Shopify Review – Is This the Platform to Use?
Shopify is perhaps one of the world’s best known ecommerce applications that enable you to build an online store. It gives you a range of customizable templates so that you can create something that fits with your brand image, and you can use it to sell both digital and physical goods. The site has been designed for those who are not expert web builders or designers, as Shopify seems to understand that store owners are experts in their niche, rather than in the web design niche. Hence, it is an incredibly user friendly platform, and is one that does allow you to manipulate the CSS and HTML code if you know how to do that, so that you can further customize your store.
Shopify is hosted, which means you don’t have to install any software on servers, nor do you have to pay separately for hosting services. Rather, everything happens ‘out of the b ox’, as Shopify calls it, which means that everything you need to build your store and run it is available in one single space. According to Shopify, some 200,000 stores are now hosted through them.
What I Liked about Shopify
- Shopify offers a range of different plans and their ‘Lite’ option is one of the cheapest on the market. This means that opening a hosted selling solution is now more affordable than ever.
- If you use the Stripe payment gateway, you don’t have to pay any transaction fees.
- The interface is really user friendly and quite clean.
- It comes with quite a nice selection of free templates, which are all responsive.
- It has some cool point of sale options, and these really make Shopify stand out.
- PayPal can very easily integrate with Shopify
- Shopify is massive, hosting some 200,000 stores. This means you can be relatively secure in the knowledge that they aren’t suddenly going to shut down.
- It is very easy to get more out of Shopify through its various third party apps. However, many of these are paid for apps.
- Shopify comes with an integrated Buy Button, which means that you can use platforms like Jimdo, Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress and integrate your Shopify store.
What I Didn’t Like about Shopify
- Stripe, the Shopify payment gateway, only allows you to sell from the UK, Australia, Canada, and the US. If you are in a different country, you have to add a new payment gateway and these have to be paid for.
- If you do use a third party for your payment gateway, you must pay transaction fees.
- There are credit card fees as well, even if you stick to the Shopify Payments option. Transaction fees are simply unavoidable.
- You cannot automatically set the aspect ratio on all your product images. This means that your store can look quite messy, unless you crop and resize them before you actually upload them. If you’ve only just opened your Shopify store, you will probably have to redo your designs quite regularly.
- The abandoned cart saver is not very well-integrated.
- It is quite difficult to add items to new drop down menus, or to create drop down menus.
- The Lite plan, which is the most popular because it is the cheapest, doesn’t give you a fully featured store.
Shopify has different features in its different plans. However, from the Basic Plan ($29) and up, you will always get:
- The opportunity to sell products, digital or physical, and the ability to organize these into categories with their own shipping methods and shipping rates
- Lots of different themes that you can use
- The ability to use Stripe to process credit card payments, although you can also add a third party gateway
- A good blog
- Full PayPal integration
- A content management system (CMS)
- The ability to import and export your customer data
- Options for search engine optimization (SEO), with good hints and tips on how and where to add which keywords
- Mailchimp integration
- The ability to process discount codes
- The opportunity to change the HTML and CSS codes
- An easy to use ‘Buy Now’ button that can be added to other sites and blogs, enabling people to quickly purchase your goods
- Full point of sale integration
Professional and unlimited plans give you a few more features, including:
- Better reports
- Gift card functionality
- The abandoned cart functionality, which means you will be alerted of cart that has been left so that you can send the customer a reminder email. This has been shown to be a really good marketing tool, but Shopify seems to have missed the mark a little bit, only offering very basic functionality. Plus, it is the one element of Shopify that is not particularly user friendly
Lastly, if you sign up for unlimited, you also get:
- Real time carrier shipping
- Advanced report building
Shopify comes with 12 free ‘themes’ or templates as standard. Each of these are available with either two or three variations, which means that there are actually 36 different options to choose from. All of them are really good and they are fully responsive. Hence, your site will always be visible, even across mobile devices.
Shopify also offers a number of paid for templates. You have around 100 to choose from and more are added every once in a while. The cost is between $100 and $180, which is cheaper than other sites. These paid for templates are also fully responsive.
Shopify App Market
Shopify has excellent core functionality, but they also have a really good app store. Here, you can get both free and paid for apps, enabling you to really turn your store into something interactive and cool. Some of the apps you can get include:
- Accounting apps, such as Quickbooks
- Data capture apps
- Advanced reporting apps
- Abandoned cart apps, which exceed the free one you get with Shopify as standard by quite a lot
Shopify aims to be ‘out of the box’, but that doesn’t mean they offer you everything you could possibly need. But because they are committed to at least offering you the opportunity to get everything you need, they enable you to access a wealth of third party apps, free and paid for, on their App Store. Some of the most popular ones are Aweber, Zendesk, Freshbooks, and Xero.
