If you’re thinking about starting an ecommerce business, there has never been a better time.
Let that sink in…
Never before in history has it been easier or more affordable to start a business on ecommerce platforms.
Well, because you have options. And with options comes competition.
And with competition comes better pricing and more features.
So even if your head is spinning with the seemingly endless array of ecommerce options, there’s still good news.
All the competition is actually a good thing.
So, let’s start by looking at a top-level view of all the best options out there.
Spoiler alert: Even if some rate better than others, one may have better features for YOUR business. So pay attention to the features as we go.
22 Ecommerce Platforms’ Overviews
Now that we’ve had a look at the list of ecommerce platforms out there…
You may feel overwhelmed.
And it’s true… there are a lot of platforms to consider.
But here’s the thing. There are probably only about three could be a perfect fit for your business.
And you don’t need to test drive each one in order to find out.
Doesn’t that save a ton of time?
You can probably eliminate half this list at a glance.
Just don’t do it on ratings alone. Because that’s only part of the story.
One platform may get poor ratings because it’s not suitable for MOST ecommerce business’s. But it could have every feature you need for YOUR ecommerce business.
So let’s get down to it and dig into some features…
Shopify is a platform that was built for new business owners getting started in Ecommerce.
But it’s also scalable.
This means that it’s super easy to setup a new ecommerce store. And that store will also contain everything you need to build a customer base and grow your business (marketing tools).
Shopify is one of the most popular and highest rated platforms, but it’s not for everyone.
It is -however- one of the best choices for a new(ish) ecommerce business owner who doesn’t want to invest a great deal upfront to get a beautiful and fully-functional ecommerce website.
Shopify comes with a lot features out of the box, but if you’re missing anything, there’s a robust app store where you’ll likely find everything you need.
Shopify ranks at the top of this list and so many others because of all the things I just mentioned, and….
It also gets a reasonable percentage on the Google Speed Index, which is extremely important for SEO (Google has a need for speed). And this platform has experienced ZERO downtime in the past year.
That may also answer why it’s the most popular ecommerce-only platform on the market.
I could go on and on about Shopify’s features, but I’ve already done that here.
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Aside from to Shopify, BigCommerce is probably the next most popular ecommerce platform out there. But they aren’t the same. Not by a long shot.
BigCommerce Essentials offers a comprehensive suite of marketing features with a relatively easy management platform.
This platform offers some of the most extensive features for new store owners out of the box. So, if you need those features, it’s amazing. If not, they may get in the way.
Read about how BigCommerce differs from Shopify here.
I can tell you right now, that they are in the same boat with zero downtime in the past year. And both names are rising on Google trends. But the article will give you more of a side-by-side feature comparison.
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WooCommerce stands apart from most of the other ecommerce platforms on this list because it is not a hosted solution. It is, however, free and open sourced – which is very appealing to many people. WooCommerce is actually a plugin that works with any WordPress website, and it’s a great fit for anyone looking to sell products or services on a content-based website.
Learn everything you need to know about WooCommerce here.
Since WooCommerce is a free open source platform, you’ll need a hosted website to download and test this platform.
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BigCartel is another fully-hosted ecommerce software that’s relatively simple to use. Users find it easy to add products, create discounts and manage orders and inventory. Another bonus to BigCartel is that there aren’t any transaction fees, but you’ll find that with most platforms on this list today.
If this sounds good to you and you’re ready to get started, you can try BigCartel’s free plan. But you should know that the free plan offers limited features. You can try it out for as long as you’d like, but you won’t get access to paid features until you choose (and pay for) a plan.
BigCartel is another super-fast platform that has reported zero downtime for the past year. But despite the name, BigCartel caters to smaller businesses. And as such, it’s a smaller business than Shopify or BigCommerce. That could be a plus for small businesses, as you know you’re working with one of your own.
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Volusion is one of the granddaddy’s of ecommerce platforms (around since 1999). But as you might expect, there have been quite a few changes since its inception.
In recent years, Volusion made a shift in its platform and business practices towards a more user-friendly approach. In many ways, it’s very similar to Shopify – and may even be better-suited for someone who is brand new to ecommerce.
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This open source ecommerce software is very useful for web developers and people who are interested in scaling their business. Magento has a flexible modular architecture that helps people create websites with various features for the consumer. Magento is a great option for anyone who may need customizations or to scale their business quickly.
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OsCommerce is another open source ecommerce platform. This is not a hosted solution, but it is a free solution. OsCommerce is great for people with web design and/or development experience.
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Squarespace is a hosed ecommerce platform with a focus on style. So, you’ll probably have an easy time finding a beautiful template to represent your brand. But you should know that Squarespace was built for content before it became an ecommerce solution. And it’s easy to see how this platform caters to content-driven businesses.
