Shopify — Overview
One of the most well-known eCommerce platforms for SMBs, Shopify is a top-rated solution that has everything a merchant needs to set up shop online and even offline. In addition to allowing you build an online store, Shopify has social media selling tools and it integrates with marketplaces like Amazon.
The solution also has payment capabilities that enable merchants to accept credit cards directly from Shopify — i.e. no third-party accounts required. With their payments offering, “payment details are clearly synced with orders, making it easy to see how much you’ve been paid without ever leaving Shopify.”
Credit card rates range from 2.9% + 30 cents to 2.4% + 30 cents depending on your Shopify plan.
What is the Shopify eCommerce Platform?
Shopify is one of the leaders in the eCommerce space and the most popular tool for creating your own online store. Its popularity, which is growing from day to day, stems from its user-friendliness, the ample choice of templates and their overall flexibility, the SEO features it offers, and of course, the fact that you don’t need any technical knowledge to use it.
Their mission is to build a hassle-free platform for setting up your eCommerce business where you can sell, ship, and manage your products.
Shopify is used in 175 countries and as of 2022, there are more than a million merchants using this platform.
No matter if you’re just starting out (and have no website or eCommerce experience at all), or if you’re looking for a way to take your business to the next level, our Shopify review will definitely be of help!
The question is: is Shopify really as great as the marketing material says? Is it really the most beginner-friendly platform out there? Let’s find out!
More About Shopify
The founders of Shopify – Tobias Lütke, Scott Lake and Daniel Weinand, started their company in 2006, but the process of creating Shopify began a couple of years before.
It all started in 2004, when they were unable to find an eCommerce platform to their liking, so they decided to create one themselves, and that’s how Shopify came into being. However, during this time, Shopify existed as an online store and not the platform you know today. Their focus was on selling snowboards, so it’s no surprise that they named their store SnowDevil.
From then, the platform has had exponential growth. Needless to say, they hit a couple of milestones along the way, like when Shopify went mobile in 2010 and hit the $100 million milestone that same year.
Shopify got a lot of recognition from reputable sources, which undoubtedly led to bigger growth. In 2012, Shopify was named Canada’s smartest company. Another successful year for Shopify was 2013, when they made a whopping $1.68 billion in sales. By 2015, the sales would more than double.
As of 2022, Shopify has reached $155 billion in sales. What started as a snowboard shop became one of the most popular eCommerce platforms in the world.
So, What Can I Do With Shopify?
You can organize your products, customize the way your store looks, accept payments (online and credit cards), and track and respond to orders. You can do it all within Shopify’s interface.
Shopify is a fully integrated eCommerce solution that provides ready-made online shops you can tweak and customize to your heart’s content. It has the capacity to be feature-heavy and out of the box, but not at the expense of drag times. Payment plans are based on monthly billing, but for anyone running a profitable store, these should quickly become negligible costs.
Using Shopify is quite intuitive and easy to grasp right from the get-go. You just have to sign up, and then you’re taken by the hand through the whole process.
To begin with, you get to choose from over 100 optimized online store designs, meaning you don’t need to have design skills yourself or hire a designer. The designs that Shopify offers are really top-notch and optimized to generate good conversion rates from your visitors.
Does Shopify Include Web Hosting?
The good news is that Shopify does include web hosting, which is another convenient benefit. This means that you don’t need to sign up for any external web hosting service given that everything is neatly handled in just one place. Shopify uses an optimized server structure, built specifically with eCommerce in mind, so you know that you’re getting the good stuff. Shopify is what’s known as a cloud-hosted eCommerce platform.
Who is Shopify Best Suited For?
Shopify stands apart from other eCommerce solutions mainly due to its multipurpose nature.
- Shopify is extremely easy to set up and get going, so it can be used by beginners who have no technical knowledge in setting up or running a site.
- The whole tool is very affordable (more on that in a minute), so it’s an attractive choice for small businesses that are just starting out and want to minimize costs.
- Shopify offers many template designs/structures for you to take advantage of, so you don’t have to hire a designer, or anyone to help you with the store. You can literally build, style, and launch your online store all on your own.
