Ecommerce platforms list products for sale online, manage payments, orders, inventory, and customer communications, and connect to social and marketplace sales channels. We reviewed popular platforms and rising stars and found that Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce are the best platforms for small businesses in terms of price, online sales, and marketing features, and ease of use.
Best Ecommerce Platform for Small Business: Shopify
We recommend Shopify as the top ecommerce platform for small business because it delivers a complete multichannel sales management solution in one economical and easy-to-use system. Starting at $29 per month, Shopify gives sellers an online store with fully integrated marketplace, social, and in-person sales tools, plus built-in shipping labels, inventory tracking, email marketing, and more.
Best Small Business Ecommerce Platforms At-a-Glance
|Pricing: Account Fees|
|Pricing: Transaction Fees|
|Ease of Setup/Use|
100s of paid themes, but limited customization
|Print Shipping Labels|
|Marketplace & Social Selling|
|In-person POS sales|
Shopify: Best Ecommerce Platform for Small Business:
We recommend Shopify as the best ecommerce platform for small businesses because it delivers the most complete, all-in-one online and multichannel sales solution for the best price. Small business owners looking for an easy-to-use, out-of-the-box solution would find Shopify the best fit.
Within minutes, you can launch a Shopify store complete with a custom domain name, your own drop-ship products, payment processing, shipping label printing, and email marketing. All of these features—and plenty more—are conveniently built-in. Plus, with the click of a button, any Shopify seller can sell on Amazon and eBay, populate a Facebook Shop, sell via Pinterest Buyable Pins, and add product “Buy Buttons” to marketing emails and blog posts.
Shopify even offers built-in mobile selling and in-store point-of-sale (POS) functionality, complete with mobile credit card readers and in-store registers. Both of our other picks offer multichannel functionality, but not in an all-in-one package like Shopify.
BigCommerce closely competes with Shopify’s multichannel Amazon, eBay, and social sales integrations, but its in-store POS features aren’t built-in. However, BigCommerce integrates with Square POS to fill that need. WooCommerce requires added plug-ins and third-party services to match the multichannel sales capabilities of Shopify and BigCommerce.
However, the flexible WordPress platform offers far greater site customization options than Shopify or BigCommerce. To get a customized look on Shopify, you have to purchase a premium theme, which start at $140. If design customization and price drives your decision, try WooCommerce. However, if ease-of-use is your focus, stick with the all-in-one convenience of Shopify.
WooCommerce: Best Ecommerce Platform for Custom Stores
WooCommerce is the ecommerce darling of the WordPress crowd, and powers about 40% of online stores worldwide—and it’s no wonder. This free plug-in transforms any WordPress website into a fully-functioning ecommerce store and lets you create any type of website that you can dream up. A dedicated storefront, a blog with a store section, multi-vendor marketplace, a mix of physical and affiliate sales—if you can name it, you can probably do it on WordPress with WooCommerce.
From a design flexibility and site functionality standpoint, WooCommerce beats most other ecommerce platforms, including both Shopify and BigCommerce. However, there is a learning curve that comes with all of this power. If you’re new to online store setup, it will take time to learn both the WordPress environment and WooCommerce plug-in features.
Extending functionality also requires adding plug-ins to your WordPress setup, like JetPack or Woo Extensions. While this isn’t difficult or overly expensive, selecting, installing, and updating plug-ins can be time-consuming, and come with added costs. These aren’t issues you face using the fully-managed Shopify or BigCommerce ecommerce platforms.
If you do decide to learn the WordPress and WooCommerce ropes, you’ll be rewarded with a site that you can expand, change, and update however you wish. There are plenty— as in hundreds—of free store themes and plug-ins to start with. Hosting is your only concrete cost and it’s just $6.95 per month with our preferred WordPress hosting provider, Bluehost.
As you grow, you can explore paid WooCommerce themes that start around $50 or so, and paid plug-ins that support multichannel connectivity and other advanced functionality. By that point, your monthly costs will likely match what you’d spend on a Shopify or BigCommerce site.
However, you’ll always have more freedom to craft a store that’s uniquely yours on WordPress and WooCommerce than the other two.
