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How to Choose the Best Ecommerce Platform for Your Store

Trying to choose the best ecommerce platform for your business is like trying to decide which doughnut to pick at the bakery. There’s the traditional chocolate cake doughnut (a.k.a., the small-level business ecommerce platform)—satisfying, simple, and a safe bet because it never disappoints.

Then there’s the Boston cream doughnut (the mid-level business ecommerce platform)—a smaller version of the Boston cream pie, frosting-topped with an additional pudding-filled punch.

And then there’s the maple bacon doughnut (the large business ecommerce platform)—ruler of all gluttonous doughnuts, this one passes for breakfast and dessert, packs a rich maple flavor, and contains enough bacon sprinkles to keep three humans fueled for an entire marathon.  

With so many ecommerce platform options, how the heck do you pick just one? Throughout this blog, we’ll cover everything you need to know about ecommerce platforms. We’ll go over what ecommerce is and how ecommerce platforms work, we’ll offer nine essential features to look for when shopping for an ecommerce platform, we’ll review seven of the top platforms available right now, and we’ll round out with a few extra tips to get you going.

Business Owner’s Guide to Ecommerce Platforms 

What is ecommerce? 

Whether you’ve seen it spelled with a hyphen (e-commerce), without a hyphen (ecommerce), or even with a capital letter inserted here and there (E-commerce, e-Commerce), the word always leads to the same definition: commercial transactions conducted electronically over the internet.

In even simpler terms, ecommerce is the buying or selling of anything online. From services such as online courses and consulting, to physical goods such as socks, throw pillows, and Godzilla garden gnomes, to digital goods like software and ebooks, ecommerce happens when anything is purchased online.  

What’s the big hype surrounding ecommerce? Well, there are two very big hypes:

1. Ecommerce is here to stay. The ecommerce industry has continued to grow year after year. According to a study by Statista.com, in 2016, 58.3% of global internet users purchased products online, and the total number of digital buyers worldwide reached 1.5 billion. As of 2019, this figure is projected to grow to 63%, and by 2021, the figure is set to surpass 65% of internet users worldwide. By next year (2020), forecasters expect to see more than 2 billion online shoppers. 

TL;DR: People like shopping online and they're gonna keep doing it.

2. There’s some serious money to be made. In 2018, approximately 1.8 billion people across the world purchased goods online. During that time, global ecommerce sales amounted to $2.8 trillion. And if that isn’t awesome enough, by 2021, global ecommerce sales are projected to grow to $4.8 trillion (no, that is not a typo).

If you’ve been thinking about adding a few extra bucks to your bank account, now is the time to dive into the ecommerce business pool. The average new ecommerce store brings home roughly $39,000 during its first month of business, and there are more than 110,000 online stores that rake in annual revenues beyond $1 million. 

How do ecommerce platforms work?

Now that you’re amped about the ecommerce industry—and aware that there’s some serious money to be made—you’re probably wondering where you can find a one-way ticket to board the ecommerce express train to success. Enter: the ecommerce platform.

An ecommerce platform is a software application that enables a business to sell products (like angry garden gnomes) and services online. The software also helps a business manage its website, marketing, sales, and other various operations. Basically, an ecommerce platform is like the command center aboard the USS Enterprise—it’s the main location dedicated to data analysis and mission operations (like the selling all of your cool products and services) and helps an online business run smoothly and efficiently.

Back in the stone age, ecommerce solutions for businesses were expensive, required an IT team, and the platforms themselves were as challenging to navigate as the streets of New York City pre-GPS. Luckily, for all of humankind, technology advanced, user-friendly software became a big hit, and "voila!" The ecommerce platform of today—one that unifies an online business’ functionality into a single mode—was born.  

Who can benefit from using an ecommerce platform? 

The answer to this question can be found in the form of one single question: Are you looking to sell something online? If you answer “yes,” then you’ll benefit from using an ecommerce platform.

Whether you have a small online shop, a big online business, a brick-and-mortar store, or you’re an entrepreneur who’s curious to see if your homemade extra-sustainable shopping bags will earn you some income, you’ll benefit from using an ecommerce platform. 

