Shopify Review: A Look at One of the Most Popular All-in-One Ecommerce Solutions
Shopify has become the go-to eCommerce platform for many, over 325,000 to be exact, which includes the likes of Tesla, Google and Wikipedia. Its popularity is the reason why you’re reading this review. Its all-in-one solution allows you to build an online store, from start to finish, without ever leaving the Shopify interface.
It takes all of the developmental and technical skills usually required to build an online store and packs them into a platform that allows the average store owner to design and build their own website with simple point-and-click maneuvers.
However, it’s not the only platform that allows you to do this, so let’s take a closer look at its features to see what sets it apart.
Shopify was founded in 2006 with “a team of 5 working out of a local coffee shop to a team of over 1,750 working in 5 offices across North America.” The company’s first shop was their own, and they now have over 325,000 customers who’ve made over $24 billion worth of sales.
When the team first started, they noticed the struggles they had in building an online store was shared by like-minded entrepreneurs. They decided to do something about it by building a software that catered to wannabe entrepreneurs and small business owners who lacked the technical knowledge or funds to build their own sites.
Let’s see how well Shopify has done building a platform for a non-technical crowd.
The Pros of Selling with Shopify
Shopify is designed for simplicity, to be possible to set up a shop without the help of a web designer. There are many advantages to using Shopify because of this. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
1. All-in-One Solution
A major factor contributing to Shopify’s popularity is the fact that it’s an all-in-one solution. Hosting, web design and payment gateways are all handled by Shopify. They even have a built-in blogging platform, allowing you to build a fully-fledged website.
2. Ease of Use
Shopify is also known for its ease of use, something I found to be quite true. It starts with the account setup process, which took me less than two minutes to complete. You can start out with the free, 2-week trial by entering your email address on the Shopify homepage.
You’re taken to the main user interface screen where you’ll create products and manage your store after completing the quick setup process. This interface is straightforward and incredibly simple to use. Let’s start with the design of your site.
The default theme looks surprisingly good, which is great if you’re just starting out. It’s also easy to customize with Shopify Sections. Shopify Sections is a drag-and-drop page builder feature built into the interface’s theme customizer.
It allows you to add image sliders with text overlay, featured products, featured collections, blog posts and more without needing to know how to code. The only downfall is the fact that there’s no element to add a header with a call-to-action.
There are also a number of different themes you can install and purchase if you don’t like the default theme or wish to extend the number of features you have access to. These are available in the theme store, which has a decent selection of free themes. This store also provides a wonderful opportunity to developers looking for a new marketplace to sell to.
The Shopify interface itself is also easy to use, especially when creating products. You can add a title, description, images, prices, SKUs/barcodes, shipping options and variants with ease. You can even create an unlimited number of products.
3. Shopify Pricing
Shopify seems expensive at first glance, but they’re pricing makes sense. It starts with Shopify Lite, which is available at $9/month. This plan doesn’t offer hosting or even an entire website, but it does allow you to sell on your own website or on a number of different external platforms, including a physical location. You can even use it to send invoices.
Here are the main plans:
- Shopify Basic – $29/month
- Shopify – $79/month
- Shopify Advanced – $299/month
You’ll receive a 10% discount if you pay annually, and a 20% discount if you pay biennially.
Shopify even has its own app store filled with a number of different plugins and extensions. A lot of useful plugins are available free of charge. They include MailChimp for Shopify, Order Printer to make printing invoices, labels and packing slips as easy as can be, and Product Reviews.
You’ll also find a number of affordable extras. This includes Kit, a virtual employee that handles email marketing integration and advertising for Facebook and Instagram. Kit is available for as little as $10/month.
4. Numerous Ways to Sell
Shopify is known for being a dedicated ecommerce solution that hosts your store for you, but there are multiple ways to sell with it. I mentioned a few earlier, such as Shopify POS. This feature allows you to accept credit cards in person, essentially allowing you to blend physical sales with your ecommerce ventures.
You can also sell on social media without having to redirect customers to your site. They’ll complete their orders directly on the social media platform they’re using. This feature is available for Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.
