The 6 best ecommerce platforms for small businesses in 2022

Your ideal ecommerce platform will help you grow your retail business and allow more customers to discover you online. Find the right platform for your online store today.

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0 out of 0
BEST FOR
Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
Pricing
Visit

Wix

Shopify

Squarespace

Square Online

BigCommerce

GoDaddy

All-round ecommerce platform for small businesses

Best range of apps and extensions

Best for ease of use and great design

Best value – start selling for free

Best sales features

Creating a simple online store

4.8
4.6
4.6
4.3
4.2
3.9

£13-£22 per month
£6.50-£11 until 26th of May

$29 – £299 per month

(approximately £21-£220 per month)

£15-£30 per month

Use code “STARTUPS10” to receive a 10% discount on all Squarespace plans

 

£0-£54 per month

£22-£216 per month

£13.99 per month (first term savings available)

Following our rigorous testing, it's clear that Wix is the best ecommerce platform for small businesses. It's a great all-rounder, offering fantastic sales and design features for a very affordable price – helped in particular by some regular deals and discounts that keep it ahead of the competition.

Shopify came in second, with its powerful selling tools making it ideal for businesses with large or complex inventories, and that are serious about growing and scaling.

However, there are plenty of options on the market, and picking out the best ecommerce platform for your business requires careful consideration about which features you need and how much you can afford to spend.

The pandemic added further impetus to the shift from in-person to online shopping, and this trend shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Even bricks and mortar retailers need to also sell online and, if you exclusively sell online, then you need to get the attention of a customer base that's more discerning and tech-savvy than ever before. Getting your online store right can be the springboard to greatness, while getting it wrong can doom your business before it's even got off the ground!

To help you get this crucial decision right, we've compiled a list of the top six ecommerce platforms for small businesses. As of November 2021, all our ratings and rankings have been updated with brand new research and user testing, resulting in some notable improvements to several of our top ecommerce platforms we'd like to share with you.

Short on time? For a quick overview of our top-rated ecommerce platforms and their best features head-to-head, you can visit our handy ecommerce builder comparison page.

Also, if you want to start a dropshipping business, we recommend you check out our dedicated review page of the best ecommerce platforms for dropshipping.

Or you can read on for a comprehensive review of each platform.

Wix website builder
Our top pick: Wix

Our research has highlighted Wix as the best all-rounder for small businesses wanting to sell online. Start with a free trial today.

Free Trial Discover what it can do for your online business

Wix eCommerce: Best all-round ecommerce platform for small businesses

Wix Online Store
4.8
You can also get 50% off annual ecommerce plans until the 26th of May.
  • FREE TRIAL 14 day money back guarantee
  • PRICE FROM £13 per month
  • 50% off annual plans until 26th of May
  • Perfect solution if you want more creative freedom
  • Great additional features that support everything any up and coming merchant needs
Summary Wix is the most popular website builder in the UK. When we say Wix really does have it all, we mean it. Its largely improved sales features now support multi-channels including Facebook and other marketplaces. The business basic plan, at only £13 per month, comes equipped with 24/7 customer support, unlimited product showcasing and the option to sell on social channels. If you want further insight into your ecommerce business and control of where you can sell, the £22 per month Business VIP plan comes with customised reports, marketplace selling capabilities and priority customer care. However, despite the product priding itself on its ease of use, a rather steep learning curve is required, particularly when navigating set "ecom" functionalities.
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According to our in-depth user testing, Wix is the best ecommerce platform for small businesses, taking top spot for its features, design flexibility, and help and support.

With more than 70 different ecommerce templates to choose from, each of which can be customised to your heart’s content, you can create a unique online shop that’s perfectly tailored to your brand. However, choose your template carefully, because you can’t change it once your website is live.

Best ecommerce platforms - Wix

It’s easy to add features, and unlike other providers, you can edit text and add products within the storefront, so you’re never editing blind. On the go? Not a problem. The Wix mobile app allows you to make amendments to your website from anywhere.

