Ecommerce growth is continuing apace—global ecommerce sales were estimated at $4.9 trillion in 2021, and are projected to reach $7.4 trillion by 2025.
Whether you’re an established business owner or are looking to start a new venture, you might want a slice of the ecommerce pie—and any ecommerce journey starts with the right ecommerce platform. With many affordable (and even free) options to choose from, there’s no need to break the bank.
What is an ecommerce platform?
An ecommerce platform, also known as an online store, is a software application that allows you to create a website to sell your products and services online. Also known as ecommerce website builders, ecommerce platforms are helpful to anyone looking to streamline their ecommerce process—from individuals and larger companies to brick-and-mortar stores and online businesses.
Ecommerce platforms are end-to-end applications, meaning they serve the seller and the buyer. Sellers can manage inventory, sales, marketing, and customer service, while buyers can discover and purchase products.
Why use an ecommerce platform?
Ecommerce platforms allow business owners to quickly set up a store and start making sales. You can spend more time creating your products and services and less time worrying about how to get them to your customers. The benefits of using an ecommerce platform include:
- Ease of use. Ecommerce builders make it easy for any business to create a website and start selling online—you don’t need to be a tech-savvy programmer to figure them out. They allow store owners to create a professional-looking ecommerce site easily, and many platforms come with built-in ecommerce tools for you to manage and edit your online store.
- Shopping cart and checkout. Most ecommerce platforms include a shopping cart and checkout system that provide a straightforward way for customers to purchase items from your store. These systems also help protect your customers’ data and credit card information by encrypting and storing it securely.
- SEO.Ecommerce platforms typically come with built-in search engine optimization (SEO) features to help your ecommerce website appear prominently on search engine results pages. SEO can help attract more customers and increase traffic to your website.
- Customer support. Many ecommerce platforms offer customer support, which can be helpful if you have any questions or need assistance setting up your store.
There are also some downsides to using an ecommerce platform, including:
- Cost. Most ecommerce platforms charge for complete access, and these costs can stack up. Some platforms charge monthly fees, while others charge a one-time fee for setup. You may also need to pay extra for web hosting.
- Limited customization. Some ecommerce platforms offer limited customization options, which can be frustrating if you have a specific look or experience in mind for your ecommerce store. There may only be a limited number of templates offered by the platform. Extensive customization often calls for coding expertise or a web developer.
- Setting up payment processing. Some platforms require you to set up payment processing with a third-party payment gateway, which can be cumbersome for some small business owners. Watch out for payment gateways that also charge transaction fees.
Compare ecommerce platforms
10 cheap ecommerce platforms
There are several ecommerce platforms to choose from, many of which offer affordable plans. Here are 10 of the most popular available on the market:
Shopify is the most popular ecommerce platform in the world. With over 600 templates, easy-to-use tools, and 24/7 customer support, you will be fully equipped to launch your online store. Shopify plans start at just $5 per month and include a free trial.
WooCommerce is an online store plug-in for WordPress sites. WooCommerce is a popular choice for small business owners because it’s free to use and offers a wide range of features, including product management, order tracking, and payment processing.
BigCommerce offers customized plans starting at around $30 per month—though you have to request a quote for an exact cost. BigCommerce offers personalized assistance—customer success and technical managers, solutions architects, and enterprise launch coaches—depending on your needs and budget. Standard features include unlimited products and built-in SEO tools.
4. Wix Stores
Wix Stores is a free ecommerce platform powered by Wix, a website builder. Wix Stores is available for businesses already using Wix for their website. Wix Stores offers unlimited products, gift cards, coupons, sales across multiple platforms, automated emails, SEO services, and Google Analytics integration.
Volusion offers plans starting at $15 per month. Volusion’s features include support for unlimited products and bandwidth, email marketing tools, SEO tools, and fraud protection. They also have an in-house ecommerce design team if you want an expert to come up with the look and functionality of your site.
BigCartel is an ecommerce platform built for makers and artists on a budget. BigCartel offers free plans with limited features and paid plans starting at just $9 per month. Its most expensive plan is $20 per month and includes up to 500 products with five images per product, real-time stats, inventory tracking, and a custom domain.
Ecwid is for small business owners who want to start an online store that allows them to sell on multiple social media platforms, on their site, and in person. Ecwid offers free plans with limited features and paid plans starting at $15 per month. It recommends starting with its Venture plan, which costs $12.50 per month.
LemonStand is geared toward developers working with ecommerce brands looking for a greater degree of customization for their clients. LemonStand offers plans starting at $19 per month, which include built-in SEO tools, back- and front-end development, customizable checkout, and built-in reporting and analytics.
PrestaShop is an open-source ecommerce platform that offers free plans with limited features and paid plans starting at $33 per month. You can choose which features you want to integrate into your online store, including but not limited to unlimited product listings, social media integration, Google Analytics, and order tracking.
10. Spree Commerce
Spree Commerce is a headless ecommerce platform, which allows you or your developer to attach any front end to Spree’s back-end software. Key features include options for one or multiple brands, various languages and currencies, single- or multi-vendor, and storefront customization.
Cheap ecommerce platforms FAQ
Do you need an ecommerce platform to sell online?
You don’t need an ecommerce platform to sell online. You could manually add features and plug-ins to a regular website to set up a store and start selling. An ecommerce platform makes the process considerably cheaper, less time-consuming, and more user-friendly. Ecommerce platforms also often include marketing features and secure payment processing tools.
Is it free to sell on Shopify?
No, selling on Shopify isn’t free. There are four plans: Starter, Basic, Shopify, and Advanced—ranging from $5 to $399 per month. All four plans include a free trial.
What is the cheapest Shopify plan?
The cheapest Shopify plan is the Shopify Starter plan, which starts at $7 per month. This plan includes a free trial, so you can try it before you buy.