Which eCommerce Platform Should You Use For Your First Store?

Starting your eCommerce store has enough difficulties you’re going to need to overcome. Using a platform that makes your life harder shouldn’t be one of those difficulties.

With so many different eCommerce platforms available today, it can be hard figuring out which ones are worth your time (and money) and which ones are just going to make your life even harder than it already is.

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That’s why we’ve set out to test each of the different eCommerce platforms and compare them against each other -- to help you save time, money, and keep you from getting frustrated when the platform you’ve chosen creates more technical hurdles instead of makes your life easier.

Our review process is going to address 12 different areas that we believe both beginners and advanced eCommerce entrepreneurs are going to need to see long-term success with their business.

The 12 Areas We’re Addressing

To help you understand how each service was tested and reviewed, the 12 areas that we are looking at are listed below, along with short descriptions that show you exactly why we’re considering each area.

#1 - Pricing

Pricing is a fine balancing act that every eCommerce platform must figure out on their own.

We’re digging into the pricing of each service, and comparing it to the features they offer to help determine whether they’re viable for most people, or if they’re going to price themselves out of the industry.

It’s been our experience that (most times) the most expensive eCommerce services and platforms aren’t always the best, and those services that have priced themselves at the bottom of the pack aren’t always the worst.

We hope to find a service that offers the perfect balance between pricing and the quality of their platform so you get more for every dollar you spend with them.

#2 - Mobile Friendly

More, and more people are utilizing mobile devices, smartphones, and tablets to access the internet, which means you need an eCommerce platform that is ready to handle this influx of mobile traffic.

Some eCommerce platforms are amazing for desktop users, but haven’t received the development they need to work well across a wide range of mobile devices.

Likewise, some other services work great on mobile devices, but cause issues with people who are using desktop computers and laptops, for instance.

The last thing you want to do is hire a developer to fix problems that your eCommerce platform’s developers should have already fixed, so we’re rating each service on their ability to handle both desktop and mobile connections.

#3 - Ease Of Use

We also want to know how difficult the platform is to use.

Can beginners start their store without needing to hire a developer, or being a professional developer themselves? Or are there so many features that most people are going to get overwhelmed with the options?

Best online store

For an eCommerce platform to receive our recommendation, they need to provide the features that everyone from beginners to seasoned veterans need to build a successful store, but they also need to be simple and intuitive enough to use that building a successful store doesn’t require extensive technical degrees from a local University.

#4 - Built-In Templates

The template, or theme, or look of an eCommerce store has quite a bit to do with how well visitors landing on it are going to trust the sellers.

Some powerful eCommerce platforms will require you to develop the theme yourself, while others are going to have multiple (or even hundreds, sometimes) of built-in templates you can use to completely customize the look of your store.

We’ve judged each platform on how many templates they offer to their users, and whether or not those templates can be customized to give you the potential to build a completely unique store for your business.

#5 - Apps & Add-Ons

Adding new features to your eCommerce store shouldn’t require you to understand how to code, or spend hours upon hours messaging back and forth with your platform’s customer support team.

We are looking at each of the services to determine how many apps and add-ons they offer to their subscribers, as well as how easy each of those apps and add-ons are to install.

Like the built-in templates, we want to see that there are enough add-ons for beginners to get their store up and running, while still having enough add-ons available to keep taking their store to the next level as it starts making more money.

#6 - Customer Service

It doesn’t matter if you’re a complete beginner, starting your first eCommerce store after you read this, or you’re a seasoned veteran that has been in the industry for 10 years, 20 years, or even longer.

There are times you are going to need help and the best way to get that help is straight from the horse’s mouth -- or the service’s customer support team.

We’re judging each service on the quality of their customer service, the channels that they offer to their subscribers, along with how quickly they respond and how helpful their responses are when they do respond.

#7 - SEO Performance

When you are building your marketing strategy and figuring out how you are going to drive traffic to your new store, search engine optimization should be near the top of your list.

That means you are going to need to use an eCommerce platform that is ready to capture all the coveted search engine traffic you’re after.

SEO Performance

Some platforms make it nearly impossible for you to rank in the search engines, with the way their product and category pages are structure, while others make it stupidly simple, requiring no extra work from you to achieve higher rankings.

We’re judging each service to determine how well they either optimize your product and category pages for you, or how easy it is for you to optimize them yourself, and are ranking platforms lower that make your job of optimizing your pages for the search engines any harder than it should be.

#8 - Scalability

If you build your business is right, it’s going to grow.

In the best case scenario, your store will be hosted on a platform that makes it easy for you to accept that growth and continue scaling your operations.

In the worst case scenario, though, you’re going to find out that the platform you’ve chosen isn’t up to the task and is going to make your life difficult as you begin adding more products to your catalog or driving more traffic to your store.

