Shopify Review (2021) — The Key Pros and Cons

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Shopify review (logo)

In this Shopify review, I look at one of the most popular online store builders available and provide a complete overview of its key pros and cons. Is it right for your business?


There is a huge number of online store building tools now available — and choosing the right one for your business can feel really difficult. Shopify is probably the best-known e-commerce solution currently available, but is it actually the best fit for you?

In this review, I’m going to help you find out. I’ll cover the platform’s pricing, templates and selling features in depth — by the end of this post, you’ll have a much clearer idea of whether Shopify is the right e-commerce solution for your project, or whether you’d be better off with an alternative.

Let’s dive in — with an important question. What is Shopify?


What is Shopify?

Shopify is a web application that allows you to create your own online store. It provides you with a wide range of ‘themes’ that can be customized to meet your own branding requirements, and allows you to sell either physical or digital products.

A key aim behind Shopify is to let beginners build an online store themselves — i.e., you don’t need to know how to code to use it.

However, the platform also caters for developers, as it provides full access to CSS, HTML and Liquid (Shopify’s template language).

Shopify's ‘Vintage’ theme
Example of a Shopify theme

How does Shopify work?

Shopify is a ‘hosted’ solution. This means that it runs on its own servers and you don’t have to buy web hosting or install software anywhere to use it.

You don’t own a copy of the product, but instead pay a monthly fee to use it — and, so long as you have access to a web browser and the internet, you can manage your store from anywhere.

With Shopify, the key things you need to build and market an online store — like templates, a payment processor, a blog and even email marketing tools — are provided ‘out of the box.’

That said, you can customize your store more extensively through the addition of apps — more on these later — or using custom code.


The number of Shopify users — and why this matters

Shopify was founded in Canada in 2006 by German-born entrepreneur Tobias Lütke, who realized that an e-commerce solution he created to sell snowboards could actually be used by — and sold to — other businesses.

Fast forward to 2021, and the platform currently powers around 3.7 million online stores (source: Builtwith) and the company has over 7,000 staff. According to Shopify, businesses using the platform have generated over $356bn in sales.

These numbers matter because when you choose a hosted solution for your online store, you are placing a large amount of trust in the company providing it.

There have been instances in the past of similar services closing down — for example, Magento Go — resulting in serious problems for their users, who had to migrate their stores over to a different platform at very short notice.

However, Shopify’s large user base and market share makes the prospect of this happening very unlikely.

Now: how much does Shopify cost to use?

Shopify review — video version

You can watch the video version of our Shopify review below.


Shopify pricing

There are five Shopify pricing plans available, with the following monthly fees:

Shopify Lite — $9 per month
Basic Shopify — $29 per month
Shopify — $79 per month
Advanced Shopify — $299 per month
Shopify Plus — custom pricing.

There are a couple of things it’s worth mentioning quickly here:

  • If you pay upfront you can avail of a discount — 10% if you pay for one year, or 20% if you pay for two.

  • Additional fees apply to make the most out of Shopify’s point-of-sale features, which let you sell goods in a physical location. (I discuss these in more depth later on in this Shopify review

    ).

There is also a free trial available, which lasts for 14 days (and can usually be extended if you need more time to complete a store).

You can access this free trial on the Shopify website.

Shopify pricing for its most popular plans
Shopify pricing for its most popular plans

Key differences between Shopify plans

All the Shopify plans provide the core e-commerce functionality you’d expect — you can create catalogues of unlimited products, accept credit card payments, sell gift cards, offer discount codes on purchases and access a wide range of third-party apps.

But there are a few key features to watch out for, and not miss by selecting the wrong Shopify plan.

These are:

  • A standalone online store — The ‘Lite’ plan doesn’t let you create one (instead, you can use the Lite plan for inventory management, selling on social media and adding a ‘buy button’ that you can embed on existing websites)
  • Staff accounts — the number of ‘seats’ you get varies by plan.

  • Reporting — professional reporting functionality is only available on the $79+ plans.

  • Third party real time carrier shipping — this is only available as a paid-for add-on, via an annual purchase of a ‘Shopify’ plan, or on a monthly ‘Advanced Shopify’ plan

    .
  • Inventory locations — you can assign inventory to retail stores, warehouses, pop-ups etc. on any plan, but the number of locations you can use varies with each.

  • Transaction / credit card fees — these get lower as you go up the pricing ladder.

  • Shipping discounts — the more expensive the plan, the more generous these are (depending on territory).

  • Exchange rates — you can set your own exchange rates on the ‘Shopify’ or ‘Advanced Shopify’ plans.

Shopify Plus, the enterprise-grade version of the platform, provides additional functionality and elements aimed at big corporations, including:

  • guaranteed server uptime

  • API access

  • ‘White glove’ level of support via a dedicated ‘Merchant Success Manager’

  • advanced security feature

    s
  • more

    extensive options for selling in multiple currencies

  • sales automation tools.

Shopify buy button
The Shopify ‘Buy Button’

I’ll explore all these core features shortly, but before that, let’s take a quick look at how Shopify lets you accept payments for your goods.


Accepting credit cards using Shopify

There are two ways to accept credit card payments with Shopify.

The cheapest and easiest option— for users in countries where it is supported — is to use Shopify Payments, Shopify’s built-in payment system.

If you use this, you don’t have to pay any transaction fees at all.

However, there is still a credit card rate to factor in — in the US, depending on your plan, you can expect to pay a rate of between 2.4% and 2.9% of each transaction.

(In other countries, the rate can be considerably lower).

Setting up Shopify Payments
Setting up Shopify Payments

Alternatively, you can use a third party ‘payment gateway’ to process card transactions — of which there are over 100 to choose from.

If you do this, Shopify will apply a transaction fee as well — between 0.5% and 2% depending on the plan you’re on.

And an important thing worth noting about Shopify Payments is that it is available only for users based in certain countries.

These are:

  • Australia

  • Austria

  • Belgium

  • Canada

  • Denmark

  • Germany

  • Hong Kong SAR

  • Ireland

  • Italy

  • Japan

  • Netherlands

  • New Zealand

  • Singapore

  • Spain

  • Sweden

  • United Kingdom

  • United States of America (note: unavailable in US territories except Puerto Rico.)

So if you’re not selling from one of those countries then you will have to use a separate payment gateway provider.

Now that we’ve gone through pricing and payment functionality, let’s discuss how Shopify stores actually look.


Shopify themes – how good are they?

Shopify provides 10 free e-commerce templates (or ‘themes’) that you can use – and each of these comes in two or three different variants, giving you a reasonable number of template options to choose from.

Examples of some free Shopify themes — ‘Boundless,’ ‘Simple’ and ‘Brooklyn.’
Examples of some free Shopify themes — ‘Boundless,’ ‘Simple’ and ‘Brooklyn.’

That said, the number of bundled templates on offer is small by comparison to other online store builders like Squarespace or Wix.

The bundled themes are attractive however, and they are fully responsive too, meaning they will automatically adjust their layout to suit the screen size of the device they’re being viewed on (smartphone, tablet, desktop computer etc.).

If the free templates don’t appeal, you can use a paid-for or ‘premium’ theme — of which there are 71 (and again, each theme comes in a few variants).

These range in price from $100 to $350, and as with the free themes, they are all fully responsive.

Responsive theme
Shopify’s themes are responsive, meaning they will automatically adapt themselves to suit the device they’re being viewed on — mobile, tablet, desktop etc.

In the Shopify theme store, you can browse all the free and paid templates using a wide range of filters — for example, you can view templates by:

  • industry

  • home page type

  • layout style

    (grid, wide-width content, editorial, etc.)
  • visual features (slideshows, video, parallax scrolling etc.)

and more.

This means that you should be able to find a suitable theme for your store without too much difficulty.

One thing to watch out for is that there are currently two types of Shopify themes available — ‘traditional’ ones, and new ‘Online Store 2.0’ themes (you can use a checkbox in the theme store to display only the latter type).

I discuss Online Store 2.0 in more depth later on in this review, but to sum it up briefly it’s a new theme format that provides more sophisticated editing capabilities via a new drag-and-drop editor.

In terms of the aesthetics, the templates are all professional in appearance, easy on the eye, and very contemporary in nature — no complaints at all here.

You can browse all the Shopify themes here.

Shopify themes and customer support

One thing worth considering when deciding on a theme is whether or not it is officially supported by Shopify.

All the free themes are — but if you use a premium template, you may occasionally need to contact the developer who designed it for help with installation or customization queries.

