In this age of DIY, platforms such as WordPress, Weebly, Squarespace, and Wix are very popular among people planning to start a new website.
All these popular platforms let you build websites from scratch without writing a single line of code.
But while building a blog or a small business website is fairly easy with these platforms, the dynamics change considerably if you want to build an online store.
With the increasing popularity of e-commerce, most of the basic website builders now do offer a host of features and tools to help you build one.
But if you are serious about building an online store, you need a website builder that is specific to e-commerce websites. And one of the best examples of the same is Shopify.
Shopify defines itself as a one-stop e-commerce platform which can be used for starting, managing, and growing an online business.
It is currently used by more than 750,000 live websites, making it one of the most popular online store builders.
As a matter of fact, many of the biggest of brands such as Budweiser, The Economist, Penguin Books, New York Times Shop, Red Bull, and Tesla Motors use the Shopify platform for their websites.
But while these numbers and names might look impressive, is Shopify really the best e-commerce website builder?
Should you select Shopify for creating your online store? Let us have a detailed look at its features, pricing plans, security, support, and pros and cons to help you make the right decision.
History of Shopify
Tobias Lutke, Scott Lake, and Daniel Weinand laid the foundation of Shopify in 2004 in Ontario, Canada when they were looking to create an online store named Snowdevil for selling snowboarding equipment.
Lutke, who was a computer programmer by profession, was not satisfied with the e-commerce products available at that time and thus decided to build his own online store.
Ruby on Rails, a server-side web application framework, was used by Lutke for creating their Snowdevil online store and it was launched after 2 months of development.
So, the popular online store builder that we know today as Shopify was actually an e-commerce store itself and the founders never even intended to create a platform which can be used for creating e-commerce websites.
It was only in 2006, that the Snowdevil founders launched an e-commerce portal and used the name “Shopify” for the first time.
In 2007, the company launched its shopping cart system and by 2009, the retailers on the platform were already making a combined total of $100 million in sales.
This was followed by $7 million Series A funding in 2010 and $15 million Series B funding in 2011.
By 2014, Shopify was already earning $105 million in revenue.
In 2015, it filed for IPO on the Toronto Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange under symbols “SH” and “SHOP” respectively. The IPO raised more than $130 million.
Over the years, Shopify has grown by leaps and bounds and is currently known as the most popular e-commerce builder on the internet.
Top Features of Shopify
Shopping Cart and Payments
Along with Shopify Payments, the Shopify platform enables your online store to accept payments through most of the popular credit cards as soon as you launch your store.
If you also want to offer other payment options, the platform supports more than 100 payment gateways such as PayPal, Bitcoin, IDEAL, and many more.
Moreover, if you have an international website, the checkout process can be easily translated into more than 50 different languages.
Shopify also lays a major emphasis on keeping the checkout process completely secure and encrypts the same with 256-bit SSL certificate.
A common problem for a lot of online stores catering to national and international customers is the variable taxes and shipping rates.
To eliminate this inconvenience, Shopify automatically calculates the country and state taxes on the basis of the location of the customer.
Store owners also get to conveniently make changes to the shipping rates based on the location, weight, and other parameters of the delivery.
Beginner-Friendly Online Store Building
All the plans offered by Shopify, except the “Lite” plan comes with a website builder.
You also get the option of selecting your own domain name and host your online store on Shopify servers.
All the online stores created with Shopify are mobile responsive and can be used across different screen sizes.
As far as designing your online store is concerned, it offers all the necessary tools and features such as drag and drop builder, 100+ themes, templates, and more to help you launch your online store with any coding knowledge.
Moreover, unlike most other online store builders, Shopify also allows you to add a blog section to your online store.
Apart from blogs, you can also add product discussion pages, look books, and much more. This converts Shopify from an online store builder to a full-fledged content management system just as WordPress.
But while WordPress allows you to build many different types of websites, Shopify only focuses on e-commerce.
Managing your online store is a breeze with Shopify. Every detail with regards to your e-commerce such as integration, fulfillment center, customer details, refunds, inventory management, etc. are stored at a single place.
This ensures that you can easily access any information you like as and when you need it.
Apart from online transactions, you can also use the Shopify POS app on an iPhone or iPad for processing offline payments.
The POS app allows you to manage the inventory with accurate tracking of record sales and stock counts. Moreover, irrespective of what plan you select, Shopify allows you to list unlimited types and number of products.
You can also sort the products on the basis of their size, SKU value, color, price, weight, material, and other parameters.
