7 Best eCommerce Platforms and Websites (2019)
by Team RobertMening
Choosing the best online store platform is not a simple task.
The e-commerce market is huge and there are many aspects to consider. It’s important to give enough thought before choosing one, because your choice has real impact to your online business.
We in our Team RobertMening have compared the 7 most popular e-commerce website builders. Let´s get started and we hope that in the end you are ready to make the best decision.
What is an E-commerce Platform? Why Should You Get One?
An e-commerce platform is a software that allows you to build an online store. It provides you the tools to setup and manage your site including products and day-to-day transactions. Today, most of all e-commerce builders use drag and drop functions.
Remember, you don’t need to be a professional web developer to setup a good looking online shop.
Here you can find the most important reasons why to use e-commerce platforms:
- Simple and Easy (For Beginners) – Our experience shows that in the past, if you wanted an online store, you had to hire a professional or you needed developer skills. Today we have plugins. With e-commerce platforms, you get all the needed functions from one place and you can get started right away.
- Inexpensive – E-commerce platforms are reasonably expensive and some of them even cost almost nothing. Yes, you definitely have expenses when running an online shop but it’s a lot less than developing your own solution.
- One solution fits all –When you are going with a hosted solution, you are able to let go of more parts of running your site. For example no need to deal with web hosting, security and updates. You can simply concentrate on developing your business.
- Customer support available – With a commercial solution you can benefit from the regular 24/7 support. Open source solutions such as WordPress are often community driven and you are therefore dependent on that community. Do not get us wrong, that can also work very well, but if you are in desperate need of help at 23 pm on a Saturday evening, it’s nice to have a guaranteed support.
7 Best E-commerce Platform Options
Now that you have a better understanding of what to look for in an e-commerce platform, it’s time to review the online store platforms. As always we will cover the advantages and disadvantages, their pricing structure and whom they are most suitable for.
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1. Wix Stores – Simple, Beautiful, Affordable (Wix.com)
Wix is originally ranked in our website as one of the best website builder. But on top of that, it also has features that allow you to build a professional online store.
Pros of using Wix Stores
Wix´s e-commerce platform is simple to use and quick to set up. No coding required so you can literally drag content anywhere on your site with the user-friendly editor.
They have over +450 templates specifically made for online stores. On top of that they also provide stock images you can use right away.
Obviously, Wix provides a fully functional shopping cart. You can choose among hundreds of apps in the official app market to further gear up your website.
Keep in mind that, the service is fully hosted so there’s no need to worry about this important aspect.
Cons of using Wix Stores
However keep in mind, that Wix is not a pure e-commerce platform. Therefore its, e-commerce capabilities can be a bit basic. Keep also in mind that you can’t change your site template once you have published your site- we consider it a big drawback.
Wix is subscription-based and their paid plans are $5-$25 a month. You need to choose at least the Business Basic plan to get online store capabilities- this starts from $17 a month.
Business Unlimited package adds better support and a professional site review.
You can test their free plan but it has really limited capabilities and no e-commerce options.
2. SiteBuilder – Best for Beginners (www.SiteBuilder.com)
SiteBuilder is our favorite website builder so far. Its e-commerce features are very nice and functional. With SiteBuilder you have to get the highest plan to open your online shop.
Pros of SiteBuilder
SiteBuilder online store is really easy to use. Their drag-and-drop interface is simple, intuitive and comprehensive. They provide you everything you need to get your online store started – domain, hosting, analytics tools, SEO, and nice e-commerce tools. As well you get an unlimited bandwidth and storage space.
It’s one of the cheapest! The introductory price starts from $10 a month and the regular price is $20 a month. So a very good discount!
We always have had a very nice experience with their customer support- they are really friendly and helpful. Almost always their customer support answers within seconds to our in-depth questions about e-commerce tools. We really think that their customer support is one of the highest performers on the market.
Cons of SiteBuilder
They only have about 100 templates suitable for e-commerce. Similarly to Wix, their e-commerce features can be limited for advanced users. As an advanced user you might experience challenges with marketing tools, payment options, and logistical add-ons.
SiteBuilder has three main plans which all have a 50% trial discount for 1 year. For an online store, you have to go with the eCommerce plan.
Many people say that you get what you pay for. With SiteBuilder you definitely get much more than what you pay for. Keep in mind that their options are just very beginner-friendly but at the same time comprehensive enough to handle professional website quality.
You can try out SiteBuilder eCommerce for 14-days with money-back-guarantee.
3. BigCommerce – Best for Small Business (BigCommerce.com)
BigCommerce offers a hosted e-commerce solution both as a full on-demand platform (SaaS) as well as a shopping cart for other types of websites. BigCommerce is probably most similar to Shopify.
Pros of using BigCommerce
Their e-commerce platform offers great store management capabilities and number of tools and features, e.g promotions, unlimited product variants, options to handle returns and discounts. On of the highlights is the flexible shipping options that allow customers live quotes and rate calculation.
BigCommerce is one of the platforms that integrates with Amazon, eBay and social networks. Therefore you can sell your products across many different sales channels. It also provides marketing tools with very detailed controls, for example full control over the URL format. They also have a large app store with extensions for all sorts of needs such as email marketing, automation and product promotion. You also get over 30 payment processing options with no transaction fees!
The advantages are summarized by the huge variety of templates to choose from, the possibility to design your own website and strong customer support system that helps you improve your online store.
Cons of BigCommerce
Traditionally, BigCommerce users only get seven free templates to choose from. In our view, Premium themes can also be a bit expensive. One of the weak sides is also a fact, that they do not have native POS features as in other platforms and comes with a sales limit on your plan. It could be relatively expensive to get advanced features like an abandoned cart saver.
BigCommerce plans cost between $29.95 and $249.95. However you can save some money by paying annually. Additionally, themes cost between $145 and $235.There’s also an plan for enterprise but you need to inquire about that.
As always, all plans give you everything you need to get started but with higher options you get more options like advanced customer segmentation and product filtering.
No transaction fees makes BigCommerce one of the most attractive options on this list. Use the 15-day trial to find out if it’s right for you.
4. Shopify – Best for Boutique Shops (www.Shopify.com)
Shopify is clearly one of the most well-known brand names in the e-commerce market. They provide fully featured hosted solution and they have hundreds of thousands of users.
Pros of using Shopify
Their platform is super easy to use and quick to set up. You just need to sign up with your email address and you can start building your shop and selling your products right away. Shopify provides intuitive interface that makes it easy to create products and it also includes SEO features.
They offer dozens of free mobile-optimized, beautiful themes and of course lot of themes are available on purchase. What is super great, is that no coding is required to customize them.
Additionally, Shopify offers one of the best customer support via phone, email, live chat or Twitter which are all available 24/7. All that is besides the detailed documentation and online forums where you can get help from other store builders.
Shopify also supports a lot of third-party payment gateways which make it so much easier to build a professional online store. They also have a large app marketplace with over a thousand offers to add functionality to your online store.
Finally, Shopify also offers additional sales channels by providing you with the software and hardware to sell inside physical store locations or integrating with marketplaces like Amazon.
One of the biggest drawbacks of Shopify is that costs can easily grow a lot. You have to pay for the base fee, but you have to pay for many plugins, themes and features as well. On top of that there are transaction fees if you are not using the built-in payment system.
Another disadvantage in terms of customizing your site is that Shopify uses its own markup language called “Liquid”. Therefore it is hard to make changes using coding yourself.
They offer different pricing tiers with additional features depending on which plan you are on.
There’s also Shopify Lite, that allows you to sell on social networks and embed products on your own website site to use the shopping cart capabilities and it costs only $9/month.
On top of that here is also a Shopify Plus for enterprise clients and it costs starts at $1,300 a month.
In addition to the base price, you pay for apps and additional features. This could really cost you, therefore really make your research before you start! And don’t forget credit card and transaction fees when using third-party payment providers.
5. Volusion (Volusion.com)
Volusion has been around since 1999 and has processed more than $29 billion in sales during that time. It´s another cloud-based, hosted option to build an online store.
Pros of using Volusion
Volusion is a drag-and-drop site builder with in-page editing. It offers a detailed site search, many responsive themes (11 of them free) and the ability to customize your own. It also has solid e-commerce and product management tools like native fulfillment options, subscription options, rich text product descriptions, loyalty programs and more. On top of that it also integrates with a lot of payment providers and doesn’t come with transaction fees.
Marketing options include marketplace integrations for Amazon and eBay, social selling and SEO features. However keep in mind that that some of those are only available on higher plans.
They provide 24/7 customer support via live chat and phone. This is in addition to a comprehensive knowledge base with articles, guides and more.
Cons of using Volusion
Volusion’s pricing strucutre is quite the same as other platforms offer. However, they have set a limit to annual sales i.e. more you earn, more you have to pay. You also have to pay extra for SSL, which is a must for any online shop. Other competitors provide it for free. Our experience shows that Premium templates for Volusion are a bit expensive.
Also, the platform offers no blogging capabilities and you can only include links to other blog sites in the menu. In our opinion this is really a shortcoming in a digital world that runs on content marketing.
Opening your online store on Volusion will cost you between $29 and $299 per month. You can get 10% off when paying annually. When choosing the more expensive plans, you will get more products, better support and additional features.
As mentioned you have to investment into an SSL certificate. The ones offered by Volusion directly are between $89 and $995.
