Ecommerce Platforms 2019

Check out our review of the best online store builders. Whether you're looking for beginner or enterprise, we've covered each in detail below.

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Hi, I'm Rodney and I built my first website over 18 years ago. The process has changed a lot since then. Cutting edge platforms and builders put the control in your hands without the need to learn code. In this guide, I'll review the best platforms so you can decide which is best for your store.

Rodney L.

Ecommerce Consultant

Platform

Overview

Features

Shopify Logo
  • Sleek, fast and flexible
  • Huge range of integrations
  • Easy to use
  • Scalable software
  • Plenty of themes to choose from

Price

Ease of Use

Support

Features

Woocommerce logo
  • Free to use

  • Open-source platform

  • Infinitely customizable

  • Great developer & design community

  • Powerful & flexible platform

Price

Ease of Use

Support

Features

Magento-logo
  • Perfect for big brands

  • Scalable and robust

  • Open-source platform

  • Strong core framework

  • Suitable for enterprise stores

Price

Ease of Use

Support

Features

What Is An Ecommerce Platform?


Build your own ecommerce store in a few clicks.

Ecommerce platforms allow you to easily create ecommerce websites and storefronts. (Some of the platforms we review can also be added to an existing website, giving it ecommerce functionality).

Some online store builders are free, whereas others are part of a monthly subscription package (also known as SaaS ecommerce).

Your platform will be a core part of your ecommerce business, allowing you to design a website, take orders, manage customers, and market your products and brand to the world.

Choosing the right platform for your ecommerce website is an important step on your ecommerce journey, so take the time to get to know the features, benefits, and potential limitations of your chosen ecommerce platform.

Ecommerce platforms allow you to:

  • Manage front-end (web design, social media etc) and back-end (order management, inventory lookup etc) ecommerce functions

  • Accept payment and manage the compliance and financial sides of online commerce ( including offline retail through POS: point of sale)

  • Customize your store with your own unique branding and content

  • Pro-actively market your store and manage customer data

  • Sell your products everywhere: not only through your online store, but on marketplaces and through social media.

Ecommerce platforms are a great to get up and running with an ecommerce business or website in very little time. They also allow you to grow your business without too much upfront financial investment — making them perfect for entrepreneurs.

Types Of Ecommerce Platforms Available

All ecommerce platforms can be classified by breaking them down into types. The main camps you need to know about are hosted vs. self-hosted, and open-source vs. proprietary software.

Let’s break it down:

Type

Definition

Hosted (Shopify, Wix etc)

Your online store is hosted on an external web server like Amazon Web Services with guaranteed up-time. Hosting comes as part of your ecommerce platform package.

Self-hosted (WooCommerce, Magento etc)

You will have to pay for hosting for your online store separately. You will need to find and pay for a reliable web host to keep your store online.

Open-source (WooCommerce, Drupal etc)

The code that powers your store is in the public domain. It’s an open-source product that anyone can contribute to.

Proprietary (Wix, BigCommerce etc)

The software is owned by a company who are ‘renting’ it out to you. Less customizable than open-source code, it’s nevertheless very popular as it’s reliable and convenient.

Open-source platforms tend to be free to install, but then you have to pay for things like web hosting, domains, and payment processing separately. (Though you also have to pay for payment processing on most proprietary platforms, or it’s built into an escalating pricing structure).

The Best Ecommerce Platforms


An all-in-one ecommerce solution.

Finding the best ecommerce platform for you is business and budget-specific. What works for a lifestyle watch startup, won’t work for someone wanting to sell cakes online.


Think about your ecommerce business and your short-term and long-term goals. Which sales channels are going to be best for you? How much money do you need to make? How much time have you got to devote to your ecommerce venture?


Make a list of the key goals you want to achieve — this will help you guide your platform choice.


Listed below are some of the best ecommerce builders available today and our thoughts on the pros & cons of each platform.


Shopify

An all-in-one ecommerce solution.

Shopify is a great hosted ecommerce platform packed full of stellar ecommerce features. Easy-to-use, Shopify is scalable and marketing-friendly.

A favorite with lifestyle brands and soulful entrepreneurs, Shopify also attracts a lot of dropshippers and print-on-demand businesses thanks to its integrations.


