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What is Shopify?

What is Shopify?

In simplest terms, Shopify is an eCommerce platform that you can use to build, customize, and launch your ideal online store.

As a Shopify development agency that’s been working with the platform almost since it launched back in 2006, we’re huge fans of it. In fact, we love it so much that this very website is built on Shopify!

So, if you’re thinking about doing the same, but want to know what Shopify is and everything it can do before making that decision, read on…

What Is Shopify?

How Does Shopify Work?

20 Benefits of Shopify

8 Potential Drawbacks of Shopify

5 Different Shopify Plans

2 Alternatives to Shopify

Shopify FAQ

Start Selling on Shopify Today

What Is Shopify?

Shopify is a robust subscription-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform designed to simplify the building and operation of eCommerce websites.

Launched in 2006, Shopify offers a range of subscription plans starting at $29 per month, providing users with an all-in-one solution for online and in-person sales. The platform supports branded online stores, mobile POS sales, and a Buy Button for external websites, blog, and email sales through its various plans, including a budget-friendly $9 per month "Starter" plan.

Every Shopify plan includes essential business management tools such as product sourcing, inventory tracking, payment processing, shipping, and marketing. The platform caters to diverse merchants (and their equally diverse customers), empowering them to create and manage online stores without extensive technical skills. Shopify extends its utility beyond online selling, enabling in-person sales with its Point of Sale (POS) app.

With a 14-day free trial, Shopify allows users to explore its features, build customized online experiences, and analyze various aspects of their online stores. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced eCommerce entrepreneur, Shopify provides a user-friendly platform to launch and grow your online business, offering flexibility and scalability to meet the needs of diverse merchants, and make it easy to do all of these important things.

What Companies Use Shopify?

A bit later, we’ll go into more detail about the different Shopify plans that exist, and which make the most sense for which types of business.

However, if you need further confirmation that Shopify is a great choice for all kinds of eCommerce businesses, markets, and customers, here’s a quick list of SUPER successful brand-name businesses that rely on Shopify to sell their products online:

  • Netflix
  • Tesla
  • Red Bull
  • Kylie Cosmetics
  • Gymshark
  • Fitbit
  • Sephora
  • Budweiser
  • Pepsi
  • Hasbro
  • SKIMS
  • Heinz
  • Lindt
  • Penguin Books

Again, we’ll talk about the different Shopify plans in just a moment, but rest assured there are options for companies of all sizes, especially if you want the same type of online success as the businesses we just listed.

How Does Shopify Work?

Shopify stands as a comprehensive eCommerce platform, providing the perfect launchpad for your online business endeavors. Generally speaking, here is a short summary of how Shopify works:

Create and Customize Your Online Store

Signing up for Shopify gives you a three-day free trial to explore its many features. This all-in-one e-Commerce platform comes equipped with all kinds of templates, easily applicable to your site with just a few clicks. Tailor your Shopify store with personalized text, logos, images, and videos, ensuring a seamless alignment with your brand's identity.

Manage Product, Inventory, Shipping, and Payments

The intuitive admin interface empowers Shopify users to effortlessly configure product details, update images, adjust prices, and manage inventory stock. Test your Shopify website pre-launch to guarantee a polished appearance on both desktop and mobile. With compatibility across 70+ payment gateways and support for 50+ languages, Shopify facilitates global product sales effortlessly.

Cloud-Based and Hosted Platform

Operating on a cloud-based and hosted model, Shopify relieves you of the burden of software upgrades and server maintenance. This ensures a hassle-free experience, allowing you to focus on growing and managing your business rather than technical intricacies. Shopify, with its user-friendly interface and global reach, is the ideal solution for aspiring online entrepreneurs.

20 Benefits of Using Shopify

By now, it might be fairly clear why so many business owners rely on Shopify to grow their companies and attract new customers.

But if you’re still on the fence, here are the top 20 benefits of using Shopify:

1. Shopify Is SUPER User-Friendly

We’ve touched on this a few times now, but probably the most notable feature of Shopify is its user-friendly interface, potentially eliminating the need for coding or development skills.

Even individuals without a background in programming can create and launch an online store that will impress their customers and sell products. The intuitive Shopify admin interface empowers users to design a user-friendly online store, post products, and execute sales and promotional activities with ease.

