Choosing the best e-commerce platform is not an easy task. The market is wide and there are many factors to consider. Your choice has a lot of impact on your online business, so it’s important to give it enough thought before signing up. To help you with that, we’ve compared the 5 most popular e-commerce website builders. In the end, we hope you are ready to make a decision on which platform is the right one for you.
What is an E-commerce Platform and Why Should You Use One?
An e-commerce platform is a piece of software that allows you to build an online store and run a business online. It gives you the tools to create and manage your site including products and day-to-day operations. Most if not all e-commerce builders use drag and drop functions.
5 Best E-commerce Platform Options:
1. Wix Stores – Simple, Beautiful, Affordable
Wix is originally a website builder that allows you to create websites via drag and drop. On top of that, it also has features that allow you to build an online store.
Pros of using Wix Stores
- Like Shopify, the e-commerce platform is simple to use and quick to set up. There is no coding required, you can literally drag content anywhere on your site with the user-friendly editor.
- What’s cool is that they have over 500 templates specifically made for online stores and even provide stock images you can use right away.
- Naturally, Wix offers a fully featured shopping cart with all the functionality you need. There are hundreds of apps in the official app market to further spruce up your website.
- Also, the service is fully hosted so there’s no need to worry about this part.
Cons of using Wix Stores
- What you need to keep in mind, is that Wix is not a pure e-commerce platform. It is first and foremost a website builder that is also capable of selling things. Therefore, e-commerce capabilities can be a bit basic.
- Keep also in mind that you can’t change your site template once you have published your site, which is a big drawback.
Wix is subscription-based and offers different packages. Their paid plans are $5-$25/month (R70.03-R350.15). You need to pick at least the E-commerce plan to get online store capabilities. That one starts from $17/month (R239.09).
There’s only one higher plan, which adds better support and a professional site review. You can use their free plan to test drive the platform but it has really limited capabilities and no e-commerce options.
2. SiteBuilder – Best for Beginners
SiteBuilder is the best website builder we’ve reviewed so far. Now we have investigated its e-commerce options, which seem decent enough. It’s similar to Wix – you have to get the highest plan to start with an online shop.
Pros of SiteBuilder
- It’s really easy to use. Like I-have-never-seen-a-website-interface-before easy.
- Their drag-and-drop interface is intuitive, simple and comprehensive. SiteBuilder has everything you need to get started – domain, hosting, analytics tools, SEO, and sufficient e-commerce tools. It comes with unlimited bandwidth and storage space.
- It’s cheap! The introductory price of $9.22/mo almost seems like too-good-to-be-true and even the regular price of $18.45/mo isn’t bad at all.
- Their support is really friendly and helpful. We connected within seconds and their support agent took the time to answer our in-depth questions about e-commerce tools. Therefore, even if you get in trouble (which is highly doubtful considering how simple their website builder is), you’ll get help in no time (during 7am-5pm Arizona time).
Cons of SiteBuilder
- Even though SiteBuilder comes with hundreds of templates, only about 100 are suitable for e-commerce.
- Similarly to Wix, their e-commerce options can be limited for advanced users. There is barely any advanced marketing tools, payment options, and logistical add-ons.
SiteBuilder has 3 main plans which all have a 50% trial discount for 1 year. For an online shop, you have to go with the eCommerce plan.
It is often said that you get what you pay for. Even though SiteBuilder is somewhat limited, you definitely get much more than what you pay for – their options are just very beginner-friendly but at the same time comprehensive enough to handle professional website quality.
You can try out SiteBuilder eCommerce for 14-days with money-back-guarantee.
3. BigCommerce – Best for Small Business
BigCommerce provides a hosted e-commerce solution both as a full SaaS platform as well as a shopping cart for other types of websites. It’s probably most similar to Shopify. The two of them are often mentioned in the same breath.
Pros of using BigCommerce
- The e-commerce platform comes with great store management capabilities. It offers a large number of tools and features, e.g promotions, unlimited product variants, options to handle returns, coupons, and discounts. Another highlight is the flexible shipping options that allow live quotes and rate calculation.
- Additionally, BigCommerce integrates with Amazon, eBay, and social networks. This enables you to sell across many different sales channels. It also has a lot of marketing tools with very granular controls, such as full control over the URL format.
- Multiple APIs help to make it customizable and flexible. BigCommeerce also has a large app store with extensions for all sorts of needs such as email marketing, automation, and product promotion. You also get over 40 payment processing options with no transaction fees.
- The advantages are rounded off by the multitude of templates to choose from, the ability to design your own website and a large support system that helps you improve your e-commerce efforts.
Cons of BigCommerce
- Traditionally, BigCommerce has lagged behind in its template offers. While they have caught up, users only get seven free templates to choose from. Premium themes can also be a bit expensive. Unfortunately, design customization is not always the most user-friendly.
