The 6 best ecommerce platforms for small businesses in 2024

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.

Our Research

When recommending the best ecommerce platforms, our expert team of writers and researchers focus on the features that matter most to small businesses. We rate platforms on their value for money – including setup costs and ongoing transaction fees – design features, including store templates; inventory management; payment processing options; help and support, plus customer feedback.
Written and reviewed by:
Robyn Summers-Emler Grow Online Editor

Startups.co.uk is reader supported – we may earn a commission from our recommendations, at no extra cost to you and without impacting our editorial impartiality.

If you’re looking to create an online store, the good news is you won’t have to spend a fortune to have a web developer set it all up for you. Ecommerce platforms take all the pain out of this, letting you create your own store from professional templates that you can then customise to look all of your own branding.

Everything from inventory management and payment processing is taken care of through these platforms, leaving you to focus on running your business rather than puzzling over technical setup. As for which you should choose, we’ve put in the research to help you decide.

Following our expert research and rigorous testing, we found that Wix is the best ecommerce platform for small businesses. Addressing the precise needs of small enterprises at an affordable rate, Wix excels not just in affordability, but in providing tangible solutions. But with its closest competitor Shopify only slightly behind, and four others offering differing features, which would truly be best for you? Read on to find out.

6 best ecommerce site builders for 2024

  1. Wix – Best all-round ecommerce platform for small businesses
  2. Shopify – Best for dedicated sales features when selling online
  3. Squarespace – Best for design and creative control
  4. Square Online – Best free ecommerce site builder
  5. BigCommerce – Best for multi-channel selling
  6. GoDaddy – Best for ease of use

The best UK ecommerce site builders for 2024

According to the International Trade Administration, the UK has the third largest eCommerce market in the world, so it’s important that as a small business owner, you have an ecommerce platform you can rely on.

To help you make this crucial decision, we’ve compiled a list of the top six ecommerce platforms for small businesses. Our methodology was built on our latest round of in-depth research and user testing.

Short on time? For a quick overview of our top-rated ecommerce platforms and their best features head-to-head, you can visit our free, handy 🔍ecommerce comparison tool. Otherwise, read on for a comprehensive review of each ecommerce platform.

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0 out of 0

Wix

Shopify

Squarespace

Square Online

BigCommerce

GoDaddy

BEST FOR

All-round ecommerce platform for small businesses

BEST FOR

Best range of apps and extensions

BEST FOR

Best for ease of use and great design

BEST FOR

Best value – start selling for free

BEST FOR

Best sales features

BEST FOR

Creating a simple online store

Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
4.8
Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
4.6
Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
4.6
Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
4.3
Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
4.2
Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
3.9
Pricing

£14-119 per month, billed annually
£13.50-£107.10 with code “TAKE10”

Pricing

£19 – £259 per month, billed annually

£1 for first month

Pricing

£17-£35 per month, billed annually

Use code “SU10” to receive a 10% discount on all Squarespace plans

Pricing

£0-£64 per month

Pricing

$29-$299 (around £23-£240) per month

Pricing

£12.99 per month (first term savings available)

1. Wix: best all-round ecommerce platform

4.8 out of 5
  • Website features
    4.5
  • Sales features
    4.4
  • Design flexibility
    4.0
  • Help and support
    3.8
  • Value for money
    4.2
  • Ease of use
    4.0
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

Our in-depth user testing shows that Wix is the best ecommerce platform for small businesses, scoring an impressive 4.8 out of 5 overall.

Wix features

  • Over 70+ ecommerce templates
  • Industry recommendations for your website
  • Best SEO features of all platforms on this list
  • Drag-and-drop functionality

The Wix ecommerce platform takes the top spot for features, design flexibility, and help and support. Although Shopify is the top choice for sheer depth of sales features, Wix gives you more value for money and a better variety of website templates to choose between.

Wix is easy to use, which is a godsend for small business owners who don’t have the time to contend with complex coding. The platform makes things truly easy when creating an online store, adding your inventory, and laying things out to your preference.

There’s a helpful overview of the Wix Ecommerce platform in the video below, from Wix itself:

The improved AI assistant lets you answer a few questions during setup, and voila! The AI tailors your dashboard and effortlessly assembles all the essential components for your online business, saving you the hassle of figuring it out yourself. It recommends items that you should put into your website based on its type, industry, and name, too. For instance, if you’re building an ecommerce site, Wix will automatically recommend you add in a chatbot. This makes the process of building a website so much quicker.

With more than 70 different ecommerce templates to choose from – each of which is highly customisable – you can create a unique online shop that’s tailored to your brand. However, you’ll need to choose your template carefully because it cannot be changed once your website is live.

Wix’s shop categories page. I was able to see advanced marketing features and edit SEO settings to ensure my store was visible to search engines. (Image: Startups)

It also boasts the most advanced SEO features of all the ecommerce platforms we tested. One unique element of Wix’s SEO offering is its exclusive partnership with Semrush, which users to access Semrush’s industry-leading SEO keyword data directly through the Wix dashboard. There’s also built-in SEO reporting via Google Search Console. These insights can help Wix users improve their website visibility for search terms relevant to their business, and increase valuable web traffic by moving up those all-important search rankings.