2. Shopify Is Also VERY Affordable

Another reason for the massive popularity of Shopify is how affordable it is.

As we mentioned earlier, Shopify offers a 14-day free trial period, allowing users to explore its features before committing to a subscription. With plans starting at $29 per month and inclusive of SSL security and web hosting, Shopify provides an accessible entry point for businesses of various sizes. Users can choose plans based on their needs and budgets, enjoying unlimited product listings and storage space.

3. Shopify Is an All-in-One eCommerce Solution

Positioned as an all-encompassing eCommerce platform, Shopify takes care of hosting, themes, cart functionality, and sales channels.

This comprehensive approach translates to significant time, cost, and resource savings in the process of building and managing an online store. Users can focus on business growth while Shopify handles the technical intricacies.

This also contributes to how user-friendly Shopify is because you can choose from a range of features to take advantage of and which you don’t need (and, therefore, don’t need to worry about learning how to use). As we’ll touch on in just a moment, there are also all kinds of apps you can choose from to power your Shopify store even more.

4. Award-Winning Customer Support

Shopify prioritizes customer support with round-the-clock assistance available through email, chat, or phone. The platform offers an extensive library of self-support documentation, providing users with self-help options and a wealth of information to explore.

Whether it's a question about how Shopify works or troubleshooting features, the customer support you get with Shopify is readily available to address concerns at any time.

5. Fantastic Themes

Shopify's Theme Store boasts a massive array of free and visually appealing themes that your customers will love. From free themes to paid options, the Shopify Theme Store offers diversity in design, allowing users to customize their store's appearance to align with their unique brand identity. Themes are crafted by professional designers, ensuring a polished and aesthetically pleasing online presence.

6. Excellent Site Performance

Shopify prioritizes fast loading times as performance is paramount for making Google and other search engines happy but, obviously, your customers, as well.

Slow-loading sites can frustrate customers and lead to reduced sales. The reliable speed of Shopify ensures a positive user experience and reduces the likelihood of losing potential customers due to slow loading.

7. Easily Sell Through Multiple Channels

Shopify empowers store owners to extend their reach by selling on various channels, including Facebook, Amazon, Pinterest, and mobile apps. The platform's seamless integration with these channels facilitates an omnichannel selling approach, allowing businesses to tap into diverse markets and broaden their online presence.

8. Abandoned Shopping Cart Recovery Made Easy

Reducing your shopping cart abandonment rate needs to be a priority for every eCommerce business owner.

That’s why Shopify comes with a Abandoned Cart Recovery feature, which is designed to reengage customers who ditch their carts before completing your checkout process.

 Available across all Shopify plans, this feature allows users to send customized email reminders to customers, reminding them of their incomplete purchases. The ability to tailor reminders and set time intervals enhances the effectiveness of this conversion-boosting tool.

9. The MASSIVE Shopify Marketplace

The Shopify Marketplace presents users with a vast array of over 3,500 add-ons. Given the relatively streamlined out-of-the-box offering that Shopify brings to the table, these add-ons play a crucial role in enhancing a store's functionality.

From shipping software to payment gateways, users can select from an extensive range of integrations, including some free Shopify apps that enhance store aesthetics and functionality without additional costs.

And if you check the Shopify Marketplace and don’t see EXACTLY what you want, we have you covered. Check out our Shopify app development services and reach out to see how we can help you build a site your customers will love.

10. Safety and Reliability

Security and reliability are paramount in the world of eCommerce, and Shopify addresses these concerns with regular updates, maintenance, and a robust technical infrastructure.

This platform ensures the secure handling of customer data and maintains consistent accessibility. Shopify stores are well-equipped to handle increased access numbers, making them reliable even during peak times such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday. The absence of additional hosting costs further adds to the safety and reliability of the platform.

11. Shopify Marketing Tools

Shopify provides a suite of marketing tools, including email marketing, social media integration, and SEO-friendly features to help business owners effectively promote their stores and increase visibility.

These Shopify tools are designed to assist businesses in building a strong online presence, attracting and retaining customers, and maximizing their reach in the competitive eCommerce landscape.

