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Starting your own eCommerce business is like embarking on a desert journey that involves hungry lions, scorching sun, and no oasis for miles - just because you saw a picture of a glam model in the pretty dunes and want one just like that. Similarly, tempted by Amazon-like success stories, entrepreneurs may take to building their own eCommerce website with no understanding of the real underlying work that goes into such success. Let's get you somewhere closer to survival territory in this ruthless terrain then, shall we?

As an eCommerce software development company with lots of clients who have trodden this path, we are excited to tell you all about the best eCommerce website platforms of 2021, so that you traverse your first few miles of this adventurous journey with ease.

Scared yet?

No worries. With enough stamina, patience, and preparation, not only can you survive, but you can still get the best shots in those beautiful dunes.

Spend five minutes of your precious life learning your website options and it will become more exciting because you will:

  1. Save yourself tons of time and money by not opting for the wrong technical tool on which to build your first website.
  2. Know the difference between a website builder and an eCommerce website platform.
  3. Find out what the best eCommerce website builder is for small businesses.

Okay, our initial desert metaphor may be a bit hyperbolic. It isn’t that scary in fact. There are some oases here and there even in the desert. Just as there are hungry lions, though.

Website builder vs eCommerce Website Platform: a different kind of animal

Many people will refer to a website builder and an eCommerce website platform interchangeably.

That’s wrong.

You will see lots of rankings and “the best” lists out there that include Wix and Shopify as the equals.

[!!!Spoiler alert!!!] They are not.

So how are they different then?

Let’s take cars, for example.

They can all drive around, right? But not many can compete when it comes to high-performance driving conditions, like racing. Only sports cars can. They are initially designed to perform their best under conditions that will cause a regular family Ford to break down or lag far behind the rest in seconds.

McLarens, Ferraris, and Aston Martins of the world are specifically designed for high-stress performance. They cost more, but they will not let you down when you compete in high-pressure conditions. Moreover, they are as good at what they do because they don’t disperse themselves on sustaining systems that are not designed for high performance.

Similarly, a website builder can drive alright. But it cannot provide the level of performance needed to sustain thousands of purchases at the same time with different payment methods, delivery times, lots of choices in color and size for each SKU, and a ranking system, etc.

What they are meant for initially: High Performance

A website builder is designed to build all sorts of websites, whether for eCommerce or not: corporate sites, landing pages, news sites, blogs, etc. Their addressable market is so much wider and less demanding. A corporate website doesn’t need a payment gateway integration, POS system integration, fraud prevention features, etc.

At the same time, a platform is usually a turnkey solution that’s been purposefully engineered as a one-stop-shop to sell goods online.

web page performanse test
WebPageTest results for Amazon

Payment Systems & Payment Gateway

Many eCommerce website builders will have a limited number of payment systems and just a handful of payment gateway alternatives.

The specialized platforms, like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento, will have a list of 40-60 payment gateways to choose from, on the other hand. So you can select the best commission for your volume of sales with the languages you target.

Payment Systems, Payment Gateway, Payment Providers
62 Payment providers on Shopify for the USA

POS Integration

Similarly, tools that are designed to cater to eCommerce will often have a POS system as part of the package.
When it comes to the website builders, many of them will need to be integrated with the 3rd party applications to enable these functions.

Point of Service (POS) Extensions
Point of service extensions for Magento

Fraud Detection & Security measures

Fraud management and security of financial transactions is a stumbling block for many businesses.

Platforms pay lots of attention to and cover hefty development costs to ensure the safest environment and double protection for funds being transferred.

Fraud Detection & Security measures
Fraud management by BigCommerce

The Signs you need to start your Store on an eCommerce Website Platform

We have written an all-encompassing piece on the best eCommerce website builders of 2021, so please refer to it if:

  • You have limited funds with which to start your store;
  • You need to try out an idea quickly and move on if it doesn’t work;
  • You are not very technically advanced and are looking into a drag & drop level of simplicity; or
  • You want to launch a private label with only a few items in the stock (no more than 50-100) with a strong influencer marketing edge to it.

On the other end of the spectrum is custom eCommerce website development, which is what the biggest players in the field do – they use their proprietary software products that are engineered specifically for them. Zoolatech is an eCommerce software development company that can help, for example, if such a website is going to take some time to develop and is not cheap either. But it will be unique and cut out specifically for what you have in mind: having all the features you want and no features you don’t need.

In the space between custom solutions and usage of the website builder lies the deployment of an eCommerce platform to build your online store.

Here are the scenarios in which we recommend you opt to use one of these solutions:

  • You have the initial capital to spend on the monthly payments and paid apps of choice;
  • You have some basic technical skills or you don’t mind a bit of a learning curve;
  • You plan to sell a lot of SKUs possibly from different vendors to different markets; or
  • You know that you are in the game for the long haul; it’s not an experiment, but a conscious choice. You are happy to invest time and money to succeed and surpass the existing competition locally and globally in a chosen niche.