Here’s a full rundown of Wix Ecommerce’s features:

Sales features:

  • Drag-and-drop builder: User-friendly even for beginners.
  • Mobile-optimised themes: Ensure a seamless experience on all devices.
  • Abandoned cart recovery: Win back almost-customers on Business Plus & VIP plans.
  • Product variants: Offer different sizes, colours, etc. on all paid plans.
  • Coupons & discounts: Create promotions to attract buyers on all plans.
  • Multi-channel selling: Sell on Facebook, Instagram, and marketplaces like Amazon & eBay.
  • Marketing tools: Email marketing, social media posting tools, and SEO features included on all plans.
  • App Market: Expand functionality with apps for loyalty programs, gift cards, etc.

Design and templates:

  • Over 70 ecommerce templates: Choose from industry-specific options (e.g., fashion, art, food).
  • Highly customisable: Edit colours, fonts, layouts, and add custom code.
  • Examples:
    • Store & Restaurant: Modern template with product grids and delivery options.
    • Minimal Portfolio: Stylish template for showcasing creative work.
    • Fashion Boutique: Chic template with product zoom and social media integration.

Data and analytics:

  • Website analytics: Tracks sales, traffic, and visitor behaviour.
  • Marketing reports: Available on higher-tier plans.
  • SEO tools: Built-in SEO tools to improve search ranking.
  • Integrations with analytics tools: Integrates with Google Analytics.

Invoicing and tax management:

  • Invoice generation: Included on all plans.
  • Tax calculations: Automatic tax calculations based on location.
  • Accounting software integrations: Integrates with QuickBooks and other platforms.
  • Multicurrency support: Available on higher-tier plans.

Wix pricing

Wix offers incredible value for money, costing just £20 per month for its Business plan which provides everything a budding small business needs to get started. The cheaper Core plan is a touch basic for our liking, and a growing ecommerce site will quickly look beyond it.

Here’s how Wix’s price plans break down:

  • Wix Core plan  – £14 per month
  • Wix Business plan – £20 per month
  • Wix Business Elite plan – £119 per month
  • Wix Enterprise plan – Bespoke quote

Transaction fees:

When selling on Wix, you’ll have to factor in “Wix Payments Service Fees.” These don’t change regardless of the Wix plan you’re on – many other ecommerce platforms, such as Shopify, shift their fees depending on the monthly pricing tier you have chosen.

  • Credit/Debit Card: 2.1% of the transaction amount + 20p
  • Apple Pay: 2.1% of the transaction amount + 20p
  • Google Pay: 2.1% of the transaction amount + 20p
  • Wix Payments Manual Card Entry: 2.5% of the transaction amount + 20p

It’s worth noting, you will have to pay these charges on top of any card processing fees from the card provider.

Additional Wix costs:

While it might not be an ecommerce-specific platform – like Shopify and BigCommerce – Wix’s extensive App Market gives it the sales functionality you’ll need, such as multiple payment options, secure checkout, and abandoned cart recovery – all of which will help you increase sales and grow your customer base.

While some apps are free to use, others may require a purchase or subscription for access to their full range of features and functionalities. The costs within Wix’s app market can vary depending on the specific app and its features. Prices generally range from a few pounds to more substantial amounts, depending on the complexity and functionality of the app. It’s advisable to review each app individually to understand its pricing structure and determine the best fit for your business needs.

Wix versus key competitors

  • Built-in marketplace integrations: Unlike Wix, Shopify & Squarespace offer direct integration with marketplaces like Amazon & Etsy.
  • Advanced product filtering & search: BigCommerce offers more robust filtering options for large product catalogues. We’d recommend BigCommerce over Wix only for very large online stores.
  • Product bundling & upselling features: Squarespace allows creating product bundles, while Shopify has built-in upselling features.

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.

More

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. All prices are shown when billed annually.

And to get the full analysis of how well Wix performs as an ecommerce platform, make sure to check out our in-depth Wix ecommerce review.

2. Shopify: best for sales-specific features

4.6 out of 5
  • Website features
    4.2
  • Sales features
    4.5
  • Design functionalities
    3.9
  • Value for money
    3.0
  • Help and support
    3.8
  • Ease of use
    3.5
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

Shopify is far and away one of the best online store builders you can choose. While we’d rate Wix just a touch ahead when it comes to ease of use and variety of website templates, Shopify is pretty much peerless when it comes to sales features and ability to take payments across channels. Only BigCommerce runs it close for depth of features, and that’s a platform we’d sooner recommend for very large online stores. For smaller businesses starting out, Shopify is a great choice.

If you’re a business with an offline and online presence, we’d recommend Shopify above Wix, due to its seamless integration for both offline and online selling.

If you’re building an online store for the first time, there’s no end of options with Shopify. This could work against the less technical – our researchers found that creating an online shop with other ecommerce builders could be ‘overwhelming.’ But, Shopify’s user interface was described as ‘clean and refreshingly intuitive’, making it easy to get the results you want once you’ve decided which of its many (many!) features are essential for your own online store.

Shopify provides its own help and tutorials, like the video below, to help users get up to speed on the platform, fast:

From our research, Shopify was the highest rated brand among users of the platforms we interviewed, getting an outstanding customer score of 4.7 out of 5 for likelihood to recommend.

