If you are looking to make the move into the world of online sales you are going to need a few things. A well designed site, a basic understanding of SEO, social media integration and of course the ability to list items and take payments. The vast majority of eCommerce solutions offer all of these as core features, and as such they can look a little samey. I’m here to sort the wheat from the chaff, the good choices from the great ones. Today I’ll be taking a look at Weebly and seeing how it compares to one of the industry front-runners, Shopify.
Weebly began life as a simple site builder back in 2006, a student project that evolved into the popular service we know today. They have always allowed users to integrate shops with their sites via plug-ins, but in the last few years released a service that natively supports eCommerce. Since then the number of stores they provide for has grown exponentially, hitting half a million this year. Shopify has exclusively focused on eCommerce since its inception in 2004. They have made a name for themselves with their easy to use tools, ever-expanding list of features and top-notch customer support.
So let’s dig deep and find out which of these two products is right for you.
Shopify Vs Weebly – Appearance, Professionalism, & Overall Look
It’s the first thing a customer will see, so it had better look good. There are a few things that have to be taken into account when designing your store front. It must look clean, modern and thematically appropriate. It does not do to have couture fashion all stacked in stooks, or stooked in stacks. You’ll be happy to know that both of these solutions give you the tools to craft a great looking site, with minimal technical knowledge.
Weebly began as a site building service for those without the technical skill to build their own. You would expect then that they have a huge variety of templates with which to get you started, but for some reason this does not appear to be the case. Looking through their list of designs was a little disheartening, and when you narrow the parameters to just eCommerce ready themes the list dwindles to just nine designs. I’m waiting on word back regarding this number, as it may be the case that they only display those nine, but I’m fairly confident in that assessment.
The customization options are fantastic though. They have that classic drag and drop interface, making switching up the style of the site quick and easy. Add in the ability to inject custom CSS and PHP code and if you have the technical skill you can easily make a high quality professional looking site. Considering that the service is marketed towards those without the technical skill to build a site this might not be too large a boon.
If you find yourself underwhelmed with the themes on offer you can look elsewhere. I have been able to find third party sites that sell Weebly themes, and many of them are quite pleasant to look at. Prices run as low as $49 on the mojo marketplace, but even this third party solution has too small a selection available. Overall, while the designs they have on offer are nice, and the editing tools are both easy to use and versatile, there isn’t enough here when compared with their competitors.
Shopify have always prided themselves on the wealth of options available on their platform. From their robust design tools, that allows CSS and PHP injection, to their wonderfully array of themes. Each theme is professionally designed, and many of them are free. In the free designs you can find those ultra modern sleek themes sitting next to the more amazon like ream of products, of which I prefer. The premium themes match, and exceed, the free ones in terms of quality, but unless you find one that you simply cannot live without, there really isn’t a need to buy anything. The premium themes run from around $80 up to a maximum of $180, hefty enough prices, sure, but I’ve seen some firms offering premium themes for near a grand, so I guess they are a bargain?
The main selling point to Shopify’s service is that their themes tend to need little editing. Sure, they have tools in place to let you do just that, and tools that match Weebly’s too, but I feel like beyond minor format changes too much editing on their themes is a bad thing. Designers design, and in this case the designers have designed very well.
This is not a hard section to call. Weebly’s offerings cannot match Shopify’s in terms of aesthetics, and the variety on offer by them is eclipsed by Shopify’s. When we look at the customization options from both firms we find them more or less equal, giving Shopify an easy early lead.
Winner – Shopify
Shopify Vs Weebly – Features & Integrations
There are a few features that hold true across most eCommerce solutions. They all offer basic store functions, they all allow you some degree of SEO options, they all have social media integration. So we have to look at the small details in order to call a winner on the features front. Let’s take a look at Weebly’s basic features.
