For entrepreneurs researching ecommerce platforms, Shopify ecommerce is likely a familiar name, and for good reason. This online store builder is the third most commonly used ecommerce platform, according to Datanyze, because of its simple setup, unique store templates, and backend features that power over one million stores.
As a prospective online business owner, you need to know if Shopify is right for you and this review will cover every aspect of the solution from site design to how shipping is handled so you can make an educated decision for your future business. The future of business is online and Shopify could be the right platform to get you up and running. Read on for the full review or use the index below to jump to the section you’re most curious about.
Pros and Cons
Shopify is an advanced ecommerce store builder with many strengths this guide will highlight but has some things that could be improved. Here are the three primary pros and cons of Shopify.
|Excellent store themes that compete with the best of retailersA great assortment of applications to upgrade your siteAll of the product, transaction, and shipping features you need to sell effectively||Starting plan, Basic Shopify, costs $3 more a month than Squarespace and more than the free, WooCommerceTransaction costs can be expensive depending on your plan if you don’t use Shopify PaymentsShopify URLs are relatively uncustomizable with required URL paths|
Themes: 223 Free and Premium Templates
One of the benefits of using Shopify, or another ecommerce builder, over building your own online store from scratch is the ability to choose the right theme for your products and the mood you want to convey. Shopify offers users 223 professional, responsive themes, each with 2-4 style variations, to set your online business up for success.
Shopify offers 11 industry categories of themes including Clothing & Fashion, Electronics, and Home & Garden as well as categories like ‘Minimalist’ or ‘Great for Large Inventories’ if you’re attempting to capture a particular look for your site. Shopify’s themes are all top of line and match the quality of the best big retailers you’re competing with like Urban Outfitters or Overstock.com. Some themes are designed by Shopify itself while others are created by third party designers and may cost up to $180.
Once you find a theme you like, you can explore variations of it which are called styles. These different styles change the look of the home page and header but the colors of each theme can always be changed later. Be sure to review the Theme Features section of each theme as it will break down what’s included like slide out menus or specifications like ‘built for a big catalog.’
Key Takeaway: Shopify offers hundreds of modern, responsive themes for any type of physical product which will help you find just the right one for your new store.
Designer: Intuitive and Effective Editor
Shopify offers a simple, no-code-needed site designer to customize your site with ease regardless of your previous background in site design. You can add or remove elements from the core theme you’ve chosen, editing text, changing colors, adding images, and moving around elements.
Through Shopify’s designer, you can innovatively change or add an announcement bar to welcome visitors or direct them to a section of your site. It’s important to choose the right theme you’d like to transform your site with but if you’d like to switch to a different theme, you can do so multiple times. Shopify’s designer also allows you to transform your site with code if you’re more technically-abled and want to make specific changes.
Adding products in Shopify is a breeze and you can even edit products in bulk if you have many you’re managing. Editing these pages are similar to designing the rest of your site. You can add images, change text, and rearrange elements to beautify the view for your customers.
Key Takeaway: The Shopify designer and product editors have a low learning curve and there are plenty of resources online if you get stuck.
Applications: Upgrade Your Site With New Features
The Shopify App Store offers an impressive array of apps and integrations to upgrade your online store. There are hundreds of apps to choose from, some paid and others free, to beautify your site, better market it, improve logistics, and more.
Shopify’s App Store is very impressive and presents great applications that will supercharge your site. Some of the apps offered in the store offer trials, free but limited abilities, or are outright free. Some apps could truly make your online business, like Foodee, an order dashboard for restaurants that presents new orders and helps you manage incoming orders.
28 apps in the store are designed by Shopify and include Shopify Email, email marketing for ecommerce, Retail Barcode Labels for creating and printing labels for products, Shopify Chat, a live chat marketing tool, and more.
Key Takeaway: The Shopify App Store is a true value add for online businesses and will help you unlock features for your ecommerce business that are unavailable on other platforms.
