eCommerce platforms are a great way to manage and grow your online business by providing a means with which to sell your products online, keep track of your inventory and fulfil orders. When you’re selecting an eCommerce platform, there’s a lot to consider, so it can feel very overwhelming to compare all the options out there and decide what’s important for your business. That’s why we put together this ultimate guide to the best eCommerce platforms.
We’ll walk you through everything from figuring out your needs to picking the right platform for your business, as well as take a look at some popular eCommerce platforms and how they compare. So if you want to make sure you choose the right platform for your online store, read on!
What is an eCommerce Platform?
An eCommerce platform is a software application that provides the tools and technologies needed to create an online store. It enables merchants to set up, manage and maintain their own online stores with features such as shopping carts, payment gateways, inventory management and order tracking.
Importance of Choosing The Right eCommerce Platform
An eCommerce platform is the foundation of any online store and the right one can help your business succeed in this competitive online space. Here is why you need to ensure you select the right platform for your needs:
1. Increased Visibility: A good eCommerce platform will make it easier for customers to find your products and services, boosting sales potential.
2. Improved User Experience: An effective platform helps create a smooth experience for customers, reducing shopping cart abandonment and increasing conversions.
3. Streamlined Management: The right platform makes it easy to manage orders, inventory, customer data and payment processing from one central location.
4. Lower Costs: A well-designed eCommerce platform can reduce the amount of manual labour required to process orders or handle customer support inquiries, resulting in cost savings over time.
5. Enhanced Security: Security measures such as encryption technologies are becoming increasingly important with online payments and personal data storage - an advanced eCommerce system can provide comprehensive security protocols that protect both you and your customer’s information from unauthorised access or misuse.
6. Flexible Solutions: eCommerce platforms need to remain flexible enough to accommodate changes in technology, trends and user preferences over time so businesses don't become obsolete quickly – this means they should be customisable and scalable when needed without major overhauls or investments of time/money into upgrades/updates.
Factors to Consider When Choosing an eCommerce Platform
When it comes to choosing an eCommerce platform, there are a number of factors that you need to take into account. Here are just a few of the things that you should keep in mind:
1. Business Size:
The size of your business will greatly influence which eCommerce platform you should choose. Small businesses may benefit from using a simpler and less expensive platform, such as Shopify or BigCommerce. These platforms can provide the necessary features and tools for a small business to get started with an online store without breaking the bank.
For larger businesses, more complex solutions may be needed. Platforms like Magento, WooCommerce or headless Shopify stores are better suited for larger brands that need powerful features to handle large amounts of data, inventory, orders and customers effectively.
2. The cost of the platform:
This is obviously a major consideration for any business, so you need to make sure that the platform you choose is within your means. Even a platform like Shopify sometimes requires the help of a developer to extend its capabilities, so keep this in mind when setting your budget and selecting an eCommerce platform.
3. Integrations and Add-Ons:
Depending on the type of business you run, some platforms may offer more useful integrations or add-ons that are better suited to your needs. For instance, if you want to easily integrate with a specific third-party payment processor or shipping service, you will need to select from platforms that support your chosen vendor. It is important to review all the integration and add-on options offered by different eCommerce platforms before making your final decision so you can make sure you choose the one that best suits your needs.
4. Product Types and Inventory Management:
Different platforms offer different levels of scalability, customisation, flexibility and features when it comes to managing products and inventories. For example, some eCommerce platforms are better suited to selling digital products whereas others are purely geared towards physical products, fashion, art etc.
5. Payment Options:
If you have a preferred payment processor in mind, then you'll need to make sure your chosen platform supports the vendor. Some platforms may only accept certain types of payments, such as credit cards or PayPal, while other platforms may provide more flexibility and be able to accommodate alternative payment methods like Apple Pay, Bit Pay or Venmo. In addition, some platforms might also offer additional features associated with their payment processing capabilities such as deferred payments or payment plans with a vendor like Klarna.
6. Shipping Options:
Different platforms will offer different levels of customisation for setting up shipping costs, zones, labels, carrier integrations and more. You should carefully consider which platform offers the features you need to best serve customers both domestically and abroad. Some platforms may make it easier to set up international shipping or provide convenient access to popular carriers like UPS or FedEx, while others may only offer basic flat-rate shipping options.
