Shopify Review

Reviewed by: Jason Chow
  • Published: Oct 23, 2017
  • Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Shopify Review
Plan in review: Basic Shopify
Reviewed by:
Rating:
Review Last Updated: October 19, 2020
Summary
Shopify is one of the best fully hosted, eCommerce platforms in the market today. It’s reasonably priced, comes with solid features, supports multiple channels (sell on Facebook, Amazon, etc), and round-the-clock support. This makes Shopify a great all-in-one eCommerce solution that can help businesses to sell more – online via eCommerce and offline through integrated POS Systems. However, if you’re looking for a simple website builder this might be a little over the top for your needs. The additional tool integration is good though and might be worth considering in its favour.

Shopify is a leading name in the online shop builder community and that makes it naturally double up as a site builder.

With more than half a million eCommerce stores powered by Shopify it surely has something for everyone, right? Let’s take a closer look at what’s on offer and see if it will suit your needs.

What is Shopify?

Shopify is a complete eCommerce platform that helps everyday people set up their own online store and sell products on multiple channels. Starting a Shopify store can be as easy as registering an account and modifying an existing template.

How does Shopify work?

At its heart, Shopify acts as a website builder. This anchor tool that Shopify is centered around offers a graphic user interface (GUI)-driven way of building a website. No additional coding knowledge is necessary.

Websites that are built using the Shopify site builder are also hosted on their web servers. To complete the roundup, Shopify has add-on applications that help eCommerce sites work. This gives them additional functionality needed, such as payment processing, inventory management, shopping cart features, handling of shipping, and more.

Shopify – One of the best online store builders for newbies
Shopify – One of the best online store builders for newbies (visit online).

 

Who use Shopify?

Shopify is used by all types of people – from local mom-and-pop shops to tech start ups and global multi-million dollar businesses. Some of the biggest brands on Shopify include BudweiserPenguin Books, and Tesla Motors.

What can you sell on Shopify?

Overall you can sell most family-friendly products on Shopify. Paintings, antiques, handbags, cameras, pottery and ceramics, stamps, t-shirts, wine, furniture, toys, books, car parts, baby items, office supplies, and photo prints are some of the common products sold on Shopify stores.

There are a number of businesses prohibited from using the Shopify platform, including:

  • IP infringement, regulated or illegal products and services; such as gambling, pharmaceuticals, investment and credit services, virtual currency,  and adult content and services.
  • Video game or virtual world credits
  • Social media activities
  • Multilevel marketing and pyramid schemes
  • Event tickets

To find out more, read Shopify ToS Section B-5. Prohibited Business.

Real stores built with free Shopify themes

Shopify Example#1 – The Black Steel. This Shopify store uses “Boundless”, a free theme that works great for product showcase.
Example#1 – The Black Steel.  This Shopify store uses “Boundless”, a free theme that works great for product showcase.
Shopify Example #2 – Willawalker. This store uses “Jumpstart”, a theme that's ideal to showcase a small number of products.
Example #2 – Willawalker. This store uses “Jumpstart”, a theme that's ideal to showcase a small number of products.
Example #3 – Cenegenics Store
Example #3 – Cenegenics Store
Shopify Example #2 – Willawalker. This store uses “Jumpstart”, a theme that's ideal to showcase a small number of products.
Example #4 – Drizzle

Shopify Features

Although Shopify is an eCommerce store designer it also considers that some developers will still be using it to build one on behalf of clients and that’s a neat thing to remember. Signing up requires a little more detail than I’m used to but I guess it’s helpful for an online store to gather a lot of this information up front.

There are a few free themes available, but similarly to BigCommerce, there are a whole lot of premium (expensive) themes available and you can even build your own and upload it. However, the focus remains very much on selling and that’s where I think Shopify has done exceptionally well. Shopify has good integration with third-parties such as various online tool providers

If you’re a seller, you’ll know that offering your customers multiple payment options is a good thing. Shopify has many payment options available such as credit cards (through multiple gateways) PayPal and even BitCoin! There are also the more traditional options like bank transfers or Cash on Delivery if you’re into that. Uniquely, there is Shopify Payments that can be fully integrated with your store. That way everything runs through Shopify with no need for gateways or anything else.