Ecommerce Plans: 3 options from $29 to $299 per month
There are three main Shopify ecommerce plans to choose from if you plan to go with Shopify. Basic Shopify, Shopify, and Advanced Shopify offer many of the same features with ranging bonus abilities like reporting and additional staff accounts. There are no setup fees or POS fees for any of these plans.
|Basic Shopify||Shopify||Advanced Shopify|
|Add unlimited products to your storeCreate 2 staff accountsAssign inventory to up to 4 retail locations or warehouses Abandoned Cart Recovery featureShipping discount up to 64%||All basic featuresUp to 5 staff accountsAssign inventory to 5 retail locations or warehouses Professional reports on store performanceShipping discount up to 72%||All Basic and Shopify featuresAssign inventory to up to 8 locations or warehousesUp to 15 staff accounts Advanced report builder Compare shipping rate for your account and third-party appsShipping discount up to 74%|
The pricing for these plans are all monthly but you can expect to pay less if you opt for a one, two, or three year contract. You’ll pay slightly lower credit card and shipping costs for the Shopify plan and even less for the Advanced Shopify plan so if you’re doing a lot of shipping and conducting many transactions, the more expensive plans may be worthwhile.
If you already have a site but just want to add Shopify Ecommerce abilities to it, you can opt for Shopify Lite. If you’re a high volume merchant, you should consider Shopify Plus, their enterprise solution.
Key Takeaway: The differences between each plan aren’t that stark but if you’re a higher volume merchant or want a particular feature or decreased transaction costs, consider Shopify or Advanced Shopify.
What are the advantages of Shopify?
The advantages of Shopify are its excellent store themes that compete with the best of retailers, its great assortment of applications to upgrade your site, and the many features included in plans like easy shipping and quick tax calculations.
What are the disadvantages of Shopify?
The disadvantages of Shopify are its more expensive than average plans than Squarespace and Woocommerce, its semi-expensive transaction costs if you’re not using Shopify payments, and its inflexible URL structure which could be unideal for SEO.
Ecommerce Specifics: Transaction Fees, Taxes, and More
Shopify comes with a number of ecommerce features including marketing, tax, shipping, and payment abilities that are worth considering before you make your choice.
Through Shopify, you can directly market or sell your products on Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Messenger. Shopify intelligently allows customers to manage these efforts through their platform so if you want to expand your market, Shopify can help you do it.
Shopify also helps business owners remind customers of their abandoned carts through email or site banners. These actions will help you move products and cut down on lost sales.
Another helpful feature of Shopify is customer logins. By allowing customers to create accounts for your store, you can increase the odds of customers coming back with easy checkouts, saved preferences and payment information, and more.
As mentioned in the Plan section, transaction fees will decrease the more advanced your Shopify plan is. Calculate the cost of the plan versus how many transactions you plan on conducting and the potential savings of upgrading to either of the more advanced plans.
You can add an additional 2% in fees to Basic Shopify, 1% to Shopify, and 0.5% for Advanced if you don’t plan to use Shopify Payments but another payment processor.
|Basic Shopify||Shopify||Advanced Shopify|
|Online credit card rates||2.9% + 30¢||2.6% + 30¢||2.4% + 30¢|
|In-person credit card rates||2.7% + 0¢||2.5% + 0¢||2.4% + 0¢|
You can use Stripe, PayPal, among many other payment processors, but you’ll save far more using Shopify Payments Gateway as mentioned.
Shopify is an excellent choice for shipping and dropshipping. You’ll save on rates up to 64 – 74% for most shipping providers depending on your plan. In addition, Shopify will connect you with fulfillment providers if you don’t want to handle procurement and shipments yourself.
For each state in the United States and some additional countries, Shopify can make your life easier by pulling tax information and correctly calculating tax costs. You’ll still need to file state taxes but it will be an easier process come tax season with their help. For more information, you can read up on their tax policies.