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PrestaShop is an interesting platform because it’s open-source and also hosted. Pricing starts at 19 Euro per month for the hosted plan.
As an open-source solution, PrestaShop is one that you’ll have to self-host. You’ll need to secure your own domain, SSL and hosting company.
PrestaShop was designed for medium-to-large-sized ecommerce businesses, so it’s not quite as friendly to the mom and pop shops.
But it does offer a great deal of control and many beautiful themes to help you get started.
If you’re ready, start your free trial of the hosted version. You can always download and install PrestaShop’s free open-source solution on your website later.
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Weebly is a website builder with an exceptional drag-and-drop editing tool, making it super easy to create a beautiful website. This platform is set up for scale, but it was built for the beginner hobbyist or small business looking to create a website.
Weebly has also recently partnered with the payment processor Square, so if you’re already using (or want to start using) Square for payments, it’s an easy choice.
Many users find Weebly to be similar to Wix in ease-of-use and other features, but Weebly stands out in that you get greater access to edit the website’s code. And this equates to more control over the web design.
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Wix is known for it’s super simple drag-and-drop website builder – and for its free plans. But you should know that the free plans aren’t suited for ecommerce. Actually, when you review the pricing for ecommerce, Wix is comparable to other similar ecommerce platforms like Shopify and Volusion.
Learn more about Wix for ecommerce.
Unlike other hosted ecommerce platforms, Wix doesn’t have a free trial. But they do have a 14-day money back guarantee. So if you try Wix and it doesn’t work, you can get your money back. But you only have 14 days to decide, so it may be a good idea to rule out any other ecommerce platforms (that have free trials) before you try Wix.
And when you’re ready to begin…
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OpenCart is another very complete ecommerce solution that allows anyone at any skill level to build and manage an online store. In a nutshell, OpenCart has all the functionality you may need to run an ecommerce store.
It’s also open source, which means that it’s all open for modifications. You can change the code as much as your heart desires. The best part? It’s free.
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AmeriCommerce is another hosted ecommerce platform that offers customizable designs. This platform is designed and marketed towards new businesses that are just starting out, but it also has some scalability. The main benefit to using AmeriCommerce is that you can manage multiple stores from the same dashboard.
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CoreCommerce offers a fast and easy way for companies to build an online store. This platform comes loaded with various features and top-notch security functions.
One standout feature that CoreCommerce offers is multilanguage support and currency features, which allows anyone to easily set up an international store. This platform also offers more 3rd-party integrations than some of its competitors.
If you’re running a store where you don’t need a lot of data storage, CoreCommerce may be the perfect fit.
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Sharetribe isn’t your average ecommerce platform. It’s actually set up for business owners who want to create their own online marketplace, similar to Fiverr or Etsy. With plans starting at $79, it’s not the cheapest option on this list, but it’s the only one targeted towards marketplace businesses.
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X-Cart offers a self-hosted and a hosted option. The hosted option works much in the way platforms like Shopify work where you pay a monthly fee for hosting and access to the ecommerce platform. Self-hosted plans start at $29.95/mo.
The self-hosted version of X-Cart starts with a free plan and scales all the way up to the Ultimate Edition that retails for $5,995. These self-hosted plans allow you full control over the source code and offer free upgrades for life on the version you purchased (or the free version).
But you should know that X-Cart does not offer free service. You can purchase service as you need it or subscribe to a monthly service plan that starts at $199/mo.
One of the best features of X-Cart is its flexibility. Through X-Cart, you can run a traditional ecommerce store on your own website or with WordPress, or you can run a membership site.
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Kajabi bills itself as the all-in-one online business platform where you can launch your online business in minutes. But the major difference between Kajabi and the others on this list is that it’s targeted towards businesses that sell online courses or other digital products. Kajabi is a great fit for someone in marketing, fitness or life coaching. But it’s not a great fit for selling physical products within any of these business types.
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What stands out about CS.Cart is that it’s setup for multivendor marketplaces and single-seller stores.
Both options are self-hosted, so you download the software and install it on your own hosted server. As such, the upfront pricing can seem off-putting, but keep in mind that you may end up saving money in the long term.
The multi-vendor plans start at $1,450 while the standard ecommerce plans start at $385. You will have to pay for upgrades and service, and those packages start at $110 for the year ($245 for the multivendor platform).
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3DCart is yet another hosted ecommerce platform targeted towards the new business owner – or anyone new to ecommerce. 3DCart claims to be the best ecommerce platform for SEO, which is appealing to many.
But the truth is, it’s not exactly better for SEO in its structure than a platform like Bigcommerce or Shopify. Most of the big names in ecommerce are relatively on the same plane when it comes to SEO. BUT 3DCart does excel in helping the store owner making the most out of its SEO features. 3DCart offers prompts throughout the store setup process to inform or remind the store owner of SEO best practices.
