The Best Ecommerce Software
How We Found the Best Ecommerce Software
64 platforms evaluated
9 features tested
4 top picks
The best ecommerce software provides a suite of services that take you from day one (choosing a URL) — to the end goal (closing sales). We looked at 64 of the most popular ecommerce software providers, and ranked them on scope and quality of services. Our four top picks are full-service providers that will help you build a successful site and business.
How We Chose the Best Ecommerce Software
“Hosting” is the service that allows you to purchase a domain name and get your website up and running — it’s the basis of any successful ecommerce software. We looked for companies that guarantee excellent hosting. That means more than 99% uptime, ensuring your website will always be accessible. It also means the software automatically backs up and restores your website multiple times per day, to make sure all your information is saved; including orders, products, photos, and customer records. In addition, we required unlimited data storage and unlimited bandwidth. You shouldn’t have to contend with size and usage restrictions as your business grows.
In order to protect your assets, your information, and your clients’ information, ecommerce software companies need to take specific security measures. Most allow you to set administrator permissions, meaning you can control which employees have access to which parts of the site. All ecommerce software should also come with a free SSL certificate, providing standard web-based encryption. Finally, we made sure our top picks are compliant with Payment Card Industry Data Security Systems (PCI-DSS). This ensures that all payments made on your site are totally secure.
We looked for ecommerce platforms that can help you master your website-building skills. Some of our favorite software, like BigCommerce, provide excellent FAQs, knowledge bases, and live webinars. And, when you run into a hitch, the best ecommerce companies include email, live chat, phone, and social media support. Having access to your provider through multiple channels can be a huge help when troubleshooting different issues.
The best ecommerce platforms provide templates that allow you to personalize your site without weeding through a ton of HTML. GoDaddy, for example, offers over 800 customizable templates. Some top-tier ecommerce software will also provide access to a professional designer. They must also provide a content management system (CMS) that allows you to easily upload new pages, edit existing content, add photos, and more.
The most effective ecommerce software acts as an in-house marketing pro. It creates useful product displays, taking advantage of side-by-side comparison and cross-selling to boost product awareness. It also displays ratings and reviews and showcases popular items. In doing so, your ecommerce software maximizes profit for each customer that comes to the site. The software upsells your products — and you don’t have to lift a finger.
This refers to the range of features that allow customers to select items, view their cart, continue shopping, and eventually follow through with the purchase. Having a smooth shopping cart experience is a big part of what keeps your customers happy — if it’s a hassle to use, you may not make the sale. The best shopping carts, like Volusion’s, allow for customers to make both personal and guest accounts, apply discounts, and check out on a single page. They should also be fully functional on mobile devices — in 2017, over 40% of online sales were made on mobile devices.
Tracking and processing orders one by one can be incredibly time-consuming. Ecommerce software should facilitate this process by updating your inventory, sending automatic confirmations, and tracking canceled and returned orders.
The best ecommerce software also allows for a wide variety of payment options. Ideally, it should be able to process several types of credit cards, PayPal, and newer payment systems like Apple Pay and Google Wallet. You should never lose a sale because your ecommerce software won’t accept the customer’s card. Come shipping time, the software should calculate rates automatically and give options to upgrade for faster shipping.
E-commerce software should track everything that happens on your website — customer profiles and activity, sales and revenue, site performance — and then share that information with you. This provides valuable insight into the types of customers visiting your site and what they’re looking for. Platforms like Shopify pair analytics with marketing tools, so you can put that data to work right away.
Affiliate programs, email marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO) are just a few of the tools that can help promote your site. Social media integration is a big help, too. Links that allow customers to share a page on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest can bring more visitors to your site organically.
The 4 Best Ecommerce Platforms
- Shopify -
Best for Most People
- GoCentral Online Store -
Best Website Design Tools
- Volusion -
Best Shopping Cart Solution
- BigCommerce -
Best for Beginners
Why we chose it
Shopify offers superior customer support throughout the whole site-building process. It has an extensive collection of learning resources — manuals, a knowledge base, and even an ‘E-commerce University’ feature — that make website building easy, even for beginners. And once your site is up and running, these resources teach you how to increase revenue and generate more web traffic. We also loved how Shopify provides access to Community Forums, so you can share and learn alongside other business owners.
Along with its learning resources, Shopify brings an excellent marketing toolkit to the table. SEO functionality will help boost your site in Google’s rankings, and integrated social media makes it easy to get free shares through your customers.
Shopify also integrates with MailChimp, which allows you to send targeted email campaigns to your subscribers, informing them about sales and new products. And, singing up automatically gets you $100 in Google ad credits and $50 in Facebook advertising — making it easy to get the word out about your site right away. Coupled with Shopify’s analytics and reporting functions, you’re armed with a full arsenal of marketing insight and capabilities.
Large selection of templates
Finally, Shopify has an impressive selection of website templates — most of which are available for free. You’ll be able to choose from a long list of themes to truly personalize your website. It also offers templates with specific features, like a mobile-friendly interface and drop-down menus, that make your site more user-friendly. If you do decide to pay for an upgraded template, you can choose one of Shopify’s Guaranteed Themes, which are fully refundable within a week.
Points to consider
No free product comparison tool
For any customer trying to decide between two or three different products, a comparison tool can be a great asset. Most of the ecommerce platforms we looked at provide some form of comparison capabilities for free with a subscription. Unfortunately, Shopify currently charges an extra $5 per month for this feature. It’s certainly not a dealbreaker, but we would have liked to see it included in its base plans.
Why we chose it
Large selection of templates
Our favorite thing about GoDaddy's platform, GoCentral, is its exceptional collection of website templates. Its software allows you to choose from over 800 website designs — far more than most companies offer — and the customization doesn’t stop there. You can change font, choose a color scheme, upload your company logo, change the background image, and more.
