Shopify Fees (2019) - A Guide to Shopify Pricing...Which Shopify Plan is Best?
If you’re thinking of using Shopify to sell goods online, you’ll know that there are several different pricing plans to choose from…and you may be wondering which one is the right one for your business.
So, in this post, we’re going to look at Shopify fees in depth, going through each of the available plans and highlighting the aspects that might make one Shopify pricing plan better than another - or more suited to your business.
Let's start with an overview of what Shopify is.
What is Shopify?
Shopify is a web app that allows you to build your own online store. It runs in a web browser, so as long as you have internet access, you can use the platform from anywhere - in other words, you don't need install software locally to use it. Because it's a 'hosted' solution, you don't need to worry about buying hosting either.
The precise functionality you get from Shopify depends on the pricing plan you opt for — I discuss all these in depth below — but all Shopify plans allow you to sell an unlimited number of products (digital or physical) and all but one allow you to pick a template (or 'theme') which you can use to present your products with (i.e., your 'theme' is basically your web design).
Shopify is a software as a service ('Saas') tool - this means that you don't own a copy of the software but rather pay a monthly fee to use it.
And speaking of which...
Shopify fees - the pricing plans available to you
There are five Shopify plans available:
'Shopify Lite' - $9 per month
'Basic Shopify' - $29 per month
'Shopify' - $79 per month
'Advanced Shopify' - $299 per month
'Shopify Plus' - negotiable, but typically around the $2000 per month mark
If you have the budget to pay upfront, you can reduce your Shopify fees by purchasing an annual or biennial plan — 10% and 20% discounts are available if you pay for one year or two years of service respectively, instead of paying on a monthly basis.
Let's dig into the features of each of these plans.
At $9 per month, 'Shopify Lite' represents one of the cheaper ways into selling products online - but technically it doesn’t provide you with a standalone, fully-functional online store.
Rather, it allows you to
showcase your products on an existing website
sell on Facebook
use Shopify as a back-end system for selling products in physical locations (market stalls, gigs, events etc.)
Embedding your products on another website with Shopify Lite
With 'Shopify Lite', you get a ‘buy button’ - this works in a similar (and better) way to Paypal, in that you add a snippet of code to your website and your product’s details (photo, price, description etc.) along with an option to buy that product, appear on your website.
You aren't restricted to embedding single products either — you can embed entire collections of products.
This is ideal for anyone with an existing site that wants to add simple e-commerce functionality. You might already have a Wordpress blog or website, for example, that you want to display products on — this solution is ideal for that.
Shopify Lite and digital products
One of the things that I most like about Shopify as an e-commerce platform is the way that it facilitates the sales of digital products.
Selling digital products is a more complicated affair than it might seem, because if you sell them to consumers living in the EU, and generate more than €10,000 in revenue per year from them, then you are required to apply VAT to those products (even if you are not a VAT-registered business).
Not only that, but the VAT rate varies from country to country — so you might need to charge your UK customers one VAT rate, your French ones another and so on.
Shopify seems to be unique amongst the major website builder platforms in catering adequately for this. You'll need to install a free 'Digital Downloads' app and make a couple of changes to your Shopify settings, but once you do, the correct tax rates will automatically be applied.
As such, the 'Shopify Lite' plan may work out better for a lot of people who set up their site on another platform - I'm thinking in particular of Wix or Squarespace customers - and now want to sell digital goods without building a whole new website. The 'Lite' plan offers a relatively-low cost workaround for this.
(In fact, I recently implemented this workaround on this site, precisely to solve the VAT MOSS headache. Although this site is built in Squarespace, I sell my SEO book via a 'Shopify Lite' plan).
Selling on Facebook with Shopify Lite
If you are only interested in selling on Facebook, and aren’t bothered with creating a standalone store, then 'Shopify Lite' is a potentially good option — with a couple of clicks of a mouse you can publish all your products to your Facebook page, on a dedicated ‘Shop’ page.
