Agencies are forcing you to play Squid Game with Shopify, and this is why you’re losing
The grisly scenes of Squid Game (and that creepy animatronic doll) continue to give people nightmares, only a few weeks after the series launched on Netflix.
But, such is the case with forceful ultimatums that often result in death. You could say it’s like being shoved in a corner by a Shopify Agency – while being told that Shopify is the only eCommerce platform that’ll work for you.
The problem with agencies that aren’t agnostic (i.e., they only favour certain eCommerce platforms, and thus offer biased advice) is that their main goal is to push you towards the eCommerce platform that they’re loyal to, rather than focus on the growth of your business.
Frankly, they may as well be wearing the Squid Game masks and pushing your business down a black hole of ruin themselves.
Sound a bit harsh? The eCommerce game often is, unless you’re working with the right people, willing to give you fair advice.
Read on to find out why you’re already losing this digital battle of Squid Game with Shopify Agencies (and what you can do about it).
TOO MANY PLAYERS, NOT ENOUGH WINNERS
Fuelled by a sharp increase in consumer demand for convenience and availability, there are now countless options for retailers when it comes to choosing eCommerce solutions.
Selecting the right platform for your specific requirements is crucial. As a retailer, it’s important to recognise that not all of them will be up to the task and it certainly isn’t a onesize-fits-all.
But, if your agency is only offering you one solution for your online business, are you being played?
According to G2, the major software and services peer-to-peer review site, there are almost 400 different eCommerce platforms in the market today.
Each platform offers a range of pros and cons. Whether you’re looking for a platform that is scalable, offers ease of integration, provides ultimate customisation, or is more affordable to build and maintain, it’s important that you’re given the full picture.
This way, you are being presented with advice on solutions that are the right fit for your business, giving you the foundations to win, online.
Below, we’ll look at some of the key players and alternative platforms out there and examine how they could be a much better fit for your business.
RULES OF SHOPIFY
There’s no denying Shopify is an easy-to-use platform. The platform is popular among many online retailers and can be a suitable option for those looking for an easier entry into eCommerce. From its conception in 2006, Shopify was developed with the novice in mind.
Shopify’s online stores can be quick to set up, they are scalable (although those transaction fees soon stack up as you do scale), and the site is hosted in the cloud. This means that retailers can (in theory) remove the headache, cost, and reliability of hosting.
However, Shopify isn’t always the best fit for eCommerce merchants, and here’s why.
Although it may be easy to set up, that does come with downsides. For example, a basic subscription package is very unlikely to deliver on all the functionality and features you require from your online store. To add your desired enhanced capability, you’ll need to link a ton of external apps and plugins. This all comes at an extra cost, which will soon stack up.
Despite an extensive app ecosystem, it’s very likely you won’t be able to deliver the exact functionality you need, especially if what you’re looking to achieve is bespoke or complex. The stack of additional apps and plugins are also likely to have a negative impact on your site’s performance, especially around site speed. The more apps you amas; the greater impact this will have.
Site speed is a critically important factor to consider when developing your online store.
It can have a staggering effect on conversion rate and the user experience on your site. There’s countless, well-documented research to suggest that a site’s performance (page loading speed etc.) can directly impact conversion rates. A recent report on this issue, revealed almost 70% of consumers stated a website’s loading time affects their willingness to buy. If your site speed is affected, you will lose customers.
Your page speed and site performance also directly impacts SEO. Page speed is a direct ranking factor, a fact more clearly demonstrated since Google’s Algorithm Speed update. Site speed can also affect rankings indirectly, by increasing the bounce rate and reducing dwell time.
Shopify may be a good starting platform to grow with, but if you want full control over your content and layout, and you want to actually own your domain and its contents, a self-hosted platform (run on the likes of WooCommerce or Aero Commerce) can be a far more solid fit. Unlike Shopify, with self-hosted solutions, you’re getting a blank canvas that you can customise in almost any way you want your site to look and function. With hosted platforms, you’re limited by their technology and frameworks.
When the time comes to migrate and move away from Shopify, the hosted eCommerce platform provides fewer data points compared to other platforms, which, without the right technical support, can make a replatforming process a real pain in the butt.
Although having a library of apps to choose from is useful, the amount you’ll need to purchase can very soon amount to a high monthly cost. It’s also worth tracking what benefits the apps are delivering to the site performance and more importantly, to your customers.
More often than not, the apps aren’t delivering the exact functionality you require, are slowing site speed, and fail to deliver on adding real value for customers.
Ultimately, when using a SaaS platform such as Shopify to host your site, consider your future plans for growth.
