As a complete, all in one, hosted eCommerce solution, Shopify has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years due to many factors. The inexpensive pricing plans relative to the end product, which can be a highly functional, professional looking storefront, make Shopify a great choice for business owners, whether they be complete beginners or larger organizations.
With Shopify, there is no need to install a separate CMS (content management system) or purchase a domain name from a third party source. Because it is a hosted eCommerce solution, domain and web hosting can be purchased through the Shopify platform. Shopify provides an easy to use dashboard which allows the business owner to manage all aspects of its internal and external operations.
Shopify’s setup process is very straightforward and user-friendly. One could literally create their digital storefront in under an hour. That being said, in terms of the migration from brick and mortar to digital, you’ll still need to set aside plenty of time organizing the front and back end aspects of your online business.
One benefit of Shopify is that, relative to other platforms, such as WordPress or Magento, you don’t need any programming experience with regards to the long-term maintenance and operations of the website because it is a hosted eCommerce solution. This is all taken care of by the Shopify team as well as the developers of whichever theme or plugin you’re using for your store.
The first order of business when building your Shopify online store, which applies to every other eCommerce platform, is choosing a theme. Shopify provides a wide range of themes that are either free or paid. This allows the store owner to customize the aesthetics as well as backend operations of his or her website. However, it is important to remember that store owners can go the route of custom design. There are many web development firms that, for a relatively higher price, can create a custom website specifically tailored to your individual business needs. Many business owners, especially those new to business in general, opt to go for the free themes. However, for those transitioning from a current brick and mortar business to an online platform, it’s recommended to go with a paid theme – no matter what platform you’re using. The reason being is that the costs are negligible relative to the expenses a business accrues in its ongoing operations. The benefits of a paid theme include, but are not limited to, additional functionality, ongoing development support, and, usually, a more appealing design aesthetic which the consumer will subconsciously take into account when discerning the overall credibility of your website.
Shopify’s website has an extensive catalog of user guides and tutorials. Also, due to its popularity, there are thousands of hours of YouTube video tutorials that range from complete store setups to troubleshooting and advisement of specific queries. It’s safe to say that, currently, there are more YouTube video tutorials related to Shopify setup and functionality than any other eCommerce platform out there.
Within your store’s dashboard, you’ll find all of the tools necessary for adding products, managing inventory, taxes, shipping, customer data, and store analytics. Shopify also provides an integrated blogging capability where content is easily created and posted on your store’s blog page.
Features and Functionality
The Shopify platform is a self-contained, hosted eCommerce solution that provides all of the essential functionality a business needs to get started. There are, however, many additional applications available, either free or paid, that can greatly help streamline your operations, integrate social media accounts, boost sales, and connect with third-party manufacturers, such as Print On Demand (POD) or drop shipping providers, just to name a few. Right out of the box, Shopify allows the user to create products, apply shipping and tax specifications, manage inventory, and view a wide range of analytical metrics.
With over 1,400 apps available within their App Store, Shopify provides users with a huge amount of options. As mentioned previously, the Shopify platform provides the ability to get started right out of the box. However, for a business transitioning their store into the digital world, keep in mind the fact that you’ll definitely want to add additional applications to your store to increase productivity and functionality. Some of the other eCommerce platforms, such as BigCommerce, have a more limited offering of third-party apps. However, they make up for it by providing additional functionality within the platform itself, thus eliminating the need of, in the case of Shopify, such a large array of third-party apps.
Shopify is known for being a platform that caters to those who aren’t especially tech-savvy. The platform is a hosted eCommerce solution, which means you don’t have to worry about the various issues, tech bugs, and security concerns that may occur with self-hosting platforms. Due to Shopify’s hosting platform, users will tend to experience page load speeds that are both quicker and more secure than attempting to tackle these issues on your own by employing third-party hosting servers. Quicker page load speeds translate into higher sales conversions and lower page drop-off rates; all positives of running an eCommerce store.
Shopify subscribers enjoy 24/7 tech support by either phone or email. This added benefit could come in handy when running a business whose doors are open for business 24/7/365.
