“Shopify offers tremendous value for small and medium sized business owners ready to move into e-commerce. The key benefit of the Shopify platform is the ease of use, scalability, and an easy to set up, secure payment platform that is trusted by customers. Shopify’s open source app platform allows you to incrementally add functionality as your store grows. This allows your store to gradually evolve with new features and designs without completely overwhelming a new store builder.” – Lou Haverty, Owner, Enhanced Leisure
Table of Contents
Shopify, with comprehensive Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and marketing tools, is popular and relatively easy to use. It also has attractive themes and supports multichannel selling admirably. Many online sellers appreciate Shopify’s scalability, along with powerful apps and integrations.
Limited customizability and reliance on apps are Shopify’s major drawbacks. Small businesses may find the transaction fees too pricey.
You have many choices for the best e-commerce platform for your business. We’ve investigated and reviewed many of the most-liked platforms and, despite the limitations, it doesn’t get more popular than Shopify.
Continue reading for our deep dive into the pros and cons, features, and recommendations.
Shopify Standout Features
|Uptime||100% (based on the previous two weeks)|
|Best For||Larger businesses or companies looking to scale|
|Promotion||14-day free trial|
What Are the Pros and Cons of Shopify?
- Scalable: Multiple users can manage the store. I also found its order and inventory management features impressively useful.
- Multiple sales channels: Shopify makes it possible to sell through multiple channels aside from my online store. It requires integration on the back end — but most of these integrations are free — so it is a big help in increasing sales.
- Customizable design: Shopify’s themes are highly customizable at the code level using the Liquid code, and they come with social media icons, free updates, and free stock photos by Burst. It’s also SEO-friendly.
- Extensive app store: Choose from 4,050 free apps, from store designs to sourcing and selling products. Also, you can opt for paid apps and plugins from its list of nearly 3,000 options.
- Robust customer support: Shopify doesn’t skimp on ensuring that customers get all the help they need, with 24/7 support through live chat, email, and social media. Self-sufficient people can find tons of assistance through FAQs, extensive documentation, video tutorials, and more in the community forum and help center.
- Mobile responsive themes: All 91 themes (76 in the Online Store 2.0 architecture)on Shopify are mobile responsive.
- Significant learning curve: It takes a while to get the hang of using the editor, and blocking can be challenging. I needed a few hours to set up a store, mainly because I had to keep switching from the back end to the front end to make product and aesthetic tweaks.
- Few built-in features: Shopify includes essential features to build an online store, but you need to install many apps to get necessary functionalities, such as being able to sell digital goods or engage in drop-shipping.
- Higher priced than similar competitors: BigCommerce has more built-in features such as single-page checkout. Adding one-click checkout to Shopify may cost you an additional $9.95/month.
Shopify may be the best e-commerce platform for: SMBs with many products looking to sell globally and scale their operations.
|Best for||New users||Small businesses|
|Scalability||Staff accounts (up to five)||Staff accounts (up to 15)|
|Order Management||Inventory locations (up to five)||Inventory locations (up to eight)|
|Reporting||Standard reports||Advanced reports|
|Point of Sale (POS)||Shopify POS Lite|
|Transaction Fee (When not using Shopify Payments)||2% per transaction||1% per transaction||0.5% per transaction|
|Tax Calculations||Automatically estimates and collects duties and import taxes at checkout|
Anyone can create a decent storefront using the theme editor appropriate for most industries with Shopify’s professionally designed and customizable themes (on or off OS 2.0). The theme editor is straightforward and allows you to make considerable changes to the appearance of your store (at least the homepage for traditional themes) with minimal effort.
In my opinion, Shopify offers some of the most modern and professional-looking themes — f more than 100 customizable free and paid versions.
I used the design features and customized what I needed. Yet I am not a coder, so changing the codes in the themes wasn’t possible. It’s easy to navigate the basic design features once you understand how to use Shopify. If it’s your first attempt, allow yourself enough time to learn how the platform works…
There are two ways to add a product on Shopify: individually, or in bulk using a comma-separated values (CSV) file. Go to the Admin page to add each product manually, then:
- Click product.
- Add product.
- Fill in all of the fields. Specify the product type, tags, price, tax code, and cost per item.
To upload products in bulk, you need to use a special CSV template. To ensure your CSV file functions correctly, the first line should have column headers specified in the product CSV description table with each column comma-separated.
It is useful to add photos and other media of your products, and Shopify allows you to include alterative (alt) text to help with your SEO. You can upload as many as 250 images, video links, and 3D models (if the theme allows it) for each product, which is extremely helpful to shoppers.
