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Shopify Review 2015
Shopify Ecommerce Platform:
Shopify is an off the shelf ecommerce platform hosted and managed by Shopify. It was created for those without access to web designers or a developer to setup a basic online store with ease. Despite being easy for non coders to change the look and feel of their store, Shopify provides access to the HTML and CSS of your website theme. Shopify Experts skilled in Liquid code can customize the look and feel of your store to make it stand out.
Shopify comes with all the basic functionality one would expect to find within an ecommerce platform and you can easily expand the functionality via the multitude of apps from the Shopify App store.
Shopify is trusted by over 175,000 online shops in providing a solid foundation for their ecommerce business. We highly recommend Shopify as an ecommerce solution however some limitations may not make it a suitable platform for your specific business needs.
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Shopify Review: Features Overview
Shopify comes with quite a few handy features to help get you selling with ease.
Here is an overview of what Shopify offers:
- Ability to sell physical and digital products.
- Free themes to get you started
- Supports responsive/mobile design
- Create product categories/collections
- Create landing pages for specific campaigns or product brands using collections
- Blogging platform
- CMS so you can make pages
- Excellent built-in product import/export tool
- Well supported app store with 1 click installs
- Third party ERP integrations
- Marketing app integrations
- Accounting app integrations
- Basic discount code engine
- Inventory management
- Order management using tags
- Reporting (Pro, Unlimited, and Plus plans only)
- Abandoned cart recovery (Pro, Unlimited, and Plus plans only)
- Google Analytics integration
- Google Shopping feed integration
- Social media buy buttons
- Mail Chimp integration
Shopify Review: Pricing
Upon first glance Shopify Pricing is not 100% clear. On their pricing page a Shopify ecommerce store starts at $29 USD per month with a 2.4% + 20c/ 20p transaction fee if you opt to use Shopify Payments as your payment gateway.
Here is a table showing the Shopify price plans.
If you wish to integrate your own payment gateway you will be charged your agreed payment gateway transaction fees plus Shopify transaction fees. The current Shopify transaction fees for 2015 are plan dependent and are as follows:
Shopify Basic - $29 per month + 2% of transaction value
Shopify Pro - $79 per month +1% of transaction value
Shopify Unlimited - $179 per month + 0.5% of transaction value
All these plans feature unlimited products, unlimited storage and unlimited bandwidth which is a very good deal.
Shopify Review: Payment Gateways
Shopify certainly doesn’t fall short then it comes to payment gateway integrations. They have their own Shopify Payments solution which is powered by Stripe.
Possible issues with Shopify Payments:
Using Shopify Payments means you avoid the 2%, 1% and 0.5% transaction fee. This is great if you have the cashflow but not all small businesses can afford to wait 2 weeks to receive money from sales.
A lot of online stores wish to use pre-authorization on their gateway. If you use Shopify payments with pre-auth you only have a 5 day window to capture the payment. There is no ability to reauthorize the amount at a later date. This could be a problem if you are trying to take pre-orders.
If you can afford the delay and you don’t need to deal with backorders, then Shopify payments will save you money in the long run.
Third party payment gateways that integrate with Shopify
If you choose to use a third party payment gateway with Shopify then you are spoiled for choice. Shopify have a great selection of payment gateways ready for seamless integration.
Major Shopify payment gateways supported in United Kingdom
Major Shopify payment gateways supported in United States
Shopify Review: App Store
The Shopify App store has many high quality apps to extend the functionality of your Shopify store. These include Marketing, Accounting, and third party ERP apps.
Shopify integrates with the following third party ERPs.
Brightpearl, Tradegecko, Veeqo, Orderhive, Ecomdash, Hublogix, Duoplane, Stitchlabs, SKU Vault, Order Harmony and more.
Apps are a breeze to install and can be installed with just a click. Compare this to Magento Connect, where although it is one of the largest ecommerce app stores, it often requires a developer to oversee the installation. When installing an app on Magento the risk of it breaking your store is quite high and undoing the damage may require help from a developer.
With Shopify, app installation is worry free, and if the app you installed is not what you expected you can just as easily remove it.
