Guest post by Jessica Bruce from ShopyGen
As of now, Shopify is one of the most used ecommerce platforms on the planet and has been powering over 600,000 ecommerce stores on the internet. Whether you are a solo entrepreneur, a small business with limited investment, or a big brand looking to sell its limited inventory through its private channel, Shopify is the most common answer to your needs.
However, Shopify is not a steady answer to every ecommerce need. The platform as its pros and cons, which make it ideal in certain situations while obsolete in others. Not every ecommerce business is the same in terms of needs, catalog-size, investment, team-size, and other aspects.
Sometimes, the pros of Shopify don’t matter to business as much the cons hurt. That’s where a serious entrepreneur, with a will to go the extra mile to grow his/her business, would consider the pros and cons of Shopify and Shopify alternatives, before following a trend.
Pros of Shopify
Shopify is a SaaS (software as a service) solution for ecommerce ventures. To own a Shopify store, you just need to select a suitable plan, sign-up, get credentials, and set up your store on a web application.
The web application is already hosted hence you need not worry about script installation, server setup, or web hosting. It is a perfect solution for non-technical owners to get an online store without any hassle.
Moreover, the Shopify team takes care of website security, website maintenance, security patches, technology stack, payment gateways, and other essential tools. If you need a new feature on your website, you can purchase and install ready-made Shopify Apps, which is extremely easy.
In short, you can focus on growing your business with your marketing strategies, while your SaaS provider will take care of everything complex and technical for you.
You will get a web-based dashboard, from where you can manage your entire store, upload products, track traffic, launch marketing campaigns, offer discounts, analyze revenue, and install new Shopify Apps, etc.
Cons of Shopify
The biggest reason that makes Shopify a charm is also responsible for breaking the deals with some entrepreneurs.
The managed SaaS from Shopify makes it limited in some aspects:
- You don’t get the source-access.
- You cannot customize your web store on your own.
- The only way to add new features or customize anything is by installing a Shopify App.
- You need to pay a monthly recurring fee for as long as you want to keep using Shopify.
- You need to pay an additional monthly fee for every Shopify App you install on your store.
However, the limitations are not the only deal-breaker. The biggest issue is the cost you need to pay for the ease of access, usable and advanced features, and the number of products in the catalog.
- Although the cheapest Shopify plan starts at $29/month, the basic plan is hardly usable.
- You get limited analytics, only two staff accounts, and restriction on the max products you can list.
- Besides the monthly fee, you will share your revenue as transaction fees in the following manner:
Therefore, if you fall under any of the following cases, considering looking for Shopify Alternatives would be a wise idea:
- Paying a monthly fee to use the software feels like a big deal
- You don’t want to pay transaction fees for limited payment options.
- You want source code access or better customizability
- You don’t want to over-depend on SaaS vendors
- Shopify’s features are not ideal for your niche
- You are looking for a cheaper Shopify alternative
Top Shopify alternatives for different purposes
1. BigCommerce (Closest to Shopify with no transaction fee)
BigCommerce is the most suitable Shopify alternative with similar kind of features, yet costs slightly lesser. It’s also a SaaS like Shopify and offers a similar pricing structure.
However, you don’t have to pay any additional transaction fee for using third-party payment solutions, except for PayPal. If you are looking for a SaaS platform, without any limitation to the number of products you can sell or upload, BigCommerce is a perfect alternative.
Besides, you can create as many staff accounts as you want. The option to add custom MTML and CSS from the dashboard gives better control over the look and feel of your website. The process to create an online store using BigCommerce is the same as Shopify.
Everything is hosted and online, and they have an award-winning customer support service.
Pros of BigCommerce
- No transaction fee on using most of the third-party payment options.
- Better customizability and scalability than Shopify.
- No source code access, hence limited customizability than open-source.
- Additional fee if you use PayPal for credit card transactions.
2. Volusion (older than Shopify itself)
Volusion is one of the oldest SaaS-based ecommerce platforms in the market. Began in 1999, Volusion’s popularity did take a hit from competitors like Shopify and BigCommerce but is no less effective.
The best thing about Volusion is its existence in the market for so long. With years of active service, Volusion now has better documentation and resources than any other ecommerce solution in the market.
