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If you own an e-commerce store or you’re thinking about starting one, it’s important to think about how you’ll store the site data. After all, even the smallest e-commerce shop has product photos, descriptions, pricing information, inventory, and more. In other words, unlike simple websites like a blog, there is a lot of raw data in the e-commerce space.
Similarly, it’s important to ensure that your e-commerce site is well-organized and consumer-friendly. Otherwise, people will have no real incentive to purchase goods from your store. There may be exceptions for highly specialized items, but a disorganized website is unlikely to take off otherwise.
Critical to site organizations is a good way to manage your site’s content. For some large shops, the answer may be a customized solution. However, for smaller shops, an ecommerce CMS is often the answer.
What is an Ecommerce CMS Platform?
The term CMS stands for Content Management System. This is an appropriate name that reflects the most basic function of the CMS — managing the digital content of a website. If you use a CMS for your site, it will organize all your site data. It may also interface with other applications through APIs and Integrations.
Generally speaking, using an ecommerce CMS means that your website will need little to no custom code. In other words, your web developer won’t have to write a computer program to perform content management functions. Instead, you can mostly drag and drop content into the backend of your website. Done right, a CMS will allow for the seamless operation of your website.
Why are CMS Platforms Invaluable for E-commerce Today?
As I already mentioned, a CMS provides an easy-to-use platform that holds your website together. But there are more benefits than simply getting the job done. In fact, I would argue that using a CMS instead of custom code for your e-commerce site is invaluable.
Ultimately, the no-code nature of a CMS makes it easier than ever for someone to set up an e-commerce site. That is, almost anybody can build a website this way. While professional web development is helpful, continuing to pay professionals to update every aspect of your site, such as adding products or changing prices, can be uneconomical. This is especially true in the beginning when you have very little profit margin.
On a related note, CMS usage allows almost anyone to run a website. If your e-commerce store is just starting, it’s easy to learn the few skills you’ll need for everyday maintenance. And with the low Build and maintenance costs, you can start a shop with almost no money.
Similarly, the ability to make changes to your site quickly can help boost profitability as you respond to market forces. If the latest supplier rates are crushing your profit margin, for example, then you can adjust prices accordingly. Likewise, adding a backorder message to a popular item page helps keep customers informed. With transparency being so important to today’s consumers, an ecommerce CMS is increasingly critical to your shop’s success.
17 Best Ecommerce CMS Platforms to Build Your Online Store
Clearly, picking the right CMS is a big decision. With all the competing programs out there, it can be tough to decide between the alternatives. Worse, changing your mind later means you’ll have to migrate data from one platform to another – which can take a lot of time and requires your store to be offline during the process.
As you read through this list, consider what features you need right now. Then, think about how well a CMS can accommodate your current needs and any added requirements in the near future. Once you’ve narrowed down the options, a final decision will be much easier.
Shopify is one of the most popular e-commerce CMS options right now. In fact, according to the company, around 10% of e-commerce in the US is transacted on Shopify. When you consider that Amazon and some other mega-sites run their own CMS, it’s easy to see that Shopify has a very large footprint.
Considering Shopify’s capabilities, this isn’t surprising. Like all other CMS programs, Shopify holds your web content. However, it does a lot more. Using Shopify, you can fulfill orders, manage inventory, and get detailed analytics data to help grow your business. In addition, you can use it with half a dozen items for sale or many thousands because Shopify is almost endlessly scalable. You can even handle international orders.
Another reason you might choose Shopify is that it’s essentially an all-in-one solution for running your business’s online and backend parts. For instance, you can leverage Shopify Payments for your site and also get a terminal for the brick-and-mortar location or trade show booth. This omnichannel flexibility helps you expand your business horizons. Finally, there are powerful marketing tools included to help you succeed.
Pricing: From $39 per month, plus any credit card fees (for Shopify Payments).
If you have multiple storefronts, check out BigCommerce. That’s because you can manage several sites from the same account, saving you time and money. Feature-wise, BigCommerce is really flexible. For instance, you get the standard ecommerce CMS features like order tracking, analytics, and content management. There’s also significant support for omnichannel sales like local stores and other websites, including eBay or Amazon.
Companies that have both significant written content and a product line should also consider this platform. That’s because they offer an API and WordPress integration. Professionals who blog and offer goods or services through their websites are great examples of entities that can benefit from this feature.
With that said, although BigCommerce lets you link with your payment provider, they don’t process payments. So, you’ll need a separate payment provider like PayPal or a credit card payment processing agreement to get paid. Also, you can’t print shipping labels from the CMS. Instead, you can check their rates tool to find the best deal.
Pricing: From $29 per month, paid annually.
Magento is a relatively famous ecommerce CMS now known as Adobe Commerce. Nowadays, it’s a flexible CMS for innovative companies, and it can handle multiple brand sites from a single account. A unique feature is that Adobe has added AI-driven customer experience functions for B2B and B2C brands.
Adobe Commerce is useful for smaller brands, but its specialty is enterprise companies. Think Coca-Cola, which is a specially-mentioned customer. For this reason, there’s a lot of flexibility to personalize and customize this CMS to meet the unique needs of larger businesses. It’ll even interface with other programs to ensure that inventory management is done right.
Pricing: Not listed on site.
Prestashop is an almost-custom Ecommerce CMS system. To use it, you download and install the basic shell. Then, you choose from hundreds of modules to set up your website and add functionality. For instance, there’s a module that lets you add payment processing to your website. You can also add essentials like analytics and shipping, along with a customized theme.
An added benefit of Prestashop is automated marketing. Choose from social networks and other locations around the web. In this case, you only get paid ad placement, so content marketing will require other tools.
With Prestashop, you can choose between a free version that provides most software features but leaves you in charge of hosting and any tax/compliance work. Or, pick the hosted version. Since the company is EU-based, they add modules for VAT, GDPR, and cookie management. You’ll also get access to support and installation help.
Pricing: The basic version is free. Hosted Prestashop starts at around $25 per month.
OpenCart gets its name from the open-source software that powers it. Similarly to nonprofit WordPress, you download and install the CMS. However, you have two options for hosting. One of them is traditional, third-party web hosting. If that’s what you choose, then you only have to pay for premium modules as appropriate. Otherwise, you can buy hosted OpenCart, which puts your data on an AWS server.
No matter which experience you choose, OpenCart has endless customization opportunities. It’s set up to accept PayPal automatically, but you can add any other provider that you want. Similarly, you have near total control over your shop’s aesthetic, design, and content. As an added bonus, OpenCart helps you with site SEO, tax management, and other tasks.
Pricing: For the hosted version only, pay for what you use starting at $59 per month.
Further Reading: The Ultimate Guide to SEO for eCommerce Websites
If you want something super simple, Squarespace is one of the better options. This ecommerce CMS features drag-and-drop editing into a website template. Simply pick one that’s appropriate for commerce and design away. You’ll get a custom domain and hosting included with the price, so it’s easy to manage costs.
Features depend heavily on the plan you pick. For instance, the basic level doesn’t have e-commerce features, and the most basic commerce-friendly plan has limited features. However, if you have payment processing and other services set up (for example, if you’re expanding online from brick-and-mortar), then this may work well for you.
Any business account lets you sell unlimited products. Social media-based sales and advanced features will require a higher-level account. Nonetheless, the highest service level gives you almost everything you need – at a competitive price.
Pricing: Business plans from $23 per month.
Wix is similar to Squarespace in that it’s a drag-and-drop site builder. As such, it has many of the same basic features. However, there are some significant differences. For instance, Wix has a very high level of security for the sites it hosts. You can sell print-on-demand items and do cross-border transactions. And perhaps most importantly, Wix supports drop shipping. In fact, this is really easy to do on a Wix site.
Another difference is that Wix has an API and omnichannel sales capabilities. You can even get customer targeting and buyer profiles, which helps fine-tune your strategy. Therefore, you have a lot of flexibility with minimal complexity. There’s a lot to love about that set of features.
Pricing: From $16 per month.
WooCommerce is an open-source ecommerce CMS based on WordPress. Like its parent CMS, you install a theme and add plugins. For instance, you’ll need a plugin for payments, another for analytics, and a few for marketing. Set up properly, a WooCommerce-based website can do just about anything, from simply selling a few niche products to significant cross-border commerce and drop shipping. All you have to do is pick the right plugins.
Pricing: Free. However, you’ll need to pay for a domain, hosting, and any premium plugins.
Once again, Drupal is open source. It also gets updated by the community regularly, and a lot of enterprise-grade businesses use it. If you’re old enough to remember the early days of the Internet, chances are that you’ve heard of this ecommerce CMS. Of course, it’s great for almost any kind of website. Using plugins and modules, you can add almost any functionality you want.
With that said, the big disadvantage of Drupal is that it requires some expertise. Chances are that, unless you have an IT background, you’ll need to hire a website designer. On the other hand, you’ll likely get very professional results. And because the platform is endlessly customizable, you can get whatever features you need – and what you want. Finally, APIs let you add external functionality, such as payment processing or your marketing suite.
WordPress is another open-source CMS with endless possibilities. In fact, a large chunk of the Internet is built on this platform. As I mentioned above, people think of WooCommerce as WordPress for web stores, and this is largely true. However, there are some other options. Specifically, you can install several smaller plugins to add payment and e-commerce functionality. Some offer more than others – The most basic option just adds a PayPal button.
Nonetheless, even if you don’t want to use WooCommerce, using WordPress for e-commerce is often a good choice. This is especially true if you have a content-heavy website and only sell a few things, or if you have a blog along with the e-commerce store.
