In this post we’re going to review 3 of the best ways to build ecommerce landing pages for mid-to-large-sized brands: Unbounce, Instapage, and custom landing page designs that you code and host yourself.
Most reviews already available don’t take the unique needs of an ecommerce brand into consideration, and few talk about what’s still one of the most popular ways of building landing pages: custom coded.
We’re writing this for you; ecommerce brands looking to scale.
For each option, we evaluated:
Make sure to read the review until the end to discover which landing page platform is best for your ecommerce brand.
As an ecommerce landing page optimization agency, we use all 3 to build high-converting landing pages for our clients. Which option is best, however, depends on many factors that may be unique to your brand.
I also want to note that there are plenty of landing page software out there. We picked Unbounce and Instapage as those are the only two landing page platforms we recommend for mid to large-sized ecommerce brands.
They’re also the only options we consider as real alternatives to having custom landing pages built out.
In one corner, we have Unbounce. Unbounce’s pricing is the lowest out of the 3 options. It’s been around for a while and is quite well known for being one of the original landing page platforms that aimed to reduce the time it would take to design, build and deploy landing pages.
In the other corner, we’ve got Instapage which is also highly flexible and targeted towards companies needing a high-level of landing page customization while making it fast and easy for marketers to build their pages, instead of relying on developers. Instapage’s pricing is higher than Unbounce and most landing page builders, but it may still be cheaper than if you were to build your own custom landing pages.
Although Unbounce and Instapage are very similar, and both make it easy for marketers to build landing pages using drag-and-drop editors, they have slightly different feature sets. What’s best for you really depends on your marketing needs – we’ll compare each further down.
And finally, our third contender is not a software or a tool, which makes it a bit harder to compare it to Unbounce and Instapage. The third option involves having your marketers plan the landing page, your designers design it, and your developers build and deploy it.
If you’re a small brand without many development resources, this won’t be for you. But if you are a bigger company with a design and development team, this could still be your preferred avenue. We’ll dive into what’s best for your needs below.
If you go on Unbounce’s or Instapage’s website, or read literally anyone else’s reviews about those tools, you’ll notice they talk about the hundreds of landing page templates available, making it easy for marketers to build what they need with the minimal assistance of a designer.
The truth is that when it comes to ecommerce landing pages, there are very few templates available. And those that are, aren’t great.
Unbounce has 3 templates available for ecommerce…
And Instapage, 11, but they’re not fantastic if ask us.
The reason they have few templates is likely due to the fact that landing pages are still a bit underused in the ecommerce world (many brands are still making the huge mistake of sending their paid traffic to the homepage, best sellers page, or to various collection or product pages), and those tools’ primary market is likey SaaS companies, or other B2B companies needing landing pages for Lead Gen, Webinars, and eBooks.
The good news is that if you’re an ecommerce brand, we don’t advise making your decision on whether to go with Instapage or Unbounce based on their available templates. You can remove that from your criteria. Some of the best landing pages we've seen so far for ecommerce don't use templates either.
Here at SplitBase, since we’re a conversion optimization agency, we build landing pages every day and we have to admit that no one here actually cares about templates.
We believe that landing pages should be built using data – to determine the structure of your page, which products to feature, and even for the text and images.
We also believe landing pages should fit your brand’s voice and visuals. If you’re serious about scale, your landing pages should be custom to you.
No pre-built template will help figure out how your landing pages should be based on your brand, your customer data, and your products.
This means that if you’re following a data-driven process to build your landing pages, you’ll likely design them from scratch anyway, making Unbounce, Instapage, or coding your own all perfectly good options.
Now that we crossed-off templates as something that matters for your ecommerce landing pages, and if you decided it’s likely best to design your landing page from scratch…
Which platform makes it easier for you and your team to design landing pages?
It really depends on who will be in charge of designing it.
For example, if you decide to build your own landing page outside of Unbounce or Instapage, where the design will have to be handed off to developers to build, you will most definitely want a UX designer to design it. They’ll likely use Photoshop, Sketch, Figma or AdobeXD, and will know how to prepare the files for development.
Few non-designers will know how to do this.
If you are using one of the landing page platforms, you will get the benefit of having simple drag & drop visual editors made to design and build landing pages. However – this only means it is easier to build the landing page.
Unless you have an impeccable eye as a non-designer, or simply have to recreate an existing design using the landing page software, your landing page still needs to be designed.
