30th June 2021

Craft Commerce vs Shopify

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Lauren Swarbrick

Why we develop ecommerce websites using Craft Commerce instead of Shopify.

When comparing Craft Commerce to Shopify, it’s essential to understand that Craft Commerce is not designed to go head-to-head with Shopify. They both offer the ability for merchants to sell online, but they are very different platforms, with very different setups.

Craft Shopify Banner 2x

Shopify is a subscription-based, fully hosted ecommerce platform that lets merchants quickly launch an ecommerce website using Shopify's out of the box storefront. Merchants can get up and running quickly and easily, without assistance, by using Shopify's library of purchasable themes and pre-installed templates. Still, if you are after customisation, you will require the aid of a Shopify developer.

Craft Commerce is an add-on to Craft CMS, an open-source, self-hosted content management system, which comes with a huge range of benefits of its own. Craft websites are built from scratch; there are no out-of-the-box templates or purchasable themes, so you will need to commission an agency with a digital team that has experience designing for and building with Craft.

Of course, Shopify and Craft Commerce aren't the only platforms available to online merchants - Magento and WooCommerce, amongst others, are popular alternatives. Which one is best for a client is dependent on the specific needs of the project and the long term growth strategy of the business.

If you are unfamiliar with Craft CMS, you may want to check out our previous article on why we develop websites using Craft CMS instead of WordPress. Let's dive straight into the core benefits Craft Commerce has over Shopify if you are already familiar.

1. Content-driven commerce

Shopify is brilliant at what it does best - commerce. Its product catalogue, basket and checkout are honed to perfection, but where it really falls down is rich content.

With Shopify, you can add a simple blog to your site, but the format, features and functionality are very limited, hence why many online stores built on Shopify have a separate 'bolt on' blog served on another platform (such as WordPress), on a subdomain. Although this option means you can serve both commerce and rich content to your users separately, it is a disjointed user journey and you can't 'connect' content and commerce elements together.

With Craft Commerce, which is built on top of Craft CMS, which makes use of relationships to tie all content together (regardless of whether it is a product entry or a rich content entry), you can create one site which has the perfect combination of content and commerce, seamlessly connected. Craft Commerce's content-driven approach to commerce fulfils the need to provide an ecommerce solution that not only delivers exceptional browsing and buying functionality, but also powerful rich content management functionality, with no barriers or blockers between the two.

2. Customisation

Nicely following on from the above, Shopify falls down in the custom pages department too. Although a Shopify developer can create custom pages for you, they would have to be hardcoded. That means that you wouldn't be able to edit the content yourself through the CMS, which is frustrating when you need to work at pace and be reactive to the market and potentially costly in the long run!

With a Craft CMS with Craft Commerce build, you can create completely bespoke, beautiful, custom pages on the fly in the content management system, incorporating any of the blocks the developer has made available on the template. This gives enormous flexibility to the client to build out new pages (whether those be shop landing pages or rich content campaign pages) extremely fast and without any assistance from your agency, whilst ensuring the overall integrity of the site is protected.

3. Ease of use

Many CMS platforms, including Shopify (though it's by no means the worst!), are somewhat clunky and over-complicated in the backend. No matter what your store set-up, every install offers the same 'off-the-shelf' interface, regardless of whether you need/use the functionality available. Many clients, therefore, find the management of their ecommerce cumbersome at best, and at worst downright scary.

Because every Craft website is built from the ground up, the dashboard is architected specifically to the needs of the project. The dashboard therefore only contains what is necessary for the client to manage their site, allowing for a clear, clean and intuitive interface - managing site content is literally a breeze. Live preview, share-able drafts and draft rollback, further add to Craft's ease of use, improving the authoring experience, aiding approvals and removing risk.

4. Scalability

Shopify offers three standard 'plans' — Basic, Shopify and Advanced — which as a general statement, are enough for small/medium-sized, 'straight ecommerce' stores. For larger or more complex stores or businesses with international ambitions, 'Shopify Plus', Shopify's enterprise-level solution, for high volume merchants is a must, as the standard plans just don't offer the scalability required.

In contrast, Craft is not an off-the-shelf solution - there are no plans or packages. Everything about a Craft site, from the design to the functionality, to the authoring experience, is designed and built from the ground up, so anything is possible! Because Craft has no limitations, it offers complete scalability, meaning that you don't need to re-platform if/as your ecommerce business grows. And with multi-lingual baked in, the world is literally your oyster!

6. License fees

The Shopify platform is 'purchased' using a subscription-based model, meaning that as long as you are selling via Shopify, you have to pay their monthly fee. The fee is dependent on the plan taken, with the standard plans ranging from $29-$299/month. 3rd party integrations in the form of 'Apps' available from the Shopify App store also demand a monthly fee, which is added to your subscription, meaning you can rack up a hefty monthly bill pretty quickly.

'Shopify Plus', the enterprise-level solution, which we would recommend for anyone using Shopify who is serious about growing the online store, comes with a bespoke pricing model; with a starting price of $2000/month, it's a significant monthly outgoing.

Craft CMS and Craft Commerce also come at a cost, but the license fees at $299 and $999, respectively (and once you own them, you own them for life) are substantially more cost-effective. Updates are recommended annually and cost just $59 and $199/annum, respectively, after that.

Please note: Shopify is a fully hosted solution, so there is no additional cost for hosting and infrastructure, which is a requirement with Craft CMS +Craft Commerce.

If you are just starting out in ecommerce, want to get an online store up and running quickly and are happy to use an off-the-shelf template, Shopify is a great option. However, if you want a bespoke solution and a scalable, flexible, future proof site that seamlessly combines content and commerce, Craft is for you.

At Abstrakt, we make no secret that we are strong advocates of Craft. We have used Craft CMS exclusively as our content management system for over five years and are proud to be a Craft Verified partner. Craft Commerce, Craft's ecommerce platform, builds on everything we love about Craft - complete flexibility and unlimited customisation - allowing us to develop 100% bespoke ecommerce experiences without limits.

If you would like to explore creating an ecommerce website with Craft Commerce, get in touch to speak to one of our team. We would be delighted to give you a demo, talk you through some of our recent Craft Commerce projects and show you first-hand how Craft Commerce can help you grow your ecommerce business.

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