When it comes to starting your eCommerce business, finding the right ecommerce platform is important.
Because an ecommerce platform is a bedrock of your online business. The platform you select will decide how your store will look, the payment methods you will offer your customers, the level of security features it will have etc.
The good news for an ecommerce entrepreneur is that there are a lot of choices available in the market. From pretty basic to comprehensively robust ecommerce platforms. And that makes the job a little tougher. Which one is good?
While I will continue reviewing platforms as I did with Shopify, BigCommerce and Volusion here, I’m taking a little break here to help you give a list of top ecommerce platforms, discuss a little about their key features so that you can pick a platform that best meets your needs.
And I’ve not just gone by the popularity and features of the plans but have also banked on my deep understanding of the varied needs of businesses gained from consulting several ecommerce businesses. So my list has the usual popular names. But it also has some lesser known but powerful ecommerce platforms suited for very specific needs.
Founded in 2006, Shopify has become one of the most popular ecommerce platforms in the world. It currently powers over 500,000 active stores creating over $46 billion in sales.
I have myself used Shopify many times for businesses across categories and it is really impressive.
Shopify offers 5 plans:
- Shopify Lite: Priced at $9 per month, this plan allows you to sell on Facebook and chat with your customers on Messenger. Add products to any existing website or blog, and accept credit card payments.
- Basic Shopify: From building an online store from scratch to adding some good features, you have all the basics of starting a new business. The plan is priced at $29 per month.
- Shopify: Priced at $70 per month this plan offers everything you need for a growing business like abandoned cart recovery, advanced reports, online gift cards etc.
- Advanced Shopify: Packed with advanced features, this plan is ideal for scaling your business. The costs for this plan is $299 per month.
- Shopify Plus: An enterprise plan targeted towards big brands. The plan offers advanced features like unlimited bandwidth, good customization capabilities, and stronger security.
You can create a beautiful store. Manage products and inventories easily. Enable popular payment methods including Amazon Pay and Bitcoin. Create a blog. Power your store with additional features using over 2000 apps. There’s very little you cannot do with Shopify.
Shopify Platform Pros and Cons
|Powers 500,000 stores and generates $40bn in sales.||Shopify charges a 0.5% – 2% transaction fee for customers who don’t use Shopify payments|
|Plans starts from as low as $9. The 5 different plans covers the need of all businesses starting from bloggers, sole proprietors to big brands.||Most of the reports are available on expensive plans|
|Offers various payment methods including Credit Cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay and BitCoin.||You can only send 1 reminder email for abandoned cart recovery. You need to download apps for more sophisticated recovery process.|
|Good collection of theme library with 10 free and 51 paid themes.||You need to take care of image aspect ratio while uploading images. It doesn’t automatically crop images.|
|Shopify Retail POS ($49) to sell not just online but in physical locations like events, tradeshows etc.||Menu creation is little different and needs some learning.|
|In-built blogging engine|
|App Store with around 2000 apps brings extra features and functionalities|
|Dropshipping apps with exclusive partnership with Oberlo|
|VAT MOSS (VAT Mini One Stop Shop) compliant|
|24/7 support by email, live chat or phone|
Shopify is ideal for businesses of all sizes- from bloggers, social media sellers to big brands. The feature set and pricing of the plans is at par with other leading ecommerce platforms. The platform has a few limitations, which I have pointed out in the pros and cons above, but nothing which cannot be worked around. I give Shopify 9.5/10.
Founded in 2009, BigCommerce has quickly climbed the charts to become a leading eCommerce platform. The company claims to generate over $8 billion in merchant sales and has been recognized as a fastest growing company by Forbes and Inc.
The platform is loaded with high features and functionality to offer a good user experience. In my opinion, it is one of the most intuitive and user-friendly platform.
Another platform that lets you do everything essential to create and run an ecommerce business. You can create a store. Add products and its many variants. Manage inventories. Market your store. Recover abandoned carts. And so on.
BigCommerce offers 4 plans:
- Standard: Costs $29.95 per month. The plans offer good themes to build a store. POS support, integration with Amazon, eBay and Google Shopping, gift cards, single page checkout etc.
- Plus: In addition to features available in ‘Standard’ plan, you get an additional feature like abandoned cart recovery, customer groups and segmentation to reward loyal shoppers. This plan comes at $79.95 per month.
- Pro: Priced at $249.95, the plan offers a comprehensive set of features needed to scale and grow your business. You get advanced features like Google customer reviews, product filtering to help shoppers quickly find products and custom SSL.
- Enterprise: This a highly customizable plan meant for big businesses who want unlimited bandwidth, robust security, and high scalability.
