Given the influx of e-commerce platforms in the market, it’s tricky for businesses to choose the platform closest to “perfect” for their use case. Two options we often get asked to compare by our clients are Shopify and Saleor. Saleor is a relatively small, “up and coming” open-source, Python/Django-based eCommerce framework, while Shopify is a proprietary, closed-source eCommerce platform considered incumbent for any new online store.
Saleor and Shopify have a decent amount of overlap, especially since Shopify has a mature API available for Shopify Plus users. Picking the right platform for your user case isn't straight forward, so in this article, we'll provide an in-depth comparison of Saleor and Shopify to help you decide which platform is the best fit for your business needs.
Picking the right tech option
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Saleor is an open-source, Python/Django-based e-commerce framework that provides extensive customization and flexibility for businesses. It describes itself as headless and GraphQL-first, which gives you an idea about the level of customization it enables.
The platform is also designed to handle high volumes of traffic and large product catalogues, making it an excellent choice for businesses that anticipate rapid growth.
Saleor fills an interesting gap in the market. The traditional eCommerce model is suited to retail products like clothes and books. Shopify has this part of the market completely stitched up. However, there are a huge number of businesses that sell niche products that don’t fit Shopify’s model. These businesses have been forced to use other less awesome solutions like WooCommerce, which means getting tangled in WordPress and just accepting that your solution is a bit clunky.
This is where Saleor enters the picture. They’re best suited to businesses that aren’t getting everything they need from Shopify. As an API-first platform, Saleor encourages integration with any other API-rich platform, including the most popular Enterprise Resource Planning Systems (ERPs), headless Content Management Systems (CMSs), Product Information Management systems (PIM) and Point of Sale systems (POS).
The biggest difference between Saleor and Shopify is that Saleor doesn’t provide a templating engine to build a frontend. When you start a new store, you can’t automatically check out what your homepage looks like. There’s no automatic theme that’s assigned to create a graphical UI. Rather, it provides all the administrative backend eCommerce functionality and a rich API to pull data into a custom frontend that your friendly neighbour developer would build.
Let’s look in more detail at some of the features that make Saleor stand out.
Saleor's features are designed to enhance the e-commerce experience for both customers and merchants. Key features of Saleor include:
Saleor provides a customizable storefront framework that allows developers to build their own unique frontends using modern web technologies such as React and GraphQL. While this requires more technical expertise and time to build, it provides greater flexibility and control over the design and functionality of the online store. Additionally, the platform’s API-based architecture allows for easy integration with third-party services such as Adyen and Mollie payment gateways.
Saleor is designed to handle high volumes of traffic and large product catalogues, making it an excellent choice for businesses that anticipate rapid growth. It does this through a modern architecture with built-in caching capabilities to improve website performance and reduce server load.
Saleor integrates with Elasticsearch, a search engine that can handle large amounts of data and provide fast search results. This ensures that even as a store grows, it can continue to provide a fast and responsive shopping experience for customers.
Saleor's SEO optimization features are designed to help merchants improve their store's visibility and attract more customers. Saleor's URL structure is optimized for search engines, making it easier for customers to find the products they want. Saleor also provides tools for optimizing meta descriptions, which can improve click-through rates from search engine results pages. Customizable page titles allow businesses to target specific keywords and improve search engine rankings.
The platform offers strong SEO optimization capabilities due to its compatibility with Gatsby and Next.js. The two are popular frameworks for building fast, SEO-optimized websites. When paired with Saleor, businesses can create a custom frontend using these frameworks and integrate it with Saleor's backend, resulting in a fast and SEO-friendly online store. This integration also allows for features such as server-side rendering, which can improve site speed and performance and ultimately improve search engine rankings.
Security is a priority for eCommerce platforms, given how much sensitive customer data they handle. Saleor understands the importance of security takes, so it offers a wide range of security features such as SSL/TLS and Two-factor authentication to help protect customer and business data. SSL/TLS is an encryption standard that helps to protect sensitive data transmitted between customers and the store. Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security, preventing unauthorized access to the store's admin panel. Saleor is also compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), which is required for businesses that accept credit card payments. These security features help to ensure that a store's data is kept safe and secure at all times.
