6 Best Ecommerce Platforms for Small Businesses in 2023
This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
The best ecommerce platforms offer a powerful website builder on the frontend with detailed order management tools, sales and product features, and marketing solutions on the backend. For small businesses, the ecommerce website builder must also be easy to set up and maintain at an affordable price.
Based on our extensive research, the best ecommerce platforms for small businesses are:
- Best overall: Shopify
- Best for growing businesses: BigCommerce
- Best for adding to an existing site: Ecwid by Lightspeed
- Best for storefronts wanting to add a website: Square Online
- Best for SEO and drag-and-drop design: Wix
- Best templates: Squarespace
Best Ecommerce Platforms Compared
User Review Score†
Online Store Starting Price
4.65 out of 5
4.46 out of 5
4.52 out of 5
4.27 out of 5
4.21 out of 5
4.67 out of 5
4.08 out of 5
4.68 out of 5**
3.96 out of 5
4.37 out of 5**
3.74 out of 5
4.54 out of 5**
†User review scores averaged across several third-party review sites
*Try Shopify Basic for $1/month for first three months
**User reviews for website builder as a whole, not specifically ecommerce features
Free POS App
Payment Processing Fee
✓, 3 days*
2.9% + 30 cents**
✓, 15 days
✕, requires third party
No trial for paid plans
✕, requires third party
30 days for paid plans
2.9% + 30 cents**
2.9% + 30
✓, 14 days
Through Square integration
*Try Shopify Basic for $1/month for first 3 months
**Lower rates available with higher-level plans
Get a Personalized Recommendation
Shopify: Best Overall Ecommerce Platform for Small Businesses
- Detailed sales tax tools
- Extensive marketplace for integrations
- Best-in-class POS app
- Added transaction fees if you don’t use Shopify Payments
- Professional reporting only available in higher-tier plans
- Very limited number of free themes
Monthly Fee: $39–$399 per month
Custom enterprise plans also available
Discounts for annual billing
Free Trial: 3-day free trial, then $1 per month for first 3 months
Compatible Payment Gateways: 100+ options including ApplePay, Shopify Payments, Shop Pay, Adyen, AmazonPay, Braintree, Chase, PayPal
Integrated Sales Channels: Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Google, Amazon, Walmart, YouTube, Twitter, eBay, Pinterest, in-person through Shopify POS app, and more.
Customer Support: 24/7 phone, live chat, and email support
Shopify is sometimes called the only true competitor to Amazon—and for a good reason. We have tested a lot of ecommerce website builders, and Shopify is one of the easiest systems to use when creating an ecommerce website and managing orders.
Usually, when we test products that are very easy to use, the functionality is often more basic. And when a product has a ton of functionality, the user interface will typically be more complex or clunky to navigate. Shopify is unmatched when it comes to packing in functionality in a way that is intuitive to navigate for new sellers yet robust enough to scale up and accommodate enterprise businesses.
In fact, in our evaluation, Shopify was the only system to earn a perfect score for sales and product features and ease of use. It’s the best small business ecommerce platform for most online sellers.
In addition to being the best all-around option, Shopify is good for:
- Omnichannel retailers: Shopify tops our list of recommended multichannel POS systems, offering a POS and ecommerce system that connect seamlessly for omnichannel sales.
- Multichannel online sellers: Simultaneously sell your items on Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and many other websites. Shopify offers more multichannel selling options than any other platform.
- Online stores that would like to sell on social media: While most ecommerce platforms offer social media integrations, Shopify has exclusive partnerships with companies like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to allow in-app purchases.
- Entrepreneurs wanting to try a dropshipping model: Shopify connects to hundreds of dropshippers via plug-and-play options in the Shopify App Store.
In the News: Shopify Rate Increase
(Jan. 24, 2023) Shopify announced a price increase for its software subscriptions.
This new pricing is effective immediately for new sellers. Current Shopify subscribers can lock in their current rates by opting for an annual subscription before the new pricing takes effect for current sellers April 23, 2023.
- $39 per month for Basic Shopify; includes all the main ecommerce features but has limited reporting. Online transactions are charged at 2.9% + 30 cents.
- $105 per month for Shopify Standard; provides stronger reporting (such as first-time vs returning customer sales), USPS cubic pricing, and a discounted transaction fee of 2.6% + 30 cents.
- $399 per month for Advanced Shopify; lets you build custom reports and show third-party calculated shipping rates at checkout. Online transactions are further discounted to 2.4% + 30 cents.
As your business grows and your needs exceed what Advanced Shopify offers, you can contact the provider to upgrade to Shopify Plus, Shopify’s enterprise-level solution.
