Spree Commerce Review (2023): Everything You Need to Know

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Have you come across Spree Commerce while browsing the web, and are you unsure what it is and whether it'll help your business? If so, you're in the right place. Read our thorough review to get to grips with everything you need to know about this software.

As an open-source ecommerce solution, Spree Commerce offers quite a unique experience to people designing a profitable online presence. Unlike other, hosted solutions for building your online store, Spree commerce gives you a significant amount of freedom. You can essentially build the website that’s right for you, as long as you’re comfortable with the coding language. 

On the plus side, Spree Commerce offers a fantastic amount of deep design customization, with a range of features and payment gateways to explore. On the other hand, you do need some developer knowledge to even start building your ecommerce website. 

Let’s see what you can really do with the Spree commerce open-source ecommerce solution.

What is Spree Commerce?

spree commerce homepage
Spree Commerce Homepage

Ruby on Rails created Spree Commerce back in 2007. In short, it's a comprehensive e-commerce framework offering entrepreneurs a scalable, open source solution. More simply, it's just a free collection of code that web developers can use to design and build beautiful digital storefronts.

With over two decades of experience behind them, they've managed to collate an international community of coders to help them refine their software. Naturally, this makes it one of the most effective and reliable e-commerce platforms on the market.

Advantages of Spree Commerce

Spree Commerce is ideal if you're looking to develop and market a digital store (within a short time frame) because it boasts a streamlined set of core functions that can be customized to suit your needs.

Developers can bring their vision to life by building an e-commerce store to fit the exact design specifications they desire. This is because with Spree Commerce you control every aspect (yes, even your unique CX).

Plus, in addition to all their ‘official' extensions, there are tons of ‘unofficial' plugins you can utilize. This is ideal if you're looking for a program that can be tailored to complement your specific industry or business model.

For many users, the Spree User and Developer guides are a godsend. If any questions or queries arise, these are fabulous resources to turn to.

Additionally, customers can make the most out of Spree's active community which comprises of:

  • Fellow Spree users,
  • Web developers,
  • Spree contributors,
  • Software houses,

Reach out and chat to like-minded entrepreneurs via Spree's official Slack channels. The Slack app can be download on any device fueled by Windows, Mac, iOS, or Android (on either desktop or mobile).

The Slack chats are amazing resources if you need help from an official Spree developer or if your fancy networking with other people in your niche- with over 2000 users, you're bound to get your question answered.

Here are some of the more popular Spree slack channels:

  • General – this is the place to say hello, introduce yourself, and to ask general questions.
  • Support – this channel provides technical help and enables you to browse through previous issues discussed by other users.
  • Contributors – ideal if you're a pro at coding and web development.
  • Github – keep up to date with all the latest changes to code repo.

You'll also be pleased to hear Spree Commerce doesn't impact the speed of your e-commerce site. Your overall site's speed is influenced by factors like the device you're using, your site's content, the internet browser you're utilizing, etc.

However, Spree Commerce is incredibly lightweight, which means you'd have to overload the server for it to impede the speed of your site- how awesome's that?!

Best of all, Spree Commerce is free to download! It's hands down one of the cheapest solutions for scaling your online business (in comparison to other popular SaaS and Enterprise software).

However, if you're not a skilled coder, you'll have to budget to pay for the services of a professional web developer- these bills can rack up! You'll also have to shell out for a domain name and web hosting.

Disadvantages of Spree Commerce

One of the most significant issues with Spree Commerce is that outside of the Slack channels; there isn't another form of customer support.

When we're trying to get to grips with new software, it's nice to have the option of calling or emailing a dedicated customer service team. However, like most other open-source resources, Spree Commerce doesn't offer this kind of service.

More concerningly, Spree's official website's littered with outdated information and broken links- neither of which is helpful!

As we've already alluded to, there are plenty of technical barriers to using Spree Commerce. If you don’t have coding and web development skills, there's a good chance you won't be able to set things up. This means you'll either have to swot up or hire someone to get up and running.

As you'd expect, there's a limited number of extensions (especially when you compare Spree to the likes of Shopify). There are also restrictions on who you're able to integrate with. For example, you won't be able to fuse Xero, ShipStation, or StitchLabs alongside Spree (unless you're willing to hire a developer to sort this functionality for you).

The Costs of Running a Store on Spree Commerce

Pricing is always a complicated factor for people experimenting with an open-source eCommerce platform. Because Spree Commerce is open source, you’re not paying for the code you use to develop your website. There are tons of alternative open-source solutions out there that follow a similar strategy, using languages like JavaScript and Ruby on Rails.

However, this doesn’t mean that you’re not going to pay anything for your open-source projects. The software might be free to use, but you’re still going to need to pay for things like:

  • Hosting: Since hosting isn’t bundled in with the Pricing, you’ll need to find a company that can reliably host your website and allow other people to visit you.
  • Domain names and SSL certificates: It’s also up to you to purchase the domain name for your website and get the SSL certificate to protect it.
  • Frontend enhancements: If you want to expand the performance of your Spree Commerce site on the front-end, you may need to hire developers and other specialists to help you.
  • Plugins and enhancements: Depending on what you want to do with your open-source website, you may need to pay for advanced plugins like Braintree, SEO widgets, and Amazon connections.
  • Payment and transfer fees: You’ll need to add a payment processor to your store for accepting payments. This could be something like PayPal or Stripe. You’ll be required to pay the transaction fees associated here too.
  • Marketing: If you want to implement your store with an email newsletter or another form of marketing through social media, it’s your responsibility to handle these expenses too.

