Shopify website builder review – all-around eCommerce star
Shopify is an all-inclusive eCommerce website building platform, letting anyone build a professional online store.
If you're serious about building your business, finding a suitable eCommerce platform is more difficult than googling "good ecommerce website", and clicking the first link that shows up. Most likely, there are specific plans, ideas, and goals you have in mind.
Shopify features are truly an intriguing mix of eCommerce-centered first-party features, and powerful third-party apps – it’s probably the closest to an ultimate platform as anyone's going to get. It's an easy-to-learn, sales-driven platform, perfect for busy entrepreneurs.
Shopify does it all and does it as well as anyone. Will it be right for you? Only you can tell. Shopify is not the only platform you can use for an eCommerce site (check out our best website builder for online stores picks), still, it's one of the most known.
For this Shopify review, I signed up my own Shopify account and set up a test site for everyone to see (will show it later!). And I found both advantages and disadvantages – namely the quickly ballooning prices, and limited template selection, but I was super impressed with its wide selection of eCommerce tools.
And one more thing before we start. This review is pretty large. So, you can click here to read the full conclusion to see my final thoughts.
|Ease of use||Foolproof design options|
|Templates||9 free templates, many more premium options|
|Business features||Excellent first party features, good app market|
|Performance||Solid, but could still be improved|
|Current deal:||Make a professional online store from just $29/month|
Shopify pros and cons
- Excellent selection of eCommerce features
- Ability to sell across multiple channels (including Instagram, Amazon, Facebook, and eBay)
- Easy scalability for businesses of all sizes
- Diverse app library
- High fees: both start up, and transaction
- Limited design customizability
- Limited SEO & content marketing capabilities
Shopify video review
Shopify offers 3 packages, that include website hosting, and all the main eCommerce features. Their prices range between $29.00 and $299.00 a month – and that may seem a little bit expensive, especially if you're on a budget.
Here's what the three packages are like:
|Basic Shopify||Add 2 people as staff, assign 4 warehouse locations, abandoned shopping cart recovery, gift cards, discount codes, multilanguage website capabilities, unlimited products||$29.00/month|
|Shopify||Create reports based on user data, assign different prices for different countries, additional discounts for shipping from DHL Express, UPS, and USPS, 5 staff accounts, 5 warehouse locations, unlimited products||$79.00/month|
|Advanced Shopify||Create custom reports, automatically calculated shipping rates, international variant pricing, unlimited products||$299.00/month|
You may think that the prices are a bit too big to pay without even trying the plans. And you'd be right!
So, it's no surprise to see Shopify offering a free 14-day trial for all of its plans, no credit card required. And no, don't worry about accidentally getting charged $3,000 after you forget to cancel the trial. The account will just freeze, so knock yourselves out.
In some other Shopify reviews, you may also hear a word or two about Shopify Lite. Starting at $9/month, it's an option for you to add a product and a checkout link to your already-existing website. It's not a full-on eCommerce solution, and it doesn't let you use most of the platform's advanced features, so I won't compare them with the full plans here.
Similar (but opposite) is true with Shopify Plus – it is a much more expensive custom solution for major businesses (probably the option Kim Kardashian uses!).
With those two out of the way, let's have a look at the three main pricing plans in detail.
Starting from $29 per month, this is the plan if you’re a beginner.
All Shopify’s plans have a transaction fee, and naturally, the cheapest plan has the highest one. It'll be lower if you use its own Shopify Payments platform, and higher if you use a third-party option.
Basic Shopify will include a transaction fee of 2.9% + 30¢ USD if you use Shopify Payments. If not, the fee will be 2%, plus whatever the payment gateway of your choice will charge.
However, this plan has all the core features to start selling – but keep in mind that the fee is the largest.
For $79 per month, this plan gets you some insightful professional reports, including every single feature from the Basic. If you’ve got a growing business where sales are expected to go in fast, this would be an ideal pick.
Especially when you consider the lower transaction fees. It's down to 2.6%+30¢ on Shopify Payments, and the additional fee for using third-party payment processors is reduced by double, to 1%.
This plan is perfect for small to medium-sized businesses – when choosing a Shopify plan, try to predict your sales, and count the transaction fees you'd be paying. The more sales, the more sense it makes to upgrade!
