Here are two eCommerce solutions that will cover 98% of your shopping cart solution requirements. What differentiates them and why choose one over another?
Whichever you choose you'll be in good hands because both are excellent online website builder solutions that are well priced and offer first class support.
Both Shopify and Lemonstand are cloud based eCommerce website builders, so you won't need to download any software to your PC or laptop to start building your site. You will, of course, need an internet connection to be able to access the administrator control panel but that's the only restriction you'll have to work with. There are no hosting setup requirements to worry about, and you'll hit the ground running whichever solution you choose.
Contrast that with the lengthy setup process for Magento or other open source solutions and the time saving is the major benefit of choosing either of these platforms as well as developer cost control.
Key Product Differences
First of all, you have to compare apples with apples. Shopify is designed to make it easy for anyone to build an eCommerce store and get going as fast as possible with the minimum of fuss.
If you are just starting out on your journey without a substantial marketing budget and intend to build slowly, then Shopify is ideal for you. It will do everything you need, and if you do start outgrowing it in future, you can always upgrade to Shopify Plus which is designed for larger enterprise organisations. That's a painless upgrade path.
Lemonstand targets those businesses with more ambitious plans or with a turnover in the region of £50,000 - £10 million per annum right from the start. In that sense, Lemonstand is not a Shopify competitor but rather a solution for that smaller percentage of eCommerce websites that know they are going to be achieving a substantial revenue right from the start. You could call Shopify Plus a competitor for Lemonstand in that sense.
So it's pretty clear cut? New eCommerce store owners would be well served by choosing Shopify, and those with more ambitious plans should choose Lemonstand.
However, there is a “grey area” where it makes sense for those who are starting out small but have a unique or niche idea that requires extensive customising of the basic eCommerce engine. All of the best eCommerce website builders that I've reviewed will handle standard customer checkout routines with ease. It's when you need something different to this that Lemonstand comes into its own.
Ease Of Use
Shopify is easier to use there is no question about that, but then Notepad is a lot easier to use than Word because almost all of the advanced options have been stripped out of the core version.
You can't have a product that comes with extensive custom features and makes it the easiest to use at the same time. There has to be a trade-off between ease of use and customisation. Magento, for example, is a platform that will give you unlimited options to make it a custom fit but the trade off is that it is both a time and money pit. It is extremely complex software that requires constant monitoring to make it work properly.
The best strategy for using Lemonstand is to hire a developer or use an agency to get to a point where all of the work is done under the hood and then adding products and managing the store is a breeze for a system administrator.
Shopify gives you a choice of themes and some necessary tools to be able to modify fonts and colours but your options for creating a unique store pretty much stop there unless you start learning the Liquid templating language and begin diving into the code.
If you are going to do that why not start with something that was designed to be fully flexible from the ground up? Lemonstand uses some of the best open source developer tools to get the job done like Neat, Sass and Bourbon. Combine these tools with an accessible REST API, and you have the perfect platform to build an eCommerce solution that your customers will love.
After you've done all the hard work to get your product in front of the client you need to make it as easy as possible for the customer to buy. Research shows that in 2016 around 70% of shopping carts are abandoned which is an infuriating figure for any self-respecting eCommerce marketer.
More and more customers choose to do their buying on mobile devices. Mobile handset screen sizes are becoming bigger, and “Phablets” are eroding Tablet market share.
Solving the problem of shopping cart abandonment has been trying the best of minds since eCommerce started providing a platform for shopping. But the 68.63% overall cart abandonment rate (Source: Baynard Institute) proves that there is still a long way to go:
And it's going to get harder with the proliferation of "Phablets" and the associated User Experience problems that need to be solved.
Getting that figure as low as possible is the name of the game.
In the case of Shopify, you are at the mercy of what Shopify developers deem to be “best practice” because the checkout process is shared among all Shopify users and is not customisable. If you want to create a unique checkout process, then you are effectively straight-jacketed by Shopify approach.
The Shopify Enterprise plan gives you a unique SSL certificate to use, but again it's not customisable. This means that the look and feel of the checkout process is different from the overall store and that will have an effect on the shopping cart abandonment rate.
The checkout process with Lemonstand is how it should be done with every page being customisable so that the checkout process is indistinguishable from the rest of the site. The benefit of this is not only that you get to make the shopping routine as painless as possible, but you can also utilise third party tools to measure the success of your marketing and optimise for revenue.
Third Party Integration
If you want to employ loads of third party scripts on your eCommerce store, then Shopify has a significant advantage here because there are hundreds already developed. Lemonstand trails behind.
Because Lemonstand does not have as large a user base as Shopify, third party implementations are fewer and therefore not as readily available. However before discarding Lemonstand as a solution you should ask yourself the question whether being able to integrate lots of third party tools makes up for not being able to customise the checkout experience.
There's nothing to choose between them. If you were going to make a choice between Lemonstand and Shopify based on customer support, then my preference would be for Lemonstand because they focus on eCommerce customisation every single day.
I've included the pricing tables below because only you can compare prices based on what you need from an eCommerce solution. Lemonstand offers better value for money in my opinion, but then you'll need to factor in the cost of hiring a developer to make the most of what you are paying for.
Which solution you choose depends on the type of eCommerce store you want to produce. If you are just starting out and are likely to spend a couple of years learning the ropes and building your business, then Shopify is the obvious choice.
If you already have a good idea of what is involved and have monthly sales targets to reach then, Lemonstand would be the better option.