Today, there's no shortage of pre-packaged ecommerce platforms that help you build a digital storefront in no time. Many even enable you to prop them up without needing a lot of time, money, or brainpower, which is great for the online store keeping an eye on its resources. 

How to Choose an Ecommerce Platform 

What should you look for in an ecommerce platform? 

Are you pumped to hear that the ecommerce industry is alive and booming? Are you digging the idea of bringing home big bucks from selling all of your sweet goods and services online? Are you suddenly realizing that, after typing “ecommerce platforms” into a search bar, your ears are emitting plumes of smoke because a small explosion boomed in your head after reading “About 117,000,000 results (0.72 seconds)” at the top of the page?

While there are an infinite number of ecommerce platforms to choose from, there are ways for your online business to narrow down the playing field. Here are nine essential features to look for when shopping for an ecommerce platform: 

1. Easy shop setup. Look for a platform that is easy to set up and easy to design. You want the ability to fully capture the feel of your unique brand, so take a look at the different templates each platform offers. Templates are great because they don’t require you to hire outside help (expensive!) and they don’t require you to be a design whiz to create a professional look and make a bold statement.  

2. Easy to navigate and secure. Have you ever visited a website that’s hard to navigate? Usually it goes something like this: You’re browsing for a new pair of sandals and you find a pair you really like on a website that looks like it’s stuck in 1996. You ignore the outdatedness because YOU NEED THESE SANDALS, and then you waste 40 minutes of your life because you can’t, for the love of Jiminy Cricket, figure out how to navigate to the checkout aisle. And then you go to bed mad and sandal-less. 

Don’t send your customers to bed mad (and barefoot). The online shoppers of today expect a seamless experience that’s quick and painless. They’re itching to spend money, so don’t have them fly over Neptune and jump through fire rings to buy your product.

And when it comes to payment processing, be sure the ecommerce platform you’re eyeing offers top-notch security. A customer gets crabby when their credit card gets stolen and they’re unexpectedly charged $9,700 for a mahogany table that would never fit with their dining room décor. Look for a platform that supports HTPPS/SSL for a safe and secure checkout.

3. Integrations. Sometimes having too many options can feel like an overwhelming burden—similar to the cereal aisle at the grocery store. But when it comes to integration for ecommerce platforms, having a plethora of options to choose from can be a happy perk, especially if your business is looking to grow.

Look for a platform that integrates with your other existing systems and marketing channels. Does it integrate with Facebook? Will it run smoothly with your Ecommerce CRM sales and marketing platform … ahem, Drip? Does it work with Instagram? Are plugins and extensions available? 

4. SEO-friendly. When shoppers are looking for a particular product or service—like what your store is selling—it should be easy for them to find your business. You want to ensure that your online store ranks high in search results, especially if you’re a new ecommerce store or a small online shop. To do this, look for an ecommerce platform that’s SEO-friendly—you can use your own domain name, add your own blog, collect customer reviews—all to help drive shoppers to your business organically. 

5. Mobile-friendly. When it comes to the way customers are interacting with the ecommerce industry, one trend is crystal clear: Mobile shopping has become the norm. According to Statista.com, by 2021 global mobile retail revenue is projected to reach $3.56 billion (up $2.2 billion from 2017). And, according to 2019’s first quarter results of devices used when shopping, smartphones accounted for a whopping 65% of retail site visits.

When searching for an ecommerce platform, be sure it allows customers easy access to your website. The easier a customer can interact with your brand, the easier it’ll be to make a sale. 

6. Analytics. Your online store is (or will be very shortly) in the business of making money, so it’s important to monitor your store’s performance. Look for an ecommerce platform that helps you keep tabs on all of the important things—number of sales, payment methods, order amounts, and more—and displays stats in an easy-to-understand format. As an ecommerce business owner, the last thing you want is to play the numbers guessing game. 

