Shopify Alternatives – Cheaper Solutions That Are As Good If Not Better

In the war of ecommerce platforms, Shopify has emerged to become one of the most popular shopping carts in the world.

But the problem with popularity is that people tend to blindly recommend Shopify without understanding its limitations.

First of all, Shopify isn’t a one size fits all solution and you should do your own due diligence on the Shopify alternatives before making a decision.

Because I run my own 7 figure ecommerce store and have taught ecommerce for almost a decade now, I have used or evaluated practically every shopping cart out there.

And the only way to fully understand the pros and cons of any ecommerce platform is to actually use it with money on the line.

So unlike other shopping cart comparisons you’ll find on the Internet, today’s post is based on my own personal experiences.

Even though Shopify might appear to be the defacto standard of shopping carts, your choice of ecommerce platform is not a black and white decision. And depending on the nature of your business, Shopify might not be the best choice.

Today, I will discuss my favorite Shopify alternatives and when to go with Shopify vs the competition.

Note: This post will only cover what I deem to be “viable” Shopify alternatives rather than a random listing of ecommerce platforms. All of the shopping carts mentioned in this post are platforms that either I or one of my students have personally used to sell online.

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Shopify Alternatives - Cheaper Solutions That Are As Good If Not Better

Why Is Shopify So Popular?

shopify

First off, there’s a reason why Shopify is a market leader and popular among ecommerce entrepreneurs. It’s built to appeal to the masses.

In other words, Shopify is a fantastic general purpose ecommerce platform and it’s both aesthetically beautiful and powerful. In fact, I often compare Shopify to Apple.

Here are Shopify’s main advantages.

  • Shopify Is User Friendly – Shopify’s interface is so intuitive and easy to understand that my Mom could probably launch an online store:)
  • Shopify Is Beautiful – They offer a variety of great looking themes for free
  • Shopify Handles All The Tech – You don’t have to worry about server downtime or getting hacked. Shopify takes care of everything for you.
  • Shopify Offers Great Support – They have an excellent support team who are available 24/7. In addition, they have an army of 3rd party consultants available to help you get started.
  • Shopify Has A Huge App Ecosystem – If you’re looking for cutting edge features for your shop, chances are you’ll find an app that does exactly what you need.

However, all of the advantages above come at a price and Shopify is not a one size fits all solution. In fact, depending on your exact needs, Shopify may not be a good fit at all.

Click Here To Try Shopify For Free

The Main Disadvantages Of Shopify

Shopify Cons

When you build a platform that is beautiful and built for the masses, there will always be drawbacks.

Here are my biggest complaints about Shopify based on experience.

Shopify Is Expensive

When you first sign up for Shopify, you’ll probably notice that the base shopping cart has practically no features. As a result, you’ll end up spending a lot of money paying for 3rd party apps.

Here’s the thing.

Every Shopify 3rd party app carries a monthly recurring fee and it’s not uncommon for most shopowners to pay several hundred dollars per month on apps alone.

Shopify Charges A Transaction Fee

Shopify essentially forces you to use their built-in payment platform called Shopify Payments. If you want to use your own credit card processing solution, they will impose a heavy transaction fee.

For example on their basic plan, their transaction fee is 2% which is ridiculously high!

Now if Shopify Payments were reasonably priced, it wouldn’t be an issue. But their credit card processing rates are over 20% more expensive than what you can get if you choose a 3rd party processor.

Shopify Payments Offers Poor International Support

If you plan on opening a store in a non-supported country, then you are out of luck. Not only will you have to find your own payment processing solution but you’ll also get charged a large transaction fee as well.

Here’s a list of countries that support Shopify Payments. If you don’t see your country on this list, then you should explore Shopify alternatives.

  • United States
  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore

Shopify Prohibits The Sale Of Certain Products

There are many products that Shopify will not permit you to sell online. For example in the United States, you are not allowed to sell any adult-related products on their platform.

You also can not sell drug related paraphernalia such as bongs, vaporizers or hookahs. There’s actually a long list of prohibited goods that you should examine thoroughly before signing on!

