Shopify is a fully hosted ecommerce shopping cart platform that was founded in 2006. They currently have over 40,000 active online stores all around the world. The ecommerce platform is known for its ease of use, gorgeous store designs, scalability, and excellent customer service. Shopify has an impressive list of well-known clients from various industries, including: 50 Cent, LMFAO, Tesla Motors, Amnesty International, Epic Meal Time, Penny Arcade, and Evisu Jeans. Although they do have a lot of big companies using their platform, Shopify is best suited for small and medium sized businesses. They offer four packages which range from $29 – $179 per month with no setup fee and all of which offer free unlimited bandwidth, and premium customer support.
Pro: Shopify has a ton of features that will help you easily create, market, and run a powerful online store. Although on paper, Shopify may not win on a comparison chart battle, it doesn’t want to. Shopify offers what most people need most of the time, then they have a whole bunch of plugins (Apps) to choose from should you want further functionality. This is part of what makes Shopify so easy-to-use, powerful, and flexible.
Example: If you want to do email marketing, you’re not stuck with their internal email marketing system, you can choose from MailChimp, MadMimi, or Campaign Monitor. If you want your online store to have enhanced accounting software, you can go to their App store and connect with Quickbooks, Freshbooks, or Xero with the click of a few buttons. Shopify gives you way more variety when it comes to their feature-set, and all the Apps they offer integrate seamlessly.
Because of Shopify’s App Store they have every functionality you could want, including: enhanced analytics, loyalty programs, Facebook integration, daily deals, live chat, product reviews, and more. You can see all of the Apps that Shopify offers here.
Con: While some Apps are free, most are offered on a paid monthly subscription basis. Although most Apps are reasonably priced ($1 – $5 per month) some come with a higher price tag, which can add your costs up if you dont plan accordingly.
Shopify Ease of Use
Pro: Shopify is extremely easy to setup and use. Since Shopify is a hosted cart solution, you don’t have to download it or install or configure anything to get it working. Product management is is smooth – you can add or edit images, descriptions, product details, and everything else really easily. A how-to wizard will walk you through the entire set-up process to make sure that all critical areas of your website are complete. If you miss a part, the wizard will prompt you so you really can’t make a mistake.
Shopify is by far the easiest full-scale store builder available. According to a Shopify review on Art of Blog:
What makes Shopify different than other e-commerce solutions is the fact that Shopify is almost completely customizable, and was designed by people who probably could teach Apple a thing or two about making user-friendly yet powerful software. (Source)
The key is how Shopify is easy to use, extremely powerful, and will grow with your business. Solutions like BigCartel simply aren’t scalable and if you start doing well and making some sales, you’ll have to leave their platform which is time consuming and expensive.
Con: None. It’s really easy.
Shopify offers four packages to choose from. They start with “Basic” at $29 per month and scale up to their enterprise solution called “Unlimited” for $179 per month. All of Shopify’s plans require no setup fee, come with unlimited bandwidth, and offer a generous no credit-card required 30 day trial; whereas, BigCommerce, Volusion, and 3dcart offer only 15 days.
Pro: Many store owners are drawn to Shopify because of their unlimited bandwidth. The comment sections of review sites on other shopping cart platforms are riddled with bandwidth fee horror stories, especially against Volusion – who seem to sneak other “hidden fees” into their service.
Instead of bandwidth fees, Shopify charges a 0% – 2% transaction fee depending on your plan. What’s also nice about Shopify is their pricing structure is transparent, and they don’t have any hidden fees. Be careful of some ecommerce platforms that charge: fraud score fees, gateway access fees, monthly statement fees, and early termination fees – some of which are hidden in the a large “terms and conditions” document.
Every Shopify plan comes with a $100 Google AdWords and a $100 Amazon Ad credit to get you started with marketing campaigns. All plans come with unlimited web hosting, a PCI complaint SSL shopping cart, and hundreds of features.
Here’s a quote by Andrew Bleakley from 2012:
[Shopify is] very simple to setup and use. If you have beautiful products you need Shopify to do them justice. If you just want to sell products, check out Shopify before you check the others. It generally costs more by the time you buy the addons you, need but the user experience is unparalleled. (Source)
Con: Shopify does not necessarily cost more, it just depends on which Apps you choose to install. Many online stores won’t need to install any Apps at all, whereas if you want further functionality, you may end up paying a little extra.
Shopify Templates & Design
Pro: Shopify is undoubtedly the most design oriented ecommerce platform out there. They have over 100 professional ecommerce templates that you can choose from. Every template (they call them ‘themes’) is easy to customize with no HTML / CSS skills needed. You can easily make modifications, edit slideshows, banners, fonts, layout, and more.
Many of the premium themes are free and a few are paid. The company has teamed up with prestigious designs firms like Jeffrey Zeldman’s Happy Cog, Pixel Union, and Clearleft to design ultra-high quality themes for around $100. This is quite unlike other ecommerce platforms, as designs from these firms usually cost $20,000 – $200,000 each. You can see all of Shopify’s themes here.
