In this article we review four popular ecommerce platforms and recommend what we feel is the best option for your small business. We compared the cost vs. value of BigCommerce vs. Shopify vs. Volusion vs. 3dCard for the brick and mortar small business owner who is looking to do a significant amount of online sales.
For more general website recommendations, check out our guide to the Best Website Builders for small businesses. It’s easy to accept credit card payments online, and you can even set up a full eCommerce store on Weebly with the help of our guide..
Best Ecommerce Platform: Shopify
Shopify has great customer service and offers as many or more features as its competitors at a comparable price-point. They are also the only ecommerce site we reviewed that offers ecommerce hosting, mobile credit card processing, and in-store system services all in one monthly package.
BigCommerce vs. Shopify vs. Volusion vs. 3dCart Summary Table
total + $.30
1% if using
fee + $.30
fixed fee +
$33 fixed fee
per month for Volusion’s
email, and live
and 60 other
Media/Other Sales Outlets
How We Chose Which Ecommerce Sites to Review
BigCommerce, Shopify, and Volusion have consistently led the industry for the past 10 years, both in total number of sites hosted and sales made through their platforms. 3dcart is growing significantly and now has over 10,000 users.
Why We Choose Shopify over other Ecommerce Sites
Shopify is the only one of the major ecommerce sites I reviewed with packages that include online, mobile, and in-store solutions. The other solutions lack either mobile or in-store functionality. For a basic plan of around $78/month, or a professional plan at $128/month, you can run an ecommerce site, accept credit-cards on your mobile device, and have your own POS system for your store, all through one service.
Shopify has been around for a long time, and has been consistently rated as one of the better ecommerce solutions. In addition, they have some of the best value in the industry for their service cost. Shopify provides you with all the tools necessary to create a beautiful and productive digital storefront.
There are several downsides to using Shopify. They claim to have “no transaction fees,” but charge a transaction fee if you decide to use a third-party credit card processing service, 2% for the basic plan, 1% for their professional plan, and .5% for their unlimited plan. Also, their free template options, although professional, are fewer than their competitors.
Best Ecommerce Platform: Costs and Credit Card Processing Fees
The most basic plans start at $15 and go all the way up to premium packages at around $200. We recommend Shopify’s Professional Plan, with plenty of features for the median price-point of $79, as the best option for small business owners. While each provider offers different service levels at different prices, we are comparing the options with a cost similar to Shopify’s Professional Plan.
All of the ecommerce sites reviewed offer a 10% discount if you pay annually, except for 3dcart, which offers 15%. From what I could tell, Shopify is the only service that offers a bi-annual discount at 20%.
BigCommerce’s Gold plan costs $79.95/mo and offers unlimited bandwidth, unlimited products, and unlimited storage. The Gold plan also includes real-time shipping quotes, omni-channel sales through Ebay/Amazon, and an abandoned cart saver. BigCommerce uses third-party payment gateways for their credit card processing and charges no transaction fees. Full pricing details here.
Best Ecommerce Platform: Customer Service
Through browsing various forums, reading reviews, and interacting with each ecommerce store myself, Shopify’s customer service is the winner. BigCommerce comes in at a close second with Volusion and 3dcart bringing up the rear.
All 4 sales representatives seemed happy to answer my questions, although I was obviously not trying to fix a site problem or trying to work through a more serious customer support need. Volusion’s customer service was contradictory at times, quoting one price for credit-card processing in chat and another over the phone. I had to cross-reference with other reviews to get an accurate answer.
As referenced in the summary table, 24/7 support of some kind is pretty much an industry standard.
Best Ecommerce Platform: Ease of Use
Being specifically designed for ecommerce, none of these sites are as easy or intuitive to use as other basic website builders like Weebly. It is possible to get a basic site up and running within 20-30 minutes. However, it will probably take quite a bit more time to actually get a unique and professional looking site.
I initially liked Shopify’s interface the least, although most reviews seem to find it one of the simplest and easiest to use. However, once I got comfortable with it, it was actually pretty handy. The option to preview your store appearance without having to open another page is especially nice.
Best Ecommerce Platform: Product Limits
One important thing for you to determine, is how many products you anticipate listing on your site. In reality, the average small business owner is probably not going to be listing more than 10,000 products. But for those exceptions, BigCommerce and Shopify’s across-the-board unlimited product listings feature is a nice touch.
Best Ecommerce Platform: Payment Options
Most ecommerce sites offer both in-house and third-party payment options. Some, like 3dcart, do all of their payment processing through third-parties. All of the ecommerce sites reviewed accept the major payment gateways such as Paypal, Stripe, and Authorize.net, just to name a few. If you already use a service such as Paypal or Stripe, it is probably easiest just to continue doing so on your ecommerce site. If not, we recommend Bluepay, who is directly compatible with Volusion/3dcart and can be used with BigCommerce and Shopify as well, with some slight modifications.
Shopify: 70+ Payment Gateways
Best Ecommerce Platform: Template Options
Each ecommerce platform has their own templates/themes, which are basically pre-programmed designs with certain customizable features that the business owner can pick for their storefront. If you plan on building a long-term online sales presence, it may be worth investing in a premium theme for the added professionalism and visual appeal.
Shopify’s poor selection of free templates is perhaps its biggest negative. There are 11 free themes with 2-3 style variations per theme, which put the overall options at a little over 30. The free templates are professional quality, but their lack of free options make it more likely that a business owner with a specific shop look in-mind might have to invest in a premium theme, which start at around $80.
Best Ecommerce Platform: SEO Services
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is basically the process of formatting certain aspects of your site so that they will show up higher and more often in Google and similar search engines.
Shopify includes everything in their website design that is needed for SEO success, including title and header tags, meta descriptions,, and SEO-friendly themes, to name a few. They offer $100 credit for Google AdWords and $50 in Facebook ad credits if you spend $25 with Google.
Integration with Social Media/Other Online Storefronts
If you are planning to sell on social media or other online storefronts in conjunction with your ecommerce site, it is important to determine the level of integration ability that each of the ecommerce platforms provide.
BigCommerce has similar features to Shopify, fully integrating with Facebook, Twitter, etc. and providing a Facebook Store. Also, users have the option of setting up an Ebay store directly through BigCommerce. Setting up on Amazon and other sites is also an option with various application downloads.
Best Ecommerce Platform: Accounting Software Integration
If you already have accounting software of some kind, determining whether or not your eccomerce site is compatible with that service is important. If so, it makes keeping track of the numbers side of your business a much easier task.
BigCommerce also has importable/exportable files and spreadsheets. You can also purchase an app from webgilty that can be found here which provides seamless two-way integration between BigCommerce and Quickbooks as well as shipping quotes and tracking, although it will lighten your pocket at $50-$100/mo depending on your volume of product sales.
Volusion users can export/transfer files between Volusion and Quickbooks in one of two ways, through llf file transfer or through Quickbooks’ Volusion API app, both of which are explained in-depth here.
BigCommerce vs. Shopify vs. Volusion vs. 3dCard Conclusion
When comparing cost/value ratio through the lens of factors outlined above, our recommended ecommerce platform for the small business owner who is looking to do significant selling online, is Shopify, with BigCommerce as a close second. It is always helpful to do a little research of your own to see which features are important to you, but the guide above should provide you with the majority information you need make the best decision for your business.