With more and more shoppers going online to purchase just about everything because of the times we are in, starting an eCommerce business is a great way to create a second income from the comfort of your laptop and home.
Aside from generating additional revenue, having an e-commerce store or business allows you to monetize your online presence fairly fast.
Own a potentially profitable blog or looking to start one? Sell some e-books or courses linked to your blog’s content via your store.I
Have a big social media following (even if it’s only on Instagram)? Direct them to your store to purchase your favorite products.
The retail e-commerce market is expected to hit $4.13 trillion dollars in 2020. That coupled with global economic instability make it the perfect time to start an ecommerce store.
So how do you start an ecommerce store? By first choosing an e-commerce platform.
Considering that there are over 400 options, it can be confusing!
In this guide we’ll review the best e-commerce platforms based on
- ease of inventory management (adding new products and managing stock).
- availability of discounts, coupons and any feature that helps convert sales.
- ease of managing shipping and order fulfillment
- added features that enhance your online store’s functionality
By the end of this article, you’ll be able to confidently choose an e-commerce platform for your online store that suits your needs and will help you succeed in your online business.
Let’s get started!
What are the Best eCommerce Platforms?
From hundreds of e-commerce platforms, we have narrowed it down to the options below. Some of them are quite popular, but there are an equal number of less popular options that provide excellent services plus are both user and budget-friendly.
Most Trusted e-commerce platform for dropshipping and Print-On-Demand Stores. Plans start at $29/month.
This e-commerce giant has built a brand so strong that when you mention e-commerce or an online store, most people automatically think Shopify.
Powering over one million online stores globally, Shopify is arguably one of the fastest-growing service-based software companies today.
What makes Shopify so popular is how easy it is for anyone to start a store. It comes with a drag-and-drop storefront builder and access to over 3,000 apps in the Shopify store.
You can technically start your online store, complete with inventory in under 20 minutes. This is partly possible because Shopify allows you to find and import products from sites like Oberlo and AliExpress directly into your store and have them drop-shipped.
Aside from lots of app integrations and easy set-up, you also get over 32 payment gateway options that work in all parts of the globe.
Shopify makes it easy to sell on social media, in person using Shopify POS or in any online marketplace.
When it comes to payments, Shopify has their own service called Shopify payments. So if you’re uncomfortable with any of the third party payment gateways listed on their platform, simply use Shopify payments to handle all your payments
Shopify payments is fully-PCI compliant and comes with secure 3D checkout. They accept all major credit and debit cards as well.
Some other features include
- Easy drag-and-drop store builder with 70+ themes to choose from
- Custom domains available or simply connect your store to an existing domain
- Simple easy to use dashboard for managing your store and checking reports
- Embed your products easily anywhere be it WordPress, Squarespace or any other website
- Customizable Buy Buttons that can fit wherever you post your products
- Direct sales through Instagram, Facebook Messenger or your Facebook shop.
- Sync your store directly with Amazon and eBay
You’ll have three plans to choose from to get started.
Basic Shopify – starting from $29/month which covers the basics of owning and running an online store.
Shopify – $79/month which allows you up to 5 retail store locations, 5 staff accounts and USPS Priority mail pricing.
Advanced Shopify – starting from $299/month and comes with 15 staff accounts, 74% shipping discounts from major carriers, allows you to add third-party carriers and show your own shipping rates.
All plans come with unlimited products, an e-commerce website and blog, fraud analysis, shipping discounts, POS and abandoned cart recovery.
Already have a website? You can try Shopify Lite which lets you add products to your website/blog and accept credit card payments for only $9 USD per month.
- Supports dropshipping and Print-On-Demand stores
- Option to get started even with your own hosting
- Well-populated app store with over 3,000 apps
- Easy app integrations to improve store functionality
- Sell directly from Facebook and Instagram
- Option to embed products anywhere
- Abandoned cart recovery emails
- Fraud analysis on all plans
- 24/7 customer support available
- Added sales conversion tools like discounts and promo codes available
- Payment gateways don’t necessarily cover all countries
- Apps and payment processing fees increase the cost of using the platform
Get started on Shopify today with their 14- day FREE trial.
Best Option for Small Businesses that offers maximum customization. Plans start at $23/month.
Wix is known for its free and easy to create websites but it now offers full e-commerce functionality with Wix Stores.
Wix stores give you the same simple drag-and-drop website builder to help you create a professional-looking storefront with zero coding skills. You get hundreds of mobile-ready templates to choose from meaning there is something to fit every brand.
Aside from easy use and customization, Wix, unlike other platforms, allows you to accept both online and offline payments without paying any extra fees or commissions. That means more profits for you.
Like Shopify, Wix offers their own custom payment platform called Wix Payments. This lets you accept payments from all major credit and debit cards for lower transaction fees.
Other noteworthy features of Wix ecommerce include
- 500+ templates with added storefront, product page and checkout customizations to help you build a unique store
- Dropshipping support from Modalyst marketplace
- Multiple custom shipping solutions like international shipping, real-time shipping estimates and integration with major carriers
- Sell from Facebook or Instagram directly
- Mobile app available to help you manage your store from anywhere
- Multiple payment gateway options
Wix offers three paid plans with its business and e-commerce option;
- The Business Basic — billed at $23/month gives you 20GB storage and 5 hours of video
- Business Unlimited — billed at $27/month gives you 10 hours of video content alongside 35GB of storage
- Business VIP — $49 per month comes with 50GB storage and unlimited video content, pro e-commerce features and VIP support.
- Enterprise — $500 per month
All plans give you extra storage, come with a site booster and visitor analytics app, unlimited bandwidth and a free domain for a year.
- 24/7 customer support
- Easy to use
- Variety of customization options for all store pages
- Sell directly from your Facebook or Instagram page
- Supports dropshipping based stores
- Unlimited Bandwidth and free domain
- Option to connect your own domain or choose a free subdomain on their site
- In-depth sales and analytics reporting
- A single dashboard to manage running your store
- Mobile app available so you can manage business on the go
- Added cost from transaction fees
- Your store must be hosted on their server to use their platform
Get started with the Business Basic plan for $17/month.
Best Option for Multi-Channel Sales. Plans start at $14.99/month.
Zyro, known for their easy-to-use website builder, recently added an e-commerce option to the platform.
Launched less than a year ago, their e-commerce platform is relatively new compared to its competitors. Being new here is a perk for them, as they bring onboard innovative,cutting-edge AI integrations to help you build a fully functional online store.
Aside from AI, they are also one of the few platforms that offer Amazon integration (for US-based users).
Complete beginners will love how user-friendly their platform is. Like many other options on this list, you’ll get an easy drag-and-drop website builder which can get your site up and running in under 30 minutes. No coding skills needed.
Zyro’s website builder works for building regular websites like blogs or business pages too. To add the e-commerce functionality, simply go to the elements section in the editor and add e-shop functionality.
With mobile-friendly themes and a suite of marketing tools to help you promote your website on Facebook and Google, Zyro is a strong contender in the e-commerce space.
Other unique features include a default live chat plugin, custom discount codes, and gift cards. With 70+ payment gateway options, you’re assured of a payment solution that works regardless of where your customers are.
Add that to the zero commissions/fees per transaction and Facebook pixel, Google analytics and visitor remarketing, and your store will be off to a strong start.
Zyro is one of the cheapest options on this list, with plans starting from as low as $14.99/month and its higher plan going for $21.99/month.
All their e-commerce plans come with unlimited bandwidth, storage, improved SEO and AI supported branding.
- Easy store set-up
- 70+ payment gateway options
- SEO support
- AI business branding
- Added sales conversion tools like gift cards, discounts and promo codes
- Sell directly via Facebook, Instagram or Amazon
- Buy Buttons available so shoppers can purchase directly from anywhere
- Mobile-ready store right from set-up
- Sales reports with option to integrate Google Analytics
- Run Facebook and Google shopping ads right from your dashboard
- Free hosting
- Zero transaction fees
- App integrations are limited
Get started with their e-commerce plan billed at $8.99/month (if you pay for 36 months) today and save up to $120.
Best E-Commerce Platform For Existing Websites. Plans start at $35/month.
Popular as a budget-friendly and easy-to-use option, Ecwid’s main goal is to help you sell anywhere easily. This means Facebook, Google, on your website, Amazon and even Instagram.
Getting your store set-up with Ecwid is pretty simple and straight-forward. You further get integration with website content management platforms like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. This makes Ecwid better suited for existing online businesses.
Ecwid is also one of the few platforms to offer a FREE plan instead of a trial. This makes it perfect for testing your online store before you spend on monthly fees.