If I were to compare the basic package of both of these companies Weebly would come out at the bottom. Their low-end features leave much to be desired. Thankfully their top package is a little cheaper than Shopify’s and comes with most of the features that one would expect here. You can manage inventory, with a well designed back-end interface, you get your SSL certificates, unlimited storage, listings and bandwidth, coupons, tax and shipping calculator and the ability to sell digital goods. I mention all of these very basic features for a reason. They do not all come with the lower packages. Meaning if you want what I would call the entry-level features for an online store you will have to purchase the top-level package, i.e. the Business Package.
They have an app store, and a fair number of them are free, but the quantity just doesn’t match their competitors. I’m certain they have been well implemented and optimized, but that isn’t enough these days. The social media integration leaves a little to be desired too, and the options recommended by Weebly themselves are not free. All that said, their Business package is a very well-rounded service, and Weebly’s customer support is some of the best in the business. I would like to see a few more features become standard in their lower priced packages, but I understand why they aren’t there.
Shopify are an eCommerce solution first, and as such their lowest viable shop package compares with Weebly’s highest package. You get the same inventory management, unlimited storage, SSL security etc. You also don’t get a transaction fee, though you must use Shopify Payments. Even if you don’t their basic package charges 2%, compared to Weebly’s 3% on their cheaper packages. Overall the online features offered by both companies are great, with those offered by Shopify being a little more polished, by virtue of both focusing on eCommerce, and having been around a little longer. The thing that Shopify has that is currently unmatched is their POS system.
Shopify POS is an offline store integration tool. It allows you to control your brick and mortar business alongside your online store. It can manage inventory on the go, in addition to staff management and taking sales. You connect a little card reader to an iPad and you’re done. It isn’t limited to just brick and mortar stores though. I can see the benefit to those who sell at conventions and festivals too. It costs a little more per month, but for the right customer it can be worth it’s weight in gold.
Shopify’s App store is robust, with plenty of apps available to streamline or automate laborious tasks. Their social media integration is great too, with built-in support for Facebook. Considering that the top eight social media sites are supposedly responsible for around a third of the site traffic to online stores, you do not want to gloss over this.
There is a convergence of features across all eCommerce providers. You tend to find that the newer firms offer the same features, though a little less polished. Shopify’s constantly adding new ones, and with their POS system they offer a service that no other can provide. In saying that I have actively observed Weebly adding new features in near real-time, so perhaps in time they will be a real threat to Shopify. For now though this section goes to them.
Winner – Shopify
Shopify Vs Weebly – Dropshipping
I have been looking into drop shipping for the last six months, and have written dedicated articles about it in the past. I will go over it here in brief, for those who don’t know what it is, because I know what that’s like. Dropshipping, to me, is the art of crafting a store front out of items from warehouse stores, like Alibaba. There is a knack to it, making a cohesive store front catering to your market. There are two kinds of user, the ones looking to make it from scratch, and the business people who add items to supplement their own items. I am more in the latter camp, but both approaches can yield positive results, and different apps apply to different methods. Shopify is king of the drop shippers in so many ways, and even if it weren’t, the fact that there are options at all puts it infinitely ahead of Weebly in this field. So let’s look at the two biggest on Shopify, and talk about the lack of options with Weebly.
Shopify’s big two, to my mind, are Oberlo and the Shopified App. The Shopified app is the big boy in the play ground, integrating with everyone, allowing you to add items from pretty much any seller, not just warehouse stores. The likes of eBay and Amazon are supported here, in addition to the old workhorses of Alibaba and Aliexpress. Using it is simple, but a little buggy, nothing a refresh doesn’t fix, but still a clear issue. Oberlo is my preferred option, it is light, simple to use and it works. Only on Aliexpress, but it works. Aliexpress is where most folk get their items anyway, so creating a low cost focused product has really worked in their favor. it is cleaner than The Shopified App, but less featured.
Weebly have zero options here. Well, not entirely true, you can install third party apps into your browser then jury rig a solution with the programming features of Weebly, but doing so is time consuming, not supported, and really really hard if you haven’t the knowledge. Better to spend you time on something else in my opinion.
