Choosing an online storefront in 2018 is not so simple. The older platforms such as Shopify, Magento, and WordPress are still elite choices, but newcomers like Squarespace, Wix, and BigCommerce have of upgraded their platforms and are coming in with features that make them much more viable Shopify competitors. So we created this review of Shopify competitors and alternatives to help people who are looking for a new home for their online business and need some help sifting through all the new information and options that are available. This guide covers options for businesses of all sizes; from just starting to full-grown enterprises to everywhere in between.
I spent the last few weeks digging through the most popular Shopify competitors in 2018 to see if any of them have caught up to Shopify in terms of viability. And to my surprise, some of them have…in some ways. The market has done a great job of filling voids and niches Shopify has left behind. Shopify is never a bad choice for your business, but considering the options you have now, you may be able to make a better one.
One of the recurring trends in my research was the value of communities. Strong communities turn applications into platforms. Time and time again Shopify competitors would come out with features that Shopify does not have out of the box, but the Shopify community of app developers either has the solution pre-built or are able to build the solution for you from scratch for a relatively low fee. This is not the same for eCommerce solutions with poor communities. The lack of users and devs can limit functionality, increase go-live time, increase costs of customization, and limit scale. When choosing an eCommerce platform, it is important to properly weigh community as a factor.
Table of Content
Shopify Competitors Intro
As of right now, there is no “best eCommerce platform” out there; only the best eCommerce platform for you. And to find out which platform is “best for you,” you will have to examine a number of factors about yourself including:
- Skill sets available – Do you have or have access to coding skills in the languages of HTML, CSS, PHP, Liquid, or others.
- How much time do you have to put into this project personally or with help?
- How big is your business now?
- Is it B2B/B2C?
- Business Type? What do you need more PR or eCommerce?
- What unique features will you need? (Automations, Integrations) Not all platforms offer the same amount of functionality, special needs can limit options.
- What is your budget?
Not all platforms we looked at turned out to be worthy Shopify competitors. Some of the Shopify alternatives out there are simply outmatched. To best grade these platforms I had to rate them many factors. There is plenty to judge an eCommerce platform by but we decided to grade the Shopify competitors by the following factors:
- User Interface: All Shopify competitors have different interfaces or ways to interact with the back-end and front-end of the store. How easy is it to manipulate the back-end and front-end of the website
- Theme Quality: How many options, how customizable are they and do they look modern, mobile friendly?
- Support: How much help can you get and in what form? (Chat, Phone, Message, Forum, 24/7?)
- Reliability: Can you stake your business reputation on this software
- Features: What comes out of the box and what do you need to add
- API/Customization: How flexible and how much access do you have to change things?
- Community: This value can not be understated. Having a large community of developers, users, and administrators can affect the price you pay for good help or how many apps are available in the app store. Shopify competitors with poor communities are often not serious choices for medium to large businesses
- Price: Of course
- SEO: Does this platform help or hurt it?
Shopify Vs Squarespace
Squarespace is a CMS platform that is a relative newcomer to the eCommerce game but has made enough of a splash with its marketing campaigns to be relevant in this industry. Going into my Squarespace research I fully expected to be unimpressed. But after playing around with the platform for a few hours and realized I could not have been more wrong. With Squarespace version 7, the platform has been revamped into an option worth considering. The platform is definitely geared towards smaller businesses with creative/artistic products. If you are selling anything hand-made or anything recorded this platform is worth a look for you. The back-end is user-friendly and easy to set up; you can set up the website in a few days/hours by yourself with no coding knowledge. The
- The themes are attractive and modern. The themes are carried by amazing photography, if you already have access quality photos you will find set up to very easy.
- Inexpensive compared to Shopify
- The drag-and-drop front-end customization is easy to figure out and the back-end menus are easy to navigate as well. The options provide a lot of customization options without feeling overwhelming.
- Out of the box Digital sales and audio functionality
- Solid blogging functionality over Shopify
- Out of the box podcast functionality and iTunes integration (Upload your podcasts right from your store)
- No public app marketplace. Limits features and scale
- The reporting is nothing major, anything you get from Squarespace you could get from Google analytics, which Squarespace does provide native integration for.
- Community is lacking. Not much infrastructure set up by Squarespace
- Will have issues with scaling/automation/integration
- Some SEO limitations
- Not originally intended for eCommerce so expect limited functionality compared to Shopify
- No enterprise-grade plan
Winner = Shopify*
Most of the time*. If your main focus is eCommerce and you are not a craftsman looking to take advantage of podcast technology than Squarespace just is not for you. Setting up the Squarespace is easy enough, however, once you are up to speed with Shopify you will see there are few limitations to any of your needs in the present or future. Save yourself migration hassles and confusion down the road and grab the solid platform backed by many users and devs.
