Aligato 2.0 As The Newest Platform for E-Commerce

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Contents

AligatoCoin A new dimension of e-commerce

ICO ended

Do you think that you have seen everything?
In that case, we present you the revolutionary project Aligato 2.0 ™, and with it its core – AligatoCoin

What Is the Project About?

The e-commerce market in Poland and the world is growing at a dizzying pace. Very quickly, it is absorbing new technologies to make life easier for everyone using e-commerce platforms. However, these few companies, which are the leaders in the global market, introduce the required improvements too slowly, or not at all. At Aligato, we think that it can be done better.

The foundation of the Aligato 2.0 platform on top of the blockchain will ensure safety, stability and transparency at a level unattainable by the solutions available so far. The Pay via Eye payment system, operating through ordinary cameras in smartphones or computers, will additionally strengthen the security of buyers. Artificial intelligence will facilitate shopping, searching for items and any interaction with the platform. Autonomous delivery drones automate the final stage of product delivery to the customer, and the entire system will be based on the existing infrastructure. Its introduction will therefore not be long-term.

The vision set here is not a distant future. The Aligato team is in the process of developing appropriate technological, logistical and legislative solutions. Some parts are already patented.

  • Implementation of Artificial Intelligence
  • Innovative logistic solutions
  • The professional support team
  • Globalization
  • Our Mission
  • Our Goals
  • Our Values

The implementation of deeply learning Artificial Intelligence will enable us to ensure the user’s comfort and the maximum time savings.

The system will facilitate both the sale process and the purchase process. It will remember the clients’ preferences and adjust the offers to their individual needs. It will also be helpful in publishing sale offers and auctions: when you enter a few basic parameters, it will suggest how to optimize the offer and adjust it to match your perfect vision.

We know that the human is and will remain irreplaceable in many aspects of life. In certain areas, however, technology achieves results unattainable to the human hands and brain. We believe that one area is a large part of logistics: parcel delivery.

Our flagship idea is to create a system consisting of fully automated, infallible delivery drones utilizing our innovative solutions in the scope of warehouse surface, as well as ecological, renewable sources of energy. The concept itself is already present on the market as far as plans are concerned, but our patented solutions combined with an innovative approach to many elements in which we specialize will leave the competition far behind.

Certainly, our goal requires significant financial outlays. We believe that your support during the ICO, as well as cooperation with strategic partners within the industry, will enable us to implement our global, future-oriented vision as soon as possible.

However, Aligato will not be entirely based on automation and Artificial Intelligence. Wherever the human is irreplaceable, our qualified staff will be at your service. We want its members to solve the users’ problems on a running basis. We wish their every response to confirm the users in their belief that it is the client that is most important on Aligato.

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Moreover, our management and bookkeeping system will assist you in the issues related to taxes, accounting, invoices and management.

Our goal is to make life easier regardless of origin or culture. We know that improving the quality of people’s lives will result in our organic growth. Therefore, since we have confidence in our solutions, we will do our best to reach the greatest possible number of people in the shortest time possible. We are aware that we will need strategic partners and alliances based on mutual interest to achieve it.

You can rest assured that we will strive for such alliances as soon as we begin implementing our ideas. Therefore, we hope that you will also notice the potential of our project and be willing to support us and AligatoCoin at the very beginning of our way. We will establish a small alliance with you and, in line with our principles, it will be beneficial to both of us.

Do something for the first time, then do it better, and then do it better and faster – then you can call yourself a professional. David Belle

The AligatoCoin Mission:

To be a trustworthy, reliable, and professional company that offers its CUSTOMERS with the best possible conditions for conclusion of commodity and service sale and purchase transactions online.

Our business activity is most of all governed by:

  • quality,
  • competencies,
  • high standards,
  • professionalism,

The strategic goal of AligatoCoin is to win a strong and stable position in the global e-commerce market by providing high quality services, effective marketing actions, development of the artificial intelligence, all governed by the team’s top skills and abilities. We want to achieve that all by playing by the rules as our ethics and morale are one of our greatest assets.

The ethical and business patterns that we follow make the actions taken by us highly valuable and efficient; they describe the way we deal with Customers, Contractors, and Employees, as well as the way in which we carry out our mission.

10 Best Ecommerce Platforms Compared & Rated For 2020

Our top ecommerce platforms are based on objective performance data, feature set and, value. Compare the best ecommerce website builders to find one that fits your needs.

Ecommerce Platforms Comparison

Best Platform For Small Business

Best Platform For Startups

Best Ecommerce Platform For SEO

Best Platform For Dropshipping

Best Platform For Local Brick And Mortar

Best Platform For Large Businesses

Ecommerce Platform Recommendations

Here Are The Best Ecommerce Platforms

Top Ecommerce Platforms Compared

From cool marketing features to drool-worthy SEO, multichannel functionality, and more. Compare these best ecommerce platforms.

All vendors say they’re faster, more reliable, better geared for search engine optimization, PCI ready for credit cards, etc. than the competition. But what’s the reality?

The last thing I want is for you to customize your ecommerce site and load up your products only to have it running super slow. Or find out you need to spend an additional $399 a month to sync your inventory to Amazon and dropship products.

We decided to compare the features, performance, ease of use, design & themes, and integrations of the top ecommerce platforms using real site data. You’ll learn which platform meets your needs, performs the best, and gives you value to dominate your niche.

Additional Comparisons

Our Review And Testing Methodology

If you want real data, you have to run a lot of tests and have a systematic method of reviewing platforms for online stores. I only included the most popular platforms. I didnt include smaller, niche companies like Big Cartel.

Here is a brief explanation of how we got our results:

Objectively Choosing Sites From Each Platform

  • We used BuiltWith to find the 10 most popular ecommerce platforms
  • We created a filter to find active ecommerce sites running on each platform that spent at least $500 per month. This is a critical key difference between the original study. In the original study, we didn’t do this, and it created an unfair comparison. You can set up WooCommerce for super cheap compared to Shopify. If you are paying monthly for Shopify, you are more likely to be trying to market the site. So the previous study included under marketed (dead sites).
  • We pulled a giant spreadsheet for all the websites on each platform (ex. our Magento list had 5K+ sites)
  • Used RAND function in Google Sheets to assign a random number to each row
  • Collected data on the first 100 websites on each platform (100 sites x 10 platforms = 1000 sites)

Collecting Data On the 1,000 Sites We Studied:
Used a team of 4 researchers (myself included) to collect data for each website

  • Load time from Pingdom
  • Mobile PageSpeed, Mobile UX and Mobile Friendliness From Google using URL Profiler
  • Ranking Data From Ahrefs

Converting Raw Scores Into Meaningful Ratings
In our research, we measured overall scores in an average of value, features, performance, ease of use, design & themes, and integrations.

  • Performance scores are based on storefront page load time, Google speed, SEO features, and ranking.
  • Features are based on must-have and nice to have marketing features. Features were rated higher if they were included free, and lower if they were paid add ons.
  • Ease of use is based on beginner friendliness, support available, partners/community involvement, app/plugins and their ratings, certified partners/community base, and developer friendliness.
  • Integration looks at the ability to sell across multiple channels (ex. Amazon), compatibility with various business models (dropshipping) and other marketing automation integration. This is all about scalability as your online business grows.
  • Design and theme scores are based on availability & number of free themes, mobile design rating, Google mobile UX score, mobile friendliness, and cost of premium themes.

BigCommerce

Overview

BigCommerce is the best overall ecommerce platform. Its robust product search engine makes it ideal for larger retail brands. It’s also a good choice for people who want to start an ecommerce store, or who have a brick and mortar store and want to expand their operations to include online orders. Its available tools make it possible for any niche or industry to be successful.

The interface allows you to customize your online shop without having to know how to code by using any of the customizable templates to design your store, sell and market your products. It’s aimed at those without so much web dev skills, but it also allows tech-savvy people to tweak the HTML and CSS.

I love BigCommerce themes; you will see advanced and buyer-centric templates in the store, however only very few are free. Two to be exact with variations on both making a total of seven free themes.

On the fly side, there’s a broad community of designers and developers. The partner directory helps you find experts for an extra hand.

As for pricing, the lowest plan costs 29.95/month. Some goodies like checkout codes, gift cards, unlimited bandwidth, and professional reporting come along. However, you don’t get a custom SSL or abandoned cart saver, but it’s still really good for simple stores not getting sales worth more than 50k per year. As the plan goes higher, so does the sales limit.

  • Flexible and scalable
  • Excels with multi-channel selling
  • Strong SEO Performance
  • Fantastic Theme Designs
  • Comprehensive abandoned cart feature
  • Inconsistent speeds in consecutive studies
  • Gets expensive for high volume stores
  • Cart abandonment isn’t on entry plan
  • No 1-click Selling/Upsells

Shopify

Shopify is the best platform at selling. If you plan to drop ship, rely on Facebook Ads or Instagram marketing – this is the best choice. I wouldn’t use Shopify if I was going to rely on SEO. I also wouldn’t use Shopify if I were creating a large store with many products. I’d use BigCommerce instead.

Shopify is slightly better in several areas over BigCommerce such as post-purchase 1-click upsells – but far behind in terms of performance.

I’ve used Shopify on my site before and have worked with many Shopify sites in the past, but I like WordPress better because I have an affiliate revenue model in addition to products.
It’s easy to set up the online store with Shopify’s drag and drop interface. Most beginners to website development can get the hang of it in a few minutes.

Their apps are far too many to list.

They also have the Shopify POS for simple brick and mortar stores looking to take payments via the mobile app. Complex stores can use it as well.
Like everything else, they have downsides. The not-too-bad one is that they have just 10 free themes right now. The paid themes hover around $100 to $180.
The big disadvantage they have is SEO. Weak ranking performance highlights one of my concerns with their SEO.

Also, they have a rigid URL structure; you cannot change sections of it. I’ve seen many strange unstructured URLs in Shopify sites well beyond the /products/, /pages/, and /collections/ slug restrictions. I also noticed during our research that websites using Shopify have weak ranking. In terms of SEO, Shopify is very middle of the pack at best.
Finally, they charge transaction fees if you are not using Shopify Payments. And no one likes those. Then again, Shopify Payments is a solid option.

  • Lighting fast load time
  • Super easy to set up
  • Lots of certified partners to help you
  • 1-Click selling
  • Allows multiple channel and social selling
  • Great themes with varied designs

Constr

  • Rated poorly in SEO in consecutive studies.
  • Unable to customize the checkout process
  • Apps can add up and become costly
  • Need a developer for advanced features

3dcart

Since its release to the public in 2001, 3dcart has served over 22,000 online businesses with clientele including PCMag. They have some practical features like unlimited storage and no transaction fees. You can also use their POS, and they support multi-channel selling.

3dcart doesn’t do as well as BigCommerce and Shopify despite being older than they are and the reason is clear. It’s not for beginners. Although there is a nice onboarding video when you log into your dashboard, the whole operation is hard to figure out; the builder is not very visually appealing.

The templates they have are more industrial, but they feel outdated. Also, customizing the store takes a lot of time to understand and get used to except for experienced users because there’s no drag-and-drop functionality. Fortunately, there’s a community of developers willing to assist with theme development and other modifications.
I think one of their strongest points is in shipping; they provide advanced shipping solutions with no API required.

Similar to BigCommerce, 3dcart restricts the volume of sales you bring in on each plan. The lowest which costs $19 per month allows up to 50k.

The value overall is great. I still think it’s missing out by not offering abandoned cart saver as a core feature. Shopify made a move to make it included – really undercutting the competition. Nevertheless, it still has more features out of the box than Shopify.

