Is Shopify the best e-commerce platform for your store? Choosing a platform to build your online store isn’t easy. There are several specialized shop builders online and also the website builders have e-commerce solutions.
The choice of platform can have a major effect on your business, therefore, it’s better to make the best choice the first time. In this review we’ll see what Shopify has to offer and if you should consider this platform for your online store.
Overall Ranking: 85 out of 100 or 4.25/5 stars
Price: 14-day free trial, prices from $9 – $179 per month
Owner: Shopify inc.
Shopify is a Canadien company that was launched in 2006. The three founders Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand, and Scott Lake decided to start the adventure after being disappointed with the e-commerce products that were available online. This came about after they had tried to launch their own online store.
They started as a team of just 5 people working out of a coffee shop. Today more than 500 employees are working in 4 offices across Canada. The company now has more than 200,000 active stores using its platform and has generated sales of more than $12 billion.
What is Shopify?
Shopify is a platform that allows you to set up your own e-commerce store to sell your goods and all this without having to know any of the technical details that might have stopped you in your tracks a few years ago.
You can sign up and start adding and organizing your products as you wish. It’s also possible to give your store a unique look by choosing from a wide selection of themes. Additionally, you can accept payments by credit card, keep up to date with orders, and have a blog if you like.
Shopify is a hosted program, so you don’t need to find separate hosting or bother with installing software. You can find everything you need for your store in one place.
Who is this for?
Shopify makes setting up a store possible for most people. You don’t need to know any HTML, CSS, or other programming skills and with a good selection of nice-looking themes, it’s possibly the easiest way for a novice to have an awesome looking online store.
This is a great platform for people who want to start selling their own products online or for someone who has an offline store and wants to expand their business by selling their products online.
Getting started with Shopify
To get started with Shopify, you can sign up for their free 14-day trial. You just need to enter your email address, a password, and the name of your store. Your store name has to be unique otherwise, you will be asked to choose another but don’t worry this can be changed later.
After that, you are required to fill in your name and address and are asked to choose one of the phrases on the right. If you’re taking the trial to evaluate Shopify you can choose “I’m just playing around”.
Once all is done you can access your store’s dashboard and start adding products, customizing your store, setting up payments and shipping details. The video below goes into more detail and shows you how easy it is to create your own e-commerce store.
You can choose the look of your store by choosing a theme in the Shopify theme store. They have free and premium themes and you can filter by:
- paid or free,
- most recent
- most popular.
There are more than 25 free themes and more than 120 premium themes. The prices of the premium themes range from $100 to $180 which might seem quite expensive, but you should remember it’s not a recurring payment. I would recommend starting with a free theme, they will give you a good looking store to start and you can change themes later after you have earned some money.
When you have found a theme you like, you can see a more detailed page that gives you the different styles of the theme, reviews, some examples of shops that are using the theme, and a demo version.
Adding a product isn’t too difficult, you need to give the product a title, a description, add images, and a price. After that there are further details like the SKU or barcodes, you can choose to track the inventory and set shipping charges.
One thing I liked that may help with SEO is you can set a page title and description for each product page. This is initially filled in automatically, but you can change these as you desire.
One important point, always try to write your own unique descriptions as Google doesn’t like duplicate content and try to use a little imagination to have a different approach to the descriptions that may already be online. Even if you have the best-looking site online, if you don’t have sufficient unique text you will struggle to be ranked. Here are a few pointers that might help you achieve some good rankings for your descriptions:
- Keyword research – try to find some low competition keywords related to the product you are selling. I use a great keyword tool, Jaaxy, that makes this easy, but any keyword tool you are familiar with will do.
- Include the keywords you have found in your page title, this found in the search engine listing preview. Also, incorporate the keywords in the actual title of the page
- Use your keywords 1 or 2 times in the description of the product, once in the first paragraph, is good
- In your product photos include your keywords in the “alt” tag of one photo, don’t overdo it
- Make your description as long as possible
What can Shopify do?
Here are some of the main features included on the Shopify platform:
Payments: With Shopify, you can accept payments directly without the need of any payment gateways, this will save you money on transaction fees. If you decide to use third-party payment gateways Shopify integrates with more than 70 from around the world.
Taxes: When your store is created Shopify sets up the tax rates for your country. If you are shipping products to other countries you will need to set up the taxes yourself.
Set up shipping rates: You can create rates manually or depending on the plan you have chosen, real-time rates can be calculated automatically by services like UPS or FedEx. You can give your customers a choice of shipping depending on speed and costs. If you are based in the US you can purchase shipping labels, giving reduced rates with USPS and saving time at the post office.
Blog: Besides having products in your store, it’s important to build a relationship with your customers. This can be done by blogging and providing your visitors with useful information, tutorials, reviews, and helping them solve problems. Shopify provides blogging software that gives you an integrated blog on your store. Your blog posts are also the chance to obtain social shares and good positions in the search engines to obtain more traffic.
Analytics or reports: Shopify provides you with reports on your business’s activity.
Orders: When a customer places an order you receive an email to notify you and the orders tab on the dashboard increases with each order placed, so you always know how many orders are pending.
Customers: Your customers are allowed to create an account that is password protected. Any subsequent orders placed by an existing client will have the address automatically filled out. You have access to a list of all your store’s customers.
Discounts: You can set up discounts in either dollar values ($15 off) or percentage (20% off). Plus you can set up other variables like a date limit for which the code is valid or the amount you have to spend before the discount is valid.
