“An ecommerce website builder? Why do I need one?” Well, they are simply all the rage these days for anyone who wants to launch their own online shop and do so all by themselves! But this brings up many questions and potential problems in terms of selecting the right builder for your specific needs. Today, we discuss them all to help you decide!
First off, you don't want to choose a random ecommerce website builder and then realize one year later that you're paying too much in transaction fees, or that you can't handle the design tools, because they are made for more experienced developers. In this guide, we teach you how to avoid this and similar issues.
Therefore, a good way to look at your ecommerce website builder shopping experience is consider it twofold: (a) what you want to accomplish, and (b) what your own personal needs are:
- With the personal needs, it all comes down to how experienced you are and how quickly you plan on scaling up. A builder with hundreds of templates is great for a beginner, but what if you'd like to get into customizing the CSS and that's not available?
- The second area to evaluate is what you want to accomplish. This ties into the tools, settings and features that are offered through the various platforms. With that, we want to take a look at the current state of ecommerce and the major trends to plan for the functionality you'll require.
Scroll to the bottom for the full table.
The current state of ecommerce
Let's look at the state of ecommerce first; and right away, the first things that pop up are: more and more consumers browse on mobile before making a decision to buy , ecommerce sales keep increasing every year , and a quality SEO ranking is more crucial than ever, with more than 40% of people starting their shopping journeys on Google .
What does this mean for you specifically? A couple of things:
(1) Your store – or more accurately your ecommerce website builder – has to enable you to create a mobile-friendly store website. Without that, you won't attract mobile shoppers and thus reduce your revenue significantly.
(2) You need to take the first step as soon as possible. Yes, the sales are increasing, but what that also means is that competition is increasing as well, so you must act quickly if you want to have an impact. Don't wait, choose your ecommerce website builder today!
(3) Your builder has to have good SEO structure in place and allow your store website to take full advantage of it. If your store is not SEO-friendly from day one, it's going to be hard to retrofit SEO on top of it later on.
What else is going on that could affect your decision with a website builder?
Well, it turns out, Americans are more likely to buy from a company if they follow said company on any form of social media . That certainly gets merchants thinking about building a social platform. Going back to your builder of choice, it should allow you to integrate your store with social media easily – the possibility to share and advertise your products on social is a must-have feature.
Also, the past few years have been the era of the consumer expecting more because of an onslaught of information. When someone comes to your site, regardless of the ecommerce website builder you use, they have the internet on their side. Because of that, people are more likely to turn away if they see that your site runs slowly. Shoppers expect to see options for free shipping, free returns and expedited shipping.
Oh yeah, and if your products fail to offer ratings and reviews, it makes it look like you're far less credible. Trust issues are peaking, particularly because online fraud and identity theft is still booming. But these trust issues also tie into buying. If a customer feels like they aren't getting proper support, all the blame falls on that company. The same goes for slow shipping, product problems and a lack of transparency with items and payments. A good ecommerce website builder will help you solve at least a couple of these problems.
At the very least, you want to be able to set up shipping zones (different rates and options depending on the delivery location), and enable customer reviews/ratings on your products. All of the top ecommerce website builders out there have these features available.
Major trends to expect for 2021 and beyond
Quite a few trends may occur as the ecommerce market lunges forward. For example, according to latest data, 79% of smartphone users have made a purchase via their mobile device in the last six months . Okay, this isn't the most mind-blowing news, but it's important to remember that the trend of mobile commerce is most likely going to continue.
Another trend to look at is the lessening reliance on Google. The search engine has made it more difficult for small to mid-size brands to move up the ranks over the past few years, and many merchants are finding that it's more plausible to find customers through different outlets like Amazon (considering most Google results show Amazon anyways), social media and email marketing.
What this means for your ecommerce website builder of choice is that you need features that allow for some integration with those third-party tools, marketplaces and social media platforms.
Fair enough… The trends may change. Some will stick, while others we'll never hear about again. However, looking at these things provides good indication of the types of actions you should take with your store.