In addition, Saleor's decoupled architecture improves security by following battle-tested security processes for backend and frontend communication, decreasing the attack surface by not directly connecting the backend to the frontend. This helps prevent vulnerabilities in the frontend from affecting the backend. The platform uses HTTPS encryption for all data transmissions and is regularly audited for security updates.
At its core, Saleor is built as a set of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that allow developers to interact with the platform and build custom applications on top of it. Businesses using Saleor can easily integrate with third-party services, such as payment gateways, shipping providers, and marketing tools. The GraphQL APIs provide a standardized interface for these integrations, making it easy for developers to connect Saleor with other services without writing custom code.
Besides third-party integrations, Saleor's API-based architecture also allows businesses to build custom storefronts and applications tailored to their specific needs. For example, a business may want to build a mobile application that integrates with Saleor's backend to provide a seamless shopping experience for customers.
Having understood the features and general architecture of Saleor, let's look at its strengths and weaknesses:
Pros of Saleor
Saleor is a headless eCommerce engine, so it makes short work of some things most monolithic platforms can’t handle. These are the benefits of.
Saleor is highly flexible and customizable, making it well-suited to the needs of modern businesses. With its powerful API-based architecture, businesses can easily integrate Saleor with third-party services and build custom applications that meet their unique requirements.
For instance, a business may have a highly customized order fulfilment process that involves twenty different steps and integrations with various shipping carriers, inventory management systems and third-party logistics providers. A Business like this could leverage Saleor’s functionality through their flexible API to build a custom application to streamline their order fulfilment process. By comparison, this would be almost impossible with any off-the-shelf functionality because the requirements are too complex and specific.
Multi-language and multi-currency support
Saleor is built with multi-language and multi-currency support in mind, allowing businesses to easily expand their reach to global markets. Saleor supports multiple languages out of the box, including English, Spanish, French, and German, and businesses can easily add new languages using Saleor's translation tools. Saleor also supports multiple currencies, allowing businesses to sell to customers in their local currency.
The multi-language and multi-currency support helps businesses expand into new markets and sell to customers around the world, and improve the overall shopping experience.
Saleor requires effort to set up. It doesn’t come packaged with a default template like Shopify, WooCommerce or BigCommerce. It requires effort from a designer and developer to create the UI. As a result, it’s slower to get up and running, but there are other “cons” of adopting Saleor:
Expensive to setup and run
One of the most significant disadvantages of Saleor is that it can be time-consuming and expensive to set up and run, especially for businesses that do not have the technical expertise in-house. Saleor requires a significant amount of technical knowledge and experience to customize and deploy, as it is a self-hosted platform built using modern technologies such as Django and GraphQL. This means that businesses may need to hire developers and designers with specific skill sets to work on the platform, which can be costly.
Lack of pre-built integrations
Unlike most eCommerce platforms, Saleor doesn't have a large library of pre-built integrations with third-party services. This means that businesses may need to build custom integrations or work with developers to connect Saleor with the services they need.
Saleor has a relatively small community size compared to other eCommerce platforms like Shopify. As such, fewer resources are available for users who need help or want to learn more about the platform. It also means that there are fewer third-party plugins and integrations available for Saleor, which can limit its functionality for some businesses.
A smaller community can also mean slower development and updates for the platform, as fewer people are working on it and contributing to its growth. This can result in longer wait times for bug fixes and new features, which may concern businesses with specific needs.
They have a Poland and Netherlands office but no US, African, or APAC presence, which could be a problem for businesses in these areas that want support during their business hours.
Shopify is an all-in-one eCommerce platform that provides businesses with everything they need to build, manage, and grow their online stores. It's a hosted platform, meaning businesses don't need to worry about the technical details of running a website, such as running a server or managing security protocols. Shopify handles everything from infrastructure maintenance to technology updates, allowing businesses to focus on growing their sales.