At $299, Advanced Shopify is Shopify’s most extensive and expensive option for its general audience. Boasting every single feature of previous plans – this plan’s a perfect pick for sellers looking to scale and solidify themselves in their respective markets.
The transaction fees are at their lowest here: with 2.4%+30¢ for Shopify Payments, and only a 0.5% fee for third-party solutions.
Compared to the $79 plan, there aren't that many extra features. The play here is simple: this is a plan if you sell a lot, and want to cut down on your transaction fees as much as possible.
Shopify's $79 plan will be the best solution for most small-to-medium sized businesses. But this price isn't always set in stone – we do our best to acquire the best coupons and discount codes. See, if there's a discount for you.
Is Shopify easy to use?
- Beginning to use Shopify – Starting with Shopify was pretty slick. I signed up for their free trial by just typing in my email, setting a password, and creating a store name.
- Designing the store – The dashboard makes building a site as simple as possible: all the information was laid out in front of me. And there’s also a series of steps one can follow to get their store up and running in no time.
- Managing the store – There are a handful of ways you can set up everything about your website, and the products sold on it. Everything's intuitive and easy to understand.
All in all, Shopify succeeds in making a highly technical task — like ‘creating an online store’ — into an uncomplicated process by streamlining it. From my experience, it's even less complicated than many beginner-centered website builders.
Shopify succeeds in making difficult things simple. Shopify is a very advanced eCommerce solution, but it sort of held my hand as I went through the process of opening up my virtual shop.
To show you exactly what I mean, I signed up with Shopify and made my very own online store. Here it is! Click the image to see the full thing.
And this is what I experienced when for this Shopify review, I dove deep into the depths of eCommerce.
Getting started with Shopify website builder
Starting to use Shopify was a breeze. All I had to do was to visit the Shopify website, and located a button to "Start free trial".
Then, I was asked a very simple list of questions, that would be used to tailor Shopify experience to my requirements.
Then, a bit of personal information, and just like that – I was already in the Shopify dashboard.
Visually, this is as simple as it gets. The questions about my experience and goals? They're now reflected in the start menu right at the center.
If I, for instance, said that I'm just snooping around and need all the help that I can get, I'll also get be suggested some free 1-on-1 training, and given an opportunity to see the Help Center's YouTube channel, full of various tutorials.
Get comfortable in this menu. After all, this is where you'll get to add products and build a website.
So, let's do just that. Here's show Shopify handles the design, and the store management tasks.
Designing the online store
The menu on the left-hand side if where you'll get a chance to do manage all of your pages, and blog posts. But it's the "Themes" menu, where you want to be if you wish to edit how your Shopify website looks.
For your debut, you'll get a theme called Debut (fitting!) and a pre-made site, including several sections you would commonly see in an online store.
Everything's controlled by the menu on the left. I could easily hide and rearrange everything.
There I also had an opportunity to add new sections as well. There weren't many – only 16 options in total, including maps, blogs, images with text (your classic suspects).
Within the sections, you can also add content, which will depend entirely on your section.
For instance, the Testimonials menu will only let you add more testimonials.
And the gallery element, unsurprisingly, only lets you add images.
But there is also an opportunity to add "custom content" which basically allows you to make some sections of your own. This is where you do those less-common moves, like combining galleries with video, or collections with blogs.
Then you can also edit your website's fonts, social media buttons, color scheme, and other similar site-wide changes.
And that's honestly it!
Do you want more?
Well, apart from what I just changed, other edits on your website can be done in two different ways:
- Editing your website's code (difficult!)
- Finding a theme that best suits what you want from your website (easy!)
The code editing part is what allows the power users to bend the website to their will.
But for the regular Joe and Jane, it's the templates they'll need to use to give the website a bit of extra sparkle.
For some, that could be a bit of a bummer. Shopify is not the place for pixel-perfect editing. It's for fast and efficient editing, instead.
On June 29th, 2021 Shopify introduced a brand new way to design your store using the Online Store 2.0.
With this new addition, some of the design features became more advanced. Now Shopify stores can have multiple template files that map to different products, collection pages, custom pages, blog posts, and more. This allows merchants to have different product and collection pages in the same store.