Shopify features

  • Solid affiliate program for ecommerce brands.
  • Shopify excels in dropshipping, customisation, and a large app store.
  • Predictive website creation, tailored for customer needs.
  • Inventory-first approach.

Shopify’s scores have remained pretty steady in our latest testing. It’s held onto its position as the second-best ecommerce platform, though BigCommerce is now ahead of it for sales features. It also has a very solid affiliate program, which we’ve determined is the best for ecommerce brands.

Shopify is also a brilliant online store for dropshipping, if you’re running your sales this way. Thanks to a huge app store and plenty of integrations, Shopify is a very customisable platform.

As for Shopify’s standout features, the platform pre-empts and predicts what a merchant might need when creating a website. This kind of automation is unmatched in the ecommerce space, and means small businesses can feel confident they are setting up an online store that’s tailored to the needs of their customers.

Shopify’s products page. Unlike other builders, with Shopify, I was encouraged to add my inventory first when setting up my site. (Image: Startups)

Competitively priced, easy to use, and with a bevvy of great sales features, Shopify is an excellent option for ambitious, growing businesses.

Let’s take a look at Shopify’s features in greater depth:

Sales features:

  • Drag-and-drop builder: User-friendly for both beginners and experienced users.
  • Mobile-optimised themes: Ensure a great shopping experience on any device.
  • Abandoned cart recovery: Recover lost sales with automated emails.
  • Product variants: Offer different sizes, colours, etc. on all plans.
  • Coupons & discounts: Create promotions to attract buyers on all plans.
  • Multi-channel selling: Sell on Facebook, Instagram, and marketplaces like Amazon & eBay.
  • App Store: Extend Shopify’s functionality with thousands of apps.
  • Marketing tools: Built-in marketing tools for email, social media, and SEO.
  • Dropshipping: Integrates with dropshipping suppliers like DSers to allow you to open a business without the hassle of packaging or shipping.

Design and templates:

  • 10 free and over 70 premium themes: Choose from a variety of industry-specific options.
  • Highly customisable: Edit themes or hire a Shopify expert for advanced customisation.
  • Examples:
    • Brooklyn: Modern theme with product grids and fullscreen images.
    • Debut: Minimalist theme perfect for showcasing products.
    • Venture: Theme designed for outdoor and adventure brands.

Data and analytics:

  • Comprehensive sales reports: Track sales, traffic, and customer behaviour.
  • Marketing campaign reporting: Measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.
  • Inventory reports: Stay on top of your stock levels.
  • Integrations with analytics tools: Connect with Google Analytics and other platforms.

Invoicing and tax management:

  • Automatic invoice generation: Create professional invoices for your customers.
  • Automatic tax calculations: Based on your location and customer’s address.
  • Accounting software integrations: Integrates with popular platforms like QuickBooks and Xero.
  • Multicurrency support: Sell to customers around the world with automatic currency conversion.

Shopify pricing

We’ve a full page on Shopify Pricing Plans that’s worth checking out to delve deeper into what each tier does (and doesn’t) give you. But, the summary you’ll need to know is as follows:

  • Shopify Starter – starting from £5 per month, Shopify Starter is a great simple option for those that don’t have the time to bother with coding or design.
  • Basic Shopify – from £19 per month (billed annually), this plan is great for small businesses with a low monthly sales volume. It includes basic reports, up to four reporting locations, and two staff accounts.
  • Shopify – from £49 per month (billed annually), the Shopify plan gives you more powerful reporting tools and the ability to create country-specific domains to optimise your international SEO. This is great for growing and international online businesses.
  • Advanced Shopify – from £259 per month (billed annually) you can get your hands on a custom report builder, lower credit card rates, and third-party calculated shipping rates. This powerful plan is best for large online stores with an international presence and a substantial customer base.

You can trial Shopify’s platform for free for three days.

Transaction fees:

Shopify Basic plan

  • 2% + 25p online
  • 1.7% + 0p in person
  • Amex: 3.1% + 25p
  • 2% transaction fee if not using Shopify payments

Shopify plan

  • 1.7% + 25p online
  • 1.6% + 0p in person
  • Amex: 2.7% + 25p
  • 1% transaction fee if not using Shopify payments

Shopify Advanced plan

  • 1.5% + 25p online
  • 1.5% + 0p in person
  • Amex: 2.5% + 25p
  • 0.6% transaction fee if not using Shopify payments

Shopify versus key competitors

  • Built-in marketplace integrations: BigCommerce offers direct integration with some marketplaces, like Etsy, that Shopify presently doesn’t.
  • Advanced product bundling & upselling features: Squarespace and Wix offer more options for creating product bundles and upselling to customers.
  • Free plan: Shopify requires a paid subscription on all tiers, whereas only Square offers a genuinely usable free ecommerce plan

What the users said

It doesn't pretend that building an online store is simple. For ecommerce, you have to know about inventory, prices, and variants. With Shopify, it's just all there, ready to fill in, and you can run a real business if you are up to it.

