Best Ecommerce Platforms
- April 6, 2021
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What would you do with an extra $1,500 a day?
With a bit of work and the right platform behind you, you can create an online store that generates that kind of revenue (and more).
Shilpi Yadav is an excellent example. She quit her job to start an online clothing store based around her Indian heritage.
Despite all the risks, the brand now makes more than half a million dollars a year (averaging around $1,500 per day).
She built her online store using Shopify, one of the best ecommerce platforms on the market. However, there are a ton of different options to choose from depending on what you need.
And the most significant thing standing in the way of your own $500k success story is deciding which ecommerce platform is right for your new store.
In this post, I’ll break down the major aspects to consider in choosing the right platform for your current situation. Then we’ll take a close look at seven of top options available today.
#1 – Wix Review — The Best for Flexibility and Customization
Wix is a great option if you’re looking for an affordable and flexible ecommerce platform. It’s famous for it’s drag-and-drop interface with complete design freedom to create anything you can imagine.
Instead of having to write code, you can use the visual building tools to get your site looking just the way you want it.
With Wix, you also get access to more than 500+ prebuilt website templates and plenty of customization options. Or you can create pages from scratch with complete design control.
The Wix template selection is really helpful for launching a new online store. Instead of having to mess with settings, you can plug your products into a framework that’s going to look great every time.
People visiting your store will think you spent days getting such a professional look, but it takes hardly any time at all with Wix.
Furthermore, they have a robust mobile app so you can make changes and manage your store from anywhere in the world.
Wix also includes a wide variety of marketing features, like emails, Facebook ads, and social media posts right from your account dashboard. You can even sell directly via social media.
Their ecommerce plans include powerful features, like:
- Support of 90+ languages and local currencies
- 250+ apps to add extra functionality to your site
- No additional transaction fees
- Custom product pages
- Worldwide shipping and taxes
- Coupons and discounts
- Advanced sorting and filtering
- Product collections
- Customizable checkout
- Recurring payments
Plus, if you already use Wix, you can upgrade to an ecommerce plan in just a few clicks within your account dashboard.
Wix offers four ecommerce plans for online shops of different sizes, including:
- Business Basic — $23/month
- Business Unlimited — $27/month
- Business VIP — $49/month
- Enterprise — custom pricing
This is an excellent option if you have a small store or special design requirements. However, If you expect a high order volume and large range of products, you’re better off with BigCommerce or Shopify instead.
#2 – Squarespace Review — The Best Ecommerce Platform for Creatives
Squarespace is well-known as a website builder, but their higher-tier plans also include ecommerce functionality. Furthermore, their design templates are famous for their ease of use and creativity, making this an excellent choice for creative online stores.
You can also install and customize multiple templates at a time to see which one you like best. And switching between templates takes just a few clicks.
Aside from beautiful templates, Squarespace offers a variety of ecommerce features, including:
- Subscriptions, digital products, and in-person compatibility
- Built-in tax tools for automatic tax calculations
- Discount codes and gift cards
- Abandoned cart recovery
- Mobile-optimized checkout
- Mobile store management
- Rich product listings
- Quick view capability
- Inventory management
- Real-time shipping estimates
Furthermore, Squarespace integrates with most of the popular email marketing and social media platforms so you can sell and market your products like a pro.
And they have fantastic 24/7/365 customer support ready to answer your questions and help you get things set up the way you want to.
Squarespace offers three ecommerce plans (and a personal plan), including:
- Personal — $12 per month + no ecommerce functionality
- Business — $18 per month + 3% transaction fees
- Basic Commerce — $26 per month + 0% transaction fees
- Advanced Commerce — $40 per month + 0% transaction fees
They also have an enterprise plan with a dedicated account manager, SEO consultations, and prioritized technical support.
And while the Business plan offers ecommerce capabilities, I highly recommend choosing Basic Commerce to start. It’s the cheapest plan with no transaction fees, plus it includes other essential features like, customer accounts and ecommerce analytics.
Learn more and get started at Squarespace.
#3 – Bluehost Review — The Best for Hands-Off WooCommerce Store Setup
I really like WooCommerce. And, fortunately, I’m comfortable enough with WordPress to install, customize, and manage the WooCommerce plugin and the additional plugins that really make it shine on my own WordPress sites.
