Recently, I suffered from a truly first-world dilemma: I desperately wanted new patio furniture, but I can barely fit more than a beach chair in my car. I didn’t want to impose on the friend with the pickup truck, and I wasn’t loving any of the sets I saw in the local stores. As with so many of my purchases, I eventually turned to the internet. Lo and behold, I found a comfy-looking set that arrived at my front door less than a week later.
My experience has seemingly become the new norm; an annual survey from comScore and UPS showed that in 2016, consumers bought more things online than in stores. While patio furniture might not be the most typical online purchase, eCommerce platforms abound to make life easier for retailers of all sizes, as well as their customers.
Shopify is an immensely popular service that offers a 14-day free trial, but the platform isn’t for everyone. Whether you’re looking for more features or more simplicity, we’ve compiled a list of six alternatives to help you grow and manage your online business.
Best for Solopreneurs and Small Startups
Most sellers aren’t tech wizards — they know how to sew, create jewelry, or design the perfect T-shirt. Whether you’re selling handmade products from home or advertising your small company’s services, several online platforms help entrepreneurs take away the web hosting headaches by providing intuitive site builders. Upgraded plans often include a shopping cart, payment processing options, inventory management tools, and other staples of the eCommerce world.
1. Wix Stores
Although businesses can offer their services and showcase their credentials on Wix for free, an online store doesn’t enter the picture until you sign up for the company’s $17-per-month plan. That price might be a little steep, but Wix is among our favorite site builders for the platform’s ultimate usability — simply drag-and-drop content to get the online store of your dreams. Plus, new entrepreneurs will seriously appreciate that Wix will not take a commission or cut of your sales.
The eCommerce tools in Wix are among the most basic and limited of the services on this list, but sellers will enjoy a streamlined suite of services for tracking orders and inventory, offering multiple payment options, sharing promotional coupons, and managing shipping and taxes.
- Build online stores quickly and easily
- Choose from 100s of industry-specific themes
- Drag-and-drop builder lets you customize without coding
|Money Back Guarantee||14 days|
|Disk Space||500 MB - 20 GB|
|eCommerce Hosting Plans||www.wix.com/ecommerce|
Our Expert's Wix Review
Weebly offers many of the same ease-of-use perks as its site-building brethren, including an intuitive drag-and-drop interface and hundreds of impressive themes. The company made major improvements to its eCommerce tools with a 2016 update that introduced refined functionalities with abandoned carts and calculating rates for both taxes and shipping. Coupled with revamped email marketing tools, Weebly’s website builder and eCommerce services provide sellers an all-in-one package that is hard to beat.
Weebly offers eCommerce functionality through both hosted and self-hosted solutions. Hosted might be a little simpler, but we recommend taking the extra step to sign up with a reputable hosting provider that includes Weebly as part of a shared hosting plan.
SiteGround, for example, will also give store owners top-notch performance, daily backups, and more responsive support. If you want to explore other eCommerce options as your business and expertise grow, SiteGround offers one-click installs for almost all the other platforms on our list.
- 1-click installs for eCommerce tools like WooCommerce
- FREE eCommerce plugin for WordPress
- Daily backups, a CDN, and FREE Weebly site builder
|Money Back Guarantee||30 days|
|Disk Space||10 GB - 30 GB|
|Domain Name||New or Transfer|
|eCommerce Hosting Plans||www.siteground.com/ecommerce|
Our Expert's SiteGround Review
Best for SMBs and Fast-Growing Startups
As your online business grows, you might quickly find your needs outpace the beginner-friendly services. Upgrading your website and store unlocks a bevy of new features and tools to help you connect with potential customers. Moving from Wix or Weebly might be a pain, but the eCommerce options presented in this section and the next will match your company stride for stride as you scale your sales.
3. WordPress and Woocommerce
Naturally, we’re big fans of WordPress, the world’s most popular content management system. WordPress doesn’t come with eCommerce tools out of the box, but parent company Automattic acquired WooCommerce, the prominent WordPress plugin behind 28% of all online stores. Both products are open-source, meaning you can download and run the software for free. WooCommerce enables store owners to sell anything from tangible products to digital downloads, subscriptions, content, and even your time.
