Updated · Jun 06, 2022
Best for: Ecommerce beginners
What Is Shopify?
Shopify is a premier global ecommerce platform designed for setting up, marketing, and managing online retail shops of all sizes.
Founded in 2006, it can help you sell anything you can think of. If you’re not keen on building and maintaining a digital storefront, it can lend ecommerce capabilities to your ordinary site.
Shopify has headquarters in Ottawa and is an inclusive, feature-packed solution for all breeds of online merchants. Not everything about it is attractive, but its merits put it in the same league as Wix and Squarespace.
Shopify offers a gazillion of services, but the following will shed light on what makes it special:
Online Store Builder
Shopify makes it painless to create a digital storefront from scratch, even without coding skills. But if you want to use HTML and CSS files, you’re free to do that as well.
To get started, this super intuitive online store builder would ask you to:
- Add products.
- Choose a theme.
- Create pages.
- Organize site navigation.
It’ll also offer you to change your default Shopify domain name.
Plus, you can start a blog. This means you get a dedicated space for publishing interesting reads that can drive traffic to your site. Blogging can help establish your reputation as an authority in your field too.
Shopify has a library of thousands of royalty-free stock photos for commercial use called Burst.
Not only can you use these assets for your business, but you can also modify them without any repercussions. You don’t even have to be a Shopify store owner to benefit from it.
By default, Burst photos are high-resolution. But you can download a low-res option if you need to compress the file size for small web graphics.
With this platform, you can sell as many physical or digital goods and product subscriptions as you want. Using the Digital Downloads app, Shopify lets you sell services too.
If you have nothing to sell yet, you can buy items from about 1,500 reputable US-based brands on Handshake.
With this wholesale Shopify marketplace, you can source high-quality products from independent merchants. Handshake has no signup and shipping fees and lets you try out new brands for $100 or less.
If you don’t want to deal with inventory, packaging, and shipping, you can take the dropshipping route. Being a dropshipper means reselling products from third-party manufacturers, retailers, and wholesalers.
If you have an ecommerce site built on another platform, you can migrate your store to Shopify. You can import individual items through CSV files. However, the entire process can get really complicated if tons of data in multiple sets are involved.
Irrespective of product, you can update details, create unique variations, and sort them by different attributes. Using metafields, you can add custom fields to display specialized information like part numbers and expiration dates.
To make your products jump off the screen, you can style them with images, videos, and 3D animations.
Shopify has native inventory management capability, so you don’t need any third-party software to keep tabs on everything.
Using the online store builder, you can choose from dozens of professionally created site designs. Most of them boast the Online Store 2.0 theme architecture, giving developers more leeway to explore additional customization possibilities.
Again, you don’t need to be technically proficient to build a digital storefront with stunning aesthetics. Optimized for 11 industries, the Shopify free and premium themes are turnkey.
On the theme marketplace, you can sort templates by price, layout, catalog size, and more.
If you want to tweak a design and make it your own, you can use the platform’s equally intuitive Theme Settings Editor. It lets you modify a wide range of site components and preview changes in real-time.
To overhaul major aspects of your site, you can capitalize on Shopify’s native templating language called Liquid.
Whether you do anything special or not, expect your online store to be mobile-responsive – all Shopify themes look good on any screen size.
On average, smartphones tend to convert better than desktops. So, using a tried-and-true mobile commerce platform like Shopify can help you generate revenues more successfully.
By default, your online store domain is .myshopify.com. If you want a custom domain name, you can buy and register a premium one. This way, your site would look more professional.
Shopify sells domain names directly. It has its own checker where you can search all available top-level domains that would make sense for your business.
If you plan to sell outside the US, you can also purchase regional domain extensions. They’re more suitable for promoting your brand in international markets.
If you use Shopify for your digital storefront, you won’t have to worry about hosting anymore. It has its own global content delivery network (CDN). So, it can load your web store content fast regardless of your visitors’ location.
Irrespective of plan, Shopify promises unlimited bandwidth and an average uptime of 99.99%. That’s why you never have to pay extra for additional resources to accommodate higher site traffic.
