The Best eCommerce Platforms

Pick the Right eCommerce Provider for Your Store

Choosing the right eCommerce platform is one of the most important decisions you will make. After all, it is the platform you will be relying on to run your business. If you choose an eCommerce platform without vetting it and determining whether or not it is the right fit, you risk dealing with the limitations of the platform. Choosing the wrong platform, in the beginning, can end up setting your business back in a significant way. The entire reason to use one of these platforms has to do with the ability to leverage the platform to scale your business, protect you and your customer's data, and to add features to your website that you wouldn't have.

Recommended Services:

Shopify
BigCommerce
Volusion
3dcart

What is an eCommerce Platform?

Providing users with an online shopping option is a good way to hold on to your business and to attract new customers. Popular eCommerce solutions make it easier for you to reach prospective customers and allow you to present your stock online and show people your current prices. Users could order for digital download, delivery, or click and collect. They can pre-order goods that are not released yet, check whether you have their size in stock at a specific store, and compare prices between different products. A good eCommerce platform makes shopping in general much easier for your customers and can improve your brand's reach quite successfully.

Who Needs eCommerce Platforms and Why?

Most stores can benefit from an eCommerce platform. If you can ship goods to your customers directly then it makes sense to have a robust platform that supports modern features such as loyalty schemes and pre-orders. If your goods are digital then automating their delivery makes sense. If you have a bricks and mortar store then offering a click and collect option is an effective way of encouraging people to buy 'while the mood strikes'.

Even service industries can benefit from eCommerce. Many salons, spas and gyms allow people to buy passes online that they can use at the facility.

Essential eCommerce Features

There are many eCommerce platforms out there to choose from, ranging from plugins for popular content management systems to standalone open source eCommerce platforms, and Software-as-a-Service features that allow you to use an eCommerce suite without having to worry about the maintenance of it yourself. If you are looking for a good eCommerce suite, consider whether you want any of the following:

  • Loyalty offerings
  • Stock control (integration with the stock control for your bricks and mortar store)
  • Multiple shipping options
  • Multiple currency support
  • Multiple language support
  • Product categories
  • Digital download options
  • Member-only deals
  • Click and collect

Any eCommerce platform available now will support the ability to present a product, take payment, and then send fulfillment information to the store owner. Those are essential, basic features. The above features, however, are things that some platforms and services offer only as added extras or plugins. You should also consider how easy it is to run and maintain the store:

  • Do you need to install updates yourself?
  • What kind of server does the store need (or are you 'renting' the service from someone who maintains it for you?)
  • How much traffic can the store handle?
  • How many products can you list on the store?
  • How easy is it to change the theme?
  • Is the store easy for your customers to use?
  • Do you get your own URL, or is it obvious that you are running your store on someone else's platform?

Choosing your eCommerce Platform or Service

Having the right eCommerce platform could make or break your brand. It is important that you pick something that works for you, and that reflects the brand that you want to put forward. There are many factors that you should consider when choosing an eCommerce platform, including:

Features

Perhaps more than anything, you want to be certain the platform you are choosing is going to be an ideal fit for your business. Nothing would be worse than choosing a platform that doesn't offer all of the features you need only to find that out down the line. This is why researching before choosing is so crucial. You want to not only determine what features are critical for your business operations in the short-term, but also over the long-term. Consider your business objectives and goals to help decide what features are deemed must-have. Some of the significant features that you should be thinking about are flexible pricing, SEO features, multiple payment gateways, social media integration, customer review system, analytics, and even automatic tax calculation. All of these things are going to help you run your eCommerce business smoothly.

Your Budget

Third party eCommerce platforms can range from 'free of charge for a limited number of products', with a commission on each product you sell, up to substantial fees per month. Self-hosted products can range from open source, free of charge plugins that need some technical skill to set up but that will run on top of your existing blog or website, to systems that require a substantial amount of server resources and will carry an additional monthly fee by stealth, because you will need to pay for a better server to run them. Your decision will depend on what you need, and how much you want to spend.

The Size of Your Catalog

If you plan on selling just a couple of products, then you may not even need a dedicated system. You could set up payment and order forms through 'sale buttons' and a payment processor of your choosing. As your catalog grows, the need for a more sophisticated eCommerce platform or service will also grow. Think about the plans for your business over the next year or two, and plan accordingly. Consumers dislike change, so having a system in place now that you will keep using is the best choice.

Your Technical Skills

Your choice of platform or service will also depend on the technical skills that you have, or have access to. Some people may prefer to be in control of their own server and to control the software they use directly, being able to edit the code and make detailed changes to the layout and functionality. Others may be happy to give up some of that control in order to have access to something that 'just works'. The choice is yours. You may end up paying a higher monthly fee for a subscription based service, however you should consider the cost of your time. If you are going to have to invest a lot of time into maintaining the code base for an open source platform, then are you really saving money by using it?

