The 8 Best Shopify Alternatives in 2021

/ ecommerce / 17 min read
Laura Wilson

Table of Contents

If you spend any time on the internet you'll have heard of Shopify. It doesn't take much to see why. The uber-popular ecommerce giant serves nearly four million websites, and generated revenue of more than $2 billion so far in 2021 alone.

But if we've learned anything from YouTube, Tik Tok and world politics it's this: just because something is popular doesn't mean it's right for you. (Which would explain why you're searching for alternatives to Shopify.)

Whether you're a current Shopify user looking to migrate to a different platform, or an ecommerce newbie just starting your research, we're here to help.

In this guide, we'll outline the best Shopify alternatives, covering the pros and cons of each platform and why it might suit your business.

What is Shopify?

Shopify is an ecommerce website platform that allows you to build and manage your own online store. With their tools you can create a website, upload products, monitor sales and look after the day-to-day running of your business.

As Shopify is software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, you don't require any technical knowledge to set up, use or maintain the product. Just pay a monthly subscription, and Shopify handles all the complex backend operations.

Shopify has three broad offerings:

  • Shopify Lite: An entry-level solution for small businesses and entrepreneurs looking for a simple sales solution. Add the Shopify Buy Button to your website and connect to its sales features for USD$9/month.
  • Shopify: For small-to-medium businesses looking to launch, grow and scale an online store. Includes three pricing tiers—Basic Shopify, Shopify and Advanced Shopify—with different features and costs across each plan.
  • Shopify Plus: Solution for enterprise level businesses looking for a more custom experience. The variable fee starts at $2,000/month with extra costs like themes, third-party automations and custom development.

5 Reasons You Might Be Considering Alternatives

While we can't read your mind, we've identified a few main reasons you might be looking for an alternative to Shopify for your ecommerce business.

1. You don't like additional fees

Considering the amount of features you get, Shopify's monthly pricing is more than reasonable. The problem is transaction and credit card fees add considerable costs each month, on top of fees from your payment gateway.  

With Shopify, you can be charged transaction fees of up to 2%, as well as credit card rates of 2.9% plus 30 cents of every purchase. The only way around this is by using the proprietary Shopify Payments gateway. This isn't a fix-all though, as it limits you to certain currencies and is only available in certain countries.

2. You need something less complex

Building and maintaining an online store isn't just a matter of money. It's a matter of time as well. As a small business owner, you don't want to be forced to dedicate hours each day to updating products, inventory and other store processes.

“I initially played around with some larger platforms like Shopify to set up the store. However, I quickly found that while their platform is powerful, it was perhaps too big and overwhelming for a small local business...That's when I came across Paperform."
— Dennis Karle

Shopify's expansive features come with a certain level of complexity. By the time you get a fully-functional online store stocked with products, the backend system quickly gets overwhelming. This can make updating large stores a chore, particularly if you aren't technically minded.

3. You want more customisation options

Shopify stores have a somewhat uniform design. While this makes it simple to get up and running (as you just add your own images or brand logo), it results in a store that looks like every other Shopify store, rather than something uniquely yours.

Customisation largely depends on your choice of theme. Shopify offers just over 100 of these, the vast majority of which are paid (prices range from USD$180-310). The options are limited to adjusting fonts, colours and images, unless you're willing get your hands dirty with code.

Ultimately, once you've chosen a theme, 99 percent of your web design is locked in, with little room to build something that works for your specific business. Plus, the drag-and-drop editor can be clunky and visual elements behave strangely if not the exact dimensions required.

4. You're after more than an online store

If you're a small business owner you have to wear a lot of hats. From accounting and customer relationship management to marketing and client calls, there's much more to running an ecommerce business than making sales.

With this in mind, it makes sense that you're looking for a solution that does more than sales. Instead of a straight up ecommerce platform like Shopify, you might be searching for a more flexible business "hub" that empowers you to connect to your favourite tools and automate your business processes.

Let's say you teach an online yoga class. Beyond an ecommerce site to sell lessons and merchandise, you'll need to:

  • Manage bookings and class schedules
  • Communicate with clients
  • Automate email marketing and receipts
  • Send surveys for customer feedback

With Shopify this takes a variety of individual apps and integrations. However, with an all-in-one tool like Paperform, you can have all these processes (and more) set up and automated with the one platform.

5. You're just not satisfied

Maybe we missed the mark. Maybe you don't like all of the things we've listed, or you had a poor customer service experience, or you don't like the shade of green Shopify uses for its logo. Maybe you already have Spotify, and you just don't have capacity for another app with 'ify' in its brand name. That's alright, our list of alternatives will still offer something for you.

