Ecommerce Guide

Ecommerce Platforms

2018 Ecommerce Platform Reviews

Building your Ecommerce website has never been easier with easy to use and affordable and best Ecommerce platforms available in 2018. We have made it easy for you to compare ecommerce platforms. Below is a selection of the most common DIY cloud-based ecommerce platforms that are easy to use.

Compare the Best Ecommerce Platforms

2018 Best Ecommerce Platform Ecommerce Platform Overview Platform Features

1

  • Great speed and load times
  • Set up over a weekend
  • Custom domain name
  • Add-ons
  • Great design
  • Price 9
  • Ease of Use
    10
  • Support
    10
  • Features
    10

2

  • Free plan available
  • Tons of templates
  • HTML5 editor
  • Easy-to-use online payments
  • Drag-and-drop interface
  • Price
    10
  • Ease of Use
    8
  • Support
    10
  • Features
    10

3

  • Awesome management tools
  • Excellent marketing options
  • Loads of Apps
  • Supports multiple currencies
  • 24/7 Support
  • Price
    8
  • Ease of Use
    9
  • Support
    10
  • Features
    10

4

  • Attractive Template Designs
  • Great Analytics
  • Excellent marketing tools
  • Affordable
  • No Transaction Fees
  • Price
    9
  • Ease of Use
    9
  • Support
    9
  • Features
    10

5

  • It's free
  • Based on WordPress
  • Coupon Codes
  • Email Marketing
  • Price
    10
  • Ease of Use
    9
  • Support
    9
  • Features
    8

6

  • Simple to Set Up/Use
  • Plenty of Themes
  • Low Running Costs
  • Price
    9
  • Ease of Use
    9
  • Support
    8
  • Features
    9

7

  • Easy to Use
  • Free for Small, Basic Stores
  • Time Sensitive Discounts
  • Other Marketing Tools
  • Price
    7
  • Ease of Use
    10
  • Support
    10
  • Features
    7

8

  • Large Community
  • Easy to Hack and Modify
  • Supports Additional
    Plugins and Add-ons
  • Price
    10
  • Ease of Use
    8
  • Support
    8
  • Features
    7

9

  • Natural Interface
  • Integrating Inventory
  • Customer Support
  • Price
    7
  • Ease of Use
    9
  • Support
    9
  • Features
    8

10

  • Strong Multi-App Integration
  • Wide Range of Payment
    Processors
  • Personalized Customer
    Support
  • Price
    7
  • Ease of Use
    9
  • Support
    9
  • Features
    8

11

  • Unlimited Product Storage
    Options
  • Wide Range of Payment
    Gateways Supported
  • Strong Chat and Phone Support
  • Price
    8
  • Ease of Use
    7
  • Support
    9
  • Features
    9

12

  • Designed for Ease of Scale
  • Robust Marketing Toolkit
  • Multi-Store Function
  • Price
    7
  • Ease of Use
    9
  • Support
    6
  • Features
    10

13

  • User Friendly
  • Scalable
  • Feature-Intensive
  • Price
    6
  • Ease of Use
    9
  • Support
    7
  • Features
    10

Ecommerce Platform Reviews

Shopify is one of the leaders in the e-commerce space, and perhaps the easiest-to-use tool to build your online store with.

No matter if you’re just starting out (and have no website or e-commerce experience at all), or if you’re looking for a way to take your business to the next level, our Shopify review promises to have something to suit you!

Wix is one of the most popular website building platforms out there. It’s user-friendly, easy to grasp, and enables you to build a high-quality online store (or website) all by yourself. There’s no technical skill required at all.

But that’s just some marketing talk, isn’t it? The main question here is: “Can Wix be the right solution for you personally?”

Bigcommerce is a cloud-based e-commerce platform aimed at fast-growing brands.

They offer really nice e-commerce store management features (including product management, order fulfillment, online payments, coupons, analytics, etc.), good-looking designs, and countless customization features.

Launched back in 2004, Squarespace is a powerful visual website builder in the first instance. Today, it is used more broadly, including for e-commerce, providing developers with access to some of the most stylish ready-made templates available.

WooCommerce Ecommerce Reviews

WooCommerce is a favorite among e-commerce developers and designers, both as a result of the extensive features available from this robust platform, and the fact that it hooks up to WordPress. WordPress is a free blogging platform that can be used as an easy content management system for running virtually any website.

OpenCart is another free tool you might want to consider using, which comes with the option of integrating a number of different design themes to give your site its own distinctive look. These shops look professional, scale well, and provide the admin with a host of features including support for over 20 different methods of payment.

Big Cartel is predominantly aimed at creatives like musicians and artists, designed as a platform for them to sell their wears direct to fans. From an e-commerce perspective, this means the platform is painfully easy to use, and you can get your store up and running within a matter of minutes.

osCommerce is another wildly popular platform for e-commerce sites, boasting 12,800 registered sites at the time of writing. There are hundreds of thousands of members of the wider osCommerce community online, which includes developers, and a popular online forum for help and support.

Sitting firmly at the “all inclusive” end of the market, Volusion is a feature-rich e-commerce platform with everything you could possibly need to run an effective e-commerce store. Like Shopify and Bigcommerce, the model is similar – you are effectively renting your store on a monthly basis, and in the process gaining access to the power and customization potential of the Volusion platform.

Originally sold as a software download, LemonStand has moved with the times in recent memory, shifting things up a gear to offer a cloud-based solution on a monthly model like much of the competition.

3dcart is a hosted shopping cart software, which provides e-commerce retailers with the basic tools they need to build a visually attractive store and shopping cart. With packages segmented by monthly traffic volumes, 3dcart isn’t necessarily the most suitable option for those with looks on a high trafficked store from the outset.

Developed by the good people at Capital One, Spark Pay (formerly AmeriCommerce) is an online e-commerce platform with over 5,000 stores currently selling over 9 million products through the service.

