Starting an e-commerce website in 2019 is no big deal.
There is a multitude of tools and services that let you set up a web page and go online in a matter of minutes.
Now, surviving and thriving in the highly competitive world of online trade is an entirely different thing.
Simply being online and showcasing your products won’t cut it in 2019. You have to WOW the visitors and command their attention. Your website should look stunning and make them want to click and explore more.
Today we are going to talk about the best e-commerce website builders. They are not the usual topic of discussion here at the Hosting Tribunal, but even we have to admit that hosted e-commerce platforms have their merits.
They are the first step in building a successful online brand image, so you have to ensure you pick the right platform for the job. I narrowed the shortlist to five names and prepared a detailed comparison so you can see which one best fits your needs.
Here are the contenders:
BigCommerce is a hosted e-commerce solution, which is flexible enough to support businesses of every size. Founded back in 2009, the company gained quick recognition and now ranks among the leaders in the online shopping industry. Top e-commerce sites like Toyota, Hush Puppies, Fujitsu, and Skullcandy all trust the quality of BigCommerce.
- Free Trial
The service developers offer a fully-featured 15-day free trial. You can put any product on display, priced from $1 to $100,000, and enjoy the same 24/7 support every paying BigCommerce client receives.
- Ease of Use
Usability is one of the most crucial competitive advantages a web builder should pursue. Even entry-level customers should be able to get a store up and running without much hassle, and BigCommerce duly follows that principle.
Setting up a store with this online store builder is child’s play. BigCommerce is a cloud-based hosted platform, which means you don’t need to download or install anything yourself. Just sign up for the service, log in to your account, and you are good to go.
Once inside, you will notice a stylish and comprehensive dashboard, full of features and settings. But BigCommerce doesn’t want you to feel overwhelmed from the get-go, so everything is explained abundantly clear. Choosing designs, adding products, managing orders, taxation — every aspect of the online trade is available for you to tweak.
BigCommerce, along with Shopify, is undoubtedly the most feature-rich e-commerce website builder. Out of the box you can set up and manage every step of the shopping process — from the stunning visuals which will immediately dazzle the visitor, all the way to the end of the checkout process.
Let me just highlight the following:
- Product management
- Order management
- Shipping charges
- Multiple payment methods
- Third-party app integrations
- Discounts and coupon codes
The BigCommerce developers offer multiple support communication channels for every user that needs their help. Even the best e-commerce sites might benefit from the occasional overhaul, and the support team is right there when you need them. The 24/7 assistance includes:
– Live chat
The best thing is that you get the same level of support even with the free trial. I strongly advise you to take advantage of that fact and contact the team with all your questions — this is the best way to confirm if they will fulfill your needs in the long run.
BigCommerce goes the extra mile and regularly releases helpful tutorials and articles in the endless pursuit for the crown of ” The Best Website Builder.”
For starters, BigCommerce can easily integrate with major online outlets like Amazon, eBay, and Facebook Shop, so you can fully maximize your audience reach.
The extensive built-in features facilitate an effortless learning process. Even the least tech-savvy shop owners will be able to start their online business in no time and start raking in profits.
Speaking of profit, BigCommerce does not collect any transaction fees or extra charges per order. This means you can maximize your revenue without having to boost the prices.
All the trendy dedicated e-commerce website builders understand the crucial role of mobile optimization and BigCommerce makes no exception. The developers take pride in the responsive designs and guarantee your website will look just as good on a mobile screen, as it will on the computer.
E-commerce website builders such as BigCommerce also come equipped with CDNs so customers from anywhere in the world can quickly access their store without interruptions.
Over 5,000 extensions pamper the users and create a whole new pool of opportunities. Any advanced feature that you are missing in the standalone version of BigCommerce, most probably can be found in a plugin.
The BC team makes sure you never miss anything. You can find in-depth reports about your whole e-commerce website activity, customer base, and billing information.
BigCommerce appears mainly focused on features and user experience, so the designs are somewhat limited. You can pick between 7 free themes and if you don’t like them — paid options start from around $150. Provided that developers did try to offer fully-designed and ready-to-use layouts, a wider array of free themes would have been nice.
BigCommerce might not be the cheapest e-commerce site builder, with Standard plans starting from $29.95/mo. Big businesses might quickly outgrow these packages and find themselves in need of an Enterprise solution, where monthly investments can even exceed $1,000.
BigCommerce deserves the top spot on this list, mainly because of the stellar overall performance and a wide range of customization options right out of the box. Shop owners can enjoy the service regardless of their technical know-how, and there are adequate plans for businesses of any size.
