This article was last updated and validated August 2023

Centra: Best Shopify Plus alternative? vs A side‑by‑side comparison

Ecommerce has transformed. It's no longer about combining cookie-cutter templates and a generic platform. Today's original fashion brands, aiming for international reach, demand design flexibility, robust built-in capabilities, agility, and the ability to scale.

How do brands score Centra on G2?

See how Centra compares to Shopify Plus, below

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Shopify PlusCentra
Meets requirements8.69.0
Ease of use9.09.0
Ease of setup8.78.5
Ease of admin8.89.1
Quality of support8.59.2
Ease of doing business with8.69.6
Product direction8.99.7

The evolution of commerce platforms

Legacy platforms
Example: Magento 1
yellowEcommerce business logic coupled with CMS and front-end website
yellowBusiness logic and website customized by integrating directly with the platform’s source code
yellowDifficult to upgrade due to version and vendor lock-in. Significant cost to keep an installation running
Monolithic SaaS platforms
Example: Shopify Plus
yellowEcommerce business logic coupled with CMS and front end on limited APIs
yellowLimited possibilities to extend the built-in business logic and functionality through apps
yellowLimited flexibility prevents rapid online business development and makes it hard to meet enterprise needs
Composable SaaS platforms
greenPresentation layer fully decoupled from the ecommerce engine
greenOpen architecture, with data accessible through well-defined APIs
greenAPI “technical contract” between platform and implementation enables rapid low-cost development

Running a fashion brand? Make sure you pick the right tool.

If you’re doing fashion and lifestyle on a monolithic ecommerce platform, you’re very likely limiting the growth potential of your brand. Today’s leading monolithic SaaS platforms don’t support the business logic and complexity of modern lifestyle commerce.

To scale fast, brands that grow the fastest right now are the ones that are adapting to new conditions very quickly. The high pace of business development is key for growth. Dynamic fashion brands need a solution that enables such growth without imposing limitations in terms of design and development.

Salesforce Commerce cloud vs Shopify Plus vs Centra comparison

At a glance

While there are many ecommerce platforms on the market, Shopify Plus is often mentioned as the top one. However, when you look at how it was built, which industries it serves best, and how it supports growth, its shortcomings start to emerge –especially in how it solves the challenges of the next-generation fashion and lifestyle brands. 

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Shopify PlusCentra
Built for...
  • An industry-agnostic platform built for mid-size retailers and brands.
  • Many third-party apps are needed to get the core commerce features like variant handling, campaign features, and international sales.
  • Built for established and aspiring brands in the fashion and lifestyle industry that need a flexible platform that scales easily and will help them reach their global ambitions.
Powerful vs. ease of use
  • Compared to the standard Shopify, Plus offers a variety of features designed for online retailers and brands that are beginning to grow and extend beyond their initial market
  • Centra is designed with the needs of business users in mind, rather than IT professionals. Its robust features make it a comfortable fit for seasoned ecommerce managers. And our top-tier support and onboarding ensure that users swiftly transition into power users.
Wholesale vs. direct-to-
  • Shopify Plus supports both direct-to-consumer and wholesale. However, Shopify B2B isn’t built for fashion buying and it often requires a separate store for B2B.
  • Shopify also charges a transaction fee regardless of what payment method is used. So if a business uses purchase orders or invoices they would still have to pay 0.18% on the order.
  • Centra handles all channels from one platform — both wholesale and direct-to-consumer.
Single vs. multi-market
  • To manage multiple markets with Shopify plus comes with trade-offs. You either use Shopify Markets which means limited localization options and paying additional fees e.g. transaction and conversion fees.
  • Or, you’ll use separate stores, which limits your reporting and requires manual work for managing orders and inventory.
  • Centra enables multiple markets, multiple currencies, multiple languages, prices and size charts depending on the location.
  • You can have multiple storefronts with advanced internalization.
Payment options
  • Few fixed payment options with focus on Shopify payments, which is tailored for the North American market. Extra fees when using other PSPs.
  • Shopify Payments is heavily incentivised over others, resulting in the need for multiple PSP's if you're not using Shopify POS in-store.
  • Flexible payment options
  • Centra offers 200+ leading payment methods through multiple PSPs, empowering brands to sell globally.
  • With Shopify Plus, localization is done via expansion stores that create manual work to sync inventory and orders.
  • Localisation is limited with Markets, so expansion stores are typically used. The catalog is not shared so inventory, reporting and management can be a challenge.
  • With Centra, any information can be localized. You can serve any number of markets, languages, currencies, payment methods, price lists, warehouses, and users.
  • Making upsells with Shopify Plus is difficult. Multiple apps and/or Shopify Functions are required for more complex promotions.
  • Native support for bundles, advanced promotions, and discounts. High flexibility in terms of pricing, stock, discounts, inheriting of attributes, etc.
Omnichannel capabilities
  • Shopify Plus’ omnichannel is geared towards mobile devices and social media.
  • The omnichannel capabilities are enabled through POS and POS Pro apps.
  • With Centra, brands gain advanced omnichannel capabilities. It’s possible to connect Centra with marketplaces and ad networks via APIs. You can integrate Centra with different company systems.
Order management
  • Shopify Plus’ order management is limited if you use multiple stores e.g. in terms of localization and wholesale. Plus offers options for customizing order fulfillment both natively and through premium paid 3PL service in the US – called; Shopify Fulfillment Network.
  • Centra offers an advanced order management system. It enables order viewing, and automation of many processes, and supports replenishment, overselling protection, return, and refunds.
Licensing fees
  • The Shopify Plus plan pricing is more complicated than the standard plan since fees are determined by sales volume. A monthly licensing fee includes: hosting, maintenance, version upgrades, your main store, and nine expansion stores, Shopify’s POS app, launch team, and merchant support.
  • Centra comes at a single cost, with no transaction fees. The cost covers all necessary modules for a fashion and lifestyle brand, but you’re free to switch to your preferred providers if you wish.
  • Additional costs (not payable to Centra) would be for the design and development of the on-brand website and the underlying CMS and payment solutions.

