When it comes to choosing the best ecommerce platform for your small business, there are many factors to consider. Will you be working with a website developer to add customized features and code, or are you looking for something you can manage with your own internal team? Are you looking for something with plenty of room for your business to grow, or do you need a quick-start solution that works for you right now?
With so many different options on the market, it’s hard to determine what will work for you. You’ll need to consider the scope of your business and choose a platform that’s right for your individual needs, and not just whatever platform is the most popular at the moment.
Here are our top choices for both paid and free ecommerce platforms for small businesses that can help you grow your business online and sell your products effectively.
Working With Open Source Ecommerce Platforms
If you are working with a website developer, or have the budget to hire one, your best option is to choose an open source ecommerce platform because this will allow you a lot of room to customize and tailor your site to your specific needs. Your developer will be able to break open the back-end coding and add in whatever features and modules you need.
Creating a customized website in this way requires some knowledge of CSS, HTML, or Ruby on Rails depending on the platform you choose. However, many of these open source ecommerce platforms are free, so if you have this knowledge at your disposal, this could be a budget-friendly choice.
The Best Free Ecommerce Platforms
When you’re getting your small business off the ground, a free ecommerce platform is your best choice. These free ecommerce platforms don’t require a lot of technical development and can save you a big monthly fee. Additionally, most free ecommerce platforms have huge online support communities, so you can find answers to any problems or issues quickly.
Main Features: WooCommerce is a free plugin for WordPress sites that turns your online home into an ecommerce hub. It offers SEO integration, easy product inventory and tracking, third-party integration, customized reporting, secure payment gateways, a mobile-friendly platform, and a user-friendly system.
The Pros: It’s one of the most popular open source ecommerce platforms on the web, which means there is a vast collection of support and tutorials you can find online. The plugin is easy to install, and can get you up and running quickly. Additionally, since it’s open source, it’s fully customizable to your own needs and goals and works for virtually any type of product you want to sell.
The Cons: It works exclusively with WordPress, which means you need to have a WordPress website to use it. Additionally, while it is free to use, some extensions that might appeal to you come at an extra cost.
Features: Owned by Adobe, Magento is a very popular free ecommerce platform that powers approximately 20% of the world’s online stores. It offers a comprehensive product inventory and catalogue, secure payment gateways, custom design tools, shipping integration, unlimited product attributes, marketing tools, SEO integration, and reporting tools.
The Pros: It’s highly scalable and an excellent tool to use for growing businesses. Additionally, there are many features available to use, and a massive global user community you can turn to for support when you need it.
The Cons: Magento isn’t the most user-friendly ecommerce platform out there, and might require a bit of a learning curve to use. You’ll need the assistance of a good web developer if you want to explore the site’s range of customization options and features.
Main Features: OpenCart is a free ecommerce platform that allows you to complete online transactions, track sales and inventory, and use pre-made templates to showcase your online store.
The Pros: It’s very simple and easy to use, making it ideal for small businesses who don’t have a programming team on hand. Everything in the back end is straightforward and clean, and since it’s all so simple, the site runs very fast on most servers.
The Cons: Since it’s so simple, there’s not a lot of additional customization available and you can’t get too elegant with your functions. Additionally, since the site relies on a lot of plugins, there are risks that you could run into compatibility issues along the way.
Main Features: An ecommerce extension for Joomla websites, VirtueMart turns your website into an ecommerce site in just a few clicks. This platform features multi-language capabilities, SEO integration, simple back-end navigation, secure payments, product inventory and tracking, online support networks, and pre-made templates.
The Pros: Simple and easy to navigate, VirtueMart is very SEO friendly and offers some nice benefits, such as direct invoicing and elevated inventory management. The multi-language capabilities are particularly beneficial for businesses with a global customer base, allowing your users to browse your products in their own language.
The Cons: While it’s simple and easy to use, VirtueMart doesn’t feature the wide range of extensions and features that other websites offer. Additionally, since it’s an extension for Joomla, it only works with Joomla websites so you’ll need to be active on this platform to use it.
Main Features: A newcomer to the ecommerce world, Spree Commerce is an open source ecommerce platform that includes built-in third party integrations, mobile-first user experience, SEO tools, easy product tracking, security features, and customized reporting.
The Pros: There are plenty of third-party integrations available that make the system very scalable, and a big community of support documents to help you navigate or make upgrades. Additionally, Spree Commerce is easy to use and doesn’t take a lot of technical knowledge to operate on a simple level. If you do have a developer on hand, the platform is flexible and allows for a lot of room to customize.
The Cons: Spree Commerce is based on Ruby on Rails, which isn’t as common as CSS or HTML, which means that it can be a bit more difficult to find a web developer who is well versed in this language to work on your site.
The Best Paid Ecommerce Platforms
Many of the paid ecommerce platforms out there come with an internal website development team that can help you out when you need to maintain, update, or fix your website. So, while you are paying a monthly price, you do get the support and resources you need to manage things on your own if you aren’t familiar with development.
