Choosing the right eCommerce platform for your business has never been a more critical decision. According to Statista, in 2020, there were 256 million digital buyers in the US, projected to increase to 278.33 million online buyers by 2024.
All eCommerce platforms are not created equal.
The right platform will help ensure a seamless customer experience, support strategic growth with special offers and promotions, and grow your bottom-line business performance over time.
Before we dive into an eCommerce platform comparison of the top solutions for startups, small businesses, and enterprises, let’s take a look at the basics.
What is an eCommerce Platform?
An eCommerce platform is a software application that puts all you need to run your eCommerce business under one digital roof. From marketing to sales and operations, you’ll have various features and functions at your fingertips to create a custom shopping experience for your customers while managing your store your way.
What are the Benefits of Using an Ecommerce Platform?
Regardless of if you’re a digital startup, a brick and mortar store expanding online, or an enterprise player, the eCommerce software you choose can have a significant impact on your business. Here are the top benefits:
- It’s affordable: While building an eCommerce solution from scratch can be the perfect solution for your business, designing and building the architecture can be a costly endeavor. A hosted platform is much more affordable, as the infrastructure is already in place.
- It’s secure: eCommerce platforms have dedicated engineers whose entire job is to ensure that the server and its environment are safe and that security is top-notice.
- It’s customizable: Today’s SaaS eCommerce solutions support customization so you can deliver the experience your customers want and desire.
- It’s scalable: As your eCommerce needs evolve and your customer base expands, your eCommerce platform scales along with your business — whether the growth is due to seasonal spikes or long-term steady expansion.
- It’s fast: Get from idea to done quickly with an eCommerce platform that does the heavy lifting in infrastructure, features, and functions built-in.
- Maintenance and support: Hosted eCommerce platforms have support services and active communities available to help your developer or you get the most out of your store.
Our picks for the best eCommerce platforms 2021 are divided by new and growing businesses (startup, small business) and larger enterprises.
Best eCommerce Platforms for Startups & Small Business
WordPress Sites: WooCommerce
Overview: WooCommerce has the largest eCommerce platform market share worldwide: 29% (as of fall 2020). This free eCommerce plugin is a solid solution for new businesses, as it’s the leading open-source solution, allowing stores to integrate content with commerce for an outstanding user experience. And its REST API makes it simple for brands to manage everything from products through orders.
- Free platform, with lots of free themes and plugins
- Infinitely customizable
- No limit on how much you can sell (products, orders)
- Secure and reliable
- Technical know-how a must
- Scaling can be tricky
- Pay for your own hosting
- Third-party payment gateway required
Easy to Startup, Easy to Scale: Shopify
Overview: During the COVID-19 pandemic, Shopify saw its sales nearly double — according to the Wall Street Journal, surging to $714.3 million in the second quarter of 2020, up from $362 million in the previous year and well beyond analysts’ forecast of $511 million. Shopify is second place after WooCommerce in the US with a 20% market share (and around 11% worldwide). This is a testament to the user-friendliness of this cloud-hosted, plug-and-play SaaS platform that makes it simple to get a store up and running in a few hours. With a wide-range of leading-edge tools and a massive app market full of plugins, Shopify supports growth and scaling, with more customization, lower transaction fees, and more staff accounts available in its enterprise version, Shopify Plus.
- Free trial available to help you get started
- Extensive range of themes available
- Huge amount of plugins to choose from
- Unlimited products on all plans
- Integrated payment options
- Fees can quickly add up
- Blogging platform is minimal
Aesthetically Pleasing & Lightweight: Squarespace
Overview: Squarespace, a SaaS website platform provider, is in second place worldwide in terms of eCommerce platform market share (almost 18%). Known as the go-to platform for creatives, SquareSpace makes it easy to design an eye-catching storefront. With beautiful, modern templates to choose from and the ability to change your store’s style frequently, Squarespace is an affordable solution for branded online stores.
- A range of beautiful templates to choose from
- Affordable, budget-friendly plans
- 24/7 support
- Easy and excellent social media integration
- SSL security
- Free domain with an annual plan
- No free plan
- Difficult to customize
- Relatively large transaction fees
- Store Customers can pay the Business only through PayPal, Apple Pay, or Stripe
- No app market
Best for New Entrepreneurs: Wix eCommerce
Overview: Like Squarespace, Wix is known for its simple drag-and-drop interface, appealing contemporary themes (free and paid), and affordable pricing. Appreciated by small business owners and entrepreneurs, Wix plays equally well for beginners to experts — the common denominator being the desire for a creative, high-value experience. With hundreds of templates, a range of payment solutions, and secure check-out, the SaaS platform is the perfect way to quickly and easily get a store up.
- Loads of beautiful themes for both mobile and desktop
- Many apps and plugins to enhance the user experience
- Multiple secure payment options for your customers
- Not open-source, so limits adding functionality and features
- Limited eCommerce features such as lack of true multi-currency support, export of products, switching templates and AMP support
- No data export
- Best Enterprise eCommerce Platforms
Best for Large, Fast-Growing Businesses: BigCommerce
Overview: BigCommerce is the perfect choice for brands that want to start up quickly and easily and scale robustly. If you’re planning an omnichannel commerce experience, this open SaaS platform and headless commerce provider is a smart, scalable online sales solution. With a vast selection of features, most of the functionality you’ll need is built into the software. To take advantage of it all, however, you’ll need the help of skilled developers.
- An extensive library of customizable templates, plus set-up and migration support
- Strong option for multiple and cross-channel selling
- Potent business features, including inventory management, custom orders, offline commerce integration, catalog migrations, visual merchandising tool, and CRM tools
- Unlimited staff accounts, and helpful customer support
- No transaction fees
- Unlimited products, storage, and bandwidth
- Product rating and review options
- Advanced features and functionality make it challenging to use
- Pricing is a bit confusing
- Not a large selection of free themes
- Set-up can be complicated
Best for Small to Mid-Sized Brands: Magento
Overview: Magento (an Adobe product) is the top open-source choice for brands who have their own IT in-house or work with outsourced development teams to create custom eCommerce experiences. If an omnichannel experience is your goal, Magento empowers your developers to create a customized, robust experience across the board. The solution is well-suited for mid-large enterprises (Magento Commerce, Magento Cloud Commerce) and startups and small businesses with an IT team.
- The software is free
- Open source makes it flexible and easy to customize your experience
- Huge community (3,000,000+) of experienced developers
- Global solution
- Dynamic, rich Magento marketplace
- Need a developer to create a unique and beautiful custom experience
- Complicated to use
- Set-up can be pricey
- You must manage your payment gateways and hosting
Choosing the best eCommerce platform for your business today has long-term implications. In this article, we’ve mentioned a half-dozen of the most popular solutions — but there are more than 370 eCommerce platforms to choose from. As you weigh the pros and cons, keep the user experience in mind — how can you make your store a unique destination that makes it easy and enjoyable for your customers to find and buy what they need and want?
It’s an important question, and making the ultimate choice will impact your business from startup to scale-up. If you have questions about choosing the right eCommerce platform for your brand, we’re happy to help — give us a shout!