Ecommerce Platform Comparison

*This article has been featured in Internet Marketing Magazine 

One of the worst mistakes a retailer can make is shack up with the WRONG ecommerce platform. Don’t find yourself wanting a divorce after only a couple weeks. The decision to go with a platform is a big one, and most likely you’ll hop on a few calls with several before you decide.

This ecommerce platform comparison is meant to provide general overviews (stereotypes, if you will) to send you down the path best suited for your business.

We compare 25 of the most well-known ecommerce platforms and shopping carts today on the basis of pricing, functionality, user-experience, and overall value. It’s important to check out the individual platform reviews for a more in-depth perspective:


Note: Our ecommerce platform comparison grades are based on the expectations of a medium-sized retailer. These types of retailers don’t have the resources to set up and run an enterprise-level ecommerce store but they also have more general and technical expertise than small retailers. Let’s review the criteria:

 

Jump to the top platforms in each category.


Ecommerce Platform Comparison:

Click through (on platform name) to see each platform’s individual review and see how we evaluated their grade. 

Ecommerce PlatformPricingFunctionalityUser-ExperienceOverall Value
Magento EnterpriseC+A+AA+
IBM WebSphereC+A+AA
DemandwareCA+AA
HybrisCA+A-A
ShopifyA-B+A+A-
Magento CommunityAAB+A-
Miva MerchantA-BBA-
CS-CartAA-C+B+
BigcommerceB-AA-B+
VolusionB+AC+B+
X-CartAB+C+B+
NexternalCB+B+B
Yahoo! StoresCB+B+B
AmeriCommerceBBB-B
Zen CartA+A-C-B
PrestaShopAACB
WooCommerceA+CAB-
OpenCartAB+C+B-
Magento GoB+C+A-B-
Amazon WebstoresC-B-B+C+
3dcartBB-C-C+
osCommerceA+C-C-C
VirtueMartACC-C
Big CartelA-DA-C-
UberCartAD-DD

Ecommerce Platform Snippets:

Here are the Cliffsnotes for each of the ecommerce platforms we reviewed. For a more in depth look straight from the source, click through to go to the actual platform’s website.

Main PointsMagento Enterprise Features
How much does it cost?$15,550/year; $77,990/year for Premium
How long have they been doing this?2008
What's their distinguishing quality? Ridiculously functional with powerful marketing features; Pricey (~$1300/month)
Main PointsIBM WebSphere Features
How much does it cost?~$26,000 and greater per year
How long have they been doing this?Since 2002
What's their distinguishing quality?Unrivaled platform sophistication and functionality; enteprise-level solution that doesn't charge transactional fees
Main PointsDemandware Features
How much does it cost?Varies by client, typically a small percentage of monthly sales (~1%)
How long have they been doing this?Since 2004
What's their distinguishing quality?Cloud-based enterprise-level solution
Main PointsHybris Features
How much does it cost?Starts at about ~$54,000/year
How long have they been doing this?Since 1997
What's their distinguishing quality?Extremely customizable enterprise-level solution; high deployment time; high fixed cost

