Best Ecommerce Platform
Are you tired of the daily grind? Maybe you dream of finally being able to turn your secret passion into a career.
It is at once a thrilling and terrifying prospect, but the potential rewards are worth it. Plus, with the Internet, starting a business may be easier and more affordable than you imagine.
That's not to say that starting an online business isn't hard or that it doesn't entail all sorts of daunting challenges. It does, but that is why creating a successful venture is so incredibly satisfying.
If it is your dream to sell your one-of-a-kind products online, then you will need a fantastic, attention-grabbing website. You'll also need a reliable host with which to store that website, and you'll want to make use of the best e-commerce platform that you can afford.
If you're not even certain what an "e-commerce platform" is, then you've come to the right place. We'll not only define e-commerce platforms but also reveal our picks for the best and most reliable services out there.
What Is an E-commerce Platform?
Basically, an e-commerce platform is the software that your website needs to be able to sell products to customers. Think of it as a storefront that includes capabilities for browsing the wares, placing them in a shopping cart and making a payment. All of this requires a broad selection of functionalities, and the whole transaction has to be secure from beginning to end.
Rather than making a webmaster have to put together all of these single components by themselves, an e-commerce platform provides a package deal. This largely simplifies the process, and a really good platform still allows for plenty of customization so that you can build some fantastic brand identity into your website.
What you want is a platform not an ecommerce host.
How We Decided
In our comprehensive review, we looked at dozens of e-commerce platforms. Many of these simply weren't up to the challenge. The most important factor when deciding on a platform is the robustness of its third party software.
3rd Party What? 🤔
What makes the App Store or Android so good?
It's the millions of apps and services that have built just for that service. Without it we wouldn't have anywhere near the optionality. The same goes with eCommerce platforms. Some platforms incentive 3rd party developers to make great add ons that create a MUCH better experience for both retails and customers.
After sifting through all of the options, we came up with five finalists, any of which we feel confident about recommending to our readers.
Pricing Considerations 💸
Our review tested each e-commerce platform on the basis of several metrics. We looked at pricing plans and payment methods because we know that costs matter when it comes to running an online business. Price is always going to be a huge consideration, but that does not mean that it must dominate all other considerations.
Mobile = Must 📱
Another critical metric is whether or not the e-commerce platform has integrated mobile capabilities. More and more consumers are doing their shopping on a cell phone, tablet or other mobile devices. This means that it is critical for an e-commerce website to be optimized for viewing in these formats. Failure to ensure this optimization may mean that your potential customers end up going with your competition.
Security Concerns 👮
Security was a major concern throughout our review. After all, consumers are becoming increasingly savvy, and they don't want to give their credit card number to just any website. Accordingly, all of our top picks had to support HTTPS and SSL certificates to ensure secure checkout capabilities. We also verified that the platforms we chose were Payment Card Industry compliant.
As we conducted our review, we did not neglect SEO capabilities. This remains a top metric for getting a website to figure prominently in Search Engine Results Pages, so no e-commerce website can afford to ignore SEO. Our top picks have great SEO features like the ability to add a blog to your website, use your own domain name and the capacity for customers to leave reviews.
Pro Tip - Picking an eCommerce solutions that allows cross platform selling is the smart move. Platforms like Shopify allow you to sell on Amazon, Etsy and other marketplaces which massively increase your ability to generate sales.
Top Picks for E-commerce Platforms
The following list of five e-commerce platforms is the result of exhaustive research. Because we have thoroughly tested each one, we can recommend them with confidence to our readers.
1. Shopify – Best All Around (Huge App Marketplace/Free Templates)
Without a doubt, Shopify is the best available e-commerce platform today. The company has achieved this status by focusing on one thing and doing it well. This success comes from Shopify's origins, which involves a group of three innovators who were dissatisfied with the e-commerce platforms that were available at the time.
Shopify has many strengths to recommend it. Among the most vital of these is the inventory system. It truly simplifies the process of organizing and editing products on your website. If you need to add a new product or delete a discontinued item, you'll have no problem getting it done with this system. The inventory system even streamlines the process of having multiple fulfillment centers. You can organize products by groups, making it really easy to create categories that are intuitive for you and your customers.
One of the other things that we really appreciate about Shopify is that it allows you to sell through multiple channels. This is an enormous advantage because a majority of consumers visit marketplaces like Amazon or Etsy when they begin looking for a product. With Shopify, you can easily integrate your presence on marketplaces with your website.
Shopify also is incredibly easy to use even for people who have never managed an e-commerce website before. Essentially, Shopify provides users with a comprehensive framework for building an online store. You get to make all sorts of customizations to arrive at a finished product that is a perfect showcase for your products.
