In our fast-approaching post-pandemic world, retail ecommerce looks set to be the big winner.
Indeed, it’s estimated that there will be 2.4 billion digital buyers worldwide this year.
Canadian ecommerce company Shopify is one of the most well-known and respected brands in the world.
As a result, it’s worthwhile to look at what they offer and whether it’s a good fit for your retail business.
Having passed the one million merchants mark in 2019, Shopify is a firm favourite for retailers worldwide.
But is it the right fit for you, or is there Shopify alternatives that might get you more bang for your buck?
Today we’re looking at some of the best alternatives to Shopify and giving you our unbiased recommendations on which you should choose and why.
Why use Shopify?
Boasting merchants in over 175 countries and over one million merchants on its books, Shopify is a true giant in the ecommerce world.
The company’s revenues rose an astonishing 97% last year, making it the second-largest ecommerce platform in America after Amazon.
If you’d like to delve into Shopify more deeply, check out our guide, 8 Reasons Shopify Is The BEST Ecommerce Platform For Retailers.
So, what is it about Shopify that makes merchants opt for it over all of its competitors?
- Reliability: Shopify works, and reliably so. While other platforms can be buggy, Shopify is reliable and robust, even under the most demanding circumstances.
- Wide variety of apps: With over 3,200 apps available, Shopify offers an unrivalled choice for merchants who are keen to personalise their customer’s user experience.
- Easy to use: Another huge selling point with Shopify is that it is effortless to use, even if you’re a complete tech novice.
- Plug and play: The feature-packed, unquestionably scalable platform is a firm favourite for merchants who want a hassle-free, time-efficient platform.
- Templates to suit you: Shopify users enjoy access to 72 premium and free, sleek website ecommerce templates. Now with the release of Shopify 2.0 templates are even more powerful.
- Good customer support: Shopify’s merchants enjoy access to a wide range of customer support options that’ll help you through any initial teething problems.
- Great integrations: Shopify integrates seamlessly with all the popular platforms like Xero, Social Media platforms, CRM systems like HubSpot and many more.
- Safe and secure: Shopify takes website security and customers’ privacy and data seriously, and merchant websites get a free SSL certificate.
Who is Shopify best for?
Shopify is ideal for retail companies keen to create an online store and offer customers an omnichannel or multichannel sales experience.
Why look at alternatives to Shopify?
As great as Shopify is, it does have its drawbacks.
Many retail merchants are seeking alternatives to Shopify for a wide variety of reasons.
And shopping around for the best deal and, most importantly, a suitable platform for you is always a smart idea.
After all, a features-packed platform like Shopify only makes good business sense if you need – and will use – all those features.
If not, you’ll be spending money needlessly that could be put to better use elsewhere for your business.
Here are some of the most popular reasons why retailers are increasingly searching for the best alternatives to Shopify.
A suite of features is great, but if you’re not utilising them, you’ll find yourself quickly paying a lot each month.
Shopify is by no means the cheapest ecommerce platform on the market.
And many savvy customers quickly realised they could save money by going with a competitor.
The cost of Shopify varies wildly, depending, of course, on the size of your retail business and what you need it for.
To give you an idea, here are Shopify’s main prices:
- Shopify Lite: From £6.56 per month
- Basic Shopify: From £21.12 per month
- Shopify: From £72.11 per month
- Advanced Shopify: From £217.79 per month
- Shopify Plus: From £1,456.79 per month
Shopify’s transaction fees
Another reason many retail companies are looking for alternatives to Shopify is the high transaction fees.
As a merchant, expect to pay Shopify a relatively high transaction fee for online orders (2.2% + 20p).
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
You could have the most fantastic website selling the most incredible products.
But if it’s not showing up on organic Google search results, then you’re potentially losing out on a significant number of customers every day.
And many Shopify merchants are getting louder in their calls for better SEO tools for Shopify.
Those merchants argue that Shopify’s rigid URL structures are hindering their Google rankings.
This is a critical consideration if you don’t have a big budget for Google PPC and Social Media Advertising and instead rely heavily on organic search.
Limited customisation options
As a retailer, you’ll want to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
That could be through branding, storytelling, or even just a customised checkout page.
However, Shopify merchants point out that it’s a lot more challenging to modify your website to stand out from the crowd.
With the release of OS 2.0 Shopify, it will become much easier for users to create websites. If you have an existing Shopify store, it may be a good idea to switch to a 2.0 theme if you want more flexibility.
5 Best Shopify Alternatives
Now that we’ve taken a look at Shopify, let’s take a look at the best alternative ecommerce platforms for retailers.
In their own words: “Build a business that’s ready for anything with the flexibility of Open SaaS.”
- Packed with useful, free built-in features
- Smooth, hassle-free user experience
- Full-cycle solution for online retail stores
- Great content marketing features
- Flexible and scalable as you grow
- Excellent SEO performance if the organic reach is vital to you
- Multichannel selling options, with Facebook, eBay and Amazon integrations
- Hosted website
- 24-hour customer service options
- Impressive business reporting
- Strong analytics
- Choice of just seven premium themes
- Questionable website loading speeds
- The more products you sell, the more you can expect to pay, prices get expensive fast
- One-click selling not available
- Premium themes can bloat your monthly costs
- It can be tricky to learn
- A small number of free themes to choose from
- Inventory management is complicated
Our opinion: It’s an okay alternative, but not as good as Shopify.
