Which are the best E-commerce platforms to date?
If you’re in the market for a new e-commerce platform, then congrats! That’s a sure sign of the progress of your business. But in order to keep that progress on an uphill climb, you want to choose the best e-commerce platform for you. There are many platforms out there, each with its own strong points and weak points, and you don’t want to end up picking a platform that’s a mismatch for your business.
Not to worry! This guide to choosing the best e-commerce platform will take you through the critical questions about your business’s current status, goals, and priorities that will direct you to the right platform for your business growth. Answer the questions below and by the end of this guide, you’ll be on your way to a brand-new E-commerce website.
Question #1: How “hands-on” do you want to be with your e-commerce site upkeep?
Do you have a developer (or qualify as one yourself), or do you need a made-for-non-techies solution? What’s more important to you: lower cost of website hosting and maintenance, or less involvement in website hosting and maintenance?
If you don’t want to deal with website hosting and maintenance, including data backups and security, then a hosted e-commerce solution is probably the best for you:
are all fully hosted e-commerce solutions? The e-commerce provider shoulders the burden of regular maintenance and also fixing any problems that might arise, leaving you free to work on your business.
If, however, you want to keep firm control over your online store and its costs, and you don’t mind getting your hands dirty with dev, it’s worth looking into the open-source, free e-commerce platforms that are out there.
- Magento Open Source
The above 4 are all robust, open-source cart software platforms – and therefore absolutely free for the taking.
A bit about WooCommerce
Similarly, WooCommerce is a free e-commerce plugin for WordPress sites. While it may be a little easier to set up and manage than open-source software (especially if you’re already familiar with the WordPress system), it too may often require paid add-ons to get the exact functionality you’re looking for.
When it comes to cost, open-source solutions usually win on cost flexibility, but hosted solutions win on cost transparency and predictability: at the end of the month, you know how much you’re going to pay, even if it’s higher.
Question #2: What level of design customization do you need?
Do you need an online store that integrates with your existing website, or do you need to build a website plus a store from scratch?
Website builders like Wix and Squarespace that offer e-commerce functionality can provide a seamless design experience if you create everything through their platforms.
Other e-commerce platforms offer customization of many design elements, such as colors, elements, and fonts, so that you can match your existing website’s design as closely as possible in your online storefront.
In that category are:
If you really want to double down on customization, you’ll need your e-commerce platform to support custom CSS/HTML.
Question #3: What payment gateways do you need/want to offer?
Imagine a customer eagerly holding out money – and you shaking your head and saying, “Sorry, I can’t take it right now.”
That’s what you’re saying when you don’t have the payment gateway that your customer prefers to use. Make sure that the e-commerce platform you choose offers payment gateways popular with your customer base.
Popular gateways include:
- Apple Pay
Question #4: What e-commerce marketing tools do you want/expect?
E-commerce success can’t be achieved just by selling to your die-hard customers. You need tools to reach new leads, persuade prospects on the fence, and turn a one-off buyer into a repeat customer. Your e-commerce platform should provide you with the essential tools to encourage more sales. Possible tools include:
- Abandoned cart recovery
- Promotional campaigns
- Discount codes
- Gift cards
- Customer reviews
- Personalization for specific customer segments
When evaluating an e-commerce platform, check if the marketing tool you want is available.
Question #5: What services do you need/want to integrate with?
In a brick-and-mortar store, if you have to leave your storefront and go to another office building to take care of your marketing, accounting, inventory management, and customer support, something is wrong with your business’s efficiency. It’s no different for your online store. Ideally, you should be able to integrate and manage all the business services you need with your e-commerce platform, including:
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Marketing automation
- Inventory management
- Customer support
- Shipping providers
- CRM software
- ERP systems
- Accounting software
- Analytics tools
In addition to any out-of-the-box integrations, if the platform you’re considering offers an API, that opens the door to customized integrations. Some platforms that offer an API include:
- Squarespace Commerce Advanced
Question #6: How fast are you planning on scaling – and in what areas?
When your business grows, you want your e-commerce platform to grow along with you. Moving a house when you have thousands of products is just no fun at all. So when you are choosing an e-commerce platform, think ahead: does this platform have the potential to scale well with your growth?
But a word to the wise: not all growth is treated equally by e-commerce platforms. For example, you might see your business scale in its:
- Inventory locations
- Staff members
Compare the following plans to see how three different e-commerce platforms offer very different accommodations for scalability:
- Shopify’s $39 plan supports unlimited products, 1000 inventory locations, 2 user accounts, and unlimited revenue.
- Volusion’s $35 plan supports 100 products, 1 user account, and 50K revenue. (Inventory locations aren’t mentioned.)
- BigCommerce’s $39 plan supports unlimited products, 4 inventory locations, unlimited user accounts, and 50K revenue.
That’s a tremendous difference!
