Which Platform Can Support Your First eCommerce Store In 2017?

When you’re building your first eCommerce store, life can be exciting.

Thinking about the possibilities and what’s in store for you can fill you with energy and that energy can sustain you through building your business and making your first sales.

As long as you choose the right eCommerce platform to build your business on.

Choose the wrong platform, and that motivating energy is going to turn to frustration as you work through technical hurdles and attempt to hack features into your store that should have already been included through the platform you’re building the store on.

Choose the right platform, though, and your life is going to be simple. You’ll have all the features you need without the need to hire a developer or spend long hours communicating back and forth with customer support just to get your store up and running.

Today, we’re going to break down some of the most popular eCommerce platforms and figure out how well they’re catered to beginners looking to start their first store.

We’re also going to be examining how well they’re able to sustain your store’s growth so you can continue scaling your operations without getting bogged down with limited features or a platform that isn’t tailored to large, more experienced businesses, too.

Here Are The 10 Platforms We’re Going To Investigate

  • Shopify
  • Oberlo
  • ​BigCommerce
  • ​Magento
  • ​WooCommerce
  • ​Big Cartel
  • ​Volusion
  • Wix
  • ​Squarespace
  • Etsy

Here Are The Features We Believe Beginners Need

There are countless different powerful eCommerce platforms available in 2017.

However, very few of those platforms have managed to maintain the balance between being great for beginners while still allowing them to scale as their business grows.

That’s why we’re looking for a specific set of features to ensure you can get started quickly, but that you can also grow your store without worrying about switching platforms down the road.

Here are some of the features we believe beginners need, and some features that experienced eCommerce business owners are going to need as their store grows.

eCommerce features for beginners

Hosted

We believe you should only need 1 platform to house your eCommerce store, so that you do not have too many moving parts and potential problems to overcome as you’re getting started. A hosted platform is all-inclusive and will not require you to have any additional accounts.

Templates

You need to be able to make your eCommerce store unique and feel different than other eCommerce stores if you want to stand out in competitive markets. We’ve looked for platforms that offer you multiple templates that are simple to install and configure.

Intuitive Interface

You should need a Master’s degree in Computer Sciences to figure out how to build your first store. We want to ensure that you can move around the platform’s interface and start building your store without requiring extensive help from outside parties, like customer service.

24 / 7 Customer Support

There could be times you find yourself having issues and need to receive help without waiting days for a response. We want to see that customer service is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, and that they respond quickly to support requests.

Add-Ons & Apps

You may find yourself needing features that aren’t offered in your barebones store. Add-Ons and Apps that are included with your subscription can help you add the features you’re looking for and increase the functionality of an otherwise basic eCommerce store.

Affordability

Until your store is turning a profit, you should be able to keep expenses to a minimum. Expensive eCommerce platforms make it hard to focus on growing your store when you’re focusing so much of your effort on limiting expenses before you’re turning a profit.

Analytics

Without knowing how your store is performing, you’re going to be operating blindly. Most eCommerce platforms provide built-in Analytics, but their dashboard is bulky and hard to use. We want to see that the Analytics are clear and concise, making it easy to guide your decisions.

Payment Processors

Taking payments from customers around the world may require you to implement multiple different payment processors, so we want to find platforms that have built-in support for each of these methods of payment.

Easy To Scale

With the right platform, it should be easy to grow your store. Platforms that become bulky and hard to organize as your store grows will only make your life difficult, which is why we want to see platforms that are simple to scale and easy to manage as your store gets bigger.

Marketing Tools

Implementing marketing strategies is on you, as a store owner, but the platform you’re using should make your job of marketing the store easier. We’re looking for platforms that make SEO easy, and have built-in tools to help you with marketing your business.

So Which Platform Can Support Your First Store?

Now that you know the features that we’re looking for, which eCommerce platforms actually provide those features and make your life easier as a new store owner?

Platform for first eCommerce store

Below is each of the stores we’ve considered, as well as their performance in each of the different areas we’ve tested them in.

Oberlo

Oberlo is one of the first eCommerce platforms that we’ve looked at because they’re beginning to make a name for themselves in the industry.