Because you download and install WordPress and WooCommerce on your own hosting plan, you maintain complete control and ownership of your data; you’re not beholden to the whims or success of a third-party company. Don’t worry about dipping your toes into a self-hosted solution. Our top-rated WordPress hosting providers provide excellent support, performance, and security tailored to the content management system.
- WordPress pre-installed with NGINX server caching
- FREE SSL certificate and unlimited bandwidth
- Optional automatic plugin, theme, and core updates
|Money Back Guarantee||90 days|
|Domain Name||FREE (1 year)|
|WordPress Hosting Plans||www.inmotionhosting.com/wordpress|
Our Expert's InMotion Review
InMotion, long known for their shared hosting options, entered the WordPress space with a solid option built upon their reputation for great support and reliability. Costing a small premium over other budget-minded options, they do include some nice features to help justify that cost difference.
Build on an all-SSD infrastructure, their speeds are very good. We would have loved to see options like integrated staging and caching included in order to help take full advantage of the nice, modern hardware. The choice of datacenters (East or West) is nice however, as it allows you to target your local audience with better load times.
InMotion offers three different levels to their WordPress hosting offerings, which allows you to tailor the hosting to your needs or budget. For those needing eCommerce support, their middle or top offerings have you covered. Their top offering also allows unlimited installs for WordPress, which is great to see.
Each hosting package they offer comes with a free domain, unlimited disk space, unlimited emails, and free data backups for data security. If you need it, each plan also has support for PHP, Ruby, Perl, and Python, and includes SSH access.
InMotion Hosting has made a name for itself on support and reliability. While not the cheapest of the budget WordPress hosts out there, the packages offered are solid in performance and feature sets.collapse info -
Merchants selling through BigCommerce see their businesses grow by 28% year over year — double the industry average, according to research from Ipsos. The high-powered hosted eCommerce platform concentrates on both the technical aspects of uptime and performance as well as boosting sales with top-notch marketing and conversion tools.
With prices ranging from $30 to $250 per month, however, BigCommerce is far and away the most expensive platform on our list of Shopify alternatives. However, sellers can start with a 15-day free trial to make sure the platform is worth the investment. Even at the low tier, BigCommerce plans let entrepreneurs sell unlimited products through multiple channels without transaction fees. Higher-level plans introduce several features, including abandoned cart tools, fraud monitoring, analytics, and more powerful search and filtering options.
Best for Enterprise and eCommerce at Scale
As your sales rates grow, so do the stakes surrounding your online business. Milliseconds matter in eCommerce, whether for page loads or for downtime — Amazon calculated that it would lose $1.6 billion in sales each year if their pages loaded one second slower. As such, large businesses need an eCommerce platform and hosting that can stand up to traffic spikes and Black Friday sales.
As with BigCommerce, the 15-year-old Volusion platform offers a hosted eCommerce solution that can handle the demands of larger businesses. The well-rounded system comes out of the box with an astounding 900 features that have helped sellers make more than $24 billion in sales — four times more than their competitors. In addition to an intuitive site builder and marketing tools, Volusion uses top security measures to maintain PCI compliance and protect customers’ data.
Premium plans come with 35GB of bandwidth, priority support, and even a dedicated account manager. In addition to integrations with eBay and Amazon, Volusion enables sellers to take orders over the phone and process orders in bulk. A partnership with the Akamai content delivery network, or CDN, guarantees speedy website delivery wherever your customers live.
- Everything you need to build and grow and online store
- Drag-and-drop store builder and FREE themes
- FREE payment processing, shipping, and inventory tools
|Money Back Guarantee||14-day FREE trial|
|Domain Name||New or Transfer|
|eCommerce Hosting Plans||www.volusion.com/ecommerce|
Our Expert's Volusion Review
6. Magento on a Dedicated or Virtual Server
Another mainstay in the open-source eCommerce realm, Magento revamped its enterprise offerings by rolling out a cloud-based service in April 2016. Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition is a managed service that hosts your business in the company’s cloud environment. Although we appreciate how Magento blends usability and simplicity with the high-stakes needs of enterprises, we recommend putting Magento on your own dedicated or virtual server.
Our favorite hosts for dedicated hosting offer top-notch hardware and custom configurations to optimize load-time performance, in addition to including the same hands-off managed services and specialized support staff.
