The 6 Best Ecommerce Platforms for Small Businesses in 2021

Best website builder for small businesses

By Dan Barraclough | Updated: 26 May 2021

Backed by our own expert research, we’ve selected and reviewed the best ecommerce platforms for boosting your small business


Lockdown showed us how important ecommerce can be for small businesses, helping you reach new customers and boost sales – away from your high street shop.

The best ecommerce platforms for small businesses enable you to create sleek online stores without touching any code, while saving you thousands on web designer fees. Better yet, we’ve done all the research for you, because we know that running a small business takes time and dedication.

We’ve thoroughly tested the best ecommerce platforms for small businesses, and asked everyday users to try them, too. We've reviewed these platforms based on the factors that matter most to small businesses, such as value for money, SEO (search engine optimisation) functionalities, marketing tools, ease of use, and sales features.

With these findings, we were able to create unique ratings out of five for each platform, indicating how suitable they are for creating a successful small business ecommerce store. You’ll find the ultimate comparison table below, followed by individual reviews for each platform.


The best ecommerce platforms for small businesses 2021

Ecommerce PlatformBest forPrice plansOverall rating /5
Square OnlineBest value for money£0 – £54 per month4.4
SquarespaceBest for combining design with sales features£20 – £30 per month4.3
WixBest for SEO support£13 – £22 per month4.3
ShopifyBest for sales-specific features£22 – £219 per month4.1
BigCommerceBest for multi-channel selling£22 – £220 per month3.9
GoDaddyBest for speedy setup£19.99 per month3.7

Square Online (4.4/5)

Square Online is one of the very best ecommerce platforms for small businesses. It offers excellent sales tools, including multi-channel selling, on its free plan – you just pay 1.9% per transaction instead, making it one of the best free ecommerce platforms, too.

During our testing, we were impressed by its multi-channel integration, which helps you sell via Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. You'll also benefit from abandoned cart recovery to help you retrieve lost sales, plus daily revenue and visitor traffic reports.

However, it only supports one payment processor on its cheapest plans (Square POS), while BigCommerce and Shopify support over 100. You’ll also likely find the design options to be quite restrictive. 

Having said that, if you’re happy using Square for your POS (point of sale) and you don’t mind a simple website, then Square Online shapes up to be a great choice.

Pros:

  • Superb value for money with the ability to build a website at no cost
  • Easy to use if you don’t mind a simple website design
  • Excellent in-built dashboard providing insights on sales and customer behaviour
  • Brilliant marketing features including product promotion labels, email marketing, and access to paid advertising on search engines

X Cons:

  • Lack of prompts or tips to help you get started (unlike Wix)
  • Expensive transaction fees when you don’t use Square’s payment processor

Square Online pricing

Square has four price plans to choose from:

PlanCost (billed annually)What you’ll getTransaction fees
Free£0 per monthSell unlimited products

Instagram and Pinterest integration

1.9% for European cards

2.9% for non-European cards

Professional£9 per monthUse your own domain name

No Square branding or ads

Free custom domain for one year

1.9% for European cards

2.9% for non-European card

Performance£19 per monthHave customer reviews on your site

Recover lost sales with abandoned cart emails

1.9% for European cards

2.9% for non-European card

Premium£54 per monthSave with lower card transaction fees

1.75% for European cards

2.9% for non-European cards

Square Online is the best value for money ecommerce platform for your small businesses Try Square Online Free

Squarespace (4.3/5)

Best for combining design with sales features

With its sleek, ready-made templates to help your products stand out, you don’t need to spend hours making a beautiful Squarespace store.

In our research, we found that each template conveyed a clear and aesthetically pleasing message, with strategically placed ‘checkout’ buttons which can help improve user experience and increase your sales. These are just some of reasons why Squarespace's one of the best ecommerce platforms.

Squarespace is also great value for money, It supports the sales of physical, digital, and service-based products, and the ability to sell through Instagram on its affordable price plans.

However, it’s not as user-friendly as Wix, Square Online, or Shopify, and it only supports two payment processors (compared to Shopify’s 100+ integrations) – which might restrict your options.

Read Full Squarespace Review

Pros:

  • Excellent sales for features for a ‘non-ecommerce specific’ website builder
  • Best-designed templates of any platform we tested
  • Great value for money combining affordable plans with impressive templates and sales tools

X Cons:

  • More difficult to use than Square, Wix, or Shopify
  • Supports just two payment processors (Stripe and PayPal)

Squarespace pricing

Squarespace offers a 14-day free trial when you sign up to one of its ecommerce plans.

PlanCost (billed annually)What you’ll get
Basic Commerce£20 per month

Point of Sale app to help you sell in-person

Sell on Instagram

Limited availability labels

0% transaction fees

Advanced Commerce£30 per month

Abandoned cart recovery

Sell subscriptions

Advanced shipping features

Squarespace has the design tools to help your business stand out online Try Squarespace Free

Wix (4.3/5)

Best for SEO support

Wix is one of the best ecommerce platforms for small businesses looking to appear higher on the search engine results pages, getting you higher visitor traffic and more sales.

Wix’s SEO Wizard tool is particularly impressive, providing step-by-step tutorials and helping you track your site’s SEO success with regular performance updates.

In typical Wix style, it’s really easy to customise your template – there are 71 available, with in-built ecommerce capabilities such as checkout buttons and industry-specific features.

It’s not all treats with Wix, however. There are some tricks: syncing your physical inventory with your online store is far easier on other platforms, and you might find the sheer creative freedom Wix offers to be overwhelming at first.

Read Full Wix Review

Pros:

  • Brilliant SEO features to help your small business grow
  • Lots of creative freedom to help you design the exact storefront you want
  • You can add product videos to help improve the buying experience

X Cons:

  • The amount of creative freedom can make it hard to adhere to ecommerce best practices
  • You can’t switch templates after publishing your site

Wix pricing

Wix offers a 14-day free trial period on its premium plans, of which there are three ecommerce-specific options:

PlanCost (billed annually)What you’ll get
Business Basic£13 per month

Accept online payments

Unlimited bandwidth

20GB storage

Free domain for one year

Upload up to 5 hours of video

Site Booster app

Visitor Analytics app

£75 Google Ads voucher

Sales analytics and reports

Business Unlimited£16 per month

35GB storage

Upload up to 10 hours of video

Professional logo

Pro ecommerce features such as automated sales tax calculations

Business VIP£22 per month

50GB storage

Upload unlimited video hours

Priority response on Wix Answers page

First priority VIP support

Wix is one of the most popular and user-friendly ecommerce platforms in the world Try Wix Free

Shopify (4.1/5)

Best for sales-specific features

Shopify is one of the most comprehensive ecommerce platforms on the market, offering the most amount of sales features of any platform we tested, including access to 1,200+ apps. So, why doesn’t it get full marks?

Shopify is more expensive than Square Online, Wix, and Squarespace, with price plans starting from £22 per month. It also enforces transaction fees if you don’t use Shopify Payments – two things which may hinder the growth of your small business.

However, Shopify is a simply brilliant ecommerce platform overall, offering multi-channel integration, an invoice generator, and the ability to upload multiple products at once.

Read Full Shopify Review

Pros:

  • Excellent multi-channel integration (sell across all the big social media channels, and Amazon, eBay, Buzzfeed, and more)
  • Offers largest choice of sales-specific features of any platform we tested
  • Very easy to customise your features

X Cons:

  • Shopify imposes transaction fees if you don’t use its own payment processor (unlike BigCommerce, which charges zero fees)
  • You’ll need to reformat your whole website if you decide to switch templates

Shopify pricing

Shopify offers a 14-day free trial period, so you can test its sales tools and build your entire online store before spending a penny. If you’re happy with Shopify after that period, you’ll then need to upgrade to one of these price plans:

PlanCost (billed annually)What you’ll get
Basic Shopify£22 per month

Sell an unlimited number of products

24/7 support

2.2% + 20p credit card rates

Sell in 133 currencies

Shopify£56 per month

Gift cards

Abandoned cart recovery emails

Five staff accounts

1.9% + 20p credit card rates

Advanced Shopify£219 per month

Third party calculated shipping rates

15 staff accounts

Sell in five languages

1.6% + 20p credit card rates

Shopify's sales-specific tools are unrivalled by any platform we tested Try Shopify Free

BigCommerce (3.9/5)

Best for multi-channel selling

Multi-channel selling is a sure-fire way to grow your small business, exposing your business to more audiences on different platforms.

