The Best Ecommerce Platforms For Complete Beginners
Starting up your own ecommerce business can be stressful. There are lots of different things to think about — finances, balancing the books, your branding and marketing strategies... the list goes on. But here is one element that doesn’t have to be complicated — building your own website.
Around 10-15 years ago, building your own ecommerce website was a nightmare. It took a decent amount of coding knowledge, and even then it needed constant TLC.
But times are changing.
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. Having all this choice is fantastic, but this is when the option-paralysis kicks in — there are so many different ones to choose from, where do you even begin?
Luckily, I’ve done the heavy lifting for you and checked out a whole load of different ecommerce platforms perfect for complete beginners. (You can have a look at my full-length reviews of each one here.)
Read on to discover what I think are the best ecommerce platforms for complete ecommerce newbies.
Shopify is a hosted, template-based platform. It was one of the first easy-to-use website platforms created — paving the way back in the early 2000s, Tobias Lütke originally built his own ecommerce platform in 2004 to sell snowboards, and this was so successful that it ended up becoming Shopify as we know it. Nowadays Shopify is worth millions, and hosts websites for the likes of Redbull, Budweiser and Lady Gaga.
Quite honestly, I think it’s the best one out there for beginners and here’s why. It’s a user-friendly, flexible store-builder that helps you to pick and choose what you want to include in your store, without sacrificing quality or usability of your store. Plenty of 24/7 help is also available from Shopify themselves.
You also have all sorts of different options for add-on apps and integrations, including everything from cart-abandoner pop-ups, social channel integration, product reviews and finances.
- Intuitive and easy to understand
- 100+ professional website designs/templates to choose from
- Can cater for all sizes, from very small ecommerce to large
- Scales well, so if your products or volumes of sales or customers increase, you can grow easily
- Lots of help from Shopify, external Shopify partners & experts
- Community of Shopify store owners for sharing knowledge
- Shopify apps cost extra, so although initial pricing plans are reasonable, you can easily end up spending lots of money
- Shopify uses its own coding language called “Liquid,” so you may have difficulty if you do want to do anything more complicated with your store
- This also means developers are quite difficult to find and more expensive
- $29: Basic Shopify Plan
- $79: Shopify Plan (the most popular one)
- $299: Advanced Shopify Plan
- $2000: Shopify Plus (Enterprise) Plan
WooCommerce is the choice for anyone with a WordPress website wanting to expand to ecommerce store. It’s essentially a plugin which easily allows you to create a professional-looking online store.
This means it’s well suited for bloggers wanting to expand into ecommerce, or any ecommerce newbies. Because it’s built on open-source WordPress, it’s flexible, customizable and you can easily scale up when you want to increase sales, or add more products or services. This means that if you want to, you can go from blog to decent-sized store pretty quickly.
It may prove more difficult for complete website beginners, however.
- Great if you already know WordPress well but you’re an ecommerce rookie
- Strong, supportive community — people work together in forums to exchange exchange knowledge and solve configuration problems (mostly due to poor support from Woocommerce, see below)
- It’s open-source which is great for customizing and scalability
- It’s compatible with many different WordPress plugins, themes and extensions
- WooCommerce’s flexibility means that as a beginner, you can experiment with what you want your shop to look like
- Not as easy to use if you don’t have a WordPress site already so can be frustrating
- WordPress does have some security risks so you need to make sure you’re covered
- Hosting isn’t free
- On-going maintenance is the store owner’s responsibility
- Free plugin: $0 per month
- Hosting: $25 a month but varies a lot
- Themes: usually less than $100
Wix has grown into a popular alternative to Shopify and WooCommerce in the last few years, with over 119 million users choosing the platform (although some of these are just websites, not online stores). It’s not surprising, considering it’s free, easy to use and can build amazing-looking stores.
Wix is a classic ‘drag and drop’ website builder, which means it’s perfect for complete novices wanting to have a go at creating their own stores. Wix prides itself on its range of attractive and professional-looking templates and layouts, which make for great first impressions whether you’re a small business, restaurant or photographer.
- Intuitive drag and drop is great for beginners — very easy to build a store without any design or coding knowledge
- Huge selection of attractive and modern templates
- Automatic backup for your store is built-in
- Doesn’t have brilliant scalability — good if you only want a small starter store, but choose another option if you want to scale up or go big
- You can’t switch templates, which can be irritating if you change your mind
- Wix doesn’t let you export your data, so if you want to move platforms, you’ll have to start from scratch
- If you choose the free plan, you have to put up with Wix adverts on your site
- $0: Free Package
- $17: Ecommerce Package
- $25: VIP Package
Buy Now and get important discounts
Buy Now and get important discounts
Buy Now and get important discounts
BigCommerce is another ecommerce platform option with many similarities to Shopify. It's simple and effective, with an easy-to-use builder and intuitive interface. It offers a large number of tools and features, and it’s flexible and customizable — ideal if you’re a beginner wanting to have a play with your store. If you’ve got any experience with coding, you can also use this to add your own unique bits to your site.
If you’re planning on going multi-channel and want to sell on Amazon, eBay and social networks as well as your site, then BigCommerce is a good choice as it integrates with all.