There is, however, a limit on the total number of videos and 3D media. Shopify won’t crop your images, so ensure your images are a uniform size. You can crop your images in Shopify’s photo editor after uploading them, but it would be much better if you could avoid that extra step. Note also you can only add images (no more than 20 MB each) to variants.
Digital.com’s expert provides more context here:
“[Site] speed, as it relates to online stores or even just business websites is all about page load speed. Many web hosts use CDNs to help reduce the load when your page populates images and videos. Shopify is a fast service but you can improve speed by using smaller or fewer images and third-party apps.” – Digital.com E-commerce Expert, Amy Nicol Smith
Abandoned Cart Recovery
You can configure the store to send a default or customized email automatically to shoppers after they abandon a cart to encourage their return and purchase completion.
Reviewing abandoned cart history can also help identify possible reasons why shoppers don’t finish their purchases. For example, if most people leave their carts after multiple attempts to pay for an order, your checkout process might be the problem.
This feature is only available for shoppers on your online store, Buy Button sales channel, and wholesale channel. Shoppers that abandoned carts on social media channels and Shopify POS won’t receive a recovery email. But Shopify does have a few apps that can be added to your store to prevent this from happening.
The Abandoned Cart Messenger by Booster Apps uses Facebook to recover abandoned carts via Facebook Messenger. It works well on desktops, tablets, and mobile phones and can be set up within two minutes without any coding. Consistent Cart – Abandon Cart by CartKit and FB Messenger Marketing by Recart are other options that work with Facebook Messenger.
Shopify makes it easy for subscribers to do content marketing and boost on-page SEO with its built-in blogging tool. However, it lacks the sophistication of platforms such as WordPress, particularly the ability to use categories and keyword optimization.
Other built-in SEO functionalities of Shopify make it a strong favorite with many e-commerce stores.
Aside from on-page SEO, use the following fields to help with your SEO efforts:
- Meta descriptions
- Alt text
Shopify lets you take complete control over adding sitemap URLs and dictating what URLs search engines can crawl by tweaking the robots.txt file. It also prompts you to add 301 redirects when you change the URL of pages so you can avoid lost search rankings.
The content delivery network (CDN) helps to load images faster, making it possible to achieve a 1.3-second average page load time. This can help you gain favor with the search engine ranking gods. The free SSL and mobile-first design of Shopify’s themes don’t hurt either, because Google favors secure and mobile-friendly sites when ranking search results.
One slight flaw in the SEO setup is that you can’t change an image’s file name to be more SEO-friendly directly on the store. You need to reupload the image with the new SEO name, which can be a massive time suck if you’re looking to optimize the file names of many images.
Shopify has built-in Shopify Payments for payment processing that you can easily set up to accept credit card payments, purchase orders (POs), and more. It also comes with fraud management features.
Given the convenience and security, it makes sense for subscribers to use Shopify Payments. You can also avoid paying transaction fees on top of the typical processing fees that credit card companies and payment platforms such as PayPal charge.
Shopify’s integrated payment gateway makes the whole process easier and more consolidated. You don’t have to worry about insane charges that platforms like PayPal levy or about adding multiple payment partners for your users’ convenience. Shopify Payments is a one-stop solution that takes care of all your requirements at very little cost.
Even so, Shopify Payments isn’t available in all countries. Subscribers who cannot or choose not to use Shopify Payments must pay transaction fees of 0.5% up to 2% for using a third-party payment gateway.
For these reasons, Shopify becomes less attractive for online sellers in ineligible countries and regions and those who prefer to use payment gateways other than Shopify Payments.
Shopify puts mobile devices to good use in two ways:
- The Shopify app available on Android and iOS lets you manage your store on the go. You can add or edit products, see reports, view and fulfill orders, and coordinate with team members.
- The Shopify POS app lets you process payments for in person purchases. You only need a compatible mobile device to process cash and credit card payments. If you don’t want to enter the card information manually, POS hardware such as a card reader is available for purchase from Shopify.
Shopify POS comes in two variations: the Lite, included with any Shopify plan, and Pro, which costs $89 per month per location and free for Shopify Plus plans. The Pro version has features not available with the Lite, such as inventory management, omnichannel selling, and in-store analytics.
However, you pay transaction fees if not using Shopify Payments as your gateway. There are also regular transaction fees charged by payment platforms.
