Shopify Review

Sophisticated features, an intuitive system, and responsive customer support? Shopify has all that and more.
By Kate Loyola | Last Updated: November 21, 2017
Shopify

If you’re looking to launch an online business, you can’t go wrong with Shopify. This e-commerce giant has been raking in praise since it first launched, and for good reason. Over the years, Shopify has greatly expanded its platform’s capabilities, developing mobile apps, payment systems, partnerships with industry leaders like Amazon, and more — easily becoming the most powerful tool for budding online entrepreneurs.

Does that sound daunting? Don’t worry. For all the capabilities it places at your fingertips, Shopify remains a streamlined, intuitive system that you can navigate with ease.

Pros

  • Shopify’s ready-made, customizable online stores will have you selling in no time.
  • You’ll enjoy extensive SEO support, from basics like custom meta tags to social media integration, ad credits, and discount coupon generation.
  • You don’t have to worry about security, with Shopify providing an SSL certificate and PCI compliance right off the bat.
  • Detailed analytics keep you on top of all aspects of your shop’s performance, so you can adjust your business strategy as needed.

Cons

  • You’ll pay transaction fees if you use payment gateways other than Shopify’s standard system.

About the Company

Founded in 2004, Shopify is a Canada-based company that specializes in e-commerce software and point-of-sale (POS) systems. It counts well over 400,000 merchants in its user base. Just this January, it integrated its system with Amazon, giving its merchants the ability to sell products on Amazon directly from their Shopify stores.

Pricing

Shopify offers a number of plans for merchants from all points of the spectrum, from social media-based sellers to high-volume enterprises.

Shopify has three main plans targeted at new and growing businesses, with price points ranging from $29 to $299. Even the lowest-tier plan comes with more than enough features to launch your business with a bang, though more premium features get unlocked the higher up the pricing ladder you go. Bear in mind that no plan is exempt from transaction fees if you plan to use external payment gateways like Paypal and Stripe, though Shopify’s cut tends to be a small percentage overall.

Basic Shopify: $29/month

The Basic plan comes with all of Shopify’s core features, including support for unlimited storage and unlimited products in your inventory. You’ll get:

  • a free website and blog for your business
  • an SSL certificate to ensure better security for you and your customers
  • shipping for your shop, complete with discounts on your shipping costs

Speaking of discounts, you’ll also have the ability to offer discount codes to your customers — perfect for promoting your store.

Shopify: $79/month

The standard Shopify plan builds on the Basic’s set of features, mostly by adding access to top-tier analytics that help you monitor your store’s performance and growth. Transaction fees and shipping costs also go down further, and you’ll get more tools like gift cards and abandoned cart recovery to help you shore up more sales.

Advanced Shopify: $299/month

It’s a big price jump from the standard Shopify plan, but really, the only difference here is the added capacity for scale. What does that mean? Mostly more staff accounts, plus lower rates for payment transaction fees and Shopify-supported shipping.

Speaking of shipping, this plan lets you use third-party couriers like UPS and FedEx, so this is your only choice if you want to offer a range of shipping options to your customers. You’ll also get advanced reports that you can customize to highlight the metrics you want to focus on. Both of those new features are definitely useful, though perhaps not “an additional $129” useful.

Branching Out with Shopify

Whether you’re a smaller business or a much larger enterprise than the three main plans are built for, Shopify still has you covered. The Shopify Lite and Shopify Plus plans represent the company’s attempts to broaden its user base further.

Shopify Lite: $9/month

If your store is more of a personal side hustle, then this is the perfect plan for you. Social media-based sellers will like Shopify Lite’s integrations Facebook’s Pages and Messenger elements, which include features like allowing customers to place and track orders directly in chat.

Meanwhile, ready-to-use Buy Buttons are a quick way to set up a simple storefront on your existing site, be it on WordPress, Tumblr, or other platforms.

Essential tools like invoicing are also available, and if you tend to move shop a lot, the included point-of-sale (POS) app that lets you take payments from your mobile device is a godsend.

Shopify Plus: Custom Pricing

By contrast, Shopify Plus is for those established businesses with needs that exceed even the Advanced Shopify plan’s capabilities. If you handle massive order volumes or have unique requirements for your online storefront, this is the way to go.

