Are you looking to start a new online business? Or, do you want to add an online store to your physical location to reach more customers with the power of the internet? No matter your reason, if you’re looking to sell online, you need a platform to do so.
Online sales, also known as eCommerce, is a business model where businesses allow customers to place orders through the internet rather than in person. The model aims to take advantage of the internet’s accessibility to get more customers “in the door” – or in this case, on the website – for local stores. For online shops without a physical location, eCommerce allows for international sales without limits (except shipping fees).
To succeed as an online business or just maximize your sales potential, you need the right tools. From creating a website to listing products and accepting payment, there are many parts of online business that need to come together to lead to a sale. Sure, you could try to make your own online store and piece together various tools to make it work. Or, you can use an eCommerce platform like Shopify that takes the daunting task of creating an online store and makes it simpler and more accessible to users of all different experience levels.
When it comes to choosing the right platform for your store, you have multiple options to consider. The right choice for your business will depend on what you need from your chosen platform, your budget, timeline, and technical experience.
In many cases Shopify is a good (or even ideal) choice for running your online business. However, it is not for everyone.
In this review, we’ll highlight some of the most important aspects of an eCommerce platform and how Shopify addresses them to help you decide if you should open a Shopify store.
All About Shopify
Ease of Use
You may think of ease-of-use as something that matters only to beginners. But business owners and website designers alike can greatly benefit from a tool that is easy to use, making it an important aspect to consider.
Perhaps Shopify’s greatest advantage in the eCommerce platform industry is the simplicity that comes with choosing it. The goal of Shopify is to allow business owners to get a good-looking, functional, and profitable site up as soon as possible. In what would take months by hand or weeks on other platforms can be accomplished in days on Shopify.
The ease of use begins with setting up the website itself. Usually, a website requires a domain, hosting, and sometimes SSL security all to be implemented and work in unison – sometimes from different sources. This can make it hard for those who aren’t familiar with the ins-and-outs of websites to get started.
Fortunately, Shopify handles all of that for you with their subscription plans. You can choose your own domain, host with them, and get an SSL certificate at once without having to configure them each yourself – all at a single price.
Shopify’s interface is also simple to use, making it beginner-friendly and saving experienced designers time. Using the admin ribbon (the sidebar that contains all the management tools), you can navigate yourself through simple menus that make it easy to find what you’re looking for. Going from orders to the product catalog to designing the storefront takes just a few clicks, and everything is presented for you on the Shopify dashboard.
When the time comes for customers to checkout, Shopify makes it easy to collect payments. Getting customers through checkout and opening their wallets isn’t always easy, and with about 70% of customers not making it through checkout, you want to make sure it is as quick and easy as possible.
With Shopify, you can integrate your favorite payment methods like Stripe or PayPal so your customers always have a way to pay. Checkout can be customized to shorten and simplify the experience, and cart recovery tools can help to salvage abandoned carts.
Creating a beautiful website is almost as important as creating a functional site. Customers visiting the store can draw a lot of conclusions from the look of the landing page, so it’s crucial that yours reflects the quality of your service and looks professional. Plus, good design leads to better conversion rates.
Shopify uses themes to allow designers to customize multiple aspects of the website at once without requiring any coding knowledge at all. These color schemes and templates, known as themes, can be swapped at-will and customized to fit branding. From adding a huge hero image on the homepage to including a product carousel to show off your catalog to ensuring all colors and fonts are uniform, Shopify allows for quick and easy designing.
However, because Shopify and its themes are based around design templates, the platform offers less design options than WooCommerce and WordPress. Shopify makes it easy to customize your look out-of-the-box, but a WordPress store can take advantage of modular plugins and enhanced individual control over the web pages’ content.
Your website needs to work for you. If it doesn’t have the tools and functionality you need, you can set your business up for lesser success or even failure. In most cases, you will customize your website on top of the eCommerce platform, but not all platforms offer the same degree of control over the site itself.
Shopify offers over 100 themes or templates to choose from – both free and paid. They give your website a brand new look in just a few clicks, and you can tweak it until the style matches your branding. However, these templates are just that – templates. In most cases, you are stuck working within the confines of what the theme allows for your page structure. This means you can’t simply add and subtract elements you don’t want or need very easily without starting fresh with a page builder app page or template.
Unlike WordPress, Shopify is not entirely open-source and editable. With HTML, CSS, and PHP experience, every aspect of a WordPress website can be controlled. With Shopify, you are limited to just what the tools you have can do. Otherwise, you will have to create the app or code the function in yourself. Additionally, WordPress has more than 50,000 plugins to choose from (many of which are free) compared to Shopify’s few thousand, which means it’s harder to find the right tool to customize your site to meet your needs.