- Shopify also offers offline solutions – you can use Shopify in your actual brick-and-mortar store, integrating it with the operation that you have already set up.
- Finally, Shopify scales really well, so it will be able to grow with you regardless of the number of products you have on offer, the volume of your sales, and the number of customers that have bought from you.
However, if we were to point out the absolute perfect user, the kind of user who will get the most out of Shopify, we’d say that it’s someone who’s just getting into eCommerce and building an online store. People and business owners who are just starting out in the eCommerce space and want to get the best solution possible, while at the same time minimizing the costs as much as possible, will find Shopify to be the most beneficial.
This brings us to one particularly important part of this Shopify review:
How much does Shopify cost?
Before we list the plans available, we should mention that Shopify offers a 14-day free trial. It unlocks all the features, so you can test the platform thoroughly before committing to any of the premium plans. You can also cancel your trial account at any time.
Here’s the official Shopify pricing table:
|Shopify Pricing Reviews||Shopify Basic||Shopify||Shopify Advanced|
|Monthly Price – $/month||$29||$79||$299|
|1 Years Price – $/month||$26.10||$71.10||$269.10|
|2 Years Price – $/month||$23.20||$63.20||$239.20|
Which Shopify Plan is Best to Choose From?
It depends on your requirements. The option that’s the most sensible for anyone who wants to launch a new online store is $29 / month. It lets you in on all the features you might need, and also handles the payments and the technical back-end of your store.
If you want to, you can hook up a custom domain name to your store (either buy it through Shopify or import from a third-party domain registrar). If not, your store is going to be available under something like YOURSTORE.shopify.com.
As part of the $29 / month price tag, you get access to:
- Shopify’s online store module (the thing you came here for);
- the Point Of Sale (POS) system (allowing you to collect payments offline through an iPad);
- the Facebook and Pinterest modules (sell directly on Facebook and Pinterest);
- Shopify Buy Button – allowing you to add a custom “buy button” on any website (not necessarily your online store).
Here, it’s also worth mentioning the Shopify transaction fees. Whilst not part of the pricing, if you’re not using Shopify Payments, you’ll be charged their subscription transaction fee on every order processed in your store.
Is Shopify Really Easy and Simple to Use?
In today’s online space, every tool out there promotes itself as ‘easy-to-use’. The truth is, few actually are. The tough part about being easy-to-use is that a truly user-friendly platform should be usable right from day one, and not once you invest hours of your time learning about it. In that manner, anything could be labeled as easy-to-use.
Shopify’s eCommerce platform doesn’t share this problem. You don’t need to be a Shopify expert to set up a shop and anyone can easily launch an online retail store within a matter of minutes. The main traits that differentiate Shopify’s ease of use from everything else out there are:
- The platform gives you an already working online store structure, so instead of building a store piece by piece, you can just adjust the pieces that are already there (tune them to your liking), but essentially the core of the platform works right away (more on this in a minute).
- You get to choose from ready-made designs (templates), so you don’t have to possess any design skills either (again, more on this in a minute).
- The templates are also automatically responsive in design, meaning that your site will be optimized for mobiles as well as desktops and tablets.
- Online payments are handled for you – no need to actually work with sensitive credit card data yourself. And you can even sell your products directly to your Facebook contacts (among other things).
- You get your product catalogue handled through an easy-to-grasp module within Shopify (more on this in a minute too).
All of the above adds up to a really reasonable solution – something that’s truly targeted towards novices and doesn’t require any technical skills.
Shopify Third-Party Integrations
When using Shopify, you don’t have to solely rely on the built-in features that this platform provides for its users. You can easily utilize third-party integrations that will lead to an increase in sales and revenue. In fact, you should – as more than 80% of merchants on Shopify use third-party apps.
The best place to search for third-party apps that integrate with Shopify is the Shopify app store, where you can find more than 2000 apps in total. There are thousands of integrations out there that you can try out, but we have carefully selected the best in order for you to have the best experience.