This feature is still very new, and not many stores have upgraded to it since Shopify only offers one theme for it. However, it will probably take off soon because of Online Store 2.0’s promised easier customization. However, if the need to know some coding to fully customize your online store scares you, you can always try out a builder like SITE123 and Squarespace – while their eCommerce tools are not as extensive, they are way easier to use.
Managing the online store
The real fun begins when you actually work on managing your store: that means adding products.
This is where this Shopify website builder's review gets a bit more interesting, and the platform's muscles starts to show a bit. The "Products" menu on the dashboard lets you quickly add a product, manage your inventory, as well as set up collections and gift cards. For this review, I'll be focusing on selling clothes.
And once you're done writing just about everything about your product (weight, customs info, price, stock, vendor), you'll also get to give it an inviting search engine look. You can edit your product's SEO here and add all necessary keywords (t-shirt selling, online store, and everything in between).
The marketing menu will be your mission control center for all the campaigns you might be planning, whether they concern email marketing or marketing through social media.
And of course, there's a dedicated "Discounts" menu, where you can set up just about any type of discount you can think of.
You can also do some blogging – the editor is rudimentary, but as with most things Shopify, it's snappy, and it just works.
And...that's it! Again! Really, this is the gist of using Shopify. You will be given a lot of limits of what you can do.
But the things you can do will be placed in neat, easily accessible zones. And so, it could a pretty good trade-off for many people. If you've come here to sell, not to design, all of this has to sound pretty good.
Shopify website building templates
- How many themes? – Shopify lets to choose between 73 themes. 9 are free, others are paid. Third-party options are available.
- How much are they? – Shopify's own premium themes are anywhere from $100 to $200.
- Are they any good? – The themes are sleek, modern, and most importantly, optimized to sell. You can change quite a lot, but there's no pixel-perfect editing.
Shopify doesn't offer hundreds of templates, like some other website builders might. Instead, they focus heavily on delivering quality over quantity.
And so, on Shopify's own Themes shop, there are only 73 options available to choose from. Out of them, only 9 are free.
There's a chance you've probably seen websites looking just like that all over the internet. When the world's premier selling platform only gives you 9 free picks, everything tends to look a little bit...samey.
Don't take it the wrong way, though. The templates are fine. Good, even!
They put the product and the images right in the center, and everything about them is laser-focused to increase your sales. But if you wish to get a slightly less common look, you may want to check out the premium options.
There are 64 of them, and compared to the free options, they do look even a tad more modern and refined.
Here are a few that I loved. This one looks perfect for a fashion-centered store.
And this one is a serious Amazon doppelganger – for all the right reasons.
And here's another theme that would look great on a full-blown multi-category shop.
With the launch of Online Store 2.0 on June 29th, 2021 Shopify introduced one new theme called Dawn. It includes an adaptable layout, site-wide cross-selling sections, and media-optimized product pages. It’s easier to customize Dawn than regular Shopify themes since sections and blocks let you add, rearrange, and edit every page without coding.
Of course, the biggest issue with Shopify templates is that they cost money: and quite a lot of it. $180 for a theme is nothing if you're a decent-sized company, but possibly plan-stopping if you're a single entrepreneur looking to get by.
For that, there's always an alternative option: and it's third-party themes.
Shopify allows you to upload and use any theme of your choosing, as long as it complies with the platform's own guidelines.
This, combined with Shopify's popularity and expensive first-party themes, leads to a lively third-party market. Platforms such as ThemeForest or TemplateMonster offer thousands of templates you can pick from.
You'll notice one thing pretty immediately. Compared to the first-party themes, these are very cheap.
Are they any good?
Well, it depends. Keep an eye on the reviews people share online, and look for the experiences, closest to yours.
There are no solid guarantees that these themes will work will all the newest Shopify features and apps, something certain if you'll drop $200 on the official thing. That being said, there are still many well-proven options you should absolutely love, and for a fraction of a price...why not? But if you are truly looking for something less expensive, Zyro is a great option with 130+ free themes – you can find out more about them in our full Zyro review.
