Updated March 23, 2018
From ease of use to offered themes and everything in between, we break down the good and the bad on the top 7 eCommerce platforms (in no specific order) so you can successfully start and run your own ecommerce store.
WooCommerce is great for: WordPress users in need of a simple eCommerce option
WooCommerce is an incredibly popular eCommerce plugin for online store owners around the world — the company claims to power 39 percent of the web’s online stores. The open-source program offers users highly-customizable options for the appearance and functionality of their store. WooCommerce’s primary disadvantage is that it’s not a standalone eCommerce platform, but rather a plugin specifically for WordPress. WooCommerce users will need to use WordPress as their Content Management System in order to configure their online store.
- Free WordPress plugin
- Easy to use if you’re familiar with WordPress
- Able to use basically any WordPress theme you want (thousands to choose from)
- Built-in payments via PayPal and Stripe, while also accepting checks, bank transfers and cash on delivery payments
- Unlimited products and product categories
- Hundreds of plugins available
- No limitations to how you can monitor your store
- You have total control over your data
- Offers various plugins to help your site be better optimized for SEO
- As an open source software, it’s free, but you have to pay third-party sites to actually run your eCommerce store (pay for hosting, SSL certificate and domain)
- The process of setting it up can take a few hours, depending on your web knowledge. You have to get a domain name, sign up for a hosting account, install WordPress and then install a WordPress theme before you can install the WooCommerce plugin
- File storage is limited by your web host
Shopify is great for: New and seasoned business owners alike, looking for a solid, powerful eCommerce one-stop-shop.
Unlike WooCommerce, Shopify is a standalone eCommerce platform; you don’t need to host your site somewhere else in order to use it. According to Google trends, Shopify stands out as something of an eCommerce darling, outranking other platforms many times over in popularity.
[Screenshot from ecommerce-platforms.com]
The platform is user-friendly, intuitive, and easy to set up. Pricing is affordable and straightforward ($29/month for new businesses) and includes a number of free features, like unlimited file storage and products, social media integration, and a blog module.
But no platform is perfect. Here are the pros and cons of using Shopify:
- Easy to set up (seriously, you can be done in minutes)
- Offers more than 100 high-quality, fashionably sleek themes
- Cheap, straightforward pricing for new businesses ($29/month for the basic option)
- Can try the platform for free for 14 days
- Offers numerous free features, i.e. unlimited file storage, social media integration, unlimited number of products, daily backups, blog module, site stats, product reports and more
- Can use it online and offline
- Allows for various payment options, i.e. PayPal, Stripe, bank deposits and cash on delivery
- Known for its superior customer care, 24/7 access to a customer adviser
- Shopify partners are always accessible
- Only about 20 of their store templates are free. The others can run as high as $180.
- Advanced Shopify option costs $299/month
- If you don’t use Shopify Payment, you get charged an additional transaction fee on each sale
- Shopify, not you, controls your eCommerce store and site’s data
- Uses liquid markup language, meaning system customizations are possible, just for additional costs
BigCommerce is great for: Businesses in search of quick growth and SEO optimization.
BigCommerce claims their merchants grow at a rate of 28%, twice the growth rate of other eCommerce businesses in the industry. That, combined with the fact that BigCommerce works with some big-name companies like Camelbak and Toyota, paint an appealing picture for potential customers. BigCommerce is extremely SEO-friendly, comes with competitive pricing, and offers users unlimited products, staff accounts, and bandwidth. However, unlike other platforms, it doesn’t offer a selection of free themes.
- No hosting, update or maintenance expenses
- Not charged a transaction fee
- Clear dashboard and direction to easily build your site in a few, short minutes
- Offers unlimited products, bandwidth and staff accounts
- Provides a comprehensive list of built-in features, i.e. coupons, newsletters, tax system, customized shipping, analytics and more
- Very SEO-friendly
- Pricing is similar to others, with their standard plan costing $29.95/month
- Receive customer support through phone, email, live chat or the forum
- Lack of free themes compared to other platforms
- Recurring billing isn’t built right into the platform
- Annual limit on sales volume with each plan
Magento is great for: Small business owners and enterprise-level businesses alike.
