Ecwid Review (2019) - How To Add E-Commerce To Any Website

Ecwid review (image of a shopping trolley beside the Ecwid logo)

In our Ecwid review we run through the pros and cons of an online store solution that can plug into an existing website.

Our overall rating: 4/5


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.


Key features

There are a number of key Ecwid features that I think are particularly good and worth singling out for attention: 

Responsive storefronts

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.

Ecwid's storefronts are responsive.

Ecwid's storefronts are responsive.

Point-of-sale functionality

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. 

Ecwid’s chip and tap card reader for POS applications.

Ecwid’s chip and tap card reader for POS applications.

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 a mobile card reader (pictured above) .

 
Ecwid's mobile app for managing orders

Ecwid's mobile app for managing orders

 

You have two choices when it comes to POS hardware and Paypal Here: you can either buy a chip and swipe reader (for $24.99) or a chip and tap reader (for $79.99). Both can be ordered direct from Ecwid.

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 quite some time now).

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 ‘Unlimited’ plan if you want to avail of a Vend, Clover, NCR Silver or Square integration.

Language detection

Ecwid is ahead of the pack in that its storefronts can be automatically translated into nearly 50 different languages – customers can view your store in their own language, without you having to worry about creating alternate versions of it. Ecwid provides this functionality by detecting 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.

Free plan

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).


Ecwid pricing 

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 and $82.50 per month.

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 ‘Business’ and 'Unlimited' plans, 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.'

  • 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 (which provide limits of 1GB and 10GB respectively).

  • Fully customisable invoices are only available on the 'Business' and 'Unlimited' plans.


Payment gateways 

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 50 payment gateways you can use (third party tools for processing credit card payments – these include Sage, Stripe, 2Checkout, Authorize.Net and many others). Some are country-specific, so the exact range available to you will depend on your location.

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 definitely 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.

Ecwid SEO options are basic, but easy to use.

Ecwid SEO options are basic, but easy to use.

One area where Ecwid doesn’t perform quite so well on the SEO front involves AMP — accelerated mobile pages. As the name suggests, AMP pages load faster on mobile devices. This encourages people to stay longer on your page, thus increasing ‘dwell time’ —something which is believed by many SEO experts believe to be rewarded by Google with preferential treatment in search results. Additionally, Google sometimes highlights AMP pages in carousels in search results, giving AMP content an extra little boost.

Unfortunately however — and unlike competing products such as Bigcommerce or Shopify, you can’t create AMP versions of your products using Ecwid.


Apps and plugins

Ecwid provides a fairly limited number integrations with other well-known apps. Integrations do 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 (that said, a Quickbooks integration is coming soon).

The picture is better when it comes to CMS plugins: these are available for Wordpress, 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, called an ‘Ecwid Starter Site.’

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). 

Ecwid starter site example

Ecwid starter site example

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 other platforms

Ecwid and Wordpress

Wordpress doesn’t provided any e-commerce functionality out of the box, so anyone wishing to sell on the platform will need a third-party solution like Ecwid. There is an Ecwid plugin available, so adding an Ecwid store to your Wordpress site is very straightforward — you can get up and running with a few clicks.

You just sign up for an Ecwid account and then install the free plugin.

Ecwid and Squarespace

Squarespace comes with increasingly good e-commerce features, but the number of payment gateway options is very limited – you have to use Stripe or Paypal. (And using Stripe only works if you're selling goods from certain countries). The other main problem with the built-in Squarespace selling tools is that they don’t facilitate dropshipping, and full export of products isn’t currently possible.

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 to a page and pasting some HTML into it.

Ecwid and Wix

As with Squarespace, there’s currently no dropshipping option for Wix users, so again Ecwid can provide a good workaround. A dedicated app is provided by Ecwid to allow you integrate the product onto a Wix store easily.


Interface and ease of use

Ecwid’s interface is pretty easy to use. Like many similar online store builders, 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 Ecwid interface

The Ecwid interface

As with any e-commerce 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, you can always get in touch with Ecwid's support team – more on that later — or, if you're on a ‘Business’ or ‘Unlimited’, you can take advantage of the included customization service (you get 2 hours and 12 hours customization time from Ecwidon these plans).


Ecwid and GDPR

I am not a lawyer, so please note that the below observations should not be interpreted as legal advice, but I'm going to do my best to spell out some of the key GDPR issues facing Ecwid users below.