That’s why we’ve judged each service on their ability to help you start small and scale as your traffic increases and product catalog grows in size.

#9 - Marketing Materials

While it’s not necessarily your eCommerce platform’s job to help you market your business, they shouldn’t make life any harder on yourself.

For a service to receive our recommendation, we want to see that they provide marketing materials and help their subscribers implement different marketing strategies, or at least have the technology in place to help pull all these marketing strategies together.

Any service that makes your marketing strategies more difficult to implement, or do not offer their subscribers different marketing materials has been ranked lower, or even been eliminated from being eligible to receive our recommendation.

#10 - Payment Processors

There are countless different payment processors available in 2017, which means you may need an eCommerce platform or service that is compatible with multiple different processors.

Different payment processors

Most eCommerce platforms available today can accept major credit cards, and quite a few of them will accept PayPal payments.

Some eCommerce sellers are venturing away from PayPal, though, and choosing to accept Venmo, Stripe, and other forms of payment on their store. Some are even accepting Bitcoin.

That’s why we’ve judged each service’s ability to handle multiple different payment sources without requiring you to go through extra steps to start accepting those payments from your store.

#11 - Community Support

If you have problems, or want to talk shop, there’s two different routes you can take.

The first is to contact the customer support team through the platform that you’re using, while the second is to reach out to a community of other entrepreneurs who have been down the road you’re traveling down right now.

Some eCommerce platforms have built-in communities of like-minded people who can help you quickly overcome problems that you’re having, and give you those like-minded people to bounce ideas off of.

eCommerce platforms and services that have these communities surrounding them have been ranked higher in our review process than platforms that don’t have the same backing from the community at large.

#12 - Email Marketing

For many eCommerce stores, the money isn’t made during the first sale.

Instead, it’s made in the LTV (Lifetime Value) of a customer, and increasing the times you can get in front of the same customer greatly increases how much money your store is going to make over the long-term.

Email marketing is one of the best ways to continue staying in front of your past customers, and an amazing way to bring them back to your store without having to spend any more money to do it.

eCommerce platforms that offer email marketing tools have been ranked higher during our review process than platforms that require you to use third-party email marketing tools with minimal to zero support.

Top 10 eCommerce Platforms In 2017

Now that you know exactly what we’re looking for in each of the eCommerce platforms we’re reviewing, it’s time to get into what we actually think of each of those platforms.

Ranked from best to (not necessarily) worst, here are the top 10 eCommerce platforms in 2017.

Depending on the business model you’ve chosen, your level of experience, your monthly budget, and quite a few other factors, you may find some platforms work better for you than others, but in our experience, we have found that the best eCommerce platform currently available is...

Shopify

Shopify has taken the eCommerce industry by storm, making it incredibly easy for beginners to get started with their first store, and veterans to continue scaling their eCommerce empire.

Shopify Ratings

  • Pricing (9 / 10)
  • Mobile Friendly (10 / 10)
  • ​Ease of Use (9 / 10)
  • ​Built-In Templates (9 / 10)
  • ​Apps & Add-ons (9 / 10)
  • ​Customer Service (9 / 10)
  • ​SEO Performance (8 / 10)
  • Scalability (9 / 10)
  • ​Marketing Materials (8 / 10)
  • ​Payment Processors (9 / 10)
  • ​Community Support (10 / 10)
  • Email Marketing (9 / 10)
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When it comes to pricing, Shopify isn’t the cheapest, but they also aren’t the most expensive. We have found they provide the perfect amount of value, features, and support for the prices they charge.

Each Shopify store is mobile friendly out of the box, and they make building your first store incredibly easy with an amazing community of people and a customer support team that can help you every step of the way.

The sheer number of built-in templates they offer makes it simple for you to create a unique look and feel for your store, and with a huge library of apps and add-ons you can quickly add the functions you’re looking for without needing to hire a developer.

Best eCommerce platform

Their stores rank fairly well out of the box, but can use a few tweaks to help them rank better -- like the addition of an SEO app that’s included in their app library.

Shopify stores are lightweight, which help keep them loading fast as you continue scaling your store, adding new products, and increasing the amount of traffic you’re sending to it on a daily basis.

They do help you with marketing your store, but the amount of materials they provide could be better. Shopify does support multiple different payment processors, and offer email marketing support so you can stay in touch with your customers.

We’ve found that, for both beginners and veteran eCommerce business owners, Shopify offers the most options and best community, especially when you consider how little they charge for everything they offer.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is based around WordPress, which makes it easy for beginners to get started and gives veterans the options they need to scale their business into the future.