Shopify also has a $5 per month Starter plan, which lets you sell on social media using a checkout link. This plan also allows you to send invoices and accept online payments but does not let you build an online store.
2023 New Shopify Features:
- Search features for online store (search relevance, typeahead search, and auto-generated product recommendations)
- Shop’s new sign-in features (lead capture, follow, and sign-in with Shop)
- New optimized one-page checkout for mobile
- Accept payments and close in-person sales anywhere with POS Go
- Shopify Collabs (creator network)
- Shopify forms (lead generation)
- New marketing automation templates
- Smart order routing
- Use Shop Promise using Shopify Fulfillment Network
- Integration with Deliverr
- Translate & Adapt app to localize your online store to the IP address of site visitor
- Shopify Markets (control which products you sell in different regions)
- Shopify Tax (help calculate due taxes based on region where products are sold)
- Shopify Balance app (manage finances)
- One-click checkout option via Shop Pay: Shop Pay works across all Shopify stores that have Shop Pay enabled to give shoppers a seamless one-click checkout. For example, if a customer purchased an item in one Shopify store, all their purchase details are saved in the system so that when they buy something from another Shopify store, they can literally check out with just one click.
- Abandoned cart recovery in all plans: Abandoned cart recovery is included with all online store plans. This is a feature only Shopify offers across all tiers, compared to other ecommerce platforms that offer it only in their higher-priced plans.
- Free integrated email marketing: Shopify Email, its native email marketing tool, is also included—with 2,500 emails per month and additional emails priced at $1 per 1,000. Shopify has the best built-in email marketing tools, allowing you to segment customers based on their purchase history, geography, and other variables (third-party apps may be required).
- Shopify Shipping: Shopify’s built-in shipping tools make it easier to fulfill orders right from your home. Display real-time shipping rates for your customers at checkout, and receive discounts of up to 88% on shipping labels, which you can purchase and print right from the Shopify dashboard.
- Product management: Shopify has a three-limit variant on its products, with only up to 100 variant combinations. Digital product downloads and custom order fields, such as personalized items, would need a separate app. BigCommerce has nearly unlimited product variants and a built-in custom work order feature.
- Compatibility with big marketplaces: If you plan to sell items in marketplaces like Walmart Marketplace and PriceGrabber, BigCommerce would be a better fit.
- Drag-and-drop site builder: Shopify’s recent rollout of Online Store 2.0 provides more flexibility than it had in the past, including some basic drag-and-drop functionality. It’s a good balance of being able to customize your online store while also not being able to break it. However, if you’re looking for a true drag-and-drop editor, consider Wix.
- SEO: While Shopify has decent features, you can’t customize product metadata or easily change product-specific URLs. For more robust SEO tools, look to BigCommerce and Wix.
Want to learn more about Shopify?
- Calculate fees and find the best plan for you with our Shopify pricing guide
- Learn about Shopify POS for in-person sales, including a video walkthrough
- Get up and running quickly with our guide on How to Set Up a Shopify Store
BigCommerce: Best for Growing Businesses
- 65+ payment gateway options
- No transaction fees
- Best-in-class product management
- Customization tools aren’t beginner-friendly
- Plans have sales volume limits
- No abandoned cart recovery in Standard plan
Monthly Fee: $39–$399
Custom enterprise plans also available
Discounts for annual billing
Free Trial: Yes, 15 days
Compatible Payment Gateways: Dozens of options including Adyen, AmazonPay, Authorize.net, Bolt, Braintree, Chase, Clover, PayPal, Square, and Stripe.
Integrated Sales Channels: Amazon, eBay, Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Walmart, and in-person through POS integrations
Customer Support: 24/7 email, live chat, and phone support
When it comes to choosing the right ecommerce software for your business, it will most likely come down to BigCommerce vs Shopify.
We consider BigCommerce a close runner-up to Shopify in being the best overall ecommerce platform. BigCommerce, as its name implies, is best for growing businesses that need a scalable sales platform. Its open software as a service (SaaS) structure also makes BigCommerce an attractive platform for companies that want to personalize their stores as much as possible.
In our evaluation, BigCommerce came right behind Shopify. Its built-in sales features, advanced level of customization, SEO capabilities, and zero transaction fees earned high marks. However, its ease of use and sales volume limits on pricing plans prevented it from getting a perfect score.
- High-revenue enterprise businesses: The lack of transaction fees plus the ability to shop for the best payment processing rates make BigCommerce a cost-effective platform to run for high-revenue companies.
- Online stores carrying a large variety of inventory (such as clothing stores): BigCommerce lets you set up 250 product options and up to 600 variants. By comparison, Shopify only allows for up to 100 variants.
- Businesses offering a mix of physical, digital, and service-based products: BigCommerce allows you to sell these options without the need for a third-party integration.
