Starting an online business is not an easy task. For both businesses selling in a physical store and looking to go digital, and sales beginners - it's always a challenge.
Shopify wants to change that.
Combining a sales management system, a website builder, and a marketing platform, Shopify aims to be an ideal all-in-one solution to sell online.
Sounds good. But there are plenty of things we need to answer, in order to find out if it's a good platform to use. So - let's do it.
Let's review Shopify and its capabilities and see if it's a good fit for your business.
1. What is Shopify?
With over 500,000 users, Shopify is the #1 paid eCommerce platform worldwide. Shopify has tools for building a website, product managing, SEO, marketing, shipping, and payment methods automation.
With several offices worldwide and thousands of employees, Shopify services and shipping include basically every country.
Not only that.
Shopify claims to be a solution both for those just getting their feet in the online business, and eCommerce old-timers. The same Shopify solutions are used by small businesses, just starting out, and huge online enterprises.
Some of the most prominent brands using Shopify include Budweiser, Kylie Cosmetics, Tesla, and Red Bull.
2. How does Shopify work?
It means that you can use all of the features inside the platform, without having to install it anywhere. Everything works from within Shopify's own website and its dashboard.
And the dashboard has plenty of features.
First and foremost, you have a live website builder to build a store with hundreds of templates.
But, to be an all-in-one solution, Shopify integrates all the features to smoothly run an online store.
Shopify's own automated payment methods, tax calculation, integration with major shipping providers, and inventory tracking are included.
It also has a system for tracking your store's performance, uploading and managing products, SEO tools, and marketing options.
There also is a 24/7 customer support team to help you in every step of the process. All in all, there's plenty you can do.
3. What is Shopify pricing?
Shopify has 3 premium options starting at $29/month for the Basic plan. The Shopify plan will cost $79/month and the Advanced plan costs $299/month.
If you exceed $800k in online revenues, Shopify recommends using its Shopify Plus plan starting at $2,000/month.
All of the plans include basic features like online store, unlimited products, 24/7 support, shipping and payment automation, etc.
So how do they compare?
The Basic Shopify plan for $29/month includes 2 staff accounts, discount codes, abandoned cart recovery, up to 64% shipping discounts, and some of the Shopify POS app features. Transactions for credit cards cost 2.9%+$0.30 and third-party payment methods cost an additional 2%.
With the Shopify plan for $79/month, you get 5 staff accounts, gift cards feature, professional reports, and fully working Shopify POS system. Credit card transactions cost 2.6%+$0.30 and you'll pay 1% from the third-party transactions.
The Advanced Shopify plan costing $299/month gets you 15 staff accounts, advanced report builder, third-party shipping rate calculation, and the POS system. Credit card transactions cost 2.4%+$0.30 and third-party transactions have a 0.5% fee.
You can compare the plans here:
|Basic Shopify||Shopify||Advanced Shopify|
|Shipping discount||up to 64%||up to 72%||up to 74%|
|Online credit card rates||2.9%+$0.30||2.6%+$0.30||2.4%+$0.30|
|Fees for 3rd party payments||2%||1%||0.5%|
|Customer support||24/7 Live chat, phone, email, twitter|
If your store grows even bigger than the Advanced plan can support, there's an option for Shopify Plus.
Its price starts at $2000 and based on your revenues might go up. The plan is negotiated personally and includes unlimited bandwidth and transactions.
And if you are only planning to sell on social media platforms, accept payments in person, or add a "Buy Button" to your existing site, the Shopify Lite plan for $9/month may be enough. However, that plan won't allow you to build an online shop and will limit you to only accept payments and track orders.
And while Shopify is not cheap, you are not buying a cat in the bag. The platform has a 14-day free trial that does not require a credit card.
4. What is Shopify hosting performance like?
Shopify guarantees for your store to be up 99.98% of the time. That equals 2 minutes of downtime weekly. Shopify also claims to use blazing fast servers for the fast delivery of your content. So overall, those are some lofty promises.
I've decided to check that myself and the results are impressive. Throughout the week of testing, the server hasn't gone down for a second. And response times were faster than Google's recommended 200ms.
And an online store created with Shopify is well-optimized, too, getting good performance scores - meaning fast loading times.
With the results like this, you prevent conversion losses due to the delays in response times. Also, it won't add up hugely to the page load times, possibly reducing, or at least preventing high bounce rates.
5. What is Shopify website builder like?
From the minute you register with Shopify, it actually builds a default version of the online store which you can later customize.
Once it is ready, you have a number of options on how to go further. You can either choose one of the 10 free or 60+ paid Shopify themes, buy one from other designers, upload your own or ask Shopify experts to design a theme for you.
Talking about Shopify themes, they all are responsive and easily customizable. You also have an option to edit HTML and CSS, so the customization options are all there.
