Ecommerce CMS Solutions Guide for Small Businesses

Learn about specific CMS solutions, what they offer, ease of use, and how to choose between them.

When you own a physical store, adding a new product is easy. You put it on the shelves, hang up a sign that says “Canned Beans—99 cents,” and let customers do the rest.

Online, it’s just as easy. Unless your ecommerce CMS isn’t working. Or worse yet, if you don’t have one.

But what is a CMS in the context of ecommerce? And if you don’t know that much about it, how are you supposed to select the best one for your store? 

Let’s explore the basic definitions you’ll want to know first. Then we’ll get to the specific solutions, what they offer, their ease of use, and how you can best choose between them.

What is Ecommerce CMS?

CMS stands for content management system. Essentially, this is a way for you to publish something new at your site without having to write entirely new code. 

WordPress is an example of CMS for blogs. Once you install WordPress, you can write your posts into the software, click “Publish,” and voila—you’re good to go.

That’s the easy part. With ecommerce CMS, it can get a little different.

You’re not publishing any old content here. You may be publishing new products

That means new photographs, new prices, special deals, inventory details, availability. 

Think of it this way. If your ecommerce store were a real physical presence, your CMS would be the shelves. They’re ready to put out the new products; all you have to do is drop them in.

Sounds easy. But it’s also easy to get paralysis-by-analysis when you consider how many ecommerce CMS solutions there are for small businesses. 

The Types of Ecommerce CMS

If you’re researching ecommerce CMS, you’re going to come across these two terms. So it’s important that you at least know them before we go forward.

  • SaaS. Software-as-a-service. When you choose a hosted SaaS platform for your ecommerce CMS, you’re essentially signing up for passage on someone else’s boat. That comes with lots of advantages. For one, it’s easy to set up. For another, there are other people with you—it’s not hard to find solutions to problems that other people have had before. 
  • Open-source. This puts control back in your hands, for good or ill. If you’re a control freak who has to do everything your way, this can be good. If, however, you lack the technical expertise to do so…well, it’s going to cost you money to customize your own CMS. The advantage here is that if you can figure it out, it’s easy to create a CMS that suits your branding very well, although SaaS is capable of supporting your branding with drag-and-drop design.

Ecommerce CMS: Features to Watch For

Now that you know the broad categories of CMS, let’s talk about what CMS can do for you. You can’t compare two microwaves if you don’t know what features a microwave is supposed to have; it’s the same for ecommerce CMS. Here are a few of the features that move most people:

User Experience (UX)

If this is your top priority, you might be able to choose an ecommerce CMS just by looking at another store you’ve admired and asking which platform they use.

The user experience comes down to the following: 

  • Mobile experience. How good does the store look on mobile devices? 79% of all smartphone users have made a purchase on their phone alone within the last six months.
  • Design. Is it easy to drag-and-drop your own design features without screwing up the page? Does the site look good, crisp, and professional?
  • Loading time. It’s not enough to look good. When a customer clicks “Add to Cart,” you’re going to need confidence that they won’t get so tired of your laggy website that they abandon the cart entirely.

Applications and Add-Ons

As your store grows, you’re going to want to do more with your CMS. It’s just the nature of a growing store. The question is: does your CMS allow for it, or is it difficult to use applications and add-ons as you want to provide your users with more functionality?

For example, the Shopify community is full of easy-integrating apps that you can quickly add to your store with a few clicks. Selling on WordPress often works the same. But if you’re using a less-popular platform, it can be more difficult to find the add-ons that provide the functionality you want. If this feature is your priority, the more popular platforms tend to be the better-performing platforms.

SEO Customization

Creating an SEO-friendly website is nice. An SEO-friendly store, however, can be lucrative.

It can also be time-consuming. That’s why it’s important to seek out a CMS that offers you easy SEO features: filling out meta tags, titles, and alt text with ease for every product you upload. It should also be crisp and clean, which makes it easier for people to find your website when they are searching for your products.


You can find a platform with all of the above. But if it’s too expensive for your current sales, it’s a no-go. That’s why we’re including price considerations as we offer our evaluations.

Make sure that you also think about price in four dimensions, not just three. What do we mean by that? You have to think about how the pricing is now, sure, but you should also try to project to the future. If your store is a success, will the pricing structure make the costs more prohibitive, or less?

Popular Ecommerce Platforms For Comparison

Now that you have something of a quick guide for evaluating your potential ecommerce CMS solutions, it’s time to look at the solutions themselves. Let’s name some names.


  • Price: $27/month for “Business Unlimited”. No sales fee or commission requirements.
  • Storage Space: 35GB
  • Unlimited Products? Yes
  • SEO: Requires higher pricing tiers for advanced SEO features.
  • Apps/Add-ons: A sizable Wix app market may not be as robust as the others, but does offer plenty of customization options.
  • Mobile Usability: Wix sites are automatically mobile-optimized, making them a great “entry” choice for people who have no idea about using mobile features.
  • Site Speed: Limited. Some reviews point to speed constraints.
  • Security: SSL included, though more advanced features may require unlocking more.

Description: Wix has earned its reputation as a low-cost, easy-to-use site builder. You can turn to it if you want to create a website—and a store—at the drop of a hat. However, as you go up the pricing tiers, you’ll discover that there are additional features that make it desirable as a CMS.