At its core, Shopify is an ecommerce platform specifically built to solve merchant problems — something it keeps on doing by adding new ecommerce features all the time.

Shopify has put a lot of effort into marketplace integrations, social media, and POS software. A great choice for multichannel retailers and anyone serious about social media marketing.

  • Sleek and fast
  • Minimalist + flexible
  • Powerful marketing tools
  • App costs can quickly rack up
  • Free themes are limited
  • Developers can be trickier to find
Shopify Logo
  • $29 per month
  • $79 per month
  • $299 per month

WooCommerce

The ecommerce platform for Wordpress.

WooCommerce is a (free) ecommerce plugin for WordPress lovers. It’s statistically the most popular ecommerce platform out there, and a solid choice for anyone just starting out. With just one free and simple plugin, you can transform your WordPress website into a fully-fledged online store.

As it’s built on open-source WordPress, WooCommerce is a very scalable and customizable way to sell products or services online.

A favorite with content creators, there is an abundance of design, developer, and software options for anyone on WooCommerce. An awesome choice for anyone already familiar with WordPress.

  • Modular & customizable
  • Lots of online tips/guides
  • WordPress is a world-class CMS
  • WordPress has security risks
  • Tricky for newbies
  • Choosing a theme can be a minefield

Magento

​Scalable ecommerce software with strong framework.

A favorite with larger brands and a darling of enterprise ecommerce, Magento is not for the fainthearted. It’s a developer-led ecommerce platform that has expansive features and great integrations.

Magento is an open-source ecommerce beast that powers lots of the big brands you know and love. Recently bought by Adobe, Magento is one of the most recognizable brands in ecommerce.

Great for anyone who ‘knows what they are doing’, but a little tricky for anyone just starting out.

  • Scalable and robust
  • Large developer community
  • Strong core framework
  • High-cost enterprise plans
  • Not suitable for beginner stores
  • Little customer support & training
Magento-logo
  • $0 per month
  • $2,000 per month
  • $3,417 per month

Squarespace

Combines perfect visuals with ecommerce functionality.

SquareSpace is a beautiful ecommerce platform that places emphasis on aesthetics. Using SquareSpace, it’s easy to create great looking online stores with little effort.

On the downside, it’s less easy to customize and you have less freedom over the look and feel of your store. On the whole, it’s ideal for anyone looking to eschew the whole coding side of building ecommerce websites.

SquareSpace has done a good job of marketing itself as the platform of choice for the the creative industries.

With loads of sumptuous templates and good marketing features, it has a more premium feel than some of the other (similar) ecommerce platforms like Wix.

  • Easy-to-use page builder
  • Lots of beautiful templates
  • No coding required
  • Less integrations available
  • Limited customisation
  • Lacks some key features
Squarespace logo
  • $26 per month
  • $50 per month

Ecommerce Guides


Marketing Guide

We get it. Marketing a brand new ecommerce store can be overwhelming. How about 100 actionable marketing ideas to help you get this show on the road?

Hosting Guide

Your store host makes sure that everything works as it should. Here are some tips for choosing the optimal host for your ecommerce store.

Tools Guide

Every ecommerce merchant will need an arsenal of tools in order to stay on top of mounting orders. Here are 157 tools to help you manage your ecommerce business.

Blogging Guide

So you’ve opened your first ecommerce store — great! To help you succeed in your ecommerce blog strategy, here are 24 blogs that your online store needs.

Email Guide

Your email list one of your most valuable commercial assets. Here are a few email marketing strategies you can use to subtly sell to your subscribers. 

Platform Guide

Nowadays, the internet is full of so many wonderful free or cheap platforms that will help you to build your website and maintain your ecommerce business.

Wix

​One of the most affordable and easy-to-use ecommerce builders.

Wix is the world’s most innovative drag and drop website builder. It has its own hosting and you can start using it for free. Wix is an easy way to start a website and requires little technical knowledge to use.

It’s perfect for people who want to create a lead-generation, portfolio, or blog-style website. With an improving ecommerce offering, Wix is also a solid choice if you want to build an online store.

But if you want to build a fully customizable ecommerce website, Wix is probably not for you.

Favored by 110 million small business owners and creatives, Wix is a great choice if you want a no fuss website with a great layout. 

