The top performers in our review are 3dcart, the Gold Award winner; Volusion, the Silver Award winner; and Bigcommerce, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a program to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 systems.
More and more consumers are shopping online, from the comfort of their own home or office. Our own research shows that brick and mortar stores have a better chance of surviving if they have a strong online presence, making an online store even more critical to the success of your business. eCommerce software is designed to help you quickly set up an online shopping website that looks professional and entices consumers to enjoy their buying experience while providing the marketing and administrative tools you need to ensure its success with repeat customers.
The best eCommerce software walks you through every step of creating and stocking your online store, from home page design to checkout security. In addition, it offers tools to get you in other popular shopping venues, like Amazon or eBay, and gives your customers what they need to make informed purchases. Some of the companies take the extra step to help you succeed by offering educational opportunities and support.
Most eCommerce software comes with plans that offer different features and cater to stores of varying sizes, though we reviewed the starter packages and the basic tools that are included, indicating on our matrix when a feature is available with a higher priced option. Shopify is one exception. Instead of being able to buy a package and go, Shopify requires you to purchase individual widgets that, together, create a powerful online store. While this makes it more difficult to use compared to the other eCommerce programs, it does make it the most versatile.
eCommerce software typically comes with a built-in POS, or point of sale system, though you can also opt to have it integrate with your existing system. Each system differs with the type of credit cards it accepts or if whether or not you can accept PayPal payments or other payment gateways.
One important set of options to be aware of when choosing an eCommerce software solution are the security features. All the sites we reviewed are PCI compliant, meaning they meet the Payment Card Industry's standard for secure transactions. In addition, all offer Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protection, a special encryption for secure transactions, which is necessary for taking credit card payments. Everyone offers 128-bit, also known as 1024-bit, encryption, but 256-bit is quickly becoming the new standard. Pinnacle Cart is one of the programs we reviewed that incorporates a 256-bit encryption. Regardless of the encryption level, some eCommerce software companies expect you to purchase the certificate that you need to conduct credit card transactions, and if you do not purchase a hosted eCommerce solution, you need to ensure your website host is SSL secure.
Nearly all the services include fraud-prevention features, such as requiring customers to enter the CVV2 codes from their credit cards. Some eCommerce solutions, such as CoreCommerce, provide fraud scores, which alert you to potential fraud risks before the sale is completed, while others expect you to rely on your credit card company for this protection.
When we tested eCommerce programs, we created an online test store for each. As we worked our way through the setup process, we looked at how easy it was to create a product list, how many pictures we could include for each product and if a POS system was already available. Those that provided these features in the base price ranked higher on our site than those that didn't offer them or that required extra payment for that feature.
It was also important for us to be able to create a unique domain and URL rather than simply tacking on our company name to the end of the host web address. This makes is easier for you to promote your products and services while increasing a positive image of your business. Very few of the solutions we reviewed provide you a unique domain as part of your monthly subscription fee. Most charged an additional, nominal fee, but it is a cost worth investing to ensure potential and returning customers can easily search for and find your site.
We took into consideration whether or not the program let us connect with an Amazon or eBay store, allowing us to cross list without having to monitor too closely when an item sells. Instead, each store will automatically deduct that particular product from your inventory once it sells. This also makes it easier to create affiliate programs. All of the eCommerce software we tested support these programs, though some charge for this feature while others include it in the purchase price.
It is important when creating an online store to have tools and options available to make the shopping experience comfortable for your customers. This is why we gave high marks for solutions that included features such as gift certificates and loyalty programs or that are mobile friendly. It is also important to see which programs support abandoned carts, a feature that saves items placed in customers' shopping carts even if they log out of their account, making it easier for them to return and finish the check-out process.
There were times that we relied on the professional guidance of each solutions support personnel. We reviewed how quickly our questions were answered, whether via telephone or email, and if the live chat feature was readily available. We also assessed how comfortable support personnel were when assisting us, whether they could answer our question quickly and how courteous they were when addressing and helping us.
Each of the companies we reviewed provides live chat and a simple setup wizard to help you through each step of creating your online store. They all have video tutorials available online to help show you in more detail how to use the various tools and functions.
When choosing the best eCommerce platform for your business, seek those that offer a variety of features, plenty of storage and bandwidth, and the flexibility to grow with your business. fortune3, one of our top ten software, has the highest amount of both storage space and bandwidth available for the standard package plan.
Most of the products we reviewed offer strong basic programs suitable for creating an online store. However, everyone's business is different, so in order to make the best decision, know your specific needs as far as which reports you want, where you want to sell and what customer benefits you want to offer. If you need help defining your audience and its needs, consider using an online marketing service. Most will also help you research your competition and compare your business with other online stores.
eCommerce software has many solutions that are designed with specific business sizes and products in mind. We offer several articles on eCommerce solutions to help you get learn more about how to assess your company and its needs. Our sister site, BuyerZone, has a buying guide that asks you specific questions about your company, then pairs you with a solution that matches your needs.
If you need more professional help creating a shopping cart site, you can use a web design company and let it take your ideas and turn them into an online store. There is eCommerce software that integrates shopping cart features to an existing website if it is created with WordPress, one of the top web hosting solutions. This eliminates the need to recreate an online store website from scratch. Not many of the solutions we tested include this feature, though X-Cart Cloud is one that does.
With the right eCommerce software, you can get your online business up and running in no time. This software eliminates much of the frustration you might experience with the complex process of setting up and running an online store while providing the tools you need to make your online business a success. Knowing what to look for and what you need for your business can help you make the best choice in eCommerce software.
Our top-ranked solutions, 3dcart, Volusion and Bigcommerce, are each very easy to use, offer the best tools and options, are competitively priced, and ensure security so you can safely access online payments through your online store. These also come with some of the best customer service if you find that you need a little extra assistance creating and supporting your web store.