12. Built-In Data Analytics

After you use all of those marketing tools to drive traffic to your site, Shopify then has great analytics tools empower users to track their store's performance comprehensively.

From sales metrics to website traffic data, these tools offer valuable insights that can inform data-driven decisions about what your customers are doing when they get to your site.

By understanding these customer behaviors and analyzing key performance indicators, users can refine their strategies and optimize their businesses for growth.

13. Shopify Is EXTREMELY Scalable

Shopify is not just a platform for startups and small businesses, it's a scalable solution that can grow with even the smallest of companies.

Whether you're launching a new venture or managing an established online store, Shopify provides the necessary tools and resources to support your business at every stage. The scalability of Shopify ensures that users can adapt to changing demands and expand their operations seamlessly.

14. Community and Educational Resources

Shopify fosters a sense of community among its users. The platform hosts events, webinars, and forums where entrepreneurs can connect, share insights, and learn from each other's experiences. Additionally, Shopify Academy offers a wealth of educational resources, including courses and tutorials, empowering users to enhance their business skills and stay updated on industry trends.

15. Customization and Flexibility

Shopify and “customization” go hand-in-hand.

Users can tailor their online stores to match their brand identity, ensuring a unique and memorable experiences for all of their customers.

The platform's flexibility extends to app integrations, allowing users to add functionalities and features based on their specific business needs. This adaptability makes Shopify suitable for a diverse range of industries and business models.

16. Seamless Payment Processing

Shopify supports more than 100 different payment gateways, providing customers with diverse payment options.

From major credit cards to alternative payment methods, the platform ensures smooth and secure transactions. The ability to accept payments in multiple currencies simplifies international transactions, expanding the reach of businesses beyond geographical boundaries.

This is a really easy way to dramatically increase your Shopify conversion rate. Just by offering the payment type they prefer, you’ll improve the likelihood of customers completing their checkouts.

We also created a customizable checkout page to improve conversions even more – for free. Take a look at Dominate to see everything it has to offer.

17. Inventory Management

Efficient inventory management is crucial for eCommerce success, and this is another area where Shopify excels.

The platform allows users to easily add, update, and track their product inventory. Automated notifications for low-stock items help prevent overselling, while the intuitive interface ensures that businesses can manage their stock effectively, whether they have a small boutique or a large-scale operation.

While it might seem like a good problem to have, selling out of all your products is going to cost you if your Shopify site attracts more customers than you can serve.

18. Social Media Integration

A little later, when we talk about the different Shopify plans, we’ll introduce you to one that is specifically designed for sales through social media.

But recognizing the influence of social media on consumer behavior, every Shopify plan integrates seamlessly with every popular social media platform.

Sellers can showcase their products on Facebook, Instagram, and other social channels directly from their Shopify store. This integration enhances brand visibility, enables social selling, and facilitates a cohesive online presence across multiple platforms.

It’s also yet another example of how Shopify can skyrocket results for even the smallest of companies and the most inexperienced business owners. Even without an extensive eCommerce background, you can reach customers through a number of different channels ASAP – including through social media.

19. Internationalization and Language Support

For business owners eyeing global expansion, Shopify provides robust features for reaching international customers. Shopify supports multiple languages, allowing users to create a multilingual online store. This inclusivity caters to a diverse range of customers, breaking language barriers and making the shopping experience more accessible for users around the world.

20. Sustainability and Green Initiatives

Finally, while it might not skyrocket your business, it’s pretty cool that Shopify is committed to environmental sustainability.

The platform operates on a carbon-neutral basis, offsetting its carbon footprint through various initiatives. Shopify is committed to reducing environmental impact aligns with the growing consumer preference for eco-friendly and socially responsible businesses. This eco-conscious approach can enhance a brand's reputation and attract environmentally conscious customers.

8 PotentialDrawbacks of Shopify

Alright, we’ve covered 20 reasons to love Shopify and, as we mentioned at the beginning, we’re definitely huge fans of this platform.

But to be fair, Shopify might not be the perfect fit for every single business looking to expand their eCommerce operation.

So, let’s look at 8 potential reasons you might want to consider some alternatives to Shopify and then we’ll introduce you to two of our favorites.