All in all, Shopify’s template offering is of a high quality — but if you are not content with the options provided and wish to create something that is truly unique, there is always the option of building your own theme.

It’s easy to access the theme code, and a lot of support materials and tutorials are provided to help you develop your own template.

Examples of some of Shopify’s most popular premium themes
Examples of some of Shopify’s most popular premium themes.

Once you’ve started a Shopify trial, chosen your template and picked a plan, you can focus on selling with the platform.

So let’s look at how easy it is to do that.


Interface and ease-of-use

Shopify is pretty straightforward to use – it’s got a clean, intuitive interface and provides a generally positive user experience.

In common with many other contemporary content management systems, a menu on the left allows you to access features or content, which you then customize or edit on the right.

The Shopify interface
The Shopify interface — as with a lot of content management systems, a menu on the left allows you to select features or content, which can then be manipulated on the right.

The interface lets you set up and manage a variety of ’sales channels’.

These include:

  • An online store: this is your main website

    , which you can host on your own domain.
  • Facebook: a tab on your Facebook page where users can browse and buy your products.

  • Messenger: you can sell directly to customers in Facebook Messenger conversations with them (as well as provide order and shipping notifications, and respond to customer enquiries).

  • Buy Button: this channel allows you to embed e-commerce functionality — via ‘buy buttons’ — on any website or blog.

  • Amazon: this allows you to manage your Amazon listings and Shopify products in one location.

  • Instagram: this allows you to make your Instagram posts ‘shoppable.’

The above list covers the key sales channels that you can use ‘out of the box.’ Several others — including big-hitters like Ebay and Pinterest — are available as third-party apps.

All in all, it’s pretty easy to use these sales channels — and the interface in general — but there’s a couple of issues worth zooming in on, to do with content layout and images.

Content layout

In many Shopify themes, you are still dealing with a WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) editor which, while working perfectly well, doesn’t provide the kind of flexibility that other website builders now give you when it comes to laying content out around a page.

Shopify’s ‘WYSIWYG’ content editor.
Shopify’s ‘WYSIWYG’ content editor.

However, if you use one of Shopify’s new “Online Store 2.0” (OS 2.0) themes, you can avail of drag-and-drop functionality.

The OS 2.0 format unlocks a lot of extremely useful content presentation options that you won’t find in ‘regular’ Shopify templates. Its page builder lets you add blocks and sections to pages and move them around with ease, and is far less clunky than the old WYSIWYG editor.

At time of writing however, there is just one free theme available in this format — “Dawn.” But many of the paid-for templates have been updated to the new format — around 45 of the premium themes now support it.

Shopify's new drag and drop editor
Shopify’s new drag and drop editor

There is a slightly confusing aspect to page editing in Shopify’s new OS 2.0 format though.

In order to access the drag-and-drop page builder, you have to use the ‘customize theme’ option (in the home section of your Shopify dashboard) rather than simply finding your page and editing it in the more obvious ‘pages’ section.

If you navigate to the latter, you’ll end up encountering the WYSIWYG editor again. So watch out for that!

Another improvement that could be made to the new drag-and-drop editor involves forms — at the moment you can only drop a simple ‘contact’ form into pages.

It would be better, as the case with other platforms like Squarespace or Wix, if a fully-fledged form builder was available for creating more bespoke forms. If you need to create custom forms with Shopify, you will currently need to resort to some coding or the purchase of an app.

Overall the new Online Store 2.0 is a really big step forward for Shopify, however — and hopefully these issues will be ironed out soon.

Product images

If you upload images to Shopify with different aspect ratios, they won’t be cropped automatically to a uniform ratio.

In other words, your product catalogues will consist of a series of differently-shaped images — something that can impact negatively on your store design.

You can get around this problem by cropping your all your images to a uniform ratio using a photo-editing app (like Photoshop) before you upload them — or afterwards, using Shopify’s built-in photo editor.

(Of the two approaches, the former is probably best.)

You could also add a bit of code to your template to force images to display in a certain ratio — but this won’t be ideal for those without technical skills.

There’s also the option of using a paid-for app to standardize your image ratios (of which quite a few are available from the Shopify app store) but this will obviously increase your costs a bit.

These issues with drag and drop and product images aside, the interface is pretty user-friendly. It shouldn’t present much of a learning curve to most users who are setting up an online store for the first time.

Now, let’s take a look at using Shopify in another way: in a physical location (at ‘point of sale’).

A way to save on Shopify

If you’re interested in using Shopify, the company is currently running a time limited offer that essentially gives you a free month’s service. Here’s how to avail of it:

  1. Start a trial using this link.
  2. When your trial is over, you just pay $1 for your first month. This can amount to quite a saving, especially if you are interested in using one of the higher-tier plans.

Shopify Point of Sale (POS)

One particularly strong feature offered by Shopify which deserves a special mention, and helps it stand out from its competitors, is its comprehensive Point of Sale (POS) functionality and hardware.

Shopify's point-of-sale hardware. The 'Point of Sale' kit allows you to use Shopify to not only run your business online, but to sell in physical locations too.
Shopify point-of-sale (POS) hardware

Shopify’s POS hardware lets you use the platform to sell not just online but in physical locations too, using your iOS or Android device.

A wide range of hardware is available to purchase — barcode readers, tills, receipt printers etc. — to help you do this. If you live in Canada, the US, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Australia or New Zealand, you can buy these items online directly from Shopify; if not, you will need to find an authorized reseller.

There are a several applications for these point-of-sale tools. For example, they allow you to sell…

  • in a ‘brick and mortar’ retail outlet
  • in a pop-up shop

  • from a market stall

  • at an event

And all whilst keeping your inventory and stock count automatically synced.

It’s important to note however that you need to pay for a ‘Shopify POS Pro’ add-on get the most out of point of sale. The cost for this is quite high: $89 per month, per location. So if you run a few physical stores, your monthly POS outgoings can increase substantially with this add-on.

(Shopify POS Pro is included with all Shopify Plus plans).

Key differences between Shopify POS Lite and Shopify POS Pro
Some key differences between Shopify POS Lite and Shopify POS Pro

Although the built-in POS features (‘POS Lite’) cover the basics, and will be fine for merchants with simple needs, you will need the add-on if you want to:

  • work with an unlimited number of sales staff

  • facilitate ‘buy online, pick up in store’

  • facilitate exchanges

  • provide custom printed receipts

  • define staff roles and permissions

  • attribute sales to particular staff members (for commission or performance-analysis purposes).

The below video provides a demonstration of the Shopify POS system, or you can read more about its features here.


Importing and exporting

Importing products and data

As with similar store builders, Shopify allows you to import product data from a CSV file.

This is useful if you want to bulk upload a lot of new products to your store, or are migrating data from another e-commerce platform.

As for text-based data, If you want to import posts from a blogging platform such as Bloggr, Tumblr or WordPress, your options are to:

  • copy and paste content

  • use the Shopify AP

    I
  • invest in a third-party app (such as the ‘Blogfeeder‘ app).

Exporting products and data

You can export product data to CSV file easily with Shopify.

When it comes to pages and posts, however, this isn’t doable out of the box. If you have the relevant technical skills, however, you can make use of Shopify’s API to get them out of the platform.

Alternatively, you can use a third-party app to export your content (for example Exlm, which gives you a wide range of options for getting your content out of the platform).

And speaking of options…


Working with product variants and options in Shopify

Shopify allows you to create up to 100 different variants of a single product.

However, out of the box, these variants can only involve 3 product options.

So, for example, if you were selling shoes, you could allow users choose from up to 100 different variants of a particular shoe, each in 3 different options (for example colour, size and style) — but you couldn’t allow them to pick a shoelace colour on top of this.

Editing product variants in Shopify.
Editing product variants in Shopify

Thankfully, a workaround exists involving third-party apps — there are quite a few available that lift these limits, but you will need to pay for them.

Another option is to add ‘line item property’ code to your store to capture more product options, but you’ll need to be comfortable with editing code in order to do so.

The bottom line is that if you are selling something that doesn’t involve a large number of variants and product options you will be fine with Shopify — and if your needs are more extensive, apps do exist that get rid of the limits discussed above.

That said, it would be better if a more flexible approach to product options was available ‘out of the box’ (as is the case with rivals BigCommerce and Squarespace).


Using Shopify product categories and collections

Although there’s room for improvement regarding how Shopify handles product variants and options, the way it handles product categories is superb.

