Compare the 7 Best Ecommerce Platforms
We know how tricky it can be deciding between ecommerce platforms – that’s why we put the top choices side by side in this handy comparison chart! Use the arrows at the top of the chart to scroll through the seven best ecommerce platforms, and compare features, pricing, and star ratings. You can read full reviews of each below!
Number of products on cheapest plan
Abandoned cart recovery
Key payment options
Free plan or free trial
BEST IN TEST
0% – 2%
0% – 3%
Square, Stripe, PayPal, Wix Payments
Stripe, PayPal, Apple, Amazon, Shopify Payments
Square, Stripe, PayPal
Square, Stripe, PayPal
Square, Stripe, PayPal, Amazon
PayPal, Amazon, Volusion Payments
14-day free trial
14-day free trial
15-day free trial
14-day free trial
Do you want to make money online? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Building a successful online business starts with choosing the best ecommerce platform for you, which is why this article will reveal the seven best ecommerce platforms around.
Ecommerce platforms let you build your very own online store without any coding skills, a bottomless budget, or a degree in web design. They come packed with ecommerce-specific designs and features to make setting up your business as easy – and successful – as possible.
There are so many ecommerce platforms available, choosing one can get pretty confusing pretty quickly – especially when they all claim to be the best. Don’t waste your time or money on a second-rate ecommerce platform. We’ve done the research, and can now reveal the best seven ecommerce platforms!
Best Ecommerce Platforms: Top 7 Revealed
Wix is the best choice for smaller stores – it’s extremely beginner-friendly and has excellent ecommerce tools. Shopify is the best option for larger stores selling a range of products, while Squarespace offers excellent value for money and stylish designs. Square is an impressive way to sell for free, and BigCommerce has plenty of tools to take an online business to new heights.
Volusion has decent sales and design tools, but it ranks low on this list because the other platforms definitely do it better. On the other hand, Big Cartel is really great for selling art, but probably not worth it for other types of ecommerce sites.
We conducted hundreds of hours of research and testing to bring you this list, so you can sit back and enjoy our breakdown of the seven best ecommerce platforms. We’ll also reveal which platforms are best by industry, to give you a detailed low-down and help you get started with the right one.
Would you prefer instant, personalized answers? No problem, take our 4-question quiz and find your perfect builder!
What are the Best Online Store Builders?
What about more advanced ecommerce tools?
In this article, we’ll look at easy-to-use website builders that let you create and run an online store. Advanced users may be interested in ecommerce solutions like WordPress, which you can use to code an online store from scratch. To find out more, read our article on advanced ecommerce software.
- See the best ecommerce website builders ranked side by side. Read reviews, get star ratings, and compare each platform to find the best choice for you!
#1 – Wix
Best for small online stores.
Start selling from $23 a month.
Wix is a hugely popular drag-and-drop website builder and ecommerce platform, with over 110 million users worldwide. Wix knows a thing or two about creating websites and online stores!
Wix came joint first in our sales features research, and took the top position in the website features category. Need we say much more?
Some of our favourite ecommerce features include:
- Abandoned cart recovery – send automatic emails and regain lost sales by encouraging customers to finalize purchases
- Multi-channel integration – sell on Instagram without installing any apps
- ‘Buy now’ and ‘Add to cart’ buttons – create an easier shopping experience and increase sales
- Printable shipping labels – develop your brand image by personalizing your packaging
- Store card details – customers can pay-on-the-go using their stored card details in the ‘wallet’ area of the checkout
- Dropshipping – use a third party company and save the hassle of packaging and shipping yourself
- Integrations with Shipstation – provide a seamless shipping experience for your customers using apps like Shipstation
Better still, all Wix websites automatically come with SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates. This is really important as it means customers can safely submit their details through your website.
In our research, Wix also ranks highly in our categories for value for money and customer support.
Even on the Basic plan, you’ll get support via phone, email, and social media, as well as access to a forum and an in-depth knowledge base. It’s also the only builder to give you helpful on-page support while you’re creating your store.
You can create a really strong brand for your online store by creating a highly customized storefront. Because of Wix’s drag-and-drop editor, it’s super easy to add product videos and other cool features to create the ultimate shopping experience. With Wix, you also know exactly how your online store will look to customers while you’re editing, making customization really easy.
Another way to add ecommerce features to your Wix online store is to use apps like Wix Stores and Ecwid.
While Ecwid lets you sell on Facebook, Wix Stores unlocks tons of great ecommerce features for your website, such as the ability to send automated confirmation emails to customers, and creating discounts.
And you don’t have to stay at home to run your business. The Wix Mobile App lets you manage your store on the go. This is a fantastic feature as it gives you more flexibility in managing your brand.
On the downside, Wix does have pretty basic inventory features and lacks a stock level management alert system.
Overall, though, Wix does a great job of combining the ease and design of the traditional website builder with a range of excellent ecommerce features.
Wix is ideal for users of all tech abilities, offering amazing value for money along with the best help and support of any ecommerce builder. So, you can start flexing your ecommerce muscles without worrying!
|Wix Pros||Wix Cons|
Best for larger businesses.
Start selling from $29.99 a month.
