Choosing an ecommerce platform is not easy considering the amount of things required to run an online store. Essentially, you need:

  • Web hosting (24/7 server space for your site)

  • Domain name (unique URL, purchased separately)

  • Website builder

  • Online payment system

  • Features to grow sales and improve the website

”All-in-one” platforms include hosting, website builder, essential website features and sometimes a built-in payment system. More often than not, you have to connect the online store with an external payment solution.

For this list, we include some of the most user-friendly and affordable ecommerce solutions suitable for a small business.

Here are the six best online store platforms in Australia:

Platform Pricing Best for Site
Shopify US$29 – $299* /mo Steady businesses needing flexibility over cost of add-ons
Square Online A$0 – $95 /mo Merchants who need easy ways to sell online and offline
Wix US$20 – $38 /mo Editing in an easy-to-use visual editor with plenty of features
Square-
space
A$25 – $61* /mo Simple online stores with good photos and a minimalistic style
Big-
Commerce
US$29.95 – $299.95* /mo Startups with a high budget and plans to grow fast
Weebly A$0 – $95 /mo Easy and cheap all-in-one option

*Excluding GST

Platform Best for Offer
Shopify Steady businesses needing flexibility over cost of add-ons
Square Online Merchants who need easy ways to sell online and offline
Wix Editing in an easy-to-use visual editor with plenty of features
Squarespace Simple online stores with good photos and a minimalistic style
BigCommerce Startups with a high budget and plans to grow fast
Weebly Easy and cheap all-in-one option

Shopify – popular with small retailers

Best for: Shops with a consistent monthly turnover and detailed inventory library.

Pricing: US$29 – $299 + GST/mo

Pros: Many add-on features available.

Cons: Extra fee for non-Shopify payments. Monthly fee charged in USD.

Shopify is a popular ecommerce platform in the UK, US and Canada, but is also used across the rest of the world — including Australia. It is best for shops that want an all-in-one ecommerce solution with hosting, website builder, payment processing and plenty of features to customise the online store. In fact, Shopify has the widest choice of add-on integrations available for the online store, but they do come at a cost.

Shopify website builder Australia

Shopify is generally user-friendly and stores look good on small screens.

Shopify’s main online store plans are Basic Shopify, Shopify and Advanced Shopify. The extent of features depend on the chosen plan, but there’s a steep price rise between the subscriptions. The monthly cost is highest on a pay-monthly subscription compared to paying annually, every other year or every four years.

Accepting cards through the integrated Shopify Payments system costs a percentage and fixed fee per transaction – the pricier the subscription, the lower the fee. You also have the freedom to integrate with a wide choice of payment processors such as Poli, Zip and Afterpay, but each transaction through a non-Shopify processor incurs a ‘penalty’ cost of 0.5%-2% added to the transaction fees through that processor.

Costs Basic
Shopify
Shopify Advanced
Shopify
Subscription* Annual:
US$21.75/mo
Monthly:
US$29/mo
Annual:
US$59.25/mo
Monthly:
US$79/mo
Annual:
US$219/mo
Monthly:
US$299/mo
Shopify Payments transactions AU cards:
1.75% + 30¢ AUD
Foreign/Amex cards:
2.9% + 30¢ AUD
AU cards:
1.6% + 30¢ AUD
Foreign/Amex cards:
2.8% + 30¢ AUD
AU cards:
1.4% + 30¢ AUD
Foreign/Amex cards:
2.7% + 30¢ AUD
Other payment gateway transactions 2% + fees to payment provider 1% + fees to payment provider 0.5% + fees to payment provider

*Prices exclude GST.

Basic
Shopify
Shopify Advanced
Shopify
Subscription cost*
Annual:
US$21.75/mo
Monthly:
US$29/mo
Annual:
US$59.25/mo
Monthly:
US$79/mo
Annual:
US$219/mo
Monthly:
US$299/mo
Shopify Payments transaction cost
AU cards:
1.75% + 30¢ AUD
Foreign/Amex cards:
2.9% + 30¢ AUD
AU cards:
1.6% + 30¢ AUD
Foreign/Amex cards:
2.8% + 30¢ AUD
AU cards:
1.4% + 30¢ AUD
Foreign/Amex cards:
2.7% + 30¢ AUD
Other payment gateway transaction cost
2% + fees to payment provider 1% + fees to payment provider 0.5% + fees to payment provider

*Prices exclude GST.

