Medusa Review (2023) – An Open Source Alternative to Shopify?
Whether you’re just getting started in ecommerce or you’re already a seasoned seller, it’s plain that the right ecommerce solution forms the basis of your business.
Regardless of which review you read online, Shopify is bound to be mentioned as one of the top, if not the best, solutions out there – and with good reasons.
So when an open-source ecommerce solution claims to be a viable Shopify alternative, it certainly sparks curiosity. Shopify may be rich in features, easy to use, and immensely expandable. But it still doesn’t give you 100% control of your store. For instance, if Shopify was to change its pricing or features, you would only have two choices: Stay and accept whatever they decide, or migrate to another service.
It’s an open-source ecommerce tool that promises endless customization for merchants wanting to scale their businesses.
Needless to say, this might be a tempting offer for anyone looking for more autonomy and control compared to what self-hosted platforms can provide.
So, with that said, this Medusa review explores the platform’s features, ease of use, pricing, and more. By the end, you’ll hopefully have a clearer idea of whether Medusa.js is as feasible a Shopify alternative as it claims and if you should check it out for your scaling business.
There’s lots to sink our teeth into, so let’s go!
Medusa Review: About Medusa.js
Medusa is already powering over 20,000 projects and has a community of more than 4,000 members. While this doesn’t come close to the numbers eCommerce giants like Shopify and WooCommerce boast, it’s not negligible, especially considering that Medusa was only founded in 2021! With such a recent launch date, it might be unsurprising that Medusa is still under development and has a long roadmap of future features ahead of it.
This open-source, headless ecommerce tool is aimed primarily at the JacaScript developer community. So, spoiler alert: coding knowledge is vital if you want to make the most of this tool.
As a headless eCommerce solution, Medusa.js doesn’t limit you to its own storefront. Instead, the front end (design and appearance) and the back end of your website (commerce functionality) are separated. This makes it easy to integrate commerce features into your existing website or blog and sell via buy buttons on social media.
Medusa was founded on the principle that existing ecommerce solutions like Shopify still require too many workarounds to properly function as your company scales. For instance, multi-currency support is only available once you set up Shopify Market and Shopify Payments, and it still limits you to only 17 countries. The only workaround is to create an entirely separate store page with guidance for other specific currencies. In contrast, with Medusa, you can set up as many region-specific rules as you want to truly cover international commerce.
So instead, Medusa.js takes a modular approach to allow customers to implement any features they need and disregard the ones they don’t.
Clearly, the idea has substance because Medua JS has quickly won funding from Gumtree, Netlify, Squarespace, Algolia, Front, Gatsby, and more.
Medusa Review – Key Features
Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s take our microscope to some of Medusa.js’s most notable features:
Headless, Customizable API
Medusa’s headless eCommerce can be activated with the creator-medusa-app command, which you can find here. This installs a Medusa server, the Medusa Admin board, and, optionally, a Medusa storefront theme.
After that, you can start developing what the company calls “immersive digital commerce experiences.” Medusa has an out-of-the-box eCommerce engine with features to manage carts, products, orders, customers, payments, shipping, and more. You can flexibly utilize these features with your existing website.
As we’ve already hinted, Medusa’s API is open source and, therefore, fully customizable. You can add endpoints, business logic, and create database entities to handle customizations.
You can browse Medusa’s storefront starters if you want to build a website from scratch. These act a little like a theme. However, unlike competing eCommerce platforms like Squarespace, Medusa’s storefront starters are noticeably basic. There are only two such quick-starters, and both are very minimal. They help you lay out your store with product pages, a contact page, a returns page, etc., but they don’t offer any distinct styling. In other words, making your store look good depends entirely on you and your abilities.
Medusa’s settings easily allow you to add different regions to your store’s backend. This enables you to customize certain rules based on your customer’s location and sales channel. For example, you can decide on the currency per region, payment and fulfillment providers, tax, shipping options, and more.
Navigate Orders, Customers, and Products
Medusa offers a simple dashboard from which you can find and organize orders, customers, and products. You can search for specific items, filter your results, and review orders across regions and channels.
For each order, you can review a timeline of what actions have been applied already, such as when an order’s been dispatched or delivered.
You can add product variants such as size or color and edit pricing in multiple currencies. In addition, products can be imported or exported in bulk from spreadsheets.
Overall, this backend admin panel is very basic compared to the feature-rich dashboards that come with competing eCommerce tools like Shopify or BigCommerce. However, its charm lies in its lack of structural limits, so you can expand its functionality endlessly.
Medusa also comes with a few basic marketing features built in. You can create gift cards and set up discount codes. Choose the regions where a discount should be valid or limit it to a specific customer group or customer. You can decide between percentage discounts or fixed-amount discounts.
Customers can create accounts on your website, from which they can reset their passwords, log in and out, manage their shipping address and other basic information, and review their orders.
It’s also possible to segment customers based on region, previous orders, etc. With this info in hand, you can take a more customized approach to discounts. For example, you could set custom product pricing for customers from a specific region.
Integrations and Starters
Medusa has various integrations and “starters” to help you set up basic functionality to expand later.
Five front-end starters provide templates for your front end. You can further customize the look of your site via code.