Main Points Shopify Features
How much does it cost?$179/month for Unlimited Plan
How long have they been doing this?Since 2004
What's their distinguishing quality?Incredible store designs; Very high ease of setup and use
Main Points Magento Community Features
How much does it cost?Free
How long have they been doing this?Since 2008
What's their distinguishing quality?Open-source; Very high functionaliy but similarly high learning curve; Abundant learning resources
Main Points CS-Cart Features
How much does it cost?One time $395 licensing fee for Ultimate Plan
How long have they been doing this?Since 2005
What's their distinguishing quality?Open-source; Highly functional and modernly designed
Main Points Miva Merchant Features
How much does it cost?$129.95/month for Warehouse Plan
How long have they been doing this?Since 2004
What's their distinguishing quality?Highly affordable; Great functionality and flexibility for price
Main Points Bigcommerce Features
How much does it cost?$299.95/month for Unlimited Plan
How long have they been doing this?Since 2009
What's their distinguishing quality?Extremely functional; Modernly Designed; Powerful inventory management
Main Points Volusion Features
How much does it cost?$195/month for Platinum Plan
How long have they been doing this?Since 1999
What's their distinguishing quality?Can be considered the industry standard for all-in-one ecommerce solutions
Main PointsX-Cart Features
How much does it cost?For open source: one time $99-$1,495 license fee For hosted, cloud: $20 to $200 monthly fee
How long have they been doing this?2001
What's their distinguishing quality?Open-source OR Cloud hosted - very functional and modernly designed ecommerce solution
Main PointsNexternal Features
How much does it cost?Depends on monthly sales totals; 1% of sales for monthly online sales range of $100k-$500k
How long have they been doing this?Since 2000
What's their distinguishing quality?Experienced, robust, and every client gets their own dedicated AM
Main Points Yahoo! Stores Features
How much does it cost?$299.95/month for premium plan
How long have they been doing this?Since 1998
What's their distinguishing quality?Lots of industry experience; Very conventional
Main PointsAmeriCommerce Features
How much does it cost?$25 - $299 for full-service plans
How long have they been doing this?Since 2005
What's their distinguishing quality?Lesser known hosted, full-service platform that offers easy multi-store functionality
Main PointsZen Cart Features
How much does it cost?FREE for download AND plugins
How long have they been doing this?Since 2003
What's their distinguishing quality?PHP programming required; Completely customizable backend and highly affordable
Main Points Prestashop Features
How much does it cost?Free
How long have they been doing this?Since 2007
What's their distinguishing quality?Open-source; Very functional but requires extensive programming knowledge to reach full potential
Main PointsWooCommerce Features
How much does it cost?Free to Download
How long have they been doing this?Since 2011
What's their distinguishing quality?WordPress site required; Extremely easy to setup and get live (optimal for the retail business just starting out)
Main PointsOpenCart Features
How much does it cost?Free
How long have they been doing this?Since 2009
What's their distinguishing quality?PHP open-source solution; Affordable
Main Points Magento Go Features
How much does it cost?$125/month for Go Anywhere Plan
How long have they been doing this?Since 2011
What's their distinguishing quality?Capable solution for small retailers; Not as robust as Community, but much simpler
Main Points Amazon Webstores Features
How much does it cost?$39.99/month to sell only on own site PLUS fees
How long have they been doing this?Since 2010
What's their distinguishing quality?Seamless integration with selling on Amazon; Fee-heavy
Main Points 3dcart Features
How much does it cost?$129.99/month for Power Plan
How long have they been doing this?Since 2000
What's their distinguishing quality?Very conventional, affordable, lower-end all-in-one solution
Main PointsosCommerce Features
How much does it cost?Free to download, free add-ons
How long have they been doing this?Since 2000
What's their distinguishing quality?The oldest open-source ecommerce software out there; used to be the top solution but has since been surpassed by newer, more updated software; very bare-bones
Main PointsVirtueMart Features
How much does it cost?Free to download, relatively inexpensive extensions
How long have they been doing this?Since 1997
What's their distinguishing quality?One of the oldest open-source ecommerce plug-ins on the market; Only works with the Joomla CMS
Main Points Big Cartel Features
How much does it cost?$29.99/month for Titanium Plan
How long have they been doing this?Since 2005
What's their distinguishing quality?Extremely easy-to-use, limited solution for very small retailers
Main PointsUbercart Features
How much does it cost?Free to download
How long have they been doing this?Since 2006
What's their distinguishing quality?About as minimalist as you can get, only compatible on Drupal (CMS) sites

Check out the Top Ecommerce Platforms in Each Category Below:

These rankings do not include strictly enterprise-level solutions like Demandware, Hybris, and IBM Websphere Commerce. If you want more info on these, don’t hesitate to contact me directly at Jon(at)cpcstrategy.com .

Best Pricing: Ecommerce Platform Comparison

1. Zen Cart (A+) – The biggest costs you’ll have with setting up a Zen Cart shopping cart will be hiring a web/PHP developer and hosting. Zen Cart is unique in that not only is the shopping cart itself is FREE, but its plugins, all of which are completely customizable, are also FREE to download. Most open-source solutions make you pay for extensions/plugins, and the costs can really add up (ex. Magento Community).

2. PrestaShop (A) – PrestaShop is $FREE.99 to download. The open-source platform includes just about all of the fundamental ecommerce functions. All that retailers need to pay for are the Add-Ons, some of which, like Google Merchant Center, I definitely recommend. Prestashop tends to run a little cheaper with extensions than other open-source solutions.

3. Magento Community (A) – As another FREE open-source solution, Community will leave you paying for only web hosting and extensions (if you choose to add them). Ideally you would have this in-house, but it’s absolutely crucial to have an elite web development expert if you wish to make the most out of the software.

4. CS-Cart (A) – For a one time fee of $395, you’re paying a little for a lot. With the right web development resources and expertise, CS-Cart Ultimate gives retailers the tools to create an exceptional ecommerce store. Add-ons will mean extra spend, but Ultimate starts as a very robust package already. What’s best, you can always try the free version of Ultimate to get a feel for the software.

5. Miva Merchant (A-) – The Miva Merchant ecommerce platform is kind of absurdly cheap for the value you’re getting. Its premium plan, Warehouse, is $129.99/month for unlimited products and 40 GB data transfer, not to mention the many great features that come with a Miva store.

6. Shopify (A-)–  Shopify’s Unlimited plan offers just that, unlimited data storage, bandwidth, and products. For $179.99/month, that’s a valuable and highly flexible plan for a medium-sized retailer because they won’t even have to worry about transaction fees or other fees for exceeding bandwidth/storage space.

