In an earlier post, How to Choose the Best Platform for Your Artist’s Website, I covered the pros and cons of a range of possible platforms for your artist's website. If it's a priority for you to sell your art online with a robust e-commerce website, you'll want to hear from these experts on the top three platforms: Squarespace, WordPress, and Shopify.
I sent these questions to three e-commerce experts:
- What makes Squarespace/WordPress/Shopify a great choice for an e-commerce website?
- How easy is it to set up e-commerce on a Squarespace/WordPress/Shopify site?
- How much will it cost?
- What are your top tips and recommendations?
- Anything I need to keep in mind or watch out for?
Here are your answers from experts Bethany Loginow (Squarespace), Sarah Morrison (WordPress), and Amy Lynne Hayes (Shopify).
Squarespace, with Bethany Loginow
What makes Squarespace a great choice for an e-commerce website?
Squarespace (in my humble opinion as a Squarespace Authorized Trainer) is the quickest and most efficient way to build an e-commerce website. With close to 100 different templates to choose from, and an infinite number of ways to customize your individual web pages, you’d be hard-pressed to find two Squarespace websites that look exactly the same.
How easy is it to set up e-commerce on a Squarespace site?
When Squarespace says they have all you need to create a website, sell online, market yourself, and measure success, they’re not wrong.
Squarespace is an all-in-one content management system that boasts unlimited bandwidth and storage for all users, free templates, free domains and domain email through G-Suite with annual plans, and brand-new email campaign functionality.
How much will it cost?
Business plans (starting at $18/month) have a native e-commerce functionality that connects with Stripe and/or PayPal in just minutes. With other native integrations like Acuity scheduling, MailChimp, and Instagram/Twitter feeds, continuing the conversation with your audience has never been easier.
You can view Squarespace pricing here. You'll see that there are two tabs under pricing: Websites and Online Stores (Commerce). Keep in mind that Squarespace takes a 3% transaction fee in addition to processing fees if you choose the Business plan, whereas there are no transaction fees with the Online Store plans.
Weigh the options for your own business whether choosing one of the Online Store options is a wise business move (generally it is). You can upgrade or downgrade your plan at any time with the click of a button.
Although there’s a slightly higher price tag with the Online Store plans, there are more benefits, like integration with ShipStation and Xero, and features like inventory, orders, taxes, coupons, customer accounts, products on Instagram, abandoned cart autorecovery, gift cards, and advanced shipping.
If you can’t make up your mind whether Squarespace is the right fit for your e-commerce business, they do offer a 2-week free trial (no credit card required).
What are your top tips for getting set up with Squarespace?
Instead of continuing to tell you, I want to show you instead how easy it is to create an e-commerce site on Squarespace for your business. Here's a 2-minute tutorial I made just for you.
Bethany Loginow started Savvy Growth Marketing in the summer of 2016. She teaches beginner-preneurs how to create an online business using Squarespace, and raises five kids on the side. Bethany is based in Metro Detroit, Michigan, but works with clients from all over the United States and abroad.
WordPress, with Sarah Morrison
How easy is it to set up e-commerce on a WordPress site?
It's just a few clicks away! You'll need your own self-hosted WordPress.org website. (You can get set up with hosting for as little as $5. I recommend Siteground), and a free WooCommerce Storefront theme.
The WooCommerce storefront is out-of-the-box mobile responsive, SEO friendly, and customizable.
WooCommerce allows you to:
- Create a storefront right on your website, including cart, checkout and order confirmation page
- Create individual products with detailed photos, descriptions, and sizing
- Hook it all up to the payment processor of your choice (like Stripe for credit cards or PayPal) so you don't have to pay any additional monthly/annual fees.
How much will it cost?
To get up and running, you simply need to purchase hosting of your self-hosted WordPress.org website (not to be confused for WordPress.com) for as low as $5/month and your domain name (starting at $10/year). Done!
If you want to hire a designer or developer to help you build your site, costs vary widely, ranging from $500 – $5,000+. Most of the time, the cost will depend on the expertise of your designer, the number of products you’d like in your storefront, and the customizations you’re requesting.
Many designers have favorite themes and projects, and may give you a deal if you have a website that is easy to work with or if your content is already gathered and straightforward.
What are your top tips for getting set up with WordPress?
If you are doing it yourself, get plugged into a good supportive Facebook community to ask for help when you get stuck (WooHelp has over 25,000 members). Others have walked your path before and can easily and simply answer any questions you might have.