Moreover, this vendor makes your ecommerce site secure with a 256-bit SSL certificate. Thanks to automatic upgrades, you can expect to receive the latest features instantly.
Here are the different ways this ecommerce solution can help you promote your brand, attract leads, and nurture your contacts:
Shopify SEO and SEM
Building an ecommerce site using this platform can shorten the road to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs).
Shopify supports proven search engine optimization (SEO) practices like H1 and meta tags. Plus, it automatically generates sitemap.xml files when you add products and pages. They help tell Google to include them in the search results.
Also, you’ll get $100 in Google Ads from Shopify after spending $25 of your search engine marketing (SEM) budget.
Social Media Marketing
All Shopify free and premium themes are compatible with major social networking sites, including Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr.
If you integrate your store with Facebook and Instagram, you can sync your product catalog with your social media accounts. From there, you’d be able to easily manage ad campaigns and transactions.
You can also make virtually all conceivable coupon codes.
You can apply percentage-based and fixed-amount discounts, plus free shipping deals to one or more items. Likewise, you can set minimum requirements to reward positive behavior and make your offers shareable on Facebook.
With proper strategy, coupons can help you get more sales, make room for new inventory, and foster brand loyalty.
Selling gift cards can bring new customers to your business. Redeemed or not, they translate to guaranteed sales.
What’s more, you can use them as store credit to help avoid issuing refunds as much as possible.
Shopify Review Solicitation
This ecommerce solution can help you collect feedback from your customers. It optimizes shopper-generated testimonials for search, which can help you dominate the SERPs and inspire more sales through social proof.
With this platform, you can launch and track email marketing campaigns.
Using a drag-and-drop editor, you can tweak all Shopify email templates to suit your desired messaging and reinforce your brand. This tool enables you to personalize the text, include images, and add call-to-action buttons.
Moreover, you can create automated custom workflows to engage with shoppers every step of the way, even when you sleep. By setting triggers and conditions and defining conditional logic, you can determine which email to send to which customer.
Despite its strong marketing capabilities, Shopify doesn’t do email hosting yet. So, you’ll need Gmail or Zoho Mail to exchange correspondence with your customers.
This way, you’ll be able to forward messages from the countless custom domain email addresses you can set up.
Shopify can not only help you build an extensive Rolodex with no storage limit but also aid in dividing your contacts into logical segments. This way, you can craft highly targeted marketing messages and come up with sensible promotions.
With this customer segmentation tool, you can group your contacts by email address, location, spending potential, and many more.
There’s no limit to the number of records you can store on Shopify. You can even save information captured elsewhere by importing CSV files as large as 1 MB. If you use a customer relationship management (CRM) program, you can export your data in CSV format too.
Depending on your country, Shopify can offer a myriad of avenues to help you sell. Other than your online store, Facebook, and Instagram, the other channels you may use are as follows:
This Point-of-Sale (POS) software can unify your in-store and online sales. This POS app for iOS and Android can aid not only checkout but also omnichannel marketing, inventory, and staff management.
This software has Shopify hardware companions too. You can purchase iPad stands, barcode scanners, card readers, printers, and more. Regardless of the setup, you can process payments away from the brick-and-mortar store counter and even on the road.
You can choose from two POS subscriptions: Lite and Pro.
The former is part of all Shopify plans but comes with an in-person credit card rate of 2.4%. The latter, however, costs $89/location/month and nothing else. The POS Pro is free in Shopify packages. More on them later.
Aside from price, here are the features that separate the two:
- Mobile POS
- Customer profiles
- Order and product management
- All POS Lite features
- Premium omnichannel selling capabilities
- Smart inventory management
- Unlimited store staff and registers
- Staff roles and permissions
- In-store analytics
You can use the Shopify POS app anywhere in the world. However, you have to tap a third-party payment processor if your business operates outside of:
- The US
- The Netherlands
- The UK
- New Zealand
With this free feature, you can have your own store chat and save conversations. Aside from your browser-based dashboard, you can manage your interactions using the Shopify mobile app. It has versions for iOS (13.6 or up) and Android (7 or up).
