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Shopify standout features
Support
  • Live chat
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Social media
  • Community forum
  • Help center
Uptime100% (based on the previous two weeks)
Best forLarger businesses or companies looking to scale
Strengths
  • Wide range of apps
  • Robust customer service
  • Mobile-responsive themes
Weaknesses
  • Higher priced than similar competitors
  • Limited customizability
Promotion14-day free trial

What Are the Pros and Cons of Shopify?

See what’s great — and not so great — about Shopify.

Pros of Shopify

  1. Scalable: Shopify allows extensive customization using its back-end editor, from storefront themes to third-party app integration. It comes with helpful sales features and tools to help you manage and scale your business without too much hassle, including analytics and abandoned cart recovery. I particularly like the ability to have multiple users manage the store. I also found its order and inventory management features impressively useful.
  2. Multiple sales channels: I like that Shopify makes it possible to sell through multiple channels aside from my online store. It requires integration on the back end but most of these are free, so I found it a big help in increasing sales. The various channels include the Shop app, Facebook, blogs, Instagram, eBay, Amazon, and Handshake.
  3. Customizable design: Shopify offers eight free and 68 paid store themes and templates, most of which come in two or more variants. That’s not impressive in terms of numbers, especially compared to the hundreds of close rival BigCommerce. However, I found Shopify’s themes highly customizable at the code level using Liquid code and come with social media icons, free updates, and free stock photos by Burst. It’s also SEO-friendly, which gets my vote.
  4. Extensive app store: Like most website builders, Shopify has an extensive library of apps and extensions in its App Store. You can choose from 4,050 free apps, from store designs to sourcing and selling products. You can also opt for paid apps and plugins from its list of nearly 3,000 options.
  5. Robust customer support: When it comes to customer support, I appreciate that Shopify doesn’t skimp on ensuring that customers can get all the help they need when they need it. The platform offers 24/7 customer support through live chat, email, and social media. Self-sufficient customers can find tons of assistance through frequently asked questions (FAQs), extensive documentation, video tutorials, and more on the community forum and help center.
  6. Mobile responsive themes: All 91 themes (76 in the Online Store 2.0 architecture) offered on Shopify are mobile responsive. For me, it means less worrying about how my storefront and product pages appear on different devices. Pages resize automatically, depending on the customer’s device.

Cons of Shopify

  1. Significant learning curve: Some users claim that Shopify is easy to use, but that isn’t true for everybody. It takes a while to get the hang of using the editor, and blocking can be challenging. It took me a few hours to set up a store, mainly because I had to keep switching from the back end to the front end to make product and aesthetic tweaks. I also found that integrating a few third-party apps and configuring store features required technical skills. However, it got easier after watching a few video tutorials and checking the forum for advice.
  2. Few built-in features: I would expect open-source software, such as WooCommerce and OpenCart, to be barebones, but not a paid platform like Shopify. While Shopify includes essential features to build an online store, you need to install quite a few apps to get necessary functionalities, such as being able to sell digital goods or engaging in dropshipping. While most of the apps are free, you might have to pay for certain features integral to your store.
  3. Higher priced than similar competitors: Shopify plans are reasonable, but your monthly costs might be more than you expected. Shopify prefers that you use Shopify Payments as a payment gateway. To promote its payment gateway, it charges a transaction fee on top of the regular payment gateway fees if you use a third-party payment gateway.

Store design

Anyone can create a decent storefront using the theme editor appropriate for most industries with Shopify’s professionally designed and customizable themes (on or off OS 2.0). The theme editor is straightforward and allows you to make considerable changes to the appearance of your store (at least the homepage for traditional themes) with minimal effort.

I was able to use the design features and customize what I needed. However, I am not a coder, so changing the codes in the themes wasn’t possible. It’s easy to navigate the basic design features once you understand how to use Shopify. All you need is enough time on your hands if it’s your first time using Shopify to learn how the platform works.

In my opinion, Shopify offers some of the most modern and professional-looking themes. You’ll find more than 100 themes in both free and paid versions. They’re also customizable, so you can fine-tune your chosen theme until it’s right for you.

Product upload

Shopify - Product upload
Source: Shopify

There are two ways to add a product on Shopify: individually or in bulk using a comma-separated values (CSV) file. Go to the Admin page to add each product manually. To upload products in bulk, you need to use a special CSV template. To ensure your CSV file functions correctly, the first line should have column headers specified in the product CSV description table and each column needs to be comma-separated.

Shopify CSV Template
Screenshot of a portion of the special Shopify CSV template.
Source: Shopify

Of course, you want to add photos and other media of your products, and Shopify allows you to include alt text to help with your SEO. You can upload as many as 250 images, video links, and 3D models (if the theme allows it) for each product, which is extremely helpful to shoppers.

Shopify - adding media
Source: Shopify

There is, however, a limit on the total number of videos and 3D media. Shopify won’t crop your images for you, so you need to ensure your images are a uniform size. You can crop your images in Shopify’s photo editor after uploading them, but it would be so much better if you could avoid that extra step. Note also that you can only add images to variants, and each image cannot be more than 20 MB.

Digital.com’s expert provides more context here:

Abandoned cart recovery

Shopify - abandoned checkouts
Source: Shopify

The abandoned cart recovery feature is available to all Shopify subscribers, including Shopify Lite, and is eminently useful for online sellers weeping over an average 69.82% cart abandonment rate.

You can configure the store to send a default or customized email automatically to shoppers after they abandon a cart to encourage them to come back and complete their purchase.

SEO

Shopify makes it easy for subscribers to do content marketing and boost on-page SEO with its built-in blogging tool. However, it lacks the sophistication of platforms, such as WordPress, particularly the ability to use categories and keyword optimization.

Shopify SEO settings
Source: Shopify

Other built-in SEO functionalities of Shopify make it a strong favorite with many e-commerce stores. Aside from on-page SEO, you can use the title, meta description, headings, and alt text to help you with your SEO efforts.

Shopify lets you take complete control over adding sitemap URLs and dictating what URLs search engines can crawl by tweaking the robots.txt file. It also prompts you to add 301 redirects when you change the URL of pages so that you can avoid lost search rankings.

The content delivery network (CDN) helps to load images faster, making it possible to achieve a 1.3-second average page load time. This can help you gain favor with the search engine ranking gods. The free SSL and mobile-first design of Shopify’s themes don’t hurt, either, because Google tends to favor secure and mobile-friendly sites when ranking search results.

Payment processing

Shopify - Payment processing
Source: Shopify

Shopify has built-in Shopify Payments for payment processing that you can set up easily for your store to accept credit card payments, purchase orders (POs), and more. It also comes with fraud management features.

In my experience, Shopify’s integrated payment gateway makes the whole payment process easier and more consolidated. You don’t have to worry about insane charges that platforms like PayPal levy. You also don’t need to worry about adding multiple payment partners for your users’ convenience. Shopify Payments is a one-stop solution that takes care of all your requirements at very little cost.

Mobile support

Shopify - Mobile support
Source: Shopify

Shopify puts mobile devices to good use in two ways:

  1. The Shopify app is available on Android and iOS that lets you manage your store on the go. You can add or edit products, view reports, view orders, fulfill orders, and coordinate with team members.
  2. The Shopify POS app lets you process payments for in-person purchases. You only need a compatible mobile device to process cash and credit card payments. If you don’t want to enter the card information manually, POS hardware, such as a card reader is available for purchase from Shopify.

Inventory management

Shopify - Inventory management
Source: Shopify

I like that Shopify includes the inventory locations functionality in all its plans to support multichannel selling. You can track and transfer inventory across multiple locations and sync it with your Shopify store without a hitch. Since it’s built into the platform, no integration is necessary and at no additional cost to you. Moreover, if you’re on a Shopify (midlevel) plan or higher, you can do an ABC analysis to identify products that sell the most.

However, the built-in inventory management system is pretty basic. It doesn’t track fulfillment, handle drop shipping orders, or manage B2B transactions. It also treats other sales channels as expansions of the online store rather than a separate store. That means you need to add an order fulfillment app to consolidate all your orders and a dropshipping app, such as Oberlo, to manage shipping for your dropshipping orders.

If your business focuses primarily on your online store and you have limited stocks, Shopify’s inventory tools can do the job.

Email marketing

Shopify - Email marketing
Source: Shopify

Shopify Email is the simplest but most effective way of sending, managing, and analyzing your email campaigns. I found it less complicated than platforms, such as Mailchimp and Klaviyo. Since it’s incorporated into the Shopify Admin, you can expect faster load times, convenient tracking and analytics, and more — all in one dashboard.

It may not be as sophisticated as dedicated email marketing software, such as Constant Contact or Sendinblue, but it’s still quite effective. Shopify Email lets you create newsletters and automate sending of welcome and upsell emails based on specific triggers.

You can also segment your customers to increase your open and click-through rates. The best part is you can send up to 10,000 emails a month, free of charge, and $1 for every 1,000 sent in excess.

However, it has some bugs. For one thing, it doesn’t support HTML in the email source code, which means you could miss vital information about your customers. For another, the workflow is a little confusing as setting up an automated email does not happen in the Shopify Email app but in Marketing > Automations of the Admin panel.

Reporting and analytics

Shopify - Reporting and analytics
Source: Shopify

I produced quite a few helpful reports from the Shopify dashboard for the following:

  • Sales
  • Customer behavior
  • Marketing
  • Search data
  • Abandoned cart

You can access the Analytics page on the admin site. It provides data on orders, key sales, and online store visitors. You can see your store’s performance quickly across all sales channels across whatever date range you want.

However, these weren’t available with the Basic and Shopify Lite plans. There, you only get topline stats about basic financial information, such as sales and revenue, discounts, refunds, and tax reports, without going into bottom-line stats such as net income.

I think Shopify missed the mark by limiting access to this feature. Competitors like BigCommerce include detailed reporting features for all its paid plans, so Shopify doesn’t compare so well in this vital functionality. Nothing spurs startups more than getting detailed reports, whether the results are good or bad.

Shopify Order Stats
Source: Shopify

Shipping options

Shopify - Shipping options
Source: Shopify

The built-in Shopify Shipping features allow store owners to offer multiple shipping options to their customers. It works with multiple mail classes, including:

  • Canada Post
  • DHL
  • Sendle (Australia)
  • UPS
  • USPS

Shopify Shipping features include:

  • International shipping
  • Overnight delivery
  • Package pickups
  • Shipping insurance
  • Tracking information

Moreover, Shopify offers significant discounts to its subscribers automatically based on their plans.

Shopify Security
Source: Shopify

Since Shopify handles all security and compliance issues, you can ensure that all the software you use is updated and safe. Moreover, Shopify has a fraud detection system to prevent card testing and account takeover fraud.

However, because Shopify subscribers share the host servers with millions, data loss is a genuine concern. I suggest backing up your product data by exporting CSV files regularly.

Shopify Support
Source: Shopify

Shopify has robust customer support on multiple channels. It offers live chat, emails, phone calls, and checking with the community. However, the user experience varies.

  • Chat: The chat option is very convenient ― I received a response in a few seconds
  • Email: It takes approximately one day to get a response to an email and sometimes longer, depending on your reason for reaching out to them
  • Phone: Phone calls are quick ― once you request a call, you typically get a call back within a few minutes
  • Community: Someone new to Shopify can learn quite a bit here; you can join conversations and speak to other members about any queries you may have

However, you need to go through hoops to get to the page where you can access live chat or retail phone support. When you click on 24/7 support, the link first sends you to a page that gives you three options:

  1. Go to the Help Center.
  2. Check the Community Forum.
  3. Do a search.

The quickest way to get to the right page is to search for “retail support” and scroll down. You see this:

Shopify - Get Support
Source: Shopify

If you want to get on a call, click on “Contact retail support.” Phone support isn’t available with general support.

