If you are considering using Shopify, you might be wondering whether they live up to their claim as the best ecommerce platform or whether there is a better solution out there. To help you answer that question, this chapter will go over some of the top ecommerce platforms and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each one, as well as how they stack up to Shopify.
An Ecommerce Platform Defined
The first thing that we’ll do is define what an ecommerce platform actually is. An ecommerce platform is a software program that gives you the framework to build an online store. This means that rather than having to code in things like product pages, shopping carts, buying buttons and various other complex design elements.
All of that is done for you when you use an ecommerce platform. All you have to do is customize your site with the design that you want – usually through the use of themes, and then add your products and other information. It is an easy way to build an online store as long as you choose a platform that does what you need it to do.
Comparison: Shopify Against Other Platforms
There are many ecommerce platforms out there to choose from – hundreds if not thousands. Shopify is by far the most popular and the most widely used of all of these platforms but does that mean it is the best? We’ll be looking at the top ecommerce platforms and see how Shopify stacks up against each of them. If Shopify is the best, you should know why, and be able to compare the platform fairly against all of the others in order to make an informed, unbiased decision. So, let’s compare them one by one.
The Top Ecommerce Platforms
We’ll be comparing Shopify against three platforms that are definitely up there in the top five with Shopify: Magento, Bigcommerce and Volusion. We’ll compare each one with Shopify on the basis of the following factors: Pricing, design customization, features, security, marketing, reports, add-ons and support.
These are all of the basic framework components of each ecommerce platform out there and by looking at these eight factors you can decide how each of them compare with Shopify and decide which one you are going to go with, or if you are still going to use Shopify.
First, let’s discuss pricing. Magento is free unless you want to upgrade to the Enterprise Edition, which is pretty pricey. BigCommerce is the most expensive of the bunch with four tiers of features, each one about double what Shopify costs per month. Volusion and Shopify are very similar when it comes to pricing.
Next is design customization. All of these design customizations are based upon themes. All of the platforms have some free themes and then there are premium themes as well. BigCommerce doesn’t charge anything for their selection of 100 themes, but the quality is pretty low.
Volusion has a couple of dozen free themes and then nearly a hundred premium ones, and the quality is comparable to Shopify. Magento has some free themes but most of the good ones are premium and they can run upwards of $150. Shopify and Volusion definitely have the best out of the four and Shopify themes are a little higher quality.
These four are nearly comparable when it comes to frontend features. The only problem really lies with the BigCommerce platform which isn’t very clean. It does have more features than any other platform to make up for it however. All of the frontend designs are mobile responsive so you don’t have to worry about that.
BigCommerce is the clear winner here when it comes to backend features. There is just enough customization to allow you to make your store look the way you want and the interface is very nice and clean.
Shopify also has a clean interface and is fairly robust although not quite as nice as BigCommerce. Both Volusion and Magento have backends that have a very steep learning curve and although Magento offers a much greater array of features, it is almost impossible for first-time users to make the backend do what they want without learning much of the tutorial information first.
Shopify is the clear winner here because of the hosting that they offer and the fact that they feature a Content Delivery Network (CDN) and are PCI compliant. BigCommerce is pretty secure as well but doesn’t feature a CDN. Volusion does provide hosting and have a CDN and PCI compliance but you have to pay for encryption which Shopify offers for free. Magento requires that you get outside hosting which costs you extra per month, but the basic edition of Magento is free to make up for it.
The marketing encompasses several aspects including SEO, social media and more. When it comes to SEO the big winner is BigCommerce as the SEO customization is very well planned and quite robust. Shopify only has the basic SEO features and Volusion is even worse. However, Magento has everything built in for SEO just the way you’d need it.
As for social media integration, all of them are about the same except for Magento, which offers no social media integration whatsoever. As for the newsletter feature, both Volusion and Magento have them built in. Shopify and BigCommerce doesn’t have a built-in newsletter but they do integrate easily with third-party application for this feature.
All of the platforms offer the same basic promotion features like discounts and coupon codes. They also all support selling items via other channels and allow you to use the onsite marketing tools to start bringing in traffic.
As for reports, they all offer pretty much the same thing. The reports and statistics features on these platforms are all basically the same and give you the much-needed information about conversion rates, bounce rates and an overview of the products that you are selling. There is no real clear winner here when it comes to this feature.
All of these platforms also offer add-ons that will extend the usability of the platform and give you even more features than you had before. They have app sections of each platform that you can browse and decide how you want to expand your store.
The thing about the apps is that they are constantly changing and each platform is always moving alongside the others so you can’t really pick a clear winner based on this. What you have to do instead is decide which one you are going to use and then keep track of the add-ons that you see.
Okay, so what about support? Let’s start with Shopify. No matter what package you choose – including the $9 a month Basic package you get 24/7 support. BigCommerce has a great education center and you can get in touch with support 24/7 weekdays and between limited hours on the weekends.
Volusion offers phone, live chat and email support 24/7 and then Magento is the one that is seriously lacking in support unless you upgrade to the expensive Enterprise version. However, you can visit forums to get help with Magento .