A standout feature is that it allows you to control all your ads from its dashboard. That means you get a bird’s eye view of how your ads are performing all in one place.
In terms of security, Ecwid is a ‘PCI DSS validated Level 1 Service Provider,’ which means it has end-to-end data encryption and secures customer and merchant payment details.
Other notable features include
- Automatic inventory update with every sale
- Sell directly via Facebook, Instagram or marketplaces like eBay and Amazon
- POS available for in-person sales either via Square or 50+ other payment options
- Customer address book support
- Smart shipping calculations
- Mobile app to help manage your store from anywhere
- Run and manage Google and Facebook ads directly from your Ecwid dashboard
- Integration with MailChimp for email marketing
- Live Chat functionality with Facebook Messenger available on Venture Plan
- Integrated Pinterest and Snapchat advertising
There are three paid plans all offering zero transaction fees and Google, Facebook, Pinterest and Snapchat advertising. Their Venture plan starts from $12.50/month (if you pay annually.
Also Ecwid as a Snapchat partner is currently running a promo on ad spends. Spend $50 in your first month and get $150 worth of ad credits automatically loaded to your account by Snapchat.
- Free plan available so you can experiment
- Simple store set up
- Integrates with multiple content platforms like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal
- Sell directly from social media including Facebook, Instagram or marketplaces like Amazon
- 50+ payment gateway integrations including Stripe, PayPal and Square
- POS available for in-person sales
- 24/7 customer support
- Mobile app so you can run your store from anywhere
- Run Google and Facebook ads directly from your Ecwid dashboard
- PCI compliance ensures extra security
- Can only be used on an existing website
- No dropshipping support
- Free plan doesn’t allow sale of digital goods
Get started with Ecwid for FREE today.
Best Online Store Builder for Small Business Sites. Plans start at $19/month.
If you’re just starting your ecommerce journey, 3dcart is a great option. Claiming to be the best e-commerce platform for SEO, their powerful features that give seamless ecommerce functionality make them perfect for new store owners.
Like some of its counterparts, 3dcart has a website builder which is tailored to building an online store. Their design conventions are preferred by Google, resulting in a boost to your website’s ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Apart from SEO, 3dcart offers free themes, a built-in blog, zero transaction fees, unlimited bandwidth, free domain registration and even a Facebook store.
They have integrations with an impressive 100+ payment gateways and are also PCI compliant. This means you’re sure of extra security in handling all customer and payment details.
Their new shipping settings let you show customers all available shipping carriers and their rates at checkout, giving your customer added convenience.
Looking to promote a product to multiple customer groups at once? Their Advanced Promotion Manager lets you promote different products to different groups at a time. This is ideal if you offer both wholesale and retail in your store.
Some other unique perks when using 3dcart include
- Editable HTML and CSS on all pages
- Customizable check out pages (one-page or three page check out)
- Option to check out as a guest or to create a customer account
- 200+ payment options available, including Bitcoin and pay later options
- Shipping solutions including multiple ship-to addresses for customers and B2B clients
- Integration with 3rd party tax apps so you don’t have to worry about taxes and paperwork
- Professional design and IT services available on request
Plans start from $19/month all the way up to $114.50 a month. All plans come with unlimited products, unlimited orders, secure web hosting and zero transaction fees.
- 15- day free trial available
- Zero transaction fees
- Drag-and-drop website builder with editable HTML and CSS
- Enhanced SEO support to boost your store’s page rank
- Sync your products with Facebook shop or Google Shopping directly from your dashboard
- 200+ payment options including Bitcoin and Buy Now, Pay Later and mobile payment options
- Mobile ready websites
- Email marketing integration with MailChimp and Aweber
- Added sales conversion tools like discounts, promo codes, gift certificates, loyalty programs and abandoned cart recovery
- 24/7/365 customer support
- Guest checkout and price bargaining options available
- Option to connect your own domain
- Built-in blogs to boost site authority
- Zero transaction fees
- Features may be too overwhelming for complete beginners
- Can only use their platform with their hosting
Take advantage of their ongoing promo and get started on their Start-Up Store plan at $9.50/month billed annually so you save up to $120.
Best ecommerce platform for creators and digital products. Plans start at $19/month.
Sellfy is a simple yet full-feature e-commerce platform aimed at bloggers, creators and digital product sales.
The platform was first built for mainly digital products like videos, e-books and courses but has evolved to include physical items and subscriptions too.
Sellfy allows you to integrate your store pages and website on your YouTube, Instagram or SoundCloud page and add embeddable ‘Buy Now’ buttons.
On the go or working from multiple devices? Sellfy is cloud-based meaning you can easily log in to your account no matter where you are or what device you use.
Their full marketing tool kit includes email credits so you can email your customers and keep them updated on sales. You also get discount coupons, upsells and pixels for Twitter and Facebook so you can track your ads.
Looking to streamline your store’s operations? Sellfy gives you integration of 1,000+ apps with Zapier so you can have a function for everything.
For those with zero technical know-how, its dashboard is easy to use and will have your site up in minutes. If you’re a blogger, social media influencer or small business trying to sell digital or physical goods on your website, Sellfy is for you.
You’ll get a full integrated platform with marketing tools and in-depth analytics to help you grow your business.
Other interesting features include:
- Many customization options including adding your logo, changing colours and several themes.
- Add a custom domain
- Multi-lingual support for your store
- Mobile ready interface to boost conversions and improve customer experience.
- Integration with PayPal and Stripe
- Provide in-depth analytics to track best performing products, analyze traffic channels, see top locations, and more
- Extensive integrations with more than 1000+ apps via Zapier
- PCI-DSS compliant to provide extra security
- Option to sell subscriptions and video-on-demand complete with piracy protection
- Embeddable buttons for one product, a product category or the entire store
- Facebook Live Chat widget support
- Unique download links to limit the number of times customers share or download your content
- Show interactive preview of content with SoundCloud, YouTube or Vimeo
Sellfy has three unique plans that all come with unlimited products, unique store customizations and 0% transaction fees.
- Zero transaction fees
- Option to sell subscriptions and video-on-demand complete with piracy protection
- Plenty customization options available
- Cloud-based operation means you can use the platform from multiple devices
- Multilingual support
- Multiple app integrations via Zapier
- Interactive content previews via YouTube, Vimeo or SoundCloud
- Built-in marketing tools e. g email marketing, discounts, promo codes etc
- Embeddable buttons to promote a product, a product category or the whole store
- Add tracking pixels for Facebook and Twitter ads to your store
- Only two payment gateway integrations available
- No drop shipping support
Their Starter plan starts at $19/month billed annually and revenue cap is $10k a month.
Business plan bills at $39/month also billed annually with $50k in yearly sales allowed.
Finally the Premium plan is $89/month and offers up to $200k in yearly revenue free.
Get started today with their 14-day free trial.
Best Open-Source, Fully Customizable E-commerce Platform for WordPress.
With 74 million downloads and powering some 25% of online stores, WooCommerce is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms in the industry.
The fact that it’s open-source, meaning no monthly fees are needed to keep your store running boosts its appeal to many WordPress website owners. Its large extension marketplace makes it fully customizable.
WooCommerce also has lots of supported free and paid extensions. These extensions allow you to add more functionality to your e-commerce store, just like apps would.
There are extensions for every aspect of your store, be it technical stuff, logistics or marketing.
Also, given that WordPress powers millions of websites and is the best platform for enhancing your SEO, WooCommerce is an easy choice for most website owners.
Woocommerce has a host of other functionalities, including
- Rest API for developers who would like to code and create a store from scratch
- Free native payment solution called Woocommerce payments. It is currently available only to US-based users.
- Built-in coupons, discounts and gift cards system
- Abandoned cart recovery emails
- Multiple integrations that extend its functionality like
– email marketing platforms like MailChimp, Aweber, etc.
– with Facebook and Google for ad campaigns
– with marketplaces like Amazon
- Free shipping extension called Woocommerce shipping that allows you to get up to 90% shipping discounts from USPS. It also lets you save time by printing your own packing slips.
- Mobile app available to help you kee=p t-rack of orders, inventory, visits to your store and sales
- Free Jetpack for Woocommerce extension that helps you track traffic, prevent brute force attacks and notify you in case your store experiences downtime.
Whether you’re just starting out or run a busy online store, Woocommerce has solutions to suit your business. Big e-commerce businesses have the option to get enterprise solutions specifically made for them.
- Open-source and free to use
- Fully customizable
- Variety of free and paid extensions that cover nearly every aspect of running an online store. There’s an extension for almost everything.