7. Tech support. If the terms HTML, CSS, and JavaScript sound more like retired naval ships to you, it might be a good idea to look for an ecommerce platform that offers a solid customer support team. Your online store will be completely digital, and if you’re new to the scene, it pays to have real live humans who can answer your questions. 

8. Customer payment options. If it isn’t easy for your online customers to pay for a product or service, how are you going to bring home the bacon (or the maple bacon donut)? PayPal, Square, Apple Pay, and Stripe are a few examples of popular payment gateways for ecommerce stores. Be sure to consider what forms of payment you’re willing to take when searching for an ecommerce platform. 

9. Price. Some platforms come with standard monthly fees, others offer flat rates, some charge per transaction, and some ecommerce platforms even require additional costs for app subscriptions. Before you commit to a platform, do your homework, weigh the pros and cons, and stick to your budget so that you have room to grow. 

What should you consider before choosing an ecommerce platform?

There are lots of things to consider before choosing an ecommerce platform. To help tighten your search, ask yourself these two questions:

Is my business looking to grow?

While there’s no for-sure way to know if your online business will strike gold (we’d let you consult our Magic 8-Ball, but somebody at the office shook it too hard again), it’s better to choose an ecommerce platform that can support your business needs of today as well as your business needs further down the road. You’d rather have the wiggle room to grow and expand than to be limited by an ecommerce platform that can’t keep up with your booming business.

How much am I willing to spend?

An ecommerce platform is an investment for your business. While you don’t want to skimp out, you also don’t want to overpay. Do your research and weigh the yeas and nays of each platform. Will you be paying a flat monthly fee? Will there be extra costs for transactions, apps, and plug-ins? Decide which platform offers the best features that will benefit your business, then look for the lowest price that fits the bill (pun absolutely intended). 

Ecommerce Platform Reviews and Comparisons 

What are the best-rated ecommerce platforms?

We’ve put in our research hours, done our detective work, and narrowed the playing field down to seven ecommerce platforms. The following reviews and comparisons highlight the nine essential features (all that stuff we mentioned above) to look for when shopping for an ecommerce platform.  

Shopify

Whether you’re new to the ecommerce industry, or you’ve been on the block for a while, you’ve probably heard of Shopify. The ecommerce platform is a software as a service (SaaS) tool—a fancy way of saying you don’t own the software, but you pay a monthly fee to use it—that lets you create your own online store.

Shopify is available in five different versions to cater to businesses small and large. Shopify Lite is a good option if you’re looking to integrate with an already existing website or social media page (like if you want to start selling from your existing blog).

Basic Shopify is a step up from Lite and gives you a website and blog through Shopify (nice if you want your orders and products managed through the platform). Shopify (also known as the Shopify Plan) is a big leap up from Basic and dishes out pretty much every feature you’re looking for from a Shopify perspective—customizable website, online store, blog, even an abandoned cart recovery tool.

Advanced Shopify is a step above the Shopify Plan and includes custom reports and unlimited product uploads, and at the very top of the Shopify dynasty is Shopify Plus, which includes marketing and design perks, a fully hosted site, 200 TB of storage, and zero transaction fees.

For this review, we’ll focus mainly on the Shopify Plan.

Setting up shop is a piece of cake. The platform offers a step-by-step guide on how to add products, customize themes, and add a domain. Answers to questions are easy to find thanks to “learn more” buttons and suggested reading tips. Business operations can be managed from a central dashboard (accessible on desktop or mobile), and the platform offers a range of themes (more than 70) and customizable templates for a unique store look and feel.

Platform navigation/security: Shopify offers unlimited bandwidth, instant upgrades (to keep your store in tip-top shape), and 99.98% uptime—all bonuses to keep shoppers happy and engaged. Shopify is PCI (Payment Card Industry)-compliant, includes a 256-bit SSL certificate for your store, and covers all six PCI standards. 

Integrations: The platform works with more than 2,500 apps. The only big wig that Shopify no longer works with (natively) is Mailchimp. 

