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Why You Should Try Shopify Alternatives that are Cheaper Solutions

by GK January 29, 2020

In the battle of cutting-edge eCommerce platforms, Shopify is undoubtedly one of the most prominent names in the global market. With its extremely easier ways to build managed eCommerce sites, it has attracted thousands of first-time entrepreneurs and established-enterprises that other websites like Shopify lack. However, the same popularity has also triggered some stereotypes about the solution. People now tend to recommend it to everyone blindly, as if it is perfect for every need and not limited by constraints.

The first thing to know, Shopify is not a one-size-fits-all solution; no eCommerce platform in the market is currently. Don’t depend on any business guru, article, or acquaintance to suggest you an alternative for Shopify to fit your requirements; not even us. Make sure you are relying on your own due diligence and experience the best Shopify alternatives personally before making your decision. It also includes testing out some Shopify competitors, besides the new or lesser-known options, too.

Because we offer ready-made eCommerce solutions, we have been teaching ourselves about prominent platforms, best Shopify alternatives, and easier ways to build eCommerce websites. Over the past few years, we have evaluated dozens of shopping cart solutions. Ranging from different pricing models to varied software delivery models, eCommerce business models, free Shopify alternatives, and premium options, we have made this detailed guide for you.

So, distinct to most of the Shopify comparison articles, this post makes use of our own experiences to evaluate other websites like Shopify that you may find useful, affordable, quicker, or just right for your individual set of requirements. So let’s find out if Shopify is perfect for your needs, or you need a Shopify cheaper alternative for your venture.

Why Is Shopify So Popular?

One simple answer could be because it works. The part where bugs stump many of the ready-made eCommerce solutions, Shopify gives out one of the most bug-free solutions. If the lack of technical knowledge is the only reason that’s stopping you from trying out other websites like Shopify, it is a perfect choice for you. It works like a charm for entrepreneurs with limited tech-skills, workforce, and time. Do you want a plug-and-play experience, besides innovative features, lesser back-end hassles, decent customizability, and huge community support? Shopify it is. 

The platform offers decent flexibility and great ease-of-use, which complements its cutting-edge performance and reliability stats.

  • Ease: A user-friendly back-end dashboard for non-techies
  • Templates: Offers tons of ready-made templates for personalization
  • Uptime: One of the best SaaS solutions with maximum up-time record
  • Community: One of the biggest communities of users and certified partners
  • Modules/Apps: A massive catalog of Shopify Apps for sizable customizability
  • Popular integrations: One of the bests in terms of support for popular third-party APIs

As a solo entrepreneur or an enterprise, it seems like a good deal to focus on selling products and business development, while the software vendor will manage everything technical. Moreover, the quickest turnaround time, which allows an entrepreneur to acquire an eCommerce store within a day of the first contact, is undoubtedly one of the biggest reasons why Shopify and other SaaS-based websites like Shopify are so popular.

The Main Disadvantages Of Shopify

Shopify is not all breezy. It does support tons of features, but many a time, you don’t even need them. One of the biggest pitfalls of Shopify is it makes you pay for tons of nuanced features that you don’t even need. Say, you are already managing a WordPress site for your blog. You might find it redundant to pay for a second platform. On the other hand, if you are an artist trying to sell your creations, you might have to overpay for many of the features you don’t need for selling such kinds of products.

·         Shopify Is Expensive

Besides unwanted features, Shopify charges tons of extra amounts, ranging right from monthly recurring fees to transaction fees, and third-party payments fee on every sale you make. You would be paying to Shopify and sharing your revenue with them for as long as you are using the platform. The shares change from plan to plan. Here is a brief breakdown:

Shopify Pricing Table
  • Shopify Basic: $29/month with 2.9% + 30¢ per online transaction
  • Main Shopify plan: $79/month with 2.6% + 30¢ per transaction
  • Advanced Shopify: $299/month with 2.4% + 30¢ per transaction
  • Fully hosted Shopify Plus: Starts at $2,000/ month.

From a practical point of view, the Basic and Main plans are hardly usable to run a full-fledged eCommerce business. Despite hefty pricing, there are tons of restrictions in the usable features of basic plans. The features are limited and the price is expensive, even for a hobby seller. The only plan that makes a practical sense is ‘Advanced’, but its way expensive for small-entrepreneurs. $299 + Miscellaneous Fees are a great deal of money to share with Shopify from your business. In fact, there is a cheaper alternative to Shopify with similar features, and it doesn’t charge this much.

·         Shopify Charges a Transaction Fee

There is nothing wrong with Shopify charging a monthly recurring fee. If we ignore the lack of features in basic plans for a while, it’s a good deal to pay the monthly fee for a SaaS service like Shopify. After all, they are offering you a fully supported, managed, hosted, and ready-made solution. This is how SaaS services make money.

However, the issue is with transaction fees on each sale. Various other SaaS-based websites like Shopify don’t charge any transaction fee, even if you use third-party payment solutions. Entrepreneurs use Shopify to start somewhat independent eCommerce businesses. If paying transaction fees and monthly fees together is the only option, creating an FBA seller account on Amazon is not a bad alternative either. FBA offers a lot more than Shopify, though Amazon is not an eCommerce platform but a marketplace site.   

