Top 5 Shopify Alternatives for eCommerce Websites in 2021
There is no question that Shopify is the premier eCommerce platform, leading the market since they opened in 2004. They were among the first pioneers to recognize the true potential of internet-based business, building a solution that can facilitate the needs of online retailers. While their platform revolutionized the industry, their all-inclusive, feature-rich plans brought a level of accessibility to the average person, making it easy to get started without prior knowledge of website hosting and development.
Although Shopify does a great many things right, there are certain downsides and drawbacks to using their service. The most prominent concern is the transaction fees, where these can take a considerable percentage of your sales over time. This may be irrelevant to established merchants, but for the small mom and pop shops just getting started, every cent matters when you're trying to build an audience.
Even though Shopify Payments don't have a transaction fee, they do charge 2.9% + 30¢ for credit card payments and 2.7% for in-person purchases. Want to use Paypal, Square or another external payment gateway instead? These incur a hefty 2.0% transaction fee, plus whatever fee the processor tacks on as well. This may seem inconsequential at first, but they can definitely add up and affect your company's bottom line.
That brings us to our recommended alternatives, of which there are plenty to choose from. While Shopify was among the first, they certainly aren't the only choice these days. The competition is fierce and dozens of companies want to bring your business to their service. These e-commerce platforms range from fully hosted to self-hosted solutions, website builders with online store plans and even shop plugins for an existing CMS like WordPress.
There is, of course, no such thing as the best choice for everyone, every store has a unique set of wants and needs. We will, however, look some of the top competitors to Shopify and compare them to the industry-leading e-commerce platform.
The Best Alternatives to Shopify are:
BigCommerce is a fully hosted e-commerce solution and a direct competitor to the Shopify platform. While their customer base is significantly smaller in size, they offer a similar service with a variety of features that aren't native to the Shopify system. This includes a vast collection of marketing tools geared towards online merchants, where this functionality at Shopify would require the use of extensions from the app store.
With more than 95,000 businesses currently using BigCommerce, they are an excellent alternative for those planning to launch a high volume retail website. In contrast to their competition, they do not charge a per-transaction fee, meaning there is no penalty for making more sales. This is an especially attractive selling point considering it opens you to use a number of payment gateways without excess charges.
Priced almost identical to Shopify, the BigCommerce packages are quite similar in terms of both cost and features. While the absence of transaction fees are the biggest plus for BigCommerce, that is not the only area in which they shine. They also recognize the demands of online merchants and provide the necessary tools to manage an e-commerce business.
Even little things like unlimited staff accounts can make all the difference, where Shopify, by comparison, limits you to either 2, 5 or 15 depending on the plan. This isn't the only advantage of BigCommerce though, they also include support for other features like gift cards, real-time shipping quotes, and a built-in product review system. While some of these options may be available as a Shopify app, it just goes to show that the BigCommerce platform is the more complete solution of these two.
Outside of the points mentioned, Shopify and BigCommerce are frankly almost the same from a customer perspective. They both offer unlimited resources, excellent 24/7 support and an assortment of themes and plugins to enhance your online store.
WooCommerce is a bit different from most options on the market, serving as a full-featured e-commerce plugin for the popular WordPress platform. Both WordPress and WooCommerce are completely free, open-source software solutions, capable of running on nearly any existing hosting provider. Furthermore, it currently powers more than 30% of all e-commerce websites in the world, making it the #1 choice for web stores.
Although it doesn't cost anything to use, the WooCommerce software has certain limitations that may require plugins to circumvent. Much like the app stores at Shopify and BigCommerce, the WooCommerce extensions are for the most part free of charge, however, the essential tools and features do often come with a price tag. These aren't necessary to set up shop but they can help simplify the mundane day-to-day tasks, improving the overall experience from a management perspective.
The WooCommerce software is a capable, yet barebones e-commerce solution that is further enhanced through the use of extensions (a.k.a. apps). The modular nature of this platform allows you to pick and choose what functionality it has, with more than 300 unique plugins available to choose from.
