Shopify is a popular e-commerce provider that markets itself as an easy-to-use platform for beginners and experts alike.
Its primary goal is to allow e-commerce store owners to focus on building and selling their products while using Shopify to handle every aspect of their businesses, including marketing, selling in retail stores, and mobile optimization. It even comes with Kit, the AI virtual assistant designed to help you boost sales.
This makes it an ideal option for those with beginner-level coding knowledge looking to launch an online store.
- 1 Pros and Cons
- 2 About Shopify
- 3 What Does Shopify Offer?
- 4 Shopify vs. BigCommerce
- 5 What Makes It Different
- 6 Who is it For?
- 7 Your Review of Shopify
Pros and Cons
|One of the best e-commerce platforms around||Expensive|
|Large Shopify Community to help support your projects||Customization can become complex|
|Easy to use|
If you want a solid e-commerce platform, you can't go wrong with Shopify. Though the platform isn't without its faults, Shopify's experience with e-commerce means that the company knows how to offer a useful product.
Shopify can be expensive, especially when you factor in the transaction costs leveraged by the company on top of monthly subscription fees. Furthermore, the platform is simple to use, but if you want to do extensive customizations, you might find your projects becoming very tricky.
Shopify is a Canadian e-commerce platform based in Ottawa, Ontario. It was founded in 2004 by Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand, and Scott Lake, who were unable to find a suitable online sales platform for the snowboarding equipment shop they wanted to launch.
Since then, Shopify has grown to employ over 3000 employees that assist over 800,000 businesses located in 175 countries. The company is publicly traded and earned over $673 million in 2017. Some of Shopify's customers include Bombas, LeSportsac, and Emma Bridgewater.
What Does Shopify Offer?
Shopify is an easy-to-use, hosted e-commerce platform that allows you to sell your products across multiple channels. Assuming you're not entering a highly-regulated industry (e.g., finance, medicine), you can start even without a business license/EIN. Aside from setting up an online store, you can:
- Accept payments face-to-face using the Shopify POS.
- Sell your products through Facebook Messenger, Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, eBay, and several other platforms.
- Sync your physical store with your online store.
- Automatically calculate your tax rate based on your location.
- Offer free shipping.
Shopify allows you to sell both digital and physical products, accept credit card payments, and integrate your store with over 100 external payment gateways from around the world.
Each Shopify plan includes access to a mobile app that allows you to capture payments, manage orders, and reach out to your customers. You can also make use of Shopify’s built-in blogging features and analytics to keep track of your sales, see where your traffic is coming from, and allow you to integrate your store with Google Analytics.
Each store comes with the ability to upload an unlimited number of products, unlimited bandwidth, and a free SSL certificate.
The platform comes with hundreds of themes and a number of features for helping you market your store, manage your inventory and keep track of your customers.
Themes and Customization
Shopify offers more than a hundred themes that can be customized through the Theme Settings editor. But, if you need or want more customizations than what is offered, you can tweak the design with HTML and CSS. Each theme is optimized for mobile devices and they range from free to paid.
More experienced developers can use the Liquid language to build their own themes and modify the existing ones. The themes also feature HTML and CSS, so knowledge of these will only help you as you customize your store. You can also hire a Shopify expert to customize your chosen theme for an additional cost.
Products and Inventory
Setting up a store with Shopify allows you to manage your entire product catalogue/inventory in one place. Products can have different variations such as color, size, and materials, and you can organize them according to the season, type, sale, and more. Each variation of the product can have its own SKU. You can also display stock levels and indicate an item's status (e.g., used or new)
You can connect your store with third-party fulfillment centers such as Amazon, Rakuten Super Logistics, and Shipwire or set up a custom fulfillment solution. You can also integrate your store with several popular drop shipping platforms.
Shopify allows you to store the information about your customers and see their entire order history. Every customer has the option to checkout as a guest or to create an account for repeat purchases. Customers can be grouped together based on location, purchase history, and more.
Marketing and SEO Features
The platform supports SEO best practices and allows you to add and customize title tags and meta descriptions for each of your products and pages. It automatically generates a sitemap for your store to assist search engines in indexing it properly.
Shopify’s marketing features include the ability to create discount codes and coupons, sell gift cards or offer them as store credit, and feature product reviews. The platform integrates with major social media networks as well as with MailChimp. Note that these integrations aren't just for marketing purposes; you can also sell via social platforms.
You can also make use of its abandoned cart recovery features that allow you to send reminder emails to customers who didn’t complete the checkout process. Those customers will receive an email with a link to their abandoned shopping carts, encouraging them to complete their purchases.
Shopify also offers Kit, its built-in virtual assistant designed to help you increase sales, create targeted social media campaigns, set up email automation, and more.