- BigCommerce has no native POS features as in other solutions and comes with a sales limit on your plan. It’s relatively expensive to get advanced features like an abandoned cart saver.
BigCommerce plans cost between $29.95 (R419.45) and $249.95 (R3500.56) You can save some money on higher plans by paying annually. There’s also an option for enterprise but you need to inquire about that. Additionally, themes cost between $145 (R2030.13) and $235 (R3291.19).
While all plans give you everything you need to get started, with higher options you get more options like advanced customer segmentation and product filtering.
The lack of transaction fees makes BigCommerce more attractive than other options on this list. Use the 15-day trial to find out if it’s right for you.
4. Shopify – Best for Boutique Shops
Shopify has become one of the most well-known names in the e-commerce sphere. It’s a fully featured hosted solution with hundreds of thousands of users. We also have a full article about it, if the information below is not enough for you.
Pros of using Shopify
- The commerce platform is super easy to use and quick to set up. Just sign up with your email address and you can start building your shop and selling right away. The intuitive interface also makes it easy to create products and includes SEO features such as title tag and meta description.
- Shopify offers dozens of free mobile-optimized, elegant themes. More are available on purchase. No coding is required to customize them, just use your mouse to make changes.
- Additionally, the platform offers top-notch support via phone, email, live chat and Twitter which are available 24/7. That is besides the detailed documentation and online forums where you can get help from other users.
- Shopify also supports a lot of third-party payment gateways and has a large app marketplace with over a thousand offers to add functionality to your site with a few clicks.
- Finally, they offer additional sales channels by providing you with the software and hardware to sell inside physical store locations, social selling and integrating with marketplaces like Amazon.
Cons of Spotify
- One of the biggest drawbacks of Shopify is that costs can easily snowball. Besides the base fee, you pay for many plugins, themes and features. Some are one-off payments, some monthly, some yearly. Plus, there are transaction fees if you are not using the built-in payment system. This can all get a bit complicated and hard to plan with.
- Another disadvantage in terms of customizing your site is that Shopify uses its own markup language called “Liquid”. It is based on Ruby on Rails and makes it hard to make changes using coding yourself.
Shopify offers different pricing tiers with additional features depending on which plan you are on.
There’s also Shopify Lite. It lets you sell on social networks and embed products on your own website site to use the shopping cart capabilities. This plan costs $9/month (R126.05), which is quite fair.
Besides that, there is Shopify Plus for enterprise clients. You would have to inquire about prices but rumors say it starts at $1,200/month (R16 806.06).
As mentioned, in addition to the base price, you pay for apps and additional features. These really span a wide range of prices so be sure to research beforehand!
Also, don’t forget credit card and transaction fees when using third-party payment providers. These vary according to your plan. Shopify offers a 14-day trial period to take a peek under the hood before committing.
This solution is another cloud-based, hosted option to build an online store. It has been around since 1999 and has processed more than $28 billion in sales during that time.
Pros of using Volusion
- Volusion is a drag-and-drop site builder with in-page editing. It offers a comprehensive site search, many responsive themes (11 of them free) and the ability to customize your own.
- Marketing options include SEO features, social selling, marketplace integrations for Amazon and eBay, among others. Note that some of those are only available on higher plans.
- Users also get 24/7 support via live chat and phone (the latter comes with a higher plan). This is in addition to a comprehensive knowledge base with articles, guides and more.
Cons of using Volusion
- Unfortunately, Volusion’s pricing structure is a bit confusing, because they have a set bandwidth limit. If you run out, you have to pay for additional traffic. This can make planning ahead a bit difficult, especially since their default bandwidth is relatively low.
- You have to pay extra for SSL, which is a must for any online shop. Other competitors provide it for free. Premium templates for Volusion are a bit expensive.
- Also, the platform offers no blogging capabilities. You can only include links to other blog sites on the menu. This is really a shortcoming in a digital world that runs on content marketing.
Running your shop on Volusion will cost you between $29 (R406.15) and $299 (R4187.51) per month. You get 10% off when paying annually. You have to call the service to change to a yearly plan. On more expensive plans, you get more products, bandwidth, better support, and additional features.
As mentioned, each plan has a bandwidth limit (1, 3, 10 or 35GB). Any traffic beyond that will cost you $7/GB (R98.04/GB). This can rack up quite quickly. You also shouldn’t forget about the transaction fees of your payment processor.
There’s also the investment into an SSL certificate. The ones offered by Volusion directly are between $89 (R1 246) and $995 (R13 935.02). Of course, you can also get your own for free. Plus, if you are going for a premium theme, you need to budget $180 (R2 520.91) for that. Use the 14-day free trial to check out Volusion.
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