One of the biggest reasons behind the success of Shopify is their marketing strategies. When every other eCommerce solutions company was presenting its software as a website development tool, Shopify stood itself out as more of a solution to the contemporary needs of a merchant.
A merchant who wants to adopt eCommerce as the need of the hour, but at the same time does not want to deal with the complexities of, first developing a website and then managing it in-house. All a merchant wanted was a less complicated medium to sell whatever he/she has to sell.
Something similar to that of Amazon’s multi-vendor marketplace, but also with the freedom to build brand identity among the customers. To me, Shopify is Amazon with more control and more flexibility to the merchants.
As an online merchant, Shopify and Amazon give me the same thing- an online storefront to sell my stuff. However, Shopify also gives me an additional benefit-
I can have my own domain name and my own storefront, presented just the way I want. I can have marketing tools at my disposal, which I can use to market my domain and build my own customer base. Just like owning my own eCommerce website, but without having to invest my time, money, and efforts in any kind of technicalities and in-house management.
Today, Shopify is hosting more than 600,000 storefronts in over 175 countries. What started as a hassle-free alternative to building your own website is now a go-to platform for every merchant who dreams of owning an eCommerce business.
Why would you need a Shopify alternative?
If Shopify is so breezy, why would you think of a Shopify Alternative? What’s the deal-breaker with Shopify for some entrepreneurs?
The very fact that makes Shopify all hassle-free could be the biggest con of Shopify for tons of entrepreneurs. Shopify is a managed service, AKA SaaS.
Not every eCommerce entrepreneur considers SaaS as an ideal option to set up a strong eCommerce venture. With the SaaS model comes tons of laminations and compromises that many entrepreneurs, especially tech-savvy entrepreneurs do not find worthy of their investments.
Moreover, as Shopify is a fully managed and SaaS service, the dependency on Shopify developers for every minute requirements only grows over time. As a result, besides getting a hassle-free solution, you also end-up sharing a significant proportion of your revenue with the Shopify as long as your store is active on the platform.
Eventually, you find it difficult to continue and start looking for either a lesser expensive substitute or a Shopify alternative with more independence and customizability to the merchants.
Here are some complex reasons for which many entrepreneurs do not find Shopify as an apt fit for their needs:
- You need to pay a monthly recurring fee to use Shopify
- You pay a transaction fee to Shopify for every sale you make
- You cannot go completely independent with your Shopify store
- You are restricted from accessing the source-code of your website
- You grow over-dependent on the SaaS vendors for every need
- You have a limited selection of customized templates to choose
Shopify is undoubtedly the best, but not for every eCommerce requirement. The platform as its own advantages and restraints, which make it ideal for some ventures while obsolete for many other types of requirements.
Advantages of Shopify
Being a SaaS (software as a service), Shopify allows you to rent an online storefront without investing your time, money, and efforts in development. It’s all you ever need from a tech solution as an online merchant who just wants to sell his/her products.
Just sign up on the website, select a suitable plan, create a domain, get your store credentials, and build your storefront, right up using a graphical user interface on a web browser. You need not even need to worry about your store’s web hosting, for Shopify is a SaaS, which means you get a hosting plan with your selected package.
It’s like a dream come true for non-technical merchants, who can now enjoy the benefits of eCommerce without investing their efforts into the technicalities of the same. The team of Shopify takes care of your store’s security, maintenance, patches, payment gateways, and all other essential requirements.
In short, the biggest advantage of Shopify is you can focus on making your sales, while their team will take care of everything at the back-end for you. You will have your merchant dashboard, from where you can manage your entire store: product upload, sales analytics, traffic analytics, marketing campaigns, discount campaigns, coupons codes, and readymade Shopify Apps.
Disadvantages of Shopify
As an eCommerce merchant, you might find Shopify’s limitations as not-so-bad. However, if you are an entrepreneur with an aim to expanding the business and building your own eCommerce empire in the future, you might find Shopify compromising with most of the crucial aspects of entrepreneurship:
Not having the source-code of your own eCommerce website limits you from-
- Customizing your web store the way you want
- Taking control of your entire operation
You grow over-dependent on Shopify’s developers, for you cannot customize your website on your own. The only way to customize your store is by purchasing and installing a Shopify App, which you get from certified Shopify developers only. You end up paying an additional recurring fee for every Shopify App you install on your store. Ultimately, thickening the revenue you end-up sharing with different B2B businesses.
It’s not all. Besides paying a monthly recurring fee for the plan you pick, you are required to pay an additional fee for every sale you make using a payment solution other than Shopify’s own- Shopify Payments.
You chose Shopify because you didn’t want to invest big in the upfront cost of website development, but Shopify’s seemingly cheaper monthly installments are not that cheap at all. The cheapest plan, which cost $29/Month, is hardly usable. You can only do so much with limited analytics, two staff accounts, and constraints on the maximum number of products you can list on your store.