As of this being published, the company boasts helping their sellers move over 85 million products since 2015, which makes them a real player in the eCommerce sector.

However, they’re focused primarily on dropshipping businesses and dropshipping business owners.

Oberlo eCommerce platform

Their basic, free package offers enough features to get you started but does limit your store to 50 sales per month before you’re required to upgrade. Their prices quickly move upwards of $80 per month as your store grows and you need more features.

Pros

  • Affordable.
  • Decent customer service.
  • ​Easy to use interface.
  • Intuitive analytics.

Cons

  • Minimal templates.
  • Lacking add-ons and apps.
  • ​Semi-difficult to scale.
  • ​Lacking marketing tools.
  • ​Lack support for major payment processors.
  • Lacking community support.

Summary

Oberlo may be making waves in the eCommerce industry, but we do not believe they have the development needed to cater themselves toward the beginner market.

They’re focused primarily on dropshipping and moving into housing your own inventory is difficult, which means it could be difficult to grow your store as you start making sales and want to increase your profit margins.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce makes it easy to manage your eCommerce store, payments, order fulfillment, coupons, and analytics, and has the features that large stores need to scale.

Even though it’s easy for beginners to get started using BigCommerce, their platform is tailored more towards big brands that are growing rapidly and need to be able to quickly scale, and their prices reflect this.

BigCommerce dark logo

There are far better alternatives for people who are just getting started, or are looking for simpler, more intuitive platforms to use to keep their technical hurdles to a minimum.

Pros

  • Great customer support team.
  • Huge analytics dashboard, full of metrics.
  • ​Support for multiple payment processors.
  • Easy to scale your store.

Cons

  • Somewhat expensive.
  • Clunky interface.
  • ​Minimal add-ons and apps.
  • ​Overwhelming analytics.
  • ​Built toward scaling.
  • Minimal marketing tools.
  • Not beginner friendly.

Summary

It’s hard to recommend BigCommerce to beginners because, as the name implies, it’s catered more toward large brands and entrepreneurs that are looking to scale quickly.

Their dashboard can be confusing to use, and the metrics their analytics includes can be overwhelming for beginners.

BigCommerce has a great customer support team so they can help you work through problems you’re having, but we believe there are much better options available for beginners, even those that are looking to quickly scale their stores.

Magento

Magento is one of the smaller players in the eCommerce industry, currently housing around 30,000 merchant stores, ranging in size from mammoths like Samsung and Nespresso, to countless smaller merchants and independent sellers.

It’s free to download, and the free version requires you to install it on your own server, which makes it more difficult to use for beginners but does give you the option of scaling and working with a custom developer to build in the features you’ll need as your store grows in size.

Magento eCommerce platform

Magento is able to be hosted for you, but at a substantially higher price tag than what is available in the self-hosted version.

Pros

  • Easy to scale.
  • 24 / 7 customer service.
  • ​Support for numerous payment processors.
  • Many templates available.

Cons

  • Difficult to use interface.
  • Hosted version is expensive.
  • ​No built-in analytics.
  • ​Minimal marketing tools.
  • Add-ons require developer input.

Summary

When it comes to beginner eCommerce store owners, Magento is probably too far advanced and could break your budget if you need to hire a developer to handle the technical aspects of building your store.

If you’re just getting started, there are better, more user-friendly options available than what Magento currently offers.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce has become a major player in the eCommerce industry because it has piggybacked on the success that WordPress has seen.

WordPress is currently one of the most commonly used blogging platforms, and many bloggers and store owners are beginning to rely on WordPress to host their eCommerce store.

WooCommerce color logo

While WordPress does tend to make it easy for beginners to get started blogging, attaching a WooCommerce installation onto WordPress can make things difficult.

For instance, scaling a WooCommerce store can be difficult because it utilizes the same database that WordPress uses, which means that as your site grows and your store grows, your site and store’s loading speeds are going to drop.

Pros

  • Decent-sized community.
  • Free version available.
  • Plenty of templates available.

