If you are searching for a good shopping e-commerce platform to run your online store, you have no doubt heard about at least a few of the big names we are discussing today.
Popularity is usually the way most people go when choosing a platform – but it isn’t necessarily the best. There are so many factors to consider when choosing a platform that suits your product – and most importantly – your audience.
Before going into detail, this course review will be helpful for anyone interested in understanding e-commerce more.
With that said, today we will be discussing the best e-commerce platforms available at the moment, look at the pros and cons of each platform and list their pricing (because let’s face it – cost is important!).
What to Consider When Choosing an E-Commerce Store?
Paid Versions versus Free Versions
Shopify is among the most popular shopping cart tools used by e-commerce sites. This online shopping platform is appreciated by small shops owners because it is specifically designed for this niche market. There is a good reason why Shopify is at the top of the preferences list of online store owners. Not only does this shopping platform offer some great features, but it also offers top-notch themes. It is one of the most recommended platforms to anyone who wants to get started in the e-commerce sector.
The Basic plan for Shopify starts from $29 a month and pricing for a package that offers the most important features starts at $299 per month. However, there is a Shopify-Lite version which allows you to sell on Facebook and add any products to a website or blog. This Shopify-Lite starts at $9/month which is much more affordable for small businesses starting out.
Here is what a Shopify E-Commerce Store can look like:
Here are the pros and cons of a Shopify Store:
Pros of Using Shopify:
- This app store makes it easy and simple to expand the abilities of any default web store.
- Shopify provides hundreds of apps, which is more than any of its competitors.
- This online shopping platform also provides a good selection of professional themes.
- Shopify sends a reminder to customers who didn’t check out and allows the recovery of an abandoned cart.
- This shopping platform comes with unlimited bandwidth and products.
- Shopify can be easily integrated with fulfilment centres, shipping carriers, and drop shipping companies, although this is more popular in the United States then Australia at this time.
- It also provides a mobile app for both managing your store and accepting payments.
- It offers a point-of-sale system for handling transactions in your physical shop.
- The Shopify Experts tool can help you set up your store.
- It has loads of Add-On Apps such as postage apps, dropshipping apps, stock control – there are literally thousands of them. Some cost money – some are worth it. Most of them allow you to trial the app first to see if it is a good fit for you and your business.
Cons of Using Shopify:
- Shopify costs money, both in terms of individual transaction processing fees and as a monthly subscription fee.
- The Shopify Apps are brilliant – but if you keep adding and adding the new apps to your store, the cost can really add up!
- Shopify is uniquely and proprietary coded and this can delay managing your store and increase maintenance costs.
Our 2c worth:
Shopify has the most features of all the e-commerce sites we are discussing today, but can take awhile to learn the ropes and if you are busy and time-poor – this can be extremely frustrating. However, if you are serious about your small business, and are willing to take your time to learn how to use it properly, it is certainly worth the investment!
Real User Comments:
From Monique P from Movement Mecca:
I use Shopify for my ecommerce business and have never had an issue. I think it’s worth the money if your focus is ecommerce. For my other business which is just an events business I use WordPress because I was already using them for my blog. You need to pick the right provider based on what they specialise in. In my opinion WordPress is great for normal websites and blogs, Shopify is great for ecommerce. Shopify is super user friendly, WordPress has been a little harder to learn but doable. I have heard from friends that square space is great too but they don’t have ecommerce businesses so not sure of its suitability for that. My recommendation is start again. Getting your website set up properly from the beginning will save you a lot of time and heartache later on as you grow.
Selz is a simple shop solution for small and up and coming digital entrepreneurs and small businesses. It has a user-friendly store builder, easy payment processing and even marketing tools for your new business. Selz offers the ability to serve any type of product, from services such as Personal Trainers and Health Professionals through to e-books and digital downloads and traditional ‘pack and send’ products. The platform allows you to fully design your own store and connect your own domain to that store, or to just download the ’embed’ buttons into current content.