Furthermore, you get insights to help you reply more meaningfully. It can also display cart contents when speaking with customers who haven’t checked out.
Additionally, it’ll soon be able to classify conversations and tell which are more likely to result in sales.
Sold separately for $9/month, this sales channel lets you turn any site into an online store.
With it, you can generate embeddable product cards and checkout buttons to add to landing pages and blog posts.
If you have a Google Merchant Center account, you’ll be able to sell your Shopify products on Google platforms. YouTube, Search, Shopping, and Images are just some of the places where you can display your goods.
By installing Walmart Marketplace, you can put your products in front of tens of millions of shoppers. The best part is there’s no subscription fee involved. And you can process 100% of orders on Shopify.
This is another mammoth marketplace you can tap into without leaving your online shop. If you connect Shopify to eBay, you can expect unfailing product data synchronization.
Tiktok compatibility is one of the lesser-known Shopify advantages. This social networking service has taken the world by storm. Naturally, it has become a behemoth of a marketing platform.
If you plan to use it to tell your brand’s story, connect your Shopify account to it. This integration can help you facilitate sales more smoothly.
At checkout, you can generate and display discounted shipping rates from leading carriers like UPS, USPS, FedEx, and DHL Express. You have the flexibility to set them up as fixed-price, tiered pricing, location-or weight-based.
To make your deals sweeter, you can waive the shipping fee at the price point of your choosing.
When it comes to shipping labels, you can print them with a standard printer.
Automatic Tax Calculation
To ensure cost clarity, Shopify can estimate and collect duties and import taxes at checkout. This vendor can only automatically calculate the tax rates of major countries and states, though.
Shopify Fulfillment Network
If you need fulfillment support, you may be able to use Shopify to offer two-day shipping through its worldwide network.
This service isn’t available to all, though. Presently, this vendor only considers US-based merchants that fulfill at least three American or Canadian orders daily. Shopify prohibits some products too.
If you qualify, you can enjoy simple pricing with no upfront costs. Aside from covering inventory management and delivery, you get free storage for every item sold within six months.
Right off the bat, you can accept credit card and digital wallet payments with no transaction fee. You can receive funds in 100+ currencies. And the conversion fee is 2%.
Shopify Payments can’t drive down credit and debit card rates to zero. But it has no hidden charges. And it does fraud analysis to help keep scammers at bay.
Being level-1 PCI-compliant, you can rest assured that Shopify does everything to protect sensitive payment data. It ensures 3D Secure checkouts too.
If you’re serving an international clientele, you can translate your shopping cart into 50+ languages. It’s a small touch that can hugely improve the Shopify store experience you can deliver.
Alternatively, you can go with your own payment gateway. Your options would depend on your location. And this vendor has an extensive directory of supported providers to show you which ones are available.
Linking a third-party payment gateway to your Shopify store doesn’t cost a penny. But expect to pay a transaction fee and other charges your chosen provider might impose.
Abandoned Cart Recovery
To maximize your sales, Shopify can remind unconverted shoppers about their abandoned carts via email. The message would include a link to the shopping cart, making it convenient to complete the purchase.
Some age groups are more indecisive than others. But follow-up emails have an open rate of 45% and can convert about 20% of abandoned carts.
This vendor can gather data to measure the health of your business. You can view the numbers that matter most to you via your Shopify dashboard. You can also generate and export product, traffic, and referral reports for further analysis.
By integrating Shopify with Google Analytics, you can conveniently track key metrics with a program you’re familiar with.
Besides email marketing, you can automate many other repetitive, time-consuming processes to help you focus on growing your business. Inventory management, customer segmentation, and fraud prevention are excellent examples.
Automating ecommerce workflows can sound intimidating. But you have plug-and-play Shopify templates at your disposal.
The only problem is that Flow isn’t built into the ecommerce platform. You have to download it first. And it’s currently available in English only.
