Best eCommerce Platform: Magneto vs. Shopify vs. Volusion vs. BigCommerce

bestecommerceplatformChoosing an eCommerce platform is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when running an online business. The right platform should be empowering, not encumbering. It should give you the tools you need to run your business and take care of all the messy technical stuff by itself.

You can learn to build an eCommerce store by yourself, or you can use one of the four eCommerce platforms reviewed below

1. Magneto

With over 200,000 installations, Magneto is among the most popular eCommerce platforms in the world. It is free, open-source, and counts Nike, Warby Parker, and Paul Smith among its clients. As a highly scalable, powerful platform with a huge library of existing extensions, it is particularly suitable for startups and traditional retailers looking to make the jump online.

The Good

  • Free: Free is always good, whether its hugs or eCommerce platforms.

  • Scalable: The architecture is designed for scalability with in-built support for most payment gateways. Little wonder that Magneto is often called the “platform for growth”.

  • Open-Source: Magneto is widely supported by individual as well as corporate users. This means widespread availability of thousands of useful extensions.

  • SEO: Magneto is SEO ready right out of the box. It creates search engine friendly, keyword rich URLs and includes extensions to generate meta data automatically.

The Bad

  • Customization: Although you can choose from a huge library of existing extensions, developing your own customizations can be difficult. The Magneto code base is very unforgiving and complex – newbies strictly not welcome.

  • Size: A default Magneto installation includes thousands of files and hundreds of database tables. This is mostly unnecessary for small e-tailers who just want a footprint online.

  • Performance: Magneto’s large installation size and scalability-first architecture places significant stress on conventional hosts. You will need a special Magneto compliant host to run your website smoothly. This can easily add several hundred dollars in additional costs every year.

  • Self-Hosted: Magneto is a self-hosted solution. This means you’ll have to host it on your own servers. This can be very useful for large businesses, but terribly complicated for small retailers who just want a place on the internet.

Price: Free

Major Users: Nike, Overstock Deals, Warby Parker, Paul Smith, Harper’s Bazaar

Perfect For: Large businesses with thousands of products who want an online footprint and have the resources to create custom stores.

Using Magneto? Learn the basics of setting up an eCommerce website using Magneto in this course.

2. Shopify

Shopify is a beloved platform among small retailers and startups that want an easy to use, easy to setup eCommerce store.

The Good

  • Hosted: As a hosted solution, setting up Shopify is extremely easy. An experienced user can even get started in minutes. All the technical details of self-hosted solutions (like Magneto) – setting up host, installing software, handling scaling and performance – are taken care of by Shopify itself so you can focus on running your business.

  • Easy to Use: Using Shopify doesn’t require a degree in Computer Science. It’s easy enough for beginners to start on their own and customize as they go along.

  • Customer Support: Shopify operates a 24×7 support center that’s well equipped to handle all sorts of queries.

  • Marketing: Shopify offers a range of in-built marketing features, from one-click landing page creation to blogs and custom SEO.

You can learn more about the basics of starting an eCommerce business in this step-by-step tutorial.

The Bad

  • Price: The Shopify Unlimited plan starts at $179/month – a big sum, even with integrated hosting.

  • Transaction Fees: Shopify charges a transaction fee for the Basic and Professional plans – 2.0% and 1.0% respectively. In low-margin retail businesses, this can eat up the profits very quickly.

  • Customization: While Shopify does a great job with its add-on library, creating your own custom plugins and extensions can be very tricky.

  • Migration: If you cancel your Shopify account, your entire store and relevant data is deleted permanently. This lock-in feature can be a big deterrent if you want to move your store elsewhere.

Price: Starting at $29/month

Major Users: HardGraft, SMS Audio

Perfect For: Small businesses that want a simple, easy to use system with strong built-in designs.

3. Volusion

Volusion is often hailed as the industry standard for self-hosted eCommerce platforms. First launched in 1999, it has certainly been around long enough to earn that reputation. With a huge customer base and more than a decade’s experience, Volusion is one of the platform choices for your website.

The Good

  • Design: Volusion boasts an extensive collection of pre-built store designs. Not only are they stunning to look at, Volusion’s designs also adhere to the latest web design trends and standards.

  • Marketing: Transforming a Volusion store into a marketing juggernaut is easy, thanks to features like search engine friendly design, ability to sell daily deals (like Groupon), coupon codes, sell products on Facebook, create email newsletters, etc.

  • Hosted: Like Shopify, Volusion is a hosted solution. This means you can focus on running your store instead of dealing will the pesky technical details.