Now that you've had a chance to think about your own needs and the needs of the market, keep reading to learn about the ultimate online shop creation tools:
The best ecommerce website builder tools in 2021
Wix is yet another ecommerce website builder that started out as a general website building tool. In other words, you can use it to build any kind of website, not just ecommerce stores. In fact, Wix offers loads of great-looking website templates that fit any niche or market imaginable. The templates are also mobile-optimized, which means that you're ready to welcome visitors and shoppers coming from all kinds of devices.
Wix has a pricing model that can fit any budget. However! Since we're talking about launching ecommerce stores here, you need to be careful when picking a plan for yourself. Even though Wix starts at $13 / month, this plan won't allow you to host an online store. The cheapest option for ecommerce is $23 / month, and from there, it scales all the way up to $500 depending on your needs.
All plans allow you to accept online payments, give you unlimited bandwidth, and let you connect a custom domain name. The $23 plan also gives you 20GB of disk storage, a free domain name for the first year, and $300 in ad vouchers. These are great bonuses if you want to launch your store with a bang!
👍 What are the features and offerings that make Wix special?
- Great designs / site templates for various ecommerce niches, like fashion, arts, home decor, beauty, and many others.
- Cheaper than Shopify, Squarespace and BigCommerce if you want to be able to sell unlimited products and welcome an unlimited number of shoppers.
- Great site customization tools including a drag-and-drop editor.
- You can tweak your site's mobile appearance separately from the desktop look.
- A Logo Maker tool to help you kick start your brand.
👎 What may turn you off of Wix?
- You cannot switch your website template once you build the site. This is a huge bummer and can make it difficult to grow with the platform over time.
⭐ Who should use this ecommerce builder?
Wix is quite frankly a great alternative to Squarespace, and Shopify by extension. It offers much of the same features, just delivers them in a different package. Check out Wix if you don't like Squarespace's or Shopify's features, interfaces, or pricing models.
Check out the full Wix review if you'd like to learn more.
2. Shopify 👈 the best ecommerce platform
Shopify has always been towards the front of the ecommerce pack, but that doesn't stop the company from moving even further and constantly upgrading their features. In fact, some of the recent releases reveal a whole new future for Shopify, and the world of ecommerce in general.
For example, some Shopify users were getting intimidated by the online store editor. Well, as time has passed, that's changed with the innovative new online store editor, built to make it easier for new merchants. In addition to that, Shopify also now offers quite robust tools to make your store optimized for mobile shopping, along with sales channel integrations being passed to the merchants.
We recommend the Shopify builder over all of the other options because it's being used by more than 1.000,000 businesses in 175 countries, and it offers great tools for beginners who have never built an ecommerce store before. Apart from that, a more advanced user can also use Shopify's custom CSS and design features if they want to get creative.
👍 What are the features and offerings that make Shopify special?
- The price in on par with all the other competitors out there, and there's also a simplified Lite plan that's the cheapest option in the market – at $9 per month. This ecommerce plan doesn't give you the ecommerce website builder functionality like the Basic plan, but it lets you in to the Shopify interface and allows you to use the “Shopify buy button” on your existing website.
- The themes (store designs) are the best in the market and they're all mobile-optimized. You can choose from more than 100 of them, and there are both free and paid options available.
- There's good social media integration, plus an option to sell on Facebook directly. You can also offer your customers gift cards and discount codes, which work wonders for keeping people around.
- The platform provides more than 100 add-ons and extensions for everything from accounting to design, marketing tools, orders and shipping, and more.
- The support team is available 24/7.
- Free SSL Certificate included on all plans
👎 What may turn you off of Shopify?
- You don't get FTP access with Shopify – you can't modify your store files by hand (can be important for advanced users).
- The customer profiles aren't as great as in other website builders.
⭐ Who should use this ecommerce site builder?
This is our overall no.1 recommendation for business owners who want to build an ecommerce website on their own and then launch it for the world to see. Shopify is very intuitive, offers great customization options and doesn't require any coding skills on your part, making it the best website builder for your online store.