And while it might not be an ecommerce-specific platform – like BigCommerce and Shopify – thanks to its extensive App Market, Wix offers all the sales functionality you could ever need. This includes multiple payment options, secure checkout, and abandoned cart recovery.

In our latest round of research, Wix has improved in a few notable areas – most importantly in its sales capabilities. Recognising the work Wix has put into this area, our researchers increased its sales features score from a decent 4/5 to an excellent 4.5/5, putting it just behind ecommerce-first platform Shopify for this category. Wix also increased its ease of use score from just 3.6 to an admirable 4, making it even easier for you to use Wix to create a fantastic online store.

To learn loads more about exactly how well Wix performs as an ecommerce platform, make sure to check out our in-depth Wix ecommerce review.

Wix eCommerce pricing

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Price
Features

Business Basic

Business Unlimited

Business VIP

Unlimited products
Secure online payments
Plans and recurring payments
Abandoned cart recovery

Subscriptions
Multiple currencies
Advanced shipping
Sell on social channels
1,000 product reviews

Dropship unlimited products
Loyalty programme
3,000 product reviews


Our dedicated Wix pricing page breaks down the company's ecommerce plans in more detail, so you can work out which is the right fit for your business.


Pros
  • Best website features of any non-ecommerce-specific website builder
  • Wix puts your brand front and centre, giving you the creative freedom to design a website that really represents your brand
  • The editor lets you manipulate elements in the frontend, so you’re never editing your storefront blind
Cons
  • You may have to pay more for third party apps
  • Small list of multichannel integrations allowing you to sell on other platforms
  • Currently no option to change your template once you’ve published your website

What the users said

It just looks really professional, even after adding a couple of buttons on to the homepage. It's very clean, and you can easily identify where things are and how it would appear (on your website) once published.

Wix is our highest-rated ecommerce platform. But how does it compare to runner-up Shopify? Read our full review to find out who wins in the battle of Wix vs Shopify for small businesses.

Shopify: Best for sales-specific features

Shopify
4.6
Shopify’s superb features and extensive app market give ambitious ecommerce businesses everything they need to scale rapidly.
  • FREE TRIAL 14-day free trial
  • PRICE FROM £20 per month
  • Preempts and predicts what a merchant might need next in all aspects of creating a website
  • Best range of apps and extensions
  • Perfect for dropshipping
Summary Shopify is perfect for users looking for that all in one online store solution. Its ability to predict what a merchant will need next when creating a website is a brilliant feature, and its countless apps give you complete control over your business, enabling you to grow through diverse multi channel integration options and automated SMS and email marketing. It is definitely better suited to store owners with complex, larger inventories and because there are fewer built in features, using the platform can get expensive compared to other feature-filled competitors like Squarespace and Wix.
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In our most recent round of in-depth research and testing, ecommerce behemoth Shopify scored a very strong 4.6 out of 5, the second-highest overall rating.

And if we look at the ever-important customer score – in other words, the proportion of users that would be highly likely to recommend a platform to a friend – Shopify held onto its position as our top provider for this metric with an even more impressive 4.7/5.

A simple and straightforward approach to design is central to its appeal. While our researchers found that creating an online shop with other ecommerce builders could be overwhelming – a result of “complex terminology and confusing interfaces” – Shopify’s user interface was described as “clean and refreshingly intuitive”, making it easy to get the results you want.

Best ecommerce platforms - Shopify

Shopify's scores have remained pretty steady in our latest research. It's held onto its position as the second-best overall ecommerce platform, though BigCommerce has just edged ahead of it for sales features.

Competitively priced, easy-to-use, and with a bevy of great sales features, Shopify is an excellent option for ambitious, growing businesses. You can also trial the platform for free for 14 days.

To discover more about where Shopify excels as an ecommerce platform – and where it could do better – head to our in-depth Shopify review.