Before you settle on an e-commerce platform, it pays to think about your (at least) short-term growth goals. Are you more likely to add more products, add more revenue or add more employees who will need access to your platform? Compare your platform options in the areas where you are likely to grow, and see what best meets your needs now, and is likely to continue to do so in the future.
Also, check transaction fees (if there are any) and calculate how that will impact your profits now, and as you grow.
Best E-commerce platforms to look into
Here’s a rundown of the Top 13 most popular e-commerce platforms you should evaluate according to your answers to the above questions.
Shopify is a widely acclaimed e-commerce platform known for its user-friendly interface, extensive customization options, scalability, excellent customer support, comprehensive feature set, and marketplace full of useful integration and applications. A small to medium-sized business that requires a user-friendly and all-in-one e-commerce platform could be an ideal candidate for Shopify.
WooCommerce is a powerful e-commerce platform that operates as a plugin for WordPress, providing a customizable and feature-rich solution for online businesses. WooCommerce provides a robust e-commerce solution for businesses leveraging the power of WordPress. Its ease of use, extensive customization options, scalability, and wide range of integrations make it suitable for small to medium-sized businesses. While there may be a learning curve for beginners and additional costs for certain features, WooCommerce is probably the best free e-commerce platform if you already have a WordPress website
Magento (Adobe Commerce)
Magento (now owned by Adobe and officially named Adobe Commerce) is a robust and highly customizable e-commerce platform known for its scalability and extensive feature set. Pricing for Magento Commerce is tailored to individual business needs and typically involves licensing fees and a revenue-based pricing model. It is best suited for large-scale businesses with complex requirements.
Magento also has a free version: Magento Open Source, which provides a solid foundation for small to medium-sized businesses.
BigCommerce is a comprehensive and user-friendly e-commerce platform suitable for businesses of all sizes. Its ease of use, customization options, scalability, robust customer support, and security features make it an attractive choice for small to medium-sized businesses that require a comprehensive, user-friendly, and all-in-one e-commerce platform.
Volusion is a user-friendly e-commerce platform that offers competitive pricing and customization options. It provides the necessary features for businesses to build and manage online stores, although scalability and advanced customization capabilities may have some limitations. Volusion’s customer support is adequate, and the platform ensures mobile responsiveness and security. While the available integrations may be more limited compared to some other platforms, Volusion offers a solid foundation for businesses seeking a straightforward and reliable e-commerce solution.
Wix is a popular website builder that also offers e-commerce functionality, making it a user-friendly and visually appealing all-in-one solution for businesses looking to create an online store. Its ease of use, customization options, and customer support make it accessible to users with varying technical expertise, although scalability and advanced functionality may be somewhat limited compared to dedicated e-commerce platforms.
Squarespace is a popular website builder that also offers e-commerce capabilities, making it an attractive option for businesses looking to create an online store. An ideal candidate to get the most value out of Squarespace as an e-commerce platform would be a small business that prioritizes visually stunning design, simplicity, and seamless integration with its existing website.
PrestaShop is a powerful and customizable open-source e-commerce platform suitable for businesses of various sizes. While it may require some technical knowledge and additional costs for hosting and customizations, PrestaShop provides a highly customizable and feature-rich e-commerce platform with a focus on cost-effectiveness and flexibility.
OpenCart is a popular open-source e-commerce platform that provides a robust set of features for creating and managing online stores. Its ease of use, customization options, and active user community make it an attractive choice for users with basic technical skills
Shift4Shop (formerly known as 3dcart) is a comprehensive, user-friendly, scalable platform that offers a range of features for businesses to create and manage online stores. The pricing model of Shift4Shop’s platform is unique and very attractive (it has to be the cheapest e-commerce platform out there that’s not open-source), but currently only available in the USA: the entire end-to-end platform, including all its premium features and marketing capabilities, is free if you process more than $500 per month through the platform.
Ecwid is a user-friendly and scalable e-commerce platform suitable for businesses of various sizes. It offers transparent pricing, extensive payment gateway support, SEO capabilities, mobile responsiveness, and a wide range of available integrations.
X-Cart is a more expensive, higher-end e-commerce platform than most of the other platforms in this guide, but if you need extensive customization and integration ability (for example, you can create your own multi-vendor marketplace with X-Cart), then it’s worth it.
nopCommerce is a powerful open-source e-commerce platform with a strong focus on design customization, scalability, and robust e-commerce features.
Picking the right e-commerce platform for your business is a crucial decision that can significantly impact your online success. Take the time to research and evaluate each platform in light of your business today and where you see your business going in the future. By carefully considering factors such as scalability, customization, customer support, pricing, and integration options, you can identify the platform that aligns best with your goals and objectives. The right platform should empower you to showcase your products effectively, provide a seamless shopping experience and drive your business growth in the competitive world of e-commerce.