That said, some other e-commerce platforms make it easier to customize your site however you want, and they match Shopify’s pricing plans almost exactly. It’ll come down to individual features, and which of those you think are better for your business.
Shopify is almost synonymous with building an online store, in the same way that eBay used to be synonymous with buying things online. If you want to sell something, and none of the big marketplaces seem right for you, pretty much everyone will say: “Well, check out Shopify.”
There’s a good reason for that. Shopify really is that good, and pretty affordable too. So the real question is not whether it’s good, but whether it’s right for you. To help you figure that out, I created my own Shopify account, built a proper store, and tested out every feature I could get my hands on.
Truth be told? If you need to sell a thing, Shopify is probably what you need.
Shopify Lets You Build Gorgeous-Looking Stores Fast
Shopify’s templates are good-looking, top-notch even, though generally pretty simple. The service currently has 79 themes: 9 free, and 70 paid. However, you can import third-party themes, and there are thousands of options out there.
Templates on Shopify are sorted by layout styles (wide, grid, collage, etc), products page features (Tabs, Galleries, Related Products), homepage features (slideshows, testimonials, video), and social media features. Oh, and they can also be sorted by industries such as art and photography, fashion, electronics, and even furniture.
All themes come with a mobile version, too.
The only downside is that the paid themes are not cheap. If you want a fancy theme, but don’t want to fork out well over $100, consider going to ThemeForest or a similar third-party theme site as mentioned above.
Sites are visually customized via a sidebar in the “customizer”, but only the layout and content of the homepage is actually editable. The rest of your pages are more or less fixed in place by your templates. You can, at least, customize things like your typography, colors, and more.
Shopify Has More Features Than I Have Room to Show
No, seriously. As our team compares all of the best site builders out there, services like Shopify present a problem for me as a reviewer. While it may not have as much in the way of layout and design features, it does have a metric butt-ton of retail features for the asking.
As well it should.
Anyway, I have done my level best to showcase the features that stand out below, but this is by no means a complete list. First up, here’s all the regular stuff you would and should expect.
On the site-building side of things, you get:
Unlimited products, bandwidth, and online storage
SEO and marketing tools
Custom domains (You can edit the DNS records to, for example, host your mail servers elsewhere, but use the same domain.)
There’s also a simple, yet decent-enough blogging platform. It won’t be enough for anyone in the publishing business, but if you want to keep customers up to speed with your latest product tips and deals, it’ll work.
On the actual store-management side, you’ve got the essentials (and more):
Discounts and discount codes
Automatic tax calculation (Just to keep everyone out of trouble!)
Automated store emails
Social media integration
3D asset displays (As someone who used to tinker with 3D graphics, I have to say this is such a cool idea.)
Over 100 alternate payment gateways – including PayPal, Google Pay, Stripe, and more
Lastly, there’s a whole bunch of apps and add-ons to help you integrate Shopify with just about every other major web, shipping, or marketing service. At last count, there were over 4200 apps in the store, according to Shopify’s own announcement.
And now, here are the extra-standout features that you may find useful:
Shopify Point of Sale
Shopify POS (No, stop it… stop giggling. That’s what it’s really called.) is a system where you can use your Shopify store to manage sales and inventory at physical locations. This way, you can use the same system for people who want to order online, and for people who whip out their cash right in front of you.
Sales can be handled via kiosks such as the one below, or an app on your smartphone or tablet. It’s a good way to consolidate your sales process.
Multiple Online Sales Channels
Selling stuff on your website alone is so 2010. Nowadays, it’s better to have multiple ways to put your products in front of people’s eyeballs, and Shopify has you covered there.
You can sync your Shopify inventory with Amazon to sell on your site and on Amazon at the same time. You can also do this with eBay, and a few other marketplaces, as well as sell your stuff via social media platforms. Facebook and Instagram are popular choices for that last option.
The point is that you can sell your stuff all over the net, but control it all from one place. No need to manage multiple inventories, thank Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
Nothing feels worse than getting an order and sending the product off, only to have the payment get disputed by the bank. Well, Shopify has a built-in system to help you detect orders that may be fraudulent. Every transaction will show you a list of indicators that help you determine if the order you just got is on the level.
Shopify users on more advanced plans will also receive recommendations for what to do about potentially fraudulent orders, and all Shopify plans include support for third-party anti-fraud apps.
Last, but certainly not least, there’s a mobile app that will help you manage inventory, deal with orders, and generally stay on top of your store no matter where you are. This may not be too good for your work-life balance, but if you’re constantly moving around for your business, then it might be a fantastic little feature.
The upshot is that you don’t even need a laptop or desktop to run your online shop. And since lots of people these days only have smartphones and tablets, that’s a good thing.
Ease of use
Shopify Makes Selling Stuff Online as Easy as It Can, Within Reason
When it comes to e-commerce, “ease of use” is a highly relative concept, and so is the score for this section. Simply put, we’re dealing with a fairly complex industry to start with. If you’ve never done sales or retail management before, there’ll be quite a bit to learn no matter what e-commerce platform you choose.
One way or another, you’re going to have to learn an entire industry to some extent. That said, Shopify is certainly one of the easiest online store platforms to use, despite having an absolute load of features to learn about. There’s a whole knowledge base to help you get started, in-app tutorials and setup guides when you first create a store, and more.
Here’s some of the other features that can make your life easier:
Easy Product Management and Imports
It’s easy enough to add products with Shopify’s simple interface. Just add the product’s name, category, price, an image, and go. Oh, there are tons of other options for individual products, but Shopify keeps the initial process of adding store items simple.
And of course you can import products from a CSV file, to get all of your products into your store at once. I used sample CSV files I found on GitHub to make my own test store, and it went very quickly.
Calculated Carrier Shipping
Shopify includes a feature that will automatically calculate shipping rates for you based on the product in question, and the shipping service being used. You’ll need to supply details like the weight and dimensions of the object, of course, but this is a great way to make sure you don’t end up needing to charge the customer more after they’ve already made their orders.
I mean, hey, that looks bad. Having to return money after an order isn’t great either, though it’s certainly less bad.
But all in all, making sure your customer knows exactly how much they’ll be spending is a good thing.
Shopify will, of course, create full reports to help you identify sales trends, effective and ineffective marketing tactics, and generally what your customers want. This will make it a lot easier to create an effective online store, as those statistical insights will give you a good idea of what to do next.
Okay, full disclosure: I couldn’t fully test this feature, as I could not run a real store, with real products to sell – over a period of several months. While t-shirts with pictures of my cats on them would probably sell really well, I don’t have the time for that.
Hire an Expert
Shopify has a cool little feature where you can hire someone to build and configure your store for you. They won’t run it long term (unless you maybe work out some sort of deal with them), but it’s a great option if you have some extra cash, and you don’t want to try to figure out the wonderful world of e-commerce all by yourself.
Alternatively, you might want to transfer an existing store to Shopify. If that’s the case, then check out this quick tutorial I made:
My Support Experience Was Fast and Smooth
Shopify’s whole support experience was pretty smooth, as far as I was concerned. For starters, there’s a handy knowledge base/help center/tutorial platform to teach you all the basics:
And if you don’t mind diving into social spaces, there’s a community forum where you can ask questions. But the real, official support options consist of live chat, email/tickets, and phone callbacks. I am happy to report that all of these options worked rather well for me, and they’re all available 24/7.
To test out the live chat, I just asked about Shopify’s refund policy. Specifically, I asked if Shopify offered any refunds… at all. The agent responded in minutes with helpful information, even if it’s not exactly what I wanted to hear. Well, can’t blame the messenger.
Long story short, Shopify does not offer refunds (more on that in the section below). On the upside, the agent was responsive, and wanted to know if I was experiencing any specific problems.
The email/ticket system is straightforward enough. Send an email via Shopify’s website, and a ticket gets opened for you. It’s really that simple.
For this test, I asked if I could sell services such as consulting or support to go along with a product. By and large, this does seem to be possible, and even easy enough. The support agent in charge of my ticket responded in less than three hours, with helpful information.
