If you are looking for a quick and easy way to launch a high-quality online store, it is a good idea to use an ecommerce platform. Ecommerce platforms are online-based software solutions that allow one to build an online store quickly even if they have absolutely no experience with coding or anything like that.
In 2021 there are a lot of ecommerce platforms and quite big differences in the quality between the different platforms. As such it can be difficult to know what is the right platform for you. Hopefully this page can help with that challenge. From below you can find a comparison table and quick reviews of what I consider to be the top ecommerce platforms of 2021.
A quick comparison of the best ecommerce platforms (1 to 10 ratings)
|Name||Features||Ease of use||Cost|
Note: “Cost” aims to take into account both the typical monthly or annual price of using the platform in question and the possible transaction fees charged by the platform. The higher the rating for “cost”, the lower the estimated total average cost of using the platform.
#1 Shopify – The best ecommerce platform in 2021
While Shopify’s success has pushed many of its competitors to improve their offering, in my opinion, Shopify is still in 2021 for most founders and companies the best ecommerce platform. Go to Shopify.
Shopify’s most important advantages include, for example, how easy it is to use, how good their customer service is and the fact that their plans are priced in a very open and clear way. In 2021 the cheapest proper Shopify plan still usually costs $29/month and the two other normal plans cost respectively $79/month and $299/month. And, if you pay for a year or two in advance, you can get a discount on those already relatively modest prices.
In addition to those three “normal” Shopify plans, Shopify also has a plan called “Lite” with which you can do ecommerce on an existing website for just $9/month and a plan called Shopify Plus that is intended for large ecommerce businesses.
Are there things you should be aware of before building a store with Shopify? While Shopify is in my opinion the best ecommerce solution, even it is not perfect. And the two things you should know before paying for your Shopify subscription are that 1) Shopify charges transaction fees and 2) Shopify can be quite strict in how you can edit the URLs of store pages. If either of those things is likely to be a deal-breaker for you, I would recommend testing Zyro or BigCommerce.
Nice to know about Shopify: Previously Shopify’s users who were on the $29/month plan could not offer/sell gift cards to their customers. However, this was changed in 2020 and currently all the regular Shopify plans include the option to have gift cards. Thus the $29/month Shopify plan is now an even better deal than it was before.
Free trial: Shopify is currently offering all new users a 14-day free trial. Try Shopify for free.
More information about Shopify: Shopify review.
#2 Zyro – a great combination of cheap and simple
Zyro is not the world’s most advanced ecommerce solution, but it has at least two nice things going for it. First of all, it can be extremely cheap: the monthly cost can be under $10 if you choose a long-term subscription. And secondly, Zyro is also very simple and despite that allows you to design a nice-looking online store. Those things together mean that Zyro is currently my number one recommended ecommerce solution for those looking for an especially cheap ecommerce platform. Go to Zyro.
For more about Zyro, see my Zyro ecommerce review.
#3 BigCommerce – Good ecommerce platform for tech-savvy founders
While BigCommerce has been moving more into serving really large companies, it does also have a pretty or even a very good ecommerce solution geared more towards small and medium-sized ecommerce businesses. That part of BigCommerce’s offering is called “BigCommerce Essentials”. And the one that is serving large clients is called “BigCommerce Enterprise”.
When considering just the features of the platform, BigCommerce Essentials might actually in 2021 be even better than Shopify: Just like Shopify, BigCommerce also offers a lot of different ways to customize how your store looks and functions and also with BigCommerce it is possible to launch your online store quite quickly. However, in addition to those things, BigCommerce also offers, for example, more options than Shopify when it comes to customizing your store’s URLs. And what is also great is that at least in many cases BigCommerce charges less transaction fees than Shopify.
Unfortunately though, BigCommerce also has some downsides. The first two of them apply to pretty much all BigCommerce users and the third one to those who would like to have their store in some other language than English.
The first issue is that BigCommerce has revenue limits on its 3 Essentials plans. In practice, that means that with BigCommerce’s Standard-plan you can sell at most $50,000 worth in a 12-month period, with Plus-plan you can sell at most $180,000 worth in 12 months and with Pro-plan the limit is set at $400,000 in one year. However, in regard to the Pro-plan it is nice to know that it is possible to increase the yearly revenue limit by paying an extra $150/month for every $200,000 in the yearly limit.