And if you need those prompts, 3DCart can really give you a leg up on the competition.
It’s kind of like having a Yoast SEO plugin for your Ecommerce store. The fact that the prompts are there doesn’t help your rankings – it’s what you do with them that matters.
Another bonus: 3DCart plans start at just $19/mo. without any transaction fees. All plans also include unlimited products, orders and bandwidth.
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Ecwid (pronounced ek-wid) is a user-friendly ecommerce platform that’s designed to integrate with your website on virtually any other platform, including WordPress, Drupal, Weebly and more. That’s the best feature of Ecwid because it’s very unique.
In fact, the name Ec-wid stands for “ecommerce widget.” It’s a platform that you’ll need to host elsewhere, but there are advantages of doing this.
And another standout feature of Ecwid is that you can start a store with 10 products for free. There’s no catch. It’s free to add Ecwid to your website as long as you’re selling fewer than 10 products and don’t need advanced marketing features like multichannel selling or abandoned cart recovery.
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Webflow isn’t as well-known as the others on this list, but it’s definitely worth a look. Why? Well, it’s a completely innovative solution that allows anyone to build an ecommerce website from the ground up – without any coding knowledge.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…
How is this different from any of the others?
Well, let me tell you. With Webflow, you’re not working with templates. You can control the design of every part of your store, including checkout pages, to completely customize your user’s experience. This can help your brand break free from the cookie-cutter mold that most other small businesses fall into.
Pricing for Webflow starts at $29/mo. (like Shopify), but (unlike Shopify) there is a 2% transaction fee at this level.Once you upgrade to the $79/mo. plan, there are no transaction fees.
Webflow is extremely attractive for web developers as they can build websites without coding knowledge or the need to hire a developer. But there are some limitations of Webflow that you don’t get with the other big platforms. For example, Webflow has product limitations and they add Webflow branding to your marketing emails within the $29/mo. plan.
But of the greatest things about Webflow is that you can try it free forever. Your free account will live on a webflow.io account until you upgrade to a site plan.
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If you’re wondering whether it makes sense to choose a self-hosted or hosted solution, Selz might be the right platform for you.
Because they offer both. You can either link the Selz platform to an existing website you’ve created on WordPress, Wix (or anywhere else) by embedding buttons on the site. It’s like Shopify Lite in that way.
Or you can host your website with Selz and create a comprehensive ecommerce website (more like you would on Shopify Basic+).
Selz offers an easy drag-and-drop creator that can help anyone create a beautiful website. Unlike some other platforms, there’s a lot you can customize from a Selz template, including layout.
One potential drawback is that Selz only offers its proprietary payment processor, but there are no transaction fees and rates are competitive.
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Things to consider before choosing an ecommerce platform
If you’ve glanced through the overview of each platform (or even just referenced the handy chart at the beginning), you’re probably understanding that these platforms have very subtle differences.
Those differences are actually what makes each platform unique. And if they’re doing a good job, it’s also what makes one stand out over another.
But if you’re still having some trouble choosing one platform over another, I can help.
There are no less than 6 important factors you should consider in an ecommerce platform.
Here they are:
Pricing and fees
As with any purchasing decision, you’ll want to get the most bang for your buck.
Always look for the ecommerce features you need for the lowest price. But before you do, there are a few things you should know.(Click to Tweet)
Keep the following in mind about pricing:
- Monthly fees – all hosted solutions will have some sort of monthly fee. Because there’s no such thing as free hosting. The only exception could be if you’re okay with hosting your site on a subdomain (e.g. yoursite.wix.com). Many, but not all, open source platforms are free. Be sure to check before you get your heart set on one.
- Transaction fees – Fortunately, transaction fees seem to be falling out of favor in this industry. But there are still some platforms that charge a transaction fee on their entry-level plan. Webflow is one example with their 2% transaction fee. Something like 2% may seem like peanuts, but 2% of $2,000 is $40 – and that may be more than you’d pay for a month without transaction fees somewhere else. Always do the math.
- Credit card processing fees – Credit card processing is a competitive industry, so it’s rare that you find one rate to be exceptionally lower than another. But just like with transaction fees, small percentage points can add up. Also, if you run multiple stores, you may be able to negotiate a better rate by using the same payment processor for all transactions (if there’s enough volume). In this case, payment processors are an important factor. Some platforms only use their own and others offer a select few. If this is important, finalize your processor before choosing a platform.
