Your website is an integral part of your customers’ journey — arguably one of the most important.
Whether you have a brick-and-mortar shop and are looking to expand online or you’re completely digital, creating a memorable online shopping experience for your customers is critical.
It’s not enough to have a nice-to-look-at website.If you want your customers to continue to shop your site, it must have the functionality, design and the capability to create that memorable experience that customers have come to expect from today’s brands.
Think about it: Of those asked, 39% of customers visited a brand’s website before they made a purchase in a physical store. What’s more, only 9.6% of Gen Z shoppers report buying items in a physical store, compared to Millennials at 31.04%, Gen X-ers at 27.5%, and Baby Boomers at 31.9%, respectively.
How your ecommerce shop is built can mean the difference between customers making a purchase or moving on to another brand. It's critical to build your ecommerce store in a way that is not only cost-effective for you but easy for your customers to navigate and leaves a lasting impression.
With so many ecommerce website builders out there, how do you know which one is right for your business? How do you even know what a website builder is?
An ecommerce website builder is an organization that can help you build an online store designed to be customizable and intuitive — all while impressing customers and raising revenue.
Selecting the right builder goes beyond what’s right for your business as it currently stands. Investing in a platform that can scale with you will help reduce friction between your customers and your products and bulk up your bottom line.
This ecommerce website builder comparison dives into the pros and cons of top platforms and provides a detailed insight to help you figure out what platform is best for your company.
What Types of Businesses Benefit from an Online Store Builder?
It is critical to have an ecommerce store to increase sales, improve your customer journey and grow your online presence. That’s where online store builders come in handy — they make it simple to create the perfect shopping experience for your customers.
However, that’s not to say all online store builders are created equally. Different options may make more sense for your business depending on where you are and what you need.
Let’s take a look at a few types of businesses that would benefit from using an ecommerce website builder:
1. New businesses.
If you’re just starting out and are looking for ways to cut costs without compromising on function, quality and performance, using an online store builder to help shape your website design is a great option.
It’s important to know what you are getting into, as ecommerce solutions require technical experience to implement. However, the benefits of beginning fresh with a new site far exceed any implementation difficulties. Without the hassle of reconfigurations or conversions, the whole website building process will be much more seamless.
These platforms provide everything new businesses need to get started, from theme customization and mobile optimization to an advanced search engine and SEO capabilities so your customers can find your store and use it, too.
2. Growing startups.
Growing startups must be prudent with their spending, as they can’t afford to waste time or valuable resources on services or solutions that will not help them grow. An online store or platform must provide immediate, tangential benefits.
The right ecommerce store builder will deliver both a platform to grow with and the features that startups need to showcase their products. With countless app integrations instantly compatible with your store, it should make your work smarter and simpler.
A successfully built website will make your online store builder a part of the team and help propel the company forward.
Tools like cross-channel commerce, checkout customization and flexible merchandising can help your brand shine — all while staying within your budget.
3. Hobbyist sites.
For many, hobbyist sites and side businesses end up forming the bulk of their income, even more so than their primary business. This doesn't mean that an ecommerce store is off-limits — it can be a significant part of any business that you perform.
It is important then to remember that just because you're running an ecommerce business on the side doesn't mean it is unworthy of a sleek, simplified shopping experience. The best site builders offer convenience without skimping on quality, allowing you to make adjustments whenever and however you see fit.
Best of all, you can watch your storefront grow and optimize where necessary with analytics tracking.
4. Dropshipping sites.
To successfully build and run a dropshipping business, you’ll need to craft a store compatible with that business plan. Even if you’re not a part of inventory management and working with a wholesaler to purchase products, you need a unique solution that can help you do just that.
Dropshipping can be a complement to a traditional ecommerce business model and, with a dedicated, built store, can elevate small businesses that cannot rely on their own supply/
Apps like Inventory Source, Printful, and AliExpress Dropshipping should be able to integrate with your store, making setting up and managing a dropshipping store easy. These apps will sync to your store and allow you to add and sell items with ease.
