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Shopify versus other website platforms: in-depth comparison

Live training session replay from my free Launch Lab series — where we explore a new topic every month to grow your product business. Sign up here to join us for info emails and a monthly free training session!

Video Transcript:

Welcome to the First Launch Lab session. All right, I am so excited to be doing this. I’m going to be talking about different content, a different monthly theme every month with Launch Lab, and I’m really excited to have you all along for the journey with me. So I see Linda here in the chat. Hello! You are here live, I would love to see you say hi in the chat.

We’re gonna get started and this is just a casual informational session. Your questions are welcome. Danielle says hello, hi, and I’m just glad that you’re here to learn about your e-commerce platform. Sylvia says, hi. Hello Sylvia. Okay, so I’m gonna go ahead and share my screen. I have slides prepared for us to talk through.

Okay. Let’s see. I think I’ve got it all situated. So today in the Launch Lab, April, 2023, we are talking about Shopify versus other website platforms.

And welcome. I’m Shelley of Launch Party. If we haven’t yet, met Launch Party is an e-commerce design studio and I’m also the creator of Shop School.

And Launch Lab is my new monthly free series to explore different topics for your product business. And today we are comparing Shopify versus other website platforms. So I tried to choose the main other website competitor platforms out there, and some less known I’d consider Godad and Weebley a little bit on the lower.

Hey Christina. Hi Stephanie. Glad that you’re here. So I want to be comparing, we’re gonna do a big picture comparison chart of all of these platforms next to each other, and then we’re gonna talk about the pros and cons of each one. So if you have questions along the way, please just put it in the chat and I’ll try to answer it.

As I see, I’m trying to keep an eye on the chat at the same time. So we are starting with this big chart that I made. Feel free to screenshot this for future reference, but I wanted to give you a good big picture overview to start off with, with how to think about these different platforms. Cuz I, I definitely understand how confusing it can be.

They all can kind of sound like the best platform ever. And seemingly the best platform for everything. It’s just hard to discern and distill. So at the top here, I am sharing the price of the basic plan for that is e-commerce. So they, these all have different levels of plans, which again, can be confusing, but this is your base price to compare.

So we can see that Shopify is the most expensive. Basic plan, which can be a little bit of a con here. And a note that Weebly actually has a free plan, and I’m gonna talk about that with when we talk more about Weebly, but Weebly includes ads. So with that free plan, so Michelle, okay, so welcome everyone.

So comparing the price here. We can see Shopify’s most expensive. GoDaddy is the least expensive for their e-commerce plan. Now the big picture here is this key review section to consider. So for Shopify, the key feature of Shopify is that it’s professional level selling and it has the maximum e-commerce features.

It’s built for e-commerce. Now let’s talk Squarespace. We’re talk, just doing big picture overview here. The key feature for me is the drag and drop builder. It has a really nice drag and drop builder to build your website. It’s very aesthetically driven with Squarespace. Then let’s talk WooCommerce. So WooCommerce, if you’re not familiar, would be a plugin.

Yeah. It’s a plugin that you would add to your WordPress. Site. So the big feature, key feature of commerce and WordPress, and I’m talking wordpress.org, is that it’s open source e-commerce. So it’s actually free to use that particular software. However, you do have to have hosting and other features for your actual website to run.

So that’s where we’re getting the 20 plus. That can be a pretty big range with WordPress. Uh, because it really depends on what hosting company you choose. They, there’s a wide range there, but a good average to consider is about $20. Next, is Wix. The key review feature of Wix is that it has artificial design intelligence, which on the surface I think sounds pretty cool.

So you can kind of type in some things of what you, what your store is, and it’s going to produce, like with ai. A website starting point for you, which again, that does sound cool, but that starting point is going to require a great deal of customization and it’s a little bit difficult to actually customize your wics website.

Okay, next is Weebly. So Weebly, the key feature for me is that they’d actually don’t have e-commerce anymore. They were purchased by Square. So their e-commerce isn’t, but from Weebley, it is from Square. So for some of you that may be a pro or a con, but Weebly we’re gonna talk more about it. Basically, this is going from where my most recommended to my least recommended, and Weebly just doesn’t have a lot going for it.

