The Ecommerce Platform Comparison Tool
Finding the best ecommerce solution for your online store can be a bit tricky. However, if you want to launch a successful ecommerce, you should research the available options and assess their features, performance, prices and more.
This can take a while, and you are, most likely, already pretty busy. So wouldn’t it be great to find an ecommerce tool that made your life easier rather than more complicated? The ideal ecommerce platform will automate a bunch of things for you (e.g. shipping and taxes), so you can focus on selling your products and services online.
As you’ll see below, there isn’t a shortage of solutions when it comes to creating online stores. That’s why I put together this comprehensive guide in order to help you pick the perfect ecommerce platform for your project.
The following are the 12 best ecommerce platforms:
But, if you don’t feel like reading the full article, let me give you a quick overview of what the best tools out there are.
Shopify and BigCommerce are the best solutions to create large online stores easily. WooCommerce appeals to larger projects too, but it may require some technical knowledge. However, it’s more flexible and makes it possible to create multilingual stores.
Squarespace, Weebly and Wix are a good fit if you want to create smaller (and simpler) store projects. These tools come with many options for content marketing creation (e.g. landing pages, blog posts, etc.), so they may be suitable if your strategy is based on this.
Finally, a piece of advice for founders with low budgets: Weebly’s online store is included in ALL plans, even the free one. It shows a small ad in the footer but includes almost all ecommerce features.
What is an ecommerce platform?
An ecommerce platform is software that allows business owners to sell their products and services online. Most of them will let you create an online store, but you don’t necessarily need a website to sell online. For instance, you could sell online using your social media channels, through email marketing, or by integrating your products with marketplaces like Etsy, Amazon or eBay.
However, as we’ll see later on, it’s never a bad idea to have your own ecommerce and online presence where you can centralize your business efforts. For example, imagine that the social media channel you normally use decides that your products are no longer welcome – I could see this happening with electronic cigarettes, for example – you’d be in serious trouble.
Moreover, several store builders will also let you sell using social media or marketplaces like Etsy, eBay or Amazon.
Different types of ecommerce platforms
There are several types of ecommerce solutions, for example, some focus on selling digital products, others are great for dropshipping businesses (e.g. Oberlo) and some are perfect for subscription-based models (e.g. Wix Membership).
However, they all fall into one of these 2 categories:
Also known as online shop builders (e.g. Shopify, BigCommerce or Weebly), these are SaaS products that have monthly or annual fees. All these platforms are hosted by the provider and store owners don’t have to worry about updates, security issues or finding a hosting service.
Hosted solutions are the fastest and easiest way to create an online store, but you may lose some flexibility. Even though store builders can be very flexible and some allow code customization, there’s always a limit on the things you can change (e.g. your server setup).
These are generally open-source CMS (Content Management Systems) that require store owners to find their own hosting service. Normally, there isn’t any fee involved to use the CMS, but webmasters are in charge of updates and security.
Since you have access to the application’s source code, everything is doable, provided you have coding knowledge. These self-hosted ecommerce platforms can be challenging for beginners as they are usually more complex. If you don’t have the necessary technical experience, you may need to involve a professional developer, and they aren’t cheap.
Note: Be aware that nowadays several hosted services like Shopify or Ecwid can also be used with WordPress – you could think of this as a hybrid approach. The advantage is that you’ll have more control over your hosting settings, but it may be confusing to use two systems to maintain your online store.
Find the best solutions for larger ecommerce projects
The Swiss Army Knife of Online Stores
The Name Says It All
Best Add-On for WordPress
Prices here refer to the WooCommerce hosting with Bluehost.
For larger projects
Pricing refers to the SiteGround hosting services.
Suitable for big projects
Prices here refer to the SiteGround hosting services.
Popular in Europe
Pricing refers to the SiteGround hosting services.
A Solution for Experts
Ecommerce platforms for smaller online shops
Ecommerce platforms popularity
When it comes to ecommerce builders’ popularity, we have a clear winner: Shopify.
According to GoogleTrends, Shopify has managed to bag the number 1 popularity spot among online creation platforms. But if we look at their usage figures for countries like USA, United Kingdom, Australia or Canada, Shopify seems to be getting a 30% market share, which isn’t bad for a company that started in 2006. Other reports from Statista seem to indicate similar trends.
