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To Shopify Or Not To Shopify

That is the sale

Selling online and via mobile; What are the Shopify alternatives?

You're an independent seller or have a local store and want to choose the best priced solution that is reliable, has marketplace access and where you get your domain, blog and social inclusions all-in-one. You're ready to go global but don't need the overhead of calling in the big boys just yet, namely www.demandware.com or www.magento.com with a design agency handling development.

You want all the bells and whistles, integrations, fullscale analytics and an easy to understand dashboard. You might even want a pre-built in catalogue for wholesale ordering - here at Aulter we are going to rank the alternatives and save you some time. 

These guys are old-school, pioneers so to speak. It's a no frills, no fuss, reliable solution with limited themes and all necessary requirements to sell online. This is more of a solution for indie sellers, t-shirts and mum looking to sell her baking, so don't expect much in the way of analytics or gateway options with 3rd party vendors. 

What they are, is reliable; they get the job done. 

 

Tictail are the relative newcomers to the online block of selling - oozing sleek Swedish design principles and flaunting discerning cool from every click and flick, make no mistake these guys are after your business. 

There's a heavy presence on marketplace selling and Tictail seem to get caught between whether they're here to support your selling on a private basis or whether they want to use your product to bulk out their marketplace. This leads to less of an emphasis on the hard, features that serious sellers and merchants require when wanting to establish a global footprint and brand identity.

Many of Tictail's early customers are of Sweden's, avant-garde persuasion and you can't help but feel that even with 10's of millions of dollars of investment they're still playing ice cool with their local buddies in a quest for a hipster paradise.

Squarespace began as a website builder tool, similar to www.wix.com without the necessary requirements of fuelling an online store and efulillment.

Squarespace has an analytics dashboard for you to analyse all your important metrics, such as conversion/abandonment rate, page bounce, traffic/device source, revenue breakdown and favourable SEO content for social. 

There's an inventory management backend, with postage printing enabled and a few other basic features such as country tax rates however this is not your full, customer 360 experience. There are number of cons with Squarespace in the pre and post purchase inventory domain and this will inevitably cause you headaches in the future. While there is an internal email/newsletter solution, again problems arise if you're hoping to seamlessly deploy alternative add-ons in key fields and this is where Squarespace falls short.

Why is Volusion a better bet that Squarespace? This is where it becomes a little more serious, yes you can still easily curate and sell selected products via marketplace titans such as Etsy, eBay and Amazon however emphasis is on domain selling via your own brand vertical.

Volusion turn up the heat with seamless integration tools with eBay, Amazon and Facebook stores and they don't disappoint with multiple 3rd party add-ons across all the relevant fields. Make no mistake, Volusion want you to sell big and starting at £89 a month you're going to get API access - this is more of a play for Volusion to attract design agencies into their funnel but it's key for you to be aware of when understanding the possibilities as your store grows.

Volusion beef up advertisement and social Ad placement with some decent metrics to follow and analyse your campaign management but ultimately you may want to source 3rd parties for more accurate findings. iOS and Android dashboard breakdowns are available and you can even get Volusion store updates via the Apple watch (if you're into that kinda thing). 

You're not going to go far wrong with Volusion, an unsung hero that's often forgotten. Volusion also has a little trick up its sleeve with www.mozu.com; it's their answer to Demandware and Magento as a more powerful backend solution that could inevitably underpin B2B selling or deliver an easy upgrade for those brands lucky enough to keep growing. It's not a self-serve tool and it does host some professional services features but it's not enough to oust Shopify's biggest threat below.

As the name suggests, BigCommerce is all about big sales and they are our number 1 pick as the number 1 Shopify rival within this space. 

To cut it short, they offer everything Shopify does with the exception of one thing - offline (in-store) sales that are directly attached to online availability. Yes you can compare on price and seek feature to feature comparisons but there's not a great deal between them. In the past it could be argued that Shopify had the larger 3rd party, App arsenal but BigCommerce bridged that gap a long time ago.

All-in-all www.shopify.com/pos is the difference and in all fairness, it's a substantial difference if you're a local, bricks-and-mortar store or an independent chain that wants to marry up in-store sales with online accessibility. This venture does however open Shopify up to the multitude of offline competitors and we'll quickly assess two, key wildcard solutions as a bonus for you.

Wildcards

Jack Dorsey left Twitter to shake up the world of commerce - perhaps to realise that the world of commerce is heavily saturated it didn't necessarily need shaking up. While Square has struggled for growth and notably laid off 1/3 of its workforce in the past, they do appear to be on the straight and narrow with a full UK launch on the horizon. This is bad news for ePOS vendors such as www.izettle.com who don't offer the extensive cart options that can be found on Square. Where Square falls way short is their lack of efulfillment, many thought this would arrive but it appears that they've begun to target the hospitality market and that is beyond saturated. 

Nevertheless, never rule out a Dorsey startup. 

 

Lightspeed are moving at the speed their name indicates, with a UK launch already behind them and a wholesale pre-built catalogue that continues to grow - they are a Shopify nightmare coming true.

Whatever Shopify can do, they can do a little better and in a simpler fashion. Where Lightspeed falls down is ironically in their quest for domination, their 3rd party limitation is a major turn off. A centralised solution where they control what's permitted and what isn't in a world where software is becoming ever more open is a dangerous decision. The trio of Shopify, BigCommerce and Volusion pride themselves on their openness and API coverage - Lightspeed are seeking to own it all, in such a closed, centralised approach the customer will always lose out, especially when the time comes to consider swapping to alternatives. The costs would be very high and this is all too often a risk that is unnecessary and can have adverse impacts for the vendor. While Lightspeed has an API and developer exchange, speed is of the essence for sellers,

Lightspeed suddenly falls into limbo land, between self-serve commerce and the need for an agency build/developers. While they pride themselves on non-technical retailers being able to sign up and even manage their wholesale ordering from inside Lightspeed, the lack of an app marketplace is a colossal negative. 

However, don't rule out that changing over the next 12-24 months

In Summary

We hope to have made your decision a little easier, circumstances will dictate what kind of approach you need, as well as what kind of budget you have at your disposal when entering the online bubble of commerce.

As ever if you have any questions you can grab myself personally; jamie@aulter.com and I'll be happy to talk you through what is the best option when considering a total solution that is appropriate for the size of your business and ambitions.

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