You can manually add products to a collection or — and this is a huge time saver for users with large product ranges — use ‘automated collections.’ 

This basically means setting up rules (based on product titles, tags etc.) which automatically categorize your products so that they end up in the correct collection.

Managing product categories in Shopify is very straightforward.
Managing product categories in Shopify is very straightforward

This can save you hours if not days of data entry and manipulation — particularly if you have a large number of products in your online store.

You’ll need to make sure you name or tag your products in a very consistent way to take advantage of this functionality however, as the automation only works if you have a consistent naming convention to product titles, tags etc.

But used in the right way, it’s great.

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Shipping products

Shopify is flexible when it comes to shipping, allowing you to set:

  • Free shipping rates

  • Flat rates

  • Price-based rates

  • Weight-based rates

  • Calculated (‘real time’) shipping rates

It’s easy enough to set up shipping rules based on price or weight, and you can create ‘zones’ to cover groups of countries really easily.

Setting up shipping options
Setting up shipping rules in Shopify based on weight and country

When it comes to real-time shipping rates — where carriers provide live estimates at checkout, based on distance, weight and the number of boxes needed to ship items — you have two options, depending on your location.

In the United States, Canada and Australia, you can use the ‘Shopify Shipping’ service.

This lets you:

  • provide real-time shipping quotations from local postal services (UPS, USPS, DHL, Canada Post and Sendle)
  • print shipping labels
  • provide preferential rates on shipping.

Shopify Shipping is available on all plans, and the discounts provided can be quite generous on the higher-level Shopify plans (for example, in the US, you can avail of up to 88% postage discounts on higher-tier plans).

The below video highlights how Shopify Shipping works.

The other option — and the only one for users not based in the US, Australia or Canada — is to use third-party calculated shipping rates.

However, this will involve an extra cost or upfront investment, because third-party calculated shipping rates are only available if you:

  • pay an additional monthly fee
  • pay annually for your Shopify plan (this will bring a saving, but involves a higher initial outlay)
  • pay monthly for an ‘Advanced Shopify’ or ‘Shopify Plus’ plan.

This contrasts negatively with some competitors, especially BigCommerce, which makes this feature available on all its plans (including its $29.95 entry level plan).


Accepting multiple currencies in Shopify

Displaying prices and facilitating checkout in local currencies can improve sales rates considerably.

And, unlike several other well-known e-commerce solutions — notably Squarespace — Shopify lets you do this, so long as you are using its built-in payment gateway, Shopify Payments.

Whilst it’s great to have this feature built-in, there is some room for improvement with it, however.

First, unless you’re on a Shopify Plus plan, or using a third-party app, your users will have to use a country selector to manually choose their preferred location / currency.

(A free ‘geolocation’ app can be installed to detect a user’s location and display a country/currency recommendation, but in my view this is not quite as good as fully automatic currency conversion.)

Second, multi-currency payment doesn’t work with Shopify ‘Buy Buttons.’

Third, to make the most of this feature, you’ll need to purchase a ‘Shopify’ plan or higher — doing so lets you set currency exchange rates manually (enabling you to tailor your pricing to suit each of your markets).

Given the above limitations, I suspect that some merchants will find themselves reaching for a third-party app to handle multi-currency payments — based on my research, Bold Multi-Currency is probably your best bet here.

Selling in multiple currencies with the Bold Multi-Curency app
Selling in multiple currencies with the Bold Multi-Curency app

The lowdown on multi-currency selling is that Shopify is a pretty good option for merchants wishing to do this, but there are improvements that could be made to the functionality.

BigCommerce, for example, makes it much easier to sell in multiple currencies out of the box, without the need for currency selectors, and its Buy Buttons facilitate multi-currency payments too.

Building a multi-lingual website with Shopify

In addition to facilitating transactions in multiple currencies, Shopify lets you sell in multiple languages.

With the exception ‘Lite’, all Shopify plans let you create up to 20 translated versions of your store.

When you enable multi-language selling, a language ‘folder’ is added to your domain. So you’ll end up with myshop.com/fr, myshop.com/de etc.

If you are on ‘Shopify’ plan or higher, you can also use an international domain — myshop.fr, myshop.de etc. — to host foreign-language versions of your store.


Abandoned cart recovery

Abandoned cart recovery helps you identify users who went part of the way through a purchase only to change their mind about it, and contact them with an encouragement to complete their purchase (usually a discount code).

The good news is that this is included on all Shopify plans, meaning that you get this key piece of functionality at a considerably lower price point than its key competitors.

Whereas with Shopify you can get the functionality from just $9, BigCommerce and Squarespace only offer it on their $79.95 and $54 per month plans respectively.

The makers of competing product BigCommerce claim that using abandoned cart recovery tools can boost your revenue by up to 15%, which — if true — is obviously very significant.

In terms of how abandoned cart recovery works in Shopify, it allows you to either:

  • view a list of people who’ve abandoned their carts and manually send them an email

  • automatically send one email to visitors to your site who abandoned their carts (containing a link to their abandoned cart on your store).

The latter option is usually the best way to go about abandoned cart recovery, as it saves time.

Setting up abandoned cart recovery emails.
Setting up abandoned cart recovery emails in Shopify

As you can see from the screenshot above, Shopify recommends that you send your abandoned cart email 10 hours after your site visitor abandons their cart.

This is because according to research carried out by the company, this is the time interval that generates the most sale completions.


Custom fields and file uploads

Some merchants will require their customers to provide some text at the point of purchase (for example, jewellers might require inscription copy; some merchants might like to give customers the option to add a dedication to a product etc.).

Shopify will allow you to capture this data, but it’s a fiddly process — you’ll need to create a ‘line item property’ by manually adding some HTML code to your template.

The other alternative is to pay for an app to do this job, which isn’t ideal. 

It’s a similar story with file uploads: if you need to offer your customers the option to upload a file (for example, an image to be used on a t-shirt or mug), you’re going to have to get coding or, yes, you guessed it, pay for a relevant app!

File upload at checkout
Unlike some competing products, Shopify doesn’t offer an ‘out of the box’ way to cater for file uploads at checkout — custom coding or an app is required

I would prefer — again, as is the case with BigCommerce (pictured above)— if text fields and file upload buttons were simply options that could simply be selected and enabled when creating products.


SEO in Shopify

Is Shopify good when it comes to SEO? The short answer is yes — its SEO features are strong and compare favourably with other hosted site-building platforms.

The nuts and bolts of on-page SEO are certainly very easy to manage — changing page titles and meta descriptions is very easy, as is adding headings and alt text

Editing SEO information in Shopify
Editing SEO information in Shopify

You can also tweak your robots.txt file extensively in Shopify — the platform gives you full control over which URLs can be crawled; lets you add crawl delay rules for certain crawlers; block crawlers; and add extra sitemap URLs.

Adding 301 redirects — which let search engines know when a page location has changed — is particularly easy in Shopify. In fact, the platform automatically prompts you to do this, and creates the redirect for you too, if you change a page’s URL.

As forgetting to set up 301 redirects is a common source of lost rankings, this automated reminder is an extremely useful feature.

Shopify’s theme designs are all responsive, meaning they’ll display nicely across all device types, and a CDN (content delivery network) is used to decrease your page loading times — both of these approaches to web design can lead to preferential placement in search results.

With regard to the latter, a new ‘site speed’ report lets you compare how fast your Shopify store is compared to similar ones — you can use this data to try to speed it up (usually by reducing image size or removing unnecessary scripts or apps).

The speed score report.
Shopify’s new ‘speed score’ report

You can also — with the help of an app — display all your products and pages in AMP format (a faster, stripped-down version of your content) which can bring some benefits in mobile search results.

And a free SSL certificate is provided, letting you run your store over a secure, https:// connection (something Google approves of).

Finally, unlike some competing e-commerce solutions, it’s possible to get a Shopify store to meet Google’s new ‘Core Web Vitals‘ requirements.

Core Web Vitals are a set of targets relating to the speed, responsiveness and visual stability of a website; sites that meet them can receive preferential treatment in Google search results. There are various apps available for Shopify which can help you meet these targets; alternatively, you can enlist a Shopify developer to do so.

There are a couple of areas however where the SEO features could be slightly better in Shopify, though.

Although you can customize your URLs, the platform adds prefixes to your pages and products, i.e.,

  • /pages/ before pages

  • /posts/ before posts

  • /products/ before products

In an ideal world, it would be good not to have these prefixes there, as Google’s search algorithms prefer a simpler URL structure.

