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Tools, apps and e-commerce websites

Shopify: Pros and Cons

A clipboard showing customer satisfaction, including a happy, neutral and sad face to indicate levels of happiness.
Image: Pixabay

Shopify is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms in the world, with over 600,00 store owners using its services everyday. Believe it or not, Shopify started out in 2004, way before e-commerce sales were as big as they are today – and they mostly sold snowboarding equipment, as the founders lived in Ottawa, Canada. This wasn’t the Shopify as we know today, which was launched in 2006, with major improvements happening from as early as 2009, which helped it become as powerful as it is today.

The primary use of Shopify is to build e-commerce websites quickly and efficiently for e-commerce business owners, which can be done in a matter of minutes. Shopify currently integrates over 70 payment portals, and has checkout support for over 50 languages, meaning it’s easy to go global.

However, its success doesn’t mean that Shopify is entirely unparalleled, as naturally, an e-commerce platform will not be perfect for every kind of business. It’s vital that you choose a platform that will work to boost your e-commerce store. We’ve put together a guide to the advantages and disadvantages of Shopify to help you decide if Shopify is the e-commerce platform for you.

Firstly, let’s have a look at some of the reasons why we enjoy using Shopify.

Advantages

1.      Shopify is easy to use and manage. Shopify is undoubtedly one of the most user-friendly ecommerce platforms available for beginners. It was designed with simplicity in mind, while still ensuring tech provisions are cared for. You don’t need to code anything before you begin, and it’s fully hosted from the start. It’s perfect for beginners and those who are new to the world of technology and ecommerce.

2.      There are a large variety of free themes available that have been specifically designed for ecommerce and the Shopify platform. There is no need for manual integration like with WordPress themes, for example. You can choose from a variety of niches to suit your business needs.

3.      This ecommerce platform was built with a variety of marketing tools and features integrated into its core functioning, including inventory management, payment gateways, social media, discount codes, SEO guidance and a blog for content marketing. You can get a lot done using Shopify on its own, without needing to add new features in. This is the peak of convenience! It also supports multichannel marketing and selling.

4.      One of the best things about Shopify is its immense App Store, with over 1200 apps to help you across a variety of different tasks. These include automation, traffic boosting, sales boosting and email marketing. There is amazing SaaS integration with Shopify, as there is overlap between customers paying monthly – because of this, Shopify might be the first app store to launch exciting new services for its customers that other platforms won’t immediately have access to.

5.      You can make Shopify work for your budget, meaning that you can easily use the basic plan without paying for any other apps if you like. You don’t need to pay for any experts to help you get started, and you won’t need external website hosting. This can end up saving you money in the long run.

6.      Shopify offers incredible support, available 24/7 via email, live chat and telephone, depending on your location.

7.      Shopify is a very secure platform, with the option to opt in for secure payments for credit cards without having to have a deep technical knowledge of data sensitivity. You won’t need to do anything else to secure your platform.

8.      Shopify handles small business orders exceptionally well and is great for boutiques or niche stores as it can handle modest traffic and product options. 

9.  The Shopify community is incredibly active in forum discussions, where you’ll be able to share ideas and learn more about how to use the platform for your ecommerce store.

While we’re big fans of the platform, we’d be remiss not to mention its points of contention. We’ll discuss some of these below.

Disadvantages

1.      You’ll incur extra customization costs if you need to design something specific for your ecommerce store. This will require a budget and probably expert advice from an agency or individual and is not ideal for total newcomers who need fast customization.

2.   There are a limited number of free themes available – at about 10. Paid themes can cost up to $180 and include the bulk of customization options, so watch out for this extra cost.

3.      You might need to upgrade your Shopify plan to increase functionality for some of the pre-existing features of Shopify. Not every feature will be working optimally with the starter Shopify plan, which is another cost to look out for. Some of the features you’ll need to upgrade to receive include abandoned cart recovery, gift cards, detailed reporting, advanced reporting and real-time shipping.

4.      Shopify’s app store only has around 500 free apps, meaning that over half of the apps available aren’t free. This is yet another hidden cost to be aware of, should you require a premium app for your ecommerce store.

5.  We’ve mentioned so many different additional costs already. This leads us to believe that Shopify’s plans are slightly pricey for beginners, where every dollar can add up. This platform might be better suited to larger businesses, who can afford to fork out extra cash for specific features.

6.      Telephone support is only available in a select few countries. You might need to contact app developers directly if apps start to give you any trouble. This might be a problem depending on the urgency of your request.

7.      Shopify does not include any content management system, so you won’t be able to add extensive types of content, such as videos, in addition to your products. Shopify does have its own blogging system, but this is not the best blog platform available when compared to WordPress, as some of the layout options are limited.

8.      Because Shopify is a hosted solution, you’re locked into their terms for a long period. If pricing or subscription models change, there isn’t much that can be done about it in the short term. You can cancel your subscription, but you’ll lose your website in return. To combat this, you might look into hosting your own website.

9.      Shopify is not the best tool to use for scaling a business. Simply put, Shopify cannot handle millions of customers and too large a range of products. Shopify cannot assist with complex stock and exchange issues of a big scale that might arise in large businesses.

10.  The product search and filter mechanism do not function optimally at this stage. A majority of owners using Shopify have expressed dissatisfaction with the search solution that is shipped with the basic Shopify version. Customers might express frustration at not being able to narrow down specific items. You also cannot build too many categories into Shopify’s product listings.

11. Shopify’s fee structure leaves a lot to be desired. On top of paying for a monthly subscription, Shopify charges 2.9% + $0.30 commission per transaction for online credit cards and an extra 2% if payment processors other than Shopify are used. This could amount to a lot of extra fees every month.

Remember that there are alternate options to the base Shopify plan, including Shopify Lite and Shopify Plus. Shopify Plus is best suited to enterprises, while Shopify Lite offers integration with an existing site or store, and is relatively cheap at $9 per month.

Some competing e-commerce platforms to consider include WooCommerce for WordPress, OpenCart and Magento. You might also consider using expert services from ShoppingFeeder in order to market your e-commerce store like a pro. However, many of these platforms require technical coding and domain hosting knowledge in order to be properly operated. If you’re a beginner with limited tech knowledge, it might be more costly to hire a professional than it would be to subscribe monthly to one of Shopify’s plans.  

Conclusion

Shopify is undoubtedly known as one of the biggest and best-selling e-commerce platforms available. This is a fair assessment, as Shopify  has successfully proven its value and built customer loyalty very quickly. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the right platform for businesses of all scales. There are some flaws which may lead to business owners deciding against Shopfiy. Similarly, there are flaws with every e-commerce platform – as none of them are ever perfect. This fact doesn’t mean that Shopify is an inefficient platform – but it’s probably the best choice out there for small and medium-sized e-commerce business owners who are starting out in the e-commerce sector. Shopify is especially great for beginners, as one of its many advantages is that it is easy to navigate. If you’re looking for another hint, it’s possible to negate some of the high costs by limiting the extra apps on your store or using Shopify Payments to bypass additional fees.

Shopify works best with ShoppingFeeder. ShoppingFeeder is a multi-channel marketing solution, which also assists with inventory management and advertising for your e-commerce store. We’re here to help you build a brand as simply as possible.

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