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The Best Ecommerce Platforms and Shopping Cart Software of 2019

By
Lori Fairbanks
,
business.com writer
| Updated
Jan 02, 2019
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> Technology
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Ecommerce Platform and Shopping Cart Software Comparisons

Ecommerce services allow you to extend your sales online. While this may sound like a simple task, the art of choosing the right e-commerce provider can be very complicated. An abundance of companies offer extensive, complicated features. Companies hide behind confusing lingo, calling themselves shopping cart software instead of ecommerce platforms. The structure of these solutions also vary – some are open source while others are hosted. The first step toward choosing any business service is defining your needs. 

Best Picks

If you already have a website and want to add an online store to it, you want shopping cart software. If you want to create an online store website from scratch, though, an ecommerce platform is likely a better fit. Open source programs are great options if you're a developer or you have one on staff; otherwise, you want hosted ecommerce software because it's easy to set up and use, and it includes web hosting, a shopping cart and tech support.   

Our ecommerce software recommendations include 3dcart, Shopify, Volusion and GoDaddy. In our reviews, you can read more about these companies, which features you should look for, and tips to help you save money as you select the ecommerce software that's the best fit for your business.

Reviews

Below are all of our reviews for ecommerce software and related categories. Our coverage also includes reviews of the best shopping cart software.

Editor's note: Looking for ecommerce or shopping cart software for your business? Fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Pricing

The cost for small business ecommerce software varies widely. Most companies charge a monthly subscription fee for their software. Some plans start as low as $10 per month, while others cost up to $300 per month. Companies typically post their pricing on their websites, along with a list of features, and offer a choice of plans. Setup fees are rare, and most companies provide their services on a month-to-month basis unless you choose an annual subscription. Here are more costs to consider as you evaluate services:   

  • Payment gateway fees: Whether you use the payment gateway provided by the ecommerce software company or one from a third-party processor, you must pay for credit card processing. For every sale you make, you'll pay a transaction fee (usually 2 to 4 percent of the sale), and there may be other fees, such as a monthly fee, monthly minimum and annual PCI compliance fee, depending on the details of your processing service.   
  • Additional transaction fees: Some ecommerce software companies charge transaction fees (usually 1 to 3 percent) for each sale made through your site.   
  • SSL certificate: Some companies include a shared SSL certificate as part of their services. Others require you to purchase your own, which costs around $100 per year. 
  • Domain name: Most ecommerce software companies provide you with a domain name, though some may be subdomains. You may have to pay extra for a unique domain name.   
  • Web hosting: If you're using a shopping cart rather than an ecommerce platform, you'll need to set up an account with a web host.   
  • Premium or custom templates: Although every ecommerce software company offers free templates, most also offer nicer or bespoke designs for an additional charge.

What to Expect in 2019

Ecommerce is a dynamic field where business owners have to constantly be evolving to meet changing trends. Looking into 2019, there are a few things you can do to prepare your business for this ever-demanding landscape. If you aren’t selling your products online, you should look into getting set up to extend your sales digitally. If you already have an online presence, keep these trends in mind:  

  • Amazon’s impact on retail: More and more businesses are heading online to sell their products thanks to Amazon’s impact on retail. Expect even more competition in 2019 for online sales from big business and small businesses alike.  
  • Social Media Marketplace: Marketing has extended onto social media, with companies offering more personalized advertising and experiential messages. 2019 could see the beginning of customers ordering products directly through social media. This could mean another avenue to not only market, but also sell your products. 

Negotiation Tips

Ecommerce software companies are upfront with their pricing and plan details; typically, only large businesses with high-volume sales would qualify for custom rates. However, closely examining the following considerations can help you make sure you're getting a good deal. 

  • Are discounts available? Some companies offer a discount if you pay annually rather than monthly. Discounts may be also offered to nonprofit organizations. 
  • Does the plan include unlimited bandwidth? The best plans have unlimited bandwidth and file storage. If the company limits bandwidth, it's important to make sure you choose a plan that has enough bandwidth to support the traffic on your site so you're not surprised to see overage charges when you get your bill.  
  • Is there a sales cap on your plan? Some companies require you to upgrade to a higher plan once you reach a certain sales volume. For example, 3dcart requires you to upgrade to its Enterprise plan once your rolling 12-month sales volume hits $400,000. 
  • Are security tools included? Plans that include an SSL certificate can save you money, since it costs around $100 per year to purchase it separately. 
  • Does the plan include a free domain name? Some plans do, though some may be subdomain names rather than unique domain names, and it may cost extra if you want a custom domain name. If this is the case, or the company doesn't provide a domain name in its plans, you'll want to add this cost to your calculations. 
  • Does the company charge transaction fees? As mentioned above, some ecommerce software providers charge transaction fees on each sale made through the platform. Keep in mind that this is in addition to the transaction fees you pay your payment gateway. For example, GoDaddy charges transaction fees, and Shopify charges them if you use a different company as your payment processor.

Our Methodology

We looked for certain criteria when we reviewed the ecommerce software companies in our review. These included web-hosting tools, shopping cart and ecommerce tools, and back-office features. None of the companies in our review had any say in the results of testing. 