Magento is the most heavily used free e-commerce software, used by over 30,000 merchants across the world. There is a paid tier available for enterprise users, but at a basic level the software is free for you to use.

Factors to Consider when Choosing an Ecommerce Platform

As an e-tailer operating in today’s modern environment, you have your work cut out for you — more so than ever before. Not only are you dealing with a more competitive market, but your customers have higher expectations. It’s no longer enough to stock up on the right products, you also need to delight customers and be able to fulfill orders in the fastest, most affordable way possible.

Then there’s the fact that shoppers are increasingly using multiple channels and devices throughout their buying journeys. They’re shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, online, and, more importantly, on mobile. Retailers who want to keep up must be able to provide great shopping experiences across various environments and devices.

It’s a tall order, but you need to be able to deliver if you want to stay competitive. And a big part of doing that lies in the technologies you use in your business. To thrive in today’s market, you need an ecommerce platform that will allow you to deliver on the expectations of modern consumers. You need the tools to sell the right products, provide amazing shopping experiences, and fulfil orders efficiently. And if your existing solution can’t meet those needs, you should find one that can.

That’s exactly what this guide is for. This resource will walk you through the process of finding and selecting the right ecommerce platform. Go through the steps below and incorporate them in your search for a new solution.

Step 1 – Determine your ecommerce needs

Iron out your needs before you even start looking into ecommerce platforms. Determining your requirements early on will make the process of finding and selecting a solution much easier.

Begin your search with a roadmap. Outline where your business is now and where you want it to go. What are the features and experiences that your site is currently offering? Put them on paper and make sure the solution you select has comparable (or better) capabilities.

Next, think about your future plans for the business. Are you planning to expand to more stores or markets? Do you intend to introduce more fulfilment options? You want a solution that will allow your business to scale and improve.

Another great exercise is to map your customers’ path to purchase. How do they find you? What channels do they use? How do they want their orders to be fulfilled? The answers to these questions will enable you to determine the features and capabilities that you need.

When listing down your requirements, specify them in terms of:

  1. Front-end needs – You need your site to look and function well. What exactly do you want customers to see and do on your site? Consider navigation, search, as well as the information that you want customers to see and how they should be displayed. You should also think about the customisation options that you need in an ecommerce solution.
  2. Back office / integrations – Your ecommerce site needs to work smoothly with your back office operations. List the capabilities you need the platform to have to ensure that products are ordered, selected, packed, and shipped successfully.

Also, consider the programs you’re currently using (i.e. ERP, fulfilment, accounting, and the like) and see if the platforms you’re evaluating can integrate with them. If not, do they offer built-in features or alternative integrations that can work for your business?

  1. Customer management – Think about the capabilities you need to build and manage relationships with your customers. For example, if you communicate with shoppers via email, then you need a solution that either has built-in email marketing features or an integration with your email marketing platform. Do you have a loyalty program? Make sure it works with your new ecommerce program.
  2. Catalog management – Specify the catalogue management features you need. How many SKUs do you have? How many variants?

If you have special catalog requirements, write them down as well. For example, do you sell bundles? Can customers personalise their merchandise? Think about these things now and keep them in mind when you’re assessing different solutions.

  1. Architecture and security – List the security and reliability standards you need in your ecommerce platform. How should the platform be built? How flexible or scalable is it? What certifications and encryptions should it have?
  2. Performance/scalability – See to it that the platform can handle the traffic and data that you have. How does each platform handle heavy volumes of traffic?
  3. Mobile – Specify your requirements for mobile. Aside from being responsive (which should be a given) what other features should be available on your mobile site? For instance, some ecommerce merchants have “click-to-call” or “click-to-map” buttons on their sites.

You should also think about how want your mobile site to be structured in order to avoid issues such as code bloat and increased page load time.

Put them on paper

Doing the above exercises will enable you to create a list of required features. To make things more efficient later on, organise these needs in a spreadsheet that will allow you to compare solutions side by side.

Note: You also want to involve key people in the organisation in this initial phase of determining your needs. Have people from departments like IT, customer service, sales, marketing, fulfilment, and operations weigh in on your requirements in a new ecommerce solution. This will enable you to get a complete view of your needs.

Consider hiring an ecommerce consultant

At this stage, you should also think about bringing in outside experts. Hiring an ecommerce consultant can make the process of finding and selecting a system much easier. Consultants can provide insights and expertise that your internal teams may not have, allowing you to be more informed (and objective) when assessing different solutions.

If you’re keen on hiring a consultant for this project, here are a few pointers to help you select the best one:

  1. Pay attention to their past work and experience – Years of experience and a strong portfolio are great, but you want to make sure their credentials are relevant to your business. Look into consultants who have worked with companies whose size and business model are similar to yours.
  2. Be clear about expectations – See to it that both parties understand the project and scope of work. Be clear about what you expect the consultant to do. Specify the tasks they need to complete and results they have to meet, along with the costs of their services.
  3. Determine compatibility – Skill level and expertise aren’t enough. You should also ensure that the consultant has a great relationship with you and your staff. Take time to evaluate cultural fit and see if they’re compatible with your team. Look into their work ethic. How do they operate? How do they interact with others? The answers to these questions can help you determine if they’re a good fit.

Step 2 – Set a budget

The next step is to think about how much you’re willing to spend on your ecommerce platform. When setting your budget, be sure to consider the “non-obvious costs” that come with implementing a new solution. Go beyond the on the surface costs like licenses and development, and consider expenses for maintenance, consultation, set up and the like. Here are some of things you should factor into your budget

  1. Cost of the ecommerce platform – Ecommerce platform costs will vary depending on the business’ size, sales volume, and of course, the solution itself. Some solutions (such as Magento) charge yearly licensing fees while others (like Shopify) require monthly subscription fees. In some cases (such as Demandware) the provider takes a cut from the retailer’s sales.

