Planning to sell products or services online? DIY online store builder is all you need to get your shop online without the need to involve professional designers and developers. Most of these platforms offer drag and drop features to get your shop ready within a matter of hours.
There are many free as well as paid ecommerce website builders out there in the wild and all of them seems to offer features and tools required to create a fully functional ecommerce website, this is what makes selection process difficult and time consuming.
Building the right kind of store is the most important step in your ecommerce journey, and for that reason, selecting the right tools to build your store is equally important. The theme of your store, usability and features ensure that the shop attracts more customers, rather repeat customers. Product recommendations, for example, looks simple but is a power feature, which if not done right, can make or break your sales figures.
This article covers brief analysis of best online store builders and provides details around pricing plans, customer support, themes availability, payment gateways support, shipping options, ease of setup, hosting options, sales analytics, product recommendations, delivery tracking and much more.
Which Online Store Builder is Right for You?
Some of the top ecommerce website builder tools like Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento and WooCommerce etc. are used by thousands of businesses and most of them are happy with their choice. There is no black and white answer to which one of these is the best, and it depends greatly on your specific requirements.
While all the platforms appear to offer similar set of features, there are significant differences, and for that reason, a thorough evaluation is a must. Shopify for example is a cloud hosted ready to use solution, whereas WooCommerce needs to be setup on top of WordPress and needs good amount of time for customization and setup etc.
Pricing options too vary a lot and being free or low cost is not always the best choice. WooCommerce, osCommerce and Magento Community Edition are some of the popular open source and free to use platforms, but you either need developers for setup or need to purchase additional plugins and themes.
Shopify, BigCommerce and Magento etc. are paid options but they offer out of the box features to setup best in class online store within matter of hours. My personal favorite (ranked #1 below) and recommended option is Shopify, because it has visually appealing themes, affordable pricing, easy to use and fits best to my requirements. You can register for 14 days free trial here at (no credit card required) – Shopify Store Builder.
Shopify is not fit for all, neither is BigCommerce, Magento or WooCommerce. For that reason, read the article, list down key requirements and your budget, narrow down your options to last 3, subscribe for trial version, check out how it goes and finally close on to the final one.
Next comes the best 10 in the business and the ranking is based on research around usage statistics, market share, subscription plans offered, time needed to design the store, technical skills required, and most importantly hands on experience of our experts with these for last couple of months.
Let us start off with Shopify that offers most powerful features as of today –
1. Shopify – User’s Choice (Top Reviews)
Shopify is a solid, drag and drop ecommerce software that lets you start an online storefront within minutes, with an option of 100’s of mobile friendly, beautiful and professional looking themes. There are more than 400,000 active stores built with Shopify that are doing an aggregated sale of over $34 billion.
Shopify takes care of marketing, payments, secure checkouts and shipping, commitment of 99.99% uptime, annual compliance assessments, fraud detection tools etc. to ensure that you focus entirely on your products and services.
Let us look at some of the key features of Shopify that take it to #1 rank –
- Storefront with custom branding, option to edit HTML & CSS to make it unique, as required.
- Mobile commerce shopping cart, your own domain name, blogging platform and drag and drop editor to do all this.
- SSL secure, major payment gateways support including PayPal, iDEAL and Bitcoin.
- Abandoned checkout recovery, shipping rates setup, multilingual support.
- Store management with customer groups, refunds management, profiles, email templates and fulfilment centres.
- Marketing with Facebook selling, gift cards, coupons and discounts, social media integration, SEO and email campaigns.
- Cloud hosted 24X7 support, mobile apps for your store, and website analytics.
- Advanced algorithms for product recommendations and related products listings.
- Social media selling options for Pinterest (buyable pins), Amazon, Facebook and much more.
- Provides services like drop shipping so you don’t have to worry about deliveries.
Shopify offers 14 days of free trial and its commercial plans include Basic Shopify, Shopify and Advanced Shopify with monthly subscription charges ranging from $29 to $299, as of writing.
The company is based out of Ottawa, Canada. It was founded back in 2006 by Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand, and Scott Lake and grew rapidly in popularity and use.
Register for 14 days free trial of Shopify here – Shopify – Ecommerce Software
2. WooCommerce – Best Online Store Builder (Free Tier)
WooCommerce is arguably the most customizable and the most used ecommerce website builder and powers more than 28% of all the stores available on the internet as of today. WooCommerce integrates with WordPress and converts any WordPress website into a full featured online shopping store. Like WordPress, WooCommerce is also available as an open source package and is free to use.
WooCommerce has a great community of developers that keeps it ahead of the completion by incorporating the latest and greatest of eCommerce market space. Till date, there are around 7 million downloads of WooCommerce, and some of the popular online stores like Moment, XeroShoes, Subtype and Tokki etc. are built with this platform.
WooCommerce gets its powers from the extensions (free and paid) that can be installed on top of the core. Core too has many features that include pre-installed gateways, guest checkouts, default currency setup, geo-location support, automatic taxes, cart behaviour and much more. Talking about shipping, the extensions can be used for USPS shipping, UPS shipping, FedEX Shipping, Table Rate Shipping, Pickup Plus and the possibilities are endless here.
