What Is Shopify And How Does Shopify Work?
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.
Table of Contents
- What Is Shopify?
- What Are The Pros & Cons Of Shopify?
- How To Use Shopify
- How Do You Start With Shopify?
- Final Thoughts
What Is Shopify?
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. How much does Shopify cost, you ask? 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 To Use Shopify
Wondering how to sell on Shopify? 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.
Look Into Shopify Payments
If you’ve read our review of Shopify, you know that one of Shopify’s biggest downfalls is their transaction fees. (We’ve written about the pros and cons of Shopify Payments in a full review, but for the abbreviated version, keep reading.) Shopify charges between 0.5% and 2.0% on every transaction you make using their platform (depending on your plan). However, if you choose to use Shopify’s in-house payment processor, Shopify Payments, you can have those transaction fees waived.
Another benefit is that Shopify Payments offers reduced processing fees to clients on higher level Shopify plans. Take a look at Shopify Payment’s rates below.
A word of warning: Many Shopify customers complain that they aren’t permitted to use Shopify Payments. Make sure you read through the Terms of Service before you count on using Shopify Payments.
You should also look into your other options for payment processing before you commit to Shopify Payments. Sure, it would be great to get your transaction fees waived, but you may find that another payment processor can offer you a better deal. It’s best to do your research and crunch the numbers before you commit to any processor.
For more information on selecting a payment processor, take a look at our Beginner’s Guide to Payment Processing. It explains everything from understanding rates and fees to negotiating for the best deal.
Utilize Shopify Themes & Templates
Shopify is best known for ease of use and modern web design. Here’s a sample of Shopify’s themes.
In particular, I’m a fan of Shopify’s new(ish) editor: Sections. Sections lets you edit the look of your homepage using drag-and-drop design tools.
Take a look at Shopify’s explanation of Sections or watch the video below for a quick summary.
I love how easily you can rearrange pieces of your main web page. I only wish Shopify would hurry up in extending this level of customizability to other aspects of their storefronts.
Become Multichannel With Shopify POS
If you’re a multichannel merchant who sells in-person as well as online, Shopify is an excellent choice. Shopify makes it easy to sell in brick-and-mortar and pop-up shops with their in-house POS system.
When you sign up for Shopify’s eCommerce store, you’ll also automatically register for Shopify POS. Shopify POS lets you easily complete in-person retail transactions and process credit card payments. Your online store and POS system will be synced so that every inventory change you make on one platform appears on the other.
If you’d like more specific information on credit card processing and ease of use, we’ve actually written a full review of Shopify POS.
Try Selling Digital
Shipping is one of the biggest hassles involved with online selling, and it can really cut into your profits. Selling digital products allows you to benefit from all the perks of selling online while eliminating one of the major downsides.
Using Shopify’s native digital products features, you can sell downloadable merchandise. Market your MP3 files, printables, videos, and eBooks. Disable shipping on those products, and you’ll be able to deliver download links right to your customers’ email.
In order to automate the delivery of your digital products, you’ll need to implement an app. The Digital Downloads app in Shopify’s marketplace might do just the trick. The app automates your delivery by providing download links to your customers upon purchase and sending an additional downloadable link via email on your behalf.
Load up a few downloadable products and start fulfilling customers’ orders faster, without spending a penny on shipping.
Start A Blog
Maintaining a blog can work wonders for your online store. Not only do regular blog posts boost your SEO rankings, they also help to build your brand’s identity. I’ve actually written an article about all of the reasons you should keep a blog. Take a look to learn more about how your store’s blog can influence SEO and customer connection.
Fortunately, Shopify is one of a handful of shopping carts that comes with built-in blog features. You can write, edit, and publish blog posts right in your admin panel.
For most merchants, Shopify’s blog functionality will work perfectly fine, but I should warn you: As with many of Shopify’s features, Shopify’s blogging is fairly basic. If you want your blog to be the main focus of your online store, Shopify may not be the right choice. You might instead look into WooCommerce, which lets you add a shopping cart into a pre-existing blog instead of the other way around.
Alternatively, you could use this BlogFeeder app to link your WordPress account with your Shopify store. This app lets you manage your blog on WordPress and then import it to Shopify, which may give you access to more robust blogging features.
However you do it, you should start a blog on your store. It’ll do you good.
Tap Into Shopify Customer Service
We love SaaS solutions like Shopify for a variety of reasons. Not the least of them is customers’ ready access to free technical support.
Shopify is one of the eCommerce industry’s leaders when it comes to customer support; they offer support options in every avenue you might hope to find, including phone support, email support, live chat, written documentation, video tutorials, webinars, and a community forum. (Because the Shopify community is so large, you can expect that forum to be active. You’ll be able to reach out to other Shopify users, express your frustrations with different features, and contact Shopify representatives for assistance.)
With so many support options available to you, you’ll never have to go it on your own. When you run into a problem, contact support. You’ll receive a response within a short period of time. And if it isn’t a dramatic fix, it won’t cost you anything at all.
Take Advantage Of Your Add-On Options
Shopify’s Marketplace is packed with a whopping 1500+ add-ons. Because Shopify comes relatively light out-of-the-box, you’ll likely need to add a few integrations. But with so many add-ons to choose from, you’re certain to find the extensions you need.
In particular, you should look into incorporating a shipping software to beef up your order processing. Take a look at my top recommendations for shipping software, or look at my abbreviated version below:
- ShippingEasy: ShippingEasy lets you import orders, create shipments, and pay for and print postage. And fortunately, it is indeed easy to use. View the ShippingEasy integration in Shopify’s Marketplace or read our full review.
- Ordoro: Ordoro is a shipping solution that includes inventory management (if you choose to pay for it). Customers are especially fond of Ordoro’s dropshipping features. Take a look at the integration page in the Shopify Marketplace and read our review to learn more.
- ShipStation: ShipStation is arguably the best-known shipping software on the market. It integrates with nearly all of the most popular shopping carts and marketing software, and it’s relatively affordable. Once again, for the full details, look at ShipStation’s page in Shopify’s Marketplace and take a look at our review.
Other Ways To Make The Most Of Shopify
- 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. Our full explanation of Shopping Shipping provides more information.
- 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 With Shopify?
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.
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!