Top Ecommerce Platforms 2017

An online store builder can help you create and manage an online store without any technical or ecommerce experience. After switching around and using different online store builders for my ecommerce site, I made a list of the top ecommerce platforms that you should consider trying.

By opening an online store, you are exposing your products to millions of online shoppers worldwide.

According to a recent survey by Forrester Research, about 190 million of US consumers (nearly half of the US population) will shop online. According to the survey results, shoppers now make 51% of their purchases online and 44% of smartphone users made a purchase using their mobile device.

Looking at the results from the survey, ecommerce is accelerating and online shopping is at an all-time high. You can finally make your dream of running an online store a reality – and a profitable one too.

Hosted vs Self-hosted ecommerce platform

Before you start, it is crucial to decide whether you want to use a hosted solution or use a self-hosted solution. Each has its benefits, but most users tend to lean towards using a hosted solution because of ease of use.

There is a big advantage of using a hosted platform compared to using a self-hosted platform.

In short: a hosted platform is easier to use, offers a much quicker process to launch a store, and does not require your own web hosting. Most of the necessary ecommerce features are included into the platform, so you do not need to install third-party apps. In addition, you do not have to worry about updates as everything is done by the platform.

On the other hand, a self-hosted platform is usually free and gives you complete control over every function of your store. Self-hosted platforms integrate well with external plugins and extensions. However, you need to buy your own web hosting and you have to take care of the security and platform updates.

9 factors to consider

  1. What you are selling: The type of products that you are selling can determine what ecommerce platform you can or cannot use. Some online store builders are built to handle both digital and physical products, while others only set up to handle one or the other.
  2. Inventory size: Whether you are selling a single product or thousands of different products, make sure that the ecommerce platform you choose allows you to sell your entire inventory.
  3. Your hosting or theirs: The next thing to decide is if you want the ecommerce platform to host the store for you or if you want to host your store on your own hosting. While hosting your store on your own website gives you the most control, it also requires the most maintenance and security as you will be responsible for both.
  4. Design options: Most ecommerce platforms (hosted and self-hosted) offer pre-built ecommerce templates that you can use for your store – some templates are free, while others must be purchased.
  5. Integrations you already use: If you are already using QuickBooks for accounting or MailChimp for your email marketing, see if the services you already use recommend a specific ecommerce platform. You can also see if the platform can integrate with the services you are already using (or plan on using).
  6. Payment gateways: Do you want your customers to pay via PayPal, Stripe, Authorize.net, or a specific payment gateway? If so, make sure that the ecommerce platform you are considering using works with them as well.
  7. Ecommerce features: Depending on the type of store you need to build, you are going to need a specific set of ecommerce features. Make sure that the platform you are considering offers the features that you will need.
  8. Pricing: You need a platform that you can afford, not one that you will worry about paying every month.
  9. Additional fees: Review all of the fees before you make a final decision. Some platforms charge setup fees, transaction fees (this is on top of what your payment gateway charges), fees for integrating with the services you already use, and fees for the templates you might want to use.

Top Ecommerce Platforms for small business

When comparing online store builders, I recommend choosing the platform that you can afford and offers the features that you need for your online store. Every ecommerce platform has the option to integrate additional features onto your store, so do not worry if every single feature that you need is not included. And remember this: you will never find an online store builder that has everything that you need.

Here are the best ecommerce software platforms to build an ecommerce store (these are hosted solutions which are ideal for beginners and first-time users):

1. BigCommerce

BigCommerce

Price: $29.95 to $199.95 a month
Transaction Fees: None
Bandwidth: Unlimited
Products: Unlimited

BigCommerce Pros:

  • Comprehensive set of built-in ecommerce features (from email marketing to abandoned cart recovery).
  • User-friendly platform that makes it easy to build and manage an online store.
  • Strong search engine optimization (SEO) tools to help you rank higher on search engines such as Google, Bing, etc.
  • BigCommerce does not charge any setup fees.
  • A 10% discount for all annual plan prepayments.
  • The option to create unlimited staff accounts for your employees.
  • An Enterprise solution that is geared towards large online stores that need more resources (custom pricing).
  • Extensive ecommerce education section that teaches you how to sell online (Ecommerce University, ecommerce community forum, and ecommerce blog).