The other thing that it should be easier to do is change image file names — if you want to change a file name for SEO purposes, you’ll have to rename it locally and then re-upload it. 

But all in all, the SEO features of Shopify are strong — I don’t have any major complaints.

Remember: it’s not just about built-in SEO functionality…

It’s important to remember is that built-in SEO functionality is only one part of the picture when it comes to making your Shopify store rank in search results.

As with any website or online store solution, you’ll still need to do a lot of work in the areas of keyword research and backlink building.

For more detailed information about how to optimize a Shopify store for search engines, you can check out our Shopify SEO guide.

For more resources on keyword research tools, check out our Semrush review, our Ahrefs vs Semrush comparison and our Moz versus Semrush comparison.


The Shopify app store

In addition to Shopify’s core functionality, there is also an app store that store owners can visit to obtain apps — both free and paid-for — that add new features.

This contains a huge number of apps (over 6,000) — more than any other e-commerce platform that we’ve review. These apps either add specific functionality to your store or let it work with another app (for example, Xero or Zendesk).

The Shopify app store
The Shopify App store

This wide range of apps is one of the strongest arguments for using Shopify over its rivals — but also possibly an argument against.

On the plus side, it means that you have a fantastic range of options not only when it comes to adding functionality to your store but when it comes to integrating it with other tools and platforms too.

On the downside, it inevitably leads to lot of situations where getting the functionality you need (relating for example to product reviews, AMP, additional product options and custom fields) involves installing a paid-for app.

And, the more apps you add, the slower your store can perform.

Competing platforms like Wix and BigCommerce, by contrast, tend to include more functionality like this out of the box — meaning that you don’t end up paying as much on apps.

Examples of Shopify apps available include:

  • data capture apps

  • accounting apps

  • abandoned cart saver apps

  • multi-currency selling apps

  • advanced reporting apps.

Key third party apps that are supported via integrations include Xero, Freshbooks and Zendesk.

It’s worth dwelling a moment on an app for which an official integration which doesn’t exist: Mailchimp. Unfortunately, due to a dispute about data protection and privacy issues, this has been withdrawn from the app store.

You can still use Mailchimp with Shopify, but you’ll have to use more manual workarounds to do so; alternatively, you could consider using a different email marketing solution, such as GetResponse, AWeber or Campaign Monitor to handle e-comms.

(You can find out more about these products in our GetResponse review, AWeber review and Campaign Monitor review).

However, with the introduction of a new email marketing feature, you might not actually need to integrate an e-comms tool with Shopify.

Let’s take a quick look at that.


Email marketing in Shopify: ‘Shopify Email’

An absolutely vital part of running an online store is email marketing: sending e-newsletters to your mailing list is key to generating sales.

Recognizing this — and perhaps the fact that other leading platforms like Squarespace and Wix both offer built-in email marketing features — last year Shopify introduced a new tool, ‘Shopify Email,’ which allows you to create email newsletters ‘in the box’.

As things stand, this is a very basic email marketing tool, which simply allows you to send branded e-newsletters — in other words, don’t expect Mailchimp or GetResponse style automation features just yet.

'Shopify Email' - the platform’s new built-in email marketing tool
‘Shopify Email’ – the platform’s new email marketing tool

But the feature will definitely prove useful to some merchants — if you’re a store owner who likes to manage all aspects of your e-commerce business in one place, you’ll really like this feature.

And it’s very cheap: you can use the feature to send up to 2,500 emails per month for free, with a $1 fee applying to every additional 1,000 emails sent after that (this is a per-send fee — there’s no ongoing monthly costs to worry about).

You can learn more about Shopify Email here.


Dropshipping with Shopify

Many potential users of Shopify will be wondering how it facilitates dropshipping.

With dropshipping, you take an order, send it to a supplier, and they deliver the goods to your client — you don’t make, store or fulfil any products, and your e-commerce site is in effect a middle man of sorts.

The good news is that Shopify offers a very large range of dropshipping apps which allow you to source and sell a variety of suppliers’ goods online very easily; popular services like Oberlo, Ali Express and Modalyst are all catered for.

Shopify dropshipping apps.
A huge number of dropshipping apps is available in the Shopify app store, but it would be good to see ethical information about the products they feature.

One thing I’d definitely like to see from the company however is more information on the quality of dropshipping suppliers — maybe an ‘ethical rating’ or similar.

This is because a lot of dropshipped goods are produced in the Far East — where working conditions can be very poor. As things stand it’s hard to be confident that the goods you sell via Shopify’s dropshipping apps are ethically produced.

So if you are concerned about the ethical dimension, you will need to do your own research before committing to a particular app or supplier.

But in terms of the range of dropshipping options available to you as a merchant, the market leader is definitely Shopify.

The Shopify dropshipping starter kit

If you’re interested in dropshipping, I’d recommend that you take a look at Shopify’s dropshipping starter kit — with this, you get 14 days of free access to Shopify plus lots of bundled resources and tools that show you how to launch a successful dropshipping Shopify store.

You can access the starter kit here.


Tax rules and VAT MOSS in Shopify

Automatic tax calculations

One of the challenges of selling online is that you can end up making sales in a variety of jurisdictions with differing tax rates — something you have to reflect in the pricing of your products.

This is particularly relevant for merchants based in the US, Canada, the UK and the EU where different states and provinces (respectively) apply differing tax rules.

Thankfully, Shopify allows you to apply tax rates automatically for these territories, which is a huge time saver.

VAT MOSS

A really strong aspect of the platform — which is not often picked up on in other Shopify reviews — is the way that it caters extremely well for the EU’s VAT MOSS rules (or, to use its full title, ‘VAT Mini One Stop Shop.’).

VAT MOSS is basically a requirement that sellers of digital products to consumers in the EU add value added tax (VAT) to each digital product on a per-country basis — i.e., there’s one VAT rate to be applied for the UK, one for Ireland and so on.

Unlike a lot of competing products, Shopify calculates the appropriate rate automatically. So there’s no messing about with setting up manual tax rules and so on. This is an extremely useful piece of functionality and for me, it’s a USP. 

And speaking of digital products…


Selling digital products

If you want to sell digital products with Shopify, this is perfectly doable — but not immediately obvious how to set up. 

A good friend of mine, Diarmaid MacMathuna from Cruinneog — a company that sells an Irish spellcheck tool for Microsoft Word — recently built his new store with Shopify but initially struggled quite a bit to work out how to sell his software online. This was until he realized that in order to sell files, users need to install a separate app (the ‘Digital Downloads App’).

The good news is that this is free — and very easy to use. You can configure it to work automatically, so that a download link is given to the customer immediately after checkout, and a link is emailed to them when their order is fulfilled.

The 'Digital downloads' app.
Shopify’s digital downloads app in action. It can be used to deliver a wide range of online goods to customers, including music, video and images.

There is a limit on the product file size, but it’s a generous one: you can sell digital goods up to 5 GB in size. This limit compares very favourably to other platforms — Squarespace for example limits downloadable product size to 300 MB; BigCommerce to 512 MB.

If that’s not enough, you can use third party apps to host your files, or use file sharing services like Dropbox to deliver them.


Reporting

Shopify provides a comprehensive range of reports, including: 

  • sales reports

  • customer reports

  • marketing reports

  • search data reports

  • finance reports

  • abandoned cart reports.

There is a negative worth pointing out here however: the most useful reports are only available if you are on one of the more expensive plans — the $79+ ‘Shopify’ plan or higher.

Sales report.
A Shopify sales report.

If you’re not on one of these more expensive plans, you just get a fairly basic dashboard containing topline stats only. Whilst the dashboard will let you keep track of basic sales data, it’s not as good as having a dedicated report.

(This contrasts negatively with key competing product BigCommerce, which provides professional reporting functionality on all its plans.)

But if you do pay extra to get the reporting functionality, you’ll find it’s very good.

An advanced report builder is also available, which allows you to create your own custom reports — but again, it comes at a high price: you’ll need to be on a $299+ plan to avail of this.


Blogging in Shopify

Blogging is one of the key ways to increase organic traffic to your site — it’s usually a pretty vital activity for online merchants.

Helpfully, Shopify comes with a built-in blogging tool which allows you to create the sort of content you’ll need to ensure your site is visible in Google search results.

However, this blogging functionality is not by any means as sophisticated or powerful as what you’d find on some platforms — especially WordPress.

Omissions include content versioning and Yoast-style SEO plug ins; and when it comes to categorization of posts, Shopify blog posts only allow you to use tags — there’s no categories available (professional blogging platforms will typically permit use of both).

