What is the Ultimate Online Shop Creation Tool for 2017?

Ecommerce website builders are all the rage these days, but this brings up so many problems in terms of selecting the right one to use for your online shop.

After all, you don’t want to choose one and realize one year later that you’re paying too much in transaction fees, or that you can’t handle the design tools because they are made for more experienced developers.

A good way to look at your ecommerce website builder shopping experience is with two areas: what you need to compete and what your own personal needs are.

With the personal needs, it all comes down to how experienced you are and how quickly you plan on scaling up. A builder with hundreds of templates is great for a beginner, but what if you’d like to get into the custom CSS and that’s not available?

The second area to evaluate is what you need to compete. This ties into the tools, settings and features that are offered through the various platforms. With that, we want to take a look at the current state of ecommerce and the major trends to plan for the functionality you’ll require.

The Current State of Ecommerce

Let’s look at the obvious state of ecommerce first: more consumers are buying through mobile devices, ecommerce sales are increasing every year and a quality SEO ranking is more crucial than ever. What else is going on that could affect your decision with a website builder? Well, it turns out, Americans are more likely to buy from a company if they follow said company on any form of social media. That certainly gets merchants thinking about building a social platform.

Also, the past few years have been the era of the consumer expecting more because of an onslaught of information. When someone comes to your site they have the internet on their side. Because of that, people are more likely to turn away if they see that your site runs slowly. They expect to see options for free shipping, free returns, and expedited shipping. If you don’t provide a comparison tool on your site, they will go elsewhere to find one.

Oh yea, and if your products fail to offer ratings and reviews, it makes it look like you’re far less credible. Trust issues are peaking, particularly because online fraud and identity theft is still booming. But these trust issues also tie into buying. If a customer feels like they aren’t getting proper support, all the blame falls on that company. The same goes for slow shipping, product problems and a lack of transparency with items and payments.

Major Trends to Expect for 2017 and Beyond

Quite a few trends may occur as the ecommerce market lunges forward. For example, in 2017, 26% of all ecommerce transactions are expected to be made through a mobile device. Okay, this isn’t the most mind-blowing news, but it’s important to remember that the trend of mobile commerce is most likely going to continue.

The main area of focus seems to be heading towards contextual retargeting. What does this mean? Well, consumers are starting to get annoyed when the look at one product online, and then they’re bombarded with ads for the product through Facebook and Google, for the next six months. The goal is to base targeting less on immediate personalization while putting more of a focus on the context in which people are looking for the items.

Another trend to look at is the lessening reliance on Google. The search engine has made it more difficult for small to midsize brands to move up the search engines over the past few years, and many merchants are finding that it’s more plausible to find customers through different outlets like Amazon (considering most Google results show Amazon anyways,) social media and email marketing.

Fair Enough

The ecommerce trends for 2016, 2017 and into the future may change. Some will stick while others we’ll never hear about again. However, they provide good indications of the types of actions you should take with your own store. And with that, it allows for a clearer view of what ecommerce website builder to land on.

Now that you’ve had a chance to think about your own needs and the needs of the market, keep reading to learn about the ultimate online shop creation tools.

1. Ecommerce Website Builder: Shopify

Shopify has always been towards the front of the ecommerce pack, but the company is still moving forward. In fact, some of the recent releases reveal a whole new future for Shopify, and the world of ecommerce in general. For example, some Shopify users get intimidated by the online store editor. Well, as time passes that’s going to change with the innovative new online store editor, built to make it easier for merchants. In addition to that, you can expect Shopify to roll-out the ability to make your own native shopping experience on a mobile device (think your own iPhone + Android apps), along with sales channel integrations being passed to the merchants.

We recommend the Shopify builder over all of the other options, because it’s being used by almost 300,000 stores worldwide, and it has easy tools for beginners, with support for custom CSS if you want to get creative.

What are the features and offerings that make Shopify special?

  • You can’t beat the pricing for the lower plans. It all starts at $9 per month, and the next plan is pretty reasonable at $29 per month. Each theme is mobile responsive.
  • The themes are the best on the market, and you can choose from 21 free options. If you’re willing to pay a little extra money, they have an additional 116 for you to buy.
  • Facebook and Pinterest integration is offered, and gift cards and discount codes work wonders for keeping people around.
  • The platform provides thousands of apps for everything from accounting to social media.
  • The support team is available at all times of the day, 24/7.

What may turn you off of Shopify?

  • You don’t get access to an FTP with Shopify.
  • The customer profiles aren’t as great as other website builders.

Check out the full Shopify review if you’d like to learn more.

2. Ecommerce Website Builder: Squarespace

Squarespace delivers a stunning web design interface, with some of the more remarkable and modern templates out there. It’s important to remember that Squarespace is primarily for building regular websites, but it does have a nice Commerce plan starting at $26 per month. All you have to do is hook up your payment processor, choose a theme and get selling.

We like it for companies that are interested in a more modern, media-based look, while also focusing on minimalism. The features are there for social media, design, inventory and marketing, but you shouldn’t expect to build a huge store with it.

What are the features and offerings that make Squarespace special?

  • The themes are even better than Shopify.
  • The sites run smoothly, and they always seem to load pages quickly.
  • The 24/7 support is helpful, and we really like the live chat support.
  • Connect with customers through the full social media integration, and sell on Facebook.
  • SEO support is solid.

What may turn you off of Squarespace?

  • You can only collect payments through the Stripe system.
  • Abandoned cart recovery isn’t there yet.
  • They lack an app store, leaving you with whatever features are built into the program.
  • Some of the themes aren’t necessarily built for ecommerce sites.

