Best E-Commerce Platforms 2023: Pros, Cons, Pricing
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Every online business needs a digital presence. E-commerce platforms help shape how your business looks online and provide tools and services that help you manage it.
If you want a unique website with your own domain name, a platform with a built-in e-commerce website builder is a must. But if your business will rely on a marketplace like Etsy or Amazon for sales, setting up your online stores directly on one of those platforms might be a better fit.
The right e-commerce platform for you offers the features you need at a complexity level you can handle and a price you can afford.
Best e-commerce platforms at a glance
E-commerce website builder
Transaction and payment processing fees
What it's best for
Website builder plans start at $29 per month.
2.9% plus 30 cents per online sale if you use Shopify Payments. Transaction fees are reduced as you upgrade to plans with higher subscription costs.
Selling physical products on your own website and across the web.
Free plan available; paid plans start at $29 per month.
2.9% plus 30 cents per online transaction using Square.
Building a free e-commerce website with unlimited products.
Plans with e-commerce features start at $23 per month.
2.9% plus 30 cents per online transaction using Stripe; 3.49% plus 49 cents using PayPal.
Appointment booking and members-only content.
Free plan available; paid plans start at $10 per month.
One-time fee of 20 cents to list each product. Transaction fees of 6.5% plus Etsy Payments fees of 3% plus 25 cents per transaction.
Selling handmade goods, especially as a side hustle.
Free plan available; paid plans start at $9.99 per month.
2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction using Stripe; 3.49% plus 49 cents using PayPal.
Selling just a few different products at a time.
Free if you process at least $500 per month using Shift4.
Building a free e-commerce website with B2B features like custom pricing.
Starts at $29 per month.
Tiered pricing starts at 2.59% plus 49 cents per transaction using Braintree; otherwise, whatever fees your chosen payment processor charges.
Starts at $27 per month.
2.9% plus 30 cents using Wix Payments; otherwise, whatever fees your chosen payment processor charges.
Customizing your website extensively.
Shopify: Best e-commerce platform for product sellers
Shopify is a market leader in e-commerce. Its online store builder can help you set up your own website with a domain name. Then, you can sell products on that site and on other platforms and manage all your orders from a single dashboard. Shopify offers tools for web hosting, payment processing, inventory management, shipping and returns, marketing and more — most of what you’re likely to need if you sell physical products.
Who should use Shopify: Businesses selling physical products, especially in high volume, and want to sell on multiple platforms. Read NerdWallet's review of Shopify.
Unlimited product listings.
Inventory management, shipping, fulfillment and returns features.
Drag and drop website builder.
Multi-channel sales on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Google and Walmart.
No free version.
No native integration with Amazon.
Square Online: Best free e-commerce platform
Square Online is one of just a handful of free e-commerce website builders. Like Shopify, you can use Square to list an unlimited number of products. It’s not as customizable as Shopify and lacks B2B features, but offers core features like a website builder, social media integrations and payment processing that should be sufficient for many small businesses — especially those already using Square POS in their stores.
Who should use Square Online: Businesses already using Square to take payments in their brick-and-mortar businesses. Read NerdWallet’s review of Square Online.
Free plan available.
Unlimited product listings.
In-store pickup, in-house delivery and third-party delivery options.
Other Square software solutions for appointment scheduling, marketing, loyalty programs and more.
No direct integrations with Amazon, Walmart or eBay.
Few B2B features.
Squarespace: Best platform for service providers
Compared with Shopify and Square, Squarespace’s product sales features are somewhat limited — for instance, it doesn’t offer direct integration with other online marketplaces, and shipping label printing is only available if you use the U.S. Postal Service. But Squarespace offers advanced online appointment booking tools and helps you limit parts of your website to paying subscribers.
Who should use Squarespace: Businesses focused on selling services, whether they’re digital or in person, or content subscriptions. Read NerdWallet’s review of Squarespace.
Gated areas for members.
Native appointment bookings.
14-day free trial.
No direct integration with other online marketplaces.
No B2B features.
Etsy: Best e-commerce platform for crafters
If you shop for handmade goods, you’ve probably heard of Etsy — the platform is almost synonymous with arts and crafts. Etsy makes it easy to launch a store and list products even before your business is fully developed; for instance, you can change your shop name up to five times without support from Etsy. You’ll pay for that convenience with high transaction fees, though.
Who should use Etsy: People who make handmade goods as a hobby and want to reach a ready-made audience interested in buying arts and crafts.
Is known for handmade goods.
No need to build your own website.
Transaction and payment processing fees add up to 9.5% plus 25 cents per sale.
You’ll have to upgrade to a paid subscription for a dedicated URL.
Big Cartel: Best platform for small amounts of merchandise
Big Cartel is a bare-bones e-commerce platform. Its free version only lets you sell five products at a time, it doesn’t offer appointment booking or ticket sales, and you won’t have access to inventory management or marketing tools. But you can still list your products, offer promos and collect sales tax, and that’s enough for some businesses. If you only need to sell a handful of items at once, it may be a good choice.
Who should use Big Cartel: Businesses that only list a few products at a time, especially solopreneurs. Read NerdWallet’s review of Big Cartel.
Big Cartel pros:
No fees other than payment processing fees.
You can offer discount codes.
Shipment tracking information shared with customers.
Big Cartel cons:
Limits on product listings. The free plan includes just five products. The top plan, which costs $19.99 per month, caps your store at 500 product listings.
