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 online store building tools, 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 standard stuff that you’d expect to be able to do using an e-commerce solution. Where it differs fundamentally from competing products like Shopify, Volusion, Squarespace and Bigcommerce is that it is not a 'standalone' solution but a widget that gets placed on other sites – (hence the name Ecwid: it stands for ‘E-commerce Widget’). As such, you get a few lines of HTML code to add to your existing website or social media page du choix – 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 ‘out of the box’ – 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.
To use this feature, you use a free card reader provided by Ecwid (which plugs into your iPhone or iOS device) in conjunction with an app downloaded from Apple’s App store. This functionality is powered by Paypal (i.e., you must use Paypal for point of sale transactions rather than your own payment gateway).
Ecwid are ahead of the pack in that their storefronts can be translated in up to 45 different languages – so 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.
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.
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:
- $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 mont - 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.
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. The 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 'Business' and 'Unlimited' plans, you get a 'white glove' onboarding service: this may be useful for merchants who are new to e-commerce.
- 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.)
- The 'Unlimited' plan includes 12 hours of development time, in order to help you customise the product to meet specific requirements.
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 around 48 ‘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
Finally, if you are on the free plan, you should be aware that it's not possible to implement an SEO fix - you'll have to upgrade to a paid plan for that.
You can read more about Ecwid and SEO here.
Apps and plugins
Ecwid provides a fairly limited number integrations with other well-known apps. Thankfully integrations exist with key services Mailchimp and Freshbook; 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.
Using Ecwid with Squarespace and Wordpress
Squarespace and Wordpress users may find Ecwid a particularly useful way of selling products online. With regard to Squarespace, although it comes with e-commerce functionality, the product doesn’t allow you to process transactions via Paypal or a third party payment gateway – you have to use Stripe. And using Stripe means that you can only sell goods from a limited number of countries. Using Ecwid with Squarespace allows you to bypass these limitations, and integrating Ecwid with a Squarespace site is very easy: 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.
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, Ecwid's ‘white glove’ and onboarding service – available with their Business and Unlimited plans – may be of help. 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.
Pros and cons of Ecwid
- Simple way to add e-commerce to any existing website
- Responsive designs
- Point-of-sale functionality
- Free plan available
- Supports multi-language versions of your store
- Plugins / apps available for major platforms (like Wordpress, Drupal and Wix)
- If you're not using a site plugin / app, you will need to spend a little time configuring Ecwid so that it functions well from an SEO point of view
- Free plan is not great from an SEO perspective
- Phone and live chat support is only available on the more expensive plans
- Limited number of apps available in the Ecwid App store
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. Getting it configured correctly so that it works from an SEO point of view is a bit of a nuisance, but not a showstopper - and overall, it’s a neat solution for getting an online store off the ground really quickly. As ever, it’s a case of try before you buy though, and you can register for the free version of Ecwid here.