This review will be much more conversational that other “Shopify review” posts out there. I’ve helped several clients over the past few years get started selling online, so I figured I’d share highlights from my conversations with them.
Time to First Sale
The time it takes you to get your first sale is the most important factor to optimize for when starting out. For many, selling products through your own store is a bit nerve-wracking – you know that the Internet creates boundless possibilities, yet you may be skeptical and ask, “will this work for me?”
This is completely okay (and expected) – that’s why you should do everything possible to remove barriers to your first online sale. That’s why I recommend Shopify. For most sellers, it will have everything you need.
Strike when motivation is high
I’ll discuss the specific features I find valuable in Shopify a bit later, but I encourage you to look at your e-commerce software choices in a slightly different way.
For many, you only have so much motivation to create an online store. Instead of finding the shortest path to your first sale, you spend hours searching for specific features and functionality. Doubt starts to set in, motivation drops, and your store is never built.
This happens to me all the time. Instead, prioritize the minimum number of features you need to get started selling. Many people invest too much time going from 0 to 1 sale. Think of your online store as a journey – over time you learn more about features you truly need.
Don’t overwhelm yourself on day 1 – you’ll end up kicking the can down the road.
Why I love Shopify
I’ve recommended Shopify to businesses who want to generate $20,000/year, and businesses who do $1.5 million/year. I really think it’s the best choice on the market for people who want to sell online without all the hassle.
Ease of Setup
I could setup a bare-bones Shopify store in about 15 minutes. That leaves more time to market the business, and less time worrying about the technical details. For someone who’s selling on the side (in addition to a full-time job), this is a no-brainer.
Businesses don’t die because you didn’t have a specific feature on your store, they die because people don’t want what you have to sell. Focus on acquiring customers.
I’ll be the first to admit that Shopify themes have a common look/feel to them, but that’s actually a good thing. In fact, its a great thing. If your website is confusing and is tough to navigate, you’ll lose out on potential sales.
Due to Shopify’s scale, they also have a vibrant community of themes – I’ve purchased a theme from these people, and they do a great job. Worst case scenario – let’s say you blow up and start making more money than you ever could have imagined. You need to create a distinct look for your shop – hire someone like my friend Ross at GrowthSpark – it’s possible to create a nice looking shop on Shopify, just look at Johnny Cupcakes website.
Mobile/Responsive baked in
Over the past couple years the shift to mobile has been profound. I know someone who’s traffic went from 90% desktop to 55%. Because the website was only built for desktop computers, his conversion rate has suffered. If you choose a Shopify theme, you don’t have to think about designing for mobile devices, because it happens automagically, which is a major time savings.
Once again, due to the vibrant Shopify community, there’s a ton of apps from reputable companies. My friend Ben has a a cart abandonment app that makes it really easy to recover people who almost place orders, but leave.
There’s hundreds more. That’s something competitors have trouble with – they can’t keep up with the ecosystem.
Yes, many of these apps cost money, but look at this purchase as a value exchange instead of an expense. If this app makes you an extra $200/mo in profit, and it costs $100/mo, you should be able to justify the spend all day long. It’s worth it.
Pricing starts at $29/mo. I pay $20/mo right now for hosting, so if someone will host an e-commerce storefront, give you an easy (AND SECURE) way to sell, that’s a no brainer.
There’s also a credit card transaction fee. Yes, that’s a bummer, but it’s a fact of selling products online. This pricing though is extremely competitive – payment processing from Stripe is the same monthly cost.
I hate monthly fees, but it’s very easy to pay for an investment of $29/mo. Either you pay someone to handle the technical details (Shopify in this scenario) or you invest your time (a finite resource) into trying to get all this stuff setup.
I suggest you spend your time selling and doing what you love. I guarantee it’s not setting up SSL certificates.
Discount Codes & Gift Cards
Discount codes are available on all Shopify plans. What I love about codes is that you can use these on various marketing channels, and track the effectiveness of various outreach strategies. Try a discount code on Facebook, try another one on Pinterest. You get my point
Gift cards aren’t available on the $29/mo plan. You’ll have to be on the $79/mo plan.
If you were wondering if you could add variations of a single product, you can. For example, if I’m trying to sell a t-shirt, a variant would be different colors. It’s still the same product technically, but it’s a different color (variant).
Also, another thing I love about Shopify is how easy it is to add new products. It literally takes 2 minutes to add a new product, images, and variations to your storefront.
This is a feature where the use-case is very common. Let’s say you have a shop phone number, and an 80 year old lady calls. She found your website, and wants to place an order, but doesn’t want to enter credit card information online. You can easily take her information and place the order over the phone.
What’s the worst thing that could happen after getting a Shopify store up and running?
You either 1.) Create an store and don’t sell anything or 2.) You create a store, and people start buying. If #1 happens, simply cancel your membership, and if you listened to what I have to say earlier (time to first sale), you’ll have lost a few hours of your time. You can also export all your customers/orders.
If #2 happens, you can invest more resources into hiring an expert to help you navigate the waters.
Integrations with FB/Pinterest
Because of Shopify’s scale (they have 175,000 active storefronts), they can work on really cool integrations with other companies big companies. For example, this integration with Facebook is really awesome. Also, this integration with Pinterest is great. These integrations help you sell more.
Advanced Developer Stuff
I really like Shopify’s API. It’s clean, well-documented, and they have up-to-date libraries. Also, I find it extremely easy to use the liquid templating language. It puts WordPress to shame.
If you need help, you can call/chat/email customer support. The product has been so easy to use, that I haven’t had to deal with them, so I can’t give you any deep insight here.
Most people won’t tell you this, but if you’re just starting off with a Shopify store, don’t expect a ton of traffic from Google overnight. In fact, it will probably take months (unless you’re a niche store).
They have a handy meta title/description tag builder, but don’t expect it to revolutionize your organic ranking.
I’m a huge fan of product reviews. If you have customers who love your products, let them sell the product for you with reviews. It’s built into Shopify, and it helps with your organic search ranking. This is something that would take hours and lots of money if you were hiring someone else.
Will Shopify handle _________?
It’s possible you have very specific feature you want that’s not available on Shopify. You have two options. You could hire a Shopify developer and have them tell you quickly if it’s feasible or not. This will cost money, but potentially save you time.
Next, a good rule of thumb I use is by looking at the various features available to Shopify users. Is there a feature that’s very close to what you need? If so, this functionality may be possible, and it may not be so expensive.
If it’s wildly different, or not available in the Shopify app store as an add-on, you probably should not use Shopify, simply because your expectations are not aligned with how the product was built!
Downsides of Shopify
I have two major problems with Shopify. They are listed below:
Can’t change product urls
All products on Shopify look like this:
I desperately want to remove /products/, so instead it would be www.yourwebsite.com/product-name. It’s a small item, but I wish I had flexibility over this.
Weak mobile support
If you’re always on the move, don’t expect to manage your store from your iPhone. Think of their mobile app as a reporting interface.
I only write about products I recommend, and Shopify is one of the best products on the market. If you found this article helpful, click this link (Yes, I get a cut of an order if you choose Shopify, I hope that’s okay).