Customized navigation styles
Also unique to GoDaddy is the option to select a navigation style. You can choose how many products appear in a row or on a single page, and have a little more control over the shopping experience. This is especially important for companies that offer a large number of products and might want to get more hands-on with the product layout.
GoDaddy’s ecommerce software comes with a robust shopping cart solution. It’s simple and to-the-point, with a one-page checkout system. It supports multiple payment options, international currencies, and foreign languages, so all your customers will feel right at home. And, it’s fully mobile-friendly, so customers can make purchases on the fly.
Points to consider
Can’t search templates
While GoDaddy’s 800 website design templates are undeniably impressive, it’s hard to take full advantage of that breadth. There’s no template search feature, so you have to manually scroll to find the one you like. The whole process is a little more time-consuming than, say, Shopify’s.
Why we chose it
We were extremely impressed with Volusion’s high-end shopping cart software. It’s loaded with features: Personal and guest profiles, wish lists, and a unique pop-up list that lets shoppers view their cart without leaving the page. The cart experience is also mobile compatible and available in multiple languages, like GoDaddy’s, so it’s accessible for a wider range of customers. At the end, one-page checkout makes the purchase process quick and painless.
Easy to learn
If you’re new to ecommerce and website building, you’ll love Volusion’s easy-to-navigate interface. You have quick access to video tutorials and other online resources, which are located directly on the dashboard. These offer advice on building your store, expanding it, and everything in between. Volusion also makes site design blissfully simple — just choose a template, click ‘Install,’ then ‘Activate,’ and you’re off (you can even preview the template first). For beginners, or users who want to be more hands-off with site design, this simplicity is key.
Post to social media
Volusion offers a variety of resources designed to help you market your online store. One of these marketing tools is an interface that allows you to create messages that are automatically posted to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can add links to products and categories and submit content to both websites with one click.
Points to consider
It’s worth noting that Volusion is a bit pricier than our other top picks. Plans with unlimited products and storage start at $35 per month, compared to $29 per month for Shopify’s equivalent plan. The company does, however, offer a free trial option— a nice perk for new users who want to take their ecommerce software for a spin before committing fully to it.
No blogging platform
Although Volusion offers several marketing resources, they don’t currently offer a blogging platform. Blogging can be a low-cost way to build relationships with your customers, drive traffic to your website, and establish a better online presence. Volusion websites can link to external blogs, enabling you to use common blog hosting services like WordPress or Blogger, but accessing your blog through your ecommerce portal would be ideal.
Why we chose it
BigCommerce offers similar educational resources to some of our other top picks: User guides, video tutorials, and FAQs that help you build your site. However, this platform goes above and beyond by providing access to its ‘Success Squad.’ This group of ecommerce experts are around to answer all your questions on a personal level, and help you out step-by-step when a tutorial just won’t cut it.
Third-party selling integration
Through the marketing tab on the main menu, BigCommerce allows you to easily integrate with Facebook, eBay, or shopping comparison sites like Nextag, PriceGrabber, and others. Operating an ecommerce store can be a competitive business, so having the ability to integrate with other websites can increase exposure and help your business grow. Any feature that facilitates this process is a great bonus.
Free trial without credit card
Getting hands-on experience with ecommerce software through a free trial is the best way to find out if the solution is going to work for your circumstances. Unlike our other picks, BigCommerce provides free access to its ecommerce platform without requiring a credit card.
Points to consider
Limited email marketing options
BigCommerce is a fairly comprehensive ecommerce software, but relative to other top ecommerce platforms, the functionality built into it is limited. BigCommerce provides email marketing capabilities, but the software is designed to have you work through Constant Contact, iContact, MailChimp, and Interspire, which all require you to have an additional paid account, while most platforms handle this feature directly.
No affiliate program
When you’re managing an online store, affiliate marketing can be a powerful tool to help drive traffic to your website and increase sales. Unfortunately, BigCommerce doesn’t provide an affiliate tracking option. There is an integration option that may satisfy this gap, but it will come at an additional cost. If you know affiliate marketing will be a big part of your advertising plan, BigCommerce may not be the best fit.
How to choose the right ecommerce platform for your needs
The price for ecommerce software can go well beyond the monthly fee. While some companies just charge a flat monthly rate for their services, most have other fees and expenses you’ll have to take into account. Before you start shopping around, determine what would be a reasonable portion of your business’s budget to dedicate to an ecommerce platform, and proceed with that number in mind.
Choose a website theme
Chances are, the product you’re selling will determine a lot about how you want your online store to look. As you’re browsing each platform’s existing templates, think about how they would fit your business’s aesthetic. If one template feels like a perfect match, it could overrule other minor drawbacks from the platform.
Assess shipping discounts
Many ecommerce platforms offer shipping discounts that could provide significant savings for businesses selling physical products. Shopify, for example, provides shipping labels at a lower price, and it has deals with USPS, UPS, and DHL Express for discounted shipping rates. If your business will be shipping a lot of packages, this is definitely worth factoring into your search.
Test several platforms
Once you’ve homed in on a few ecommerce platforms that fit your budget and offer all your must-have tools, it’s time to take them out for a test drive. All of our top picks have at least a 14-day free trial, and it’s worth having your team take advantage of them. You might find that there’s consensus around one interface or tool that everyone really likes using, which can act as a tiebreaker for otherwise equal products.
Ecommerce Software FAQs
The Best Ecommerce Software: Summed Up
|Credit card fees||
Basic plan: 2.9% + $0.30
Advanced plan: 2.4% + $0.30