Shopify is the best ecommerce platform for large stores, selling over 10 products. It powers over 600,000 online stores and has over 1 million active users worldwide. More than $72 billion has been sold on Shopify – so it must be doing something right!
Our research confirmed this. Wix and Shopify came joint first in sales features, with lots of high quality tools to support your store. Here’s a few of the main sales features:
- Sell physical and digital goods and services
- Abandoned cart recovery is built-in, helping catch incomplete sales
- Online invoice generator makes billing and collecting money easier
- Sync with 10 other sales platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon
- Over 100 different payment gateways to choose from (including Shopify Payments and Google Pay)
- Sell unlimited products
- Stay on track on the go with Shopify’s mobile app
- Easily customize your checkout with your own logo, brand colors and fonts
You can see why Shopify scored top marks in this area. Features like these don’t just make running your online store possible – they make it easy and enjoyable too. Put simply, Shopify was designed to help people build an online store. That’s why it’s packed with these high quality sales features, which were specially created to support your ecommerce business.
There’s no point having all these impressive features if they’re too hard for anyone to actually use. The good news is that Shopify came second overall for ease of use (beaten only by GoDaddy).
Powerful ecommerce features combined with straightforward processes make for a winning combination. An impressive 93% of Shopify customers told our researchers they were satisfied with the ecommerce platform.
Shopify is perfect for, well, everyone! Whether you’re just starting out or have a large business that’s scaling fast, Shopify covers all selling bases. With a 14 day free trial (no credit card details required) and over 100 themes to choose from, there’s nothing to lose!
|Shopify Pros||Shopify Cons|
- Read our Shopify Review for a full look at the features, pros and cons of this top ecommerce platform
- See how Shopify ranks in our Online Store Builders Comparison Chart
- This could be you! See our list of Shopify Success Stories
- Want to know about SEO? Our Shopify SEO Review tells you all you need to know
- Not sure how to start? Read our guide on how to build an online store and get started today!
#3 – Squarespace
Best value for money.
Start selling from $18 a month.
Squarespace is a dream for creatives. If you’re looking to make your online store as visually effective as possible, this is the choice for you! Stunning templates, combined with a strong inventory system and lots of quality features, make Squarespace an attractive choice for thousands of online stores.
It shone for design flexibility in our research, coming first out of all the builders. Squarespace has a smaller but comprehensive selection of online store templates, covering an impressive range of industries from fashion to food & drink.
It’s worth knowing Squarespace came out as the hardest to use ecommerce website builder in our research. People found it much trickier to get used to than Wix, Weebly, and GoDaddy, the other non-specialized ecommerce website builders.
That said, Squarespace still scored better than BigCommerce in ease of use testing. It might not be the best choice for total beginners or for getting online fast, but give it time and patience and you shouldn’t struggle too much.
But what about the business side? Squarespace is a really strong all-round choice for combining a stylish storefront with classic ecommerce features, such as creating discounts and promotional pop-ups.
Promotional tools is an area where Squarespace really stands out. You can add different types of discounts to the products in your store, from individual products to entire orders. Other great sales tools and features include Squarespace’s inventory system.
Unlike similar website builders like Wix and Weebly, Squarespace allows you to sell unlimited products on any of its ecommerce price plans. Plus, you have the option of either uploading them in bulk or one at a time.
By combining this with in-house stock management, revenue reports, and email alerts about stock levels, Squarespace is more on the level of ecommerce specialist Shopify than its fellow ecommerce website builders.
This means your store won’t just look good with Squarespace: it’ll pack a punch too! But if you want speedy growth on a large scale, you might find Squarespace too small too soon – shipping and payment options are limited when compared to Shopify and BigCommerce.
With its professional templates, Squarespace will really show off your products and let your storefront shine. It’s a solid choice for your online store, as long as you don’t outgrow its range of ecommerce features.
|Squarespace Pros||Squarespace Cons|
- Read our Squarespace Ecommerce Review to find out more about this stylish store builder
- Our Squarespace Pricing Review gives you a full breakdown of the builder’s premium plans and what they offer
- Get 10% off any Squarespace plan with our exclusive Squarespace Offer Code
- Read our Shopify vs Squarespace Review to compare these leading brands
- See how Squarespace compares with other leading brands in our Ecommerce Comparison Chart
#4 – Square Online
Best way to sell for free.
Start selling from $12 a month.
In 2018, the payment processing giant Square bought Weebly (one of our highest-rated website builders). The result is Square’s Online, which combines powerful payment processing with an easy website building platform.
Unsurprisingly, Square Online’s interface is very similar to Weebly’s. That being said, you’ll enjoy Square Online’s fresh features, and you can even take advantage of its free ecommerce plan to see if it’s really such a great fit.
When we tested Square Online ourselves, we were particularly impressed by its quick and simple editing process. You can have a functioning ecommerce site set up after just a few clicks around your user dashboard.
Sales features like mutlichannel integration, plus quick access to insights about revenue and traffic, are what give Square Online such great value for money. That, and the speed with which Square Online can help you get online and start selling.
Adding products and product variations is extremely easy, and Square Online’s paid plans let you include small labels like “on sale” or “only a few left!” to create a sense of urgency around special deals.
