- Shopify 101: An introduction
- Shopify Plans and Pricing
- What Makes Shopify So Special? Top Features of Shopify
- Shopify Markets
- Pros and Cons of Shopify
Updated with the latest features such as Shopify Markets
The complete Shopify Review: e-Commerce has become increasingly popular over the last few years and even more so at the start of 2020. Almost all businesses now need an online presence to helps them reach customers, handle sales and promote their brand. Building a website for e-Commerce isn't as complicated as it used to be. Even a novice is now able to create their own store in a day without much experience.
Shopify is by far one of the most straightforward and capable e-Commerce platforms currently available. It is easy to get started and manage without prior knowledge of web design & development or coding. That is not to say that your store will be an immediate success right off the bat. As in everything you will need to do the research, teach yourself the basics and keep learning along the way. But setting up the store itself is now effortless.
Before Shopify, there were many unintuitive options for building an online store. Shopify arrived on the scene with easy-to-use tools and a capable suite of features that allowed anybody to start selling products and services online within a few hours.
Shopify 101: An introduction
Shopify is a cloud-based e-commerce platform that lets you use a preset template to set up a shopfront where you can sell physical or digital goods. What makes Shopify so attractive is that you can create your store on your own, without having to hire a website design company or developer. You have control over enough features to make your shop fully functional. From the dashboard, you are able to upload and update products, manage inventory, set up payment gateways and set shipping rates. A professional developer or agency might be needed for more advanced builds.
Those with more advanced coding skills are also able to further tweak the HTML, CSS codes & Shopify's own open-source template code, Liquid.
This makes Shopify a one-stop e-commerce solution.
It is referred to as a “Software as a Service” tool because you don't need to own the software to use it. All you need is a browser and an internet connection to access your store from anywhere in the world. This is an attractive solution for on the go entrepreneurs, stay at home moms or dads and almost any size business. Shopify scales from 1 product to unlimited.
Shopify Plans and Pricing
You might imagine that an all-inclusive e-commerce solution would come at a hefty price. That is surprisingly not the case. Shopify provides a range of subscription plans that allow you to pick a plan best suited for your business and pocket.
Shopify offers a free trial to all new merchants of 14 days (Increased to 90 days during the COVID crisis). The free trial allows users to upload products, complete the store design, enter shipping and payment details and do test orders. Up until April 2020, a merchant was still able to process up to 50 orders in Development stores but that has been discontinued since.
Each of the pricing tiers offers increasing levels of features and tools that help you optimize your storefront.
Here is an overview of the Shopify plans that you can choose from:
Lite – $9 per month
The Lite Package is not technically a plan as it does not support a fully functional store. What it does is turbocharge your existing Facebook or Instagram page to allow you to sell through those channels. You can use Shopify to manage the inventory of a physical location and offer goods and services for sale.
You get access to the Buy button from Shopify that integrates into an existing website, newsletter or social media channel. The Buy button includes order tracking, fulfillment or CMS integrations such as Squarespace, WordPress or Joomla.
This plan is somewhat underrated, yet it provides excellent value for money and is an efficient introduction to e-commerce.
Basic Shopify – $29 per month
The Basic plan offers a complete online store solution with most of the Shopify features. Including unlimited product uploads, fraud analysis, 24/7 customer support, social media channels, and order fulfillment.
Under the basic plan you also get the following:
- e-Commerce website
- Blog section
- Ability to create pages such as About, Contact
- Customer Logins
- Unlimited products
- 2 Staff Accounts
- 24/7 support via Live Chat, Email or Phone
- Sales Channels such as Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest
- Manual Orders
- Discount Codes
- Free SSL Certificate
- Abandoned cart recovery
Gift Cards are included in this package for a limited time during 2020 to support merchants effected by COVID-19.
The plan does not include a domain name for your store. You have the option to buy one via Shopify for $14 a year or redirect your existing one to the storefront. Shopify did not include an Email service until April 2020 when it launched a full Email service included in all packages.
Top Tip: Be careful when you choose your store name as that also becomes your admin URL and cannot be changed later. Your customers won't' see this URL but your admin staff will and it is sometimes included in some apps that reference it.
Top Tip: Be careful when you choose your store name as that also becomes your admin URL and cannot be changed later. Your customers won't' see this URL but your admin staff will and it is sometimes included in some apps that reference it.
The basic plan is perfect if you are getting started and need to sell your products online but don't have the budget for more advanced plans.
Shopify – $79 per month
The Shopify plan offers cheaper credit card rates, professional report generation and Gift Cards for an extra $50 per month. The Report section is especially useful in analyzing almost every aspect of your store, from order processing to inventory management.
