By using one of the best ecommerce platforms, you can build and manage an online store without any technical knowledge or ecommerce experience. An online store exposes your products to millions of online shoppers across the globe.
According to a recent survey by Forrester Research, about 190 million of US consumers, which is about half of the US population, shop online. According to the survey results, consumers now make 51% of their purchases online, and 44% of all smartphone users made a purchase using their mobile device.
Keeping the latest technology trends and the changing requirements of the modern ecommerce business in mind, we have identified the five best ecommerce platforms that are likely to serve a range of entrepreneurs (from individuals to established merchants) most effectively.
In case you are in a hurry, here are some links to our best ecommerce platforms for you to choose from:
|Ecommerce Platform||Price (a month)||Overall Rating|
|Shopify||$29||10 / 10|
|BigCommerce||$29.95||9.5 / 10|
|Ecwid||Free||9 / 10|
|Volusion||$25||8.9 / 10|
|3dcart||$29||8.7 / 10|
Five Best Ecommerce Platforms in 2017
Cost: $29 a month or $9 a month for Facebook store only
Shopify hosts more than 400,000 active online shops and with its strong focus on social commerce and mobile shopping, the platform continues to evolve to meet the growing requirements of an online store builder.
The benefits of Shopify are:
- Over 100 free and premium templates (themes) to choose from.
- 1,500+ apps (plugins/extensions) that you can install to extend the functionality of your store.
- The ability to connect your online store to your Facebook page and sell directly on Facebook.
- You can to connect to Shopify experts and developers.
- You can easily create a multi-language and multi-currency storefront and checkout process.
Despite these advantages, there are some important downsides with the platform. First, if you do not use Shopify Payments, there will be an additional transaction fee for every sale that you make (the current fee can be as high as 2% for every transaction).
Plus, many of the extensions for additional functionality are not free, so running your Shopify store might cost a little more than you expected.
Lastly, Shopify uses its own template coding language called ‘Liquid’, so any major customization in the system may come at an additional expense.
When is Shopify a good choice?
For beginners that are looking to build a functional store in a short amount of time. Based on your budget requirements, you can choose different packages which range from $29 to $299 a month. But if you are looking for unique features and functionality for your store, it might be better to look elsewhere.
Cost: $29.95 a month
Launched in 2009, BigCommerce currently hosts over 100,000 online stores and is among the most complete ecommerce software providers on the market. From big names like Toyota and Martha Stewart, the platform ideally caters to stores of all sizes.
The benefits of BigCommerce are:
- Extensive built in features including newsletters, coupons, analytics, abandoned cart recovery, and more.
- Unlike Shopify, BigCommerce charges no transaction fees.
- You can integrate your store with Facebook, eBay, Google shopping, Pinterest, Amazon, and a range of comparison sites.
- Strong search engine optimization tools to assist you in ranking high on Google, Bing, and other search engines.
- You can create unlimited staff accounts that you can give to your employees.
- Powerful support with extremely helpful setup wizard, educational videos, and extensive guides with visual representations.
One concern of BigCommerce is the lack of free themes. Currently it offers only seven free themes, while most of their competition offers more than 20 free themes.
Plus, BigCommerce has an annual sales volume limitation with every plan that will restrict how much sales you can have each year (the current range is $50,000 to one million in yearly revenue).
Lastly, if you need recurring billing, you will have to rely on an external extension to accept recurring payments.
When is BigCommerce a good choice?
If you want a full-fledged store, but do not want the hassles of integrating with external extensions, editing HTML/CSS or other code, then BigCommerce is the go-to ecommerce platform for you. If you are willing to compromise a bit on themes, then BigCommerce is a strong alternative to Shopify at roughly the same price (BigCommerce’s plans range from $29.95 to $249.95 a month) without the incremental transaction fees.
Cost: Free or $15 a month for premium plan
One million sellers use Ecwid for their ecommerce needs. Ecwid, which is short for ecommerce widget, is geared towards adding a functional ecommerce store to an existing website (e.g. WordPress blog, Facebook page, and basic webpages). What makes Ecwid popular is that you can do all of this for free.
The benefits of Ecwid are:
- As long as you have an existing website or Facebook page, you can add basic ecommerce functionalities for free.
- Supports over 50 different languages, and automatically detects the correct language for your customers.
- Ecwid works well with major Point of Sale (POS) systems such as Clover, Square, and Vend.
- You can add Ecwid to WordPress, Wix, Joomla, and all other site builders with a simple HTML code or plugin.
- You can easily mirror (copy) your existing Ecwid store and sell on multiple sites at the same time.
- The platform supports over 40 international payment options.
Despites all of these advantages, Ecwid has some critical downsides that may make the platform incapable of performing all of the needed functionalities for you ecommerce store. First, the free plan does not offer any internal technical support, so you will either have to find a solution in their help center or forum.
Plus, Ecwid’s app store has a small number of apps that you can install. This only becomes a problem once you find yourself looking for features that Ecwid may not offer yet.
Lastly, you cannot change or edit default product URLs, which can be annoying from a SEO perspective.
When is Ecwid a good choice?