The tradeoff for Square Online’s speed and ease of use is its lack of design customization. It’s true that you’ll have everything you need to create a simple store that emphasizes your products, but if you want to create a layout with your own personal creative flair, you may be better off with a design-oriented builder like Squarespace.
|Square Online Pros||Square Online Cons|
- Check out our Square Online Review for a detailed look at this ecommerce builder
Square Online Gallery
#5 – BigCommerce
Best for a purely online business.
BigCommerce and PayPal have teamed up to bring you some special savings. Start your 15-day BigCommerce free trial today to enjoy one month free on BigCommerce when you choose your premium plan!
BigCommerce is a well-known ecommerce platform which boasts some well-known names – including Clarks and Ben & Jerry’s – as clients. And it’s no wonder! Online stores backed by BigCommerce have been recorded as growing at almost double the industry average.
In our research, BigCommerce came top for website features. This is because of the range of high-quality inhouse features it offers, such as customer reviews, email marketing, and search filters. BigCommerce also scored highly in sales features, allowing for international payments and multi-channel selling.
In fact, BigCommerce has more features than any of its competitors. Everything you need is already built into its library of themes and ready to make your online store succeed. This makes it the best choice if you’re looking to really grow your online store into a large and successful business.
The main drawback of BigCommerce is its ease of use, or lack thereof. It uses a lot of complex terminology in its descriptions, which won’t appear user friendly to anyone who doesn’t have good knowledge of such specialist terms.
Add this to a confusing editing interface and BigCommerce becomes a less than ideal choice, particularly if you’re looking for an easy to use ecommerce platform. Indeed, it received low customer scores in our research because of its lack of user-friendly language and difficult editor.
On the other hand, if you’re confident and tech-savvy, BigCommerce is an excellent choice. You can automatically sell physical and digital goods as well as services. And you don’t need apps to enable these – you can just start selling!
BigCommerce wants to see your store grow and succeed. You can upload products in bulk to save you time, and there’s no limit on the number of products you can sell. You can keep track of your products and customers using BigCommerce’s analytics reports. This is an important strength of the platform, with these reports available:
- Store overview
- Real time reports
- Customer reports
- Abandoned cart reports
- Merchandising reports
Abandoned cart recovery is already built in, plus you can customize the email that gets sent out to customers. You can even combine this with coupon codes to entice your customers back to your store.
Forrester Research named BigCommerce a strong performer in two recently released reports, one on B2B commerce suites and one on B2C commerce suites. These reports evaluate the most significant commerce software providers, to help businesses select the best technology for their needs.
The reports also cite feedback from BigCommerce customers, which found that they “like the culture and responsiveness of the support experience” when using the platform.
BigCommerce should be used by anyone wanting to rapidly and remarkably grow their online store. Don’t use it if you are a beginner, either in business or in tech! It’s not the easiest to use, and its prices reflect the number of tools and features you get.
You will only get great value for your money if you’re using those features! After all, you wouldn’t buy a whole toolkit, then only use it to prop the door open. BigCommerce has every tool in the box, and is the perfect choice if your business is ready for a boom.
|BigCommerce Pros||BigCommerce Cons|
#6 – Volusion
Okay all-around, but best at nothing.
Start selling from $29 a month.
Volusion is a specialized ecommerce platform in the mold of Shopify and BigCommerce. It’s not quite at the same level as these competitors, but it still has lots to offer for the right business. Customers have spent over $28 billion on websites built with Volusion, so it’s worth taking a look at!
Volusion came a solid third overall in our research for its sales features. You can create customer accounts, which means customers can safely store their details for a faster and easier shopping experience through your store.
You can link a Facebook Store to your Volusion site, which also supports marketplaces like Ebay and Amazon. This multi-channel integration is a super effective way of creating a more personal connection with your customers and maximizing your online presence.
Payment options include Paypal and Stripe, as well as Amazon and Apple Pay. You can use a third party app like Zapier to use Square. This choice means it’s easier to receive payments and better for appealing to your customers.
Despite its range of features, Volusion can’t compete with leading ecommerce platforms like Shopify. Where other platforms either have more powerful features or fill a niche in the market, Volusion lacks some of this refinement.
It scored poorly in ease of use, and doesn’t have those extra little features to make running your store as smooth as possible. For example, you can’t sell digital products, or add extra features like blogging which could add an extra dimension to your store.
A big issue with Volusion is the extra cost of $99 to install an SSL certificate to your site. This is a hefty price to pay for an essential feature, which allows customers to safely submit their details to your store. Considering other ecommerce platforms automatically include this for free, it’s a big drawback of Volusion.
In contrast, some of Volusion’s best features are its analytics and insight reports.These let you keep track of all your stock in one place. This is super useful, especially if you’re making the most of multi-channel selling over Facebook. This takes a lot of stress off your shoulders – with Volusion, you can sit back, relax, and easily keep your store organized.
Volusion is great if you’re super keen on tracking your inventory and the success of your store. It’s hard to narrow down who this ecommerce platform is really best for, but if you’re looking for an easy and smooth builder, this isn’t the choice for you.
|Volusion Pros||Volusion Cons|
#7 – Big Cartel
Best for independent artists.
Start selling for free.
