Shopify: Is it Worth it? An In-depth Review (2021)

Shopify

Are you here because you’re wondering whether Shopify is legit and if it lives up to the hype?


Or if it’s the right platform for your online business?


We know that decisions like this aren’t easy to make.


We also know that it’s never wise to make ill-informed decisions when it comes to business — it’s true that the more you know, the better.


This is why we’ve compiled this in-depth review on Shopify — so that you can make an informed decision for your ecommerce business.

1. What is Shopify?

Tobias Lütke developed an ecommerce platform that could be trusted by businesses of all sizes — Shopify.


According to Shopify, over 1,700,000 businesses in 175 countries around the world are using Shopify ― generating over $200 billion in sales through their platform.


You can create your own online store with zero coding or design knowledge, with the option to dabble with the code yourself if you’d like.


With Shopify, you can sell, market, and ship your products.

But how does it actually work?

2. How Does Shopify Work?

conversion rate optimization

Source: Idealist

Shopify is a ‘hosted’ solution — it runs on its own servers — and secure, unmetered hosting is offered in all of their plans.


This means that you don’t need to worry about buying web hosting yourself.


According to Builtwith, as of 2021, there are 1.58 million websites running on Shopify.


All you need to do is pay a monthly fee to use it.


But, before we delve into the plans, there are a few things you should note:

  • If you join Shopify and feel that it’s no longer right for your business, you can cancel your account hassle-free
  • If you cancel, your data will be stored for a 30-day period in case you’d want to re-open your store
  • Shopify offers a 14-day free trial — a 1 year upfront payment will get you a 10% discount, and 2 years upfront will get you a 20% discount

3. Shopify’s Payment Options

Payment Options

With Shopify, you can choose from over 100 payment providers (including PayPal or Stripe).


Or you can opt for Shopify’s own built-in payment system — Shopify Payments (you’ll need to pay the credit card rate, but no additional transaction fees).


The downside? It isn’t available in every country.


It’s only available in:

  • North America (United States and Canada)
  • Europe (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden)
  • United Kingdom
  • Asia (Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore)
  • Australia and New Zealand

If you’re not selling from one of the above countries, you’ll need to consider a separate payment gateway and pay the transaction fees.


The rate for transaction fees depends on the plan, but you can expect to pay between 0.5% to 2%.

3.1. How Much Does Shopify Cost?

Shopify

Source: Eastside Co

Shopify caters to various needs and budgets — there are 5 plans on offer, 3 core plans and 2 additional plans:


Shopify’s 3 core plans are:

  • Basic Shopify — $29/month
  • Shopify — $79/month
  • Advanced Shopify — $299/month

The other 2 plans are:

  • Shopify Lite — $9/month
  • Shopify Plus — $2,000+/month

Let’s discuss the 3 core plans before jumping into the Shopify Lite and Plus plans.

Shopify Lite and Plus plans

The core plans provide the foundations needed to run your business, such as:

  • Access to Shopify Admin to manage your products, orders, and customer information
  • Sell an unlimited number of products
  • Abandoned cart recovery, discount code creation, and multichannel integration
  • A built-in blogging engine to publish articles or update your customers
  • Access to a wide range of third-party apps

3.1.1. The Basic Shopify Plan

For $29/month, this plan includes all the basic features needed to start and run your own eCommerce business.


With Basic Shopify you can:

  • Sell on multiple channels such as Facebook and Amazon
  • Make basic changes to your online store with the built-in theme editor
  • Manage all your products, orders, and customer information with Shopify Admin
  • Gain valuable insight with reports
  • Create 2 staff accounts

This plan doesn’t include professional reports, the advanced report builder (to create custom reports), or calculated third-party shipping rates.


Without Shopify Payments, you’ll be charged a 2% transaction fee on each sale with this plan.

3.1.2. The Shopify Plan

The Shopify plan is $79/monthand is suitable for growing businesses with 1 retail store.


The features on offer are largely the same as the Basic Shopify plan, apart from a few key differences.


With the Shopify plan you get everything in the Basic Shopify plan, plus:

  • Professional reports
  • 5 staff accounts as opposed to 2

This plan also doesn’t include the advanced report builder or calculated third-party shipping rates.


The transaction fee is lowered to 1% on this plan if you choose not to use Shopify Payments.

3.1.3. The Advanced Shopify Plan

The Advanced Shopify plan is $299/month and is suitable for growing businesses with more than 2 retail stores.


Again, apart from a few key differences, the features on offer are largely the same with this plan.


With the Advanced Shopify plan you get everything available in the above plans, plus:

  • The advanced report builder
  • Calculated third-party shipping rates
  • 15 staff accounts

The transaction fee is lowered to 0.5% on this plan if you choose not to use Shopify Payments.