But, if we take BuiltWith’s global estimates, we can see that WooCommerce (in 2019) is still the most popular ecommerce platform, with 26% of the market share, followed by Shopify with 19%; Magento seems to power 9% of the online stores. BigCommerce and OpenCart are less than 5%.
BuiltWith ecommerce platforms market share
However, when we only look at the top 100,000 online stores in terms of traffic, we see that Shopify is again the king, with 21% of the market share. On top of that, Shopify Plus (their enterprise solution) adds an extra 6%.
Anyways, these aren’t definitive numbers, but they should give us an idea of what platforms are the most relevant out there. If you are interested in finding out what the most popular solutions per country are, check this 2019 study out.
Of course, popularity isn’t always a synonym of quality, so let’s find out what you can expect from all these solutions.
The 12 best ecommerce builders you can use
The Swiss Army Knife of Online Stores
With over 1 million merchants, Shopify is, no doubt, the most successful online store builder. It started as a personal project to sell snowboards for a young German living in Canada. Nowadays, Shopify employs thousands and has helped its merchants to sell over $180 billion.
At Shopify they are continuously innovating all the time by launching new features and exploring new opportunities, like making it simpler for users to sell on social media channels. On top of that, their system allows merchants to customize the source code and adapt it to their needs.
What we like: Shopify is incredibly easy to use if you consider the number of features available. But at the same time, its system is flexible enough to accomodate projects with unique needs. Shopify will also scale up if you need it to (e.g. your online store needs grow). Another big plus for Shopify is the big user community and developer ecosystem that supports the product, for example, you can find hundreds of Shopify apps to expand its capabilities.
What they should improve: I wish Shopify provided a better way to create multilingual online stores. They could offer a bit more when creating regular content (e.g. landing pages or blog articles). You won’t be able to 100% customize Shopify’s URL structure, for example, you can’t modify the ‘/product/’ string for product URLs. It’s not a solution for every budget as their cheaper plan will cost you $26 per month.
Free trial: shopify.com
The Name Says It All
Founded in 2009, BigComemrce is always among the top choices when it comes to creating an online store. Since its inception in Sydney (Australia), this ecommerce platform has undergone significant development and has helped its merchants process over $17 billion in sales.
Like Shopify, it’s also a solution that’s 100% focused on ecommerce, powering around 100,000 online stores. Over 500 people work at BigCommerce.
What we like: BigCommerce has managed to create a system that’s intuitive and easy enough for beginners, but at the same time, it offers a full range of ecommerce features for the pros. BigCommerce is very flexible when it comes to creating product variants and personalization options (e.g. size, color or material). Unlike Shopify, they don’t charge extra transaction fees depending on the payment method used. If your online store grows, BigCommerce will be able to accommodate it with their higher tier plans.
What they should improve: It’s not the cheapest solution; their entry-level plan starts at $29.95 a month. Sadly, there’s not an easy way to create a multilingual online store with BigCommerce. If you are used to a website builder like Wix or Weebly, you’ll find BigCommerce’s way of creating regular content (e.g. landing pages or blog posts) a bit clunky and limited.
Free trial: bigcommerce.com
Best eCommerce Add-On for WordPress
WooCommerce is a bit different from the previous tools; it’s a plugin you can add to any WordPress site to create a powerhouse ecommerce. This plugin has become so popular among WordPress developers that it’s the default solution for creating online stores. In fact, in 2015, Automattic, the company behind WordPress bought WooCommerce for over $30 million.
But since WooCommerce (and WordPress) are self-hosted open-source solutions, you’ll need to find your own hosting provider and manage the necessary updates and issues that come along the way. You can, of course, hire a professional developer to help you if you have the budget.
What we like: WordPress (and WooCommerce) have a large community, so you won’t be short on options when it comes to designs (themes) and plugins. It’s as flexible as it gets, so if you need a custom solution for your project, you can get it built by a programmer. The available ecommerce features are almost overwhelming. Store owners have a lot to choose from. It’s also suitable for creating online stores in several languages.
What they should improve: WooCommerce is not easy to use and programming knowledge may be needed to change small things in your template. Even though you can find a lot of information online, there’s no WooCommerce customer support channel you can go through when you are stuck. The hosting services aren’t integrated, so you’ll need to find your own host.