SEO-friendly: All Shopify stores have SEO built in and allow for content optimization. Your website’s sitemap.xml and robots.txt are autogenerated as well as title tags that include your store’s name. URLs for blog posts, products, webpages and alt text for images can all be edited.

Mobile-friendly: Not only can you manage your entire store from your phone, but shoppers can also access your store and make purchases from their mobile device. Shopify uses HTML 5 so your store looks awesome and is easy for shoppers to navigate.

Analytics: The platform’s analytics and reports features provide key metrics ranging from total sales to online store conversion rate percentages to average order values. With a standard Shopify plan, all users can access the Overview dashboard and Finances reports (which include taxes and payments), but if you’re looking for even more customized reports, you’ll have to upgrade to Advanced Shopify or Shopify Plus.

Tech Support: Need a hand? Options include 24/7 support via email, live chat, and phone support. An online Help Center can also be accessed.

Customer payment options: When shoppers are ready to seal the deal with your store and make a purchase, Shopify offers a plethora of payment options: Shopify Payments, third-party providers, PayPal, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, even alt methods of payment like cryptocurrency (the future is now!). Lots of options that are sure to bring home lots of dough.

Price: The platform offers a free 14-day trial as well as a variety of plans and prices. Lite starts out at $9/mo; Basic is $29/mo; Shopify (the Shopify Plan) is $79/mo; and Advanced tops out at $299/mo. If you’re looking for Shopify Plus—the enterprise level—we’re guessing the price tag contains a lot of numbers because Shopify’s website doesn’t offer a set amount; it links straight to a “Get in Touch” form.  

Drip’s two cents: Shopify’s five-tiered platform variety offers a huge buffet of ecommerce awesomeness no matter the size of your business. The platform makes selling easy, can be customized to your liking, and offers a great all-in-one ecommerce solution. 

Magento

Magento is another big name in the ecommerce industry and is available in two different platforms—Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce. Magento Open Source is a free version that can be downloaded, customized, and is self-hosted. Magento Commerce is basically a premium version of Magento Open Source that includes a subscription fee and cloud-hosting.

The company advertises Magento Commerce as being an all-in-one solution for small, mid-market, and enterprise-level businesses. For this review, we’ll mainly focus on Magento Commerce, but we’ll also dabble into Magento Open Source here and there.

Shop setup: If you’re looking for an easy store setup, the Magento world might not be your cup of tea. Magento Commerce comes with a steep learning curve and you probably won’t have your store up and running in minutes. Pre-built templates are available, but you’ll have to hit up the Magento Marketplace (and likely pay extra) for those. This may not be a roadblock if you have a developer or two by your side, but if you don't, this could slow you down.

Platform navigation/security: Magento prides itself on optimal front-end performances (like compressed images for faster loading) and optimal back-end performances. When it comes to security, Magento has a designated Security Center that offers patches, updates, and a host of best practices to keep your business safe and secure.

Integrations: The Magento Marketplace is where all of the integrations you could ever imagine live—literally thousands. While some extensions are free to install, a hefty number of them come with a price tag.  

SEO-friendly: In Magento, SEO is automatically configured and SEO tools are available in both Magento Commerce and Magento Open Source. Optimization options are also available, but they might require some tech speak.

Mobile-friendly: Magento’s PWA (Progressive Web Apps) studio focuses entirely on creating fast and engaging mobile experiences. If you’d like your store to lead the pack in the mobile shopping world, Magento has your back. 

Analytics: Magento Commerce provides dashboard that give live stats on sales, orders, and best-selling product data. It even comes with Business Intelligence Dashboards so that you can learn even more about your customers through advanced reporting tools. Magento Open Source does not offer Business Intelligence Dashboards.

Tech Support: Magento offers 24/7 tech support over phone and email. An online Help Center offers troubleshooting, a help center guide, a how-to section, and a FAQ section. So while you may have some tech questions if you're setting this up alone, Magento does try to alleviate the hurdles with these resources.

Customer payment options: Each version of Magento comes loaded with an integrated checkout, payment, and shipping feature. From PayPal to Amazon Payment to Stripe, Magento makes paying easy for customers.

