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In the world we live in, a business without a website is like a car without wheels…it’s not going anywhere! Your website provides you with a way to connect with potential clients and convince them that your products or services are just what they need.
If you’re at the point where you’re putting together a website for your company, you’ll no doubt be aware of the importance of choosing the right web hosting provider. The only trouble is, there are literally hundreds all vying for your business. So just how do you pick one over all the others and make sure your website is built upon solid foundations?
We wanted to try and make this decision a little easier for you, so you can spend less time trawling the web and more time running your business. And we did this by reaching out to nearly 100 people that deal with web hosting each and every day…professional web design and development experts. We quizzed each of them about their recommendations for the best web hosting for small business. Each expert was allowed to name up to 3 hosts they think are a good fit.
This article is the result of those conversations, and we’re going to show you which small business web hosting services came out on top, as well as what the experts had to say on the matter. So whether you’re creating your business’s first ever website or your current web host has been a let-down and you’re looking to change provider, the advice on this page should help you to figure out where to start looking.
***Who knew that definitions for “small business” vary so wildly?! For the purpose of this article we defined a small business as “any business that has an annual turnover of $0 – $1.5 million and 1-25 employees.”
Top Small Business Web Hosting Solutions: How Our Experts Voted
|Hosting Provider||# of Votes|
|#1. SiteGround||31 Votes|
|#2. WP Engine||24 Votes|
|#3. Flywheel||14 Votes|
|#4. GoDaddy||11 Votes|
|#=5. HostGator||9 Votes|
|#=5. Bluehost||9 Votes|
|#6. DigitalOcean||7 Votes|
|#7. 20i||6 Votes|
|#=8. Amazon Web Services||5 Votes|
|#=8. Cloudways||5 Votes|
|#=9. A2 Hosting||4 Votes|
|#=9. Liquid Web||4 Votes|
|#=9. Heart Internet||4 Votes|
|#=10. tsoHost||3 Votes|
|#=10. InMotion Hosting||3 Votes|
|#=10. Pantheon||3 Votes|
|#=10. Rackspace||3 Votes|
|#=11. CloudAccess.net||2 Votes|
|#=11. DreamHost||2 Votes|
|#=11. UKFast||2 Votes|
|#=11. WPX Hosting||2 Votes|
|#=11. 1 & 1 IONOS||2 Votes|
|#=11. WiserHosting||2 Votes|
|#=11. 34SP.com||2 Votes|
|#=11. KnownHost||2 Votes|
|#=11. Vultr||2 Votes|
|#=11. Fasthosts||2 Votes|
|#=11. Kinsta||2 Votes|
|#=12. Big Time Host||1 Vote|
|#=12. VersionPress||1 Vote|
|#=12. Google Sites||1 Vote|
|#=12. HostDime||1 Vote|
|#=12. NameHero||1 Vote|
|#=12. Hostek||1 Vote|
|#=12. Raid Host||1 Vote|
|#=12. NameCheap||1 Vote|
|#=12. FastComet||1 Vote|
|#=12. Nimbus Hosting||1 Vote|
|#=12. catalyst2||1 Vote|
|#=12. Digital River||1 Vote|
|#=12. UK2||1 Vote|
|#=12. zenbox||1 Vote|
|#=12. Blacknight||1 Vote|
|#=12. domainname||1 Vote|
|#=12. GreenGeeks||1 Vote|
|#=12. HostPapa||1 Vote|
|#=12. Media Temple||1 Vote|
|#=12. TMDHosting||1 Vote|
|#=12. Datacentreplus||1 Vote|
|#=12. Krystal||1 Vote|
|#=12. Unlimited Web Hosting||1 Vote|
|#=12. Microsoft Azure||1 Vote|
|#=12. Anchor Hosting||1 Vote|
|#=12. Infomaniak||1 Vote|
|#=12. OVH||1 Vote|
|#=12. Smart Hosting||1 Vote|
|#=12. Atrema Technologies||1 Vote|
|#=12. Wirehive||1 Vote|
What did we say about their being a ton of small business website hosting options to choose from?! There were 58 different hosts mentioned in total by the web design and development experts we surveyed, but if you check out the table above, you’ll notice that just a handful got a majority of the votes. And it’s this small group that we’re going to focus on in this quick summary.
SiteGround was the clear winner, and as an all-round package it would appear to offer everything most small businesses would want in a hosting provider, all for a very attractive price. Fast, reliable servers, coupled with solid security features (free backups, malware scans, updates, SSL certificates), and quality live support (24/7 – primarily via live chat) if you do run into any problems – SiteGround does a lot of the heavy lifting for you. And if like many small businesses, you’re on a budget, but want to make your money go as far as it can, then you won’t go far wrong with the packages offered by SiteGround, with many of our experts saying that they offer the best price-quality ratio they’ve come across.
Beyond SiteGround, two dedicated WordPress hosting services came very highly recommended, in WP Engine and Flywheel. As these hosting providers focus solely on hosting WordPress sites, this has allowed them to really optimize the performance (so expect very good page load speed) of websites built using this platform, which is great for your visitors and, in turn, for SEO. The overall consensus we got from conversations with our experts is that WP Engine is the slightly more heavy hitting of the two (particularly at entry level), and while the base plans are more expensive, you get a lot for your money, with dev/staging environments included, automatic backups, CDN, free restores if you get hacked and premium quality support (WordPress experts available 24/7 over the phone!).
Flywheel is still top drawer though, and entry level plans are quite a bit cheaper than WP Engine’s, so if you want that next-level performance, but need to keep your hosting bill as trim as possible, this is the option you should check out.
If price is your main criteria and you’re on the lookout for affordable web hosting for small business, then GoDaddy, HostGator and Bluehost are some solid options worth checking out. All were recommended by a good number of the experts we asked, and all offer extremely cheap starter plans (less than $3/month if you commit to a longer period). They aren’t likely to match the performance of the hosts we’ve already discussed (at least not on their shared hosting plans), but they offer a trouble free route to getting your business’s website online, without significant expense, which is the important thing.
Rounding out this summary of the results are a couple of powerful options for the more technically able small business owner- DigitalOcean & Amazon Web Services. These options will require you to “get your hands dirty” but they are extremely customizable. Probably overkill for a lot of small businesses, but if you need hosting with significant firepower and virtually endless possibilities, they are worth a closer look.
1) If you have a small to mid-size website and don’t want to pay the big bucks, but still need a package that offers all round solid performance (speed, reliability, security), coupled with decent live support any time you need it, then this really is a great option:
2) If you’re running a more complex website and it’s built on WordPress and you need next-level performance in terms of page speed, security features and hosting support, then check out these options:
3) If you just want to put up a fairly basic website, aren’t bothered about having “best in class” features, and affordability is a priority, then try one of these:
4) If you’re a bit more tech savvy or have a developer on staff, are prepared to be more “hands on” with your web hosting, and need a more flexible, powerful hosting solution that is also affordable, these options may be worth a look:
Read What The Experts Said
Below we’ve posted exactly what each expert had to say when we asked them for their recommendations on the best website hosting for small business. You can check the hosts they nominated, plus why they like these hosting companies. There’s also a whole lot of hints and tips to keep in mind when choosing hosting for your website sprinkled in there too!
And if you’re interested in reading what was said about a specific provider, just use the filters below to quickly jump to them.
- 1 & 1 IONOS
- A2 Hosting
- Amazon Web Services
- Anchor Hosting
- Atrema Technologies
- Big Time Host
- Digital River
- Google Sites
- Heart Internet
- InMotion Hosting
- Liquid Web
- Media Temple
- Microsoft Azure
- Nimbus Hosting
- Raid Host
- Smart Hosting
- Unlimited Web Hosting
- WP Engine
- WPX Hosting
“There are literally hundreds of web hosting providers nowadays. So much so that it can be daunting to figure out how to even begin to choose the “right” one.
It is often a good idea to ask yourself what kind of website you are hoping to have. Is it going to be on WordPress? Is it going to use a specific language (I use a lot of PHP for example); you need to make the sure that the host you are going to use can support your preferred method of building a website. Not all web hosts support all coding languages.”
500 MB Disk Space
20 GB Monthly Bandwidth
10 Mailboxes POP3/IMAP
10 MySQL Databases
5 FTP Users
This would be more than enough for a first website and can be upgraded fairly easily if the need arises. Questions and support are answered promptly. Downtime is virtually non-existent; it has happened once in the last 7 years U+I have been using them, and this only lasted 4 hours.
The downside to this web plodder is that you do need to be able to code. The file and folders you create need to be in a computing language (at the very least HTML); if you are not a coder and want to build your own website, this is not the web host for you.”
The downside is that the website will not be bespoke to you. The templates are pre-made and are equally available to everyone. You will not get the bespoke site of a web developer. Also beware of costs. The introductory prices are just that, and after that the price can go up considerably. If you are using the website builder it would be £12 PER MONTH.
Even if you just wanted to use the hosting, this goes up to £5 per MONTH. This excludes VAT at 20%. A lot higher than the prices of Wiserhosting”
“SO beware. Read carefully (especially the small print) on what a web host can provide before signing up. Make sure how long you are committing to (can you change providers easily?) How much support do you need / want and does the web hosting service support the language you want to use. Cheapest is not necessarily the best!”
“Our company designs only WordPress websites so our clients typically are going to be using WordPress specific hosting. With that in mind, the 3 hosting companies I would recommend are going to be Flywheel, WP Engine, and SiteGround.”
- Flywheel – “Flywheel is my favorite host and now includes 24/7 tech support. The biggest difference is they do a great job of getting things right the first time you ask for their help. I’ve used them for 5 years on websites that have very small amounts of traffic, and for websites that have a million visitors a week and they can scale accordingly. We focus more and more on website speed and they are among the best hosts for speed in the tests that we have done. They also offer free SSL licenses, which they make extremely easy to set up. I would say they are relatively easy for newcomers to use.”
- WP Engine – “WP Engine provides great WordPress website hosting. Their price point starts a little bit higher than Flywheel, so usually I would go with Flywheel if it’s a smaller client I’m working with. And by small, I’m talking about the web traffic to the website, which is how both companies set their pricing. WP Engine just started offering a great partnership whereby they provide the entire Genesis WordPress theme framework as part of their regular hosting price. That’s hard to beat. These guys are fairly easy to use as well, but have more technical switches and levers you can pull without asking for help.”
- SiteGround – “Neither of the two options above have the ability to do hosting above and beyond WordPress websites. So for clients that really want us to be able to handle everything in one single location (email addresses, domains, etc.), I can recommend SiteGround. While their support isn’t quite as good as either Flywheel or WP Engine, they do provide a good service and the pricing is very reasonable.”
I cannot recommend 20i enough. They offer a cutting-edge service using state of the art load-balancing servers and super-fast response time with SSD drives on all servers. The support cannot be beaten. The techs at 20i are patient, knowledgeable and extremely helpful, often replying within 10 minutes and always within the hour.
They have an excellent website and email migration tool. That makes migrating from your current host to 20i seamless and painless. You migrate a copy and when you’re completely satisfied all is well, you then update the DNS and it’s done with virtually no downtime.”
- WP Engine – “WP Engine has emerged as one of the best hosting solutions for WordPress. Their plans include separate enviroments for development, staging and live sites, malware scanning and removal, and an easy-to-use backup system. Their page-load times are pretty much unparalleled, and for the most part, their customer service is fast, knowledgeable and helpful. There are cheaper alternatives out there, but WPE truly offers a great value for your money.”
- DigitalOcean – “For those with some Unix skills, Digital Ocean offers a fantastic value for anyone wanting to set up their own servers. They have consistently added to their offerings, so there are very few limitations to what you can build or host on their infrastructure. Their documentation is really robust, which allows even those with just basic Unix skills to get started. Based on my own experience, the barrier of entry is much lower than with AWS, and therefore maybe more suitable for smaller operations. Digital Ocean is also very affordable, which makes it a strong contender.”
If I’ve ever encountered a problem – whether user error or otherwise – Nimbus have always been quick to respond. Their staff regularly go above-and-beyond, and having since met some of the team personally I can say they’re as nice in real life too.
Nimbus understand their customers so well, that they have gone on to create their own ‘STORM’ hosting platform. STORM is great for setting up websites quickly (complete with WordPress installation and database), with plenty of customisation options right at your fingertips.”
TSO’s service is also robust; for years I never experienced a single issue. There was no downtime, and no problems importing databases. Put simply, hosting with TSO just works.
Shortly after moving on to a new role I signed up for my own TSO account. I moved all my personal and client websites across with no fuss whatsoever and have recommended them to several freelancers, individuals and small organisations since. Everyone picks up on the ease of navigating and managing sites through the service.”
I built my first website in 1997, and I have worked with many website hosting companies over the interceding 22 years. I’ve dealt with GoDaddy, Network Solutions, 1&1, WPEngine, and Media Temple on behalf of my clients and found they all have strengths and weaknesses.
Whenever I’ve had opportunities to recommend hosting to my clients, I often suggested Directnic, based near New Orleans, LA, starting in about 2005. They have a solid platform, and are renowned for having gotten their service back up in 45 minutes following the devastating blow from Hurricane Katrina. I moved away from Directnic due to their limited call-in tech support hours (9am – 6pm CST, M-F). They have added chat since I left and operate it along with tickets now, 24×7.
I recommended Bluehost to my clients and hosted my own websites there for years, but I feel the company has grown too fast. I have gotten erroneous and conflicting support information, and honestly, have found my new love, SiteGround, superior across the board.
What’s so great about SiteGround? They are geared beautifully for small- and medium-sized businesses, and their support is simply fantastic. You rarely have to wait more than a few seconds for a chat or phone call to be picked up, and their friendly, courteous technicians will stick with you until your questions are answered or your issue is resolved. Want to try a suggested solution while they wait? No problem. Want a transcript of your chat? You got it. Want to file a ticket instead? Go ahead … and expect an answer in about 15 minutes. They honestly act like you’re one of just a few hundred clients; many of their techs, however, have served tens of thousands of clients.
SiteGround delivers fast-loading websites from ultra-modern servers with solid state storage, positioned on three continents, utilizing a free content delivery network (CDN). They provide terrific security consisting of anti-hack systems, pushed auto-updates, free daily backups and an anti-spam application called SPAM Experts that works great protecting your email.
They specialize in WordPress websites with one-click installs, a free migration tool (or they’ll migrate your website for you for free on the GrowBig plan and above). As if all of this wasn’t enough, they offer domain registration as well. Ask in any online website design community what hosting provider designers and developers prefer, and SiteGround will come up over and over.
In my book, and looking back over 22 years of building websites and working with various web hosting companies, SiteGround is tops!”
- WP Engine – “If your website is built in WordPress, this hosting platform is targeted towards optimum performance for WordPress websites.”
- Microsoft Azure – “If your website is an enterprise web system then Azure was created with your developers and your website visitors in mind.”
- Your Web Design Agency – “The hosting environment provided by your web design agency – because they will have ensured that it is set-up to run the website that they have built for you in the most optimized format possible.”
- DigitalOcean – “If you are a fairly technically-savvy business owner or you have people on your team with technical skills, Digital Ocean is a terrific hosting company to consider. The pricing is very hard to beat, and the performance you will get for the cost is truly impressive. You will get a hosting environment that you can completely customize and tailor to your specific needs.”
- Liquid Web – “I like LiquidWeb because they have a variety of hosting types (dedicated servers and cloudsites are the most useful) and their service is excellent. Live chat is available 24/7 and they respond very quickly to concerns and questions you may have. LiquidWeb can support a wide variety of website types.”
- Pantheon – “If you have a WordPress website to host, consider Pantheon. They are not the cheapest solution, but the performance you will get is truly awesome. They have a unique approach to hosting that provides you development and test environments already included, along with a process for pushing code updates from dev -> test and from test -> live. This methodology enforces good code editing practices. It’s very easy to migrate to Pantheon as well; you simply install a plugin on your WordPress website and they pretty much take care of the rest. Finally, the live chat support is extremely responsive and helpful.”
- Amazon Web Services – “AWS offers shared hosting plans for great prices. You’ll need to have your own back-end developer that can handle the setup and maintenance, but it’s what most ad agencies are using for large corporate projects. You get plenty of space and lots of control.”
- GoDaddy – “For non-developers that want to use a WordPress theme, I recommend WordPress for business. It’s a fairly low monthly cost and you get access to Go Daddy support nearly 24/7. You can easily create staging environments and push those changes up to your live production site. They also have built-in backups. It’s as simple as choosing which date you want the site backed up to and it will do it through your hosting, not in the WordPress dashboard.”
“First, talk to your website developer. They’ll know more about your web platform than you do, so talk to them about the capacity, scalability and performance that you’ll need for your business. Developers work with hosting platforms every day, so they’ll know what you need to look for to get the best out of your site.
Second, understand that there’s a difference between personal and professional web hosting. ‘Shared’ hosting, which is what you get for those offers that are less than $10 / month, is slow, has poor uptime and is insecure. Your business is professional, so it should use professional hosting to make sure your potential customers get a snappy, reliable experience.
Lastly, know what you’re looking for in a web host. SSL is vital to avoid alarming ‘insecure’ warnings. A global Content Delivery Network will help your site stay fast wherever in the world someone is accessing it from. Uptime should be at least 99.99%. And your host should be scalable — avoid hosts that cut you off or over-charge you when your website becomes popular, look instead for hosts that let you instantly upgrade your plan to cope with your level of traffic.”
- Amazon Web Services – “Without a doubt, the best performance and reliability we’ve had for our sites is Amazon’s AWS. It’s fast, secure and has excellent uptime. It has an excellent backup system to help you avoid catastrophes. It’s also more scalable than any other host we’ve found, with lots of plan levels that start very cost-effectively and only need to increase once your business is attracting lots of visitors. It supports lots of operating systems and platforms, including WordPress, Magento, Drupal and Joomla.”
- WP Engine – “If you’re using a WordPress site, you won’t go far wrong with WP Engine. They cover all of the professional basics like SSL and CDN, and have generous visitor capacity in their tiers. It also helps deal with some of WordPress’s weaknesses, providing strong backup and caching tools. It’s not the cheapest service out there, but the customer service and added value it offers your business makes it well worth the investment.”
- Bluehost – “This is now my “go to” web hosting company for any smaller projects I’m working on. My business web site is hosted through bluehost.com and all of my more recent personal web site projects have been hosted through bluehost. They have great customer service, an easy to navigate cPanel, SMTP servers, email servers, domain names, PHPMyAdmin, and much more. They also offer WordPress as a pre-installed option, which really makes setting up your small business web site super easy. They even have dedicated hosting servers for more large scale web sites which garner lots of traffic. These dedicated servers do cost significantly more money, however. All in all, Bluehost is a great option for a small business web site.”
- VersionPress – “For any small business web site running on WordPress, Versionpress is a great hosting option. They offer unlimited test sites, and a one click deployment option to push code changes to the production instance of your web site. I was very impressed with how user friendly Versionpress is, and they offer git like diffing functionality which really helps when resolving code conflicts, and merging from a test instance and ultimately deploying to your production instance. The only drawback I found is that not all WordPress plugins have full support within Versionpress, so you will need to do some research before choosing them as your hosting provider.”
- Bluehost – “I would recommend Bluehost to any small business owner that has limited technological experience/ knowledge or has a limited marketing budget. Bluehost offers free domain registration for a year to protect your business, as well as a free SSL Certificate to protect your customers. If you like to work at all hours of the day and night like me, you do not have to worry about things going awry with your website because Bluehost provides round-the-clock support services. The WordPress installation and low-budget services should be good enough reason alone to choose Bluehost, as WordPress is essential to the success of any small business.”
- DreamHost – “If you don’t quite know what you are looking for in a hosting provider, I would recommend Dreamhost. With Dreamhost you get more than just web hosting; they offer a wide variety of hosting solutions set to fit any small business need. They also prioritize fast and reliable website loading services, which allows for improved user experience and optimal traffic. From experience, I can confirm Dreamhost is committed to providing their customers with the very best rather than focusing on making a profit, which is something I value in a company.”
- Google Sites – “I know recommending Google may seem cliché, but that is only because Google has proven itself as a superior hosting service time and time again. The digital world is constantly changing, and I am constantly learning new things to provide my clients with the best services I can. The web provider I see changing the most is Google; every day I discover a new plugin, a new update, or a new service. If you are a small business that is looking for a versatile hosting provider, I would highly recommend looking into Google Sites.”
“At adchitects, we carry out website and branding projects for companies from around the world. They are companies of all sizes, ranging from one-person startups to corporations working on several continents. Our website designs are based mostly on WordPress CMS.
Very often, the client suggests WordPress as a content management system for their new website in the offer inquiry. The reason they give is understandable – “I had contact with this system before and I do not want to learn a new one (eg Craft CMS)”
Personally, I think WordPress is a great CMS system, especially when we think about the availability of developers, but also about the flexibility in the field of marketing – probably for every tool there is a ready plug-in that you can connect to your WordPress website. Thus, merchants can do what they should and not contact the IT department.
Where “WordPress” appears, there usually appears the statement “And what about security? I heard that it is not a secure system.”
The fact is that WordPress is the most popular CMS on the global internet. Hence, most exploits are written just for this system (it’s logical, right?). But the problem of a non-functioning website does not come from the fact that it is based on CMS WordPress, and that the system owner (or the person responsible for it) simply did not care for it – did not update the main system, plugins did not perform backups, etc.
When it comes to WordPress security, hosting is the key decision. Currently, there are many websites on the market that offer WordPress dedicated hosting. As a result, the entire server configuration is set for this system, including all security features.
Dedicated hosting also gives you plenty of options for automating basic maintenance activities – automatic backups, staging (separate test and production environments), etc.
In most cases, we offer our global clients two solutions – WPengine (www.wpengine.com) and FlyWheel (getflywheel.com). These are dedicated hosting solutions for WordPress. For us – the web-design & development agency – support is very important, which very often helps to fit (of course if possible) to the installation of the client’s system, but also helps to solve problems sometimes occurring between the CMS system configuration and the server. Both support services work very well.”
- WP Engine – “WPengine is probably the biggest hosting provider with WordPress-only solutions. The pricing plan is reasonable (you receive what you pay for). With the most basic plan (Startup – from 35 USD/mo), you receive the possibility to set up 1 website with 3 environments (dev/test/production), 25000 visits/month and 50GB of bandwidth. CDN & SSL is included.”
- Flywheel – “FlyWheel gives you cheaper solutions, but with fewer possibilities. For 14 USD/mo, you get 5000 monthly visits and no staging. But it’s a good solution if you need more bandwidth – you get 250GB of bandwidth/month (5 times more than WPengine).”
Basically, each one is a good solution, but you need to take time and think, what do you (and your site) exactly needs. The best way is to ask the specialist (for example, the agency that develops the site for you).
- zenbox – “To our Polish clients, we recommend a local provider of hosting services dedicated to WordPress – Zenbox (zenbox.pl). It offers interesting hosting plans that increase depending on the UU of your website. The account management panel is not as transparent as in the case of FlyWheel and does not offer staging, but support works quickly and efficiently.”
If I had to choose the best WordPress kit, I would choose:
Domain – GoDaddy.com
CDN – Cloudflare.com
Hosting – WPengine.com
With such a set, every WordPress owner can feel safe (of course remembering about maintenance from time to time 🙂
“The majority of my clients take advantage of the free hosting that comes with my WordPress Maintenance Plans. On the occasion that they do prefer to go out on their own, I recommend one of 2 places: SiteGround or WP Engine (these are the same hosting providers I use for my maintenance clients).”
- SiteGround – “I tend to recommend SiteGround for small to medium websites that don’t include complex functionality or ecommerce. Their entry level hosting for 1 site is less than $150 for the year. They also include their SG Optimizer plugin for WordPRess with every install. I’ve found it to be one of the easier to use speed optimization plugins available. Customer service has always been top notch as well.”
- WP Engine – “For more complex sites & ecommerce sites I recommend WP Engine. They only host WordPress sites, so all of their servers are fine-tuned to get the best performance possible from the platform. On top of that, the user interface is very simple to use, but does keep some of the more esoteric settings hidden from the user. However their customer support has always been quick in helping make any tweaks you might need for your site. This does come at a price, as it is 2-3 times more expensive than SiteGround.”
Whereas other shared hosting providers often charge for items such as large mailboxes, SSL etc., 20i allow very generous resources right from the off. HTTPS wildcard certificates are offered as standard within packages and these pass all necessary browser tests for everyday websites. This is a great saving for you and your clients if you wish to have a secure website – really a must for most websites.
Support is very important when hosting sites, and knowing that you will get highly responsive, helpful and top-notch support staff really makes a difference when issues arise, as they inevitably do.”
I have dealt with a number of hosting companies and I find some are just server mills, employing less informed support and unable to help when more technical issues arise. I have never experienced that with Hostek.
They have standard shared plans for entry level, VPS and Dedicated Servers for more advanced needs. They also offer Optimized WordPress plans. They have multiple Data Center locations in the USA and UK, as well as providing CDN services for faster website performance. The control panel is standard fare and allows for easy management of your site.”
- HostGator – “I have had a couple customers who hosted with HostGator. The experience dealing with the host was good. We have never had any major problems and support has been responsive. They have good prices and a nice control panel to manage the site. Although there have been issues here and there, the HostGator support team has been pretty good about resolving them quickly.”
Richard A Marti Jr
“When you look at the success of virtually any small business, it is the relationships of the key people that form the foundation that great businesses are built on. Websites, SEO, Social Media, are just the tools we use to help create and nurture those relationships. We take a comprehensive and integrated approach to traditional and digital marketing, so we can concentrate on those important relationships and build business as a natural result.
If I had to recommend a web hosting provider for small business, it would be Inmotion Hosting for the reasons ill outline next. For this post, I chose three web hosts: Inmotion Hosting, Hostgator and GoDaddy. I feel strongly that running a small business is hard enough. We shouldn’t have to worry about our website. A word salad full of acronyms and bunches of options does not make our choices clearer.
Across the three options that I have experience with, I wanted to concentrate on the 5 key elements for the most worry free solution. The key elements are uptime, speed, customer service, automatic backups and security (including ssl and recovery.) As a bonus, email accounts included are a nice addition.”
For customer service they offer toll free call in number, user support groups, text support, email support and a support ticket system. Their support is from here in the US. If things do go wrong, Inmotion Hosting seems committed to making things work again quickly and easily. Along with easy access customer support, they provide free backups.Just one more thing we can rest easier about.
Security. Protecting our data along with our customers with their included SSL helps our peace of mind. Google pretty much considers that all sites have an ssl certificate to protect visitors. With hack protection, we can rest easier. As a little bonus for those of us that need it, they include a generous email package.”
- HostGator – “Hostgator offers similar specs to Inmotion Hosting with some differences. Uptime is comparable to Inmotion Hosting. Hostgator offers backup and restore as an additional option. There are mixed reviews on their customer support. They do include an SSL certificate. Hostgator offers security with Sitelock to protect against threats. Hostgator does have an email package included.”
- GoDaddy – “Godaddy seems to have a good uptime record. Some people have different experiences depending on the applications they are using. Generally a sites are up within 10 mins. Google site speed is good compared to the other hosting companies, maybe even faster. Customer service is located here is the US, which is helpful. I have found them very helpful. Depending on timing, the wait can be a little long, but they do offer to call you back when a rep is free. Site backup and restore is an additional $2.99 per month. You can get an SSL for free with Godaddy’s Ultimate plan (which can have a significant price increase at renewal time.) Godaddy does include security with their plans but I have not needed to use it.”
- SiteGround – “This would be my first recommendation just because I have so much experience using them and is always the first one I recommend to someone needing an affordable but quality host. Have been using them for years and have had nothing but a good experience with them.”
- Bluehost – “Another very reputable company that has great uptimes and an affordable rate for small businesses. Have only worked on one site hosted here in the past, but was a smooth experience.”
- DigitalOcean – “Wanted to include something a little different rather than just list another of the many hosting companies out there. This is a newer player in the game and might be a little more targeted towards developers. It is cloud based, so it is able to grow with you while being reliable and affordable.”
“At Priority Pixels we have always used a range of hosting providers and there aren’t many we haven’t tried out over the years. You may think most hosting is the same, but each host has a slightly different setup, so it’s important you choose the right one for your business.
The core three hosting providers we use are Media Temple, SiteGround and WP Engine, and we use each for slightly different reasons based on the business needs of our clients.”
- Media Temple – “Media Temple is a good solid hosting provider. They have some cheap hosting options available, but more importantly the support is solid. We use the grid hosting platform, which is perfectly adequate for small to medium size websites. The hosting admin area isn’t as user friendly as other hosting providers, but you do have access to everything you need without certain bits being locked down as some hosting companies do.”
- SiteGround – “SiteGround is a step up from Media Temple. Their cloud servers are scalable, so you never need to worry about running out of bandwidth or storage space. We recommend SiteGround to small businesses that need a fast website with good uptime. Their support is top notch too.”
- WP Engine – “WP Engine is the gold standard in our opinion. If SEO is important to your business, then making sure the server your website is on is super fast should be your top priority. A super-fast website will help lower your bounce rate and keep your visitors on your site longer. WP Engine isn’t cheap, but as with everything in life, you get what you pay for.”
- Anchor Hosting – “For a WordPress website, I always highly recommend Anchor Hosting to my clients and network partners. They are local and very knowledgeable and have always done a very good job at troubleshooting and helping me with server related issues when there is a problem. I would rather not work with servers, I’d rather focus my energy at what I do best and enjoy the most: design and development. Managed hosting is not your cheapest option, but using it would eliminate spam, need for backups, WP core and plugin updates, and is always very secure. Don’t waste your own valuable time, let the experts handle these issues.”
- Kinsta – “Kinsta is my number one pick for WordPress hosting. Their infrastructure is built on the Google Cloud Platform and every WordPress site is contained in its own isolated area and is 100% private. Kinsta is blazing fast, developer friendly and known to have great customer support.”
- WP Engine – “WP Engine is a great choice for WordPress hosting. The staging environments are easy to setup. They offer their own caching technology, easy SSL cert installation, automatic backup and restore points and good support.”
- A2 Hosting – “Having used them for a couple of years I can say that the level of services they offer and the support provided will give peace of mind to any small business. Importantly they provide data centres in Europe, as well as dedicated systems to boost the speed of your website. They use cPanel for shared hosting accounts, which makes it pretty easy to implement various things including email accounts, SSL certificates and sub domains.”
- FastComet – “This list was not placed in any order of preference. These guys are also on the ball when it comes to services they have and their level of customer care. Support staff are always online and attentive (which is really important!); and when they cannot fix the issue immediately the technical department (via the ticket system) are also quick to respond. Servers are located in London, which again is a huge bonus for speed of your website if you’re in the UK. And importantly their prices are competitive too.”
- SiteGround – “Although I have not used them myself – I have heard many positive things about them from others in the industry. Whilst they do make the top lists on various recommendation sites – this company is definitely one to consider. Great speed and coverage, reliable servers, as well as competitive packages.”
“Hosting is not something that should be seen as a cost-saving exercise. You need a reliable hosting provider to ensure your website / shop front is open 24 hours a day. We would recommend Heart Internet, Rackspace and UK 2 NET.
As with most hosting, you will find negative reviews and this can be the result of people purchasing web space and not understanding how to use it. For example, someone will pay for £4.99 a month expecting 24-hour support and someone on the end of the phone to help them figure everything out. This would be £59.88 per year in total which doesn’t cover the average IT hourly rate for 1 hour of support, yet people judge hosting companies negatively for lack of support.”
- Heart Internet – “Heart Internet provides cost-effective web hosting services that are as reliable as they come in the shared world, and then for a little more money you can purchase a VPS server which is going to give you more power and speed. However, with a VPS server you do not get support like you do on shared hosting so be aware.”
- Rackspace – “Rackspace is a solid company to trust and have become a leading name in the hosting world. If you want a server then Rackspace is worth a look, but this comes at a cost.”