Okay, so if you’re having an emergency, the live chat and phone calls are better options, but this wasn’t bad either:
The phone system is a little inconvenient. You can only request a callback, and you can’t call the number directly. Even so, the experience wasn’t bad. The system called me back fast, then put me on hold for a while. But hey, the phone system had the Super Mario theme song as on-hold music, which is pretty darned cool…
Once I got in touch with an actual human, I asked if it’s possible to buy a domain through Shopify, and direct subdomains to other servers for sub-sites, blogs, landing pages, or email with DNS records.
And yes, you can edit your DNS settings on a Shopify-bought domain. God I do love having that sort of feature available.
It Could Be Cheaper, but It’s Fair
Shopify plans are not what you would call cheap, when compared to other site builders, but they are reasonable for their purpose. If your business is selling things people actually want, at a price they can afford, then you should have no problem covering Shopify’s monthly fees.
You could get a perfectly functional — if less-advanced — online store from any other major site builder, such as Wix or SITE123 for cheaper prices. But if e-commerce is your life, then Shopify’s prices are worth it. More conventional site builders just can’t keep up with the sheer number of useful e-commerce features.
Shopify is simply fantastic for any retail-oriented business and loaded with options and features. The cheapest plan is more than enough to get your online business started, and overall I have no complaints.
It should be mentioned, however, that some other e-commerce platforms (like BigCommerce) and a few general-purpose site builders (like Wix and SITE12) make it easier to customize your site however you want. Plus, they match Shopify’s pricing plans or are even cheaper.
In the end, it’ll come down to individual features, and which of those you think are better for your business
Is Shopify worth it for a small business?
If you’re in the business of selling things online, first and foremost, then yes. There are cheaper (and even somewhat easier) ways to sell both physical and digital products, but platforms like Wix and SITE123 don’t have the absolute wealth of features and options that you’d get from a dedicated e-commerce platform like Shopify.
If you sell even a few products a month, then — depending on how those products are priced — you’ll break even on your Shopify store. The rest is pure growth and net profit. And hey, if you want to get started for the cheapest price possible, check out our coupon page for the best site builder discounts.
Does Shopify charge transaction fees?
It depends. If you use Shopify’s built-in payment gateway, there are no transaction fees. If you use an external payment gateway such as PayPal or Stripe, then there are varying transaction fees based on the plan you are paying for.
The Basic Shopify plan has a 2% fee, the plainly-named Shopify plan will set you back by 1%, and the Advanced Shopify plan will only charge you 0.5%. Simply put, the free Shopify Payments gateway is the cheapest option.
Is Shopify easy to use?
Define “easy”. Easy as pie? No, it’s not that easy. As easy as any feature-heavy app… once you’ve gotten used to it? Sure!
E-commerce in general is something that anyone can do, so long as they’ve taken a minute or one-hundred-twenty to get familiar with the basic concepts. Once you have the actual storefront and products set up, and your taxes and shipping options in place, it should be pretty smooth sailing. And Shopify is one of the easier e-commerce platforms out there.
Just have a look at the knowledge base, get in touch with support if you have to, and you should be fine.
What is the best Shopify alternative?
This is a hard one to answer, because in the low-to-mid budget range for pure e-commerce providers, Shopify is one of the best options out there. That said, its biggest competitor is probably BigCommerce, which offers near-enterprise level service, for almost the exact same prices (in the US).
If you’re looking for something a bit more flexible in the site builder category, however, Wix offers fantastic site-building capabilities along with a pretty decent e-commerce add-on for much better prices overall.
If neither of those options work for you, have a look at our list of the best website builders in 2023 for more options.
Ezequiel Bruni is biologically Canadian, legally Mexican, and self identifies as a total nerd. He’s been a web and experience designer off and on since he was a teenager, and loves sharing the kind of beginner’s advice he really wishes he’d had when he first started. He also loves video games, tacos, open source software, video games, sci-fi and fantasy in all their forms, and video games. He does not love writing in the third person.
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Shopify est ce sérieux
Hébergeur du site amour2chien et gros problème de sérieux qui met en doute celui de Shopify. L'honnêteté et le manque de suivi des commandes est suspect et doit être l'objet d'alertes via tous les réseaux sociaux. Quelles précautions prenez vous pour accepter d'héberger des sites qui ne respectent pas leurs engagements.