  • Better blog feature than other SaaS ecommerce
  • Supports all the integrations you would need
  • Great business user management tools (email, QuickBooks, inventory, etc.)
  • Templates feel dated
  • Negative feedback on customer support
  • Potential issues upgrading
  • Not for beginners

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is the best single platform to run ecommerce and affiliate site under one roof. But the true ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce and Shopify sell better, but not by much.

It works with WordPress to turn any website into a functional ecommerce store. Also, there are extensions available for integrating payment gateways, social media, email marketing, 1-click selling, and shipping.

If you are familiar with the WordPress platform, then WooCommerce is a breeze for you. You only have to install it, add your own products and fix your settings.

People who aren’t familiar with WordPress will struggle with the technical details. That includes buying hosting, installing WordPress, setting up your theme and plugins.

The biggest problem though is not the setup; that can be solved with YouTube tutorials. The problem is scalability. Most users have reported it slowing down as they get more products and customers.

For cost, it is free. Few extensions have prices attached to them, and some WordPress themes are expensive. However, you might not need those extensions, and there are good free themes.

  • WordPress is the best platform for SEO
  • 1 Click selling app available
  • Lots of WordPress experts available
  • Highly customizable
  • Many marketing options and plenty of other integrations
  • Good hosting can be pricey
  • Have to deal with blame game for troubleshooting.
  • Virtually zero support
  • You need extensions for simple stuff

Volusion

Volusion was founded in 1999 but launched in 2002 as an ecommerce solution provider. It’s a great option for those selling physical products because for now automatic digital downloads after payment is not allowed.

Volusion provides an easy to use website builder with drag and drop and in-page editing. There are 11 free themes and a good number of premium themes. Those cost about $180, and you’ll also have to purchase an SSL certificate. That is a hefty extra cost that some other platforms provide for free.

It also doesn’t come with blogging capabilities which is a huge downer mostly in this day where building SEO with blogs is king. To get that, you’ll need to use a third party like WordPress and a plugin or other means to connect the blog to your store.

Their prices have a limitation to the number of products you can sell. The first two plans that cost $29 and $79 per month have restrictions of 100 and 5000 products respectively. That may change at some point because they used to have a limitation on bandwidth, but that is no more. The constant improvements give us hope.

Beginner support is a big thing; from the dashboard, you’ll immediately see tons of learning materials available on how to build your store step by step with Volusion, starting and growing your online business.

The dashboard is nicely structured with all of the main action areas in the top navigation menu. You can also manage inventory and work marketing from there. The marketing options include SEO, sell on Google, eBay, Amazon, social selling, rewards, and coupons.

All in all, it’s a solid platform for subscription ecommerce business. Dropshipping is also good but not print on demand. I would rate it higher if the Amazon integration were better, but that might not matter to you at all.

  • Great onboarding and help center
  • Great flexibility with Sitemaps
  • Built-in subscription/recurring payments
  • SMB friendly
  • Well laid out dashboard
  • Clear inventory and marketing system
  • Lacks up/cross selling features
  • Many sites had poor URL structure
  • One of the slower SaaS platforms
  • Many of the sites I studied looked VERY dated
  • No built-in blogging functionality

Prestashop

Founded in 2007, PrestaShop is an open-source and cloud-hosted ecommerce platform that gives the best overall value. You can either download the software and customize it to fit your needs for free or go with PrestaShop Ready which is the paid version for €24.90 per month or €19.90 if you pay yearly.

While the word “free” automatically makes most of us salivate, the other costs you will accrue with the free version might make the PrestaShop Ready look like a better option especially if you don’t have the technical skills.

With the free downloadable version, you’ll have to pay for web hosting, SSL certificate, and other modules to complete your store. Also, if you don’t have the heavy technical skills in HTML, CSS, and/or PHP, you’ll have to pay a developer. Nevertheless, that open-code allows extensive integration with couriers, payment gateways, accounting, warehouses, ERP, and more.

PrestaShop Ready is like the other hosted platforms. You have access to the 16 days trial or pay straight away. It comes with the SSL certificate.
There are ten themes (all free) available in the admin. You might need little knowledge of HTML and CSS as the theme customizer doesn’t have a drag and drop functionality.

The dashboard is straightforward and simple. There’s an onboarding video, but it’s not as comprehensive as Shopify. However, you can achieve most needs through modules that you enable with one click. Those allow better SEO working, Ads, Cross-selling, and social analytics.

  • Tons of apps/integrations available
  • Strong SEO
  • Options for both self-hosted and hosted
  • Open source very flexible
  • Large and ready-to-help community
  • Slower than the other builders
  • Add-ons can add up
  • Limited third-party marketing integrations
  • Developer skill needed to tweak
  • No multichannel functionalities on the hosted version

Weebly

Founded in 2006 and with about 40 million customers, Weebly is a great option for someone looking for a simple store with marketing automation built in. That will cost you $38 per month vs. using Shopify and Active Campaign ($29 + $17). But if you plan to do any type of marketing, you’ll quickly outgrow Weebly. Don’t use Weebly if SEO is important to you.

Until recently, there hasn’t been a solid focus on ecommerce, and as such, you wouldn’t find some of the sophistication that other top platforms have. Nevertheless, it remains an excellent choice for startup entrepreneurs or those who do not wish to hire a developer.

Weebly has three price plans, and though they all support ecommerce, the higher two (Business and Performance) are better suited for ecommerce businesses. The reason is that the starter plan is lacking in many relevant ecommerce features like custom shopping cart, coupons, and inventory management. Also, you can’t sell digital goods on it. For physical goods, you’re restricted to 25 products with a 3% transaction fee.

There’s a drag and drop editing tool and an option to use HTML and CSS to customize your template. About that, there are many free themes with premium themes at around $45. Not all are mobile responsive though so choose carefully.

Weebly is an easy to use platform. They offer the basic tools you need for a functional store without flashy extras to confuse you. You can upload products in bulk, and the dashboard is simple.

Another feature worthy of note is the mobile app that you can use to manage your business and print shipping labels.

  • Excellent value
  • Lowest price for ecommerce marketing automation
  • Stunning low cost and free designs
  • Powerful email tools
  • Simple dashboard that’s easy to use
  • Mobile app
  • Charges an additional transaction fee
  • Sucks with SEO
  • Amazon doesn’t seem to be on their radar
  • Inventory management is still very basic

Squarespace

Squarespace is another one of those platforms that offers drag-and-drop. Founded in 2003, they have sleek templates and design capabilities.
If you don’t need a lot of features, try them out. It’s also great for print on demand ecommerce business.

The prices are quite low. To start selling, you need to at least be on the Business website plan that’s $18/month when billed annually. Note that you’ll have to pay 3% on transaction fees.

You can escape that with any one of the ecommerce plans at $26 and $40. The top plan allows you to get abandoned cart auto recovery, sell subscriptions and gift cards, and give flexible discounts.

The package comes with all the basic features you’d expect from an ecommerce platform all arranged on the side menu.

The website design part is not that easy though. Their drag and drop editor is not as great as Weebly’s. You might have to try your hands on it a few times before you get the hang of it. When you have gotten past the website design phase, you’ll enjoy the access to marketing, inventory, social selling, SEO, and analytics features.

Squarespace integrates ShipStation and allows you to install Printul and ShipBob from the app section. Real-time calculation of shipping rates from major providers (UPS, FedEx, USPS) is also available.

The biggest downsides are payment processors and third-party applications. They only support Stripe and Paypal. As for the apps, they only integrate with very few third-party tools.

  • Easy To Set Up
  • Great For Simple Stores
  • Stunning Designs
  • Solid SEO tools
  • Integrates with ShipStation and ShipBob
  • No dropshipping
  • No marketing automation integration
  • No Amazon integration
  • Could be faster for the price
  • No app store for more features and functionalities

Magento

The large brands like Nike, Procter & Gamble, and Cisco trust Magento. Coding is an integral part of the package. So, if you have a developer or the budget for one – and want something truly customizable and powerful – Magento is a solid choice. You can do and undo till you get the feature-rich online store you want.

A big part of Magento is the community. It’s large with developers willing to work on your store for a fee or answer some of your questions free. There’s also a marketplace where you can get extensions and themes to increase the functionality of your platform.

Magento’s most used free, but there’s a paid level for enterprise solutions for large ecommerce businesses. It is expensive; the annual licensing fee runs in tens of thousands of dollars. That’s huge, but it’s on the cloud, faster, and comes with additional features including automatic trigger-based email campaigns and automatic cross /upsell.

Whichever you pick, you’ll enjoy the long list of features that you can extend. Things like discounts, recurring payments, ability to grind SEO, adjust content per user, membership subscriptions, unlimited products, and more.

  • Robust and feature rich
  • Strong SEO
  • 1-Click selling
  • Lots of users and community
  • Scalable and highly customizable
  • Flexible to choose where you want to host the software
  • Pricey themes.
  • Easily Slowed Down
  • Requires Development Skills
  • Virtually no support.
  • Requires ample space and memory to perform well

Wix would work for a simple store. You’ll have the best design choices on Wix. I would lean to other platforms at the price point.

I don’t understand how many reviews on Wix give the features 5 stars because they lack many features I would want and are needed in ecommerce. There’s no abandoned cart recovery.

In previous years, they’ve had significant issues with SEO. Few were resolved; some, like the short extra string to the URLs of blog posts and product pages still remain. That’s not ideal for SEO, especially for large ecommerce businesses.

As you grow, you might need to switch because aside from the limited features, the storage space is 20GB and if you are dealing with lots of heavy digital products or other materials, that space might not do.

It’s beginner friendly. Of all the top website builders that I’ve dealt with, Wix topped most for on-page customer support while creating the store.

You can drag and drop elements to add cool videos, functionality, and create the website you want. They have over 500 themes of which 72 are free. Unfortunately, you’re stuck with whatever theme you chose at the time of publishing your site except if you used their ADI.

Wix is still newer to the ecommerce space, and many users are requesting the features they lack. So I imagine it won’t be long before they catch up.

  • Tons of free amazing themes.
  • Really simple to use and set up
  • On-page support for numerous needs
  • 72 free themes
  • Trying hard to fight a bad SEO reputation. Made improvements, but tested very poorly.
  • Many sites were not secured
  • Lacks marketing features and integrations
  • Stuck with your site template

Best Ecommerce Platform For Small Business

Small businesses don’t need all the big features that suck out money from their bank. Asides the cost, the pricing structure of the platform is important – be it month to month or yearly payments and other fees.

In our testing, we also checked scalability. That looks at the features that help your website grow. Once your sales start to pick up, you’re going to want to scale your operations seamlessly. That means going multi-channel, selling on other platforms and even countries. You might also need apps made just for your business as you scale.

Best Ecommerce Platform For Startups & Beginners

The e-commerce market is booming, and internet-savvy individuals want to have an online store to connect with customers. Starting an ecommerce business also means coming face to face with every new trend that seems a basic necessity and high expectations from e-commerce platforms.

Like small businesses, startups also need a platform that allows them to scale effortlessly and break through the already existing guys. Since you might be entering the market as a big store owner, your platform needs to be able to handle what you bring in initially while giving room for more growth.

Our testing checked the functionalities that startups need. That includes SEO, good UX design, marketing inputs, and the ability to sell on multiple platforms like mobile apps and social networks.

Look at each platform’s performance based on these metrics.

Ease of Use

First-time ecommerce entrepreneurs should be able to launch and run a store on their own without having to call a developer for every last thing. So we gave extra weight for the ability to set up and run your store code free.