Key Takeaway: Shopify has most of the ecommerce features you would want as an ecommerce business owner. Shopify transaction fees are a tad high especially if you don’t use Shopify Payments.
SEO: Increase Organic Traffic to Your Store
Shopify has a developed set of SEO features at users’ disposal. Shopify makes optimizing your homepage and product pages for search a breeze, and provides recommendations for keyword optimizations. In addition, Shopify provides advice on submitting your sitemap to Google to ensure all pages are crawled.
Another great feature of SEO on Shopify is their sheer number of SEO apps. There are 99 SEO-related apps to choose from which is far more than competitors like Squarespace or Wix. One issue with Shopify SEO is their mandated URL structures. Users are unable to remove sections of URLs like ‘/collections/’ paths. This isn’t the worst problem to deal with but Google does favor shorter, simple URLs.
Key Takeaway: While Shopify certainly isn’t a household name for SEO in the website builder ecosystem (like WordPress, for example), it still offers the essential tools and abilities you need to rank.
Blog: Gain Readers and New Customers
Shopify’s blog is a straightforward platform for publishing content. It isn’t ideal if you plan to publish a lot of content or wish to make blogging your primary customer acquisition strategy (WooCommerce is the ecommerce king here) but it will get the job done if you want to publish company updates or occasionally write on relevant topics to your store.
Shopify’s blogging platform allows you to host multiple authors and the editor looks strikingly like WordPress’s publisher so it will be easy to learn if you have experience using that site. One downside of Shopify blogging is that there are no categories for posts you can host content under, just tags you can associate with content.
Key Takeaway: Shopify’s blogging platform will get the job done for occasional content but shouldn’t be relied upon if you want to create a blogging powerhouse for your brand.
Additional features: Security, POS, and Analytics
A few additional features that should be covered on Shopify are its excellent security and backups protocol, its efficient POS software and hardware, and its analytics and reporting (if you use Shopify or Shopify Advanced plans).
Shopify keeps businesses and customers’ sites and information secure with a secure network, cardholder data protections, and industry-standard information security processes. You can rest easy and have your customers due the same if you use Shopify.
In addition, Shopify allows you to download backups of your site via CSV or if you pay $3/month, they’ll backup your site daily with the Rewind Backup app, allowing you to restore your site or recover it if something goes awry. For peace of mind, this may be a good investment.
Shopify’s Point of Sale software is state-of-the-art, allows you to connect physical and online selling, track inventory, and allow for a seamless customer checkout experience. Shopify allows you to sell using POS software with a tablet or phone or you can buy Shopify POS hardware for your brick-and-mortar location. The hardware will set you back $89 a month while the software option comes with your plan and will charge you 2.4% on all transactions.
With Shopify POS, you can handily allow customers to buy online and pick up in store, send receipts to customers, and handle returns and exchanges with ease.
Regardless of plan, every Shopify customer can access an analytics dashboard and finances reports. If you want acquisitions, behaviors, inventory, and marketing reports, you’ll need to become a Shopify Basics user. If you want sales, profits, customers, and custom reports, you’ll need to upgrade to the Shopify plan. Ideally, this would all be included for Shopify customers but hey, some features need to be paywalled.
Key Takeaway: Shopify security and backup, Point of Sale software, and analytics and reporting abilities are all stellar and will help you run your business more safely, better, and more intelligently.
Final Verdict: A Great Ecommerce Builder With a Few Flaws
Shopify is one of many ecommerce options but is rightly popular because of its great features, selection of applications, professional themes, excellent security, efficient ecommerce abilities, and more that was covered in this guide. If you’re just getting started in ecommerce, it’s an excellent place to start and set up, especially if you’re dropshipping.
If you plan to build a larger blog library, WooCommerce could be worth further consideration or if you’d like to host a large product catalog, BigCommerce is a better option. Besides these suggestions and the previously covered criticism including transaction fees and plan prices, Shopify is a choice you likely won’t regret (and may just brag to your friends about).