Content management systems (or CMS) streamline your business operations so you can stay both competitive and connected with your customers.
eCommerce has hit almost $5 trillion in global revenue this year. With so many competitors reaching out to the same customers, you need CMS software to keep your business viable.
But what exactly is an eCommerce CMS, and how does it differ from other eCommerce platforms? Do you need both an eCommerce platform and an eCommerce CMS solution?
Which CMS platforms should you use and why?
In this comprehensive post, we’ll answer all these questions and more, as well as dive into 13 of the best CMS platforms for eCommerce (and what makes them so great).
We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s jump right in.
What is an eCommerce CMS?
An eCommerce CMS (Content Management System) is a software application that allows businesses to manage their eCommerce website’s content, products, and orders.
It’s a platform that enables online retailers to create, edit, and publish digital content such as product descriptions, images, and pricing.
It also enables them to manage their product inventory, process orders, and handle payment transactions.
In essence, an eCommerce CMS is the backbone of any eCommerce website, providing businesses with the tools they need to run their online store efficiently and effectively.
Some of the most well-known platforms include:
- Shopify: a powerful and user-friendly platform that allows businesses to create and manage their online store with ease.
- Magento: an open-source platform that offers a wide range of features and customization options for businesses of all sizes.
- WooCommerce: a WordPress plugin that enables businesses to turn their WordPress site into a full-fledged eCommerce store.
- BigCommerce: a scalable platform that provides businesses with the tools they need to manage their online store, from inventory management to payment processing.
You’re able to manage your inventory such as tracking orders, shipping products, or processing payments.
You can also use convenient features to save time such as automatic payment reminders or custom invoice templates.
eCommerce CMS solutions often offer features tailored to running an online business such as cloud-based storage or generating inventory reports.
What’s the difference between content management systems and contact management systems?
We get it. These acronyms can get confusing, especially when they’re identical: CMS.
Content management systems and contact management systems may seem alike. But while they can overlap in terms of features, there are a few differences.
Content management systems involve the operation of your website or online store.
Contact management systems contain your customer information in an easy-to-use database.
In short, while content management systems may store customer contact information, they’re often broader in function than contact management systems.
Do you need both a content management system and contact management system?
Yes, it’s beneficial for businesses to have both a contact management system and a content management system to manage their online presence effectively. While they serve different purposes, they are both crucial components of any online business.
A contact management system is designed to help businesses manage their interactions with customers, including customer data, support, and marketing.
eCommerce content management systems, on the other hand, are used to manage the content of a website, like product descriptions, images, and pricing.
By having both a customer management system and a content management system, businesses can manage their customers while also effectively managing their online content.
Whether it’s better to have a combined contact management system and content management system or separate platforms depends on a business’s specific needs and goals.
A combined CMS platform offers several benefits, such as streamlined workflows, a unified user interface, and easier data sharing between customer and content management.
For example, Shopify offers a very rudimentary contact management system. It shows basic details about particular customers as well as their order history.
However, if you want to get more granular into the activity history of a given customer, that’s where you’d need a dedicated eCommerce CMS.
The benefits of using eCommerce CMS solutions
You shouldn’t invest in any software or tool without first having a solid grasp of its benefits to your organization.
Let’s go over a few of those now.
Easy setup and user-friendliness
Modern eCommerce CMS systems are user-friendly and intuitive. Instead of learning how to code an entire website, you can get your storefront up and running quickly.
Platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce recognize that online businesses and store owners are not interested in learning the nuances of web design (most of the time).
They just want to get something up and running so they can start selling online. Plus, most small businesses don’t have the time or resources to hard-code a website from scratch even if they wanted to.
With a CMS, businesses can manage their online content more efficiently, streamlining content creation and publication across all channels.
By using a centralized platform for content management, businesses can quickly and easily update their product information, pricing, and other content, saving time and effort while ensuring a consistent brand image.
Many eCommerce CMS platforms offer a wide range of customization options, allowing businesses to tailor their online store to their specific needs and goals.
With features such as customizable templates and drag-and-drop page builders, businesses can create an online store that reflects their unique brand identity and provides a personalized customer experience.
And while these platforms are user-friendly, they’re also extremely customizable, allowing more tech-savvy business owners full access to the theme code.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
A CMS can help businesses optimize their online content for search engines by providing tools to manage metadata, keyword usage, and other SEO-related elements.