The Extensions Store is where these plugins reside, a library of both free and paid features that can be installed directly into your store. These include everything from payment processor support (ex: Square and Paypal) to the integration with shipping carriers (ex: UPS and USPS).
As a whole, the WooCommerce business model is to provide you with the foundation in which to build, then sell you the tools to make it better. This approach has a lot of merits, keeping the cost of entry to a minimum and capitalizing on your success over time. This is can be especially attractive for new shops and merchants trying to minimize the investment upfront.
While Shopify sells you an all-inclusive service as a monthly package, WooCommerce gives their software out for free and charges to expand the capabilities instead. The shortcomings are noticeable, encouraging the purchase of various extensions, themes, and tools to accomplish your goals. Things you would find included with a paid solution like Shopify are offered through annual subscription-based service.
It can get expensive for those that want to have it all, but it's a much more affordable path for stores with a clear goal in mind. It's a fantastic solution and the business model works to our advantage, giving us the ability to pick and choose what we need and disregard the rest.
Founded in 2010, LemonStand is one of the newest players on the market, offering competitive, cloud-based e-commerce solutions. Contrary to the standard approach we see with most providers, they actually give every plan access to the full set of features, whether you are paying $19 or $199 per month.
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Above all else, they pride themselves most on their immense list of native integrations, including payment processors, shipping carriers and other third party services. While this is nothing new for an e-commerce platform, they have built these tools directly into their system as opposed to making them an optional app/extension. Furthermore, they also provide a powerful REST API, meaning nearly any web-based service can be integrated, even if lacking native support at the time.
While the “all features for all plans” approach certainly stands out against the norm, it does spark the question… what incentive is there to upgrade to the higher tier packages? LemonStand keeps things simple, giving each option a maximum number of orders it can process each month. This ranges from just 75 on the basic Starter plan at $19/mo, all the way up to 1000 orders on the Professional plan at $199/mo.
This is a pretty basic take on the e-commerce industry, but it seems to appeal to a large number of customers. Their target clientele is developers, agencies and fast-growing brands, those that have a fairly concise idea of what their volume will be on any given month. It may not be the best choice for those with frequent spikes in traffic, but it's hard to argue with access to the full set of features on entry-level plans.
In addition, it's also worth noting that like our other recommended alternatives, LemonStand has no per-transaction fee. This goes a long way towards putting more money in your pocket, making their low cost – feature-rich plans all the more enticing.
They do have a fourth and final option, but we feel it kind of misses the mark. LemonStand Premium is the enterprise-grade solution, catering to businesses that exceed 1000 orders per month. For existing LemonStand clients that love the platform, we can see the appeal of staying with what you know as your store grows. Otherwise, at a price of $399/mo, it probably isn't worth the cost from an economical perspective. Other than having a higher limit for monthly orders, the selling points are not going to appeal to the majority of users.
Still, LemonStand is an excellent consideration and one that continues to improve over time. They already have a dedicated user base and an excellent product, not to mention feature-packed plans that start at just $19/mo. If the order limits aren't a deterrent to your business goals, they may a decent alternative for consideration.
Volusion is a fully hosted e-commerce platform and a big name in the industry, similar to the likes of Shopify and BigCommerce. Despite their long term presence on the market, they are still one of the smaller merchant platforms among the giants, serving around 30,000 clients to date. Still, their platform has served over 185 million orders and done $26 billion dollars in sales, meaning they are definitely doing things right.
Much like their direct competitors, Volusion offers an easy to use, cloud-based shopping cart which caters to small and mid-sized businesses. They have beautiful store templates and build their tools with a non-technical crowd in mind, making them a solid option for those that rather focus on selling than writing HTML code. Using the intuitive site builder, you can create an exquisite store in very little time with no prior experience at all.
