So you’ve been talking about starting that online store for ages and are finally ready to take the leap. When it comes time to choose an e-commerce platform though, you suddenly realize there are tons of options on the market and they all look the same. Among the most popular choices however are GoDaddy’s Website Builder and Shopify, two very different services that serve the same purpose. For those just starting out, it is important to know how they compare and which one will better suit your needs.
Over the past few years, it has become easier than ever to setup shop on the internet. With simple point and click solutions, just about anyone can open a store in minutes. These platforms are designed for ease of use, making the process as intuitive and user friendly as possible. Prices are at an all time low but the technology continues to evolve, meaning right now is the perfect opportunity to start selling from your very own storefront.
For the most part, these are all inclusive packages, providing everything you need to begin running a retail business. WordPress sites have the WooCommerce plugin, Wix and GoDaddy offer site builders with e-commerce plans available, then we of course have BigCommerce and Shopify providing tailored solutions for online stores. If you plan to setup shop on the internet, chances are at least one of these services will offer a perfect fit to both launch and grow your brand.
So what makes GoDaddy and Shopify different?
Since we will be talking about GoDaddy and Shopify over the course of this article, it’s important to explain what sets them apart.
As a traditional website hosting provider, GoDaddy makes their website builder and e-commerce features available as an added incentive. Since you are not locked in to a specific platform, any self-hosted solutions like WordPress & WooCommerce or Magento can be installed on their plans. Shopify on the other hand is considered SaaS (Software as a Service), meaning you pay to use their software and have an instance of that hosted on their network.
While this may seem irrelevant from our standpoint, it’s important to realize that SaaS means you are entirely reliant on that business. Reliability isn’t so much a concern with large companies like Shopify, but you do however lose the ability to pack up and move elsewhere without starting over from scratch. This is probably a non-issue for most users, but that is one of the biggest complaints towards SaaS solutions that give GoDaddy a slight advantage.
With that out of the way, we will compare and contrast GoDaddy & Shopify side by side. We will look at their Plans & Pricing, User Interface, Design Features, E-Commerce Features, Marketing Features, Customer Service and conclude with our pick between these two companies. Ready to get started? Let’s go!
Plans & Pricing
Since GoDaddy and Shopify provide two very different platforms, comparing the pricing alone doesn’t exactly paint a full picture. GoDaddy’s Website Builder is not e-commerce specific, the “Online Store” plan is just one of many services available, catering to a broad range of customers. Shopify on the other hand is specifically built for creating e-commerce sites.
Divided up into 4 separate tiers, the Online Store package from GoDaddy’s Website Builder is offered at $19/mo. Shopify by comparison has three e-commerce plans available, with the Basic Tier starting at $29/mo.
Despite Shopify being the more expensive option, the amount of features they provide do justify the cost. GoDaddy’s Online Store plan was actually priced the same until just recently, but they have lowered this in effort to remain competitive. This was a smart move on their part because other than price, there is just not much incentive to use this particular service.
When browsing the Shopify website, you may stumble across another service called Shopify Lite as well, priced at just $9/mo. Even though the brief description sounds enticing, it is important to note this option will not work for most retailers. The Lite plan does let you build a product catalog on the Shopify website and accept orders/payments, but there is no actual storefront for your customers to visit. Instead, you can only sell on other platforms such as Facebook or an existing website. This may be an option for very small stores on a tight budget, but this is a niche category that is too limited for most projects.
While there is no one size fits all in terms of hosting solutions, cutting corners to save a few bucks on the store costs probably isn’t worth it. When it comes to the e-commerce plans, the only thing GoDaddy has in its favor is cost and simplicity. Shopify offers a feature rich experience, more than capable of meeting any needs you may have.
An intuitive interface is the unsung hero of website builders. It is often the difference between an enjoyable site building experience and pulling out your hair while drowning in a clutter of various unexplained features.
We’re not necessarily looking for a Fisher-Price dashboard, but a natural design with coherent text goes a long way with users. It’s important to find a good balance between simplistic and feature rich, capable of doing what we need while not feeling overwhelmed by the whole ordeal. That brings us to the interfaces we will use at GoDaddy and Shopify…
As we will discuss more later, GoDaddy does succeed in building a user friendly system, albeit somewhat lackluster on the options. To get started, they ask you to fill out two fields, the nature of business and the desired business name. When choosing the type of company you operate, they will automatically assign a related theme for you to work from. This can of course be changed at any time, but it still feels a bit bizarre having them pick for you. Nonetheless, it couldn’t be easier to get started and it’s pleasant to see a fully functional website ready to build upon.