We find that Liquid Web, in particular, excels by offering performant solid-state drives and RAID arrays and guaranteeing 100% uptime. If Magento sounds like the right platform for your business, but you’re not sure if you’re ready for a dedicated virtual server, the top Magento hosts provide one-click installs at the shared hosting level and will help you scale through the server ranks.
- FREE incoming bandwidth and choice of operating system
- Custom configurations with SSDs and instant provisioning
- Auto-migrations, backups, and 24/7 Sonar Monitoring™
|Money Back Guarantee||N/A|
|Disk Space||211 GB - 1,775 GB SSD|
|Domain Name||New or Transfer|
|Dedicated Hosting Plans||www.liquidweb.com/dedicated|
Our Expert's Liquid Web Review
Liquid Web's strong suit is their managed dedicated server hosting. They own and operate three state-of-the-art datacenters in the US and have over 50 developers working tirelessly to build and maintain custom solutions for added performance and security.
Fully, Core-, or Self-Managed — Plus Storm® Servers
Liquid Web offers single, dual, and quad processor servers with fully, core-, or self-managed plans. All dedicated server customers reap the benefits and support of the Heroic Support® team and the 24/7 protection of the Sonar Monitoring™ team.
Redundantly Built, Multi-Tiered Network
Featuring top-of-the-line Cisco equipment, the Liquid Web N+1 network is redundantly built to allow routing devices to quickly self-heal. They're designed to bounce back and correct system failures without interrupting the customer's connection. With the integration of premier providers, Level 3, Verizon, Comcast, Cogent, and Equinix, the Liquid Web network is optimized for rapid and fault-resistant performance.
Highly Available Sites with the Tech of 50+ Developers
Liquid Web boasted an incredible 99.995% uptime rate in 2014, a bragging right that's helped shape their reputation for performance. With the maintenance of 50+ developers, the Liquid Web infrastructure is engineered to evade and survive typical site disasters.
24/7 Proactive Protection from the Sonar Monitoring™ & Heroic Support® Teams
Should disaster strike, the Sonar Monitoring™ team is trained to catch the issue first, performing system-level health checks and patches 24/7, so they can hopefully have it handled before you're even aware of the situation. Meanwhile, the Heroic Support® team of 300+ experts is available anytime to help with any troubleshooting need.
Storm® Servers & Add-Ons
For the dev nerds out there, one of our favorite facets of Liquid Web as a hosting provider is the commitment to in-house-built technology. All of their team members' experience and expertise becomes very evident once you check out their custom Storm® Platform.
All the Power Plus All the Flexibility
If you're in need of dedicated resources, drawn to the customization of the Cloud, and know you need screaming fast performance, the Storm® Dedicated Server may be your solution. These custom server systems allow for cloud-like flexibility that traditional dedicated servers aren't capable of, like instant provisioning and automatic migrations.
Added Extras Make the Dedicated Cost a Done Deal
The Liquid Web development team is constantly coming up with new Storm® Add-Ons, like Load Balancers, Block Storage, Object Storage, and a VPN. Think you can't afford such full-featured and flexible hardware? Think again. With pricing starting around $110/month, the Storm® Platform is great for the cost-conscious dedicated server shopper.
Liquid Web Dedicated Servers in Review
If you want feature-rich dedicated resources and relentlessly reliable technical support, Liquid Web should be on your short list. They're known for strong managed service offerings, but the drawback to managed hosting is usually the cost. Liquid Web doesn't leave you hanging there though — in-house solutions like the Storm® Dedicated Server keep the cloud-level flexibility and performance up and the cost down.collapse info -
Shopify Alternatives Boast High-Value, Low-Cost eCommerce Tools
I might still be immersed in a sea of oversized cardboard boxes whose contents are eagerly waiting for me to assemble and sit on them, but my new patio furniture is a testament to the value of a seamless online shopping experience. Your business depends on the tools you use to promote your website, manage inventory, and process payments and shipping. Take the time to find the eCommerce platform that works for your particular needs and goals.
For us, the power and popularity of WordPress reign supreme. Even though the content management system and related eCommerce plugin options are free, there is big money to be made by installing the tools on one of our recommended WordPress hosts. Happy selling!