  • Beginner-friendly
  • Visually pleasing templates
  • Takes automatic backups
  • Poor customization options
  • Can’t export your website
  • Hard to scale up using Wix
wix logo
  • $0 per month
  • $17 per month
  • $25 per month

BigCommerce

​The go-to platform for enterprise ecommerce.

BigCommerce is one of the most prominent online store builders out there, rivalling Shopify and Magento with it’s intuitive interface and competitive pricing plans. 


It’s great for ecommerce store owners that want an easy-to-use builder without having to struggle with coding and plugins.

As a result, it’s good for store owners without the technical know-how, although tech-savvy users can also play around with HTML and CSS on their sites. 

  • Intuitive interface
  • Lots of great content tools
  • 24/7 support
  • Only has 7 free themes
  • Hard to integrate Amazon
  • No mobile app yet
  • $29.95 per month
  • $79.95 per month
  • $249.95 per month

GoDaddy

​Want to build a website in minutes? GoDaddy is your ​best bet.

Beginner-friendly, the GoDaddy ecommerce offering is a good all-round package.

It has one of the most generous free trial periods (one month), and even complete ecommerce novices can create an online store and get it live literally within minutes. It’s intuitive and straightforward to use, making it perfect for ecommerce beginners.

But while it’s a good starter ecommerce platform, those entrepreneurs wishing to spread their business wings a little might find it limiting. GoDaddy lacks the customization of its larger competitors, and it is a little lacking in features to help you grow you store.

For beginners, GoDaddy is the perfect platform to cut your teeth on. But as your business grows, you might find you outgrow GoDaddy as well.

  • Very user-friendly
  • Competitive pricing plans
  • Build a website in minutes
  • Lacks customization features
  • Limited theme options
  • Not as feature-rich as others
question

Ecommerce Platforms Compared

Below we will outline the key features to look for when choosing your ecommerce software, as well as the top three best performing platforms for each category.

Designing a great looking website no longer requires any design experience.

That’s right — even if the last thing ‘designery’ you did was Word Art circa 2001, you can now build a beautiful ecommerce website with easy drag and drop online store builders.


Coding


While most ecommerce platforms provide intuitive, user-friendly interfaces to let entrepreneurs of any level create an online store, there are many that offer coding options alongside them.

Easily the best ecommerce platform for coding is Magento. While it’s often deemed unsuitable for beginners, it provides skilled coders with great scope to create highly customizable online stores with ease. Drupal is a real developer-heavy platform that requires lots of custom coding — when done right, it can be super powerful and secure.

Speed


In ecommerce, speed is everything. Customers want a quick, seamless ecommerce experience, and a speedy loading time can be the difference between a happy customer or a lost customer. On top of that, a good website performance can also enhance your search engine rankings.

Your ecommerce store’s load speed is a crucial factor for keeping your customer in the sales funnel. Google views a load speed under 500 milliseconds as optimum for websites, and is a good rule of thumb to stick to.

In studies, OpenCart often ranks on the lower end of the scale, with its websites taking more than 800 milliseconds to load in some cases. On the other end of the scale is Shopify, with its stores loading in around 300 milliseconds, well below the optimum limit of 500 milliseconds set by Google.


SEO


Optimizing your store for search is absolutely vital in ecommerce, so it’s important to choose a platform that offers comprehensive SEO options. Most ecommerce platforms come with basic SEO capabilities, but some are more exhaustive than others.

It’s common best practice to include a blog with your store — it’s good for SEO and it’s good for your brand. Unfortunately, not all sites include an integrated same-domain blog. Big Cartel for example only lets users add a blog through an extra plugin, and even then it appears on a separate domain entirely, losing you valuable SEO.

You should also keep an eye out for alt tag options too. Image text is especially important in the world of ecommerce, helping shoppers find your products in image searches. 

Most ecommerce platforms (such as ZenCart) only have alt tags enabled through extra plugins — even PrestaShop, which has a built-in alt tag option, offers better capability through an additional plugin.


Mobile Friendly


Most consumers today are mobile-first when they’re shopping online, so look for an ecommerce platform that offers responsive design across a range of devices.

Shopify excels in this by letting users create two disparate themes for both standard desktops and mobile devices. On top of that, its themes are all automatically responsive, which is great for ecommerce novices who might not be familiar with the technicalities of coding required for Magento stores.