Shopify starts out with a similar approach, asking a few questions like your store’s name, how you heard about them and what additional services you would be interested in (logo design, training seminars, etc). They provide guided tours and customer outreach, but the process is straightforward and easy to complete. After the brief signup process is finished, you are dropped into the dashboard with a vast amount of options to choose from. While comprehensive, it doesn’t feel overwhelming and only takes a few minutes to familiarize yourself with everything available. There is an app store, product database, theme library and so fourth.
We went ahead and looked at the website builder (pictured above) and it’s a bit different from GoDaddy. For starters, you are given a very stock looking template with some default options. You can drag & drop new elements from the left menu, adjust the header and footer content areas, or even click an existing element to manipulate it. If you don’t want to build the design from scratch, there are some gorgeous templates that can be installed with the click of a button.
While you can launch an e-commerce store with GoDaddy in mere seconds, this speed is a result of limited features and minimal options. Shopify on the other hand takes a bit longer to get setup and has a small learning curve, but is a vastly more capable platform as a result.
For those that don’t expect to alter much and just want to publish a storefront quick, GoDaddy’s interface may be a good fit for you. Otherwise, if you don’t mind taking a few minutes to learn the software, Shopify offers a much more rewarding platform that can grow with your brand indefinitely.
Remember we mentioned how easy it has become to setup a new website? The Design Features are one of the biggest factors in making that possible. Given access to a library of templates (aka designs) we can use a website builder to customize elements like text, colors and images.
The days of paying web designers thousands of dollars are now behind us. We can browse an assortment of themes, both free and paid, and choose the one that best fits our site. The pains of hacking up HTML files have passed as well, we can change every single aspect using an editor to fit our vision of the perfect layout. And best of all, the struggle to setup our software on a hosting provider is nonexistent, they already make these tools and platforms available to us from the start.
Of course, GoDaddy and Shopify do things a bit differently when it comes to their templates and customization.
The themes library on GoDaddy’s Website Builder is absolutely massive, featuring 22 general categories that include everything from restaurants to construction companies. Under each of these are dozens more sub groups, with templates for specific markets. The Pets category for example has designs for veterinarians, dog parks, kennels and more.
The trade-off however is that customization is fairly restricted at GoDaddy, with limited options to adjust the designs. Even more surprising is the fact there is no basic HTML or CSS editors to change the stylesheet for pages, nor is there a drag & drop editor to add new elements to the site. There are plenty of themes to choose from, but past that, what you see is what you get.
In contrast, Shopify provides unlimited options in terms of customizing your storefront. Template modifications can be made via CSS editor or their proprietary templating language called Liquid. A simple, yet feature rich HTML editor in which all themes are compatible.
Better yet, the drag & drop editor is a powerful tool that makes building content a breeze. You can insert a slideshow, images with text or create featured product groups. While GoDaddy expects you to use their templates as they come, Shopify gives you the foundation in which to develop that beautiful website design in your head.
GoDaddy puts immense focus on keeping things simple and convenient, while Shopify pulls out all the stops to make anything possible. Unfortunately it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which we wouldn’t want the option to put our own touch on things, it is after all our store. We can appreciate GoDaddy trying to keep things easy, but they definitely miss the mark in this category.
When setting up shop, we already have a pretty good idea of the basics we need to operate. We need to build a product catalog, create a shopping cart and checkout page, and arrange payment processors for online orders. Thankfully any e-commerce service will take care of these for us, but there is a lot more we expect on top of just the basics.
These days, any store that wants to succeed will utilize multiple channels at once, because not every potential customer will reach your website.
That is where E-Commerce Features comes into play, with tools that integrate and streamline the process through 3rd party channels. That includes syncing your products to Amazon and Ebay, selling via Facebook Messenger and facilitating discounted shipments through UPS, USPS and other carriers. There are literally thousands of options to further sales, and a good platform will not only make these available but also simplify the process for you.
Obviously we don’t expect to utilize every feature available to us, each store is different in that regard. We do however appreciate having these options available, making it possible to scale up over time without the hassle of doing it ourselves. The modular system of using what we want and leaving the rest is a big part of why we use e-commerce platforms.
