Shopify Review: What’s all the hype about

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About Shopify Review

Shopify Review

Shopify allows beginners (and pros) to create online stores without coding. No software installations or hosting services are required. Shopify features plans ranging from $29 – $299/month and there are no additional transaction fees if you use Shopify Payments.

With this detailed Shopify review, we’ll discover if it’s actually a good fit for your project, or if you should look at alternatives like WooCommerce, BigCommerce or Wix.Background check – What is Shopify?
Back in 2006, a German youngster living in Canada decided to sell snowboards online. He created his own ecommerce solution and soon realized others could also use it.

Fast-forward several years and Shopify has become the #1 tool for many (and that youngster is now loaded). Shopify is the leading ecommerce solution with more than 800,000 online stores, offices around the globe, $63 billion worth of sales and over 3,000 employees.

How does Shopify work?

Shopify Review
As I see it, Shopify is not only an easy way to launch and manage your online store. It’s geared towards supporting store owners in crucial aspects like opening additional channels (e.g. Amazon, eBay or Facebook), offering customer support tools (e.g. live chat) and by taking care of the technical hassles.

The recent launch of Shopify Online Store 2.0 also makes it a lot easier for store owners to make changes to page designs, thanks to the simple-to-use editor. Template changes that used to require code edits can now be made with just a few quick clicks – e.g. when moving or hiding sections of a page. Additional apps and features can also be enabled in a much simpler manner, without the need for developers to intervene.

We are showing costs for monthly subscriptions. You can save 10% on yearly plans and 20% on bi-yearly ones.

Additional plans: The Lite plan gives you access to an embeddable ‘Buy Button’ and also a POS app (for in-person selling). It can be purchased for about $9 a month. Shopify also offers an enterprise plan (Plus) for gigantic online stores – it’s not cheap though, as it starts at $2,000 a month.

A domain name costs extra (starting at $14 per year for a .com), but can be added through Shopify or any external registrar. If you can, we’d recommend using Shopify’s own payment gateway as this will save you additional charges. However, it’s currently only available in several countries including the USA, Puerto Rico, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands (among others). Please note that transaction fees won’t be charged for manual payment methods (cash on delivery, bank transfer etc).

Ease of use

Shopify Review
Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about technical stuff at all. Nearly everything can be done with a few clicks. Shopify provides great beginner guides and extensive documentation.

Designs
Both quality and quantity of their designs are excellent and they are mobile-friendly (responsive). In case you don’t find one that fits your needs among the roughly 170 themes, you can either create your own (using the Liquid template engine) or buy one.

Flexibility
The core system and templates are already great, but it doesn’t stop there as you have full access to the code.

Scaling
Despite being user-friendly, Shopify is powerful. It’s easy to scale for small and big online stores. And thanks to features like Shop Pay, new customers won’t need to register if they’ve previously signed up for it on any other Shopify store. That’s a serious advantage compared to competitors like BigCommerce or WooCommerce.

Apps & Community

Shopify Review
Shopify App Store is packed with useful (free and paid) add-ons for your store (e.g. email marketing integrations). On top of that, they have a large community of independent developers and experts ready to help you.

Support
Unlike open source solutions like WooCommerce or Magento, Shopify has a 24-hour support team. In our support tests, they scored an excellent result.

URL structure

Shopify Review

Blog post, as well as regular pages (e.g. ‘about us’), have a URL structure that is not ideal for SEO. Shopify uses subdirectories such as /pages/ or /blog/news/.

Multi-language store

While Shopify is slowly improving in this area (they recently made it a lot easier to enable additional languages in your store, and let visitors switch between languages), it’s still far from perfect – you’ll need to purchase a third-party app to be able to create and display translations. However, the upcoming rollout of Shopify Markets is set to make this easier for international store owners.

Transaction fees

Shopify Review

Unless you use Shopify Payments (not available everywhere), Shopify charges a transaction fee on top of the payment processor fee (e.g. Stripe or PayPal).

Creating regular content

Although Shopify comes with a blog and you can create other types of pages (e.g. product landing pages). Getting your non-ecommerce content looking the way you want is not so easy.

