Start selling products or services online quickly and easily with our pick of the best ecommerce platforms
The best ecommerce platforms offer all the tools you need to create an online store through which to sell your products or services. With online retail sales worth over a hundred billion pounds every year in the UK alone, if you’re to get a piece of that pie then it’s essential that you build a presence for your brand online.
The type of ecommerce platform you choose will very much depend on your brand and business goals. So, whether you’re a small-time store with a few personalised or unique items you wish to bring to a wider audience, or an established small business that has ambitions of going global in the future – there’s an ecommerce platform out there to suit your needs and help you reach your goals.
Below, we set out the key questions to ask when making a decision about which ecommerce platform to go with, after which you’ll find a list of the platforms we consider best placed to help you create an online store that puts you on the path to success.
Best ecommerce platforms: At a glance
|Best all-round ecommerce platform
|Shopify (~From £19/mth)
|Check price at Shopify
|Best ecommerce platform for beginners
|Wix eCommerce (~From £14/mth)
|Check price at Wix eCommerce
|Best ecommerce platform for free plan
|Square Online (~From £0/mth)
|Check price at Square Online
How to choose the best ecommerce platform for you
When looking for an ecommerce platform to complement your entrepreneurial dreams, you need to ensure you find a good fit for you and your needs. We look at the questions you should ask before making your decision.
What type of product are you looking to sell?
It might seem like a simple question, but it’s important to consider the type of product or products you’re planning to sell. Different platforms are better suited to different types of product.
Are you looking to sell physical or digital products; services; or subscriptions? With the latter, for example, you might need functionality that enables customers to make online appointments, or book online video appointments. In each case you will need to drill down into the offering to check whether a platform will fulfil your needs.
How many products are you looking to sell?
What size of store are you looking to create? Are you looking to sell a few products, hundreds, or thousands of products? If it’s the former, is it with a view to expand in the future? The size of your store is important, because there’s little point investing in a platform that’s capable of selling tens of thousands of products when you only need room for a small catalogue, and vice versa.
The majority of platforms will state that you can sell “unlimited” products – which you can, but there will be a caveat. For example, check the amount of storage available with your choice of hosting plan. Once you exceed it, you won’t be able to add any more products without upgrading your storage. As such, if your package offers unlimited storage and unlimited products then you’re on to a winner. Some platforms – BigCommerce, for example – take a slightly different approach, basing their plans on sales rather than physical product numbers. This could work out well if you sell a lot of low-price items or a few high-ticket items.
What price should I be paying for an ecommerce platform?
Costs typically equate to size and features. The more storage and features you’re after, the more you’ll be paying. The best approach is to start by picking a plan that works for you now and will continue to serve your needs in the immediate future. Then have a look at what the platform has to offer if your business was to go boom. How well does it scale, and how does the price compare with other platforms? These considerations will help you make the right choice.
On the flipside, however, if you have a home or small business for which you have no plans to expand on a grand scale, then make your decision based on the best plan for your requirements today, with one eye on the next plan – just in case.
Don’t rush into a decision, because if you need to change to another platform further down the line, there could be a lot of work involved to migrate your business to another platform.
What else should I look out for?
An online store is great, but it won’t bring in the sales if no-one knows it’s there. As such, take the time to check out a platform’s SEO and marketing tools before making a final decision. Good SEO is crucial to being seen by search engines, and marketing is essential to make prospective customers aware that you exist.
Selling online means you’ll need to accept online payments. While most platforms will more than likely include all the major providers, ensure you pay attention to transaction fees and find out about any extra charges.
Finally, it’s important to consider ease of use, especially if you’re new to building websites and online stores. There’s always likely to be a learning curve when taking on an ecommerce platform, but opting for user-friendly platforms such as Wix eCommerce and Square Online will ensure you take the stress out of setting up an online presence.
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The best ecommerce platforms in 2024
1. Shopify: Best all-round ecommerce platform
Price when reviewed: From £19/mth (paid annually) | Check prices at Shopify
If you want an ecommerce platform that’s powerful, attractive and easy to set up then Shopify should be at the top of your list. It may not be the cheapest – prices rise steeply past the basic plan – or the most extensive, but it encompasses everything you need to manage and get a store online. It’s not a bolt-on or an add-on (although you can integrate it as part of an existing website); it’s a standalone website that’s an online store.
Ideal for all users, you can jump straight in, add your products, connect to your custom domain, and you can have your own exclusive branded store in no time at all. It’s relatively easy to use even for newcomers, thanks to its modular system, which allows you to quickly add new sections to a page and introduce elements that help showcase products.
There are plenty of tools for categorising and managing inventory, keeping track of customers, producing marketing emails, and creating discount codes and promotions. Plus, if you’re a developer as well as a designer, then there’s scope to customise on a more granular level.
Key specs – No. of plans: 3; No. of products: Unlimited; Free domain: No; Credit card rates: 2% + 25p, 1.7% + 25p, 1.5% + 25p; Free SSL certificate: Yes
2. WooCommerce: Best ecommerce platform for WordPress
Price when reviewed: From £32/mth (paid annually) | Check prices at WooCommerce
WordPress – for its many, many talents – doesn’t include an online store option as default for self-hosted sites. But, if you’re using WordPress.com then you can get quick access to a WooCommerce-powered store.
Both are effectively the same platform, but just take different paths to get started. If you have a self-hosted site then you can get the WooCommerce plugin for free and install it yourself. If you have a site through WordPress.com, then you can use a quick and simple wizard to get it installed. Here, you have the choice of two plans: Essential, for £32 per month with 50GB of storage; and Performance, at £55 per month and 200GB of storage.
The store basics for both plans are the same: you get unlimited admins, an ad-free experience, unlimited customer support via email, Premium themes, sales reports and Google Analytics. The same is true of payments, too. However, when it comes to products, the Essential plan doesn’t allow you to add a min/max order quantity, create product bundles or custom product kits, and you can’t offer product recommendations. Elsewhere, both platforms offer advanced SEO tools and custom order emails; but there are no loyalty point programs, referral programs or abandoned cart recovery on the Essential plan.
If you’re familiar with WordPress then the WooCommerce UI fits in neatly; but there’s a lot to learn, even for seasoned WordPress users. Thankfully, there’s plenty of hand holding to help you add products, choose a theme, set up payments, add shipping rates and connect a custom domain name. Once set up, it’s very much a matter of familiarising yourself with the different categories, such as Products, Customers, Payments, Analytics and Marketing. While WooCommerce isn’t as easy to use as platforms such as Wix, Square Online and Big Cartel, once you grasp the basics and beyond, you’ll fully appreciate its power.
Key specs – No. of plans: 2; No. of products: Unlimited; Free domain: No; Credit card rates: N/A; Free SSL certificate: Yes
3. Wix eCommerce: Best ecommerce platform for beginners
Price when reviewed: From £14/mth | Check prices at Wix
The thought of building an online store can prove a scary proposition for those who haven’t delved into the world of web design. But Wix eCommerce goes a long way to making it as simple as possible. It uses a set of questions to establish what you want from an online store, and guides you through the process from start to finish.
You can use the Wix website builder to create a site and add an online store, or start out with an online store and be up and ready to go quickly. You’ll need to choose between the Core and Business plans to include basic and standard ecommerce respectively. There’s the option to add advanced ecommerce with the Enterprise plan, but this is six times the price and isn’t aimed at your average user.
Whether you’re setting up to sell physical or digital products, adding new products is super easy. There’s the option to include images, video, descriptions, SKU codes, custom text and product options, plus you can operate through existing stores such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy and more with the help of third-party apps.
