Shopify is a well-know SaaS eCommerce platform. nopCommerce is growing its popularity open source shopping cart. In this article, we will consider strengths and weaknesses of both solutions and try to give you some idea of what can be more suitable for you.
nopCommerce and Shopify have a huge difference in terms of development. While Shopify allows to modify only front-end and uses its own language - Liquid - for it, nopCommerce gives an opportunity modifying both front- and back-end. It uses ASP.NET. This means anyone with basic ASP.NET development skills can code on nopCommerce, Shopify in contrast, requires additional time to learn its language.
nopCommerce is an open source platform, Shopify is proprietary. This fact comes into play when you decide whether you need your store to be customized or not, and to what extent. An open source code is freely available and can be modified to meet individual needs, such as non-standard functionality or specific integrations. Customization of a proprietary code is not possible, so a store owner has to set a store within the given functionality. For this reason, Shopify appears to be a sufficient solution for simple shops, but not suitable for complex ones that need source code adjustment in order to realize unique functions. Customization might be required later in the future, and moving an active business to another platform is difficult, time-consuming and costly.
Owning an online store implies several types of expenditures: shopping cart ownership, hosting, paid themes and plugins, required integrations, additional development services.
Shopping cart ownership costs
nopCommerce is a free solution. It can be downloaded and used straight away at its full capacity.
Shopify is a SaaS product (software-as-a-service), thus, users have to pay a monthly subscription fee to access the software. To test it out, Shopify gives a free trial for two weeks, after that, you’ll have to sign up for one of the following plans: Basic Shopify - $29/month, Shopify - $79/month or Advanced Shopify - $299/month. More expensive plans give access to more features, such as, gift cards or third-party calculated shipping rates, which are available for free in out of the box nopCommerce configuration.
Some features included in Shopify plans, for example, abandoned cart recovery, are not included in the out of the box nopCommerce functionality. However, an additional plugin may help and still be cheaper. For example, Smart Campaigns plugin that deals with abandoned carts costs $40 once, whereas a difference between Shopify and Basic Shopify plans is $50 monthly.
Themes and plugins
Speaking further about additional plugins and themes, the variety of add-ons is approximately similar, both platforms have more than 2000 plugins in their marketplaces. Many themes are available for both carts. They can be found on various external resources or in the marketplaces, both free and paid ones.
Of course, it is impossible to say how much add-ons might cost in any particular case as different businesses have different needs. Prices for plugins may also vary greatly for both platforms.
One more important detail is that Shopify charges transaction fees for payments made through external payment gateways like PayPal, Braintree, and Authorize.net (in addition to their standard transaction fees). The fee percentage starts at 0.5% and goes up to 2%, where cheaper subscription plans imply higher transaction fees. Thus, whenever somebody buys from you, Shopify reduces your profit. And with a big amount of transaction, this can sum up to a decent number. For stores in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and Ireland this can be avoided with Shopify Payments.
Shopify is a hosted solution, nopCommerce is self-hosted, which means a store owner would have to pay for hosting separately. The prices for nopCommerce hosting vary. Some basic plans may start from as little as $2.95 per month (for example, with SmarterASP.NET).
While looking for a hosting might seem a bit of a hassle for newbies, it has a significant advantage of the control over it. And a good hosting is essential for a store as it affects site speed, and the number of products that can be entered.
Shopify is a store builder, that means any person can easily configure it within the given functionality. nopCommerce can also be set up by a non-techie person, however, to properly customize it, a developer’s help would be needed. nopCommerce users may contact any of the more than 100 partners or find independent developers. So when planning a budget, these expenses should be considered.
Store look and functionality
To make your store stand out in the net and be recognizable, you need to put an effort into its design. Afterall, it is one of the most important components of your brand. Both platforms have a big choice of themes, free and paid. When choosing a theme, make sure it is responsive, so it can adjust to different screen sizes. With more and more purchases done from mobile devices, this requirement becomes essential.
Multi-store and multi-vendor functionality
The multi-store feature enables store owners to run more than one store on different domains and manage all admin operations from a single administration panel. It gives a possibility to create unique online stores for multiple brands, products, B2B, B2C, affiliates, co-branded stores or quickly launch micro-stores for promotional campaigns. This feature allows every online store to share a single database: you can share catalog data between stores, and your customers can log-in to all of your stores using the same credentials.
The multi-vendor feature allows organizing a marketplace. Products from multiple independent vendors appear in the common product catalog and your website visitors can shop at one web store even if your products are supplied by hundreds of different vendors from all over the world. Each vendor can be provided with an administrator panel access to manage their products, review sales reports and order details regarding their products.
Now, coming back to our platforms, both of these features are available for nopCommerce users out of the box. Shopify users would need to install an additional app to set up a multi-vendor store, which would cost starting from $10 per month. And there is no way to run multiple stores from one admin panel. To do so, Shopify users have to create several accounts, which multiplies their payments.
Carts are often abandoned at the checkout stage, so having a quick and simple checkout is really important.
Both of these carts have a one-page checkout option, as well as support guest checkout. Both support SSL certificates, so your customers may be confident that payments are secure.
However, again, Shopify doesn’t really let you customize your checkout. Say, you don’t provide discounts and don’t need the discount box at the checkout. You can only remove it if using Shopify Plus (which price starts from $2000). Similar to any other customization.
No surprise on this, marketing is extremely important for your store. Keeping existing customers, bringing in potential ones - your shopping cart must support your marketing strategy.
Both of the platforms have inbuilt SEO functionality such as customizable H1, title, meta tags, localizable URLs. Both carts automatically generate sitemaps.xml files so new products and site changes show up on search engines quickly. These features help your store get a lot of organic traffic.
What other marketing functionality both of the carts have? Discounts and coupon codes, nopCommerce supports promotional codes generation out of the box, Shopify has this feature included in all of the plans.
Both platforms support blog, newsletter subscriptions, integration with Google Shopping. Gift cards available out of the box in nopCommerce are available in higher-priced Shopify plans as well.
In addition to this, nopCommerce also supports reward points system, related products, forums, polls, product reviews and ratings out of the box. All this is possible to set up in Shopify too, but would require additional apps, that would add costs.
Another important part of your marketing is reporting. Both of the platforms allow you to integrate with Google Analytics. Ecommerce transaction tracking automatically connects your Google Analytics web usage data with customer purchases and shopping cart transactions. In addition to this, Shopify offers to its top-tier subscribers some advanced analytics like statistics on how your customers found you and what country they are in, what URLs are referring to your online store, what search terms were used to find you.
Many people say Shopify to be one of the easiest carts for non-techie users. It is quite true. It has a website-building tool which makes it simple for anyone to customize a store.
nopCommerce might require a bit more time to get familiar with, but this is also due to richer functionality available “out of the box”. The platform is designed to facilitate medium to large stores, though it can be used by smaller ones too. The admin panel is user-friendly, plus the documentation is provided.
As was mentioned earlier, nopCommerce provides more inbuilt features and doesn’t require plugins for many tasks that are not supported in the basic Shopify versions. Thus, nopCommerce store admins eventually might find it less demanding.
When any question arises on the way, there are different opportunities to get it answered. Both platforms have forums where community or the company team members reply. NopCommerce community and ecosystem is larger due to the product is open source. Though it is not dedicated, the company also offers a paid support for $299 - 3 months or $799 - the whole year. Shopify includes support in its pricing.
In other words, both communities are active and there is always a helping hand to solve any query that a store owner might have.
Every store has its own unique requirements and goals, so a choice of the platform is not a straightforward decision. While both of these considered platforms are good they fit rather different needs.
If you’re starting your first individual business and don’t have much technical expertise, you might be more willing to consider Shopify. It really gives an opportunity to set up a beautiful store within couple of hours.
However, if you plan a store which needs lots of customizations and should be scalable, nopCommerce would be a better choice. Its extensive out of the box functionality paired with a large marketplace make is a great choice for online business even for non-developers. If you have a developer then your possibilities are unlimited due to open source code. nopCommerce also gives more control over a store. This is a critical factor for some business. And its freedom from monthly payments helps you lower your expenditures, thus increasing your profit.
Author: Alexandra Lykova, nopCommerce team