  • Mobile Friendly: The central rule of business success is to be where your customers are. In 2013, this means the mobile phone. Every Volusion store comes with a mobile-friendly website built right in so you can tap every customer, every hit.

The Bad

  • Hosting: With a hosted service, your store’s performance is dependent on the vagaries of the service’s servers. Volusion’s servers are notorious for going down periodically, which ultimately affects your business.

  • Customer Support: While Volusion support is more than competent to handle your business queries, it fails the meet the bar when it comes to technical questions.

  • Price: Although you can get starter plans for as little as $15/month, you’ll need at least the Gold plan – which costs $125/month – for running any decent sized store.

Price: Starting at $15/month

Major Users: National Geographic UK, Kammok, ShadesDaddy

Perfect For: Small to medium sized businesses who know their way around a web page and want to leverage third party apps.

4. BigCommerce

BigCommerce is one of the more prominent all-in-one eCommerce and shopping cart solution. It is favored by young startups and small retailers that value ease of use, reliability and affordability.

The Good

  • Price: The standard Gold plan starts at just $79.95/month. Small stores with less than 100 products can even start at $24.95/month.

  • SEO: BigCommerce ticks all the right boxes when it comes to SEO. You get automatic XML sitemap generation, search-friendly URLs and site hierarchy right out of the box. There’s also deep integration with newsletter service, iContact, for creating email marketing campaigns.

  • Mobile Friendly: The platform was revamped in the last couple of years to favor mobile commerce. You get a free mobile friendly website built right in, meaning you can sell more and lose fewer customers.

  • Ease of Use: BigCommerce’s strongest feature is its ease of use. You can get started right away with zero prior eCommerce or web design experience.

The Bad

  • Designs: Design isn’t one of BigCommerce’s strong suites. While most built-in templates are solid, they do give off a slightly web 2.0 era vibe. Features such as responsive layouts and flat designs are still missing.

  • Limited Third-Party App Support: Unlike Shopify or Volusion, BigCommerce’s built-in app library is very limited. While BigCommerce’s native features more than make up for this lack, you might run into some problems if you rely heavily on a third party solution.

  • Customization: BigCommerce is designed for easy setup. This ostensibly means that more complicated features and options have to be hidden away, which makes extensive customizations difficult. Power users will find this especially frustrating.

Price: Starting at $24.95/month

Major Users: TravelKiddy, Hungrz, Supermuse, BrookFarm

Perfect For: Small businesses where ease of use and setup are a priority.

Building and customizing an eCommerce store isn’t easy, but with courses like you can get started in by building an eCommerce store from scratch in no time.

What are your personal favorite eCommerce platforms? We’d love to know! Share them with us in the comments below.

Comments

  1. Mark Macdonald says:

    Hi Kasia,

    Mark from Shopify here. Thanks for taking the time to review Shopify and offer your feedback. A few things I would like to clarify for your readers who might be considering our commerce platform:

    Price: We offer a range of plans. For those looking for a more affordable option, our Starter Plan is just $14 a month.

    Transactions Fees: Shopify has zero transaction fees if you use Shopify Payments as your payment processor.

    Customization: None of the HTML or CSS is off limits in any of our themes. Users can customize anything they want. And, as you mentioned, we have over 400 apps in the Shopify App store.

    Migration: We do not delete an data if you move away from Shopify. We simply freeze your account which you can always come back to and reactivate later with all your products and settings waiting there for you.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I would highly stick away from BigCommerce. We are in the process of trying to move away as soon as possible from them.

    Despite this company being in business for a number of years now, their software remains plagued with bugs and they have brought out close to zero features in the last year despite having an "Ideas" section on their website now.

    Their transparency is terrible. They cannot provide dates on rectifying SEVERE bugs, some of which we reported up to a few years ago. Their priorities amaze us. A lot of their support is outsourced to Eastern Europe and the Philippines who do their absolute best to not ESCALATE tickets when they are BUGS. I have been told a few times on bugs that "this hasn't been reported by others", implying that certain bugs reported are simply not bugs and it is somehow user error.

    System administrators who are the only ones that can resolve issues only work during normal business hours (Monday to Friday, 9 til 5 – they do not have shifts despite claiming to be a near 24 / 7 company). Their system administrators also take ages to respond to all their hundreds of escalated tickets, mostly presumably containing bugs. They will write "reports" in the USA for their engineering team in Sydney to follow up on. You will never hear an outcome. You will never know when or even if it will be sorted. None of them can provide resolution times. Their new features pending always end up taking months longer than anticipated.