If Shopify is the only option you’re being presented with by your agency, ask yourself, are they offering impartial advice on the best-fit platform and question whether you are being shoehorned into a platform that perhaps isn’t the best fit for your business.
HOW DOES SAAS COMPETITOR, BIGCOMMERCE COMPARE?
Whilst Shopify remains a market leading player, there are several alternative platforms that you can opt for, that might better suit your requirements.
Platforms such as BigCommerce offer retailers a similar SaaS based solution. The platform has experienced impressive growth as they look to gain further market share in the eCommerce space and are proving to be an increasingly popular choice.
Unlike Shopify, BigCommerce don’t charge penalty fees or transaction fees for using any payment gateway, which can act as a significant saving as a business scales. Transaction fees are the percentage of revenue that a platform takes from each sale you make. BigCommerce has zero transaction fees on any of its plans. Shopify, on the other hand, charges between 2% and 0.5%, depending on the pricing plan you’re on.
BigCommerce has an impressive number of sales features already built-in to an online store, out of the box. Although its app store is much smaller, this is because the platform has better built-in features. This means as a retailer, you’ll need to download less apps to add enhanced functionality to your store. For example, if you have a product with multiple colours, sizes and variations, Shopify will only allow 100 variants per product based on three options, whereas BigCommerce offers 600 variants per product.
BigCommerce also trumps Shopify with order editing and customer credit functionality. Out of the box, Shopify supports editing the address on an order, but can’t handle editing the order itself. For example, if a customer needs to change the size of an item on an order using the native functionality on Shopify, the merchant would need to cancel the order and create a new one. Alternatively, you would need to pay for yet another app. A merchant on BigCommerce however, could simply update the size of the product on the order inside their control panel.
Offering customers store credit can be a great way to improve customer retention. As a retailer on BigCommerce, you can easily apply credit to a customer’s account towards future purchases. A merchant on Shopify would either need to use a makeshift work-around and issue a gift card or install a third-party app to manage store credits.
The BigCommerce platform is also top-rated for its Search Engine Optimization (SEO) features and ranks well when you look at the options for personalisation, and its reliability.
If, as a retailer, you want a full-fledged store with a lot of plugins, add-ons, and integration options for Content Management Systems (CMSs) such as WordPress, BigCommerce is a great choice.
However, a lot of the drawbacks associated with SaaS platforms (less customisation when compared to open-source platforms etc.) such as Shopify are also true of BigCommerce. It’s worth taking these into account when deciding on which platform is best for your business. Independent platform comparison tools can be a handy first port of call before engaging with a specialist.
THE OPEN-SOURCE CONTENDERS
Open-source platforms such as WooCommerce or Magneto are also a popular choice for eCommerce retailers. They are both highly customisable and incredibly scalable. They can be built in a totally bespoke way and the framework these platforms are built on can handle complex requirements. It perhaps explains why enterprise retailers with complicated retail demands opt for such platforms.
Unlike SaaS platforms such as Shopify, with an open-source solution, you have full access to the code that runs the website. Typically, you own the code, or pay a license for using the code, and any modifications to that code can be made by you or your eCommerce developer/agency. With the likes of Shopify, you’re not given access to the code, only access to make template and design changes. This can be limiting if you’re looking to build a highly customised, enterprise eCommerce website built for growth.
With open-source software, retailers are likely to receive a higher technical quality than with a licensed SaaS software. Simply put, this is because it has been created with the input of thousands of developers worldwide. These developers work to optimise various parts of the software, meaning that retailers can benefit from increased security, enhancement and
optimisation of existing features, as well as the introduction of new innovative features and tools.
Platforms such as Magento undeniably offer greater control and flexibility, however, development and maintenance costs can soon stack up. Platforms such as Magento require regular maintenance, updates and patching and this can get expensive as you begin to develop functionality on the platform, especially if you don’t have the expertise in-house. Open-source platforms require a high level of technical expertise to set up and maintain, to ensure the store that is built, is fast, effective and reliable. Technical support around these platforms is also limited, although there are established communities of developers in this space, to provide guidance for technical professionals.
Open-source platforms can soon become expensive to host and operate. Unlike SaaS platforms such as Shopify, they aren’t hosted, and you’ll need to establish your own domain and infrastructure environment.
While there are a number of open-source modules available to enhance your eCommerce site, consider that technical expertise will typically be required to review these modules and assess any impact they may have on the site performance.
SELECTING THE BESPOKE OPTION
Building a completely bespoke platform can give retailers total control over design layout, functionality, and infrastructure. This is because the environment is created from scratch and completely tailored to how you would like it set up. Therefore, building and implementing a very specific piece of functionality on the site, or improving the infrastructure environment and site performance can all (in theory) be very achievable.
