Global ecommerce sales are projected to hit approximately $6.3 trillion by the end of 2023.
Given these ecommerce growth projections, many entrepreneurs are opting to start an online business to capitalize on this growth. A part of the journey is choosing how the website will be built. There are two options that most people opt into, such as hiring a web developer to build a custom website or choosing an ecommerce platform that allows users to build a website without requiring any coding skills.
This article will focus specifically on the second option, ecommerce platforms. We will discuss what an ecommerce platform is, the best ones in the market, its best features, pricing, pros and cons, and what to consider when choosing one.
🔎 Insight: Curious about the data? Read more about ecommerce and ecommerce platforms statistics.
What is an Ecommerce Platform?
An ecommerce platform is a software that allows online businesses to manage an ecommerce website, from creating and running an online commerce website to managing sales and marketing.
These platforms have important commerce-related features such as product listings, checkout processes, inventory control, marketing tools, analytics, etc.
Merchants can use this platform to jumpstart their store instead of building one from scratch.
That said, while a pre-built feature and functionality are convenient, choosing the right ecommerce platform is not so straightforward. There are many aspects to consider, which we will discuss in the next section.
Things to Consider when Choosing an Ecommerce Platform
Different platforms are suitable for different types of businesses depending on size, budget, and goals. However, there are some universal criteria that anyone can use as guidelines, such as:
An ecommerce platform needs to be easy to navigate for both business owners and customers.
It's best if the platform allows business owners to easily build and maintain their online store without advanced technical skills or coding knowledge. Owners are better off focusing on inventory management and customer experience rather than dealing with website upkeep.
An optimized shopping experience is even more of a must. From browsing to purchasing, the experience should be effortless. After all, poor functionality causes 42% of people to abandon a website.
To ensure the friendliness of a platform, consider the items on this list:
- No-code Builder - A no-code online store creator is a tool that enables you to develop and launch your ecommerce website without coding expertise or technical skills.
- Responsive Web Design - A responsive web design means your website will automatically adapt to various screen dimensions and devices like desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. This guarantees your website delivers the best user experience no matter the device users use to access your online store. Responsive web design is essential now that 52.5 billion are mobile phone users.
- Loading Time - 47% of consumers expect a two-second loading time, and four out of ten will leave a website if it takes over three seconds to load fully. File size and format, server processing/hosting, plugins, widgets, and design layout configuration all affect website loading time. Learning what solutions a platform offers to maximize the website speed will be beneficial.
- Navigation - Does the platform have a clear, consistent, intuitive theme? In other words, the minimalist option. Users should be able to find what they are looking for easily. 84.6% of web designers agree that small businesses often go wrong by cluttering their website designs.
In short, the more payment options, the better.
The platform should allow the business owner to accept the most popular ecommerce payment methods, including mobile wallets, credit cards, debit cards, bank transfers, buy-now-pay-later (BNPL), and cash on delivery.
Options of various digital wallet payment providers such as PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay are also important.
💡Tip: Learn more in our article about the Best Payment Gateways and Payment Methods For Ecommerce and How To Add a Payment Method To Your Website
If you sell physical products that need to be shipped, then yes, shipping options matter.
The platform should allow you to provide various shipping carriers and services, such as FedEx, UPS, USPS, DHL, etc.
Additionally, it should allow you to set flexible shipping rates, such as conditional free shipping, flat rate shipping, weight-based shipping, etc., as it will affect your customer buying decision.
After all, 77% abandoned purchases due to unfavorable shipping, 84% made purchases specifically because shipping was free, and 30% increased their order amounts to qualify for free shipping.
💡Tip: Maximize your checkout conversions! Explore the best ecommerce shipping solutions and how to improve ecommerce checkout conversion rate.
Once your business grows, the platform should be able to accommodate increasing traffic, a more extensive product catalog, and order amount without compromising the performance or security of the website.
While the ability of a website to perform technical relates more to hosting infrastructure than the platform itself, some ecommerce solutions provide hosting as part of the package, while others require you to source hosting separately.
For those that include hosting, look for the following:
- Cloud hosting -check what the platform’s hosting can offer. Cloud hosting is often the best way to go regarding scalability and cost-efficiency. Depending on your traffic and needs, you can scale up or down your resources on demand.
- Unlimited bandwidth - Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transferred between your website and visitors in a given time. The more visitors and products you have, the more bandwidth you need.
Typically, 100 GB bandwidth is enough to host small to medium-sized websites that receive 10 to 20K monthly visitors. However, the best rule is to go for unlimited bandwidth (which does exist).
Likewise, if you need to scale down your website for seasonal fluctuations or other reasons, you should look for a web host that allows you to adjust your plan without penalties or long-term contracts. This way, you can save money and resources when you don’t need them.