·         Shopify Payments Offer Poor International Support

Somehow, if you make up your mind to skip popular payment gateways and use Shopify payment to avoid extra transaction fees, the limited international support stumps you to square one. The Shopify Payments works in only 15 countries, and there are different restrictions on the types of products you can sell in different countries using Shopify Payments.

Shopify Payments

There is no proper support in the US itself. You are forced to use third-party payment solutions in such regions and pay the extra transaction fees.

·         Shopify Prohibits the Sale of Certain Products

Both the platform and its payment solution do not support the sale of certain products. Although the range of restricted products differs from countries to countries, the restraints make Shopify unusable for many business ideas, such as selling event tickets, high-risk businesses, multi-level marketing, certain pharmaceuticals, Adult content and services, and much more. In this case, even free Shopify alternatives with limited features make more sense. 

·         Shopify’s Blogging Platform Is Average

Shopify indeed is a great eCommerce platform and it makes starting an online store a lot hassle-free. However, the problem with Shopify and most of the SaaS Shopify competitors is they offer limited blogging platforms. For many beginner bloggers, the ability to add text and images on a static page might be enough for hobby writing, but eCommerce blogging is a serious undertaking. 

If you want to run a fully-featured blog on your Shopify store, you can’t do that without a good CMS like WordPress or Drupal. However, the problem begins here. If you want to integrate a WordPress or Drupal blog to your Shopify store, the only way to do that is hosting and installing the same on a separate sub-domain. For instance, if your store domain is ‘xyz.com’ on Shopify, your WordPress blog will be blog.xyz.com instead of xyz.com/ blog. This triggers some serious SEO reparations.

For starters, Google considers a subdomain as entirely different from your main site domain. As a result, the SEO benefits your blog would get would not build any domain strength for your store’s domain. Unfortunately, Shopify does not allow you to install your blog in a subdirectory but only under a subdomain.  

·         Shopify Has an Ordinary SEO URL Structure

It’s annoying that Shopify does not allow you to customize your URLs. Moreover, the sub-optimal URLs given by the default Shopify structure contain peripheral terms that don’t help in SEO. It’s a very basic feature that most Shopify competitors provide. Unfortunately, Shopify has a limitation in creating custom SEO friendly URLs.

·         Shopify Only Allows 3 Sets of Variants per Product

It’s highly unfortunate that a platform limits you from the number of products you can sell. Shopify allows you to list only three variants of a single product. If you have more than three variants of a product, you need to create a separate listing, which degrades the visibility and customer experience at the same time.

For example, if you are selling t-shirts, you can create only three choices, such as size, color, and material. In case you need more choices, you are out of options. To make it worse, you cannot list more than 100 combinations of variants per product. For example, you cannot list your product if ‘Number of sizes’ X ‘Number of Colors’ exceeds a hundred.

·         Shopify’s Usable Features Are Only Available on Expensive Plans

As mentioned earlier, the Basic plans are comparatively affordable, but they are not competent for serious online businesses. For example, the basic plan does not support discount codes, and only the advanced plan supports multi-language, which costs over $2000/month. Shopify has some great features and benefits for the merchants, but they are accessible only in the expensive plans. Even some simple features are available only in Flagship plans, which you can find even in a cheaper alternative to Shopify, such as Magento. 

Why You Should Try Shopify Alternatives

SaaS is not the only available way to build an eCommerce website like Shopify. Many other software delivery models deliver great software solutions in an equally quick manner. For example, ready-made eCommerce scripts like WooCommerce can offer you self-hosted eCommerce stores without paying any monthly fee. You just have to know some basics of CMS solutions. Moreover, if SaaS is your only choice, there are other good SaaS-based solutions too.

However, the main question here is -should you even consider Shopify alternatives? Yes, if you think the above-mentioned pitfalls are important for you. No, if you can manage with limited features and ready to share your revenue. Saying yes or no to Shopify is a relative undertaking. You should decide it based on your personal requirements and experience. Don’t just take anyone’s words for granted.

Anyways, if you feel the need for an alternative for your store, the following options are your best bet as of now in the market. All of them have their own pros and cons. So analyze them carefully; you might end up with a perfect Shopify alternative for your cause here.

Shopify Alternative #1: BigCommerce

BigCommerce is the closest of all best Shopify alternatives because it also offers a managed SaaS-based solution like Shopify. Same as Shopify, the platform offers an intuitive dashboard that even a non-techie can use to create his or her online store in minutes. If you are a one-man army and Shopify feels expensive for your startup, you can try out BigCommerce. It is one of the most affordable SaaS eCommerce platforms in the market, even cheaper than Shopify in many circumstances.

Although the range of templates is currently limited to 80, you get to use many of them without paying any extra cost, as they are free-to-use. The added benefits come from the ability to add custom CSS and HTML codes right from the dashboard. Even if you ignore all these aspects, the prime reason for selecting BigCommerce as your Shopify alternative is they do not charge any transaction fee.

Type of eCommerce platform: SaaS like Shopify

Pricing: Offers similar monthly plans as Shopify minus transaction fees.

