Starting any eCommerce website is a daunting thought. Clients don't know what CMS they want, why they need it and what the best tool for the job is. In our experience, some clients have been mislead and come to us for a better solution and honest advice.
This is not a one sided article about which platform is best - Because we design & build for both platforms (But, as developers - We certainly have our favourite! Cough Craft Commerce Verified Partner) The idea is to outline what each platform can bring to a project, and why you should choose that solution. So let's begin.
Shopify is a hosted platform that lets you build an eCommerce website utilising existing templates and themes. It may need a developer to tweak it to get it how you want it, but essentially you can be up and running fairly quickly.
Craft Commerce is built on top of the very popular - Craft CMS, which has a tonne of benefits on its own. But essentially this will let you build a more bespoke eCommerce website, but will require technical knowledge (This is where we can help you out, nudge nudge).
But both platforms come with 2 options:
Commerce Lite & Commerce Pro
Shopify & Shopify Plus
Essentially, both "lite" versions of each platform have limited features, as expected, such as number of items allowed in the basket (Craft Commerce) and high transaction fees (Shopify).
Our general rule of thumb is that if you're starting out selling basic products, and not worried too much about flexibility as you're maybe a startup, then both Shopify and Craft Commerce Lite are a good choice. With the addition that Craft Commerce lite will allow you a lot more extensibility.
As features for both platforms goes, they are very much the same. They both have good basket options, you can add different variations of products (Colours, sizes etc), mobile/responsive control panels, choices of different gateways (PayPal, Stripe etc), refunds via an order, customer groups, inventory management and the ability to create sales, discounts and coupon codes.
Shopify though, does come with a very good set of analytics and SEO options. But don't let this scare you from choosing Craft Commerce - As plugins like SEOMatic will add amazing SEO functionality and Commerce Widgets will give you stats/analytics for your store.
Craft Commerce trumps Shopify by having a more "content driven" approach. Shopify is very limited when it comes to adding extra pages or a blog/news section to your store. With Craft Commerce, because it's built on top of Craft CMS, you can create anything, and I mean, anything. Within Shopify, we would be able to design and implement custom pages for you - but this means you wouldn't be able to edit the content yourself through the CMS as it would be hard-coded in.
Shopify do pride themselves on their support and are very good at this. This is why we recommend clients that choose Craft Commerce to go on a support plan with us to get this level of support.
Most clients love Shopify because it comes with a whole bag of 3rd party integrations, and generally these are one click installs, with very little setup / technical knowledge needed. The only downside to this is for each add on, comes a monthly cost usually. So you rack up a big monthly bill quite quickly.
Craft Commerce is gradually growing it's list of 3rd party integrations due to the release of the plugin store earlier this year. Whilst the amount of plugins is no where near the scale of Shopify, you might find Craft CMS already comes with features that you'd be paying extra for on Shopify such as Order PDF templates, Subscriptions and Digital Products. Or it would be very easy to add in what you require, with no monthly cost.
We highly recommend the following plugins for Craft Commerce:
If you're wanting scalability through the Shopify platform, your only option here is Shopify Plus (pricing is secretive, as it's bespoke per client) This is due to Shopify mainly relying on plugins to extend your commerce store. The base options for Shopify are enough for small/medium stores that don't intend to outgrow the platform anytime soon.
We regularly get clients that have outgrown their Shopify stores, and this is when we recommend Craft Commerce (Either Lite, or Pro depending on the requirements). Because it's built on top of Craft CMS, you have the ability to create multiple stores under one control panel and also have multiple language / regional options (E.g. a UK, German and French store). This is just not possible with Shopify - But Craft Commerce has this in the bag, by default.
The good thing with both platforms is they use a "handlebars" style coding language (Shopify uses Liquid, and Craft Commerce uses Twig), so moving between the platforms is relatively seamless for a developer.
So, to conclude. If you want a quick store and are happy to customise an existing template - Shopify is your go to. If you want a eCommerce store that can scale and be cost effective in the long run - Craft Commerce is your solution.
Head over to our project planner to kick start your eCommerce project today.