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Want to jump straight to the answer? The best ecommerce platform for most people is Shopify, if you are a beginner or BigCommerce for large volume sellers.
A good ecommerce platform delivers the reliability and power you need to build an ecommerce website.
Any ecommerce software or website builder can create an online store, but the best ecommerce platforms have the best ecommerce software solutions, tools and services you need to start, run and manage a successful ecommerce website.
This is the most comprehensive ecommerce platform review and analysis in 2022, regardless of your industry. Our ecommerce platform analysis is based on core online store features such as checkout and order fulfilment to ensure successful transactions, inventory management, SSL availability, website uptime, payment processing, ease of use, support and fair pricing.
Our Summarized analysis and findings
Some of the most popular and top-rated e-commerce platforms in the market today are Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, Wix, WooCommerce, Big Cartel, Squarespace, and Volusion. Platforms like WooCommerce (which is a free WordPress plugin), Shopify and Squarespace are better for small businesses who need something easy to get their store up and running, while Magento and BigCommerce are more tailored toward larger enterprises with high order volumes. Ecommerce website builders such as Squarespace or Wix offer drag-and-drop templates that are easy for retailers without much coding experience, while the other platforms have more complex back ends.
What we cover in this ecommerce platform reviews
To help you evaluate and find the most suitable ecommerce platform for your business, we analyzed and compared the top 50 most popular ecommerce platforms including hosted, non-hosted and SaaS platforms, ecommerce software’s and website builders for online stores.
In this ecommerce platform reviews, user ratings and buying guide, you will know which ecommerce platforms are best for different situations, as well as the best place to start an online store, after rigorous testing and learn how to choose the best ecommerce platform and software solutions for your ecommerce business.
Best Ecommerce Platforms (The Top 3 in 2022)
Our top picks for the best platform to build an ecommerce website are:
- Shopify for quick set up and easy online store management.
- BigCommerce for large volume sellers and big businesses.
- Volusion for beginners to quickly set up an online store.
We’ve ranked each ecommerce building site on scope and quality of services, and picked the top-rated ones according to their various categories of performance and use circumstances. Our top picks are full-service providers that will help you build and manage a successful ecommerce business.
What is an ecommerce platform?
An e-commerce platform (also known as “retail platforms”, “e-commerce software” or “ecommerce website builder”) is a software application that enables the commercial process of buying and selling over the internet. An ecommerce platform is the same as ecommerce software. Essentially, a seller should be able to build and manage an online store with e-commerce platforms, while a consumer should be able to use an e-commerce platform to discover available products, shop around using a cart, and then check out.
A good ecommerce software platform allows both parties, the seller and the consumer, to come and play their role. The best ecommerce platforms include all core business functions, integrated into a single solution and allow online businesses to create online stores, manage their website, marketing, sales and operations.
Ecommerce Platform Comparison: Comparison of the best online store platform to build an ecommerce website
Our top ecommerce platforms are based on objective and tested performance data, feature set and value. Compare the best ecommerce software platforms and website builders to find the one that fits your needs.
|Ecommerce platform||Use Case||Starting Price||Free trial|
|Shopify||Best for small business||$29/month||Yes (14 days)|
|Volusion||Best shopping cart solution||$15/month||Yes (14 Days)|
|BigCommerce||Best for beginners, growing and large businesses||$30/month.||Yes (15 Days)|
Whether you’re searching for a good ecommerce website builder or the best place to build an online store for small business, start a drop shipping business, or create a store to sell apparel, these retail platforms are the best right now.
Best ecommerce platform overall for small business
Shopify is one of the most popular eCommerce platforms in the world. This ecommerce service provider is popular for a lot of reasons. Full-range features, great learning tools, plenty of templates, and a seamless shopping experience are some of the things that make Shopify the best ecommerce platform for small business.