An expert in design and usability principles that knows how to create beautiful and functional designs is still required. This means that yes, there’s no question that if you care about how your brand presents itself to the world, you will probably want to have a designer design your landing pages whether you’re custom coding them or building them inside a software.
Here comes the real question: if you have a landing page designer and have designs ready to be built, either custom with a development team or with either Unbounce and Instapage, what’s the best way to proceed?
That’s where the comparison gets interesting. Let’s dive in.
Unbounce and Instapage are inherently flexible platforms, both allowing you to add custom code, and custom scripts for pretty much anything you’d want to add to your landing page (feature or design-wise) that may not be possible out-of-the-box.
You might want to do this if:
We work with ecommerce brands generating $1M to $50M+ in revenue, and it’s worth noting that custom coding landing pages is not needed in most cases. Landing pages that require so much customization that they can’t be built in Unbounce or Instapage are one out of many.
Getting developers to code the landing pages, QA them, and then upload them to the main website is great for landing pages you know will be permanent. But this whole process can be time-intensive and expensive if you don’t have a developer that’s dedicated to this.
Marketing teams often need landing pages for new campaigns and will be required to update them or launch new variants quite frequently. If no dedicated development resources are available, marketing teams will often be held back by the extra steps and time it takes to manage self-hosted, custom coded landing pages.
Both platforms’ drag and drop editors offer complete flexibility. After building a few landing pages, you’ll quickly get the hang of it.
What we see as the most valuable aspect of visual editors as such is that it makes it uber easy to build and make changes to your landing pages. Removing developers from the whole process cuts down the development time from what could be weeks, to literally hours.
Speed is not the only benefit. Marketing teams gain the benefit of launching as many landing pages they want, without additional development costs.
The visual editor in Unbounce allows you to add various elements to your landing page such as buttons, videos, images, forms, etc. It’s also integrated with Google Fonts, making it easy to expand the platform’s font selection.
The editor is quite similar in Instapage too, but one huge upside with Instapage is their pre-built blocks (called Instablocks), where you can easily add pre-designed elements that you can customize, like testimonial and FAQ sections, image layouts, or even pie-charts.
You can also save your own Instablock that enables you to re-use (and update) custom elements within a few clicks across all your landing pages. These are called Global Blocks, and if you’re building many landing pages, this may be a feature you’ll want.
Instapage also has a leg up on Unbounce when it comes to fonts, as they also integrate with Typekit in addition to Google Fonts.
Now, what if you need to use a font that’s not part of Google Fonts or Typekit? Or have custom elements you need to add to the page?
If you need to use popups or sticky bars either on your landing pages or anywhere on your site, Unbounce allows you to create various popups and sticky bars, and create display rules that target visitors based on geography, referral source, cookies, and so on.
This is a huge feature that’s not available with Instapage, and if you’re not already using email capture / popup tools such as Sumo, JustUno or Sleeknote, this can serve as a great alternative.
One of my favorite features in Instapage that I wish was available in Unbounce is the collaboration aspect.
When previewing landing pages in Instapage, you can create secure links meant for sharing with colleagues and stakeholders. Collaborators can then add annotations to your landing page, making it easy to gather and keep track of feedback in real-time.
This means that you can’t simply build a desktop landing page and expect it to become responsive. Building a mobile version of your landing page requires you to go in the editor’s “mobile” tab and re-arrange your desktop elements for mobile. Instapage approaches mobile landing pages in a very similar way.
It does involve some extra work, and in Unbounce the mobile editor can sometimes be a bit frustrating if you’re not fully familiar with how it works and unknowingly mess-up your desktop version while trying to tweak the mobile one.
Desktop users will tolerate more text, take more time to go through the landing page and pay more attention. Mobile users, on the other hand, have more tendency to skim. Slower internet speeds also mean it’s often best to keep mobile landing pages simple.
Those are just a few differences out of many, but the point is that when building landing pages it’s recommended to think of your landing pages differently whether it’s made for mobile, or desktop.
The good news is that both Unbounce and Instapage make this easy.
The only possible downside? Landing page builders only allow you to create mobile and desktop versions. Visitors on tablet typically see the desktop version. If in the unlikely event that you have lots of tablet traffic and require tablet-optimized landing pages, you may want to opt with coding your own landing page.
