Dedicated ecommerce platforms offer you full functionality for selling your products online. For this buyer’s guide, we looked at the most popular platforms and rising stars and decided to review Shopify, Zoey, and BigCommerce. These companies covered the range for small businesses in terms of price, selling tools, and ease of use. Read on for our comparison and review of these three options, as well as our top recommendations.
Best Dedicated Ecommerce Platform: Shopify
Shopify offers every feature a small business needs to sell online, plus an incredibly easy to use interface. Starting at only $29/mo., Shopify’s all-in-one multichannel selling solution includes a full suite of web store, marketplace, social, and in-person selling tools. Store management is all-in-one, too. From tracking inventory to processing orders to printing shipping labels, you can do it all within Shopify’s intuitive dashboard.
Best Small Business Ecommerce Platform – Shopify vs. Zoey vs. BigCommerce Summary
|Price & Fees|
|$29 - $299/mo||$199 - $599/mo||$29.95 - $249.95/mo|
|Recommended Plan||Shopify Plan:|
|Online Payment Options & Transaction Fees|
|If using Shopify Payments for payment processing:|
2.4%-2.9% + 30¢/transaction fee.
If using a third-party processor, Shopify charges:
.5% - 2%/transaction. Choose from Paypal, Stripe or 70+ third-party payment gateways
|Does not charge a transaction fee for using a third-party processor. |
Choose from Paypal, Stripe or 25+ third-party payment gateways
|2.2%-2.9% + 30¢/transaction fee.|
Does not charge a transaction fee for using a third-party processor. Choose from Paypal, Stripe or 35+ third-party payment gateways
|Point-of-Sale (POS) Integration|
|Shopify Retail||Integrates with various POS systems||Square|
|Free Trial||14 day||14 day||15 day|
|Ease of Use|
|9 Free theme designs + plenty of premium designs starting at $100||16 Free mobile-friendly templates, all customizable with a drag & drop editor||2 Free theme designs + plenty of premium designs starting at $145|
|Promotions, Coupons & Gift Cards|
|SEO Features & Built-in Blogging|
|Social, Multichannel & Marketing Integrations|
|Facebook Store, Pinterest, eBay, Amazon, & More||Facebook Store, eBay, Etsy, Amazon & More||Facebook Store, Pinterest, eBay, Amazon, & More|
|Advanced Shipping & Inventory Integrations|
|Print shipping labels with Shopify Shipping or manage shipping + inventory through: Ordoro, ShippingEasy, ShipStation & More||Print shipping labels or manage shipping + inventory through: Ordoro, ShippingEasy, ShipStation & More||Print shipping labels or manage shipping + inventory through: Ordoro, ShippingEasy, ShipStation & More|
|Customer Service, Tutorials & Documentation|
|24/7 phone, email, and live chat||M-F 9-6 EST phone, email, and support tickets. Extended hours for urgent needs||24/7 phone, email, and live chat|
How We Chose Which Ecommerce Platforms to Review
Ecommerce solutions come in many shapes and sizes, but all can be grouped into three major categories.
- Add-ons that enable online selling functions on website builders like Wix and Weebly. These offer ideal solutions for occasional or low-volume online sales.
- Plugins that add online selling features to WordPress blogs and websites. These allow WordPress site owners to add full ecommerce functionality to their WordPress blog.
- Dedicated ecommerce platforms with loads of selling tools and management features. These cater to businesses who want a website where the primary focus is selling products.
For this guide, we focus on the dedicated ecommerce platforms designed to help stores attract and manage a significant amount of online sales. If you sell in lower volume, or just want to know more about the other selling options, you can learn about selling on a WordPress site here, and on Wix and Weebly sites here.
If online sales are your main goal, then a dedicated ecommerce platform is likely right for you. Of the many choices out there, feature-rich Shopify and BigCommerce consistently lead the pack for new store launches, and have for over a decade. Zoey is the new kid on the block but already is turning heads. It boasts terrific scalability plus a load of next-gen ecommerce features that seasoned online sellers will appreciate. Let’s take a look at all that our top three have to offer.