Shopify is the all-in-one, out-of-the-box eCommerce platform. They take the confusion and extra steps out of setting a domain, web host, security, and web host up. They even make it easy to collect payments from customers with integrated payment methods. However, that convenience comes at a price – and it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it!
The biggest downside of using Shopify is likely the higher costs associated with it. Unlike other eCommerce platforms such as WooCommerce, there is no free version of Shopify that can be used for running an online store. When you account for the fact that hosting and security are included, the monthly fee charged by the platform becomes easier to swallow. Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the costs.
Each Shopify store must subscribe to 1 of 3 plans – charged monthly or annually – to operate. Prices range from $30 to $300 per month, adding additional startup costs to using the platform. On top of this, Shopify charges you a fee (on top of processing fees from the payment processor used) for every sale you make (2.9% + $0.30 – the same as PayPal) if you don’t use their Shopify Payments feature. Cheaper plans also do not include valuable features like report tracking or shipping benefits, which are readily available as a free plugin on WooCommerce and other eCommerce solutions.
Additionally, premium themes and apps on Shopify can get expensive quickly. When you start your store, you will likely need a paid theme to use (often upwards of $150). With less apps to choose from than WordPress, there are also some features or design styles you simply cannot get for free, which means higher startup costs.
As one of the largest platforms for online business, it’s no surprise that there is a big community of Shopify users and developers available to help you solve any problems you come up with. This begins with Shopify’s own forums, where admins and users alike can lend a hand if you have a problem. You can also ask for user feedback on the forums to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t for your site, which is a valuable part of the design of your website and a great way to improve the customer experience.
Shopify also has the luxury of being the creators of their own platform, which means that unlike open-source WordPress, they can offer 24/7 support online and on the phone to directly help you with your website. You don’t have to worry about coordinating support from a theme developer, plugin developer, and host provider all at once – the entirety exists in-house for them, making it easy to get support when you need it.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a critical factor to consider when choosing the eCommerce platform for you. SEO refers to how well your website can be “crawled” by search engine bots, which provide Google, Bing, and other search engines information about your website. With this info, the search engine can point relevant searches to your page, increasing traffic and earning more potential sales.
Shopify is built to be responsive and fast – two major SEO factors. It also makes it simple to add meta tags, titles, and other on-site SEO details to the website’s various pages. The addition of an SEO app for Shopify can help fine-tune your SEO with recommendations for optimizing your tags, content, images, and sitemap for the best results.
When you host a website with a platform like WordPress or any other open source platform, you are taking security into your own hands. While your web host likely provides some protection on their end, your WordPress backend can still be accessed by hackers, putting your business at risk.
With Shopify, your website is hosted by Shopify themselves. As they are responsible for all hosting and security on your account, they build, implement, and monitor for security breaches with the best tools and apps. You don’t have to worry about checking for vulnerabilities or your website magically disappearing one day – the professionals will handle it for you.
Shopify also includes an SSL certificate for all websites that they host. An SSL certificate is what gives websites the lock or green symbol in the address bar. It means that any data sent to or from the website is encrypted. This includes form submission information (such as customer contact info) and payment details when paying directly on the site.
In current eCommerce, an SSL certificate is essential in earning your customer’s trust, and protecting yourself from liability in the case that something is intercepted.
Shopify is an eCommerce platform that should be in consideration for most new online stores being created. While the additional costs associated with Shopify can turn some users off, they are more than worthwhile for those looking to avoid hiring a developer or those without technical knowledge. The platform simply makes it easy for anyone – regardless of expertise – to create a functioning eCommerce store that will be set up to rank well, safe for customers, and able to complete sales to earn you profit.
For those who want the most control over designing the website and implementing required functionality, Shopify may not be the ideal choice. It is not a modular platform, which limits what can be done creatively and with the apps that are available on the marketplace. The templates that are available are optimized with good SEO and CRO practices, but they may be too cookie cutter for you to use without heavy customization.
Still not sure if Shopify is the right choice for you? The eCommerce platform you choose will have a major effect on how your website operates, so making the right choice is essential. If you aren’t 100% sure, get expert help so that you set your business up for success from the start.
At SEOpologist, we are equipped to create a beautiful custom website that meets your specific requirements and helps you sell. Offering fast turnaround and competitive rates without sacrificing quality, you can leave the web design to the experts and focus on building your business instead.