Both Unbounce and Instapage landing pages can be published under your domain. Advantage of the landing page builders? No need to upload a file to your server, publishing is as simple as a few clicks.
Speed-wise, both platforms are pretty good and even offer AMP (accelerated mobile pages) pages for their upper-end plans. but if you’re looking for the best possible load speed nothing’s going to beat hosting your own landing pages (which is why we recommend you code and self-host your most permanent pages).
When it comes to optimizing your landing pages for conversions, both landing page designers have features that will help you out with that. Instapage however, is a bit more advanced in that category.
A/B testing is possible with both tools, but Instapage’s implementation is more robust, allows for a better organization of ongoing tests, and when creating a new test, even has a field that lets you enter your test hypothesis! Of course, this only matters if you have enough traffic to A/B test and your company takes testing seriously.
Unbounce has a Dynamic Text Replacement feature which, when in use, can replace text on your landing page with words your visitors searched for; thus making your PPC ads more relevant.
Instapage goes further. Just like Unbounce it has a Dynamic Text Replacement feature, but it also has personalization features that let you personalize literally any part of your landing page based on various visitor attributes (such as UTM tags in the URL).
With Instapage you can see heatmaps (including mouse movement maps, scroll maps and clock maps) for all of your landing pages. This is great for analyzing the behaviors of your landing page visitors.
Although it’s neat to have this in Instapage, not having this in Unbounce is definitely not a dealbreaker as we generally use HotJar to track visitor behaviors in parallel either way.
Instapage also offers a robust analytics dashboard for your landing pages. Personally, we don’t use it a lot and don’t see it as a must-have considering we much prefer to integrate landing pages with Google Analytics, and do the analysis in there.
As much as I’d love to compare the price of coding and hosting your own landing pages against the price of using a landing page platform, it’s hard to compare apples to oranges.
The cost of coding your own landing pages will vary greatly based on how complex they are, which directly translates into the time required to code them, and all of this is also impacted by who codes them.
For example, if you have an in-house development team, it might be cheaper than outsourcing everything to a development agency. The extra time it takes to code also has to be factored into costs.
We estimate coding your landing pages could cost anywhere between $500 to $3000. As mentioned earlier, this is preferable for organizations that have a solid process and team to get their landing pages coded and published.
For most ecommerce brands out there, our recommendation is simple – you will probably get more bang for your buck if you use a landing page builder.
Now’s the time for what might be one of your biggest questions: Which tool will give you the most bang for your buck?
Of course, this is highly dependant on your needs as a company, your goals, and your budget.
For example, with Unbounce’s Essential plan starting at $79/month, you’ll be able to publish up to 75 landing pages, 8 popups/sticky bars and up to 500k monthly unique visitors.
This and the feature set that comes with that plan will be more than enough for most ecommerce brands, especially if your company is quite new to landing pages.
We’ve been using Unbounce since it’s early days, and we can confirm it’s a solid tool which you’ll be able to scale with too. Unbounce can easily accommodate larger brands with hundreds of landing pages with their Enterprise plan (starting at $399/month).
Instapage’s pricing is higher than Unbounce’s, and they offer one set-price starter plan called Business, at $149/month (with annual billing). Enterprise plans are custom and can go up to a couple thousand dollars a month.
With their starter plan you can only create up to 30 landing pages with a maximum of 30k monthly unique visitors; a significant difference from Unbounce’s 75 landing pages and 500k visitors.
Instapage’s cheapest Business plan does have some extra features that Unbounce doesn’t have, but we don’t see those as absolute deal-breakers.
With all the above in mind in regards to pricing, and due to Unbounce’s much higher visitor limit for less money in addition to popups and sticky bars available for all plans, we say Unbounce is the best bang for your buck for starter plans and companies with just a few landing pages.
For companies where landing pages are already a big part of their marketing strategy, where creating new pages must be as efficient as possible, and where testing and personalization of the landing pages are essential – Instapage definitely wins with their Enterprise plan.
Custom coded landing pages are best for companies that would typically have an Enterprise plan on landing page builders, but who require a level of flexibility not offered by the latter.
Custom coded landing pages are great for brands who really want to self-host their pages, and don’t mind handling all the development. For everyone else, it’s best to go with a software.
And when it comes to Instapage vs Unbounce, there is no platform that’s better than the other. At the end of the day, it all boils down to your goals and needs.
Happy landing page building!
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