Ecommerce platforms are the backbone of online stores and you won’t get very far selling online without one. After testing 20 different ecommerce platforms and comparing monthly fees, transaction fees, supported business models, and plan limitations, Bluehost is our top pick for most users. It’s a simple and affordable way to start selling online with virtually any business model, and it’s packed with the features you need to succeed.
The Best Ecommerce Platform for Most
Bluehost is a top-rated web hosting provider with plans specifically built for online stores. It’s designed to work with WordPress and WooCommerce, which means you’re getting unmatched flexibility and customization options compared to every other provider on our list.
It supports unlimited products, bookings and appointments, customer wish lists, shipping labels, product search and filtering, special promotions, digital gift cards, and so much more. You’ll also get a free domain name for one year when you sign up.
The Best Ecommerce Platform Options to Consider
- Bluehost – Best for automatic WooCommerce store setup
- Shopify – Best all-in-one ecommerce platform
- Wix – Best ecommerce platform for beginners
- Squarespace – Best portfolio-based ecommerce builder
- BigCommerce – Best for multichannel sales
- Shift4Shop – Best ecommerce platform for developers
- Ecwid – Best free shopping cart extension
- WooCommerce – Best ecommerce plugin for WordPress
- Easy Digital Downloads – Best WordPress plugin for digital products
- Volusion – Best ecommerce platform for large stores
- Magento – Best enterprise ecommerce platform
When It Makes Sense to Invest In an Ecommerce Platform
A solid ecommerce platform is essential for anyone selling online. Brick-and-mortar businesses can open up a new revenue stream, and new businesses can use a web store to start selling their products or services ASAP.
At this point, though, there is a multitude of online selling solutions. Some are standard site builders with web store functionality, others are 360-degree ecommerce engines that extend well beyond the website your customers visit.
Look, any time is the right time to get started with an ecommerce platform. If you’re ready to sell digitally, any of the top options will set you up with a web store, complete with cart, checkout, shipping, payment processing, and more.
But the best fit will depend on the current state of your business and your comfort with website building.
A new or small operation can get away from a standard site builder that includes ecommerce functionality. A more mature operation starting a new online purchasing portal will appreciate deeper feature sets that help manage inventory and suppliers.
If you’re starting from scratch or if you aren’t familiar with coding, an all-in-one ecommerce site builder will be your best friend. It’s definitely the easiest and fastest option to go from nothing to a full-fledged web store.
If you already have a site you love, or you have specific needs (like selling digital products or subscriptions), look to the incredible WordPress plugins that can add the extra functionality you need.
Even if you’re not 100% ready to start selling, you can still start setting things up, generate traffic, and build hype in preparation for when you’re finally ready to launch.
#1 – Bluehost — The Best for Automatic WooCommerce Store Setup
Bluehost is one of just three hosting companies recommended by the developers of WordPress. The company is well-versed in all things WordPress and building websites of all shapes and sizes—including online stores.
This is just one of the many reasons why Bluehost is our top recommendation for ecommerce sites.
It makes setting up your store easier than ever. When you sign up and checkout, you get all of the features, extensions, and plugins pre-installed for you, so it’s all ready to go out of the box.
Their expertise in the web hosting field allows them to offer a special package for ecommerce stores—WooCommerce hosting. This can be slightly confusing since WooCommerce is listed separately in our review. However, WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that adds ecommerce functionality to your WordPress site powered by Bluehost.
You can’t have WooCommerce without a hosting company. But can use any host to power your WordPress site (we recommend Bluehost).
Bluehost offers an all-purpose package that includes a guided online store creator to get you set up quickly and easily, as well as email marketing and 24/7 support.
To sweeten the deal, Bluehost doesn’t skimp on the web-store features in their plans—both the Standard and Premium tiers allow for unlimited products and product designs, one-click install payment processing options, customer product reviews, discount codes, and manual order creation.
But the biggest benefit for novices lies in the built-in features that reduce the time you need to spend researching, installing, and trying out WooCommerce store plugins and WordPress security features.
Rather than spending hours figuring it out on your own, it’s all done for you. Bluehost experts pre-install the best online store plugins for WooCommerce and include them for free in each hosting package. Some of those plugins can cost up to $200 each when installed through the WooCommerce extension store.
So, the value you get by hosting your WooCommerce store with Bluehost is immense.
Bluehost brings its best-in-class hosting approach to its online stores powered by WooCommerce. So, you’ll get daily backups, a free SSL certificate provided by Let’s Encrypt, free access to its content delivery network, unmetered bandwidth, and a free domain for the first year, should you need it.
