How Does Shopify Work?

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If you’ve just begun looking into shopping cart software, chances are you’ve run into Shopify (see our review). Shopify is an all-inclusive online selling platform. For one monthly rate, you can create and develop an online store from which you can promote, sell, and ship your products.

Shopify is popular due to its low startup cost and easy-to-use interface. It’s possible to run a complete online store for as low as $29/month, and you can have everything online in less than a week!

Shopify is an excellent solution for many merchants, though it’s not perfect. Keep reading for more information about what comes included in a Shopify subscription, the merits and disadvantages of the software, and how to set up a Shopify store.

What Does A Shopify Subscription Include?

Shopify is a cloud-based, SaaS (software as a service) shopping cart solution. A monthly fee gives you access to an admin panel where you can enter store data, add products, and process orders.

In addition, you’ll be able to choose from a rich selection of free and for-purchase design templates. These themes are clean and modern, and Shopify provides a variety of editing tools which you can use to make your chosen theme fit your brand.

What’s more, a subscription with Shopify includes secure, reliable hosting for your website. You don’t have to worry about your site crashing during peak traffic or hackers hijacking your transactions. With 99.9% uptime and a free SSL certificate, Shopify has you covered.

Finally, your monthly payment entitles you to comprehensive 24/7 customer support. You’ll be able to contact support via phone, email, and live chat. And you can also use Shopify’s knowledge base to solve smaller problems on your own.

Shopify boasts that they’re an all-in-one solution. With a Shopify subscription, you should have everything you need to quickly begin selling on your very own site.

What Are The Pros & Cons Of Shopify?

As you may expect, while Shopify is an excellent option for many merchants, it isn’t for everyone. Here’s a brief list of the reasons merchants choose Shopify, followed by a list of common customer complaints.


  • Easy To Use: This is by far the biggest reason merchants love Shopify. Shopify is built for the technically illiterate. It’s simple to add products, create discounts, and process orders. Web design is user-friendly — and even easy — with the new drag-and-drop editing tool.
  • Low Startup Cost: Shopify’s relatively low monthly fees make setup affordable. The basic plan costs $29/month and the mid-level plan is priced at $79/month.
  • Beautiful Themes: Subscribing merchants can choose from a variety of free, mobile responsive themes. Premium (paid) themes are also available for merchants who want more options.
  • Good For Dropshippers: Shopify is the platform of choice for many dropshippers. Integrations with Ordoro and Oberlo make dropshipping from your Shopify admin a lot simpler.
  • Lots Of Support Options: You can access technical support every hour of the day through phone, live chat, or email. Self-help options are available as well. Customers like that support is available outside of regular business hours.


  • Limited Functionality: Shopify comes pre-loaded with almost all of the features smaller merchants need to build an online store. However, every business has some specialized requirements, and Shopify typically does not have the features to meet those specific needs. This is where add-ons come in. Many merchants end up needing to purchase a handful of add-ons to make this shopping cart work the way they need it to.
  • Costly Add-Ons: As I’ve said, while Shopify offers almost every basic feature, the software is lacking many advanced features. You’ll have to find these features in the form of add-ons, which are not free. The cost of adding just three add-ons can double your monthly fees.
  • Transaction Fees: Although most shopping carts have dropped their transaction fees entirely, Shopify has retained their 0.5% to 2.0% fees (depending on your pricing plan).
  • Strained Customer Support: While in the past Shopify has been known for responsive customer support, it seems their support team has experienced increased strain this past year. Shopify’s client load is increasing exponentially, and support is struggling to keep up. Hold times of up to thirty minutes are not uncommon.

How Do You Make Shopify Work For You?

The way to get the most out of your Shopify subscription is to play to the software’s strengths. Shopify offers a few feature modules that you can use to boost your administrative power and expedite daily processes. Here are a few of Shopify’s strong points;

  • Shopify Shipping: Shopify’s brand new shipping modules allows you to integrate with major shipping carriers in order to calculate real-time shipping rates. You can purchase and print shipping labels directly from your admin panel. You should note that this shipping module does not let you display calculated rates in your customers’ shopping carts.
  • Dropshipping Apps: Shopify allows you to integrate with a handful of dropshipping applications, including Ordoro and Oberlo. I have seen numerous reports of success with these applications in combination with Shopify.
  • Mobile Management: Shopify offers a mobile app, which lets you manage your store from anywhere.
  • Integrations With Amazon & eBay: Connect your Shopify account with two of the internet’s biggest marketplaces. Process orders from all of your sales channels in Shopify. It should be noted that while we’re glad Shopify has bothered to create these integrations, they have not garnered good reviews with Shopify’s user base. Read our article on the two integrations to learn more.

How Do You Start?

If you’re considering Shopify, take the first step to getting started and sign up for their 14-day free trial. You won’t have to enter any credit card information to access the trial; they’ll just need you to submit contact information and answer a few questions about your business.

During your trial, make sure to test every aspect of Shopify’s software. Add products, create marketing campaigns, change your storefront design, and add on an application or two. Make sure Shopify can handle all of your daily operations. Look for any advanced features you may need, like filtered search, abandoned cart notifications, and pop-up promos.

Once you’re sure Shopify is the right choice for you, choose your appropriate pricing plan, and get moving.

If you didn’t already do so in your trial, you’ll need to begin by adding your company’s basic information. Providing an accurate location will help estimate shipping rates and taxes.

You can then head over to the products section to upload your wares. Make sure to list weight and dimensions for each item as this will help Shopify accurately calculate shipping rates in Shopify Shipping.

As you add your products, you should keep in mind your ultimate vision for the design of your site. Take a look at Shopify’s selection and choose a theme that fits your brand and accommodates the number of products you plan to offer.

For example, don’t choose a theme that does not include drop-down menus if you plan to list 500+ products. With so many items, you’ll need to be able to create subcategories.


As you explore your new platform, don’t forget about Shopify’s vast App store. Shopify offers over 1500 extensions and applications which can help fill in any gaps in features you may find.

And when you run into trouble, you can always reach out to Shopify’s support team. At this time, you can expect hold times of up to 30 minutes, so I would first look into Shopify’s knowledge base before calling.

Final Thoughts

Shopify is an excellent shopping cart for many merchants. Its easy to use interface, reasonable pricing model, and beautiful themes make it one of our favorite eCommerce solutions, and we recommend it frequently to readers.

But as always, I suggest you continue your research before you commit to the software. Head over to our full Shopify review for complete information on the pros and cons of the platform. Then, sign up for a free trial to test out the software yourself. Our reviews are just a place to begin. Your own experience with the software is more valuable than any advice I can give.

Best of luck and happy researching!

Liz Hull

Liz Hull

Liz is software review writer living in Oregon. As of late, she can often be found haunting eCommerce forums and waiting on hold with customer service representatives. When she's free, Liz loves to rock climb, watch Spanish dramas, and read poorly-written young adult novels.
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