Ecommerce Comparison for Farms: Shopify vs Grazecart vs Barn2Door vs Volusion vs Woocommerce
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It seems like lately I’ve been seeing a lot of people wondering about which ecommerce platform is ideal for their farm or ranch business. They want to start selling online and maybe even shipping their products, but where to start?
Here I’ll try and lay out the pros and cons of the main platforms that most farmers consider. No platform is the perfect platform for everything…it really just depends on what you need for your farm!
For this article, I used my own knowledge of the e-commerce platforms I have experience with, and for the ones I don’t, I interviewed other farmers and ranchers who use them. Most of those farmers wanted to stay anonymous, but a few shared links to their websites and are credited as sources at the bottom.
Before we jump in, here’s one thing to consider: if you don’t want to sell online but just need an online platform to present your farm to the world, maybe an e-commerce site isn’t the way to go right now. Instead, think about just creating a basic blog with WordPress or another popular blogging/website building platform. If you just want to process point-of-sale (aka real world) payments, check out Square instead of going straight to building an ecommerce website. This will allow you to process transactions in person or email invoices, but you won’t have an actual online store.
But if you do want an online store…read on!
Shopify vs Grazecart vs Barn2Door vs Volusion vs Woocommerce
To make this make more sense, I’ve broken this down by key attributes. At the bottom you’re going to find a quick text summary of which option to go with based on your situation.
Shopify Regular: $79.00/month
Credit card processing per transaction: 2.9% + $0.30, or 2.6% + $0.30.
Transaction fees: 2% if you don’t use Shopify payments
100 orders, $124/month
200 orders, $200/month
400 orders, $274/month,
800 orders, $424/month
Credit card processing: They use Stripe. 2.9% +$0.30
$69.99/month (no website, you’re on their platform) with $299 setup fee.
$94/month with $399 setup fee + your own website
$119/month with $500 setup fee + your own website.
Credit card processing: They integrate with Stripe. 2.9% + $0.30
Volusion Personal: $29 per month, limit $50k sales per year
Volusion Professional: $79 per month, limit $100k sales per year
Credit card processing: varies by processor, typically around 2.9% + $0.30
No monthly fee BUT you have to have a website to host WooCommerce on, so you’ll need hosting (Bluehost works, about $8-$50/month, and security (varies from $0-$200/yr)
Credit card processing: Woocommerce integrates with several processors, including Stripe, so you’ll pay about 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. No transaction fees.
If that pricing breakdown seems hard to compare, let’s simplify it a bit…
Slide for your monthly sales dollars below to get an estimate of what your monthly fees would be (credit card processing fees + platform fees) for each platform. If you’re using mobile, you’ll have to scroll down a bit to see the pricing estimate results.
Note on Shopify pricing: if you have a high scale of orders, it’s worth going with a more expensive plan because of the discounted rate you get on credit card processing with Shopify Payments (2.6% + $0.30 for the “Shopify” plan, 2.4% + $0.30 for “Advanced Shopify”), as well as discounted shipping rates (even the basic plan offers discounted shipping, but the discounts get better on the higher plans). Visit this calculator here to see which plan is cheapest for you.
The Winner on Pricing:
Here, Woocommerce is the winner for a smaller scale store by a small margin, until you cross $22,000 in sales each month. After that, Shopify wins from there on out just because of the discounted credit card processing rates available on the more advanced plans. If price is a big deal for you and especially if you’re looking to grow and scale your business, Shopify is hands down the winner because of the discounted credit card processing rates that start to really stack up when you operate at a larger scale.
Before we go on, a note about credit card processing fees
Obviously when we compare pricing structures as above, the monthly costs of the online platform is relatively small in comparison to the glaring credit card processing fees. That 2.9% +$0.30 per transaction mentioned comes from Stripe, the payment gateway most used for all of these e-commerce platforms save Shopify, which uses Shopify Payments (it processes all the same credit cards as Stripe, but it’s a bit easier to set up on the Shopify platform than trying to integrate your own Stripe account). You can use a different payment processor from Stripe, but that 2.9% rate is quite competitive with industry standards. Most other main payment processors (PayPal, Square, Authorize.net) charge the same rate or something very close. The lowest you’ll get on credit card processing rates is probably Shopify’s 2.4% + $0.30/transaction if you’re using the Advanced plan. This is why if you operate at a large scale with a lot of orders, you can capture huge savings by using Shopify just because of the reduced processing fee alone.
Also keep in mind that transaction fees and credit card processing fees are two different things. The transaction fee is usually charged by the e-commerce platform, while a credit card processing fee is charged by the 3rd party credit card processor. When looking at different e-commerce platforms, be sure to watch out for transaction fees (usually around 1%) that will stack on top of credit card processing fees.
And on that note, it’s important to underline that Shopify does charge a transaction fee (0.5%-2%, depending on your plan) if you aren’t using Shopify Payments and you want to use a 3rd party gateway like Stripe instead. I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t want to use Shopify Payments, since it’s cheaper than Stripe on the more advanced Shopify plans and it’s very easy to set up in your Shopify dashboard. However, if you do have to use a 3rd party gateway like Stripe or Authorize for some reason, Shopify will charge you that transaction fee. Note: Shopify doesn’t charge its transaction fee on Stripe transactions processed through the ReCharge or Bold subscription apps.
With that said, let’s move on!
#2: Setup Difficulty & Functionality
My comments below about Shopify are based on my experience running + setting up the Alderspring storefront, as well as setting up and working on several other Shopify stores for friends & clients.
Design Flexibility: Shopify is middle of the road here. It doesn’t have the design flexibility of WooCommerce, but the design interface is quite user-friendly. Shopify is more flexible design-wise than Volusion, Grazecart, and Barn2Door.
Design Setup Difficulty: Minor design changes are quite easy to make in Shopify and the pagebuilder is very intuitive and uses blocks. Color changes and font changes are very easy to make. Structural design changes (like modifying the appearance or width of a block) are difficult to make, but Shopify does offer a few free (as well as many paid) themes that you can experiment with for different looks. Overall, it is quite easy to build a nice looking design on Shopify.
Back-End Setup Difficulty: In terms of setting up basic functions like shipping settings, order printing, and payment settings, Shopify is seamless. Creating products and pages is very easy. If you need specific functions, however, like a minimum order price, complex local delivery functions, or subscriptions, you will need to install apps for those functions. Most of the apps are quite intuitive and easy to set up, but many of them also charge a monthly fee.
Note that I haven’t personally used Grazecart extensively. Instead, I signed up for their free trial to experiment with the platform, and asked some farmers who do use Grazecart for their opinions and experiences.
Flexibility: Grazecart has quite minimal design flexibility. It has one fairly simple design template with a few customization capabilitie. There are a few widgets you can use to change up the design slightly, but it’s difficult to really customize in-depth. If you want a basic e-commerce farm website, this is what GrazeCart is designed to do. It is meant to be plug-and-play with a simple design that you can quickly set up. If you want more advanced functionality or more than very basic design changes, Grazecart might not be the way to go.
Design Setup Difficulty: Assembling the website is quite easy with a drag-and-drop builder so long as you don’t want to vary much from the provided blocks. The users I consulted on this said that they found the design builder quite plug-and-play.
Back-End Setup Difficulty: Many of the people I interviewed said that setting up things like products, app integrations, or the checkout process on Grazecart is very easy and straightforward so long as what you want falls within the functions that Grazecart offers (more on Grazecart’s specific functionalities later). If there’s something you need that they don’t offer, however, you’d have to find some kind of workaround. Grazecart is designed to do a few things very well, but you don’t have a ton of flexibility beyond that. I did hear from everyone I spoke to that Grazecart’s customer support is outstanding, and that they are always looking to add functions that are in-demand.
Note that I haven’t personally used Barn2Door. Instead, I researched them in-depth for this article and asked some farmers who do use Barn2Door for their opinions and experiences.
Flexibility: One of the primary advantages of Barn2Door is that they build a website for you (if you choose the website option). Some of the Barn2Door users I consulted did say that they were unhappy with the level of customer support they’d received during the setup process, and that after the setup process, Barn2Door allows you a limited number of edits before they begin charging you. Barn2Door’s designs are nice looking but fairly basic. Also note that the actual products and shopping experience for your farm are hosted on the Barn2Door platform. You might have your own website URL, but someone wishing to buy will be sent to the Barn2Door shopping platform. One user noted that this looks somewhat spammy to a potential buyer. It’s also not at all good for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and getting your products to rank in Google.
Design Setup Difficulty: Again, Barn2Door is likely the easiest option because they’ll build the site for you after you provide the information you want placed on it. It’s not entirely plug and play and you’ll still have to interact with their designers, but if you aren’t tech savvy this might be the easiest option.
Back-End Setup Difficulty: Most of the people I interviewed said that Barn2Door’s back office interface is not very easy to use and is quite limited in flexibility. Barn2Door’s staff will help you set up your initial settings, but because the system is not very flexible there are limitations to what you can do.
For this information, I drew on my experience working with Volusion, as well as extensive research on how it works.
Flexibility: They offer a drag-and-drop website builder and several different themes. Volusion design is less flexible than Shopify’s (they offer fewer themes and fewer customization capabilities).
Design Setup Difficulty: Shopify is slightly easier to set up in terms of design than Volusion. I personally found Volusion’s interface a bit clunky and non-intuitive.
Back-End Setup Difficulty: Volusion’s back office is simply laid out and it’s easy to find what you need. Setting up basic functions is quite straightforward. However, they don’t offer a lot of flexibility on the back office and there are limited options. What you see is what you can do. There’s not much customization beyond that.
Note that my comments on how Woocommerce works are based on my personal experience building Woocommerce stores and experience working with WordPress, the platform Woocommerce is hosted on.
Flexibility: This is the most flexible option in terms of design, with literally hundreds of themes available, and, if you have coding knowledge or a designer, even more customization capabilities.
Design Setup Difficulty: The price of Woocommerce’s customization capabilities is that it is not as user friendly as some of the other options here. If you’re willing to brave a slightly steeper learning curve, Woocommerce can look great and is extremely flexible. But if you want a plug-and-play option, this is not it. Note: if you’re familiar with WordPress, Woocommerce’s learning curve is a lot lower. Woocommerce is hosted on WordPress’s platform and works the same way, so you will not need to learn a whole new interface.
Back End Setup Difficulty: I’ve personally found the Woocommerce dashboard slightly frustrating. Again, if you’re familiar with WordPress, the learning curve is lower because the interface is the same. The reason Woocommerce gets complicated is because it’s somewhat “tacked on” to the WordPress interface, and because of that, there is a lot going on in the back office, especially if you’re unfamiliar with WordPress’s dashboard. Additionally, if you add plugins to Woocommerce, those, too, are somewhat “tacked on” and they don’t seamlessly integrate into Woocommerce itself. However, if you’re willing to navigate a slightly less user friendly dashboard and sort through the bad plugins to find the good (because WordPress is open source, anyone can create a plugin, meaning you’ll get some great ones and some terrible ones), you can make Woocommerce do almost anything you need. Basically, you have to be willing to find your own workarounds and do your own troubleshooting. If you’re fairly computer savvy and not afraid of a little DIYing or problem solving, Woocommerce can be a great option.
The Winner on Design:
Though Woocommerce is the winner on sheer flexibility (the sky–and your web design skills–is the limit), Shopify pulls out ahead just because of its streamlined, user-friendly drag and drop frontend builder combined with a decent level of flexibility.
Winner on User-Friendliness:
It’s a toss-up between Shopify and Grazecart. Both have intuitive and easy-to-use back offices. Shopify has more design and function flexibility than Grazecart, but Grazecart has a few specific farm-related features that it does very well that you have to find workarounds for on Shopify.
Barn2Door also does a few things very well (more on Barn2Door’s particular pros later), but unfortunately it just doesn’t have a lot of functional variety. Sooner or later you’re going to run up against something you need it to do that it can’t do, and at that point it’ll be hard to find a workaround.
Winners on Key Features
Since not everyone needs the same things, I’ve created dropdowns below on some of the key features most farmers are looking for. Click on the things that are a deal-breaker for you to find out which platforms offer those features.
If you need…
1. Tons of complicated product variations
Note that this might not be a feature you even want. Complicated product variations makes for complex inventory tracking and order fulfillment, no matter how slick the platform you’re using is. Avoid the headache. If you have tons of variations or customization possibilities per product, consider instead dividing these up into separate, simpler products, or finding ways to simplify your offerings.
- Shopify limits you to 100 variations per product. There’s a workaround if you download an app, but that’s an additional cost per month.
- Volusion allows for unlimited variations
- Grazecart allows for very limited variations (either a single product or a bundle), unless you use their “Product Variants” premium feature available in their marketplace.
- Barn2Door allows unlimited variations
- Woocommerce allows for very complex variations if you use a plugin integration. Be aware that setting up complex variations can be a huge pain.
Winner on offering a huge variety of variations: Woocommerce
2. A blog on your store
- Shopify allows for a basic blog
- Volusion does not have a blog option
- Grazecart has blogging functionality, including a recipe feature
- Barn2Door has basic blog functionality
- Woocommerce has the most sophisticated blogging functionality because it’s hosted on the WordPress platform, which is designed for blogging. There are endless opportunities to integrate recipes, advanced search functions, photo galleries, videos, PDFs, social media, and customize the blog design to your heart’s content. Again, though basic blogging is very easy to figure out in WordPress, those more advanced features come with a learning curve.
- Side note: We actually run our main site (alderspring.com) on WordPress because of WordPress’s powerful blogging and site building capabilities. We seriously considered Woocommerce because our site was already hosted on WordPress, but in the end we didn’t want to deal with the headaches of operating a large business through Woocommerce’s interface. Even though using Shopify meant splitting our SEO between two URLS (our store and our main website), which is generally a bad idea, we opted to take the SEO hit in order to keep WordPress’s diverse functionality for our main site while having Shopify’s user friendliness for our store.
The winner: Woocommerce has hands down the best blogging capabilities because it is hosted on WordPress.
3. Handling of variable weight products (like meats that aren’t all exactly the same weight per cut)
- Shopify doesn’t have specific tools for this. The best workaround is to either sell as packages that must meet a cumulative weight, or specify a max weight a product will be and refund the difference if it’s less after fulfillment. We do this on our store by saying that a roast, for example, will be between 4-5 pounds. If the roast is less than 5 lbs, we’ll issue them a partial refund for the lesser weight. Another way we deal with it is by creating a roast package where they’ll order 10 lbs of, say, small briskets. It’s fairly easy to mix and match a few briskets to be at or just over 10 lbs.
- Volusion doesn’t have specific tools for this, you’ll have to use above workaround.
- Grazecart has a system in which you provide customers a weight estimate at checkout, then they are actually charged once you know the real weight. Most people I spoke to said that they handled this during fulfillment: they wrote the actual weight of the product on the order sheet, then when printing the shipping label they entered those actual weights.
- Barn2Door. Similar functionality to Grazecart, except that customers are charged a deposit up front, then the rest after the real weight is calculated.
- Woocommerce. Same workaround required as Shopify and Volusion.
The winner: Grazecart and Barn2Door, with workarounds for some of the others.
4. Integration (and marketing) with email newsletter programs
- Shopify integrates easily with almost all major email marketing platforms (Drip, ConvertKit, Aweber, etc). Shopify also has an “abandoned cart” email feature that sends out an email if someone doesn’t complete checkout and can help capture more sales for you (you don’t need a 3rd party email marketing tool like Drip for this–the feature is native to Shopify). This feature is available for all pricing plans. Shopify also has its own very basic email marketing system that allows you to send out simple emails to customers without a 3rd party app.
