A fast, versatile, and easy to use eCommerce platform makes a lot of things simpler. But finding the solution that fits your business the most can be seriously challenging - there are so many good options to choose from!
To help you find the best eCommerce platform for your online shop, we offer insights as to which platform is perfect for your business.
Best eCommerce Platforms
We tried and tested a bunch of eCommerce platforms to see which is the easiest to use, most affordable, and has the best functionality.
Here's the list of the best eCommerce platform options:
- Shopify - best all-around eCommerce platform
- BigCommerce - eCommerce platform suited for big international businesses
- Volusion - inexpensive, simple to use eCommerce solution
- Etsy - online sales solution for crafting experts
- BigCartel - platform loved by designers with a free plan
Let's have a look at them in detail.
Shopify offers an easy-to-use website builder and plenty of powerful tools to help you build an online store of your dreams, sell well, and track your data. So no wonder why it's the most popular eCommerce platform around. Overall, Shopify is a great option for most small businesses - because there's also plenty of room to grow should that small business suddenly turn into a serious corporation.
Shopify powers plenty of massive companies, such as Pepsi, Nestle, or Kylie Jenner cosmetics - so it'll have enough space for you and your business.
Shopify eCommerce Platform
Shopify is as dynamic as the eCommerce platform can get. It includes easy to use website builder to design your storefront, straightforward product management interface, tools for gathering statistics, and tons of third-party apps. Not to mention essentials like payment or shipping automation and social media integration.
The platform's website builder includes almost a hundred beautiful storefront templates. All of them responsive too.
Third-party apps are integrated with a click of a button so that will be easy as well. One thing though - not all apps and templates are free so you might need to spend a good buck to get the design or functionality you need.
Overall, Shopify has it all to build, launch, manage, and even advertise your store.
And it won't stop on the internet, too. Shopify has introduced a POS system alongside a physical card reader. They allow syncing brick-and-mortar store purchases with an online store!
The only genuine disadvantage of Shopify is its price with a high starting point of $29/mo. This gets you the basic functionality including essentials, 2 staff accounts, and the POS app.
To reduce credit card rates, add more staff accounts, and be able to generate advanced reports, you may want to use a higher-tier plan. The Shopify and Advanced Shopify plans include much more features for your online store.
- Easy to use website builder
- SEO optimization tools
- Plenty of third-party apps
- Good performance
- Expensive eCommerce plans
- High card/transaction fees
- Add-ons can be costly
BigCommerce focuses on big online business providing them with custom solutions. The list includes Ford, Toyota, Motorola, and many others. However, you can also benefit from the powerful BigCommerce platform by using BigCommerce Essentials solution for businesses seeking to grow.
BigCommerce Store Builder and Management
With Shopify being one of the biggest BigCommece's competitors, the platform is designed to be just as functional and simple to use as its' rival.
BigCommerce includes a simple website builder featuring almost a hundred free and paid templates that are all responsive.
BigCommerce also doesn't slack on third-party integrations. In the App Store, you'll find hundreds of apps for adding functionalities to your store, optimizing it, or marketing.
You can also connect your online store to multiple sales channels like eBay, Amazon, Facebook, Google Shopping, and others. And if you have a physical store, Square integration will allow you to merge the inventory tracking of the two.
If you plan to sell a lot, chances are you also plan to sell worldwide. BigCommerce has your back - with more than 60 payment gateways, it provides international solutions to 30 countries. Amongst the options, there's Skrill, WorldPay, 2CheckOut and plenty, plenty of others.
So all in all, BigCommerce is one of the main Shopify alternatives providing somewhat the same functionality.
BigCommerce cheapest plan for $29.95 offers amazing value.
Unlimited bandwidth, unlimited items, professional reporting, gift cards, and checkout codes are all available with the 'Standard' plan which is really quite good.