Several attractive templates are available if you don't want to do much in the way of customization. Each template is optimized for display on mobile devices, so your customers will be able to shop whenever, wherever. However, that's not the end of the mobile options. Shopify is set up so that you can make all sorts of modifications to your e-commerce website via a mobile device. With your on-the-go lifestyle, there's no reason to settle for anything less.
People who don't want to pay for a theme are in luck. Shopify offers nearly a dozen free themes that are all geared toward selling certain products or services. Entrepreneurs who are looking for a more deluxe or individualized theme may choose from many other paid templates.
If you'd like a bit of help in setting up your online store, Shopify makes it available to you. Ask for the assistance of a Shopify-approved developer who can make the final tweaks to your website to make it perfect.
One of the things that really sets Shopify apart from the competition is the number of apps with which it is compatible. Currently, there are more than 2,000 apps from which to choose. These will really dial up the functionality of your website and make it possible for you to offer even better service to your customers.
Of course, it's also vital that you get excellent service from your e-commerce platform, and that's precisely what Shopify provides. Support is available 24/7 via the phone, email and live chat. Additionally, you can rely on a highly involved community to provide you with even more solutions.
Shopify offers its basic package at an affordable cost of $29 per month. From there, the prices rise to $79 and $299 per month, with each successive tier including more staff accounts, discounted shipping, gift cards, reduced payment fees and more. Your monthly costs may rise depending upon your use of paid themes, plugins and add-ons.
Overall, we're confident that anyone will be pleased by the functionality, service and support offered by Shopify.
2. WooCommerce – 100% Free (Developer Required)
WooCommerce offers complete customization, however, if you are newer to coding or Wordpress then you'll need to hire a developer which can cost a pretty penny.
This e-commerce platform is not as highly recommended as Shopify, but this doesn't mean that people won't be delighted with their service. Perhaps the biggest drawback to using WooCommerce is that it's really meant for use with WordPress. Accordingly, if you're a devotee of this CMS, you'll probably find that WooCommerce gives you everything you need and want. If WordPress isn't your thing, you'll have to look elsewhere.
The fact is that many developers swear by WooCommerce. If professionals who design websites for a living can stand by this product, it's a cinch that you can too.
Adding to the attraction of WooCommerce is that it is free. That's hard to believe, but you really can use this platform without cost. For those of you who are starting a business and don't have a lot of capital, this can be a huge incentive. Of course, it does lock you into using WordPress, but many people are happy to use this popular CMS anyway.
WooCommerce seems to recognize that many online businesses begin as blogs. Accordingly, they make it easy to integrate sales with a blog whether those sales are via affiliates or sales directly on the blog itself.
One of WooCommerce's main advantages is that it's so perfectly integrated with WordPress. If you already have a WordPress blog and you want to start selling, then adding WooCommerce into the mix will be incredibly easy. You already understand how WordPress works, and WooCommerce operates along the same principles. That means you can hit the ground running.
Unfortunately, WooCommerce isn't perfect. The learning curve can be really steep, especially if you are new to WordPress as well. Those who are familiar with WordPress will have an easier time, but if they want to do anything more sophisticated than just offer a handful of products, then they may have to dive into learning more code.
That brings about one of WooCommerce's other shortcomings: It's time-consuming. WooCommerce is capable of creating the most individualized, highly customized storefronts out of any other platform on this list. However, to make the most of these capabilities, you're going to make a huge investment of time.
In fact, you may even find that you need the assistance of a developer as you build your storefront. This can become expensive, and it may mean that you'll need someone else to help with periodic maintenance until you get up to speed.
When it comes to themes, WordPress has some really outstanding options. Some of these are purpose-built for use with WooCommerce. Numerous free themes are available, but you can gain access to thousands of others if you are willing to pay a bit of money. Almost any WordPress theme can be enhanced with code, but this is not necessary if you're satisfied with the out-of-the-box functionality of the theme you choose.
Some of these themes have drag-and-drop capabilities to make designing your storefront easier than ever. Others will require more intensive, hands-on work. How easy or difficult this process is really depends upon your ultimate vision for your online store.
WooCommerce distinguishes itself from the competition by making all of WordPress' more than 50,000 plugins and apps available. Whether you need to track inventory or improve your marketing, you'll find an app to get the job done.
WooCommerce is a free software, and the support for it can be hit-and-miss. You send a request to the support team and wait for an answer. Alternatively, you may be able to ask the WordPress support team. Either way, you don't have a lot of options for contacting support.
As already mentioned, one of the big plusses of WooCommerce is that it's free. The company earns revenue from the sale of plugins, so if cost is one of your primary considerations, this may be the way to go.
3. Squarespace – Best Site Builder for Ecom
This would be a great platform for a new online business that has only a few products to sell. Set-up is remarkably quick and simple. You definitely don't have to have a deep technical understanding of website building to create a site that looks great.