- B2B businesses: BigCommerce has a dedicated B2B edition with separate themes, custom pricing and bulk-discounting tools, invoicing portal, restricted access options, corporate account management, and more.
In the News: BigCommerce Rate Increase
(Feb. 23, 2023) BigCommerce announced a price increase for its software subscriptions. This new pricing is effective immediately for new sellers. Current BigCommerce subscribers can lock in their current rates by opting for an annual subscription before the new pricing takes effect for current sellers on June 1, 2023.
- $39 per month for Standard; includes a responsive website, a single-page checkout, access to the BigCommerce mobile app, and payment integrations (Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Amazon Pay). It provides real-time shipping quotes, professional reporting tools, coupons, discounts, and gift cards.
- $105 per month for Plus; features an abandoned cart saver, persistent cart saver, customer groups, and stored credit cards.
- $399 per month for Pro; provides product filtering, custom SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), and Google customer reviews.
All plans include unlimited staff accounts, products, file storage, and bandwidth. Each plan has access to 24/7 live support, BigCommerce’s POS tool, and multiple sales channels—such as a branded online store, eBay, Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, and Google Shopping.
Since Our Last Update: New BigCommerce Features
- New integrations: Amazon’s Buy with Prime, Microsoft Ads and Listings app, and Snapchat
- Multi-Storefront (MSF) for online merchants
- Fully customizable themes, including checkout pages: What’s noteworthy about BigCommerce’s themes is their capability to display an extensive catalog of products. You can customize your website using Store Design, its page builder visual editor, and access fully customizable themes, checkout customization tools, and WordPress integration.
- Most robust product management out of all platforms in this guide: BigCommerce’s most significant advantage over Shopify is its product variant management feature. BigCommerce lets you have up to 250 product options and auto-generates SKUs for all combinations of variants you set up. Its limit on product variants is 600, a big jump from the 100 limit of Shopify and Squarespace.
- Sell multiple types of products and services: BigCommerce lets you sell physical, digital, and service-based products without having to use a third-party app (often at a cost). Subscriptions, however, require an app.
- Multicurrency and multilanguage capabilities: Accept over 100 currencies and offer local payment options with your preferred gateway. You can also localize your store’s front end according to your market’s language.
- Advanced SEO features: Features such as automated image optimizer, on-page SEO capabilities, sitemap generation, and site speed enhancers are advantageous for SEO. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is also implemented on all BigCommerce themes. Unlike Shopify and Squarespace, you can customize your store products’ metadata, header tags, and titles and create and change product-specific URLs easily.
- Variety in its free website themes: While BigCommerce offers free website templates, they look similar and don’t provide the same flexibility and options that Shopify and Squarespace offer. When you create your store on BigCommerce, be prepared to invest in a paid website template.
- Built-in email marketing: BigCommerce still has yet to offer a native solution that lets you send emails to your customers, something Shopify rolled out with Shopify Email.
- Discounted shipping rates: While BigCommerce offers live shipping rates across its plans, discounted rates are still unavailable, unlike with Shopify.
Get the full scoop on BigCommerce:
- Watch our video review of BigCommerce
- See how BigCommerce compares to Shopify
Ecwid by Lightspeed: Best for Adding to an Existing Site
- Sell anywhere (website, social media, and in person)
- No ads shown on free sites
- Free USPS, UPS, and FedEx shipping calculator
- Free plan is limited to 10 products and lacks inventory tracking
- Limited customer support
- Limited customization options
Monthly fee: $0–$99
Discounts for annual billing
Free Trial: None for paid plans
Compatible Payment Gateways: Dozens of options including Lightspeed Payments, Stripe, Square, PayPal, Authorize.net
Integrated Sales Channels: Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, eBay, and in-person through POS integrations
Customer Support: Weekday email support on all plans. Weekday phone support and 24/7 chat support available on certain plans
If you already have a Tumblr, Blogger, Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress website and want to start selling products, then Ecwid is an excellent free option. While Wix and Squarespace have ecommerce plans, they can get expensive. If you just need a simple shopping cart of a few products, Ecwid is a great free option.
Ecwid can work on any website where you can inject code. It can also be used as a free standalone website, with its instant site builder. Though this is less common, it’s a good option if you need a quick and simple site with just a few products. It also has a mobile-responsive shopping cart and the Apple Pay one-tap checkout feature.
In our evaluation, Ecwid lost points for having limited customization features and customer support, which are crucial for ecommerce solutions. However, it is still the best value and user-friendly choice if you want free ecommerce software for your existing website.
- Businesses that have an existing website: Tumblr, Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace users have native Ecwid integrations—no code is required to set up Ecwid, making it much easier to use.
