The Best Hosted and Paid Ecommerce Platforms
Published by Abbi in Ecommerce
With so many different ecommerce platforms to choose from, finding the perfect one to host your business can be challenging. It's especially hard when you don't know what distinguishes one from another. So, to help you pick we've uploaded a handy guide to our five top picks.
With over a million active users, Shopify is one of the leading ecommerce platforms at the moment. With its user friendly interface and in house team taking care of all technical problems, it's the perfect platform for those just starting out. However, those with coding skills can also benefit from Shopify's features, as it still lets users take complete control if they wish.
Everything, including websites, stores and blogs, are fully and easily customisable. With a wide selection of third party shipping providers available, automating the fulfilment process is simple. Their Shopify Payment tool means stores can accept credit cards directly and instantly on setting up. Shopify includes access to other a variety of sales channels, meaning users can sell products on sites like Pinterest, Facebook and more. If anything goes wrong they have excellent 24/7 customer support.
It's extremely user-friendly meaning even if you aren't an expert at design or coding you can make the most of Shopify's features. These include a drag-and-drop interface, easily navigable admin bar and an easy to use theme editor, amongst other tools.
Shopify lets users test it with a 14-day free trial, to see if it's the right platform for them. After that, monthly
Plans depend on the level of service required: Shopify Lite at $9/month, is perfect for those who want to sell on Social Media. Whilst you can't create your own website it gives you the tools to sell on existing websites. Basic Shopify is $29/month and allows you two staff accounts. It has all the basic features, including unlimited products and file storage. However, credit card rates and non-Shopify Payments transaction fees are slightly higher. Shopify costs $79/month and includes up to five staff accounts, with extra features including professional reports and abandoned cart recovery. Advanced Shopify will set you back $299/month but allows you to have up to 15 staff accounts, an advanced report builder and third-party calculated shipping rates.
Shopify users can enjoy a variety of SEO features that are included within the platform, such as automatic canonical tags as well as sitemaps, making it easy for anyone to use. URLs, meta descriptions and title tags can also be easily edited for SEO optimisation.
Whilst Shopify contains an in-built blogging feature for help with content marketing, it isn't always the easiest tool to use and can be confusing at times. As stated above, when not using Shopify Transactions your shop will incur transaction fees.
Another eCommerce giant, WooCommerce manages the impressive feat of hosting over 28% of all online stores. Used as a free plugin on WordPress, WooCommerce is touted as a tool for both shop owners and developers alike. As it's a self-hosted and open source platform, it's highly customisable and any user is able to view and edit the code.
Over 400 official extensions mean it's easy to keep developing your store in the way that you want. It offers options to easily control tax and shipping settings. It automatically comes with PayPal, BACS and cash on delivery set up as Payment Gateways. It's use of WordPress means it has almost unlimited options for website themes.
A straightforward guide will take you through the five key stages of WooCommerce. However, after that it can be difficult to master the rest of the features, in which case you can turn to their online forum or support team for help.
WooCommerce is essentially a free platform, but if you want more than just the basics you have to pay more. Most additional extensions will cost you anything from $49 to $299.
WooCommerce has a range of customisable SEO tools that will help boost visibility. Access to your shop's source code means you can optimise at will if you have the wherewithal.
One of its main features can also work against it; the fact that it's self-hosted leaves WooCommerce more vulnerable to bugs and security issues. However, its code is continually audited by industry leaders to try and combat this. As it's an add-on for WordPress, it can only be used on their sites.
Magento is generally thought to be the most flexible of the eCommerce platforms, with a wealth of out of the box features and simple third-party integration. For those who are tech-savvy, there are near unlimited options for customisation, but this means it may not be the best option for those just starting out.
The main draw of Magento is its complete flexibility. Through its functionality and array of tools, it is easy to create a unique and comprehensive store. Everything is able to be coded to the users taste and anything, from private sales to promotions, can be handled how they want. Magento has a fairly built up support system, with an 'ecosystem' of innovative developers at the user's disposal.
With it's super flexibility and customisation options, the drawback is that it tends to be less user friendly than platforms such as Shopify. It can take longer to get used to, which can be off-putting for those who want to make an immediate start to their ecommerce site.
Magento offers both free and paid options that are fitting depending on the size of your business. Magento Open Source (formerly Magento Community) is a free downloadable edition. This option is more basic than the full edition, but contains the performance and features that would still be suitable for small business owners. Additionally it is an open source platform. Magento Enterprise Edition is considerably more expensive than any of our other featured platforms, so it is generally better suited to bigger businesses. They have a 30-day free trial available so you can see if it's worth the high price for your business. Within this edition there are two different options: Magento Commerce Starter at $1988 a month, which includes cloud hosting and development as well as round the clock email support. Magento Commerce Pro at $3417 a month, which includes business development tools and dedicated hardware, amongst other extra features.
Everything you need for high-quality SEO will be available to you immediately. You can edit the majority of your tags and files in order for your site and product listings to rank as highly as possible. They also offer a selection of free and paid courses, useful for those who want to up their SEO knowledge.