- Really easy to use — intuitive interface and features
- Plenty of support channels and help available (phone, email, live chat, BigCommerce University forums and guides)
- Built-in blog with same domain also available — great for content marketing
- Good option for multi-channel sales as integrates with Amazon etc
- Over 40 payment processing options with no transaction fees
- Only 7 free website themes at the moment which means they’re lagging behind competitors like Shopify who offer over 24+
- Design customization is not super user-friendly
- Store owners can’t check up on store on the move, as mobile app not available yet
- $29.95: Standard
- $79.95: BigCommerce Plus
- $199.95: Pro
- Varied: Enterprise
Squarespace is another a drag and drop website builder similar to Wix that has really built a name for itself over the last few years with its attractive site templates and premium feel.
It’s perfect for beginners with no coding knowledge and no interest in learning — building a highly customized site isn’t necessary for everyone, and Squarespace still lets you create a professional, attractive store using drag and drop.
Squarespace puts emphasis on aesthetics with beautiful shop fronts, and has marketed itself towards creative industries such as fashion, music and art. It’s used by some pretty huge artists, including Keanu Reeves, Leon Bridges, and John Malkovich.
- Very simple to use as drag and drop
- Beautiful templates place focus on aesthetics — great for visual products and artists
- No need for any coding knowledge at all
- Squarespace only offers one payment option — Stripe — which will lead to issues with scalability
- Premium feel so more expensive that some alternatives
- Not as many integration options as others
- $26: Basic Squarespace
- $50: Advanced Squarespace
PrestaShop is a freemium open-source ecommerce platform which is quickly gaining traction. It’s hard-working, clever, and one of the cheapest options at the moment to create your online store because of its low set-up costs.
PrestaShop is very popular in non English-speaking countries, and has a wide multilingual support community and built-in multi-language functionality. Ideal if you want to run a multilingual ecommerce store.
- Admin panel can be accessed via smartphone or tablet so you can track your order statuses or make adjustments on the go
- Access to 3000+ modules so you can add all sorts of features to your store
- Multi-language functionality built in, which is great if you want to run a multilingual store
Cheap option for building site
- It’s not always the easiest software to use, so you may need additional help from a pro or need to watch some tutorials
- Sometimes glitches because modules interfere with each other
- Costs can rack up as you need to keep buying modules for extra functionality
- $0: Free Software
- Hosting: $6-35 a month but varies a lot
- Themes and modules: between $50 and $530
Ecwid is a really good option if you don’t want to build an entire store from scratch. It’s an alternative platform which allows you to sell your products on an existing site, Ebay, or your social media page (it integrates with Facebook and Instagram). If you’ve got a decent-looking website already that you’d be happy to sell on, then you might want to consider using Ecwid to save yourself time and effort.
Ecwid is another good option for multilingual stores — it auto-translates your storefront based on your visitor’s IP address or browser settings, so you can present your store in one of over 50 different languages.
- Auto-translation available in over 50 different languages is great for multilingual selling
- Integrates well with WordPress sites if you want an alternative to WooCommerce
- Easy to use for beginners — simple way to turn ecommerce without setting up standalone store
- Cost-effective with generous free plan
- No access to SEO tools with free plan
- Harder to scale up
- Not great if you want to build an online store from scratch — option is available but very basic
- $0: Free plan
- $15: Venture plan
- $35: Business plan
- $99: Unlimited plan
Looking for ecommerce tools?
Running an ecommerce shop takes time and effort: you need to establish your brand, get your company out there and visible, direct that traffic to your site, and convert those leads to actual buying customers.
Luckily, there are plenty of amazing ecommerce marketing tools that will make your life so much easier. There are many different types of ecommerce marketing tools; they can help with all sorts of things from email automation to analyzing data to social media strategy.
We’ve put together a free list of the best ecommerce tools (link below). If you want to sell more, you need them in your life.
As you can see, there are a range of ecommerce platforms available for complete beginners wanting to build an online store. These are some of my favourite options for newbies, for the reasons listed above.
To be honest, a lot of it is down to personal preference. Do you want an easy, code-free store builder? Go for a simple drag and drop builder like Wix. Are you a WordPress site owner looking to go into ecommerce? Choose WooCommerce. If you’re in a creative industry and you want an attractive storefront, pick Squarespace.
Pick an ecommerce platform that suits you, whether it’s a plug-in for an existing site, or a tool that lets you build a complete online store from scratch.
If you’re still unsure, then Shopify would be a good all-rounder for any ecommerce beginner. It’s very easy to use, intuitive and has lots of options for templates, add-ons and integrations. Plus it’s got great opportunity for scalability, so if you did want to increase the size of your store after a while, you have the flexibility.
And the ones to stay away from?
Platforms such as Magento are best left untouched if you’re a complete novice. Magento has a reputation as the ‘mature’ option for ecommerce platforms — it’s a sophisticated and flexible tool if you’re an established business. If you’re a complete newbie however, we would recommend leaving this one for now. It’s just too complicated for someone learning the ropes of ecommerce.