7. Marketing and Sales:
Features like built-in marketing automation tools, targeted email campaigns, customer segmentation options, loyalty programs and powerful analytics tools will help you optimise your sales process and grow revenue. Additionally, integration with third-party apps such as CRM systems or testimonial apps can provide further benefits for streamlining processes across different parts of your business.
8. User Experience:
As experts in Shopify, we believe every website, regardless of the eCommerce platform used, should provide a great user experience for every website user. A good user experience will ensure that customers are able to find the products they are looking for quickly and easily, while also providing them with an enjoyable shopping experience. If you choose an eCommerce platform that doesn't offer great user experience design, it can lead to low conversion rates and negative reviews, which will ultimately damage your brand's reputation. Good UX design should be at the forefront of any decision when selecting an eCommerce platform so make sure you demo each platform before making a choice.
Customisation allows you to tailor the platform to meet your specific needs and create a unique experience for customers that reflects your brand. It also provides greater control over how user data is managed and gives you more flexibility in terms of features, design and functionality. Additionally, customising an eCommerce platform can help ensure it meets all of the required standards necessary for compliance with relevant regulations or industry standards. Ultimately, this can lead to increased customer satisfaction, better security protocols and overall performance of the system.
The scalability of an eCommerce platform will determine how well the platform can handle increased traffic, customisations and complex business models. If a platform is not scalable, then it may be unable to support your business as it grows, leading to performance issues and potential downtime.
The quality of the customer service and technical expertise provided by the platform is essential for providing customers with a positive shopping experience, resolving any issues quickly and ensuring that your website runs smoothly. Suppose you are dealing with complex integrations or need help managing your store. In that case, reliable technical support can make all the difference in getting things up and running quickly to avoid costly downtime.
You want to make sure that your customers' personal and financial information is secure, so it is important to choose a platform with robust security measures in place. Look for platforms with encryption technology, multi-factor authentication capabilities and malware protection software.
13. Type of eCommerce Model
The type of eCommerce model can heavily sway your choice of eCommerce platform. The different types of eCommerce are:
1. Business-to-Consumer (B2C): This type of eCommerce involves businesses selling products and services directly to consumers, such as online retail stores or subscription services.
2. Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C): This involves consumers buying and selling goods to each other through online marketplaces, such as eBay or Craigslist.
3. Business-to-Business (B2B): This type of eCommerce involves businesses selling products and services to other businesses, such as software companies providing their solutions for corporate customers.
4. Social Commerce: This involves using social networks like Facebook and Twitter to direct people towards a particular product page in order to make a purchase without ever leaving the platform they’re currently using or it can be in the form of a C2C app like Poshmark.
Comparison of eCommerce Platforms
Now that we’ve thoroughly covered what an eCommerce platform is and all the factors that must be taken into account when choosing the right platform for your business, it’s time to unpack what each eCommerce platform has to offer. Here are ten of the very best eCommerce platforms.
1. Best All-Rounder: Shopify
Call us biased but we've been around the block and we can confidently assure you that if you're looking for the top eCommerce platform overall, then Shopify is your guy. It is jam-packed with amazing tools for sellers including multi-channel selling support so you can easily sell on Shopify, in retail stores, and seamlessly integrate with social media or third-party online marketplaces (e.g. Etsy, Amazon, eBay). The user interface is sleek with plenty of easy-to-implement Shopify themes to choose from if you need to get up and running in a hurry.
Affordable, flexible subscription plans
Easy-to-use themes, even if you're not tech-savvy
High-performing, fast-loading sites
Plenty of integrations and 1000s of apps/plugins to extend the functionality
Reliable technical support and extensive knowledge base
Built-in sales and marketing tools for added convenience
Support for dropshipping and print-on-demand businesses
Plenty of Shopify development partners to help you customise your store
Shopify Payments is not available in some countries but there are in most cases local providers that can be integrated with ease.
