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So you are thinking about starting an eCommerce business. You have the skills or the products, now you need the best partner to take it online and get the ball rolling. With multiple options out there, how do you decide on which platform is best for you?
To help you decide, let's look at the factors that should influence your decision. Using this guide you can decide on what works best for you!
For the purpose of this guide, we will compare Nimbl Store to WooCommerce and Shopify respectively. The latter two being the dominant options internationally, while Nimbl is South Africa born and bred.
Here is an overview of what we will look at:
01 | Overview of platforms
02 | What to look out for when deciding on a platform?
03 | Cost comparison
04 | Ease of Use
05 | Payment Methods
06 | Add-on's
07 | Scalability
08 | Support Options
09 | Fulfillment
10 | Conclusion
01 | Overview of platforms
Before we start with our in-depth comparison of the three most popular eCommerce platforms on the web, it’s important that we cover the basics and highlight what makes these platforms stand out.
What is Nimbl?
In existence for over 10 years, Nimbl is South Africa’s best option when it comes to eCommerce platforms. It’s an all-in-one eCommerce platform that comes with the added courier account included. Nimbl as a courier has been in business for more than 15 years already (at the time of writing) and services over 800 eCommerce stores already. The single platform approach ensures that the users do not have to worry about managing aspects of a website such as web hosting, security, scalability, or availability, which is a huge advantage if you are not an expert at all or any of these.
What is Shopify?
Hailing from Canada, Shopify is used extensively across the world. Most of the growth for Shopify is centered in America, with the system built for these markets predominantly (although it can be used outside of the USA). Shopify is also a single platform system like Nimbl, with the main difference being that outside independent developers build the bulk of Shopify’s add-ons and templates. This allows Shopify to offer a wider range of templates to their users, although issues with any of these will have to be handled between yourself and the developer of said template.
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is an open-source eCommerce plugin built for WordPress. It allows you to leverage the most powerful content management system (CMS) and use it to run an online store. Because of the open-source nature, you can customize every aspect of your store and easily build custom extensions.
02 | What to look out for when deciding on a platform?
There are a few things that you absolutely need to keep in mind when starting an online store. These key factors will help you decide which platform is better suited for your needs.
- Budget - The initial cost of starting a fully functional eCommerce store.
- Ease of use - It should be easy to use even for absolute beginners.
- Payment Methods - It should have support for payment methods
- Integrations - Number of services and third-party tools you can integrate to grow your business.
- Scalability - The platform should be able to scale as your business grows.
- Fulfillment - An essential part of eCommerce is ensuring that your customers get their orders.
These are the very basic requirements that all online store owners must consider. However, depending on your needs, you may also want to look at other options like inventory management, invoicing, etc. Our goal with this article is to take an in-depth look at how Nimbl, Shopify, and WooCommerce stand on these basic requirements, and which one of them is best suited for your needs.
03 | Cost comparison
Cost is often the most important consideration for eCommerce website owners. You need to evaluate the cost of getting started while also keeping in mind the variable costs for add-on services and software.
The true cost of Nimbl Store:
Nimbl makes it super easy to start your online store. Their basic plan starts at R299 per month, and you can upgrade to the Advanced plan for R499 per month or the Expert plan for R999 per month.
The basic plan has everything you need to start a professional eCommerce website included.
With each of these plans, adding your own domain should you require one will cost you R99 for the first year, although you do get your own myeshop.site domain included. It includes an SSL Certificate to secure your website and web hosting to have your website on the internet. The price includes a courier pre-paid account with Nimbl Courier with discounted pricing and free insurance of up to R5000 per shipment.
There are no payment fees on transactions, but should you wish to not use Nimbl as the courier there is an additional transaction fee (currently suspended as a Covid assistance measure).
There are no additional fees for your 3rd party payment options (like Payfast) although each of these platforms will have its own fees which you can negotiate with them.
First month R299 for the Basic package (R99 added should you wish to buy a domain name)
Thereafter: R299 per month with no additional fees.
The true cost of Shopify:
The Shopify packages are: Basic Store: R446.87 per month / Advanced Store: R1217.34 per month / Expert Store: R4607.39
Each of these plans includes a myshopify.com domain name, SSL certificate, and web hosting.
