E-Commerce Platform Battle: Shopify VS. Craft Commerce, Performance Analysis
Are you looking to make money online? Or perhaps, you’ve been wanting to transform and expand your brick-and-mortar business by entering the digital space?
Either way, you’ll need a dependable e-commerce platform to carve out your own online store without worrying about coding skills and web design.
Both E-commerce platforms have been instrumental in creating websites for conducting internet business, so it’s only fair to shed the spotlight on these two.
Shopify and Craft Commerce are loaded with designs and features created explicitly for E-commerce platforms. They are made to be user friendly, so you won’t have a hard time getting started. There’s no need to get involved with the nitty-gritty and the technicalities of it all.
However, they differ in so many ways. These differences set them apart from their competitors and, of course, from each other.
Their most notable difference is their E-commerce platform type.
Shopify is an example of a SaaS E-commerce platform. Its primary asset is its simplicity and readiness. Craft Commerce, on the other hand, is an open-source E-commerce solution. It allows you to micromanage the development and handling of your E-commerce store.
If you want to identify which of the two platforms can bring your retail business positive results (be it enhanced customer experience or increased sales), keep reading. You’re about to see how they measure up against each other in seven different aspects.
Round 1: Customisations
Using a ready-made E-commerce product at the outset can be pretty enticing, given its straightforward and instantaneous nature. However, you won’t be doing your start-up any good should you go down this path.
The E-commerce industry in Hong Kong is fiercely competitive, so relying on a standard product that caters to the masses will not cut it.
A customisable platform allows you to target your online store’s concrete needs to craft tailored processes and systems that highlight your unique selling proposition. Targeting the specifics is the key to providing superb customer experience, which, in turn, positively affects conversion rates and propels your business forward.
Just how customisable is Shopify? Good enough! One of the reasons Shopify earned its excellent reputation is because it hands the users the ability to control their website’s look and feel, as well as its functionality. However, this can prove to be a challenge at times. Attuning your business’ processes to an off-the-shelf platform can become too complicated of a task and might end up a deadweight that impedes your enterprise’s growth.
Tweaked Shopify themes tend to be a fly in the ointment when upgrading. Theme developers routinely provide updates to eliminate bugs and throw in extra features, but highly customised themes don’t readily embrace these updates. Shopify itself doesn’t offer a direct way to upgrade the themes while keeping current customisations in check. Of course, there are workarounds to do this sans the pain in the neck, but these alternatives still require a lot of work.
If you head on to Craft Commerce’s website, you’ll see how they boast of their bespoke solutions. That’s because this platform is known for its flexible customisation features. They don’t offer themes, as indicated by their “anything but cookie-cutter” slogan.
Instead, Craft Commerce allows users to curate their content, from the overall design to minute details. The platform provides various functions and features to choose from and caters to their users’ needs to develop a customised workflow for their business. Business owners and developers have absolute control of what gets integrated into the final output.
Winner: Craft Commerce. The platform not only supports enhanced web design, but it also gives users the opportunity to fully customise their website.
Round 2: Cost
Global E-commerce numbers have consistently been going up even before the pandemic brought on by COVID-19 ensued.
When self-isolation and home quarantining were reinforced in virtually every country, it only fueled the progressive growth e-commerce businesses already had underway.
We don’t have to look far. Let’s take a look at what’s happening in our backyard:
According to Global Data, Hong Kong shoppers have turned to E-commerce in light of the Corona outbreak. The shift from in-store shopping was brought on by the fear of getting exposed to possible transmission modes, such as money and point-of-sale (POS) machines.
As expected, more and more enterprises are taking their business online. However, not a lot of small and midsize businesses are running E-commerce sites to maximise their potential. The most likely reason is the belief that starting and managing an E-commerce store comes at a high cost.
A vast majority of businesses looking to transition to online commerce are SMEs. Therefore, money is an object. Using Shopify makes it easier and smoother for SME owners to launch their websites with a pre-templated site. All you need to do is add in the relevant info about your business, upload your product display, and that’s about the size of it!
Most clients choose the platform because it comes with a hosting server. Third-party Shopify plug-ins are also pretty abundant, although these could ramp up the total monthly bill.
