Today we take a closer look at Shopify, probably the most feature-rich eCommerce platform out there. So let’s talk shop. 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.
Shopify was created by three enthusiasts, who have decided to launch an online store to sell SnowDevil show boards in 2004. Unavailability of suitable ready made solutions in the market has motivated the team to create their own eCommerce platform. It took around 2 years to develop the initial program version. This was the most successful startup of the year 2006, which has quickly driven audience budget and positive expert reviews.
As of the start of 2018, the company’s turnover constituted $29 billions. Shopify clients are Tesla Motors, Wikipedia, Mozilla and Google. After the shutdown of Amazon Webstore in 2015, the online trade giant Amazon has recommended their clients to use Shopify for their selling needs. An opportunity to make sales via Facebook appeared a bit later. The consecutive step implied PayPal partnership, which resulted in the growth of popularity and sales volume of Shopify website builder.
Hopefully, you have understood the scale of popularity of this platform. We are impressed with it as well, but this will not affect our objectivity when testing the platform. Let’s find out together what exactly Shopify can offer us and how interesting for users it can be.
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. Recently Shopiify has announced its integration with Amazon Marketplace. Such option requires a few clicks and as a result your Shopify website will be synchronized your store with Amazon account.
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.
When it comes to the structure and feature set, Shopify resembles CMS more than other website builders. The dashboard of the system is similar to those of Prestashop, Opencart and WordPress in its functionality and visual appeal. It is understandable right from the start that the service is serious, but it is still quite complicated to master its options, from our point of view.
Let’s discuss the description of structure and implication of dashboard menu points:
Home is a home page, which contains links that make it possible to change the pricing plan, add products, distribution channels, online store domain, set up design and read service news as well as the latest blog articles. Generally, this grants quick access to some options, which are hidden in other menu sections.
Orders is a list of all orders, an opportunity to manage bills, trade offers, reviews of data on abandoned purchases (when a user have added a product to the shopping cart, but didn’t place an order afterwards for some reason).
Products is a section, which allows adding products (there is import from CSV files here) and their categories, previewing, editing and sorting them. It is also possible to create and set up the parameters of gift cards here. You can deal with suppliers from this section to make money transactions and keep record of products you have got.
Customers is a section, where you can see the data about customers, who have completed the deals. All information obtained during the completion of purchase data is available here. You can also import the client database from the file manually.
Reports is a section that provides statistics about online store attendance, turnover, browsers clients use, places of residence, traffic sources and more. There are also multiple charts, schemes, tab notifications and other elements that can help you get an idea of your customers, sales volumes, reasons to make a purchase etc.
Discounts is where you can create discount coupons for product categories and separate products. The discount can be expressed in the percentage of overall cost, fixed sum or as free shipping. You can also choose a customer category the coupon will work for and set its usage rules – from one and up to the unlimited number of coupon applications.
Sales Channels is a place, where you can add distribution channels. For example, you can create a Shopify Buy Button to be used at other websites, mailouts etc. Other distribution channels include Facebook, Amazon, Houzz, KiK, Pinterest, Wanelo. You can also connect an opportunity to make a payment in your online store via your mobile app.
Online Store is a large menu of versatile settings of an active online store. You can find the following sections here:
- Themes – the choice of templates and their settings described in the previous section;
- Blog Posts – addition of new posts to the online store blog;
- Pages – creation and editing of static web pages;
- Navigation – addition and editing of blocks in the online store menu;
- Domains – domain name purchase (from $14/year for .com) and connection of the available domain name;
- Preferences – filling out online store SEO settings, connection of Google Analytics and opportunity to set up passwords for online store access.
Apps is an online store of free and paid apps. All of them are sorted by categories (sales, marketing, product search for sale, tools, warehouse, customer servicing, shipping, social services, statistics collection, synchronization of external services). There is also a search filter option here (category, paid/free, popularity, ready made collections). The choice of applications is quite rich. Each category comes with dozens of positions, while their amount in overloaded categories exceeds one hundred apps.
Settings is a broad menu with general settings. It comes with a set of integrated sections, namely:
- General – your online store name, contact data, set up of time formats, date, currency and region;
- Payments – the choice of a system to accept online payments. PayPal is set by default here;
- Checkout – user login checkout. You can enable/disable obligatory account creation needed to use an online store and set up the set of fields to fill out your personal data during the registration, order placement etc.;
- Shipping – addition and set up of shipping options (region, type, transport operator, cost etc.);
- Taxes – set up of tax fees. All the taxes are included into the product cost by default. You can split up these sums if needed, having chosen a region and tax fee;
- Notifications – creation of email notification templates for clients during the order placement, its confirmation and parcel delivery;
- Files – you can upload any files to the website – text, images, archives etc.;
- Sales channels – review and set up of installed applications for various distribution channels;
- Account – your account data, including billing info, confirmation of rights for an online store, login options. This is also the place, where you can add accounts of content managers, providing them with access rights. It is also possible to activate the tech hours regime or completely close an online store.