Basic Shopify has some feature limitations, for example sales reports that are not as advanced as on higher plans. You do have a choice of 1000+ additional apps and features to add, though, but many of them have separate fees. Some website templates are free, but most of Shopify’s selection cost US$140-$350.

Taking all these things into consideration – particularly if you’re not using Shopify Payments – the costs can easily rack up. However, if you’re in it for the long run and have consistent sales, Shopify is a great choice that can grow with you.

Payments:

  • Built-in: Shopify Payments (Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, American Express, Apple Pay, Google Pay)
  • Integration options: PayPal, POLi, Zip Pay, Afterpay, and many others
  • POS integrations: Shopify POS, Vend, Hike POS, others

Can you try before you subscribe? Yes, Shopify offers a 14-day free trial.

Square Online – free plan, easy and many payment tools

Best for: Free payment tools to go with a simple online store.

Pricing: A$0 – $95/mo

Pros: Free plan available. Multichannel payment tools. Simple fees.

Cons: Limited customisation options. Card processing through Square only.

Square Online is an online store builder for small shops, food and drink and other small businesses. Square is perhaps most famous for its contract-free card readers and free (or low-cost) POS systems. The online store links up perfectly with your in-store inventory or food menu, so it suits businesses that prefer using the same platform for online and in-store selling.

Photo: Square

Square Online on phone and laptop

Square Online is an easy website platform with tools to adapt to many selling scenarios.

Square Online actually includes more than an online store. Without monthly costs, you can use payment links, QR codes (for table-side ordering), a virtual terminal for phone bookings, orders for pickup or delivery, and the free Point of Sale app.

The whole infrastructure makes Square a true all-in-one platform not just for ecommerce, but for any small business that wants the easiest, most affordable solution for multichannel selling.

Square Online plan Cost Transaction fee
Free Free 2.2%
Professional Annual: A$15/mo
Monthly: A$20/mo
2.2%
Performance Annual: A$30/mo
Monthly: A$35/mo
2.2%
Premium Annual: A$85/mo
Monthly: A$95/mo
1.9%

*Prices include GST. Monthly plans available at a higher price per month.

Square
Online
plan
Cost Transaction
fee
Free Free 2.2%
Professional Annual: A$15/mo
Monthly: A$20/mo
2.2%
Performance Annual: A$30/mo
Monthly: A$35/mo
2.2%
Premium Annual: A$85/mo
Monthly: A$95/mo
1.9%

*Prices include GST. Monthly plans available at a higher price per month.

Square Online has a good mix of ecommerce features such as product options, free store templates, site search and integration with Instagram, Facebook and Messenger. That being said, the online store builder is quite basic compared with the other ecommerce platforms above. There are many integration options for accounting, takeaway delivery platforms and other additional functions, but the site builder itself is limited on customisation options.

Square Online requires a subscription paid monthly or annually upfront, but there is no contractual commitment. There is a free plan, but it has very limited features and doesn’t allow you to attach your own domain name, so it is better with a paid plan.

The web shop is linked to Square Payments, a built-in payment processor with a simple fee: 2.2% per transaction, or 1.9% on the Premium plan. On the Performance and Premium plans, you can link it with PayPal that charges different fees.

Payments:

  • Built-in: Square (Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Apple Pay, Google Pay)
  • Integration: PayPal
  • POS integration: Square

Can you try before you subscribe? Yes, you can sign up for the Free plan and upgrade any time to a paid plan.

Wix – top-notch ecommerce website builder

Best for: All-round value for non-programmers on a budget.

Pricing: US$20 – $38/mo

Pros: Visual editor. Many additional features available. Low monthly cost.

Cons: Customer service not the best. Can’t export website.

Wix’s features are hard to beat in their price range. The most advanced plan costs US$38 monthly (pricing includes GST), which gives you comprehensive website-building features as well as priority customer support, unlimited videos on your site and 50GB website storage.