Best Ecommerce Platform for Small Businesses: Shopify
Picking an overall Top Pick from our field of three is difficult. They are on par in many ways, plus each has certain strengths. But one is used by more small businesses than any other, and that’s Shopify. After a careful review, there are three things that put Shopify at the top of our list. These are:
- Shopify is as turnkey as it gets. It makes every essential selling function simple. From quick setup to daily management, Shopify provides a turnkey solution that covers every selling need, even at the basic $29/mo. plan.
- Shopify provides sitewide HTTPS security on every plan. Google is starting to give priority rankings to fully secure sites, so this matters. Here both Shopify and BigCommerce deliver over Zoey, which only offers sitewide HTTPS on more costly higher-level plans at this time.
- Shopify delivers a connected all-in-one store management solution. You don’t have to cobble together payment, shipping, and point-of-sale solutions from different providers. Shopify Payments, Shopify Shipping, and Shopify Retail work seamlessly together to connect every facet of online sales and shipping with in-store and mobile sales.
These are just the top three reasons. There are plenty of others that make Shopify a stellar choice for any small business owner looking to expand into online sales. Integrated social selling tools like a Facebook Store and Pinterest Buyable Pins is one. Another is Shopify Shipping, which lets you print UPS and US Postal shipping labels right from Shopify’s dashboard. You even receive US Postal discounts.
As great as Shopify is, compared to our other top picks it has a few shortcomings that bear mentioning:
- Pricing is one. While Shopify’s monthly fees are competitive with BigCommerce and less than Zoey, Shopify charges an additional transaction fee on every order if you don’t use their Shopify Payments plan. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but it can add up so you need to be aware of this. We discuss this further below.
- Store design cost and lack of customization is another. For store design, Shopify offers nine free themes but these are pretty basic. If you want more bells and whistles, you’ll have choose from paid themes which start at $100. Customizing your store theme is possible, but it requires coding expertise. The same is true of BigCommerce. Here, Zoey beats them both with 16 amazing themes plus a drag-and-drop editor for full customization.
Shortcomings aside, Shopify is hands-down the easiest way for anyone, regardless of web expertise, to launch a powerful online selling tool. And for easily connecting mobile and in-store sales, and putting products in front of customers on social sites, it’s practically unbeatable.
Best Ecommerce Platform for Customization & Scalability: Zoey
Zoey is built on the Magento ecommerce platform which is used by many top internet brands and high-volume power sellers. In the world of ecommerce, Magento makes every possibility possible, but you have to know how to put it all together. Before Zoey debuted in 2014, only those with big budgets and big development teams tackled Magento. Thanks to Zoey, sellers who outgrow platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce can now tap into Magento’s power without spending a fortune.
Feature-wise, Zoey offers all that Shopify and BigCommerce provide, but it really leaps ahead of the others in two areas:
- Zoey is fully customizable. Any page can be modified using Zoey’s shockingly simple drag-and-drop editor. Move a button, change a color, add a text box, rearrange anything, you can do it in Zoey. Shopify, BigCommerce, and other dedicated ecommerce platforms require coding knowledge to make even simple changes. Even then, your customization options can be limited.
- Zoey offers terrific scalability. Zoey streamlines Magento’s modular system to make it manageable for non-developers, but preserves Magento’s scalability. That means with Zoey, ecommerce function and feature possibilities are wide open. With module apps, you can add targeted and specific functions that deliver any customer experience imaginable and support a full range of volume selling needs.
This is why Zoey is a fast becoming the most popular move-up platform for sellers seeking a more customized user experience than Shopify and BigCommerce offer. If the others don’t deliver all that you want in an ecommerce store, Zoey is the tool that lets you expand your horizons. With Zoey, the real challenge is knowing what, and how, to implement the many options available. And that takes us into Zoey’s shortcomings compared to our other top picks:
- Zoey can be overwhelming if you’re new to ecommerce. While basic store creation is fast and easy, Zoey’s many custom features can be overwhelming to ecommerce newbies. But if you’ve already run an online store, are moving into volume sales, and have managed apps and add-ons, Zoey’s scalable solution may be just what you need.
- Zoey is a more expensive platform. Zoey starts at $199/mo., which is many times the starting price of the others. But feature-wise, Zoey’s starter level competes with the similarly priced mid-level Shopify and BigCommerce plans.