By ensuring that their online store is optimized for search engines, businesses can improve their visibility in search results, driving more traffic and potential customers to their site.
This is also essential for businesses that use content marketing as a lead-generation engine.
A CMS allows businesses to manage their online presence across multiple channels, from their eCommerce website to social media platforms.
By maintaining a consistent brand image and message across all channels, businesses can build stronger relationships with their customers, increase engagement, and ultimately drive more revenue.
As businesses grow, a CMS can scale to meet their changing needs, providing tools for managing larger product catalogs, processing more orders, and handling more website traffic.
By using a CMS that can scale with their business, eCommerce businesses can avoid the need for costly platform migrations and other disruptions to their online store.
Trust us, there’s nothing worse than realizing your current platform can’t scale with your business growth.
If you want your business to grow, your team must grow with it.
A CMS enables multiple users to work together on content creation and management, making it easier to maintain consistency and accuracy across all online channels.
With features such as user roles and permissions, businesses can ensure that the right people have access to the right content at the right time, streamlining workflows and improving overall efficiency.
A CMS for eCommerce platforms will prioritize security, keeping customer data safe and secure.
They also keep your information safe with password protection or security and compliance features.
13 top CMS options for eCommerce
Do you want top-notch marketing features or varied payment gateways in your eCommerce CMS solutions?
Our top options come with a slew of benefits that’ll help beginners and experienced owners alike.
The best eCommerce CMS solution for you will depend on your particular needs, which is why we’ve categorized each platform by its use cases.
Best Customization Option: WordPress and WooCommerce
WordPress is one of the most popular CMS platforms for eCommerce, thanks to the industry-leading eCommerce plugin WooCommerce.
When you install WooCommerce on your WordPress site, you’ll get access to a suite of tools and features that will help you manage your online store.
This includes the ability to add products to your store, create product categories, set pricing, and manage orders and payments.
One of the great things about WooCommerce is that it’s highly customizable.
There are hundreds of themes and plugins available that can help you tailor your online store to your specific needs and goals.
For example, you can add features such as product reviews, product variations (like different colors or sizes), and shipping calculators.
You have access to a massive marketplace with hundreds of extensions and themes carefully vetted by the business. Since everything available to you is vetted by the WordPress team or their partners, you don’t have to worry about downloading anything shady.
Their WooCommerce app makes it even easier to keep track of your store’s orders, sales analytics, and shipments on-the-go.
If you already know how to code or want to learn in the future, WooCommerce is also highly customizable. You can alter the source code down to the last line to create a truly unique storefront.
Related Article: WooCommerce Inventory Management: Best Practices and Tips
Best Branding Options: Magneto (Adobe Commerce)
Adobe Commerce (also known as Magneto) is an open-source platform offering an impressive amount of features and flexibility. They can be tailored to the specific needs of your business.
You might already be familiar with Adobe through their popular Adobe Suite programs such as Photoshop or Premiere Pro.
As such, it’s no surprise their eCommerce solution has such a wide variety of branding and design options. Alongside CMS staples such as customer segmentation and order management, you also get tools to create banners, gift cards, and more.
Open source designs are great for business owners who know they want more customization in the future. As you grow your store, Magneto will support your growth with thousands of apps and extensions.
Their Magneto Open Source option is free with many features ready to set up your store. If you want to know how much their Commerce plan is, you need to fill out the form on their site.
Related Article: 9 Best Open Source Platforms For Your Online Business (2023 Edition)
Best User-Friendly Option: Shopify
One of the most user-friendly CMS available today, Shopify provides online entrepreneurs with accessible and straightforward eCommerce CMS solutions.
After you pick a plan, you’re already ready to start running your eCommerce store.
Their content management system is constantly growing with new features to keep your business operations efficient.
Despite this constant growth, their user interface is always accessible and breezy to use. Their editor makes it easy to drag and drop images, track inventory, and tag products.
You can try Shopify for three days free, then choose from their three available plans – Basic, Shopify, and Advanced.
Related Article: Shopify vs. Etsy Guide: How to Pick the Best for Your Store
Best Scaling: BigCommerce Essentials
Do you have big plans for your eCommerce storefront? BigCommerce offers a comprehensive suite of tools to help you create, maintain, and expand your eCommerce businesses easily.
Their eCommerce CMS solutions are highly customizable, and able to keep up with your rapid growth through their multi-storefront feature.
