Shopify was founded in 2006 by Tobias Lütke (CEO of the Year in Canada), Scott Lake and Daniel Weinand. Since the launch, the platform has quickly grown from a small player to one of (if not the) leading ecommerce solutions. The company is currently powering more than 100,000 online retailers. Some of their most notable customers include among others General Electric, Amnesty International, CrossFit, Tesla Motors, Encyclopedia Britannica, Foo Fighters, GitHub, and many more. If you are looking for an ecommerce solution with a lot of great features that still remains easy to use for the novice users, then you should definitely give them a try.
Shopify Video Preview
My colleague Stephanie recorded a quick video that sums up this review. Give it a go if you’re in a hurry.
I have tested quite a few ecommerce platforms in the past, and I must admit Shopify has the most thought-out feature set I have ever encountered. Almost everything you need to run your own online store is taken care of by a distinct feature. It doesn’t matter if you are planning to run your store fully online or from a brick and mortar setting, there is something for everyone.
The company has one of the most complete dashboards or control panels I have ever seen, everything is taken care of from here, whether you want to add new products or manage new orders everything is done through the dashboard. You can also use the dashboard for generating discount codes, or just need to examine the latest reports.
If you are looking to sell your products in an actual retail setting, then they offer Shopify POS. This includes everything you need to sell your products offline, both on the software and hardware side. The software used includes an iPad app, which makes selling your products in a retail setting much easier. With the app you can use the credit card reader to swipe the customers credit card right there, you can even purchase additional hardware from the company such as a cash register, a receipt printer and even a barcode scanner.
The company also offers one of the biggest App Stores out of all ecommerce solutions; they offer dozens of free and paid apps that will enhance your store. These have been divided into different categories such as Marketing, Sales, Social Media, Shipping and Customer Service. Thanks to their formidable content management system (CMS) you can easily create additional pages, as well as pages through which your clients can easily contact you. Furthermore Shopify makes running your own blog super easy, since everything is handled from a single dashboard.
Recently Shopify has updated their check out area and now all of their themes offer a fully responsive checkout. With responsive checkout your site automatically adapts to the size of your screen. Furthermore the company has changed the way the checkout works meaning you can now customize this area to look just like the rest of your store.
Shopify Ease of Use
You could fear that with all the features offered it would be easy to become overwhelmed with the platform, however luckily that isn’t the case with Shopify. It literally takes minutes to open and create a basic store; and from there it is easy to create something absolutely stunning.
One great feature is the fact that you can test your store before releasing it to the public; this can either be done through the live editor or even online. If you should need a domain name then you can easily buy your own domain through the dashboard, this makes it much easier compared to other competitors who force you to purchase your own domain through third-party hosting sites.
A lot of emphasis has been placed on making their platform as easy to use as possible, while still offering advanced features for those who might need the additional features. One part of the platform I really enjoy is the fact that you can easily drag and drop different links to create your own personalized navigation menu. Furthermore, as we will discuss later, editing and customizing your own theme really couldn’t be any easier.
Shopify offers five different pricing plans, they offer a starter plan for just just $14 a month, while their other plans range from $29 for their basic plan to $179 for their biggest plan. If you pay for a full year in advance you will get a 10% discount, equally if you pay upfront for two years you will receive a 20% discount.
If you want to sell your products both online and offline, then Shopify offers plans ranging from $78/month to $228/month. Furthermore if you wish to only sell your products offline, then they also offer a plan for that, which can be quite handy.
The cheapest offline plan starts at $49/month while the most expensive costs $199/month. Unlike with the other platforms, all plans come with unlimited bandwidth and, with the exception of the starter plan, an unlimited number of products you can sell in your store.
Shopify Templates and Design
One area where Shopify really excels is their themes and their design; the company offers some of the most professional looking themes of any ecommerce platform. The themes can be found in the Theme Store. The company offers both free themes as well as paid themes, with the paid ones ranging from $80 to $180.
Once you have found the right theme, you can easily customize the look and feel to your hearts delight, simply by opening the template editor and editing your theme until you feel it’s exactly what you are looking for. If you have created a theme that you would like to use for your store, then you can upload your own template.