With the introduction of the EU's new GDPR laws, there are several legal steps that website owners now need to take to ensure that they are adequately protecting EU customers' and visitors' privacy. There are serious financial penalties for not doing so (to the point where it's usually a good idea to consult a lawyer about what to do); and even if your business is not based in the EU, you still need to comply with the regulations where any site visits from the EU are concerned.

Based on my understanding of the key GDPR rules, the main priorities for prospective Ecwid store owners are to: 

  • provide adequate privacy and cookie notices

  • process and store data securely

  • get explicit consent from people signing up to mailing lists that it is okay to send them e-newsletters

  • provide a means to opt in or revoke consent to use of non-essential cookies on a website (and to log that consent).

There doesn’t seem to be anything that stops you meeting the first three requirements easily enough with Ecwid, although you will need to spend time and possibly money creating adequate notices and crafting data capture forms so that they are GDPR compliant.

Where things get complicated with Ecwid is the fourth requirement — cookie consent. To ensure GDPR compliance, you need to display a cookie banner to your visitors which

  • allows them to choose which cookies they want to run BEFORE those cookies are run (i.e., to give 'prior consent')

  • logs their consent to run cookies

  • allows them to revoke consent at a later stage

So for example, if you use a Facebook Ads cookie in conjunction with your Ecwid store, you will be breaking GDPR laws unless you have a banner in place which does all of the above.

Now, out of the box at least there is not a way to deal with the cookie consent issue with Ecwid. Nor is there an adequate app available from the Ecwid app store (the only option on this front that I can find, the ‘EU cookie banner’, doesn’t seem to provide the necessary functionality — despite costing $1.99 a month to use).

It seems to me that the only option available to Ecwid users is to use a specialist product like CookiePro, which does provide all the necessary functionality to make cookie consent fully GDPR compliant. Despite being a strong product however, Cookiepro does require quite a lot of configuration and you’ll need to set quite a lot of time aside to set it up.


Support

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.

Additionally, if you’re on the ‘Business’ or ‘Unlimited’ plans, you can get some free customization time from Ecwid: 2 hours and 12 hours respectively. This is a fairly unique offering in the e-commerce platform world.


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, Wix, Volusion and Squarespace (with Shopify and Bigcommerce being the most fully-featured as far as e-commerce features go).

If you're hoping to integrate a store into an existing site, of the aforementioned, both Shopify and Bigcommerce will let you do this, via their Buy Buttons.

The Buy Buttons work 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, the Shopify and Bigcommerce options are a bit more basic.

Wordpress users may also be interested in looking at Woocommerce or Shopp to add an online store to their site.

Some of our other posts may be useful in evaluating the alternatives to Ecwid:

(To see all relevant posts, check out our full e-commerce reviews section).


Ecwid review conclusions

Ecwid is a cost-effective, powerful way to add e-commerce functionality to an existing site, or TO place an online store on a Facebook page or other social media presence.

You’ll find a full summary of its pros and cons below, but the main things I like about it are its generous free plan; the way it can be used with any type of website; and the fact that it can add dropshipping functionality to platforms that don’t offer it (notably Squarespace and Wix).

I’m less impressed by the SEO features and the fact that it’s quite tricky to make Ecwid GDPR-compliant with regard to obtaining cookie consent.

As ever, it’s a case of try before you buy, and you can register for the free version of Ecwid here.


Pros and cons of using Ecwid

Pros

  • Ecwid represents a really simple way to add e-commerce to any existing website.

  • Point-of-sale functionality is available, and there are quite a few ways to implement it.

  • The product is cheap by comparison to other solutions.

  • It supports multi-language versions of your store.

  • The store designs are responsive.

  • Plugins / apps are available for major platforms (like Wordpress, Drupal and Wix).

  • It allows users of website building products that don’t facilitate dropshipping to start doing so (i.e., Squarespace, Jimdo, Wix etc.)

  • The 'starter site' option is a good stopgap measure for merchants who need a store quickly, but have yet to develop a full site to add the Ecwid widget to.

  • The free Ecwid plan is not time-limited, includes support, and is fairly generous in terms of features.

Cons

  • The Paypal Here POS system is limited to the US and UK.

  • The Paypal Here POS system is limited to iOS users.

  • Phone support is only available on the more expensive plans.

  • There is a limited number of apps / integrations available in the Ecwid App store.

  • You can't change product URLs, which is slightly annoying from an SEO point of view.

  • You can’t create AMP versions of product pages using Ecwid.

  • Making Ecwid GDPR-compliant (with regard to obtaining cookie consent) seems difficult.

  • The free version doesn't let you access any of the SEO tools.


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