Though the Storefront theme is free, there are also paid themes for purchase that are WooCommerce compatible (these themes have the store feature built in to a regular website/blog setup).
I personally design with the Genesis framework, which allows for easy software updates that do not affect your customization, with a child theme from a reputable designer.
My preferred designers are Hello You Designs and Restored 316, which offer WooCommerce-compatible themes and have amazing help and support documents on their websites, with their own Facebook communities and personal customer service via email.
Again, if you need help figuring something out, the Facebook communities are a great place to go. If something is not working the way it is supposed to, you get wonderful tech support straight from the theme creator. You never have to feel like you are alone in this!
Anything to keep in mind or watch out for?
Though WooCommerce is a free plugin, there are many additional upgrades that you have to pay for. Yes, you can have that lightbox feature you want, but you'll probably have to pay extra for that plugin. Do you want to customize your storefront more than the theme you're using? You can, but it's a paid upgrade.
What makes WordPress a great choice for an e-commerce website?
I think WordPress is a great choice for an e-commerce website because of its infinite possibilities for customization and extremely low overhead (small monthly hosting fees after the initial setup).
Pro tip from Sarah: I’m often asked, “Should I sell on Etsy, or on my own website?” I always recommend selling from your own website. The #1 reason? When people buy something on Etsy, people will admire it and ask them, “Oh I love that, where did you get it?” and they’ll say, “I got it on Etsy.” New customers will never find you that way! But if your product is for sale on your own site, people will say, “Oh, I found it on [YOUR NAME]’s website.” Also, with your own website you have all the control; on Etsy, they have the final word and can shut you down if they want to.
Sarah has a gift for you: 25+ WordPress Plugins Everyone Should Know About … and Use!
Sarah Morrison, Sarah Kay Design, offers web design, digital strategy, and coaching, and serves as the confident, enthusiastic, and invested guide that entrepreneurs with big dreams need to move forward.
Shopify, with Amy Lynne Hayes
What makes Shopify a great choice for an e-commerce website?
Shopify is one of the most robust e-commerce platforms for self-hosted shop fronts, meaning you’re not selling through a third party such as Etsy or Amazon. The account itself is very easy to set up, and Shopify provides plenty of resources and tutorials if you need help with any settings.
Shopify sites offer everything in one place. Each Shopify theme comes with everything you need to set up your website and shop, including home page, about page, blog layout, etc. The Shopify dashboard handles inventory, tracking traffic and other analytics, sales reports, and all of the functions you need to operate an e-commerce store.
How much will it cost?
Shopify starts you off with a 14-day free trial, so you can familiarize yourself with the dashboard and make sure it works for your business. After that, the cost is as little as $29 per month for the Basic Shopify plan. This covers all your needs if you’re just starting out, and you can upgrade for more features as your business grows. They offer free themes as well, which are a great way to keep costs down when you’re just starting out.
What are your top tips for getting set up with Shopify?
My top tips for Shopify are to take advantage of the resource library, and reach out to support any time you get even the slightest bit stuck. They are super responsive, and can point you in the right direction and provide solutions that you may not have even considered. With all the apps and added features, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. They can help make sure you’re taking full advantage of all that’s available, and choosing the right options for your specific needs.
With all the fancy apps and add-ons available, it’s tempting to want to start adding everything to your new site. Keep in mind though that unlike WordPress plugins, most of which are free, many of the Shopify apps have an added cost that can add up quickly if you’re not mindful.
How easy is it to set up e-commerce on a Shopify site?
All the options and features, combined with stellar customer support, make Shopify the go-to platform for anyone selling a physical product. Its inventory management dashboard and easy integration with online accounting software makes it easy to jump in and use, without needing loads of technical knowledge, meaning you can focus on creating rather than fussing with all the backend details.
Amy Lynne Hayes, The Global Creator, offers branding and web design, and has built sites on WordPress, Squarespace, and Shopify. She believes that Shopify is by far and away the king of e-commerce, and the most robust platform without being overly complicated. She majored in fine arts in college; you can see her own online retail store here: www.theglobalcreator.com
Do you have an e-commerce site for your art? Show us in the comments!
P.S. In my Create a Marketing Plan for Your Thriving Art Business course, we cover setting up your website. Add your name to the waitlist and I'll let you know when registration opens.