Choosing a sales platform

There are a number of ways to start an online store. What approach suits you best?


A sales platform is the system that you use to sell products and services and collect donations. Examples of different online sales platforms are detailed in this section, starting with the cheapest and simplest and moving through to the most expensive and flexible.

The approaches we cover in this section are:

Adding e-commerce features to an existing website using plugins

If you have created a website using a freely available content management system (CMS), then there are free or inexpensive options for creating an online store.

By using  plugins, it is possible to begin selling products from your website without knowledge of web markup language.

Because you are adding features to your own website, you can expect to have more control over your online store than you would if you were selling from within an online marketplace. It also means that your online store can be located at the same web address as the rest of your online presence.

The following table lists some of the e-commerce plug-ins available for open source CMSs.

e-Commerce plugins available for a range of open source content management systems

Content Management System e-Commerce plugins
external linkWordPress  external linkeShop
external linkWP e-Commerce
external linkCart 66 Lite 
linkJoomla linkVirtueMart
external linkDrupal  external linkUbercart for Drupal
external linkDrupal Commerce
external linke-Commerce
Creating an online store with e-commerce website

If you would like to be guided through the process of creating a standalone e-commerce website from start to finish, then you might want to investigate specialised e-commerce software packages. These packages usually require a monthly fee.

VTo help you through the process, the companies that produce these software packages usually offer services in graphic design, web development and marketing from an in-house team or affiliates.

Examples of these packages are:

external linkVolusion 
external linkShopify 
external linkBigCommerce 
external linkBigcartel 

Creating your own e-commerce website
Establishing your own e-commerce website gives you the flexibility to tailor each part of it as required, and to integrate it more closely with your customer relationship management system. This can be helpful if you want to establish a customer loyalty program or track the effectiveness of advertising campaigns.Many people start selling through third party sites and then establish their own e-commerce website when they want more control and flexibility.For more information on building custom e-commerce platforms, see ‘Website building costs’ and ‘Website building timeframes’.

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Setting up shop in an online marketplace: one of the simplest ways to sell online

Selling your products on an existing online marketplace could be the most straightforward way to do e-commerce. These sites allow you to sell your products online without investing time or money into creating your own e-commerce enabled website. Examples of these sites are Gumtreelink and eBaylink.

For more information on online marketplaces, see ‘Online marketplaces’.

You don’t have to begin with an advanced sales platform. Many people initially start selling through existing online marketplaces and then establish their own e-commerce website once they begin to identify different areas where they would like more control and flexibility.