10 min

Direct to consumer (DTC)

Whether you're looking to start an online store, looking to switch to a new ecommerce platform, or exploring alternatives to marketplaces, with so many options available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one for your business.

Let's take a look at some of the most popular ecommerce platforms available to sell online and discuss considerations that will help you make an informed decision—striking the perfect balance between marketplace selling and establishing your own online presence.

The upside of building your own storefront

While marketplaces can offer convenience and a ready-made audience, there are several compelling advantages to creating a bespoke ecommerce store.

Full control

One of the most significant advantages of building your own storefront is having complete control over the customer experience.

From designing the website's look and feel to customizing the checkout process and shipping options, you can tailor every aspect of the customer journey to align with your brand values and customer expectations.

This level of control can lead to a more cohesive brand experience, fostering customer loyalty and repeat business.

Brand building

When selling through your own website, you have the opportunity to build your brand rather than relying on the reputation of a third-party marketplace.

This can lead to stronger brand recognition, allowing you to differentiate yourself from your competitors and create a loyal customer base.

Customer data

Selling DTC allows you to collect valuable customer data, which can be used to improve marketing efforts and personalize your customers experiences.

By analyzing this data, you gain insights into customer preferences, shopping habits, and demographic information, enabling you to make data-driven decisions to optimize tyour product offerings and marketing strategies.

Higher profits

Since there are no marketplace fees to pay, you can potentially earn higher profits by selling directly to consumers.

This allows you to retain a larger portion of your revenue, which can be reinvested in product development, marketing, and other growth initiatives.

Flexible pricing and promotions

Selling DTC provides greater flexibility in terms of margins, setting prices, and offering promotions or discounts.

This enables companies to test various pricing points, optimize for profitability, and implement targeted marketing campaigns without having to serve marketplace algorithm rules.

Inventory management

DTC businesses can better control their inventory levels and manage their supply chain, as they have a more transparent view of their sales data.

This allows for more efficient stock management and can reduce inventory holding costs.

Niche market opportunities

By selling directly to consumers, businesses can focus on serving niche markets that might be overlooked or underserved by larger marketplaces.

This can provide a competitive advantage and help build a loyal customer base within a specific target audience.

Etee website
Etee website

For example, Etee is a brand that specializes in providing plastic-free and zero-waste home products, including reusable food wraps, biodegradable dish soap, bamboo toothbrushes, and more.

By selling DTC through their own online storefront, Etee can better cater to a specific audience that is passionate about reducing waste and adopting sustainable practices and will probably never shop on marketplaces like Amazon.

Control over return policies

DTC businesses can set their own return and exchange policies, which can be tailored to their specific products and target audience.

This allows for a more customer-centric approach to handling returns, potentially leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.


By selling only through your own storefront, you can create a sense of exclusivity around your products, making them more desirable to customers.

This can contribute to a stronger brand image and drive customer interest.

The downside of building your own online storefront

While building your own online storefront can be an enticing prospect, it's important to consider the potential downsides and challenges that come with it.

Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

Initial investment and expenses

Creating and maintaining your own online storefront requires an upfront investment. You'll need to consider costs like website development, hosting, security measures, and payment gateway integration.

Additionally, ongoing expenses like platform updates, maintenance, and marketing efforts can add up over time.

Technical expertise

Building and managing your own online storefront demands technical knowledge or resources. You'll need to have (or hire) web development skills to ensure your website is functional, user-friendly, and secure.

It can be challenging and time-consuming, especially if you're not familiar with web development.

Time and effort

Developing an online storefront from scratch can be a time-intensive process.

You'll need to dedicate considerable time and effort to design, set up, and customize your website to align with your brand identity and user experience.

Additionally, ongoing tasks such as inventory management, order fulfillment, and customer support can be demanding.

Marketing and traffic generation

Unlike established marketplaces, where customers already visit in search of products, creating your own storefront means you'll also be responsible for driving traffic to your website.

It requires implementing effective marketing strategies like search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, content creation, and paid advertising, to attract and retain customers.

