Businesses use ecommerce platforms to create online stores with products and shopping carts. In addition to creating digital storefronts, ecommerce software also has inventory and order management tools to fulfill customer orders. The best ecommerce platforms integrate with POS systems for in-person sales and online marketplaces like Amazon, with starting prices under $100 per month.
The best ecommerce platforms for small businesses are:
- Shopify: Best overall ecommerce platform for small businesses
- Square: Best free online store for small businesses
- WooCommerce: Best shopping cart for WordPress websites
- Squarespace: Best ecommerce platform for artists
- Wix: Best customizable drag-and-drop web builder for small sellers
While ecommerce can get pretty advanced, some businesses just need the basics—a free or low-cost website to get their products in their customers’ hands. Others, however, are looking for a platform to engage their customers and grow their business as well. Here are each of the best ecommerce platforms compared.
Best Ecommerce Platforms Comparison Chart
$29 per month
Free (requires hosting)
$18 per month
$23 per month
Advanced (purchase orders, inventory reports)
Basic (optional upgrades)
USPS, UPS or DHL
USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL (requires $72 per month plan)
USPS (other carriers available through add-ons)
USPS, FedEx, UPS (requires $40 per month plan)
USPS (requires $27 per month plan)
Abandoned cart recovery
Included with $26 per month plan
Available through paid add-ons
Included with $40 per month plan
Phone, chat and email
Phone, chat and email
Email only (for paid customers)
Email and chat
Phone and email
Not sure which ecommerce platform is right for you? Take this 3-question quiz to find out:
What Ecommerce Software Is Right For You?
Shopify: Best Overall Ecommerce Platform for Small Businesses
Shopify is sometimes called the only true competitor to Amazon, and for good reason. They’re one of the easiest ecommerce systems to use in terms of creating an ecommerce website and managing orders, yet they give small businesses all the tools they need to compete with the ecommerce giant. There’s product reviews, customer live chat, geolocation to change your language or currency based on the visitor’s location, a customer return portal—and that’s just scratching the surface.
Shopify has also made a name for itself in providing POS software to manage in-store sales, so it’s perfect for businesses that sell in-person, as well as online. Last but not least, Shopify integrates with Amazon so you can easily sell your products there, as well as Facebook, Instagram, eBay, Pinterest, and other marketplaces.
Print discounted postage straight from Shopify
Costs at least $29 per month for a full ecommerce store
Powerful reporting tells you which items are most likely to sell
No low-stock alerts without upgrade
Access to hundreds of additional features and integrations via Shopify app store
Shipping calculator requires an annual plan
- $29 per month for Basic Shopify, which includes all the main ecommerce features, but limited reporting. Online transactions are charged at 2.9% + 30 cents.
- $79 per month for Shopify’s standard plan, which provides stronger reporting (such as first-time vs returning customer sales), USPS cubic pricing, and a discounted transaction fee of 2.6% + 30 cents.
- $299 per month for Advanced Shopify, which lets you build custom reports. Online transactions are further discounted to 2.4% + 30 cents.
All of the above Shopify plans include POS software for in-person sales, which you can use from a smartphone or tablet. Shopify POS includes all the main payment features you expect to see, such as tipping, digital or printed receipts, and bar code scanning. POS Pro ($89 per month) provides more advanced inventory management with features like automated receiving, purchase orders, and low stock reports, plus omnichannel features like buy online, pickup in-store.
Shopify also has a $9 per month “Lite” plan, which lets you add a buy button to your existing website or blog. For the purposes of this buyer’s guide, we’ve focused on the main ecommerce plans listed above.
Shopify Payment Processing
Shopify offers its own payment gateway, with processing fees varying depending on the level of your Shopify plan (as listed above). Shopify also integrates with dozens of third party gateways, although this will require an extra 0.5% – 2% transaction fee.
Shopify Ecommerce Features
- Website builder: A big part of what’s made Shopify so successful is the powerful website builder that lets you edit many of the fine details of your website. Yet, it is also very easy to use. User menus, like the one for adding a new item, are sleek and streamlined, providing just the right amount of detail. For example, whenever you change the URL of a webpage, there’s an option to redirect the old URL to the new one—a simple but often overlooked step.
- Inventory management: Shopify has the best inventory management system, although the most advanced features will require a paid upgrade. All account levels can import items, manage returns, and view basic inventory reports. With POS Pro (additional $89 per month), you can create purchase orders, receive orders with a bar code scanner, and run much more advanced profitability and product demand reports.
