Top 4 Ecommerce Platforms: How to Choose Which Is Best for Your Business

The best ecommerce platform is the one that best meets the needs of your unique business. If you’re thinking of choosing an ecommerce platform for your business but you aren’t sure where to start, we’re here to help. There are a few key tenants to keep in mind when selecting an ecommerce platform — your selling approach, your expected revenue and all the factors associated with it, and the intricacies of each platform. 

Our blog series will break down the contents of our handy Ecommerce Platform Comparison Guide so that you can find the information that best aids in your platform decision-making process. And don’t forget, you can always download our full Ecommerce Platform Comparison Whitepaper if you’d like the full breakdown.

We’ll compare the important features of Adobe Commerce (Magento), Shopify, Big Commerce, and WooCommerce

Ecommerce platform comparison guide.
Don't forget to download your copy of the Ecommerce Platform Comparison Guide.

Adobe Commerce (Magento)

Adobe Commerce, formerly known as Magento, is a widely-used ecommerce platform and a great option for mid- and large-sized companies. It is a strong option for merchants who want a custom branded store and have unique operations and business practices that require some customization.

Adobe Commerce is a licensed Platform as a Service (PaaS) product that comes with a complete managed server environment. It allows your developers full access to the core code and git repository to extend and build upon the foundational code. It is a great choice for businesses doing B2B-type features or B2C needing extensive customization.

PaaS (Platform as a Service) comes from cloud computing where a third-party provider delivers hardware and software tools, which can then be used for application development. The PaaS provider hosts the hardware and software, and manages the hosting infrastructure.

Magento Open Source is the non-licensed, free version of the platform. It uses the same API and core code base, but some of the key features that are useful for enterprise clients are missing. For example, B2B accounts/customer management, multi-source inventory, and other features aren’t found in Magento Open Source. 

Where Adobe Commerce is Strong

  • Adobe Commerce is the most extensible solution with a big out-of-the-box feature set and ability to be adapted to fit your business needs.
  • A strong option if you need a custom import/export, ERP integration or other backend system integration.
  • It’s easy to extend to include business-specific customizations, such as product customizers, subscription systems, complex navigation, or category layouts are all buildable.
  • It comes with a solid default theme, it is fully responsive, and can be extended quickly.
  • It’s an attribute-based system, meaning you can have as many attributes and attribute sets as needed for various types of products. This is very convenient for complex catalogs.
  • There are many third-party solutions for payment gateways, tax, and fraud screening.
  • The CMS page builder is great for quickly building custom layouts without coding.
  • It has Multi-Source Inventory (MSI) for distributed inventory management.

Adobe Commerce: Total Cost of Ownership

The total cost of ownership with Adobe Commerce can be fairly high based on the level of customizations needed during initial development (nearly all clients opt for some form of customizations). In addition to up-front development costs, it also requires quarterly system upgrades.

  • Initial build: Development costs for the initial build can vary widely depending on customization, design, integrations, etc: $60-175,000.
  • Post-launch support: Typically heavy support post-launch (2 weeks per month at first) then at least quarterly platform upgrades: $25-40,000 per year.
  • Future phases: The platform can be extended to meet any future business needs as they arise.
  • Extensions: You may run into various extension fees (usually one-time costs) of around $1,500 depending on what is needed.
  • Hosting for Open Source: If you’re using Magento Open Source, you will need to pay for hosting your website at around $2,200 per year (hosting costs are included with Adobe Commerce).
  • Adobe Commerce License Fees: Adobe Commerce is the cloud-hosted enterprise product so there are additional license costs.

Adobe Commerce website costs.


Shopify 

Shopify is a Software as a Service (SaaS) commerce platform, so it includes all hosting and system upgrades. It is a hosted shopping experience with multiple themes and requires very little programming experience to create a basic store quickly. 

Shopify was originally built in 2004, but grew steadily throughout the 2010s thanks to their ever-expanding features and ease of use — they found a goldmine in the small business space. There are just over 1.4 million web stores running on Shopify in the United States. Many of these are small, however we have seen an uptick in commercial and enterprise tiers using the platform.

One of the drawbacks of Shopify is you don’t have access to servers, code, or really anything that Shopify controls — this is also a key benefit that lowers your total cost of ownership, because it allows Shopify to push updates and manage the core platform for you. That said, custom development is best to keep minimal, and is not as easy to accomplish as with Adobe Commerce.

Shopify comes in a few price tiers for the standard edition with various features at each level. We recommend using the Shopify payment gateway since it has better transaction pricing. 

Where Shopify is strong

  • Its technology stack is more modern than the other solutions and boasts a robust API.
  • The front-end theme can come together quickly. We prefer to find a similar theme to the current site and Shopify provides enough access to CSS to match the front ends. The Liquid language can be used for any sophisticated front-end needs.
  • There is a large app store, containing common integrations and pre-built solutions. 
  • The built-in predictive search capabilities are fantastic.
  • It has pre-built solutions for destination-based taxes, fraud screening, and payments.
  • Custom apps can be built and deployed for a single merchant. They can be installed on a single Shopify store. These don’t go through Shopify’s app approval process. They use a “bridge” to appear as an embedded app in the Shopify admin. 
  • The core Shopify app is built on Ruby and Ruby on Rails, however, that is not what is exposed for developers. When creating your own apps, there are several very modern technologies that are available which make this more approachable.