I admit it, I’m tempted to use Zoey for my next webstore project. With 16-plus years of launching and running ecommerce sites under my belt, I’m comfortable testing modules and functionality. You may not be ready to dive headlong into Zoey’s highly customizable ecommerce platform, but then again, you may. Either way, it’s definitely worth a look.
Another Top Ecommerce Platform: BigCommerce
As a platform, BigCommerce is more comparable to Shopify than Zoey. It offers a good set of features and functionality that increase at each price level and is very quick and simple to set up. It also provides nice starter store themes for free, plus an assortment of advanced store designs for a price. It’s very competitive with Shopify and Zoey in many areas, and even pulls ahead in two:
- Monthly pricing and transaction fees. At the lower levels, BigCommerce matches Shopify’s monthly fee, but its top plan is $50/mo. less than Shopify’s and $350/mo. less than Zoey’s. Also, BigCommerce doesn’t charge a transaction fee on every order, whereas Shopify does if you don’t use their Shopify Payments. With BigCommerce, the only transaction fees you pay are those charged by your payment provider.
- Built-in integration with Amazon and eBay. BigCommerce directly integrates your store with Amazon and eBay on every plan level at no additional cost. Shopify integrates directly with Amazon on every plan level too, but requires installing an app to support eBay. With Zoey, you need a paid third-party app to connect your store to these and other major seller marketplaces.
Like both Shopify and Zoey, BigCommerce makes store setup easy and offers many necessary online selling features, including product listing options, checkout security, and terrific inventory and store management tools. But it doesn’t top the others in a few key areas:
- Store design cost and lack of customization. For store design, BigCommerce offers just two free themes, plus a few variations of each. This is less than both Shopify and Zoey. The free themes are modern and responsive, but pretty basic. If you want more bells and whistles, you’ll have choose from paid themes which start at $140. Like Shopify, customizing your store theme is possible, but it requires coding expertise. Here, Zoey beats both with 16 amazing themes plus a drag-and-drop editor for full customization.
- Built-in shipping label printing isn’t as robust as Shopify Shipping. BigCommerce supports in-dashboard shipping labels for US Postal shipments on every plan level, but Shopify Shipping tops this by supporting both USPS and UPS label printing. To ship with UPS or FedEx, you’ll need a third-party solution like ShipStation, Ordoro, or ShippingEasy. All are great shipping tools, but they do come with added costs and integration. Here Zoey comes up short because it doesn’t offer any free built-in shipping label platforms at all.
Despite the differences, 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.
In-Depth Review: Shopify vs. Zoey vs. BigCommerce
Monthly fees for our top picks start at $29 and reach as much $599 for premier plans. For most small businesses, the lower and mid-tier price levels offer every feature you need to sell successfully. With all three, you can save 10% on fees if you pay for the full year in one payment. On Shopify, if you pay two years up front, you’ll save 20%.
The Shopify Plan at $79/mo. is our recommended plan for most small businesses. It provides unlimited products, unlimited storage, professional reporting, abandoned cart recovery, multichannel and social selling, and much more. But Shopify offers other plans to meet different needs and budgets, and even has a $9/mo Shopify Lite Plan for a Facebook-only store. Learn more about Shopify’s pricing here.
At $199/mo, Zoey is the most expensive starter plan of the three, but it competes with the others’ mid-tier recommended plans. It provides unlimited products, bandwidth, storage, and reporting, plus a host of custom features. However, some selling tools that are free with Shopify and BigCommerce can cost extra to enable since they require a third-party app. These include social and multichannel integrations for Facebook stores, Amazon, and eBay.
See all of Zoey’s features at every price level here.
At $79.95/mo., the Plus Plan is our recommended plan for most small businesses. It provides unlimited products, bandwidth, and storage, plus professional reporting, abandoned cart recovery, multichannel and social selling, and more. Note, BigCommerce’s top Pro Plan is the cheapest top-level plan of the three.
See all of BigCommerce’s features at every price level here.
Credit Card Payment Options
Of our top three, only Shopify offers an in-house payment solution, Shopify Payments. It’s a very simple and competitively priced way to process credit card payments on Shopify stores. In contrast, BigCommerce and Zoey use only third-party payment options.