📚 Customer Satisfaction Surveys: Best Practices for Meaningful Insights

Features to Consider for Your Ecommerce Platform

Online businesses are like fingerprints—no two are the same. There is no one size fits all approach, but there are some key features you should consider when choosing an ecommerce platform.

what to look for in an ecommerce platform graphic for shopify alternatives
  • Cost: Ensure that you choose a service that fits your budget and offers value for money. Remember, monthly fees can be deceiving. Delve deeper into pricing and consider transaction and credit card fees that add to your costs.
  • Ease of use: The ideal ecommerce platform isn't just easy to setup, it's easy to adjust and maintain. What good is a great looking website that you're scared to touch in case you break something? Ease of use extends across customisation, adding products and processes like order management and shipping.
  • Templates/themes: The more templates or themes you can access, the quicker you can build your site. These take care of the heavy lifting and simplify the web design process. Great themes will save you hours of time.
  • Customisation: Your website is a visual extension of your brand. Ecommerce platforms should empower you to build a site that reflects your unique business, without needing to any coding skills.
  • Payment options: Most customers have a certain way they prefer to pay. Make sure the ecommerce platform you choose offers a variety of payment providers to choose from. PayPal, Stripe and Braintree are among the most popular, though it's a scenario where it's usually the more the merrier.
  • Analytics: Numbers don't lie. The right analytics give you a direct measure of how your website—and more broadly, your business—is performing. Most tools will come with a simple ecommerce metrics dashboard to track progress, though the level of detail will vary.
  • Integrations: Integrating with your favourite apps and tools allows you to cut down on busy work and automate mundane business process. If you want to do things like analyse data in Google Sheets or send customer details to your CRM, you'll need a tool with comprehensive integration support.

The 8 Best Shopify Alternatives

Now you know what main features to look out for, we can finally get to the list of Shopify Alternatives. We've narrowed it down to 8 platforms that offer different ecommerce experiences that may suite your individual needs.

Shopify Alternatives at a glance table

💡 Tip: If you're an individual creator, artist or niche business, you might not require a dedicated ecommerce site. Online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Etsy might be a better option depending on your needs. Read our Shopify vs Etsy comparison to learn more.

1. Paperform

Best for businesses of all sizes after a versatile ecommerce and business platform with advanced customisation and integrations to automate your work.

Screenshot of Paperform website, an alternative to Shopify

👍 Paperform Pros:

  • Expansive suite of features offered across every plan, including bookings.
  • Support for all major payment gateways including PayPal, Stripe and Square—with no additional fees.
  • Simple free-text editor that doesn't require any coding skills.
  • A large ecosystem of app integrations and partners, including Adobe Creative Cloud and Zapier.
  • 24/7  support available with expert agents based around the globe.
  • Easy to add to your existing WordPress site.

👎 Paperform Cons:

  • There is no free plan.
  • Websites are simple, which means there's no blogging functionality

Paperform is an online platform that empowers you to create beautiful online forms, landing pages and ecommerce sites in minutes. Our versatile software gives you the tools to build your ideal solution—whether that's an online store, a restaurant order form or an appointment management system for your new yoga studio.

Unlike Shopify, with Paperform anyone can build a unique site. There's no technical knowledge (or coding necessary). Select from 600+ templates, then use our free-text editor to ensure your site reflects your business. Add brand colours and logos, insert visuals, tweak fonts and even edit the UI.

While Shopify has a bunch of great features, if you're s business owner looking for an ecommerce platform that's easy to maintain and customise for your brand, while also integrating with your favourite tools, Paperform is a better choice.

💡 Tip: Paperform is a 'digital Swiss Army Knife' that has a tool for every one of your business needs. From surveys and bookings to appointments and landing pages, we support all the ways you do business.

2. BigCommerce

Best for enterprise-scale companies that require a powerful ecommerce solution.

Screenshot of Bigcommerce website, an alternative to ShopifyImage Source: BigCommerce

👍 BigCommerce Pros:

  • Stacked with features across each plan.
  • Supports multiple payment gateways with no extra fees.  
  • Excellent customer support available 24/7.

👎 BigCommerce Cons:

  • Due to the breadth of features, there is a steep learning curve.
  • If you really want to customise your site, you'll need to tweak HTML and CSS.
  • Caps on income you can make on each pricing tier.

As is made somewhat obvious by its name, BigCommerce is an ecommerce platform aimed at large businesses looking to sell online. Compared to Shopify, it offers many more features, covering everything from omnichannel marketing to B2B payments.