Blogging in Shopify
Blogging in Shopify

That said, the built-in blogging functionality is generally fine and will meet most merchants’ requirements perfectly well. You can also — with a little bit of configuration — hook it up to the commenting tool Disqus, which is useful.

As with quite a few Shopify features, if you’re not happy with the blogging setup you can always turn to an app for help.

One option worth investigating on this front is DropInBlog, which allows you to make use of more WordPress-style features (for example SEO post analysis, product embeds, categories and multiple contributors).


Managing your Shopify store on a mobile device

Shopify provides two main apps which you can use to manage your store on a mobile device: ‘Shopify‘ and ‘Shopify Point of Sale. These are available on both iOS and Android.

The main ‘Shopify’ app scores 4.6 and 4.3 out of 5 on the Apple and Google Play app stores respectively. The ‘Shopify POS’ app fares less well in terms of Google Play reviews however, being rated 2.7 out of 5 by Android users (iOS users are much happier with it, giving it a score of 4.5 out of 5).

The ‘Shopify’ app lets you view and fulfil orders; add/edit products; view reports and communicate with your team members via an order ‘timeline’.

The ‘Point of Sale’ app, as the name suggests, lets you use Shopify’s POS system — you can use it to take card payments in person, track inventory, text receipts to customers and so on.

The Shopify mobile app.
Shopify’s mobile app (iOS)

In addition to the store management apps, there’s an app called called ‘Shopify Inbox’ available, which makes it easier to answer queries, capture leads or share your product details with customers when chatting with them over Facebook Messenger and Apple Messages (support for Instagram messages is on the way).

The 'Shopify Inbox' app
The ‘Shopify Inbox’ app lets you chat with potential customers over Facebook Messenger and Apple Messages.

There are some other apps available too, which include a deliveries app (to aid drivers delivering your products), a logo-making app and an order tracking app.

Of all the above apps, the main ‘Shopify’ app is likely to be the most use to the vast majority of merchants.


GDPR compliance

I am not a lawyer, so please note that the below observations should not be interpreted as legal advice, but I’m going to do my best to spell out some of the key GDPR issues facing Shopify users below.

With the introduction of the EU’s GDPR laws, there are many legal steps that website owners now need to take to ensure that they are adequately protecting EU customers’ and visitors’ privacy.

You need to ensure your data is kept secure; provide access to relevant privacy documents; and prevent any non-essential cookies on your site being run without user consent.

Shopify falls down a bit when it comes to the cookie consent requirement. To ensure GDPR compliance, you need to display a cookie banner to your visitors that:

  • allows them to choose which cookies they want to run BEFORE those cookies are run

  • logs their consent to run cookies

  • allows them to revoke consent at a later stage.

So for example, if you use a Facebook Ads or Google Analytics cookie on your store, you will be breaking GDPR laws unless you have a banner in place which does all of the above.

GDPR-compliant cookie consent banner
Shopify could do better when it comes to providing GDPR-compliant cookie banners

Now, out of the box, there is not a way to deal with the cookie consent issue in Shopify.

However, there are quite a few apps in the Shopify app store which deal with this problem and provide the necessary functionality (note that some are considerably better than others however).

I would prefer if adequate cookie banner functionality was provided by the platform without the users having to recourse to additional apps. It feels like it should be core functionality.


Security and backing up data

One of the main advantages of using a hosted solution like Shopify over a self-hosted one (like WordPress or Drupal) is that — password management aside — you aren’t responsible for the security of your site or hosting.

With a Shopify store, there’s no core software or plugin updates to worry about; keeping software safe and up to date is Shopify’s job.

Similarly, ensuring that credit card transactions are safe for your customers is something that Shopify takes responsibility for (via PCI compliance).

You will need to give some thought to data backups however; although in an emergency you may be able to retrieve data via a Shopify helpdesk enquiry, it’s safer to either export your product data regularly to a CSV file or invest in a dedicated content backup tool from the Shopify app store.

As the latter option will increase monthly outgoings a bit, this is not ideal.

Tip: Shopify provides two-factor authentication (2FA) to help you secure your account. Always make use of this, as it will dramatically reduce the chances of anyone gaining unwanted access to your account. (See our cyber security tips for other advice on protecting your online accounts).


Shopify customer support

Shopify’s customer support is comprehensive — you can contact the company 24/7 by email, live chat or phone. To access phone support you’ll need to request a callback.

Shopify customer support options
Shopify customer support options

This is significantly better than the support options offered by some competitors — for example, key competitor Squarespace doesn’t provide phone support at all.

There are a couple of issues worth pointing out, however.

First, having used Shopify support in the past, I’ve found that if your enquiry is of a particularly technical nature — i.e., if you want to code something and need help — then you may not always get the answers you’re looking for from the standard support service.

You’re sometimes better off posting a query in a Shopify community forum and hoping a developer gets back to you on it.

This could be improved a bit, I feel — it it would be better if Shopify offered a more direct way for sellers to contact their developers directly for technical advice.

And finally, in order to access the contact details for Shopify’s support team, you’re required to search help pages for a solution to your problem first.

This will annoy some, but it’s increasingly standard practice for support desks for web applications — and it’s not implemented as badly as on some other e-commerce platforms.


Shopify review: conclusion

Overall, Shopify is one of the best hosted solutions for those wishing to create an online store – and arguably the best for anyone who wants to use one product to sell online AND in a physical location. It’s also particularly good for users who are interested in dropshipping.

The product is competitively priced — particularly when you consider that abandoned cart saver functionality, a feature which many other platforms charge a premium for on all plans. And its ‘Lite’ plan represents great value for anyone needing to sell products on an existing site.

It’s also easy to use, integrates well with a huge range of other apps, and its templates are attractive.

It has a very big user base, which also inspires confidence.

All in all, Shopify is a very good option for anyone hoping to start a brand new business, or existing small businesses hoping to take their product offering online — but there are some disadvantages of using Shopify to be aware of too.

First, there’s the transaction fees for those using a third-party payment gateway (some of its competitors don’t charge any transaction fees at all, regardless of the payment options used).

Second, its limit of three options per product isn’t ideal.

Third, its multi-currency selling features, whilst reasonably good, could be better. You need to be on the most expensive ‘Shopify Plus’ plan, or use an app, to gain fully automated currency conversion.

A more complete summary of Shopify pros and cons follows below, but as always we recommend that you try before you buy — it’s worth having a good play with the platform via the Shopify free trial. You can access this free trial here.


Shopify pros and cons

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this Shopify review and have found it useful! To sum up, these are the main pros and cons that you can expect to encounter if using this e-commerce solution:

Pros of Shopify

  • It’s easy to use.

  • The templates are attractive and fully responsive (mobile friendly).

  • Abandoned cart saving functionality is available on all plans, even the cheapest $9 ‘Lite’ plan

    — you’re unlikely to find this feature on competing platforms at a similar monthly price.
  • It’s a great option for anyone interested in dropshipping.

  • US, Canadian, EU and UK tax rates are automatically calculated and applied.

  • Multi-currency selling is possible with Shopify, although you’ll probably need to rely on an app to implement this properly.

  • You can use any Shopify plan to create versions of your site in different languages.

  • Depending on your country, you can avail of quite generous shipping discounts if you use the built in ‘Shopify Shipping’ service to deliver your products.

  • The Lite Plan’s ‘Buy Button’ allows you to use Shopify to add a shopping cart easily to any website or online business presence.

  • Shopify comes with an email marketing tool which lets you host a list of up to 2,500 subscribers for free.

  • The point-of-sale options are comprehensive.

  • It handles the creation and application of product categories really well.

  • You can extend functionality easily thanks to a huge range of third-party apps (although note that you will have to pay to use many of them).

  • Search engine optimization features are good.

  • You can create AMP versions of product pages (albeit with the help / additional cost of a third-party app).

  • There are no transaction fees if you are happy to use the built in payment processing system, Shopify Payments.

  • A large number of external payment gateways can be used with Shopify.
  • You can try Shopify for free, and without submitting payment details, before committing to it.

Cons of Shopify

  • Whilst you can create 100 variants of a product, these can only involve up to 3 product options.

  • Key functionality which you might expect to be provided out of the box often requires installation of an app

    — this can sometimes make store setup slightly more complicated than you might like, or slow your site down a little.
  • Adding custom fields such as text boxes or file upload options, whilst doable, is unnecessarily complicated (or involves purchasing an app).

