Posted: 27 Jan 2017 Contributor: Matthew J Fritschle
Hey Entrepreneurs, Here Are the 10 Best eCommerce Platforms for Your Business
Whether you’re starting an eCommerce business or migrating a physical one to the digital world, there are some difficulties you’ll inevitably face. For starters, do you want a pre-built eCommerce platform or do you want to hire an eCommerce web development company to build one from scratch? Do you want a simple or complex platform? Do you want a hosted store or would you prefer to host it yourself? How about your price range. Are your pockets deep or are you looking to get the best bang for your buck? What about stock size? Speaking of, are you selling digital or physical goods? We can’t forget about payment method either.
The point is that there are a lot of eCommerce platforms out there, and based on your needs one might be better suited for you than the others. The problem is, you have A LOT of options. Literally, a lot. As in – I can come up with a top 100 list and still have enough extras to come up with a worst 100 list.
The Top 10 eCommerce Platforms
A quick disclaimer before we begin. Platforms are not in any specific order of ranking, so don’t think our first platform is our number 1 choice. Shopify might be the top platform for someone while WooCommerce is the top for another. It all depends on your own business/entrepreneurial needs. That being said, let’s take a look at the top 10 eCommerce platforms for your business.
Shopify is one of the most popular platforms and one you’ll likely encounter in many ‘best eCommerce platforms’ posts online. It’s usage has grown significantly in recent years, from 100,000 active stores in 2014 to over 325,000 today, and the many available tools allow you to launch your site within minutes. It’s hosted, has built-in payment processing, and even comes with a mobile app. There’s also significant leeway in the price. You can opt for a 14-day free trial and then upgrade to their monthly plans that range from basic $29 to advanced $299.
One of Shopify’s newest and coolest features is that you can integrate it with Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, and sell directly from there. As an added bonus, your customers can also browse, shop, and receive customer support directly from Facebook Messenger. If SEO is of importance to you (as it should be), you can make use of Shopify’s marketing plugins and boost your SEO. And to round off the list, it’s faster than other platforms in terms of loading speed (desktop & mobile), and offers full 24/7 support.
Magento is best for those in the fashion, automotive, and food and beverage industry. It is owned by the eBay group, and is used by some of the world’s biggest brands like Coca-Cola, Burger King, and Ghirardelli. Besides the big brands, Magento is used by more than 250,000 merchants worldwide and was named one of the Top 1000, B2B 300, and Hot 100 platforms by Internet Retailer in 2015. It’s an open-source platform, making adding features a zilch, and one of the most scalable platforms that’s perfect for small to large businesses. It’s self-hosted, meaning that you can run it on your own servers, and includes scheduling tools to automate tasks. On a similar vein, it’s a bit complicated to use, so it might be better for a veteran eCommerce retailer than for a newcomer. Some brands like Chesapeake Bay Candles and ArtStar are already using Magento to merge sites and provide a seamless user experience that keep their customers coming back.
You can also make use of the Magento Marketplace and buy extensions that will improve your store. From accounting and finance to SEO and marketing, it’s all covered. Magento also has technology and solution partner programs that provide trained and certified experts to help you out. Unfortunately, it’s on the slower end when it comes to loading speed and it’s a bit pricey – Magento Enterprise costs $18,000 per year. Have no fear though, there’s also a Magento Community Edition that’s free and good for emerging, small businesses that want to learn how to build an eCommerce store from the ground up.
Similar to its name, BigCommerce is one of the big players in the eCommerce business. Over 95,000 live sites are currently using it, and some notable brands include Toyota, Schwinn, Payless and Martha Stewart. Its dashboard has a clean feel that’s reminiscent of Shopify, and the initial setup takes a couple of minutes as well. It has a good amount of themes, some of which are responsive, and over a hundred different apps and add-ons you can splurge for. BigCommerce is for you if you plan on selling products in multiple online stores at once, as you can cross-list and import product listings from eBay, Amazon, Shopify, Volusion, and other eCommerce platforms. But wait, there’s more. According to Ipsos, a global market research and consulting firm, BigCommerce merchants have an average 28% annual growth, nearly 2x the industry standard.
SEO is also a strong suit for BigCommerce. It has a unique content delivery network that loads pages much faster than its competitors, and can integrate with Google Shopping to give you an added SEO boost. Pricing begins with a free trial and then ranges from $29.95/month (standard package) to $199.95/month (pro package), and an enterprise option that tailors the price specifically for your business. And of course, 24/7 chat and email support is included.
4: Big Cartel
Another big player, Big Cartel hosts more than 250,000 stores worldwide. It’s a particularly big platform for artists and small companies that offer less than 300 products, but comes with very limited themes. A downside is that there are no search options for your customers. That shouldn’t be an issue if you have less than 20 products though. If, on the other hand, you have more, then it becomes an annoyance. Another annoyance appears if you decide to modify a product’s URL after its creation. You simply can’t do it, so be very careful and think twice before clicking “submit”. The third annoyance we’ll cover today comes from their spotty support. You can only reach them Monday-Friday between 9am-6pm EST, and by email. That’s right, only email.