High chances are that your budget is a key part of your overall plan. So, you'll want to choose a platform that spells out precisely what you'll pay. Make sure there aren't any surprise charges down the road as your needs change.
Ask them to explain all the potential costs like set-up fees, transaction fees, domain registration, add-ons for analytics or extra plugins, and whether prices change if your traffic increases significantly.
Additionally, take different pricing models into account. Are you better off with monthly or annual subscriptions or pay-as-you-go plans?
💡Tip: Learn what it costs to launch an ecommerce business in 2023
Your online store collects sensitive data, specifically customers’ personal and financial details. Hence, you want to ensure that your ecommerce platform has strong protection.
Standard ecommerce website security features include encryption, firewall, backup, and recovery, which prevent or mitigate cyberattacks and data breaches.
The platform should also comply with the latest security standards and regulations, such as PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). Those are the most important criteria when choosing an ecommerce platform. However, given the many options available, we recommend some top choices for you to consider.
💡Tip: One way to determine if a website is encrypted and secure with SSL is to look at the URL. It should start with HTTPS instead of HTTP.
Whether you need inventory tracking, automated marketing, data analysis, bookkeeping, or better customer service - plenty of ecommerce software, apps, and plugins can help.
But to make the most out of those tools, your ecommerce platform must be able to integrate them. In other words, the platform should be able to sync everything up and automate workflows without you having to manage several separate systems.
Not all platforms have the same integration capability. So, if there are specific apps you want to use, check that your platform supports connecting to them first before fully committing.
If you’re unsure about the tools needed to integrate with your store, the major types of applications to consider are
- Payment gateways like PayPal, Stripe, Google Pay, and Apple Pay.
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software - such as Netsuite and SAP ERP.
- Accounting software - such as Xero and Zoho Finance.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software - including Salesforce and Hubspot.
- Marketing tools - such as Mailchimp and Constant Contact.
5 Best Ecommerce Platforms To Use in 2023
Considering the above considerations and your business objectives, let’s explore the five most popular ecommerce platforms.
🔎 Note: All information provided below is dated 7 August 2023 and may have been updated since. Pricing may also differ depending on your geographic location.
Please check each platform’s website for the latest information.
|Best For||Mobile Responsiveness||Pricing per month||Free Trial|
|All-in-one ecommerce solution||USD39-399||3 days|
|The go-to solution for big companies||USD39-399||15 days|
|Solution for individual sellers||USD16-159||*14 days free cancellation|
|Open-source solution, best for WordPress users||USD39-70||14 days|
|Ease of use, variety of high-quality templates||USD23-65||14 days|
Shopify is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms, powering millions of businesses globally.
It markets itself as a complete commerce solution. Users can easily create an online store through their drag-and-drop store creator and access all the tools needed to sell and fulfill orders on their storefront.
Shopify's key advantage is its suite of solutions and plugins, including integrated payment processing, shipping, inventory management, audience insights, point-of-sale, marketing capabilities, and more.
Shopify Key Features
- No-code website builder
- User-friendly interface
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Unlimited product
- A diverse range of payment and shipping options
- Multiple distribution channels from a single dashboard
- Responsive themes available
- Robust security features, certified Level 1 PCI DSS compliant
- 24/7 email and chat customer support
💡 Tip: Discover the best payment gateways for Shopify in 2023
Shopify Pros and Cons
- User-friendly design
- Robust, well-documented APIs
- Anti-fraud measures, with a fraud filter app
- A widely popular option for ecommerce
- Extra fees for using third-party apps, such as payment gateways
- Limited free themes, some with design customization limitations. Coding know-how is needed for heavy changes.
- Limited staff account (except Plus plan)
|Shopify Advanced (for medium to large businesses)||USD399/month|
|Shopify Plus (for high-volume business)||USD2,000/month|
- Shopify Free Trial: 3-day free trial, no credit card required.
- Shopify Discount: You can save 25% by opting for a yearly plan.
💡 Tip: Weighing the options of your own domain vs a marketplace? Read our comparison of Shopify vs. Amazon
BigCommerce is a leading SaaS ecommerce platform with advanced features for large businesses.
It aims to provide a fully-featured platform, allowing diverse customization of their storefronts, connecting necessary backend systems, and selling products.
Additionally, BigCommerce supports merchants through its large network of partners specializing in domains like design, development, and marketing.
BigCommerce Key Features
- Hosted, low-code, no-code, and headless options
- Multichannel selling on social and third-party marketplaces
- Unlimited bandwidth and storage
- Unlimited products
- Unlimited staff account
- Mobile-responsive themes
- No transaction fees for major payment solutions
- Robust security features, ISO/IEC 27001:2013 & PCI DSS 3.2, Level 1 certified.