Brand recognition and trust

Building trust and brand recognition can be more challenging when you operate solely through your online storefront.

As mentioned earlier in the field guide, established marketplaces often have built-in trust and credibility among consumers, whereas new and independent online stores may struggle to gain the same level of recognition.

It will take concerted effort to establish your brand's reputation and earn the trust of potential customers.

Fulfillment and logistics

Managing order fulfillment and logistics can be complex when you have your own online storefront.

You'll need to establish partnerships with shipping carriers, manage inventory, handle packaging, and ensure timely and accurate deliveries.

These operational aspects can be demanding, especially for smaller businesses or those without experience in supply chain management.

A glimpse at the ecommerce galaxy

As we delve deeper into the realm of ecommerce platforms, let’s take a look at the popularity, by market share, of each platform.

Market share data not only provides insight into popularity but also highlights the level of trust and success of businesses associated with each platform.

Global market share of each ecommerce platforms (March 2023)
Global market share of each ecommerce platforms (March 2023)

In this section, we’ll look at WooCommerce, Shopify, Wix, Squarespace, and BigCommerce to gain a clear understanding of their position in the ecommerce landscape and the unique benefits that they offer.


WooCommerce, a WordPress plugin, is the most popular of all ecommerce platforms.

It's a favorite choice for businesses of all sizes, especially those already leveraging WordPress for their websites and/or blog and those who are more cost-sensitive.

WooCommerce website
WooCommerce website

Here are some unique benefits of WooCommerce that you won't find on other platforms:

Open-source and free

WooCommerce is an open-source plugin, which means it's free to use and easy to customize. This makes it a cost-effective choice for businesses looking to start an online store without spending a significant amount on platform fees.

WordPress integration

Since WooCommerce is built for WordPress, it benefits from the robust and flexible content management system (CMS) that WordPress provides. This makes it easier to integrate your ecommerce store with a blog or other content-rich media.

Customization and flexibility

WooCommerce is highly customizable, allowing you to modify the look and feel of your store to suit your brand.

With thousands of themes and plugins available, you can add features and functionalities that may not be available on other platforms.

It's worth noting here that WooCommerce does require more technical expertise to set up and maintain.

Large community and support

WooCommerce has a massive user community and extensive documentation, which means you can easily find solutions to issues and/or learn from others' experiences.

There are also plenty of WooCommerce experts available for hire to help you with customizations and troubleshooting.

No transaction fees

Unlike some other platforms, WooCommerce doesn't charge transaction fees for your sales. However, you'll still need to pay payment processing fees to your chosen payment gateway.

Better control over data

With WooCommerce, you have complete control over your store's data, as it's hosted on your own server. This is in contrast to platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce, where your data is stored on their servers.


Shopify is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms out there and for a good reason.

It's user-friendly, easy to set up and customize, and offers a wide range of features to help you run your online store.

Shopify also offers a variety of pricing plans to fit businesses of all sizes, from small startups to large enterprises.

Shopify website
Shopify website

Shopify has several unique benefits that set it apart from its competitors. Some of these advantages include:

Large App Store

Shopify boasts a vast App Store with thousands of apps and integrations, allowing you to extend your store's functionality and customize it to fit your unique needs.

While Wix and BigCommerce also offer app marketplaces, Shopify's App Store is known for its extensive range and variety of options.

Shopify Point of Sale (POS)

Shopify's POS system enables you to seamlessly integrate your online store with your physical retail location.

This feature allows you to manage inventory, sales, and customer data across all sales channels, providing a unified experience for both you and your customers.

Wix and BigCommerce do not offer an in-house POS solution as comprehensive as Shopify's.

Shopify Experts

Shopify has a dedicated network of professionals known as Shopify Experts who can help you with various aspects of your online store, such as design, development, marketing, and photography.

Although Wix and BigCommerce also have support communities, the Shopify Experts ecosystem is more extensive and specialized.

Shopify Lite

Shopify Lite is a unique plan that allows you to sell products on social media platforms, embed products on other websites, or create invoices for custom orders without setting up a full-fledged online store.

