There are 10 free templates available in Shopify and around 50 paid themes (within each theme there are several variants if it, so the number of designs available is a bit higher than those figures suggest).
How much does Shopify cost?
Shopify provides 5 plans:
- Lite: $9 per month
- Basic Shopify: $29 per month
- Shopify: $79 per month
- Advanced Shopify: $299 per month
- Shopify Plus: pricing varies depending on requirements
With the exception of the 'Lite' plan, all the above allow you to create fully functional online stores. The Lite plan is more restrictive in that it doesn't allow users to create a standalone store but instead permits you to:
- sell on Facebook
- use Shopify to sell goods in physical locations (i.e., for point of sale applications)
- make use of a Shopify 'Buy Button' which can be integrated on an existing site (this works in a similar way to Paypal but allows users to make use of a much more sophisticated back end and inventory management system).
A free trial lets you evaluate the product and get a sense of your requirements.
It is also possible to buy 'apps' which add particular bits of functionality to your store (for example, you can buy apps that let you create social media 'coupons' for certain products, or apps that provide additional accounting information on your sales).
And as mentioned above, you are also able to purchase Shopify themes created by professional web designers. These tend to look slicker than the (perfectly usable) free templates, but they come with a one-off fee of around $140-$180.
Shopify's Buy Button
Perhaps in a bid to capture some of the users that Ecwid is appealing to - users who wish to add e-commerce functionality to an existing website - Shopify introduced a 'Buy Button' which, like Ecwid, can be embedded onto a site using a few lines of code. This lets you display individual products or collections on your site.
The Buy Button is available on all Shopify plans, but unless you intend to use Shopify to create both a standalone store and to embed products elsewhere, the $9 'Lite' plan is all you need to make use of the button.
The functionality you get with Shopify's 'Buy Button' is not as comprehensive as that provided by Ecwid: with Ecwid, you're getting a complete store on your site (one which facilitates user account creation, more comprehensive product options, product search, social media sharing of products etc.); the Shopify 'Buy Button' is more about providing basic 'add to cart' and checkout functionality.
Shopify's point-of-sale functionality
A key feature which differentiates Shopify from a lot of competing 'standalone' solutions is its point-of-sale functionality - you can use an iOS device plus various pieces of kit sold by Shopify (tills, receipt printers, barcode scanners etc.) to sell in physical locations as well as online. You can work with third party equipment - such as credit card readers - too. Ecwid can be made to work in point-of-sale contexts too (see below) but it is arguably a more limited offering.
Dropshipping in Ecwid and Shopify
Many users are drawn to solutions like Ecwid and Shopify because they want to start a dropshipping business.
Dropshipping is a way of selling goods without stocking anything - you take an order, send it to a supplier, and they fulfil the order. The advantage of this selling model is that you don't have to invest in lots of stock to set up your online business - rather, your money can go straight into marketing your business.
Neither Shopify nor Ecwid facilitate dropshipping 'out of the box' but the good news is that it's still really easy to dropship with both products - you just need to add an app to your store.
Dropshipping in Shopify is simply a case of adding an app like Oberlo to your store (there are many others available), picking some goods you'd like to sell, and putting your site live.
Similarly, you can also dropship with Ecwid using apps such as Inventory Source or Wholesale2B.
It's probably fair to say though - that thanks to Shopify's significantly better stocked app-store, that there are more options available to Shopify merchants in the dropshipping department.
Shopify and product options
One thing paying close attention to with Shopify involves product options: you are limited to three per product.
For example, if you were selling a birthday card on Shopify, you could allow users to choose card size, card colour and envelope type...but if you wanted to then allow them to choose envelope colour, you wouldn't be able to. Now, there are workarounds available - you can use a third party app to facilitate more options, combine two options into one, create separate products, or do some manual coding to add more options...but it's all a bit more complicated than it should be.
Ecwid, by contrast, is more straightforward in this regard and doesn't limit product options to such a small number - I'm not sure of the exact limit, but I was easily able to create several product options when testing the app.
Another issue with Shopify's product options is that allowing your customers to provide bespoke information or items - for example, text for an engraving, or an image to be printed - is not possible without either manually adding some code to a product template, or investing in an app.
Again, Ecwid works better here, simply allowing you to capture your desired data (via text box, file upload button etc.) very easily in its product options section. Note that the 'file upload' option is only available in the 'Venture' and higher plans however.
(For many users, Shopify's three 3 options and its limitations around bespoke data capture won't really pose problems, but for users who have specific requirements and want want a standalone hosted e-commerce site, I'd suggest taking a look at Bigcommerce).
Is Shopify for me?
Utlimately Shopify offers a quick, user-friendly way to get an online store together quickly and is ideal for anyone who doesn't already have a website. It's also a good option for people who have an existing site and wish to sell a product or two on the side with a minimum of fuss. The main gripe I have with it is the options limit discussed above.
Most users who want to build a standalone e-commerce site will find Shopify to be a very robust solution, but as with any online product though, it's best to sign up for a free trial and test it out yourself before committing to it.
You might also like to read our in-depth Shopify review for a more detailed breakdown of pros and cons of the product.