Magento can be extremely complicated, meaning you have to be quite tech savvy to be able to take full advantage of it. Getting the full use of features means paying a premium price, which may not be accessible for smaller business owners
Used on over 250,000 online stores, PrestaShop is the economy option; perfect for smaller business users and startups.
With over 500 ready to use features, users can create their shops almost instantly. PrestaShop allows you utilise analytical tools, such as Forecasting and Intelligent Merchant KPI's, in order to help track and improve the traffic being driven to your store. Its simple integration features means you can export your product lists directly to eBay, Amazon and Google Shopper.
Its user friendly interface and easy to use admin centre make it extremely accessible, whilst also allowing users to customise their store with plenty of available extensions.
Prestashop currently runs as a free download, making it the perfect option for sole traders. However, your own hosting will need to be arranged which will create additional costs. Prestashop is also in the Beta stages of testing PrestaShop Ready, which will be $14.50 and allow users a fuller service.
PrestaShop's SEO options are fairly solid, with the usual options to create optimised URL's and edit pages. However, if you run into any problems you must pay for support.
Its plug in range isn't as extensive as other platforms, so it's necessary to check if they allow your preferred carriers. Support must be paid for, and even if you do pay, that only allows a certain amount of hours per year.
An all-in-one eCommerce solutions that claims to be the best platform for SEO. The South Florida based company 3DCart has been helping merchants sell online since 1999.
200+ standard features that reduce the need for apps or plugins. Choose from 50 free mobile-ready themes. With built-in marketing tools that include newsletters, daily deals, reward system and more. Over 100 payment solutions are supported.
All themes are optimized for mobile devices and page speed. With full access to customize your templates via FTP, 3dcart is one of the most flexible hosted solutions.
All 3dcart plans come with zero transaction fees, unlimited product, and bandwidth. Also offering a 15-day trial. The Startup plan is one of the lowest at $19 a month, it gets you all the features needed to sell online and 1 staff user. 3dcart Basic is $29/month includes all the features in startup, plus 2 staff users and 24x7 phone support. 3dcart Plus is $79 a month, with advanced marketing features like Store Credits, Make-an-offer, Abandoned Cart Saver, Newsletters and more. 3dcart Pro is $229/month, includes 15 staff users and caters to larger businesses with Automation Rules, Autoresponders, Pre-orders, and Autoship.
3dcart SEO tools are superior to other hosted solutions, with the highest page speed scores, and SEO tools like AMP for products, Custom URLs, Canonical URLs, 301 redirects, Dynamic sitemap and built-in rich snippets.
The main drawback with 3dcart is the staff users limits per plan and that some of the more advanced features are limited to the higher plans.
An eCommerce platform that promises to help businesses start growing their company in no time, BigCommerce claims that merchants using their technology grow their businesses by 28% year over year.
With its user-friendly interface, BigCommerce offers lots of different options for fine tuning your store. If you want to move to them from another eCommerce platform, BigCommerce make it easy to do so with their bulk product import/export feature. With in-built CRO tools, including one-page checkout, abandoned cart recovery and a faceted search feature, BigCommerce helps to streamline your site.
A wide variety of payment gateways are supported, with zero transaction fees.
BigCommerce offers a large range of website themes to make customizing your storefront easy. BigCommerce sites are optimised for mobile use, a feature which is becoming increasingly important.
BigCommerce offers multiple monthly payment plans, with all of them including zero transaction fees, unlimited staff accounts and unlimited product and file storage. There's also a limit on annual sales; each category offers you a higher amount. You also have the ability to try it out with their 15-day free trial: The Standard plan for $29.95 a month will get you all their basic features, including multiple sales channels, single page checkout, real time shipping quotes and professional reporting tools. BigCommerce plus goes for $79.95 a month, and will additionally offer you abandoned cart saver and customer groups and segmentation. BigCommerce Pro is $249.95 a month, offering Google customer reviews, faceted search options and custom facets, as well as lower fees on credit card payments. For larger businesses there is also the option of the Enterprise plan, which is a custom quote.
BigCommerce includes the usual SEO optimisation tools, such as sitemaps, meta tags and optimised URL's, amongst more.It also comes with an in-built blog which can be useful for creating shareable content.
As stated above, the main drawback is that each plan comes with a limit on online sales per year, meaning you may have to opt for a pricier payment plan if you go over the limit.
So which platform is best?
Most of these platforms share a lot of similarities, as they know what key features make a successful eCommerce business. Although it is fair to say each has its own distinct quirks.
The best platform is dependent on a few different factors; the size of your business; how much you're willing to pay; how important it is to have a use friendly interface; if you're tech literate and want to get right into the coding yourself.
For those with little to no development experience, or who just want everything taken care of for them, Shopify or BigCommerce make sense. With their user friendly interfaces and simple set up they are easy to use. On the other hand, if you have basic web development skills and want to get stuck into the nuts and bolts of your shop, WooCommerce or PrestaShop allow you to do just that. Magento, by far the most flexible and feature heavy, is perfect if you need a complex shop and already have lots of visitors, as well as a developer on board.
Hopefully, this guide will shed some light on the basics of each product so it's easier to get an idea of what might suit you best. Remember that most of these platforms are either free or offer a free trial, so make sure you play around with a couple of options to see what suits you best.