- Sellers with a narrow inventory of products: Ecwid’s forever-free plan is perfect if you have 10 or fewer products to sell.
- Hobbyists and those who sell as a side business: Ecwid’s basic plan ($15/month) lets you sell on Facebook and Instagram and provides you with inventory tracking, marketing tools, and a mobile app.
- Free plan ($0) has 10 products, and you can create your online store or add products to a current site. Ecwid is the only free ecommerce platform with free shipping calculators for all the major US carriers, Canada Post, Royal Mail, and more. This means you can charge customers actual shipping rates based on their location and the package weight. However, support is only provided by e-mail.
- $19 per month for Venture, a basic plan that allows you to feature 100 physical products and connect your store to other sales channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Etsy. You can also sell digital goods with a 25GB per file limit. Support in this tier is provided through chat.
- $39 per month for Business, which has all of Venture plan’s features—except you can now sell up to 2,500 products and connect to Amazon and eBay. Moreover, advanced store management features (such as abandoned cart emails) are added to your dashboard. Phone and chat support are available, plus up to two hours of free customization for those under annual plans.
- $99 per month for Unlimited, which provides unlimited products, your own branded iOS and Android shopping app and point-of-sale (POS) system, and priority support. Those under annual plans are entitled to up to 12 hours of free customization.
Since Our Last Update: New Ecwid Features
- Sell subscriptions with Lightspeed Payments
- Sell products for subscriptions on a half-year basis
- Set individual subscription pricing for product variations
- Add payment-based fees to checkout
- Updated to the Ecwid mobile app (in-app order reminders and new preset filters)
- Hide long product descriptions in a collapsible accordion
- Rename site sections in your Instant Site
- Sell anywhere: You can sell either online—through Ecwid’s storefront, an existing website, social networks, on mobile—or in person by connecting your store to a POS platform. Also, you can manage sales channels through Ecwid’s control panel, which automatically syncs data, like orders and inventory.
- Buy buttons: Additionally, its buy button feature can be added to any web page and directly links your product. It automatically adapts to the website’s colors and style without the need for coding knowledge.
- Customer-friendly storefront experience: Ecwid makes it easy for your customers to buy products by providing a drag-and-drop “add to cart” feature, an easy option to “checkout without creating a store profile,” a customer address book, and the ability to save favorite products.
- Dynamic multilingual capabilities: Language is easily detected and can be translated into over 45 different languages, and real-time shipping rates are adjusted based on the customer’s IP address.
- Mobile app for managing your business on the go: Ecwid provides a store management app (iOS and Android) for paid subscribers. You can update inventory, manage orders, and receive notifications.
- Multiple website pages: Since Ecwid is primarily designed as an add-on to existing sites, it only offers a single-page Instant Site that can act as your homepage or landing page. If you want a full-blown website, Shopify, Squarespace, and BigCommerce are better choices.
- Native POS: If you plan to sell in person, you’d need to be on Ecwid’s Business or Unlimited plan to connect a POS like Square, Clover, or Vend.
- SEO: Ecwid doesn’t offer SEO capabilities on its free plan, and even with paid plans, its capabilities are limited. Shopify and BigCommerce are better options.
- Free plan limitations: The free plan only allows for 10 products, lacks abandoned cart emails, and doesn’t allow you to sell on Facebook or Instagram. If you need these tools for free, consider Square Online.
Continue learning about Ecwid:
- Read our step-by-step guide on using Ecwid
- Check out our Ecwid vs Shopify comparison
Square Online: Best for Storefronts
- Sell items on Instagram and Facebook
- Integrates with all major postal carriers (with upgrade)
- All-in-one ecommerce and payment processing solution
- The free option is filled with Square ads and branding
- Inventory can be counterintuitive
- Premium features can get expensive
Monthly Fee: $0–$79, billed annually
Free Trial: 30-day free trial for paid plans
Compatible Payment Gateways: Square (required), Afterpay, PayPal (optional add-ons)
Integrated Sales Channels: Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, TikTok, and in-person with Square POS
Customer Support: Email, live chat, and phone support 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern time Monday–Friday
Square Online is best for brick-and-mortar stores wanting to add online ordering, such as cafes, retail outlets, and professional service shops. A free plan lets you create a professional online store and sell unlimited products with built-in credit card processing. Paid subscriptions are available for more advanced features, such as using a custom domain instead of the yoursite.square.site domain that’s provided for free.
Like Shopify, Square includes a POS for businesses that sell in-store and online. Unlike Shopify, however, its POS is free to use, with optional paid upgrades. Square Online is our leading free ecommerce platform. Meanwhile, Square is one of our best overall point-of-sale (POS) systems for small businesses.
