As the eCommerce industry continues to grow at an exponential rate, seemingly so do the options of which platforms to build your online store on. For people looking to get into the game, or those unhappy with their current solution, this can cause a confusion induced headache when it comes to picking the project’s platform.
With this in mind we used our knowledge, experience, a lot of research and some heated debate to build the following list of eCommerce platforms that we would recommend in 2021 to people with a variety of requirements.
nopCommerce stands out as being an enterprise level solution which anyone can get working thanks to a large number of free or paid-for templates. It’s open source nature means that it is infinitely customisable and completely free, while being based on Microsoft's strongly supported and time proven .NET framework. So you can feel secure about your site being secure and stable.
Out of the box it is lightning fast, providing super responsive and fast loading times even as you scale the size and complexity of your store. All the standard features you would expect are included out of the box, like responsive design for all devices and payment processing. It is also capable of supporting multiple vendors on one site with the ability for them to dropship easily. It even has multi-store features so you can build an online marketplace yourself.
Off the mark, your store will be search engine friendly with features to allow for customisation of key SEO aspects of every section of the site from the homepage down to the individual products. It’s value for money, reliability, scalability and customizability make it a top choice for business owners big or small.
Another open source solution, but this time built upon the foundation of the famous WordPress platform. Originally designed for bloggers, WordPress still favours this flavour of site. But with a bit of bodging through specialised themes and a layer or two of plugins you can hammer out a decent, if not slightly messy eCommerce site from it.
Because the foundation install of WordPress is open source too, everything is highly flexible. Not being dedicated to eCommerce sites does mean there is a lot of irrelevant fluff when it comes to selling online though. And picking the right plugins from the huge library can be a bit of a chore, especially when they start causing conflicts amongst each other.
If you want to build a simple store then WooCommerce can be a good way to get started, and for free if you avoid the price tagged, but often better plugins. Keep in mind, if you want to incorporate more features into your store like advanced checkout options or conversion optimization processes then things could start to get messy and will probably slow down. For this reason, if you plan on growing or introducing more advanced features down the line then we recommend you have strong PHP coding skills and know a reasonable amount about things like web hosting.
Ucommerce serves as an add-on to the solid Umbraco CMS, a solid .NET content management system designed for building websites of all varieties. Unlike WordPress, which was originally built and used almost exclusively for many years for blogging purposes, Umbraco was built from day one to be an all-purpose web development platform.
This combination of an excellent website content management system and a comprehensive eCommerce solution provides the best of both worlds for people who don’t want their site to feel like a website with a shop section duct-taped on, or an online store with website features shoehorned in as an afterthought.
This makes it an excellent solution for comprehensive, jam packed websites that also want to be fully capable when it comes to commercial endeavours, be they product or service. Being feature packed and customisable in all aspects, there isn’t a much better solution than this combo when it comes to all round excellent site building solutions.
Originally released in 2009 and now owned by the long established productivity professionals Adobe, Magento is one of the original eCommerce options. This option is touted as free, and it is, but expect lots of additional costs like themes, add-ons, support etc. I tend to think of it as more an à la carte solution. I would highly recommend carefully researching what you would need to buy before picking this platform in order to make it work, assume you missed something and then compare the price to other options. Also factor in that development tends to be longer and/or more involved than most other platforms as well.
That being said, if you are a large business who is already successful and has the resources, then the Magento Commerce enterprise level solution is a powerful product pushing platform, if paying anywhere between $15-50k per year is a small price to pay for a quality system in you, or your accountant’s books.
You’ve probably been touted Squarespace on YouTube as a simple to use website builder for personal and small businesses that can get your presence up and online in no time. And to be fair, it is pretty good at delivering on its promises in this department as long as you don’t mind a limited lego-like experience in design. The sites it pumps out can look beautiful with a vast array of templates and customisation to stop your pages looking too cookie-cutter.
Ultimately though, Squarespace was created as a solution for entrepreneurs and small business owners to get off the ground with a basic brochure website and was clearly not built with online stores in mind from the beginning. As a result, the ecommerce aspects of the service are very limited in terms of capability and customization and feel patched on.
eCommerce options are only available on the business package ($26 monthly as of writing) and are really only designed as a bolted on addition to an information based website. You can also expect to pay 3% transaction fees on the basic business plan, so it’s not working out to be the cheapest option either.
Again, if you are a small business owner or entrepreneur who wants to get a store up and running fast and easily while willing to sacrifice features, customizability and paying a bit for this then they might actually be a reasonable option.
Another What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get website builder like Squarespace. With that in mind, the summary of its service is quite similar. It provides an easy drag-and-drop solution for design which makes it simple, if limited, to churn out a website with shopping features even if you lack the skills to do so conventionally.
That being said, if you are a small business owner or entrepreneur who just wants to launch something quickly, will be happy in the meantime with limited capabilities, don’t mind paying a small fee and spending time yourself tweaking templates then Wix probably is the better option of the simple, theme based, drag and drop builders out there. It also has a reasonable selection of solid, stable plugins for certain upgrades worth browsing before deciding.
As with anything, the right choice really comes down to which shoe fits. Things to consider are whether your website leans more towards information or commerce, your current resources and expected growth. In many cases a simple, quick solution may seem like the right way to get yourself off the ground initially. But this path could likely lead to frustration with it’s limitations from the get go or in the future as your business starts to scale in size or complexity. The solution that seemed fine at first may no longer be up to the task down the road. This is why, when possible, we suggest building on a foundation that is capable of growing with your business over the long term instead of having to do the double work of building now and rebuilding later, which can lead to giant pains like losses in built up SEO authority, headache migrations and much more.
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