The only stumbling block is the yearly sales you're allowed - with the cheapest plan, you may not exceed $50,000 a year. If you reach that - you'll need to upgrade.
The real question is, whether you need all of the BigCommerce features at the same time. But it's good to have them - and on top of that, there are no transaction fees, so every dollar you make is yours.
Together with Shopify, BigCommerce is not a cheap option to start selling online. On the other hand, it provides store owners with a powerful platform, tons of tools, and integrations. BigCommece has it all for businesses that are expanding.
- Good value for the pricing
- Many payment gateway options
- Free 15-day trial
- A rather expensive pricing
- No free/cheap plan
Volusion is the best eCommerce platform for people who want to have a massive amount of website building features combined with top-class support.
While a regular eCommerce platform such as Shopify has an application shop, Volusion intends on making their builder as useful as possible right from the start - all the add-ons are built-in.
This is a good online shop solution for the people who want to take matters into their own hands, and also wish to have ultimate simplicity, not altered by third-party applications and their varying user experience.
Volusion Store Manager
Volusion has perhaps the simplest store builder and manager interface on this list. It features an interactive site builder that has all the integrations already built-in.
Following the step by step directions, you'll choose a theme, colors, fonts, and layouts to customize your own store.
Volusion also provides simple SEO optimization tools, integrations with multiple sales channels, email marketing, and other useful features.
However, by far the most useful feature is statistical data that Volusion generates for you. In a simple to understand way, you'll see how much you made and what sold the best - in real-time.
This shows that Volusion is not just easy to use, but a functional eCommerce platform as well. It is simple enough for beginner store owners and powerful enough for big stores.
Volusion pricing follows a standard pattern starting at $29/mo. Alongside Shopify and BigCommerce, it is one of the more expensive options. At the same time, you won't need to pay any transaction fees.
Unfortunately, the cheapest plan is pretty limiting. You will only be able to have 1 staff account and sell just 100 products. If you reach $50k/year profit cap, you'll need to upgrade as well.
So for the pricing, Volusion is not the very best choice. However, it adds simplicity to a rather complicated online store management.
- Easy to use platform
- Plenty of built-in features
- Good 24/7 support
- Cheapest plans lack features
- Limited choice of website templates
Etsy is a place for artists and crafts enthusiasts who make handcrafted goods and want to sell them online. It is known as a popular place for DIY geeks who want to vend things to people all around the world.
And the best part is - this eCommerce platform won't require much of your time. It's perfectly possible to dedicate yourself fully to crafting, run a shop, and still remain a one-person operation.
Etsy's Social Selling Platform
Etsy is not barely online selling but also a social platform. Etsy is a world within a world and has a strong community. In fact, you may not even need a lot of marketing to get your first clients.
If you do well, you may get enough attention to stay afloat and make a serious number of sales! If Etsy deems your goods interesting, you may get featured on its homepage or newsletters they send to the users.
By joining Etsy and becoming a part of the family, you also give yourself up to its ecosystem. You can't make your website look different and you can't have your own separate domain - it's always going to be etsy.com/shop/yourshop.
Being a part of the closed community is good for the start but later you may get seriously limited by it.
On top of that, community guidelines are very strict. The Internet is littered with responses and blog posts from disgruntled Etsy shop owners who had their projects removed. Etsy has a very strict policy of dos and donts. If you think your shop may stir controversy, it is not an ideal option.
Starting on Etsy is really quite cheap - there are no monthly fees. Etsy only takes a portion of what you earn. If you have a bad month, you don't lose money.
However, this model is not always good. Despite not charging monthly fees, Etsy takes a solid chunk out of your money. $0.20 item listing fee, 5% transaction fee, and 3% + $0.25 payment processing fee make things rather expensive.
Of course, there is a sweet spot where this type of payment is financially viable. However, if you sell more, it may not be a good option as you'll get charged way more than a regular monthly fee with some other provider would affect you. Be wary of that - and do some counting to know that.
