Unlike a traditional online store that carries inventory, a dropshipping store has very different requirements when it comes to choosing the best ecommerce platform.
Because the margins for dropshipping are extremely low at 10-30%, it is in your best interests to pay as little as possible for your ecommerce platform to maximize your profits.
Here are the most important things to consider when choosing an ecommerce platform for dropshipping.
- The platform should be as inexpensive as possible. Dropshipping margins are low and you don’t want your ecommerce platform costs to overshadow your profits.
- The platform should have excellent 3rd party developer support. You want your shopping cart to have access to the latest cutting edge features.
- The platform should support EDI for inventory management and product syncing. EDI allows your inventory to be synced with your dropshipping supplier so you don’t accidentally sell products that are out of stock.
- The platform should offer excellent customer support. If you get stuck, you’ll need a way to get help immediately.
With these criteria in mind, here are my top ecommerce platforms for dropshipping based on experience.
Editor’s Note: Unlike other comparisons you’ll find on the Internet, I have actively sold and helped students in my course sell on all of these platforms.
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Fully Hosted Vs Self Hosted Platforms
When it comes to choosing the best ecommerce platform for dropshipping, there’s always a tradeoff between using a fully hosted vs a self hosted platform.
A fully hosted platform handles all of the technical aspects of your online store. The software and the servers are all taken care of so you can focus on selling and marketing your products.
Overall, a fully hosted platform allows you to get up and running quickly without any technical knowledge.
A self hosted platform requires you to manage your own web hosting account. However, you own the source code for your website and you have infinite flexibility to customize your store.
Self hosted platforms are typically free to use and will save you money in the long run.
Below is a table that summarizes the main differences between fully hosted vs self hosted ecommerce platforms.
|Fully Hosted Ecommerce Platform||Self Hosted Ecommerce Platform|
|Requires you to pay a monthly fee||Free to use|
|Your online store is set up and ready to use immediately||You must find your own webhost and manage your site|
|Offers full customer support||You must be resourceful and leverage the platform community|
|Themes and plugins come pre-installed||You must install your own themes and plugins|
|Limited customization and control over the platform||Full control over your entire website and features|
If you are somewhat tech savvy, going with a self hosted platform can save you a lot of money in the long run. In addition, you’ll have full control over your online store with limitless flexibility.
However, if you don’t want to deal with any tech, a fully hosted platform will be a better choice for you.
Top Choice: Shift4Shop (For US Merchants)
Shift4Shop (formerly known as 3dCart) is a fully hosted ecommerce platform that offers the best of both worlds. Shift4Shop handles all of the tech for you so you can focus on sales and marketing. They also provide free customer support.
And, it’s 100% free for customers in the US if you use their credit card processing.
Shift4Shop also offers many more features than Shopify out of the box and you can easily run a fully featured online store WITHOUT paying for any plugins or addons.
The only downside to Shift4Shop is that it does not have a strong developer community. As a result, if there’s a feature that you require that is not natively supported on the platform, you may be out of luck.
Here’s how I rate Shift4Shop as a platform for dropshipping.
- User Interface: Shfit4Shop is not as easy to use as Shopify because it offers many more features out of the box. As a result, there will be a slight learning curve when you first sign up. But once you’re up and running, dropshipping on Shift4Shop is straightforward and you won’t have to worry about the tech.
- Customer Support: Shift4Shop offers 24/7 customer support for all of its users.
- Price: You can’t beat free!
- EDI Support: There are several apps in the Shift4Shop app store that support EDI. EDI allows your dropship store and your supplier to keep inventory in sync so you don’t accidentally sell an item that is out of stock.
- 3rd Party Support: Shift4Shop does not offer many apps and the 3rd party ecosystem is small but Shift4Shop offers most of the features you need out the box.
Shopify is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms in the world. Many multi million dollar stores are hosted on their platform and Shopify boasts one of the largest 3rd party developer ecosystems in the world.
The one and only downside to Shopify is that it tends to be one of the more expensive shopping carts compared to the competition and the pricing can be deceiving.
On the surface, Shopify only costs $29/month on their lowest plan but that does NOT include the price of the many apps you’ll need that charge recurring fees.
The average Shopify user has 7 apps installed which can add up to a lot of money. Furthermore, Shopify forces you to use Shopify Payments which is more expensive than other credit card processing platforms.
Here’s how I rate Shopify as a platform for dropshipping.
- User Interface: Shopify is easy to use, beautiful and powerful. The user interface is intuitive and you can easily get your online store up and running without any technical experience.
- Customer Support: Shopify offers 24/7 customer support for all of its users.
- Price: Shopify will be more expensive than other ecommerce platforms.
- EDI Support: There are many apps in the Shopify app store that support EDI. Furthermore, most dropship suppliers support Shopify out of the box.
- 3rd Party Support: Shopify has one of the largest 3rd party developer ecosystems in the world. If there’s a feature you need, chances are someone has written an app for it.
WooCommerce has the largest marketshare of any ecommerce platform in the world. It’s built on the WordPress platform which powers over 20% of the web and it’s free and easy to install.
