In a market as saturated as the ecommerce platform market, it can be very difficult to figure out which shopping cart software best meets your needs. If you are considering starting your own store, then chances are you have already run into this struggle at some point. So far I have reviewed most popular platforms as individual offers, and created this comparison chart, then ranked all platforms after their SEO effectiveness, but now it is time to see how the different platforms compare to each other: Shopify, Bigcommerce, 3dcart, Volusion and Big Cartel.
Which of These Platforms is Most Popular?
If you’ve searched for a platform to run your ecommerce store, you’ve no doubt stumbled upon at least a few of the names we’re comparing today. Although popularity isn’t exactly the best motivating factor to make a decision that will affect your future business life, it’s certainly worth talking about, considering when large groups of people lean to a certain solution, we like to hope that it’s for a reason.
That said, if you take a look at a comparison on Google trends, Shopify is the clear winner in terms of what people are searching and how many people are showing interest in the five popular consumer solutions. The 3dcart platform is, and has always been, at the bottom in terms of trending on Google. It’s interesting to point out that Bigcommerce has made a recent surge past the previous second place contender Big Cartel, and we’re certain it has to do with many of the changes Bigcommerce has implemented over the past few years.
Ease of use
If you are a novice online store owner, then there is really nothing as important as ease of use. It doesn’t matter if the platform offers the most amazing features, if you don’t understand how to use them, then they might as well not even be there.
One thing that all of the platforms have in common is the fact that their dashboards are all very easy to navigate. Furthermore, most of the platforms offer some sort of a setup wizard that will guide you through the creation of your first store. Inventory management, design functionality and the setup process all tie into how the overall ease of use is classified in this article.
Shopify has it all in terms of an easy setup, with a handy dashboard area for quickly adding products, customizing the look of your site and more. It’s cool because Shopify asks you if you plan on moving from another platform during the signup process. The system then provides a link for importing products from your previous store. In the screenshot below you can see that Shopify is helping me move from a Magento store.
Adding a product is clear and easy, with fields for titles, descriptions, price and more. The reason I think this is easier to use than Volusion and the other options is because it explains what each field is used for, removing all doubt when typing in information.
We talked a little bit about ease of use with Volusion above, but it’s worth noting that the company has a fairly clean product creation area. It might not be as pretty as Shopify, but it does the trick. The big problem is when you need to go back in and change the layout or design of your pages, since coding knowledge is almost a requirement.
The 3dcart product setup page is the oldest looking of the bunch. It’s not that the module is confusing, but the junky design makes you wonder if they’ve updated it in a while. However, 3dcart offers wonderful tutorials and setup steps to help you do everything from picking a template to setting up your shipping options. The clean wizard is ideal for beginners.
A 3dcart benefit is the drag and drop editor, which is not exactly the best on the market, but it helps you click and drag components instead of having to modify CSS or HTML code. If you’re a beginner without any design experience, this is a huge advantage, since you don’t have to settle for the preset template designs, and it doesn’t require you to go in there and modify any code for a simple adjustment.
Big Cartel offers the least visually-friendly startup area, since it’s not apparent what you should do right when you land on the page, and for some reason the text doesn’t really stand out that much.
Big Cartel lacks a drag and drop editor like you would find in 3dcart, but the customization isn’t the worst thing in the world. All of your design elements are situated to the left, which is fine, but the tools are a little weak, and anything further than that requires coding knowledge.
Next to Shopify, Bigcommerce has the cleanest dashboard and clearest directions for getting your site built within a few minutes. In fact, the dashboard looks surprisingly similar to Shopify, with modules for accepting credit cards, customizing your store and more.
Coding options are available in Bigcommerce, and the design features are quite handy, but I’d still rather have a drag and drop editor, which has not made its way to the Bigcommerce platform yet.
Let’s be honest: design matters, everyone knows if the design doesn’t appeal to the visitor then chances are they will take their shopping elsewhere. Remember what I said in one of the reviews, if the layout of your store looks horrible then even if your product is amazing, chances are people won’t pay attention to your products.
If you are looking for a platform that offers some of the most professional looking themes, then you should really be looking into Shopify, the truth is there is no platform that offers better themes than Shopify.
Compared to Shopify and Bigcommerce, the collection of themes offered by 3dcart or Big Cartel shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same sentence. In fact, Bigcommerce themes are pretty remarkable, and as of March 23, 2016, around 67 new and responsive themes are being released for $145 to $235. You can find them in the theme store, and they were developed to establish a more modern, fluid user experience, utilizing cool new merchandising features for categorization and different sized catalogs.
While 3dcart does offer a lot of themes, when you look closer you realize most of these themes are duplicates. Not to mention, the 3dcart themes aren’t exactly modern looking. In fact, one could argue that some of the themes look like they come from the 1990s, with fixed layouts, weird colors and cluttered interfaces.
Big Cartel on the other hand only offers a grand total of nine themes (seen below). This is unacceptable, since unique branding is a huge part of selling online. In addition, the theme shop is only displayed in a small area to the left of where you modify your website, making it near impossible to view details on each theme or even see what the finished products would look like.
While you might think that the number of themes offered by a platform isn’t such a big deal. You need to remember that if your store lacks originality, such as having the same theme as 50 other stores, then customers are quick to attribute this to poor quality management from the store owner. This is much more likely to make them leave your site without even giving you a fair shot.
Apps and Add-ons
If you are looking for a platform that offers a large selection of apps and add-ons then you should really go with Shopify or Bigcommerce, both companies offer more than 100 different apps and add-ons that can easily be integrated into your store. Another solution would be to sign up with 3cart who also offers access to apps and add-ons, however, they do not offer as many as Shopify or Bigcommerce.
Chances are you will need support at some point in your ecommerce career, it is therefore important to be familiar with the different support offers from the companies.
Shopify and 3dcart both offer 24/7 support through phone as well as chat and email. Bigcommerce offers 24/7 email and chat support, however, their phone support comes with time constraints. The one company who doesn’t seem to offer phone or chat support would be Big Cartel who only offers email support, and what’s more they only offer it Monday – Friday from 9AM to 6PM EST.