We're doing all this testing so that you don't have to.
The resource you're reading right now is a summary of our findings + how to pick the perfect ecommerce solution for your individual needs!
As hard as it might be to believe, there are over 120 different shopping cart software platforms out there, and they all have their place in the market. We should know, after all, our work is to test them all out. And we've been doing that … a lot. So far, we've covered each of the top platforms in individual reviews plus created a comprehensive comparison chart looking through the most crucial traits of each platform. We've also ranked all platforms based on their SEO effectiveness.
What you're reading here is an all-in-one summary of which is the best ecommerce platform, plus what makes each of the contenders great. After reading this guide, you will know exactly how to pick the right ecommerce solution for your store.
Here are the best ecommerce platforms that we're testing:
Picking the best ecommerce platform: table of contents
Here's what this comparison covers:
- Pricing 💰
- Features, flexibility, and ease of use ✨
- Templates and designs 🎨
- Apps and add-ons 🔌
- Customer support ♥️
- Popularity 🍾
- Final verdict: here's which platform is best 🥇
Without further ado, here's everything we found in our quest to name the best ecommerce platform out there.
For many people, pricing is the most important factor, not only when deciding which of the best ecommerce platforms to use, but in general, as they go through life. Personally, I feel that 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 $1 on the price of the platform. With that said, though, we also want to aim at getting the most bang for our buck. Here's how things play out.
This is a summary of each platform's pricing, broken down in tiers based on what sort of budget you have set aside:
|Shopify Lite||Big Cartel Free||Big Cartel Platinum||Ecwid Free|
|$ / mo||$9.00||$0.00||$9.99||$0.00|
|credit card rates||2.9% + 30c||2.9% + 30c||2.9% + 30c||2.9% + 30c|
|file storage||unlimited||1 image per product||5 images per product||unlimited|
|support||24/7 live chat + phone||email Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm EST||email Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm EST||N|
|online store website||N, you just get a buy button that you can place on other sites and social media||Y||Y||Y|
|point of sale||Y||Y||Y||N|
|Volusion Mini||Big Cartel Diamond||3dcart startup||Ecwid Venture|
|$ / mo||$15.00||$19.99||$19.00||$15.00|
|credit card rates||2.15%||2.9% + 30c||unspecified||2.85% + 30c|
|file storage||unlimited||5 images per product||unlimited||unlimited|
|support||24/7 live chat||email Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm EST||24/7 live chat||24/7 live chat|
|online store website||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|point of sale||Y||Y||Y||N|
|Shopify Basic||BigCommerce Standard||Volusion Plus||Big Cartel Titanium||3dcart basic||Ecwid Business|
|$ / mo||$29.00||$29.95||$35.00||$29.99||$29.00||$35.00|
|credit card rates||2.9% + 30c||2.9% + 30c||2.15%||2.9% + 30c||unspecified||2.8% + 30c|
|file storage||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||5 images per product||unlimited||unlimited|
|support||24/7 live chat + phone||24/7 live chat + phone||24/7 live chat + phone||email Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm EST||24/7 live chat + phone||24/7 live chat + phone|
|online store website||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|point of sale||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||N|
|Shopify||BigCommerce Plus||Volusion Pro||3dcart plus|
|$ / mo||$79.00||$79.95||$75.00||$79.00|
|credit card rates||2.6% + 30c||2.5% + 30c||2.15%||unspecified|
|support||24/7 live chat + phone||24/7 live chat + phone||24/7 priority support||24/7 live chat + phone|
|online store website||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|point of sale||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Shopify Advanced||BigCommerce Pro||Volusion Premium||3dcart pro||Ecwid Unlimited|
|$ / mo||$299.00||$249.95||$135.00||$229.00||$99.00|
|credit card rates||2.4% + 30c||2.2% + 30c||2.15%||unspecified||2.75% + 30c|
|support||24/7 live chat + phone||24/7 live chat + phone||24/7 priority support||24/7 priority support||24/7 priority support|
|online store website||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|point of sale||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
Shopify Lite also stands out due to their original offering. On that Lite plan, you don't get any online store, per say, but instead can use your Shopify buy button on your already existing website, social media, emails, and so on.