- Other fees – Open source or self-hosted solutions may sound appealing because they’re either free or have one upfront cost. But you must understand that there will still be expenses. Even if the platform is free to use, you’ll need to pay for hosting, your domain name, and an SSL certificate. These aren’t major expenses. Just be sure to budget for them. Also, check out the support of any open-source or self-hosted option. Some companies charge quite a bit for support.
Unless you’re running a very simple or typical ecommerce store, you may want more than the base model platform has to offer. In this case, you’ll need one of two things:
- Source code access – If you don’t know anything about web development, hire someone.
- Addons or apps – Shopify and BigCommerce both have robust app stores where you add features to your website with a click of a button. There’s usually a monthly charge for the addon, but it’s nice to know there are options.
For the most part, all the ecommerce platforms on this list are SEO friendly, but some have features that others don’t. For example, 3DCart has built-in prompts to remind users of SEO best practices throughout store and product setup. And most hosted ecommerce platforms have some sort of blog or content management system included (search engines love content), but Volusion does not. Review all the features and decide whether you can work around them or want more of a push-button solution.
Especially if you’re new to ecommerce, customer service is crucial. When you’re having trouble setting up your shop, you want answers. And, in most cases, you’re paying for a service, so you should get those answers.
If personal customer service is important to you, you’ll be better off with a hosted solution like Shopify, BigCommerce or Volusion. These ecommerce platforms are well-known for their stellar customer support.
Self-hosted solutions may also offer support. This is usually done through forums and support tickets, but some platforms allow you to pay for support on their product.
Security is a major issue when you’re starting an ecommerce website. Your customers are turning over their sensitive information to you, and it’s your job to keep that information safe from hackers and others with malicious intent.
Make sure any platform you use is PCI compliant (more on that here) and uses the latest in SSL encryption. If you’ve chosen a self-hosted platform, you’ll need to take care of the SSL yourself. In this case, do some research and choose a provider with an impeccable reputation.
When you’re just starting out, any ecommerce platform may work. But what happens when your business grows (as we hope it will)? (Click to Tweet)
You’ll need a platform with scalability.
And scalability is about more than just being able to handle more products and orders – although those things are vital.
Stop and think about where you see your business going if it starts to take off. Will you offer digital products? How about a membership site? Do you ever see yourself selling online courses?
If any of these things could be a reality, you may want to choose a platform that can grow with you.
You can always change platforms later. You’re tied to anything. But that’s a major hassle. So, if you can make the best choice for your current and future business now, you’ll be ahead of the game.
How to find the best ecommerce platform for your industry
The trend in ecommerce platforms today seems to be one-size-fits-most solutions. Not every platform will work for every industry or business, but most cater to the features that are in greatest demand.
But if you have any specialized needs based on your industry, you must figure this out before taking another step. If you don’t choose carefully now, you run the risk of wasting a lot of your own time and energy.
Think about whether you’ll need any of the following features:
- Size and color variants – If you’re selling apparel or footwear, this is going to be a make-or-break kind of thing. You’ll need a platform that makes it easy to offer various color combinations in various sizes. And although this may seem like a no-brainer, not every platform does it well. If this is a feature you’ll need, consider a robust platform like Shopify, BigCommerce, Volusion or 3DCart. WooCommerce is a great self-hosted option.
- Complex bundles and/or service addons – If you’re in the electronics industry, you may end up selling products with options that can also be bundled with other products. This isn’t an easy feat from a platform’s perspective. But 3DCart does a good job of handling complicated situations like this. It’s also great for adding services like extended warranties.
- Handmade products – If you sell handmade products that may not always have availability and/or can be customized per order, BigCartel may be your best bet. This platform caters to the craft marketplace.
If it helps, make a list of all the features you’ll need, and then narrow down the platforms that offer those features. From there, you can go back and review the 6 things to consider before choosing an ecommerce platform. When you get through that list, you should have an idea of which platform will work best for you. From there, it’s time for a test drive. If the platform offers a free trial (and most do), take it!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the top Ecommerce platforms?
Shopify, WooCommerce, Xcart, 3DCart, Ecwid, BigCommerce Enterprise, Weebly, Squarespace, CoreCommerce, CS Cart, Sparkpay, Webflow, Selz, OsCommerce, Wix, Opencart, PretaShop, Volusion, BigCartel, Magento, Sharetribe, and Kijabi.
Which Ecommerce platform is best for small business?
What Ecommerce platform does Amazon use?
Amazon Marketplace, Amazon zShops, or Amazon auctions.
What is the cheapest Ecommerce platform?
Shopify. Best all around.
With so many ecommerce platforms to choose from, it can seem overwhelming. But when you think about the features that are most important to you, it should be easy to narrow the list.
And once you have a shortlist of ecommerce platforms, it’s time to take a test drive to see which feels best for your needs.
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Have you tried any of the platforms on this list? If so, which is your favorite?