Platform Ease of Use Phone Support 24/7 Support Chat Support Community Rating # of Apps/ Plugins
Shopify 4.8 Yes Yes Yes 5 2000+
BigCommerce 4.5 Yes Yes Yes 4.0 500+
WooCommerce 3.3 No No Yes 4.0 250+
3dcart 4.1 Yes Yes Yes 4.0 100+
Volusion 3.9 Yes Yes Yes 2.0 20+
Magento 2.9 No No No 5.0 3000+
Prestashop 3.4 Yes No No 4.0 3000+
SquareSpace 3.1 No Yes Yes 3.0 10+
Wix 2.6 Yes No No 2 250+
Weebly 3.2 Yes No Yes 2 300+

From our analysis, BigCommerce and Shopify are at par in ease of use scores. You don’t need to be the master of web dev before you can use them and there’s a ton of support. 3dcart and Wix come close.

But Wix is not the best option for ecommerce and WooCommerce kills all-in-one for beginners/startups especially for optimizing costs and growing SEO.

Best Ecommerce Platform For SEO

SEO is crucial. You’re going to have a hard time running an ecommerce store if users of the net can’t discover your website through a search engine. Many platforms offer some SEO tools to boost your website. Nevertheless, some are better than others.

In our testing, we based the best ecommerce platforms for SEO on page load time, mobile and desktop speed, SEO, and average organic traffic of top online stores using each platform.

Platform Performance Load Time Mobile Speed Desktop Speed Avg SEO Traffic
Shopify 3.9 1.3 63 75 11717
BigCommerce 4.5 2.2 63 80 33626
WooCommerce 3.1 3.4 42 52 72968
3dcart 3.0 2.8 50 58 9703
Volusion 2.9 3.5 48 56 15779
Magento 2.8 4.8 39 43 19408
Prestashop 2.9 4.6 50 52 33851
SquareSpace 3.5 2.6 42 63 5678
Wix 3.9 3.2 69 81 543
Weebly 2.6 3.8 49 59 186

Platform SEO Performance

“SEO is dead.” – People who don’t know how to do SEO.

Can we just tell you how sick of hearing that, and how wrong it is, once and for all?

Excuse me while I rant, but you need to know your SEO. Keyword stuffing and content written for robots and spiders was never a smart move, and sure, it’s penalized and anyone who practices it should be punished.

Bad SEO is dead. It should be.

Good SEO, on the other hand, is alive and well. The best SEO practices will catapult you to the top of Google’s coveted search results, and win friends on Yahoo! and Bing, too. You’ll generate more organic traffic, saving you cash on leads. SEO is a crucial part of site design and performance, and there are plenty of ranking criteria to consider for your ecommerce enterprise.

Making it easy for humans and robots to navigate is a good first step – and that takes using the right URL structures. Site promotion and honest, white hat backlinking are also smart. That’s good SEO.

SEO Friendly URLs

URLs are super important. Do NOT skip over good URL structure.

It’s not something you can make up for through great content and backlinks. Although we hate to point fingers and bring up bad examples, we’re begging you.

Don’t ever let your URLs look like this:
http://purplesagetea.com/epages/472f26ef-dbcc-482e-8f37-4e8a0b5ede3c.sf/en_US/?ObjectPath=/Shops/472f26ef-dbcc-482e-8f37-4e8a0b5ede3c/Categories/Category3 (via 1&1/ePages)

Great selection of teas, but between the slow load time and the painful URL, we’re betting their shop isn’t making anywhere near what it could be.

They’re lacking good technical SEO.

Search engines like to keep things simple and easy for the end user. Bulky, huge URLs are NEVER user-friendly. They’re not good for your business, either. Short, relevant URLs are an important ranking factor. Good for usability.

WooCommerce is by far the best for SEO. Magento doesn’t do bad either. That’s because you can customize everything and expand your functionalities.

From our stats, I’d say – stay away from Shopify if SEO is your top priority. They still need lots of improvement. Where’s WooCommerce scored 5, they got 2.5 and the median is 3.7. It’s not surprising that where the average organic traffic score is 20,346, Shopify only passes half of that by a thread but Woo is at a 70+.

Load Time

Load time is a pretty straightforward indicator of how fast your site is. Simply put, it’s the measure of how long it takes a page (or pages) on your site to fully load. A slow site is a killer in ecommerce – potential customers run away from slow sites, and as we mentioned earlier, each second you gain in site loading speed translates directly into sales gained.

In ecommerce, speed is money. Every second your site takes to load is costing you. A lot.

According to research by Akamai, most consumers want sites to load in 3 seconds or less. The median load time for the top 500 ecommerce sites is 10 seconds.

According to our data, the load time for average ecommerce sites is 3.2 seconds, but the platform you use makes a big difference. For example WooCommerce sites tend to load in 3.4 seconds, while 3dcart sites tend to load in under 3 seconds.

There’s more – a 1-second improvement in load time equates to a 7% increase in conversions. Wouldn’t that be nice?
If you’re running a self-hosted platform, you can optimize it for speed, but again that takes time and effort. Most self-hosted sites don’t bother; the average Magento site loads in 5 seconds. Forget collecting any credit card payments with that slow site.

Price might be the problem – optimizing for speed isn’t cheap, and ironically, can take a lot of time.

An out-of-the-box solution that offers great loading speed is a secret weapon in your ecommerce arsenal. Don’t underestimate the value of this metric.
Speed performance is so important; we collected multiple types of data (from 2000 ecommerce website domains) to determine how well a site performs.

Google PageSpeed

Google’s PageSpeed Score is based on several factors that rate your site’s speed and usability. Across the board, you’ll notice poor mobile speed scores. The average score is 51.5/100.
Marketers and developers are really starting to feel the mobile speed crunch. Mobile users expect pages on their mobile devices to load faster than desktop. Companies like Google are focusing on projects like AMP to make mobile pages load faster.

Google PageSpeed tests desktop speed as well. Check out the data below on the performance of various platforms.

Best Ecommerce Platform For Dropshipping

In dropshipping, you’re not in control of many things; product quality and returns might be a hurdle. Also, there are technical stones that you need to move to keep your orders leaving as fast as they enter your ecommerce system if you’re going to dominate the supply of that product.

When evaluating, we looked at these features:

  • Ability to sync with supplier’s inventory
  • Support of many dropshipping plugins
  • Automating different suppliers or SKUs for the same product
  • Tracking of order both from your and end customer’s side
  • Free/paid dropshipping integration

Best Ecommerce Platform For Local Brick and Mortar

Most local brick and mortars only need a basic simple store. For example, if you’re a local bakery looking to accept payments on your website – you don’t need a feature rich platform. In this case, we ignored marketing automation or multichannel because let’s be honest, you don’t need it.

Don’t let greedy developers deceive you into paying for such because it happens – a lot. So, we looked at the ability to create a website and add a payment gateway easily. No advertising or shopping cart recovery here.

  1. Shopify
  2. Wix
  3. Weebly

Best Ecommerce Platform For Large Businesses

If you run a large ecommerce business, you might want complete control and server autonomy. In that case, you’re looking at buying a dedicated server or VPS from a web hosting company and set up your platform in there. As such, SAAS like Shopify will not satisfy you.

However, if you’d rather set it up and not bother yourself with web hosting technicalities, then a platform like BigCommerce could be it.

Since you have orders ranging in hundreds or thousands weekly, you’ll need a platform that gives you enough flexibility to connect software, helps you reduce errors, and seamlessly integrates your warehouse management and other inventory systems. We also considered platforms that enable multiple currency and store, allows integration with Google services, and 3PLs.

Design Considerations For Ecommerce Platforms

Your website should deliver a rich and smooth experience that entice customers to visit your site, make them stay, and convince them to buy. One crucial place that starts is the design. Too often, online stores go all out with complicated designs that do nothing more than slow down the load time and annoys visitors. Every design you choose should be with the aim to hook potential customers.

The same goes for the navigation, and checkout process.

Platform Design & Themes Visual Design Mobile UX Cost Of Premium Themes # of Free Themes
Shopify 4.0 5.0 97 $140 10
BigCommerce 3.8 5.0 94 $140 7
WooCommerce 4.3 3.0 97 $39 1000+
3dcart 4.0 3.0 95 $200+ 60+
Volusion 3.5 3.5 92 $180 14
Magento 3.7 5.0 96 $300+ 1
Prestashop 3.3 4.5 94 $29+ 0
SquareSpace 4.3 5.0 98 $180 14
Wix 4.7 5.0 92 0 72
Weebly 4.3 5.0 97 $45 15

These are things you should look out for:

Customization

To get the best, you’ll need to tweak some features in your ecommerce platform. About that, Shopify checkout process is limiting. The changes you can make to the checkout pages are minimal except if you pay for Shopify Plus. Sure, Shopify Plus has its benefits, but if you don’t need most of them, paying at least $2000 every month only for the sake of the checkout page might be total madness.

If you’re thinking WooCommerce, you can customize almost everything due to child themes. This is one place that self-hosted platforms do well.

A bonus tip I’ll leave here is Elementor. The drag and drop builder plugin is very powerful when combined with the BigCommerce or WooCommerce plugin. You can create advanced price tables, price list and products widgets, customize your checkout page, order tracking, and optimize the mobile view of the website without coding. Another plus is that it’s translation ready; your store can read in Spanish to someone in Mexico and French to another in France, taking marketing to another level.

Theme Selection

Your theme is the frontline for any tweaking you will do. If you’re a beginner to coding or your platform doesn’t allow much for developer re-coding, you need to choose a theme that meets your needs and suits your customers. In picking the right theme, look out for the one that’s best for your niche and what other ecommerce sites are picking.

Another thing is cost. While you can get a large number of free WordPress themes, Shopify and BigCommerce are restricted to 9 and 7 respectively. You’ll have to pay for the other great guys that you might prefer. If you’re into spending more for the best, you can reach out to an expert to customize a theme for you or design one from scratch.

Ecommerce Mobile Performance

What is it about mobile? More than a passing fad, mobile tech is an ecommerce retailers’ dream. Mobile-friendly sites are a must have for all e-retailers, and with good reason –

  • 66% of the time spent on online ecommerce is done through mobile devices
  • 82% of smartphone users turn to their devices to help them make a product decision

Customers want mobile-friendly ecommerce website design, and the market is showing that mobile commerce is growing 300% faster than ecommerce, which means your site also has to have a responsive design.

To get the most out of mobile site design, you need to make sure your online platform is easily upgradable. Look at live sites to see what works and what doesn’t.
Test your site repeatedly and on multiple devices, and don’t forget to keep your mobile set heavy on the visuals and with a font that’s large enough for everyone to use – not to mention easy and intuitive navigation.

Take a true mobile-first approach with your design and UX loading performance.

In this regard, WooCommerce, Shopify, and Weebly wear the crown. All being at or above the median score of 94%.

Mobile User Experience

About 40% of total purchases during the 2020 holiday season were made on a smartphone. And about half of the traffic to ecommerce stores come from mobile devices. That’s against the one fourth that was recorded in 2020. Mobile ecommerce is growing so fast that you need to not only think about responsive design but also the best possible experience. One way to go about this is the Google Mobile User Experience Score.

Google’s Mobile User Experience score offers an excellent idea of just how much your website will frustrate mobile users…or not. This score tries to mimic how a real user interacts with the page.

According to a post on Moz, five key factors to consider for mobile user experience include:

  • Viewport configuration
  • Font legibility
  • Use of incompatible plugins
  • Content to viewport
  • Size and proximity of links

All platforms but Wix did well here. This is more of your work though.

Read Sharon’s article to learn more about fixing common mobile UX mistakes.

Must Read:

2020Recommended Platforms

There’s no perfect ecommerce platform, but I’ve narrowed down the top choices.

Choosing the best ecommerce site builder is really based on your needs. We do want to recommend that you consider a few as front-runners – BigCommerce was by far the best overall platform for any business model and performs excellently for SEO.