I say ‘potentially’ however because I’ve found Shopify’s Facebook integration a bit frustrating. As things stand it seems that users browsing your store can only buy one item at a time. For most businesses, this is annoying, but for some businesses it will render the Facebook store pretty useless.
An example of such a business is my cousin’s Irish wedding invitation store, which I built in Shopify: her sales typically involve people buying large quantities of wedding invitations at once.
She tried the Facebook integration, but it was of no use, because customers could only buy one invitation at a time with it — a tortuous process if you’ve got 100 guests coming to your wedding...
As such the Shopify-Facebook integration is currently of more use to merchants selling products that are only likely to be bought one at a time; for example, bands who wish to sell the occasional album to their fans without them having to leave the Facebook environment, or businesses with customers that are unlikely to make multiple purchases at once (I’m thinking the likes of florists; jewellery stores etc.).
To be fair to Shopify, it would appear that this issue stems from a limitation on the Facebook side of things. Either way, however, it'd be great if it could be sorted out.
Another limitation of the Facebook integration is that you can't use it to sell digital products, as I found out when trying to sell my e-book on the Style Factory Facebook page.
So in essence, whilst you can use Shopify Lite to sell on your Facebook page, you might find the functionality doesn't quite meet your requirements.
Using Shopify Lite as a backend system for a physical store
'Shopify Lite' is a reasonably good option for those who sell in physical locations and need a solution for processing payments and manage their inventory.
It allows you to accept payments via your smartphone using the Shopify app; and every time you make a sale, Shopify will take a note of this and update your inventory accordingly, meaning you’re unlikely to run out of stock when you need it most. This syncing of real-world sales to an online selling platform also makes bookkeeping and accounting a bit easier.
However, unlike some of the more expensive Shopify plans, you can't use additional POS hardware (bar code readers, receipt printers, tills etc.) on the 'Lite' plan. (The Lite plan also disables other POS features, which we'll discuss later on in this post).
Transaction fees and credit card fees
It’s important with all Shopify plans to be aware of the difference between transaction fees and credit card fees.
Transaction fees are charged by the company providing your online store, and credit card fees are charged by your payment gateway provider (a payment gateway is basically the software used to process credit card payments).
There are no transaction fees to worry about with 'Shopify Lite', so long as you are prepared to use Shopify's own payment processing option — Shopify Payments — as the payment gateway.
If you use a third party payment gateway, you can expect to pay a 2.0% transaction fee on each sale, plus whatever your credit card fees your payment gateway provider charges.
If you're on the 'Lite' plan and using Shopify Payments, credit card fees are 2.9% + 30c if a purchase is made online (for example, using a Shopify Buy button) and 2.7% + 0c if a purchase is made using the Shopify point of sale card reader and a mobile device.
IMPORTANT: Shopify's credit card fees vary by country - the ones listed in this article are the US ones, but differing rates are available in different territories. For example, the UK credit card rates for the 'Lite' plan are considerably cheaper than the US ones - 2.2% for online transactions and 1.7% for in-person ones.
What about dropshipping with Shopify Lite?
Many potential users of Shopify will be wondering how it facilitates dropshipping, a fulfilment method where you don't keep what you're selling in stock (you take the order, send it to a supplier, and they deliver the goods to your client - your store is in effect a middle man of sorts).
If you want to dropship with Shopify, you need to install a third party app to do so. You can get one from Shopify's app store - a popular choice is Oberlo (which integrates with AliExpress), but there are many others available.
You can use a dropshipping app on any Shopify plan, Lite included, but you'll probably find that they are more useful on one of the other Shopify plans (as the products you are selling will be displayed, and browsable, on a fully-fledged online store).
Support on Shopify Lite
Although 24/7 support is included with the plan, this is limited to email and live chat only; you won't be able to speak to anybody about your account in person over the phone.
Is 'Shopify Lite' for me?
