WebCitz Blog

Types of Ecommerce Websites: Which Is Right for You?

Types of Ecommerce Sites

Are you looking to start an ecommerce business, but not sure which type of website is right for you? There are many different types of ecommerce websites available – and what works best for one company may not work as well for another. In this article, we will discuss the various options and help you decide which type of website is right for your needs.

Ecommerce websites fall into two main categories, which are vendor-specific websites and multi-vendor online marketplaces. We will now dive into each of these website types.

The Different Types of Ecommerce Platforms

1.) Vendor-specific websites

Vendor-specific websites are online marketplaces that allow individual retailers to manage their own storefronts. They can upload inventory, set prices, and communicate with customers directly. One example of a vendor-specific website is Shopify, which allows you to easily create your own ecommerce store.

The main benefit of using this type of ecommerce solution for your business is the amount of control it gives you over branding and pricing – something you will not get when selling through another company’s marketplace (like Amazon). Another advantage is that there are reduced sales fees associated with offering products on these types of sites.

However, due to all this flexibility, self-hosted solutions like Shopify do come at a cost… they require larger setup fees to get up and running. For this reason, it is common for businesses starting out with limited resources to start selling on marketplaces like Amazon or Etsy, which offer their services at no cost (at least initially).

Shopify Homepage

2.) Multi-vendor online marketplaces

Multi-vendor online marketplaces are websites where individual sellers manage their own storefronts, but these retailers have an agreement to sell items on a central website.

This type of ecommerce solution is most commonly used by companies that want the benefits of running an independent store (like increased branding and control), without having to pay for all the overhead associated with doing so – i.e., backend development costs as well as hosting fees.

Two examples of multi-vendor sites would be Amazon or Etsy, which are both popular alternatives to Shopify. In fact, many small business owners use one of these two platforms when starting to test demand before building their own web presence from scratch. The main benefit is cost savings as there is no web design costs.

The main drawback of selling on marketplaces like Amazon is that you are bound by the rules and restrictions set forth by these websites. For example, if your products violate any policies, Amazon could suspend your account without warning – something that would have a major negative impact on business operations (as well as potentially cost to you, and your customers).

Furthermore, because there are so many listings posted each day to sites like eBay and Etsy, it can be difficult for consumers to find your specific items amidst all this clutter. This makes building brand awareness more challenging than with other types of ecommerce solutions.

Etsy Homepage

What Is the Best Option for You?

The best type of ecommerce website for your business depends on a number of factors, including what you are selling and how much capital is available to invest in building an online presence.

If you have the money at hand to start out with a self-hosted solution like Shopify or BigCommerce, this would be our recommended course of action. However, if not, then there are many good options that do not require any initial investment – such as Amazon or Etsy (both multi-vendor marketplaces).

Types of Ecommerce Platforms

If you opt to create your own unique website, there are a number of choices. There are many types of ecommerce platforms, and we’ve outlined some common ones below:

1.) Software-as-a-service platforms (SaaS)

SaaS ecommerce platforms are typically what people use to get started with, mainly because they offer a number of advantages. For example, SaaS companies use pre-built templates that allow for easy customization and therefore lower costs in terms of web development.

They also have advanced features like customer relationship management (CRM) tools built right into their platform, which help you engage customers through your website.

Popular examples of SaaS ecommerce platforms include Shopify and BigCommerce.

BigCommerce homepage

2.) Open-source platforms

Open-source ecommerce platforms are free to use and created using an open-source programming language. This means that any developer with the proper skills can alter its code as they see fit, which further lowers costs for business owners looking to build a website from scratch.

The downside is that these types of websites tend not to have all the bells and whistles found on SaaS ecommerce sites – i.e., there may be fewer options when it comes down to customizing design or functionality than what other companies provide out-of-the-box.

If this sounds like something you’d like, then checkout Magento or OpenCart.

Magento homepage

3.) Platform-as-a-service solutions (PaaS)

PaaS ecommerce platforms are typically the least expensive to get up and running but offer less scalability than SaaS solutions. This means they may not be ideal for larger companies with several employees looking to manage large inventories or sell in high volumes quickly (as resources could become limited).

