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.

The 4 Best Ecommerce Platforms

Best for Most People
Shopify
Shopify
Full-range features, great learning tools, plenty of templates, and a seamless shopping experience — Shopify has it all.
Pros
Learning resources
Marketing tools
Large selection of templates
Cons
No free product comparison tool

Why we chose it

Learning resources

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.

Marketing tools

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.

Best Website Design Tools
GoCentral Online Store
GoDaddy
GoDaddy's platform stands out for having 800+ website design options and great marketing tools.
Pros
Large selection of templates
Customized navigation styles
Shopping cart
Cons
Can’t search templates

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.

Shopping cart

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.

Best Shopping Cart Solution
Volusion
Volusion
One-page, multilingual, multi-payment shopping cart options make the checkout experience truly seamless.
Pros
Shopping cart
Easy to learn
Post to social media
Cons
Price
No blogging platform

Why we chose it

Shopping cart

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

Price

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.

Best for Beginners
BigCommerce
BigCommerce
Personalized, live support and a free trial option make this software friendly to first-time users.
Pros
Customer support
Third-party selling integration
Free trial without credit card
Cons
Limited email marketing options
No affiliate program

Why we chose it

Customer support

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

Calculate costs

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

Does my website need an SSL certificate?

If your website accepts direct credit card payments, you’ll need an SSL certificate. SSL certificates enable encrypted communications between your website and your customers’ web browsers, which is absolutely crucial for credit card transactions. SSL certificates are standard across the e-commerce industry. In fact, all kinds of websites that transmit valuable personal and business information utilize SSL certificates. A website with an SSL certificate is a website people can trust.

What’s the difference between e-commerce software and shopping cart software?

Shopping cart software is designed to add standard online shopping functionality to a website, enabling shoppers to accumulate items in a virtual basket and pay for them all at once at the end of the visit. On the other hand, e-commerce software provides a complete framework for online selling, including everything from a website and store design to marketing and SEO.

Do you need to have a technical background to create an e-commerce website?

While a technical background certainly helps speed up the learning process, just about anyone who’s a proficient computer and Internet user can employ e-commerce software to create and operate an online store.

Most e-commerce software companies provide a variety of ready-to-use store templates and simplified tools to enable you to create and manage a professional-quality website without spending weeks learning the finer points of web design and computer programming. The best companies also provide plenty of educational materials and customer support options to help you overcome just about any technical problem you might stumble upon.

The Best Ecommerce Software: Summed Up

Shopify
GoCentral Online Store
Volusion
BigCommerce
The Best
Learning Resources
Website Design Tools
Shopping Cart Solution
For Beginners
Starting price
$29/month
$20/month
$15/month
$30/month
Free trial
14 days
1 month
14 days
15 days
Credit card fees

Basic plan: 2.9% + $0.30

Advanced plan: 2.4% + $0.30
2.5% + $0.25
2.15% + $0.34
2.9% + $0.30
24/7 support