Shopify Features Review
Let me dive into Shopify’s functionalities and tell you a bit more of what I think of it. Hopefully, this will help clarify some questions you may still have.

Shopify ease of use

Shopify Review
Don’t be mistaken, although Shopify is really easy to use, it’s an extremely powerful tool too. For example, you can set up and launch your online store in one weekend (no joke). But you could also spend days or even weeks developing a custom solution to fulfill your needs.

Personally, I think Shopify lets you do more with fewer clicks than competitors like Volusion or BigCommerce. And Content Management Systems such as WordPress or Magento don’t even come close in terms of ease of use.

I also find their backend intuitive and straightforward to navigate. Whenever I got stuck, all I had to do was check their tutorials or ask support on their live chat – most of the time support was helpful and quick to answer.

Templates & Design

Shopify Review
Shopify is not short on templates and they generally look modern and professional. They are also responsive, which means that they’ll look great on any device – Google really likes this last point.

Sadly, they only offer a handful of free templates (four with the latest Online Store 2.0 release, and around 10 with the still-available previous version ) – I really wished they had a couple more. Interestingly, around half of all Shopify stores use the free Debut theme.

I also find their backend intuitive and straightforward to navigate. Whenever I got stuck, all I had to do was check their tutorials or ask support on their live chat – most of the time support was helpful and quick to answer.

Shopify is not short on templates and they generally look modern and professional. They are also responsive, which means that they’ll look great on any device – Google really likes this last point.

Sadly, they only offer a handful of free templates (four with the latest Online Store 2.0 release, and around 10 with the still-available previous version ) – I really wished they had a couple more. Interestingly, around half of all Shopify stores use the free Debut theme.

A criticism of Shopify in the past was that it wasn’t possible to easily make layout changes to pages other than the homepage – you needed to edit the code, which usually involved the help of a developer. With Shopify’s Online Store 2.0, you can now use the visual editor to add and edit sections on any page – including product, collection and blog pages.

Shopify ecommerce features

Shopify Review
But let’s cut to the chase and review Shopify’s ecommerce features.

Add and manage products
Products can be added easily using Shopify’s interface or you can even import your products via a CSV file – this last option is pretty useful for large online stores.

Sidenote: It’s also possible to import and export other pieces of data like customer lists, orders or even reviews using CSV files. For Big Cartel, BigCommerce, Etsy, PrestaShop and Squarespace there’s also a drag and drop importing tool.

Filling in the product information is intuitive (e.g. title, description, images or videos, price or SEO options). Finally, collections (category) can be assigned to keep your online store tidy.

The SKU (stock-keeping unit) and the inventory tracking features let you manage your stock more efficiently and prevent you from selling out-of-stock items.

If you need to sell several variants of the same product, be aware that Shopify will let you add a maximum of 3 variants (e.g. size, color and material).

The system will then generate all the necessary combinations, and individual inventory tracking can be set up. The cap is at 100 combinations (unless you use a paid app or edit your theme’s source files). BigCommerce, on the other hand, supports up to 600 combinations.

To sell digital products (e.g. videos, images or documents) with Shopify, you’ll need to install a (free) app developed by Shopify themselves. To be honest, I am a bit surprised that this isn’t available out-of-the-box, but it works.

Unfortunately, selling subscriptions or taking recurring payments can get expensive. You’ll either need an app or a developer to code this for you. As far as I know, other competitors (e.g. Volusion, BigCommerce and Wix) don’t integrate this either.

Some projects require custom fields so users can leave feedback when purchasing products (e.g. engravings for watches or rings). With Shopify this isn’t integrated natively, you’ll need to tweak your code (really not that easy) or get an app to do the job. This only takes a couple of clicks with BigCommerce.

Shopify Categories

Shopify Review
Categories (or collections as Shopify calls them) can be manually assigned to products to group them. For example, let’s say you sell pet food, you could have a collection for dogs, cats or snakes.

Then Shopify will automatically generate a page for each collection showing all the included products.

