When researching how to set up an online business, the big problem is that there are hundreds of eCommerce platforms you can choose from.
How on earth are you to find the best eCommerce platforms worth considering?
On top of this, there’s so much conflicting advice available on the internet that is can be pretty difficult to feel like you’re making the right choice for your business.
That’s why we’ve compiled together a comprehensive list of eight of the best eCommerce platforms available – so that you can get an idea of what’s out there and the type of solution that is the right fit for your needs and capabilities.
First launched in 2009, BigCommerce now serves over 96,000 online sellers across the world. Its biggest competitors are Shopify and Volusion.
After going through an extensive rebrand in 2016, the platform is now a serious contender on the market and has plenty to offer online merchants of all sizes.
As a hosted all-in-one solution, the eCommerce platform takes the hassle out of hosting, security, updates and resolving any bugs or issues – making it ideal for those without much technical know-how on their team.
The platform also provides very basic inventory management tools to help you manage your stock more effectively in the early days, before needing to expand to a more robust inventory management software solution.
If you’re wanting to compare BigCommerce with other eCommerce platforms, then know that it sits somewhere in the middle between the simplicity of Shopify and the complexity of Magento.
Depending on the familiarity with eCommerce platforms, you may find that the way the BigCommerce backend is set up is a little overwhelming. There are lots of options to consider and it may take you time to get used to.
Established in 1997, 3dcart is a hosted all-in-one eCommerce platform that powers approximately 22,800 online stores and is currently used by 13,600 active store owners.
As one of the best eCommerce platforms, the company was founded by Gonzalo Gil and is based in Florida. In order to use the software, customers pay a recurring monthly fee.
In exchange for this, you don’t need to worry about things such as website security, hosting or updating your software, which can be a big plus for many online sellers that often lack technical knowledge on their teams.
3dcart is relatively easy to understand and use, both in terms of setting up your store and maintaining it, not too dissimilar to the likes of Shopify or Volusion.
Founded in 2002, EKM PowerShop was the first cloud-based eCommerce platform available in the United Kingdom.
Much like BigCommerce and 3dcart, it’s a hosted all-in-one solution, which means that platform includes many of the key features needed to sell online, in exchange for a monthly fee.
Comparing it to other eCommerce platforms, Shopify is surprisingly similar on first look. Although a smaller name within the industry, EKM offers many of the same functionalities for a price not too different from the big players.
On top of this, what makes EKM an attractive prospect to many UK online sellers is that it is the only solution that is 100% based in Britain.
What’s more, EKM has a score of 9/10 on TrustPilot, with hundreds of satisfied customers leaving reviews on a regular basis. A good rating on TrustPilot is notoriously challenging to get, so this is definitely something worth shouting about.
EKM is a one of the best eCommerce platforms specifically built for small businesses who don’t have the resources to deal with the technical side of web development, meaning that the solution is really easy to use and maintain.
Magento is one of the most popular open source eCommerce platforms across the globe.
And for good reason.
With such a high level of flexibility and customisability, Magento is often seen as one of the most robust – but also most complex – open source solutions available to online sellers.
Formed in 2008, Magento benefits from a large community of more than 300,000 developers and thousands of pre-built extensions.
Plus, with full control over your website and data, Magento is an attractive prospect for those with technical expertise and a sizeable budget.
While Magento Community Edition is free to download and use, it doesn’t mean that it’s not going to cost you anything. In fact, you may be surprised to learn all the costs involved.
The budget you plan to spend on a Magento store will vary on the following key factors:
Hosting and support services
How customized you want your store to be
If you source an in-house developer, through an agency or choose a freelancer
The theme you use and the extensions you add
Magento is a highly complex eCommerce platform and it needs to be treated as such. Even for a developer or programmer with experience and knowledge, it can still be a pretty steep learning curve to get the most out of the solution for your business.
OpenCart is an open source eCommerce platform that is free to download and use. The software is scripted in PHP – a programming language that is widely used by web developers and programmers.
Similar to Magento or PrestaShop, OpenCart follows a core set-up that means you are responsible for hosting, installing, maintaining and updating.
What’s more, unlike some other eCommerce platforms, there’s no hidden annual fee needed in order to update the software.
In comparison to self-hosted solutions, such as Shopify or BigCommerce, OpenCart users have far more ownership over their businesses, which is a big pull for many online sellers.
