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Best e-Commerce Platforms for Businesses Large & Small

The eCommerce industry is growing at a staggering rate. Global revenue is expected to be over $481 billion in 2018 and will swell to over $712 billion within four years. It is safe to say it will become a trillion-dollar industry within the next decade. When it comes to eCommerce platforms, Shopify is the undisputed number one and we would recommend trying the site’s 14-day FREE trial.

However, the eCommerce giant is not for everyone and if you feel like it isn’t a good ‘fit’ for your brand, it is important to find sites like Shopify to compare and contrast. Remember, your online store has thousands of competitors so you need a well-designed, professional looking website to gain and keep customers. In this review, we look at five of the best Shopify competitors so you can decide if you want to take a chance on one or stick with the #1 option.

Best eCommerce Solutions for 2018

While there are literally dozens of solutions out there for E-commerce businesses, we'll be highlighting a few of the most popular.  They allow you to get up and running quickly, offer powerful integrations, and are totally scalable.

#1 - Shopify

PROS

  • All-in-one customizable and scalable solution including hosting, themes, and apps.
  • Extremely easy to use with a free 14-day trial.
  • Large App Store with thousands of business solutions
  • Large and Active User Forum

CONS

  • Successful customers are penalized with extra fees.
  • Limited number of free themes
  • Transaction fees on each order
  • Customization requires additional costs

Shopify has quickly become one of the biggest names in the eCommerce space.  It's done this by listening closely to what their clients need.  There are currently over half a million businesses running on their platform processing over $46 billion per year in revenue.

Penguin Books, Budweiser, and Tesla are just a few of the big names that use the Shopify platform for their business websites.​

Like many of the other solutions we'll cover it requires a monthly payment between $9 and $299 per month depending upon the needs and volume of your business.  

One of the biggest advantages Shopify has over it's competitors is it's Shopify App marketplace.  Here you can find solutions to handle all sorts of automation and integration for your business.  This ranges from integrating your bookkeeping software (such as Quickbooks) to fulfillment services that will process and ship your orders as they come in. 

In addition to supplying their own native payment gateway there are also dozens of 3rd party gateways from which to choose.  One downside is that you will pay a higher per transaction fee if you don't use the Shopify Payments gatweay.​

They offer a 14-day trial that allows you to test out the platform.  This is comparable to other platforms and allows you to test themes, setup items and inventory. Here is a quick breakdown of the pricing and fees for the various Shopify Plans.

It's not the industry leader for nothing.  People sell anything and everything on Shopify and the platform makes integration with suppliers, bookkeeping, and other tasks extremely easy.​

Basic Shopify

$29/mo

  • Unlimited Products
  • 24/7 Support
  • Shipping discount up to 64%

Per Transaction Fees

2.9% + 30¢

Shopify

$79/mo

  • Gift cards
  • Professional Reports
  • Shipping Discount up to up to 72%

Per Transaction Fees

2.6% + 30¢

Advanced Shopify

$299/mo

  • 15 staff accounts
  • Automated abandoned cart recovery
  • Shipping Discount up to 74%

Per Transaction Fees

2.6% + 30¢

For more information check out our in-depth Shopify review here https://www.thetoolreport.com/shopify-reviews/

#2 - Bigcommerce

Big Commerce logo

Bigcommerce is regarded by many as the #1 Shopify alternative. It is a Software as a Service (SAAS) product so you pay a monthly fee rather than owning the software outright. There are four pricing options to choose from.

PROS

  • Offers a convenient all-in-one solution including hosting, themes, and apps.
  • Extremely easy to use with a free 15-day trial.
  • No transaction fees.

CONS

  • Successful customers are penalized with extra fees.
  • A limited number of free themes.
  • No mobile apps are available.

At $29.95 a month, the Standard package is the most affordable offering but it is twice as expensive as the cheapest options on sites such as Shopify and Volusion. However, it offers more for your money including Unlimited Bandwidth & File Storage, the capacity to sell an infinite number of products, and professional reporting.

Big Commerce Pricing Plans

Standard

In fact, it is the only eCommerce giant that enables you to create a fully functional online store on a ‘starter’ package. The main downside of the Standard plan is that there is no abandoned cart saving functionality, a crucial aspect of any marketing and sales plan. The annual sales limit on this plan is $50,000.

Plus

This is a significantly more expensive package at $79.95 a month but the sales limit is increased to $150,000 a year. It includes features such as the abandoned cart saver tool, customer segmentation, and customers can also store their credit card details with you. This set of features can help you create a loyalty program.

