Top 5 Ecommerce Platforms & Shopping Cart Software: Shopify vs Volusion vs Bigcommerce vs Big Cartel vs 3dcart

In a market as saturated as the ecommerce platform market, it can be very difficult to figure out which shopping cart software best meets your needs. If you are considering starting your own store, then chances are you have already run into this struggle at some point. So far I have reviewed most popular platforms as individual offers, and created this comparison chart, then ranked all platforms after their SEO effectiveness, but now it is time to see how the different platforms compare to each other: Shopify, Bigcommerce, 3dcart, Volusion and Big Cartel.

In case you’re in a hurry, here are some links to our top ecommerce platforms for you to choose from:

Ecommerce Platform
Big Cartelbigcartel

Which of These Platforms is Most Popular?

If you’ve searched for a platform to run your ecommerce store, you’ve no doubt stumbled upon at least a few of the names we’re comparing today. Although popularity isn’t exactly the best motivating factor to make a decision that will affect your future business life, it’s certainly worth talking about, considering when large groups of people lean to a certain solution, we like to hope that it’s for a reason.

That said, if you take a look at a comparison on Google trends, Shopify is the clear winner in terms of what people are searching and how many people are showing interest in the five popular consumer solutions.

The 3dcart platform is, and has always been, at the bottom in terms of trending on Google. It’s interesting to point out that Bigcommerce has made a recent surge past the previous second place contender Big Cartel, and we’re certain it has to do with many of the changes Bigcommerce has implemented over the past few years.

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Hence, for popularity – or maybe because the Shopify pricing – this is the dominant company, which can also show that the their marketing team is probably a little stronger, or they have more money, so although you shouldn’t make a decision based primarily on popularity, I would argue there’s a reason Shopify is king and Bigcommerce is slowly on the rise.

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Another way to analyze popularity is to tie it in with where customers are going when they leave a certain ecommerce platform. The reason this is interesting is because it gives you an indicator of which of the companies have kept up with technologies and made improvements to bring in additional customers. A quick market share search on Shopify shows that the Shopify company is gaining most of its customers from Big Cartel and Volusion, but Shopify is losing most of its customers to Bigcommerce, an indicator that Bigcommerce is gunning for Shopify with its new features and marketing efforts.

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Ease of use

If you are a novice online store owner, then there is really nothing as important as ease of use. It doesn’t matter if the platform offers the most amazing features, if you don’t understand how to use them, then they might as well not even be there.

One thing that all of the platforms have in common is the fact that their dashboards are all very easy to navigate. Furthermore, most of the platforms offer some sort of a setup wizard that will guide you through the creation of your first store. Inventory management, design functionality and the setup process all tie into how the overall ease of use is classified in this article.


Shopify has it all in terms of an easy setup, with a handy dashboard area for quickly adding products, customizing the look of your site and more. It’s cool because Shopify asks you if you plan on moving from another platform during the signup process. The system then provides a link for importing products from your previous store. In the screenshot below you can see that Shopify is helping me move from a Magento store.

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Adding a product is clear and easy, with fields for titles, descriptions, price and more. The reason I think this is easier to use than Volusion and the other options is because it explains what each field is used for, removing all doubt when typing in information.

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Try Shopify


We talked a little bit about ease of use with Volusion above, but it’s worth noting that the company has a fairly clean product creation area. It might not be as pretty as Shopify, but it does the trick. The big problem is when you need to go back in and change the layout or design of your pages, since coding knowledge is almost a requirement.

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Try Volution


The 3dcart product setup page is the oldest looking of the bunch. It’s not that the module is confusing, but the junky design makes you wonder if they’ve updated it in a while.

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However, 3dcart offers wonderful tutorials and setup steps to help you do everything from picking a template to setting up your shipping options. The clean wizard is ideal for beginners.

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A 3dcart benefit is the drag and drop editor, which is not exactly the best on the market, but it helps you click and drag components instead of having to modify CSS or HTML code. If you’re a beginner without any design experience, this is a huge advantage, since you don’t have to settle for the preset template designs, and it doesn’t require you to go in there and modify any code for a simple adjustment.

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Try 3dcart

Big Cartel

Big Cartel offers the least visually-friendly startup area, since it’s not apparent what you should do right when you land on the page, and for some reason the text doesn’t really stand out that much.

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Big Cartel lacks a drag and drop editor like you would find in 3dcart, but the customization isn’t the worst thing in the world. All of your design elements are situated to the left, which is fine, but the tools are a little weak, and anything further than that requires coding knowledge.