You’re also future-proofed in the sense that Shopify has included a built-in mobile e-commerce shopping cart. This way your prospective customers can shop and pay from your store right from their mobile devices.

Shopify welcome page.
The sales pitch starts right from the beginning
Shopify has an easy-to-use website editor.

Adding products is simple with the WYSIWYG editor
Shopify store setup page.

Shopify Themes Demo

 

Shopify theme – Pacific $180.
Shopify theme – Venture, FOC.
Shopify theme – Alchemy, $150.
Shopify theme – Supply, FOC.

Customizing / building Shopify themes 

Shopify uses Liquid, an open-source template language in Ruby, to create their themes. A extensive list of cheat sheet is provided for those who wish to build Shopify themes from scratch.

 


 

The Pros: Things We Like About Shopify

1. Selling products on multiple channels

Shopify - sell on all possible channels
Shopify lets users sell wherever your customers are—online, in‑person, and everywhere in‑between.

Shopify allows users to make use of other potential sales channels to increase sales. Here are some of the supported channels with easy integration of products :

  • Sell on Facebook – Sell your Shopify products on a Facebook page.
  • Sell on Amazon – Connect Shopify to Amazon Professional Seller.
  • Sell on Pinterest – Sell your products through pins directly.
  • Sell on Mobile Apps – Sell Shopify products on apps you develop.
  • Sell in person at brick-and-mortal shops – Shopify helps unify all your products and inventories with its built-in POS system.

2. Shopify “Buy Button”

With this feature, you can embed any product and add a checkout on your site. It's a great tool to create a custom shopping experience for your visitors.

Using the “Buy Button”, you can easily monetize your website or blog with just a single click.

The Shopify “Buy Button” works similarly to “Buy Now” from PayPal. It will link back to Shopify when visitors click on the check-out from your website.

Shopify Buy Button.
Shopify Buy Button.

3. Supports over 100 payment processors worldwide

Shopify comes with various built-in payment services which makes the shopping process smoother for your customers.

Shopify Payments

Shopify has introduced Shopify Payments to make it possible to facilitate online payments.

The advantages of Shopify Payments is that you can manage all of your store transactions within the Shopify platform. It's easy to set up as the payment system is fully integrated with your store.

However, Shopify Payments is only available to stores in the following areas:

  • United States
  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Hong Kong
  • Singapore
Shopify payments
To setup Shopify Payments, go to Settings > Payments > Accept Payments. Your transaction fees can be waived to 0%, if you choose Shopify Payments to process all of your sales.

Third-Party Payment Gateways

For users that has no access to Shopify Payments – Shopify also integrates with over 100 different payment processors able to handle multiple currencies, making your customer payment process easier.

See detail payment information by country or region here.

Shopify allows store owners to accept credit card and all major e-wallet payment online.

4. Excellent site performance

The majority of us won’t want to wait in lines (unless we have to) for more than 15 minutes when shopping. Similarly, 50% of customers or more are not likely to return to a website that loads slowly or kept them waiting at checkout.

I'm sure you don't want to lose out on 50% of your potential sales that's why having excellent site performance is important for an online store. I ran a few performance tests on a Shopify website and the results were great.

shopify bitcatcha
I created a Shopify store using their free plan for testing purpose. My test store scored an A+ in BitCatcha's server test results.
TTFB less than 300ms
I did another test with the Shopify live store. The TTFB (Time-to-first-byte) is less than 300ms. That basically means that the store loads up blazingly fast! Amazon calculated that a page load slowdown of just one second could cost them $1.6 billion in sales each year. If it's that severe for Amazon, imagine how you could lose out if you don't keep your website fast.