- Shipping: You can set up flat-rate, weight-based shipping, or charge actual shipping rates from USPS, UPS, or DHL. While Shopify’s pricing page indicates that the latter feature is only available to Advanced accounts, they will enable it upon request for anyone who’s on an annual plan. All accounts can print discounted postage labels directly from Shopify for the aforementioned carriers. Shopify also integrates with hundreds of third-party fulfillment apps should you be using an alternate delivery service such as Shipstation, or dropshipping.
- Multi-channel selling: Simultaneously sell your items on Amazon, eBay, Facebook Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and many other websites. Shopify offers more multi-channel selling options than anyone.
- Marketing tools: Abandoned cart recovery is included with all accounts $29 per month and higher. Email marketing is also included with 2,500 emails provided per month, and additional emails priced at $1 per 1,000. Shopify has by far the best email marketing tools, as they allow you to segment customers based on their purchase history, geography, and other variables (third-party apps may be required).
- Analytics: In addition to all the standard sales reports, Shopify provides much more detail about website visitors like their demographics, and which page they first clicked on to access your site. Shopify’s standard plan ($79 per month) includes website cart analysis, which tells you which items a customer is likely to be interested in based on what they’ve previously added to their cart.
- Customer support: Phone, live chat, and email support are available 24/7.
To learn more about why Shopify is the best ecommerce system for small businesses, read our full Shopify review.
Square: Best Free Ecommerce Platform
If you’re looking to create an online store but don’t have the funds to invest in a monthly subscription, Square offers the best free ecommerce website builder. It’s completely free to create a professional online store and sell an unlimited number of products. Square offers built-in credit card processing and paid subscriptions for more advanced features, such as the ability to use a custom domain instead of the yoursite.square.site domain that’s provided for free.
Like Shopify, Square also includes a POS for businesses that sell in-store as well as online. Unlike Shopify, its POS is free to use, with optional paid upgrades.
Square POS Advantages
Square POS Disadvantages
Create online store for free
Limited customization options
Sell items on Instagram and Facebook
Inventory can be unintuitive
Integrates with all major postal carriers (with upgrade)
Premium features can get expensive
Square Ecommerce Pricing
- Free: Includes all the main features for a professional ecommerce site. Create a full website, list unlimited products with variants, and manage your orders through the Square dashboard. The free plan requires you to use a yoursite.square.site domain, and will display a Square logo on the footer.
- $12 per month for a Professional plan, which lets you use a custom domain, custom fonts, and removes Square branding from your website.
- $26 per month for the Performance plan, which adds product reviews, abandoned cart recovery, priority customer support, and lets you buy discounted postage labels straight from Square.
- $72 per month for a Premium plan, which adds a shipping calculator to charge customers real-time rates from USPS, UPS, FedEx or DHL. Transaction fees are also discounted to 2.6% + $0.30.
Square Payment Processing
All Square plans charge a transaction fee of 2.9% + 30 cents for online sales, except for the Premium edition, which charges 2.6% + 30 cents.
Square Ecommerce Features
- Website builder: Square 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 in what order. However, you cannot fully edit the layout, or add integrations as you can with Shopify or WooCommerce.
- Inventory management: Square lets you import your inventory with categories, variants and modifiers, and set up low stock alerts. All of this needs to be done from the Square Item menu, however, and not the website item library, which can be a little confusing. Unlike Shopify, Square does not provide inventory reports or let you automate customer returns.
- Shipping: Square requires you to set up your own shipping rates (which can be flat-rate or based on weight) unless you upgrade to the Premium edition ($72 per month), which lets you charge the actual prices from mail carriers. With the Performance edition ($26) or higher, you can also buy discounted postage labels for USPS, UPS, FedEx, or DHL straight from the dashboard.
- Multi-channel selling: Sell items on Instagram or Facebook, and manage the order through Square.
- Marketing tools: Abandoned cart recovery (Available to $26 per month accounts and higher) automatically sends reminder emails to customers who stopped before checking out. Square also has email marketing features available starting at $15 per month.
- Analytics: Square provides a range of sales reports, including sales by category, discounts applied and tax collected. Paid versions of Square also provide some basic website analytics like page views, search terms, and referring sites.
- Customer support: Email, live chat, and phone support are available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern time, and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time. During my evaluation, it took about 30 minutes to get connected to a live support agent who was very knowledgeable and helpful.
To learn more about why Square is the best free ecommerce for small businesses, read our full Square Online Store review.
WooCommerce: Best for WordPress Websites
WooCommerce is one of the most powerful ecommerce platforms on the market, and it’s also completely free. WooCommerce is an open-source plugin that runs on WordPress, which is also a free open-source platform for creating websites. It’s much more complicated to set up and maintain a WooCommerce site than a Square or Shopify website. However, for tech-oriented people, WooCommerce offers all the same powerful features of Shopify at a lower cost and with more customization options.
