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Find The Best eCommerce Platform To Create Your Store In 2021

Looking to create an online shop? Some of these eCommerce apps offer robust features and high-functionality, while others excel at user-friendliness or low-cost.

    Shelbi Wescott
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Advertiser Disclosure: Our unbiased reviews and content are supported in part by affiliate partnerships, and we adhere to strict guidelines to preserve editorial integrity.

One of the most important decisions vendors make is choosing the best eCommerce platform to build and manage their online store. Usually, it’s a balancing act between quality and cost. To help you in your search for the best eCommerce software, we have compiled a list of seven of our highest-rated picks. Each of these top eCommerce platforms has a different focus and may best serve specific types of businesses. We’ve included both fully-hosted and open-source eCommerce platforms.

Hosted, SaaS (software as a solution) options like Shopify or Wix are typically more user-friendly for eCommerce beginners, whereas open-source solutions like WooCommerce or PrestaShop offer a higher degree of customization for those with the skill to pull it off. As you read about each option, keep in mind not only your business’s specific needs but also your team’s technical abilities.

To know more about the differences in the fully hosted solutions, read our full post, Wix VS Shopify.

Learn More About Our Top Picks

CompanySummaryNext StepsSummary

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Best for sellers of any size who want an easy-to-use platform.
Best for sellers of any size who want an easy-to-use platform.

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Best for merchants of all sizes looking for a scalable solution.
Best for merchants of all sizes looking for a scalable solution.

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Best for sellers of all sizes who want a budget-friendly website with strong built-in features.
Best for sellers of all sizes who want a budget-friendly website with strong built-in features.

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Best for small businesses that value aesthetics and ease of use.
Best for small businesses that value aesthetics and ease of use.

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Best for merchants who already use Square or Square POS.
Best for merchants who already use Square or Square POS.

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Other Featured Options:

  • WooCommerce: Best for merchants who want to use open-source software for a large degree of control over their site.
  • PrestaShop: Best for sellers focused on global eCommerce and looking for multilingual options.

Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

The 7 Best eCommerce Platforms

In identifying the best eCommerce platforms, we considered each software’s price, features, scalability, and ease of use. With those components in mind, the best eCommerce platform options are:

  • Shopify: Best for ease of use
  • BigCommerce: Best scalable solution
  • Shift4Shop (Formerly 3dCart): Best budget-friendly option
  • Wix: Best for aesthetics
  • Square Online Store: Best for Square users
  • WooCommerce: Best open-source software
  • PrestaShop: Best for global sellers

But the best software for eCommerce may depend entirely on your own business needs. Read on to learn why.

1. Shopify

Shopify



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Shopify is giving Merchant Maverick users a 14 day free trial + pay only $1 for your first month.

Best for sellers of any size who want an easy-to-use platform.

Shopify is one of the biggest names in the eCommerce industry, and for good reason. The combination of strong core features, an exhaustive app marketplace, and high user-friendliness makes Shopify an excellent option for many online stores.

That said, Shopify does have its limitations. Merchants may find that with Shopify they need to purchase more add-ons and extensions than they would with another platform. In addition, Shopify’s own payment option, Shopify Payments, can be a blessing for some users and a curse for others.

If eCommerce were a recreational sports league, Shopify would receive the “Most Well-Rounded Player” award, if not the overall MVP award. Shopify is suitable for a wide variety of store types and sizes. When Shopify works for merchants, it works really well.

Store owners who benefit the most from Shopify will most likely be based in one of the 17 countries where Shopify Payments is available because that’s the only way to avoid Shopify’s transaction fees. However, the quality of Shopify’s platform is strong enough overall that many merchants are willing to accept those extra transaction fees, even if they can’t or won’t use Shopify Payments.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Numerous integrations
  • Attractive templates
  • Advanced design tools

Cons

  • Add-ons often necessary
  • Transaction fees

Get Started with Shopify

Read our in-depth review

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2. BigCommerce

BigCommerce



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Best for merchants of all sizes looking for a scalable solution.

BigCommerce offers ease of use and functionality to its customers while keeping the price within reach even for budget-conscious businesses. BigCommerce’s user base ranges from startups to enterprise-level companies. This highly scalable software is a great option for many businesses. And unlike Shopify, BigCommerce never charges additional transaction fees on sales, although you will of course still pay a standard percentage to your payment processor. For payment processing gateways, you have about 60 options.