Why we picked it
Lots of learning resources available on site
Shopify offers superior customer support throughout the whole site-building process. It has an extensive collection of learning resources — manuals, a knowledge base, and even an ‘E-commerce University’ feature — that make ecommerce site building easy, even for beginners. And once your online store is up and running, these resources teach you how to increase revenue and generate more web traffic to your ecommerce website.
We also loved how Shopify provides access to Community Forums, so you can share and learn firsthand real-life experiences and growth strategies from other business owners.
Marketing tools to promote your store, drive traffic and increase sales
Along with its learning resources, Shopify brings an excellent marketing toolkit to the table. While ecommerce SEO tools and functionality will help boost your site appearance in Google’s and increase rankings, the integrated social media toolkit makes it easy to get free shares from your customers.
Shopify also integrates with MailChimp, which allows you to send targeted email campaigns to your subscribers, informing them about sales and new products.
We like the fact that Shopify gives its users an initial boost to help them get started. Singning up automatically gets you $100 in Google ad credits and $50 in Facebook advertising — making it easy to get the word out about your site right away. Coupled with Shopify’s analytics and reporting functions, you’re armed with a full arsenal of marketing insight and capabilities.
Large selection of templates
Finally, Shopify has an impressive selection of website templates — most of which are available for free. You’ll be able to choose from a long list of themes to truly personalize your website. It also offers templates with specific features, like a mobile-friendly interface and drop-down menus that make your site more user-friendly.
If you do decide to pay for an upgraded template, you can choose one of Shopify’s Guaranteed Themes, which are fully refundable within a week.
Integration with other ecommerce site tools and software services
Shopify partners with many online store service platforms and allows the integration of ecommerce tools to boost the functionality of your online store. Just in case you are running a drop shipping ecommerce business model, there are third party integrated tools to help you automate the whole product sourcing process and fulfilment.
What you should know and points to consider
Product comparison tool is not free
For any customer trying to decide between two or three different products, a comparison tool on your store can be a great asset. Most of the ecommerce platforms we looked at provide some form of comparison capabilities for free with a subscription. Unfortunately, Shopify currently charges an extra $5 per month for this feature. It’s certainly not a dealbreaker, but we would have liked to see it included in its base plans.
Easiest ecommerce software and online store builder for beginners
One-page, multilingual, multi-payment shopping cart options make the checkout experience on Volusion truly seamless.
Why we chose it
High end shopping cart software
We were extremely impressed with Volusion’s high-end shopping cart software. It’s loaded with features such as: Personal and guest profiles, wish lists, and a unique pop-up list that lets shoppers view their cart without leaving the page.
The cart experience is also mobile compatible and available in multiple languages, so it’s accessible for a wider range of customers. At the end, one-page checkout makes the purchase process quick and painless.
Great user interface easy to navigate for beginners
If you’re new to ecommerce and website building, you’ll love Volusion’s easy-to-navigate interface. You have quick access to video tutorials and other online resources, which are located directly on the dashboard. These offer advice on building your store, expanding it, and everything in between. Volusion also makes site design blissfully simple — just choose a template, click ‘Install,’ then ‘Activate,’ and you’re off (you can even preview the template first).
For beginners, or users who want to be more hands-off with site design, this simplicity is key.
Seamless social media integration and ability to post to social media
Volusion offers a variety of resources designed to help you market your online store. One of these marketing tools is an interface that allows you to create messages that are automatically posted to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can add links to products and categories and submit content to both websites with one click.
What you should know and points to consider
The price is a bit higher than most ecommerce site builders
It’s worth noting that Volusion is a bit pricier than our other top picks. Plans with unlimited products and storage start at $35 per month, compared to $29 per month for Shopify’s equivalent plan. The company does, however, offer a free trial option — a nice perk for new users who want to take their ecommerce software for a spin before committing fully to it.
No blogging platform (which is good and bad)
Although Volusion offers several marketing resources, they don’t currently offer a blogging platform. Blogging can be a low-cost way to build relationships with your customers, drive traffic to your website, and establish a better online presence.
Volusion websites can link to external blogs, enabling you to use common blog hosting services like WordPress or Blogger.