As Shopify is focused on the United States and Canada market, they do not have pricing for South Africa Rand. This means you are bound by the exchange rate. As a comparison in February 2018, you would have paid R338 per month whereas now you pay R446.87 per month. This is a disadvantage when you are trying to start an online store in South Africa as the price can increase dramatically from one month to the next.
The basic plan comes with enough features to set up a basic new online store.
However, this pricing doesn’t include third-party tools and add-ons that you will need to take your Shopify store to the next level. As your business grows, these costs will start adding up, and you’ll soon be paying a lot more than the basic plan.
You can buy a domain name through Shopify for R170 per year.
Payments are another factor that affects your costs. Shopify offers its own Shopify Payments solution which costs 2.9% + R5 per transaction.
If you want to use third-party payment gateways or your own merchant account, then you will be charged a flat fee of 2.0% for all transactions. You can reduce this fee to 0.5% by using the Shopify Advanced plan which costs R4607.39 per month.
These payment processing fees are fairly steep when using external payment gateways. However, if you’re just starting out and want to use the Shopify payment solution, then the fees are fairly comparable to popular platforms like Payfast.
Although it's difficult to estimate the cost of add-on's for your Shopify store, as this is dependent on your needs, a rough estimate for an average as done by www.ecommerceceo.com is about $99 per month or about R1500 per month. Although you can go without these add-on's you will most probably need some of them to satisfy your visitors.
Shopify Monthly fee: R446.87
Shopify Add on Monthly fee: About R1500
Total per month: R1946.87
The true cost of WooCommerce:
WooCommerce is an eCommerce plugin for WordPress.org (also known as self-hosted WordPress). It is open-source and freely available as a WordPress plugin.
However, you’ll need a domain name, SSL Certificate, and a WordPress hosting account to start a WooCommerce store.
Typically, a domain name costs R200 per year, SSL Certificate costs R1000 per year, and web hosting around R169 / month. This is not cheap, particularly when you are just starting out.
As you can see, the monthly cost of starting a basic WooCommerce store is significantly lower than Shopify but more in line with Nimbl’s cost. WooCommerce also doesn’t charge you a percentage fee for your transactions which is similar to Nimbl.
But the WooCommerce costs start adding up as you purchase paid extensions. Your hosting costs will also increase as your online store grows.
However, one clear advantage of using WooCommerce is that you can often find free alternatives to the paid extensions. You can also keep your costs in control by only purchasing the tools and plugins as you need them. Although you will probably have to ensure you fully understand the platform as adding, removing, and managing extensions cannot be done by beginners. This is where the WooCommerce pricing gets a bit muddy and expensive. Since it is a huge platform with thousands if not 10s of thousands of options, you will most probably need to hire someone to help you with your setup and maintenance. This can vary, but will probably start from R2500 up into well over the R50 000 of you have advanced needs. If you have a quick look at Upwork you will see recommendations for WooCommerce developers in South Africa starting from around $40 per hour. This is equivalent to roughly R600 per hour. This quickly adds up and although the costs can not be estimated it’s worth understanding it before you decide.
WooCommerce first month: R1369
WooCommerce per month after R169.00 for basic hosting
Other costs: Vary from R2500 upwards of R25000
* Conversions done on 23 November 2020. 1 USD = 15.33 ZAR.
04 | Ease of Use
Nimbl - Ease of Use
Nimbl is a fully hosted platform which means you don’t need to install, manage, or update any software. This is all managed by Nimbl. You also don’t need to worry about security, performance, backups, and compatibility issues as this is also handled by Nimbl. Running on Amazon’s AWS architecture, Nimbl offers the best in class hosting to help ensure your store is fast, secure, and available all the time.
With sign-up, you are given a default template and color scheme. You are also offered a basic Quick Setup to help you get the hang of the system, which is really easy to use and you will feel comfortable after a couple of minutes. Managing products are a breeze with the added help of a Duplicate Product option should you need it. The system was definitely designed to ensure that from start users to advanced users can benefit from the system.
You are limited to the add-on's and templates provided by Nimbl, but this is not a bad thing at all. With the list ever-growing, almost weekly in some cases, you will not be hamstrung by an overwhelming amount of these options. Nimbl also offers color schemes on all the templates to help you tweak your site to your liking.