3.1.4. The Shopify Lite Plan

For $9/month, the Shopify Lite plan lets you:

  • Make in-person sales with Shopify’s POS (Point of Sale) Lite app (Credit card rates start at 2.4% per transaction)
  • Embed a ‘Buy Button’ on your website or social media page to start selling

To help you manage your business, this plan also gives you access to Shopify Admin with features such as:

  • An overview dashboard
  • Finance reports
  • Order and product management

Unless you use Shopify Payments, you can expect a 2% transaction fee with this plan.


This plan may be for you if all you’re looking for is to start selling on an existing website or social media page.


But if you’re needing far more than what’s on offer with the above plans — then perhaps you’d be interested in the Shopify Plus plan.

3.1.5. The Shopify Plus Plan

The price of the Shopify Plus plan depends on your needs — pricing starts at $2,000/month for standard setups and integrations.


This plan has features suitable to support large, established businesses — here’s what you can expect:

  • Sales automation tools
  • Your stores, staff accounts, and automated workflows are managed from one location
  • Unlimited transactions, staff accounts, and products
  • Customizable checkout
  • Smart promotional tools
  • Top-notch service and support

If you need more advanced features — then you’d need to opt for a custom plan costing you more than $2,000/month.


Let’s explore some of Shopify’s features in a little more detail.


Feel free to skip ahead to The Pros and Cons of Shopify for a quick recap if you aren’t interested in delving into each of the features.

4. Shopify’s Features

Ecommerce

Source: TechGuide

4.1. Interface

The clean, simplistic design of their interface makes setting up an online store pretty straightforward — with prompts to help in the setup process.


The built-in theme editor helps you customize the layout of your site’s key pages, such as your homepage.


One aspect worth noting when it comes to Shopify’s interface is the somewhat old-fashioned content editor.


The absence of a ‘drag-and-drop’ editor limits the flexibility that’s built into other website builders — including systeme.io.


Apps like Buildify can add the drag-and-drop functionality, but this comes at an increase in your monthly costs — it would be better if this was one of Shopify’s core features.

Buildify’s Drag-and-Drop Editor

Buildify’s Drag-and-Drop Editor for $12.99/Month

When it comes to customizing your website, Shopify has you covered — let’s have a look at what you can expect from the theme store.

4.2. Shopify’s Theme Store

Shopify

Source: ThemeTidy

Your store’s aesthetics are really important — a generic, poorly designed store will deter customers.


Shopify offers both free and paid themes — with the option of creating your own with code, or hiring a Shopify Expert to customize one for you.


The online store editor lets you customize the overall look of your store, and you can test different layouts by rearranging, adding, or removing sections of your theme.


Unfortunately, there are only 9 free themes, each with 2 or 3 variations.


So if you’re looking to truly stand out, you’d probably want to opt for a premium theme.


There are 66 to choose from, each with a couple variations, but they aren’t cheap — you’re looking at $100 to $180 for a premium theme.

Shopify’s Premium Themes

Highlight — One of Shopify’s Premium Themes for $180

The issue with premium themes is that you may need to contact the developer to help install or customize them.


Although you can buy a theme or create your own, this isn’t always ideal — which makes the small range of free themes a bit disappointing.


Let's review some of Shopify’s ecommerce features.

4.3. Add and Manage Products

Adding and managing your products is a straightforward task with Shopify — but there are a couple of flaws that we’ll discuss.


You can easily add in your product details such as: the title, description, image, price, and you can add product videos in the Media section.

Add product with Shopify

You can create 100 variants of a product, but there’s a limit of 3 product options — this includes: size, color, or material.


You could tweak the code yourself, or if you’re prepared to pay — you can get a third-party app that will remove these limits.

Product Variants Reloaded is an app that you can pay a monthly fee to use to remove this limit — it starts at $14.99/month.


If you’re selling subscriptions, or if you require custom fields for customizable products — this also isn’t a feature that’s built-in.


So, if this is the case, then you’re given the same options — buy an app, pay a developer, or tweak the code yourself.


When it comes to managing your products, the built-in stock-keeping unit (SKU), and inventory tracking features are really useful.


These features help ensure that you’ve got a handle on your inventory and that you don’t sell items that are out of stock.

Shopify’s Inventory Tracking Feature

Shopify’s Inventory Tracking Feature

But, if you need to receive direct notifications to alert you that your stock levels are low — then you’ll need to get an app installed for that.


Let’s take a look at how Shopify collections work to organize your products.

4.4. Shopify Collections

Shopify lets you organize your products into collections, this ultimately allows you to target a specific audience.


This means that you can:

  • Display products under a specific product category such as accessories
  • Or you could display products specifically for say, children or pets

The adding of products to collections can be manual or automated — the automation is based on certain criteria such as the price, tags, etc. 