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Try Big Cartel


Next to Shopify, Bigcommerce has the cleanest dashboard and clearest directions for getting your site built within a few minutes. In fact, the dashboard looks surprisingly similar to Shopify, with modules for accepting credit cards, customizing your store and more.

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Coding options are available in Bigcommerce, and the design features are quite handy, but I’d still rather have a drag and drop editor, which has not made its way to the Bigcommerce platform yet.

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Try Bigcommerce


For many people pricing is the most important factor, not only when deciding which ecommerce platform to use, but in general as they go through life. Personally, I feel if you are going to be investing a lot of your time and energy into creating your own online retail space, then there should be more important factors than saving $1 on the price of the platform.



As you can see in the table above, the cheapest plan offered on any of the platforms is without competition offered on Big Cartel, this package doesn’t cost a single dime. In general when looking at the pricing of Big Cartel you can see that even their most expensive plan costs as much as the cheapest plan with Shopify or BigCommerce.

When you look at the cheapest pricing tier, if you ignore Big Cartel, then you can see that Volusion offers the cheapest plan, while 3dcart comes in second, finally the two most popular platforms Shopify and Bigcommerce both charge around $30 for their services.

When you compare the middle pricing packages you can quickly see that there seems to be some sort of agreement that the price should be somewhere between $65 and $80.

For me what it really comes down is whether you are looking to sell just a few products or a large number of products, as well as which platforms offers the features you want for a reasonable price.

It’s also worth mentioning Shopify is best for those stores that plan on scaling up quick, since it provides the functionality to really handle large amounts of traffic and turn your site into something special.

Be warned that Bigcommerce has made some recent changes with its pricing structure, making it difficult for companies to scale up with the system. If you start to make more than $125,000 in revenue, Bigcommerce pretty much forces you to switch to an Enterprise plan. According to our reports from readers, this spikes your rates up to around $900 to $1,500 per month. It’s still unclear how this will affect those businesses who plan on remaining in the lower tiered pricing plans, but one thing is certain: Customers that surpass certain revenue points are not happy with Bigcommerce. We would put them on the bottom of our list if your company will end up with one of the most expensive plans.

That said, if you need a simple, small store, the cheaper Volusion or Big Cartel solutions work just fine. 


Let’s be honest: design matters, everyone knows if the design doesn’t appeal to the visitor then chances are they will take their shopping elsewhere. Remember what I said in one of the reviews, if the layout of your store looks horrible then even if your product is amazing, chances are people won’t pay attention to your products.

If you are looking for a platform that offers some of the most professional looking themes, then you should really be looking into Shopify, the truth is there is no platform that offers better themes than Shopify.

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Compared to Shopify and Bigcommerce, the collection of themes offered by 3dcart or Big Cartel shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same sentence. In fact, Bigcommerce themes are pretty remarkable, and as of March 23, 2016, around 67 new and responsive themes are being released for $145 to $235. You can find them in the theme store, and they were developed to establish a more modern, fluid user experience, utilizing cool new merchandising features for categorization and different sized catalogs.

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While 3dcart does offer a lot of themes, when you look closer you realize most of these themes are duplicates. Not to mention, the 3dcart themes aren’t exactly modern looking. In fact, one could argue that some of the themes look like they come from the 1990s, with fixed layouts, weird colors and cluttered interfaces.

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Big Cartel on the other hand only offers a grand total of nine themes (seen below). This is unacceptable, since unique branding is a huge part of selling online. In addition, the theme shop is only displayed in a small area to the left of where you modify your website, making it near impossible to view details on each theme or even see what the finished products would look like.

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While you might think that the number of themes offered by a platform isn’t such a big deal. You need to remember that if your store lacks originality, such as having the same theme as 50 other stores, then customers are quick to attribute this to poor quality management from the store owner. This is much more likely to make them leave your site without even giving you a fair shot.

Apps and Add-ons

If you are looking for a platform that offers a large selection of apps and add-ons then you should really go with Shopify or Bigcommerce, both companies offer more than 100 different apps and add-ons that can easily be integrated into your store. Another solution would be to sign up with 3cart who also offers access to apps and add-ons, however, they do not offer as many as Shopify or Bigcommerce.

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Another thing to keep in mind is how easy it is to search for the apps and add-ons, considering you probably have a few items in mind that you want to add to your store. Maybe you need an automated email receipt solution or an app that helps you build a loyalty program. With Shopify and Bigcommerce you can search, filter and browse through categories when in need of a certain app. The other ecommerce solutions either make it super hard to do so, or you don’t have the functionality at all.

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If access to additional apps and add-ons are important then I don’t recommend signing up with either Volusion or Big Cartel. The first company offers a grand total of one app, while the latter doesn’t offer any apps at all.

