There are almost as many eCommerce platforms as there are eCommerce marketplaces. New platforms pop up all the time. All aiming to compete with the likes of Square, Wix and WooCommerce.
One of the biggest eCommerce platforms around is Shopify. But outside of the commerce tech bubble not too many people know what it can do. And what it can’t do.
This week we look at Shopify. Is Shopify the right platform for you if you are looking to set up a marketplace? What are the pros and cons of Shopify?
Let’s find out.
What Is Shopify?
Founded in 2006, Shopify is the company behind the proprietary eCommerce platform, also called Shopify! The first Shopify website was for the founders’ own webstore. They started a website to sell snowboards online. The founders, Tobias Lütke, Scott Lake and Daniel Weinand did not like the platform solutions that were out there. So they built their own.
Shopify, the platform, now offers online retailers a range of services. From payments, marketing to shipping. The platform also offers other tools to help you create a great commerce experience for customers.
But is Shopify right for your business?
Pros & Cons Of Shopify – The Pro List
So Shopify has been around a long time, is worth billions of dollars and it’s estimated that over 4 million live websites run on it.
So, Shopify must be pretty great right? The platform does offer some very obvious benefits to businesses that use it.
Here is a list of some of the “pros” Shopify has in its favor.
Shopify Has (Most Of) The Essentials
Almost everything you need to start your eCommerce site is available on Shopify Basic for around $1.00 per month.
This includes hosting, free SSL certificate and subdomains. You could use a myshopify.com domain for free or buy your own domain name through Shopify.
Shopify Basic also enables you to upload unlimited products, 2 staff accounts and up to 4 inventory locations.
So even at a low tier of membership, the bare essentials you need to get your eCommerce site started are all integrated within Shopify.
For a full feature list for each member ship tier, just check out Shopify’s pricing. You should note that Shopify Starter is for Social selling rather than through an eCommerce website.
Great Customer Support
With Shopify you get 24/7 customer support via phone, email and live chat.
This can be a big help if you are getting started on your own. Launching a new website can be a bit of a pain if you are not sure about what you are doing. So great customer support can be a real help to anyone who is getting involved in eCommerce for the first time.
Shopify is a very user-friendly platform. Its drag-and-drop interface is much easier to get to grips with and requires no coding skills or design experience. Though if you do have some coding or design skills, you will get more out of Shopify than someone who does not.
In comparison to a platform like WordPress, Shopify is much easier and quicker to get started.
Shopify’s ease-of-use has established the platform as the go-to eCommerce platform for beginners.
Marketing is hard, especially in the eCommerce space. There are lots of competitors and not a lot of time to get your campaigns going.
Shopify offers many built-in marketing tools and integrations. As well as apps (which you may have to pay extra for) to help you with specific marketing objectives.
But if you are getting started, or running a quick experiment, Shopify’s built-in tools can get you going with the basics. Which are SEO, Facebook Ads and Google Ads.
Selling Physical Products? Digital? A Service? It’s All Easy
Some eCommerce platforms focus on helping businesses sell particular products.
A more focused platform may be better depending on your business model. But Shopify has enough options that you are never restricted to what you can sell. As long as what you are selling does not fall foul of Shopify’s restricted items policy. For example, you cannot sell alcohol or tobacco on Shopify.
But if you are selling physical products, digital products (outside of gaming currencies, which can only be sold by the operators of those games) or a service, Shopify has you covered.
You may have to use specific apps and integrations for the product you are selling, which can incur extra costs, but as long as it is not restricted you should be fine.
Access To Lots Of Payment Gateway Options
If you know anything about running an eCommerce business, you will know handling payments can be a huge issue.
Shopify makes things easy. You will have access to a large number of payment processors. This is key for sellers who want to sell products all over the world.
But, there is something to be aware of. If you use Shopify Payments, there are no transaction fees. But if you use a third-party payment provider, there are additional fees. They are:
- 2% for Shopify Basic users
- 1% for Shopify users
- 0.5% for Advanced Shopify users
Full information on the Payment Gateways Shopify offers in each territory is available on Shopify’s Payment Gateway page.
