Which Is The Best Ecommerce Platform For Startups?

Which is The Best Ecommerce Website Builder?
Chapter 1

Ecommerce Speed Performance

Site Speed Performance Metrics For Ecommerce Platforms

In ecommerce, speed is money. Every second your site takes to load is costing you.

A lot.

According to research by Akamai, most consumers want sites to load in 3 seconds or less. The median load time for the top 500 ecommerce sites is 10 seconds.

According to our data, the load time for average ecommerce sites is 3.39 seconds, but the platform you use makes a big difference. For example, WP Ecommerce sites tend to load in 5.61 seconds, while 3dcart sites tend to load in under 2 seconds.

There’s more – a 1 second improvement in load time equates to a 7% increase in conversions. Wouldn’t that be nice?

If you’re running a self-hosted platform you can optimize it for speed, but again that takes time and effort. Most self-hosted sites don’t bother; the average Magento site loads in 5 seconds. Forget collecting any credit card payments with that slow site.

Price might be the problem – optimizing for speed isn’t cheap, and ironically, can take a lot of time.

An out-of-the-box solution that offers great loading speed is a secret weapon in your ecommerce arsenal. Don’t underestimate the value of this metric.

Speed performance is so important, we wanted to collect multiple types of data (from 2000 ecommerce website domains) to determine how well a site performs. We discuss two of the most important factors briefly after the table.

Platform Loading Speed

Average Ecommerce Platform Load Time

Load time is a pretty straightforward indicator of how fast your site is. Simply put, it’s the measure of how long it takes a page (or pages) on your site to fully load. A slow site is a killer in ecommerce – potential customers run away from slow sites, and as we mentioned earlier, each second you gain in site loading speed translates directly into sales gained.

Load time was the most heavily weighed metric for our overall performance score.

Ecommerce Platform Loading Speed Comparison

Google Mobile PageSpeed Score

Average Google Mobile PageSpeed Score

Google’s PageSpeed Score is based on several factors that rate your site’s speed and usability. Across the board you’ll notice poor mobile speed scores. The average score is 58/100.

Marketers and developers are really starting to feel the mobile speed crunch. Mobile users expect pages on their mobile devices to load faster than desktop. Companies like Google are focusing on projects like AMP to make mobile pages load faster.

Average Google Mobile PageSpeed Score

Chapter 2

Ecommerce Mobile Performance

Ecommerce Mobile Performance

What is it about mobile? More than a passing fad, mobile tech is an ecommerce retailers’ dream. Mobile-friendly sites are a must have for all e-retailers, and with good reason –

  • 66% of time spent on online ecommerce is done through mobile devices
  • 82% of smartphone users turn to their devices to help them make a product decision

Customers want mobile friendly ecommerce website design, and the market is showing that mobile commerce is growing 300% faster than ecommerce, which means your site also has to have a responsive design.

To get the most out of mobile site design, you need to make sure your online platform is easily upgradable. Look at live sites to see what works and what doesn’t.

Test your site repeatedly and on multiple devices, and don’t forget to keep your mobile set heavy on the visuals and with type that’s large enough for everyone to use – not to mention easy and intuitive navigation.

Take a true mobile first approach with your design and UX loading performance.

Google Mobile Friendly Test

Google-Mobile Friendly Test Passed

Mobile responsive is recommended over dedicated mobile sites. Google uses a bot, Googlebot to see if the page is mobile friendly – mainly for the purpose of search engines. Learn more about the criteria here.

This test shows the percentage of sites on each platform that passed Google’s Mobile Friendly Test (MFT).
Ecommerce Platform Google Mobile Friendly Test Scores

Google Mobile User Experience Score


Google’s Mobile User Experience score offers an excellent idea of just how much your website will frustrate mobile users…or not. Unlike Google’s MFT, that is based on Googlebot, this score tries to mimic how a real user interacts with the page.

According to a post on Moz, five key factors to consider for mobile user experience include:

  1. Viewport configuration
  2. Font legibility
  3. Use of incompatible plugins
  4. Content to viewport
  5. Size and proximity of links

Read Sharon’s article to learn more about fixing common mobile UX mistakes.

Ecommerce Mobile UX Scores

Chapter 3

Platform SEO Performance

SEO Performance Ecommerce

“SEO is dead.” – People who don’t know how to do SEO

Can we just tell you how sick of hearing that, and how wrong it is, once and for all?

Excuse me while I rant, but you need to know your SEO. Keyword stuffing and content written for robots and spiders was never a smart move, and sure, it’s penalized and anyone who practices it should be punished.