- Integrations with social media and Amazon
- Deep discounts on USPS shipping (up to 90%)
- Built-in marketing tools like abandoned cart recovery, gift cards and discount coupons
- Has the most email marketing integrations
- SEO boost because it’s linked directly to your website or blog
- Mobile app available so you can manage your store on the go
- Can only be used on an existing WordPress website
- 2.9% + $0.30 charged per transaction
- Process for requesting refunds is not entirely in your control
- No built-in POS for in-person sales
The WooCommerce plugin is completely free and easy-to-install on your WordPress site.
Best Specialized Platform specifically for White-labelling, Print-On-Demand and Drop Shipping Stores. Plans start at $17/month.
Barely a year old, ShopBase is an e-commerce platform that was built with dropshipping, print-on-demand and white-labelling in mind.
Their websites are 100% mobile-friendly and your checkout page is fully customizable, which is key for improving conversion rates. Each page of your store comes with its own settings, and editable HTML and CSS.
Aside customization, they also provide you with abandoned cart emails to optimize conversion rates.
ShopBase also links you directly to P.O.D service providers and dropshipping companies so you can get your business ready with a few clicks.
On the go? ShopBase gives you a cool mobile app that allows you to manage your orders, contact customers and track business all from your phone.
Again, they have a thriving online forum where other store owners share their wins, losses and lessons so you can grow fast. You also get a personal account manager to help you grow, manage and scale your business fast.
ShopBase has a ton of other benefits including
- Unlimited bandwidth with their web hosting
- Extra security provided by an SSL certificate included on every plan.
- Round the clock downtime monitoring and 99.9% uptime so your store is always online.
- Online store builder that comes loaded with tons of themes and allows CSS and HTML editing.
- Fast site loading speeds, up to 3x faster than any other platform according to ShopBase.
- Allows 200+ product variations, 2x more than other platforms
- Migrate to ShopBase tool makes migrating your products and stores very easy and hassle-free. No matter which platform your store is on, ShopBase will help you migrate for free.
- Provide premium product sourcing and fulfillment services for dropshipping merchants.
- Product page and shopping cart optimizations for better sales conversions
Because ShopBase is relatively new, they are still populating their app store so you may not have as many options compared to other platforms.
ShopBase gives you a free 14-day trial after which you can start with any of their three plans. Each plan comes with unlimited sales, products, bandwidth and 24/7 customer support.
The Basic Base plan starts from $19/month and gives you 5 staff accounts whereas the other plans give you 10 and 100 staff accounts respectively.
You also pay 1% in transaction fees on their medium tier Standard Base plan and Pro Base plan, compared to the Basic Base plan, where you pay 2%.
- Easy to use
- 24/7/365 support via email, support ticket or phone
- Supports mainly dropshipping and print-on-demand type stores
- Mobile app to help you manage your store on the road
- Unlimited products
- In-depth reporting on products, conversions and even Google analytics
- Shipping rule flexibility
- Fully customizable check-out and editable CSS/HTML for other pages
- Migrate to ShopBase tool makes moving your website free and easy
- Doesn’t allow selling your own products
Save up to 10% when you subscribe to any of their plans annually.
Best All-round User-Friendly E-commerce Platform with Great Analytics. Plans start from $29/month.
Volusion is a renowned e-commerce platform that provides outstanding features on all fronts.
Not only does it allow you to quickly create an online store, but it also has a built-in content builder that can compete with the Elementor WordPress plugin in terms of ease of use.
Aside from being beginner-friendly, Volusion is loaded with SEO, social media and built-in CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools to help make your marketing process smooth.
Their in-house digital marketing team is also available to help boost your store’s page rank and any other digital marketing needs.
A comprehensive dashboard helps you track your store’s performance at any point in time. You can see how your store is performing with Google Analytics, check your ROI and abandoned cart reports all from one place.
Because Volusion has a ton of built-in apps, you won’t need to download many other additional apps.
The cheapest plan, called the Personal plan starts from $26/month and gives you 100 products, unlimited bandwidth and up to $50k volume in transactions annually.
You can get other business services like graphic design, shopping feed error diagnostics, Facebook pixels etc at budget-friendly prices separately. Hence, Volusion is a one-stop shop for all your online store needs.
If you subscribe to their higher tier business plans like the Business Plan, you qualify for their Deal of The Day promo. This promo gives you up to $100 of quick wins on any of their added services. It could be a free SEO boost, web design fix etc.
- Basic plan allows 100 products
- Easy-to-use platform builder
- In-house professional services team for SEO, web design, etc.
- Free service deals to customers subscribed to their higher plan
- Comprehensive dashboard
- In depth store performance analytics
- Link directly to Facebook store
- Integrations with Amazon and eBay
- Third party payment gateway support
- Allows customer account creation for better customer experience
- Low annual transaction volume caps on plans
- Additional cost for using professional services
- Does not support digital downloads/products
Not sure if Volusion is right for you? No problem. Get started with a 14-day free trial.
Best Free Open-Source E-commerce Platform built on Microsoft Technology.
nopCommerce is a free, ASP.net, open-source e-commerce platform developed by Microsoft. With 11 years experience and serving 60,000+ stores, nopCommerce stands out because it is open-source.
ASP.NET is an open-source web framework from Microsoft that can be used to build web apps with .NET technology. This means less coding is needed to create complex apps.
This software is freely available and can be modified over and over to suit your needs. For developers, the nopCommerce repository at GitHub is open to all. So access to latest developments and improvements are available in real-time.
If you’re not tech-inclined, nopCommerce offers everything you need to run a fully-functional store with zero fees. Whether your business serves customers directly or serves other businesses, you’re sure to find features that meet your needs.
- Unlimited products, staff accounts and their advanced features
- Professional marketing and sales growth tools like a reward point system, gift cards, discount coupons etc
- 50+ payment integrations plus the freedom to add custom gateways
- Unlimited Custom shipment rules and options
- Own multiple stores and add products from multiple vendors
- Advanced business reporting and analytics
- Integrations with popular third party services including Hubspot, MailChimp, Amazon, eBay etc.
- GDPR support. nopCommerce meets all European Union Laws
You’ll also get a free mobile-ready site for your store when you set up with nopCommerce.
Because nopCommerce is open-source, it’s better suited to those with some coding experience and businesses that have complex needs. They’re also perfect for businesses that require fully customizable stores.
Some big brands they serve include Microsoft, The North Face and BMW.
- Free to use. No hidden fees or monthly subscriptions needed
- Open-source gives the option to customize fully
- 50+ payment gateway options including the option to add a custom payment gateway
- Fully PCI compliant for added security
- Own multiple stores with products from multiple vendors at no extra charge
- Unlimited products and staff accounts
- GDPR support
- Free integration with popular third party apps like HubSpot, Amazon, Facebook, Avalara etc
- Gives you a mobile-friendly store from the get-go.
- Not beginner-friendly
- More suited for businesses with complex needs and a dedicated tech team.
Looking for a free, fully-customizable platform built on Microsoft? Then try nopCommerce.
Most Feature-Rich E-commerce Platform for Medium to Large Online Stores. Plans start at $79.95/month.
PinnacleCart is designed with the customer’s experience in mind. The company’s main goal is to provide webstore solutions that are engineered with a laser-sharp focus on boosting your visitors and sales.
Their platform comes fully-loaded with tools that make it easy for you to design a store that looks good on any device in minutes. Other features include integration with popular apps like PayPal, Stripe, Amazon, Quickbooks, Avalara and UPS.
Got some work that needs a little more technical expertise? PinnacleCart has an in-house professional services team that can work with you or your team to provide timely business solutions.
PinnacleCart comes with a powerful suite of SEO features that let you index your site on all the major search engines. You can also boost your product’s visibility by syncing your store to platforms like Facebook, eBay and even Amazon.
You get to add Buy Buttons wherever you post your products online. This makes it easy for shoppers on other sites or blogs to purchase your products without having to switch tabs.
Aside Buy Buttons, their suite of tools further help you keep your product listing dynamic, be it digital or physical products. Create tags, categories, product attributes and manage inventory with ease. You can also display different product images.
Though they offer e-commerce hosting, you don’t need to subscribe to their hosting to use their platform. You can simply purchase a perpetual license to use their software on your own server.
Getting a perpetual license comes with 1 year tech support, 20% off future license purchases, access to upgrades all in addition to the features of their advanced plan.
PinnacleCart offers three plans, their standard plan starts from $79.95/month and their advanced plan bills at $199.95/month.
