Shopify: Is it Worth it? An In-depth Review (2021)
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Are you here because you’re wondering whether Shopify is legit — 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.
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?
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:
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:
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%.
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:
The other 2 plans are:
Let’s discuss the 3 core plans before jumping into the Shopify Lite and Plus plans.
Shopify's core plans
The core plans provide the foundations needed to run your business, such as:
For $29/month, this plan includes all the basic features needed to start and run your own eCommerce business.
With Basic Shopify you can:
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.
The Shopify plan is $79/month and 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:
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.
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 transaction fee is lowered to 0.5% on this plan if you choose not to use Shopify Payments.
For $9/month, the Shopify Lite plan lets you:
To help you manage your business, this plan also gives you access to Shopify Admin with features such as:
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.
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:
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.
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 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.
Your store’s aesthetics are really important — a generic, poorly designed store will deter customers.
Shopify offers both free and paid themes — with the options 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.
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.
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 a 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
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.
Shopify lets you organize your products into collections, this ultimately allows you to target a specific audience.
This means that you can:
The adding of products to collections can be manual or automated — the automation is based on certain criteria such as the price, tags, etc.
Apart from allowing you to target specific audiences, it also helps with the following:
There’s one drawback to the automated collection feature that’s worth noting — you can’t just remove particular products.
You’ll need to:
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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 plans
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.
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 our Freemium plan — we’ll let you decide.
With a blog, you can provide your audience with insight into your brand or products.
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:
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:
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.
The reality is that some people like Shopify’s SEO and others don’t.
For all things search engine related, we recommend focusing on:
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.
Note — Shopify Payments is great, but it isn’t available in every country.
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:
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.
We believe in simplicity and affordability, this is what our customers have to say:
Keen to join them?
With our Freemium plan, you can try systeme.io for free for as long as you like without committing.
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?
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