WooCommerce is catching up with market leaders like Shopify in terms of features and apps. Perfect for private/white label ecommerce sites. Awesome for affiliate marketing. And the strongest option if you want to run a private label & affiliate marketing combo site.

Shopify is the best platform for dropshipping, including print on demand.

Weebly works for simple stores. If I were running a local bakery that takes few online orders, I’d choose Weebly over Wix, and it’s much cheaper than Squarespace. But if you need anything beyond a very simple store – for example SEO, Weebly won’t be enough.

Squarespace is perfect for simple stores not pushing a lot of volume and need some SEO. You can run a POD on Squarespace as well.

If you’re considering Magento, X-Cart is worth a look. It’s one of the best free ecommerce platforms if you have dev resources. Plus it has made a lot of investment in expanding the product and brand in recent years.

Most ecommerce platforms do a decent job. There is a handful we’d warn you to think twice before committing to, including Magento, Open Cart, Jigoshop, ePages (1&1), WP Ecommerce, CoreCommerce, and Big Cartel. There are much better options available at similar price points. Still, many people use and love these platforms.

Not sure what the best ecommerce platform is for you? Drop me a comment below!

7 Best Ecommerce Platforms | Build Your Store Today

Do you want to make money online?

If so, you’ve come to the right place. Building a successful online business starts with choosing the best ecommerce platform for you, which is why this article will reveal the seven best ecommerce platforms around.

But before we dive into that, let’s define what an ecommerce “platform” actually is. Do you need coding skills, endless funds, or a degree in web design? The short answer is, no!

We’re guessing you’ve heard of website builders, right? Well, by providing tools that help you sell online, these builders don’t just create websites – they create online stores. These builders are what’s known as ecommerce platforms or ecommerce website builders.

There are so many ecommerce platforms available, choosing one can get pretty confusing pretty quickly – especially when they all claim to be the best.

Don’t waste your time or money on a second-rate ecommerce platform. We’ve done the research, and the best seven ecommerce platforms are:

  1. Shopify
  2. Wix
  3. Bigcommerce
  4. Squarespace
  5. Weebly
  6. Volusion
  7. GoDaddy

Shopify is the best choice – it’s powerful but easy to use. Wix is even more beginner-friendly, but has less sales tools. BigCommerce is ideal for fast-growing stores, while Squarespace has the best-looking designs. Weebly, Volusion, and GoDaddy are less well-rounded, but have great benefits for the right business.

In order to come up with this list, we’ve conducted hundreds of hours of research and testing. It’s no good just trying a platform out and telling you which ones we liked the best – you deserve better.

We’ve taken an in-depth look at all the top ecommerce platforms on the market and, with your help, tested them thoroughly. We’re now in a great position to not only tell you which are the best platforms overall, but which ones are best for certain industries and areas.

Below we’ll run through our overall top seven ecommerce platforms before breaking them down by industry and our individual research areas. This will give you a detailed and expert look at each platform, and ultimately help you get started with the right one.

If you’re raring to go, you can see how our top ecommerce platforms rate on key features in our comparison chart below. Every platform in this list has either a free trial or a free plan, so you can try before you buy – we’ve included links so you can test them out:

Compare the Best Ecommerce Website Platforms

To select the ecommerce platforms you are most interested in, you can add and remove columns on the chart below using the ‘close’ icons in the first row. If a certain feature category isn’t of interest to you, you can remove it from the chart to personalize your comparison. This way, you’ll find the best ecommerce platform for you in no time at all!

  • Shopify 4.7 / 5
  • Wix 4.3 / 5
  • BigCommerce 4.2 / 5
  • Squarespace 4.2 / 5
  • Weebly 4.1 / 5
  • Volusion 3.9 / 5
  • GoDaddy 3.7 / 5

This overall rating is an average score of all the factors we use to rate ecommerce platforms.

If you’re in a rush, this snapshot view is here to provide you with a quick answer to the question: ‘which is the best ecommerce platform?’

Check out which features each ecommerce platform is best at.

This award shows in which area each platform outperforms its competitors. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, these can help put you on the right path to finding the perfect ecommerce website builder.

How intuitive is this builder to use?

If you’re not too technologically savvy, you can still build an online store! We know lots of people aren’t too confident on the computer and that is why we’ve rated each ecommerce platform on how easy it is to use. This means you can choose a platform suited to your skill level.

Transactions fees, whether you can create promotional codes and abandoned cart recovery. These are just some of the sales features we have taken into account to provide you with a combined score of how good each platform’s sales features are.

Can you to sell across social media and other marketplaces?

How we rate each ecommerce platform’s inventory quality is based on the amount of products you can sell, the ability to create multiple variants, if you can import products in bulk, the stock management available, whether you get revenue reports, and if you can see visitor counts.

Do they accept Amazon as a payment option?

Do they accept Apple Pay as a payment option?

Do they accept Square as a payment option?

Do they accept Stripe as a payment option?

Do they accept PayPal as a payment option?

Incorporated in this category of investigation are areas such as inbuilt features, storage space, app store quality and whether the platform has the ability to support a blog.

Do they have customer login as a security option?

Do they have a members area as a security option?

Do they have password protection as a security option?

Search engine optimization is the ability to tailor your online store to be better understood by search engines and therefore improve your visibility online.

Having a more prominent online presence is essential to getting more customers to your online store and boosting your bottom line!

This was one of the overall areas we investigated looking at the branding and design of the templates provided among other features. All of these categories were then combined to give us an overall mark for design.

Are you able to change your theme/template after your site has gone live?

Scored on the number of ways you can receive support from the provider. Does the provider offer a help center, ticket system, phone service, and live chat? And is the phone/live chat support available 24/7.

No one likes getting stuck, so it’s reassuring to know there’s help on hand, should you need it. The 24/7 service is particularly important, as it adds a personal touch and means there’s always someone around to help you.

Are you really getting the best for your buck? We wanted to make sure we provide you with honest, representative information into whether the features provided by each builder are really worth the price you are paying.

Do they offer a free trial?

Do they offer a free plan?

The cheapest plan available to you on this ecommerce platform.

If you want to build an online store but don’t have a huge budget, the entry level plan of an ecommerce platform will probably be worth looking into.

We explored how likely real-life customers would be to recommend each ecommerce platform and how well-known each platform is to provide you with an overall customer score rating.

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Still not sure which ecommerce platform is best for you? No problem, take our 4-question quiz and find your perfect builder!

What are the Best Online Store Builders?

What about more advanced ecommerce tools?

In this article, we’ll look at easy-to-use website builders that let you create and run an online store. Advanced users may be interested in ecommerce solutions like WordPress, which you can use to code an online store from scratch. To find out more, read our article on advanced ecommerce software.

Best Ecommerce Platform Reviews

#1: Shopify

Best all-round ecommerce platform.

Start selling from $29.99 a month.

4 out of 5 stars

4 out of 5 stars

5 out of 5 stars

4.5 out of 5 stars

3.5 out of 5 stars

4.5 out of 5 stars

5 out of 5 stars

More Information on Shopify

Shopify is the best all-round ecommerce platform. It powers over 600,000 online stores and has over 1 million active users worldwide. More than $72 billion has been sold on Shopify – so it must be doing something right!

Our research confirmed this. Shopify came first in sales features, with lots of high quality tools to support your store. There are far too many to list them all, but here’s a few of the main sales features:

  • Sell physical and digital goods and services
  • Abandoned cart recovery is built-in, helping catch incomplete sales
  • Online invoice generator makes billing and collecting money easier
  • Sync with 10 other sales platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon
  • Over 100 different payment gateways to choose from (including Shopify Payments and Google Pay)
  • Sell unlimited products
  • Stay on track on the go with Shopify’s mobile app
  • Easily customize your checkout with your own logo, brand colors and fonts

You can see why Shopify scored top marks in this area. Features like these don’t just make running your online store possible – they make it easy and enjoyable too. Put simply, Shopify was designed to help people build an online store. That’s why it’s packed with these high quality sales features, which were specially created to support your ecommerce business.

There’s no point having all these impressive features if they’re too hard for anyone to actually use. The good news is that Shopify came second overall for ease of use (beaten only by GoDaddy).

Powerful ecommerce features combined with straightforward processes make for a winning combination. An impressive 93% of Shopify customers told our researchers they were satisfied with the ecommerce platform.

Shopify is perfect for, well, everyone! Whether you’re just starting out or have a large business that’s scaling fast, Shopify covers all selling bases. With a 14 day free trial (no credit card details required) and over 100 themes to choose from, there’s nothing to lose!

Shopify Pros Shopify Cons
  • Number 1 for sales features and customer score
  • Sell across multiple channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest
  • Easily manage your store with a brilliant inventory system
  • Needs third party apps to support multiple currencies – not ideal for international growth
  • Shopify transaction fee on most payment gateways
  • Switching template means reformatting your website

#2 – Wix

Great value for money.

4 out of 5 stars

4 out of 5 stars

4.5 out of 5 stars

5 out of 5 stars

4.5 out of 5 stars

4 out of 5 stars

3 out of 5 stars

More Information on Wix

Wix is a popular drag-and-drop website builder which you can use to create an online store. With over 110 million users worldwide, Wix sure knows a thing or two about building websites – and online stores are no different! In fact, there are three Wix plans which are totally dedicated to ecommerce.

In our research, Wix was number one for value for money, as well as for help and support. It’s the best website builder with ecommerce functionality, but since it’s not a specialized ecommerce platform, it doesn’t have the same range of sales features as Shopify. Despite this, it’s certainly enough to get you started.

The cheapest Wix ecommerce plan is Business Basic at $23 a month.

This comes with phone, email, and social media support, as well as a forum and an in-depth knowledge base. It’s also the only builder to give you helpful on-page support while you’re creating your store. This makes it perfect for beginners, or for setting up a small business.

You can create a really strong brand for your website by creating a highly customized storefront. Because of Wix’s drag-and-drop editor, it’s super easy to add product videos and other cool features. You know exactly how your online store will look to customers while you’re editing, making customization really easy.

But your online store needs to do more than just look good – and fortunately, Wix has great basic ecommerce features built in. For example, all Wix websites automatically have SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates. This is really important as it means customers can safely submit their details through your website.

But the best way to really give your Wix online store the best features is to use apps like Wix Stores and Ecwid.

While Ecwid lets you sell across multiple channels, such as Facebook and Instagram, Wix Stores unlocks tons of great ecommerce features, such as sending automated confirmation emails to customers or creating discounts.

And you don’t have to stay at home to run your business. The Wix Mobile App lets you manage your store on the go. This is a fantastic feature as it gives you more flexibility in managing your brand.

The main drawback of Wix is that it doesn’t offer abandoned cart recovery. This is an important feature which helps you re-engage customers who have left products in their basket during the checkout process.

Overall though, Wix does a great job of combining the ease and design of the traditional website builder with a range of ecommerce features perfect for getting your online store off the ground.

It’s especially good for those of you just starting out, offering amazing value for money along with the best help and support of any ecommerce builder. So you can start flexing your ecommerce muscles without worrying!

Wix Pros Wix Cons
  • Wix’s easy drag-and-drop editor shows you exactly how your storefront will look
  • Creates a strong brand for your business
  • Add product videos for better engagement with customers
  • No abandoned cart recovery
  • Can’t sell across multiple channels (such as Facebook) without apps
  • Only has basic inventory and analytics systems – not ideal for growth

#3 – BigCommerce

Best for large and fast-growing businesses.

Start selling from $29.95 a month.