Must purchase your domain name from a third party.
Shift4Shop: Best e-commerce platform for B2B sales
You can use Shift4Shop to sell to individual customers, but it’s more notable as a B2B e-commerce platform thanks to features like custom pricing for recurring customers, pre-orders, wholesale pricing options and a wide variety of payment methods, including paper checks and money orders.
Shift4Shop is free for businesses that process at least $500 in monthly sales using Shift4, a payment processor. Shift4 doesn’t publish its pricing — you’ll have to contact that company for a quote to understand how much the software package will cost. Still, with no monthly fee, it’s potentially cheaper than competitors.
Who should use Shift4Shop: Businesses that generate most of their revenue from B2B sales and consistently exceed $500 per month in sales. Read NerdWallet’s review of Shift4Shop.
Wholesale and customer-specific pricing.
Wide variety of payment methods.
Pre-orders, which can also be used for event ticketing.
May require more setup work than B2C platforms like Shopify and Square, since some features are customized to specific customers.
No price transparency for payment processing.
BigCommerce: Best platform for omnichannel sales
BigCommerce is an e-commerce platform that can help facilitate omnichannel commerce — in which your business sells products on a variety of other platforms but manages inventory and revenue from a centralized dashboard. BigCommerce offers integrations with a wide variety of online sales channels, from eBay, Amazon and Google Shopping to Facebook, TikTok and Instagram.
Who should use BigCommerce: Businesses that focus on social media platforms and online marketplaces instead of selling on their own websites. Read NerdWallet’s review of BigCommerce.
Native integrations with many other sales channels.
Ability to set up additional storefronts and operate multiple brands.
Unlimited user accounts with all plans.
If you process payments with Braintree, you’ll begin to see payment processing rates drop as you upgrade to costlier subscription plans.
Maximum annual sales volume of just $50,000 with the cheapest plan.
Only a handful of free themes for customizing your website.
Wix: Most customizable e-commerce platform
Wix is an online store builder that offers dedicated features for fitness businesses, hotels and restaurants, so it’s worth exploring if your business operates in one of those industries. You can also use it to sell tickets, subscription products and gated content for members.
Beyond that, you can customize your Wix website in other ways too — you can choose whatever payment processor you like without additional fees from Wix, and the platform offers more than 500 free design themes. But you’ll need to rely on third-party apps if you want to sell on other platforms.
Who should use Wix: Businesses that want access to the largest number of choices for payment processing, website features and customization options. Read NerdWallet’s review of Wix.
Tools for selling not only physical products but also tickets, exclusive content, appointments and more.
Dedicated tools for fitness businesses.
Hundreds of free themes.
Your choice of credit card processing company.
Storage limits: The Basic plan includes just five hours of video and 50 GB of storage.
Third-party apps facilitate integrations with other marketplaces like Instagram and Amazon.
How to choose an e-commerce platform
Ask these questions when evaluating e-commerce platforms to choose the best one for your business.
How quickly do you want to launch your store?
Some e-commerce platforms make it easy to set up a shop, list a few products and go live — for instance, you can open up an Etsy shop in a matter of minutes. With others, like Wix, you’ll need to spend time exploring all the features available, choosing a theme and designing your site.
The more customization options a website builder presents, the longer it tends to take to get your store up and running. Try to set enough time to launch your store before the trial period ends so you can cancel if it’s not the right fit. On the other hand, the more infrastructure your e-commerce platform provides, the higher the fees tend to be.
What specialty features do you need?
Most e-commerce platforms can help you sell and ship physical products to individual customers. But if you need features beyond that — like subscriptions, appointment booking or B2B pricing — you may have to shop around.
In general, look for platforms that offer native, built-in tools instead of third-party apps. Apps can work well, but they may present data syncing issues and come with additional costs.
Do you want to be tied to a specific marketplace?
Etsy offers a built-in audience — lots of people already navigate directly to the website when they want to shop for a certain type of product. That can make it easy to experiment with running an e-commerce business before committing to it fully or establishing a specific niche. Amazon, Depop, eBay, Poshmark and other platforms occupy niches of their own.
But in exchange, these platforms charge much higher fees than e-commerce website builders. And if you choose to grow your business beyond those platforms, you may have to build a new website at that time. Weigh your current needs against your potential future ones as you evaluate your options.
How important is e-commerce compared with your other revenue streams?
If e-commerce is your primary source of revenue, it’s important to understand your sales and customers in as much detail as you can. Look for an e-commerce platform that offers detailed reports about what you’re selling and to whom. Also, look for SEO, social media and other online marketing tools that can help you compete in the crowded online space.
If you primarily focus on in-person sales, local marketing may be more important than emails or online ads. In that case, a platform like Big Cartel, Square or Etsy may make more sense — you can connect with customers in person, then hand them a business card with your URL for repeat business.
How much do you rely on omnichannel sales?
For some e-commerce businesses, a strong brand is paramount. They’re focused on drawing shoppers to their websites, completing sales and turning them into repeat customers. If that’s you, look for a website builder that allows you to create a site that looks uniquely yours — and can facilitate those repeated interactions with your customers via email marketing.
For others, though, the key is reaching the right customers at the right moment, wherever they happen to be shopping. If you’re dropshipping or operating multiple storefronts, omnichannel sales may be more important than building your own website. In those cases, look for an e-commerce platform that makes it easy to list products on a variety of sites but manage them centrally.