BigCommerce: Best Ecommerce Platform for Payment & POS Integrations
BigCommerce is the number-two startup and small business ecommerce platform behind Shopify, but it’s a very close competitor. Like Shopify, BigCommerce delivers a full set of online and multichannel selling features at startup-friendly fees of just $29.95 per month. You also get plenty of built-in marketing and multichannel sales tools—plus integration options that top Shopify.
Unlike Shopify, BigCommerce doesn’t offer a built-in POS to support mobile and in-store sales. Instead, it delivers seamless integrations to POS systems that deliver more features than Shopify’s built-in solution. Square POS and ShopKeep POS are two top-rated systems that seamlessly integrate with BigCommerce. With them, you can add in-store and mobile sales to your online business in just a few clicks.
Big Commerce also lets you integrate your choice of payment processors without incurring added fees—unlike Shopify. If you already have a payment solution that you like, or want to explore payment processing options without paying Shopify’s .5% to 2% “penalty fee” per sale, give BigCommerce a try.
Like Shopify, BigCommerce makes site setup quick and easy. In addition, it delivers key online selling features, including product listing options, checkout security, and terrific inventory, order, and store management tools. BigCommerce also offers seamless multichannel sales integrations to Amazon, eBay, Facebook Shop, Pinterest Buyable Pins, and Instagram Shoppable Posts. In contrast, the WordPress/WooCommerce combo requires plug-ins to enable multichannel sales.
Unlike our other top contenders, shipping label printing isn’t built into the BigCommerce platform. You’ll need to connect to a third-party service like ShippingEasy, ShipStation, or ShipperHQ to print shipping labels for BigCommerce orders.
In short, web newbies and web-savvy store owners alike will enjoy BigCommerce’s easy-to-use dashboard, store setup utilities, and their clean, mobile-friendly free store themes. Definitely include this top ecommerce platform contender on your short list.
Best Ecommerce Platforms In-Depth Review
Each of our top ecommerce platform contenders delivers a full suite of online store building and sales management tools. Depending on your needs, one likely tops the rest. Below we explore the fine details, including platform costs, setup processes, expandability, and more to help you find the best fit for your business.
Ecommerce Platform Pricing: Monthly Costs
Of our three top picks, WooCommerce is the lowest-cost option since it’s free and just requires WordPress hosting, which starts at $6.95 per month with our preferred provider, Bluehost.
However, you can easily increase these costs with plug-ins as you expand functionality over time. Monthly fees for Shopify and BigCommerce start around $29 and premier plans are $299 and $249, respectively, and each offers a discount if the fee is paid annually.
Shopify Ecommerce Platform Monthly Costs
|Price per month|
|All basic sales features|
|Sell gift cards & access professional reporting|
|Advanced reporting & real-time shipping integrations|
|Retail POS in-person sales*|
|Mobile sales via a free card reader*|
|*Requires Shopify Payments for payment processing|
Shopify offers three price levels for small businesses. All Shopify plans support unlimited products, unlimited storage, sales reporting, abandoned cart recovery, multichannel and social selling, inventory, shipping label printing, and much more. The main limitations of the $29 plan are user logins (just two) and the inability to sell gift cards, pull advanced reports, and connect UPS and FedEx for real-time shipping rates.
Most startups and small sellers will find that the $29 Shopify Basic plan delivers just about everything needed, and it’s easy to upgrade as you grow. The POS app for mobile and in-store selling is free, but you must use options like Shopify Payments as your payment processor to access this feature. We’ll cover that in more detail below.
WooCommerce Ecommerce Platform Monthly Costs
WooCommerce is a free ecommerce plug-in for WordPress. Your only concrete cost of running WooCommerce is your WordPress hosting, and that starts at $6.95 with our preferred provider, Bluehost.
Most WooCommerce sellers add plug-ins to extend functionality for multichannel sales, marketing, and other sales needs like a store finder or email marketing. These plug-ins can add costs, which we cover in our WooCommerce costs guide. However, a startup can realistically launch a WooCommerce store for just the $6.95 monthly WordPress hosting fee on Bluehost.