Shopify comes with its own App Store that has various apps ranging from free to paid covering categories such as email marketing, social media, accounting, shipping, payments, and more. Thanks to these apps, you can connect your store to numerous apps such as QuickBooks, Xero, Conversio, ShipStation, and others.
Some of the best apps available include Oberlo (helps you source a supplier for products you want to sell), Order Printer (which helps you print things like invoices, labels, receipts, and packing slips), and Printful (which enables you to sell print-on-demand items).
The support includes a detailed help section with hundreds of articles that guide you step-by-step through the process of setting up and getting started with your store.
The support section of Shopify’s website includes E-commerce University that contains ebooks, video series, webinars, and other resources that teach you how to successfully sell online as well as community forums where you can connect with other Shopify users.
E-Commerce platforms can be complex, and its robust suite of educational materials can be the difference between success and failure (or at the very least, minimize the amount of time you have to spend on the phone with support!).
You can also talk to the support team 24/7 using email, live chat, and phone. If you need dedicated help with your store’s design or marketing, you can hire one of Shopify’s experts for an additional fee. These experts include developers, designers, marketers, and photographers.
Billing and Plans
Shopify offers three main plans. All of the plans include the ability to use Shopify payments as well as third-party payment gateways, free SSL certificate, plus you can integrate a custom domain, use blogging features, and have the ability to create discount codes, and print shipping labels.
The entry-level plan begins at $29/month, but be aware that Shopify also assesses a per-transaction fee of 2.9% + $0.30. You may also need to pay up to 2% in fees to the payment processor you use.
The second and third plan comes with additional features such as the ability to sell gift cards, support for discount and promotional codes, get professional reports, make use of the abandoned cart recovery features, and show third-party shipping rates.
Shopify also comes with automatic tax calculation and collection, even if you operate in multiple sales tax zones. Once you toggle sales tax on, Shopify will identify whether it is appropriate to collect tax and how much tax to collect on your behalf.
The difference between the plans is the number of staff accounts and card processing fees which are the lowest on the most expensive plan. If you’re using a third-party gateway such as PayPal or Stripe, Shopify will charge you an additional fee on all plans. However, the extra fee goes down with more expensive plans.
Additional plans include Shopify Lite which allows you to insert the company’s buy button on your existing website as well as its plan geared specifically for enterprises and high volume merchants.
All Shopify plans are billed on a month-to-month billing cycle unless you sign up for an annual or biennial plan and include a 14-day free trial.
Security and Uptime Guarantee
As an e-commerce platform, Shopify takes security seriously, especially given what happens if consumer data becomes compromised.
Aside from the SSL certificate, Shopify is level-1 PCI compliant to ensure your customer’s credit card data is processed securely. All the updates and platform management happen automatically and Shopify guarantees 99.99% uptime and 24/7 monitoring to make sure your store is always online.
Shopify vs. BigCommerce
If you're looking at Shopify, you're probably looking at BigCommerce as well.
BigCommerce's selling points over Shopify include lower transaction costs (meaning you pay less to use the product overall), includes more features out of the box (rather than relying on you to install them as apps or integrations), and enforces fewer limits based on purchased subscription plan. You can get all of this for just a small price increase over Shopify.
Given all of this, why would you choose Shopify over BigCommerce? Well, Shopify offers more integrations with payment processors, better-looking storefront themes, and robust community that can help you implement almost any project.
In short, the two are comparable, but it appears that Shopify goes for depth over breadth in terms of features.
What Makes It Different
Shopify offers plenty of features that are on par with many of its competitors. What makes the platform stand out is the ease-of-use, which makes it a suitable platform for complete novices to the world of websites and online selling.
Another standout feature is the Lite plan, which allows you to sell on a Facebook page and Messenger or on an existing WordPress, SquareSpace, or Tumblr website. This is a great choice for those who want to sell a few simple products and don’t need the complete functionality of an e-commerce platform.
Lastly, the ability to hire one of the company’s experts for help sets it apart and allows you to get specialized help without a high price tag.
Who is it For?
Shopify is a great choice for those who want to start an e-commerce store, whether they are starting from scratch or want to bring their physical store online. It is one of the best options around for those who are serious about selling — those who do well can certainly earn money, though there are no promises on whether you'll become rich or not!
It is an easy-to-use platform suitable for complete beginners who don’t have the coding skills necessary to develop an online store from scratch, however, it can also be used by more experienced users that want complete control over their store’s functionality and design. Nearly anyone, of any skill level, can use it.
In summary, Shopify makes it easy to start an online store and includes a variety of features designed to help you promote and market it.
The company’s support center features abundant resources that guide you every step of the way and the available plans accommodate both small stores and high-volume merchants.
Your Review of Shopify
Are you a current or past customer of Shopify? Would you recommend them? Please leave your comments below and let our visitors know what you think of Shopify's speed, features and customer service.