The ability to create gift cards is a powerful marketing tool that can help boost revenue during the holidays or other sales events.
This plan is best suited for larger merchants that receive the full benefit of a lower per-transaction fee of 1%. Or those who are looking for more advanced analytics and reporting. Otherwise, there is not much difference between the first two packages.
Advanced Shopify – $299 per month
This plan is the most advanced and expensive plan you can get on Shopify. It combines all the benefits that on offer in other bands and adds a much lower transaction fee of 0.5% per transaction. 3rd Party Calculated Shipping is also included in this package. You are able to add this to the other to packages for an extra $20 per month. Also included are even more advanced reporting capabilities.
Top Tip: You are able to add 3rd Party Calculated Shipping to the other packages at $20 per month.
If you are looking to play in the big leagues of e-commerce and are earning monthly revenues above $10,000, then this is the plan for you.
Shopify Plus – from $2,000 per month +
Shopify Plus is the enterprise solution for large or growing e-commerce companies.
It is ideal for those looking for more powerful e-commerce management tools, 24/7 website uptime, traffic surge protection and seamless order, inventory, and shipping management.
This plan is best suited for companies that make over $1 million in annual revenue and start at $2,000 monthly. You need to apply directly to Shopify for a custom quotation according to your business needs.
Some of the features include:
- Advanced Apps
- Checkout Customization and access to checkout.liquid
- Additional API Callsscv
- Merchant Sucess Program
- Launch Engineer
- Unlimited Staff accounts
- Up to nine stores for international expansion including separate locations
- Access to the Shopify Plus Partner Program
- Shopify Plus Facebook Community
- Ability to add up to 100 themes on one account
- Added Permission settings for staff accounts
- Wholesale Channel that allows the creation of separate Wholesale store
- Bulk Account Inviter
- Avalara AvaTax Services
API Resources for Shopify Plus Customers
Top Tip: Save big on yearly plans
When it comes to Shopify pricing, it pays to plan. Building your own e-commerce store requires commitment and dedication. Shopify rewards this by offering significant discounts when you subscribe for a one-year(10%) or two-year plan(20%). You can reduce your Shopify subscription fees by as much as $1,400 per year using one of these options.
The 90 Day free trial gives you ample time to test out Shopify for yourself before making a long term commitment.
What Makes Shopify So Special? Top Features of Shopify
Shopify has arguably the most comprehensive suite of features that any merchant can dream of having to run an online store. Not all of these features are available in the standard Shopify plan. You can however easily upgrade or downgrade at any time if you would like to test some of the advanced features.
The Shopify theme store offers more than 100 free and paid themes to choose from. Your shop theme is like a dress or suit that you put on to make your store look attractive to prospective customers. You do not need experience in graphic or web design to set up your look and feel and you can get started immediately with one of the free themes.
There is also excellent support online for any of the free ones and the forums are full of advice for anyone that needs help.
Top Tip: Resize your images using a tool like Tinypng before uploading as large images will slow down your site and hurt your SEO. Also, give your images SEO friendly file names so it can rank in Image Search
For the paid themes you would need to contact the theme creator for any advanced queries. One of the best of these, with excellent support, is Out of Sandbox.
Read through the comments section to see what the reviews are for each of the themes before you commit. This will give you a good idea what their support and responsiveness are like. Sometimes the theme or app is only as good as the support that follows afterward. Another great feature is the ability to install and preview any of the paid themes in the store.
You are not limited to only the themes in the Theme Store. There other excellent themes available at sites like Themeforest. You can buy and download the themes from one of these external markets and then easily install it using the theme upload feature in the backend.
Abandoned Cart Recovery
Between 65% & 70% of online customers do not complete their checkout online.
Many merchants are faced with the reality of customers placing products in the shopping cart only to abandon it without checking out. Shopify includes a handy section in the backend where it shows you all the abandoned transactions. It also sends out an automatic reminder to customers by email that reminds them that they have an incomplete transaction.
You can control when these reminders are sent; 1 hour, 6 hours, 10 hours(default and recommended) and 24 hours. You are also able to customize the Cart Recovery email which is a nice feature.
Abandoned checkout recovery emails are not sent for Shopify POS or other 3rd party sales channels.
The data available in your dashboard for 3 months so it is important to check regularly for patterns or reasons that might be causing the failed transactions. Take special notice of the payment event that is included with each abandoned transaction. You can use this info to see if something is wrong with your payment gateway or on the customer's side.
You must spend time figuring out why customers are leaving your store without completing their purchase. This can have a positive effect on your revenue over time.
Another cool feature is the ability to manually email customers a link to the abandoned cart. The link can even be copied into an email if you would like to send it through your mail program like Outlook or Mac Mail.