Online Stores Everywhere
In 2009 Ruslan Fazlyev, an ecommerce veteran (co-founder of X-Cart), launched Ecwid to allow small business owners to sell their products and services online. Since then, over 1 million merchants have chosen Ecwid for their online store.
Ecwid is a bit different to other online store creation tools; you can think of it as an extension that can be added to any website in order to make it a fully-featured online store. Ecwid may be pretty convenient if you already have a website without ecommerce capabilities and you wish to sell online.
One thing that makes Ecwid stand out is that you can start for free. Their Forever Free Plan will let you create a small online store featuring 10 products for exactly $0 a month.
What we like: Don’t let Ecwid’s simple concept fool you into thinking they are a limited platform; it’s actually packed with endless ecommerce features (e.g. abandoned cart saver or point of sale systems). It can be used to create online stores on WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, Joomla, Blogger and many more. With the higher plan, you’ll be able to create an iOS or Android shopping app too.
What they should improve: Even though Ecwid comes with responsive designs, completely customizing your store could require a bit of elbow grease, as you may need to dive into the CSS or purchase additional apps. Ecwid’s SEO has improved in recent times, however, they still have a few glitches that they should fix (e.g. product URLs are not clean). You will need to already have a website if you are planning on using Ecwid, so if you are just starting out, other solutions would be more suitable.
Free trial: ecwid.com
There is no doubt that this Israeli shop builder is the most successful on the market; 150 million users choose Wix to create a website. The speed at which Wix develops new features is breathtaking, maybe only Shopify can compete here.
Even if Wix took longer to create a usable ecommerce module (at first, it was minimal), they ended up designing a solid solution with tons of useful features. On top of that, they have a unique approach to helping small businesses in the form of integrated apps for Hotels, Restaurants, to book appointments and organize events.
What we like: Wix has always had more templates than anyone, and even though they aren’t fully responsive, you’ll be able to customize them to look good on any device. After Weebly and Jimdo, Wix is probably the easiest-to-use ecommerce builder. It doesn’t charge extra transaction fees and their (lower) plans are more affordable than those of their direct competitors like Weebly or Squarespace. Wix’s ecommerce features have improved so much in recent years that they are now considered a good ecommerce platform for smaller online stores.
What they should improve: Sadly, when it comes to loading speed, Wix trails behind its competitors. You will only be allowed 1 sub-navigation level and this can make it difficult to accommodate larger online stores. It also lacks flexibility with its confirmation emails as there’s very little room for customization.
Free trial: wix.com
For Creatives With eCommerce Ambitions
Squarespace, a New York based builder, emerged on the market in 2003. Since then, it has helped millions to create websites, but also online stores – according to BuiltWith, Squarespace has a 5% market share in the US.
When it comes to website builders, there aren’t many as popular and successful as Squarespace. Over the years, they’ve also developed their online store capabilities and become one of the top ecommerce platforms.
What we like: They have an impressive range of ecommerce features, if we take into account that they aren’t an ecommerce focused builder. Not many platforms make it as convenient as Squarespace to sell services and subscriptions online. Squarespace’s designs are swanky and modern-looking, perhaps only Wix’s can compete. The online store is perfectly integrated with their system; adding products to sell on your blog posts is a walk in the park. They also have a POS system to sell in-person.
What they should improve: Every time I use Squarespace I feel a bit lost, as their system feels (at times) counterintuitive and some options (e.g. alt text for images) can be challenging to find. Sadly, managing your store’s taxes with Squarespace can be tedious as the process isn’t 100% automatic. They charge extra transaction fees if you use the lower ecommerce plan.
Free trial: squarespace.com
Makes Selling Super Easy
Weebly is another classic website builder. They started their journey in 2007 and is currently used by over 50 million people. In 2018, the giant ecommerce solution Square opened its wallet and acquired Weebly for a whooping $365 million.
Somewhat surprisingly, not much new ‘stuff’ has happened at Weebly since the acquisition, but then again, their website builder was already an excellent tool for creating an online store.
What we like: In my experience, Weebly is the easiest ecommerce platform I’ve ever used; their structured editor makes it a sweet match for beginners. Some of their ecommerce features are surprisingly advanced, for example, the shipping and tax calculator. Similar to Squarespace, their ecommerce module will be fully integrated with other parts of your website (e.g. your blog).