Customer Support

Chances are you will need support at some point in your ecommerce career, it is therefore important to be familiar with the different support offers from the companies.

Shopify and 3dcart both offer 24/7 support through phone as well as chat and email. Bigcommerce offers 24/7 email and chat support, however, their phone support comes with time constraints.

The one company who doesn’t seem to offer phone or chat support would be Big Cartel who only offers email support, and what’s more they only offer it Monday – Friday from 9AM to 6PM EST.

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So if you are looking for a company that offers great customer support any time of the day, then you really should give Shopify and 3dcart a try.

All of the solutions we’re talking about have knowledge bases, which basically let you search a topic and see if someone else has talked about it and addressed it in the past. In my opinion, this is one of the best support areas you can find, since it allows you to resolve a problem while maybe sitting on the phone waiting for a support rep.

Even though they all have these knowledge bases, along with blogs, FAQs and other documentation, Shopify and BigCommerce have the most users, making them far superior in terms of knowledge base content. Why is this the case? Simple. Since more people are discussing the systems, by default, more questions have been asked and more answers have been posted.

More head to head comparisons

Volusion vs Shopify

Magento vs Volusion

Volusion vs Magento

Shopify vs Magento

Shopify vs Volusion

Shopify vs Bigcommerce

Bigcommerce vs Shopify

Concluding remarks

It really doesn’t matter how many comparison articles you read, there is only one person who knows which platform offers exactly what you need, and that person is you. What it all boils down to is which platform will allow you to sell the products you offer in the best manner for both you as a store owner and for your clients.

Based on the recommendations you read above, feel free to click on one, or all of the links below to discover what each platform offers you. I highly recommend starting a free trial with at least two of the solutions so that you can play around with them and see which one feels easiest for you.

Ecommerce Platform
Big Cartelbigcartel

With that being said however, I think there are a few factors you need to take into consideration before making your final decision. In order to make the decision a little easier I will break this conclusion down into quick paragraphs about each of the platforms.

Shopify (full review here)

There is a reason why Shopify is at the top of the comparison chart. Not only does the company offer some amazing features, but the themes they offer are also top notch. I wouldn’t have a problem recommending this platform to anyone looking to get started in the ecommerce industry.

Bigcommerce (full review here)

The differences between Bigcommerce and Shopify are rather subtle, there are some features offered by this platform that Shopify doesn’t offer and vice versa. If you don’t mind a bit of a learning curve then perhaps this offer is the right platform for you.

Volusion (full review here)

When deciding whether to use Volusion or not, it really comes down to one very simple decision. Do you feel comfortable editing the HTML and CSS code in order to optimize your template, if this isn’t a problem, then Volusion might be the right platform for you, otherwise I would really suggest looking at Shopify or Bigcommerce.

3dcart (full review here)

3dcart doesn’t offer as many features as Shopify or Bigcommerce, however, their platform is very user-friendly. One problem I do have with this company however is the fact that they offer a limited number of original themes, as I mentioned earlier many of their themes are duplicates.

Big Cartel (full review here)

Big Cartel might not offer some of the features offered by their competitors, however, as I mentioned in the review, it feels as if they are catering towards a different set of customers. If you are looking to sell a few products to your clients and do not need all the features offered by competitors, then I would really consider giving Big Cartel a try.

If you are still uncertain about which platforms best fits your needs, then every company offers a free trial, and my suggestion is that you give these a shot before making your final decision. You can also read the individual reviews for each and for a more visual way of comparing them I suggest taking a look at my top 10 comparison chart.

Can you help me to create a shop using Shopify / Magento / WooCommerce / etc?

Yes I do work with experts in each of these shopping carts. Please fill out this form to make sure I will be able recommend you the right people to work with.

Catalin Zorzini

I'm a web design blogger and started this project after spending a few weeks struggling to find out which is the best ecommerce platform for myself. Check out my current top 10 ecommerce site builders.

44 Responses

  1. Why would you not include Magento on this list? It’s hard to take the comparison seriously without it including the leading e-commerce solution.

    1. Hi Gizamo, Magento is a very powerful ecommerce CMS, but we’re only discussing ecommerce platforms that can be used by anyone to build an online store. As you know, Magento is aimed at experienced developers, and Magento Go will shut down in a few months. For the full list of reviewed platforms please check out my comparison chart:

    2. People who want to get their shop up and running fast don’t have time to learn a technology and deal with it’s headaches. I know Drupal but after fighting with it to build a decent store for months, I was able to very quickly build a shop in Shopify. How quickly? 4 days. Yes, including beautiful theme, products, variants, discount prices, inventory etc.