As you can see, there are a lot of extra costs associated with running an open-source store that some companies forget about. Just because you’re accessing the Rest API created by Sean Schofield for free with Spree commerce, doesn’t mean that you’re not going to spend any cash.

Unlike other solutions that give you access to a range of shopping cart and template options for your store, it’s up to you to get the added extras that make your site a success story on your own. The more you want to add to your website, the more expensive it may become.

Spree's Features

Below is a quick breakdown highlighting all of Spree's main features:

  • Order Processing: This enables store owners to take payments for orders, insert shipping information, and ensure there's enough stock available to fulfill the customer's purchase. Alternatively, you also have the option of manually processing and editing your customer's orders.
  • Returns: You'll be pleased to know, you can handle any returned goods quickly and easily
  • Search: Use the search bar to track down specific orders. You can filter through purchases via date, status, or customer name.
  • Products: There are plenty of options that enable users to create, edit, and delete products from their digital store. For example, you can clone existing products. This is super handy for products that are similar to one another, with only a few variations. For each product, you can also add a detailed description highlighting all the properties of the merchandise.
  • Reports: Spree doesn’t offer many reporting tools, and the ones they do are far from advanced. However, they do provide simple sales reports. Plus, Spree enables you to integrate your digital store with Google Analytics. This is fabulous for tracking your traffic, your customer demographics, and other marketing patterns.
  • General Settings: There's a general settings tab that enables users to edit their store name, currency, and set rules for security.
  • Taxation: Spree offers fabulous tools to help handle taxes (these may vary depending on the zones, countries, and states your online shop serves). On a similar note, you can also decide on the lands and states you're happy to do business with. From there you can modify and manage both your shipping and taxation settings.
  • Payment Methods: You can edit which forms of payment you'll accept at checkout.

What You Need to Know to Make the Most of Spree

Most potential users, want to know how easy Spree is to use. Put simply; this all depends on the extent of your knowledge in the following:

  • SQL
  • Ruby On Rails (ROR)

If you're confident in all the areas listed above, then setting up Spree Commerce will come naturally to you. Once you’ve got Spree up and running, the admin panel is both simple and easy to get to grips with. As you peruse your dashboard, you'll notice a sidebar displaying Spree's primary tools:

  • Orders,
  • Returns,
  • Products,
  • Reports,
  • Promotions,
  • Users,
  • Configurations,

You'll notice the backend is pretty easy to navigate. The sidebar boasts various collapsing menus that enable users to access more advanced features, quickly.

Plus, all the standard tasks associated with managing an e-commerce store are pretty simple to wrap your head around.  For example, to add a new product to your shop, you'll notice there’s a giant green “Add” button positioned at the head of the ‘products page.' All you need do is click it to kickstart the process. Simple, right?

Who's Using Spree?

There are tons of major companies using Spree to craft an online shopping experience for their following. Some of their more notable customers include Chipotle, Bonobos, and Casper.

However, just because more significant operations are making the most out of Spree, doesn't mean to say small businesses can't utilize this software.

How Do You Get Started with Spree?

If you like the idea of getting started with Spree Commerce, all you need to do is undertake the following steps:

  1. Trial Spree using a private Spree Demo. You can have this up and running in minutes. It's fantastic for giving you the opportunity to test the latest version of their software.
  2. Take a look at the Spree user guides, developer guides, API guides, and release notes to ensure you make the most of the program.
  3. Now, get hold of the Spree code from GitHub. This gives you access to the most up to date version of Spree's software.
  4. You can pick your Spree extensions or program your own ones.
  5. Join Spree's Slack community and network with other users.

Who Should Use Spree Commerce?

It doesn't matter what kind of e-commerce themed operation you're running; if you have coding knowledge, you can use this software- it's as simple as that!

If any of these ventures sound similar to the project you're embarking on, then Spree Commerce could be for you:

  • Running an online shop,
  • Utilizing a multi-vendor marketplace,
  • Launching content-fuelled commerce project,
  • Creating a back-end for an E-commerce app (on either iOS or Android),

Obviously, Spree Commerce requires users to possess a fair amount of technical knowledge. This makes it better suited to web developers, programmers, and coders. If you don't have any experience in this arena, you're probably better off using something more user-friendly like Shopify.

However, if your company has an in-house web developer, this resource is definitely worth using. It offers a cost-effective and robust solution for customizing and managing your digital store. After all, it's free, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a try!

If you have any experience using Spree Commerce yourself, please feel free to tell us all about it in the comments box below! We love hearing from our readers; let's kick start this conversation. Speak soon!

Spree Commerce
Rating: 4.0 - Review by

Rosie Greaves

Rosie Greaves is a professional content strategist who specializes in all things digital marketing, B2B, and lifestyle. She has over three years of experience crafting high-quality content. Check out her website Blog with Rosie for more information.

Comments 1 Response

  1. I’m OK with HTML/CSS and SQL, Ruby, though, I am a noknow to it.
    Still OK using Spree (after getting a developer to get all ruby coding done)?
    What do you say?

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