Bigcommerce Pricing

Pros of BigCommerce

  • User-friendly like Shopify
  • No transaction fee on sales
  • Great customer support
  • Scalable up to enterprise-level

Cons of BigCommerce

  • Limited choices of templates
  • Limited customizability than Shopify
  • Enterprise-level plans are costly for small startups
  • Both Shopify and BigCommerce are closed source

Shopify Alternative #2: WooCommerce

WooCommerce is neither SaaS nor an eCommerce platform. It’s an open-source plugin for WordPress CMS. In short, one of the most popular free Shopify alternatives. When you download and install the WooCommerce plugin in your existing or freshly-setup WordPress site, the site gets equipped with eCommerce capabilities. From integrated virtual shopping cart to customer management, product upload, discount management, and much more. WooCommerce is the best Shopify alternative for beginner level tech-savvy entrepreneurs.

With some basic knowledge of WordPress and web hosting solutions, you can save a significant amount of dollars annually, that otherwise is taken by the SaaS-vendors to manage your store. WooCommerce has one of the biggest community of users and developers. It’s easier to find affordable, third-party WooCommerce templates and plugins.

Type: Self-hosted, open-source

Pricing: WooCommerce and WordPress are free to use. The prices of templates and plugins might differ.

Pros of WooCommerce

  • No monthly or recurring fee unless you opt for the cloud-hosted version
  • Open-source code access and self-hosting capabilities for absolute control
  • Benefits of a full-fledged blogging platform with a ready-made eCommerce store
  • A big community of WordPress users and developers for any support and assistance

Cons of WooCommerce

  • Not all features are present in the base script.
  • Demands some time and dedication to manage the store
  • You have to purchase a web-hosting plan separately to host
  • The store building experience is not easy user-friendly as Shopify’s

Shopify Alternative #3: Magento

Magento is an incredible eCommerce platform for your online store. In case you’re an ultra-independent startup with a limited budget for upfront website development, you may want to consider cheaper solutions like OpenCart and PrestaShop. However, on the off chance that you have a setup model, subsidizing to back it up with good investments, and ready to invest some time shaping up the basic Magento script as per your requirements, you can use this platform as an ideal stage to set up your online store.

There is a paid solution accessible for big enterprise-level businesses, but the basic community edition of Magento is a free Shopify alternative for you to utilize. Even huge retailers like Samsung and Nespresso, use Magento, so it’s certain that a genuine contender with a good business plan can make a move into online retail with a free Magento solution as well.

Type: self-hosted; open-source code

Pricing: The community edition, which is self-hosted and open source, is free to use. You have to pay for a third-party Magento extension if you need any.

Pros of Magento:

  • There isn’t any recurring monthly fee in Magento Community edition
  • Most loaded free, open-source eCommerce platform in the market
  • Trusted by big brands like Samsung and Nike
  • A load of Magento extensions available for every customization need

Cons of Magento:

  • Not economically suitable for small-scale deployments
  • Magento is not known for user-friendliness but the complexity of features
  • Takes some time to set up and personalize a Magento store from scratch
  • The hosting-server requirements are expensive than other alternatives.

Shopify Alternative #4: Genstore

When it comes to starting a multi-vendor eCommerce business, most of the Shopify competitors do a decent job. However, none of them, including Shopify gives you a full-fledged marketplace site out of the box. You need some kind of module, plugin, or extension to add multi-vendor capabilities to them. Genstore is one solution you can choose to build your multi-vendor eCommerce website without much thinking. 

Genstore is a premium open-source script with ready-made features to build your site within a few hours. Serious entrepreneurs, willing to spend some time perfecting their online store can use the script to not only build their website from scratch but also customize it to fit their requirements easily. The best thing is its bundle where you get ready-made mobile apps for your website.

Mode of deployment: Self-hosted, open-source code, MEAN stack

Pricing information: One-time cost of $ 699 for website script. The flagship bundle with mobile apps for Android and iOS costs $1999.

Genstore Pricing

Pros

  • One-time cost without any monthly fee
  • Open-source code access and self-hosted
  • The multi-vendor marketplace features out of the box
  • Option to have mobile apps for your online store

Cons

  • Not everyone is comfortable with paying an upfront cost
  • The turnaround time could be more if opted for customizations
  • Only one stock template is present out of the box
  • Not suitable for a one-man army, as it is not SaaS

To Conclude

Without any doubt, Shopify is the most prominent eCommerce platform in the market. However, many other websites like Shopify are also doing a great job. If you are looking to build an online store, don’t just limit your choices to SaaS. There are many open-source Shopify alternatives, which are more feature-packed. Of course, managing a self-hosted site is not as easy as a SaaS like Shopify, but the control you get on your business when you own the source code of your site is not comparable.

Nevertheless, even some good SaaS alternatives like BigCommerce are present in the market. You can go for it if you can’t give up on managed services and frustrated with the transaction fee of Shopify. There are more tailored websites like Shopify in the market for all segments. You just have to analyze your case and decide if you need a free Shopify alternative, a premium but a more customized option, or just a cheaper alternative to Shopify with the same benefits.

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