What is Shopify?
Shopify is largest fully hosted ecommerce platform in the world, with over 1,000,000 websites currently using the Shopify platform.
What makes Shopify different from most of their competition is that they allow third-party developers to create apps and themes for the platform and this makes the amount of options available larger than any of their competition.
But is Shopify any good? Check out my complete review below to find out!
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Shopify offer a total of four packages but the cheapest Shopify Lite package doesn’t include their website builder, so I haven’t included it for this review.
The three packages that do include the website builder are:
Shopify Basic – $29/m
Shopify Standard – $79/m
Shopify Advanced – $299/m
In many ways, Shopify set the bar when it comes to pricing as nearly all other fully hosted ecommerce platforms are similarly priced but one thing that does help Shopify stand out from the competition is that they don’t have turnover limited packages, which offers much more in terms of flexibility when it comes to choosing a package.
*Shopify do however charge an additional transaction fee for any payments that are not processed by their own Shopify Payments gateway and these are as follows:
- 2% on Shopify Basic
- 1% on Shopify Standard
- 0.5% on Shopify Advanced
This reduction in fees might only seem small but if you have a high turnover, these savings can be considerable. There are also additional features available on the larger packages but I will cover that more in the features section below.
If you are interested in seeing how Shopify’s pricing compares to other ecommerce platforms, then check out my How Much Does an Ecommerce Website Cost post.
For enterprise level ecommerce platforms, Shopify offer a custom package that is built around your businesses requirements.
It is always better to try a platform before you commit any money to it and Shopify have you covered on that one. They offer a 14 day free trial and you don’t need to give any information other than your name and email address. If you want to start a free trial with Shopify, then just click the button below.
Before I get full on into my review, I thought I would take a look at what some of Shopiy’s existing customers thought of the platform. For this I look on Trustpilot, Facebook and Google.
1.3 out of 5
The reviews on Shopify however are a bit of a mixed bag as a quite a few seem to be people leaving reviews about bad experiences that have had with companies using the platform, rather than the platform itself.
Reviews of the actual platform are still not particularly great with some seemingly support related, which unfortunately can always vary with large companies.
As one of the world’s leading ecommerce platform, it is not surprise that Shopify comes loaded with features and all the ones listed below are available on the basic Shopify package:
- Sell Physical, Virtual or Digital Products & Services – whatever type of product you sell, Shopify has options to suit but you will need an app to sell downloadable products
- Automatic Taxes – once you have set up your tax information all taxes on your products will automatically be calculated
- Customer Profiles – see customer order history and account information
- Shopify Management App – manage your Shopify store on the go including Order Fulfilment, Inventory Management and contact your customers directly from your mobile device via email or phone
Shopify Marketing Tools
To generate sales on your ecommerce website, you are going to need a selection of tools to not only get customers to your site but also encourage them to buy, so what do Shopify offer?
- Sell on Facebook – allow customers to check out directly on your Facebook page with the Facebook shop sales channel
- Social Share – share to various social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest
- Google Adwords Credit – got $100 towards Google Ads when you spend $25 with Google
- Discount Codes – create discount codes to encourage purchases such as percentage discount, fixed price discount, free shipping and buy X and get Y
- Gift Cards – allow customers to buy gift cards for friends and family to be redeemed in your store
- Abandoned Cart Recovery – automatically email customers who have abandoned their shopping cart to encourage them to complete their order
- Multi-Language – checkout available in over 50 languages and themes can be translated. Shopify Standard can be offered in two different languages and Advanced in up to five different languages
Shopify also offer built in marketing tools to launch ad campaigns for Facebook, Snapchat and Email Marketing.
Shopify SEO Tools
Marketing tools are great but what about if you want to generate organic traffic from search engines, well to help you with this, Shopify offer the following SEO related features:
- Auto Generated Sitemap – submit your Shopify store to search engines such as Google and Bing
- Blog – create blog posts for your site
- Custom Meta Data – set your own meta data such as Page Title and Meta Description
- SEO Friendly URL’s – auto generated SEO friendly URL’s that can also be edited
- Store Speed Checker – get a detailed report of your stores speed, so that you can see where you can improve
Shopify Payment Gateways
If you are selling online then you need a way to get paid and Shopify most definitely have got you covered on that front! Every major payment gateway such as PayPal, Worldpay, SagePay, Amazon Pay and Klarna are supported, plus many many others.
- PayPal Express Checkout
- Amazon Pay
Now you may notice that Stripe is missing from the list? This isn’t an omission, it is just that Stripe is available in the form of Shopify payments, which is available to every seller. With Shopify Payments, you get fraud analysis on every transaction and the rates are different for the three packages mentioned above.
