Shopify has now grown into one of the largest eCommerce platforms in the world. However, there are important limitations with its offering that should be considered before selecting this solution for your business.
My review is within the context of Shopify vs a self-hosted eCommerce platform like wordpress / woocommerce for small eCommerce businesses. Each one has multiple strengths and can possibly be the perfect solution for you to build an eCommerce store with.
First, which one of the two is actually going to fit your specific needs better, Shopify or WooCommerce for creating a fantastic online shop? Which is more feature-rich? Which is cheaper? Which is better-looking? Which is more flexible? Which is the easiest to work with?
Shopify is the cheapest, easiest, and most convenient way for someone who doesn’t want to deal with any code to set up a store and start selling right away. If you’re non-tech, you want your own ecommerce store, you’re selling standard items and outgrew a marketplace like ebay or amazon, and just starting out, go with Shopify.
1. Much better UX/UI… for the right customer
Shopify is very clear who its customer is and if you are the type of business that fits its customer profile you are going to love Shopify much more than any other self-hosted ecommerce platform for the better user experience.
2. Much more economical at the beginning
1 year subscription at the lowest tier is about $348 USD including cloud hosting and customer support. Technically, if you use open-source ecommerce alternatives, you only pay for hosting which can be as low as USD$80 per annum since the software is free, but to get up to par with Shopify stores, you probably need some professional help setting it up. This can go up to thousands of dollars.
3. Really good app integrations with SaaS services
SaaS ecommerce service companies love Shopify because they have a customer base that is familiar with paying for services monthly. That’s why you’ll most probably always find whatever innovative new service you need on Shopify first before anywhere else, and some of them offer very good free plans. Conversely, SaaS companies don’t really like platforms like woocommerce or opencart because… the people who use them don’t really pay monthly subscription. So a lot of really convenient services are not integrated on these platforms.
4. End to end service integration
Blog marketing? check. Shopping cart – check. Payment gateway – check. Inventory management – check. Printing address label – check. Shipping & Courier integration – check. The workflow for Shopify is so convenient it just works with a bit of tweaking out of the box. In comparison, none of its open source peers could provide this kind of convenience without some rather extensive customization.
5. Security & Reliability
Shopify is a global hosted service, meaning they have people monitoring their network 24/7 for any attacks and they can help you deal with any problems that arise. In addition, their add-ons generally have a certain standard and will not pose the risk of giving you trojans or viruses or other monkey business. Plus, you can opt for SSL or even PCI compliance to accept credit cards and store sensitive information without having to know the technical details of how it works.
Open source alternatives CAN get this level of security & reliability, but not without paying a premium for managed hosting e.g. Caribbean e-Commerce Solutions Limited provides in-house hosting for instance.
6. Better loading speed
Shopify has the advantage of being a globally hosted solution with strong infrastructure. This means they can load the website much faster for you because they optimized their hardware and software. In comparison, third party open-source solutions need quite a bit of work to catch up to this kind of speed. The speed difference can be anywhere from milliseconds to seconds, so could be potentially quite noticeable.
The main problem with Shopify, however, is also due to its main value proposition – shopify customers don’t do any custom code, value convenience and support and they’re willing to pay for it. So you get a whole ecosystem of services that spring up around this concept.
1. Pay monthly for every little thing
The most popular sales add-on on Shopify is the sales motivator app. This app adds… one line to the top of your screen telling you how much more you should spend on your order before you get a discount. For this service, you pay $4.99 per month. Need social login? Pay $9.00 per month. And so on. In comparison, you would not believe the kind of rich functionality you can buy from a one-time $28 plugin on a theme marketplace for woocommerce or opencart. The monthly costs may be low but it quickly adds up as you add more functionality to your site. Pretty soon you’ll be paying hundreds per month and thousands per annum, and that’s when a custom platform starts to look very attractive.
2. Less customizability
Shopify app store has a lot of very good functionalities, but it pales to the wealth of plugins available for platforms like woocommerce, a lot of which are free (yes there are free, bug-free and very powerful plugins, kind of like having your cake and eating it too). In addition, because Shopify only allows you to change a certain part of its functionalities, it is not as customizable as open-source solutions that can potentially allow you to change mostly anything.
3. Content management
Well duh. Shopify is not a content management system and its optimized for selling products. If you want to add a lot of rich content like videos, carousels and whatnot on your site together with the stuff you want to sell, don’t go with Shopify.
4. Service lock-in
Sure you can export your orders, customers and all that other data from Shopify, but chances are you won’t, because it’s a lot of hassle and you lose whatever custom setup you have on your site too. But remember shopify is a hosted solution. As with all hosted solutions, your data and website is not 100% yours. If they decided to change their fee structure, come up with some unreasonable policy or to implement additional fees for close to standard features (social login anyone?) , there’s not a lot you can do about it except suck it up and do what they ask. Once you’re in, you’re in for a long time. For this reason, I don’t really encourage clients to use shopify as a short-term solution if they are planning to jump to another small business ecommerce platform like Woocommerce sometime later.
Consider Working With A Full-Service eCommerce Provider
Working with a full-service e-commerce provider that manages everything from web design, hosting, and payment processing can save you time and money, and allows you to stay focused on building your brand.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how Caribbean e-Commerce Solutions Limited can help with your online store by providing the enterprise-level functionalities that Shopify cannot.