Shopify Lite is best suited to merchants who
want to add e-commerce functionality to an existing website
want an easy way to solve VAT MOSS related headaches
wish to sell on Facebook (but don't need 'add to cart' functionality or the ability to sell digital goods on Facebook)
want a platform to process payments and manage inventory when selling at markets or events
are comfortable with only having access to live chat and email support only (i.e., no phone support)
If your needs are a bit more extensive, it's time to look at...
‘Basic Shopify’, at $29 per month, is the cheapest Shopify plan which enables you to create a fully functional, standalone online store.
'Basic Shopify' provides the following core features:
Fully functional website version of your store (i.e., as opposed to just a 'buy button')
Ability to sell an unlimited number of products
Unlimited file storage
2 staff accounts (i.e., 2 separate logins)
24/7 phone, email and live chat support
Manual order creation (this allows you to create new orders and enter card payments in Shopify for sales you've made offline - by phone, in person, or elsewhere)
Discount code creation
Free SSL certificate (this allows you to host your store securely using the HTTPS protocol)
Abandoned cart recovery
Discounted shipping rates (note: depends on country you’re selling in)
Fraud analysis (as the name suggests, this allows you to spot fraudulent transactions)
Support for point of sale hardware
'Shopify Basic' vs 'Shopify Lite' - what’s the main difference?
The most important thing you get with 'Shopify Basic' that you don't get on 'Shopify Lite' is a fully functional online store. This includes blogging functionality, which is essential for generating traffic via inbound marketing.
You get all the ‘embeddable’ and ‘sell-in-person’ functionality that comes with Shopify Lite, but importantly, you get a website which you can host at your own domain.
Point of sale features are also more comprehensive — most importantly, you can use POS hardware on this plan (cash registers, barcode scanners, receipt printers etc.).
Let's take a look in a bit more depth at some of the key features you get on the 'Basic' plan which you won't find on 'Lite': templates, support, abandoned cart saver functionality and blogging.
Once you're on a 'Basic Shopify' plan (or higher), you can choose from a wide range of templates for your online store - there are 10 free ones, and 60 paid ones.
I’ve always found the free themes to be perfectly usable (and you can tweak them quite extensively by adding CSS and HTML), but if you fancy using a paid theme, they cost between $140 and $180.
Shopify's theme store is very easy to browse, because it provides a lot of search filters which you can use to locate a suitable theme for your Shopify site. You can filter all the templates using a wide range of criteria, including paid vs free, industry, layout type and visual effects (i.e., parallax scrolling, video backgrounds etc).
One thing that's important to note about the themes is that if you need any support with installing or configuring them, you may end up dealing with a third party; Shopify only support themes that the company has developed themselves. This means that Shopify will support you with any query you have about the free ones, but you may be referred elsewhere if you buy a paid theme.
And speaking of support...
Support on 'Shopify Basic' vs 'Shopify Lite'
As mentioned earlier, although support is included with Shopify Lite, it is limited to email and chat only. ‘Basic Shopify’ provides you with phone support too.
A slight word of warning about the phone support however: phone numbers are only provided for North America, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand - there's no 'all other countries' option. This means that you may end up paying international rates to phone Shopify directly, which could work out expensive if you’re on a long call with them.
Abandoned cart recovery
The inclusion of abandoned cart recovery in the $29 'Basic' plan is relatively new - it used to be only available on the $79+ Shopify plans.
Abandoned cart recovery allows you to identify site visitors who add a product to their cart, get to the checkout and then leave your store without completing the purchase.
You can then either choose to use Shopify's abandoned cart saver manually (i.e., send the visitor in question an email yourself) or automatically (where Shopify sends an email to the potential customer after every abandoned cart). I suspect most users will plump for the automatic option, due to the time-saving implications.
Abandoned cart recovery can significantly increase your revenue with little effort — other than the time investment in setting up an automated message — being involved, so it's a feature which may prompt a lot of Shopify users to go for this plan over the 'Lite' option.