Con: Shopify’s theme store is a little difficult to navigate. Say you want a theme that focuses heavily on product reviews, you’ll have to dig around a little bit. Also, Shopify uses their own templating language called Liquid which is easy to learn and quite powerful, but seems to annoy a few of the highly technical store owners that are doing lots of customization.
Pro: Shopify has an easy to use and uncluttered user interface. You can add, list, edit, and organize products much easier than other ecommerce shopping carts. Multiple variants for each product allow optinos with unique inventory tracking, prices, and weights. Orders can be exproted in CSV format to use in your spreadsheets. Shopify has a lot of real-time functionalities that make running an online store easy. You can get new order notifications via email, RSS, or even on your mobile phone via their App or SMS message.
Con: Shopify’s inventory management can be a little cumbersome if you have thousands of SKU’s, the software was clearly built with small and medium sized businesses in mind. Also, issues sometimes arrise if you have storefronts in many different languages. For online store’s with a ton of different products, you may want to consider an enterprise solution like Interspire or Magento.
Shopify SEO & Marketing
Pro: Shopify has strong SEO to help bring traffic to your online store. Under the hood, Shopify easily lets you custimze H1, title, and meta tags. It also automatically generates sitemaps.xml files so new products and site changes show up on search engines quickly.
- Powerful analytics that keep track of your ecommerce store’s progress over time. You can easily see how your customers found you, what URLs they’re referring to, and everything else you could possibly want. It also offers easy access to Google Analytics and Crazy Egg to help you get even more information about your online store.
- Google Website Optimizer is built into Shopify, so you can run experiments and tweak your website based on what works and doesn’t.
- Shopify lets you create coupon and discount codes to help promote your products.
- The Shopify App store has a slew of marketing apps that you can add to your online store to help boost sales.
- Shopify also has a popular blog that publishes how-to articles almost every day.
- Every Shopify store comes with a “Guru,” who is something like an advanced support person who can help with marketing, business development, SEO, or whatever else will increase your sales.
Con: Shopify doesn’t have nearly as many “marketing how-to” videos on YouTube as platforms like Volusion for those who learn best through video, but they do have all the other resources you need to market your online store. Also, Shopify was a little late to the SEO game but they have recently caught up to the other ecommerce platforms and now offers all the SEO functions you will need.
Shopify integrates with over 50 payment gateways, including: PayPal, Moneris, Stripe, Moneybookers, Authorize.net, Beanstream, Google Checkout, and more. You can see all the payment gateways here. With Shopify you can easily accept all the major credit cards and even accept some custom payment methods like money orders, bank deposits and cash on delivery.
Pro: Shopify is extremely serious about security. They utilize a 128-bit Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encrypted checkout to protect personal data. Every Shopify store comes with unlimited hosting on Level 1 PCI Compliant Debian Linux servers that are guarded by ultra secure OpenBSD firewalls.
Shopify was the first hosted solution that offered a Content Delivery Network (CDN) – which is a large network of servers placed around the world to ensure customers can load your store fast.
Shopify is also well known for their team of fraud protection specialists, and their advanced order fraud detection within the order management tool, so merchants can be alerted immediately if something does not match up.
Shopify Customer Support
Pro: Shopify’s customer support is unparalleled and will prove invaluable to your online store’s success. You can reach Shopify’s support team by telephone whenever you need, they also have email support with a very fast turnaround time. The real bread and butter with Shopify’s support is their “Guru” program, where every customer gets their own personal “Guru” to help them set up their online store. These Gurus are higher trained than regular support people and you get access to their personal email and contact information. They can help you with everything from technical advice, marketing, business development, SEO, even fulfillment and shipping.
If you prefer the DIY solution, Shopify has a huge array of documentation to help you create and run your online store. Check out their Wiki, FAQs or Forums. David Goodyear reviewed the Shopify ecommerce platform recently and here is what he said of their customer support:
The first time I called Shopify I was immediately connected to a representative, without a hold queue. This person was located in my local time zone and was able to directly and knowledgeably answer my questions about the cart. For that reason I am willing to give Shopify a better than average score in the support department. (Source)
All the comments I found online with regard to Shopify’s customer support were very favorable.
Shopify is a well thought out, mature ecommerce software package that is targeted primarily at small and midsize businesses. That’s not to say that it wouldn’t be a fit for larger businesses, but its ease-of-use, beautiful store designs, and out-of-the-box functionality is extremely attractive. Shopify fits most peoples needs in terms of features and pricing, and exceeds expectations in most areas. For the power and scalability of Shopify, it’s by far the easiest to use and will give you amazing flexibility in terms of beautiful store designs. With Shopify everything just seems to work and its online reputation seems to reflect that. Only downfall would be if you’re a really large store with tens of thousands of products, then perhaps you may need to consider a much more expensive enterprise solution.
This review was written by James & Rachel made some updates/edits! Please leave a question or comment and we will be pleased to respond.