Shopify: the good and the bad - an honest review.
I set up a successful e-commerce store on Shopify just over two years ago, I’ve tried their basic plan, all the way up to their plus plan - so I thought it was about time we had a chat about what I make of the service as a whole.
If you’re considering opening up a shop with them, you should find this useful.
I recommend you also doing your own research before you sign up, every business is different and I’m in no way a Shopify expert. The platform is also updated regularly, so it’s likely things have changed by the time you’re reading this.
Ok let’s get down to business…
There is plenty of room for growth with Shopify. You can start on their Lite plan, which allows you to sell on Facebook and go all the way up to their top Plus plan, which has plenty of extra features, but it’s pretty pricey.
If you also sell in a shop, you can link your in-store POS (point of sale) system to Shopify - so you can track all of your sales in one place. They sell their own POS software if you want to take payments using Shopify’s gateways, but you can also just download the app and use it with your existing card reader (Shopify won’t take the payment this way, but they will record the sale).
It’s great for listing products and tracking your website inventory (you can even do this across multiple locations if you have more than one physical store - however if you have multiple pricing structures, (i.e. you want to sell to stockists or in multiple currencies through your website) it can’t manage these.
Shopify has its own huge app store (similar to Wordpress’ plugins) to add extra features to your website. There are a variety of free and paid-for apps in their store, most are designed and maintained by independent developers.
It can give you detailed reports about sales, customers, visitors to your website, even individual staff members sales (if each staff member has their own unique log-in) - perfect for those that don’t enjoy Google Analytics!
You can add discounts / gift cards really easily (although gift cards are not currently available on the Lite plan)
You can link your Shopify store with shipping software (like Royal Mail) to automatically send order details over to print address labels - which is perfect if you have a Royal Mail business account - you don’t have to input these addresses one-by-one.
Once a sale has been marked as sent you can automatically send tracking details to your customers - they’ll also be able to track their parcel (if applicable) straight from the email you send them.
You can link your email software, have abandoned carts emailed automatically, and add new customers to your mailing list in the checkout process (although this feature is widely available on other platforms).
Your landing page (when you sign in) gives you a break down of your sales and web traffic for the day - as well as lots of other useful information and tips to improve your website.
Your customers can pay by card using Shopify pay (which is powered by Stripe) / Paypal / Apple Pay and most other widely available payment methods).
Their fees vary depending on which plan you’re on (the more expensive the plan, the lower the fees) but overall they are pretty reasonable.
With all of Shopify’s themes (free and paid for) your website is automatically mobile friendly, which is great if you’re not a developer!
Speaking of themes, Shopify’s theme store has loads of choice, most of which are perfect for e-commerce stores. If your budget is tight, there are plenty of free options that you can customise. However I’ll talk more about themes in the ‘bad’ section, so keep reading!
The theme you choose controls the layout of your pages and customisation options are theme dependent! So it’s worth really taking your time choosing a theme that’s right for your business (or at least trying a couple out during your free trial!)
Again, if you do need any major customisations that aren’t included in your theme, you’ll need to get a Shopify developer involved. There’s a whole marketplace of developers - from very cheap overseas developers (that I tried once and wouldn’t try again) and local developers - but of course these guys aren’t cheap.
Customers can only pay in one currency per website - this is a problem if you want to sell to wholesale customers (at a different rate) and international customers in their own currency. It’s fine if you only have one standard price. The way round this is to have multiple stores with different subdomains (which isn’t as complicated as it might sound!).
You’ll need to download (and potentially pay for) any extra features that aren’t included in your theme. Things I’ve had to pay extra for include: popups, banners, displaying different currencies, customisation apps, etc.
You’re pretty much on your own with SEO - you can add alt tags to all of your images very easily and you can edit your URL’s / page titles / page descriptions very easily, but theres no guide for this.
There are plenty of quite minor but also frustrating restrictions in Shopify - customers can only use one discount at a time (so you can’t offer both free shipping and 10% off with a discount code),
If you have stock in multiple online locations (you have two or more stores) you’ll need to use an external stock keeping system like TradeGecko and link it to Shopify (you can only input one price and there’s no way to link products to other stores internally).
Items aren’t reserved when they’re in someones cart - this has never been a problem for us until we majorly underestimated an online sale with limited stock last year.
Don’t bother upgrading to Plus. Shopify Plus isn’t great for you unless you’re a large business with a big team and an even bigger budget. The main benefits of plus are the automation features, which honestly you won’t need until you’re selling massive quantities.
In my opinion, Shopify is great for small-medium sized e-commerce businesses. The fees are reasonable, it has a great shop system (inventory / product descriptions / user friendly layouts etc).
If you don’t have a marketing team, or would rather not dig through Google Analytics, the reports give you just about everything you need to know about how your products and pages are performing.
The lack of customisable options on the (free) theme we chose originally was frustrating for me, and I’d say it’s the weakest part of the platform. Having said that, we were very picky about how we wanted the website to display our products. In reality, there are plenty of great themes that need no editing, they’re great as they are. We also upgraded to a paid-for theme eventually, that was very reasonably priced and hardly needed any extra customisation (so lesson learnt there!)
From my experience I would definitely recommend Shopify - I think the positives outweigh the negatives, especially for smaller stores. You may find you want to switch eventually, but I’m happy to stick with it for now. We switched over roughly two years ago, and it has had a huge impact on sales.
If you are thinking of signing up, make sure you take advantage of their two week free trial - to work out if it’s right for your business. If you can, try and import your products within the trial period to really test it out the themes available.
You can read details about their plans and pricing here: https://www.shopify.co.uk/pricing
Lastly, if you have any questions (from a users point of view) drop me a comment below or an email and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Please bear in mind this is all my own personal opinion from my experience with Shopify - I’m not sponsored by anyone to write this and I am not a Shopify expert. Again, I recommend you conduct your own research before signing up with them.