Best eCommerce Software: How to Choose

It can be asserted with absolute certainty that despite the pandemic’s inherent apocalyptic gloom, ecommerce has proved its mighty catalyst. According to various estimates, the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation by as much as 59%. With more than two billion purchases made online in 2020, the world becomes more digital by the day. So if you’re thinking of shifting your operations online, you’ll have to act fast. The time has arrived and that time is now.

The first step on your digital journey will be building up one single source of truth for your ecommerce operations, and that is an ecommerce platform: you may develop it yourself or purchase one from a third party. If that sounds complicated now, don’t worry -- we’ve got you covered.

In this article, we’ll answer such questions as what ecommerce software is, how it operates, and how to choose the best ecommerce software that will suit your business needs. It’s important to understand what qualities and features to look for in an ecommerce platform, so we’ll spend a considerable time describing those too. By the end of the piece, we’ll provide a list of the best 10 ecommerce platforms on the market for your further perusal.

What Is eCommerce Software?

eCommerce software, or an ecommerce platform, is a computer program that enables the commercial process of buying and selling over the Internet. It drives all online store processes and helps owners to manage inventory, collect and fulfill orders, process payments, and so on. Such software consists of many intricate components, and, in its simplest sense, comprises back and front offices. This way, ecommerce software streamlines back-office operations through multiple integrations with internal and third-party systems to a user-friendly front end that a business user can operate without difficulty. In a headless scenario, which decouples the front from the back end, companies can operate as many front stores as they want, all connected to a single back office. In the next section, we’ll cover different types of ecommerce software and the differences between them.

What Are the Types of eCommerce Software?

eCommerce software can be paid or free-to-use, hosted on your server or third party’s, SaaS or PaaS. Below, we’ll look at those types in detail.

Open source

Open source ecommerce software is software that has been developed by open source community and is free to use and modify. To put it simply, open source software implies that users have free and complete access to the software’s source code. Open source ecommerce platforms are powerful, flexible, and customizable, but also -- very complex as they require technical knowledge and coding skills to modify software components. Even though open source is theoretically free, in practice, such software requires additional expenses on hosting, implementation, support, and so on. Also, while the software’s source code might be free to use and modify, developers can charge extra for additional infrastructure, such as add-ons, separate modules or services that complement open source software.

Licensed

Licensed software is proprietary software that’s distributed under a licensing agreement that protects the access and use of software’s code to authorized parties only. In contrast to open source software, licensed software comes with an attached price tag that typically depends on the complexity of the solution and comprises the base fee for the software, integration services, add ons, annual licensing, and so on. While the costs might be high, they might be worth it for a few reasons: better security and functionality, ongoing support, lower requirements for technical skills.

Fully hosted & self hosted

eCommerce platforms can also be fully hosted and self hosted. While hosted platforms are hosted on a hosting server, self hosted are built by themselves, which means that with the latter, you’re fully responsible for the creation, hosting, and storage of all your data. Hosted solutions are otherwise referred to as SaaS or Software as a Service, which we’ll discuss in detail below.

SaaS (Software as a Service)

Providers of SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions offer cloud-based software through the Internet, hosting data on their own servers. By using SaaS, users don’t require to do any setups or maintenance or have anything but an internet connection and a small fee to pay for the services. A typical SaaS ecommerce platform is built with basic ecommerce necessities in mind, such as hosting, payment gateways, catalog management, content management, and so on. For smaller merchants, SaaS might be the easiest gateway to selling online. However, if you’re an established business with specific business needs, SaaS solutions might not be ideal – SaaS providers don’t allow access to code, database, or critical infrastructure, thereby significantly limiting the platform’s customizability and flexibility.

What is B2B SaaS?


PaaS (Platform as a Service)

PaaS or Platform as a Service provider hosts the hardware and software while managing the hosting infrastructure, which means that by using PaaS services, you don’t set up and maintain hosting, server system upgrades, and security, but, on the other hand, you do have access to the ecommerce application code. Since your development team has access to the code base, PaaS solutions are much more flexible and customizable compared to SaaS: you have full control of your website, are able to connect systems however you want, and perform custom system integrations regardless of the generic API/app model (that you’re limited by with SaaS solutions)

What Are the Benefits of eCommerce Software?

Below are a few advantages to using ecommerce software.

Helps in building ecommerce websites

First and foremost, ecommerce software helps you build a website and start selling online quickly, which significantly reduces ‘the time to market.’ With some ecommerce platforms, this time can be reduced to hours and minutes. Some ecommerce software, like the one offered by Shopify for example, allows you to quickly assemble your website with drag-and-drop functionality, upload product images and descriptions, and launch your website within the shortest time possible. Of course, for larger businesses, this process will get more complicated the more products and services you offer or the more functionality you require, but with reliable and flexible ecommerce software, the process can still be easier than if building an ecommerce website from scratch.

