If you run a physical store, you decide what types of products to sell, how to arrange them, and the look of your store design. You can do the same with an eCommerce website, but you need the right tools to help make your online store work.
eCommerce platforms let you build an online store from scratch, sell your products or services, and even manage marketing tasks like sending email announcements. Here we’ll present the best eCommerce website builders to help you run a successful online store. Take a look at these platforms, and see which one is the best fit for your products.
What Makes a Great eCommerce Platform?
All good eCommerce platforms let you build your online store from the ground up, starting with store design. But if it’s your first time building an online store, you’ll want something with an easy-to-use interface. On the other hand, more seasoned store builders might want total control over all aspects of their store at the cost of more complexity. After trying out dozens of these tools, we’ve determined which ones are best for all types of stores.
We’ve also learned which features and options are necessary for anyone starting an online store. We’ve only chosen eCommerce platforms that come with the essential tools you need to get started. Overall, these vital features allow you to:
- Design your own storefront, using code or built-in themes
- Sell physical or digital goods and process payments through a built-in shopping cart or a third-party app
- Maintain an online store for a reasonable price
- Keep track of orders and shipping
- Integrate add-ons and other tools as helpful additions to your store
The 13 Best eCommerce Platforms
- Shopify for getting up and running quickly
- Square for selling in-person and online
- Selz for a full-featured drag-and-drop store builder
- OpenCart for total customization
- BigCommerce for access to multiple storefronts on one platform
- Gumroad for selling digital products
- 3dcart for built-in marketing and management features
- Big Cartel for smaller stores with custom products
- WooCommerce for adding a shopping cart to an existing WordPress site
- PrestaShop for a free platform
- E-junkie for selling across multiple platforms
- Ecwid for selling on social media
- Wix for simultaneously creating a store and a blog
Shopify (Web, iOS, Android)
Best eCommerce platform for getting up and running quickly
Shopify allows you to create a functional online store fast—we were able to sign up, choose a theme, and upload a product in under ten minutes. The secret to Shopify’s speed is its easy-to-use drag-and-drop store builder, which allows you to quickly set up your shop and start selling.
Sellers can choose from ten professionally-designed free themes and 61 paid themes starting at $140. Many of the free themes cater to specific types of stores, such as apparel, or a specific type of product marketing, like narrative storytelling, which can make setup go more quickly. And even the free themes are fully-customizable.
Shopify’s user interface also makes it easy to start selling. Uploading a product is as simple as navigating to your dashboard and selecting Products > Add product. You can then input your product’s title and description, upload any images, and click Save Product when you’re done.
Shopify also comes with the essential features that every eCommerce website needs, such as a built-in shopping cart app that supports hundreds of payment gateways and dozens of third-party integrations. You can set up discount codes and send abandoned cart emails to keep customers coming back to your store. You can also conduct marketing campaigns through Facebook, Google, Instagram, and more. If there’s a feature that Shopify doesn’t have on its dashboard, browse the Shopify App Store to find the extension you’re looking for.
For those not ready to invest in a full-blown eCommerce website just yet, Shopify also offers a $9/month lite plan for selling on social media.
Shopify Price: Free for 14 days; from $29/month and 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for Basic Shopify plan with unlimited products
Automate Shopify with Shopify’s Zapier Integrations.
Square (Web, iOS, Android)
Best eCommerce platform for selling in-person and online
If you already have a physical location for your store but want to create a web presence, Square is the best choice. With Square, you can accept both in-person and online payments that are organized into one dashboard. The versatile platform also allows for easy access to all your orders, deposits, customer lists, and sales reports. It even lets you pay employees from the Payroll tab.
When you want to make a physical sale, open up the menu and select Virtual Terminal, which acts just like a digital cash register. If you have the Square credit card reader, you can swipe your customers’ cards for a 2.75% fee from Square, and their information will automatically upload to your Square account. Otherwise, you can type in your guests’ credit card numbers for a 3.5% + $0.15 fee per charge.
Since Square is partnered with Weebly, the app itself doesn’t offer a website builder. Instead, Square redirects you to Weebly, where you’ll build a store that comes with Square pre-installed. After designing your store, you can return to the Square dashboard to handle finances and marketing campaigns. Even though Square doesn’t have a native store builder, it still has all the crucial features that an online store needs, including product creation, order tracking, sales reports, and a customer management system.
In addition to managing your sales, you can also use the platform for marketing your business. Square’s marketing feature, which costs an extra $15/month, allows you to create newsletters, coupons, and bulk emails. Their Marketing Assistant tool makes suggestions and can even help you design campaigns. For example, if you use the assistant to send out a coupon campaign, it will immediately set up an email blast template. All you’ll need to do is fill in text, add images, and customize your colors.
Square Price: From 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for Square transactions; from $12/month Weebly Pro plan
Automate Square with Square’s Zapier Integrations.