BigCommerce is one of the top eCommerce platforms out there, offering an affordable eCommerce solution that’s ready to grow with your business. Much of the decision will come down to the appeal of the extra features that come built-in with BigCommerce. If you’re confident you’ll actually use most of the native features BigCommerce offers, you could save money and headaches going with BigCommerce instead of an app-focused software platform like Shopify. Just be prepared for automatic subscription bumps as your revenue grows.

Perhaps the most obvious appeal of BigCommerce is the freedom to choose your payment processor without the penalty of an extra transaction fee. With BigCommerce, your payment acceptance options are quite open.

Pros

  • Numerous built-in features
  • Attractive design templates
  • Minimal learning curve
  • Single-page checkout

Cons

  • Limited customizability
  • Revenue caps on plan levels

Get Started with BigCommerce

Read our in-depth review

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3. Shift4Shop (formerly 3dCart)

Shift4Shop



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Best for sellers of all sizes who want a budget-friendly website with strong built-in features.

Shift4Shop has developed a substantial and nuanced core feature set and continues to add and improve features at a steady clip. The software’s low monthly cost, extensive features, and plentiful payment gateway options make it worth a look when you’re building an online store.

Shift4Shop (formerly 3dcart) has streamlined its theme marketplace, resulting in less quantity and more quality. Of the 114 total themes available, 62 are free. Premium themes range from $149-$189. With Shift4Shop, you’ll have a very basic theme editor to change out photos and font colors, but you can’t rearrange any page elements. Beyond these simple changes, you must use HTML and CSS inside the template editor.

We think 3dcart is a solid option for small to midsize business owners on a budget who still appreciate lots of built-in features. Bigger vendors should remember they have the ability to negotiate a specialized, à la carte feature package. If you’ve been left feeling a little boxed in by other website builders’ flexibility and customization, 3dcart opens up options for you.

Pros

  • Numerous features on all plans
  • Flexible and robust features
  • Customized feature packages available
  • Scalable

Cons

  • Limited design tools
  • Moderate learning curve

Get Started with Shift4Shop

Read our in-depth review

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4. Wix

Wix



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Best for small businesses that value aesthetics and ease of use.

Wix is a bit different than most of the other software solutions on this list. While most of the others were built with eCommerce in mind, Wix began as a traditional website builder. Since then, Wix has expanded to offer features to different types of users, including online sellers. Thanks to its new eCommerce tools, Wix presents an attractive option for online sellers.

Wix is defined in the web design market by its ease of use, and this extends to its eCommerce functionality as well. Wix Stores integrates seamlessly with the rest of the Wix dashboard. eCommerce features and settings are simply added to the left sidebar menu, like in any other eCommerce platform. Further dashboards open as you explore each individual feature, like adding a product or creating a coupon.

Wix is a good platform for merchants who need a multifunctional but still user-friendly website — not just an online store. In addition, Wix is great for smaller sellers who put a strong focus on the aesthetics of their websites. If you own a small business that’s looking for a simple way to design a beautiful store, Wix is a strong contender.

Pros

  • Easy learning curve
  • Intuitive editor
  • Beautiful design templates

Cons

  • Limited features for large or complex stores
  • Limited customer support
  • eCommerce requires paid plans

Get Started with Wix

Read our in-depth review

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5. Square Online Store

Square Online



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Best for merchants who already use Square and Square POS.

If you’ve spent any time looking into payment processors for your business, or shopping at small local shops or farmer’s markets, you’ve undoubtedly run into Square. Over the years, it has grown from just a payment processing solution into an entire ecosystem of business products and services. Square now offers a retail point of sale solution, a restaurant point of sale option, proprietary hardware, invoicing, and more.

Enter Square Online Store, Square’s contribution to eCommerce software. It’s essentially a rebranding of Weebly, a popular website builder acquired by Square in 2018. Because Square Online Store is built on a website builder, it is not the most robust solution on this list, making it a good solution for small businesses only, particularly those that are already using many of Square’s existing products.

Square Online can be a good eCommerce platform for vendors looking to set up a simple storefront. However, if you do not currently use Square and you are looking for a place to launch a robust business with plans for big growth, Square Online Store is likely not the best option. There are plenty of alternative eCommerce platforms that include more features and are probably better options than Square Online Store in the long run.