The beauty of this platform is that it is easy to use for beginners, but Selz makes it easy for sellers of any product or service to create their own gorgeous online store, even if you have no design or development experience. Selz offers a huge array of pre-designed themes for stores which are then easily customizable using ‘drag and drop’ function. You can literally have a shop up and running in as little as 30 minutes! Unlike other eCommerce platforms, Selz makes it easy for merchants to create their own gorgeous store, even with zero design or development experience.
Selz offers features such as:
- 24/7 Customer Support
- Abandoned Cart Recovery to save lost sales
- Easy email marketing integration
- Integrations with Yotpo and Disqus to enable customer reviews and ratings
They have plans to suit all budgets.
Here is an example of one of their online store templates:
Pros of Selz:
- Offers free SSL-certification
- Bank-grade encryption
- Excellent customer service if you get stuck or need help
- Lots of beautiful store themes to choose from
- Embeddable links to ‘Buy’ buttons
Cons of Selz:
- Hard to scale if you get huge really fast!
Our 2c worth:
Selz is the perfect way for beginners and start-ups to easily get selling.
Volusion is a full cloud-based e-commerce store that offers all the basic functions of running an online store. Deciding whether to use Volusion or not comes down to whether you feel comfortable editing the CSS and HTML code or not (and if you don’t know what that is – this isn’t the platform for you!). With Volusion, this task is necessary if you want to optimise your template. Volusion is very ‘SEO’ friendly making it easy for you to get higher rankings on Google for people searching for your product.
Volusion (like Shopify) comes with both an iOS and Android App so you can check your online store when you are on the go. It is also connectable with social media.
There are 4 price models for Volusion. Among them, the Mini package starts at $15 per month. Premium versions are $135/month.
Here is an example of a Volusion E-Commerce store:
Pros of Using Volusion:
- Volusion comes with a natural interface that is intuitive to use.
- It provides many useful features such as an inbuilt rewards program, coupon capability, affiliate setup, gift certificates and advanced shipping.
- The shopping platform comes with integrating inventory.
- The customer support for this program is second to none.
Cons of Using Volusion:
- The program has a complicated fee structure that includes many secondary costs and can make it an expensive choice.
- Users are forced to pay for SSL
- For those who would need a premium template, their price tag is very high, reaching even $900.
Our 2c Worth:
After owning both a Shopify Store and a Volusion based store, Volusion is certainly easier to use (especially if you are a gumby tech-wise like me!). BUT, you will need to work with a good developer to set everything up – which can get expensive. If you have tech knowledge and not much budget – this is the platform for you.
WooCommerce goes hand in hand with WordPress-build websites. In fact, 28% of all e-commerce websites are a WooCommerce shop – not shabby! One advantage of WooCommerce (apart from the fact it is FREE) is that it is built for both real products, and digital downloads (so if you are selling e-books etc). Like Shopify and Volusion, it is supported by an App and doesn’t require any custom coding.
How the WooCommerce Online Store looks:
Pros of Using WooCommerce:
- WooCommerce is a free plugin that is available alongside WordPress.
- Out of the box, this online shopping platform comes with a number of ready to go features, including coupon codes and email marketing.
Cons of Using WooCommerce:
- The software is not as comprehensive and feature rich as other platforms.
- In order to work, it requires you to have a functioning WordPress website.
- WooCommerce may require some premium upgrades if you want additional functions.
Our 2c worth:
If you are just dipping your toes into the e-commerce world and have no funds to invest, then this is the platform for you. However, it may not do all that you want, and if your business is here to stay, changing over to a more scalable platform might be difficult.
Real Life Review:
Tamara: Horrendous customer support… a reply to a support ticket can take days (I recently waited a week)… then it’s a minimum of 24 hours between replies… they recently removed the option to lodge a support ticket as they were overwhelmed after a big platform upgrade. You can’t leave a review on their FB so have a read of comments… lotsa unhappy customers
Some of the worlds biggest and best brands use the Magento platform for their e-commerce store. It is flexible and versatile, so you can get the exact look and functionality you desire. One of the very best features of the Magento stores is that it has ready-made solutions for fashion and b2b businesses!
