A while back, setting up your own online store seemed like an impossible task.
Unless you spent big on getting a website designed for you, you’d have to rely on marketplaces like Amazon and eBay to sell products. Or, at best, advertise products across social channels like Facebook and Instagram.
Now, thanks to ecommerce website builders, you can easily create a website of your own for selling things quickly – all without breaking the bank! Ecommerce has never been more accessible.
If you’re raring to go, we’ve tried and tested various ecommerce platforms and listed the best of the bunch below…
An ecommerce website builder, also known as an online store builder, is a platform that helps you create your own website to sell products through. Amazing, right?
Not only that, but you don’t have to know any code either! You may have the option to use code with most ecommerce platforms, but it’s far from essential in getting an online store up and running.
There are two types of ecommerce website builders: ones that help you build a comprehensive online store, and ones that help you build a general website to sell on.
Millions of people use ecommerce website builders, from budding entrepreneurs to fully fledged global companies.
Here you can see how the amount of people searching for ecommerce website builders has increased in the last 5 years:
Ecommerce website builders work by giving you a selection of ‘themes’ or ‘templates’ to choose from. These come with features that form the basic layout of your website. From there, you can populate the design with your own text, images and products.
With most ecommerce builders, you work from a dashboard. Here, you can make changes to your site’s appearance, manage sales, shipping and marketing, and integrate third party apps from dedicated app stores.
Ecommerce’s share of global sales is increasing year-on-year, there’s now more opportunity than ever to cash in with an online store.
As with everything, some ecommerce website builders are better than others.
To help you decide which one to go for, we’ve researched each platform and put them through testing.
Here you can see our results across seven different areas, all rated out of 5 stars:
From speaking to people who were looking to build their own online store, it became apparent that these were the most important factors when deciding which platform to go for:
Website Features – What functions each platform supports, and what it’s capable of.
Sales Features – Sales-specific functions that each platform supports (Looking into all areas geared around ecommerce specifically.)
Design Functionalities – How many themes or templates are offered and judging them against website design best practices, and how flexible are they in terms of customization.
Help and Support – The ways can you receive support (phone, email, live chat etc.) and whether any/all of these services available 24/7.
Value for Money – Calculating the average cost across all pricing plans offered and what features you get for your money on each plan.
Ease of Use – Getting everyday people to test these ecommerce website builders by creating their own online store and scoring how easy (or difficult) they found certain tasks.
Customer Score – Researching each platform’s popularity by search volume and asking how likely people who have used them would be to recommend them.
Shopify came out as the all-around best ecommerce website builder. It’s made specifically for creating powerful online stores, and is used by ecommerce giants like Harry’s Razors – see case study here.
Wix stood out as the best platform that’s not solely designed for ecommerce. Its intuitive drag-and-drop layout makes creating a totally unique website easy, while also offering you the ability to showcase and sell products.
For a full rundown of exactly what each ecommerce website builder is capable of, check out our ecommerce comparison chart here.
There are two types of ecommerce website builders. Those designed to build an online store, and those designed to make a website with ecommerce functionality added on.
Specific online store builders – like Shopify and BigCommerce – are powerful ecommerce platforms that allow you to sell in bulk. They focus on helping businesses manage and keep track of sales and finances through top-of-the-range ecommerce features and apps.
Website builders – like Wix, Squarespace and Weebly – work a little differently. They focus on your website first and ecommerce second – perfect if you want to sell a few products, but aren’t gunning to be the next Coca-Cola.
Once you’ve decided which type of ecommerce website builder to go for, it’s important to understand how each works. There are subtle differences between them which will help you choose the right platform for you.
‘Back-end’ may seem like a techy term, but all it really means is creating your website ‘behind the scenes’. After selecting your theme or template, you’ll work from its content management system, or ‘dashboard’, where you can manage everything – including your site’s aesthetic.
These are commonly associated with powerful online store builders like Shopify. The dashboard is your hub where you manage everything (including the look of your website).
All ecommerce website builders have a ‘back-end’ of some description, but with so many options and tools available on Shopify, it’s not really practical to jam it all into an editing interface.
This type of ecommerce website builder is perfect for medium-to-large scale sellers, or even small ones who have ambitions to grow.
Drag-and-drop website builders let you move things around your website simply by clicking and holding down on things, and moving them to a new spot.
They tend to be far more user-friendly than back-end builders, but they’re not really designed for serious sellers. Wix is the ultimate drag-and-drop builder, gives you total creative control.
If you’re looking to really put your own stamp on a website and want to sell a few products, Wix’s drag-and-drop interface is the perfect choice. It’s user-friendly, great value for money, and is packed with different ways to get help and support.