Website builder includes the live editor so you can preview changes at the same time you apply them. Customizing everything, from colors to social media buttons is as easy as playing a game. So, if you know what you want, a day may be enough to set everything up.
With enough work, even the blank canvas can be turned into something pretty. The overall editing experience was very pleasant, there was no lag and you can edit everything with relative ease.
To add even more features, you can use one of the thousands of apps offered by Shopify App Store. The range includes apps from website design to productivity and everything in between.
6. How to sell products on Shopify?
Adding products to eCommerce platforms is usually a manual and laborious work. Shopify, for the most part, is no exception.
To add a product, you'll most likely write its title, description, add photos, type, vendor (if there's one), and tags. You can also add it to the collection, so it's easier to locate in your store.
All in all, not difficult but may require some time.
To solve this issue at least partially, Shopify added a feature so you can upload products from the CSV file. You can export them as well.
The feature will be extremely helpful if you are switching the platforms or a vendor provides you with the product list.
Another option to sell products is the Shopify POS system included in the Shopify and Advanced Shopify plans. It allows managing your physical business alongside the online store.
It means you can track the inventory of both businesses, manage payrolls, taxes, payments, and employee shifts.
So whether you own a physical business already, or just plan to open one along the way, this feature may be pretty useful.
7. Can I dropship with Shopify?
And with Shopify, you can do dropshipping. The platform promises to make it easy with its own Oberlo app. A provider ships the goods you sell from your store directly to your customers so you don't have to store them, and have to only worry about finding the clients.
In the case of Oberlo, its main provider is AliExpress, but there are a bunch of other suppliers you can choose from. There's also a white label selling option so you can put your branding on the packaging, invoices, etc.
Also, you can sync the sales with all of the platforms you sell on, like Facebook or Instagram, and track your inventory.
8. How to manage shipping and payment methods with Shopify?
Either after you upload your products, or before that, you'll need to set up payment and shipping methods. And for that, Shopify has a bunch of options.
If you are not keen on using Shopify Pay, it's possible to integrate with all major payment platforms. It includes Paypal, Apple Pay, and Stripe. Keep in mind the pretty high transaction rates and extra fees of 0.5% to 2% when using third-party providers.
Setting up payment options is easy. In the Payment Providers window, you can select your chosen method. Then, you'll need to fill in your details and click Activate. That's it.
The set-up process includes choosing your shipping areas and selecting pricing calculation options. It can be flat-rate or based on the product, its size, or be area-specific.
TIP: don't forget to write about the shipping in your shipping policy, so the customers have clear guidelines of what to expect.
If the listed providers do not satisfy your needs, it's possible to add third-party couriers. But the shipping costs will only be calculated automatically with the more expensive plans.
9. What are the Shopify SEO and marketing features?
Shopify is very well equipped with tools for boosting SEO and your marketing game. It includes abandoned cart recovery, integration with social media platforms, and marketing campaigns inside the store.
The abandoned cart recovery feature is included in all of the plans. In case a potential customer starts an order, enters an email, and for some reason leaves the cart without completing an order, the follow-up email will be automatically sent to them to remind about the abandoned cart. This way you can recover at least a few customers.
As for the back-end, Shopify automatically generates sitemap.xml file so products and site updates are indexed and can be quickly caught by search engines.
Also, Shopify uses SEO friendly URLs and has customizable headings, descriptions, and metatags.
But you can do even more by installing one of a bunch of apps supported by Shopify. For example, Bulk Image Edit claims to help you easily optimize images, boosting the site speed.
In total, there are 59 apps designated for SEO, and SEO only.
You'll find even more of the apps for marketing, the number reaching over 600.
10. How good Shopify customer support is?
Shopify is rich in ways you can get help with your online store. There's an option for a knowledge base, tutorials and Shopify Academy covering topics from the website set-up to marketing. Also, you can access the live chat, phone, email, and Twitter support 24/7.
But to reach the live support from your dashboard, you'll have to search for the issue in the search bar first:
And then you'll have to search again:
And only then you'll have an option to reach the support.
This could be pretty annoying, especially with time pressing issues.
However, the provided resources are huge. Most likely, you won't even have to contact the live support nine times out of 10. So while slightly awkward, Shopify's customer service is perfectly acceptable.
Shopify Review - the Verdict
Shopify is very good eCommerce platform. It is truly an "everything store" when it comes to online stores. The features it provides and the quality of the service is impressive. The performance of its hosting service is excellent as well.
Yet, Shopify still has some room for improvement.
Compared to some other eCommerce platforms, Shopify pricing is a bit too high, and the high transaction fees increase the costs even more. However, if you're serious about your online sales, it's well worth the fee - both beginner users and big enterprises will find something to like here.
- Excellent performance and uptime
- Broad scaling up options
- User-friendly all around
- Quite expensive
- High transaction rates for 3rd party payment gateways
So what do you think? Share your thoughts down below!