    3. Second that, there is no excuse to dismiss the nr1 used eCommerce solution Magento Community to even Magento Enterprise. Even with the difficulty (which is not difficult at all to setup plus enterprise…), you cant just go past something like that in a blog called top6 ecommerce platforms on a website. Unless there is a personal reason…

  2. We have been trying for several days to import an excel spreadsheet into Shopify and with 5 different support members we are no further ahead. The gurus that provide 24/7 support are simply other shop-owners taking calls from home to uphold the 24/7 but most with limited or no knowledge. ( I knew more after 1 day of reading the material online than 4 of 5 gurus I connected with.. to give you an idea) So if you go with Shopify – be prepared to figure things out on your own…

  3. I am also suggested Magento is the best platform for E commerce. Some reasons why magento?

    Magento Does Not Penalize You For Growing Bigger
    Easy To Integrate Third Party Apps
    Freedom To Choose Hosting Service
    Modular And Customizable
    Fast. Really Fast.
    Built For SEO

    1. I think you misunderstood the idea of this post.
      He was comparing platform ready to go, not custom solutions you need to build yourself to get it running.

      To archieve what you described in Magento you have to hire some company to:
      Install, to start using.
      Upgrade, if you get bigger.
      Pay: to migrate between hosting services
      Get advanced knowledge to customize.
      Backup, etc.

  4. I think it is better to have something like shopify thats ready to go dealing with html and css is not easy and requires time so it is better to go with shopify and bigcommerce

  5. In my opinion Magento is one of the best and noticeable CMS for developing an eCommerce website. Magneto is essentially an open-source (only community edition) PHP and MySQL based feature enriched platform. It has a wide range of template system and can empower your website with an impressive range of functionalities. The primary benefit with Magento is its flexibility that let you have complete control on your e-business. The extreme scalability of Magento further ensures that, as per your business growth you can create additional resources in your Ecommerce site.

  6. Hi!

    Thanks for this article.
    I have a question – how important do you think the 24/7 customer support is?

    I am and have been using Tictail for about 1,5 years and I really love their community and their webshop solutions. They go kind of big on their community feeling – with meet ups, blogs, pop up shops etc. You should really look in to it and consider writing about them too:)

    Thanks for a good article!

    1. Hi there, thanks for pointing that out, will definitely add Tictail to our site.

      Re: your question I think support is crucial but you should test everything not listen to advice from ppl who don’t know anything about your business 🙂

  7. Hey there,

    Wow, that’s a nice analysis. Perhaps, it’s the most detailed one. Helped a lot. I think, I should expand my business to all the mentioned platforms though.


  8. Great and timely article. I have been with 3D cart for about 3 years and am beginning the search for a more mature company. I will be checking the companies mentions. Thanks!

  9. We prefer to use Magento for our clients for several reasons, let us list some of the reasons:

    a. Magento platform is an effective e-commerce platform for customized websites.
    b. Lots of templates available and easy to modify.
    c. Several easy to use plugins available.
    d. From the conversion rate optimization point of view can be customized as per testing results. (as a conversion optimization specialist we tests before we implement)
    and many more.

    Overall, thank you for sharing such a wonderful comparative analysis for different eCommerce platforms.

  10. Thanks for this comparison! Its useful to see the statistic and read about the usability before committing to a platform!

  11. Thanks for this great post. I think nowadays most of people 1st choice is Magento or Shopify Platform.
    Both are user-friendly & SEO friendly platfrom

  12. I’ve been using volusion for the past 6 months and I feel like I’m getting nowhere. Thanks for the article. I think its finally time to give shopify a try. I need something much more user friendly. I just wanna sell my clothes. I’m not an IT expert and I don’t want to waste time trying to be one.

  13. Hi Catalin,

    Great summary of the differences, pros & cons of the various platform. It has been very helpful to me while I have been researching the various hosted platforms!

    One question though. How did you compile (or where did you get) the info for where Shopify is gaining clients from/ losing them to?

    Thanks again!


  14. Thank you for your time and efforts here!!! I do have a question to ask which it will be essential for my selection.
    Are there any eCommerce platforms aimed at dynamic database/live feed from supplier that you recommend for larger quantities of products (1000+)?

  15. If customer service is at all important to you, then I would stay away from 3DCart. I have been working on a issue with them since October 2015 and it is still broken. It is very important for me to be able to import my orders into my accounting system. They often don’t even respond to inquiries. My boss which has been with them for many years says the support has always been terrible.