Apps: Shopify has an app store with 100’s of apps that can add additional functionality to your store. It’s up to you to decide what you need for example: improve SEO, make your store easier to manage, collect testimonials from Twitter, or make a banner. The price of apps varies from free to a few hundred dollars per month. You can search the apps via category (marketing, social media, shipping, etc,) or also through collections (launch your shop, manage your enterprise, grow your business, or made by Shopify)
That’s the main features, but it’s not everything. With Shopify, there are a few other ways of selling besides having your own store.
Buy Button Sales Channel: This makes it possible to add e-commerce to any website or blog. You can place a “Buy Now” or “Order Now” buttons on any website where it’s possible to embed the necessary HTML code. This means your customers can buy from your store or they can buy from another site they already know and trust. This could be your WordPress blog or any other website you own.
Facebook Sales Channel: You can use this feature to sell your products directly from Facebook. The products appear on the shop tab of your Facebook page and your customers can check out without leaving Facebook.
Twitter Sales Channel: If you are in the US you can promote your products on Twitter, you can add a “Buy Now” button to your Tweets. Customers who have the Twitter IOS app can purchase without having to go to your store.
Pinterest Sales Channel: Again this seems to be for the US only, you can add a “Buy It” button to all pins of products posted to Pinterest. Your customers can buy without being redirected to your store if they have the Pinterest IOS app.
Shopify Point of Sale (POS): This system allows you to manage an online and offline store from one centralized location. You can manage your inventory, transactions, and customer details for your online and offline businesses from one place, saving huge amounts of time. The POS app works with iPhones or iPads along with the Shopify card reader which plugs directly into your iPad. In effect, this turns your iPad into a payment terminal. When a customer purchases from your physical store the client’s information, sales details, and inventory tracking are synchronized with your online store.
Pros and Cons
- Relatively easy to use
- Free trial
- Good selection of themes
- Large choice of apps to add functionality to your store
- Good support
- Hosted – you don’t need to get your own hosting or install software
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Integrated payments
- POS system gives you a centralized system for selling online and offline
- Sell from your existing blog or social media
- No transaction fees when using Shopify payments
- Good for SEO
- Many of the apps have a monthly cost which can add up
- Shopify uses their own coding language “Liquid” which can make customizing your website more difficult
- There is a learning curve, not really a con, as any new system you try you will have this
- Shopify payments are only available from the USA, Canada, the UK, and Australia
- No real training for marketing your store – this is a problem common to many website builders and e-commerce store builders. You can build a store quite quickly and get it online, but what happens after that. No visitors = no sales and quite a few people seem to have this problem in the forum. It would be nice if some training to help store owners attract traffic was available. In their defense, there are some articles on their blog about SEO best practices, but they might be a little hard to find.
- Leaving Shopify will be a problem, the best you can do is use a CSV file to export your products. When you cancel your subscription all data is deleted. The other store builders are the same, even more reason to pick the right platform in the first place!
Help and support
When you are starting a new business there are many considerations like price, features, and ease of use. Nonetheless, support is something that should be taken into account, what will you do if you have a problem. Having someone ready to help at short notice is very important and Shopify doesn’t let you down here.
There is a well-documented support area, where you will find guides that will teach you most things you need to know about Shopify and answers to common questions.
It is also possible to access some tutorial videos about setting up your store on the Shopify playlist on YouTube. There are also design tutorials and many other videos.
Additionally, you can also contact Shopify by:
- Email if your problem is not too urgent, they normally reply in a few hours
- Live chat
- Telephone with several dedicated phone numbers. Telephone support is available 24/7 for all plans
The forum has customers and Shopify staff discussing the system. If you want advice on something this is the place to come, experienced Shopify users can point you in the right direction. You might find that someone has already asked the question on the forum, always worth a visit to get an idea of what problems people may be having and you can even ask for feedback on your site.
The cost of Shopify
You can try Shopify before you buy, they offer a 14-day free trial (no credit card needed) Below you can see the monthly plans and prices, although if you sign up for a longer period either annual or biennial you are offered 10% or 20% discounts respectively when they are paid in advance.
The principal plans look very similar, the main differences are the credit card rates and the transaction fees which are less for the Pro and Unlimited plans. Some of the other additional features you get with higher subscription rates are:
- Bigger discounts on shipping labels
- Gift cards – allow people to buy gift cards that can be redeemed over multiple visits
- Abandoned cart recovery – enables you to automatically send an email to customers who have abandoned their checkout provided you have their contact information
- Professional reports
Shopify also provides a starter plan which could be a good starting point, it’s always possible to upgrade later when your business takes off.
If your store isn’t the success you had hoped for, Shopify allows you to close or pause your store at any time. If you pause your store, your store stays online, customers can see your products, but cannot purchase anything. Your subscription will be changed to $14 per month.
My final opinion
Shopify is a great hosted solution if you are wanting to create your own online store. Quite easy to set up, nice looking themes, good support, free trial, and competitive price are some of the features that might impress you. The POS option certainly makes Shopify the best choice if you want to sell both online and in a physical store.
I have no problem in recommending Shopify to build your store, that’s the easy part. However, before signing up, it might be worth your while, getting some training to learn how to attract visitors to your store. Many are forced to give up after a few months due to a lack of visitors and sales.
Your traffic will either be organic coming from the search engines and social media or paid using Pay Per Click. I think it’s good to know how to obtain free traffic. This is done by writing unique content (reviews or articles to help your audience) If you write some good articles based on your keyword research you will get some good rankings in the search engines and consequently free traffic. My preferred internet marketing educational program gives excellent training on writing articles, keyword research, and setting up PPC campaigns.
My advice if you’re a beginner would be to take a few weeks to learn how to attract visitors to your site and then build your store with Shopify.
If you have built a store with Shopify or another store builder I would really like to hear about your experience and the problems or success you may have had. Please leave any comments or questions below.
Best of luck,