More

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

Wix may be our highest-rated ecommerce platform, but how does it compare with our runner-up Shopify? Read our full review to find out which one wins when it comes to Wix vs Shopify.

3. Squarespace: best for creative control

4.6 out of 5
  • Website features
    4.3
  • Sales features
    3.4
  • Design flexibility
    4.0
  • Value for money
    4.2
  • Help and support
    3.5
  • Ease of use
    4.2
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

Like Wix, Squarespace is a website builder that rivals ecommerce-specific platforms when it comes to creating a professional online store.

Squarespace features

  • Direct import from Etsy, catering to established customer bases.
    Design-focused templates across various industries
  • Editable checkout style, and theme flexibility.
  • Great value for a design-centric platform

Squarespace is the best store builder you can choose when it comes to design. It offers a range of beautiful and stylish themed templates for numerous industries 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.

Another feature we liked from our first-hand user testing is that you can import directly from Etsy, which is handy if you already have an established customer base there.

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 absolute beginners.

Here’s an official taster video showing the Squarespace ecommerce platform in action, below:

It is also lacking in the sales features department, particularly compared to Shopify or BigCommerce. For example, you’ll need to sign up for one of its pricier plans to access features like subscriptions (Business plan + up) and abandoned cart recovery (Commerce plan + up). Dropshipping functionality is non-existent, which is a major miss compared to the likes of Wix or Shopify.

Best ecommerce platforms - Squarespace

An example of a Squarespace ecommerce website (Image: Startups)

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.

Let’s take a look at Squarespace’s features in more depth:

Sales features:

  • Drag-and-drop builder: User-friendly for both beginners and experienced users.
  • Mobile-optimised themes: Designed to look great on all devices.
  • Abandoned cart recovery: Available on Business and higher plans.
  • Product variants: Offer different sizes, colours, etc. on all paid plans.
  • Coupons & discounts: Create promotions to attract buyers on all plans.
  • Multi-channel selling: Sell on Instagram and integrate with platforms like Amazon & Etsy.
  • Marketing tools: Built-in email marketing tools and SEO features. App integrations for additional functionality.

Design and templates:

  • Over 100 beautiful templates: Choose from a variety of industry-specific options.
  • Highly customisable: Edit themes, add custom code, or hire a Squarespace expert.
  • Examples:
    • Supply: Modern template with product grids and large hero images.
    • Brine: Minimalist template for showcasing handcrafted products.
    • Commerce: Feature-rich template designed for high-volume stores.

Data and analytics:

  • Website analytics: Track sales, traffic, and customer behaviour.
  • Marketing campaign reporting: Available on Business and higher plans.
  • Inventory reports: Stay on top of your stock levels on all paid plans.
  • Integrations with analytics tools: Connect with Google Analytics and other platforms.

Invoicing and tax management:

  • Automatic invoice generation: Included on all paid plans.
  • Automatic tax calculations: Based on your location and customer’s address.
  • Accounting software integrations: Integrates with popular platforms like QuickBooks and Xero.
  • Multicurrency support: Sell to customers around the world with automatic currency conversion.

Squarespace pricing

The pricing plans for Squarespace break down as follows:

  • Squarespace Business – £17 per month
  • Basic Commerce – £23 per month
  • Advanced Commerce – £35 per month

We have a full article on Squarespace Pricing we’d recommend you check out to get the low down on how these plans are distinct. It’s well worth familiarising yourself with, as some features are locked unless you pay for a higher tier.

For instance, the Business tier has transaction fees that will eat into your profits (see below); the Basic Commerce plan has POS integration, unlike the Business tier; and only Advanced Commerce allows for abandoned cart recovery and the deepest customer analytics.

Transaction fees:

  • Business – 3%
  • Basic Commerce –  0%
  • Advanced Commerce – 0%

The transaction fee is is a percentage of the total sale amount collected by Squarespace per transaction. It’s also affected by the type of products you sell (physical items, digital products, or both). On top of this, there’s also a processing fee. This is the fee collected by your chosen payment solution (Squarespace Payments or a third-party like Stripe, PayPal, or Square). Third-party processing fees may vary by location and are not controlled by Squarespace.

Squarespace Payments is a new native payment solution that’s fully integrated within the Squarespace platform. It charges a payment processing fee of 2.9% + 30p per transaction and this is consistent across all plans.

Squarespace versus key rivals

  • Website design: You’re onto a winner with Squarespace, which has the most attractive design templates. Only Wix comes close, and has a great variety of templates; but Wix commits you to the one you’ve chosen, whereas Squarespace lets you chop and change in future without rebuilding from scratch.
  • Built-in marketplace integrations: Shopify and BigCommerce offer direct integration with more marketplaces than Squarespace.
  • Dropshipping: Squarespace lacks dropshipping supplier options, so choose Wix or Shopify for a dropshipping business.
  • Advanced product filtering & search: BigCommerce offers more robust filtering options for large product catalogues.
  • Free plan with ecommerce functionality: Not with Squarespace. Choose Square instead, but be aware there are limitations (see below).

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.

More

Struggling to work out which Squarespace plan is right for you? Our Squarespace pricing page will give you the lowdown on which plans offer which features, and what sort of business each plan is best for.