Main Features: One of the leading paid ecommerce platforms on the market, Shopify offers a range of options and features that suit many different businesses. It offers all the tools you need for your ecommerce store, including product inventory and tracking, SEO integration, secure payment gateways, shopping cart enhancement, digital products, marketing integration, reporting, and mobile responsiveness.
The Pros: Shopify offers spectacular, stunning design templates and customization options that help you build a very attractive online store. It’s extremely flexible, and you can get started with it right off the bat without doing a lot of extra development work. Additionally, it’s scalable and designed to grow alongside your business, and designed to be user friendly for even those who aren’t tech-savvy.
The Cons: While the design is impeccable, Shopify doesn’t offer as many extensive features as some of its competitors. Additionally, the selection of free templates is limited, but you always have the option of designing your own or paying extra for one.
The Cost: Pricing plans are $29 per month for Shopify Basic, $79 per month for Shopify Business, and $229 per month for the advanced version. You can also opt for Shopify Lite, a $9 per month plan that sells your products through social media or your current website via a buy button instead of a Shopify website. Additionally, you can start with a free trial to test the waters.
Main Features: The premium, hosted version of Magento, Magento Enterprise is a powerful ecommerce platform that provides marketing tools, its own app store, custom design tools, easy configuration, extensive management tools, SEO integration, Adobe Commerce Cloud, analytics and reporting, and comprehensive product tracking.
The Pros: Magento Enterprise has a lot of customization options and different features you can use. There are endless possibilities in what you can do with this platform, making it an ideal choice for any type of business out there.
The Cons: For smaller businesses that don’t have a developer budget, this platform can be a little complicated to navigate and will still require some technical knowledge. Additionally, they don’t offer templates to use within the platform, so you have to either design your own or use a third party to create one for you.
The Cost: Magento Enterprise offers different pricing depending on the size of your business, so you have to contact them to request a quote for the service. If you have a large business, it could end up being a more expensive option.
Main Features: 3dCart features a range of premium ecommerce services, including shopping cart abandonment recovery tools, SEO integration, secure payment gateways, website security, product management software, shipping integration, email integration, and retail marketing tools.
The Pros: A wide range of quality features provide full support and resources for your ecommerce website, and there is no limit on the number of product listings you can create. The shipping integration tools help you stay organized and ship to more audiences in a variety of countries with the ability to print your own labels in real time.
The Cons: While there are tons of features to use, the 24/7 support has many mixed reviews. Additionally many of the site’s templates tend to be lacking in the design department, and while they aren’t bad, they are missing the spectacular wow-factor that sites like Shopify offer.
The Cost: Pricing plans range from $19 per month to $229 per month. You can also opt to do a 15-day free trial to test out the platform before you commit.
Main Features: A leading ecommerce platform that offers both physical and digital sales, BigCommerce is designed for those who don’t have a lot of knowledge of web development. The platform offers free templates, unlimited product inventory, shipping and secure payment integrations, SEO features, marketing tools, CMS functionality, product reviews, reporting, and third-party integrations.
The Pros: The biggest advantage of BigCommerce is its user-friendly and easy-to-navigate design. Sidebars are neatly organized, and you can find everything you’re looking for quickly and efficiently. There are also many features to use that help you grow your business.
The Cons: Unlike most other plans, which don’t have sales limits, each BigCommerce plan has a set limit on your annual sales transactions. They won’t prevent you from taking new sales when you reach your limit, but you’ll have to upgrade or pay an extra price if you hit them.
The Cost: There are four plans to choose from. BigCommerce Standard is $29.95 per month, BigCommerce Plus is $79.95 per month, BigCommerce Pro is $229.95 per month, and BigCommerce Enterprise ranges depending on the needs of your business. You can also opt in to a 15-day free trial.
Main Features: Volusion is a cloud-based ecommerce platform that has risen in popularity. It offers a visual website builder, product inventory and organization, secure payment transactions, shipping integration, CRM functionality, integration with eBay and Amazon, dedicated account support, social media and marketing tools, and reporting.
The Pros: New users can go through the step-by-step guide provided, which helps you understand how to use the software. Everything is clean and user-friendly, so it’s simple to navigate even for the least tech-savvy users. Features are also built right into the dashboard so you don’t need to worry about add-ons or extensions.
The Cons: Many of the more affordable templates look somewhat dated and don’t have that wow-factor, so you may end up shelling out more money for a nicer template. Additionally, the more products you load in, the more likely you’ll run into slower load times.
The Cost: Like many of the other paid ecommerce platforms, Volusion offers four different pricing plans to choose from. Volusion Personal costs $29 per month, Volusion Professional costs $79 per month, Volusion Business costs $299 per month, and Volusion Prime is a custom price you can negotiate depending on your business needs. You can start out with a 14-day free trial as well.