- Showcase products effortlessly
- No monthly fees
- Strict Etsy community guidelines
- Fees for every product and sale
A favored place for designers and artists to sell things online, BigCartel is an eCommerce solution which attempts to empower the people with small budgets - but big dreams. This is a great platform for graphic designers and aspiring brands. How come?
Well, this can be very clearly seen from one of the things - BigCartel is the only eCommerce solution in this entire list which offers a true free plan. That means no credit card details, no trial time. Just genuine, free hosted eCommerce.
But just the free plan doesn't make BigCartel great. It is also a bunch of easy to use tools to build your store.
BigCartel Store Building Tools
For many, BigCartel offers a great ground zero with a free hosted eCommerce plan. Seamless integration with drop shipping platforms effectively means that your unique design will turn into a beautiful product and ship to your clients without you moving a finger.
And it's very simple to set up.
Though BigCartel doesn't have hundreds of themes, it has perfected the 31 that it has to the limits. So you'll go through the process of choosing and customizing a theme, uploading your content and products, and setting up payment methods. After that, your store is good to go.
Because BigCartel focuses on artists and crafters, it provides them with a simple to set up and easy to manage platform. Everything's done interactively and the platform provides pop-up hints on what to do next.
When it comes to tools - some people mention that the analytics or shipping calculator tools are not very powerful. Also, unlike in Etsy, the community factor is actually quite small. For most of the part, it means you have to do a lot of the marketing yourself and if you become a huge name, you may need to move away from BigCartel to get extra tools.
Is this a good starting point before you strike gold?
May as well be. It won't give you a powerful website builder or loads of freedom, but could very well be the best option.
BigCartel has a free plan that limits you to 5 products, but apart from that - it lets you have a functional store.
Talking about paid plans, you can choose from 3 options starting at $9.99/mo. Each plan will allow you to sell more products, starting with 25 with the cheapest plan.
BigCartel may be the cheapest option on our list that is perfect for small online stores. If you're just getting started, 25 products could be enough and you'll always have options to upgrade.
On top of that, you may use a drop shipping service, like Printful. Just like that, a designer may sell custom prints, clothes, clothes or dishes - without having to invest into plenty of stocked merchandise.
BigCartel is the best eCommerce platform for start-up online stores managed by one person or a small team. It is very easy to use and affordable as well.
- Free plan available
- Easy to use for beginners
- Monthly plans - no commitments
- Tools are very simplistic
- Lacks community support
How to Make an Online Store that Generates Profit?
Even when searching for best eCommerce platforms, you might have noticed that most articles describe how you can improve your online shop, and how you can use advertising, SEO, speed optimization, or whatever, to make sure that your online shop is amazing.
So it's always about you - the customer.
That's because customers don't want to read lengthy stories about the person or the company they're buying from. An online shop has to offer a beautiful, seamless experience, that makes it all about them.
So, what do your customers really want out of their online shopping experience?
Surprisingly or not, it’s all about functionality. Let’s see how your shop should function.
#1 Make Sure the 'Search' Works Properly
Customers want to find everything as effortlessly as possible. For many users, a broken search function is a dealbreaker. So ensure that Search functionality works perfectly.
Also, allow granular filtering of Search results.
Allow customers to refine their search results. This will greatly benefit the overall experience. The options may include “Price - low to high”, “Price - high to low," "Popularity," aka "Best Selling," "Featured," "User Rating" (or "Editor Rating" if you do not have users rate products), and "New" or "Latest."
With these kinds of refinement options available, customers will have no problems finding just the right products - or browse the entire selection with the filters they care about the most.
More Products Per Page Equals More Sales
Show customers as many products on one page as you can without slowing down page loading times. Usually, this is around 50 products per page.
Allow the users to scroll free! People look at hundreds of products every time they go shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, so big product pages will help replicate the feeling of “window shopping”.