Shopify App Store
As powerful as this platform may be, it heavily relies on third-party apps to expand its own functionality.
The good news is that it supports a rich selection of integrations. Its App Store has nine collections, making it easy to find relevant solutions. Shopify has filters in place to let you browse by category, price, and compatibility.
As of writing, this vendor offers 26 free business tools, including:
- Logo, slogan, online video, and business card creators
- Profit margin, discount, cost per mile, and business loan calculators
In addition, Shopify has editable templates for creating gift certificates, purchase orders, shipping labels, and bills of lading.
If you’re starting out, these tools can definitely help you build your store from the ground up with less stress.
Actually, you can even buy an existing online store. Shopify’s Exchange marketplace features many listed ecommerce brands. If you want to take over a profitable business, this is where you should go.
If you need help with anything, you can hire a subject matter expert within the Shopify ecosystem. This vendor has a network of independent contractors, including developers, designers, and consultants.
Legit authorities in their fields, Shopify experts offer assistance to solve any pressing challenges you may face in business.
All interested parties would send a proposal for your project. You could exchange messages with them without any commitment. You reserve the right to decline proposals and accept only the ones you like best.
Although they’re experts, you don’t have to trust them blindly. To find the right fit for you, read your candidates’ profiles, check their portfolios, and read testimonials about them.
In terms of payment, you can talk it over with your prospects and securely send funds through Shopify.
Ease of Use and Interface
Shopify is friendly to both novices and technical users.
Signup is straightforward. The Shopify free trial requires no credit card information, so you can start building your store in no time.
This ecommerce platform has a simple setup process.
Primarily, it would ask you to accomplish five tasks to build a functioning online store. But you don’t have to cover them all before launching your digital storefront.
For instance, you can skip the custom domain name part since you can use a Shopify one at no cost. This vendor would name your free domain after your registered email address, so use the one that reflects your brand.
The aesthetics of the Shopify Admin dashboard are quite easy on the eyes. All tabs are on the narrow left panel, so you have abundant space for exploring different settings on the right.
I experienced moments of sluggishness, though. Sometimes, a tab would take more than ten seconds to load.
I encountered a significant technical hiccup too.
Losing access to Shopify Admin could translate to costly business interruptions. But I was glad to know that the company’s team discovered the issue early and began investigating immediately. My store was accessible again in no time.
The Shopify mobile app for Android has great design. It’s not flashy, but it can do most, if not all, of the things its web-based counterpart can. Thanks to instant data synchronization, you’d always have one version of your store.
Expect to see the setup objectives a bit differently in the Android app, though. Perhaps to save space, it rolls theme customization, page addition, and store navigation organization into a single goal.
This ecommerce platform provider has three standard plans: Basic, Shopify, and Advanced.
If you don’t need a dedicated digital storefront, you can go with Shopify Lite. It’s worthwhile if you just want to introduce an ecommerce component to your content site. It’s also an affordable option if you want to sell in person with Shopify’s POS solutions.
Also, there’s Shopify Plus, which gives you access to enterprise-grade solutions. It’s designed for high-volume merchants and large businesses that wish to graduate from legacy ecommerce software.
The nitty-gritty of this enterprise-level plan is outside the scope of this Shopify review. But its biggest selling point is quick migration. It can help you replatform in 3–4 months, which could be 83% faster than with traditional software providers.
Plan and Prices
Shopify Lite and Plus have unique feature sets. But this vendor uses a tiered pricing model for its standard plans for online store creation.
In other words, the Basic and Advanced Shopify packages have many common features. But I’ll only discuss their differences below.
Buy Button, Admin, customer profiles, product management, in-store inventory, order management, email carts, and mobile POS. It also includes QR code product details, POS Lite sales channels, discount codes, gift cards, and Shopify reports on finances.
2 staff accounts, 4 inventory locations max, and 77% shipping rate discounts max. It includes 2.9% online credit card rates (+$0.30) and 2.7% in-person credit/debit card rates too. The fee for non-Shopify Payments transactions is 2%.
