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Why Shopify is the best (only?) alternative to Amazon

Amazon is a powerful force in the world of e-commerce and online shopping. With millions of products available, arriving at your door in 2 days or less, they have found an place in the shopping habits of millions of households around the world. But does that mean that Amazon will always be the only game in town when it comes to purchasing items online?

Not, even, close.

Here we discuss why Shopify is the best alternative to Amazon, and how you can shop from Shopify stores. Shopify vs Amazon… Here we go.

Shopify is a platform, just like Amazon

In tech jargon, a platform is a website that allows other people or businesses to use it’s services to operate their own businesses.

Amazon is a platform, allowing millions of sellers to list their items for sale through their website, and sell to customers that they wouldn’t have had access to without the partnership. In Amazon’s case, their platform is a conglomeration of many services, from online shopping, to warehousing and shipping logistics for each of the sellers that choose to sell through their platform. This creates efficiencies for the seller, efficiencies for the customer, and revenue and profit for Amazon, the provider of the services.

Shopify is also a platform. Shopify’s primary offering as a service is to offer an easy to use software that helps independent shops and brands get their products up for sale online. To date, nearly 2 million shops and brands have signed up with Shopify to build their online presence.

Shopify is currently working towards adding more and more services that help them, and their customers (the shops and brands using their platform), compete against Amazon for consumer’s attention. Ben Thompson of Stratechery does an excellent job discussing Shopify’s Evolution.

As Shopify grows as a company they are moving closer and closer to being a full-service platform like Amazon, where they handle online shop creation, payments, and logistics, all for a service fee to the shop. There are a few different was to shop on Shopify. We cover this in our post called How to shop on Shopify.

How is Shopify different from Amazon

While both companies help sellers sell online, they do it in a slightly different way.

Design Philosophy

Amazon has been a platform of sellers who make their goods available through the universe of Amazon websites around the world (.com .ca .mx and many more). This means that in order to sell through Amazon’s sales platform, the seller uploads their items to Amazon, and then each item is displayed in the same fashion as every other item available through the platform.

Typical Amazon product listing

Shopify takes a different approach to selling online. Their platform places great importance on the autonomy of each shop to create and design it’s own storefront. As a result, each Shopify store looks unique, with design elements and layout selected by the business that set up the website using Shopify’s tools and templates. This can be seen as a distinct advantage for Shopify, and it is a difference in philosophy that is not lost on the merchants.

Amazon’s philosophy is one of, The merchant chooses to sell through our platform in order to gain access to our consumers. Therefore the merchant will abide by our rules if they want to sell on our platform at all.

Whereas Shopify’s philosophy seems to be, We love the creativity and thoughtfulness that business owners bring to their shops. We want to empower and enable them by bringing them useful tools to run their shops, without getting in their way or being prescriptive.

Who’s customer is it?

A major difference between Amazon and Shopify is who “owns” the customer.

Amazon maintains a very strict, this is our customer and not yours policy with sellers that sell through the Amazon platform. Through this policy, any customer that shops through Amazon is hidden from the seller of the goods purchased there. Therefore, the seller is not able to create a relationship with the customer.

Shopify takes a very different approach, because Shopify is the platform for enabling shops to sell online, through their own websites. Theirs is a policy of, you build your own website, attract your own customers, build your business through maintaining your relationship with your customers, we simply help you get online, the rest is up to you.

As a result of the differing philosophies, Amazon is responsible for gaining the customer’s trust, Shopify is not… At least not until recently. Through their Shop app, Shopify has begun making moves towards creating their own marketplace style experience, similar to Amazon’s. No doubt, Shopify will execute their vision of a marketplace very differently than Amazon, but they are moving towards aquiring customers for their shops all the same.

What can I buy on Shopify?

With nearly 2 million shops subscribing to use Shopify’s platform for building their online stores, what kinds of items are available through Shopify stores?

At Vendazzo, we maintain an index of items from a fraction of the total shops available through the Shopify platform. But, a fraction of a large number of shops (2 million), is still a respectable number…. We currently index items from nearly 140,000 shops hosted on the Shopify platform. Browse through a small sample of Shopify stores that offer an alternative to Amazon.

From those 140,000 shops, we make a searchable index of about 96,000,000 (96 million) items. Of course, these are not all unique items, there are some duplicates, which allows shoppers to price compare across similar items from numerous shops.

The classification breakdown of items available through the 140,000 shops that we index looks like this:

With over 23 million items in Apparel & Accessories, and nearly 16 million items in Home & Garden, you can see that a huge selection of items is available through just a small number of all Shopify stores. When factoring in all items, from all stores on the Shopify platform, the total number of available items is humongous.

This is why Shopify is the best, and perhaps only true alternative to shopping on Amazon. With a huge selection of items, a logistics and fulfillment network on the way, and no doubt, other improvements in the pipeline for helping their shops and stores be discovered, and make sales, Shopify is truly a viable alternative to Amazon online shopping.

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