Shopify offers integration with the Hubspot plugin that will help you get more traffic to your store, which will then increase your revenue. There are many benefits that come with using this integration, such as syncing important information like products and orders, getting insight into the new marketing trends and expanding your business in new areas.
Shoelace is an integration that enables you to retarget your customers, keep them engaged and introduce new ads that are specifically designed for your customer base. Another useful advantage is that you can connect this integration with your social media platforms in order to sync all your messages.
Klaviyo uses personalized marketing that will boost your sales and engage your customers. You can create newsletters or sync your existing subscribers to Klaviyo, add automated flows, send personalized coupons or alert your customers when a product is back in stock. This integration is easy to use and it’s bound to make the relationships with your customers stronger.
You also have the option of connecting your Shopify store to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. This allows you to list all the products that you’re selling on these platforms, which will increase your website traffic.
Shopify Multilingual and Multi-Region Information
If you have international customers, then it’s understandable why you’d want them to be able to browse your products in their own language. By having access to this information in their native language, your customers will be able to have a better understanding of the products you’re offering, which will, in turn, result in more sales.
Here’s the good news – Shopify allows you to make your store multilingual. You will need to create a separate URL for your translated content in order for your customers to see the translated version. Another option for giving your customers the desired translation is incorporating third-party apps like Weglot that will translate your store. This is a very useful option that’s worth looking into.
There are many reasons as to why someone would want to expand their Shopify store to new countries. It could potentially result in an increase in customers and sales and improve your targeted advertising. You can include multiple countries that span across multiple continents, provided that your stores have their own currency, domain, and inventory.
The choice of which countries you expand your business in is up to you. In order to make the best decision, you’ll need to do your research for where your business might be popular as well as listen to the inquiries and wishes of your potential customers who might not have access to your products due to shipping restrictions.
Having access to tech support is crucial for any business. You never know what kind of problem you might run into.
As you know by now, one of the benefits of using Shopify is the 24/7 phone support that’s available for its customers. Apart from phone support, you can also get in contact with the support team from Shopify through various social media platforms and email. If you’re the type that likes to get quick answers, you can always use their 24/7 live chat support.
Apart from contacting their support team, you can also access useful information through using their help center, where you can choose to read tips or information regarding a certain issue you might be having.
Okay, to the nitty-gritty of this Shopify review:
How Does Shopify Work?
Right after taking care of a standard sign-up form (your name, email, etc.), you get to use Shopify’s wizard that will help you get through the whole building process of your eCommerce store. First, they ask you about the things you’re going to be selling:
Giving the most accurate answer here will make your future experience with the platform even easier, so try not to select something at random.
Next, you get to choose from a handful of the most popular options (the first one – “Create an online store” is what you’re likely here for).
In the next step, you will have the option of selecting a design for your online store and deciding on how it’s going to look:
Online Store Designs and Shopify Themes Available
No Shopify review can skip the design talk! Onward!
Shopify offers contemporary, sophisticated designs – around a hundred of them(!) – so you are sure to find something that suits your style and the personality of your eCommerce store. Additionally, everything is optimized to be viewed on desktop, mobile, and tablets.
If you haven’t committed to a theme yet, you can also check out our more detailed post on eCommerce themes and templates.
When picking your design, you don’t need to pay much attention to what kind of products are on sale within that demo template – this is only example stock, and you can sell whatever you wish through whatever design template you select.
The theme we selected to test in this review is called Reach. It’s a simple, minimalist design yet functional for most purposes.
Whatever template you decide to go for, you can make adjustments – a couple of tweaks here and there – to make it look exactly how you want.
Shopify’s customization interface provides a range of options neatly displayed one after another, so you can just go through them from top to bottom and fine-tune every little detail about the design.
The things worth doing right away are:
- changing the colors to your default company colors;
- adding a logo;
- selecting what should appear on the homepage (screenshot below).
As you can see, Shopify’s eCommerce store builder is very intuitive and easy to use indeed. Instead of giving you a blank canvas, where you’d have to pick the elements one by one, you get a ready-made design and the ability to adjust the elements already there, as well as add new ones through the options panel.