You can use multiple stores to manage multiple brands or even target specific customer segments.
If you want to expand further, you can post your BigCommerce storefronts on retail giants like Amazon and Walmart.
They offer Standard, Plus, Pro, and Enterprise plans depending on your budget and business size. If you’re not ready to commit, they offer a 15-day free trial.
Related Article: 9 Best Software for eCommerce to Grow Your Business
Best Free Option: OpenCart
If the price tag of these eCommerce CMS solutions aren’t in your budget, OpenCart is ready to meet you halfway.
They offer a robust free option with features rivaling some of the best eCommerce CMS platforms.
Alongside a user-friendly interface and free monthly updates, many storefront staples are available and ready for immediate use.
You have access to multiple themes, extensions, and an intuitive dashboard to help you manage your store effectively.
Calculating taxes, updating products, and tracking customer orders are easier than ever to do.
Are you eager to expand your products and services across multiple demographics? OpenCart also offers a range of features such as multi-language support.
This CMS is completely free and comes with an active community of like-minded business owners to support you along the way.
Best Update Features: Drupal Commerce
Drupal Commerce is the eCommerce extension of the open-source content management system Drupal. This CMS is a great option that allows you to create complex eCommerce websites on-the-fly.
If you have a business model that’s expanding rapidly, Drupal Commerce lets you gradually tweak your storefront on a rolling basis.
You can add new features, tweak your layout, and download extensions without completely redoing your site.
If you like to code, Drupal allows you to edit the HTML and CSS. If you’re not interested in web design, you have plenty of premium mobile-friendly themes and third-party integrations to get started fast.
This eCommerce CMS is also free to use and regularly receives updates from its developer team.
Best Global Ecommerce Solution: PrestaShop
Do you sell products or services in multiple countries? PrestaShop is an open source eCommerce solution focused on Europe and Latin America.
This CMS offers a fantastic range of features that make it easy to set up and manage your global eCommerce store.
You’ll have access to thousands of modules and themes as well as multiple payment options to accommodate customers around the world.
You can also give customers the ability to customize products by uploading their own files.
PrestaShop is fully compliant with the laws of each country you’re selling in, such as displaying product information or providing Ecotax.
If you’ve ever been worried about mixing up your tax laws, this eCommerce platform will take some work off your plate.
PrestaShop is completely free and available for download from their site.
Best Templates: Squarespace Ecommerce
One of the most enjoyable aspects of setting up a store is showcasing your visual personality. With its simple drag-and-drop editor, Squarespace makes setting up a flattering online store a cinch.
With Squarespace, you get access to the best of both worlds – high-quality and versatile templates you can still customize.
Their user-friendly interface means you can craft a shop that’s easy to browse without learning coding skills or design theory.
Their features go even deeper with multiple tedious processes automated by their CMS. Their program calculates taxes, shipping methods, fulfillment, payment processing, and checkout all in one place.
You can also handle booking, mailing lists, and seamless integration with social media.
Squarespace Ecommerce offers a free trial, and you can choose between their Basic Commerce or Advanced Commerce paid plans.
Related Article: 7 Best Blogging Platforms for eCommerce Traffic Growth
Best Beginner and Experienced Option: VirtueMart
VirtueMart is built on top of the widely-used Joomla CMS. They offer plenty of features to create a great eCommerce website for both beginner and experienced business owners.
They’re well aware of the unique challenges facing businesses by size, industry, and experience.
As such, VirtueMart provides a high level of customization through its extensive plugins, templates, and modules.
If you’re still not sure what direction you want your shop to go in, you still have a strong foundation in marketing, shopping, and inventory management.
VirtueMart is completely free and still comes with a demo if you want to experiment a little before committing.
Best Self-Hosted Option: osCommerce
If you want to design your storefront as well as managed hosting, osCommerce is the CMS for you. Their eCommerce CMS solutions are self-hosted, which means you have control over the server, hosting, and site maintenance.
While beginners may find osCommerce intimidating or time-consuming, experienced business owners may appreciate the high level of control.
They still provide an array of basic features for both shoppers and sellers, making it one of the most reliable CMS for eCommerce.
They have thousands of add-ons to customize your store to your heart’s content, such as shop vouchers or additional SEO tools.
osCommerce itself is free to download. Since this CMS requires you to pay for a separate server and hosting, the overall cost will vary.