Web Hosting Tools 

All of the companies we reviewed offered web hosting in conjunction with an online store. We evaluated each platform and created an ease-of-use score based off our testers’ experiences building websites in each service. This score considered the types of editors available, such as HTML or CSS editors, as well as how easy it was to change text and images, add products, customize the templates, and complete other aspects of building and customizing a website. Volusion and Pinnacle Cart earned the highest ease-of-use scores in our comparison. 

We made sure that each company in our review offers free templates that you can use when you sign up for an ecommerce plan. The number of templates available in products in our review varies from four to more than 100. Many companies also allow premium templates, which cost extra. CoreCommerce, Ashop and Pinnacle Cart do not offer premium templates but do offer to create custom templates for you for an additional cost. 

Most of the ecommerce platforms in our review have different apps that you can install to help you get your store exactly where you need it to be for your business. For example, if you need to offer flash deals or special promotions, there may be a third-party app with which the platform integrates to make this possible on your website. These applications are often free, though they may sometimes cost extra depending on the software you’ve chosen and the app itself. 

Cart & Checkout 

We tested the cart and checkout process available from each service from the vantage point of the customer. In this score, we considered the number of steps it takes to complete checkout, the availability of guest checkout, the presence of a PayPal option, and the ease of use of shopping and checking out on a mobile device. Most of the products on our lineup earned high scores for this ease-of-use test. 

We also considered services that integrate with online stores, like Amazon or eBay, and that can translate your store into languages other than English. 

Customer Support 

In our review, we also considered the helpfulness of the support available from each company. The support score we created considers the offerings of 24/7 support, live chat, an online support center, being welcomed and contacted by a real person, and other factors. 

We looked for services with fraud detection to help protect you and your customers. We also considered a built-in POS system and available email accounts in association with your website when we ranked the services in our review.

State of the Industry

Ecommerce software companies are making it easier for small businesses to create online stores, providing ecommerce platforms that function as one-stop shops, bundling all the technology and services you need. Additionally, the software is becoming more intuitive for non-techy business owners to use. For example, templates with drag-and-drop technology allow you to easily customize the look and feel of your online store, even if you don't have any design or website development skills. Here are three features to look for as you choose ecommerce software for your small business.  

  • Mobile optimization: The best ecommerce software providers offer mobile-compatible templates that work on both mobile and desktop browsers. This is an important feature to look for because consumers now use mobile devices more than desktop computers for searching online, according to a 2015 Google announcement, and you don't want to lose prospective customers because your site doesn't work right on their phones.  
  • Integrations:Several ecommerce software providers have app stores that make it easy to add features to your online store, such as email marketing or sales tools. They can also be used to connect your online store to the other business programs you use, such as your accounting software and POS system. This can be a particularly important feature if you have a brick-and-mortar store, allowing you to keep accurate inventory and sales data across both your online and physical locations.  
  • Social commerce: A report by Deloitte states that 47 percent of millennials and 19 percent of individuals in other age groups say social media influences their purchases. The best ecommerce software companies provide tools to connect your online store with your social media pages. Selling your products directly from your social media pages, such as Facebook, Pinterest and Polyvore, helps you convert interested consumers into buying customers.

Common Ecommerce Platform and Shopping Cart Software Questions & Answers

Have an ecommerce platform or shopping cart software question of your own?
Ask an Expert

What is the most user-friendly website builder?

53 responses
53
Responses
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Finding the easiest solution for creating a Website does not insure you will accomplish your goals. How are you going to drive traffic to your site? What are you going to do to keep them coming back? Are you going to Blog? Tie in social media to develop followers? There are a lot of good, well integrated eCommerce sites where you can open a Shop and sell your product far easier than building your own Website. Even with the cost of commissions, such sites handle the sales transactions,...

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As Roland mentions, there are different options depending on what you are looking for. If you already have the Infusionsoft CRM and want to continue using it, then there are options to use this in conjunction with your shopping cart if you are using the Woo Commerce shopping cart from your website. If you could clarify your main goal, we could make better recommendations.

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Here are my thoughts on the subject. For a web site the choices are WordPress which is free or something like Wix or the ones like it where you will pay a higher monthly fee but they are drag and drop. I am going to suggest WordPress. Now there are two options I can suggest. One is to go to YouTube and search for " creating a business website" and there will be lots and lots of tutorials. Find one at least an hour long. The shorter ones don't go into as much detail. Watch it once. ...

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The concept of the best is rather subjective, and it's highly dependent on the set of constraints that each individual site has. As mentioned already by others, there are free platforms such as WooCommerce and Magento. However, Magento is probably an overkill for a small business, who don't need or want the complexity that goes into having a Magento site. A case of using a jackhammer when a simple hammer will do. As a result, we deploy different cart based on understanding the parameters...

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There is an obvious answer, but before we get there, here's a tip for finding answers like this for everyone who has an ecommerce site. Set up a funnel in Google Analytics for the path through the checkout process. Then you will be able to identify exactly what page you are losing them on. If you were to do that, after you get a good number of sales, I think you might find you are losing them on the payment page. I agree with Stuart here. You can't successfully run a strictly case ecommerce...

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