Shopify pricing

0 out of 0
Ecommerce Plan
Price
Plan main features

Basic Shopify

Shopify

Advanced

$29 per month (approximately £21)

$79 per month (approximately £58)

$299 per month (approximately £220)

Unlimited products
Abandoned cart recovery
Online credit rates: 2.2% + 20p

Professional reports and analytics
5 staff accounts
Online credit rates: 1.9% + 20p

Advanced reports
Calculated shipping rates
Online credit rates: 1.6% + 20p

Pros
  • Multi-channel integration, giving you the ability to sell via multiple social media platforms
  • Offers the highest number of sales features, averaging 61/65 across the 13 sales specific areas evaluated
  • Really supports users with more difficult ecommerce tasks, such as shipping and accountancy
  • Shopify is an entirely customisable platform – should you require a bespoke feature it can assist, directly within the builder, on the template you choose, or through its app market
Cons
  • Shopify imposes transaction fees if you don't use its own payment gateways - meaning it's not the best for value for money
  • Limited trial period with restrictive design flexibility
  • Pick your template wisely, as you will need to reformat your entire site if you decide to switch themes once your website has gone live

What the users said

It doesn't pretend that building an online store is simple. For ecommerce, you have to be professional and know lots of inventory things, prices and variants. I like with Shopify that it's just all out there, ready to fill it in, and you can run a real business if you want and if you are up to it.

Did you know?

The pandemic gave the growth of ecommerce in the UK further impetus, and research from eMarketer found that ecommerce's share of total retail sales is expected to grow steadily over the next few years to reach 38.1% by 2025.

Squarespace: Best for creative control

Squarespace Online Store
4.6
It might not have the best sales features, but Squarespace’s excellent editing tools make it quick and easy to get your online store up and running.
  • FREE TRIAL 14-day free trial
  • PRICE FROM £13 per month Use code "STARTUPS10" to receive a 10% discount on all Squarespace plans
  • Ideal platform for digital sales ie online events
  • Our highest scorer for ease of use
  • Use code "STARTUPS10" to receive a 10% discount on all Squarespace plans
Summary Squarespace's ecommerce offering has plenty of great selling points to keep its users happy. There have been huge UX improvements since we last tested the platform, moving from 3.4 to a 4.2 ease of use score. The ecommerce platform has also greatly improved its app store and customer support. Although it's the ideal platform for digital sales (where stock is not directly needed) it falls short when it comes to stock monitoring capabilities. It also has very limited ecommerce templates compared to other competitors like Wix, despite both providers charging the same monthly price of £13 per month on a standard plan.
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Like Wix, Squarespace is a website builder first and foremost. But it more than rivals the ecommerce-specific platforms when it comes to creating a professional online store.

Squarespace is now our joint top ranked platform for design flexibility (alongside BigCommerce). It offers a range of beautiful, stylish, themed templates for nearly every single industry we evaluated – and, unlike Wix, you can change your theme whenever you want. It even has a checkout style editor, so you can make sure your checkout page matches your site’s aesthetic.

Best ecommerce platforms - Squarespace

The editing interface itself is clean and easy to navigate, and our testers praised the creative freedom allowed. However, they found that there can be a steep learning curve for beginners.

And alongside Wix, it’s now our joint second best value ecommerce platform. You'll struggle to find a more design-focused ecommerce solution, with a genuine focus on its users’ needs, for such a great price. Check out Squarespace’s pricing plans here.

Our dedicated Squarespace ecommerce review is the place to go to discover much much more about what Squarespace has to offer as an ecommerce platform.

Squarespace pricing


Struggling to work out which Squarespace plan is right for you? Our Squarespace pricing page gives you the lowdown on which features come with which plans, and what sort of business each plan is suited to.