All the data can also be easily imported and exported in CVS format. There is also a Shopify Mobile app which lets you manage the backend of your online store on-the-go.
The app can be used for processing orders, managing inventory, and sending emails to the customers.
Integrations and Add-Ons
With the increasing competition among online stores, it is very important for your e-commerce portal to offer the best of features to your customers. As a result, Shopify offers a host of 3rd party integrations.
For instance, you can integrate your Shopify account with Google Analytics for monitoring statistics like conversion rates, behavior reports, traffic sources, audience versatility, and more.
These reports can also be shared through email to your marketing team for further analysis. Moreover, you can also integrate your online store with all the popular social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter.
For Facebook, Shopify also allows you to let potential customers browse your products without leaving Facebook.
It also offers “Buy Now” button which you can use on platforms such as Pinterest.
Apart from this, a large number of 3rd party integration tools for social media are also supported by Shopify.
Talking about the add-ons, Shopify allows you to automatically post on your social media pages with just a few clicks.
As soon as you launch a new marketing campaign, product, or a blog post, the same can be updated automatically on your social media pages.
If you are looking to set up your own drop-shopping operations, the Shopify platform also integrates with a number of apps such as Inventory Source, Ordoro, and eCommHub for the same.
SEO and Marketing
Shopify does not just allows you to build an online store and process payments but also offers a host of marketing tools to help you attract more customers and generate more sales.
For instance, Shopify software can be used along with the MailChimp app.
This allows you to send personalized offers and messages to the customers once they sign up on your website.
It also offers many different email templates that you can use to send newsletters, abandoned cart notifications, and email blasts to your subscribers and customers.
Customer feedback is also an excellent way to improve your credibility.
Shopify has a robust customer feedback system in place with the help of which your customers write feedback for your website and products.
You will also want your online store to rank well on the search engines. For this, Shopify supports all the popular SEO practices like meta tags, title, H1, and more.
Shopify currently offers 5 different paid plans but there is also a 14-days free trial.
You can use this trial without providing any credit card details to first test the platform. After the trial, you can decide whether or not you want to upgrade to a paid plan.
Let us have a detailed look at the features and prices of these 5 plans-
The Lite plan from Shopify costs $9 per month and is targeted towards people who want to sell their products online.
With the Lite plan, you cannot create an online store but sell your products online through Facebook.
If you have an offline store, the Lite plan will allow you to use the services of Shopify for selling products and managing your inventory.
Moreover, if you already have a website or store, the Lite plan will get you the “Buy” button of Shopify which you can use on your website for selling your products.
This button can also be linked to an online store created with other website builders such as WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace.
This feature is very useful for people who already have an online store but just want to use the e-commerce features of Shopify.
If you are planning to create a new online store, the Basic Shopify plan can be a great choice. This plan costs $29 per month and allows you to build your very own online store.
With this plan, you can list an unlimited number of products, sell on multiple channels and create orders manually.
You will also receive 2 staff accounts, free SSL certificate, and features like abandoned card recovery.
Shopify charges a transaction fee of 2% on each of the transactions in the Basic Shopify plan.
If you want to grow your online business, the Shopify plan is the one for you.
he plan costs $79 per month and includes all the features of the Basic Shopify plan.
But you get 5 staff accounts and some additional features such as professional reports and gift cards. The transaction fee with the Shopify plan is 1%.
If you are looking to build an extensive online business, the Advanced Shopify plan has all the features that you might need.
At $299 per month, this plan gets you all the features of the Shopify plan along with 15 staff accounts.
You also get advanced report builder and 3rd party calculated shipping rates. The transaction fee in this plan is just 0.5%.
The Shopify Gold plan is for large enterprises and comes with advanced features with regards to the APIs, security, and fulfillment. The fee for this plan is not fixed and depends on the needs of the customers.
However, it is generally in the range of $1,500-$2,000 and above.
Once you select a plan, you have the option to pay for it annually or biennially.
You get a discount of 10% if you pay for 1 year at once and 20% with biennial payment.
Overall, the pricing structure of Shopify is fairly transparent and in line with other popular e-commerce solution providers such as Squarespace and BigCommerce.
However, a lot of online store owners have mentioned that important features such as professional reporting and gift cards are only available with more expensive plan.
Hosting and Security
If you want to run a successful online store, your store needs to be fast and secure. Your hosting provider has a crucial role to play in your websites speed.
Fortunately, every Shopify plan, except the Lite plan, includes hosting and you are not required to purchase any additional hosting plans. As a matter of fact, you can also purchase a new domain name from Shopify.