But – there’s always a but- be aware that creating sub-categories with Shopify (e.g. puppies food or senior dog food) isn’t possible unless you use a complicated workaround or an app.

Pro tip: Try setting up automatic rules to create collections. For example, create a ‘Promotions’ collection with all products that currently have a discount – you see how powerful this can be, right?

Payment processors and transaction fees
As far as I know, Shopify has more online payment processors than any other alternative – over 100 providers. As you can imagine, big names like Stripe, 2Checkout, PayPal or Authorize are included.

And yes, they also have their own system, Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe).

One of my biggest issues with Shopify is that they will charge extra transaction fees if you don’t use Shopify Payments – 2%, 1% or 0.5% depending on your plan. Sadly, Shopify Payments is not available in every country. So if you can, do use it.

Sidenote: Shopify Payments is currently available in:

  • North America (United States and Canada)
  • Europe (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden)
  • United Kingdom
  • Asia (Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore)
  • Australia and New Zealand
  • However, there are rumors they have plans to launch this in other countries soon.

On top of that, manual payment methods can be enabled too, e.g. cash on delivery, bank deposits or money order. Remember, on these orders you won’t have to pay any commissions to Shopify.

Shipping with Shopify

Shopify Reviews
In my experience, ecommerce logistics (shipping) can get tricky and having an efficient system can save a bunch of time and money.

Shopify is excellent here, no doubt. But let’s quickly review their shipping system.

Shipping rules can be set up easily (e.g. flat rate, free shipping, country or region based rates) from their backend for individual products, collections or for your entire store – nothing too exciting here.

But the shipping fun begins with the live shipping rates. This system connects your store with carriers (like USPS, FedEx, UPS, etc) and provides accurate shipping costs during checkout.

While it’s technically only available on the high-level plans (Advanced Shopify and Shopify Plus), you can also add it to your lower-level Shopify plan for around $20/month – you just need to request it from the support team. Alternatively, you’re also eligible for it if you switch your Shopify plan from a monthly to a yearly subscription. Again, you’ll need to contact Support to activate this as it won’t get added automatically.

Third-party apps are also available to use. Note that you’ll also need to have your own account with each carrier in order to be able to offer carrier-calculated rates.

Sidenote: Live shipping rates are only available for some countries (e.g. US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, etc).

If you’re in the US, Canada or Australia, you can also take advantage of Shopify Shipping. This will let you use Shopify’s partnerships with leading shipping carriers (USPS, UPS, DHL Express, Canada Post and Sendle) to display calculated shipping rates and get reduced rates for labels – without the need to have your own carrier accounts. When fulfilling orders, you’ll be able to buy discounted shipping labels from Shopify’s backend. You only need to print it and stick it on the parcel – a big-time (and money) saver. Please note that for this to work, you need to specify the weight of your products and packaging.

Eligible store owners in the US and Canada can join the Shopify Fulfillment Network, where products can be stored, picked, packed and shipped from fulfillment centers around the US. Benefits include fast (and even same-day) delivery, free / branded packaging, and discounted shipping rates.

Shopify is the leading solution for dropshipping – an ecommerce model where the order processing and fulfillment are done by someone else (a dropshipping provider).

By default, you can connect your Shopify store to several dropshipping providers like Rakuten, Amazon Fulfillment or Shipwire. Other services can be manually connected (via email) if you need to.

Note: as of June 15 2022, Shopify’s own dropshipping app, Oberlo, is being discontinued, and they recommend transitioning to DSers instead.

Shopify & Taxes

Shopify Reviews
I am not good at maths, so I appreciate online store solutions that make my life easier – especially when it comes to a topic that nobody likes: taxes.

Shopify doesn’t do anything too impressive with taxes, but I like that it doesn’t require rocket science to set it up and it actually works.

You can display prices including taxes or excluding them, whatever works for you.
Shopify includes an automated tax calculator by ZIP code – only for US based stores.
If your store is on Shopify Plus, you can access the Avalara AvaTax software, which provides real-time tax rates for over 12,000 US jurisdictions, and also automates the tax filing process.
Automated registration-based taxes are available for store owners based in the US, Canada, EU, UK, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, or New Zealand.
For everyone else, manual tax settings can be added for countries or regions.

