(This post was originally published on February 24, 2015. We’ve updated it for accuracy and completeness.)
Since 2006, Shopify has evolved from a start up to one of the fastest growing eCommerce platforms with over 800,000 active stores. However, Shopify isn’t the only platform that’s turned heads over the past several years. It’s easier than ever for merchants to set up online storefronts and there’s a multitude of shopping cart software options to choose from – whether you can write code or not.
Choosing the right eCommerce platform for your online business can be a bit overwhelming. So, we’ve put together this guide for merchants considering Shopify for the first time or looking to move elsewhere.
How to Choose a Shopify Alternative
When looking at an eCommerce website’s list of features, it’s often hard to tell what’s important. While some sites flash many fancy features, only a few are crucial to your business.
When evaluating Shopify’s competitors, it’s important to consider platform type, price, support, transaction fee, storage, free trial availability, ease of entry, features, and size of community. By examining each of these attributes you not only get a holistic idea of the platform, but also start to determine which features truly mater to your business and selling process.
- Type: Hosted or open-source
- Price: The middle tier price package offered by the organization
- Support: Whether or not a platform offered 24/7 support
- Payment Processing: The fee each platform charges per transaction
- Ease of entry: How difficult it is to get up-and-running on the platform
- Features: The breadth of features available through the platform
- Size of community: How strong is the platform’s solution and technology community.
While this isn’t an exhaustive list, these are macro features that apply to every business.
Shopify Competitors for SMB Businesses
First, let’s compare Shopify alternatives for small to medium sized businesses (to jump to mid-market and enterprise sized alternatives click here). These platforms are very easy to use and fairly priced.
That being said, if your store needs enterprise sized bandwidth, these solutions may not be for you. Currently the best SMB alternatives are:
|Payment Processing Fees
|Ease of Entry
|2.6% + 30 cents
|Starts at 2.15%
|*If not using Shopify Payments there is a 1% transaction fee
To start, let’s look at Shopify features so you can see how its competitors stack up against them.
Shopify built its growth by simplifying the process for setting up an eCommerce storefront – even for those without development skills. Their mantra is that merchants should focus on building and selling their products, not managing their eCommerce software. As a cloud-based, hosted solution, Shopify maintain its platform, PCI compliance and website security. Over the years, Shopify has also taken initiatives to add many social media selling capabilities with Pinterest, Facebook and more, along with offering their own POS systems for those with physical stores.
With Shopify, there are no transaction fees but a 2.6% + 30¢ fee on all online transaction with credit cards. If not using Shopify payments, you will also pay an additional fee of 1%. These fees can add up, so keep an eye on them. Shopify offers this payment structure since they’re operating and maintaining the platform for you. If something goes wrong on the platform, it’s Shopify’s responsibility to fix it.
Overall, Shopify’s approach to building easy-to-use software with the right functionality makes it a go-to platform for many sellers. As you grow, they also launched their own enterprise platform called Shopify Plus that you can learn more about below.
SquareSpace is similar to Shopify in that they focus on creating a platform that’s easy to use for anyone – whether you’ve got technical skills or not. They’re a hosted solution with a slick user interface that allows merchants to install themes and quickly build a branded website. From my own experience, Squarespace’s workspace was as easy as dragging and dropping different elements to build web pages – any novice could create a good looking website.
SqaureSpace first entered the market as an easy-to-use alternative for website building and have added online commerce capabilities over time like product catalogs management, marketing tools, and analytics. That’s why you see many artists, boutique stores, bloggers, wedding vendors, and restaurants using their software as portfolios and/or online stores. It’s a good marriage of content management and shopping cart software.
To get started, sellers can begin a free trial. From there, annual plans for online stores start a $26/mo for basic and $40/mo for advanced.
Volusion has a long history in eCommerce, with its founder beginning the online service in 1999. Since then, Volusion has always positioned itself as a leading solution for SMBs. Their software is easy-to-use and doesn’t require knowledge of code to get your site up and running. Volusion doesn’t have as many installs as Shopify, nor as big of a community, but they still have a solid solution offering. As a hosted solution, Volusion takes care of platform maintenance, secure check outs, and an overall secure site.
Sellers can begin with a free trial or start with a personal plan at $29/mo or move up to business plans at $299/mo. Payment processing fees start as low as 2.15% with Volusion Payments.
Read this more in depth comparison of Volusion and Shopify.
Even more popular than Shopify, WooCommerce is the most popular eCommerce platform for building an online store, according to Builtwith. The catch is that WooCommerce is an open-source eCommerce plug-in for the Content Management Systems for WordPress. If you’re already running a successful content site or blog with WordPress, then WooCommerce is worth looking at. This plug-in bolts onto your WordPress site to give it the commerce functions you need to sell products. Sellers can start using WooCommerce for free and there’s no transaction fees. (Even though WooCommerce itself is free, you’ll need to pay for hosting services and development work to get started.)
As an open-source platform, WooCommerce will offer merchants the ability to edit, modify, and customize the platform’s code. If you have developers in house, then they’ll get complete control over your platform’s capabilities, unlike Shopify as a hosted platform. However, this also means that you take responsibility for your site’s hosting, PCI compliance and security.
WooCommerce also leverages an extensive developer community that helps build extensions to work with WooCommerce to increase functionality for payments, shipping, marketing, accounting and more.
If you’re a content first company running on WordPress, then WooCommerce warrants consideration – if you have developers to help build and maintain your store. If that doesn’t sound like your business, then you’ll want to consider other hosted solutions more similar to Shopify.
Read this more in-depth article comparing WooCommerce and Shopify.
Prestashop is another popular open-source platform with an active developer community behind it. Unlike WooCommerce though, you won’t need to be running WordPress to use it. Similar to WooCommerce, sellers will need to set up hosting, PCI compliance and security. However, you’ll have unlimited access to Prestashop’s code to customize the storefront to your needs and wants. The platform is free to download, but you’ll need to acquire hosting services and developers to get your store up and running. Prestashop should only be considered if you have the capability and need for an open-source platform that is highly customizable for your unique selling needs.
Other eCommerce platforms to consider for SMBs:
This list isn’t exhaustive of top eCommerce platforms for SMB’s, but should help you narrow down your choices. If these still don’t hit you as what you’re looking for, here are some other options to consider:
- BigCartel – Hosted platform created specifically for artists and makers
- Quick eSelling – Hosted solution that offers both a eCommerce mobile app and standalone eCommerce platform
- 3D Cart – Hosted solution that’s more of one-stop shop
- X-Cart – Open source platform with native multi-vendor capabilities to create online marketplace
- Wix – Free professional website builder with ability to add online storefronts
Shopify Alternatives for Mid-Market Businesses
Are you outgrowing Shopify and its features? If you’re looking for more advanced features to support your growing online business, then here’s the next tier of eCommerce platform options.
1. Shopify Plus
First, Shopify users looking for a more encompassing solution should look at Shopify’s enterprise offering, Shopify Plus. Since 2014, Shopify Plus has made a big splash in the mid-market and Enterprise eCommerce software space. With the same attitude that grew Shopify, Plus offered high-growth merchants a more affordable solution, but still customizable, for eCommerce storefronts. As a fully-hosted solution, Shopify Plus can handle larger amounts of data and more robust features than Shopify. Over open-source options, they still offer a way to scale your business without investing as much in infrastructure and site builds.
To get you running up and faster, Shopify Plus leans on their growing partner ecosystem of technology and service partners. These partners help build and design sites as well as offer apps to extend the functionality of Plus. While you won’t get all the access to customize code and support B2B functionality out-of-the-box, Shopify Plus is a great place to start your quickly growing business. They boast of brands like Rebecca Minkoff, GymShark, Chubbies, and Kylie Jenner.
Sellers will need to request custom pricing info.
BigCommerce offers a similar model to Shopify and Shopify Plus. They’re a SaaS (software as a service) fully-hosted solution that started in 2009 and has grown into a global brand. While they’re still not quite as popular as Shopify and Shopify Plus, they’ve been quickly growing over the last few years and have attracted significant funding.
BigCommerce stands out from others with their breadth of out-of-the-box functionality, especially for B2B eCommerce. They rely less on apps and other installs for sellers to build out their site’s functionality which can make their platform easier to use and more cost-effective over time.
Recently, BigCommerce also released a WordPress Plug-in which allows merchants to approach eCommerce with a content-first mindset. Merchants can build and maintain their website using the popular CMS system then leverage BigCommerce just for the check-out experience. This is an approach referred to as headless commerce (which is worth a read about if you’re not familiar with the concept yet.)
Sellers will need to request custom pricing info.
3. Magento 2
Before both Shopify and BigCommerce were around, Magento was the top choice in the eCommerce space. Magento is an open-source platform with a long history in commerce. More recently, Magento launched Magento 2 as their cloud-offering with dates set for the end-of-life for Magento Community and Enterprise editions. This changed moved the platform from an on-premise offering to a cloud-based one.
If you’re looking for an open-source alternative, Magento 2 has an impressive set of features. Magento is now fully integrated into the Adobe Experience Cloud which allows for easier management of analytics and content creation, alongside your online storefront. They also released more native B2B features for merchants. While Magento 2 is highly customizable and backed by a loyal developer community, merchants will still need hosting services, PCI compliance and site security – which all factor into total cost of ownership.
If you have very unique or content-driven commerce needs, Magento 2 could be a good fit for you.
4. Core DNA
A newer player to the eCommerce space is Core DNA. Core DNA considers itself a Digital Experience Platform that focuses on both content and eCommerce. They’re a fully-hosted hybrid offering run on both cloud and dedicated servers globally. This allows merchants to focus on their sales and customer experience, not their infrastructure. If you’re looking for a more customizable solution than Shopify Plus or BigCommerce but not quite open-source, than core DNA could be a good fit.
Their pricing plans start at $1,250/month/site.
Other eCommerce platforms to consider for mid-market and enterprise:
While Magento, Shopify and BigCommerce are three of the most popular choices, here are other eCommerce suited for mid-market and Enterprise level needs.
What to Do Next
Choosing the right eCommerce platform is no easy task. However, with so many choices at your fingertips, you should be able to find the right fit for your business. This guide should help you narrow down your choices and help make some high-level comparisons.
During your eCommerce platform research, you might also find these articles helpful:
- Build vs. Buy vs. Lease – How to Make Technology Investment Decisions.
- eCommerce Migration: How to Know When You Should Replatform