An ecommerce platform, or ecommerce software, is a solution for websites to run an online store including all the necessary features for a customer to buy products online. The best eCommerce software comes with expanded features to help run an online business and build a full website, like extra content pages for company information and other content, a blogging platform, and essential marketing features.
Several types of eCommerce automation tools are also included in the best shopping cart software, some to make it easier for the store owner to process customer orders, and others for creating promotions. For example, scheduled email newsletters have shown results indicating that they're among the best marketing automation for eCommerce, so the most powerful online shopping cart software will include this feature.
Hosted eCommerce software, or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is the most convenient and cost-effective type to use, as it brings everything you need to run your online store together: shopping cart software, web hosting, security, and often support. This means you won't have to find solutions on your own and pay for them separately - which saves money for large enterprise stores and even over most free ecommerce solutions.
Like its physical counterpart, the virtual shopping cart feature is where people add products that they wish to purchase, creating an order. When customers are ready to place your order, they use the shopping cart to go through a checkout process. There, they provide personal information that enables the company to collect payment from them and ship the purchased item or items to them. Hosted eCommerce platforms typically provide payment processor integrations and shipping service options that online stores can use.
Creating individual webpages for each product in their inventory gives businesses the opportunity to showcase them. These pages can include information that may influence the customer to order the product in question. This could include the price, a description, a list of features or uses, and images. The platform on which the website is hosted may provide options to include Q&A sections, reviews from customers, and other features.
Unlike other types of eCommerce platforms, hosted ones take care of the website’s back-end — the coding that makes everything on the site work at all. Using a hosted platform frees store owners from worrying about this kind of maintenance and allows them to focus on optimizing the front-end. With that said, some eCommerce platforms may be trickier to use than others. Anyone interested in creating their own online store may want to test how easy it is to customize the site and perform different tasks.
Related to “ease of use,” the term “learning curve” refers to the ease or difficulty one faces in learning the best ways to use an eCommerce platform. Software that people can quickly master has a gentle learning curve, while software that takes more time and effort to understand has a steep one. While platforms with steeper learning curves may not sound more efficient, they may have more features and flexibility. Store owners should be cautious about choosing a platform based on this, and realistic about how much time and resources their training will require.
Hosted eCommerce platforms are increasingly focusing on responsive design. This refers to a combination of features that optimize websites so that they function well on screens of any length and width. The importance of this rests on the growing mobile market: more people than ever conduct their e-shopping on smartphones and tablets, which have different screen dimensions than the traditional computer. Choosing a platform without responsive design may cost businesses a substantial source of revenue.
Data export features help site administrators organize an online store’s data into spreadsheets or CSV files. These tools simplify the process of virtually sending a large amount of site data from one place to another. If a business needs to transfer information about customers and products to a new version of their website, or if they need to back up their online store, they can use a data export.
Start-up costs can be quite flexible depending on the eCommerce platform. While some have only one option with a fixed price, others may have a variety of payment plans, with the more expensive ones also coming with more features. A few hosted eCommerce platforms even offer free plans.
Aside from monthly or annual cost, the initial price for creating an online store with a hosted platform may or may not include initial licensing fees, set-up fees, and payment for any developers you hire to help you get your site started.
When a business uses a hosted platform, they usually have to pay the host for access to their software. If this access is paid, the business must continue paying monthly or annually to retain that access. As part of the initial signup agreement, developers behind the hosted platform continue to provide customer support and technical maintenance when needed. Store owners should also make room in their budget for new features, add-ons, extra services, and new versions of the eCommerce platform.
An eCommerce platform’s number of users simply refers to the number of active websites that make use of it. A high number of users does not necessarily indicate that the platform is high-quality. Many factors can influence this count, including — but not limited to — pricing, the availability of free options, marketing, and ease of use. Anyone trying to choose between several hosted platforms should view the number of users as just one of several aspects to weigh.
Shift4Shop is an all-inclusive hosted eCommerce solution that includes everything you need to run a successful online store, including advanced PCI-compliant security, 24/7/365 free support, and a full-featured eCommerce website builder. With Shift4Shop you can create a complete eCommerce website and include as many products, categories, and extra pages you need. A full set of marketing and SEO tools are included to help you reach your customers, and you'll also have access to a powerful order management and reporting system. Shift4Shop offers a full-featured free plan that comes with much more than competing hosted shopping cart platforms - without transaction fees or unexpected charges. Unlock the potential of your business with a free online store through Shift4Shop.
While Shopify is one of the most popular online store platforms today, it's not the best solution for a growing business. Transaction fees will hold you back, and Shopify is known for keeping many of the most important eCommerce features locked behind paid apps. Between your monthly plan and app charges, you'll end up paying over three times the cost of Shift4Shop to get a similar feature set. Other important tools are restricted to higher-tier and enterprise plans, but even after upgrading you'll still need to pay for the same apps. Shopify also has a limited selection of free themes, making it harder for a new business to brand their store, and the themes are written in a proprietary language called Liquid so customization is a task to learn.
AmeriCommerce may seem like an optimal platform based on the many features they offer. However, businesses that are trying to expand their reach may chafe at the solution’s inflexibility. They impose limits on bandwidth and disk storage, and anyone who dares to exceed them has to pay overage fees. Harsher still, they impose limits on how many different products you can sell. Anyone trying to enlarge their inventory must go for the most expensive plan they offer. A lack of after-hours customer support and long-standing issues with the programming are just two other ways in which AmeriCommerce limits what their clients can do.
ShopSite is a bit different from other hosted eCommerce platforms because it outsources its web hosting to partners. Unfortunately, this makes their pricing structure inconsistent and their support spotty. You'll have to put a lot of time into choosing a web host, and since your hosting won't be managed by the same company as the ShopSite software, you may have trouble getting the help you need. ShopSite's eCommerce tools are also lacking, with no built-in reporting and weak SEO and marketing features. ShopSite's basic level of eCommerce functionality will slow your growth until you upgrade to a plan that includes better tools, and even then, it will not scale with your business.
Miva Merchant offers both a hosted and licensed eCommerce platform, and both versions fall under the same limitations: extremely high price, time-consuming setup, and difficult customization. Regardless of whether you're looking at the hosted or licensed version of Miva Merchant, it's easy to see this is an eCommerce platform intended for large businesses. A software license only comes with a year's worth of updates and costs just under $20k, and you'll need to pay full price again to access updates after your year is up. Even Miva's cheapest option, a hosted "starter" online store, costs $79.95/mo. and you can be boosted to a higher plan without your knowledge if your store starts doing well — plus, be charged for bandwidth and storage overages.
BigCommerce is a popular online store platform for enterprise businesses that has no transaction fees. However, BigCommerce merchants often find themselves suffering financially in other ways: your plan pricing is based on your sales, and many BigCommerce users report an unexpected boost to a higher-tier plan that they couldn’t afford. The platform is also missing some key features and integrations that you'll need to pay for separately through apps. Successful, growing business often outpace the tools BigCommerce can offer and end up leaving for a more advanced (and affordable) platform like Shift4Shop.
Volusion is known as a user-friendly shopping cart platform, but that also means it's very basic. It lacks the tools for long-term success and many successful online store owners reach a point where they need a more powerful platform. Volusion also charges a transaction fee on every one of your sales, which cuts into your profits, and your plan will be increased automatically if your revenue goes above a certain amount. Volusion also lacks many integrations, meaning you'll need a paid account with Zapier to access some of your favorite tools. And while Volusion has recently cut down on their added fees, they have a longstanding reputation of surprising their customers with extra charges.
Big Cartel is a very limited eCommerce platform aimed specifically at artists and other creators. It's easy to use and very inexpensive, and there is even a Big Cartel free plan, so it's a natural choice for many new creators with a small inventory. However, Big Cartel has few choices for a serious eCommerce entrepreneur and is not scalable at all. Even the highest-priced plan only allows a maximum of 300 products, and there are limitations that affect both customers and merchants. There's no search feature, so customers can't search for products, and Big Cartel doesn't have built-in shipping calculations and only very minimal tax calculations. The simple fact is that you can sign up for a free Shift4Shop plan and immediately access more features, more integrations, more payment methods, and more selling potential than you get with Big Cartel's $29.99/mo. plan.
GoDaddy is well-known as a domain name registrar, and secondly as a web host. GoDaddy also offers a rudimentary eCommerce plan that has become popular due to brand recognition and quick setup. However, GoDaddy online stores are only suitable for beginners, and provide neither the features nor the functionality to grow and support a successful business. You can add up to 1,500 products, but your store will start slowing down noticeably before you reach this limit, to the point that GoDaddy makes note of this in its own disclaimer. Serious online merchants will soon find GoDaddy short on options, since it has few integrations and only three payment gateways. Customization of your online store also falls short, as you can only make minor changes, which causes problems for branding and for building your eCommerce website the way you want.
Infusionsoft is a well-known CRM and marketing platform acquired and rebranded to Infusionsoft by Keap. Today's version of Infusionsoft combines its familiar digital marketing features with basic eCommerce functionality. And by "basic," we mean just that — it's not scalable at all. Infusionsoft's eCommerce features are only accessible on the $399/month plan and up, and are still so simplistic that every business is much better off using a full-fledged eCommerce platform like Shift4Shop instead. Shift4Shop includes a CRM and marketing tools as well, making Infusionsoft redundant, and also integrates with your choice of third-party CRM and email marketing services.
Lightspeed is an eCommerce platform originally developed as an extension to the company's POS system. It offers some basic eCommerce functionality, with many of the most crucial features unfortunately locked behind higher-tier plans or requiring third-party apps. Its pricing is also higher to begin with than many other platforms, and is much more expensive than Shift4Shop. Lightspeed's online store template selection is rather limited and it doesn't integrate with many payment processors. Additionally, even the highest plans still have limits on number of products, images per product, product options, and more. Shift4Shop has none of the limits of Lightspeed and is available for free, offering more built-in features than are available on Lightspeed and giving you much more value for your money.
There’s no denying Aptos Retail is huge, and has some impressive clients under their wing. But is it really the right choice for your business? If you’re ready to step into Enterprise eCommerce, you’re aware of the importance of smooth operations for all aspects of selling, whether online or in-store. The simple fact is that Aptos Retail tries to collect so many features, in such a huge platform, that your business could collapse under its own weight without constant help or vast technical knowledge of your own. And with the extra costs typically incurred by Aptos Retail clients, you’ll find the price skyrocketing quickly.
Ashop is a simplistic eCommerce platform with too many limitations. Every plan has storage caps, limiting the number of images you can add to your site and product pages, and there are no integrations with any other apps or software — you'll need an account with a third-party service like Zapier to connect Ashop to crucial business apps like QuickBooks or marketing services like MailChimp. And while Ashop may work for a brand new small business, many important features are locked behind the Professional plan tier which may not be affordable for a startup. Large businesses run into the opposite problem, as even the Enterprise plan is lacking many important features and capabilities. You simply get more for your money with Shift4Shop, regardless of business size.
If you're looking for a top-of-the-line eCommerce platform to give your online store all the advantages, fortune3 will not serve your needs. Everything from their admin dashboard to their store themes are lagging behind the times, and customers report a poor experience on mobile devices. Low product limits plague their pricing models, and business owners who want to switch away from fortune3 often have a hard time canceling their account. Not to mention fortune3 splits its admin across two separate dashboards, the "Store Builder" and "Administration Panel," and you can manage your inventory from both — but your edits don't carry over from one to the other. If you make a mistake and add a product through the wrong dashboard, this can become a hopeless mess very quickly. Support is also known to go dark for long periods of time.
GoECart targets merchants seeking a quick way to build an omnichannel online store at Enterprise levels, but their customers often report poor and frustrating results. GoECart tends to overpromise and underdeliver, according to numerous customers who discovered that promised features would actually take expensive custom development. And that's not all that's expensive: GoECart offers two plans at quote-only prices that usually come out around $1,000/mo. and $1,600/mo. and charges extra for support beyond a basic level. None of their prices are visible on their website, and they do not provide clear information regarding the full features and capabilities of their platform. GoECart is simply too uncertain, too expensive, and too limited for a business when there are better, cost-effective, and more transparent options out there.
Quick eSelling is an attractive eCommerce solution for many new entrepreneurs mainly because it's easy to use and offers a free plan. However, it's not without limits or disadvantages: the free plan caps you at 1,000 products, won't let you use a custom domain name, and imposes a 5% transaction fee on all your sales. Paid plans, which remove these downsides, start at $199/month. This is extremely pricey, especially considering Shift4Shop's free plan doesn't have any of the same limitations. Many Quick eSelling users are also disappointed with the platform's available features. Overall, it's not as powerful or cost-effective as Shift4Shop, and the free plan is not scalable for a growing business.