Pros & Cons Of Shopify – The Cons List
So Shopify sounds great? Getting ready to dive in? Well, hold on a minute. In a pros & cons of Shopify article, we have to look at some “cons”. So here are some things you should be aware of before making Shopify your eCommerce platform.
The Prices…And Hidden Fees
On the face of it, the Shopify pricing structure seems very reasonable. At the time of writing, for yearly plans, here are the monthly prices* for the three membership tiers:
- Shopify Basic: $17.00 per month
- Shopify: $44.00 per month
- Shopify Advanced: $266.00 per month
*prices may vary depending on location
These may seem reasonable at first. But these are recurring costs you will be paying as long as your eCommerce site is running. If your business takes off, it is almost certain that you will have to change your subscription plan. So you may start on Basic, but to scale and get access to more features you will have to move upwards.
In addition to these basic subscription fees, certain apps will also incur a charge. Better themes will also cost you more money. So if you are selling a specific type of product you may need to buy a theme and several apps to help your eCommerce site function, in addition to the subscription. Some apps on Shopify also have a monthly subscription model too.
This is on top of the payment processing fee structure you will have to contend with. As mentioned before, Shopify Payments is free. But any other third-party payment integration incurs a further fee. That 2.0% fee for Shopify Basic users may not sound like much at first, but over time that is a considerable overhead.
No Email Hosting
Email hosting is not provided on Shopify. If you want to send emails from your custom domain email address you will have to use a third-party solution.
Although there are ways around it, this is another barrier for eCommerce operators who want to talk to their customers.
App Integrations Can Become Expensive
Shopify works with apps. This can be great and adds another layer of flexibility to the Shopify eCommerce platform.
But these app extensions can become very expensive. Some even charge subscription tiers to function.
Take a Shopify app like Track123 as an example. Track123 is an all-in-one shipment and tracking page management app. This is something most sellers would want. Track123 has a free tier, but it only runs up to 100 orders. Which is not many orders. If you get more than 100 orders you will have to pay for the “growth” tier at an extra $9.00 per month. The tiers go up from there to $59.00 per month, which covers you up to 2000 orders per month.
Some apps have eye-watering subscription tiers. Jioukou, which enables group purchasing discounts, has an advanced tier that charges $6,666 per month!
It is another monthly expense that you have to take into account in addition to your Shopify subscription and third-party transaction fees.
The Blogging Interface Is…Not Great
Creating content is a great way to attract customers and it is an SEO must-have.
Although Shopify does have a blogging interface it is lacking compared to platforms like WordPress.
Considering that content creation is important for eCommerce operators, it is a bit strange that the Shopify blog interface is so limited. This can change in the future but at the time of writing, the Shopify blog interface feels like an afterthought.
If you want to create useful content for your customers, you should be aware that Shopify’s blog solution is not ideal. It will suffice if you are getting started, but over time you will feel its limitations.
It’s Difficult To Leave
Before picking Shopify as your eCommerce platform one big thing you must consider is if you need an exit strategy. This is because Shopify does not make it easy for you to leave.
If you get to the stage where you need to migrate away from Shopify, you will have problems. Blog content gets locked into Shopify, so to move it you will have to do a lot of “copy and paste” work. You cannot export code files from webpages and publish them somewhere else. Shopify is not compatible with other systems, which makes business sense for them but can be a big problem for you.
So if you decide to migrate away you will have to redesign your website. You can export a CSV file for your products, but there is no transfer function for your site.
We will be adding to our pros & cons of Shopify list over time, as things change. So if you are considering an eCommerce platform come back to see if Shopify is the right fit for you.
Talk to MAQE
Choosing an eCommerce platform? Need advice on Shopify? Talk to MAQE. We have a decade of creating commerce experiences that delight users. We can also optimize back end processes to make sure your commerce business runs smoothly. Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are just getting started with eCommerce, or you want to run rapid experiments, visit Paretonow.com.