One of the coolest, although tedious, parts of ecommerce is that the trends are constantly changing. The same goes for ecommerce software, considering you have hundreds of options to choose from, and each of the companies (whether opensource or not) are shifting their pricing schemes, adding new features and thinking of new ways to make it easier for you to sell your items online.
For example, you may not have known that both Shopify and Bigcommerce have changed their pricing models in the past two years. This is a huge change for those just getting started with ecommerce, because budgets are always tight. It’s also a must-know for established online stores, considering you may want to migrate your store to a new platform if the features are offered for a better value elsewhere.
Regardless, ecommerce software trends morph just like the industry it resides in. Therefore, we want to analyze the best ecommerce platforms you can find in 2016. We’ll compare how the following systems match-up in terms of price, design, features, backend, frontend and support:
Keep reading to learn about the best ecommerce software choices for 2016.
What are the Current Needs of a Top Notch Ecommerce Site in 2016 (Compared to 2015 and Before)
Looking at the current landscape of ecommerce, it’s clear that many things have changed in the past few years. Customers have learned to expect benefits like free shipping and returns, and they require the utmost attention when speaking to them through the support lines. Not only that, but customers have a seemingly endless supply of information, so they can make comparisons before buying from you. This means that customers are informed, therefore putting pressure on you to know the right answers and offer quality support.
Looking at the past few years of ecommerce, it becomes clear as to what the current needs are for a top notch online store:
- A reasonable platform price for tons of built-in features.
- Access to apps for scaling up.
- Modern designs that don’t require you to touch any code.
- A backend with simple buttons and support guides to walk you through the process.
- An ecommerce software support team that is always available when you need them.
Ecommerce Software Price
- Cheapest – $29 per month
- Middle – $79 per month
- Most Expensive – $179 per month
Shopify also offers a Lite Plan for $9 per month, but it’s rather watered down. You don’t get a full online store, but rather the use of the Shopify Buy button, which works for selling online, but transactions get processed through Shopify and not your own payment processor.
- Cheapest – $29.95 per month
- Middle – $79.95 per month
- Most Expensive – $199.95 per month
Bigcommerce is a little more expensive on most fronts, but it’s mainly because the majority of the frontend and backend features are built-into the system. So, whereas you’ll be paying roughly the same for a mid-range Bigcommerce site as you would with Shopify, you’d need more apps to reach the feature set you’d find with Bigcommerce.
- Cheapest – $15
- Middle – $75
- Most Expensive – $135
Volusion also has a plan called Plus, which runs for $35 per month. It’s a nice middle ground for those companies that only need around 1,000 products, considering the cheapest plan has 100 products and the middle plan jumps all the way to 10,000. We like the cheapest plan from Volusion because it’s great for small businesses and inventors who don’t want to spend too much money. However, the other plans start to align with Shopify and Bigcommerce, and those other platforms have better features.
- Cheapest – $16.17 per month
- Most Expensive – $24.92 per month
WIX only has two plans that support ecommerce selling. It’s one of the cheapest solutions you can find on the market. In fact, the cheapest is just slightly more expensive than Volusion, and the most expensive WIX plan is actually closer to the price range of the cheapest plans from other ecommerce software options. The low pricing is mainly because the tools are pretty rudimentary, and you won’t get the customization options you’ll find elsewhere.
- Cheapest – $26 per month
- Most Expensive – $70 per month
Squarespace also has only two plans for you to choose form if you’re building an ecommerce site. The cheapest plan sits somewhere in the middle compared to the competition, and the most expensive plan is around the price of the mid-range plans from places like Volusion, Bigcommerce and Shopify. It’s clear that the pricing is setup to help out smaller to midsize businesses, since the ecommerce software functionality was implemented long after the company launched as a website builder.
Ecommerce Software Backend Features
The Shopify backend is great for those who have worked with WordPress in the past. Basically, the system provides a few tabs on the side for you to manage items like taxes, notifications, products and payments. Creating a product is super simple, since you can play with things like gift cards, collections, SEO and shipping. In general, the Shopify backend is more user friendly than that of all of the solutions outlined here. It’s great for beginners, and advanced users can go in there and change around coding if needed.
Bigcommerce looks very similar to Shopify on the backend. That said, it includes more built-in features that you would have to find through an app on Volusion or Shopify. This is an advantage for more advanced users, but novices may find it a little intimidating. Overall, the product pages are clean and they offer fields for details, images, videos, inventory and more.
The Volusion backend has improved over the years, but I’d still put it under that of places like Squarespace and Shopify, since it can confuse people when trying to modify simple design items. For example, they show unnecessary code when there should really just be a button for uploading an image or changing a color. Creating a product is the easiest part, since you have access to fields for pricing levels, images, codes, pricing and titles. In fact, one could argue that the product settings are some of the most powerful in the industry.
The WIX backend is the most rudimentary of them all, using a drag and drop editor that seems to improve every year. Extreme beginners will love this interface, but it’s not that great for people who want to dive deep into customization. In short, you can access buttons for changing things like backgrounds, logos, apps and products, and it all resides on one page. I’ve noticed it to be a little finicky with moving around elements, but that’s a downside of the drag and drop editor.
