This article was updated in March, 2017 to bring it up to date with the current state of the hosted eCommerce platform market.
eCommerce platforms are always evolving. With several options available in the market, you’ve got to decide which one suits your needs best!
There’s always been a lot of contention over which self-hosted eCommerce software is the best, and as the hosted space fills out, things are heating up there as well.
Here are the top 11 hosted eCommerce platforms that we think are best for the undecided.
Example: EatBoutique Shop
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 an app store that makes it simple to expand the abilities of your default web store. Shopify offers hundreds of apps, more than any other competitor. It also offers a nice selection of professional themes.
Shopify features abandoned cart recovery, which sends a reminder to customers who didn’t check out. Unfortunately, this option is only available when you pay $79 a month or more.
Shopify comes with unlimited products and bandwidth, which isn’t as common as you might think.
- Easily integrate with shipping carriers, fulfilment centers and dropshipping companies
- A mobile app for both accepting payments and managing your store
- A point-of-sale system to handle transactions in your physical shop
- Shopify Experts to help you setup your store
Pricing starts at $29 per month for the most important features, with a limited starter plan called Shopify Lite at $9 a month.
For more on Shopify, check out this behind-the-scenes look.
Site123 is an eCommerce platform with a pricing system that is very easy to understand, and its standout feature is its sidebar-based website builder, which makes laying out pages much more efficient than traditional drag-and-drop builders. Site123 is the perfect option for those who want to get their store up and running without any development skills, and who want to be sure that they won’t be priced out of the market as they build their businesses.
Site123’s pricing model is simple: you can get started for free, with 500MB of storage, 1GB of bandwidth per month, as long as you don’t need to use your own domain name (free sites are hosted on Site123 subdomains). However, you won’t be able to engage in eCommerce until you upgrade to the Premium plan. For $9.80 per month, a free domain is included for one year, you’re provided with an ample 10GB of storage and 5GB of bandwidth, Site123 branding is removed and you can sell as many items as you wish.
Site123 supports 80 currencies, and you can offer PayPal and wire transfer payment methods easily. Coupon, analytics and robust shipping and tax features are all included.
- A unique, efficient page builder
- Responsive templates with modern aesthetics
- Prompt 24/7 support
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 offers more features to grow your sales than almost any other shopping cart software on the market.
While the pricing seems comparable to Shopify, its feature set is a bit better 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 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.
- Google Trusted Store certification assistance
- Support assistance 24/7
- Easily integrate with eBay, Google Shopping and more
Pricing starts at $29.95 per month for almost all features, with unlimited everything for $79.95 a month.
I wrote an article on BigCommerce before, in a head-to-head comparison with Volusion.
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 the starter plan at $15 a month. This plan is actually all you need if you want to test the waters. It is limited to just 100 products and 1GB 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. 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 its $75/month plan.
Example: Seven Grams Caffe
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 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.
Particularly 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.
Example: Ideal Baby
3dcart is one of the lesser-known online eCommerce solutions, yet it is feature rich. It even has some features specifically built for Web designers, should you be doing research for a client.
3dcart has no transaction fees, which is always a big plus. It also offers both a mobile front-end and a mobile back-end. What’s interesting is that it also has 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 the site as well, since there are some excellent resources there (like a shopping search engine comparison).
Too bad its pricing is a bit outdated. While you get a decent number of features in its starter plan, it is limited at 4,000 visitors (actually it’s limited on bandwidth, but it does 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 rate. Even when you pay $129.99 a month you only get 90,000 visitors, which isn’t that much. Its High Traffic Plus plan will give you up to 500,000 visitors (at a staggering cost of $499.99/month).
- 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 $19.99 a month, but for a reasonably popular web store you will be looking at $99.99 per month.
7. Big Cartel
Big Cartel is a much smaller company than some of the others on this list (like Shopify), but it is quickly growing in popularity, especially among niche sellers. It promotes itself as a cart “built for makers” and much like Etsy, tend to target artists and indie brands.
Big Cartel’s price points are on the lower end, and comparable with the likes of Shopify and Wix. It has a free plan that gives you 5 products with unlimited features, and its paid plans start at $9.99 a month and go up to $29.99.
The only downside is that its highest priced plan only gives you 300 products, which may be ideal for smaller merchants. But it may not be ideal if you’re looking for more products and higher traffic.
- Ideal for small merchants, artists, or “makers”
- Quick setup and integration for selling in-person
- All features and integrations are included with each plan
The starter plan is free, but for a decent sized store you will be looking at $29.99 per month.
Squarespace was originally launched in 2004 as a basic drag-and-drop website builder, and now boasts over 1 million users, which is a testament to its durability and focus on customer satisfaction. In addition to traditional websites, Squarespace has a fully loaded eCommerce solution.
Squarespace is a highly visual platform that is perfect for stores that want beautiful, rich imagery and designer templates alongside its product listing. Both of its plans offer unlimited products, which is a huge benefit for merchants of any size.
One downside, however, is that it has limited integrations for payment gateways. Currently it only offers Stripe integration, which is not always available to merchants from smaller countries.
- Unlimited products on both Basic and Advanced plans
- Unlimited pages, galleries, and blogs with unlimited bandwidth, storage, and contributors
- Drag-and-drop site builder
Squarespace’s Basic plan is $26 a month and its Advanced plan costs $40 a month.
Example: Charlotte Hosten
LemonStand is a relatively new platform, but it’s comparable to some of the top options like Shopify and BigCommerce. It’s also highly customizable, more so than Shopify, and lets retailers change almost every aspect of a store in order to create a unique shopping experience.
One of the biggest pros in LemonStand’s favor is SEO. It uses both on-page and off-page SEO, giving insight into things that can help you improve your page like link building and social media,.
One feature unique to LemonStand is the ability to add SSL encryption to every page of the site, not just the checkout process, so that your site is secure from top to bottom.
- Customized checkout with no redirection for a better shopping cart
- Built-in support for digital products and recurring subscriptions
- Complete design flexibility over content presentation
Plans start at $99 a month and go up to $399 with the Premium plan.
10. X-Cart Cloud
Example: X-Cart Demo
X-Cart Cloud is bundle that includes an X-Cart license and fully managed VPS Hosting by X-Cart. It’s the hosted version of X-Cart Downloadable, which I covered in a comparison with Magento in the past.
X-Cart is an open source product, and the X-Cart team actively works with developers to improve the product. They are a bit more conservative in pushing updates to the 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 charge anything from 0.5% to 2.5% per transaction
- A point-of-sale module included with its Standard Edition
The starter plan is $19.95 a month, but you will probably want the Standard Edition at $59.95 per month.
I’ll conclude this list with something totally different. If you want to sell vintage items, handcrafted 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 its highly-trafficked marketplace, while still having a place of your own within the 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.
Etsy doesn’t give you all the freedom of the other providers, but if you’ve got a suitable 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 its guidelines.
- Plenty of opportunities to establish yourself as a brand
- Etsy currently has 30 million users 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.
Wrapping It Up
Depending on what your needs are, how many users you anticipate will visit your website, and the number of SKUs you’re planning to showcase, you’ll need to decide which platform is ideally suited to your needs. So do your homework, and make a choice from the top ten eCommerce platforms!