Creating your e-commerce website is exciting — but with so many possible website builders to choose from, how do you make sure you’re picking the right one for your business?
E-commerce website builders can vary widely in the features they offer, the fees they charge, and the amount of work they require. And the choice of which tool you choose definitely matters because the right website can also have a significant impact on when and how you get paid.
Fortunately, we’re here to help you make the best decision for you and your e-commerce business, from things to watch out for to the pros and cons of the most popular website builders (and a few other alternatives). Finally, we’ll offer a few tips to make sure you get the most out of whatever builder you choose!
The scoop on website builders
- Questions you should ask when choosing an e-commerce site builder
- The inside scoop on today’s top e-commerce site builders
- How to make sure your choice pays off, no matter what
Questions you should ask when choosing an e-commerce site builder
As you begin to evaluate and compare your options, there are a few things that you’ll want to keep in mind so you can start your search with a clear vision. (Grab a pen and paper, or bookmark this list. You’ll want to keep these questions handy!)
- Is it easy to use? (And if not, do you have the experience and skills to tackle it?)
- What kind of designs or templates are available? How customizable are they?
- What extra features or add-ons does the platform offer?
- What kinds of goods can you sell (physical, digital, services, subscriptions)?
- How well does it integrate with social media (and social shopping)?
- What level of customer or community support is available?
- What are the upfront and/or ongoing costs?
- Does the platform charge transaction fees?
- What payment gateways are available?
- What kind of security does the platform offer?
- What apps or tools can it integrate with?
- Can the platform scale with your business as you grow?
Try to decide which qualities are must-haves vs. nice-to-haves, and whether any are absolute dealbreakers. While it’s unlikely that any one platform will meet all of your ideal criteria, it can be helpful to come into your search with a clear priority list.
The inside scoop on today’s top e-commerce site builders
There are numerous e-commerce website builders available on the market today, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Here’s the inside scoop on nine of the most popular online store builders:
If you’re brand new to website building, Wix makes it crazy easy — without skimping on value. With over 500 pre-built online store templates and a drag-and-drop builder, you can get your store set up in minutes and even start selling on social media. Wix offers a number of great tools built in (like SEO), plus an excellent app market with 250+ free and premium add-ons.
But while Wix is very beginner-friendly, if you’re an experienced web designer or developer, you may not be able to customize the site with as much finesse as you’re used to. For larger stores with a high volume of traffic, Wix’s limited navigation levels and loading speeds may not meet your needs.
Pricing: Business & e-commerce plans start at $23/month
Best for: Small to mid-sized e-commerce businesses; beginners who want to build a professional-looking site, fast.
Shopify may be the best-known e-commerce website builder — and for good reason. Not only do they deliver serious customer satisfaction, but this platform is also built to scale. There are no limits on the number of products you can sell (though you are limited to 100 SKUs per item), and the inventory management is excellent. This platform is flexible, powerful, and easy to use… but if you do get stuck, Shopify offers 24/7/365 support, a massive knowledge base, and an active forum of users and experts alike.
Unless you use Shopify’s in-house payment gateway, Shopify Pay, you will be charged a transaction fee. And although it is an incredibly robust platform on its own, it may be too much (and too expensive) for smaller stores — especially as the cost of apps adds up.
Pricing: 14-day free trial, then starting at $29/month
Best for: Large e-commerce stores; anyone who wants all the support they can get (and then some)
If you want an e-commerce website with a full suite of built-in features, BigCommerce is loaded — which is part of what makes it so great for stores that are scaling quickly. With the ability to add unlimited product variants (SKUs), multi-channel selling, strong SEO tools, and no sales transaction fees, BigCommerce can help your business grow faster.
Of course, all those powers and capabilities make BigCommerce less beginner-friendly than other options, and for smaller stores, BigCommerce may be overkill. You should also be aware that each BigCommerce plan has a yearly sales threshold before requiring you to upgrade your plan.
Pricing: 15-day free trial, then starting at $29.95/month
Best for: Large or fast-growing businesses; multi-channel selling
The first thing that comes to mind when we think of e-commerce sites built with Squarespace is 🤩 . For brands that place a hyper-focus on design and aesthetics — including those who sell digital products, services, and subscriptions — Squarespace may be a perfect fit with its dozens of sleek templates and strong sales, marketing, and social media tools.
Squarespace isn’t a very intuitive platform, and while its templates are beautiful, the selection is limited. The platform also doesn’t have an app store for add-on capabilities and features. Users on the base plan will pay a 3% sales transaction fee, although that fee drops when you upgrade to a higher-tier plan.
Pricing: Commerce plans start at $26/month
Best for: Brands that prioritize design; artists, photographers, or others showcasing a visual portfolio
Odds are you already know Square for its point-of-sale software and hardware used by restaurants, retailers, and service providers across the country. Square Online leverages that experience to help users launch online sales. If you’re already using Square at a brick-and-mortar location, Square Online is a natural, seamless choice. But the best part is: users can start selling for free.
Square Online isn’t nearly as customizable as other website builders, and payment gateways are limited. While you pay no monthly fee, they do charge a sales transaction fee.