The interesting thing about abandoned cart recovery's inclusion on this plan is that it means Shopify offers this functionality at a considerably lower price point than many of its key competitors. For example, if you want a cart saver on Bigcommerce, you'll have to be on a $79.95 per month plan; with Squarespace, a $46 per month plan; and Volusion a $79 per month plan.
Because of the importance of abandoned cart saver functionality, the inclusion of this feature constitutes one of the strongest arguments for choosing Shopify over competing products.
If you’re serious about selling products online, you really need to blog; it’s a core part of any decent inbound marketing strategy because it generates relevant keyword-rich content that can make your site more visible in search results and increase traffic significantly.
'Basic Shopify' provides you with a blog that you can use to attract traffic to your store by publishing relevant keyword-rich content.
It's not going to rival WordPress in the functionality stakes as it doesn't facilitate content versioning and the post categorisation options are fairly limited; that said, it's perfectly usable and, with the publication of good content, can facilitate an inbound marketing campaign perfectly well.
Point of sale features
Point of sale (POS) features are more comprehensive on ‘Shopify Basic’ than on ‘Shopify Lite’. On the Lite plan, you are limited to selling in three locations and you can’t use the full range of Shopify POS hardware (bar code readers, tills, receipt printers etc.).
Transaction fees and credit card fees
When it comes to transaction fees, they are the same as 'Shopify Lite' (i.e., there are no transaction fees if you're using Shopify Payments, but a 2.0% transaction fee on each sale applies if you're using a third party payment gateway).
Credit card fees are also the same as the 'Shopify Lite' ones: 2.9% + 30c if a purchase is made online and 2.7% + 0c if a purchase is made using the Shopify point of sale card reader and a mobile device.
As mentioned earlier, the above rates vary by country, so you may enjoy cheaper rates than the above depending on the territory you're operating from.
Is Basic Shopify for me?
'Basic Shopify' is good for merchants who
have a fairly limited budget but need a well-specced standalone online store
do not need advanced selling or reporting functionality (more on that below)
do not need extensive POS functionality
want to use blogging as a means of attracting inbound traffic
want cheap access to abandoned cart saving functionality.
Moving up the ladder, we come to...
The next plan to consider is simply called ‘Shopify’ and the fee for this is $79 per month.
The key additions that the 'Shopify' plan brings over 'Shopify Basic' are:
more comprehensive POS functionality
lower transaction and credit card fees
Gift cards - as you might expect - allow your customers to purchase a gift for someone from your store, whilst leaving the actual product selection up to the recipient.
Gift card functionality is probably most relevant to stores with a relatively good level of brand awareness - i.e., stores that are sufficiently well-known that people would be excited (or at least pleased!) to receive a gift card for them.
As such, I would argue that this functionality is not a deal breaker for all brand new store owners - but it is definitely a good thing to have if you are an established business.
In-depth reporting functionality is quite a big omission from 'Basic Shopify' plan and one of the biggest reasons why you might want to plump for the 'Shopify' plan over 'Basic.'
With 'Basic Shopify', the reporting functionality is quite basic. Upgrading to the 'Shopify' plan however gives you access to a wider range of detailed summaries, including
In the sales reports, you'll find detailed summaries of:
Sales over time
Sales by product
Sales by product variant SKU
Sales by product vendor
Sales by Point of Sale location
Sales by staff
Sales by staff (daily)
Sales by traffic referrer
Sales by billing country
Sales by channel
Sales by customer name
Average order value over time
And in the customers reports, you'll find information on:
Customers over time
First-time vs returning customer sales
Customers by country
In the marketing reports, you'll get
Sales by marketing campaign
Sessions by marketing campaign *
Conversion by first interaction
Conversion by last interaction
Attribution model comparison
* This report is also available on the 'Basic' Shopify plan.
(Regardless of the type of Shopify plan you select, I'd recommend adding Google Analytics to your site too, as you'll get a host of additional insights by using it.)