5. Established businesses.
An ecommerce website builder can help ease the life of any established business, whether large or small. No matter what you are currently selling — from physical products to services or digital solutions — an ecommerce store can elevate your business.
An issue many businesses face is the problem of scalability. Some web designs are built with small audiences in mind, while others are made for massive conglomerates and wholesaler shippers.
What about businesses that operate in the interim, that are predicting massive growth? The right ecommerce website builder grows alongside the company, expanding as needed and allowing you to combine several different types of online incomes streams — all within a single site and at the touch of a button.
6. Private-labeled products business.
Similar to dropshipping, the right ecommerce website presents an excellent opportunity to build a business to sell products and services from different vendors. By connecting with multiple vendors or wholesalers, companies can sell a number of products on their site.
Private label products are manufactured by one company for sale under another’s brand. This involves purchasing products from different retailers and branding them prior to going on your site.
Through an ecommerce website, this process is simple and easy. With the right site builder, it becomes a breeze.
Choosing the Best Ecommerce Site Builder
There is an abundance of choices for ecommerce website builders and many that will do the job required of them. However, it is not always that simple as not all of them will perform exactly as you need.
When choosing a platform, there are many different things to think about. To determine the best option, consider the following questions:
Is it within your budget?
Pricing can vary widely, so you’ll need to consider how the platform’s monthly (or annual) pricing structure works with your budget.
It’s a good idea to look for a platform with different tiers or packages so you can scale up your business and add more functionality as your needs evolve over time.
BigCommerce provides different pricing schedules and monthly rates depending on your business needs, without any of the hidden transaction fees that can swell overall costs.
The out-of-the-box functionality of BigCommerce can also save merchants roughly $5,800– $30,000+ per year in-app subscription costs, compared to other site builders like Shopify.
Can the site be built within your time frame?
If your site will require custom build-outs or developer work, you’ll need to consider the timeline for that work, as sometimes developer work can require several weeks (or even months) for proper execution.
Time is of the essence, especially if you're involved in money-making ventures. Prior to building your site, you should ensure that your back-end work and site build-out will be wrapped up well before your launch date.
A last-minute scramble to finish everything is never a good option and can lead to an unfinished or unsatisfactory build.
BigCommerce works to allow businesses to launch their stores quickly and easily with virtual training and in-house launch coaches, who are extensively trained on our products and bring a wealth of ecommerce knowledge and experience to your business.
Dedicated store launch coaches can help you speed through the process of setup with guidance from start to finish to ensure that you're prepared for your first sale and ongoing success with BigCommerce.
Do you like the available templates?
Explore the templates available for each ecommerce site builder that you’re considering to be sure there are options there that could be valuable for your brand.
If you don’t like the options the site currently has available, you may need to have a custom theme developed for your online store, which can be more expensive and time-intensive — and can also limit which site builder you can ultimately work with.
With BigCommerce, you have access to dozens of themes for every industry. There’s something for everyone, no matter if you’re working within Fashion, or Health & Beauty. Choose from a wide selection of carefully curated, fully responsive designs to give your brand an edge over the competition.
How customizable is it?
The depth of customization is critical when deciding how to build an ecommerce plan for your website.
Finding a builder that provides tools and features to make your site more customizable is critical if you plan to have different integrations, plugins or add-ons — whether from sites like Google or Facebook or if you’re looking to integrate marketing tools of chatbots.
BigCommerce’s intuitive Page Builder visual editor lets you change your site’s look and feel — without additional coding. Our industry-best theme framework to build a completely custom online store with HTML, CSS and popular code libraries.
Does it integrate with the applications you need?
Integrations are what help you save time and simplify the complexities around running your online business, so be sure the ecommerce site builder you’re considering ties in with the software and tools you depend on.
Put simply, this means that you will want to double-check to ensure your tools around logistics, customer data, email marketing, etc., are capable of integrating seamlessly with the ecommerce platform you choose. Otherwise, you may find yourself in an untenable situation down the road with a platform that doesn't integrate the way you need.