Volusion was slow on the uptake when it came to mobile ecommerce, at one point not letting customers make any orders online. While that’s changed, its mobile themes today are still not as reactive or efficient as many of its competitors.


Security


Keeping your customers’ information secure and safe online is vital for building a reliable ecommerce business, so don’t scrimp on this.

One key feature to look out for in particular is an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate. Most ecommerce platforms require you to purchase an extra certificate when signing up, with the notable exception of Shopify. Each Shopify store includes an SSL certificate as default.

You should also go for multiple layers of security to keep your customers’ information safe Firewalls are a necessity, and forcing customers to create complex passwords can enhance this security.


Uptime


It doesn’t matter how feature-rich an ecommerce CMS might be if it can’t ensure that your site stays live when you need it the most. Imagine the consequences of your store going offline due to a hosting problem on the cusp of Black Friday weekend — you’d lose a huge amount of money and damage your reputation with your target audience.

The three top hosted systems for uptime are Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento (hosted in its enterprise-level Commerce configuration). Overall, they offer comparable uptime levels. Shopify lists 99.98% uptime as a feature of its service, while BigCommerce has a 99.99% uptime guarantee, and Magento Commerce hosting claims “up to 99.99% uptime”.

What do these figures mean in practice? Well, if Shopify hit 99.98% uptime and no higher, and BigCommerce achieved 99.99%, the difference would amount to just under 53 minutes of uptime in an entire year, and not even necessarily at an inconvenient time. It could be during routine maintenance in the early hours of the morning.

Because of BigCommerce having an explicit guarantee, it gets the nod for the top spot, but the difference here is going to be so marginal that you won’t go wrong no matter which platform you pick.


Ease Of Use


Most ecommerce platforms are generally (but not exclusively) geared towards helping amateur entrepreneurs start a business from scratch. In general, they’re not aimed at experienced, high-level users.




Consequently, most ecommerce builders place great emphasis on delivering an intuitive, easy to use interface that requires only the most basic knowledge — in a sense, idiot-proof.

Part of Shopify’s popularity is down to its incredibly user-friendly format. A crisp, clean interface and straightforward setup process makes it the platform of choice for many a novice solopreneur.

Magento, on the other hand, lacks that degree of ease of use, although it should be said it isn’t aimed at the everyday user. For those with the necessary skill set, it’s easy to use — if you’re in the know.


Customization


When you’re building an online store, you want to make it your own. If an ecommerce platform doesn’t let you convey your personal brand through your store’s design or features, you’ll lose out on sales.

Customization is something that ecommerce platforms know matter, so many of them offer fairly strong options for this. Coding, custom templates, app integrations, and more, set good platforms apart from the poor.


Templates


Your website’s template plays an important role in your customer’s experience. A cluttered or untidy design will repel, whilst a clean, attractive one will create a welcoming online store. Most ecommerce platforms offer a variety of paid themes, with a smattering of free templates too.

A good template is responsive, clean, and intuitive from a customer’s perspective. As a rule, the paid themes will naturally be preferable, although many online store builders offer perfectly usable free themes as a matter of course. BigCommerce for example has plenty of themes that are free to use and professional at the same time.


Integrations And Plugins


The best ecommerce platform is one that offers a range of features that makes it easy for you to grow your business. Apps for SEO, blogs, marketing, and so on are crucial 

Perhaps the most feature-rich ecommerce platform on the market is Shopify. Boasting more than 2400 apps in the Shopify App Store, as well as an integrated blog and built-in SSL certificate, it provides essential functionality straight out of the box.

But there are some ecommerce builders that don’t offer as many apps or plugins. Certainly, free platforms such as PrestaShop don’t seem to offer as many integrations as paid builders. As always, it’s worth using a free trial of an ecommerce platform to make sure you’re getting the features that are right for you.

Shopify Logo

Buy Now and get important discounts

Squarespace logo

Buy Now and get important discounts

Magento-logo

Buy Now and get important discounts

Woocommerce logo

Buy Now and get important discounts

wix logo

Buy Now and get important discounts

Buy Now and get important discounts

Key Features To Look For


Below we will outline the key features to look for when choosing your ecommerce software, as well as the top three best performing platforms for each category.


Website Design


Designing a great looking website no longer requires any design experience.