If you already own a website or a popular Facebook page, and need to add ecommerce functionality, Ecwid is probably your best option. You can add a store to a WordPress blog, Facebook page, and other popular website builders in less than five minutes. Ecwid offers a free plan for starter sites and scales up to $99 a month for a complete ecommerce solution.
Cost: $25 a month
Volusion is a complete ecommerce solution that is trusted by over 40,000 active stores including Halo Headband, Nalgene, and This American Life. The online store builder is gaining popularity once again due to their powerful ecommerce features and instant integrations.
The benefits of Volusion are:
- Access to hundreds of powerful ecommerce features for inventory management, payment collection, and product configuration and setup.
- Volusion plans start as low as $25 a month (or $22.50 a month with annual discount).
- You can sell unlimited products, add unlimited product images, and drive unlimited traffic to your store.
- You can sell your products on Amazon, eBay, and Facebook.
- Built-in recurring billing that you can use to sell subscription-based products.
- You can integrate your Volusion store with multiple different applications to improve your accounting, customer management, fulfillment, marketing, and security.
- Built-in education and services, and friendly onboarding process.
Despite all of these advantages, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind before you being building an online store with Volusion. First, Volusion now charges transaction fees which start at 2.0% for the Personal plan ($25 a month) and scale down to 0.5% for the Business plan ($135 a month).
Next, and something we hate the most, is the fact that you need to upgrade to pricier plan to unlock features such as ratings and reviews, newsletters, eBay and Amazon integration, and other important marketing features.
Lastly, Volusion has eliminated the Mini plan and it is no longer offered. This means that you now have to pay over $20 a month to run an online store.
When is Volusion a good choice?
If you are looking to work with a platform that has been in business for over a decade, Volusion is the online store builder for you. If you do not mind keeping a close eye on your bandwidth and doing the little things such as compressing images and hosting larger files elsewhere, Volusion is one of the most cost-effective platforms to work with.
Volusion’s plans start at $15 a month, and scale to $135 a month.
Cost: $29 a month
3dcart is a complete online store builder that offers simple administrative functions to control your marketing, inventory management, accounting, and customer engagement. That is why companies like Lukie Games, Morgan Sports, and Software CW use 3dcart to carry out their ecommerce needs.
The benefits of 3dcart are:
- 3dcart has over 18 years of ecommerce experience, which is something that should be taken into consideration.
- There is a large selection of both free and premium optimized themes. There are 64 free themes that you can use.
- The platform does not charge any transaction fees.
- 100 ready-to-use payment gateways that you can use to accept payments on your store.
- Strong point of sale system that gives you the option to combine your physical store and your online store into a single business that you can manage from one centralized location.
Like all of the online store builders, 3dcart has a set of drawbacks that you should review first before committing to the platform. First, 3dcart there are bugs and clutter in the admin panel that makes it somewhat difficult to find certain ecommerce features. Next, 3dcart has a limited app and module selection. However, this area of 3dcart seems to be improving.
More importantly, you would need to sign up for the $229 a month plan to get access to all of the marketing features such as abandoned cart saver, gift registry, reward points system, and autoresponder campaigns.
When is 3dcart a good choice?
If you need an online store builder that offers a strong emphasis on marketing and design functionality, then 3dcart is an excellent platform for your online store. In addition, there is a simple migration guide if you find yourself coming from a different online store builder. Plans start at $29 a month.
Nine Factors to Consider
These are the nine factors to consider when looking for the best ecommerce platforms to build an online store.
- What you plan on selling – the type of products you plan on selling can determine which online store builder you use. Only a handful of online store builders are built to handle the sale of both digital and physical products.
- Is the platform easy to use – even if you are paying a designer to customize your store, it is important to find a platform that you are capable of using (e.g. adding products, posting blog articles, fulfilling orders, processing returns, etc.).
- Your inventory size – your inventory will change over time, so make sure to see how many products you can add without having to upgrade to a larger plan. Most of the popular ecommerce platforms offer unlimited products.
- Design matters – whether you are designing your store on your own or paying a designer to customize it, the available design options and themes should be taken into consideration.
- Integrations that you already use or own – if you are using or plan on using MailChimp for your newsletters or QuickBooks for your accounting needs, make sure that the platform can integrate with those services.
- How you plan on accepting payments – the standard payment methods are PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize.net, and many of the platforms offers them. But, if you live in a country that does not support one or all of the payment services, make sure that the ecommerce platform offers something that you can accept payments with.
- Core ecommerce features – this is going to depend on the type of store that you are going to build, so choose a platform that covers most of what you need.
- Pricing – you should not base your decision entirely on price, but your goal is to find a platform that you can afford every month.
- Additional fees – read the fine print for any additional fees that can potentially eat into your profits. For instance, there can be setup fees, bandwidth overage fees, transaction fees, etc.
Best Ecommerce Platforms Final Verdict
There is no “one shoe fits all” kind of platform here. The platform you decide to use depends on one or all of the factors listed above.
Whether you go with our most recommended online store builder (Shopify) or the last platform on our list (3dcart), you have the tools to build and manage an online store without sacrificing your budget.
And if you are still unsure, you can always consider trying them all for free.