When it comes to building an online shop, Shopify is a popular ecommerce platform that is recommended by entrepreneurs, developers, and current customers using the platform. Even though their platform is constantly receiving rave reviews, there may be a reason for which you wish to explore Shopify alternatives for building an online store (or transferring an existing one).
If you are in the initial research phase and did not have a chance to use Shopify yet, we strongly recommend that you try them first.
Problems with Shopify
Wait, how can a platform that is used by 500,000 stores have problems? It is simple, every business is different – and what works well for John’s store does not necessarily mean it will work the same for yours.
Note: Our Editorial Staff here at Ecommerce Sprout recommends Shopify over any other online store builder (see our Top Ecommerce Platforms comparison).
Despite all of the rave reviews that are floating over the internet, Shopify still lacks certain ecommerce elements, even after continuous platform updates.
There are the most common problems that you may experience with Shopify:
- Transaction fees can get as high as 2% for every transaction that is processed through the store (these extra fees can be waived by processing payments with Shopify’s in-house credit card service).
- The platform uses a custom template markup language known as Liquid, which may be difficult to grasp for some users.
- Ecommerce features such as the ability to accept gift cards, real-time shipping rates, and the abandoned cart recovery are not included with the cheaper tier plans.
- Shopify relies heavily on their app store for advanced features, which may increase your monthly bill.
Shopify Alternatives and Competitors
While the best alternative to use varies store by store, our Editorial Staff has found that the platforms below are the most reliable alternatives to Shopify.
BigCommerce is a complete, all-in-one online store builder that is used by 100,000 online shops. The platform is flexible enough to suit the needs of any online store, and it has far less limitations than Shopify, which is a good thing. And, out of all the platforms listed here, BigCommerce is the best Shopify alternative.
Here is a list of potential benefits you can have by switching to BigCommerce (you can also read our detailed BigCommerce Review):
- The platform does not charge any transaction fees (you can sign up for any plan and use any payment gateway too).
- Hundreds of reliable built-in features, which reduce the chances of you having to spend money in the app store.
- You have the option to create unlimited staff accounts, which you can set up for different employees.
- BigCommerce gives you the option to download the template files and work on them offline or send them to a developer.
- There is an extensive ecommerce education section that is free of charge (e.g. Ecommerce University, forums, and ecommerce blog).
The drawbacks of switching to BigCommerce:
One major drawback of switching from Shopify to BigCommerce is the added annual sales volume limitation that is associated with every BigCommerce plan. For example, the Standard plan, which costs $29.95 a month, has an annual sales volume of up to $50,000.
Note: If you go over the sales volume in any given 12-month period, BigCommerce will automatically upgrade you to the next plan, which usually doubles your monthly cost.
Point of sale is one more potential drawback of switching to BigCommerce. While it is possible to enable this feature through the app store, we found that Shopify offers a more streamlined option without going through the extra loops.
Finally, when compared to Shopify, BigCommerce has too much functionality, which can be a problem in some cases. Some of the functions / features are hidden within the platform, which is all going to be new if you are coming over from their strongest competitor.
Who uses BigCommerce?
As mentioned above, over 100,000 live store use BigCommerce, including some of the well-known companies such as Toyota, Payless, and Gazelle.
Price Range: $29.95 a month to $249.95 a month (Enterprise plan also available).
LemonStand is one of the most versatile and highly customizable online store builders available. The platform offers a neat store migration tool that works well for users coming over from Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento. If it was not for the slight learning curve, LemonStand can easily be the best Shopify alternative.
Here is a list of potential benefits you can have by switching to LemonStand:
- First and most importantly, the platform does not charge any transaction fees, and you can use any payment gateway that you want.
- The ability to accept subscriptions and recurring orders without relying on an external app that usually costs extra to use.
- The platform is integrated with countless amount of payment gateways that you can use all over the world.
- You get your own store checkout web address (or URL), which is known to reduce cart abandonment, as it does not redirect customers to a hosted checkout page.
- The search engine optimization options are much stronger and more effective in the long run. You can manipulate SEO settings for product pages, blog posts, front page, etc.
- LemonStand is constantly receiving excellent reviews from leading ecommerce experts, which is always a plus. Although, Shopify gets a fair share of exceptional reviews as well.
The drawbacks of switching to LemonStand:
One of the major cons of switching from Shopify to LemonStand is the amount of orders that you can process on a monthly basis. For those that are on Shopify, you do not have a limit on the amount of orders that you can process through your store, which gives you unlimited revenue potential. However, LemonStand has such as limitation (e.g. 75 orders per month for the Starter plan, 300 orders per month for the Growth plan, and 1,000 orders per month for the Professional plan).
The LemonStand Premium plan, which costs $399 a month, is available to users that process more than 1,000 orders per month.
Since LemonStand is not as popular as Shopify, it is going to be difficult to find a developer that is willing to work with you. However, the need to hire a developer is easily offset by learning how to code on your own.
Finally, the platform only offers a handful of templates and third-party applications that you can use. While this may not seem like an issue right now, having to pay a couple of hundred dollars for a premium template will quickly change your perspective.
Who uses LemonStand?
As of right now, the platform hosts over 2,000 online businesses such as Sweet Maria’s, Phone Soap, and Go Tags.
Price Range: $19 a month to $399 a month.
Pinnacle Cart is a premium enterprise level ecommerce platform and online store builder that can help you process payments and sell online. Whether you are selling clothing items, automotive parts, electronics, or digital downloads, Pinnacle Cart offers plenty of flexibility and room to grow. The platform compares well to leading online store builders such as BigCommerce and Shopify.
Here is a list of potential benefits you can have by switching to Pinnacle Cart:
- The platform offers powerful multi-lingual and multi-currency capabilities, which is a plus for those that cater to international shoppers.
- You can create multiple administrator log-ins under the same account (similar to the feature that BigCommerce offers for the creation of staff accounts).
- Free store migration (or transfer) tool that you can use to transfer an existing store to Pinnacle Cart from most of the leading online store builders.
- The platform supports drop shipping and wholesale ordering.
- Pinnacle Cart does not charge any transaction fees.
The drawbacks of switching to Pinnacle Cart:
The most notable drawback of switching to Pinnacle Cart is the fact that the platform does not support a point of sale system. Now, and going forward, a feature like this is vital for businesses that have an online shop and a physical store, and want to combine the two into a single business. However, this feature can easily be implemented into the platform, and maybe Pinnacle Cart will eventually get it done.
A customer loyalty program is one more important feature that is missing from the platform. More and more online stores are implementing loyalty programs in order to attract customers to purchase more items.
Finally, Pinnacle Cart charges extra fees for using standard ecommerce features such as recurring billing and product filtering on their cheaper end plan packages. In addition, these cheaper plans offer limited amount of bandwidth and disk space, which will eventually be a problem.
Note: As reported by our readers, Pinnacle Cart does not offer a built-in blogging platform, but they claim that a blog can be added to your store upon request. This is a fairly standard feature that should be available on ALL ecommerce platforms.
Who uses Pinnacle Cart?
As of right now, Pinnacle Cart hosts approximately 30,000 live stores including Corona Extra, Discovery Channel, and Sacred Charms.
Price Range: $44.95 a month to $199.95 a month (Enterprise plan is also available for high-volume sellers).
Out of the platforms here, Ecwid, which is short for “ecommerce widget,” is the only one that does things differently. The platform is geared towards adding ecommerce functionality to an existing website (e.g. WordPress blog). In other words, an ecommerce store can be added to any web page using HTML. And, it is the cheapest Shopify alternative that we found thus far.
Here is a list of potential benefits you can have by switching to Ecwid:
- There is a free “forever” plan that you can use, if you do not mind the minor setbacks.
- You can add an Ecwid store to any Facebook page, and sites built using the leading online site building platforms such as WordPress, Joomla, and Wix.
- Strong multi-lingual capabilities and automatic language detection (the platform supports 50 different languages).
- The option to mirror (copy) an existing store and sell on multiple sites at the same time.
The drawbacks of switching to Ecwid:
The biggest con of the Ecwid free “forever” plan is the inability to get support in the event that you find yourself needing it. This means that regardless of what problem you have, Ecwid staff will not offer any assistance. However, a solution to this problem is upgrading to a premium plan.
Second, Ecwid makes their own apps and does not allow developers to sell apps on their platform. As a result, the availability of different apps is very limited, and not even comparable to the amount of apps that you can find on Shopify.
Finally, and maybe the biggest deal breaker is the lack of search engine optimization (SEO) options. For instance, the option to edit or change default product URL’s does not exist. The other platforms listed on this page have this feature enabled.
Who uses Ecwid?
Ecwid is arguably the most popular online store builder on the market right now. The platform hosts over one million stores including 28 Black, Valkee, and Bikini Love. If you need any convincing to switch to Ecwid, that number alone should do it.
Price Range: Free of charge to $99 a month.
Final Thoughts on Shopify Alternatives
Shopify is the obvious choice for ecommerce, and it is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms to use to build and manage an online store. As with any other online store builder, the need to switch to a different platform only comes into play as you run into one of the problems that we mentioned above.
So, if you feel that you have outgrown Shopify or simply need a more flexible platform, the Shopify alternatives that we listed above are exceptional solutions that you can try.
Note: Each platform above offers a free trial period, which you can sign up for and test out each store builder on your own. This is the best route for those that are not sure and cannot narrow their choices down to a single platform.
Do you have any other reliable Shopify alternatives that you would recommend? Share your thoughts, opinions, and comments by posting a comment below.