BigCommerce Platform Pros & Cons
|User-friendly platform with an intuitive interface.||Annual sales threshold for each plan. If you exceed that, you will need to upgrade to next higher plan.|
|Easy to build and manage store without any coding knowledge.||No mobile app for store management.|
|No transaction fees (other platforms charge between 1 to 3%)||Manual VAT MOSS process|
|Built-in product review functionality.||Entry level plan is expensive (but offers a lot more features than competitors)|
|Robust abandoned cart recovery features|
|Flexibility to include a lot of different product variants.|
|Over 40 pre-integrated payment gateways serving 100+ countries and over 250 local payment methods|
|Dropshipping support with 6 businesses|
|No compulsion to use a proprietary POS system; you can connect to the POS software of Square, Shopkeep, Springboard and Hike.|
|450+ apps on app store|
|Strong analytics and reporting|
Bigcommerce offers a robust ecommerce platform that’s up there with leading names in the marketplace. The platform caters to the needs of all retailers with its list of features. Though the sales threshold for each plan is negative but, it covers it with the best abandoned cart recovery functionality in the competition. It’s 9/10 for BigCommerce.
Founded in 1999, Volusion is one of the leading ecommerce store builders in the market. As per the company, over 30,000 merchants actively use its platforms building $26 billion in sales.
Volusion offers 4 plans-
- Mini- $15/mo
- Plus- $35/mo
- Pro- &75
- Premium- $135
All plans have the following features included-
- Free, Responsive Themes
- Powerful Site Editing Tools
- Drag and Drop Tools
- Add Products in a Flash
- Securely Accept Payments
- Easily Manage Inventory
- Built-in SEO Tools
- Social Media Integrations
- Powerful Reporting
- 24/7 Expert Support
- Helpful Resources
- In-House Services
But the plans differ from each other in offerings. So depending on the plan you choose, you will get additional features like-
Volusion Pros and Cons
|Low cost plans||Bandwidth restriction on plans|
|Powerful Product and Inventory Management||Limited design themes|
|Good payment options||Coding skills required to customize themes|
|POS support||SQL understanding required to create custom reports|
|Mobile app for store management||Additional costs on SSL certification, PCI and Termination|
|CRM integration||No in-built blogging engine|
|Email marketing support|
|App store with 66 apps|
|Solid Knowledge base support to help you at every step of store building and management|
Volusion is meant for merchants who want a multitude of features at low cost. While it has a range of good features like powerful inventory management, CRM integration, email marketing etc., but limitations like bandwidth restriction, additional fees for SSL and no inbuilt blog engine makes it locked down. And you need coding skills to use some of its features. Volusion gets 8/10.
4. Magento Commerce
With over 25% of market share, Marketo leads the in eCommerce platform space. It’s an all-in-one platform that seriously packs a massive punch. So why does Magento comes so low on my list? The only reason is that it’s not for all ecommerce retailers. The platform is geared towards enterprises and big brands. Some of the leading names like Huawei, Pepe Jeans, Burger King, & Liverpool F.C. etc use Magento for their online stores. It’s not for small retailers.
Although Magento offers a free, entry-level plan, you probably won’t be able to do a lot with it. The Magento Commerce Starter plan begins at $1,988 per month. Then there’s a heavyweight ‘Magento Commerce Pro’ priced at $3,399 per month. It offers five business intelligence (BI)dashboards, 75 BI reports three servers as well as a dedicated technical account manager.
Magento Pros and Cons
|Open source platform which is highly customizable||Least intuitive interface and takes a lot of time to set up.|
|1000s of plugins and extensions to power your business||Plans are way expensive than other platforms.|
|Magento Business Intelligence Essentials giving you full visibility into your data with 75 reports and 5 dashboards available out of the box||Requires tech support to run the complex system which means additional costs.|
|Customer Segmentation, Targeted Promotions & Merchandising||Less nimble than other platforms.|
|Dynamically target customers to present up-sells, cross-sells, and related products based on their|
specific product selections.
|Create invitations and events for limited time sales to select|
customers and allow customer-initiated invitations.
|Improve sales and marketing with advanced attribute management|
|24×7 monitoring and email support for the core application and the cloud infrastructure|
Magento is perfect for big brands with a large volume of products and sales. It has features and scalability to match enterprise-level business. The costs and complexity of the system make it a big no-no for small retailers. It gets 10/10 but only for enterprise customers.
If you are looking for an all-in-one ecommerce platform which is easy-to-use then 3dcart comes as a good choice.
The pricing of 3dcart plans is at par with leading platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce etc. There are 4 plans:
- Startup: Priced at $19 per month, this plan offers all features of a basic plan like building a store, blog, built-in SEO tools, gift certificates etc. But there is a restriction of 500 products and sales of $10,000 per year.
- Basic: This plan offers all the features of the startup plan sans any restriction on products, bandwidth and sales threshold. It is priced at $29 per month.