Bad SEO is dead. It should be.

Good SEO, on the other hand, is alive and well. The best SEO practices will catapult you the top of Google’s coveted search results, and win friends on Yahoo! and Bing, too.

You’ll generate more organic traffic, saving you cash on leads. SEO is a crucial part of site design and performance, and there are plenty of ranking criteria to consider for your ecommerce enterprise.

Making it easy for humans and robots to navigate is a good first step – and that takes using the right URL structures. Site promotion and honest, white hat backlinking are also smart. That’s good SEO.

URLs are super important. Do NOT skip over good URL structure.

It’s not something you can make up for through great content and backlinks. Although we hate to point fingers and bring up bad examples, we’re begging you.

Don’t ever let your URLs look like this:

http://purplesagetea.com/epages/472f26ef-dbcc-482e-8f37-4e8a0b5ede3c.sf/en_US/?ObjectPath=/Shops/472f26ef-dbcc-482e-8f37-4e8a0b5ede3c/Categories/Category3 (via 1&1/ePages)

Great selection of teas, but between the slow load time and the painful URL, we’re betting their shop isn’t making anywhere near what it could be. They’re lacking good technical SEO. So if you are looking for the best ecommerce platform for SEO, check the data below.

Average # Terms Ranked In Top 20

Average # of Terms Ranked In Top 20
This is fairly self-explanatory. One factor you want to look at is the number of search terms your site ranks in the top 20 for. The closer you are to page one in search results, the higher the chances of you drawing organic search traffic. The more keywords your rank for, the more traffic you get.  Using data from Ahrefs, we looked at the average number of terms ranked on the first two pages on Google.  In terms of my overall performance scores, live ranking data was only a small factor.



SEO Friendly URLs

77% Of Ecommerce Websites Have SEO Friendly URLS

Search engines like to keep things simple and easy for the end user. Bulky, huge URLs are NEVER user-friendly. They’re not good for your business, either. Short, relevant URLs are an important ranking factor. Good for usability.

Which Ecommerce Platform Has The Best URL Structure?

Chapter 4

Ecommerce Platform Features

Features for the top 20 ecommerce platforms

If you do short run custom products like engraved jewelry or even wall decals, you’ll need custom product fields for customization. Plan on managing a large inventory of various products? You might need a back-in-stock email notification feature or dropship integration to keep your orders leaving the warehouse as fast as they enter your ecommerce system.

Every platform will allow you to:

  • open an online store in a relatively quick time period
  • accept basic types of online payment
  • boost your site’s online presence

Our scoring system in a nutshell: anything rated 75+ is good, 50-74 is ok and less than 50 avoid.

Essential Features vs Nice To Have Features

When you look at all the ecommerce platforms and tally up all the features like we did, the end result is a mind-boggling list of 41 core features. After you make sure that your platform can handle your business model (i.e. recurring orders or customized products), you need to make sure that your online platform delivers on the features we’ve identified as crucial for ecommerce entrepreneurs – we weighted these 5x more than ‘nice haves’ in our assessment of best ecommerce software.

After years of working with ecommerce clients, it’s pretty clear that if you don’t at least have these, you’re in trouble:

  • Fast web hosting
  • SEO tools (sitemaps, customizable meta data and URLs, bulk editing)
  • Fuzzy & exact product search (check out this article for more details on search)
  • Ability to send abandoned cart emails
  • Blog
  • Mobile store
  • Coupon and discount compatibility
  • Integrated ratings and reviews
  • Multiple product photos with zooming capability

If you’re a tech whiz, you won’t be too concerned with some of the features we weigh heavily, but keep in mind that you want to spend the bulk of your time working on the most profitable areas of your business – otherwise, you’re losing money.

The features we’ve noticed are great additions, but won’t make or break your ecommerce store:

  • Ability to handle subscriptions/recurring product orders
  • Drop-shipping integration
  • Ability to sell customizable products (like engraved jewelry)
  • Fulfillment by Amazon integration
  • Real-time shipping/tracking
  • Reward points program compatibility
  • Google Trusted eCommerce Stores

Adding stuff out of the box takes time and money. Adding a bunch of paid plugins can really drive up costs – so we wanted our scale to reflect that.

When looking at features we used the following point system:

  • Included out of the box = 100
  • Free plugin/add-on needed = 75
  • Paid plugin/add-on needed = 25
  • Not available = 0


Ecommerce Feature Scores


This looks at the features that help your website grow. Once your sales start to tick up, you’re going to want to scale your operations seamlessly. That means going multi-channel, selling on other platforms and even countries. You might even need apps made just for your business as you scale.