All plans come with
- Unlimited products
- Professional reports on your store’s metrics
- Email marketing
- Quickbooks online integration
- Facebook store, website and blog
- One-page checkout
- Real-time shipping quotes
- Google shopping
- Cart abandonment remarketing
- Coupons, discounts, gift cards and other marketing tools
- Zero transaction fees
- Shared SSL
The standard plan gives you 5 staff accounts and 10GB storage with 20GB bandwidth. The advanced plan gives you unlimited staff accounts, disk space and bandwidth and dedicated SSL certificates for extra security.
- Zero transaction fees
- Free integration with key apps for running your store like Quickbooks
- Upselling and other conversion-centered tools like discounts and promo coupons
- Unlimited products
- Facebook store integration
- Option to use e-commerce platform without having to buy hosting from them
- Strong SEO tools
- Wide variety of app integrations for overall improved store performance
- Option to add a Buy Button when posting products outside of your store
- Limited storage and bandwidth on standard plan
- Starter plan price is relatively high compared to other e-commerce platforms
Take PinnacleCart for a test-drive with their 14-day free trial.
Best Easy-to-use Store Builder for Beginners. Plans start at $26/month.
Squarespace is more popular as a website builder but their e-commerce store builder is just as great. Squarespace brings the ease of use of its website builder to creating an e-commerce store.
The platform gives you an easy drag and drop builder so you can get your setup in minutes. You have the option to sell products, services and more recently set up appointments.
You also get a mobile app that gives you instant access to your store so you can track orders, stock and even connect with customers.
Squarespace recently added an appointment scheduling feature to its e-commerce functionality. This gives you the option to create an ecommerce store that runs on appointments mainly.
If you are a consultant, run a beauty salon or spa or any service that works based on client appointments, Squarespace has a unique e-commerce solution for you.
A few other notable features include;
- Automatically sync your Squarespace inventory with other platforms
- Customize customer checkout experience to include customer surveys or the option to share a gifting message.
- Easy sharing to social media your products to Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
- Schedule promotions, new product line releases and sales at specific dates.
- Sell subscriptions and digital products easily to generate recurring revenue with monthly and weekly subscriptions
- Sync with email to automatically display low stock labels
While Squarespace may not be ideal for a growing online store trying to boost its SEO, it’s a great place for a complete newbie to get set-up and start testing out products and what works for their online store.
Squarespace offers four plans, two of which are specifically crafted for e-commerce businesses.
Their basic and advanced commerce plans both give you
- Unlimited products
- Zero transaction fees
- Powerful analytics to monitor your store’s performance
- Marketing and upselling tools like gift cards, discount coupons, promo codes
- Point of sale functionality
- Customer accounts
If you’re just starting out, their basic business plan billed at $17/month gives you basic e-commerce functionality.
But if you’re looking to build a strong e-commerce business from the start, the Basic Commerce plan ($26/month) gives more functionality to help your store succeed.
- 24/7 customer support
- Mobile-ready store with app
- Zero transaction fees on e commerce plans
- Appointment scheduling functionality for service-based stores
- Unlimited products
- Available extensions for added functionality
- Supports subscriptions and digital products
- Multiple professionally done templates for any kind of store
- Must buy hosting on Squarespace to access e-commerce functionality
- Limited app integrations compared to other platforms
Get started on their basic e-commerce plan for $26/month billed annually and save up to 30%.
Not sure if Squarespace is for you? Try it out free for 14-days.
Best Open-Source Online Store Platform with Developer and Contributor Support.
Trusted by over 300,000 merchants, PrestaShop is a freemium, open-source ecommerce platform that offers everything you need to run an online store out of the box. It currently supports 1 million businesses and has over 1000 contributors.
Hosted on the IONOS framework, PrestaShop has its own ecosystem to support its ecommerce platform. It has a marketplace with 5000+ apps (free and paid) and is offered in 75 languages.
Because it is open-source, it’s constantly being updated by the PrestaShop experts and developers globally to keep it updated and running smoothly. This also makes it fully customizable.
If you’re a fan of community support, you’ll love the PrestaShop forum where community members can ask questions in forums and get community support. There are 250+ accredited agencies that also offer help with setting up your ecommerce site.
You’ll need to have your site pre-installed and hosted by IONOS, after which you can download and use the PrestaShop software. There’s 24/7 technical support, daily backups and the software is easy to install.
- 24/7 technical support
- 1,000+ contributors helping to maintain platform
- Community forum provides added support
- Well-populated apps and extensions marketplace
- Native payment solutions (PrestaShop payments) available
- Your website must be hosted on the IONOS framework
- Not beginner-friendly. Needs advanced tech support to maintain
- Varied transaction fees
Download PrestaShop and get started with your ecommerce website today.
Best Platform for Simple Product Based Start-ups. Paid plans start from $25/month.
Weebly is better known as a website builder but like Wix, it now offers ecommerce functionality. Started in 2006, it has 500,000 domains and 12% market share in the website builder niche.
Their platform is best suited for relatively new start-ups that don’t need advanced functionality or web presence.
Where Weebly shines is its built-in marketing automation features. On some other ecommerce platforms, you may need to pay for or download additional plugins and extensions to use in your store, saving you from added expenses.
Another perk is their wide variety of product options. Weebly makes it easy to manage several products and inventory, automatically update out of stock items and boost sales by showing customers limited stock alerts.
- Easy-to-use drag and drop builder
- Automatically update and track inventory
- Round the clock customer support
- Built-in marketing automation tools
- Not a lot of apps on their market place
Get started on their Business Plan $25/month (Business Plan), and get a free domain.
Best Platform to Build Multi Vendor Marketplaces (both B2C and B2B).
Yo!Kart marketplace platform stands tall when it comes to high performance ecommerce platforms that serve a variety of needs. Its most outstanding feature by far is the ability to build multi-vendor marketplaces for all business sizes.
Added partial encryption of its core files makes it secure so you don’t need to worry about threats and malicious attacks. Apart from security, Yo!Kart also has an intuitive design that makes it responsive and friendly regardless of what device your shoppers are using.
Yo!Kart ranks high as one of the best solutions in user interface and design functionality. It is fully customizable and allows you to scale once you get a lifetime license. In addition to getting the license, you get 12-months free technical support.
Other notable features include
- Product categories and Managed catalogs for all vendors
- SEO Management
- Centralized payment processing support
- Vendor portal for independent vendor management
- Multilingual and multi-currency support
- Organize your users (buyers, sellers & affiliates) and manage their approval requests easily
- A simplified content management system for blogs, vlogs and
- Regular backup to protect your websites data
Unlike its counterparts, Yo!Kart doesn’t offer free themes and plugins, which will become an added cost. If you have multiple domains, you’ll have to buy licenses to cover those domains as well, as is the case with license-based platforms.
Yo!Kart has three plans with flexible payment options:
- The GoQuick plan currently on promo for $999 annually and it includes a fully-owned license, zero payment processing charges, self-hosting, and default design.
- The $3,999 (GoCustom Lite) plan which comes with partial custom design.
- The GoCustom plan billed at $6,999 and gives you added perks like post-launch marketing and a fully-customized design.
Overall, if you’re looking for an ecommerce platform built to house multiple online vendors with a good set of features then Yo!Kart is a viable option for you.
- 24/7 Supportive technical team
- No hidden costs or fees after license purchase
- Comprehensive features covering all aspects of running a marketplace
- User manuals included with product
- Demo version available
- Deployment on mobile devices available(iPhone, iPad and Android)
- No software upgrades available.
- Little room for customization
- Steep learning curve
- Any adjustments to code terminates your contract
Try a demo version of Yo!Kart today to see if it’s a good fit for your business.
Best Non-Hosted Platform for Multichannel Sales. Plans start at $26/month.
Selz, like some of its competitors, focuses both on helping you build a website as well as giving you the option to build an online store. But the true standout feature for Selz is how easy they make it to sell anywhere.
You can use their backend ecommerce functionality to sell products on any existing website without necessarily having to migrate your entire website to their hosting.
For example, if you’re already running a successful fashion blog, Selz lets you add products, buy buttons, and widgets to your site without having to create a new one. You simply integrate Selz on your blog, add your products and start selling.
Apart from using their ecommerce hosting on any website, you also have the option to embed your products onto other websites, and sell directly on Facebook, Instagram, and Google Shopping from a simple dashboard.
Out of the box, they offer unlimited storage, bandwidth, analytics, discount codes, and lots of third-party integrations. If you’re not using their advanced plan, you’ll have a little challenge if you charge shipping based on weight and size.