This is a very beginner-friendly approach because it’s not confusing at all, and allows anyone to just jump in and create a quality store design for themselves.
How to Edit Text on a Shopify Page
To work with the text on the pages, you need to go to the Pages section in the dashboard:
There, you can pick the page that you want to edit and then use an editor screen that you’re likely to find familiar thanks to tools like MS Word or Google Docs.
How Do I add and Manage My Products on Shopify?
Since you’re reading this review, you’re probably interested in finding out how to use Shopify to add and manage your eCommerce store inventory (or whatever it is you want to sell), so it’s high time we talk about how this is done!
The first thing you should do is configure the general settings of your store. For this, go to Settings from the left sidebar:
There, you get to set every piece of standard information, like your store’s name, address, time zone, currency, and so on.
Shopify Online Payments
The next important step is configuring the online payment options that you’re going to be offering your customers (under Settings/Payments).
Shopify allows you to accept credit cards through various gateways (there’s a good selection of those) and even set up Bitcoin payments if you want to go that route. There are also manual payments available, like bank transfers or cash on delivery.
Does Shopify accept PayPal?
Yes. Shopify is also conveniently integrated with PayPal (as soon as you open a store, you’re set up with a PayPal Express Checkout account).
What are Shopify Payments?
Shopify Payments is the simplest way to accept payments online. It comes fully integrated with your store eliminating the need to set up a third-party gateway and/or merchant account and there’s no need for the laborious task of inputting the credentials either. With Shopify Payments, you’re able to manage your entire business and financials in one convenient place.
Shopify Payments allows you to:
- Automatically set up to accept all major cards as soon as your Shopify store is up and running.
- Select your card rate based on your Shopify plan. If you change your mind at any point, Shopify, of course, makes it easy for you to change it.
- Track your pending payout balance and your payout schedule from the Shopify admin.
- View how much you’ll receive for any order or charge in payment fees since payments are linked to their corresponding orders.
- Easily recover lost sales from chargebacks using chargeback responses compiled by Shopify for any affected orders.
- Depending on where you are in the world, you may not incur additional transaction fees above the card rate e.g. United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia.
Should you choose to operate with Shopify Payments, you will be exempt from Shopify’s subscription transaction fees. These are only payable by store owners who choose to use a third-party payment processor on top of their gateway or merchant account provider’s credit card fees.
Other Shopify Online Store Settings
Apart from the payments, Shopify lets you set every other important store setting. Here’s what’s in the options menu:
Let’s briefly go over a few:
- In Settings / Checkout, you get to choose whether your customers are required to open user accounts with your store or not. You can also select how much data you need from each customer when making a sale.
- Also in Settings / Checkout, you can set your order processing workflow, the checkout language, your refund policies, etc.
- In Settings / Shipping, you can set everything related to your shipping costs. This also includes international shipping.
- In Settings / Taxes, you can take care of all the tax-related (boring) realities of your business. Shopify helps you with the maths here.
- In Settings / Notifications, you can set both how your eCommerce store will be contacting customers, and the type of messages you will get whenever a new order comes in.
How to Add and Edit your Products on Shopify
Accessing the store module is simple, just select Products from the left sidebar:
There, you get to set everything related to the items/services that you’re selling in your online store.
Again, things here are extra easy to grasp. For instance, to help you get started, Shopify displays a large button for adding your first product:
In the next step, it gives you an editor-like window where you can input all the important details.
The most important parts:
Title and description
This is the main description of a given product – it’s what’s going to be displayed to the customers.
Below the title/description block there’s a place to upload your product images. The nice thing here is that it works through drag-and-drop, so just grab an image from your folder and drag it onto there.
The next step would be to set the pricing for your product. There are a handful of options here which you can see in the screenshot above.
Visibility and Organization
Finally, you can set if the product should go online right away and be available to your customers. You can also categorize it for a better browsing and management experience.
Once you’re done with all that, you can just click the Save button, and your product is now online.
