In our Ecwid review we run through the pros and cons of an online store solution that can plug into an existing website.
What is Ecwid, and how does it work?
Ecwid is a web hosted solution for building an online store. Unlike competing products such as Shopify, Bigcommerce and Volusion, which allow you to build a new website with e-commerce functionality, Ecwid is geared more towards people who already have a website and simply want to add an online store to it.
Much like other e-commerce platforms, Ecwid allows you to set up ‘catalogs’ of products, and add photos, pricing, weight etc. for each. You can define shipping rates, accept credit card payments and so on – all the key stuff that you’d expect to be able to do using an e-commerce solution.
However it differs significantly from competing products like Shopify, Volusion, Squarespace and Bigcommerce in that it is not really designed to let you create a new standalone e-commerce website; rather, it's designed to allow you add an online store to an existing online presence. (That said, Ecwid have recently added some new functionality, called 'Starter Site', that does let you create a basic standalone site. We'll chat through this in more depth later on in the review.)
The product works by giving you a widget that gets placed on other sites - hence the name Ecwid: it's short for ‘E-commerce Widget’. You get a few lines of HTML code (the widget) to add to an existing website or social media profile, and your store is displayed wherever you’ve inserted this code.
Ecwid’s point-of-sale (POS) functionality allows you to take payments via an iOS device. This, for me is one of Ecwid’s best features – it means you can use your Ecwid store to sell not just online but in physical locations too – in stores, market stalls, at concerts and so on. Not many similar products offer this functionality in quite such an ‘out of the box’ fashion – Shopify being the most obvious exception.
With Ecwid's POS functionality, regardless of whether a customer buys a product in store, online, on their phone or via Facebook, everything stays in sync - i.e., the merchant’s catalog, inventory and customer / transaction information.
There's a few ways you can use this feature: the simplest is probably to use a free card reader provided by Ecwid (which plugs into your iPhone or iPad) in conjunction with an app downloaded from Apple’s App store. This functionality is powered by Paypal or iZettle. This is great for iOS users...but the picture's not so rosy for merchants with Android devices; it'd be good if similar functionality could be provided to them as far as Paypal and iZettle goes.
Ecwid also works with the Vend, Clover and Square POS systems. These all facilitate using a wider range of hardware in a physical retail location (full-sized card readers, receipt printers, cash drawers tablet stands etc.). Android devices are also supported.
There are a couple of significant downsides to watch out for with Ecwid's POS functionality however. First, although you can avail of the mobile (Paypal / iZettle) POS option on all paid-for plans, you'll need to be on the most expensive plan if you want to avail of a Vend, Clover or Square integration. Second, Ecwid POS only works in certain countries: US, Canada or Australia. If you don't live in one of these countries and selling in physical locations is going to be a big part of your business, you'd be better off looking at a product like Shopify or Bigcommerce instead.
Ecwid is ahead of the pack in that its storefronts can be translated in up to 45 different languages – customers can view your store in their own language. Additionally, your customers don’t need to choose their language manually: Ecwid will detect visitors’ language automatically based on their browser settings / IP address.
Competing products like Shopify and Bigcommerce are yet to provide this sort of functionality – they force you to rely on third party apps or Google Translate to provide different language versions of your store, which is less than ideal. So a definite win for Ecwid here.
Unlike many similar products, Ecwid offers a completely free plan. Granted, it's a pretty basic plan, where features such as discount coupons and support are not available, and it only allows you to sell up to 10 products - but this may actually be sufficient for some users, and availing of it is a good way to try the system out. However, a key point to note about the free plan is that it is not great from an SEO point of view - you need to be on a paid plan to ensure that your product pages talk to search engines correctly (more on SEO below).
If you’ve only got a few products to sell (up to 10), Ecwid is free. However, and as discussed above, the free plan only provides basic functionality.
In terms of the paid plans, the pricing structure is as follows:
- $15 per month - the 'Ecwid Venture' plan - allows you to sell up to 100 products;
- $35 per month - the 'Ecwid Business' plan - allows you to sell up to 2500;
- $99 per month - the 'Ecwid Unlimited' plan - allows you to sell an unlimited number of products
If you pay annually, it works out cheaper: a 16.6% discount to all the above plans is applied.
One thing to watch out for is UK and EU pricing: if you're using Ecwid in a Sterling or Eurozone area, the prices are increased to £15, £35 or £99 and €15, €35 or €99 per month respectively (exclusive of VAT).
As you’d expect, the more you pay, the more additional features you get – discount coupons, the point-of-sale option, better support and so on. A few key differences in the paid plans to watch out for are as follows:
- The 'Venture' plan does not allow you to edit existing orders - you'll need to be on a more expensive plan to be able to do that.
- With the 'Unlimited' plans, you can avail of 12 hours of development time from Ecwid.
- You can sell on Ebay with the 'Business' and 'Unlimited' plans; this is not the case with 'Venture'.
- You'll need to be on the 'Business' plan or higher to submit your products to the major shopping sites (Google Shopping, Yahoo Shopping etc.)
- If you're selling digital goods (software, music etc.) that are over 100MB in size, you'll need to be on a 'Business' or 'Unlimited' plan.
- Fully customisable invoices are only available on the 'Business' and 'Unlimited' plans.