Shopify Vs Wix
Wix is similar to Squarespace in a lot of ways. Wix has the same back-end/front-end user interface, the same emphasis on theme imagery, and even the same kind of marketing campaign(Heavy use of TV ads and celebrities).
Wix is another new Shopify competitor that has come along and tried to take a piece of the eCommerce market from Shopify. Wix has had a rough start in my opinion, but after this project, I have to say I like where they are going. The UI is pretty sleek once you get used to it and you are able to change most things about your website without coding knowledge. Like Shopify Wix comes with its own unique out of the box features and tries to deliver an eCommerce solution for a relatively low price. Even though Wix does have the imagery in its themes its niche seems to be less focused on artistic websites and more on general topics. Wix does have an app store and a somewhat vibrant online community. Giving it a lead over Squarespace and making it competitive with Shopify and others. Wix also takes integrations seriously and has added integration functionality to their platform natively.
However, Wix has one major..killer drawback, once you choose your theme with Wix you are stuck with it. If you decide to switch themes later on you will lose your data. This is a major con for most people that should be noted up front.
- Inexpensive plans. eCommerce price starts off at $17 per month
- easy to use interface that requires no coding knowledge to customize most aspects of the front-end
- Has an app store
- Has a community so you can work with other Wix users to solve problems
- Image Friendly themes
- Plenty of themes and easy to create themes
- Quick Turn-around time.
- Comes with real-time shipping rates out of the box
- API Customization functionality/Documentation built into menu settings
- Another platform not designed specifically for eCommerce
- Less eCommerce functionality, including no up-selling or related items
- Not meant for blogging
- Community is limited
- Apps are limited
- No 24/7 support or chat support, even phone support is not instant
- No enterprise-grade plan
- Can not change themes without losing data
Winner = Shopify*
Again, most of the time*. Wix does better than Squarespace, however. Wix’s killers are its inability to change themes and lack of enterprise options (I guess they thought the API customization would be enough, it is not). Wix has a decent community behind it and a small app store can give you hope that they are building something more. If you are small business that wants a webstore with decent functionality but have no coding knowledge or access to it; you won’t be upset with Wix at its current price.
Shopify Vs Magento
This is the heavy-weight debate every large business seems to be having these days. Shopify is still dominating the market but Magento is the platform that legitimately challenges Shopify’s hold on the enterprise market. Magento is an open-source option that requires a technical skill set to set up and maintain. Being open-sourced comes with its own pros and cons. The pros include a vibrant and enthusiastic community that can help you for free or at low costs, the cons being no phone/chat support or even much of a support structure at all.
Magento is an expensive platform that is completely customizable on the back-end and front. Magento is built for large companies that have a lot of talented developers on hand and many specialized needs. Magento’s community is so strong that it can rival Shopify’s in the amount of features available, however, you can still expect to pay more for a Magento site than a Shopify site. The amount of technical work involved will quickly make building a Magento site the most expensive option for a company to pick.
- With Magento, you are in full control of your website. No one can shut you down if they disagree with your content
- Most back-end and front-end customization options with regard to automation and integration
- Hosting is under your control, you would not need to rely on another companies servers
- Large and enthusiastic community
- Can scale to any size business and meet any unique requirement
- No limitations on SEO
- Price; Licence fees for the enterprise edition is around 18K per year and that does not include transaction fees, also hosting/server/development fees add up.
- Customization fees will also add up
- Not many themes to pick from the start and they do not have the same visual grace as Wix or Squarespace.
- This will take time to set up. Expect weeks instead of days
- No 24/7 or Chat support
- User interface is not fun to deal with even after install
- Will require a lot of development attention
Winner = Depends
This is too close to call without knowing anything about your individual needs and depends on your company size and values. Magento I would only recommend to a large business or to someone with a lot of development knowledge and time on their hands. But, if you value creating a top-to-bottom unique eCommerce experience for your shoppers, go with Magento. If you value tens of thousands of dollars and weeks of your life, go with Shopify Plus. In my opinion, Magento is one of two serious Shopify alternatives for enterprise business.
Shopify vs. WooCommerce/Wordpress
WordPress.org is a fantastic open-source blogging platform that has been around since the early 2000s. WooCommerce is a successful plugin on the WordPress platform that provides WordPress with the ability to sell products online. Woo has built itself up and is a polished and reliable application on the not so always reliable WordPress platform. All of the software is free to install and use. Woo gets its cut from the transaction fees you pay the vendor of your choice.
WordPress has an impressive community that more than rivals the Shopify community. WordPress has thousands of theme options; paid and free, many communities in many channels, and is built on a popular development language; making development labor inexpensive.
WordPress can scale just as large as Magento and Shopify Plus, making it a consideration for businesses of all sizes. The start of fees are friendly for anyone who wants to create a website and is willing to work to learn the platform; yet the platform is complex and agile enough to be used in large enterprises that need integrations, automation, and API access.
- Inexpensive start-up costs
- Strong Community
- Inexpensive development labor
- Many quality themes that are easy to tweak and change to meet your needs
- Many apps to use (There is a plugin for everything)
- User interface can be set up with drag and drop functionality
- Best blogging functionality out-of-the-box of all platforms
- Free API Access and open to all sorts of customization
- Great for SEO
- Lax security protocols (Open-source)
- Not always reliable, sometimes plugins need to update or conflict with updates to WordPress. Not as seamless as a paid solution such as Shopify.
- Not intended for eCommerce, not all themes are integrated with eCommerce
- No 24/7 or chat support. Must rely on community forums
Winner = Depends
The winner here again depends on company values. If you are more about content production than eCommerce sales,Woo may be for you. Or if you’re a young business with some time to put into a website, no development knowledge, and low budget for eCommerce or in general, WordPress/Woo can work well for you. However, you must be willing to work with open-source software that is not always reliable. You will not have support except for community forums, which are great but take more time. For this to be a serious platform for a large business you will need developers on staff to monitor for security threats, make some theme customizations, and troubleshoot technical problems. Woo/Wordpress is my other serious Shopify alternative for enterprise-grade businesses.
Shopify Vs BigCommerce
BigCommerce is probably the most similar Shopify competitor on the market today. BigCommerce has similar back-end/front-end navigation and menus and is really close in price and options. BigCommerce has the ability to scale all the way to the enterprise with a 4th tier just like Shopify as well. Aside from it being a really close knock-off to Shopify, there is not all the much else to say about BigCommerce. You are basically getting a Shopify with a smaller community. BigCommerce’s only unique feature that Shopify does not have is an Ali-baba integration in its app store.
BigCommerce’s niche is just like Shopify’s as well. They are an eCommerce first platform that offers decent options for businesses of all sizes; although they do not have a lite plan for small channel sales.
- Price – BigCommerce is a little cheaper
- No transaction fees
- Can scale all the way to enterprise
- AliBaba integration
- 24/7 and Chat Support
- Fewer templates to start with
- Community not as big as Shopify
- Plans have selling limits that can lead to additional charges
Winner = Shopify
While these platforms are very similar I feel like BigCommerce is just following in Shopify’s footsteps. And in these situations, I find it is better to go with the leader than the follower. If that isn’t enough for you, the Shopify community is much larger than BigCommerce, in my opinion, this makes BigCommerce a much less viable Shopify competitor.
Shopify Vs Etsy
It is hard to classify Etsy as a Shopify competitor; however there was such a demand for this comparison that I did it anyway.
Etsy is an option to sell your products online and is super easy to set up. However, the store you are selling your products in does not belong to you. This takes away a lot of SEO and marketing maneuverability. Etsys fees are not prohibitive though, so you may want to sell your products in early to grab some exposure.
Etsy is something that if you use at all will be scaled out of with little success. Etsy is for the casual crafter who wants to get a feel for the markets taste without spending any money on things like hosting and eCommerce plans.
- Little upfront costs. Listing items cost $0.20 pay as you go
- Easy store set up. Setting up an etsy front is easier than setting up a LinkedIn or Google Plus page
- All the back-end is done for you – just wait to see if your products sell and ship
- Solid Community
- Has a developed and robust API
- Reliable website and service
- Up-front fees add up over time
- Does not scale effectively
- Does not give you control of your traffic for ad or affiliate purposes
- No SEO advantages
- Has no other functionality besides eCommerce (No blogging or knowledge center)
- No 24/7 or Chat support
Winner = Shopify
It is really hard to get past not having any control of your own domain. Even when starting from scratch I do not see Etsy as a Shopify competitor or anything more than a marketing tool. It is best for that is for people who want nothing to do with managing a back end and/or just want to see if their products have an interest.
Want to find out for yourself who the winner is? Sign up for a free Shopify trial using the button below. You get 14 days to play with a Shopify website without having to pay a dime. No commitments, no fees for 14 days.
Jeremy McCourt is an content producer in the enterprise software industry that focuses on NetSuite and related cloud-based software solutions.
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