3.5 out of 5 stars

3.5 out of 5 stars

3.5 out of 5 stars

3.5 out of 5 stars

4 out of 5 stars

4.5 out of 5 stars

4.5 out of 5 stars

More Information on Bigcommerce

BigCommerce is a well-known ecommerce platform which boasts some well-known names – including Clarks and Ben & Jerry’s – as clients. And it’s no wonder! Online stores backed by BigCommerce have been recorded as growing at almost double the industry average.

In our research, BigCommerce came top for website features. This is because of the range of high-quality inhouse features it offers, such as customer reviews, email marketing, and search filters. BigCommerce also scored highly in sales features, allowing for international payments and multi-channel selling.

In fact, BigCommerce has more features than any of its competitors. Everything you need is already built into its library of themes and ready to make your online store succeed. This makes it the best choice if you’re looking to really grow your online store into a large and successful business.

The main drawback of BigCommerce is its ease of use, or lack thereof. It uses a lot of complex terminology in its descriptions, which won’t appear user friendly to anyone who doesn’t have good knowledge of such specialist terms.

Add this to a confusing editing interface and BigCommerce becomes a less than ideal choice, particularly if you’re looking for an easy to use ecommerce platform. Indeed, it received low customer scores in our research because of its lack of user-friendly language and difficult editor.

On the other hand, if you’re confident and tech-savvy, BigCommerce is an excellent choice. You can automatically sell physical and digital goods as well as services. And you don’t need apps to enable these – you can just start selling!

BigCommerce wants to see your store grow and succeed. You can upload products in bulk to save you time, and there’s no limit on the number of products you can sell. You can keep track of your products and customers using BigCommerce’s analytics reports. This is an important strength of the platform, with these reports available:

  • Store overview
  • Real time reports
  • Customer reports
  • Abandoned cart reports
  • Merchandising reports

Abandoned cart recovery is already built in, plus you can customize the email that gets sent out to customers. You can even combine this with coupon codes to entice your customers back to your store.

BigCommerce should be used by anyone wanting to rapidly and remarkably grow their online store. Don’t use it if you are a beginner, either in business or in tech! It’s not the easiest to use, and its prices reflect the number of tools and features you get.

You will only get great value for your money if you’re using those features! After all, you wouldn’t buy a whole toolkit, then only use it to prop the door open. BigCommerce has every tool in the box, and is the perfect choice if your business is ready for a boom.

The State of Ecommerce Platforms: Cloud Commerce, Open SaaS and The API Economy (Updated 2020)

The State of Ecommerce Platforms: Cloud Commerce, Open SaaS and The API Economy (Updated 2020)

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Meeting your business objectives isn’t easy – no matter how many Inc., Entrepreneur, Fast Company or Medium posts go viral within the executive community explaining why this or that strategy produced hockey stick growth.

The truth of the matter is this:

What makes your business successful is your dedication to customer experience, your market strategies, your operational efficiencies and the team of people you build.

Your unique combination of these aspects is unlike that of any other ecommerce business out there – and is why no FUD headline like “Why Your Business Will Fail” or “8 Innovative Ways to Skyrocket Growth” will ever fully apply to your brand.

Of the many decisions you make to drive success for your online business, one of the biggest is which pipes you install.

That is, which ecommerce platform you choose to power your business and ready it for scalable, long-term growth.

For most growing mid-market businesses, this technology is typically provided by BigCommerce, Magento, Salesforce Cloud Commerce (formerly Demandware) or Shopify.

The selection of one of these four platforms is where you can truly unlock performance.

Understandably, this decision has wide-ranging implications –– to your customers in engaging with your brand and reducing friction of getting the product they need, to your employees that have to implement campaign strategies, and to your bottom line in terms of sales growth as well as cost of maintenance and installation.

The following ecommerce platform comparison and explanations will help you evaluate the key criteria and make an honest assessment of which solution best suits the needs of your business.

What is an Ecommerce Platform?

An ecommerce platform is a software application that allows online businesses to manage their website, marketing, sales, and operations.

Ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce offer the powerful features needed to run a business, while also integrating with common business tools — enabling businesses to centralize their operations and run their business their way.

Why Use an Ecommerce Platform?

Whether you’re expanding a brick-and-mortar store, looking to find an enterprise-level solution, or even starting a business from scratch, your choice of ecommerce software has a huge impact on the profitability and stability of your business.

The only real alternatives to using an ecommerce platform are:

  • Building one from scratch, which is out of the question for most businesses — and only justifiable for multimillion (or multi billion) dollar companies.
  • Using a plugin, which isn’t an option if you’re looking to build and grow a legitimate business – even a small one.

What Ecommerce Platform Options Are There?

There are 3 main ways to classify the different types of ecommerce platforms:

  • Open-Source.
  • SaaS (Software as a Service).
  • Headless Commerce.

Beyond this, there are two ways in which ecommerce platforms offer a hosting environment for their customers.

All business owners need a hosting environment to run their ecommerce store.

The two types of web hosting environments are:

  • Cloud: Hosted Elsewhere.
  • On-Premise: Self-hosted on your business premises.

Let’s take a look at each of these.

Open-Source Ecommerce Platforms.

  • Hosting Environment: Cloud or On-Premise, though all patches and platform updates require manual implementation across the board.

Open-source ecommerce platforms are ecommerce solutions in which you can modify all aspects of the code.

This type of ecommerce platform was the most popular in the early 2000s and remains popular with development and IT heavy organizations who want 100% control of their ecommerce environment.

Using an open-source ecommerce platform means you – the brand – are responsible for:

  • PCI Compliance.
  • Hosting (depending on if your open-source solution is on-premise or cloud).
    • Cloud commerce solutions that are open-source differ from on-premise only in that your hosting environment is offered by your provider and managed off-site.
    • Keep in mind that just because your ecommerce platform is hosting your store using a cloud environment doesn’t mean you have unlimited bandwidth like you would see on a SaaS solution. Ask about specific bandwidth allowances, specifically if you are evaluating Magento or Volusion.
  • Manual patch and update releases from the platform provider.
  • Security issues.
  • QA for all additional applications, often including integrations with:
    • ESP.
    • CRM.
    • CMS.
    • ERP.
    • Analytics and BI tools.
  • The building of net new tools for the site, often including:
    • Discount and promotion engines.
    • Merchandising and marketing tools (e.g. SEO features, email marketing).
    • Design drag-and-drop builders.

For many brands, open-source ecommerce platforms are too cumbersome, expensive to maintain, and require too much technical knowledge.

As such, there has been a massive movement to the two other types of ecommerce platforms:

In fact, open-source ecommerce platforms hosted via the cloud (i.e. not on-premise) are today only 46% of the consideration set for large ecommerce brands.

Because on average, open-source ecommerce platforms and sites have a 6x annual cost of ownership versus SaaS or Headless Commerce models.

Brands can get to market materially faster with SaaS and Headless Commerce, in an average of 55 days.

And we live in an incredibly competitive environment, where a slowdown to beautiful and innovative UX, product or backend optimizations can give your competition the leg up.

The Number 1 SaaS Ecommerce Platform

Internet Retailer’s 2020 survey found BigCommerce to be the #1 SaaS ecommerce platform preferred by mid-market and enterprise retailers. Learn more by downloading their report.

SaaS ecommerce platforms.

  • Hosting Environment: Cloud.

SaaS ecommerce platforms remove much of the complexity from running an online business because instead of managing the software yourself.

Instead of building and developing a custom solution or an open-source solution (which is often developed upon so much as to be custom), you essentially “rent” the platform.

When factoring in development cost, this is a vastly cheaper option than open-source solutions.

Product updates, security, hosting, PCI compliance, and every other task that comes with managing your own software are managed by the SaaS provider.

Marketing and growth teams at ecommerce brands are often the internal cheerleaders for SaaS ecommerce solutions at their organizations. This is due to a SaaS solutions ability to go-to-market quickly and affordably.

IT and development departments are often concerned about a lack of flexibility and customization due to the closed off portion of code on a SaaS solution. APIs help to ease this concern, as well as non-proprietary coding and staging environments for UX build outs.

Platforms that meet the above criteria are often referred to as “Open SaaS.”

Leading Global Brands Choose Open SaaS

Get more flexibility and customization from your ecommerce platform.

Discover why brands like SONY and PEPSICO use open SaaS to tackle:

  • Direct-to-Consumer & B2C Implementations.
  • Bring B2B Complexity Online.
  • Operating Divisions Across Umbrella Brands.
  • And much more.

Headless Commerce platforms.

  • Hosting Environment: Cloud.

Headless Commerce is a version of CaaS ecommerce in which the shopping cart is decoupled from the CMS.

In these use cases, brands often use a design experience platforms (DXP) such as Adobe Experience Manager and Bloomreach or a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal. Then they plug in a decoupled ecommerce shopping cart solution to serve as the cart.

SaaS technologies like BigCommerce are also often used here in place of decoupled carts due to their low total cost of ownership and high API flexibility.

Historically, with on-premise hosting, open-source platforms or proprietary platform builds, IT and development departments at large brands have been controllers of the business.

However, due to the high cost of monolithic technology stacks and need for speed and innovation from a marketing standpoint, SaaS and cloud hosting disrupted the model.

Headless Commerce alleviates this pain point by allowing for faster go to market with significantly lower total cost of ownership.

Using APIs, plug-ins, and occasionally decoupled technology, brands can maintain their single source of truth monolithic systems on the operations end.

Other decoupled solutions a Headless Commerce provider works with include:

  • Content Management System (CMS).
  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).
  • Email Service Provider (ESP).
  • Product Information Management (PIM).
  • Order Management System (OMS).
  • Point of Sale (POS).
  • Marketplaces like Amazon or Ebay.

On the presentation layer, SaaS APIs allow for a modern SaaS technology stack, including ecommerce SaaS platforms as well as everything from ESPs and even lighter weight ERPs like Brightpearl.

The best analogy to give here is like IKEA furniture.

The individual pieces of the item are the microservices and, when put together, they create a final finished project.

For many ecommerce brands, the first step toward this microservice architecture is being done via Headless Commerce.

Olive & M is a great example of a Headless Commerce solution. The brand is using WordPress as their CMS and a BigCommerce cart as their checkout.

This allows the brand to have increased control over their ecommerce store, while out-sourcing PCI compliance and security best practices and assurances to a commerce solution provider – either as a decoupled solution or via the SaaS platform itself, the latter of which is the most common.

Let’s look back at our IKEA example and take the classic IKEA nightstand.

If you replace the top piece of the nightstand with their new wireless charging enabled top, you’ve done headless commerce in a way:

Using a different front-end piece that gives you an updated take on the original, but still with the same foundation and utility (e.g. drawer = cart/checkout).

What Are The Benefits Of Self-Hosted vs. Cloud?

There are two ways ecommerce sites can be hosted:

Neither of these two options are platforms in and of themselves.

They are merely how the site itself is hosted, with machines on-site (literally in a room that your IT or development team control and manage) or off-site and managed in a warehouse (think Amazon Web Services, for instance).

Self-hosted ecommerce platforms.

Self-hosted ecommerce platforms require online store owners to find hosting, deal with installations and oftentimes perform updates to the software manually.

Running an ecommerce website using self-hosted ecommerce software requires developers to maintain and update the website, which can get quite costly and time-consuming.

The benefits of this option include more control over your online retail platform, greater visibility of your own data, and a better understanding of data security.

While this route makes sense for some extremely complex businesses, it usually results in higher expenses and lower revenues.

Cloud-hosted ecommerce platforms.

Cloud-hosted ecommerce platforms offer hosting for their customers via off-site solutions like Amazon Web Services.

This means the cloud platform manages uptime for the brand. Cloud ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce manage 99.99% uptime annually and have had 4 years of 0 downtime during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the highest trafficked times of the year.

Not all cloud-hosted ecommerce platforms offer automatic installations of patches, updates or upgrades. Only SaaS and Headless Commerce solutions do that.

This is where solutions like BigCommerce and Salesforce Cloud Commerce (both SaaS solutions) differ from a solution like Magento Commerce (Cloud).

Platform of Many Names

Magento 2 is now called Magento Commerce (Cloud) or Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition (ECE).

Magento renamed their offering within the last 6 months, which is a little confusing.

How Will An Ecommerce Platform Benefit My Business?

In addition to scalability and protection of your data, ecommerce platforms, whether hosted on-premise or in the cloud, offer a handful of operational benefits and business tools.

  • A product management suite.
  • Merchandising.
  • Pricing.
  • Promotions.
  • Search capabilities.
  • The ability to personalize sales and services to your liking (e.g. payment options, marketing features, mobile app, add-ons, etc.).

Ecommerce platforms offer business owners the ability to customize product information and how it’s solicited to best fit their own online retail needs, which can be a mutual benefit for both the business and its customers.

For larger organizations using their own ERP, PIM or OMS solutions, ecommerce platforms offer open APIs for data syncing as to not disrupt business as usual.

What Are Important Ecommerce Platform Features?

Every online shop has unique needs, and choosing the right solution is wholly dependent on the platform’s ability to solve the day-to-day challenges inherent within your organization.

There are, however, some basic things you should find out about prospective provider.

Important ecommerce platform features:
  • Hosting environment, domain name, year-over-year uptime and bandwidth.
  • Unlimited API call volumes.
  • Website builder with free, user-friendly site themes in non-proprietary languages.
  • Extensive application marketplace full of pre-built integrations with best-in-class service providers.
  • Mobile optimized site, checkout and full experience (out of the box) and fully customizable.
  • PCI Compliance mitigation.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) features and fully customizable URLs throughout the site.
  • Built-in basic ecommerce features including promotions and discounts, analytics, catalog management, WYSIWYG editors, etc.

Things to Consider When Choosing an Ecommerce Platform

Social media integration.

Social commerce is getting more important by the day.

Advertising to social media users is a must if you want to capture a massive and engaged audience.

Facebook alone boasts over 1.94 million active monthly users. That’s a lot of potential customers.

BigCommerce offers built-in integrations with Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, so you can market to users directly in their news feeds or main accounts.

With the advent of Buyable Pins, Facebook Shop and Shopping on Instagram, you can even sell directly to users without them needing to leave their platform of choice.

Most important social media integration questions to ask a provider:
  • Please describe how we can publish our product catalog to Facebook Shop. Is there an additional cost for this service?
  • Can users check out within Facebook or would they be redirected to our ecommerce store?
  • Do you support Pinterest buy buttons?
  • Do you support Shopping on Instagram?
  • Does your product meta data include Open Graph Tags?
  • Please describe how we can publish our product catalog to Facebook Shop. Is there an additional cost for this service?
  • Are social media sharing links on PDP supported?
  • Are social media sharing links displayed post-purchase?
  • Can customers or end users login to our storefront using Social Login (Facebook, Amazon, Google, etc)?
  • How can we display User Generated Content such as Pinterest or reviews in our store?

80 Shopping on Instagram Examples

You don’t have to go digging around the internet for Shopping on Instagram examples. We did it for you.

  • Explore more than 80 real examples of Instagram Shopping in the wild, no more stalking to see who is doing what
  • Draw inspiration to educate your own posts and your own strategy. Some folks are seeing as much as a 1,416% increase in sales and traffic!

The number of products you can sell.

Maybe you offer a wide assortment of products, or perhaps a significant number of variants for your basic product line.

This can add up to a lot of SKUs, and some platforms are better than others when it comes to SKU count.

If you have a large catalog or plan to grow your business, choosing a platform with low SKU limits essentially restricts the upside of your business.

Most important catalog management questions to ask a provider:
  • Please describe how we can manage our product catalog within your system.
  • How do you import/export catalog & customer data?
  • Can we preview our product catalog in any theme, without purchasing the theme?
  • Can we add multiple images per product? Is there a limit to the number or size of images?
  • Do you support SKU level images with image switching on variation selection?
  • Is Product Image Zoom enabled by default?
  • How easy is it to add video to PDP? Is there a limit on the size and length of videos we can upload?
  • Please describe how product options and option sets are managed in your system
  • Please describe how variations or options can be configured?
  • Is there a quick edit option available to modify stock levels or pricing change?
  • Do you support both digital and physical products?
  • Is inventory management built-in?
  • How do you support real-time Inventory sync within multiple channels?
  • Can inventory be tracked at variation level?
  • Does the shipping system understand and support Dimensional Weight?
  • Are Custom Product Attributes supported?
  • Can you configure related items?
  • Is it possible for related items to be automatically generated?
  • Do you allow pre-orders?
  • How do you support custom Product Pages? Can these be configured per category?
  • Are Product Reviews built-in?
  • Is it easy for customers to share products with friends from the PDP?
  • Is Site Search predictive?
  • Can Categories be sorted manually in the Control Panel?
  • Can Categories be used for Private Sales?
  • Are Category Filters supported?
  • Do Categories & Products have Breadcrumbs?
  • Are Page/Product/Category URLs auto-generated?
  • How can we customize the product and category level URLs?
  • Does the platform support multi-level category navigation?

Understand what customer service is provided.

You’re inside an ecommerce platform every single day.

No matter how intuitive the design or straightforward the features, at some point, you may need assistance.

And when that time comes, it’s good to know that you can get ahold of a real-life person to assist you with the problem.

Some platforms outsource their customer service and make it difficult — or practically impossible — to call in and get help when you need it most.

At BigCommerce, we feel that every one of our customers is entitled to personalized customer support.

Most important customer service questions to ask a provider:
  • Please provide details about your on-boarding processes for new clients.
  • Please provide an example of an implementation timeline.
  • Do you provide training and user documentation for the entire platform?
  • Please describe your support process (including tools) along with standard SLA’s.
  • Please describe your change management processes including the system audit logging capabilities.
  • How does our historical data (orders, customers, products) migrate to your solution?
  • List all Services resources who will be dedicated to our business.
  • Provide an example of a QBR or Customer Success Plan you offer your customers
  • Do you have extended support hours for supporting an event’s onsite operation?
  • How big is your customer support team and where are they located?
  • Please detail your Phone Support offering. Is it available 24/7? Is there an additional cost associated with this service?
  • What are your average wait/response times for phone support?
  • Is there a priority queue available for urgent and time-sensitive requests?
  • Can we get a dedicated Support Representative if needed?
  • What ticketing system do you use? How can we track status of our tickets?
  • What are your Support SLAs?

Ready to begin the RFP process?

Issuing an RFP is the next step for brands considering a re-platform. However, RFPs can be tricky – and what you include in them makes a world of difference in terms of what you get from your new platform (and also in making the right choice to begin with).

This free RFP includes 188 questions, from big ideas to minutiae, so you don’t miss a thing.

Best Ecommerce Platform Comparison

All ecommerce platforms have their advantages and disadvantages. It is important for businesses to evaluate the various platforms based on their own specific needs and use cases.

Here is an overview of the most popular ecommerce platforms, their advantages and disadvantages.

BigCommerce.

BigCommerce is considered an Open SaaS platform provider and a growing Headless Commerce provider based on low total cost of ownership and highly flexible APIs.

BigCommerce’s advantages include uniquely sophisticated customizability and flexibility of the platform for a SaaS ecommerce platform. For this reason, it is the #1 SaaS platform of choice for mid-market and enterprise brands.

The platform offers small business and start-up plans as well, with more built-in features and 100% URL (SEO) control across the board than competitors. The integration options, like our headless WordPress plugin, make the platform a frontrunner across headless commerce solutions.

BigCommerce’s initial learning curve is higher than some other SaaS platforms due to the complexity of built-in features.

Magento.

Magento is historically an on-premise, open-source solution preferred by brands who have already heavily invested in IT or development teams. Magento 2 (AKA Magento Commerce Cloud or Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition) launched a cloud, open-source solution in more recent years.

The advantages to Magento include 100% control of your own ecommerce instance.

The disadvantages to Magento include manual patch and bug updates, requiring entire site and integration QA.

Foregoing these updates can often result in a lack of PCI compliance for brands as well as data breaches.

Many of these have been high profile in news reports over the last few months.

BigCommerce v. Magento

See how BigCommerce and Magento compare for your specific business needs.

Volusion.

Volusion is an ecommerce platform aimed primarily at starter stores and hobbyists.

The company currently runs and supports two different platforms, which takes a heavy tax on engineering resources as they are maintaining and building two completely different platforms.

BigCommerce vs Volusion

BigCommerce offers more conversion-driving tools than Volusion without having to pay extra for:

  • Traffic spikes.
  • The number of products you sell.
  • Basic phone support.

This allows you to grow 28% year over year — 2x the industry average.

Salesforce Commerce Cloud (Demandware).

Salesforce Cloud Commerce, formerly Demandware, is a SaaS ecommerce platform provider preferred often by high-profile fashion retailers.

It is an open SaaS model like Shopify and BigCommerce.

The disadvantages of Salesforce Cloud Commerce is the high cost and the dependence on developers.

WooCommerce.

WooCommerce is an open-source ecommerce platform, offering a cart solution in addition to a brand’s content on WordPress.

It is most often used by starter stores and hobbyists, bloggers expanding into ecommerce, and brands utilizing developers most comfortable with the WordPress environment.

WooCommerce disadvantages include scalability without slowing down the live store and the high developer costs associated with most open-source platforms. Here is more information about the history of WordPress ecommerce.

3dcart.

3dcart is another SaaS ecommerce platform, though typically considered more of a minor player.

3dcart advantages include multilingual support and advanced shipping solutions – no API required.

3dcart disadvantages include a lack of a CDN, resulting in poor site uptime during high traffic volumes for stores and difficult to reach customer service. They also lack modern responsive themes.

Shopify.

Shopify is a well-funded and public SaaS ecommerce platform provider. They are popular with starter stores, hobbyists and brands with SKU counts of less than 100.

Shopify advantages include a quick learning curve for non-experienced ecommerce practitioners, resulting in a quick go-to-market for new brands. They also have an enterprise solution called Shopify Plus. For more information on the pros and cons of each platform check out this great Shopify Plus vs BigCommerce comparison from Cart Consultants.

Shopify disadvantages include restricted API call volume, a URL structure that is not fully customizable (sections of Shopify store URLs cannot be changed), high transaction fees for not using their proprietary POS and a lack of built-in basic ecommerce features.

BigCommerce vs Shopify

According to Internet Retailer, BigCommerce and Shopify are the two fastest-growing platforms serving B2B and B2C sites selling more than $1 million per year online — but BigCommerce outranks Shopify in both adoption and growth rate. Read more to see BigCommerce and Shopify compare.

Kibo is an omnichannel platform provider which acquired the SaaS ecommerce platform Mozu in 2020.

Mozu was built from the ground-up, offering, in theory, the most modern of ecommerce SaaS solutions.

According to current and previous customers, however, the Mozu platform is still very much a beta project in which bugs are rampant and few items are fixed.

Prestashop.

Prestashop is a freemium open-source, cloud-hosted ecommerce platform.

The platform can be used in 60 different languages and is popular outside of English-speaking countries where other platform providers dominate including:

Squarespace.

Squarespace is a SaaS website platform provider. They are best known for their work with the creative community. Their ecommerce platform was spurred off by a need from that creative community for a light-weight cart to sell items.

It is used primarily by the creative community with low SKU volumes.

Squarespace disadvantages include limited shipping & payment gateway solution as well as limited discounting and complexity for basic built-in ecommerce features.

Big Cartel.