You should also be aware that their prohibited list of goods changes from time to time.

One of my friends sold supplements on Shopify for several years before they decided to ban the sales of his product. As a result, he had to switch platforms which wreaked havoc on his SEO rankings.

Shopify’s Blogging Platform Is Mediocre

If you plan on implementing a blog with your shopping cart, then you have 2 choices.

One, you can stick with Shopify’s less than adequate blogging platform. Or two, you can install WordPress on a subdomain which is not optimal for SEO.

The pros and cons of both choices are clearly outlined in my post on How To Start A WordPress Blog On A Shopify.

Shopify Has A Sub-Optimal SEO URL Structure

One of the most annoying features of Shopify is that you can’t optimize your URLs for SEO.

Instead, Shopify often inserts extraneous terms in your URL such as “collections” or “products” which are not conducive to SEO rankings.

Shopify Only Allows 3 Sets Of Variants Per Product

If you sell a product that offers many different options to choose from, then Shopify will probably not be a good platform for your shop.

For example, if you sell widgets in your store, you can only offer 3 types of choices such as size, color, material. If you need to offer more configuration choices, then you’re out of luck.

In addition, Shopify only allows you to have 100 total combinations of variations per product.

Using the example above, if the number of sizes multiplied by the number of colors multiplied by the number of materials exceed 100, then you can’t list your item.

Shopify’s Best Features Are Only Available On Higher Plans

In my opinion, there are a base set of features that every shopping cart should support out of the box.

For example, you should be able to issue discount codes on any plan.

However, Shopify only allows discount coupons on their regular plan which costs $79/month.

In addition, if you want to run an online store in more than one country (with multiple language support), you’ll have to sign up for Shopify Plus which is $2000/month or pay a recurring monthly fee for a language plugin.

My main gripe with Shopify is that you’ll often feel nickle and dimed on the platform.

For the full rundown on Shopify’s costs, check out my post on Shopify Pricing Plans: How To Pick The Best And Cheapest Plan For Your Store

Shopify’s Overall Rating (5 is the best)

Ease Of Use: 4.5
Out Of The Box Features: 3
Customer Support: 5
3rd Party Support: 5
Cost: 2.5
Search Engine Optimization: 3.5
Flexibility: 4

Click Here To Try Shopify For Free

Shopify Alternative #1: BigCommerce

bigcommerce

With all of Shopify’s disadvantages outlined above, the closest and best Shopify alternative is BigCommerce.

In my experience, BigCommerce offers almost everything that Shopify does and more at a much lower price point.

Here are the positive characteristics that BigCommerce shares with Shopify.

  • BigCommerce is user friendly
  • BigCommerce offers a variety of beautiful themes for free
  • BigCommerce handles all the tech
  • BigCommerce offers 24/7 support

In addition to the above, BigCommerce also offers the following advantages over Shopify.

BigCommerce Offers A Full Suite Of Features Out Of The Box

Remember when I said that Shopify’s base shopping cart does practically nothing? Well it’s the opposite with BigCommerce.

When you look at the pricing for BigCommerce and Shopify, both carts appear to be the same cost. But you get so many more features out of the box with BigCommerce.

For example, BigCommerce offers full blown discount features on their cheapest plan which allows you to perform…

  • Buy one get one free promotions
  • Regular discounts
  • Tiered discounts based on quantity
  • Discounts for repeat customers.

In fact, their base discounting features are more powerful than Shopify’s 3rd party plugins and you get it all for free out of the box.

In addition, BigCommerce does not have the product variant limitations that Shopify has either.

For more information about the exact features you get with BigCommerce Vs Shopify, checkout out my post on BigCommerce vs Shopify – Which Cart Is Cheaper And Better?

BigCommerce Does Not Charge A Transaction Fee

With BigCommerce, you have the freedom to use whatever credit card processor you want WITHOUT a transaction fee. As a result, BigCommerce is a much better solution if you DO NOT reside in the following countries.

Don’t see your country on this list? Then I would probably not sign up for Shopify.

  • United States
  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore

BigCommerce Offers Multi-channel Selling Out Of The Box

With BigCommerce, you can manage your stores on Amazon, eBay, Facebook, and Pinterest all from the BigCommerce back end.