Swing and a miss from Weebly in this arena. Sad to see, but not surprised. I hope they expand in the future, broken record much, but for now they pale in comparison to Shopify in the world of drop shipping.
Winner – Shopify
Shopify Vs Weebly – Flexibility, Ease of Use, & Scalability
I like this section, there is always an easy answer to each paragraph. We look at flexibility of each platform and we can essentially see a tie. Drag and drop interfaces are easy to use and set up. When we look at the comparative packages you can set up your store however you like with both, in terms of products and product details. What separates them is the themes. Both are easy to customize but Shopify is more flexible due to being able to start in more places.
By contrast Weebly is easier to use due to having fewer back-end clutter, and due to the slightly more streamlined site creation tools. For someone just entering the online marketplace, being restricted can be a good thing. Both products can be as complicated as each other though, when we factor in the custom coding options, but on the surface of it Weebly has this bit.
Scalability is the simplest one to call of them all. Weebly’s top end package matches Shopify’s lowest end shop in terms of both features and pricing. When you hit the top package with Weebly you are hitting the bottom package with Shopify, and thus you have nowhere to go. Shopify’s packages are designed in such a way as to be ever useful to larger and larger businesses. They even offer the Plus service, above their Premium service, for ridiculously large companies looking for a bespoke experience.
With two out of three sections in their favor this bit goes to Shopify too. They offer a more versatile product that, while ever so slightly more complicated, makes up for it with its excellent scalability.
Winner – Shopify
Shopify Vs Weebly – Cost & Value
This is a tougher one to call. If I include the lower end packages from Weebly, which I would not advise you go for considering their lack of what I would call standard features, then it looks a little more in Weebly’s favor. But the truth of the matter is you should be aiming for their Business plan if you want to match Shopify at a slightly reduced price.
Weebly’s Starter plan comes in at a very low $8 per month. You can only sell up to ten items, have no phone support, SSL for payments, inventory management tools, coupons codes, digital good and you pay a 3% transaction fee. Next up is their Pro package at $12, you still lack SSL security, pay a 3% transaction fee, no digital goods, inventory management or coupon codes, but you may now sell 25 items. Their best package is their Business package, at $25 per month. It comes with unlimited everything and no transaction fees. You can even make further savings if you sign on for two years, getting the price down to $21 per month, or if you just want to test the water for half a year you can pay $38 per month.
Shopify’s Basic package is $29 per month, and it comes with all the features of Weebly’s Business package, and a few extra besides. While I’m certain you can integrate a blog with Weebly’s business package I cannot find direct reference to it, and that feature is a must for SEO. Moving up the packages you find further features that aid in the management of larger businesses. The Pro package is $79, and give you more detailed reports, physical gift card generation to go well with your coupon codes and abandoned cart recovery, great for catching those customer’s on the fence. Their highest package is the Unlimited, and it comes with everything in the previous package and even more detailed and analyzed stats as well as real-time carrier shipping.
If you want all the basic features of Shopify and don’t mind the comparative lack of room to grow, then the prices offered by Weebly are fantastic. If you want a few extra features from the get go, and excellent scalability, the Shopify is the better option. I’ll be calling this one a draw.
Winner – Draw
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Shopify Vs Weebly – Recap & Review
- All in one solution
- Easy to set up
- More features as standard
- Way more design options
- Intuitive interface
- POS offline integration system
- More robust app store
- More expensive than Weebly
- Slightly more difficult to manage in the beginning
- Easier to set up
- Great site building tools
- Excellent for those just entering the market
- No real scalability
- The Business package is arguably their only viable product
- Lackluster themes
Weebly is an interesting one. I am almost unsure as to what they are going for as a business themselves. The tool son offer pale in comparison to Shopify, and their scaling options leave much to be desired. Perhaps they are looking to convert their already established client base? If so, then fine, but for new customers they do not offer anything you can’t get better and cheaper elsewhere. Not a difficult one to call, better to go with Shopify if your are just starting out, for current Weebly users there is something here, but if you grow you will want to look elsewhere.
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