5. Shopify Customer Service
Shopify offers 24/7 customer service through such mediums as live chat, email and phone. You can also receive help from other Shopify sellers in the forum. You’ll even receive replies from Shopify staff.
There’s also an extensive amount of content designed to help new and experienced merchants. These are available as articles in the knowledge base, known as the Help Center, but they’re also available in such formats as free ebooks, videos, podcasts and success stories from other sellers.
6. Security at Shopify
Shopify handles your hosting needs for you, so you’ll also be delighted to hear they’ve got security covered as well. They’re PCI compliant on a Level 1 basis, and free SSL certificates are offered on all premium plans. They even have a reputation for maintaining a 99.99% uptime performance average.
7. Store Management
Shopify allows you to keep track of a number of different things. This includes the ability to keep track of abandoned carts and enable desktop notifications that sends an alert whenever an order is placed. You can also keep track of customers in the Customer History section.
The most powerful and detailed sections are the Reports and Dashboard sections. The Reports section contains a lot of information that breaks down the sales you receive. Sales are broken down by month, product, hour, product variant, SKU, vendor, marketing campaigns and more.
You’ll also see reports on customer acquisitions so you know how well your marketing campaigns are working. You’ll even be able to view a summary of your finances in regards to sales, taxes and payments.
The Dashboard section contains important analytics for your site. These include specific information on where your customers are coming from as well as what your top landing pages are.
8. Shopify Shipping
Shopify offers discounted shipping rates for those who ship with the United States Postal Service and Canada Post. You’re also able to buy and print labels from inside the Shopify admin panel. This means labels can be printed in advance, which saves you time at the post office.
You can also add a list of active carriers you use and define shipping zones and rates to give customers accurate shipping quotes.
9. Staff Accounts
Shopify offers staff accounts for teams. You can create different accounts for different members of your team and give or withhold certain allowances to each account. There are two in the Basic plan, 5 on the Shopify plan and 15 on the Advanced plan.
The Cons of Selling with Shopify
Nobody’s perfect, and Shopify is no different. There are fewer disadvantages to using it than there are advantages, but some may be severe enough to keep you from using this service.
1. Transaction Fees
All plans use Shopify Payments by default, which is powered by Stripe. An order placed with a credit card has a transaction fee as high as 2.9% + $0.30. This amount lowers with a more premium plan but only just.
You’ll be charged as much as 2% per transaction if you use a payment gateway outside of Shopify Payments, such as PayPal. This is in addition to the credit card fee other payment gateways charge, which means you could pay as much as 4.9% + $0.30 per transaction.
This is unfortunate seeing as how you should diversify the way you get paid in case something happens with one income stream, such as the infamous horror stories of accounts being frozen or closed without notice by PayPal and Stripe.
2. Cost of Some Apps & Themes May Raise Costs
A lot of apps and themes are available free of charge, but some are pretty expensive. Premium apps are not charged on a yearly or one-time basis. They’re charged on a monthly basis, which adds to the monthly fee and transaction fees you’re already paying.
Some premium apps only cost a few dollars per month, but some are available at several hundred dollars every month.
3. No Proper Category System
Shopify only allows you to create parent categories, tags and product variants. You cannot create subcategories. This means you can’t create a parent Men’s category and add Shirts, Shoes and Sleepwear as child categories.
4. Products Can Only Have 3 Options
You can give 100 variants to products, but you can only create three options for each product. An option acts as a parent and a variant acts as an option’s child. For example, Color is an option, and black, white and red are its variants.
Who is Shopify for?
Shopify is for first-time sellers and sellers with basic products that do not have too many variants. If you have different types of products that need to be separated into categories and subcategories, you may want to consider hosting your store elsewhere. Adding this functionality to a Shopify store with an app will add an additional $10/month to your monthly fee.
This platform is also not suitable for sellers who sell products that come in a variety of different options. This includes sellers who use a “build your own” feature in their stores.
If you only plan on selling simple products and do not want to go through the hassle of having to hire a web designer, accountant and other entities to help you manage your store, Shopify is definitely worth a try.