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Shopify is well known for being one of the easiest to use all-in-one eCommerce website builders. It provides its customers with powerful tools that help to drive sales, increase conversion rates, find new customers, and make the overall day-to-day management of your online business easier.
Now powering over 800,000 websites, Shopify grows more popular day by day as more people achieve success for their business while using the platform. Even household brand names like Redbull, Penguin Books, the BBC, and lots more are choosing to run their eCommerce store with Shopify.
With so many people on the platform and huge brands using the site, we had to take a closer look at Shopify and find out why it’s so successful. We spent some time exploring the site, using the editor, and testing out the eCommerce features to pull together a detailed review outlining the pros and cons of building a website with Shopify. Read on to find out what we found and how it compares to rival competitors like BigCommerce.
If you don’t feel like reading the full review right now, no worries. You can save some time by skipping ahead to the bottom line to find out if Shopify is the right platform for you.
The Shopify platform is for anyone looking to build an eCommerce website without having to code or have advanced design and user experience skills. This makes it perfect for small businesses, beginners, and ambitious sellers.
However, it’s much more than that. Lots of website builders on the market have eCommerce solutions but specialist eCommerce builders like Shopify take it to the next level with advanced features that will enable you to sell more and make managing those sales a heck of a lot easier.
The main benefit of using a platform like Shopify is that everything you need to optimize your website for selling products has been done for you and is all in one place. From simple things like domain names and hosting, right through to website designs specifically optimized for high conversion rates will come as standard with a quality eCommerce website builder.
Big companies recognize the value in this and more and more established brands are choosing to use the platform every day. Shopify has designed a platform that can support businesses with hundreds of dollars in revenue, right through to businesses with millions of dollars in revenue.
This is great in terms of scalability as you won’t need to look for another service as your business grows, you can just start using more of the advanced features as your business needs it. And for established businesses, it offers a chance to streamline and reduce complexity without compromising on capability.
Finally, Shopify has ready-made templates for all types of industries with different style options so you can present your products the way you want to. They even have tailored designs for businesses with small or large inventories to help maximize conversion rates.
The fact that Shopify has everything you need to run an eCommerce business in one place makes it ideal for beginners as you won’t need to waste time finding additional plugins and waiting for developers to update your site because it’s already been done.
There are some drag and drop capabilities within the editor but it is limited if you’re comparing to something like the Wix editor that allows you to drag and drop everything you see on the page.
Shopify has gone for a different approach which actually benefits beginners because its harder to stray from the professional designs that have already been created for Shopify customers. However, it could frustrate more advanced users who want more creative freedom and the ability to customize everything.
You can drag and drop pages or content blocks from within the editor sidebar to rearrange where something is on the page. It has a neat feature of zooming out when you are moving something so you can see where it’s moving to and how it sits within the other elements a lot better.
But there is no on-page drag and drop capability with the Shopify editor and you can’t rearrange the elements within a content block without accessing the CSS and HTML scripts.
Getting started with Shopify is really easy and straightforward.
It’s really that simple and from there you can start to explore the dashboard and begin to set up your online store.
The home dashboard is filled with a checklist of things you need to do to get up and running as well as a short onboarding video that introduces you to the Shopify Academy. This is a series of ‘how-to’ videos that tell you how to do everything from designing your store, registering a domain, and launch strategies. This is a really helpful feature, especially for those that might be using a website builder for the first time.
Shopify’s editor can best be described as simple but effective. Like other dedicated eCommerce platforms, Shopify’s strengths lie in advanced eCommerce features, and with energy-focused there, this has meant that the editor only has basic capabilities for beginner users.
There are 70 premium and free templates for you to choose from and customize which all come with over 250 fonts for you to use on your site.
You can also access the HTML & CSS files to customize everything but for most people using the platform, this is unattainable without hiring an expert. However, it’s clear from looking at some example websites that you can still build a stunning website with the Shopify platform.
A great feature that stood out was the ability to use Hex codes for precise color editing. This is ideal if you want to match your brand colors across your website.
There is a preview mode for desktop, tablet, and mobile views so that you can make sure your website looks good on all screen sizes.
It’s really simple to upload your own images into a gallery or image block and you can even use the free professional stock images provided to get you started.
You can also include Favicon images which are small 32×32 pixel images that appear on the page tabs or URL bars of internet browsers. It’s another chance to expose potential customers to your branding and it’s made simple with Shopify.
The whole platform is set up to optimize eCommerce performance. Shopify has created its own built-in features and integrated third-party tools to make boosting your sales and managing your business easier.
The Shopify app store lists over 4000 applications to offer even more flexibility to your website. This much choice enables you to create advanced features on your website with just a few clicks. It’s made to be easy, so, if you know how to install an app on your computer or phone, you’ll know how to install an app onto your Shopify website. There are some free applications but also a lot of paid ones too, so just bear in mind that improving your site’s features may come at a premium.
You can create exciting and helpful content to attract more traffic to your site using Shopify’s built-in blog and use the SEO tools to optimize the content so you can rank higher on the search engine ranking pages, bringing even more traffic to your online store.
The email marketing feature on Shopify enables you to create well-designed emails with ready-made templates and create a business email address to help avoid spam filters. If you already have a customer list you can import them onto the Shopify platform and then segment emails so you’re only sending relevant content to the people that want to hear it.