Price: While Magento Open Source is free to download and use, there will be prices associated with its use—web hosting fees, add-ons, and payment processing fees. And if you’re looking to upgrade to Magento Commerce, the waters get murky when it comes to pricing. You can expect to dish out numbers starting in the four-digit range. Yipes.

Drip’s two cents: At the end of the day, Magento is robust, powerful, and will require users to speak some amount of tech language (especially with Magento Commerce). Pricing and features are the driving factors that dictate the major differences between Magento Commerce and Magento Open Source. If you’re relatively new to the ecommerce world, or you’re a small online business, check out Magento Open Source. If you’re a larger business or enterprise (and you have money to dish out), Magento Commerce might be your top pick. 

BigCommerce

BigCommerce is a SaaS platform that lets you create your online store. Loaded with tons of built-in features (even a sweet abandoned cart saver that sends automated emails to get shoppers back to their lonely cart) that are designed to cut back on the need for third-party apps, the platform is available in four different versions: Standard, Plus (most popular), Pro, and Enterprise.

For this review, we’ll focus mainly on its Plus plan.

Shop setup: You don’t have to be a tech wizard to use the BigCommerce—it’s actually geared toward users who have little to no web design experience. The platform is also great for shop customization and comes with 10 free themes and approximately 130 paid themes. They want you to get in and get selling ASAP, and they make it pretty slick to do so.

Platform navigation/security: BigCommerce claims to offer a 20% faster server response time than other ecommerce platforms and a 99.99% median uptime. Security is also tight—servers are PCI DSS 3.2 certified at Level 1 (a fancy way of saying it protects against credit card breaches), and the platform offers DDoS protection (prevents distributed denial of services attacks). Long story short, the platform is secure.

Integrations: From Facebook Easy Ads to Google Shopping, Coupon Manager, and ShipStation, BigCommerce integrates with most any app out there. This makes your selling, shipping, and marketing a lot easier to manage.

SEO-friendly: BigCommerce gets a solid green checkmark for SEO features. Page titles and headers are easy to edit, URLs specific to products are a cinch to change, and other advanced SEO tools are available.

Mobile-friendly: The only ecommerce platform to natively integrate with PayPal One Touch and Apple Pay, BigCommerce offers native support for accelerated mobile pages (AMP) for lightning-fast page load times.

Analytics: The platform’s Ecommerce Analytics and Insights reports offer stats on your store’s performance, shows its interaction with customers, and provides snapshots on your dashboard for quick views of orders, sales channels, and conversions.

Tech Support: The platform offers 24/7 live support via phone, chat, or email. BigCommerce also comes with lots of self-help guides including a section called “Ecommerce Answers” that includes how-to tips, ecommerce marketing and strategy tips, and a glossary of all the terms you're about to become very, very familiar with. 

Customer payment options: BigCommerce goes above and beyond in the world of payment options. The platform lets a store use the provider it chooses without additional transaction fees or penalties. PayPal, Apple Pay, Square, Stripe, Visa, Amazon, Chase … the list goes on. 

Price: The Standard plan is available for $29.95/mo, Plus is $79.95/mo, Pro jumps up to $249.95/mo, and Enterprise comes with a price tag that’s only available upon talking with a sales representative. If you’re not quite sure if BigCommerce is your winning ticket, you can take the platform for a free 15-day joy ride. 

Drip’s two cents: BigCommerce is an overall great ecommerce platform. It’s easy to use, loaded with how-to guides, flexible, customizable, and can scale with businesses large and small. For some users, the price might be a setback. Even if you sign up for the Standard plan, you’ll likely face platform transaction fees, credit card fees, and add-on fees. 

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is an open-source ecommerce plugin and is a popular choice among the ecommerce community. Built on WordPress, WooCommerce lets you sell all of your products and services from your existing WordPress site. Flexible and completely customizable, WooCommerce gives users complete control over their data and caters to businesses large and small.  