Cons

  • Requires a WordPress installation.
  • Minimal customer support.
  • ​Minimal built-in analytics.
  • ​No marketing tools.
  • ​Scaling can be difficult.
  • Minimal add-ons and apps.
  • Self-hosted solution.

Summary

Even though WooCommerce has a good community to back it up and is built on the back of one of the most reliable and easy-to-use blogging platforms currently available, the downsides of WooCommerce outweigh the upside potential.

You are relying entirely on WordPress and WooCommerce to work together, which adds more moving pieces to the puzzle and more potential for things to break under heavy loads -- like sending a large amount of traffic to the store.

Big Cartel

Big Cartel is relatively new to the eCommerce industry, but looking to make a name for themselves, being tailored to beginner eCommerce store owners.

The platform is hosted and built with SEO and Facebook marketing in mind, making it easy for you to drive traffic to your store.

Unfortunately, SEO and Facebook traffic is the extent of the marketing tools included with Big Cartel.

Big Cartel eCommerce platform

It is one of the cheaper eCommerce options currently available, ranging from free for smaller, basic stores, to $29.99 per month for larger, more expansive stores.

Pros

  • Easy to get started.
  • Intuitive user interface.
  • ​Affordable -- free for basic stores.
  • Decent customer support.

Cons

  • Limited payment processor support.
  • Lack of templates.
  • ​Minimal marketing tools.
  • ​Difficult to scale.
  • ​Lacking community support.
  • ​Nearly zero analytics.
  • Lack of add-ons and apps.

Summary

Big Cartel is being built with beginners in mind, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s great for beginners. It offers an easy way to get started with an intuitive interface and attractive pricing packages, but that’s about where the perks end.

Their lack of support for most major payment processors, and inability to scale as your store grows, along with a lack of community support and requiring third-party analytics means there are much better solutions available when you’re just getting started in eCommerce.

Volusion

Volusion is currently one of the most feature-packed eCommerce platforms available, hosting nearly 100,000 stores in 2017. To get started, you don’t need to download anything or manage a server.

As of this writing, there is a free trial available for their platform, making it easy for you to test it before you commit to a fully paid membership.

They’re currently best suited towards beginners, which is great for getting started, but they do make it slightly more difficult than some other options when it comes to scaling your store and growing your eCommerce empire.

Volusion color logo

Pros

  • Dedicated 24 / 7 customer support.
  • Huge number of templates.
  • ​Large amount of features.
  • ​Support for most payment processors.
  • Built-in marketing tools.

Cons

  • Lacking community support.
  • Semi-difficult to navigate interface.
  • Complex & confusing analytics.

Summary

Volusion does offer advanced inventory manage and some features that other eCommerce platforms don’t offer, and while they’re catered towards beginners, they expect you to scale your store quickly.

With a lack of community support and a somewhat difficult to use interface, some beginners may be intimidated when they get started. The complex and confusing analytics can make it difficult to scale your store, even though Volusion is catered more towards entrepreneurs that are growing quickly.

Wix

Wix has positioned themselves as helping absolute beginners start their first store without facing the many technical hurdles that stand in their way with other eCommerce platforms.

With that being said, Wix is geared more towards building a website that can sell products instead of a devoted eCommerce store like so many other platforms we’ve featured.

WiX eCommerce platform

They have made it incredibly easy for beginners to get started with their drag and drop editor, and are currently one of the most popular website building platforms available.

Pros

  • A ton of templates available.
  • Easily affordable.
  • ​Simple to use interface.
  • Plenty of add-ons and apps.

Cons

  • Hard-to-reach customer support.
  • Minimal analytics.
  • ​Difficult to scale.
  • ​Minimal marketing tools.
  • Minimal support for major payment processors.

Summary

While being catered specifically to beginners can be a great deal for you when you’re just getting started, the level that Wix has taken it to makes it hard to scale your store as you’re ready to drive more traffic, increase your sales, and add new products to your catalog.

If you need a complete drag-and-drop solution or are 100% positive your store will stay small and not attract a large amount of traffic, Wix may be a decent solution.

Squarespace

Squarespace is positioning themselves as a lightweight way for beginners to get started selling products online, but their lightweight attitude comes with lightweight features, too.

