Building an eCommerce store can seem like a daunting task, especially if you can’t decide whether you want to build your own website or sell products through a Shopify store. Both the options have their pros and cons and there could be multiple reasons as to why you may choose one over the other. This article will help you make the right choice for your business and help you understand if you want to launch a website or open an online store on Shopify.
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What’s the Difference?
The most basic difference between having your own website and having a Shopify store is that Shopify is a platform that has been designed exclusively for eCommerce. The platform provides a set of tools to all the store owners so that they can build their stores from scratch and have everything that they might need to run the business, at the tip of their fingers. On the other hand, you will need a developer to build your website and then domain and hosting services to keep it running.
Apart from that, you will also need a content management system to handle all the content and transactions and you will need more tools to handle additional functionality that you may require. For example, you might use WordPress to build your website and a WooCommerce plugin for your transactions. Shopify platform’s store has all of these functionalities built into it.
Which One is More Popular?
Over the years, Shopify has become the largest and the most popular eCommerce platform that has hosted over 800,000 stores from a wide set of industries and niches. The platform also hosts the biggest names like Gymshark and Budweiser, as it has a great set of functions and features that make it the obvious choice for a beginner.
However, building your online store sounds fascinating as it provides complete control and flexibility to the store owner and allows them to customize the store in whichever way they want, whenever they want. But if you wish to run your own store, you will need to find a platform and fetch all the tools needed for its operation yourself. For example, fulfilling orders, accepting payments, updating customers and more.
In the end, the decision you make will be based on your needs and requirements. But it’s important for you to see how both the scenarios work so that you can make an informed decision.
Difference between Shopify and your website
Shopify isn’t just seen as a platform that offers eCommerce solutions but as a ‘website builder’. This means that you don’t need any knowledge of programming or coding to build your store, the subsequent pages that it requires and set up a blog for it. All you need to do here is click some buttons and pick your designs while the already available back-end functionality gets customized based on your steps. Shopify also provides hosting services to store owners for a monthly fee to keep their store live and accessible to everyone.
On the other hand, your website would be starkly different on a fundamental level from a Shopify store. You will first need to pick the right platform and choose a content management system (CMS) that will help you build your website. The software is also crucial to managing and updating all the content of the site in just one go. A CMS is technically designed to help one build and manage a blog or website, but its flexible and customizable approach can help you build a store as well.
The most popular options for CMS today are WordPress, Weebly, Joomla, Magneto and more but WordPress has gained unmatched popularity and is a reputable CMS in the market. It is easy to use and allows you to install several functional plugins, including WooCommerce that takes care of all the eCommerce functionality that you wish to handle. There are several tools that can make the process of building a website easier but come at a cost. You will also need to find hosting services that will host your site at a monthly/yearly fee.
Advantages of Shopify
Building a store on Shopify comes with many benefits. The following are some of them.
- It is easy to build, use, and manage a store on Shopify.
- You don’t require any coding background or technical knowledge to build your store.
- You have hundreds of tools that are readily available to help you with the eCommerce process.
- You have to pay just once to build your store, host it, get different functionalities and more.
- It offers reliable payment gateways, up-time and has PCI compliance.
- The pages developed through Shopify have a page response time of 80 milliseconds and thus, load incredibly fast.
Disadvantages of Shopify
Though it’s easy to use and every item is just a click away, building a store on Shopify does come with some disadvantages.
- The store charges you a transaction fee when you make payments using PayPal or Stripe.
- Though Shopify offers a ton of themes, you will have to reformat all your content every time you change it.
Advantages of your website
Building your own store online gives you more freedom than Shopify does. Here are some of the advantages of having your website.
- You can customize your website as much as you want and as many times as you want. Your personal store offers great customization and flexibility compared to Shopify.
- You need to have some technical background to understand what’s going on but fret not, you can get all the help and assistance you need, online.
- There are a plethora of options and solutions available for every functionality on the internet so you can choose what fits you the best.
Disadvantages of your website
Though it’s flexible and customizable, having a website also comes with its own set of disadvantages. The following are some of them.
- You need to have the technical knowledge to set up a website. The process is also very time-consuming.
- A website can be much more expensive than a Shopify store as you will have to pay for everything from hosting to plugins separately.
- You will have to manage the domain, find hosting and SSL services and do everything else by yourself.
- A website highly relies on plugins and other application software and therefore, needs to be monitored constantly. It also requires regular maintenance.
Is it easy to build a store?
The major difference between setting up a store on Shopify or building a website is that you will have to find the most reliable platform for the latter and code to build it up as well. If you don’t want to code the whole website, you will have to buy the plugins that will do the work for you and integrate them into the website. With Shopify, this process can take as less as an hour since all you have to do is run through the process of setting up and choose the theme that fits you best.
With Shopify, all you need to do is sign up for a free trial on the platform. Once you’ve filled in a questionnaire about your store and what you intend to do with it, you’ll see the back end of the store. Through this interface, you will be able to create all the elements of your store including the pages and products. The set of instructions on the platform guides you for understanding what you need to do and in which order.
