Shopify is currently the most popular website building platform for eCommerce, with over half a million online stores today powered by Shopify, and over $40 billion in transactions on these stores.
However, it is certainly not a perfect platform for anyone. Some of you might look for cheaper Shopify alternatives, while some others might look for more advanced features and customizability.
Here, we have tested all the popular (and unpopular) Shopify alternatives out there, and below we will discuss our top 5 picks.
More About Shopify
Since our goal in this guide is to find the best Shopify alternative, we should first discuss Shopify as the benchmark.
The main goal of shopify is to provide their users with a solution to quickly build a reliable online store without the need of any programming and technical skills.
With that being said, there are two main highlights of Shopify as a website building platform:
- Ease of Use: Shopify is extremely easy to use even for complete beginners. Shopify offers a lot of different templates to choose from—all with eCommerce and online-store focused designs—.
- Powerful ECommerce Features: all you need to start an online store from a reliable inventory management to advanced reporting feature, and POS.
It’s worth noting that although we’ve mentioned that you don’t need any programming skills to use Shopify, it does allow us to customize HTML and CSS in its templates. So, if you do have some technical knowledge, you can go further in customizing your online store with Shopify. This is also part of why Shopify is so popular, as both beginners and power-users can make the most of the platform, according to their preferences.
- Shopify Lite,$9/month, Shopify Lite integrates with an existing site of Facebook, you don’t get an actual online store
- Shopify Basic, $29/month
- Shopify, $79/month
- Advanced Shopify, $299/month
- Custom Shopify Plus plan, will range around $2,000/month, tailored to your needs
Shopify’s tiered pricing is fairly complex, but the key differences between each plan are:
- Only the Shopify plan ($79/month) and above offers reporting feature, the Advanced Shopify plan offers an advanced version of the reporting tool.
- The more affordable the plan, the higher the fee for each transaction. For example the Basic Shopify plan charges 2.9% and 30¢ per transaction, the Shopify Plan charges 2.6% and 30¢ per transaction. The most expensive Shopify Plus ‘only’ charges 2.15% per transaction. Transactions processed through Shopify Payment are free.
- Advanced Shopify offers real-time Shopify shipping feature
- Only Shopify and above plans offer POS (Point of Sales) to use in your physical store
- Only Shopify and above plans offer the feature to produce give cards
The recently introduced Shopify Lite is currently one of Shopify’s biggest unique propositions, offering a very affordable way to start an online store ($9/month) compared to its competitors—including the ones we will review below.
However, the Lite plan doesn’t give you an actual online store in a dedicated website, but rather will only allow you to integrate Shopify tools, system and interface with an existing platform (an existing website, Facebook, physical store, etc.). Think of Shopify Lite as an affordable way to ‘upgrade’ your existing store with the Shopify Buy Now button.
Why You Need a Shopify Alternative?
Although Shopify is a really reliable platform with a great set of features across the different plans—as discussed above—, it’s not a perfect solution for everyone.
For example, Shopify isn’t exactly affordable, and there are certainly more affordable alternatives to it. Also, if you already have an existing website and online store, and have paid for a CMS platform (i.e. Wix or WordPress), you might feel that paying extra for another platform is unnecessary expense.
Let’s take a look at some of the common issues with Shopify, which might help you in looking for the right alternative:
- Price: Shopify Basic costs $29/month, and while Shopify Lite is affordable, you don’t really get a website with it.
- Liquid Template Language: Liquid, Shopify’s custom template language isn’t exactly a thing most programmers are familiar with, and also isn’t the easiest to use
- Transaction Fees: When your customers use a payment gateway that isn’t Shopify’s in-house gateway, you will be charged for almost 3% with each transaction
- Paywall: Most of Shopify’s most advanced features like the ability to accept and gift cards, advanced analytics and reporting, real-time shipping, and POS are locked behind a paywall. So, when you need a specific feature, it might bloat your monthly subscription bill.
- SEO: Shopify websites aren’t SEO-friendly out of the box since they utilize rigid URL structures and iFrames. While you can customize the site for SEO purposes, you can’t customize the checkout page.
Best Shopify Alternatives 2020
With those points being said, here we have tested all the popular Shopify alternatives out there to find the best platforms that can tackle the issues discussed above.
During out tests, our initial conclusion is that each platform has different focus and philosophies in catering to different users, and again we won’t find a one-size-fits-all solution.
Here are some of the best Shopify alternatives we’ve tested, and why they might be a good pick for you.
It’s no secret that BigCommerce is the closest, most direct competitor to Shopify, because they are very similar in so many different areas.
