If you run an ecommerce store, you’ve probably heard of Shopify. The platform offers an “all-in-one” solution with integrated payment processing.
Shopify gained popularity as an easy-to-use all-inclusive online store builder. But it does come at a cost. In addition to monthly plans, you’ll also pay credit card processing rates that are on the high side. These costs leave many businesses wondering if there’s an alternative to Shopify that doesn’t sacrifice features. The good news? There are several.
In this article, we’ll quickly recap what Shopify offers and then take a look at four of the best alternatives. CardFellow does not receive compensation from any of the companies in this article.
- What is Shopify?
- Shopify Alternatives
- Why should I use an alternative to Shopify?
- Shopify Payment Processing
What is Shopify?
Shopify is an ecommerce platform that also offers brick-and-mortar solutions. It lets you create and manage an online store, track inventory, accept payments, and run a business through one central platform. It’s cloud-based, meaning you don’t need to install software on a local computer. Instead, you can access the system from any internet-connected device.
The company offers a store builder and site “themes” to allow you to easily set up your online presence without requiring web developer knowledge.
You can accept credit cards by setting up an account with Shopify Payments or using a processor of your choice while paying an extra fee to Shopify for the privilege. Since taking credit cards is crucial for online businesses, it’s worth paying extra attention to the payment processing options available with the ecommerce solution you choose.
With that overview in mind, let’s take a look at the popular alternatives and why you may want to consider them.
There’s no shortage of Shopify competitors, but some are better than others. Here, we’ve compiled a list of the top 4 alternatives based on offering similar features and pricing.
The top Shopify alternatives are BigCommerce, Magento, Volusion, and WordPress with WooCommerce.
Shopify and BigCommerce both offer an important feature for online sales: abandoned cart recovery. While it’s only available on mid-range and higher plans, it ensures that if your customers close your page and come back, their items are still in their cart, ready for purchase.
BigCommerce offers a very wide selection of credit card processors, meaning you’ll have the ability to secure the most competitive costs. In addition to the universal Authorize.Net and NMI gateways, the company has direct integration with major processors such as First Data, Heartland Payment Systems, and Worldpay, as well as processors like Stripe, Adyen, USAePay, and more.
Pros: Wide selection of payment processors. BigCommerce also integrates directly with Ebay and offers “buyable” pins for Pinterest, so if you want to sell on either of those sites as well, you can easily do so with one platform.
Cons: BigCommerce’s primary con is that it’s not quite as customizable as the other options. However, it still offers some customization and plenty of other helpful features, including pre-made templates, single-page checkout, and inventory management capabilities.
When it comes to setting up your online store exactly how you want it, Magento is a great bet. However, it’s not a simple “themes” or “drag-and-drop” style website system. You’ll need to find your own web hosting, unlike most of the other options on this list. However, the system offers plenty of great features, including the ability to easily manage inventory, offer coupons, and set up customer wish lists. Magento also offers a broader range of choices in payment processing, allowing you to secure the lowest possible costs for card acceptance.
Pros: Highly customizable, and with more options for payment processing. Magento currently allows you to use the Authorize.Net or Braintree gateways, both of which many processors support.
Cons: Not beginner-friendly. Magento is generally regarded as one of the less user-friendly ecommerce solutions. It’s best for business owners with programmer knowledge or that have in-house developers to handle the setup and site maintenance.
Volusion is one of the most similar platforms to Shopify, offering a website builder with themes and its own payment processing, called Volusion Payments. Like Shopify, it touts itself as an all-in-one package, and requires a monthly subscription. Also, like Shopify, Volusion doesn’t really want you to use an external credit card processor. But while Shopify technically allows you to use another processor (and charges a fee to discourage it), Volusion simply limits your choice of processor. If you use Volusion Payments, the company’s pricing page states that rates for accepting cards start at 2.15% + 30 cents per transaction.
Pros: Easy-to-use site builder options and responsive themes make it possible to create a professional ecommerce site with little technical knowledge.
Cons: Volusion has a limited selection of payment processors. You can only choose from Volusion Payments, Stripe, or PayPal. That can significantly curb your ability to negotiate the lowest possible costs to accept credit cards, as Volusion has virtually eliminated competition for processing on their platform.
WordPress with WooCommerce
Any good list of Shopify competitors has to include WordPress, the 800 pound gorilla of hosted websites. While some think of WordPress simply as a publishing platform, its customization options and integration with payment processing allows it to serve as viable ecommerce solution. When using WordPress, you can opt for the WooCommerce plugin to turn your site into an ecommerce solution.
WordPress with WooCommerce offers a broad range of choices in payment processor. It works with the universal Authorize.Net gateway and the Braintree gateway. Additionally, you can connect PayPal or Stripe accounts for payment processing.
Pros: User-friendly, ala carte-style website creation. Like Shopify, WordPress offers “themes” as the basis for your website. You can pick a theme and then customize different facets of the theme to match your branding. Additionally, WordPress offers plugins to enhance functionality. If there’s something you need to do, there’s probably a WordPress plugin for it. Plugins offer features ranging from customer review boxes to SEO checkers.
Cons: WordPress has a bit of a reputation for “code bloat” – that is, for bulky website code that can sometimes slow down pages or affect search engine optimization. The more plugins you use with WordPress, the bulkier your site will get.
Why should I use an alternative to Shopify?
A big reason that many business owners seek alternatives to Shopify is cost. Shopify isn’t the cheapest solution out there, especially if you’re using it for ecommerce and accept credit cards. That’s because Shopify’s payment processing rates aren’t as competitive as many business owners get independently. (I’ll cover this in more detail in the Shopify Payment Processing section below.)
Another reason to seek an alternative is if you don’t need the beginner-level ecommerce systems. If you’re a programmer yourself or employ programmers at your business, you can take advantage of platforms like Magento that are geared to tech-savvy ecommerce stores.
Shopify Payment Processing
One of the biggest drawbacks to Shopify is the limitations it imposes on credit card processing. You have two options: use Shopify Payments, or pay an extra fee to use an alternate gateway. Unfortunately, the fees Shopify imposes for that option are steep enough to negate cost benefits from choosing a lower cost processor.
Unfortunately, that means that while you technically have the ability to use any processor you like, in practice, Shopify removes the most common reason to do so: lower costs.
The screenshot below, from Shopify’s pricing page, lists the costs of payment processing.
As you can see, on the basic plan, Shopify Payments will charge 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction. That may sound “standard” (after all, that’s the rate both Stripe and PayPal charge) but the truth is that 2.9% + 30 cents is not very competitive for many online businesses.
All of the companies mentioned here that charge 2.9% + 30 cents are “flat rate” payment processing companies. Essentially, they charge one flat rate on all transactions, no matter how much those transactions cost to process. Flat rate pricing looks simple, but simple does not automatically equal low cost.
However, the problem with Shopify Payments is that if you try to secure more competitive pricing, you’re hit with a fee. (As high as 2% on the basic plan!)
So, even if you choose competitive pricing such as a quote through the CardFellow wholesale processing club, you won’t end up paying less (and could even pay much more) because of Shopify’s extra fee.
For example, if you secured a very low 2% effective rate outside of Shopify, you’d also be hit with a 2% Shopify fee, bringing your total processing rate to 4%. That’s more than Shopify rate. Despite the fact that Shopify claims you can use other processors, the company essentially punishes you for attempting to use another processor.
In limited cases, Shopify’s fee may not cause you to pay more than with an outside processor. However, several variables would have to line up for that. Firstly, you’d need to be on the “Advanced Shopify” plan, at $299/month. Secondly, you’d need to have monthly volume and an average ticket size sufficient to get a very competitive rate from other processors. Realistically, most ecommerce companies won’t get below 2%, and some won’t even be able to get that low. But, if you manage to get 2% and you’re on the highest Shopify plan, your total would come out to 2.5%.
Depending on the number of transactions you run, that could be less than Shopify’s 2.4% + 30 cents per transaction.
Shopify can be a good fit for some businesses, but others may find that they’re happier with the lower costs and greater flexibility for payment acceptance available with other platforms.
If you’ve decided to make the switch, be sure to sign up for a free CardFellow membership in order to receive exclusive low rates on credit card processing with your new ecommerce platform.