Shopify gives you plenty of theme options: thanks to both itself and a lively Shopify community. The styles are fully optimized for selling, and it's up to you, whether you wish to go free, invest a lot of money into Shopify's own creation, or aim somewhere in between with a third-party option.
I'll go straight to the spoilers: Shopify is the most feature-rich eCommerce solution out in the market. These are the features offered, you can read all about them later on or just click on the ones that caught your eye the most:
- Automatic tax calculation – Shopify lets you relax and does the heavy lifting by calculating your taxes and then giving you a complete tax report.
- Shipping and payments – You can pick between 100+ payment gateways or keep everything in-house by using Shopify Payments. Additionally, Shopify works in hand with top shipping providers to give you extra options.
- Abandoned cart recovery – to boost sales and revenue, Shopify notifies you which of your customers left an item in their cart. Hit them up with a discount to push them to buy it!
- Point of sale (POS) – if you have a brick-and-mortar store, the inventory gets automatically tracked in your online store. All the sales register in your Shopify system, not to mention, it's very simple to accept card payments, offer discounts, or loyalty programs.
- Dropshipping – use your Shopify store to dropship without any hassle
- Print on demand – Shopify has apps that automatically take your orders, print out a custom product, and send it to your customer
- Selling digital products – sell digital goods and services on your Shopify store – music, ebooks, audiobooks, or courses
- App store – There are tons of helpful apps in the app store for all your eCommerce needs. But they’ll probably cost some extra bucks
But without proof, these words are just bites of empty information on your screen, so let's have look – is it exactly what are you looking for? Let's break down a few of its core eCommerce features and see how Shopify works.
Automatic tax calculation
I find tax laws and regulations very complex, not to mention, they can change often. However, Shopify makes this tedious job easier – you can set up Shopify to automatically handle the most common sales tax calculations.
To do so, Shopify uses many default sales tax rates, which are updated regularly. If you end up using the default rates, you’ll need to confirm that they are current and correct for your particular circumstances.
After setting up your store address and shipping zones, it’s a piece of cake to set Shopify to calculate all your taxes automatically. You can even select whether taxes are included in your prices or if you want to apply taxes to your shipping rates.
To further help with your sales tax reporting, download a taxes finance report and a sales finance report. It will contain all the information on order amounts, taxes, POS, billing, and shipping locations.
Shopify has its own payment gateway — called Shopify Payments — which lets you sell in 10 major international currencies (US dollar, Canadian dollar, pound sterling, and Euro all included). It also helps your users easily checkout via all major credit cards, as well as Apple Pay and Google Pay.
It integrates smoothly with Shopify, and signing up is easy.
However, Shopify Payments isn’t available worldwide. For USA, it works perfectly fine, but for vendors from many other countries, an alternative checkout option is required. Luckily, Shopify offers a massive selection of other, third-party gateways, which you can use, as long as you pay the 0.5-2% transaction fee.
Among these options, you'll find some other popular payment gateways, such as 2Checkout, PayPal, Braintree, and Stripe.
Shipping can be tricky – more so when you’re just getting started or operating on a smaller scale.
And so, Shopify’s got it all covered in terms of shipping. It was pretty easy to manage rates, locations, and shipping labels all from the same platform.
Also, Shopify has partnered with various shipping companies, such as DHL and UPS, as well as the United States and Canada postal offices, giving you a fair amount of shipping outlets to choose from.
And depending on the plan you choose, you’ll get discounts on your parcels – giving an additional incentive to upgrade. You can also use the shipping calculator to see how much it would cost to get a parcel to a particular address with a specific plan.
There's always a possibility to use an app to find out third party calculated shipping rates.
Alternatively, if you plan on using only USPS, and wish to have the most budget-friendly shipping experience possible, I suggest a simple free app called Pirate Ship, which will scour the seas for the lowest possible shipping rates.
That's arrrr-guably the most budget-conscious option out of all, so definitely check it out. Before we move on, on behalf of myself, I would like to apologize for my last sentence.
Abandoned cart recovery
You might have a product so good, users quickly add it to cart, bringing them one massive step closer to paying.
But then, 60% of people just...go away, leaving their full carts empty in the middle of the store (rude).
This is where abandoned cart recovery comes to aid.