All three of our top picks integrate with the most popular payment providers and gateways, including Paypal, Stripe, and Authorize.net. Shopify and Zoey both support Amazon Payments, too. BigCommerce partners with payment gateway Braintree to offer discounted PayPal credit card processing rates. All three provide secure, PCI-compliant checkouts at every plan level.
Point-of-Sale (POS) Integration
If you have a physical store or sell using mobile devices, point-of-sale system (POS) integrations will matter to you. All three of our top picks offer POS integration in some way. Of the three, Zoey supports integrations with the widest variety of POS systems, but they can take work to set up. Both Shopify and BigCommerce make it easier, but offer fewer options. Shopify offers its own retail package, Shopify POS, and BigCommerce partners with Square. Read on for details.
Ease of Use
All three of our top picks make it easy to pick a design, add products and some customer service information, hook up a payment solution, and launch your store. In fact, each platform walks you through a complete step-by-step store builder and launch checklist. Plus, all three let you import product data from a spreadsheet or migrate your product listings from another platform. With Shopify and BigCommerce, you can view real-time updates in a separate window or split screen. With Zoey, all design changes can be made drag-and-drop, right on your screen.
I figured out Shopify’s store building and product entry screens in about five minutes. Now I’ve done this before but that’s fast, even for me. If I had just a few products to enter with photos already sized and ready to upload, I believe I could launch a Shopify store in about an hour.
Zoey’s step-by-step launch process 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. However, things like social selling on a Facebook store and multichannel feeds to Amazon and eBay require third-party apps to enable. We explore that later in this guide.
Here’s a look at Zoey’s amazing drag-and-drop design editor. I’m changing the button color, size, placement, and text — all right on-screen. This is a mighty nice feature, but note that the editor works best in the Google Chrome browser:
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.
Store Design & Themes
To create different looks on ecommerce platforms, you choose a store design which is called a theme. In this category, Zoey is the clear winner. All of Zoey’s themes are free, modern, and responsive, meaning they work on mobile devices. Plus they’re completely customizable in Zoey’s unique drag-and-drop editor. Shopify and BigCommerce provide a core selection of free themes which are modern and responsive, but rather plain. They’re also hard to customize if you’re not a coding expert. However, both offer a nice selection of themes for purchase if you’re looking for styling or features beyond the free themes.
Shopify offers nine free themes, each with style variations, giving you a total of 17 looks to choose from. The free themes are clean and tidy, professional quality, and responsive, but they may lack features you want. If so, Shopify has a huge selection of premium themes starting at $100. Many are designed to target different selling categories too, such as Home & Garden, Health & Beauty, and Electronics. See all of your Shopify theme options here.
Zoey beats both Shopify and BigCommerce in free themes. They offer 16 free themes with six more in development now. Each features cutting-edge design comparable to the top-of-the-line paid themes of the others. Plus, unlike the other two, you can dive right in and edit your theme to your heart’s content with Zoey’s drag-and-drop visual editor. Zoey does not list any paid themes, but the free themes and customization options provide all you need to launch a stunning site on Zoey. See all of your Zoey theme options here.
BigCommerce only offers two free themes. With style variations, you have a total of 7 looks to choose from. The free themes are clean and tidy, professional quality, and responsive, but a bit cookie-cutter in styling. BigCommerce has a nice selection of paid themes, and like Shopify, many are designed to target specific selling categories. Most paid themes run between $170-$235, but there are a few at $145. See all of your BigCommerce theme options here.
Promotions, Coupons & Gift Cards
All of our top picks offer robust website and sales promotion features, including discount codes, coupon management, free shipping offers, and gift cards. A few offer these selling tools only at certain plan levels, which we detail below.
SEO Features & Built-in Blogging
All three of our top picks offer a great suite of SEO features. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of formatting certain aspects of your site so it ranks higher in Google and other search engines. Things that affect your site’s ranking include customizable H1 tags, title tags, meta descriptions, and URLs. Sites that are mobile-friendly, provide customer reviews, and offer site-wide HTTPS security tend to rank higher, too. Perhaps one of the best ways to boost your search ranking and keep customers coming back for more is regularly adding fresh content. For this, a built-in blog is the ideal tool, and all three provide that as well.