BigCommerce Cons:

  • Annual sales volume limitation on every plan (e.g. $50,000 a year for Standard plan, $125,000 a year for the Pro plan, 1 million a year for the Plus plan, and unlimited revenue on the Enterprise plan).
  • Recurring billing (a must for those selling subscription-based products) is not built into the platform (you will have to install a third-party app to use this feature).

Companies using BigCommerce: Gazelle, Payless, and Toyota.

Review: BigCommerce Review

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2. Shopify

Shopify

Price: $9 to $179 a month
Transaction Fees: Up to 2% (can be waived)
Bandwidth: Unlimited
Products: Unlimited

Shopify Pros:

  • One of the easiest to build an online store (you can build a functional store very quickly).
  • A large number of third-party apps that help extend the functionality of your store.
  • User-friendly admin backend.
  • Multi-language and multi-currency store and checkout pages.
  • Integrated Shopify Point of Sale system that gives you the option to connect your online store and your physical store.
  • Shopify does not charge any setup fees.
  • Shopify is more affordable than most other hosted ecommerce platforms.
  • You can sign up for the Shopify Plus that is an enterprise-grade solution for high volume merchants.
  • Many different ecommerce resources to help you sell online (ecommerce encyclopedia, forum, and free ecommerce tools).
  • You can connect with hundreds of Shopify setup experts, designers, developers, marketers, and photographs.

Shopify Cons:

  • Transaction fees ranging from 0 to 2%, depending on the plan you choose. Shopify’s transaction fees can be waived by using their in-house credit card payment processing service.
  • All of the ecommerce templates use liquid markup language which is a custom template language created by Shopify and written in Ruby.
  • Cheaper plans limit key ecommerce features (e.g. $29 a month plan does not include gift cards, abandoned cart recovery, and real-time shipping carrier rates).

Companies using Shopify: Tesla, Google, and Wikipedia.

Review: Shopify Review

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3. Volusion

Volusion

Price: $15 to $135 a month
Transaction Fees: None
Bandwidth: 1 GB to 35 GB
Products: 100 to unlimited

Volusion Pros:

  • Simplified store management tools.
  • Unlimited product options (e.g. color, size, and texture).
  • Soft add to cart option – this allows customers to add items to cart and view their cart without leaving the product page.
  • Built-in ecommerce education and services (ecommerce blog, SEO guides, and Volusion experts).
  • Intuitive interface that gives you the option to build and manage an ecommerce store.
  • Advanced security options for your online store.
  • Volusion has been in business since 1999 and has built a good reputation in the ecommerce industry.
  • An Enterprise solution that is geared towards large online stores that need more resources.
  • A 10% discount for annual plan prepayments and 10% discount for running multiple stores on Volusion.

Volusion Cons:

  • Limited bandwidth on all plans (1 GB to 35 GB). Current bandwidth overage fees are set at $7 per GB over the allotted monthly limit.
  • With the exception of the Premium plan ($135 a month), all other plans have a limitation on the number of products that you can add to your store.
  • Poor design options – the included ecommerce themes are basic and need extensive updating.
  • Volusion does not have a large amount of third-party applications.

Companies using Volusion: Toni & Guy, This American Life, and Jane Seymour Botanicals.

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4. CoreCommerce

CoreCommerce

Price: $40 to $600 a month
Transaction Fees: None
Bandwidth: 4 GB to unlimited
Products: 300 to unlimited

CoreCommerce Pros:

  • Strong set of marketing features to help you kick-start promotions.
  • Real-time shipping rates from major carriers such as USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc.
  • User-friendly admin interface.
  • CoreCommerce offers 201 free responsive and non-responsive ecommerce themes that you can use for your online store.
  • A large number of helpful ecommerce education guides and tutorials.
  • A 12% discount for all annual plan prepayments. Nonprofit organizations get a 50% discount on all plans.
  • Enterprise plan includes semi-dedicated hosting which offers improved performance.