Pro

You are competing with the big boys once you choose the Pro plan but it costs $249.95 a month. You are allowed up to $400,000 a year in sales but must pay an extra $150 a month for an extra $200,000 in sales. Its Google Customer Reviews feature enables you to collect and display customer feedback.

Enterprise

This package is for companies that plan to sell over $1 million worth of products a year and you have to call the firm to get a quote. Extra features including Advanced Product Filtering, Unlimited API Calls, and a guarantee of 99.99% server uptime.

Bigcommerce Extra Fees

Aside from paying extra for additional sales on the Pro package, Bigcommerce follows the eCommerce standard practice of charging a percentage fee for using its payment gateway. It is the gateway provider, not Bigcommerce that charges the fee. It is a good idea to use Paypal to set up your payment gateway as you receive better rates. Bigcommerce will charge $0.30 per transaction plus the following percentages for each package:

  • Standard: 2.9%
  • Plus: 2.5%
  • Pro: 2.2%
  • Enterprise: 2.2%

There is a total of around 40 payment gateways available.

Templates

Bigcommerce users receive access to seven free themes. If that isn’t enough, you have to pay anywhere from $145 to $235 for one of the additional 120 themes. To be fair, the free themes look professional and offer an excellent starting point; unless of course you want something unique. If you’re lucky, you may find a discounted premium theme for $99 on occasion.

Final Verdict

After using Bigcommerce, we have to come to the conclusion that it is one of the best Shopify competitors. It is one of the most user-friendly options available and the starter plan offers excellent bang for your buck. The abandoned cart saver option (available from Plus upwards) is top notch and the product options functionality rivals that of Shopify. The main downsides are the rather high monthly prices on packages plus the annual sales limits. If you want to see how it works for yourself, try the site’s free 15-day trial.

#3. Oberlo Review

PROS

  • User-friendly interface.
  • You can import products from AliExpress with a single click.
  • The ePacket Filter option helps locate items with the quickest delivery times.

CONS

  • It only works with Shopify.
  • None of the products are edited within Oberlo so you end up being redirected to the Shopify product description page.
  • Only works with AliExpress although Amazon integration is possible.

Oberlo is a drop shipping app that has been up and running since September 2015. The site claims that merchants have already sold over 85 million products using the app. It is designed to help you import drop shipping products straight into your eCommerce store and send them to your customers in a few clicks.

Oberlo offers the following features as standard:

  • Import products from suppliers straight into your store.
  • Fulfill customer orders automatically.
  • Up to date inventory and price updates.
  • Total product customization.
  • Enables you to create pricing rules.
  • Track shipments.
  • Multiple user accounts so business partners can run your online store.
  • Track all sales on an easy to use dashboard.
  • Import products with the fastest delivery times using the ePacket filter.

Oberlo Packages & Pricing

  • Starter: This free option is for newcomers getting to grips with their online business. It allows for a maximum of 50 orders a month.
  • Basic: This upgrade costs $29.90 a month and is for businesses that receive a maximum of 500 orders a month. You need the Basic package to benefit from the Order Monitoring and Shipment Tracking features.
  • Professional: This is the best option for large businesses because it allows you to fulfill an unlimited number of orders. It costs $79.90 a month.

Oberlo is an exceptional place to start for newcomers to the world of eCommerce because it helps you get started in a matter of minutes. For example, you can find products on sites such as AliExpress and import them to your store. Simply find the product(s) you want to sell and add to your import list. Publish it to your Shopify store and start selling.

Why are we mentioning Shopify? Because Oberlo is specifically designed for use with the eCommerce giant. As it only works with Shopify, you need to sign up and find the Oberlo app in the Shopify app store. All sales on Shopify sync with Oberlo immediately. Once you have found the product you want to sell and publish it to your store, use the Order Button to check orders on the Oberlo dashboard. Once you press this button, the app will:

  • Open AliExpress
  • Display the purchasing history of the customer
  • Add the product to your cart
  • Complete the shipping details
  • Create a page where you merely have to press the ‘Buy’ button.

At this stage, the order is shipped instantly and you are notified of the status on your Shopify store; Oberlo also notifies the buyer. The customer is also able to track the order thanks to the shipping number they have received. If you want to see for yourself, either get the free Starter option or try the 30-day free Professional package trial.

