We look at some of the most exciting e-commerce options for charities
There has been an explosion in online purchases since the introduction of social distancing restrictions. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported in March 2020 that online retail sales reached an all-time high. Of all the purchases made, 22.3% of those were through the internet.
The trend in e-commerce is expected to grow as people become used to the benefits of online shopping. For many charities, the starting point is to look at how to make transactions online.
Adobe says that an e-commerce platform is “software that enables the commercial process of buying and selling over the internet”. E-commerce platforms have specific features, such as virtual shopping carts, ordering history, and payment functionality. Charities looking to launch shops and websites should consider what the different e-commerce platforms offer and the specific advantages that apply to your charity.
We take a look at some of the most popular e-commerce platforms.
Undoubtedly one of the most well-known e-commerce platforms, Shopify offers all the bells and whistles. The platform allows charities to launch an e-shop and to start selling immediately.
The online software lets charities add various products and information, including details such as SKU numbers, barcodes, taxes, and multi-faceted photos of items. The storefronts are fully customisable, so charities with ‘themes’ can get creative.
Shopify offers functionality to track analytics and digital marketing campaigns. The platform can also help with budgeting. It informs you how much you’re spending on advertising versus sales, which provides a good indicator for return on investment.
Shopify also has an app which helps charities to accept online donations.
Cost: Plans start at $29 (£20 approx) per month for those getting started. For charities, Shopify also offers a free 14-day trial.
Bottom line: Shopify is the gold standard for e-commerce storefronts.
Well known for website designs, Wix also has an e-commerce storefront offering. Similar in sophistication to Shopfiy, Wix has ready-made storefronts and templates. When compared with Shopify, many users have found the Wix platform easier to use.
Best for small- to medium-sized charities, the platform offers good connections with Facebook, Instagram, eBay, and other platforms. That means charities can easily advertise their goods on different channels.
A benefit for charity digital leaders, online analytics can be pulled from the platform, allowing managers to gain better insight into selling.
Cost: Plans start at £13 per month. You can also find discounted rates for Wix on Charity Digital Exchange.
Bottom line? Cost effective, but has fewer options for more sophisticated sellers.
The store design element comes front and centre for BigCommerce. The provider makes sure that the storefront can ‘convert’ potential buyers into customers. That means ensuring that the site maximises SEO searches to drive traffic.
BigCommerce also ticks other boxes. The platform ensures coupons and discounts are applied and it also offers the ability to accept different payment types.
Best for charities already onto the e-commerce trend, BigCommerce is well integrated with eBay, Amazon, and Google shopping sites. This is a big plus for charities already selling on those platforms.
Cost: Plans are tailored by need, so charities can pick and choose the features that work best.
Bottom line: There may be fees associated with sales, whereas other platforms don’t impose sales limits.
Shift4Shop is a great choice for charities just starting out. Components of e-commerce platforms can be bolted on separately. For charities who already have a website but need shopping cart add-ons, Shift4Shop provides the software and payment solutions.
This is also the case for point-of-sale (POS) systems. The provider lets charities gain online and bricks-and-mortar flexibility. These types of POS systems work by taking payments from multiple channels.
Shift4Shop offers the storefront option with themes and multiple payment options. There’s also a widget available at checkout to support charity donations.
Cost: For charities, basic access is free. Other plans start at $29 (£20 approx) per month.
Bottom line: Try it out for free and learn how to get a handle on e-commerce.
Aimed at smaller charities, GoDaddy offers e-commerce options for storefronts and websites. For those starting out, GoDaddy can help charities register domains and websites. Once the website name has been locked in, the platform offers customisable features and options.
Adding more sophistication, online storefront options are also possible. While GoDaddy does have store themes, there are fewer options than Shopify and Wix. For those social media gurus, however, the platform has great forms of integration with Facebook and other social media sites.
Cost: Charities can try GoDaddy for free. Basic plans then start at £6.99 per month.
Bottom line: GoDaddy offers the best solution for small charities on a budget.
PrestaShop offers out-of-the-box solutions for charities looking to set up an online shop. The platform provides basic retailing templates. Similar to Shift4Shop, different selling modules can be bolted onto charity platforms depending on needs.
Since the software is open source, developers offering different types of e-commerce products are available. The basic package includes online payment options.
For more sophistication, charities can go for social media add-ons. These types of add-ons connect social media accounts with secure shopping.
Cost: Software is free to download for charities.
Bottom line: Great for charities looking for third-party add-ons and customisation, but might be challenging for beginners.