    1. Same here. And if there’s one thing that’s a deal breaker for me, it’s a bad support system. Nothing is more frustrating than when you have an issue and no one replies to your ticket! It’s not like I expect an instantaneous response, but I think a response within 24 hours should be more or less mandatory.

  16. I found this article because I am looking for a better platform. We have been on BigCommerce for nearly 4 years now. In general it is a decent platform but it has MANY flaws. As we have grown, these flaws are becoming more and more apparent.

    Most frustrating has been the CONTINUED promises without any being achieved in the shipping module.

    Frankly I have found Bigcommerce to have become increasingly ARROGANT!!! They more or less forced us off GOOD credit card processors in favor of their “favorite” because they cut a deal with them. That CC processor being WORLDPAY. Worse, they did so by embedding Worldpay personnel at BigCommerce and sent out information that was misleading, and made it look like the old processor was not going to be supported. Very sleazy.

    Having gone to the recommended CC processor Worldpay…it has been nothing short of HELLISH…they are HORRIBLE and its as if you are dealing with a “mickey mouse” company.

    We’ve been so peeved by that, that we’ve been wanting to leave ever since, but as you all would understand, moving to another platform or CC processor is not exactly an easy task for a small business.

    However… I was given notice that BC is changing policies and was given 60 days notice that my monthly fee is rising nearly 250%

    That is the LAST STRAW!!!!

    Too many bugs, too many flaws, TOO MANY PROMISES and they have become TOO ARROGANT and have forgotten about their customers who put them where they are.

    So long BigCommerce!

  17. Glad I ran across this article. Familiar with a couple of them, although we use woocommerce for WordPress was thinking about trying Shopify or BigCommerce for a potential new client. All the comments are extremely helpful in deciding, Thanks so much for sharing!

  18. I am glad you mentioned the dramatic increase in cost for higher revenue stores on BigCommerce. I am one of the long-time BigCommerce customers who is now leaving for Shopify because of the pricing increase. As far as I can tell, BigCommerce has nothing over Shopify in terms of service that would justify spending four times as much per month. There are some annoying switching costs in terms of time, effort, and template purchase, but it seems well worth it to me. And Shopify has some features (buy now on Pinterest, etc) that people have been asking for at BigCommerce for months and months to no avail. Anyway, we’ll see how it goes, but so far I’m pleased with what Shopify has to offer me in comparison to BigCommerce.

  19. Shopify has a lot of ongoing charges that are NOT obvious at first glance. For starters they charge 1.4% + 30c on all credit cards and this is in addition to the usual bank credit card charges. If your store trades $500,000 per year which is not that high you will pay $7000 per year and that’s not including the 30c per transaction fee.

    To make matter worse they offer no way to charge extra for certain payment methods like amex or paypal and if you put shopify as a POS system instore you will be charged a fee on EVERY transaction even if your customers pay cash. Shopify does mention their fees clearly but they don’t mention that these credit card fee’s DO NOT replace the bank charges. So you need to pay credit card fees twice, once to your bank and once to shopify.

    Im not saying shopify is a bad product, they offer a very good product which is fine for small businesses with low turn over or people with no computer skills but for me these costs are not sustainable in a very competitive market. My suggestion is go with a platform like Prestashop. Its more expensive upfront but has no ongoing costs.

  20. Any thoughts on Soldsie or Spreesy which treats social media accounts as a sales channel? It seems risky to have a third-party take email address comments to send an invoice, though it’s convenient.

  21. I have read that WooCommerce is perfect for beginners. WordPress is so easy to use and WooCommerce is simply an extension of that. Customizing your site through WordPress is really simple due to the number of plugins available. Plus, WooCommerce has tutorial videos to help with the set up. But Magento’s interface is also really easy to use and it comes with tutorial videos and documentation. It has a full installation wizard too. However, Magento’s difficulty is increased when you want to start adding extensions to your site. In this instance, you might want to think about hiring a Magento-specialist developer.
    Please advise if you are familiar with both what to choose for small business – Magento or Woo-Commerce platform and why???

    1. If you are already familiar with WP, yeah it’s quite easy to use, but if you’re just starting out using a CMS, jumping straight to WooCommerce, the learning curve is a lot higher than using a native ecommerce solution like Shopify.

      Between WP and Magento, in terms of how easy it is to work with in the long term, I would go with WP + WooCommerce.

      Best of luck John!

  22. Really good article! I would add in that on Bigcommerce, the pro plan ($199.95) scales up to 1 million in revenue – so it’s entirely viable to put off a bump to a higher pricing plan. Phone support on Bigcommerce is also 24/7 save for the few times when they need to do a company meeting.

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