- UK2 – “UK 2 NET is another solid choice for hosting and the servers they offer come with varied power options and costs, which are again relatively high, but they offer great support.”
“Chameleon Web Services has servers of all types at many leading hosting providers and also uses hosting provided to us by clients and we feel that often the hosting company reviews do not do the companies justice and most of the websites ranking the best hosting providers are built on a pay more system to be top.”
Their support is fairly minimal, based on a knowledgebase system rather than direct support, but their documentation is extremely extensive (in fact their articles on systems administration are some of the best guides around) and anyone with a basic grasp of the command line should be able to get a server set up in a few hours.”
- Cloudways – “For those who feel a little intimidated by the terminal, Cloudways offers a friendlier interface for DigitalOcean (and several other VPS providers). Not strictly a hosting provider in the standard sense, Cloudways acts as a fluffy “wrapper” for your VPS and provides thing like a “proper” command panel, 24/7 expert support, stack optimisation and super-fast caching that may otherwise take you hours of valuable time to put into place. It’s a great option for those a little less technically minded and the pricing is very competitive.”
- Flywheel – “For those who need a more managed solution, Flywheel is an excellent option. Specialising in WordPress hosting enables Flywheel to do this one thing extremely well. Offering priority support, a 99.95% uptime guarantee and ongoing technical account management to proactively assist you through every stage of a project, Flywheel can help your site progress and build with your business.”
- KnownHost – “I run multiple websites, so service and support is important to me. I have been using KnownHost for 2 years and the experience has been great. The hosting they offer is top of the line and their service and support is great. I’ve never had to wait more than a few minutes to hear from their support team. I like that they aren’t as big as some of the other companies because I feel they offer more personal attention.”
- SiteGround – “Finding SiteGround was a bit of a revelation. I build sites on WordPress and some hosts can struggle to serve it up fast. Not SiteGround, lightning fast, especially when using their own optimiser plugin. The live chat support is also second to non. 9/10 times they solve the issue you’re facing there and then on the chat.”
- Pantheon – “Pantheon is a great hosting option once you’ve outgrown the entry level stuff like GoDaddy. The nice part about Pantheon is that they build in development, staging, and live production environments out of the box. They also include many DevOps (Developer Operations) tools that are normally associated with much more sophisticated hosting operations. And they use containerized and distributed systems to get the best of shared and dedicated cloud hosting paradigms for a fraction of the cost it takes to set up all this infrastructure yourself.”
- Fasthosts – “As a small business owner, the importance of reliability and flexibility cannot be overstated. This is the reason we recommend Fasthosts to all our potential web clients. I have been using their different packages for over 10 years. Their customer support is second to none. I have spent many hours on calls with their dedicated support team, but never longer than 5 minutes in a queue. They offer great, low price packages perfect for service based businesses requiring a simple, static website right up to dedicated servers capable of supporting multiple sites and large ecommerce stores. They also offer a great, cloud solution for businesses who experience fluctuations in traffic due to seasonal shopping, events or other factors. You can easily adjust the memory and disk space to accommodate the extra traffic and reduce it back down after with no need to pay for a larger package all the time.”
- SiteGround – “If you are using, or planning to use, WordPress or WooCommerce for your website then you should be looking at SiteGround. Recommended by WordPress themselves, they offer three great value, managed hosting solutions. All three include an automated WordPress installer and setup to help you get up and running faster or if you already have a site, you can make use of their free migration plugin. We once had an issue with the plugin; the site we were working on was very large, and they manually transferred the site for us. The primary benefit of their managed hosting is that they automatically take care of the security and updates of your site for you at server level. Knowing your site is secure is a massive stress reliever for any small business.”
“I’ve used many hosting providers in my 20+ years and with all of the ups and downs of my experience, I have only 2 that I now recommend to my clients.”
- WP Engine – “My top choice is WPEngine. Their hosting is exceptionally fast, they don’t spread their resources too thin, and their support is second to none. They offer development environments and SSL certificates. They are more expensive than other providers, especially if you have more than one website, but after the first year of discounts with other providers, the difference isn’t nearly as significant.”
- SiteGround – “My close second is SiteGround. I could say all of the same things about SiteGround as I did for WPEngine, but they aren’t quite as fast, spread their resources a bit thinner and do not offer a development environment until you get to the higher packages. However, if your budget is super tight, they are the best choice out there.”
“I’ve used many hosting providers in my 20+ years and with all of the ups and downs of my experience, I have only 2 that I now recommend to my clients.”
- SiteGround – “I like using SiteGround and use it for hosting on almost every website I build. Most of my sites are WordPress, and SiteGround has great servers and a cache system that works great with WordPress. They also give you a free SSL. I don’t have any affiliate deals with any hosting providers and I still always recommend SiteGround. They are a tad bit more expensive than Godaddy, but the fast servers they offer is worth it to me. With all the focus on site speed, SiteGround is my best option. If you aren’t using CDN’s and need a fast hosting service out of the box then SiteGround is for you.”
- GoDaddy – “GoDaddy is ok, but not great. They are a good company for beginners and small business owners who are doing a lot of the website work themselves. GoDaddy can get annoying because they try and sell you on every little thing. They make you pay extra for an SSL and every little add on will cost you. The good thing that they offer is relatively reliable customer service. You can always get hold of them if there’s a problem. I have had some ongoing issues that took me a few calls to resolve. But for the average person they are a good option”
InMotion Hosting – “My company, Sneaker, has been using InMotion hosting since the 4th quarter of 2013, which is unbelievable. Since 2000, we’ve been through many hosting companies to finally arrive at a company that manages their growth and administrates their servers with consistent excellence. We have tried just about every major hosting company, or at least the top 20, in that time frame.
A pattern we always see is that a hosting company starts off with super fast hosting, great support, good internal organization and a lot of enthusiasm. In our world, IT and web companies talk and word of mouth gets these start-up web hosting companies off the ground. Then the hosting company will experience tremendous growth at about 1.5 yrs to 2 yrs after their glorious introduction. That’s when the majority of them take the dive, because they can’t handle the growth. They hire server admins that they shouldn’t have hired, and things get messy. Things don’t work the same anymore. Servers are filled with too many websites.
But InMotion is not that kind of company. They have some internal business goals that have kept them on track. They work with me on my hosting pricing. They help us with Unix/Linux migrations from other hosting companies to their hosting, and their support has worked through every issue we’ve had since we started in 2013. The issues have been rare. We have a Dedicated Server on InMotion, and it’s been very solid, and we run a VPS server at InMotion. We were running 2 VPS accounts, but one of the servers was having some issues. The other one has been steady since we started using it in about 2016. We can perform automated backups through WHM, we have access to SSH to move files quickly within the InMotion network, we can secure access to server and hosting administration with white and black listing of IP’s and subnet masks, etc.”
GoDaddy – “We have a lot of clients on Godaddy. I would recommend getting on a VPS plan. GoDaddy seems to be fairly consistent. The shared hosting plans are sufficient for companies that are just starting out with basic websites and few visitors, but not recommended if you really want your business to be taken seriously. If you go beyond a few visitors and a 10 page site with static content, you need to step up your game and get on a VPS, because at that level, you have a lot more flexibility. It will end up paying for itself if you’ve got a web development company that’s trying access things like the php.ini, or the database. Adminstering websites can be a lot easier through cPanel, with root level access, on a hosting plan that offers SSH and allows php settings to be adjusted. A step further is having control over your versions of PHP and MySQL. If you’re website has a user base, or ecommerce, then you’re probably going to need all of this stuff.
The good thing about GoDaddy is that they’ve been a big company for a long time, so their infrastructure has already been through the trials that smaller hosting companies experience when everyone abandons their web host to migrate to the latest and greatest new hosting company. GoDaddy’s way beyond that. Their support is easily accessible. They will be here tomorrow and the next day. There isn’t a day that goes by that we’re not doing something on Godaddy, and in general, things are easy to do there.”
- Bluehost – “We have a few clients on BlueHost. We’ve never had problems with them. As usual, if you’re on a shared hosting plan, performance, access to hosting management tools, and access to adjust server settings can all be issues. That’s across the board, happening with any shared plan on any hosting company, for the most part. It doesn’t matter what hosting company you’re on, if they are one of the top 20, in general, their shared hosting is going to be slower than VPS or Dedicated, hence the pricing structure. I don’t recommend shared hosting for any serious business. Bluehost has been a pretty solid solution for our clients that have sites hosted by them. We haven’t had any issues with them in the last 3 years.”
“Hosting companies offer similar solutions. However, hosting companies are NOT the same. The difference lies simply in service.
When you have a problem, which is inevitable, do you want a helpful, courteous and knowledgable person on the phone? A person who can get your website issue resolved in a matter of minutes or hours? Or do you want to be routed across the ocean, talk to multiple reps who don’t understand your problem, and spend 2 days fixing that same problem?
I don’t have time for the games, so I have two go-to hosting recommendations.”
- GoDaddy – “The first is GoDaddy.com. They have 24/7 service. They are extremely knowledgeable about their own services (not always a given with other host companies!) and they’ll even go above and beyond by helping you with your own website at times. Their prices are the lowest, or close, in all scenarios. They also offer both Windows and Linux hosting.”
- Your Web Design Agency – “The second is to use a small, independent “web guy” such as services I offer. The reason is, we usually not only host the site, but update it, including the CMS (software), plug-ins, and other technology. Those updates help avoid spam and hacking, and we can always “roll back” the site to a back-up that we have happening on a daily basis. So you can never ruin your website with an update.”
SiteGround also offers free security certificates by Let’s Encrypt. Whether you have one website or are a serial entrepreneur, having a cost-effective security certificate for every domain is important for the credibility of your visitors and Google’s algorithm.”
- SiteGround – “I highly recommend SiteGround as a hosting provider for small businesses. As a web designer, my reputation is on the line when I endorse hosting providers and I can say with full confidence that SiteGround is one of the only companies I recommend without hesitation. They aren’t the biggest game in town (which makes them more responsive to their customers, in my opinion) but they are highly respected and provide excellent customer service. Their packages are affordable, their servers are able to handle shared hosting challenges and they have enough options that soloprenuers and small companies can find something that works for them.”
- Bluehost – “My first recommendation is for Bluehost Hosting. They have an enhanced c-panel that is easy to use. Their pricing is fair, and they give you a free domain name with your purchase for a year. Pcmag.com has also given them excellent uptime scores in testing.”
- SiteGround – “My second recommendation is SiteGround. They offer shared hosting, and as you grow, you can migrate to their dedicated hosting plans. They have fast WordPress hosting with easy one-step WordPress installs. And I think they have one of the best records when it comes to customer service – it’s great! This can be very helpful if it is your first website.”
- Flywheel – “My third recommendation is Flywheel Managed WordPress Hosting. I found their prices to be cheaper than WP-Engine; one of the most popular web host sites for professional web developers. I like the way they have laid out their website with an easy to use sign up and payment process. Flywheel offers tools for agencies, regular backups, built-in security features, and one-click staging sites.”
“Don’t be fooled by the low prices, unlimited usage or any other sales tactics that competing hosting providers use to gain new clients. You really need to understand what you “need” for your website as most generic, small and inexpensive hosting plans will do for just about any startup website. Mostly because you have no real traffic, so the key here is to start small and have the ability to upgrade as needed.
I’ve personally have been a client of many, many hosting providers and some for a few months to over 15 years. I’m just going to provide you today with the top 3 that I would consider using for my own projects and clients.
When I started my online business offering web design and hosting to my clients, I did not like the idea of keeping all the clients in one datacenter so i decided to use 3 different ones. This way, if one of the services went offline I would not be bombarded with tons of support tickets. Another thing is to have a 4th hosting provider for my own website. Idea here was that if I was hosting my own website on one of the 3 and they crashed.. my own website and ticket system would not work either. Of course nowadays things are different and not an issue for the most part. Simply sharing how it started long ago to show I have lots of experience dealing with various hosting providers.”
- HostDime – “They are absolutely my favorite hosting provider. One of the original 3 that I joined 15 years ago and still with them today. The service is key; they go beyond the typical support and actually take the time to offer solutions, educate as to what is wrong with a website and even at times provide detailed instructions as to what I need to do to resolve the issue quickly. Recently they built their own building with over 75,000 square feet. They are in this for the long haul.”
- NameHero – “Recently joined their re-seller plan and the affiliate program. I’ve interacted with them before via one of my client’s projects as they continue to host with them. I do not mind as I can design a website and host for a client however they like. They do offer unlimited plans as the owner understands that not all the accounts will use up all the space, but if you go over they’ll contact you to upgrade and rightly so. Otherwise, the support is very good and reliable servers.”
- HostGator – “Huge selection of pre-packaged hosting plans, actually so many you should contact the sales department to make sure you select the best fit for your project. They also offer very affordable shared hosting plans that are great for newbie webmasters and site owners that seek to build a website themselves. Good website building software for those who edit via browser without special software. Reliable support and maintain an excellent uptime for all clients big or small, so everyone’s online most of the time.”
Overall it’s important to read the fine print, terms of service and make sure you understand the rules of the road. There are some hosting providers that started charging cycling fee’s. This is mostly a hidden fee, and one that I have had personal experience with in the past with a “now closed provider” – I was paying $80 a month then a shocking invoice came in for 1 month for almost $900 – it was due to one of the websites being hacked. It was using the account for 3 weeks without me even noticing it. But, you know they noticed it and simply let it ride. I fought that bill and won, as they should have provided alert or even reports in my dashboard, but that was “still in development” so they could not even prove it. Thus I was credited the difference and I instantly moved to another provider.
If you’re not happy with your current host.. move to any of the above and you’ll be happy you did!
- WP Engine – “WP Engine have incredible support, available 24/7. I’m yet to have an issue with them that hasn’t been solved in 15 minutes or less. Their staging server makes doing developments and deployment to your live web hosting a breeze with just 1 click and is often completed within 30 seconds. Being WordPress hosting specialists they are perfect for those smaller websites built on the WordPress platform.”
- Heart Internet – “Heart internet are a solid UK provider. They have great support, are available on the phone and have great packages for smaller businesses that cost less than £120 a year. Their support and live chat are very helpful, they have next to zero downtime and are very flexible with what you can host on their servers. They also have great fully-managed dedicated solutions, so if your business requires a more powerful platform, then Heart have the solution across the board.”
- Flywheel – “When we have a mission critical WordPress website that needs lightning fast speeds and 24/7 support that actually like their jobs… we choose Flywheel. The size of site doesn’t matter, but the more important the website – the better it is to trust Flywheel. They also feature an amazing user control panel and a ton of tools that make our lives easier AND more secure. A few great examples are Force-SSL and their built-in inherent website security. A company well worth checking out.”
- Atrema Technologies – “For the majority of our projects we work with a local Canadian partner called Atrema Technologies. Their data centre is located within Canada (for those that do not want their data in the US), and they are a team that is incredibly easy to work with. From WordPress sites to custom servers, I get to talk with a technical expert anytime I need anything. The Atrema team is extremely hands-on; I’ve gotten to talk with and know the team there, and it is just refreshing to work with a company that isn’t so big they don’t really need to care about you. These guys treat every project I bring them with respect.”
The hosting package I have provides a strong, flexible chunk of fast, reliable, non-shared server power, but I don’t need to worry about server updates, security, management, and so on. This works very well for me!
SiteGround also have excellent customer service and have helped several times with specific, technical questions – unlike other providers who simply send links to (unhelpful) articles, their support staff have investigated and worked on my actual issues and reported back their findings in a useful and informative way.
While the Siteground package doesn’t provide everything – for example, I can’t run Python/Django, which I was exploring for a project recently – I feel that compared to other providers, a couple of small downsides are outweighed by largely problem-free hosting.”
- SiteGround – “SiteGround has been a preferred partner of mine who I strongly recommend for your business. I’ve been collaborating with them for a number of years now. They offer a variety of add-on features and free tools such as SSLs and CDNs at a very competitive price. They have good performance, fast servers, 24/7 support and security features that you won’t find among other competitors. Support should be a primary factor when making a decision to partner with a 3rd party hosting provider, and SiteGround seems to be on top of their game with their customer support calls and chat. Highly recommend these guys to any business looking for premier hosting at an affordable rate.”
- WP Engine – “WP Engine specializes in WordPress Hosting, and with about 75,000,000 websites powered by WordPress, WPE is a viable option for any small business looking for a flexible solution online. They’ve developed an outstanding reputation for being a premier hosting solution for WordPress sites. I have worked with them on a handful of websites and have found their customer support to be top-notch. WPE offers several features such as CDNs and SSLs at no additional cost. Some small businesses may see WPE as being pricier than their neighbouring competitors, with the most basic plan starting at $35/mo. However, note that WPE’s most basic package also includes a Dev/Stage and Production environment; an important feature that often comes at an additional cost with competitors. This alone makes their solution worth the price – having a very friendly environment and support team for development.”
“If you are a startup or small business, price will always be a concern when looking for web hosting services, but it shouldn’t be your only concern. Looking for a host company can be very confusing when you don’t know what to look for in a provider. Some hosting providers may have some of the best marketing out there to get your business, but they aren’t always the best option. On a typical monthly subscription, pricing plans can be as low as single figures or reach as high as triple digits, depending on the hosting plan you need.
The 3 most important factors you should consider when choosing a host company are speed (how long it takes a site to load), uptime (needs to be at least 99.94%), and customer support.
Two great host companies are:”
A2 provides a few helpful, preventative measures to keep hackers out of your site with HackScan; a free service that includes virus scanning, 24/7 security monitoring, and a brute force defense.
A2 Hosting offer very fast, high performance web hosting services suitable for websites of all sizes.
On average, A2 Hosting’s prices are slightly higher than what you’ll find from other companies, they come in around the middle of the pack, but worth it because they offer good value for your money and have package plans that work with your budget.”
SiteGround takes pride in their customer support; their knowledgeable support staff is available 24/7/365.
All SiteGround servers are highly optimized for speed and are super-fast.
Worried about getting hacked? (it happens all the time) Another great feature, SiteGround sets all of your websites to auto-update so that you no longer have to worry about installing the latest patches or software updates.
SiteGround’s pricing is also a bit more than the average, but well worth the price. The best pricing you receive is when you first sign up, so sign up for the 3 year plan. However, with no hidden fees, the price is actually significantly less than companies like GoDaddy.”
When it comes to hosting providers A2 Hosting and SiteGround are 2 of the best companies; they both have blazing fast hosting with amazing uptime and great support.
The only possible downside with them is that you do need to have some technical skills to set up the servers, as there’s no control panel like you’ll find elsewhere, so once you’ve gone through the one-click process of setting up a “droplet”, the rest of the configuration is done using a terminal window with Linux commands. Having said that, their documentation is absolutely fantastic, so you’ll easily find the steps that you need online.”
SiteGround would make a great lower-cost option, but may come at the expense of slower access speeds for site visitors and less control of server components.”
Brian G. Bearden
I have many clients that host with GoDaddy because they are reliable and very affordable. I recommend that you purchase the domain name and hosting under your name with your credit card. This way, you own everything in your name. Don’t let your website design company register your domain or hosting under their name. Again, you need to own everything under your name.”
Like GoDaddy they have additional services that can be added on, but unless you have a unique website, I would recommend discussing these additional services with your webmaster or web design company before purchasing any of them. I have experience with their support team and they have been quite responsive to my needs.”
I’m not that familiar with their customer service personnel because I have not had any issues that made me need to contact them.”
- SiteGround – “Amazing customer support, very reliable. SiteGround has a monthly limit for visitors, so if people build high traffic sites, they might be better looking at WPX. For local businesses, SiteGround is a great option.”
- WPX Hosting – “WPX is probably my number #1 choice with great customer service and no traffic limit.”
- DigitalOcean – “Buy a $10 per month VPS and host your site on it. It’s more technical to setup and people need to understand what they are doing. You will have to do most of the things on your own by using this option.”
- 20i – “20i.com offer great value, and a superb service ideally suited to smaller businesses (though they can cater for anyone). Their whole process is very simple and straightforward to get started, and their hosting control panel is easy to use if you’re familiar with cPanel, Plesk etc. I moved everything of mine to them last year, and haven’t looked back.”
- Rackspace – “I used Rackspace to set up an entire hosting environment for a design agency I previously worked at. While perhaps a little more involved in getting setting up, their support is second to none, and the performance is outstanding. They’re quite expensive compared to most other hosting providers, but I’d say the cost is worth it if you’re looking for a very powerful hosting environment.”
- tsoHost – “I used tsoHost for years, and was one of their earliest customers around 10 years ago. Their standard web hosting options are great, and they offer classic cPanel hosting, as well as their own proprietary platform.”
- HostGator – “If you’re a new business that’s just starting out, you might be ok with basic popular hosting providers like HostGator. I’ve been using HostGator and GoDaddy for many small business clients for years without any major problems. The sites might not be the fastest, but they reliable and offer easy installation and customer support. For many small businesses, this is all they need, especially if the cost is a factor.”
- WPX Hosting – “If you’re looking for slightly more expensive hosting that’s faster, WPX hosting is a good way to go. They’re only slightly higher priced, but from my experience, the sites hosted on WPX tend to load much faster.”
- WP Engine – “Finally, if your budget allows spending more on hosting, WP Engine is always a solid choice. WP Engine offers many benefits including faster loading sites, automatic backup and restore, and includes other great features specifically designed for hosting small business WordPress sites.”
“Not all hosting companies are made equal and in my experience you do get what you pay for. If your website is critical to your business, which it most likely is, then hosting is not something you want to scrimp on!”
They are at the higher end of the hosting price spectrum as their WordPress hosting is fully containerised for maximum security and performance. But they are not unaffordable for small businesses. Their customer service is great too – their team are always happy to help, restore backups or even migrate your website for you. They have clearly taken their time to create a simple, clean and easy to use dashboard for your hosting accounts – something which is often overlooked by cheaper hosting companies. 34sp are the go-to-guys for WordPress hosting, no other recommendations necessary!”
- SiteGround – “We build all of our websites using WordPress and always steer our clients to SiteGround for hosting. They are easy to work with, they backup sites daily, they provide automatic security updates, they provide free SSL Certificates (simply a MUST HAVE for today’s websites!), powerful performance and unlimited free emails. What is not to love about SiteGround?!”
- WP Engine – “For ecommerce sites I use WPEngine in the UK. WordPress specific hosting, really strong security, always looking out for their clients, amazing phone, chat and email support 24×7. Not the cheapest but a great package.”
- catalyst2 – “For information sites I use Catalyst2 in London. The best customer service I have ever come across, phone and email. Always willing to help even when the issue is not hosting related, but a WordPress problem or a DNS problem. I have a VPS with them, but they offer Linux and Windows hosting from £11.99 a year including a free SSL certificate. What’s not to like, exceptional.”
- 20i – “At No3 we have 20i. I use these guys when a client needs multiple email addresses, as their £5.99 a month option gives 100 email accounts. If a client only has 1 or 2 emails, I recommend Catalyst2 and Office 365 or Google Suite. There is no phone support, but good email support.”
- CloudAccess.net – “My number one choice for small business web hosting is the lesser known, but highly capable CloudAccess.net. This US-based host specialises in Joomla and WordPress hosting and is currently the provider of the official Joomla demo site. A potential problem for small businesses websites that are powered by a content management system (CMS) is who to contact when things go wrong. It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of the CMS project blaming the web host and the web host blaming the CMS. That doesn’t happen with CloudAccess.net because, in addition to their normal support, they also support the CMS (on their Standard and Business plans). One particular standout feature is their choice of email hosting platform called CloudMail. The interface and anti-spam/anti-virus features are far superior to what you’ll find from other hosts. Your website is the front door of your business, so pay a little more and entrust it to the experts.”
- SiteGround – “It took me a long time before I was comfortable enough to recommend a budget web host who provides a quality service suitable for small businesses. SiteGround ticks all the boxes and they have established a reputation for providing fast service and a rich set of features, even on their cheapest plan. By using their free staging site feature, you can experiment making changes to a copy of your website, rather than risk messing up your live site. As with the other providers in this list, they also include free SSL certificates, which these days are an essential feature. On the downside, their customer support can be a bit hit and miss. Although their response time is extremely fast, it can take some time for them to understand the exact nature of your problem. The better you can communicate the problem, the faster it will get resolved. If price is your number one priority, then SiteGround is worth a look.”
- Cloudways – “There are now several platforms offering powerful and versatile hosting solutions that ensure websites load quickly, are well protected and can be easily scaled up as necessary. However, their platform essentially just provides the infrastructure – all the setup and management is left to you. You need significant technical experience to operate these sites which is often beyond the scope of the typical small business. That’s where Cloudways comes in. They provide a user-friendly interface to these platforms making it far easier to deploy and manage a website. Despite this, it is a more technically demanding solution and it’s likely that you’ll need someone on your team with some hosting experience to get you going. Should things go wrong, technical support will only get you so far, so Cloudways hosting is best suited for a business that has one or more IT people on the team.”
1. Solid performance
2. Reasonable prices
3. Options & ease of use
Many hosts, large and small can stake claim to owning top spots in any of these categories, but I feel that GoDaddy has proven itself enough in each to get my thumbs up.
A recent test of their economy package with a fresh WordPress install yielded 99.96% uptime over a 10-month period with an average load time of 455ms. Each of those results would likely be considered Top 5-ish among major web hosting providers.
Performance aside, GoDaddy’s economy package is still seen as expensive at $7.99 p/mo compared to Bluehost or HostGator, which have economy packages under $3 p/mo and post similar performance metrics. GoDaddy has responded with promotions frequently, such as the current offering at a $2.79 p/mo first year rate with the standard $7.99 renewal. Where it starts to shine, however, is on the Deluxe and above plans where GoDaddy offers unlimited sites, storage and subdomains for a $3.99 p/mo 12-month teaser with a $10.99 renewal, more or less matching the other large providers.
If you take your small business seriously, you probably shouldn’t be on a shared economy plan with any provider. GoDaddy offers an entry-level VPS (Virtual Private Server) business hosting package at $22.99 p/mo, and with unlimited bandwidth, that becomes easy to recommend.
One downfall of GoDaddy is the annoying and often confusing onslaught of upsells during the checkout process. But if you can make it through the cart and figure out all the components you need, the setup and integration of your options should be seamless, even with 3rd party products like Microsoft Office 365. GoDaddy offers their own easy-to-use product user-interfaces along the way, many times eliminating the need to ever log into cPanel. Installing WordPress is an absolute breeze.
Lastly, I give GoDaddy 5 stars in the one area which is often seen as their shortcoming; Support. Ignoring any quantitative or qualitative data about this subject online, I will speak from personal experience. In the dozens, if not hundreds of various contacts I’ve made to GoDaddy support over the years, be it Live Chat, Phone or Email; whether the issue seemed to be on their end or one of my many “Doh!” moments, I have NEVER left the session disappointed.
As a PostScript, I’d also recommend GoDaddy web hosting to small agencies, like mine, where you can become a reseller of virtually all their products. Their domain name registration tools and online ordering are white-boxed, easy to setup and maintain (as well as integrate with your own website) and offer generous revenue shares. While this does not influence my personal review of its service, and certainly won’t make me a millionaire at my level of resale, it is a nice perk for small agencies.
So, in conclusion, there are some hosts out there with better performance. Many with cheaper points of entry. But at the package price point where it matters for small business, the variety and ease of option management and accessible, helpful support make GoDaddy my #1 choice for small business web hosting.”
- SiteGround – “GoGeek package is a good starting place for hosting a large amount of small traffic/requirement websites. The cost is good and yearly deals are often available. There is room to grow and standard optimisations which mean that you can have performance websites without too much work. I would NOT recommend using them for the mailing accounts, as there was no end of problems and inconveniences encountered with the configuration of the mail servers. Nor would I recommend their “upgrade” to the business cloud. If you need more space for small sites, simply purchase another GoGeek account. Support is quick, but very variable in terms of quality.”
- Kinsta – “For our busiest e-commerce site we use Kinsta, which is a fully WordPress optimised and managed hosting service. It is more expensive on a monthly basis, but we have found the support to be very quick, personal and the information and advice is always spot on. Night and day in comparison to SiteGround! The extra money is well worth it for a higher value site.”
- Cloudways – “For those who have the technical skills in house to manage a server without a cPanel, cloudways is an excellent option to explore. Performance and price are fantastic!”
“I highly recommend using a premium hosting solution that takes care of security and performance (site speed). A lot of businesses treat their hosting like an afterthought, going for the cheapest solution such as GoDaddy. Isn’t your business worth the $30-60/ mo investment? Most people spend more than that on their personal cell phone.”
- WP Engine – “WpEngine.com , for WordPress are the absolute best solution for WordPress security, performance and specialize in WordPress websites only. Their support is 24/7 – you can call them up any time and a WordPress expert will pick up the call. I’ve called at 2am in the past to test this out. That is huge! Not only will they pick up the phone, but they will get your technical problem solved usually doing it for you. They will restore your site free of charge if it gets hacked. Site speed/ performance is top notch – best I’ve seen in my 10 years of WordPress work. Lastly their staging environment, a copy of the live site for testing, is a great asset for professional management of your website and testing software updates.”
- Flywheel – “Flywheel is the next best solution for WordPress. Price is a little better than WP Engine, but it’s not as good imo ($28/mo personal plan vs. wp engine $35/mo). They offer a staging environment as well, great collaboration tool for all the stakeholders. Their support isn’t as great; still 24/7, but chat only and not as good technical staff. CDN is extra vs free with WP Engine, and they won’t restore your site free of charge if you get hacked. But outside of that, it’s similar to wpengine.com.”
- SiteGround – “More of a general hosting solution, but they do WordPress hosting really well and are recommended by WordPress.org. They offer similar features like daily backups, staging, but also include email hosting. The downside is that the support is not nearly as good as the two above. Yes they offer 24/7, but you have to submit a ticket or chat online. You have to wait and wait and wait. The staff isn’t nearly as knowledgeable about WordPress, and less willing to help “just do it for you.”
Their Cpanel dashboard is a bit out of date and not as intuitive as WP Engine or Flywheel, but the price is far less at $11.95/ mo. for the GoGeek solution.”
“Hosting is no longer simple as it once was. A growing business needs stability, security and the ability to grow with their business. From personal experience I would recommend Amazon Web Services, Digital Ocean and Vultr in that order. Each one offers great selection of worldwide data centres, once click app installs and additional cloud services on which you can grow and expand your business.”
- Amazon Web Services – “I’m picking Amazon Web Services as number one because nowadays it is not just about having a web presentation anymore. Growing business needs a reliable, secure and scalable platform of technologies and AWS offers just that. The sheer choice of services could be overwhelming at first with a steep learning curve, but once you establish your business goals, AWS can definitely help you achieve them. I mean just think about it, AWS now has 166 Points of Presence and support in 69 cities in 29 countries. That’s insane! You can even implement machine learning and AI into your business; everything is there and ready for you. Imagine that next year you introduce a new service or product to your customers, and you discover your business has new requirements and AWS is there with vast range of services to support it. Everything is integrated together and building your business therefore has virtually no limits – that’s why companies like Netflix and Airbnb use AWS. We often have clients that require such flexibility, to create new rich features for their business and if you want this level of flexibility then definitely pick Amazon Web Services.”
- DigitalOcean – “Digital Ocean would be my personal choice for number two because it offers more transparent costing than AWS and offers a much smaller selection of services. You can still choose from a wide range of data centres, such as London for the UK or when your business expands you can get closer to the client and set up new operations in their regions. Digital Ocean focuses more on the “hosting” part of cloud services and storage and they do this really well. But you can forget server-less services for example. There is an object storage service available now too, but at the time of writing it still does not support bucket DNS endpoint – a feature readily available on AWS for almost a decade.”