While Volusion offers the cheapest tiered plans, they do implement some limitations that are not found elsewhere. The most notable of which is the maximum products, a set number of items your store can sell at any given time. This does not impact the quantity of those products, but for e-commerce sites with a large variety of inventory, it may be worth keeping in mind. The allocations are fairly sizable for the price however, starting at 100 products on the $15/mo Mini plan, and increasing by 10x for each step up.
Placing a heavy emphasis on the back-end operations, they orient their features more towards inventory and management, rather than marketing and sales. This isn't to say their platform is missing retail facing features, in fact, they serve both quite well. They just offer specialized tools and services to help with the administration side of things which come with running a store.
Overall, Volusion knows its market segment and fulfills its customer's demands quite well. They aren't for everyone, the product and bandwidth limitations can be a deterrent for some, depending entirely upon the individual needs. They do however provide an excellent e-commerce platform, perfect for those that want to skip the technical work and jump right into selling.
While the rest of our recommendations cater to small business and independent merchants, Magento is the complete enterprise-grade e-commerce solution. Their software currently powers over 200,000 online retailers and used by 1 in every 4 online businesses.
Released back in 2008, this is an open-source, self-hosted platform that has a free Community Edition available. While this variant has considerable limitations, the modular nature of their software does support plugins, capable of bringing the features in line with that of the Enterprise versions. The paid plans do of course offer a smoother, more streamlined process in exchange for a considerable monthly fee.
While one of the above may interest a corporate entity, we're still looking at alternatives to Shopify and cost is a big factor. As such, we're going to disregard these options and talk about the free Community Edition. This can be self hosted or installed on a third party hosting provider such as our favorite BlueHost.
Since Magento is first and foremost an enterprise solution though, available to purchase for an astounding $15,550, it stands to reason the free Community Edition is just a simplified version of this more robust platform. In fact, most of the benefits included with the enterprise variant are unrelated to e-commerce at all, focused more on the code base, support structure and so fourth.
That brings us to the Magento Marketplace, an exchange that provides thousands of extensions and themes to customize your Magento installation. While the app store at Shopify has a few hundred choices available, Magento has an immense amount of 3,225 extensions. Some of the more comprehensive packages have a hefty price tag attached, but there are still over 1,000 extensions that are completely free of charge.
In a league entirely its own, Magento is the absolute full package for e-commerce, known well in the retail community. Some hosting providers even offer this service exclusively, specializing in the many facets of this complex piece of software. It's important to note however that with such powerful application, the learning curve associated with it can be quite high. For the average user, just using Magento would likely become a cumbersome and overly complicated venture, but for large retailers or those that value open-source, standalone platforms, it may be the perfect alternative.
Other Shopify Alternatives
While we have covered some of the best alternatives to Shopify, there is no shortage of options on the market. There are dozens of e-commerce solutions available, from fully hosted, cloud-based software to simplistic website builders with online store plans available.
- PrestaShop – A well-established, self-hosted e-commerce platform similar to that of WooCommerce. PrestaShop is free to use and community-driven, powering more than 250,000 websites and available in 65 languages. While somewhat more complex than our other alternatives, it is a powerful, feature-rich option for online stores.
- Weebly – Weebly is first and foremost a website builder, with an e-commerce plan available. This integrates with their existing website services while introducing a number of features that cater to merchants.
- Wix – Another website building platform, Wix offers an e-commerce solution on top of its sophisticated development tools.
- Shift4Shop – Starting out as a basic shopping cart system, Shift4Shop has since evolved into a full-fledged e-commerce solution. Their monthly prices are comparable to the bigger companies, but they supporting unlimited products, orders, and bandwidth, plus there are no transaction fees.
- Squarespace – Squarespace is a well-known website builder, similar to Weebly and Wix. They offer two decent e-commerce plans, Basic and Advanced, priced at $30/mo and $46/mo respectively. Their platform is well established and feature-rich, although the services are somewhat expensive compared to other companies.