  • Professional reporting functionality is only provided on more expensive plans.

  • The integrated payment processor, Shopify Payments, only allows you to sell from certain countries.

  • The built-in multi-currency option is only available if you are a Shopify Payments user.
  • You can’t avoid transaction fees if you use a third-party payment gateway.

  • Product images have to be uploaded with the same aspect ratio to display properly.

  • When using a dropshipping app, it’s hard to be confident that the goods you’re selling are ethically produced.

  • Getting your site to be GDPR compliant where cookies are concerned will involve use of a third party cookie banner app.

  • Although workarounds exist to make Shopify and Mailchimp work together, there is no longer an official Shopify-Mailchimp integration available.

  • If you’re not using ‘Shopify Shipping’ to provide real-time carrier quotes to your customers, or live in a country where it’s not available, this functionality can work out quite expensive

    , or involve paying for an annual plan.
  • The email marketing functionality, whilst nice to have, is currently pretty basic.

Our overall rating: 4.5/5


Shopify alternatives

No Shopify review would be complete without a look at the alternatives!

Of the e-commerce solutions I’ve tested to date, BigCommerce is probably the strongest alternative to Shopify. It’s similarly priced, easy-to-use and its feature set is broadly comparable with Shopify’s.

For more information on the product and how it stacks up against Shopify, do check out our full BigCommerce review and our BigCommerce vs Shopify comparison.

If you need more flexibility with regard to how you lay out content, or have a particular need to showcase images, videos or blog posts, you might also like to check out Squarespace, which has a really lovely approach to managing content.

You’ll need to bear in mind that Squarespace’s e-commerce functionality is a bit more limited than Shopify’s, however — particularly where multi-currency selling and point-of-sale e-commerce are concerned. But for an e-commerce beginner with simple selling needs it’s great. Check out our Squarespace review and our Shopify vs Squarespace comparison for more details.

You might also be wondering whether online marketplaces like Etsy or Amazon are good options for starting an e-commerce business. If so, take a look at our Shopify vs Etsy comparison and our Shopify vs Amazon comparison for more details on how selling on platforms like these compares to using a standalone store builder.

If you already run a website, you might like to investigate Ecwid, which allows you to add an online store to an existing site (Ecwid offers similar functionality to Shopify’s ‘Buy Button’, but with more advanced features). You can read our full Ecwid review or our Ecwid vs Shopify comparison for more information on this product.

If you are on a low budget, then Wix, Big Cartel and Jimdo are worth a look, as they offer selling tools at a cheaper price point. However, as with Squarespace, these products are more ‘general purpose’ website builders and consequently are rather more limited in terms of e-commerce functionality than Shopify. Check out our latest Wix review, or our Wix vs Shopify, Squarespace vs Wix and Wix vs WordPress comparisons for more details on Wix; you’ll find our Big Cartel vs Shopify comparison here and our Shopify vs GoDaddy comparison here.

And finally, there’s always self-hosted WordPress. This is a different beast to Shopify in that it is not a ‘hosted’ solution: you will have to build your own site and host it yourself. However, there are LOTS of ways to sell your products using it.

Read our Shopify vs WordPress comparison for more details, or contact us to discuss our WordPress web design services.

Got any questions? Leave a comment!

After reading our Shopify review, do have any queries about the platform, or whether it’s the right option for you? Do leave a comment on the post below! We read all comments and aim to answer all questions.

Shopify review FAQs

What’s the best value Shopify plan?

It really depends on your selling requirements, but for me the ‘sweet spot’ plan is probably the mid-tier ‘Shopify’ plan — which you can try out for free here — as it gives you the bulk of functionality you need for an online store, including professional reports, full control over multi-currency payments and store translation features.

Does Shopify charge transaction fees?

You can avoid transaction fees by using Shopify’s built-in payment gateway, Shopify Payments. However, if you use a third-party payment gateway, Shopify charges you a transaction fee of between 0.5% and 2.0%, depending on your plan.

Can I sell video content on Shopify?

Yes — you can use Shopify’s free ‘Digital Downloads’ app to do this, but you might find that a dedicated third-party app like Sky Pilot works better (particularly if your customers need to stream your content).

Can I create multi-lingual versions of my Shopify store?

Yes. On the ‘Basic’, ‘Shopify’ and ‘Advanced Shopify’ plans you can create up to 5 versions of your sites in different languages; ‘Shopify Plus’ allows you to create up to 20.

Can I sell in multiple currencies with Shopify?

Shopify’s built-in multi-currency feature lets you sell in up to 133 currencies — but it is only available if you are using Shopify Payments as your payment gateway. If you are based in a country that doesn’t yet support Shopify Payments, you can still sell in multiple currencies, but you will need to use a third-party app like Bold Multi-Currency to do so.

Is it easy to upgrade or downgrade my Shopify plan?

Yes, you can do this at any time. The price of your previous plan is prorated and applied against the cost of your new subscription.

Should I use a free or paid-for Shopify template?

For most new merchants, a free Shopify template will work perfectly fine — the bundled templates are attractive and their visuals can be easily tweaked to make your storefront consistent with your brand. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the free templates are all fully supported by Shopify; if you use a paid-for theme, you may need to source support from a third-party developer. That said, some of the paid-for options can provide a more ‘bespoke’ look for your online store.

What’s the best alternative to Shopify?

There are lots of alternatives available to Shopify — we discuss some of them in depth above. However, for us, the most similar ‘hosted’ product in terms of billing and basic features is probably BigCommerce.

How we tested this product

We tested this product via independent research and, more importantly, hands-on experience of it.

We regularly help clients build Shopify stores, and have extensive knowledge of how the platform works. So this Shopify review is based on building many stores from scratch; editing existing ones; and using a wide variety of Shopify apps to configure them.


More Shopify reviews and resources

If you’re wondering which Shopify plan is best for you, you may find our in-depth guide to Shopify fees useful. We also have a new FAQs resource on the Shopify free trial and a step-by-step guide to starting a Shopify store that may be of interest.

Our Shopify review on Youtube will help you get a visual overview of the store builder’s key pros and cons.

If you’re thinking of buying rather than building a Shopify store, do check out our guide to Shopify Marketplace Exchange (a website that lets you buy and sell businesses built on Shopify).

And finally, this post is now available in French! Check out our ‘Shopify Avis’ article on the new Style Factory France site.

Comments (61)

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Thanks for your question Jacqueline – yes you can do this easily. You just password protect your Shopify store while you’re building it, and remove the password at the point of go live to make it public. Hope this helps!

My question is: does Shopify promise to keep all the information such as customers data, product data, sales data and financial data, etc. confidential? How can Shopify implement?

Hi Peter, this resource might help on that front:https://help.shopify.com/en/manual/your-account/privacy/GDPR

My question is: once I use Shopify, later on, for any reason, I want to stop Shopify and use other website. Can I export all the information from Shopify? The information may include the customers data, product data, etc.

Hi Peter, yes Shopify lets you export product data and customer data easily enough – see

https://help.shopify.com/en/manual/products/import-export/export-products

and

https://help.shopify.com/en/manual/customers/import-export-customers

for full details as to what you can export.

Hope this helps!

A good review. I am a Shopify user of several years and fairly early on discovered that it is very easy for customers to end up with duplicate accounts through changed and mistyped email addresses. There are hundreds of posts on the Shopify forums going back SEVEN years asking for a merge feature which Shopify have simply ignored. Unfortunately my advice is avoid if a clean customer database is important to you. John

Is Shopify "App Store" really an App Store comparable to Apple’s or Google’s one? I mean, is Shopify ensuring quality and security from the partners creating Add Ons in the App Store or is the code outside of shopify’s boundaries and ‘at your own risk’ protecting customer data when accepting to use those external components?

Hey Dani, thanks for your comment. There is a review process which should ensure quality and security control, yes – you can read about it here:

https://shopify.dev/concepts/app-store/getting-your-app-approved/review-process

Hope this helps? Cheers for reading the review!

Excellent, excellent review of Shopify, thank you.

And some of the user comments are equally as informative.

Thanks very much for taking the time to give your feedback John – glad you found the review useful.

Former (disgruntled) Shopify user. Shopify is a solid platform if you can get away with the basic features. Problem is that their basic platform doesn’t include a slew of features that should be standard in ANY e-commerce store—Add-ons for something simple like adding a "presale" button gets very expensive, very quickly.

