There are a number of Shopify reviews and we’re the first ones to admit, choosing the right e-commerce online shop builder is tough. A lot of reputable online shop builders give you all sorts of tools and it’s confusing – which one is the right one for you?
In our minds, if you are starting a new online business, or just bringing an existing business to the online world, Shopify is definitely a builder to create your online shop (we’ll explain why below).
Shopify is a leading online shop builder, and is currently powering over 90,000 online shops. Take a look at these examples here and you can see what Shopify can do for you.
It doesn’t matter if you are just starting a new online shop, or bringing an offline store online to grow your business, the last thing you want to do is troubleshoot technology. Shopify can help you save time so you can focus on other important aspects of your business.
One key thing that we think Shopify has done exceptionally well, is invite other vendors (such as theme designers or online tools providers) to integrate their services and products into Shopify, making Shopify a 1-stop-shop for all the tools you’ll need to create a successful online shop. We’ll give you more details below.
The best thing about Shopify is that it’s made me not have to worry about anything that has to do with the e-commerce portion of my business – Chris Tsang, Mindzai Toys (www.mindzai.com)
SHOPIFY REVIEWS - TOP 3 PROS AND CONS
- Shopify offers you over 100 beautiful and professional templates (themes), so your online shop can look great. If you have an online shop, your shop has to look good. Why? It builds credibility and trust right off the bat. It’s the same idea as a brick and mortar store – it has to look clean and professional to encourage visitors to stay and have a look around.Shopify provides you with a Theme Store where you can pick and choose from their collection of premium themes (either free or paid) across different industries (clothing, jewelry, furniture, art, etc), so you can dress up your website accordingly. One thing we appreciate is that Shopify invites professional theme designers to create themes for Shopify. These themes are quality-checked by Shopify, so they are fully compatible with Shopify. This allows you to choose from a broad range of professional designs so your website will look good.
- Shopify is very flexible and has all sorts of tools (Apps) to meet your needs and to extend the functionality of your online store. They offer you a large App Store where you can choose from over 580 different Apps (free and paid) for you to plug into your store. The tools include accounting, customer service, inventory management, marketing, reporting, shipping, social media, fulfillment, etc and these apps can help automate a lot of your business processes. This is really one of the biggest strengths about Shopify – Not only do they give you a way to build an online store and handle payments, they also offer you helpful tools you need for other important aspects of running a successful business. You probably won’t need all of them, so you can pick and choose the apps that you need. These apps are fully integrated into Shopify, so you don’t have to mess around with different systems and try to make them “talk” to each other. Just plug and play – which will save you a lot of time and work.
- Shopify offers you a true 24/7 anytime support. You can reach them at any time through phone support, online live chat or email. They even provide you with 4 international phone numbers so you can choose the number that fits your region. If you’re running a business, you need immediate access to support when you need technology troubleshooting – Shopify provides this for you. [More details on Shopify’s Support below]
- In addition to a monthly service fee, Shopify charges its customers a 1% – 2% transaction fee for their lower plans. This transaction fee is removed if you are using their “Unlimited” plan [more details on Shopify’s pricing plans below]. What this means for you, is that Shopify will charge you 2% of the sales value if you are using the Basic plan, and 1% of the sales value if you are using the Professional plan. While this might sound high initially, let’s put this in perspective.To illustrate, the cost to you is $1 or $2 for every $100 in sales that you make, or $100 or $200 for every $10,000 in sales. This fee is intended to cover the technology it takes for Shopify to power your sales. More sales usually mean more visitors, and more visitors use up a lot of bandwidth (think of it as power it takes for Shopify to allow your visitors to look around the store). While this transaction fee is in addition to the monthly plan fee, we would still be very excited if we sold $10,000 per month in products and would gladly pay $100 or $200 to Shopify to power and manage the transactions for us.Moreover, if you started to make more sales, you can always upgrade to the “Unlimited” plan to completely remove the transaction fee. One thing you should appreciate about Shopify, is that they are very transparent in their fee structures. A lot of other large online shop builders are well known for charging hidden fees, so you get a big surprising bill that you can’t calculate at the end of the month. With Shopify, you can actually calculate how much you owe them based on the agreed up on monthly plan, and also based on how much sales you’ve made (which you know). [Update - See how by using Shopify Payments, Shopify will waive all your transaction fees]
- Although Shopify offers you over 580 apps to extend the functionality of your online shop, a lot of the apps are not free and they charge you a monthly fee for you to use them. Naturally, this might be concerning due to increased monthly costs. For example, integrating Freshbooks (a leading accounting / booking software) to your Shopify store is $31.99 per month.However, consider it this way. If you need to manage accounting, this means that you are making a good number of sales, so you’re going to need to manage your accounting anyway. You can either sign up for an accounting software elsewhere, and manually export your sales information and import them into your accounting software (you know there will be a few glitches along the way, and in most cases, nobody will step up to help you because it’s “not their problem”), or you can hire a bookkeeper for a lot more than $31.99 per month. Or, you can use one of Shopify’s apps to make your life easier – because the apps are fully integrated with Shopify, so there is no manual work to make the different systems communicate properly. Everything is integrated and you don’t have to lift a finger to deal with bookkeeping.Will the cost add up if you need several paid apps to extend your online shop’s functions? Yes. Will it save you time, headaches and money over time? Yes. We’ve all tried to pinch dollars when running businesses. But don’t be “penny wise, pound foolish”. The apps are here to make your life easier, so you can focus on other important aspects of your business.
