Best Ecommerce Platforms and Shopping Cart Software

by Lori FairbanksLast Modified: January 3, 2018

Intro
Best Picks
Reviews
Pricing
Negotiation Tips
State of the Industry
What We Evaluated; What We Found
Map
Services
Compare Quotes

The Best Ecommerce Platforms and Shopping Cart Software For 2018

Choosing ecommerce software can feel overwhelming due to the abundance of companies that offer it, each with several plans and long lists of features. Adding to the confusion, some companies offer shopping cart software while others call themselves ecommerce platforms; some are open source and others are hosted. What's the difference, and which one do you need?  

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. Below, 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.

Best Picks

Ease of Use
Shopping Cart Software
Very Small Businesses
Ecommerce Platform
Volusion

Best Ecommerce Software for Ease of Use

Volusion

For small businesses that want easy-to-use ecommerce software, Volusion is a good choice. In our testing, it was one of the easiest programs to use to create a website. Adding and editing products, text and images is straightforward, and you can also edit many items directly from the preview. After you sign up, the company offers you a direct point of contact to guide you through the process of setting up your online store, which is a helpful service for businesses creating their first website.

Several free templates are available from Volusion, or you can purchase a premium theme. The software includes a blog and integrates with WordPress. It also integrates with online stores, such as Amazon and eBay, so you can manage your sales and inventory sold through those channels in addition to sales made through your website. You can use Volusion as your credit card processor or choose from more than 35 external payment gateways, including Authorize.Net, Beanstream and PayPal.

3dcart

Best Shopping Cart Software

3dcart

3dcart is the best shopping cart software for small businesses because it has an impressive feature set and all its plans support an unlimited number of products, have unlimited bandwidth and storage, and include a shared SSL certificate at no additional cost. You can use this ecommerce software to add an online store to your existing website or to create a new online store website. 3dcart is easy to use and has excellent customer support that you can reach 24/7.

Four plans are available from 3dcart: It costs $29 per month for the Basic plan, $79 per month for the Plus plan and $229 for the Pro plan. If you're interested in the Enterprise plan, you can contact the company for a quote. There are no setup or transaction fees, and a discount is available if you choose to pay annually rather than monthly.

GoDaddy Online Store

Best Ecommerce Software for Very Small Businesses

GoDaddy Online Store

Very small businesses that want good, basic ecommerce software should consider GoDaddy's GoCentral Online Store. Although not as advanced as some of its competitors, this user-friendly ecommerce software offers multiple integrations, and your customers will find the checkout process very easy, particularly those using mobile devices.

GoDaddy only offers one ecommerce plan for small businesses that want to create an online store. It costs $29.99 per month, based on annual payment. It comes with unlimited bandwidth and a shared SSL certificate, and it supports up to 1,500 products. You can choose from more than 20 mobile-ready templates, and mix-and-match content blocks allow you to customize your website.

Shopify - Ecommerce Platforms & Shopping Cart Software

Best Ecommerce Platform

Shopify - Ecommerce Platforms & Shopping Cart Software

Shopify is the best ecommerce platform for small businesses because all its plans include unlimited bandwidth and storage, support an unlimited number of products, and include 24/7 customer support. It's also easy to use when you're creating your website, and the checkout process is intuitive for your customers.

Shopify has three main plans. Basic Shopify costs $29 per month, Shopify costs $79 per month, and Advanced Shopify costs $299 per month. Additionally, it offers Shopify Lite for $9 per month for retailers that want to add a buy button to an existing website or sell on Facebook and Messenger, and Shopify Plus for high-volume merchants that need enterprise-grade ecommerce software.

Reviews

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.

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.

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 recent 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.

What We Evaluated; What We Found

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.

Map

Squarespace Software
225 Varick Street
New York, NY
Squarespace Software
WebStudio Software
1934 Old Gallows Rd.
Vienna, VA
WebStudio Software
Clarity eCommerce Software
9442 Capital of Texas Hwy
Austin, TX
Clarity eCommerce Software
iAPPS Commerce Software
80 Blanchard Road 
Burlinton, MA
iAPPS Commerce Software
Sana Commerce Software
Van Nelleweg 1
Rotterdam,
Sana Commerce Software
Ecwid Software
144 West D Street
Encinitas, CA
Ecwid Software
X-Cart Cloud
6363 transcanadienne
Montreal,
X-Cart Cloud
Pinnacle Cart
202 E Mcdowell Road
Phoenix, AZ
Pinnacle Cart
Ashop Commerce
L 10 17-19 Bridge Street
Ashop Commerce
3dcart
6691 Nob Hill Road
Tamarac, FL
3dcart
GoDaddy Online Store
14455 N Hayden Road
Scottsdale, AZ
GoDaddy Online Store
Volusion
1835 Kramer Ln
Austin, TX
Volusion
CoreCommerce
231 Wilson Pike Circle
Brentwood, TN
CoreCommerce
fortune3
3042 NW 82ndAvenue
Doral, FL
fortune3

Services

List of 19Best Ecommerce Platforms and Shopping Cart Software

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