With Ecwid, you can process credit cards ‘out of the box’ using Paypal, with no extra charge other than Paypal’s commission. There are also 40+ ‘payment gateways’ you can use (third party tools for processing credit card payments – these include Sage, Stripe, ClickandBuy and others). Other online store solutions such as Bigcommerce and Shopify provide more options in this regard, but there is still a lot of options to choose from with Ecwid.
Remember of course that using these payment gateways often means paying a monthly fee. You may find it best to start off with Paypal and add a payment gateway down the line, if and when your volume of sales justifies it.
Ecwid and search engine optimisation
SEO in Ecwid is a pretty straightforward affair. You can edit the title of your page and its meta description; the relevant fields are pre-populated for you automatically, but you can tweak them to suit your SEO objectives. As far as I can tell however, you can't manually change the URL of a product - you have to make do with the one that Ecwid generates for you. This is not ideal because keywords in URLs are considered by some search engines as a ranking factor.
Apps and plugins
Ecwid provides a fairly limited number integrations with other well-known apps. Thankfully integrations exist with key services Mailchimp and Freshbooks; but to be honest the range of integrations could be more extensive - competing products such as Shopify offer a much broader range of apps. Notable omissions in the Ecwid store include Xero and Zendesk, for example.
The picture is better when it comes to CMS plugins - these are available for Wordpress, Drupal, Wix and Joomla, allowing to you install Ecwid on one of these platforms very easily.
Ecwid Starter Site
Although Ecwid has traditionally been a product which lets you add an online store to an existing website, it now allows you to set up a standalone store too. It has to be said that this is a very basic, one-page affair - but it's nonetheless potentially useful, and definitely represents a good 'stopgap' measure for merchants who wish to start selling with Ecwid but have not yet finished developing their full site (on, say, Wordpress).
You can either host your starter site on the Ecwid domain (i.e., mystore.ecwid.com) or map it to your own domain (www.yourstorename.com).
Using Ecwid with Squarespace and Wordpress
With regard to Squarespace, although it comes with e-commerce functionality, the number of payment gateway options are very limited – you have to use Stripe or Paypal. (Using Stripe means that you can only sell goods from a limited number of countries). Integrating Ecwid with Squarespace allows you to bypass these limitations, and adding it to a Squarespace site is very easy: it's a simple matter of adding a code block and pasting some HTML into it.
In the case of Wordpress, there is an Ecwid plugin available, so adding an Ecwid store to your site is very straightforward too.
Interface and ease of use
Ecwid’s interface is pretty easy to use. As with any online store building tool, you’ll need to spend a fair amount of time getting your head around creating catalogues and product variants, setting up shipping rates and so on…but there is nothing here that should represent too much of a learning curve. Matters are helped by an 'onboarding checklist' that is provided to you when you log in for the first time.
If you are stuck however there are two options available to you. Firstly, there's a 'personalised onboarding service' - a 15 minute phone call with the Ecwid team - which is available on all plans, even the free one. And of course, you can always get in touch with Ecwid's support team – more on that below.
The level of support you get from Ecwid depends on the type of plan you’re on. If you’re on the free plan, you won’t get any support other than that which is available on customer forums; if you’re on the $15-per-month Venture plan you can expect email support; and if you’re on a Business ($35) or Unlimited plan ($99) you can expect phone and live chat support. 'Unlimited' customers get priority support.
Alternatives to Ecwid
If you're starting an online store from scratch, then you're spoiled for choice; there are many platforms available that allow you to build a standalone online store and the big hitters include Shopify, Bigcommerce, Volusion and Squarespace. However, if you're hoping to integrate a store into an existing site, of the aforementioned, only Shopify will let you do this, via its Buy Button. This works in a similar way to Ecwid in that you add a snippet of code to your site to feature Shopify products or collections on it; however, whereas Ecwid allows you to effectively put a complete, fully functioning store on an existing site, Shopify's offering is more basic. With Ecwid, you're getting a complete store on your site (one which permits user account creation, product search, social media sharing of products etc.); but the Shopify 'Buy Button' just facilitates basic 'add to cart' and checkout functionality.
Ecwid review conclusions
Ecwid is a cost-effective, powerful way to add e-commerce functionality to an existing site or place an online store on a Facebook page or other social media presence. There are some niggles to consider however - not least around point of sale being limited to certain countries. You'll find a full summary of our pros and cons below.
As ever, it’s a case of try before you buy though, and you can register for the free version of Ecwid here.
Pros and cons of using Ecwid
- It's a really simple way to add e-commerce to any existing website.
- The store designs are responsive.
- Point-of-sale functionality is available.
- The free plan is quite generous.
- It supports multi-language versions of your store.
- Plugins / apps are available for major platforms (like Wordpress, Drupal and Wix).
- The 'starter site' option is a good stopgap measure for merchants who need a store quickly, but have yet to develop a full site to add the Ecwid widget to.
- POS only works in certain countries: US, Canada or Australia.
- iZettle and Paypal card readers are only available to users with iOS devices.
- Using Ecwid is more expensive in the UK and EU than in the US.
- Phone and live chat support is only available on the more expensive plans.
- There are a limited number of apps / integrations available in the Ecwid App store.
- You can't change product URLs, which is slightly annoying from an SEO point of view.