Reduced operational costs

Running a business online saves you time, money, and resources. Firstly, a monthly fee for ecommerce software cannot compare with the huge operational resources of running brick and mortar. Secondly, ecommerce software allows your business to save money on RnD, development, and maintenance or significantly reduce resources required to fulfill these activities. Thirdly, ecommerce software allows your business to access valuable marketing and customer data, analytics, and reporting tools that you can utilize to better understand the market, improve customer experience, and increase sales.

Safe payment enviroment

Some ecommerce software stores come with standard PCI Compliance, so you’re automatically covered with a safe payment environment if you’re working with one of the payment partners of ecommerce software.

Simple guidelines

Although open source ecommerce software requires sufficient technical knowledge for set up and maintenance, other platforms come with simple guidelines that even a business user without technical knowledge can understand.

Users can check out products at any time

Selling online means being open 24/7 globally so that users can check out products and services at any time of day all year long. Being always open means more sales, more customers, and ultimately more revenue and profits.

Expanded product lists

eCommerce software can be sometimes commonly referred to as a shopping cart solution and for a very good reason – it helps you handle product management with ease. Integrated with other systems such as your ERP and PIM, you can create a comprehensive and searchable catalog (or many catalogs!) to help users find your products or services and arrive at a purchasing decision faster.

How to Choose an eCommerce Software?

No matter what you’re doing online, whether you’re creating a single vendor marketplace or connecting to a third party multivendor platform, it’s of utmost importance to choose the right ecommerce solution that can adapt to your business needs, scale, and grow with your business without operational disruptions. But what to look for in an ecommerce platform? Below we’ll look at the key features of a good solution so you know what to look for and how to determine if what you have in mind is the right platform for your business.

Scalability and usability

One of the most important factors, especially if you’re not technically savvy, is the platform’s usability. First and foremost, you should be able to use the software you purchase otherwise it’s a complete waste of resources. Even if you have a team of dedicated developers, you need to purchase software they can work with, extend, customize, and so on. So, seek help and advice from your developers, schedule a demo, start a free trial, read online reviews to get an idea of whether the platform of choice is easy to handle and is suitable for your business scenarios.

Next, see if the platform can extend and scale as your business grows. Scalable platforms are usually cloud-based and API-powered, which means they can easily connect to and integrate with other systems.

Availability of customer support

In case you have technical or any other issues with the use of software, you need to be able to contact software developers or the developing company’s customer service in order to fix something or get adequate consultation on outstanding issues. So make sure that the solution of your choice has a comprehensive documentation section on its website and available contact information, including email addresses and telephone numbers of technical support services.

SEO Features, Marketing, Omni- And Multi-channel Capabilities

eCommerce platforms should be able to have sufficient marketing capabilities to run targeted promotions, bundle products, give customers space to review products and services, and allow for omni- and multi-channel selling. The platform needs to be SEO-optimized, meaning that your website needs to have a unique domain name, a Google sitemap, meta-information for product pages, and perhaps, a blog. Among other important features to look out for include:

  • Possibility to sell physical and/or digital products
  • limits of products, sales and customers
  • integrations with social media and other sales channels

Report analytics and data

Part of the charm of ecommerce software is its reporting and analytical capabilities. So make sure the platform of your choice has reporting and data analytics tools that can provide your business with actionable insights.

Mobile commerce ready

Since your website is most likely to be accessed through multiple devices, you need to make sure your website is mobile commerce ready and device compatible. Mobile has become extremely important for online purchases, especially in the B2C market. So if you don’t want to lose an opportunity for a sale, you need to make sure your ecommerce platform performs to a high standard across multiple devices.

Best eCommerce Software for 2022

No matter what you’re doing online, whether you’re creating a single vendor marketplace or connecting to a third party multivendor platform, it’s of utmost importance to choose the right ecommerce solution that can adapt to your business needs, scale, and grow with your business without operational disruptions. But what to look for in an ecommerce platform? Below we’ll look at the key features of a good solution so you know what to look for and how to determine if what you have in mind is the right platform for your business.

Virto Commerce

Virto Commerce is an open-source, headless, cloud-based, and API-powered ecommerce platform that’s both scalable and composable. Because of the platform’s native extensibility and modular architecture, it’s particularly suitable for business-to-business companies that require custom business logic. If you’re looking for an enterprise-grade solution with Microsoft-based technologies, then Virto Commerce is the most sensible choice because Virto’s platform is built on the high-load ASP.NET Core and supports SQL Server Integration Services among other integration methods. Put it simply, if you have millions of products, hundreds of fulfillment centers and suppliers, and are looking for a solution that handle it all, then Virto Commerce is the way to go.

