In this Shopify Review, I am going to tell you a little about the platform and help you decide if Shopify is the online store builder for you.
What does Shopify do?
Shopify is a complete, all-in-one complete hosted online store builder. For a small monthly fee, you can use their platform to build an ecommerce store and sell your products worldwide. The platform gives you the option to organize your products, customize your storefront, accept credit card payments, interact with customers, and track and manage orders from one centralized location.
Their developers take care of everything behind the scene, such as platform updates, security enhancements, etc. Because Shopify is a hosted ecommerce platform, you do not need to purchase web hosting.
In the simplest terms, Shopify helps you sell online.
Who is Shopify for?
Shopify caters to a broad range of industries such as electronics, toys and games, art and photography, clothing and fashion, jewelry and accessories, etc. That is why over 377,500 businesses such as Tesla, Google, Wikipedia, and Los Angeles Lakers use Shopify for their business.
With that being said, Shopify is for you if you want to launch an online store, or if you already have a physical store, but want to continue to grow your business by selling products online. Whether you are selling physical products, digital products, or subscription-based products, they have the tools to make the selling process easier for you.
Shopify is not for you if you do not have any products or services to sell.
Setting up your Shopify store
To start the process, you need to sign up for the free trial that expires in 14 days (you can sign up here). I will post a video review and tutorial very soon. Fill in your email, password, and store name, and then click on “create your store.” The wizard then takes you through two additional short steps, answering some questions about your current selling status and revenue, and the second page asks for your contact information such as full name, business address, and phone number. You can change this at a later time.
After that, your store is created and you are taken to the admin account dashboard where you can complete other administrative tasks such as adding products, setting up payments, configuring shipping and tax rates, and installing a theme.
Shopify sends you an email with your login credentials and a link to your store.
This is an area that Shopify does very well. The entire process is simple, and should not take you more than a few minutes to add a single product. To add a product, click on products that you can find on the left sidebar, and then click on the blue add product button that is on the upper right corner of the page. Alternatively, you can import products in bulk using their import tool that is on the same page.
Next, fill out the information relating to the product that you are adding. Start by adding the product title, description, and price. The next sections to complete are inventory, shipping, variants, and search engine optimization.
The right sidebar on the page gives you the option to add a product type, vendor name, collection (or category), and product tags. After you are done, click on the blue button labeled “save” that you can find in the upper right corner and the lower right corner of the page. The product should now be visible and available to purchase on your store.
Shopify offers you over 100 premium ecommerce themes and a handful of free themes that you can use to dress up your shop. Having a professional, elegant, and clean design builds trust and credibility. The design of your shop has a direct influence on your conversion rates.
Their premium themes range from $80 to $180. While this sounds pricey, just remember it is a one-time fee and you will be able to use the theme for as long as you want. It is one investment that that pays for itself in the long run.
By default, the Debut theme is installed on your store. You can edit the default theme or install a different theme. You can find the themes page under the “online store” that is on the right sidebar in your admin dashboard. From the theme page, you can rename the current theme, edit HTML and CSS, edit language files, download theme files, and duplicate the theme. You can also upload your own Shopify theme or visit the theme store to install a different Shopify theme. All theme uploads must be in .zip format.
Furthermore, you can upload a store logo, adjust fonts, and change colors with ease. In addition, you can add banners and slideshows on your homepage. For more complex design changes, you need to access core platform files. The platform uses liquid markup language, so you may need to learn how it works before making any major changes to your store.
The entire payment module is something Shopify does exceptionally well. Payment settings can be found under the main settings tab that is on the bottom of the left sidebar in the admin dashboard. The default payment methods are Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe), PayPal Express, and Amazon Payments. You can also use alternative payment gateways such as Dwolla and BitPay, but these methods take the customer away from your store to complete the purchase. In addition, you can accept manual payments such as check and money order.
In order to enable Shopify Payments, you need to complete the setup process by proving some additional information such as your date of birth, last four digits of your social security number, average order price, average shipping time, a brief description of the products you are selling, and banking information where you want your funds deposited. After you complete the information above, the account is instantly created for you and you can start accepting payments right away. By using this payment method, Shopify will waive the transaction fees.
PayPal is automatically enabled for you. The email address that you used to sign up for the free trial is the email that is used for PayPal Express. You can change your email address under the general settings tab. After you activate Amazon Payments, you are taken to Amazon to complete the setup. You can either use an existing Amazon account or create a new one.
At the very bottom of the payment settings page, you can choose to automatically capture and charge the customers card for payments or manually capture the customers’ card for payment.