While WooCommerce is used by masses but when it comes to creating online stores of medium and large enterprises – Shopify, Magento and Oracle Commerce lead the pack there. It is a great choice for individuals and start-ups and if you can play around with PHP or can afford a PHP developer with WordPress knowledge, then WooCommerce is the perfect tool for you.
Check out more about WooCommerce here at – WooCommerce Features
You might also like – Drag and Drop Website Builders – Regular
3. Magento – Most Used Ecommerce Website Builder (Paid Category)
When it comes to online shops of large enterprises, Magento is the most used ecommerce technology with over 19% of the total market share as per builtwith.com. The popularity and power of Magento can be gauged from the fact that organizations like Coca Cola, Burger King, Tom Dixon, Murad and Ncare use Magento for their online retail needs.
Like WooCommerce, Magento too has a very huge ecosystem and offers subscription plans for individuals, startups, SMBs as well as for large enterprises. There are three main subscription options –
- Community Edition
- Enterprise Edition
- Enterprise Edition Cloud
Magento community edition is completely open source and free to use for everyone. Community edition is the best option for individuals, small businesses and startups. It is also used widely by novices to experiment in the online market space without investing any money into building online stores.
Next in the line is Magento Enterprise Edition, a product to reckon with when it comes to selling online. Magento Enterprise edition offers out of the box functionality for store customization and integration with third party tools and services.
The third option, Magento enterprise cloud edition offers an online customizable store in the cloud, so you do not have to setup your own infrastructure. It takes away all the worries around downtimes, security, peak traffic hours and everything else related to maintenance of your online store.
What I like the most about Magento is the industry specific solutions which are well customized to the unique theme of the business area like Food & Beverages, Health & Beauty, Automotive, Fashion and much more.
Read more about Magento here at – Magento: Build Online Store
4. BigCommerce – Great Option for Startups & SMBs
BigCommerce is another online store builder that lets you create intuitive, beautiful ecommerce websites in a matter of minutes. Like Shopify, BigCommerce also provides 100’s of pre-built mobile ready themes. BigCommerce also has a network of designers and developers that help you create or modify a theme to best fit your brand.
The pricing plans of BigCommerce are pretty much the same as Shopify. Key features of BigCommerce include –
- Ready to use eCommerce Store templates as well as option for customization and building new templates
- Integration with major payment gateways including Square, Braintree, PayPal, Stripe, First data, Cybersource and many more
- Integration with SEO tools pack and integration with Google shopping, PriceGrabber and nextag.
- Shoppers focus with advanced CRO tools, boost checkouts etc.
- 99.99% uptime commitment and PCI compliance
- Inventory management at product options level
- Sync inventory with Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, square POS and eBay
- Modern set of features for mobile commerce, excellent UX/UI of Cart to drive more conversions
BigCommerce team goes all guns when it comes to customer support, rest assured you will get 99.99% uptime and 24/7 customer support via phone, emails and chat. 99% customer retention rate speaks for itself.
BigCommerce – Online Storefront Builder
BigCommerce Vs Shopify
BigCommerce was founded back in 2009, three years after the inception of Shopify but grew in popularity at a very fast face. The key difference between BigCommerce and Shopify/Magento is the target users. BigCommerce mainly targets startups, small and mid-sized businesses and has very few customers in the list of fortune 500 companies.
5. Oracle Commerce – Top Ranked among Fortune 500 Companies
Oracle commerce, formerly ATG web commerce, is the commerce solution that powers top brands in the world. It is specifically popular among the fortune 500 companies. It doesn’t compete with the Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce in terms of overall usage, but when it comes to high end enterprise grade solutions, Oracle Commerce is the top choice.
I will not put Oracle Commerce into drag and drop, quick to do solution. It is a very high end, enterprise grade solution which is setup by experts and costs much more than many other options mentioned in this article.
We do not recommend this one for individuals and small-scale businesses, you probably will not be able to afford either. Check out more about Oracle Commerce here at – Enterprise Ecommerce Solutions
3d cart is another comprehensive platform for building an online store. It provides you all feature from building a store to digital promotion. For the creation of your online store, you will get here a bundle of free mobile-friendly themes. Using 3dCart you will get a comprehensive control panel which provides “online store manager” that helps you to manage your store with great ease.
Also, online store manager gives you the feature of multiple images, dynamic zooms of images, etc.
Besides from all these features, It provides you the pack of SEO features so that you can always be ahead of your competitors.
Read more about 3dCart here at – 3dcart.com
Volusion is another popular Ecommerce Software that features to setup an online store for almost every industry. There are many free as well as paid themes available on Volusion store that can be used to setup a store within no time.
Volusion is best fit for small businesses since it doesn’t charge any transaction fees, you can buy a subscription plan, pay for it and all the profit of sales is your own. Volusion also happens to be very intuitive and easy to setup, no frills attached platform.
Volusion can be a quick hit for individuals and that too without the need to pay a dime to anyone for doing the setup.