- If you know code (HTML and CSS) and want to customize your website (or hire a programmer), it’s not as straight forward as in addition to editing through HTML and CSS (the basic codes), Shopify also uses their own coding language called “Liquid”. What this means is that if you want to hire someone to quickly make modifications, you might have to hire a Shopify Expert who knows Liquid to help, which won’t be as cheap as a normal programmer. Of course, this assumes that you want to make customizations. What you can do is keep with the basic premium themes first, and as you start to make more sales, then consider making customizations.
SHOPIFY REVIEWS VIDEO
[Update to Video - In the video at the 7 minute 30 second mark, we discussed Shopify's pricing and their transaction fees. Now, through Shopify Payments, Shopify will waive all your transaction fees]
SHOPIFY IS IDEAL FOR….
Shopify is ideal for you if you want to launch an online shop, or if you already have a physical store, but want to continue to grow your business by selling your products online.
Shopify caters to a broad range of industries, such as art & photography, clothing & fashion, jewelry & accessories, electronics, food & beverages, home & garden, furniture & household, sports & recreations, toys & games, etc. (See Shopify examples here)
Basically any sort of gadgets or widgets or physical products that you can sell, Shopify can help make this an easier process for you.
Dealing with technology isn’t easy, and technology is not the only thing in running a successful business. So allowing platforms such as Shopify to help you manage the technology side of things, while you can focus on other parts of your business (such as marketing, product development, customer relationships building, administration, etc), Shopify can make your already hectic life a bit easier.
[UPDATE (Sept 2013) - Shopify launched their Point of Sale (POS) System. So if you have an offline retail store, you can now integrate your entire sales system with a Shopify online store! You can effectively turn an iPad into a sales terminal, using it to help your customers browse through your product catalog, handle credit card transactions, and even hook it up to your cash register. A bold move from Shopify, which moves it closer to being a "true" commerce service provider.]
EASE OF USE
Shopify gives you tools to build your online store. It’s not magic, so you will have to commit a few hours to learn the basics, but once you do that, it’s pretty smooth sailing from there (don’t forget you also get 24/7 online or phone support from them).
Shopify gives you the tools to:
- Insert product images, descriptions / details
- Manage your inventory
- Organize your products into categories (easier for your prospective customers to find what they need)
- Discount code engine
- Creating webpages and blogs
- Track customer and order details
- Accept payments from 50 different payment processors in different currencies
- Set up customer accounts (so your customers can log in into their private accounts to manage their personal information such as address, credit card information, so it’s easier for them to buy next time)
- Sort your customers by location, money spent, etc, so you can better understand where your customers are from and their spending behaviors, so you can market better to them
- Manage multiple staff login – so if you have staff helping you, you can grant them different permission levels to help you manage your online shop
The overall theme from Shopify, is that they can do the “heavy lifting” for you, so you can focus on other parts of your business.
TEMPLATE DESIGN OPTIONS
As mentioned in the “Pros About Shopify” section above, Shopify offers you over 100 premium themes for you to dress up your online shop. Having your online shop look professional and elegant builds trust and credibility. As vain as that sounds, it’s true and it works.
Imagine yourself walking into a store that looks mediocre or messy – does it inspire trust? Most likely not. Shopify offers you a lot of professional themes to help you built trust, and sell products.
