There’s no question that Shopify is a popular ecommerce platform. When you google “ecommerce,” the reply is often, “Did you mean Shopify?” But popularity doesn’t mean it’s a one-size-fits all solution that makes it perfect for you. To that end, I’d like to share with you four reasons why Shopify may not be the best solution for your ecommerce store.
First, the price isn’t the price
When you look at Shopify’s price, you’ll see that the Basic plan is $29 / month. That sounds great, right? But if you dig in a bit deeper, you’ll soon discover $29/month is just the beginning of your costs.
I spoke at technology and ecommerce conferences throughout 2018 and 2019 and talked with a lot of people who had signed up for Shopify’s $29/month plan. When I asked if anyone was paying $29/month, no hands went up. Not surprisingly, even Shopify knows this. They shared with their investors that the average person on a $29/month plan pays $89/month.
Why is that the case?
Because every customer pays transaction or credit card fees. If you use Shopify Payments, you pay the credit card fees. If you use an alternative processor, you pay transaction fees.
But that’s not all.
You’ll also soon discover that you have to install various apps. This is the developer / partner network that makes Shopify so powerful. Their partners often make more than they do. And that translates to a huge community inviting you to spin up a Shopify store. Because they know you’ll need apps to make your store viable.
And while many of their apps are free, the ones you’ll need aren’t free. They cost serious dollars that get automatically added to your monthly bill. So whether it’s a page building app, a popup app, a specialized coupon app, or advanced order tracking – you’ll see your bill double or triple from it’s basic $29/month.
Recently a client who moved from Magento 1 to WooCommerce asked us to price out the move to Shopify. After all, every platform has plugins, modules or apps that are needed. They wanted to see a comparison.
The results surprised them because they thought Shopify would be really inexpensive (because of the rich set of features it comes with).
What cost $2,000 a year on WooCommerce (hosting and extensions) would cost almost $7,000 a year on Shopify.
Second, there’s the look and feel of your store.
When Shopify first appeared on the scene, it was an amazing up-and-comer fighting against all the available solutions of the time. But today it is a known player that people recognize.
But it’s not only the platform that is now recognized. It’s also every Shopify store. One look and you know you’re looking at a Shopify store. Part of that is because there are a limited number of themes for Shopify – even less if you are getting started and want a free option.
Building your own brand online will be tough if your store looks like everyone else’s store. And while you could try your hand at creating your own theme, it’s not an experience that most first-time store owners embrace.
But if we skip past the limited number of free themes, or past the limited number of expensive premium themes, we still have another problem: Customizations.
If you simply want to slap a logo on the top left side of your new Shopify store, you’ll have no trouble. But again, your store will look like everyone else’s.
Want to change the look of your product pages? You’ll need that $50/month page builder app we talked about before. Or worse, you’ll need to learn Liquid, the programming language for themes.
There’s no way around the fact that you’ll likely need to hire a Shopify partner or developer to help you turn your site into something that doesn’t look like everyone else. And that’s expensive.
Third, it isn’t as easy as everyone says
I don’t want to spend a ton of time on this one because it’s better if you experience this yourself. Go start a free trial with Shopify. You’ll answer 3-5 questions – thinking that it’s helping shape your store. It’s not. They’re just collecting data from you.
But once you’re done with that, you’ll get inside Shopify and be ready to launch your store. The initial checklist that they present you is 5 things. Great – knock those out.
And then you’ll see the side navigation with more than 20 items, each with another 4-10 sub-items. And under each section, on each page, there’s more to configure.
Suddenly you realize why everyone’s site looks and works the same – they didn’t configure every possible setting to make it their own!
Fourth, we haven’t talked about vendor lock-in
I love hosted platforms. I think they’re great and I use a lot of them. But when it comes to my ecommerce needs, I’m not sure that I want a platform that I have no control over.
- When Shopify goes down, I don’t have alternatives I can move my site to.
- When Shopify changes partner rules, I lose apps without any control.
- When Shopify gets slow, I can’t move my store to a different server.
- When Shopify changes its fees, I just have to pay the bill.
I like choices on something this important. And a proprietary hosted platform gives me a lot of choices except the one that is most important – the ability to control my own destiny.
What’s the Best Shopify Alternative? WooCommerce
When you compare WooCommerce to Shopify, you’ll end up noticing the differences pretty quickly.
- It’s a free plugin that runs on a free CMS, WordPress.
- The prices for WooCommerce extensions are cheaper.
- There are no transaction fees when using WooCommerce.
- There are thousands of free themes for WooCommerce, like Astra.
- There are thousands of premium themes for WooCommerce.
- Customizations are easy with page builders like Beaver Builder.
- Learning WooCommerce is easy with courses from WP101.
- You can host WooCommerce anywhere, including Nexcess.
Why we created a different hosting solution
A couple years ago, I spent a lot of time reading Shopify vs WooCommerce comparison posts all over the web. Feature for feature, they were pretty evenly matched. But when it came to the end of each article, I’d read the same thing,
The largest difference between Shopify and WooCommerce is that with WooCommerce you have to take care of a lot of technical details – from hosting selection to server configuration. You don’t have to worry about that with Shopify.
It’s why we created Managed WooCommerce Hosting.
A solution that would take care of everything technical for you, including support, while still giving you choice. You could move from one host to another, if we didn’t serve you well, without any lock-in. And you could move from one server to another if you needed more resources (though our auto scale takes care of you for most things).
And those products listed above – Astra, Beaver Builder, WP101 – all come included. Along with more. Because we created our Value Added Bundles to make sure you really could start a store without a lot of cost or complexity.