At the Premium tier, you also unlock the ability for visitors to make online appointments through your WooCommerce store, sell subscription-based products and services, including product customization (such as color options or different sizes for clothing), and adaptable tax calculation for local, national, and international selling.
Bluehost’s pricing for online stores powered by WooCommerce break down as follows:
- $12.95 per month for a 36-month term (renews at $24.95 per month at end of term)
- $9.95 per month for a one-year term (also renews at $24.95 per month)
- $29.95 per month when paying month-to-month
Online Store + Marketplace
- $19.95 per month for a 36-month term (renews at $39.95 per month at end of term)
- $12.95 per month for a one-year term (also renews at $39.95 per month)
- $49.95 per month when paying month-to-month
If you’re new to running an ecommerce store on WooCommerce or just want to take advantage of one of the most trusted names in WordPress hosting offering a customizable but guided online store creator, head over to Bluehost and get started today.
#2 – Shopify — The Best All-in-One Ecommerce Platform
Best All-in-One Ecommerce Platform
Supports dropshipping, in-person sales, and multi-channel sales. Plus, it comes with everything you need to start and scale, including a drag-and-drop website builder, marketing tools, shipping management solutions, and online marketplace support. Suitable for businesses of all sizes.
Shopify is jam-packed with all the features you need to find customers and start selling online. Plus, more than one million businesses are already using it to sell their goods online. When you sign up, you’ll be in good company.
As an all-in-one ecommerce solution, Shopify includes everything from building your website and listing your products to marketing, shipping, and managing customer conversations.
As a Shopify user, you get access to dozens of free and premium themes, so you don’t have to start from scratch, various marketing tools to help you grow your business and get more eyes on your products, plus site-wide management from one intuitive dashboard.
It takes just a few seconds to sign up and get started. All you have to do is choose a theme, customize it to match your brand using Shopify’s drag-and-drop editor, add your products, and start selling.
To sweeten the deal, you get 24/7 expert customer support to help you navigate every step of the way.
Shopify’s reps are friendly, responsive, and very fast so you never have to struggle through anything on your own. You’ll also be able to find help on just about every topic you can imagine with Shopify’s extensive knowledge base.
Aside from your website, Shopify supports online marketplaces, selling on social media, and even has its own POS software for in-person sales. So, you can easily consolidate every selling location into one Shopify account to keep it all centralized in one place.
Shopify’s pricing plans include three tiers to support businesses of any shape and size. Those plans include:
- Basic – $39 per month or $29 per month when billed annually
- Shopify – $105 per month or $79 per month when billed annually
- Advanced – $399 per month or $299 per month when billed annually
There’s also a Starter plan that allows you to sell products through social media and digital messaging apps without having to set up a full ecommerce website.
#3 – Wix — Best Ecommerce Platform for Beginners
Best for Beginners
Wix is built to help turn beginners and non-technical users into web design pros with its drag-and-drop interface. Plus, it includes 500+ ecommerce templates, an ADI wizard to get you up and running in minutes, additional advanced features, and commission-free sales on every plan. Prices start at $23 per month.
If you’ve never built a website before, Wix is an excellent beginner-friendly option. It includes an intuitive drag-and-drop website builder plus all the tools you need to start and scale your online store. From advanced product descriptions and product variations to customizable checkout pages, cross-channel sales, and support for dropshipping, you get it all in one package.
The best part is that it takes just a few minutes to get started. Within five minutes, you’ll be familiar enough with the drag-and-drop editor to get started. You can even build your entire website without paying a single penny.
However, you will have to upgrade to a paid business plan to accept online payments, so you can’t actually make any sales without upgrading.
When you sign up, you have a few options. The first is Wix’s ADI wizard, which creates your entire website for you in a matter of seconds. From there, you can start adding your products and customizing your website.
The beauty of the AI builder is that it does all the technical pieces for you. All you have to do is swap out the images, write your own content, add your products, customize your colors, and you’re good to go. It is hands-down the fastest way to get your first ecommerce store up and running. We cover this feature in greater detail in our complete Wix review.
Alternatively, you can choose from over 500+ ecommerce-optimized and mobile-responsive templates. Each one is 100% customizable, and you can add or remove sections as you need to.
Whether you start from scratch or the AI builder, you get complete control over the look, feel, colors, fonts, images, and everything else on your website.
Either way, setting up your online store with Wix is just about as easy as it gets, which is why it’s our top recommendation for beginners.