Uh, next is GoDaddy. And same thing, it was a hard for me to even put what a key review feature would be of GoDaddy. I’ve researched it more, so we’ll talk about it more when we get to GoDaddy, but. My key feature of that is if you want everything GoDaddy, then, then that would be a good solution for you.

Okay, so next we’re gonna talk about what size stores these platforms best support. So Shopify and WooCommerce are the only two. I would say best support. A large catalog and large can really vary what that means, but I would say over 50 products. Now you can have over 50 products on Squarespace. You can have more than that on Wix.

But if you are getting up into that level, that amount of products, then you’re definitely want going to want to consider an e-commerce platform that is better suited towards having more products. And there’s reasons they’re better suited for that. It’s their inventory management and their apps features and their product management features.

That makes it where it makes more sense if you have a larger catalog to be on those two platforms. And then for Squarespace, Wix, Weebley, and GoDaddy, those are better for small stores, less than 50 products. Next last on this big chart, we’re gonna move on from the chart in a bit, or after, this is the sales channels.

So that is where your product can actually be sold aside from, let’s say your Shopify online store, and aside from your Weebly online store. So for Shopify, they by far have the most sales channels built right in, and they have pos. So you can sell in person, social, any social app that you wanna connect it to, or social platform.

They have their own shop app, which they’re putting more into to make bigger. So if that, so it’s kind of their own marketplace for Shopify stores. And then Amazon, Google more. And really any sales channel you wanna add to Shopify, you can’t. The same goes for WooCommerce. It just requires more know-how in order to do it, and that’s kind of across the board for all of WordPress WooCommerce.

You do have to have a higher level of technical knowledge to be able to use it. Now, Squarespace has Facebook and Instagram. Wix has po o s, social Google, and they have eBay. Weebly has just p os powered by Square. And GoDaddy has POS in pretty limited social. It was limited by product orders. They have all sorts of limitations on both GoDaddy and Weebley in terms of their e-commerce features and then what you’re allowed to do with the limited features they have.

All right, so if anyone has any questions about our big picture, put it in the Oh, I see. I have one question. Put it in the chat or in the question. And okay, so Linda, I love your question. I’m definitely gonna save that for the end, cuz I want to answer that for sure. Or actually I’ll talk about it next when we talk about Shopify.

Okay. So let’s go to each pro and con for each platform next. So with Shopify, Key feature being professional level selling max features. The pros are that it can grow and scale with you. So I say this a lot and you may have heard me say it, but you’re not gonna have to move to the better e-commerce platform, the one that can support a larger store or has more features.

You’re not gonna have to move if you start on Shopify, which is a really, really huge advantage cuz that’s a lot of time saving for you. And also the shop. Shopify has an app store that has 6,000 plus apps, so meaning that you can add nearly any feature to your store. It also integrates with the most other platforms as well.

It’s also good to keep in mind that you can find lots of designers and developers to work on a Shopify store. Myself included. So that’s just important to note when you’re considering platforms like, can I get professional help with this platform? Is it really niche? And people just aren’t familiar with it?

But Shopify, you’re good with that. And there’s, they also have great 24 7 customer support with Shopify. They have phone chat and email customer support, which is the most of all of these platforms. Okay, let’s talk about the cons. So there is definitely a learning curve to understanding how to use the theme customizer in Shopify and how to actually make the most of the features, like how to figure out how to make custom product templates and custom collection templates and things like that.

If you want to kind of go above and beyond with customizing, there’s definitely a learning curve to understanding how to use the platform. And another con is that paid apps can add up to a lot pretty quickly. So if you decide you wanna have this custom feature and this custom app, and this additional app, and this additional app, you’ve perhaps added $40 to your monthly plan price.

So that kinda leads me into the question that I had from Linda. So Linda says, I’m currently using Shopify email, don’t. I don’t want to pay for email marketing. I want to use content I create in Canva, including links, but don’t know how to get it into my Shopify email content. Okay. So Linda, I am at, oh, let me make sure I know I’m start answering this.

