Shopify vs Ecwid (2018) - Comparison Review
Deciding on the type of e-commerce solution you need
There are two main types of solutions you can use to build your store: a tool that lets you build a complete e-commerce site (a whole website, basically, with a shopping cart), or a tool that lets you create a store which you then 'plug in' to an existing website.
In the case of the products we're discussing here, the general idea behind Shopify is to allow you to build a complete e-commerce site from scratch, whereas Ecwid is more for users who want to sell products on an existing site (or, indeed, a social media page).
(Well, in truth, it's slightly more complicated than that, because recently Shopify introduced a new plan, 'Shopify Lite', which allows you, much like Ecwid, to sell products on an existing site...and Ecwid introduced a new 'Starter Site' feature which allows you to run an Ecwid store as a standalone site...but we'll come to all that later!)
Which approach is for you depends chiefly on whether you already have a website (that you are happy to sell from) or not.
If you don't have a website, or have a poorly-designed one, you may be best off opting for Shopify (or a similar 'all-in-one' e-commerce platform), as it comes with a range of free, professionally-designed templates that you can use to lay out your website, as well as e-commerce and blogging functionality.
If on the other hand, you have a website that already looks fantastic and works great — perhaps a good Wordpress website — then Ecwid is quite possibly for you.
How Shopify works
What is Shopify?
Although Shopify is generally perceived as an e-commerce solution, it is, technically speaking, a combination of a website builder and an online store builder: as well as letting you showcase and sell products (digital or physical) you can use it to create regular web content as well — static pages, blog posts, contact forms and so on.
Once you sign up for an account (there's a two week free trial available) you can then select a 'theme', tweak the design a little, create some pages and add some products along with relevant pictures, prices, weights and so on. Shipping costs are calculated automatically by Shopify based on the information you give it about postage costs in your country, and the weights of your items.
When you are ready to publish your store, it can either live at a 'myshopify' web address, or at a domain name of your choosing (www.yoursite.com etc.). You get a lot of control over search engine optimisation (SEO), with the ability to add meta data, page descriptions and so on; it's very flexible on that front.
Shopify and payment gateways / transaction fees
A payment gateway is the software that processes credit card transactions when visitors to your site make a purchase.
With Shopify, your options on this front are as follows:
'Shopify Payments' (Shopify's own built-in payment gateway)
a wide range of third party payment gateways (Shopify works with over 100 of them).
If you use Shopify Payments, there are no transaction fees to worry about - i.e., Shopify won't take a cut of your sales if you use their own card processing option,but you'll need to note that Shopify Payments is only available to merchants selling from certain countries:
If you use a third-party payment gateway provider, transaction fees will apply - how much depends on the Shopify pricing plan you're on.
On top of transaction fees, you will need to think about credit card processing fees. These will be applied irrespective of whether you use Shopify Payments or a third-party merchant gateway, and the percentage applied varies depending on the country you are based in and the type of Shopify plan you are on (with, as you might expect, the percentage being lower on the more expensive Shopify plans).
Shopify is pretty flexible when it comes to design - the templates are all very 'tweakable' using the controls provided, but with the 'Basic Shopify' plan or higher you also get full control over CSS and HTML. This makes it a good solution for both users who want edit their design without resorting to coding...or users who really want to use CSS and HTML to tweak their site design to the nth degree.
There are 10 free templates available in Shopify and 57 paid themes (within each theme there are several variants if it, so the number of designs available is a bit higher than those figures suggest).
How much does Shopify cost?
Shopify provides 5 plans:
Lite: $9 per month
Basic Shopify: $29 per month
Shopify: $79 per month
Advanced Shopify: $299 per month
Shopify Plus: pricing varies depending on requirements, but typically comes in at around $2000 per month
With the exception of the 'Lite' plan, all the above allow you to create fully functional online stores. The Lite plan is more restrictive in that it doesn't allow users to create a standalone store but instead permits you to:
sell on Facebook
use Shopify to sell goods in physical locations (i.e., for point of sale applications)
make use of a Shopify 'Buy Button' which can be integrated on an existing site (this works in a similar way to Paypal but allows users to make use of a much more sophisticated back end and inventory management system).
A free trial lets you evaluate the product and get a sense of your requirements.