Squarespace is packed with numerous attractive templates. Since this is essentially a website builder, you get a drag-and-drop editor that even a total novice will find easy to use. Nonetheless, you'll likely be pleased by how polished and professional your website looks.
Keep in mind that Squarespace is best for people who aren't seeking a lot of customization. This is a really simple, straightforward platform that doesn't necessarily lend itself to individualization beyond using your own copy and images. In fact, Squarespace is a great choice for photographers. Their software excels at displaying high-quality images.
Unfortunately, Squarespace is not the most robust and feature-rich e-commerce platform. First and foremost, they offer website building. Their e-commerce features are more of an add-on with limited functionality. If you expect your website to grow exponentially, Squarespace will have a hard time scaling with you.
In Squarespace's favor, it is incredibly easy to use. The templates are intuitive and responsive. With such straightforward operation, it's rare to need customer support. However, this is available via phone, email and live chat.
Squarespace's business packages come with unlimited storage and bandwidth in addition to SSL security. Monthly prices range from $18 to $40, all of which are affordable. Of course, that low cost comes with bare-bones e-commerce features.
4. Wix – Best Site Builder (Most Functionality)
Like Squarespace, Wix is primarily a website builder rather than an e-commerce platform. In fact, as far as website builders go, Wix is actually the more robust alternative. However, its e-commerce features are about on par with Squarespace. This means that you'll probably only want to use this as your e-commerce platform if you expect your store to only sell a couple of products.
Wix is a great option for beginners who don't have a lot of technical knowledge. The drag-and-drop editor is fantastic, and each template is flexible enough to be highly customized.
While e-commerce is not Wix's primary focus, they have enough tools to build an outstanding store. Artists and photographers are particularly drawn to this platform. Wix is feature-rich. If you need an aesthetic feature or a functionality, you can find it here.
One of Wix's most interesting features is its Artificial Design Intelligence. If you don't want to examine all of the themes to find one that suits you, let the software do it for you. You can always add elements on top of what the software designs.
The downside to using Wix is that it doesn't have the most robust e-commerce features. You can do much more with Shopify. Plus, some people feel like Wix has almost too many options. They get overwhelmed when trying to choose templates and add-ons. Nonetheless, the number of plugins available is not particularly extensive.
Wix offers outstanding customer support, and their pricing is competitive. Monthly prices range between $20 and $35 per month. While the cost is attractive, keep in mind that you don't get a great depth of e-commerce functionality. This is really only intended for businesses selling one or two products.
5. BigCommerce – Great But Limited App Marketplace
In many ways, BigCommerce is like Shopify. However, it doesn't have nearly as many features. BigCommerce stays competitive with Shopify by providing excellent management tools that help you to deal with analytics and reports in addition to products and orders.
BigCommerce also performs well with respect to marketing tools. If you want to use coupons or beef up your SEO, you'll find plugins and add-ons to help. Users further appreciate BigCommerce's scalability. As your business grows, you'll have no problem bringing your website up to meet your traffic and sales.
Still, BigCommerce isn't perfect. It's nowhere near as easy to use as Shopify. You may feel several times as if you need a developer working with you as you create your website. Moreover, there's no mobile app. If you don't spend a lot of time at your desk, this can be a major disadvantage.
Another drawback to using BigCommerce is that you only have seven free templates from which to choose. Of course, you only need one, but if you're really wanting your website to stand out from the crowd, you'll have difficulties.
Each of these free templates looks similar to the others. You can buy a template, but these are relatively costly, running between $150 and $250. The monthly fees can be expensive too. They start at just $29.95 but raise to $249.95 quickly. BigCommerce's pricing schemes are based on the amount of your sales. As long as your sales are less than $150,000 annually, you can keep your costs down, but you'll also get leaner support.
Ecommerce Platforms FAQ
Which e-commerce platform should I use for my small business?
The best all-around e-commerce platform is Shopify. It's easy to use, has robust features and is scalable for growth. For more info on this, read my guide to best small business hosts.
Is it possible to create an online store for free?
Wix is about the only platform that allows you to create a decent online store without incurring any cost. You'll get an attractive theme and sufficient functionality for selling a handful of products. It may be necessary to switch platforms if your business expands as Wix is not particularly scalable.
If you're looking to go the free route then maybe cheap web hosting is something to look into.
Which e-commerce platform is best for WordPress?
If you have a WordPress website, then WooCommerce is the natural choice for your store's platform. WooCommerce is fully integrated with WordPress' capabilities and operates in much the same fashion, making for an easy transition.
Which e-commerce platform offers the best SEO?
WooCommerce is the platform that is most clearly optimized for SEO because it runs on WordPress. Alternatives such as Shopify and BigCommerce feature numerous plugins to assist with SEO.