Shopify – Ease of Use
Shopify is a fully hosted platform similar to Nimbls systems. As soon as you sign up, it helps you pick a design for your website. After that, they walk you through customization and then help you add products. Shopify comes with a drag and drop interface. Managing your products, sales, and inventory inside Shopify is straightforward.
One downside of this user experience is that it limits your control in some areas. It also has a steeper learning curve than Nimbl, although in time you will get the hang of it.
WooCommerce – Ease of Use
WooCommerce is not a hosted platform like Nimbl or Shopify. This means you will need to install WooCommerce, manage updates, keep backups, and make sure that your website is secure. There are plenty of free and paid plugins that can automate most of these tasks for you.
WooCommerce is flexible when it comes to customizations. You have full control of the whole platform. You can add any functionality imaginable to your website with the help of more than 55,000+ WordPress plugins.
However, there is no built-in drag & drop design-builder. You can use one of the WordPress page builders like Beaver Builder, but it adds to your cost.
The biggest downside of the flexibility is that it comes with a learning curve and requires more hands-on management of your website. You also have to signup for a merchant account or similar service like Stripe / PayPal.
You will in most cases need to hire a developer to help you set up and manage any changes to your store in the future if you want the functionality to be in line with what Nimbl and Shopify can offer.
While the WooCommerce guided setup wizard is helpful, it does not come close to the onboarding and ease of use of Nimbl or Shopify.
05 | Payment Methods
There are many payment methods that you can use to accept payments online. Some payment methods may not be suitable for you. This is why it’s important that the platform that works for you. Let’s take a look at how Nimbl, Shopify, and WooCommerce compare when it comes to payment integrations.
Payment options in Nimbl
As Nimbl is focused on the South African market, it uses the options most associated with the said market. With Nimbl, by default, you can use EFT as an option. Other platforms will offer a similar payment method, but with Nimbl you get the added functionality to prepend reference numbers used for EFT payments by your client. This helps you easily identify these payments in your bank account reconciliation.
Nimbl also offers out-of-the-box integration with Payfast. You can easily sign up for a Payfast account online within an hour as both a personal user or a business user, which means you can start accepting payments via Credit Card, Debit Card, Snapscan, and many other channels, almost from the get-go.
Nimbl does not add any transaction fees for receiving payments via these channels. Currently, they are expanding payment methods to include other popular methods such as PayJustNow which offers solutions in a truly South Africa-centric sense.
Payment Options in Shopify
Shopify offers plenty of payment options that you can use to receive payments from customers. It has its own payment solution called Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe) as well as all popular third-party payment gateways.
The problem is that Shopify charges an extra 2% fee on each transaction made through third-party payment gateways. This is on top of the transaction fees charged by the payment gateway. You can reduce the fee to 0.5% by moving to the Advanced Shopify plan.
Shopify Payments has flat credit card fees, but no other transaction fees. Credit card rates start from 2.9% + about R5 for the basic plan and get lower for other plans.
Payment Options in WooCommerce
WooCommerce offers PayPal and Stripe payments by default. It also supports all other popular payment service providers through add-ons.
For payment gateways, WooCommerce even has support for many regional and less popular payment services. Since there is no barrier to entry, any payments company can create add-ons for WooCommerce and provide support for it.
As a self-hosted platform, you are only charged transaction fees by your payment gateway or your bank. WooCommerce never charges you a % fee on your store transactions which is a major plus.
06 | Add-on's
No matter how robust an e-commerce platform is, you’ll always need tools and services to grow your store. Nimbl, Shopify, and WooCommerce have an extensions directory, and they integrate with many third-party services.
The biggest difference between Nimbl and the other two platforms is that they offer these add-ons at no additional cost. Add-on's come with your package. The basic package has all the needed features for a store of that size and as you grow you can increase your package to fit your needs.
Nimbl also consistently adds new add-on's as clients need changes and you can request add-on's should you require them and they are not available. Again Nimbl add-on's are tailored to the South African market and because there are no additional costs, it helps you to focus on your business without massive overheads.