SamCart is a simplistic eCommerce platform meant to be used with an existing site, such as WordPress. It allows you to create checkout pages for individual products, but provides no way to create a website, so it's not even close to a complete solution. Instead, it's geared toward selling single products from their own landing pages rather than running a full-fledged online store. A small number of templates with little variety also distinguishes this eCommerce software as an extremely basic platform, and limited features mean you'll be paying extra for apps and third-party integrations — and considering you need to upgrade to their $99/month plan to remove SamCart branding from your checkout, you're paying too much already. Shift4Shop offers hundreds more features and a full online store builder for a far lower price.
SiteCube is a website builder with included hosting for a low price of $59 per year. However, it's just not made for eCommerce. You're limited to 100 pages total, and can sell no more than 1,250 products in 25 categories. And while this might be enough for a brand new small business, SiteCube's infrastructure will hold you back. There's no dedicated product page or shopping cart functionality, no order management, and no method for interacting with customers. The SEO is also outdated and will make it hard for customers to find your store. Overall, SiteCube offers only minimal eCommerce features and will make it difficult to run and grow your business. Even the newest, most financially-limited startup has better options.
Simvoly claims to be a powerful, easy-to-use multipurpose website builder. It offers eCommerce, landing pages, and sales funnels. However, it's actually quite limited and much more expensive than it appears to be. The introductory plan only lets you have 5 products and 20 pages on your site — removing these limits requires a plan upgrade. You even have a limit on the number of customers who can register on your site, which likewise requires a plan upgrade to get rid of. And no matter what plan you upgrade to, you'll still be subjected to bandwidth caps. On top of that, Simvoly is short on features and requires third-party integrations to handle some of the most basic tasks, like shipping. All integrations are done through Zapier which is yet another cost. Overall, it may be easy to build a website with Simvoly, but it's much too costly and limited to be a good choice for growing a business.
Storenvy is a social marketplace and online store builder that’s focused on giving creative small businesses an affordable way to sell their products to a wider audience. But that affordable cost doesn’t come without restrictions. Only two payment methods are available with Storenvy (Stripe and PayPal) and their most expensive plan still limits merchants to 5,000 products. Now, while you’re able to build and design your own free eCommerce website, customization is barebones and Storenvy branding is compulsory unless you upgrade to a paid plan. On top of all those extra fees, Storenvy also takes a 15% commission fee on every sale you make that was either on their social marketplace or influenced by it – even if the purchase was made on your website. With Shift4Shop, there’s no forced branding, commission fees, or customization restrictions – you’ll have total control over your online business for a much better value.
VTex may seem tempting to small businesses and up-and-coming entrepreneurs because it is a powerful platform. Unfortunately, they seem to center their business model on larger more established companies. The minimum monthly rate for their services is a whopping $500, significantly higher than even some of the premium plans that other platforms offer. In exchange, they take a piece of the profits from your sales — a less-than-ideal for a large business, and a severe hindrance for a smaller one. These vexing excesses make VTex a textbook example of exactly what to avoid if you’re just getting started.
Weebly has a strong reputation as a great introductory website builder, and while it can be great for hobbyists and anyone looking to create a simple website, it's simply not enough to run a serious eCommerce business. Most Weebly users are drawn in by the promise of a free plan, but crucial eCommerce functionality like a shopping cart is absent unless you upgrade to Pro. Other essentials, like customer reviews and real-time shipping rates, require further upgrades, as do many other features — if they're even available at all. To expand on Weebly's small feature set you'll need to turn to their App Center, and even there, you'll notice many types of features are missing, leaving you out of luck if you were relying on them for your business. Add restrictive product limits, forced SEO-unfriendly URL structure, and other issues to the mix, and you'll quickly see that Weebly doesn't even compete with Shift4Shop for eCommerce functionality to grow your business.
WooCommerce is an open-source plugin for the WordPress blogging platform that allows you to add an online store to your website. It's free and very easy to use, but does require a lot of familiarity with WordPress and the ins and outs of its plugin system. WooCommerce has few out-of-the-box features which means you'll need to invest in expensive third-party plugins to expand your online store, and third-party plugins carry their own risks. Development can stop at any time and there's no guarantee all the plugins you use will work well together, so it takes a very knowledgeable WordPress expert to bring a WooCommerce store to a high level. Unfortunately, like several other free eCommerce options, WooCommerce is packed with unexpected expenses.