Other starters add basic functionality, which you’ll nonetheless have to install. For example:
- Manual payments
- Restock notifications (which lets you inform customers when an item is restocked)
- The discount generator
- The Medusa cart
- The wishlist feature
- The Medusa extender, which allows your Medusa framework alongside online marketplaces
At this point, it’s worth noting that Medusa.js integrates with seven payment providers:
- Stripe Subscription
Medusa also integrates with seven emailing and messaging tools, including Slack and Mailchimp, three shipping tools, analytics and storage providers, and various miscellaneous integrations. You’ll also find the Shopify migration tool.
This brings Medusa up to a total of 35 integrations. While this provides a starting point, depending on your existing tech stack, there’s a good chance you’ll need to integrate via API and create your own custom integrations.
Medusa Review: Pricing
As Medusa.js is open source, it’s free to use – forever! Furthermore, it’s under the MIT license, so you’ll retain complete control over your store and full ownership of your content.
If you require premium support, the team can potentially offer custom solutions. This usually includes a dedicated support channel, architectural guidance, and a guaranteed response time. However, you’ll have to contact Medusa.js’s team directly to learn more about that.
Medusa Review: Customer Support
Because Medusa doesn’t cost a thing, there’s no dedicated support. However, the platform comes with an active and helpful Discord community.
There is also extensive documentation on how to get started with Medusa, install basic features, navigate your admin panel, and more.
Medusa Review: Pros and Cons
If you’re still unsure if Medusa.js is right for you; consider these key advantages and disadvantages:
- Medusa is super fast. As the front end isn’t linked to the back end, each system is unencumbered by the other and, as a result, can often run much faster.
- Medusa.js is highly customizable. You can use whichever front-end solution you want to nail the design of your website and then add eCommerce functionality through Medusa’s commerce API. So, if you have an existing website, there’s no need to scrap it just to transform it into a fully-fledged store.
- Medusa is quick to set up. Deployment is dead-simple, with just three commands at most. This unlocks the backend, front-end, and admin dashboard; they’re immediately ready to use.
- Very basic out-of-the-box features. Suppose you’re migrating from a platform like Shopify that offers tons of read-to-use selling tools. In that case, you might find Medusa somewhat limiting. If you want a lot of functionality, you must develop or integrate it.
- Simple storefronts. While you can customize Medusa’s storefront any way you like, the platform’s ‘themes’ are incredibly simplistic. So, you don’t receive much help creating a good-looking store if you’re not a designer. In contrast, Shopify users are spoilt for choice with premium themes, and platforms like WordPress fare even better.
- Lack of plugins: Currently, compared to the likes of Wix, WordPress, and Shopify, Medusa only offers a few plugins.
Medusa Review: Medusa.js FAQs
Although we’ve covered lots of ground, you might still have questions about Medusa.js. In light of that, below we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the platform:
Is It Easy to Migrate to Medusa?
According to Medusa’s FAQ, users have successfully migrated from other platforms. Within the Medusa community, you should get some insight into other people’s experiences with this.
For Shopify, Medusa integrates with the Shopify Migration tool, making it simple to bring your products across.
What’s the MIT License?
Medusa.js boasts an MIT license. This simple permissive license gives you full access to the software for private and commercial use, modification, and distribution. It merely requires that any existing copyrights and license notices are preserved.
How Long Does It Take To Get Started With Medusa?
It should only take a few minutes for a developer to get Medusa up and running! From there, they might familiarize themselves with the project, source codes, and docs in a couple of hours. Of course, the community is always available to help if questions arise.
What Are Some Medusa Alternatives?
If you’re interested in headless eCommerce but Medusa doesn’t sound the right fit, these alternatives are worth checking out.
- WooCommerce is perhaps the most popular open-source solution. Its eCommerce isn’t headless (as its commerce features are tied directly with WordPress’s front end). However, with thousands of plugins, access to the code, and complete ownership of your storefront, it could provide a good compromise between developers and those wanting more out-of-the-box functionality.
- Ecwid is a headless eCommerce tool powering merchants in over 175 countries. It has many built-in features, including marketing tools like email newsletters, Facebook and Google ads, SEO features, and themes. It’s not, however, open source. Although there’s a free plan, there are also affordable paid plans that unlock more features. That said, Ecwid is more beginner friendly than Medusa and isn’t as heavily reliant on coding.
- Fabric is a D2C and B2B headless eCommerce solution designed for growth. With this tool, you can create customer loyalty programs and much more. It’s possible to migrate your entire business to Fabric in just a couple of weeks. On the downside, it’s a fairly expensive solution for small businesses.
Medusa Review: Is Medusa a Viable Shopify Alternative?
After reading this review, it might be clear that Shopify and Medusa.js have very little in common. Medusa’s open-source commerce API doesn’t come near Shopify, where in-built features, themes, and plugins are concerned. It also requires coding know-how, which is a far cry for Shopify!
So if you enjoy Shopify’s ease of use and want to implement new functionality code-free, you’re better off sticking with the eCommerce giant.
It’s also worth noting that this open-source platform is still developing, with a roadmap of features yet to come. So if the principle of a developer-focused eCommerce solution sounds good, watch this space to see how Medusa.js evolves!
That’s all from me! Let me know if you’ll check out Medusa.js in the comments below!