But I know many folks who would rather not have that responsibility, whether because of a lack of familiarity with WordPress plugins or just a lack of time to self-manage WooCommerce.
Bluehost gets that, too—that’s why they’ve rolled out an easier, turnkey solution to getting a WooCommerce store up and running in no time, for anyone.
With Bluehost’s package for ecommerce powered by WooCommerce, you get a handy guided store creator, plus:
- Built-in SSL and Jetpack for security
- Unlimited product listings
- Payment processing
- Customer reviews
- Coupon codes
- Manual order creation
- One year free of CodeGuard Backup Basic, for daily site backups
And that’s all in the Standard Plan.
What I think is most convenient, though, is that Bluehost has preselected the top 20 store plugins that your WooCommerce store will need. Not only does that save you the headache of researching and installing plugins on your own, they’re included at no extra charge.
That’s huge. Some of these plugins cost around $200 a pop to install.
Take it one step higher to the Premium plan and you’ll also get:
- Online appointment scheduling
- Subscription-based ecommerce
- Advanced product customization
- Local tax management
- Free domain privacy
- CodeGuard Backup Basic, included for free
Pricing is based on your initial term commitment. Choose from month-to-month billing, a one-year contract, or a three-year contract.
The Standard plan starts at $12.95/month for a three-year commitment, while Premium starts at $24.95/month for the same.
Both plans renew at the standard month-to-month rate after the term is completed—$29.95/month for Standard and $49.95/month for Premium.
So, if you want to get a WooCommerce store up in no time with no hassle on your end at all, head over to Bluehost today.
#4 – BigCommerce Review — The Best for Medium to Large Stores
BigCommerce is an all-in-one ecommerce website builder specifically for large online stores. It includes more advanced ecommerce features suitable for managing high volumes and a large number of products.
With a customer base of 100,000+ stores, including some big names like Ben & Jerry’s and SkullCandy, they’re a smaller player in the industry.
But that doesn’t make the platform any less powerful.
BigCommerce plans include access to powerful, industry-leading features, including:
- Customer accounts for faster checkouts
- Mobile-optimized checkout
- Abandoned cart recovery
- Google AMP and Akamai
- Advanced product filters
- Coupons and discount codes
- Advanced inventory management
- Customer groups for personalized shopping
- 65+ payment gateways with no extra transaction fees
- Built-in shipping management
Plus, all of their plans include unlimited products, file storage, bandwidth, and staff accounts.
And you can choose between 12 free mobile-responsive design templates or opt for a paid template to make your online store stand out from the crowd without touching a single line of code.
BigCommerce offers four paid plans (with a 15-day free trial), including:
- Standard — $29.95/month with a $50,000 annual sales limit
- Plus — $79.95/month with a $180,000 annual sales limit
- Pro — $299.95/month with a $400,000 annual sales limit
- Enterprise — custom pricing
If you’re just getting started, BigCommerce is overkill for your online store. However, if you’re an established business or plan to sell high volumes, it’s an excellent choice.
#5 – Shopify Review — The Best All-In-One Ecommerce Platform
Shopify is an all-in-one ecommerce website builder that powers more than one million online stores, making it one of the most popular choices on this list.
However, it’s not as customizable as Wix. But it offers more advanced ecommerce features because it’s built specifically to host online stores. Plus, it’s easy to use with just the right level of flexibility.
It’s also incredibly versatile, powering micro to large stores, and everything in between. Shopify plans include access to an incredible suite of ecommerce features, including:
- Point of Sale for brick and mortar shops
- Real-time carrier shipping rates
- Abandoned checkout recovery
- 100 different payment gateways
- Automatic tax calculations
- Customer accounts and profiles
- Fulfillment centers
- Advanced inventory management
- Unlimited products
- In-depth analytics
Plus, with 70+ professional themes (nine of which are free) and 4,100+ apps, you can create a beautiful and highly functional ecommerce store without having to start from scratch. Or write a single line of code.
Combine that with award-winning 24/7/365 customer support and you have an excellent ecommerce platform.
Shopify offers five plans for businesses of all sizes, including:
- Shopify Lite — $9 per month
- Basic Shopify — $29 per month
- Shopify — $79 per month
- Advanced Shopify — $299 per month
- Shopify Plus — custom pricing
Shopify Lite is a great option if you want to embed products and “buy” buttons onto an existing website. However, it doesn’t come with the all-inclusive website builder.