In their own words: “Discover the platform that gives you the freedom to create, design, manage and develop your web presence exactly the way you want.”
- Simple to use and a relatively straightforward set-up
- Plans are more affordable than competitors
- Over 100 slick templates to choose from
- A wide variety of apps, plug-ins and add-ons (280+) to choose from
- Themes are customisable
- Ability to automate your marketing
- Lots of good tutorials
- Works with most major payment gateways
- Free plans available (with Wix branding)
- Poor SEO performance that will hinder your organic visibility on Google
- Surprising lack of upselling capabilities
- Second-rate Amazon integration
- Unnecessary traffic and bandwidth limits
- Poor support
Our opinion: Not a great option for online retailers that are serious about growing their business.
Despite some of Wixs’ decent pros like value for money, functionality, and features, Shopify is in a different stratosphere.
In their own words: “WooCommerce is committed to democratising commerce and putting you in control of your own livelihood.
Our core platform is free and open-source, empowering anyone to sell anything, anywhere.”
- The WooCommerce plug-in is free
- WooCommerce is the most used retail ecommerce platform globally
- Easy set up for those with only basic technical knowledge
- Top class free and paid themes and plug-ins suitable for most online retailers
- WooCommerce is SEO-friendly
- Exclusive access to a wide range of extensions
- No limits on what you can sell through WooCommerce
- Over 100 different payment options
- Integrated accounting options
- World-class, easy-to-use business reporting and analytics
- First-rate guidance documentation to help you master all of the essentials quickly
- You need a WordPress hosted website
- Expensive extensions
- You have to sort out your own hosting
- No centralised customer support system for merchants
- WooCommerce websites can be slow.
Our opinion: The undisputed best alternative to Shopify due to its affordability, ease of use, SEO performance and functionality, it may take a little extra work, but if you’re after flexibility it’s a good option.
In their own words: “Magento empowers thousands of retailers and brands with the best eCommerce platforms and flexible cloud solutions to rapidly innovate and grow.”
- Free and open-source
- Packed with useful features
- An excellent choice for medium and large businesses
- Advanced customisations available
- Flexible and scalable as your company grows
- Can handle an impressive amount of sales and website traffic
- No monthly fees
- Awesome Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tools
- Excels at inventory management
- Facilitates a good selection of payment gateway options
- Wide selection of extensions available
- Very complicated to use and not ideal if you’ve no technical skills, you’ll need a development team, and it doesn’t come cheap, expect to spend in the high thousands
- You’ll need to find your own hosting
- Magento’s Enterprise Edition is extremely expensive
- Glaring lack of customer support
Our opinion: For the vast majority of online retailers with no technical skills, Magento will be highly unlikely to meet your needs.
Being challenging to use and with a steep learning curve, it is a poor competitor when pitted up against Shopify.
In their own words: “Squarespace is the all-in-one solution for anyone looking to create a beautiful website.”
- 14-day free trial available
- Great variety of slick, well-designed templates to choose from
- No transaction fees on Squarespace’s Commerce plan
- Looks great on both mobile and desktops, thanks to responsive designs
- Good user interface
- User-friendly CMS
- A wide range of integrations is available
- Lack of currency options
- Issues with downtime and loading speeds
- Limited payment gateway options
- Questionable compliance to GDPR
- It doesn’t support Google Pay
- Weak app store with limited app options
- Weak SEO performance
- Poor customer support for UK & Ireland
- Complicated to customise your website
Our opinion: Squarespace’s charm is how aesthetically pleasing it is, but for ecommerce, it’s still quite limited and, therefore, not a realistic option for most online retailers. With outages and poor loading times, it’s not the best for serious retailers.
Shopify is still, hands down, the best option for ambitious online retailers looking to get an edge in the hyper-competitive online retail world.
With the release of OS 2.0 for Shopify, it’s arguably the best ecommerce solution out there.
Yes, it has its quirks and lacks certain features.
However, it more than makes up for those weaknesses with its vast suite of apps, ease of use, reliability, and quality templates.
And the wide variety of integration options, excellent customer support and security features, makes Shopify a runaway leader.
It is by no means perfect, and Shopify needs to prioritise improving SEO performance and having another look at its pricing structure and fees.
If you’re still not convinced that Shopify is suited to your needs, we’d recommend WooCommerce as the best alternative to Shopify.
As the most popular ecommerce platform globally, WooCommerce has the right combination of simplicity in use and high-quality themes and plug-ins that should suit most retailers’ needs.
And with its strong SEO performance, you’ll find WooCommerce as a more than worthy replacement for Shopify, provided you have a WordPress hosted website, of course.
BigCommerce is also another reasonable alternative to Shopify, especially considering its free built-in features, ease of use and adaptability.
The all-in-one hosting solution further adds to its appeal to many retail merchants.
In our opinion, though, Shopify is the perfect combination of all the essentials, married with impressive features and reliability.
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