Shipping and taxes
Shipping is located under the settings tab. First, you need to enter the address that you are shipping packages from. Next, you need to add shipping zones that you can ship to. By default, Shopify creates a shipping zone for domestic shipments and a shipping zone to the remaining countries all over the world. They enable discounted rates from Shopify Shipping that calculates the shipping cost at checkout based on the location of your customer. You can add your own shipping methods such as free shipping, or flat-rate shipping based on weight or price.
At this time, Shopify supports USPS first class mail and priority mail. You can also enable third-party calculated rates for FedEx and UPS. Lastly, you can add a drop shipping service, which is an external service to fulfill and ship the orders for you.
Collecting tax is optional. But, in the event that you need to charge sales tax, you have two different options, charge sales tax on total product price only and/or charge sales tax on total price including shipping. You can configure tax rates by states and add tax overrides to charge tax on specific products and shipping classes.
Pointing a custom domain name
You can point your Shopify store to a custom domain name. The default Shopify store shows up something like this in the web address bar: https://ecommerce-critics-store.myshopify.com/. It is messy, long, and difficult for your customers to remember. In addition, it is not friendly for search engines.
To point your store to a custom domain name, go to the online store tab that is on the left sidebar, and then click on domains. You have two options, connect your store to an existing domain or buy a new domain through Shopify ($13 a year). More than likely, you can buy a domain for much cheaper on places like NameCheap and GoDaddy. If you buy the domain name through Shopify, they point your store to the new domain. To connect your store to an existing domain name that you buy elsewhere, add the domain name, and log in to the account you have with your domain provider and edit the A record to point to Shopify’s IP address: 126.96.36.199.
Selling on multiple venues
Shopify offers a sales channel tab that is located under the settings tab in the left sidebar. For example, you can add your Shopify products to Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest, and add embedded product buy buttons to any website. All of these sales channels are free of charge, but do need a quick setup.
In addition, you can connect your physical store and your online store using the built-in point of sale system for free.
While Shopify offers a lot of built-in ecommerce features, they have an extensive selection of external apps (free and premium) that you can use to install more function to your store and automate some business tasks. The app store offers additional functions for just about every aspect of your business such as inventory management, customer service, accounting, order fulfillment, shipping, and etc.
As discussed above, Shopify already includes basic functions for a lot of these areas, but the apps are there to streamline your business. For example, you can add recurring billing to your store to sell subscription-based products, add live chat functions to improve your customer service and answer many of the pre-sale questions, add product rating and customer review widgets so your visitors can see what others are saying, and add pre-order functions to help you accept and manage pre-orders. You do not have to purchase or use any of the apps to run a successful shop, but they are there if you need them later on.
To install an external app or widget to your store, you can access the app store by clicking on “Apps” that is located on the bottom of the left sidebar, right above settings. You are then taken to a page that lists all of the apps that are installed on your store. There is also a link to the full app store. To install an app or widget, find one that you need and click on “Get.” This will automatically install the app on your store. You may need to configure certain apps after installing them.
Online shoppers are using mobile devices when buying things online at an all-time high. If perspective shoppers cannot access your shop using their smartphones or tablets, you are losing both customers and revenue. If perspective shoppers are unable to access your shop using their smartphones or tablets, you are losing both customers and revenue.
Shopping cart features for mobile commerce are included for free. Customers can browse and buy from your store using their mobile and tablet devices. When a customer visits your store on a mobile or tablet device, your store will automatically adjust to the proper size that is best suited for the particular device that is being using. This is done automatically, so you do not have to do anything.
All of their themes are responsive across multiple devices, so you do not have to mess with any of the settings. In addition, a free Shopify mobile and tablet app is available, so you can manage the admin backend from anywhere.
Is Shopify safe and secure?
Shopify is Level 1 PCI compliant, so you do not have to worry about the data being transmitted through your online store ending up in the wrong hands. The shopping cart offers a free shared SSL certificate that uses the same level of encryption that is used by large banks. Furthermore, Shopify backs up your data on a daily basis – data such as your business information, products, customers, and orders. Lastly, all Shopify users receive instant platform updates, so you never have to worry about missing the latest features and platform changes. All of the extra ecommerce benefits discussed above are included in your monthly plan with Shopify.
Shopify offers the best support team in the industry. You can reach them 24/7 (including holidays) via phone, live online chat, and email ticketing. Shopify offers a comprehensive knowledge base that includes ecommerce guides, podcasts, videos, and encyclopedia. There is also a free tools section where you can generate pay stubs, product barcodes, and business policies.
