best ecommerce platforms for online apparel and clothing shops: 2021 comparison guide

by | Jul 14, 2021

so you’re on the hunt for an ecommerce platform. but they aren’t all the same – and not every ecommerce platform works as well for apparel and clothing shops. 

it’s time to stop the seemingly endless search. we put together a complete (and easy-to-understand) comparison guide of the top ecommerce platforms so that you can easily decipher which option is best for you. we even did a few name drops to see how other businesses use these platforms to drive successful online apparel ventures.

let’s dive right into this definitive 2021 comparison guide of the best ecommerce platforms for online apparel and clothing retailers just like you.

features all ecommerce platforms must offer for clothing companies

not every ecommerce platform provides the same features. which is why it’s essential to make sure you dive into the specifics before committing to a platform. from Shopify to WooCommerce – there are standard features that any ecommerce platform should have if it’s worth your time. 

knowing which features to look for can help set up your online clothing business for success from the very beginning. here are a few features that you should look for before investing in an ecommerce platform for your clothing business.

product image zoom

this one is a must-have. it’s not enough to simply snap great images. your customers need to be able to zoom in to see the details.

that’s because closing that deal might ultimately come down to those particular details. this is especially true if you live in a world full of look-alike competitors. you worked hard to bring your vision to life. you designed. developed. tested. and marketed. don’t sell your products short by overlooking this critical ecommerce detail.

we’re all about the images over here (if you couldn’t tell). don’t let those high-quality product images go to waste. you invested your hard-earned money and precious time to get those perfect product images – so make sure your customers can really see the details.

upselling features

one of the best aspects of ecommerce is its versatility to cross-sell and upsell to your customers. some platforms make upselling and cross-selling easier through features that allow you to group your products. the key is to define your target audiences and understand their purchase behavior on a very detailed level. someone who bought summery shorts from you might also be interested in other pieces from your warm-weather collections.

ecommerce gives you the ability to understand and serve your ideal audience on an intimate level. that’s why this essential feature should be part of the ecommerce platform that you choose.

need help with upselling? some great upselling calls-to-action: complete your look. customers also loved. take advantage of this easy way to add value to your customers’ purchases.

product reviews

there’s no better way to demonstrate your product value than with real customer reviews. you can brag about your products as much as you want. but nothing compares to those internet strangers bragging for you.

put your street cred to hard work and make sure that your ecommerce platform has this essential feature. reviews should feature overall product rating in addition to verified purchase badges so that your customers know that a robot didn’t generate your reviews.

social networking

having the ability to add a social share to your button can greatly impact your bottom line. this feature adds to the value of those customer reviews. 

making your products easily shared is a cost-effective way to help spread brand awareness organically.

influencer marketing and social network sharing ability go hand in hand.

abandoned cart recovery

oh no! you left this behind! a subtle and friendly nudge is often an easy way to circle back with customers who might be hesitating to purchase.

abandoned cart communications also allow you to reconnect with your customers and offer them special incentives. discounts and coupons can be great ways to push past the barriers to purchase and create a customer for life. 

flexible payment options

offering payment flexibility to your customers is an easy way to smash those barriers to purchase. today’s modern ecommerce customers are particular: not just in style – but also when it comes to paying on their terms.

find an ecommerce platform that offers payment options that your customers most commonly ask for. some examples include Apple Pay. AmEx. PayPal. and don’t overlook the value of installment services: like Afterpay. Affirm. and Quadpay.

six best ecommerce platforms for apparel shops

so now you know what to look for in the best ecommerce platform for your online apparel business. the next step is narrowing down the wide selection of platforms available to you.

we went through seven of the top ecommerce platforms and listed some pros & cons of each so you can rest assured that you’ve made the best choice for your business.

Shopify

Shopify is one of the most prominent and widely-used ecommerce platforms. it’s the ecommerce for many online apparel businesses both big and small. it currently holds about 20% of the market share and earned more than $1.5 billion in revenue in 2019. it’s well-established and has many of the features that ecommerce clothing businesses need to succeed.

✨ pros

Shopify comes with its own Point of Sale (POS) system. the beauty of this system is that you can seamlessly integrate your sales data if you sell in more than one location (i.e., if you have pop-up shop sales and ecommerce sales).

you’ll never lack technical support with Shopify. they offer round-the-clock support for all businesses – no matter how big (or little) you are. by phone. email. and live chat. they’ll have your back when you need it most.