If you need an online ordering solution with BOPIS, curbside pickup, or local delivery to supplement your storefront, Square Online is a great option.
Since Our Last Update:
- An update to Square’s refund policy will take effect April 11, 2023.
- Square now requires all sellers to set up two-factor authentication for their accounts in 2023.
- Businesses on a budget: Square Online has a forever-free plan that includes a full standalone website, unlimited products, social media sales, shipping label printing and discounts, marketing tools, and an automated tax calculator.
- Businesses offering curbside delivery or click-and-collect options: Create a web page to receive orders through your Square POS system. Customers decide on delivery options like pickup in-store or curbside, delivery, or shipping.
- Solo proprietors (such as massage therapists, fitness instructors, makeup artists, and hairstylists): Square Online’s checkout function lets you easily accept prepayment for your services and automatically charge for monthly services. Plus, it comes with subscription management tools, self-service customer accounts, and a full-featured online booking platform.
- Age-restricted products: Square Online has an age verification pop-up tool that is ideal for storefronts like breweries wanting to offer pickup orders.
- Square POS users: If you already use Square POS, Square for Retail, Square for Restaurants, or Square Appointments, Square Online is a seamless addition for online sales, orders, and appointment booking.
In the News: Square Online Rate Increase
(March 1, 2023) Square Online announced a price increase and recalibration of its plans from four tiers to three—Free, Plus, and Premium for its software subscriptions. This new pricing is effective immediately for new sellers. Current Square Online subscribers will be billed at their new rate beginning April 11, 2023.
- Free ($0) plan includes all the main features of a professional ecommerce site. Create a full website, list unlimited products with variants, and manage your orders through Square Dashboard. The free option requires you to use a yoursite.square.site domain, though, and will display a Square logo on the footer.
- $29 per month for Plus*; includes all Free features, plus the ability to accept PayPal payments, personalized ordering, expanded site customization, self-serve (QR) ordering, customer accounts, and a free domain for a year.
- $79 per month for Premium*; adds a shipping calculator to charge customers real-time rates from USPS, UPS, FedEx, or DHL. Transaction fees are also discounted.
*Plans are under lump-sum billing.
- Streamlined website builder: Square Online allows you to build a full-blown website with multiple pages, contact forms, an email sign-up, and much more. The website can be custom-branded with your logo and colors, and you can choose which features you want to appear—and in what order. Square will automatically set you up with a theme based on your business type, which you can then customize.
- BOPIS, click and collect, local delivery fulfillment: Set up click-and-collect options (like curbside pickup or buy online, pickup in-store), specific pickup hours and order windows, order prep times, customer notifications for when their order is ready, and whether or not shoppers can schedule pickup times.
- Analytics: Square Online provides a range of sales reports, including sales by category, discounts applied, and tax collected. Paid versions of Square Online also provide some basic website analytics—like page views, search terms, and referring sites.
- Multichannel sales: One of Square’s strongest features is the ability to sell on multiple channels (in-store and mobile) and social media platforms. Plus, Square manufactures some of the best card readers for small businesses.
- Several payment options: Square Online’s payment integration is limited to Square, although it also supports PayPal, Google Pay, and Apple Pay. If you want the freedom to choose your payment processor, we suggest you consider BigCommerce.
- Shipping calculators: You must be on Square Online’s highest tier ($72/month) to get real-time shipping calculators. Shopify offers stronger shipping tools.
- Advanced inventory management features: Square Online doesn’t have barcode, supplier, or purchasing features. If you handle various products that require bundling, kitting, or cross-location inventory tracking, BigCommerce is a better fit.
- Fully customizable website: You cannot fully edit the layout of your Square Online store (like you can with Wix) or add integrations as easily as you can with Shopify.
Overall, the lack of customization options and counterintuitive ecommerce inventory management tools prevented Square from getting a higher score. If your main goal is to drive online sales, you likely won’t be happy with Square, but it is a great choice for brick-and-mortar businesses.
Want to learn more?
- See everything the platform has to offer in our guide to Square for small businesses
- Follow along and set up a Square Online store in just a few minutes
- See how Square compares to Shopify
Wix: Best for SEO & Drag-and-Drop Design
- Best-in-class design functionality
- Top-notch SEO tools
- Wix Owner mobile app
- Free domain included
- No low stock alerts
- Basic product management tools
- Too much creative freedom
- Cannot switch templates
Monthly fee: $27–$59 (for ecommerce plans)
Custom enterprise plans available
Free Trial: No
Compatible Payment Gateways: 20+ options including Wix Payments, Authorize.net, Braintree, PayPal, Square, and Stripe
Integrated Sales Channels: Amazon, eBay, Wish, Facebook, Instagram, and in-person through Wix POS app
Customer Support: 24/7 phone and chat support for most plans
Wix is a popular platform for all kinds of small businesses. In fact, it’s now our top-recommended website builder thanks to its design flexibility and recently improved (and impressive) SEO tools.
