Best eCommerce Platform
Best eCommerce Platform
What is an eCommerce Platform and Why Should You Use One?
The first question is, what is an “eCommerce platform”?
An eCommerce platform is a piece of software that allows you to build an online store and run a business online. It gives you the tools to create and manage your site, including products and day-to-day operations. Most if not all, eCommerce builders use drag and drop functions.
Here’s the good news – you don’t need to be a web developer to create a good looking online shop.
There are many different reasons to use e-commerce platforms, but here are the most important ones:
- Easy (For Beginners) – In the past, if you wanted an online store, you had to build the functionality yourself. Later there were shopping carts, but you still had to have developer skills to integrate them into your site. Now we have plugins. With eCommerce platforms, you get everything in one hand and can get started right away.
- Inexpensive – E-commerce platforms are not super expensive, some of them even cost nothing. While you definitely have expenses when running an online shop, it’s a lot less than developing your own solution from scratch. Plus, the more you pay, the more of your business can you usually hand over to technical solutions.
- One solution fits all – Especially when going with a hosted solution, you are able to let go of more parts of running your site. No need to deal with web hosting, security, updates, and the likes. Instead, you are able to simply concentrate on growing your business.
- Customer support available – Additionally, with a commercial solution, you benefit from the support structure. Open-source solutions such as WordPress are often community driven and you are therefore dependent on that community to provide support. While that can also work very well – if you are in desperate need of help at 3 am on a Sunday, it’s nice to have a guarantee it will be there.
Here Are The Best Ecommerce Platforms
BigCommerce is the best overall ecommerce platform. Its robust product search engine makes it ideal for larger retail brands. It’s also a good choice for people who want to start an ecommerce store, or who have a brick and mortar store and want to expand their operations to include online orders. Its available tools make it possible for any niche or industry to be successful.
The interface allows you to customize your online shop without having to know how to code by using any of the customizable templates to design your store, sell and market your products. It’s aimed at those without so much web dev skills, but it also allows tech-savvy people to tweak the HTML and CSS.
- Flexible and scalable
- Excels with multi-channel selling
- Strong SEO Performance
- Fantastic Theme Designs
- Comprehensive abandoned cart feature
- Inconsistent speeds in consecutive studies
- Gets expensive for high volume stores
- Cart abandonment isn’t on entry plan
- No 1-click Selling/Upsells
Shopify is the best platform at selling. If you plan to drop ship, rely on Facebook Ads or Instagram marketing – this is the best choice. I wouldn’t use Shopify if I was going to rely on SEO. I also wouldn’t use Shopify if I were creating a large store with many products. I’d use BigCommerce instead.
Shopify is slightly better in several areas over BigCommerce such as post-purchase 1-click upsells – but far behind in terms of performance.
I’ve used Shopify on my site before and have worked with many Shopify sites in the past, but I like WordPress better because I have an affiliate revenue model in addition to products.
It’s easy to set up the online store with Shopify’s drag and drop interface. Most beginners to website development can get the hang of it in a few minutes.
Their apps are far too many to list.
They also have the Shopify POS for simple brick and mortar stores looking to take payments via the mobile app. Complex stores can use it as well.
Like everything else, they have downsides. The not-too-bad one is that they have just 10 free themes right now. The paid themes hover around $100 to $180.
The big disadvantage they have is SEO. Weak ranking performance highlights one of my concerns with their SEO.
Also, they have a rigid URL structure; you cannot change sections of it. I’ve seen many strange unstructured URLs in Shopify sites well beyond the /products/, /pages/, and /collections/ slug restrictions. I also noticed during our research that websites using Shopify have weak ranking. In terms of SEO, Shopify is very middle of the pack at best.
Finally, they charge transaction fees if you are not using Shopify Payments. And no one likes those. Then again, Shopify Payments is a solid option.
- Lighting fast load time
- Super easy to set up
- Lots of certified partners to help you
- 1-Click selling
- Allows multiple channel and social selling
- Great themes with varied designs
- Rated poorly in SEO in consecutive studies.
- Unable to customize the checkout process
- Apps can add up and become costly
- Need a developer for advanced features
Since its release to the public in 2001, 3dcart has served over 22,000 online businesses with clientele including PCMag. They have some practical features like unlimited storage and no transaction fees. You can also use their POS, and they support multi-channel selling.
3dcart doesn’t do as well as BigCommerce and Shopify despite being older than they are and the reason is clear. It’s not for beginners. Although there is a nice onboarding video when you log into your dashboard, the whole operation is hard to figure out; the builder is not very visually appealing.
The templates they have are more industrial, but they feel outdated. Also, customizing the store takes a lot of time to understand and get used to except for experienced users because there’s no drag-and-drop functionality. Fortunately, there’s a community of developers willing to assist with theme development and other modifications.
I think one of their strongest points is in shipping; they provide advanced shipping solutions with no API required.
Similar to BigCommerce, 3dcart restricts the volume of sales you bring in on each plan. The lowest which costs $19 per month allows up to 50k.
The value overall is great. I still think it’s missing out by not offering abandoned cart saver as a core feature. Shopify made a move to make it included – really undercutting the competition. Nevertheless, it still has more features out of the box than Shopify.