Shopify Review: Order Processing and Management
One of Shopifys appeals is it’s very clean and user friendly backend. The orders section expands into Order List, Drafts and Abandoned Checkouts (If you are on the Professional, Pro or Plus Plans). The Order list screen below is what you will see when you start processing orders. The default order statuses are Open, Unfulfilled and Unpaid.
Powerful Order Search
One area where Shopify shines is it’s powerful order search functionality. You can search within the order screen for order numbers, email address, payment status, fulfilment status, product names, order total, customer name, tags assigned to orders, credit card number, telephone number and even product variation value e.g Color: Blue or Size: Large.
Custom Order Statuses
When you click into an order, Shopify allows you to assign custom tags to orders. This can also be done on the first order screen if you bulk select orders and click ‘Bulk Edit’. These custom tags act as custom order statues so you can adapt Shopify to your order processing workflow.
You can save frequent searches as tabs by using the ‘Filter orders’ drop down to the right of the search bar. This is useful if you need quick access to a certain type of order. For example you may need quick access your custom order statuses.
Can’t edit products in an order
One shortfall of the Shopify order management feature is the inability to edit a product within an order. Sure you can edit the shipping address and customer email but if a customer has placed an order and wishes to add a product or change it to something different, it requires a completely new order to be created manually.
Thankfully you can now create a new order from within the admin whereas before you had to place a new order on the frontend as though you were the customer.
There is an app available which allows you to edit orders and get around this limitation.
Shopify Review: Managing Products and Categories
Importing and Exporting Products
Shopify comes with a really nice import/export tool for you to manage your products. Imports are quick and you can expect your edits to reflect instantly on your store frontend.
The Shopify product management screen has similar features to the order management section so you can search and filter through your products with ease.
Products and Variants
Creating and editing your products in the Shopify admin is a generally a wonderful experience. Shopify have made it quick and easy to add new products and variants to your store.
There is a potentially serious limitation surrounding Shopify variants which needs to be considered before deciding to use the platform.
Shopify 100 Variant Limitation
Shopify is an excellent ecommerce platform, however it doesn’t cater to everyones needs. It’s vital that you identify if this limitation will cause issues with the products you sell.
A product in Shopify is allowed only 3 product options (Not variants). For example if you sell a T-Shirt you could only have Size, Color and Material as options (See above image). Within these options you can add variants, but there can’t be more than 100 variants in total. A warning message will appear if you exceed 100 variants.
If you need to add extra options to a product, there are a few Shopify apps which will solve this. The downside is you won’t be able to import or export these additional options along with all the product data that appears in the built in import/export Shopify tool. You also can’t assign a SKU to track stock for the additional variants created by these apps.
Thankfully most ecommerce businesses will not encounter this limitation, but it’s worth considering before you dive straight onto the Shopify platform.
Shopify Categories and Collections
Shopify calls it’s categories ‘Collections’. Collections are product landing pages which can be used for more than just categorizing products. Collections come in the form of manual or automatic.
Manual collections allow you to manually assign products to that specific category. Automatic collections is a dynamic rule based category which can save you time categorizing products in Shopify.
Collections can also be used to setup landing pages for brands and special offer pages. An example use case is a ‘Sale’ section where you can use automatic collections to add products where the ‘Compare at Price’ is greater than 1. This will fill the collection with products that have an RRP (Compare at Price) as these will most likely have a sale price.
Shopify tags are the equivalent of product attributes which you may be familiar with from another shopping cart system. If you need to assign attributes to products to help your customers narrow down their choice, then Shopify tags will help you do this. For example, if you have a product such as a T-Shirt you may wish to assign the following tags to it. Mens, Long Sleeve, Brand Name and Size.
In Shopify, tags act as a filter which can appear on category/collection pages. By default, Shopify displays tags as a tag cloud (see image below).
It is possible to have advanced group filtering in Shopify so your tags/product attributes are grouped with headings. To do this, your Shopify theme may need to be customized. Once implemented into the theme you have to add the group name before the tag value e.g if you want the color Yellow to appear underneath the heading “Color’ your tag value needs to be this Color_Yellow.
This is how grouped tags will display on a Shopify store.
