eCommerce for Beginners: Shopify

 

(part three)

I’ve officially taken BigCommerce (part 1) and Volusion (part 2) out for a test drive, now it’s time to try Shopify! I’ve heard excellent things about this platform. Hopefully, my combined experiences with BigCommerce and Volusion will make setting up in Shopify a walk in the park.

Round three… Let’s begin!

Initial Setup

I was immediately drawn to Shopify’s initial setup.

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I like their graphics, I like their colors. They look like they’re trying hard, but not too hard, to make you realize setting up a store can be fun. Obviously, it’s tedious, and can be stressful, especially if it is your own business, but overall it’s not a bad time. At least, that’s the impression I get with the initial setup.


The way you go about getting your free trial, or your actual eCommerce store, started is very similar to Volusion and BigCommerce. You input general information, such as name/email/etc. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, at this point. And then you’re taken to the screen shown above.

 

Alright, let’s dive in to Shopify…

 

User Friendly

As I’ll mention in my “customization” section, there was a particular edit theme feature that I thought made customizing incredibly user friendly. Adding products was also pretty painless. Everything was available on one page: naming the product, uploading a picture of it, product description, weight, is this item taxable etc. Obviously, if you have all your products in a CSV file that’s the best way to bulk upload, just as it is with BigCommerce and Volusion.
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There was one issue I had that actually ended up unresolved. If you’ve been following my series, you must know by now I’m consistently trying to open up bookstores on all these platforms. Bookstores have a LOT of categories, which isn’t always a bad thing! After a bit of research, and a conversation with a live chat agent (which I’ll get into in a later section) I realized that with my certain restrictions, what I needed to accomplish couldn’t be done without additional help.

 

An important note to keep in the back of your head… All these platforms that I have been testing, although very functional and advanced, don’t always do everything you need them to right out of the the gate. If you need to add functionality that the platform lacks you can hire one of their partners, which they have listed on their site.

 

To summarize my issue, I needed a parent category, which would have a couple of subcategories, and then sub subcategories. So, “Books” is the parent category, then “Subjects” would be listed under books, and under “Subjects” would be actual subjects like “biography” or “fiction”. As I mentioned, I did end up speaking with a live agent who was incredibly helpful and offered me some possible solutions with my problem.

 

Despite my roadblock, I think Shopify is intuitive and user friendly. It doesn’t hold your hand quite as much BigCommerce does, and it doesn’t assume knowledge like Volusion. It’s an easy to navigate interface, that walks you through what basics you need to get done.

 

Design

3Their free themes are super professional looking. I also like how you’re automatically shown free themes, and not presented with stuff you have to pay for. For you to see themes that aren’t free, you have to click the little button off to the side. That way you don’t fall in love with something you may not have the budget for just yet.

 

Another added bonus to the design of their themes is the fact that they’re all responsive! They have little buttons for you to click to see how your site would be viewed on a mobile device, or a tablet. And you can see all these things before even committing one to your store!

For those who are curious, this is what my store looks like:

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Customization

Shopify has a lot to offer with customization. I was really impressed with this theme editor. There’s a lot going on, but that’s what makes it so awesome! (Feel free to click the image to get a bigger view.)

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First thing I want to address is the bottom left corner. There, you can check in real time what your eCommerce store will look like responsively on tablets and mobile devices. Now, we can move on to the right hand side of the page where the customization menu is.

 

“Presets” is awesome. You can customize your theme anyway you like, using the tools available to you, and then SAVE all the customizations you did as a preset. That way, if you want to experiment, you’ll have a backup of your customizations loaded if you do change something and you don’t particularly like it.

 

Ultimately, there’s a lot of small customization stuff that you can do from this page that makes a big difference. You can edit fonts, colors, how you want certain things to be displayed, what your carousel of images are, etc. There’s just a lot! It’s also very convenient to be able to accomplish so much from one area.

 

Shipping & Payment

 

By now, some of these features appear pretty run of the mill for me. Shipping and payment was no different. It was automatically set up to ship in the US, which makes sense considering I provided a US address as my point of business.

 

A small tidbit of what I found to be extra in the Shopify shipping world was being able to determine how you want to weigh your products. In BigCommerce, it was ounces. In Volusion, it was pounds. In Shopify, you get to choose! Imagine having all of your products weights listed as kilograms and having to convert it to ounces. That’s a mess you can safely avoid with Shopify.
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And I know this isn’t technically “shipping”, but you can make products downloadable as well. Shopify partnered with Fetch to make this functionality possible. It’s a commonly used app with a seamless integration that has great reviews. So, no need to fret if you want to sell eBooks, or PDFs, or Webinars, or other miscellaneous downloadable items.

 

As for payments, Shopify has their own payment system which accepts credit cards. It’s also integrated with PayPal so your customers can check out using that too. There’s additional payment methods you can incorporate if you’re interested, like Amazon Payments or Bitcoin.

 

Additional

7Getting in contact with their customer support isn’t difficult, but it did take a while. Again, I did a live chat like I did with Volusion and BigCommerce. The beauty of their chat, even though it took a while, is that it gives you a heads up it’s going to take a while. 

It tells you how far down the line you are in the queue, and updates you when you move further. Despite my wait time, which in reality wasn’t that long, I would argue that once I got to talk to a Shopify agent I had the most pleasant experience with them compared to Volusion or BigCommerce. The added touch was the personability. It’s very easy to be in a live chat and have the exchange of information come across robotic. I like that on top of being very helpful and supplemental with information, they took the time to talk like an actual human.

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click to see full size

I read it with specific inflections, and it felt very comfortable. Again, this is just from a live chat perspective. I haven’t communicated with BigCommerce, Volusion, or Shopify via email or phone call, so I’m definitely not 100% well rounded in customer support experience.

 

Shopify also has capability for a built in blog like BigCommerce. Having a blog linked directly with your website is an excellent way to keep your customers updated with what you have to offer, and to boost your SEO as well.

 

Another customizable feature that I particularly enjoyed was being able to customize the email templates that are sent to your customers when they do certain things on your site. You can customize exactly what they see. You can make certain emails automatically send when customers do specific things like purchase an item or give them a shipping update. Now, I’ll be honest… I didn’t do much research in regards to this capability with BigCommerce or Volusion. But I did find it on Shopify’s backend very easily, and therefore I’ll make the argument that this is a fun special feature!

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Overall Opinion

I actually thoroughly enjoyed my time with Shopify. I think they have a very friendly user interface that makes it intuitive for what steps you need to take. For some reason, I’m inclined to say that Shopify is my favorite platform I’ve used so far. That being said, I’m sure there’s different factors as to why.

 

I’m a very visual person. I learn by watching how something is done. I’m more inclined to watch if I like what I’m looking at, and I like what I’m looking at. As I stated at the beginning of the article, Shopify just looks nice. I also have a soft spot for their themes. They’re modern, they’re clean, they’re responsive. Out of the three platforms I’ve taken for a test drive so far, their free themes are my favorites. However, that’s an opinion, and what my taste is could be completely different than you own.

 

Shopify also has a lot of app integrations to help get your store to where you want it to be. The cost can creep up on you if you start integrating apps without keeping cost in the back of your head. Either way, it might just be worth it!

 

If you’re looking at Shopify to be the platform for you and need some help – don’t fret. 1Digital Agency is your one stop shop for all things Shopify. Whether it’s custom development, custom design, or anything else you can think of, 1Digital Agency is here to help you. Reach out to them via email at info@1digitalagency.com or give them a toll free call at 888-982-8269.