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You’re ready to offer ecommerce to expand the reach of your small business. Congratulations! Now, which ecommerce solution are you going to choose?

Don’t worry — we don’t expect to see you hand-coding your own online shop. So many ecommerce platforms have popped up in the past few years that there’s a fit for almost every type of business.

Which ecommerce option is best for your small business?

Online merchant account

If your needs are simple -- perhaps you’re scheduling appointments and require a deposit at the time of booking -- consider an online merchant account. A payment processor can help you open an online merchant account, or check with the bank you already use for your business.

PayPal offers another method of integrating ecommerce into your website without needing a merchant account.

Major online merchant account options include Cayan, Quickbooks Payments, GoEmerchant and Flagship Merchant Services.

Online shopping cart or ecommerce software

They have many names, but these tools help you build an online shop into your existing website or alongside it. Online cart options can offer beautiful layouts, high-resolution images and plenty of space to describe your products or services.

If you’re offering digital products, check out options like eJunkie, ClickBank, Gumroad or Fetch.

If you offer physical products, consider Shopify, Big Cartel, Volusion or Bigcommerce.

Website builder

Where did you purchase your domain or web hosting? You might be able to sign up for ecommerce features in the same place you built your business website. Ecommerce offerings might not be as vibrant as choosing a specialty ecommerce software solution, but you can rest assured your online shop will match the look and feel of your entire web presence.

GoDaddy, Squarespace, Wix and Weebly all offer ecommerce integration.

Ecommerce marketplace

Want to get your niche, handmade, or vintage products in front of as many viewers as possible? Turn to ecommerce marketplaces like eBay, Etsy, Amazon Handmade or StoreEnvy. These platforms may have limited customization offerings and usually live separately from your website. But great minds think alike, and if your audience is already shopping on one of these sites, you may want to join them there.

Before you sign up for the first ecommerce platform you stumble upon, consider the following:

  • Cost. Don’t just look at the cost of initially setting up an ecommerce service. Is there a monthly or yearly fee? Is there a fee per transaction? Is there a fee that goes to a third-party payment processor? Fully explore each option’s true cost as a seller. If you can’t get a clear picture of how much will come out of your pocket, get in touch with that solution providers and ask for example scenarios.
  • Room to grow. Everyone wants their business to get bigger, right? But outgrowing your ecommerce solution can cause major growing pains. Anticipate future products, styles and packages you may want to offer in your online store. Can your ecommerce solution of choice grow along with you? What extra costs may be involved?
  • Aesthetic. A potential customer won’t touch a website that doesn’t match the expectations they have about that business. A mom-and-pop hardware store may be able to get by with a bare-bones ecommerce platform that’s efficient, but less than glamorous. On the other hand, a glossy beauty company should have a website and online shopping experience to match.
  • Ease of use. Your ecommerce system is useless if the thought of editing a single product description makes you want to run away. You should feel comfortable working with your system on a daily basis to maintain a consistent pleasant experience for your customers. Many ecommerce solution providers offer demonstrations or free trials of their products to give you an idea of what’s under the hood. If you’re considering an option that doesn’t offer demos, search for video tutorials made by fans or experts.
  • PCI compliance. Any ecommerce solution you consider should be upfront about PCI compliance. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) must be maintained by any payment processor handling customer credit card information. Look for platforms that are transparent about security practices and advertise Level 1 PCI compliance.

What ecommerce solution is best for your small business? Meet with SCORE mentor to review your products, services and goals.