Most customers hate online stores that don’t allow them to quickly see all the products as they browse or that show very few products per page. The fewer clicks it takes to find the desired product, the better.
#2 Visuals Sell Well
Show lots of up-close photos of the product from many different angles, so that customers can get a real feel for what the item looks like in real life.
Customers love to get a sense of what they’re buying before they purchase it. Fancy, 3D interfaces or video reviews are even better. Use everything you can to give your clients the best visual look and the most information about the product all at once.
Don't have the means or the skill to include beautiful pictures? There are plenty of product photography services that can help you out. Weebly offers a "Photo Studio" feature which will do 3 professional pictures of your product for just $9.95. There are also options on Fiverr and other similar platforms - when there's a will, there's a way.
#3 Use Mobile Responsive Designs
Both your website and your images should be easy to observe through all internet-capable devices, such as smartphones. A well-optimized website will give your customers the freedom to shop from any device, at any time.
The mobile market is huge and definitely is not a demographic that you want to ignore. In fact, statistics show that the number of sales via mobile device is expected to reach 50% of all sales by 2021.
A good deal of eCommerce management platforms makes it easy to convert your website to a mobile version simply by turning on a function in their settings. Make sure you don’t miss out on this very important part of your market.
#4 Allow Social Media Sharing and Reviews
Guarantee that customers can share their favorite products and purchases via social media by adding social media sharing functions to your eCommerce website.
This equals free marketing for your website every time a customer shares them. That's definitely not something you want to leave out of your website’s design. Many platforms feature this as part of their design or have plugins available that allow you to add this. You don't even need to look for a specific eCommerce website builder to do so. Mostly all add social media integrations as a default and you'll only need to enable them.
Also - make sure you put a lot of emphasis on social media yourselves. A visitor won't just randomly start sharing every product they see. By adding your social media feeds on the website and filling them with interesting information, reviews or competitions, you will make your eCommerce website an interesting brand to follow. By being social and engaging you will give something back to your visitors.
Chances are, your shop isn't interesting enough on its own. You need to give something extra.
Want to start a conversation or keep up with the pulse of your users? Include a spot for reviews or maybe even a question form. The opinion of your clients is as important as it gets.
Just add a Captcha form or review the comments before publishing to avoid spam and/or other issues.
#5 Test, Grow, Evolve, Change
Do a full run-through of your eCommerce website as a customer to make sure that EVERY part of the website is functioning as it should be BEFORE you launch it. Think it's already perfect?
Now go through it again.
Test every nook and cranny, try out weird action combinations and click on random buttons in different situations. This way you don’t run the risk of losing any new customers the day your store launches just because of stray errors on the website. First impressions are important, you know.
Never stop improving and adding new features and products to your eCommerce website that will continue to draw new customers and keep current customers coming back for more. Too many fantastic eCommerce websites allow themselves to become stagnant by not adding anything new to keep customers returning to their sites. Don’t become one of these websites. Constantly seek new ways to grow, evolve, and change. You need to inspire excitement.
Best eCommerce Platforms - the Verdict
A good eCommerce platform is a brilliant start to your website. but don't forget two things.
First, remember that there's no perfect answer as to which platform is superior. To each their own - the list we've made includes all types of the best eCommerce platforms just for this sole reason.
- Shopify is the best all-round eCommerce platform for both beginners and big businesses.
- BigCommerce is the best eCommerce platform to start a big international online store.
- Volusion is a beginner-friendly solution to start selling online.
- Etsy is the best platform to sell your own arts and crafts online.
- BigCartel is oriented towards artists with low budgets and has a true free plan.
If you're serious about your success, test out at least a couple of your preferred options. This way, you'll have more information before properly diving in.
And of course, remember that an eCommerce platform alone won't launch you into success. You need to make sure that users absolutely love your website and the shopping experience.
That should come as no surprise. If you'll combine the best eCommerce platform and heaps of hard work, there's no stopping you and your company.