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7 best ecommerce platforms for your new online shop compared (free and paid)
There is no single “best” way to run an e-commerce store. It depends on your products, your target audience, and the style you are most comfortable with.
That is why there are different e-commerce platforms on the market that serve different needs. The trick is to know which one is best for you.
In this guide, we've compared the top 7 ecommerce platforms so you have all the important details and can see which one fits your unique business needs perfectly.
We'll go into their features, prices, pros and cons, and who they're most recommended to, so check this out below.
Then let's get started!
As one of the most popular e-commerce platforms, WooCommerce has everything an e-commerce operator needs, and it's technically free. On the downside, however, it takes a bit of tact to build and update it.
Unlike the other ecommerce platforms on this list, WooCommerce is actually just a WordPress plugin. That's one of its greatest strengths, which means that all of the features of WordPress are available to you. Any plugins or themes for WordPress can be co-opted for the Wo WooCommerce store, but you also have a large list of WooCommerce-specific extensions and plugins to choose from.
The disadvantages of WooCommerce are the disadvantages of WordPress. First of all, you have to find the right hosting provider who is responsible for the security of your website and your customers' financials, not to mention how much traffic you can allow. You also have to choose the best hosting plan for your needs.
Second, you have to take care of the design, which can take time if you've never used WordPress before. It's not that WordPress is hard - it's actually quite user-friendly - but there are a ton of little tasks that you need to do to make your website look and work the way you want, like finding the right plugins for example or adjusting the website preferences. With a professionally programmed WordPress theme and these step-by-step instructions for setting up WooCommerce, you'll make sure nothing slips through the mesh.
- The entire WordPress plugin library.
- WooCommerce-specific plugins and extensions with a selection of e-commerce functions.
- Easy blog integration.
- Unlimited products.
- Technically free, but you still have to pay for hosting
- Depending on the features you want, you could spend anywhere between $ 0- $ 200 or more on plugins / extensions.
- Hosting not included.
- Small learning curve for WordPress when doing it for the first time.
WooCommerce is a great platform for both beginners and experts as long as you have some time to build it (if you don't want to do that, you should hire a WordPress developer).
But once you get it under control, you can enjoy almost unlimited customization options. This also makes it recommendable for people who want to design their website themselves, but do not want to deal with programming.
Example for online shops with WooCommerce
Weber, the South African branch of the famous grill manufacturer
Best Bud, CBD oil company
Porter & York, premium meat delivery
Everything you need to know about BigCommerce is in the name: it does great things. This e-commerce platform is perfect for large companies and stores with a large product range, or for small stores planning an imminent expansion.
As a sophisticated e-commerce platform, BigCommerce offers a wealth of features. Because it's made for professionals, it has more advanced options than the others on this list.
While this is great if you like the customization and you know best web design practices, it also means a steeper learning curve. BigCommerce isn't as easy to use as the other ecommerce options here, although they do their best to get new users on board.
This large number of features is reflected in the price. For small businesses just starting out, you'll be paying for features you don't already need, making it difficult to justify the cost. Rather, BigCommerce is best suited for established shops that need a little more "power under the hood".
- Accommodates large amounts of products.
- Highly customizable.
- Security included.
- Migration and importing options.
- Built-in SEO enhancements.
- Tools for improving conversions.
- No transaction fees.
- BigCommerce Standard: $ 29.95 per month.
- BigCommerce Plus: $ 79.95 per month.
- BigCommerce Pro: $ 299.95 per month.
- BigCommerce Enterprise: Varies.
- Advanced suite of features to satisfy complex business models.
- Lots of intricate customization options.
- Can sell as many products as you want.
- Harder to use than other ecommerce platforms.
- A bit pricey if you're just starting out.
Established stores or stores that sell a lot of products make the most of BigCommerce. New and small shops won't end up using many of the features anyway. BigCommerce is a heavyweight ecommerce platform, so only use it when you need all the extra power.
Example for online shops with BigCommerce
Skullcandy, high-end headphones
Bliss, skin care company
Carolina Panthers, the official NFL store
Another popular ecommerce platform is Shopify, which specializes in convenience and simplicity. While setting up a WooCommerce website can take days, you can get a fully functional Shopify website up and running in just minutes. The disadvantage, however, is that you don't have as many customization options as with WooCommerce.
Shopify is for people who don't want to spend too much time designing and programming an ecommerce store. The website is heavily template based so you just choose your theme and fill in your information.
