E-commerce CMS platforms are a solid foundation for your online store. These software solutions help retail teams develop and update their websites and express creativity with user-friendly interfaces, convenient dashboards, and drag-and-drop theme editors.
However, you should keep in mind that not all content management systems are cut from the same cloth. Different options fit various business needs. Some are easy to manage even for non-technical staff members, while other alternatives may require assistance from a team of developers.
With myriads of CMSs available on the market, choosing the best for your company goals may be quite tricky. Lots of factors come into play when making a call: complexity, functionality, user-friendliness, costs, integration features, SEO capabilities, mobile compatibility, security, and customer support.
In this post, we’ll delve into the peculiarities of CMS and its major types, touch upon the key points to consider before fixing on the right platform and highlight the top CMS eCommerce examples to facilitate your decision-making.
What is an E-Commerce CMS?
As an online retailer, you need to balance multiple tasks: showcase tons of products, compose descriptions, post images, update prices, and so on. A CMS, or a content management system, streamlines the process of creating, editing, and managing the digital content of a website.
An eCommerce CMS is a type of software application tailored explicitly for setting up an online store and simplifying such operations as organizing, managing, and displaying products, often without diving deeply into coding.
CMS for eCommerce differs in various aspects like cost, user-friendliness, integration capabilities, and more. As noted before, some solutions have an intuitive interface and a set of pre-designed templates, so even a non-technical eCommerce store owner can easily manage the website’s content.
Others may be too challenging but offer rich customization features and give full access to the source code. Let’s discuss the different kinds of CMS eCommerce retailers have at their disposal.
Types of CMS for E-Commerce
Types of CMS can be boiled down to two major categories based on the implementation options, functionalities, and pricing. Here’s a brief overview of both alternatives.
In the case of an open-source or on-premise CMS, users have full access to website functionality with certain conditions imposed on them. Even though store owners have to determine their host provider, maintain the server, and install updates, open-source solutions give broad customization freedom and allow retailers to modify the software according to their unique business needs.
Some open-source CMSs offer cloud-hosted options. But they still differ from SaaS because retail teams remain liable for maintaining the system. So, it’s essential to have or at least hire a team of experts to handle technical issues.
Open-source CMSs are free to download. However, you may have to pay the vendor for some extra services like hosting on a server or in the cloud, extensive customization, staff training, add-ons and plugins, support, or technical help during installation. Some open-source examples include WooCommerce, Magento, now known as Adobe Commerce, and PrestaShop.
A SaaS (software as a service) CMS is cloud-based software hosted by the vendor. Users can easily access it online without downloading, maintaining, or upgrading anything. The software provider handles all technical issues, such as setup, fixing bugs, enhancing features, security updates, and more.
SaaS CMS solutions are available via subscriptions. They are a better fit for small and medium-sized retail companies that don’t have a tech team on-premise. However, bigger brands are increasingly choosing this type of CMS for its convenience and scalability. The list of popular SaaS CMS comprises Shopify, Squarespace, BigCommerce, and others.
Top 10 must-have features of an E-commerce CMS
We realize that evaluating different types of CMSs can be a tall order. To make your eCommerce journey a smooth sailing experience, we’ve compiled a list of critical factors online retailers should pay attention to before making the choice.
Cost is one of the primary factors for online retailers. Settling on the CMS for eCommerce revolves not only around the initial price. Business owners should also consider the running costs.
For instance, Magento Community Edition is an open-source CMS platform, meaning it’s free to download. In contrast, Shopify is a SaaS (software as a service) solution with subscription fees for its usage. The conclusion suggests itself: the choice is in favor of Magento.
But after careful consideration, it’s clear that “open-source” piles more responsibilities on store owners. Namely, entrepreneurs need to look for a hosting provider, purchase a domain name, and hire professional staff offering reliable Magento development services to make specific business requirements a reality. All these points may become a burden on the company’s budget.
However, when choosing between a SaaS and an open-source platform with a vision into the future, the latter is preferable regarding customization flexibility. Magento’s open-source nature gives ample room for creating a website to your liking. Moreover, the platform supports multiple languages and stores from a single dashboard, making it extremely useful for growing businesses.
Another thing worth mentioning is possible expenses on add-ons and themes. Some CMSs may be restricted to basic features. You may need to install various plugins for extra functionality, not all of which are free to download.
For the record, migrating from a current CMS to a new one is an arduous task that involves exporting all data, resources, and assets. Therefore, it’s necessary to select carefully right from the start.
2. SEO capabilities
SEO is indispensable for the success of an online store. It’s capable of generating traffic and getting your product pages to reach higher positions in search results. Look for a CMS with built-in SEO tools or the ability to integrate SEO extensions. Your eCommerce content management system should have optimization features in a few essential areas:
Page URLs. With Google processing millions of URLs, keeping them short and readable is important. Remove extra subfolders, and don’t forget to insert keywords to rank higher in search.
