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There are a daunting number of ecommerce platforms to choose from when starting your online business. Choosing the best one for your startup or ecommerce business requires some research.

We’re comparing the best ecommerce platforms for startups and other businesses in 2018 and beyond. After reviewing some of the top platforms out there for ecommerce, we’ll pinpoint where certain platforms excel in terms of pricing, themes, ease of use and other factors.

If you already have a platform in mind, check out our head to head comparisons of Shopify and Etsy, Shopify and Volusion, WooCommerce and Magento, and more.

Best Ecommerce Platform in 2018

In order to pick the right ecommerce platform for your business, take a look at some of the top brands. It is likely that business owners moving into ecommerce have already heard of many of these platforms, but simply haven’t dived any deeper into learning about them.

Many of these platforms offer different levels of pricing in order to cater to a wider range of ecommerce businesses. Some even have free versions. However, lower cost often means fewer special features and add ons. Businesses with very specific needs may find they need to pay a little more to ensure they get all the features they require for their ecommerce business.

Another major consideration is how much effort and time a business can put into their ecommerce platform. Some platforms come with themes and apps to make the work of website construction and management minimal. Others benefit from some amount of coding and website building knowledge. Those who are comfortable with that additional work will get more customized experiences from their ecommerce platform, though. This is often worth the extra work.

Some of the top ecommerce platforms that we’ll review here are:

Shopify

The big picture:

Name Shopify
Price Plans range from $9/month to $299/month
For small businesses Has scaled down options
For large businesses Advanced Shopify and ShopifyPlus are designed for high-volume merchants
Themes Free and Paid
Customer Service/Support 24/7 support available
Ease of Use High
Customizability High if you have some coding knowledge

Shopify is one of the largest and best-known ecommerce platforms available right now. It powers more than 500,000 businesses and has more than 1 million active users. A huge amount of commerce happens on Shopify, with more than $46 billion sold on the ecommerce platform.

As a platform, Shopify offers a lot of flexibility. You can fully customize your online store and manage your products and inventory with Shopify. Shopify also has a thriving community where shop owners share tips and knowledge and an app so you can keep track of your store anywhere at any time.

While it is one of the most customizable platforms you can find for ecommerce, it does come at a price. Aside from the monthly rate for a plan, many of the themes on Shopify come at an additional cost, though there are some free ones available.

Wix

The big picture:

Name Wix
Price Plans range from $5/month to $25/month
For small businesses The popular “eCommerce” plan is only $17/month and tailored for small business
For large businesses The VIP plan is better for large businesses but may not meet all their needs
Themes Free and Paid
Customer Service/Support It’s difficult to reach an actual person for help, but there is a support center
Ease of Use Very High
Customizability Low. They are more focused on making their platform easy to use

Wix is all about ease of use. It has a huge amount of free themes and templates you can use to build an ecommerce platform. It even has an artificial design intelligence feature that builds the site for you via Wix’s AI program. It’s harder to find an easier ecommerce platform builder than Wix.

Wix is also very affordable. The baseline plan is only $5/month. Even their most expensive plan is only $25/month. Of course, with this low price and high ease of use comes a cost. Wix isn’t going to have the bells and whistles that fancier platforms boast, but it should be able to satisfy the needs of most small businesses looking for an ecommerce platform.  

BigCommerce

The big picture:

Name BigCommerce
Price Plans range from $29.95/month to $249.95/month
For small businesses The standard option should suit small businesses
For large businesses There is an Enterprise option that is tailored to large businesses
Themes Free and Paid
Customer Service/Support BigCommerce “University” and other resources aim to answer all your questions
Ease of Use High
Customizability High if you have some coding knowledge

BigCommerce is most easily compared to Shopify. Both platforms offer a similar experience when building an ecommerce platform. Like Shopify, BigCommerce offers a range of prices and packages tailored to different types of businesses. The platform is highly customizable if you are comfortable with some light coding. It is also possible to use themes and templates to build your website, but some of these will come at an additional cost.