Shopify is made for ecommerce but the best thing about it is the POS (point of sale) kit. This enables you to sell both through a physical location and online, although only through an iPad. Essentially, the kit comes with a barcode scanner, a card reader, a receipt printer, and a cash drawer. You can also purchase these elements on their own, but the package is more affordable. Card readers are always useful as well.
You can use Shopify’s POS tools in a range of ways. For instance, you could set up a market stall or other type of pop up store at an event, for instance, and make sure your inventory and stock count is synced. You could also have a permanent store as well as an online store, and the POS kit will make sure your inventory and other details are kept up to date.
However, if you want to use the POS kit with different staff members, you have to pay for it. Shopify Retail, as it’s called, costs $40 per month on top of your plan.
A number of different options exist in terms of your plans. They are:
- Lite at $9 per month.
- Basic at $29 per month.
- Pro at $79 per month.
- Unlimited at $179 per month.
- Plus at a negotiable price.
Shopify, currently, is one of the cheapest selling platforms out there, or at least their Lite package is. At just $9 per month, you are able to sell as many goods as you would like. However, you cannot create a really good, fully functional site with this plan. Rather, what you can do is sell through a personal Facebook page, use Shopify in a physical location, and use the Shopify Buy Button, which means you can sell through other pages.
The Buy Button is very popular and resembles the ‘Buy Now’ one you would see on eBay, for instance. On eBay, it links to PayPal directly and you can then save it. On Shopify, it links back to Shopify itself. This means that, if you already have a site, such as a blog or social media account, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Rather, you can instantly and easily link people to your Shopify site.
Once you go higher than the Lite plan, you really get to see Shopify in action. What you get from the Basic onwards is an online store that is fully functional. You will get unlimited bandwidth as well as site store. A hidden gem is the ‘Starter’ pack at $14, for which you are able to sell no more than 25 articles. Unfortunately, there are no details about what would happen if you exceed that.
Some of the things that you may need to look into a bit more include:
- Whether you need the abandoned cart tool. It isn’t the best one on the market, but it is better than nothing. It is also a very successful marketing tool. You can only get this tool if you sign up for the Pro plan, at $79, or above.
- Whether you want to offer your customers gift cards, in which case you have to sign up for professional or unlimited.
- Whether you want to have real time carrier shipping, in which case you must sign up for the unlimited plan.
You can also look into the enterprise grade ‘Shopify Plus’. This is perfect for big businesses and corporate users, larger than smaller enterprises. These can choose things, such as fulfillment, APIs, and security.
Then, there is the fact that Shopify offers payment plans. Although their prices are listed monthly, you can also pay for a full year and get a 10% discount, or you can pay for two years and get a 20% discount. However, it is not recommended that you sign up for those unless you’re 100% sure that you will stay with Shopify, since you won’t get your money back.
Pricing wise, Shopify is pretty equal to other similar site builders. The exception is the Lite plan, which is much cheaper than any other type of plan. While it doesn’t offer much in terms of functionality, it is actually very popular because of the intriguing features that it does have.
Shopify offers a really good customer support solution. They can be reached around the clock, 24/7, 365 days per year, via telephone, chat, or email. This is something that does set them apart from the competition. Some, for instance, don’t offer telephone support, and others don’t offer round the clock support. That being said, Shopify is not unique in offering good solutions, with BigCommerce offering a similar level of support.
Additionally, Shopify offers a really good forum. This is the place to go for more technical questions, such as wanting to know how to code certain parts of your website. That is because the Shopify staff are highly trained on Shopify but not on the development aspects. Forum members, by contrast, are real users who are able to provide you with much better advice overall.
The Final Verdict
It is quite easy to see why Shopify is such a well-known solution out there. If you want to have a hosted, all-in-one solution for your online store, then Shopify is probably the best one out there, particularly if you have both a physical and an online store. It is very user friendly, reasonably affordable, and comes with strong templates.
However, there are some significant disadvantages to Shopify as well, including transaction fees associated with third party payment gateways. Additionally, the abandoned cart saver is nothing but basic. Luckily, you can get a two week free trial with Shopify right now, so you can try it for yourself and see whether or not it is right for you.