Though, these features come at a cost of considerable complexity. The learning curve is steeper than a downhill slope. Even once you have the basics down, managing any BigCommerce website takes a considerable investment of time and effort.

3. WooCommerce

Best for business owners with tech skills and time to dedicate to building a store.

Screenshot of WooCommerce website, an alternative to Shopify

👍 WooCommerce Pros:

  • The base product is completely free and open-source.
  • Adds into your existing WordPress dashboard.
  • Its open-source code means it's extremely flexible if you have the tech know-how.

👎 WooCommerce Cons:

  • You'll need extensions to get your store up and running, adding considerable additional costs and potentially affecting site performance.
  • To customise your ecommerce store you'll have to be technically minded or hire a web developer fluent in HTML and CSS.

WooCommerce is an open-source plugin that transforms WordPress websites into fully-functional ecommerce websites. This makes a no-brainer Shopify alternative for anyone already using a WordPress blog for other parts of their business.

While the base product is free, it's very limited. Essential functionality is unlocked through premium extensions, the majority of which come at premium costs. Sites are also fiddly to setup and customisation required a fair bit of technical savvy.

💡 Tip: Want to host your ecommerce store on WordPress but don't want the complexity of WooCommerce? Try an alternative. For example, Paperform has a WordPress plugin that integrates with your existing site without any technical skill or paid extensions required.

4. Adobe Commerce (Magento)

Best for large B2B companies who have money to spend on a premium solution.

Screenshot of Adobe Commerce website, an alternative to ShopifyImage Source: Adobe Commerce

👍 Adobe Commerce Pros:

  • Unmatched customisation and control of the backend—as long as you have web development skills.
  • Expansive marketplace with thousands of extensions and themes.
  • Global partner community to help you meet your business goals.

👎 Adobe Commerce Cons:

  • Prices are colossal, with the lowest estimate starting at $40,000/year.
  • You'll need a dedicated web development team for even the basics.

In 2018, Adobe acquired Magento and rebranded as Adobe Commerce. The good news: small businesses can access an open source version of Magento for free. The bad: support is no longer provided, so you'll need serious tech skills to get started.

As you'd expect from an Adobe product, Adobe Commerce is an unapologetically premium solution. This means while its features are expansive, setup us difficult, costs are sky high, and you'll need an experienced web development team to take advantage of them.

If you're plugged in to the Adobe ecosystem and have expert web developer skills Adobe Commerce might be an alternative to Shopify that suits you.

5. Squarespace

Best for businesses that require a beautiful website first and online store second.

Screenshot of Squarespace website, an alternative to ShopifyImage Source: Squarespace

👍 Squarespace Pros:

  • A large range of attractive templates.
  • Simple blogging functionality for content marketing.
  • More appearance and customisation options than other options.

👎 Squarespace Cons:

  • Automatic tax is only available in the US—and through an extension.
  • Subfolders within menus are limited which effects website navigation.
  • Moving elements with the drag-and-drop editor often feels clunky.

Squarespace began as a website builder aimed at creatives and small businesses, so the extension into the ecommerce space feels like a natural progression. It offers an alternative to Shopify for people who are happy to miss out on advanced features in favour of a simple, visual website experience.

Having said that, when it comes to the design of your online store, Squarespace is in a similar position to Shopify. Sites look great but tend to share a standard aesthetic that detracts from the unique nature of your brand.

6. Wix

Best for people wanting simple ecommerce built onto a larger website experience.

Screenshot of Wix website, an alternative to ShopifyImage Source: Wix

👍 Wix Pros:

  • 'Business & eCommerce' Plans come with a free domain for one year.
  • Over 500 themes tailored to individual product types.
  • No transaction fees on payments.

👎 Wix Cons:

  • Restrictions on storage space (50GB max) means its not suited for large stores.
  • No live chat support and you have to upgrade for priority care.
  • Reliance on third-party apps for further ecommerce functionality.

You know those tests where people blind taste test Pepsi and Coke and can't tell the difference? If you could do a similar exercise with Squarespace and Wix, you would probably get the same result. Both platforms are very similar.

Like Squarespace, Wix is a website builder with additional ecommerce functionality attached. That means, alongside online store features like inventory management or SKU creation, you can also start a company blog and accept bookings.

It also has a lot of attractive themes. There are over 500 unique designs, all of which are tailored for specific industries and products (e.g. beauty and electronics stores). Unfortunately, customising the themes leaves a lot to be desired.

7. Big Cartel

Best for small-scale creatives after a simple ecommerce solution that 'just works'.