Check out the full Squarespace review if you’d like to learn more.

3. Ecommerce Website Builder: Volusion

Volusion has been around for quite some time, and although they were once a leader in the industry, things have changed. That said, Volusion has gone through a fairly major overhaul this past year and its app store is looking promising (even though it’s still in beta).

We like Volusion best for companies that are just getting started, since the pricing is so desirable. However, you shouldn’t expect to customize your theme much, since it’s a little intimidating.

What are the features and offerings that make Volusion special?

  • Pricing starts at $15 per month for up to 100 products.
  • It has lots of themes to choose from. From our count, a little over 100.
  • An FTP client is provided, so more advanced developers have a chance at customization.
  • Mobile checkouts are offered, and you can use the social media buttons.
  • You get ratings and reviews built right in.
  • In general, Volusion has more features built-in, considering the app store is still a little lean.

What may turn you off of Volusion?

  • The themes need to be updated for more modern looks.
  • The backend is becoming easier to use, but in general, the tools are more intimidating than other ecommerce website builders, and you may be stuck with the exact theme you chose (without making many customisations at all).
  • The app store is growing, but the apps are not as mainstream as Bigcommerce or Shopify.

Check out the full Volusion review if you’d like to learn more.

4. Ecommerce Website Builder: Bigcommerce

Bigcommerce used to sit right behind Shopify, since the themes are wonderful and the backend interface walks you through all the steps needed to get your site running fast. However, many of our readers have informed us that once you get past the Plus Plan, the company is trying to make prices much higher. View more details in the Bigcommerce review below, but plainly stated, we’re still waiting to see how Bigcommerce responds to the backlash.

What are the features and offerings that make Bigcommerce special?

  • The main focus is making quality themes. So, you only get to choose from around 60 of them, but they look great. Keep in mind that only 16 of them are free.
  • The lower level pricing plans are fairly affordable, and they provide tons of features.
  • The easy to use backend has features for coupons, discounts, social media and more.
  • Sell on Facebook.
  • The support is 24/7.
  • The app store is filled with options.

What may turn you off of Bigcommerce?

  • Its pricing structure seems out of whack right now.
  • Social media selling tools are lacking.
  • Translations are complex and often impossible.

Check out the full Bigcommerce review if you’d like to learn more.

5. Ecommerce Website Builder: WordPress With WooCommerce

All of the ecommerce website builders listed above are considered “hosted.” That means you pay for a monthly ecommerce store builder and the hosting is packaged in with it. However, you have a few solutions that are considered “self-hosted,” meaning you must find your own hosting and pay for it as a separate plan. This usually pairs with a free content management system like WordPress, so the costs are sometimes lower, and you get more control in terms of customisation. A self-hosted system requires a beginner to intermediate level of development knowledge, while the hosted options above are right out of the box products.

As stated above, you could go with WordPress, and the best plugin for turning your WordPress site into an online store is WooCommerce. Both WordPress and WooCommerce are free.

What are the features and offerings that make WooCommerce special?

  • It’s free and has a quick installation process.
  • If you know how to use WordPress, this is a great choice to ensure that you can scale up properly.
  • You maintain full control of your website.
  • WooCommerce gives out and sells around 52 themes, and most of them look pretty solid.
  • Since the WooCommerce is opensource, thousands of other themes are sold all over the internet.
  • If a feature isn’t packaged into WooCommerce, you can go out and find a WordPress plugin to help out. Basically the options are endless with this.

What may turn you off of WooCommerce?

  • You have to go out and get your own hosting and domain name.
  • Coding knowledge is often needed to really get in there and customize.
  • You may have to hire someone who knows what they are doing.
  • The plugin has basic selling features, so additional plugins are often needed. Although plugins are typically free, they can slow down your site if you don’t choose quality options.
  • Personal support is non-existent, but you can do your own research on blogs, knowledge bases and forums.

Check out how to build a store with WooCommerce here.

6. Ecommerce Website Builder: Magento

Similar to WooCommerce, Magento is another opensource website builder, meaning that you have to go out and get your own hosting and domain. The good news is that some of the biggest companies in the world use Magento, because of its ability to scale up with no problems. However, you can expect to pay for a developer if you don’t have the skills yourself. That said, the backend of Magento actually looks similar to WordPress.

What are the features and offerings that make Magento special?

  • It’s completely free, and you can pay for an Enterprise Edition if you want more features.
  • Magento has a huge database of themes, blowing just about any other website builder out of the water (besides maybe WordPress.) The pricing is around $50 to $100.
  • Frontend customization is endless.
  • The backend is user friendly and provides all the code editing tools you need.
  • Market your products with wishlists, discounts and upsells.
  • Lots of apps are available from third party sellers.

What may turn you off of Magento?

  • It has a learning curve, so paying for a developer is common.
  • Themes are available, but many vendors sell them online.
  • It has so many features that many people get overwhelmed.
  • You have to find your own hosting and domain name.
  • No personal support is offered, but the Magento community is strong. So, if you don’t mind completing your own research, have at it.

Check out the full Magento review if you’d like to learn more.

Over to you…

Since the most popular solutions come down to Shopify, Bigcommerce, BigCartel, 3dCart and Volusion, we also have a long comparison article about how each of them stack up in terms of areas like templates, frontend features, backend features and support.

If you still have any questions about finding the perfect online shop creation tool, leave a comment in the section below.

header image courtesy of Andrew Kolb


Originally published at ecommerce-platforms.com on April 8, 2016.