Simply go to the Theme pages and scroll down until you find the upload theme button, then just add your own theme.
One thing I really prefer about Shopify is the fact that they don’t cover their templates in ads and logos, in fact you will have to look very hard to find any indication that the site was built on Shopify.
Inventory management is an important part of running your store, and Shopify has you covered in this area too. Once you are ready to add inventory to your store then all you need to do is press the product tab in the sidebar on the dashboard, you will then automatically be taken to following page:
As you can see in the image above everything from title of product, description and price is customizable, what is great is the fact that you can give each product a distinct SKU, as well as adding a bar code.
Shopify SEO & Marketing
If you have an amazing store but your customers are unable to find it, then chances are you will be very disappointed with the sales figures. Shopify offers great features for both SEO and Marketing. Thanks to built in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) features your site will easily be found on all major search engines such as Google, Bing and yahoo.
If you really want to customize your store even more then the company offers customizable H1, title and mega tags, moreover their URLs are all SEO friendly. The company has also partnered with Google in order to give you $100 when you spend $25 on advertising with a new AdWords account, and the moment you sign up with Shopify you also receive a $50 credit for new Facebook Ads accounts.
To help boost your marketing, they have created a discount code coupon generator to help promote your products on different social networks. Your customers can also sign up to your newsletter to be kept in the loop of changes you make on your site. Read this post if you want to learn more on which is the best ecommerce site builder for SEO.
Traditionally if you wanted to accept payment you would have to use a third-party payments processor like Stripe, PayPal, or others that would charge a certain fee per transaction. The company has created their own payment processor called Shopify Payments, if you decide to sign up for this program then all transaction fees will be lifted regardless of your plan.
With the basic payment plan Shopify charges 2.9% + 30c per transaction, while the company charges 2.5% + 30c and 2.25% + 30c per transaction, for the Professional and Unlimited plans per transaction. At the moment this plan is currently only available in the U.S. and Canada. Other than Shopify Payments the company also offers integration with more than 70 different payment gateways, these include accepting payments from credit cards, Google Checkout, PayPal and many more.
These gateways all come with their own transaction fees, as these can get a little confusing, I strongly advice that you familiarize yourself with these before signing up, as you might otherwise be surprised at just how much is charged as a fee.
Security is taken very seriously in ecommerce and therefore they have created their shopping cart platform as well as their hosting to be Level 1 PCI DSS compliant, in other words your data is secured. All pricing plans offer 128-bit Free SSL certificate at no added cost.
While data security is very important to etailers, many also worry about their store always being available, and Shopify provides their customers with a 99.94% uptime guarantee. Furthermore the company creates secure backups of all your data, so even if your store should for some reason disappear, it will be backed up and ready to be restored within minutes.
If you find yourself in the need of support, then Shopify has one of the best offers in the industry. Regardless of which pricing plan you decide on the company has 24/7 full customer support, this includes phone support as well as chat and email support. Another great form of help offered by Shopify is the access to a sizeable support system directly through their website, this includes user forums, tutorials as well as FAQ’s.
If you are just beginning your journey as an e-tailer then Shopify has created the Ecommerce University. Here users gain access to eBooks, videos and guides, with the purpose of helping customers learn the ins and outs of running their own web store.
After having taken advantage of the features offered by Shopify for quite a while I can say if you are looking to sell commodities online, or looking to sell your products in general then you ought to give Shopify a try. I would gladly recommend Shopify to everyone, if nothing else then at least give their 14-day free trial a try, I am certain you will not be disappointed.
UPDATED CONCLUSION (March 2015)
Since the initial review of Shopify, they have continued to make improvements to their platform. The fact that customers are no longer redirected to a checkout.shopify site when completing their purchase is a very big plus. It helps to make the shopping experience more fluid. One thing I would like to see in the future would be a few more free themes, however this is still a minor complaint, and I would still gladly recommend Shopify to anyone who is looking to start their own online store.
So what do you think of Shopify? Let me know what’s your opinion in the comments.