5 staff accounts, 5 inventory locations max, 88% shipping rate discounts max, standard reports, and USPS Priority Mail Cubic® pricing. It promises 2.6% online credit card rates (+$0.30), 2.5% in-person credit/debit card rates, and a 1% non-Shopify Payments transaction fee.
15 staff accounts, 8 inventory locations max, 0.5% non-Shopify Payments transaction fee, advanced reports, ecommerce automations, and automatic taxes. It unlocks 2.4% online credit card rates (+$0.30), plus in-person credit/debit card rates and market-specific custom pricing.
The above Shopify Plus subscription fee is just the minimum and applies only to standard setups and integrations. If your online store’s migration process involves more complexities, you may need to go with the variable fee option.
Payment Options and Refund Policy
Shopify accepts credit cards and PayPal. And you can pay 1, 2, or 3 years in advance and knock up to 25% off. However, there’s no money-back guarantee.
Still, you can start building your site risk-free for 14 days. You can’t sell anything during the Shopify free trial since you need a paid license first. But you can buy a premium subscription before the trial ends and get billed only when it’s up.
Shopify Customer Support
You’d be hard-pressed to find a customer support option that Shopify doesn’t have.
Its help desk is reachable through chat, email, and phone via a callback request. I can attest to the responsiveness of its chat support. I was able to get a hold of someone in seconds. I wish there was a way to speak with a Shopify live chat agent without filling out a form first, though.
Furthermore, you can join the Shopify Community. It serves as a forum and a social networking channel of sorts.
The company’s array of self-help resources is among the best I’ve seen.
It has a vast knowledge base with a reliable search function. If you can’t find answers in the Help Center, you can consult the FAQ sections of its different web pages. And the company’s blog includes step-by-step guides on various topics.
If you want to learn more, you can attend Shopify’s webinars or take its business courses. To stay on top of the latest on the platform, you can check out its changelog.
Strangely, the company doesn’t promote its social media presence. But if you look hard enough through its site, you’ll find the link to its video tutorials on YouTube.
If you’re an app developer who wishes to build something, there’s more than one Shopify API you can use. The company’s API reference docs are available for public consumption.
Shopify vs Wix
As an ecommerce platform, Wix closely resembles Shopify’s feature set. I won’t go into detail about the similarities between the two. But I’ll say that both have quote-based enterprise-grade plans and facilitate outsourcing.
Also, both ecommerce hosts can help you get started in dropshipping. They support social networks and marketplaces as sales channels and don’t put a lid on the number of salable goods.
However, Wix can’t hook you up with independent wholesalers the way Shopify does.
When it comes to freebies, Wix has a more diverse media library. Plus, it throws in one year’s worth of custom domain registration, making it one of the top Shopify alternatives.
Shopify, on the other hand, concentrates on stock photos and has no promotional custom domain deals.
Both vendors give you access to complimentary business tools. But Shopify has a wider selection than Wix.
As far as themes go, you only get one shot with Wix. Once you choose one, you have to stick with it. Shopify has a different attitude – it conveniently permits theme switching.
In terms of pricing, Shopify’s top plan costs more than its Wix counterpart by a factor of seven. But the Canadian company has a more affordable starter package that doesn’t even require online shop creation.
Wix misleadingly advertises its 14-day money-back guarantee as a free trial. Conversely, Shopify’s plans are nonrefundable. But you can set up your online shop and familiarize yourself with the platform for two whole weeks for free.
Regarding payment, Wix takes credit cards only, while Shopify also accepts PayPal.
In the area of customer support, either platform offers excellent options. But only Wix can give you the VIP treatment.
Shopify vs Squarespace
At first glance, Squarespace seems to be the more practical substitute for Shopify.
Functionality-wise, the former has an answer to almost everything the latter has to offer. Both have mobile apps for iOS and Android and extend a 14-day trial. The only difference is that Squarespace has Mobile Start plans, which can give you a taste of its paid license for 30 days.