I’m actually not familiar with Shopify email. I have not used it. I know that it’s there. But I don’t encourage my clients to use it. It’s something that I don’t feel Shopify has built out too much. They have expanded it a little bit more in the last year, but in general, I suggest using a third party email platform, and I know you don’t wanna pay for it, but they have plenty that have free plans.

So I would start with looking at male or light and Male Chimp. Those both have free plans. I do also like Clavio, but it has a lower amount of. Three emails that you can have on your plan. So first, check out mail or light and MailChimp. And then for creating content in Canva, including links, that’s also not how I normally create email content either.

I try to rely in general on less graphics for email marketing. It helps to not be in the spam folder, but if you wanna have like a nice header, something like that that you make in Canva, or a product image that you make in Canva. That’s fine. You can uh, you can put it in your section blocks of your email marketing platform and with the links part that, I don’t know, I would just be putting my own links in the email marketing platform because I would really wanna make sure that my links work, cuz that’s pretty, that’s number one with my emails.

I want people to click and go to the next spot wherever I’m leading them to. Okay. So we’re gonna move on from Shopify, but if anyone has any other questions, let me just get back to the chat. Hello, Lisa. Welcome. That’s Shopify pros and cons to consider here. All right, now Squarespace, so I have built quite a few sites in Squarespace as well.

And although not e-commerce sites, I built mostly portfolio sites and informational sites, and that is what I consider Squarespace to be best at. So if someone comes to me and they aren’t selling products and maybe they have a coaching business or a consulting business or something along those lines, then Squarespace is a great solution.

It has a really nice drag and drop editor and builder. It’s easy to use and it’s very aesthetically driven, so it has a nice integrated design style. I definitely appreciate that as a designer. Templates are free with Squarespace, which is nice, and you can find lots of designers to work on your store. A lot of designers specialize in Squarespace.

Hi Maggie. Welcome. So some cons in terms of e-commerce is that they really do have limited e-commerce features, so their plan costs. Almost as much as Shopify’s, but you get significantly less e-commerce features with Squarespace. They also have limited apps to expand functionality. You know, if you wanna do print on demand, then you have one vendor to choose from.

And you can’t add anything that you want Interior Squarespace store, which is a reason why a lot of people come to me when they’re on Squarespace and they wanna move to Shopify because they’ve kind of reached their limit with Squarespace. They also don’t have phone customer support.

I personally haven’t had good experience with Squarespace’s support. I’ve never been able to talk to them, but I did just talk to someone recently who says they loved Squarespace support. So mixed, mixed up messages here with Squarespace support on on that. But for me, my experience hasn’t been positive.

Okay. Next, let’s talk about WooCommerce. So WooCommerce is a free open source plugin for WordPress. If you are using the open source platform for WordPress, so that means it’s free. WordPress is free, WooCommerce is free, but you have to install it onto your own hosting platform. And it definitely, which I mentioned in a con here, it requires a high level of technical knowledge to use.

So the pros, let’s start with that though of commerce. It’s free and open source. I like that in general. And they have a great content management system for blog posts and pages with commerce and with WordPress in general. That’s really where WordPress shines. So I also used to be a WordPress designer and developer, and my website is built on WordPress.

I’m super familiar with WordPress. It’s great for blogs and it’s great for content in general. That’s what it started as, as content management. But I wouldn’t want to have my store hosted on WordPress and be doing checkouts and be processing credit cards, mostly because here, limit here. Notice the con, manage your own security.

So you do have to get your own SSL certificate. You have to make sure your hosting is good enough that it’s going to support you and not go down. Basically all of the things that Shopify does and all of the other, all-in-one platforms, you have to. Put together yourself with WordPress. Some people love that, especially if you have Thai technical knowledge, but a lot of people don’t because it is more work and it requires, you know, more updating.

If you have a WordPress site, then you need to keep your, your plug-ins updated or they can be a security risk. You have to have a security plug-in. There’s all sorts of things that you have to add to your WordPress site to keep it functioning and to keep it from getting hacked, which is also something I have experienced with WordPress sites, and that’s really why I don’t recommend it for most people for e-commerce especially.