In fact, your inventory syncs across every marketplace which will save you from purchasing costly 3rd party tools that do the same thing.

With Shopify, you are forced to pay a recurring monthly fee for the same functionality.

BigCommerce Will Be Cheaper In Most Cases

Because BigCommerce has almost every feature out of the box, you’ll end up saving a ton of money on 3rd party apps that you’d have to purchase using Shopify.

In addition, they don’t charge any transaction fees which gives you the freedom to find a better deal on credit card processing.

In my experience, BigCommerce almost always ends up being cheaper than Shopify.

Click Here To Sign Up For BigCommerce And Get 1 Month Free

Shopify’s Advantages Over BigCommerce

The main advantage Shopify has over BigCommerce is that they have a much larger app ecosystem and a larger installed base.

As a result, most developers will create apps for Shopify first before porting it over to BigCommerce. In addition, Shopify offers more design themes and templates as well.

Shopify is also more user friendly because of the lack of features out of the box. After all, the less features you have, the less you have to understand.

Overall, Shopify’s main strength over BigCommerce is their 3rd party support.

Summary

Pros For BigCommerce

  • BigCommerce will be cheaper
  • BigCommerce allows you to have more product options
  • BigCommerce will not charge you any transaction fees
  • BigCommerce gives you the freedom to use whatever payment processor you want which will save you money
  • BigCommerce has better international support
  • BigCommerce offers much better discounting features out of the box
  • BigCommerce allows you to sync inventory across marketplaces

Cons For BigCommerce

  • Shopify has more design themes
  • Shopify has a larger 3rd party app ecosystem
  • Shopify has more developer support
  • Shopify has a larger installed base

Big Commerce’s Overall Rating (5 is the best)

Ease Of Use: 4
Out Of The Box Features: 4.5
Customer Support: 5
3rd Party Support: 4
Cost: 3.5
Search Engine Optimization: 4
Flexibility: 4

Click Here To Sign Up For BigCommerce And Get 1 Month Free

Shopify Alternative #2: WooCommerce

woocommerce

Did you know that WooCommerce has a much larger share of the market than Shopify? In fact as of last year, WooCommerce has 21% of the market versus 18% for Shopify.

What is WooCommerce?

WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress that allows you to take ecommerce transactions on the world’s most popular content management system.

The biggest benefit is that WooCommerce is completely free to use out of the box and there’s a huge ecosystem of 3rd party developers.

In fact, WooCommerce arguably has more 3rd party developers than Shopify because the WordPress platform powers over 33% of the entire web.

Here are WooCommerce’s primary benefits over Shopify out of the box.

WooCommerce Is Easy To Setup And You Own The Platform

Most hosting platforms have a 1 click WooCommerce install. For example, BlueHost will install the entire shopping cart for you upon signup for free.

Once WooCommerce is installed, you have full control over your website and you essentially own your own platform.

You can modify your shopping cart how you see fit and no one can ever kick you off, change the rules or raise prices on you.

WooCommerce Is Free To Use

The WooCommerce base plugin is 100% free and you can start selling right away. Two of the most popular payment processors (Stripe and Paypal) can be installed for free out of the box and there are no transaction fees.

If you need additional functionality, most WooCommerce plugins can be purchased for a one time fee as opposed to a recurring monthly subscription.

Blogging With WooCommerce Is Much Better Than Shopify

Unlike Shopify which has a clunky blogging platform, WooCommerce is based on WordPress which is the best blogging platform in the world.

Not only can you seamlessly run your blog alongside your online store but they can co-exist on the same domain which offers superior SEO benefits.

WooCommerce really shines if you want to run a content focused site to sell your physical products online.

Click Here To Sign Up For WooCommerce Hosting

The Disadvantages Of WooCommerce

The primary disadvantage of WooCommerce is that you have to manage the technical aspects of your online store. Having run 2 WooCommerce shops over the years, I can honestly say that it can be a little daunting for a tech-challenged entrepreneur.

