I’m proud to have worked with the leading e-commerce platforms for small business – Bigcommerce, Shopify, 3dCart and SparkPay. All of these platforms are fully hosted, meaning you don’t need to worry about servers or having an IT person on staff. All offer lots of out-of-the-box features for affordably monthly pricing that scales as your business grows. However, depending on your company’s budget and industry, one platform may be better than the others when it comes to fitting your business needs. If you’re interested in comparing the features of BigCommerce vs Shopify or BigCommerce vs 3dCart, read on for an overview of each one and to download my comprehensive comparison chart.
Bigcommerce (my platform of choice)
Bigcommerce is a fully-featured hosted website solution with a fantastic support team (available 24/7 via phone, chat and email). I love that they continually roll out new features and have an active community forum where store owners share tips and tricks. Additionally, they host monthly Town Hall webinars to share upcoming releases and answer questions from their client base. Their control panel is very user-friendly, which makes learning how to manage your store quite easy for even non-technical people. You can extend the functionality of your store with hundreds of free and paid 3rd party apps, available in the the Bigcommerce app store. All Bigcommerce themes are responsive (mobile-friendly) and most have a clean, simple look perfect for those selling photo-centric products like apparel, home goods and gifts, as well as niche brands. A built-in theme editor gives a lot of control over the store’s look and feel so you can customize your storefont without coding. Bigcommerce also has a Partner Directory where you can find design and development experts to custom design or build Bigcommerce websites.
If you’ve done any research on hosted e-commerce platforms, you’ve already heard of Shopify. It’s considered on of the best options for small businesses, especially niche and handcrafted brands. They are also known for their modern-looking themes, which can often be used without requiring much customization. Shopify has an extensive theme store with both free and paid apps, which can be used to extend the somewhat limited out-of-the-box functionality of their platform. They also have a robust community (forums) and 24/7 support so you can get help whenever you might need it. Shopify offers their own payment gateway which many stores choose to use, as using a 3rd party payment gateway will add a 1-2% transaction fee to your monthly plan payment. Though it’s not as full-featured as BigCommerce, Shopify is a great choice for new brands that want basic functionality done well with a beautiful storefront. It’s quite easy to learn their control panel and setting up your store can be accomplished in a day if no special customization is required. Shopify is definitely one of the best e-commerce platforms on the market, but make sure to account for the costs of 3rd party apps when comparing pricing with other options.
Like the others, 3dCart is a hosted e-commerce website platform with tons of built-in features. Their control panel is not quite as intuitive as Bigcommerce, but some of that is due to the incredible amount of control they give you over the functionality of your store. You can easily extend your website’s features with free add-on “modules” and customize just about part of a customer’s interaction with your store, from outbound emails to custom forms. 3dCart is an ideal choice for manufacturers or large retailers needing dropshipping, multiple warehouses, fulfillment by Amazon and customer segmentation/groups for CRM purposes. Some of my favorite 3dCart features are their dynamic categories (for Sale or Free Shipping products), the ability to hide pricing or limit purchasing to those who haven’t logged in, an integration to accept Bitcoin as payment and Daily Deals. Though 3dCart’s themes are a bit outdated, you can make limited changes using their design editor, use their HTML/CSS editor to make extensive customizations or hire a design partner to build you an affordable custom 3dCart theme.
Though their name may be new, SparkPay has actually been around for some time under the name Americommerce. Also a hosted platform, SparkPay is packed with features for building a top-notch e-commerce website at a low cost. I like their easy-to-use control panel and their friendly support staff, though phone and chat support hours are limited. Still, they offer a comprehensive knowledge base as well as a community area for store owners to ask and answer questions. SparkPay offers some unique features for B2B companies, like the ability to associate a salesperson with a customer, order quoting and business ordering, as well as cool marketing features like a rewards/points system and affiliate management. But if their default feature set isn’t enough, you can add on free and paid 3rd party apps from their app store. SparkPay has a wide variety of attractive responsive themes that are designed for to fit different types of e-commerce businesses, from brands to large retailers. Use their theme editor to make simple changes or access full control over HTML/CSS through the control panel. You can also purchase a fully-customized theme direct from SparkPay. Though they don’t have an easily accessible partner directory, searching online will find you some designers who specialize in custom SparkPay themes.
**Update: Sparkpay has changed their name back to Americommerce and is under new management. The above review may no longer be accurate.