Metadata refers to the information that shows up in search results, including title tags, meta descriptions, and header tags. A good CMS should allow users to customize title tags and generate compelling meta descriptions with relevant keywords to encourage viewers to click through to your site.
Speed. Visitors will likely drop off if it takes too long for a web page to load. Choosing a quick hosting provider and a CMS with speed optimization features is the right step towards boosting online presence.
Data security is non-negotiable for online stores. With a growing number of cyber threats like spamming, malware, phishing, identity theft, and DDoS attacks, eCommerce entrepreneurs should implement advanced security measures to prevent customer data breaches.
When choosing a CMS, ensure it complies with security standards and supports HTTPS/SSL encryption for safer checkout. A good platform should support two-factor authentication for admin accounts, showcase trust badges on the site, and provide firewalls to thwart unauthorized access and curb cyberattacks. Verify if the chosen CMS receives patches and updates regularly to keep up with changing malicious tactics.
PCI compliance is another significant safety measure. Shopify's merchants can rest easy because the platform ensures this feature across all its stores. In contrast, the Magento Open Source version lays the burden of managing PCI compliance on the store owners.
According to Statista, mobile devices comprise 60% of all eCommerce sales. It goes without saying that online retailers should adopt a mobile-first approach if they want to expand their client base and increase revenue.
When deciding on a CMS, make sure it supports responsive design so an eCommerce site delivers immaculate UX for mobile users and allows smooth content editing and page management.
Modern CMSs can easily extend their functionality and provide store teams with enhanced features by integrating with third-party tools via APIs. However, not all systems have the same degree of API support.
For instance, platforms prioritizing ease of use and simplicity over broad customization features offer limited API capabilities. These solutions (Squarespace, for example) mainly cater to users with low technical expertise or insufficient resources to manage complex integrations.
Established CMS platforms like Shopify, Magento, or WooCommerce boast an architecture that allows seamless integration with other systems. A high degree of API flexibility makes them compatible with plenty of third-party platforms and plugins, including CRM systems, email marketing software, payment gateways, and more.
6. Scalability and flexibility
Hopefully, your business will expand over time. Therefore, it makes sense to pick a CMS that can easily accommodate growing traffic and orders. Consider also traffic surges during peak seasons like holidays or grand sales. The CMS should be prepared to deal with fluctuations and adjust to increasing demands.
As far as flexibility goes, headless CMS platforms are an excellent choice thanks to decoupled infrastructure. The frontend layer is separated from the backend logic, and they communicate with each other via APIs, making it easy to incorporate extra features or services without completely transforming the system.
7. Omnichannel Capacity
The omnichannel approach aims to provide a frictionless customer experience across various touchpoints, including websites, mobile apps, social media, and offline stores.
This is where eCommerce CMS systems with a headless architecture prove helpful. They are developed to present content to consumers regardless of the method or platform they choose. Omnichannel capabilities allow brands to engage with clients more efficiently, leading to high conversions and customer retention.
8. Customer support
Solopreneurs or those who have a small team with insufficient IT skills shouldn’t underestimate the importance of customer service for their eCommerce CMS software. Technical issues may happen at any moment, and with responsive support service, online retailers stand a better chance of turning possible disasters into minor glitches.
It’s better to choose a CMS platform offering round-the-clock customer assistance at any point, from online store setup to update installation. SaaS vendors provide advanced customer service once you upgrade to a higher pricing tier. Meanwhile, open-source solutions may boast an active community of developers glad to be of help.
9. Ease of use vs. core functionality
The primary goal of a CMS is turning online store creation into a straightforward process. When developer resources are limited, you may want to go with a platform that has a moderate learning curve and is easy to maintain.
A drag-and-drop interface of the CMS ensures that your team members can generate, edit, and publish content irrespective of its complexity without assistance from the tech staff. Among the solutions famous for ease of use are Shopify, Wix, WordPress, and Joomla.
While user-friendliness is a good point in favor of an eCommerce CMS platform, look at the bigger picture before making a decision. Consider CMSs that, by default, offer the following functions:
content tagging for better indexing;
publishing and unpublishing seasonal content;
adding images and videos.
A good thing is to sit for a demo or test the CMS platform for free if possible. Speaking to a few providers and their customers may also help online retailers make informed decisions.
10. Distribution of roles and permissions
At first glance, having multiple user enablement roles may seem pointless when launching an eCommerce business. However, as time passes and your team grows, this feature will be truly helpful.
Choose the CMS with an option to upgrade to this functionality when needed. Check if its enterprise version allows you to authorize individual staff members to fulfill various tasks on a website.
By distributing permissions, you maintain a steady workflow and verify the quality of content before rolling it out to the public. Additionally, there is no need to worry about sensitive information getting into the wrong hands. Thanks to this property, online retailers have full control over their shops.