Also, each one has its own marketplace of experts for hire and special packages for enterprises.
Where Squarespace shines, however, is its reward-rich annual subscriptions. If you sign up and pay a year in advance, you can get:
- 25% off your subscription fee
- Free custom domain registration for a year
- A money-back guarantee for 14 days
To enjoy the same amount of discount from Shopify, you have to pay three years’ worth of subscription upfront. And this web host charges you for custom domains from the get-go and refunds nothing.
However, Shopify has notable advantages over Squarespace, namely:
- Higher counts of supported currencies and payment collection options
- Superior POS capabilities
- Lower maximum transaction fees
- More customer support options
Lastly, both ecommerce solutions support theme switching. Either is forgiving, so you can change your online store’s template as you please.
This may not sound like a big deal, but you’d be glad to have this option when your digital storefront needs a fresh coat of paint.
Shopify Pros and Cons
The following are the best and worst things about Shopify in a nutshell:
Multiple Sales Channels
This vendor empowers you to reach beyond your online store and sell on as many platforms as possible. With it, you can promote on the hottest social networking sites and list your goods on the best marketplaces.
With or without Shopify hardware, you can process orders with any mobile device. The best part is you don’t even need an online store built on its platform to start making money.
Shopify has a solution for brick-and-mortar store owners, aspiring drop shippers, fledgling e-tailers, growing businesses, and large enterprises.
This ecommerce store builder has no shortage of quality customer support options. Outside of Shopify live chat, you can reach its responsive help desk via email and phone. And with tons of insightful, readily available resources, you could even solve your own problems.
No Free Domain
Most web hosts use free custom domain registration to attract merchants into their ecosystems and grow their user bases. But not Shopify.
Unavoidable Third-Party Transaction Fees
Unless you use Shopify Payments, there’s no avoiding third-party payment processing fees. Irrespective of plan, you have to pay an additional 0.15%–2%.
No Money-Back Guarantee
At this point, Shopify’s refundable subscriptions are nothing but wishful thinking. With no recourse to get your cashback, you should maximize its free trial to reduce the chances of buyer’s remorse.
Shopify Review - Verdict
Overall, Shopify is a solid ecommerce platform.
Its bevy of sale channels, stellar POS solutions, various plans, and excellent support is a hard-to-find combination.
Admittedly, Shopify isn’t the most affordable online shop builder around. Due to its premium custom domains and third-party payment processing transaction fees, your expenses can add up quickly. And its nonrefundable subscriptions can make any of its plans a risky bet.
That said, there’s a solution to every major Shopify drawback. And the fact that it continues to be a household name means that it’s the real deal.
So if you’re determined to make bank in retail using ecommerce, Shopify is definitely a viable option.
Is Shopify good for beginners?
Yes, it is!
Shopify has easy signup and setup procedures. It’s available for trial use for 14 days. This should be enough time to practice and master it even if you have zero coding knowledge.
Plus, you don’t have to build an online store to get started. Shopify can help you buy an established ecommerce brand and/or turn any site into a digital storefront.
Is Shopify reliable?
Yes, it is.
All of this vendor’s key services are up 99.99% of the time.
I did experience downtime during testing, but my Admin dashboard was operational before I knew it.
Is Shopify really free?
No, this vendor has no free plan, nor does it offer a money-back guarantee.
If you wind up unsatisfied after your online store goes live, you can’t ask for a refund. So, be prepared to bid farewell to $9 to $2,000 or more if you cancel.
Is Shopify worth it?
According to the nearly 9,000 user-written Shopify reviews, this online retail platform is absolutely worth your money!
Shopify does everything to support your ecommerce business.
It has powered millions of independent online brands over the years to rake revenues north of $200 billion. Such staggering figures are proof that this vendor is certainly no slouch.
Romj is a veteran copywriter who used to be a Jack of all trades. Now, he's trying to be a master of one: technology. He jumps down the rabbit hole to size the latest innovations up. As a content contributor for TechJury, he hopes to help you keep up in our fast-paced world with his discoveries.
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