- Plus: This plan offers many advanced features like CRM, store credits, abandoned cart saver, email marketing newsletters and product comparison etc. It is priced at $79 per month.
- Pro: Priced at $229 per month, this plan offers many features like autoresponder campaigns, automation rules, loyalty programs etc., suited for small and medium scale businesses.
- Enterprise: This plan is geared towards businesses selling over $400,000 per year. You get unlimited staff accounts, a dedicated technical manager and high customization required by big brands.
3dcart pros and cons
|Intuitive and user-friendly interface||Free templates are ordinary in design|
|Unlimited bandwidth except in startup plans||SEO capabilities are weaker when compared to competition|
|No transaction fees||Tough to find some features from the admin dashboard|
|Good abandoned cart saver|
|Over 100 conversion optimized templates|
|Over 160 payment options|
|Good App Store|
|POS module at no extra cost|
|Built-in marketing tools|
3dcart is a decent ecommerce platform that many retailers will enjoy using because of its feature-richness and ease of use. It competes with leading ecommerce platforms in the market and packs a punch in some features. I give it 9.5/10.
If you’re an existing store on a WordPress site or you’re a WordPress fan and wish to build your ecommerce store on it then WooCommerce comes across as a good solution. However, WooCommerce is not exactly an ecommerce platform in the strictest sense. It’s a free, open source plugin that works expressly with WP sites.
Founded in 2008, with 34,914,750 downloads, WooCommerce powers over 28% of all online stores.
Features that you would normally get in leading platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Volusion etc., are available or can be integrated with the Woocommerce plugin as extensions. While WooCommerce is free to download but you have to pay for getting extensions. In addition to that, there will be the cost associated with setting up a WordPress website, hosting it and getting other functionality.
WooCommerce allows you to build a beautiful store, sell physical and digital products at ease, manage orders and customers and offers good marketing features. With the help of extensions and other WordPress plugins, you can do everything which you could do on any other platform.
WooCommerce Pros and Cons
|Free to download, highly user-friendly||Works expressly with WordPress sites|
|A large extension store to add features to your store||Lacks advanced marketing features available in other platforms|
|Setup requires no programming skills||Building a store with all features can be expensive|
|Good product management and inventory features|
|Easy to sell products like subscriptions and appointments|
|Built-in payment processing from leading providers|
|Built-in marketing functions like SEO, social media integrations, analytics, and coupons|
WooCommerce is good. It’s highly customizable. You have a range of extensions to add power to your store. And can build a store as good as you do with any other platform. But there is limitation in adding sophisticated features. So it is best suited for small retailers. And those who already have a store built on WordPress site. Collecting different pieces to build a store can be a little overwhelming to startups. I give it 8/10 with a strong recommendation for retailers with existing WordPress site.
In the ecommerce space, we’re seeing a growing trend of individuals particularly makers, musicians and artists opening up their online stores to sell their creations. The products can be paintings, songs, artifacts, designs etc. For such creative businesses, there is an excellent ecommerce solution in Big Cartel.
Founded 2005, Big Cartel sets itself apart from the competition by specifically targeting artists. The platform has been designed user-friendly and a lot of emphases has been laid on making it easy for an individual with no or little technical knowledge to build a store and run it.
Big Cartel offers 4 plans, one free and three paid. The free plan offers basic features to run a store. You can only list 5 products in this plan. But you get good features like beautiful themes, store tab for Facebook and apps etc.
The price for paid plans range between $9.99 to %29.99 per month. The features on paid plans are same with only difference being in the number of products you can list in your store.
Big Cartel Pros and Cons
|Easy and quick to setup||Limitation in product listing in each plan. You can only list up to 300 products on the platform.|
|Low cost with a free basic plan||Lacks sophisticated marketing features|
|Free online store templates|
|Decent inventory tracking and management|
|Store tab for Facebook|
Big cartel is excellent for creative individuals who want to build an online store and sell their creations. The features are limited but that’s understandable that most of the stores would create niche markets and would have basic requirements. The facility to sell products through Facebook is impressive as a lot of creative artists are building the audience and getting business through social media. I give it 9/10 with an express recommendation to artists.
There are many ecommerce platforms in the marketplace. I have picked the 7 best ecommerce platforms based on my experience. And the varied needs of businesses and entrepreneurs. I have also offered honest pros and cons of each platform to help you make an informed decision. My ratings would tell you that there are no clear winners in this space. Magento is good for enterprise businesses whereas Big cartel is excellent for artists. The best way to know and judge a platform is by trying it yourself. So here’s what you should do. Choose a couple of platforms from the list below. Sign Up for their free trial. Know in detail about the features. If required reach out to their customer support and enquire. And then take a call.
|Platform||Free Trial Access|