Point of sale functionality
All Shopify plans let you sell in person using the Shopify POS app; however, if you want to gain access to the full range of Shopify POS features, you'll need to be on the 'Shopify' or higher plan.
On a 'Shopify' or higher plan, in addition to being able to sell in person with the Shopify POS app you can:
sell in up to 5 locations
use the full range of POS hardware (barcode scanners, receipt printers etc.)
use staff PINs (an unlimited number) at point of sale
make use of third-party POS apps with your Shopify store
The key difference between this plan and the ‘Basic’ one is that you can use it to register shifts; sell in one more location; and use staff PINs.
Lower transaction and credit card fees
The ‘Shopify’ plan brings with it lower transaction fees than both the ‘Basic Shopify’ and ‘Shopify Lite’ plans, along with lower fees for using an external payment gateway.
As with all the other Shopify plans, if you're using Shopify Payments, you will avoid transaction fees.
In terms of credit card fees, you can expect to pay 2.6%+30c for online transactions and 2.5%+0c for point-of-sale transactions (US rates).
If using an external payment gateway, the transaction fee applied by Shopify on this plan is 1%.
Is the ‘Shopify’ plan for me?
The 'Shopify' plan is good for merchants who
have a high volume of online sales (or expect them): if the sales levels are high enough, the lower transaction fees will help offset the higher monthly cost
require more in-depth reporting
need more comprehensive POS functionality
sell products for which there is often a demand for gift cards.
With ‘Advanced Shopify’, you get two additional features that are not included with the plans discussed above - advanced report building and real time carrier shipping. You also get lower credit card rates (and lower transaction fees if using a third-party payment gateway).
Advanced report building
The ‘Advanced Shopify’ plan effectively allows you to manipulate your Shopify data more easily, and create your own custom reports.
You can select various dimensions and metrics and use them to create bespoke reports which you can save and refer to in future. You can also apply a multitude of filters to your data to get a view that suits your business activities. (Users of Google Analytics will be familiar with this sort of thing).
In short, this functionality is for vendors who really want to drill down into their sales data with a view to tweaking their sales processes / operations to the nth degree.
As such, it’s most useful for merchants who are selling a lot of goods (as doing so will provide a significant enough amount of data to make the advanced report options worth using.
Real-time carrier shipping
If you intend to use Shopify with a carrier to ship your products (Fedex, UPS etc.), then you are effectively going to have to use the Shopify Advanced plan (or Shopify Plus, more on which below).
With Shopify’s real-time carrier shipping option, shipping costs are calculated automatically by a carrier at the exact time an order is placed.
You can edit Shopify’s settings to mark these up (i.e., add a handling fee) or down (to compensate for a shipping rate which you feel may dissuade customers from completing a purchase).
Transaction fees and credit card fees
Of the four Shopify plans aimed at SMEs, Advanced Shopify offers the lowest transaction fees.
As with the other plans, if you're using Shopify Payments, there are no transaction fees.
The credit card fee is 2.4% + 30c for online transactions, and 2.4% + 0c for point of sale ones.
Using an external payment gateway costs 0.5% in transaction fees, plus whatever the payment gateway charges you.
Is ‘Advanced Shopify’ for me?
The 'Advanced Shopify' plan is good for merchants who
have a very high volume of online sales (or expect them): as with the ‘Shopify’ plan, if sales levels are high enough, the lower transaction fees could provide considerable savings
require advanced reporting features
intend to make use of carriers to ship their products.
Finally, there’s the 'Shopify Plus' plan to consider. Unlike the plans discussed above, this is aimed not at SMEs, but at big businesses.
'Shopify Plus' is an enterprise grade solution, which basically offers all the features of 'Advanced Shopify' plan plus advanced features involving security, APIs and fulfilment.