Where Shopify falls short, and by short, I mean infuriatingly short, is in their shipping features. Four years ago, I dumped Shopify because their platform lacked flexibility in calculating shipping. Four years later, they are still nickel-and-diming customers with adding "carrier calculated" shipping to their cheaper plans for an additional $20/mo—which is mind-boggling given that shipping fees can make or break an online store.

If you ship and have a limited number of products or products with similar dimensions, Shopify works fine.However, if you have …•numerous products with varying weights/dimensions•offer products that are a mix of POD and manually mailed•want to offer a mix of carrier calculated shipping along with flat rate options on a per product basis•want to offer free shipping above $XXShopify shipping features fail miserably. You will be forced to pay an extra $30/mo for an app … and this assumes that the app can fill your needs.

I’m back in the market for an eCommerce platform and shipping flexibility is the make or break feature.

Hi Chris – thanks again for this thorough review. It was instrumental in me choosing Shopify when I was setting up my business last year.

Now that I’ve been on Shopify for over a year, there’s a couple massive negatives that should be added to your article:

As of March 1st 2020, Shopify no longer returns their 2.9% transaction fee if the sale is refunded. So if a customer returns an item, cancels an unfulfilled order, or a fraudster places an order and the merchant cancels it as fraudulent, Shopify still keeps their 2.9% – meaning these sales end up costing the merchant big-time! There is an angry mob of merchants forming on this Shopify forum discussion: https://community.shopify.com/c/Shopify-Discussion/Transaction-Credits-on-Refunds-Fees-After-March-1-2020-Shopify/td-p/642688

Shopify can’t handle multiple discounts on the same order – e.g. a customer can’t use a discount coupon (loyalty/1st order/etc.) if you’re also running a general percent-off sale (Black Friday, Boxing Day, etc.). Other platforms and merchants of course offer such ‘stacking,’ putting Shopify merchants at a distinct disadvantage. Shopify’s typical answer is to use some extra-cost App, but various merchants report these Apps conflict with other Apps. There’s 20 pages of merchant complaints on this Shopify thread alone: https://community.shopify.com/c/Shopify-Discussion/Multiple-discount-at-checkout/td-p/473968

Plus as you mention, Shopify still doesn’t offer a GDPR-compliant cookie solution. They also don’t have an EU tax-compliant solution for VAT on gift cards (see: https://community.shopify.com/c/Accounting-Taxes/Gift-Cards-and-new-EU-VAT-regulations/td-p/583703). Basically Europe is always an afterthought at Shopify, 450 million consumers be damned.

Thanks for the feedback AJ – your points re: the transaction fee and discount coupons will I’m sure be helpful to other readers of this post. I think the GDPR cookie banner issue is less of a problem in Shopify than other platforms however, because there are quite a few apps available for it that do facilitate fully-compliant cookie consent. However, given it’s such an important issue I think it would be better if this functionality was provided out of the box (Bigcommerce and Ecwid seem to provide this, so I don’t see why Shopify can’t).

Thanks Chris. I would disagree that ‘there are quite a few apps available for it [GDPR] that do facilitate fully-compliant cookie consent’.There are quite a few apps that claim to be compliant, but when you dig into them they fail on basic things like blocking all cookies until consent is granted. See my detailed post on this here: https://community.shopify.com/c/Shopify-Apps/Why-is-cookie-consent-per-GDPR-not-core-Shopify-functionality/m-p/526310A lot of merchants are fooling themselves by installing pointless GDPR decorations and mistakenly thinking they’re compliant.

Hello,

thank you for your article, I am under a French solution called PRESTASHOP (CMS OPEN SOURCE), for 10 years now, I can tell you that I really lost a lot of time and money, a lot of bug , update which melts drop the site, etc …

I’m thinking of shopify, and I would like to have your opinion if this is a good thing, because we have a large catalog and we do not do dropshipping, (Online hypermarket).Your opinion interests me 🙂

Hi Rizk, thanks for your comment. Shopify is a potentially good solution for you as it allows you to host an unlimited number of products (which should hopefully meet your large inventory requirement). One thing to watch out for is product options and variants however – you’re limited to 3 options and 100 variants. So if your products come in all shapes and sizes and you need to give your customers a lot of control over options, then you might need to tread carefully. There are various Shopify apps that you can buy as add-ons however that remove these limits. Bigcommerce is also worth looking at, because it is not as restrictive on the product option / limit front.

I’m impressed with your thorough review of Shopify. Those who are interested in getting their website up and running, will undoubtedly benefit from this review. But therein lies a problem. The review ignores discussing the pros and cons of buying products and services from a website hosted by Shopify. As a consumer myself, I purchased several holiday gifts from Shopify hosted websites. What a pathetic experience. Clearly, Shopify does ZERO vetting of the legitimacy of the businesses it hosts. Even worse, Shopify apparently doesn’t care. This opens the door wide open for disreputable, con artists and scammers. Ignorance is bliss. And very profitable. A regular visit to the website TrustPilot, could be one very simple way to monitor the satisfaction or lack thereof, from consumers using Shopify hosted businesses. I’ve alerted [email protected] Shopify.com via email of two businesses that Shopify hosts that score 0-10 on a scale of 100 in customer satisfaction on TrustPilot. Shopify did not reply to my email. They just don’t care. Shopify is complicit in ripping off anyone buying from their websites. I will never do business with a Shopify hosted business again. Which is a shame, because the legit businesses will suffer. I am not alone. Shopify needs to clean up its act.

Thanks for the detailed thoughts Michael – this is a difficult area for any e-commerce solution or payment gateway provider to deal with, as there will always be people who take advantage of selling tools for fraudulent purposes, and it’s difficult to stop this happening entirely. I agree with you that any service facilitating online selling should be very vigilant however and crack down as much as possible on any fraudulent activity – sorry to hear that you haven’t had a good experience with Shopify stores in this respect.

their support is horrible.I just spent 30 min asking the woman to speak to her supervisor since she didn’t know how to help me and she kept on saying that she wont and that they aren’t responsible.

shopify also doesn’t have any dimension slots for your products so anyone who needs dimensions should not use them.

Their multi warehouse function doesn’t work properly and so unless you pay a lot for apps that will do this for you, you shouldn’t use them if you have products in more than 1 location.

Support is very difficult to reach. I have had a store on Shopify for 8 months and when I try to log into support, while logged into my store,Shopify does not recognize me. Beware of apps as many have plenty bugs and will waste your precious time and $. Such as SPREADR. Import products fine then the next day when you check your margins are gone and the price is as listed from import link. LOL.Bottom line I am migrating to another highly rated ecommerce site.

Shopify has no regulations in place to protect consumers. It is a place for scammers to take advantage of others. Yes, there are legit businesses on Shopify, but there are also a lot of scams and no support system set up for the consumer. I will never use them to buy or sell again.

In case you are looking for AMP support for Shopify, Ampify Me implemented the best AMP app https://apps.shopify.com/ampify-me (and also has PWA implementation as well, so you can have the best mobile setup)

Shopify is great BUT, I’ve used a lot of app/web solitions and Shopify has the worst customer support to me. They are very kind but not performant at all (based on multiple conversations I had with them.)

Great write-up. I’ve been using BigCommerce, been looking to switch to Shopify due to the payment processing options that they offer. Will try them out. Thanks

I tried to close a Shopify account after my credit card was automatically billed through it’s negative opt-out policy. I wasn’t even notified of the renewal. When I complained one month later when I saw the charge on my credit card statement, they had no sympathy. They take no prisoners and have poor customer service.

Wow thanks Chris! That was VERY comprehensive. I’m finding I’m recommending Shopify to more of my clients than I had previously. Woocommerce has let me down badly.

Love your indeph review. Been using shopify for the last few months. Stumbled across your page and learnt a ton of new stuff thanks Chris.

I’ve been bounced around from shopify ‘guru’ to shopify ‘guru’ as I have been having and issue with shopify not capturing my fulfilled items on Shipstation. It’s been 5 months of the issue occurring and almost 2 months bouncing around shopify guru. This is insane!!!!!!!!!!

We needed a store mapper to help customers find our retailers and Shopify Store Locator works perfectly for us. It blends seamlessly into our theme and the ability to add custom map themes from snazzy maps is awesome. https://apps.shopify.com/google-maps-app

As per my point of view, Shopify is the perfect platform to build any kind of small eCommerce website! The con I have faced is that it is not an open source! We need pay to develop on this platform!!!