WooCommerce POS Disadvantages
Thousands of add-ons like dropshipping, loyalty and affiliate programs
Involves a learning curve to use WordPress
Free USPS shipping calculator
Extensions (add-ons) can get expensive
Strong inventory management
Limited customer support
WooCommerce is completely free to use. It requires the WordPress content management system, which is also free to use, but it does need website hosting, which will generally cost $3-$25 per month for a small business. There are also potential fees for WordPress themes, plugins, and WooCommerce extensions.
“Extensions” are third-party add-ons that provide additional website features or integrations such as marketing, accounting, inventory, fulfillment, and more. Extensions can cost anywhere from $0-300, meaning the cost of WooCommerce can ultimately be unpredictable.
WooCommerce Payment Processing
WooCommerce does not offer native payment processing, but it integrates with 100+ services, including Authorize.Net, PayPal, Square, and Stripe. Most providers will charge the standard rate of 2.9% + 30 cents.
- Website builder: WooCommerce only works on the WordPress content management system, so it relies on the WordPress backend tools to design and manage your website. On the one hand, there are thousands of different templates (or “themes”) to choose from, providing countless options for your website. On the other hand, WordPress is generally harder to use than the other DIY ecommerce platforms we reviewed.
- Inventory management: WooCommerce includes a good set of inventory management tools, including the ability to import items via CSV spreadsheet, set up low-stock alerts, and also run some basic stock reports, showing your low, out-of-stock and most stocked products. To view more advanced inventory reports, manage returns, or scan bar codes for receiving/reconciliation, you’ll have to integrate third-party extensions.
- Shipping: WooCommerce includes a free USPS shipping extension, which allows you to charge actual USPS shipping rates, and print discounted labels straight from the platform. You can do the same with other carriers, or integrate ShipStation, Fulfilment by Amazon, or other fulfillment services, however, this will require additional extensions and potential subscription fees.
- Multi-channel selling: While the WooCommerce plugin only allows you to sell through its online storefront, there are several extensions that open up selling platforms like Facebook, eBay, Pinterest, and Amazon. Some are developed by WooCommerce and are free to install, while others require a subscription fee.
- Marketing tools: All marketing features such as abandoned cart recovery, email marketing, ecommerce CRM, or loyalty programs require extensions or third-party integrations—some of which will require a subscription fee.
- Analytics: WooCommerce includes basic reports such as sales by category, taxes collected, and out-of-stock items. For more detailed insight, you’ll need to shop around in the extension store.
- Customer support: Users who have purchased a WooCommerce product can submit a support ticket. Free users are directed to use WooCommerce’s user forums.
To learn more WooCommerce, check out our full WooCommerce review.
Squarespace: Best for Artists, Boutiques & Creatives
Squarespace is simple without sacrificing quality. It’s ideal for solo entrepreneurs that don’t have the time to learn a more advanced system like Shopify or WooCommerce but want to showcase their products with top-notch quality. Squarespace sites are designed to always look modern and trendy, no matter how much of a novice you are at web design. Their pricing is also a little cheaper than Wix or Shopify, starting at $18 per month. However, to access comparable features, like a shipping calculator, that price will push closer to $40 per month.
Squarespace POS Disadvantages
Highly-rated website templates
High transaction fees without upgrade
Easy to use
Moderate design freedom
Sell items on Instagram and Facebook
No phone support
- $18 per month for the Business Plan, which is the lowest-price plan that supports ecommerce. You can sell unlimited products, including digital items and gift cards, but there’s no shipping calculator and limited reporting. There’s also a 3% fee on transactions on top of your payment processing fees.
- $26 per month for the Basic Commerce plan, which removes the extra 3% transaction fee, allows customers to create accounts, and provides more advanced analytics, like a purchase funnel report.
- $40 per month for the Advanced Commerce plan, which adds a USPS shipping calculator, abandoned cart recovery, and the ability to sell subscriptions.
Squarespace Payment Processing
Squarespace does not offer native payment processing but integrates with Square, PayPal, and Stripe for credit card processing in the US. All of these providers currently charge 2.9%+ 30 cents for online transactions.
Square also charges an additional 3% transaction fee for “Business” level users, which means your total charges will be about 5.9% + 30 cents per transaction.
- Website builder: Squarespace is one of the easiest website builders to use, and also one of the hardest to screw up. Its highly acclaimed website templates are among the most stylish and best designed. While you do not get nearly the same customization options as Wix, many users will find they can simply enter their product details and are good to go.
- Inventory management: Square lets you import your items via a spreadsheet, or add them manually with photos and a description. You can create variants for products (such as different colors or sizes) and set up low stock alerts. Another 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.
