- Easy to use
- Numerous integrations
- Attractive templates
- Advanced design tools
- Free trial available
- Add-ons often necessary
- Additional fees
- Variable customer support
If you research “setting up an online store” for more than 30 seconds, you’ll probably encounter Shopify.
There are good reasons why Shopify shows up at the top of your search results. It’s a fully-hosted eCommerce platform, specializing in ease of use, that’s reasonably priced, with a solid feature set and round-the-clock customer service. It’s one of the best shopping carts on the market today, as many independent Shopify reviewers can attest. Shopify has grown to host more than a million stores in 175 countries and facilitates more than $1 billion in transactions each year.
Despite its relative lack of some advanced features, Shopify’s platform provides enough eCommerce basics to support most merchants of all sizes, and the missing features can be added on with integrations and apps. Alongside its many positives, Shopify does trouble some users by charging transaction fees.
Overall, Shopify is one of the shopping carts we most frequently recommend here at Merchant Maverick, quirks and all. It’s fully deserving of its high marks. Keep reading to find out why.
Table of Contents
- Shopify Pricing
- Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed
- Specific Size Of Business
- Hardware & Software Requirements
- Ease Of Use
- Shopify Features
- Shopify Web Design
- Shopify Customer Service & Technical Support
- Shopify User Reviews
- Shopify Integrations & Add-Ons
- Payment Processing
- Security: Is Shopify Safe?
- Final Verdict
Shopify pricing comes at five levels, but most of the advertising you’ll encounter focuses on the three plans in the middle. You can take advantage of a free 14-day trial, with no credit card required. Accounts set up on the free trial will automatically cancel at the end of 14 days; to activate it again, you must purchase a plan.
Shopify’s pricing plans are billed on a month-by-month basis. While there are no contracts to sign, if you choose to purchase a full year-long plan, you can save 10%. If you purchase two years at a time, you’ll save 20%.
As we outline Shopify’s subscription levels, you’ll notice a Shopify transaction fee that applies in addition to the standard card processing fees charged by your choice of payment gateway. While most other shopping carts do not take a cut of each sale you make, Shopify’s transaction fees, unfortunately, don’t look like they’re going away any time soon. The good news is that Shopify waives those transaction fees if you choose Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe) as your gateway. Of course, the bad news is that not everyone wants or will be approved to use Shopify Payments.
Here’s the full rundown of Shopify’s pricing tiers:
Shopify Lite Plan
The Shopify Lite Plan costs $9/month and does not include an online store. If you use Shopify Payments, the credit card rate is 2.9% + $0.30 for online transactions and 2.7% for in-person transactions; if you use another payment process, Shopify charges a 2.0% Shopify transaction fee.
Here are the features included with this plan:
- Sell in-person
- Add a “Buy” button to your existing websites
- Sell on Facebook
- Create custom orders
- Chat and email support
Basic Shopify Plan
The Basic Shopify Plan costs $29/month and includes an online store. If you use Shopify Payments, the credit card rate is 2.9% + $0.30 for online transactions and 2.7% for in-person transactions; if you use another payment process, Shopify charges 2.0% Shopify transaction fee.
The Basic Shopify plan includes everything in the Shopify Lite plan, plus:
- Online store
- Unlimited products, bandwidth, and storage
- 24/7 multichannel support
- Access to API & app store
- Discount code engine
- Multiple sales channels
- Manual order creation
- Shipping discounts
- Automatic shipping calculations
- Access to Shopify Fulfillment Network
- Free SSL certificate
- Abandoned cart recovery
- Two staff accounts (in addition to the owner’s account)
- Up to four locations
- Basic Shopify POS features
The Shopify Plan costs $79/month. If you use Shopify Payments, the credit card rate is 2.6% + $0.30 for online transactions and 2.5% for in-person transactions; if you use another payment process, Shopify charges a 1.0% Shopify transaction fee.
