Putting up an online store with quick and ease has never been a daunting task when it comes to the hosted e-commerce platforms.
As a type of software as a service (SaaS), a hosted e-commerce platform takes care of most of the technical details for you, releasing you from choosing a web hosting, payment processor and worrying about the site security.
Instead of hiring web designers or learning how to code, a hosted e-commerce platform features an ample amount of professional and powerful themes and templates that enable you to create beautifully –designed online store through simple clicks. Additionally, you are capable of fully controlling over your online store in every aspect, making a hosted e-commerce platform a preferred choice for small to medium-sized businesses as well as individuals who have little or no e-commerce development experience.
With the hundreds of hosted e-commerce platforms available, you might not know where to turn. In this article, we’ll introduce top 3 recommended solutions on the marketplace after spending tens of hours researching and trialing the various options.
With over one million active users, Shopify currently is dominating the hosted e-commerce platform industry.
Besides beautiful designs, Shopify features strong technical infrastructure to simplify the process of setting up a professional-looking online store and selling products and accepting payments on any device while keeping automatically updated inventory, orders and customer data.
Now, let’s dive into a deeper look into the pros and cons of using Shopify.
Responsively designed themes—Shopify Theme Store comes with a hundred stunning, fully customizable e-commerce website templates, amongst which many are created by world-renowned designers like Clean Themes and Pixel Union. All Shopify themes will automatically change to a specially, mobile theme, whenever your customers go to your store using smartphones.
Point of sale (POS) system— Shopify card reader gives the ability to securely accept Apple, Pay, Android Pay and credit cards in-store, on the go, and everywhere in between, meaning that you can sell anywhere your customers are.
Built-in SEO function—You can generate traffic from search engines via customizing the meta tags, H1 and title. There is also automatically generated sitemap.xml, social media integration, optimized page loading times and 99.99% uptime to make your Shopify store SEO-friendly.
Good security—Shopify enhances the security of your clients’ credit card via level-1 compliant. The hosted e-commerce platform also benefits you with daily backups, a free 256-bit SSL certificate as well as instant upgrades.
Premium customer support—24/7 quality support is another area Shopify scores big points on. You can get assistance from Shopify support team by email, livechat, and phone, in addition to the extensive Help Center and Discussion forums.
Not user-friendly migration away from Shopify—If you’re a developer or have the funds to hire one, it’ll be nothing difficult to migrate away from Shopify for further customization. If not, you’ll probably lose all of your data with it. Bear in mind that most of the functionality you enjoyed with Shopify, e.g. SSL, CDN, and templates will need to be developed in your new platform.
Not the most affordable option—Shopify offers three standard options, pricing varying from $29 to $299 per month. Though there is also very basic $9/mo plan, it supports selling on Facebook only.
When to consider Shopify
Shopify remains an ideal solution for beginners with conventional requirements. You can choose from five packages to suit different level of business needs. Importantly, Shopify allows for a 14-day free trial, no credit card required.
While not as popular as Shopify, BigCommerce has been powering millions of e-commerce websites for successful retailers in all over the world. The hosted e-commerce platform is much more than a website builder, it gives you all the features and tools to build beautiful online stores and streamline your online businesses.
No transaction fees—Unlike other industry leaders like Shopify, BigCommerce doesn’t charge transaction fees on all plans. The starter plan is relatively pricey at $29.95/mo regularly, you can save 10% to reduce to price to $26.96/mo when pay annually.
Beautiful designs—BigCommerce provides over 80 designs that are carefully curated and fully responsive and help your brand stand out from competition. Along with that is an intuitive storefront editor and an unique SaaS local development environment to help customize your site.
Unmatched performance—BigCommerce takes care of website hosting and security for your, with an average uptime of 99.99%, optimized page loads, Level 1 PCI compliance, multi-layered security, DDOS protection, and a dedicated SSL via BigCommerce.
Easy integration with powerful e-commerce apps—Featuring an industry-leading selection of third-party apps and integrations, such as eBay, Amazon, Facebook, Google Shopping and Pinterest, BigCommerce lets your store seamlessly connect to the software you need to sell effectively.
Normal technical support—Despite BigCommerce promises 24/7 live agent support in each plan, a number of users complain about the less than 24-hour service.
Lack of free themes—BigCommerce currently offers 7 free themes only, while most its immediate competitors are able to offer over 20 free themes.
When to consider BigCommerce
If you’re looking to have a full-fledged store but don’t want to deal with integrating plugins, editing HTML/CSS or other code, BigCommerce is an ideal option for you. And if you’re willing to compromise a bit on themes while saving on the incremental transaction fees, BigCommerce can be an alternative to Shopify at roughly the same pricing.
With its feature richness and smart pricing models, Volusion is built with a specific focus on helping startups build e-commerce ecosystem easily. As of today, shoppers spent more than $26 billion and placed over 185 million orders on Volusion e-commerce websites.
Cheapest shopping cart—Volusion offers one of the best cheap cart to provide abandoned cart recovery, as this features comes with the Mini plan at only $15/mo. Furthermore, you can save 10% off the monthly plan by making a single payment yearly. Additionally, there is a free, 14 day trial allowing you to test the waters.
Professionally designed themes—Volusion offers 38 premium and 11 free themes that are crafted by professional designers and each is beautiful, fully responsive, easy to customize and designed to sell more.
State-of-the-art SEO—From customizable metadata, search-friendly URLs to sitemap indexing and Robots.txt, Volusion includes everything you need to keep your site optimized and searchable.
Deal of the Day feature—Enabling a Deal of the Day feature to keep customers coming back to your store for more. It makes it possible for you to either advertise on your storefront or via emails and social media alike cost-effective efforts.
No free SSL certificate included—Volusion do have SSL certificate solutions to protect your business and boost customer confidence by encrypting the most sensitive information, but you need to pay extra money for it. The starter price is set at $89/yr.
Some features are exclusively offered to higher-paying customers—Despite of normal resources like bandwidth, products and support, Volusion requires you to upgrade your plan to unlock more features, for instance, CRM, Ebay & Amazon integration and import/export.
When to consider Volusion
Volusion could be the preference of those with prior web designing knowledge, or those looking to get their hands dirty learning about the more technical aspects of building a site.