However, if your business is just starting out or you have a small number of products – these might be good options as their lower cost makes them more accessible. Furthermore, some PaaS providers will provide hosting, which can simplify things even further when it comes down to building an online presence.

4.) Licensed ecommerce platforms

Licensed ecommerce software is typically a combination of both SaaS and open-source applications. The main difference here, as the name suggests, is that this type of solution requires you to license its code before being able to build your website with it.

The best part about using licensed ecommerce solutions as opposed to just buying hosting from a different company – is that they are designed specifically for businesses looking to sell products online, which means their features better fit these types of websites.

5.) Headless ecommerce solutions

Headless commerce solutions are a combination of both open-source and PaaS technologies. In the past, we’ve developed headless ecommerce solutions using BigCommerce as a platform. The main difference here is that these types of ecommerce platforms do not have their own frontend user interface (UI) – rather they require you to build your online store using another application’s code or UI, which can be difficult for some business owners who may lack the necessary programming skills required.

Business owners looking for more flexibility might want to consider headless commerce software as it allows them to use any type of website design tool on its back end without being restricted by one single proprietary platform. For one headless ecommerce development we were part of, we used BigCommerce and Laravel for the ecommerce development.

However, this also means that there will be additional costs involved when setting up shop with these companies because you’ll need an experienced web developer on hand in order to get everything working properly.

6.) Proprietary ecommerce software

Proprietary ecommerce software is the most expensive option out of all the types. It will provide you with a fully customizable online store that can be built using any type of web development language – which makes it easier to work on than other types, but also more expensive because they are designed specifically for your specific business.

If you’re looking for something very customizable and do not mind shelling out extra cash up front, then this might be worth considering depending on what exactly you need from an ecommerce website builder.


Do I need to be a web developer to use ecommerce software?

No – while some of these solutions require basic knowledge on how to use HTML, CSS, and Javascript work, there are others that can accommodate business owners who have little-to-no programming experience.

That being said though, you’ll still want someone with this type of expertise on your team, so they can help troubleshoot any problems that come up when setting things up initially.

Where do I set up my online store if I choose to use an ecommerce platform?

You’ll typically need your own web hosting – which can be purchased directly from your ecommerce company of choice or through a third-party host, like SiteGround.

Related: Learn How To Create An Ecommerce Website With Our Beginner Friendly 7-Step Guide ASAP!

What type of hosting do I need to set up an online store?

There are many options when it comes to ecommerce hosting. Some platforms, like Shopify, will host the website for you – all you need to do is purchase a domain name and pay a monthly fee for their services.

You could also choose a shared hosting service, like SiteGround, which offers a lot more flexibility when it comes to choosing and editing your store.

While we’re on the topic, we have a comprehensive blog article discussing the Best Website Hosting For Ecommerce that you might want check out!

What are the benefits of using an ecommerce platform?

These types of ecommerce solutions come with many built-in features that can save your business considerable time and money – especially for companies who lack the necessary programming skills required to build a fully functional online store on their own. Businesses don’t have to worry about coding, hosting, or scaling issues either because they’re all included as part of the package.

How do I find the right ecommerce software for my business?

The best way to go about this is by testing out different solutions and comparing them side-by-side based on their features, prices, and other important metrics. This will make it easier for you to narrow down your options before choosing a specific platform or company.

If possible try working with some vendors first through a free trial – then if everything meshes well together you won’t have any issues moving forward when it comes time to purchase access (or start paying) for what they’re offering.

Final Thoughts on the Different Types of Ecommerce Solutions

In conclusion, there are many types of ecommerce websites that can help you sell your products online, but the best option for you depends on what type of business strategy you want.

If you have a lot of resources available to invest in building an initial web presence, then self-hosted solutions like Shopify or Bigcommerce will be great options because they give more control over branding and pricing – something that market places do not offer.

However, if capital is extremely tight when getting started with selling online, there are also plenty of good free alternatives, such as Amazon or Etsy (multi-vendor marketplaces).

Well, what are you waiting for!?

Disclaimer: WebCitz, LLC does not warrant or make any representations concerning the accuracy, likely results, or reliability of the information found on this page or on any web sites linked to from this page. This blog article was written by Timothy A in his or her personal capacity. The opinion(s) expressed in this article are the author's own and may not reflect the opinion(s) of WebCitz, LLC.