The Shopify plan includes everything in the Basic Shopify plan, plus:
- Gift cards
- Professional reports
- Five staff accounts (in addition to the owner’s account)
- Up to five locations
- USPS discounts
- Full Shopify POS features
Advanced Shopify Plan
The Advanced Shopify Plan costs $299/month. If you use Shopify Payments, the credit card rate is 2.4% + $0.30 for online transactions and 2.4% for in-person transactions; if you use another payment process, Shopify charges a 0.5% Shopify transaction fee.
The Advanced Shopify plan includes everything in the Shopify plan, plus:
- Advanced report builder
- Real-time shipping carrier rates (outside of Shopify Shipping)
- Fifteen staff accounts (in addition to the owner’s account)
- Up to eight locations
Shopify Plus is for enterprise businesses. If you’re planning on selling over a million dollars per year, you’ll need to contact Shopify for special pricing. Check out our full review of Shopify Plus.
As mentioned above, Shopify charges transaction fees, in addition to those charged by your gateway payment provider. These fees vary from 2% to 0.5% of each sale, depending on the level of service plan you sign up for. The only way to avoid Shopify’s transaction fees entirely is to sign up to use Shopify Payments as your gateway.
Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed
Shopify is web-hosted, SaaS (Software as a Service) technology. You’ll never have to worry about coordinating with a third-party hosting service.
Specific Size Of Business
As you probably gathered from the Shopify pricing section, Shopify targets the full gamut of business sizes, from startup to enterprise. Shopify is open to a wide range of business types; unlike some other shopping carts, Shopify does not have a long list of restricted products although sales of certain firearms and firearm parts are not allowed in addition to certain health products and financial services. If you use Shopify Payments as your payment processor, you will need to comply with Stripe’s guidelines, too. Those include restrictions on drug paraphernalia, pseudo pharmaceuticals, and adult content and service, among other types of products.
Hardware & Software Requirements
Because Shopify provides fully-hosted online stores, all you need is a computer, an internet connection, and a reliable web browser.
Shopify also offers mobile applications for Android (5.0+) and iOS (10.0+). These apps allow you to manage products, process orders, and view analytics anywhere.
Ease Of Use
Ease of use is Shopify’s main selling point. The platform provides a relatively sophisticated entrance into eCommerce that almost anyone can learn to use. If you decide to test Shopify’s admin with the free trial, I think you’ll quickly become comfortable with the user interface. Although you won’t find a tutorial video or setup wizard, Shopify provides three suggestions to get you up and running: Add Product, Customize Theme, and Add Domain.
The menu down the top-left of the screen provides your day-to-day store management tools, while the Settings menu contains storewide configurations (such as shipping methods and taxes).
As you’ve picked up on by now, Shopify aims to strike a balance between its trademark ease of use and additional customization capability. Most merchants will find enough features out of the box to get rolling, but advanced functionality with Shopify often requires add-on applications. As an example, if you want to add infinite product options, digital downloads, or product reviews, you’ll need to visit the app store for a free extension. I added all three to my admin with relative ease, but it’s definitely worth paying attention to the associated cost and learning curve for each non-native feature you’d like to implement. Different theme templates may come with slightly different features as well.
Although Shopify includes a well-stocked app store that allows you to add many features and functions to your store, the good news is much of what you’ll need to set up a functioning store is built into the software. Here’s a rundown of what you’ll find out of the box, with the caveat that some features are available only with higher-level plans. Look into each plan before you make your purchase.:
- Shopify Dashboard: The main dashboard is clean, orderly, intuitive, and easy to navigate.
- Products: Adding products is easy. It takes only a few clicks and keystrokes. The interface provides enough detail to be functional and thorough without becoming overwhelming. Adding product variants is a simple process inside the main “add a product” screen. You can adjust prices, SKUs, and inventory for each variant when you add products, or you can edit those variables later when you configure different product weights for shipping and add variant-specific photos. You’ll also find a bulk editor that allows you to manage data for multiple product variants. Note that if you want to add more than three options for a given product (such as size, color, and material) or over 100 variants total, you’ll need an extension from the app store.