It is also possible to buy 'apps' which add particular bits of functionality to your store (for example, you can buy apps that let you create social media 'coupons' for certain products, or apps that provide additional accounting information on your sales).
And as mentioned above, you are also able to purchase Shopify themes created by professional web designers. These tend to look slicker than the (perfectly usable) free templates, but they come with a one-off fee of around $140-$180.
Shopify's Buy Button
Perhaps in a bid to capture some of the users that Ecwid is appealing to — i.e., those who wish to add e-commerce functionality to an existing website — Shopify introduced a 'Buy Button' which, like Ecwid, can be embedded onto a site using a few lines of code. This lets you display individual products or collections on your site.
The Buy Button is available on all Shopify plans, but unless you intend to use Shopify to create both a standalone store and to embed products elsewhere, the $9 'Lite' plan is all you need to make use of the button.
The functionality you get with Shopify's 'Buy Button' is not as comprehensive as that provided by Ecwid: with Ecwid, you're getting a complete store on your site (one which facilitates user account creation, more comprehensive product options, product search, social media sharing of products etc.); as thing stand, the Shopify 'Buy Button' is more about providing basic 'add to cart' and checkout functionality.
Shopify's point-of-sale functionality
A key feature which differentiates Shopify from a lot of competing 'standalone' solutions is its point-of-sale functionality - you can use an iOS device plus various pieces of kit sold by Shopify (tills, receipt printers, barcode scanners etc.) to sell in physical locations as well as online. You can work with third party equipment - such as credit card readers - too. However, you need to be on a more expensive Shopify plan (the $79 ‘Shopify’ plan or higher) to be able to use this point of sale functionality to use the full range of hardware that integrates with Shopify. If you are on a ‘Lite’ or ‘Basic’ plan, you can still use point of sale functionality, but only via an app and a card reader (i.e., tills, receipt printers, barcode scanners etc. cannot be used on the cheaper plans).
Ecwid can be made to work in point-of-sale contexts too but it is arguably a more limited offering (we’ll discuss Ecwid POS in more depth later in the review).
Dropshipping in Ecwid and Shopify
Many users are drawn to solutions like Ecwid and Shopify because they want to start a dropshipping business.
Dropshipping is a way of selling goods without stocking anything - you take an order, send it to a supplier, and they fulfil the order. The advantage of this selling model is that you don't have to invest in lots of stock to set up your online business - rather, your money can go straight into marketing your business. The disadvantage is that droppshipping is very competitive — there are lots of people at this game — and it can be hard to find suppliers of goods that are produced ethically (as many of them are made in China, where working conditions can be very poor).
Neither Shopify nor Ecwid facilitate dropshipping 'out of the box' but the good news is that it's still really easy to dropship with both products - you just need to add an app to your store.
Dropshipping in Shopify is simply a case of adding an app like Oberlo to your store (there are many others available), picking some goods you'd like to sell, and putting your site live.
Similarly, you can also dropship with Ecwid using apps such as Inventory Source or Wholesale2B.
It's probably fair to say though - that thanks to Shopify's significantly better stocked app-store, that there are more options available to Shopify merchants in the dropshipping department.
Shopify and product options
One thing paying close attention to with Shopify involves product options: you are limited to three per product.
For example, if you were selling a birthday card on Shopify, you could allow users to choose card size, card colour and envelope type...but if you wanted to then allow them to choose envelope colour, you wouldn't be able to. Now, there are workarounds available - you can use a third party app to facilitate more options, combine two options into one, create separate products, or do some manual coding to add more options...but it's all a bit more complicated than it should be.
Ecwid, by contrast, is more straightforward in this regard and doesn't limit product options to such a small number - I'm not sure of the exact limit, but I was easily able to create a large number of product options when testing the app.
Another issue with Shopify's product options is that allowing your customers to provide bespoke information or items - for example, text for an engraving, or an image to be printed - is not possible without either manually adding some code to a product template, or investing in an app.
Again, Ecwid works better here, simply allowing you to capture your desired data (via text box, file upload button etc.) very easily in its product options section. Note that the 'file upload' option is only available in the 'Venture' and higher plans however.
For many users, Shopify's three 3 options and its limitations around bespoke data capture won't really pose problems, but for users who have specific requirements and want want a standalone hosted e-commerce site, I'd suggest taking a look at Bigcommerce.
Another option to increase the product option limits in Shopify is to invest in a third-party app from Shopify’s app store - there are several available.
SEO in Shopify
Search engine optimisation in Shopify is generally very strong: it’s easy to tweak all the major SEO components — headers, page titles, URLs, meta data and so on. Although Ecwid performs reasonably well on all these fronts too, it’s worth singling out two areas where Shopify outperforms Ecwid in SEO terms: URL creation and AMP format.
In terms of URL creation, it’s easier to create ‘clean’ URLs with Shopify; although they are not quite as short as search engines like (being prefixed by identifiers such as ‘posts’ and ‘products’), it’s easy to ensure that Shopify URLs are relatively simple in nature and contain your product keywords. In Ecwid, by contrast, you are stuck with whatever is generated by the system for you. Now, if you ensure that your product title is SEO-friendly, it will be included in your Ecwid URL, which is something — but the Shopify approach is unquestionably more flexible and better from an SEO point of view.
Another edge that Shopify has over Ecwid involves something called AMP: Accelerated Mobile Pages format. Pages in this format basically load faster, leading to an improved mobile experience for users, and potentially some SEO benefits (search engines are believed to reward faster-loading pages over sluggish ones by ranking them slightly higher in search). With the addition of a third-party app in Shopify, it’s possible to display all your site content in AMP format — as far as I can ascertain, this is not possible (out of the box at least) with Ecwid.
Is Shopify for me?
Utlimately Shopify offers a quick, user-friendly way to get an online store together quickly and is ideal for anyone who doesn't already have a website. It's also a good option for people who have an existing site and wish to sell a product or two on the side with a minimum of fuss. The main gripe I have with it is the options limit discussed above.
Most users who want to build a standalone e-commerce site will find Shopify to be a very robust solution, but as with any online product though, it's best to sign up for a free trial and test it out yourself before committing to it.
You might also like to read our in-depth Shopify review for a more detailed breakdown of pros and cons of the product. Also, if you’re interested in building a Shopify store, do get in touch — we can help you build one!
Right, now on to Ecwid.
How Ecwid works
What is Ecwid?
Ecwid is a tool that is mainly focussed on giving you a store that 'plugs in' to your existing site. Although its new 'Starter Site' feature (more on which below) means you can now use it to create a basic standalone online store, it's primary purpose is still to allow you to add e-commerce functionality to an existing online presence.
As with all the leading online store building tools, Ecwid allows you to set up ‘catalogs’ of products (both physical and digital), add photos, pricing, weights for each etc. You can define shipping rates, accept card payments and so on – all the standard tasks that you’d expect to be able to perform using an e-commerce solution. You can tweak design elements using controls, or, again - if coding is your bag, you can edit the CSS stylesheets (though not HTML).
Where Ecwid differs quite fundamentally from Shopify however is that it is not really a 'standalone' hosted solution but a widget that gets placed on other sites (hence the name: Ecwid stands for ‘E-commerce Widget’). As such, you get a few lines of code to add to your existing website or social media page; your store is displayed wherever you’ve inserted this code. This is good because you can effectively host your store on multiple locations.
(As discussed above, Shopify's 'Buy Button' also allows you to sell products on an existing site, but it is a more basic affair.)
How much does Ecwid cost?
If you’ve only got a few products to sell (up to 10), Ecwid is free.
The $15 per month 'Venture' plan allows you to sell up to 100 products; the $35 per month 'Business' plan allows you to sell up to 2500 and the $99 per month 'Unlimited' plan, as the name suggests, allows you to sell an unlimited number (if you pay annually it works out cheaper).
There are no transaction fees on any plan. As you’d expect, the more you pay, the more additional features you get – discount coupons functionality, better support etc.
One thing to watch out for with pricing: unlike some competing solutions, the price varies significantly according to where you live. So for example in the UK, Ecwid's 'Venture', 'Business' and 'Unlimited' plans cost £15, £35 and £99 respectively - considerably higher than the US costs, particularly since the Brexit-related fall in the value of Sterling.
