Finding the best ecommerce software to build your online store is a daunting and confusion task – especially if you are new to the world of creating an ecommerce business.
If you are thinking of creating your own online store and looking for some ideas for the top ecommerce platform to use, this article will hopefully shed some light on this subject for you.
When we first started building online stores to kick start our side business while we were working our regular day jobs, we didn’t where to start, how to build a good website, how to upload products, or how to connect a store to payment processors.
We were just confused.
As we invested more time conducting painful research, we discovered that broadly speaking, there are two ways to build an ecommerce store:
- Hosted shopping carts (more user-friendly)
- Self-hosted open source shopping carts (more advanced)
HOSTED SHOPPING CARTS
Hosted shopping carts are much more user-friendly than self-hosted solutions (more about this in the next section).
Basically, the website builder gives you a complete ecommerce package and takes care of all the technical aspect of things, so you can quickly and easily set up your ecommerce online store and start selling.
The idea is that they “hide” all the codes, and create simple and non-technical user interface for you to create your own website (using drag and drop technology for you to insert your content such as images, galleries, etc) upload your products, connect your website to a payment processor, so you can start selling very quickly.
The main benefit of these ecommerce software is that they are very easy to use even if you are not technically savvy. The drawback is that there isn’t as much flexibility for you if you want to modify the functions provided by these ecommerce software providers.
When we started out, we found that using a hosted shopping cart is the fastest way for us to get set up, without the headaches of learning how to code or hiring expensive developers to help us get set up.
The following are a number of ecommerce platforms (hosted shopping carts) that we recommend you to check out.
1) Shopify (150,000+ Active Online Stores)
Shopify is probably the best ecommerce software in the market today.
- Beautiful and professional themes so your store looks great
- Extensive number of apps for you to add to your store to extend the functionality of your business
- 24/7 any time support (very important if you are serious about your business)
(Click on image above to see short video overview of what Shopify is all about and how it can help you build an ecommerce store)
Shopify is a one-stop-shop ecommerce website builder where they simplify the challenges of building an online store to drag and drop – making life easier for you.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that they are too simple and cannot handle larger stores, as their users include smaller businesses that are generating thousands of dollars in sales, to million dollar businesses.
2) By the way, here is a series of very helpful (free) guides that will walk you through different techniques on how to build and grow your business!
2) Bigcommerce (55,000+ Active Online Stores)
Bigcommerce is another reputable ecommerce website builder that allows you to build your store without getting tangled up in technology.
- A very comprehensive set of “out of the box” e-commerce tools to help you build your store
- Leverages on different social channels to help you grow your sales
- You can add more advanced tools through their App store (just like Shopify)
(Click on image above to see short video overview of what Bigcommerce is all about and how it can help you build an ecommerce store)
Bigcommerce is also one of the best ecommerce software available in the market. In our opinion their biggest competitor is Shopify, and each of them has their own pros and cons.Try Bigcommerce Free for 15 Days
3) Squarespace Commerce
Squarespace is known to help users such as yourself create very beautiful, image rich websites. Their templates are very polished and stunning, but what a lot of people fail to appreciate is that their ecommerce tools are very under-rated.
In addition to being able to create a very beautiful storefront, Squarespace also allows you to have full control over product variants, manage your inventory, upload unlimited products, sell physical or digital products, coupon generation, configure shipping options and costs, configure sales taxes, manage your customer email list, and other helpful tools for you to build a comprehensive online store.
(Click on image above to see short video overview of what Squarespace is all about)
Although Squarespace’s available ecommerce tools are not as comprehensive as Shopify or Bigcommerce, if your store is simple enough and doesn’t need all sorts of bells and whistles, Squarespace might just work for your needs, especially if you are picky about your website design.
Further, Squarespace is a much cheaper option than Shopify and Bigcommerce.Try Squarespace Free for 14 Days
4) Weebly eCommerce (441,000+ Online Stores)
Weebly is one of the most user friendly, and intuitive drag and drop website builders in the market. Further, their eCommerce features are comprehensive and allows you to quickly build a full featured online store.
Not only do you get to insert multiple products with multiple variations of the same product (such as color, size, etc), they also have a fully integrated shopping cart in which your shoppers never leave your website to ensure a fluid, consistent shopping experience, as well as easy integration with popular and trustworthy payment processors such as Stripe, Authorize.net and PayPal.
(Click on image above to see short video overview of what Weebly is all about)
Although Weebly’s eCommerce tools are not as comprehensive as pure online store builders such as Shopify and Bigcommerce, they do have enough for you to build a very successful online store.
Again, they are very user friendly and intuitive website builder, so the learning curve to how to work their tools is relatively low.Try Weebly for Free
SELF-HOSTED OPEN SOURCE SHOPPING CARTS
Self-hosted carts a lot more technical and confusing if you are not very computer and code savvy. If you don’t consider yourself a technie (we don’t consider ourselves technies either), a hosted shopping cart website builder might be more suitable for you (see discussion above).
Open source shopping carts are basically standalone programs that require you to install them into your own host (such as Bluehost).
This also implies that you should have self-hosted website build in order to setup the shopping cart.
Getting a self-hosted website built is not as easy as using drag and drop website builders and is more technically challenging.
The main benefit of using open source carts is that you can configure them to function the way you want them to. So flexibility is a huge benefit here. The drawback is that most of them require you to be technically savvy to install, setup and configure them.
So if you’re not a technie, or if you don’t have time to learn more advanced coding functions, this may not be for you. Some examples of open source shopping carts include:
These carts are flexible and have a lot of advanced features that you can use and configure. But bear in mind that you’ll need to be technical, or have someone who is technical to help you out here.
ADVANCED TOOLS / PLATFORM TO GROW WITH YOUR BUSINESS (AND SAVE YOUR SANITY)
One thing to consider when selecting which ecommerce software to use to build your online business, is whether the software has a good selection of advanced tools that you can “bolt on” to your website as your business grows.
Let’s face it, as your business grows, you will need more tools to help you manage your growing operations.
For instance, you might be manually managing the shipping process of your products, or you might be manually doing your bookkeeping at the moment. Or you could be running some marketing functions without automating too much of it. You might be able to do this because your business is still relatively small / new, so these tasks are still manageable.
But what if your business starts to grow? Sales volumes are up, new product creations are being demanded from our shoppers, and you now have a lot less time to deal with a lot of operational issues. This is where picking a good ecommerce software with a strong platform will help save your sanity!
Self-hosted, open source shopping carts do have a lot of options for this. But if you are looking for similar solutions for hosted shopping carts, Shopify and Bigcommerce both have Apps that can be bolted to your online store to “extend” their functionality. This will automate a lot of business tasks for you, freeing up your time to address more important issues instead of doing a lot of tasks manually.
We discuss more about where to find and how to leverage a good ecommerce platform to help you grow your business here.
CONCLUSION – BEST ECOMMERCE SOFTWARE
The first step is to determine whether you are technically savvy or not. If you are, open source carts will give you more flexibility and you can configure the cart as you wish.
If you are not comfortable with codes (like us), or if you want to quickly and easily set up an online store and start selling, using hosted shopping carts / website builders is an excellent way to proceed without having to deal with technological headaches.
Further, with hosted website builders, they have dedicated full time support teams to answer your questions should you have any. That in itself is worth investing in. To conclude, here are our recommended hosted ecommerce software again: