Disclosure: Our editorial staff write reviews independently. We may be compensated if you sign up for a service through our affiliate links.

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

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

  • Domain (unique URL, purchased separately)

  • Website builder

  • Online payment gateway (website checkout)

  • Features to grow sales and improve the website

All-in-one platforms include hosting, a website builder (“editor”), essential website features and sometimes a built-in payment system. You might have to connect the online store with an external payment gateway, but this is often a streamlined process. With an external payment system integrated, you pay transaction fees directly to the credit card processor.

Many small businesses can’t afford a web developer, so we include some of the most user-friendly and affordable online store solutions in our comparison.

So what is the best platform for ecommerce? Let’s compare the options:

Platform Cost* Best for Site
Shopify
$21.75 –
$299/mo.
Steady businesses preferring flexibility over cost of add-ons
Wix $18 –
$56/mo.
Editing in an easy-to-use visual editor with plenty of features
BigCommerce $29.95 –
$299.95/mo.
Startups with a decent budget and plans for fast online growth
Squarespace $18 –
$54/mo.
Beautiful designs for creative businesses
Square $0 –
$79/mo.
Face-to-face businesses that need different ways to sell online and offline
Big Cartel $0 –
$19.99/mo.
Independent artists and makers who want an easy solution
WooCommerce Free Merchants who want full control over hosting and website functions
Platform Best for Offer
Shopify Steady businesses preferring flexibility over cost of add-ons
Wix Editing in an easy-to-use visual editor with plenty of features
BigCommerce Startups with a decent budget and plans for fast online growth
Squarespace Beautiful designs for creative businesses
Square Face-to-face merchants that need different sales channels
Big Cartel Independent artists and makers who want an easy solution
WooCommerce Merchants who want full control over hosting and website

Shopify – popular with small retailers

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

Pricing: $21.75 – $299/mo.

Pros: Many add-on features available. 

Cons: Extra fee for non-Shopify payments. Can easily get expensive.

Shopify is a popular ecommerce platform globally. It is best for shops that want an all-in-one ecommerce solution with hosting, website builder, payment processing and plenty of features to customize the online store. In fact, Shopify has the widest choice of add-ons for an online store, but they do come at a cost.

website Shopify

The Shopify store editor is generally user-friendly, with the flexibility to add third-party features.

Shopify’s main ecommerce website 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 three years upfront.

Accepting card transactions through the integrated Shopify Payments costs a percentage and fixed fee per transaction. The more expensive the subscription, the lower the processing fee.

Alternatively, you can integrate with a wide choice of payment processors such as Skrill, Braintree, Checkout.com or Laybuy, but each transaction through a non-Shopify processor incurs a ‘penalty’ fee of 0.5%-2% added to the transaction charges through that processor.

Basic Shopify Shopify Advanced Shopify
Monthly cost* $21.75 – $29/mo. $79 – $59.25/mo. $219 – $299/mo.
Shopify Payments 2.9% + 30¢ 2.6% + 30¢ 2.4% + 30¢
Other payments 2% + payment processor fees 1% + payment processor fees 0.5% + payment processor fees

*Prices exclude US sales tax. The lowest prices represent monthly billing plans and the highest represent paying three years upfront.

Basic
Shopify
Shopify Advanced
Shopify
Monthly cost*
$21.75 – $29 /mo. $79 – $59.25 /mo. $219 – $299 /mo.
Shopify Payments
2.9% + 30¢ 2.6% + 30¢ 2.4% + 30¢
Other payments
2% + payment processor fees 1% + payment processor fees 0.5% + payment processor fees

*Prices exclude US sales tax. The lowest prices represent monthly billing plans and the highest represent paying three years upfront.

Basic Shopify has some limitations, for example the lack of gift cards and sales reports that are not as advanced as on higher plans. You do have a choice of over 6,200 additional apps and features to add, but many of these have separate fees. Some templates are free, but most of Shopify’s themes are $180 each.

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 you have consistent sales, Shopify is a great option that can grow with you.

Payments:

  • Built-in: Shopify Payments (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, JCB, Discover, Diners Club, Elo, Apple Pay, Google Pay)

  • Integration options: 2Checkout, PayPal, Worldpay, Vantiv, Windcave, many others

  • POS integrations: Lightspeed, Shopify POS, Vend, others

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

Wix – top-notch visual editor

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

Pricing: $18-$56/mo.

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

Cons: Payouts can take up to 2 weeks. Customer service not the best.

Wix’s features are hard to beat in their price range. The most advanced plan costs $56 on a monthly billing plan. This includes comprehensive website-building features and priority customer support, unlimited videos on your site and 50 GB website storage.

Photo: Wix

Wix editor

Wix’s visual editor shows the page you’re tweaking, with plenty of intuitive 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 less 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 price per month, but subscription payments are non-refundable.

Wix subscription Business Basic Business Unlimited Business VIP
Monthly cost* $18 – $30 $22 – $35 $38.50 – $56
Wix Payments 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction

*Prices exclude US sales tax. The highest prices represent monthly billing plans and the lowest apply if you pay for three years upfront.

Wix
Business
Basic
Wix
Business
Unlimited
Wix
Business
VIP
Subscription cost*/month
$18 – $30 $22 – $35 $38.50 – $56
Wix Payments
2.9% + 30¢ per transaction

*Prices exclude US sales tax. The highest prices represent monthly billing plans and the lowest apply if you pay for three years upfront.

Wix has its own payment system built in: Wix Payments. You’re free to implement this in your online store incurring the above transaction fee. Alternatively, you can use PayPal or another payment gateway without an extra Wix fee incurred (though fees apply to the chosen payment processors).

Wix Payments takes up to five business days to process a transaction, after which it takes 3-5 more business days for money to clear which can be a barrier if you require fast access to money.

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.

Payments:

  • Built-in: Wix Payments (Mastercard, Maestro, Visa, American Express, Discover, Diners Club, JCB)

  • Integrations: Affirm, Alipay, Braintree, PayPal, Sezzle, Square, Stripe, others

  • POS integrations: Square, Wix Point of Sale (only available to select US merchants)

Can you try before you subscribe? Yes, you can just sign up, create a free site and upgrade to a Business plan later.

BigCommerce – very scalable online store

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

Pricing: $29.95-$299.95/mo.

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

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. The latter are best served by the Essentials subscriptions, which are the most affordable plans for merchants just starting out. Each plan includes hosting, a website builder, marketing tools and room for additional integrations.

Image: BigCommerce

BigCommerce page builder

BigCommerce Essentials’ website builder is easy to use, but sometimes uses technical jargon.

You can pay monthly or annually for subscriptions, the monthly one being most expensive except for the Essentials Standard subscription costing the same regardless. Online store payments are not handled by BigCommerce. In fact, you can choose to integrate any of 29 payment gateways such as PayPal or Adyen. BigCommerce does not charge for online transactions, so you only pay the transaction fee applicable to the chosen payment provider.

Subscriptions have tiered functions, 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 deal-breaker for a cash-strapped, inventory-rich boutique).

Where BigCommerce differs from other online stores on this list is its limits imposed on online sales within each tiered plan. That is, you can max. process up to $50k annually on the Standard plan, $150k on Plus and $400k on Pro.

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

*Pricing excludes US sales tax.

Essentials
Standard
Essentials
Plus
Essentials
Pro
Subscription cost*
$29.95/mo. $71.95-$79.95/mo. $269.96-$299.95/mo.
Online sales allowed
Up to $50k/yr. Up to $180k/yr. Up to $400k/yr.

*Pricing excludes US sales tax.

Setting up an online store with BigCommerce Essentials is fairly straightforward given the step-by-step prompts in the dashboard. There are over 160 website themes to choose from – some free, others $150-$300 each. Some of the features, for example the gift card editor, requires coding, so it is not entirely user-friendly for someone without technical skills.

BigCommerce allows you to integrate with over 900 additional tools and platforms for e.g. accounting, online marketing and shipping management – plenty of options to make your online business as complicated as you like.

Payments:

  • Built-in: None

  • Integrations: Amazon Pay, Authorize.Net, PayPal, Stripe, Klarna, many others

  • POS integrations: Clover, Lightspeed, Revel, Square, Vend, others

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

Squarespace – beautiful templates for creative trades

Best for: Style-conscious online stores with beautiful photos

Pricing: $18-$54/mo.

Pros: Easy to use. Stunning designs that look professional. Trusted by many creatives.

Cons: Limited integrations and ecommerce features. Not as flexible as other platforms.

Squarespace is an all-in-one platform with hosting, online store 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.

Image: Squarespace

Squarespace ecommerce example

Squarespace makes it easy to create a stylish website for eye-catching products.

While most other ecommerce platforms have an app store with many options to integrate third-party features, Squarespace can only connect with a few of the most crucial apps: Google tools, social media channels and payment processors (Stripe or PayPal). 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.

Squarespace plan Business Basic Commerce Advanced Commerce
Subscription cost* Monthly plan:
$26/mo.
Annual plan:
$216 upfront ($18/mo.)
Monthly plan:
$35/mo.
Annual plan:
$312 upfront ($26/mo.)
Monthly plan:
$54/mo.
Annual plan:
$480 upfront ($40/mo.)
Squarespace transaction fee 3% None None
Stripe processing fee 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction
+1% for international cards
+1% for currency conversion

*Excluding US sales tax.

Plan Business Basic
Commerce
Advanced
Commerce
Subscription cost* Monthly plan:
$26/mo.
Annual plan:
$216 upfront ($18/mo.)
Monthly plan:
$35/mo.
Annual plan:
$312 upfront ($26/mo.)
Monthly plan:
$54/mo.
Annual plan:
$480 upfront ($40/mo.)
Squarespace transaction fee 3% None None
Stripe processing fee 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction
+1% for international cards
+1% for currency conversion

*Excluding US sales tax.

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

  • POS integration: Squarespace Point of Sale + Square Reader

Can you try before you subscribe? Yes, there’s a 14-day free trial.

Square Online – simple for multichannel businesses

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

Pricing: $0-$79/mo.

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

Cons: Not that many features. Card processing through Square only.

Square Online is a an online store builder for small shops, food and drink and other small businesses. Square is perhaps most famous for its contract-free credit 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 who prefer using the same platform for online and in-store selling.

Square Online Store

Square Online store editor.

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 curbside 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 a multichannel selling.

Square plan Cost Transaction fee
Free Free 2.9% + 30¢
Professional $16/mo. (monthly)
$12/mo. (annual)
2.9% + 30¢
Performance $29/mo. (monthly)
$26/mo. (annual)
2.9% + 30¢
Premium $79/mo. (monthly)
$72/mo. (annual)
2.6% + 30¢
Square
plan
Cost Transaction
fee
Free Free 2.9% + 30¢
Professional $16/mo. (monthly)
$12/mo. (annual)
2.9% + 30¢
Performance $29/mo. (monthly)
$26/mo. (annual)
2.9% + 30¢
Premium $79/mo. (monthly)
$72/mo. (annual)
2.6% + 30¢

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, takeout delivery platforms and other functions, but the site builder itself is limited on customization 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 simple fees: 2.9% + 30¢ per online card payment. On the Performance and Premium plans, you can add PayPal to your online checkout, which has its own processing fees. Restaurants and takeout businesses can use Square’s own courier system for a predictable delivery fee.

Payments:

  • Built-in: Square (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express, Apple Pay, Google Pay)

  • Integrations: 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.

Big Cartel – everything an artist needs to sell online

Best for: Makers and artists with not that many products, maybe switching from Etsy.

Pricing: $0-$19.99/mo.

Pros: Easy to use. Great themes. Platform perfect for arty shops.

Cons: Limit of 500 products. Not as flexible as other solutions.

Big Cartel does things a bit differently. Like its user base, this all-in-one website builder is an indie company managed by a small team of artists who don’t accept corporate funding. Consequently, Big Cartel does not try to sneak in hidden fees or exaggerate its potential. With no lock-in or annual plans, all subscriptions are truly month-on-month and can be canceled any time.

Image: Big Cartel

Big Cartel focuses on the important features to create and run an online store.

You can choose between three subscription tiers: ‘Gold’ (free) allowing you to list five products at a time, ‘Platinum’ for up to 50 products or ‘Diamond’ that has a 500-product line limit.

Gold has a basic set of features that should do when you’re just experimenting with setting up a site and selling your first items. Platinum includes a few more features including code customization, Google Analytics, inventory tracking and subscriptions. Diamond just includes a higher product limit.

Big Cartel plan Cost*
Gold (list up to 5 products) Free
Platinum (list up to 50 products) $9.99/month
Diamond (list up to 500 products) $19.99/month

*Excluding US sales tax.