Some of the themes are free, and some are paid. For the paid themes, they range from $80 to $180. While this might sound pricey at first, just remember that it is a 1-time payment (no need to pay monthly / recurring fees), and an investment to making your online shop look professional with the end goal of keeping your visitors on your website and improving your chances of making sales.
After all, you don’t really need to invest in a paid premium theme yet if you have a tight budget. There are plenty of free themes to start off with. Once you start to get more sales, you can always upgrade to a paid theme later on.
ABANDONED CHECKOUT RECOVERY
Did you know that for an average e-commerce store, 1 out of 3 of your potential customers actually place products into the checkout cart, then forget to complete the purchase process as they get distracted by emails, people, random things? This is actually true according to statistics and if this happens to you, you will be losing a lot of potential profits.
What a lot of advanced shopping cart provider offer is the ability for you to discover who these people are, and follow up with them to remind them to purchase the products that they added to the shopping cart.
Shopify also offers an abandoned checkout cart recovery service to you as part of their Professional and Unlimited plans (more details about the plans below).
This tool enables you to automatically track and email these potential customers to follow up and remind them to complete their purchases.
The way this tool works is that it will “remember” the email addresses that were inserted during the check out processes, and Shopify will automatically email them after a number of hours of your choice, with links hat are unique to each one of them, and bring them directly back to the shopping cart with their products already added to the cart, for them to complete the purchase with relative ease.
This entire process is automatic, and statistically, you will see a meaningful increase in your sales without having to lift your finger.
These potential customers were ready to purchase but got distracted, so this is a quick and easy win for you to remind and help them to complete their purchases. This tool is readily available with Shopify.
SHOPIFY APP STORE – ADD MORE FUNCTIONS TO YOUR SHOP
As mentioned above, Shopify offers you an extensive number of Apps (over 580) so you can add more functions to your online shop, and automate a lot of business tasks.
The tools are not just sales & marketing tools, they also include additional tools that help you manage administrative tasks such as inventory management, fulfillment, shipping, customer service, bookkeeping, etc.
While Shopify already includes basic functions for a lot of these areas, if you need more, these Apps can help you.
As discussed above, while these apps do have monthly fees, they’re well worth it if you need those functions to save yourself time (and pain).
For example, you can add live chat functions to your site to improve customer service and answer pre-sale questions, add customer review / rating widgets so your visitors can see what people are saying about your products (peer reviews can influence shopping behavior), or automate inventory / fulfillment process so you don’t have to manually process orders all day long.
You can pick and choose which app you want to use, so if you don’t need the app, you don’t have to use it. You have full control over that.
The apps are there to streamline your business, so to save you time and headaches, allowing you to focus on other parts of your business (or life).
An e-commerce shop builder is not complete without mobile features – and Shopify does not disappoint here.
Shopify includes free, built-in mobile e-commerce shopping cart features so your prospective customers can browse and purchase from your store directly from their mobile phones.
The mobile e-commerce settings are set up in a way that it works great with mobile phones such as iPhones, Androids, Blackberry or other smart phones.
Not only does Shopify present your online shop professionally on a mobile phone, it also allows you to manage your store on a mobile phone. You can check your sales statistics, customer data and manage your sales orders on your mobile phone. This way, you are always in touch with your business even if you are not in your office.
SUPPORT / TUTORIALS / COMMUNITY RESOURCES
Shopify Customer Support
Shopify has one of the best support team in the industry. You can reach them 24/7 through the phone, online live chat, or email.
When you’re running a business, the last thing you want to do is troubleshoot technology yourself. This is why having a 24/7 support team to support you is so important, and you get this from Shopify.
Shopify Tutorial Resources
If that doesn’t work, you can always call, live chat or email their dedicated support team for further help.
Shopify Community Forum
Shopify also has a large discussion forum where you can find a lot of questions that were previously asked and answered.
The forum works well because not only can you post questions to Shopify’s support team, you can also get real input and tips from other Shopify users (real business owners). This is an invaluable way to grow your business and get tips that are working for other Shopify users.
Further, they also offer an Ecommerce University which gives you access to their learning center (guides to sell more online), which is a nice touch.
Try Shopify Risk-Free for 14-Days
HOSTING, SECURITY AND BACKUP OPTIONS
As part of your monthly plan, Shopify will host your online shop for you and gives you unlimited amount of bandwidth. So in theory, if you have 10 million visitors per month, you won’t get charged a penny more than your monthly plan.
The good thing is that they manage the entire hosting process for you so you can focus on other important parts of your business, such as marketing, products or just enjoying life!
