Webshop in Spree and Rails: what to do when Shopify reaches its limits

Dec 10 2018
4 min

Ever wanted to extend your business by having a webshop, but never knew where to start? Here is a good overview that will help you make the right decision!

Let’s hit the road by being on the same page about the technical terms. A webshop also called an online shop/store or e-shop, is a virtual store where you can present the goods you want to sell, receive payments online and then deliver the products hours or days later. Either by you or third-party resellers.

The concept is simple, it is the implementation that makes the difference. We will focus today on two of the most famous and most used solutions for setting up an online store: Shopify and Spree. They are both viable solutions, just that they come in different moments of time.


What Shopify has to offer

Should you be at the beginning of your business or should you just want to test an idea before you put all your money in, Shopify is the way to go. Setting up is easy and for a monthly fee, you can get away some headaches. This will help you have an MVP (minimum viable product) in no time, validate it with your (potential) market and even be able to raise money if that is the case. There’s an article we have written before and you might want to rake a look at about how to build an MVP that is desirable, marketable, delightful and lovable.


Shopify limitations in building a webshop that doesn’t offer customization and extra features, Wolfpack Digital advice


However, there is a turning point when your business grows and needs extra features and that is when Shopify reaches its limitations.

For once, as soon as you want to start selling abroad and cross the borders of the language, you cannot localize your site. That means, if you set it to German, German it is for everyone. This also has a drawback on the currency available options.

Once you want to add some custom design or custom integrations, there are limitations too. For example, if you sell watches and want to offer high customization options (so that buyers choose from a range of colors, textures, sizes), bummer, that is not possible in Shopify.

One last deal breaker for when your business grows is you cannot add multiple vendors for a marketplace. If you want to remove yourself as the man in the middle, you cannot do that just yet. And that is a scaling issue you just got!


Spree got your back covered

This is where Spree enters the stage and becomes the solution to these problems of building a webshop. Spree Commerce is a complete, scalable, API-driven open source eCommerce framework. It is built with Ruby on Rails, empowering forward-thinking developers for years. Spree is a mature and market-proven technology that we tested and we warmly recommend it.

Spree has a lot to start with. Its flexibility and modularity are hard to beat. They allow you to easily integrate various extensions such as wishlist, multi-currency and multi-domain — this, in particular, is very useful, you can basically point several domains to the same store. And all this while each and every store has its own logo, layout, and special products. Moreover, its modularity allows you to configure, add, replace, or remove any feature.

To continue with, there are zones, countries, and states that you can choose to do business with and manage shipping and taxation based on their specifics. You can set your own payment methods and Spree offers you more than 125 solutions, including Paypal, Stripe, and Redsys.

Ok, we know what you must be thinking! Spree will also imply some costs in terms of development and all of that means time too. How much would it take to develop a webshop with Spree and Rails? The short answer is it depends.

Complexity is of course key here. For a simple online store, 300–600 development hours would suffice to have a ready-made product. If we are talking about medium complexity, that timeframe can double from 600–1200 development hours.


Could you start with Spree right away?

You definitely could, especially if you know right from the start you need all these important perks. Think of localization (so both having the content in several languages and several currencies), adding custom integrations and creating a custom design that makes your shop stand out, and last but not least, dealing with several vendors/marketplace.


 Spree in Ruby in Rails lets building a webshop for various vendors and marketplaces with payment integration and customization


It is definitely a long-term investment, but one that we think it will pay off in the long run. Nowadays, looking sharp and giving an extraordinary experience when shopping online can be the defining line between buying and dropping the idea. The return on investment could double or even triple.

Now what? Evaluate your needs, put your goals in place and decide what are your priorities. If an MVP would do for now and want to do it fast, go blindly and trust Shopify. On the other hand, if you want customization, flexibility and a webshop profile that stands out in the highly competitive world of eCommerce, be sure to check Spree before you take any decision. Don’t take our word for it only, check all these success stories too.


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