Shopify: Total Cost of Ownership

The total cost of ownership with Shopify is a little lower than what you’ll see with Adobe Commerce because you won’t see typical self-hosting, patching, and upgrade-related costs. As a result, many smaller sellers can come out slightly ahead with Shopify’s pricing model. 

  • Initial build: Development costs for the initial build can vary depending on customization, design, integrations, etc: $35-75,000.
  • Post-launch support: Expect to need some ongoing external developer support (with the highest support needed soon after launch): $15-25,000 per year.
  • Platform cost: Platform costs vary depending on your plan: $299-$2,000 per month.
  • Apps: There will be monthly- and/or yearly- subscription model app fees: $100-300 per month.
  • Transaction fees: Depending on your plan, you'll have transaction fees for all sales that pass through the site: Anywhere from 2.25-2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.

Ecommerce Platform Comparison Guide

Which is best for your business? We compare the top ecommerce platforms.


BigCommerce

BigCommerce is a hosted ecommerce solution for business owners to set up an online store and customize it however they see fit. This online store can sell an unlimited number of digital, physical, or even service-based products. Currently, around 60,000 merchants use BigCommerce for their web platform.

Where BigCommerce is strong

  • The onboarding process is quick and easy and there are options depending on if you’re a beginner or expert in ecommerce and technical fields.
  • You can choose from a variety of site themes or create your own design.
  • With a variation in pricing plans, the pricing is reasonable depending on the size of your business and your unique needs.

  • Allows you to sell across multiple platforms, even internationally.

  • Easy to create a scalable product catalog and manage it via your control panel or use an external system via the Catalog API.

  • Security and customer support are reliable.
  • You can use many tools and applications to help online store owners, such as Syncee Marketplace to fill or restock your online store.

BigCommerce: Total Cost of Ownership

  • The Standard pricing plan starts at $29.95 per month. Plus is listed as $79.95, Pro is $299.05 per month, or the Enterprise plan which requires you speak with a sales associate for custom pricing. Each variation involves variations of sales channels, special features, service and support, as well as payment processing.
  • Transaction fees can range from 2.59% + 0.49 per transaction for the Standard pricing plan, with variations all the way to 2.05% + $0.49 or lower per transaction for the Enterprise plan, visit their website for more information.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a plug-in for the WordPress platform that adds cart and shopping capabilities to WordPress. It was started by a popular stock theme company, WooThemes, and was acquired in 2015 by Automattic. It is an open-source ecommerce solution.

Note: We do not typically recommend WooCommerce into any serious business environment.

Where WooCommerce is strong

  • It is open source and it is simple to achieve any kind of custom functionality.
  • Options for easy, free, effective “stock” designs.
  • Flexibility to integrate a CRM system, order management tools, third-party shipping services and such as other tools.

  • Since it runs inside WordPress — a CMS you may already be using — can offer some team familiarity.
  • Has a large community of WordPress developers and community forums.

WooCommerce: Total Cost of Ownership

  • Basic site hosting is estimated at $6.95 per month, domain name pricing at $15 per year, the option to use free themes, free plugins, security fees at about $10 per year, free developer fees, and depending on transaction fees, could be around $110 per year total.
  • Mid-range site hosting is estimated at $8.95 per month, domain name pricing at $15 per year, the option to use free themes, security fees at about $150 per year, plugin fees at $25-100 per year, free developer fees, and depending on transaction fees, could be around $300 per year total.
  • Advanced site hosting is estimated at $12.95 per month, domain name pricing at $15 per year, $35-129 for professional themes, security fees at about $150-400 per year, plugin fees at $100-150 per year, $1,000-6000 in developer fees, and depending on transaction fees, could be around $1,500+ per year total.

Optimizing ecommerce with the right tools

Each of the ecommerce platforms we compare differ from each other in cost, build, and code base, but they all provide you, as a merchant, with a substantial starting point that can be used to build your online store. 

With the ecommerce technology available today, you don’t have to build your website from scratch in order to have a custom website. We never recommend (since about 2010) building a home-grown commerce solution. There are too many highly customizable options that keep you out of being in the software business. Don’t let a novice developer or an agency with new tech try to talk you into a solution only they will  be able to support.

There’s no denying the growing popularity of ecommerce platforms. Based on current trajectories, ecommerce transactions are expected to continue growing year after year. Now is the time to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity to grow your business with ecommerce. 

An online website is no longer just an additional support resource for brick and mortar stores — it’s a vital component of your business. Now more than ever, neglecting your webstore can mean falling behind online and negatively impacting your success. The internet is dynamic, constantly changing, and keeping up — or pulling ahead — of competition requires up-to-date technology driving new tactics. 

And, most importantly, working with the right tools. 

How do I choose which ecommerce platform is right for me?

We’ve included a decision matrix pulled from our Ecommerce Platform Comparison guide to help give you a visual overview of the pros and cons of each platform.


The decision matrix.

Final Thoughts

We’re happy to aid you in choosing the best ecommerce platform for your business. Today we discovered the most important factor surrounding Adobe Commerce, Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce. And don’t forget, you can always download our full Ecommerce Platform Comparison Guide if you’d like the full guide all at once.

If you have any questions, feel free to set up a quick 30-minute intro call with us. We’d love to hear about your ecommerce project.

If you're interested in the other parts of this blog series, we've included them below.