Note: I excluded Big Cartel because the Titanium plan, their premium plan that charges $29.99/month, allows for a maximum of 300 SKUs. This range is well below the needs of a medium-sized retailer.

Best Functionality: Ecommerce Platform Comparison

1. Magento Enterprise (A+) – Magento Enterprise is one of the most (if not the most) feature-packed and sophisticated platforms out there. Much of this functionality comes in its advanced marketing tools, including advanced customer segmentation, built-in email marketing, the ability to host private sales, and up-selling/cross-selling.

2. Bigcommerce (A) – Bigcommerce is nothing if not feature-rich. It includes everything you need for an ecommerce store and much more. Highly customizable and robust, Bigcommerce features a built-in product image zoom feature, wish lists, powerful inventory control, and the rest of the works.

3. Volusion (A) – From what I’ve seen, one of the marks of a highly functional ecommerce platform is a mobile integration feature that comes standard. Bigcommerce, Volusion, and PrestaShop all offer this, and of course much, much more. Like Bigcommerce and Prestashop, Volusion also offers advanced marketing and checkout features.

4. Magento Community (A) – Magento Community sets the sky as the limit in terms of how sophisticated you want your online store to be. BUT, Magento Enterprise wouldn’t exist if Magento Community was as good as it can get in all categories. Community will provide a retailer all the ecommerce essentials but the patchwork and seams will be felt in this optimization process.

5. PrestaShop (A) – PrestaShop has all of the base ecommerce functions but is also extremely customizable in terms of providing all the tools to make your ecommerce store as complete and advanced as you’d like. The fact that it’s open-source gives the retailer complete control over the store’s functionality.

Best User-Experience: Ecommerce Platform Comparison

1. Shopify (A+) – Hands down, Shopify provides the most user-friendly experience for a retailer.  Set up is intuitive and they’re perhaps most well-known for their highly responsive, industry-leading customer service. Shopify is one of the newest platforms and so when they began, they aimed to phase out all of the confusion that (unfortunately) typically comes with launching on a hosted platform.

2. Magento Enterprise (A) – You’re going to receive white-glove service from Magento for being an Enterprise client, and you should for as much as you’re paying. You can check out their support structure here. The only knock is their somewhat complicated admin interface.

3. Big Cartel (A-) – Though not optimized for medium-sized retailers, Big Cartel is still a highly user-friendly platform. It was designed for the retailer that knows next to nothing about selling online, and so it’s highly intuitive to launch a site and is accompanied by well-reviewed customer service.

4. Bigcommerce (A-)– Like Big Cartel, Bigcommerce was designed to be user-intuitive. One of its most redeeming qualities is its community forum, where users have a domain to discuss technical issues or seek advice.

Ecommerce Platform Comparison: Overall Value

According to our overall ecommerce platform comparison, these guys are the best. They get you the most out of your money, the best bang for your buck, the destination for a dollar well-spent. Looking at the numbers from this study comparing platform usage from October 2012 to February 2013, it’s not surprising to see that Shopify and CS-Cart are on the rise.

1. Magento Enterprise (A+) – With such functionality, it makes sense to consider Magento Enterprise only if you A) have the budget to adopt this software, B) have a consistently high-performing ecommerce store, & C) will have the expertise to actually use all the marketing functionality that Enterprise has to offer. I recommend Enterprise to retailers who are well-established in the ecommerce space and are looking for a big upgrade from their current hosted platform.

2. Shopify (A-) – Though perhaps not the most feature-rich or customizable, Shopify is the clear leader (and no, CPC Strategy doesn’t engage in affiliate marketing programs with ecommerce platforms) in the hosted ecommerce platform space. The platform will provide a retailer with all of the ecommerce essentials, a fantastic user-experience, and the tools to create a beautiful and unique store.

3. Magento Community (A-) – There’s a reason why Magento is so popular.  A huge thing to keep in mind is that Magento is serious, heavy business (probably the most on this list). With such a functional and flexible platform, retailers should determine if they really need all of the features and weight that comes with the software or if their needs could be satisfied by a more user-friendly platform.

4. Miva Merchant (A-) – The clear dark horse in this comparison, Miva Merchant offers tremendous value with an extremely affordable premium plan, advanced marketing tools, and high levels of customization. Many retailers have been sleeping on this option.

 

5. CS-Cart (B+) – As open-source software that allows for maximal customization, CS-Cart rather unconventionally combines a very intuitive user-interface with the software’s high level of sophistication. Though retailers will have to go elsewhere for hosting, this is nonetheless a very complete and powerful shopping cart solution.

6. Bigcommerce (B+)– Bigcommerce earns 5th highest praise because of the unique combination of great customer service and support as well as having an abundance of advanced and essential tools/features.

 

Don’t forget to check back in for new releases of ecommerce platform reviews.  In the meantime, take a look at our individual analyses for a more in-depth, opinionated look: