5 Best Hosted eCommerce Platforms for an Online Store

A review of the top hosted eCommerce platforms for hosting & building an eCommerce website and how to choose the right one for your particular needs.

Our official guide to the best hosted eCommerce platform

Finding the right hosted eCommerce platform for starting your online store can feel like a daunting task. You want to sell your products online and have heard that hosted eCommerce platforms can make setting up an eCommerce website easy. But with the hundreds of eCommerce web hosts available, you might not know where to turn. In this article, we’ll list our top 5 recommended choices for a hosted eCommerce platform and then discuss what you should look for in these platforms to help you determine the best choice for your business.

The Best Hosted eCommerce Platforms at a Glance

Here’s a quick overview of the top 5 choices for hosted online stores, with the key features of each company outlined below:

PlatformStarts at:Recommended for:Learn more
Wix$27/moAffordable & easy solution for small eCommerce storesLearn More
Shopify$29.99/moMost comprehensive eCommerce platformLearn More
BigCommerce$29.95/moPowerful customization features best for larger storesLearn More
Volusion$15.00/moBest for product-heavy online storesLearn More
3DCart$19.99/moInclusive hosting with advanced features at low pricesLearn More

Choosing a hosted eCommerce platform

Choosing the Right eCommerce Platform for Your Brand

Many of the features offered by eCommerce hosts seem pretty similar at first glance. That’s why there are a few questions you should ask yourself to help narrow down your decision. For example, do you plan to bootstrap your startup and build your website solo? You’ll need a simple website builder that you can figure out on your own. Will you build a store by customizing a theme, or seek the help of a freelance web developer with advanced technical knowledge? Here we’ll address these subjects more in-depth to help you decide what features make sense for your brand:

Use a Well Designed, Responsive Theme

Responsive themes automatically adjust the layout of your website to fit the device a site visitor is using. This mean your store will look great whether your reader is visiting from a desktop, laptop, table, or smartphone. With 70% of online purchases happening on mobile devices, selecting a well-designed responsive theme is more important than ever.

There are over 12 million eCommerce stores in the world today. That number will only continue to grow. You must discover a way to make your online store stand out from the rest of the crowd (and your competitors). Hosted eCommerce platforms offer a limited number of free themes for you to design your store, no matter what your monthly plan is.

Free themes are usually more difficult to personalize, so you’ll most likely opt to purchase a premium theme. Premium themes are a one-time purchase, but the price should factor into your budget because it can vary wildly between platforms. You can find a theme for $50, all the way up to $895.

QUICK NOTE: You want to choose a platform with responsive themes because 70% of online purchases now occur on mobile device, like a smartphone or tablet.

Consider the Number of Products Being Sold

How big will your inventory levels run? It is crucial to nail down an inventory process when it comes to running an online store. The time and energy spent on managing your inventory can quickly add up, and time is money when it comes to running a business. If you’re carrying a very high volume of products, you’ll want a host with a superior inventory management system.

You’ll also notice that some platforms cap the number of products you upload based on your monthly plan. The more items you want to offer your customers, the more you’ll have to pay your host. A higher number of products can equal better conversion rates, but it’s a good idea to start small if you’re a brand new store. Test out the market demand first.

Your Level of Website Building Experience

The ultimate benefit of hosted online stores is the convenience. You’ll receive a domain address, shopping cart, and a website with a monthly subscription at every pricing plan. This allows you create an online store in an incredibly short amount of time, no matter how much experience you have a web developer.

If you’re a total beginner, you might want to look for a user-friendly setup that doesn’t require the need to learn difficult coding in order to add products or customize your store. If you’re a novice user, drag-and-drop builders make it quick and easy to add content to your website.

While hosted eCommerce websites were created with beginners in mind, many larger companies with years of history use a host simply for the convenience. Premium monthly plans provide intermediate and advanced customization features for these bigger companies. Refer back to your business growth plan and number of products. Do you plan to scale up and grow your business in the near future? If so, you’ll want a platform that offers you the option to upgrade your website and bandwidth. Keep in mind that image-heavy websites will also use up extra bandwidth.

Payment Processing & Your Location

A significant factor in selecting an eCommerce host solution is what types of payment you’ll accept. This feature is an area where platforms widely differ from each other, and one that that could have a major impact on your conversion rates. Some platforms offer as few as 9 payment methods, while others have over 150 to choose from.

Site owners will also want to compare transactions fees between hosts, because some will charge for every sale that uses a third-party payment gateway. It’s becoming more common for eCommerce hosts to offer zero transaction fees to remain competitive, but platforms that do charge for this set their fees from 0.05% up to 3% based on the pricing plan you choose.

Small business owners should determine where their target site visitors live. With more inclusive monthly hosting plans, you can even choose the option to have your website translated to another language. Depending on the location, certain countries don’t have access to payment gateways like PayPal. You’ll want your online store to have the capability to accept a variety of payment options, or risk losing a sale.

Evaluate the Marketing & Software Tools Available

While you can get by with using straightforward spreadsheets (like Excel or Google Sheets) in the initial phases of your online store, as you continue to develop your business you’ll need to integrate other software into your approach. For example, accounting is essential to a business operation. Most eCommerce platforms should provide tools like QuickBooks for this.

Marketing tools are another bonus of hosted online stores. Your customers need to be able to discover your website and products. If your platform has built-in SEO function, you can direct search engine traffic to your website. Email lists, loyalty programs, discounts, and social media integration are other important marketing channels to evaluate. Tools like abandoned cart recovery aren’t offered on every platform, but can be valuable in gaining back 15% of lost sales from customers who added to items to their cart but didn’t go through with a purchase.

QUICK NOTE: Search engine optimized platforms give you free marketing for driving traffic to your website.

Final Thoughts on Choosing an eCommerce Platform

Hosted eCommerce platforms are a fantastic way to get your online store up and running in the shortest amount of time. Their convenience makes hosting an excellent choice for small business owners regardless of company size, web development experience, or the number of years in business.

Beginners who aren’t extremely tech-savvy will find an easy setup to be the most important factor in the decision, especially if you’re a solo entrepreneur or have a very small team. However, if you’re behind a larger company or a funded startup, you can find hosting that provides premium monthly plans with advanced customization and more powerful features.

After you narrow down the best solution for your business, give it a test run before you commit to spending cash on a monthly plan. Utilize the free trial from your top platform choice. The length of the free trial varies for each one, but you can generally try it out for at least 14 days first. Choosing your hosted platform ultimately comes down to your overall budget and startup costs, but it’s the quickest way to launch an online store.

About the author

  • How To Get Online is a resource for entrepreneurs & do-it-yourselfers who want to learn about building websites and getting their business online. We publish helpful tips, reviews, and news on web technologies & trends.
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