Site Review: What is Shopify?

Picture of smartphone with basic shopping items presented.

Shopify is an ecommerce platform that provides a one-stop-shop set of services for individuals or companies to create an online store.

What is Shopify?

Shopify is a service designed to provide everything needed to set up, manage, and promote your online store. Shopify includes a website, web hosting with unlimited bandwidth, shopping cart, ability to take payments either through Shopify’s services or external payment processing options, options for shipping services, inventory management option, and a fully-responsive mobile version of your website for customers using smartphones or tablets.

What we like:

  • Free 14-day trial
  • Integrates easily with several social media services, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr
  • Works for nearly any kind of shop category and doesn’t limit users to certain kinds of goods and services
  • Includes options for a blog and other content that attracts customers and improves search engine ranking
  • Mobile app makes it easy to manage your online store from anywhere

What we don’t like:

  • For someone who is completely new to the way websites are set-up and structured behind the scenes and hasn’t used a website-building service before, there could be a bit of a learning curve. Though the documentation and learning materials provided are easy to follow and user-friendly.
  • Any custom coding needed could be costly. Beyond the basic HTML and CSS, Shopify uses a unique programming language called Liquid. While Liquid is open source, its specific use for only Shopify limits the pool of programmers working with it so custom coding services might be costlier than more common coding options.
  • While their app store has lots of tools and features you can integrate into your Shopify, many of them have monthly fees that could add up quickly.

How is Shopify Different from Etsy or eBay?

Etsy and eBay are marketplace sites and don’t provide a separate website. Sellers get a shop or store front page with limited options to customize and promote their brand. The limitations are to keep consistency across the overall marketplace so shoppers recognize and are familiar with the site. Marketplace sites don’t allow for posting additional content such as blogs and in some cases, limit the types of items that can be sold through their service. For example, Etsy only allows vintage, handmade, and artisanal items and does not allow commercially manufactured products.

Many marketplace sites, such as eBay, have tons of fees and an often-confusing fee structure. Sellers on eBay pay a fee to list an item, an additional fee to add a written description, fees for eBay’s commission on every item sold, and transaction fees from payment processing services such as PayPal and credit card companies. As much as 13 to 15 percent of the sale goes to fees and commissions. Marketplace sites often limit customer reviews to rating the seller and might not allow customers to leave reviews of the actual products. Shopify allows customers to post reviews about individual products on your site.

Where marketplace sites like Etsy and eBay have the edge is they have a steady stream of customers who are already shoppers on their sites. They bring the customers in for sellers because they have name recognition and trust with consumers. With a separate website you have to actively promote your site and offerings to attract customers. However, Shopify includes tools and features to help you promote your site and depending on the type of items you sell, you may be able to also list your products on marketplace sites as well. Another consideration is with the number of sellers on marketplace sites, you could wind up competing against highly-rated sellers with demonstrated history on the site.

Shopify Competitors: Online Store Building Platforms

Separate from the marketplace discussion above, Shopify does have a few competitors when it comes to other services or platforms for building your online store. Let’s take a look at the top competitors and how they compare with Shopify:

  • Wix eCommerce and Weebly eCommerce: Wix and Weebly both offer ecommerce solutions that require zero coding and provide an easy drag-and-drop interface for the most non-technical of users. While these services focus on simplicity, they lose some of the more advanced (and very helpful) features offered by Shopify.
  • Magento and WooCommerce (with WordPress): Neither Magento or WooCommerce is intended or can serve as a one-stop-shop for building your online store. Both are open source offerings and require a higher degree of technical know-how, including setting up your own hosting service and custom coding (or hiring a developer to handle coding for you). While a very tech-savvy user might enjoy greater flexibility that comes with an open source solution, the average person would face a steep learning curve or hefty bill from a developer.
  • BigCommerce: Of the main competitors out there, BigCommerce is the most similar to Shopify in terms of providing a one-stop-shop, ability to add features from their respective app stores, being fairly user-friendly with 24/7 support, and similar pricing. Where Shopify gains the lead over BigCommerce is where they have more – more themes, more apps in their app store to add features and tools to run your business, and they have more experts for hire in their experts directory to help with everything from getting your store set up, customizing themes or designs, and best ways to market your business.

    Is Shopify Legit?

    Yes. They provide all of the services listed for each plan option, have all the proper security measures in place to protect both seller and customer information, and provide plenty of learning materials along with 24/7 support. Shopify has a robust app store of features and tools you can add on and over 100 website themes available at prices that range from free to around $200 (one-time fee). And if you don’t have a domain name (URL) for your website yet, you can purchase one through Shopify or use the myshopify.com domain name included with your monthly plan.

    How Much is Shopify?

    After the free 14-day trial, to continue with Shopify you’ll need to select one of their monthly service plans. The Basic Shopify plan is $29 per month; the Shopify plan is $79 per month; and the Advanced Shopify plan is $299 per month. You can also change your plan so your services grow along with your business. If you opt to include the Shopify POS services for in-person sales and payment processing, that is an additional monthly fee of $49. Shopify POS is an optional service that processes payments but also integrates the information from those offline sales with sales from your online store, keeping all of your sales tracking in one system.

    Successful Shopify Stores

    Shopify provides several examples of successful online stores using their platform. A few of note include Taylor Stitch, LEIF, Dodo Case, Tattly, and Pop Chart Lab.