Also, it now makes our list of the best ecommerce platforms. Its new SEO tools, along with more payment processing tools, upgraded marketing solutions, and ecommerce-focused reporting tools have earned it a spot on our list.
In our evaluation, Wix performed well for site builder tools and ease of use. Like Squarespace, Wix is a site builder first, so it excels with its design features, SEO tools, and site analytics; however, it falls short of Shopify and BigCommerce when it comes to inventory, product, and order management, which is reflected in its score.
- Small, design-focused businesses: Wix allows for more no-code creative control and flexibility than any other ecommerce website builder on this list.
- Building a community: Wix has sophisticated blogging tools that make it easy to create engaging content and get it in front of your customers. You can also organize and host events, communicate with site visitors via live chat, host discussion forums, and more. Shoppers can create accounts to participate in discussions, but also view their past orders and create wishlists.
- Digital content creators: Create, manage, paywall, and sell all kinds of digital content, including video, music, and art.
- $27 per month for Business Basic includes 50GB of storage space and five hours of video. You can sell unlimited products and activate the abandoned cart recovery feature.
- $32 per month for Business Unlimited includes 100GB of storage, 10 hours of video, an automated sales tax feature, and the ability to display pricing in local currency. You can also feature up to 1,000 product reviews, offer subscriptions, and dropship up to 250 products.
- $59 per month for Business VIP has unlimited storage space, video hours, and dropship products. It also includes 3,000 product reviews, customized analytics reports, a loyalty program, and priority customer care.
All the plans featured have ecommerce features. Website builder plans are available at lower tiers.
Since Our Last Update: New Wix Features
- Tap to Pay on iPhone
- New SEO reports using GSC data, including Top Search Queries and Top Pages in Search
- A new SEO Dashboard and bulk SEO setting management
- Automatic addition of new images to a website’s XML sitemap, improving site discoverability
- Faster data retrieval with indexing
- Drag-and-drop site builder: Wix features a true drag-and-drop editor with hundreds of pre-made content blocks and a helpful grid tool to line up the elements on your site with precision. You can create a truly custom site without a single line of code.
- SEO tools: Wix SEO Wiz offers step-by-step instructions for optimizing your online store to get it ranking on Google. Its SEO tools include editing page URLs, setting meta descriptions, creating title tags and alt text options, the ability to set keywords for different pages, and more.
- Wix Owner app: Wix’s mobile app lets you manage your online store on the go. Manage products, upload photos, chat with customers, create and send blog posts or email campaigns, and more right from the app.
- Selling subscriptions: Wix has dedicated features for selling and managing subscription boxes and recurring product orders. You get a notification each time a subscription payment renews. Customers can log in to their account, view orders, and manage their payment methods and subscriptions.
- Integrated print-on-demand sales: Wix has white-label print-on-demand dropshipping tools through Modalyst. This works well for creators wanting to sell branded merch or items from AliExpress suppliers.
- Inventory and order management: Wix lets you categorize inventory as “in stock” or “out of stock” but otherwise lacks detailed product tracking tools. Its order fulfillment and shipping workflow is also not as streamlined as what you’d find in Shopify, which has more shipping label and discount options.
- Too much creative freedom: If you are not confident in website design, the Wix builder can be overwhelming. And, it’s easy to make “mistakes” like text that is hard to read. The benefit of opting for a more templated site builder like Shopify or Squarespace is that it is hard to break it. However, Wix also has an alternative version of its web builder, Wix ADI (short for Artificial Design Intelligence), that is better suited for beginners.
Learn more about why Wix is one of our favorite solutions for small businesses:
- See why Wix is the best website builder for SEO
- Learn how Wix’s drag-and-drop functionality compare to the rest
- Compare Shopify vs Wix in detail
Squarespace: Best Templates
- Highly rated website templates
- Easy to use
- Sell items on Instagram and Facebook
- High transaction fees without upgrade
- Moderate design customization freedom
- No phone support
Monthly Fee: $33–$65 (for ecommerce plans)
Discounts available for annual subscriptions
Free Trial: Yes, 14 days
Compatible Payment Gateways: Stripe, PayPal, Square
Integrated Sales Channels: Facebook, Instagram, in-person through Square POS partnership
Customer Support: 24/5 live chat support, 24/7 email support. No live phone support
Squarespace is simple but doesn’t sacrifice quality, making it ideal for solopreneurs who don’t want a more powerful system like Shopify but want to showcase their products with top-notch quality. Its sites are always designed to look modern and trendy, no matter how much of a novice you are at web design. In fact, it’s one of our top picks for the best website builder for small businesses for that very reason.