- Vultr – “Vultr would be third and the smallest of them all and offers a very similar service set as Digital Ocean, but is considerably cheaper, and arguably offers better performance than Digital Ocean on some servers. Vultr runs a transparent costing model just like Digital Ocean and focuses on servers only. So if you only want to configure and run your server without any other services, then Vultr could be the right fit.”
- DreamHost – “My first suggestion for small businesses would be Dreamhost. The customer service has been excellent and they have multiple packages that can meet almost any small business need. They can start with a simple shared hosting for most small business needs and can scale up to a VPS or dedicated server for those needing more power to run an e-commerce or more complicated site. They also have data centers in most states, so you could have your server host be local to help with local page speeds and more.”
- Cloudways – “Cloudways is also an exceptional hosting option. They are a great solution for smaller businesses that may have more website based needs, as they allow you to choose the type of server setup you need. Cloudways servers can also easily scale and allow for setting up staging sites for testing and site change deployments. Some of their packages also provide managed hosting, which is great for small businesses that need one less thing to worry about. In all the dealings I have had with them, from hosting sites that get a couple thousand views a month to sites that get three million views a month, their customer service has been outstanding.”
The infrastructure is designed to be N+2 resilient on hardware, meaning should a server fail, another will automatically take over. They offer a realistic 100% uptime SLA on power and 99.999% on connectivity. If your hosting requirements are pretty straightforward, the sales team provides you the most cost effective and efficient set ups with the ability to scale.
All aspects of the service we have found to be of the highest quality, be it the sales team, server and data centre support, account management or marketing department. They also throw great events from industry seminars to award ceremonies.
Wirehive is for all levels and requirements via AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, dedicated or virtual hosting.”
“Hosting is a critical factor for any website that wants to perform well for its visitors and in search. It is often overlooked and budget hosting will cost you more than you think.
Page and site speed are very important factors for both user experience and a Google ranking factor. For example, the retail giant, Amazon, recently calculated that a one-second delay in page load speed could cost them $1.6 billion in sales each year. People will abandon carts and even never return to a site again if it’s slow. Especially for those users on mobile devices, speed matters. If a high-quality hosting provider is used, then we see a direct impact of increased rankings, traffic and lower bounce rate.
We have tried many companies and currently recommend these two hosting providers:”
- WP Engine – “These super dudes make hosting a WordPress site a breeze, with unparalleled support. It seems any issue is never too much hassle. Hosting of this quality helps me sleep at night with their hack protection guarantee. They are a little more money than others, but you get what you pay for.”
- SiteGround – “SiteGround is a great budget option. It is robust and much faster than your other typical shared hosting providers. Support is via chat, but they are quick to respond and often quick to find a solution, unlike many other providers. SiteGround seems to be proactive in adding features and improving its systems.”
Although there are times where the customer service could be improved, most of the time, the people I’ve spoken to have been helpful and friendly, and always willing to educate me on how to fix site problems and bugs. Their customer service on the phone is the best too. For example, I had a client whose site I needed to migrate over from another hosting provider, and I was able to reach a representative within minutes. They made it clear what would be required to transfer a website domain, and the breadth of knowledge they had was impressive.
A few months back, I upgraded the hosting on my website to their business plan and saw a massive difference in the performance. For just $16 a month, I get outstanding hosting which has helped my site score in GTMetrix and it loads in less than 2 seconds. I have nothing but glowing words for Hostgator, and would highly recommend them to anyone looking to build a new site for their business. Look into their business hosting, and you’ll be astounded as I was when I made the upgrade.”
So one day, I looked at Flywheel’s site and decided to try out a plan costing roughly $30 a month. This was the perfect solution for my needs, as I was able to transfer the client website onto their platform easily and have a staging environment to still work in. The website speed of my client site was unlike anything I had ever seen. In GTMetrix, a popular site speed measuring tool, the site was able to load in a little over a second! Because their platform doesn’t rely on Apache by default, there’s no need to have as many caching plugins on WordPress. Your code is already minified and compressed, for the most part, so you can focus more on ensuring your site is mobile-friendly, and the on-page search engine optimization is in order.
If you can spare at least $100 a month for Flywheel and have multiple business sites you need hosting for, the platform is entirely worth the price. Their customer service is a cut above the rest. You can even reach out to them on weekends, and they’re there to answer any questions you might have about their hosting and other products.”
- 34SP – “My number one choice would be 34SP.com, a UK Hosting provider based in Manchester. They are not the cheapest, but the service they provide is top notch and value for money. They offer specialist WordPress hosting on fast servers and will make regular platform updates automatically taking away the worry about security. Backups and a secure certificate (a necessity these days) are included. If you want to make changes to your site, you have a staging area where you can test and experiment on a copy before going live. When switching, they will migrate your site over for you and you can talk through setting up your email with a friendly member of staff.”
- SiteGround – “If you have less budget or if you want to host more than one site, then I recommend SiteGround. They offer similar features on their packages, although they don’t have the staging facility. When needing support you can speak to someone on the phone but often ‘chat’ is faster.”
“As an experienced web designer, I’ve used many hosting companies over the years, some good, some not so good. They all do things a little differently and obviously the price reflects on this. When it comes down to your website, the main marketing tool that represents your company, brand or organisation online, it is crucial to have a host you can trust, rely on and even get support from, should you need it. This may sound pretty straight forward, but over the years I’ve experienced some of the best and worst, and trust me you do not want to experience the worst (no naming and shaming).”
– Their level of support is like none other I’ve experienced. They claim to answer the support line within 3 rings. When I first heard this I thought, hmmm, that’s quite a bold claim. They answer every time, sometimes it might be 4 rings, but who’s counting. The point is they always answer.
– They care. When you are in need of support this matters a lot. I’ve used the support line several times now, each time usually a different employee, but each and every one of them has dedicated the same level of care into getting any issues resolved ASAP.
– Free events. I’ve been to many ‘free events’ over the years. A lot have a been a waste of time. UKFast host events, which to anyone who doesn’t host with them costs per ticket (I think the last one I attended should have been £75 if I remember rightly). You always learn a lot, they’re useful and feature some big name speakers. They cover hugely relevant topics for online businesses; Cyber Security and eCommerce Live being the last two I attended. Events include free refreshments, food, a free goodie bag and you get to ride the slide out of the event at the end if you wish too – obviously I did!
– I’ve struggled with any cons for UKFast. Some may put the cost down as one, however I wouldn’t – it’s worth every penny.”
– Pound for pound, what you get is very reasonable.
– Servers are UK based. As a UK business it’s beneficial to have a UK based server for search rankings, otherwise Google will read your website as a business based in the country of the server’s origin. I’ve found quite a few other hosting companies that businesses think are UK based, however run a few tests and find out they are based overseas.
– Support is good to a certain level (ticket based)
– Searching for new domain names. When searching for a domain name, I’ve heard others experience a scenario whereby the domain name that was available 24 hours earlier, isn’t available any longer and has been registered by the domain registrar they used for the initial domain search. And you can now buy it from them at an inflated price. Heart Internet do not do this. I’ve never personally experienced it either, but it’s better to be safe that sorry. If you want to be double safe then use http://whois.domaintools.com for any new domain searches.
– Support, although I’ve put it as a pro, it is also a con. It depends what level of support you need. Heart Internet ran a ticket only support system when I was a customer, and as far as I am aware they still do. When something goes wrong, which sometimes it does, sitting waiting for a support ticket reply can be very frustrating. When a reply is received, it generally went along the lines of, ‘This is not something we cover within support, if you want one of our senior technicians to look at this it will cost £xx per hour….’ Not helpful when in the middle of a crisis.”
– Scalability. If you have a business that is scaling fast and you need a hosting provider that can adapt to this promptly and efficiently without any disruption to service, Digital River offer a cloud service which can fully facilitate your growth plan.
– Cost efficiency. This is based on your requirements, so as you grow you can easily upgrade your server, then the cost of the server increases based on your upgrades. The benefit of this is that you’re not paying for a server that that has lots of unused space; just pay for what you need, rather than paying for a server you plan on growing into.
– eCommerce, they hold a wealth of knowledge and experience in the eCommerce hosting sector.
Cons (these are more the cons of cloud based hosting in general not just of Digital River)
– Search engines will typically give higher priority to servers hosted locally with a fixed location compared to cloud based hosting when calculating the page rank.
– Cost. Cloud based hosting tends to be more expensive.
– Vulnerable to attack. In cloud computing, each and every component is potentially accessible through the Internet from anywhere in the world. There isn’t anything connected to the Internet which is completely secure, and this makes it more vulnerable than a fixed location server.”
“I have used a few hosting providers over the years, some I really haven’t liked and others have been good for a while, but then seem to stand still when a competitor comes along with a more advanced service at a better value.”
The crux of the swap was 20i provide more advanced tools, which are really easy to use. Discounts for resellers on most services and excellent technical support. The added bonus was 20i were also 30% cheaper than my last supplier. I have recently also taken on a VPS with 20i too and had had no issues at all.”
- Heart Internet – “If I had to give a second-place supplier it would be my last supplier, Heart Internet. If 20i hadn’t come along, I would have been happy to stay with Heart Internet and had been with them for about 8 years. It is just a shame they don’t seem to have kept up with advances in tools and competitors’ pricing.”
Best if you’re a little bit tech-savvy or work with someone who is, as they don’t have the 24/7 chat/tech support that some larger companies offer. True story: I developed a site on a BigTimeHost server, then published it to the client’s old host to replace their live site. Their GTMetrix score showed a page load time of nearly 8 seconds when on their old host. On the development site – the exact same site – loaded in 2.3 seconds. They quickly moved to Big Time Host.”
The only thing I am not that fond of (this was a recent change), is that a WordPress database is set up for you before you even have a chance to install one yourself. If you’re moving a site to their server, the pre-installation can cause headaches. Their setup comes with nasty junk pre-installed such as JetPack, best to be avoided if you want a clean, fast site without software bloat. If you have no technical skills at all and need a lot of assistance, they are there for you.”
I’ve testing many hosting solutions out over the years and have finally found one that is perfectly designed to host WordPress sites. WP-Engine has so many features for WordPress users; Backup points, each WP site gets a dedicated IP address, CDN (Content Delivery Network), Free SSL Certificates, Staging & Production environments, site migration, environment stats, redirect rules, GIT push and many more great tools specifically designed for WordPress sites.
Just note that this is not the cheapest hosting option out there, but you get what you pay for and WP Engine makes sure all of my 50+ client WordPress sites are always running fast and smooth!”
- GoDaddy – “This is my second choice based purely on the great support they provide. I’ve used GoDaddy several times in the past for cheap, easy to use, shared web hosting and email. If you have simple HTML5 websites, this is the hosting company for you. However, if you’re running complex WordPress themes, for multiple clients, I would only advise using GoDaddy if you’re trying to get your business off the ground and don’t have a huge budget. As with any cheap, shared hosting packages, you can’t expect your websites to be lightning quick, but with GoDaddy they have a decent back-end with access to everything you need (cPanel, SQL’s, Backups, Installation etc).”
- tsoHost – “Very similar to my number two pick in price and options, although they do not have the same level of support as some of the other hosting companies. On the plus side they do have a simple and intuitive backend for hosting multiple domains, hosting accounts and email accounts. Navigating your way around software installers to custom DNS settings is a breeze.”
“Small businesses need website hosting providers that are capable of running a CMS or e-commerce platform safely and securely for both themselves and their customers. Platforms which feature simple, intuitive layouts and HTTPS hosting are ideal for small business owners.”
- InMotion Hosting – “InMotion Hosting gets my vote for best website host. Unlike some of their competitors, InMotion is all about hosting, and their packages are catered to just that. All of their small business hosting packages include an SSL certificate, which is essential for HTTPS. Finally, they have glowing reviews, and provide some of the best customer support available.”
- 1 & 1 IONOS – “1and1 Ionos provides extremely reliable and cost-effective website hosting services to small businesses. Their prices start as low as $1 per month for website hosting, so you can keep your overhead as low as possible for your online store. However, packages don’t include SSL certificates, so domains won’t be secured initially. But for companies just starting out, 1and1 is a great option.”
- GoDaddy – “GoDaddy is one of the world’s largest domain registrars and web hosting providers. Their website is simple and intuitive, and their small business packages include the SSL certificate required to be HTTPS. As the largest of the three, GoDaddy is less capable of providing customer support, which is why it’s #3 in my list.”
- Flywheel – “Flywheel is the best web hosting for WordPress sites as it a managed platform with its own caching hardware, which makes your site lightening fast via PHP7.2. They have a great real-time 24 hour support and a live chat facility.”
- Blacknight – “Blacknight is a very established web hosting provider based in Ireland and has customers around the world. They have great customer service and decent prices.”
- domainname – “DomainName.ie is a great platform for sourcing the best .ie or .com domain and affordable hosting for your business. They give great advice on buying the best domain and hosting package to suit businesses of all sizes.”
- SiteGround – “For small businesses just getting started, I recommend SiteGround. They offer outstanding service for an affordable price and their support is always helpful and quickly available. Sites load quickly and they scan for malware and hacks regularly. I personally use SiteGround and have many clients using them as well. SiteGround is also supportive of the web development community, and supports conferences and other efforts to bring developers together and help them learn new skills.”
- Pantheon – “Pantheon offers top-notch hosting and support and is super developer-friendly – that means less time and frustration for the web developers you hire to work on your site, which in turn leads to less web development expenses for you. Pantheon has great support and has a track record of being really supportive of the web development community and helping developers learn new skills. Plus, anyone you meet who works at Pantheon is just a really awesome and amazing person. I encourage everyone to support companies that treat their employees well and support the community. This is definitely the host to go to for mission-critical websites.”
- WP Engine – “WP Engine has a team of great people who are friendly and who support the community. They make an effort to send you to the same support person each time, so you get someone who builds up knowledge of you and your business over time, which is really helpful for getting issues resolved quickly. They focus on getting your site to run as fast as possible, which helps keep your customers happy and maximizes your SEO efforts. They also make improvements to their offerings all the time in an effort to make things faster and easier.”
“I come at this problem from the point of view of someone who LOVES WordPress, and believes it’s the best possible option for small business. #1 because it’s extremely easy to find a developer to work on your WordPress project (even if your former developer goes AWOL), and #2 because there are so many great extensions (plugins) to WordPress allowing you to use open source awesomeness to help with SEO, image optimization, and thousands more things – Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and Webs aren’t open source, so they could never create all of these tools for their platform.”
- WP Engine – “Wp Engine is our #1 recommended hosting platform because of its emphasis on security, daily backups, and having a super intuitive staging system, that allows you to test your changes before moving them to live. We love how simple WP Engine makes everything, and that it saves us time!”
- GoDaddy – “Mainly for its extremely helpful customer service, I think GoDaddy still deserves props for its commitment to hosting, and domain registration. It’s upped its game to compete with the likes of WP Engine with Managed WordPress Hosting, and is a solid option for hosting in my opinion.”
- Flywheel – “A fast follower of WP Engine, Flywheel allows you to create ‘blueprints’ or basic setups of starter theme, and plugins so you don’t have to start from scratch every time with your WordPress instances. I think Flywheel is an excellent third option, particularly for WordPress.”
With UKFast, you’re not going to be paying £2.49 a month for your server, but then you’re not
going to be getting that £2.49 service, i.e. you won’t just be a number on a spreadsheet. The servers that your websites will be on will not be crowded or slow, they will be quick, efficient and reliable. You will be able to choose between different operating systems and visual control panels, Plesk or cPanel/WHM. I have an eCloud Public Service with UKFast, giving me control and flexibility to scale the server up as my own business grows and to meet the needs and requirements of my clients.
The account manager (you will be assigned one) will be your point of contact at UKFast for anything relating to your account, your business and even on hand to ensure you’re satisfied with their service. Their support team is on hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and believe me I know that as I have often rang them at 2am in the morning. Yes you did read that right, a support team you can actually ring – no need for a ticket just pick up the phone and call.
What I love about these guys is the fact that they are never too busy to respond to questions, no matter what they are. So whether you’re just setting up a WordPress website or transferring 200 clients over to their eCloud services, they really are the company you need to speak with if you value your website and reputation. For me, ensuring my client websites are online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year is vital.
Whether you’re a small start up business or a company that is large with offices in multiple
locations, before you sign up to any provider give the team at UKFast a call and see what they can do for your business. Honestly you will be surprised.”
I initially joined Hostgator as I, probably, like a lot of young and still wet behind the ears programmers, wanted somewhere cheap with a no frills service whilst I was completing my degree. I can remember paying $4.97 per month back in 2006, and with the £ to $ rate being so amazing I think I ended up paying around £60 for the year as a reseller, which enabled me to make a bit of money on the side for the Student Union Bar.
If you’re a small business and you’re looking for somewhere to just basically put up your website and you’re not too worried about SEO, for me HostGator would be my recommendation. Their servers were reliable, I think there was only 2 or 3 outages that I had, and that was over a 4 year period. They have an online chat service, and their support team and sales team are fantastic. I cannot fault HostGator’s customer service team as they did deliver what they said they would. If my memory serves me correctly you could also manage your billing via a dedicated billing system and the support team was available via a ticket system.
Servers weren’t too shabby, however, I learned over time that some of their servers were rammed with lots of websites, which for me meant the server was a little slower. But as I say, if you’re looking for somewhere to just host a website and you do want a basic, no frills service, then definitely give Hostgator a try.”
- KnownHost – “KnownHost.com is my pick of the litter, especially for Managed VPS boxes. Great price and truly amazing support. 3 data centers to choose from in the US. Too many other hosts sell “Managed VPS” products that aren’t well managed at all. KnownHost support and responsiveness on any server issues that I run into are what really set them apart. I’ve heard good things about Liquid Web in this regard as well, but their prices are quite a bit more than KnownHost’s.”
- Vultr – “For unmanaged server space for development purposes or temporary hosting I like vultr.com quite a bit.”
- WP Engine – “For pure WordPress hosting where the client wants their own hosting and I don’t have to worry about leaving them with a subpar host, wpengine.com is the way to go.”
“As our clients are largely UK based, we only use UK hosting.”
- Unlimited Web Hosting – “I recommend unlimitedwebhosting.co.uk for very small businesses that are arranging their own hosting. Their shared hosting is very reasonably priced and their online support is excellent. They also offer more premium services and reseller accounts. This makes them great for web designers with small clients that do not need a lot of hosting power. Everything you require, including cPanel or Plesk, is available and they work well with WordPress, Joomla, Magneto, OpenCart, Drupal etc. We used to use Unlimited Web Hosting and were happy with their services when our clients were all very small businesses.”
- Fasthosts – “I recommend fasthosts.co.uk for smaller businesses that need good hosting power for faster sites and busy eCommerce etc. With the expansion of my business, we wanted to provide faster hosting and move to dedicated servers. Fasthosts’ pricing is very competitive and their excellent support is a phone call away. They also offer a range of other hosting options if dedicated is not within your budget. They do not offer managed dedicated servers, but they will carry out work for you at a quoted price that is reasonable.”
- SiteGround – “When it comes to web hosting, especially for the average small business owner, I think having great customer support is key. My top recommendation is SiteGround hosting. They have consistently crushed it on the support side of things, and are always working to improve their hosting services as well. The combination of advanced feature set and ease of use makes it a win time and time again. We host the majority of our customers with Siteground and love using them on a daily basis.”
- Amazon Web Services – “If you are looking for a high end solution that scales with your well established business, then I think Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the way to go. I love how reliable their hosting is and the wide variety of features and addons they provide to really help expand a quickly growing business with a larger user base. Efficiently scaling is key to an enterprise level business and AWS provides all the tools and then some to get the job done.”
Another benefit for WPE is a staging site. Whenever one of our clients needs an overhaul or some testing of a new plugin, we copy the site down to a staging location to make all the changes we want. This way we don’t have to touch the Production site and our developers can safely make the changes they need to without worrying about breaking the live site.
Lastly, WPE has live technical support and the agents will dig into the problem with you and work to find a solution as quickly as possible.”
“It can be tempting to look for lower priced options when it comes to hosting your website. Typically these lower plans ($15 a month or less) are what we call “shared hosting.” Shared hosting means your website is hosted on the same machine as thousands if not tens of thousands of other websites — all sharing the same resources. This is how companies can offer such low prices.
The low price comes with a trade off. You’ll experience poor performance and intermittent outages. Your website is too important for that and there is no reason you should spend less on hosting than you would your cell phone.
Look for either “managed hosting” or a VPS. If you’re using a platform like WordPress the best solution is almost always “managed hosting” where the hosting provider helps manage the security, software and performance of your website.”
- WP Engine – “For WordPress managed hosting we recommend WP Engine. They offer excellent performance, support and capabilities.”
- Flywheel – “Flywheel is another dedicated WordPress hosting service we recommend, also providing good features, performance and support.”
- Liquid Web – “If you need more flexibility or aren’t using WordPress, we recommend LiquidWeb. They have a wide range of plans and have hands down the best support we’ve ever encountered.”
“I’ve utilized dozens of hosting platforms over the years, and worked within many more on host providers that our clients use.”
- Bluehost – “Bluehost is at the top of the list because they have what a good host should have: experience, little/no downtime, a variety of affordable packages, free SSL, Cpanel, and solid support. The free SSL is a big one.”
- Flywheel – “The second host I would recommend, and this is for WordPress only, is Flywheel. It is by far the best host for a WordPress site because it includes CDN capability, automated daily backups, and staging site support. They’ll also migrate your site for free!”
- HostPapa – “The web hosting provider that I constantly recommend to my clients is HostPapa. I have been using HostPapa for my own business for over 8 years and I have always been impressed at their competitive prices, great customer service and impressive hosting package options. A huge bonus for my Canadian clients, is that HostPapa are a proudly Canadian company who base their servers in Toronto, Canada, rather than in the U.S.A.”
- SiteGround – “SiteGround is one of the larger Canadian web hosting providers. In my opinion, they are a great web hosting provider for small businesses looking for an ultra-fast and highly secure hosting plan. They provide some awesome packages at very reasonable prices including dedicated web hosting and cloud hosting options.”
- GreenGeeks – “GreenGeeks was recommended to me recently and I have to say, they look like an impressive web hosting provider option. GreenGeeks servers are in Canada, the U.S and Europe and they claim a 99.9% uptime! Why “Green” Geeks? If you care for the environment, you’ll love the fact that they buy wind energy credits to make up for the energy they use to power your website. With pricing a little higher than other providers, I would still recommend GreenGeeks over some of the larger, highly advertised U.S. hosting companies.”
Using their dashboard to manage and customise your account settings will either be very simple for you if you’re somewhat conversant with hosting jargon, or you’ll find that the learning curve will not be very steep if you think that you’re not very tech savvy. These days, we all want something quick and simple that does not require too much thinking time, and Smart Hosting have worked hard to provide that.
They weigh in just as heavy as some other brands when it comes to server uptime, speed and all the other goodies that you could want from website hosting. One of the reasons why they would be so good for your small business is that they have extensive FAQs and articles to help you troubleshoot any niggles that you may encounter, and they do so in such a way where you don’t have to be digesting heaps of info…especially when you already have so much going on when it comes to keeping your business going.
They may not be as well known as some other hosting brands that I could mention, but I can say that they are the most uncomplicated. I think you’ll come to appreciate how they work to keep you updated on changes that they are making to hosting packages, and what your options are to make sure that you are still getting the best value for money.
If I could sing… correction… if I could sing well… I’d be the lead soprano with a praise chorus about Smart Hosting, and how much time they have saved me (for my own personal website and as a reseller) and also my clients. Sometimes the bigger names don’t always have it right as we can be led to believe. Sometimes it’s the smaller names that save the day!”
“Depending on the company’s budget & or their outsourcing web partner competencies I would recommend one of these 3 solutions:”
- OVH –
OVH with their Cloud Web hosting service. Why? Good speed thanks to the SSD disk combined with the simplicity of managed hosting & a relatively low price. For whom? Best for beginners with almost zero knowledge about hosting & people looking for a good but cheap service.
Again OVH with their Cloud SSD VPS. Why? Great in terms of value for money. My personal favorite is the VPS SSD 3 because of the 2 vCore processor and 8GB RAM. It will give you a much, much better performance than any standard hosting service. However, you must have the server configuration done by someone who knows how to do it in order to benefit from this. For whom? Businesses that are looking for high quality, but want to keep their costs down.”
- Infomaniak –
Managed Cloud Server from Infomaniak. Why? Great powerful and fast servers that can be easily upgraded according to your needs and much better than OVH for customer support. For whom? Businesses that are looking for the best quality even if you have to pay for it.”
- Raid Host – “I used to host all my websites with a major player for website hosting, but discovered this company through Team Treehouse when they had a special offer on for members. Having tested the water with the company, I think their customer service is second to none. Always on hand, always helpful and always more than willing to go above and beyond. I also like the fact the company is based in the UK, so if I do have an issue, I can phone them quite easily.”
- HostGator – “Before moving to raidhost, I used hostgator for all of my website and found their service to also be excellent, particularly as a global hosting provider. The advice on how to do certain aspects of server management and hosting was useful, particularly as I was new to the industry. The expertise can be very useful when you are a solo designer.”
- WP Engine – “WP Engine is a relative newcomer in the world of WordPress hosting. I have heard a lot about WP Engine and have seen flawless performance from WP Engine working with clients who hosted their sites with them. Their recent acquisition of StudioPress allows them to offer super-premium themes built on the Genesis framework as a perk of their hosting packages. They are not the cheapest hosting option, but they are great value for the money. “
- SiteGround – “SiteGround is another boutique hosting company offering hosting platforms for WordPress, WooCommerce, Magento, Joomla, and Drupal. How good is their hosting? SiteGround is one of the three web hosting companies officially recommended at WordPress.org. Competitive pricing also makes SiteGround one of my web hosting recommendations for small business.”
- Bluehost – “Bluehost is the largest of my recommendations powering approximately 2% of websites on the Internet. Bluehost is also recommended by WordPress.org. Extremely competitive pricing is one of the perks of working with Bluehost. You’ll also enjoy 24/7 telephone support, free SSL certificates, and free domain name registration for the first year. If you are starting a new WordPress site or starting a new business, I recommend Bluehost as one of your options.”
In regards to pricing, Go-Daddy has many easy-to-use and inexpensive hosting options for beginners and small businesses. We especially like their $8.79/month, “Deluxe Web Hosting Plan”, which features unlimited websites, unlimited storage and unlimited subdomains!
Go-Daddy is one of the biggest names in web hosting, which means their online communities are really big too! Have an issue and you don’t want to place a call? You’ll be sure to find a lot of answers on online forums!”
In our experience with BlueHost, their customer service can be a little slower to get on the phone than Go-daddy. However compared to other hosting providers, their customer service is definitely a close second!
As far as user-friendliness goes, BlueHost takes the cake with their extremely user-friendly interface. Whether it’s editing important hosting files in the backend or simply setting up a WordPress website, BlueHost makes it as easy as it gets!”
- HostGator – “HostGator is a very affordable option. They offer cloud hosting and 24/7 customer support like GoDaddy and BlueHost. HostGator is up there in the top tier of web hosting companies, however, their page loading times are not very fast. They also charge for backups.”
“I help sales professionals by providing website tools and pre-made websites to help them automate their lead generation. After selling thousands of tools, typically the next question I get is, “Where should I host my website?” I’m happy to share my recommendation not only based on my own experience of hosting websites since 1996, but also based on the feedback of my 5,000+ clients to date.
My strong recommendation is to only use a hosting company that offers cPanel support. It is widely used and most website managers will know how to use it. Among other features, it will help you setup emails, view website logs and run backups. The most important feature in my opinion, is the ability to download the websites and settings, and easily move your hosting to another company. In fact, migrating your website between cPanel hosting is so easy, many companies will offer migration for you. It’s a small effort on their part to gain a new client.”
- Namecheap – “If you are an absolute startup and want the cheapest way to get started, I’d recommend Namecheap.com. As of today, their cheapest shared hosting is $2.88 per month for up to 3 websites or $4.88 per month for unlimited websites. They offer email support and I’ve had most of my issues resolved in a few hours. After you signup, it takes a little bit of effort to get access to your cPanel account, but once you do, everything works the same with namecheap.com as it does with any other hosting company. If you are starting your first website and looking for a solid hosting company and dirt cheap prices, this is the way to go.”
Another nice feature of a2hosting.com is they offer FREE SSL certificates, which are recommended for all websites by Google. While other companies may be a bit cheaper per month for hosting, when you include the SSL certificate cost, the prices may be cheaper with a2hosting.com in the end.
A2hosting.com also offers reseller packages, which is the primary reason why I use them. If you want to host websites for your clients or become a website wholesaler, these reseller packages will allow you to set up separate cPanel accounts for each client. Their cheapest reseller account is $30 / month and will allow you to create up to 40 cPanel accounts.”
- Liquid Web – “For high volume websites or websites that require HIPAA certification, I’d recommend liquidweb.com for hosting. They are known for their support and guarantee you can reach support within 59 seconds. My experience is that I can reach support within 15 seconds typically, and most issues are resolved within a few minutes. Their hosting starts at around $60 per month and they offer hosting for: Managed WordPress, HIPAA compliant Servers, Dedicated Servers, VPS (Virtual Private Servers), Multiple Server Configurations with Failover for 100% guaranteed website uptime and more. They also offer a SLA (Service Level Agreement) so that if your website is down for even an hour, you will get a credit for the entire month. In the 8 years that I hosted with them, I only experienced one outage of a few minutes. By the time I had reached their technical support, their monitors had already discovered the issue and were in the process of fixing it.”
“While there are hundreds of hosting companies that may work for you or your business, these are the 3 hosting companies I would recommend without hesitation. I have experienced multi-day outages with some other well-known companies, so along with shopping for price, I would also do research into their technical support, service level agreements, and average time to resolve an issue.
My recommendation is to stick with cPanel hosting and backup your websites before and after any major updates are done to your account. You will want to back up your account before any major updates because if your website designer makes a major goof, you can restore the last good working version of your website on your own.
My other recommendation is to use Godaddy or another domain name registrar to register your domain name. If you register your domain at the same place you host your website, the hosting company may hold your domain name hostage to continue hosting your account.
In short, if you are working on a bare-minimum budget, namecheap.com is the cheapest way to start. For 80% of companies that are looking for an affordable price and solid support, a2hosting.com is the way to go. If your business is making a significant income on your website, want your own server and need the best support available, liquidweb.com is the place to go!”
- Flywheel – “My top recommendation for website hosting for small businesses would be Flywheel (www.getflywheel.com). Flywheel offers high-quality managed WordPress hosting. My experience has been that Flywheel is easy to use, reliable, has a good feature set, and is backed by a high-quality support team. You might pay a bit more than some other companies, but I feel it’s worth every penny. Features like staging for site redesigns, easy SSL certificates, managed WP updates, etc. are very useful. I will say from time to time the interface has been slightly buggy, but that’s to be expected with any web interface and it’s always been quickly remedied. For small businesses looking for a WordPress host, I would start your search with Flywheel.”
- SiteGround – “Currently, I’m using SiteGround for my business clients – a rollover from a previous company that closed and I inherited the clients. But I’ve been extremely happy with SiteGround. Their hosting is affordable, easily scalable, and reliable. Their customer support is always quick and helpful.”
- WP Engine – “A handful of clients are using WPEngine, which I absolutely love. I was fixing to move 20+ clients to an Enterprise solution with WPEngine, but the cost was too much of a barrier for me (it would have been in the neighborhood of $600/mo). But the services WPEngine offers are top-notch (assuming you can host email elsewhere). I love the ease of their production, staging and development environments. Plus, their support staff is always immediately available.”
- TMDHosting – “I’ve been using TMDHosting for a few small personal sites. After Bluehost was acquired by EIG and the service went south, I was looking for a very cheap but US-based service that had no intentions on joining EIG. TMD has performed well, all things considering. Support can be a bit slow, and not always US-based, but for the needs of my personal, low-traffic website… it’s fine.”