Hiring a developer to customise the storefront or product page is not always affordable for small businesses
Performs poorly from an SEO perspective but can be easily improved with an proper audit and technical SEO tweaks
It is also worth noting that Shopify has an enterprise-level eCommerce solution called Shopify Plus, to serve high-volume, high-growth merchants. It offers a suite of advanced features and capabilities beyond what's available in the standard Shopify plans, including unlimited staff accounts, automation tools and customisation options.
Some of the key features of Shopify Plus include:
Advanced customisation and integrations such as customised checkout
Access to the Launch Team and Merchant Success Program
Access to automation tools such as Shopify Flow and Launchpad
Multi-channel selling capabilities, including social media, point-of-sale and wholesale integrations
Various API integrations such as GiftCard and Multipass
Shopify Plus is geared towards established businesses and brands that have outgrown the capabilities of the standard Shopify plan and need more advanced features to support their growth. It's particularly well-suited for businesses in industries such as fashion, beauty and consumer goods that require a high level of customisation and automation to manage their operations effectively.
If you’re loyal to WooCommerce and not yet convinced Shopify migration is a good move for your business, check out how they stack up against one another with our Shopify vs WooCommerce comparison.
Shop Example: Fyne Jewellery
2. Best For Shops with Ambitious Expansion Plans: BigCommerce
BigCommerce is an all-in-one eCommerce solution for enterprise-level brands that need a robust, scalable platform to sell a large inventory. It provides a suite of tools for creating, managing and optimising an online store, including website design, shopping cart functionality, product management tools, payment processing solutions and many more features. It is the ideal solution for businesses that already have a physical store and are looking for a way to take their products online.
Support for multi-channel selling
Supports international sales
Excellent SEO tools
Various payment gateways supported
One of the best eCommerce platforms for large product catalogues such as clothing stores
Can't purchase a domain through BigCommerce so you'll need to point your domain to your BigCommerce site
The themes available for purchase are expensive
Steeper learning curve to customising themes, especially without HTML or CSS knowledge
Load speed can be slow at times
Shop Example: Bensons for Beds
3. Best for Startups: WIX
WIX is a cloud-based web development platform that enables users to create websites and mobile sites through the use of online drag-and-drop tools, no coding needed. WIX provides hundreds of professionally-designed templates and industry-specific designs, as well as advanced features such as artificial design intelligence (ADI) that automatically creates a personalised website for you based on your preferences. With WIX, users can also access built-in hosting, secure connections with SSL certificates, marketing tools, social media integration and eCommerce capabilities.
Hosting and domain are taken care of by WIX
Very user-friendly drag-and-drop design tools and admin panel
Some useful marketing tools like built-in email automation, abandoned cart campaigns and social media integration
Load speed issues
Designs aren't always mobile-first and aren't as responsive on different screen sizes
Cannot transfer your site to another platform
Not as scalable
Poor SEO scores
Shop Example: Zelie for She
4. Best for Content-First Brands: WooCommerce
WooCommerce is a free and open-source eCommerce platform that integrates with the ever-popular WordPress. It is designed to help merchants create and manage their own online store with minimal technical knowledge, making it one of the most popular eCommerce platforms for small businesses that may not have the resources to develop or maintain a custom website.
WooCommerce allows users to integrate various payment gateways such as PayPal, Stripe and Authorize.net, as well as offering customisable shipping options. In addition, WooCommerce offers extensive features such as inventory management, tax calculation coupon codes support and much more. It is important to remember that WordPress is a Content Management System at its core, so all themes and plugins to add eCommerce functionalities are purchased separately.
Highly-customisable layouts through theme builders like Divi and Elementor
Full control over your SEO and content marketing strategy
1000s of plugins for purchase to extend the functionality of your shop
WooCommerce is a free plugin
A useful analytics dashboard to view your sales and other important metrics
The plugins required to get your store functioning as required can be expensive
You are responsible for website hosting, SSL certificates and website security
You will need to integrate your payment processor and shipping company manually
Often the help of a developer is required to properly set up a store
Website load speed can be slow which can chase shoppers away
Shop Example: Nalgene
5. Best Shop Templates: Squarespace
Squarespace is a website-building platform that enables users to create and maintain websites, online stores and blog sites by using drag-and-drop tools. It offers a hosted content management system (CMS) with customisable templates, SEO optimization features and eCommerce capabilities. Squarespace offers some of the best ready-to-use shop templates so if you need a mobile-friendly shop ready in a hurry, it should be a consideration.