The 12 challenges of fashion commerce

The fashion industry needs a solution that allows fast scaling and international expansion without design or development limitations. Scalability, complexity, freedom of design, internationalization, and suitability for fashion and lifestyle are a few of the challenges they face.

Here we will examine how popular platforms address these challenges, and how they compare with Centra's headless, fashion-centric approach.

Salesforce Commerce cloud vs Shopify Plus vs Centra comparison

Challenge #1

Shopify Plus vs Centra: Design freedom and flexibility

Fashion ecommerce stores have very unique needs – they need the agility and design freedom to build brand-authentic, pixel-perfect sites – without any compromises or limitations. The majority of popular ecommerce platforms don't allow for full freedom, limiting brands' growth and flexibility.

Why brands migrate to Centra

You can build a headless store on top of a monolithic commerce platform but it completely defeats the purpose – you’ll lose the convenience that made you choose the monolithic SaaS platform in the first place. Consequently, you will also end up paying as much or more than a truly headless ecommerce setup – while not getting all the benefits. 

Fully headless, composable and API-first architecture offers performance and growth benefits that are impossible to achieve with a monolithic platform like Shopify Plus.

Good API coverage is the foundation of composable commerce

By focusing on APIs first, Centra serves the needs of ambitious fashion brands. Centra's clients often use a headless CMS as part of their front-end stack for a perfect blend of content marketing and advanced shop functionality. Centra’s API coverage allows brands to elevate their front-end experiences without worrying about the restrictions associated with popular monolithic ecommerce platforms. 

Salesforce Commerce cloud vs Shopify Plus vs Centra comparison

Challenge #2

Shopify Plus vs Centra: Multi‑market and localization

Localization is key to driving sales internationally. Different markets accept different price points and prefer different languages and payment methods. They follow different influencers, and their different climate zones impact seasonal sales in the ecommerce store.

Holidays, seasonality, and trends vary from country to country and can create different sales spikes, such as Singles' Day in China, a popular online shopping holiday, and Les Soldes in France, a nationwide retail sales period. Similarly, even aspects as seemingly universal as clothing sizes can vary across geographies.

As a result, fashion ecommerce brands need the freedom to offer customers different payment options and localized checkouts. Moreover, localization should include things like bundling and merchandising. 

But traditional monolithic commerce platforms make localizing an additional challenge, which also makes SEO more difficult. They often require brands to use a separate storefront for each market.

Why brands migrate to Centra

Centra’s native multi-store architecture allows for full management of core data locally and globally across different stores, supporting brands with global reach or aspirations to enter new markets. 

Centra allows admin users to manage product management at a store level, a language level, or globally. You can use different descriptions for each store based on local languages, while the same images can be used globally, saving a lot of manual labor of re-adding them to each localized store. The same principle applies across category management, promotions and customer management.

With Centra, you can showcase your products uniquely for each market, tailoring pictures and descriptions based on local preferences and needs.

Challenge #3

Shopify Plus vs Centra: Wholesale

Many popular ecommerce platforms don’t offer a great wholesale experience for brands. Platforms like Shopify Plus provide generic wholesale options. Essentially, they offer a separate store – so called an expansion B2B store – with different pricing and an invoice payment method.