Available on all plans, it’s a great way of boosting sales and squeezing out some extra revenue from your traffic. Shopify will give you a list of people that left their carts, so you can see exactly who it is, and what did they oh-so-nearly buy. And then, you can contact them, and suggest reconsidering.
Automated email software, such as MailerLite, makes this process even easier, offering plenty of email templates, and going a lot of dirty conversion work for you.
Of course, I don't suggest you just go in empty: offer a discount while you're at it, and you might convert some holdouts into customers.
Point of sale (POS)
If you’ve got a brick-and-mortar business and need something more than just a website – Shopify’s POS might be just the thing for you.
You can use it to sell your products offline, i.e., in physical locations like farmer markets and pop-up shops.
The best thing: it comes fully combined with the online store.
That means the inventory gets automatically tracked, all the sales register in your Shopify system, and it's very simple to accept card payments, offer discounts, or loyalty programs.
There’s a Lite version that comes along — with no extra cost — with all Shopify plans.
Withholding a portion of your sales, it boasts a robust order and product customer management system. It's not ideal, the inventory management is relatively barebones, and there are some staff restrictions as well.
Shopify offers a Pro plan that helps solve all that, it costs an additional $89 a month while removing the staff restrictions and expanding the inventory management system to its max.
And in addition to that, there is plenty of hardware to aid the physical selling experience even further.
These peripherals integrate smoothly with Shopify’s POS, and you can buy them in bundles or one-off.
Overall, it's a very solid hybrid selling experience. If you actively sell both in-person, and online, Shopify POS is a solution that combines both, and reduces headaches to a minimum.
Dropshipping is a popular way of selling online where orders are processed and fulfilled by a third party — like AliExpress, Spocket, Amazon, Or Etsy — in place of the store owner.
In there, you simply act as an intermediary, who sells the product to the customer, and keeps a portion of the profit.
And for me, Shopify is ‘the’ platform for it. Namely, because of several great platforms, that work together with Shopify to help smaller businesses do sales without keeping a massive inventory.
In fact, one of the platforms was recently acquired by Shopify – and to me, it's far and away the best Shopify dropshipping option out there. It's called Oberlo.
This platform focuses mostly on AliExpress, so if that's the source of your choice, that's the one to pick.
And there's a free plan available for all Shopify users as well. It's restrictive, but still rather solid, with a product limit of 500.
The two premium plans cost $7.90 ad $29.90/month respectively, add bulk orders, shipment tracking, multiple staff accounts, and several other basic features.
Print on demand
If you're a designer or an aspiring lifestyle brand, this means that you have a lot of great visuals that you want to sell as complete, finished products: posters, shirts, hoodies...mugs...shoes? You get my point.
Actually, this is the part of eCommerce where I have the most experience. After all, I did spend my early 20s selling various shits and posters to people across the world!
And oh, how do I wish that I knew of services like Printify when I first started.
Printify is a print-on-demand service that will automatically takes your orders, print out a custom product, and send it to your customer.
You don't have to do anything, except choose your printing partner, add the designs, select the products, and set the prices for a solid profit margin.
Printify has a free option, that's perfectly capable to handle most small business needs: but if you sell more, the $29/month plan will help you save more on the products, making it pretty good value.
Selling digital products
Shopify also makes it possible to sell digital goods/services via your online store: think things like music, ebooks, audiobooks, or courses.
And while there’s no baked-in feature for that, Shopify has a first-party Digital Downloads app allowing anyone to sell digital products via their store.
Though keep in mind, Shopify’s default recommendation isn't the best-ranked app out there – with 3.4 stars out of 5, it's above average at best.
The disappointed users cite that sometimes their customers do not receive the files they paid for.
But there are also plenty of other plugins that are rated much better and appear to work as advertised – such as Easy Digital Products.
There is a free plan, too: but it will limit you to a mere 3 products and 100MB of storage. If that's not enough, you can always upgrade to a bigger plan. At a cost, of course.
Shopify app store
You might’ve already noticed – if Shopify can’t do something on its own, there’s for sure going to be a paid or free app for it.
Indeed – during this Shopify review, I found a wide range of useful eCommerce apps available on its app store. Some were built by Shopify itself. And then, third-party developers try to fill in the gaps and do some things better than the platform itself ever could.