Photo: Wix

Wix online store editor

Wix’s visual editor shows the page you’re tweaking, with plenty of editing options.

All plans have the same amount of ecommerce features with the option to add more tools and integrations from a wide range of external apps as well as Wix’s own apps. This could, however, rack up the monthly cost because many of the add-ons have separate subscriptions.

The more frequently you pay for a Wix ecommerce subscription, the higher the monthly cost. You can pay up to three years in advance for the lowest cost per month, but payments are non-refundable.

Wix subscription Business Basic Business Unlimited Business VIP
Monthly cost* Annual plan:
US$20/mo
Annual plan:
US$28/mo
Annual plan:
US$38/mo

*Prices include GST. Monthly plans available at a higher price per month.

Business
Basic
Business
Unlimited
Business
VIP
Subscription cost*/month
Annual plan:
US$20/mo
Annual plan:
US$28/mo
Annual plan:
US$38/mo

*Prices include GST. Monthly plans available at a higher price per month.

Wix Payments (their own payment system) is not yet available in Australia, but there’s a good choice of online payment systems that integrate with Wix, such as Braintree and Stripe. These have their own transaction fees that Wix won’t add any charges to.

Although Wix ecommerce is very user-friendly and visually pleasing, getting help from a real customer service person is more difficult. That said, there are plenty of pointers in Wix so you know what to do and what the different features mean.

If you decide to move to a different website platform at any point, however, you won’t be able to export your data. This means that the online store built in Wix stays in Wix, and you’ll need to build a new site from scratch elsewhere.

Payments:

  • Built-in: None
  • Integrations: Stripe, eWay, PayPal, Laybuy, Fat Zebra, Oceanpayment, others
  • POS integration: Square

Can you try before you subscribe? No, you have to pay upfront for a plan, but there’s a 14-day money-back guarantee if you’re not happy with the subscription.

Squarespace – emphasis on simple, stunning web designs

Best for: Style-conscious online stores with beautiful photos.

Pricing: A$25 – $61 + GST/mo

Pros: Easy to set up a stunning website. Not crowded with features.

Cons: Not as flexible as other platforms. Limited integrations available.

Squarespace is an all-in-one platform with hosting, online store website builder and designs included.

To build and run an online store, you need to subscribe to the Business or one of the Commerce plans. Many bloggers and businesses use Squarespace due to its ease of use and pretty templates, but there are some limitations too.

Squarespace website editor

The Squarespace website editor doesn’t overload you with too many editing options.

Squarespace has a limited range of third-party integrations available for e.g. shipping, accounting and marketing tools. Apart from that, you can connect with a few of the most crucial apps: Google tools, social media channels and payment processors (Stripe, PayPal and Afterpay). Beyond this, you are limited to the inbuilt features on the platform.

Subscriptions can be paid monthly or annually, the latter costing least on a per-month basis, but you cannot get money refunded when you pay a year upfront. On the Business plan (cheapest subscription with online store capabilities), you pay 3% per online transaction to Squarespace in addition to the separate Stripe or PayPal fees. To avoid this extra fee, you have to subscribe to Basic Commerce or Advanced Commerce.

Subscription Business Basic Commerce Advanced Commerce
Monthly cost* Annual plan:
A$25
Monthly plan:
A$35
Annual plan:
A$34/mo
Monthly plan:
A$40
Annual plan:
A$52
Monthly plan:
A$61
Squarespace payment fee 3% None None
Stripe payments 1.75% + A$0.30 for domestic cards
2.9% + A$0.30 for international cards

*Pricing excludes GST.

Business Basic
Commerce
Advanced
Commerce
Subscription cost*/month
Annual plan:
A$25
Monthly plan:
A$35
Annual plan:
A$34
Monthly plan:
A$40
Annual plan:
A$52
Monthly plan:
A$61
Squarespace payment fee
3% None None
Stripe payments
1.75% + A$0.30 for domestic cards
2.9% + A$0.30 for international cards

*Pricing excludes GST.