Virto Commerce


Oro Commerce

OroCommerce is another ecommerce platform built specifically with mid-market and enterprise B2B companies in mind, which means that it offers a handful of out-of-the-box B2B features (like managing corporate accounts or supporting CPQs, for example) and can support custom business scenarios. Just like Virto Commerce, Oro offers robust API coverage that supports multiple integrations with internal and third party systems, and is scalable and extensible by default.

Oro Commerce


Spryker

Spryker is a modular, cloud-native platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solution that suits both B2B and B2C mid-market and enterprise-grade companies. Spryker also positions itself as an API-first headless platform that supports unlimited growth and customizability. However, because Spryker is PaaS, it comes with certain limitations inherent to PaaS solutions, such as the inability to change locked-in features, compatibility and integration issues with different PaaS solutions, and so on.

Spryker


BigCommerce

If you’re a small to medium-size business and are looking for an affordable SaaS solution, then consider BigCommerce ecommerce software that has all the right tools and essential ecommerce features out-of-the-box. Just like any SaaS solution, Big Commerce offers several payment plans, such as Standard for $29.95, Plus for $79.95, Pro for $299.95, and Enterprise plan with no set dollar amount as it’s custom-tailored per each merchant’s needs. The standard plan comes with all the necessary features for a business to kick off their online shopping venture including unlimited products, file storage, bandwidth, and staff accounts, online storefront, integration with social selling platforms like Facebook and Instagram, POS, a mobile app, marketing features, support for multiple currencies, SSL certificate, and so on. There are much fewer possibilities for deep customization but if that’s not what you’re looking for at the moment, then Big Commerce might be a good platform to start with. The good news is that, unlike Shopify, BigCommerce doesn’t charge transaction fees and doesn’t limit your choice of payment providers.

Magento


Magento

Magento from Adobe comes in two versions, Magento Open Source community edition, and Magento Commerce, a full-fledged paid ecommerce software. As the name implies, the open-source version is self-hosted and involves a lot of tinkering with the code. Although open source does come with robust free-of-charge features out-of-the-box, the community edition comes with limited database scalability and lacks some essential native capabilities like page builder, important integrations, Magento-certified cloud infrastructure, and Magento-provided support. Magento Commerce, on the other hand, includes everything said above, as well as ever-evolving Adobe features, a global ecosystem of implementation partners, a vast marketplace of extensions, among other indispensable helpful perks and advantages.

Magento


Wix

If you’re looking for something more simplistic and unpretentious, then Wix might be an ecommerce software to consider. It’s a simple website builder for small shop owners and small business entrepreneurs who are looking for ways to promote their business or showcase their work. Wix has everything to get you started: 100+ templates, unlimited pages, and hosting. There are several available plans starting at $14 and ending at $39. The standard ‘Pro’ plan for $23 a month offers a free custom domain for a year, a free SSL certificate, 20GB of storage space, 2 hours of video, booster and analytics ads, and customer service. Although ideal for freelancers and some such creatives, Wix might be unsuitable for larger businesses. However, Wix does offer a few premium plans for business: Business Basic for $23, Business Unlimited for $27, and Business VIP for $49; whether it’s worth the shot or not, we can’t say since the number of offered business features are extremely limited. While it might work for some businesses, for others – highly unlikely.

Wix


Prestashop

PrestaShop is another ecommerce software for small and medium-size businesses. Presta Shop is an open source solution (and boasts a significant community), which is based on the Symfony framework and hosted on IONOS, a pre-installed secure hosting solution. It includes more than 600 features, and 5,000+ modules and themes are either available in the marketplace or come out of the box. PrestaShop has an ecommerce startup pack to help you get started; the pack, financed by PayPal, has 12 essential modules (including 1 theme), catalog management, payment, accounting, and logistics features out of the box. The starter pack costs $523.99 for the first year and then $244 for each subsequent year.

Presta Shop


Squarespace

Squarespace is an ecommerce solution designed by creatives for creatives. Whether you want to showcase your portfolio in customizable galleries, sell unique merchandise, or tell your story on a powerful blogging platform, there would be no better place to do it but on Squarespace. Squarespace is a fantastic solution for anyone in a creative business: there are dozens of beautiful customizable templates to choose from, powerful built-in SEO features, custom domain name, analytics, and reporting tools to keep track of your successful venture. Although Squarespace has plans for commercial enterprises, it might not be suitable for larger, established businesses. Overall, the pricing starts at $12 a month for personal use with limited functionality and goes way up to $40 for commercial businesses and unlimited features.