Big Cartel is also good for enthusiastic beginners and total technophobes, because its user-friendly onboarding process does a great job of showing you what’s what – there are plenty of prompts and reminders to help you set up your store. If you don’t intend to grow your business much in the near future, then Big Cartel’s simple sales features are more than enough to get you started.
But if you do want to expand your store, you’ll have to either switch to a more scalable platform (Wix is scalable but still beginner-friendly), or learn a few things about code to get more out of your Big Cartel experience.
We recommend Big Cartel for artists in particular. Being able to sell for free is great for anyone sticking to a budget, and its clean and professional templates are minimalist enough to let your work speak for itself. You’ll also be able to tag your Big Cartel products on Instagram, which is a handy feature if you like to show off your work on social media.
Big Cartel has enough sales features to get you off the ground, like payment processing integrations with PayPal and Stripe, and no in-house transaction fees (you’ll still have to pay the fee imposed by the payment processor, which is usually 2.9% + $0.30 for each sale, but this is pretty standard).
That said, Big Cartel is lacking in website features. You can’t sell in more than one language, and you can’t set up customer accounts or password-protected members areas on your site. However, for smaller sellers who aren’t looking for a ton of growth, these features probably won’t be missed very much.
Big Cartel’s ease of use and free selling option make it a great, budget-friendly choice. Just be sure to save your work as you go, because this platform doesn’t have an autosave feature, and you can only reach the support team via email!
[caption id="attachment_53044" align="aligncenter" width="450"] Illustrator José A. Roda uses Big Cartel to show off his work.[/caption]
|Big Cartel Pros||Big Cartel Cons|
[taco_cta text="Try Big Cartel For Free" url="https://www.websitebuilderexpert.com/go/bigcartel-bigcartelbecplatform" color="#7a4aec"][/taco_cta]
- Read our Big Cartel Review for a more detailed look at this platform
- Check out our Big Cartel vs Shopify comparison to see each builder’s strengths and weaknesses
Big Cartel Gallery
Use the expandable sections below to choose your product, service or industry and to see which ecommerce platform comes out on top.
Had success selling locally? Why not take your products to a national, or even global market? An online store gives you worldwide access, taking your business to the next level. Make use of social media and marketplaces, and turn your budding business into an ecommerce empire.
Top three platforms for Small Business:
At this stage, you probably already have a website. If you’re thinking about switching, though, you’ll need a robust platform that can: handle bulk orders, manage your shipping options and marketing campaigns, and has advanced analytics.
Top three platforms for Large Business:
Think of your online store like a shop window. You want it to look as enticing as possible. Combine your mannequin displays with stunning product imagery, sale racks with discount codes. You’ll need a platform that comes with stunning themes to really show your products off.
Top three platforms for Clothing:
When it comes to art, your website needs to capture the essence of your craft. Selling digital copies of your work is a vital feature, as is having a variety of shipping options. You may not need the power of a ‘big gun’ ecommerce platform, but it’s important to have a manageable online store you can be creative with.
Top three platforms for Art:
Dropshipping is becoming an ever more popular way to sell products. Not all platforms allow dropshipping, but, lucky for you, some of the best ones on the market do. Powerful features and tools like multi-channel selling, shipping and invoice management, and analytics are all important here.
Top three platforms for Dropshipping:
For credibility and authority as much as anything, your own online store for digital products is essential. It can be complex to build a site for digital downloads (and eye-wateringly expensive to pay a developer to do so!) but the platforms below make it a simple process, with everything you need under one roof.
Top three platforms for Digital:
To make your website a real page-turner, you’ll need a platform with some ‘best seller’ features. Things like digital downloads, preview snippets, and amendable shipping rates are all features that will make your online store far more than just a pretty cover.
Top three platforms for Books:
Selling toys or tech? Phones or gadgets? An online store can help pull all your products together. Manage everything with one controller – an ecommerce website builder. In order to supercharge your sales, build a site with any of the below platforms.
Top three platforms for Electronics:
We’re extremely proud of our research. It’s what makes us stand out from the competition when rating and reviewing website builders and ecommerce platforms.
To keep reading about the areas we’ve investigated, to find out why they matter and which platforms were victorious in each category, click on the expandable links below:
Why it matters
As helpful as it would be, we’re not all computer experts. If you don’t see the Matrix running across your eyeline every time your laptop boots up, you’ll want a website builder that’s easy to use. Simple to navigate, simple to edit, and simple to manage.
How we test this
Testing ease of use isn’t straightforward. What’s easy for you may not be for someone else. That’s why we tested this by getting regular folk to build their own online stores on each ecommerce website builder.
To make it fair, we used a wide range of people. Some with a decent level of computer knowledge, who had used different ecommerce website builders before. And others who had limited computer skills, who’d never even heard of a website builder before, let alone used one!
Everyone was asked to fill in a task sheet while they created their online store and score how easy, or difficult, they found certain tasks. These scores were then combined and averaged out for each platform, giving us a final ‘ease of use’ score.
Category winner: Squarespace
Squarespace’s section-based template blocks and sleek dashboard make editing and managing your store a really simple process.
Read our detailed review of Squarespace.