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

4. Square: best for selling for free

4.6 out of 5
  • Website features
    4.3
  • Sales features
    3.4
  • Design flexibility
    4.0
  • Value for money
    4.2
  • Help and support
    3.5
  • Ease of use
    4.2
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

Square features

  • No limitations on products (physical, digital, services, etc.) without requiring a premium plan
  • Advanced inventory control and launch planning.
  • Analytics and reporting tools, even on the free plan
  • Clean, user-friendly interface for basic online store setups

Square stands out among the list of ecommerce platforms we’ve chosen, as it is the only provider that lets you create a functional, attractive online store for free.

Surely there’s a downside? Well, yes. For one thing, Square has to make its money somehow, and it does this via transaction fees of 1.4% + 25p for UK cards or 2.5% + 25p for non-UK cards, for all online transactions. That may still be pretty reasonable for small online stores starting out, but larger, scaling businesses will want more flexibility.

Still, Square is a pretty solid choice for building your ecommerce site. There is no limitation to how many products you can feature or the type of product – be it physical, digital, donation, event, service, or even to sell as a restaurant. This is great because you can sell your products and services without having to spend money on a premium ecommerce plan, some of which can cost you over £25 a month on the likes of Shopify and BigCommerce.

Here’s an overview video from Square of how the online platform works:

The other handy feature we found from our testing is the ‘hide category’ in its inventory management, allowing you to set up a new product ahead of launch day.

Stock and inventory can be configured any way you wish, and it provides the base minimum of analytics and reporting tools that you would need even on the free plan. These can help you make data-driven decisions based on your best-selling products. Square is also well-known for its in-person payments via Square Point of Sale – so this is a great platform to choose if you sell online and offline.

Square’s frontend product view editor (Image: Startups)

On the design front, Square is more of a letdown, compared to rivals. This is because there’s no choice of templates and the only changes you can only make changes to the font and colours. That said, the basic online store design it offers is very clean and follows user experience best practices. This is in stark contrast to the likes of Wix and Shopify, which offer a multitude of templates and design features for you to take advantage of.

Here’s a further look at Square’s features:

Sales features:

  • Simple online store setup: Get started quickly with pre-built templates and product listings.
  • Mobile-friendly checkout: Ensure a smooth buying experience on any device.
  • Abandoned cart recovery: Recover lost sales with automated emails (available on paid plans).
  • Product variants: Offer different sizes, colours, etc. on all plans.
  • Coupons & discounts: Create promotions to attract buyers on all plans.
  • Multi-channel selling: Sell on Instagram, Facebook, and integrate with marketplaces like Amazon & Etsy.
  • Point-of-sale integration: Sell online and in-person with Square’s POS system.
  • Marketing tools: Basic marketing features like email marketing and social media integration. App integrations for additional functionality.

Design and templates:

  • Limited selection of free templates: Additional theme options available for purchase.
  • Moderately customisable: Edit themes with basic tools or hire a Square designer for advanced customisation.
  • Examples:
    • Classic: Simple template with product grids and clear call-to-actions.
    • Minimal: Modern template with large product images and clean layout.
    • Restaurant: Template designed specifically for food and beverage businesses.

Data and analytics:

  • Basic sales reports: Track sales, traffic, and customer behaviour.
  • Marketing campaign reporting: Limited reporting on email marketing campaigns.
  • Inventory reports: Stay on top of your stock levels.
  • Integrations with analytics tools: Connect with Google Analytics and other platforms.

Invoicing and tax management:

  • Automatic invoice generation: Create invoices for customers on all plans.
  • Automatic tax calculations: Based on your location and customer’s address.
  • Accounting software integrations: Integrates with popular platforms like QuickBooks and Xero.
  • Multicurrency support: Sell to customers around the world with automatic currency conversion.

Square pricing

Square Online is the only provider among the best ecommerce platforms for small businesses that allows you to start selling products for free. This is why our researchers found it to be the best value ecommerce platform on the market.

There are more premium features you may be obliged to pay for, however. Here’s a breakdown of Square’s pricing plans.

  • Free – as it says, no upfront cost
  • Plus – £20 per month
  • Premium – £64 per month

Why spend when you can get it for free? Well, here’s a good reason. The Premium tier is required for some pretty important features, such as accepting PayPal payments, tracking abandoned baskets, and allowing customers to add product reviews.

Transaction fees:

  • Free – 1.4% + 25p per UK card; 2.5% + 25p per non-UK card
  • Plus – 1.4% + 25p per UK card, 2.5% + 25p per non-UK card
  • Premium – 1.4% + 15p per UK card, 2.5% + 15p per non-UK card

There are no minimum monthly transaction requirements with Square, and fees are only charged when card payments are processed. In other good news, the transaction rates remain the same no matter what type of card is charged—Visa, Mastercard and American Express are all charged at the same rate.

To keep things straightforward for its users, Square uses a simple per-transaction pricing structure, with no hidden fees for:

  • Account activation
  • Early termination
  • Interchange fees
  • Chargeback fees
  • Account inactivity

Square versus rival platforms

  • Advanced product filtering & search: BigCommerce and Shopify offer more robust filtering options for large product catalogues.
  • Drag-and-drop builder: Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify offer more flexible drag-and-drop builders for customisation. With Square, you’re stuck with a rigid template – though it still looks professional
  • Content beyond your online store: If you want to add a blog, news, or further sections to your site, then you’re better off with Wix or Squarespace. Shopify and Wix offer built-in tools for scheduling and publishing social media posts.