How to List your Products on the Homepage in Shopify:
The one thing you’ll probably want to do is showcase some of your products on the homepage of your eCommerce store. In Shopify, this can be done through the theme customization panel that you used when adjusting your design right after sign-up (left sidebar: Online Store / Themes).
Clicking on Customize Theme brings you to a page where you can pick what exactly is going to appear on the homepage:
Basically, you can select whatever product or category of products. You can also realign the product blocks on the homepage, or even display an entirely different piece of text there. It’s completely up to you.
In this example, we decided to display two products on the homepage inside the Featured Products block:
Checking In On Your Shopify Store
Selling is one thing, but knowing where your business stands and reviewing it regularly is another. Shopify has you covered here as well.
Everything happens in the Reports section of the dashboard:
Here you will find every piece of data you might need as an online store manager. You can browse through your gross sales by product title, by month, by channel, by payment method, taxes by rate, by traffic, and much much more.
The purpose of platforms that offer good SEO-customisation features is to make it easier for you to set up your online store to rank higher in search results, which leads to more traffic, and ultimately more clicks customers and sales.
Shopify is extremely SEO-friendly and allows you to optimize even if you’re not a pro. Its structure allows for your sites to be organized in categories, which is great for increasing search results.
Shopify allows your store to have a blog where you can add blog posts related to your particular business. Of course, you will also need to make sure that your website structure and the content on your posts are optimized so that it can lead to more searches. For that purpose, you’ll need to take into account the page titles, URLs and keywords (you can later read this SEO guide) and you’ll be good to go!
Additional Shopify Elements and Integrations
Although selling is going to be the main activity within your store, you probably also want to include other elements to make your store look more complete, and make it more appealing to your customer base.
Those things can be done from the Online Store section in the dashboard (we already used it to adjust the store’s theme).
- So the first thing you might want to do is create a blog and add some blog posts. This can be done through Online Store / Blog Posts.
- The other thing you can do is add new pages and edit the existing ones. This is done in Online Store / Pages. (A good starting point here would be to create an About page for your eCommerce store.)
- Finally, you get to set the navigation and pick what should appear in the top and footer menus on your site. This is done in Online Store / Navigation. (You can edit the individual links by clicking “Edit link list.”)
All of the options above will come very handy once you start adjusting your store to fit the exact needs of your business. Shopify delivers just the right number of possibilities here.
How to Make Your Shopify Store Available to the World
In order to finally launch your eCommerce store and start marketing to actual customers (accepting their payments and so on), you need to unlock it. This is done, again, in the Online Store section of the dashboard:
To fully unlock the store, you’re going to need to select one of the available plans. As we mentioned earlier in this Shopify review, the most sensible one if you’re getting started is $29 / month (entry-level plan). If you ever need more functionality, you can always upgrade later on.
And that is basically it! At this point, your eCommerce store is online and ready to use.
A Rundown of Shopify’s Major Pros & Cons
No Shopify review would be complete without a comprehensive list of pros and cons. So here are the benefits and drawbacks you can expect if you decide to use Shopify.
Pros of Shopify Ecommerce Platform:
- Speed and Load Times: When you build an eCommerce site, you need it to be fast and secure – two features that most often come with expensive hosting packages. Even fractionally longer load times can send your paying customers on to the next site, costing you potential sales, and Shopify makes sure they don’t.
- Security: With Shopify, your site is ultra-fast, while being totally secure for handling sensitive data and processing payments.
- Great Design: Shopify is largely about great design, and you will quickly find there are plenty of templates available, both free and paid, that will leave your site looking aesthetically pleasing whilst also professional.
- Beginner-friendly and easy to navigate: Shopify is extremely beginner-friendly, so if this is your first time using a platform of this nature then you don’t need to worry since you probably won’t encounter any problems.
- A great selection of themes: Shopify has a good selection of themes to choose from, so regardless of your preferences, you’re bound to find one you like.
- Low monthly fees: Shopify’s monthly fees are more affordable than some other options out there like WordPress.