Shopify takes care of all the security upgrades for their servers and do all the technical details to ensure your website is always up and running, and doesn’t get hacked.
They also provide you with top notch security to ensure that your customer data is secure. Your online shop will be Level 1 PCI compliant and the shopping cart also includes an SSL certificate that uses industry standard 128 bit encryption technology (the same level of encryption used by large banks) to keep your store’s information secure. You can also mention this to your visitors so they know it is safe to purchase from you.
Shopify also backs up your data automatically.
All these e-commerce hosting benefits are all included in your monthly plan with Shopify. As mentioned before, Shopify is good at taking care of all these technological details and tasks from you, so you can focus on other things.
PRICING – IS IT WORTH THE INVESTMENT?
Truth be told, if you’re looking for something free, Shopify won’t be able to provide that.
But if you are looking for a solid, robust, flexible online shop builder that can actually help you grow your sales and manage a lot of administrative business tasks for you, Shopify is a good candidate to consider.
If you’re going to build a business, the key consideration is value – does the price of having the online infrastructure and 24/7 live support justify your investment in Shopify?
Based on what we’ve covered above, you can get a sense that using Shopify can range from $14 per month for their Starter Plan, all the way to $179 per month for their Unlimited Plan. You get more features and tools as you move higher up in their plans, and the credit card transaction fees also reduce (which makes sense as you are subscribed to a higher monthly plan). Click here to see Shopify’s detailed pricing plans.
Just the Abandoned Checkout Recovery tool that comes with the Professional and Unlimited plan is worth a lot of money every month. Imagine this automated tool being able to recover hundreds (or thousands if you have a large store) of dollars every month automatically.
If you want more flexibility, Shopify’s apps can also “extend” your shop’s functionality, which helps your website grow as you scale up your business. If the app you choose is a paid app, it will also have its own separate monthly fee. So just keep this in mind.
Overall, the saying that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” really holds true here. If you want something cheaper, you’ll receive an inferior experience, less tools, less support, and that’s not something you should aim for if you are serious about your business.
Even though Shopify is not the cheapest option around, it definitely provides you with a high-end online shop solution, flexibility to grow with your business, 24/7 support (which is so valuable when you run a business), and pricing transparency (a lot of other online shop builders have hidden charges).
Shopify also comes with a risk-free 14 day trial for you to test for yourself. If you don’t think it’s suitable for you, you can always walk away before committing.
Overall, as online business owners ourselves, we can definitely appreciate investing the right amount of financial resources to receive help and convenience. Investing in the right tools to grow your business is not something you should take lightly. In our own experiences, investing in tools resulted in saving us a lot of time, money and resources.
You only have 24 hours per day, and as a business owner, you have to juggle between operating your business and life. Investing in tools can make your life easier so you can focus on other important aspects of business and life. This is one of the secrets to growing your business, and maintaining a personal life to remain sane.
SHOPIFY REVIEWS – CONCLUSION / RECOMMENDATION
- Premium store front themes – your online shop will look professional, which is a key ingredient in attracting more visitors and keeping them on your website to increase sales
- Shopify Apps – to add more / extend functionality to your online shop as you grow your business
Shopify understands that their core strength is to allow you to build and manage a website with a secure shopping cart, and they understand that they can’t build all the different business tools in the world for you.
So what do they do? They invite professional designers and services providers to integrate their designs and apps / tools with Shopify. You have access to designer-caliber store front themes, and a broad range of fully integrated apps to help you manage and automate a lot of your business (this means less work for you).
This flexibility and the ability for Shopify to grow with your online business, is one of the unique aspects that we’ve grown to appreciate, and I hope you do as well. You can start off with less features and tools, and add more and bolt them on to your online shop as you grow.
[Update Sept 2013 - As mentioned above, Shopify's Point of Sale (POS) system will also help you grow your offline retail store (if you have one). Start using your iPad as your mobile store catalog and payment terminal, while synchronizing all your data with your online store - a "true" business commerce setup!]
Keep in mind that to have success with your online shop, you need a very strong, capable and flexible online platform / infrastructure to support you. Shopify is one of those platforms that you should consider investing in, especially with their 24/7 phone and live chat support. It makes a lot more sense to let them deal with the technology aspect of things, so you can focus on other aspects of your business.
Shopify offers you a risk-free 14 days trial to see for yourself if they fit your needs. So there is no financial risk to you to try them out.Try Shopify Risk-Free for 14 Days
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