Price: free. Some plugins may require a fee or subscription.
Further Reading: How To Build An Ecommerce Website: A Step-by-Step Guide
HubSpot is a unique service. You start with the basic CMS and then build it out to get the website you need. While this is similar to WordPress and almost as versatile, HubSpot is a freemium tool. You’ll get limited features with a free account, including basic payment processing. However, to expand your business, you’ll want to pay for a higher-level account. You’ll also want to add the Commerce Hub.
Another option using HubSpot is to use the Shopify integration.
Pricing: The Commerce hub is pay-as-you-earn. For the CMS, plans start at $25 per month.
Web stores in especially competitive niches can do well on Joomla. That’s because this free, open-source ecommerce CMS has built-in SEO features. Those features can help you automatically optimize your product pages and descriptions. You can also add extra apps to improve your SEO game even further.
Overall, Joomla boosts a drag-and-drop interface where what you see is what you’ll get. It’s a great way to build a content-heavy site, such as one with both a blog and a store. To make your Joomla site e-commerce-friendly, add one (or more) of several extensions depending on what you need.
Pricing: CMS is free. You may decide to pay for premium plugins with various pricing.
Further Reading: 15 Ways to Optimize Every Step of Your Ecommerce Funnel
Like many other ecommerce CMS options, Volusion is a no or low-code platform with a lot of drag-and-drop features. However, unlike many other options, the platform offers a CRM with some higher-level plans. Those same plans let you take phone orders, which is also different. As a result, Volusion can be an all-in-one solution for e-commerce sites.
Another great feature is enhanced flexibility for how you display products. For instance, you can have a carousel display or slideshow of featured products. Enhanced search features make Volusion very user-friendly for your customers. There are even significant marketing tools, including email marketing integrations, analytics, and ROI tracking.
Pricing: From $35 per month. Caps apply to gross sales for certain levels.
Want to sell on social media? Ecwid may be your best choice. That’s because the ecommerce CMS is a social media-age native that handles social selling, along with your seller accounts on eBay, Amazon, and more. If you want to also sell in-person or over the phone, there’s an app (or credit card machine) for that, too. Speaking of apps, Ecwid lets you make a branded mobile app to skyrocket sales and build customer loyalty.
You don’t have to be limited to building your whole site on Ecwid, either. Instead, there is an integration or plugin option. This is especially handy if you already have a website since you’ll save a lot of time and money. Finally, you get a suite of marketing and management tools. For marketing, there’s an email tool and the ability to buy ad space on social media or the web. Management tools include taxes, order management, shipping, and coupons/discounts.
Pricing: From $14.08 per month for a functioning store.
Further Reading: 15 Important Ecommerce Tools You Need to Know in 2024
15. Shift4Shop (3dCart)
Shift4Shop is very versatile. You can use it to add a shopping cart to your existing website, migrate your site to their platform, or build your site from scratch. By far, the best feature of Shift4Shop is that it has a built-in blog. That’s especially valuable in an environment where blogs help with SEO and aid in boosting sales. There’s also a MailChimp integration for email marketing.
The core sales-specific functions are quite sophisticated. Besides the standard payment processing (use theirs or yours), you can create gift cards, registries, special deals, and even Facebook marketing aids. Best of all, the platform is easy to use.
Pricing: Free if you process $500 or more monthly through their payment service. Otherwise, $29 per month.
Further Reading: Email Copy for eCommerce Sites: 19 Examples to Inspire You
Want to add a shopping cart to your existing website for free? Check out osCommerce. It’s a free, open-source suite of standard sales tools. Benefit from native payment processing, integration with other processors, and instant support for some accounting software suites. Analytics are included.
You can also put your whole website on osCommerce, using it as a complete CMS with basic tools. In that case, you may want to buy hosting from them.
Pricing: The app is free. Hosting starts at $4.99 per month.
Sitecore is a cloud-native ecommerce CMS. It has all the essentials, from core CMS features to payments, content marketing, email marketing, social media support, and much more. Some of the biggest brands use the app for customer engagement, full-scale marketing, and mass-level e-commerce. So, while you might decide to get a social media dashboard and likely want other tools like graphic design and video editing, you’re covered for e-commerce. Best of all, you’ll be working with a CMS used by some of the world’s biggest brands.
While all of the e-commerce CMS options on this list have at least the basics, some of them are quite elaborate. Likewise, pricing ranges from free to (presumably) quite expensive. Also, there’s a range of complexity from “dead easy” to “requires expertise.” Depending on your business needs, any previous web development, budget, and other factors, different options are better than others.
Ultimately, any of these services are high-quality. So, decide what you need and can afford. Then, it’ll be easier to decide which one is right for your business.
Photo by Azwedo L.LC on Unsplash