Selz (Web, iOS)
Best eCommerce platform for a full-featured drag-and-drop website builder
Although Selz is also a drag-and-drop store builder, what makes it stand out is the wide variety of features and customization options that don’t require a lot of technical expertise to use. Choose fonts, change colors, arrange pages, and add pictures using your files or by accessing Selz’s built-in stock photo collection. Selz has 25 free themes that you can use to showcase your products, giving you the best bang for your buck in terms of design choices and amount of features.
In addition to having some of the simplest design tools, Selz also lets you integrate your products into an existing WordPress website. After you add the Selz WordPress plugin, when you sign in to your Selz account, the products from your Selz store will automatically sync to your WordPress site.
To add an item to your shop, navigate to Items > All > Add an item. Selz will then prompt you to select your product type, giving you the option of adding a physical or digital product, as well as a service. Once you make your selection, you’ll see the Add an item page where you can click between tabs titled Details, Categories, Variants, Licenses, and SEO. Fill in each section, adding categories and variants to make your products easier to find. If you’re selling a digital product, you can let Selz generate license keys for you by selecting that option on the dropdown menu under the License tab.
If you want to sell outside of your Selz storefront, you can purchase and embed Buy Now buttons onto other websites or a Tumblr blog. After you copy and paste the buttons into another site’s code, customers can click these links to access your Selz shop, allowing you to sell anywhere on the web.
For more integrations, head to the App Store on your dashboard to add free apps like Mailchimp, Gmail, ShipStation, Google Sheets, and Salesforce to your store.
Selz Price: Free for 5 products; from $17/month plus 2% transaction fee for unlimited products
Automate Selz with Selz’s Zapier Integrations
OpenCart (Web, iOS, Android)
Best eCommerce platform for total customization
OpenCart is a self-hosted eCommerce platform that allows for total control over your store’s design. You can install OpenCart directly to your computer, or choose to open a cloud-based store instead.
Although coding experience is a must to get the most out of OpenCart, if you can combine your coding skills with the available extensions, you’ll have the capability to fully customize your store. The included administrative pages, such as product categories, page designs, orders, customer lists, and marketing campaigns are just the bare minimum to get your store started. For more features, you’ll have to take advantage of OpenCart’s extensions.
OpenCart’s Extension Store houses over 13,000 free and paid extensions, consisting of themes, payment gateways, sales reports, and other helpful modules. Developers are constantly adding new extensions, allowing your store to grow and change as you gain more customers. OpenCart is like the WordPress of eCommerce.
OpenCart Price: Free for unlimited products; paid extensions from $20+ each; transaction fees depend on payment gateway
BigCommerce (Web, iOS, Android)
Best eCommerce platform for access to multiple storefronts in one place
If you’re looking to expand your online store to more than one platform, BigCommerce can help you consolidate all of your separate shops. From your dashboard, head to the Channel Manager tab to add another sales channel on eBay, Amazon, Facebook, or Pinterest. When you set up a new channel, BigCommerce will automatically start importing your uploaded products to that platform.
Any changes that you make to your products from the BigCommerce dashboard will transfer to your other stores across all platforms—that way, you won’t have to make the same changes multiple times. BigCommerce also organizes transactions from all channels on your Orders page by placing the channel’s corresponding logo next to each order.
When setting up and designing your store, BigCommerce isn’t short on features. The Storefront section of your dashboard holds all of your design tools: change your theme, add a logo, and incorporate social media links. BigCommerce doesn’t come with a drag-and-drop store builder, which limits your customization options if you’re not experienced with coding. However, you can still browse BigCommerce’s Theme Store for ten free designs or over 100 paid themes starting at $145.
BigCommerce Price: Free for 15 days; from $29.95/month Standard Plan for unlimited product; transaction fees depend on payment gateway
Automate BigCommerce with BigCommerce’s Zapier Integrations.
Gumroad (Web, iOS, Android)
Best eCommerce platform for selling digital products
Although you can sell physical products using Gumroad, this app specializes in digital products such as songs, eBooks, videos, and software. In addition to selling your digital products, you can also offer options like rentals for films or multiple versions of each product, such as the choice between a PDF or an ePub.
Gumroad also has one of the most simple interfaces to use. It only takes one click to reach the Products section on the menu bar at the top of your screen to start uploading your goods.
From the Products tab, click Add a product, and Gumroad will ask you whether you want to add a physical or digital product. Click Digital, and then select if your product can be sold immediately, if it’s available on pre-order, or if it’s subscription-based. You can then proceed to name your product, upload the actual product file, and add an image. Gumroad also generates license keys, in case you decide to sell software.
Gumroad offers a few different ways for customers to find your products. Choose to keep the Gumroad URL that your site comes with, or add your own domain. Select Follow Form to embed your online shop into an existing website or blog, and choose to connect your store to Facebook or Twitter.