BigCommerce Ecommerce Platform Monthly Costs
|Price per month|
|All basic sales features|
|Sell gift cards & access professional reporting|
|Real-time shipping integrations|
|Add retail Store POS per month*|
|Mobile sales via a free card reader*|
Like Shopify, BigCommerce has three price tiers and features that increase at each level. However, you get unlimited users in every BigCommerce plan, unlike Shopify’s two- to15-user limitations. All plans include basic sales, reporting, and integration features. Higher plans add features like abandoned cart remarketing and product filters for advanced site search.
Ecommerce Platform Pricing: Transaction Fees
Some ecommerce websites charge a per-sale transaction fee on top of monthly fees. In our list, only Shopify does this, though you can waive this fee by using Shopify Payments as we explain below. BigCommerce and WooCommerce add no per-sale transaction fees at all.
Shopify Transaction Fees
|If you use Shopify Payments|
Shopify charges a per-transaction fee on every sale, based on your plan. Transaction fees are in addition to your credit card processing fees, which we cover below. However, Shopify waives this fee if you use their in-house payment plan, Shopify Payments, to process your credit cards.
WooCommerce Transaction Fees
WooCommerce doesn’t charge a per-transaction fee at all.
BigCommerce Transaction Fees
BigCommerce doesn’t charge a per-transaction fee at all.
Ease of Use
Shopify and BigCommerce both fall into the beginner-friendly category. To run WooCommerce, you also have to set up and learn WordPress, so combined, this solution has a much larger learning curve than the other two.
Shopify Ease of Use
Shopify is known for its easy setup via its intuitive step-by-step launch wizard. By the end of the wizard, you have a fully functioning store—complete with its own URL—that’s ready to launch. However, this easy setup has a trade-off in limited design options. You don’t have many site design decisions to make during setup because you can’t do much to customize a Shopify theme— unlike WooCommerce’s unlimited theme design options.
For day-to-day sales, the Shopify back-end order management system is very easy to navigate, multichannel sales features all are one-click activated, and you have control over what products are sold where.
WooCommerce Ease of Use
WooCommerce has the largest learning curve of the three. However, if you take the time to learn WordPress and WooCommerce, your reward is an ecommerce store that’s highly customizable—much more so than both Shopify and BigCommerce.
BigCommerce Ease of Use
BigCommerce offers a simple interface and step-by-step launch process that leaves nothing out. Choose a design, pop in your products, set your shipping rates and taxes, hook up your payment processor, and you’re ready for launch.
Like Shopify, the BigCommerce site setup wizard walks you through each step.
Ecommerce Platform Store Design Options
Store design and customization are what really sets these three platforms apart. All three employ themes to drive the look, feel, navigation, and store functionality, and themes are all customizable to some degree. You can also tap design pros like the freelancers on Fiverr to alter or create highly customized themes for all three platforms.
For a startup, custom design work can be pricey, so ready-to-use free themes with user-friendly customization options are what we focused on in this guide.
Shopify Store Design Options
Shopify offers 10 free themes with some customization options for each. These are clean, easy to set up and populate, and do the job nicely. But for real splash, or to add specific functionality like a specialty menu or sidebar, you’ll need to shop for a paid theme, and these start at $140. Free or paid, you’ll have some customization options within your Shopify theme, but these are pretty limited to colors, element inclusion, and typefaces.
WooCommerce Store Design Options
Get your design engines revving, because online design knows no limits with WooCommerce and WordPress. Hundreds of WooCommerce-ready free and paid themes can be found on many WordPress theme markets, and WooCommerce itself has several free and paid themes that users love.
The WordPress environment makes it easy to test out new themes, too. Hosted WordPress solutions, like WordPress for WooCommerce by Bluehost, feature staging sections where you can duplicate your store and fully test new themes before applying a new look to your site.
BigCommerce Store Design Options
BigCommerce only offers two free store themes, compared to Shopify’s 10 themes and WooCommerce’s unlimited theme options. However, each free theme offers style variations, so you have a total of seven unique looks to choose from.