Despite offering these benefits, bespoke platforms can cause a huge headache to retailers when they are looking to scale or adapt the site once it’s up and running. Retailers looking to adapt their site after it has been built, may find difficulties in integrating new applications and will often be presented with conflict when doing so. Because of the bespoke nature of the build, this can lead to retailers almost playing a game of Whac-A-Mole to keep the site operational.
What you’ll find yourself doing is adding additional bespoke modules with a limited technical support community. This will likely result in your site being made up of a clunky hodgepodge of dated legacy code and functionality that isn’t working properly and no longer performing how you need it to. Also, any fundamental changes then become incredibly expensive and may require an almost entire rebuild. Such a clunky build over time will likely have a detrimental impact on your site performance and your site will run slowly with a shoddy user experience.
Likewise, replatforming from bespoke platforms can be messy, as they tend to be built in a very inaccessible way with limited data points and patched together with different technologies and built on various frameworks.
AERO, THE DISRUPTIVE PERFORMANCE-BASED PLAYER
Aero Commerce are one of the newer eCommerce platforms to enter the market with their performance-based platform. The platform offers retailers a modern technology stack and lighting fast speed. Sites built on Aero often achieve a full 100% Lighthouse Performance Score. The interesting proposition with Aero is that it really does offer a great deal of what the SaaS platforms can in terms of powerfulness and reliability, with all the accessibility of open source, and full technical support.
With a platform like Aero Commerce, retailers can enjoy the essential features you’d expect from a modern, powerful ecommerce solution, right out of the box. If retailers need to expand and customise their Aero Commerce site, it’s easy with modules and themes created by their development community. As well as this, due to its open code approach to agencies, retailers can engage with an Aero Commerce agency, to create a piece of functionality that is totally unique.
Not only does Aero offer retailers simple and cost-effective license fees, zero transactions fees, lean infrastructure requirements and a strong out-of-the-box functionality (meaning less of a need for endless expensive apps), Aero Commerce also offers a stable, development-friendly environment, meaning you’ll enjoy more streamlined maintenance costs too.
This all ensures that you, as the retailer, can enjoy lower overall infrastructure and maintenance costs, in some cases 90% lower than other leading eCommerce platforms and ensures that development times are reduced to a minimum, whilst site customer experience is maximised.
Aero’s ease of use and its intuitive platform, allows merchants to easily manage products, sales, promotions, merchandising and dispatching in just a few speedy clicks. Due to its extendibility, integrations with 3rd party back-office software such as stock control, ERP, warehouse management and accounting systems can be easily achieved.
One of the drawbacks of a performance-based platform like Aero is that it is less easy to use for absolute beginners and requires the technical expertise of developers. With Shopify, in theory, a retailer could create an account, select a theme and away they go. Although, this would be incredibly basic with limited functionality. The good news is that Aero Commerce works on an open code basis. This means that partner agencies (to which Wow Group of Companies are) have full access to the source code and can therefore build a customised and tailored store to suit the exact requirements of the retailer. The platform itself is based on the Laravel framework, which is popular amongst the developer community. The platform was built with developers in mind, meaning it is enjoyable to build and extend on.
You’ll also have to consider that hosting isn’t covered (like it is with Shopify), and you’ll need to set up a hosting environment. Having said that, most retail sites that run on Aero can be hosted for a relatively nominal amount and there’s a vast choice of hosting providers at your disposal.
Ultimately, Aero Commerce is a strong contender for retailers, it’s an all-encompassing eCommerce platform which is specially designed for ambitious mid-tier merchants looking to scale. Aero is a viable solution to those complex eCommerce projects that would not be catered for by some of the other SaaS platforms on the market.
HOW YOU CAN AVOID BEING PLAYED
The unfortunate truth is, most agencies will only recommend a solution that works for them (and not you).
But you can finally wave those pesky swindlers goodbye now, as Wow Group is an agnostic eCommerce agency with deep, in-house expertise; and years of hands-on experience to back it up. We’ll guide you with actionable and unbiased advice, and stay with you every step of the way, until YOU become champions in your field.
Whether it’s understanding the ins-and-outs of WordPress, Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Magento, Aero Commerce or OpenCart – you’re in more than capable hands with us. Give us a shout and watch us keep our word: 0121 285 0071 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember, in a world where the eCommerce landscape is a bit of a minefield, you need support that’s both fair and in the best interest of your online business.
That’s the goal.
Hey, that’s the winning game plan.