While GoDaddy does provide the basics of an online store, they are still just a website builder with e-commerce features available. The app store on Shopify is what really sets them apart, providing access to hundreds of tools that can be installed in seconds. With categories like marketing, shipping, accounting and even social media, you can find an app for almost any requirement you may have.
Marketing Tools & Features
When you were a kid, you probably tried the $0.25 lemonade stand at least once, with a sign out front to entice cars that were passing by. Starting an e-commerce store can be very similar, just waiting for someone to stumble across your site. This is where marketing tools & features come into play, actively promoting your site across a variety of proven channels.
Advertising credits have become one of the most popular incentives in the hosting industry, offering free marketing via Google, Facebook and other major sites. Included with all plans, Shopify provides $100 of Google AdWords credit with their services, along with a lengthy article explaining how to launch your first campaign. GoDaddy’s Website Builder unfortunately doesn’t have anything comparable, leaving the marketing efforts up to the customer’s discretion.
What they do offer however is a basic, yet effective set of tools for growing your brand. This includes E-mail Marketing (essentially a newsletter), Business listing on Google and social media integration. These are great for e-commerce sites that already have a client base, but this won’t help new stores that are trying to find an audience. Shopify has the same capabilities, but they provide more assistance for those just starting out, linking relevant articles on the dashboard such as “How I Built an Online T-Short Business and Made $1,248.90 in 3 Weeks” and “Your 3 Step Guide to Building a Marketing Plan That Works”.
GoDaddy provides just enough tools to get from point A to point B, while Shopify makes it their mission to ensure your business is successful.
SEO is another hot topic to consider, this is the magic that makes your website go boom or bust. Active marketing will only get you so far if your site ranks poorly on search engines, mostly because shoppers won’t find your store without the advertisements. GoDaddy and Shopify both offer specialized SEO tools but the effectiveness varies. Shopify comes out the stronger of the two, with passive improvements such as auto generated metadata and schema markups, while giving reminders about certain areas that could use improvement.
For brick and mortar stores that just want a website presence, the offers from GoDaddy may be an option worth considering. In most cases though, webmasters looking for an e-commerce solution are building a predominately web based business, where advertising credits, SEO tools and passive improvements make a world of difference.
Customer Service & Support
Questions or problems will inevitably arise, and we look to the company for assistance when they do. This is often an afterthought when you are comparing plans, features and pricing, but it can quickly make or break your experience when the time comes.
GoDaddy and Shopify both provide a variety of support channels, but GoDaddy puts immense focus on their phone above all else. That isn’t to say GoDaddy is necessarily limited to phone, they do have several options available, but their number is plastered on every page and encourages you to call. In contrast, Shopify offers support via phone, live chat, e-mail, Twitter and the list goes on. There is no favoritism towards a specific channel, rather letting the customer choose what works best.
Our biggest gripe with GoDaddy though is that they take every opportunity to upsell, customer support is no exception. The reason they prefer phone is that their agents have been trained to market additional services to you. Having a question about the control panel? They will be happy to help after several unrelated products have been suggested. This comes as no surprise though as their website is more of the same. Even domain registrations try to upsell hosting, e-mail, privacy services and quite a bit more.
When we have questions or issues, our first thought is usually to ask our hosting company for help. GoDaddy is notorious for using this opportunity to their advantage, trying to upsell distressed customers on products or services. This is a pretty tacky business practice by all accounts and one that has caused a lot of backlash from their clients.
Since Shopify offers a greater variety of support channels, provides excellent self-help resources and doesn’t attempt to capitalize on their customers problems, we are giving them the win in terms of Customer Service & Support.
Our Pick & Final Thoughts
When it comes to choosing between GoDaddy vs. Shopify, which one is the better platform for an online store?
For a web based business, especially those just starting out, Shopify offers a powerful solution that will grow with your brand over time. It’s incredibly feature rich and tools like the app store feel almost essential, providing drag & drop functionality at the click of a button.
On the other hand, companies that have a strong offline presence, especially those with an existing brick and mortar store may favor GoDaddy’s more simplistic offerings. The lack of configurations and absolute ease of use might appeal to this demographic. There isn’t much you can change on the templates outside of text and colors, but not everyone needs a full blown system to tweak every aspect of the website.
- Rated 4.5 stars
- GoDaddy vs. Shopify
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