Adobe Business Catalyst alternatives for e-commerce & lead generation websites

Written by Fraser McCulloch.

Adobe Business Catalyst is shutting down in September 2021 and some businesses don’t have much time to find alternatives for their websites.

Adobe kicked us out their web house

Over 70,000 Business Catalyst and 500,000 Adobe Muse websites possibly have to find a new home without a direct replacement; link to Business Catalyst press release.

This is going to cost you.

My clients paid Adobe Business Catalyst directly to host their website.

Yes I recommended Adobe Business Catalyst to all my website customers.

But Adobe broke all our trust.

Many other Adobe partners like myself were in shock.

How could a company drop a profitable business?

Well, put this in perspective, a company that made a $2 billion profit last quarter dropped a $30 million business.

People on Adobe forums are already threatening action; futile in my opinion.

People are asking why Business Catalyst could not be sold to an interested 3rd party.

My understanding is that others did try to purchase it but the Business Catalyst arm is impossible to disconnect from the main Adobe body.

And yes it will and has cost me money.

I have already migrated my own website to WordPress.

How I transitioned away from Adobe Business Catalyst

Website Audit and Review

Whilst this news will come as a shock to many or perhaps an inconvenience, it can also prove to be an opportunity.

I designed very few websites in the previous 16 months since I have evolved to SEO and content marketing services.

With one client exception, I can tell you the web world is a lot different from 24 months ago.

You can continue with your website as it is, the status quo, or you can use this as an opportunity to grow.

SWOT Analysis – get your business from A to B

During my 25 years in marketing, I have done many a SWOT analysis.

You look for the strengths and weaknesses inside your business and with your products and services.

Then you look at external opportunities and threats impacting you.

Or you can discover :

  • What people are searching for.
  • Is there demand I am are missing out on?
  • What are my competitors doing?
  • Where do my competitors rank and get traffic from ?
  • What can I create to improve rankings, visibility, web traffic?
  • How can I convert and generate more enquiries from your website?
  • Follow up on these enquiries and turn them into clients or customers.
  • Drive more website traffic.
  • Convert more sales.
  • Increase my average order value per sale.
  • Increase my repeat sales.
  • Sell other products or services to my existing customers.

3 types of Adobe Business Catalyst websites

For the sake of simplicity there are 3 types of websites.

  1. Less complex websites (Lead generation websites).
  2. E-commerce websites.
  3. Custom websites.

Lead generation websites

This is a website with pages of information and contact forms where people get in touch with your business.

My website is an example lead generation website.

I can export the current website and use 2 other solutions for your new website.

The migration cost will be fairly low.

But will have to absorb new recurring costs:

  • Monthly hosting costs.
  • Hosting maintenance contract.
  • Email marketing provider.
  • Email accounts to send and receive emails.
  • Annual purchase of SSL certificate.

Adobe Business Catalyst versus WordPress

Whilst there are plenty of alternatives, I shall recommend moving lead generation or less complex websites to WordPress.

Adobe Business Catalyst alternative features in WordPress

Here are the features available.

I shall recommend using pre built WordPress themes to closely replicate your existing websites.
Whilst I can ensure the colours, fonts and branding are the same, the layouts may change.
This could be a positive benefit especially for older websites than don’t have work well in mobile devices or have a poor website structure.

There are built in plugins to collect and process website enquiries.
The details of the enquiry will be stored in the admin area of WordPress and both you and the recipient will receive an acknowledgement of the enquiry.

To be honest the Adobe CRM was only used to store enquiries.
But if you truly want a CRM, I would recommend using Drip for web forms, email marketing and marketing automation.

You can use Drip or Convertkit for autoresponder email campaigns; Convertkit offer a free plan for up to 1000 subscribers

Convertkit has the ability to send unlimited email marketing campaigns per month.
Although the design templates are limited.

WordPress has a blog post feature built in it.

WordPress has the ability to add web pages and with the new Gutenberg editor you add blocks to build your page.

The Adobe web app feature has no direct replacement in WordPress; however we can develop a custom solution using custom post types and advanced custom fields at an additional cost.

I would recommend the following plugins are installed on WordPress:

  • GeneratePress theme and Generate Blocks.
  • Google Analytics Dashboard for WordPress.
  • Redirection – to redirect old BC pages to new WP pages.
  • WP Rocket – to optimise your site for speed.
  • Yoast SEO – for on page SEO.
  • Table of Content Plus – a table of content plugin for long form content.

If you need custom pages or landing pages then I recommend GeneratePress and Generate Blocks.
Blocks is plugin that enables you to create and design custom pages and lets you drop and drop block elements onto a page to suit your brand and content.

Use Flywheel; they manage hosting almost like Adobe did for Business Catalyst and update plugins; for a little extra.

You can pay Flywheel to look after plugin updates.

Using Yoast, on page SEO with WordPress will become a focus of your attention.
However, you won’t see massive changes in your page rankings and traffic with creating content that people are searching for or an increase in relevant links to your website.

It is recommended that you upgrade your website from http to https with an SSL certificate.
There is an additional cost but some minor SEO benefits.

You can set up additional admin users at no extra cost and set access and permission levels.
For example, I would not let some customers have access to installing plugins without knowing the impact on the rest of the website or the site speed.

E-commerce websites

The next type of websites are those that sell products online.

I have 2 options for migration and re-development.

I migrate the website to a comparable solution that is being developed for an ex-Business Catalyst partner.

