The first documented secure online E-Commerce transaction occurred in 1994 on a website called NetMarket. Since that time, E-Commerce has become one of the main things we do online and secure financial transactions are happening everywhere all the time. The amount of money we spend online each year has grown steadily and shows no sign of slowing.

E-Commerce platforms have evolved over the years, although somewhat slowly. Today, there are a number of unique options available for full-scale e-commerce applications as well as one-off product sales widgets. Solutions range from hosted, to open source, to lightweight Javascript widget add-ons.In this article, we introduce you to our favorite platforms with a basic review of features, benefits, and weaknesses.

Full Scale E-Commerce Platforms


Shopify is a full scale hosted e-commere platform that allows you to quickly and easily get online with a beautifully designed template. They’ve also partnered with to offer their own payment gateway called Shopify Payments, which offers competitive transaction fees with other gateways. If you use Shopify Payments, Shopify will waive store specific transaction fees, and you’ll only have to pay the gateway transaction fees.

Out of all the e-commerce solutions out there, Shopify has one of the best back-end interface designs and collection of 3rd party integrations. The quality of available themes is extremely good and the Liquid templating engine on which they are built allows for almost unlimited customization of the store’s functionality and appearance.

Shopify has been a pioneer in the Ruby on Rails e-commerce development space and has open sourced a number of components that run Shopify. These projects include an e-commerce payment library called Active Merchant, a templating engine called Liquid, a shipping library called Active Shipping, and a number of others. Knowing that this is the technology that powers Shopify should give you a lot of confidence in the quality of the back-end and the Shopify team’s commitment to continued development of their product. This open source strategy along with their robust API has enabled Shopify to build one of the most well supported communities of 3rd party apps.

Shopify also provides an in store sales option and POS software that allows you to accept credit cards in person. This tablet ready POS app integrates seamlessly with the online store.

Use Shopify if you want a full featured hosted e-commerce solution that provides almost unlimited customization and integration options. You can sign up for a free shopify account and try out all of their features.

  • Cost: Monthly Fee + Per Transaction Fee* + Gateway Fees (*Per Transaction Fees Waived if you use Shopify Payments Gateway)
  • Themes: Free & Premium Themes + Customizable CSS + Liquid Templating Engine
  • Supported Gateways: Numerous + Shopify Payments
  • Transaction Fees: 2.9% + 30¢ or lower (Waived with Shopify Payments)
  • Extras: Extensive High Quality Themes & Plugins, Quality Native Mobile Apps, POS System, Free Mobile Credit Card Reader, Product Reviews, Discount Codes, Customizable Email Templates, Built-In Analytics and Reporting
  • Trial: Unlimited Free Trial (Pay When You’re Ready to Accept Real Money)
  • Multi-Language Support: Yes
  • Weaknesses: No Free Option
  • Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5


BigCommerce is a full-scale hosted e-commerce platform that allows you to fully customize the design and functionality of your e-commerce website. This solution will handle your entire website including static content, blog, social media integration, online store, and order fulfillment tracking.

In recent years, BigCommerce has launched an app store that includes a variety of partner apps that automatically integrate with the platform such as, Facebook, Constant Contact, MailChimp, LivePerson, Shipwire, and many others. BigCommerce offers a number of pre-designed and customizable themes to help you get your online store up and running quickly. Pricing starts out at $29.95 / month with a 10% discount for yearly payment.

The theme editor for BigCommerce is not as full featured as the Liquid template engine included with Shopify, but it does include an easy to use visual theme editor that will enable you to easily change color schemes and other aspects of the theme without getting into the code.

Use BigCommerce if you’re interested in an online only presence with a full-scale customizable e-commerce website.

  • Cost: Monthly Fee + Per Transaction Fee + Gateway Fees
  • Supported Gateways: Over 65. They probably have what you’re looking for.
  • Transaction Fees: 1.5% (Waived if you upgrade to the Gold Plan @ $79.95 / mo)
  • Extras: Easy Facebook Shop, Custom Templating Engine, Built-In Product Reviews, Single-page checkout, Abandoned cart saver, Side-by-side product comparisons
  • Trial: 15 Day Free Trial
  • Multi-Language Support: No
  • Overall Rating: 4 out of 5


SpreeCommerce started out as the premier open source Ruby on Rails e-commerce plugin. The platform is still open source and can be downloaded for free and modified as needed. SpreeCommerce also formed a commercial open source initiative and a certified partner program that has caused it to gain significant traction. This partner program includes hosting and development partners that can help you build and host a fully customized e-commerce solution. Spree is quickly becoming the new de facto open source e-commerce solution.

The folks behind SpreeCommerce also created Wombat, which they call the E-Commerce Operating System. The idea behind Wombat is to become the common clearinghouse for all E-Commerce related data and systems such as accounting, shipping, fulfillment, inventory management, etc. Wombat supports a number of popular 3rd party applications with more being added all the time.

Overall SpreeCommerce will end up providing a significant amount of customizability. However, prepare to leverage a Ruby on Rails developer if you choose this route. If your application requires special integrations, functionality, or other aspects that are not covered in an out-of-the-box solution, SpreeCommerce may be a great place to start.

Use SpreeCommerce if your e-commerce application requires unique customizations and you have a bigger development budget to pull these things off.