Big Cartel is an ecommerce solution designed for smaller merchants who do not need a sophisticated platform. Typical Big Cartel merchants are bands, clothing designers, jewelry makers, crafters, and other types of artists. The platform is very easy to use but has a limited feature set. Big Cartel likely won’t fill your needs if you have a large product catalog.

Similar to Squarespace, Wix is best known for its easy website set up. Keeping it simple with a drag and drop interface, competitive pricing, and modern for purchase and free themes. Wix is most often used by entrepreneurs and other small business creatives. The platform prides itself on being a solution for both beginners and experts who seek creative freedom in their website work. They are an acceptable solution for beginning stages, but lack advanced ecommerce capabilities.

Ecwid.

With over 1 million online users, Ecwid has become a popular solution for small business owners. This solution is not a platform, but rather a widget which is intended for users who want to add a store to an existing website. If you have less than 10 products in your catalog, Ecwid is a free solution. After that, plans start at $15/month.

Episerver.

Episerver’s platform puts a focus on content and personalization. Another headless commerce solution, the platform strives to combine digital marketing, content management and digital commerce into an all-in-one solution. The solution is a popular choice for mid-market and enterprise-level merchants. The platform is designed to pair well with other Episerver solutions like Episerver Find and Episerver Campaign.

OpenCart.

OpenCart is an open-source online store management program. The platform allows merchants to set up multiple stores, manage various product options and attributes, and add unlimited products. This option is popular for small businesses, freelancers, and mid-market merchants.

FAQs About Ecommerce Platforms

What is the best ecommerce platform for a small business?

BigCommerce, Shopify and WooCommerce. are the most common ecommerce platforms for small businesses.

Depending on your experience and your specific brand needs, each platform has its advantages and disadvantages.

Should a startup use an ecommerce platform or build a custom solution?

Most ecommerce startups use an ecommerce platform – particularly a SaaS solution.

SaaS ecommerce platforms allow brands to rent the technology at a low cost, making the barrier to entry to online selling extremely low.

Custom solutions require immense monetary resources to build, and have delayed go to market times.

Are there free ecommerce platforms?

No, there are no free ecommerce platforms.

Ecommerce website costs vary. Most open-source platforms are technically free in that you aren’t paying a licensing fee, but there is a high cost in terms of hosting and development.

SaaS platforms charge a monthly recurring fee.

Costs range from $7 a month to $50,000+ a month.

Can I integrate my ecommerce platform with an Amazon store?

You can push your products from an ecommerce platform over to Amazon and vice versa. This is called multi-channel selling where you sell both on your own website as well as on a marketplace, in this case, Amazon.

What programming languages are ecommerce platforms written in?

Most ecommerce platforms are written in commonly used programming languages, including:

Many SaaS companies use an abstraction layer for their programming language.

Shopify, for instance, used their proprietary Liquid as an abstraction layer for Ruby on Rails. BigCommerce uses Handlebars.

Executive Summary

Don’t just take my word for it.

There are tons of ecommerce platform comparisons out there. I’ve chosen this one for a deep dive as the methodology is sound and comprehensive.

Here is a brief summary of how Ecommerce CEO found the data to do the research:

  1. Used BuiltWith to find the 20 most popular ecommerce platforms
  2. Pulled a giant spreadsheet for all the ecommerce websites on each platform (our Magento list had 23,887 sites)
  3. Used RAND function in Google Sheets to assign a random number to each row
  4. Collected data on the first 100 websites on each platform (100 sites x 20 platforms = 2000 sites)
  5. Used a team of 4 researchers to collect data for each website
    • Load time from Pingdom.
    • Mobile PageSpeed, Mobile UX and Mobile Friendliness From Google.
    • Ranking Data From Ahrefs.
    • URL test from SEO Site Checkup.

Here is the research criteria they measured against:

  • Price.
  • Performance, including: site speed for desktop and mobile, mobile UX, platform SEO.
  • Features, including: SEO tools (sitemaps, customizable metadata and URLS, bulk editing), fuzzy and exact product search, ability to send abandoned cart emails, blog functionality, mobile best practices, coupons and discount capabilities, integrated ratings and reviews, multiple product photos with zooming capability, ability to handle subscriptions/recurring product orders, dropshipping integration, ability to sell customizable products, fulfillment by Amazon integration, real-time shipping and tracking, reward points program compatibility, Google trusted stores.
  • Scalability, including: number of payment gateways and options (e.g. debit or credit card, gift cards, Apple Pay, PayPal), Amazon, eBay, Etsy integrations, Facebook, Pinterest syncing, Google Product data feed, Open API, design customization.
  • Ease of use, including: phone support, 24/7 support, chat support, certified additional dev/marketing support, free templates.

Here are the results of the study (in depth here and via screenshot below).

Go ahead and take a look at the article, as well as Internet Retailer’s 2020 Ecommerce Platform Report.

Learn more about migrating to BigCommerce

Want more insights like this?

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9 Best “Easy” eCommerce Platforms & Sites (2020)

Nick Schäferhoff
  • Total 495
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Choosing the best eCommerce platform is not an easy task.

The market is wide and there are many factors to consider. Your choice has a lot of impact on your online business, so it’s important to give it enough thought before signing up.

To help you with that, we’ve compared the 9 most popular eCommerce website builders. In the end, we hope you are ready to make a decision on which platform is the right one for you.

What is an eCommerce Platform and Why Should You Use One?

The first question is, what is an “eCommerce platform”?

An eCommerce platform is a piece of software that allows you to build an online store and run a business online. It gives you the tools to create and manage your site, including products and day-to-day operations. Most if not all, eCommerce builders use drag and drop functions.

Here’s the good news – you don’t need to be a web developer to create a good looking online shop.

There are many different reasons to use e-commerce platforms, but here are the most important ones:

  • Easy (For Beginners) – In the past, if you wanted an online store, you had to build the functionality yourself. Later there were shopping carts, but you still had to have developer skills to integrate them into your site. Now we have plugins. With eCommerce platforms, you get everything in one hand and can get started right away.
  • Inexpensive – E-commerce platforms are not super expensive, some of them even cost nothing. While you definitely have expenses when running an online shop, it’s a lot less than developing your own solution from scratch. Plus, the more you pay, the more of your business can you usually hand over to technical solutions.
  • One solution fits all – Especially when going with a hosted solution, you are able to let go of more parts of running your site. No need to deal with web hosting, security, updates, and the likes. Instead, you are able to simply concentrate on growing your business.
  • Customer support available – Additionally, with a commercial solution, you benefit from the support structure. Open-source solutions such as WordPress are often community driven and you are therefore dependent on that community to provide support. While that can also work very well – if you are in desperate need of help at 3 am on a Sunday, it’s nice to have a guarantee it will be there.

9 Best eCommerce Platform Options

Alright, now that you have a better idea of what to look for in an eCommerce platform, it’s time to talk about what’s out there. In the following, we will go over the advantages and disadvantages of some of the most popular eCommerce platforms available, their pricing structure and who they are most suitable for.

Full disclosure: We earn a commission whenever you end up purchasing an e-commerce platform through our referral links in this review. This helps us to run WebsiteSetup as a business. Thanks for your support.

1. Wix Stores – Simple, Beautiful, Affordable

Wix is originally a website builder that allows you to create websites via drag and drop. On top of that, it also has features that allow you to build an online store.

Pros of Using Wix Stores

Like Shopify, the e-commerce platform is simple to use and quick to set up. There is no coding required, you can literally drag content anywhere on your site with the user-friendly editor.

What’s cool is that they have over 500 templates specifically made for online stores and even provide stock images you can use right away.

Naturally, Wix offers a fully featured shopping cart with all the functionality you need. There are hundreds of apps in the official app market to further spruce up your website.

Also, the service is fully hosted so there’s no need to worry about this part.

Cons of Using Wix Stores

What you need to keep in mind is that Wix is not a pure eCommerce platform. It is first and foremost a website builder that is also capable of selling things. Therefore, eCommerce capabilities can be a bit basic.

Keep also in mind that you can’t change your site template once you have published your site, which is a big drawback.

Pricing

Wix is subscription-based and offers different packages. Their paid eCommerce plans are $23-$49/month. The cheapest eCommerce plan starts from $17/month.

You can use their free plan to test drive the platform, but it has really limited capabilities and no eCommerce options.

2. SiteBuilder – Best for Beginners

SiteBuilder is the best website builder we’ve reviewed so far. Now we have investigated its eCommerce options, which seem decent enough. It’s similar to Wix – you have to get the highest plan to start with an online shop.

Pros of Using SiteBuilder

It’s really easy to use. Like I-have-never-seen-a-website-interface-before easy.

Their drag-and-drop interface is intuitive, simple, and comprehensive. SiteBuilder has everything you need to get started – domain, hosting, analytics tools, SEO, and sufficient eCommerce tools. It comes with unlimited bandwidth and storage space.

Their support is really friendly and helpful. We connected within seconds and their support agent took the time to answer our in-depth questions about eCommerce tools. Therefore, even if you get in trouble (which is highly doubtful considering how simple their website builder is), you’ll get help in no time (from 7 am – 5 pm Arizona time).

Cons of Using SiteBuilder

Even though SiteBuilder comes with hundreds of templates, only about 100 are suitable for eCommerce.

Similarly to Wix, their eCommerce options can be limited for advanced users. There is barely any advanced marketing tools, payment options, and logistical add-ons.

Pricing

SiteBuilder has 3 main plans which all have a 60% trial discount for 1 year (after renews to a regular price). For an online shop, you have to go with the eCommerce plan.

It is often said that you get what you pay for. Even though SiteBuilder is somewhat limited, you definitely get much more than what you pay for – their options are just very beginner-friendly but at the same time comprehensive enough to handle professional website quality.

3. BigCommerce – Best for Small Business

BigCommerce provides a hosted eCommerce solution both as a full SaaS platform as well as a shopping cart for other types of websites. It’s probably most similar to Shopify. The two of them are often mentioned in the same breath.

Pros of Using BigCommerce

The eCommerce platform comes with great store management capabilities. It offers a large number of tools and features, e.g. promotions, unlimited product variants, options to handle returns, coupons, and discounts. Another highlight is the flexible shipping options that allow live quotes and rate calculation.

Additionally, BigCommerce integrates with Amazon, eBay, and social networks. This enables you to sell across many different sales channels. It also has a lot of marketing tools with very granular controls, such as full control over the URL format.

Multiple APIs help to make it customizable and flexible. BigCommeerce also has a large app store with extensions for all sorts of needs such as email marketing, automation, and product promotion. You also get over 40 payment processing options with no transaction fees!

The advantages are rounded off by the multitude of templates to choose from, the ability to design your own website and a large support system that helps you improve your e-commerce efforts.

Cons of Using BigCommerce

Traditionally, BigCommerce has lagged behind in its template offers. While they have caught up, users only get seven free templates to choose from. Premium themes can also be a bit expensive. Unfortunately, design customization is not always the most user-friendly.

BigCommerce has no native POS features as in other solutions and comes with a sales limit on your plan. It’s relatively expensive to get advanced features like an abandoned cart saver.

Pricing

BigCommerce plans cost between $29.95 and $249.95. You can save some money on higher plans by paying annually. There’s also an option for an enterprise, but you need to inquire about that. Additionally, themes cost between $145 and $235.

While all plans give you everything you need to get started, with higher options you get more options like advanced customer segmentation and product filtering.

The lack of transaction fees makes BigCommerce more attractive than other options on this list. Use the 15-day trial to find out if it’s right for you.

4. Shopify – Best for Boutique Shops

Shopify has become one of the most well-known names in the eCommerce sphere. It’s a fully-featured hosted solution with hundreds of thousands of users. We also have a full article about it, if the information below is not enough for you.