You can add products on the platform by simply clicking on the ‘add product’ option in the associated panel on the left. You can either add the products one by one or add all of them together by uploading a CSV file.
Your own website may have a slightly more complicated process as it will be dependent upon the platform and software you make use of. First of all, you will need to understand the intricacies of coding. You can also use a CMS plugin for eCommerce that will handle everything for you. One of the suggestions is to make use of the WordPress platform along with the WooCommerce plugin which allows you to design your store, add products to it and manage it.
Plugins can manage a lot of things for you, making the process of building a store easier but you must research and find the one that fits your needs best. This is why WooCommerce is the most popularly employed plugin against a platform like Shopify.
If you decide to make use of a website instead of Shopify, you should understand the platform very well. You need to read up on the platform or software you plan to choose, what will be the cost involved in the process and what else is needed from your end to make the website work. However, you can choose to hire an external developer to build your store but this may increase your costs exponentially. A setup like this needs a lot of time and most designers charge by the hour.
How long does it take to build a store?
It doesn’t take long to build a store on Shopify as the platform comes with everything that you may need in the process and is quite user-friendly too. On the other hand, the time to build a website depends on the platform and software you choose to use for it. A website comes with an additional time of learning and understanding how a works and then set it up.
Elements like hosting, domain connection, installation of SSL and others aren’t of a set standard like Shopify offers. Thus, you might need to spend time understanding which one suits your needs the best. Even a small mistake in these areas can lead to the collapse of the whole website. Apart from that, you will also have to do a test run of the website to make sure it’s functioning properly. One of the ways to do this is by placing test orders for your products.
In case you decide to go ahead with a website building platform like WordPress and integrate it with WooCommerce, the time of the process will decrease drastically. However, you will still have to make choices on the other technical aspects of the site.
Store design and themes
In an eCommerce store, a theme is what defines the design of the store, its layout and how it looks and feels to the users. Shopify offers around 100 themes to all the users who sign up to open a store. All of these themes are customizable and many of them are available for free too. Though some of the themes have a one-time fee and many of the premium ones can cost as much as $30-$100, they provide a lot of additional functionality. The price may seem huge but this one-time investment can get you hefty returns.
For example, all the themes in Shopify have minimal code that has gone into their design, improving their speed, making their user experience better, and optimizing their SEO. Most of these themes are device responsive and thus, will load at the same speed on both desktop and mobile devices. devices.
When you decide to make your own website, you will have to pick the theme and the store design. The process is a lot more flexible but needs to be picked as per the style of your store and the taste of your audience. The choice of your platform and software will determine the theme that you will end up having.
For example, you can get thousands of free and paid themes on WordPress. However, most of these themes are designed for websites, and thus, may not work properly for eCommerce stores. It is likely that they aren’t mobile responsive, difficult to manage, and slow to load as well. Therefore, you need to pick a theme with great customer reviews and tons of active users. This will mean that the theme is optimal and wouldn’t slow down your website.
You can sell as many products as you want on Shopify without any problems. Apart from that, you will also be able to make use of the additional marketing, inventory, shipping and analyzing tools on the store. These features are available even in the cheapest of plans but some more expensive plans also offer additional features, many of which aren’t needed.
One of the best features is fraud analysis that can immediately recognize a fraud order and save you any losses that might happen. You also get to put up discount codes to attract new customers and make up various staff accounts for your colleagues.
A website, on the other hand, needs to be designed in such a way that it represents an eCommerce store. You will need to specify the platform and the functionality your site would have. If you’re using WordPress as a platform, you may not get any eCommerce benefits as the site doesn’t include them. Thus, you will have to get additional extensions and upgrades.
Maintenance and upgrades
Maintenance and updates are a part of any store that you will run, whether it’s Shopify or your website. The updates are automated in Shopify and thus, you will never have to care about manually running them. Your store will always run on the most competent versions of any software.
A website, however, needs manual updating of the tools and other features on a regular basis. These updates also need to be run separately and thus, you should be careful so you don’t run everything at once. On the other hand, a hosting provider like Bluehost can take care of all the updates for you and automate the process.
You can get in touch with Shopify’s customer support any time of the day or week through email, phone or live chat. Your issues will be fixed as soon as possible and you will also get amazing service. Shopify also has a list of FAQs on its website that features a ton of questions that can solve all your problems.
Your own website won’t have the same kind of support as Shopify offers. Therefore, you will need to check online content like blogs, videos, and tweets, etc. to get more help. There are many eCommerce plugins that provide support but not money. Thus, you need to make your choice very carefully.
Starting an online store requires investment and thus, you should be aware of all the costs involved in opening one.
To help you out, Shopify offers a 14-day trial period so you can see if it’s perfect for you or not.
Even the most expensive plans of Shopify provide value for money. With the cheapest plans too, you will get things like customer support and complete management.
Both Shopify and a personal online store have their pros and cons. But you should always go with something that you wish to do. If you’re a beginner, Shopify will be the right experience for you. But as you grow, it is important to know which app will bring you better traffic and then, choose that.