What is Ecwid, and how does it work?
Ecwid is a 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 fully-featured, 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 one-page standalone offering. 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.
There are a number of key Ecwid features that I think are particularly good and worth singling out for attention:
Ecwid storefronts are responsive, meaning that they will display correctly across devices – desktop, tablet and mobile. In an era where smartphone web browsing is eclipsing desktop surfing, this is important.
Thanks to Ecwid’s point-of-sale (POS) functionality, 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.
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 ‘Paypal Here.’ This involves downloading the Ecwid iOS app from the Apple’s App store, connecting it to the Paypal Here service, and then taking payments using either a mobile card reader (pictured above) which plugs into the audio jack of your iOS device or a chip card reader (pictured below).
The chip card reader can be ordered direct from Ecwid for a fee of $79; the mobile card reader is available for $14.99. (Because the audio jack is being jettisoned by Apple on an increasing number of devices, however, you might be better off investing in the more expensive chip card reader over the mobile card reader).
There’s a couple of things worth noting about the Paypal Here integration: first, it’s only available to merchants in the US and UK. Secondly, it’s not yet available on Android devices. (On their site, Ecwid state it will be available soon – but they have been saying that for several months).
If you’re based outside the US / UK, or want to work with another mobile device type, the good news is that Ecwid also works with the Vend, Clover, NCR Silver 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.) and are usable in more countries.
Although you can avail of the Paypal Here 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, NCR Silver or Square integration.
Ecwid is ahead of the pack in that its storefronts can be translated into over 50 different languages – customers can view your store in their own language. Additionally, your customers won’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, the creation of multiple stores 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 in 2 categories – but this may actually be sufficient for some users, and using 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, this 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
(All the above products allow you to make use of up to 10,000 product categories.)
If you pay for Ecwid annually, things works out cheaper: the three plans come in respectively at $12.50, $29.17, $82.50 per month.
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). This makes things considerably more expensive for UK users in particular.
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 (or create ones manually) – you’ll need to be on a more expensive plan to be able to do that.
Automatic abandoned cart recovery is only available on the ‘Business’ plans and higher.
With the ‘Unlimited’ plan, you can avail of some consultation time when setting up your store.
You can sell on Ebay with the ‘Business’ and ‘Unlimited’ plans direct from your Ecwid store; 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, Shopzilla 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 50+ ‘payment gateways’ you can use (third party tools for processing credit card payments – these include Sage, Stripe, 2Checkout, Authorize.Net and many others).
Other online store solutions such as Shopify provide some more options in this regard, but the range of payment gateway integrations available with Ecwid is at the more comprehensive end of the spectrum.
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.
Importing and exporting data
Like many competing products Ecwid allows you to import and export your data in CSV format.
The export option allows you to export product data, orders and customers (again, in CSV format) and means that if you ever feel the need to migrate your store to another e-commerce platform, you shouldn’t have any major problems doing so.
Ecwid and search engine optimisation
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 used by some search engines to categorise content during indexing.
However, the URLs that are automatically generated by Ecwid include the title you’ve given to your product – so if you include some keywords in your product title (not a bad idea anyway) your URL will include them too. This serves as something of a workaround, but I’d prefer full control over URLs.
Apps and plugins
Ecwid provides a fairly limited number integrations with other well-known apps. Thankfully integrations exist with key services Mailchimp, Xero 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 Quickbooks 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 WordPress
WordPress users may find Ecwid a particularly useful way of selling products online.
In the case of WordPress, there is an Ecwid plugin available, so adding an Ecwid store to your WordPress site is very straightforward.
You just sign up for an Ecwid account and then install the free plugin.
Using Ecwid with Squarespace
Squarespace comes with some pretty good e-commerce functionality, but the number of payment gateway options are very limited – you have to use Stripe or Paypal. (And using Stripe only works if you’re selling goods from certain 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.
I suspect that most Squarespace users will be able to survive with the built-in e-commerce features provided by the platform, but for those who don’t want to move their site but do want more sophisticated e-commerce functionality, it’s an interesting option.
Perhaps most importantly, using Ecwid on Squarespace will allow you to do something important which Squarespace currently doesn’t (out of the box at least): export your product data. This allows you to future proof your store in case you need to migrate to a different platform down the line.
Interface and ease of use
Ecwid’s interface is pretty easy to use. Like many similar products, you get a vertical menu on the left which allows you to access key functionality, and the area on the right is used to display or edit associated products, site content and reports.
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 can avail of email support; if you’re on the $15-per-month Venture plan you can expect email and live chat support; and if you’re on a Business ($35) or Unlimited plan ($99) you can expect phone, live chat and email 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’ essentially just facilitates basic ‘add to cart’ and checkout functionality.
WordPress users may also be interested in looking at Woocommerce to add an online store to their site.
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.