    Considering this company? DON'T use them. One of the poorest companies I have worked with. Support over-stretched. Management have no clue at all. BigCommerce should be ashamed of themselves.

  3. Jessica Malnik says:

    Lukas Schmidt: I work at Bigcommerce. We definitely don't like to hear that you have had a bad experience with our platform and support. I want to find out the specific problems (or "bugs") that you have experienced. Would you be able to reply to this thread with your store url? From there, I like to set up to give you a call to learn more about your store and the specific issues that you have had.

  4. Have any of you heard of Symphony Commerce? From what I understand they build their customers websites for free and then work on a revenue share model…

  5. Sal Covarrubias says:

    Hey, rocket surgeon, the platform is called "Magento", not "Magneto." It's really hard to take you bottom-feeding bloggers seriously when you can't even be bothered to do a simple name check. I'm glad you SEO'd the living sh*t out of the title so that it comes up on the first page of Google results, but seriously, learn how to spell the names of the platforms you're trashing. Thanks.

  6. M. Waheduzzaman Khan says:

    I work with prestashop. Here is my site http://www.myshopping.com.bd/ . I found prestashop very easy to setup and control. I don't have much coding/development skill. My partners are recommending to switch to magento, which is the most popular ecommerce platform. But reading your blog, I think, it is not the perfect time for a start-up with little skill. However, when we grow big, maybe magento will be the only solution. Thanks for your review on these most popular ecommerce platforms.

  7. Are you sure that they're not referring to the eCommerce platform run by evil X-Men leader "Magneto"? Because that would be awesome.

  8. Sol Villamayor says:

    re migration, for how long can you freeze an account?

  9. Mark Macdonald says:

    Sol Villamayor Indefinitely

  10. Jessica Malnik Same Here. Bigcommerce started well, but your technical support became a joke! I had 2 tickets closed without a solution or even a reply in the last 2 weeks. Lack of fundamental features such as calculating shipping using different origin locations. Sorry…I hate to complain in public, but since I am not able to get answers thru your customer support, and you offered help, here I am. MineralTiles.com

  11. Jessica Malnik We're considering moving away from bigcommerce as well since some basic SEO requirements will not be met for the foreseeable future. Our store is http://www.ctswholesalesunglasses.com. I would appreciate discussing these issues w/ you ASAP since we're actively looking for another ecommerce solution.

  12. Mark, you guys REALLY need to offer an option for users to have a dedicated SSL certificate without having to use the expensive Enterprise plans. I'm currently looking to leave Prostores and was ready to pull the trigger on Shopify, but the lack of dedicated SSL is a dealbreaker.
    I know you are going to tell me about the shared SSL, but I don't want my customers redirected to a shopify domain. I already went through this with Prostores two years ago. They, and most others, make it possible to install a custom SSL cert.

  13. Love it.

  14. Yovigo is free for up to 100 products!

  15. I am currently an eCommerce site with Amazon Webstore and I am very happy with them. Mainly the lack of customization and design flexibility is the issue.
    I just spent the last month transfering my site to BigCommerce. At the beginning it was great. BigCommerce is much customizable. But now I realized my company waisted 1 full month – BigCommerce has nothing to offer in terms of payment and shipping. 2 absolutely fundamental aspect of eCommerce. Their payment integration with gateways is naive at best. But also very dangerous. Any user of the site can chnage the address that was approved by the bank or the thrid party (PayPal – Amazon, etc…) for billing and shipping.
    As a result – as a vendor you will find many more chargeback and shipping issues with BigCommerce. The sad part is that they do not even get it or care.
    As for shipping – they have nothing – nada – zip. The few plug ins available are childish at best. Horrible integration – I would not even call that integration. Amazon is an absolute machine compare to BigCommerce.
    Their support is absolutely horrible too. The other day BigCommerce support told us that the reason the webdav server was down is becuase of the some html customization. Which of course is crazy since webdav has nothing to do with thml or javascript but simply a file transfer protocol. And here is the problem – their support has close to zero technical knowledge.
    The all platform is about selling consulting – they will never support you if you have customized their templates. WHich you obviously you have to do.
    Their support answer is always the same, we do not support customized website. Please contact thier third party consulting company for any kind of support.
    I have tons of notes, sample code, emails with BC that I will make publicly available after I write a blog about BigCommerce.
    People out there need to know the truth about these guys. I will be fair to them, they have a few good points. But main this platform is in beta at best. What a joke.