- Volusion integrates with most newsletter marketing platforms. Abandoned cart feature isn’t available on the most basic plan.
- Grazecart integrates with Mailchimp and Drip only. If you use Drip, you can set up an abandoned cart recovery email.
- Barn2Door only integrates with Mailchimp, and some of the users I spoke to were not happy with the level of flexibility and tagging features Barn2Door offered.
- Woocommerce integrates with most major providers.
The winner: Shopify, but all of these platforms have some email marketing integration.
Important note! Shopify doesn’t integrate with Mailchimp because Mailchimp restricts the information it will give Shopify (or any e-commerce platform, for that matter). As Shopify said in a statement after their “breakup:” “It’s critical for our merchants to have accurate, complete insight into their businesses and customers, and this isn’t possible when Mailchimp locks in their data. Specifically, Mailchimp refuses to synchronize customer information captured on merchants’ online stores and email opt-out preferences.” Obviously all that is very unclear corporate lingo. Based on my research, what it means is that Mailchimp won’t send information back and forth with Shopify about customers (things like location, purchase history, etc). The “opt out” note specifically refers to if someone originally checks the “subscribe” box at checkout, then on a future order they uncheck that box, Shopify has no way to communicate that unsubscribe to Mailchimp. What does all this basically mean? It means first of all that Shopify won’t integrate with Mailchimp, and second that if you use Mailchimp with another one of these e-commerce providers the same issues will arise with communication between the two programs due to Mailchimp’s privacy standards. You won’t be able to make the same complex sales funnels based on customer data that a different platform would allow. Whether these privacy standards are a good or bad thing, of course, is an ethics concern that I’m not even going to attempt to dive into here.
5. Point of Sale (in person) selling at farmer’s markets or pickups
- Shopify offers point of sale with 2.5% transaction fees (see how it works here)
- Volusion does not offer point of sale.
- Grazecart offers point of sale through Stripe.
- Barn2Door does not offer point of sale.
- Woocommerce offers a point of sale plugin.
- Note: if you almost exclusively sell in-person through point of sale, consider looking into Square. With Square, you can send invoices via email or you can use an in-person card reader to process transactions.
Winner: Shopify, but again, if you sell primarily through point of sale, consider Square or another point-of-sale payment processor.
- Shopify: Shopify’s shipping features are excellent. If you have an account with USPS or UPS and your own negotiated rates with them, you can seamlessly add your account and Shopify will show those calculated rates at checkout when your customer is ordering. Note: that feature is only available on the “Advanced” plan. You can also use your own account to print shipping labels right in Shopify. If you don’t have a UPS or USPS account, Shopify saves you the need to make one. It integrates with these 3rd party providers and allows you to buy and print shipping labels right in Shopify (on any plan, not just the advanced one). This saves you the need to ever enter addresses or use a different platform when shipping. You simply click to print the label right on the order page, the order is automatically fulfilled, and an email with tracking number is automatically sent to to the customer. Shopify also has its own negotiated rates with UPS and USPS, so you’ll get those discounts when you buy labels through Shopify (the better your Shopify plan, the higher the discount). You can also integrate with 3rd party apps for more variable shipping options such as the “Shippo” app that also gives you some shipping discounts, and apps like this one to get more advanced shipping functionality. In short, shipping with Shopify is absolutely seamless.
- Volusion integrates with 3rd party providers (if you have accounts with them) and gives you real time 3rd party shipping estimates. Unlike Shopify, they do not give you a discount with 3rd party providers.
- Grazecart does not directly integrate with 3rd party providers and based on my extensive searching, I could find no way to print labels directly in the Grazecart system.
- Barn2Door offers basic shipping integrations with 3rd party providers. The users I spoke to said, however, that setting up shipping in Barn2Door is not intuitive and there is not much flexibility. If you primarily ship your product, Barn2Door is likely not a great option for you.
- Woocommerce integrates with most major providers.
The winner: Shopify is the clear winner by a long shot on shipping functionality if shipping is your primary method of order fulfillment. Shopify’s shipping discounts especially make it a no-brainer.
7. Separate pricing (display different prices depending on location, or show different prices to a wholesale buyer)
- Shopify: You can set up wholesale customers and pricing structures in Shopify. You can also assign wholesale rates to customers in your database. You can create more advanced wholesale rates that vary by location with apps. There are several in Shopify’s app store that do this.
- Volusion has basic functionality with this feature, but isn’t as advanced as Shopify.
- Grazecart can display different prices based on location or customer, including wholesale rates
- Barn2Door can display separate pricing based on customer profile (eg., show a better price to a wholesale buyer like a restaurant)
- Woocommerce has a plugin for this.
The winners: It’s a tie between Grazecart, Shopify, and Barn2Door. All three systems work a little differently, so there’s no clear winner among the three. I will say that if you want to have different rates by location, Grazecart is probably your best option. There is a way to set this up in Shopify, but it requires a little creative problem solving.