Put these together, and you get probably the best eCommerce app store out there.
Separated in categories (marketing, productivity, places to sell, store design, etc.), and in collections (for just starting out, for selling in-person, for scaling, etc.), there are apps for nearly anything. A different online store builder with an extremely extensive app store is Wix – check out the full review here.
No joke: Shopify literally has nearly 150 apps just for different ways of setting up live chat on your store.
Sadly, the app market is so big, it also has a room with an elephant in it. Here's what it says:
While you might be tempted to download every high-rated app under the Sun, remember that a lot of them will cost extra. Make sure to keep your expenses in track.
Similar to point of sale, dropshipping, digital downloads, and print-on-demand apps I mentioned earlier in this Shopify review, many apps will offer either a limited free plan or a free trial.
And in order to make the best out of them, you have to pay.
Let's have a look at a few other great options: and see just how much they would attack your wallet:
If you don't want to use Shopify's automatic tax calculation, TaxJar will prepare and file tax return information in minutes, as well as do automated tax reports, and handle your returns. If you're not a spreadsheet type of person, this can be a lifesaver, keeping track of all your expenses and taxes.
It's free for the first 30 days, and costs $19/month after that.
Bundle Products and Discounts will let you easily make product bundles, and offer combined discounts. It's free for the first 14 days, and $7.49/month after.
And a PDF invoice printer allows your users to automatically receive and manually request custom invoices, complete with your branding.
Hey, this one's free of charge!
If you want to know more, we combined an entire best Shopify apps list – feel free to snoop around!
Overall, Shopify is a king of eCommerce features. I've only scratched the surface here – with an extensive in-house platform, and a lively community of developers, this is a one-stop shop for all things selling.
Sadly, the community has its own bills to pay.
And so, prepare to pay extra for some of those amazing features.
Other Shopify business features
As the age-old proverb goes, starting a store is only half the battle, the other half is...marketing? This old proverb book I purchased is eerily recent. Jokes aside, here are the other helpful business features that Shopify offers. Click on the ones that you’re interested in the most or read through all of them. Your choice.
- Email marketing – Shopify website builder has a solid built-in option and also has some solid third-party picks as well
- Analytics and reporting – with a strong two-tier in-house solution, Google Analytics capabilities, and third-party apps, Shopify has a lot to offer
- SEO and blogging – with rudimentary blogging at best, Shopify is not a blogging platform. Third-party comes to rescue again
- Customer service – great customer service can make or break a builder, and I’m happy to announce that Shopify provides reliable customer support, which you can contact via chat, phone, and email
Shopify comes with an in-house solution for email marketing, allowing you to contact and entice your leads with custom emails.
As per usual, there are some third-party options you can choose, if the built-in app does not please you.
For example, there's Klaviyo, a freemium plugin that’s specially created to aid email marketing efforts.
Boasting quite a few pre-built templates, Klaviyo provides precise targeting, in-depth analytics, and better audience segmentation – granting greater freedom as well as results compared to Shopify’s native email marketing solution.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
SEO — or Search Engine Optimization — is the process of maximizing a store's chances of ranking on the top of Google’s search results. Which is where you want to be if you're looking to sell.
You won't be given total freedom to do anything, but there are still tools for adding titles and meta descriptions to all pages of your store.
And there's even a little search engine result preview.
But there are still some awkward things:
The URL structure has this annoying ‘products’ folder in it that’s unremovable, meaning you can’t fully customize the URLs.
However, at the end of June 2021, Shopify announced a long-awaited possibility for site-owners to edit robot.txt files. Now it is possible to edit your site’s robots.txt file for better optimization – you can do that through the robots.txt.liquid theme template. There's an ability to add extra sitemap URLs as well as do some changes in terms of crawlers. For example, you can block certain crawlers, add crawl-delay rules and even allow or disallow certain URLs from being crawled.
If these changes aren’t enough for you and you’re serious about your URL structure and wish to have everything set up in your very own, special, optimized way…
There's an app for that.
SEO Optimizer is an option many people pick to save themselves from various SEO-related troubles.