In our evaluation, Squarespace earned a perfect score on its design functionality and available templates, as Squarespace is known for top-rated templates. However, as Squarespace is a website builder first and ecommerce platform second, its online selling tools aren’t as advanced as what you would find with Shopify or BigCommerce.
- Bloggers, vloggers, and social media influencers: Squarespace’s blogging features are among the best. If you primarily monetize your content and offer merchandise on the side, Squarespace is the ideal platform to get into.
- Photographers, creatives, artists: Squarespace has a design-first premise. If you primarily sell a visual portfolio, Squarespace’s plans include unlimited storage and bandwidth, making it a good choice for anyone looking to host a digital portfolio.
- $33 per month for Business is the lowest-priced plan supporting ecommerce. You can sell unlimited products, including digital items and gift cards, but it lacks a shipping calculator and has limited reporting. There’s also a 3% transaction fee on top of your payment processing fees.
- $36 per month for Basic Commerce removes the extra 3% transaction fee, allows customers to create accounts, and provides more advanced analytics, like a purchase funnel report.
- $65 per month for Advanced Commerce, which adds a USPS shipping calculator, abandoned cart recovery, and the ability to sell subscriptions.
All the plans featured have ecommerce features. There is a website builder plan at $23 per month.
Since our Last Update: New Features from Squarespace
- Fluid Engine – Squarespace’s new site builder with better drag-and-drop functionality and a smart design grid that makes it easier to customize precisely.
- Tools to design and launch merch using your business logo and automated print-on-demand dropshipping.
- Features to create, manage, host, display, and monetize video content.
- New integration: Reserve with Google
- New monthly calendar template
- New commerce and sales features:
- Display your products in Google product listings
- Add existing discounts to your emails
- Order status page shipment tracker
- Excellent, easy-to-use website builder: Squarespace is one of the least complicated website builders to use and, thus, one of the hardest to mess up. Its highly acclaimed website templates are among the most stylish and best-designed.
- Tools for custom products: A unique feature worth noting is that Squarespace lets you set up forms for products, so you can request additional information from customers when they make a purchase.
- Merchandising features: Upload product videos, add product photos for each variant, and show shoppers related products.
- Sell anything: In addition to physical products, Squarespace has native tools for selling services, digital goods, subscriptions, memberships, and courses.
- Advanced SEO tools: Squarespace guides you through an SEO checklist and has built-in tools for keyword research, analyzing traffic, optimizing page titles and descriptions, local SEO management (like Google My Business), and more.
- Extensive integrations: Squarespace doesn’t offer many third-party integrations, limiting your options, especially if you plan to expand your online store. Shopify offers thousands of integrations in its app store. If you need a feature that isn’t offered in Shopify, chances are you will be able to find one in its app marketplace.
- Advanced ecommerce features: Product categorization, more dropshipping options, and advanced inventory management are just a few things that are lacking in Squarespace. If you plan on scaling, we recommend you start with Shopify’s basic plan and upgrade as needed.
- Pricey add-ons: Squarespace’s ecommerce plans are pricier than most competitors for similar features. We find Shopify and BigCommerce offer better values.
- No revisions or backups: When building our demo store, we learned that switching Squarespace templates would require repeatedly setting up the Commerce portion. This was a bit frustrating at the start. Still, we realized that Squarespace templates are the most fluid among the ecommerce website builders we have reviewed because we can easily customize the look and feel of the website without needing to switch templates.
Continue reading about Squarespace:
- Find out how Squarespace compares with Shopify
- Learn how to setup an ecommerce website with Squarespace
How We Evaluated Ecommerce Platforms for Small Businesses
We considered 16 small business ecommerce platforms, narrowing them down based on pricing, checkout tools, site builder functionality, and sale and product management tools. We then tested the top options by building the same demo store on each one to assess features and ease of use.
Our final recommendations consider the options of Fit Small Business resident retail and ecommerce experts and feedback from real-world users.
Based on the above criteria, Shopify is the best ecommerce platform for small businesses. The software received the highest overall score. Based on our personal experience trying different ecommerce platforms and working with small businesses that utilize them every day, Shopify is also one of the top software that we would personally recommend.
Click through the tabs below for a more detailed breakdown of our evaluation criteria.
15% of Overall Score
First, we looked at whether or not each platform offers a free plan and monthly pricing options under $100 because most small businesses operate on a budget. Then, we ensured those plans included options that could grow with the business. Finally, we gave points to platforms that integrate with mobile (such as Apple Pay and Google Pay) and popular payment solutions (like Stripe and PayPal), with bonus points for buy now, pay later financing options and one-click checkouts because these are revenue-driving options for small businesses.
