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Tools We Love: Shopify

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Shopify is a cloud-based e-commerce software that makes it simple for entrepreneurs to set up and manage online businesses. It is the world’s leading all-in-one SaaS eCommerce platform that lets you start, grow, and manage your virtual store. It powers over 1 million merchants and has generated over $155 billion in sales since it was launched in 2006.

Shopify is most known for its packed and flexible eCommerce website solutions. It allows merchants to create online stores that seamlessly link with many social media platforms. Merchants could post items for sale, create a shopping cart, fulfil orders, and accept payments.

Housing more than one million eCommerce solutions from 190 countries, Shopify’s yearly revenue rose to above $1.57 billion in 2019, over 47% from the last major milestone noted in 2018.

In this article, we will discuss what makes Shopify the preferred eCommerce solution for these businesses, as well as what the company could improve upon to reach an even bigger audience.

Is Shopify great for beginners? Is Shopify good for low-income startups? How feature-rich is Shopify?

By the end of this detailed review, you should be able to answer all those questions and more. Because my goal isn’t to just deliver an in-depth Shopify review: I hope to help you decide whether this eCommerce platform is precisely suitable for you, your business and most importantly, your precious buyers.

Starting a Shopify Business

starting-shopify-for-a-business

You have an idea for a new business, and you’re looking for a platform to start. Or, you’re taking your existing business and moving it to a platform like Shopify, where it can grow. If that’s the case, then Shopify is all you need.

Unlike other SaaS like WordPress, which is a bit complex, and even Squarespace, which is approachable and relatively quite inflexible, Shopify is created for shopping. I’m sure you could tell from the name? Moreover, it’s built for merchants who aren’t looking to develop their eCommerce store from scratch.

With the first few steps of starting your business with Shopify, you’ll have plenty of fun. You can even begin before you’ve come up with your brand name with Shopify’s Business Name Generator. You likely won’t find one that hits the nail on the head because the AI that puts these business names together for you hasn’t been improved in a long time, but you’ll get tons of ideas you could revamp to come up with something catchy.

Shopify also has an incredible logo maker tool that you can use to build your first simple logo from scratch or create using a template. If you’re planning to house your entire business with Shopify, you might just as well make your logo there. That’s why I called in an all-in-one SaaS eCommerce solution.

It’s more important to decide what you’re selling than your company’s name or logo. Because you must create a unified look across your store and your advertising channels, this is the first step you should take.

Shopify has many third-party marketing apps and built-in SEO tools you could leverage to help get your brand noticed. I recommend going with the best-reviewed, most popular apps, but feel free to browse around. Again, this depends on what is best for your business. You may just discover an up-and-coming option that puts you ahead simply because you’re not doing what everyone else is doing.

More nice-to-haves Shopify comes with are

shopify-features
  • You can directly get a custom URL or import one you already own through your Shopify account.
  • Browse both free and paid stock images to design your store with
  • Create a unique store.

Regardless of whether you have inventory, you can open a store. Shopify users are more likely to pursue the dropshipping business model than any other shopping option. Using Shopify’s partnership with the dropshipping company Oberlo, you can select which products you want to sell.

The customer pays you the retail price at the point of their purchase, you take the money and buy the products at wholesale, and the dropshipper does all the packaging and shipping directly to the customer. You do now even have to handle the product yourself.

But whether you’re selling your products directly from your warehouse or using Shopify for dropshipping, you can choose your store theme based on various templates (some free themes, most are paid Shopify themes). You’ll customise your products to your heart’s content, including adding descriptions (Shopify has apps for that, too, just in case you hit the creative block). And add whatever else you might want, like an “About Us,” Privacy Policy”, etc.

Then you’re good to go. I think, all told, you could roll out a functioning store in less than a day, no kidding!

Using Shopify: Using and Customizing Themes

Shopify’s themes are professionally designed and look clean, stylish, and appealing. Each one also comes in various styles and colour schemes, so you can always find the right tone for your brand.

