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There are several platforms to build your online business, depending on your needs and target market.

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  • Entrepreneurs are moving online during the pandemic if they didn’t already have ecommerce baked into their business model. 
  • It’s key to find the best platform for your needs, whether you’re a retailer, reseller, maker, or content creator.
  • Service providers can also take advantage of several of these platforms.
  • We looked into the best platforms’ features and costs, and how to decide which is right for you based on the type of entrepreneur you are and the type of market you want to reach. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

One of the most important steps an entrepreneur can take to adapt their business during the pandemic is to build up their online presence. 

Whether you’re setting up your very first ecommerce site, or expanding your services through new channels, now is the time to reach your customers where they’re spending most of their time — online. 

Not all platforms are designed for every entrepreneur, so it’s key to find the one (or ones) that fulfills your needs and caters to your audience. That’s why we’ve broken business owners into four categories, based on what and how they sell: retailers, resellers, makers, and content creators. We’ve also noted where service providers might benefit from what these platforms offer.

Here are the best platforms to use based on the type of entrepreneur you are and the type of market you want to reach. We also highlight the top features you can expect and what it costs to get started.

5 platforms for retailers

business owner small business black-owned business entrepreneur

Donica Johns is the founder of Natural Mixologist Botanical, a skincare company based in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Kathleen Flynn/Reuters


Shopify

Use this ecommerce platform if you have a unique product or service you want to sell directly to your customers, and don’t want to built out a website from scratch. Shopify powers more than one million ecommerce merchants globally, so it has the support, efficiency, and tools you need to match the retail experiences of companies like Allbirds and PepsiCo. Service providers can also add online orders through Shopify.

Shopify also offers a built-in drop shipping service so you can start a business without having any inventory. This can be helpful for first-time entrepreneurs who want to dip their toes into running a small business, or it can be a way for established businesses to test new products with a minimal financial commitment. 

An additional feature to note is Shopify’s recently added point-of-sale system which syncs from your brick and mortar shop to your online storefront. 

Cost: Monthly plans start at $29, which include website hosting, marketing tools, resources, and app integrations. Prices for additional features like domain names and website themes vary.

To learn more, read this step-by-step guide to creating your Shopify store. »  


Instagram 

This social media app is quickly evolving into a shopping experience, making it more than just a marketing tool for your business. Instagram is common among direct-to-consumer brands that prioritize creative and engaging visuals just as much as the actual products. It’s also a prime spot to reach young shoppers, as it’s popular among Millennials and GenZers.

Cost: It’s free to set up a business account, which gives you access to engagement metrics and customer insights. Ads and boosted posts can cost as little as $0.70 per click and exceed $5 per click, depending on time, placement, and category, according to Hubspot


Alibaba

Alibaba connects manufacturers and retailers who are looking to do larger volume transactions, including international trade. It launched an online wholesale marketplace for US businesses last year and has since doubled the number of transactions in this market. Rather than taking a commission of each sale, Alibaba only charges a fixed membership fee.

Cost: Basic plans currently start at $2,399 per year.


Amazon

There is simply no larger customer base than Amazon. If your business needs online reach, it likely needs to be on Amazon. There are a dizzying array of options for individual use-cases ranging from larger manufacturers to custom shops, which we detail in our ultimate guide to getting started on the platform.

Cost: Pro seller plans cost $40 per month, and most sales are subject to a 15% commission. Additional costs can quickly add up, with advertising fees and fulfillment charges necessary to compete in the crowded marketplace.

To learn more, read this guide from real sellers about how to start a successful Amazon business or store. »


Ecwid

Ecwid is ideal for a retailer who is new to ecommerce and needs a solution to quickly set up multiple sales channels, as it syncs to social media and ecommerce platforms such Instagram and Amazon. According to the company, thousands of brands use Ecwid globally and account sign-ups doubled from March to April as more businesses went online during the pandemic. 

Cost: Free to set up an online store. Monthly plans starting at $15 will sync your store to your social media accounts and additional marketplaces. 

3 platforms for resellers

EBAY AUSTIN TX 20 Sneaker Jesus

Chris Holbrook is the top sneaker seller on eBay.

Sneaker Jesus


eBay

Ebay is streamlining its small business user experience with a new Seller Hub for US sellers, but the 25-year-old marketplace generally remains the same. From electronics to fashion accessories to collectibles, the platform connects bargain-minded buyers and sellers around the world.

Cost: Free to list, 10% transaction fee on all sales.

