On Tuesday 23rd March, the UK government ordered that all ‘non essential’ shops should temporarily shut down in order for the country to better deal with the Covid-19 crisis.
Only shops selling food and medicine were given permission to stay open.
It’s a move that’s hit small businesses, from independent bookstores to market place soap sellers, in the guts.
However, just because you have had to hang the ‘closed’ sign up on your bricks and mortar store or market stall, doesn’t mean you have to stop selling.
Here’s a round-up of the best ecommerce platforms available today, alongside an insight into how suitable they are for beginners.
The good news is that some can be launched within a single day.
Used by 300,000 shops worldwide, PrestaShop doesn’t require any programming knowledge to set up.
To set up your store, you simply choose a ready-designed template, add your logo and – depending on the functionality of the template – customise the colours, then start adding products to your site by adding images and typing in product descriptions.
A few of the highlights of PrestaShop are as follows:
• You can easily add ‘related products’ to your product pages
• You can allow customers to upload images and information so you can offer customised products
• You can check inventory levels at a glance
• You can show customers when an item us out of stock
• You can create packs of products
Before you can get PrestaShop site up and running you’ll need a domain name and web hosting. tsoHost offers web hosting packages that are specifically optimised for PrestaShop stores in terms of load speeds, uptime and security. Plus, once you’ve bought your PrestaShop hosting bundle, you can access PrestaShop in a single click.
WooCommerce is an ecommerce plug-in for WordPress sites. Unlike some ecommerce platforms it’s suitable for selling both hard products, eg books, and services, eg consulting sessions. The plugin lets you configure things like currency, tax and shipping options. Plus, it allows you to add various payment methods such as PayPal, although some of this functionality comes at an extra cost.
Before you can get WooCommerce up and running, you’ll need a domain and webhosting with WordPress installed, ready to build your site. tsoHost offers hosting packages that are specifically optimised for WordPress. In fact, once you’ve bought one of these packages, it takes a single click to get WordPress installed. The bundles come with a free domain name included, too.
A top tip if you’re new to WordPress – you’ll need to choose a theme (a little like a template) for your WordPress website that’s compatible with WooCommerce.
This ecommerce platform has been designed for use by start-ups, entrepreneurs and small to medium businesses. It doesn’t require the user to have any coding knowledge to get going with it.
To set up a Shopify store, you’ll need to pick a design template for your website and customise it with the colours you like. Then you can start adding products by populating title, description, pricing and image fields.
Shopify also offers order management functionality. It allows you to set shipping parameters. Plus, it allows you to accept payments by multiple methods – even bitcoin, although transaction fees are charged for some methods.
OpenCart is not as rookie-friendly as the likes of PrestaShop and Shopify but not as inaccessible as the likes of ZenCart.
While you can populate areas like logo, company name, product category, product price, product descriptions and product images without knowing any code, the interface isn’t especially intuitive. If you’re a beginner, you’ll certainly need to take a tutorial before you can confidently navigate your way around the backend of your new ecommerce site.
You’ll also need some web experience to get OpenCart set up in the first place. You’ll need to know a little about how to manage a MySQL database, for example.
If the slightly elevated technical element of OpenCart doesn’t phase you, you might want to take a look at tsoHost’s cPanel-managed hosting packages. OpenCart comes as a one-click application with all four bundles.
ZenCart is not for beginners. However, for those with a decent degree of technical knowledge, the platform is praised for being freely customisable (if you have an understanding of source code) and for being easy to integrate with various payment gateways.
ZenCart is also one of 25 one-click app installations that are available through tsoHots’ cPanel-managed hosting packages.