In this post, I am going to be comparing one of the longest established ecommerce platforms against the biggest name in the industry with 3dcart vs Shopify, but which one is better?
3dcart vs Shopify: What’s the Difference?
3dcart and Shopify are both hosted ecommerce platforms that offer a website builder, ecommerce features and enterprise level hosting for a monthly fee, with packages to suit businesses of all sizes. All of the 3dcart features and themes are developed in house, where as Shopify have a large third-party developer community, that creates apps and themes for their ecosystem.
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$50k Turnover Limit
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No Turnover Limit
2% Transaction Fee
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3dcart offers the larger range of packages, with a total of five to choose from ranging from the Start Up at $19/m up to the $229/m Pro package.
Where as Shopify offer a selection of three packages, which are at $29, $79 and $299 a month.
The main difference between the two platforms pricing strategy is that 3dcart use a turnover based system, meaning that when you hit certain annual turnover limits, you are automatically moved up to the next package and you can see the limits for these below:
- 3dcart Start Up – Up to $50k
- 3dcart Basic – Up to $100k
- 3dcart Plus – Up to $250k
- 3dcart Power – Up to $500k
- 3dcart Pro – Up to $1 million
Shopify don’t have turnover limits but do charge a transaction fee on all payments that are received using any payment gateway other than Shopify payments, so if you are using PayPal or Apple Pay, then you will need to pay the transaction fee on top of the payment gateway fees but this fee does reduce on the larger packages:
- Shopify Basic – 2%
- Shopify Standard – 1%
- Shopify Advanced – 0.5%
Both platforms offer a free trial to let you test the platform out before committing to a paid plan.
- 3dcart – 14 Day Free Trial
- Shopify – 14 Day Free Trial
As two of the biggest names in the industry, it is expected that they all offer a good range of features for their users and below is a summary of the features that they offer for the packages listed above.
When it comes to features, 3dcart is definitely no slouch and having been around since 1997, this is not surprising. As I mentioned in the pricing section, as you move up through the packages, you do get access to more features but the summary below are some of the features that are available on the Start Up package:
- Single page checkout
- Saved carts
- Digital Downloads
- Product Reviews
- 2 Factor Authentication
- Google Reviews
- Unlimited Product Variations
- Dropshipping Support
Marketing & SEO
- SEO Tools
- Social Wish Lists
- Gift Certificates
- Discounts & Coupons
- Mailchimp Integration
Reporting & Analytics
- Business Reports (profits etc)
- Customer Reports
- Site Stats (visitors, referrers etc)
- Marketing Reports
- Products & Inventory Reports
- Payment Methods Reports
- PayPal (inc Pro & Express Checkout)
With 3dcart, you can pick and choose some of the features that are active on your store by using their Module system, which allows them to be quickly and easily turned on/off. Now the amount of modules available does depend on the package that you are on.
The modules that are available are a combination of features and functionality along with integrations with third-party platforms.
As the biggest name in the world of hosted ecommerce is it unsurprising that Shopify plans come with a really good selection of features included. Now as with 3dcart, you do get more features on the larger packages but below is a summary of the ones included with the Basic package:
- Dropshipping Integration
- Flexible Shipping Rates
- Product Reviews
- Digital Products
- Gift Vouchers
- Shopify Management App
Marketing & SEO
- Google Adwords Credit
- Sell on Facebook
- Discount Codes
- Abandoned Cart Recovery
- Auto Generated Sitemap
- Social Share
- Custom Meta Data
- SEO Friendly URL’s
- Product Reports
- Traffic Sources
- Google Analytics
- Day, Week and Monthly Reports
- Shopify Payments
- PayPal Express Checkout
- Amazon Pay
Shopify App Store
As you can see Shopify does come with a very good selection of features but due to Shopify allowing third-party developers to develop apps, the amount of features that can be added to a Shopify store is pretty incredible.
To make these apps accessible, Shopify has created their own App Store, which currently has over 3,000 apps available. This selection is a combination of apps made by Shopify and third-party developers.
Unfortunately, not all of these apps are free to use but many offer free trials or packages, if you want access to all of the features, then you are going to have to pay and if you are not careful, it can make Shopify become quite expensive.
Theme Selection & Customisation
When it comes to theme selection, 3dcart has one of the largest selections out there, especially of free themes as there are 60 free and an additional 50 paid ones to choose from.