This plan is particularly useful for businesses that want to start selling online with minimal investment. None of the other platforms offer a similar plan.


Wix is a popular website builder that also offers ecommerce functionality. It's another user-friendly platform that's easy to set up and customize, and offers a range of features to help you run your online store.

Wix website
Wix website

Some of its unique features include:

Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence)

Wix offers an AI-based design assistant called Wix ADI that can create a unique website for you based on your preferences and requirements.

Think of it as a personalized quiz, with the end product being a storefront customized to your requirements.

This feature simplifies the design process and allows you to get your site up and running with minimal effort.

Free plan

Although not completely unique, the free plan offered by Wix is more comprehensive than that of Shopify or BigCommerce, which offer limited trials instead.

WooCommerce, being a free plugin, does not have plans but requires separate hosting and domain expenses.

Wix can be a good option if you're starting a small business or hobby site and want to test the waters before committing to a paid plan.


BigCommerce is another powerful eCommerce platform that caters to businesses of all sizes.

Its comprehensive features at competitive pricing contribute to BigCommerce's appeal for a diverse range of businesses.

BigCommerce website
BigCommerce website

Here are some unique benefits of BigCommerce that differentiate it from its competitors:

Built-in B2B features

BigCommerce offers more comprehensive built-in B2B features like price lists, customer groups, and customizable quote management.

On Shopify, B2B selling is integrated only for Plus and Enterprise plans.

No transaction fees

BigCommerce does not charge any transaction fees on your sales, regardless of the payment gateway you choose.

While WooCommerce also doesn't have transaction fees, Wix and Shopify charge transaction fees on certain plans.

Advanced product options and variants

BigCommerce provides more flexibility when it comes to product options and variants without the need for additional apps or plugins.

Shopify also allows for product options and variants, but it has limitations on the number of options and combinations available without using third-party apps or customizations.

Headless commerce capabilities

BigCommerce provides headless commerce capabilities, allowing you to use its powerful backend with any frontend technology or platform.

While Shopify also supports headless commerce, it generally requires more custom development work and technical expertise.

Unlimited staff accounts

Big Commerce also allows you to create an unlimited number of staff accounts, allowing you to give access to your store to as many employees as needed.

How to compare your options

When comparing ecommerce platforms like WooCommerce, Shopify, Wix, and BigCommerce, there are several criteria you can use to evaluate each platform's unique features and benefits.

Remember that each platform has its strengths and weaknesses, and the ideal choice will depend on your specific needs, technical skills, and budget.

Here are some criteria to consider when making the right choice for you and your business:

Test drive with free trials

Shopify and BigCommerce offer a free trial, which allows you to explore their platform and set up a sample store without any commitment.

During this trial period, you can access most of the features and tools available in their paid plans, but you can’t make sales or process payments.

You can use this opportunity to familiarize yourself with the platform and determine which one best fits your needs.

Wix, on the other hand, offers a free plan that allows you to create a website with limited features.

However, the free plan comes with several restrictions that may not be suitable for a fully functional ecommerce store.

Analyze user reviews

Reading user reviews can provide valuable insights into the experiences of real users.

Look for reviews on reputable websites and forums to get a comprehensive view of each platform's strengths and weaknesses.

Some popular platforms that provide in-depth reviews are G2Capterra, Trustpilot.

Determine your business's long term goals

It's crucial to choose the right platform based on your short-term and long-term business expansion plans.

When evaluating ecommerce platforms, consider your specific requirements, like introducing new product categories, sales channels (social, online, and offline), cross-border and domestic markets, as well as B2B capabilities.

Evaluate SEO capabilities

Compare the SEO features of each platform to ensure that your online store is optimized for search engines.

Look for features such as customizable URLs, meta tags, and sitemaps.

SEO capabilities of ecommerce platforms
SEO capabilities of ecommerce platforms

Conduct a speed test

When evaluating ecommerce platforms, it's crucial to consider the loading speed of websites built with each platform, as it directly impacts user experience, search engine rankings, and conversion rates.