Take a look at what other online stores in your niche use. Is there a layout that is popular? Is there a platform that seems to be the industry standard? Do you want to adopt a similar platform or would you prefer to use something different and stand out from the crowd? There are benefits to both approaches. Think carefully. If you have the time, set up trials on a few systems and test them in-house, then launch the one that gets the best reception from your sample group. There are enough choices out there that there should be something for any company.

List Of eCommerce Platforms:

Big Commerce

BigCommerce is one of the best eCommerce platforms you can find on the marketplace. They offer the ability to get a custom website without having to know how to code with various templates to choose from. However, they do provide robust tools that much more advanced users could benefit from. The product itself is clearly catered towards less tech-savvy individuals, but there is the option of implementing your code to customize your website's design.

BigCommerce offers a toolbox full of features that can help you make your website a roaring success. With must-have features like built-in SEO tools, digital wallets, drag and drop merchandising, and the ability to offer custom coupons and discounts effortlessly. They also provide full integration with third-party marketplaces like Amazon and eBay to help you round out your business operations and sales.

Pros:

  • Scalability
  • Integration with 3rd party marketplaces
  • SEO toolbox
  • Friendly User Interface

Cons:

  • Features get limited at lower tiers

Shopify

Shopify is the current leading eCommerce solution on the market. It offers one of the best platforms for businesses of any size. First, it is one of the most accessible platforms to use. The interface is well-designed, and it is straightforward to navigate even as a beginner. Because of its popularity, it boasts the most developers that produce third-party plugin support. The engagement found within the Shopify community is unparalleled. As a result, if you find a feature that you are missing and that you want, you will likely be able to find a plugin that offers what you are looking for. Shopify is great for brick and mortar stores that are looking to expand online as they fully integrate multi-channel.

Pros:

  • Third-Party plugin support (apps)
  • Multi-channel selling
  • Plenty of professional themes to choose from
  • 1-Click buy button

Cons:

  • Paying for plugins for additional features can add up
  • Fees for using external payment gateways

3dcart

3dcart is another fairly popular eCommerce platform. They offer a unique value proposition for businesses. For one, they don't charge transaction fees, and they include plenty of built-in features (over 200) that you don't even get with the likes of Shopify. Not charging a transaction fee for using external gateways is a significant advantage over Shopify because you want to have more flexibility in payment options to decrease buyer resistance. To do so with Shopify, you need to pay for it. The platform is designed to be user-friendly. Therefore, it is relatively easy to use. It offers 50 free themes, but they aren't the best you will find. However, they do provide effortless customization. Therefore, you can easily have your professional website up and running in very little time. They don't have the same kind of third-party development support that you would find on the like's of Shopify.

Pros:

  • Built-In features
  • No transaction fees for external payment gateways
  • Affordable pricing

Cons:

  • Not the best aesthetics

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a perfect option for those that want something that is going to integrate with WordPress fully. If you are already someone that is using WordPress, WooCommerce should put you in very familiar territory. All you have to do is install it as a plugin, and you will be on your way to using it. Those that aren't already on WordPress or who have never used WordPress before are likely not going to want to choose WooCommerce. You will have even more of a barrier in your way as you will need to get a hosting provider and set WordPress up before even getting started with it. That being said, if you are willing to put up with it, WordPress and WooCommerce are completely free and open source. Therefore, you will be able to take advantage of a free platform with a large community of developers and users. This will give you the advantage of being able to leverage professional consultants or even developers to help you with your website correctly. You will find a wide variety of plugins and extensions which can add more features to your site. These extensions typically cost money, which can be a downside, but they help you add even more value to your site.

Pros:

  • Highly optimized for SEO
  • Plenty of developer support
  • Best customization for advanced users
  • Seemingly limitless integration's due to it being open-sourced

Cons:

  • You have to find and pay for hosting
  • None existent customer support
  • You need to be tech-savvy
  • Extensions are needed for basic features

Volusion

Volusion is another eCommerce platform that you might be considering. Volusion's target customer is people that want something straightforward and easy to use. Because of this, you will have to deal with limitations. Likewise, they limit the total amount of sales you can have per year with their different plans. As a result, you might be forced into a specific tier because of this. They make it as easy as possible to get product-specific support from experts at Google Analytics, integrating Facebook Pixel, and more. They have a well-structured dashboard that gives you all of the information that you would need, and it centralizes everything so you can work on everything from marketing to tracking inventory from the same screen.