Brands that want to move ahead with a wholesale strategy need more flexible and comprehensive technology. 

A platform like Centra aligns with the specific buying processes and flows that are unique to the fashion industry, particularly for wholesale buyers. It ensures the key features to support fashion business logic, such as seasonal preorders, collections, delivery windows, and more.

Challenge #4

Shopify Plus vs Centra: Native features vs plugins

Plugins and extensions can enhance the functionality of industry-agnostic platforms like Shopify Plus, but native integrations tend to be more cost-effective in the long run.

For fashion and lifestyle brands building their stores on such broad-focus platforms, this means they often have to rely on numerous apps or craft custom solutions to achieve what are considered "basic" functionalities for their industry.

Moreover, there are four significant challenges with using apps to provide fashion brands with the essential features they need:

  1. Apps or plugins are not equal to native functionality.

    Some things can’t be achieved with apps because they can’t access specific data. Business logic that needs to be interconnected is turned into silos – the app needed for managing the product catalog doesn’t speak to the app used to manage inventory. 

    With Centra, fashion brands get a highly integrated feature set that covers all the core needs.

  2. Apps raise security and stability concerns

    Each app works like another website inside the Shopify admin.  This means you depend on many third-party developers to keep their sites up and running. This is a risk not every brand wants to take.

  3. Apps cost extra

    Monolithic platforms might look cheap to start with, but with all the apps, payment transaction fees, FX markups, and costs per storefront, the cost can go very high.

  4. Apps lead to a cumbersome user interface

    Because the apps are siloed, non-native extensions, they are managed from different parts of the user interface. Simple processes achieved with a few clicks in Centra need multiple steps in multiple apps with Shopify Plus.

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Shopify PlusCentra
Features for fashion🟡 Apps/extensions bought and downloaded from Shopify App Store ✅ Native

Why brands migrate to Centra

Launching on Centra, original fashion brands get all the features they need, integrated in a tight package. While having many apps can initially seem appealing, it often leads to a cluttered experience and performance issues. Centra's powerful API enables seamless integration with best-of-breed services, eliminating the need for redundant apps and isolated data.

Challenge #5

Shopify Plus vs Centra: Performance, scalability and stability impact on SEO and conversion

Site speed is an essential component of brands’ digital strategy, as it affects visibility, traffic, and user experience. However, stores built with too many extensions and customized themes tend to be slow which makes it difficult for them to appear high in search engine results pages (SERP). Stores running on bloated monolithic commerce platforms with customized themes and lots of extensions lack the speed you need to rank high in SERP. 

You can build a headless store on top of a monolithic commerce platform but you’ll miss out on the tooling that made you choose the platform in the first place. At the same time, you will also lose most of the benefits generally associated with headless like low price and minimal developer support. You will end up paying as much or more than a true headless ecommerce setup – while not getting all the benefits. 

Since most sales take place on mobile devices, mobile SEO and performance matter a great deal to fashion brands. 

For all these reasons, ambitious brands are choosing decoupled architectures to improve SEO for their websites. 

An ecommerce agency called Limesharp recently tested how fast it takes to add items to a cart on popular platforms. Centra, for example, delivers high performance with an average add-to-cart time of 125ms, other platforms run slower: 

• Shopify: 490ms 

• Salesforce Commerce Cloud: 525ms

• Adobe Commerce Cloud: 915ms

• SAP Hybris: 1.7 seconds

Interaction to Next Paint (INP) is a new responsiveness metric that forms part of Google's Core Web Vitals, which measure user engagement and the responsiveness of a webpage. The optimal score for INP is 200ms, marking it as the ideal time for this metric.

Why brands migrate to Centra

Fully headless, composable and API-first architecture offers some performance and growth benefits that are impossible to achieve with legacy or SaaS monolithic ecommerce platforms. This is where Centra shines.

Challenge #6

Shopify Plus vs Centra: Support

A well-supported platform ensures smooth business operations for your brand. Ecommerce platforms can be complex, so having a reliable 24/7 support team, and a vast resource library means you’ll be able to tackle any issues that might arise, optimize your store for a better experience and run your business uninterrupted.  

Why brands migrate to Centra

With Centra, brands get a high-touch reliable support team that assists you through migration, implementation, and onboarding. You’ll team up with seasoned industry experts to optimize your store after the launch.