These are just some of the things that would factor into your budget. Typically, though, SMBs can expect to spend amounts in the hundreds while enterprises should budget at least $20,000 a year for ecommerce platform costs.

  1. Design and development costs – Building your online store is another expense. SMB solutions often have themes that range from free to hundreds of dollars.

As for enterprises? Depending on your company, you can choose to design and develop your site in-house, outsource the job to an agency, or do a combination of both.

  1. Maintenance fees – Many merchants end up paying more than expected because they overlooked maintenance when budgeting for a solution. Don’t make the same mistake. You need to think about ongoing development, as well as other upkeep costs such as marketing, integrations, SEO, security management, analytics, and more.
  2. Transaction fees – Transaction fees may vary from one ecommerce solution to another. You may end up with lower fees by choosing the preferred payment provider of the vendor. Look into each platform’s integrated payments to see if they integrate with your payment gateway of choice or if you can use any of their payment partners.
  3. Hosting costs – How much can you expect to pay in hosting fees? Again, this depends on your solution.

You could go with a hosted solution and let your ecommerce provider handle server maintenance, updates, etc.

Alternatively, you could choose a self-hosted ecommerce platform in which you’ll need to handle the setup and management of your own servers or find a hosting partner. With this setup, the merchant pays server costs separately.

  1. Consultation fees (if applicable) – If you’re hiring a consultant, don’t forget to factor in their fees into your budget.

Step 3 – Research ecommerce solutions

Once you have a clear idea of what you need and how much you’re willing to spend, you can start looking into different solutions to determine the best fit. To make this step a little easier, below is a list of the most common ecommerce solutions for enterprises, along with details about their strengths, limitations, and cost.

A. Magento Enterprise Edition

Magento Enterprise is an ecommerce solution with powerful built-in features and a large marketplace for add-ons, partners, and integrations. Many consider it to be the most flexible and agile platform in the market.

Particularly if you’re running Magento on your own servers, you could have complete freedom over the look, feel, and functionality of your store and you don’t have to rely on your solution provider to make changes to the site. That said, it also means that you’re in charge of maintaining and updating your servers and store, which requires an in-house team or agency. If you’re not up for all that, you may want to consider the Cloud Edition that Magento launched earlier this year.

A big strength of Magento lies in its large community of experts, developers, and agencies. Support is widely available, and because of this, some merchants have found that they’re able to resolve issues themselves using resources that are readily available.

That said, merchants who need further assistance can turn to Magento experts, agencies, or developers. Magento’s ecosystem is quite large so whether you’re looking for someone to help with coding, design, or maintenance, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding what you need.

There’s also Magento Connect, the platform’s marketplace of add-ons, modules, and integrations. Magento’s marketplace is huge, so if you’re looking to extend the capabilities of the platform, you’ll likely find what you need in Magento Connect.

Notable built-in capabilities:

  • Ability to display dynamic content, pricing, and promotions depending on attributes like demographic, purchase history, and more.
  • Content staging and preview so merchants can create and see updates without seeking help from IT
  • Flexibility to choose the environment in which to deploy the software (i.e. cloud, 3rd party hosting, on premises)
  • Varnish page caching, which can decrease response time and reduce the load on servers.

Magento Enterprise Edition Advantages:

  • Flexible and agile
  • Strong community support
  • Large ecosystem of developers, experts, designers, etc.
  • Highly customisable and expandable through extensions and modules

Magento Enterprise Editiion Disadvantages:

  • No built-in omnichannel features
  • Requires optimisation out of the box

Cost:

Starting at $18,000 annual licensing fee

Notable clients: Rebecca Minkoff, RosettaStone, Christian Louboutin, Nike, Zumiez, Mikimoto

B. Demandware

Demandware is a fully-hosted, cloud-based ecommerce platform with built-in omnichannel and predictive analytics capabilities. Demandware’s Commerce Cloud has a native data model which leverages a shared view of customer data, order history, inventory, and promotional information across all channels to give its retail clients valuable shopper insights that can be used for benchmarking and analysis.

Demandware’s data and predictive analytics technology can also be used to personalise customer interactions via email and on your website.

In terms of omnichannel, Demandware offers digital commerce, point-of-sale, order management, and store operation tools in one platform, making it an attractive choice for merchants who want a seamless solution for managing stores across different channels.

For merchants looking for expert and support services, Demandware has the LINK Marketplace, a network of agencies, integrators, and technology providers who specialise in the platform. Do note that Demandware’s ecosystem is not as large as other ecommerce marketplaces, so it may not be as easy to find the experts you need.

Notable built-in capabilities:

  • Predictive intelligence that lets merchants leverage rich consumer data for benchmarking and analysis
  • Personalised shopping experiences and email marketing
  • Commerce capabilities across digital channels (i.e. ecommerce, mobile, social) and brick-and-mortar
  • Unified view of product, customer, order, and pricing data across all channels

Demandware Advantages:

  • Seamless integration across channels
  • Being fully hosted means merchants don’t have to worry about maintaining their server and other technologies
  • Predictive intelligence that allows merchants to gather tremendous insights into consumer behaviour and trends

Demandware Disadvantages:

  • Since the platform is hosted by Demandware, merchants may not have full control over customisation and development
  • There’s also an approval layer which means it can take time to implement updates and releases
  • Relatively limited number of partners and integrations

Cost: Demandware takes a cut out of merchants’ sales. According to the folks at Williams Commerce, their percentage commission ranges between 0.75% up to 1.25%, possibly higher. Demandware’s ideal clientele would have annual sales of around $20 to $500 million.

Notable clients: Adidas, Godiva, Party City, Puma, Lacoste

C. hybris

hybris’ commerce solution is “omnichannel at its core,” allowing merchants to integrate digital and physical consumer touch points into one solution. With both B2C and B2B offerings, merchants can use hybris to run ecommerce, mobile, POS, call center, social media, and print on a single platform.

hybris has a robust product content management capabilities that allow companies to collaboratively build and manage product data across multiple touchpoints. It also provides centralised order management so merchants have a single view of order information across all channels. This makes back office management easier and merchants are able to offer a better shopping experience by implementing flexible pickup and fulfilment options to customers.