Sidenote: If you are targeting customers in Europe, you can also adapt the taxes settings to comply with the European legislation, even for digital products. This means letting your business customers shop VAT-free, using the reverse charge-mechanism, however, this will require an external app.

Exploring other sales channels with Shopify
Having your own online store is a first step. But if you are an ambitious marketer, you probably want to explore different ways to sell your products.

Shopify has a couple of tricks for you here:

  • Sell your products directly on Facebook – Shopify will create a shop section on your Facebook page.
  • Sell your products on Instagram by tagging your products.
  • Selling on Pinterest is also an option for Shopify store owners with a Pinterest business account.
  • Similarly, you can connect your Shopify store with marketplaces like Amazon and eBay – this is available for
  • US and Canada only
  • See the potential, right? And that’s not even the full list – there are other Shopify sales channels (e.g. Walmart

The biggest perk of all this? You maintain and manage your sales from one place (your Shopify backend).

I have to say that some channels work smoother than others. For example, with the Instagram integration, many users have had issues getting their store validated.

Shopify Online Marketing features

Shopify Reviews
As any other store builder, Shopify provides you with a bunch of tools to (try to) increase your sales and help your business.

Discount codes can be added to your Shopify store easily. They are very flexible as you can set codes for fixed amounts, percentages, free shipping or even “buy one get one free” promotions.

You can also promote gift cards for your online store (a feature that was recently made available on all plans, excluding Shopify Lite).

Shopify doesn’t come with a loyalty program (e.g. collecting points with each purchase). If you’d like to implement this, getting an app (like Smile.io or S Loyalty) is your easiest and cheapest option.

Shopify also has its own email marketing tool that will allow you to send emails from its platform. However, at this time, it’s somewhat simple and other alternatives could be a better fit for you.

Abandoned cart recovery

Shopify Reviews
In the world of online shopping, the average abandoned cart rate seems to be well above 60%. In other words, 2 out of every 3 users won’t actually finish their purchase – sobering, isn’t it?

For example, you can set Shopify to send automated emails with a discount code to those users that never finished the purchase process – assuming you know their email addresses.

I have to say that whilst the system is easy to set up, I find it a bit limited. It’s true that you can customize your email, but you can only send the email 1, 6, 10 or 24 hours after. I wish there was an option to set rules to trigger (or not trigger) the follow-up email (e.g. minimum order amount). Plus, what happens if you don’t know their email address? Other options like popups or banners would be nice to have.

If you need more control over this (e.g. email sequences, pop-up, etc) there are apps in the Shopify App Store that can help you.

Sidenote: Shopify now includes this feature in all three main plans, including Basic Shopify.

Sell face-to-face with Shopify – PoS

Shopify Reviews
Yes, I know, the whole point of getting Shopify is to sell your goods and services online. But with Shopify, store owners can also sell the old way, face-to-face.

If you want to sell offline, it’s possible to integrate Shopify’s PoS (point of sale) with your physical sales channel – even if you are on the go.

The great thing about it is that it’ll be completely integrated with your Shopify backend, so your reporting, inventory management, prices, etc are automatically synced.

You can also integrate the POS with extensions such as full-screen apps and product recommendations, to increase cross-selling opportunities and enhance the customer purchasing experience.

You can start small, by selling items using the Shopify PoS app (e.g. using your smartphone or tablet) and accepting payments. You won’t need anything else, and the Shopify POS Lite subscription is free on all Shopify plans. Pretty useful to test physical store ideas.

But if you are planning to sell offline a lot, you may want to look into buying PoS hardware to make your life easier. For example, Shopify offers a couple of card readers that you can connect to your smartphone or tablet, starting from $29.

Other accessories such as barcode scanners, receipt printers and cash drawers are also available.

Sidenote: If you are based outside the US, Canada or the UK, you can’t purchase (PoS) hardware from Shopify. However, you can get a third-party device.

