Shopify Review: A solution for beginners or real pros?

The Canadian company Shopify launched its online store platform in 2006. The goal was simple: provide an easy way to sell products online that frees sellers from all technical hurdles.

Shopify states that there are already more than 500,000 businesses that rely on their platform to sell products. Given the fact that there is only a free trial but no free plan, this is an impressive number indeed and makes them one of the leading store builders worldwide.

In our test, we’ll find out how easy or hard it is to setup and maintain a Shopify online store. How much knowledge do you need beforehand and what are the limitations? Is Shopify a reasonable alternative to other big players like eBay or Amazon’s marketplaces? We’ll also take a look at the differences between their paid plans to give you a better picture of which plan makes the most sense.

Let’s find out the secret behind Shopify (or rather, if there is any secret to it)!

Check out What Shopify Is & How It Works

info Shopify’s Online Store can be tested for 14 days for free here. (Link will open in a new window.)

Video Transcript:

We welcome you to this review of the Shopify e-commerce platform! If you have ever bought an article online, chances are that you did it through one of Shopify’s over 90,000 online stores. Unlike eBay or Amazon Market Places, Shopify allows you to sell your products on your OWN website. In this review, we try to find an answer to whether it is really possible to set up an online store without any programming skills.

At first glance, Shopify seems a bit expensive. However, there is a $14 per month plan available, which is little bit hidden on the pricing page. You can upgrade and cancel anytime you want. For all plans, there is a 14 day free trial that doesn’t require your credit card.
After having registered, we see our dashboard. It’s great that Shopify takes you by the hand and gives you hints regarding what to do next. Normally, you would start by picking and modifying your layout. Of course, you could also start immediately by adding new products. Let’s now take a look at the theme.
Here we see our active theme. It looks like this.
As you can see, we have already set up a little online store that sells vintage postcards and envelopes. Let’s now go back to the editor.
Under “Theme Settings,” you can adapt your layout without any programming skills. You see the result in the preview. In case you don’t like the theme, no problem! Visit the Theme Store and pick another one. Provided you or your programmer knows how to code the “Liquid” language, you can also create your very own theme.
Before we add our first product, take a look at some general settings. First, we inspect the checkout. As expected, here you find everything related to the checkout process. You lay down the means of payment, decide if customers need an account to buy a product, set the rules for order processing and give other information, such as “Terms of service” and more.
Let’s now head to the shipping settings.
Here you can define your shipping rates worldwide or for each country individually based on order price or weight.
It’s also possible to calculate the costs with a carrier or fulfillment/dropship service. Finally, let’s have a brief look at taxes.
The tax rates are added automatically when you add a shipping destination. Of course, it is possible to change the rate with a tax override as well. Enough preparations. Let’s add a product.
Under “Products” we see a list of our existing products. In the upper right corner, we can “Add a product.” Since this process is quite self-explanatory, we’ll show you the settings on an existing example.
Give your product a name and a description. It works like a simple text editor. If you want, you can add a “Type” and a “Vendor.”
Of course you can also add variants so you don’t need to add the same product over and over again. Upload your images and decide if you want to add your product to a collection. Tags can help your customers find similar products.
Very important: don’t forget to set your search engine settings for higher rankings.
Last but not least, save everything.
This is what our product looks like. Nice, huh?!
Before you launch your online shop, you can do some test orders. If you have received a new order, you will be notified. That’s what it looks like.
By clicking on the order, Shopify provides you with detailed information of the customer and the current state of the order.
Also, very powerful is the Shopify App Store. For instance, the site-wide contact button you see here is from the app store. There are plenty more useful apps available for free.
Similar to a website builder, Shopify also features a blog with all the bells and whistles. A blog is essential for a content marketing strategy in order to pull in search engine traffic. Keep this in mind when deciding on an e-commerce platform.
Here you would fill in your blog posts. Add a picture, some tags, and all the other typical stuff you’d expect in a blog. You can also edit comments in your blog. Here’s the result.
Shopify makes selling online an easy task. Beginners won’t have to face a programming language barrier and pros have the possibility of creating a tailor-made web store. The dashboard is structured logically and that makes working really smooth. Even if you don’t understand every last feature in detail, it’s easy to understand the big picture.
Either way, there is a big help forum with tutorials and even telephone support available.
Of course, all this quality has its price. You could say it’s quite expensive compared to other online stores, but we think it’s justified. Shopify provides you with all the tools you need set up a successful online store. The rest is up to you!

If you want to know more about Shopify, please go to our detailed Shopify review.

And if you want to find more information about different online shop providers, please make sure to check out WebsiteToolTester.com.