Read more – Volusion – Build an online Store
Squarespace is one of the oldest website builders around and is well maintained to keep up to the growing needs of the modern web design. It was created back in 2004 by Anthony Casalena, and as of today, it is available on the cloud as software as a service platform. It has grown gradually in width & breadth and offers blogging platform, hosting services and website creation tools.
After almost 10 years of its inception, Squarespace launched features for building online stores that go well with small and medium sized businesses. Squarespace’s ecommerce software has grown fast in popularity because it is very easy to setup and one can get the online shop up and running within matter of hours.
Everything about Squarespace is simple, including their pricing options. You pay the charges for the online store and there are no charges for the transactions etc. Store can be setup to sell physical as well as digital products, digital product download links are sent immediately after the payment is made. On the downside, Squarespace currently lacks support for many payment processors, and the only two supported are Stripe and PayPal.
Squarespace also offers free to use 14 days trial comes with tons of elegant and beautiful website templates. Read more about Squarespace here at – Squarespace.
Wix is the biggest player in the market of online website builders with over 90 million users across the globe. Wix was founded back in 2006 by Avishai Abrahami, Nadav Abrahami and Giora Kaplan as a basic website builder. It got the real powers in 2012 when it became a pure play drag and drop HTML5 website builder.
Though Wix is a leader in the website builder space, it is yet to make a mark in the world of ecommerce website builders. You might find Wix handy if you are already using it for building regular websites. Like Squarespace, Wix also doesn’t charge any transaction fees on the sales.
Read more about Wix here at – Wix.com
10. Drupal Commerce
Drupal commerce is powerful storefront solution that runs on top of Drupal content management system. Like WooCommerce, Drupal commerce is also developer friendly and lets developers add any features they want to create a dream storefront.
Key features of Drupal Commerce are as given below –
Extensible – Drupal Ecommerce is a customizable and can be extended with use of custom modules, libraries and easily integrates with third party systems. Developers get full control on each and every corner of the system and can modify and enhance any functionality, as required.
Flexible – it also happens to be a very flexible solution let you deal with any kind of physical product, digital product, subscription service, licensing etc. you can setup the store for recurring licensing fees, subscription fees, one-time payments etc.
Open Source – it is also an open source and free to use platform, you incur lesser costs overall and get powerful Drupal based online storefront which is secure, fast, SEO friendly and future ready.
Read more about Drupal Commerce here at – Drupal Commerce
osCommerce is another popular online store builder which was founded almost 17 years back by Harald Ponce de Leon. At the time of writing this article, there are more than 13K active online stores built with osCommerce and over 7700 free to use ad-ons developed by the very enthusiastic and active community.
osCommerce is open source and is completely free, it can be downloaded and run on PHP server and SQL database in the backend, on yours on premises. The community provides basic free as well as commercial 24/7 support to help you sort out any technical glitches.
The core team earns money from the promoters like hosting companies, payment gateway providers and commercial support. If open source is your foray, osCommerce is game on, along with Drupal Commerce and WooCommerce.
Read more – osCommerce – open source store builder
Taking a Decision
Having gone through the above options, if you are still confused, then take some time out and try to get answers on the below mentioned set of questions. Based on the answers, you can shortlist the top three, and then finally try them out to close on to final one.
- What is going to be your product class – Physical or Digital. Services?
- Do you like Self hosted or in the cloud option? World is moving to the cloud so you must keep security concerns aside while making decision around this.
- What is going to be the stock size/inventory? What would be the delivery locations or warehouse locations, in case of Physical products.
- Expected daily transactions volume? You don’t need to overkill and setup something like Magento or Oracle Commerce if the volume is not going to be that much.
- Can you do development yourself or afford to hire a developer or designer? Drupal Commerce, osCommerce and probably WooCommerce are out of scope if your answer is no.
- Do you know Search Engine Optimization or can hire an SEO expert? Do you even care about SEO?
- Are you planning social selling big time? Like selling on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, VK etc. and more.
- Do you have product catalogues available in other systems that you intend to import or integrate with?
- Are you planning to setup gift coupons, give-aways, competitions, discounts etc.?
- Preferred payment gateways you want support for?
- Uptime commitments, of course, everyone needs 100%, everything comes at a cost, so, it is important to go with minimum that you can live with without making any losses.
- Support level and the amount you can pay for recurring support.
Too many questions here, if you want something really sophisticated and want that issues around most of the above questions are taken care of by the platform itself. Go for Shopify, BigCommerce or Magento.
If you are into selling of goods or service, online store is not a choice anymore but a necessity. Building an online store from scratch too is an option but that comes with very high effort and cost and not everyone can afford that.
In any case, there are many platforms available for individuals, startups, small scale businesses, as well as for large enterprises and offer features to build, run and track success.
Many large enterprises typically go for very high end commercial tools like Enterprise editions of Shopify, Oracle Commerce, Magento and BigCommerce etc. since their tendency is to outsource anything and everything to the specialists.
Start-ups often prefer to choose low cost options or open source solutions like WooCommerce, osCommerce, Drupal Commerce, Wix and Squarespace etc.
Hope you find this article useful, share you experience with online store builders, with our readers!!
Further Reading – DIY App Builders