The official website of Shopify claims to offer an uptime of 99.9%. While many of the online reviews agree with this claim, others say that the uptime is in the range of 99.7%-99.9%. However, 99.7% is not bad either.
Talking about the page load times, the hosting provided by Shopify is able to load website pages within 75-80 milliseconds which is in line with some of the best hosting providers.
Apart from speed, security is important too as you will be processing transactions on your website. Shopify is Level 1 PCI DSS compliant.
If you don’t know anything about PCI compliance, know that their Level 1 is highest achievable compliance. The certificate of this compliance is also available on the Shopify website.
Apart from this, Shopify also ensures enhanced security by-
- Testing and monitoring the network constantly
- Operating vulnerability management program
- Maintaining effective access control methods
- Protecting cardholder data
Overall, Shopify is one of the best online store builders when it comes to hosting and security.
It eliminates the need for you to additionally invest in hosting or security tools, making it easier for you to build and maintain an e-commerce store.
No matter if you are new to owning an online store or already have a decent experience, you will definitely need a reliable support team to handle your queries.
For this, Shopify offers 24×7 customer support and you can get in touch with the support team through call, live chat, and support ticket.
For basic queries, Shopify also has an extensive knowledgebase. It has several video tutorials and articles to help you easily find answers to your basic queries.
Alternatively, Shopify also has an active YouTube channel. There are several tutorials and inspirational videos on this channel.
Moreover, Shopify also conducts regular online webinars. There are also podcasts which often feature interviews of successful Shopify store owners.
While the majority of the Shopify store owners have mentioned that the support offered by Shopify is simply amazing, there are many others who do not agree.
Many of the reviews on the internet say that the customer representatives of Shopify are not as knowledgeable as they should be.
Moreover, some of the users also say that the wait time for live chat is generally very long.
User-friendliness is one of the most important considerations for people who are new to running an online business.
No matter how good an e-commerce platform is if you are constantly facing difficulties, it is better to look for another platform.
Fortunately, building and managing an online store with Shopify is fairly easy.
You can find detailed information with regards to the plans, website building, listing products, transaction fee, and more. Moreover, unlike many of the platforms, Shopify is very transparent when it comes to pricing.
There are no hidden charges and you only pay what you see. Most users agree that creating an online store with Shopify is not as complex as they’d initially expected.
In case if you are stuck, you will mostly find answers in the knowledgebase or you can get in touch with the support team throughout the day and night.
Once you register an account, you will get access to the dashboard from where you can easily track details such as orders, key sales, customer visits, and more.
Just like every other e-commerce platform, Shopify too has a learning curve. After all, you are starting a new business from scratch and there will definitely be several things to learn.
However, Shopify has done an excellent job of keeping things as simple as possible.
Right from registering an account, building a website, to listing products and processing payments, there is help available at every step.
Pros and Cons
Based on the factors discussed above and some of the popular Shopify reviews, here are some of the top pros and cons of this platform-
- Built-in hosting which is super fast and secure
- Host of marketing and SEO tools and features
- Several integrations and add-ons
- Excellent POS service
- 5 different plans to suit the needs of online sellers
- Simple drag and drop website building with several themes and templates
- Drop-shipping feature available
- Mixed reviews about Shopify’s customer support
- Some important features are only available with expensive plans
- Add-ons are mostly necessary with cheaper plans
- Shopify Payment is only available in selected countries and you will need a 3rd party payment gateway in other countries
Is Shopify Right For You?
Shopify is currently one of the most popular e-commerce platforms and it is not difficult to understand the reason for its widespread popularity.
It is a one-stop shop for every individual wanting to sell products online either through a standalone e-commerce website or from their existing website or even through social networking platforms.
It offers plenty of plans to suit every type of seller and each of its plans, except the Lite plan, include fast and secure hosting.
Building an online store with Shopify is mostly easy and you get plenty of premium themes and templates for free to ensure that your online store looks stunning and unique.
There are also marketing and SEO tools to help you popularize your online store.
No other e-commerce platform handles online transactions as good as Shopify and it also supports more than 100 payment gateways to ensure complete convenience.
It also offers customer support in multiple ways and has a highly active YouTube channel with several helpful videos.
The pricing too is pretty transparent and starts with as little as $9 per month.
After all, Shopify is a stockmarket-listed company and offers everything that one would expect from an e-commerce platform.
It is fast, secure, feature-packed, reasonably priced, and offers decent support. If you are looking to build your online store from scratch or sell products online, Shopify is a highly recommended option.