Except, there’s just one problem. You don’t quite know how to go about choosing the best eCommerce platform. And with a whole bunch of different options out there, selecting the one that fits your needs can be daunting.
To help you make the right decision for your business, we’ve put together a list of the ten best eCommerce platforms available today. We’ve listed some of their strengths and weaknesses and highlighted which types of business they tend to work best for.
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But before we get into all that, here are a couple of pointers to help assess what type of eCommerce platform is best for you.
1. Integrated functionality v. eCommerce website builder
The #1 criteria when it comes to creating an eCommerce website is whether you already have an existing website or not. If you do, you’ll simply want to add that functionality with an option like OpenCart or popular plugin WooCommerce. Starting from scratch? Some highly recommended eCommerce website builders include Wix, Shopify, and Squarespace.
2. Business size
Most online stores start small and scale up – we are talking startups here, not Amazon level. (Of course, you may fancy yourself as the next Bezos, and goals are good, but even he had to start somewhere.) If it’s just you or a small core team managing the day-to-day running of the site, the best eCommerce platform for you should be simple to navigate and offer flexibility, perhaps with a few advanced features like payment plans or product categories.
3. Existing skills
We get it, one person can’t do it all – and if you don’t have those design or coding skills, don’t sweat it. Look for an eCommerce website builder to help you, with drag-and-drop functionality or design template options. Though if you do have the skills to customize your own online store, go ahead and show them off.
4. Physical v. digital
It might sound obvious, but we’ll say it anyway: it can’t be the best eCommerce platform for your business if it doesn’t support the products you’re selling. Some online stores deal in physical goods (clothing, beauty products, homeware) while others offer digital products (educational courses, music, eBooks). Before you do all the hard work of building, make sure your chosen platform is geared towards your range.
Yes, the dreaded bottom line. As we mentioned in point #2, you might be starting out on a pretty tight budget. Hats off to you, but don’t make things more stressful than they need to be. Plenty of eCommerce platforms offer high-quality service and great features for prices that won’t bring your bank manager to tears.
Now you know roughly what you’re after, here’s our breakdown of the ten best eCommerce platforms to help you create your online store.
Perhaps one of the most famous eCommerce platforms out there, Wix offers great flexibility in terms of design and pricing. The drag-and-drop interface gives you total freedom when it comes to creating your website, or you can start from one of more than 500 customizable templates. Marketing features can be controlled from your dashboard (think emails, social media ads, and even direct sales), and you can add plenty of functionality with more than 250 apps. Pricing is scalable and starts from around $23 per month. Drawbacks? Wix is aimed at smaller businesses, so can’t deal with high volumes of orders or products.
The best eCommerce website builder for larger stores, BigCommerce will help you manage large order volumes and complex product ranges with its integrated functionality and access to unlimited products and file storage. Paid plans start from around $30 per month and are scaled according to annual sales (a custom option is also available). Advanced inventory management, product filters, and coupon codes make this platform extra powerful. Not the friendliest option for smaller businesses or startup ventures, but a great solution for well-established enterprises.
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Another good option for medium to large stores, Shopify is one of the most famous eCommerce platforms out there: it hosts over a million online stores. It’s easy to use, with a great range of features, although you’ll lack the same customization options included with Wix or BigCommerce. Professional themes and over 4,000 apps mean you won’t waste time messing about with the design, and you can enjoy unlimited products, store analytics, and 100 different payment gateways (note that Shopify has its own payment processor, with additional fees charged for using another service like PayPal). Plans start at around $29 a month, or you can go for the cheaper Lite option to integrate eCommerce functionality with an existing website.
Squarespace is primarily a website builder, but for around $26 per month, you can opt for a plan that includes eCommerce functionality with no transaction fees. The platform is famous for its almost limitless customization options and beautiful design themes, plus excellent customer service if you get stuck with building or managing your online store. Mobile-optimized checkouts and real-time shipping estimates make it a practical choice for shoppers too, and you can also use its great integration with social media, email, and marketing platforms.
The first on our list that isn’t an eCommerce website builder, WooCommerce is a plugin powered by WordPress. It’s super popular, but you do have to be using WordPress already to benefit from its features (if you aren’t, feel free to skip this section). Free to use (except for some advanced features), it delivers on both physical and digital products and offers automatic tax calculations, 140 payment gateways, and mobile optimization. You’ll need to have a bit of knowledge for website building – full-on coding skills aren’t required, but it’s less simple to use than an all-in-one builder.
Another good option if you want to integrate eCommerce functionality with an existing website, including other platforms like Wix and Weebly. The free plan allows you to sell up to ten products, and paid options begin at around $15 a month for 100 products. There are no transaction fees, and you can benefit from multi-platform selling options, but you can’t integrate Ecwid fully with your website dashboard – meaning you’ll need to manage your eCommerce activities from a separate account.
A great way of adding an online store to your existing website, OpenCart is perhaps the best eCommerce platform for digital product ranges. That’s thanks to its simple interface and features like a recurring payment option or built-in affiliate management system. The platform prides itself on being free and having an excellent community forum for solving problems, but you’ll have to pay for customer support beyond this, as well as for some of the advanced features.
Weebly is very easy to use, so it makes an excellent eCommerce platform option for beginners. It has a drag-and-drop interface which makes designing a good-looking online store simple, and the user dashboard is intuitive. Plans start at around $38 per month but note that this is limited to physical products – no digital allowed. You’ll benefit from powerful email tools, but Weebly often falls short when it comes to SEO. In short, it’s best for those looking for something relatively simple and good value for money.
If you aren’t quite sure what you’re doing when it comes to building an online store, Volusion makes the process easier with thorough onboarding and good customer service. Plans start at around $29 per month and can be scaled up (though all have a limited number of products) and you can include SEO and multi-platform selling options. That said, it is more basic than some of the other options on offer, which might not make it the best eCommerce platform for a growing business.
3dcart offers eCommerce plans starting at $19, which makes it excellent value for money. Similar to Shopify and BigCommerce, but a little more dated when it comes to design themes, it supports plenty of integrations and is particularly good when it comes to shipping solutions. It does, however, fall on customer service, and the less-than-intuitive interface makes it a far from ideal option for beginners. Better for experienced eCommerce users looking for a wallet-friendly solution with business management tools.
As you can see, there is a wealth of options out there when it comes to finding an eCommerce website builder or adding eCommerce functionality to your site. Before you decide which eCommerce platform is best for you, shop around (pun intended) as many offer free trial periods or at least a test drive of their website builder. Remember to focus on your business first: budget, day-to-day management, and the need for additional design or coding skills will all play an important role in your decision.
All in all, you probably can’t go wrong with one of the big players like Wix, Squarespace, or BigCommerce, or an add-on like WooCommerce (for WordPress users) or OpenCart. Best of luck with building your online store – and don’t forget to invite us to the virtual launch party!