What’s The Best Ecommerce Hosting Platform for Your Online Store?
Choosing the best ecommerce platform for your online store is a tough and often all too confusing process. It’s tough to run a simple comparison because there is no such thing as an absolute “best ecommerce platform” – only the platform that is right for your business considering all the tradeoffs.
The tradeoffs include, but are not limited to, your budget, your technical resources and knowledge, your specific feature needs, and your approach to vendors.
This ecommerce platform comparison quiz takes all the most common considerations and maps out the answers to the top ecommerce platform choices. Take the quiz and see who is the best ecommerce platform in 2017 / 2018 for your small business (or skip to see summary of best choices).
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Disclosure: I receive referral fees from companies mentioned on this site, including the ones mentioned in this quiz. My recommendations are based on my experiences as an independent paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
Based on my experience working with many ecommerce platforms, there are a few that are a good fit for most people. Here’s a summary of the companies included in the quiz.
Best Ecommerce Platform Choices
|Name||Best if you want…||Plans!|
|Shopify||…versatile platform w/ good support, design, pricing & apps.||See Features.|
|BigCommerce||…intuitive dashboard, good pricing w/ focus on online-only stores.||See Features.|
|WooCommerce||…max control & cheapest option but DIY setup, speed & security.||See Features.|
|Weebly||…a simple way to sell a few products rather than a full online store.||See Features.|
What to Look for in an Ecommerce Platform / Host
Ecommerce platform options exist on a spectrum, and the platform that makes sense for you depends on what you really need out of it.
Think about when you are choosing a car. The core need is to get from point A to point B. With an ecommerce platform, you need someone to see a product you sell, put it in a shopping cart, and send you some money. That’s it. But like car selection – there’s more to it. Here’s the most common ways to compare your “top” or “best ecommerce platform.”
If you are choosing a car – you know that your budget decides if you are looking at a Toyota or a Lexus. Same with online store and ecommerce options. More budget will bring in more interesting platforms with more built-in features. On the more affordable side, you’ll see more DIY options that are great, but require a bit more work.
There is a difference between something working and something being user-friendly. Some companies will prioritize features over design. That’s a tradeoff. You might prefer all the features and options in the world, and be fine with ugly buttons. Another storeowner might appreciate better design over another obscure feature.
It’s great to be able to call someone up for help. It also costs money – and means that you are on a standardized platform. Others may be fine with having a developer on retainer – or saving money with DIY education.
Similar to features & design – there is a tradeoff between control and convenience. The more you can customize every bit your online store means that it will also be more complex.
Some websites are pure-play ecommerce stores. But some websites see content as a big marketing opportunity. But similar to user-friendliness, there’s a tradeoff between ecommerce features and content marketing features.
Some platforms make it harder to leave than others. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it allows them to provide a better experience within their platform. But some owners want the option to leave with all their data and designs.
Custom Web design
A huge part of choosing the best ecommerce platform is custom design. Most platforms let you choose from a selection of customizable “themes” – but some make it harder than others to build a truly custom design experience.
Like your smartphone, a platform won’t necessarily include all the features you want, but they will provide an app store so that you can extend it as you wish. It’s the same with ecommerce platforms. Some try to provide all the right online store features within a package. Some build out an “app store” so that you can decide.
Speed & Security
Most ecommerce platforms also provide hosting as part of the complete package. They also take care of security. But like customer support, this service costs money. If it’s not important to you, then you can take care of it with a more DIY platform.
All ecommerce platforms help you manage your orders and inventory. But some sync with your offline sales better than others. Some even will be your offline ordering system so that you have a seamless inventory/payment experience between offline and online store.