When you are starting an Ecommerce Business, one of the most daunting tasks is choosing which ecommerce platform is going to be the best option for building your online store.
This is because there are many many options out there and the more research you do, the more confused you end up getting (been there, done that!), so to help you out, we decided to list what we think are the best ecommerce platforms for building an online store.
But what makes our list different to the other best ecommerce platform lists out there?
Well, I go through and test every single platform from the perspective of someone looking to build an ecommerce store as I have been in your position and the platforms on this list are ones that I think are viable options.
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Best All Round Ecommerce Platform
Shopify is one of, if not the biggest name in the world of ecommerce and for good reason as they offer the best overall platform for building an ecommerce website.
This is because they do everything well, there may be others that excel in certain areas but none of them offer a better overall package than Shopify, very few also come close to being as easy to use as Shopify as the admin dashboard and user interface are very well designed.
Out of the box, Shopify offers a good set of features that allow you to build a basic ecommerce store for physical or service-based products but it is the Shopify App Store that takes Shopify to a whole different level.
This is because the Shopify App Store contains over 3,000 apps that offer all different features, functionality and integrations, below is a summary of some of the things that you can do:
Obviously, we can only put a summary in here as 3,000+ apps is way too much to cover but hopefully, it gives you an idea of what can be achieved with Shopify but not all of these apps are free, many offer a free trial or package but if you want all the features, you will need to pay for them and prices can range from a few dollars a month to over $100 a month.
While Shopify’s features and app options are very good, it is the design options that help Shopify stand out from its competition due to a large selection of themes combined with one of the best theme customizers in the industry that allows even people with no experience in web design, the tools to build a very good looking website, even with one of the free themes.
But as with all things Shopify isn’t perfect as you will need to install apps for some features that are included with other platforms such as being able to sell digital products or printing invoices directly from the order dashboard and the best options for these are paid apps but overall it offers a very good package.
|Number of Products||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
Shopify pricing is almost the industry standard as many other platforms have very similar pricing structures but Shopify does differ from most of its competition in 2 ways:
- Shopify doesn’t have annual turnover limits on any plan
- Shopify does charge a transaction fee on all payments received using third-party payment gateways such as PayPal or Amazon pay
And it is this transaction fee that can make Shopify more expensive on a monthly basis but these transaction fees can be avoided if you use Shopify Payments, which is their in-house payment gateway, which is powered by Stripe. These transaction fees also don’t apply to offline transactions such as bank transfers.
Shopify Pros and Cons
Who Is Shopify Best For?
With Shopify being a good all-round ecommerce platform, it is suitable for everything from start-ups to enterprise-level stores.
This is because Shopify is easy-to-use, comes with a good selection of features, a large app store and very good customization.
If you want to learn more about Shopify, then check out our Full Review.
Best Ecommerce Platform for Large Businesses
Bigcommerce are one of the biggest (no pun intended) names in the world of ecommerce and one of the main alternatives to Shopify for building online stores.
While the main focus of Bigcommerce is enterprise level ecommerce businesses, they do also cater to small and medium-sized businesses with their Essentials plan that offer users a great selection of tools to help them start selling online, including:
One of the great features of Bigcommerce is that it feels scalable due to the features and also tools such as bulk editors and that it will grow with your business. It is also very easy to use, the dashboard is well designed and a lot of work has been put into making the workflow of the platform nice and efficient.
Bigcommerce also has its own app store, with over 1,100 apps covering a wide variety of categories but as with Shopify, many of these are paid options but there is a nice selection of free offerings as well.
They also are no slouch when it comes to theme selection with over 190 free and paid options to choose from and a page builder to help you build a custom store for your business.
The only real negative with Bigcommerce is the performance of their hosting environment, which didn’t perform well in our annual performance testing but this does seem to be an area where they are trying to improve.
|Number of Products||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
As you can see, Bigcommerce is very similar to Shopify in terms of monthly cost but the big difference is that they have annual turnover limits and they are some of the smallest in the industry with the entry-level basic package only having a $50,000 per annum limit.
For larger stores, you can choose to use the Advanced Package and pay an additional $150/m for an additional $200,000 limit per year or choose to upgrade to a custom enterprise package.
Bigcommerce doesn’t charge any transaction fees and offers a selection of 65 pre-installed payment gateways, including PayPal, Stripe, Amazon Pay and Apple Pay.
Bigcommerce Pros and Cons
Who Is Bigcommerce Best For?
Bigcommerce is best for larger ecommerce businesses as this is where the main focus of the platform is as it offers a great selection of in-built features that make managing a large store easier.
It is still a viable option for smaller stores with their Essentials plans.
If you want to learn more about Bigcommerce, then check out our Full Review.
Best Shopping Cart for Existing Websites
Ecwid is one of the more unique options on this list because while it can be used to build a stand-alone ecommerce website and a pretty good one at that, Ecwid really shines as an ecommerce checkout that can be integrated with highly popular website builders such as WordPress and Wix.
This means it can be a great choice for bloggers who want to start selling products or services through their site along with additional sales channels such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Google Shopping and manage them all from one dashboard.
