What is Shopify?
Shopify is an ecommerce platform that enables you to create and manage an online shop. You may use the platform to create a website, manage goods, calculate shipping costs, and sell across various channels, among other things.
Moreover, because the platform is a cloud-based, hosted solution (often referred to as a software-as-a-service of SaaS), you are in no way, responsible for software maintenance.
Additionally, Shopify’s Shopify and Shopify Plus ecommerce solutions cater to both small companies and big organizations.
- Shopify: This is a service geared at small companies. With three price levels — Basic, Shopify, and Advanced — you can select from a variety of features.
- Shopify Plus: This is for large companies. Shopify Plus clients get access to additional features intended for larger volume businesses for a bespoke price (a %age of sales with a monthly minimum of $2,000).
Additionally, although Shopify does not provide a free subscription, it does offer what is called Shopify Lite if you wish to integrate a purchase button into an existing blog or website.
Four Reasons to Consider a Shopify Alternative
Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals, let’s take a look at why you may consider switching platforms to operate your ecommerce company.
1. You’re not interested in using Shopify Payments.
One reason is that you are free to pick your payment gateway. If you do not utilise Shopify Payments powered by Stripe, you may be charged transaction fees as high as 2% for every single sale.
Additionally, by choosing not to use Shopify Payments, you forfeit access to some services, such as the option to trade in various currencies. Additionally, you cannot utilize Shopify Payments in case you sell high-risk goods, such as vaporizers.
2. Desire more control over your website’s SEO.
SEO is a significant component of the marketing tools included with an ecommerce system. And, although Shopify is adept at managing fundamental SEO chores, you may want additional control over your site — particularly if you depend significantly on organic search.
For instance, Shopify prohibits users from accessing and editing robot.txt files. For those unaware, this is the file that instructs Google on how Google should index your site, ensuring that only the webpages you specify appear in search engine results.
While this might not be an issue at first, as your site develops, you’ll likely want greater control over how Google bots crawl your site and index it.
3. Possess a large and intricate catalogue.
Assume you own a clothes shop and are making a concerted effort to be inclusive. Thus, you propose:
- A variety of sizes, from extra small to 6XL.
- Each piece is available in a variety of colours.
- Numerous designs, including tank tops and long-sleeved shirts.
- There are options for infants, children, men and women.
Your product catalogue will soon become very complicated — and Shopify may be unable to keep up, since you are limited to 100 SKUs and a measly three choices per product.
4. You’re experiencing frustration in some way.
Perhaps there is another source of frustration that has prompted you to do research on other available platforms. Perhaps you dislike the Shopify Help Center’s appearance, are dissatisfied with customer assistance, or have heard about someone else’s negative and traumatic experience and are concerned the same fate may befall you. Whatever the cause, you do have alternative choices.
Okay, now that we have the reasons why one may want to switch from Shopify, it is time to look at the Shopify alternatives.
Let us begin.
Best Shopify Alternatives for Your Online Store
WordPress is a well-known platform. It is responsible for 40% of the internet’s traffic. As a result, it’s not surprising that WooCommerce will be at the top of the open-source Shopify alternatives list. It’s a WordPress plugin that converts your site into a full-fledged eCommerce store.
The plugin, like the WordPress core, is free, but there will be hosting, theme, and add-on fees. WooCommerce has a lot of versatility thanks to WordPress’s flexibility, but it also has a lot of problems.
To begin with, WooCommerce is challenging to set up, and the entire process can be frustrating. Of course, hundreds of add-on plugins for increasing the functionality of the web store are accessible, but the most of them are premium plugins. They can quickly drive up the price of developing an eCommerce site.
Furthermore, WooCommerce allows for a great deal of customization, which is also one of the disadvantages. For example, customizing WooCommerce to meet certain requirements will necessitate a significant amount of development work, which will incur additional expenditures.
If you decide to use plugins, keep in mind that they are created by third-party developers that are not affiliated with WordPress or WooCommerce. Many of these plugins may be incompatible with one another. Some plugins have stopped being actively developed, posing a security risk.
So, while running a WooCommerce-powered online store may sound appealing, you should always consider hiring a team, or at the absolute least a skilled developer, to deal with such annoyances.
Benefits of using WooCommerce
- It’s absolutely free to use.
- There are a large number of add-ons (plugins) that may be used to increase its capabilities.
- There is a vast developer community out there that is always prepared to assist through support forums.
