Spree vs Shopify – Which Is Better?

Retail e-commerce has increased steadily in the last three years.

According to Statista, retail e-commerce sales in the US alone is expected to reach over $1.3 trillion dollars by 2025.

Image source: Statista

This is because more and more people are embracing online shopping every day rather than visiting a traditional brick and mortar retail outlet.

In fact, statistics by OptinMonster shows that over 69% of Americans prefer to shop online, and more than 20% of them shop at least once a month.

However, these figures will only be meaningful to your bank account if you have an e-commerce store of your own.

But building an e-commerce platform will require a considerable amount of capital and expertise, which makes it a very big deal to build one, right?


In fact, nowadays, it doesn’t take much to own a professional looking website and online presence.

Virtually anyone can do it.

If you don’t want to spend money on hiring a developer, you can take up the mantle to build your online store yourself using an e-commerce website builder.

These types of e-commerce web builders are specifically designed to make you spend less time and money to build an online store.

This means that you do not have to be a code guru or worry about web hosting before you can get your store up and running online.

But there are still some e-commerce platforms that require you to be knowledgeable about codes or hire a programmer.

In other words, knowing the right platform to choose can mean a lot for your business.

In this article, we will review two of the best e-commerce website builders – Spree and Shopify, one by one, to see how they will best work for your business.

What is Spree?

Spree Commerce is a headless open-source eCommerce platform. It is ideal for small businesses and start-ups that don’t have the resources, expertise, or time to build a custom eCommerce site.

Spree may not be among the most popular e-commerce platform names you’ve heard of, but it’s definitely one with as much bragging rights in terms of functionalities.

It is a full-featured, open source e-commerce framework that is written in Ruby on Rails.

By being open-source, it means that unlike other e-commerce platforms, Spree requires that you have either the technical knowledge or will hire a programmer before you can operate and implement customizations.

So the system must be deployed and hosted manually, and the merchant will have to maintain a dedicated IT team to handle the storefront.

It provides a complete set of eCommerce features out of the box, including a flexible product gallery, powerful promotions engine, and robust order management system.

Spree is also easily extendible, allowing you to add custom functionality or integrate with third-party applications.

And trust me, there are many upsides to using Spree rather than conventional drag-and-drop e-commerce platforms, most of which are beyond the scope of this article.

One main benefit is that shop owners have the ability to tailor every single aspect of the system to meet their needs.

In English, Spree is more flexible than most regular e-commerce site builders.

Ease Of Use

If you are a professional web developer, using Spree will be a breeze.

With Spree, there’s no limit to how much you can do. You are only restricted by your level of expertise.

If you are proficient in UNIX/LINUX, SQL, HTML/CSS, and most importantly, Ruby on Rails, you will find that using Spree is not as difficult as it is claimed in some quarters.

However, knowing the first three items is nearly sufficient, but adding Ruby on Rails to the mix will expose you to a lot of applications and functions that are even beyond e-commerce.

And the great news is that, if you are already comfortable writing codes, it will only take you a couple of days to get the hang of Ruby.

Once you are up to speed on that, the documentation on Spree’s website walks you through how to integrate it with any Ruby on Rails application.

Image source: Spree

The highlight of this process is that you will add Spree gems to update your Gemfiles and finally deploy everything using the installation generators.

Because you might have to tweak some codes every now and then, it may take a while before you manage to get it all done, but for seasoned Ruby on Rails users, it shouldn’t take more than an hour to get Spree up and running.

Once set, you will find the other processes easy.

Spree gives you a simple and manageable admin interface where you will find a sidebar that houses the main tools you’ll need.

The sidebar contains orders, returns, products, reports, promotions, users, and configuration tools, plus more advanced features, and navigation is nice and simple.

Using the application from here is pretty easy to figure out, even for persons with no technical knowledge.

You can carry out basic tasks with a few clicks.

For example, to add a new product, you merely need to click the big green ‘Add’ button that is difficult to miss at the top of the product page.

Image source: Ruby Garage

Select properties, and add new properties.

You will be taken to a page where you will be prompted to fill in some relevant fields with information such as name, product type, country, shipping category, etc.

Hit ‘Create’ once you are done.

