Running your own Web store is not only fun to do, but when taken seriously can also earn you a nice supplemental income. Web stores are easily combined with a day job, and they can even become so successful that they replace your day job.
There are dozens of ecommerce platforms available to run a Web store, and with so many choices, it’s hard to decide which one to use.
In this article I cover 10 of the best ecommerce platforms to set up and manage your own Web store. All of these online shopping carts allow you to have your store up and running within a few hours, without costing you an arm and a leg.
As we go, keep in mind that this is just an overview. You’ll want to do a trial of several of these tools before settling on one. Switching carts isn’t always that easy and certainly isn’t something you want to do in a successful online web store.
Shopify is one of the most famous online shopping cart tools. It’s popular with small shops because that is the market Shopify is aiming to serve.
One of the reasons for Shopify’s success is the adaptation of an app store to expand your default Web store. Shopify offers hundreds of apps, more than any other competitor. They also offer a nice selection of professional themes.
Shopify also offers an abandoned cart recovery feature, which sends a reminder to a customer who didn’t check out. Unfortunately this option is only available when you pay $79 a month or more.
Shopify also comes with unlimited products and bandwidth, which isn’t as common as you might think.
Pricing starts at $29 per month for the most important features, with a limited starter plan at $14 a month.
For more on Shopify, check out this behind-the-scenes look.
BigCommerce is the most popular online shopping cart in the “top million sites” category, which means it’s popular for small- to medium-sized Web stores. It started out as a software product made by Interspire that you’d install directly on your own site, but it became popular after morphing into a hosted shopping cart.
While the pricing seems comparable to Shopify, its feature set is a bit higher for each plan. Features like real-time shipping quotes, gift cards and 24/7 phone/mail/chat support are included in its base plan for $29.95 a month. Too bad you still have to upgrade to a more expensive plan for the abandoned cart recovery.
The great thing about its pricing is that you don’t really need more than the Gold plan at $79.95 a month. It comes with all of the features as well as unlimited products, storage and bandwidth.
Pricing starts at $29.95 per month for almost all features, with unlimited everything for $79.95 a month.
I did an article on BigCommerce before, in a head-to-head comparison with Volusion.
Off all hosted shopping carts for small businesses, Yahoo has the largest market share in the top 10,000 and top 100,000 sites. This is actually quite impressive and has mainly to do with the fact that Yahoo was one of the first to offer an online ecommerce solution (after they bought Viaweb). It is also a well-known and trusted brand and does a lot of cross selling on its customers. Its usage is declining, though.
As I wrote in a previous article on Yahoo Store, it doesn’t look fancy. It does offer an impressive feature set, though, and it comes with a whole number of integration options for payment providers, shipping carriers, backoffice systems and inventory control systems. When you need to hook up a lot of in-house systems, Yahoo Store is well suited. It also comes with unlimited products, storage and bandwidth.
Pricing starts at $19.95 for the starter plan and $49.95 for the full features plan. Large discounts are given when paying for a full year.
Volusion is the second most used online shopping cart, right after Yahoo Store. It is popular in all ranges, from the top 10,000 sites to the entire Internet.
It is the “cheapest” cart to offer abandoned cart recovery, as this feature comes with its starter plan at $15 a month. This plan is actually all you need if you want to test the waters. It is limited with just 100 products allowed and 1 GB of data usage, but has all the necessary features to get started.
I wrote about Volusion’s feature set before here on SitePoint when I compared it to BigCommerce. Especially with the Pro plan you get some professional features for $75 a month.
Pricing comes in at just $15 a month for what I believe is a decent starter plan. The best goodies are included in their $75 a month plan.
1ShoppingCart is an all-in-one solution. It not only allows you to set up an online store, but also to easily integrate its payment functionality into your regular website.
The shopping cart is just one of its features; it also gives you autoresponders to follow up on prospects and customers, for example. There’s an extensive upsell functionality in place, which even offers a downsell if a customer turns down the upsell offer. Their features list is impressive.
It also has an integrated affiliate program, which is how I found out about 1ShoppingCart. For my cabin crew training page I work with a training provider called GoCabinCrew. Their course is offered with 1ShoppingCart running the show, which handles both the payments and my affiliate commission without even looking like a shopping cart. Pretty solid if you ask me.
It is pricey, though, and it requires a lot of studying to use all of its features properly. But if you do you can literally squeeze every possible dollar out of your visitors.
Where to start?
- Built-in affiliate program, excellent upsell abilities and tons of ways to follow up with your customer
- The option to pay for a required level of customer support
Pricing kicks in at $59 a month, but if you really want to use all of the handy tools you will be looking at $119 per month.
Wix is essentially a free website builder, quickly gaining popularity and aggressively funded. What many people don’t realize is that it also offers eCommerce features as part of its premium packages.
Wix eCommerce doesn’t impress you with its features, but there’s enough to get your store up and running. What really sets Wix apart is its brilliant visual design interface, which you can use to position every element of your site in any color you like.
Especially if you are selling a limited number of products, you might want to take the time to make beautiful sales pages in a far more convenient way than any other tool.
- Visual editor (worth mentioning again) with live examples and template reference
- Low pricing and easy setup, perfect for testing the waters
- No transaction costs, just the monthly fee
You’re best off paying for a full year, which is priced just over $120.
X-Cart Cloud is the hosted version of X-Cart Downloadable, which I covered in a comparison with Magento before.
X-Cart is an open-source product, and the X-Cart team actively works with developers to improve their product. They are a bit more conservative in pushing updates to their hosted version, which is understandable given the scale they operate on.
Still they are keen on keeping ahead, like with the recently introduced Cloud Search functionality to speed up product search. Too bad they didn’t include layered navigation in all membership levels; it’s only available at the $99.95 a month level.
- Cloud Search, where products appear instantly in the search box when typing them in
- No transaction fees, where most popular alternatives charges anything from 0.5% to 2.5% per transaction
- Point-of-Sale module included with their Standard Edition
The starter plan is $19.95 a month, but you will probably want the Standard Edition at $59.95 per month.
3dcart is one of the lesser-known online ecommerce solutions, yet it is feature rich. It even has some features specifically build for Web designers, should you be doing research for a client.
3dcart has no transaction fees, which is always a big plus. They also offer both a mobile front-end and a mobile back-end. What’s interesting is they also have a full suite of Web store related services, like SEO or Facebook marketing. That’s not common for a shopping cart provider but could come in handy. I would advise you to look at some other pages on their site as well, since they have some excellent resources there (like a shopping search engine comparison).
Too bad their pricing is a bit outdated. While you get a decent number of features in their starter plan, it is limited at 4,000 visitors (actually it’s limited on bandwidth, but they do the math for you). It’s also limited at 100 products, which equals 20 visits per product. That’s not enough for a decent conversion. Even when you pay $129.95 a month you only get 90,000 visitors which isn’t that much. Their full offering is pretty impressive, so let’s hope they adjust their pricing soon.
- Useful features for Web designers, like the option to sell re-branded stores and an extensive permission system
- Tons of shipping options, far more than any other competitor
- Many, many more features included even in the starter plan
The starter plan is $19.95 a month, but for a reasonably popular Web store you will be looking at $99.95 per month.
Stretched Pixel demo
At first PinnacleCart seems very much like 3dcart. The pricing is roughly the same. They are doing things differently, though, especially when it comes to working with partners.
PinnacleCart’s partner program is worth mentioning. The main PinnacleCart product is a hosted shopping cart, offered by PinnacleCart itself. But they have an extensive partner program which has two variations. One is a re-branded version under your own name of their product, where you only do the marketing. But you can also decide to get a downloadable version of PinnacleCart which you can host on your own servers. You still pay license fees, but you can keep full control. This is something I haven’t seen with the other providers, and it seems like an interesting alternative.
PinnacleCart has some interesting features, like an easy integration with Doba (drop shipping company) or ShipWire (fulfillment). There’s also built-in re-marketing, integrated Facabook login for your customer and a way to make QR codes. Pretty slick, if only the pricing was a bit more friendly. It’s counted by bandwidth usage with a limit of just 2 GB for their $29.95 a month starter plan.
The starter plan is $29.95 a month, but you will probably want the $59.95 a month plan for its 8 GB traffic limit (still not much).
I will conclude this list with something totally different than all the other nine providers. If you want to sell vintage items, handcraft goods or craft supplies and want to tap into a community of millions of buyers, you should consider Etsy.
Etsy makes it easy to list specific products in a way that is appealing to your target audience. You are automatically connected to their highly visited marketplace, while still having a place of your own within their site.
You get plenty of ways to present yourself and your products and really make a brand out of yourself. Buyers can favorite your product, or ask you questions about the products you’re offering. While this all seems a bit “small town market place,” there is some serious money to be made. Just look at the number of reviews on this product.
Etsy doesn’t give you all the freedom of the other providers, but if you’ve got a solid offering it’s a good way to start (and move on to your own domain when successful). It is a safe way of beginning to sell online, as long as you are selling products within their guidelines.
- Plenty of opportunities to establish yourself as a brand
- Etsy currently has 30 million users which you can access
- Professional design with lots of social interactions
Payment is simple; you only pay 3.5% per transaction and a one-time fee of $0.20 for each item listed.
As you can see, the competition is fierce when it comes to pricing, features and usability.
But all of these online shopping carts are very different tools, even though some of them have much in common. Luckily you can try them all for free, but if you’re testing all 10 of them, expect it to take some time.
Let us know in the comments which one you prefer, or supplement this list with even more ecommerce platforms.