Pricing: Starting at $0/month with a per-transaction fee of 2.9% + $0.30
Best for: Sellers on a budget; integrating with a brick-and-mortar store
Acquired by Square Online in 2018, Weebly may be the easiest-to-use e-commerce website builder of them all — and you can start selling for free on their base plan. Weebly online stores are directly integrated into their website and blog builder, so you’ll have access to those capabilities as well.
Lower-tier plans include ads on your site, a subdomain, and a 3% transaction fee. Although Weebly has Square, Stripe, and PayPal integrated into the platform, PayPal is only available on the highest-tiered plans. It also does not integrate with other tools or sales channels.
Pricing: Starting at $0/month
Best for: Small (and staying small) e-commerce businesses; testing the e-commerce waters before you commit
Formerly known as 3dcart, Shift4Shop is the option of choice for users who want total control of their e-commerce website. Although the platform offers 100+ professionally-designed site templates, it’s the high level of customizability that makes Shift4Shop stand out. And you can use the full end-to-end, enterprise-level platform for free when you use their in-house payment gateway, Shift4 Payments.
If you don’t want to use Shift4 Payments, each plan is subject to a yearly sales threshold, but you can choose from over 100 payment providers with no additional transaction fees.
Pricing: Starting at $0/month with a per-transaction fee of 2.9% + $0.30
Best for: Numerous payment options; lowest price for enterprise-level features
If you’re all about analytics, Volusion is a fully-featured e-commerce website builder that prioritizes data and strong backend management, including inventory, shipping, and a mobile app. Volusion also offers unique built-in features (like product videos and ‘deal of the day’ promos) plus integration with hundreds of popular apps and numerous payment gateways.
All this said, design, customization, and usability are not Volusion’s strengths — they’re definitely more focused on the backend than the front end. They also don’t provide a blogging platform, and you have to pay for your own SSL certificate (standard on most other e-commerce platforms).
Pricing: 14-day free trial, then starting at $29/month
Best for: Data-driven entrepreneurs who are more focused on selling than design
Although not a standalone site builder, WooCommerce is a plugin that allows you to add a powerful online store to your WordPress site. This means you can take advantage of all the templates, features, and support that come with WordPress and have more control over your site (compared with e-commerce site builders).
With that additional control, you do lose some ease of use. WooCommerce isn’t designed for beginners, but for those with technical skills, setup is straightforward. And while WooCommerce and WordPress are free platforms, you will have to pay for your domain, hosting, theme, and any apps or add-ons separately.
Pricing: Free to start, add-ons extra
Best for: Those who want control of their site and data
A word about payouts…
Making sales is exciting. But for new e-commerce retailers, you may be surprised to learn that you don’t get paid the moment a customer makes a purchase. In fact, it may take several days before you receive your payout… and how you build your e-commerce site can have an impact.
Here’s what the payout looks like for each of the website builders we highlighted:
|Platform||Payout Process||Expect your payout|
|Wix eCommerce||2-5 days settlement/pending period+3-5 days for payment to arrive in bank account||5-10 days after a sale|
|Shopify||2-4 business days (depending on where your store is based)+24-72 hours for banks to process payment||3-7 days after a sale|
|BigCommerce||Depends on your payment service provider(s)|
|Squarespace Commerce||Depends on your payment service provider(s)|
|Square Online||Direct link from Square POS to your bank account||1-2 business days (or instantly for a 1.5% fee)|
|Weebly||Depends on your payment service provider||1-2 business days for Square|
Same day for PayPal
7 days for Stripe
|Shift4Shop||Depends on your payment service provider(s)|
|Volusion||Depends on your payment service provider(s)|
|WooCommerce||Depends on your payment service provider(s)|
Some platforms also let you choose a payout schedule, if you’d prefer to receive them in chunks rather than a little here, a little there.
Why does all of this matter?
Simple: Cash flow.
“You gotta spend money to make money” is a mantra that the e-commerce industry knows all too well. From new online stores just starting out to growing brands trying to reach the next level, maintaining a healthy cash flow is a common challenge in the e-commerce industry — not because e-commerce businesses aren’t making sufficient revenue, but because of high operational costs.
When you choose your e-commerce website platform (and your payment service providers), you’ll want to take payout periods into account so that you can plan effectively.
How to make sure your choice pays off, no matter what
When it comes down to it, choosing a platform for your online store is all about what works for you, your business, and your goals. But we have a couple of tips to make sure you get what you want from the platform you choose:
- Keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm your customers with too much information (or too many products) all at once.
- Don’t skimp on your product photos. There’s a reason they say “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Make sure your product photos are high quality and memorable.
- Be mobile-friendly. Customers are spending more time on their phones than ever before — be ready to meet them there.
- Step into your customers’ shoes. Get out of “selling mode” and into “shopping mode” — or better yet, get friends and family to help spot things you might not see.
- Always encourage reviews. Reviews and word-of-mouth are some of the most important marketing that you will never do. Encourage your customers to do it for you.
As with any tool in your business, your e-commerce website builder will only work as well as you use it. While choosing the right platform is absolutely the first crucial step, making sure you take time to optimize your site to give your shoppers the best possible experience is the only sure way to make your decision 100% worth it. So get out there and start building your dream site.