- Add-ons and integrations: There are plenty of add-ons available for Shopify, so you can expand the feature set if you need it. That means you probably don’t have to worry about hiring a coder just yet – the easy interface means you can quickly bolt on new features and functions within your site.
Cons of Shopify Ecommerce Platform:
- The Cost: Shopify costs money, both monthly and in terms of individual transaction processing fees (if you don’t choose to operate Shopify Payments). You need to take account of these when comparing packages to get your store off the ground, especially if you intend to sell in volume.
- Uniquely Coded: While Shopify can be made to do pretty much whatever you want out of the box, if you do have to explore the back-end, you’re going to be dealing with proprietary coding. In a nutshell, this means that you need someone who knows what they’re doing and has the time to learn how to work with Shopify particularly, to get the job done. This can increase maintenance costs and result in delays in managing your store.
Frequently Asked Questions about Shopify:
Is Shopify the Best Platform for Ecommerce?
Shopify is certainly a great place to start if you are looking to set up your own eCommerce site, and it’s suitable for businesses of any size, catering to a wide range of industries.
Whether it’s the best for you will largely depend on your requirements, including your budget. There are many alternative eCommerce platforms out there, including WooCommerce, Wix, and Bigcommerce.
Which Ecommerce Platform is the Best for a Small Business?
Shopify is ideal for small businesses that typically have limited resources, especially in regards to time and money. With Shopify, small business owners can set up their online store and have it up and running in no time. There is no need to learn or know any code beforehand and with so many design templates to choose from, small business owners can literally build, style, and launch their online store all on their own without any help.
You’re also given a selection of price plans to choose from that suit every budget, so it is an attractive choice for those that are just starting out and want to minimize costs.
Is Shopify a Good Platform for Beginners in Ecommerce?
Yes. Shopify is one of the easiest eCommerce builders to help beginners and small business owners set up and run their online store for the first time. Shopify is user-friendly and even those with no prior eCommerce experience or coding knowledge can create an online store fairly quickly.
Which Ecommerce Platform will Have a Greater, more Relevant Audience Reach?
Regardless of what eCommerce platform you decide to go with, whether it be Shopify or Woohoo, your audience reach will largely depend on how your website is marketed and not the technology it is built with.
What is the Difference Between a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress and an Ecommerce Platform like Shopify?
A content management system (CMS) is designed to build and manage dynamic web pages within a website e.g. a blog or corporate website. An eCommerce platform, on the other hand, is designed to sell goods online and process payments.
There are plugins available that will allow site owners to manage eCommerce activity within a CMS like WordPress.
Which is the Best Mobile/Responsive Ecommerce Platform?
Most of the eCommerce platforms on the market are responsive so they have the capabilities to handle mobile and tablet customers, including Shopify.
Why Use Shopify or any Paid Ecommerce Platform over a Free Ecommerce Platform?
Whilst there are many free eCommerce platforms out there, Shopify is designed for convenience and is ideal for business owners who have little or no knowledge and/or experience in eCommerce. For those who are considering a free eCommerce platform, be sure to assess other costs such as:
– Domain name
– Web hosting
– SSL certificate
– PCI testing and certification
– Ongoing software and security updates
Shopify Review: Summary
Shopify is a renowned online application where you can create an online store. There are a few guidelines you need to follow in terms of what kind of products can be sold, but other than that, if your product isn’t too outlandish, you don’t need to worry about fitting the criteria.
There are a few plans you can get on Shopify, and you also have the option of getting a 14-day free trial. The basic plan costs $29 per month, and, despite its name, there are many perks that come along with it that are completely adequate for beginners in eCommerce.
Shopify is a go-to for eCommerce for a reason – it’s one of the bested hosted platforms, it’s quite easy to navigate through, there are plenty of visually appealing themes to choose from, and you have the option of including many useful third-party integrations that will help your business immensely and improve the customer experience.
We can say that, overall, Shopify is one of the greatest hosted eCommerce platforms out there. It’s an all-in-one solution that’s bound to make your eCommerce experience easier, especially if you’re just starting out.
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