But theme customisation is a different story as this isn’t something that 3dcart is particularly strong in and this comes down to a combination of limited options and a disjointed flow.
The main 3dcart theme editor, which is the one in the image above is basically just changing the colours and font options. But there are two other editors that you can use, the first allows you to edit the themes HTML and CSS if you have knowledge of that.
And the second has some layout options but this is just basically adding content sections to your site, not being able to edit or rearrange the existing layout.
While the options aren’t that great, it makes it worse that you need to go into different editors in order to be able to make the theme fit your business. It would be a much better workflow to have them all in one editor.
Theme selection on Shopify is very good as within the Shopify Theme Store, there are over 70 to choose from but only 9 of these are free and the others range from $140 – $180. Outside of Shopify, there are even more options, with marketplaces such as Themeforest having over 1,200 to choose from.
Theme customisation is very good on Shopify as they have created a single editor that enables you to do all of your customisation quickly and easily in one place.
There are also some very good customisation options within Shopify as you can rearrange the layout of your homepage, add/remove sections, change font colours and types plus you have access to Shopify’s stock image library, which is a great place for some high quality images if you don’t have any.
While it is a very good customizer, it is limited to the homepage and for other pages such as About, it is limited to a basic text editor, which has more basic formatting options. But for all other options such as colours and fonts, the customizer is easy to use and most users will quickly get used to using it.
Running an ecommerce website can be challenging at times and you require some help, so what support do you get from these platforms?
All of the 3dcart packages include 24/7 support but on the Start Up package, this is only available via live chat and email tickets. On the larger packages, 24/7 phone support is also included.
Contacting the support team is very easy, with the live chat icon available directly from the admin dashboard and other support options displayed in the help centre. 3dcart also have their own community support forum, which can be a great source of information.
As Shopify is a fully hosted platform, you do get some very good support options including over the phone, via live chat and email along with twitter. This is offered to all users and is available 24/7.
Accessing their support is not completely straightforward as you need to go to the help centre, type in a search query and then the button will appear that shows all of their contact options.
They also have a community forum that is frequented by their support staff and other users will also offer help and advice where they can.
Hosting & Performance
Both 3dcart and Shopify platforms are very open a honest about the hosting environment that they use for their websites and they all offer the following:
- PCI Compliant Hosting
- Unlimited Bandwidth
- Unlimited Storage
- 99.9% + Uptime
- Global CDN
- Free SSL Certificate
This all looks great right, but how well does this actually work? Well to test out the platforms, I took five customer example sites from both platforms and ran them through Pingdom’s Speed Test tool (Washington D.C & San Francisco Servers) and Google’s Page Speed Insights, once a day for three days to get some good data.
The results for 3dart and Shopify were very close and both performed very well but Shopify did just edge it in three of the four tests. The only real area of improvement for both companies would be on their mobile scores but both were near the top of the performance charts for fully hosted ecommerce platforms.
Ease of Use
Facts and figures are one thing but what are these platforms like to use and how do they compare to each other? Well that is what I am going to be looking at in this section.
Getting started with 3dcart is very simple as you just need an email address, phone number and to create a password. Once you have done this, you will be sent a link to sign in to your dashboard.
On your first sign in, you will be greeted by a short introduction video and a very short set up guide but hidden under the marketing section of the dashboard is an onboarding checklist, which is a very good guide to help you get started with 3dcart.
Navigating your way around the 3dcart dashboard is simple enough as they have gone for sidebar navigation menu, with clearly labelled headings and sub-headings.
The only real downside to the navigation menu is that some sections that you would expect to have their own heading, such as design are nestled under another heading, in this case settings. This means that it does take a little bit of time to figure out exactly where everything is.
Getting started with Shopify is really easy to do, as it is simply a case of going to the Shopify website and entering your email address and creating a password.
Once you have done this, you will be taken to a page where you are asked what stage your business is at such as just getting started or turning over X amount a year along with some other questions. You will then be asked to enter your business information, which is your name, store name and address.
After you have done all this, you will be taken into your dashboard for the first time and be greeted by a short set up guide.
As you can see in the image above, the set up guide doesn’t include that many steps and is missing out on very important ones such as setting up your payment gateway and delivery methods.