- To establish a visually stunning store, there are hundreds of premium and free themes to choose from. The cost of a premium template is usually less than $60.
Disadvantages of using WooCommerce
- There is no dedicated customer service. If you require assistance, you must contact the community of developers and wait for a response. You can also hire your own developer to help you with issues.
- It’s not easy to set up WooCommerce. In a nutshell, it is not user-friendly.
- The WooCommerce plugin’s fundamental features are limited. To expand its features, you’ll need to purchase additional add-ons.
#2. OpenCart – Free but Paid Customer Support
One of the most capable Shopify alternatives is OpenCart. In fact, if you currently have a Shopify-powered store and are searching for an open-source solution that is comparable to Shopify, OpenCart is the way to go.
Since the two platforms are built differently, switching from Shopify to OpenCart or vice versa is difficult. However, there is a service that will allow you to do so with relative ease. Thousands of plugins are available to let you customize the fundamental functionalities of your online store.
Multiple currencies and languages are supported by OpenCart. Recurring payments, product reviews and ratings, guest checkout options, downloadable products, and much more are all available.
Benefits of using OpenCart
- Migration from Shopify to OpenCart is easy using LitExtension. It allows migration from one platform to another with absolute ease. However, it is a paid service, and the price depends on the number of products you want to migrate, and also on the source store and target store (basically, source platform and target platform).
- Supports multiple languages and multiple currencies.
- Open-source and free option. Being open source, the core code lends itself to editing and heavy customization.
- Offers an app market with 13,000+ apps to extend the functionalities of the store.
Disadvantages of using OpenCart
- You must pay $99 a month or $99 per fix if you want direct help from the devs. It is all up to you. Alternatively, you can seek support from the community or hire a developer or a team of developers.
- The template designs aren’t really appealing. They appear to be a little out of date. So, look for premium templates or hire someone to design and create one for you.
#3. PrestaShop – Easiest Open-Source Option
PrestaShop is an open-source eCommerce platform that is simple to use. There are two approaches to this. The core platform is available for download and installation on your server. The core platform is available for free. You will, however, require a hosting plan that includes PrestaShop hosting.
The Starter Pack, on the other hand, includes the free core platform as well as a selection of paid add-ons to help you get started quickly. You will have to pay €191.99 for this Starter Pack.
It is entirely up to you to make your choice. Nobody is going to make you do something you don’t want to do. However, keep in mind that you’ll need add-ons to expand the functionality of your online store, and none of them are free. The higher the price, the more functionality you add using plugins or add-ons. For example, a simple GDPR compliance cookie banner plugin can set you back €55.99.
What’s strange is that you’ll have to pay for their SEO Pack Start plugin in order to undertake search engine optimization. The built-in functionalities of PrestaShop’s core are simply insufficient.
You may use over 3,000 modules to enhance the features of your online store.
Benefits of using PrestaShop
- They provide a demonstration of how to use PrestaShop to create an online store.
- They don’t use a large CMS, which allows for speedier loading speeds.
- It has numerous services such as free shipping, gift wrapping, promotion vouchers, and automatic emails, among others.
- Checks, bank transfers, PayPal, and Stripe are among the four payment methods supported.
- They have over 1,500 professionally designed templates to help you stand out in your shop.
Disadvantages of using PrestaShop
- They provide dedicated help, but the plans are extremely costly. You could wind up paying as much as €719.20 depending on the support package you choose.
- You cannot upgrade to a newer version of PrestaShop without paying an upgrade fee once you have installed it. They have a support plan designed exclusively for updating your PrestaShop store to a newer version.
- There are just a few payment alternatives available. There are only four ways to pay.
- Add-ons can quickly raise your price, and oddly enough, most of the most important features are only available as paid add-ons.
#4. Zen Cart – Cheap but Dated
Because Zen Cart is open-source and free, it is inexpensive. They also don’t charge for dedicated help because it isn’t available! To receive help, you must turn to their community and hope that someone would come up with a solution.
If you don’t want to wait, you may always hire a developer instead. This is where you’ll have to pay some money. Depending on your development requirements, you could be looking at spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
When you first start using Zen Cart, you could get the impression that you’ve travelled back in time 18 years. Yes, the dashboard and theme templates are outdated. They all appear to have never made it out of the year 2003.
On the plus side, there is a vast community of knowledgeable developers who can assist you with your issues. However, there will be a period of waiting. You can get around this by hiring a programmer.
Benefits of using Zen Cart
- It’s completely open source and free.