5. Sell both digital and physical products

Shopify allows you to handle both digital and physical products. They offer a free app that you can use to specify the types for your products.

You can categorize your products as digital and handle those particular deliveries through email or as a downloadable via online storage.

You can also set the type of shipping and fulfillment for each product if you're dealing with physical goods. In addition to that, you can start a Shopify dropshipping business easily with Shopify.

Drop shipping with Shopify.

6. Integrate your store with Shopify POS

Have a brick and mortar shop and want to expand its presence? Take advantage of Shopify's POS (Point-of-Sale) system.

You can integrate Shopify POS into your physical shop and the data will then be shared between the POS and your online store. With Shopify POS system, you can manage your sales, inventory, customer data, etc, online and offline, on a single platform.

Merchants who choose to subscribe to Shopify POS will receive a full POS system, along with its devices.

You get a receipt printer (Star Micronics), APG cash drawers, a Socket Mobile barcode scanner, and a card reader (Shopify's proprietary machine powered by Swipe).

7. Extensive self-help documentation

Shopify offers comprehensive self-help documentation that you can use to get started. It's useful for beginners and experts alike with helpful information such as definitions for technical terms as well as setup guides.

I was able to understand some simple definitions and settings by reading their online help center. For more guides and tips, you can head on to Shopify tutorials.

shopify help center

8. Useful add-on to widen the store

In addition to what Shopify offers as default features, you can also visit the Shopify app market to get other useful add-ons (either free or paid) to beef up your store.

The wide range of apps that Shopify has to offer makes them one of the more versatile eCommerce platform in the market.

You can extend your store with over 1,200 Shopify adds-on.

All of them are available from the Shopify app store that helps you to better manage different aspects of your online store such as inventory, customers, shipping, marketing and more.

Shopify App market

9. Boost sales with Shopify abandoned cart recovery

Shopify abandoned cart recovery is designed to help you follow up with visitors who didn't complete the checkout process.

This feature used to be only available on the higher Shopify plans but they've recently decided to make it available on all plans – absolutely a great benefit to users.

With the contact information provided by customers, the incomplete buying process will be stored as an abandoned checkout.

By default, Shopify will send abandoned cart saver emails to customers in 2 particular time intervals but, you can customize these settings too.

Shopify Abandoned cart recovery

The Cons: Things We Dislike About Shopify

1- Customize theme using own PHP language

Shopify platform uses their self-developed PHP language called “Liquid”.

All themes are coded in this format. It makes the theme customization harder unless you know how to code in Liquid or are willing to hire a developer who knows how to code Shopify themes.

Several Shopify reviews from developers mention that Liquid is an easy-to-learn language but personally I don't feel comfortable messing around with the code.

Unless you want to edit theme core files, then you're safe off sticking with their prebuilt ones.

Alternatively, you can opt for a premium theme with support instead to avoid any coding problems.

Shopify programming language Liquid
Shopify programming language – Liquid

2. Advanced features at a higher price

Shopify Basic plan only comes with the barest of features that you'll need to run an online store.

Advanced features like reports, fraud analysis, gift cards and real-time shipping rate only available on higher-tier plans.

3. Apps come at a price

Although you can get a lot of useful adds-on from the Shopify app market, many of them are not free.

For example, the Exit Offers app costs $9.99/mo and Intuit QuickBooks costs $29.99/mo. You might need to pay an extra $15/mo if you need the Retarget App. While these apps offer great features, using all of them will definitely increase your overall costs.

However, if a particular paid app can help you save time or reduce the amount of hassle in your workflow, it might be worthwhile as an investment. Pick your apps carefully and choose the ones that are able to help you in your everyday business.

4. No email hosting

Shopify doesn't provide you with email hosting even though the web hosting is included in all Shopify plans. This means you can’t host a domain-based email address like [email protected]

What you can do is to set up email forwarding. This makes it so that whenever someone reaches out to [email protected], the email will automatically be forwarded to your regular email account like Gmail or Yahoo. The same goes for replying to emails.