That’s right — even if the last thing ‘designery’ you did was Word Art circa 2001, you can now build a beautiful ecommerce website with easy drag and drop online store builders.


Coding


While most ecommerce platforms provide intuitive, user-friendly interfaces to let entrepreneurs of any level create an online store, there are many that offer coding options alongside them.


Easily the best ecommerce platform for coding is Magento. While it’s often deemed unsuitable for beginners, it provides skilled coders with great scope to create highly customizable online stores with ease. Drupal is a real developer-heavy platform that requires lots of custom coding — when done right, it can be super powerful and secure.


Speed


In ecommerce, speed is everything. Customers want a quick, seamless ecommerce experience, and a speedy loading time can be the difference between a happy customer or a lost customer. On top of that, a good website performance can also enhance your search engine rankings.


Your ecommerce store’s load speed is a crucial factor for keeping your customer in the sales funnel. Google views a load speed under 500 milliseconds as optimum for websites, and is a good rule of thumb to stick to.


In studies, OpenCart often ranks on the lower end of the scale, with its websites taking more than 800 milliseconds to load in some cases. On the other end of the scale is Shopify, with its stores loading in around 300 milliseconds, well below the optimum limit of 500 milliseconds set by Google.


SEO


Optimizing your store for search is absolutely vital in ecommerce, so it’s important to choose a platform that offers comprehensive SEO options. Most ecommerce platforms come with basic SEO capabilities, but some are more exhaustive than others.


It’s common best practice to include a blog with your store — it’s good for SEO and it’s good for your brand.


Unfortunately, not all sites include an integrated same-domain blog.  Big Cartel for example only lets users add a blog through an extra plugin, and even then it appears on a separate domain entirely, losing you valuable SEO.


You should also keep an eye out for alt tag options too. Image text is especially important in the world of ecommerce, helping shoppers find your products in image searches.

 

Most ecommerce platforms (such as ZenCart) only have alt tags enabled through extra plugins — even PrestaShop, which has a built-in alt tag option, offers better capability through an additional plugin.


Mobile Friendly


Most consumers today are mobile-first when they’re shopping online, so look for an ecommerce platform that offers responsive design across a range of devices.


Shopify excels in this by letting users create two disparate themes for both standard desktops and mobile devices. On top of that, its themes are all automatically responsive, which is great for ecommerce novices who might not be familiar with the technicalities of coding required for Magento stores.


Volusion was slow on the uptake when it came to mobile ecommerce, at one point not letting customers make any orders online. While that’s changed, its mobile themes today are still not as reactive or efficient as many of its competitors.


Security


Keeping your customers’ information secure and safe online is vital for building a reliable ecommerce business, so don’t scrimp on this.


One key feature to look out for in particular is an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate. Most ecommerce platforms require you to purchase an extra certificate when signing up, with the notable exception of Shopify. Each Shopify store includes an SSL certificate as default.


You should also go for multiple layers of security to keep your customers’ information safe Firewalls are a necessity, and forcing customers to create complex passwords can enhance this security.


Uptime


It doesn’t matter how feature-rich an ecommerce CMS might be if it can’t ensure that your site stays live when you need it the most. Imagine the consequences of your store going offline due to a hosting problem on the cusp of Black Friday weekend — you’d lose a huge amount of money and damage your reputation with your target audience.


The three top hosted systems for uptime are Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento (hosted in its enterprise-level Commerce configuration). Overall, they offer comparable uptime levels. Shopify lists 99.98% uptime as a feature of its service, while BigCommerce has a 99.99% uptime guarantee, and Magento Commerce hosting claims “up to 99.99% uptime”.


What do these figures mean in practice? Well, if Shopify hit 99.98% uptime and no higher, and BigCommerce achieved 99.99%, the difference would amount to just under 53 minutes of uptime in an entire year, and not even necessarily at an inconvenient time. It could be during routine maintenance in the early hours of the morning.


Because of BigCommerce having an explicit guarantee, it gets the nod for the top spot, but the difference here is going to be so marginal that you won’t go wrong no matter which platform you pick.


Ease of Use


Most ecommerce platforms are generally (but not exclusively) geared towards helping amateur entrepreneurs start a business from scratch. In general, they’re not aimed at experienced, high-level users.


Consequently, most ecommerce builders place great emphasis on delivering an intuitive, easy to use interface that requires only the most basic knowledge — in a sense, idiot-proof.