- It lends itself to a lot of personalization.
- A drag-and-drop page editor is included. It even comes with a WYSIWYG page editor.
- Discounts and coupons, numerous product photos, gift certificates, a shipping estimate, SEO tools, and other features are all built-in.
- When selling things to other firms, you also have the option of disguising product costs.
Cons of using Zen Cart
- The dashboard and themes appear to be very old.
- Customer service is solely provided on a forum. There is no dedicated customer service provided.
- There is no demo or trial available. You’ll need to create an online store to see how it works for you. This takes a long time.
BigCommerce offers a wealth of advanced tools for creating an online store while remaining extremely user-friendly. All of these options enable you to sell through many channels such as Amazon and eBay, as well as offer discounts, gift cards, and coupons. There are also templates available to aid you in the creation of your gift cards!
The industry-standard payment processor is PayPal, which Braintree supports. This has a lot of benefits, including specially negotiated processing rates and speedier payment processing, depending on your BigCommerce plan selection. 2Checkout, Amazon Pay, Stripe, and Square, as well as Google Pay and Apple Pay, are all accepted by Braintree.
BigCommerce is a true SaaS platform that charges businesses a monthly subscription in exchange for a simple eCommerce solution. It has lovely site designs and a high uptime rate, all of which add to a pleasant hosting experience.
The advantages of using BigCommerce
- It’s a powerful SaaS platform that allows you to quickly build an eCommerce site.
- Numerous capabilities are accessible right out of the box and do not require any additional configuration or coding. They simply work!
- You won’t need to hire an SEO expert because the software is built for it.
- It meets PCI requirements and ensures a high level of uptime.
- Headless commerce is enabled via flexible webhooks and APIs, which provide an experience similar to that of any open-source software. Work with JS, CSS, HTML, and PHP as needed.
- It allows you to appeal to a worldwide audience by using many currencies.
- It has a robust DDoS protection system.
- It has advanced analytics as well as real-time sales and traffic tracking. It even has the ability to generate sales tax reports.
- It works with over 65 different payment gateways.
- Regardless of the plan you choose, they do not impose a transaction fee.
- It offers live chat, email, a community forum, and phone support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Cons of Using BigCommerce
- It doesn’t have the same multi-store functionality as Shopify. The headless configuration, on the other hand, might be able to help you solve the problem.
- Users may be confused by some of the user interface’s sophisticated wording. The support team, on the other hand, is always willing to help.
Pricing for BigCommerce
The company offers four different pricing choices, which are as follows:
- Standard – $29.95 a month
- Plus – $79.95 a month
- Pro – $299.95 a month
- Enterprise – Bespoke pricing
Volusion is an e-commerce platform that focuses on providing you with the sales tools you need to be successful with your online store.
For your online store, there are approximately 14 free, customisable themes available. On mobile and desktop platforms, they’re both aesthetically pleasing and quick.
Volusion enables adding products to your online store simply and offers a variety of customization possibilities. Differentiating pricing for different versions is simple, and the number of variations you can build is endless.
If you’re new to online shopping, Volusion’s design wizard will come in handy, as it allows you to set up an online store in just a few minutes. Simply answer a few basic questions about what you want to sell and who you want to sell to, and the wizard will create your online store for you — stress-free.
The advantages of using Volusion
- Volusion has a highly user-friendly interface.
- The design wizard can create a website in minutes by simply completing a few questions.
- The website themes are responsive, meaning they look great on both desktop and mobile devices.
- Order management and fulfilment are two areas where Volusion thrives.
- There are numerous free integrated marketing tools accessible. Direct marketing, discounts and promotions, as well as all-in-one SEO, are all included.
- Volusion includes a built-in dropshipping feature.
- This platform accepts all major credit cards, Amazon Pay, Stripe, and PayPal.
- There are no charges associated with this transaction.
- Volusion adheres to PCI security standards.
- They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- The cost of integrating SSL is not insignificant. You’ll have to pay $100 for this.
- Their price structure is complicated. Not everything is crystal clear right away. SSL charges are an example of a hidden cost.
- There are a variety of premium themes for your website that cost up to $900. That is ludicrous. The minimal cost of a premium template is $180, which is still quite pricey.
Volusion offers four paid packages, each of which includes the following features:
- Mini – $15 a month.
- Plus – $35 a month.
- Pro – $75 a month.
- Premium – $135 a month.
Keep in mind that the cost of an SSL certificate, as well as the cost of a premium website design, is extra.