More

Read our Square review for an in-depth look at how Square stacks up as an ecommerce platform.

5. BigCommerce: best for multi-channel selling

4.2 out of 5
  • Website features
    3.5
  • Sales features
    4.6
  • Design flexibility
    4.0
  • Value for money
    3.0
  • Help and support
    3.9
  • Ease of use
    3.3
Pros
  • No transaction fees, meaning you fully reap the rewards of every sale you make, in comparison to platforms like Square that charge per transaction
  • Superb international selling functions, that include multiple currencies, tax calculation, and even regional pricing variations
  • Excellent SEO assistance to ensure you hit the higher reaches of the SERP results and grow traffic
  • One of the only platforms that integrates seamlessly with Facebook Marketplace, allowing you to sell products on the platform effortlessly
Cons
  • Challenging editing interface makes it harder to make changes to your website quickly and easily
  • An expensive option for many small businesses, and should only be considered by startups looking to scale

BigCommerce offers users the most expansive range of sales features of any platform we reviewed, supporting multiple languages and currencies. This should be your go-to ecommerce platform if you’re wanting to expand your operations overseas.

BigCommerce features

  • Quality features integrated within but steep learning curve
  • Drag-and-drop builder for design flexibility
  • Overtakes Shopify in sales functionality
  • Evolving platform with growing ease of use

Unlike Shopify, most of its ecommerce features are built in (rather than from third parties), which means you can rely on them to be high quality. This is why BigCommerce has overtaken Shopify as the platform with the best sales features. However, based on our first-hand testing, we do think BigCommerce’s sales features are more advanced than Shopify, so expect to hit a steep learning curve if you’re an ecommerce beginner.

Best ecommerce platforms - BigCommerce

An example of a Bigcommerce website (Image: Startups)

Despite being slightly difficult for beginners, BigCommerce made some recent improvements to its ease of use. Its drag-and-drop builder offers you design flexibility, so all you have to do is select a page element you like and insert it wherever you want it to go.

Here’s BigCommerce’s own overview of the drag-and-drop tool:

We would caution that during our testing, we found that this feature wasn’t quite as intuitive as some of the equivalent drag-and-drop tools from rivals, such as Wix. It’s certainly a process you’ll be able to get your head around with a little trial and error, but we wouldn’t call it class-leading.

Here’s a more detailed look at BigCommerce’s features:

Sales features:

  • Drag-and-drop builder: User-friendly, even for beginners.
  • Mobile-optimised themes: Ensure a seamless experience on any device.
  • Abandoned cart recovery: Recover lost sales with automated emails (included on all plans).
  • Product variants: Offer unlimited product variations on all plans.
  • Coupons & discounts: Create promotions to attract buyers on all plans.
  • Multi-channel selling: Sell on Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, eBay, and other marketplaces.
  • App Marketplace: Extend BigCommerce’s functionality with thousands of apps.
  • Marketing tools: Built-in SEO tools and email marketing features. App integrations for advanced marketing.

Design and templates:

  • 12 free and over 100 premium themes: Choose from a variety of industry-specific options.
  • Highly customisable: Edit themes, add custom code, or hire a BigCommerce expert.
  • Examples:
    • Stencil: Flexible theme framework for building custom storefronts.
    • Cornerstone Light: Modern theme with large product images and video backgrounds.
    • Storefront Pro: Feature-rich theme for high-volume stores.

Data and analytics:

  • Comprehensive sales reports: Track sales, traffic, and customer behaviour in detail.
  • Marketing campaign reporting: Measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.
  • Inventory reports: Stay on top of your stock levels with advanced inventory management tools.
  • Integrations with analytics tools: Connect with Google Analytics and other platforms.

Invoicing and tax management:

  • Automatic invoice generation: Create professional invoices for your customers on all plans.
  • Automatic tax calculations: Based on your location and customer’s address.
  • Accounting software integrations: Integrates with popular platforms like QuickBooks and Xero.
  • Multicurrency support: Sell to customers around the world with automatic currency conversion.

BigCommerce pricing

Here’s the breakdown of how much BigCommerce costs:

  • Standard Plan $29 per month (around £23)
  • Plus Plan $79 per month (around £64)
  • Pro Plan $299 per month (around £240)
  • Enterprise Plan – custom pricing

BigCommerce offers a 15-day free trial for its Standard, Plus, or Pro plans. So you can try out the platform before signing up for any of its plans, with no credit card required.

BigCommerce falls short in some pricing aspects. For one, it is easily the most expensive ecommerce platform on this list. To put it into context, BigCommerce’s cheapest plan will set you back £23 per month. When compared with Wix, which will cost you £14 per month, with similar features plus far better ease of use and customer support.

BigCommerce is not for everyone, but scaling ecommerce businesses should look no further, particularly if you have the budget to spend.