The main difference to highlight here is that all of BigCommerce’s plans except the Pro are $0.95/month more expensive than Shopify’s (not much, but it’s still almost a Dollar every month). In exchange, BigCommerce won’t charge any transaction fees no matter what gateway you use.
Above, we have mentioned how transaction fees are often the biggest issue with Shopify, BigCommerce is going to be a more cost-effective solution for you if you don’t want to use Shopify Payment as your gateway.
BigCommerce and Shopify are also very similar to each other in terms of features, while there are also differences in the details. Some key features offered in Shopify’s more expensive plans, for example, might be offered in BigCommerce’s starter plan, and vice versa.
For instance, BigCommerce’s gift card feature is available in the Standard Plan ($29.95/month) , while in Shopify it’s only available in the $79/month plan. On the other hand, Shopify offers the abandoned cart recovery in its Basic plan, but only available in BigCommerce Plus plan ($79.95/month).
Since Shopify and BigCommerce are so similar, we won’t list specific pros and cons here, but there are three main considerations when choosing between BigCommerce and Shopify:
- Make sure to study all the different plans’ feature lists extensively. There are features that are available on specific plan in BigCommerce, but available in Shopify’s cheaper plan and vice versa. Thankfully, BigCommerce put up a specific page to compare these features.
- If you exclusively use Shopify Payment, Shopify is more cost efficient since it won’t charge any transaction fees and all plans are cheaper than Shopify. If you use other payment gateways (i.e. if you rely on international sales), BigCommerce is better in most cases.
- BigCommerce limits your revenue size with each plan. For example, when your sales volume reach $50,000 in a year and you are using BigCommerce Basic, you will be upgraded automatically to the Plus plan. With Shopify, you can stay with the Basic Plan forever.
- Standard ($29.95/month)
- Plus ($79.95/month)
- Pro ($249.95/month)
- Custom-tailored Enterprise plan (BigCommerce themselves claim that it’s going to be cheaper than the comparable Shopify Plus)
Again, very similar to Shopify in many different aspects. Considering between the BigCommerce and Shopify should ultimately depend on the three main factors we have discussed above.
First things first, it’s important to note that WooCommerce is not a standalone website builder+hosting platform like Shopify—and BigCommerce, but rather a WordPress plugin.
WordPress is obviously a very popular website builder powering more than one-third of all websites today. However, WordPress as an open-source platform doesn’t offer built-in eCommerce features to build an online store, and we need to use an eCommerce plugin for this purpose.
WooCommerce is currently the most popular eCommerce plugin for WordPress because, first, it’s free (unless you need to pay for paid extensions like subscriptions and membership features), and it works extremely well.
Obviously, with WooCommerce, you will first need to have a site built on WordPress. This, alone, has its own advantages and disadvantages compared to using—let’s say— Shopify’s visual builder. You might want to check out this guide to learn about this further.
In general, however, building a website on WordPress will require a bit more technical knowledge and skills, but will give your more flexibility both in controlling your budget and in customizing your website according to your exact preferences.
Important considerations when choosing between WooCommerce and Shopify:
- WordPress and WooCommerce (as a WordPress plugin) are completely free. You might need to invest on premium themes, plugins, and extensions, but you have the freedom to choose what you need and not locked out in a subscription plan.
- You get the most freedom to customize your site—and online store— with WordPress+WooCommerce, as long as you are willing to spend the time and resources.
- You won’t get a dedicated customer service (as with Shopify), but there’s a huge user base with established community. There are various guides to help you and fellow users are willing to help in discussion forums
- You will need to purchase your domain name separately and also get a website hosting service.
To summarize, with WooCommerce you’ll get a steeper learning curve, but you get more versatility to tweak your online store according to your specific goals. Also, it might be the most cost-efficient choice depending on your hosting and add-ons needs.
Pricing: Free with various paid extension and premium themes. Need to purchase separate hosting service and domain name.
Conclusion: the Shopify alternative for those with existing websites on WordPress, or for more technical users looking for more personalization and customization
Volusion—has been around since 1999—, is one of the oldest eCommerce platforms we have today, and according to their own claims, have processed over $28 Billion in transactions over the years.
An interesting thing here is that Volusion offers exactly the same price tag as Shopify across their plans—showing their confidence in positioning their brand as Shopify’s direct competitor.
In most cases, however, Volusion offers more features with each plan, where with Shopify we’ll need to pay for extra apps or upgrade to a higher plan.
Also, Volusion doesn’t charge transaction fees while offering their own payment gateway— so, lower credit card fees—.