At BigCommerce, we integrate with the world's largest marketplaces including Google Shopping, Amazon, Facebook, eBay and Instagram, and offer more than 55 global payment gateway options.
Do they have support to help you build it?
Live, consistent tech support is critical when implementing any project, especially when using an outside vendor.
As you build the store on your site, you’ll want to be sure there are solid support options available to you that will make the process as easy as possible — there’s nothing worse than needing help and not being able to get any answers.
Explore the site builder’s support offerings and see what general resources are available around education and how-tos.
With BigCommerce, you will get industry-leading, live support, every step of the way. Few ecommerce platforms have the in-house support and services of BigCommerce, available 24/7 via chat, email and US-based phone support for any technical issues you may have.
BigCommerce also provides virtual training with in-house launch coaches, who are extensively trained on our products and bring a wealth of ecommerce knowledge and experience to your business.
No matter where you are in the process, BigCommerce will be there to help.
Can it do everything you need, without a developer?
If you’re not looking to hire a developer to help you build out custom elements of your online store, you’ll need to be sure the ecommerce site builder you select lets you do everything you need it to — all on your own.
Create a checklist of your must-have features, and be sure the options you select ticks all the boxes.
BigCommerce helps you to manage your online business with ease. With many out-of-the-box features, we've taken the complexity out of setting up and managing your store, helping your business save time and money as you grow.
What is your site-building skill level?
Before working with an ecommerce website builder, it is essential to know your site-building skill level to determine how much assistance you need and what you can take on yourself. If you’ve never built a website before, jumping in headfirst may not be the best idea.
The good news is that BigCommerce can help any user, regardless of site-building experience. With a dedicated support staff and coaching team — as well as a number of easily understandable site templates — you can customize your site without being an expert at coding.
What is the UI like?
When deciding on an ecommerce site builder, oftentimes the question comes to an age-old question: how does it look?
An unintuitive, visually unappealing online store can end a potential sale before it even occurs. If customers don’t like how your website looks or cannot figure out how to use it, then you’ll quickly find yourself back at square one.
BigCommerce gives its users the ability to build and design a beautiful online store. With our platform, you can enhance your brand and engage shoppers with easily created intuitive, easy-to-use and aesthetically pleasing sites.
Your site should impress each visitor on the first go — and we can help you get there.
Important Ecommerce Website Builders to Consider
Just as you would with other areas of your business, researching the solution that best fits your needs can make a big difference in how you run your business.
Now that you have an idea of what makes an ecommerce store builder great, it's time to take a look at the top builders to put together a shortlist of the options that make the most sense for you.
Let's take a look at 11 of the best ecommerce website builders to consider:
BigCommerce is one of the leading Open SaaS ecommerce platforms for mid-market and enterprise brands.
It has all the benefits associated with multi-tenant SaaS — web hosting on behalf of businesses, lower total cost of ownership and faster go-to-market time — coupled with platform-wide APIs that enable businesses to customize their sites and integrate with external applications and services.
WooCommerce is a free, open-source plugin that can be added to a frontend WordPress site to give it backend ecommerce functionality.
WooCommerce may be a good choice if you’re looking to quickly monetize an existing WordPress site; however, it may be difficult to scale as adding additional payment, catalog management and marketing features becomes costly and time-consuming on WooCommerce.
Shopify offers a number of themes and can make it easy to get a simple store off the ground quickly. There are over one million merchants using the platform, however those with large catalogs may want to avoid it, as Shopify and Shopify Plus (the Enterprise version) both have a strict option and variant caps per product
For more information on the pros and cons of each platform, consider this Shopify Plus vs. BigCommerce comparison from Cart Consultant.
Used largely by the creative community, Squarespace offers various templates to showcase art, video or music products.
At its core, SquareSpace is a content management system, but for those who wish to sell physical or digital products, SquareSpace Commerce offers more specialized features such as professional templates and automated emails.
