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Weighing In On Ecommerce Platforms: Our Top 5

18.05.2016.
hands of a man holding a outlet online device over a wooden workspace table. All screen graphics are made up.

hands of a man holding a outlet online device over a wooden workspace table. All screen graphics are made up.

In a market as saturated as the ecommerce platform market, it can be very difficult to figure out which shopping cart software best meets your needs. If you are considering starting your own store, then chances are you have already run into this struggle at some point. So far I have reviewed most popular platforms as individual offers, and created this comparison chart, then ranked all platforms after their SEO effectiveness, but now it is time to see how the different platforms compare to each other: Shopify,Bigcommerce, 3dcart, Volusion and Big Cartel.

In case you’re in a hurry, here are some links to our top ecommerce platforms for you to choose from:

If you’ve searched for a platform to run your ecommerce store, you’ve no doubt stumbled upon at least a few of the names we’re comparing today. Although popularity isn’t exactly the best motivating factor to make a decision that will affect your future business life, it’s certainly worth talking about, considering when large groups of people lean to a certain solution, we like to hope that it’s for a reason.Which of These Platforms is Most Popular?

That said, if you take a look at a comparison on Google trends, Shopify is the clear winner in terms of what people are searching and how many people are showing interest in the five popular consumer solutions.

The 3dcart platform is, and has always been, at the bottom in terms of trending on Google. It’s interesting to point out that Bigcommerce has made a recent surge past the previous second place contender Big Cartel, and we’re certain it has to do with many of the changes Bigcommerce has implemented over the past few years.

 

Hence, for popularity – or maybe because the Shopify pricing – this is the dominant company, which can also show that the their marketing team is probably a little stronger, or they have more money, so although you shouldn’t make a decision based primarily on popularity, I would argue there’s a reason Shopify is king and Bigcommerce is slowly on the rise.

 

Another way to analyze popularity is to tie it in with where customers are going when they leave a certain ecommerce platform. The reason this is interesting is because it gives you an indicator of which of the companies have kept up with technologies and made improvements to bring in additional customers. A quick market share search on Shopify shows that the Shopify company is gaining most of its customers from Big Cartel and Volusion, but Shopify is losing most of its customers to Bigcommerce, an indicator that Bigcommerce is gunning for Shopify with its new features and marketing efforts.

 

Ease of use

If you are a novice online store owner, then there is really nothing as important as ease of use. It doesn’t matter if the platform offers the most amazing features, if you don’t understand how to use them, then they might as well not even be there.

One thing that all of the platforms have in common is the fact that their dashboards are all very easy to navigate. Furthermore, most of the platforms offer some sort of a setup wizard that will guide you through the creation of your first store. Inventory management, design functionality and the setup process all tie into how the overall ease of use is classified in this article.

Shopify

Shopify has it all in terms of an easy setup, with a handy dashboard area for quickly adding products, customizing the look of your site and more. It’s cool because Shopify asks you if you plan on moving from another platform during the signup process. The system then provides a link for importing products from your previous store. In the screenshot below you can see that Shopify is helping me move from a Magento store.

Adding a product is clear and easy, with fields for titles, descriptions, price and more. The reason I think this is easier to use than Volusion and the other options is because it explains what each field is used for, removing all doubt when typing in information.

 

Volusion

We talked a little bit about ease of use with Volusion above, but it’s worth noting that the company has a fairly clean product creation area. It might not be as pretty as Shopify, but it does the trick. The big problem is when you need to go back in and change the layout or design of your pages, since coding knowledge is almost a requirement.

 

3dcart

The 3dcart product setup page is the oldest looking of the bunch. It’s not that the module is confusing, but the junky design makes you wonder if they’ve updated it in a while.

 

However, 3dcart offers wonderful tutorials and setup steps to help you do everything from picking a template to setting up your shipping options. The clean wizard is ideal for beginners.

 

A 3dcart benefit is the drag and drop editor, which is not exactly the best on the market, but it helps you click and drag components instead of having to modify CSS or HTML code. If you’re a beginner without any design experience, this is a huge advantage, since you don’t have to settle for the preset template designs, and it doesn’t require you to go in there and modify any code for a simple adjustment.