The second issue with BigCommerce is that it has a bit steeper learning curve than, for example, Wix or even Shopify. So, if you are going to use BigCommerce and don’t have previous experience with building online stores or websites, it will probably take some time to get everything to look and function as you want them to. However, it is good to note that BigCommerce recently introduced a big update to their platform, which made it much easier to use. If this progress continues, BigCommerce might very well in the future be as easy as, for example, Shopify.
The third issue with BigCommerce is that their themes are currently only available in English. According to BigCommerce it is possible to translate your store to another language but obviously that will take some work and you might run into some hurdles when doing it.
How much does using BigCommerce Essentials cost? That depends on the plan you pick. The Standard-plan costs $29.95/month, the Plus-plan costs $79.95/month and the Pro-plan costs $299.95/month. Those are the prices when paid on a monthly basis, and if you are hoping for cheaper per month prices, you should be happy to know that there is a 10% discount on the Plus and Pro plans when paid on an annual basis.
Does BigCommerce offer a free trial? Yes. BigCommerce Essential users get a 15-day free trial. Try BigCommerce for free.
A little bit more about BigCommerce: BigCommerce review.
#4 WooCommerce – best ecommerce solution for WordPress
If you are already familiar with WordPress (a publishing platform), WooCommerce might be as good of an option as Shopify. That is because if you have the needed knowledge about WordPress you can quite easily build a nice looking and well-functioning online store with WooCommerce. And naturally it is also nice that WooCommerce is free – unless you need to buy plugins which, granted, is quite likely to happen.
What are some of the cons of WooCommerce? Maybe the biggest issue with WooCommerce is that if you are not familiar with WordPress, you first need to learn how to use it in order to use WooCommerce and to go along with that you also need to pay for hosting for your WordPress site (e-commerce platform services such as Shopify give free hosting with a subscription).
If you are going to choose WooCommerce as your ecommerce solution and need web hosting, I recommend picking Hostinger. In my experience their web hosting is great value for money and additionally their customer service appears to be very good. Go to Hostinger.
More about WooCommerce: WooCommerce review.
#5 Shift4Shop – free for companies from the US
When thinking purely in terms of the quality of the platform, Shift4Shop (known previously as “3dcart”) is probably not as good of a choice as some of the other options mentioned on this page. But in the real world low cost is sometimes more important than high quality.
And that is where Shift4Shop shines: If you are from the USA you can use this platform for free and the cost of Shift4Shop is not bad either for companies from others countries.
Are there reasons other than its cheap price for choosing Shift4Shop? At least two. The first one is its age: the platform was founded in 1997 and thus it can be a good choice for those looking for a well-established e-commerce platform – the fact that the platform is already 23 years aged is also a strong indicator that Shift4Shop is safe. The second reason is that Shift4Shop gives an impressive amount of freedom for your store’s URLs,
In practice that second reason means that with Shift4Shop you can have product URLs such as whatever.com/whatever, whereas with some other e-commerce platform your product pages might be forced to have URL’s such as whatever.com/products/whatever – maybe not a big issue if your store’s language is English, but quite annoying if your store is, for example, in German or French.
What you should be aware of before opening a Shift4Shop account:
- Shift4Shop has a sales limit on some of their plans. Meaning in practice, for example, that if you choose their $29/month plan you can generate at most $100,000 in sales in a year before you need to upgrade to a more expensive plan.
- If you pick the free Shift4Shop plan, you will have to use the platform owner’s own payment solution (Shift4 Payments) as the payment solution for your store.
- Shift4Shop charges a transaction fee of 2.9%+30c per transaction of sales that are made using the free plan.
- The admin panel of Shift4Shop could maybe be a bit more modern looking. Go to Shift4Shop.
Looking for more information about Shift4Shop? See my Shift4Shop review.
#6 Wix – surprisingly good, great for less tech-savvy founders
If I had to guess which e-commerce platform might become the “next Shopify”, I would guess Wix. That is because Wix appears to have done significant improvements on its ecommerce solution and in addition to that it is also, for example, quite modestly priced. In practice, Wix’s listed prices for its e-commerce platform start from $23/month, but it is very possible to be offered a significant discount by Wix after you have tried their store builder for a few minutes.
What are some advantages of Wix in 2021? The most obvious one is that, it is extremely easy to design a nice-looking store with Wix. And I suspect that even if you have never before done anything like it, you can build a solid looking Wix store in just 15 to 30 minutes. It really is that easy. That fact together with Wix’s other good attributes makes Wix one of the best ecommerce platform for beginners and a good choice also for many others.