Other than that, each platform has its pros and cons when it comes to pricing, depending on which aspect is the most important for you. Here are some tips:
- Cheapest plan for unlimited products: Shopify Basic and 3dcart basic, both at $29.
- Cheapest plan for 100 products: Volusion Mini and Ecwid Venture, both at $15.
- Cheapest plan for 10+ staff accounts: BigCommerce Standard at $29.95.
- Cheapest plan for unlimited bandwidth and storage: Ecwid Free, or 3dcart startup ($19) if you want to avoid the limitations of the free Ecwid plan.
- Cheapest all around, feature-rich option: Shopify Basic ($29).
For me, Shopify stands out here as the best ecommerce platform in the lineup since it offers the most opportunities to grow your store. 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.
Features, flexibility, and ease of use ✨
If you are a novice online store owner then there is really nothing as important as having all the features you might need at your disposal, and being actually able to use them with ease.
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 comparison.
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.
You can see the same simplicity when managing your customers and their details, orders, and your store stats. Every section of the store is easily accessible from the main menu and no option is hidden.
The goal of Shopify is to really make it possible for everyone to launch their own ecommerce store, even without having any design or development skills.
Feature-wise, Shopify has it all:
- Unlimited orders, products, file storage, bandwidth
- 24/7 support
- Mobile commerce ready
- Use your own domain name
- Point of sale
- Free SSL certificate
- You can accept credit cards + 100 payment gateways
- Automatic carrier shipping rates
- Automatic taxes
- Web-based ecommerce website builder with drag-and-drop
- Full blogging platform
- Multiple languages
- Customer profiles
- Customer accounts
- Search engine optimized
- Product reviews
- Gift cards
- Social media integration + sell on Facebook
- Inventory management
- Digital products
- Product variations
- Level-1 PCI compliant
- Advanced reporting
- Mobile app
- No transaction fees when using Shopify Payments
All this gives you great flexibility. Basically, no matter what type of store you want to launch, Shopify will be able to handle that. Including:
- Stores selling physical products
- Digital products
Next to Shopify, BigCommerce has the cleanest dashboard and clearest directions for getting your online store built within a few minutes. In fact, the dashboard looks surprisingly similar to Shopify's, with modules for accepting credit cards, customizing your store and more.
Adding your products is also very easy to do with the important product attributes clearly accessible. Instead of putting every little detail about a product on a single screen, BigCommerce uses tabs, with each one getting into a different characteristic of the product.
Here are the other features you can find in BigCommerce that make it a contender for the best ecommerce platform:
- Unlimited products, orders, file storage, and bandwidth
- 24/7 live chat support
- Point of sale
- Visual store builder
- Migrate your store and import products
- Accept payments via PayPal powered by Braintree, Stripe, Apple Pay, Pay with Amazon and dozens more
- Manage orders and inventory
- Sell via Facebook, Pinterest, eBay, Amazon and Square POS
- Multiple marketing features
- Multi-layered hosting security and DDOS protection
- Level 1 PCI-compliant hosting
- Get found on product comparison sites
- Encourage return visits with email marketing
- SEO features
Overall, BigCommerce is a nice alternative to Shopify if that's what you're looking for. The feature set is just as vast and impressive with roughly the same pricing (that is until your sales grow too much, at which point Shopify is the cheaper option).
Volusion has a pretty nicely structured dashboard, with all of the main actions pointed out. If you're a new user just getting started with the platform, you will find a nice step-by-step wizard guiding you through the setup.
Adding new products is also done in a clear way, with all the fields right where you'd expect them. It might not be as pretty as Shopify, but it does the trick.