BigCommerce looks great across-the-board, so it’s certainly in the running for the best website builder.
Starting off with a team of 5 in a local coffee shop and growing to over 4,000 — Shopify’s success story speaks for itself.
This dedicated bunch has put an immense amount of effort into perfecting the user experience, and it definitely shows. Over 800,000 business owners trust Shopify with their websites, and you can find big names like Budweiser, The Economist, and Tesla, all running successful stores with the service.
- Free Trial
Shopify comes with a 14-day free trial, no credit card required. You get two weeks to thoroughly explore one of the best e-commerce website builders and see if the basic plan fits you or you need a more powerful package.
- Ease of Use
When you sign up for Shopify, you are prompted to answer a handful of short questions, which determine the best settings for your store. Once inside, a terrific-looking interface is at your disposal, ready to guide you through the seemingly scary process of building your first online shop.
When it comes to pleasing the novice user, it doesn’t get much better than what Shopify has to offer. Every little setting has a comprehensive explanation, so you don’t get confused along the way. Orders, clients, products, and billing — everything you need to know on how to build an e-commerce website is well within your grasp.
Shopify can rightfully take pride in their feature department. Even with the Basic plan, you can enjoy a ton of useful options like free SSL certificate, abandoned cart recovery, and fraud analysis.
The Point of Sale (POS) is a particular highlight for Shopify, allowing business owners to sell products and receive secure payments from locations and vendors around the world. Available in all paid plans, this option presents a brilliant opportunity to introduce your brand and products to a broader audience.
Many e-commerce website builders include store analytics, but Shopify takes that to the next level. The platform tracks and summarizes vast amounts of statistical information so you can micromanage every little detail of the selling processes.
Rarely can you find client support through as many channels as Shopify has to offer. The 24/7 assistance spans across live chat, email phone, and even Twitter. As if that’s not enough, you can spend hours in the knowledge base, reading helpful guides and learning new tricks on how to improve your e-commerce website even more.
The site builder easily integrates with thousands of third-party apps, which is excellent, but that also comes at a price. Should an external add-on stops working, the Shopify team won’t be able to provide much help.
Shopify excels in the design department as well. The developers have released 10 free and 60 paid themes (ranging from $140 to $180), but there are hundreds more available around the Web. The templates are also highly customizable, so with a bit of CSS knowledge, you can do wonders to the visual outlook of your store.
Shopify ranks among the best website builders for e-commerce in terms of versatility. Benefits like Point of Sale, dropshipping setup, and free SSL often tip the scales when users need to come to a final decision.
You are free to use your own domain with Shopify, but in case you don’t have one — you can quickly start an online business with a subdomain like yourshop.shopify.com.
We already praised the extent of client support you can get with this site builder. The growing and active community that evolved around Shopify is another reassuring fact. Users from all over the world are ready to lend a helping hand and share some invaluable experience when you need it.
The Shopify e-commerce website builder is reasonably priced, at $29/mo for the Basic package. The best thing is that you can start with an even more affordable option — there is a Lite version at $9/mo which still allows you to get the most of building your first online store.
Shopify certainly ranks high, but is it perfect?
A major setback for businesses, especially the ones making a lot of low-cost sales, is the added transaction fee if you don’t use the internal payment system. Credit card fees are also relatively higher, compared to other e-commerce website builders, like BigCommerce. Add that to the extra costs that quickly pile up when you decide to purchase additional plugins and themes, and you already have to start digging deep in your pockets.
Advanced store customization might also prove cumbersome if you are a newbie user. Shopify employs a proprietary markup language called Liquid, based on the Ruby on Rails framework. That might already sound very exciting if you are a developer, but people that lack a certain level of technical knowledge will easily be lost and confused.
Shopify is unquestionably high up in the ranking for the best e-commerce website builders, especially for small and mid-sized businesses. A wide range of features and comprehensive dashboard make up for an effortless first-time experience with site building.
Unexpected extra fees are a significant drawback to consider, but if you believe the investment is worth it — definitely give Shopify a go.
Wix is a fully hosted site building service, which means you won’t need a dedicated hosting provider to get your shop up and running. Wix launched their platform in 2006, and it quickly turned into one of the top website builders you could find. Restaurants and healthcare websites often take advantage of the Wix services, but Retail is also on the rise, with over 10,000 businesses trusting this site builder with their shops.