 

Big Cartel

Big Cartel offers the least visually-friendly startup area, since it’s not apparent what you should do right when you land on the page, and for some reason the text doesn’t really stand out that much.

 

Big Cartel lacks a drag and drop editor like you would find in 3dcart, but the customization isn’t the worst thing in the world. All of your design elements are situated to the left, which is fine, but the tools are a little weak, and anything further than that requires coding knowledge.

Bigcommerce

Next to Shopify, Bigcommerce has the cleanest dashboard and clearest directions for getting your site built within a few minutes. In fact, the dashboard looks surprisingly similar to Shopify, with modules for accepting credit cards, customizing your store and more.

 

Coding options are available in Bigcommerce, and the design features are quite handy, but I’d still rather have a drag and drop editor, which has not made its way to the Bigcommerce platform yet.

Pricing

For many people pricing is the most important factor, not only when deciding which ecommerce platform to use, but in general as they go through life. Personally, I feel if you are going to be investing a lot of your time and energy into creating your own online retail space, then there should be more important factors than saving $1 on the price of the platform.

Try-Shopify

 

As you can see in the table above, the cheapest plan offered on any of the platforms is without competition offered on Big Cartel, this package doesn’t cost a single dime. In general when looking at the pricing of Big Cartel you can see that even their most expensive plan costs as much as the cheapest plan with Shopify or BigCommerce.

When you look at the cheapest pricing tier, if you ignore Big Cartel, then you can see that Volusion offers the cheapest plan, while 3dcart comes in second, finally the two most popular platforms Shopify and Bigcommerce both charge around $30 for their services.

When you compare the middle pricing packages you can quickly see that there seems to be some sort of agreement that the price should be somewhere between $65 and $80.

For me what it really comes down is whether you are looking to sell just a few products or a large number of products, as well as which platforms offers the features you want for a reasonable price.

It’s also worth mentioning Shopify is best for those stores that plan on scaling up quick, since it provides the functionality to really handle large amounts of traffic and turn your site into something special.

Be warned that Bigcommerce has made some recent changes with its pricing structure, making it difficult for companies to scale up with the system. If you start to make more than $125,000 in revenue, Bigcommerce pretty much forces you to switch to an Enterprise plan. According to our reports from readers, this spikes your rates up to around $900 to $1,500 per month. It’s still unclear how this will affect those businesses who plan on remaining in the lower tiered pricing plans, but one thing is certain: Customers that surpass certain revenue points are not happy with Bigcommerce. We would put them on the bottom of our list if your company will end up with one of the most expensive plans.

That said, if you need a simple, small store, the cheaper Volusion or Big Cartel solutions work just fine.

Templates

Let’s be honest: design matters, everyone knows if the design doesn’t appeal to the visitor then chances are they will take their shopping elsewhere. Remember what I said in one of the reviews, if the layout of your store looks horrible then even if your product is amazing, chances are people won’t pay attention to your products.

If you are looking for a platform that offers some of the most professional looking themes, then you should really be looking into Shopify, the truth is there is no platform that offers better themes than Shopify.

 

Compared to Shopify and Bigcommerce, the collection of themes offered by 3dcart or Big Cartel shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same sentence. In fact, Bigcommerce themes are pretty remarkable, and as of March 23, 2016, around 67 new and responsive themes are being released for $145 to $235. You can find them in the theme store, and they were developed to establish a more modern, fluid user experience, utilizing cool new merchandising features for categorization and different sized catalogs.

While 3dcart does offer a lot of themes, when you look closer you realize most of these themes are duplicates. Not to mention, the 3dcart themes aren’t exactly modern looking. In fact, one could argue that some of the themes look like they come from the 1990s, with fixed layouts, weird colors and cluttered interfaces.

Big Cartel on the other hand only offers a grand total of nine themes (seen below). This is unacceptable, since unique branding is a huge part of selling online. In addition, the theme shop is only displayed in a small area to the left of where you modify your website, making it near impossible to view details on each theme or even see what the finished products would look like.

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