Easy to use and intuitive user interface allows for easy customisation and design of storefront.
A wide selection of templates designed specifically for eCommerce businesses, giving merchants greater flexibility in how they present their products to customers.
Comprehensive analytics dashboard that helps merchants track sales, traffic, abandoned carts, customer demographics and more with ease.
Built-in SEO capabilities allow store owners to optimise their websites for better search engine rankings with minimal effort required on the part of the merchant.
Secure payment processing options
Powerful marketing tools including email campaigns & social media integrations can be used by store owners to drive traffic and increase conversion rates easily from within the platform’s admin panel.
State-of-the art security features
Limited customisation options compared to other platforms
Relatively expensive for small businesses
No multi-currency support in some regions
Poor SEO capabilities due to limited control over the source code and lack of meta tags
Limited customer service hours and resources
Challenging scalability due to its rigid template system
Shop Example: Aesop.Wines
6. Best for Artists: Big Cartel
For artists and creatives selling art, digital files or handmade items, you're probably already selling on Etsy and similar platforms. So when the time comes for your own standalone online store, a platform with similar capabilities is often the answer. Big Cartel is geared towards the 'makers' by offering a simple but effective interface through which to sell your creations.
Easy to use, intuitive user interface with drag-and-drop features
Affordable plans for independent artists
A library of themes, apps and plugins to customise your store’s look and functionality
Ability to sell physical products, digital downloads, services & subscriptions
Secure payments are processed through Stripe, PayPal or Apple Pay
Integration with ShipRush for streamlined shipping
Email marketing tools such as MailChimp, Poptin and Chaty
Lack of customisation and third-party app integration options
Limited scalability for larger stores
Slow customer service response times
Only 5 product images per listing
Shop Example: Palante Works
7. Best for Small Budgets: Weebly
Weebly is an easy-to-use, all-in-one eCommerce platform that allows small businesses to create online stores and start selling products quickly. With Weebly, users can create a website with product pages, payment processing capabilities and marketing tools in minutes. Weebly provides multiple design options to give your store a unique look that helps build brand recognition. The user-friendly admin dashboard makes it easy to keep track of orders and customers while the built-in analytics tool lets you monitor performance and identify areas of improvement. All these features make Weebly one of the best eCommerce platform for small businesses looking for a simple yet effective means to sell online.
Integrates with online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay
Supports Square, Stripe and PayPal payments
Fast site load times
Limited customisation options for store design and layout
Limited scalability as the platform does not have enterprise-level solutions
Need a premium plan to connect a domain
Shop Example: Half Hippy
8. Best Self-Hosted: OpenCart
OpenCart is a free and open-source eCommerce platform that makes it easy to set up an online store. It provides a wide range of features and tools, such as payment gateway integration, product management capabilities, multiple language support, marketing tools and more. With OpenCart you can create an attractive storefront quickly and easily with its intuitive user interface, and with over 13000 modules available, you can tailor the look and feel of your store to suit your brand identity without any coding required.
Plenty of integration options
Free to use
Affordable to maintain
Highly customisable without coding
Limited control over SEO
Lacks robust marketing tools
Load times can be slow
As a self-hosted platform, you will need to arrange hosting, a domain and security
Shop Example: CopyShop
9. Best for Coders: Magento (Adobe Commerce)
Formerly called Magento, Adobe Commerce is an eCommerce platform designed with developers in mind. It is used by enterprise-level sellers who require a highly scalable and custom-designed eCommerce solution. Without extensive coding and web development skills, you will not be able to properly use Adobe Commerce. There's no quick and easy way to activate multi-channel selling or connect with your social media channels - everything is a lot more complex.
Unique pricing tiers e.g. separate pricing for VIP customers
Well-suited to merchants with big product catalogues or B2B sales
One of the most expensive eCommerce platforms
A smaller pool of developers to help you customise your store
Requires separate hosting and large server capacity
Shop Example: Liverpool FC
10. Best for Quick Set Up: Volusion
Volusion is one of the quickest and easiest eCommerce platforms to set up. You can be selling online in no time at all without having to worry about complex technical details. Volusion takes care of all the hosting and security for you, so you can focus on running your business. The platform itself was launched back in 1999 so it's been around a long time and sometimes it's templates can look a little stuck in the ‘00s.