Shopify runs over 6,000,000 stores globally and owns around 19% of global eCommerce. It’s the incumbent for new stores because even non-technical folk can get a store running in less than an hour. The ecosystem of apps, plugins and extensions is second only to WordPress, which gives businesses the option to pick and choose mature functionality extensions for their site without dumping tens of thousands of dollars into custom development.
Some of the key features of Shopify include:
Shopify's website builder allows businesses to create a professional-looking online store with ease. The website builder is designed to be user-friendly and does not require any coding knowledge or web development experience.
It has a drag-and-drop interface allowing users to select elements such as product images, videos, and text boxes and place them anywhere on the page. Shopify offers a variety of customizable templates that can be used as a starting point for businesses, or businesses can choose to design their website from scratch.
One of the advantages of the website builder is that it allows businesses to create a website that matches their brand. Businesses can customize the color scheme, font, and layout of their website to match their existing marketing materials. This is important because having a consistent brand image helps build trust with customers and can increase conversions.
Payment processing system
Shopify includes its own payment processing system (powered by Stripe), which makes it easy for businesses to accept payments from customers. With this feature, businesses don't have to worry about setting up separate payment gateways, and can instead use Shopify's built-in system. This not only saves time and effort, but it also eliminates the need to pay for additional third-party payment gateway services.
Shopify's payment processing system supports a wide range of payment methods, including credit cards, debit cards, PayPal, and Apple Pay. This makes it easy for customers to pay using their preferred method, which can help increase conversions and customer satisfaction.
It’s also possible to integrate other payment processors like Stripe directly into Shopify, but it comes at an additional cost. Shopify’s base transaction cost for their Basic plan is 1.75%. That figure jumps up to 2.75% if you want to bring your own payment processor along for whatever reason.
Shipping integrations are a valuable feature in Shopify that helps businesses streamline their shipping and fulfilment processes. With Shopify's built-in shipping integrations, businesses can easily manage and track their shipments from within the platform.
The system integrates with major shipping carriers such as USPS, FedEx, and DHL to provide businesses with a range of shipping options. This integration makes it easy to generate shipping labels, calculate shipping costs, and track packages directly from the Shopify platform. Additionally, businesses can automate shipping notifications to customers to keep them updated on the status of their orders.
Shopify app store
Shopify's App Store is a robust marketplace that offers a vast selection of third-party apps and integrations. The App Store makes it easy for businesses to add new features and functionality to their online stores without building them from scratch.
The apps cover various categories, including marketing, sales, shipping, and customer service. Some of the most popular app categories include upselling and cross-selling tools, abandoned cart recovery, email marketing, and social media integration.
Saleor vs Shopify: Which one should you choose
We wanted to offer a quick overview of which platform we considered to be the winner in a handful of categories.
Please note: This is a tricky comparison because Shopify has its own API-focused product, Shopify Plus. Realistically, most businesses using Saleor won't look to modify the codebase because it's unnecessary and means updates from the core product team may introduce issues. So Shopify Plus will be able to match most of the benefits that Saleor claims.
For the sake of comparisons, we're comparing a monolithic Shopify architecture with Salero.
Ease of use
Saleor and Shopify offer very different user experiences. Saleor's open-source framework requires more technical knowledge and experience to set up and customize, while Shopify's hosted platform is designed to be user-friendly and intuitive. Shopify offers a drag-and-drop website builder that makes it easy for businesses to create an online store without any coding knowledge. On the other hand, Saleor provides a more flexible and customizable interface, which can be overwhelming for beginners but offers greater control and customization options for experienced users.
Catering to unique use cases
Saleor's open-source platform provides unparalleled customization and flexibility, allowing businesses to tailor their online store to their specifications. The platform’s API-based architecture allows easy integration with third-party tools and services, while its modular structure enables developers to add new functionality as needed.