Why it matters
Let’s start by explaining why features has been separated into two areas:
Website features refers to things like image galleries, contact forms and calendars. They’re things you may need on your website, but they don’t literally help you sell products.
Sales features are things like abandoned cart recovery or the amount of payment gateways that are provided – things that have a direct impact on your revenue.
Sales features can ultimately be the difference between a customer completing a transaction, or leaving your site. They’re vital to your success in the world of ecommerce.
How we test this
More than just checking if the platform did or didn’t have each feature, we wanted to know how good that feature was.
Let’s use multi-channel integration as an example. Multi-channel integration is a feature that lets you sell away from your website. In other words, can you sell directly on marketplaces and social media, like Facebook and Amazon.
First we checked if the platform had a multi-channel feature, then, if so, how many different websites you could sell on. We also took into consideration if the feature came at an added cost, if it was in-built, or if you had to add it through an app.
Category winner: BigCommerce
BigCommerce is one of the most powerful ecommerce platforms on the market today. Its focus is to help you grow your business, and from what we’ve seen, there’s no denying that. It has tons of scalable sales features that don’t require any coding.
Best For Multi-Currency: BigCommerce
BigCommerce’s ‘Bold Multi-Currency’ app lets you show and sell your products in over 100 different currencies. On top of that, BigCommerce also supports 12 different languages and will automatically translate any text pre-embed on its themes.
Best For Multi-Channel Selling: Shopify
With Shopify, you can connect your online store to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Amazon, eBay and many more. It allows you to sell directly through these social platforms and marketplaces, meaning your customers don’t have to leave the site or app they’re on to buy your products.
Why it matters
It’s all well and good being set up to sell, but what about the extras? Things like blogging, email marketing and SEO can help, not only take your online store to the next level, but transform it from a house to a home.
How we test this
Much like sales features, we wanted to see what was offered and the quality of each feature. This time let’s use domains as the example:
First we wanted to know whether you could buy a domain directly from the platform. After that, we looked at the cost and if a 1-year free domain was provided. We also made note of how many variations you could have (i.e. .com, .co.uk, .org etc.) and if you could transfer an existing domain to the platform.
All of this gave us an overall domain score, which formed just one part of the total website feature score. Still with us? Great.
Category Winner: Wix
Whether you’re running a small boutique or international brand, you’ll find that most of the website features you need are already built-in. We’d say that if Wix doesn’t have it, you probably don’t need it.
Both BigCommerce and Wix give you total control over your ecommerce store’s SEO. On each platform, you can edit meta titles and descriptions, URL slugs, header code, image alt text and more. They also offer keyword support, best practice prompts, and SEO specific apps. We also love Wix’s SEO Wiz, which suggests personalized SEO optimizations for your online store.
Why it matters
People use ecommerce website builders so they can be in control. That doesn’t mean they want to sacrifice aesthetics, though. Design looks at the themes offered by each platform and how customizable they are. Don’t be fooled, looks matter!
How we test this
This was an area that posed a lot of questions. Obviously, we wanted to know which website builder had the best-looking themes, but also how functional they were. We spoke to branding, design and UX (user experience) experts to get a feel of what they thought was vital to great web design.
From there, we drew up a list of criteria each platform’s themes had to meet. This helped us determine who had the ‘best’ themes, but we wanted to know more.
We also investigated how many industries the themes covered, whether or not they are mobile/tablet responsive, and if you can switch themes after you’ve published your site.
Category Winner: Squarespace
Squarespace oozes class. Its sophisticated and elegant templates will make your products pop and jaws drop. If you work in a creative field – like an artist who sells their paintings – Squarespace is the obvious choice.
See our in-depth Squarespace ecommerce review.
Why it matters
Cheap quality is something everyone wants. It’s not that easy to come by, but we were determined to find the best deals. Pricing plans across platforms ranged from free to in the hundreds, so what makes an ecommerce website builder worth the money?
How we test this
Price is obviously important, so it was the first thing we researched: how much the average cost was across each platform’s pricing plans. Next up we checked for freebies – a free trial, a free plan? It’s always nice to try before you buy.
Finally, we brought the value aspect into our testing. We looked at the scores taken from our features testing and worked out how much you had to pay to get certain key features. These scores were then all calculated to give us a final value for money rating.
We have a three-way tie! Squarespace, Wix, and Square Online all scored identical marks. They all offer free plans, low average pricing, and a healthy amount of features at affordable rates to boot. Choose one of these three, and you’ll get great bang for your buck.
Why it matters
Few things are more frustrating than getting stuck when no one’s around to help. Having support is important, whether it comes from reading helpful guides, or picking up the phone and talking over your problem with someone.
How we test this
We started by exploring how many different types of support were available (phone, email, live chat etc.). Then if you could contact these services 24/7 or not – you never know when you might have a 2am crisis!
To avoid crashing websites and smashed keyboards, we also checked for restore options and if there was an autosave feature. To round off, we looked for the minimum price you can get at least three types of support, and tested how good the help center was at answering common queries.
Category Winner: Square Online
Square provides phone, live chat, forum, email, and social media support. Its guides are detailed and clear. Combine that with being really easy to use in the first place, and you can be sure that Square is pretty great for beginners.
See our expert opinion on Square Online.