We all know how overloaded analytics can become over time. It is difficult to remember to look at the data regularly but this can have a significant impact on your business. You can set up automatic reports on Abandoned Checkouts to be sent to your inbox regularly. These reports can include information such as sales, average order value, number of products sold, first-time buyer stats and conversion rates.
Intuitive User Dashboard
Shopify makes use of an intuitive user interface that is simple to master and navigate.
From the dashboard you are able to view and manage orders, upload products, view your customer details or access your store analytics data. You are also able to manage your social media integrated sales channels (e.g., Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Instagram).
Payment and Transaction Processing
Shopify has more than 100 payment providers which mean you are almost certain to find one that works best in your region. It caters to all the big names in the payment industry so you should be able to find what matches your needs.
Shopify also gives you the option to use its in-house system, Shopify Payments, and thereby cut out the middleman. It is available in over 14 countries, including the USA, UK, and Japan. Using Shopify Payments gives you discounts on your transaction fees.
Benefits of using Shopify Payments:
- Integration is effortless
- No extra transaction fees to 3rd parties
- Ability to still use other payment providers like Paypal.
- Predictable pricing
- Potentially increased sales with multiple payment options
- Track money from your dashboard
- Improved Chargeback Recovery
Make sure to check beforehand that you are not on the prohibited businesses list.
You can also use manual payment options for Shopify, including cash on delivery, direct deposits, and even money orders. This as the added advantage of zero commissions payable to Shopify and is an excellent option to add to your checkout process.
If there's anything that ruins most e-commerce businesses, it will be shipping and logistics. Shopify's system is excellent in this regard and is easy to set up. You can apply different shipping rules and customize it by weight or price. You also get accurate shipping rates live from carriers such as DHL, USPS, and UPS. While just a few countries have these live shipping rates, Shopify expects to expand this to even more in the future. Shopify provides an all-encompassing solution for drop shipping through Shipwire, Rakuten, and Amazon Fulfillment. You can also add drop-shipping through the Shopify App Store like Oberlo.
You are also able to install Shipping apps if your courier company has one in the app store. This will allow for more advanced shipping rules and integration directly with the shipping company. Allowing you to automate much of the shipping which is often a headache for merchants.
Shopify is also working on its own fulfillment service which is a very exciting development. It is currently only available in the US to select merchants, but we hope they add more regions in the future.
One of the most exciting developments by Shopify Inc has been the role out of a new feature called Shopify Markets.
Shopify Markets makes it possible for merchants to sell internationally without many of the usual headaches of international sales and shipping.
Markets allow you to easily offer currency conversion, duties and taxes, local payment gateways, and local translations through your Shopify store without additional apps or coding.
International e-commerce has always been a challenge for store owners. Shipping rates can be difficult to specify by country, with duties being a big headache for shop owners and customers. There is nothing more off-putting than ordering a product from overseas and having to foot the bill for significant duties on your product.
Shopify Markets now allows you to show accurate duties based on the country the user enters at Checkout.
Shoppers want to know how much they will pay in total for ordering a product. Shopify Markets automatically shows the total cost at Checkout and collects duties at Checkout.
Local Currency Conversion
Viewing and shopping online in your local currency can be a huge confidence booster and can increase conversion rates up to 40%.
Markets will do all the work for you by showing the user's local currency(over 130 currencies) and adjusting prices based on the daily exchange rate. On the Advanced plan, merchants can even put in padding by country, currency, and individual products.
This updated pricing displays at Checkout and orders are processed in those currencies.
Shopify Markets now make it possible to translate all the pages of your site based on the user's location. This feature has a positive effect on user experience and conversion rates.
Merchants are now able to have separate domains for each region. This has the potential to improve local SEO results and creates trust with users when they can view, for instance, a .co.Uk domain instead of just the standard .com.
Shopify Automatically generates SEO tags for each domain.
Local Payment Gateways
The wrong payment gateway can significantly impact conversion rates if the shoppers don't see their local payment gateway at Checkout. Store owners can now select which gateways to display in which countries.
Local Payments offers store owners a valuable tool to help boost their conversion rates at Checkout and allow customers to pay in a familiar way.
Duties and Import Taxes at Checkout
Customers need to have as much information available at Checkout on how much they will pay in total for their order.
This is one of the most significant benefits to Shopify Markets. Giving your customers all the information beforehand allows them to understand how much it will cost to ship to their country.
Markets will automatically calculate this critical information and also be able to charge the customer the duties and import taxes.
This new update by Shopify allows you to show customers only the products that can be shipped to them and remove the problem of orders placed that you cannot fulfill.