SquareSpace

The big picture:

Name SquareSpace
Price Plans range from $12/month to $40/month
For small businesses “Professional” version offers a straightforward way to get started
For large businesses “Advanced” version has more features but may not be as powerful as you need
Themes Usable once you have an account
Customer Service/Support 24/7 support available
Ease of Use High
Customizability Medium – customize within templates

SquareSpace is used by everyone from individuals to businesses. It is a little on the simpler end of platforms and not right for large businesses. It is better for individual’s websites, personal blogs and portfolios and small businesses.

SquareSpace is comparable to Wix and WordPress more than a site like BigCommerce. However, it offers many features that are attractive for smaller websites. If your ecommerce business is on the smaller side, SquareSpace will make setting up an online store pretty simple and painless.

WooCommerce

The big picture:

Name WooCommerce
Price Price is hard to pin down. You will need a domain and other tools as well as the plugin. Cost can be high.
For small businesses Because it connects to WordPress, it’s great for small business
For large businesses May be too limited for large businesses
Themes WordPress
Customer Service/Support 24/7 support available
Ease of Use Medium – you need to understand WordPress as well
Customizability Medium

WooCommerce is different from all the other ecommerce platforms on this list because it is a WordPress plugin. This comes with some challenges as well as benefits. In order to use WooCommerce you will need to have some knowledge of how to use WordPress. Because it plugs directly into WordPress, understanding that platform as well is essential.

Also, cost is a bit hard to pin down with WooCommerce. There are costs associated with hosting, WordPress and WooCommerce that can all fluctuate within a range. Any one user’s costs are probably different from any other user’s costs.

OpenCart

The big picture:

Name OpenCart
Price Free to download and install
For small businesses Depends on how you use it
For large businesses Depends on how you use it
Themes None
Customer Service/Support Available under GNU General Public License
Ease of Use Low
Customizability High if you have some coding knowledge

OpenCart is a free piece of software that anyone can download and use. It is meant to adapt to any operating system or ecommerce situation. It does not have much built in to its basic form, though.

OpenCart requires a fair bit of work to use. Many books are available on how to use the platform. If you do have the knowledge and skills to use it, though, OpenCart is a fantastic ecommerce platform. It enjoys success around the world and is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms available.

BigCartel

The big picture:

Name BigCartel
Price Price ranges from free to $29.99/month
For small businesses Designed specifically for small, creative ventures
For large businesses Probably not ideal
Themes Free
Customer Service/Support Help Center
Ease of Use Very High
Customizability Medium

BigCartel is a great platform for small businesses and creative independent ventures. They aim to make selling easy for small stores, with a “quick setup” feature that can get an ecommerce store up and running extremely quickly. They also have a range of free themes. Customizability isn’t super high, but apps and add-ons do allow for some flexibility.

The free version is very limited, but even the most expensive paid version is very affordable. While BigCartel is coder-friendly, using the platform does not actually require any coding.

OSCommerce

The big picture:

Name OSCommerce
Price Free (open source)
For small businesses Good
For large businesses Good
Themes None
Customer Service/Support Support Center
Ease of Use Low
Customizability Very High

OSCommerce is free open course software that anyone can download in order to set up an online ecommerce store. About 21,000 live ecommerce stores currently use OSCommerce. OSCommerce also offers more than 8,500 free add-ons that you can download in addition to the platform itself.

Like other open source software, there’s a learning curve with OSCommerce But those who are willing and able to learn how to use the software can get a surprisingly robust ecommerce platform that is genuinely free. Hosting and other costs will fall on you, but once you’re up and running it should be smooth sailing.

Volusion

The big picture:

Name Volusion
Price Ranges from $15/month to $135/month
For small businesses The mini and plus options should be appropriate
For large businesses The premium package may suit your needs
Themes Free
Customer Service/Support Free 24/7 customer support
Ease of Use Medium – some customers have expressed frustration
Customizability Medium – customize within themes

Volusion compares to platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce. For a monthly subscription, you get themes, support and an all-in-one ecommerce platform that is fairly customizable.