Sadly, it's also a premium pick. The free, version, however, will still give you an SEO audit, and help to optimize images, so they're completely SEO-friendly.
The paid plan will cost nearly $30 a month, and offers full SEO, meta tag optimization, as well as fixes broken links, and helps you get into Google's snippet results.
Where Shopify itself has the main tools, the community helps the pros.
Blogs can be a great marketing medium for online stores. You can use blogs to increase your overall traffic by educating potential buyers, and solidify your brand’s social presence as a result.
To help you do that, Shopify provides a built-in blogging solution with all their plans. It allows you to adjoin a blog to your store, create/manage posts, and perform basic optimization.
I've covered these tools earlier, but I'll just repeat what I said before: blogging on Shopify isn't all that. The editing options are limited, and even the whole interface is a little bit behind the times.
Now to be fair, I’m not asking Shopify to emulate something like WordPress – a complete blogging-centered platform. Shopify is not a blogging platform, after all.
But what should you do if you want both supreme Shopify eCommerce, and some good blogging, all in one package?
Brace yourselves. Third-parties are here again.
DropInBlog is the perfect option for this specific scenario.
You click once, and DropInBlog gets installed onto your store.
It automatically picks up your store’s colors, fonts, layout, and some basic formatting. So you don't spend hours in front of a PC to match your store’s and blog’s look. The entire editor is very SEO-focused, and keeps offering a lot of tips and tricks on how to improve the content for search engines.
Plus, you can embed products in a post – something you can’t do with Shopify’s native blogging solution.
But sadly, there's only a 14-day free trial, with the two premium plans costing around $25 and $50 respectively.
That being said, it's not the only blog-related Shopify app out there, as there are over 40 such options available. You might just find something that suits you or your wallet better.
Analytics and reporting
Understanding your clients via analytics is a crucial aspect of running any kind of successful business. And unsurprisingly, this is where Shopify shines.
It has an in-depth analytics dashboard. And it's not just the regular "this many users go to this kind of page" stuff. We're talking in-depth eCommerce analytics, seeing metrics such as conversion, return rate, sales from specific sources, and much more.
These can come real handy as you scale and optimize your store.
For example, if I see a product getting tons of clicks – I can promote it using paid ads or place it at the top of my product pile. Increasing my sales as a result.
Sadly, not all plans have the same level of analytics. The $29 Shopify Plan won't give you advanced sales, profit, and customer reports. For that, you'll need to upgrade to the $79 regular Shopify plan or higher.
However, everyone gets an opportunity to integrate the website with Google Analytics. It's a powerful, free solution, that collects a lot of data. For some, it may even render in-house Shopify analytics useless.
Or rather, it would, if it had your sales figures. For that, you might want to check out some third-party options (of course). Currently, my favorite advanced report builder is Report Pundit.
It works even on the cheapest Shopify plan.
There are over 80 pre-built reports & dashboards available, and you can even contact the team live on chat to solve any of the issues that might appear.
Of course, it's paid: costs $15 a month. But that's a smaller fee than the $50 premium you'd have to pay moving from Shopify Basic to regular Shopify. And if analytics is your only draw to that, this might be a great solution.
So weigh out your options — which are: Shopify’s native analytics, Google Analytics, or a third-party app — and pick the most suitable one.
Shopify customer service
Shopify provides reliable customer-support, which you can contact via chat, phone, and email.
I tested out their promptness by asking a question regarding one of the paid plans. And from the resulting experience, I’d say their support is top-notch.
This was the question I asked:
“Hi, I was wondering - If I start with 'Basic Shopify' then upgrade to the 'Shopify' plan after 3-4 months, will I be able to access the professional reports for the previous 3-4 months, i.e. the duration I was on the Basic plan?”
And after waiting for about 8-10 minutes, here’s the response I got:
The reply is on-point. Quick and concise.
But that's only one of the options available on the Shopify Help Center. This is where you'll also find an eye-watering list of helpful information on how to use Shopify. Everything easily accessible, and explained in a simple list form.
You can also find some helpful tutorials, going from the most basic stuff, to some real professional topics, such as utilizing coding to further customize your Shopify store’s templates.