If one of the above descriptions applies to you, let’s deep-dive into our top 3 platforms.

The Best eCommerce Platforms of 2021

The Best eCommerce Platforms of 2021
Google Trends: worldwide 5-year analysis: Shopify vs BigCommerce vs Magento

Shopify: eCommerce platform #1 by faaaaaaaaaaaaaar

This platform is home to 1 million stores in 175 countries developed by 820 thousand merchants with over 500,000 of them being active.

Lindt, Heinz, Staples, and Boozy chose Shopify to sell their products online.
According to Alexa, Shopify ranks 692 in the world and 339 in the USA, with 48.3% of traffic coming from the USA, 8.4% from India, and 6.7% from Canada.

the Shopify rank according to Alexa Rank
the Shopify rank according to Alexa Rank

There are 9277 sites linking into Shopify (now 9278), the search brings almost a quarter of its traffic.

Engagement on-site is overwhelmingly positive and is improving over the 90 days analyzed just before the dawn of 2021:

  • Daily pages per visitor are 4.36
  • Daily time on site is 3.34 hours
  • Bounce rate is minimal at 38.8%

Every one of these metrics shows a positive dynamic with 4-7.9% growth.

the Shopify site metric according to Alexa Rank
the Shopify site metric according to Alexa Rank

Shopify overall is the system that actually combines the user-friendliness and affordable pricing akin to that of the website builder with the comprehensive features essential to eCommerce platforms.

There are multiple free and paid for website themes or templates that can be customized per your needs and don’t require coding or much technical expertise.

There are extensive SEO features, hosting options, and plenty of extensions for every occasion.

The pricing ranges from as low as $9 per month for selling on social networks or existing websites to a massive $2000 per month depending on the features you need.

Shopify’s ease of use and its plenty of low-priced themes and extensions easily makes it the best eCommerce platform for startups.

BigCommerce

According to BuiltWith, there are over 150 websites built with BigCommerce as of the dawn of 2021.

La Perla, Reebok, Toyota, Clarks, and Harvard Business Review developed their websites using this capable eCommerce platform.
According to Alexa, BigCommerce ranks 4150 in the world and 1674 in the USA, with 60.7% of traffic coming from the USA, 12.3% from India, and 4.3% from Canada.

the BigCommerce rank according to Alexa Rank
the BigCommerce rank according to Alexa Rank

There are 8121 sites linking into BigCommerce (now 8122). Search brings over a third of its traffic - 37%.

Engagement on site is mostly positive:

  • Daily pages per visitor are 3.05
  • Daily time on site is 2.38 hours
  • The bounce rate is 48.8%

Two of these metrics show a positive dynamic with 1-2% growth.

the BigCommerce site metric according to Alexa Rank
the BigCommerce site metric according to Alexa Rank

BigCommerce also features an amazing SEO support system, payment gateway, and marketing tools, as well as multiple configs for your product pages.

Pricing for this major online selling platform starts at $29.95 and runs up to $299.95.

Magento

Magento is an Adobe product. Yes, just like Photoshop. So, it’s got some serious technical software development expertise underlying its success.

Over a quarter of merchants choose it to build their stores, with flagship clients like Ford, Nestle Nespresso, Liverpool FC, Pepe Jeans, and Land Rover, among other eCommerce big shots, using it.
According to Alexa, Magento ranks 13169 in the world and 10146 in the USA, with nearly a quarter of the traffic coming from the USA (24.8%), 29.8% from India, and 2.9% from Canada.

the Magento rank according to Alexa Rank
the Magento rank according to Alexa Rank

There are 1614 sites linking into Magento eCommerce Platform (now 1615), and search brings nearly two-thirds of its traffic - 73%.

Engagement on site is rather strong, but exhibited negative deviation over the last 90 days:

  • Daily pages per visitor are 3.8
  • Daily time on site is 4.33 hours
  • The bounce rate is 47.3%

All of these metrics show a negative dynamic with a 2-5% decrease.

the Magento site metric according to Alexa Rank
the Magento site metric according to Alexa Rank

Out of the 3 best eCommerce platforms, Magento is undeniably the most technically challenging one.

But its features are extensive across pretty much every facet vital to the creation of a high-performance online store: payment integration, POS integration, security and anti-fraud features, SEO, and marketing tools.

Zoolatech: ready to make your custom website when you are

As a custom eCommerce software development company with multiple eCom projects under our digital black belt, the Zoolatech team appreciates how much technical skill and expertise went into these massive software platforms making web design accessible to beginners. However, the time comes when a template is no longer a good fit for the business.

When you outgrow a templated website design and require a custom-made online store, drop us a line.

100% unique and designed to fit your needs, niche, and ambitions, such an online shop is a worthy investment for savvy eCom entrepreneurs.