So, despite its simplicity, it’s very flexible and customizable.
But you also get various advanced features too, including things like full design control, related product sliders, customer wish list options, galleries, product collections, and more.
Not only that, but this platform is more stable and secure than most, too. With full security protection, including 24/7 monitoring, DDoS protection, and TLS 1.3 encryption, you’ll never have to worry about cyberthreats. Plus, they optimize their data centers for unflagging reliability and even include auto-scaling so your site can handle unexpected spikes in traffic.
Paid plans start at $27 per month. All plans include web hosting, unlimited bandwidth, and an ad-free experience for your customers.
To sweeten the deal, all sales are commission-free. You will have to pay the standard rate for your payment processor, but Wix doesn’t take a dime.
Take Wix for a test drive to see if it’s right for you today. If you like what you see, just follow our step-by-step guide to building a Wix website.
#4 – Squarespace — Best Ecommerce Platform For Portfolios
Squarespace is another well-known website builder.
But compared to Wix or other site builders on the market, Squarespace has ecommerce functionality built into all of its plans (except for personal sites).
Squarespace is known for having incredible designs. These award-winning templates are perfect for artists, musicians, photographers, and other creatives who want to make a portfolio site. With Squarespace, selling products in your portfolio is simple.
You can sell products, subscriptions, services, gift cards, or anything else with your Squarespace store.
All of Squarespace’s ecommerce templates are modern, beautiful, and optimized for mobile devices as well.
If you’re looking for a simple way to set up an ecommerce store, Squarespace is perfect for you.
But for those of you who have extensive product catalogs and complex needs, you’ll run into some limitations with this platform, especially as your store grows. So I’d really only recommend it to those of you in the creative space selling a limited number of products.
If you want to learn more about this platform and its online store capabilities, read our post reviewing Squarespace in full.
Pricing for Squarespace with ecommerce capabilities starts at $33 per month. Try Squarespace free for 14 days.
#5 – BigCommerce — Best Ecommerce Platform For Multi-Channel Sales
BigCommerce is a staple in the ecommerce space. For 10+ years, this platform has facilitated over $25 billion in merchant sales. It’s used by businesses in more than 120 countries.
Like Shopify, BigCommerce is also an all-in-one ecommerce solution. As a matter of fact, you’ll actually find more out-of-the-box native features in BigCommerce than you will with Shopify.
Don’t think you’ll end up using all the features. In fact, it can be a bit overwhelming at times to navigate through them.
The most significant standout of BigCommerce is how easy this tool is for facilitating multi-channel sales. From brick-and-mortar integration to online marketplaces and social commerce, BigCommerce supports it all. You can even switch between multiple storefronts with a single login.
BigCommerce supports B2B companies and international sales as well.
If you’re using BigCommerce to build your website from scratch, you’ll find it easy to make changes that will optimize conversions.
BigCommerce is optimized for SEO, supports digital wallets, faceted search, and is great for adding ecommerce features like custom discounts. Overall, it has everything you need to succeed.
Pricing starts at $29 per month with an annual plan. BigCommerce has other plans starting at $79 and $299 per month with an annual plan, respectively. For comparison purposes, these are nearly identical to Shopify’s rates.
You can learn even more about BigCommerce’s features by reading our full BigCommerce review.
Try BigCommerce today for free for 15 days and see what it can do for your web store.
#6 – Shift4Shop — Best Ecommerce Platform For Developers
Best for Developers
Think getting a premium end-to-end ecommerce solution with all the features and developer tools you need to build a totally custom online store for FREE sounds too good to be true? Shift4Shop's only requirement is that you use its built-in payment processor with industry-standard transaction fees.
Shift4Shop (formerly 3DCart) is a pioneer in the ecommerce industry. Founded in 1997, this platform has provided ecommerce services to more than 25,000 merchants online retailers.
Compared to some of the other ecommerce solutions on our list, Shift4Shop isn’t as popular. But that’s because it’s not really intended for the masses. This tool is designed for experienced developers.
You won’t have access to a drag and drop builder like you will with Shopify, Wix, or BigCommerce. Instead, Shift4Shop requires a bit of coding knowledge—it’s not for beginners.
Its standout offering is the free-forever plan. It’s a premium ecommerce solution you’ll never have to pay a monthly fee to use. Yup, it’s for real free-for-life, which is unheard of when it comes to developer-friendly ecommerce solutions (or any type of ecommerce platform, really).