What are some of the cons of Wix in 2021? Based on my experiences, Wix might not be a great choice if you are looking to launch a non-English language online store, this as it appears that their translations are not always great and as a user you also don’t have full control over them. Also, while Wix might be a great choice for those just getting started with ecommerce, experienced and/or ambitious founders might be better off choosing a platform (such as Shopify or BigCommerce) that is not as easy to use, but offers more freedom.
Is Wix trustworthy? Wix was established about 15 years ago and it is listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange, where it currently has a market value of more than $10 billion. In other words, Wix should be a very safe option for launching an online store. Try Wix for free.
#7 PinnacleCart – great “traditional” ecommerce platform
If you are looking for a quick and easy way to build a simple ecommerce store, PinnacleCart can be a very good choice. That is because PinnacleCart’s store builder is extremely user-friendly and because despite that it includes all the most important features an ecommerce platform should have.
PinnacleCart’s prices start from $79.95/month, so it is not the world’s cheapest ecommerce website builder, but then on the plus side PinnacleCart does not charge extra transaction fees. Given those things, PinnacleCart can be an especially good choice for those ecommerce stores that generate at least a decent amount of sales.
PinnacleCart offers new users a 14-day free trial. Try PinnacleCart for free.
Are you interested to learn more about PinnacleCart? See my PinnacleCart review.
#8 Volusion – good, but not great
Volusion has a couple of things going for it: First of all, it charges no additional transaction fees, and that can mean really big savings, when compared to something like Shopify where the fees can be up to 2.9%+30c per transaction. And secondly, Volusion’s new store builder is aesthetically very pleasing. And as with all the other good e-commerce platforms, also with Volusion it is easy to build a solid online store.
However, Volusion also has some disadvantages: First of all, its cheaper plans have quite low turnover limits and the cheapest Volusion also plan has a quite low product limit. Secondly, Volusion’s own payment solution is only available for people from the United States and thirdly, Volusion’s cheaper plans don’t support 3rd party gateways. Those last two things add up to the fact that, while Volusion might be worth considering for those people who are from the United States, the rest of us are probably better off choosing some other ecommerce solution.
More about Volusion: Volusion review.
#9 Squarespace – a possible option for a store focused on aesthetics
Given how heavily Squarespace focuses on its traditional website-builder, it is understandable that its ecommerce store builder is sometimes overlooked when people think about the best ecommerce platforms. And while I don’t rank Squarespace on the level of, for example, Shopify or WooCommerce, I would consider it as an option if I were to launch an online store with just a few products and in a niche where aesthetics (e.g. high fashion) are extremely important.
Why Squarespace is usually not the best choice for launching an online store: Squarespace’s big problem is that its ecommerce solution allows one to do very little advanced customization of their store. That might not seem like a big issue when you first launch your online store, but as time goes on it is very possible that you will get frustrated with Squarespace and wish that you would have picked a different platform.
2021 Squarespace ecommerce solution prices: When paid on a monthly-basis the cheapest Squarespace plan that you can use for ecommerce costs $26/month and the two more expensive options cost, respectively, $30/month and $46/month. It is good to note that when using the $26/month-plan, Squarespace charges a quite hefty 3% transaction fee on purchases, with the two more expensive plans the fee is 0%.
Some more information about Squarespace’s ecommerce solution: Squarespace ecommerce platform review.
#10 Weebly – a decent option for running a small e-commerce store on a small budget
If you are looking for a quick and cheap way to launch a simple online store, Weebly could be a reasonably good option. With Weebly’s e-commerce platform it is very easy to build a decent store in under 30 minutes, and best of all Weebly’s cheapest e-commerce plan costs less than $15/month when paid on an annual basis. While those things are good reasons for choosing Weebly, it unfortunately also has a couple of cons.
The first possible con of using Weebly is that stores built using it might not look as modern and flashy as stores built with many of the other platforms mentioned on this page. Additionally, it is good to be aware of the fact that Weebly’s cheapest e-commerce plan doesn’t include a shipping calculator. Try Weebly for free.
Good to be aware of: Weebly’s plans and pricing can differ based on the location of the store owner.
#11 AmeriCommerce – worth considering in some situations
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of online stores: those that aim to be sort of an experience and those that just want to present the products that are for sale. AmeriCommerce is probably not the right choice for you if you want your store to be an experience.
However, if you know that your customers are just looking to quickly find and buy products, then you might want to consider AmeriCommerce. That is because with AmeriCommerce it is easy to design simple product-focused online stores – the stores built with AmeriCommerce might not look particularly beautiful and exciting, but they are easy for customers to use and browse.