Shopify is also easy to use because it’s well-established. they’ve had time to work out a lot of the bugs. and it seamlessly integrates into your social media platforms (like Facebook) – which can really boost your sales.

the best part about Shopify? the price. it’s one of the cheapest to get started with. there’s even a free trial you can use to start setting up your shop. just make sure you’re appropriately sizing your images before you publish your site. (pssst – soona can handle this whole Shopify process for you!)

cons

one of the primary drawbacks to Shopify is the inability to customize the store templates. want to modify your store to match your brand aesthetic? Shopify has its own coding language – called Liquid. you (or someone you hire) will need to know Liquid to make those changes.

you’ll also have access to fewer store themes than you might on other ecommerce platforms (like WooCommerce). it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker. but it can be a bummer if you’re trying to create a cohesive brand experience across all platforms.

Magento

Magento might not have name recognition like Shopify or WooCommerce. but that doesn’t mean it’s not a MASSIVE player in the ecommerce platform game. Adobe owns it. and it’s responsible for the ecommerce sites of many fashion giants (like Hermès and Louboutin). here’s why it’s so well-received.

pros

Magento is highly customizable. but we should have seen this coming considering its parent company is Adobe (the reigning champs of customization). you can use coding to tweak your site to perfection. or you can use their straightforward page builder. either way. you’ll get the custom ecommerce site of your dreams with their platform.

you can also take advantage of Magento’s brilliant AI to upsell and cross-sell to your customers. gone are the days of trying to figure out which customers might like which products. Adobe’s Sensei AI will have it all figured out for you so you can just sit back and watch the sales roll in.

data nerds rejoice! Magento offers some of the best ecommerce analytics out there. you can dive into the details across your site: top customers. best-sellers. and promotions. find what’s working best then rinse and repeat.

cons

Magento isn’t the most cost-effective ecommerce platform out there. that can be a real bummer for small businesses with tight budgets. there is a free version called Magento CE. but you won’t be able to get the whole customization experience with this limited version.

more customizability means it can take longer to get things up and running with Magento. you’ll have to consider this a trade-off if you’ve got the time to tweak things to make them juuuust right.

you’ll also need to know a fair bit about coding (i.e., PHP. Java. HTML) to get the results you’re after with Magento. it’s not as user-friendly as some of the other options. but it might be worth it if you’re able to get 100% of the features you want.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce recently overtook Shopify as the most popular ecommerce platform. there’s one primary reason behind this: it integrates with WordPress beautifully. which is good news for nearly 40% of all websites that are created with WordPress.

pros

one of the main upsides of using WooCommerce is that it doesn’t take long to get things run. it’s user-friendly and easy to get started with – which can be a relief if this is your first venture into the ecommerce world. 

it’s also highly customizable (unlike some of the other ecommerce platforms). that’s partly due to its compatibility with WordPress.

it’s also highly affordable and the plug-in is free. looking for add-ons? they’re all decently priced so you won’t be breaking the bank.

WooCommerce is also one of the best ecommerce platforms when it comes to SEO. there are a handful of SEO plug-ins that you can choose from – including the infamous Yoast SEO. SEO is your friend and can help propel your apparel business to internet success.

cons

one major drawback is that tech support isn’t the greatest with WooCommerce. you can’t live chat or talk to a person via phone. your only option is to submit a support ticket – which isn’t extremely helpful if you’re in a bind or under a tight deadline.

plug-ins are great. but they can get complicated. sure – it’s cool that you’ve got a bundle of options with WooCommerce. but it can quickly become overwhelming and code-intensive if you’re not diligent about weeding out which plug-ins aren’t 100% necessary.

but the biggest downside to WooCommerce is this: you can only use it on WordPress. while that’s about 40% of all websites in the world – that might not be you. which means WooCommerce might not be for you.

OpenCart

OpenCart is known for its open-source code and customizable apparel-specific themes. this can be a big deal for you newbie clothing entrepreneurs. they currently have over 350,000 active stores online and they’re growing every day.

pros

easy to set up. like so easy you could do it in your sleep. just select a premade template and set up your shop. it doesn’t take long and you don’t need to know any super-fancy code to get the job done.

big pro: this one’s super budget-friendly. why? open-source = free. you’ll still have to pay for a few things: site hosting. add-ons. extensions. but those are mostly one-time costs and you won’t have to deal with those pesky monthly fees.

another pro is how OpenCart structures its support system. there are two different tiers. the first is free and you get access to chat and email customer service. need more support? you can subscribe to a paid service (OpenCart Dedicated Support) that can walk you through troubleshooting and help keep your site running smoothly.

cons

one main downside to OpenCart is that you might need to get a developer involved. not necessarily when it comes to the basic setup. but once you delve into the world of customization – a helping (well-educated) hand can go a long way.

yes. OpenCart is budget-friendly. but costs can start to add up as you start to tack on additional add-ons. you’ll need extensions for certain functionality like SEO. it can quickly get out of hand if you don’t track the itemized expenses for these plug-ins and add-ons.