It’s also easy to cater to international markets with hybris. The solution has multi-site, multi-region, and multi-currency features out of the box, making it a great platform for retailers who have customers all over the world.

Notable features:

  • Omnichannel capabilities out of the box
  • Strong product content management features that make it easy for product managers, marketers, and pricers to manage merchandise information and bring products to market quickly
  • Robust localisation features, including the ability to determine the right language and currency for a site
  • Strong customer experience features that allow merchants to dynamically deliver 1-to-1 experiences

Hybris Advantages:

  • Built-in omnichannel features
  • International-friendly options that automatically detect the best currency and language for a site
  • Option to deploy software on premises, on demand, or as a managed service
  • Pre-configured solutions to enable merchants to go live quickly

Hybris Disadvantages:

  • Limited resources when it comes to integration and customisation
  • Limited community support
  • Reportedly poor documentation
  • Reporting capabilities leaves much to be desired

Cost: Licenses start at $54,000 a year, according to CPG Strategy, and can increase depending on modules and services used.

Notable clients: Benefit Cosmetics, Brita, Aldo, Honeywell, HTC

D. Oracle ATG Web Commerce

Oracle ATG Web Commerce can be implemented on-premises or hosted by Oracle or a third party.

It’s a powerful platform with features to support personalised shopping experiences, efficient merchandising as well as the rapid launches of commerce sites for different brands, markets, or campaigns. Oracle ATG Web Commerce also has native features that allow merchants to sell more complex product lines and data-rich products, such as those that require shopper information.

Merchants using ATG Web Commerce can also tap into Oracle’s other enterprise products, including Oracle Marketing Cloud, Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and more.

Notable capabilities:

  • Robust personalisation features including tailored content and merchandise, personalised search, tailored websites, and customised marketing programs
  • Unified multisite architecture that enables merchants to share resources between different ecommerce sites
  • Data anywhere architecture to efficiently manage integrations

Oracle ATG Web Commerce Advantages:

  • Has both B2B and B2C offerings
  • Lets merchants manage and sell complex products
  • Enables merchants to efficiently personalise the shopper experience through customisable content, sites, and campaigns
  • Unified architecture that lets you manage multiple sites efficiently

Oracle ATG Web Commerce Disadvantages:

  • Merchants who need to integrate with Oracle’s Order Management module will need to spend additional resources since ATG Webcommerce has no prebuilt integration for the solution
  • Reportedly high cost of ownership

Cost: $500,000 according to Oracle’s Price List.

Notable clients: Barnes & Noble, Toys “R” Us, Macy’s, Express

E. IBM WebSphere Commerce

IBM WebSphere Commerce enables B2B and B2C merchants to deliver omnichannel shopping experiences. The platform supports ecommerce, mobile, social, and brick-and-mortar. Its B2B ecommerce offering has the capabilities to support complex products and makes digital and field selling more efficient. Its B2C solution on the other hand lets you engage customers with personalised content no matter what channel or device they’re using.

IBM WebSphere Commerce has four product editions: there’s Commerce on Cloud for those who want to quickly go to market; there’s WebSphere Commerce – Express, which was made for quickly implementing an online presence; there’s WebSphere Commerce Enterprise, which was designed for high-volume companies and multiple sites; and there’s WebSphere Commerce Professional, an option for midsize businesses.

Notable capabilities:

  • Storefronts, which come with features, models, and best practices that enable businesses to quickly launch their online stores.
  • Customer experience management, which enables you to create and edit content without the help of IT
  • Microsites and subsites, for companies looking to create sites for various regions, brands, or campaigns
  • Order fulfilment and management features for implementing “order from anywhere, fulfil from anywhere, and return to anywhere.”

IBM WebSphere Commerce Advantages:

  • It has capabilities to help you stay on top of multiple sites, complex products, and global, multi-brand requirements
  • Option to deploy on-premises or cloud implementation
  • Has a promising roadmap with includes improvements to in-store experiences and point-of-sale and the ability to provide deep insights through Watson Analytics.

IBM WebSphere Commerce Disadvantages:

  • Integration with other IBM products may take time
  • Reporting and analytics capabilities leaves plenty to be desired
  • No multi tenant SaaS solution

Cost: Merchants who need pricing information for WebSphere Commerce would need to contact IBM directly.

Notable clients: Target, Costco, Staples, Coach, Disney

F. Shopify Plus

This platform is Shopify’s foray into the enterprise realm. Unlike the regular Shopify platform, which caters to small businesses, Shopify Plus is made for high volume merchants. It’s a fully hosted SaaS platform that offers unlimited bandwidth and can handle 500,000 hits per minute.

Merchants using the platform can access over a thousand apps to extend Shopify Plus’ capabilities. Additionally, the solution allows integrations with existing IT platforms so you can link Shopify Plus to your accounting system, ERP, and CRM.

Shopify Plus also offers white glove client services, complete with dedicated account management and 24/7 support.

Notable capabilities:

  • Unlimited bandwidth to support high volume sales and traffic
  • Responsive designs so websites are optimised for any device
  • Advanced reporting and analytics using Google’s Enhanced Ecommerce Analytics engine

Shopify Plus Advantages:

  • Fully-hosted, so you won’t have to worry about server maintenance and costs
  • Access to a wide variety of apps and integrations
  • Relatively affordable compared to other enterprise solutions
  • Multichannel capabilities thanks to Shopify’s POS and social selling features

Shopify Plus Disadvantages:

  • May not be able to handle the needs of a very large, global enterprise
  • Limited promotion capabilities
  • Product variants are limited to 100 attributes
  • No B2B capabilities out of the box

Costs: According to Merchant Maverick, Shopify Plus pricing depends on company size, sales volume, annual revenue, and other factors. That said, the minimum cost for the platform is $1,200 per month.

Notable clients: World Vision, Los Angeles Lakers, Budweiser, Tesla

G. NetSuite SuiteCommerce

Like most of its ecommerce peers, NetSuite SuiteCommerce offers a platform that unifies digital and physical commerce in a single solution so merchants can provide customers with an omnichannel shopping experience.

Additionally, SuiteCommerce has features for global companies, including the support for multiple brands, languages, and currencies. The platform can also run B2B and B2C ecommerce from one solution, enabling merchants to efficiently run business and consumer verticals without the trouble of maintaining separate platforms.

Notable capabilities:

  • Built-in omnichannel capabilities
  • Wide range of ecommerce features including ratings, reviews, quick views, dynamic imaging and zooms, multiple image views, and more
  • Responsive designs that look good across devices
  • Support for multiple languages, currencies, taxes, shipping prices, and customs

NetSuite Advantages:

  • Plenty of great native features that enables omnichannel selling and powerful ecommerce experiences
  • Features to support global brands
  • B2B and B2C commerce can be managed on one system
  • Smooth integration with other NetSuite solutions

NetSuite Disadvantages:

  • Dependent on NetSuite ERP
  • Limited external support
  • WCM isn’t as competitive as other solutions

Cost: Pricing depends on the features and modules you need. Please contact NetSuite for more information.

Notable clients: Tesco, TK Maxx, Philz Coffee, Magellan

G. Shopify 

One of the most well-known ecommerce platforms for SMBs, Shopify is a top-rated solution that has everything a merchant needs to set up shop online and even offline. In addition to allowing you build an online store, Shopify has social media selling tools and it integrates with marketplaces like Amazon.

The solution also has payment capabilities that enable merchants to accept credit cards directly from Shopify — i.e. no third party accounts required. With their payments offering, “payment details are clearly synced with orders, making it easy to see how much you’ve been paid without ever leaving Shopify.”

Credit card rates range from 2.9% + 30 cents to 2.4% + 30 cents depending on your Shopify plan.

Notable capabilities:

  • Online store
  • Retail POS
  • Buy button
  • Social selling features including Buyable Pins, Facebook Shop, and Facebook Messenger
  • Amazon integration

Shopify Advantages:

  • Fully-hosted, so you won’t have to worry about server maintenance and costs
  • Numerous Shopify partners that can provide support
  • Highly engaged community
  • Support of multi-channel retailing — i.e. online, offline, social

Shopify Disadvantages:

  • Additional transaction fees for using external gateways
  • No free plan available (just free trial)
  • Customization limited to theme and platform capabilities
  • No B2B capabilities out of the box

Costs: Ranges from $29 to $299+ per month depending on your plan.

Notable clients: Blu Kicks, Tattly, Graydon

H. Wix

Wix is an SMB-friendly website hosting and building platform that has a ton of features for creating a sleek online store.

You build your site using the Wix Editor, a drag-and-drop tool that lets you select and customise various elements of your site. You’ll also have templates and stock images to choose from to make the process easier. It even has one-pager websites for those who prefer a simple, no-frills browsing experience.

Wix offers free and reliable hosting so you won’t have to worry about server upkeep and maintenance.

Notable capabilities:

  • Drag and drop editor
  • Wix strips
  • Parallax 3D effects
  • Marketing features including support for ShoutOut Email marketing and Eventbrite

Wix Advantages:

  • Fully hosted, so you won’t have to worry about server maintenance and costs
  • Easy to use
  • Free forever plan (and affordable premium plans)
  • Accept multiple payment methods with no commission

Wix Disadvantages:

  • No native POS features
  • Design options can be overwhelming
  • Doesn’t focus solely on ecommerce (Wix is also used for building standard sites)
  • No B2B capabilities out of the box

Costs: Ranges from free to $25 a month

Notable clients: Karlie Kloss, Beardtamer, Michal Emma

I. BigCommerce

BigCommerce is so much more than just an ecommerce site builder. It has some great store management capabilities out of the box that help you stay on top of your business. Some of these cool native features include a robust product catalog, flexible shipping & real-time quotes, coupon and discounting tools, and more.

BigCommerce integrates with Amazon and eBay, and it has social selling capabilities that let you sell on Facebook.

The solution’s shipping capabilities are quite powerful. BigCommerce is the only cloud solution that has a deep integration with ShipperHQ, a sophisticated shipping rate calculator and rules engine. This integration makes it simple to provide real-time quotes and apply customised shipping rates.  

Notable capabilities:

  • Integration with eBay
  • ShipperHQ integration
  • Tons of powerful features out of the box
  • Robust business management tools (i.e. product management, order management, reporting, shipping)

BigCommerce Advantages:

  • Fully hosted, so you won’t have to worry about server maintenance and costs
  • Robust business management capabilities
  • Accept multiple payment methods with no transaction fees (not applicable to cheapest plan)

BigCommerce Disadvantages:

  • No native POS features (integration required)
  • Themes can get pricey
  • Certain design elements aren’t very flexible
  • Design capabilities aren’t the most stable and user-friendly

Costs: Ranges from $29.95 to $249.95 a month

Notable clients: Carolina Panthers, Tucker Blair, Tinitell

J. Squarespace

Squarespace is an easy-to-use service for building all types of websites, including online stores. It has all the basic features that you’d expect from an ecommerce platform, including unlimited products, multiple SKUs, and variants.

It also has flexible payment options, letting you accept credit cards, PayPal and Apple Pay.

Reporting and insights such as average order values, revenue, units sold, traffic sources, and sales are also available to enable you to optimise conversions. As for shipping, Squarespace integrates with ShipStation to make it easy to print shipping labels. Real-time calculations of rates from UPS, FedEx, and USPS are also available.

Notable capabilities:

  • Unlimited products
  • Drag and drop merchandising
  • ShipStation integration
  • Features around SEO, social media, customer engagement, and blogging to help you grow your online presence

Squarespace Advantages:

  • Fully hosted, so you won’t have to worry about server maintenance and costs
  • Beautiful designs
  • Great online marketing features
  • No transaction fees

Squarespace Disadvantages:

  • No native POS features
  • Not solely focused on ecommerce
  • Limited multi-channel selling
  • No phone support

Costs: Ranges from $26+ to $40+ per month

Notable clients: Pixar, SIA, Lyft

K. WooCommerce 

WooCommerce is an open source ecommerce platform that’s built for WordPress. It lets you sell physical and digital products as well as affiliated products from certain marketplaces.

In terms of payments, WooCommerce “comes bundled with PayPal (for accepting credit card and PayPal account payments), BACS, and cash on delivery for accepting payments.”

WooCommerce also integrates with hundreds of solutions, including Facebook, Sage, Zapier, MailChimp, ShipStation, Square, Stripe, Fulfillment by Amazon, and more.

Notable capabilities:

  • Built for WordPress
  • Open source
  • Self-hosted
  • Easily scalable

WooCommerce Advantages:

  • Great for users who prefer WordPress
  • Highly customizable thanks to the fact that it’s open source
  • Plenty of integrations
  • Active community of developers and experts

WooCommerce Disadvantages:

  • WooCommerce updates don’t always work well with WordPress
  • It’s self-hosted which means you’ll have to handle updates and maintenance
  • Requires knowledge and proficiency in WordPress
  • While the WooCommerce plugin is free, costs can still run high when you factor in hosting, development, maintenance, etc.

Costs: WordPress and WooCommerce are technically free, but costs will vary depending on your hosting, design, and development needs.

Notable clients: All Blacks, LUVD, Botanik

L. OpenCart

OpenCart is a highly customizable open source ecommerce platform with no monthly fees. It has a robust administrator dashboard that gives you an at-a-glance view of important metrics like sales, customers, and more.

OpenCart also has multi-store support that lets you stay on top of different stores from a single interface. This functionality lets you set products for different stores, use specific themes for each online store, and localise your websites. Product options and attributes are also quite flexible with OpenCart, and the solution lets you add extra product variables.

And just like most ecommerce platforms, OpenCart is highly customizable and extendable. It has more 13,00 modules and themes that you can use to truly make your site your own.

Notable capabilities:

  • Open source
  • Self-hosted
  • Large marketplace of themes, plugins, gateways, and more
  • Community and dedicated support

OpenCart Advantages:

  • Highly customizable thanks to the fact that it’s open source
  • Plenty of integrations
  • The platform itself is free
  • Does not come with large ongoing development costs

OpenCart Disadvantages:

  • Not always easy to customise
  • Limited built-in marketing features
  • Not the fastest solution
  • Self-hosted nature means you’ll be in charge of hosting, development, maintenance, etc.

Costs: OpenCart itself is free, but costs will vary depending on your hosting, design, and development needs.

Notable clients: British Red Cross, Concordia College, The Piano Guys

M. Big Cartel

Big Cartel was made with makers, designers, musicians, and other artists in mind. Ideal for small stores, this solution lets you set up your online store with several pre-made themes. And if you want additional customization, the platform lets you tweak the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript directly.

Big Cartel is what many would consider a “light” ecommerce platform. The company keeps it simple. According to their site, they “provide just the right mix of real-time stats, search engine optimization, order management, and promotional tools to get a small shop up and running with as little stress as possible.”

Notable capabilities:

  • Built for creatives
  • Fully-hosted
  • Basic tools for building and marketing your business

Big Cartel Advantages:

  • Simple and easy to use
  • Very affordable and has a free forever plan
  • Great-looking templates
  • Ability to use themes and tweak the site’s code

Big Cartel Disadvantages:

  • Might not be ideal for larger stores or stores that need advanced capabilities
  • Not very flexible
  • Lacks a search function
  • Limited payment options

Costs: Free to $29.99 a month

Notable clients: Malika Favre, Frida Clements, I&You Ceramics

N. OsCommerce

Another open source and self-hosted platform, OsCommerce lets you set up a highly customizable and extendable online store. OsCommerce also has a wide and enthusiastic community behind it, with more than over 296,887 store owners, developers, and service providers.

If you’d like to further extend your store’s features, check out OsCommerce’ huge marketplace that has 8,689 free add-ons. Need support? The platform has an active online forum and it has experts who can help you set up and maintain your site.

Notable capabilities:

  • Free platform and add-ons
  • Self-hosted
  • Big marketplace and community

OsCommerce Advantages:

  • Can easily be customised and extended
  • Offers both community and expert support
  • Great-looking templates
  • OsCommerce is highly established and is currently 17 years old at the time of writing

OsCommerce Disadvantages:

  • Self-hosted which means you’ll need to handle hosting, server, and site updates plus maintenance
  • Reportedly prone to errors
  • Requires more manual work
  • Not easily scalable

Costs: The solution itself is free, but be sure to factor in hosting, development, and maintenance

Notable clients: Printzone, Buybies, Wishlets

O. Volusion

Volusion is another cloud-based, hosted ecommerce solution that lets you build a fully functional online store from scratch. It has an easy to use website builder with features like in-page eding, drag and drop, site search, and more. There are also plenty of responsive themes to choose from.

The solution has some solid product management features, including variant pricing and rich text product descriptions. Selling and fulfilling orders is easy thanks to Volusion’s payment integrations and native fulfillment features.

And if you want to get your site in front of more customers, Volusion’s built-in SEO, social media selling, and marketplace integrations (i.e. Amazon, eBay, and more) can help do the trick.