Or, alternatively I move your website to Shopify.

I have worked with Shopify and there are some amazing benefits open to you that were out of scope with Business Catalyst.

  • Sell on Facebook.
  • Sell with Instagram clickable images.
  • Better related product merchandising.
  • Better basket and checkout process (so you convert more orders).
  • Abandoned orders process.
  • Refund orders directly inside admin area.
  • Take card payments over the phone and add order into admin area.
  • Add Facebook Messenger to website and handle customer enquiries.
  • Use the Free Shopify App called Kit to help you run adverts, promotions, email campaigns, post social communication – seriously mind blowing app.
  • A mobile app for your phone to manage elements of your shop.
  • Brilliant integration with Google Shopping Advertising – so people can see and click on your products in the search results.
  • Thousands of apps to do better marketing.

Adobe Business Catalyst versus Shopify

Adobe Business Catalyst alternative features in Shopify.

You will have to either purchase and customise a Shopify theme or charge you to develop a custom theme based on your current web design.
This could be a positive benefit especially for older websites than don’t have work well in mobile devices or have a poor website structure.

You will lose this feature from Adobe but we can replace that with a MailChimp subscription and add in a form.

Bear in mind, if you go over 2000 subscribers, you will have to pay a monthly fee to MailChimp.

You will lose the Adobe CRM. However, most businesses on Shopify use their built in admin area or MailChimp.
Create a MailChimp list and import your customers from Business Catalyst.

You will use the autoresponders and confirmation message settings on Mail Chimp web forms.

Fear not, MailChimp have hundreds of easy to use email marketing templates.
MailChimp also have email personalisation.
You can choose to insert product recommendations where they insert product into email campaigns based on user information.
Although the design templates are limited.

Blog posts are built into Shopify and are included in your monthly Shopify subscription.

You can add as many web pages as you like in Shopify.
In reality you will just use these pages for about us, contact us and terms and privacy pages.

You will lose web app functionality by migrating from Business Catalyst to Shopify.
That’s probably not an issue.

We would have to export and import all your catalogues to Shopify,
It’s more likely we have to rebuild your categories by hand.

Product tags and variants will need to be created and this could be a time consuming process to migrate your stock file over.
There is a paid for service that exports your stock file from Adobe to Shopify.

The basket functionality in Shopify is fantastic. You will be able to add suggested products to the basket.
This will help promote higher order values.
You can add PayPal and Apple Pay payment options to the basket.
You do not have alot of design control over the basket layout.
However, Shopify have 500,000 plus merchants on their platform and they know more about basket to checkout conversion that most.

The checkout process is going to help you better convert more sales with Shopify.

  • The user enters name and email.
  • Then they enter this billing and delivery address.
  • If they don’t finish the order, Shopify sends a please complete order email.
  • Then Shopify calculate the shipping cost if any.
  • Then the user enters card details or proceeds to PayPal.

If you only sell direct to the end user, then you can use the Shopify admin options to enable to user account management area.
This is a basic area that shows your details and order history.
You can disable this option if you don’t want users to register or login before purchase.
If you sell to retailers and the end user there is an app for that but requires more investigation.

There are 3 payment methods; Apple Pay, Shopify Payment and PayPal.
If you are in the UK you can disable Apple Pay before it’s not being adopted by most banks.
You need to check the processing and card fees with Shopify Payments.
But you will find them comparable with Stripe and SagePay.
And if you have SagePay, you won’t need them anymore.
So the additional Shopify hosting costs will be offset with the SagePay savings.

Great feature you will love. In addition the back end reporting will show you the number and value of recovered orders.

You are going to have to install some free plugins and some page plugins in order to maintain the running of your shop.

  • Google Shopping
  • MailChimp for Shopify
  • No Index and Sitemap Manager
  • Kit
  • Order Printer
  • Shopify Product Reviews

You need the $79 a month hosting package as this includes discount codes, gift vouchers and reporting functionality.

It is unlikely you will need a monthly hosting support package.
But access to a good Shopify developer is paramount.

On page optimisation is good inside Shopify with the ability to edit the page title, description and URL.
Also, if you do choose to change a url, Shopify will immediately create a 301 redirect.

SSL is built into Shopify and included in your monthly hosting fee

Depending on the hosting package you take out you can have 2, 5 or more admin users.
As the site owner, you will want to give you web developer full access.

If you have a content editor you don’t want to give her access to installing paid for plugins.

Custom built websites

The last category of websites we built were custom built websites.

We built some bespoke business solutions such as job vacancy systems, payment systems, travel portals and digital payment systems.

These types of websites will be more complex to migrate.

I need to explore in more depth the migration impact, costs and issues.

Bear in mind we still have a few months before Adobe shut down Business Catalyst.

Migrating custom built Business Catalyst website

A popular choice to migrate custom websites away from BC is SiteGlide.

They have embraced web app functionality and very similar tools to BC in their platform and seem like a good choice.

I shall update this section of the page in due course as I discover and learn more.

What will this cost me ?

This will cost you one way or the other.

View this an opportunity to increase traffic, enquiries and sales or to re-invent your online business.

What Next ?

You better get your skates on because BC is shutting down.

If you want to discuss migrations I can recommend partners to help you transition.

What if I don’t want you to migrate or re-develop my website with you ?

I can export all your web pages and customer data and hand that information over to you at any time between now and September 2021.

You can either take that information and give it to another web professional or you can continue with me.