Anytime you need to update an existing product, you’ll have to navigate to the same properties section as before and edit whatever it is you want.

Then click ‘Update’.


Spree’s awesomeness is constituted by an array of features that are organized by sections.

Here’s a highlight of the main features:

Order Processing

Image source: Spree

This section covers all the actions taken once a customer has ordered a product.

The system takes payment for an order on your behalf, adds shipping information, and ensures that the level of stock available can fulfill the order request.

You also have the option to manually input orders and edit existing ones.


Spree lets you easily add, edit, and delete products, and changes are carried out in real-time on your storefront.

Image source: Spree

It has a clone function that is used to add products with similar information to an existing one and a prototype option that lets you create multiple new products quickly, which will save you from having to enter the same information over and over again.


You can make general changes to your store from the general settings page, including changing your store name and security protocols.

Image source: Ashkamel

You can also easily manage your tax settings, set which countries are eligible to buy from you, and track your store’s performance using Google Analytics.

Payment Processing

Like everything else, you have full control on which payment methods to use in your store.

Most payment gateways are accepted on the platform but you’ll need to have a merchant account before you can add it to Spree.

Image source: Bacancy Technology


Since Spree is an open source application, there is never a shortage of extensions.

Some include: Better Spree payment express, Spree wishlist, Spree social, Spree reviews, Spree email to a friend, Spree multi-currency, Spree multi-domain, and many more.

Spree Commerce Customer Support and Resources

Spree has a contact form and facilitates email support. Apart from their developer’s documentation, they also have a blog page that contains articles for Spree users. Their active presence on social media is helpful too!

Spree Commerce Pricing

Spree has two versions: the free version and the Spree as a service version.

The Spree open source version is 100 percent free and you are responsible for the hosting and other custom development work.

Nevertheless, they also have a Spree as a service platform known as Vendo, which allows you to create a B2B marketplace inclusive of web hosting. However, the pricing is customized based on your preference.

What Is Shopify?

Shopify is a top eCommerce platform that was launched in 2006 making it one of the oldest eCommerce website builders. It is simple to use, especially if you’re starting an online business for the first time.

You can create a beautiful online store quickly and easily, without the need for any coding knowledge. Shopify also offers powerful features and integrations to help you grow your business.

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With Shopify, you can sell products online, in-person, or both. You can also use Shopify to manage your inventory, process orders, and track your sales.

Image source: Shopify

If you haven’t heard about Shopify, then you must be living under an online rock.

Shopify is arguably the biggest and most popular e-commerce platform today. In fact, some experts prefer to describe Shopify as an e-commerce solution rather than an e-commerce platform.

This is because, when you create a store with Shopify, the platform creates and manages it by itself, unlike in an e-commerce platform, like Spree, where you’ll be responsible for everything that keeps your store up.

At the moment, Shopify has more than 4 million active stores on their platform and considering that there’s no free plan among its packages, it tells a lot about how good it is.

Shopify does not require you to have any knowledge of codes to set up a store and this makes it easy for just about anyone to start selling their products as soon as they want.

Ease Of Use

One of Shopify’s most valuable features is that it has a nice, clean interface that allows anyone to build their online storefront with little or no help.

Image source: E-commerce Booth

So you don’t have to spend valuable hours learning how to write codes or any other technical skill.

Once you have registered on the platform, you can start adding products and descriptions immediately.

After that, you can monitor your customer’s information right from your dashboard.

With this, you can track down customer behavior which will come in handy when you want to analyze buying patterns to get a clearer idea of what your customers want.

Even if you have no experience with themes and designs, Shopify spares your blushes as its default theme is just as good a design as others and customization is achieved merely by moving your cursor.

Image source: E-commerce Booth


Multi-channel Integration

Image source: Shopify

Nowadays, there are more than a few marketplaces out there, so if you don’t want to lose a sales opportunity, you’ll have to diversify your revenue channel, and Shopify lets you do that.

From your Shopify dashboard, you can link your store with some of the biggest marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, and even social stores like Facebook and Instagram stores.

Abandoned Cart Recovery

Image source: Shopify

It’s a fact that 3 out of 4 people abandon their cart in the course of shopping online, so if you don’t do anything about it, you will be missing out on a lot of money.

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Luckily, Shopify has a cart recovery system that lets you generate abandoned cart emails so that you can reach out to such potential customers, thereby boosting your chances of making more sales.


Image source: Shopify

This can be one of the trickiest parts of an e-commerce business, especially if you have had no prior experience, but Shopify handles most of the complicated parts to make things easier for you.

Their partnership with major delivery services like FedEx, USPS and DHL saves you the hassle of going out on your own to search for a reliable courier service, plus they allow you to set reasonable shipping rates.


Image source: Shopify

There’s no shortage of payment options with Shopify.

It allows you to accept payments through some of the most popular payment gateways including PayPal, Stripe, Amazon pay, and Apple pay, and even its own payment system – Shopify payments.


Shopify lets you link your store with some of the best applications to help optimize your customers’ experience, and it does not limit you to just its built-in features.

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Some of the applications you can connect to are: MailChimp, Google Analytics, Springbot, Smile, Facebook Messenger Add-on, Zen, Yotpo, Zapier, Oberlo, and more.

Shopify Customer Support and Resources

You can find quick help from the Shopify Help Center, where you’ll find articles on starting, managing, and expanding your store. You can also get help from other Shopify users in the community, who get direct help from the support team.

Shopify Pricing

Shopify doesn’t have a free package, even though it offers a 14-day free trial period alongside any of its premium packages.

It has five packages, and the pricing ranges from $9 to $299 depending on the features available to you.

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Here are its pricing plans which are billed every month:

  • Shopify Lite – $9 per month
  • Basic – $29 per month
  • Shopify – $79 per month
  • Advanced – $299 per month
  • Shopify Plus – Starting from $2,000 per month

Shopify vs Spree: Pros And Cons

Spree Commerce Pros

  • It is a free eCommerce platform
  • It is flexible and facilitates quick customization
  • Spree Commerce has a powerful backend admin module.
  • Apart from its comprehensive support package, users can also get community support from the Ruby on Rails community.
  • Active maintenance for extensions
  • Easy third-party integrations
  • It is good for SEO
  • Due to its headless state, it loads faster than other non-headless eCommerce platforms

Spree Commerce Cons

  • It requires coding or technical knowledge
  • Few eCommerce themes
  • Spree Commerce users are expected to have practical experience with HTML, CSS, and Ruby on Rails

Shopify Pros

  • It has a fast setup process
  • Responsive customer support and large resources
  • A broad range of eCommerce themes, even on third-party marketplaces
  • Comprehensive online store analytics
  • Support for third-party applications and integrations
  • It comes with a built-in payment processor
  • It integrates shipment tracking functionality

Shopify Cons

  • Some of its premium themes are pricier
  • For every successful sale, Shopify charges a transaction fee
  • Users don’t have access to its underlying code
  • Some Shopify themes do not support structured data for SEO purposes

Spree vs Shopify: Similarities and Differences


  • Both Shopify and Spree can be used to set up an online store
  • They both have fast loading times.
  • Both Spree Commerce and Shopify provide users with eCommerce themes.
  • With either Spree Commerce or Shopify, you can get support for third-party integrations.
  • Both platforms have expansive community support.


  • Shopify has a large repository of eCommerce themes, while Spree Commerce has only a few eCommerce themes
  • Shopify does not require third-party web hosting; however, Spree Commerce requires web hosting
  • Unlike Spree, Shopify is not free.
  • The usage of Spree Commerce requires coding knowledge: however, Shopify can be operated by a basic internet user
  • Shopify had a native payment gateway, while Spree does not have a native payment processor
  • Shopify has more third-party applications on its repository, while Spree Commerce only has a few applications.


Between Spree and Shopify, you can hardly get it wrong.

At the end of the day, it boils down to the kind of e-commerce themed operation that you are running.

If you want to customize your storefront in various ways and optimize it to perform faster without paying additional fees, then you’ll prefer Spree.

However, it will make more sense to opt for Shopify if you have no technical knowledge of e-commerce platforms and codes, and want to launch an e-commerce or dropshipping business quickly.

About Author

Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.