It even comes with unlimited products, user seats, and bandwidth with hundreds of features you’d have to pay hundreds of dollars per month to unlock with other providers. We explain these features and much more in our full Shift4Shop review.
And it’s built so that you’ll never outgrow it. It automatically scales alongside your online store with no action required by you and no monthly fees, even if you make upwards of ten million dollars or more.
The only caveat of this plan? You have to use Shift4Shop’s built-in payment processor.
If you want to use it without using the built-in payment processor, there are standard monthly plans you can opt for that support other payment options as well.
#7 – Ecwid — Best Free Shopping Cart Extension
Ecwid isn’t the most well-known ecommerce solution on the market, but it’s a great option for anyone looking for a free shopping cart extension.
Ecwid is not a full-blown or all-in-one ecommerce platform. Similar to WooCommerce and EDD, it’s a plugin or an extension. While Ecwid is compatible with WordPress, it works with other platforms too. That’s the biggest difference between Ecwid and those other plugins on our list.
So if you’re currently using Wix, Weebly, Joomla, Tumblr, Squarespace, Adobe Muse, or Blogger, you can easily add ecommerce capabilities to your site with Ecwid.
For basic business needs, Ecwid has a free forever plan that you can take advantage of.
But if you want to sell on multiple sales channels and benefit from advanced features, you’ll definitely need to upgrade to a paid plan, starting at $19 per month. For example, the free plan doesn’t give you access to discount coupons or the ability to sell gift cards—both staples in the ecommerce world.
The free plan also limits you to just ten products. So it’s only realistic if you’re selling a handful of items.
More than 1.6 million businesses trust Ecwid to run an online store. They don’t offer a traditional free trial, but you can always sign up for the free forever plan to give it a try before upgrading.
#8 – WooCommerce — The Best Ecommerce Plugin For WordPress
WooCommerce is not an all-in-one ecommerce platform like some of the other solutions on our list. It’s a plugin that brings ecommerce functionality to WordPress websites.
WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world, but it doesn’t come with any out-of-the-box solutions for selling online. That’s where WooCommerce comes into play.
Once installed, you can build your ecommerce store and customize whatever you need without limitations. You can manage everything directly from your WordPress dashboard.
WooCommerce seamlessly integrates with other WordPress and business tools you might be using, like Yoast, Google Analytics, and Stripe. It also supports multi-channel sales and POS tools with platforms like Facebook, Stripe, PayPal, Square, and Fulfillment by Amazon.
The best part of WooCommerce? It’s free.
You will have to pay for some extensions. While some of those are free, others range up to $300.
WooCommerce offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for all extensions purchases.
For those of you who are already using WordPress, it’s easier to just install WooCommerce as opposed to rebuilding your site elsewhere or migrating to another platform. But if you’re starting a new website from scratch, you’d probably be better off with a different option on our list.
#9 – Easy Digital Downloads — Best Plugin For Selling Digital Products on WordPress
Easy Digital Downloads is another WordPress plugin. But unlike WooCommerce, this plugin is specifically designed for selling digital products (as the name implies).
If you currently have a WordPress site and want to start selling ebooks, files, website tools, and other digital products, EDD is going to be your best option.
You’ll have complete control over your files, making it easy to restrict access to paying customers. EDD comes with a fully integrated shopping cart, the ability to create discount codes, as well as valuable tracking and reporting tools for all purchases.
Easy Digital Downloads is free to download and install. But you can purchase passes to add features and functionality to your site.
- Personal – $199 per year
- Extended – $399 per year
- Professional – $599 per year
- All Access – $999 per year
Easy Digital Downloads integrates with tools and services that you’re already using like Slack, Stripe, PayPal, MailChimp, Zapier, AWeber, Dropbox, Amazon Web Services, and more.
With over 2.44 million downloads and 100+ themes, EDD is a simple and affordable way to sell and offer digital products online.
#10 – Volusion — Best Ecommerce Platform For Extensive Product Lists
Volusion is another ecommerce pioneer. This all-in-one ecommerce platform has been around for more than 20 years.
The platform has facilitated more than $28 billion in sales, 185+ million orders, and supports 30,000+ active users.
Like most all-in-one ecommerce tools, Volusion has everything you need to create an ecommerce shop and start selling online from scratch. It integrates seamlessly with tools like Constant Contact, Slack, PayPal, Amazon, Stripe, and more.
Plans start at $35 per month, and you can save up to 10% with an annual contract.
Volusion is a great option for ecommerce stores with hundreds or thousands of products. It’s robust enough to support your needs.