Their real-time shipping rate calculator is only available on their advanced plan. But in the meantime you can work around this by using flat rate shipping.
Selz offers three paid plans starting from $26/month (basic) all the way to $179/month (advanced). All their plans allow you to add products to any website or blog, sell on Facebook, Instagram or Google Shopping and offer in-person Point of Sale payments options.
- Personal account manager to assist you with any issues during setup
- 24/7 Email and chat support available
- Real time fraud protection
- Unlimited storage,bandwidth and products
- Use the platform with your own custom domain
- Zero transaction fees
- Additional fees for using other payment methods apart from Selz Pay(native payment platform)
- Real-time shipping calculations only available on highest plan
Try Selz free for 14 days.
Best High-end Open-Source Platform with Tech Support and Customization.
Magento was started in 2007 by Roy Rubin and Yoav Kutner. It has been one of the most popular ecommerce platforms for full customization and a comprehensive set of features. Over a period of four years, Magento grew to prominence, catching the eye of big-name e commerce giants.
In 2011, they were acquired by eBay and then eventually bought by Adobe in the summer of 2018. Currently Magento is available in two versions.
- Magento Open Source: Formerly called the Magento Community Edition. This version is free to download and install.
- Magento Commerce: Formerly called the Magento Enterprise Edition. This cloud-based solution is designed for enterprise-level businesses with developers on hand, Magento runs their platform on Amazon Web Services.
This gives you the flexibility to deploy your sites wherever your business operates. Choose to deploy your site in any production environment within any of AWS’ data centers.
Magento lets you manage multiple sites from a single back end, support local currencies and payment methods, and languages to quickly configure and launch in global markets.
It comes with lots of features that suit businesses with serious customization and tech needs including
- Integration with Amazon as a sales channel
- Responsive themes suited for all kinds of devices
- Integrated B2B functionality so your business can serve wholesalers and resellers.
- Create custom catalogs and price lists to ensure buyers receive contract terms when buying online and offer payments on credit to increase sales.
- SEO and content management tools
- Full-fledged extensions marketplace
In recent times, Magento is trying to get more small businesses on their ecommerce solution or subscribe to their SaaS software at a fee. Nonetheless, this platform works best for medium to large businesses with hired tech support.
- Free to download
- Loaded with lots of features
- Allows for full customization
- Supports growth and scalability
- An active global community with user support
- Can be used with your own hosting and custom domain
- Developer skills required
- Comes with added costs of maintenance
- Not beginner-friendly
- Limited customer support
Get started with a free Magento download today.
18. Big Cartel.
Best Niche E-commerce Platform for Artists and Handicrafts. Paid plans start from $9.99/month.
Big Cartel is an ecommerce platform by artists, for artists. Started in 2005, this SaaS site builder focuses on creators who need a place to sell artwork, clothing, jewelry, and photo prints.
Big Cartel is ideal for artists and entrepreneurs who are looking for an alternative to Etsy. Their platform provides niche-specific solutions for creatives and craftors. The builder itself is simple and uncomplicated, and helps artists put their best foot forward.
Niches they cater to include in their stores include Arts & Design ,Clothing & Apparel, creative work and photography.
Some key features that come with using the Big Cartel platform include
- An easy to use dashboard that gives you an overview of your site’s performance.
- Multiple product offerings with varying price points
- Sell everywhere including Facebook and Instagram
- Easy inventory management tools
- Sales conversion tools like discount codes and promos
- SEO tools for improved website visibility
- Multiple integrations and plugins for improved functionality
They offer one free plan and three paid plans. All plans come with real-time stats, free customizable themes and in-person sales. Their paid plans give you Google analytics reporting, custom domains, offer discounts and promos, inventory tracking and product group options.
Paid plans start from $9.99/month (Platinum) to $29.99/month(Titanium).
- Email, Social media and online support
- Free plan
- Recorded webinars to guide you through set-up
- Sales conversion tools like discounts and promos
- Theme code editing allowed
- Google analytics available to check store performance
- Sales tax autopilot on paid plans
- Only five products with an image per product is allowed on free plan
- Limited feature set
- Not suited for high-volume sales businesses
Start your creative business with Big Cartel’s free plan now.
What Are Ecommerce Platforms?
Ecommerce platforms are web-based software tools or applications that allow you to create and manage an online store to sell products or services. They offer all the necessary tools and functionality to manage and track online sales transactions.
Assuming you wanted to sell your products or business services online a few years ago, you’d have needed a lot of resources and funds.
First, you would’ve had to find your own hosting, be it paying for your own server or subscribing to a high tier web hosting service.
Next you’d have hired developers to code and create a software that allows you to list products/services, manage inventory and customers, track transactions, and payments. They’d have to constantly update the software and fix bugs too.
Today because of Service-as-a-Software (SaaS) technology, tech companies have been able to consolidate these together as a service and have made them available to aspiring entrepreneurs as software. Hence the birth of e-commerce platforms.
For free or for a monthly subscription, you can sign up to an e-commerce platform, and easily create a store from scratch, complete with inventory and payment processors.
Most e-commerce platforms handle the basics of creating and running an online store including design, inventory, customer management, shipping and returns as well as taxes.
Thanks to SaaS technology, e-commerce platforms are now readily available and easily accessible to anyone looking to sell online. There’s enough variety to support businesses of different sizes, needs and different experience levels.
What Are the Best Free Ecommerce Platforms?
Most entrepreneurs starting an online business look for ways to cut costs until they are able to build some steady revenue. It’s natural that most new businesses would try to find as many free tools and options to build their store.
The good news is, there are lots of options available today. Be it paid, open-source or free plans, you’re sure to find a free ecommerce solution to get started with.
In terms of free plans, most other SaaS based ecommerce platforms (apart from Ecwid) offer 14 – day free trials, just so you can test out the platform’s functionality. You may or may not earn enough profits to start paying subscription fees.
Even with Ecwid, their free plan limits you to just 10 products and doesn’t allow digital products.
Ultimately you need to consider your business needs and how you‘d like to run your store or ecommerce website. By answering these questions, you can fine-tune your research and narrow down options that suit your goals.
- What’s your level of tech-knowledge and web development skills? Are you willing to invest a little extra time in improving them?
- Do you want to host your ecommerce site yourself or on the platform’s server?
- How much customization do you need? Do you need creative control of all the tiny details of running the website?
- What’s your budget for covering transaction fees and any other service fees?
- Would you rather spend on paid apps and extensions or would you prefer to have a simple, straight out of box all-round solution for a monthly fee?
- Do you already have an existing offline store or customer base that you’re looking to bring online?
- What’s your main business model? Drop shipping? Subscription-based? Appointment based?
- Does the platform have payment gateway options that work for your geographical location?
- Does the platform support easy scalability and growth?
Often with free options, what you don’t pay for in monthly subscriptions, you pay for in time, paid extensions or apps or transaction fees. After all, a business needs to stay profitable to stay afloat.
For example, the Woocommerce free plugin allows you to add a shop to your website, but most other add-ons and extensions needed to fully optimize your shop come with a premium version you need to pay for.
Such expenses can quickly balloon into added expenses compared to a one-time recurring subscription fee.
Aside from hidden costs, you still have the hassle of handling maintenance, updates, fixes and security issues yourself. You don’t have the luxury of it all been taken care of by the support team of the platform.
Generally, paid options are better because they save you time, stress and development-related costs.
What are the Best Ecommerce Platforms for Small Businesses?
A fair number of ecommerce businesses today are owned by either a single individual (e. g creators, bloggers, consultants) or a small business/brand with less than 20 employees.
Hence most ecommerce platforms have been designed to cater to one-man online entrepreneurs, small brands as well as enterprise-level businesses.
A small ecommerce business needs PCI compliance to boost security, guaranteed uptime so they never lose potential sales, ease of use and seamless performance.
Compared to an individual running a website or blog, small online stores or businesses will have more demanding needs. A small business selling physical goods will need more software that handles inventory, tracking and allows product variations.
Again, if a small ecommerce business deals directly with wholesalers and other businesses, their needs will be a little more stringent. They may need multiple user access, added custom shipping options, tax and invoicing tools.
The last thing you want to spend so much time running the business, that you actually don’t get enough time to market and grow the business.
An ecommerce platform for small businesses should cut the time spent on fulfilling orders, doing paperwork, dealing with site and compliance issues.
The ecommerce platforms below are well-suited to running and growing a small online business.
Shopify is hands-down one of the best platforms for small businesses. It is designed as a business-in-a-box software giving you a one-stop solution to everything your small ecommerce business could possibly need.