Here are the main features that Volusion brings to the table:
- Sell from 100 to unlimited products
- Unlimited orders and file storage
- Unlimited bandwidth
- 24/7 support via chat, phone, and priority support
- Visual website builder
- Point of sale
- Accept credit cards
- Ratings and reviews
- Import/export products
- Built-in SEO + all-in-one SEO tools
- Social media selling tools
- Accept payments with Stripe, PayPal, Amazon
- Handle shipping rates
- Abandoned cart reports and checkout recovery
- Ebay + Amazon integration
- Phone orders + CRM
- API access + batch order processing
- Dedicated account manager
Volusion is an interesting platform to start with, especially if you want to minimize the costs and aren't planning to sell hundreds of products.
The main focus of Big Cartel is undoubtedly minimalism. The main dashboard shows you only the most basic stats regarding your store. However, it's hard to call that a flaw, since it's probably exactly what you want to see when you log into your store on any given day.
And no surprise, the panel for adding a product is also very clear and rather nice looking.
Overall, you get the most basic features that are a must when launching a new ecommerce store, but not much more than that.
Specifically, the features in Big Cartel:
- From 5 to 300 products in your database
- From 1 image to 5 images per product
- Email support Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm EST
- Point of sale
- Unlimited bandwidth and orders
- Responsive and mobile friendly store designs
- Real-time stats
- Search engine optimization
- Promotional tools
At the end of the day, Big Cartel is a very basic player in our journey to find the best ecommerce platform, and – despite it's beautiful design – while it might be okay for you to start with, it can be difficult to grow with it as your sales, products and overall business increase.
One notable thing about Big Cartel is that it's one of the only two solutions on this list that offers a free plan.
The main user interface and dashboard in 3dcart is clear and understandable. Every area of the panel is easy to get to via links in the sidebar, plus there's a nice onboarding video in the center panel when you log in for the first time.
The product creation panel looks okay, 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.
Here are some of the features you get:
- Sell unlimited products
- Unlimited orders, file storage, and bandwidth
- 24/7 live chat support + phone + priority support
- Point of sale
- Mobile & social ready
- Sell online on eBay, Amazon, Google Shopping, Facebook, Shopzilla
- Upsell + crossell
- Bulk import/export
- Product questions & answers
- Customer reviews
- Digital products
- Waiting list
- Detailed product reports
- SSL certificate included
- FTP access to files
- Daily backups
- Secure level 1 PCI hosting
- Simple shipping setup
- Accept payments
- Marketing and SEO features
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.
Perhaps a downside is the 3dcart visual editor, which is not exactly the best in the market (no drag-and-drop functionality), but it helps you click and edit components instead of having to modify CSS or HTML code.
Ecwid has a very clear and easy to grasp dashboard, with the most important options highlighted in the center part of it. What's immediately noticeable is the nice onboarding interface showing you how far ahead you are in completing your store setup.
Adding new products is also a straightforward process. The interface presents the most important parameters of a product in the center panel and makes everything else available via tabs at the top.
Overall, this interface gives you a lot of possibilities, while still remaining easy to use, which is great.
Here are the other features you can find in Ecwid:
- From 10 to unlimited products
- Unlimited orders, file storage and bandwidth
- 24/7 live chat support + phone + priority support (no support on the free plan)
- Sell on multiple sites, blogs, and social networks
- Sell on any device and on the move
- Customer address book
- Smart shipping calculator
- Integrates with WordPress, Joomla and more
- Track inventory
- Sell digital goods
- Accept payments via 40 different payment options
- Define shipping options
- Level 1 PCI compliant
Overall, Ecwid delivers all the features that most ecommerce store owners might need. Plus, it's very affordable, especially if you're okay with having less than 100 products in your catalog.
Last but not least, without a doubt, Ecwid offers the best free plan of the platforms featured in this comparison. The only other tool with a free plan is Big Cartel, but that one is pretty limited compared to Ecwid's.
Templates and designs 🎨
Let's be honest: design matters, everyone knows that if the design doesn't appeal to the visitor then chances are they will take their shopping elsewhere. At the end of the day, if the layout of your store looks horrible then even if your products are amazing, people won't pay attention to them.
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.
