Top 3 eCommerce site builders, comparison review. Pic by Martin SoulStealer

Shopify vs. Volusion vs. Bigcommerce

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We've researched and compared each of the three leading eCommerce website builders to highlight which ones are the most popular, offer the best value for money, the best SEO features, responsive design, and more.

A modern eCommerce website is a fairly complex thing and for businesses to waste time, money and effort on a custom designed store no longer makes financial, or business, or even common sense. It's far more valuable to research which of the top 3 shopping carts suit your online store best.

Because eCommerce is currently undergoing a phase of rapid growth that is also accompanied by increased competition, the best website builders can help get your online store functioning as quickly and cheaply as possible - in order to focus on marketing, conversions, and sales.

Comparing usability

The following tables shows our ratings for each of the major eCommerce platforms' usability metrics, including ease of use, flexibility, support, and community:

Rank Name Ease of use¹ Flexibility² Support Community³
1 Shopify 9 8 9 9
2 BigCommerce 8 9 9 8
3 Volusion 8 7 8 7

¹ Flexibility was determined by how platforms implemented a selected range of common tasks - such as integrating email marketing and modifying HTML or CSS.

² Ease of use was measured by the time it took to learn how to perform a set number of goals, such as adding a new product and creating a discount.

³ Community value was derived from the size of the contributor and developer platforms, app marketplaces, and other non-core communities that contribute to the platform.

Comparing overall value for money

The following table shows a comprehensive overview of the most important metrics you need to consider when choosing which eCommerce builder to use for your own online store:

Rank Name Price Features Popularity¹ Reviews² Value³
1 Shopify $29+ /month Full featured CMS. Free SSL. Advanced store analytics. 9 9 90%
2 Volusion $35+ /month Product showcase. Product comparison. One-page checkout. Built-in structured data 7 8 89%
2 BigCommerce $29+ /month eBay + Facebook integration. Email marketing integration. Abandoned cart saver. Single page checkout. No transaction fees. 6 9 89%

¹ Popularity was determined by aggregating each service's Alexa ranking with their Google Trends brand search popularity to give a rating of between 1 and 10 - 10 being the best.

² Reviews was determined by aggregating independent customer reviews from around the Web to give a rating of between 1 and 10 - 10 being the best.

³ Value for money was determined by comparing the features and service offered by each service with their pricing and reviews to give an overall value for money metric, expressed as a percentage.

100% being perfect value for money, and 0% being no value for money at all.

It's also important to note that while we tried our best to list the most important features in this table, we were limited to including only those features where one cart does a better job than its competitors.

For example, all of them offer mobile support (responsive Web design), a high uptime guarantee, PCI compliance, and 24/7 support, so we haven't listed those. Fundamentally, you will have to click on each one to explore the complete list - each builder offers many great features for you to explore.

Finally, for the pricing listed in the above table, we used the lowest common plan to compare. Both Shopify (starting at $9pm) and Volusion (starting at $15pm) have cheaper plans that offer lighter resources than Bigcommerce's smallest plan.

Please check below for our conclusion as to which eCommerce software is the best.

Comparing pricing & costs

Here's a table highlighting the pricing of each plan provided by each system, along with other pertinent costs (such as transaction costs) that may have a significant impact on your bottom line:

Software Lite (pm) Basic (pm) Pro (pm) Enterprise (pm) Other ($)
Shopify $9 $29 $79 $179 0% using Shopify payment, 2% on all other payment gateways
BigCommerce NA $29 $79 Custom No transaction fees
Volusion $15 $35 $75 $135 No transaction fees

Please note that there are other costs associated with running your store.

For example, Volusion requires that you purchase an SSL certificate (to secure transactions) for $89 per annum, or $149 bi-annually. Whereas Shopify provides an SSL certificate to all stores at no cost and Bigcommerce offers free shared SSL certificates (you have to purchase your own, if you want a dedicated cert) to all plans.

Comparing search optimization features

eCommerce SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a really important factor when it comes to deciding which website builder to use.

I should state, off the bat, that all three builders offer very good SEO features built-in, and it is likely that your own content and marketing will have a greater overall effect on the amount of search engine traffic you can drive to your store - rather than the underlying SEO differences between the platforms.

With that said, we performed an SEO analysis of the leading eCommerce software solutions for the article Top shopping cart software, 2013.

Here are the results:

Rank Software YSlow PageSpeed Load Time
1 Shopify 84 84 0.89
2 Bigcommerce 76 95 1.52
3 Volusion 80 65 1.87

While I would expect some variation in these results, I think this is a good overall picture of the type of performance and SEO you can expect from each platform.

The only other major difference is that Volusion offers structured data (rich snippets built-in to their system, whereas the other two require a cut and past of code into a product template.

Comparing popularity & market share

It sometimes helps to understand which service is growing the fastest or dominating the others as this is a strong indicator that the market favors one over the other.

The only word of warning I have when using brand popularity as a metric for deciding which website builder is the best, is that a great marketing strategy can affect growth and public opinion, overriding quality and value for money.

Of course, sustained growth of a brand will eventually come down to how good their service and support is, and how well they can meet the needs of their customers. So here's a Google Trends graph of each of our top 3 eCommerce builders' popularity:

Ok, so clearly Shopify is pulling ahead, but that may be down to marketing tactics as opposed to an outright technical, service, or price advantage. For example, check out this Google search results page for the search Bigcommerce:

Shopify advertising in Google using Bigcommerce name

If you look closely at the second ad (second result from the top), you will see that it is a Shopify ad with Bigcommerce in the title (most likely because they are using automatic keyword insertion in their Google ads). This actually confused me for a second because I thought Bigcommerce had advertised itself twice on one page.

At any rate, from a marketing perspective, using another brand's name in your own ad on a search for that brand is pretty sneaky - and it may be that aggressive marketing techniques like this are what are giving Shopify the outright advantage when it comes to brand popularity.

Getting started

The problem with trying to pin down an outright "best eCommerce website builder" is that it's not really possible. As you can see from our primary metric (the overall value for money ranking table), Shopify pipped Volusion and Bigcommerce by 1% - with the latter two tied for second place.

And, while our research shows that Shopify was the winner, the difference are so slight that I still maintain my personal preference toward Bigcommerce, which I feel has greater potential for growth due to its commitment to integrate with a wide range of other useful technologies and services.

In the end, I would select an online store builder like this:

  1. Shopify: if I wanted to start an online store without any specific requirements (click below to get started)

    Step-by-step guide to creating a store with Shopify

  2. Bigcommerce: If I wanted to start an online store that integrates with technologies, products and services I am already using (click below to get started)

    Step-by-step guide to creating a store with Bigcommerce

So that's our analysis of the top 3 shopping cart software solutions on the market today. Based on this information, have you been able to make a decision about which builder to choose?

If you are still undecided about how to build your eCommerce site, it may be worthwhile checking out our create a website resource for some free Web development advice.

Share your eCommerce tips and advice in the comments - especially if you have experience with any of the eCommerce site builders discussed here.

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