CoreCommerce Cons:

  • CoreCommerce is expensive for ecommerce – when compared to other ecommerce platforms.
  • Poor integration with third-party and external applications.
  • With the exception of the Premier and Enterprise plans, the 3 remaining plans limit the number of products that you can add to your store.
  • With the exception of the Enterprise plan, the 4 remaining plans limit the number of email accounts that you can create.

Companies using CoreCommerce: Ready Set Go Kits, Back On Track, and Imperial Media.

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5. 3dcart

3dcart

Price: $9.99 to $499.99 a month
Transaction Fees: None
Bandwidth: 2 GB to 250 GB
Products: 10 to unlimited

3dcart Pros:

  • Integrates well with external payment gateways (PayPal, Stripe, Authorize.net, etc.).
  • Supports drop shipping and wholesale ordering system.
  • Built-in point of sale system that connects your online store and your physical store.
  • Strong marketing features and search engine optimization (SEO) tools.
  • Consistent platform updates (new ecommerce features are constantly added).
  • Reliable phone and chat support.
  • A scalable Enterprise plan solution for high volume stores.
  • 68 free ecommerce themes and 45 premium ecommerce themes.
  • 15% discount on all annual plan prepayments.

3dcart Cons:

  • With the exception of the Enterprise plan, the remaining 3dcart plans offer limited bandwidth (2 GB to 250 GB). Current bandwidth overage fees are set at $5 per GB over the allotted monthly limit.
  • Bugs and clutter in the admin panel that makes it difficult to find some ecommerce features.
  • No external app store, limited app and module selection.
  • 3dcart hosts only 23,000 online stores, which means that 3dcart is not an ecommerce platform that appeals to a lot of stores.

Companies using 3dcart: Candy, Diaper Junction, and LA Minerals.

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6. Pinnacle Cart

Pinnacle Cart

Price: $29.95 to $149.95 a month
Transaction Fees: None
Bandwidth: 1 GB to 50 GB
Products: 10 to unlimited

Pinnacle Cart Pros:

  • Sell unlimited number of products on every plan.
  • Powerful multi-lingual and multi-currency options.
  • The option to create multiple administrator logins under the same account.
  • Free store migration service (you can transfer an existing store to Pinnacle Cart from over 40 different ecommerce platforms).
  • Supports drop shipping and wholesale ordering.
  • Integrated with built-in recurring billing.
  • Real-time shipping rates from UPS, FedEx (not available in Canada), USPS, and Canada Post.
  • Received an A rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
  • Trusted and used by large companies.
  • 2 scalable Enterprise plans for larger companies that need more resources.
  • An 8% discount for annual plan prepayments.

Pinnacle Cart Cons:

  • Bandwidth limitations on every plan. The current bandwidth overage cost is $3.50 per GB.
  • No built-in Point of Sale (POS) system.
  • No product comparison feature (customers do not have the option to compare multiple products side by side).
  • No sufficient explanation for more complex features.
  • No free shared SSL certificate (you have to buy your own).

Companies using Pinnacle Cart: Discovery Channel, CBS Sports, and Corona.

Review: Pinnacle Cart

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7. Squarespace Commerce

Squarespace

Price: $16 to $26 a month
Transaction Fees: 2 to 3%
Bandwidth: Unlimited
Products: Unlimited

Squarespace Commerce Pros:

  • Huge selection of design templates that are truly professional and beautiful (you can upload your own template as well).
  • User-friendly admin backend.
  • You do not have to worry about installing external plugins, apps, or widgets when you use Squarespace.
  • You have the option to accept donations.
  • Web hosting is optimized for ecommerce stores.
  • Free domain name with annual plan.
  • An SSL certificate is included with every plan.
  • A 25% discount for annual plan prepayments.

Squarespace Commerce Cons:

  • Personal plan ($16 a month) has a restriction on the number of pages you can create (20 pages).
  • When you factor in the transaction fees, Squarespace is a bit expensive.
  • There is a lack of advanced marketing tools.
  • All features must be released by Squarespace, which means you have less control over your functionality.

Companies using Squarespace Commerce: Tony Hawk, Tokyo Bike, and Hinge.

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Free online store builders

If you do not want to pay for a hosted ecommerce platform and feel more comfortable using a self-hosted solution, here is a list of the best self-hosted ecommerce platforms (I recommend hosting your WooCommerce or Magento store with SiteGround):

1. WooCommerce

WooCommerce

Price: Free
Transaction Fees: None
Bandwidth: Varies on your hosting selection
Products: Unlimited

WooCommerce Pros:

  • Integrates well onto an existing WordPress website.
  • You can sell just about everything – from digital to physical products of all shapes and sizes.
  • With the exception of having to buy your own web hosting, the WooCommerce plugin is free and will not cost you a penny to use.
  • It is updated on a regular basis, so it will always be compatible with newer versions of WordPress.
  • Large community support, so it is easy to get advice.
  • Thousands of free and premium themes that you can install on your store.
  • You have complete control of your store including taxes, inventory, and customer accounts.
  • Extensive list of supported payment options such as PayPal, major credit cards, bank transfers, and cash on delivery.
  • Powers over 39% of all online stores.

WooCommerce Cons:

  • You cannot use WooCommerce without linking it to WordPress.
  • WooCommerce does not offer a hosted solution, so you have to take care of the security and web hosting.
  • For advanced features, you have to install plugins and extensions.
  • Code customization cost is very high.
  • You have to buy your own web hosting.

Companies using WooCommerce: Xero Shoes, Luvd, and Tokki.

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2. Magento (Community Edition)

Magento

Price: Free
Transaction Fees: None
Bandwidth: Varies on your hosting selection
Products: Unlimited

Magento Pros:

  • The community edition is free and is a good option for small to medium sized businesses.
  • Magento has a large community of users, who have developed many plugins and extensions, which will help you in real-time.
  • Magento is a feature-rich platform that allows you to manage multiple storefronts and add multiple currencies, and multiple languages to your store. All of this is done from a user-friendly user interface with enhanced navigation options.
  • Magento integrates well with external plugins and extensions.
  • It is the most used platform for ecommerce.
  • Supports hundreds of different payment options such as PayPal, Authorize.net, Stripe, and others.
  • You have complete control over all aspects of your store.

Magento Cons:

  • You need to buy your own web hosting.
  • The community edition is clunky and slow at times – regardless of the web host you use.
  • Platform updates can cause glitches and errors.
  • It is time-consuming to build an online store.
  • You need to be comfortable with customizations (even to add basic functions).

Companies using Magento: Sam’s Club, United Airlines, and Shop Heritage.

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Why I recommend BigCommerce for ecommerce?

Whether you are building a store for your own business or working on a project for a client, every online store builder above is worth looking at. While every ecommerce platform above is more than capable of helping you build a professional ecommerce store, there is one platform that stands out.

Out of all the ecommerce platforms that I have either used for my business or tested for a client, BigCommerce is the solution I trust and recommend heavily for ecommerce. Their platform is flexible and has very little limitations on what you can accomplish. BigCommerce gives you the tools to build simple and complex stores from one centralized location without any prior ecommerce experience.

Not only is it good for beginners, the platform is also an excellent candidate for developers and other advanced users that need to build something special to “wow” their visitors.

Top Ecommerce Platforms – Conclusion

As mentioned above, my choice for ecommerce is BigCommerce.

But, at the end of the day, you can build and manage a store with every platform on this page. It all comes down to your level of expertise, willingness to learn, and the type of products you are selling.

Gut feeling is always the best decision maker. Go with the platform that you feel comfortable with and the one that you feel is right for your business.

I hope that after reading this post, you are able to determine which online store builder is good for you. If not, you can try them all for free here:

Hosted platforms:

Free online store builders:

Which ecommerce platform do you use and recommend for ecommerce?

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