There are more than 100 themes available (both free and paid), all of them quite modern-looking. Plus, you can customize and fine-tune the theme you've chosen until it looks just like you want it.
Shopify themes also prove to be highly usable by store owners in real-world scenarios. Just check out this gallery of existing store designs, all built with Shopify themes:
BigCommerce also has a nice library of themes for you, divided into multiple categories, and all of them responsive and fully customizable. They were developed to establish a more modern, fluid user experience, utilizing cool new merchandising features for categorization and differently sized catalogs. There are both free and paid options available, and I have to say that those free ones really are attractive-looking.
Volusion has around 40+ themes for you to choose from, with more than 10 of them free.
While all of them look good, there's perhaps not that much variety compared to Shopify or BigCommerce. Also, the size of the catalog itself is a factor as well, meaning that you might find it hard to pick a theme that truly matches your needs.
On the plus side, all of them are responsive. However, when it comes to customizations, all you can do is tweak the fonts and colors. Or, you can get into raw HTML and CSS editing, which is also a possibility.
Big Cartel only offers a grand total of 15 themes (at the time of writing). This is a major downside 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 from the platform. It's not the easiest way to go about finding themes, but it gives you more options.
Big Cartel also 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.
While 3dcart does offer lots of modern themes (100+), 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.
Ecwid has a very surprising approach towards store designs, as in, there are no themes to choose from. At least I couldn't find them in an easy way.
The way it actually works is that you can go into the Ecwid App Market and buy some pre-made themes from third-party sites.
Apart from that, you can customize the basic details about your store's look. Things like image sizes, aspect ratios, product card details, category positions, product page layout, navigation, and a couple more things.
Overall, this might be a good solution for a certain type of user – someone who just wants to get going with a good-enough store and not bother with the design too much – but it doesn't appeal too much to me personally, and it's probably not the best ecommerce platform out there.
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 🔌
Every one of the platforms featured in this comparison offers some apps and add-ons to an extent.
However, the two that stand out the most and offer the biggest selection of apps and add-ons are Shopify and BigCommerce. Both companies offer more than 100 different apps and add-ons that can easily be integrated into your store.
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.
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.
Here's a quick comparison table of the support options offered vs the price associated with the monthly plan that you must buy:
- Shopify: 24/7 live chat + phone support on all plans ($9 to $299)
- BigCommerce: 24/7 live chat + phone support on all plans ($29.95 to $249.95)
- Volusion: 24/7 live chat support ($15), 24/7 live chat + phone ($35), 24/7 priority support ($75)
- Big Cartel: email Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm EST on all plans ($0 to $29.99)
- 3dcart: 24/7 live chat ($19), 24/7 live chat + phone ($29), 24/7 priority support ($229)
- Ecwid: no support on the free plan, 24/7 live chat ($15), 24/7 live chat + phone ($35), 24/7 priority support ($99)
Shopify and BigCommerce both offer 24/7 support through phone as well as chat and email. The other platforms usually offer live 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, which only offers email support, and what's more, they only offer it Monday – Friday from 9 AM to 6 PM EST. Also, there's no support if you're on the free plan of Ecwid.
In the end, if you are looking for a company that offers great customer support at any time of the day, then you really should give Shopify or BigCommerce a try.
Additionally, all of the solutions we're talking about have their 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 regarding 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.
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, there's only one clear winner in terms of what people are searching and how many of them show interest in the popular consumer ecommerce solutions, but let's hold off on this for a minute. First, have a look at the popularity chart between five of our featured tools: BigCommerce, Volusion, Big Cartel, 3dcart, Ecwid, across the past 12 months:
Now take a look what happens when we add Shopify to the mix:
Yes, you're seeing this right, Shopify is roughly 7 times more popular than anything else!
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 that 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, Big Cartel, and Volusion. 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.
Final verdict: here's which platform is best 🥇
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.
That being said, we do have our recommendation when it comes to the best ecommerce platform available. There are two solutions that stand out:
Can't make up your mind? Check out any of these individual reviews of the best ecommerce platforms featured here:
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