Shop setup: If you’ve spent even the smallest amount of time in WordPress, WooCommerce is a cinch to use. Getting your shop up and running can be done relatively quickly: Simply register a domain name, pick a web host, install WordPress, and install/activate the WooCommerce Plugin. Bing, bang, boom—done!

Plus, a setup wizard comes standard with the plugin for easy shop setup. Different themes are available in the WooCommerce Storefront and are ready to help your business take off.  

Platform navigation/security: Storefront is WooCommerce’s official theme and is easy to navigate. Categories, tags, and attributes help customers find what they’re looking for. Plus, search and navigation extensions are also available (some for free, some for a fee). However, because WooCommerce is self-hosted, your store’s security will lie mostly in your hands. 

Integrations: Known as extensions in WooCommerce, the plugin offers more than 400 official extensions. Facebook, Pinterest, MultilingualPress—lots of big names to plug into. 

SEO-friendly: WooCommerce is SEO-friendly straight “out of the box” because it runs on WordPress. Plugins can also be utilized to increase SEO functionality.

Mobile-friendly: Both your storefront and your behind-the-scenes administration work can be utilized via a smartphone. Customers can shop as they please, and you can monitor your store from your bedroom, the bathroom, heck, even from the sauna at the gym. (But we don't really recommend taking your phone into a steamy, hot room for prolonged periods of time.)

Analytics: A dashboard that displays sales, orders, and general store status can be added to your WordPress account to keep you in the loop. WooCommerce also integrates with Google Analytics so you can track what's making waves and what's dead in the water.

Tech Support: WooCommerce falls a bit flat in the area of tech support. Most support can be sought through self-help guides, and the response time to web tickets is reported to be slower than death. 

Customer payment options: While the plugin comes with PayPal, other extensions such as Amazon Payments, Stripe, PayFast, Authorize.net, and FirstData are available.

Price: WooCommerce itself is free because it’s a plugin, but it’s not really free to use. To get up and running, you’ll have to pay for hosting fees (around $15/year) and domain fees (approximately $120/year). And if you want a good looking theme inside of WooCommerce expect to spend between $20-$100/year), communications/SEO/security add up to be around $250/year, and if you want any plugins, those range from $0-$250+.

Remember when we dropped the word “free” at the beginning of this paragraph?

Neither do we.   

Drip’s two cents: The one downside to WooCommerce is that it’s self-hosted. In other words, the user has to manage updates and maintenance. But the overall perks associated with WooCommerce—usability, scalability, and customization—are awesome. The fees associated with actually using WooCommerce (domain fees, communication fees, etc.) might be a big deterrent for some, but looking at WooCommerce as a whole, we’ll admit that we’re “Woo-ed.”  

Squarespace

Squarespace is an all-in-one SaaS platform used for building websites. Whether you’re a business that’s just getting started, or you’re a brand that’s been around for a while, Squarespace offers power, scalability options, and lots of customization power for selling online.  

Shop setup: Shop setup with Squarespace is a breeze—just create an account, choose a template, edit, and presto … website complete. The platform’s interface is crystal-clear and clean, and while the drag-and-drop website builder is based on sections, it’s easy to work with.

The platform offers some of the best quality templates around (more than 100 templates are available) and all templates are flexible and fully adaptable for mobile devices. And, on a side note, if you download Squarespace’s app, you have full power to edit your website from your smartphone.

Platform navigation/security: If you’re looking for a storefront that makes a bold and beautiful statement, Squarespace is your go-to platform. Templates offer clean layouts and a shopper-friendly experience. From a security standpoint, the platform has DDoS Protection and built-in security features to ward off bugs and malware.

Integrations: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Dropbox—everything you want to keep your store in the social loop is at your fingertips. Other integrations include G Suite, Adobe Fonts, Zapier, Amazon, and more. These integrations enable you to put your brand 

SEO-friendly: Squarespace does not require a user to download any additional plugins and it produces pages with clean HTML and clean URLs that are easily read and indexed. Automatic tagging, automatic redirects, and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) come standard with the platform.