But Ecwid also offers a host of additional features to help you start selling, however, you choose to use the platform and below is a quick summary of these but some features are only available on the business and unlimited plans.
Ecwid is also very dialed into its target market, which is small and medium-sized businesses and this is reflected in the features and pricing of the platform.
If you want to use Ecwid to build a stand-alone ecommerce website, they offer a nice customizer and selection of templates, although they are limited in terms of content options such as being able to create custom pages and lack of a blog.
But the integrations with WordPress and Wix are excellent and in many cases offer more and perform better than native plugins or apps.
Ecwid is also one of the easiest platforms to get started with, the interface is well-designed and easy to navigate and all of the dashboard pages are simple and easy to use, which makes it a great option for businesses looking for a reasonably priced, easy-to-use shopping cart.
|Number of Products||100||2,500||Unlimited|
Ecwid also offers a completely free package and is one of the best free ecommerce platforms out there but the plan is limited in terms of only being able to sell up to 10 products and not having access to all of the platform’s features.
Ecwid also doesn’t have turnover limits or transaction fees, which makes the pricing very straightforward and they offer a selection of over 30 payment gateways, including PayPal, Stripe and Square.
Ecwid Pros and Cons
Who Is Ecwid Best For?
Ecwid is a great option for people or businesses that want to add an online store to their site without moving platform.
This is because Ecwid offers excellent integration with popular website builders such as WordPress and Wix along with all the tools needed to start selling online.
If you want to learn more about Ecwid, then check out our Full Review.
Best Ecommerce Platform with POS
If you have a physical location or sell face-to-face but also want to have an online presence, then Square is one of the best options out there as you can manage everything in one place.
But Square can be used just for building an online store as they offer a feature-rich platform and website builder, which is a great option for small and medium-sized businesses and some of these features include:
In terms of a straight up head to head, the Square Online Store doesn’t offer the same depth of features as some of the bigger platforms on this list but it is more than enough for many small businesses and even includes some premium features such as subscriptions and memberships with every package.
There are also some good design options when creating an online store with Square, which makes creating a simple, good-looking website very easy to do and overall the dashboard is very easy to use but they do lack some bulk editors, which might not be ideal for businesses who have a large product inventory.
|Number of Products||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
Square’s Online Store is one of the cheaper options on this list, which once again ties in with it being great for small businesses and they also offer a free package, which offers unlimited products but you can’t use your own domain name, even so, it is still one of the best free ecommerce platforms out there.
One of the main drawbacks of the Square Online Store is the lack of payment gateway options as even the Premium Package only includes Square, PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay and while this might be fine for smaller businesses, it may be limiting for larger ones.
Square Pros and Cons
Who Is Square Best For?
Square is a great option for businesses that are or are looking to sell in-person and online but only want to use a single platform to manage their sales and inventory.
This is because Square offers a very good Point-of-Sale and a simple website builder to help you achieve this.
If you want to learn more about Square, then check out our Full Review.
Best Ecommerce Platform for Digital Products
While every platform on this list offers the ability to sell digital products, none of them are designed specifically to do this and that is why we include Payhip on this list.
But Payhip isn’t just for selling digital downloads such as eBooks, they allow users to sell a range of digital products, including:
- Digital Downloads
- Online Courses
- Online Coaching
It can also be used to sell physical products, which is great if you have any additions to your digital content but the platform also offers a good set of features to enable you to grow your business, including:
Simplicity is another key feature of the Payhip platform from the admin dashboard to adding products and customizing your storefront, every interface is well laid out and easy to use, whether you are a beginner or an experienced website builder.
It does lack some features that some of the other platforms on this list offer but for businesses or content creators who want an easy-to-use and secure platform to sell their digital products, it will definitely do the job.
One of the things that makes Payhip a very attractive proposition for online businesses is their pricing structure as they offer the following:
|Number of Products||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
And with the free package, you get access to all of the features that Payhip offers but if you want to host your course videos with Payhip, you will need to pay $5 for up to 16 hours worth of video content.
Payhip Pros and Cons
Who Is Payhip Best For?
Payhip is for individuals or businesses looking for a simple, easy-to-use platform to sell digital products including downloadables, virtuals product and also online courses.
It also offers the ability to sell physical products, which might be add-ons for your digital products.
If you want to learn more about Payhip, then check out our Full Review.
Best Free Ecommerce Platform
Shift4Shop (formerly known as 3dcart) has one very attractive feature in that it is the only fully-featured ecommerce platform that is completely free to use.
And Shift4Shop is loaded with features as everything that was available on the old top-level paid plan is now included for free and some of these features include:
This is just a summary of the features and Shift4Shop comes with some of the best standard features of all the ecommerce platforms out there but there are some drawbacks with the platform.
The first is the limited payment options as only:
- Shift4 Payments
- Amazon Pay
Are available to users, which some businesses might find quite limiting and Shift4Shop is currently only available for US-based merchants.
But for many businesses, these drawbacks are more than countered by what you get in terms of features and that the platform is free to use.
Shift4Shop’s End-to-End plan is completely free to use but is currently only available for US merchants.
Shift4Shop Pros and Cons
Who Is Shift4Shop Best For?
