Shopify has positioned itself as one of the most popular hosted ecommerce platforms on the market today, and with good reason. As it’s cloud-based, you can access it from anywhere an internet connection is available – and you don’t have to shell out extra cash for web hosting. As an all-inclusive online selling platform, it has everything you need to start selling products to customers, including SSL site security. It’s best suited for dropshipping businesses and small boutiques. The more inventory you have to manage, the more complex and expensive it becomes.
Shopify first began in 2004, when software engineer Tobias Lutke wanted to open an ecommerce store to sell snowboards from third-parties. Though he didn’t want to be a software engineer anymore, he was disappointed in what he found on the market, so he partnered with other programs and launched Shopify to the public in 2006. Initially, the platform helped merchants with customizable templates, uploading images, tracking orders, grouping items in categories, and accepting payments with PayPal or a payment processor integration.
By 2013, they added the point-of-sale (POS) system you can use inside your brick and mortar store if you have one. A Shopify retail package is available for an additional fee. It includes the necessary hardware and a staff management feature.
Now, it’s possible to add a Buy button to sell things from any website – not just their ecommerce platform. With this and Shopify QR codes, there’s no longer a gap between online and offline sales, and business owners have a central location to manage it all.
If all you need is a basic store, Shopify is an excellent choice. It loads quickly and is simple to set up. Once you sign up for your account, all you have to do is follow the on-screen instructions to build your store. Thanks to the extensive library of free and paid themes, you can find a style that fits your brand with relative ease. There are plenty of certified partners available to help you if you cannot find the time to do it yourself.. The one-click selling and social media selling features make it easy to get things up and running.
Are you a business owner who wants to increase revenue without getting caught up in administrative tasks? Are you less than savvy when it comes to technology? Shopify is the best option for people who don’t want to deal with the technical aspects of running an online business. It even includes a blogging platform so that you can share news and updates with your customers, without the need for a separate platform.
However, multiple studies show it rates poorly when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). For up and coming brands who need to build a presence in the search engines for a source of potential customers, it can be an uphill battle. The fact that Shopify sticks things like /collections/ in the URL really limits your information architecture. Yes, there’s always pay-per-click advertising, but this can add up, putting a serious squeeze on any budget.
While there’s an extensive app and integrations library to add more features to your store or make things easier for you to manage, many of them come with additional monthly fees. Using a few of them together can dramatically increase your monthly costs.
If you require advanced customization or features for your Shopify store, you’ll need to hire a developer to handle it for you. The page building app, Shogun, can give you a bit of freedom and flexibility to customize your store. Still, for any long-term site maintenance or custom functionality, experienced developers are best.
How does Shopify work?
As I see it, Shopify is not only an easy way to launch and manage your online store. It’s geared towards supporting store owners in crucial aspects like opening additional channels (e.g. Amazon, eBay or Facebook), offering customer support tools (e.g. live chat) or by taking care of the technical hassles.
Shopify pros and cons
I hope you've enjoyed reading this Shopify review and have found it useful. To sum up, these are the main pros and cons that you can expect to encounter if using this e-commerce solution:
Pros of Shopify
It’s easy to use.
The templates are attractive and fully responsive (mobile friendly).
Abandoned cart saving functionality is available on all plans, even the cheapest $9 ‘Lite’ plan.
It's a great option for anyone interested in dropshipping.
US, Canadian and EU tax rates are automatically calculated and applied.
Multi-currency selling is possible, although you’ll probably need to rely on an app to implement this properly.
You can create versions of your site in different languages (but some limitations in functionality apply).
Depending on your country, you can avail of quite generous shipping discounts if you use the built in ‘Shopify Shipping’ service to deliver your products.
The Lite Plan’s ‘Buy Button’ allows you to use Shopify to sell products easily on other websites.
It comes with a built in email marketing tool which lets you host a list of up to 2,500 subscribers for free.
The point-of-sale options are comprehensive.
It handles the creation and application of product categories really well.
You can extend functionality easily thanks to a huge range of third-party apps (although note that you will have to pay to use many of them).
A built-in blog is provided.
You can create AMP versions of product pages (albeit with the help / additional cost of a third-party app).
Both iOS and Android apps are provided to enable you to manage your store on the go.
There are no transaction fees if you are happy to use the built in payment processing system, Shopify Payments.
You can try it for free before committing to it.
Cons of Shopify
Whilst you can create 100 variants of a product, these can only involve up to 3 product options.
Key functionality which you might expect to be provided out of the box often requires installation of an app.
Adding custom fields such as text boxes or file upload options, whilst doable, is unnecessarily complicated (or involves purchasing an app).
Professional reporting functionality is only provided on more expensive plans.
The built in payment processor, Shopify Payments, only allows you to sell from certain countries.
You can’t avoid transaction fees if you use a third-party payment gateway.
Product images have to be uploaded with the same aspect ratio to display properly.
The abandoned cart saver only allows you to send one automated follow-up email.
When using a dropshipping app, it’s hard to be confident that the goods you’re selling are ethically produced.
Getting your site to be GDPR compliant where cookies are concerned will involve use of a third party cookie banner app.
Although workarounds exist to make Shopify and Mailchimp work together, there is no longer an official Shopify-Mailchimp integration available.
If you’re not using ‘Shopify Shipping’ to provide real-time carrier quotes to your customers, or live in a country where it’s not available, this functionality can work out quite expensive (you’ll need to be on a $299+ plan to avail of real-time carrier quotes from other suppliers).
The email marketing functionality, whilst nice to have, is currently pretty basic.
Sell unlimited products. Shopify will charge a 2% transaction fee unless you use Shopify Payments.
With more ecommerce features like gift cards and abandoned cart recovery. Transaction fees are 1% unless you use Shopify Payments.
Get advanced reports and automatically calculated shipping rates. Transaction fees are 0.5% unless you use Shopify Payments.
We are showing monthly costs for yearly subscriptions.
Additional plans: The Lite plan to sell on social media can also be purchased for about $9 a month. Shopify also offers an enterprise plan (Plus) for gigantic online stores – it’s not cheap as it starts at $2.000 a month.
A domain name costs extra (starting at $14 per year for a .com), but can be added through Shopify or any external registrar. If you can, it’s recommendable to use Shopify’s own payment gateway as this will save you additional charges. It’s currently only available in the USA, Puerto Rico, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. Please note that transaction fees won’t be charged for manual payment methods (cash on delivery, bank transfer etc.).
Excellent Customer Service
As I mentioned earlier, Shopify lets you use the same platform for online and physical store sales. There is also the option to put a Buy button on another website, which may be useful if you don't want to use Shopify's site builder tool.
The manual is easy to use and there's email support, too, but Shopify also offers 24/7 phone and chat-based support when emailing is not enough and you need a person to help you out. There is also an active discussion forum. Customers based in North America, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore have a designated regional phone number. I found it easy to get someone in chat even at 1 a.m., and the phone support representative was very helpful in answering my questions about the different options available in each package.
Great Shopping Right Out of the Box
Simplicity is critical when setting up an online store. The customer doesn't want to jump through hoops to give you money, and the seller doesn't have much time to learn how to use the software. Shopify makes it easy to get off the ground with basic features and the ability to fine-tune features at a later date. Shopify is our Editors' Choice for shopping cart tools for its intuitive and easy-to-navigate dashboard, and its ease of use for first-time merchants.