Shopify also offers a wide range of customization options, but they are more limited than Saleor's due to its hosted platform. Shopify's App Store provides many third-party integrations and tools, but customization is limited to what's available within the platform.
Performance and scalability
Saleor is built on a modern, API-based architecture that allows for the efficient handling of large amounts of data and traffic. This makes it a good option for businesses with complex product catalogues and high traffic levels. However, Saleor requires more technical expertise to set up and maintain, which can impact its overall performance.
Shopify, on the other hand, is a hosted platform that is designed to handle large volumes of traffic without any additional setup or maintenance required. While Shopify can handle complex product catalogues, its performance may be impacted if a store uses too many apps or customizations.
In terms of scalability, both platforms can add additional resources and features as needed to accommodate growing businesses. However, Saleor's open-source nature makes it more customizable and scalable in the long run, while Shopify's scalability is limited to the features and resources provided by the platform.
Security and support
Saleor and Shopify both provide secure and reliable eCommerce platforms, but there are some differences in terms of security and support.
Saleor is an open-source platform, which means that users have access to the source code and can make modifications to the software. This gives users more control over the security of their online stores, but it also means that they are responsible for keeping the platform up-to-date with security patches and updates.
Shopify, on the other hand, is a hosted platform that handles security and updates for its users. Shopify has a team of security experts who monitor the platform for vulnerabilities and respond quickly to any security issues that arise.
In terms of support, Shopify offers 24/7 customer support via phone, email, and live chat. Shopify also provides a comprehensive knowledge base and community forums to help users find answers to their questions.
Saleor, being an open-source platform, does not offer the same level of support as Shopify. However, Saleor has an active community of developers who contribute to the platform and provide support through forums and other channels.
Affordability & time to market
Taking the initial setup costs out of the equation, both Shopify and Saleor can be affordable options. Both platforms offer a basic pricing tier that's similar; Shopify for $39/month and Saleor for $45/month.
Saleor jumps up significantly to the next tiers ($1,295/month for Pro and $6,795 for enterprise) where as Shopify is a bit more gradual ($105/month for Shopify, $399/month for Pro and $2,000/month for Shopify Plus).
The biggest difference is the processing fees. Shopify runs it's own payment processes that's powered by Stripe. As a result, they can offer fees as low as 1.4% per transaction + $0.30. Since Salor doesn't provide a payment processor, you'll need to bring your own (probably Stripe), leaving you to pay 1.6% transaction fees + $0.15.
Shopify isn’t bad for SEO, but Saleor integrates seamlessly with Next.js and Gatsby, so it can leverage the power of static site generation and easily pass core web vitals, no matter how many products a store sells.
Frequently asked questions
Q: What is the main difference between Saleor and Shopify?
A: Saleor is an open-source eCommerce platform built with Python and Django, while Shopify is a hosted platform that allows businesses to create an online store without worrying about the technical aspects of hosting and development. Saleor offers more customization options and flexibility but requires more technical expertise, while Shopify offers ease of use and a wide range of pre-built integrations.
Q: Can I migrate my store from Shopify to Saleor or vice versa?
A: Yes, both Saleor and Shopify offer tools and resources to help businesses migrate their online stores from one platform to another. However, the process can be complicated and time-consuming, so it's recommended to seek professional help or follow detailed instructions to avoid any issues.
Q: Is Saleor or Shopify better for SEO optimization?
A: Both Saleor and Shopify offer a range of SEO tools and features to help businesses improve their search engine rankings. Saleor's API-based architecture allows for more granular control over SEO elements, while Shopify's built-in SEO features, such as customizable meta tags and page titles, can also be effective.
Saleor and Shopify are both strong eCommerce platforms, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Saleor offers greater flexibility and customizability but requires more technical expertise and lacks pre-built integrations. Shopify, on the other hand, offers a more user-friendly experience with an extensive app store and built-in features, but customization options may be limited. When choosing an eCommerce platform, businesses should consider their specific needs, budget, and technical expertise to determine which platform will best support their goals.
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