You can use tools like GTmetrix or Google's PageSpeed Insights to test the loading speed of sample websites in your niche built with each platform.

Assess community and support

User community and support resources are crucial for addressing issues and learning platform best practices.

Active user forums foster collaboration and problem-solving, while comprehensive documentation helps users understand features and troubleshoot issues.

Evaluate the size and activity level of each platform's user community and support resources.

A strong user community and a range of available support resources can be invaluable in addressing issues or questions that may arise while using the platform to grow your business.

Investigate third-party integrations

When evaluating ecommerce platforms, it's essential to examine their app stores and integration options to ensure compatibility with third-party tools and services.

These integrations can extend the functionality of your online store, streamline operations, and enhance the overall user experience.

Remember to evaluate these capabilities against out-of-the-box features and benefits that each platform has to offer.

By thoroughly reviewing app stores and integration options, choose an ecommerce platform that offers a comprehensive ecosystem of third-party tools and services, enabling you to customize and optimize your online store to meet your specific business needs.

Compare design flexibility

It's crucial to investigate the platform’s template library and customization options to ensure that it can create visually appealing and well-organized websites that align with your brand identity and target audience.

Consider the following:

  • Variety of responsive templates catering to different industries and styles
  • Level of customization available, including options for modifying colors, fonts, layouts, and other design elements
  • Compatibility with popular design tools like Adobe Photoshop, Sketch, or Figma to streamline the design process
  • Platform's extensibility with plugins and apps designed to enhance the design and layout
  • Support resources, such as documentation, tutorials, and community forums, related to design and customization.

Choose a platform that enables you to create an attractive, responsive website that reflects your brand identity and appeals to your target audience.

Analyze the total cost of ownership

Finally (and most importantly), calculate the overall cost of running your online store on each platform, including subscription fees, transaction fees, and any additional costs for apps or custom development work.

Platform cost breakdown
Platform cost breakdown

Picking your ecommerce soulmate: What's best for you?

Reach out to your network and consult with business peers, mentors, or industry influencers who have experience using one or more of the ecommerce platforms you're evaluating.

Alternatively, creating a feature matrix is an effective way to compare ecommerce platforms based on the essential features you need for your online store.

Evaluate the quality of each feature on the platform. You can use customer reviews, case studies, or demos/ trials to determine the effectiveness and reliability of each feature.

Assign a score, such as 1-5 (1 = difficult to use, 5 = very easy to use), to represent the ease of use of each feature on each platform.

Review your completed feature matrix to identify the platform that best meets your needs based on the highest total score.

From the experts

“When your ecommerce platform is easily scalable, integrates the latest technologies, offers top-notch cybersecurity measures, and is easily accessible as well as adaptable, you know you have a platform you can count on in the future, too." Tony Angeleri, VP Business Development, Lone Wolf Paintball

Building a memorable and lovable storefront

Now that we’ve covered choosing a platform, let’s take a look at what exactly makes an online store that customers will love.

A distinctive and memorable storefront is essential to creating a strong connection with customers, differentiating your brand from competitors, and increasing brand loyalty.

Here are some tips for creating a powerful storefront:

Create a unique brand identity

Ensure that your store's color schemes, typography, and imagery align with your brand's mission and vision.

When selecting your color scheme, it is crucial to consider the emotions and associations different colors can evoke.

Fonts can convey a sense of professionalism, playfulness, or sophistication and should be selected carefully to ensure they align with your brand's tone and values.

Death Wish Coffee Company website
Death Wish Coffee Company website

Death Wish Coffee Company is a small business that’s created a distinctive storefront by incorporating a unique brand identity.

They use bold and edgy imagery and typography to reflect their brand's identity as a coffee company that produces the world's strongest coffee.

Death Wish Coffee Company product page
Death Wish Coffee Company product page

Their brand messaging is consistent throughout their storefront, website, and packaging, creating a strong visual voice that sets them apart from competitors.