We hope you found this video useful. We would be very happy if you would like it on Facebook or YouTube!

Thank you!

More details

Ease of use: Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about technical stuff at all. Everything can be done with a few clicks. Shopify provides great beginner guides and extensive documentation.

Designs: Both quality and quantity of their designs are excellent and they are mobile-friendly (responsive). In case you don’t find one that fits your needs among the roughly 170 themes, you can either create your own or buy one.

Flexibility: The core system and templates are already great, but it doesn’t stop there. You have full access to the code and can add new functions via their app market or API (for programmers).

Scaling: Shopify is very powerful, but still user-friendly. It’s easy to scale for small and big online stores.

Future Proof: Shopify is one of the biggest and most successful ecommerce solutions out there. The chances that this platform will be shut down are close to zero.

URL structure: blog post, as well as regular pages (e.g. About us), have a URL structure that is not ideal for SEO. Shopify uses subdirectories such as /pages/ or /blog/news/. BigCommerce, for example, let’s you freely choose URLs.

Domain and email hosting: While domain names are not part of the premium packages, they can be purchased through the Shopify interface for a reasonable price. Email hosting requires an external solution like G Suite, though.

Multi-language store: This is not a standard feature. There are apps and templates available.

The Shopify Online Store in Detail

Criterion Rating Comment
Ease of use
Shopify has many features, but it is logically structured. Setting up an online store is not really complicated. Designing and arranging elements can be done with a live preview in the backend.
Product presentation
Zoom function, picture gallery, video - it’s all possible.
Product variants
First you define up to three options (e.g. size, color, material), then you add the variants (e.g. S,M,L,XL). From that Shopify will then generate all possible combinations, which can be up to 100. If you need more you can use one of their apps.
Cart function yes In the “Shopify” plan there is an “Abandoned cart recovery” feature integrated. Among other things, it allows you to remind your visitors with an automatic email to complete their purchase.
Article numbers yes Add your own SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) numbers to each product.
Mobile view yes Optimized for smartphones and tablets with fully responsive layouts. For store owners, there are iPhone and Android apps that let you manage your store on the go.
Payment options
Credit card (via more than 70 processors including Stripe and Authorize.net), PayPal, manual payment options and even BitPay for Bit Coins. They have even introduced their own Shopify Payments Gateway, which will waive the Shopify transaction fee for all plans (Currently available in the U.S., UK, Canada, and Australia only). More details.
Sale of digital goods yes It is possible to limit the number of downloads or the time of availability. Delivery is handled via email. Supports the new rules on charging VAT for digital goods in the European Union.
SSL encryption yes Customer data and payment transactions are encrypted via SSL (https). Included at no additional cost. You can now even use your own checkout domain.
Customer log-in area yes Visitors can check out with a guest account or create their own personalized login. It’s even possible to let your customers decide whether or not they want to create an account.
Coupon codes yes Fixed price, percentage, free shipping. You can set a maximum amount of usage and expiry date.
Shipping cost settings
Shipping rates can be set for each country individually or by shipping carrier (UPS, FedEx, etc.). You can also choose fulfillment/dropshipping with services like Amazon.
Tax settings
Is able to pull US tax rates automatically. Individual tax rates for other countries can be set individually. Allows you to display VAT prices on your product pages.
Article management
Shopify tracks all items you have in stock. There are also settings to receive notifications automatically. There is even a new POS system to manage both your online and offline inventory. This also allows you to take offline payments via an iPad.
Customizable e-mails for order confirmation
Yes. You can edit every notification email as you wish.
Importing/exporting product data yes / yes Product data can be imported from Magento, eBay, WordPress and CSV. This saves a lot of time and makes moving previous web stores to Shopify easy. Exporting a CSV-file is also possible.
E-Commerce analysis yes Shopify offers reports in its “Shopify” plan and higher; product reports, order reports, and more are available (you can see how orders vary from month to month, for example). Moreover, it’s always possible to integrate Google Analytics.
Exporting order data yes Export your orders in a CSV-file.
Total Score
4.7/5
An excellent online store both for beginners and professionals. It almost doesn’t matter how big or small your online store is. Shopify offers you a platform that makes selling not only easy, but also gives the tools to improve your sales. It’s worth mentioning that their website builder and blog are also pretty decent. Try it for free.

Conclusion

After having tested Shopify for a whole week, we have to admit that we are quite impressed. To compare it with small-scale online stores like Weebly or Squarespace almost seems unfair as they easily beat them in every single category – except price.

Adding products as well as setting up payment and shipping options works absolutely painlessly: no important service is missing. That makes both ordering and paying easy for your clients. Their layouts can be modified to a large degree without any programming knowledge.