BigCommerce’s free themes are clean and tidy, professional quality, and responsive for desktop and mobile devices. With them, any starter store can easily build a crisp, shopper-friendly site in just minutes with minimal upfront costs.
BigCommerce also has a nice selection of paid themes and, like Shopify, many are designed to target specific selling categories. Most BigCommerce paid themes run between $170 and $235, but there are a few at $145.
Ecommerce Platform Payment Processing Options
Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce all let you connect a wide array of payment gateways. With them, you can use your own merchant account or top online payment processors like Stripe and PayPal.
Shopify also has its own payment solution, Shopify Payments—but you can’t connect the popular Square Payments solution to Shopify. However, Square does work with WooCommerce and BigCommerce. All three also support PCI-compliant check-outs and built-in SSL security certificates.
Shopify Payment Processing Options
Shopify supports 70+ payment gateways, including Stripe and PayPal. However, if you use any payment processor other than Shopify Payments, Shopify charges the per-sale transaction fees we covered above.
Shopify Payments is what many Shopify sellers use for convenience and to save that added transaction fee. It’s a flat-rate payment solution similar to Square and PayPal, and you can turn it on with one click during your setup. It even supports mobile card reader and in-store POS sales, and seamlessly ties these transactions to your online sales.
Shopify Payments Credit Card Processing Fees
|In-person and mobile sales|
WooCommerce Payment Processing Options
WooCommerce supports hundreds of payment processing options worldwide. Within the U.S., Square, Stripe, PayPal, and your own merchant account via Authorize.net tend to be the top payment processing choices for small business. You can learn about each of these options in our WooCommerce payment gateway guide.
Connecting a payment processing solution to WooCommerce costs nothing—you just pay credit card processing fees to your provider. If you use Square as your payment solution, you can integrate WooCommerce with Square’s free POS system and manage transactions and inventory for mobile, in-store, and online sales in one central system.
BigCommerce Payment Processing Options
BigCommerce doesn’t offer an in-house payment solution like Shopify Payments, but it does partner with payment gateway Braintree to offer discounted credit card rates through PayPal. These rates actually beat Shopify Payments’ rates at the Plus plan and higher.
BigCommerce Payment Processing Fees—Via PayPal Powered by Braintree
|Credit and Debit Card Sale|
Square Payments and its free POS system also seamlessly integrate with BigCommerce. See Square’s very competitive online and in-store processing fees and impressive POS system features in our guide to Square fees and services.
Ecommerce Platform Features
All three of our top ecommerce platform picks deliver the ecommerce business basics well. All offer easy store builders, intuitive store management dashboards, product details like SKUs, variables, inventory tracking, and regular and sale prices. Each also offers built-in management features to speed you through your order processing tasks, such as shipping label printing, bulk order processing, and auto-emailing customer updates.
Operationally, our top picks mainly differ in built-in multichannel management and advanced marketing features. In this, Shopify is the hands-down winner with the most complete all-in-one package. WooCommerce comes in second with expandability via plug-ins. BigCommerce is in a very tight third, but offers some features —like Square POS integration—which make it the better choice for many sellers.
Ecommerce Platform Integration Options
All three of our top ecommerce platform picks use integrations to expand capabilities and connect to outside services like accounting programs, drop-shipping, print-on-demand sales, and comparison shipping software.
Ecommerce Platform Customer Support
Both Shopify and BigCommerce offer 24/7 phone, chat, and email support. WooCommerce support is all online.
10 Best Ecommerce Platforms Reviewed
|Square Online Store|
Shopify is hard to beat for small business ecommerce and multichannel seller needs. However, WooCommerce tops Shopify in design flexibility and BigCommerce tops it if you use, or want to use, the terrific Square POS and payments system or other providers. The important takeaway is this—you really can’t go wrong choosing any one of these three top-rated ecommerce platforms.
Of the three, Shopify delivers the most in a single package. You get a branded website plus built-in sales connectivity to Amazon, Facebook Shop, Pinterest, and more. You also get robust in-store POS and mobile sales software for free. Simply put, Shopify’s economical all-in-one package delivers everything sellers need to launch and grow. Start your Shopify 14-day free trial today, no credit card needed.