Shopify Review: Blogging
Shopify has it’s own built in CMS which includes pages and a blog. If your store is starting from scratch, you can start using the blog without any issues. If you are migrating to Shopify, there is no functionality to import or export your posts. Shopify has provided a WordPress importer app, but this only imports text and leaves the images. If you have a large blog with hundreds of posts, it may not be viable to reformat every post. In this case, it would be best using an alternative blogging platform.
We recommend using WordPress as your blogging platform and running it separately to your Shopify store. You have it setup on a subdomain e.g blog.mystore.com and link to it from within your store.
Shopify Review: SEO
Shopify is generally well optimized for SEO. When editing products and collections, there is a section showing how the page will appear in the search engines.
It allows you to edit the URL Handle, meta title, and meta description also indicating when you exceed the recommended character limit of 70.
The free Shopify themes generally handle the canonicalization of products quite well, however if you have a custom Shopify design, it is an area that may need some attention.
Shopify products are accessible via two URLS. See example below:
We need to tell Google which URL should be favored and indexed otherwise it risks being classed as duplicate content.
Be Careful About Shopify Tags
Shopify tags are very useful, however they can also cause duplicate content on collection pages. You need to ensure that only the collection page has the canonical SEO tag so the Shopify tag url doesn’t get indexed by Google.
Page Load Time - Shopify is Fast!
One SEO ranking factor is page load time. It is important to provide your customers with the best user experience possible and in the area of speed, Shopify doesn’t disappoint.
Shopify is speedy even after adding products. I tested one of the free Shopify themes in pingdom and Gtmetrix and here are the results.
Shopify Review: Shipping
In Shopify, you can setup custom shipping rates based on weight or order value. One disadvantage in Shopify is the lack of an import/export feature for shipping rates. If you have a lot of shipping rates, the process of entering your rates can be very long and drawn out.
Shopify also offers live shipping rate integration for the following couriers:
Shipping integrations can be expanded via Shopify Apps for example Shipstation.
Shopify Review: Tax
Shopify allows you to easily setup tax rules for individual countries. Where Shopify’s feature set falls down again is that can’t import/export these tax rates.
In Shopify you can specify whether your product prices include or exclude tax. If you are selling in the USA prices most often exclude sales tax, however in the UK and Europe prices displayed to B2C customers include tax.
This leads to another limitation which should mainly affect high volume sellers selling internationally.
Tax limitation for sellers who’s prices include tax.
If you set the tax setting in the Shopify admin to ‘Product price includes tax’ Shopify is unable to remove tax from the order total for a customer in a country which is not supposed pay tax.
The image below shows the Shopify checkout page and how the tax amount is displayed.
If your prices include tax and a customer purchases from a country which is tax exempt, Shopify will keep the total as though it includes tax, and display the tax amount as zero.
There is a work around for this:
- Shopify recommends using a coupon code for tax exempt countries
- Shopify recommends refunding the tax amount after customers purchase
Shopify Review: Support and Community
Shopify offer excellent support via telephone, email or live chat. If your query is technical, usually it will be converted into a ticket and you will have to wait up to 24 hrs to hear back.
Shopify has a small active community of liquid experts and you can find some useful info by searching through their forums if you need to. https://ecommerce.shopify.com/forums
Shopify Review: Hosting, Security and Backup
Hosting and Security
Shopify is hosted on a cloud server so resources are shared with other Shopify stores. A benefit of a SAS system like Shopify is that store owners can focus on their product and marketing rather than the platform/software. Upgrades and security is managed by Shopify so you can rest assured you are always running the latest software.
Shopify allows you to export your products so you can have a backup. Imports are seamless so if you mess something up, you can re-import your master copy.
Theme files can also be exported. In fact you can clone your store design to a new theme so you can work on and preview the modified theme without affecting your live store.
Shopify Review: Pros and Cons
Easy to use
Stress free ecommerce
Easy to customise design
Free themes to get you started
Good for SEO
Good product import/export
Many supported integrations E.g accounting and order management
Not as flexible as opensource
Tax rules not ideal
Manually build categories
Limited Blogging platform
Rely on API to add functionality
Reliance on Apps
Can’t edit products in order
Shopify is a strong choice for your ecommerce store as it does the basics well without the worry and stresses that can come with a self hosted opensource shopping cart system. There are some instances where a Shopify store just won’t fit your business so an alternative would have to be considered.