Zoey previously known as Pixafy, is an eCommerce platform that was created using another site-building platform, Magento. Like any copy of a copy, something seemed to get lost along the way. Several key features, including the CRM, are not included on any plan and cost extra. As for the plans themselves, any business interested in using Zoey for their eCommerce needs must already be booming. Their lowest price plan charges a whopping $299 per month, and even this plan is missing most of the essentials. To receive the full Zoey experience, one would have to pay $699 per month for the Advanced plan. One could also receive a substantially better experience at a lower price by simply skipping this platform altogether.
Every facet of Shift4Shop's platform is built to give you an edge, including our complete set of free marketing tools. You'll have access to features that let you implement all the marketing strategies the pros use, like special promotional events, coupons and gift cards, an affiliate program, a loyalty program with reward points, and more. Reach customers with the proven method of timed, optimized emails to build relationships and improve satisfaction.
Expand your audience further with Shift4Shop's advanced SEO tools, built right into the platform to make the technical aspects simple. Our social media integration lets you sell on Facebook, get pinned on Pinterest, and encourage customers to share your products with others.
At Shift4Shop, we can confidently say we offer a more complete set of marketing and SEO tools out of the box than any other platform, and they're built to help you make your mark.
It's not easy to convert a visitor into a shopper, especially today. Internet users only give a website about 5 seconds to make an impression on them before they decide to leave and look somewhere else.
But with Shift4Shop, you have a selection of attractive and compelling responsive themes that let you create a website built to convert - no programming necessary. No matter what "look" your brand requires, you'll find it in Shift4Shop's vast theme selection: just pick a design that works for your products and industry, and off you go.
Need further customizations to make your brand really shine? You'll have full access to the HTML and CSS used in your online store's design, giving you complete creative control over every pixel on every page. Make changes directly in your browser or do it through FTP, and enjoy absolute freedom of design.
Go a step further and add great features like a gorgeous Homepage Carousel, Recently Viewed Items, Quick View for products, and the Single Page Checkout that online shoppers love. Plus much, much more.
Shift4Shop's in-depth reporting features allow you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, so you can learn what to improve, and what works best.
Access detailed reports generated from the data automatically gathered and compiled by the Shift4Shop platform. In your Online Store Manager, you'll find reports relating to:
As a Shift4Shop store owner, you’ll always have the data you need to understand where your business is thriving, and learn what you can do better.
Shift4Shop makes store and product management easy with our intuitive web-based Online Store Manager. Log in from anywhere to create, edit, and manage your products however is needed, and organize them in as many categories as the situation requires.
You'll be equipped with a robust selection of features and tools built to make selling online easy — and fun, too. Upsell and cross-sell to boost sales, implement waiting lists for new products, let customers create shareable wish lists, and encourage interaction with product reviews and Q∓As. Sell physical products, digital downloads, or both.
Build attention-grabbing product pages with multiple images, dynamic zoom, and video. Selling products with lots of variants like color or size? Include them all with Shift4Shop's unlimited Product Options feature!
At Shift4Shop, we're always watching out for the next vital eCommerce feature so we can make it available to you right in your Online Store Manager.
Dealing with customer orders is easy with Shift4Shop. Quickly process, print, edit, and update customer orders from your easy-to-use Online Store Manager. Print shipping labels, process returns, take phone orders, and create customer groups for customized pricing levels.
Want to expand via dropshipping and reach the next level? Shift4Shop's built-in dropshipping feature makes setup easy. Smooth your operations out further by using our QuickBooks integration, which lets you instantly and automatically synchronize all your Shift4Shop orders and inventory with QuickBooks desktop.
From the smallest startup to the largest enterprise, Shift4Shop's order management system is designed to help you grow and hit all your targets. Built-in advanced reporting keeps you apprised of successful strategies, while other powerful tools like FraudWatch and eBay and Amazon Order Integration keep your online store on the cutting edge.
As a Shift4Shop store owner, you'll have access to a complete set of shipping features to help you get orders out the door without difficulty.
Connect your store to major shipping carriers through Shift4Shop's powerful integrations. Keep customers informed of shipping costs with real-time rates from carriers like USPS, FedEx, UPS, DHL and Canada Post, for no extra charge.
If flat-rate shipping is right for your business, you can set it up quickly with Shift4Shop. Offer rates based on order weight, item quantity, ZIP code, or total order value. Shift4Shop makes it easy to customize your shipping for your exact business needs.