To use the email forwarding function, you need to set up a 3rd party email hosting connection before you can reply from your own email account.

 


 

Shopify Plans & Pricing

Since Shopify is intended as a rapid eCommerce site builder the costs involved are also more than your average web hosting or site builder-based platforms. For most people, their mainstream plans are what you want to be looking towards and there are three flavors of this;

  • Basic Shopify – $29 /mo (transaction fee – 2% and credit card fee – 2.9% + $0.30)
  • Shopify – $79 /mo (transaction fee – 1% and credit card fee – 2.6% + $0.30)
  • Advanced Shopify – $299 /mo (transaction fee – 0.5% and credit card fee – 2.4% + $0.30)
  • Shopify Lite – $ 9/mo (sell on social media or website)

Shopify Standard Plans and Pricing

The lowest tier in their standard plans clocks in at $29 – which isn’t cheap for hosting or a website builder. However, Shopify plans all come with eCommerce features, so along with the basic builder you get a whole range of associated tools

This includes;

  • Unlimited number of products
  • Unlimited file storage
  • Ability to sell digital products
  • Manual order creation
  • Website and blog section
  • Shipping label discounts
  • Retail packaging if needed (with additional charges)
  • Sell through social media channels (Facebook, Pinterest, Twi

In a glance

Shopify Plans/PricesBasic ShopifyShopifyAdvanced Shopify
Monthly Price$29 /mo$79 /mo$299 /mo
Staff accounts2515
Credit card fees2.9% + $0.302.6% + $0.302.4% + $0.30
Transaction fees / 3rd party gateway2%1%0.5%
Shopify payments0%0%0%
Gift cardsYesYes
Abandoned cart recoveryYesYesYes
Free SSL certificateYesYesYes
Fraud analysisYesYes
Personal reportsYesYes
Professional reportsYesYes
Advance report builderYes
Real-time shipping ratesYes
24/7 supportYesYesYes

Shopify Success Stories

Death Wish Coffee is among one of the thousands of unique small businesses that make up the Shopify ecosystem. I’ve found that most Shopify users are small to medium business that offer niche products and that’s a very good thing since it reflects well on the level of support and commitment that Shopify offers to them.

Visit online: www.deathwishcoffee.com

 


 

Conclusion

It doesn't matter if you have a brick and mortar store or are just starting out a brand new eCommerce store, Shopify could be the ideal choice for you. While it is true that there may be challenges along the way, creating an online store with Shopify is definitely worth your investment (time and money).

Also – Learn the Three ways to create a website.

Do I recommend Shopify?

Yes. Especially if you are looking to grow your online presence and grab a slice of the lucrative online eCommerce market.

For business owners, Shopify offers flexibility and the ability to grow your business. From creating your product page to delivery or download, Shopify has everything you could ever need.

With Shopify, you have every chance to increase your sales by integrating with their latest technology.

PROS

  • Selling products on multiple channels
  • Shopify “Buy Button”
  • Supports over 100 payment processors worldwide
  • Excellent site performance
  • Sell both digital and physical products
  • Integrate your store with Shopify POS
  • Extensive self-help documentation
  • Useful add-on to widen the store
  • Boost sales with Shopify abandoned cart recovery

CONS

  • Customize theme using own PHP language
  • Advanced features at a higher price
  • Apps come at a price
  • No email hosting

Shopify Alternatives

How to begin with Shopify?

It's okay to have a risk-free mindset. No one is ready to invest in something before trying it. That's why Shopify offers a 14-day trial. It's completely free to use and you don't even have to fill in your credit card details.

Click here to signup for a free account at Shopify.

Shopify Sign Up

Shopify Sign up pageShopify Sign Up

 

 

About Jason Chow

Jason is a fan of technology and entrepreneurship. He loves building website. You can get in touch with him via Twitter.