Significantly, it allows you to automate a lot of e-commerce related tasks via a visual workflow builder called 'Shopify Flow.' This facilitates the creation of 'if this then that' (IFTT) style rules which make Shopify take certain actions based on certain events (for example, if your inventory is running low, it can send an email message to a supplier etc.). Y
ou'll find a brief video overview of 'Shopify Flow' below:
Pricing is negotiable — as the solution that Shopify will offer you is usually tailor-made to your requirements — but is generally costs in the region of $2,000 per month.
As you might expect given the increased costs, Shopify Plus comes with ‘white glove’ account management (dedicated onboarding, account management and support).
Is Shopify Plus for me?
'Shopify Plus' is for (large) businesses who have
an extremely high volume of sales
a need to create very bespoke connections between Shopify and internal systems (CRM tools etc.)
a desire to automate workflows
very particular requirements regarding security and uptime
a decent budget
a need for more handholding
Beefing up your Shopify plan using apps
If the functionality included in your chosen Shopify plan isn't quite enough, you can enhance it by adding apps to your store.
Shopify's app store contains thousands of apps (both free and paid) that are straightforward enough to integrate. Some are better than others though: always check the user reviews before committing to one.
A key example of where you might want to add an app (and as touched on above) is in the dropshipping department - there are several available to help you start a dropshipping business with Shopify.
You can also use apps to integrate your store neatly with well-known productivity / business apps like Xero, Zendesk, Salesforce and Mailchimp.
Although the app store represents a selling point for Shopify — it contains a myriad of apps that can be used to enhance your store — it also highlights a potential weakness of the product. Whereas with Shopify you often find yourself reaching for the app store (and your wallet) to add certain types of functionality, other platforms — notably Bigcommerce — provide it as standard out of the box.
Examples of this include adding AMP functionality (which improves performance on mobile devices), extending the number of product options you can use or creating custom fields (to capture data such as inscriptions, dedications etc.).
On the plus store, the well-stocked app store means that you can integrate your Shopify store easily with a very large number of other popular web apps.
Buying a pre-built Shopify store
Shopify now offers a service that allows you to buy a Shopify store.
This is called the ‘Exchange Marketplace’ and it contains listings of existing Shopify stores that can be purchased. The advantage of buying a Shopify store rather than building one is that it takes a lot of the legwork out of setting one up and, assuming the store you buy is already profitable, can reduce the risk of making a bad investment.
Stores on the Exchange Marketplace are vetted by Shopify before they are listed, and the escrow method — where an independent third party holds the payment until both buyer and seller are satisfied with proceedings — is used to handle the buying process. This means that you can buy a Shopify store from the Exchange Marketplace in relative confidence (although that said, it’s always worth getting financial and/or legal advice before doing so).
In terms of how much buying a Shopify store will cost you, this depends on how profitable the store already is. You can spend anything from a couple of hundred dollars (for a pre-built store without a customer base) up to a few million (for a store that is generating a healthy monthly profit).
I hope this discussion on Shopify pricing has helped clarify which plan is best suited to your needs.
If you're still undecided about which Shopify plan is going to work best for you, you can avail of a free 14-day trial of the product and select your plan at the end of your trial.
This allows you to test out the product's core functionality and work out which Shopify pricing plan might be the best fit.
You can access Shopify's free trials here.
More Shopify resources
We build Shopify stores for clients, so if you are thinking about using Shopify as a platform, do get in touch to find out how we can help. Or join our mailing list to receive lots of useful Shopify and other e-commerce resources in your inbox.
If you'd like to do some further Shopify-related reading or watching, here are some more resources you may find handy:
How to buy a Shopify store
For a complete list of our online store builder articles, please see our e-commerce platform reviews.
Got any thoughts on Shopify fees?
If you’ve got any queries or thoughts on Shopify fees, or the product in general, we’d love to hear them. Feel free to add a comment below! (Note: if you're using a mobile device, you may be reading an accelerated AMP version of this article which doesn't facilitate commenting. Click here to view the regular one, where you can view and add comments easily).