The adding of products to collections

Apart from allowing you to target specific audiences, it also helps with the following:

  • Makes navigating through your catalog easier for your customers
  • You can apply discounts to specific collections

There’s one drawback to the automated collection feature that’s worth noting — you can’t just remove particular products.


You’ll need to:

  • Change the collection’s conditions
  • Or edit the product details to ensure that it no longer fits the conditions

4.5. Analytics and Reporting

Shopify offers an overview dashboard and some useful reports, but the quality of reporting that you get is limited depending on your plan.


The most useful reports are only available with the more expensive plans — the $79+ Shopify plan or higher.

Shopify’s Analytics

Shopify’s Analytics

If you’re not on one of the more expensive plans, then the dashboard and the reports cover only basic reporting and analysis needs.

 Shopify’s Overview Dashboard

Shopify’s Overview Dashboard

There’s the option of using Google Analytics instead, but not all the data from Shopify’s Reports can be found in Google Analytics.


The other option is to get an app to meet your specific reporting needs — these range in price depending on the app and what’s on offer.


Also, there is an option to integrate Shopify to Google Sheets directly. It'll allow you to collect all the inventory records, order tracking, and other essential data from your Shopify store in one place and analyze it eventually.


It’s time we take a closer look at what’s on offer at Shopify’s App Store.

4.6. Shopify’s App Store

 Shopify’s App Store

Shopify’s App Store

The apps available on Shopify’s app store can help you build your business, integrate with external services, or add features to your Shopify admin.


Over 4,000 free and paid apps are available.


Although this can be a strong argument for Shopify, it can also be an argument against it, we’ll get into this shortly.


Most of the apps are built by third-party developers, but some have been developed by Shopify themselves.


Though the ones developed by Shopify aren’t always free, most of them are.


A good example is the free ‘Digital Downloads App’ which you need to install to sell digital goods on Shopify.


Sadly, some of the really useful apps, developed by Shopify themselves, are only available to those on the Shopify Plus plan.


Here are some examples:

  • Launchpad — This app lets you schedule, coordinate, and execute events, such as sales and inventory restocks
  • Transporter — This lets you import customer, product, and order records into your Shopify store
  • Shopify Flow — This lets you create workflows to automate tasks in your store — an automation feature that’s provided in all of systeme.io’s plans (including the Freemium plan!)

Although the add-ons and assistance from developers can be really helpful — they can be expensive.


This is the argument that can be used against Shopify — the need to install paid apps adds to your monthly costs quite considerably.


Here’s an example of how you’ll need to install apps for very basic functionality.

 A Landing Page Builder on Shopify’s App Store — PageFly

A Landing Page Builder on Shopify’s App Store — PageFly

This is something that we feel should come built-in, as it is at systeme.io.


As you can see below, some of the apps themselves are limited — here’s the pricing of PageFly’s plans.

PageFly’s Pricing

If you’re unsure of the quality of an app, you can view the overall rating and the reviews left by other users.


So, Shopify’s massive app store has its benefits, but it can also be one of Shopify’s biggest downfalls.

4.7. Shopify Email

Shopify Email

Email marketing is vital to growing any online business — it’s crucial for building relationships with your customers and generating sales.


Shopify Email lets you send up to 2,500 emails a month for free, with a $1 fee for every 1,000 emails sent after that.


Their free plan lets you send 5 email marketing campaigns a week — this ends up being 100,000 emails a week for up to 20,000 contacts.


But when it comes to email marketing automation, you need to be on the Basic Shopify plan or higher ($29+/month).


Although this might be suitable for some, an all-in-one online business building tool such as systeme.io might be a better solution for you.


All of systeme.io’s plans include unlimited emails — including the Freemium plan.


Systeme.io lets you set up and grow your mailing list with broadcasts, newsletters, and automated email sequences.


You can test systeme.io for free, for as long as you like with the Freemium plan — we’ll let you decide.

4.8. Shopify’s Blogging and SEO

Blogging and SEO

With a blog, you can provide your audience with insight into your brand or products.

The biggest advantage of having a blog is that it draws traffic to your website, for example:

  • Blog posts can improve your store's SEO — your ranking on Google searches
  • The conversational tone that accompanies a good blog can convert visitors into customers
  • Blogs increase customer engagement

So how does Shopify’s built-in blogging tool fare against other blogging tools?


Well, it’s easy to use, but it does lack some useful features — regardless, it should have no problem meeting the needs of most users.


And if you find that this isn’t the case, then as with most of Shopify’s features — the option of getting an app is always there.


For example, an app called DropInBlog adds the features that aren’t available built-in with Shopify’s blogging tool, including:

  • SEO analysis
  • The ability to embed your products into your posts — this adds the ‘add to cart’ feature to your blog
  • Related blog posts feature
  • Multiple authors and categories
 DropInBlog — from $24 / month

DropInBlog — from $24 / month

When it comes to SEO, search engines determine which websites are displayed first on the search engine result page (SERP).