Pros:

  • Good focus on training
  • Comprehensive dashboard
  • Built-in SEO and CRM management systems

Cons:

  • Sales limits for plans
  • Lacking in selling specific features

Prestashop

Prestashop is an open-source eCommerce solution. It is feature-rich as most open-source platforms are, and it is free to download and use if you want to customize it yourself. This does come with inherent limitations and downsides. You will be responsible for finding hosting, and you will need to hire someone to build the website for you, or you will have to code it yourself. If you aren't tech-savvy enough or you simply don't want to spend the time doing it on your own, you could always pay for the paid version. If you choose to go the paid route, you will have a platform with over 600 features due to its outstanding development support. It is highly optimized for search engines, and it can be very flexible if you have the know-how.

Pros:

  • Good optimization
  • Plenty of development support
  • Good for beginners and advanced users

Cons:

  • You will have to pay for add-ons
  • No multi-channel support

Weebly

Weebly is an eCommerce solution powered by Square. It is suitable for those that are looking for those looking for a basic website with straightforward pricing. It is easy to use, and it does come with built-in marketing automation features. You will need to pay for at least the Pro plan if you want to have a built-in shopping cart. You will need to opt for the business plan if you intend to use the advanced features that it comes with including having integrated shipping labels, an automatic tax calculator, and even built-in inventory management. Weebly is not going to be the right choice for those that care about optimization. You will have very rigid site specifications that will cause you to be limited in headings you can use, and you will have limited URL changes you can make.

Pros:

  • Good pricing
  • Easy to use
  • Marketing automation

Cons:

  • No much site customization for SEO
  • Limited customization for image placement

Squarespace

This is another platform that is designed to be as user-friendly as possible. Squarespace has uniquely positioned itself as one of the best at giving you the ability to create custom and premium looking websites with a drag and drop interface. They have a very easy to navigate mobile app that helps you run your business efficiently and effectively from anywhere. Squarespace offers excellent value with plans starting under $20 per month. You will have to pay a transaction fee with the cheapest plan, so it might make sense to opt for one of the more expensive plans if you are planning on selling a lot. You will be hard-pressed to find better looking responsive themes readily available. The platform also has a perfect blogging feature that will allow you to do a variety of things like schedule posts. You are also getting industry-leading support when you sign up for Squarespace.

Pros:

  • Easy to set up a professional-looking website
  • Mobile apps for editing and managing your website
  • Customer support with live chat
  • Good integration

Cons:

  • No third-party app store
  • No marketing integration

Magneto

Magneto is one of the best platforms that you can use for starting an eCommerce website because it offers power-user features and customization that you simply cannot get elsewhere. The downside is, you will need to either have access to or be a developer to leverage all of its power. With enough skills, you can turn your Magento eCommerce store into anything you want. Because this is such a popular and powerful platform, you won't have a difficult time finding ready and willing to work developers. You will have full control over your website, and the platform scales better than any other option on the marketplace. You can even sell digital goods on this platform.

Pros:

  • Optimized
  • Power-users can squeeze everything out of this
  • Easy to scale to your business' demands
  • Versatile
  • A lot of features
  • Developer support

Cons:

  • You will need a developer or coding skills
  • You won't find support from the company
  • Expect to pay a high price for available themes

Wix

Wix is a good option for a start-up that isn't necessarily planning on growing the business past a certain point. The problem is, you will eventually outgrow what Wix is capable of if you are intending on scaling your business. However, for an entrepreneur who wants a low-cost and straightforward setup process, it's an excellent option to consider because it is effortless to use, and it does have good looking templates. They have good customer support that you can count on to respond on time.

Pros:

  • Extremely easy to use and setup
  • Good customer support
  • Free themes

Cons:

  • Lacking in advanced features (might limit scaling)
  • Poor SEO

Jimdo

Jimdo is a web builder that is designed to be the easiest to use web builder on the market. The interface is incredibly easy to navigate, and everything can be customized and rearranged. However, you want the drag and drop functionality that you would expect from a web builder designed for non-developers. You need absolute zero coding experience, and they have a good help section and gold support. You won't have any transaction fees, and the built-in SEO features are easy to use.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Unlimited storage on higher tiers
  • Mobile order management

Cons:

  • Limited eCommerce templates to choose from
  • Limited in advanced features

Conclusion

The truth is, your needs will dictate the best platform as a business. If you are a smaller business and you don't have the budget for hiring a developer, Magento is out of the question. For small businesses that want the most value for the money, you should look at BigCommerce. It is perhaps one of the most scalable platforms, and it comes with excellent integration that allows for multi-channel selling, which is essential for a lot of businesses nowadays. Likewise, you will be able to choose from all kinds of highly responsive and well-designed professional-looking themes.

If you are looking for the most comprehensive eCommerce solution that you can grow with as a business, visit https://www.bigcommerce.com to request a demo today.