Squarespace is not the best platform if you’re looking for a variety of ecommerce features, but it works well for online stores that don’t have a lot of products. The themes are mostly minimalistic with a heavy reliance on stunning imagery, which is a plus for fashionable outlets with good product photos.

Payments:

  • Built-in: None
  • Integrations: Stripe, PayPal, Afterpay
  • POS integrations: None

Can you try before you subscribe? Yes, there’s a free 14-day free trial on any new website you create. When the trial is over, you lose access until you subscribe to a paid plan, or you can create a new website to test for 14 days in the same account.

BigCommerce – scalable online store

Best for: Tech-literate businesses with plans to grow fast online.

Pricing: US$29.95 – $299.95 + GST/mo

Pros: Big choice of payment options. Lots of customisations.

Cons: Steep price curve. Some features require knowledge of coding.

BigCommerce is an all-in-one ecommerce platform for large enterprises and small businesses alike. Smaller businesses are best served by the Essentials subscriptions, the most affordable plans for merchants just starting out. Each plan includes hosting, online store website builder, marketing tools and room for additional integrations.

Image: BigCommerce

Bigcommerce shop on desktop and mobile

BigCommerce’s website builder is fairly easy to use, but sometimes uses technical terms.

You can pay monthly or annually for subscriptions. Monthly plans are the priciest, except for the Essentials Standard subscription which costs the same regardless.

Online store payments are not handled by BigCommerce. In fact, you can choose to integrate any of 20+ payment gateways such as PayPal or Adyen. BigCommerce does not charge you for online transactions, so you only pay the transaction fee applicable to the chosen payment provider.

Subscriptions have tiered features, with only standard features on the cheapest plan. For instance the cheapest (Standard) plan does not send abandoned cart emails, while product-filtered search is only available on the Pro plan (which could be a deal-breaker for a cash-strapped, inventory-rich boutique).

Where BigCommerce differs from other online stores on this list is the limits they impose on online sales for each tiered plan. That is, you can max. sell for up to US$50k annually on the Standard plan, $180k on Plus and $400k on Pro.

Essentials plan Standard Plus Pro
Monthly cost* Annual plan:
US$29.95/mo
Monthly plan:
US$29.95/mo
Annual plan:
US$71.95/mo
Monthly plan:
US$79.95/mo
Annual plan:
US$269.96/mo
Monthly plan:
US$299.95/mo
Online sales allowed Up to US$50k/yr Up to US$180k/yr Up to US$400k/yr

*Pricing excludes GST.

Essentials
Standard
Essentials
Plus
Essentials
Pro
Subscription cost*/month
Annual plan:
US$29.95
Monthly plan:
US$29.95
Annual plan:
US$71.95
Monthly plan:
US$79.95
Annual plan:
US$269.95
Monthly plan:
US$299.95
Online sales allowed
Up to US$50k/yr Up to US$180k/yr Up to US$400k/yr

*Pricing excludes GST.

Setting up an online store with BigCommerce Essentials is fairly straightforward, given the step-by-step prompts in the dashboard telling you what to do next. You can pick between 80+ website themes, some of which are free, others costing US$150-$300 each. Some of the features, for example the gift card editor, requires coding to handle, so it is not entirely user-friendly for someone with no technical skills.

BigCommerce allows you to integrate with over 700 additional tools and platforms for e.g. accounting, online marketing and shipping tools – giving you plenty of options to make your online business as complicated as you like.

Payments:

  • Built-in: None
  • Integrations: CommBank, Authorize.net, PayPal, Stripe, Afterpay, many others
  • POS integrations: Square, Hike POS, Vend

Can you try before you subscribe? Yes, BigCommerce offers a free 15-day trial.

Weebly – great for the short term

Best for: Those looking for an intuitive drag-and-drop builder for the short term.

Pricing: A$0 – $95/mo

Pros: Editor very easy to use. Many customisations. Site editable from mobile app.

Cons: Frustrating sign-up. Lack of support. May be discontinued soon. No longer updated.

Weebly is a great all-in-one website builder that allows you to run a personal or ecommerce site. To create an online store, users can go with a free plan without a custom domain, or upgrade to one of the paid plans for more advanced functions.