As a platform, it is fairly robust. However, some users have complained about being confused by the user interface and having some difficulty figuring out how to build their store. Volusion does offer lower priced plans than some of the bigger ecommerce platforms, however, and offers 24/7 customer support.

LemonStand

The big picture:

Name LemonStand
Price Price ranges from $19/month to $199/month
For small businesses Ideal
For large businesses Probably not appropriate. The “professional plan” only allows up to 1,000 orders per month
Themes None
Customer Service/Support Difficult to use
Ease of Use Medium – you will have to create your own themes
Customizability Very high

LemonStand targets developers who want to fully customize their ecommerce experience. Such users will find a lot to like in LemonStand. It is fully customizable, top to bottom. Those who want to touch every button and blank space on their site will enjoy this platform.

However, there is a price associated and developers could use open source software to get nearly as much customizability at no cost.

3dcart

The big picture:

Name 3dcart
Website https://www.3dcart.com
Price Ranges from $19/month to $229/month
For small businesses Appropriate
For large businesses Can scale
Themes Free and Paid
Customer Service/Support 24/7 support available
Ease of Use High – professional web design packages available
Customizability High

3dcart offers a wide range of options for whatever sort of business you run. It’s most basic plan is literally called a “startup plan” and is great for small businesses trying to get established in the ecommerce realm. 3dcart does not limit the number of products you can sell, no matter the size of your business.

One unique feature of 3dcart is its powerful design capabilities. 3dcart offers a range of themes to get you started and the flexibility to customize those themes using CSS. However, if you don’t have CSS training or the time to customize your site, you can use any of their design experts to customize your website.

SparkPay

The big picture:

Name SparkPay
Price Defunct
For small businesses N/A
For large businesses N/A
Themes N/A
Customer Service/Support N/A
Ease of Use N/A
Customizability N/A

SparkPay is a lesson is the fickleness of ecommerce and business in general. SparkPay was set up by Capital One bank but has since been shut down. SparkPay will only exist until Jan. 31, 2018, after which it will no longer be supported.

Many things in ecommerce come and go. Platforms that are a hit for a few months soon fall by the wayside. SparkPay is a great example of why stability is important. Platforms like Shopify that have been around a decade or more have proven they can withstand the test of time in the difficult world of ecommerce.

Magento

The big picture:

Name Magento
Price Price ranges from free to enterprise
For small businesses The free version is appropriate for small businesses
For large businesses Enterprise version should work even for large businesses
Themes Free and Paid
Customer Service/Support Customer support services
Ease of Use High
Customizability Medium

Magento is similar to platforms like BigCommerce and Shopify. They offer free and paid themes to help you get started, then leave the details of your ecommerce website up to you. There is a free version that is suitable for many small businesses. This can be a big draw, as it will save small businesses a lot of money when they are developing their online businesses.

Magento doesn’t have the extensive support resources of, say, Shopify, which has a larger community and teaching videos. Still, it is a solid platform that can make establishing an ecommerce platform affordable.

UltraCart

The big picture:

Name UltraCart
Price Price ranges from $49.95/month to $229.95/month
For small businesses The small business package is customized for startups
For large businesses The large plan is right for most bigger businesses
Themes Available
Customer Service/Support Support and tutorials available
Ease of Use High
Customizability High

UltraCart tailors its plans for the type of business using them. Starting with small businesses, it offers more features and sales until you reach the large business level.

UltraCart is also easy to use, with a visual builder that doesn’t require any coding knowledge. You can design visually in a way that is intuitive to most people. UltraCart also has video tutorials and documentation available in its support center to help you learn how to use its website builder.

CoreCommerce

The big picture:

Name CoreCommerce
Price Price ranges from $19/month to $600/month
For small businesses Has many lower-cost plans for smaller businesses
For large businesses The higher end plans can suit large businesses
Themes Responsive themes available with all plans
Customer Service/Support Phone number for support readily available
Ease of Use High
Customizability Depends on plan

CoreCommerce has a huge range of plans available, more than most other platforms. This makes it suitable for just about any business looking to break into ecommerce and start up a store. The amount of choices can be a bit dizzying, though, and CoreCommerce’s own website is not the most appealing. This reflects poorly on the options it can give to its customers.