Transaction fees:

The good news with BigCommerce is across all plans, there are zero transaction fees. This will be a welcome relief for small retailers, and an excellent way of prioritising profit margins for large stores, too. Of course, you’ll still need to contend with separate processing fees from your chosen payment gateway or card processing service, but BigCommerce won’t add to this with its own fees.

BigCommerce versus key rivals

  • Large, complex stores and inventories: If you’re running a particularly large ecommerce store, then BigCommerce is one of the best choices you can make – only Shopify equals it for depth of sales features that large stores may need. BigCommerce’s zero transaction fee may give it the edge in the eyes of large-scale sellers, though.
  • Small and boutique stores: While you can run a small ecommerce site on BigCommerce, we’d say it’s overkill, and you’ll find this easier to do using Wix or Squarespace (and a lot cheaper, too). You can even do it for free with Square.
  • Free website builder: Not with BigCommerce – Square is the best option for creating an online store at zero cost (beyond its transaction fees).

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.

More

For more detailed information about BigCommerce pricing plans, visit our dedicated page on BigCommerce pricing. And for greater insight on what BigCommerce does well and not so well, hop over to our BigCommerce review.

6. GoDaddy: best for ease of use

3.9 out of 5
  • Website features
    2.5
  • Sales features
    3.5
  • Design flexibility
    2.7
  • Help and support
    3.3
  • Value for money
    3.6
  • Ease of use
    4.1
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

GoDaddy is an entry-level website builder that makes starting your own ecommerce site a breeze even if you’re not technologically inclined. This is one of the easiest ways to get a store up and running.

GoDaddy features

  • Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) function for a professional look with minimal effort
  • One of the cheapest ecommerce builders
  • Handy ‘hide category’ feature for pre-launch product setup
  • Unlimited products available for sale without premium plan constraints

Our researchers rated GoDaddy as one of the easiest ecommerce platform to use. We found it to be an accessible, helpful editor that includes an Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) function that can save time while making your online store look slick and professional with minimal effort.

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 want to create something unique. Once you’ve created your store using ADI, you can’t change much more about it, whereas platforms like Shopify can give you the creative freedom to make changes at any time.

GoDaddy’s website builder (Image: Startups)

The GoDaddy Online Store is 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).

However it is seriously lacking website features compared to any of the other platforms we’ve listed. You will get the bare minimum with GoDaddy which amounts to basic hosting, colour and font changes, and the SEO prompts and reporting are pretty lacklustre. Here’s a rundown of the features you do get:

Sales features:

  • User-friendly website builder: Easy to use, even for beginners.
  • Mobile-responsive designs: Ensure a seamless experience on any device.
  • Abandoned cart recovery: Recover lost sales with automated emails (available on Business and higher plans).
  • Product variants: Offer different sizes, colours, etc. on all paid plans.
  • Coupons & discounts: Create promotions to attract buyers on all plans.
  • Multi-channel selling: Sell on Facebook, Instagram, and integrate with marketplaces like Amazon & Etsy.
  • Appointment booking: Schedule appointments directly through your online store (available on Commerce and higher plans).
  • Email marketing tools: Built-in email marketing features on all paid plans. App integrations for advanced marketing.

Design and templates:

  • Over 50 professionally designed templates: Choose from a variety of industry-specific options.
  • Moderately customisable: Edit themes with basic tools or hire a GoDaddy designer for advanced customisation.
  • Examples:
    • Apparel: Modern template with product grids and high-quality image galleries.
    • Restaurant: Template designed for showcasing menus and taking online orders.
    • Crafts & Hobbies: Template with features for displaying product details and variations.

Data and analytics:

  • Basic sales reports: Track sales, traffic, and customer behaviour.
  • Marketing campaign reporting: Limited reporting on email marketing campaigns.
  • Inventory reports: Stay on top of your stock levels on all paid plans.
  • Integrations with analytics tools: Connect with Google Analytics and other platforms.

Invoicing and tax management:

  • Automatic invoice generation: Create invoices for customers on all paid plans.
  • Automatic tax calculations: Based on your location and customer’s address.
  • Accounting software integrations: Integrates with popular platforms like QuickBooks and Xero.
  • Multicurrency support: Sell to customers around the world with automatic currency conversion.

GoDaddy is still a solid choice for small businesses that want to get up and running quickly and easily.

GoDaddy pricing

GoDaddy’s ecommerce plan is “one and done”. There’s no tiering, just a single plan, simply priced at £12.99 per month (billed annually). For this, you get:

  • Product listings
  • Flexible payments
  • Flexible shipping options
  • Discount and promotional features

Transaction fees:

It gets even better – as well as the low cost, single ecommerce plan, GoDaddy charges zero transaction fees. You will, however, have to accept payment processing fees from your chosen payment service provider. For instance:

  • Square – 2.5% per online transaction
  • Stripe – 1.4% + 20p per transaction for European cards, 2.9% + 20p per transaction for non-European cards.
  • Pay with PayPal – 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction

GoDaddy versus rival platforms

  • Advanced product filtering & search: BigCommerce and Shopify offer more robust filtering options for large product catalogues.
  • Data and reporting: This isn’t the strongest point for GoDaddy. If you’re eager to drill into trends in your product sales, Shopify, BigCommerce or Wix will give you more insights.
  • Drag-and-drop builder: Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify offer more flexible drag-and-drop builders for customisation.
  • Pricing tiers: There is something refreshing (and cheap!) about GoDaddy’s single ecommerce tier, but it belies the relative simplicity of the options. You may pay more with the advanced tiers of Wix or Shopify, but you get more in return.