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Ecommerce Plan
Price
Plan main features

Squarespace Business

Basic Commerce

Advanced Commerce

£15 per month

£20 per month

£30 per month

Fully integrated ecommerce
3% transaction fee
Sell unlimited products

No commerce transaction fees
Point of sale integration
Customer accounts

Abandoned cart recovery
Powerful ecommerce analytics
Advanced shipping

Pros
  • Highest ease of use score in our research
  • Top value for money score of all tested website builders
  • Best designed templates that cover a wide range of industries
Cons
  • Poor site speed performance for desktop use
  • Fewest payment options supported, sites must use PayPal or Stripe
  • Worst sales features score in our research

What the users said

Its templates look incredibly professional and there was enough of a range, with Squarespace providing a description of the features each particular template had already embedded. It was really useful to base your decision on the features you wished to incorporate into your store.

Square Online: Best for selling for free

Square Online
4.3
The best platform to use if you want to start selling for free
  • Free plan Yes
  • Price from £0 per month
  • Start selling for free
  • Excellent analytics
  • Supports dozens of payment types
Summary Square Online is the only website builder that allows you to start selling products without upgrading to a paid plan. You’ll still have to pay a 1.9% transaction fee for every payment processed, but you won’t find a more cost-effective way of getting an online store up and running anywhere else. It’s a great way to get to grips with things before you upgrade to one of Square's premium plans, which start from £9/month.
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Square Online (previously Square Online Store) is unique in this ranking of the best ecommerce platforms for small businesses in that it’s the only one that allows you to start selling products without signing up for a premium plan.

*But that doesn’t exactly mean you can sell for free, as it is also the only platform that does NOT allow you to waive the transaction fee, imposing a 2.5% + 30p charge for every payment processed. That's why, according to our researchers, it's held onto its position as the best value ecommerce platform on the market.

But what's it like to create an online store with this ecommerce site builder?

Well, for what it is, Square Online is pretty solid. There are no real limitations on how many products you can feature, or on the type of product – be it physical, digital, donation, event, service, or even to sell as a restaurant.

Best ecommerce platforms - Square Online

And stock and inventory can be configured any way you wish, with decent analytics and reporting tools available even on a free plan.

For best results, we’d recommend using Square Online in conjunction with other Square products such as its payment system. Get the lowdown on Square POS and the Square card reader here.

On the design front, Square Online scores quite low, as there’s no choice of templates and the only changes you can make are to things like font and colours. That said, the basic online store design it offers is very clean and follows user experience best practice.

Overall, then, a neat, easy, and affordable online shop builder that’s partnered with an industry-leading payment system.

For an in-depth rundown of how Square Online stacks up as an ecommerce platform, check out our Square Online review.

Square Online pricing

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Price
Features

Free

Professional

Performance

Premium

£0 per month

£9 per month

£19 per month

£54 per month

Start selling online
Sell on Instagram and Facebook
SEO tools
Sync with Square POS

Custom domain
No Square ads
Customised font uploads
Password-protected pages

Professional features
Accept PayPal
Abandoned basket
Advanced reporting
Product reviews

Lowest transaction fees (1.75%)
Performance features

Pros
  • You can sell for free (just pay the transaction fee)
  • Easy-to-use site dashboard keeps track of product sales and customer journeys
  • Our highest rated ecommerce platform for help and support tools
Cons
  • Restrictive design features
  • Not the most intuitive interface for new users, uses unfamiliar terminology
  • High transaction fees

Wondering about the Weebly ecommerce platform?

You might be asking “Why is the Weebly ecommerce builder not featured on this list?”, and we'd understand! But it's because Weebly's ecommerce solutions are now offered by Square Online.

BigCommerce: Best for multi-channel selling

BigCommerce
4.2
With the most comprehensive range of sales features around, BigCommerce gives you everything you need to create a fully-optimised online store
  • Free trial 15-day
  • Price from £22 per month
  • Quality in-built sales features
  • Excellent SEO support
  • Great for scaling businesses
Summary BigCommerce is the big budget option for small businesses with big ambitions. Its plans range from £21.83/month to £218.60/month. Quite pricey, but for that you’re getting access to the most extensive range of high-quality, in-built sales features on the market. The costlier the plan, the more advanced the functionality, of course – you also increase your sales allowance. This ranges from an upper limit of $50,000 on the Standard plan to a maximum of $400,000 on the Pro plan. And if your sales are likely to be higher than that, BigCommerce offers custom enterprise solutions. Just get in touch with its sales team to find out more.
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BigCommerce does what it says on the tin. With the most expansive range of sales features of any platform we reviewed, and multiple languages and currencies supported, this should be your go-to ecommerce platform if you’re an ambitious, growing business.

