So you've decided to join the eCommerce revolution and launch a new online store.
You've picked a product, researched your competition and created a compelling brand that will attract customers. Next, you need to start building your online store.
There are two routes:
- You can use a self-hosted platform
- or use a cloud-hosted platform like Webflow or Shopify.
With a self-hosted eCommerce platform, you work closely with a developer to build your website. This requires installation, hosting and on-going development spend, but gives more control over your website and complete visibility of all your data.
With a cloud-hosted platform, another company runs the infrastructure behind your website, taking responsibility for hosting and on-going development costs. By going with a cloud-hosted eCommerce platform, you reduce your startup costs significantly and get instant access to a scalable, reliable and mature eCommerce solution.
In 2020, the vast majority of new online businesses choose a cloud-hosted eCommerce platform, choosing between the two market leaders: Webflow or Shopify.
In this article, we'll help you decide which one is right for your business by giving you the key facts and insights from our experiences on both platforms.
Webflow is a web design tool, CMS and hosting platform all rolled into one. Their visual editor is unmatched and allows users to design, build and launch websites with minimal coding.
Webflow added Ecommerce support to their platform in February 2019 and have quickly caught up with other more established eCommerce platforms by adding features every week.
- Price: From $29 p/month with a 2% transaction fee (in additional to Stripe transaction fees)
- Design: Webflow offers complete design freedom thanks to its powerful visual website editor. It has a learning curve, but Webflow University offers free training resources to help you get started. They also offer a wide range of free and premium templates.
- SEO and Marketing: Webflow offers advanced SEO features, including the ability to dynamically set meta tags and generate sitemaps. They don't offer in-built marketing tools, but many are available via integrations.
- Buyer Experience: Webflow gives you full control over the checkout experience, or you can use their conversion optimized default template.
- Store Owner Experience: You get access to a simple management dashboard, giving you the essential information you need to manage orders. The downside? Webflow is lacking key operational features, which will slow day-to-day operations for large eCommerce stores. Importantly, Webflow only supports Stripe payments, so you can't use another payment processor.
Shopify was established in 2004 after Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand, and Scott Lake tried to open an online store for snowboarding equipment. He was unsatisfied with existing eCommerce solutions, so built his own.
The Shopify platform focuses on ease-of-use for store operators, offering a wide range of features to make day-to-day operations simple.
- Price: From $29 p/month with a transaction fee of 2.2% when using Shopify Payments
- Design: Shopify offers a wide range of free and paid templates, which can be customized to match your brand. You'll need help from a developer if you want to change the layout though, as templates are written in Liquid templating code.
- SEO and Marketing: Shopify has minimal SEO features, but enough to follow best practices automatically. It has added significant marketing automation features in the last 12 months, including support for Facebook Ads, email marketing and more. However, the blogging service is lacking, only supporting simple blogs.
- Buyer Experience: Shopify has a beautiful and well-optimized checkout experience, with support for Apple and Google Pay included. You can add your logo and change the colors, but the layout stays as-is.
- Store Owner Experience: Shopify beats Webflow significantly here, offering in-depth analytics and tools that make order fulfillment simple. For example, you can print shipping labels and do automatic shipping calculations, with just a few clicks.
Webflow vs Shopify: Which Is Best?
Every online shop is unique, with different requirements and business models. In short: you’ll need to decide for yourself which platform you choose.
The biggest difference between the platform is their focus on operations vs. design:
- If your online store requires a unique look-and-feel to match your brand and you don't have access to on-going development support, choose Webflow.
- If you want to get started quickly and prioritize ease of day-to-day operations over look-and-feel, choose Shopify.
If you are still unsure, we'd recommend creating a checklist of your key requirements and starting a free trial with both of the platforms. Both Shopify and Webflow have support and sales teams that would be happy to answer your questions.
Want to talk design more broadly? Got a branding idea you need to get off the ground? We’re here to help. Get in touch today, and let’s make something beautiful.