Shift4Shop is great for businesses wanting a feature-rich platform but only have a very limited budget for their website and are prepared to work around the drawbacks of the platform.
If you want to learn more about Shift4Shop, then check out our Full Review.
Best for Customization
WooCommerce has a lot of credentials going for it as it is:
- One of the most popular ecommerce platforms in the world
- The most popular open-source ecommerce platform
- The most popular WordPress ecommerce plugin
Quite a resume! And it is easy to see why, the plugin is free to use and can be used as the base of a large number of different types of online store, including multi-vendor marketplaces.
But out of the box, WooCommerce is very limited in terms of features as it is designed to add a very basic shopping cart to a WordPress website, but these features include:
As you can see, really not a lot in its base form but that is where plugins come into play, not only are over 1,000 free WooCommerce plugins in the WordPress plugin library but there are also many thousands of paid options available directly from developers or through online marketplaces such as Themeforest.
And this is where the flexibility of WooCommerce does start to come into play as if you can think it, someone has probably made a plugin for it.
Another attractive point with WooCommerce is the design aspect as many themes now include WooCommerce integration and the WordPress customizer along with page builders such as the native Gutenberg or plugins like Elementor make design and customization easy with WooCommerce.
There is a negative with WooCommerce though and that is that it does have a steeper learning curve due to being self-hosted, which means there are more technical requirements for the website owner to take care of such as security, performance and maintenance.
The WooCommerce plugin is free to use with self-hosted sites but you will need to pay for hosting for the WordPress CMS. Additional plugins and themes may also need to be paid for options.
WooCommerce Pros and Cons
Who Is WooCommerce Best For?
WooCommerce is a very good option if you want complete control over your website as it is self-hosted and open-source.
It also offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to the type of ecommerce business you want to create and the type of product you want to sell.
If you want to learn more about WooCommerce, then check out our Full Review.
What to Consider When Choosing an Ecommerce Platform
Choosing an ecommerce platform can be daunting, so before you start building your store, here are some things you should consider before making a choice:
1. Hosted or Self-Hosted
There are lots of ecommerce platforms out there but they generally fall into one of two categories and deciding which one is best for you, will make the choice easier.
- Hosted ecommerce platforms, sometimes known as SaaS (Software as a Service) include a website builder, web hosting and in most cases support
- Most hosted platforms are subscription services, meaning you pay a monthly or annual fee for using the platform
- All technical aspects such as hosting setup, performance, security etc are taken care of for you
- Self-hosted platforms require you to buy your own hosting and then install your chosen software
- While the software itself may be free to use, you will need to pay for your hosting and possibly an SSL certificate
- Little to no support and you will either have to manage it yourself or employ the services of a developer
This is just a brief summary but for most people new to ecommerce, I would recommend going for a hosted platform as the start-up and day-to-day running is much easier and it is for this reason that very few self-hosted options appear in this list.
Support is an important thing to consider when choosing an ecommerce platform as you may run into issues when setting up or running your store and you want to know that there is someone you can contact who will be able to help.
With support, you also want to consider the contact times for the support teams, where they are based and how easy they are to contact.
This one can be quite challenging when just getting started as you don’t know exactly what features you are going to need (this becomes more evident as your business grows) but some things you want to consider:
- Inventory Management – how easy is it to create and manage your inventory? can you sell different types of products (physical, digital etc)
- Order Management – how easy is it to manage your orders
- Marketing Tools – what can you manage directly from the dashboard? can you easily integrate with other marketing tools (Google or Facebook ads etc)
- Payment Gateways – can you offer a variety of different payment options for your customers?
- Shipping Methods – does the platform offers different shipping options and/or integrations with third-party shipping companies
This is just a basic list but you want to try and create a list of features you need in order to be able to find the platform that will best suit your business.
4. Theme Customization and Design
Design is an important part of your online store as first impressions do count and you want to be able to create a good-looking but also easy-to-use store for your customers.
On your part, customization should also be easy to do and there should be options for design elements, such as:
- Page Layout
- Site Colours
- Font Style and Size
- Header and Footer Options
The more you are able to yourself and the easier it is, the less reliance you will have either on platform support or developers.
Many people lead with price but this can be false economy as you may go for a cheaper or free option, only to find that you can’t achieve what you need to and then you need to go through the time-consuming and often costly process of moving to a platform that works for you.
Instead, it is best to pick the platform that best works for you and your business, even if the cost is slightly higher as it will be better paying a few dollars extra a month and choosing the platform that you like using the most but also offers all of the features and support you need.
As already mentioned, choosing which ecommerce platform to use isn’t easy but all of the platforms on this list will definitely get the job done and are ones that we would be happy to use to build an ecommerce store and in some cases have actually used.
The great thing is that with all these options, you can try before you buy, to see whether or not they will work for you and your business, except for WooCommerce as you need to buy hosting to try it I highly recommend trying multiple options to find the platform that is best for YOU and YOUR business as each store has its own requirements.
Editors Choice: Shopify
Shopify comes out top for use as it offers the best all-around ecommerce platform in terms of:
It is also suitable for businesses of all sizes from start-ups to large online stores.