- Better blog feature than other SaaS ecommerce
- Supports all the integrations you would need
- Great business user management tools (email, QuickBooks, inventory, etc.)
- Templates feel dated
- Negative feedback on customer support
- Potential issues upgrading
- Not for beginners
WooCommerce is the best single platform to run ecommerce and affiliate site under one roof. But the true ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce and Shopify sell better, but not by much.
It works with WordPress to turn any website into a functional ecommerce store. Also, there are extensions available for integrating payment gateways, social media, email marketing, 1-click selling, and shipping.
If you are familiar with the WordPress platform, then WooCommerce is a breeze for you. You only have to install it, add your own products and fix your settings.
People who aren’t familiar with WordPress will struggle with the technical details. That includes buying hosting, installing WordPress, setting up your theme and plugins.
The biggest problem though is not the setup; that can be solved with YouTube tutorials. The problem is scalability. Most users have reported it slowing down as they get more products and customers.
For cost, it is free. Few extensions have prices attached to them, and some WordPress themes are expensive. However, you might not need those extensions, and there are good free themes.
- WordPress is the best platform for SEO
- 1 Click selling app available
- Lots of WordPress experts available
- Highly customizable
- Many marketing options and plenty of other integrations
- Good hosting can be pricey
- Have to deal with blame game for troubleshooting.
- Virtually zero support
- You need extensions for simple stuff
Volusion was founded in 1999 but launched in 2002 as an ecommerce solution provider. It’s a great option for those selling physical products because for now automatic digital downloads after payment is not allowed.
Volusion provides an easy to use website builder with drag and drop and in-page editing. There are 11 free themes and a good number of premium themes. Those cost about $180, and you’ll also have to purchase an SSL certificate. That is a hefty extra cost that some other platforms provide for free.
It also doesn’t come with blogging capabilities which is a huge downer mostly in this day where building SEO with blogs is king. To get that, you’ll need to use a third party like WordPress and a plugin or other means to connect the blog to your store.
Their prices have a limitation to the number of products you can sell. The first two plans that cost $29 and $79 per month have restrictions of 100 and 5000 products respectively. That may change at some point because they used to have a limitation on bandwidth, but that is no more. The constant improvements give us hope.
Beginner support is a big thing; from the dashboard, you’ll immediately see tons of learning materials available on how to build your store step by step with Volusion, starting and growing your online business.
The dashboard is nicely structured with all of the main action areas in the top navigation menu. You can also manage inventory and work marketing from there. The marketing options include SEO, sell on Google, eBay, Amazon, social selling, rewards, and coupons.
All in all, it’s a solid platform for subscription ecommerce business. Dropshipping is also good but not print on demand. I would rate it higher if the Amazon integration were better, but that might not matter to you at all.
- Great onboarding and help center
- Great flexibility with Sitemaps
- Built-in subscription/recurring payments
- SMB friendly
- Well laid out dashboard
- Clear inventory and marketing system
- Lacks up/cross selling features
- Many sites had poor URL structure
- One of the slower SaaS platforms
- Many of the sites I studied looked VERY dated
- No built-in blogging functionality
Founded in 2007, PrestaShop is an open-source and cloud-hosted ecommerce platform that gives the best overall value. You can either download the software and customize it to fit your needs for free or go with PrestaShop Ready which is the paid version for €24.90 per month or €19.90 if you pay yearly.
While the word “free” automatically makes most of us salivate, the other costs you will accrue with the free version might make the PrestaShop Ready look like a better option especially if you don’t have the technical skills.
With the free downloadable version, you’ll have to pay for web hosting, SSL certificate, and other modules to complete your store. Also, if you don’t have the heavy technical skills in HTML, CSS, and/or PHP, you’ll have to pay a developer. Nevertheless, that open-code allows extensive integration with couriers, payment gateways, accounting, warehouses, ERP, and more.
PrestaShop Ready is like the other hosted platforms. You have access to the 16 days trial or pay straight away. It comes with the SSL certificate.
There are ten themes (all free) available in the admin. You might need little knowledge of HTML and CSS as the theme customizer doesn’t have a drag and drop functionality.
The dashboard is straightforward and simple. There’s an onboarding video, but it’s not as comprehensive as Shopify. However, you can achieve most needs through modules that you enable with one click. Those allow better SEO working, Ads, Cross-selling, and social analytics.
- Tons of apps/integrations available
- Strong SEO
- Options for both self-hosted and hosted
- Open source very flexible
- Large and ready-to-help community
- Slower than the other builders
- Add-ons can add up
- Limited third-party marketing integrations
- Developer skill needed to tweak
- No multichannel functionalities on the hosted version
Founded in 2006 and with about 40 million customers, Weebly is a great option for someone looking for a simple store with marketing automation built in. That will cost you $38 per month vs. using Shopify and Active Campaign ($29 + $17). But if you plan to do any type of marketing, you’ll quickly outgrow Weebly. Don’t use Weebly if SEO is important to you.
Until recently, there hasn’t been a solid focus on ecommerce, and as such, you wouldn’t find some of the sophistication that other top platforms have. Nevertheless, it remains an excellent choice for startup entrepreneurs or those who do not wish to hire a developer.
Weebly has three price plans, and though they all support ecommerce, the higher two (Business and Performance) are better suited for ecommerce businesses. The reason is that the starter plan is lacking in many relevant ecommerce features like custom shopping cart, coupons, and inventory management. Also, you can’t sell digital goods on it. For physical goods, you’re restricted to 25 products with a 3% transaction fee.
There’s a drag and drop editing tool and an option to use HTML and CSS to customize your template. About that, there are many free themes with premium themes at around $45. Not all are mobile responsive though so choose carefully.
Weebly is an easy to use platform. They offer the basic tools you need for a functional store without flashy extras to confuse you. You can upload products in bulk, and the dashboard is simple.
Another feature worthy of note is the mobile app that you can use to manage your business and print shipping labels.
- Excellent value
- Lowest price for ecommerce marketing automation
- Stunning low cost and free designs
- Powerful email tools
- Simple dashboard that’s easy to use
- Mobile app
- Charges an additional transaction fee
- Sucks with SEO
- Amazon doesn’t seem to be on their radar
- Inventory management is still very basic
Squarespace is another one of those platforms that offers drag-and-drop. Founded in 2003, they have sleek templates and design capabilities.
If you don’t need a lot of features, try them out. It’s also great for print on demand ecommerce business.
The prices are quite low. To start selling, you need to at least be on the Business website plan that’s $18/month when billed annually. Note that you’ll have to pay 3% on transaction fees.
You can escape that with any one of the ecommerce plans at $26 and $40. The top plan allows you to get abandoned cart auto recovery, sell subscriptions and gift cards, and give flexible discounts.
The package comes with all the basic features you’d expect from an ecommerce platform all arranged on the side menu.
The website design part is not that easy though. Their drag and drop editor is not as great as Weebly’s. You might have to try your hands on it a few times before you get the hang of it. When you have gotten past the website design phase, you’ll enjoy the access to marketing, inventory, social selling, SEO, and analytics features.
Squarespace integrates ShipStation and allows you to install Printul and ShipBob from the app section. Real-time calculation of shipping rates from major providers (UPS, FedEx, USPS) is also available.
The biggest downsides are payment processors and third-party applications. They only support Stripe and Paypal. As for the apps, they only integrate with very few third-party tools.
- Easy To Set Up
- Great For Simple Stores
- Stunning Designs
- Solid SEO tools
- Integrates with ShipStation and ShipBob
- No dropshipping
- No marketing automation integration
- No Amazon integration
- Could be faster for the price
- No app store for more features and functionalities
The large brands like Nike, Procter & Gamble, and Cisco trust Magento. Coding is an integral part of the package. So, if you have a developer or the budget for one – and want something truly customizable and powerful – Magento is a solid choice. You can do and undo till you get the feature-rich online store you want.
A big part of Magento is the community. It’s large with developers willing to work on your store for a fee or answer some of your questions free. There’s also a marketplace where you can get extensions and themes to increase the functionality of your platform.
Magento’s most used free, but there’s a paid level for enterprise solutions for large ecommerce businesses. It is expensive; the annual licensing fee runs in tens of thousands of dollars. That’s huge, but it’s on the cloud, faster, and comes with additional features including automatic trigger-based email campaigns and automatic cross /upsell.
Whichever you pick, you’ll enjoy the long list of features that you can extend. Things like discounts, recurring payments, ability to grind SEO, adjust content per user, membership subscriptions, unlimited products, and more.
- Robust and feature rich
- Strong SEO
- 1-Click selling
- Lots of users and community
- Scalable and highly customizable
- Flexible to choose where you want to host the software
- Pricey themes.
- Easily Slowed Down
- Requires Development Skills
- Virtually no support.
- Requires ample space and memory to perform well
Wix would work for a simple store. You’ll have the best design choices on Wix. I would lean to other platforms at the price point.
I don’t understand how many reviews on Wix give the features 5 stars because they lack many features I would want and are needed in ecommerce. There’s no abandoned cart recovery.
That’s just one.
In previous years, they’ve had significant issues with SEO. Few were resolved; some, like the short extra string to the URLs of blog posts and product pages still remain. That’s not ideal for SEO, especially for large ecommerce businesses.
As you grow, you might need to switch because aside from the limited features, the storage space is 20GB and if you are dealing with lots of heavy digital products or other materials, that space might not do.
It’s beginner friendly. Of all the top website builders that I’ve dealt with, Wix topped most for on-page customer support while creating the store.
You can drag and drop elements to add cool videos, functionality, and create the website you want. They have over 500 themes of which 72 are free. Unfortunately, you’re stuck with whatever theme you chose at the time of publishing your site except if you used their ADI.
Wix is still newer to the ecommerce space, and many users are requesting the features they lack. So I imagine it won’t be long before they catch up.
- Tons of free amazing themes.
- Really simple to use and set up
- On-page support for numerous needs
- 72 free themes
- Trying hard to fight a bad SEO reputation. Made improvements, but tested very poorly.
- Many sites were not secured
- Lacks marketing features and integrations
- Stuck with your site template