Key specs – No. of plans: 5; No. of products: Up to 50,000; Free domain: Yes; Credit card rates: N/A; Free SSL certificate: Yes
4. BigCommerce Essentials: Best ecommerce platform for sales-based stores
Price when reviewed: From $29/mth | Check prices at BigCommerce
BigCommerce started life as an enterprise ecommerce platform, making it an experienced player in the market. BigCommerce Essentials is its platform for small businesses, and brings all the benefits of a big business to a smaller setup. Offering a trio of plans with unlimited products, storage and bandwidth, the differentiator here is sales. Its cheapest package is the Standard plan that accommodates sales of up to 50K annually. Next comes Plus with up to $180K worth of sales, but at three times the price of the Standard plan. Finally, the third package is for $400K of sales, but this strays out of the small-business arena at nearly $300 per month.
BigCommerce is relatively simple to set up, but not as straightforward as packages such as Wix, Square Online and Shopify. This is mainly because making changes isn’t particularly intuitive, often requiring users to amend at the back-end, rather than edit at the store front.
As you might expect, then, it has comprehensive back-end product and inventory management features and tools for organising, tagging and filtering products. This will be perfect for those businesses dealing with thousands of products, but overkill if you have a portfolio of fewer than 100 products. Its payment solutions include: PayPal, Stripe, Barclaycard, plus Amazon, Apple and Google’s Pay schemes. Beyond the fundamentals, it includes decent tools for managing discounts and sales, bulk-buy discounts and shipping, marketing emails and campaigns.
Key specs – No. of plans: 3; No. of products: Unlimited; Free domain: No; Credit card rates: 1.20% + £0.30; Free SSL certificate: Yes
5. Big Cartel: Best ecommerce platform for small stores
Price when reviewed: From $0/mth | Check prices at Big Cartel
“Small” is the key word here. If you want to set up a simple store with very few products then Big Cartel is definitely a good place to start. Aimed at creatives, artists and musicians, it has a free Gold plan that delivers the perfect set of tools to get started. You can give it a test-run and see if it works for you.
Admittedly, you only get five products with the free plan, and only one image per product; but there’s the option to add a custom domain and customise your chosen template. Big Cartel keeps things simple on the design front, however, the templates are perfectly acceptable. There are only 16 templates to choose from, but if you have a developer mindset, then there is access to the Big Cartel Theme API.
Big Cartel accepts cards and PayPal payments, sends out shipment notifications, offers mobile apps for iOS and Android, and a real-time sales dashboard – an impressive selection of features for the grand price of nothing. However, you can up the ante to 50 products for $10 per month, which adds five images per product, Google Analytics and inventory tracking. The top-of-the-range package embraces all the same features, but allows up to 500 products for $20 per month.
Key specs – No of plans: 3; No of products: 5-500; Free domain: No; Credit card rates: N/A; Free SSL certificate: Yes
6. Square Online: Best ecommerce platform for free plan
Price when reviewed: From £0/mth | Check prices at Square Online
Square is an online payment provider, so it makes sense that it’s in the online store-building business. And, yes – Square Online does accept payments from Square. Aimed at making online selling easy, you get a choice of three plans. Unusually, there’s a free ecommerce plan; but, as you might expect, it’s a little limited next to the other two options.
Nevertheless, you can build a store using the Square Online website builder, sync with Square POS, sell on social media, and there’s no restrictions on product catalogues – because the more products you have, the more sales you’ll hopefully make. However, this means more transaction fees – currently 1.4% plus 25p, which is higher than the paid-for plans.
Square Online uses a six-step set-up process, which is easy to follow. You can start building your inventory, sort out a domain, introduce shipping rates and taxes ready to start selling online. There’s a decent range of built-in themes that could see you get your store up and running in hours, especially if you’re not one for too much tweaking.
Square Online is better equipped to handle physical and digital products, rather than services, and it’s simple to add products and organise them into categories. There is the option to set up and sell events or appointments as items, but other platforms go further if this is what you’re looking for.
Key specs – No. of plans: 3; No. of products: Unlimited; Free domain: Yes; Credit card rates: 1.4% + 25p, 1.4% + 15p (per UK card), 2.5% + 25p, 2.5% + 15p (per non-UK card); Free SSL certificate: Yes