“The only other thing that I mention to EVERY potential client I speak with, is to avoid any EIG-owned hosting company. I’ve worked with several in the past, and always been disappointed. I had accounts with both Bluehost and Site5 before they were acquired by EIG, and watched the service and support nosedive a few months after the acquisition. These are things no business owner wants or needs to deal with, and as a result I pretty much exclusively recommend either SiteGround or WPEngine for hosting.”
- WiserHosting – “I have been using Wiser Hosting for about 15 years and they are my go-to web hosting company. Their prices start at £24 + VAT for a year’s hosting, which is extremely affordable. I have hundreds of clients using their services who I believe are all very happy. If there are problems, I am able to email and get a prompt response. There is also a contact phone number and I know that some of my clients have spoken to them direct.”
- SiteGround – “The best hosting provider I’ve ever done business with is SiteGround. Hands down the best from both a technical standpoint and with regards to customer service. Great host for WordPress. Fast load speeds, etc… But their customer support is amazing. I love dealing with the folks at SiteGround. They always seem to go above and beyond the call of duty in helping me with any issues I may encounter. I strongly recommend them for small businesses.”
- Rackspace – “I really recommend Rackspace. I’ve had servers with them for about 12 years — both dedicated and cloud. The servers are fairly priced and reliable, but this is not a do-it-yourself solution for the uninitiated. I would say you need someone with an IT background to configure and manage the servers, unless you opt for their full service option, which is expensive. Their service is outstanding, though expensive. If you can do some basic Linux administration then I think you can manage your own cloud server and forgo their full service option. Even so, whenever you call them you get a real person and quick resolution to any problems. Not the cheapest hosting solution, but they are a pleasure to do business with.”
Cloudways is the perfect balance between affordable shared hosting and Virtual Server. I also like the fact that Cloudways does not provide email hosting. Email hosting is a very different platform than web hosting. Cloudways specializes in web hosting. Clients can set up their email with a business class provider such as Rack Space or Google Suite.”
- Liquid Web – “I’ve been working with different hosting providers for almost twenty years and Liquid Web is the best I’ve ever worked with. I know a lot about servers and can usually handle most things on my own, so when I have a problem that stumps me, I need to be able to talk to someone who really knows their stuff. Liquid Web has solved every crazy issue I’ve ever thrown at them (which is quite a few since my team and I manage a lot of websites). You can get in touch with a knowledgeable and friendly technician in a very short period of time, which is extremely rare in the hosting business. Great products and solutions at affordable prices with the best support team in the industry makes this my #1 recommendation by far.”
- Flywheel – “While a lot of hosting companies focus on an “any type of server you can imagine” business model, Flywheel is hyper focused on creating the best platform specifically for WordPress websites. With lots of built-in features like free SSL certificates, nightly backups, and server-side caching, Flywheel takes all the effort out of hosting for WordPress. They’re also reasonably priced for what you get, and have great plans for hosting just a single site or for agencies like mine that host a lot of different clients and projects. There are a million reasons to be using WordPress for your small business website and Flywheel takes all of the stress out of WordPress hosting.”
- SiteGround – “Simple, reliable and extremely affordable. SiteGround is an excellent choice for any small business and especially those on a budget. They have both basic and easy-to-setup options, as well as a “geeky” options for developers like WP-CLI and Git integration. They also have a friendly and helpful support team, which is pretty much everything you need for a small business hosting solution.”
When investing in a new website it’s easy for designers, developers and clients to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of the design, features and functionality. However, one element that often gets overlooked, and possibly the most important element, is to find the right hosting solution for the needs of your website.
We’ve seen it time and time again; clients who have amazing websites but are let down by poor quality hosting, resulting in a bad user experience and in some cases, major security issues. There is nothing worse than being contacted by a potential client who informs you of an error with your website!
When looking at website hosting companies there are two main things to consider; fully managed services, where you pay a slight premium, but everything is done for you meaning you can sleep at night knowing your website is safe. Or, a self-managed service, which is often a much cheaper solution, however, you do need to be prepared to get your hands dirty should there be any problems with your website.
As a web studio, we always prefer to manage hosting for our clients rather than letting the client find a hosting provider. If you are going through the process of a new website build or have a company managing your current website, speak to them first about which companies they recommend, as they will often have a good relationship with a a preferred hosting provider.
The only thing you really need to know about hosting…
Web hosting comes in two main forms; shared hosting and dedicated hosting. As the name suggests shared hosting is when your website is shared on a server with lots of other websites. For shared hosting to be commercially viable the servers need to host the maximum number of websites as possible – a bit like how budget airlines cram as many people onto one plane as possible. However, the more people on that plane, the worse the experience will be. Shared hosting works in much the same way, but for your website.
On the other end of the scale is dedicated hosting. Dedicated hosting is when your website is the only site on the server, meaning your website benefits from all the resources that server has to offer. Think of dedicated hosting as a private jet; super fast, amazing experience but it is more expensive than a commercial airline, or in our example – shared hosting.
Just like in the world of air travel, some people need private jets and can justify the cost, however, most of us are just fine on commercial airliners – your website hosting requirements are just the same. At this point if you are unsure whether you need dedicated or shared hosting, we would strongly advise getting the opinion of whoever is building or managing your website.
So on to the recommendations:
20i offer both shared and dedicated hosting, but we’ll focus on their shared platform as this is an amazingly low-cost hosting solution, which gives dedicated hosting provided by other companies a run for their money. What we love about 20i is they have taken the pricing model of mass-market shared hosting, but created a platform which auto scales as and when it needs. Should your website require more resources due to an increase in traffic, more resources will be allocated to ensure it runs as fast as possible. Likewise, when your website has fewer visitors and is idle, the resources are scaled back and made available for other websites on the same platform.
Super Fast Technology
Some other things we really love about 20i is their commitment to not cut corners. Their hosting environment is made up of superfast servers all fitted with solid state hard drives which can deliver data quicker. In addition, their load balancers are constantly working out how and where traffic should be routed to ensure every website runs at its best.
20i have a really nice dashboard which they have designed and built from scratch, which is always evolving with new features being added all the time. You can manage any aspect of your hosting from SSH access, SSL certificates, auto timeline backups, malware scans, and one-click installers for all the popular content management systems and e-commerce shops.
As a reseller with 20i it’s very easy to manage multiple sites and allow clients access to their own website, while restricting some of the things they can and can’t do themselves.
Finally, the support 20i offer is second to none, from basic setup and configuration to advanced requirements and very specific requests, they have always been able to resolve issues fast and keep us updated throughout the process.
If you are looking for a self-managed hosting solution that won’t cost the earth with great support, 20i is the hosting company for you.”
Flywheel has built their hosting network on the top of Digital Ocean, which is one of the world’s leading dedicated server (technically virtual server but we’ll call them dedicated) providers and more recently have partnered with Google Cloud to offer the next level of premium hosting.
Flywheel do all the difficult and technical server configuration, security and caching to ensure super fast, super secure sites. All of which would normally have to be done by the website owner or web agency hosting the site. As managing servers isn’t a skill most designers or developers possess, Flywheel is essentially your in-house server team, taking away the stress and pressure of running an enterprise level website.
Flywheel offers a dashboard with all the tools you need to get a site up and running quickly. However, due to the nature of their service being a ‘managed’ solution, you don’t have all the controls you do with standard shared hosting. This is partly because the platform is optimised and configured so you simply don’t need to make advanced changes, however, if you have specific requirements, they are more than happy to implement them for you. These requirements typically include; advanced server redirects, code that needs to be placed in the ‘htaccess’ file, configuring the wp-config.php file and scheduled tasks (CRON jobs) – all of which are pretty advanced things and not required by most websites.
Flywheel offers a range of packages based on the volume of traffic and space required along with some upgrade options including content delivery network and the ability for the end user to manage billing directly. Considering the speed and performance of websites hosted with Flywheel, the costs are very attractive and we would urge all clients to consider using Flywheel.
As previously mentioned, dedicated hosting provides a much better experience for your users as the page load time will be significantly faster compared to shared hosting. If load time and website speed is important for your website, we would definitely recommend a dedicated solution like Flywheel.”
As you can see the two recommendations are very different, but in our experience and opinion, both offer the best level of service and quality for the solutions they provide.
As a last note, I would always recommend the best hosting you can possibly afford. You will always see a vast performance increase in dedicated hosting compared to shared hosting but for some sites, the additional cost isn’t always justified. When looking for the right hosting company do your research and seek an expert’s opinion on the requirements you need if in doubt.
- CloudAccess.net – “CloudAccess provide excellent services and support at a great price. Their WordPress hosting comes with a free SSL certificate, automated backups and they’re the only provider on my list that offers free email hosting as well.”
- WP Engine – “For WordPress based sites, WP Engine is an industry recognised hosting platform for WordPress sites with various pricing options that can work well and grow with a small business. WP Engine offers a free SSL certificate with each package, along with free backups and their technical support is excellent.”
- Datacentreplus – “Naturally web-hosting is a technical subject, and as such is rather a daunting prospect for many small businesses. The reason we like to work with DataCentrePlus is that they clearly understand this position, with great straight-talking support; so-much-so in fact that we have total confidence in them handling client issues, therefore we don’t need to get involved in hosting issues at all, letting the experts do their jobs.”
- Krystal – “If it’s affordable, simple hosting you’re after – which many start-ups and small businesses are – then Krystal do a great job. UK-based and perfectly reliable, and they’ll help with things like email setup, SSL certificate installation and WordPress optimisation.”
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no added cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
While the high street is fast becoming a ghost town, ecommerce is booming. More people are buying online than ever before. It’s also never been easier to start selling online. Whereas the #1 question for small businesses used to be “how the hell can I afford to get into ecommerce?” now it’s “which ecom platform would work best for me?” You just need to choose one and away you go, sometimes in as little as a few hours. But how do you decide which one to choose? Which platform can help you take your business to the next level?
If you’re struggling with these questions, fear not. We’ve put together this article to help you “figure it out.” How? Well, we talked to the people that really know about this stuff. We reached out and spoke to 78 ecommerce experts, asking each one a very simple yet crucial question: “In your professional experience, what have you found to be the best ecommerce platform for small business?” We let each expert put forward their top 3, and we’ve posted the results below, as well as what each expert had to say. Warning: Some real knowledge bombs were dropped in the making of this article.
So whether you’re just getting into the world of ecommerce or you run an established small business that is looking to increase its revenues by reaching more customers online, this article should help you to hone in one or two options that are worthy of further investigation.
***Who knew that definitions for “small business” vary so wildly?! For the purpose of this article we defined a small business as “any business that has an annual turnover of $0 – $1.5 million and 1-25 employees.”
Top Ecommerce Solutions for Small Business: How Our Experts Voted
|Platform||# of Votes|
|#1. Shopify||69 Votes|
|#2. Magento||37 Votes|
|#3. WooCommerce||33 Votes|
|#4. BigCommerce||19 Votes|
|#5. Wix||10 Votes|
|#=6. PrestaShop||4 Votes|
|#=6. Miva||4 Votes|
|#7. Squarespace||3 Votes|
|#=8. EKM||2 Votes|
|#=8. Volusion||2 Votes|
|#=9. Shopware||1 Vote|
|#=9. SAP||1 Vote|
|#=9. SuiteSommerce||1 Vote|
|#=9. Adrecom eSuite||1 Vote|
|#=9. ShopyGen||1 Vote|
|#=9. iPage||1 Vote|
|#=9. blueCommerce||1 Vote|
|#=9. Weebly||1 Vote|
|#=9. Bespoke||1 Vote|
|#=9. VTEX||1 Vote|
|#=9. Neto||1 Vote|
|#=9. Kooomo||1 Vote|
|#=9. Brightpearl||1 Vote|
So there you have it! There were 23 different platforms recommended for small business ecommerce during the course of our survey, but as you’ve probably already seen from the table above, there were a small group that kept cropping up time and time again.
No other ecommerce solution was recommended more than Shopify – it was the runaway winner. In fact, it’s hard to have a conversation about selling online these days without mentioning Shopify. They just make ecommerce so accessible, and easy. You don’t need to be a programming whizz or spend thousands of dollars upfront any more. You can have a store set up and running in just a few days, sometimes even in just a few hours. Crazy, right?!
BigCommerce was another solution that was spoken very highly of by our experts and shares many similarities with Shopify, with some suggesting they feel it offers more “out of the box” functionality. And Wix was the other hosted platform that scored well, with its drag and drop interface, user friendliness and ulta-affordable subscription plans making it a great place to get acquainted with ecommerce or use as a testing ground with very little risk.
So in terms of hosted options, Shopify, BigCommerce and Wix are the best ecommerce sites for small business according to our survey and three solid contenders to check out. These are all rather good if you don’t want to get bogged down with the technical side of things yourself.
If you’re looking for a self-hosted ecommerce platform, which generally offer a lot more flexibility and control over both the design elements of your store plus its features, then our poll also turned up a couple of results worthy of your consideration. At #2 on our list, Magento was only beaten on recommendations by Shopify, and ecom pros consistently referred to it as being an extremely powerful platform that has the ability to scale from startup store to an online business turning over millions in revenue per year. It’s feature rich (there’s virtually no functionality you can’t achieve), great for SEO, and very robust. You will likely have to hire a developer though, unless you possess decent programming skills.
The other option if you want to go down the self-hosted route is WooCommerce, which was the 3rd most recommended ecommerce solution overall in our survey. This converts any WordPress site into a fully functioning, very versatile ecommerce platform, and there are thousands of themes and plugins available, making it easier to ensure your store stands out from the crowd and has all of the functionality that you need it to have. It may not be as powerful as Magento overall, but the learning curve isn’t as steep and you only require some basic technical skills to get a standard store set up.
1) If you’re not particularly technically minded and don’t have a developer on staff, you want to get up and running quickly, but you want a platform that offers the features and capability to grow with you, have a look at these:
3) If you want to make something that looks completely unique, need some custom functionality, and have some technical/programming skills or the budget to hire a developer, then these two platforms are likely your best bet:
Read What The Experts Said
Below you can sift through and benefit from the contributions of each expert that collaborated on this article and made it possible (huge thanks to you all!). There is tons of insightful knowledge in there that should go a long way in helping you land on the best ecommerce solution for your small business.
And if you’ve already got a platform in mind and want to see what established industry professionals have to say about it, use the filter to sort the contributions. We hope you find this information of some help!
- Shopify – “If you are just getting started with e-commerce I highly recommend looking at a platform like Shopify. There are many things to consider when building a new e-commerce website such as PCI compliance, product and inventory management, and selling on other sales channels like Amazon and Facebook. A platform like Shopify handles all of this for you for a low monthly payment and a per-transaction fee.
You can typically get a website up and running in just a few weeks versus several months on other platforms. The platform provides several starter themes that are easy to customize and align with your company branding.
Shopify does have its limits. The first would be cost of the plugins to provide additional features and functionality. Shopify has many third-party plugins in its marketplace but many of them have a monthly fee, you may find over time it begins to add up as you continue to customize your website and add additional third-party plugins, something to keep in mind.
The second limitation would be if your business model has a complicated sales process that requires significant customization to the traditional e-commerce sales process. For example, a custom sales configurator or the need to integrate with many third-party systems. You may find that it makes more sense to move to a self-hosted platform that provides you more control and flexibility for your business needs.”
- Magento – “Magento is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms with a strong development community and third-party plugin-support. Magento is offered in two options. The first option is a paid solution called “Commerce”, the paid solution can be hosted with Magento on its cloud platform, you can also host it on your own server. The second option is “Open Source”, this is offered free and you can host with any web hosting provider you like. The differences between the two is that the paid version offers additional features with respect to marketing, reporting, and order fullfillment.
Magento’s codebase is completely open source, this means you can customize every aspect of your website to meet your unique business needs. Magento has a strong developer community which means it can be much easier to find a freelance developer or agency that has experience working with the platform. Magento has over 4,000 third-party extensions, the largest by far for any e-commerce platform.
While all that is great with Magento there are of course things to be aware of. When hosting your own e-commerce platform you are responsible for making sure your website is secure and PCI compliant. The costs for web hosting, compliance monitoring, security, and on-going maintenance and upgrades can quickly add up.
Given the higher investment costs for self-hosting, it is wise to consider whether you truly need the ability to customize your e-commerce platform or whether it would be better to conform to a hosted e-commerce platform and invest that money elsewhere in your business.”
- VTEX – “VTEX is probably not an e-commerce platform you’ve heard of but they are one of the fastest growing platforms worldwide. VTEX, headquartered in Brazil, has a strong presence world-wide and is only now entering the North American market.
VTEX is a hosted e-commerce platform. It provides many of the same features and functionality that you would find in any hosted e-commerce platform.
VTEX differentiators would be that is has a much more robust application programming interface (API) that allows you to integrate the website with many different third-party systems very easily.
VTEX is well known for its marketplace feature. A marketplace is a type of e-commerce site where product or service information is provided by multiple third parties, whereas transactions are processed by the marketplace operator. This can particularly popular for B2B website looking to aggregate sales between several partners in a specific industry.
VTEX has also been widely used by mid-size and large corporations looking to provide a presence in a country without paying high-licensing fees with their main e-commerce platform. VTEX charges a fairly low subscription fee with additional per transaction fees.”
- WooCommerce – “For businesses that are just starting out or want to try to sell products on their existing site, our go-to solution is WooCommerce. Built for WordPress, this is a very popular and easy-to-use free plugin. Store designs are available through WordPress and number in the thousands. There’s no limit to the number of products you can sell, and the software provides reporting ability and support for multiple languages through third-party plugins. There’s also a great support system in place, with ticketed support, forums, and plenty of blogs. What’s more, WooCommerce supports hundreds of payment gateways, so you won’t be locked into one because of the platform. Before getting started, you’ll need to obtain a domain name, sign up for hosting, and pick a WordPress theme. Using WooCommerce may be more of a hands-on-approach, but you’ll benefit by choosing from thousands of designs and plugins to help extend control of your eCommerce store.”
- Shopify – “If you outgrow Woocommerce, or simply don’t mind paying a fee to avoid dealing with setup, then our 2nd choice is Shopify. Shopify is an easy to use subscription-based service that has a similar set of features, although modifications to the store are limited by the platform. Setting up Shopify is a snap compared with WooCommerce, as the subscription already comes with hosting, a free subdomain, SSL certificate, and unlimited file storage. Shopify provides high-quality 24/7 support, with access to a customer adviser, and an extensive knowledge base. Expect pages to load rapidly on this hosted platform. What you give up with Shopify is the extreme customization that is possible with WooCommerce. But then again, you gain a LOT by using a stable platform that is supported well. For those of you looking for peace of mind on a budget, Shopify is a no-brainer.”
- Magento – “Our 3rd choice is Magento. Magento 2 is a powerful and scalable eCommerce solution that offers both open source and an enterprise commerce cloud option. As your business and client demands grow, you may have a number of complex requirements that require custom solutions. Magento offers more features and advanced solutions than either WooCommerce or Shopify, however, the learning curve is steeper. Extensions are often an additional cost. There exists a large community of Magento developers who can provide solutions, but expect to spend more on developer costs. Magento is for the enterprise level store that needs a lot of options. That said, it is well worth the price.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is a extremely good start for small businesses. Especially for those who have little or no technical proficiency. It allows you to start an online business in a very short amount of time and keep your thought focused on merchandising and marketing. It has a lot of apps and themes that you can use to extend the functionality at will. Prices are very affordable. I love it and usually suggest it as the first move in the world of ecommerce.”
- WooCommerce – “Woocommerce has the great value to be free and open source. If you or your team has some php programming skills, WooCommerce it is definitely a choice to take into consideration. It has an incredible number of commercial themes and plugins that can be used to customize it as much as you like. Given the fact that it is based on the well renowned WordPress platform, it is also quite simple to find support from the community for any eventual need.”
- Magento – “Magento has been and still is my preferred choice when the business starts to grow and there is the need to scale rapidly. The only thing to take into consideration is that with this power comes the ownership cost. The platform is extremely powerful and to fully use it, good programmers are needed.”
- Shopify – “What I like about Shopify is that they are a solid and stable template solution with an ever increasing network of plug-ins for best in class features and functionality. It’s a great low cost platform, particularly for the smaller online businesses.”
- Magento – “I have found Magento to be the ideal stepping stone platform for smaller online businesses before they can make the leap to the more robust and costly Demandware (Salesforce Commerce Cloud) solution. It is highly customizable with development resources, otherwise it can be overwhelming to manage. It’s great for flexibility but, must have both budget and talent for developer support.”
- Shopify – “Shopify has developed a very cost effective, simple yet robust ecommerce platform designed for the non-tech savvy business owner. They can easily construct, design, manage and promote their business in a way 5-10 years ago would have cost 10-20x
In addition, due to the rapid growth of the company and customer base, a very strong support network of developers, freelancers and app builders has quickly developed – providing a pool of resources to solve the changing needs of retailers on the Shopify platform.”
J. Andrew Keeler
- Shopify – “For launching a single product and testing it, Shopify is still your best bet. The ease of set up and getting to market quickly to test can’t be beat. Again, this is for TESTING a SINGLE product only. I would not use your preferred/primary domain for this. Again, ease of set-up, payment gateway integration and getting to market quick is ideal.”
- WooCommerce – “Once you have identified a winner, I would move to WooCommerce via WordPress for a full product line roll-out. There are great store experiences already made out-of-the-box with only slight modifications needed. There are fantastic plugins ready and waiting for one page checkouts, cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, email marketing integration and even membership or community management. The universe of freelance support for all things WP is also quite large, and relatively cost-efficient as well if you can’t afford full-time in-house support.”
- Shopify – “I’ve had clients on Big Commerce and Magento (free version) and Shopify is easier to use and allows for more functionality at less cost. BigCommerce requires work to enable common ecommerce functionality (e.g. controlling sort order of products on a category page). Magento requires significant custom code.
With Shopify I was able to transition an ecommerce client with significant SKUs to the platform in less than 3 months. There are great plug ins for Shopify that are free. In addition, many of these free plug ins allow start ups and small businesses to execute sophisticated functionality that previously was only available to enterprise companies with enterprise-size budgets.”
Nancy L. Bullock
- Shopify – “Why? You don’t need a whole team of IT folks to get your site up and running and it is very scalable and user friendly. The support and customer service small companies receive from Shopify is also geared for non-tech people who are focused on selling their message and their products and not coding. I have many clients who are satisfied customers. I have also heard Shopify’s vision and strategy is shared by senior management and they are consistently focused on bringing a top quality to the small market business community. I have also been impressed by the quality of the staff that they hire, and their platform is scalable. Also, very affordable.”
- Magento – “Why? Probably more geared out-of-the-box to medium sized companies, but starting with Magento will allow you not to have to change platforms for the life of your business. Magento is also investing in state-of-the-art technology improvements every year. It is a platform that will require an agency or in-house technical support (not your marketing department) but is a very robust platform that can play with the big guys, and has such a wide client presence, that many tech folks are familiar with the platform and you should be able to find IT support for fair and reasonable prices. It is “everywhere” for a reason. A pricier, but robust option.”
- Weebly – “Why? A very solid “no coding” option to get your site up and running. From a company standpoint, they are making significant technology investments to keep up in the marketplace and the platform for my clients has proven to be very intuitive to update and navigate. There are scaled plan options at different functionality options and price points, so make sure you understand what you are getting.”
- Shopify – “I work with many entrepreneurs on this platform. It is a hosted solution, so you don’t need to worry about external hosting, uptime is reliable, and they use a CDN for media files, so the speed can be pretty good too.
It is a simple platform, you could open a Shopify store without a developer if you needed. I don’t like the simplicity in the products and product management, they only allow for single products with a max of 2 product options natively and making bulk updates is difficult and time consuming without an app or the API.
Shopify has great documentation, they make it fairly easy to add tracking pixels for Google (and to setup enhanced ecommerce) as well as the Facebook pixel with shopping cart events by default.
I also appreciate the deeper level of integration offered with other platforms like Klaviyo for example. All of this comes at a premium, Shopify is known for being the most expensive and many of the apps actually scale in price depending on your Shopify level.”
- Magento – “Magento is open source, so it is fully customizable and there’s a free version. One of the advantages of Magento is that they support various product configurations, so if you want to create groups or bundles or products with complex options, Magento can do this natively. I also like the filtering functionality for product sorting and organization on the front-end, I think they do a good job of this. They also have upselling and cross selling features that require adding on for most other platforms. In general, Magento is known for being more robust and better with SEO, so if you plan on having a large store with high sales volume, Magento might be a good fit.
However, the complexity creates a steeper learning curve and I’ve found it requires more planning and organization to launch. I’d recommend taking a training course before you dive in.”
- WooCommerce – “In my opinion, the clear benefit of WooCommerce is that it’s a free add on to WordPress. So, if you’re already running on this platform or you’re familiar with the functionality of the platform, you can fairly seamlessly add a shopping cart. Another bonus in doing this, is that you won’t have to migrate your content over which can drop your rankings and cause issues with SEO.
WordPress is also open source, and there are endless options for plugins which make it very easy to add on the functionality you need.
If you’re not comfortable with WordPress, you should plan to have a developer help you with the setup and management. I see many WordPress sites go unmanaged and often end up with viruses or other issues. Consider a hosted solution if this sounds like you.”
There are hundreds of eCommerce platforms to choose from but at eCommerce Cosmos we recommend Shopify & Shopify Plus 99% of the time.
From zero to one million a year Shopify will work fine, after that Shopify Plus is going to start making more sense with lower transaction fees and more customization.
Many businesses will go with Square, or Wix to save money and fail to realize that they are not setting themselves up for success.
- Shopify – “If you are just starting out choosing an eCommerce platform can be overwhelming. You’ll want to choose a platform that is affordable, robust, is constantly updated & can scale with your business. Shopify is all that and more.
With world class themes and apps, Shopify is built simply and beautifully. The platform is built to help you sell more. From accepting all types of payments with one click integrations for accepting Bitcoin Payments, Amazon Payments to pushing your products to every social channel with native apps made to work to syncing your Shopify Store to Pinterest (this turned out to work extremely well when selling hammock chairs online since it’s such a visual product that people usually want to sit in and touch).”
“Shopify can carry you through your business journey for years. Ideally you grow too fast and you scale up to Shopify Plus. With prices starting at $2000 a month vs the $29-$299 a month on regular Shopify, Shopify Plus is everything you need to run an Enterprise level store. Recently we helped an 8 figure seller migrate from Netsuite to Shopify Plus and they saved over $630,000 & increased conversions by 25%.
With Shopify Plus you have the advantage of complete customization and a lower total cost of ownership compared to Magento, WooCommerce, Netsuite and other platforms where you’ll easily pay over 6 figures a year between hosting and development costs.”
There is not one-size-fits-all eCommerce software platform yet, but WooCommerce and Shopify certainly are the closest thing to that. At ON.marketing we have been involved in hundreds of eCommerce projects for SEO and performance marketing and we had the chance to evaluate each one of them in terms of:
• user interface
• technical requirements
• preinstalled functionality
• how easy is it to expand features using plugins
• maintenance effort.
With these factors in mind and depending the business’s size we recommend the following eCommerce platforms:
1. Shopify: Start selling in 5 minutes! Do not spend time dealing with technical details, just sell now!
2. WooCommerce: The next step after Shopify. You need to grow capabilities, expand, do more things, get better control of everything. Move from Shopify to WooCommerce.
3. Magento: This is when you feel ready to grow from a small business and take everything to the next level. It is an investment into your future.
- Shopify – “This is the easiest way to get started with an eCommerce business, the cost is very small and overall the time to market is very quick. All you need is to create an account, select one of the available themes and start marketing your products. Overall, my experience says that it is 10 times more important to start selling immediately and invest your time, focus, energy and budget in marketing your new business than investing the same resources in the website development. Start working on the product-market fit as soon as possible and ignore all the technical details that just withhold resources from your potential success. It is easier to learn than anything else and support is always available from the platform, you don’t have to go out look for developers and work a business relationship with them (often the biggest, overlooked challenge).”
- WooCommerce – “WooCommerce is a great eCommerce software platform for small businesses ranging from solopreneurs that want to sell their very first product online up to very fast growing eCommerce startups that sell millions of dollars every month, as long as they are comfortable with some technical work. Self-hosting is not easy or that fast or for the faint hearted so it comes into eCommerce business’s life sometime after they get some traction and when they have solid proof that they need to move to the next level.
The first big difference when you move from Shopify to WooCommerce is hosting. Hosting all by itself is a major challenge, you had better expect to pay at least $50 per month for half-decent hosting, and still you will have to worry about uptime, backups and speed (or even more if you really want to invest in speed for SEO & CRO purposes). In order to get things moving, you need to look into payment gateways and how they integrate with WooCommerce, you will soon notice that things are not always that straightforward. The biggest challenge that you have to face before you actually launch: finding the right software development team to help you with all of these tasks and then some more like installing the right plugins, configuring them and then configuring a custom-made theme for your exact requirements. This takes time, cost and does not always work as you would expect, as it involves the most complicated part of business: People.
WooCommerce gives you all the freedom that you need to do proper SEO in your website and you need to do a lot of detailed technical and on-site SEO if you plan to sell more than 5000 products, something that you will find probably impossible to do with Shopify.”
- Magento – “Magento is the next step after WooCommerce, but it is not a necessary step. It is a choice for only very few, those that are happy to invest heavily in technical development for their eCommerce business. It has increased hosting requirements when compared to WooCommerce and it does not benefit from such a large plugin and developer marketplace.
Magento’s biggest benefit is that it allows for even more customizations, more accurate and detailed code implementations that will fit exactly your business model. If you want to have very fine-grained access rights for your team members and integrate your database with other systems such as enterprise ERPs then Magento might be the right solution for you.”
Mark A. Ramdial
- Shopify – “Absolutely love this platform! This is perfect for small business and even larger businesses. There is virtually no learning curve, if you’ve created an Ebay or Amazon listing before you have the ability to open up your own ecommerce website. There are no hidden costs! No Hosting Fees (usually a separate cost when having an ecommerce website i.e. rackspace) and no development cost – I call Shopify the great equalizer in an ecommerce world dominated by larger solutions like Magento and Demandware. Now a fashion designer can become an ecommerce manager, with their 24/7 customer support (they had support on Christmas day for me!!) to their robust app store – this honestly is your one stop shop for scalability. Clients include MVMT Watches and Kylie Cosmetics.”
- Squarespace – “I would not call Squarespace an E-commerce powerhouse in the space, however their capabilities are solid (depending on what your industry is) if you’re a photographer that is looking to sell some of their art while showcasing your portfolio. I would not recommend Square Space for a high volume store – however, if you some higher value product and you want to show it off with a clean aesthetic and easy to use backend tools, you honestly can’t go wrong with Squarespace. The cost is similar to Shopify too.”
- BigCommerce – “BigCommerce is a solid option as well if you are looking for inexpensive and easy to use ecommerce solutions. The Aesthetic of the B.C. Ecommerce sites defer from the previous 2 that were mentioned and offers a more “traditional” ecommerce experience. Usability is also very easy and it virtually does not have a learning curve. Costs are also in line with Shopify as well. Clients include Camelpak and Skullcandy.”
In the end Shopify wins out as the top choice for small business, the pros heavily outweigh the cons.
1. Ease of use for non-technical users
2. 24/7 support
3. Great App Store for any ecommerce needs you have, just download and done!
4. Cost Effective Pricing and no hidden fees
5. Extremely scalable
6. The themes already have a mobile optimized feel to them, and since most online traffic comes from mobile devices this is a nice feature to have.
1. The App Store could use some stronger players – some of the App Selection is limited.
2. There is virtually no support for a custom theme (a theme that is not available in the Shopify menu of themes – typically created by an agency or developer) so you will always have to go back to your developer or agency in the event you would like to make changes. Also, some apps are a mess to uninstall from the custom theme which could mess up things like checkout.