- Free Trial
Wix in itself is a free service so you can build and maintain a website without paying a dime. However, we are reviewing only the platform’s online shop capabilities, and for that, you will require a premium plan. Upgrading to a paid package comes with all the features needed to build e-commerce websites and grants you 14 full days to fiddle with your new account. Should you decide to cancel in the meantime — you get a full refund.
- Ease of Use
Wix initially started as a simple drag-and-drop site builder, and despite all the transformations since its early days, simplicity and ease of use remained as core values. If you have absolutely no idea about website design and customization (and you don’t really want to) – this is definitely a platform for you.
This e-commerce website maker makes it effortless to create or edit your shop on the go, from both PC or mobile. Wix is employing the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor. If you have ever dabbled with the world’s most popular CMS, WordPress, you already know just how easy it is to operate it. And if you haven’t — nothing to worry about — you will soon realize that every image, text or section can be dragged and dropped to the position you see fit.
Once you feel it all looks good — you just hit the Publish button, and your shop goes live!
You can’t claim to be the best website builder without having all the neat features to back it up. So let’s see what Wix hides under the hood.
- beautiful storefront
- inventory tracking
- coupons and discounts
- worldwide shipping and taxes
- multiple payment methods supported
Right off the bat, it seems that Wix provides everything you need for your future online shop. The platform might not be as feature-packed as BigCommerce or Shopify but still covers all the essentials. Some wonderful additional perks include a secure shopping cart, promo ribbons, and personalized thank-you messages.
Wix isn’t just an online store builder. The platform supports a much wider range of services — domains, hosting, themes, plugins, emails, updates. Now imagine maintaining so many things without round-the-clock client assistance — doesn’t sound very reassuring, right? This is why I was a little surprised when I started “digging” for a live person with some sales questions and wasn’t able to find one.
Don’t get me wrong — I love Wix’s extensive knowledge base, community support, and video tutorials — they are genuinely impressive.
Be that as it may, sometimes you just need to get a hold of a live support person. Whether it’s for a quick query or a specific issue you are having, live assistance is a must nowadays if you want to compete for the best website builder of 2019.
You can take advantage of phone support with Wix, but it is not 24/7 available. Reaching them is also needlessly complicated — you need to fill out a form online and request a callback in a suitable time.
Live Chat is not supported at the moment, which is definitely something the developers should consider.
If you are just beginning your journey in site building, you will definitely find Wix very attractive. Everything is self-explanatory, and even the in-built editor contains a lot of tips and extra information. You set up a shop and make your first sale in less than a day.
Wix is an e-commerce website builder that strongly benefits from extra components. The Wix template gallery and app market are growing by the day and tempt store owners into a whole new world of design and customization options. With over 500 templates and thousands of apps, both free and premium, you can easily skyrocket your shop to success.
Affordability is a key selling point, so Wix ensures that new clients will get the best bang for their buck. Basic e-commerce plans start from around $20/mo and come with 20GB storage, unlimited bandwidth, and a free domain for one year. More than enough resources to establish a store and build a business at minimum cost.
All the top e-commerce sites have one thing in common — uniqueness. Chances of getting to that level without any custom modifications or design are close to zero. So while Wix seems a perfect choice for the newbie user, it is a bit too rudimentary if you want to dabble with advanced customizations.
Wix isn’t strictly an e-commerce site builder, so larger businesses won’t find it scalable enough. The developers do offer a VIP plan and enterprise options, but they still can’t match the capabilities.
The Wix.com e-commerce website builder does a fantastic job in supporting small businesses and ensuring their effortless entry in online shopping. Simplicity and affordability are particular highlights, but if you are looking for something more in-depth, there are better choices out there.
Weebly is a hosted site builder which was introduced back in 2007 and now powers millions of web pages. Similar to Wix, the Weebly services are not geared just towards online shops, but all kinds of websites.
- Free Trial
Weebly offers a 30-day money back guarantee, which is not exactly a free trial, but still significantly lowers the risk of losing money if you are unhappy with the e-commerce site builder.
- Ease of Use
Weebly requires no previous coding experience which is great news for beginners. Initial store setup is a breeze with the helpful guides. The same goes for template customization — there are useful tips and pointers which accompany you all the way.
While very flexible, Weebly is a tad harder to get a grip on, compared to Wix for example. I am just nitpicking here, overall both platforms are quite user-friendly and easy-to-operate, but Wix has got the slightest edge due to its less restrictive nature.
