We get a lot of customers coming over from Shopify with one main question in mind- What is better than Shopify?
This can be a long answer, but we’ll do our best to sum it up, as WordPress + WooCommerce.
Shopify Is Proprietary. Open Source is Better. WordPress is Open Source.
This means that with any hosted proprietary platform like Shopify, you get an account in their system, you never really have your own site or own something to can take with you and grow upon without them. You’re locked in with them, they have your content, your data, and they make it very hard to leave them. With Open Source systems such as WordPress, you can take your site to any host, take your data to a new wordpress site, or do whatever you need to do, really.
Shopify Is Not As Cheap As It Seems
Many people that come to us looking to switch platforms are often paying much more than what it seems Shopify advertises it’s pricing to be. This is because when you start with Shopify, you start with a very basic setup at around $30/mo. But, as you need more features added to your site, they start adding on more and more fees. Before you know it, you can easily be paying $200/mo – $500/mo for Shopify, and then in addition to that, they add % fees to your transactions. So, they have base prices and rev share pricing that really start to add up. For those prices, you can have a much more superior setup that you yourself can own, or a developer or agency who’s more dedicated to your site.
The Real Question Is: Open Source vs Proprietary
Conceptually, assume for a moment that the costs were the same (which they’re not) – if they were which one would win in a head to head comparison?
The answer is that Open Source means that the whole system is maintained by a large community of people, and is “Open” to the public to edit the “Source” code, and contribute changes. Those changes are moderated and accepted or denied by a core team in the community who are dedicated to keeping the core source code free, up to date, and working well. This core team plus the community ends up being much larger than any single company can ever really get, so Open Source generally has a wider support group than anything proprietary usually has. Additionally, it keeps costs down and ensures that the code / system you’re on could be migrated to another company in the future. The system itself can go with you, or you can install the same system somewhere else and then migrate your data over. With a proprietary hosted system like Shopify, you cannot do that, and will have to essentially start over when it is time to make the move.
Funny enough, WordPress also offers something pretty much the same as Shopify – a hosted solution that you can sign up for, pay for certain things, and be limited by their specific offering. That’s WordPress.com. You don’t want that. What you want, is WordPress.org, the open source code base that even WordPress.com itself is built upon, and you want it installed on your own hosting (ours, preferably).
Open Source is Always Safer Long Term
For these reasons, Open Source is usually a better long term solution, as the system may go through many many agencies or developer hands over time, but can retain the same system for decades. This isn’t true of the Open Source platform is small with a small community, but as long as the system is widely adopted, that’s not usually a concern as it’s size will ensure longevity for a very long time. In the case of WordPress especially, it has emerged as the #1 most widely used CMS in the world, currently powering over 32% of the entire internet. No other system in the world has adoption rates like that – literally millions of websites use it. Not to mention, Shopify could go out of business, there’s no guarantee it won’t, but Open Source projects don’t have the same issue, since inherently they are a free platform without any business required to stay alive to continue to exist, but instead a large community of adopters that will keep it going.
Open Source is Cheaper in the End
Though the code is free, the way you adapt an open source system and the developers you may need to do it for you are not. Even still, all said and done, Open Source options even set up by paid developers are usually cheaper long term, even if you paid up front for the website itself. Consider if you spent $1000 up front for a website, and were paying $50/mo – a fairly common pricing level for local web guys or small agency services in many USA cities. 5 years down the road, you may have saved thousands in comparison to having started with Shopify at $30/mo and slowly needing more and more setup until you’re paying $400/mo, a few grand every year. With an Open Source system, the largest costs are usually in the beginning to get set up, and the more you grow, the more cost effective it usually becomes with a lower ongoing cost.
Open Source is Always More Extendable For Custom Needs
The communities for Open Source systems are really the most amazing part. From the thousands and thousands of wordpress developers our there, comes thousands of plugins that are all GPL (Open Source and Free) by nature. Some of them require premium services that are attached, but the plugins that are the most helpful are often free on the level that you need them on and can provide really great functionality very quickly, without adding to a monthly fee. With Shopify, this is where you would be sucked into their business model, where they strictly control which plugins are allowed, and have their own profits deep into those plugins, and thus have an incentive to constantly upsell you into more and more plugin fees. With open source systems, you may find plenty of Premium plugins out there, but there are also always free ones and lots of options to consider, rather than being stuck with just one proprietary catalog of pay-to-play options.
Open Source Leaves More Room for Error – Use an Expert, or Be an Expert, Whenever Possible
Open Source, however, since it’s more setup by someone than a hosted “sign up and you’re done” sort of setup, does leave more room for error. This is why it’s best to have a developer who really knows what they’re doing set it up with a combination of core and 3rd party optimizations. Your developers should be experts at the system you use, like we are with WordPress & WooCommerce.
Shopify Is VERY Cookie Cutter. Open Source is Anything You Want It To Be.
This is true of any hosted platform, though sometimes the Wix sites can look pretty cool / different, under the hood they’re really all mostly the same. Shopify has tried to emulate the WordPress plugin marketplace in many ways, but it’s still a closed loop of their hand picked plugins and not a huge open community of options.
When it comes to SEO, the search engines recognize it, and since every user is basically stuck with the same setup as everyone else, there’s not much room to differentiate. You’re on the same IP address as a whole list of other sites that have basically all the same structure you get, too.
They do provide admin panels to get in there and differentiate your site content wise, but really most clients don’t have time to do that and wouldn’t know how to make it count for SEO, etc. With an Open Source system, although the base system starts off the same, it can and usually is modified early on, and can be crafted and optimized in ways that hosted platforms can’t allow, since things like Wix or Shopify have a very standardized, centralized and single system that everyone has an account to, rather than giving each user their own system to extend in their own ways.
Shopify Forces Themselves Upon Your Credit Card Processing
It’s basically a choice to use their processing, or pay an extra fee. If you use theirs, they make money off the transactions, if you don’t they charge you and yet again, make money off the transactions. In an open source website, you will have a plugin from the credit card processor, such as Stripe or PayPal or Authorize.net, and they will charge their standard fees, and that’s it. No extra fees, no % taken out of your sales, and that’s more normal for real businesses who don’t lose fees for CC processing to anyone besides their CC processor. If we set you up, you will have your own CC processor account that goes right to your bank account, minus their very standard fees (see Stripe / PayPal sites for their fees. Usually around 2.9% + 30 cents a transaction, or something like that).
Conceptually, to me, it’s sort of a conflict of interest to be locked into a host / content management system that also has an incentive on taking over your credit card processing. I want my technology company to have one incentive and one alone – providing great technology for the purposes we need – not providing a technology as a way to get at my credit card transactions and make profits off me in unrelated ways.
WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and Other Open Source Options
Out of all the Open Source platforms out there, WordPress is by far the easiest to work with, the most widely used, has the largest community, and performs GREAT with the SEO work we’ve been involved with in the past. Although Drupal, Joomla, and other Open Source platforms can give you similar advantages, they are not as straightforward and have not gotten the same level of adoption, so there aren’t as many plugins to choose from, or as large of community of developers around it.
WooCommerce & Other Great Features (Without Hidden Costs)
Since WordPress’ parent company Auttomatic acquired the leading e-commerce plugin for their system, WooCommerce, it solidified it as THE go-to plugin for everything ecommerce when it comes to WordPress. It instantly transforms WordPress into a full E-commerce system, and there are tons of add-ons for this as well, whether it be the payment processors like PayPal and Stripe, or shipping integrations like ShipStation or others, the plugins are already available and up-to-date and will not increase your monthly costs to get them.
What Is Shopify Good For?
If you need to get up and running super fast, like same-day fast, then Shopify is great for that. However, do it with a grain of salt, as you will most likely want to replace it as soon as it progresses past what is standard out of the box and cost effective there. You also get SSL since you’re on their servers and pretty fast pages as far as hosted platforms go. All in all, not a terrible deal, just not as good as some other options that take a little more setup, but can do a lot more in the end.
Migrate to WordPress or Start a New WordPress Site With Rocket Ivy
We’ll get you set up on WordPress, and WooCommerce for Ecommerce, and provide updates and maintenance ongoing. This will give you all the advantages of open source, and a mix of our favorite plugins and settings, to make it perform even better.