Mobile-friendliness: Squarespace uses a single page checkout integrated with Google Place Autocomplete to make address-entering fast and convenient for shoppers. All templates come with built-in mobile styles that activate when your site detects a phone is being used.

Analytics: The platform keeps tabs on the number of store visitors, trends, traffic influxes, and sales and conversions. Plus, it offers an overall view of how a store is performing.  A mobile app is also available for download for easy on-the-go store monitoring. Always be in-the-know about your store's performance so you can make informed decisions on the fly. 

Tech Support: The support team is available 24/7 for any plan and includes email and live chat support. There’s also an extensive knowledge base, help center, and a community-driven Q&A website. 

Customer payment options: Squarespace integrates directly with Stripe, but other options—Apple Pay and PayPal—are also available.

Price: Overall, Squarespace is a great option of you’re looking to save money. The Personal plan starts at $12/mo, the Business Plan (most popular) is $18/mo, Basic Commerce plan is $26/mo, and Advanced Commerce is $40/mo. Plans can be paid yearly (discounts are offered for long-term commitments) and service can be stopped at any time. The platform also offers a free 14-day trial, so you don't have to commit right away.

Drip’s two cents: If you’re a designer, a photographer, or an artist looking to showcase your artsy side, Squarespace will float your boat. The platform offers the flexibility to capture the full essence of you and your online store, it won’t break the bank, and—with unlimited storage and bandwidth (even available on its cheapest plan)—Squarespace won’t hold your business back from growing. 

SamCart

SamCart is a web-based checkout software designed to help ecommerce businesses showcase and sell products. It features conversion-optimized checkout templates, 1-Click Upsell, and order bump—all features that are designed to help a business maximize profits.  

Shop setup: The platform offers more than 18 high-converting templates to bring ghosted shoppers back to their shopping carts. Templates are easy to customize and are mobile-responsive. SamCart also offers an additional unique feature worth mentioning: 1-Click Upsells.

An upsell is a strategy to get a customer to buy something else—whether it’s an extended warranty or extra bacon for your cheeseburger. SamCart claims that its 1-Click Upsells make three times more money on every sale—a sweet deal if it’s legit. Other easy-to-use features include a One-Page Checkout, Order Bumps, and Subscription/Payment Plans. That's all like instant optimization right out of the gate.

Platform navigation/security: SamCart is great at making navigation easy for customers. From its 1-Click Upsell buttons (seriously, just one click gives you the added perk you’re looking for) to checkout popups that allow shoppers to pay on your product page, SamCart’s platform makes shopping a cinch for customers. From a security standpoint, the platform offers SSL-certified checkout pages served via HTTPS. While the security options aren’t the most far-reaching, they’re pretty standard overall.

Integrations: From Stripe and PayPal, to Zapier, Drip, and WordPress, SamCart works with more than 100 integrations (Zapier adds an additional 750+ integrations) designed to make your business life easier.  

SEO-friendly: What are the stats on SamCart’s SEO-friendliness? We can’t find zilch … which might be a bad sign. 

Mobile-friendly: SamCart uses mobile responsive checkout pages that make shopping on a mobile device easy and convenient.  

Analytics: SamCart’s Profit-Center dashboard offers info on page views, conversion rates, sales, orders, refunds, and profits. The platform offers an overall look into how your online business is doing. A/B split testing is an additional marketing feature that lets you analyze two versions of a web page so that you can see which performs best.

Tech Support: SamCart offers users customer support that is accessible from inside the platform’s dashboard. It also comes loaded with a Knowledge Base that includes videos, help articles, and webinars.

Customer payment options: The platform connects with Stripe to accept major credit cards, and it syncs payments through PayPal. SamCart also claims to be able to convert 17.8% more customers through its Payment Plans feature. One downside is that it doesn’t offer crypto (the future is not now!) or Apple Pay support.

Price: The platform offers two plans: Pro for $99/mo. and Premium for $199/mo. No contracts are required, and cancellations can be made at any time. All plans include integrations, templates, payment processing, coupons, and an SSL certificate. SamCart also offers a 14-day free trial.