You can browse themes by industry, from art and photography to electronics, furniture, and beyond. You can also view by popularity, price, or collection, such as “minimalist,” “fun and lively,” or “great for small inventories.”

The best part is that Shopify’s themes come packed with great features. All themes include: 

  • Customisable content sections on the home page
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • Drop-down navigation support
  • Free theme updates
  • Mobile-friendly design
  • Social media icons
  • Built-in styles and colour palettes
  • Free stock photos by Burst

Each theme also comes with its own specific features. We highly recommend looking at these, as it’s a great way of deciding whether a theme is suitable for you.

These features come with the premium theme called Context, a sleek and clean theme that comes in three different styles. Look out for features you need, such as product quick view or live search. You can add additional apps, but choosing a theme with your favourite features built-in makes your life more accessible from day one on your Shopify journey!

It is noteworthy that specific themes come with multiple language options, meaning you can easily switch to a different language. Not all themes provide this, so check before you choose. The languages currently available are: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Brazilian Portuguese.

Shopify’s themes may look great already, but you’ll want to make yours your own. You’ll need to customise your theme by adding your products, rewriting text, replacing images, and creating new pages.

ALSO READ: SHOPIFY VS. SQUARESPACE

Theme customisation happens in two places: visual customisation takes place through the editing interface, while edits to your products are managed in your dashboard.

Think of it like fixing up a car. The outside is where you paint, wash, smooth, buff, and polish to make it look beautiful. The engine is where you tinker, replace parts and get hands-on with tools to ensure the car is powerful and runs smoothly.

The editing interface of your Shopify store is where you look after your store’s design. Here, you align your images, edit text, and feature your logo. The dashboard is where you add products, create discount codes, manage shipping, etc. This is also where you can change your theme if you want to redesign your storefront.

We recommend you start by adding products and then style your storefront. Because Shopify is a store builder, its themes naturally revolve around products – so it can be challenging to design your page without any products to feature!

Using Shopify: Cost, Plans and Pricing

shopify-various-palns-and-pricing

Shopify has several plans, so you can choose one that best suits your needs and budget.

First of all, Shopify provides a 14-day free trial – you don’t need to enter any payment details, so there’s no risk and no pressure to sign up. You’ll just need an email, and you can test out Shopify cost-free for two weeks.

Shopify Pricing Summary

Shopify Lite

$9 per month – lets you add eCommerce to a Facebook page or existing website. 2% transaction fee, unless you use Shopify Payments.

Basic Shopify

$29 per month – cheapest plan to build your store; provides all the essentials for a new online store. 2% transaction fee, unless you use Shopify Payments.

Shopify

$79 per month – for growing businesses; includes features such as gift card creation. 1% transaction fee, unless you use Shopify Payments.

Advanced Shopify

$299 per month – for big businesses wanting to scale up; includes advanced reports and third-party calculated shipping rates. 0.5% transaction fee, unless you use Shopify Payments.

Shopify Plus

Custom pricing – for large-scale, enterprise-level businesses with huge budgets. No set pricing – instead, you request a custom quote.

Shopify’s three main plans are Basic Shopify, Shopify, and Advanced Shopify. These sit at the core of Shopify’s offer and provide unlimited products, abandoned cart recovery, discount code creation, and multichannel integration.

In addition to these, you’ll find two other plans: Shopify Lite and Shopify Plus.

The Lite plan allows you to sell through an existing website with the purchase of ‘Buy’ buttons, rather than requiring you to build a store from the ground up.

Shopify Plus offers the extreme opposite, delivering a bespoke package for merchants who rake in the big bucks and need that level of professional support.

Shopify Payments and Transaction Fees

You’ll have noticed that we mention you get charged transaction fees unless you choose to use Shopify Payments. 

What are Shopify Payments?