From professional templates to automated emails to integration with social media channels, Squarespace is a great option for beginner merchants and smaller businesses.
Wix can be an ideal option for entrepreneurs and small business creatives, as it offers numerous free themes, easy setup and a simple drag-and-drop interface.
The platform offers omnichannel selling features, abandoned cart recovery, dropshipping capabilities, shopping cart functionality and more. However, to sell products, you need the Business Basic plan which costs $23 per month. This plan includes a free 1-year, custom domain name, 20 GB of storage space and 24/7 customer support.
With a simple onboarding process and affordable pricing plans, Volusion is a great option for small businesses and beginners in the ecommerce space.
Starting at $29 per month, Volusion offers native SEO features to help increase your ranking and get more eyes on your website
Adobe Commerce (Magento).
As an on-premise, open-source solution, Magento often requires either in-house developer resources or an outside agency to set up a store. This platform is preferred by brands who have already heavily invested in IT or development teams.
As a result, Magento is geared toward more established, larger enterprises and can be expensive to set up. Even a basic store on Magento Open Source can cost up to $45,000, while an Enterprise-level store can cost up to six figures depending on the complexity of the build, design and integrations required.
PrestaShop is another free, open-source platform, but you can pay for add-ons and plugins to make it work for your business. PrestaShop is written in the PHP programming language with support for the MySQL database management system.
PrestaShop currently supports 300,000 merchants globally.
For small business owners with limited web development experience, Weebly offers a user-friendly interface and easy setup, as well as several free design templates for those on a budget.
As a platform geared toward beginners and solo entrepreneurs, Weebly only offers simple photo-editing and blogging tools, which may make it difficult to make your site look professional. As a result, Weebly may be a decent starting point for new business owners, but be aware that it might not be able to keep up with your business’s growth.
Others to potentially consider would be: Square Online and Shift4Shop (3dcart).
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What Makes the Best Site Builder?
There are quite a few reputable ecommerce store builders to choose from.
Some require no knowledge of website development or coding and others require a broad understanding of the technical elements that make up a website—not to mention a functioning ecommerce store.
Regardless of what you choose to start building, a site builder will need the following basic features to be considered a great option.
Ease of use.
There's something to be said about being able to make changes to your store on your own time and as you see fit. Site management should be an easy process for any user, not one that makes you want to pull your hair out.
A solution dependent on a vendor's support staff is not always the best option for companies. Development teams are often a luxury that not all businesses can afford to have, which is why selecting a store builder that you can use on your own is equally important as it is necessary.
BigCommerce understands this and offers simple, native tools to manage your store. With out-of-the-box features designed to make your life easier, your business can spend less time stuck in the minutia of the site and more selling your products.
An abundance of useful features.
The deciding factor when it comes to selecting an ecommerce site builder almost boils down to one thing: what can it do that separates it from other services. Ultimately, you want a platform with features designed to help you achieve your goals.
Picking a builder that has the right tools you need to grow your business will make a significant impact, both short and long term.
With BigCommerce’s essentials, you get an ecommerce platform filled with features that scale with and help you showcase your products, get helpful support and operate and manage your business with ease.
Our number one priority is providing you with a platform that has your business goals in mind, at all times.
Just because you aren't an expert with HTML and CSS or don't have a development team on-hand to create a brilliant website doesn't mean you don't deserve one.
The best ecommerce website builders provide a plethora of themes and templates to choose from, categorized by function or industry.
This is where BigCommerce excels in comparison to other site builders. Our templates are designed with both beauty and function in mind, allowing users to present themselves well while also providing a valuable service for potential customers.
The decision doesn't always have to come down to form versus functionality — with BigCommerce, you really can have it all.
A reasonable price point.
You want to make the right investment, but you also want to be cognizant of your budget and the additional monthly costs an ecommerce store may have.
Choosing a builder with everything you need without breaking the bank is the goal, though it is not always easy.