Shopify includes the inventory locations’ functionality in all its plans to support multichannel selling. You can track and transfer inventory across multiple locations and easily sync it with your Shopify store. Since it’s built into the platform, no integration is necessary and there is no additional cost to you. Moreover, if you’re on a Shopify (midlevel) plan or higher, you can do an ABC analysis to identify products that sell the most.
The built-in inventory management system is pretty basic, though. It doesn’t track fulfillment, handle drop-shipping orders, or manage B2B transactions. It also treats other sales channels as expansions of the online store rather than a separate store. You need to add an order fulfillment app to consolidate all your orders, and a drop-shipping app such as Oberlo.
If your business focuses primarily on your online store and you have limited stock, Shopify’s inventory tools can do the job.
If you like to run a tight ship with everything on one platform, Shopify Email is the simplest but most effective way of sending, managing, and analyzing your email campaigns.
I found it less complicated than platforms such as Mailchimp and Klaviyo. Since it’s incorporated into the Shopify Admin, you can expect faster load times, convenient tracking and analytics, and more — all in one Dashboard.
It may not be as sophisticated as dedicated email marketing software such as Constant Contact or Sendinblue, but it’s still quite effective. Shopify Email lets you create newsletters and automate sending of welcome and upsell emails based on specific triggers.
You can also segment your customers to increase your open and click-through rates. The best part is you can send up to 10,000 emails a month for free, and $1 for every 1,000 sent in excess.
There are some bugs, though. It doesn’t support HTML in the email source code, which means you could miss vital information about your customers. Also, the workflow is a little confusing as setting up an automated email does not happen in the Shopify Email app but in Marketing > Automations of the Admin panel.
Reporting and Analytics
I produced quite a few helpful reports from the Shopify dashboard for the following:
- Customer behavior
- Search data
- Abandoned cart
You can access the Analytics page on the admin site. It provides data on orders, key sales, and online store visitors. Review your store’s performance quickly across all sales channels and whatever date range you want.
But these weren’t available with the Basic and Shopify Lite plans. Those only offer topline stats about basic financial information — like sales and revenue, discounts, refunds, and tax reports — without going into bottom-line stats such as net income.
I think Shopify missed the mark by limiting access to this feature. Competitors like BigCommerce include detailed reporting features for all its paid plans, so Shopify doesn’t compare in this vital functionality. Nothing spurs startups more than getting detailed reports, whether the results are good or bad.
You can also determine the performance of your product over the previous three months through Products Analytics, seeing:
- Net sales
- Net sales by channel
- Sales breakdown
- Net units sold by source
- Proportion of first-time customers against returning customers
The built-in Shopify Shipping features allow store owners to offer multiple shipping options to their customers. It works with multiple mail classes, including:
- Canada Post
- Sendle (Australia)
Shopify Shipping features include:
- International shipping
- Overnight delivery
- Package pickups
- Shipping insurance
- Tracking information
Moreover, Shopify offers significant discounts to its subscribers automatically, based on their plans.
Since Shopify handles all security and compliance issues, your software is updated and safe. Moreover, Shopify has a fraud detection system to prevent card testing and account takeover fraud.
However, because Shopify subscribers share the host servers with millions, data loss is a genuine concern. I suggest backing up your product data by exporting CSV files regularly.
While the user experience varies, Shopify has robust customer support on multiple channels:
- Chat: The chat option is very convenient ― I received a response in a few seconds.
- Email: It takes approximately one day to get a response to an email and sometimes longer, depending on your reason for reaching out to them.
- Phone: Once you request a call, you typically get a call back within a few minutes.
- Community: Someone new to Shopify can learn quite a bit here; you can join conversations and speak to other members about any queries.
But you will need to go through hoops to access live chat or retail phone support. When you click on 24/7 support, the link first sends you to a page that gives you three options:
- Go to the Help Center.
- Check the Community Forum.
- Do a search.
The quickest way to get to the right page is to search for “retail support” and scroll down. You see this:
If you want to get on a call, click on “Contact retail support.” Phone support isn’t available with general support.
But talking or chatting to a live agent isn’t always productive when it comes to technical issues. The Community Forum is a little better, but it takes some time to get a response.
I think that Shopify should find a way for its subscribers to access their developers, especially since the Experts Marketplace is no longer the place to hire one.
Linkpop Is Now Available on Shopify
Shopify recently introduced Linkpop, a free tool for making a shoppable landing page that consumers can access through social media apps. You can add a Linkpop link in your social media platform bio where followers can view and purchase products without leaving the platform.
Shopify Sellers Can Now Add Shipping Speed Status
Store owners can add shipping speeds at checkout so that customers can track the status of their purchases at any time. The feature is only available for stores with multi-origin shipping set up.