Notable capabilities:

  • Easy to use website builder
  • Fully hosted
  • Solid order management and fulfillment capabilities

Volusion Advantages:

  • Can easily be customised and extended
  • 24/7 support
  • Great-looking responsive templates
  • User friendly website building and business management tools

Volusion Disadvantages:

  • Complicated free structure
  • Forced SSL
  • Premium templates can be pricey

Costs: $15 to $135 per month

Notable clients: Tiny House Coffee, USA Bride, Chicago Offroad

P. LemonStand

LemonStand is a highly customizable ecommerce platform that runs in the cloud. It let you “completely customise the entire user experience including the checkout process.” Say goodbye to checkout redirects and increase conversions.

Front-end techniques / frameworks such as Boostrap, React, and Angular can be used. Plus, you’re able to utilise open-source themes for even more customizations.

Lemonstand supports various ecommerce business models including retail, digital products, and recurring subscriptions. It also comes with a content management system so you can publish content with ease.

Creating complex and customizable products is a cinch thanks to custom fields as well as unlimited product options, variants, and images. And with more than 95 payment gateways and numerous integrations, it’s easy to extend the capabilities of the platform.

Notable capabilities:

  • Highly customizable solution
  • Fully hosted
  • Ability to sell custom and complex products
  • Partner program and revenue sharing for freelancers and agencies

LemonStand Advantages:

  • Easy to use and very customizable and extensible
  • Ability to support various business models, including retail, digital goods, and subscriptions
  • Built-in CMS
  • Active community of designers and developers

LemonStand Disadvantages:

  • Still a work in progress
  • May require more advanced technical know-how
  • Lacking some features

Costs: $19 to $399 per month

Notable clients: Fuud, Seventh Ink, Kula

Q. 3dcart

3dcart’s ecommerce platform is all-inclusive, and, according to it site, “integrates every feature you need for creating a complete eCommerce website, with no need to install software.” It’s a comprehensive solution built for advanced users who want to fully control the site experience.

3dcart supports multi-channel ecommerce, allowing you to sell on mobile as well as on eBay, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Shopzilla.

With 3dcart, you can sell both physical and digital products, and it has capabilities to support various fulfillment methods including downloads, regular shipping, and drop shipping.

Notable capabilities:

  • Advanced, customizable platform
  • Fully hosted
  • Ability to sell physical and digital products
  • POS for brick and mortar retail

3dcart Advantages:

  • Comprehensive ecommerce solution
  • Multi-channel retail capabilities
  • Strong marketing capabilities

3dcart Disadvantages:

  • Not for “basic” users
  • Limited free themes
  • Lacking some features

Costs: $29 per month to $229+ per month

Notable clients: U.S Salon Supply, Li-Lac Chocolates, Superberries

Weighing your options: What factors should you consider when selecting an ecommerce platform?

We’ve covered a lot of ground so far and have discussed what various ecommerce platforms have to offer. Now you’ll need to look into factors to help you make your decisions.

In this section, we’ll talk about the top considerations when selecting an ecommerce solution. They include: hosting, your product/industry, and your expertise level. Let’s dive in.

Self-hosted vs hosted/cloud-based

One of the top factors to consider right off the bat is whether you prefer to go for a self-hosted ecommerce solution or one that’s hosted for you (typically cloud-based). Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages.

For self-hosted, you’ll be running your site on your own server, so you have full control over management and maintenance. This means that if you want to make updates to the main code of your site, you’re able to do that on your end without relying on another company or web host to process your request. You can do pretty much anything on your site if you’re running it on your own machine, and this makes self-hosting an attractive option for many.

That said, running a self-hosted site does require some technical know-how, so if don’t know your way around coding and hosting, then you’ll need to hire experts to do it for you. You take care of your own updates and maintenance, and those costs will come out of your own pocket.

At a glance, the pros and cons of self-hosted are:

Pros

  • Full control over the look, feel, and functionality of your site
  • You host your site on your own server or machine so you can build and run a site on your own terms
  • Complete freedom when it comes to aspects of your site

Cons

  • Requires technical knowledge to set up, run, and maintain
  • Server costs along with design, development, and upkeep can run high

Examples of self-hosted platforms

  • Magento
  • WooCommerce
  • OpenCart
  • OsCommerce

If you’re not too keen on a self-hosted solution you can opt for a hosted ecommerce platform, in which you let your provider host your store for you. For non-technical users, hosted solutions are a godsend because things like server maintenance and software updates are taken care of by the provider.

That said, if you want full control over the features and functionality of your website, then a hosted solution might not be the best option. Remember that having a hosted solutions means you won’t be able release features whenever you want and you’re often limited to the software’s native capabilities and add-ons.

At a glance, the pros and cons of hosted solutions are:

Pros

  • Server maintenance, as well as platform development are taken care of for your
  • Great for non-technical users who want to focus on the business itself  
  • Typically simpler pricing structures

Cons

  • Lack of control when it comes to updates and features

Examples of hosted platforms

  • Shopify
  • BigCommerce
  • Wix
  • Squarespace
  • LemonStand
  • 3dcart

Best ecommerce platform for your product or industry

While most ecommerce platforms are flexible enough to support different product types, certain solutions are more ideal for specific types of merchandise or industries. Here’s some insights to help you decide which solution is right for your business.

Best ecommerce platform for fashion (apparel, shoes, accessories)

Majority of ecommerce solutions will support fashion-centric products such as apparel and footwear. However if your products come in different sizes and variants, then you’ll want to go with a robust hosted solution like Shopify, BigCommerce, Volusion and 3dcart. If you’re looking for something open source and self-hosted, WooCommerce might be a good option.

Another reason why these platforms are great for fashion products? Apparel, shoes, and accessories can be effectively marketed through social media (think Instagram and Pinterest), and the above-mentioned platforms have solid social selling capabilities that would come in handy in your social commerce efforts.

On the enterprise front, pretty much all enterprise solutions can be used in the fashion realm. The choice here will boil down on the functionalities you need to effectively move your product.

Best ecommerce platform for electronics

If you’re selling ready-made gadgets that don’t require assembly and you have a small catalog, then you a simple and no-frills platform such as Wix could do the trick.