Gumroad Price: Free to get started; from $10/month with 3.5% + $0.30 per charge for professional features
Automate Gumroad with Gumroad’s Zapier Integrations.
Best eCommerce platform for built-in marketing and management features
3dcart has a similar user-friendly interface to Shopify and Selz that lets you choose from hundreds of responsive themes to design your store. But it’s also set up to be a hub for marketing tools, with third-party apps pre-installed to your dashboard right under the Marketing tab. If you don’t have everything you need in 3dcart’s default dashboard, you can find more helpful apps in the platform’s App Store.
To get started, follow along with 3dcart’s Marketing Checklist, a step-by-step process that can help you increase your sales. The checklist has three levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. While the first tier consists of simple tasks like signing up for an Instagram account, the more advanced section suggests tasks like cross-selling your products on Amazon.
You can also take advantage of 3dcart’s in-depth SEO tools that allow you to edit meta tags, deny crawlers access to certain pages, and integrate your Google Analytics account. To keep customers engaged, you can set up newsletters and send out automated emails.
3dcart Price: Free for 15 days; from $19/month Startup Plan for unlimited products; transaction fees depend on payment gateway
Automate 3dcart with 3dcart’s Zapier Integrations.
Big Cartel (Web, iOS, Android)
Best eCommerce platform for smaller stores with custom products
Big Cartel is designed for smaller stores with fewer products, as the most expensive plan only allows you to upload 300 products or less. Compared to other eCommerce platforms, it may be more limited, but its streamlined feature set and simple setup process are designed specifically for creatives who have a small inventory but still want a reasonable amount of built-in features. The platform is also free for five products or less, which makes it a good option for artists just getting started selling their craft.
When you create an account, the site walks you through the setup of your store. In the first half of the process, you’ll be prompted to add products by navigating to the Products tab at the top of your screen. Click the plus button on the right side of the page, and you can start entering your product’s information—type in its name, price, category, and description. Later, Big Cartel will ask you to choose a theme and set up a checkout. If you decide to go for a paid plan, you can also set up a custom domain, add discounts, and track your inventory.
Big Cartel also offers features specifically for creatives. For example, artists who aren’t set up to print their own work can connect with Printful and have their product printed and shipped once it’s sold from their store.
Big Cartel Price: Free for 5 products; from $9.99/month Platinum Plan for 25 products; transaction fees depend on payment gateway
Automate Big Cartel with Big Cartel’s Zapier Integrations.
WooCommerce (Web, iOS, Android)
Best eCommerce platform for adding a shopping cart to an existing WordPress site
If you already have a WordPress site and all you’re missing is a shopping cart app, WooCommerce is your best bet. Instead of starting over on a different platform, this WordPress plugin seamlessly integrates into your WordPress site for easy access.
You can manage your orders, create coupons, and view sales reports from your WordPress dashboard. Adding new products is as simple as creating a typical post—since WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, it has the same interface as WordPress, which means that you won’t have to take the time to learn a new platform. The only difference between adding a new product and creating a new post is that you’ll have to add specific information about your product, such as a description, image, categories, and tags.
If you find that WooCommerce doesn’t have everything you need upon installation, you can always add some extensions. WooCommerce offers a variety of free and paid options that can enhance your store: get real-time shipping rates with the USPS extension, integrate various payment gateways, or add WooCommerce Subscriptions to let your customers subscribe to your product or services. You can even combine these extensions with any plugins from WordPress to customize your store even more.
WooCommerce Price: Free for standard features on a self-hosted WordPress site; from $29 for additional extensions; transaction fees depend on payment gateway
Automate WooCommerce with WooCommerce’s Zapier Integrations.
PrestaShop (Web, iOS, Android)
Best eCommerce platform for free store building
PrestaShop may be free and open source, but this user-friendly tool comes loaded with many of the same features as paid eCommerce platforms. You can choose to host PrestaShop on the Google Cloud Platform or on your own server. Just keep in mind that the self-hosted version gives you complete control over customization, while the latter has more limited options.
Since PrestaShop isn’t a drag-and-drop store builder, it might be helpful to know some code if you want to overhaul your store’s design. You can also purchase a theme from PrestaShop’s Addons Marketplace starting at $69.99, or choose to upload your own.
PrestaShop operates with a clean interface that looks similar to WordPress. If you own multiple storefronts, PrestaShop allows you to access all of them through one dashboard. When you open your dashboard, everything you need is in the left menu bar. From there, you can view orders, create invoices, print delivery slips, manage discounts, check sales reports, and more. Upload products with only a few clicks by selecting Catalog > Products > New Product.
PrestaShop makes organizing your products simple, enabling you to sort them by attributes, brands, suppliers, and categories. You also have various options when adding a new product to your store: you can manage SEO, adjust shipping information, change quantities, and set a price through easy-to-navigate tabs.