Shopify Payments is Shopify’s in-house payment gateway. Think of it like PayPal, Stripe, or Square – it processes your store’s payments and accepts most major payment methods without you having to leave Shopify. The idea is that using Shopify Payments is less hassle than connecting a third-party payment provider (such as PayPal), streamlines your store by keeping everything in-house and, of course, helps you save money.

The main incentive to use Shopify Payments is the only way to remove Shopify’s transaction fees. It’s also the only way to support multiple currencies in your store, so if you’re selling internationally, it’s your best choice. However, if you opt to use another payment processor over Shopify Payments, you’ll have to pay the transaction fee and a hefty commission.

Shopify Sales Features

Shopify gives you all the online essentials you’ll need, from analytics and abandoned cart recovery to tons of payment gateways and multi-channel integration, with its inbuilt multi-channel sales integrations. Shopify’s sales tools and features include

Apps

Shopify has over 1,200 apps in its app store, making it easy to scale up your store whenever you need to. If your theme doesn’t include a feature you want, such as email marketing tools, dropshipping services, or a reviews section, you can be sure to find it in the Shopify App Store.

There is a mixture of free and paid apps to choose from. Be careful, and don’t get too carried away with adding apps to your site – you’ll find the cost of paid apps can quickly add up, so be sensible with your choices.

If you’d rather avoid these apps completely, there are other eCommerce solutions, such as Squarespace, that don’t rely on them as much. This is because they already come with a robust suite of features built into their software.

This being said, apps are still a fantastic way of improving, expanding, and adding more power to your store, without needing tech skills or taking up tons of time. Always read reviews before installing an app to make sure it’s good quality and worthy of being added to your store!

Shipping

Shopify lets you manage your shipping options, providing an extensive range of settings for you to control and edit.

For example, you can set where you want to ship to, amend shipping rates based on weight, order value, or location, and even print shipping labels. On the Advanced Shopify plan, you also unlock the third-party calculated shipping rates so that you can show customers the current courier prices at checkout.

Shipping can be tricky, but Shopify does its best to make it easy and under your control.

Shopify has partnerships with USPS, DHL Express, UPS, and Canada Post, saving you the hassle of sourcing your courier. You can also install apps if you need extra shipping functions!

Dropshipping

Dropshipping is a popular way to sell online because it has a low upfront cost and is easier to manage, especially for smaller businesses with less time, space, and money. It frees up your time to focus on perfecting your store, marketing your business, and engaging with customers.

Shopify supports dropshipping, but it doesn’t come as a built-in feature. Instead, you need to install a dropshipping app – Shopify recommends Oberlo the most, as this helps you find products to sell on Shopify. Other apps include AliExpress, Spocket, and Printful.

Abandoned cart recovery

All of Shopify’s core plans include abandoned cart recovery, which is great news for your store. You don’t need to install anything, or go hunting for it in the app market – it comes built-in with your plan.

You can manage your abandoned cart recovery to get the most out of this valuable feature. For example, you can include discount codes to encourage customers to return to your store, and choose whether to create emails or set them to send automatically manually.

Abandoned cart recovery is an essential feature for any serious online store, yet some store builders, such as Big Cartel, don’t offer it as standard. The fact that Shopify does gives it a big advantage, especially considering that this feature can win back 12-15% of lapsed customers on average. That’s a lot of sales that would have been lost without this feature, so it’s worth making the most of!

Product management

Shopify has a full range of product management tools. One of the most valuable features is its full-blown inventory management, making it easy to track your stock levels, monitor orders, and update your product listings.

You can even set up Shopify to track your stock levels and automatically mark products as sold out once you’ve run out!

Shopify management tools

It’s easy to offer various product variations, such as size, colour, material, etc. You can also set different prices and weights for different variants – for example, make a patterned jumper more expensive than a plain version.

When you’re selling many products, it’s essential to make it as easy as possible for customers to browse your store and find the product they want. Shopify helps you do this by letting you organise products by category, type, sale items, price, and more.