Big Cartel plan Cost*
Gold (list up to 5 products) Free
Platinum (list up to 50 products) $9.99/month
Diamond (list up to 500 products) $19.99/month

*Excluding US sales tax.

All plans have free themes designed for interesting products, artworks and smaller product ranges. In contrast to all other website platforms on this list, the Big Cartel interface is really basic, but then it is much faster to create a shop than most alternatives.

You can manage orders, add products and discounts, track shipping and check sales statistics in real time from the dashboard. If more advanced features are needed, there’s a selection of apps that easily integrate with Big Cartel.

While there is no Big Cartel payment system, the site is set up to integrate with Stripe and/or PayPal. These come with their own credit card processing fees, but not monthly fees unless you need specialized features. You can also accept card reader payments in person through the Big Cartel iOS or Android app and Stripe Terminal – and setting this up is easy too.

Payments:

  • Built-in: None

  • Integrations: Stripe, PayPal

  • POS integration: Big Cartel app + Stripe Terminal

Can you try before you subscribe? You can sign up for the free plan and only pay if you upgrade to a higher plan.

WooCommerce – most customizable, requires WordPress

Best for: Website-experienced merchants who want full control over the online store.

Pricing: Free

Pros: Fully customizable down to choice of web host, costs, payments and website features.

Cons: Not easy to use with limited website knowledge. For WordPress only. Many separate costs.

WooCommerce is an open-source ecommerce plugin that can only be used on WordPress websites. It is last on our list because it’s the most complicated to set up for a novice, i.e. it is not an all-in-one platform.

Before installing WooCommerce, you need to subscribe to any web host you like (e.g. DreamHost, BlueHost, SiteGround), buy a domain, set up a WordPress site and install a website theme. You can then download WooCommerce and cherry-pick the features relevant to your online store.

WooCommerce WordPress software

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

The thing about WooCommerce is that everything is piecemeal – including costs. Domain registration, hosting and card payment processing are compulsory expenses, while website themes can be free or come at a price. Email marketing, advanced SEO, security, sales-enhancing features and various other extensions may require paid subscriptions.

The total cost per month can end up being anywhere from $9 monthly for a super-simple online store to $100+ monthly for a serious store.

Expenses Estimated costs
Hosting (compulsory) $100-$1,000/year
Domain registration (compulsory) $10-$50/year
Website theme (compulsory) $0-$20,000
Payment processing (compulsory) Depends on payment system
Security, SEO, marketing tools etc. Varies hugely depending on features
Expenses Estimated
costs
Hosting (compulsory) $100-$1,000/year
Domain registration (compulsory) $10-$50/year
Website theme (compulsory) $0-$20,000
Payment processing (compulsory) Depends on payment system
Security, SEO, marketing tools etc. Varies hugely depending on features

WooCommerce features are modular and completely customizable, allowing you to add unlimited products, orders and users. If needed, you can hire a WooCommerce developer to build a store with specific requirements in mind.

As for payments, you can sell physical and digital products, bookings, subscriptions, content and more. WooCommerce has its own payment processing system charging 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for domestic cards (similar fees to Stripe). If you use one of the many external payment gateways, you only pay transaction fees to the integrated payment processor.

WooCommerce is not a simple solution given all its options, open-source features and reliance on you to securely host and update the WordPress website. But it is one of the best contenders for total control over your online business.

Payments:

  • Built-in: WooCommerce Payments (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, Diners Club, JCB, Apple Pay)

  • Integrations: Amazon Pay, Authorize.Net, Klarna, PayPal, Square, Stripe, many others

  • POS integrations: PayPal Zettle, Point of Sale for WooCommerce, Square

Can you try before you subscribe? No trial is required. Just install WooCommerce and relevant extensions.

Other ecommerce platforms

We recognize the “best” ecommerce platforms are not the best for everyone. These are options we didn’t include which can also be good for certain merchants:

  • Weebly – All-in-one platform (powers Square Online), better for personal websites

  • Ecwid – Can be added to your existing website, free plan available

  • Lightspeed eCommerce – All-in-one platform, for Lightspeed POS users

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

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

  • PrestaShop – Highly customizable, open-source, coding required

  • ShopWired – All-in-one platform, easy migration of existing site to ShopWired

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