#7. Squarespace Commerce
Squarespace, the design leader, is one of the most capable ecommerce website builders for creating visually stunning businesses accessible today. Furthermore, its ecommerce capabilities are impressive. Squarespace Commerce is an excellent platform for building aesthetically pleasing magazine subscription websites and restaurant reservation systems.
The advantages of Squarespace Commerce
- You can add items based on size, shape, and colour using the platform’s versatile product variations.
- It allows you to sell an unlimited number of things.
- It enables the sale of service products, physical goods, and digital goods.
- It has a good inventory management system.
- It comes with a number of pre-installed features that are ready to use right away.
- It comes with a set of powerful analytics tools.
- Among all other SaaS eCommerce systems, the platform offers one of the greatest design templates on the market.
- They provide email and Twitter help 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Disadvantages of using Squarespace Commerce
- There is no such thing as an app store. As a result, you’ll be compelled to use whatever features come standard.
- There are advanced design tools that will require you to learn a new skill set.
Squarespace Commerce pricing
A 14-day free trial is available for Squarespace Commerce. If you wish to keep using their platform after the trial period finishes, you must upgrade to a premium plan. The following are some of the paid plans that are available:
- Basic Commerce – $30 a month.
- Advanced Commerce – $46 a month.
You can save money by signing up for a yearly billing cycle.
Shift4Shop is a shopping cart platform. The platform is cloud-hosted and packs a punch in terms of comprehensive functionality and affordable pricing. Due to the platform’s infinite product storage capacity, it is a very scalable platform for expanding companies. Additionally, security is unmatched.
If you’re just starting, you’ll enjoy 3dcart’s adaptability and in-house web design service, which can customise your shop’s UX, SSL certificates, and UI for a fair price.
Advantages of Shift4Shop
- Supports over 70 different payment gateways
- Countless product listings
- Offers super-fast loading times
- Excellent mobile store performance
- More functionality than Shopify
- There are no additional transaction fees.
- In-House web design
Disadvantages of using Shift4Shop
- Service is bad
- These are dates
- Shopify offers a much better mobile UX
- There are issues while upgrading
- Customer support has a lot of negative reviews
- Shopify offers better drop shipping features
Prices vary from $19 to $229 per month and include basic SEO tools, abandoned cart emails, subscriptions, discounts, drop shipping, customized goods, tracking, and Facebook integration. Bear in mind that there is no capability offered for product search.
#9. Square Online
Square Online is Square’s ecommerce website builder. Square, which began as a payment processor, bought Weebly a few years back. If you’re currently using Square to accept payments, Square Online enables company owners to quickly and easily add ecommerce functionality to their website.
It’s OK if you know nothing about coding. Square Online’s onboarding process is flawless. It guides consumers through the whole process of shop setup using a series of prompts. You can get a professional-looking shop up and operating in a matter of hours.
Square Online may be the greatest Shopify alternative for people on a shoestring budget, simply because it provides an entirely free platform for creating and managing an online shop. To be sure, the free edition does not contain all of Square’s features.
However, you just pay for the processing costs associated with each transaction, thus it accomplishes the task. Additionally, if you do not want to create a whole online shop, you may utilize Checkout Pages. These are also an excellent method to integrate checkout functionality into an existing website.
The Advantages of Square Online
- There is an entirely free version available.
- Checkout pages enable you to add ecommerce functionality without requiring a full-fledged store.
- This is an excellent choice if you are currently utilizing Square to process payments.
- Additionally, this is ideal for people who own a brick-and-mortar shop.
Disadvantages of Using Square Online
- Certain features are only accessible on higher-priced plans.
- There are no variable shipping costs.
- To use a custom domain, you must sign up for a premium subscription.
- According to some consumers, the customer service might be improved.
Square Online Pricing
They have multiple paid options that include:
- Professional: Costs $12 a month but billed annually.
- Performance: Costs $26 a month billed annually.
- Premium: Costs $72 a month but billed annually.
BigCartel has grown in popularity among artists as a result of its cost, inventory monitoring, limitless bandwidth, CSS and HTML customization, and important features.
While it has less capabilities than Shopify, it is also less expensive and works perfectly for small companies and solopreneurs. It integrates with Facebook, Google Analytics, and PayPal, and the setup process is simple even for those without coding expertise.