Since Square acquired Weebly a few years ago, however, the platform has not really been updated and customer support for Weebly is lacking. You also have to know exactly how to sign up for the Weebly editor as opposed to the Square Online editor.

Photo: Mobile Transaction

Weebly editor restaurant example

Weebly editor is still available for new users, but you have to choose a personal website to get there.

To sign up, you must click a “get started” button on the “Websites” section of the Weebly website (as opposed to the “Online Stores” section). Otherwise, you may be redirected to Square Online (that’s how sneaky it is). Then, you must choose “I want a personal website” during the sign-up, as otherwise you’ll end up in Square’s editor. When you’re finally in the Weebly editor, you can create an online store.

Weebly has stopped adding integration options to its App Center, but still offers 380 integrations. This includes social media platforms like Facebook and Pinterest, but also specialised tools for shipping, communications, marketing and much more.

Weebly subscription Costs
Free plan Free
Personal plan Annual: A$7/mo
Monthly: A$10/mo
Professional plan Annual: A$15/mo
Monthly: A$20/mo
Performance plan Annual: A$30/mo
Monthly: A$35/mo
Premium plan Annual: A$85/mo
Monthly: A$95/mo
Square payments 2.2% – 1.9% per transaction
Weebly
subscription
Costs
Free plan Free
Personal plan Annual: A$7/mo
Monthly: A$10/mo
Professional plan Annual: A$15/mo
Monthly: A$20/mo
Performance plan Annual: A$30/mo
Monthly: A$35/mo
Premium plan Annual: A$85/mo
Monthly: A$95/mo
Square payments 2.2% – 1.9% per transaction

Subscriptions to Weebly can be paid monthly, annually or every two years. The price of the Personal Plan (which still has ecommerce options) drops from A$10 a month when paying monthly, down to $7 when paid for a year in advance. Weebly offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, after which there are no refunds. So it is important to choose the right plan when you start.

Overall, Weebly’s drag-and-drop editor is a breeze that lets merchants sell from a gorgeous shop front in no time. It is a lean package that offers budding retailers the opportunity to create a functional website without any prior experience.

Payments:

  • Built-in: Square
  • Integrations: Square, PayPal
  • POS integration: Square

Can you try before you subscribe? Weebly has no trials, but you can sign up for a free account and start building an online store, then upgrade when you’re ready to sell online or need more features.

Honourable mention: WooCommerce

Finally, we include WooCommerce as an option for those who need ultimate flexibility and prefer WordPress as a website platform.

WooCommerce (sign-up here) is not an all-in-one platform; it is an add-on (i.e. ‘plugin’) to install on your existing website built in WordPress. The great thing about WooCommerce is that features are modular and completely customisable.

Businesses can add unlimited products, orders and users, and you can sell physical and digital products, bookings, subscriptions, content and more. Many merchants prefer to hire a WooCommerce developer to build an online store with the exact ecommerce options they had in mind.

WooCommerce editor window on iMac

WooCommerce is a plugin in WordPress that adds ecommerce functionality to your website.

The WooCommerce plugin itself is free, but costs are completely dependent on what you need. Domain registration, hosting and payment processing are unavoidable expenses, while website themes can be free or come at a price. Email marketing, advanced SEO tools, security, sales-enhancing features and various other extensions may require paid subscriptions.

The total cost per month can end up being anywhere from $20 monthly for a super-simple online store to $1500+ monthly for a unique, high-turnover store.

Other online store platforms

We recognise the “best” ecommerce platforms are not the best for everyone. Options we didn’t include can be good for certain Australian merchants. These include:

  • Ecwid: All-in-one platform, free plan available

  • GoDaddy: All-in-one platform, quick to set up online store

  • Big Cartel: All-in-one platform, specifically for artists and other creatives

  • Volusion: All-in-one platform, good inventory features and analytics, expensive

  • PrestaShop: Highly customisable, open-source, coding required

  • Lightspeed eCommerce: All-in-one platform, best for Lightspeed POS merchants

  • Magento: All-in-one, expensive but expandable, suits larger business with developers