- Shopify Basic – 2.9% + 30¢ transaction fee
- Standard Shopify – 2.6% + 30¢ transaction fee
- Advanced Shopify – 2.4% + 20¢ transaction fee
These are really competitive rates, especially as you don’t have a monthly recurring charge for using the gateway like you do with some credit card processors.
Shopify Shipping Options
Shopify offers a lot of options when it comes to shipping, including:
- Set Custom Shipping Rates – these can be based off rules that you create such as fixed price, order value or weight based and location based pricing
- Offer Free Shipping – if you don’t want to charge your customers, then you can offer free shipping on all orders
- Offer Local Delivery – if you offer local delivery, you can set custom rates
- Local Pickup – offer a click and collect service for local customers
- Shipping Integration – connect your store to your account with shipping providers such as FedEx or UPS
- Fulfilment Integration – connect your store to fulfilment services such as Shopify Fulfillment Network, Amazon, Rakuten Super Logistics, and Shipwire
On the Shopify Advanced package, you can also get third-party shipping rates calculated at the checkout from your chosen shipping partner.
Shopify Reporting & Analytics
All Shopify stores get access to the following reporting and analytics:
- Product Reports
- Traffic Sources
- Google Analytics
- Day, Week and Monthly Reports
The Shopify Standard and Advanced packages also include advanced reporting, with the Advanced package including a custom report builder for more detailed analytics.
Shopify App Store
As you can see, Shopify comes with a good selection of features as standard but it doesn’t stop there!
This is because Shopify have created their very own app store and what makes this different from many other hosted platforms is that they have allowed third-party developers to create and sell apps through their app store and this has created a huge selection, over 3,000 the last time I checked!
These apps cover a huge number of categories from product sourcing to marketing and order management. This means that if you need a specific feature for your Shopify store, then there is probably an app out there to help.
A popular selection of the Shopify apps are the ones that offer Dropshipping Integration popular companies such as Ordoro, Inventory Source, and eCommHub.
Unfortunately though, not all of these apps are free to use. Many offer a free trial or a free package that limits the amount of features/resources you get and the pricing does vary depending on the app. These costs can be a monthly payment plan or a single payment, depending on the app.
Shopify Theme Selection & Customisation
Shopify has a selection of over 70 themes available in their Theme Store but only 9 of these are free to use and the others range from $140 – $180.
You can also use themes from outside of the Shopify ecosystem and a search of Shopify on themeforest returns over 1,200 results. So there really is a great selection of themes available for the platform.
One of the things that helped separate Shopify from its competition in the early days was how easy it was to customise their themes so that you could have a really good looking website, without having to hire a web designer.
And their theme customiser is still one of the best on the market. It gives you not only a lot of options but also a lot of control over the look and feel of your website, even the basic free themes can be made to look very good and professional with a little bit of work.
All of your theme customisation is done using the left sidebar and you can add and remove sections as you please so that you can give your store the look and feel that you want. You do get access to a library of stock images available through Shopify, which is a really nice feature and allows you to pad out your site with some high quality images when you are just getting started.
Unfortunately, the theme customizer is pretty much limited to the homepage, there are some limited options for the product and collections pages but any other pages have to be done using a text editor that has basic layout options.
Another nice feature of the Shopify customiser is that you get to view to website on desktop, tablet and mobile and it is always worth going through these to make sure your site looks great on them all.
Shopify offer a 24/7 support system via their help centre and while they don’t actively display their contact details, it doesn’t take too much digging to find out how to contact them. Simply type a word or question in to the query bar, scroll down and click the get help button and it will show you all the ways you can contact Shopify.
Outside of contacting their support teams, Shopify also has a very good selection of documentation and videos to help you and you will probably find your answer in there.
There is also the Shopify community forum, which is great place to ask questions and get really well informed replies as there are people in there who are very knowledgeable about the platform.
Web Hosting & Performance
To have a really good ecommerce platform, the web hosting that powers the online stores needs to be up to scratch. So how do Shopify stack up. Searching the Shopify site throws up some impressive information:
- Unlimited Bandwidth
- PCI Level 1 Compliant Servers
- Global Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- 99.98% Uptime
- And most important Blazing Fast Servers
This all sounds great but I don’t take companies on their word! So I took it three of their customer examples websites and ran them through Pingdom’s speed tool using their Washington D.C and San Francisco servers along with Google’s Page Speed Insights. I ran each site through the speed tool once a day, for five days to get a nice spread of data and you can see the results below:
Washington D.C: 1.15 Seconds
San Francisco: 1.37 Seconds
There are certainly no worries when it comes to load times as Shopify averaged will under 2 seconds for both locations and one encouraging sign was that all of the load times were consistent.