And even for informational sites, I’m recommending Squarespace more now because it’s just easier because it’s all in one. You don’t have to manage your plugins and things like that. But if someone has a humongous blog and that’s their main thing, then WordPress would be a good choice.

And that’s probably what I would recommend. That’s why I’m still on WordPress and I don’t wanna move to Squarespace. Because it just has a better content management system, and that’s what I use my website for, for, for launch party. Another con of WooCommerce is that some plugins aren’t well supported, so there’s lots of free ones.

There’s tons when you are adding one and you’re kind of just crossing your fingers and hoping it’s gonna work. Unlike in the Shopify app store or the Squarespace app store where these are plugins or apps that have been vetted. I’m using the term plugin because that’s what it’s called in wo, in WordPress in commerce.

Most of the other platforms use the term app for, for these, adding these additional pieces of functionality essentially. And then the support with commerce is just gonna depend on your own HUS hosting company. Some are much better than others. Okay, let me just check here real quick before we move to the next one.

Oh, Sylvia asked, what’s the basic must have apps for Shopify? That’s a good question, Sylvia. I will, I will answer that after we go through the other platforms and if anyone has any other questions, feel free to add them to the question box. Okay, so now we’re talking about Wix. Wix is not a platform I’ve personally used, but I’m definitely familiar with it and have heard about it for a long time.

So their key feature is their artificial design intelligence. They have a lot of different features. It seems to be geared more towards service providers in general. They have appointments and things like that that you can host lives and such with within Wix, if you wanna keep things all in the same ecosystem and it seems to be relatively easy to use.

They have a Wix app market so that you can add additional features to your store as well. And the intelligent design does seem like a cool feature for basically giving you a starting point that then you would need to customize. And let’s talk about the cons of wics. So they have less e-commerce features and capabilities by far.

You know, we’re kind of just, again, we’re going down in terms of e-commerce abilities, for each of these platforms. E-commerce features that are included. And it’s definitely hard, it would be hard to find designers and developers to work on your store because Wix is just not. Not as popular with designers and developers especially.

So there just aren’t, uh, nearly as many people that specialize in Wick as they do with WordPress, Squarespace, and Shopify. Those are the top three. If you wanna have professional help for your store, you need to be one on one of those three in order to have a large amount of people that could support you.

Uh, Wix doesn’t have live phone support. They only have callback, and it’s not great for large stores. All right, let’s move on to Weebly. So Weebly is e-Commerce that is powered by Square. One of their main features that I think draws a lot of people is that they have a free plan, so you can have a free website.

And the downside of it though, the trade off, is that it has ads. I couldn’t quite tell if you could get e-commerce with the free plan. Or if you have to pay for like an advanced plan in order to actually have e-commerce. That was a little unclear to me, but essentially they are, they are a bit cheaper in general, and it is considered easy to use.

Now, the cons are that they have limited e-commerce features, very limited. You potentially may have ads on your store unless you pay to upgrade. They have limited design control, limited expansion ability. You won’t find a professional Weebly designer or a developer that I’m aware of either. That would be hard to find.

So for me, really not a lot of pros in choosing Weebly and I don’t recommend it. Same can be set for Godad. This is the last platform we’re gonna talk about, and really the only reason I would say someone would want it is if they’re just comfortable with GoDaddy and they’ve used GoDaddy and they kinda want to keep everything together under GoDaddy.

But I don’t recommend doing this. So the pros are that the com, the website builder, is comparable to wics and Squarespace. So a good, pretty good website builder. It’s less expensive, but the cons are, it’s difficult to find designers and developers to work on your store. A lot of design, a lot of developers really don’t recommend GoDaddy at all, even as just your hosting platform, let alone putting your entire website on it.

So it would definitely be difficult to find someone that actually specializes in design or e-commerce to work on a GoDaddy site. They have limited e-commerce abilities and limited design abilities with GoDaddy as well, so I don’t recommend it. All right. My recommendation hands down is Shopify for best in class E-commerce features.

I just put a few websites I’ve done right here so you can see for some inspiration. And I’m going to answer Sylvia’s question. So Sylvia said, what’s the basic must-have apps for Shopify? So I would consider a review app. A must have. And there are lots of free and paid versions of review apps for Shopify.