Final Verdict

Thanks to Oberlo, you benefit from the magic of automation so you can find, sell and ship products to your customers in seconds. It saves you a lot of time when it comes to searching for the right products and suppliers and is the perfect option for eCommerce newbies.

The free Starter package means you can try it out without paying a penny and if you like what you see, upgrade to one of the other options. We also like that the company has a blog with details about updates while also providing users with eCommerce strategies. The response time from the company is also extremely quick.

3 - WooCommerce Review

PROS

  • Free to download.
  • Nice variety of themes and extensions.
  • Access to a large WordPress community.

CONS

  • The cost of extensions and other add-ons mounts up.
  • Customer support is very slow.
  • There is a steep learning curve involved.

If you have a WordPress site and are eager to monetize it, WooCommerce is one of the best open source platforms available. Since it was founded in September 2001, the plugin has been downloaded around 37 million times. You may have heard that it is free to download and while that is strictly true, you still have to pay to operate a store using WooCommerce.

For instance, there are a few specific account options:

  • Starter: $12.95 a month with a maximum of 100GB of web space.
  • Plus: $15.95 a month and you benefit from unlimited web space.
  • Pro: $23.95 a month and you receive an advanced backup solution.

You also need to pay for the following:

  • Hosting: Up to $15 a month.
  • Domain Name: Around $10 a year.
  • Theme: Up to $59 although there are plenty of free themes available.
  • Important Plugins: Up to $79 per annum per plugin.
  • Extensions: Up to $79 a year per extension.

The WooCommerce platform includes a variety of core features and you could theoretically start selling immediately with nothing but the Starter package. However, you’ll have to pay for add-ons if you want shipping or checkout features. For the record, here are some of the features that come with the free download:

  • Mobile friendly design.
  • The capability to group your products by category.
  • A variety of shipping options.
  • Inventory management.
  • Checkout options.
  • SEO.
  • Geo-Location Support.
  • Product reviews.
  • Analytics that help you monitor your profits and traffic while also checking out growth trends and tracking orders.

You can integrate WooCommerce into any WordPress theme but most web designers prefer to use WooTheme. First of all, it makes it easier to apply updates to your store. Secondly, the site’s web ticket support only relates to Woo products. While you can avail of the free Storefront theme, there are also 14 ‘child’ themes for $39 apiece.

The site comes with five built-in payment options including PayPal and Stripe but you can add-on Amazon Payments, Square, FirstData and a few others.

Overall

It is hard to complain about anything that involves a free download! WooCommerce provides regular updates which improve the platform and there are over 300 extensions, paid and free, so you’re sure to find the ones you need to customize your online store. The 14 mobile responsive themes are image-focused and clean, and WooCommerce is capable of growing with your business.

On the downside, the level of customer support is relatively poor and you are responsible for your site’s security. It is an excellent DIY eCommerce solution and you can tailor it to meet your needs and budget. However, you will need patience because using it is time-consuming and you will come across technical issues now and again.

4 - Magento Review

PROS

  • Huge range of add-ons and extensions.
  • Large user community to help you out.
  • Magento will grow with your business.

CONS

  • While it is free to download, it is expensive to create a high-quality eCommerce site.
  • Very steep learning curve.
  • Minimal customer support.
  • There is a steep learning curve involved.

Over 240,000 merchants use Magento which makes it one of the most popular self-hosted eCommerce platforms. It was founded by Yoav Kutner and Roy Rubin in 2007 and four years later, it was purchased by eBay/X.commerce. This Magento review will focus on the Open Source version and NOT the Commerce edition which is designed for large corporations.

Like WooCommerce, Magento is free to download but you will have to pay for domain names, add-ons, hosting, an SSL certificate, payment processing and more. Unfortunately, it is a difficult platform to use so you’ll need to hire a developer if you don’t have experience with coding such as PHP.

If you can get past this difficulty, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most complete lists of features available from any eCommerce platform. The full list is enormous and we couldn’t possibly include them all in this review (you can see for yourself here) so we’ve added some of our favorites instead:

  • Create customer groups based on their demographics and location.
  • Save your customers’ shopping carts when they leave the site without making the purchase.
  • Display recently viewed products.
  • Create coupon codes which are also available for offline distribution.
  • Send wish lists to customers via email.
  • Google Site Map & Friendly URLs.
  • Create meta-data for items and categories.
  • One-page checkout.
  • Google Analytics Integration.
  • Built-in report features.