The biggest drawback of Volusion is its customer service. Over the years, it’s definitely gone downhill, which can be a bit concerning if you ever run into problems or need assistance.
You can try Volusion free for 14 days. No credit card required.
#11 – Magento — The Best Enterprise Ecommerce Platform
Magento is a powerful ecommerce platform. As an Adobe product, it’s trusted by B2B stores and global enterprises.
They offer industry-specific solutions for businesses in fashion, automotive, health and beauty, and food and beverage companies.
Unlike other ecommerce platforms on this list, you can’t find Magento’s prices online. You’ll need to contact their sales team to request a demo.
But if you do a little bit of digging, you’ll find that Magento’s prices start around $20,000 per year. That alone will separate them from the crowd.
If you’re a small business, boutique retailer, or looking to start a new online store from scratch, Magento is not for you.
But larger organizations will benefit from Magento’s high-quality ecommerce capabilities and backend functionality.
Magento also has a PWA (progressive web app) studio to fully optimize your shop for mobile devices. You can build a web app in addition to your online store.
Contact the Magento sales staff to request a free demo.
Methodology For Choosing The Best Ecommerce Platform
With so many ecommerce solutions to choose from, how can you tell which one is right for you?
Here at Crazy Egg, we have a specific methodology that we use when deciding what’s best. I’ll explain how you can weigh these factors to make a decision based on your personal needs.
Ecommerce platforms come in all different shapes and sizes. These options are segmented into the following categories:
- All-in-one solutions – best for anyone starting from scratch
- Website builders – best if you already use a site builder
- Plugins and extensions – best for self-hosted websites
All-in-one ecommerce solutions are best for anyone starting from scratch.
They include everything you need to get started, including a shopping cart, payment gateways, product listings, web hosting, product listings, order management, shipping tools, and more.
However, if you already have a website using Wix or Squarespace, you’re better off turning the existing website into an online store by upgrading to an ecommerce plan with the site builder you’re already using.
On the other hand, plugins and extensions are better if you already have a self-hosted website—like WordPress.org or Joomla.
Your Business Model
Another factor to consider is your business model.
There are a few questions to ask that will help shed more light on your business model, including:
- Are you selling digital products, physical products, or services?
- Do you have at least one brick-and-mortar location?
- Are you planning on dropshipping?
Physical products, digital products, and services require different delivery methods and ecommerce features. For example, physical products require fulfillment and shipping, whereas digital products require seamless delivery and file storage.
On the other hand, services may require scheduling and extensive communication before money exchanges hands.
If you have a brick-and-mortar location, consolidating orders and inventory across your sales channels is incredibly important. As such, you need an ecommerce platform that plays well with your current POS system.
Lastly, if you plan on dropshipping, it’s crucial to ensure the platform you choose supports it and integrates with your dropshipping software.
When accepting payments online, a lot of moving parts work together to seamlessly move money from one bank account to another.
Some ecommerce platforms have their own payment processor, while others require integration with a third party like Stripe or PayPal.
Shopify, for example, has its own payment processor but also lets you use third-party processors if you’d prefer. If you use Shopify’s processor, you’ll pay 2.4% – 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.
If you use a third party, Shopify takes anywhere from 0.5% to 2% of each transaction on top of the third party’s transaction fees.
So, it makes more sense to use Shopify’s processor if you’re looking for lower transaction fees.
Each ecommerce platform handles transaction fees differently. So, make sure you understand what you’re responsible for before making your final decision.
Most providers offer tiered pricing, with different limitations for each tier based on the number of products you have, your annual revenue, the number of user accounts you need, or the features you’re allowed to use.
BigCommerce, for example, lets you have as many products as you want. But you’re capped at $50k in annual revenue on the introductory plan.
Wix limits the number of automatic tax calculations they’ll perform for you and doesn’t allow dropshipping integrations or customer reviews on the introductory plan.
Squarespace charges additional transaction fees on the introductory plan but offers 0% transaction fees and more advanced features on higher tiers.
And even still, Ecwid limits the number of products you can list on any given plan.
Regardless of the platform you choose, make sure you understand the limitations of each plan and the cost of upgrading to a new plan once you outgrow those limitations.
Expanding Your Knowledge: Best Ecommerce Platforms and Software
The first step to selling anything online is finding the right ecommerce platform. For most users, we highly recommend Bluehost or Shopify. They’re easy to use, affordable, and suitable for businesses of all sizes.
However, they’re not a perfect fit for everyone.
So be sure to use the methodology we talked about as you go through the process of finding the best ecommerce platform for you.