The Squarespace backend consolidates everything you need on the left hand side, making it easy to find what you need. Product details are fine, but I wouldn’t expect anything like you would find in Bigcommerce. The dashboard has links to areas for social media, permissions, domains, SEO and products, so it’s rather simple to move around. In terms of cleanliness and simplicity, we would rank this as number one. However, the features don’t match what you find in Volusion, Shopify or Bigcommerce.
Ecommerce Software Design
Shopify has one of the more plentiful theme collections you can find, with around 21 free and 116 paid solutions. They look great, and you can connect apps to make them even better with tools for social media, email marketing and more. The only tough part with Shopify is that you’ll find many themes that are similar in style, so the 116 count is a little exaggerated. However, it still has the top designs out of the five platforms here.
Bigcommerce is a close second to Shopify when it comes to design, because you get access to about 42 paid and 16 free themes. They look absolutely wonderful in terms of cleanliness and modernism. The one area that stands out in terms of design is that you can connect via FTP for advanced changes, which is not available through Shopify.
The Volusion theme designs are nice, but they aren’t as modern as Shopify, Squarespace or Bigcommerce. You can find over 100 themes to choose from, some free, some paid. They look a little basic in our opinion, but the big problem is that you are generally stuck with the designs since code customization is limited.
The WIX online store themes have a common trend of placing the logo right in the middle and keeping everything simple with product galleries and basic menus. They look sleek, but you can only choose from 36 of them, and some of the themes are catered to certain industries, minimizing their effectiveness for all markets.
Squarespace has the prettiest themes on the market. Hands down. Most of them feature large image headers or sliders with lots of visuals to grab attention when people land on your site. That’s about all we can say about that. Squarespace has the best themes. The problem? The company only has eight online store themes for you to choose from. They certainly focus on quality over quantity.
Ecommerce Software Apps and Add-ons
Shopify provides the largest selection of apps you can find. From accounting to email marketing apps, they are all mainstream, and they integrate with a simple click of the button. Some of them you have to pay for, but a wide selection of free apps are ideal for expanding your online presence and making your site look awesome. Overall, none of the other solutions can beat out the Shopify app store.
Bigcommerce is pretty close to Shopify in terms of apps, but there aren’t as many offerings, and we feel like you can’t find many mainstream apps. Keep in mind, however, that Bigcommerce provides most of the features you’ll need, without the help of apps. So, you generally don’t even have to go to the app store.
Can you find accounting, email and social apps through Volusion? Yes. Are they mainstream tools that are proven useful? Not exactly. The Volusion app store is still in beta, and it shows. Although the apps integrate seamlessly, they’re not exactly what we would call impressive.
The WIX app store is huge, but the ecommerce section is far from that. Sure, you get some handy tools for things like eBay connections and social offers, but WIX has lots of work to do to catch up to Bigcommerce and Shopify.
Squarespace doesn’t have apps. Simple as that. The goal with Squarespace is to create a stylish, clean and beautiful ecommerce store, so it seems like the company is more focused on that than cluttering your website.
Ecommerce Software Support
Shopify has one of the top support teams, considering it provides documentation, forums, a blog and social media outlets for getting in contact. The primary support lines are open 24/7, and you can do email, live chat or phone calls.
Bigcommerce support has a resource center with tutorials and videos, along with an in-depth video series called Bigcommerce University. The community forum is great for chatting with other users, while the blog and knowledge base provide handy answers to your most pressing questions. Chat, email and phone support is available at all times of the day.
The Volusion resource center is packed with links to guide you through the design process. You also gain access to phone, email and chat support, most of which are provided for 24/7. Keep in mind that the phone line is local for the US, UK and AU, so you’ll have to stick with standard times for that. Other than that you can find videos, social media posts and other cool content, making it one of the most personable support teams on this list.
WIX is my least favorite of the support teams. Although their support center, blog and forum are built to serve you well, I’ve sent in tickets several times in the past with troubling results. The contact page is a pain in the rear to sift through, and they have a system where you need to schedule a phone call with a rep. This is not convenient in my opinion.
The Squarespace knowledge base is still building, but it gives you the primary details you need. You can also find community answers and videos to play around with. The company tries hard to direct you to the knowledge base, but if that can’t solve your problems it will present email and live chat outlets. Live chat is available from 3am to 8pm EST Monday through Friday, and the email support is always open. Although you can’t access the team all the time, they are super nice to speak with through the live chat.
Which Ecommerce Software Should You Pick?
All of these comparisons might be a tad overwhelming, so it’s time to outline the scenarios in which you might want to choose some of these software options over the others. In terms of best overall value, I recommend the cheaper Shopify plan. When it comes strictly to pricing, WIX is the cheapest (which reflects in the support quality to be honest). Bigcommerce is going to take the most out of your pocket, and most of the higher priced plans are always going to be expensive.
If you plan on using lots of apps, we recommend Shopify by a long shot, and the support teams are generally equal, except for WIX. We haven’t had much success with WIX support, but Shopify, Volusion, Squarespace and Bigcommerce are all solid. The only problem with Squarespace is that they aren’t 24/7.
Now, let us know in the comments section if you have any questions!