Overall, Shopify’s product management tools go above and beyond to make it easy for you to set up your store however you want and then make it as easy as possible for you to stay on top of your inventory.

Payment options

Shopify supports over 100 different payment gateways. These include popular favourites like PayPal, Stripe, Amazon Pay, and Apple Pay. It also offers its in-house payment gateway, called Shopify Payments.

All payment gateways come with a transaction fee unless you choose Shopify Payments, in which case Shopify waives this fee. Think of a transaction fee like paying entry to a bar – you need to pay to go inside and get a drink (or in this case, process a payment!)

To sell in multiple currencies, you’ll need to use Shopify Payments. This lets customers pay for their orders in their local currency and automatically adjusts the price of products according to current exchange rates. In short, it makes selling in different currencies as hassle-free as possible.

The currencies Shopify Payments currently supports are:

  • Australian dollar
  • Canadian dollar
  • Danish Krone
  • Euro
  • Hong Kong dollar
  • Japanese yen
  • New Zealand dollar
  • Pound sterling
  • Singapore dollar
  • United States dollar

All Shopify stores are fully PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant, meaning your store is secure without you having to lift even a finger.

Multi-channel integration

Having an online store is vital for any business, and having multi-channel integration is essential for any online store! 48% of people begin searching for a product on marketplaces such as Amazon, so spreading your sales is necessary.

Multi-channel integration lets you sell across more online channels than your online store. It expands your store’s reach and creates a much broader customer base. For example, with Shopify, you can sell products on marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, plus social media channels like Facebook and Instagram. Shopify multichannel selling

This helps get your products seen and means you can target the channel where your customers most like to shop.

Unlike its rival BigCommerce, Shopify’s integrations aren’t built-in – instead, you install apps for the channels you want to sell across. Most of them are free, but as always, you need to keep an eye on the price.

POS

Shopify’s POS app is designed to help you take your business wherever possible. It lets you accept credit cards, offer store credit, sell gift cards, create order notes, issue refunds, etc.

The best part of Shopify POS is that it automatically syncs between the app and your online store to keep your inventory and orders up to date. This creates a flexible way of running your business and means you’re not glued to your computer to stay on top of your store.

The Shopify POS app is free to install, but you have to be on at least the $29 per month Basic Shopify plan to use it. With this plan, you also get a free credit card reader, making it best for small-time selling at pop-ups, stalls, fairs, and markets.

Shopify: Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Ideal for larger stores

Shopify’s powerful backend editor and unique inventory system make it ideal for managing – and scaling – larger stores.

  • Multi-platform selling

Sell across multiple channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, and eBay.

  • Stand-out design functionality and flexibility

Choose from several free and paid templates, or if you can’t find one to match, make your own from scratch.

  • Over 3,000 apps are available

Shopify has a great library of apps and third-party extensions to help you elevate your store to the next level.

  • Extensive payment options

Shopify supports over 100 payment options, as well as provides their gateway, Shopify Payments.

  • Thorough, round-the-clock customer support

Shopify is on hand 24/7 to offer a helping hand if you ever find yourself in a sticky situation.

Cons

  • Not as easy to manage as other platforms.

Shopify’s editor isn’t as intuitive as it could be and takes a while to get the hang of.

  • Overly reliant on third-party apps

Shopify has fewer built-in features than other platforms, so you’ll need to use third-party apps to boost the functionality of your store.

  • High transaction fees

Unless you use Shopify Payments, you’ll need to pay a hefty transaction fee on other payment gateway costs.

  • More expensive than it appears

Transaction fees, plus the need for additional apps, can hike up the monthly cost of running your store.

Final Thoughts on Shopify

Overall, Shopify has earned its title as the best all-around eCommerce website builder. But there’s only one way to know if it’s the best choice for you, and that’s by trying it out yourself!

Jump on Shopify’s 14-day free trial, and see if you agree with our verdict. Your dreams of selling online are within reach, so get going and let us know how you got on!

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