Check out the full Shopify review if you'd like to learn more. For more info about Shopify Payments check out our review here, and for more info about Shopify's pricing plans check out our full guide here.
BigCommerce used to play second fiddle to Shopify, but things have changed and, nowadays, it's a fully fledged alternative. It offers much of the same features and it's not limited in any way.
The themes are also solid, with many modern options, divided into multiple categories, plus they are mobile-friendly and accessible. There are also free and paid ones available, which should help you make your store truly yours and fitting your brand.
👍 What are the features and offerings that make BigCommerce special?
- Good-looking themes that cover all of the most common store categories and niches.
- You get to set up unlimited staff accounts, which is great if there are more people working in your store.
- The easy-to-use backend has features for coupons, discounts, social media and more.
- Lets you sell via Facebook, Pinterest, eBay, Amazon and Square POS.
- The support with this ecommerce website builder is 24/7.
- The app store is filled with options.
👎 What may turn you off of BigCommerce?
- Buying premium themes for BigCommerce can get really expensive. Even $200+ a piece.
- Translations are complex and often impossible.
⭐ Who should use this ecommerce site builder?
BigCommerce is the tool that's the most similar to Shopify in the way it delivers its features, the way it lets you build an ecommerce website and then handle your ongoing work with it. Use it if you don't like the Shopify interface.
Check out the full BigCommerce review if you'd like to learn more.
Squarespace delivers a stunning web design interface, with some of the more remarkable and modern templates out there. It's important to remember that Squarespace is primarily for building regular websites, but it does have a nice Commerce plan starting at $26 per month. All you have to do is hook up your payment processor, choose a theme and get selling.
We recommend this ecommerce website builder for companies that are interested in a more modern, media-based look, while also focusing on minimalism. The features are there for social media, design, inventory and marketing, literally anything that a new ecommerce store might need. However, at the same time, you shouldn't expect to build a huge store with Squarespace since that's not what it's meant to do.
👍 What are the features and offerings that make Squarespace special?
- The themes are even better than Shopify's (and you can get third-party themes if you want to).
- The sites run smoothly, and they always seem to load pages quickly.
- The 24/7 support is helpful, and we really like the live chat support.
- Connect with customers through full social media integration, sell on Facebook and Instagram.
- SEO features are solid.
- There are great tracking tools for your overall website traffic as well as sales.
👎 What may turn you off of Squarespace?
- The only payment options are Stripe, PayPal and Apple Pay.
- Abandoned cart recovery is available only on the $40 / month plan.
- Some of the themes aren't necessarily built for ecommerce websites so you need to be careful when picking your design.
⭐ Who should use this ecommerce site builder?
Squarespace is a great “website building tool” all around. It gives you the full package of tools that you might need on your way to DIY a website – and these tools include ecommerce features as well. That said, we recommend you check out Squarespace only if you don't like Shopify for some reason.
Check out the full Squarespace review if you'd like to learn more.
Volusion has been around for quite some time, and although they were once a leader in the industry, things have changed with the emergence of all-in-one ecommerce solutions like Shopify.
That said, Volusion has gone through a fairly major overhaul a couple of years ago and it is looking much more promising now.
We like Volusion best for small businesses and companies that are just getting started, since the pricing is so desirable. However, you shouldn't expect to customize your theme much, since it's a little intimidating.
👍 What are the features and offerings that make Volusion special?
- Pricing starts at $15 per month for up to 100 products. And if you're willing to pay annually, the price goes down to $13.50 / month.
- It has lots of themes to choose from. From our count, a little over 40.
- An FTP client is provided, so more advanced developers have a chance at customization.
- Mobile checkout is offered, and you can also sell directly via social media.
- You get ratings and reviews built right in.
- In general, Volusion has more features built-in than some of the other ecommerce website builders, considering the app store is still a little lean.
👎 What may turn you off of Volusion?
- Some of the themes need to be updated for more modern looks.
- The backend is becoming easier to use, but in general, the tools in this ecommerce website builder are a bit more intimidating, and you may be stuck with the exact theme you've chosen (without making many customizations at all).
⭐ Who should use this ecommerce site builder?