However, if you are willing to sort through the massive amount of information and difficult formatting on their website, you are almost sure to find the plan that is right for your business.

Best Ecommerce Platform for Small Business

Small businesses have different needs than larger businesses and individuals. There is a tough balance to strike between getting all the features you need to grow your business while not breaking your budget right away.

Some of the best platforms for small businesses are:

  • Shopify
  • Magento
  • WooCommerce

Shopify has been in the business for a very long time. It is one of the most successful platforms out there and still gets good reviews from users. It offers light and reduced cost plans for small businesses that aren’t too expensive. And Shopify’s themes allow for a large amount of customizability.

Magento is similar to Shopify, but can take more time to learn and master. But this learning curve comes with the benefit of even higher customizability than Shopify. Magento can allow you to customize more of your website, if you’re willing to spend more time with it.

WooCommerce is an interesting option for small business. It connects right into WordPress. Small business owners who already use WordPress for their website will find a lot to love with WooCommerce.

Best Ecommerce Platform for Startups

Starups have slightly different needs than small businesses. While there is a lot of overlap in between the two, startups are more likely to be innovators and risk takers. We recommend the following platforms for startups:

  • 3dcart
  • LemonStand

3dcart literally offers a “starup plan” that is aimed at startup businesses. They are focused on startups and other small businesses and tailor certain experiences toward this.

LemonStand is a platform for web developers who want to fully customize their web development experience when it comes to their ecommerce business. This is good for startups who are trying to innovate and customize. Many startups who are breaking into the business world with something new and creative will appreciate the openness of LemonStand.

Of course, the needs of all startups are different. The big players like Shopify can still work for startups who have the budget for more standard platforms.

Best Free Ecommerce Platform

When cost is the determining factor, you may need a free ecommerce platform in order to get started. Try one of these:

  • Magento Open Source
  • OpenCart
  • OSCommerce

Magento has many paid options, but its open source free option is also worth considering. You can get many of the benefits of Magento without the cost.

OpenCart offers a basic package for free that you can further customize in order to fit your needs. The OpenCart marketplace offers add-ons if you do find you need more features and have some money to spend on them.

OSCommerce not only offers a free platform, but free add-ons as well. The app marketplace allows you to build a lot of features into your website. As far as a free platform goes, OSCommerce offers a lot of additional options.

Best Ecommerce Platform for SEO

SEO is often the job of you, the business owner, but there are platforms that help you with SEO as you build. Here are some of our picks:

  • WooCommerce
  • Shopify
  • Magento

WooCommerce, because it integrates into WordPress, comes with a lot of strong SEO features built right in. WordPress will give you feedback on your SEO right in pages and posts. This makes it easy to visually tell if your SEO on any given page or post is strong. This takes the pressure and thinking out of SEO. It will soon become second nature.

Shopify and Magento are similar when it comes to SEO. They both offer tools, add-ons and apps that can help you figure out your SEO.

However, how successful your SEO is on any of these platforms comes down to some extra work on your part. None of these platforms can do SEO perfectly for you. You will have to invest some of your own time and resources in order to get the best SEO possible out of any ecommerce platform.

So What is the Best Platform for an Ecommerce Website?

That depends on how you plan to use it.

For general use, Shopify is hard to beat. It has been an ecommerce leader for a long time because it has been easy to use, customizable and affordable for more than a decade. There is a reason it is so popular.

For startups and small businesses, WooCommerce has a lot to offer by integrating with WordPress.

For those who need to save money, OSCommerce is completely free to use and offers free add-ons to further customize your ecommerce platform.

For SEO, Shopify and WooCommerce both have a lot to offer, but the ultimate success of SEO will still come down to your knowledge and resources.

 

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