Why it’s good: Lack of blogging platform means you can focus on your ecommerce business properly on the storefront while you pay others to fully manage all content related activities and marketing process using full fledge blogging platforms.
Why it’s bad: Accessing your blog through your ecommerce portal would be ideal if you are in charge of running most activities on your online store.
Best platform for large ecommerce business
BigCommerce is the best all-around ecommerce platform for almost every category of users and use circumstances because it has the best ecommerce software solutions and tools for both small and large businesses to effortlessly manage their online store at every stage of their business. Its robust product search engine makes it an ideal choice for larger retail brands.
Personalized live support and a free trial option make BigCommerce retail platform friendly to first-time users. While state of the art technology services makes it great for large, fast-moving inventories.
Why we picked BigCommerce as the best all-around ecommerce platform with free and paid options for both small and big businesses
Superb customer support.
BigCommerce offers similar educational resources to some of our other top picks: User guides, video tutorials, and FAQs that help you build your ecommerce site. However, this platform goes above and beyond by providing access to its ‘Success Squad.’ This group of ecommerce experts are around to answer all your questions on a personal level, and help you out step-by-step when a tutorial just won’t cut it.
Third-party sales integration.
Third-party selling integration is what differentiates Bigcommerce from the other top ecommerce platforms. This feature alone is why Bigcommerce is considered the best ecommerce platform for medium and big companies.
Through the marketing tab on the main menu, BigCommerce allows you to easily integrate with Facebook, eBay, or shopping comparison sites like Nextag, PriceGrabber, and others. Operating an ecommerce store can be a competitive business, so having the ability to integrate with other websites can increase exposure and help your business grow. Any feature that facilitates this process is a great bonus.
Free ecommerce platform and online store builder trial without credit card.
I remember when trying to find the best hosting for this website, a major deciding factor was getting hands on experience and monitoring services knowing our money was safe before we committed to any service.
Getting hands-on experience with ecommerce software through a free trial is the best way to find out if the solution is going to work for your use circumstances.
Unlike our other top ecommerce platform picks, BigCommerce provides free access to its ecommerce platform without requiring a credit card. You can only do this if you’re very confident and know how good your services are.
What you should know and points to consider
Limited email marketing options
BigCommerce is a fairly comprehensive ecommerce software service platform, but relative to other top ecommerce platforms, the functionality built into it is limited. BigCommerce provides email marketing capabilities, but the software is designed to have you work through Constant Contact, iContact, MailChimp, and Interspire, which all require you to have an additional paid account, while most platforms handle this feature directly.
Expert Advice: We recommend you use a full fledge digital marketing service platform for all marketing activities and only use an ecommerce platform to build and manage your online store. You can check our top email marketing services review and comparison to find the most suitable option for you.
No free ecommerce site affiliate program integration
Yes! You can run affiliate programs for your online store hosted on Bigcommerce, but it’s not free.
When you’re managing an online store, affiliate marketing can be a powerful tool to help drive traffic to your website and increase sales. Unfortunately, BigCommerce doesn’t provide an affiliate tracking option. There is an integration option that may fill this gap, but it will come at an additional cost. If you know affiliate marketing will be a big part of your advertising plan, BigCommerce may not be the best fit if you do not want to spend extra.
How to choose the best ecommerce platform and Software for your business
Still finding it hard to find the most suitable ecommerce platform for your business?
Here is a detailed ecommerce platform and software buying guide to help you make better decisions.
This guide applies to every category of online retail businesses, whether you are in search of the best ecommerce platform for small business, drop shipping, to create a fashion store or a retail platform for startups.
Consider the following key decision-making factors
To choose a good ecommerce platform for your business, consider the following factors:
- Ease of use: You need a platform that is easy to use and navigate to quickly help you set up your ecommerce website.
- Price: Check the pricing and plans of each platform to know if it’s within your budget. Typically, go for a platform with pricing models and plans you can comfortably afford.