Pros

  • Free plan available
  • Easy to use
  • Ideal for low-volume merchants
  • All-in-one eCommerce & payment processing solution

Cons

  • Limited customization
  • Limited features
  • Limited payment options

Get Started with Square Online

Read our in-depth review

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6. WooCommerce

WooCommerce



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Best for merchants who want to use open-source software for a large degree of control over their site.

WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress that allows you to add an online store to your existing WordPress.org website. It’s an incredibly useful and popular solution for WordPress users, and best of all, it’s totally free to use! That said, WooCommerce does come with a few challenges that you won’t find with the other software apps on this list. For one thing, it’s self-hosted. That means when you use WooCommerce, you are responsible for managing the technical aspects of your website. You must find hosting, maintain security, and really dig into the code in order to customize your store.

Importantly, WooCommerce is open-source software that you’ll be able to use to build your own website, as long as you have the coding know-how or can hire someone who does. While some users will love the control they gain over their site, other users will find the responsibility overwhelming. If you’re looking for a drag-and-drop editor you can use to customize prebuilt templates to get a store up and running in a day, WooCommerce won’t fit the bill.

If you are a business owner who wants an incredible degree of control over your site, or you are willing to hire a developer, WooCommerce may be an excellent option. The software is very flexible, and best of all, you don’t need to pay any monthly subscription fees to use it, though you definitely will incur expenses for site hosting and security.

WooCommerce is one of our top recommendations for open-source software. Anyone looking for a customizable shopping cart solution should try it out.

Pros

  • Free to download
  • Highly customizable
  • Numerous integrations
  • Scalable

Cons

  • Limited customer support
  • Steep learning curve
  • Developer knowledge required

Get Started with WooCommerce

Read our in-depth review

Jump back to comparison chart

7. PrestaShop

PrestaShop



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Best for sellers focused on global eCommerce and looking for multilingual options.

For PrestaShop, international is the name of the game. PrestaShop is the app behind 300,000 stores worldwide. Headquartered in Paris, the company employs 120 people who speak a variety of languages. In fact, PrestaShop is available in 75 different languages.

PrestaShop is open-source software that is free to download, highly customizable, and offers loads of add-ons. With a strong international user community supporting the development of the software, you can expect new releases and extensions regularly. PrestaShop’s biggest drawback is that you’ll need developer skills in order to best use the software.

We recommend PrestaShop to merchants who strongly value the support of an international community in running their online stores, who need multilingual site templates and other features, and who also desire much more flexibility and freedom than a SaaS, fully-hosted service can provide. While we often recommend a few top eCommerce platforms for merchants with a global focus, PrestaShop takes the international mindset to a whole new level. PrestaShop provides flexibility in designing a store and in choosing a payment processor that many global sellers require.

Just make sure you have access to some technical know-how if PrestaShop is on your shortlist.

Pros

  • Free to download
  • Highly customizable
  • Numerous integrations
  • Strong international user community

Cons

  • Expensive customer support
  • Developer skills required

Read our in-depth review

Jump back to comparison chart

How To Choose The Best eCommerce Platform

Did you find your eCommerce match? Hopefully, you’re ready to choose a promising candidate or two and begin a free trial or check out an online demo. It’s worth taking more than one option for a spin before fully committing to any eCommerce software. Test-drive the features, work on customizing your storefront, and pepper customer support with questions at all hours. That’s the only way you’ll really know you’ve found the best fit.

If you’re still considering your options, take a look at this quick overview of the key elements we consider when evaluating eCommerce platforms. Understanding each of these will help you make effective comparisons:

  • Pricing: Include monthly subscription costs and the factors that determine different pricing levels as well as the options and costs associated with accepting payments.
  • Features & Add-ons: How strong is the core feature set and how well can these features be expanded upon using the platform’s associated app marketplace? And how much can you expect to budget for add-ons?
  • Ease Of Use: How steep is the learning curve for eCommerce beginners? What is the balance between user-friendliness and the capability of the platform?
  • Web Design: How attractive, modern, and functional are the theme templates for? What customization options are available, and how robust and flexible are these tools?
  • User Reviews: What are real store owners (like you!) saying about the software, both good and bad?