- 24/7 technical support
BigCommerce Pros and Cons
- Customizable design options
- Highly scalable, excellent at handling large volumes
- Built-in features
- Steep learning curve as the platform is quite complicated
- Limited free themes
|BigCommerce Enterprise||Custom pricing (contact sales)|
- BigCommerce Free Trial: 15-day free trial, no credit card required
- BigCommerce Discount: You can save 25% by opting for annual plans
Wix is another popular drag-and-drop website-building platform that caters to many types of websites, including ecommerce. Users can choose from hundreds of customizable templates or start from scratch.
Wix further enables options like selling online, blogging, marketing, reporting, and mobile management capabilities.
Wix aims to be a platform accessible for any individual or business wanting to establish an online presence through its easy-to-use interface and functionality.
Wix Key Features
- User-friendly drag-and-drop website builder
- Solo business choice
- Customizable features, including web hosting, domain name registration, homepage templates
- Performance-first infrastructure
- Built-in site speed dashboard
- Built-in mobile-friendly view
- PCI DSS Level 1 Security
- 24/7 customer care
Wix Pros and Cons
- Affordable pricing plan
- Mobile-responsive design
- Limited products
- Limited storage space (except enterprise plan)
|Wix Core (Basic ecommerce)||$27/month|
|Wix Business (Standard ecommerce)||$32/month|
|Wix Business Elite (Advanced ecommerce)||$159/month|
|Wix Enterprise||Custom pricing (contact sales)|
- Wix 14-day full refund policy: First-time upgrading to a premium plan above includes a no-questions-asked full refund policy if you cancel your subscription within 14 days.
WooCommerce is an open-source ecommerce platform designed for WordPress. It enables merchants and developers to create digital storefronts with customization, sales functions, and support.
WooCommerce also integrates with payment gateways, shipping providers, and other commerce-related services.
WooCommerce Key Features
- Popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress users
- A vast collection of integrations and WordPress plugins
- No-code customization
- Built-in payment processing
- Woo mobile app
- Live chat and email customer support
WooCommerce Pros and Cons
- Open source
- Works compatibly with WordPress
- Built-in payment gateway
- Requires technical knowledge if self-hosted
- WooCommerce managed host (Woo Express) has limited storage.
WooCommerce Pricing Plan
WooCommerce is open-source software, which means it’s technically free to download and use. But this means you must manage and pay for all the backend expenses, namely hosting, a domain name, and ongoing maintenance. Keeping all the technical stuff up and running yourself can get pricey and time-consuming. And it requires specialized knowledge.
However, WooCommerce also offers Woo Express, a hosting solution that can handle all the technical aspects and come with additional sale tools. In short, if you don't want to deal with the infrastructure, it outsources all that for a fixed cost.
The options are:
|Woo Express Essential||USD39/month|
|Woo Express Performance||USD70/month|
|Woo Express Enterprise||Custom pricing (contact sales)|
- Woo Express Free Trial: 14-day free trial, no credit card required
- Woo Express Discount: You can save 35% by opting for annual plans
💡 Tip: Learn more about hosting and domain cost in our article: The Full Cost of Building an Ecommerce Website
Squarespace is another website builder service that allows you to create your own website without any coding skills. You can choose from hundreds of templates and customize them through powerful editing tools.
Squarespace also offers integrated ecommerce and marketing solutions to help users grow their online presence. A dedicated support team and a library of resources are also there to assist users.
Squarespace Key Features
- All-in-one website builder
- Mobile-responsive design
- Various shipping options
- Simple payment and checkout process
- Seamless integration with other commerce tools, like Strip, Apple Pay, Xero, FedEx, postal services, tax jar, and more.
- Security monitoring, compliant with PCI-DSS
💡Tip: Still deciding? See the detailed comparison of Shopify vs. Squarespace
Squarespace Pros and Cons
- Easy to use
- Variety of high-quality templates
- Limited customization options
- Limitations on some marketing features
|Squarespace Basic Commerce||USD36/month|
|Squarespace Advanced Commerce||USD65/month|
- Squarespace Express Free Trial: 14-day free trial, no credit card required
- Squarespace Discount: You can save 24%-30% by opting for annual plans
As we've covered the major players in this space, we hope you have a better idea of which platforms align best with your business goals and technical skillset.
Our last bits of advice? Make a wishlist and hit the free trial button. You never know whether a platform fits well until you wander into the real dashboard.
Once you’ve decided, take some time to browse how to build a successful ecommerce website to make the most out of your investment.
And when you're ready to launch, don't forget to open a business account. Separating your personal and company money from the get-go will save you a lot of trouble.
What is an ecommerce platform?
What are the most popular ecommerce platforms?
Is ecommerce platform the same as an online platform?
Why use ecommerce platforms?