  • Price: $18/month for the Business tier
  • Storage Space: Unlimited
  • Unlimited Products? Yes
  • SEO: SEO features are limited with the Business Tier, as are analytics
  • Apps/Add-ons: Commerce APIs only available with more advanced tiers; limited add-ons with the basic functions
  • Mobile Usability: Automatically mobile-optimized and attractive
  • Site Speed: Varies. Squarespace runs its own site on the same servers, though, which means you can probably trust them for higher traffic rates
  • Security: SSL included with all pricing tiers. See Enterprise solutions for more advanced security features

Description: Squarespace is an effective build-out-of-the-box ecommerce CMS for anyone who wants to create an attractive, capable website with minimal worrying or fussing. As an ecommerce solution, its basic features will be limited, especially as it relates to SEO and analytics. But in terms of building a website and getting a store up and running, you should consider it one of the best values in the business.


  • Price: $29/month for Basic Shopify. Additional transaction fees will apply
  • Storage Space: Unlimited
  • Unlimited Products? Yes
  • SEO: Basic SEO included, with possible additions through apps and add-ons
  • Apps/Add-ons: One of the most robust marketplaces for additional apps for creating functionality in your store
  • Mobile Usability: Highly usable, and includes access to backend inventory with the Shopify mobile app
  • Site Speed: No limit to bandwidth; Shopify hosts stores on fast and global servers
  • Security: Level 1 PCI DSS compliant; Free SSL certificate included with the plan.

Description: Shopify is an ecommerce CMS that can act as your entire store: the inventory, the payments, the website, everything. As such, $29/month is a reasonable price to pay, although the additional transaction fees can sometimes make growing shops consider higher pricing tiers. Especially of note is the large Shopify add-on and application marketplace, which makes Shopify about as robust an ecommerce CMS as there is for anyone entering with their first online shop.


  • Price: $29.95/month for Standard. No additional transaction fees.
  • Storage Space: Unlimited
  • Unlimited Products? Yes
  • SEO: Basic SEO included, including sitewide HTTPS and automatic sitemaps
  • Apps/Add-ons: Large add-on marketplace, including integrations like Mailchimp or Paid apps like ShipStation
  • Mobile Usability: Highly usable, including mobile access to the backend such as inventory
  • Site Speed: Generally strong; for its part, BigCommerce promises optimally performing servers
  • Security: SSL included, sitewide HTTPs

Description: BigCommerce is an excellent choice if you’re looking for an ecommerce CMS that offers plenty of usability right from the moment you sign up. They instantly unlock unlimited bandwidth and products, and ecommerce-friendly features like abandoned cart savers are included in the popular “Plus” package at $79/month.


  • Price: $12/month for Professional; $26/month for “Performance.” Additional fees depend on the plan.
  • Storage Space: Unlimited with Professional and Performance plans
  • Unlimited Products? Yes
  • SEO: Basic SEO included; advanced “ecommerce insights” only with the Performance plan
  • Apps/Add-ons: Large “app center” for adding functionality to Weebly CMS
  • Mobile Usability: Effective, including mobile apps for supplemental functionality
  • Site Speed: Some users report slow speeds and seek out solutions
  • Security: SSL included, minimal security features included

Description: You might have seen Weebly websites pop up from time to time; many people use the free option just to get a website up, which can leave a tag that shows the site is powered by Weebly. Move your way up the pricing tiers and you’ll find more features. But while Weebly is an effective site builder for getting a site up and running quickly, you will probably find other ecommerce CMS solutions more robust for selling products at scale. It’s ideal for small business owners who want to start a shop but aren’t necessarily ready to ramp up their stores quite yet.

Big Cartel

  • Price: $19/month for stores of up to 500 products
  • Storage Space: Limited by product; i.e., five images per product
  • Unlimited Products? No
  • SEO: Real-time stats available, Google analytics included
  • Apps/Add-ons: No strong app/add-on marketplace
  • Mobile Usability: Attractive mobile usability, easy to order; easy to sell online and in-person
  • Site Speed: Fast and reliable
  • Security: SSL

Description: Big Cartel aims itself at artists and craftspeople who want a personal shop that people can connect with. That may help explain why its pricing tiers aren’t all about storage space and unlimited products; you can build a custom craft store of up to 500 products easily, but chances may be that you don’t even have to use that much. Big Cartel’s shopping is intuitive and easy to manage, which makes it an ideal home for anyone without big business ambitions.


  • Price: Variable; open-source platform built on WordPress
  • Storage Space: Purchase your own
  • Unlimited Products? Yes
  • SEO: Bring your own SEO
  • Apps/Add-ons: Yes, highly customizable and open-source
  • Mobile Usability: Attractive mobile usability, though open-source features may require doing your own development
  • Site Speed: When deployed properly, fast and reliable
  • Security: SSL, plus any additional security features you want to add

Description: WooCommerce is a unique CMS because it’s not trying to be everything for you. It’s not going to host your site. It’s not going to even manage your WordPress. It’s a platform you’ll use, built on WordPress, that allows an open-source approach to ecommerce CMS. As such, it’s far more customizable than many platforms. That can have its challenges, but it also creates the potential for scalability and unique branding.

Managing Content with your Ecommerce Provider

Which is the best ecommerce platform for you?

It depends on what you want. But there’s good news. There’s no reason you need a dozen different solutions when one platform may provide everything you need to build an online store.

The CMS providers you see listed above offer varying degrees of features, but chances are there’s at least one on the list that will suit your current needs. Once you have a platform in place, you’ll find it easy to manage your store, add on new features, and install new products with a few clicks.

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