It’s easy to build a visually appealing store with Squarespace, even if your options are limited, and they have a good customer support team to help you work through any technical hurdles you may find yourself dealing with.

Squarespace eCommerce platform

Their interface is simple to use, making it easy for you to add new products and choose the design that best fits with the brand that you’re beginning to build.

Pros

  • Affordable pricing.
  • Intuitive interface.
  • Good customer support team.

Cons

  • Minimal available templates.
  • Minimal add-ons and apps.
  • ​Minimal analytics.
  • ​Lacking support for many major payment processors.
  • ​Lacking extensive marketing tools.
  • Difficult to scale your store.

Summary

Like Wix, Squarespace is catered to beginners which means it’s incredibly simple to get started, but as you become more advanced you may be left wanting more from the platform.

They offer affordable packages and a simple-to-use interface but they do lack the large number of templates that some other platforms offer. You could also find yourself having difficulties when it comes to scaling or tracking the performance of your store.

Etsy

Etsy is currently a solid platform for sellers, and make it easy for beginners to get started, but their development is more catered towards people who are creating their own products -- like indie brands, artists, and hobbyists.

While it is possible to start a store on their platform using models like dropshipping or importing products and maintaining your own inventory, their community is more focused on the more creative types in the industry.

Etsy eCommerce platform

Pros

  • Simple to get started.
  • Easy to use interface.
  • ​Plenty of templates to customize your store.
  • ​Good customer support team.
  • ​Good community.
  • Affordable.

Cons

  • Lacking in add-ons and apps.
  • Clunky analytics.
  • ​Minimal payment processor support.
  • ​Can be difficult to scale.
  • Lacking in good marketing tools.

Summary

While Etsy is somewhat tailored toward beginners, their lack of add-ons and apps, their clunky analytics and lack of support for many of the different mainstream payment processors makes it hard to recommend them to most sellers.

As your store grows, you could find yourself facing difficulties scaling your operation, and end up looking for a different platform to house your store -- which means migrating all of your current products over to a different platform.

Shopify

Shopify is one of the current leaders in the eCommerce industry, with a simple-to-use interface that’s managed to toe the line between making it incredibly easy for beginners to get started while still offering the advanced features that experienced store owners are looking for.

They offer more than 100 different templates with countless different apps and add-ons so you can fully customize your store exactly as you see fit, without needing to hire a developer to help you pull it all together.

Shopify color logo

Scaling your store is simple with Shopify because they have made it possible for you to quickly add products and figure out which products aren’t performing the way you believe they should be performing.

Pros

  • A ton of different templates.
  • Easy-to-use interface.
  • ​24 / 7 customer support.
  • ​Huge community.
  • ​Countless add-ons and apps.
  • ​Affordable packages.
  • Support for major payment processors.

Cons

  • Somewhat clunky analytics.
  • Could use more marketing tools.

Summary

Shopify is an affordable way to get started building your eCommerce empire. They’re able to grow with you as your store and revenue grows.

While they’re an almost perfect solution for beginners and those store owners who are ready to scale, their analytics can take a bit of time to get used to and we believe they could use more marketing tools in their arsenal.

With this being said, they have an amazing community that can help you develop the marketing strategies you need to grow your store and when you spend a little bit of time in their dashboard, their analytics will become intuitive to use.

And The Winner Is…

It’s easy to see that Shopify is the clear winner for beginner eCommerce store owners in 2017.

They offer the most features, with the easiest to use interface and have been designed from the ground up specifically with beginners in mind.

Don’t let their beginner-friendly layout, features, and interface fool you, though.

Shopify currently houses hundreds of multi-million dollar eCommerce stores which means it is easy for your store to grow on their platform as you begin driving more traffic and add new products.

Best eCommerce platform

They make it simple for you to get started, and have a massive community of like-minded entrepreneurs who can help guide your way. If you get stuck and the community can’t help, their customer support team always has your back.

In our experience, you’re going to have a hard time finding an easier-to-use eCommerce platform than what Shopify is currently offering.

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