Drip’s two cents: While SamCart isn’t nearly as robust as Shopify, WooCommerce, or Squarespace, it’s a relatively nice ecommerce platform that can get the job done. Two big perks are its conversion optimized checkout templates and its 1-Click Upsell button. Two big minuses are its limited number of payment gateways, and its steep monthly pricing. 

Big Cartel

Painters, authors, photographers, artists, creators—these are the clients Big Cartel aims to please. This ecommerce platform is a web-based, fully hosted software that prides itself on being easy and affordable to use.  

Shop setup: If a simple ecommerce platform is what you’re after, Big Cartel is your golden ticket. Setup is easy (simply create an account, follow the setup wizard, and you’re ready to roll), the design is a WYSIWYG editor that requires no coding, and your site can be edited with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The platform comes with 15 standard themes (all work with mobile) and can look pretty stellar once you insert your high-res images.

Platform navigation/security: There’s no search function or filtering tool available for stores that use Big Cartel, and this has the potential to drive shoppers bonkers. From a security standpoint, Big Cartel addresses and custom domains are SSL encrypted, and all transactions are secured through your payment processor.

Integrations: While this area isn’t a strong suit, Big Cartel does work with freebies like Facebook, Instagram, and Google Analytics. The platform also has the ability to expand its integrations horizon thanks to Zapier—but that’ll cost you extra.

SEO-friendly: Automatic sitemap generation, a canonical URL, unique titles and meta descriptions on products and pages, search-engine-nice URLs—these are standard SEO perks that come built in to Big Cartel.

Mobile-friendly: All of the themes available on Big Cartel are fully mobile responsive. Each theme reformats to fit phone screens (and tablets), so you can rest easy knowing your customers are having a seamless shopping experience from their phones.

Analytics: Big Cartel’s dashboard gives you insight on current sales, visitor stats, and conversion rates. Google Analytics can also be utilized (for free!) to give you even more insight about your store. IOS and Android apps are available for mobile store management.

Tech Support: Phone and chat support are not available at Big Cartel, but the platform has an active Twitter and Facebook page where answers to your questions might exist. A Help Center is available, but it’s not very robust.  Customer service is reachable via email 5 days a week (Monday-Friday) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST … (after the third week under the full moon on odd-numbered years … you get the picture.)

Customer payment options: Big Cartel integrates with Stripe, PayPal, Square, and Apple Pay. While it doesn’t charge transaction fees, the payment processors will charge you.

Price: The platform offers three sparkly monthly plans. The Platinum plan is $9.99/mo and is good for up to 25 products; the Diamond plan is $19.99/mo and good for up to 100 products; and the Titanium plan tops out at $29.99/mo and is good for up to 300 products. All plans include five images per product, bulk editing, and shipment tracking. And if you’re looking to take the platform for a spin around the block, the Gold plan is free, but it comes with limited features.  

Drip’s two cents: While Big Cartel is easy and affordable, these strongpoints also play to its weaknesses—its features are limited. If you’re a new business that’s just starting out, and you’ll be satisfied with staying small, Big Cartel might be up your alley. But if you need customer support, don’t say we didn’t warn you.  

What are the best ecommerce platforms for small business?

When it comes to ecommerce platforms for small businesses, our picks from the seven platforms listed above include Shopify Lite, Squarespace, SamCart, and Big Cartel. All four platforms keep prices relatively low and come with a plethora of standard features needed to keep an online business up and running. 

What are the best ecommerce platforms for large business?

If you’re a large business on the prowl for an ecommerce platform, check out Shopify Plus, Magento, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce. All of these platforms offer robust features and scalability to help your business excel. 

Choose Your Own Delicious Adventure

Ultimately, all seven ecommerce platforms reviewed in this blog at least touch on nine essential features to look for in a platform. What really separates one platform from the next boils down to extra available features. So, when it comes time to make a final decision, do your research, account for all flavorful toppings and perks (chocolate frosted, pudding filled, bacon sprinkled), and listen to your gut. Yum.

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