Ecwid and Square Online got the highest scores in this category, primarily because of their free plans. Shopify and BigCommerce followed closely behind, with their basic plans starting at budget-friendly prices.
20% of Overall Score
Every small ecommerce business needs to build its online store on a solid website builder. We considered the available templates, customization options, and the overall flexibility of the site builder. We also reviewed the quantity and quality of third-party extensions compatible with the software and if it includes a free domain and SSL certificate, unlimited storage and bandwidth options, and built-in SEO tools and site analytics.
Shopify was a clear winner in this category, earning perfect scores except for one criterion—it doesn’t offer a free domain name. BigCommerce and Squarespace followed closely behind.
25% of Overall Score
We evaluated features significant to online stores, including easy product set up, catalog and SKU management, inventory management, tools for selling in-store and mobile, integrated social media selling, marketplace selling (such as Amazon), and the ability to sell unlimited products (including downloadable files). We also considered the variety of fulfillment methods (such as local pickup), shipping options, and security tools (including SSL certificate and PCI compliance).
Many small businesses also do marketing themselves, so we considered the availability of marketing tools, such as abandoned cart recovery, promotions and discounts, customer segmentation, email marketing, personalization tools, and product recommendations.
Shopify earned a perfect score in all criteria under this category, followed closely by BigCommerce and Ecwid. The primary point of distinction was Shopify’s abandoned cart recovery feature at its entry plan, while BigCommerce and Ecwid only offer it at a higher tier.
20% of Overall Score
Because online stores operate 24/7, we prioritized platforms that offer 24/7 customer support and have multiple customer touch points, such as phone, email, and chat. We also awarded points to easy solutions to set up or have guided prompts and a comprehensive help center.
All platforms earned high marks in this category, with Shopify and BigCommerce at the top spots.
20% of Overall Score
Finally, we considered any standout features and whether or not the software offers an excellent overall value for its price. We also rated each tool’s popularity with small businesses and its compatibility with other small business software. We also awarded points based on our personal experience interacting with the platform and the company’s customer support. Shopify and BigCommerce got our votes.
The following retail and ecommerce experts contributed to this article:
Meaghan Brophy is a resident retail and ecommerce expert at Fit Small Business with over 10 years of retail experience and seven years of experience delivering actionable content to independent retailers. She has spent the last 4+ years at Fit Small Business testing retail and ecommerce software.
Agatha Aviso is Fit Small Business’ resident ecommerce software expert. She has spent years testing and evaluating different platforms and building online stores.
Brigitte Hodge is a retail specialist at Fit Small Business with several years of experience managing a retail store. At Fit Small Business, Brigitte deep-dives into retail software like Square and Shopify to find the best solutions for small businesses.
Ecommerce Platform Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Shopify is the best ecommerce website builder for most beginners and most recommended for starting a small business. It is easy to use and can grow with you as your business evolves.
Learn more in our Shopify review.
The best ecommerce platform for you depends on what kind of business you have and what your goals are. Consider everywhere you want to sell (your own website, social media, in-person, Etsy, etc.). It’s most important that you choose a platform that can accommodate all of your sales channels in one place.
Also consider your inventory tracking needs. If you just have a few products and plan to manage all orders yourself, a website builder with ecommerce tools (like Squarespace or Wix) might be enough for you. However, if you have a larger inventory assortment or one with variants, you’ll want to choose something designed with this in mind, like Shopify or BigCommerce.
Learn more about honing your business concept in our guide to starting an online store.
Square Online tops our list of the best free ecommerce platforms. It allows for unlimited products and sales with few limitations. You can create a professional-looking site, connect other sales channels, and market your business for free.
Having an ecommerce platform for your business brings plenty of benefits from less overhead costs to a wider customer reach. Ecommerce or online stores also help you collect customer data where you can get market insights. Since an online store lets you reach a wider audience, it is easier to scale up your business.
If you want your online store to scale with your business, you need to consider the features your customers will expect as you grow. For example, are you prepared to support multiple languages and currencies or provide customer support through an automated chatbot? Can you set up customer user accounts, email marketing, and a loyalty program?
These features become more important as you grow your online store. Ecommerce platforms must offer the essential features at a lower starting price point and have options for advanced functions and extensive integrations.
Shopify has advanced functionalities and plans that scale with your business in a user-friendly package and at an affordable price point. We recommend it as the best ecommerce platform for small businesses. Visit Shopify to try it to get a three-day free trial, and unlock a $1/month price for three months.