What they should improve: Unlike many of its contendents (e.g. Wix or Shopify), they don’t allow offline payment options (e.g. bank transfer or in-store payment). If you are planning to launch a dropshipping project, Weebly won’t be of much help. There’s not a smart way to create an online store (or website) in several languages. To fully unleash Weebly’s ecommerce power you’ll have to get the Business plan (at 20€ month).
Free trial: weebly.com
A Solution for Experts
Volusion is one of the oldest ecommerce platforms. Founded in 1999, this Texan platform powers 30,000 online stores and employs over 250 people.
If we look at their pricing (starts at $29 a month), Volusion is in the top tier and should offer similar services to Shopify and BigCommerce. Personally, I don’t think it has aged well and there are many aspects I believe they should improve (read below).
What we like: In our tests, we found Volusion to be one of the fastest platforms we benchmarked. Volusion’s many features are appreciated, for example, I like ‘the deal of the day’ promotional option that bumps up a product to the top of your homepage.
What they should improve: Expect to spend some time figuring out how things work with Volusion, as they are not an intuitive solution. I am not a huge fan of their templates, and even though they’re responsive, I don’t find them too appealing. When comparing their system to similarly priced solutions like Shopify or BigCommerce, its platform feels a bit limited. There is not an app store where you can find external apps to enhance your shop’s capabilities (e.g. extensions to improve SEO or email marketing integrations).
Free trial: volusion.com
Great for European Stores
Jimdo is originally from Germany and it’s a very popular tool among Europeans (they are fully localised in English). They have achieved relative success due to the fact that 20 million websites have been created using their system.
Being 100% honest, it’s almost unfair to list Jimdo along with top ecommerce platforms like Shopify or Weebly, as their features simply can’t match those of their competitors. However, there are a couple of perks Jimdo offers that no one else does, let me tell you about them.
What we like: It’s affordable; for as little as 9€ a month, you’ll get an ad-free online store with 15 products. A nice little added bonus is that Jimdo sites seem, on average, faster than its competitors’. If you are looking for an easy-to-use tool, Jimdo is certainly that. European users will be relieved to know that they fully comply with the complicated ecommerce EU regulations.
What they should improve: On the other hand, Jimdo feels slightly lacking it, just doesn’t provide many basic ecommerce features. For example, you won’t find a way to import or export data, which makes it difficult to manage larger online stores. It’s not possible to sell digital goods either (e.g. images, PDF documents or songs). Jimdo’s designs are OKish, but they are unimpressive and could use an update.
Free trial: jimdo.com
Best ecommerce platforms for:
Let’s now check out a couple of cases and see what platforms are most suitable:
Big online stores
Another option, if technical challenges don’t scare you, would be to use a combination of WordPress and WooCommerce. If you want an (open-source) alternative to WordPress, check Magento out.
Small online stores
Sometimes it’s great to be a big fish (e.g. Amazon), but sometimes keeping things small may be the best approach. So, if yours will be a small to medium-sized online shop, I would suggest you check out Squarespace and Weebly.
Alternatively, you can also use Wix, however, it may not be ideal for complex site structures and a lot of products (e.g. more than 200). On the bright side, Wix offers an excellent layout and design flexibility that is unmatched by any other solution.
Dropshippers will be happy to know that several (of the bigger) ecommerce solutions integrate with a number of dropshipping providers like AliExpress, Doba or MegaGoods.
But Shopify took it to the next level when they acquired a former Shopify App (named Oberlo) that integrated seamlessly with several dropshipping providers. However, WooCommerce also offers decent solutions via plugins like AliDropship.
If, however, you already have a website, check out Ecwid as it may save you some money. It’s also a powerful solution.
You’d think that these days creating a multilingual online store would be as easy as creating a monolingual one. Truth to be told, launching an ecommerce project in several languages is not that straightforward.
To date, platforms like BigCommerce, Squarespace or Weebly haven’t found a reliable way to solve this. There are indeed multilingual apps you can use, but they are either expensive (e.g. Shopify) and/or not great (e.g. for SEO).
Therefore, if you need your online store translated into several languages, you should look into advanced ecommerce platforms like WooCommerce or Magento. You may still need to add extensions (e.g. Polylang or WPML for WooCommerce) to give multilingual capabilities to your online store.
Have you ever tried to sell services with a tool that doesn’t have the right capabilities? I have, and it’s not fun, as the whole user experience is just wrong. For example, the confirmation emails make no sense at all and you end up getting masses of messages from confused customers.