Big Cartel

Big Cartel was designed for beginners. no code required. and they aren’t afraid about thinking outside the box when it comes to their premade designs and templates. they’re committed to making ecommerce easy for small businesses and new fashion entrepreneurs.

pros

big pro: it’s so. so. so. easy to use. Big Cartel takes user-friendly to the next level. they even designed prompts to help guide you along the way.

you can get started on the cheap with very little upfront investment. they understand the power of testing the waters. so test away! want to start with just a piece or two? then start with Big Cartel.

cons

looking to scale quickly? this isn’t your platform. it’s really mean for those small business folks and side hustlers. the majority of their target demographic is entrepreneurs and hobbyists. Big Cartel isn’t for you if you take the ecommerce apparel game too seriously.

another downside: they’re not great about integrating SEO features to get you to the top of search rankings. you won’t be able to incorporate many of the more common SEO plug-ins and add-ons. you can offset this with social media efforts and paid media. but sometimes nothing beats that organic reach.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce isn’t as well-known as some of the other household ecommerce platform names. but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s not just as capable. they’re known for hosting some big-name fashion brands: American Apparel. Verge Girl. and Rollie Nation. their sites are customizable – but not overwhelming. 

pros

BigCommerce takes analytics up a notch. you’ll get the most detailed and comprehensive report for your sales and customers. it’s like giving you the key to success. all you need to do is take that info and build action items to keep growing your business.

it also easily integrates into a handful of sales channels and apps. social media? check! Amazon? check! Quickbooks? you betcha. say hello to a simplified ecommerce business structure to save you time and money.

one massive benefit: they’re always there to help you with integrated education. they’ve developed a detailed blog and instructions. that can be life-changing for DIYers and first-timers.

cons

they’ll support you with education – but not with a phone call. you’re stuck with 24/7 email and chat support. it could be worse. but sometimes it’s just helpful to be able to talk to a real person via phone.

you’ll also have access to fewer templates. 80 – to be precise. that might sound like a lot. but other platforms (like WooCommerce) offer thousands of template options.

ecommerce platforms your favorite apparel companies are using

here’s the takeaway: there’s an ecommerce platform for every business out there. and these companies demonstrate that you’re never too small (or big) to take advantage of what these platforms have to offer.

Nike uses a Magento-powered webstore

yes – you read that right. Nike uses good ole Magento to support their ecommerce business. sure. it might seem hard to believe that Nike wouldn’t just spring for a custom ecommerce platform. but it’s true. and the experience is flawless. it just goes to show that you don’t need to invest tens of thousands of dollars into creating and coding your own ecommerce platform for your business. a pre-built platform can just do it for you.

True Classic Tees is built on the Shopify ecommerce platform

simple. clean. modern. True Classic Tee’s Shopify-based ecommerce apparel store lives up to the brand aesthetic. you can easily navigate their site and shop classic tee styles – all while soaking up the deliciously consistent brand aesthetic.

Kemo Sabe masters cowboy-luxe with WooCommerce

this Colorado-based apparel retailer masterfully uses WooCommerce to create a gritty (but polished) shopping experience. there’s no shortage of high-quality product images and engaging videos to help inspire customers through the purchase funnel. take a page out of Kemo Sabe’s book and create an ecommerce apparel site that’s compelling and easy to navigate.

Outdoor Voices takes ecommerce to the next level with Shopify

this is another excellent example of how you can use a well-established ecommerce platform to help propel your success. Outdoor Voices is one of the most well-known athletic apparel retailers. they’ve got regular pieces that stay in their ecommerce rotation. but that doesn’t mean they don’t switch things up with new launches. the Shopify platform seamlessly handles their entire ecommerce experience from front to back.

no ecommerce platform is complete without high-quality product images

congrats! we hope this handy little comparison guide of ecommerce platforms gave you the clarity and insight you needed to narrow down your options and find the best fit for you. but just remember: your ecommerce platform is only as good as the product images and videos you fill it with

try soona today to take your product photography (and product sales) to the next level.

if you’re looking to ramp up your content game but still feel unsure where to start – check out these resources:

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