Another tip for the small business owner. Just remember, that even though you may have the premier E-commerce platform in the industry and you have a kick-@ss website, marketing will always be the biggest expense you will potentially run into. So, be savvy with how you market and drive traffic to your website and the rest should be taken care of.
My recommendations depend on the type of company, its size and capability of dealing and managing an online store, and the scope and size of the catalogue. Depending on that, I can recommend one of these 3 platforms:
- Shopify – “For me, Shopify is the best choice when you are starting something. As it does not have a high implementation value or high maintenance (if you stick with the basic features), it is the best platform to make a proof of concept and launch easily and quickly. So, if you want to establish your ecommerce business, but are not quite sure if it is going to work, or if you are able to handle it, Shopify allows you to put your ecommerce website online, without a high risk when doing so. Also, the fact that it is cloud based allows you to focus on your business, instead of worrying about hosting your website, and all the necessary precautions to keep your website up. On the other hand, when you are sure of what you want, and need to customize the website or have a lot of additional features, Shopify starts to get limited and costlier.”
- WooCommerce – “After you know exactly what you want to do, you can choose to have your own ecommerce store. So, if you have a store that is not huge in terms of categories and articles, WooCommerce can be the perfect choice. It handles relatively well a store with different product configurations and allows you to be able to focus and optimize for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and UX (User Experience). Also, there is a plethora of available plugins (free or paid) to enhance the platform and build a bulletproof store that does almost anything. The problem with WooCommerce is that when you start to get really professional, and need to have hundreds of categories and thousands of products, and to be able to have different kinds of clients, with different price rates, complex shipping tables or integrations, it might start to be complicated to keep the platform optimized, or keep it cost effective. But if you have a small shop and need to control all the content in an easy and attractive way, WooCommerce is the platform to go with.”
- Magento – “Magento is the most complex and robust of my 3 suggestions. In fact, Magento can be used by a small business, but it can also become an enterprise level solution. The fact is, when you start growing your ecommerce website, you will need to solve some issues that start to happen, when dealing with order management, logistics, or event stock and invoicing integrations. And that’s when you start realising that a simple ecommerce website is not realistic anymore. But you should keep in mind that complex is not equal to complicated. Magento allows you to implement many more features than a simple ecommerce platform and for that reason it has a bigger learning curve. But as you start working with it, it is just a matter of time to realise that you now have a robust tool in your hands that prevents future problems, and even allows you to scale your platform and strategy, considering integrations with Marketo for Marketing Automation, or with the whole Adobe Marketing Cloud, allowing for a completely automated platform, that profiles your users and even creates automated campaigns focused on user behaviour.”
- Shopify – “For any small ecommerce brand I would always suggest starting on Shopify. The easy to use platform makes it suitable for complete beginners and depending on your requirements, you can be up and running very quickly. It integrates with the major CRM platforms, payment gateways and marketing channels and is a cost effective solution to get started. Over the past few years it’s really come a long way.”
- Magento – “If a brand has the funds to implement Magento correctly and has the growth plans to support this type of platform, then Magento is a great solution. I would opt for Magento for clients that have global plans, as the platform is set up to cater for this. Magento 2 is also a vast improvement on Magento 1 in terms of usability and features.”
- WooCommerce – “For content led brands I would suggest using WooCommerce. The easy to use ecommerce channel means you have access to the extensive range of WordPress plugins and large range of themes that are easy to customise. The only downside to WordPress / WooCommerce is that you will need to find your own hosting provider too.”
- Shopify – “50% of our clients are on Shopify. I feel Shopify offers one of the lowest barriers to entry for small businesses who are ready get their feet wet in eCommerce. They take complicated things like analytics tracking pixels and integrate it directly into their platform. While there are endless customization options an experienced Shopify programmer can expand on, there’s no need for a small business owner to know how to write code to launch an eCommerce store. I really love the flexibility Shopify has to offer from launch to scale.
In addition to Shopify’s friendly UI, there are 1,200+ apps for practically any eCommerce function you need to integrate with to run your ecommerce store. With a few clicks, you can connect your email software, social pages, and more.”
- SuiteCommerce – “SuiteCommerce is not a platform that is listed on many recommendation lists for whatever reason. It might be due to its enterprise ties with NetSuite or implementation complexity.
SuiteCommerce is ideal for small businesses of $5M and up because it consolidates all core business components under the same roof like order management, customer service, marketing, merchandising, and more – with the additional benefit of automatically integrating Bronto to deliver timely data-driven marketing in the customers’ lifecycle.
We have a client who just migrated from WooCommerce to SuiteCommerce in July 2018 and the transition was seamless, thanks to the SuiteCommerce migration team.
If you decide to migrate to SuiteCommerce, they have a team that handles the migration for you, which makes things a lot easier.”
- BigCommerce – “BigCommerce is the close cousin of Shopify. With some light coding, small businesses could afford a developer to customize their website. BigCommerce has the ability to handle scale with their enterprise package – which adds more bells and whistles for any business that needs it.
For the cost and features, BigCommerce does prove itself to be a viable competitor to Shopify. At the end of the day, it’s really a matter of preference and comfort level with the platform.”
- Magento – “Great all-around ecommerce PaaS with perhaps one of the strongest ecosystems of solution and industry partners, which means a lot of support options and quite flexible and customizable. The platform can grow with your business and is scalable. Recently acquired by Adobe.”
- BigCommerce – “Strong ecommerce solution and penetration is growing steadily. CPO is ex Magento. They have interesting offerings for SMB and MM with affordable monthly rates and can scale up with the business over time.”
- Wix – “For people who have a worthy idea but know nothing about eCommerce and have zero development skills, and a tiny budget. Likely can’t scale with limited capabilities as it stands, but good testing ground.”
- Shopify – “For consumer products Shopify offers the most flexibility, helpful 3rd party integrations, ease of use, and ability to scale with tiered pricing. Don’t make the mistake of building your site with custom code only your developer can change. Keep control and use templates. Think about it. Is it better to use a template that is proven to be effective or trust a developer who claims only they know the secret sauce that will produce a great site?”
- Wix – “For B2B and brochure type websites Wix offers the best combination of customization and ease of use. Their GSuite integration makes it easy to manage your team and tools, and the UX is user friendly. Keep image sizes reasonable to keep page load times under four seconds.”
- WooCommerce – “If you are 0.01% of the population that needs total flexibility, then WooCommerce/WordPress can fit your needs. But I would only recommend WooCommerce if you are doing the development yourself, never want to delegate that work to another party, and will stay on top of the plugins and inevitable conflicts that will arise. Stick to Shopify and Wix. You’ll thank me later.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is by far the best platform for SMBs in my opinion for the reasons below:
• It incorporates a website CMS and Shopping cart capabilities into a single platform, that way you only have one platform to work with, which makes the learning curve much easier
• It has an intuitive product catalogue and provides nice search capabilities
• It has a strong reporting & insights capability, reports are shown in a dashboard like view and are easy to understand and take action
• It has an easy to use user interface (UI) that anyone, without any technical experience can use
• It has flexible, and customizable designs that you can pick from so your store can look as sharp as you want it
• You can launch your website and ecommerce store in a few weeks, provided you are just starting and don’t need have a product catalogue that is too large.
• It is affordable with plans starting at $10 a month and the ability to upgrade anytime as your store grows
• Best part is that they offer a free trial, so you can take it for a test drive before you commit to using this platform”
- WooCommerce – “WooCommerce is my second pick for SMBs who are currently using WordPress for their website for the following reasons:
• It integrates with WordPress which makes managing your store easy, as you are accessing the admin interface from within your WordPress website
• It’s easy to use and create your online store, from the design to building out the product catalogue
• You can customize your theme (design and layout) of your store and are not stuck with the themes they provide
• It has several payment integrations so you can choose any of the payment options from PayPal to Stripe and anything in between
• It is an open source system so you can modify and customize everything, add as many products and users and process unlimited orders”
- Wix – “WiX is another great platform for SMBs for the reasons below:
• You can customize your store’s look and feel, by either choosing the available templates and customizing to what works for you
• Its easy to use for anyone without any technical experience, they have a drag and drop interface which makes building your store very intuitive
• They offer multiple payment options such as credit cards or PayPal and the best part is that they don’t charge you for your sales (no commissions)
• You can use the same platform for building your website and your online store making it more efficient for you”
- Magento – “I have been managing eCommerce sites for over 14 Years and the majority of that time has been spend working with Magento. Why I like Magento the most is because it has the widest range of entry into the ecommerce space with the Community Edition (which is free) to an enterprise solution that at one time was owned by eBay and now is owned by Adobe, one of the top software companies in the world. Also, Magento has a wide range of professionals around the world that are available to help implement customizations within your eCommerce business. Additionally there are lots of plugins that can add a lot of great extra functionalities to your ecommerce website, even integrating with a lot of popular business software including QuickBooks. To be honest though, in spite of the robust functionality there are issues with Magento as it is a heavy eCommerce platform that can slow load speeds for the end users (you and your customers). Also it does get a lot of patch updates which is a mixed blessing.”
- Shopify – “Another recommendation if you have limited resources is Shopify; a very popular platform with great features, although you are stuck with their hosting and it’s really hard to transfer the data if you move to more robust solutions.”
- PrestaShop – “If you do want to enter at a lower level with a lot of flexibility, I would suggest PrestaShop. PrestaShop has great plugins and themes, but very limited and the only place I know that really backs their plugins is Presto-Changeo.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is my recommended e-comm platform for small businesses, especially those with lean teams and limited development resources. If you haven’t used Shopify before, don’t worry – this platform is super streamlined and user friendly, with helpful recommendations and analytics pre-built into it.
As a small but fast-growing company, Shopify helps us increase efficiency and reduce our reliance on developers while allowing us to remain agile with our site and site features. The Shopify app store offers hundreds of useful plugins (many of which have free versions or trials) designed to work right out-of-the-box – in fact, we recently launched our auto-replenishment service using just a few hours of front-end dev work to install an app and make design customizations.
If you have in-house development or custom development isn’t of concern, Magento is a great open source platform where you can build out features exactly per your own specs.”
- Shopify – “Having worked closely with hundreds of retailers, I’ve had the unique opportunity to make recommendations in various capacities including ecommerce. The needs of the smaller retailer generally differ greatly from those larger retailers, mainly because there is not always a dedicated team to handle all the different facets ecommerce demands. Given that, Shopify is an easy recommendation that provides for most ecommerce needs and doesn’t require smaller business owners a huge upfront investment of time or money. Shopify provides hosted carts that are designed to work out of the box. There is not a need to have a dedicated developer on staff to set up and maintain the cart experience. The templated approach allows for easy plug and play and allows the retailer to be up and running quickly (within a few hours). If a retailer is concerned about outgrowing the solution, no worries as Shopify also provides ShopifyPlus – a more robust option for a more sophisticated retailer.
If you are a new retailer, just entering the ecommerce space, Shopify invests a lot of time and money to support you as well. Shopify works to build an ecosystem of experts and encourages such experts (currently near 570,000) to share their pearls of wisdom in their forums as well as Facebook group. Shopify also invests money in annual shows and regular meet ups to further encourage the open communication. One of the major differences I’ve seen at this trade show versus others in the space is that the founder and current CEO, Tobi Lütke is very visible, accessible and open to discussions. This is quite refreshing to me as he candidly shares future plans with the group, making all feel included in the wave. This is one example of the little things that go a long way with Shopify.
One of Shopify’s greatest assets is the marketplace which allows developers and experts to create plug-ins, or extensions that provide additional customizations to meet the ecommerce needs that go beyond the already-robust Shopify solution. Shopify also supports Point of Sale (POS) transaction functionality for those who need to sell in a brick and mortar situation, tying all sales functionality into a single source. There are multiple reporting tools to pull reports and information from the system so that a smaller retailer doesn’t need to invest in additional analytics tools to assess sales trends. All of these details can be pulled from the retailer’s personal phone allowing access anywhere. Shopify truly is an ecommerce solution that provides instant turnkey functionality to a retailer without requiring expertise in multiple areas for deployment. Because of this there are numerous success stories and a network of thriving merchants, developers and consultants all working because of the Shopify ecosystem.”
There are a variety of eCommerce platforms out there for small businesses. I believe due diligence is key for decision making and an organisation’s starting conditions, business objectives, budget and capability must be considered before locking down which path you want to take. I’m recommending 3 platforms as they are likely to cater to the distinctive needs and different type of SME customer.
- Magento – “A highly customizable eCommerce platform that offers secure cloud hosting solutions, integrated order management functionality, decent business intelligence capability and the benefit of a global community of experts and peers that can help you through challenges. In my opinion, Magento Commerce is perhaps more suitable for small businesses with higher levels of maturity and larger starting budgets; more of an aspirational platform to utilise as ecommerce businesses scale and grow.”
- ShopyGen – “A complete turnkey solution, again very affordable and specifically aimed at developing multi-vendor platform capability for small businesses. They have template options available, but can also offer bespoke store designs developed around Shopify, Magento and WooCommerce. The analytical suite is robust enough to help small businesses grow, they offer SEO consultancy and dropship integration solutions if needed, the user interface is very intuitive for backend management and oncall support is fast and efficient.”
- iPage – “One of my personal favourites for startups and solo entrepreneurs! iPage offers everything you need to get started in eCommerce, but this is reflected in the price and you will have to do all the work yourself. Servers are secure, startup costs are super cheap and you can create your own ecommerce website (fully mobile optimised) with free FTP locations and free SSL certificates using WordPress, Weebly or Website Builder. Analytics capability and email marketing tools are basic but adequate for micro companies and they also offer integrated solutions that tap into Mojo Marketplace, Google Adwords and Small Business Funding platforms. The support team is also very responsive and very helpful when called upon. There will be limitations as your business grows and scales, but this is a great starting point that doesn’t cost the earth.”
“Shopify would be at the top of my list, as there is very little lift to get off the ground with their standard package. The ability to scale up based on features is great for a small business.
A quick second would be Big Commerce, which also offers very customizable and scalable packages for small businesses.
Another option that is popular with entrepreneurs is WooCommerce, as it is built on the popular WordPress platform. While this does an adequate job of bringing eComm to a blogging platform, it would not be my first choice.”
- Shopify – “Shopify in my experience to be the best “out of box” solution that can also grow with your business and not hinder it. It has intuitive processes to syndicate your product feed and track marketing activities through the cart. I have also found it to be very stable over the years.”
- BigCommerce – “Big Commerce is a strong contender for shops that are poised to grow and want a solution that can enable their growth. While there are entry level packages, a more established store will benefit from the customizations that are available.”
- WooCommerce – “WooCommerce can be helpful if your business is growing out of WordPress, or if you want to explore eCommerce capabilities in addition to other goals. It can be a bit tedious to setup, though no more so than other WP Plug-ins.”
- Shopify – “If I were to launch an ecommerce business, my first choice would be Shopify since it’s very easy to setup and use. The basic front-end and backend UX interfaces on mobile and desktop are very intuitive and straight to the point when it comes to e-commerce. It’s hosted on Shopify’s servers so you can feel good about reliability, speed and security. You have a wide range of themes and apps you can buy to customize your front-end. Their customer service team is known to be awesome! Shopify has different pricing packages starting as low as $29/month and it goes up as you start selling more and need more features.”
- Magento – “Magento Open Source previously known as Magento Community Edition would be my second choice since it’s open source and you can self-host it on your own servers. Magento is widely used in North America and internationally and has a large community of app and module developers to extend the features of your basic site. It’s also a powerful and customizable platform made to support a large quantity of products and orders. You don’t have to pay a monthly plan and transaction fees to Magento. However, you’ll need a Magento professional or a web developer to help with customization, improving performance and service of your e-commerce site.”
- WooCommerce – “WooCommerce would be recommended if you already have a WordPress Site or Blog and you want to turn it into a shoppable platform, since WooCommerce is simply a WP plugin. WooCommerce is also very customizable with the hundreds of themes available on ThemeForest and WordPress.org. There’s also a wide range of paid add-ons to expand on the list of functionalities required. You can’t use WooCommerce without WordPress so you’ll have keep that in mind if you already have a website that is built on another CMS and you want to make it transactional. The WooCommerce plugin itself is also free.”
- Shopify – “Shopify takes away all the “technical” parts of running an ecommerce site and allows you to start selling online in no time at all. Shopify has a lot of pros, including no need to worry about hosting, easy WYSIWYG editors and a tonne of integrations to 3rd party solutions.
Shopify is a SaaS solution which means there is a monthly cost, and as you grow, you ultimately use more apps, which will increase this cost.
Shopify is a great solution for startups, SME’s and is even used by ecommerce giants such as GymShark, who use Shopify’s plus program.”
- WooCommerce – “If you focus heavily on marketing, blogging and building your brand’s story, then WooCommerce is the option for you. WooCommerce is a free plugin for WordPress (a popular open-source blogging platform) which once implemented, changes WordPress into a very versatile ecommerce platform.
WooCommerce has thousands of themes and plugins allowing you the flexibility to create a site with the features you want and additionally, as it is open-source you can really dive into the code and create your own functionality.
If you are planning to create your own WooCommerce site then there is no official support unless using a 3rd party company, and you may have to find your own hosting. But initially, this could work out to be a more affordable and flexible option than SaaS models such as Shopify or BigCommerce in the beginning.”
- Shopware – “Shopware is the no.1 platform in German-speaking locations and has been taking the English speaking countries by storm. In my opinion, this is everything Magento 2 should have been, but better!
It is an open-source platform that provides a free community version. Out of the box, it is feature rich, powerful, easy to use but furthermore, it gives you so much flexibility not just with apps and themes, but also with the possibility to hire a developer.
Much like WooCommerce, if you decide to implement this site yourself there will be a learning curve and you will have to arrange your own hosting. But Shopware has the ability to support a startup all the way to a multisite ecommerce giant.”
For small businesses, I would always opt for the solutions that require the least manpower and costs to run. That means choosing a hosted solution (SaaS). Thankfully there are many to choose from, however the 3 top recommendations in my opinion would be:
Each provides similar capabilities and will get you off the ground quickly and cost effectively.
- BigCommerce – “BigCommerce is the lesser known of the two platforms (vs Shopify) and has fewer businesses running their software. However, this could be an advantage as a challenger brand always works harder to keep customers happy.
In terms of features and functions, you get pretty much everything out of the box with a lot of features and functions to help you grow your business.”
- Shopify – “My second choice is Shopify. By far the most prevalent ecommerce platform on the market, and used by 100’s of thousands of merchants both big and small.
The 2 main advantages with Shopify are:
a. There are a lot of 3d party agencies and developers who are well versed in the platform and can help you build and scale your business
b. There are a lot of creative templates on the market you can choose from to suit your needs.”
- Squarespace – “The other option I would suggest exploring is Squarespace. This solution may not be a dedicated Ecommerce platform, but it does have some nifty features and designs you can use to launch and grow your store.
It’s by far the easiest one of the 3 to get started on, with little to no 3rd party support needed to get your businesses selling. There are also some really great looking themes to choose from.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is really easy to use and covers most of the aspects you’ll need to successfully run an online shop with the added bonus of it being very scalable, so it will take you from a small start-up to an enterprise-level business with affordable pricing plans. There’s also a whole world of apps and plugins for all the extras you might want, including subscription products, email marketing and product reviews functionality (albeit at additional cost). And when you get stuck there’s very reactive people there to help you, quickly. Their Experts Program gives you even more options of help and there’s developers available to build any customisations you might want.
The liquid code isn’t too hard to master the basics of it you’re that way inclined – it’s not at all necessary – and you can use HTML in product descriptions and editorial pages etc. The feature I would find hard to live without is the ability to download all your products via a spreadsheet, make bulk amends and re-upload. This is handy early on when you’re learning what works and what doesn’t, and changing things around to get the optimum situation for sales. All code updates are done in the background so you don’t have to worry about updating for each new phone or operating system, which you may have to if you’re building it from scratch.”
- EKM – “The “British Born & Bred” alternative to Shopify who now boast over 10,000 shops. Does most of the same kind of things as Shopify but they don’t charge extra for apps (or transaction fees), they’re all part of the service. And as they’re younger than Shopify, they’re ever evolving, so you will get lots of new updates and features as they develop them. There’s all the usual marketing features – you can upload your products directly to Google Shopping from the site, for example, plus email marketing, SEO and WordPress blogging. Includes bulk product management and you also get a UK Account Manager. One to watch. I’m a fan so far.”
- Squarespace – “Actually, I haven’t worked with Squarespace but I know lots of who have and have only good things to say. There’s also plenty of Squarespace specialists out there who can help you if you get stuck. So that’s more of a ‘one to consider’ if the first 2 don’t suit your business.”
- Adrecom eSuite – “Adrecom is an aggregation of the American Dream Company because its founder always had the dream of moving to the USA. The system has been around for more than 15 years. The reason it’s called an eSuite is because it is far more than a mobile responsive, shopping cart system. It is a complete all-in-1 search engine optimized solution that includes the catalog, blog, events calendar, news archive, digital media gallery and a host of other built-in modules. The system is not a do-it-yourself product like Wix. The expert team at Adrecom becomes your online consigliere so that while they manage your website, you get to run your business. You have access to most everything under the hood but instead of spending $80-100k on a webmaster to tinker with your website, you spend a lot less partnering with the Adrecom team.”
- WooCommerce – “Wordpress is a common platform, currently powering around a quarter of the internet, so familiar to a lot of people both operationally and for other elements such as SEO. Woo is a bolt on plug in that offers some really good e-commerce functionality and therefore is quite good for those businesses that are just starting out, perhaps with a high street presence and want to bring e-commerce in at a later date. That said, WordPress overall can be a bit annoying to use, and is probably now being left behind in terms of the ease of use of it’s CMS.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is a really easy to use platform built around e-commerce. It integrates with payment providers, email platforms and has a good range of add ons. Like WordPress and Magento it’s built using PHP, so a decent developer should be able to get under the skin if needs be. The other advantage is you don’t have to worry about your own hosting, and all the templates (at least the ones I’ve seen) look really good and are fully responsive. On the flip side, there is a small monthly cost – but this isn’t too much and will pay back over WordPress for the ease of use.”
- Magento – “Magento is really the next level up. I’d suggest this for businesses who have ambitions to grow beyond £1.5M. Also if you have back office systems they want to integrate with to send product and stock data into the website, and orders and customer data out. The old v1.9 is due to come to its end of life mid 2020 (a date that has moved previously) and there’s a big push for businesses who need to plan a move to V2. Due to the advances in M2, this isn’t just an upgrade, but effectively a re-platforming project. M2 has loads of cool new features, is easier to use (M1 wasn’t great), and the higher level M2 Commerce and Cloud versions have some good B2B features built in.”
- Wix – “Differently, from Shopify (who provides, both for small scale and big scale e-shops), WIX is only serving small scale business purposes, and is even more user friendly. It also has hundreds of free themes and templates for you to use, so you can build your simple website very quickly. Other than that, WIX is super affordable, as their highest monthly price is $25. WIX offers a very convenient set of SEO tools – including alt texts, descriptions and customizable page titles, which will help your e-shop rank high in the Google search results. All in all, although WIX does not have as many apps and functions as let’s say Shopify and is more simple in the most ways, if you need something specific that WIX doesn’t provide you can always use a third – party app to compensate.”
- WooCommerce – “Since WOO commerce is built on one of the most popular content management systems – WordPress – WOO powers around 40% of all the shops of the world and it’s no wonder, since with a free plug in you can transform any WordPress page into a fully functioning commerce store, and then build any type of website you wish. WOO is very flexible design wise, and super functional; it beats Shopify and Wix in these categories. It is also easy to use for most of the people who have used and worked with WordPress. Although if you are new to online store setup, it will take some time to master WordPress and WOO plug-in features, as it is not as user -friendly as the two other mentioned sites. WOO also suggests lots of free themes and plug ins, and also is very flexible in expanding and extending functionality, although It is more time consuming updating all the plug -ins than it would be in Shopify, where you have it already fully-managed. However, if and when you have big amounts of products to manage, I’d prefer Shopify over Woo. That’s why overall I grade it my #2.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is one of the most popular business e-commerce sites and rightly so. No wonder it’s also my number 2 recommendation. Its highly user-friendly interface helps small business owners with little skill to build their own trendy and cool online stores. As stated I would not directly recommend it for single product or smaller shops. WOO Commerce is often more suitable for that because of its open structure and plugin functionality options. But when things get big and product collection matters get to be a thing I’d go for Shopify. It is a common step for e-commerce shop owners. You can generate your domain name with Shopify’s tool, design your business logo on their site, use the free library of stock photos or even buy an existing online store, it also provides top-notch themes (most of them are not free though). Shopify also offers 24/7 customer support and a mobile app to track your business, which makes it super convenient. All that said, it delivers the most complete, all-in-one online and multichannel sales solution, with an affordable price.”
Euan A Cameron
- Shopify – “Shopify is a brilliant platform for any small business looking to launch an ecommerce site, which not only looks good enough to compete with the big online players, but which also packs in all the essential features. The number of add-ons and baked in integration with the likes of Facebook/Instagram/Google etc. make Shopify my number one choice for any small business looking for a reliable eComms platform. Its also super cost-effective which is important.”
- WooCommerce – “Woocommerce is great if Shopify isn’t your bag, or maybe you already have a WordPress site. It is an incredibly powerful WordPress bolt-on, which enables you to build a fully featured eComms website within a WordPress environment. You won’t get the same level of hand-holding that Shopify provides, and it will take a bit of work with plugins to get tracking etc. but it’s a great alternative option. Plus it can be fun for those who like getting under the hood as the possibilities are endless.”
- Wix – “If you are new to eComms and want a simple drag and drop store in which to sell your products, Wix is a nice option. They provide all the handholding you could ever need. Support is pretty good – not that you will need much, and they also have tracking baked in for Facebook, Adwords and Google Analytics. Its a great stepping stone into the world of eComms, but you will likely outgrow the platform which can cause headaches later on…”
- Shopify – “Shopify is the current defacto go to platform for software as a service (SaaS) online stores – Its intuitive and easy to use and offers a range of services that put it a step above its competitors. One area its particularly strong is in the area of Apps, which are becoming a much larger part of the ecosystem for these online platforms, allowing users to customise their offerings greatly. Additionally, as the biggest player, Shopify can offer significant savings in terms of fees for their platforms and for transactions – a real saving for smaller businesses where every dollar counts.”
- BigCommerce – “The solid number 2 in the online store platforms is definitely BigCommerce – its offering is also very good and has most of the functionality that any store would need. Its cheapest plan is also cheaper than Shopify’s and has more features making it the best bet if you are just starting out and testing the waters online. It also offers a tonne of customisation features within its own platform (rather than relying on apps). Lastly its templates have better AMP integration (a Google mobile initiative) which in the long run may prove more beneficial from a traffic perspective.”
- Volusion – “Volusion, similar to Shopify and Big Commerce is a hosted online platform that is specialised for ecommerce – and it has all the tools you require to run a successful online store. The one area that Volusion really shines is in analytics and reporting tools – They make is super easy to keep track of all the important metrics you need to keep an eye on to manage ROI across channels, as well as order funnels and consumer behaviours. Volusion isn’t as straightforward as some other platforms, but if a robust view of your data is your number one priority, it’s the best platform by far.”
- Shopify – “There is no denying the popularity of Shopify, and it is for good reason. If you are just starting out in eCommerce you can be up and running with Shopify within days – even if you have limited or zero html, design or code experience. It is literally as easy as choosing a theme, adding some products and linking up your PayPal details – and away you go.
Shopify has also done a lot of work recently on its more advanced eCommerce solution – Shopify Plus. So it is possible to start off at very limited cost to get your business up and running and then as you become successful you have the options of upgrading and adding more features. With Shopify you also have the added benefit that it is a SaaS product, so all hosting is taken care of as part of the cost, which is one less thing to deal with, especially when your website is growing and increasing in traffic.”
- WooCommerce – “While Shopify is great for regular ‘shopkeepers’ just looking to sell, WooCommerce is a great option for people who are planning to create lots of content. WordPress is well known for being one of the easiest and most widely accepted platforms for bloggers – mainly because of how easy it is to create pages, drag and drop content and insert various templates and add-on’s with relative ease. So for anyone who either has a blog already and is looking to monetise it by selling product, or for people who plan on creating lots of content alongside their shop, WooCommerce could be the perfect fit. Unlike Shopify, you would be required to host the website yourself. However there are plenty of great services on the market for hosting WordPress, which are inexpensive in the early days when you have low amounts of traffic.”
- Magento – “Now for the third option it was quite hard to decide. I could have easily gone for BigCommerce, WIX, Squarespace or OpenCart – as all have their pros. But I wanted to put a bit of a wildcard out there. Magento historically would not have been a platform I would suggest to a small business – because it was complicated and had lots of hidden costs. However, with the launch of Magento2 and its acquisition by Adobe, I think we will see a much clearer divide between the free version (open source) and the paid version (Commerce) and with this a simplification of the open source version to make it easier for smaller business to utilise the power that the platform has. I would also recommend Magento for any small businesses with ‘big’ ambitions, as if you invest well early on then Magento can easily sustain your business up to £30m turnover and beyond. Like WooCommerce/WordPress, you would be required to host Magento yourself, and because it is a bigger, complex system it will require more sophisticated and powerful hosting than WordPress, so I’d recommend finding a Magento hosting specialist and expect to pay more per month than the other 2 options.”
I am a visual person and have used analogies for simplicity all of my life. In the discussion around website platforms, I think that it is much clearer to use the analogy of building a house.
A website is just like a house – it has a foundation (the platform), it has walls (the structure), it has rooms (the pages and categories) and it is fully furnished (with your content and / or products). A little more on that later.
I started my first eCommerce business is 2010 and although it was such a short time ago, it may as well be in the Neolithic Age as far as the resources that were available then to small business.
My initial website cost me north of $20,000, was clunky, was run by a website design agency who were only interested in their monthly proprietary fees and had absolutely no interest in my business, its strategies or its growth. The initial build took me 5 months, I was overwhelmed with “geek-speak”, I couldn’t customise anything as I wished without outlaying literally thousands of dollars more and I had virtually no control over my own website back-end.
This eCommerce startup ended in tears (mine) and I put the whole concept to bed.
Fast forward a couple of years and I began another eCommerce business with the welcome knowledge that a new breed of website templates had been developed by genius techs who understood the pain points of small business – enter BigCommerce and later, Shopify. Both have their subtle differences and I will outline them a little later.
My second, and subsequent eCommerce sites have all cost me less than $80.00 per month, have taken only days from set up to launch, are highly customisable, easy to operate, change and manipulate and I have full control over my own website.
In terms of our house build analogy, these eCommerce and Shopping Cart website platforms are similar to a kit home building company who is happy to provide excellent customisation and support for you as the DIY website builder or your own contract builder and also continue to enhance and develop their systems to ensure your kit home was constantly modernised and up-to-date.
• Made with the DIY business owner in mind
• Can eliminate the need for an external developer or designer
• An all in one eCommerce and shopping cart solution offering seamless integration with inbuilt applications
• Upgrades and changes to the platform are generally included in a monthly fee
• Although not designed by a community, there are many users and developers equipped to expertly use the platforms and therefore help is never far away
• If required, changing from one developer to another is quite seamless
• SEO friendly
• Easily scalable
• Designed for seamless import and export to and from commonly used payment (e.g. PayPal), accounting (e.g. MYOB), newsletter (e.g. Mail Chimp) and database (e.g. excel) programs
• Information on eCommerce and Shopping Cart website platforms and their capabilities is readily and publicly available
• Sophisticated in-built FAQ, reference and help sections
• Assumes a robust level of web savvy for DIY (although there are many companies / developers who can do the work on your behalf)
• Customisation is limited to the applications within the platform (although, in general, these are vast and cover the needs of most website owners)
• Not designed for highly customised websites
Best suited to
• eCommerce businesses on a budget
• Business owners who prefer to control the project and DIY
• Businesses with quantities of physical products
• Depending on the size and scope of your inventory and customer base, fixed monthly charges for eCommerce and Shopping Cart website platforms will generally range from $49.00 to $199.00 +
- BigCommerce – “I love using BigCommerce – the customer service is fantastic, the choice of templates is robust, the BigCommerce community support is incredible and best of all – the fixed monthly fees are just that – fixed; they are not pegged to revenue so I feel completely in control.
The integrations, APIs and the available applications that link with BigCommerce have grown exponentially over the past 2 years especially and many of the “cool kids” are adopting the platform – check out Skull Candy’s website for some inspiration!
When you have a large inventory or number of options and SKUs, I believe that BigCommerce handle the categorisation of products better than any other DIY eCommerce platform. I also believe that their categorisation and optimisation of a combination of retail and wholesale sales on the one site is second to none.
Although, like previously stated, DIY customisation definitely requires some web nous, the platform is relatively easy and user friendly to work with.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is a beautiful eCommerce platform. Although, in my opinion, not as ideal as BigCommerce, it runs a very close second.
I don’t like that monthly fees are pegged to revenue (unless you utilise their comparatively expensive payment gateway) and I don’t like their simplistic treatment of product categories. Of course, high level customisation would circumvent the latter issue but it is simply too complex for my liking.
Other than those two gripes, the Shopify customer service is excellent and their available basic templates are arguable more attractive at first glance than those of BigCommerce”
- Shopify – “Shopify is an excellent choice for new brands. For ease-of-use, plugins, integrations and speed-to-market, Shopify is the go-to if you’re starting a new online brand. With big-name brands like Budweiser and Tesla utilizing the platform – and a user base north of 500,000 accounts, Shopify use is growing rapidly.
Other advantages to Shopify include easy theme installation and customization. Hosting and SSL are included in Shopify as well. Overall, Shopify represents the easiest solution for brands to get up and running quickly. Whether you’re an eCommerce beginner or advanced, Shopify has solutions, themes, apps and functionality to enable quick start up and rapid growth.
Shopify is particularly strong in fashion, cosmetics and jewelry verticals and has traction in others as well. Recently, Shopify is making a big push for dropshipper accounts and offers easy integration with Oberlo and other integrators of dropship product data.
There are few industries I would consider as “bad fits” for Shopify, but there are instances where it may not be the best solution. Large retailers, those with high SKU counts and those needing advanced CMS functionality may become frustrated with Shopify.
Other potential drawbacks of Shopify include the lack of ultimate coding/design functionality in some cases, scalability concerns for large retailers and rising costs as business grows. A percentage of sales (2.4% & up) is paid to Shopify, but covers credit card/processing services. Consider that this is in addition to regular platform fees ($29 – $299/mo). The percentage of sales payment rate is ok for most start-ups, but many find the fees greater than other solutions at larger sales volumes.
Overall, Shopify is great if you want a fast start-up or growth platform with a large selection of apps and integrations. The interface is user-friendly and there is a multitude of Shopify developers and consultants should the need arise for advanced functionality or customizations.”
- Magento – “With stores like Coca-Cola, Nike & Ford using its platform, Magento is well-situated for larger, mature brands and multi-channel retailers. Magento has a higher cost of ownership at entry point (can be up to $20,000 for a commercial license), but its open-source nature, design flexibility and other benefits can outweigh the costs in large implementations.
Magento is known for creating high ranking SEO pages and stores, enabling B2B commerce and for its development agility. The community of programmers with PHP (the coding language of Magento) is large also.
There are integrations to major, enterprise-level solutions for email, analytics and other marketing and data providers. Most major PIM platforms also work well with Magento. The platform is known for good data management support and superior handling of large SKU counts.
While there are advances in usability with Magento 2, the interface is not as friendly as Shopify. Some basic customizations require familiarity with PHP as well.
As mentioned, licenses for Magento (other than the free “community” edition) can be expensive and the cost of design and development customization can be high. It is important to understand, though, if it is the platform or the business that is driving the need for customization. Those finding Magento development costs high might very well experience the same on other platforms as well. It’s important to compare total costs of ownership for each platform in apples-to-apples format.
Unlike Shopify, Magento does not provide hosting and does not charge processing fees as a percentage of sales. Start-ups or smaller businesses are unlikely to secure much better rates for Magento than Shopify offers. As the business grows, this will change.
All in all, Magento is a good platform if you’re looking for a larger, more flexible and scalable solution. It is good for brands as well as for high SKU count retailers.”
- WooCommerce – “WooCommerce is the most ubiquitous solution on the planet. WordPress.org estimates that a full 30% of online stores worldwide are powered by WooCommerce. WooCommerce is a free commerce-enabling plugin for WordPress. The availability of the plugin makes it easy for a site to add purchase functionality to any site.
WordPress, like Magento, is known for its ability to create high SEO-ranking pages. It has a large community of developers also and offers plugins to most major integrated platforms (such as retargeting platforms, entry-level email service providers and more).
Like Magento, WordPress does not “require” (or “compel”) you to use an internal CC processor. WordPress is open-source and quite flexible in terms of design and development capabilities. WordPress is not a commerce-first platform, but one advantage of using WordPress for commerce is the built-in CMS capabilities.
Plugin conflicts and support are often-cited disadvantages of WooCommerce. Reliance on a developer for advanced functionality can increase the cost of ownership for WooCommerce and some basic customizations can be difficult to affect for those unfamiliar with WordPress backend functionality.
WooCommerce is prevalent in the publishing industry, with stores like Spectator Shop and Men’s Health store utilizing it.
An eCommerce store can be launched quickly and inexpensively with WooCommerce. For those businesses for which content is important, WooCommerce is a great solution. Control of code base and ability to perform well in search engines are compelling benefits for eCommerce businesses on WooCommerce.”
- Shopify – “Perfect for the needs of most small businesses, micro-businesses or individual traders. It’s fuss-free and easy-to-use, which is a key factor for small businesses. No need to spend hours trying to configure a platform or manage complex settings, when you just want to get on with the job. Customisation of the look-and-feel may not be as good as some other platforms, but it’s a small compromise. The Shopify app store is also a great bonus for extending the functionality without breaking the bank.”
- WooCommerce – “Integrates seamlessly with WordPress, so if you’re amongst the millions of WP users, you don’t need to learn a whole new interface. It’s mostly quick and easy to configure, although some elements such as shipping options can be a little head-scratching at times. It’s also easy to customise quite extensively if you have a web developer or know your CSS well. It has many of the features found in much larger eCommerce platforms, without the hefty price tag or the need for an IT team to manage it.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is a cloud-based ecommerce platform that can scale with your business. It’s also a great way to test out a business idea before adding the risk of significant investment.
It has a number of free and paid-for themes giving your store a basic look and feel, which can then be customised. Themes are responsive and optimised for tablets and mobile making it easy to get a good-looking and functional store launched quickly.
The Admin tools are pretty straightforward and one of the best things about the platform; together with site configuration these include basic catalogue, product and content management and reporting as well as promotional tools, such as discount vouchers, as standard. There’s also an Admin app which allows you to manage your store from your phone.
In general, Shopify is fairly easy to customise for technically-minded non-developers. There are lots good apps available to extend the functionality of the core platform. Many are free, some requirement a one-off payment or a monthly fee that scales as your demand grows. Even the most expensive are significantly cheaper than paying for the development of new features on other platforms.
Shopify allows you to manage multiple channels from one place including Facebook stores, online marketplaces and provides a POS solution. But if you have multiple online stores selling across a similar catalogue this might not be the best solution.
The platform is pretty fast with a mature CDN solution providing speedy page loads. Many order management systems and helpdesk solutions now come with plugins for Shopify.
Shopify does have limitations. If you have a complex product type it may be tricky to work out the best way to structure these products and having complete control over the customer journey requires more technical knowledge and investment.
For the basic package there are significant limitations on the customisations you can make to the checkout journey. However you can add some branding and configure delivery and payment methods, even adding new payment methods like Amazon Pay, very easily. Shopify handles all security including Level 1 PCI compliance meaning you don’t have to worry about the safety of your customers’ payment data.
The community of store owners and app developers is global and large, which means that new features and apps are in demand and there’s often someone with experience who can help if you get stuck!”
- Magento – “Magento 2 is a flexible platform which comes in many forms. I have only worked on a self-hosted implementation of the Community edition. There are options for cloud-hosting and a more feature-rich Enterprise edition available.
There is a large collection of themes which can be used to provide the framework for your storefront which range in price. These can then be customised to achieve your desired store. Be sure to check the theme is fully responsive and has as many of the features you need as possible.
The Magento platform allows you to control the entire customer experience. It can handle large catalogues and be extended to handle complex product types.
Magento also allows you to easily manage multiple online stores from one place. If you plan to have multiple brands or specific international sites selling similar products this can save you a lot of time.
The admin tools are very powerful and certainly the standard catalogue, product and campaign management tools are pretty advanced. There is basic content management and merchandising management but I’d recommend looking for addons if your site is content-rich and you have non-technical people running it.
There is a large marketplace of addons which allows you to extend the core functionality of the platform. These range significantly in both price and quality so it’s worth doing your homework first. In my experience some addons can be installed by admin users and some need technical support to get running.
The platform uses the PHP framework making it easy to build your own features and integrations if you have a couple of PHP developers to hand, but obviously this is generally more costly, both at implementation and for ongoing maintenance, than purchasing an addon from the marketplace. You should also be careful about how customisations are implemented to ensure that both the platform and theme upgrades can be done without major rework.
I did find site speed performance an issue, but it’s difficult to know if this was down to hosting, configuration or the core platform, so I would definitely look at cloud-hosting for any new stores.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is by far the best solution for small businesses as it is a complete e-commerce solution. It allows companies to scale their business to new levels of success financially. I have seen numerous clients scale from $0 to over $1M and some over $10M on Shopify successfully. I personally find that it is a solution that grows with you and your business, providing thousands of apps, and is cloud-based meaning you can avoid the headaches and liabilities of self-hosted solutions. We’ve seen dozens of businesses shift from other platforms to Shopify and have not seen any of our clients leave Shopify for another e-commerce platform.”
There are plenty of reviews available for ecommerce platforms comparing functionality in detail. Whilst this is informative, it’s important to understand your own requirements before getting sucked into features. Whenever I’m asked by small businesses for recommendations, I tend to put forward the following considerations:
1. How specific is your business model and operational processes? This will indicate the level of customisation and integrations required for your site.
2. How aggressive is your projected growth trajectory? Scalability for your future success is crucial, both in terms of traffic and new functionality requirements.
3. How digitally mature are you or your team? A realistic plan of how and who is going to manage your site once it is operational is important for gauging the usability.
- Magento – “Magento has to be the top consideration for me given its maturity in the market coupled with rapid delivery on its development roadmap, vital in the constantly evolving landscape of digital commerce. With an open source architecture since its introduction over 10 years ago, and a re-engineered codebase (version 2) 3 years ago, it has the best of both worlds in market ubiquity among web developers and agencies the world over, along with a modern technology stack. What this means for the small business is a marketplace of (approved) extensions larger than other platforms, greater breadth of choice in developers who can build and maintain your site and a greater performance, usability and functionality, as well as experience for your customer.
Magento really stands out for flexibility and customisation and this is the reason that creative brands and businesses with specific requirements favour this platform. It pays to select a developer that understands Magento well to ensure your site is built for performance and with the future in mind, but with a large developer network, there is plenty of choice.
Pricing wise, Magento continues to offer their ‘Open Source’ edition which is free to download and use. This is ideal if you are a lean startup and it can be migrated to the ‘Commerce’ edition later when you need the support and additional functionality.
I’m excited by the acquisition from Adobe earlier this year and looking forward to seeing this market leading commerce platform integrated with best-of-breed marketing and advertising suites for a true customer lifecycle digital experience. I would consider Magento in the majority of instances for my business and particularly if I wanted to stand out from competitors with a compelling experience.”
- BigCommerce – “I like how BC have progressed recently. As a private company with the last of several funding rounds in the bank from earlier this year, they are building out their partner network globally and rapidly enhancing the platform. One of the leading SaaS platforms, they provide the full service with hosting included, and usability is a key strength. They have an open architecture philosophy and growing their integrations with other platforms including CMS platforms, WordPress and Acquia in recent months, which means you can develop your site with both content and commerce.
Where SaaS platforms lack the customisation of Magento, they generally provide a speedy site setup and ease of use. I would consider BigCommerce if my business required little customisation and I wanted as little technical input on decisions as possible.”
- Shopify – “Shopify has had tremendous growth over the last few years, building out their suite of platforms and services, integrations with 3rd parties and a very solid marketing campaign. As another SaaS platform, it has a similar offering to BigCommerce but focuses more on an extended suite of proprietary services (e.g. payment gateway and POS solution). Shopify also has an extensive list of plugins to enhance the functionality, however these can add to the fees considerably so it pays to be aware of the total costs.
Shopify is promoted as a side hustle and I would consider it personally if I had a simple side project to set up with little time available.”
Choosing an ecommerce platform is one of the most critical decisions a small business can make. Picking the wrong platform can be a costly mistake, severely limiting your ability to grow and scale your business. It’s something I’ve seen repeatedly in my consulting career and can be difficult for a company to recover from. Companies often weigh ease of use, name recognition, or a flashy UI over capabilities, which is a huge mistake.
Making the right choice requires careful planning and detailed requirements gathering. While it’s nice to have a visually pleasing interface with drag-and-drop functionality, there are several factors that are far more important to consider if you’re serious about building a successful e-commerce business. Some of the most critical are scalability, compatibility/integrations with other platforms, and standard features vs. those requiring custom development.
There are a large number of platforms to choose from, but the three that I most often recommend to small business clients are Miva Merchant, WooCommerce, and Shopify.
All three are solid platforms, and you can run a successful ecommerce business on any of the three, but each has strengths and weaknesses that should be considered before choosing the one that most closely aligns to the specific needs of your business.
- Miva – “My top pick. I have built two successful ecommerce businesses and managed the development of several others on the Miva Merchant platform. Miva is an incredibly powerful, flexible platform, and is easily one of the most highly underrated platforms out there.
One of Miva’s key differentiators is a robust set of standard, built-in features included in the base package. Basic features like wish lists, saved baskets, abandoned cart campaigns, and automated order tracking require costly upgrades or custom integrations to build on some of the more popular platforms.
Miva’s base package also includes inventory monitoring, real-time shipping calculations, workflow automation, revenue tracking, reporting/analytics and pre-built integrations with popular third party platforms.
At just $79/month, Miva’s feature-rich base plan is hard to beat, and the platform easily scales up to handle everything from high-volume drop shippers that require complex shipping/tax calculations, to the largest Enterprise accounts.
o Highly customizable
o Well-designed starter themes
o Large, experienced developer network
o Highly Scalable
o Excellent user interface
o Great SEO features
o Pre-built integrations with popular external tools and platforms
o Non-standard functionality can get quite expensive to develop, especially if custom integrations are required.
o Not open-source. If you can’t find a module that does what you need, you’ll need to hire a developer or learn Miva Script.
o Miva Script- Steep learning curve, but once you get it, you get it.”
- WooCommerce – “WooCommerce combines all the benefits of the WordPress platform with excellent e-commerce capabilities. WooCommerce is not a stand-alone platform. Rather, it is an open-source e-commerce plugin for WordPress, which happens to be both its greatest strength and weakness.
WordPress isn’t just for blogging anymore. It has become one of the most robust and well-supported web development platforms, with a large developer network and thousands of beautifully designed themes to use as a framework for building your site. There are countless plugins available, allowing you to extend the functionality of your site to meet business needs.
The WooCommerce plugin allows you to turn just about any WordPress site into a fully functional e-commerce business.
It’s easy to find well-qualified developers to build just about any feature you can imagine – which is important, because doing it internally can be a frustrating, time-consuming experience. If your business doesn’t have internal resources with the expertise to build or support a WordPress site, you’ll have to hire that work out, and that can get quite expensive.
• Built on the WordPress platform
• Large developer network
• Thousands of well-designed themes
• Excellent SEO capabilities
• Highly Scalable
• Easy pre-built integrations with popular CRM, Analytics/BI, and Marketing tools
• Steep learning curve to master both WordPress and WooCommerce
• May require numerous plugins, which can quickly become quite expensive
• Large number of plugins can become cumbersome to manage”
- Shopify – “Shopify is among the most user-friendly e-commerce platforms. If you’re looking for turn-key functionality, and are comfortable with a more basic feature set, Shopify is an excellent solution. Pricing plans to accommodate businesses of all sizes. Plans geared toward small businesses start at $29/month, making it easy to start small and scale up with minimal effort.
The Basic plan allows you to sell across multiple channels, create an unlimited number of products, and offers basic marketing features like abandoned cart campaigns. More advanced features require an upgrade to a more expensive plan, but the process is instantaneous. Shopify does offers an Enterprise-level option called Shopify Plus, which is ideal for high-volume businesses, but quite expensive.
While Shopify is an excellent solution for many small businesses, it’s far from perfect and has some significant limitations. There are some very basic features that will require an upgrade to the advanced plan – like the ability to display calculated shipping rates from UPS/Fedex at checkout, or choose a less expensive credit card processor.
o User friendly
o Beautifully designed themes make it easy to design your site
o Respectable set of e-commerce features
o Expensive credit card processing
o Some very basic features require a costly upgrade.
o Can get frustrating trying to tease out what should be standard functionality.
o The themes are well designed, but everyone uses the same ones, which makes it hard for your site to stand out.”
- Magento – “If you are technically minded or have someone on your team, I recommend Magento Opensource. Magento has been on the scene for a long time and has developed into a very mature and stable product. Recently bought by Adobe, they are continuing to maintain the opensource version of the product.
A lot of big and small ecommerce shops run on Magento, including tech company www.hpe.com, Gardening Centre chain www.gardeningexpress.co.uk and fashion brand www.hellyhansen.com.
You will need to host and set up the product yourself, but you get complete control over all elements of the system and you can customise it to your needs. A healthy development community and ecosystem means you can get plugins and extensions to integrate with almost any system you need. While totally free, you will need some beefy hosting power to run the system efficiently.”
- Kooomo – “Powering online brands like www.missbikini.com and www.butlerschocolates.com, Kooomo is a completely managed platform for ecommerce sites.
Kooomo work with you to get you set-up and running, build your online brand and most importantly get you connected to over 60 global marketplaces so you can start selling around the world. It is obviously a more expensive system than Magento, however it sets up and manages the platform for you, freeing you up to focus on sales and growth.”
- Brightpearl – “If you achieve any kind of scale, the back-office quickly becomes unmanageable. Shipping, returns, customer service, inventory, purchasing, and accounting begin to take over and limit your growth. This is where Brightpearl steps in. It improves your efficiency in your ecommerce business with back office automation and connects your systems. Of course, this is one of those nice problems to have. At which point you will have no problem investing in a system like this.”
- Shopify – “Shopify has totally disrupted the eCommerce Platform market over the past few years by reducing complexity, championing usability and reducing time to market for eCommerce builds. Even those with little or no eCommerce experience can setup a stunning eCommerce store in a matter of hours by utilizing one of Shopify’s pre-built themes. The platform also has an excellent library of apps which allows you to add features (Abandon Basket emails for example) with ease. The Shopify online knowledge base is also extensive and, if you do need a helping hand, the Shopify Experts directory will help you source freelance support in no time at all.
However, the real beauty of Shopify is the power under the hood and the platform’s excellent scalability. The solution is absolutely suitable for larger businesses or those planning to scale as it benefits from a large variety of advanced features and extensive customization options which can utilized by developers as a business grows.
Watch out for: Before on-boarding, ensure you understand the fee structure. Unlike some other eCommerce Platforms, Shopify charges a fee per transaction in addition to a monthly service fee. This works well for small businesses as it requires very little capital investment upfront but as sales grow, so do costs.”
- Magento – “Until recent years the opensource version of Magento (Community) was my go-to platform for eCommerce Startups with plans to scale. The core platform is a tried and tested eCommerce engine with a 19.64% of the top 1 million Alexa rated websites (https://pagely.com/blog/top-ecommerce-platforms-2018-compared/). Unlike Shopify, Magento community has no monthly fees attached, but beware, you’ll need to host the platform yourself and will most certainly need support from a developer to help with configuration, customization and integrations.
With the right technical support Magento is super flexible, stable and powerful. Again, the platform comes with an extensive plugin library (tip: these can create security vulnerabilities, always check the suppliers thoroughly before installing) and a robust knowledge base.
Watch out for: The key watch out with Magento is the lack of support and the vulnerabilities a self-hosted environment can present. Ensure you enlist a Magento certified agency or freelance developer before on-boarding to the platform to help mitigate these risks.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is a great platform for SMEs for a number of reasons. Firstly you do not need much money to set it up or manage it, and in terms of order processing/handling it’s very simple to manage. There are lots of great themes to use plus there is a great network of Shopify developers should you want to customise.
Shopify also supports all of the major payment gateways and is very easy to setup. There are lots of free apps to use and it’s simple to set up. For a simple platform which is easy to manage and customise, Shopify is the one.”
- PrestaShop – “PrestaShop is also a good platform for small businesses and similar to Shopify, but is suited perhaps for larger turnover sites with bigger product catalogs. PrestaShop also enables you to expand in a multitude of languages whereas Shopify does not have this functionality. PrestaShop is open source meaning you can access the source code should you wish, plus it has a large community of developers.
PrestaShop is fairly easy to use and has a wealth of add-ons and plugins, which can be easily switched on and off – plus is fully customizable.”
- Wix – “For simplicity and ease of setup, I would look at an affordable Store Builder solution such as Wix. Very easy to set up and great range of templates, WIX websites can look very good indeed! A simple drag and drop set up means any one can set up in no time and it also has a range of add ons.
WIX is not that great in terms of SEO and is not that customizable without the plugins it comes with, plus it is not a powerful ecommerce solution (eg if you have hundreds of product to manage).”
Worldwide ecommerce sales are expected to grow to 4.88 trillion US dollars by 2021. As more consumers turn to online shopping, launching your own ecommerce store can be an effective growth strategy for your business.
Though it might seem daunting to enter the world of ecommerce, there are many easy-to-use ecommerce platforms that can help you create your own store.
I strongly recommend that small business owners leverage the following ecommerce platforms to grow their businesses.
- BigCommerce – “BigCommerce caters to the needs of both small and large businesses with a plethora of ecommerce tools. It helps you create and customize your online store, manage shipping and payments, and list your products on Amazon, eBay, and Facebook. This platform helps you deliver the ultimate shopping experience to increase engagement and sales.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is another popular all-in-one ecommerce platform that comes with a plethora of built-in features to help you start, run, grow, and market your online store. You can build beautiful, easy-to-use, customized online stores using their 100+ shop themes. Their built-in tools can also help you run and optimize effective marketing campaigns on Facebook and Google.”
- Wix – “Wix is an easy-to-use ecommerce platform that allows people with no coding experience to create impressive online stores. You can easily showcase products, track orders, receive payments, share coupons, and manage shipping and taxes. Wix automatically optimizes your ecommerce stores for mobile devices for good customer experience.”
- Shopify – “I’d recommend Shopify as the best e-commerce platform for small businesses. I think for some smaller brands, the idea of setting up an online retail store can be quite daunting, but Shopify is an affordable, easy to use option that can scale with your business. It’s also really user friendly, which I think is important as many small businesses don’t have a dedicated marketing team or web developer to build a site for them. Shopify invest a lot into their development – if there’s a new app or technology trend that you want for your site, it’s almost certain that Shopify will have it. I also really like the fact that there are so many themes and options available, so you can easily customise your site to suit your brand.”
- WooCommerce – “This is THE combination I would recommend. I’ve been creating eCommerce websites since 1996. I’ve worked for tremendously successful web agencies and over the 22 years I’ve seen some sharp practices.
Agencies using their own bespoke, hand-written code to create an eCommerce CMS will boast about quality, speed, reliability, but in actuality, the customer is heavily played: paying much more for a website than needs be, needing to wait for new features, and each time an idea is needed to be implemented by the client, then barriers are hit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of quality coding, but not at the expense of the client, and certainly not when there are perfectly respectable alternatives.
The combination of WordPress and the shopping cart WooCommerce has proven (for my business and my clients) an excellent tool. If one knows what they are doing, then one can create an effective Roadmap to help clients plan, design, launch, promote, and manage an eCommerce website. Choosing carefully which plugins to use, being extremely careful with the hosting platform, then a client simply won’t see ANY disadvantages from using this platform.
With WordPress, one can easily create stunning designs, implement great CSS, create bespoke designs and user experiences. Websites can be made to work brilliantly on mobiles, tablets, and desktops (remember the difficulties posed by bespoke CMS frameworks in trying to get sites to work well on mobiles – how slow, how costly!).
WordPress and WooCommerce are updated regularly. If an agency knows what it’s doing then ‘off the shelf’ tools can be used to achieve astonishingly complex tasks.
Scalability is not a problem either. If you’re an SME with between £500,000 and £10,000,000 of revenue then this is the solution for you. It’s easy to use and can provide everything needed to make online sales. For example, we’ve recently launched a WordPress eCommerce website with over 90,000 products, from multiple suppliers, with bespoke customer tiered pricing, full stock-control and more.
With Magento this would have cost in excess of £20,000, with a bespoke solution… well, much, much more. But with WordPress, well, let’s just say the client got the deal of the century.
WordPress allows the web agency to use its skills and experience to help get an eCommerce website up and running quickly and to help clients start selling quickly… rather than being stuck in the quagmire of waiting for coders, CSSers, designers, and digital marketers to all complete their work first (and then more than likely be stuck with an out of date platform)!
I cannot shout from the rooftops loudly enough just how effective WordPress is for an SME. Often SME’s don’t have the staff to learn about websites and eCommerce, but they can be taught to manage a website, especially if it’s been built with WordPress. Furthermore, if they get stuck then there’s a plethora of help and advice on the web (the same can’t be said for custom CMS’s can it?).
Finally, if the client gets fed-up with the agency, as WordPress and WooCommerce is Open Source, then the core of the website is Open and GPL Licenced, meaning the website can be zipped up and given to another web agency, instead of being stuck in the hands of a web agency who can all too easily hold a website to ransom.
I fully support the WordPress & WooCommerce combination.”
- Magento – “Magento is good. But boy is it bloated. It takes quite some server resource to run it (it has so many modules, which requires better hosting and that of course means passing on the cost to the client).
It also takes a long time to configure… it’s just not as flexible as WordPress. Yes WordPress isn’t as well thought out when it comes to the database structure, but does this truly matter to the client or their visitors? Certainly not! If the web agency knows what it’s doing then WordPress will beat Magento hands down. Some say Magento is great for reports, this is true, but we’ve managed to arm ourselves with a wide range of tools to help clients drill down through tonnes of data to understand what’s happening on their website(s)… whether it’s connecting to an older Sage Line 50 software, or to a modern Cloud based accounts package, WordPress handles this all too easily.
Bottom line: Magento is good. But, the client will need to be charged more and it will take more time to complete. Why would anyone do that? Probably because they’ve been told that WordPress is the poor relation, but often I find that these comments come from coders who are effectively protecting their own jobs, their own purpose in the world. After-all, if WordPress gets any more popular then these very same coders (if they wish to stay in low-to-mid-level eCommerce development) will need to join the ranks of WordPress proponents or go and work for WordPress themselves!”
A third platform? Not going to suggest one. Oh, WordPress. Have I mentioned WordPress?
- Shopify – “Shopify is a great tool for small businesses. It’s easy to use and doesn’t require any coding or tech skills to get started, and the software can grow as your business grows. Shopify is a highly optimized solution (mobile and desktop) with minimal effort on set up. Shopify also offers small businesses loans through their Shopify Capital program to help entrepreneurs get the funds they need to grow their business. Hosting with Shopify does give them control of your store data.”
- WooCommerce – “WooCommerce is a plugin used for WordPress sites. It requires hosting and a working WordPress installation to run. WooCommerce/WordPress gives you access to thousands of site designs and plugins that will enable you to extend the functionality of your store. You’re in full control of your eCommerce store but it does require a little more set up”
- Magento – “Magento is a great eCommerce platform for small business due to the fact that they have more features than many other platforms. It allows for more customization for companies selling B2B. Magento Community edition is free as well as open source, which makes it very accessible to anyone. Another great feature is that it is optimized for SEO by default. It is a little more technical than the other two options and requires a little more customization and set up.”
All three platforms are great to use for small Ecom businesses, it just depends on your budget, time and technical knowledge and skill set.
- Magento – “Magento for quite some time has been the open source platform that allows you to build your own local hosted ecommerce sites, as well as managed cloud deployment. One of the reasons I like Magento is the wide range of free and paid design templates, as well as many plugins to expand the core platform’s features & functionality. It’s a great choice for any business dipping their toes for the first time in ecommerce through to large well-known companies who are looking at open source options and fast turnaround deployments.”
- Shopify – “Shopify – is another great, easy to setup, easy to use platform that will help you grow your business. Shopify is an out-of-the-box ecommerce solution for both small and medium/large online businesses, again with some great selections in template and plugins. It’s great for someone without development or design experience, who wants an intuitive user interface as well as a good selection of marketing assistance including Google Smart shopping and Facebook ads within the Shopify platform.”
- Wix – “WIX is an ecommerce platform which again is very popular within the SME community. I think is great for a small to medium size business looking to have a professional store representation online. The drag and drop option makes WIX pretty easy and enjoyable to use. The features and functionalities are quite rich and should be adequate for most businesses starting off and growing their online revenue.”
- Wix – “They’ve really gone above and beyond with the latest website and eCommerce offering. Even an eCommerce novice can create a slick mobile friendly site using their drag and drop service. It’s great knowing you’re not held at gunpoint by an eCommerce agency when you’re just a small business or a startup. You can now cut out the developers and bring in a digital content creator as a permanent fixture in your team to maintain and style your site. If you outgrow this model and need to bring in a developer for more custom modules/functionality on your site then you’ve at least got an idea of what works and doesn’t before you spend the big bucks.”
- bluCommerce – “They’re a little more costly than a typical startup website, but blubolt (the agency that manages bluCommerce) will manage every aspect of your site… hosting, design, maintenance, support etc so all you have to do is manage the product catalog and content creation moving forward.
They also have some amazing modules for customer retention, personalization, promotions and managing seasonal changes with ease. All can be included in your initial start-up cost or bolted on as your business grows.
They also won’t shy away from unusual/unique warehouse integrations and proactively seek new ways to improve their platform and keep it current. This is all included in your standard monthly retainer! Because they own all aspects of the software they’re completely accountable for when something goes wrong so will deal with it swiftly…. Unlike the Magento’s of the world.”
- WooCommerce – “WordPress, and of course Woo-Commerce, cover almost every scenario, present and future…and this is why we like it. You’re practically future proofing your business! Unless you’re going truly Global with franchise stores then WordPress & Woo-Commerce will have you covered. You may argue WordPress is better suited to businesses that are no longer start-ups, and are in the SME arena. This is because it will be more expensive to set up and a little more complex, but that’s the price you pay for future proofing your business.
Ideally you’ll set up a bespoke solution. This will make your website more secure and less likely to crash, but even more important than that is you will spend less time and money on needing to update templates etc
Here’s some other good reasons to use WordPress:
• Easy to use and navigate through the Content Management System (CMS)
• Bespoke can mean both beautiful and unique designs
• Arguably the best Search Engine Optimisable (SEO) CMS out there
• Open Source and you own all the code
• Has a 24 hour support team and equally as important it has thriving community of independent developers
Here’s the downsides:
• If it’s not a bespoke design, then you will need to keep on top of updates
• It will take more development time and therefore cost then the Shopify or Big Commerce solutions
If you have a little more budget and you’re certain of success then a bespoke WordPress & Woo-Commerce is a no brainer.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is a great option for ‘start-ups’ for a number of reasons which include;
• It’s very easy to use, not just in setting up but also for processing orders and the day-to-day running of a website
• Cost effective
• Looks professional and very smart
• Has a 24 hour support team and equally as important it has thriving community of independent developers
There are more plus sides than noted above, but these are the key factors you should take in to consideration. However, with all the plus sides there’s also some downsides too:
• Shopify is not open source and as a result you don’t have complete freedom to do what you want. Ultimately, the site doesn’t truly belong to you
• For products and main pages SEO is okay but you will have to deal with added terms being added to some URL’s, which limits some of your SEO
I almost always recommend Shopify for ‘start-ups’ because you can build out a really beautiful online shop with ease. It’s easy to use from a back-end point of view as well. It will last you for quite a few years and depending on your business aspirations you may never need to change CMS. In the future you may feel you need to move to another platform like WordPress or even Magento.”
- BigCommerce – “Now I have a confession, we mostly work with Shopify, which would be BigCommerce’s direct competitor. There’s not much between them so I’ll not go in to too much detail here. BigCommerce is a solid and simple platform, just like Shopify and you can have more Staff Accounts.
However, Pricing is almost identical as are many other features. BigCommerce does not have a proposition to match Shopify’s cheapest offering ‘Shopify Lite’, but then if you’re serious about your e-commerce offering, you would not use Shopify Lite anyway – it’s too basic.
Design options, User Experience and Extensions on both platforms are very good and in equal measure. Shopify’s just been around longer and is used by online retailers ‘considerably’ more often. These are the only real reasons why we lean towards Shopify over BigCommerce, but you won’t go far wrong with BigCommerce. We believe it comes down to a personal preference.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is the most popular e-commerce platform, because it is relatively easy to use. There are a ton of plugins to enhance the user experience and upsells.”
- WooCommerce – “WooCommerce works on WordPress which is another popular platform. Many people are familiar with it and also has a lot of flexibility and customizations.”
- Magento – “While Magento is a well-established platform and is very flexible and scalable, the reason it is not higher on my list because it’s expensive. Also, over the years support has lacked and is nowhere near the level of support that Shopify offers. ”
- Shopify – “Shopify is the market leader which makes it easy to get up and running quickly if you’re new to the world of Ecommerce. They are the fastest to get up and running and operate on a SAAS model (Software As A Service). They have a huge variety of options to choose from and there is a big community of users out there to help. And also a large number of partners who can help with creating the store and integrating it into your business.”
- Magento – “Magento is free but you have to host it and build it, which is not what most people want to do so many Magento solutions are built by partners who will build it as per your requirements. This can be what many people are looking for to have some experts to hold your hand as you build out the ecommerce business line within your business. Magento does give a bigger range of options and may be better if your requirements are more complex.”
- EKM – “EKM Powershop is a British company that powers over 50,000 shops in the UK and has dedicated UK account managers that can help you. As well as all the features you would expect the functionality is all built natively, so there are no issues with compatibility as you some time get with 3rd party developed apps as platforms change.”
- Shopify – “This is an obvious choice. It’s the easiest platform to use and the cost of ownership is low because it’s a SaaS product that anyone can learn without a lot of technical knowledge. It is now being used on bigger and bigger sites and is a great fit for most small companies looking to grow with eCommerce. My recommendation is to use a theme and identify the apps you need and you should be able to get started easily even without a lot of third party help.”
- BigCommerce – “BigCommerce is a slightly more enterprise product than Shopify, but is still great for small companies. It also has a low cost of ownership because it’s a SaaS product that anyone can learn without a lot of technical knowledge. This is a great fit for smaller B2B companies and companies that want to scale on a SaaS platform without having to re-platform as they grow. It has a lot of built in features that make it more powerful than Shopify out of the box and apps to grow with.”
- Magento – “I would certainly not suggest a small company to pay for an expensive enterprise license. However, the Magento Open Source edition is designed for smaller companies looking to grow with the power of a leading eCommerce platform without the heavy license cost. I suggest Magento here because it’s actually a good eCommerce platform as opposed to the popular open source alternative, WooCommerce, because it has proven to scale. This is certainly a fit for more technical companies, but I feel it is a better fit than the alternatives, that although might be cheaper, will not get you very far. I see many business struggling with WooCommerce because it’s not really an eCommerce platform first and the plugins can be crippling. If you want to go open source eCommerce, I suggest Magento.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is the platform with the most momentum at the moment and is certainly the cool kid on the block in the small business market. Shopify is focused on a lot of small businesses’ biggest challenges through solid offerings in product databases and inventory management system functionality; this gives ease in building channels across multiple websites and marketplaces.
If you’re a business that has lots of inventory (congratulations!) you need a robust platform and Shopify delivers in spades. Consumers spend their time on the front end, but small business operators are in the backend and Shopify excels on the administration front.
Unlike other platforms, Shopify handles payment gateways much more efficiently baking them into the offer without messing around with additional apps. And unlike open-source competitors, Shopify has a dedicated support team that can handle all aspects of the platform.”
- Magento – “Magento has long been the leader in eCommerce platforms built off the open-source nature of the software appealing to developers across the globe. After the recent acquisition by Adobe, Magento now has endless riches sitting in the coffers to stave of competitors who have made up ground in recent years by focusing on user experience.
A big selling point is the Magento Community version that is free and gives small business owners a chance to get their business live and trading at minimal cost compared to many other platforms. As your business grows it is not difficult to upgrade, although you will be needing to shift onto a payment tier and will need to employ a decent agency to assist with the build.
Not that it will be hard to find someone to assist, as Magento has a village of capable partners that will help small businesses grow technically and connect you to a marketplace of third-party integrations that will handle most of what you could ever need.
Magento has a plethora of built-in eCommerce features such as promotional pricing, newsletter management, multi-language support, virtual products, layered navigation, personalized products, etc. that essentially just leaves open source competitors for dead.
Finally, Magento was the first platform to embrace the logistics market partnering with companies such as DHL and FedEx to deliver Magento Shipping, which takes away the pain of shipping for small businesses.”
- WooCommerce – “WooCommerce is competitive with leading enterprise eCommerce applications, but because it’s free, any small business can take advantage of this platform without fear of expensive support contracts or proprietary software licenses.
The modular nature is attractive for any business and especially small businesses where you are learning who you are and may need to pivot at any time. Commitment is hard when you are growing, so knowing that WooCommerce has a raft of developers in the background to dig you out of any situation is comforting.
Plugins can be your friend and WooCommerce has more than you’ll ever need. WooCommerce has WordPress as a parent so you know flexibility and functionality is at the heart of the platform. More than other platforms, WooCommerce has digital sales in its toolbox, so small businesses can theoretically sell anything from Jordan sneakers to digital games and everything in-between.
WooCommerce is made for selling and will give you heaps of advantages. With over a 100 payment gateways that can be setup, shipping capabilities and inventory management, this platform will save you a heap on ‘additional’ requirements that you so often get hit with when you start a business.”
- Shopify – “Most small businesses can do well with Shopify. An ecommerce website can be set up easily, and the back office functionality is intuitive and well-documented. Apps to integrate with other platforms and to expand website functionality are generally easy to install and have low up-front costs. Where Shopify fails is with highly configurable products, where you’re limited in the total number of combinations of size, color, and other attributes. As it is a hosted platform, you’ll need to host your WordPress blog on a subdomain if you want more functionality than the very basic built-in blogging software. If you do go with Shopify, be sure to pay a little extra for abandoned cart recovery; it’s a nice feature. You’ll also need a quality developer who understands how to code in Liquid, and they’re a bit harder to find than most.”
- BigCommerce – “BigCommerce is an excellent ecommerce platform for small businesses that want a bit more flexibility in building their websites than Shopify will allow for, and you get more functionality out of the box. It’s a little less intuitive, but you can get an end result that’s closer to exactly what you want, particularly when it comes to configurable products and SEO. BigCommerce does have a much smaller variety of apps available, partly because so much functionality is already built into the platform.”
- WooCommerce – “Believe it or not, I would choose WordPress, enabled with WooCommerce over a more robust platform like Magento Community, when it comes to small businesses. Although the original intent for WordPress was as a blogging platform, it’s highly customizable both as a CMS and as an ecommerce platform. The back end isn’t what you’d expect with a traditional shopping cart, but WooCommerce is a breeze to learn, particularly if you already know how to navigate the WordPress back end. Unlike Magento, upgrades and bug fixes are relatively easy to perform and don’t always require the touch of a skilled developer. The one drawback to self-hosted WordPress websites is that you will be more responsible for maintaining website security than with a hosted platform like Shopify. If you have the means and discipline to keep your website updated and backed up, then it’s more than compensated for by the SEO benefits and other flexibility you get with hosting your own website.”
When we are working with small businesses, three main marketplaces we recommend are Magento, Big Commerce and Shopify. The rationale for all three are quite different – though some can make a huge difference in the long term.
- Shopify – “The entry level platform that we tend to look at is Shopify – you may have heard about them through brands like GymShark and HERA that have rapidly grown on the platform.
Shopify is great for startups as with a low monthly fee; no need for updates and you have fewer unexpected surprises than with other platforms. A lot of fast fashion startups use the platform as it has the right level of customisation, and you can easily extend the functionality.
Where you do need to be careful is with two main areas – there are fewer customisation options with Shopify compared to other platforms such as Woo Commerce and Magento and this can limit creativity.
The other thing to properly work out are the fees and charges you will pay. Starting at $29 a month, the costs may sound reasonable but the charges from ShopifyPay start at 2.2 percent – and if you want to use an alternative payment provider, you’ll be charged for this too.
In addition to these fees, also consider how much plug-ins will cost you that help extend the functionality of the software. Often costing under $10 a month they do sound attractive, but this all adds up.”
- BigCommerce – “Big Commerce is very similar to Shopify – in fact, you could probably copy and paste the benefits that I have written above and just switched the name – they also have a very similar pricing strategy.
We tend to suggest Big Commerce over Shopify as it offers better flexibility with features such as being able to install WordPress to run your blog, which has benefits in terms of the different page layouts your agency can design for you.
The next area is looking at the cost side of things – Big Commerce don’t charge you a fee for using your own choice of payment provider and this can bring huge savings as your business grows.
Big Commerce isn’t as well known in Europe as it is in the US, but don’t overlook it – the platform is cost effective, very powerful and will continue to grow with your digital sales.”
- Magento – “One of the best-known eCommerce platforms is Magento – it is used by many of the largest retailers in the country, and brands such as Ford, Nespresso and Samsung are examples of recent businesses using the platform.
The biggest difference between Magento and the platforms I’ve spoken about earlier is that Magento is hosted separately, so whilst the software starts with a free version, you will have to pay a reputable hosting company to host the website. This gives you some independence – but it can become very costly.
Because you host Magento yourself, you also need to keep on top of installing security patches – if you don’t and your website gets hacked, you could have a GDPR nightmare on your hands!
That said, Magento continues to be a clear favourite by agencies and retailers because of the levels of customisation you can undertake with the site – both creatively and technically. It is often the case that you can achieve things with Magento that other platforms simply can’t.”
- Shopify – “I highly recommend the Shopify platform for anyone looking to start a new eCommerce venture. Although the back end is not particularly intuitive for updating the site, there is a lot of help available, some great add-ons to unlock additional long term value of customers and it is extremely easy to setup payment methods, fulfill orders and update customers. There is also an app that can be downloaded from the Play Store/App Store that is a great tool for modifying inventory, order fulfilment, basic analytics and more. I only wish there was such a low-cost platform available when I started my first venture back in 2007 because an entry point of only $30 USD is affordable and appealing because you aren’t handing all of your client information and business being potentially shut down with little explanation with the likes of being just on a platform like Amazon.”
- Shopify – “When it comes to an ecommerce platform for a small business seller, you have to be realistic about expectations from the platform vs your own in-house abilities and where/how you prioritize different aspects of your business. Let’s face it, in 2019, it is not as easy as it has been in the past to run a viable, sustainable ecommerce business. With my clients, I recommend things based on what I would use myself if I were in their shoes, with their advantages and disadvantages taken into consideration.
I would recommend Shopify first for several reasons, the most important of which being all-around flexibility and their commitment to staying on the cutting edge of new technologies. Shopify is a hosted solution. They have a legion of developers working to stay on top of their systems. Google requirements & other standards are hard to stay on top of for a small business with stretched resources. Shopify removes the burden of many of those worries as these items are built right into the system.
Shopify is very easy to sign up to and go live. They do not have the largest selection of free templates, but their liquid code makes altering those templates very easy once you understand the process. I’ve gone live with stores in less than 5 hours in the past with no issues. The back-end is very useful and easy to use for anyone at any skill level. I had an older woman as a client for a long time who did extremely well on Shopify in a male dominated sector. She wasn’t doing any programming, but used the back-end interface with very few problems.
Shopify has a large partner network with custom themes available, apps, integrating systems and support. It is very easy to find all of the functions that you need and plug them into the store. One important feature of Shopify that is unmatched is it’s flexibility and integration as a standalone POS. It gives the seller the opportunity to take payments like any brick and mortar store without the extra equipment like cash registers and payment readers. Shopify also integrates with Facebook, Pinterest and other platforms, extending its usefulness beyond just a website standalone interface. Shopify is an all-around solution both online and offline. This is unmatched among competitors.”
- BigCommerce – “BigCommerce comes in right behind Shopify and appeals to the more technical entrepreneur. BigCommerce also offers many of the flexible solutions for selling on other platforms that Shopify does minus the POS. It also offers many of the backend capabilities that Shopify does. The backend of BigCommerce looks and functions similar to Shopify as well. Really for some the difference between the two comes down to personal opinion. However, from my point of view the POS offering that BigCommerce does not have makes it a close second place.”
- Volusion – “If your eCommerce product offering is centered around a small group of sku’s, Volusion is quite easy to use and fairly flexible. They offer many of the same features as the others. Their setup interface is a little easier as it has video walkthroughs and there is a lot of hand holding with each new feature that you use. Someone experienced like myself finds that annoying, but for a new seller or user, it comes in handy. Volusion offers less themes than Shopify but they are all free and responsive. Volusion has been around since 1999. It used to come in two versions, now only one which is focused on ease of use. It still is a little clunky on the backend UI but navigatable nevertheless. Volusion has a cap of 1000 products, but no cap on amounts of orders or anything of the sort.”
WooCommerce on WordPress if you only have a few products to sell.
Shopify for do-it-yourself ecommerce stores.
Magento if you are an established ecommerce business who can afford a developer.
- WooCommerce – “If you have a blog or content site and want to expand by selling a few products, all you need is WooCommerce. It is a lightweight WordPress plugin that is free, easy to use, and scales to thousands of products. Research shows that some stores with millions of page views a month and 4000+ products are successfully running on WooCommerce.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is a great choice for starting a do-it-yourself ecommerce site that isn’t being installed on an existing WordPress site. You can get started inexpensively, and then keep adding features from Shopify Addons that will increase conversions such as cross-selling, upselling, and enhanced descriptions and images as you can afford them.”
- Magento – “When a store owner I know switched to Magento, their sales doubled almost overnight. That is reason alone to consider this option; however, only if you can afford to hire a developer. I would only recommend this option as a migration for stores with sufficient existing profits to make paying a developer financially feasible.”
All three of these options score highly as being among the best ecommerce platforms for SEO. Being able to drive free organic traffic from search engines using SEO best practices will be essential to your store being profitable.
Honorable mention goes to BigCommerce. If we were listing the top 4, they would be included. And you’ll see them mentioned in many comparisons as another that can be SEO-optimized.
- Shopify – “Shopify is the number one ecommerce platform we recommend to all ecommerce business owners because it just works, no matter what type of products you sell, what type of business model you use, or what kind of volume you sell at. For most ecommerce entrepreneurs, it will always be the right choice.
Why we recommend Shopify as the ecommerce platform for small businesses is threefold
• Ease of use
• Integrations and apps
• Scalability & flexibility
First off, Shopify is super user-friendly and easy to get started with. You can set up a great-looking and highly-functional store without having to piece it together with code, which means you can get up and running faster and without any technical skills. Shopify is also a hosted platform which is especially ideal for entrepreneurs and small businesses who don’t have the people-power to constantly be keeping an eye on the backend of things to make sure everything is secure and running smoothly. Shopify handles all of that so you can focus on your store.
Secondly, because Shopify is a top player in the industry, it integrates with almost all other relevant tools and services and nearly every app is made for Shopify first before any other ecommerce platform. It’s a priority, so when you sell on Shopify’s platform you have access to all the tools, services, and apps in the industry because everything’s made to be compatible with it.
Finally, Shopify is capable of scaling with your store as you grow and their platform is flexible enough to work with your business no matter what you sell or how you sell it. Even if you’re just starting out and have less than 10 orders per month, Shopify is a great option for you, and if you’re scaling your store and growing to a million orders per month, Shopify can still stick with you every step of the way. They’re built for stores of any size, so you’ll never have to switch to another ecommerce platform. As for flexibility, they offer so many options so you can sell physical products, digital products, product subscriptions, or any combination in between and you can sell on your own store and on social media platforms, in-person, on Amazon, eBay, and more, all through your one Shopify dashboard. This gives you the means to be where your customers are so you’re never limited by what your ecommerce platform is capable of.
In addition to these reasons, Shopify is also very accessible to get started with, price-wise. Back in the day, entrepreneurs had to shell out huge amounts of money to pay for their business venture which, if they financed through a bank, they were taking a huge personal risk. With Shopify, you can start your own small business right here, right now, for monthly payments that are probably lower than your cell phone bill.”
- WooCommerce – “If you already have a website running on WordPress, Woo Commerce could possibly be the right choice to power your e-commerce site. This free, intuitive plugin integrates very nicely with WordPress, and the plethora of themes available make it an easy and rapid route to a sleek and efficient site to sell your wares. It has become somewhat of a standard, and support is widely available from freelancers who can provide help from installing and configuring the plugin to developing custom code to meet more complex requirements.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is an e-commerce solution provided as Software as a Service; simply choose the plan that is right for you (ranging from 29 USD/month to 299 USD/month depending on the service level) and you’ll be up and running in minutes. Shopify is possibly the easiest platform to learn and it takes much of the complexity of managing e-commerce away. All major platforms are supported and the clear and simple user interface make it easy to learn. Don’t want to configure and manage it yourself? No sweat; help is readily available online on your regular freelancer site. Be aware that Shopify will take a cut between 0.5% and 2% of all of your sales as well as the monthly fee.”
- PrestaShop – “Prestashop is one of the reference e-commerce frameworks which has been out there for more than 10 years now. In a way, PrestaShop is to e-commerce what WordPress is to content management! Like its CMS counterpart, Prestashop benefits from the support of a very wide community and can be enhanced by an impressive number of standardized plugins to do anything from connecting to your warehouse software, managing a specific type of product or boosting your e-commerce SEO. Although the Prestashop code base is free (Open Software Licence), you’ll need to anticipate integration and hosting costs to get your site up running.”
Maria Luisa D’Uros
- Shopify – “Shopify is a cloud based solution designed specifically for online commerce and is optimized to allow you to progress easily during your experience; in this way you will not have to worry about anything because you can start with little improvements over time, without incurring wrong choices or annoying additional costs; at the beginning a free 14-day trial is available.
By opening an account with Shopify, you will have integrated SEO functions and your marketing activities will always be managed automatically, allowing you to find a greater number of customers that are anything but random, but really interested in buying. Shopify unlike Ebay and Amazon, allows you to customize the graphics of your online store, being able to change various parameters with the drag-and-drop system without any technical or computer skills.
The portal also allows the generation of shops dedicated to drop-shipping, that is, the sale on behalf of other activities, which allows you to earn a percentage only for generating a transaction; the warehouse and shipping remain at the expense of the upstream store.
Opening an online store with Shopify costs a minimum of $ 29 a month, plus 2% on the sale of each product. There are more generous and expensive tariff plans, but if you sell less than 50 products per month the basic account should be sufficient for you.”
- PrestaShop – “PrestaShop, on the other hand, is an eCommerce solution created in 2005 in France and used by more than 250 thousand online stores.
The platform is free (the modules you can install to implement specific additional features are not) and the interface is also quite intuitive. The first difference between the two eCommerce platforms is their different nature: PrestaShop is a software that requires external hosting and for you to install it, which translates into greater operational freedom (which is a positive and negative thing at the same time, depending on your experience), while Shopify is a platform that can be used immediately online by simply entering your credentials.
Of course if you decide to install the PrestaShop solution you will need a developer, but the use of the platform for eCommerce management and content management is really easy. It could be the best solution if you need to start a small business that needs more customization. It is one of the most used platforms in Italy and in Europe. It also has a large community of developers and users, from whom you can easily ask for advice.”
- WooCommerce – “WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that you (or your developer) can download directly from the official WordPress directory and install on your website. Alternatively you can download and install it directly from the plugin site or in the backend of your WordPress website. It can be customized and integrated with other platforms in many ways. Integrations can be created with MailChimp, vTiger, sugarCRM, Salesforce CRM, SAP, management, ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM software, HR software, Zucchetti Software, GymGest, Magician and much more …
It’s easy to manage if you have a small catalogue, and is perfect if your first goal is to communicate. I suggest WooCommerce for clients who are not focused on eCommerce, but eCommerce is an additional arm of their business. For example, if you have a blog and you want to sell your lastest book, or your merchandising. Or if you have a winery and you want to share the history of your vineyard and the beauty of the terrain, and at the same time sell your wine.”
- WooCommerce – “Those of you who have used WordPress will love WooCommerce. Woo is a free plugin that turns your WordPress site into a fully functional ecommerce site.
Although the standard functionalities of WooCommerce are pretty basic, it is built on an opensource platform and there is a vast collection of extensions that will enable you to customise your site to do whatever you want to do.
If you have big ambitions, don’t be fooled by the fact that this is a WordPress site. WooCommerce is really scalable, I’ve overseen some big builds on Woo – 100k+ Products.
WordPress/WooCommerce developers are pretty easy to find, so you should always have a good supply of people who can support you.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is a very simple and easy to use platform that will allow you to get off the ground with relative ease. There are also hundreds of apps for Shopify, which makes it easy to expand.
There are lots of shopfront themes available for Shopify, so you will be able to choose a design you like and that works for your business.
Where Shopify falls short is on cost as you scale. This is down to the subscription and transaction fess involved. If you expand quite quickly, the costs can mount up and there will come a point where you will outgrow the site.”
- Magento – “Magento is a really good platform for building a site that is scalable. It has a real solid base and there are some big sites that have been built on Magento. It’s quite user friendly behind the scenes and I would say it is the most powerful out of the three platforms I have suggested.
Magento would be my suggestion to those who have a good budget and resources at their disposal. Because of its complexity it can be quite resource intensive. Magento developers are like gold dust, so you will need to consider this when making a decision. If you find a good Magento developer, pay them well and nail them to floor.”
- Miva – “I’ve worked with this platform since version 1. It has constantly grown with advances in technology and security. As a SaaS shopping cart, both green and experienced store owners and developers can get up and running quickly. It’s chock full of key features, like inventory control to the attribute/option level, synchronization with popular payment and shipping gateways, and integration with third-party tools. A great benefit, though, is Miva’s open-style environment. If a module or plug-in for a necessary feature or connection doesn’t exist, developers have the ability to “hook into” Miva to make it happen. So long as the script doesn’t compromise security or privacy, any functionality – especially unique ones – can be incorporated into one’s store.”
- Neto – “Recently awarded as “Best eCommerce Solution in Australia”, and backed by Australia’s largest telecommunications company Telstra, Neto is a full-featured and robust ecommerce solution for online retailers of all sizes.
Unlike Shopify and Magento, there is no need for 3rd party apps. All the functions needed to run a website are built into Neto. Customer pricing groups, custom fields, multiple invoices and pick slips, multi-tier pricing, SEO, cross-promotion, fully customisable shipping rates and rules, plus a bunch of other features are all included.
Neto includes powerful functionality for advanced inventory management, shipping consignment creation and label printing, mobile pick & pack, analytics, plus seamless integration with Google Shopping, Facebook, accounting software and popular marketplaces including eBay and Amazon. But Neto goes a step further with its built-in Point-of-Sale (POS) function. This means Neto is truly an all-in-one 360O commerce solution.
Neto is a fully hosted solution, meaning you’ll never need to worry about hosting yourself, updating modules or forward compatibility. Whilst the basics of an ecommerce website are all taken care of by Neto’s built-in functions, the front-end website can easily be customised by a knowledgeable web developer.
One of my favourite features of Neto is its data import and export function which allows efficient modifications of data in a spreadsheet, or uploading new products and categories in bulk.
Whilst Neto is a true all-in-one commerce solution, its inventory, order processing, fulfilment and analytics features make it a powerful back-end solution for existing websites. Neto integrates with Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce and Magento for those who might not want to change their front-end website, but would benefit from the powerful back-end functions of Neto.
Neto can also connect multiple websites and marketplaces together so all inventory and order processing is done centrally in a single flow. That makes Neto a super efficient way to structure complex and large businesses.”
- BigCommerce – “BigCommerce is easy to set up, robust and connects to marketplaces seamlessly. They have been around a long time and are able to grow and scale for SMB’s.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is “stupid simple” to set up as well. It has a very diverse community of developers and plug-ins to make your store mimic many of the things more robust ecommerce platforms have.”
- Miva – “Miva is the platform that has been in the ecommerce space the longest going back to the 90’s. What I love about it, is the flexibility to do anything you can think of. It has a rock solid group of developers in the community and this platform can scale up into the mega millions as you grow. You will not need to jump off as you grow to enterprise level, like you might need to do on the other 2 platforms I mentioned.”
- Shopify – “Shopify, as the name suggests was designed to enable you to easily and cheaply create an online shop. There’s even an option to support real-world sales.
Shopify commands an impressive 500,000+ websites on their hosted (or cloud) platform, claiming over a million active users and $62Bn of transactions.
As a platform it is easy to use, even for novice users, with a vast resource of help and plug-ins to deliver almost any ecommerce experience. With extensive configuration options, plus a choice of off-the-shelf or custom themes and integration plug-ins to scalable pricing and a partner network, Shopify really can grow with your business needs. Notably there are no limits to the number of products or customers it supports.
Marketing integrations support almost any channel you wish, with tools for search, social media and even Amazon. Inventory management, blogging and reporting are built-in and they can even manage your payments and send automated fulfilment instructions for you.
It’s worth investigation which version of the software will meet your needs as certain features are only available in the more expensive pricing plans. However with plans starting at just $29 per month, you get a lot of value compared to getting a site custom built. The range of plug-ins provides an easy and cheap way to deal with dynamic business requirements, although you may have to compromise when is comes to the exact functionality you require.
For these reasons, Shopify is my cloud based ecommerce platform of choice. They even offer a 14 day free trial!”
- Magento – “Magento, now owned by Adobe, is the world’s #1 ecommerce platform in terms of revenue with over $100Bn in annual sales. It’s an ideal platform for the more technical business and capable of being customized to individual requirements. Magento is available in both cloud based and self hosted varieties, notably the core open source software itself is freely available. This community option has been a significant contributor to the wide adoption and range of resources for Magento. Support is abundant from self-help online to over 200,000 developers worldwide. There is also an academic version that is suitable for businesses with less than $500,000 in sales.
As their website states, it offers flexibility that many hosted platforms can’t compete with, so if you want custom content, tools or integration, especially with back-office systems, then this may be a better choice for your business. It tends to be the preferred choice for B2B ecommerce.
If you’re hosting the site yourself, you may need to find a development partner unless you have experience in coding already, and although plug in themes and tools are available for most common requirements, it’s advisable to get help with payment solutions from a reputable source if you’ve not done this before.
Due to its PHP heritage, Magento opens up a world of possibilities and enables you to only include the elements you need. This helps to keep your website lean compared to off-the-shelf solutions that may include unwanted capabilities that complicate the configuration or operation of your site.
It’s worth noting that self-hosted platforms can potentially be more expensive to maintain despite the free access to the code. As with most things, if you’re buying in development skills, quality can vary widely, as can hourly rates. By planning your needs carefully you can avoid ad-hoc costs in future, and as a result Magento is a good platform for businesses whose ecommerce requirements are unlikely to change often.
For these reasons Magento is my self-hosted ecommerce platform of choice.”
- Wix – “Don’t get me wrong, Wix has its place as a website tool and many businesses run successfully on this platform. However, Wix is not built for ecommerce, integration with Google merchant center and other marketing platforms is complex or expensive. A modern ecommerce site needs to leverage the key marketing tools that enable businesses to find shoppers.
Its primary focus is to provide a cheap, easy to use environment to build a good looking website, which it does, but since there’s so much more to digital marketing than that, I have to rule it out of my ecommerce options. Interestingly the word marketing only appears on their homepage & feature list for email!
Although on the surface Wix may seem like a simple, cheap option, unfortunately the lack of scalability and integration options mean that Wix is not the right solution for most small business ecommerce needs.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is probably your best option if you want to get online quickly, but don’t have the expertise to either handle everything inhouse or manage external parties to build something for you. It’s a hosted solution, which means you pay a monthly subscription fee to have Shopify handle the server, security and various other technical aspects for you. There is a wide range of themes available, and the platform is generally well optimised for SEO.
The only real downsides in my opinion is flexibility/customisation, and the fact you are tied into a monthly subscription model. Over time, this cost builds up, but even if you are selling in relatively low volumes, it’s a low cost to account for each month.”
- WooCommerce – “WooCommerce bolts beautifully into WordPress, allowing you to combine the most popular CMS system in the world, with a powerful, opensource eCommerce platform. Whilst there are many benefits to WooCommerce, I would highlight a few main elements:
1. The core platform is completely free to use, so no ongoing subscription fee to stay operational.
2. The ability to customize the design and functionality is significant, so it’s far easier to produce something truly unique and connected to your brand identity.
3. There is a massive pool of development talent and ‘plug and play’ addons that will enable you to extend functionality with minimum effort and cost.
If you are happy to handle some basic set-up elements and/or manage internal or external developers to help customize and deploy for you, then this is a fantastic option for any small business looking to jump online.”
- Wix – “In a distant 3rd position, and purely for very small operations, you could also consider Wix for handling your eCommerce store. Like Shopify, it’s a hosted solution that offers a cheap monthly subscription package to help you get up and running quickly, but for the price difference, I would really recommend you to pay slightly more and leverage Shopify if you wish to have a hosted solution.”
- BigCommerce – “I believe that BigCommerce would make an excellent choice as an eCommerce platform for your new online business. It has all the functionality you need to run a successful online business and BigCommerce offers subscription plans to grow with you as your business grows. It is a SaaS (Software as a Service) platform that is hosted by the vendor, so no upgrades, hosting, security, PCI compliance or other hassles to worry about.
It also offers robust enterprise functionality like vaulted (saved credit card) payment gateways, store credit support and wide support for 3rd party systems via the BigCommerce app marketplace and API suite for custom integrations to other systems you may have.
Recently BigCommerce has started rolling out native integrations with the likes of Instagram and Amazon that make selling on these platforms seamless and easy.
Finally there is a wide range of off the shelf, 3rd party and custom themes/designs to choose from to get you up and running quickly.”
- Shopify – “Shopify would also make a good choice of eCommerce platform for your new online business. Shopify also offers plans to grow with you as your business grows and it’s also a SaaS (Software as a Service) platform that is hosted by the vendor.
Shopify does not support vaulted (saved) credit cards or store credits, but it does offer a very mature, stable, robust & feature rich platform to build your site on. As one of the most popular eCommerce platforms in use today, it also has one of the largest offerings of 3rd party tools and services with native integrations through the Shopify App Store.
Finally, Shopify has an even wider variety of themes and designs available for it than BigCommerce does.”
- WooCommerce – “The architecture is extremely scalable and flexible. You can self-host, which at scale, can save you a lot of money.”
- BigCommerce – “This is a VERY affordable hosted ecommerce solution. Also quite flexible and open, and has nice designs you can implement out of the gate without hard work.”