Because WordPress is not designed for ecommerce out of the box, your site will run slow unless you know how to optimize your website for speed.

However, the speed issue can be mitigated by going with a special WordPress hosting platform like WPEngine

In addition, WordPress plugins can sometimes conflict with one another leading to unexplained problems with your site. Overall, you may need to hire a developer to customize your site which may incur additional costs.

Summary

Pros Of WooCommerce

  • WooCommerce is free
  • WooCommerce is easy to setup and use
  • WooCommerce allows you to have a blog on the same domain
  • WooCommerce is better for SEO
  • WooCommerce has a large 3rd party ecosystem
  • WooCommerce plugins don’t carry recurring fees unless you need support
  • WooCommerce allows you to control the source code for your site

Cons Of WooCommerce

  • WooCommerce is slow out of the box
  • WooCommerce requires technical skills for customization
  • Woocommerce requires you to host your own website
  • WooCommerce may conflict with other WordPress plugins

WooCommerce’s Overall Rating (5 is the best)

Ease Of Use: 3.5
Out Of The Box Features: 3.5
Customer Support: N/A (You have to pay)
3rd Party Support: 5
Cost: 5
Search Engine Optimization: 5
Flexibility: 5

Click Here To Sign Up For WooCommerce Hosting

Shopify Alternative #3: Open Cart

opencart

Similar to WooCommerce, Open Cart is open source and 100% free to use. What I personally like about Open Cart is that it’s a lightweight shopping cart that is extremely fast and easy to use.

Having done a little hacking for Open Cart in the past, I can say that the source code is well organized and intuitively designed.

As a result, if you are technically inclined, you can easily modify OpenCart to do whatever you want it to do.

In many ways, Open Cart carries many of the same advantages of WooCommerce with the following differences.

Because Open Cart is designed from the ground up for ecommerce, the cart is extremely fast and feature rich. In addition, most hosting platforms offer a 1 click install of Open Cart right out of the box.

The biggest downside to Open Cart is that there isn’t nearly as much 3rd party developer support as Shopify, BigCommerce or WooCommerce.

While Open Cart has a decent sized plugin database, you will probably need a developer to implement any additional features you require.

Overall, Open Cart is an incredible cart if you need custom functionality that you can’t get with an out of the box ecommerce platform.

If you require complete control over your shop’s features, then Open Cart is an excellent choice because you have the complete source code at your disposal.

Summary

Pros Of Open Cart

  • Open Cart is free
  • Open Cart is easy to setup and use
  • Open Cart allows you to have a blog on the same domain
  • Open Cart is better for SEO
  • Open Cart plugins don’t carry recurring fees
  • Open Cart is fast and lightweight
  • Open Cart code is well written and easy to understand
  • Open Cart allows you to control the source code for your site

Cons Of Open Cart

  • Open Cart requires technical skills for customization
  • Open Cart requires you to find webhosting
  • Open Cart offers very little 3rd party support

Open Cart’s Overall Rating (5 is the best)

Ease Of Use: 4
Out Of The Box Features: 3.5
Customer Support: N/A (You have to pay)
3rd Party Support: 3
Cost: 5
Search Engine Optimization: 5
Flexibility: 5

Shopify Alternative #4: Magento

Magento

In terms of marketshare, Magento is #3 overall only behind WooCommerce and Shopify in terms of popularity.

Similar to WooCommerce and Open Cart, Magento is open source and 100% free.

But that’s where the similarities end.

Having analyzed the source code for Magento in the past, I can say first hand that it’s both unwieldy and overly complicated.

Back in the day, Magento was the standard for high end shops and it was by far the most flexible and scalable ecommerce platform in the world.

In the past, if you wanted the best and most powerful platform out there, then Magento was a logical choice.

But today, more and more Magento users are switching over to Shopify because the level of technical expertise to run a successful Magento shop has become too high of a bar.

In terms of pricing, the community version of Magento is free of charge, but it requires you to host your own website.

However because the code base is so complex, you will require high end hosting that will cost you several hundreds of dollars per month.

And if you need support from Magento developers, the Enterprise Edition will cost you at least $15,000 per year.