- SEO (Search engine optimization) features: Most ecommerce website builders are SEO friendly, but it is still crucial to check if the platform you are choosing has features put in place to support your website ranking and showing in search results from major search engines such as Google, Bing, Duckduckgo and Yahoo.
Calculate overall costs of setting up and running your store
The price for ecommerce software and services can go well beyond the monthly fee. While some e-commerce companies just charge a flat monthly rate for their services, most have other fees and expenses you’ll have to take into account.
Before you start shopping around, determine what would be a reasonable portion of your business’s budget to dedicate to an ecommerce platform, and proceed with that number in mind.
Browse website theme to scan for templates that fits the type of products you intend to sell on your ecommerce site
Chances are, the product you’re selling will determine a lot about how you want your online store to look. As you’re browsing each platform’s existing templates, think about how they would fit your business’s aesthetic. If one template feels like a perfect match, it could overrule other minor drawbacks from the platform.
Assess shipping discounts
Many ecommerce platforms offer shipping discounts that could provide significant savings for businesses selling physical products. Shopify, for example, provides shipping labels at a lower price, and it has deals with USPS, UPS, and DHL Express for discounted shipping rates.
If your business will be shipping a lot of packages, this is definitely worth factoring into your search.
Test several e-commerce platforms
Once you’ve homed in on a few ecommerce platforms that fit your budget and offer all your must-have tools, it’s time to take them out for a test drive. All of our top picks have at least a 14-day free trial, and it’s worth having your team take advantage of them.
You might find that there’s consensus around one interface or tool that everyone really likes using, which can act as a tiebreaker for otherwise equal products.
Types of Ecommerce Platforms
There are three main types of e-commerce platforms namely: SaaS (software-as-a-service) platforms, PaaS (platform-as-a-service) platforms, and on-premises platforms.
The three main types of e-commerce platforms are:
- SaaS (software-as-a-service) platforms.
- PaaS (platform-as-a-service) platforms.
- On-premises platforms.
1. SaaS Ecommerce Platforms
SaaS, also known as “Software as a Service” ecommerce platforms delivers e-commerce solutions through the internet. They are the most popular e-commerce platforms for small businesses today because they remove most of the complexity from running an online business. Instead of building and developing a custom solution, small business owners simply just rent the platform and get all the tools and services they need to build, manage and grow their online store.
2. PaaS Ecommerce platforms
Paas, known as Platform as a Service, is also the same as SaaS platforms. The difference however, is that you are not just only provided with an ecommerce software, but a full ecommerce service, with all the tools you need to manage your online store, including ecommerce hosting, shopping cart software, payment processing, blogging, digital marketing and more at a monthly recurring fee.
3. Self-Hosted or On-premises Ecommerce platforms
Self-hosted, or on-premise, ecommerce platforms are a DIY type of e-commerce service that gives the store owner the required tools they need to integrate e-commerce into their website or business. They require ecommerce store owners to find hosting, deal with installations and often perform updates to the ecommerce software manually. An example of a self-hosted ecommerce solution is WooCommerce, a plugin for WordPress.
SaaS ecommerce Platforms vs PaaS vs On-premise ecommerce software solution: Which is better?
SaaS and PaaS platforms both deliver e-commerce solutions through the internet. SaaS platforms typically involve software only but act as PaaS (Platform as a service) once they add a hardware element as well. The benefit of SaaS and Paas over self-hosted platforms is that store owners do not have to worry over anything as the platform service provider handles all technical issues and provides every tool needed to manage ecommerce websites.
The benefits of an on-premises ecommerce software platform include: more control over your online retail platform, greater visibility of your own data, more control over your payment processing options and a better understanding of data security.
Which type of ecommerce platform is the best to use?
- Use a SaaS ecommerce platform such as Shopify, Volusion and Bigcommerce if you are a beginner or small business owner trying to start an online store with no technical knowledge. With a SaaS or PaaS platform, everything you need is provided by the ecommerce platform service provider at a monthly recurring fee.