You Can Now Automate International Tax Calculations to Your Shopify Store
Those selling outside the U.S., U.K., Canada, EU, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland can set up Shopify to calculate taxes specific to a country automatically. However, since you provide the applicable Base Tax rates, confirm your figures with a tax professional before implementing the rules.
Track Your Shopify Store Activity With Live View
You can now track your store activity, performance, customer behavior, and location using a world map in Live View from any device. The information updates every 10 minutes and provides valuable marketing and customer insights into your online store.
These include how many active visitors, number of sessions, geographic regions of most visitors, and total value of sales and number of orders for all your sales channels since midnight.
Features Coming Soon to Shopify
- Storefront content by market: Customize the content to engage with customers from various markets
- Product catalogs by market: Tailor product offerings for each market
- Global inventory locations: Track and transfer inventory to international customers according to available stock at favored fulfillment locations
Compare Shopify Alternatives
Shopify is a strong contender for e-commerce, but competitors including BigCommerce, Magento, PinnacleCart, Wix, and WooCommerce could be a better fit. We looked closely at each one, spent time using their services, and researched each one for hours — providing objective information about each company so you can find the best fit.
See how Shopify compares to other top-tier e-commerce platforms the team here at Digital.com recommends:
|E-Commerce Platform||Pricing||Multi-channel Sales||Apps||Basic Plan Features||Compare|
Read our full BigCommerce review.
|$29.95 /month||Yes||1,030||BigCommerce has less reliance on apps with better reporting and no transaction fees. But Shopify features better customer support and more available apps.|
Consider BigCommerce for: Robust features for design, customization, and reports.
|Free||No||5,731||Magento is open-source and highly customizable, but Shopify is more user-friendly and doesn’t require coding skills.|
Consider Magento if: You want the freedom to build your online store with your brand and vision, and have coding skills.
Read our PinnacleCart review.
|$79.95 /month||Yes||71||PinnacleCart has better customization features and needs fewer apps to function than Shopify. However, Shopify is more well established with robust self-help content and mobile support.|
Consider PinnacleCart if: You’re starting out in e-commerce and are setting up your own store.
Read our full Wix review.
|$27 /month||Yes||250+||Wix is slightly more affordable with built-in sales tools and lots of templates and themes. Still, Wix is better for scaling and establishing your store brand.|
Consider Wix if: You are designing your store and want to customize every detail but need an easy setup process.
Read our WooCommerce review.
|Free||No||4,228||WooCommerce is open-source and free if your site is built with WordPress. Though you’re likely to find Shopify easier to learn to use and it’s better as a stand-alone e-commerce platform.|
Consider WooCommerce if: You have a small or medium-sized e-commerce site built on WordPress and a limited budget.
“Shopify is a fully hosted platform. On one hand, this comes at a slightly higher cost, but in return, Shopify takes responsibility for securely storing your customer’s credit card information on their servers. As a small business store owner, I’m in the business of selling my products, I would rather leave customer credit card security data to the experts. This is a big reason why I prefer using a fully hosted e-commerce platform rather than less expensive self-hosted e-commerce platform like Magento or WooCommerce.” – Lou Haverty
Frequently Asked Questions About Shopify
How Much Does Shopify Cost?
Do You Need To Be a Designer or Developer To Use Shopify?
Absolutely not. You can have little to no coding experience or design skills and still set up your online store. It also runs on its own servers so you don’t need to buy web hosting or install additional software.
What Do You Need To Start Selling on Shopify?
Can You Use Your Own Domain Name With Shopify If You Already Have a Website?
How Many Products Can You Sell on Shopify?
Can You Have Multiple Stores on Shopify?
Can You Have Multiple Domains on My Shopify Store?
How I Rated Shopify
My rating process involves a thorough and detailed study of the various features offered by Shopify and the competition. To ensure an accurate rating, I looked at the various facets and features provided by Shopify in comparison to other major industry players by way of direct testing and third-party services. I even created a dummy store and added relevant apps to get a thorough understanding from a user’s perspective.
While I did a comprehensive overview, I gave more weight to certain parameters that I felt were paramount. These include ease of use, security, impressive customer support, flexibility, scalability, and price.
Shopify scored impressively on all of these counts, emerging as the easiest way to get an online store up and running. This is all at a starting price of $29 a month ― even lower if you’re willing to forego an online storefront. With all of the bells and whistles and not much fuss, it’s the most complete, flexible, and feature-rich of the lot.