WooCommerce Ratings

  • Pricing (9 / 10)
  • Mobile Friendly (8 / 10)
  • ​Ease of Use (8 / 10)
  • ​Built-In Templates (6 / 10)
  • ​Apps & Add-ons (6 / 10)
  • ​Customer Service (7 / 10)
  • ​SEO Performance (8 / 10)
  • ​Scalability (8 / 10)
  • ​Marketing Materials (8 / 10)
  • ​Payment Processors (9 / 10)
  • Community Support (9 / 10)
  • Email Marketing (9 / 10)
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WooCommerce has grown in popularity largely due in part to the popularity of the WordPress platform that it is based around.

Millions of websites are built on WordPress, and WooCommerce makes it easy to convert those websites into full-fledged eCommerce stores.

WordPress being so easy to use (for most people) makes WooCommerce just as easy to use, and because there are free options of WooCommerce available, it’s easy to adopt the platform and start selling products from your store.

WooCommerce is only mobile friendly if the theme that you’re using on WordPress is mobile friendly. It also does not offer any built-in templates or apps and add-ons, which requires you to tap into WordPress’s repository if you want to add additional features or change the look and feel of your store.

Wordpress and WooCommerce

WooCommerce does have a good customer support team, as does WordPress, but because you are using two different pieces of technology, it may be difficult to get the exact answers you’re looking for without contacting both different teams.

WordPress (and WooCommerce, by default) works great in the search engines out of the box, and there are plugins available to help simplify the SEO process even further.

Scaling your WooCommerce store is easy because of the way WordPress manages content, but your store could potentially load slower as you grow into hundreds of products for sale.

There is support for a wide range of payment processors, and a huge community of people using both WordPress and WooCommerce, so helping your customers and getting support for your store is simple.

Most email marketing platforms function flawlessly with WordPress, which makes it possible for you to stay in touch with your customers.

  • Compared to Shopify, WooCommerce is more difficult to use because of the many different moving parts, but being free makes it attractive, especially when you’re already familiar with WordPress.

Bigcommerce

BigCommerce makes it easy to manage your eCommerce store and offers a ton of apps and marketing options, but lacks in community support.

Big Commerce Ratings

  • Pricing (8 / 10)
  • Mobile Friendly (9 / 10)
  • ​Ease of Use (8 / 10)
  • ​Built-In Templates (8 / 10)
  • ​Apps & Add-ons (9 / 10)
  • ​Customer Service (9 / 10)
  • ​SEO Performance (9 / 10)
  • ​Scalability (8 / 10)
  • ​Marketing Materials (8 / 10)
  • ​Payment Processors (9 / 10)
  • ​Community Support (7 / 10)
  • Email Marketing (8 / 10)
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Big Commerce, as the name suggests, is tailored to eCommerce store owners that are looking to operate at scale and keep growing their empire to massive heights. This also means it’s not necessarily tailored for beginners just getting started.

The options and features they provide to subscribers are fairly in-depth, which can be great if you’re able to wrap your head around them all, but can be completely overwhelming if you’re new or not technically inclined.

Big Commerce is more expensive than Shopify, and can get super-expensive if you’re launching large stores and driving large amounts of traffic to your store on a regular basis.

BigCommerce platform

Big Commerce shops are mobile friendly out of the box, but if you need to make any adjustments or tweak their templates to be more unique to your brand, you could find yourself needing to hire a developer to help out.

There aren’t a huge amount of options when it comes to built-in apps and add-ons, but Big Commerce does integrate with many major marketing platforms like MailChimp, HubSpot, and ReferralCandy, so you can extend the functionality of your Big Commerce store.

Big Commerce templates tend to load quickly and are easy to optimize for the search engines, but as your store grows (and the database size increases), you could find your site load speed times dropping, which could have a negative effect on your SEO.

When it comes to Big Commerce offering marketing materials and help to their customers, you may find yourself wanting more options and seeking out third-party solutions to help with your marketing.

Big Commerce currently offers support for most major payment processors, and we didn’t notice issues integrating stores in with each of the different processors.

They do not have a huge community surrounding their brand, which could make it difficult for you to get help with problems that you’re having or learn new strategies you can use to take your store to the next level. In other words, you’re on your own in a lot of aspects when you’re building a Big Commerce store.

Email marketing is supported when you implement third-party tools, but Big Commerce does give you the analytics you need to track the performance of your email marketing campaigns.

  • Compared to Shopify, it’s hard to recommend Big Commerce to beginner eCommerce store owners, and Shopify is even better than Big Commerce in some areas when it comes to veteran store owners and store owners that are looking to scale their operations.

Volusion

Volusion offers an easy to use interface, and a great customer support team, but does tend to get complicated when you start scaling your store or need to reach out to the community for support.