Part of Shopify’s popularity is down to its incredibly user-friendly format. A crisp, clean interface and straightforward setup process makes it the platform of choice for many a novice solopreneur.


Magento, on the other hand, lacks that degree of ease of use, although it should be said it isn’t aimed at the everyday user. For those with the necessary skill set, it’s easy to use — if you’re in the know.


Customization


When you’re building an online store, you want to make it your own. If an ecommerce platform doesn’t let you convey your personal brand through your store’s design or features, you’ll lose out on sales.


Customization is something that ecommerce platforms know matter, so many of them offer fairly strong options for this. Coding, custom templates, app integrations, and more, set good platforms apart from the poor.


Templates


Your website’s template plays an important role in your customer’s experience. A cluttered or untidy design will repel, whilst a clean, attractive one will create a welcoming online store. Most ecommerce platforms offer a variety of paid themes, with a smattering of free templates too.


A good template is responsive, clean, and intuitive from a customer’s perspective. As a rule, the paid themes will naturally be preferable, although many online store builders offer perfectly usable free themes as a matter of course. BigCommerce for example has plenty of themes that are free to use and professional at the same time.


Integration and Plugins


The best ecommerce platform is one that offers a range of features that makes it easy for you to grow your business. Apps for SEO, blogs, marketing, and so on are crucial.


Perhaps the most feature-rich ecommerce platform on the market is Shopify. Boasting more than 2400 apps in the Shopify App Store, as well as an integrated blog and built-in SSL certificate, it provides essential functionality straight out of the box.


But there are some ecommerce builders that don’t offer as many apps or plugins. Certainly, free platforms such as PrestaShop don’t seem to offer as many integrations as paid builders. As always, it’s worth using a free trial of an ecommerce platform to make sure you’re getting the features that are right for you.


Customer Support


Building your own online store will always be fraught with issues and roadblocks. Even experienced ecommerce entrepreneurs will find themselves seeking assistance from time-to-time.


Consequently, as you choose an ecommerce platform, it’s worth paying attention to the level of customer support they provide their users. In an always-on age, most decent ecommerce platforms offer 24/7 customer support as standard (Shopify and BigCommerce, take a bow), so be wary of those that don’t.


And a multichannel customer support system is also a feature worth looking out for. A live chat is perfect for the smaller, instant-fix problems, while an email thread is better for outlining more complex issues.


Finally, do your research on response times. Store downtime means lost sales, hitting your pocket every minute your website is down.


Community


A strong community can often make up for poor customer support, with like-minded users getting together to crowdsource solutions to problems. An ecommerce platform that encourages collaboration and community is a platform that ultimately fosters growth.


As an open source ecommerce platform, Magento is naturally the top dog for community. But for those lacking the programming know-how who use more straightforward platforms, WooCommerce has them covered.


As well as online forums, WooCommerce also offers a dedicated Slack channel and even real-world meetups on top of that. WooCommerce clearly takes community seriously.


Marketing Features


Marketing is an essential part of ecommerce, and it’s vital for growing your store. So when you’re choosing an ecommerce platform, it’s important to find one that encourages or makes it easy for you to market your online business.


Your ecommerce platform should accept integrations with major email and social automation tools such as MailChimp and Buffer. Your social and email channels are vital for growing your store, and these should be offered as standard.


Marketing is a diverse discipline. As well as the above, it spans UGC, social proof, and customer segmentation, to name but a few. And while some platforms offer plenty of apps for this (Shopify), many provide them as part of the package. BigCommerce for example markets itself as an out-of-the-box ecommerce platform, and includes abandoned cart email chasers as standard.


Email Marketing


Your email strategy is a core part of your business, helping you grow your store through abandoned cart emails, SKU integration for out-of-stock updates, and more. Every ecommerce platform worth its salt should seamlessly integrate with your email automation tool of choice (or provide its own).


There are dozens and dozens of email marketing platforms available today. Whilst heavy-hitters like MailChimp and and ActiveCampaign dominate, there are plenty of smaller names that can help you grow your store.


Of course, ecommerce platforms generally cater for the bigger email tools. So if you’re using a less common email marketing tool, you might wish to migrate to a bigger name if your ecommerce platform of choice isn’t.