That said, OpenCart is unlikely to be the ideal solution for you if you don’t have someone with developer knowledge on your team or lack the resources to hire a professional to help.
This is not to say it’s impossible, but the idea behind open source software is that there’s such a huge level of flexibility and freedom. If you only have limited knowledge, then you won’t get the maximum value from this solution.
Formed in 2007, PrestaShop is one of the best eCommerce platforms for online sellers across the world. Based in France, it provides support and many online resources in a variety of languages, which lends itself well to businesses located overseas.
As open source software, many business owners draw comparisons between PrestaShop, Magento and WooCommerce. And they’d be quite right to do so.
On first look, PrestaShop seems like it might sit comfortably between WooCommerce and Magento in terms of ease of use. You will still need to spend time sorting out your hosting and/or server(s), creating databases and uploading and installing the software.
This is where having a technical wizard on your team comes in handy.
You need access to someone with web developer knowledge, otherwise you run the risk of setting up your online store incorrectly or maybe not even at all.
PrestaShop is not particularly user intuitive, so unless you are used to eCommerce platforms and have some digital experience then you may find that they solution causes a bit of a headache to get used to.
Shopify is easily one of the most popular eCommerce platforms available to online sellers.
Formed in 2007, the eCommerce platform is a hosted solution that is on a mission to make the online selling process as simple and as user-intuitive as possible.
Shopify takes pride in taking the complexity out of running an online store and making it as simple as possible for online business owners.
As one of the most popular online selling solutions, it’s also one of the most intuitive and user-friendly platforms available.
What’s more, as Shopify is an all-in-one hosted eCommerce platform, you don’t need to worry about things like hosting, security or updating the software. This is all taken care of for you.
All you need to do to start setting up your online store is to sign up with an account on Shopify’s website. Then, you’ll be taken straight to the backend of your online shop.
Launched in 1999, Volusion is one of the best eCommerce platforms that has stood the test of time. And, with 30,000 online stores and over 250 employees, the Texas-based eCommerce platform is clearly moving forwards.
As a hosted solution, Volusion may be a great option for business owners seeking an eCommerce platform that takes care of the difficult parts – hosting, security and updates – with an added layer of customization if you know HTML/CSS.
Earlier this year, Volusion moved to Google Cloud Platform, making it the first eCommerce platform to do so. According to news reports, this has improved page load times by an average of 15%.
There are a variety of ways that Volusion users can promote and extend the reach of their online store, one of which is that you can expand your online store to sell on additional platforms such as Facebook, eBay and Amazon.
That said, some customer reviews have reported problems with eBay and Amazon integrations and it’s unclear if these issues have been fixed.
If you rely a lot on these marketplaces you may want to research this further or look for an alternative solution. Alternatively, you could investigate an inventory management solution.
Founded in 2011, WooCommerce is a free, open source shopping cart platform that works with WordPress exclusively.
Despite being less than ten years old, it already accounts for 35% of the eCommerce web share with an estimated three million users.
Although the popular eCommerce platform was launched in 2011, the WooTeam actually started their roots three years earlier. During this time, the team worked on WooThemes – high quality WordPress themes.
In 2015, WooCommerce was taken over by Automattic, the operator of WordPress and primary contributor to the WordPress software, enabling WooCommerce to continue to go from strength to strength.
If there’s one thing that makes WooCommerce a little bit different to the likes of Shopify, EKM PowerShop or Magento, it’s that it uses the WordPress content management system.
So, if you’re already using WordPress to power your website, then setting up WooCommerce can be as easy as clicking two buttons – install and activate.
How to find the best eCommerce platform for your business
Ultimately, the best eCommerce platform for your company will depend on your goals, needs and capabilities. Only you can decide which solution best suits your business.
Although there are platforms that better address certain needs over others, they all have different limitations and may be less suitable in other respects.
The best thing to do is to sit down and create your own specification checklist. The more you understand your business goals, needs and capabilities, the more likely you are to find the right solution to set up and scale your business through.
Every business is different. Understanding this and playing to your strengths will help you tenfold when researching and comparing eCommerce platforms.
An eCommerce platform comparison and review guide:
We’ve compiled together eight extensive eCommerce platform reviews – all mentioned in this article – and compared and contrasted them with one another.