When a business decides to build a website, their main motivation is usually to expand their sales channel and reach more customers. For businesses selling products or services, eCommerce is an obvious next step, and today, is almost always part of the plan from the beginning.
If you're at all familiar with the concept of eCommerce, you already know a few ways an online store can help your business. First, it's pretty obvious that your website will allow customers to buy from you even if they aren't local, so your business will have more sales potential. However, there are other benefits too, and other ways to leverage your eCommerce website to increase your success.
The key is to realize that an online store is more than a simple catalog that lets people shop from wherever they're located. Your website is also your business's "presence" on the internet, in the same way that a brick-and-mortar store is a business's presence on a city street. Having a website is like having a storefront in every town, a billboard on every highway, and an unlimited supply of business cards. It has endless potential for spreading the word about your business. However, it won't work without strong branding that helps differentiate you from competitors. A site that blends in with others won't fulfill this goal. Ecwid is a popular free website builder that many new businesses consider when they're breaking into eCommerce, but how does it stack up against the eCommerce templates offered by Shift4Shop?
While many eCommerce platforms offer a selection of free and premium website templates to apply to your store, Ecwid only comes with a single free theme. This is because of how Ecwid was originally designed: as an eCommerce plugin for other website builders like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla. If you're using the Ecwid plugin to add eCommerce to an existing site, your store design will depend on whatever themes are available for that platform.
Let's use WordPress as an example. It has a theme store filled with a wide variety of customizable templates, which can be made and uploaded by anyone with the coding and design skills. However, this means their quality varies greatly, as does their pricing. It can be extremely difficult to find a theme that is up to date with the current WordPress version, compatible with Ecwid, and consistently supported. Even the best theme can stop being usable if its developers cease updating it, and this weighs constantly on the minds of most people who run WordPress stores whether or not they use Ecwid.
This is one of the reasons many Ecwid store owners opt to use the Starter Site, or "free instant site," as it is often called. This is the separate free webpage that comes with an Ecwid account. Some entrepreneurs also choose to use it since they don't have time to learn WordPress or another site builder and would rather skip the problems mentioned above. For that reason, we'll be focusing mostly on the free instant site.
A traditional website theme or template works by providing a complete design that can be installed onto a website. Ecwid's Starter Site does not use themes, instead requiring you to customize different aspects of the design yourself. (What Ecwid calls "themes" are actually cover images, which function as large banners at the top of your website.)
Ecwid websites also consist of a single page, with sections for your headline and cover image, customer testimonials, your company mission, and a few more. Your store is also included on this single page with all your products. You can't organize them by category — customers will need to filter them instead.
To design an Ecwid store, you choose a cover image, arrange your sections as you see fit, and adjust the colors and fonts through a simple interface. More advanced design requires direct editing of your store's CSS, which is beyond the knowledge of many users, and there's simply no way to add additional pages to your Ecwid site.
One of your biggest goals as a business is to firmly establish yourself in your industry and to make customers remember you. You want your brand to be "top of mind," which means your business is the first one people think of when they think about your industry. You cannot achieve these goals without sufficient branding.
When you think of "branding," the first thing that comes to mind is probably your business's logo. This is crucial, of course, but branding involves much more than that. A comprehensive brand identity includes colors, fonts, voice, and more. Some of these may remain consistent even if your logo itself changes.
Since your Ecwid store design is so limited, it's easy to end up with a website that looks too much like others, causing confusion among customers and harming your ability to get established. It's also damaging to your SEO to try to include all aspects of your website on a single page, as each page can only be fully optimized for a few keywords. Customers also dislike needing to scroll through a large number of products, even with filters, to find what they're looking for. This quickly becomes a problem if you're selling many products, and new customers will have an even worse experience as they won't yet be familiar with the filters they can use to narrow down the selection.
Even if you only sell a few products, the other disadvantages still apply. Do you want your website to look like every other store? If you don't know how to write CSS, you're risking this problem with Ecwid.
Ecwid and Shift4Shop work completely differently as far as web design, because Shift4Shop is a complete, SaaS website builder that allows you to create a full, multi-page website complete with category pages, the all-important About Us page, policy pages, and any other pages you decide to add. These can be landing pages, information, or anything else you need. Shift4Shop also includes complete blogging functionality so you can create a blog for your eCommerce store without needing to use a third-party platform like WordPress or Blogger. In short, Shift4Shop is a full-featured, self-contained online store and website builder for your business.
Shift4Shop store design involves themes in the traditional sense — they're not simple cover images, but instead, complete website designs that can be instantly added to your website to provide a wide variety of layouts, color schemes, and more, all of which can be easily customized with our Theme Editor and Drag n' Drop HTML Builder. Unlike with Ecwid, you won't be limited to a single linear layout using only the same sections with only the power to show, hide, or reorder them. Instead, you start by picking a Shift4Shop theme and choosing to customize it or even leave it as-is.
A dynamic, dark free theme with a versatile layout including a large hero banner, multiple sections, and enhanced navigation via a sticky menu that remains on the page as the customer scrolls.
A stylish free theme with plenty of banner space and featured products on the front page, and a classic expanding sidebar menu that turns into a dropdown on mobile.
A bold and colorful premium theme with a mosaic-style front page banner layout and additional features like product animations and a sticky menu.
A feature-rich theme with a sophisticated design, including high-end features like a Mega Menu, which enhances navigation with images, and much more.
These are just a few of the themes available in Shift4Shop's ever-growing selection. Many themes even offer extra functionality to bring a true high-end feel to your online store. With a Shift4Shop theme, your online store's design will have an instant professional feel that a primitive website builder like Ecwid can't hope to match. Plus, you have multiple options to customize your store, whether you prefer to use built-in tools to directly edit HTML and CSS or jump in to work with the raw code itself. All your theme files are fully available for you to edit as you see fit.