8. Bulk discount bundles with automatic inventory tracking for products in the bundle
- Shopify. You can create separate variants for bundles (eg., for ground beef a 20 lb bundle, a 30 lb bundle, a 40 lb bundle etc). You’ll have to divide the inventory into those bundles separately, however (the system doesn’t automatically calculate it), unless you install an app to manage that (Bundles app, $14/month)
- Volusion same as Shopify above, but no app for more complex bundles.
- Grazecart has a good system for creating bundle products and tracking inventory on those. You can create a product, specify that that product is a bundle of other products, and then list the other products that compose the bundle. Grazecart will track inventory on the entire bundle. Grazecart also allows you to create bundle products (eg., 20 lbs of ground beef vs a single lb) and show the discount the customer will capture by buying the bundle.
- Barn2Door. You can create bundle products, but it’s hard to track inventory on individual products in bundles. You’d need to use a workaround.
- Woocommerce has a plugin for this.
9. Take deposits on purchases and charge the rest later (for example, for bulk orders or turkey preorders)
- Shopify. No great functionality for this. You can create a product that’s priced at the deposit amount and mention that you’ll invoice them for the rest later, but you won’t be able to automatically charge them…you’ll have to send a manual invoice via email for them to pay, or you can accept final payment in person. Luckily, sending invoices in Shopify is quite easy.
- Volusion same as Shopify.
- Grazecart has this feature.
- Barn2Door offers this feature.
- Woocommerce doesn’t offer this feature. You have to use the same workaround as Shopify.
The winner: Grazecart
10. Automatically charged and renewed subscriptions or CSA products that are charged on a monthly basis
- Shopify. Doesn’t have native subscription functionality. Instead, you need to use one of two available apps (ReCharge or Bold Subscriptions). With these, you have to use Stripe as a payment processor instead of Shopify Payments, and ReCharge and Bold also charge a 1% transaction fee (I covered transaction fees above–this is additional on top of the credit card fee). Thankfully, Shopify does not charge any transaction fees on orders processed through these apps, so you’ll just pay Stripe’s fee and the subscription app transaction fee. The upshot is that automatic subscriptions with Bold or ReCharge will be about 3.9% + $0.30 per transaction. Besides that, the subscription apps work well. They charge and renew automatically and both of the subscription apps available are quite easy to use. A customer will also be given a frontend dashboard where they can manage their subscription themselves (cancel it, skip a delivery until next month, change delivery frequency, add a new credit card, etc). You can also use these apps to create a pre-paid subscription that delivers x number of orders before ending automatically.
- Volusion offers a basic subscription product functionality (no need to install an app), but the capabilities aren’t as advanced as those offered by the Shopify apps above.
- Grazecart doesn’t have auto-payment renewed subscription capabilities.
- Barn2Door offers basic auto-renew subscription functionality.
- Woocommerce has–you guessed it–a plugin for this.
Winner: Shopify, Volusion, or Barn2Door. Barn2Door’s system might be better if you use a subscription for a local CSA with complex delivery dates or several different locations. Shopify or Volusion are better if you have a simple local delivery subscription or you have subscription products you ship.
11. Pickup locations or local delivery
- Shopify natively has basic pickup location and local delivery functionality. More advanced systems are easy to create, but you’ll need an app (there are several. Here’s one for $20/month, here’s a more basic free one, and another for $7/month with some different features).
- Volusion has a basic local pickup/delivery function as well.
- Grazecart has quite advanced local delivery/pickup functionality with the ability to add multiple locations for dropoffs, regional shipping, or local pickup.
- Barn2Door also offers fairly advanced local delivery/pickup capabilities. The setup is not very intuitive, however, if you have complex local delivery or pickup options.
- Woocommerce has a plugin for this.
Winner: Grazecart. I did hear, however, that it’s difficult to do a payment plan that automatically charges through Grazecart (for a subscription or CSA), so if this is part of your local delivery structure Grazecart may not be the best solution. Instead, use Barn2Door or Shopify.
12. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Shopify is well optimized for SEO. It is designed with features valuable to Google (mobile friendly display, faster site load time, authority, etc). Shopify also gives you the ability to create a product or page meta description (the title and content that show up in Google search results), and 301 redirects are seamless. There are also a lot of SEO apps available on the Shopify app store.
- Volusion is also optimized for SEO, but Shopify has a slight edge in the features I compared.
- Grazecart has decent SEO features built in to the code. It’s not as powerfully built for SEO as Shopify or Woocommerce, but it’s pretty good. I have noticed, though, that many farmers choose to use the yourfarm.grazecart.com URL format. Grazecart does have a way for you to use your own domain instead of the grazecart.com version, and you absolutely should use your own domain, as not doing so could really impact your SEO. Also, if your site is on the Grazecart URL instead of your own URL, if you ever want to move to a new platform, moving your site and redirecting URLs will be a pain…so use your own URL. Grazecart also has the ability to add a meta description when creating a product, and you can add 301 redirects.
- Barn2Door does not have good SEO capabilities. It also has the same problem as mentioned above for Grazecart in that the stores are hosted on the Barn2Door platform, causing you a big SEO loss. There is no tool to add a meta description to products (in fact, when I asked about meta descriptions in a chat with a Barn2Door rep, she did not know what they were).