While BigCartel does not impose extra transaction fees, the payment processor PayPal does levy a surcharge on online store orders. Another disadvantage is that the platform does not provide phone assistance and live chat; thus, users should test the site’s free plan before upgrading to a premium membership.
The Advantages of BigCartel
- No additional fees for transaction.
- Pre-integrated with PayPal.
- Has a forever free plan for online stores with five or less products.
- The platform is very easy to use.
- It is not very expensive.
Disadvantages of Using BigCartel
- Does not offer live chat and phone assistance.
- It is not a suitable option for large companies.
- Features are quite limited.
- There is no inventory search feature.
There are two premium plans available that include:
- $9.99 a month for 50 products
- $19.99 a month for 150 products
Note: From #5 to #10 – all are SaaS platforms. Those listed from #1 to #4, they are all self-hosted solutions.
Now, in case you are settling for a SaaS platform, you must select wisely. So, the question is, how should you select a SaaS platform?
Let us find the answer to this question.
What characteristics should a SaaS eCommerce platform have?
You should not choose a SaaS eCommerce platform at random. I recognize that your company is unique and therefore has distinct needs. As a result, you should seek a platform that can meet all of your requirements.
However, there are some essential characteristics that every robust SaaS eCommerce platform should have. If any of these critical characteristics are lacking from a platform, avoid it. It is never a wise decision.
The following are the five critical characteristics to look for in a SaaS eCommerce platform:
Easy Website Builder
The platform should provide you with an intuitive website builder that you can use to create your website in a matter of minutes or hours at most. If the platform needs you to hire a developer to create your website, you’ve chosen the incorrect platform.
The website builder should have a drag-and-drop interface that enables you to rapidly create pages, menus, and other site elements.
I could easily have put Wix on my list, but I purposefully excluded it due to their website builder being very complex. While Wix does have an artificial design tool that enables the creation of a website in minutes, personalizing the result will be difficult. Wix’s UI is a little confusing. You can easily master it, but there are simpler alternatives.
Free Templates and Themes
A SaaS eCommerce platform should provide you with a library of complimentary themes and templates. Of course, as a small company, you may lack the funds to invest in fresh themes. The top SaaS eCommerce systems provide a plethora of complimentary themes and templates and keep them updated on a regular basis.
Straightforward Add-on Integration
As of now, there is no SaaS eCommerce platform that comes pre-loaded with every functionality imaginable. There will always be some items that are lacking, which is where add-ons come in. They make it very simple to expand the features.
They should essentially require no more than a few clicks and a few minutes to integrate closely with the platform, saving you precious time. Certain mission-critical systems, such as inventory management, order management, and so on, should be operational within minutes. You should not spend an excessive amount of effort developing such functionalities from scratch.
Several Payment Gateways at Disposal
Payment gateway integration may be a frustrating process. You should choose a platform that has a variety of payment methods by default. Venmo, Stripe, and PayPal are the most popular.
What are SaaS platforms? A marvel of technology! There may be technological problems. You may have difficulty comprehending a few points. This is where assistance comes into play. A strong support system may make or destroy a company. Consider what happens if your website goes down unexpectedly or if key parts of your website fail to function properly during Black Friday sales!
You should have 24-hour access to assistance so that they can quickly fix your issue and minimise your losses. BigCommerce, Volusion, and Squarespace Commerce are all well-known for their exceptional customer service. You may be certain that they will give you a much needed helping hand in an emergency.
I must agree that Shopify is a brilliant and smart platform. However, that doesn’t mean it is suitable for everyone. No matter how robust and brilliantly designed the platform Shopify is, there are some serious issues with it, that many online entrepreneurs just don’t like or do not find suitable for their needs.
If for some reason Shopify is haunting you, you must get away from their platform. It is not worth sticking with a platform that gives you headaches. You must be focusing on your business instead of ironing out the bumps presented to you by the platform you are using.
I strongly recommend switching to BigCommerce, Volusion, or Squarespace Commerce in case you want a SaaS platform. However, if you want to try out a self-hosted solution, WooCommerce, OpenCart, and PrestaShop are great choices.
Yes, I know I left out Magento. It is true that Magento is an incredibly powerful platform. However, it is equally difficult to handle Magento. Your costs can increase exponentially if you need custom development or if you want proper support. Moreover, the very complexity of Magento makes it quite slow. Also, if anything goes wrong, you must hire a developer (unless you have the required knowledge) to fix the problems.
These shortcomings are one of the main reasons why many people are switching from Magento to alternative self-hosted solutions or SaaS solutions.