When you’re looking for an e-commerce platform for your fashion business, it’s easy to get bogged down in comparison charts and lists of features. Or maybe you bypass research altogether and go with the one you’ve heard about the most.

Just for you, I’ve gathered five of the most popular platforms and explored not only the technical specifications, but also who it’s good for. So what is the best e-commerce platform for your business?

Best E-Commerce Platforms for Fashion Startups


Monthly fee: $0.00
Fees per sale: $0.20 listing fee + 3.5% transaction fee + 3-4% payment processing fee

Etsy is great for hobbyists or new makers who don’t know how serious they are going to be about their business. With no monthly fees, there’s no pressure if you’re making low sales – you just pay when you sell something. And you get access to the Etsy search engine to get found by customers. (That is, if you stand out among the tens of thousands of other shops.)

However, the Etsy brand reigns supreme. People buy “from Etsy” instead of your shop. You have no control over the look of your page, or making it look more in line with your branding. And you don’t get the contact info of your customers, so you can’t build a list of people who’ve bought from you.

Pattern by Etsy

Pattern by Etsy allows you to choose from 5 templates and create a site that’s (more) branded for your business. It charges the same standard Etsy fees plus a $15 monthly fee…and Etsy still owns all your information. You don’t want to be at the mercy of what Etsy decides is best for their business.

P.S. I don’t hate Etsy. But like everything, it’s not right for every business.

Who uses it: Thief & Bandit, ColieCo, Millie & Lou


Monthly fee: hosting + domain name + SSL certificate = $15+ depending on the provider
Fees per sale: $0
Other costs: optional add-ons, web designer/developer

The blessing and the curse of a self-hosted WordPress site is that you have total control. This means that you can customize everything, but you also are responsible for everything: setting up hosting, security, maintenance, and getting all the functionality you need. This is great if you have tech talents or support, but can easily become overwhelming if you’re a new business.

WooCommerce is WordPress’s e-commerce platform. Because WordPress is open source and 25% of the internet runs on it, there are loads of free resources out there, from plug-ins (like apps) to tutorials. If you have really specific needs for your online shop, WordPress is a powerful platform.

I use WordPress for my own site and have built several client sites on it over the years, and I love the amount of control I can have. But WordPress was built for blogging and that’s still what it’s best at. When launching an e-commerce site, using a platform built with your specific needs in mind has some major advantages.

Who uses it: Poppy Barley, Hackwith Design House, Thief & Bandit


Monthly fee: $29 (basic plan)
Fees per sale: 2.9% + $0.30 or 3.5% + $0.30
Other costs: optional add-ons, optional paid theme

Over the past few years, Shopify has become the internet’s favourite e-commerce platform. It’s a full service ecommerce website that takes care of all the tech stuff – hosting, security, maintenance – so you can take care of your shop.

Its users love the super helpful customer service (including 24/7 phone support!) and excellent shipping options (with special Shopify-only discounts on shipping!). If you love nerding out, you’ll appreciate the SEO features and advanced analytics so you can learn how your customers are finding you. Shopify is also known to have a speedy load time, which reduces your bounce rate (how many people leave your site before going to another page in it) and makes Google like your site more.

You can use one of their hundreds of free and paid themes (about $140-180), or with the help of a Shopify developer, you can create a custom site. There are loads of apps if you need extra functionality, but too many paid apps can add up quickly!

Another huge benefit is the Shopify Retail package, which lets you use the Shopify e-commerce platform for your brick and mortar store, which manages inventory so that you can’t accidentally oversell when people are buying in store and online at the same time. For those of you who sell at artisan markets and trade shows, Shopify has an app that turns your smartphone into a credit card machine.

And for Canadians who like to show some national pride, Shopify is based in Ottawa, Ontario.

It’s also worth noting that Shopify has a Lite option for $9/month which lets you turn other platforms – including a WordPress site – into an Shopify ecommerce site. Depending on your needs, this could provide the best of both worlds  (WordPress customization and Shopify ecommerce power) or it could annoy the bleep out of you when you have to sign into two separate accounts and manually embed products.

Perhaps Shopify’s biggest benefit, however, is its size. Because Shopify has such a huge portion of the e-commerce market, there is a bigger collection of resources and experts surrounding it to help you and your business.

Who uses it: Bead & Reel, Baggu, Tradlands

Thinking of setting up a Shopify site? I can help you with that! (Soon.)

In summer 2017 I’ll be launching a service to help you set up your Shopify site for an affordable rate. You get all my expertise around building a site that SELLS, you don’t have to spend a month reading Shopify blogs to figure out how to use it, and you’ll get a site that looks even better than the theme demo promised—all for way less than the cost of a custom website. Be the first to know when I start offering this!


Monthly fee: $29.95 (standard plan)
Fees per sale: 0% if you use BigCommerce checkout or 2.9% + $0.30 if you use PayPal
Other costs: optional add-ons, optional paid theme

Lately BigCommerce has been making up some ground on mega-competitor Shopify. The two ecommerce platforms have a lot of the same functionality: analytics, hosting, security, an in-person point of sale, and even the ability to sell on social media.

BigCommerce has a library of 80 free and paid themes, which is almost half of what Shopify has. They’ve recently upped their design game so there are lots of good looking ones to choose from. They also have loads of apps to add functionality to your web store, and more out-of-the-box functionality than Shopify. That’s a bonus if you don’t want to worry about installing apps. For instance, BigCommerce comes standard with built in shipping quotes, gift certificates, product reviews where Shopify doesn’t. It also has more advanced features to access before having to go the app route. And if you need help, you can call (or email or live chat) 24/7.

BigCommerce also offers the option to connect your shop with mega-marketplaces Amazon and E-Bay, but a drawback is their sales limits. With the standard plan ($29.95) the sales limit is $50,000. Shopify does not have a sales limit.

Who uses it: Fortress of Inca, Raven & Lily, Olive Clothing

Big Cartel

Monthly fee: $9.99 (up to 25 products)
Fees per sale: $0
Other costs: optional add-ons, optional paid theme

Big Cartel is for makers and artists with fewer than 300 products. There are only 13 free themes offered by Big Cartel, but more paid themes available from outside sources. They also have an iOS app that you can use when selling in person at markets.

Compared with Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce’s large ecosystem of apps, Big Cartel has way fewer apps  and built-in features. This simplicity can be a good thing or a bad thing; if you just want to get a basic shop up and don’t want to be bogged down by options, great! But you may run into functionality that you just can’t make happen (like a blog!). And if you need support, you’re limited to emailing them on weekdays.

Who uses it: Uno + Ichi, Malika Favre, Arminho

Which e-commerce platform should you choose?

The best ecommerce platform for your business depends on, well, your business. What’s important to you? Customization? Simplicity? Cost? A marketplace? Any of these options – Shopify, BigCommerce, WordPress/WooCommerce, Big Cartel, Etsy – are good solutions for the right business. Big Cartel and Etsy are great choices for makers just starting to sell their products. Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce provide more customization and support for growing businesses. It’s always a hassle to switch to a new e-commerce platform, so consider your business goals for the next few years.

But before you become paralyzed with indecision, remember: these are all reputable platforms for your online shop. If you grow out of one, you can switch to another.

P.S. 3 Awesome Ecommerce Sites – And What Makes Them So Great + 21 Web Design Words You Should Know

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