- Woocommerce has a slight edge over Shopify–it’s built with code that is more SEO friendly. Woocommerce also has some helpful SEO guides, as well as a plethora of SEO plugins you can install. SEO is not as “idiot proof” with Woocommerce as it is with Shopify, however. With Woocommerce, you can have even better SEO than you can with Shopify, but only if you know how to set it up correctly.
Winner: Woocommerce for sheer SEO capabilities, with Shopify taking second for ease of use.
13. Support + Customer Service
- Shopify has pretty good support. You can use their live 24/7 chat or phone call features to ask a quick question. Generally you don’t even need to contact them. Just search your problem in Google with the word “shopify” somewhere in the phrase, and usually a conversation about that issue in the support forums will show up. The only annoying thing about Shopify’s support is that if it’s not an easy fix, they’ll tell you to hire a “Shopify expert” to fix it. We’ve never had to hire a Shopify expert or even used the 24/7 chat feature to ask questions because Shopify is already quite intuitive.
- Volusion has okay support. They offer phone support, but only from 7am-10pm CST. They don’t offer email support at all.
- Grazecart has great support. They have numerous videos on how to use Grazecart, and they have a private Facebook group where you can ask questions. They also often ask users about which features they need most so that you as a user have a direct impact on which features Grazecart will roll out next. Grazecart is also built by farmers, for farmers, which means that they add features that farmers in particular are looking for.
- Barn2Door has decent support, and many users said that Barn2Door’s staff seem to really care about what farmers need and want. However, many users also said that the level of support you receive depends on the rep you get to talk to. Many of the users I spoke to were overall dissatisfied with the level of support they received, especially given that Barn2Door promises a hands-off experience in their advertising.
- Woocommerce, as on many of its features, is do-it-yourself. They have support forums and tons of how-to videos, but it’s hard to get personalized help. There are services to hire someone to manage your Woocommerce store and troubleshoot any problems you have.
Winner: Grazecart, with Shopify taking second.
14. Reporting Features (marketing, sales reports, customer info, etc)
- Shopify has excellent reporting capabilities, and you can integrate with apps or tools like Google Analytics to expand those. You can generate custom reports through Shopify, or you can use the reports they generate automatically for you (including returning customer rate, conversion rate, average order value, online store sessions by device type, online store sessions by location, top products by units sold, top landing pages, accounting reports, or marketing tracking reports).
- Volusion has great reporting capabilities and analytics tools. One great feature is its “search term analysis,” which shows you what visitors from Google were actually searching for. You can also integrate with Google Analytics. In terms of Volusion vs. Shopify, Volusion’s reports are slightly more numbers related while Shopify’s are more marketing related.
- Grazecart has decent reporting capabilities. You can track sales by location, sales by products, inventory reports, and you can integrate with Google Analytics for tracking on audience, acquisition, etc.
- Barn2Door has little to no sales reporting capabilities, and it’s hard to generate your own reports because exporting data from Barn2Door is so difficult.
- Woocommerce, of course, has great reporting capabilities through plugins.
Winner: Shopify and Woocommerce tie, with Volusion coming in close behind.
15. Advanced marketing tools like affiliate programs, tell-a-friend programs, or integration with Facebook Shop or Instagram Shop
- Shopify has a lot of advanced marketing apps available. Setting up an influencer affiliate program is incredibly easy, as is setting up a “tell-a-friend-and-get-a-discount” program. You can also set up a stunning landing page with a Shopify app. Integration with Facebook Shop and Instagram Shop is seamless, as is using tools like Google Ads or Facebook ads to promote products.
- Volusion has decent native marketing features, but because it doesn’t have an extensive app store like Shopify does, the customization capabilities are not as good.
- Grazecart has a few marketing tools available. As mentioned earlier, you can easily integrate with an email newsletter, or add a Facebook pixel for ad tracking. Setting up an Instagram or Facebook shop is possible though not as straightforward as with Shopify. There is also a feature to set up a landing page.
- Barn2Door has a few basic marketing capabilities. You can use a Facebook pixel, but features like influencer affiliate programs aren’t available.
- Woocommerce, of course, has plugins for practically any marketing capabilities you want, but again, this comes at the price of having to figure these out and set them up yourself.
Winner: Shopify and Woocommerce tie. The reason Woocommerce is comparable to Shopify is because its plugins for marketing tend to be slightly less expensive than Shopify’s apps.
Some other pros and cons specific to each platform…
- Shopify’s security is a big pro. Shopify runs over 500,000 stores worldwide, which means they have to have top notch security. Additionally, Shopify won’t crash if you get a sudden flood of orders (as during the early stages of COVID-19).
- The export/import data features are excellent. If you want to export a list of all your orders, your products, your customers, your collections, etc, you can with a few clicks.
- Inventory management is super seamless as well. You can either enter all your inventory in an excel file and upload it, or you can pull up a list of all your products in Shopify and scroll down the list entering values.
- Shopify’s vast app selection is a huge pro. Chances are that if the functionality you need isn’t native to Shopify, there’s an app for that.
- One particular app I love is the Order Printer Template app. For a one time $30 fee you can purchase a beautiful order template from them that can be edited and personalized with your own branding. The advantage of this is that you can put a branded, very nice looking packing slip in the finished box that you send to your customers.