Easy to customise
24-hour support team
Plenty of templates to choose from that are responsive to various screen sizes
An easy-to-use website builder tool
No free plans
Can only sell physical products
You must pay for an SSL certificate separately
The theme templates can become quite pricey
The templates can look a little dated
Slow to load
No blog function
Shop Example: PKW Group
Tips for Online Selling Success
Once you have selected your eCommerce platform it is time to hit the ground running with your big idea. Keep in mind that an estimated 80 - 90% of eCommerce stores fail, so if you want to be part of the 20% who go on to succeed, there are some things you’ll need to do to sell, sell, sell!
1. Approach Your Shop With A Business Mindset
It is important to approach your online store with a business mindset because it will help you stay focused on the goals of running a successful business. This means understanding your target market, setting realistic expectations, having an effective marketing and sales strategy and tracking progress in order to make ongoing improvements. Get up every day, look the part and set dedicated time aside to work on your online business.
2. Complete Your eCommerce Platform’s Onboarding Process
Most eCommerce platforms offer some kind of onboarding process with tutorials and links to helpful articles, videos or mini-courses. It is important to complete the process so you get to grips with all the features the platform offers and understand exactly how to properly set up your store. This can help you troubleshoot along the way and ensure you are getting the most out of your chosen platform.
3. Take a Sales and Marketing Course
There is no shortage of online courses available nowadays and if marketing is not your forte, you can brush up on your skills through an online course. Sales and marketing courses can help even novices gain a better understanding of how to effectively market their products and services, as well as how to increase sales. With this knowledge, you can create effective campaigns targeted at the right audience and use tactics such as email marketing, SEO optimization, content creation, social media management, etc to grow your business. Additionally, learning about customer service techniques will help you provide great experiences for your customers, leading to improved loyalty and repeat business. If you’re just getting started and have no experience in this area, we would recommend hiring a marketing agency or freelancer to get you off to a good start.
5. Invest in Your Business
Should your business succeed, it will become one of your greatest assets. All assets require some form of investment and your business is no different. Investment may come in the form of hiring a developer to set up your online store or an assistant who can help you quickly process, pack and ship orders. Or maybe you need the help of a marketing agency to help you improve your online visibility and sales. Whatever it may be, don’t be afraid to invest money into improving and streamlining your eCommerce business.
6. Take Enticing Product Images
Product images are a key factor in influencing consumer decisions. Good product images can help to create an emotional connection with potential customers and make them more likely to purchase your products. They also provide helpful information about the product’s features, size, shape, colour, etc., which is often essential when making online purchases.
7. Make SEO Your Best Friend
Understanding SEO is essential when running an online store because it helps increase visibility and drive more organic traffic to your website. By optimising titles, descriptions, content, images and other elements of your online store for search engines, you can appear higher in the search engine results by ranking for certain keywords. SEO also helps improve user experience by making it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for on your site quickly and efficiently.
8. Optimise Your Product Page
By optimising the layout, visuals, copy, and overall user experience on a product page, you can make sure that it’s as easy as possible for potential customers to understand what they are buying and why they should buy from you. Optimization also helps ensure that all important information about your product is presented in an organised way so that shoppers can quickly scan the content to find what they need to make a purchase decision. Additionally, optimization ensures that key elements like call-to-action buttons are prominent enough for shoppers to see them. If you’d like to learn more, we recently took an in-depth look into what goes into a properly optimised product page.
Choosing the right eCommerce platform for your business is a crucial part of the puzzle in your journey to succeeding online. While Shopify can be considered the top eCommerce platform, we understand that one size does not fit all, so certain eCommerce models may require something different.
If you’d like to give Shopify a whirl you can follow our complete guide for an easy Shopify store setup to get yourself up and running. Should you require further help customising your online store down the line, you know where to find us! So don’t be shy to give us a call, or to send us an email, we’d love to share our ideas with you