There are a few free themes available but they come from third-party developers, not Magento. The most expensive themes cost $500 apiece! As Magento is an Open Source platform, it is easy for its community of developers to create new extensions and applications for it. This is why the Magento Marketplace has thousands of options including an Automated Tax Calculator, Email Marketing and Instant Search.

When you download Magento, you have the option of accepting various payment methods; but you have to integrate with a payment gateway. At the time of writing, there were almost 120 payment gateways available including Sage Pay Suite Pro and Beanstream Payment. While you can get gateways such as Mollie Payments for free, others cost several hundred dollars; such as Pronko Consulting Realex Payments which comes at a price of $449.

Overall

Unfortunately, the level of customer service with Magento is very poor but there are a lot of people using the community forum so you can ask questions and seek advice there. If you want to become an expert, enroll in one of the courses available. Some are free while others cost over $2,000.

Magento is one of the best Open Source software options available thanks to its incredible feature list and an enormous range of extensions and add-ons. However, it is not the right option if you have limited experience as a developer because it is hard to get to grips with. See if it’s the right option by trying its free 30-day trial.

5 - Amazon Webstore Review

PROS

  • Excellent list of features.
  • One payment structure so no need to worry about upgrading.
  • Backed by the Amazon brand.

CONS

  • Lack of a starter option was off-putting; $79 a month is a lot to commit for a small business.
  • Customers were distracted by Amazon branding.

When the Amazon Webstore was launched in May 2010, it seemed as if the online retail giant would conquer the eCommerce platform world just as it took a stranglehold on eCommerce itself. It was designed to be similar to Bigcommerce and Shopify and looked likely to make a serious dent in those two organizations. However, by July 2016, the Amazon Webstore was discontinued and at the time of writing, Amazon has no plans to create a comparable option.

On the face of it, Amazon Webstore looked like it would be a winner as it was packed with the usual features such as SEO options, hosted checkout, payment processing and shopping carts. It integrated with Amazon’s online market services including Amazon Payments capabilities and Amazon Prime benefits for customers.

Perhaps one of the reasons why it failed was because of the high costs. While you can still get a Basic Shopify account for $29 a month, Amazon charged a whopping $79 a month along with a 2% flat transaction fee and variable payment processing fee. Here are some examples of the high fees:

  • Sales of $9.99 or Less: 5% fee plus $0.05 for all transactions.
  • Sales of $10+: 2.9% fee plus $0.30 for all transactions.

There were also monthly rates between 2.1% and 2.6% depending on sales volume plus $0.30 for all transactions. While these fees fall in line with sites like Shopify, the monthly payment did not. Proponents of Amazon Webstore pointed out that it was a single-tiered payment system but even so, it was simply too high a cost for most would-be online businesses.

Overall

In many ways, Amazon Webstore was a worthy competitor to the likes of Shopify and Bigcommerce. It offered a range of nice features and reviews of its customer service were generally positive. Then there was the small matter of being backed by one of the world’s most powerful companies. However, all of the above wasn’t enough to prevent Amazon Webstore from disappearing down the plughole within six years.

In 2015, Amazon gave customers 15 months’ notice and said it would be shutting down on July 1, 2016. As well as the fairly high monthly costs, small businesses always felt as if they couldn’t escape the shadow of the corporate behemoth. While you could keep your own brand presence in the store, Amazon’s branding was always nearby which was a clear and present threat to your business.

Conclusion

If you’re happy with your eCommerce platform, then there is no good reason to switch. However, if you are spending far too much time and effort on manual processes and are using a platform that isn’t scalable, perhaps it is time to make a change. Shopify remains the #1 option because it is a fantastic platform but there are plenty of sites like Shopify to choose from.

The five platforms we have reviewed above are all excellent in different ways. Bigcommerce is a ‘classic’ option as it helps you to quickly and easily gain an online presence. Oberlo is only compatible with Shopify while WooCommerce and Magento are open source platforms that will take some time to master. Finally, Amazon Webstore started off with great promise but was unable to displace the likes of Shopify from the top of the industry. Whatever option you choose, make sure its features align with what you’re trying to do with your online store.

About the Author Jason

Jason is a work from home dad who has a passion for DIY projects, yard work, and SEC Football. His background is IT, but he's always fancied himself as a part-time ship welder, landscaper, and short order cook. During the week he can be found on his laptop 10 hours-a-day, but on the weekends he escapes to the local DIY Cave to play with REAL toys.

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