While anyone with the proper website builder can put up a website, create a product gallery, add the ‘Buy now’ button and start selling products online, getting all the pieces of a full-featured online store may be harder than you think.
In the beginning, you may be quite satisfied with your simple site, but as your business grows, you’ll want an easy way to add, remove and hide products; you’ll want to be able to customize the look of your product gallery and you’ll certainly want to have a solid tracking tool to see what and why your site visitors do on your webstore. This is where industry-specific eCommerce website builders come into play.
Today we take a closer look at Shopify, probably the most feature-rich eCommerce platform out there. So let’s talk shop.
#1 Ease of Use
What I like most about Shopify is that you simply can’t get lost there. Once you have registered (there are only three fields to fill out: store name, email address and password), their wizard will guide you through all the stages of website creation.
Once you’ve configured the main settings of your store, you can fine-tune its look using Shopify Storefront Editor (by going to the themes page in your Shopify admin panel).
The editor makes it easy to make changes to your store’s design by splitting your screen into two areas: a live preview and a control panel where you’ll make design choices.
Shopify users can manage their shops from their phones and even their watches – thanks to the family of free Shopify applications for iOS and Android.
Some key features of the mobile apps include: order notification, easy fulfillment (you can send shipping notifications to your clients right from the post office), inventory management (you can take product photos, delete old items, change prices and more). All changes are automatically synced with your online store and Shopify POS.
#2 Feature Set and Flexibility
Functionality is something that Shopify really excels at. Their software can be used not only for creating and managing e-shops, but also to sell at your retail storefront (Shopify POS). Whatever option you choose, you’ll be surprised at how deep and flexible Shopify customization is.
Specifically, with their Point of Sale software you can use the external card terminal you already own, accept orders while offline (any orders made without Internet access will automatically synchronize with your Shopify account the next time you’re connected); create multiple staff accounts (each with a secure pin code); easily integrate with Quickbooks, Xero and other accounting software.
By syncing your Shopify account with Quickbooks, for instance, you can seamlessly file your product, payment, tax, and customer data into correct accounts and ledgers.
Merchants can also take advantage of powerful accounting functionality to view account balances, create receipts, and even run detailed reports to analyze customer trends, track top-performing products, and more.
As for the website builder itself, it’s also very impressive. With Shopify you get a full-featured eCommerce content management system that is also optimized for M-commerce.
As opposed to Volusion, Shopify has its own blogging platform that allows users to create lookbooks, publish and categorize articles as well as encourage discussion.
Below are some other noteworthy features of Shopify:
- Abandoned checkout recovery (automatic emails encouraging customers to complete their purchase).
- 70 payment gateways.
- Automatic taxes.
- Multiple languages.
- Shopify App Store.
- Customizable gift cards.
- Free Google and Facebook credits.
- Customer profiles. Users can segment shoppers based on things like purchase activity, account status, location, and more to create effective promo campaigns. For instance, you can send a special coupon to customers who have spent over $100 in your store.
- Product reviews and more.
All credit card and transaction information is protected by the same level of security used by banks: a 256-bit SSL certificate.
One more excellent Shopify feature is Future publishing. It allows you to publish a collection, blog post, or page at a very specific time in the future.
The multichannel feature deserves a separate paragraph. If you’re a busy merchant who sells across different platforms, you know how difficult synchronizing customer databases, inventory and finances can be. Shopify helps you automate lots of manual work by offering multichannel support.
In simple terms, it gives you a unified platform that lets you synchronize your sales across multiple channels. For instance, you can unify your Shopify store with your POS (which is now included in all Shopify plans), and a WordPress website.
Shopify is very flexible in terms of designs. Specifically, there are three options: 100+ free and paid templates created by world-renown designers like Happy Cog, Clearleft and Pixel Union; HTML/CSS editor (the ability to rebuild a ready theme from the ground up); and tailor-made themes by Shopify experts. In other words, the only limit is your imagination.
Your online store checkout comes in 50+ languages, and you can always translate your store’s template to suit your needs. You can also customize your automated store emails with the design and language you want.
#4 Customer Support
It is definitely worth the subscription price. There’s a huge forum with thousands of topics (including a separate forum for off-topic discussions), how-to guides, email support and Live Chat with a Shopify Guru.
#5 Pricing Policy
This feature-laden site builder is going to be consistently more expensive month to month than a self-hosted store. The cheapest Shopify plan is $9/month. This plan is called Shopify Lite and lets you add eCommerce to any website you already own. This plan includes unlimited products, 70+ payment gateways accepted, global tax and currency support and sales tracking, among other features.
Other plans include Basic ($29/mo), Shopify ($79/mo) and Advanced ($299/mo). The plans are differentiated based on the storage, gift cards availability, abandoned cart recovery and some other features.
It’s noteworthy that Shopify is transaction fee-free, yet it charges credit card transactions (Online: 2.6-2.9% + 30¢; In-person: 2.2-2.7% + 0¢) if you use Shopify Payments to accept credit cards through your store.
You can try Shopify for 14 days for free.
Shopify is undoubtedly a great place to build an eCommerce website, but it’s somewhat pricey. If you’re on a tight budget, Shopify will quickly empty your wallet. Its pricing plans are more reasonable for medium and large-scale companies, not independent professionals who plan to build a site to support their hobby. Compare Shopify to uCoz where a full-featured e-shop with unlimited products can be set up at $9.99/mo.
Comparison with Competitors
Here we collected comparisons with main Shopify competitors among popular SaaS website builders:
Frankly speaking, the ‘pure’ Shopify competitor here is Volusion – as this website builder is focused to eCommerce. Of course, you can create an e-store with Weebly or Squarespace, but Shopify has much more commerce solutions.
Shopify Review: Summary
Shopify is a super feature-laden eCommerce platform that offers a smorgasbord of amazing eCommerce (mCommerce)-specific options allowing you to create a gem of a webstore. However, its pricing plans can scare away many potential customers.
As usually, I highly recommend you check this website builder yourself to see whether or not it’s the best fit for your project.