I have removed the password from my Australian shopify store, and I have purchased something as a trial, which processed OK. However A friend in UK, and one in Columbia have tried to open the store and the get a ‘store unavailable’ message. Do you know why this might be? Do I need to turn something on/off in settings?? Thank you,

Apols for delay in response Sarah. It sounds like a caching issue (where your users in the UK and Columbia were temporarily seeing an older version of your site). If the problem persists however it’s a case of contacting Shopify Support.

Hi Lucas, very informative and useful tutorial.I wanted to ask you, as I am quite new, that if i purchase a domain name from Shopify would that show shopify name too (like powered by shopfiy?)Also what if i purchase a domain through shopify and decide later that I don’t want to sue Shopify and want to keep my domain name- is that [email protected]!

Hi Mishi, thanks for your comment – and sorry for the slow response. If you purchase a domain name via Shopify your site will appear on that domain name. You will be able to transfer it out of Shopify at a later date too. However, from looking at the Shopify manual you might need to bear something in mind about site security:

"Shopify’s HTTP Strict Transfer Security (HSTS) will remain in effect on your domain for 90 days after you close your store to help ensure the safety of your and your customers’ information."

If you have any queries about domains I’d probably suggest giving Shopify a quick email or call before purchasing one from them.

Cheers!Chris

Terrific information! Thank you so much for this writeup … it’s great to hear about your frank, first-hand experience.

If I do choose to go with Shopify, will be sure to use one of your referral links 🙂

Ryviu app builds to import product reviews from Aliexpress and Amazon to ShopifyDown load this app frome here: https://goo.gl/HFPSmnFor information visit website: https://www.ryviu.com

hi, do you know if you can link this to a worldpay card reader i.e do you plug your instore card reader into your laptop along with the shopify stripe and thye link up? in order to print receipts

Thanks for a very helpful article, the only thing missing for me, is how to link it to Amazon? I have been told that you can link Shopify to an existing Amazon listing, but have no idea how to go about it, and was hoping you would explain. Any chance of an update?

Chris I found your detail very helpful – especially the 3 product variations (so you’re stuffed if you have kids/adults, size, colour, male/female for example, as only 3 options allowed – although this may not seem like a big deal, it can catch you out!!). Anyway I’m thrilled with Shopify having considered it against Weebly and WIX. Agree transaction prices from 3rd parties can be hefty.

Many thanks for the kind words Chris – glad you found our Shopify review helpful 🙂 Good luck with your project!

Shopify is great because it easy to use, looks great is fast and basically unbreakable. It is, however, geared towards the North American shop owner. It is very apparent in the absence of a typical European price display mechanism (incl. VAT for EU customers, VAT exempt for non-EU customers).

Basically you have two choices:* Set up prices to include tax: the total price of the product still stays the same for the non-EU customer, the tax is NOT subtracted from the price. The only thing that changes is a text display at the checkout (includes x% tax, or not).* Set up price displays not to include taxes in which case the taxes can actually be subtracted for non-EU customers. Unfortunately the standard price display in this case (net price) doesn’t conform to EU law which requires you to display prices including VAT (if you sell to individuals). So you need to also modify your theme to fix the price displays.

Shopify also doesn’t support the EU reverse charge mechanism: businesses in the EU can sell to other EU businesses without charging them VAT. The prerequisite for this is for the merchant and the customer to have a valid EU VAT ID. Furthermore the merchant is also responsible for checking the validity of the ID.

All of the above mentioned issues are quite basic to selling in the EU and you need third party apps like Sufio or Exemptify to really be EU compatible.

I signed up for a shopify account, and spent a month designing my website. I launched it, and made my first sale a few days after. At that point I was contacted by shopify for security reasons, they wanted my passport, and all my business information, numbers etc… I did sent them all the info they needed, but they decided to cancel my payment gateway plan with them. They said I was not able to get it, as I had logged in to my account from another country! As a matter of fact I live abroad for personal reasons, but my webstore only sells within Canada. I gave them proof of this, as my store has been online for over 5 years, and we are part of several organizations that prove we do business in Canada. It did not matter to them, they proceeded to cancel my account! I was very frustrated, after spending over a month building a website, and setting up buttons for payments, all my work was lost because of this policy. Furthermore they can no longer be contacted by phone, and dealing with this issue by chat was more than irritating. So if you plan on building a webstore in order to gain freedom and be able to travel, don’t use shopify, as they monitor were you login from, and will cancel your account if your away from your country for an undetermined period of time.

With our store, they are unable to offer shopify payment gateway, as a result we are forced to use stripe gateway, that cost extra %2 transaction fees on every order, This 2% transaction fees should have been removed or waived off due to the fact they are unable to offer shopify payment gateway.

The points described in the article are very useful for those who want to start ecommerce online stores. Shopify is one of the most preferred platform to create a functional online store. The post covers most of the aspects of Shopify including features, themes, pricing and pros and cons in an interesting manner. As official Shopify Experts, we strongly recommend Shopify for your online store.

Hello guys!How I can implement e-commerce site to my POS system.Please,if somebody got high professional skills,helps me.I want to know for sure what POS system devices I need to have to connect POS with my computer.I got this POSnew-york-pos.com/

Do NOT use Shopify. We set up and migrated from another platform and boy are we regretting it! They have ridiculous "safety" triggers that put payments on hold, their "risk" analysts are completely unresponsive, customer support says yes to everything but gets nothing done and they are destroying our business. We are losing customers left and right, have had customers literally tell us – we love your products – we hate your shopping portal. Shopify is a complete disaster.

Shopify is one of the most simple and easy to use platforms ever. It is perfect if you are starting your online store from scratch with little to no coding experience. Here is an very easy to follow beginner’s guide you should take a look http://bit.ly/howtosellonshopify

I tried Shopify and to be honest had a terrible experience with them. I tried and tested two premium themes both of which were not fit for purpose, they both had issues with menus resizing in iPad, support is useless for themes both developers couldn’t, really have cared less. I would advise using a different ecommerce platform. I purchased an app only to discover that the app was transferring my data out of shopify secure server to the apps own servers! There was not any mention of this in the App Store I only spotted it after checking url it was redirecting all my product data and variation to another server I have no idea where, how is this secure? After complaining with shopify guru (what a joke) I was told to maybe try a free theme and never mind basically don’t ask too many questions.

Shopify video tutorial for beginners on how to build handmade store using the free Brooklyn theme.

http://www.buildmyecommerce.com/shopify-tutorial-for-beginners-2015-q4/

This might be a new feature, but Shopify also offer a Buy-a-Button feature through which you can incorporate a ‘Buy’ button into your own web site, which links into the Shopify servers to take a payment, leaving you in control of your own site. Of course this is only of use to those who can create their own web sites using a suitable software package, or HTML. There is a lower. Monthly fee for this option, plus an item by item charge. In my case, I am only selling one product at the moment, and I have an IT background. It will not be the solution for everyone.

I’ve been using Shopify and I’m fully satisfied with this web builder. I’ve chosen it as website builder number one for ecommerce sites on WebBuildersGuide.com Yes, Shopify isn’t a budget solution for ecommerce but business always needs best solutions. None website builder can offer such variety of apps in App Store as Shopify. Also don’t forget about any limitations for number of products and categories.

really great in-depth post, I’m considering Shopify for my new site, so that definitely made few things clearer, thumbs up 🙂MaggieCherrie Hub

Great post. I agree with your Shopify positives. I recently launched my iPhone wallet case company jimmyCASE on Shopify and have been super please. I have limited coding experience, but have been able to add the features I need with help from blogs and Shopify support. The integration of apps (Justuno, Yotpo, Google Shopping) is easy. I have found it is worth it to spend $180 for a template to upgrade the look and functionality. I 100% recommend Shopify.

Dan Smithhttp://thejimmycase.com/

"Adding text to the home page in Spotify (at least in the ‘minimal’ template…"

Did you actually mean Spotify or do you agree that Shopify’s choice of name is one of the dumbest in startup history being so close to the music service?

Great blog post! thanks for sharing, this is very useful to me as I’m going to advise a client on which platform to choose. You write really well too.

Thanks for your review, i agree that there could be a few more free themes, and abit more transparency, but other wise its a good product

Thanks for your review. its nice one and helpful.one thing which I do not like is free themes available in themes store.We have more and better paid one though.Here is another review of Shopify from my blog : http://ravisinghblog.in/shopify-review-create-your-online-store-in-minutes

Hey guys – Mark form Shopify here. Thanks for your honest feedback. I will be passing this along to our Product Team. Good luck with your project, let us know if you need any help.