  16. Niesha Kennedy-Robinson says:

    Thank you sooooooooo much for this post! I am looking for a simple Ecommerce platform that doesn't charge me up the wazoo for signing up, certificates, etc etc. Something affordable for a small business owner. I was trying to decide between Shopify or Volusion, but after finding your article during my research, I was leaning towards Volusion but now I am checking out Magento. Glad they both offer free trials and will select what works best for me and my budget. Shopify is cool but right totally overly expensive for small business owners. Too much to pay per month then pay per transaction… Nahh…

  17. Farid Mheir says:

    I was also amazed of the typo which removes, for me, all kind of credibility to this post. Come on, just check and provide links!

  18. Thanks for this post. I'm researching ecommerce platforms at the moment. http://pnplondon.com

  19. confused :/

  20. Overall, we found that <a href="http://www.ptiwebtech.com.au/magento-wordpress-drupal/">Magento</a&gt; Enterprise provided the interviewed merchants with a stable, scalable, flexible platform that contributed to their incremental online revenue growth.

  21. Anonymous says:
  22. Thanks for the article. I run the site http://www.maketheday.co and am still trying to decide which is the best platform for my online store.

  23. Gertruda Gepert says:

    Magneto=piece of shit, shopify=piece of shit, bigcommerce=piece of shit, volusion=piece of shit. OpenCart = oyeah bab :D

  24. "Rocket Surgeon"? Hey Sal, I'm not defending the blogger's error here but if you're going to lambaste her about misspelling Magento, I suggest you get your sarcastically-used genius level professions correct. When's the last time a rocket needed a surgeon? Next time just remember, it's either Brain Surgeon or Rocket Scientist. Maybe so as not to confuse yourself, just stick with Nuclear Physicist. Thanks.

  25. Sal Covarrubias says:

    Matt Gai Wow, file this under 'some people don't understand a play on words.' I was hoping that your post was an attempt at sarcasm, but sadly I think you were being dead serious. It's kind of like you naming your company "Big Huge" which is grammatically redundant and awkward and also ironic since the company is neither big nor huge. Here's a bit of reading for you: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Rocket%20Surgeon Thanks, big shot.

  26. Sal Covarrubias Oh, okay, you're that guy who has an insult for everyone and an answer for everything.

  27. Sal Covarrubias says:

    @Matt Gai Here you go, anus: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Rocket%20Surgeon

    BTW, your website is really ghetto. And needless to state the obvious, but "Big Huge" is grammatically awkward.

  28. Sal Covarrubias says:

    Matt Gai No, I'm just not a fan of flame wars started on comments threads by people who don't get it. Sorry you're angry about whatever you're angry about, your indignation comes through loud and clear. Have some Irish Coffee and enjoy your Friday morning, jeez.

  29. Sal Covarrubias Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Jeez to you sir!

  30. Anonymous says:

    Honestly, Magento is not the best choice is this scenario. You are also ranking BigCommerce under Volusion and Shopify, which is not an ideal and correct ranking. Out of the four shopping carts here, Bigcommerce is the best.

    Magento still has server issues making sites slower than on other platforms. Nowadays, the speed of your store will have a role in your ranking. Here is a better comparison of the shopping carts: http://ecommercesoftwarereviews.net/bigcommerce-vs-shopify-vs-volusion/

  31. Ian Tremblay says:

    Weighing pros and cons is 'trashing', now? But I suppose calling someone a bottom-feeding blogger isn't, even if said blogger is writing on the blog for one of the most prominent e-learning platforms. Somebody got angry on the internet over a typo. Keep on fighting the good fight, keyboard warrior!

  32. I don't think an ecommerce platform review can be complete without looking at how the platforms handle shipping. Can the platform correctly calculate shipping from multiple providers, did the programmers understand how and when to use dimensional weight, can you adjust for packaging weight, does it support multiple box products, etc? Shipping is critical to ecommerce, but most of the platforms I've looked at stink when it comes to shipping.

  33. Vitold Polyak says:

    Does Shopify allow to migrate / move all the data including customer review to another platform?

  34. I'm currently using 3dcart for my website (www.syrcstyle.com) and I'm simply not satisfied. I was torn between Shopify and BigCommerce but Shopify not allowing a dedicated SSL certificate is a deal breaker for me as well….do anybody know if BigCommerce have that option?

  35. Inderjit Pahal says:

    Mark–How does Shopify do when it comes to calculating shipping costs? For example, if you ship to Canada from USA or England from USA? Also, does it allow for coupons?

  36. Hello…Would anybody know what is the ecommerce platform used by gumtree or dubizzle. Basically the sellers are customers and buyers are customers too…

  37. Georgia Jones says:

    erm what is Magneto – its MAGENTO! How can you write a column on 4 platforms and spell one wrong.

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