- Multi-Channel Selling: All of Shopify’s paid plans allow you to sell on Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, through Messenger, and with Buy buttons. You can also take advantage of Shopify’s own POS system or a third-party POS on higher-level plans.
- Sell Internationally: Shopify supports international shipping and checkout in over 50 different languages.
- Shopify Checkout: Customers can use guest checkout or create personal accounts to make future transactions smoother. You can even host checkout on your own domain if you choose. If you use Shopify Shipping, you can access makes carrier-calculated shipping rates from DHL, UPS, USPS, or Canada Post available for all plans in the US and Canada. You’ll also get a discount on shipping rates that depends on your Shopify subscription. Shopify’s checkout also features an automatic tax calculator that is based on your location and your customers’ locations.
- Inventory Management: You can list unlimited products and keep track of them with Shopify’s inventory management and product category organization features. You can list variations such as size, color, and material, though you may need to download a free extension if you want to add unlimited variations. Build your catalog with ease by using Shopify’s bulk import/export feature to facilitate migration from your previous platform or to make bulk edits to your catalog.
- Marketing: Use customer accounts to find out more about your customers and to group them by factors, such as location, shopping tendencies, and demographics. Abandoned cart recovery tools let you know when a customer leaves items in a cart without purchasing, so you can automatically send an email to encourage them to complete their purchase. Shopify Chat allows you to engage with site visitors via live chat, and Shopify excels at its coupon and discount features. Create coupon discount codes and coupons, including BOGO, that apply to specific products or categories, and you can limit those to specific groups, a specified number of uses, or a minimum order total.
- Dropshipping: Shopify makes it easy to start a profitable dropshipping business. You can integrate your Shopify store with Oberlo and other dropshipping apps.
- Blog: Use the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor to create a blog that increases brand engagement.
- SEO Tools: Shopify offers SEO features that include customizable H1s and the ability to write title and meta tags as well as product tags. A sitemap.xml is automatically generated for each store.
- Reports & Analytics: Shopify Email lets you run and track email marketing campaigns. Built-in analytics let you view product reports, export reports, and traffic reports — or you can integrate with Google Analytics.
- Mobile Store Management: Shopify is continuously adding functionality to the Shopify App.
- Point Of Sale: Shopify also offers a point of sale (POS) system for in-person selling. It’s recently added a new retail kit to the mix, which includes a tap and chip card reader and a retail stand for the iPad. Read more in our review of Shopify POS.
- Flexible Shipping Rates: You can select factors to determine the cost of shipping, whether it’s free shipping, a flat rate, a tiered rate, a weight-based rate, or a location-based rate.
- Automatic Upgrades: Keep your site up to date with Shopify’s newest features, without any effort on your part.
- 99.98% Uptime: With a record like that, you can be confident that your store will stay online through high-traffic seasons.
Shopify Web Design
Shopify’s web design is truly beautiful. You’ll find more than 100 themes available, and all are mobile responsive. Of those, eight are free options created and supported by Shopify, while the rest are priced between $140-$180 and are supported by their third-party developers. Even the theme shopping experience with Shopify is well-designed. You can filter by various factors to determine the best option for your Shopify store and pore over user ratings and reviews for each theme.
In terms of both form and function, Shopify themes are among the best I’ve seen. They’re professional, elegant, and easy for your customers to navigate. On the other hand, if coding is your thing, there’s a code editor. Along with HTML and CSS knowledge, you’ll need to brush up on Shopify’s proprietary templating language called Liquid.
Shopify Customer Service & Technical Support
The quality of Shopify’s customer service varies depending on who you ask. Some merchants rave about Shopify’s “gurus.” They say that Shopify provides informed, friendly support. On the other hand, I’ve also read angry comments that condemn Shopify’s support representatives for reading answers from a script. These customers say that the representatives they contacted did not have the power to help. I’ve had good experiences with Shopify myself. When I called with a simple question, I received an informed answer with no wait time.