The Community version of this online shopping platform is free. However the plans, although highly customized – are pretty expensive.
A starter plan for small merchants is $1999/month, with the pro-version starting at $3399/month.
Here is an example of a Magento powered e-commerce store:
Pros of Using Magento:
- Magento is a user-friendly solution.
- This online shopping platform is perfectly scalable.
- The product is feature-intensive.
Cons of Using Magento:
- On the tech support side, Magento is pretty expensive.
- You need a host due to the complexity and scalable design.
- The learning curve is time-intensive.
Our 2c worth:
If you want the bee’s knees of all things e-commerce, have a very complicated website/ product/ service or huge traffic numbers and enormous sales potential, then it is worth spending the dough on Magento. This platform is expensive because you have the assistance of developers the whole way…
BigCommerce is a fully integrated e-commerce website. You don’t need WordPress to plug in – it is a stand-alone platform. They have loads of beautiful templates to choose from, the platform is fully customisable (and code-free – so good for the likes of us who have no tech knowledge). If you are unhappy with your current e-commerce platform – BigCommerce is easy to ‘import’ all the information to change over. BigCommerce allows you to sell on eBay and Facebook and implement a ‘buy’ button on images. It is also very Google friendly with all images uploaded into your BigCommerce store featuring in the Google search.
Here is an example of a BigCommerce store:
BigCommerce’s cheapest plan costs $29.95 / month. A Pro-package is $249.95/month and is totally scalable. If you pay annually, you receive a 10% discount.
Pros of Using BigCommerce:
- Comes with great management tools, including order management, product management, reports, analytics, and more.
- It provides a marketing module with coupons, AdWords integration, and more.
- For the number of features provided, Big Commerce is rather cheap.
- The online shopping platform provides 24/7 customer support.
- Your store can be integrated with various apps and platforms such as QuickBooks, Facebook, eBay, MailChimp, and a lot more.
- Its shopping cart can use multiple currencies.
Cons of Using BigCommerce:
- The premium themes are expensive.
- You cannot easily adjust the homepage.
- The homepage carousel is not such a helpful functionality.
- The design adjustment doesn’t always work as predicted.
- On the cheapest monthly plan, there’s a 1.5% transaction fee.
Our 2c Worth:
Big Commerce is a good easy to use platform that is affordable and scalable. It doesn’t have everything, but has MOST of what e-commerce stores required. Thumbs up!
Squarespace has the most beautiful e-commerce store templates around. Perfect for the business that is very visual or Instagram based. All the layouts are totally customisable
The basic version of Squarespace software is priced at $26 / month.
Here is an example of a Squarespace website:
Pros of Using Squarespace:
- It comes with attractive template design.
- It provides solid data and marketing tools.
- It is an affordable solution.
- It doesn’t ask for transaction fees.
Cons of Using Squarespace:
- It doesn’t provide a PayPal option.
- It doesn’t offer phone support.
- The styling options are overwhelming.
This online shopping platform comes with 5 main models of pricing, the cheapest of them starting at $19.99 / month.
Pros of Using 3dCart:
- It comes with unlimited options of product storage.
- It allows achieving scale, a beneficial feature for companies experiencing strong growth.
- It supports a wide range of payment gateways, offering good flexibility in terms of checkout options.
- It offers strong phone and chat support.
Cons of Using 3dCart:
- This online shopping platform is not among the most intuitive.
- Some processes are difficult to understand.
- The software is less direct than alternative competing platforms.
- It asks for supplementary charges that are annoying,
- It offers limited free template options.
Other E-Commerce Platforms:
When looking for the best online shopping platform, the most important selection criterion is whether the software offers exactly what you need. It all comes down to which platform would allow you to sell your products in the best manner for both your clients and you as a store owner.