In this post, I am going to be comparing two of the most popular options for building an ecommerce website, which are Shift4Shop and Shopify, but which one is best for business? Let’s find out!
Shift4Shop vs Shopify: What’s the Difference?
Shift4Shop is the new name for 3dcart, since their acquisition by Shift4 Payments and they offer a fully hosted shopping cart with a host of built in features to help businesses of all sizes. Shopify is one of the biggest names in the world of ecommerce, with over 1 million active websites. Their fully hosted platform is built for businesses of all sizes and the large community of third-party developers mean that it is very flexible.
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Shift4Shop Basic: $29/m
Shift4shop Plus: $79/m
Shift4Shop Pro: $229/m
Shopify Basic: $29/m
Shopify Standard: $79/m
Shopify Advanced: $299/m
As you can see, there isn’t much difference between the monthly pricing of the two platforms, with the only difference being the $70 gap between the Shift4Shop Pro plan and the Shopify Advanced.
But there is a difference in the pricing strategy of both platforms and it is something you need to be aware of.
Shift4Shop 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:
- Shift4Shop Basic – Up to $100k
- Shift4Shop Plus – Up to $250k
- Shift4Shop Pro – Up to $1 million
If you go over the $1 million, then you will move on to a custom plan. They also offer a 100% free plan for US merchants that gives you all of the features of the Pro plan but you can ONLY use the Shift4 Payments Gateway for your sales, which may be quite limiting.
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%
If your business really starts to grow, then you can move on to Shopify Plus, which is a custom package designed specifically for big business and starts from around $1500/m.
It seems as though Shift4Shop have dropped their free trial, instead they offer the first month free BUT you will have to provide your payment details before you can sign up, fortunately, you can cancel your plan within the admin dashboard.
Shopify have kept things simple and offer a 14 Day Free Trial and you don’t need to provide any payment info before being able to test the platform out.
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.
As standard features go, Shift4Shop has one of the best offerings out there and there are so many features that I can only list a few below but if you want to see a more in-depth breakdown of the features available, check out my full Shift4Shop Review.
With Shift4Shop, some features are only available on higher plans and any features not available on the basic plan will be marked with an *.
- Single page checkout
- Saved carts
- Digital Downloads
- Product Reviews
- 2 Factor Authentication
- Google Reviews
- Unlimited Product Variations
- Product Comparison*
- Pre Orders*
Marketing & SEO
- SEO Tools
- Product Reviews
- Social Wish Lists
- Google Reviews
- Gift Certificates
- Discounts & Coupons
- Mailchimp Integration
- Loyalty Rewards*
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 Shift4Shop, 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 industry, it is not surprising that Shopify comes with a good selection of features as standard and below is a short summary of what is available:
- 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
If you would like to see a more in-depth breakdown of the features that Shopify has to offer, then check out my full Shopify Review.
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
One of the biggest changes that come from the rebrand was that they decided to make all of their themes free to use, meaning that they now have over 100 free to use, mobile responsive themes. Which is one of the largest selections of any fully hosted ecommerce platform.
Unfortunately, the theme customisation doesn’t do their selection of good looking themes justice as the process is not only limited but also disjointed.
This is because Shift4Shop offers a few different editors such as the main theme editor which allows you to change basically the colors and the typography.
Then they have a homepage editor that allows you to add or edit some of the content areas but offers very little control over the layout of your site.
If you want to make any major changes, then you need to edit the theme files and changes the HTML and CSS, which unless you know how to do this, you will likely leave it alone!
The result is a lot of tools that don’t really let you do anything, this is definitely one area that needs a complete overhaul!
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 colors 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 Shift4Shop packages include 24/7 phone, live chat and ticket support.
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. Shift4Shop 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 Shift4Shop 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.
Talk about close! There really isn’t much to differentiate these two platforms when it comes to performance but there is improvement for both when it comes to the Google Mobile and Desktop scores.
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.
Due to the change in the sign up process, getting started with Shift4Shop is a little more difficult than it used to be for 3dcart as you now need to enter your business and payment information before you can actually start using the platform.
On your first sign in, you will be greeted by a short introduction video and a very short set up guide to help you get the basics set up on your store. It is a shame that they removed to onboarding guide that used to be available with 3dcart as this was a great checklist for new users.
Navigating your way around the Shift4Shop 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.
Managing Your Inventory
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
Shift4Shop 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 Shift4Shop 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.
Organising your products is very easy to do within Shift4Shop 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.
Once the category has been created, just like the product page, more options will be available when you go back in and edit it.
When it comes to managing your inventory, Shift4Shop offer a selection of editors but once again the workflow isn’t optimal and they would be much better served by combining them all into one easy to use editor than having one for inventory and one for price.
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.
Shift4Shop – Order management in Shift4Shop 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.
• Large selection of features
• 24/7 support
• Theme selection
• Payment gateway selection
• Theme customisation
• Workflow isn’t optimal
• Having to give payment details before trial
• Theme Customisation
• 24/7 Support
• Easy to use Admin Area
• The App Store
• Transaction Fees
• Automatic Collection system is a bit complicated
• No option to bulk print invoices
Overall, Shopify offers the better package as things like theme customisation and general ease of use are a lot better than with Shift4Shop.
Out of the box, Shift4Shop has the better selection of features but this is somewhat countered by the Shopify App store and anything you can do on Shift4Shop, you can do on Shopify, it just might cost you a little bit more due to the cost of apps.
The main downside of Shift4Shop is poor workflow, which can make it quite frustrating to use, some refining here and combining of tools such as editors would be a huge improvement and if they improved the theme customisation, it would definitely be a platform worth considering.
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.
Try Shift4Shop for Yourself!
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14 Day Free Trial, No Credit Card Required