Shopify has teamed up with Google Smart Shopping so that you can easily expand your audience and make sales on another platform while still managing and tracking everything from your Shopify dashboard.
There are not many negatives to talk about but something we did notice was that if you want to create a multi-language store you will have to use expensive apps of expensive templates that are pretty limited in their functionality. This might not be a problem if you only plan to sell within the US and English speaking countries, however, this puts a large price tag of scaling up to a global store.
There are lots more features and tools available on the Shopify platform and if you want to find out more head over to the Sell, Market, or Manage pages.
SEO is vital for the long term success of any online business and that’s why we conduct our own SEO audit for every website builder we review so that you know the pros and cons of using each platform on our comparison website.
Shopify is the best website builder we have looked at in terms of SEO and is a great choice for anyone wanting to rank well on the search engine ranking pages (SERPs).
The two highlights are the page speed and the code editor. Page speed is important because Google considers it as a direct ranking factor and will rank faster websites higher than slower sites. Shopify scored really well on the speed test, especially for an eCommerce site which tend to be slower because of additional scripts for advanced analytics and security. It was much faster than its rival competitor BigCommerce.
The code editor lets you customize almost anything you want so you or an SEO expert can optimize your site further to boost SEO performance.
The platform supports the ability to edit titles and meta-descriptions, it optimizes images to reduce the image weight and scale for faster loading times and automatically creates friendly URLs that you can edit further if you would like to.
The Shopify app store also has apps to help you improve SEO. For example, there are rich snippet apps to create snippets of information for search engines to include in the results pages, helping your page to stand out from the crowd.
In summary, we can’t fault Shopify’s SEO performance. We recommend it as one of the best choices out there in terms of SEO.
Setting up a store is really simple, by the time you’ve finished signing up you’ll be taken to a dashboard with a standard template loaded up and from there it’s down to you to select a template that suits you and complete the other onboarding steps like listing products, connecting a payment gateway and creating your custom domain.
Shopify offers 70 free and premium store templates for a range of industries such as health & beauty, electronics, food & drink, and much more. So there are options for whatever your industry.
There are also template categories for small inventory and large inventory sites that are optimized for showcasing the two different kinds of offer.
Within each of the templates, there are six styles to choose from which have been tailored to different kinds of businesses. Some are set up to focus on showcasing featured products and collections whereas others are designed to scale startups into successful online stores.
So even though other platforms offer more templates, Shopify offers the chance to adapt the style of each template for further customization.
Shopify hasn’t developed its own bookings and reservations system, however, if this is vital to your business there are plenty of solutions on the app store.
We checked some of them out and at least 7 out of the 15 appointment booking apps have a free plan with lots of the others having a free trial as well.
However, the free plans on some of the apps are limited to taking bookings for one person, so, if you have a team of people that need to take bookings you will need to upgrade to a paid plan.
There are a number of different ways for you to accept payment on the platform. The simplest way is to use Shopify Payments because you are automatically set up to accept all major credit cards the moment you go live with your store and it comes with a 0.00% transaction fee.
Alternatively, you can use one of 100 third party payment providers which might offer different benefits than Shopify Payments. For example, with payment providers like Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, or Google Pay you can include accelerated checkout buttons on your Shopify checkout page for easier and faster payments for your customers. However, you should know that Shopify charges a 2% transaction fee every time your customer makes a purchase using a third-party provider.
Unfortunately, the fees don’t stop there on Shopify and it gets its reputation as an expensive option for a reason. Regardless of your subscription, you will be charged online credit card fees. They reduce slightly with the more premium subscriptions, however, they still work out as expensive, especially when other platforms don’t charge anything.
To give you an example if you sign up for the Basic Shopify subscription you will be charged 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. If a customer also purchases your product using a third-party processor this will add another 2% on top. So, you will be paying out 4.9% +$0.30 on every transaction to Shopify, plus whatever the payment processor charges you. This can add up quickly and is probably the biggest downside to the platform.
Shopify offers a 14-day free trial which allows you to test out some of the features before committing to a monthly paid plan.
You can add products to make sure they are displayed correctly on your store, set up with a payment provider, and test out different themes to get the right look for your business.
You can’t make any sales within the trial period so you’ll need to commit to one of the monthly plans to start selling your products.
During the coronavirus crisis, Shopify is offering a 90-day free trial to help get merchants up and running.
Some of you will already know you’ll need a premium plan, so what is it going to cost with Shopify?
There are three tiers of monthly subscriptions, Basic Shopify, Shopify, and Advanced Shopify.
The entry-level plan, Basic Shopify, starts off at $29 a month and includes an online store and blog with unlimited product listings, 2 staff accounts, and the ability to list products in up to 4 other locations.
Under the ‘Learn’ tab on the menu navigation bar, you will find support in a variety of forms. There is a help center, blog, guides, community forum, free tools, podcasts, and a business encyclopedia. Information within these sections should help you overcome some common problems and learn more about the platform and how to run a successful eCommerce business.
If you want to speak to someone directly about any issues you might have you can get in touch via the 24/7 chat service, twitter, email, or by phone. So, even if you’re pulling an all-nighter and you run into some technical issue, there will always be someone to help you fix the problem.
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Use our ecommerce blueprint to set up your online store the right way and to understand how to build a profitable ecommerce website. You can find out exactly how to create an ecommerce website from start to finish right here.
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