Shopify comes with an App Store where you can buy third-party add-ons for your Shopify store. They have apps for SEO, product reviews, discounts, countdowns, and more.
Shopify’s app store contains both free and paid apps. Free apps are usually created by third-party services that have their own pricing, and the app only integrates your store to their APIs. Pricing for paid add-ons varies and most apps offer monthly subscriptions.
WooCommerce Add-on's and Integrations
WooCommerce is open source and built on top of WordPress. This gives you access to free WordPress plugins and many more paid plugins. You can use these add-on's to add payment gateways, lead generation, SEO, performance optimization, etc.
Due to the low barrier of entry, there are a lot more integrations and add-on's available for WooCommerce than Shopify. Almost all third-party tools and service providers have their own plugins to seamlessly integrate with your WooCommerce store.
You can also hire a developer to create an integration or plugin just for your own website. However, it’s important to keep in mind that WooCommerce has some requirements in this case. Having personally gone through the process of submitting a plugin for WordPress and submitting an app to the Shopify store, we can say that the process is extremely harder on Shopify vs WooCommerce.
Any custom app development required with WooCommerce will inevitably add to your costs as you will have to hire an experienced developer to assist you.
07 | Scalability
You have probably heard the term “growth-pains” from various startups. As your business grows, you will need more resources to handle new challenges and goals.
Nimbl, Shopify, and WooCommerce can be scaled to handle a large amount of traffic and orders, but they’re not created equal. Let’s take a look at how these eCommerce platforms compare when it comes to scalability.
Scalability on Nimbl
Nimbl handles the technical parts of your store which means you don’t ever have to worry about performance, security, and scalability. Once your business starts growing, you can simply upgrade your plan to fit your store’s needs.
Their infrastructure can easily handle your growing business without you having to worry about downtimes, backups, updates, or security.
This takes out the painful part of the growth and allows you to focus on growing your business.
Scalability on Shopify
Being a managed platform, Shopify also manages the technical infrastructure for you similar to Nimbl. The biggest difference being that with any 3rd party add-on's or templates outside of the Shopify ecosystem you will have to interact with these companies independently. This can add costs to your business as you grow.
Their infrastructure can handle your business backups, updates, or security. They also offer enterprise services as part of the Shopify Plus plan.
This takes out the need for maintenance from your side, but it also adds to your cost of business. Your expenses will grow, and you’ll have to plan accordingly.
The good part is that your costs will be offset by you not having to hire/manage a technical team in-house.
Scalability on WooCommerce
WooCommerce is a self-hosted platform that makes you responsible for maintaining updates, backups, and security of your website.
Your starter WooCommerce hosting plan would run out of resources as your store starts getting more traffic.
The good part is that you have control over this process, but it would be difficult for someone without the technical know-how. This could add costs to your store in the long rung.
Your WooCommerce hosting costs will increase, but you will have better control over resources, and you can make sure that you are not paying for resources that you don’t need. You can use a managed WordPress hosting provider like WP Engine or LiquidWeb to help scale your WooCommerce store.
Despite the control that WooCommerce offers, some business owners simply prefer a hassle-free solution.
08 | Support Options
Nimbl, WooCommerce, and Shopify are quite easy to use. However, sometimes you may need help to learn how to do something new in your store. Let’s see how they handle support and what are your options to get help when needed.
Support Options on Nimbl
Nimbl is a fully hosted platform, which means they control the software and they are the ones who know their platform the best.
Nimbl provides support via live chat and email. The response to email queries is unbeatable in the current market. For users who want to go at things on their own, Nimbl offers extensive documentation, how-to guides, a knowledge base, video tutorials, and a constantly updated Help Centre.
As all templates and add-ons are created by Nimbl they offer extensive support on these as well. They also offer blogs around marketing and other related eCommerce fields to help their customers grow and thrive with their eCommerce.
With the newly launched Learn with Nimbl feature, in-house experts offer to learn videos to help customers get the most out of their store.
Support Options on Shopify
Shopify provides 24/7 support via live chat, phone, email, and Twitter. Shopify offers extensive documentation and forums.
It also maintains a directory of Shopify Experts that you can hire if you need extra help or if you want to integrate a third-party solution.