Shopify has perhaps the most in-depth list of learning resources in the market. And while you can just talk to live support, and solve any of the pressing issues, you can also find all the required information to make the best out of this massive platform.
And so, with all these features, both in-house and third party, I can easily deduce that Shopify can help you do pretty much everything that you're looking for.
For the final episode of this lengthy Shopify review, I tested the platform's server performance. The gig here is simple: I uploaded the test website that I made to GTMetrix, which measures its structure, load time, and overall performance.
These are the results:
Overall, Shopify performance is not bad, even if it could be improved. The entire website loaded in under 4 seconds, which is just over Google recommended ideal speed for online businesses. It also took just under 2 seconds for the website to load visually, meaning your visitors won't have to wait forever on a white loading screen.
It's not ideal, and I do wish that Shopify loaded just a bit faster, but it's still rather solid, and similar to many other similar platforms.
Alternatives to Shopify
Each business is unique, and so are its needs. And by now, you might not be considering Shopify for your online business. Maybe it's the prices of the platform. Maybe it's the prices of the platform, plus the additional themes and plugins. Or maybe you want something with a different approach at site customization.
Regardless, here are some top alternatives to Shopify:
Wix is perhaps the best general-purpose builder out there. It's less eCommerce-focused than Shopify, but its versatility still makes it a pretty good place to build an online store (read more in our Wix vs Shopify comparison).
Rivaling Shopify’s app store, Wix hosts a varied app marketplace as well. Plus, there’s an extensive template library with over 700, entirely free picks. And you can use one of their robust editors — called ADI and Classic Editor — to make these templates your own.
eCommerce-powered plans start at $23 a month: and while they're less powerful than Shopify's, it's also a much friendlier pick to your wallet.
Squarespace is a small business owner’s dream – as it combines analytics, eCommerce, and blogging tools in one multi-purpose website builder. See how it stands up to Shopify in our Shopify vs Squarespace comparison.
Visually, the templates offered by Squarespace are minimalist, yet genuinely quite stunning. Some of them, just like Shopify's, are also focused entirely on selling your products.
It's a simple business solution, suited for the entrepreneur who wants to do it all. eCommerce plans start at a low $18 a month.
Shopify’s price puts you off?
Try Weebly – perhaps the cheapest all-in-one website builder with eCommerce capabilities. Backed by the payment gateway giant Square, this platform lets you build a fantastic online store for $12 a month.
It's a simple, all-inclusive website builder, focusing on function over form – and your products, above all.
Sure, there aren’t many sales and marketing features as on Shopify, but for simple, budget-conscious selling, this is the way to go. Find out more in our Weebly vs. Shopify comparison.
Shopify review - final verdict
In Shopify, everything's all about eCommerce. And it does the basics incredibly well: building a website is a breeze, so is adding products, and setting everything up, just to start selling.
It's not perfect, and there are issues, namely related to limited website design options. But with the third-party templates and apps, these flaws get covered up almost completely. With the right apps, and the right template, Shopify is going to be your perfect business tool, no matter what you wish to do.
Shopify is not a platform for careful pixel-perfect designing or heavy blogging. It is a platform for helping you make the best out of your online business.
And sure, it can get expensive. And really, it's the question for you to answer. If you think that advanced business tools and supreme simplicity are worth the bigger price, Shopify is certainly the way to go.
Is Shopify good for beginners?
Yes, Shopify is a great option for beginners and users of all levels. It has a user-friendly and intuitive interface. There’s no need for coding knowledge, and there are heaps of beginner guides available.
What are Shopify’s limitations?
The biggest Shopify’s limitation is the price of both the platform and the apps. Both of them have quite big monthly costs, so as a Shopify user you have to budget accordingly.
Who should use Shopify?
Generally speaking, larger online stores looking to scale should use Shopify. Anyone who needs powerful e-commerce functionality and control should use Shopify for their online store.
Can I sell digital goods in my Shopify store?
Yes. With the free Digital Downloads app, Shopify users can sell digital products easily on their website. Upon purchase, customers can download their file immediately through a link sent via email.
What do people sell on Shopify?
Shopify is used to sell just about anything, thanks to plenty of first and third-party tools. It can also be used for both online and in-person shopping, and it's a popular option for fairs and festivals.