Whether you’re a farm, a non-profit organization, a small town retailer, or an independent food business, the number one way your business can survive right now is to launch a website with some level of e-commerce capability. While I am a diehard fan of creating websites powered by WordPress, not all businesses have the skill or the budget to build a website this way or hire someone to do it for them.
So if your food-centric business needs a website, the easiest way to get your business online is by using a platform that is easy to use, provides great looking templates, has local marketing tools and commerce options. While there are lots of choices out there, the four that stand out to me, and pass my web marketing requirements, are GoDaddy, Shopify, Wix, and Squarespace.
GoDaddy: Best For Beginner to Intermediate Online Businesses
GoDaddy has risen to the top of our list because of how quickly they’re responded to the needs of small businesses during the pandemic. As of this week, they’ve made their GoDaddy Website + Marketing absolutely free. GoDaddy’s platform offers beautiful templates that are highly customizable and responsive (meaning they are optimized for mobile).
It offers simple features like SEO, email, promo banners, and more. It also offers local advertising in Yelp, Google My Business and Google Ads, and Facebook and Instagram integrations. It also has more advanced features like data and analytics, SMS, tax and shipping tools, and more premium features designed to help retail businesses.
What makes GoDaddy’s platform stand out is its ability to host member areas and secure sign-ons; this makes it ideal for wholesalers who want to set up online catalogs or accept wholesale orders online. Once your website moves to a paid subscription, it will cost $10-$20 per month to run your site; it will be $25 per month if you have advanced integrations and are selling on Amazon, Etsy, and eBay.
Shopify: Best For Intermediate To Experienced Online Sellers
Shopify is by far one of our favorite platforms for online sellers and brick-and-mortar retailers. While it can be used by someone starting out, we find that retailers with online selling experience (and a certain volume of monthly sales) find the most success with it.
Shopify’s platform is a shopping cart and e-commerce engine. It’s designed for retail businesses looking to sell products or services (or both) online. Shopify offers over 70 free and paid themes you can choose from, all websites are designed for mobile commerce and it’s blog features are built to handle content retailers need (like lookbooks, embedding products to purchase, etc). They also are built to help food-based businesses.
When it comes to the backend, it offers military-grade credit card security features, seamless shipping integrations from all major carriers, multiple language support and even drop-shipping capabilities. The platform also offers robust customer account management features so that you segment customers into groups, manage email marketing, and streamline order fulfillment.
For marketing, it offers built-in, easy to use SEO features, social media integrations and the ability to drive product reviews. What sets it apart from other website builders is it offers more advanced online selling integrations. A retailer has the ability to sell on Facebook, sell on other online marketplaces and also leverage Google product ad listings.
For all paid plans, Shopify offers 24/7 dedicated support, tons of apps, the ability to hire experts who specialize in the platform and a ton of DIY videos for those who want to learn to manage their sites themselves. Shopify pricing starts at $29 per month, plus takes a 2.9% sales commission. They do offer a starter plan for those just starting out ($9 per month).
Wix: Best For Those Who Want a Web Presence that Drives In-Store or In-Person Visits
Wix is another great platform that allows businesses of all types to set up an online presence. But their features aren’t as tailored to e-commerce as Shopify, Squarespace, or GoDaddy. Wix is better used by businesses with local services and/or physical locations who want to have an online presence that can help market and drive business in their local area.
Like the other two builders, Wix offers great templates for small businesses. What makes Wix templates different is that they make the transition from online to offline very simple. For example, all their templates are mobile-friendly, make it easy to search for a business, call a business and/or book an appointment right from the phone that’s in someone’s hand. You don’t need advanced knowledge of location search marketing or mobile marketing to make it happen, they do it for you.
For small businesses, retailers and/or local farms with consumer services, you can use your site to drive online business and in-person interactions. You can set-up email marketing programs that bring people into the store with incentives or manage RSVPs to special events. You can book and schedule shopping appointments or advice sessions.
In terms of marketing, Wix offers easy to use, simple local search marketing features built in. It also offers basic ad integrations that all businesses can use in their local area. Overall, Wix is great for retailers who want to bridge ecommerce and real world customer sales. Wix pricing starts at $17 per month and goes up to $27 for plans that will suit retailers.
Squarespace: Best For The Sophisticated Sellers or DTC Operations
If design and aesthetics are two of the most important assets to your business, then Squarespace is where it’s at. Squarespace is beauty and user experience personified. Squarespace offers a limited number of templates for e-commerce that are designed to make products stand out. So, if you have your own line and/or a private label line you’re wanting to build as a stand-alone brand, Squarespace may work for you.
A Squarespace e-commerce site strips out many features that other builders offer and focuses on offering only what you need to sell beautiful items. It has marketing capabilities, shipping integrations, product reviews, customer loyalty management, and email marketing. What it does better than some of the others is that it focuses on social integrations and getting products shared with the right information on whatever platform you post them to (Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google). You can also create subscription plans for products.
If you’re a retailer with a streamlined business and need a visually dynamic website that has all the critical marketing features, Squarespace is for you. Squarespace pricing starts at $18 per month and goes up to $40 per month with no sales commissions.