Fortunately, they have created a very useful set of videos in their academy, that are worth watching as they not only show you how to get started with Shopify but also include some tips and tricks to get you up and running.
Outside of the set up guide, the Shopify dashboard is a very nice place to be. It has a simple, uncluttered layout and the sidebar navigation menu is clearly labelled, making it very easy to not only find out where everything is within the dashboard but also to move from one section to another.
Settings & Configuration
Getting your stores settings configured is pretty simple in 3dcart as they are nearly all placed under the Settings heading, with only your billing options being separate (this can be accessed by clicking on the $ symbol at the bottom of the navigation menu).
The main settings are nestled under the general tab and includes things like:
- Store Settings such as business address, regional settings, display options and checkout options
- Set up lists of Distributors and Manufacturers, this allows you to quickly forward order detail to supply partners if you don’t physically hold stock yourself
- You can also choose to block IP addresses from your site
Under the Settings heading, there are sub headings for Payment, which is where you can configure your payment gateways and Shipping, which is where you set up your chosen shipping methods.
The settings section within Shopify has a much more user friendly interface and as you can see in the image below, all of the sections that fall under Settings are displayed on a single interactive menu and this makes it much easier to find the settings you are looking for.
The settings pages are also very simply laid out, which makes them very easy to work through.
Adding and Managing Stock
Being able to manage your stock efficiently and effectively is a hugely important part of running an online store and for me there are three main areas to this and they are:
- Adding products
- Organising your Products
- Managing your inventory
3dcart have opted for a simple yet effective one page layout for their add new product page, one thing that may stand out though is the text editor for the description which looks quite dated, especially when compared to the rest of the page.
One thing that is a little strange with 3dcart is that a range of tabs will appear when you go back in and edit a product. It would be better if all of these options were available to start with, rather than having to go back in and edit a product to complete it fully.
While the page contains all the sections you would expect, there is no SEO section, which removes the opportunity for a user to set a custom URL or meta description.
Organising your products is very easy to do within 3dcart as they use the tried and tested category method and creating one is very simple. Simply click the add new button and a pop up appears asking for a name for the category and whether you would like it to be a parent or child category, click save and it has been created. Assigning products to categories needs to be done on the add new/edit product page.
When it comes to managing your inventory, 3dcart offers a selection of bulk editors that make it easier to manage your products. But once again the workflow isn’t the most optimal as the editors don’t appear in the pop up drop down menu that appears when you select a product, instead they are under the more drop down menu at the top of the page.
Adding a new product is really easy to do on the Shopify platform as they have gone for a simple, one page layout, which has a nice flow from one section to the next. They haven’t gone overboard with the options and you get the right amount of sections to really help sell your product.
Shopify do things a little differently when it comes to organising your inventory as they have developed their own collections system and there are couple of different options on how this can be used.
The easiest way is the manual method, that works very similar to a traditional category based system but the automatic method takes a little getting used to as it works of rules that you set up using product tags and to get it working effectively, it is worth reading through the documentation.
Managing your inventory is pretty easy to do in Shopify as they have included an inventory section, that allows you to update your stock quantity in bulk but if you want to make changes to the pricing, SKU code or any other field from the product, then you need to select the products you want to edit from the product overview screen and then click the edit product button, which allows you to make updates in bulk.
3dcart – Order management in 3dcart is pretty good as you can quickly and easily manage your orders, such as printing invoices and/or packing slips, updating order statuses and exporting orders in bulk or individually, directly from the order overview page.
Shopify – While the order management system in Shopify isn’t bad, it does miss one very useful feature and that is the option to print order invoices in bulk, directly from your order dashboard. The only way that you can add this feature is by installing the Order Printer App, that adds this functionality.
There are some bulk features such as being able to update order statuses and exporting all of your order information in CSV format.
While 3dcart is a very solid option for an ecommerce platform, it is some way behind Shopify in nearly all aspects.
This is because Shopify offers a very good overall solution and while not perfect (but no platform is!) it is easier to use and offers much more in terms of customisation for both design and features. The transaction fee they charge isn’t great but at least you can choose which package you want to be on.
Now, 3dcart is by no means a bad platform, it just feels a bit dated compared to Shopify and while it is very capable, there is no aspect in which it out performs Shopify.
So there it is, my complete comparison between these two ecommerce platforms and as with all business decisions, it comes down to what YOU and YOUR business require.
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