Keep in mind that Shopify has its own payment processor. They charge 2.4% – 2.9% + $0.30 depending on the plan you choose. They also charge additional fees (0.5% – 2%) if you use a separate payment processor like PayPal or Square.
#6 – WooCommerce Review — The Best for WordPress Websites
The recommendations thus far are all-in-one website builders. WooCommerce, however, is not. It’s a WordPress plugin built to add ecommerce functionality to existing WordPress websites.
WooCommerce powers approximately 30% of stores online today. And with 80+ million downloads, it’s one of the most popular ecommerce platforms on this list.
Note: if you don’t already have a WordPress website, I don’t recommend going this route. Stick to an all-in-one ecommerce platform, instead.
WooCommerce is a lightweight plugin that adds ecommerce capabilities like accepting online payments, configurable shipping options, product listings, and more. But you have to have an existing website to use it. So, it’s a great option if you already use WordPress.
It includes powerful ecommerce features like:
- Plugin extensions to increase functionality
- Rest APIs for developers to create custom platforms
- Extensive tutorials and documentation
- 140 region-specific payment gateways
- Support of subscriptions and deposits
- Automated tax calculations
- Real-time shipping rates
- iOS and Android mobile apps
- Physical and digital product capability
- Endless product variations
- Public support forum
And the best part? It’s free to download, install, and use. Forever.
However, some of the extensions aren’t free so watch out for that if you start digging into those.
With the power of WordPress behind it, your customization options are only limited to what you can imagine. So, the sky is legitimately the limit with WooCommerce.
But with that said, it’s not the easiest or most intuitive ecommerce platform. So, I don’t recommend it if you aren’t already using WordPress and 100% comfortable with it.
#7 – OpenCart Review — The Best for Selling Digital Products
OpenCart is another open source ecommerce platform, much like WooCommerce. However, it’s not limited to WordPress websites. But you do need to have an existing website to use it.
Over 300,000 online stores use OpenCart to confidently sell products of all shapes and sizes online. Plus, most web hosting companies offer one-click installation or will install it for free, so it’s incredibly easy to set up.
Note: I only recommend going this route if you already have a website up and running.
While you can sell products of any kind, the no-fluff interface (and free price tag) makes it an excellent option for selling digital products to make more money with your online business.
All without adding an extra monthly expense because it’s 100% free forever.
OpenCart offers a powerful set of ecommerce features, including:
- Simple and centralized admin dashboard
- Advanced user roles and access controls
- Manage multiple stores from a single dashboard
- Limitless product variables and variations
- Built-in affiliate management and rewards system
- Discounts and coupons
- Unlimited products
- One-click digital downloads
- Product reviews and ratings
- 36 built-in payment methods
- Recurring payments
Plus, with 13,000 modules and themes in the marketplace, you can add any functionality you can imagine including service integrations, conversion modules, email marketing, and more.
Keep in mind that not all of OpenCart’s extensions are free. You may have to pay for more advanced capabilities.
And they don’t currently offer support for free, either.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for on their community forum, you have to pay for dedicated help. Dedicated support starts at $99 per site per month or $99 for a one-time fix.
#8 – Ecwid Review — The Best for Integrating With Your Current Platform
Like OpenCart and WooCommerce, Ecwid is an ecommerce platform you can use to integrate with your current platform, regardless of what you’re already using.
It integrates with platforms like Weebly, Wix, WordPress, Squarespace, and more. So, if you already have a website set up and want to add ecommerce functionality, Ecwid is an excellent choice.
With that said, they also offer an all-in-one ecommerce website builder if you want to start from scratch. However, there are better website builders to use.
So, I only recommend Ecwid if you want to integrate ecommerce into your existing website.
This ecommerce platform includes a wide range of features, like:
- Multi-channel selling (social media, marketplaces, in-person, etc.)
- Integrated email marketing and advertising features
- Centralized inventory and order management
- No transaction fees
- Fully responsive designs
- Built-in POS integrations
- Customer accounts for easy checkout
- Real-time shipping rate calculator
- Poduct variations
- Digital product capabilities
- 40 payment options
The biggest downside is that you can’t manage your store from inside your website account dashboard. You have to log in to Ecwid instead. So, you need to manage two separate accounts.
But the good news is… you can start on the limited free forever plan to try it out before making any investments.