It has a well-populated app store and integrations with tons of other apps that cover everything from tax calculations, shipping and even marketing your business.
Apart from these, Shopify also allows you to sell on multiple platforms including Facebook Shops, Instagram and other marketplaces like Walmart Marketplace, eBay and Amazon.
It’s also worth noting that Shopify supports the drop shipping business model and Print-On-Demand stores. So if your business is going to be built on that, they are a worthy contender.
Shopify is easy-to-use and comes with little to no technical issues. In case your store has issues, their responsive customer support team is on hand to solve any issues quickly.
Additionally, if you’re new to POS systems, Shopify is a good place to learn. They integrate with several leading point-of-sale systems for omnichannel retailers with both physical store locations and online stores.
Their Shopify plan ($79/month) provides everything a growing small business needs to run successfully.
The plan comes with 5 staff accounts, up to 72% in shipping discounts including priority mail pricing from USPS and a lower percentage charge per transaction compared to the basic plan.
Wix is next in line to Shopify because it’s equally popular and just as easy to use. You get lots of customization options so your ecommerce site can truly stand out from the crowd.
You get 500+ themes and templates to choose from when it comes to design. There are options to customize your storefront and even cart to help streamline the checkout process.
Their ecommerce platform is relatively new, but it harnesses their experience in helping people create beautiful websites easily. Wix even has its own native payment processor which is unique as many other platforms don’t have one.
Aside from their payment processor, they integrate 50+ other payment gateways and accept over 40 currencies so your customer can pay however they like.
Everything is connected to a simple dashboard, so you can track inventory, keep up with customers and see how your store is doing overall.
Like Shopify, Wix allows you to sell on Facebook and Instagram as well so you can grow your business fast.
The Wix Business Unlimited plan ($25/month) is perfect for small businesses that are moving online. You get up to 35GB storage, unlimited bandwidth, visitor analytics and site booster apps. In case you don’t have a logo, you’ll get one for free too.
It’s also perfect if you have a lot of video content as it gives you up to 10 hours of video.
Sign up for the Business Unlimited Plan and get additional benefits like Pro Ecommerce features and a professional logo.
If you already have an existing website or online presence or are looking to grow your site’s visibility, 3dcart is the best choice.
Claiming to be the best SEO-friendly ecommerce website builder in the marketplace, 3dcart has technology that works to boost your site’s visibility and page rank right out the door.
Aside from helping your site get more visitors and traffic, they have a full suite of sales conversion and marketing tools to keep your business growing.
For example, they have a rewards and loyalty program to help you turn your customers into raving fans, wish lists and back-in-stock alerts as well as gift certificates too.
They have tools for offline business owners too. You can create manual or phone orders, manage sales reps and accept in-person payments via their POS or Square’s POS terminal.
Drop shipping and multichannel sales via Facebook, Instagram, Amazon and eBay is supported as well.
Choose their Plus Store plan ($39.50/month on promo) if you have up to 5 staff members who run your ecommerce website. You’ll also get unlimited products, zero transaction fees and access to 100+ payment gateways.
Volusion’s all-in-one store builder has just the right balance of features to price to help you set up and keep your store running.
It’s also user-friendly and comes with built-in tools to help you handle inventory, orders fulfillment and customer management.
Like 3dcart, Volusion also helps boost your ecommerce site’s page rank with comprehensive SEO tools. Its integration with sites like Facebook, Instagram, Amazon and eBay also help drive traffic to your website and boost sales.
When it comes to payment options, their main integrations are with PayPal, Stripe and Amazon. Shipping and fulfilling orders is made seamless from an easy to use dashboard that gives you a bird’s eye view of everything going on in your store.
Their Professional Plan starts from $79/month and gives you up to $100k in annual transaction volume. You also get 5 staff accounts, 5000 products and support both via phone and online.
Sign up with annual billing and save up to 10%.
What Are the Best Ecommerce Platforms for Dropshipping?
Dropshipping has become a popular ecommerce model in recent times. It’s a kind of retail fulfillment method where you act as the storefront and face of a wholesaler, manufacturer or even another retailer.
So you display and market the manufacturer’s goods or products, without keeping inventory. When customers order products, you simply pass the order on to the manufacturer to ship directly to the customer, while making a profit.
Lots of new online stores choose to build their business exclusively on dropshipping. It saves you from having to invest upfront in inventory, finding storage and cost of packaging.
While you could technically just get the orders and manually go to any online store to place the order on your customer’s behalf, that process is tedious and lengthy. Apart from that, the last thing you want is to find out a customer has ordered something out of stock.
Dropshipping platforms help you avoid all the hassle by syncing stock and inventory levels so you can sell the items as though you have the stock physically. They also give you room to brand, market and promote these products as your own.
A good drop shipping ecommerce service should allow you to easily add wholesalers’ products to your store, automate shipping, sync inventory levels. You should also have flexibility to offer discounts and promotions as though the products are yours.
Aside from what we’ve mentioned already, there are other obvious features to look out for.
The platform should be user-friendly especially if you have a team with differing levels of tech knowledge.
- It should support a dropshipping plugin or have its own native dropshipping plugin
- It should have responsive and round-the-clock customer support.
- It should make managing your store seamless and support scalability.
These Are Our Top Picks When It Comes to the Best Platforms for Drop Shipping.
Hands down, Shopify has contributed the most to popularizing the dropshipping ecommerce business model over the last few years. This is in part because of their native Oberlo plugin.
The plugin, acquired by Shopify in 2016, gives store owners easy access to 1,000s of wholesaler vendors. It has a large variety of niches for nearly everything under the sun.
Oberlo also provides data based on order volume, industry pricing and customer reviews so you can make informed decisions on which products to add to your store. They even have ratings for vendors so you know the vendors you choose are trustworthy.
Shopify is known for its ease-of-use and customization. Add that to a responsive customer service anytime, any day and you have a winning dropshipping ecommerce platform.
Wix is known for their easy drag and drop website builder and loads of customization options (500+ themes and templates). Their recent inclusion of an ecommerce store builder to their service makes them an interesting choice.
Apart from being easy-to-use, they also have a native solution for dropshipping-based stores called Modalyst.
Modalyst offers millions of products in every possible niche on their marketplace. They are the official dropshipping partner of AliExpress and give you seamless syncing to your store.
You can readily import products and their descriptions, calculate profits, follow your favorite vendors to keep track of new product releases and get notified from your wholesalers when inventory levels drop.
3dcart is known for SEO that gets your store noticed but they also have unique plans and features for dropshipping based stores.
First they give you zero transaction fees, unlimited orders, single page checkout and one-click sync with your suppliers inventory so you can quickly populate your store.
That aside, they have multiple connectors to different dropshipping marketplaces. Their native DOBA drop shipping connector gives you access to 2 million products on its marketplace.
You also get automatic updates of product and inventory numbers. Any order placed in your store is automatically processed and fulfilled by DOBA and order status updates including tracking numbers are sent to your online store manager.
Aside from their native dropshipping plugin, you can use other dropshipping connectors for AliExpress, Inventory Source and even Printful if you’re interested in on-demand printing.
What are the Benefits of Using eCommerce Platforms?
Ecommerce has become one of the simplest and easiest businesses to start online. Statistics show the commerce industry is not slowing down anytime soon either. Ecommerce revenue is expected to hit $ 4.9 trillion by 2021.
According to Nasdaq, it’s estimated that 95% of all purchases will be through eCommerce by the year 2040. Ecommerce is one of the few industries that has seen a growth boost despite global economic uncertainty. Thus more and more people are turning to ecommerce to build a second source of income.
Whether you are thinking of starting a blog, ecommerce store or simply looking to start selling online, using an ecommerce platform is a simple way to streamline your revenue generating activities online.
The ongoing pandemic has only made ecommerce and shopping online more appealing to customers. But what about to the aspiring online entrepreneur? What unique benefits does using an ecommerce platform provide over a traditional brick and mortar store?
1. Stay in business 24/7.
The number one benefit of using an ecommerce platform is the ability to be open for business at all times. The internet runs 24/7, meaning potential customers should be able to make purchases any day, anytime.
Ecommerce platforms give online business owners a simple way to always be accessible to customers no matter their geographical location or time zone. Same applies to owners of physical stores.
By creating an online store, you can extend your business hours without necessarily having to keep your physical store open round the clock.
2. Get started no matter your budget (or lack of one)
One of the biggest roadblocks to starting any kind of business is capital. Physical store locations come with lots of start-up costs including rent, labour, furnishing etc. An ecommerce platform removes all those expenses.