Shopify comes with all the features required for successful online store promotion. These include integrated statistics, an opportunity to set up external services to collect the statistics, work with SEO on all the stages and abundance of marketing applications, which can help you attract, return and work with potential and regular clients.
Shopify doesn’t have any SEO problems and there is nothing to talk about here. The main thing is to effectively use multiple system options. If you manage to do that, then you’ll certainly succeed in your aspirations – just like anywhere else.
Shopify is an extremely powerful eCommerce website builder. It is as good as specialized CMS in terms of its features and it excels them in many aspects. It is easier to master the system and there are lots of applications at hand here. It is also convenient to edit the templates. All these features are available right from the start. This is the sustainable system, which can be easily used to create a hypermarket of any complexity level.
This may seem a bit strange, but Shopify isn’t complex at all, regardless of its abundant options. Everything is user-friendly and simple here. The website builder seems a practical tool to make profit. Its worldwide popularity is explained by its features and quality of their presentation.
|Number of Themes:||45|
|Free Themes||✔ YES|
|Paid Themes Cost:||$140-$180|
|Responsive Design||✔ YES|
|Sort by Industry:||✔ YES|
|CSS Code Editing:||✔ YES|
Right after the registration, you will be redirected to the control panel without the need to select a template (like in most traditional website builders). The Debut theme is chosen by default here. This is the basic template, which does not contain any demo content. This is the design with a classic set of blocks used for online store creation. It is easy to customize it, which allows getting decent material to work with in a future web store.
You can certainly change the start template to any other theme of your choice. You just need to get to the «Online Store – Themes – Visit theme store» section. All the templates fall into collections (or categories) and it’s possible to filter them by novelty, popularity, free or paid nature etc. Unfortunately, there are only 10 free templates here, but their quality is on a decent level. Generally, it is possible to find the one, which will come up to your needs after customization. Just make the choice based on the required structure and don’t mind the demo-content. It’s easy to replace it.
The number of paid templates currently constitutes 45. The cost ranges from $100 and up to $180. Generally, they are much more interesting as compared to free themes due to their versatility and rich choice of used design tools. However, there is no big difference between paid and free templates. Paid themes are more creative, but it’s easy to compensate the difference by improving a free sample.
Each template comes with description, 2-3 design styles and a real-time preview option, website samples created with it as well as user reviews. Generally, the choice of Shopify templates is a pleasant process. Everything is consistent here and it’s difficult to make the wrong choice.
You can set several templates at a time, having chosen one of them as a primary theme. It’s possible to switch to the required template any time you need that. There is also an opportunity to upload your own themes. Each of them has flexible settings. You can change the block order a template consists of and make general settings, including colors, typography, social bar position and favicon. Each section also has its settings – choose the image, text, align them as needed, enable/disable buttons, menu, set up the sizes of separate elements etc.
The conclusion is as follows: paid system templates are quite expensive, but there are also nice free designs. The quality of both template types is on a decent medium/high level. Customization options are above the average, while the settings interface is also convenient. The general mark is 9 out of 10.
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. But the most useful (as for me) is Shopify forum. It’s a place where you can find not only answers on technical issues, but there are lots of real Shopify users feedback, both positive and negative.
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.
Shopify Payments Review
|Lite:||$9/mo||✓ ‘Buy’ Button Option.|
|Basic Shopify:||$29/mo||✓ Website and blog; |
✓ Free SSL certificate.
✓ Gift cards;
✓ Professional reports.
|Advanced Shopify:||$299/mo||In Addition:|
✓ Advanced report builder;
✓ Real-time carrier shipping.
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.
All in all, you can try almost all Shopify features due to the trial period which is 14 days long. But after that you have to select one of the subscription plans. Some users may think that absence of the free plan is a drawback but those who wish to promote their business online must know that it’s impossible to make it for free with quality.
6. Pros and Cons
Shopify is a powerful and feature-rich eCommerce website builder. Just like any other system, it has its strong and weak points that may have positive or negative influence upon your eCommerce experience.
- Strong eCommerce focus;
- Clean, easy-to-use interface with intuitive navigation that works well for users with diverse web building experience;
- Collection of high quality responsive templates to match different eCommerce niches;
- Paypal integration;
- Availability of free Shopify applications for iOS and Android;
- Advanced Shopify POS software that allows using the system to create and manage web stores as well as to sell at any retail storefront;
- Integration with Amazon Marketplace;
- Powerful built-in blogging platform;
- Absence of transaction fees;
- Abandoned checkout recovery feature (the system automatically sends emails encouraging customers to place their orders);
- 70 payment gateways;
- Automatic taxes;
- Multilanguage and multichannel support;
- Rich Shopify App Store;
- Social network integration;
- Future publishing option;
- SSL certification;
- Powerful customer support.
- Expensive pricing plans, the cost of which is a bit above the average and, thus, more suitable for medium and large businesses;
- Credit card transaction fees;
- The system is not so easy-to-use for newbies because of the abundance of features it comes with;
- Reporting feature is available on advanced plans only;
- Expensive paid templates;
- Inability to launch a fully-featured web store on the cheapest Lite Plan.
7. 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.
Well, after in-depth Shopify review I can conclude that it’s 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.