The free plan only allows up to ten products, so you have to upgrade if you need more. Ecwid also offers three paid plans, including::
- Venture — $15/month (up to 100 products)
- Business — $35/month (up to 2,500 products)
- Unlimited — $99/month (unlimited products)
As a stand-alone store builder you might be better off with other options (like Wix and Shopify).
But if you already have a website and want to add an ecommerce store, Ecwid is a great alternative to WooCommerce and OpenCart.
What I Looked at to Find the Best Ecommerce Platform
The best ecommerce platform for your business depends on several factors like your experience level, your customization requirements, and the type of products you want to sell.
But choosing the right platform can feel overwhelming because there are countless options to choose from.
It may help to start with a list of requirements and the features you need. From there, you can narrow down your choices based on the following criteria.
Physical vs Digital Products
Digital products are a booming market. Online courses, music, art, and podcasts are just some of the digital products netting new businesses tons of cash.
But selling and delivering digital products isn’t the same as delivering a physical product to someone’s doorstep.
If you want to sell digital products, Shopify is a really great option, but some ecommerce may not support digital products at all. So it’s important to understand which type you plan to sell before you make a decision.
What do you need to do to get your ecommerce platform up and running?
There are a few different ways to deploy your platform depending on where you are starting from and where you want to go.
If you already have a website, the best option is integrating an online store rather than creating a brand new website on a new platform. This way, you build on what you’ve already done. OpenCart is ideal for this use-case.
For people with WordPress sites, you can add ecommerce functionality via a plugin like WooCommerce. This is super simple to set up and easy to manage.
If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll want a website builder and other tools to help you design your platform.
In this case, going with solutions like Wix and Squarespace makes a lot of sense. They bundle everything you need to get started at a really affordable price.
Order management, product creation, tracking orders, and dashboard navigation are important factors of day-to-day ecommerce management.
Choose a platform that’s easy to use and manage on a daily basis. It shouldn’t feel like a struggle to create new products, check the status of an order, or update the pages of your website.
It’s all about finding the right balance of flexibility, customization, and ease of use. The more a platform can do, the harder it is to manage.
You can simplify your workload by choosing a platform that offers just enough flexibility without going overboard for your specific needs.
Some ecommerce website builders (like Wix) are truly drag and drop, meaning the customization options are endless. If you can imagine it, you can build it. But, that freedom also makes the platform more difficult to use.
Other platforms integrate into your current site, taking the look and feel of your existing website with very few customization options. For some users, this is perfect.
But others may want more control.
If you’re just starting out, simple designs and ease of use are more important than design flexibility.
However, if you already own a physical store or an established brand, design is more important so you can create a cohesive aesthetic from one touch point to the next.
Advanced Ecommerce Features
Do you want to be able to offer discounts or accept payments through different payment processors? Maybe you want to send visitors a reminder email when they exit your website with something in their cart.
Perhaps you’re interested in creating customer profiles and analyzing advanced analytics.
Other advanced ecommerce features include:
- Email marketing integrations
- Memberships and recurring payments
- Gift cards and discount codes
- Partial payments or payment plans
- Shipping and fulfillment management
- Product variations
- Product categories
Think carefully about what you need and what would be nice to have. Then, you can use your list of requirements to narrow down your list of choices.
Finding an ecommerce platform does what you need is a breath of fresh air. After using dozens of different options over the years, I’m confident with my selection of the top options available:
- Wix – Best for flexibility and customization
- Squarespace – Best ecommerce platform for creatives
- Bluehost – Best for hands-off WooCommerce store setup
- BigCommerce – Best for medium to large stores
- Shopify – Best all-in-one ecommerce platform
- WooCommerce – Best for WordPress websites
- OpenCart – Best for selling digital products
- Ecwid – Best for integrating with your current platform
My #1 recommendation for most users is Wix. It’s great for users of all experience levels. Plus, it’s easy to use, highly customizable, and affordable as well. But if Wix is too customizable for you, Squarespace is a fantastic alternative.
For large stores, I highly recommend BigCommerce or Shopify.
However, if you already have a website, WooCommerce, OpenCart, and Ecwid are excellent choices depending on what you need.
If you have a WordPress site and want an easier way to set up your WooCommerce store on it, you can’t go wrong with Bluehost’s WooCommerce Online Stores.
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