Incorporate storytelling and emotional branding

Similar to how they’re used for product making, storytelling and emotional branding are powerful tools for creating a deeper connection with your audience.

By telling a story that resonates with your audience and evokes emotions, you can create a memorable and desirable storefront people will want to engage with.

The Sill website
The Sill website

The Sill is a plant retailer that incorporates storytelling and emotional branding into their storefront.

Their mission is to bring nature into people's lives and make plant ownership accessible and easy. They use product descriptions that tell the story of each plant, its origins, and its unique characteristics.

The Sill's ZZ Plant product page
The Sill's ZZ Plant product page

By incorporating storytelling into their brand messaging, The Sill has created a connection with their audience that goes beyond the transactional, making their storefront memorable and desirable.

Create stellar visuals to boost your store’s success

High-quality visuals can greatly impact customer perception, engagement, and conversion rates.

In an online store where customers can't physically touch or see products up close, visuals create a positive first impression and convey professionalism and trustworthiness.

Craft a compelling value proposition

A survey by HubSpot found that companies with a well-defined value proposition are 2.2 times more likely to be successful than those without one.

For example, men’s grooming brand Harry’s value proposition is front and center of its home page. Fair price and easy access are two reasons why Harry’s customers would choose them over competitors.

Harry's website
Harry's website

Your value proposition can focus on elements like:

  • Quality of your products
  • Competitive Pricing
  • Exceptional customer service
  • Commitment to sustainability

Use visual elements as differentiators

On the product details page, the customer evaluates if the product meets their needs and whether it's worth further consideration.

Visual elements such as high-quality images, videos, and animations that help customers understand the product better create a positive first impression of the product.

This can encourage customers to spend more time on the page and engage more with the product.

ModeMagic's demo product page
ModeMagic's demo product page

Use persuasive and targeted calls-to-action (CTAs)

A persuasive CTA is clear, specific, and visually appealing. The language used in your CTA should be actionable and relevant to the specific page on your website.

For example, if you are promoting a sale, use a CTA like "Get Discount" rather than a generic "Learn More" button.

Further, consider the customer journey and use a targeted CTA that encourages them to learn more about the product if they are viewing the page for the first time and a CTA that enables them to purchase the product if they have viewed the page multiple times.

If your customers tend to make impulsive purchases, you may want to prioritize the "Buy Now" button over the "Add to Cart" button.

The design of your CTA also plays an important role. It is crucial to make it stand out on the page. It should be visually appealing and distinct from other elements on your online store.

To make it more noticeable, you could use contrasting colors, bold text, or a different font style.

Experimenting with different CTAs helps align more closely with customer needs and creates a sense of exclusivity and community around your products.

Use product categorization

Product categorization can help improve navigation in an ecommerce store by grouping similar products together into relevant categories.

This can help visitors quickly and easily find what they're looking for without having to click through multiple pages—improving user experience and reducing bounce rates.

Bathla website
ModeMagic user Bathla uses customized product categories (material type) to help customers find the right ladder for their needs

Apply social media feed to product pages

Embed the social media feeds from Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or other social media platforms. This can be done using custom code, a pre-made plugin, or a widget that integrates with your ecommerce platform.

Additionally, you may make the feed interactive by allowing visitors to engage with the content by liking, sharing, or commenting. This can increase engagement and build a sense of community around your brand.

Check out how the cookware brand, Hexclad, showcases user-generated content as real reviews on its product page.

Hexclad product page
Hexclad product page

Gamify your online store

Use gamification techniques, such as quizzes or interactive product selectors, to help engage shoppers and increase the likelihood of a click.

The gamification aspect of the quiz makes the shopping experience more interactive and fun for customers while also providing valuable information to brands about each customer's hair needs and preferences.

You can use a quiz on the product listing page that asks customers to answer questions about their needs and preferences. Once the customer completes the quiz, they are directed to a product listing page that showcases the personalized products that are suited to their needs.

Protein Chef website
Protein Chef uses ModeMagic to add quizzes to their website

Cross-selling and upselling

Cart pages are increasingly being used as an opportunity to suggest additional products that users may be interested in.