- A side note on order printer templates: if you have basic coding knowledge, you can also customize the shopify-generated packing slip for your shipping crew. This is super useful as well because you can add important information to the packing slip. For instance, I added a line that listed the total number of orders placed by the customer in the past. This was useful because we can now see if it is a first-time customer, and if it is we can add our brochure to the box, or if it is a customer who has ordered many times, we can write a personal thank you note to show that we appreciate them.
- Access to the code. If you have even basic coding knowledge or you are willing to hire someone who does, this is a huge benefit. With access to the actual code behind your products and pages, you can make almost any changes you want to either functionality or design with almost no limits besides your coding capabilities. The only area you can’t really change is the checkout process beyond the cart, because this is subject to strict security requirements. Again, you definitely don’t need coding knowledge to use Shopify. But if you have some coding expertise or someone on your staff who does, having access to the website code is a huge pro.
- Create or edit an order on the back end. This is a super useful feature. If a customer emails us and wants a particular set of items, we can create a custom order on the back-end using either custom products or the products on our store, then we can email them an invoice to pay. All they have to do is click a button in the email and it will take them to a checkout page.
- Create discounts or gift certificate codes. This is seamless and super easy.
- Shopify isn’t specifically designed for farm sales. Because of this, you’re going to run into features you need that you have to find a workaround for (managing variable weight products is a good example). The good news is that Shopify offers a lot of workarounds through apps, but you’re going to have to be a little creative in your problem solving.
- The only major pro Volusion has over Shopify is that there are no transaction fees on any payment provider, no matter which one you use. Shopify doesn’t charge a transaction fee if you’re using Shopify Payments, but if you want to use a different payment processor you’ll be charged a transaction fee. There is no reason not to use Shopify Payments (it’s generally a bit cheaper than Stripe, depending on your plan, and is easy to set up), but if you did want to use a different processor you’d have to pay that fee. Note: remember that transaction fees are different from credit card processing fees. Processing fees are usually around 2.9% and will be charged regardless of which payment provider you use. A transaction fee is a separate fee charged by the platform, usually around 1%.
- One major con of Volusion is that the site design editor is split between the storefront side (what’s displayed to the world) and the back office side of your site. You have to constantly click between one and the other when making changes.
- Volusion’s sales limits are also a con. For instance, once you go over $50k/yr in sales on the “personal” plan, you have to upgrade to the more expensive “professional” plan.
- Volusion has only 14 apps available to add non-native functionalities to your store.
- Another con of Volusion is that it’s really hard to move from Volusion to another platform. Its data export features are fairly limited, so exporting data from Volusion then uploading to another program will be a pain.
- Though I mentioned this in the support section already, it’s worth repeating here that everyone I’ve spoken to who uses Grazecart was very satisfied with their level of customer support. The Hitzfields also regularly share new videos on how to use the software. They also have an online course for farmers that shows you how to use the Grazecart platform. If technology isn’t your thing, they’ll walk you through the setup process with their videos.
- One user said his farm makes weekly and monthly deliveries to drop-off locations and also ships, and that Grazecart was perfect for this sort of business model.
- Many of the users I spoke to were very happy with Grazecart’s inventory management capabilities, especially given that their system is designed specifically for managing farm products.
- Like Shopify, Grazecart has the ability to create and edit orders for your customers in the back office.
- Some of the users I talked to were unhappy with Grazecart’s limited design flexibility.
- Stripe is the only credit card processor Grazecart integrates with, which some users said was a problem for them.
- Some said the price was a little steep in comparison to other e-commerce providers.
- Most of the people I talked to said that the people at Barn2Door really do try to add features that farmers find useful, even if those features sometimes take a long time to be added.
- One user mentioned that there is no access to customer addresses for local customers on Barn2Door that you don’t ship to. This was frustrating for her because she wanted to send a thank you card to local customers at the end of the year, and had no access to their addresses.
- As mentioned in “SEO” section, your Barn2Door URL is not your URL, but the barn2door platform URL. This is a huge problem because it is bad for SEO and also looks suspicious to customers.
- A lot of people complained about how pushy Barn2Door is about selling you their platform when you’re looking for an e-commerce platform.
- I heard from a few people that Barn2Door overpromises on how much they will help you on marketing.
- Barn2Door has no sales tax tracking and doesn’t collect sales tax (you must include it in the pricing of your product). They do have an integration, TopJar, that can do this, but it is $30/month.
- I also heard that it is difficult to export information from Barn2Door to print or manage in Excel.
The major pros and cons of Woocommerce have pretty much been covered here. To sum up, Woocommerce is powerful and highly flexible and cheap, but it’s clunky and very “do it yourself.” Remember that if you’re familiar with the WordPress dashboard already, however, Woocommerce might be a really good option for you.
So to sum up, which one should you use?
Again, it depends on your particular needs for your farm!
If you mostly deliver locally through CSAs etc., and have multiple pickup/dropoff locations, use Grazecart. However, if you need subscription or automatic charging capabilities, consider Barn2Door instead or Shopify with a local delivery app and a subscription app.
If you want the easiest possible setup combined with the lowest learning curve, use Grazecart or Shopify. Why not Barn2Door? Even though they set it up for you, many of the users I spoke to said the setup process was very frustrating and they were unhappy with the level of support they’d recieved
If you want the cheapest option and the most flexibility and are okay with finding workarounds for a somewhat clunky interface, go with Woocommerce.