The Google scores weren’t great though, especially on mobile with an average of 30/100. This is a bit of a concern, especially as mobile ecommerce is becoming more prominent and Google are putting more emphasis on mobile performance. However, they don’t really perform any worse than their competition in this area.
Desktop scores were also a little on the low side for my liking at 77/100, but once again, they weren’t any worse than their competition.
To see how Shopify performed against it’s rivals in terms of speed and performance, check out my Fastest Ecommerce Platforms post.
How Easy is Shopify to Use?
Getting Started with Shopify
It is very easy for to get started with the Shopify platform as they offer a free 14 day trail, that only requires and email address, store name and to create a password, once completed, you will be asked a couple of questions about your business, niche, trading status etc.
If you want to upgrade to a paid plan, this can easily be done by going to Settings → Plans and Permissions in the Shopify dashboard.
The main Shopify dashboard is one of the easiest that I have used and this is very much down to the main sidebar navigation menu as this is not only clearly labelled but also easy to navigate and it isn’t overloaded with options.
The general interface is also very clean and uncluttered and this just adds to overall user experience.
New users to Shopify will also be greeted by a short tutorial to help you get up and running on the platform and while this isn’t bad, it also isn’t great either as it is very limited in terms of what it prompts users to do.
It isn’t all bad news though, as Shopify have created their own academy called Shopify Compass (there should be link to this on the home page of the dashboard) to help you started and this is a series of videos that takes you through all the steps you need to do, to get your store ready to go live.
The 27 introductory videos are very well presented and include some useful tips and tricks to help get you started with Shopify or you can check out Shopify Tutorials such as mine that are also useful sources of information.
It is definitely worth going through the course and checking out some of the other courses available as there is some really good information on there.
Adding New Products
Adding a new product is really simple. They haven’t gone overboard with options on the single page layout and this makes the workflow of adding new products to your online store really easy.
Along with the basic such as adding the product title, description, images and price, you can set how you wish to manage your inventory, select whether it is a physical or digital products and also create variations for you product.
At the very bottom of the page, you can also edit your meta data such as title, description and URL.
Organising Your Inventory
Organising your inventory in Shopify, isn’t as straightforward as it possibly could be. Unlike the category system that most ecommerce platforms use, Shopify have developed their own collection system and it takes a little getting used to.
This is because there are a couple of different ways you can set up your collections, the first and simplest way is to do this manually and this works very similar to a normal category as you create a category and then manually add your products to it.
The second is automated and this works on rules that you create using tags. This can be a little confusing to start with and it is definitely worth reading the documentation on this to fully figure out how this works and if it will work for your website.
One thing that isn’t immediately evident is how you create a sub collection as there is no option to do this on the create collection page. Instead, this has to be done in the navigation section of your online store and you set up your sub-collection using your website menus.
Managing Your Inventory
To help you manage your inventory quickly and effectively, Shopify include and inventory page under the products section and this allows you to update your stock quantity, without having to go into each product and edit it individually.
If you want to make changes to the pricing, SKU code or any other field from the product, then you can select the products you want to edit from the product overview screen and then click the edit product button, which allows you to make updates in bulk.
There is definitely room for improvement when it comes to Shopify’s order management system as you can only do so much from the order overview page.
You can change order fulfilment status, capture payments and export order information in bulk but there is no option to print off your order invoices. This has to be done on an order by order basis within Shopify and this could soon get tedious, especially of you are managing a large number of orders.
If you store does process a large number of orders, then third-party order management software may be needed.
Is Shopify any good?
Shopify is without question a very good ecommerce platform and is a great option for building an ecommerce website.
What stands out to me is that Shopify aren’t the best in any single area, when compared to other platforms but Shopify is very good at everything, which is one of the reasons why they are so popular.
It has a very good selection of features, is easy to use and has a lot of resources to help get you started but there are a couple of things that are drawbacks for the platform, such as the transaction fees, as they can make Shopify more expensive than their competition.
• Easy to use admin area
• Nice theme selection
• Great theme customizer
• Good bulk editors
• Stock Image Library
• The App Store
The Not so Good:
• Transaction fees
• Larger plans are expensive
• Collections system could be easier to use
• Order management is pretty basic
So there it is, my full review of Shopify. A very good ecommerce platform that is loaded with features and very easy to use but does have a couple of flaws. Definitely give it a try for yourself to see if it is the right choice for you!