Volusion Ratings

  • Pricing (8 / 10)
  • Mobile Friendly (7 / 10)
  • Ease of Use (8 / 10)
  • ​Built-In Templates (7 / 10)
  • ​Apps & Add-ons (7 / 10)
  • ​Customer Service (8 / 10)
  • ​SEO Performance (7 / 10)
  • ​Scalability (6 / 10)
  • ​Marketing Materials (8 / 10)
  • ​Payment Processors (8 / 10)
  • ​Community Support (6 / 10)
  • Email Marketing (7 / 10)
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Volusion offers the features that beginners need to start their eCommerce empire, but does have issues when it comes to growing that empire and scaling into including more products and driving large amounts of traffic to your store.

In terms of pricing, Volusion offers a few different tiers, depending on how many products you’re hosting in your store. You could find yourself being upgraded to the next tier, though, if you drive too much traffic to your store -- which is something to keep in mind when you’re starting.

Volusion designs and templates are mobile friendly, and their dashboard is relatively easy to use, but if you want to completely customize your store or add new features, you will need to hire a developer unless you are comfortable with design and development.

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The Volusion customer support team is helpful, but we’ve found that they take longer to respond to requests than the team at Shopify.

Volusion’s servers are robust and they offer fast load speeds, but the templates they provide with your account aren’t necessarily the best for SEO purposes. You could be required to tweak the templates to get them to rank higher in the search engines.

When it comes to scaling your store, you are going to need to upgrade your account to a higher pricing tier, and their servers are not necessarily the greatest for handling large amounts of traffic on a regular basis.

Marketing your store will require you to get creative, because Volusion does not currently offer any type of built-in features to help get in front of your target audience.

They do integrate with various different marketing tools, and offer support for most major payment processors, so it’s possible to integrate those third-party tools into your store for increased functionality.

Volusion doesn’t have the same robust community that Shopify has, which makes it hard to get support and connect with like-minded individuals who are using the same platform to grow their eCommerce empire.

  • When you’re comparing Volusion to Shopify, Shopify offers more competitive pricing, an easier-to-use dashboard, and scales better than Volusion, which makes Shopify a much better solution for eCommerce business owners in 2017.

Squarespace

Squarespace offers a ton of attractive templates with an easy-to-navigate dashboard and affordable pricing, but can cause issues with SEO.

Squarespace Ratings

  • Pricing (8 / 10)
  • Mobile Friendly (9 / 10)
  • ​Ease of Use (8 / 10)
  • ​Built-In Templates (7 / 10)
  • ​Apps & Add-ons (7 / 10)
  • ​Customer Service (8 / 10)
  • ​SEO Performance (6 / 10)
  • ​Scalability (8 / 10)
  • ​Marketing Materials (6 / 10)
  • ​Payment Processors (8 / 10)
  • Community Support (7 / 10)
  • Email Marketing (6 / 10)
Squarespace horizontal logo

Squarespace currently offers 2 different pricing structures, which are more expensive than Shopify, but do make it possible for you to get started without busting your budget.

Their templates are mobile friendly and easy to optimize to rank higher in the search engines without needing to hire a developer to solve problems that should have already been taken care of by the platform’s developers.

Their dashboard is harder to navigate than what Shopify currently offers, so you could find yourself getting confused. Once you get the hang of how they operate and can find your way around their dashboard, though, it becomes fairly intuitive to use.

Squarespace platform

You can add new features and functionality to your store through the use of their built-in add-ons and apps, but the number of apps they offer to subscribers could use some work.

SquareSpace servers do load your store quickly, so you won’t have to deal with negative SEO impacts of slow load speeds, but the templates they offer are somewhat cluttered, which makes it harder to truly optimize them to rank higher in the search engines.

Scaling your store is easy, but you are going to be required to upgrade your account to unlock the advanced features that Shopify includes with all their subscription packages.

SquareSpace also integrates with most major payment processors, so you can accept payments from customers all around the world.

When it comes to marketing your store, though, you are on your own. SquareSpace doesn’t currently have the tools most store owners are going to use to help get the word out about their products, which means you’re going to need to rely on third-party marketing tools.

Integrating your email marketing strategies into SquareSpace will, again, require you to use third-party tools because SquareSpace currently doesn’t offer any built-in email marketing apps or functionality.

  • Squarespace does have a fairly robust community that stands behind it, but it’s not nearly as large as the community that Shopify currently boasts.

Which eCommerce Platform Should You Use To Build Your First Store?

As it stands right now, Shopify is currently the best eCommerce platform available for both beginner eCommerce store owners as well as veteran store owners looking to scale their eCommerce empire.

They offer competitive pricing, a huge database filled with templates, apps, and add-ons to give your store the look and functionality it needs, and are fully mobile friendly and easy to optimize to rank in the search engines.

The Shopify community and customer support team makes it easy (and enjoyable) to grow your store and overcome any problems you may have while you’re building your business.

While most of the companies we’ve featured here have their perks and are great companies, we believe that Shopify is currently leading the industry and the remaining companies could be improved in certain areas.

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