Top 5 Ecommerce Platforms and Solutions: Shopify vs Volusion vs Bigcommerce vs Big Cartel vs 3dcart (July 2018)

In a market as saturated as the e-commerce 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 covered most popular ecommerce platform reviews as individual offers and created this comparison chart, then ranked all platforms after their SEO effectiveness, but now it's 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 PlatformLogoPrice from (a month)Overall rating
ShopifyShopify$910 / 10
BigcommerceBigcommerce$29.959.5 / 10
Volusion$158 / 10
Big CartelBig Cartel$08.5 / 10
3dcart3dcart$298 / 10
 

Which of These Ecommerce Solutions 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 that 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:

Ecommerce Platform Reviews - google trends

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.

However, it's hard to see what's happening with the other platforms when Shopify is in the mix. Therefore, I removed the Shopify comparison to only look at Bigcommerce, Volusion, BigCartel, and 3dcart. As you can see, BigCartel has been experiencing a downward trend over the past five years. At one point it was a far more popular search term.

Bigcommerce is the only one that seems to have a slight upward trend, but there's a sharp drop recently, most likely due to the drastic pricing changes made by the company.

Volusion doesn't look bad, but the trend has been going downward. Finally, 3dcart is in the last place, but it has remained pretty consistent over the years.

Ecommerce Platform Reviews - Trends without Shopify

Let's also have a look at another Google Trends comparison – a slightly broader one:

 

Ecommerce Platform Reviews Shopify interest over time

 
What you see there is a chart presenting the “interest over time” for Shopify against three open source behemoths in the eCommerce space. Shopify in blue. Please notice the incredible rise to power that the platform has been experiencing since 2008. Magento and WooCommerce used to run the place, but the tides have turned. June/July 2016 was the month when Shopify took the leader's place, and it's now the most popular eCommerce platform out there.

No matter which Google Trends comparison we look at, Shopify is becoming the clear winner in terms of popularity. Perhaps the Shopify pricing has something to do with this.

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 (although that seems to be changing in the recent months).

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 Bigcommerce, BigCartel, and Volusion, but Shopify is losing most of its customers to Wix Stores, an indicator that many customers enjoy how easy the new Wix Stores interface is (along with the pricing). Bigcommerce is still stealing some customers from Shopify, but it used to be the number one place that people would go after Shopify. We assume it's because of the Bigcommerce pricing.

Ecommerce Platform Reviews - losing and gaining customers

 

Finally, you might find it interesting to view the popularity of each ecommerce platform based on location. For example, 3dcart only seems to get interest from people in the United States, while Shopify has search results from all over the world. Here's a glance into what regions search for and utilize each platform:

  • Shopify – Strong interest in Canada and Australia. Medium interest in the United States, the UK, Ireland and parts of Africa. Mild interest in the rest of Europe, Mexico, Russia, India, Pakistan, and parts of South America.
  • Bigcommerce – Strong interest in Australia. Medium interest in the US and Canada. Mild interest in the UK and India.
  • Volusion – Strong interest in the US and Canada. Medium interest in Australia and the UK. Mild interest in India.
  • BigCartel – Strong interest in the US, UK, and Australia. Medium interest in Canada. Mild interest in the rest of Europe and Mexico.
  • 3dcart – Strong interest in the US, but nowhere else.

Ecommerce Platform Reviews: 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

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 next screenshot, you can see that Shopify is helping me move from a Magento store.
Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 6.14.27 PM
 
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.

» Try Shopify «

 

Volusion

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.

» Try Volusion «

3dcart

The 3dcart product setup page used to look old and outdated, but that's changed in the recent year. The modern product creation center looks more akin to WordPress or Shopify nowadays, and you get tons of features packed into this area. Some beginners might find it a little intimidating with all the features, but the learning curve shouldn't take long to overcome.

3dcart also 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.

 
A 3dcart benefit is the visual editor, which is not exactly the best on the market (no drag and drop functionality,) but it helps you click and edit 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.

However, the visual composer is basically a frontend view of your website, then you can click on the areas that let you edit something. Like with the screenshot below you'd be able to click on the “Customize this Carousel” button, then it would bring you to the backend customization page. There's also the ability to adjust HTML and CSS if that's your style.

» 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.
Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 6.26.25 PM
 
Big Cartel lacks a drag and drop editor, 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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 6.28.00 PM

» Try Big Cartel «

 

Bigcommerce

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.
 
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.

» Try Bigcommerce «

 

Ecommerce Platform Reviews: Pricing

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.

Pricing Comparison (per month):
CompanyCheapestMiddleMost Expensive
Shopify$9$29$299
Bigcommerce$29.95$79.95$900+ *
Volusion$15$35$135
Big Cartel$0$19.99$29.99
3dcart$29$79$229
* According to reports from readers.

Try-Shopify
 
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 middle plan with Shopify or the cheapest with Bigcommerce.

When you look at the cheapest pricing tier, if you ignore Big Cartel, then you can see that Shopify offers the cheapest plan, then Volusion, then 3dcart, then Bigcommerce.

For me, what it really comes down to is whether you are looking to sell just a few products or a large number of products, as well as which platforms offer 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 to 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 Shopify or Volusion solutions work just fine.

 

Ecommerce Platform Reviews: Templates

 
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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 6.31.41 PM

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 May 2017, Bigcommerce has 7 free themes and about 84 paid themes ranging from $145 to $235. You can find them in the theme store. They were developed to establish a more modern, fluid user experience, utilizing cool new merchandising features for categorization and differently sized catalogs.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 6.32.39 PM

While 3dcart does offer lots of modern themes, they're not exactly what you would call creative. That said, they all work wonderfully for large stores. I like to consider these types of themes like what you would see from Best Buy. 3dcart offers beautiful product galleries and they get right to the point of selling to customers. In the past, we talked about how the 3dcart themes looked outdated, but that's not the case anymore. Both free and premium themes can be found. The premium themes typically go for around $200.

In the past, we talked about how the 3dcart themes looked outdated, but that's not the case anymore. Both free and premium themes can be found. The premium themes typically go for around $200.

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. However, you can search for Big Cartel themes through Google to find some pretty darn nice solutions from third-party sellers.

It works kind of like WordPress where you buy the themes separate the platform. It's not the easiest way to go about finding themes, but it gives you more options.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 6.33.46 PM

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.

 

Ecommerce Platform Reviews: 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.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 6.34.44 PM

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.

 

Ecommerce Platform Reviews: 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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 6.35.30 PM

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.

Ecommerce Platform Reviews: 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 PlatformLogoPrice from (a month)Overall rating
ShopifyShopify$910 / 10
BigcommerceBigcommerce$29.959.5 / 10
VolusionVolusion$158 / 10
Big CartelBig Cartel$08.5 / 10
3dcart3dcart$298 / 10
 
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. The main downside is that Bigcommerce has shifted its pricing structure, and many of its users have complained about significant cost increases. It seems to mainly be happening to Pro and Enterprise users, so you're good if you have a more basic plan.

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)

The 3dcart 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. That said, the platform has been restructed recently, and it looks and feels more like Shopify. Not only that, but the built-in features seem to surpass that of Shopify, without having to go get additional apps.

Big Cartel (full review here)

Big Cartel might not offer some of the features provided 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.

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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.