Ecwid and payment gateways
As with Shopify, you can either use Paypal or a payment gateway (or both) with Ecwid to process credit card payments. Ecwid does not provide quite as many options with regard to payment gateways however, giving users 55 to choose from versus Shopify's 100+. That said, it's still a considerable number (and more than you can use with competing products Bigcommerce and Squarespace, for example).
Five features of Ecwid are particularly strong:
You can use it to present your storefront in up to 45 different languages (something you can't really do out of the box with Shopify).
Like Shopify, it offers point of sale functionality, integrating with four POS providers, NCR, Clover, Square and Vend. However, to use the full range of POS hardware (i.e., not just a mobile device) when selling, you will need to be on the most most expensive Ecwid plan (the $99 per month 'Unlimited' plan). You should also note that one of the POS integrations — with Square — is limited to certain countries: the US, UK, Canada, Japan and Australia.
Ecwid comes with a free plan that is very usable - you can sell up to ten products with it.
A mobile app is automatically created for your Ecwid store which can be published to the Apple App store or Google Play (and these apps accept Apple Pay). This is useful for users who are adding Ecwid to a non-responsive website (although if your website isn't responsive yet, I'd do something about that!).
Ecwid integrates very neatly with Wordpress sites, thanks to a dedicated plugin.
The abandoned cart saver in Ecwid
One thing worth paying particular attention to in Ecwid is the fact that it offers abandoned cart saver functionality much cheaper than Shopify (and indeed other competing e-commerce solutions).
An abandoned cart saver allows you to send automated emails to visitors to your store who go part of the way through the sales process only to leave your store without buying any products. These sorts of emails can increase conversions and have the potential to increase your revenue significantly with little effort.
The abandoned cart saver tool is available on the cheapest Ecwid plan, meaning that you can avail of this useful functionality from just $15 per month. By contrast, you have to be on the $29 ‘Basic Shopify’ or higher plan to get access to an abandoned cart saver.
Ecwid's Starter Site option
A new and potentially very useful feature in Ecwid is its Starter Site option. This allows you to use Ecwid to build a one-page site feature your online store. It's by no means as comprehensive as a Shopify site, but it nonetheless allows you to use Ecwid to build a standalone site. If you're on a paid plan, you can map this to your own domain (meaning that your Ecwid site will sit at www.mystorename.com etc.).
One potentially useful application of the starter site option is using it a 'holding store' whilst your main website gets built — this lets you sell products successfully via an Ecwid starter site despite your full site not being 100% ready.
Is Ecwid for me?
Ecwid is ideal for anyone who already has a site and wants to add a professional online store to it. It saves you from reinventing the wheel by designing a new website, and the fact that you can plug your store into a variety of online locations is excellent - your store can live on your website, your Facebook page, anywhere you can whack a little bit of code in. As ever, try before you buy - the free Ecwid plan can be found here.
You can also read our full Ecwid review here.
Reasons to use Shopify over Ecwid
It’s good for users who don't already have a website, and need a fully-featured standalone store containing features like static pages and blog posts in addition to selling features
The SEO features are a bit stronger in Shopify than Ecwid.
More payment gateways are available in Shopify than Ecwid.
The point-of-sale options are arguably a bit more comprehensive and ‘baked in’
You can use the ‘Buy Button’ to sell on other sites a bit more cheaply than via Ecwid, although the functionality provided by it is not as comprehensive as what you’d get from an Ecwid store.
Reasons to use Ecwid over Shopify
It’s a good option for users who already have a website that you they are happy with, but wish to add a fully-featured online store to it.
Ecwid’s multilingual functionality is considerably better than Shopify’s.
Ecwid is great for users on a budget or those who have basic selling requirements, because its free plan may actually meet many merchants’ needs.
It provides considerably more flexibility with regard to product options than Shopify.
It provides abandoned cart functionality at a considerably lower price point than Shopify.
Alternatives to Shopify and Ecwid
If you're looking for a hosted solution for your online store, we'd probably recommend Bigcommerce as a good alternative to Shopify. You can read our Bigcommerce review here, or check out our e-commerce platform reviews section for more online store reviews and comparisons.
Other hosted solutions for e-commerce include Squarespace, Jimdo and Wix, but these are more general website building platforms than specialised e-commerce tools (especially the last two of these three products). See our Squarespace review, Jimdo review and Wix review respectively for more information on these products.
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