Volusion is one more alternative to Shopify. Use it if you don't like Shopify or the other top alternatives in the market.
Check out the full Volusion review if you'd like to learn more.
Every ecommerce website builder listed above is considered “hosted.” This means that you pay for a monthly ecommerce solution and the hosting is packaged in with it. However, you have a few solutions that are considered “self-hosted,” meaning that apart from getting the ecommerce software itself, you must also find your own web hosting and pay for it as a separate investment. In this model, the ecommerce software often comes for free and is open source.
A self-hosted system requires a beginner to intermediate level of website knowledge, while the hosted options are usually out-of-the-box products. That being said, installing WordPress and WooCommerce is not difficult, and some hosting companies offer to take care of that installation for you as soon as you sign up (SiteGround does this, for instance).
WordPress is a website engine – a piece of web software that allows you to build and run a website in a user-friendly way. WooCommerce is a plugin that you install on top of WordPress to turn it into a fully fledged ecommerce store.
👍 What are the features and offerings that make WooCommerce special?
- The software itself is free and has a quick installation process.
- If you know how to use WordPress, this is a great choice to ensure that you can scale up properly.
- You maintain full control of your ecommerce website.
- You have access to powerfull blogging tools
- WooCommerce gives out an excellent ecommerce theme called Storefront, along with a handful of child themes that all look great.
- Since the WooCommerce is open-source, thousands of other themes are sold all over the internet.
- If a feature isn't packaged into WooCommerce, you can go out and find a WordPress plugin to help out. Basically the options are endless with this.
- Great SEO tools available.
👎 What may turn you off of WooCommerce?
- You have to go out and get your own hosting and your own domain name.
- Coding knowledge is often preferable to really get in there and customize things.
- You may have to hire someone who knows what they are doing.
- There's no customer support with WordPress per se. All you get is the support provided by your web host.
⭐ Who should use this ecommerce builder?
WooCommerce is the best 100% DIY ecommerce website builder in the market. It lets retain full control of your website and also modify every little detail of it. WooCommerce and WordPress are both open source. The only downside is that you do need to be comfortable around things like servers and things related.
Check out how to build a store with WooCommerce here.
There are two sides to Magento as an ecommerce website builder. First, there's the open-source solution that's similar to the idea of WooCommerce. This one is free, but you need to buy your own hosting and domain. Then, there's the hosted solution, similar to the other tools on this list. This one is really expensive. Like, $50,000 expensive.
Setting that aside, Magento is one of the most advanced ecommerce platforms in the market, and it's used by some of the biggest companies in the world. It has almost endless ability to scale up with no problems, so it's going to be best suited for larger stores.
👍 What are the features and offerings that make Magento special?
- Suitable to handle stores of any size and volume of sales. Great for enterprise solutions.
- Frontend customization is endless.
- The backend is user-friendly and provides all the code editing tools you need.
- Market your products with wishlists, discounts and upsells.
- Lots of apps are available from third party sellers.
👎 What may turn you off of Magento?
- It has a learning curve if you want to install it yourself, so paying for a developer is common.
- The hosted option of Magento is above expensive ($50,000 or so). This is a price tag that none of the other ecommerce website builders even come close to.
- It has so many features that many people get overwhelmed.
- You have to find your own hosting and domain name if you go for the open-source version.
⭐ Who should use this online store builder?
Magento is a great solution for enterprise and stores handling a huge volume of sales. The learning curve makes it a tough choice for beginners or small teams that don't have the resources to work on the platform.
Check out the full Magento review if you'd like to learn more.
Top tools to build an ecommerce website comparedHere's the full comparison table of the top ecommerce website builders:
Found your ecommerce website builder?
If you have any questions about finding the perfect ecommerce website builder, leave a comment in the section below.
Still don't know which platform to choose? Maybe our ecommerce comparison chart will help you out, or our head-to-head battle between Shopify, Volusion, BigCommerce, Big Cartel, 3dcart, Weebly, Square Online Store and Ecwid. Also, check out this article if you're looking for the best payment gateways.
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