Websites that are deemed most relevant to the search query are ranked highest on SERPs.


SEO ranking issues are likely the result of poor optimization and not the tool being used (for example Shopify).


The content you produce is key to ranking high in Google’s results — click here for some helpful SEO tips.


Although bad content is generally to blame, Shopify limiting the customization of your URL can negatively impact your ranking.


Shopify adds strings to the URL structure of your pages or products that aren’t fully customizable, for example, they add prefixes like:

  • Before products they add — /products/
  • Before pages they add — /pages/
  • Before posts they add — /posts/

This can be a big SEO problem as Google’s algorithms prefer a simpler URL structure, as explained here.


Overall though, most of your SEO parameters like title tags, descriptions, image alt, etc. can be customized quite easily on Shopify.


And when you change a URL, Shopify automatically creates a redirect to the new URL — this means that your visitors will never see 404 (URL not found) errors which play a big role in increasing your SEO ranking.

Shopify’s SEO

Shopify’s SEO

The reality is that some people like Shopify’s SEO and others don’t.


For all things search engine related, we recommend focusing on:

  • Keyword research
  • Producing quality content
  • Backlinking
  • Your user experience (UX)

Here’s a complete guide on some of the best SEO practices.


So we’ve had a closer look into 8 of Shopify’s most noteworthy features — let’s do a quick recap of the pros and cons.

5. The Pros and Cons of Shopify

The Pros and Cons of Shopify

5.1. Shopify’s Pros

  • They offer a variety of plans
  • Over 100 payment options including their own built-in payment system (Shopify Payments)
  • You can sell offline with their POS system
  • Their interface is easy to use
  • The themes are compatible with all devices
  • The large array of third-party apps lets you improve your site’s functionality
  • The customization potential is huge
  • It’s easy to add and manage your products, and the collections are helpful
  • Abandoned cart recovery is available on all plans — including the Lite plan
  • You can send email campaigns and host a list of up to 2,500 subscribers for free
  • The built-in email, blogging, and SEO tools will prove sufficient for most users

Note — Shopify Payments is great, but it isn’t available in every country.

5.2. Shopify’s Cons

  • It’s costly for what’s on offer
  • Extra transaction fees are unavoidable unless you use Shopify Payments
  • The best features are only included in the more expensive plans (professional reporting and calculated third-party shipping rates)
  • No drag-and-drop editor
  • Installing an app is often necessary for core functionality — this can easily add to your monthly costs
  • You can create 100 variants of a product — but there’s a limit of 3 product options
  • Shopify Email is pretty basic, and email automation is only available if you’re on the $29+ plans
  • The built-in blogging tool lacks some useful features
  • Shopify adding URL strings that can’t be changed isn’t ideal for SEO

6. Shopify Reviews

Here are reviews from some of Shopify’s own customers on G2.com.

reviews from some of Shopify’s own customers on G2.com
reviews from some of Shopify’s own customers on G2.com
reviews from some of Shopify’s own customers on G2.com
reviews from some of Shopify’s own customers on G2.com
reviews from some of Shopify’s own customers on G2.com

According to data from Grid Report, these are Shopify’s highest and lowest-rated features:

Shopify’s highest and lowest-rated features
Shopify’s highest and lowest-rated features

7. A Shopify Alternative Worth Considering

Look no further than systeme.io for all the tools that you need to run your online business — without hurting your pocket.


With systeme.io you can:

  • Create sales funnels in just a few clicks
  • Set up your website in under 10 minutes with our website builder
  • Create email campaigns and send unlimited emails
  • Create your own affiliate program
  • Automate your entire online business
  • Run evergreen webinars

And more!


At systeme.io you can rest assured that there are no hidden costs — the core functionality you need to run your business is all built-in.

Systeme.io pricing

Click here to see more of what’s on offer with each of our 4 plans.

We believe in simplicity and affordability, this is what our customers have to say:

Testimonials from systeme.io customers
Testimonials from systeme.io customers

Keen to join them?


With our Freemium plan, you can try systeme.io for free for as long as you like without committing.

8. Conclusion

Hopefully, this review has given you all the insight you need to determine whether or not Shopify is right for you.


Shopify may be pretty well-known in the field of ecommerce, but you’ll definitely need the budget if you plan on using them for your online business.


They offer great value with their ‘Lite’ plan if you’re looking to sell products, but the other plans are quite costly considering the limitations.


In quite a few instances you may need to buy an app for features not included in your plan.


If you’re looking for something that has all your necessary tools under the same roof, but for much less — systeme.io is the solution you’ve been searching for.


Regardless of the size of your business — systeme.io has you covered.


More often than not, it’s the smaller, simpler solutions that offer the best experiences.


What are you waiting for?


Start your freemium account today!

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