Volusion is similar to Shopify and BigCommerce, both in terms of price and features. If you are looking for a decently customizable Shopify Alternative, without spending extra on third-party apps, Volusion could be a great alternative.
Pros of Volusion
- Comprehensive documentation and excellent customer support.
- No transaction fee on using third-party payment gateways, including PayPal.
Cons of Volusion
- A transaction fee of 2.15% + $0.30 if you use Volusion’s Payment system.
- The number of apps and extensions are not higher than Shopify.
3. ShopyGen (open-source Shopify alternative for niched ideas)
If you wish to start more than just a limited ecommerce website, or something highly personalized for your niche with the best aspects of ecommerce, the multi-vendor marketplace, blogging, and customizability, ShopyGen is the best alternative for you.
It is not a single solution but a collection of different open-source scripts that you can choose to include as per your business idea.
For example, the multi-vendor marketplace, on-demand grocery delivery, on-demand food delivery, P2P rental marketplace, and much more. The best aspect of being an open-source solution is access to source code, which opens doors to an unlimited level of customizability.
Besides, you need not worry about the maximum number of products you can upload in your catalog. With a little more investment, you can also get mobile apps for your store.
Pros of ShopyGen
- Open-source and self-hosted alternative without any monthly fee; one-time payment model.
- Unlimited customizability without dependence on the software vendor.
Cons of ShopyGen
- Complicated store setup, deployment, and maintenance than Shopify.
- You need to purchase a web hosting plan to host the source code.
Different scripts are available at different prices. However, you only need to pay once to purchase the source code. There is no recurring fee of any kind. The scripts may range from $600 to $3000 based on your requirements.
4. Big Cartel (SaaS alternative for artists and creators)
Big Cartel is a SaaS ecommerce platform for specialized ecommerce stores dealing in niches like arts, DIY, and creators. If you are an artist, photographer, musician, or content creator looking for an independent platform, Big Cartel is the place to go. Big Cartel could be a great alternative to not just more expensive Shopify but also third-party marketplaces like Etsy.
The best aspect of Big Cartel is its free starter plan, which allows you to sell up to five products without paying a monthly fee. Besides, its premium plans are much cheaper than any other SaaS platform in the market.
Pros of Big Cartel
- Personalized for artists and comes with integrations like Google Analytics, Facebook and PayPal.
- There is a free plan and you don’t have to pay any transaction fee either.
Cons of Big Cartel
- Not suitable for big eCommerce ventures dealing in general-purpose products.
- Since it does not support too many listings, it lacks Search features for the users.
5. 3DCart (another heavy-duty SaaS alternative)
The developers of 3DCart created it as a private project but released in the public only after 2001. In terms of features and pricing, 3DCart competes directly with Shopify, BigCommerce, and Volusion. Like most of the Shopify alternatives, even 3DCart has no limitations on the number of products you can sell, except for a cheaper starter plan with a limit of 100 products.
The biggest USP of 3DCart is its native support for Amazon fulfillment. If you are also a seller on Amazon, 3Dcart gives you the easiest way to sell on your website and Amazon at the same time via a central dashboard.
Pros of 3DCart
- The base plan is cheaper than Shopify and supports up to 100 products.
- Ability to add custom HTML and CSS to customize your themes.
Cons of 3DCart
- The best features are present only in high-end plans above $79/month.
- Shopify is more user-friendly. It could be a little complicated for novice users.
Honourable mention: Magento (for large-scale websites)
Magento is one of the most powerful ecommerce platforms in the market as of now. However, it is not a fit solution for novice users or small-scale stores. The abilities of Magento are over-kill, not just in terms of features but also the pricing.
However, Magento is no less competent than any other Shopify alternative in the market. There are both open-source, self-hosted (community edition), and hosted (platform as a service) options in Magento. Both are equally competent, except for the hosted service (enterprise edition) comes with excellent customer support.
If you are a technically sound admin user, the open-source option can save you some decent amount of dollars. However, if you are not so, but you seek a powerful solution, Magento Enterprise is the way to go with its managed services. Hope this comparison helped you to find what you are looking for.
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