Why it matters
Now, we said at the start that professional reviews matter more than personal opinions – but that’s not to say that Bob from down the road’s opinion doesn’t matter at all! Far from it. People who have used or experienced these platforms tend to provide good second opinions.
How we test this
After our ease of use testing, we sat down with people and interviewed them. We wanted to know their general thoughts on the platform. They may have found it complicated to begin with, but that doesn’t mean they thought the platform was useless.
We asked how likely they’d be to recommend the platform they tested to a friend, on a scale of one to five. Like with ease of use, these scores were then tallied up and gave each ecommerce website builder either a seal of approval or a warning sign.
Aside from that, we looked into how big the company was (smaller platforms can be more vulnerable to going bust!). We also took our value for money and user experience scores into account, giving us the final customer score rating.
Category winner: Shopify
The public have spoken: Shopify came out with the highest recommendation. It’s also a massive, successful company that’s helped over half a million merchants sell online.
Struggling to decide between two different ecommerce website builders? Fear not, we’ve got you covered. Alongside all our detailed reviews, we also have a whole host of comparison articles. These pit two or more platforms against each other and tell you the key differences.
Self-hosted (Open Source)
Self-hosted websites, like WordPress.org, are where you pay to put your website online. It comes at an extra cost but ultimately you own your own website and you can make customizations as you see fit. Should something go wrong however, it’ll be up to you to fix it.
|Self-hosted Pros||Self-hosted Cons|
|Limitless customization||Added cost|
|More functionality and scalability||You’re responsible for any issues|
Hosted websites are all-in-one packages. They’re designed using website builders like Shopify, BigCommerce and Wix. The cost of hosting is included in your monthly fee and the platform will fix any issues that may arise. You don’t own your hosting space though, and you can only use the tools provided by the platform itself.
|Hosted Pros||Hosted Cons|
|No extra cost||Restricted to your platform’s capabilities|
|Any issues are dealt with for you||Relying on your platform to keep up to date|
Mixed hosting is where you take a self-hosted platform and integrate elements of hosted platforms. For example, using Shopify’s plugin for WordPress. You still have total flexibility over your website, but you get access to some of Shopify’s built-in tools. It’s a great halfway house between self-hosted and hosted.
|Mixed Pros||Mixed Cons|
|Customization with built-in features||Expensive as you’re paying for self-hosting and the plugin|
|Can rely on the hosted platform to update its features||You’re still responsible for any issues that may arise|
The cost of ecommerce platforms vary massively. There’s a pricing plan for every need. With non-ecommerce specific platforms, like Wix and Squarespace, you can sell for as little as $18/month. Of course, if you’re an enterprise-level business looking to grow, you’ll want one of Shopify’s or BigCommerce’s top plans, priced at $299/month and $299.95/month respectively.
Do any of them offer free plans or trials?
Many of the top ecommerce platforms offer free trials which tend to be around 2 weeks long. Shopify, BigCommerce, Squarespace and Volusion all have free trials. Square Online and Big Cartel let you sell online totally free of charge.
More Pricing Information
So what can the best ecommerce platforms do for you? Well, they’re a great way for you to sell online and make a few extra dollars. You don’t need to be a design expert and you don’t need to know code!
Say you want to make some money online. You want to build a store for your small business or start selling on a simple ecommerce site.
Does this sound like you?
You’re selling a handful of products and start by adding some beautiful product images and descriptions. You connect to a shopping cart (a web tool that allows your store to accept payments) and you’re off!
Next you promote your store using different marketing techniques and people start to visit. You’ve discovered that your visitors love what you have to offer, and they’re spending their money! You’re now in business!
Sounds exciting right?
But here’s the problem: if you’re not careful, you’ll use up all your time keeping your store up and running. You will have to:
- Manage your sales channels (including social media accounts)
- Create new marketing material
- Respond to (sometimes angry) support emails
- Manage your stock inventory
- Analyze your sales reports
- Handle taxes and do the dreaded paperwork
Throw this all together and you won’t have any time left to focus on growing your online store (we’ve been there and done that).
Don’t let this be you.
So what do you do?
This is where a top ecommerce platform can help you out.
Each of the best ecommerce platforms we feature in this guide will help you build and grow your online store.
You can choose between specialized ecommerce platforms, such as Shopify, and website builders with ecommerce functionality, such as Wix and Weebly. Not all website builders are great for ecommerce, which is why we did the research to bring you the best on the market.
They’re all ecommerce platforms. But which one you choose depends on your needs, the size of your business, and the type of store you’re running.
Some ecommerce website builders like Wix are better overall than specialized ecommerce platforms like Volusion. So it’s best to think about how many products you’re selling, how important creative control is to you, and how fast your business is growing.
“A good ecommerce platform is like a Lego set. You get the base to build on, then you can add new features to change the look, feel and functionality of your product. Also, if you decide you no longer like a block, you can remove it. Simple! You get great flexibility to build and grow the store you want.”
The best ecommerce platforms allow you to keep adding tools to your online store. Not only does this help your business grow, but it also frees up your time so you can focus on other more important things (both personal and professional).
What About Returns?
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We created a new infographic which presents unique insights into the returns landscape, revealing the fussiest consumers and which products they’re most likely to return.
