress is a very powerful blog/CMS-solution, but also not our focus. Of course, you can add an e-commerce solution like woo commerce to WordPress,
      but it’s definitely much more complicated to handle than e.g Jimdo or Squarespace. Here is an article about our thoughts on WordPress:
      http://www.websitetooltester.com/en/blog/wordpress-alternatives/

  • Travis

    Don’t forget volusion.com

    • http://www.tooltester.net/ Robert (Tooltester Network)

      Thanks Travis. As Armin already said we focus on small and inexpensive e-commerce solutions. We also listed Shopify on this page as we know that it’s a solid product but right now we can’t say anything about Volusion.

  • Kay Thompson

    What do you think of Amazon as far as building an e-commerce website?

    • http://www.tooltester.net/ Robert (Tooltester Network)

      Hi Kay, to be honest we have no experience with the Amazon Webstore. Their fees seem a bit steep and I’ve seen some customers complain about their support. The general issue I see when you are selling though Amazon is that they have access to your sales data. If something sells really well they might just add it to Amazon com and offer it themselves.

      • http://www.tooltester.net/ Robert (Tooltester Network)

        Quick update on the Amazon Webstore: they just announced that it will be discontinued in Germany. Not sure what that means for other parts of the world but interesting to know nevertheless. Unfortunately big web companies like Google, Yahoo or Amazon have a track record for abandoning services where they don’t see a strategic focus.

  • renny

    what about wix? I’m newbie at this.

    • http://www.tooltester.net/ Robert (Tooltester Network)

      They do have an online store that is gradually getting more advanced. We think that Jimdo and Squarespace are currently stronger in the ecommerce arena. But if you have a preference towards Wix as a website builder you can certainly give the Wix online store a try.

  • groberson

    I am considering starting an online rental service, so I would need a website builder that had a recurring monthly billing option. Are there any affordable options out there besides volusion? I read somewhere that they are one of the only ones that offer that feature.

    • http://www.tooltester.net/ Robert (Tooltester Network)

      Hi, I am afraid that the website builders we list on our site don’t support recurring payments. There is a way to set this up with Paypal as far as I can remember but I am not an expert in this area.

  • http://WebsiteToolTester.com/ Armin

    Thank you for your comment! Open eShop looks nice, but the big difference is that you have to install it. Fortunately, some hosts offer a 1-click installation. However, we only test products that need no installation or updates done by the user himself.

  • Johannes

    Thanks for the good overview!

    I am working with shopify a long time now and can really recommend it!
    But as much as I like shopify, I dislike the fact that there is no support for multiple languages.

    Thanks to their API I have developed an app to solve this issue (including SEO support) :)
    In case you are interested: https://apps.shopify.com/langify

  • Will

    Thanks for the valuable info!
    I plan to open a online wholesale store for small quantity order, need functions like pricing for different quantity or inquiry etc, is there any recommendation? Thanks very much!

    • http://www.tooltester.net/ Robert (Tooltester Network)

      Hi Will, could you describe your requirements in a bit more detail? I’ll be happy to help you find the right ecommerce tool.

  • Gui

    Tell me what’s your first choice, Rob, thanks.

  • http://www.tooltester.net/ Robert (Tooltester Network)

    Hi Gui, we’re currently creating a detailed Shopify review. Armin just told me that if money is not an issue you should definitely check it out. It’s extremely powerful and customizable – the only tool on our site that allows your customers to create accounts with logins.

    However, the cheapest (rather limited) plan starts at $14 per month and has a 2% transaction fee on top of what the payment gateway charges. Weebly, Squarespace and Jimdo don’t have such a fee.