But Shopify is not only an online store. You can also use it to do content marketing via a blog and also add content pages. And that’s what we find so fascinating: Shopify can be handled by an absolute beginner while at the same time providing a great looking, cutting-edge online store.

Just in case you’re missing a function or want to change the layout, most of the time you are only one click away. New templates and apps can be installed with one simple click via their app store. If you should need a function that doesn’t exist, it’s possible to create it since Shopify has a powerful template language called “Liquid.”

No matter how fast your business and requirements grow, with Shopify you don’t have to be afraid of moving to another platform and restarting everything from scratch (unless you become another Amazon, that is).

Of course, quality has its price. Shopify is not the cheapest solution, and even in their “Shopify” plan ($79/month) they charge you a 1% transaction fee. But you can bypass this fee by signing up for Shopify payments, which is their own payment gateway.

shopify recommendationIn their “Basic” plan ($29/month), they offer telephone support and the ability to modify your entire template. Find our full analysis of Shopify’s pricing plans here.

Still looking for flaws in Shopify? We’ll give you one: you won’t be able to set up a multilingual store out of the gate. However, we found an app priced at (a relatively steep) $17.50 per month that can help you create a multilingual store.

If that’s not an issue for you, Shopify might be THE answer to all your ecommerce questions!

>> Try Shopify 14 days for free (no credit card needed)

Our recommendation: before going “big,” consider picking the “Basic” plan ($29/month) if you need more features you can always upgrade. WordPress users can integrate Shopify Lite for only $9/month.

Is Shopify the right choice for you?

Shopify Online Shop Examples Websites

Shopify E-Commerce Alternatives

BigCommerce
See review
WooCommerce
See review
Weebly Store
See review

FAQ

Can I sell digital goods like MP3s, videos or eBooks with Shopify?

Yes. You can sell files with Shopify. Find more information here.

What payment fees does Shopify charge?

There are two kinds of fees: one that Shopify charges itself and another that you have to pay to the payment gateway processor you use (e.g. PayPal or credit card payment processors such as Stripe or Authorize.net).

Depending on your pricing tier, Shopify would charge somewhere between 0,5% and 2% plus the payment processor’s fee (typically 3% + 30¢). You can avoid Shopify’s fees by using the Shopify Payments gateway (only available in USA, UK and Canada).

Can I upgrade or downgrade my plan easily?

Yes, you can always change your plan type. An upgrade or downgrade will initiate a new billing cycle and close the current one. Existing funds will be credited to your new plan.

How do I cancel my Shopify subscription?

To cancel your online store, go to Settings > Account page.  Select the “Close my Store” option.

cancel-shopify

Can I use Shopify on my phone?

Shopify has a free app for Android and iOS that will let you create and manage your online store on the go. Among other things you can: process orders, manage products, add and contact customers, change your template and check the performance of your online store.

For more information, please check this page.

Techie Stuff (Mainly for Geeks)

Shopify Uptime

Uptime Report for Shopify Demo Site: Last 30 days

This widget shows you the exact website availability of our Shopify demo website during the last 30 days. Ideally the uptime is 100% with zero outages. In ecommerce you would generally want to have an uptime of 99.95% or higher as every minute your website is down will cost you money.

Shopify Response Time

Uptime Report for Shopify Demo Site: Last 30 days

Nobody likes a slow website. That’s why we test the response time from different locations around the world. Your online store generally should have an average server response time of less than 400ms or it can feel slow, however, the overall experience also depends on the page speed (see section below).

Shopify Page Speed

ShopifyDesktopMobileUser Experience (mobile)
Template 1877098
Template 2877397
Template 3847397
Average Rating867297.33

For an online store it is extremely important to load fast. For this test we randomly selected three blank Shopify templates and ran them through the Google PageSpeed testing tool. For an online store a rating of 82 (for desktop) or higher is desirable.

Review Updates

09 Aug 2017 – Mobile phone app information added
31 Jul 2017 – General information update
21 Jul 2017 – New feature: checkout on your own domain
17 Jan 2017 – Shopify’s new templates provide better design options.
17 Nov 2016 – Update in pros & cons (SEO)
09 Aug 2016 – Shopify payments: update in supported countries.
21 Feb 2016 – New pricing – Starter plan discontinued
21 Feb 2016 – FAQ update (WordPress)
03 Feb 2016 – Use case section added
08 Sep 2015 – Uptime, response time and page speed tests added
10 Mar 2015 – Android app available and multilingual app added
26 Nov 2014 – Updated text in product variants
28 Mar 2014 – Initial review of the Shopify online shop

Last update: 9 Aug 2017 | Armin Pinggera

Your questions:

 
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