Social Media


Social selling is a wonderfully effective means for growing your store by selling to customers in an arena where they are active most. As with email marketing integrations, most decent ecommerce platforms offer this as standard.


Virtually every social network offers social selling options or a dedicated marketplace to sell products and services through, and a good ecommerce platform should cater to that. Shopify’s app store overflows with social selling plugins for every platform you could ask for, from Facebook to Pinterest.


While the social selling aspect is vital, so too should your platform of choice integrate for social ads and promo campaigns. These are often included as standard in the app store, but do your research before committing.


Analytics


Crunching the numbers is a must for every growing business, as even the most basic analytics can provide valuable insight into which aspects of your enterprise are working (and which aren’t).


As with email automation tools, there is a plethora of analytics tools at your fingertips, both free and paid versions. Again, while most ecommerce platforms cater to the bigger names with plugins and integrations, there are just as many that offer their own analytics tools too.

 

BigCommerce offers basic metrics analysis as standard with its cheapest plan for example, and in general the built-in analytics get better when you upgrade your price plan.


Technical


Creative marketing potential and innovative aesthetics are great strengths for ecommerce stores, but it’s more important for them to be technically robust. Remember to secure function before you put too much thought into form.


Which platform will give you the best range of features, allowing you to keep your data secure, outrank your competitors, and keep up with the latest technological developments? Any technical issues will wear at you over time, causing inconvenience and sabotaging just about about everything you try to achieve with your store.


A great ecommerce CMS will be updated regularly, have strong security, and make your life as a retailer much easier by getting out of your way as much as possible so you can focus on what you’re good at.


Migrations


It’s quite common for a fast-growing ecommerce brand to outgrow its platform. You start out with something low-cost that gives you the financial freedom to get established, but then you start picking up momentum and realize that your store can no longer handle the level of traffic. Often, that calls for a full migration.


Ecommerce platforms vary when it comes to migration viability, though. If you choose well, migration can be very straightforward and relatively painless — choose poorly, though, and you’ll struggle to carry over all your data (if you can manage it at all). You should aim for a platform that’s simple to migrate to or from, just in case.


SSL


An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is vitally important for ecommerce. Provided by a trusted third-party company to confirm that your store is trustworthy, it not only shows visitors that they can safely buy from you but also ensures that you won’t be penalized by Google in the form of a damaging “Not secure” tag in results.


There are various ways to get an SSL certificate: some are free, but not necessarily very authoritative, while others are tightly-secured but somewhat expensive. Some ecommerce platforms, such as Shopify and BigCommerce, now provide SSL certification for store owners by default, saving them time and money.


Domain + Hosting


Having a domain that represents your brand well for years to come is an often-undervalued part of setting up a store. The best store domains are memorable, straightforward, and directly relevant to the products being sold — a generic company name can work fine, but for SEO, having primary keywords in there is a plus.


And once you have that domain, you need hosting to support you as your business grows. Scalability is essential. A great ecommerce CMS will provide supply to meet your demand, giving you resources only when needed to keep your costs down without damaging performance.


When choosing an ecommerce platform, be aware of your options for selecting a domain and picking a hosting tier. Cater everything to the specific needs of your business so you only pay as much as you need to — hosted platforms such as Shopify and Volusion are ideal for this.


API


An API, or Application Programming Interface, makes it simpler and easier for a system to communicate with other systems. Developers set out structures for mapping internal functions to external inputs, allowing users to configure some creative and powerful integrations without affecting overall security.


Because the ecommerce industry is so rich with tools (this page being a strong reflection of that), an ecommerce CMS with an excellent API is hugely convenient for a store owner. If you have grand aspirations for what you want to do with your store one day, select a CMS with a well-supported API, such as Shopify or Magento.



Pricing


Our top pricing tip is to select the free trial before you commit to a platform. You’ll often get a month to trial the software and see how you get on with it.

 

Use this time wisely before making a long-term commitment. Why is this important? Because some providers don’t offer data transfers.

 

So if you pick the wrong platform you won’t be able to move it to a new one. This means any time and money you spent on it will be lost.  