Volusion is a fully cloud-based platform that’s used by more than 40,000 stores. It’s perfect for recruiting repeat customers with its reward programs and deal of the day features (with a countdown timer to increase urgency). Its SEO tools also let you show off your products, reviews and pricing info, directly in Google search results. And unlike the majority of eCommerce platforms out there, Volusion has a lot of features built directly into the dashboard, eliminating the need to purchase them from separate app/extension stores. Also unlike other platforms, and not exactly a con, there’s no setup wizard to get you started. Instead, there’s a ‘getting started’ site with helpful tips that explain the different areas of the dashboard.
Volusion is average in terms of loading speed, and one of its drawbacks is that you need coding knowledge to change the layout/design of your many pages. Keep in mind that this is not necessary, as you may be perfectly happy with them as is. On the positive side, you can integrate with Amazon and eBay. And similar to Shopify, you can also sell products directly from Facebook. You can try it out for free for 14 days, and if you like it, upgrade to one of the paid plans. The cheapest (mini) is $15 per month and includes up to 100 product listings, while the most expensive (premium) is $135 per month and includes unlimited product listings. Volusion also offers 24/7 support for all plans, with the caveat that the mini plan only offers online support.
Chances are good that Googling, “best CMS for small business website,” will result in Squarespace popping up near the top of the list. Really though, they even made it a point to say that its interface is ideally suited for small stores with less than 200 SKUs in their initial press release announcement. It’s especially known for its beautiful templates, which, by the way, are responsive. Adding fuel to the mobile friendliness fire is the fact that all Squarespace sites are accelerated mobile pages (AMP) and load very, very fast on mobile devices (their desktop counterparts are also some of the fastest out there). It offers integration with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social sites, has easy editing (just drag and drop products and pages in whatever order you want), and comes with a lot of widgets that allow you to customize your site even further.
Squarespace offer a free trial period and two paid options: basic and advanced. The basic option costs $26 per month and the advanced option costs $40 per month. Both are very similar and include unlimited products, full control of inventory, full 24/7 support, and much more. The difference in price comes from the advanced plan’s ability to send an automated email reminder when a checkout is abandoned (abandoned checkout auto-recovery) and real-time carrier shipping information.
3dcart is used by over 23,000 stores online and is a good platform for beginners and those who know how to market their products via email. You can sort customers into separate lists and send targeted newsletters to those in each list, send automated emails for those who dropped out of the checkout process, send reminders when a product is back in stock, and even upsell to those who have already made a purchase. There’s also an option for a reward program that you can use to retain customers. The setup page looks like it forgot to update itself this decade, but it does have good tutorials for beginners. 3dcart also has a lot of themes, but like their setup page, some look outdated and lack the fresh feel and appeal of other platforms.
3dcart is one of the fastest platforms and has a good number of tools, apps, and add-ons. Some help you boost SEO while others allow you to sell on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Amazon, eBay, and a couple of other sites. Their customer support is on point with full 24/7 support and there’s also a free 15-day trial period. There are two routes you can take if you decide to upgrade. The first has standard plans that range from $19.99/month (mini) to $99.99/month (professional plus), and the second has specialty plans for those who only want to add a shopping cart to an existing website, those who have high-traffic, and those who want to enterprise.
WooCommerce isn’t your usual eCommerce platform. It’s actually a free WordPress plugin that turns your site into an eCommerce page. Don’t let that fool you though, it has almost 20 million downloads to date and powers over 39% of all online stores. As you can guess, it’s self-hosted, which shouldn’t be an issue if you’re already familiar with WordPress and its layout. Listings appear as normal posts would with the addition of extra fields for pricing, product information and the like, and your customers can sort items by categories and tags. It’s on the slower end, but more than makes up for it with its array of extensions. That being said, the extensions will cost you. It’s free, but if you want to do more than the basics you’re going to have to spring for them. There are extensions that allow you to choose payment methods, integrate with other social sites, allow your customers to book appointments, and much more. Think of WooCommerce as the ultimate customizable platform.
PrestaShop is an open source eCommerce platform that’s used by more than 250,000 sites around the world. You have the option of hosting your store on their cloud or downloading it on your servers and hosting it yourself. It has a support community that numbers in the millions and is absolutely free. That’s right, free. You’ll most likely end up paying though, as there are some very good themes and add-ons that you can purchase to improve and customize your store. Speaking of, there are dozens of SEO modules available that offer exceptional SEO capabilities. And, as of October 2016, PrestaShop and Google formed a partnership that allows PrestaShop users to integrate their store with Google Shopping, furthering your SEO. It’s relatively slow on desktops and average on mobile, but hey, it’s free.
OpenCart is another free, open source eCommerce platform used by over 342,000 entrepreneurs around the world. While free to download and upgrade, you do have to pay for your own hosting, security, and the many add-ons and modules you’ll end up purchasing. There are actually over 13,000 modules and themes available in their marketplace, some of which are SEO extensions and others that allow integration with other sites. There’s a very large support community, optional reward program, and pretty much unlimited categories and products. It’s slow compared with its competitors, but it is responsive by default.
There are free platforms and premium platforms; simple and complex; fast and slow. You might be looking for the best website builder for small business or large business. Regardless of your situation, these 10 platforms are some of the top platforms available and come with a lot of pros. You have the option of getting started yourself or hiring a company that offers enterprise web development to help you out. In any case, do yourself a favor and get started right away.