At no extra cost, BigCommerce allows you to sell your products via Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, eBay, Google Shopping, and Pinterest.

BigCommerce also provides useful SEO prompts when you add products, and imposes zero transaction fees (unlike Shopify) – two more ways this platform can help you grow.

As a small business owner juggling different tasks, you might find BigCommerce quite time-consuming and tricky to use, especially compared to Wix or Square Online. That’s why we rate BigCommerce as one of the top platforms for large companies instead.

Pros:

  • Fantastic SEO guidance to help improve your site’s visibility on search engine results pages
  • No extra transaction fees, unlike Shopify
  • Superb multi-channel integration with social media platforms and online marketplaces

X Cons:

  • Our research participants said the interface was slightly challenging to navigate
  • The only platform we tested that doesn’t provide a mobile app
  • Relatively restrictive design control, especially compared to Wix or Squarespace

BigCommerce pricing

BigCommerce offers a 15-day free trial period, after which you’ll need to sign up to one of its three core plans:

PlanCost (billed annually)What you’ll get
Standard£22 per month

Sell an unlimited number of products

Multichannel selling

Coupon creation

Reporting tools

Plus£57 per month

Abandoned cart recovery emails

Customer loyalty programmes

Store credit card payment details

Pro£220 per month

Filter products through size and colour variants

Dedicated SSL security

Google reviews

BigCommerce's multi-channel integrations can help your small business reach new audiences Try BigCommerce Free

GoDaddy (3.7/5)

Best for speedy setup

Running a small business is hard work. You might be struggling for time, or lacking the creative inspiration required to build an online store from scratch – which is where GoDaddy comes in.

It uses an ADI (artificial design intelligence) approach – first asking you a few questions, then generating a new website within minutes, with a new layout and proposed images. Simply put, GoDaddy is easily the best ecommerce platform for small businesses who are extremely tight on time.

That said, GoDaddy’s website features lack the quality to help your website stand out online (in stark contrast to Squarespace), and you won't be able to sell digital products.

Read Full GoDaddy Review

Pros:

  • Fastest and easiest-to-use platform we tested thanks to its ADI function
  • Allows you to create up to five backup copies of your website to give you peace of mind when making changes to your site
  • No surprise fees, just the set price plan and the usual credit card processor fees

X Cons:

  • Very limited creative control due to the ADI function creating the site for you
  • Features lack depth and quality compared to every other platform we tested
  • Doesn’t support the sale of digital products

GoDaddy pricing

GoDaddy offers a generous one-month free trial period and one ecommerce-specific price plan:

PlanCost (billed annually) What you’ll get
Ecommerce£19.99 per month

Send up to 25,000 marketing emails per month

Flexible shipping options

Add discounts and promos

24/7 support

GoDaddy can build your ecommerce store for you within a few minutes Try GoDaddy Free

Expert verdict

Building on our extensive period of research and hands-on testing, we’ve selected and reviewed the best ecommerce platforms for small businesses. Having read our review, you’re now ready to choose your platform – great news!

Here’s a quick roundup of our top three…

  1. Square Online came out on top in our research, combining ease-of-use with the option of a totally free plan – a killer combo for small businesses.
  2. Squarespace is the better option if you want to build a beautiful online store that outshines the competition, offering industry-leading design tools and templates.
  3. Wix and its strong SEO features can help your small business dominate the Google results pages, providing lots of creative freedom to boot.

Of course, we know that not everyone will find their perfect solution in one of these top three platforms. In that case, you should also check out Shopify for its sales-specific tools, BigCommerce for its multi–channel selling, and GoDaddy for its speedy setup features.

Whichever platform you’ve chosen, though, we wish you and your business the best of luck for the future!

Dan Barraclough

Dan’s a Senior Writer at Expert Market, specialising in digital marketing, web design, and photocopiers, amongst other topics.

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