To help, BigCommerce offers multiple pricing plans and structures, allowing you to choose whichever works best for your business. If you're not ready to decide quite yet, we offer a free trial to gain familiarity with our platform and ecommerce features and answer any questions you may have.
Finding the right website builder can be a stressful process, as is the case whenever money is on the table. With BigCommerce, the ball is in your court until you're ready to take the shot.
Secure systems for payments.
Your customers want to feel like their information — whether their credit card number or their mailing address — is secure while making a purchase. Be sure to select a builder that not only offers safe payment options but offers customers multiple ways to pay.
With BigCommerce's site builder, you can implement your choice of payment providers. Choose from more than 65 pre-integrated online payment processors, including Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, PayPal, Stripe and more.
The features and benefits offered by our industry-leading set of solutions will help make payments a strategic advantage for your business.
Ecommerce Site Builders vs. Custom Build
Building a custom site is often thought of as a way for businesses to skip the middleman and save on costs down the road.
However, most small businesses have neither the time nor resources to get an on-staff developer to build their website from the ground up. Proprietary website building is complex and requires a significant amount of prior experience to implement, much less construct.
For those who require a new site but have never built one before, a dedicated, experienced site builder is likely your best option.
Store builders are great for many reasons, but possibly one of the best things about them is that you have control over how your store looks, and therefore what your customer’s shopping experience is like.
Far less expensive.
The cost of a custom-built ecommerce store is nothing to bat an eye at. Whether it's having to hire staff who are experienced with site builders or undergoing training, custom building your site can be more expensive than it's ultimately worth for you.
By working with a store builder like BigCommerce, you can create a site without any of those extraneous expenses, focusing your costs squarely on subscriptions and paid plans.
Most ecommerce store builders come with a community of fellow users who share knowledge on a designated forum and a few customer service options.
Finding a builder that provides a 24/7 support team is essential — especially if you’re not the most tech-savvy entrepreneur — to long-term growth.
No one wants to be in a situation where they come across a problem they don’t know how to solve. With the live, consistent support you get from an experienced store builder, you can face any situation head-on and with the confidence that you can solve it.
Great for beginners.
Building a store on your own can provide you with ample learning opportunities to better understand the world of ecommerce, but it is a process with a steep learning curve. It takes time — time many companies can't afford.
Instead of investing in a custom site when you're just beginning, using a store builder is a great way to set up a fully functioning ecommerce store while skipping the inevitable learning curve.
With a store builder, if you ever have questions, someone will be there to assist you.
Tutorials, guides and help forums.
Like the community of users and customer support options, the best ecommerce site builders will have ample resources for you to learn from. Nothing is more frustrating than looking for tutorials or guides and not being able to find anything.
You are on your own with a custom site. If you have questions or there are guides you need, your options are limited to what you know or what you can find for free online.
With an ecommerce site builder like BigCommerce, you can find online resources that will guide you step by step through using features, setting up your store or troubleshooting issues.
Full integrations with SSL encryption, payment gateways and more.
You want your information and your customers' information to be safe. Selecting a reputable builder that ensures security is critical.
Keeping your and your customers' information safe is paramount to the success of your business. This involves understanding and crafting a system full of integration capabilities, whether with payment gateways or security systems.
With a custom-built site, this is all on your shoulders. If you cannot prove your site is secure, it will be hard to hold onto customers.
By using a dedicated site builder with extensive experience with integrations and security, you can be confident that there will not be any catastrophic situations. And if you're confident, so are your customers.
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The Final Word
There are countless ecommerce tools available today, and building a successful online business has never been more tangible.
More than ever, your venture needs a website, whether you’re selling services or unlimited products. This is especially true since 33% of shoppers consider a brand manufacturer’s website the most influential resource when researching a potential purchase.
The time to make a decision is now, but with so many options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to settle on the platform that works best for your business.
With BigCommerce, the difficult decisions are taken out of your hands. By using our platform, you can get the most out of your website and grow your business with powerful, industry-leading tools designed to help you succeed.