Pros of Using Shopify

The commerce platform is super easy to use and quick to set up. Just sign up with your email address and you can start building your shop and selling right away. The intuitive interface also makes it easy to create products and includes SEO features such as title tags and meta descriptions.

Shopify offers dozens of free mobile-optimized, elegant themes. More are available on purchase. No coding is required to customize them, just use your mouse to make changes.

Additionally, the platform offers top-notch support via phone, email, live chat and Twitter which are available 24/7. That is beside the detailed documentation and online forums where you can get help from other users.

Shopify also supports a lot of third-party payment gateways and has a large app marketplace with over a thousand offers to add functionality to your site with a few clicks.

Finally, they offer additional sales channels by providing you with the software and hardware to sell inside physical store locations, social selling and integrating with marketplaces like Amazon.

One of the biggest drawbacks of Shopify is that costs can easily snowball. Besides the base fee, you pay for many plugins, themes, and features. Some are one-off payments, some monthly, some yearly. Plus, there are transaction fees if you are not using the built-in payment system. This can all get a bit complicated and hard to plan with.

Another disadvantage in terms of customizing your site is that Shopify uses its own markup language called “Liquid”. It is based on Ruby on Rails and makes it hard to make changes using coding yourself.

Pricing

Shopify offers different pricing tiers with additional features depending on which plan you are on.

There’s also Shopify Lite. It lets you sell on social networks and embed products on your own website site to use the shopping cart capabilities. This plan costs $9/month, which is quite fair.

Besides that, there is Shopify Plus for enterprise clients. You would have to inquire about prices but rumors say it starts at $1,200/month.

As mentioned, in addition to the base price, you pay for apps and additional features. These really span a wide range of prices so be sure to research beforehand!

Also, don’t forget credit card and transaction fees when using third-party payment providers. These vary according to your plan.

5. Volusion

This solution is another cloud-based, hosted option to build an online store. It has been around since 1999 and has processed more than $28 billion in sales during that time.

Pros of Using Volusion

Volusion is a drag-and-drop site builder with in-page editing. It offers a comprehensive site search, many responsive themes (11 of them free) and the ability to customize your own.

Besides that, it has solid eCommerce and product management tools like rich text product descriptions, native fulfillment options, subscription options, loyalty programs and more. It also integrates with a lot of payment providers and doesn’t come with transaction fees.

Marketing options include SEO features, social selling, marketplace integrations for Amazon and eBay, among others. Note that some of those are only available on higher plans.

Users also get 24/7 support via live chat and phone (the latter comes with a higher plan). This is in addition to a comprehensive knowledge base with articles, guides and more.

Cons of Using Volusion

Unfortunately, Volusion’s pricing structure is a bit confusing, because they have a set bandwidth limit. If you run out, you have to pay for additional traffic. This can make planning ahead a bit difficult, especially since their default bandwidth is relatively low.

You have to pay extra for SSL, which is a must for any online shop. Other competitors provide it for free. Premium templates for Volusion are a bit expensive.

Also, the platform offers no blogging capabilities. You can only include links to other blog sites on the menu. This is really a shortcoming in a digital world that runs on content marketing.

Pricing

Running your shop on Volusion will cost you between $29 and $299 per month. You get 10% off when paying annually. You have to call the service to change to a yearly plan. On more expensive plans, you get more products, bandwidth, better support, and additional features.

As mentioned, each plan has a bandwidth limit (1, 3, 10 or 35GB). Any traffic beyond that will cost you $7/GB. This can rack up quite quickly. You also shouldn’t forget about the transaction fees of your payment processor.

There’s also the investment into an SSL certificate. The ones offered by Volusion directly are between $149 and $995. Of course, you can also get your own for free. Plus, if you are going for a premium theme, you need to budget $180 for that.

6. Squarespace

Similar to Wix, Squarespace is also a website builder operating with drag and drop. They started out with a focus on making visually appealing websites. As of late, the site is putting more energy into eCommerce and letting its users sell stuff online. By now they are starting to be a full-fledged eCommerce platform.

Pros of Using Squarespace

The service has a simple and intuitive user interface and is very beginner-friendly.

The website templates they offer are elegant, beautiful, polished and all come with mobile responsive capabilities. The focus on design also makes Squarespace especially suitable for selling products that require high-quality imagery.

Besides that, you have all the standard options like product variants, inventory management, unlimited products, coupons, shipping, the works. The platform also integrates with Shipstation.com for fulfillment and has great customer service.

They provide many data points to optimize your site and conversions including sales, revenue, traffic sources and more. Marketing tools include SEO settings, social media, blogging and abandoned checkout recovery. SSL is built right into the platform.

Cons of Using Squarespace

On the side of disadvantages, Squarespace is somewhat restricted in features. For example, it has limited payment options (only Apple Pay and PayPal) and is missing important options for more complex shops and a large number of products or variations.

Furthermore, there is no marketplace for apps to add more features and functionality. Your ability to customize your site via code and markup is also very limited. The platform integrates with only a few third-party tools and services.

Pricing

You pay for Squarespace monthly. To start selling, you need to be at least on the Business plan, which is $18/month if billed annually, otherwise $26/month. Note that there’s a 3% transaction fee on every sale.

Note that you can waive the latter if you get on one of the eCommerce plans ($26-$46/month). You also get additional features for running an online shop like label printing, accounting and automatic recovery of abandoned carts.

7. Magento

Magento is sort of the WordPress of eCommerce platforms. It’s a piece of open-source software that you can download and install on your own servers. At the same time, it also offers a hosted cloud version, sort of like WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

Pros of Using Magento

As a self-hosted solution, Magento gives you lots of control. With technical knowledge, you can change pretty much anything you want in terms of functionality and design, plus choose your own server environment.

If the latter is not your cup of tea, the cloud edition might be more for you. For that, you need to contact the sales department to get a demo.

Whichever way you go, you benefit from Magento’s long list of features and options. Membership subscriptions, recurring payments, discounts, the ability to adjust content per user are just the tip of the iceberg.

You can extend your site via the marketplace. There are plugins and themes for all sorts of purposes, from customer support to marketing to shipping and site optimization.

The platform is strong in terms of multilingual websites as well. You are able to create separate sites for different languages. It also has a strong community behind it that is constantly improving the platform and developing new themes and plugins. This also means a lot of support and available expert advice.

Cons of Using Magento

For the Community Edition, all the downsides of self-hosted platforms apply. Be prepared to take care of updates, security and everything else to make sure your shop runs properly.

While Magento has a lot of features, consequently it can be a little resource hungry. This will require you to invest time and money into optimization.

Besides that, the platform is written in PHP, so if you want to make meaningful changes, you need to have the necessary chops or hire someone for it. Either way, expect to invest in development.

If you are opting for the Cloud version, be aware that it is made for Enterprise clients and priced accordingly. More on that below.

Pricing

Magento Community Edition is the first free e-commerce platform on this list. That’s right, you can download and use it without paying a dime.

Like many other self-hosted solutions, it comes with costs regardless, specifically for hosting. Premium plugins or templates and occasional development work can also be factors.

If you don’t want to deal with much of the above, there is also the hosted version. As already mentioned, it is not cheap. The number we found was $18,000/year for licensing.

8. OpenCart

We are continuing the theme of open-source eCommerce platforms. OpenCart is available to download and install on your own server. The service also offers a cloud version of its solution.

Pros of Using OpenCart

This eCommerce platform has everything you need to create and manage your shop. You can set up unlimited products and product categories for both digital and physical goods. It comes with product reviews and ratings out of the gate and supports multiple currencies.

The dashboard gives you an overview of every important data point of your shop and you can even build and control several stores from one interface.

Aside from that, the platform is highly customizable with thousands of themes and plugin extensions. It also integrates with hundreds of payment gateways.

As a self-hosted solution, it comes with all the benefits of administrating your site on your own server. A large support network through a dedicated community and documentation helps you in a pinch.

If you opt for the cloud version, you can get started in mere minutes. You also get access to a separate theme and plugin store and have all your hosting, security and backup needs taken care of.

Cons of Using OpenCart

When you have the benefits of hosting your site yourself, you also have to deal with the drawbacks. OpenCart is not always easy to customize and adding new modules can be expensive.

Besides that, its native marketing features are quite limited. For example, the default SEO capabilities are not very good.

The platform is not always known as the fastest solution, so the self-hosted solution might not be the greatest option for scaling into large dimensions.

Pricing

The self-hosted software itself is free. Keep in mind that it comes with the usual peripheral costs. Additionally, there may be expenses for extensions and themes that add around $100 on average to your budget.

You can also opt for the cloud-hosted version, which costs between $30 and $200 per month – half if you pay for a year in advance. It also includes a free SSL certificate.

9. Zen Cart

Our next contender is in the same category as the last two. It’s open-source and self-hosted.

Pros of Using Zen Cart

Because it has a GPL license and resides on your own server, Zen Cart, too, is completely customizable. Like other solutions, you are able to make any changes you want even outside of available extensions. The solution also has a good reputation when it comes to security and scalability.

Besides that, it offers many configuration options for products, including coupons, gift certificates, and multiple product images. In the marketing department, you can take advantage of the built-in SEO features and the ability to send HTML emails from inside the platform.

A strong user community rounds off the benefits of Zen Cart.

Cons of Using Zen Cart

A serious drawback of this eCommerce solution is the outdated user interface both on the front and back end. You have the ability to change at least the font of your site. The less than intuitive user interface will make taking care of your site a bit of a drag.

Zen Cart can be hard to install and upgrade. There is also no dedicated support, so users need to fend for themselves. Its ecosystem is quite small, so extensions and templates are hard to come by. The eCommerce platform comes only with a handful of payment options.

Pricing

Like other examples on this list, the software itself free, but you need to budget for the architecture to run and maintain, including an SSL certificate. Especially if you don’t have web development skills, you can expect to hire help and need to budget for it. Extensions and themes can also be part of the bill.

Types of eCommerce Platforms Available

When looking for the best eCommerce platform for yourself, you have different types to choose from. While there are several ways of distinguishing platforms, one of the main differences is their type of hosting.

  • Self-hosted – This means you download a piece of software and install it on your own server. This gives you a lot of control over your website. It also puts all the responsibility on you to keep it safe, updated and make changes manually. Open-source eCommerce solutions often have this model.
  • Hosted – An alternative is to use software that is hosted by someone else. SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions are the most typical examples here. The benefit: less technical overhead, quick startup, more beginner friendliness. Most often also more costs.
  • Mixed – Several of the options below offer the possibility to include their shopping carts into other platforms (e.g. WordPress). This is also called Commerce as a Service (CaaS) and can be a viable and cheaper option.

Of course, there are other ways to differentiate e-commerce platforms. Many of them depend on your personal needs. You might want to consider:

  • Costs
  • Scalability
  • Ease of Use
  • Customizations
  • Maintenance
  • Commerce Options
  • Mobile Capabilities
  • Marketing
  • Support

It’s a good idea that you actually get clear for yourself what matters to you most. This will make it much easier to weed out those options that don’t fit the ticket.

What is the Best eCommerce Platform for You?

Standalone eCommerce platforms can be a great solution for starting an online shop. They offer all the necessary features and specialized functionality to make selling online a success.

Yet, choosing the best eCommerce platform is not an easy task. There are simply too many factors to take into account and many offers on the market. By knowing beforehand what your needs and requirements are, you make it more likely you will find a good fit from the top 3 above. We’re recommending Wix, SiteBuilder, BigCommerce, and Shopify.

Hopefully, this guide has helped you in your decision. If it has, how about a discount code for your newly opened shop? No pressure though.

What is your personal choice for the best eCommerce platform and why? Please let us know in the comments section below.

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