Features

Shopify has it all, and then some: from a business website builder to built-in payment gateway and shipping support to optional in-person retail tools, you’ll have everything you need to kickstart a modern business.

Customizable Storefront

Shopify has ready-to-deploy store modules that you can customize as much as you like. To help with that, the company offers hundreds of themes, both free and premium. (The latter come in at an average price of around $140, give or take a few dollars.) Bear in mind that themes can come with different settings and options, so make sure to check each theme for the features you need before installing it. Luckily, Shopify lets you preview a theme installation before actually making it go live.

The ready access to your site’s HTML and CSS makes for even more flexibility if you’ve got the know-how, though Shopify’s extensive branding interface also allows for easy customization even if you avoid direct code-editing. Aside from the website and store themselves, you’ll also get automatic mobile-ready shopping carts and powerful content publishing features through Shopify’s own content management system.

The best part about Shopify’s online store, however, is the ability to extend and customize its functionality by bolting on apps from Shopify’s extensive directory. You can pick and choose features as you see fit, which is a great way to tailor your site’s features to your specific needs without risk of bloat.

Product Management

You’re running a business, though, so odds are you’ll devote more of your time to managing product inventories. That’s not a problem, as Shopify includes a sophisticated product management system.

You can have an unlimited number of products grouped into categories, types, and so on, with smart collections to make the job of organizing even smoother. The inventory can take on variations for each product, and functions like automatic stock counts and corresponding storefront updates (e.g., mark a product as out of stock as soon as inventory zeroes out) cut down on the work of keeping everything up to date.

If you’re making good use of that unlimited inventory size with a vast catalog of products, don’t worry: Shopify also supports importing and exporting product lists, either through CSV or one of its import/export apps, to make catalog-building a breeze.

Payments and Shipping

Shopify doesn’t just cover the creation of your online store; it also provides all the ancillary services necessary for any shop. There’s support for all kinds of payment gateways, from Paypal to bitcoin and everything in between, as well as direct credit card payments. Shopify has its own payment system too, which is great if you’d rather not bring in a third-party gateway.

Similarly, Shopify also has infrastructure in place to automatically cover shipping for your products. You can offer free shipping, choose from a range of shipping rates, or even bring in third-party carriers like UPS and FedEx or fulfillment services like Amazon and Shipwire.

Customer Management

Returning customers will keep your business afloat in the long term, and Shopify gives you the tools to make sure you encourage continued patronage from your store visitors. Customers can create accounts or check out as guests, and you can get better insight into their shopping behavior through reports on their order histories and related details. For easier viewing, you can also group customers according to location, shopping habits, and so on.

Beyond the Basics

With POS tools, marketing and SEO support, analytics, and optimized mobile apps, Shopify doesn’t stop at simple online sales.

Retail Point-of-Sale (POS) Tools

If you want to sell products in person, you can add POS tools to your Shopify plan for an additional $49 per month.

The Shopify POS system is a mobile app that works by syncing with the product inventory in your Shopify account and turning your device into an all-in-one shopping cart and payment portal. You can even set custom payment types or use an external card terminal, barcode scanner, or other checkout hardware that you want to integrate. It’s a powerful but lightweight solution for pop ups, fair booths, and other businesses on the go.

Marketing and SEO

As with the other aspects of your business, Shopify offers a lot of support when it comes to marketing and building your brand visibility. Social media integration includes all the big networks like Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter, so you can really push for good word-of-mouth promotion. Support for product reviews on your own site can also boost your products’ appeal, and the ability to offer discount codes, coupons, and gift cards will serve you well for various promotional campaigns.

As for the tech side of things, Shopify supports SEO measures like meta tags, automatically generated site maps, and so on. Plus, you can even get Google Adwords credits to help boost your online presence.

Analytics

Depending on your chosen plan, Shopify can give you performance reports that go into varying degrees of detail. Reports can cover information like product sales, customer referrals, unique site visits, and more. You’ll have access to the data through an interactive dashboard that helps you translate the information into direct action or changes that will further optimize your store. If you want to dig deeper into a report, you can also export it as a handy spreadsheet.