Wix Hotels Booking System
Note: Wix comes with many business-focused apps that are ready to help business owners sell online. For example, they have solutions for Restaurants, Hotels, Musicians, Photographers and even have an integrated booking system.
Selling digital products
There are times where you won’t be selling a physical product. For instance, if you are a graphic designer or a photographer, you may be selling your best pictures or illustrations online as digital products, or perhaps you have an ebook that you’d like to start distributing.
Pretty much all the tools in this post are equipped with the features that allow you to sell digital products. The only solution that unfortunately won’t cut it is Jimdo.
A couple of years ago, selling subscriptions or having recurring payments set up was a big pain. However, a couple of ecommerce platforms have recently taken a big leap and integrated systems so that their users can sell subscriptions.
There are several extensions you can use for WooCommerce to achieve this – warning: technical knowledge may be needed. But if you are looking for a hassle-free solution to sell subscriptions, check out Wix (with the Business plans) or Squarespace (with the Advanced Commerce plans).
Surprisingly, the big players like Shopify and BigCommerce don’t have built-in systems where you can sell subscriptions, you’ll need one of the available apps for this, which may make your subscription more expensive.
Brick & Mortar
Finally, if you are looking to combine an online store with a physical shop, there are a couple of alternatives you can consider.
There are some plugins available for CMSs like Magento and WooCommerce so you can process sales in-person (e.g. WooCommerce POS). However, they aren’t super popular and you still need to get hardware (e.g. a card reader) to use them.
Shopify, Squarespace and Volusion offer a POS system you can use to process sales face-to-face. The advantage of Shopify is that you can also get the hardware (card readers, barcode scanners or cash drawers) from them .
Note: Be aware that these POS solutions aren’t always available in every country, so double check yours before you commit. US-based businesses won’t have any issues here.
What can these ecommerce solutions do for you?
Back in the day, selling online wasn’t an easy journey, but these days website builders and top ecommerce platforms make it (relatively) easy. For instance, you won’t need coding experience to manage your online store.
But how do these platforms simplify your life as an online store owner? Here ares some benefits:
- Launch your ecommerce without programming knowledge
- Let them handle the updates and security issues*
- Process orders and payments online
- Easily manage the tax and shipping settings
- Support content creation (e.g. landing pages or blog posts)
- Marketing features available to increase conversions (e.g. gift cards or coupons)
- Robust reporting systems to track success and uncover issues
- Multi-channel sales integration (e.g. sell on eBay, Facebook or Amazon)
- Quick import and export data (e.g. for products)
- SEO options customization
* This only applies to solutions like Shopify, BigCommerce, Squarespace Weebly or Wix. Not for CMSs like Magento, WooCommerce and PrestaShop
I am not saying that you won’t need to work hard to create a successful online store, but these tools will let you focus on selling more, as you’ll be free of tedious chores like uploading products to your store or updating plugins and extensions.
How much are ecommerce platforms?
That’s an important question, as not everyone will have a big budget to spend on software. Let me tell you how much these ecommerce platforms will cost you:
Shopify, BigCommerce and Volusion prices start from about $29.95 a month. If you need more advanced features (e.g. advanced reports with Shopify) you’ll have to upgrade to a higher plan at around $71 a month. Some things to consider are:
- Shopify charges extra-transaction fees if you don’t use their payment gateway
- BigCommerce has a limit on the sales you can process with each plan; if you go over you’ll be forced to upgrade
- Volusion will limit the products you can sell with each plan. They also have a yearly threshold sales limit.
On paper, CMSs like Magento, WooCommerce and PrestaShop are free, as they are open-source solutions. However, you will need to get a hosting service (a decent one will start at $20 a month), and any extras you may require such as templates or plugins. On top of that, if you don’t have programming experience and need a developer, it can get expensive, as they charge by the hour (e.g. from $30 to $100).
Tools like Wix, Weebly and Squarespace will let you have your online store a bit cheaper: 17€, 20€ and 17€ a month respectively. However, be aware that Squarespace will charge you extra transaction fees (3%) on its lower plans.
Jimdo is by far the cheapest way to start your online store, you can have up to 50 pages for $15 a month. If you need more pages or storage, you can always upgrade.