As a result, while Magento is still a viable alternative to Shopify, it is reserved only for high end ecommerce businesses that require full control and flexibility over their platform.

Summary

Pros Of Magento

  • Magento is free
  • Magento is the most feature rich ecommerce platform in the world
  • Magento has lots of 3rd party support with thousands of extensions and custom plugins

Cons Of Magento

  • Magento requires a developer to do pretty much anything
  • Magento requires high end hosting
  • Magento is complicated to use
  • Magento’s Enterprise edition is costly

Magento’s Overall Rating (5 is the best)

Ease Of Use: 2.5
Out Of The Box Features: 5
Customer Support: N/A (You have to pay)
3rd Party Support: 5
Cost: 1
Search Engine Optimization: 5
Flexibility: 5

Shopify Alternative #5: Wix

wix

The only reason Wix is on this list is because I get asked about Wix at least 3 times per week. In general, I don’t consider Wix to be a good long term ecommerce platform at all.

In my opinion, the only reason to use Wix is if you want to create a hobby ecommerce store on a major budget and you don’t care about future expansion.

On the surface, Wix provides extremely affordable plans and a large array of beautiful templates, apps and customizable theme options. In addition, they have a pretty cool design editor that is perfect for newbies.

But that’s about where the advantages end. Overall, Wix is a great platform to create an attractive looking website but that’s about it.

In terms of ecommerce, they are missing many major features that Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Open Cart, Magento and practically every other shopping cart possesses.

For example…

  • There is no Amazon FBA support
  • There is no abandoned cart recovery
  • There are no 1 click upsells
  • There is limited SEO support
  • There is no support for Klaviyo which is a deal breaker:)

Overall, Wix is only good for hobbyist shops and there’s a reason why it is so inexpensive. In the long run, switching ecommerce platforms is a pain so it pays to start with a solid shopping cart.

Wix’s Overall Rating (5 is the best)

Ease Of Use: 5
Out Of The Box Features: 2
Customer Support: 5
3rd Party Support: 1
Cost: 5
Search Engine Optimization: 4
Flexibility: 1

Conclusion

Despite the hype, Shopify has many pros and cons and the right choice depends on your specific needs.

If you need a fully hosted ecommerce platform, then BigCommerce is a good Shopify alternative if…

  • Your country is not supported by Shopify Payments
  • You sell prohibited products
  • You require multiple variants
  • You want to save money

Click Here To Sign Up For BigCommerce And Get 1 Month Free

If you don’t mind hosting your own website and you want infinite flexibility, then either WooCommerce or Open Cart are great platforms to go with.

If you have lots of money to blow on your ecommerce platform and you want the most feature rich shopping cart out there with full control, then Magento is a viable choice.

Whatever you decide, I would only choose Wix if you don’t plan on turning your ecommerce store into anything more than a side hustle. Good luck!

Click Here To Sign Up For Shopify For Free

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4 thoughts on “Shopify Alternatives – Cheaper Solutions That Are As Good If Not Better”

  1. Carl Janke says:

    Steve, Some time ago I mentioned to you about I call hidden Shopify cost. What about Yahoo ??

  2. julius rosen says:

    Why don’t you rate these features on a 1 – 10 scales for us newbies

    Ease of use
    SEO
    Design
    Template availability
    etc

    My one big reason to use a programs is the feature set – I want these things as part of the PACKAGE
    Coupons
    affiliate program
    bulk import / export
    Sale prices
    easy email sign ups
    blogs / videos
    Product colors / Options / prices / Variations
    automatic compression
    Keyword / seo
    SPEED OF LOADING
    Is it based in USA ?
    Lastly – how uik is customer service when you have a question ????
    Price is last thing but I want 60 -90 days to play with it .

    1. I will update this post based on your feedback:) Give me a day or so

  3. Ree says:

    I have used Shopify but abandoned it quickly for exactly the reasons you state: yucky for blogs and the monthly cost related to plugins was too high.

    I now use WooCommerce and host with WPengine. I am EXTREMELY happy with both. I wouldn’t use Bluehost again if you paid me. Nuff said.

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