In light of the pandemic, Shopify also introduced the local pickup / curbside pickup feature, which allows customers to purchase products online and collect them at a nearby location. If you have the Shopify POS Pro plan (free on Shopify Plus plans, or on lower plans for an additional $89 USD/month per location), you can even prepare and manage pickup orders directly from within the POS app.

Shopify SEO – Any good?

Shopify Review
I get dozens of SEO questions a month. And a lot of them are users wanting to know if they’ll ‘conquer’ the first organic positions with this website builder or that other one.

Let me say that most of the time, SEO ranking issues are related to poor optimization jobs (e.g. bad content) and not Shopify (or other tools’) issues. However, Shopify has a few SEO drawbacks you should be aware of:

Shopify URL structure isn’t 100% customizable. For example, product pages will always include ‘/products/’ in their URL – this can’t be changed.
Shopify doesn’t make it easy to create sub-categories, which can be an SEO pain for some.
Although you can create non-ecommerce content easily, it can be a bit limited (e.g. not possible to add widgets or maps). Sometimes, you may need a bit more (content) flexibility to support your overall SEO strategy.
However, despite the above-mentioned pitfalls, I would say that Shopify’s SEO is good and intuitive. For example, customizing most of your SEO parameters (e.g. title tags, descriptions, image alt text, etc) is easy.

I really like the redirect system they have in place. When you change a URL, Shopify will automatically create an optional redirect from the old URL to the new one – so you don’t generate 404 errors.

For more information about Shopify’s SEO, please check this detailed Shopify SEO review.

Shopify blog and content generation
Sure, Shopify comes with a blog you can use for your content marketing strategy. It even has a lot of blogging features you’ll need. However, it can feel limited – especially when compared to platforms like Weebly or WordPress.

From their blog I like that:

  • It’s fully integrated with your store site
  • Tags are easy to set
  • You can have more than 1 author
  • SEO parameters are customizable
  • But I’d like to see them improve on the following:

The editor feels a bit old and doesn’t come with many elements (e.g. galleries)

  • Blog layouts are not as flexible as they could be
  • It doesn’t have categories, you are forced to use tags
  • Tricky to add commenting systems like Disqus
  • No related posts feature
  • Not possible to embed products in blog posts – a big downer for me
  • Sidenote: Some of these missing features can be added by installing an app from the Shopify App Store.

Despite all this, I have to acknowledge that Shopify’s approach to blogging is a way better solution than what BigCommerce or Volusion offer and should be good enough for most ecommerce sites.

But of course you could always put your blog on a subdomain and let it run through an external platform. But that comes with its own set of challenges.

Creating other pages is also possible and relatively easy. But the page editor can also feel limited, especially when compared to website builders like Wix or Duda. There aren’t many page elements available (e.g. galleries, maps, social media buttons, etc.) and the layouts are very rigid.

Reporting and Analytics

Shopify Review
Shopify reports are OK, good or amazing, depending on what plan you have. I am not a big fan of this and I believe everyone should be given access to all the data – as Shopify competitor BigCommerce does.

An overview of a few key metrics (e.g. sales, user sessions, orders, etc)

Real-time reports
Finance reports (e.g. sales, taxes, payments, etc.)
Acquisition reports – general information about how you got your visitors
Inventory reports (e.g. month end snapshot, % of inventory sold)
Some behavior reports (e.g. conversion rates, check out rates, etc.)
Analytics by marketing campaign linked to a UTM campaign (e.g. a newsletter)
The ‘Shopify’ plan comes with a couple of nice perks:

Sales report – connects customer metrics with sales metrics
Retail sales report – for POS sales
Profit reports – including profit by product, variant, and POS location, as well as the effect of discounts and refunds
Customer report – to find out things like returning customers or customers by country
Finally, if you have the Advanced Shopify plan or Shopify Plus, you’ll be able to create custom reports. Using their filters you can dig as deep as you need into your data.

Connecting Google Analytics (with conversion tracking) is also possible. So, you may not even need Shopify’s reports at all – although not all the Shopify Reports data can be found in Google Analytics.

Additionally, there are dozens of reporting apps you can get from the Shopify App Store – personally, I’ve never used any of these apps, so I can’t comment on their quality or features.