Finally, if you already have a website, Ecwid is the cheapest alternative, starting at 15€ a month for a functional online store where you can sell up to 100 products. Like Jimdo, they have a free plan with certain limitations (e.g. only 10 products).
|Provider||Plans||Staff accounts||Allowed products||Other|
|Unlimited||If you don’t use their gateway processor, extra-transaction fees are charged (2%, 1% & 0,5%)|
|Unlimited||Unlimited||Upgrade needed if you go over the yearly sales thresholds ($50K, $150K or $450K)|
|Upgrade needed if you go over the yearly sales thresholds ($50K, $100K or $500K)|
|WooCommerce, Magento & PrestaShop||From $20 a month for hosting||Unlimited||Unlimited||Plugins, themes and developer fees may apply|
|Unlimited||Unlimited||Extra 3% transaction fee with the Business plan|
|Unlimited||Unlimited||Useful ecommerce features only available for Business tiers or higher|
20 GB storage
35 GB storage
50 GB storage
10 GB storage
15 GB storage
* Note that Ecwid offers basic free online stores (e.g. limited functionality and products).
Things and features you should consider:
Before choosing the ecommerce platform for your project, there are a bunch of factors you should take into account in order to make sure you go with the solution that best fits your needs.
Check out the next video for an ecommerce introduction, and what features you should consider:
Ease of use
You need a platform that matches your technical skills and needs. It doesn’t make sense to go for an advanced CMS like Magento or WooCommerce if you aren’t (a bit) tech-savvy. And the same applies the other way around; don’t go for a (too) simple and easy-to-use ecommerce platform like Jimdo when you intend to create a complex ecommerce (e.g. with multilingual features).
Shopify makes it easy to edit product details
Shopify (and BigCommerce, to a certain extent) are a happy medium. They are reasonably easy to use, but at the same time allow you to scale your store as they provide pretty much any ecommerce feature you need.
On the other hand, open-source content management systems like WordPress, PrestaShop or Magento will let you create anything you can think of, but often you’ll need programming knowledge even, at times, for simple updates.
Templates & Design
Would you buy a shirt, or anything else, from a brick and mortar shop that wasn’t clean, didn’t have the products nicely displayed and had a 30-minute queue to pay?
If you are anything like me, no way.
What do you think about this website design? Maybe they are successful, but I wouldn’t want my ecommerce to look like it – no offense meant.
Online stores are the same; you should use neat designs and a good structure to favor user experience and conversions. Things that you should be looking for are:
- Enough (ecommerce-focused) template alternatives to choose from
- All templates should be mobile-friendly so they look good on any display
- Obviously, the designs should look good and ideally A/B tested for conversions
- You’ll need a system that allows you to customize your styles and designs
In my opinion, Wix and Squarespace offer the best designs for smaller projects, plus all are free. Without a doubt, design-wise, Wix is the most flexible site builder out there. But if you are looking for a fully-focused ecommerce solution, Shopify’s designs look (to me) a bit more modern and they provide you with a decent range of free templates.
All the platforms mentioned in this post (even Jimdo) come with the basic ecommerce features you’ll need. For example, a system that processes the orders, tax and shipping management options and promotional features like gift cards or discount codes.
BigCommerce processing orders
However, some tools offer more than others, so make sure you consider what you need before committing to an ecommerce platform.
I would say that, or course, WooCommerce has a broader range of features available. Tools like Shopify or BigCommerce also provide an excellent variety, but sometimes they are only available with the higher plans.
Additional sales channels
Having your online store is great, but for many ecommerce projects, having the option to sell using other channels would be even better. For example, you may want to be able to sell on Facebook or Instagram (e.g. if you sell flashy phone cases), integrate your online store with Amazon or even start a dropshipping business.
If having a multi-channel ecommerce project is your goal, I would suggest you check out Shopify, as it allows to sell on eBay, Amazon, Facebook or Instagram. On top of that, they have their own dropshipping app and will enable you to sell in-person with their Shopify POS.
Most of these integrations are also possible with other providers (e.g. BigCommerce or WooCommerce), but Shopify offers a more all-round experience.
Apps and extensions
These ecommerce platforms are really impressive, but what blows my mind is that by adding extensions (e.g. plugins or apps) you can add more features and optimize your online store.
For example, by using Yoast SEO for WordPress you can super-charge your store’s SEO, as it unleashes new options to optimize your pages (e.g. XML sitemaps).