Shopify allows users the ability to process orders manually and automatically. For many business owners, it’s preferable to process orders manually so the address inputs, as well as inventory management, are likely to align with your operations in a smooth manner. Businesses with a relatively small number of daily to weekly orders are better suited for manual fulfillment. Additional integrations, such as automatic email receipts to customers or invoice slips to record and alert the business owner of sales are easily configured with a manual order system. Automatic order processing is also available on the Shopify dashboard. Configuration is relatively simple; many Shopify store owners use third-party apps to configure automatic shipping. Store owners who have adopted the drop shipping business model, which has become distinctly popular with the Shopify user base, have migrated to an automatic order processing system. For example, Shopify store owners who use the Oberlo app, available in the app store, have the ability to upload CSV files with their daily orders directly to their manufactures, saving much time. Whatever your shipping and processing needs, Shopify makes the process as smooth as possible.
SEO (search engine optimization)
The Shopify platform comes with a variety of features which makes it a good hosted eCommerce solution for SEO. Once a user completes setup, Shopify will create an XML sitemap, which will notify search engines on an ongoing basis whenever additional products and blog posts appear on your site. Shopify allows users to customize the usual aspects of their on-page SEO, including page titles, descriptions, headings, alt text, and 301 redirects. While URL customization is possible, Shopify includes the additional terms “/products/” or “/collections/.” Unfortunately, there is no way around this URL page structure.
Shopify also does not allow users to modify robots.txt, more formally known as the robots exclusion standard. In certain circumstances, a website owner may want to exclude certain pages of a website from “web crawler” robots that facilitate the mapping of a site’s pages. The lack of this modification is a drawback for larger, more complex sites looking for a more detailed flexibility.
Similar to the other platforms, users are also given the ability to integrate with Google Analytics as well as install a Facebook Pixel ID, which is beneficial for analyzing traffic data sourced from Facebook advertising campaigns.
The integration of Shopify with additional sales channels has been getting much more streamlined lately. For example, Shopify recently teamed with the largest online retailer, Amazon, to facilitate a sales channel which allows users of Shopify to upload product listings to their plugins, allowing you to use multichannel integration to sell your products directly on Shopify. In addition to Amazon, the app store offers the ability to integrate with eBay and Etsy, syncing any sales from those channels with your store’s back-end analytics. The Shopify app store provides a host of useful integrations. Beetailer, for example, provides a simple interface to sell your products on your Facebook page with a Pinterest-like user interface.
Pricing and Payments
Like most hosted eCommerce solutions, Shopify offers various payment methods, depending on the size and budget of your store. You can also purchase a domain name through Shopify for $9 per URL. The main drawback in Shopify’s pricing is that they charge transaction fees. However, these fees can be waived if you sign up for Shopify Payments. On a positive note, unlike Volusion, for example, Shopify gives you the ability to add unlimited products to your store, regardless of the plan.
Shopify Lite – The most basic plan, starting at $9 per month. Your selling options are limited to a buy button, the ability to sell on Facebook, and the processing of credit card payments.
The Basic Shopify Plan – $29 per month. This upgrade allows users to upload an unlimited amount of products, discount code functionality, and fraud analysis tools. Additional upgrades include an SSL certificate, 24/7 support, blogging capabilities, and manual order creation. Credit card rates run at 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction.
The Shopify Plan – At $79 per month, this is the most popular plan among business owners. In addition to all the benefits of the Basic Plan, subscribers receive 2.6% credit card rates + 30 cents per transaction, abandoned cart recovery, and detailed reporting.
The Shopify Advanced Plan – The highest-level plan at $299 per month. In addition to the previous plan features, you receive a lower credit card rate of 2.4%. You also have third-party calculated shipping rates, unlimited storage, and an abandoned cart recovery package. Business owners can share their dashboard analytics with up to 15 users; perfect for a large company whose internal reporting needs to be shared among team members.
The Shopify Plus Plan – This option is tailored for large organizations and is highly customizable. The fee is $2,000 per month. Contact a Shopify representative for additional information and how they can tailor the platform to your business.
Keep in mind that all the above pricing and respective functionality does not include the various monthly or yearly pricing on third-party applications. So be ready to have an additional monthly outlay for your apps. However, it is important to remember that these are simply the costs of doing business and, relative to a brick and mortar operation, are very minuscule.
As a hosted eCommerce solution, Shopify allows its users to not only easily set up their store but it also allows them to get their eCommerce business started without worrying about all of the technical barriers that come with a self-hosted platform. At 1Digital Agency, we are a team of web designers and developers committed to helping you create an online store that will rank high and get noticed for optimal results. If you’re looking to set up your own hosted eCommerce Shopify platform, or if you need help deciding which platform works best for you, contact us today or check out our website to see what we, as Shopify experts, can do for you!
- Dan Kogan
- December 27, 2017