Shopify doesn’t provide support for any third-party apps or themes that you are using.
Support Options for WooCommerce
WooCommerce is the world’s most popular eCommerce platform, which means there are tons of support options that you can utilize when needed.
The official website has extensive documentation, tutorials, and guides that allow you to help yourself. They also have support forums where you can get help from other WooCommerce users and experts.
WooCommerce is a self-hosted platform, which means your hosting provider is responsible for providing support for issues with your server.
For your WooCommerce theme and extensions, those developers are responsible for answering support questions regarding their products.
Due to its immense popularity, it is quite easier and often cheaper to find developers to help you fix issues with your WooCommerce store than with Shopify. You can find developers on freelancing websites to fix WooCommerce issues. Although the overheads when hiring an expert can add unexpected costs to your budget.
09 | Fulfillment
Order fulfillment is such a key part of your store. If this is not done correctly and in a timely fashion you will lose customer retention and even worse, possible word of mouth growth. Order fulfillment is the after-order service offered by each platform and there is a vast difference in the section. Let’s have a look at it.
Order fulfillment on Nimbl
Nimbl is the only eCommerce platform in the world that offers its own courier service as well. This is unquestionably a deciding factor for online businesses. Nimbl Courier has been in operation for more than 10 years and services more than 800 online stores already. From the very big to the very small. Because of their understanding of the eCommerce market, their service is focused on ensuring your customers will be happy. As with courier services, there is the possibility of problems in transit, and this is where Nimbl courier services are head and shoulders above the rest. With personal service, problems get resolved and your client can have an experience that they won’t want to post on HelloPeter. This helps you grow your store without the hassle of managing your delivery partner.
With the service already integrated into your Nimbl Store, there is no need for an additional courier account to be opened.
With this in mind, Nimbl Store does not limit you to use them as your preferred courier service. With the option to dispatch via another courier service the decision is in your hands as to how you would like to handle the fulfillment of your orders.
Nimbl Store also by default includes emails to your customers on the status of their order. From confirmation to dispatch stage. As you update the order, your client gets a notification on this, and they can also see the status of the order on your website which adds to the confidence they will have in you.
And should you use Nimbl as your courier service, this is extended beyond the dispatching and you have control, and your client has eyes on the order until it is delivered, offering a service not found anywhere else.
Fulfillment on Shopify
Shopify does not offer a complete fulfillment service. The platform has basic management of this and on top of that, it offers 3rd party apps and integration to courier service for this. The process does work well, the only downside is that you would have to manage the courier service independently of your store. Opening accounts and settling issues would be between yourself and your chosen service.
Fulfillment on WooCommerce
Similar to Shopify they also don’t offer a complete fulfillment service. Again they have 3rd party extensions to some couriers and should you use these partners you will have to open an account with them independently and resolve all queries directly with them.
10 | Conclusion
Nimbl, Shopify, and WooCommerce are powerful platforms to start your eCommerce store with. It truly comes down to your personal skills and preferences.
Nimbl is the easiest, cheapest, and most complete solution for a South Africa-based user. In functionality, Shopify and Nimbl offer similar options, but with Shopify’s focus lying solely on a global scale, Nimbl is the better option as it focuses on South Africa. With the added advantage of a proven eCommerce courier service integrated already and the low-cost barrier for entry to the market, Nimbl would be the preferred choice.
Shopify is a solid platform. It doesn’t require you to install anything, and you can get started quickly. Setting up payments is not difficult, and they have adjustable pricing plans, albeit in American dollars. The disadvantage of Shopify is that you don’t have full control over everything. Your costs can go high with transaction fees, add-ons, and integrations. Your upgrade options are limited to getting outside help, and you cannot manage costs on a pay-as-you-grow basis.
WooCommerce is open-source and gives you full control of your website. It costs a lot lower to start an online store with WooCommerce than with Shopify. The disadvantage is that you’ll have to maintain the software. It comes with a huge learning curve. The added costs that would come with getting an expert or developer to help you might add on extra costs that no new business can afford.
If you are looking for a cost-effective solution, trusted eCommerce platform, then Nimbl is the best platform for you.
If you want something that’s completely hassle-free that has infinite scalability, then Nimbl is the better platform for you.
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