  • Cost: Free + Hosting + Gateway Fees
  • Supported Gateways: All Active Merchant Gateways
  • Transactional Fees: None
  • Extras: All integrations supported by Wombat
  • Trial: Free Sandbox Account on
  • Multi-Language Support: Yes
  • Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

E-Commerce Plugins


WooCommerce is designed to work as a WordPress Plugin. If you have a WordPress website and you’re looking to stick with WordPress as your primary CMS, WooCommerce could be a good add-on option to e-commerce enable a portion of your site. As with any WordPress based application, expect a fair amount of hacking to get things to function the way that you desire.

WooCommerce rides on top of the WordPress platform as a basic plugin and also supports a variety of extensions that allow you to customize the functionality of the platform. You will be able to manage customers and orders directly in your WordPress back-end. You won’t pay for WooCommerce directly, but you will likely pay for one or more extensions to get WooCommerce to do everything you need it to do.

Use WooCommerce if you want to host your own WordPress based e-commerce site and you don’t mind hacking with WordPress and the WooCommerce extensions a bit to get things to work just the way you want.

  • Cost: Free + Hosting + Gateway Fees
  • Supported Gateways: A wide variety via the WooCommerce Extensions Library
  • Transaction Fees: None
  • Extras: WooCommerce Themes & Plugins
  • Trial: You Must Download and Install on Your WordPress Installation
  • Multi-Language Support: Yes
  • Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5


FoxyCart is a lightweight JavaScript based E-Commerce plugin that rides on top of any website. FoxyCart is really all about the cart+checkout flow. This solution will leave the layout of the store and product pages up to the developer or designer implementing FoxyCart, so don’t expect a turn-key e-commerce store with this solution. On the upside, you’ll be able to control the user experience on your e-commerce site using whatever CMS you are currently running.

All FoxyCart plans come with unlimited products, discount codes, users, shipping options, bandwidth, support, etc. You’ll pay a low monthly fee and a very low fixed transaction fee for sales beyond a certain level depending on the plan you select.

Use FoxyCart if you want to install a simple e-commerce store on an existing website that gives you full manual control over the presentation of the store and products. Expect a relatively robust back-end that does not offer inventory management.

  • Cost: Free + Hosting + Gateway Fees
  • Themes: Basic Styles + Customizable CSS
  • Supported Gateways: Numerous 3rd Party Gateways
  • Transaction Fees: First 100 – 1000 transactions / mo free / 5¢ – 15¢ thereafter
  • Extras: Basic Styles
  • Trial: Unlimited Free Trial (Pay When You’re Ready to Accept Real Money)
  • Multi-Language Support: No
  • Weaknesses: No Inventory Management, Not a Full Featured CMS
  • Overall Rating: 4.25 out of 5

E-Commerce Widgets


Gumroad is a simple lightweight hosted e-commerce widget that is great if you just want to sell one or two digital products and don’t want to bother with a full featured platform. It is one of the simplest and easiest to use e-commerce widgets available. It really shines if you’re selling digital downloads, but will also support physical goods as well.

Gumroad is ideal for independent filmmakers, musicians, and writers. You can also build Gumroad right into your iOS or Android app using their native libraries and sell things like audio books, videos, or other digital media through your apps.

Gumroad ships with an onboard credit card gateway, so you won’t need to secure your own. This widget is incredibly easy to get started with and requires the least amount of commitment to get started. One of the drawbacks is the amount of time it takes for you to receive the money that you’ve made through Gumroad. Gumroad pays you via PayPal every two weeks. Most of the other solutions get the money into your account via bank transfer within 2 – 3 days of the sale on an ongoing basis. Still, if simple is what you’re looking for, you don’t need to go much further than Gumroad.

Use Gumroad if you want to sell a digital product on an existing website or via an existing mobile app.

  • Cost: Free for up to 10 products – $99/mo + Gateway Fees
  • Themes: Basic Styles + Customizable CSS
  • Supported Gateways: Numerous as listed on the website
  • Transaction Fees: None
  • Extras: Native Android and iOS Library
  • Trial: Free Plan (Pay for more products or features)
  • Multi-Language Support: Limited
  • Weaknesses: Long delay before funds reach your account, No inventory, Limited Physical Goods Fulfillment Management, Not a Full Featured CMS
  • Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5


Ecwid stands for “e-commerce widget” and it effectively works as it is described. Ecwid can be installed on top of any existing website or social media presence. Like Foxycart, you install Ecwid using a few lines of Javascript.

For being a widget, Ecwid has a very robust back-end and even handles inventory and fulfillment management. Unlike Gumroad, you can use Ecwid for a full scale e-commerce initiative.

Use Ecwid if you want to install a lightweight e-commerce store on an existing website that has a fully featured back-end.

  • Cost: Free for up to 10 products – $99/mo + Gateway Fees
  • Themes: Basic Styles + Customizable CSS
  • Supported Gateways: Numerous as listed on the website
  • Transaction Fees: None
  • Extras: Facebook App, WordPress + Joomla + Drupal Plugins, API
  • Trial: Free Plan (Pay for additional features)
  • Multi-Language Support: Yes
  • Weaknesses: Limited Integrations, Not a Full Featured CMS, Limited theme customizations
  • Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
Written by Josh Cramer