Weebly rightfully ranks among the best e-commerce website builders and the wide range of features is one of the main reasons why. A successful online store should be attractive, but should mainly look to serve its owner. The Weebly developers understand that and make sure you are not missing a thing:
- product configurator
- client and order management
- SEO options
- multi-store support
- campaigns and promotions management
…and that’s not even half of it.
The Weebly e-commerce site builder has a dedicated plugin section which regularly updates with new and exciting tools to supercharge your store.
All premium Weebly plans include chat, email, and phone assistance. The support team is available only during business hours, but there are a ton of helpful guides and articles at your disposal. The loyal community adds value to the Weebly support and can often save you the efforts of trying to contact them.
Live assistance doesn’t seem available if you are not logged in, but you can always get some pre-sales queries answered from the community forums or through social media channels.
Weebly has a lot of valid arguments for the title of “best online store builder.” Perhaps the main one comes with the affordability of their e-commerce packages — for only $12/mo you get your account, free domain and $100 credit in Google Ads. What better way to dip your toes in the online retail game without significant investments?
Another highlight of the Weebly service is how smooth and easy it is to navigate through all the options and build an attractive shop. Thousands of extra tools and templates can complement your site building efforts and adding them through the dashboard is a piece of cake.
Speaking of templates, the Weebly gallery is so abundant, it can easily overshadow the offerings of most dedicated e-commerce website builders. All of them are mobile-responsive, and you can easily switch between them should you need to.
Weebly suffers from some of the same problems as their closest rivals at Wix. If you are looking for advanced store modifications or code changes — Weebly just won’t cut it. Their main target audience consists of startups and smaller businesses, so it’s only natural that most efforts are focused on their needs.
Weebly performs online backups, but should you need them, you are in for a surprise. You have to wait for the support team to restore your backup and, as we mentioned, they are not available 24/7. This does not sound very promising if you want to compete for the best website builder on the market.
Weebly ranks similar to Wix in terms of their ease-of-operation and helpful guides. Small business owners will definitely find Weebly flexible enough to start a captivating online shop.
You can rightfully call Squarespace a “vintage” site builder. The company was founded way back, in 2003, and have grown to the impressive 880 employees in three international offices today. In 2018 Squarespace was voted #1 New York-based employer by the recruitment website Hired.com.
- Free Trial
You can opt-in for a 14-day free trial which gives you access to almost all Squarespace features. While you can build e-commerce websites, you cannot publish them live or have the search engine robots index the pages.
- Ease of Use
Squarespace has a rather steep learning curve, especially compared to other site builders like BigCommerce and Shopify. The in-built editor seems straightforward enough but lacks the additional pointers that beginner users love so much.
Still, if you have previous experience with e-commerce stores or content management systems like WordPress, you won’t find the Squarespace navigation so cumbersome.
Squarespace clients enjoy a relatively rich set of features with their premium accounts. Is it enough, though? Remember, the big question here is:
What is the best online store builder?
So while Squarespace premium plans guarantee you a free domain, SSL, and unlimited product support, they fall behind the top competitors. Still, some of their most notable benefits include:
- No transaction fees
- Integrated accounting
- Orders API
- Products on Instagram
Squarespace developers have compiled an extensive knowledge base with articles covering most popular queries. Should you need some extra help, you can contact the email support 24/7 or try your luck with the live chat, which is available Monday-Friday, 8 am to 4 pm EST. Phone assistance is not available.
The Squarespace e-commerce website builder lauds a very detailed analytics section, especially for a platform not solely dedicated to retail stores. Shop owners will find great benefit in the advanced sales and marketing reports when determining their overall business strategy.
Squarespace ranks well in the Design department as well. The company has a dedicated team of designers, which regularly releases elegant and stylish themes. While not fully customizable, much of the template content is modifiable.
Squarespace is deservedly among the top website builders, but there is definitely room for improvement. Main rivals, like BigCommerce and Wix, are way ahead in terms of features, navigation, and third-party app integration.
PayPal and Apple Pay are the only supported payment methods. As store owners are progressively looking for ways to cater to a broader audience, offering just two vendor options seems like an unnecessary limitation.
Squarespace services come with some impressive feats, but complete beginners might find the platform clunky at times. Still, I wouldn’t rule them out, solely based on their experience and good reputation.
Ok, time to summarize our findings.
We thoroughly analyzed the ins-and-outs of the best e-commerce website builders on the market and found out the following:
- BigCommerce wins the overall competition, barely edging Shopify.
- Shopify and Wix best cater to startups and SMEs.
- Wix and Weebly are the most affordable to start with but lack the advanced features of BigCommerce.