Before you make your final selection, we also recommend reading our full review of the platforms you’re interested in. We think most small business owners will find a good solution among these options.

Do you have experience with one or more of these eCommerce platforms? Let us know how you think they compare in the comments. We love feedback from real users like you!

eCommerce Platform FAQs

What is eCommerce software?

eCommerce software apps (often referred to as shopping cart software) are platforms that lets merchants sell products online. Shopping cart software essentially allows you to build an online store. eCommerce platforms take a variety of forms. Typically, they either allow you to build an entire website from the ground up, or they let you add a “Store” tab to your pre-existing site.

What are the benefits of eCommerce software?

eCommerce software allows you to simplify the process of setting up your own online site. Many solutions help you build a functional online store in a matter of hours. eCommerce software also provides tools for maintaining your store, such as shipping and tax calculators, email marketing features, and promotional tools.

What is the best eCommerce platform?

The best eCommerce platform provides its user with all of the tools needed to run a business. Not every platform will meet the needs of every business owner. For Square users, sticking with the Square platform might be best; for developers and those who know how to code, WooCommerce might be on the top of the list.

What is the best free eCommerce software?

Most free eCommerce software is open-source software. Of these solutions, we recommend WooCommerce and Magento. Both are free to download. A few hosted eCommerce solutions that have free plans are Square Online Store, Ecwid, and Big Cartel. We recommend you look into these solutions as well.

What are open source eCommerce platforms?

Open source solutions are downloadable software programs that are free to implement and use to build an eCommerce website. Sellers are responsible for finding their own hosting, paying for site security, and getting everything online and working smoothly. Open source solutions are best for sellers who want a high level of customization and who aren’t intimidated by a technical challenge.

 

In Summary: The 7 Best eCommerce Platforms

  1. Shopify: Best for sellers of any size who want an easy-to-use platform.
  2. BigCommerce: Best for merchants of all sizes looking for a scalable solution.
  3. Shift4Shop: Best for sellers of all sizes who want a budget-friendly website with strong built-in features.
  4. Wix: Best for small businesses that value aesthetics and ease of use.
  5. Square Online: Best for merchants who already use Square or Square POS.
  6. WooCommerce: Best for merchants who want to use open-source software for a large degree of control over their site.
  7. PrestaShop: Best for sellers focused on global eCommerce and looking for multilingual options.
Shelbi Wescott

Shelbi Wescott

Managing Editor at Merchant Maverick
Managing Editor Shelbi Wescott has been researching and comparing small business payroll and accounting software since 2019. An accomplished author in both the science-fiction and mystery genres, she received an Honorable Mention for Best YA Mystery from the Library Journal for her novel After Life. Shelbi has a BA in English Literature and a Masters in Teaching from Lewis and Clark College.
Shelbi Wescott
View Shelbi Wescott's professional experience on LinkedIn.
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4 Comments

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the vendor or bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the vendor or bank advertiser. It is not the vendor or bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

    Alfonso Benvolio

    The best ecommerce platform is a software application that allows online businesses to manage their website, marketing, sales and operations. Usually, it’s a balancing act between quality and cost. Thanks for the excellent article and helpful post.

      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

      Robin

      Hey Rose, thanks for these excellent suggestions. From the list, I feel Woocommerce is the best as it provides tons of features and plugins, and for those already using WordPress, integration with WooCommerce is a breeze. My second option would be Shopify.

        This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

        Zubida

        Nice to read your article. There are plenty of e-commerce solutions out there. According to our needs and budget, we have to determine which one is ideal for our business. A good shopping cart, social Media Connectivity, and product display and appearance are the most important aspects on which we should judge an eCommerce software.

          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

          Brian Hastings

          Awesome! Thanks for sharing the knowledge and keep posting more.

            This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

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          Our unbiased reviews and content are supported in part by affiliate partnerships, and we adhere to strict guidelines to preserve editorial integrity. The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone.

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          Merchant Maverick’s ratings are editorial in nature, and are not aggregated from user reviews. Each staff reviewer at Merchant Maverick is a subject matter expert with experience researching, testing, and evaluating small business software and services. The rating of this company or service is based on the author’s expert opinion and analysis of the product, and assessed and seconded by another subject matter expert on staff before publication. Merchant Maverick’s ratings are not influenced by affiliate partnerships.

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