Read about how one sneaker seller who prefers eBay over StockX made $1.5 million. »


Poshmark 

If you’re reselling brand-name clothing, accessories, and home goods, Poshmark is the place to be. The popular marketplace app also functions as a resale community and rewards sellers who engage with customers, participate in virtual shopping events, and promote other’s listings. Once you’ve built up a loyal customer base and following, sellers can scale through Poshmark’s wholesale channel.

Cost: Free to use and set up your shop. Poshmark takes a 20% commission on sales $15 or more. For sales under $15, Poshmark charges a flat rate of $2.95. 

To learn more, read the ultimate guide to selling on Poshmark. »


Facebook Marketplace 

Although Facebook can be a useful tool to market any business, Facebook Marketplace functions as an ecommerce channel that caters well to resale items such as used furniture or thrift finds. Since customers can search for products based on their location, the platform gives sellers access to local communities to further bolster their customer base. 

Cost: Free to list items. Prices to promote listings and increase exposure vary based on time and location, among other factors. 

3 platforms for makers

Jessica Morelli, Palermo Body

Jessica Morelli is the owner of skincare line Palermo Body.

Courtesy Jessica Morelli


Etsy

If you’re a creative entrepreneur, Etsy is the powerhouse of marketplaces with nearly five million active buyers. It can be your homebase for selling your products, or it can serve as an additional sales channel.

Cost: Free to get started. Etsy charges 20 cents per product listing. 

To learn more, read our guide to setting up a successful Etsy store. » 


Faire 

Faire is a marketplace that connects independent designers with local shops to curate unique products that can’t be bought elsewhere. If you make more of a product than you can sell on your own, Faire can help you reach retailers who are interested in hard-to-find items that they can’t get anywhere else.

Cost: 25% commission on first-time orders, 15% for follow-up orders sourced through the platform. Existing relationships that you bring to the platform are not subject to commission. Transactions are subject to a 3% processing fee.


Wix 

Wix is expanding from its original role as a portfolio website host to a more full-featured ecommerce platform. Now, the platform used by creatives and designers of all kinds is available for entrepreneurs offering a broader array of products and services. If your business needs a turnkey solution to get online, Wix is a convenient place to start. 

Cost: Business plans start at $23/month and go all the way to $500/month for enterprise-grade support.

5 platforms for content creators

yoga with adriene

The Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel has nearly 8 million subscribers.


Yoga with Adriene/YouTube



YouTube 

YouTube is practically an industry of its own, and the opportunities for content creators to earn revenue are quite diverse. From advertising to memberships to merch, YouTube partners who meet certain eligibility criteria stand to make substantial revenues from posting engaging videos to the platform.

Cost: Free to start uploading videos and growing an audience, but it can take a considerable investment of time and money before your channel is eligible for monetization. Commissions and fees on revenues vary based on a multitude of factors.

Learn more about how YouTubers with 1 million subscribers break down their average earnings. »


Patreon

Whether you’re already creating content or you’re looking for an additional income stream, Patreon is designed to monetize your work outside of click- and ad-based models. Freelancers, entertainers, and creatives establish their own subscription levels based on what they offer, giving them direct access to their followers.

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Cost: Free to get started. Once you begin earning money, Patreon takes a 5-12% commission depending on the membership plan you choose. It also charges a standard payment processing fee per transaction. 


Twitch

Where YouTube generally represents an ever-growing archive of videos, Amazon’s Twitch is all about the real-time stream of live entertainment. Esport streamers in particular can generate large numbers of paying subscribers, who have propelled some creators to earn tens of thousands of dollars each month.

Cost: Free to get started, subscription fees are generally split 50-50 between the streamer and Twitch.

See Business Insider’s coverage of how much money top Twitch streamers make on the platform. »


Substack

Writers are finding success monetizing their work through newsletters published on Substack. Like other platforms, it’s free to get started, and the hard work of building an audience can take a considerable investment of time and money. Top writers on the platform boast tens of thousands of subscribers, with monthly subscriptions ranging from $5 to $49 each.

Cost: 10% commissions, but only after you decide to start charging for subscriptions, and a payment fee of about 3%.


Podia

If you provide a service such as online courses, webinars, downloads, or memberships Podia gives you a platform to sell them. Whether you own a yoga studio and want to stream classes to members’ homes, or you’re an artist teaching DIY craft lessons, your YouTube Live and Zoom recordings integrate with your Podia storefront. You can also use a tiered membership model to give one member group exclusive access to certain products.

Cost: Monthly plans are $39 and $79, depending on the level of services you need. 

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