While most Shopify features need to be purchased, most of them are already integrated into Craft CMS. However, this only signifies no monthly bills for Craft Commerce users. It doesn’t necessarily mean the platform is cheaper. You’ll need to shell out more bucks to enjoy the content-first approach, which is what Craft Commerce’s all about. It could be a pretty hefty sum since you’ll be asked to pay an annual fee upfront.
Winner: Shopify. You might favour endless customisations to develop a tailored website, but a templated design will be much easier to navigate if you’re self-funded or just starting out.
Round 3: Checkout
The checkout process consists of steps that lead the customers right to the end of their buying journey. Distractions and delays can put them off. After all, the payment process shouldn’t be too much of a humdrum. It should be smooth-sailing to prevent customers from changing their mind.
Check out our piece about practical principles of E-commerce checkout design.
To decrease checkout abandonment and promote conversions, you need to be aware of the elements you put into the checkout process. Keep to a bare minimum by sticking only to the essentials.
Perfecting the process can do wonders for your E-commerce store. However, it’s not easy to ensure a frictionless design.
Shopify offers templated solutions. This not only points to design but is also true in terms of technical vantage point. This curbs your ability to tweak the checkout design and improve customer experience through it.
If you don’t have Shopify Plus, editing the checkout process won’t readily be at your disposal. Unless, of course, coughing up more than $2,000 a month (or more) is not an issue. On top of that recurring cost, you’ll also need expert hands to navigate through the complexities of the platform’s development and maintenance processes. It’s highly unlikely for small and midsize businesses to afford a considerable cost.
On the plus side, complete beginners would rather rely on automated data. Shopify has you covered in this department. The platform knows what works and what doesn’t, thanks to the collected data. There’s precedent and set criteria employed when setting up your checkout process.
Additionally, the Shopify Payments feature is advantageous for both you and your customers. It allows users to make payments without third party integration, which eliminates extra payment gateway fees (think Paypal) and reduces distraction by making sure your customers don’t get transported elsewhere to access their funds.
No template restrictions mean you have complete control over your store. Both the look and the processes behind it. This extends to the checkout experience and its substantive elements such as fields to be filled out, payment methods, purchase receipts, checkout process durations, and much more.
By keeping track of every detail of your E-commerce store, you can strengthen your brand and control how your business is presented.
Craft has limited basic features, but they are enough to help you get started. This shouldn’t be considered a complete downside, because the whole point of the platform’s design is to give you the total reign of your E-commerce website.
Winner: Craft Commerce. With Shopify, you only have finite power over the checkout process. Meanwhile, Craft Commerce enables you to work on the slightest detail of the whole checkout process, giving you total control over customer experience.
Round 4: Plug-Ins
We’ve mentioned plug-ins before, but have yet to highlight their significance to your E-commerce website.
Plug-ins have various purposes. Some aid in selling digital goods, while others are more suitable for distributing physical goods. The latter calls for additional requirements such as shipping and inventory. There are also third-party apps that cover both products.
Aside from understanding how your products should influence your plug-in choices, you also have to factor in your technical knowledge and available payment gateways.
Pro tip: Only go for a plug-in that works with your preferred payment gateway to lessen complications.
Everyone using Shopify appreciates the array of Shopify apps that are available right off the bat. If you’re looking for a Shopify app to increase sales and amp up conversions, you won’t run out of options. Some of them can do a magnificent job of upselling and cross-selling items on your website, enticing customers to make more purchases. The best part is that most of them are free!
Shopify app installation doesn’t need technical know-how. Even beginners can handle them, mostly since most of them are done in just one click. The only disadvantage of having too many plug-ins is ending up with a large bill every month.
Craft Commerce’s available integrations are picking up, thanks to their newly-released plug-in store. However, it’s still not able to compete with the Shopify app store.
To be fair, Craft offers readily available third-party plug-ins that can enhance your website’s E-commerce capabilities. The same can’t be said with Shopify, where you have to install every app, free or paid.
Moreover, most Craft Commerce plug-ins come with open Application Programming Interfaces or Embeds.
Winner: Shopify. Craft Commerce still has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to plug-ins.
Round 5: Scalability
In any business, staying small is not an option. This makes scalability one of the most significant factors to take into consideration when choosing an E-commerce platform. Your E-commerce store will need to undergo modifications to adapt to the ever-changing times and increasing demand over time.
Your ability to grow your retail business shouldn’t be inhibited by your platform. It’s home to crucial information, not only about your products but also sensitive customer data. Think about what would happen should you expand your business or decide to go another way.
Shopify provides scalable solutions. Users can check out the Shopify Theme Store to find the perfect theme to accommodate their product display range. The abundance of Shopify apps guarantees you’ll find integrations and automation options that enhance efficiency and productivity.
Successful business ventures transition to Shopify Plus to enjoy reduced transaction fees and extra features such as Shopify Flow. This feature configures specific monotonous tasks to operate automatically, giving you spare time to work on business expansion ideas.
With Craft being a novice in the industry, it’s understandable that most people have reservations over its expandability. But there’s no need to be concerned.
Craft commerce is very adaptable and has the means to develop large E-commerce stores. In fact, it’s highly recommended for entrepreneurs who are branching out. The platform enables the creation and management of different online stores in just one control panel. This simply isn’t possible with Shopify.
Winner: Craft Commerce. If you’re in it for the long haul, you might as well go for the platform that offers a long-term solution and has no limits.
Round 6: Multilingual
Great! You’ve made it. You’re going international. But hold on a sec -- Are you sure your E-commerce store can handle it?
There’s a reason most E-commerce websites are multilingual. It increases credibility while making it easier to lure potential customers by helping them understand your products better.
However, you don’t want to risk looking like you just translated your content using Google Translate. It’s a helpful innovation and all, but it doesn’t recognise colloquialism, let alone the context of complex texts. It merely lacks the human touch, as it only relies on statistical occurrence.
A successful multilingual E-commerce store considers the language, culture and values of the countries they are targeting.
The right tools can make your website multilingual, but the process can be daunting and costly. To promote and sell your products in different languages, you need a third-party language translation app, a compatible theme, and a theme with a language selector.
Shopify can translate stores into five languages, while Shopify Plus users have access to twenty languages.
The process of going multilingual is much less complicated with Craft Commerce. The control panel has all the answers. Setting up a second site in another language can be done by going to Settings, clicking on Sites, and then + New Site. From here, you just fill out the fields accordingly.
Winner: Craft Commerce. No additional expense and minimal effort? ‘Nuff said.
Round 7: Ease of Use
Can you manage your E-commerce platform without a developer?
If you want to cut costs, this question is probably at the top of your head. For a platform to be considered easy to use, all the processes involved, from building an E-commerce website all the way to managing the store, should be simple, straightforward, and achievable without external help.
Shopify offers users a free trial, so you can test the waters first before diving in. And since it’s a hosted platform, you can get down to work straight away.
Securing a domain can be done in a jiff. Designing the website takes a bit longer, but you can easily tweak the templates and edit a product page in just a few clicks. If you’re lost on what to do, you can go over some tutorials for assistance.
However, advanced customisation options outside of Spotify themes and templates won’t be a walk in the park for a beginner. You’ll need professional help to take your website to the next level. Same goes for managing the platform. An expert developer can solve any technical issues, letting you focus more on growing your business than wasting your time troubleshooting.
Developing a website through Craft Commerce involves a series of simple processes. It’s easy to navigate around it and get the job done. Moreover, its user-friendly interface and modifiable backend allow managers and entrepreneurs to get on with their tasks swiftly and efficiently using the control panel.
However, if you want to fully customise your website and provide outstanding user experience to your customers, working with a developer is a must when running your E-commerce store.
Winner: Tie. Both platforms are user friendly, but scaling your retail business will require the help of a developer.
In conclusion, Shopify is geared towards driving sales and banks on the swiftness and simplicity templates provide. Craft Commerce, on the other hand, promotes scalability and flexibility. You can modify everything, from front end to back end, while allowing you to grow your business the way you want.
Shopify and Craft Commerce have their own sets of pros and cons. As an E-commerce store owner, you should list down your goals, needs, and non-negotiables. It also helps to identify your business model and financial constraints. From there, you can work out which platform matches your E-commerce store requirements and limitations.