If your catalog is a bit larger, then you can’t go wrong with tried-and-tested platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce.

However, if you’re selling electronics that are more complex — perhaps they have different moving parts or need to be bundled with software or services — then you might be better off with solutions such as LemonStand or 3dcart which are more equipped to deal with product complexities.

Best ecommerce platform for food and beverages

Selling food and beverage items that you make yourself? For example, do you design special cakes or make your own beer? If so, then Big Cartel could be a great option, as this platform caters specifically to makers.

That said, if your products have plenty of variants or if you have a medium to large catalog, then consider Shopify, BigCommerce, Volusion, and the like.

Best ecommerce platform for craft products

Big Cartel is great if you’re a creative person selling your crafts and art. The Big Cartel platform was made for you, and you’ll have plenty of support from the community.

Just one caveat: remember that Big Cartel’s platform is “light” and thus may not have advanced ecommerce capabilities. That’s perfectly fine if you’re an artist and you simply want to showcase your work and sell some of it.

But if you’re looking to fully customise your website or require more robust online selling capabilities, then look into solutions such as Shopify, BigCommerce, or any of the other solutions above.

In-depth research

So, you’ve done your research and have seen what different platforms can offer. Now it’s time to dig deeper to figure out which solution is best for you. Here are a few steps to help you do this:

a. Solicit RFPs (for enterprise solutions)

One option is to submit formal request for proposals (RFPs) to potential vendors. Be sure to spend some time on this step. A great RFP will enable vendors to fully understand your needs and will help them come up with more accurate proposals.

Here’s more information on what to include in your RFP, along with best practices for ensuring you get great proposals from suppliers. Do note that these are just suggestions. Ultimately, how you format and structure your RFP will be up to you.

  1. Kick things off with a good introduction – Give an overview of what your company is about. You could talk about your history and provide high-level details about your business model.

From there, proceed to discuss the project. Why are you in the market for a new ecommerce platform? What are your objectives and what are you looking for in a solution?

  1. Specify the time frame – It may also be helpful to talk about your timeline. When do you need to go live? Decide on a date then work backwards. Key details to include would be:
  • Proposal deadline
  • Selection date
  • Launch date
  1. Talk about your existing architecture, platform and technology – Potential vendors would need some background on your current system and technologies in order to estimate the project and provide a proposal. Here are some of the details you may want to include:
  • Existing ecommerce solution
  • Back office systems (i.e. ERP, accounting, fulfilment)
  • Third party integrations
  • Testing and development environments
  • Architecture
  1. Talk about relevant metrics – Details around metrics like site traffic and sales will be extremely helpful to vendors when crafting their proposals. Be sure to talk about:
  • Concurrent visitors
  • Page views per week
  • Number of transactions per week
  • Sales volume
  1. Talk about your needs – At this point, you could start going into more detail about what you need in a new ecommerce system. Go back to that list of requirements that you created in step one and lay them out for the vendor.
  2. Outline proposal requirements –  Once you’ve provided sufficient information about your business and needs, you can proceed to talk about what you want to see in the submitted proposals.

At this stage, you can discuss the format that you want the proposal to be in, along with the questions you want to be answered. This will vary from one retailer to the next, but here’s a list of things you may want to ask for:

  • Company overview
  • Contact information
  • Financial information (i.e. sales, profit, receivables, funding etc.)
  • Relevant experience
  • Merchants they’ve worked with
  • Approach to implementing their solution
  • Approach to account management
  • List of security services
  • Compliance standards
  • Solution details
  • Size and nature of project team
  • Deployment plan
  • Pricing details (i.e. cost of the solution itself, along with other relevant expenses such as hardware, maintenance, development, training, and more.)
  • Client references

The above is just a partial list of requirements, so consult with other stakeholders to come up with a strong RFP. Have key people in your organization go over it, and once everything is in order, go ahead and submit.

b. Get in touch with sales and discuss your needs

Another option is to start a conversation directly with vendors. Get in touch with their sales team and discuss your project, requirements, and the solution they can offer. Go to your list of requirements and use them as talking points when you speak to the vendor.

c. Talk to ecommerce consultants and other merchants

It’s also a good idea to speak to ecommerce consultants and merchants who have experience using the platforms that you’re considering. Ask how each solution compares with other ecommerce platforms. What are their advantages and disadvantages? How much time, money, and work are required to set up and maintain the system? These are just some of the things you should bring up.

d. Book a demo or trial

If possible, schedule a demonstration or take a trial of the software so you can get a closer look at how it works. Be sure to include other company stakeholders in the demonstration so they can assess the platforms themselves.

Do note that it’s best to conduct demos when you’ve already shortlisted a few vendors (think 5 or fewer). This will allow you to dig deep into the platforms and properly evaluate them.

Step 4 – Compare, evaluate, and decide

At this point, you should already have ample information about what each solution has to offer. The next step is to compare each platform to see which is the best fit for your business. Refer to the notes you took in the previous steps and use the information to make a decision.

To make things easier, compare vendors using the spreadsheet you created earlier. Create a table listing all the things you need in your ecommerce platform, then put the vendors you’re considering in different columns. This will allow you to easily tick off the features that each vendor can deliver. If a platform doesn’t have a feature you need, write down if and how you can work around it (i.e. use a third party integration, develop a custom solution).

Once again, this is a task that should involve other key people in the company. Get someone from IT, customer service, sales, marketing, fulfilment, and operations to evaluate solutions and weigh in on the decision.

Conclusion

Finding (then subsequently deploying) a new ecommerce solution is a massive undertaking. It will likely take a lot of time (and for enterprises, money) to take on this project. But here’s the good news: picking the right solution can enable you to scale your business, improve operations, and increase sales, so while the process of selecting an ecommerce platform can be challenging, it’s completely worth it.

And if you ever need help finding the right ecommerce platform for your business, feel free to get in touch

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