And, unlike rival Shopify, most of its ecommerce features are in-built (rather than from third parties), which means they’re generally of a much higher quality. That's why, in our latest round of rating and ranking, BigCommerce has overtaken Shopify as the platform with the best sales features.

Best ecommerce platforms - BigCommerce

For a limited time only, BigCommerce is offering a 2-month free trial for any Standard, Plus, or Pro plan. This is intended to help businesses sell more online during the uncertain times of financial downturn for many businesses due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

And BigCommerce could produce big results for your online business. Research from Ipsos found that BigCommerce stores grow by 28% year over year, compared to an average of 14% for those created with other leading providers.

It’s not for everyone, but scaling ecommerce businesses should look no further than BigCommerce.

For greater insight on what BigCommerce does well and not so well, hop over to our BigCommerce review.

BigCommerce pricing

0 out of 0
Ecommerce Plan
Price
Plan main features

Standard Plan

Plus Plan

Pro Plan

Enterprise Plan

£22 per month

£59 per month

£223 per month

Custom

Coupons and discounts
Reporting tools
Multi-channel selling

Customer groups and segmentation
Abandoned cart recovery
Stores credit card details

Google customer reviews
Product filtering
Custom product filtering

Express routing, priority support, and customer success management
API (application programming interface) support
Custom sales limit

Pros
  • No transaction fees
  • Superb international selling functions
  • Excellent SEO assistance
Cons
  • Challenging editing interface
  • An expensive option for many small businesses

What the users said

They really do think about all the extra features to make your users’ shopping experience that much more personal and enjoyable. Bigcommerce really supports this, and makes sure you as the merchant are aware of these little extra add-ons by making it easy to tick a box and incorporate a feature. Then they do the rest.

GoDaddy: Best for ease of use

GoDaddy
3.9
A simple way to build an online store.
  • Free trial Yes
  • Price from £13.99
  • Easy to use
  • Simple pricing
  • Fairly good value
Summary It lacks sophisticated sales and design features, but GoDaddy is still one of the easiest ways to create an online store. It just has one ecommerce plan, for the reasonable price of £13.99 per month.
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GoDaddy is an entry-level website builder that makes starting your own ecommerce site a breeze, even if you’re not technically inclined.

Our researchers rated GoDaddy the easiest ecommerce platform to use, with an accessible, helpful editor, and an Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) function that saves time and makes your online store look slick and professional.

However, this very same ADI also severely limits your creative control. This isn't a problem if you just want to get up and running with a great looking online shop, but it's less appealing if you’re after something a little more unique.

GoDaddy Online Store is ultra-easy to get to grips with, even for complete beginners. It’s also one of the cheapest ecommerce website builders, and promises real business growth (not just a pretty shop front).

GoDaddy pricing

0 out of 0
Ecommerce Plan
Price
Plan main features

Ecommerce

£13.99 per month

Product listings
Flexible payments
Flexible shipping options
Discount and promotional features


To learn more about what is actually included in each GoDaddy plan, head to our dedicated GoDaddy pricing page.


Pros
  • GoDaddy's ADI function is the quickest and easiest way to create an online store
  • Restore hero prevents errors or mistake causing added stress by allowing you to create up to five backup versions
  • No surprise fees
Cons
  • Limited creative control, as the ADI function takes away a lot of design freedom
  • Lacks the advanced features of some of its rivals

What the users said

If you need to get online and need to sell products, it can be quite overwhelming, and you’ve still got to do all the product management. GoDaddy do something incredibly well – they take one of those areas away from you and actually, from a design point of view, do it really, really well.