After you've chosen your theme, most of the other aspects will be included. This is a great time saver, but it hinders customization: no special graphics, creative widgets or optimized navigation.
While this is frustrating for people with bold ideas, it's perfect for people who are just focused on business. Shopify has all of the ecommerce customizations you need, such as options for different types of promotions, as well as a built-in rating system.
Check out this WooCommerce vs Shopify comparison guide for more details.
- User friendly interface.
- Template-like design.
- Ready-to-use functionality.
- App Store for additional functions
- Shopify Lite: $ 9 per month.
- Basic Shopify: $ 29 per month.
- Shopping: $ 79 per month.
- Expanded Shopify: $ 299 per month.
- Shopify Plus: $ 2,000- $ 40,000 per month.
- The most user-friendly of all e-commerce platforms.
- Can set up a shop quickly and easily.
- No design skills required.
- Great for integrating social media.
- Works well for both small and large stores.
- Limited customization.
- Difficult to stand out from other Shopify websites.
- Third party gateway transaction fees can be expensive.
As we mentioned above, Shopify is great for people who just want to focus on business. Shopify may be limited in its design options, but it's an open book to business strategy, sales promotion, and social media marketing.
Because it's so convenient and easy to use, it's perfect for people who want to set up a side business or ecommerce store as a hobby or side job. It takes very little time and does not require a lot of maintenance.
Example for online shops with Shopify
haus, a London furniture store
The Candi Factory, a clothing line from Toronto
Biko, a "modern nostalgic" jewelry line
In addition to the most popular e-commerce platforms like WooCommerce, Shopify and BigCommerce, Volusion is the underdog. It doesn't offer as much as its more established competitors, and its name isn't as well known either. Nonetheless, Volusion is slowly rising into the ranks of alternatives to Shopify for convenience and speed.
Where Volusion really shines is with subscriptions and recurring payments. Perfect for subscription boxes and similar business models, Volusion offers these types of payments instantly.
You can still find these options on some platforms - for example, WooCommerce has plugins for subscriptions - but in general you'll have to locate these add-ons yourself and sometimes even pay extra for them.
Since it doesn't have a lot of advanced features, Volusion can focus more on ease of use. For example, it has an effortless drag-and-drop site editor so you can rearrange website elements however you want.
This kind of sheer simplicity works well for first-time website developers, but seasoned ecommerce managers will miss many of the features that other platforms offer for free, such as SSL certificates, blogging features, or even selling digital products. The upside is that there are no transaction fees and you can have as much bandwidth as you want.
- Drag-and-drop editor for websites.
- No transaction fees.
- Unlimited bandwidth.
- Responsive themes for heavy mobile traffic.
- Accepts subscriptions and recurring payments.
- Personal: $ 29 per month.
- Work: $ 79 per month.
- Business: $ 299 per month.
- Prime: Custom.
- Inexpensive ecommerce platform, especially considering there are no transaction fees.
- One of the only e-commerce platforms that allows subscriptions and recurring payments out of the box.
- Simple website editor geared towards beginners.
Given the inexpensive and simple website editor, Volusion works best for small ecommerce businesses. It's a good platform to get your feet wet - you won't need any advanced features while just learning the basics.
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Also, Volusion is ideal for stores that use the subscription / repeat payment model. It's a small niche among ecommerce stores, but Volusion caters to them anyway.
Example of Online Stores Using Volusion
Sesame Street Live, the ticket hub for performing the show live
Notch, innovative hats for sunglasses
Antonelli's Cheese Shop, artisanal cheeses
Though smaller and not as well known, 3dcart is gaining ground over the other ecommerce platforms in one area, and it's not about 3D imagery or VR - it's about SEO. The self-proclaimed "best e-commerce platform for SEO" lives up to its name with features such as breadcrumb links and canonical URLs.
Much SEO is done behind the scenes, in areas that most site builders won't let you change: how you submit your website to search engines, the website's architecture, the URL structure, or even the code itself.
Knowing this, 3dcart has optimized these areas for you so you don't have to worry about them. You get all the benefits of a template website builder, but with the security of top-notch SEO.
However, 3dcart suffers from the same limitations as Shopify: not a lot of customization. This is especially bad considering that 3dcart's themes are a little dated.
But like Shopify, 3dcart also has a lot of e-commerce features for marketing, sales, and advertising. They also offer a generous amount of perks, even in the lowest price range: no transaction fees, 24/7 support, security, API access, unlimited bandwidth, and unlimited products.
- Internal SEO draft.