Again, before ecommerce platforms became popular, the costs involved in building an online store were staggering. You would have needed a dedicated hosting,hired a developer to code, customize and build the front end of your store as well to maintain it and fix any bugs.
Now, all you need is a domain name, good web hosting and a source of traffic. Most ecommerce platforms provide hosting for your website plus allow unlimited products and bandwidth. Some also offer a free domain name for a year. Most are free to sign-up or prices as low as $20/month.
Ecommerce platforms can give you all these sometimes for less than the price of dinner at a regular restaurant. Hence the barriers to starting a business online are much lower. The variety of free and paid options make it more easy and appealing to start-ups.
3. Manage your business from anywhere
Owning an online business appeals to many because of freedom and flexibility of working from anywhere, on any device. Using an ecommerce platform gives you this same freedom and flexibility. Log in from anywhere on any device that’s got an internet connection.
To make it even better, a number of platforms have the mobile app version from which you can manage your store on the go. Track inventory, shipments and customer purchases all from your phone. No need to spend time commuting to a physical store location just to conduct business.
Again thanks to SaaS technology, you won’t need to get your own hardware/software in-house just to run your store. Using an ecommerce platform eliminates this hassle.
4. Start your business without owning inventory
Want to start a business without the upfront investment in physical goods and renting warehouses? An ecommerce platform that supports dropshipping will simplify the entire process in minutes.
No need to look for your own vendors or products because most platforms that support dropshipping come with built -in plugins that give you instant access to millions of wholesale vendors and dropship manufacturers in every niche e. g. Oberlo and Modalyst.
The apps also let you automatically import the manufacturers images, product descriptions and sync their inventory levels in your store so you don’t have to worry about keeping up tabs with product levels.
Apart from dropshipping, ecommerce platforms also support digital product and subscription based sales which eliminates the Stress of handling shipping, order fulfilment and returns.
5. Reduce payroll and labour costs
A traditional store will need anywhere from 2 to 10 employees to stay operational, not including independent contractors. These all inflate the cost of starting and running a small business. With the ecommerce business model, you’ll see you don’t need as many hands to start.
Using an ecommerce platform also allows you to streamline your entire workflow. keep your pulse on your store’s numbers and taxes with apps and extensions that do the heavy lifting for you.
With a dropshipping based store you even cut costs further since the manufacturer handles shipping and order fulfilment for you. Technically you can run a dropshipping store by yourself.
6. Quickly find a ready market online
Ecommerce platforms make it easier to find customers who are looking to buy what you sell. They let you use cost-effective ways like social media, organic search, and Google Adwords to reach potential customers.
If you don’t already have an existing online presence, some platforms boost your page rank in search engines helping put your website in front of more eyeballs e.g. 3dcart.
Others allow you to integrate your store with facebook and instagram, allowing you to tap into your social media following. You’ll also get integrations marketplaces like Amazon and eBay which are great for finding new customers, boosting revenue.
Still on marketing, you also have the option to boost sales conversion by integrating email marketing, discounts, free shipping and gift cards.
7. Make data-driven business decisions
Most ecommerce platforms provide in-depth sales and marketing analytics reports to help you understand how your store is doing.
Track which sales channels are bringing the most traffic and how your ad campaigns are doing. Get to know which products are customer favorites, which promotions work best and even your average conversion rates and visitor traffic.
8. Manage your customers in one place
The number one way to build a growing and consistently profitable store is through repeat customers. A five percent increase in customer retention can lead to an increase in profits of between 25 and 95 percent (SmallBiz Trends). Repeat customers spend 33 percent more than new customers.
Stats like this only go to prove how necessary it is to manage and maintain your existing customer base. With a traditional business, this process tends to be tedious.
An ecommerce platform integrates customer management into the platform making it easy to maintain and grow a customer base.
Types of eCommerce Platforms
By now, you’re familiar with popular ecommerce platforms and know the basic functionality that such platforms offer. Apart from features, you can further classify ecommerce platforms based on their access and how they operate.
There are three main kinds of ecommerce platforms. Each one comes with its unique perks and downsides. The better you know your ecommerce business goals, the easier it will be to pick a platform that suits your needs.
1. Self-hosted (Open-source)
As the name implies, self- hosted ecommerce platforms are platforms that give you flexibility when it comes to hosting. You can use the platforms with your existing web hosting service.
Most self-hosted platforms are also open-source meaning it’s source code is readily available for users and developers to access and modify. It also means bugs and any necessary fixes are done quickly because developers are constantly working to improve its performance.
For you as an end user, an open-source ecommerce platform allows full customization. You can choose how each part of your store looks, responds and behaves. Be it colors, fonts, forms, check-out pages etc with a little coding knowledge.
Open-source platforms often have their own marketplace of extensions and apps which allow you to add more functionality to your website e.g. the wishlist extension for Woocommerce.
Getting started with an open-source platform is free, but you may have to pay for premium extensions to get added functionality.
2. Hosted (SaaS)
For those looking for a ready out-of-box solution, hosted ecommerce platforms provide both hosting and the functionality of an ecommerce website. Thanks to Saas technology, the software you need to run an ecommerce site is uploaded online and is available for a monthly fee.
With SaaS type platforms, hosting is already provided. All you need is a domain name. Some even add a free domain name to their subscription package. If you already have a domain,you can simply link your domain to your ecommerce site.
The biggest advantage of SaaS based ecommerce platforms is that they are the most beginner- friendly and you don’t need much technical support. Most service providers provide 24/ 7 support. You also don’t need to bother about updates, bug fixes etc because they handle all that.
Aside from responsive tech support, most hosted platforms make it easy to scale your business fast. They offer custom plans depending on your business’ needs.
3. Mixed (CaaS)
Unlike the 1st two options, CaaS or Commerce-as-a-Service platforms provide ecommerce functionality as a standalone service. No need to worry about hosting or migrating your website’s content just get ecommerce functionality.
It lets you move your e-commerce data and computing into the cloud, making it dynamic and easy-to-scale whilst giving you flexibility with the front-end of your choice. Because CaaS provides mainly cloud-based ecommerce functionality, it’s very cost effective.
It also provides easy scalability, reduces the risk of security threats and malicious attacks. You won’t have to worry about PCI and GDPR compliance because your service provider will handle that for you.
Remember, the key is to always have your business needs in mind when picking an ecommerce platform.
Tips and Strategies for Using eCommerce Platforms Effectively
Ecommerce offers numerous benefits compared to traditional retail. From improving customer experience to making your products/services globally accessible, ecommerce platforms will help you expand and grow your business in new ways.
Much as ecommerce is expanding, it’s not enough to just create a web store and leave it at that. Between 12-24 million ecommerce stores currently exist, with more being added daily. Your store needs to be unique and offer a stellar shopping experience to stand out from the crowd.
To fully harness the potential of ecommerce platforms, there are few strategies you need to follow.
1. Your store should stand out visually.
The online space is crowded with lots of content all jostling for your buyer’s attention. One of the best ways to do that, is to create a visually appealing website. Studies claim that it takes 0.05 seconds for a user to decide whether or not they like your website.
That means you have literally a split second to create a good first impression. Your website’s colors, logo and branding should build trust and pique your visitor’s interest. It should also make it easy for them to understand what your business is about.
Visitors to your websites should have a seamless and intuitive experience. Navigating your website and finding what they are looking for should be easy for potential buyers.
A good place to start is to pick an appropriate theme or template. Make sure it fits your niche and would appeal to your ideal buyer. Be sure to add appropriate calls-to-action that would pull your visitor deeper into your website, for example, a discount or promo code on checkout.
2. Your website should be mobile-ready.
Statistics show that over 63% of internet users used mobile to browse online compared to a computer.
It’s a fact that more and more web users log on to the internet via their mobile phone tablet. Thus, it is critical for your ecommerce site to look as good on mobile devices as it does on PCs.
Apart from lookin good, it must also load fast and operate seamlessly on mobile.
Your ecommerce platform should help you optimize your site for both mobile and PC. Be sure to select themes and templates optimized for mobile. All your pages should be responsive on mobile especially home, product, category and checkout pages.
Shopify and Wix both do a great job at offering mobile-ready sites and themes from the onset.
If you’ve ever been on a website that seemed cluttered and not well- organized, then you know how important easy navigation is. Navigation, like page load speed, influences how long visitors spend on your page.
A well-organized mobile website improves both the user experience and conversion rate on your site. To make things easier for potential customers, your ecommerce platform will have plugins that can boost navigation.