My favorite is judge.me. I’ve been using that ver that app for many years now and I highly recommend it. That’s really what you need to start with. You might wanna also add Shopify’s order Printer app, which is free in order to. Print out your orders and for, for mailing your labels and such. But otherwise that’s all you need to get started.

You do not need paid apps to launch your Shopify store by any means. And most of the paid apps have free trials, so like 30 day free trials so you can see if it’s even worth adding to your store, if it’s going make you more money, things like that, or if it’s gonna make your life easier, you can try it out for free most of the time.

To decide if it’s actually worth paying for, but I would definitely start with a review app because that really affects sales and get started with it right away so that you can get more reviews coming in. You may also wanna have, like I recommend, so Linda having a third party email newsletter platform.

So if you have male or light, then you’d need to have the mail or light app, and that will connect your newsletter section to mail or light. Which means it’s just automatically, if someone signs up on your email list, sign up, then they will be added to your mailer light and you can send them email. So that would be another one too.

And then Ellie, you asked why use judge.me instead of native Shopify reviews? So in native Shopify reviews that is a free app is Shopify’s reviews. But as of now or last time I checked, they do not, they do not automatically send email review requests, so you have to manually send those for product orders.

And judge.me does manually send them. It has a lot of nice features too, and I just prefer it. And it’s also, I use the free version and that’s what I recommend, so it just has better features. And it works better for me. I like, I like the widgets that you can put everywhere as well with judge.me. It’s a really good app.

They have really excellent support as well. Like they will help you within an hour, typically, or less than. Ellie also asked, what are your favorite Shopify themes to use for building stores? So let’s see this example with Ami Creative. On the very left, that is the Dawn Shopify theme, and I’ll go ahead and get a link for you.

That’s a free Shopify theme built by Shopify that I customized a fair amount on that one, and I really love that theme. That’s what I typically start with is just the free Shopify theme. Now I did recently just do another site where I used a theme called Fetch from Shop, not from Shopify, I think from archetype, archetype themes.

And that’s a paid theme. But typically I’ve been using the free themes, but I’m putting the link in for that too. And if you’re seeing this later, look for the Fetch Shopify archetype theme, and you’ll find it. But that one’s nice. It has some more design features that are fun. So I like that too. But generally, you can’t go wrong with the free Shopify themes.

Now they are really good and they’re just great starting points for customizing. And I wanna show you a site that I customized only with the customizer for this site on the dawn theme. And so I didn’t do any custom CSS at all. This is all just things that you can edit in the customizer for farrenceleste.com and it’s really beautiful.

So I see another question. So Danielle said, how do you feel about the rewards loyalty type Shopify apps? I like those. My rewards app of choice is called Smile. So it’s smile.io and it’s really good. It has a free version. It’s really easy to use. It’s used by lots and lots of different big companies as well, and it’s really easy to choose what rewards you want, how you wanna do it.

It’s, it’s just easy to use for the customers and for the Shopify store owner, Shopify merchant. I do like that. I do like that app, and I generally do recommend it. I like to encourage repeat orders of course, and reward customers and just, you know, foster goodwill with rewards programs like that.

If you want to learn more about Shopify, I just published a blog post last week. That is related to this training, and it is called Rating Shopify in 2023, and I have five points that I go through about Shopify to just understand the platform a bit better and what it offers.

And yeah, Danielle, I do like smile.

So Danielle said, awesome. Thank you. We recently added smile, but hadn’t seen traction. I appreciate the feedback that it’s a good one. So if you haven’t seen traction, maybe consider having a dedicated page for it, making blog posts, and then just promoting it in your email marketing as well as your social.

That can help get more attention to it, aside from just the little bubble on the bottom. And then if you want to learn more, I have a free 60 minute plus workshop that you can watch over at shopschool.live to learn how to sell more with Shopify. Okay. And we will talk soon. Yeah. Thanks everyone. Thanks Danielle and Mayra and Laura.

I appreciate it. Thanks, Lisa. All right. Bye!