- Ready-made themes for SEO.
- Unlimited products.
- Unlimited bandwidth.
- No transaction fees.
- Startup Store: $ 17.10 per month
- Basic Store: $ 26.10 per month
- Plus Store: $ 71.10 per month
- Power Store: $ 116.10 per month
- Per store: $ 206.10 per month
- Everything about this platform, top to bottom, is for SEO.
- Loads of perks, including 24/7 support.
- Simple template-like website designer.
- Little in the way of customization.
- Templates could use an update.
If your business model revolves around SEO, 3dcart is the ecommerce platform for you. Otherwise, 3dcart fulfills many of the same needs as Shopify. So, if you like this quick and easy setup, it's a nice alternative when Shopify doesn't have what you want.
Example for online shops with 3dcart
France Luxe, fashion accessories
eLeMeNO-Pee, modern parenting products
Havvn, mood-enhancing skin care
6. Big Cartel
Big Cartel is a niche e-commerce platform for artists, artisans, and other artisans who love to sell what they make. If this is the type of business you do, Big Cartel is perfect ... but for the majority who don't make their own goods, it's better to look elsewhere.
Everything about Big Cartel is aimed at small, creative businesses, including the artistic opportunities of website design. The most appealing trait to independent creators is its low cost - no listing fees and no transaction fees. All you pay is the monthly fee, and there is even a free account that has most of the features in it anyway.
However, if you're not an independent creative, many other ecommerce platforms have more attractive deals. Many of the creative design options are not applicable to more serious brands.
- No transaction fees.
- No registration fees.
- Artistic design options.
- Code editing.
- Gold: Free
- Platinum: $ 9.99 per month
- Diamond: $ 19.99 per month
- Titan: $ 29.99 per month
- Comparatively cheap next to the other e-commerce platforms.
- One of the more creative and inspiring website developers out there.
- Transparent business practices.
- Relevant only to a small group of sellers
It's no secret that the Big Cartel is recommended for artists and craftsmen. Their market may be small, but they serve it well. Even if you're an independent artist, you still have to choose between the Big Cartel and Etsy.
The advantage of Big Cartel is that it has its own store: it is better for branding and more scalable if you have high ambitions.
Example of online stores with Big Cartel
RODA, shop for the artist Jose A. Roda
Little Upside Down Cake, cooking supplies
Laurie Lee, custom art and prints
Just as Big Cartel targets artists, Ecwid targets small businesses too. From start-up to costs, everything is tailored for startups and small businesses.
Ecwid falls in the same group as Shopify and 3dcart: simple, convenient to set up, but limited customization options. To show their commitment to small businesses, they even offer a free plan where you can list up to ten items. However, once your shop reaches a certain size, the benefits of Ecwid don't seem as beneficial anymore.
For the business side of things, Ecwid offers most of the usual e-commerce features like coupon codes and an SSL certificate, and allows digital goods as well. They have an excellent range of social media options, as well as the ability to advertise on Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest and Google Ads.
Likewise, higher payment levels can connect their shops to other sales channels such as Amazon, Etsy and eBay. This makes Ecwid a great central base for running a multi-channel ecommerce brand.
- Easy setup and user-friendly tools for website design.
- Synchronized directly with social media stores.
- Integrates with other sales channels.
- No transaction fees.
- Free plan: Free.
- Risk: $ 15 per month.
- Business: $ 35 per month.
- Unlimited: $ 99 per month.
- Great social media skills.
- Perfect for a multichannel strategy.
- Designed for small businesses - inexpensive and easy to use.
- Not a lot of interesting design options
- Not scalable - good for small businesses, bad for large businesses
Ecwid is conceptually recommended for small businesses. The lower cost is good to get started with, and it integrates easily with other channels so you can still use it as a lifeline. Plus, the integration of social media and marketing is great for startups trying to get their name out there.
Example of online stores with Ecwid
Miu Mau, artist shop
Tenina, cookbooks and kitchen ware
Hansen Distillery, Spirits and Event Venue
The best e-commerce platform for your online shop
How many products do you want to sell? Where do “design and customization” fit into your priorities? How much money can you spend How advanced is your technical knowledge?
The answers to these questions will help you find the best ecommerce platform for you.
The perfect platform for selling quality jewelry is perhaps the worst platform for selling custom made t-shirts. Consider your company's needs before choosing your platform.
Now it's your turn: Which platform is your personal choice? Why did you decide against the others in the end? Tell us in the comments!
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