Squarespace


Volusion

Volusion is an ecommerce software and shopping cart solution that you can try for 14 days free of charge to decide whether it offers something you can work with. Volusion pricing starts at $29 a month and goes ad infinitum, obviously, based on your GMV. What Volusion calls its Business plan, for $299 a month, offers quite a few features out of the box, such as unlimited products and bandwidth, secure checkout, and free themes and templates. With that said, the number of staff accounts on the Business plan is, surprisingly limited to only 15. Although Volusion claims to be highly customizable, we don’t think it can attend to complex business scenarios, so if you’re in a B2B business, perhaps give Volution a miss.

Volusion


Shopify

Shopify is, perhaps, the most well-known solution among the above, which, however, doesn’t mean that it’s the best one. With that said, Shopify is indeed a powerful ecommerce solution that offers a handful of features out of the box that can perfectly suit a small to medium-sized enterprise. Shopify plans start at $29 a month and go up to $299. Again, even on the advanced plan, Shopify has its limitations, such as staff accounts up to 15 and inventory locations up to 8. Transaction fees are a real dealbreaker, however, and Shopify seems to be charging plenty: up to 2% for transactions not using Shopify payments (on top of other rates, such as credit card processing fees, which can amount to 2.9% + 30¢ USD).

Shopify

Start Selling Online with Virto Commerce

Virto Commerce might be an ideal solution for medium to large enterprises that follow a specific business logic and require a high degree of extensibility and customizability. Thanks to its modular nature, Virto Commerce allows you to basically assemble any type of solution your company wants. Compared to other similar solutions (see table below), Virto Commerce performs exceptionally well against all essential criteria, such as license and implementation costs, time to market, and out-of-the-box capabilities, among others.

If you’re ready to give Virto Commerce a shot, schedule a demo now and see how Virto Commerce can help your business!

Virto Commerce
SAP Commerce
SalesForce
CX Commerce
Magento
ElasticPath
Lisence cost $20K-$100K $200K-1M $450K-$700K $120K-$500K $22K-$400K $120K-$500K
Time to market Quick Longest Quick Longest Average Average
Easy to modify Yes No No No No No
Cloud strategy Strong Monolythic app Good Monolythic app Monolythic app 2 separate apps
New capabilities release cycle Short Long Long Long Moderate Short
Affordable extensibility Strong Poor Poor Poor Poor Average
Out-of-the-box B2B capabilites Strong Strong Improving Weak Weak Strong

FAQs

What is the best ecommerce software?

We believe that Virto Commerce is an ideal ecommerce solution for medium to large enterprises that follow specific business logic or require a completely customizable solution for unique business scenarios. With a free trial period of up to one month, small licensing and implementation costs, development support, and quick time to market, the Virto Commerce ecommerce platform performs highly against competition and can be called one of the best ecommerce systems on the market, without reservations.

However, if you’re a small business and are looking for a simple, readymade ecommerce program, then perhaps, give such ecommerce systems as Shopify, Volusion, and BigCommerce a try, because they have all essential ecommerce features out of the box, are relatively inexpensive, and quick to launch.

How does ecommerce software work?

eCommerce software, aka ecommerce solution, ecommerce system, or ecommerce program is a dedicated technological solution that drives all online store processes and integrates with other systems for a streamlined operation and management of products, payments, and orders.

How do i build an ecommerce website?

While no ecommerce journey is the same and there’s no standard success recipe, below are a few common-sense suggestions on how to get started:

  1. After choosing and getting a domain name, look for a suitable ecommerce platform, because the right ecommerce solution can save you time and money in the future, and is generally considered the guarantor of ecommerce success. You can either opt for readymade solutions or go open source and compose a solution of your own, provided you have technical skills or resources if you choose to do the latter. Whatever option you choose, look for an ecommerce program that has full time dedicated support team in case you have any issues before or after launching your site. 
  2. Spend time building your website, composing it from available modules, or assembling a solution from readymade functionality. 
  3. Integrate with critical internal and third-party systems, including ERP, CRM, PIM, or others if you have any.
  4. Upload your products, descriptions, and provide all meta information to make products more discoverable for search engines. 
  5. Provide as much information as you can and start blogging if your platform allows for that.
  6. Set up user-friendly navigation, a site map, and a search toolbar.
  7. Set up payment, tax, shipping functionality.
  8. Make use of available marketing tools including email marketing and social media.
  9. Test and launch your ecommerce site!

What is an ecommerce program?

An ecommerce program is used to describe the same term as do ecommerce software and ecommerce platform.

What are the 3 types of e-commerce?

While there are many different taxonomies, the typical (and perhaps, the simplest) categorization recognizes three types of ecommerce as B2C, or business-to-consumer, B2B, or business-to-business, and B2X, or business-to-exchange.

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Marina Vorontsova
Technical author and eCommerce advocate