The best free trial/free platforms are:


Payment Structure


While the initial cost of your platform is important, it’s crucial you think long-term. Pick one with a payment structure that allows you to meet the ambitions you have for your website, or online store. Consider:

  • Do you want an ecommerce site with unlimited products?
  • Are you building an online store with up to 100 products?
  • Will you need more than 10 staff accounts?
  • Is unlimited bandwidth and storage a requirement?
  • Do you want a cheap all-rounder?

The top ranking platforms for payment structure are:


Scalability


Your online store or website needs different features as you grow. There are some fundamental points for you to consider as you scale up:

  • Back office requirements
  • Global payments and deliveries
  • SEO functionality

Each platform has its own unique features to help your upscaling:

  • Shopify has Shopify Ping. It’s a tool that links messaging, chat and social applications. It makes Shopify a great choice for scaling a business while you’re on the go
  • WooCommerce has an unrivaled developer community, with WordPress powering 30% of the internet. Whatever you need to scale your business, you’ll find someone who can help

Inventory Management


Ecommerce stores might take orders online, but when it comes to fulfilment, the practical considerations aren’t much different from those of physical stores. You still need to source your products, store them, package them, and ship them when needed.


The best ecommerce platforms for inventory management either provide well-rounded functions by default or allow easy extension through free or low-cost add-ons. Basic inventory options such as handling SKUs are common to every ecommerce CMS, so choose based on how easy the management system is to use and how flexible it is.


Shopify has the best combination of support and extendability, but Magento is the enterprise choice for a reason. If you aspire to stock large product ranges and implement high-level automation, Magento will scale with you — just remember that it will come at major cost.


Transactions


Every kind of payment system will have transaction fees, though they can be implemented differently. You need your transactions to be as cheap, reliable, fast, and convenient as possible, though which part you prioritize will likely depend on the size of your business.


Operating in a luxury field? Perhaps paying a little more for your transactions will be worth it if you can make them as smooth as possible. A smaller business, meanwhile, might not be able to afford higher transaction fees, having to get by with the occasional slow payment.


Some ecommerce platforms require you to use external payment systems (such as WooCommerce), while others, such as Shopify and BigCommerce, offer integrated payments or external payments, depending on your choice. With Shopify having the lowest transaction fees at its basic tier, it gets the top spot here.


Payment Types


The payment stage of ecommerce has become significantly more complex, even as shoppers have required it to be easier. This is because of the proliferation of payment options, moving past old credit card methods to encompass one-click digital payment systems such as PayPal or Google Pay.


When looking at ecommerce platforms, consider how your customers are likely to want to pay. If they can’t pay using their preferred gateway, they may think twice about buying from you, so aim for maximum compatibility. Shopify was the first major ecommerce platform to accept Bitcoin payments, and connects to numerous payment gateways by default, so it’s the logical choice here.


Coupons & Discounts


Coupons and discounts are great for drawing in new customers, as well as helping inactive customers rediscover your store.


A strong ecommerce platform should let you easily create and customize coupon codes. Some platforms also let you track each discount code to measure the efficacy of each marketing campaign across email, social, and so on.


As part of its out-of-the-box allure, BigCommerce includes built-in discount codes that you can customize to suit your needs. However, most platforms require you to download additional plugins to use coupon or discount codes.


Customer Management


The best ecommerce platforms include stringent customer management systems that make it easy to stay on top of your customers. This is especially important as your business grows, as a great deal of your sales will come from a loyal base of existing customers.


Rather than constantly chasing new customers, you should focus on looking after your current ones. A good ecommerce builder makes this easy for you, either by offering comprehensive customer data collection and storage, or by providing CRM integration in the app store.


POS System


The bridge between online and offline retail is a worthy one to cross: a pop-up store is the perfect opportunity to increase sales. A seasonal shop or one-off event lets you take advantage of busy foot traffic, while spreading awareness of your brand in an offline space at the same time.


To ensure your real-world sales are counted alongside your online business, your ecommerce platform should provide a decent point-of-sale (POS) system. This lets you manage offline orders, as well as integrating sales and customer information with your existing online data.


Shopify leads the charge on this, with a sophisticated POS system that makes your pop-up shop sales easy to manage, but it’s not the only ecommerce platform to do so. Big Cartel lets its customers use the Square app for iOS to process sales in-person.


While this isn’t a vital aspect of ecommerce, it’s part of an increasingly popular trend that your store could very well benefit from.



Ecommerce Platform FAQs

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