1. Shopify Can Be Difficult to Customize

While Shopify's ease-of-use is a significant advantage, it can definitely become a drawback if your site needs a lot of customization in order to meet your customers’ expectations.  

Shopify utilizes the Liquid language, which can make it a challenge for users without coding expertise to customize themes. Since all themes are coded in Liquid, customization may require hiring a developer with in-depth knowledge of Shopify coding. Opting for a premium theme with support can be a cost-effective alternative, saving money compared to attempting coding customization independently.

2. Many Shopify Apps Are Pricey

While Shopify provides a range of useful apps to enhance functionality, many of these apps come with monthly charges. The cost of paid plugins can accumulate, impacting the overall budget for running an online store. Careful consideration is necessary when opting for paid apps, ensuring they genuinely contribute to saving time, streamlining workflows, and making your customers happy.

While some paid apps, like Shopify Pre Order Apps, can offer valuable features, users should assess the necessity of each app to avoid unnecessary expenses.

3. Unpopular Coding Languages

As we just touched on, Shopify uses Liquid and Ruby, which are less common coding languages, so they may pose challenges for users not familiar with these languages.

So, if you want to maximize the full potential of Shopify, you’ll need to take the time to learn Liquid. Its reliance on Ruby might limit options when hiring developers or seeking assistance from the broader web development community, too. This factor should be considered when choosing Shopify as an e-commerce platform, especially if planning to implement complex features.

4. Limited Customization

Despite offering good flexibility for customization, Shopify has limitations, such as the absence of native options to customize the checkout or thank-you pages.

Even though some Shopify apps can address some of these limitations, developers with advanced coding skills may find these constraints restrictive. Businesses seeking more customization options might explore alternative platforms like BigCommerce or WooCommerce.

And as we just covered, customizing Shopify can mean working with its code, which is something that will require experience with Liquid or Ruby.

5. Tedious Content Management

The Content Management System (CMS) that comes with Shopify may not fully meet the needs of larger organizations with complex content requirements. While the CMS is user-friendly, it may lack the flexibility and depth necessary for organizations managing extensive product ranges or intricate content structures.

Evaluating whether this CMS aligns with specific content management requirements is crucial before committing to Shopify.

6. Shopify Themes Can Be Expensive

While Shopify offers customizable themes, the cost of premium themes can be high, particularly for businesses with specific design needs.

To be fair, free Shopify themes are available, but those seeking advanced and unique designs may find themselves investing substantially in a theme. Careful consideration of design requirements and budget constraints is essential when opting for a paid theme to ensure customization without excessive costs.

7. Shopify Lacks Email Hosting

Shopify does not provide email hosting, which can be limiting for businesses looking to establish a custom email address associated with their domain name. While alternative solutions and third-party services exist, you should know about this limitation and plan accordingly to ensure your email marketing plans are as successful as possible at converting customers.

8. Leaving Shopify Can Be Tough

Leaving the Shopify platform can be challenging due to the proprietary nature of its data storage.

Migrating your store data, products, and themes to another provider requires substantial effort and could potentially result in data loss or complications.

Take the time to consider these challenges and carefully evaluate the long-term implications before committing to Shopify, as difficulties in leaving the platform may arise. And if your site is ever down, you have to expect that your customers may go elsewhere.

The 5 Different Shopify Plans

Okay, now that you know a bit more about Shopify, let’s talk about the options you have to build, market, and sell from your online store.

1. Shopify Starter – $5/month

Formerly known as Shopify Lite, Shopify Starter is the eCommerce platform’s cheapest option designed for companies that only want to sell on social media platforms.

Shopify Starter is tailored for those who primarily intend to sell products through social media and messaging apps. Priced at just $5 per month (the first three months are $1/month), Shopify Starter offers a streamlined online store builder, inventory management tools, and payment acceptance features.

While it doesn't provide a publicly visible website, this plan does enable mobile-optimized sales through links shared on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

And though its affordability is certainly attractive, Shopify Starter does have some limitations, including a lack of discount codes, zero reporting features, and a higher credit card transaction fee of 5% + $00.30 per sale.

But again, Shopify Starter is ideal for sellers focused on social media sales, so it does include some pretty important features like unlimited products, blogging capabilities, SSL certificates, and abandoned cart recovery.

2. Basic Shopify – $39.00/month

If you want to run an actual eCommerce website – not just sell products off social media – then Basic Shopify is the most affordable option that the company offers.

Fortunately, Basic Shopify is still priced very reasonably at just $39 per month (the first three months are just $1/month).

Basic Shopify is designed to provide essential features for starting a new business or enhancing small established websites. With a focus on simplicity and functionality, this plan includes 2 staff accounts, 24/7 support, and unlimited products, making it suitable for businesses seeking a cost-effective eCommerce solution.

Offering a fully customizable Shopify store with a blog, sales channels, and a free SSL certificate, it caters to those who want a beautiful yet straightforward online presence without the advanced features of pricier Shopify plans.

Basic Shopify is ideal for small businesses or those venturing into online retail for the first time. With key features like discount codes, manual order creation, and abandoned cart recovery, it strikes a balance between affordability and functionality.

You can edit and customize your Shopify site to align with your brand’s unique identity, accepting payments both online and offline with transaction rates of 2.9% + $00.30 or just 2.7%. respectively. While Basic Shopify plan caters to smaller stores, businesses with a high volume of expensive products should be mindful of the transaction fees, as they can accumulate quickly.

3. Shopify – $105/month

The Shopify plan priced at $105 per month is designed for small businesses seeking advanced features as they scale.

With a monthly subscription cost of $105.00 USD ($1 per month for the first three months), this plan builds upon the Basic Shopify offering. It encompasses all the features of the Basic plan, providing a fully customizable online store, unlimited products, 5 customer accounts, and 24/7 support.

However, the Shopify plan introduces additional advantages, making it suitable for businesses with ambitions of rapid growth.

This Shopify plan includes professional reports, so you can easily gain valuable insights into your company’s online performance. With the capability to manage up to 1,000 inventory locations, you can efficiently handle growing stock demands, too.

Furthermore, this Shopify plan offers up to 88% off shipping when using USPS, providing a very cost-effective shipping solution, especially as you scale up and serve more customers.

In terms of transaction fees, this Shopify plan offers a competitive rate of 2.6% + $00.30 for online transactions and 2.5% for in-person payments.

This plan is particularly well-suited for companies generating over $5,000 in monthly revenue. It introduces features crucial for scaling, including professional reports and increased staff accounts. The lower transaction fees make it a cost-effective choice for businesses experiencing growth, providing essential tools for tracking success, utilizing gift cards, and overall business enhancement.

4. Advanced Shopify – $399/month

At $399 per month, the Shopify Advanced plan stands as one of the platform's two premium offerings. Fortunately, it also delivers unparalleled value for high-revenue businesses aiming for advanced features and unlimited capabilities.

With Advanced Shopify, you’ll have access to 15 staff accounts, which will streamline operations and make it easier to delegate effectively.

This plan also introduces an advanced report builder, providing in-depth insights into business performance. Notably, Advanced Shopify supports third-party shipping rates, offering flexibility for companies that prefer outsourcing their shipping needs. The standout feature of this plan lies in its unlimited offerings—users can upload as many products as needed and share an abundance of videos and images without constraint.

Meant for high-revenue companies with that bring in at least $10,000/month, the Shopify Advanced plan proves to be a prudent choice. Beyond its expansive features, you’ll also enjoy cost savings through decreased transaction fees. This Shopify plan caters to enterprises seeking a comprehensive and unlimited eCommerce solution, making it an excellent investment for those aiming to optimize their online operations and drive sustained growth.

5. Shopify Plus – Starts at $2,000/month

Finally, let’s talk about Shopify Plus, the platform’s enterprise-level solution.

Geared towards larger businesses or those poised for significant growth, Shopify Plus delivers enhanced control, customization, and automation capabilities for standard commerce setups. Priced at around $2000 per month, potential users need to engage with the Shopify sales team to receive a custom quote.

The main advantages of Shopify Plus lie in its advanced reporting features, higher-priority customer support, and the ability to handle substantial order volumes. This enterprise-level Shopify plan ensures top-of-the-range support, catering exclusively to corporate stores and large enterprises, offering a comprehensive set of features and beyond.

The platform enables businesses to sell across various channels, from DTC and retail to B2B and social media, providing centralized data and valuable customer insights. Shopify Plus facilitates speed and innovation, allowing businesses to be first to market with new features, respond to consumer trends in real-time, and automate workflows efficiently. The customizable one-click checkout, exclusive to Shopify Plus, contributes to its reputation as the world's best-converting checkout.

For businesses with annual revenues of $1 million or more, Shopify Plus is a strategic investment, costing $2,000 or more per month. This plan is designed to accommodate the increasing demand for powerful features and robust website hosting, preventing site crashes during traffic surges.

However, to get an accurate quote for Shopify Plus, you’ll need to contact Shopify directly.

2 Shopify Alternatives

There are two main alternatives to Shopify worth considering, both of which are great for markets and customers of all kinds.

We’ve compared all three of them in this blog post about the three best B2B eCommerce platforms of 2024, but plenty of businesses use them for B2C, too.

The two best alternatives are:

BigCommerce

BigCommerce is a leading eCommerce platform that offers a user-friendly interface and robust features, which help facilitate seamless customization, secure transactions, and scalable growth for merchants. Most agree that it’s more flexible and scalable than Shopify.

It also offers a wider range of out-of-the-box features, including multichannel selling, advanced SEO tools, and a more transparent pricing structure.

BigCommerce is known for accommodating larger enterprises with complex needs, making it a robust choice for businesses seeking scalability and comprehensive e-commerce solutions.

If you want to see how the two popular platforms stack up, check out this post: Shopify vs. BigCommerce.

Magento/Adobe Commerce

Magento Commerce – now known as Adobe Commerce – is one of the most popular eCommerce platforms amongst bigger companies that value scalability and customization. While there is a free version, the price of Magento Commerce starts at around $22,000/month.

So, if you’re on a tighter budget, BigCommerce is probably a better choice.

Magento stands out from other platforms – including Shopify –with its extensive range of extensions and a massive community of developers who are constantly creating more. The eCommerce platform also allows businesses to create highly customized online stores, and its open-source nature provides developers with significant control over the platform's functionality and appearance.

We’ve compared Shopify Plus and Magento before if you want to see a completed breakdown of the two.

Shopify FAQ

Still got questions about Shopify? Check out this FAQ or contact us directly for any answers you need.

Is Shopify Good for Small Businesses?

Shopify is widely considered to be one of the best eCommerce platforms for small businesses.

This isn’t just because of its user-friendly setup and scalable pricing plans, either.

Shopify offers an easy-to-use interface, a variety of customizable templates, and built-in tools for payment processing and inventory management. It also caters to the needs of small business owners who want to establish and grow their online presence without the complexity of managing a full-scale eCommerce platform.

Are Shopify’s Features Good for SEO?

Yes, all of the many user-friendly features that come with Shopify make it incredibly easy to follow Search Engine Optimization best practices to quickly generate traffic to your eCommerce website. If you want help with that, we have a complete Shopify SEO checklist you can follow. You can also retain our Shopify SEO services for help from an expert.

Will I Need a Shopify Developer?

One of the many reasons to love Shopify is that it’s very beginner-friendly. Countless people have used Shopify to launch their online stores without having any experience in website development.

That being said, you still need to make time to learn the ins and outs of Shopify before you’ll be proficient enough to create a store that will attract and convert lots of customers.

If you’d ever like any help, you can always talk to one of our Shopify developers about how our team can assist.

How Many Products Can Shopify Support?

In short, there is no limit to how many products you can upload to your Shopify store and sell them from your site. This is why companies big and small use this popular eCommerce platform to build their eCommerce stores.

Speak to a Shopify Expert Today

So, what is Shopify?

It’s arguably one of the easiest ways to start stores and sell to customers ASAP. And yet, Shopify has also proven itself to be a platform you can rely on long-term to truly build your business, scale up your inventory of products, and explore channels for new customers.

Whether you need to migrate your current store and entire inventory of products over to Shopify, you’re ready to launch your first store, or just want Shopify Starter set up so you can start selling to customers on social media, we can help.

Contact us for a completely free, no-obligation call with our team of Shopify experts.

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