Read our detailed review of Wix ecommerce here.
Here, every element of your website comes as a different section. For example, a contact form would be a section; so would a banner image, some text with a picture would be another, and so on.
You create each section of your site individually before ‘stacking’ them in any order you like. You have drag-and-drop functionality in this sense, as you can move sections above or below each other on your site so they appear in a certain order.
Squarespace and Weebly both work in sections, offering a nice balance between restrictive design and total customization. You can change up the look of your site easily, but they’ll stop you going against website design best practices.
ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence)
Using ADI is like looking into the future of website design. It literally creates a site for you!
It starts by asking you a few questions, then cobbles something together based on what you’ve told it. Pretty incredible if you ask us.
Take a t-shirt store for example. You enter your name, that you want an ecommerce site, and more specifically, that you’re a clothing outlet. You can then attach things such as your social media pages – or even an existing website – and it will pull through information onto your new shiny online store.
ADI is ideal for anyone in a hurry – you can get a website live in minutes. In return, though, you’ll sacrifice some creative control. You can make a reasonable amount of changes after ADI has built your site, but for extensive customization, it’s best to look at other options.
GoDaddy works with ADI, as does Wix’s second product, aptly named Wix ADI. To learn more about the difference between Wix’s drag-and-drop editor and Wix ADI, you can find our breakdown of the two here.
Like every successful aspect of life, ecommerce website builders have evolved and adapted over time to become what you see today.
Back when the internet was new, a service called Geocities emerged to revolutionize how websites were built. Before then, everything had to be coded, but in 1994, Geocities opened website creation up to the average person.
A decade after Geocities went live, website builders were born. Wix was founded in 2003 and Shopify a year later. Both have since grown into multi-million dollar companies that power websites the world over.
They’ve not got there without competition however, and the likes of Squarespace, BigCommerce and Weebly popped up shortly after. Each platform has pushed the others to raise their standards. Today, ecommerce website builders are both easier to use and more powerful than ever before.
As you’d imagine, the rise of smartphones has had a massive impact on the world of ecommerce. By 2021, over half of all ecommerce sales made will be on mobile.
We’ve just seen how the future is ecommerce, but what does that mean for now? Well, ecommerce website builders update monthly, if not weekly to keep up with the latest shopping trends. Two of these biggest areas are:
Almost every ecommerce website builder now offers themes and templates which automatically adapt to fit mobile and tablet screen sizes.
The layout and performance of your website is very important to user experience, not to mention repeat purchasing, which makes mobile responsiveness crucial to modern design.
A massive part of smartphones is being able to browse social media anywhere. Ecommerce website builders are now starting to tap into this market by allowing you to sell products directly on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Not only that, they let you access marketplaces like Amazon and eBay too, meaning you have have multiple channels through which to sell you products.
Here’s some useful tips on how to start monetizing different channels:
We’re no fortune tellers, but if we had to guess the next big ecommerce trend, it’d be ADI. Computer programming is becoming more advanced every day, and ADI online store builders are just the start.
In the coming years, we expect nearly every ecommerce website builder will offer some form of advanced ADI product, capable of building a site exactly to your liking, based on the information you provide and the resources you already have available on the internet.
How much do ecommerce website builders cost?
Every platform comes with its own set of pricing plans, and these vary in cost from builder to builder. Some, like Big Cartel, allow you to create an online store and sell for free! Of course, the features you get aren’t comparable to more comprehensive platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce.
Shopify’s plans range from $29 per month to bespoke prices for enterprise-level customers. Website builders that offer ecommerce functionality like Wix tend to be cheaper, and you can read about its pricing plans here.
What is the best ecommerce website builder?
From our research and testing, we can say with confidence that Shopify is the best all-around ecommerce website builder on the market today. Its brilliant sales features, powerful analytical tools and slick design make it the perfect choice for anyone looking to build a solid and scalable online store.
Why use an ecommerce website builder over hiring a developer?
Unless you need something incredibly specific that you can’t find on a website builder, there aren’t many reasons to go down the developer route.
Using an ecommerce website builder is cheaper than hiring a developer and gives you total control over your site. Instead of playing keep-up with the latest design trends, you can trust your platform to release new themes, features and apps, meaning your website will always stay bang up to date.
Who are we?
We’re Website Builder Expert, your number one global resource for information about getting online. We pride ourselves on our reviews and comparison articles, which have been put together through thorough research and primary testing.
We’re now in a position to share our findings with you and provide useful guides on ecommerce. Whether you’re picking an ecommerce platform or looking for website design inspo – we’ve got the lot.