Screenshot of Big Cartel website, an alternative to ShopifyImage Source: Big Cartel

👍 Big Cartel Pros:

  • Clean and straightforward experience for you and your customers.
  • You can run discounts and promotions across all plans.  

👎 Big Cartel Cons:

  • The limited functionality means it's not suitable for most use cases.
  • Across all plans you can only add a maximum of five images per product.
  • Theme customisation is superficial without coding.

Big Cartel is an ecommerce solution built by artists, for artists. It's a solid, albeit relatively basic, alternative to Shopify for creatives after a simple storefront to sell t-shirts, art, clothing, prints and other creative work online.

While you can list five products for free, this is more of a glorified trial than a truly free plan. Most users will opt for at least the Platinum plan, which comes with free customisable themes, inventory tracking, google analytics and real-time statistics.

Big Cartel certainly isn't for everyone. But if you're an artist happy with a no-frills experience and barebones ecommerce features, it might be the right choice for you.

8. Volusion

Best for small to medium businesses a functional ecommerce site with no frills.

Screenshot of Volusion website, an alternative to ShopifyImage Source: Volusion

👍 Volusion Pros:

  • Unlimited bandwidth across all plans.
  • Comprehensive analytics dashboard.
  • Layout and dashboard is intuitive and responsive.

👎 Volusion Cons:

  • Customers commonly complain of downtime and site slowdowns.
  • Limited customisation options compared to other ecommerce platforms.
  • Not many third-party integrations available.

Founded back in 1999, Volusion is one of the oldest ecommerce site builders on the web. In terms of features, it sits somewhere between Shopify and BigCommerce, as it's focused purely on helping businesses create stores and sell physical and digital products.

And with over 20 years of experience, Volusion does that well. You'll find all the tools you need and there are also extras you don't often see elsewhere, like abandoned cart recovery, user ratings and the option to add "deal of the day" notices to your site.

While there are a few drawbacks—namely, a lack of customisation and support for integrations—overall, Volusion is a suitable Shopify alternative for small businesses after a kind of "middle ground" ecommerce tool. Oh, and they know how to spell ecommerce.

Try Paperform as Your Shopify Alternative

By now you should have a better idea of which, of the many, Shopify Alternatives may be the right solution for your business. Of course, we think Paperform takes the cake, but we're a biased.

So rather than raving on about how great we are, here's what our customers say:

"As we are a small business with not a lot of overhead dollars, I try to reduce costs as much as possible. I didn't want to pay our site provider extra for an ecommerce site, and I struggled with how I was going to incorporate payment into our website without any extra costs. Then I had a brain flash where I realised that Paperform already solved this issue."
—Sally from Very Good Design

"I love the flexibility of how many different ways I can use the software. I keep pushing the boundaries, and it keeps getting better. I use it for sales pages, contact forms, and payment processing. Oh, and yes surveys. Don't forget the ability to collect information from your community, clients, and prospects."
— Russ from Agency258

“I initially played around with some larger platforms like Shopify. However, I quickly found that while their platform is powerful, it was perhaps too big and overwhelming for a small local business. We ultimately needed to set up a backend system that would allow the owners to quickly and easily update product details. That’s when I came across Paperform. With Paperform, I found that the process was quick and painless, and connecting with PayPal was a breeze."
— Dennis Karle, Köln liebt Blumen

Start Selling Today

As we covered right off the top: Shopify isn't for everyone. It's a great tool, but just because it's popular doesn't necessarily mean it's the ideal solution for your specific business.

Once you've identified what features are important to you, take a look at the products on this list. The chances are a few will stick out. We recommend you make a shortlist and take advantage of the free trials on offer to see what works (or doesn't) with your own eyes.

With that in mind: why not start with Paperform? We offer a free 14-day trial with no credit card details required, so you can try our platform with no obligations.

Shopify Alternatives FAQs

What can I use instead of Shopify?
All the items listed on this webpage: Paperform, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Adobe Commerce, Wix, Squarespace Big Cartel and Volusion.

What can I sell on Shopify?
While you can sell pretty much anything on Shopify, you do have to follow their Acceptable Use Policy, which prohibits certain items. This won't be a problem though, as mostly it restrics items that are already illegal to sell, like certain firearms and materials.

Where can I sell things online for free?
There are a few options when it comes to selling online for free. WooCommerce is the most popular and BigCartel and Weebly have free plans available. However, these have restrictions and you may have to pay for add ons.


About the author
Laura Wilson
Laura is a Content Writer at Paperform. She writes from rural Australia with pets who really want to attend virtual meetings. She dreams of writing as fearlessly as the Fast and Furious writers do.

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