Ecommerce return rates have never been bigger, having grown by 95% over the past five years, while return deliveries are estimated to cost businesses $550 billion by 2020. We wanted to investigate this trend further, and paired our own research with data from Optoro (a returns optimisation platform), UPS, the Reverse Logistics Association, PostNord, and noted commerce sites like nasdaq.com and shopify.com.
Check out the infographic below to find out more about ecommerce returns and the statistics you need to know to future proof your business.
- How to Build An Online Store – Our Step-By-Step Guide – get selling online today with our easy to follow guide
- Online Store Builders Comparison Chart – compare the leading ecommerce platforms in our chart
- Compare the best ecommerce software – choose the right one for you today!
So how do you choose from our top seven ecommerce platforms? To find the right platform, you need to think about things like ease of use, apps and extensions, and how far you want to grow your store.
In this section, we’ll cover what should you keep in mind when picking your ecommerce platform.
First and foremost, we based our choices on our own research and experience. After using several ecommerce platforms, we found that the key ways they help you run your online store are:
- Mobile optimization
- Ease of use
- Payment options
- Apps and add-ons
Let’s go into a bit more detail.
How many different devices can you browse the internet on in your household?
If you’re anything like the typical family, I imagine quite a few. This is also true for your potential customers.
Shopping on mobile phones is more popular than ever. In fact, by 2021, mobile could make up to 72.9% of ecommerce sales – up from just 11.6% in 2014.
Mobile optimization is a fancy way of describing how well your store adapts when people look at it on different devices (think smartphone, tablet, laptop) with different screen sizes.
Top ecommerce platforms make sure your store looks great no matter what device your customer is using.
On top of that, the best ecommerce platform editors make it easy to see what your store looks like on different devices. You can switch between previewing on phone and desktop at the click of a button.
A top ecommerce platform will even do a lot of the legwork for you. The themes (also called templates) you use to design your online store are built to look good on any device.
Shopify themes, for example, are generally optimized for use on both mobile and computer. Similarly, Wix will automatically reformat your store to look good on mobile devices. Squarespace, Weebly and BigCommerce also offer mobile-friendly stores.
The best thing is that adding these themes and previewing your site on mobile is easy. Which leads us on to…
Ease of Use
Whether you’re just starting out selling online, or getting your bricks-and-mortar business online for the first time, ease of use is everything.
All of our top ecommerce platforms are different, but they have one crucial thing in common: you can get online and start selling without knowing how to code.
What’s the point in having all-powerful customization potential if you don’t know how to use it?
The best ecommerce platform dashboards are simple and intuitive to use. They also come with excellent customer support and setup wizards that guide you through building your online store.
Having quality support is like hiring a full-time business mentor. They’re in your corner all day and can point you in the right direction when things go wrong.
We’ve rated the top ecommerce platforms at least four stars out of five in our ecommerce comparison chart. You don’t need any coding knowledge to build a stylish online store. This is not true of more complex self-hosted ecommerce software like WordPress and Magento (if you want to find out more about these advanced tools, visit our guide on best ecommerce software).
If you find it difficult to create and run your online store, it’s going to cost you time and money. This is because you will have to spend a lot of your time working out how to do things, or a lot of your money hiring a designer to do the work for you.
Fortunately, ecommerce platforms have been designed with you in mind. They make it easy to add the features, colors, fonts and functionality that you want on your store.
They’re intuitive to use – this means that designing your store should feel natural; just point and click at the feature you want to add, remove or change.
And the best part?
Each of our top ecommerce platforms offer a free trial. You don’t have to take our word for it that they’re easy to use. Make sure you find using the platform easy, before you commit your hard-earned dollars, by signing up to a free trial.
An ecommerce platform doesn’t just give you what you need right now – it gives you what you need to run a successful long-term business. After all, as you grow, you want to sell more products to more customers, right? You need to know if:
- Your store can handle the extra number of shoppers without slowing down or crashing
- You have the flexibility to make changes as your business goals change
- If you can add more products as you expand your range
- You can be confident your store has the right security certificates to sell online.
The best ecommerce platforms give you all this and more. For example, all Shopify plans come with unlimited bandwidth (the amount of data your store can handle before it breaks), unlimited file storage (so you can upload as many quality product pictures as you want), and unlimited products..
As your store grows, the things you’ll want are luxury add-ons, such as better analytics on your customers. Ecommerce platforms provide this by offering a range of plans that cater to businesses of different sizes. The bigger your store becomes, the more you will want to think about upgrading to a more advanced plan that comes with more features.
Extensions and Apps
The best ecommerce platforms are like Swiss Army knives. They let you perform all the important functions of running an online store from the same place.
They do this by giving you access to apps and extensions you can add to your store.
Let us explain in a bit more depth.
There are a number of categories of functions that you can add to your online store, including:
- Sales & Marketing
- Shipping / Fulfillment
- Inventory / Order Management
- Customer Service
- Reporting / Analytics
If you want more detail on any of the above, head over to our in-depth platform reviews
Think of apps as problem-solvers. Most of the top ecommerce platforms in this guide all have a store that connects you to a comprehensive list of apps. There is only one of you, so selecting a solid ecommerce platform that gives you the tools necessary to grow with your business is so important.
The best ecommerce platforms provide a range of payment options, including:
- Visa or Debit Card
- Credit Card
- Amazon Pay
- Apple Pay
- Cryptocurrency (such as Bitcoin)
It’s all about choice.
The more options you can give your shoppers, the more chance you have of making a sale.
Now you know the key ways an ecommerce platform can help you build and grow an online store. And you’ve read our list of the top seven ecommerce platforms too. So now it’s up to you to decide which one suits your business the best.
There’s no magical answer that’s right for everyone. It’ll depend on the size and growth of your business, your own level of tech confidence, how much creative control you want, or what types of products you’re going to sell. The right ecommerce platform for you may even change over time as your business grows or changes.
- See our ecommerce comparison chart and browse the leading ecommerce platforms side by side
In this guide, we’ve introduced you to the seven best ecommerce platforms. You won’t waste any time on inferior platforms – instead, you’re now ready to pick a first-class platform to build your online store and start selling online.
Let’s recap quickly.
7 Best Ecommerce Platforms: Summary
- Wix – An extremely customizable platform ideal for small online stores.
- Shopify – Easy to use with an impressive range of professional sales tools for larger businesses.
- Squarespace – Beautiful designs and excellent value for money.
- Square Online – Feature-rich with a quick and easy setup process.
- BigCommerce – An incredibly scalable platform crammed with powerful features.
- Volusion – Decent analytics tools.
- Big Cartel – Great features for artists.
We may have ranked these ecommerce platforms, but the truth is the right one for you will depend on a number of different factors.
We hope we’ve explained how ecommerce platforms help you grow your online store by automating mundane tasks and freeing up your time to focus on other aspects of your business. It’s why choosing the best ecommerce platform – one that’s flexible and has the right tools – is really important.
For example, Wix and Shopify both have comprehensive marketplaces where you can pick and choose free and paid apps to add more functionality to your business. They are such powerful ecommerce platforms because they have the tools to meet different needs.
At some point, it’s all about gaining the right leverage to expand your business, without taking up more of your limited time. This is where ecommerce platforms can give you the right tools for success.
Remember, every platform on this list comes with a free trial or a free plan, so you can try any of them risk-free before making your decision. Don’t miss out – your perfect ecommerce platform is waiting, so jump on a free trial today to get started!
An ecommerce platform is an online program that helps you to build your own online store. All the tools and features you need are provided either built-in, or via the platform’s own app center. Everything from hosting, your custom domain, and help and support is available.
You start by picking a theme from a selection of choices. This acts as the layout of your website. After that, you can populate the theme with your own products and content. You will manage your store from a dashboard where you can view things like shipping, analytics, invoices, and marketing.
Shopify tops the bill as the most popular ecommerce platform, powering over half a million online stores. Wix and Weebly are the biggest non-ecommerce specific platforms with Wix helping to build around 388,000 stores and Weebly, 441,000. Other heavily used platforms include BigCommerce and Volusion, which both power over 100,000 stores.
While Amazon dominates much of the western world, Mercadolibre is the most used marketplace across much of South America. Similarly, Naspers dominates the east, and is the the most popular platform in Russia. Schibsted is another big marketplace which is used heavily by Scandinavian countries.
Ecommerce platforms give you a base to start from. There’s themes, features, apps and help and support all inhouse. Building from scratch requires a lot of technical knowledge and coding. You have more customization and flexibility but it’ll either be a lengthy process or an expensive one should you hire a developer.
WordPress.org and Magento are both self-hosted, open source platforms. They’re great options, if you have advanced computer skills. You’ll be personally responsible for things like hosting and registering your domain but it can work out cheaper. Ultimately it depends on your needs, technical knowledge and time.
If you’re looking to build a website and allow multiple merchants to sell on it, you’ll need a platform like Yo!Kart or Magento. Both allow you to manage multiple merchants while still maintaining control over the website itself.
You’ll need things like sign-up/log-in, product categories, ‘people also bought’, abandoned cart recovery, social media integration, and much more. An ecommerce marketplace is a complex site to build, but there are options out there that have all the necessary features.
Yes! Square Online offers a free plan that still allows you to sell online. Similarly, Big Cartel is an ecommerce platform that allows you to sell online totally free of charge. It also doesn’t impose its own transaction fees, meaning the only fee you will owe if directly to the payment processor you use, like PayPal or Stripe.
In order to move your online store to another platform easily, you’ll need to be able to export and import your products in bulk. Shopify, BigCommerce, Weebly, Squarespace, Volusion, Big Cartel, GoDaddy and 3dcart all support this feature. If you’re with another online store builder, or a self-hosted platform, it may be more complex.
Many ecommerce platforms don’t impose their own transaction fees. This means that you only pay the processor, like PayPal, per transaction. If you use Shopify and opt for its own processor, Shopify Payments, you don’t have to pay any transaction fee full stop.
If the sole purpose of your website is to sell, you’re better off using an ecommerce-only platform like Shopify or BigCommerce. Website builders are mainly used for people who don’t sell online. That said, site builders like Wix, Weebly and Squarespace are great options if you just have a few products to sell on the side.