Of course, there are lots of other ways to locate the information you need on your own. Here’s a quick look at Shopify’s extensive (and I mean extensive) resources for solving problems and improving your eCommerce business:
- Phone: There are separate phone numbers for customers in North America, the UK, Australia, Ireland, Singapore, Hong Kong, and New Zealand.
- Email: 24/7 email support is available to all users.
- Live Chat: This option has worked well in my experience, but you’ll need a bit of patience during peak periods.
- Forums: Several separate community forums are available, depending on your needs.
- Help Center: Access the primary knowledgebase and documentation as well as phone, email, and live chat options.
- Academy: Free training courses with videos and full transcripts are available.
- Encyclopedia: Definitions and overviews of eCommerce terms and concepts.
- Guides: Multi-chapter PDF guides on specific topics.
- Developer Docs: API documentation and other resources for the technically-inclined.
- Webinars: Sign up for live broadcasts.
- Podcast: The Shopify Masters Podcast features interviews with successful store owners.
- Blog: As you can imagine, the Shopify blog is well-maintained and informative.
- Changelog: Stay on top of new and updated features available for your store.
- Free Tools: Content templates, calculators, and other free resources accessed from the main website.
- Experts: From developers to designers to marketers, Shopify experts are available for hire.
- Social Media: Check Shopify’s Twitter account for advice and assistance.
- YouTube: The dedicated Shopify Help Center channel has countless video tutorials posted.
Shopify User Reviews
Shopify has overwhelmingly positive reviews on most comment boards and third-party review sites. However, that doesn’t mean every merchant and developer is satisfied with all aspects of Shopify. Let’s take a look at some of the highs and lows.
Negative Shopify Reviews & Complaints
The most common complaints about Shopify include these:
- Limited Functionality: Because Shopify aims to keep its functions basic and easy to grasp, there are a few missing elements in the features list. Customers are often frustrated with the lack of wholesale (B2B) selling options, for example.
- Costly Add-Ons: To make up for a lack of functionality, merchants may have to enlist add-ons, which can become quite expensive.
- Poor Customer Service: As I’ve mentioned, opinions on customer service are widely varied. For every frustrated customer bashing Shopify’s service, there’s one singing its praises. Take that how you will.
- Transaction Fees: Payment processing fees are unavoidable. But Shopify stands out for its added transaction fees that can take between 2% and 0.5% of each sale you make through the platform. Yes, you can avoid the added fees if you use Shopify Payments. But that’s a limiting factor many vendors chafe at. And international merchants may be operating in a nation where Shopify Payments isn’t an option.
- Poor Service With Shopify Payments: I have read many reviews blaming Shopify Payments for withholding vendors’ payments. Additionally, Shopify Payments reserves the right to discontinue services for any merchant it deems a risk. This has led to quite a bit of frustration among merchants. Read our article on the pros and cons of Shopify Payments for more information.
- Some Reports Of Downtime: Some customers have reported that their sites went down or noticeably lagged during critical selling periods.
Positive Shopify Reviews & Testimonials
Shopify has far more positive reviews than negative ones. Users give the platform high satisfaction ratings overall. Here are the most commonly voiced positive reactions:
- Ease Of Use: As I’ve said before, ease of use is Shopify’s niche. You can get a store up and running in less than a day. It’s a great approach for startup and mid-sized businesses alike, even if you have minimal experience with creating a website.
- Beautiful Themes: A professional-looking site inspires trust in your customers. Shopify helps by providing some of the best-looking themes I’ve seen from an eCommerce platform.
- Good Customer Service: Reviews of customer support are mixed, but at least Shopify offers a phone line and 24/7 availability. Those two simple facts alone separate Shopify from the majority of its competitors when it comes to service. Users also praise the free self-help resources and paid Shopify Experts.
- Extendability: The extra cost of add-ons aside, users appreciate how well-connected Shopify is with the eCommerce software world as a whole.