Shopify Markets Features Available on the three different plans. Basic, Shopify and Advanced
Click for more information about all the features available in Shopify Markets
Shopify App Store
Get access to thousands of extensions and quality apps, both free and premium, that offer a plethora of features and options. You can simply install an app to provide any feature that you need to improve your e-commerce experience. The paid apps are usually more powerful than the free ones, but it is essential to read the reviews to find the best ones. You can get apps for multi-currency conversion, accounting, reports/analytics, data capture, SEO, email marketing, order tracking and many more.
Apps can add significant functionality to your online store. From Advanced Search apps, Upsell apps to Wholesale apps that allow you to sell B2C/B2B in the same store. There really is no limit to what can be done with the right apps.
Top tip: Make a backup of your shop theme before installing apps. I've learned the hard way that some apps may damage your theme code and having a backup means you can easily roll back the theme. Also be sure to double-check your site speed afterward, especially the product pages as some apps add significant load time which can hurt your SEO.
Pros and Cons of Shopify
As with any online platform, there are pros and cons to Shopify. Here is an overview of some of the benefits and limitations of the service.
- Easy of Use – Shopify has virtually everything you need to build a professional store, all available within a few clicks. There's also an extensive help and support section with adequate documentation to help you find what you need.
- Design and Personalization – You can rest assured of both the quality and quantity of design options with Shopify. Whether you are trying to create a brand-new shopping experience or go with a preloaded theme, you can find or create the dream storefront you want.
- Access to advanced code – Most features of Shopify are accessible to developers so you can create custom solutions for your storefront if you have the skills. It supports both HTML, CSS, and other languages as well as its own Liquid code. The checkout code is only accessible to Shopify Plus customers.
- Economies of Scale- From mom and pop stores, growing entrepreneurs to global conglomerates, Shopify has all the tools needed to scale. With unlimited product uploads, you will never reach a limit in catalog size.
- Support – Shopify's Support team is available 24 hours of the day, seven days a week by phone, email or live chat. This is a stark difference from other similar platforms where support is more limited. The support staff is helpful and almost always willing to go the extra mile. There is a limit to what they are able to provide though. For 3rd party theme related issues it is often best to contact theme support directly. The same applies to Apps.
But they will often put you in contact with the tech support from those companies if they are not able to help.
You can access Support from your store backend or through the links below:
There is also extensive documentation available in the Shopify Help Center.
- Shopify is payable in US Dollars and that can make it a bit expensive in countries with a weak exchange rate to the US Dollar. You can get around this a bit by choosing an annual or bi-annual plan for the extra savings or when the exchange rate is more favorable.
In addition to the charges from the payment processor (like PayPal or Stripe), you still pay Shopify a transaction fee, which cuts into business revenue. The per transactions fees are also sometimes an issue for merchants but you are able to get around this by either using Shopify Payments or using manual transactions at checkout
- Multi-language support – Support for other languages is not available to all Shopify users. Many apps and templates make it easy to get language support, but there is no standard option that is capable enough for use.
- SEO issues – Shopify uses a URL structure that in some way inhibits SEO with Duplicate product pages. Shopify does ensure that there is a canonical tag to the associated pages but this can still pop up as an issue with color variants. You are able to fix this by editing the product.grid-item.liquid file.
Some other useful Shopify SEO Tips
- Remove duplicate URLs from internal linking architecture
- Remove duplicate paginated URLs
- Create blog content for keywords with informational intent
- Add “Product,” “Article,” & “BreadcrumbList” structured data
- Determine how to handle product variant pages
- Compress images using crush.pics
- Remove unnecessary Shopify apps”
Click here for the complete guide on SEO for Shopify by MOZ:
Top Tip: Shopify does include a handy URL redirect feature in the Navigation section which allows you to update any URL changes in your store. This is a great tool to use if you migrate from another platform such as Woocommerce or if you ever change the URL of a page/collection/menu. 404 errors have a negative effect on your SEO.
- Limited Report Functionality – You only get access to professional reporting when you subscribe to the more expensive packages.
- Limited Abandoned Cart function – You only get one email to send to customers that abandon their cart. Having more capable features require installing premium apps. You are however able to send manual emails to customers.
- GDPR issues – You need a third-party cookie banner app for your Shopify store if you want to be compliant with the recent GDPR. You could get into trouble if you assume that it is available by default.
Shopify is one of the most recommended solutions for merchants who need an online store. Whether it is an online business, or an omnichannel business with a physical location, or dropshipping, it is arguably the best option.
There are now over 1 million merchants using Shopify's e-commerce platform. The strong growth in the userbase instills a lot of confidence in the stability and longevity of this service. I for one highly recommend it to businesses of any size.
What are your thoughts on Shopify? Do you have any questions that the above guide did not answer? Let us know in the comments below.