An impressive number of Fortune-500 companies use Magento as their eCommerce platform of choice, in part because it’s impressively responsive and scalable. While users can select from a list of pre-designed, mobile-optimized templates, developers can also create powerful custom themes and easily tweak/add to existing themes. Magneto’s open-source code makes complete customization easy, but don’t get scared away if you’re a small business owner with limited website building experience. Magento stays pretty user-friendly for the non-coders among us, with the added benefit of more customization options as your business grows.
Here are the pros and cons of using Magento:
- Seamless user experience
- Open source platform, meaning there’s a lot you can customize
- Offers thousands of apps and extensions, including a free social extension so you can sell on social media
- No charge to download the software
- No transaction fees
- Allows for an unlimited number of products
- Offers more than 100 free themes
- 100% SEO-friendly
- Being an open source platform, it can make customization complex, so you might have to hire a good developer unless you’re really tech-savvy
- Self-hosted so you have to find and pay for a hosting provider and domain name
- Doesn’t offer access to a 24/7 support person, but there are support forms you can check out
Volusion is great for: Coders/Developers (or very patient non-coders) willing to put more effort into building their site to save money.
Volusion’s main pull is affordability: You can build a full online store, selling up to 100 products, for $15/month — significantly lower than the average “basic” plan with other eCommerce platforms. There are also no transaction fees on any of their plans, meaning Volusion won’t take a cut of your each of your transactions.
However, the platform is generally less user-friendly than other eCommerce sites. While Volusion now provides a step-by-step wizard to walk you through building your store, basic tasks like re-ordering pages or creating a new one do not feel intuitive. In many ways, it feels more like a platform for developers rather than average business owners.
- Only costs $15/month for their mini plan
- Can try it for free for 14 days
- No transaction fees
- Good marketing features
- Intuitive interface
- Simple frontend
- Responsive design
- Social media options so you can sell and share online
- Can set up a customer loyalty program
- Can integrate to sell on Amazon and eBay as well
- Offers 24/7 support through different formats
- Not too many awesome design options (28 free themes, 88 paid ones)
- Really need coding knowledge if you’re going to change the design or layout of any of your site pages
- Limited add-ons
- Restricted bandwidth (1GB to 35GB based on plan) and has overage fees
- Limited number of products on 3 of their 4 plans
LemonStand is great for: Fast-growing companies working with a developer for a customized, high-powered online store.
LemonStand is specifically designed for companies growing at a rapid pace. It’s well-suited for new business owners who don’t want to customize their site much, but really shines for companies who want code access and options for full customization. As such, LemonStand generally assumes users will be working with experienced developers to set up their site, which — while pretty intuitive — is not specifically catered to beginners.
- Intuitive user interface for solid ease of use
- Highly-customizable. You’re not limited by your themes.
- Fixed pricing plans starting at $19/month
- No transaction fees
- Integrated blog and CMS
- Advanced SEO options
- Good customer support
- Not really for beginners. While their 13 free themes are well-designed, you cannot customize them much beyond the colors. That’s why the site is best suited for developers
- Rise in cost. If you go over the order limit for your plan every month for three months, you are automatically upgraded to the next plan
- Lackluster analytics and reporting options compared to competitors
3Dcart is great for: Smaller businesses and beginners interested in mobile/social selling
3Dcart is an easy-to-use, all-in-one eCommerce platform. While it comes with pretty good customization options for more experienced developers, it’s interface doesn’t leave the beginner’s behind: There are introduction wizards and tutorial videos built directly into the platform. It is more user-friendly than other customization-focused platforms like Magneto and LemonStand. Unlike some others, 3Dcart comes with built-in mobile selling so you can sell through social sites and connect your store to sites like eBay, Shopzilla, and Amazon.
- 80+ free templates, many of which are well designed, plus many more paid templates
- Intuitive, beginner-friendly user interface
- Even the entry-level account quite features rich
- Robust customer support
- All plans offer unlimited products, bandwidth, and storage; With no transaction fees
- Powerful and secure shopping cart
- While the site can be customized, it is less customizable than some competitors and you’ll need a developer’s help.
- Many features are not available unless you upgrade to the higher plans
- POS system only works with limited devices
Knowing what your shop’s goals are, what you need and what you can live without, and using our helpful pro-con list, you can decide which ecommerce platform is the best fit for your business.