7 Best CMS E-Commerce platforms to consider in 2024
1. Magento (Adobe Commerce)
Screenshot taken on the official Magento website
Magento (now known as Adobe Commerce) is among the leading open-source CMS platforms. With a broad selection of customization options, reliable security features, and scalability, it’s a go-to solution for mid and large-scale businesses.
Magento comes with a range of extensions and a user-friendly interface, making website creation seamless. Small companies and independent business owners may face difficulty handling the platform’s functionality because of its steep learning curve. Two versions of Magento, Open Source and Commerce, offer basic and advanced features for developing an online store respectively.
Magento Open Source is free;
Magento Commerce charges an annual fee.
allows creating, previewing, and publishing content with ease;
offers a variety of extensions for CRM, ERP, and chatbot support;
multicurrency and multilingual support.
Screenshot taken on the official Shopify website
Shopify is a SaaS platform that releases its subscribers from installing software and taking care of hosting services. It’s a popular solution with startup merchants and small-scale companies. However, it’s well-received among bigger brands as well.
Shopify’s flawless interface, built-in payment processing, shopping cart system, and 24/7 customer support make the eCommerce journey pretty hassle-free for online retailers with limited tech resources, in particular.
Pricing: costs vary depending on the subscription plan.
a wide choice of store themes;
an extensive library of free and paid apps to expand functionality;
social media integration;
option to sell on multiple channels (online store, Facebook, Instagram, Shopify Inbox).
Screenshot taken on the official BigCommerce website
BigCommerce is a cloud-based platform combining the best-of-breed content management and eCommerce functionalities. Integration with primary payment platforms, built-in advanced SEO tools, social media and multichannel sales support, and a centralized inventory system are among the main attractions of BigCommerce.
Pricing: pricing options are determined by the chosen plan.
over 320 extensions, either free or low-cost;
support of multiple languages and currencies;
a wide array of themes and customizable templates;
integration with WordPress;
a drag-and-drop landing page builder.
4. WooCommerce (WordPress)
Screenshot taken on the official WordPress website
WooCommerce is an open-source plugin developed by WordPress. This CMS solution has a plethora of free extensions and themes that can be effortlessly integrated with almost a single click to enable ample features.
The platform is best known for its intuitive interface and seamless setup options. As an open-source solution, WooCommerce gives store teams the freedom to modify code to achieve the necessary degree of customization of their online shops.
Pricing: free to download.
a bunch of free SEO extensions;
1300+ WooCommerce themes;
supports multiple payment gateways;
a diverse selection of in-marketing add-ons.
Screenshot taken on the official OpenCart website
OpenCart caters to businesses on a shoestring budget. This open-source CMS solution is feature-rich and easy to use. OpenCart doesn’t require advanced technical skills to run the business.
The platform is free to install, yet some additional services are available for affordable fees. OpenCart has a large plugin marketplace and a collection of templates for easy setup of an online store.
Pricing: free basic features, while enterprise services are at an additional cost.
integration with more than 20 payment gateways;
support of 8 shipping methods;
multiple store management using one account;
responsive on various devices.
Screenshot taken on the official PrestaShop website
PrestaShop is an open-source CMS for eCommerce with rich backend code customization options. Store owners can choose a fully-hosted or a self-hosted version based on the degree of technical control they want to exercise over their shop.
With its broad spectrum of plugins and themes, PrestaShop empowers merchants with limited technical expertise to build a web store from scratch. However, consider the final cost because some extensions are pretty expensive.
Pricing: free to install.
beyond 300 built-in features;
integration with social media;
extra fee for support service.
Screenshot taken on the official Wix website
Wix is a perfect choice for small and medium-sized businesses looking for an all-in-one solution to launch an online store. The cloud-based platform boasts ease of use, broad functionality, and sufficient customization features.
The system goes with a drag-and-drop editor, enabling its users to create and manage website content without the need for coding. Moreover, it has a library of more than 500 ready-to-use templates tailored for various industries. Store teams can easily modify these templates to match their brand identity.
Pricing: business plans from basic to VIP, charging monthly fees.
support of multichannel selling;
seamless integration with social networking and third-party apps;
built-in SEO tools;
There is no perfect CMS. When settling on the best CMS for eCommerce, take your time to weigh all the pros and cons of every model. Pay attention to crucial factors like scalability options, integrations, mobile compatibility, SEO functionality, security measures, and omnichannel capabilities.
Consider your specific business needs and expected potential growth, and don’t forget to take into account the practical experience of others in your niche. If you want unique customization features, focus on open-source solutions like Magento and WooCommerce. If ease of use and fast deployment are a matter of priority, choose SaaS eCommerce CMS systems like Shopify or BigCommerce.
Anyway, don’t rush into decisions. Perform thorough research before selecting the right CMS that will provide your customers with a secure and seamless shopping experience.