Platforms like Squarespace really struggle in this area. Squarespace only has one payment option, Stripe, and no payment gateway integration with other selling channels like Amazon.

BigCommerce came out heads and shoulders above the other platforms with market place and social media integrations available on their lowest package.

We based our scalability scores on the following criteria:

  • Number of Payment Gateways/Options
  • Amazon, Ebay, and Etsy Integration
  • Facebook, Pinterest Sync
  • Google Product Data Feed
  • Open API
  • Design Customization

We followed the same point allocation that we used for main features.

  • Included out of the box = 100
  • Free plugin/add-on needed = 75
  • Paid plugin/add-on needed = 25
  • Not available = 0

Scalability RATINGS


Ease Of Use

First-time ecommerce entrepreneurs should be able to launch and run a store on their own without having to call a developer for every last thing. So we gave extra weight for the ability to set up and run your store code free.

Other things that make your experience a little easier is:

  • Phone support
  • 24/7 support
  • Chat support
  • Certified additional dev/marketing support
  • Free templates

Ease Of Use Ratings


Still have questions about what platform would work best for you? Take a look at our top ecommerce platforms for startups by downloading the full report below.

Chapter 5

2018 Recommended Platforms

We told you our criteria and showed you some of the data we used to arrive at some pretty strong conclusions.

Choosing the best ecommerce site builder is really based on your needs.  We do want to recommend that you consider a few as front runners – BigCommerce was by far the strongest option for start-ups looking for a platform to grow your business with. Prestashop gives entrepreneurs the best bang for your buck. X-Cart is one of the best free ecommerce platforms if you have dev resources.

Shopify is another strong ecommerce software option. Their mission is to make selling online as fast and simple as possible. They nailed that, but their SEO has some holes. Weak ranking performance, rigid URL structures and a WordPress plugin that uses iFrames highlights my concerns with their SEO. Moreover,  you can’t customize Shopify’s checkout page.

If you’re WordPress savvy, WooCommerce can be a great option for you.

Most ecommerce platforms do a decent job. There is a handful we’d warn you to think twice before committing to, including Magento, Open Cart, Jigoshop, ePages (1&1), WP Ecommerce, CoreCommerce and Big Cartel. There are much better options available at similar price points. Still, many people use and love these platforms.

Still have questions about what platform would work best for you? Take a look at our featured reviews and comparisons:


  1. Brenda Stoltz April 19, 2016
    • Darren DeMatas April 19, 2016
  2. Harbinder Singh April 19, 2016
  3. Chris M April 19, 2016
    • Darren DeMatas April 19, 2016
  4. Lee April 19, 2016
    • Darren DeMatas April 19, 2016
  5. Shabbir April 19, 2016
    • Darren DeMatas April 20, 2016
  6. Brian Dean April 20, 2016
  7. Nahuel April 20, 2016
    • Darren DeMatas April 20, 2016
    • Christina May 23, 2016
  8. Tomek April 20, 2016
    • Darren DeMatas April 20, 2016
      • Karthik June 15, 2016
  9. Nasser man April 23, 2016
    • Darren DeMatas April 24, 2016
  10. Alex McEachern April 25, 2016
  11. Andy Geldman April 26, 2016
    • Darren DeMatas April 27, 2016
  12. Chris Makara April 26, 2016
    • Darren DeMatas April 27, 2016
  13. Henneke April 26, 2016
    • Darren DeMatas April 27, 2016
  14. Dennis Moons May 4, 2016
  15. Adam Joshua Clarke May 23, 2016
  16. Zsuzsa Kecsmar May 26, 2016
  17. Zahid Aslam June 21, 2016
  18. Marie July 12, 2016
  19. John July 31, 2016
  20. Rogier August 4, 2016
  21. Shurti August 11, 2016
  22. Ksenia Emelyanova November 8, 2016
  23. James Brouwer February 4, 2017
  24. Shawn April 5, 2017
  25. Singtel Shopify June 20, 2017
  26. Niranjan July 2, 2017
    • Darren DeMatas July 3, 2017
  27. Ilke July 19, 2017
  28. Melissa Carver August 15, 2017
  29. Cesar November 7, 2017
    • Darren DeMatas January 18, 2018
  30. Tony Jayne December 15, 2017
    • Darren DeMatas January 18, 2018
  31. Jon Pastor January 2, 2018
  32. Katherine Carey May 24, 2018
    • Darren DeMatas August 9, 2018
  33. kajal jain September 28, 2018
    • Darren DeMatas October 2, 2018

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