Shopify App Store

Shopify Review
Shopify has an app market where you can find extensions (for adding extra functionality) for your online store. These are similar to the ones you can add to your smartphone.

Many ecommerce solutions (e.g. BigCommerce, Wix, Weebly) have their own version of this Shopify App Store. But the main difference is that Shopify has an insane amount of apps. From email marketing integrations to dropshipping connections, you name it – Shopify will most likely have it.

These can certainly save you a lot of money and time – especially compared to custom-developed solutions.

There are a bunch of free apps (over a thousand), but many others are paid apps. And the app quality… well, it really depends on the app. Luckily, you can read reviews before installing them.

Some of the apps are even developed by Shopify themselves. For example, the digital downloads extension or the Facebook, Google and Amazon integrations.

The not so cool thing is that it can get expensive. For example, if you need 2 or 3 paid apps, you might need to pay $50 or $60 extra a month – not every store owner can afford this.

Shopify Support & Experts

Shopify Review
You can contact Shopify 24-hour support team via email, phone or live chat. One of their Support Gurus will take care of your question – yup, that’s their real job title.

In general, my experience with Shopify support has been good. They are (relatively) fast and helpful. But this depends a lot on the type of question (e.g. how technical it is) and your luck with the support agent.

We also tested their support on a broader scale, comparing it with 9 other website builders and ecommerce platforms. Shopify came out 2nd, thanks to both the quality of their answers and their useful knowledge base. In this test, Shopify’s rival BigCommerce only made it to the 5th place.

In my opinion, support is one of the biggest advantages of using Shopify (or similar solutions) over a traditional CMS (like WooCommerce). Being able to ask an expert when you’re stuck can save loads of hassle.

Personally, I don’t want to contact support for each tiny question I have, as that’d be very unproductive. Luckily, Shopify has many detailed tutorials and guides, so check them out first if you have a question – they may solve your doubt instantly.

And if you need professional help with your store, Shopify has a directory of (certified) Experts you can contact – but make sure you read the experts’ reviews before hiring one. Another option is Storetasker. There you can easily submit your custom project (e.g. a complete store setup or just some design tweaks) and have their vetted Shopify Experts submit a quote for your job.

Security and backups

Shopify Reviews
Being hacked is not fun, it can put your business under serious pressure. So I don’t have to tell you how important it is to keep your store safe.

Unlike WordPress and similar CMSs, Shopify takes care of updates and security matters in the background – and I love this. I’ve wasted many hours trying to fix WordPress issues after plugin updates that went wrong.

Shopify’s system runs on Level 1 PCI compliant servers – mandatory for accepting credit card payments. SSL encryption (at 256-bit) is enabled for every Shopify store too – to keep your visitors’ data safe.

At Shopify, they do have a backup system in place. In desperate times, they can restore your online shop. But this is not an official service, they advise you to keep regular backups of your site by exporting a series of CSV files – I don’t like this solution as it’s time-consuming.

That’s why adding a more advanced backup solution from the Shopify App Store (e.g. Rewind) may be wise – it’s a lifesaver if you delete content (e.g. products) by mistake.

In short, to keep your store protected, you only need to do regular backups and have a strong admin password.

Shopify Review Conclusion: Is this tool for you?

Shopify is one of my favorite solutions to create online stores with.

It has many cool features and advantages, but also a couple of downsides you should consider before deciding. Keep on reading to find out.

What I like about Shopify

Shopify has many advantages and cool features, but here are my favorite ones:

Adding products, as well as managing payment, shipping options and orders is absolutely painless.
Their layouts (templates) can be modified to a large degree without any programming knowledge.

Shopify can help you with your content marketing too as it comes with a blog and more. Although with some limitations.
It’s possible to change your store’s look and add extra-functionality by installing new templates and apps in seconds.

If you are a programmer (or hire one), you can have complete control over your online store customization.
Having official 24-hour support is something I value a lot.

No matter how fast your business grows, Shopify can accommodate any size of ecommerce project – whether it’s small, big or colossal
If you are into dropshipping, Shopify integrates with several apps/provider



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