What does using AmeriCommerce cost? The cheapest AmeriCommerce plan costs $24.95/month. In addition to that cheapest plan, there are also four other plans, with the most expensive one costing $299/month. Interestingly enough AmeriCommerce does not give those who pick one of the two cheapest plans a discount if they choose the annual subscription (instead of the month-to-month). Almost all the other ecommerce platforms give a discount for all those who pay for at least one year in advance.
No need to buy a store template: If you are looking for an inexpensive way to run an online store, one benefit of choosing AmeriCommerce is that they have a lot of free store themes/templates to choose from. Way more than, for example, Shopify does.
It is also nice to know that, AmeriCommerce doesn’t have sales limits, which means that you don’t have to upgrade to a more expensive plan if your store starts gaining traction. However, AmeriCommerce does have a product limit, but luckily even with the cheapest plan, you can have up to 100 products for sale in your store. New AmeriCommerce users get a 14-day free trial. Test AmeriCommerce for free.
More information about AmeriCommerce: AmeriCommerce review.
Are there other ecommerce platforms possibly worth considering in 2021?
If none of the platforms mentioned above seem like the right fit for you, it might be worth checking out, for example, Ecwid. Although at least my experience of Ecwid was that it is not particularly advanced.
A few things to consider when choosing which ecommerce platform to use
- How much you are willing to pay (good to keep in mind that in the ideal case you will be running the store for a long time, i.e. $10 vs. $30 is not a big difference, but 60×$10 vs. 60×$30 can be)
- Do you consider ease of use to be more important than that there are a lot of options for customizing your store
- How important is it that the company behind the platform can provide good customer service (I would recommend choosing Shopify if it is very important)
- Would you prefer running an ecommerce store that looks quite traditional (even simple) or would you want your store to look very fresh and modern (if the former Weebly or Shift4Shop can be a great choice, if the latter Squarespace, Shopify or Bigcommerce might be the right choice)
- Which geographical market are you focusing on? If you are going to focus on a market other than the US, you might notice that some platforms are not as good of a choice for launching your store as they would otherwise be. That could be, for example, because they don’t have a lot of payment options available for customers from that market.
About my review process
I only recommend platforms / companies with which I am familiar. That means that no platform or company is listed on this page unless I have: 1) tried at least one of their products (some companies have multiple products) and 2) familiarized myself with the company behind the product.
For the sake of openness: I have the most experience with using Shopify and WooCommerce. As well as I have the most knowledge about the companies behind those two platforms. On the other hand, my experience with Squarespace’s ecommerce product is quite limited – I am, however, very familiar with their traditional website builder, which shares a lot of features with their ecommerce solution.
Are you looking to do dropshipping?
Dropshipping is probably the fastest growing type of ecommerce and all ecommerce platforms are not an equally good choice for traditional ecommerce and dropshipping. Thus I have put together this list of the best platforms for dropshipping.
Platform vs platform comparisons
Are you unsure about which one of two platforms you should pick? In that case the following articles might be helpful:
Questions and answers about ecommerce platforms
What is the best ecommerce platform for a small business? If the business in question is not extremely small, the answer is Shopify. However, if the business is just tiny, Zyro might be the best option as it is even cheaper than Shopify and quite good.
Is it easy to change ecommerce platform?
This depends partially on from where and to which platform you are looking to change. However, it can be quite tricky and as such it is likely a good idea to test several platforms before choosing the one you want to use for launching your store.
Are the top ecommerce platforms trustworthy?
Yes, they should be. Operating/owning a company that offers ecommerce platform services can be very lucrative (at the time of writing this Shopify’s market value is more than $100 billion) and as such the companies behind the platforms have a strong incentive for ensuring that their services are safe and secure. Additionally, as someone who has followed the ecommerce platform -industry for 5+ years I have never seen a platform that would have turned out to be somehow untrustworthy.
How much do ecommerce templates/themes cost?
All of the top ecommerce platforms offer free store themes. However, many of them also have paid themes. Those paid templates usually cost from around $140 to $300/theme.
Unlike the cost of using an ecommerce platform in itself, the cost of a store theme is usually a one-time fee and not something you have to pay for monthly or annually. That means that even a template that costs, for example, $200 is quite inexpensive when you consider how much it costs per month, for example, over 3 years.
Is it possible to sell in multiple currencies?
Yes, but not with every ecommerce platform. If you are looking for a particularly good ecommerce platform for selling in multiple currencies, for example, Shopify and BigCommerce should be good choices.