For even more features, you can shop around on PrestaShop’s Addons Marketplace. You’ll find dozens of free and paid add-ons that can improve your online presence, accept payments, and take care of shipping needs.
Prestashop Price: Free self-hosted store; paid Addons from $23.99+ each; transaction fees depend on payment gateway
Best eCommerce platform for selling across multiple platforms
Although other platforms also let you cross-sell across multiple platforms, E-junkie stands out by offering a huge variety of options for those looking to maximize their selling channels.
Integrate the E-junkie add-on into your WordPress site, embed it into your blog, or add it to another website. To give your customers a quicker checkout, you can also copy and paste Buy Now buttons to use as a fast track toward payment.
If you don’t have a website, you can still use E-junkie to sell items by copying and pasting product cards. In order to create a product card, you’ll need to add a product first, and then select Get Purchase Buttons/Links under the Manage Products tab in the left menu bar. Choose the product you want the card for, and scroll down to find the HTML code and a text link. You can copy and paste the text link on sites like Facebook and WhatsApp, and you can add the HTML button code to any website that uses HTML.
E-junkie won’t limit you to the sales of physical products. It offers secure digital deliveries for eBooks, music, videos, and software. E-junkie can generate digital codes, and it even allows you to set an expiration for download links. If you want to start selling digital products on eBay, you can easily transfer your product to an eBay listing by following a few simple steps.
You also have the option of creating your own store through E-junkie, which will add your products to E-junkie’s marketplace. However, its store builder doesn’t come with extensive customization options, and its marketplace has much less traffic than eBay and Amazon.
E-junkie Price: Free for 30 days; from $5/month for 10 products with standard features; transaction fees depend on payment gateway
Automate E-junkie with E-junkie’s Zapier Integrations.
Ecwid (Web, iOS, Android)
Best eCommerce platform for selling on social media
Like E-junkie, Ecwid allows you to cross-sell on several different platforms, but its features for social media sales really stand out. Millions of users scour Facebook Marketplace and Instagram daily, which can give you a huge boost in traffic if you decide to socially connect your store. Ecwid is a great tool for this—it automatically syncs your products to the Facebook Marketplace and allows you to link to your Ecwid store through Instagram tags.
Ecwid is also easy to use since you can manage all of your sale platforms from one control panel. Under the All Sales Channels option on your control panel’s left menu bar, you have access to your store on platforms like Instagram, eBay, Amazon, Google Shopping, and Wix.
Although Ecwid has a focus on selling from various platforms, it still sets you up with a starter site that you can customize to fit your needs. You can also embed your store into an existing website, or operate a POS from your mobile device.
Ecwid Price: Free for standard features; from $15/month Venture Plan for professional features; transaction fees depend on payment gateway
Automate Ecwid with Ecwid’s Zapier Integrations.
Wix (Web, iOS, Android)
Best eCommerce platform for simultaneously creating a store and business website
You want to create an online store, but you also want a blog to showcase the benefits or features of your products. Why not get two tasks done at once by building a store with a built-in blog using Wix? To get started, you’ll have to create your website using Wix’s drag-and-drop website builder. You won’t have to deal with any code if you don’t want to—Wix comes with over 500 premade themes that can speed up the setup process.
When you’re finished making your website, navigate to the Wix App Market. Add the Wix Stores app to your site, and you’ll get all the eCommerce features you’ll need to start selling. You can add products, create coupons, upload promotional videos, and adjust your shop’s SEO from Wix’s store manager. Plus, you can also edit the cart page, product pages, and the order confirmation page to match your brand.
You might not see all the features you need, and that’s okay. Anything that’s not covered by Wix by default—such as subscription forms, payment gateways, and form builders—you can likely find in the App Market.
Wix Price: Free for 14 days; from $23/month Business Basic Plan; transaction fees depend on payment gateway
The Other Tools You’ll Need for an Online Store
Although an eCommerce website builder can get you most of the way there, you may need some additional tools and strategies to make your business a success.
After you build your store, you’ll have to start promoting it. If you have no idea where to begin, you should take a look at these eCommerce marketing strategies to help you build a loyal following. These essential strategies can help you make your first sale.
You may also need a tool to help you ship products and find the best rates on postage. Logistics tools like ShipStation or Shipwire can help, letting you print shipping labels in bulk or use logistics services and Amazon to store and ship products automatically. Or you could use Zapier integrations with your eCommerce app to print invoices automatically with Google Cloud Print.
Most importantly, you’ll also need a way to accept credit card and other payments through your store. Some of the apps above include their own payment services; with the rest, you’ll need to choose between PayPal, Stripe, Braintree, and other services. Make sure to join us in the next chapter of this guide, where we’ll discuss the best payment credit card processing services for your business.
Go to Chapter 8!