- Shipping: With Squarespace, you’ll need to set up your own shipping rates, which can be flat-rate or based on weight. To calculate real-time rates from USPS, FedEx, or UPS, you’ll need to be on the Advanced Commerce plan ($40/month). Also, unlike the other ecommerce systems we reviewed, Squarespace does not let you print postage labels directly from the program. However, you can do so through a Shipstation integration.
- Multi-channel selling: Squarespace lets you tag your items on Instagram with a link to purchase, and create dynamic Facebook ads for your products. Unlike Shopify, there is no integration with Amazon, eBay, or other ecommerce channels.
- Marketing tools: Abandoned cart recovery is available with the Advanced Commerce plan ($40/month). Squarespace also has email marketing available for an additional fee, or you can integrate Mailchimp.
- Analytics: Like Wix, Squarespace includes a few very basic reports, including sales by product, traffic sources, and geography of visitors (by country or state). The Commerce plans ($26 per month) includes a purchase funnel report, telling you what percentage of visitors are viewing products, adding them to their cart, and making purchases.
- Customer support: Squarespace offers 24/7 email support, and live chat support weekdays from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time.
To learn more Squarespace, check out our full Squarespace review.
Wix: Best for Users Who Want Total Design Freedom
Like Squarespace, Wix is also a simpler and more affordable ecommerce option. However, the key difference is Wix’s website builder, which is 100% drag and drop. Everything can be edited by clicking and dragging, including text, photos, shapes, or buttons. Since a lot of ecommerce platforms like Square, Shopify, and Squarespace give you limited controls, Wix’s complete freedom stands out.
The flipside is that more editing opportunities mean more chances of something going wrong, so Wix is best if you are confident in your design capabilities. Wix also requires a far more complex editing menu, which can take a while to get the hang of.
Drag and drop editor
Longer set up time
Sell on Facebook, Instagram or Etsy
No low stock alerts
Abandoned cart recovery and email marketing included
Can’t change template after creating site
- $23 per month for Business Basic, which is the lowest-priced plan that supports ecommerce. You can sell an unlimited number of items, but there’s no real-time shipping calculator, product reviews, or automated sales tax. Storage is limited to 20GB.
- $27 per month for Business Unlimited, which adds the aforementioned features and increases your storage to 35GB.
- $49 per month for Business VIP, which adds loyalty rewards, custom reports, and increases storage to 50GB.
Wix Payment Processing
Wix offers its own payment processing services, which charges 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. You can also connect third-party payment gateways like Stripe, SumUp, Braintree, and others.
- Website builder: Wix is a true drag and drop editor, meaning users get complete control over the layout of their website. Plus, for any given feature, like the “add to cart” button, or photo galleries, there are dozens of different styles to choose from. While this gives users vast creative options, it can also make the editing menu overwhelming, and lead to clunky websites if you break from the template too much.
- Inventory management: Wix provides basic inventory management: You import your items via a spreadsheet, or add them manually with photos and a description. Wix does not let you set up low stock alerts, although you will receive a notification on your site’s dashboard when a product is out of stock. Unlike Shopify and WooCommerce, there are no inventory reports.
- Shipping: You can set up your own shipping rates based on weight, price, or product categories. With a $27 per month account or higher, you can also charge real-time shipping rates from USPS, and print discounted labels straight from Wix.
- Multi-channel selling: Sell your products on Instagram, Facebook or Etsy and manage the order through Wix.
- Marketing tools: Abandoned cart recovery is included for all ecommerce accounts. Wix also has basic email marketing included for up to three campaigns or 5,000 emails per month.
- Analytics: Like Squarespace, Wix includes a few basic traffic and sales reports. You can see how many visitors you’re receiving, and where they’re coming from. Ecommerce accounts also get an overview of their sales, including sales by item, and coupons used.
- Customer support: Wix customer service operates 24/7, but it’s only accessible by submitting a ticket and requesting an email response or callback. During my evaluation, I submitted a ticket during business hours and received an email response two hours later.
To learn more Wix, check out our full Wix review.
If you want your online store to be able to scale with your business, you need to consider the features customers will begin expecting as you grow. For example, are you prepared to support multiple languages and currencies, or provide customer support through an automated chatbot? Do you have the ability to set up customer user accounts, email marketing, or a loyalty program?
These features not only become more important as your store grows, but they can also play a key role in helping your store grow. Shopify offers advanced functionality and plans that scale with your business in a user-friendly package and affordable price point. This is why we recommend Shopify as the best ecommerce platform for small businesses. Visit Shopify to try it free for 14-days.