WordPress (and WooCommerce) have the largest community, and the number of available plugins is breathtaking. After WordPress, I would say that Shopify and Wix offer the largest extension repository.
If I’ve learned one thing working at WebsiteToolTester over the years : you guys love SEO –as do I!
You’d be surprised by the amount of SEO-related questions my colleagues and I receive, and more often than not, these are related to how each platform’s (e.g. Shopify or BigCommerce) SEO features compare. Of course, every store owner wants to nail their SEO strategy in order to attract organic sales with ‘free’ traffic.
Let me start by saying that, most of the time, when a store isn’t performing well due to SEO, it’s usually because of optimization issues like missing title tags, broken links or weak backlink profiles.
Having said that, some tools offer a bit extra in the way of SEO features. The clear winner here is WooCommerce. However, platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, Weebly, Wix and Squarespace get many things right and there are examples of SEO successful stores.
But since WooCommerce works on top of WordPress, you can customize virtually any SEO option you wish – this comes in handy for very competitive niches.
Sure, most online ecommerce platforms have a knowledge base packed with tutorials you can check. But when you get stuck, having a customer support agent to help you can be a life-saver – or at least save you a ton of time and money.
Personally, I like it when they provide live chat support, though you might prefer email or phone support.
Be aware that open-source apps like WordPress or PrestaShop don’t provide personalized support. If you encounter any issue, be ready to browse the community forums to (hopefully) find a fix for your problem. You can always hire a professional developer, but you’ll need a budget for this.
Performance and ecommerce platforms
Since mobile connectivity exploded in the early 2000s, site owners, users and search engines (like Google) have been obsessed with performance – everyone wants sites that load fast.
Yes, you can have the swankiest looking online store and a bad-ass conversion funnel implemented, but if your online shop is (too) slow, you are doomed; you’ll see conversions drop and search engines will punish your rankings.
But no worries, I have your back. You don’t need to go and test every platform out there to see which ones are fast and which are not, we’ve done that for you. We checked over 4,000 websites to find the best-performing platforms – here are the results:
Speed results summary
We found out that Jimdo, Volusion, BigCommerce, Webnode, Weebly, Squarespace and Shopify performed OK – desktop sites loaded under 3 seconds.
We weren’t 100% satisfied with the speed of Wix, WordPress and WooCommerce, as sites, on average, needed more than 3 seconds to load on desktop devices.
Let’s not forget about uptime, as it is equally important. You don’t want an online store that’s down all the time because your provider is incapable of offering stable servers – you will make ZERO sales if your website doesn’t work.
Shopify uptime is greater than 99.95%
As you can imagine, search engines like Google and Bing don’t like websites with long and continuous downtime periods either; they’ll just think your website has vanished from the internet or won’t trust it.
We tested many shop builders’ uptime, so we can tell you which ones are the most reliable. I am happy to report that during the last 12 months every ecommerce builder in this article managed to achieve at least an uptime of 99.95%.
Note: For ecommerce platforms like Magento, PrestaShop and WordPress you’ll need to get your own hosting service. It’s important that you get a reliable one that gives your site a decent load time and has an uptime of over 99.95%. Check out our latest hosting speed tests for a clearer picture of their performance. If you ask me, I’d recommend SiteGround and DreamHost for ecommerce sites.
Final thoughts about the best ecommerce ecommerce platforms
As we’ve seen, there are many viable alternatives to create an online store with, however, not all of them are right for everyone. Factors like your technical experience, project size or budget should influence your choice.
As I see it, we can categorize most tools into 3 groups:
In my opinion, these are suitable for (smaller) projects that will have an online store attached. For example, you are planning to promote yourself as a photographer but you’d also like to sell your work online.
These are suitable for small projects too, but they also scale well and can accommodate huge ecommerce sites. You’ll need a budget, as their starting plans are higher than regular website builders’.
- Open-source solutions such as WooCommerce, OpenCart and Magento:
These are a good fit for large projects that have unique customization needs. Being able to choose the hosting provider (e.g. SiteGround or DreamHost) may be an advantage for some, even if it requires more work and technical knowledge.
Well, I hope you now have a clearer idea of what ecommerce solution you should choose for your online store. However, if you have any questions about this, leave a comment and I’ll try to help you.