When I came on board at our e-commerce business, one of my first tasks was to migrate our eCommerce platform from Magento to Shopify, with the goal of being able to manage all of our e-commerce requirements in house. Magento, while functionally powerful, was going to require a fair bit of outsourced support to keep running and achieve the high-end brand image that I was seeking for our e-commerce business.
Shopify’s target market is small independent brands like our e-commerce business and larger companies looking for a quick and easy e-commerce solution that takes away the pain of custom development and shopping cart management.
I have been using Shopify hands on for a little over two years now and, overall, I like it. I’m a brand guy at heart and I love the way Shopify takes it all the technical issues off the table so that I can focus on photography messaging and the little details that make the site sing. But it’s not without its issues. Below I cover the pros and cons of Shopify – the good stuff first, and then the things that really bug me!
What I like about Shopify
Speed to launch
Shopify makes it easy for even a web novice to launch a professional e-commerce presence in a matter of days or even hours. The user interface and architecture of the product is intuitive, allowing a small business owner to effectively manage his/her online store without expensive development help. Despite being completely newbie, I got our first site up by myself in about a week and subsequent versions have been even quicker.
Shopify has a wide selection great looking themes, allowing you to put together a very professional looking site without hiring expensive designers. Premium themes by third-party developers will run you $150 or more, however, Shopify also has a growing number of beautiful, free themes available. Note that creating a well-branded site will still depend on having high-quality photography and visual assets in place. But if you do, you’ll find that Shopify’s themes present them in an ideal light.
Payment Gateways Support
Whether you’re simply selling locally or looking to take your business to international markets, Shopify takes the pain and confusion of setting up payment options for multiple currencies in multiple countries off the table. You can literally just enter your banking information into Shopify and begin selling in whichever market you are targeting
Market adoption and development community
Shopify is clobbering the competition when it comes to hosted e-commerce solutions. In addition, Shopify had a successful IPO two years ago, meaning it is well funded to tackle competition. When committing to a software platform, it’s good to know that yours is likely to be around for a while.
Shopify’s dominance in the entry-level e-commerce space has given birth to a vibrant community of 3rd party developers who create apps that enhance Shopify’s out of the box functionality. If there’s something you’re looking to do with your store, chances are someone has developed an app to accomplish it. While these will add to your monthly fees, the large pool of contributors ensures competition meaning most are reasonable and priced according to the value they deliver.
Excellent customer support and product investment
Shopify’s deep coffers have allowed it to invest heavily in product development and excellent customer service. New features are constantly being added and if you ever have an issue, a helpful “guru” is just a phone call or chat screen away. I’ve found their customer service to be consistently excellent.
What really bugs me about Shopify
Limited Shipping cost models
Since it was designed primarily to meet the needs of single orders for small businesses, Shopify does not do well with complex orders, such as those made by wholesalers. For instance, if you are looking to calculate the real time cost of shipping for an order that involves multiple boxes and product sizes, forget it. We currently pay over $100/month to a third party app developer – this is more than Shopify charges us for its entire platform, more than doubling our monthly base costs.
Limited Discount models
Another frequent complaint about Shopify is its ability to handle complex discount models. Currently, Shopify only allows you to offer one simple discount code per order – a dollar or percentage amount off. Any other upsell scenarios, such as a buy one get one free offer, involves purchasing a premium app. This essentially hacks Shopify into creating multiple variants of a product at different prices, which in turn can mess with internal systems such as our inventory system. Because of this, our e-commerce business has been limited to offering only the most basic of discount models.
Requirements for multiple instances/ storefronts
If you have more than one warehouse and set of inventory to manage, as we do, you will need more than one Shopify site. So Young actually has four sites -one for our US retail, one for our US wholesale one for Canadian retail and one for Canadian wholesale- which makes our web presence cumbersome to update and manage.
Limited options for customizing site architecture
Shopify’s ease of use is largely due to the restrictions it imposes on site architecture and.customizability. While anything is possible with the help of the developers, this means incurring additional costs and opening yourself up to further complications by messing with the core code. In the end, Shopify does many things well enough that you may find its limitations are bearable, but sometimes I just want to add a sidebar promotion to a specific page, rather than the whole site – which is a no-go.
Shopify does have a vibrant community of developers and experts that can help you achieve nearly any goal you would like to with your Shopify site. However, since Shopify employs a proprietary code language, Shopify experts will typically cost you more than a WordPress or HTML developer. In addition, messing with Shopify’s code breaks the software’s warranty, so any future problems you run into may be even costlier still. Also, alterations may limit your ability to use third-party apps that depend on Shopify’s out of the box code base.
Fees & Payments
When you are first looking at the Shopify, you’ll primarily be concerned with the monthly service charge. However, once you start selling in significant volume on your store, the transaction fees really start to add up. – typically as high as 3% of your order. This calculation is not so much of a factor if you’re selling say $100,000 in product a year, however at $1,000,000 the calculation changes, and you may start looking for cheaper options. On the other hand, you will always be paying some level of transaction fees, so if you’re looking to save a percentage point, you would have to be selling a significant volume for it to represent a substantial difference.
Shopify has raised it credit card fees in the past and while our sites were grandfathered, when we needed to change the service level on one of our sites (ie. pay them more per month), we lost our grandfathered credit card rate and got bumped up!
There is also a delay of 7 calendar days (In Canada) between the date that an order is paid and the date that the money is deposited into your bank account. Other territories may have a different payment delay.
Shopify is a very strong content marketer itself, and they are constantly promoting the benefits of this approach on their own blog, but its product does a lousy job of supporting content marketing. After becoming frustrated with Shopify’s blogging capabilities We set up a separate blog on WordPress, but it’s poorly integrated with our storefront and represents yet another platform for us to manage.
Conclusion: The Pros and Cons of Shopify
Despite some of my pet peeves with Shopify, it is the system I recommend to anyone launching an e-commerce store, and I believe it is the leading solution on the market today for small to medium sized business. No software is perfect for everyone and I guess I just have to take my lumps with Shopify like nearly every other system we run. Do you have a question or experience regarding Shopify that you’d like to share? Leave a comment below!