The best e-commerce platforms for startups

So you’re a startup business owner looking to sell online and wondering where to start. The world of e-commerce today is more competitive than ever, with many different options for startups. We’re going to compare the four best ones we’ve worked with on our own projects.


How do you know which one is right for your business? It depends on a number of factors which you should be taking into consideration:


-Your budget.


-Design and layout. How bothered are you (and your customers) about the look and feel of the site? You may need more than a template.


-Payment methods. Are you happy with just using PayPal or do your users need more options?


We’re going to compare four well known e-commerce solutions; WordPress, Shopify, Big Cartel and Magento, and grade them 1-5 for each factor above.




WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS) originally intended to be a blogging platform, but has evolved over the years into a powerful system that can provide many solutions; e-commerce being one of them.


WordPress uses ‘Themes’ to customise the look and feel of a website running ranging from image galleries to contact form generators, so it’s no surprise that there are many e-commerce plugins available to install onto your WordPress site. Our recommended way of getting a basic shop up and running on WordPress is by using WooCommerce. WooCommerce is a great plugin because it makes the sometimes difficult tasks of adding products, editing billing/shipping costs and styling the shop easy. We’ve used it many times before and our clients have always found it a very simple interface to use.


Value for Money: 5/5. It’s free and offers a good initial basic service.
Payment Gateways: 3/5. Most are free, but you have to pay for some.
Design: 4/5. There are a number of themes to choose from – we’re sure at least 1 will suit your taste!




Unlike WordPress, Shopify is a system intended specifically for e-commerce. It is a well established e-commerce solution used by many UK (and worldwide) business owners. Shopify is a very user friendly product and whether you’re tweaking the look and feel of the site or configuring payment gateways, you’ll feel comfortable navigating and using the system. It also has a great support community if you ever get stuck.


When it comes to designing your shop, themes are fully customisable, allowing you (or a developer) to change the look and feel of your site. However the amount you can do this depends entirely on the theme you’re using, so make sure you choose wisely!


Value for money: 3/5. Starts at £17 per month, but only has a limited amount of storage.
Payment Gateways: 5/5. They’re got them all covered.
Design: 4/5. We did find certain themes a bit of a pain to tweak, but for basic stuff, you won’t have a problem.


Big Cartel


BigCartel is a simple e-commerce platform designed for small businesses in creative industries including artists, bands and designers to get up and running selling online. While Big Cartel is a great option for getting started, it has many limitations, with only capacity for a small number of products and a very small number of Add-ons (their equivalent of WordPress Plugins).


Value for money: 3/5. The basic package is free, but only allows you 5 products. Next level up starts at £10 per month.
Payment Gateways: 5/5. They’re got them all covered.
Design: 4/5. We did find certain themes a bit of a pain to tweak, but for basic stuff, you won’t have a problem.


Magento Go


Magento is a powerful open source e-commerce platform which provides a wide range of features for advanced e-commerce websites. It has a huge support community and endless Add-on features to enhance your site with.


Truth be told, there’s very little that Magento can’t do when it comes to e-commerce website functionality and when we’re looking for a powerful, scalable e-commerce solution it’s definitely our first choice. That said many small businesses who want a simple site will find many of Magento’s features unnecessary and complicated.


Value for money: 4/5. Starts at £10 per month. Gives you 100 individual products and 3 separate admin logins.
Payment Gateways: 5/5. They’re got them all covered.
Design: 4/5. Magento have teamed up with a range of ‘design partners’, giving a wide array of themes for any startup business type.