Challenge #7

Shopify Plus vs Centra: Cost of ownership

The total cost of ownership (TCO) is crucial in helping brands select an ecommerce platform. It includes both the initial and ongoing costs, revealing the true expense of the platform. These costs include the expenses of setting up and maintaining the platform (both front-end and back-end), hosting charges, other fees like payment processing, and the costs of running the platform. With operating costs often making up 40-60% of the TCO, a TCO analysis is essential before making your choice.

Salesforce Commerce cloud vs Shopify Plus vs Centra cost of ownership comparison

Why brands migrate to Centra

With many features offered out of the box, Centra significantly reduces the long-term cost of maintaining the platform and ensuring its good performance in peak sale periods. Since there are no hidden costs and no third-party integrations needed, Centra is the most affordable ecommerce platform of the three.

Challenge #8

Shopify Plus vs Centra: Bundling, promotions and upselling features

Most leading ecommerce platforms support features like bundling, promotions, and upselling. However, the implementations and ease of use of these features can vary significantly from platform to platform. Let's have a look at how Shopify Plus and Centra stack up in this department.

Why brands migrate to Centra

Centra has an impressive set of features for trading and also supporting marketing activity.

Challenge #9

Shopify Plus vs Centra: Analytics and reporting

Commerce needs reports to give you the means to review your store's recent performance, get insight into your sales, and keep track of your orders across countries, markets, brands and more.

Why brands migrate to Centra

Centra has an intuitive dashboard, giving an instant overview of sales. It can be analyzed through numerous dimensions and over any user-selectable time. The Centra dashboard is powered by a fast database.

Centra has extensive report generation capabilities. Reports can be exported as csv or xlsx files or be automatically generated at set intervals. You’ll get an emails once a report is generated.

Centra is your complete digital control room, giving you analytics and reporting modules for a detailed overview of your business performance.

Challenge #10

Shopify Plus vs Centra: Suitability for fashion and lifestyle products

Most popular monolithic platforms don’t support the business logic and complexity of fashion and lifestyle commerce. They will serve the purpose if you want to launch fast without paying much. However, without core, fashion-specific functionalities, it will be hard to scale your business globally.

Why brands migrate to Centra

Centra is built for original fashion and lifestyle brands, and supports complex lifestyle products. Centra easily handles styles, colors and sizes, different product displays, collections and drops. 

Centra balances ease of setup with flexibility. Its product model is designed specifically to accommodate multi-dimensional fashion products, making setup a breeze. Furthermore, the distinct separation of CMS and business logic streamlines online business development.

Supported by Centra, fashion brands can focus on growing their fan base and global expansion rather than on maintaining complex technology. The features and roadmap are 100% designed for the needs of brands with global ambitions and no retailers influence the prioritization of features. 

Challenge #11

Shopify Plus vs Centra: Omnichannel capabilities

Brands want to sell to consumers and retailers across channels, countries and marketplaces to scale globally. Here is how the platforms compare in terms of omnichannel capabilities enabling a boost to a brand’s growth.

Why brands migrate to Centra

Centra offers robust omnichannel capabilities, allowing seamless integration with various marketplaces, social media platforms, and ad networks through open APIs. It can be integrated with internal systems like accounting and inventory management, making it a versatile solution for brands aiming for a comprehensive omnichannel approach.

Centra omnichannel capabilities chart

Challenge #12

Shopify Plus vs Centra: Order management

Order management is crucial for an online retail business's seamless operation. Today's complexities of geographically dispersed shoppers, diverse and ever-increasing sales channels, give more weight to order management. As consumers demand faster, more flexible and sustainable order delivery, brands are looking for new, better ways to handle and monitor order management. 

Managing orders across various platforms and locations becomes challenging for brands. They    need more flexibility and scalability which many monolithic platforms lack. However, more versatile headless ecommerce platforms can fill this gap with more sophisticated capabilities such as distributed order management (DOM), overselling protection and more. 

Why brands migrate to Centra

Centra has strong native distributed order management capabilities. You get tools to automate order routing and splitting, shipping, inventory forecasting and management.

Centra allows you to integrate any third-party tool you use now or may use in the future. It means that you stay ahead of the game and can offer the experience modern customers want, with multiple flexible delivery and return options across the full range of channels. Thanks to that you can ship orders quickly with short lead times, reducing your working capital needs and increasing profits.

You’re in good company

International fashion brands choose Centra as the only platform that fully understands the needs and complex business logic of fashion commerce.

Join the vanguard of original brands that scale fast and expand on new markets without the limitations imposed by their legacy ecommerce platforms. Centra has an impressive portfolio of clients, including Nudie Jeans, Sandqvist, ETON, iDeal of Sweden and Norse Projects – with some of these being on the platform right from the start.

Salesforce Commerce cloud vs Shopify Plus vs Centra comparison