Social, Multichannel & Marketing Integrations
All three of our top picks let you put your products in front of millions of shoppers on sites like Amazon and eBay, and on Facebook Stores and other social sites. However, each handles these integrations a bit differently.
Shipping, Advanced Inventory & Accounting Integrations
These are the important integrations that make your business manageable and efficient. It doesn’t matter what you sell; if you can’t efficiently ship packages, track inventory, and manage your money, you have a mess. Luckily, our top three have great dashboard management features for inventory and sales reporting, and Shopify even lets you print US Postal and UPS shipping labels from your store dashboard. If you need more features, you can use an integrated solution.
Customer Service, Tutorials & Documentation
All three of our top picks offer good setup tutorials and plenty of documentation to help you implement each and every feature. For customer service needs and questions, I found Shopify’s customer service to be the winner, and various user forums and reviews seem to agree. BigCommerce comes in at a close second. With Zoey, I interacted via email only, but my questions were answered promptly.
As referenced in the summary table, 24/7 support is available with both Shopify and BigCommerce. Zoey is a smaller operation and support times are limited to business hours, as detailed below.
All Dedicated Ecommerce Platform Options
Shopify, Zoey, and BigCommerce fill just about any online selling need small businesses have. But if you’re looking for other options, here’s a list of all of the dedicated ecommerce platforms we researched:
|Ecommerce Platform||Best For||Monthly Fees||Description|
|Shopify||New, small, and mid-sized online sellers||$29-$299||Shopify is our 2017 Top Pick for the Best Ecommerce Platform for Small Business for a number of reasons, all of which we detail in our guide above.|
|BigCommerce||New, small, and mid-sized online sellers||$29.95-$249.95||BigCommerce rounds out the top three picks for our 2017 Best Ecommerce Platforms for Small Business guide. The many reasons it made the final cut are detailed above.|
|Zoey||Growth-oriented, seasoned ecommerce sellers looking for a customizable, scalable platform.||$199-$599||Zoey is our 2017 Pick for the Best Customizable and Scalable Ecommerce Platform for many reasons, all detailed in our guide above.|
|Pinnacle Cart||Small to mid-sized online sellers||$25.95-$149.95||Pinnacle is very similar to Shopify and BigCommerce. It is very feature-rich and offers the added benefit of a direct integration with Doba, a huge dropshipper marketplace.|
|3DCart||Small to mid-sized online sellers||$19.99-$99.99||3DCart’s top level is the lowest price of all the carts reviewed. It’s a solid cart with good customer service and is known for ranking well in SEO.|
|Volusion||Small to mid-sized online sellers||$15-$135||Volusion is much like Shopify and BigCommerce, but customer reviews place it lower than our top picks.|
|Presta Shop||Small to mid-sized online sellers, and sellers with an existing website looking to add a store||Free, but requires existing website hosting||PrestaShop is a great add-on cart for existing websites and offers many selling features comparable to our top dedicated ecommerce platforms.|
The Bottom Line: Shopify vs. Zoey vs. BigCommerce
After comparing the many factors outlined above, our recommended ecommerce platform for small business owners who want a website primarily focused on selling products is Shopify. Its all-in-one selling tool makes every essential function simple. From quick setup and sitewide security to built-in shipping and store management, Shopify’s turnkey solution covers everything a small business needs.
Zoey is a newer platform that brings the power of Magento to the masses. It’s fully customizable, built for growth, and offers great scalability. If you have some ecommerce experience, Zoey is definitely one to consider. BigCommerce, another top player that’s similar to Shopify, offers an impressive suite of selling and management features with the best top-level plan pricing of the three.
It’s always helpful to do research of your own to see which features are most important to you. All of the carts we reviewed offer free trials, and you should make use of them. But time is money, and testing it all does take time. Our guide should help streamline your choices, so you can put your time into those that offer the best features for your business. And, if you want to meet these groups in person to compare all of the bells and whistles, you can find these and many other ecommerce platforms and services at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exposition (IRCE) held each summer in Chicago.
Have you used Shopify, Zoey, BigCommerce, or any of the other dedicated ecommerce platforms we reviewed? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.