Shopify Alternatives for Online Merchants
You can pick several Shopify alternatives in the market. I don’t say that they are more or less efficient than Shopify, but they can certainly meet your certain needs in ways that are more acceptable by many merchants. So pick your best after analyzing the pros and cons of each of them.
1. BigCommerce (Similar to Shopify with no transaction fee)
BigCommerce is very similar to that of Shopify, but costs slightly lesser, for it does not ask for additional transactional fees like Shopify. A transaction fee is applicable only when you use PayPal. Like Shopify, BigCommerce is SaaS and offers similar pricing plans.
If you are looking for a cheaper but SaaS alternative to Shopify, BigCommerce is the best in the race. Even its cheapest plan allows you to create as many staff accounts. Besides, you get a better degree of front-end customizability with the option to add custom HTML and CSS from the dashboard.
Pros of BigCommerce:
- Asks for no additional fee for using most of the third-party payment solutions
- Better control, front-end customizability, and scalability as compared with Shopify
- Inherits all the limitations of Shopify that come with a SaaS-based solution
- Charges additional fee for using PayPal for credit card transactions
2. Volusion (Older than Shopify itself)
Volusion is also a SaaS and but older than Shopify. Volusion might have failed to make a reciprocated impact as Shopify and BigCommerce, but it’s no less efficient. Being one of the oldest eCommerce solutions in the market, Volusion has the best technical documentation and support to the merchants.
Volusion offers a similar pricing plan to that of Shopify and BigCommerce. Even the features in every package are almost comparable. However, it’s more customizable than Shopify. You must test Volusion if you need a customizable SaaS platform without spending on third-party apps.
Pros of Volusion:
- Far-reaching technical documentation and award-winning customer support
- Does not ask for additional fees for using third-party payment solutions
Cons of Volusion:
- A transaction fee of 2.15% + $0.30 applies to use Volusion’s Payment solution
- Volusion has comparatively lesser ready-made apps than Shopify and BigCommerce
3. Shopygen (Open source-code and no recurring fee)
Volusion and BigCommerce could be slightly cheaper alternatives to Shopify, but Shopygen comes with even better benefits. Shopygen is a collective name for multiple eCommerce solutions that you can pick according to your niche. All these solutions are available with open source-code access.
Shopygen is an ideal eCommerce platform to go for building a niched eCommerce store for focused markets such as multi-vendor marketplace, on-demand grocery delivery platform, on-demand food delivery platform, P2P rental marketplace, etc. Being available with open source code, none of the Shopygen solutions demand recurring fees. With a one-time purchase, you can get your source-codes for good. Besides, you can also get mobile apps for your store with certain pricing plans.
Pros of ShopyGen
- Available with open source-code and can be self-hosted on a web server of your choice
- Best in terms of customizability, as you do not depend on the software vendor for customizations
Cons of ShopyGen:
- Open source-code access imparts all responsibilities on you for security and maintenance
- You need to purchase your web hosting plan by yourself to host the source-code
Different scripts for different niches are available at different prices. Check their website for detailed pricing information. One time price of a script may range from $500 to $2000, based on your requirements.
4. Big Cartel (SaaS Alternative for Niched ideas)
Big Cartel is a SaaS eCommerce solution for niched business ideas such as selling arts, DIY, and craft supplies. If you are looking to create an online platform for artists, photographers, musicians, and content creators, Big Cartel is the right choice for you. Big Cartel is much less expensive than Shopify and allows you to integrate your store with big marketplaces like Etsy.
In fact, you can start selling on Big Cartel free of cost via its free starter plan. You can sell up to five products on your Bog Cartel store without paying any monthly recurring fee at all. Moreover, the premium plans are also less expensive than most of the SaaS platforms in the market.
Pros of Big Cartel:
- Great for niched web stores for artists and creators and supports all popular integrations like Google Analytics, Facebook, and PayPal
- No other SaaS platform gives you an option to sell under a free plan and without any transaction fee either
Cons of Big Cartel:
- Not scalable enough to support large scale ventures like multi-vendor marketplaces for selling general-purpose products
- Due to the lack of support for too many listings, the developers did not find ‘Search’ as a required feature
Other Honorable Mentions
SaaS: 3D Cart, Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace. These are some more popular eCommerce platforms available as SaaS.
Self-hosted: Magento, WooCommerce, PrestaShop, OpenCart, and Drupal Commerce. These solutions are available with open source-code and self-hosted alternatives.
Be advised that most of the self-hosted solutions are free to use. However, you might have to purchase a module, extension, plugin, add-on, or a template from community developers to customize your website. So choose your eCommerce platform carefully after investigating all kinds of short-term and long-term aspects. All the best.
About the author
Jessica Bruce is a professional blogger, guest writer, Influencer & an eCommerce expert. Currently associated with ShopyGen as a content marketing strategist. She also report on the latest happenings and trends associated with the eCommerce industry.
Follow me on Twitter @Jessicabruc (https://twitter.com/Jessicabruc)