6. Squarespace (www.Squarespace.com)
Squarespace is another website builder operating with drag and drop. They started out with a focus on making visually appealing website templates. During the recent years they are also putting more energy into e-commerce. Today we could say that they are a full-fledged e-commerce platform.
Pros of using Squarespace
Squarespace has a simple and intuitive user interface and they are very beginner friendly.
They offer are beautiful, modern and stylish website templates, and all come with mobile responsive capabilities. Focusing on design makes Squarespace super suitable for selling products that require high-quality enviroment.
Of course they have all the standard options like product variants, inventory management, unlimited products, coupons, shipping etc. Squarespace also has an excellent customer service.
Marketing tools include SEO settings, social media, blogging and abandoned checkout recovery. SSL is built right into the platform.
Cons of using Squarespace
As a negative side, Squarespace is somewhat restricted in features. For example, it has limited payment options (only Apple Pay and PayPal) and is missing important options for more complex shops and a large number of products or variations.
Furthermore, there is no marketplace for apps to add more features and functionality. Your ability to customize your site via code and markup is also very limited. The platform integrates with only a few third-party tools and services.
To start selling, you need to be at least on the Business plan, which is $18 a month if billed annually, otherwise $26 a month. Be noted that there’s a 3% transaction fee on every sale. You can waive the latter if you get on one of the e-commerce plans ($26-$40/month).
In our opinion Squarespace provides beautiful templates, but it is rather expensive and somewhat restricted in features.
7. Magento (www.Magento.com)
Magento is sort of the WordPress of e-commerce platforms. It’s a piece of open source software that you can download and install. At the same time, it also offers a hosted cloud version, sort of like WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
Pros of using Magento
As a self-hosted solution, Magento gives you lots of control. With technical knowledge, you can change pretty much anything you want in terms of functionality and design, plus choose your own server environment.
If you do not have technical skills then the cloud edition might be more for you. For that, you need to contact the sales department to get a demo.
Whichever way you choose to go, you benefit from Magento’s long list of features and options. Membership subscriptions, recurring payments, discounts, the ability to adjust content per user are just the tip of the iceberg.
You can extend your site via the marketplace. There are plugins and themes for all sorts of purposes, from customer support to marketing to shipping and site optimization.
The platform is strong in terms of multilingual websites as well, so you are able to create separate sites for different languages. It also has a strong community behind it that is constantly improving the platform and developing new themes and plugins.
Cons of using Magento
If you choose the Community Edition, then all the downsides of self-hosted platforms apply here. You have to be prepared to take care of updates, security and everything else to make sure your online shop runs correctly.
Magento has a lot of features, and therefore it can be a little resource hungry. This will require you to invest time and money into optimization. Besides that, the platform is written in PHP, so if you want to make meaningful changes, you need to have the skills or hire someone for it.
However if you are choosing the Cloud version, be warned that it is made for Enterprise clients and priced accordingly.
Magento Community Edition is the first free e-commerce platform on this list. That’s right, you can download and use it without paying a dime. Like many other self-hosted solutions, it comes with costs regardless, specifically for hosting, plugins or templates.
As already mentioned, Cloud version is not cheap. The expected annual budget will be around $15,000 per year just for licensing.
Magneto is super e-commerce platform, but it is either for already established businesses or for people who has serious web development skills. It is not meant for beginners.
Types of E-commerce Platforms Available
We can see that one of the main differences how to separate e-commerce platforms is their type of hosting.
- Self-hosted – Means you download a piece of software and install it on your own server. This gives you a lot of control over your website but it also puts all the responsibility on you to keep it safe, updated and make changes manually. Open Source e-commerce solutions often have this model. Meant for advanced users.
- Hosted – An alternative is to use software that is hosted by someone else. SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions are the most typical examples here. The benefit: less technical overhead, quick startup, more beginner friendliness. Most often also more costs. Meant for beginners
- Mixed – Several of the options below offer the possibility to include their shopping carts into other platforms (e.g. WordPress). This is also called Commerce as a Service (CaaS) and can be a viable and cheaper option.
Sure, there are other ways to differentiate e-commerce platforms. Many of them depend on your personal needs. You can separate them by:
- Ease of Use
- Commerce Options
- Mobile Capabilities
- Customer Support
Which is the Best E-commerce Platform for Your business?
Choosing the best e-commerce platform is not an easy task. There are simply too many factors to take into account and many offers on the market. Standalone e-commerce platforms can be a great solution for starting an online shop. They offer all the necessary features and specialized functionality to make selling online a success.
By knowing beforehand what your needs and requirements are, you make it more likely you will find a good fit from the top 3 above. We are recommending SiteBuilder, BigCommerce, Wix and Shopify. Magento is a great platform but it is meant for already established businesses due to its costs.
Hopefully this guide has helped you in your decision. If you have any detailed question please contact us by adding a comment or writing an email.