This might include showing related items, offering bundle deals, or highlighting products that are on sale.

Wayfair, a home goods retailer, uses cross-selling strategies on the cart page to recommend complementary products, such as napkin sets to go with table mats.

These recommendations are often highly targeted and personalized, and they help increase the overall AOV for Wayfair, which is amongst the highest in the industry.

Implement free shipping thresholds

Consider offering free shipping when customers spend a certain amount on your website. This can incentivize customers to add more items to their cart and complete their purchases.

Visual elements like progress bars and animations can make the cart page more engaging and help users better understand the checkout process.

Walls by Me website
ModeMagic customer Walls By Me has free US shipping on orders over $20

Introduce cart timeout

The concept of cart timeout typically involves setting a specific time limit for customers to complete their purchase before the items in their cart are removed or made unavailable.

This is often used as a strategy to create a sense of urgency and encourage customers to make a purchase decision quickly.

During the timed cart period, the items in the customer's cart are typically reserved for them and are not available for purchase by other customers. This can create a feeling of exclusivity and motivate the customer to complete their purchase before the timer runs out.

Finally, it's your product that sells

Here are some general guidelines you can follow in choosing the best products to showcase on your homepage:

  • Bestsellers: One of the most effective ways to grab visitors' attention and showcase the quality of your products is to feature your top sellers on your homepage. This not only highlights your best products but also signals to visitors that other customers have already found value in them.
  • Seasonal products: Depending on your industry and target audience, highlighting seasonal or holiday products can be a powerful way to drive conversions. This will make your website feel timely and engaging.
  • Featured/ Limited-edition products: Finally, choose products that you want to promote or highlight for a specific reason, such as a sale or a new partnership. Optimizing your eCommerce store's homepage is critical for increasing conversions and driving revenue.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure your online store success

And lastly, here's a quick list of KPIs that are important to monitor for DTC selling:

  1. Sales revenue: Measures the total revenue generated from direct sales to customers, indicating the financial success of your DTC efforts.
  2. Conversion rate: Tracks the percentage of website visitors who make a purchase, indicating the effectiveness of your website's user experience and sales funnel.
  3. Average Order Value (AOV): Determines the average monetary value of each order placed through your DTC channels, reflecting the success of your upselling or cross-selling strategies.
  4. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): Calculates the cost required to acquire a new customer through your DTC channels, helping you evaluate the efficiency of your marketing and advertising spend.
  5. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): Measures the total value a customer brings to your business over their entire relationship with your brand, taking into account repeat purchases and loyalty.
  6. Customer retention rate: Tracks the percentage of customers who continue to make purchases from your brand over time, reflecting the effectiveness of your efforts in fostering loyalty and repeat business.
  7. Website traffic: Measures the number of visitors to your DTC website, indicating the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and the overall awareness and reach of your brand.
  8. Abandoned cart rate: Calculates the percentage of customers who add items to their cart but do not complete the purchase, helping you identify potential friction points in the buying process.
  9. Customer satisfaction: Assesses customer satisfaction levels with your DTC experience through surveys, ratings, or reviews, providing insights into areas for improvement and customer sentiment.
  10. Return on Investment (ROI): Evaluates the overall return on your DTC investments, including marketing, website development, and operational expenses, helping you assess the profitability and efficiency of your DTC strategy.

Remember to align these KPIs with your specific business goals, regularly track and analyze the data, and use the insights gained to optimize your DTC selling efforts and drive business growth.

Key takeaways

Choosing the right ecommerce platform is an important decision for any business owner.

While Shopify, Wix, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce are all great options, it ultimately comes down to your specific business needs and goals. Take some time to research each platform and determine which one is the best fit for your business.

Got your platform already locked in? Well, the journey to ecommerce success doesn't end there!

Get ready to unleash the full potential of your online store!

By staying up-to-date with the latest trends in store design and using creative optimization strategies, you can create a seamless and personalized shopping experience for your customers.

Building blocks: Crafting a brand that inspires love
Social commerce
Read this next