Mobile Apps

The great thing about Shopify? It can adapt to your needs, and that includes being able to keep up with you wherever you happen to do business. The iOS and Android apps are easy to use and include essential features like order fulfillment, access to your account’s central dashboard, and inventory management. The automatic syncing with your online store’s data ensures that you’re making decisions and acting based on the latest information from your store.

Ease of Use

Shopify is a powerful, feature-packed system, but it never feels overwhelming or excessively complex.

Shopify’s user interface is uncluttered and sensibly laid out, so you can easily find any option you want to view or tweak. The system itself is easy to pick up, with clear, simple menu options and layouts so you easily understand what you can do to bring about the effects you want for your website. Overall, the interface is clean; the controls, straightforward. You’ll have a store up and running in no time.

Hosting and Domains

Shopify provides hosting and CDN services for your online store and website, with the option to use a custom domain name if you want.

All of the merchant websites created by Shopify users come with automatic hosting, though you won’t be able to switch to a different host if you want. (In those cases, it’s probably better to first create a website on your chosen host and integrate your Shopify store with your site.)

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, as Shopify’s web hosting includes:

  • an SSL certificate
  • PCI compliance (essential for credit card payments and overall customer security)
  • unlimited bandwidth
  • the option to use your own domain name

You can configure Shopify to use a domain obtained through a separate registrar, or you can purchase a new domain directly through Shopify.

Better yet, Shopify provides content delivery network (CDN) services to ensure fast page loading times and accommodation of a larger group of customers at any one time. Downtime can be disastrous for any online business, and a CDN’s vast server network can reduce the risk of site slowdowns and crashes.

Customer Support

Shopify provides tons of resources to help beginners and experienced merchants alike, and the support team posts impressive response times on live chat, email, or phone.

Shopify’s Help Center, user forums, and resource library contain a wealth of information that will help you with any and all aspects of running an online business. You’ve got the usual FAQ and how-to guides, but Shopify goes the extra mile with tutorial videos, podcasts, and even free tools like logo makers, privacy policy generators, and profit margin calculators. Whatever your level of expertise, you can certainly squeeze a lot of use out of Shopify’s resources.

For more direct assistance, the Shopify support team is available 24/7 through live chat, email, and phone. You don’t have to worry about being left hanging, either, as the team regularly updates their page with average response times so you can gauge how long you’ll have to wait for a solution.

Comparisons

There are a lot of Shopify competitors out there, including Jimdo and BigCommerce. So how does Shopify stack up?

Why Pick Shopify?

Simply put, Shopify is the best in the field. With an extensive array of features, reasonable monthly prices, an incredibly easy to use interface, and responsive customer support, this system covers all the bases when it comes to online business.

Why Pick Jimdo or BigCommerce?

For all of Shopify’s features, though, the fact remains that it’s a system best suited for commercial goods/materials. Jimdo‘s edge is in its ability to better accommodate other forms of paid commodities and services. Writers, musicians, artists, and more will probably have an easier time setting up shop with Jimdo compared to Shopify.

BigCommerce, meanwhile, covers most of the areas that Shopify also excels in. So why consider BigCommerce? Two main reasons: lower prices and more extensive marketing and SEO tools.

BigCommerce’s plans come in at $5 – $50 lower than Shopify’s, depending on which package you choose. As for marketing and SEO, BigCommerce exceeds Shopify’s offerings by including more robust email marketing tools, sales integrations with eBay and other third-party affiliates, the option to get listed on shopping comparison sites for further coverage, and more.

Shopify Review – Conclusion

Shopify is a comprehensive business solution that will boost new and established businesses alike.

From unlimited inventory sizes to automatic shipping and payment support and more, you’ll find everything you need to set up a successful online business here. Sophisticated customization options let your business’ unique style and brand shine through, but if all those features sound scary, don’t worry: one of Shopify’s biggest strengths is its clean, intuitive interface.

This is a well-oiled system that can handle most any demand you ask of it with efficiency and grace. Plus, the extensive library of resources and the responsive customer support don’t hurt, either. If you’re looking for an e-commerce website builder, there’s nothing better than Shopify.