- If you are an advanced user with a bit of CMS experience and need more control over your online store, then a self-hosted ecommerce software solution such as WooCommerce is a great option for you.
Methodology: How we researched, tested and compared top e-commerce software platforms to find the best
There are tons of ecommerce companies providing different types of e-commerce services and they’ve all got the same back-of-the-box specs, with each ecommerce platform claiming to offer the best services for online stores.
First, we checked the ecommerce website hosting strength
“Hosting” is the service that allows you to purchase a domain name and get your website up and running — it’s the basis of any successful ecommerce platform, website builder or software service.
We looked for ecommerce companies with guaranteed excellent website hosting. That means more than 99% uptime, ensuring your website will always be accessible. It also means the software platform automatically backs up and restores your website multiple times per day, to make sure all your information is saved; including orders, products, photos, and customer records.
In addition, we required unlimited data storage and unlimited bandwidth. You shouldn’t have to contend with size and usage restrictions as your business grows.
This process is particularly important, especially if you intend to self-host your ecommerce website. If you intend to use WooCommerce, our ecommerce experts recommend you carefully analyze the best web hosting for WordPress and WooCommerce websites.
Online store security
In order to protect your assets, your information, and your clients’ information, ecommerce software companies need to take specific security measures. Most allow you to set administrator permissions, meaning you can control which employees have access to which parts of the site.
All ecommerce platforms should also come with a free SSL certificate, providing standard web-based encryption. Finally, we made sure our top picks are compliant with Payment Card Industry Data Security Systems (PCI-DSS). This ensures that all payments made on your site are totally secure.
We looked for ecommerce platforms that can help you master your website-building skills. Some of our favorite software, like BigCommerce, provides excellent FAQs, knowledge bases, and live webinars. And, when you run into a hitch, the best ecommerce companies include email, live chat, phone, and social media support.
Having access to your provider through multiple channels can be a huge help when troubleshooting different issues.
Responsive Website design
The best ecommerce platforms provide templates that allow you to personalize your site without struggling through a ton of HTML. GoDaddy, for example, offers over 800 customizable ecommerce templates for building online stores.
Some top-tier ecommerce software will also provide access to a professional designer. They must also provide a content management system (CMS) that allows you to easily upload new pages, edit existing content, add photos, and more.
Online store features
The most effective ecommerce software acts as an in-house marketing pro. It creates useful product displays, taking advantage of side-by-side comparison and cross-selling to boost product awareness. It also displays ratings and reviews and showcases popular items. In doing so, your ecommerce software maximizes profit for each customer that comes to the site. The software upsells your products — and you don’t have to lift a finger.
This refers to the range of features that allow customers to select items, view their cart, continue shopping, and eventually follow through with the purchase. Having a smooth shopping cart experience is a big part of what keeps your customers happy — if it’s a hassle to use, you may not make the sale. The best shopping carts, like Volusion, allow for customers to make both personal and guest accounts, apply discounts, and check out on a single page. They should also be fully functional on mobile devices — in 2017, over 40% of online sales were made on mobile devices.
Tracking and processing orders one by one can be incredibly time-consuming. Ecommerce software should facilitate this process by updating your inventory, sending automatic confirmations, and tracking canceled and returned orders.
The best ecommerce software also allows for a wide variety of payment options. Ideally, it should be able to process several types of credit cards, PayPal, and newer payment systems like Apple Pay and Google Wallet. You should never lose a sale because your ecommerce software won’t accept the customer’s card. Come shipping time, the software should calculate rates automatically and give options to upgrade for faster shipping.
E-commerce software should track everything that happens on your website — customer profiles and activity, sales and revenue, site performance — and then share that information with you. This provides valuable insight into the types of customers visiting your site and what they’re looking for. Platforms like Shopify pair analytics with marketing tools, so you can put that data to work right away.
Affiliate programs, email marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO) are just a few of the tools that can help promote your site. Social media integration is a big help, too. Links that allow customers to share a page on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest can bring more visitors to your site organically.