Best Plan Flexibility: Weebly Ecommerce
If you want to build a website as well as a storefront, consider Weebly Ecommerce. Their eCommerce CMS easily creates, manages, and customizes your store.
Weebly is already a user-friendly website builder with convenient drag-and-drop editors for both its design and features.
This flexibility extends to their eCommerce version with a strong foundation of eCommerce must-haves such as secure checkout, inventory tracking, and filtered product search.
You also have the ability to sell digital goods, physical goods, and services. When it comes to flexibility, Weebly Ecommerce remains one of the best options available for most online shops.
Weebly offers a free plan as well as several paid plans – Personal, Professional, and Performance. While you can start selling with the Free plan, consider the others if you want to expand your feature.
Best In House Design Services: Volusion
Last but not least, Volusion is one of the best CMS for eCommerce to make running your store hassle-free.
You have the ability to get started quickly on your own but extend to professional design services when needed.
Their feature list has many time-saving tools such as customizable layouts, product display templates, and category pages that can all be filled quickly.
Tech-savvy business owners can further tweak their store with their HTML and CSS editor access.
If you prefer to run your online stores with less fuss, use their intuitive site builder with recent updates such as faster loading times and constant design updates.
If you need to save a little time, you can reach out to their in-house design services to continue tailoring your eCommerce platform to your liking.
Consider trying them free for 14 days, then switch to one of their plans – Personal, Professional, Business, or Prime.
What to consider when selecting a CMS for your business
The needs of a small fashion shop will look different than the needs of a medium-sized skincare storefront.
Selecting eCommerce platforms for your business means embracing the unique challenges concerning your industry, size, and experience.
Are you tired of manually filling out forms or double-checking package updates? Content management systems come with automated features so you can have a more accurate and hands-off experience.
These tools function automatically depending on the date, time, or action you set them to. Automation features no online stores should be without include:
- Abandoned cart reminders
- Payment reminders
- Shipping updates
- Discount codes
- Email newsletter automation
Ease of use for customers
A staggering 96% of customers state customer service is important to earning their loyalty. Look for eCommerce platforms that are user-friendly and intuitive for your customers.
Is your storefront easy to navigate with clear calls to action? Are you accessible to buyers with different payment methods? Take some time to consider what experience you want your visitors to have when navigating your online storefront.
Customer-friendly features in your CMS could include:
- Multiple payment options
- Optimization for mobile devices
- Abandoned shopping cart reminders
- Email reminders
- User reviews
Ease of use for you and your employees
Do you have employees who also need to edit or update your online stores? Choose a CMS that comes with a free trial or a demo so everyone can give it a spin.
Features both you and your employees (if any) should include:
- User permission settings
- Password protection
- Modern and neat interface
- Customizable user profiles
Some CMS options come with the ability to customize your store based on industry, such as food and beverage, interior design, or jewelry.
These features can be time-saving if you want to run your store as quickly as possible.
This feature is also helpful if you run multiple online stores and want to ensure each CMS is tailored to the needs of different industries.
Robust security features
Ensure the CMS you choose offers robust security features that protect your customers’ personal and financial information.
Security features you should be on the lookout for include:
- PCI compliance
- SSL certificates
- Password protection (such as two-step authentication)
- Vetted plug-ins
- Access control features for different users
Consistent branding across all platforms can increase your revenue by at least 23%. As such, make sure to look for a CMS that allows you to customize the look and feel of your online store to showcase your brand’s personality.
Flexible customization you should look for includes:
- Plugins or extensions
- HTML or CSS editing options
- In-house design teams
Consider what type of tech support is available with the CMS you choose. Is there a customer service team you can call or email if you have any questions or issues?
This factor is important for businesses of all stripes, but particularly beginners who are less comfortable with the finer details of running online stores.
Make sure the CMS you choose can handle the size and scope of your business as it grows. Even if you’re just starting out, this flexibility can be helpful if you decide to expand.
Scalable features in many CMS platforms include:
- Different pricing plans
- Cloud-based solutions
- Multiple storefront options
Determine how much money you are willing to invest in a CMS for your eCommerce store. Compare options to find one that meets your needs and budget.
Some CMS options are free, while others come with flexible plans. Their features can range from simple to complex, so take your time before committing. Always check out a free trial or demo before buying or downloading.
Ensure the CMS you select is compatible with your existing software, plugins, and payment gateways.