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.

More

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

Our testing and scoring methodology

As you may have noticed, we used a unique scoring method throughout this article when assessing these platforms. Each platform has undergone rigorous user testing and has been ranked on the six key factors that matter most to you: including general customer score, design functionalities, help and support, sales features and value for money.

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).

Our design functionalities score is based on several areas of investigation, including templates/themes, flexibility of design, a mobile editor, and more.

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

Sales features are thoroughly assessed, considering security measures, multi-channel integration, payment and shipping options.

The value for money criterion considers the balance between features and price, free trial availability, and overall affordability across plans.

Lastly, the website features score spans a wide spectrum, encompassing the quality and extent of website features, internationalisation, marketing capabilities, SEO tools, and blogging proficiency. This comprehensive evaluation process ensures an overall view of each platform’s strengths and limitations.

How should you choose an ecommerce platform?

An ecommerce platform is a website builder that’s specifically designed to create online stores. In a short amount of time, a business owner can design and build a no-code ecommerce website using drag-and-drop functionality, so you can have complete control over what your store looks like. Ecommerce builders are DIY software, so we recommend them to companies or individuals that don’t have a complex sales cycle and need an inexpensive, simple tool to get their online store set up quickly.

Here are some key things to focus in on as you’re choosing between the various platforms

Upfront cost versus ongoing transaction fees

Value is everything for small business owners, with rising overheads meaning that your cost of goods sold can make or break a business. It’s tempting, therefore, to save a quick buck and opt for the ecommerce platform, with the lowest monthly costs. But, be wary of the transaction fees you may incur – these can be higher on some of the lower-cost plans. While this won’t hurt you too badly if you’re a small, boutique store, the higher charges could bite when you start shipping a lot more products.

Design and templates

Your storefront is your first impression to a potential customer, so you’ll want it to look professional, approachable, and aesthetically pleasing. Ecommerce platforms are a great way to achieve all of this, but they cary on how many templates they offer; how well-designed they are; and how much you can customise them.

Squarespace is our pick of the bunch when it comes to the attractiveness of its templates. Wix has a fantastic array to choose from, too. But, some platforms, such as Square, give you fewer options and fewer ways to customise the design.

Code or no code

One of the best things about website builders is you can genuinely create a whole website without ever needing to delve into the coding. This is great news for anyone who needs to focus on running a business, rather than learning the complexities of web design. Most platforms will give you options to get stuck into the code if you really want to, including top choices such as Wix and Shopify.

If you really want to go to town and customise an entire site, then WordPress is a better choice than most of these builders. But, there’s an almost intimidating freedom to how much you can change things in the code.

Apps and integrations

Most ecommerce platforms help you add third-party apps and extensions to oversee everything from managing stock, to taking customer payments.

Integrations can also be hugely useful for things like invoicing or accounting software, helping you to run your numbers and complete our tax assessments as a business.

Dropshipping

If you plan to launch a dropshipping business, you will also need an ecommerce platform to sell from. Using an ecommerce website builder, dropshippers can design an entire online shop front for customers to make a purchase. Businesses can then automate the sales process to review, process, and deliver the product straight to customer.

But, not all platforms currently allow dropshipping. Wix and Shopify certainly will do, and they’re our top choices.

Final verdict

Wix is our top ecommerce platform for small businesses for 2024 because it has everything you need at an affordable monthly price.

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 sure which provider is the right choice for your business, try a free trial or free versions. With Wix, you can try the free plan, or 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 also offer free trials that you can take advantage of today.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is Shopify best for?
    Shopify offers a strong range of sales features, making 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. Our researchers noted that Shopify makes an effort to support users with difficult ecommerce tasks, such as shipping and accountancy.
  • What are the pros and cons of a hosted ecommerce platform?
    An ecommerce platform provides the code and server you need to run your ecommerce site for a small monthly fee. This helps you cut additional costs of signing up with a server/hosting platform. There is added security, easy access to the latest features, and a platform that can scale as your business grows.
  • Which ecommerce platform is best for startups?
    The best ecommerce platform for startups is Wix. While Shopify and BigCommerce do have some incredible sales features, Wix offers a similar level of functions for a fraction of the price.
  • Which is the best ecommerce platform for artists?
    When it comes to choosing the best ecommerce platform for artists, Squarespace stands out for its user-friendly interface, customisable templates, and seamless integration of online stores with artistic portfolios. It provides a creative and efficient platform to showcase and sell your artistic creations.

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Written by:
Ross has been writing for Startups since 2021, specialising in telephone systems, digital marketing, payroll, and sustainable business. He also runs the successful entrepreneur section of the website. Having graduated with a Masters in Journalism, Ross went on to write for Condé Nast Traveller and the NME, before moving in to the world of business journalism. Ross has been involved in startups from a young age, and has a keen eye for exciting, innovative new businesses. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.
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