To further improve how mobile-friendly your website is, you can download plugins and extensions that improve all user experience and may even boost engagement and sales.
For instance, WooCommerce allows you to automatically add a plugin that makes it easy to view your previously viewed products.
4. Offer top-notch customer service
According to Bain, a superior customer experience turns a customer into a promoter with a lifetime value of 6 to 14 times that of a detractor. With more and more companies improving the overall customer service experience, you can’t afford to have a poor customer experience.
90% of Americans use customer service as a factor in deciding whether or not to do business with a company. (HubSpot)
Other reasons why you’ll want to invest in a great customer service include maintaining your existing customer base and also the ability to cross-sell or upsell products or services.
Your ecommerce platform should help you respond to customers whenever and wherever. This could be via a Facebook Messenger plugin or Live Chat for times when you’re offline. It may also be a simple Whatsapp plugin that links directly to your customer care chat line.
The Kano model shown below, explains how an improved customer experience can positively influence how a customer feels about your business, turning them into a raving fan.
On the other hand, if a customer’s basic customer service expectations are not met, the model shows a depreciation, leading to the customer having a bad review about the business.
There are some basic requirements that are neutral and don’t necessarily count towards customer happiness or dissatisfaction. Things like phone etiquette, being courteous or polite regardless of whichever channel the customer uses, fall in this category.
Most ecommerce platforms do a decent job at helping you provide a stellar customer care experience . Woocommerce for example has plugins that allow you to add direct Whatsapp chats to your website.
It goes without saying then, that your ecommerce strategy should have an efficient live chat and customer service system – preferably 24/7.
Let’s take the example of Squarespace.
It makes it easy to add customer-based tools like Pure Chat, a live chat software, in just a few simple steps.
With the live chat option, you can:
- Respond right away to website visitors’ questions
- Engage leads, prospective customers and build trust
- Boost your conversion rates and sales by offering discounts and solving any issues affecting a customer’s order.
5. Tap into data and analytics
If content is king, then data is the oil that keeps the content wheel spinning. After all the hard work you put into making sure your store looks great and responds well, you need to know what your potential customers are looking for when they come to your site and how they behave.
Most ecommerce platforms provide comprehensive data via visitor tracking, analytics and sales reports. This information helps you to fully understand your customer’s behaviour so you can strategize your sales and marketing plans.
Which products do they spend the most time on? What are their demographics and geolocations? What point in the buying process do they get to before abandoning a cart?
Understanding your customers’ behaviour and what they respond well to helps you to customize their shopping experience and boost conversion rates.
Wix for example, has a visitor analytics tool.
Wix’ in-built visitor data analytics tool, Visitor Analytics, helps you track the number of visitors, frequency of visitors, their countries and IP addresses, check conversion statistics and create data visualizations.
This will help you take better, well-informed decisions regarding the direction of any sales or marketing campaigns for the future. You’ll be able to narrow or broaden your campaigns to include as many of your visitor demographics as possible.
Struggling to find an innovative way to personalize your customers’ experiences on your eCommerce site? Give them the ability to have a live chat with your customer service rep. Now, that’s a valuable way to provide support that feels personal and makes your visitor feel valued.
One of your goals should be to prevent your customers from becoming frustrated between the browsing and buying stages. To hold their hand and lead them through the entire buying process.
6. Strategize for all your sales channels
Most ecommerce channels allow you to sell on multiple platforms and channels including social media and marketplaces like Amazon and eBay. Each of these channels has unique marketing tactics that are best suited to it.
For example adding custom buy buttons to your products on Amazon or Shop Now buttons on social media may boost sales conversion rates.
Ecwid allows you to tag products in your posts and stories so your shoppers don’t have to leave the app just to buy your products. They will be automatically transported to a checkout page to complete their order with zero hassle.
Purchase Criteria: How to Choose the Right eCommerce Platform?
We’ve seen the tips and strategies you need to know to make the most out of your ecommerce platform. You’re probably also familiar with big name ecommerce platforms by now. The question is how do you decide which of the paid platforms to use?
There are few simple factors that should influence your choice. Ultimately, your platform should help you expand and grow your business as seamlessly as possible.
1. Mobile Optimized
Whatever ecommerce platform you choose needs to give you mobile-ready templates and themes. About 40% of online transactions are done using a mobile device and nearly half of mobile users switch to your competitor after a bad experience with your mobile site.
With almost everyone accessing the web from their phone, it is imperative that your ecommerce service provider helps you create mobile-friendly websites. This includes responsive homepages, product pages, categories and a smooth checkout process.
2. Ease of Use
Time is money. The last thing you want is a platform with a steep learning curve that makes it difficult for you and your team to use.
Your ecommerce platform needs to be intuitive and user-friendly with a minimal onboarding time, especially if you are not tech-inclined or have dedicated tech support.
On the other hand, if your business is rapidly growing and you need more customization or perhaps have hired someone with IT knowledge, you’re better off with a more advanced platform like Magento or PinnacleCart that suits these needs.
Some platforms are better suited for scalability than others. Knowing things like your expected transaction volume, monthly order volume and seasonal upswings will help you pick a service provider that can accommodate all your needs as your business grows.
Some ecommerce plans limit the number of products you can add to your store, the number of staff accounts you can have per subscription, the total transaction volume allowed annually and even the number of orders monthly.
All these factors influence the rate at which your business grows and expands. PinnacleCart and 3dcart both offer plans with unlimited products and support large management teams.
4. Extensions, Integrations and Apps
This is a dealbreaker for any ecommerce platform worth considering. Much as many of these web-based software try to incorporate the basic tools you need to run both the front and back-end of an online store, they simply can’t cover everything.
It is for this reason that apps, extensions and integrations exist. These tools extend and improve the functionality of an ecommerce platform. They make it easy to sync your favorite business tools with your store to create an efficient workflow, for example, Aweber integration for email marketing.
Not all ecommerce platforms have a well-populated app/extension store. Some of the newer platforms are still populating their stores, making them less appealing compared to their more established counterparts.
The rule is to make sure whatever platform you choose has all the apps and integrations you need to maximize efficiency and productivity in your business.
5. Payment Options
Last but not the least is payment options. One of the major reasons anyone starts an ecommerce site is to enable customers to pay for their products online. This is made possible by having varied payment options.
Having a variety of payment options improves customer experience by making it easy for them to pay whichever way they find convenient. It also builds trust and makes your website look more credible.
It is crucial to have a platform that supports as many payment options as possible, especially if you want to build a global brand. Your platform should allow you to add all major payment processors to your site.
Ecommerce Platforms FAQ
These FAQs will help summarize our entire conversation so far on ecommerce platforms and how they can help you take your online business to the next level.
An ecommerce platform is a software that helps you to sell products and services online. It handles everything related to managing an online store or business from accepting payments, order fulfilment and tracking inventory. It allows you to have a front-end your customers can shop from and a back-end where you run operations of your business.
Ecommerce platforms come at different price points. There are free, open-source options that don’t cost anything to install but come with added cost of paid plugins to maintain e. g Woocommerce. Paid options can start from as low as $8.99/month (Zyro) to $79/month(PinnacleCart) for more advanced features.
The top ecommerce platforms based on highest number of customers are
– Shopify powers over a million stores online
– Squarespace has approximately 260,000 websites
– Wix ecommerce stores serve 89,000+ sites
– Volusion has hosted 59,169 websites
– Magento hosts 260,000 merchants on its platform.
Yes. Most ecommerce platforms offer migration support services to help smooth the process and make it as painless as possible. However, migration may come with added fees depending on where you migrate to.
A fair number of ecommerce platforms have transaction fees that may include a fixed price plus a percentage charged on every transaction. The good news is, some platforms don’t charge any fees at all. 3dcart, Zyro, Sellfy and PinnacleCart all give you zero transaction fees
Ecommerce Platform Comparison and Next Steps to Launch Your Online Store
Starting an ecommerce business is simple if you know the right tools and software to get started with.
There is a wide variety of ecommerce platforms to choose from regardless of your tech knowledge, budget, size of your business or business needs.
- If you’re on a budget, try an open-source platform like Woocomerce or nopCommerce.
- For a more beginner-friendly, one-stop shop solution that needs zero tech-skills and supports dropshipping, try Shopify or Wix Stores.
- For large enterprise level ecommerce sites, PinnacleCart and Magento offer advanced functionality with more room for customization compared to other SaaS platforms.
The ecommerce industry is on an upward climb with no signs of slowing down. So if you’re looking to get your share of the pie, ecommerce platforms provide a simple way to tap into and benefit from this industry.