This tip is especially important for experienced business owners who may already have tools they favor.
Look for integrations with these common eCommerce tools:
- Cloud databases
- Payment gateways
You don’t have to be an expert in search engine marketing to optimize your storefront to be readable and rankable.
Look for a CMS that includes features to polish your eCommerce experience for the search engine.
SEO features for online stores include details such as:
- Website visibility toggle
- Custom URLs
- Meta descriptions and titles
- Optimized page loading speeds
Top features to look for in a CMS for your online store
With so many features at your fingertips, how can you narrow down the best bundle for your business? Below are our recommended features for running an efficient and scalable online storefront.
Look for a CMS that allows you to easily customize and expand your store’s capabilities. Popular customization includes different payment gateways, shipping methods, and analytics tools.
Choose a CMS that allows you to scale up as needed. This will ensure that your store is able to handle additional customers and transactions without crashing or slowing down.
Make sure the CMS you choose has robust security features in place to protect your customers’ data. Look for features such as encryption, secure login processes, and two-factor authentication.
Choose a CMS that can easily integrate with other software and services that you use in your business, such as accounting software or customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
Look for a CMS that comes with a good level of customer service and technical support. This will ensure you quickly get the help you need when issues arise.
FAQs about CMS systems for eCommerce
Still narrowing down your options for eCommerce? Below are common questions for beginning business owners to help you out.
What is a CMS for eCommerce?
A content management system (CMS) for eCommerce is a platform that allows retailers to easily manage and update content on their online store.
It can be used to create product pages, customize design themes and layouts, manage customer accounts, and more.
What are the three different types of CMS?
While a CMS has the same underlying foundation of helping you run a website or a storefront, you can still customize them further.
The three different types of CMS are open-source software, proprietary, and SaaS.
Open-source CMS is free and highly customizable, coming from a vibrant community of like-minded programmers sharing their experiences. Anyone can jump in and tweak the code to their heart’s content.
Proprietary CMS doesn’t let you alter the source code. This type goes for a specific and tailored experience without any surprises.
A SaaS eCommerce platform is similar to a proprietary CMS but has a cloud-based foundation.
This feature is useful when you have a lot of data to store and like to update your website on the go. You can access your storefront online without having to go through a download or maintain your own server.
What are the five common types of eCommerce?
When searching for a CMS, you can speed up your search by looking up the most relevant type of eCommerce for your business.
The five most common types of eCommerce are:
- B2B (business to business)
- B2C (business to customer)
- B2A (business to administration)
- C2C (customer to customer)
- C2A (customer to administration)
What are the differences between open source and paid CMS?
Open-source CMS comes from a community of tech-savvy users who share their code as well as their experiences.
Paid CMS comes from an established business with source code that can’t be altered by users (or to a very limited extent).
How do I pick the right CMS for my eCommerce business?
Picking the right CMS for your eCommerce business can be a daunting task. You should consider factors such as user experience, scalability, cost, support, and customization before making your decision.
It’s also important to research different CMS solutions and compare them against each other to find the one that best fits your needs.
What features should I look for in a CMS for eCommerce?
When selecting a CMS for eCommerce, you’ll want to consider features such as product management, user account management, customer segmentation, marketing automation, inventory management, and order tracking.
Additionally, it’s important to make sure the CMS is secure and compliant with industry standards.
How much does a CMS for eCommerce cost?
The cost of a CMS for eCommerce will vary depending on the platform you choose and the features you need.
Generally speaking, the cost of a CMS will be determined by the number of products and users you need to manage.
Some platforms offer monthly subscription plans that can start at around $20/month. Others may cost you several hundred per month with the option to expand even further.
Final thoughts: There’s a content management system for every eCommerce store
No matter your experience, inventory management needs, or aspirations, there’s an eCommerce content management solution for you.
It’s never been easier to download or purchase tools to sell online.
Finding the best eCommerce content management system for your needs depends on your industry, business size, budget, experience level, and personal preferences.
Most content management systems come with price tiers, but there are several open-source and free options to try. Almost all of them come with free trials or demos for you to test them out.
With the aid of a content management system for eCommerce, you’ll be able to automate tasks, scale your business, and deliver top-notch customer service.
We know how difficult it is to manage and track inventory at scale. SkuVault is an inventory and warehouse management platform that ensures you can pack and deliver orders efficiently – without mis-ships or overselling. Schedule a demo today.