However, talking or chatting to a live agent isn’t always productive when it comes to technical issues. The Community Forum is a little better, but it takes some time before you can get a response.

I think that Shopify might want to find a way for its subscribers to access their developers, especially since the Experts Marketplace is no longer the place to hire one.

Compare Shopify Alternatives

E-commerce platformStarting priceMultichannel salesBasic plan features
Shopify

Overall rating
(4.6)

$29 per monthYes
  • Unlimited products
  • 24/7 support (email, chat)
  • Marketing tools
  • Shipping tools
  • 2% transaction fee
BigCommerce

Overall rating
(4.4)

Read our full BigCommerce review.

Consider BigCommerce for: Custom design needs and API customization

$29.95 per monthYes
  • Unlimited products
  • 24/7 support (phone, email, chat)
  • Reporting tools
  • Marketing tools
  • 0% transaction fee
GoDaddy Online Store

Overall rating
(4.5)

Read our full GoDaddy Online Store review.

Consider GoDaddy e-commerce fFor: Custom web builds, cloud and SaaS deployment, web-based development options

$9.99 per monthYes
  • Affordable alternative to Shopify
  • 24/7 availability via customer support
  • Web-based, cloud, and Software as a service (SaaS) deployment
WooCommerce

Overall rating
(3.8)

Read our full WooCommerce review.

Consider WooCommerce for: Custom WordPress site integration and a seamless site editing experience

FreeNo
  • Unlimited products
  • Email support or WordPress.org forums for self-help
  • Limited reporting
  • No transaction fees

Frequently Asked Questions About Shopify

How much does Shopify cost?

Shopify’s Basic plan is $29 per month. You can try Shopify for free for up to 14 days without giving out any credit card information. After the expiry of the trial period, you can choose a pricing plan that suits your business needs.

Do you need to be a designer or developer to use Shopify?

Absolutely not! You can have little to no coding experience or design skills, and you can still set up your online store. It also runs on its own servers so that you don’t need to buy web hosting or install additional software.

You can use the online store builder and themes to customize the look and feel of your store. Use apps for more features and functionality. You can also contact the Shopify support team for help.

What do you need to start selling on Shopify?

All you need is a Shopify Plan and the products to sell to get started selling on the platform. Get started by signing up for Shopify and then proceed to set up your store and add your products. You can also consider starting a dropshipping business if you have no products to sell yet.

Can you use your own domain name with Shopify if you already have a website?

You can, but you essentially give up any traction you’ve created with your target audience. Your best bet is to build a Shopify store, prepare your redirects, transfer your products, then point the domain name registered to your website to your Shopify store. You can follow these steps to accomplish that.

How many products can you sell on Shopify?

You can sell an unlimited number of products in your store under any plan. You can upload as many as 250 images, videos, and 3D media for each product, but there are limits to video and 3D model hosting. For the Basic plan, that’s 250 for the entire site.

Can you have multiple stores on Shopify?

Yes, but you cannot have multiple stores under one account. You can open multiple accounts on Shopify and operate one store under each account if you want.

Can you have multiple domains on My Shopify Store?

Yes! You can add 10 domains or subdomains to your Shopify store, not including your myshopify.com subdomain.

How I Rated Shopify

I test e-commerce providers based on the following factors:

  • Value: What do you get for each plan — and does it hit that sweet spot of cost ratio to features?
  • Ease of use: Is it simple to use the platform with intuitive tools, familiar interfaces, and supportive tutorials or tours?
  • Features: Does the platform offer tools that support your business, including marketing integrations, plug-ins, reporting, and management? How effective are the features?
  • Security: Which measures does the platform take to protect your business? Does it offer Payment card industry (PCI) compliance and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates?
  • Support and improvements: How well does the platform help when you need it? And will it continue to grow with your needs?

Learn more about our review methodology.