Other customers mentioned:
- A Well-Documented REST API: It’s easy to build integrations and applications.
- The Benefits Of A Fully-Hosted Platform: It’s nice not to have to worry about organizing a third-party host for your site.
Shopify Integrations & Add-Ons
Similar to shopping for a theme, browsing the Shopify App Store is an informative and well-organized experience, partly thanks to a redesign in 2018. The multitude of reviews and ratings for each Shopify app is particularly helpful — that’s one benefit to having a strong and vocal community of users surrounding an eCommerce platform. And Shopify’s app ecosystem is one of the most extensive I’ve seen. With well over 3,500 add-ons and counting, I can say with certainty that Shopify integrates with whatever you’re looking for.
It’s worth reiterating at this point that, while Shopify does a great job offering the features most stores need, additional functionality will require add-ons. That’s part of the reason the app store is so extensive. Some simpler modules are free, but you may find you also need to integrate with a few software platforms that each have their own monthly subscriptions (even if the initial installation is free).
The takeaway here is to make sure you know which features you need before subscribing to Shopify. While Shopify is one of the least expensive shopping carts out of the box, it can quickly become the most expensive option if you need lots of advanced features. On the plus side, there’s a vast array of ways to expand your store’s functionality as you grow.
Shopify integrates with over 100 gateways, including Adyen, Authorize.Net, Fiserv, and PayPal. For all gateways, always verify the availability in your country as well as whether shoppers remain on your website or are diverted to the gateway’s site to complete checkout. Shopify divides these into “direct” and “external” gateways, respectively.
And, of course, Shopify also offers an in-house payment method, Shopify Payments. This Stripe-powered gateway is currently available to merchants in the US, (Puerto Rico is the only US territory where Shopify Payments is available), Canada, the UK, Denmark, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Austria, New Zealand, Sweden, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, Australia, Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong SAR. Below are some key features of Shopify Payments, but be sure to check your specific country for feature availability.
- No Extra Shopify Transaction Fees: The 0.5-2.0% additional fee charged by Shopify is eliminated. You still need to pay regular credit card fees, though!
- Reduced Credit Card Fees: Typically, Stripe and other similar payment facilitators charge 2.9% + $0.30 for online transactions. With Shopify Payments, those rates get reduced as you move up the subscription ladder. In-person processing rates also decrease as you move up in plan level.
- Fraud Protection: Shopify Payments provides its suite of advanced fraud and chargeback prevention features.
- Shopify Pay: An expedited checkout option that allows merchants to save their checkout information across Shopify websites, thus drastically simplifying repeat purchases on your site.
Security: Is Shopify Safe?
Shopify is Level 1 PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant, which is the gold standard for eCommerce platforms. Every merchant gets a free 128-bit shared SSL certificate. And Shopify makes site-wide encryption available for all merchants. You just have to opt-in. Shopify also uses white-hat hackers from HackerOne to test its security measures.
Customer data is hosted on secure and expertly maintained Debian Linux servers guarded by ultra secure OpenBSD firewalls. Shopify advertises a 99.98% uptime and 24/7 monitoring. Shopify’s help center includes extensive resources merchants can use to protect their stores from hackers, ransomware, and viruses.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use, dependable, and elegant online platform for your store, you can stop the search now. I feel confident recommending Shopify to most merchants, provided they aren’t seeking lots of advanced functionality on a shoestring budget.
But before you leap, I encourage you to take the admin for a test drive. Sign up for your free trial, call customer support with any questions you have, and see what features you may need to add on. You’ve got nothing to lose.
The Merchant Maverick Seal of Approval 🏆
After hours of in-depth research and evaluation, we can confidently recommend this brand to our readers. Get started today and see Shopify for yourself.
The Merchant Maverick Seal of Approval 🏆
After hours of in-depth research and evaluation, we can confidently recommend this brand to our readers. Get started today and see Shopify for yourself.