Volusion, however, offers a fairly obsolete user interface compared to Shopify and BigCommerce. It’s still fairly easy to use, but overall Shopify’s better.
Much like BigCommerce, Volusion also limits your revenue size with each plan, which can be a consideration if you are a growing business.
Important considerations to choose Volusion:
- No transaction fees,
- Doesn’t require paid apps/extensions for subscriptions, membership, and other advanced features
- Similar price to Shopify, but offer more features across all plans
- Native payment gateway
- Will limit your revenue and products sold per plan (100 products sold/year or $50,000 annual revenue for the Personal plan)
- Limited integrations and paid apps/extension, so less versatile than Shopify
- Personal, $29/month
- Professional, $79/month
- Custom Enterprise plan available.
Volusion offers exactly the same pricing as Shopify across all plans.
Conclusion: A good choice if you need features like subscriptions or memberships (i.e., if you are selling subscriptions) since Volusion won’t charge extra for these features.
3DCart is another interesting Shopify alternative with its unique benefits.
First, the Startup plan is one of 3dcart’s unique selling points. At just $19/month, it’s significantly more affordable than Shopify, BigCommerce, Volusion’s starter plans.
Also, this affordable Startup plan already offers all of 3dcart’s core features including unlimited product display. The only limitation is the number of users that can access it at one time (just one).
However, 3dcart utilizes a fairly modest—if not obsolete— user interface for the website builder, and the included mobile-responsive templates are fairly limited compared to Shopify.
With that being said, 3dcart offers a fairly affordable in-house web design service (affiliate https://experts.3dcart.com/designers), which can be an interesting option for those who don’t want to design your store.
Here are some important considerations in choosing 3dcart over other Shopify alternatives:
- Affordability is the key highlight of 3dcart, with even the cheapest plan offers unlimited product listing and all of its core features
- No transaction fees across all plans, support many popular and unpopular payment gateways
- Expert web design service
- Reliable site with fast load speed
- Obsolete templates and website builder
- Overall, less responsive customer service compared to Shopify
- Startup ($19/month)
- Basic ($29/month)
- Plus ($79/month)
- Pro ($229/month)
Conclusion: Excellent affordable option, and also an interesting option if you also want a professional to design your online store.
PinnacleCart is has been around for more than 15 years and—as of their claims—, has powered more than 30,000 online stores all over the globe.
All of PinnaceCart’s plans—even the most affordable one—, offer unlimited product listing and user account (a unique value not offered by others in this list). Also, PinnacleCart doesn’t charge any transaction fees while still cover various payment gateways from Paypal to Skrill.
However, the most affordable PinnacleCart’s plan costs $44.95/month, that is significantly more expensive than Shopify’s $29/month starter plan.
PinnacleCart offers a very intuitive website builder that also allows full customizations. It offers 12 very well-designed, conversion focused templates you can work upon, and also offers a very powerful dashboard/store management panel.
Integration-wise, PinnacleCart is fairly limited, although there’s an Apps center where you can install additional apps and extensions.
Here are some important considerations when choosing PinnacleCart as your Shopify alternative:
- A unique feature from PinnacleCart is you can host your store externally, which can be useful if you want to invest in a dedicated server or any other reasons
- Unlimited admin/user accounts even with the most affordable plan
- Mobile-responsive and conversion-optimized templates for
- Intuitive, very easy to use website builder and store management panel
- Fairly expensive starter plan, but the Advanced plan is significantly more affordable than Shopify ($199/month)
- Start Up: $44.95/month
- Standard: $94.95/month
- Advanced: $199.95/month
- Custom-tailored Enterprise plan
Conclusion: a great option if you are looking for a service that offers unlimited user/admin accounts or if you want to host your store with another hosting service.
What’s The Best Shopify Alternative For Me?
There’s no single one-size-fits-all answer for this question, as it will ultimately depend on your needs and priorities.
With that being said, here is our breakdown to help you make the choice:
- Best for larger online stores: BigCommerce
BigCommerce offers slightly more expensive plans than Shopify, but doesnt charge any transaction fees. If you don’t (or can’t) use Shopify Payment as your main gateway,BigCommerce is a more cost-efficient option.
- Easier to use: PinnacleCart
Very intuitive website builder and store management panel/dashboard. Well-designed templates/themes that are nice looking and optimized for conversion.
- More customizations: WooCommerce
WordPress together with WooCommerce allow the best possible freedom if you want to fully customize your online store.
- Cheapest option: Volusion
Significantly more affordable than Shopify for its starter plan, and still pretty reliable.