- Shopify – “This is the Apple of ecommerce SaaS solutions. While not super expensive upfront, costs add up at scale, and limitations start becoming obvious. However, with that said, their designs out of the gate are highly conversion optimized, and their eco-system of apps are unrivalled in the ecommerce world.”
Jeroen van Eck
- Shopify – “What I love about Shopify is its simplicity. Everyone can start selling online within seconds. Managing a store-front is easy with a smooth design and user-friendly interface. Setting up and running a store-front doesn’t require any coding. There’s a marketplace available with lots of extensions and integrations with third-party marketing tools to boost your reach, user engagement and performance. But you’ll do fine at first with everything that comes out of the box with Shopify.
Shopify’s target audience are small business owners that are looking for an e-commerce solution that just works. ”
- Magento – “If you’re looking for something that’s more customizable to your specific needs, Magento is probably the go-to e-commerce solution. The platform is available in various configurations, so it facilitates growth. Magento is highly customizable through its development partners all over the world. Some of the largest shops run on Magento, and it’s amazing that as a small business owner you can tap into the same box of e-commerce power.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is by far the best solution for SMB. Keep in mind that, at the end of the day, you are not only managing customers’ expectations but also your employees’ expectations. Shopify is a platform that offers a user-friendly interface that only requires basic skills when it comes to creating and designing your website template, integrating your payment solutions or adding any of their hundreds of plug-ins options, which allows you to connect your Google Analytics account and Merchant account or even just to add a promotion planner. Their CMS is simplistic and their customer support is very pro-active. The only downfall is the limitations of working with their own unique code “liquid” which may irritate some programmers along the way. The pricing structure makes it affordable and scalable when your business is growing to the next level.”
- WooCommerce – “For a SMB, WooCommerce would be an interesting solution to look into. They provide great options and features, however, I find their user interface not so friendly. The same goes for their website design tools, which may require a basic understanding of WordPress coding in order to design your website to your taste, although they do have ready-to-go templates. The main difference from Shopify is that WooCommerce is an open source plug-in and every additional option/feature you wish to add has a cost. In the end, Woo Commerce is a reliable affordable eCommerce solution that requires a bit more programming/coding skills.”
- Magento – “I could suggest Magento as a third option. Some may disagree, stating that it is by far one of the most expensive eCommerce platforms on the market, but it is an open source, free to use solution. If you do it right and keep a simple online store, your hosting fee might not be as high as expected. This being said, when you wish to add features, the cost goes up quickly. They have the largest community of users that can provide support, ideas and solutions to your need. However, you need a good programmer or have decent base of coding in order to get your website up and running in a reasonable amount of time.”
- Shopify – “Over the past few years I’ve seen Shopify gain enormous traction. If getting set up quickly is the name of the game there is very little out there to compete with its base feature set. It’s not for everybody though, if there are complex requirements involving lots of plugins it can become an expensive beast to work with and if you are a retailer with low margins it might not be the choice for you.”
- Magento – “A long heritage and a better starting point for complex project requirements. If you have something that’s a little more non-standard in terms of your requirement then Magento is normally our platform of choice. The fact that there are no built in fees means that there will generally be a better case for Magento with low margin products.”
- Bespoke – “Sometimes only a bespoke build will do. At this point there are some great frameworks to choose from but we normally plump for a Laravelle & Vue/React setup.”
- Shopify – “Shopify is the absolute best for small businesses, whether just starting out, or a growing business. I’ve personally used Shopify for one of my past businesses and I chose them for these reasons:
Most importantly, Shopify is a platform that’s built for eCommerce. It has plenty of features an eCommerce store owner would need, and it’s ready-to-go. This means you don’t have to waste time and money building a store from scratch like the old days. But you can (and should) get a designer to customise the look and feel according to your brand and shop requirements (this applies whether or not you use Shopify). This doesn’t have to be expensive either – I paid a designer about £300 for excellent work.
Getting started often means being on a budget. I started on the Shopify platform for under $30 per month (plus a small percentage of sales revenue). Pretty much anyone can access it at that price! Bear in mind that their cheapest plan requires your own hosting (which it did not when I started my store), but if you’re one of those that expects everything for free (or very little), then it’s going to have a negative impact on your business. They’re a business too! Also note, the commission you pay to Shopify depends on which plan you have. But as you grow, you can always upgrade your plan to get more features, which you’ll need as you scale. This gave me the confidence to focus on growing my business without worrying about outgrowing the Shopify platform.
Small businesses often require the flexibility of being on the move a lot of the time. What I loved was the mobile app, enabling me to check on my sales and stats at any time and from anywhere. This meant I could focus on my marketing and use the app to keep tabs on effectiveness.
Lastly, the support experience was important to me. Even on their lowest plan, I experienced a level of support I was happy with. If I were to launch another eCommerce shop, I would go right back to Shopify.”
There are numerous solutions out there, and I choose to focus my efforts on Magento. My software developers are familiar with and work with other platforms which I will discuss momentarily, however, we find the best value and flexibility to be in moving forward with a Magento based approach.
- Magento – “Magento is a open source solution that allows for most any level of customization and flexibility. While the backend is not as friendly as some of the more basic platforms, it is certainly one of the most powerful. The trick with deploying or moving to this platform is working with an agency or developer that is very comfortable with the platform. The sky really is the limit with magento, and you can essentially get started by hiring someone to setup and deploy a theme for a fairly low introductory cost.”
- Shopify – “I am probably one of the few people out there that really is not a fan of this platform. This is simply because I do not believe in the “rent a home” approach to business. I believe there is a lot of place for SaaS level solutions however, when you are building your core eCommerce business on a solution that is extremely proprietary in nature and requires Apps with monthly fees in order to grow, you are in some ways increasing the monthly costs and becoming more entrenched in a solution which you are bound to. This is an excellent platform to start out on, if you are going to be a one man shop and plan to bootstrap the initial launch, while managing the designs and app implementations yourself. But please be sure to monitor your monthly costs as there will be a time when you will need to consider replatforming. *Just my thoughts.”
- Shopify – “Shopify Plus is packed with a ton of features that help an online business grow fast in months. It’s affordable and doesn’t require any coding or tech savvy skills to get the ball rolling. The live chat feature is spot on and their customer service is on point.”
- Magento – “Magento is the best open source ecommerce platform around. The flexibility and openness of the system is basically the result of this philosophy. When it comes to features for hotairtools.com, we customized nearly everything, and it’s showed in our increase in conversions. It’s no issue if you are not an expert web designer; since Magento offers thousands of freely customizable templates. With a huge community of dedicated volunteers and members they offer expert webinars monthly, hands on customer service and even supports SEO like a champ.”
- Miva – “There are so many variables attached to an E-commerce website and Miva addresses most of them. You can design your platform architecture the way you want. This platform is scalable to any business size making it useful for large enterprises as well as growing businesses. It’s cost effective and offer useful community forums.”
- SAP – “I would have to recommend that any business consider what I’ll call the big 4 of eCommerce platforms such as SAP, Oracle, IBM, Salesforce. They have a long heratige in the eCommerce space and have very well developed features and functions with a long list of additional features that can be added via integrations / plugins to other packages. Originally these platforms were only accessible to large businesses, but they have all worked hard to start supporting the SME market with pay as you grow type revenue share models, as well as offering cloud based hosting and support. Don’t just assume they will be too expensive and be careful to evaluate these against the full cost of seemingly cheaper solutions. These platforms tend to leapfrog each other, but all have an unrivalled set of feature and functions which continue to be improved on and added to.”
- BigCommerce – “I’d also recommend looking at the new breed of fully hosted platforms such as BigCommerce and Shopify, which have historically been aimed at very small businesses, but are now capable of supporting larger businesses. They also have the reputation for faster set-up and configuration times than the Big 4, while still offering a feature rich set of functions that can be expanded on using their app store.”
- Magento – “No list would be complete without Magento (now part of Adobe). Magento was the original disruptor with an extensive and expandable feature list and very competitive pricing.”
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no added cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Email marketing rocks. It can be a hugely effective marketing channel for just about any small business when done right. But what isn’t so fun for many, is trying to figure out which ESP your business should use, particularly if you’re just getting your feet wet with email marketing. There are literally hundreds to choose from in 2018. Who has time for that when running a small business?! So where do you start?
That’s precisely what we set out to help you with in this article. We reached out to over a hundred email and small business marketing experts to ask them one simple question: “Based on your professional experience, what is the best email marketing software for small business currently available?” We’ve posted the results below, as well as a summary of the most recommended small business email marketing services, and all of the contributions that our experts kindly made. There are some real pearls of wisdom in there!
So whether you’re looking for your first ESP to put together your company’s very first email marketing campaign or you’ve been growing this channel for some time already and have outgrown your current ESP, this article should serve as a useful starting point in your search.
Best Email Marketing Solutions for Small Business: How Our Experts Voted
|ESP||# of Votes|
|#1. MailChimp||77 Votes|
|#2. Constant Contact||27 Votes|
|#3. ActiveCampaign||13 Votes|
|#4. Campaign Monitor||10 Votes|
|#5. AWeber||9 Votes|
|#=6. Drip||8 Votes|
|#=6. dotmailer||8 Votes|
|#7. Infusionsoft||7 Votes|
|#=8. Klaviyo||6 Votes|
|#=8. HubSpot||6 Votes|
|#9. Adestra MessageFocus||4 Votes|
|#=10. ConvertKit||3 Votes|
|#=10. Emma, inc||3 Votes|
|#=10. SendGrid||3 Votes|
|#=10. IBM Watson Campaign Automation||3 Votes|
|#=11. GetResponse||2 Votes|
|#=11. Robly||2 Votes|
|#=11. ONTRAPORT||2 Votes|
|#=11. iContact||2 Votes|
|#=11. SendinBlue||2 Votes|
|#=11. eSputnik||2 Votes|
|#=11. Sharpspring||2 Votes|
|#=11. ReachMail||2 Votes|
|#=11. Maropost||2 Votes|
|#=11. Salesforce||2 Votes|
|#=12. MailerLite||1 Vote|
|#=12. Sendlane||1 Vote|
|#=12. EmailOctopus||1 Vote|
|#=12. Benchmark Email||1 Vote|
|#=12. FreshMail||1 Vote|
|#=12. AllClients||1 Vote|
|#=12. BombBomb||1 Vote|
|#=12. SendPulse||1 Vote|
|#=12. Clickback MAIL||1 Vote|
|#=12. Pure360||1 Vote|
|#=12. UserEngage||1 Vote|
|#=12. TrafficWave||1 Vote|
|#=12. Kartra||1 Vote|
|#=12. Oracle||1 Vote|
|#=12. RedEye||1 Vote|
|#=12. Response Genuis||1 Vote|
|#=12. Mad Mimi||1 Vote|
|#=12. MailPlus||1 Vote|
|#=12. Adobe Campaign||1 Vote|
|#=12. Cordial||1 Vote|
|#=12. MailPoet||1 Vote|
|#=12. Laposta||1 Vote|
|#=12. Surefire Local||1 Vote|
|#=12. TinyLetter||1 Vote|
|#=12. Zoho||1 Vote|
|#=12. Bronto||1 Vote|
|#=12. DoctorSender||1 Vote|
|#=12. Autopilot||1 Vote|
|#=12. WhatCounts||1 Vote|
|#=12. Clang||1 Vote|
|#=12. Flexmail||1 Vote|
|#=12. Mautic||1 Vote|
|#=12. Kentico||1 Vote|
All in all there were 58 different ESPs recommended (we told you it was a crowded marketplace!), but there were definitely a small group that stood out, as you’ve probably already realized from looking at the results table above. And these are the email marketing providers for small business that we’d recommend you check out first.
At the top of our survey tree, MailChimp was by far and away the most frequently recommended platform. Constant Contact also got a lot of support from out experts as being a great option too. In fact, in many cases these will probably be the two default email marketing services for small business, and should be more than sufficient if your requirements are relatively basic. They’re both on the easy end of the spectrum in terms of learning curve, affordable and the toolset provided is more than enough for most small businesses’ needs. AWeber is another program that scored well in our survey that could be added to this group as another option.
If you’ve reached a point where you want to take your email marketing to the next level and introduce more automation or you’ve used and outgrown one of the providers just mentioned, ActiveCampaign, Campaign Monitor, Drip and dotmailer are the ‘next level’ platforms that scored well among our experts. These options are certainly among the best small business email marketing software if you’re looking for a more sophisticated platform that gives you more control and customization over your campaigns, to make sure the right message is being delivered to the right person at the right time. Klaviyo is another good option in this category, and was highly recommended for ecommerce businesses by numerous experts in our survey.
Rounding out the rest of the top 10 are a couple of powerful systems that may well be overkill for basic email marketing activities and novices, but in the right hands could be a small business’s secret weapon. We’re talking about HubSpot and Infusionsoft. They would require a greater time investment to get up to speed, particularly in Infusionsoft’s case, but they can handle so much more than just your email marketing. They are marketing automation platforms that are equipped with just about everything you’ll need for digital business growth.
1) If your business is venturing into email marketing for the first time, you have basic requirements and/or limited resources, try one of these:
4) If you have some experience with email marketing or someone dedicated in your team, want to put to put together a more sophisticated program and/or have greater resources, try one of these:
Read What The Experts Said
Below you can read exactly what each of the experts had to say when we asked them for their recommendations. There are some real golden nuggets in there! If you’re interested in a particular software, you can use the filter below to skip to the recommendations that were made for that specific product. Enjoy!
- Adestra MessageFocus
- Adobe Campaign
- Benchmark Email
- Campaign Monitor
- Clickback MAIL
- Constant Contact
- IBM Watson Campaign Automation
- Mad Mimi
- Response Genuis
- Surefire Local
- MailChimp – “This used to be bottom end of the market, but they have improved no end. If you are start-up or still developing your marketing automation and email marketing, MailChimp will give you everything you need and more. Inexpensive, easy to use and has all the tools you need.”
- SharpSpring – “If you are looking for a comprehensive and scalable marketing platform, most people look to the market leaders like HubSpot, Infusionsoft and Marketo. SharpSpring will provide you with all of the functionality, reporting, and features of all of the big tools, but with pricing and flexibility that works much better for small businesses. No need to shell out £6k plus upfront. You can pay monthly. It’s a great set of tools, easy to use and very intuitive. Their customer service and support is second to none as well.”
- MailChimp – “Why? In the last few years MailChimp has gone from back of the pack to leading from the front. It has a sleek design and is incredibly easy to set up and operate. Best of all – you can send up to 12,000 emails for free every month. All in all it’s a standout choice for any small business looking to get their email marketing underway.”
- Campaign Monitor – “If you’re looking for something slightly more sophisticated, Campaign Monitor does an excellent job at building workflows. It allows small business to build and automate processes which send emails out to customers when they do (or don’t do) something. These can vary from basic actions to very complicated touchpoints, but Campaign Monitor gives the flexibility to do whatever you want.”
Glenn “Email OG” Edley
- MailChimp – “MailChimp continues to be the leader in helping businesses’ start sending beautiful emails. With the tools and integrations they have available in the platform you can start collecting email addresses and sending emails quickly. Once you’ve realised email is the best marketing channel you have you can get help to drive your email marketing harder and the platform can scale up with your business.”
- Klaviyo – “Klaviyo makes automation quite easy. Again, excellent integrations, good tools and a simple setup with the scalability for an experienced email marketing team to get even more from it.”
- MailChimp – “MailChimp has been my consistent go-to recommendation for anyone looking for their first email marketing system for many years. It’s been around since 2001 and its delivery rates have been consistently reliable over the years. They responded well during the recent introduction of the GDPR laws; they seemed to listen well to their customers; a good indication of their customer support which I believe to be incredibly important when dealing with a digital service. Several of my clients did find their list segmentation restrictive but with their recent introduction of the tagging feature, this should make MailChimp far more flexible for you as you grow your list.”
- Infusionsoft – “Infusionsoft is the e-commerce system I use for my own business. Now this system may not be right for you, especially if you are in the early stages of starting your business and/or list. If all you want is a broadcasting and autoresponder system, then this will be like a hammer to crack your nut. But if you know you want to manage several marketing campaigns and you want to have an e-commerce system under the same roof as your email list, then I can highly recommend Infusionsoft. Word of warning though – it will take you at least three months to up and running with this system because it can be complex to start with but if you are focused on the long term growth, rather than an instant quick fix, this is worth looking at.”
- ActiveCampaign – “ActiveCampaign was created for people getting frustrated by Infusionsoft. If you don’t need the payment processing, e-commerce shop or affiliate programmes, then ActiveCampaign will be a cheaper and easier option for you. I did try to move away from Infusionsoft to go to ActiveCampaign last year, but for some reason my brain just didn’t like the vertical layout of their campaigns. But don’t let that put you off because you may prefer the layout in ActiveCampaign.”
- MailChimp – “I recommend that small businesses consider using MailChimp for their email marketing campaigns, primarily because they get reports detailing who has opened, clicked, bounced and unsubscribed from their emails, amongst much more.
Templates can be created and saved so all future emails look alike and the drag and drop campaign builder option makes it simple to use and produces professional looking emails. I’d recommend not using the pre-designed templates, as when I have done so, I’ve invested time customising them but get to a part where I can’t, get frustrated, and end us building it myself from scratch. You are also able to import and use your own html designed campaign, although this is not something I have ever done with my clients. The ability to set and change the font settings throughout the campaign is a function that I miss when I am made to use another ESP.
The list management section is simple to use, and the form builder makes it possible to collect new contacts. MailChimp has always been strict on their Opt-in policy and reminds users of this often.
There’s so much more that I could go into detail or list about the benefits of using MailChimp, as it is a super great tool, which is easy to use and is free (for up to 2000 subscribers and limited to 12000 emails a month -so more than plenty for most small businesses).”
- MailChimp – “Probably one of the most popular email service providers for SMB, MailChimp offers an incredibly simplified UI that allows most savy internet users a way to send not only static campaigns, but automated campaigns. These automated campaigns are incredibly important as they allow the business owner to set up messages once, and have them send when the criterion is met. This allows for marketing when you’re not thinking about it. They also have a constant need to educate their users as they have a incredibly up-to-date blog and content strategy.
For costs, MailChimp bases it’s costs on how much you send, but their pricing is pretty low, which is an advantage for small business owners. I would recommend MailChimp to those business owners who want to do a bit more with their email marketing but are still doing it themselves, or have a marketing person with an overflowing plate of responsibilities.”
- Constant Contact – “One of the first SMB companies out there that you’ve probably heard of through their advertising. They have an incredibly simplified UI and cater almost exclusively to the SMB market. From acquiring lists to templates and creative examples, they take the hand of the SMB business owner and help them communicate with subscribers and customers. Constant Contact is the ground floor of the SMB marketplace and for those that are not that internet savy, they make it very simple. You can drag and drop the build of emails so you don’t need to know HTML as well.
Pricing for Constant Contact is based on list size and is a bit more expensive than other providers. I would recommend Constant Contact to those that want to have email marketing, but are cost conscious and want to just have an easy and impressive way to communicate.”
- dotmailer – “dotmailer globally has been an enterprise vehicle for marketers to send messages to millions of contacts. Recently in the US they’ve come into the SMB and Mid-Market business with pricing that allows marketers that are ready to dig deep into email sophistication. Now, it should be said, that investments with dotmailer are equal to your thoughts and needs beyond simple email marketing. More depth on marketing automation and enterprise level functions allow you to really accelerate what you want. If you’re doing it right, that is mirrored with success that drives sales. dotmailer is a great company to graduate from either MailChimp or Constant Contact, but I have known small business owners that have started with dotmailer solely because they are both marketing and internet savvy and know the return they can get with the investment. These business owners put in a lot of effort, so if you have a dedicated person for marketing in a wider team, this is an option you want to explore.
I would recommend dotmailer to SMB companies that clearly are tuned into digital marketing or have a background. Also, I would recommend dotmailer to companies that feel like they’ve outgrown the smaller players, but are not big enough to take the leap to a much larger investment.”
“98.4% of people surveyed have said that they check their email daily and email marketing is still one of THE best ways to reach and interact with your customers, patients and clients. Email marketing is an excellent tool for:
• Building brand awareness
• Establishing your own/ your firm’s expertise
• Driving web traffic
• Creating and nurturing leads
• Getting your community to ‘know like and trust’ you
• Filling events
• And of course, Driving Sales!
Your choice of Email Service Providers should be based on YOUR goals. Consider integration, functionality, if needed, your budget, bandwidth (how much time you have) and your comfort level with the basic interface.
If you are just starting out, have a small mailing list, NO budget at all and/or are a non-profit trying to grow from scratch, I recommend Mail Chimp. It is free and while you get what you pay for, in terms of lower deliverability rates and the hassle of double opt-in, it does offer a fairly professional end product with limited technical skill required.
If you are a serious enterprise with thousands of people on your mailing list and a staff to monitor results and integrate your email marketing with your advertising and sales efforts, I usually recommend Salesforce or Infusionsoft. These are powerful tools which, in the right hands, can really help you build your bottom line.
In many cases, the companies that I work with who HAVE one of these advanced programs rarely take advantage of all the bells and whistles. They end up spending a lot of time and money on software they don’t fully utilize.
For small to midsized businesses who are looking to grow and nurture their customer base, I always recommend Constant Contact. CC is an easy to use tool, built to send effective, attractive mailings at an affordable price. Your mailings will look great on any device, you can schedule delivery and posts to your social media profiles and there are a number of useful applications like list segmentation, survey options and contact building tools that help YOU build YOUR business.”
- Constant Contact – “Attractive Templates:
Yes, the CONTENT is really what matters but if the recipients don’t bother to even LOOK at it, you won’t get the conversions you need!
Constant Contact offers templates for any number of mailing types from event invitations to sales mailings, plain text emails and of course, enewsletters. All of them have the option of including high resolutions graphics (they offer a library or you can upload your own), call to action buttons, links and surveys.
The easy to use drag and drop interface makes it easy to create branded, professional looking mailings, quickly.
If you are already using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool, Constant Contact integrates seamlessly with most of the more popular tools. If you are NOT already using a CRM, CC provides you with the functionality to TAG, SEGMENT and monitor the actions of your mailing list members so you can be sure the right people are getting the right message and that they are following through on your calls to action.
They also offer a number of list building tools such as website sign up widgets, applications to connect this tool to your existing email and social media accounts, ‘text to join’ and point of sale integration to keep your list growing.
Scheduling and Social Media Integration:
While I am NOT a fan of the ‘set it and forget it’ school of marketing, I DO highly recommend creating (and USING!) an editorial calendar. This way, you can build and schedule your mailings in advance so you are not struggling at the last minute to figure out what you will send.
The social media integration allows you to ‘push’ your content out to your social communities, amplifying your message.
As you can see, I am a huge fan of email marketing and could go on all day about how to use it to build YOUR business. If you need help getting started and/or would like to design an effective strategy to make the most of these powerful tools, please reach out to me.”
- Mad Mimi – “In my professional experience email newsletters work well as a marketing tool for small business. The development and communicating of useful content that you as a small business can send out on a regular basis keeps your clients close to you – and away from your competition. Email newsletters are an affordable marketing platform where you can promote your business, analyse what content your database is consuming and you can add new contacts to your database – keeping your database current. You can also use content to promote and please your clients– for example highlighting one of your clients in a ‘Client of the Quarter’ section.
I recommend using Mad Mimi for the visual designs that are available to you as a small business, the simplicity of building and moving around of your content and images which saves valuable time and the technical support excellence.”
- TrafficWave – “TrafficWave, because they have a newsletter, which explains the benefits of having an ESP plus an affiliate plan that pays the Small Business Owner. Compatible with WordPress. Their subscription service is a flat rate one.”
- MailChimp – “Free for the first 2,000 Subscribers, then costs a monthly fee after that, compatible with WordPress.”
- AWeber – “Perhaps the most trusted of all the ESPs, they have different levels of subscription, based on number of subscribers, and they do provide an email marketing guide, although it is not as comprehensive as TrafficWaves’ guidance.”
- Klaviyo – “If you’re an ecommerce business on Shopify, Magento, or WooCommerce I would recommend Klaviyo hands down. The ease of integration and standard out of the box flows make set up a breeze. For example, for ecommerce retailers abandoned cart messages and browse abandonment emails are important, and being able to pull in the product image can be somewhat technically complex, but with Klaviyo it just takes a few button clicks. Klaviyo also has a good email editor, a flexible revenue based analytics dashboard, strong 3rd party native integrations, and the UI is fairly simple to use and navigate.”
- ActiveCampaign – “For coaches, consulting, or service based businesses, Active Campaign is by far my favorite and recommended ESP. It lives somewhere between a basic MailChimp and Infusionsoft in terms of platform complexity. Deliverability is good and it really shines when setting up simple or complex automations using their intuitive drag and drop campaign builder. They also have a good CRM system. Finally, I like that they have tag based system for organizing contacts which tends to be more flexible than a list based system like MailChimp. Because of all the features that come with this ESP and their competitive pricing, I both use and recommend Active Campaign to my service based businesses.”
- ONTRAPORT – “If you’re looking for more of an all-in-one marketing platform, then I could recommend ONTRAPORT. It’s an ESP, CRM, and landing page builder all in one. And it also lets you send SMS and direct mail as well. While not as well known as it’s older cousin Infusionsoft, to me it’s somewhat more intuitive to use, and has more out of the box features to make the learning curve easier to manage than a larger enterprise solution.”
- MailerLite – “I worked at Mailerlite as an email marketing and support specialist almost for 4 years 🙂 But I recommend it for small businesses because it’s very easy to use and start email marketing from the scratch. Mailerlite has a simple Drag-and-drop Email Builder, its automation tools can help you to build sophisticated campaigns with no technical skills required. Also, you can create responsive landing pages, customize beautiful popups with just a few clicks and connect a MailerLite account to other web services (Shopify, WordPress, etc.)”
- eSputnik – “It’s SaaS from a Ukrainian team and this product is awesome (maybe not so fancy looking as other services but still powerful). It has a simple-to-use Drag-and-drop Email Builder (Stripo editor is a product of the same team and mainly incorporated in eSputnik’s Builder), you can combine email/viber/push/sms messages and do automation thanks to its scenarios builder. And the support is just great and lightning fast!”
- MailChimp – “Simply because it’s a classic of Email marketing SaaS. Mailchimp has a separate “unit” for transactional emails called Mandrill. It can be a little bit expensive for some small business, but you always can try its ‘Forever Free’ plan to find out how it works for your scenario.”
- SendGrid – “As we have a database of over 40,000 and it handles that amount well ‘The Marketing Campaigns’ engine that SendGrid rolled out has a number of benefits for the business owner that doesn’t want to get into API code. The Marketing Campaigns drag-and-drop editor is easy to learn and quick to navigate. After building your first campaign, you can easily duplicate it and not have to build each campaign from scratch.”
- MailChimp – “MailChimp is one of the most popular email marketing service providers. They offer a very easy to use interface with great tools and awesome support and is in my view the best solution for startups and small businesses.”
- Infusionsoft – “There’s a reason it’s called ‘Confusionsoft’ – its a very steep learning curve, but my colleague who recommended the product and used for last 12 months is a “fan.” I’ve been giving it a go the last 3 months, but I just can’t get the feeling.”
“Also, I’d like to add people like to use different tools and depends on the purpose. There is no one tool that fits everything and everyone it depends on objectives, skill and budget.”
- MailChimp – “Having tested many email marketing software systems over the last 15 years, I can truly say that MailChimp provides a slick and reliable solution for any small business.
It provides enterprise level features at a price small businesses can afford. If you have under 2,000 subscribers it’s even free! You can’t ask for more than that.
* Free for up to 2k subscribers
* Handles bounces and unsubscribes to keep your list clean and legal (including GDPR opt in compliance)
* Create a sign up form with ease for your website (get your developer to drop in the code) or use the handy WordPress plugin
* Easy to use, drag and drop style templates to create professional branded email campaigns
* Split A/B testing feature to test what works best (day/time/subject lines etc)
* Advance scheduling – create in advance and send at the best time for your audience
* Easy to understand campaign performance reports including email content click maps
* Tracks with Google Analytics
* Integrates with some CRM systems too.”
- SendinBlue – “SendinBlue is a great choice if you want more than just very basic functionality for a good price. For small businesses that do not want to commit to any paid re-occurring monthly plan SendinBlue is a solid and much cheaper alternative to the classics such as MailChimp. Offering more or less the same features you get 5000 email credits for only 30€. Compared to $150 with Mail Chimp, this is a bargain, which has its perks too.
+ transactional and automation emails (also on the free plan)
+ neat developer API (makes integrating your own system really easy)
+ awesome customer support (very responsive and helpful)
+ HTML Editor (for users that do know some coding this offers another level of customisation)
+ supports SMS campaigns (also on the free plan)
+ good price
– no A/B testing functionality on free plan
– delivery (they don’t like to hear it, but I did have some problems with the delivery of emails in key times, which is not so great and someone might not want to risk.)”
- MailChimp – “Probably the widely known and most popular email marketing tool is definitely a good choice for small businesses to get started. In terms of design functionality Mail Chimp tops many other basic ESPs. With an easy drag and drop email builder and the ability to customise almost everything you can think without knowing too much code, anyone can build great emails with Mail Chimp. In addition Mail Chimp offer most of the features you would expect from a good ESP already in their free plan.
+ many useful integrations (WP, Magneto, Eventbrite, GA, Salesforce, Facebook, etc.)
+ A/B testing supported with any plan
+ intuitive delivery times (based on your user’s time zone)
+ survey feature
+ extensive knowledge base
– limited audience segmentation
– transactional emails are only available in the paid plans”
- SendGrid – “Probably not the most typical ESP, SendGrind actually started with transactional email services and only added main email marketing features later on. For a small business with people managing email that know how to programme, I definitely do recommend SendGrid for the management of transaction emails.
+ extensive transactional email services
+ A/B Testing
+ high delivery rate and scalability (delivers a large volume of emails effectively)
+ multiple dedicated IP addresses
– no templates available
– many standard features are only available through an API (e.g. GA or Autoresponder)
– rather expensive”
- MailChimp – “I have used MailChimp a number of times, a cost-effective platform to use, but after years of using Messagefocus found it a little clunky and lacks sophistication , but is very good for businesses with predesigned html to load in or for basic email design templates within it to use. Loading data within it is easy and personalisation of it, is easy to use too. Reporting is limited, doesn’t show where links were clicked on in the email just the number of times, so, if you had the same link within an email several times, you wouldn’t know what one worked best on its location. If you were starting out with limited experience in email marketing and wanting to look at the basics, this would be a good platform to start with.”
- Adestra MessageFocus – “This is a platform I have used for years and have nothing but glowing reports to say about it. It is at the more higher end of ESP providers, but I turn to it every time I want ease of use, intuitiveness, great customer service, reporting, reliability, easy to integrate, bespoke project builds, specific html creative templates built and education! This platform is easy to use for non-marketing specialists also, who might not look over the whole aspects of an email communication, but Messagefocus prompts you to do so. My favourite hands down in my 18 years + of marketing!”
- ConvertKit – “My favourite ESP has to be ConvertKit. Although you must pay up front to use ConvertKit it is actually cheaper long-term than those ESPs who offer a free sign up. Should you make groups of subscribers, they only count as one email address, other service providers would count the same email address in two groups as two ‘different’ email address. Not ConvertKit. Plus, ConvertKit has an excellent tagging system – you can tag certain subscribers with several tags and then send broadcasts to only those with tags you select. For example, say you wanted to send a newsletter in French to iOS users only, you could exclude all other languages and Android/Windows OS for your newsletter. Clicking on certain links within newsletters can also tag subscribers, plus you have your automations and sequence emails – as you’d expect. Oh, and did I mention their customer service was top notch? ConvertKit is the ESP for small businesses.”
- MailChimp – “If I do not use ConvertKit then I would rec