Lastly, Shopify also offers a large discussion forum where you can interact with other members, and review questions that were previously posted and answered. The community forum is where you can post questions of your own. You can get answers from Shopify’s dedicated support team and other Shopify users (real business owners). This is an invaluable way to get free input and tips from other successful business owners.
How much does Shopify cost?
When building a business, the key consideration is value – whether or not the online infrastructure and 24/7 technical support justify the monthly fee that is associated with Shopify. In terms of pricing, Shopify’s plans range anywhere from $29 for the Basic Shopify plan to $299 for the Advanced Shopify plan. A discount of 10% is applied to annual plans and a discount of 20% is applied to biennial plans.
Shopify also offers a Shopify Lite plan that costs $9 per month. But, you cannot build an ecommerce store with this plan. This plan is for those that already have a website but need to add ecommerce functions such as buy buttons. It is also good if you need to sell on Facebook only. You will not be able to access many of the ecommerce features on the Shopify Lite plan.
Here is a brief overview of the plans offered (or you can see all plans in more detail here):
- Shopify Lite – $9 a month, sell on social media, in person, or on an existing site.
- Basic Shopify – $29 a month, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage, unlimited products, and two staff accounts. Transaction fees are 2%, or waived when you use Shopify Payments.
- Shopify – $79 a month, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage, unlimited products, and five staff accounts. Transaction fees are 1%, or waived when you use Shopify Payments.
- Advanced Shopify – $299 a month, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage, unlimited products, and 15 staff accounts. Transaction fees are 0.5%, or waived when you use Shopify Payments.
Shopify offers a 14-day free trial that will give you ample time to test the platform on your own. If their platform does not suit your needs, you can always walk away before committing.
What plan should I choose?
This is one question that I am emailed about the most. Since all Shopify plans offer unlimited products and bandwidth, and because you can upgrade to a different plan at any time, I recommend most users to start with the Basic Shopify plan, which costs $29 a month. There is no need to pay extra for a more expensive plan if you do not need to. However, if you need to accept gift cards, need to recover lost sales with the abandoned cart recovery tool, or need third-party real-time shipping rates, the $79 a month Shopify plan is a better fit for you.
Lastly, I really hope that you process using their internal payment processing solution to avoid the transaction fees. I understand that PayPal and Amazon Payments are popular, but anyone that is shopping online has a credit card.
With every Shopify plan above, you can process payments in two ways:
- Use Shopify Payments (their in-house payment processing service via Stripe).
- Use an external payment processor such as PayPal and Amazon Payments.
If you use their in-house payment processor to process your sales, you will not need to pay transaction fees. You will only pay for the credit card fees which you cannot avoid, no matter which payment processor you use. If you use an external payment processor, you will need to pay transaction fees. The transaction fees vary on the plan – 2% for Basic Shopify plan, 1% for Shopify plan, and 0.5% for Advanced Shopify plan.
The “in person” credit card rates refer to the point of sale system and vary based on the plan you have. Current credit card rates are 2.7% for Basic Shopify plan, 2.5% for Shopify plan, and 2.4% for Advanced Shopify plan.
- The platform is very easy to get an online store up and running.
- Their platform offers an intuitive and user friendly backend dashboard interface.
- Completely hosted so you do not have to worry about the technical details – this allows you to focus on other parts of your business.
- A lot of optimization options to increase your search engine rankings.
- You can integrate Shopify onto an existing website.
- You can further extend the functionality of your store with the available external apps.
- Stores built using Shopify are fast and secure.
- The platform is heavily skewed towards merchants in North America and United Kingdom. The features, payment processors, and language availability prove that theory.
- You will incur transaction fees if you do not use Shopify Payments.
- Their platform utilizes a template markup language called “liquid.” If you are not a developer, it can take a few hours to learn.
- Shifting your Shopify store to a different ecommerce provider is not a smooth journey.
Shopify Review – Conclusion
In conclusion, I feel that Shopify is a strong ecommerce platform to create an online store. Specifically, I am impressed with two unique things:
- Themes – whether you use the free themes or purchase a premium theme, your online store will look professional, which increases sales and builds trust.
- App store – sure, Shopify has a good amount of features that are built into the platform from the start. But, for those that need to extend Shopify’s functionality, you can find just about everything in their large external app store.
Keep in mind that in order to have successful shop, you will need a strong online platform that is capable and flexible to support your business needs. Shopify happens to be the platform that fits this criteria.
So, if you need an ecommerce store builder that is easy to use but flexible enough for complex stores, you might want to take a look at Shopify.
Shopify offers a 14-day free trial that you can use to test the platform yourself without any financial loss to you.