If you want the most powerful and flexible option, use Shopify or Woocommerce
If you want the best reporting on sales, customer data, acquisition etc, go with Shopify.
If you want to scale and grow, use Shopify or Grazecart.
If you want shipping discounts and you don’t have your own negotiated discounts with UPS or USPS, use Shopify.
If you mostly sell in-person, use Square.
If you want the most advanced marketing capabilities and integrations, go with Shopify.
If you want the best support, go with Grazecart.
If SEO is your priority, use Shopify or Woocommerce.
If you mostly ship your products with a few local offeringsand you want seamless shipping, use Shopify.
If you want to have your store up and running quickly, go with Shopify, Grazecart, or Barn2Door.
If you want the best design combined with a pretty user-friendly setup, go with Shopify.
Why we went with Shopify at Alderspring
I thought I’d take a second here to highlight the specific reasons we went with Shopify with Alderspring and why it was a perfect fit for our business model.
As you might know, we ship most of our product (this is mainly because of our remote location–we’re 5 hours from the nearest city, and in our rural area most people hunt for or raise their own meat, so selling locally has never been an option for us). We get between 1 and 5 local orders per month, and have wholesale rates we offer to a few select co-ops and health food stores, but the bulk of our sales come from customers across the U.S.
So here are the reasons Shopify was the best choice for our business model:
- Shipping. Before Shopify, we were using a platform called Shopsite that is rather dated. It had no native shipping capabilities, so we had to export all of our orders each week and process shipments manually. It was a huge pain and a time suck. Shopify, meanwhile, checks addresses automatically (it flags suspicious-looking or incorrect addresses for us), integrates with our UPS account, and allows us to print labels directly in Shopify. Once we print the label, the tracking info and fulfillment notice is automatically sent to the customer. Shipping in Shopify is very easy, and since shipping is a major component of our business, Shopify was a no brainer for that reason alone.
- Design. Telling our story through branding is a huge part of our marketing at Alderspring. A customizable design that we could make our own was absolutely essential for us, and Shopify has pretty decent design flexibility.
- Scaleability. Shopify can work for everything from a fairly small to a large e-commerce business. We switched to Shopify shortly before the pandemic and I’m very glad we did; our old platform never could’ve handled the influx of orders, the customer service issues, or the inventory challenges we dealt with during the initial panic buying spree in March.
- Reporting. Shopify’s great reporting capabilities were another feature that made it an easy choice for Alderspring. It’s much easier now to manage both marketing and accounting.
- Integrations. Shopify could integrate with some of the marketing tools we were already using (newsletter marketing, our influencer affiliate program, Google analytics, etc), and has easy integrations with other tools (the Facebook pixel, Instagram and Facebook shops, etc). For our marketing structure, these integrations are really useful.
So those are some of the main reasons we chose Shopify for Alderspring. If your business’ structure is similar to ours (primarily shipping with some wholesale sales and some local pickups and delivery), we would certainly recommend Shopify. If the majority of your sales are local, but your delivery structure is not overly complicated, Shopify could still work well for you in that scenario.
Other Platforms Not Discussed Here
Obviously these 5 are not the only potential platforms you can use. I listed these because these are the most popular ones used by farmers. Some other ones you may want to look into (and there are more, but these are some of the more popular options):
- BigCommerce. Similar to Shopify and Volusion, we seriously considered BigCommerce but eventually went with Shopify because most reviews say that Shopify is more user friendly, with better support and better design flexibility. The main features that BigCommerce came out slightly ahead on was if you have a high number of product variations or a large inventory.
- Eatfromfarms. Designed more for local sales. I haven’t researched eatfromfarms in depth, but chose not to include it in this article because reviews on it seem overall quite negative. If you do sell locally and at a small scale, however, this option might be worth checking out and comparing to Barn2Door and Grazecart.
- Local Orbit. I haven’t researched them at all. What I get from their website is that it’s another platform for if you sell locally at a small scale.
Additional Resources + How to Get Started
To get your own domain name (website URL) to start setting up your site on any of these platforms, go to GoDaddy and see if your farm name or a good URL for your site is available.
- Don’t let GoDaddy upsell you during checkout. They’ll hound you all the way through with deals or additional products. Just buy the domain name. It should end up being around $10 for a year. If you’re paying more than that, you’ve just been upsold.
- Search for coupon codes for GoDaddy on retailmenot.com. You can almost always find one to get a discount.
- You can sign up for a 14-day free Shopify trial here.
- If you ended up choosing Shopify, we give you a basic tutorial on setting it up in our free “Shipping in 5 Days” course here.
- You can get started on Barn2Door here.
- To get started with Woocommerce, sign up for hosting at Bluehost here. Just get the basic hosting (should cost about $90 to sign up for two years) and don’t let them upsell you as you check out.
- Once you have hosting, here’s how you create a WordPress website to run your Woocommerce store.
- After that, you’ll need a Woocommerce friendly theme. Here are a couple farm-friendly themes to get started with.
I so appreciate the farmers who were willing to share their feedback for this article. Some preferred to remain anonymous. The three below were willing to share their links. Go follow them on social media to thank them for taking the time to share their experiences with these e-commerce platforms!