Our methodology: How do we choose the best ecommerce website builder for small business?

As we said in the introduction, each platform has been put through rigorous user testing and ranked on the six key factors that matter to you most.

By gaining an understanding of the factors we used to determine our list, you can decide to what extent each matters for your online store.

Customer score

Our customer score is based on three areas of investigation: user experience (UX), “likely to recommend”, and brand awareness (an assessment of popularity based on keyword research)

Design functionalities

This factor is based on several areas of investigation including Templates/themes, flexibility of design, Mobile editor and more.

Help and support

Help and support is based on testing of things such as restore options (whether a website builder offers the option to restore your website), customer support, and knowledge centre availability.

Sales features

An assessment of a plethora of sales features including security, multi channel integration, payment options, and shipping options among many more.

Value for money

Based on three areas of investigation: features vs price (a combination of the average pricing plan score and quality of feature score), free trial availability, and average pricing plan.

Website features

Covering everything from the quality of website features to internationalisation, marketing power, SEO features, blogging competence, and beyond.


Best ecommerce platforms: Final verdict

Hopefully, one of the six ecommerce website builders above is jumping out at you as the best choice for your online shop.

If you’re after a great all rounder, then Wix – our top ranked ecommerce platform for small businesses – has everything you need for a great price.

If, however, you want a dedicated ecommerce platform that allows full optimisation of your online store with a full arsenal of top-quality sales features – and that gives your online venture endless opportunities to scale and grow – look no further than Shopify.

If you’re looking for maximum creative control, then Squarespace is probably the online shop builder for you.

When it comes to the best ecommerce platform, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. It all depends on what your business model is, and what you're looking for.

If you’re not absolutely sure which one is the right choice for your business, why not try out their free trial or free versions?

With Wix, you just sign up and get a money back guarantee on your subscription if, for any reason, you change your mind. Squarespace, BigCommerce, GoDaddy, and Shopify all offer free trials.

Whichever you choose, happy selling!


Frequently Asked Questions
  • Which ecommerce platform is best?
    According to our in-depth user testing, Wix is the best overall ecommerce platform. We love the creative freedom it gives you, its long list of powerful website features, and the intuitive interface that lets your see what impact your changes will have immediately.
  • What is Shopify best for?
    Where Shopify really shines is the range of sales features it offers that make it easy to scale your online business. It also handles multi-channel selling with ease, allowing businesses to effortlessly sell across multiple social media platforms. Finally, our testers noted that Shopify really makes an effort to support users with difficult ecommerce tasks such as shipping and accountancy.
  • What is an ecommerce platform?
    An ecommerce platform is a website that allows you to sell online. Amazon and eBay are two of the world's largest ecommerce platforms (and SMEs can use either to sell their products), but many small businesses like to take the lead and build their own ecommerce website using an ecommerce platform. By doing this, you can make your online store reflect the look and personality of your brand, your products won’t be rubbing shoulders with competitors', and your customers will be able to easily check out and pay when they find your site online.
  • What are the pros and cons of a hosted ecommerce platform?
    All the providers discussed above are examples of hosted ecommerce platforms. These sites take the pain out of creating your own online store by providing the code and server you need to run your ecommerce site for a small monthly fee. The major benefits of this approach include cutting costs, not having to deal with the headache of finding a server/hosting platform, extra security, easy access to the latest features, and a platform that will scale as your business grows. The downsides of hosted ecommerce platforms are more limited customisation, incompatibility with unusual business models, and having to wait in line for customer support. However, the only way to overcome these is either build the site yourself or invest in a dedicated website developer. This simply isn't practical for most SMEs, so we'd recommend using a hosted ecommerce platform.

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Henry Williams headshot
Henry Williams Content Manager

Henry has been writing for Startups.co.uk since 2015, covering everything from business finance and web builders to tax and red tape. He’s also acted as project lead on many of our industry-renowned annual indexes, including Startups 100 and Business Ideas, and created a number of the site’s popular how to guides.

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