🧩Choosing the Right eCommerce Platform and Marketplace

If you’re starting a new business, here is what to know about choosing the right eCommerce platform and marketplace. Remember to start bookkeeping from the onset. Start for free with CommerceNavigator

The use of an eCommerce platform or marketplace by many businesses doesn’t make it the best fit for your business. Your business model could be different, and you should also consider upfront and recurring costs, functionality, scalability, and ease of use, among others. Amazon, eBay, Shopify, Squarespace, WooCommerce, etc., are names you must have heard. But how do you choose the right eCommerce platform or online marketplace? This guide will help you find out by comparing the differences between eCommerce platforms and online marketplaces.

What Is an eCommerce Platform?

An eCommerce platform is a software application that online businesses can use to build a store and manage sales. Shopify, Squarespace, and WooCommerce are examples of eCommerce platforms. They allow you to create your online store, like a website, and customize it to your preference.

For example, using an eCommerce platform like Shopify is like renting a building where you set up your business. You have space to build and design your store and how it looks to customers.

What Is an Online Marketplace?

Think of an online marketplace as a physical market where you buy groceries.

For example, selling on online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and Etsy is like having a stall at a boot fair or market. Many people visit the market looking for products and browse through your stall.

The Difference Between an eCommerce Platform and Online Marketplace

The major difference between an eCommerce store and an online marketplace is that a marketplace is a website that sells different products from multiple sellers. In contrast, an eCommerce platform sells one vendor's products to multiple customers.

Which eCommerce Platform Is Best for My Business?

Here we'll look at the differences between Shopify, Squarespace, and WooCommerce:


Shopify allows you to create an online store and sell in multiple places, such as the web, mobile, social media, and online marketplace like Amazon. This means you can also integrate your Shopify store with Amazon to sell on the marketplace. It is also completely cloud-based and hosted, meaning you don’t need to worry about maintaining web servers like you would if you launched your website and used the WooCommerce plugin.

There are many business models that can succeed on Shopify. From wholesaling and retailing to dropshipping and direct-to-customer manufacturing.


WooCommerce is an eCommerce plugin for WordPress. This means you can turn your WordPress website into an eCommerce store. You control everything, including your site’s hosting, products, and checkout options. WooCommerce is free. And one of the reasons why many business owners choose it is because costs are customizable. You can control what you spend. However, you'll need to pay hosting and domain fees for your WordPress website and/or themes.


Squarespace has templates for you to create your eCommerce store and manage orders. You can connect a payment processor like PayPal and Apple Pay, issue refunds, and receive donations.

What to Look Out for When Choosing the Right eCommerce Platform

Here are essential things to consider when choosing the right eCommerce platform:

  1. Usability: Focus on how easy it is for website visitors to navigate and interact with your online store. Consider a platform that makes it easy for people with little to no digital literacy to use.

  2. Payment Gateways: Choose a platform that integrates well with a payment processor that suits your business model.

  3. Scalability for Site Visitors: If your store isn’t scalable, it can cause problems in the future. Choose a platform that prepares you for increased site visitors in the future.

  4. Hosting Environment: Look out for the domain name, the hosting environment, bandwidth, and year-over-year uptime.

  5. Cost: Make sure you consider the costs of starting the business on the eCommerce platform you choose.

  6. Customer Support: Your chosen eCommerce platform must have excellent customer support to help you whenever you run into issues.

  7. Integrations: Can the platform integrate with other platforms that make your business easier? For example, Shopify integrates with Amazon helping you sell your products on Amazon without creating separate stores.

Which Online Marketplace Is Best for My Business Model?

Here, we’ll look at the differences between Amazon, eBay, and Etsy:


Amazon is a popular marketplace in the eCommerce world. It’s one of the most reliable marketplaces with low startup costs. If you’re planning to start a small side hustle, you can open an Amazon seller account for free. When you cross a certain threshold of orders or need a promotion, you'll need to pay more or upgrade to a business account.

Most products sold on Amazon are new. Unlike other platforms like eBay, where you can sell used or preowned items. However, you can leverage the Amazon Renewed program to sell second-hand or refurbished products.

Amazon is great for first-timers or side hustlers who want to start a small business quickly. Or test a product idea without dedicating too much money or time to building a store.


eBay is another popular marketplace where buyers look for products in different categories. Unlike Amazon, where products have a fixed price, people list their items on eBay to have them auctioned to the highest bidder. This makes eBay a good place to sell thrift clothing or used products, such as books, appliances, electronics, baby products, etc.

However, if you plan to sell prescription drugs, firearms, or embargoed goods, eBay isn't the place, as these are banned.


Etsy is different from the two above because it targets a specific seller audience. If your business involves selling handmade products, crafting supplies, or vintage pieces, Etsy is the best platform.

You can sell your paintings, hand-knitted beanies, crochet dresses, handmade jewelry, woodwork, and pottery on Etsy. You can also resell on Etsy, but this only allowed for the craft supply and vintage categories.

What to Look Out for When Choosing an Online Marketplace

Here are things to consider when choosing the right online marketplace:

  1. Reach: Consider one with a bigger size capable of helping you reach more buyers.

  2. Specialization: Although most online marketplaces don't specialize, a few, like Etsy, are more popular for certain products. eBay is also popular as an auction site.

  3. Cost: Consider the fee structure, such as upfront cost, commission, and recurring cost.

  4. Onboarding: Choose a marketplace that makes it easy to create an account with little to no instruction.

  5. Multiple Shipping Options: This will help you fulfill orders seamlessly.

Other factors to consider when choosing the right online marketplace include scalability, multiple payment options, a comprehensive product catalog, and platform maintenance.

An eCommerce platform gives you more control over your online store and marketing opportunities. However, you'll need to consider usability, scalability when your visitors increase, and hosting costs, among others. You don’t have a lot of customizable features on marketplaces, and your marketing opportunities are usually limited to what the marketplace offers. But it’s easy to start quickly with minimal startup costs or time.

Enter Commerce Navigator

Regardless of the platform you choose, bookkeeping from the onset helps your scale your business quickly. You'll find out whether you're making a profit or loss. Or need to change your business plan. CommerceNavigator provides a financial overview of your business costs and income, helping you understand how your business is doing. Learn how it works here.

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