The main downside to WooCommerce is that it’s a self hosted platform which requires you to get your own webhosting. As a result, WooCommerce requires a little bit of technical knowledge to install.
But don’t get me wrong, it’s still very easy to use. In fact, my 9 and 11 year old kids started their own WooCommerce store for less than $3/month over at KidInCharge.com.
Watch the video below and judge for yourself.
Editor’s Note: I’ve negotiated a 63% discount off the regular price of BlueHost For MyWifeQuitHerJob.com readers.
Here’s how I rate WooCommerce as a platform for dropshipping.
- User Interface: WordPress was not originally designed for ecommerce. As a result, WooCommerce is not as intuitive to use as fully hosted platforms like Shopify or Shift4Shop. However, running a dropshipping store on WooCommerce is easy once you get used to it and most webhosts offer a 1 click install.
- Customer Support: WooCommerce does not offer live customer support but they do have a vibrant user community. With a simple Google search, you can find a ton of tutorials and support from other WooCommerce store owners.
- Price: WooCommerce is free to use but you’ll have to pay for webhosting which will cost you as little as $2.95/month.
- EDI Support: There are many apps for WooCommerce that support EDI for your online store.
- 3rd Party Support: Like Shopify, WooCommerce has one of the largest 3rd party developer ecosystems in the world. If there’s a feature you need, you can find an app for it. You can also easily find a WooCommerce developer to create whatever feature you need.
Ecommerce Platforms For Dropshipping To Avoid
While Shift4Shop, Shopify and WooCommerce are my top 3 ecommerce platforms for dropshipping, it’s also important to discuss the platforms that did not make this list and why.
BigCommerce is one of Shopify’s biggest competitors. And like Shopify, BigCommerce offers a fully hosted shopping cart for one low price.
In fact, BigCommerce offers many more features than Shopify out of the box and you are free to use whatever payment processing you want without paying any transaction fees.
So why didn’t BigCommerce make my list of best ecommerce platforms for dropshipping?
The reason is because BigCommerce charges based on revenue. Because dropshipping margins are so low, BigCommerce ends up being much more expensive than other solutions listed in this post.
For example, let’s say your dropshipping margins are only 5% after credit card fees, overhead and other expenses. If you generate $15,000 per month in revenue, your gross profit is $750.
At this revenue level, you’d be placed on the Pro plan which costs $299/month. At a 5% net margin, your shopping cart costs would eat away almost 50% of your profit!
Meanwhile, you could be on the lowest Shopify plan at $29.99 and keep much more of the proceeds.
As a result, even though BigCommerce is a fully hosted platform that I highly recommend for private label online stores, it’s not a good fit for dropshipping.
Wix started out as a fully hosted content management system just like WordPress. But over the years, Wix has added ecommerce features that allow you to sell physical products online.
Wix’s main advantage is that it’s extremely easy to use and the costs are low. In many ways, Wix is even easier to use than Shopify at a fraction of the price.
So why didn’t Wix make my list of best ecommerce platforms for dropshipping?
The reason is because Wix is missing many ecommerce features that are essential for your dropshipping store. For example, Wix does not support EDI and no dropshipping platforms support Wix out of the box.
Furthermore, there’s no Google Shopping feed support, no Facebook product feed support and no native integration to popular email marketing platforms like Klaviyo.
Many years ago, Magento was the leader in ecommerce. And even though it’s still the 2nd most popular ecommerce platform in the world, it’s definitely not a good platform for beginners.
While Magento is extremely powerful, you must either be tech savvy to succeed or have a dedicated developer on staff.
Furthermore, Magento is not easy to maintain. In fact, the only thing going for Magento is that it’s free to use. For a dropshipping store, avoid Magento at all costs.
Which Ecommerce Platform Should You Choose?
To select the right dropshipping ecommerce platform, you must ask yourself the following 3 questions.
- Do you live in the United States?
- Are you tech savvy?
- Do you need cutting edge ecommerce apps and developer support?
If you live in the United States, Shift4Shop is the best dropshipping ecommerce platform because it’s powerful and free. Even though Shift4Shop has poor 3rd party developer support, you’ll find that most of the features you need are included out of the box.
If you don’t live in the United States and you are reasonably tech savvy, then WooCommerce is an excellent choice from a cost benefit perspective. WooCommerce is free and you have infinite flexibility because you own the source code.
Furthermore, WooCommerce is the most popular shopping cart in the world with very strong 3rd party developer support.
Finally, if you don’t live in the US and you are NOT tech savvy, then Shopify is the best platform for you. Shopify is extremely easy to use and it offers excellent 3rd party developer support.
In addition, Shopify offers 24/7 customer support and a huge plugin library to extend your online store.
All 3 platforms mentioned above are free to try. So I suggest you install all 3 and choose the one that you like.
Remember, running a dropshipping store requires very specific needs that are different than running a store that carries inventory. Good luck with your decision!
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Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at ProfitableOnlineStore.com.
His blog, MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times, Entrepreneur and MSNBC.
He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.
In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts.
To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store, BumblebeeLinens.com, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.
Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses.