Alternatives to Shopify — the Best Free and Hosted Options
2020 has been a year unlike any other. The pandemic has disrupted economies and lives all around the world in a myriad of different ways. One major disruption has been in the way we shop.
With access to retail severely restricted in many different countries around the world, new methods of commerce needed to be explored. One of the biggest successes of the past decade is eCommerce with an ever-increasing volume of yearly sales.
While the pandemic has in some ways accelerated this transformation, the truth is that it was a transition well underway all around the world.
Consumers and companies around the world have adjusted to a world without borders. Now, consumers search for the product or service best suited to their requirements regardless of where in the world it might be.
With the proliferation of social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and others, finding retailers in different geographies has never been easier. And in fact, depending on the items being purchased, in many cases, shoppers prefer retailers outside of their local geography. This could be based on price, service or a multitude of different factors.
Now while B2C sales might account for the lion’s share of publicity in the press and social circles, the true impact of the eCommerce revolution has really been seen in B2B sales.
B2B eCommerce sales account for almost four times the volume of B2C sales. In the B2B world, this is a radical shift from the norms of the past. These changing patterns of behavior can be directly attributed to the changes brought on by B2C consumers.
B2B shoppers now prefer the convenience of online self-service and in many cases, do their own research online prior to contacting a salesperson for any information.
Companies wishing to be a part of this trend in online shopping need to ensure they have an online presence that can be discovered by their clients. One organization that is driving this convergence between the shopper and the store is Shopify.
What is Shopify?
When customers shop on platforms like Amazon they might have their order fulfilled by Amazon or a third party on the site. It does not really matter which as in either case, the shopper is using Amazon’s services and platform for their purchase.
Shopify works in a similar manner with hundreds of thousands of companies and businesses around the world. However, in the case of Shopify, the consumer does not actually know they are using the Shopify service when making their purchase. They believe they are buying directly from the vendor itself while Shopify remains behind the scenes.
Over the course of the past decade, eCommerce sales have increased dramatically from $1.3 trillion in 2014 to an expected high of $4.97 trillion by 2021. This is a close to 400% increase in a very short period of time.
Buying behaviors have also changed over this same period. Now, consumers and shoppers are more likely to purchase from overseas retailers further increasing the reach of eCommerce around the world. This trend is something that low-cost manufacturing countries like China are embracing.
While Asia as a whole is the single largest eCommerce market with $831.7 billion in sales, China is far in the lead in this part of the world and they are only continuing to accelerate.
As shoppers continue to embrace eCommerce, this trend will only continue. In 2019 there were 1.92 billion digital buyers but that number is already out of date and eCommerce is now expected to account for close to 14% of global retail sales.
While Shopify is a very useful platform for many and one that is only growing in popularity, it is not always the best choice for everyone. There are some other very good alternatives that are out there, especially when Shopify’s weaknesses are considered.
- Transaction fees — Shopify payments are not yet available worldwide so right now merchants need to pay a card processing fee and a Shopify fee. This second fee might disappear in the future but at the current time, it is still something to consider.
- Regular content — Shopify’s focus is on the storefront and product pages. As such it does not readily provide a means of sharing content with audiences that webmasters require. Regular content is a great means of bringing in organic traffic through SEO and this is a bit miss.
- Multilingual stores — while it is possible to set up a store in multiple languages on Shopify, it is neither easy or cost-effective. In many cases, companies need to revert to an app to enable this functionality.
- Shopify SEO — as previously mentioned, SEO or Search Engine Optimization is an excellent method of bringing organic traffic to a site. However, with Shopify, there are some SEO issues that make it somewhat unwieldy and ineffective.
Top 9 Shopify Alternatives
When considering alternatives to Shopify we’ll look at two different options. These options might be a bit more complicated to set up as in some cases it will require multiple different services to function. However, the price and features could make them more appealing than Shopify.
Freemium Shopify Alternatives
Wix is a very popular website builder and is a good alternative to services like WordPress for small and medium businesses.
As one of the eCommerce alternatives to Shopify Wix makes things quite easy for individuals and companies looking to set up a store. Wix offers two different options when setting up a site.
The first option is a guided assistant that will ask different questions. Based on the answers provided it will suggest different templates and apps to create a unique site. Alternatively, more experienced webmasters might prefer the flexibility of doing everything themselves.
In this case, Wix offers the Wix Editor where you can use drag-and-drop customization to build a site that is fully in your control.
Wix offers tons of flexibility and features for companies choosing to host with the service. With a starting price of $5/mo, Wix is a definite Shopify competitor once you add on the Wix eCommerce package.
This package at $16.50/mo is cheaper than Shopify which might make enough of an argument by itself. When you add in the web design capabilities, the argument becomes even more powerful.
Another website builder that has launched an eCommerce presence is Tilda. Tilda is built around the concept of blocks and drag-and-drop functionality.
To create an online store in Tilda you simply need to select the correct “store” category from Tilda’s extensive collection of blocks. After doing this you can easily add products and create beautiful catalogs that integrate with an in-built shopping cart.
Tilda supports Paypal and Stripe payments so credit and debit transactions are easily handled making it an excellent Shopify competitor. The pricing for Tilda makes it even more appealing as a Shopify alternative as plans start at $10/mo.
Another one of the alternatives to Shopify is Squarespace Commerce. Similar to Wix, Squarespace is a website builder with eCommerce capabilities.
From the point of view of websites, Squarespace is much better than Shopify. It’s SEO capabilities and overall blog functionality are far superior. However, eCommerce was a recent addon for Squarespace so its app store is still sub-par in comparison to Shopify.
Pick Squarespace over Shopify if you’re looking to save some money and are more interested in promotion through content. In these areas, it’s definitely better than Shopify.
When looking at Shopify alternatives, Volusion needs to be on the list. This platform has been around for quite a while and has unfortunately lagged behind Shopify and others. However, they have recently made some significant improvements making it a worthy Shopify competitor.
This platform is focused on the SMB sector and offers simple and easy to use tutorials designed to help anyone create their first store. Volusion’s personal plan is a great place for small businesses to get started and provides them with the ability to add 100 products with $50K/yr in sales.
As businesses grow Volusion grows also with Professional and Business plans offering even more capabilities and reporting. One area that Volusion is better than Shopify in is in with regards to fees. Volusion’s processing fees are lower than Shopify which can for larger volume sales be quite significant.
However, similar to some of the other platforms mentioned in this list, Volusion also suffers from a lack of apps. Shopify has much more available and while there is often a cost to use them, the added functionality provided can make that cost worth it.
Self Hosted Shopify Alternatives
Magento is definitely worth considering for larger businesses. As an open-source solution, the Magento software itself is free, however, companies will need to pay for web hosting to make it accessible to consumers online. To that end, they will need to purchase or lease a web server which needs to be considered in the costs.
However, from the point of view of features alone, Magento is likely quite a bit better than Shopify. Magento offers access to many different add-ons and apps — in many cases at little to no cost — and there is no additional charge for processing transactions aside from the regular payment processing fees.
Building a store on Magento is something that should be considered as a cost however as while the software does not cost anything, different themes and templates could require a monthly fee. Custom development on Magento can be quite expensive as the software itself is very complicated to use. In some cases, this could mean having additional onsite resources.
WooCommerce attempts to combine the simplicity of a website builder with the power of an eCommerce platform and it does so extremely well. WooCommerce is built on top of WordPress so users familiar with that platform will be able to quickly create an effective website and store.
As a content management system (CMS) WordPress is one of the most popular platforms in the world, so from the point of view of SEO, it helps make WooCommerce much better than Shopify.
Another major benefit of note is the cost. WooCommerce is free — assuming you already have a website and hosting provider — and does not charge any monthly fees for the service. Your only cost to use WooCommerce is the payment processing fees.
Another open-source alternative that needs to be considered as a Shopify competitor is Sylius. Sylius similar to Magento requires businesses to obtain their own web servers and hosting, however with Sylius users have access to multiple different templates to quickly create a customized storefront that matches their business needs.
Sylius has an active and growing user community that helps provide support and assistance. In addition, to support multiple currencies and exchange rates, Sylius makes it easy to create country-specific stores which is much better than Shopify.
Sylius will require a developer to enable all of the different capabilities and integrations that are available. However, with very simple pricing starting at free, it might be a cost worth exploring given the capabilities it provides.
Spree Commerce is another open-source alternative to Shopify. With over 1 million Spree downloads, Spree Commerce is growing fast, but right now it lags far behind Shopify in terms of install base with only a tenth of the number of websites.
Spree offers many different apps and addons for users and while it does not have the same volume of sites as Shopify, it is quite popular with computer electronics and technology sites.
Prestashop is a definite contender as a Shopify alternative. Like the other self-hosted alternatives we’ve already explored, Prestashop is free to download and use, only requiring hosting and a web server.
Prestashop stands out from some of the others on this list though with its pricing and language capabilities. Out of the box, Prestashop lets you set up a store where the only fees paid are those through the payment processor.
Added to that, Prestashop supports 25 languages and also enables international sales through its ability to support multiple currencies. From the negative point of view, Prestashop only provides one pre-installed theme which could be a bit restrictive. Also restrictive is the number of apps available.
Fortunately, premium themes and templates are available for a nominal investment.
When it comes to choosing the right solution for your needs, there are many different options available. Having a developer like NIX in your corner is a winning proposition.
Using a company like NIX, companies can easily build a customized site that meets all of their requirements at a fraction of the cost of Shopify. We were recently contracted to do exactly this for an online clothing brand.
We created two different websites using Magenta that was connected directly to the payment processor. We then built four different stores that let the organization make sales of different products in multiple different currencies.
Shopify is often the first choice for businesses, but there are other, more powerful, and cost-effective alternatives that should be considered. Make sure that you have the right partner on your side so that you can select the platform best suited to your needs and budget.
In case you still hesitate, take a look at our experience with e-commerce development. You might find several useful insights from our case studies. Here are they:
Originally published at https://nix-united.com on December 28, 2020.