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What Are the Pros and Cons of Shift4Shop?
Shift4Shop is one of the biggest e-commerce players available, especially among those looking for more affordable transaction fees. Its flexibility and scalability make it especially appealing to domestic midsize and enterprise-level business owners seeking a more centralized solution to their e-commerce needs. Read on to see what’s great — and not so great.
Pros of Shift4Shop
- Simple structure and flow: Shift4Shop offers an incredibly easy experience for both business owners and customers, with custom design templates. I particularly appreciated the thorough tutorial prompts when you sign up, guiding you through the first key steps of your website’s launch in explicit detail. Shift4Shop keeps business owners engaged at every stage of the launch process, whether tech-savvy or not.
- Custom e-commerce solutions: Its templates and design properties can apply to all types of e-commerce offerings and solutions. No matter what you’re selling, you’ll be able to easily adapt the core template variations to suit the needs of your business, especially helpful as e-commerce continues to evolve.
- User-friendly design structure: Shift4Shop solidifies a simple, reliable customer and user experience. Site admins and shop owners enjoy sleek, no-code e-commerce tools throughout the user management and site build experiences. Customers can tailor their own experiences as well.
- Payment processing built in: Shift4Shop is free because it’s funded by Shift4, its own payment processor. PayPal can also be integrated via the site’s partnership with 3dCart, so you can accept multiple forms of payments online.
- Optimization made simple: Shift4Shop’s themes have search engine optimization (SEO) tools and mobile-friendly interfaces to comply with the requirements in Google’s latest core update(s). You can naturally boost your reach, and the mobile theme builder is as user-friendly as the desktop.
Cons of Shift4Shop
- Limitations in capabilities: Shift4Shop offers limited design capabilities and experiences for both users and developers. It may not be the right choice if you want to get more detailed over time, but this drawback may only apply to a small subset of e-commerce business owners.
- Minimal reporting capabilities: Shift4Shop offers certain options such as profit reports, rewards use, and specialty customer and inventory reports. However, many users claim that additional reporting tools are needed for more strategic operations review and reference.
- Clunky editing client: The interface had a confusing editing client that made it difficult to navigate and work effectively. I spent a great deal of time trying to find key tools to do simple functional edits, which would have taken a few seconds in other competing tools and services.
- Poor and inconsistent customer service: Users reported it was hard to reach anyone for support — sometimes for days — and they didn’t always hear back from the staff. Customer service was especially bad for those outside the U.S. Some said the support people were rude and not helpful.
- Numerous add-ons needed: Most stores created through Shift4Shop will need many add-ons for everything from subscription software to a shopping cart to increasing your SEO. Adding in all these extra tools can slow down or crash your website.
Seamless store design via virtual store editor
You can always fight your way through a complicated WordPress or Wix template, or personalize any of the hundreds of free user-friendly templates with Shift4Shop. The templates come equipped with customizable themes and HTML elements, allowing you to make your shop as nuanced or as simple as you’d like. You can also enjoy no-code development options that allow you to easily edit both the template and theme or any one of the individual pages.
I used its modular system to click and drag design blocks to personalize the store to my heart’s content. It is worth noting, though, that navigating the editor tool for the first (few) times was complex and moderately time-consuming. If you plan to use Shift4Shop, be sure to build in time to learn the native interface and streamline your design and launch process.
Easy-to-use product upload process
You can upload your products in two main ways: either in bulk via a CSV file, or manually. The latter is the best for businesses with a limited amount of products, and can be done in two easy steps:
- Navigate to the “product” section in the sidebar, clicking “add product” in the upper right corner.
- Fill in the fields, such as the product name, description, and other key identifying factors.
When you upload products in bulk, you’ll need to use Shift4Shop’s CSV template, which is complex, and doesn’t function well with Mac OS. It’s recommended that you use Excel to open the sheet to avoid syntax issues. A sample of what you’ll encounter is below.
If you have questions through the process, customer service is very helpful and will make sure that you can properly fill out and upload the CSV doc.
Abandoned cart recovery support
The Abandoned Cart Saver tool is available for purchase via the Shift4Shop app store for $19.99 per month. This tool reduces your amount of lost conversions, enabling you to manage tailored email campaigns sent to your shoppers with full carts that haven’t checked out on site yet.
These emails are sent on an automatic basis and are branded to match the overall store theme and marketing aesthetic. It also includes intuitive reporting that will showcase your success and results over a set period of time. In addition, it shows how much-recovered revenue you have made over time, helping you to quantify the total benefit of the tool in your store’s toolkit.
Emails are fully customizable and can be edited via the block editor or HTML encoding, so you can make your emails as complex or as simple as you’d like. You can also use several different templates included with the abandoned cart saver tool.
SEO is vital to the health and success of your e-commerce tool — but most tools and platforms are difficult to use, or aren’t as effective as they could be. Shift4Shop’s goal was to make it as easy as possible for business owners with no marketing background to succeed with Google’s continually-changing algorithm.
Shift4Shop offers both on-page and off-page SEO functionality, helping business owners to adopt a more holistic and effective SEO strategy from the start. SEO-oriented customizable optimization options include:
- SEO-friendly URL structure
- Page titles and meta descriptions
- Navigational structure
- Alt tags
- Canonical URLs
- SML sitemap
Shift4Shop provides a more comprehensive overview of the benefits of each SEO optimization step, and more thorough explanations and use cases in its library of resources and built-in tutorial tools. This sets Shift4Shop apart as an ideal solution for those newer to the e-commerce space, and who may not have the foundational knowledge to move through these steps confidently on their own.
One of the advantages of using Shift4Shop is the easy payment integrations thanks to the company’s partnerships with top payment processors. As soon as you sign on, you’ll have access to the built-in PayPal integration functionality for your clients, which you can set up in seconds to start earning revenue. We do want to note, however, that you will need to use the Shift4 payment system as your primary processor, however, this is how the site stays as free and inclusive as it is.
On the customer side, Shift4Shop offers options to pay with over 160 alternate payment methods globally, as well as buy now, pay later services for greater flexibility. Customers can enjoy payment options that allow for digital wallets, alternative payment options, and financing solutions so they can connect with their favorite products faster.
Payment is just one element of a successful shop management solution, though. For those looking for the assurance of extra security, note that Shift4Shop is Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant. It also has proprietary fraud detection and prevention tools and resources built into every transaction. The service uses tokenization to encrypt customer payment information, which is vital to building trust across your customer base. This is especially helpful if you’re offering subscription services or recurring products.
Most recently, the platform expanded to allow cryptocurrency payment options with BitPay. The only fees associated with this type of transaction are a simple 1% flat fee.
Shift4Shop focuses on mobile customer-facing optimization options to open up new streams of revenue for business owners. The end goal of its suite of resources is to eliminate custom coding or multiple website versions — keeping your website housed in one sleek, dynamic, and optimized presentation across both mobile and desktop. This is vital to the health of your e-commerce store, as 53% of all e-commerce traffic comes from mobile devices.
Key mobile-friendly marketing elements include:
- Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP): This helps your page to have instantaneous loading capabilities for better SEO scoring in Google’s algorithm
Mobile designs are also consumer-focused, emphasizing responsivity and intuitive dynamic strategy to enhance the overall customer experience and lock in more sales. Easy-pay options are available for customers who prefer mobile payments and include high-profile partnerships with Apple Pay, Visa Checkout, and Amazon Pay (among others.)
Business owners can also manage their store via mobile, connecting with their business in seconds — from anywhere. I was pleasantly surprised at how quick the interface was to load, and how accessible the dashboard was even on the mobile version.
I really appreciated the ease and automation that Shift4Shop automatically builds into an e-commerce framework — with little to no effort from the business owner. My favorite features included the stock alerts that could be customized per item, helping me to streamline my operational processes (and saving time looking at the store’s virtual inventory reports every day).
With that time saved, I also explored different customer-facing options for inventory management. Shift4Shop allows business owners to set products as “out of stock,” or you can opt for backorder or waitlist capabilities to preserve the customer experience as much as possible.
The only concern that I found with the inventory management tools in Shift4Shop’s interface didn’t correlate to detailed reports. While you can expect the skeletal reporting elements (such as revenue in/out/inventory flow,) it lacked some of the more intuitive or customer-study-related elements that I was hoping to see from an end-to-end e-commerce tool.
Shift4Shop offers the advantage of third-party email marketing app integration, offering convenience, personalization, and efficiency with email marketing efforts out of a single centralized base. Business owners can easily create and assemble engaging customer newsletters for any marketing purpose, and offer HTML coding options for enhanced personalization and design element insertion.
I appreciated the ability of subscription group management, which essentially allows business owners to make their own mailing lists. This level of targeting can help to secure higher levels of revenue and to keep customers engaged across your ideal client profiles (ICPs). There is no limit to the number of subscription groups you have, allowing you to get as niched as you want when trying to perfect your messaging.
Engagements and open rates are translated into simple, easy-to-read reports that you can reference as a baseline over time.
While this is a convenient inclusion, the benefit that it gives depends on what business owners are looking to fulfill. If you’re looking for a modular, easy-to-assemble, aesthetically-pleasing editor, you’re better off using a custom email builder (such as Flodesk). If you’re looking for something basic to get your business off the ground, you’ll likely appreciate the simple email marketing tool that’s included in Shift4Shop’s dashboard.
Reporting and analytics
Shift4Shop has several different reporting options in its interface and focuses on connecting business owners to the most vital aspects of the business. When I entered the reporting area, I chose by category to ensure I was seeing the most relevant data for my personal goals for the quarter.
One of the most appreciated benefits of the intuitive reporting structure was the ability to see top groups and customers, which could be helpful to dial in marketing efforts and limited campaigns.
However, despite the number of reports I ran across all departments (including inventory, marketing, customers, and business) — they were very simple and gave me the information I needed to make smart business decisions.
If you’re considering using Shift4Shop to manage your e-commerce site, it’s important to note it doesn’t technically have its own internal shipping process. Rather, it allows integrations with a list of approved shipping carriers (which include major shippers such as U.S. Postal Service and FedEx,) and helps you to track shipping progress in-app.
Business owners can choose personalized and flexible options for their shipping needs, such as free or flat-rate shipping. This is a great advantage that other platforms often offer behind paywalls (if at all) – helping you to better connect with the needs and expectations of your customers throughout the purchase experience.
You can customize your shipping options per order, which is useful for orders that may be international or in more rural areas. The site also partners with a variety of third-party shipping options to give you the necessary versatility, if you’re looking to customize the customer-facing facets.
You can also use shipping parameters to make restrictions on certain shipping methods based on metrics like order weight and state exclusions, which can save you money in the long run.
I considered this type of versatility to be far more convenient, setting Shift4Shop ahead of competing software solutions.
Shift4Shop is very public with its e-commerce safety standards, both from a customer-facing perspective and what you can expect as a business owner. It is one of the safest tools in the e-commerce space, and also supports the longevity of your store. Steps taken to promote an environment of safety include:
- Maintaining PCI compliance: This rigorous set of standards helps to keep credit card transactions safe from the theft of sensitive information.
- Daily data backups: This helps to avoid loss of your shop and time from data hiccups, and allows you to restore everything as it was during a specific time in your website’s lifespan.
- Privacy protection toolkits: Shift4Shop protects business owners by offering privacy restriction toolkit resources.
- Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) protection: This helps to protect businesses from DDoS attacks, courtesy of Cloudflare.
- Securing Web Application Technologies (SWAT) and Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) compliance: These two sets of standards can preemptively address security holes in your shop’s framework, protecting both business owner and customer.
One of Shift4Shop’s main selling points is its level of customer support and service — available 24 hours per day, seven days per week. I reached out easily via chat, email, phone, and its portal ticket system. The company also has a convenient forum network where users can collaborate around problems and solutions. The company also has a thorough and well-updated repository of articles, easily accessible via the knowledgebase and blog.
- Chat: I connected with a representative in just a few minutes, which is shockingly fast compared to some other experiences with similar tools.
- Email: Email wasn’t exceptionally fast, according to most user experiences. I got all of my answers from the chat and phone service, but many reported emails took the longest at around 24 hours per response.
- Phone: I connected with a representative, solved my login problem, and disconnected in under 3 minutes.
- Community: I was pleasantly surprised at the depth of information available via the community. I learned a lot about Shift4Shop and e-commerce in general, and I’m a seasoned veteran.
But while I experienced excellent support from Shift4Shop, not all users have. Other users have reported waiting days to hear back from support, or worse, never hearing back at all. And some found support unhelpful.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Shift4Shop
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Can you create a free online store with Shift4Shop?
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Ecwid vs. Shift4Shop: which is better?
It depends on what business owners are looking for from their e-commerce software. Ecwid costs $15 per month but offers both iPhone and Android apps for maximum accessibility. The templates and tools are more diverse, and are designed to cater to everyone from freelancers to midsize enterprises.
However, Ecwid is limited as you can only use it as an online store tool at this time. With the recent Version 12 update at Shift4Shop, you can seamlessly integrate with the Meta suite to boost your conversions and sell across channels, which could be advantageous for those looking for centralization for free.
How I Rated Shift4Shop
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.