Shopify 101: The Basics of Shopify

Dee Gallegos
May 4, 2020

Did you know that eCommerce sales volumes have tripled in the last two months? Given recent events, many are being forced to operate their businesses online so eCommerce is generating a lot of buzz. One popular eCommerce platform to note is Shopify.

Shopify 101:

What is Shopify?

Shopify is a strong eCommerce platform first and foremost with content management coming second. It can help transform a brick and mortar store into an online shop capable of managing orders, shipping them out, and collecting payments. Shopify can help business owners sell their products through social media, websites, or in person. It is often compared to other eCommerce platforms such as WooCommerce, Magento, Squarespace, and Wix. Despite having a monthly fee, Shopify is known for being easy to use and all-encompassing in terms of maintenance and hosting. Overall, Shopify is a great low-hassle option for eCommerce.

Who Should Use Shopify?

Everyone! Well to be a bit more specific, everyone who is looking to sell products via digital channels. Shopify is a surprisingly good fit for a range of needs, from small-businesses to scaled-up enterprises! Shopify is targeted towards small-business owners to large enterprise users. Shopify’s monthly plans range from $30/mo for Shopify Standard to $2000/mo for Shopify Plus.
*For now, we will mostly be focusing on the most frequently used Shopify plans, and will be releasing another post covering Shopify Plus use cases.* All versions of Shopify can have a variety of integrations and customizations to fit each business. Its versatility and ease of setup and use make it appealing to all business owners alike.

What are the Notable Pros of Shopify?

A few notable pros of Shopify are its affordability, ease of use, customization, and sales features.

Affordability: Shopify is a SaaS (software as a service) solution so users are charged per month. And while there are transaction and service fees, there are generally fewer overhead costs to use Shopify as opposed to other e-commerce solutions and users do not need to pay extra to host and maintain their site. Overall, while users might need to budget for transaction fees, as well as additional apps and plugins, Shopify’s cost is more upfront, and there are fewer unknowns with maintenance being included in the monthly fees.

Ease of Use/Customizability: Shopify is designed to be able to be set up by users with virtually no coding knowledge. While there are customization options such as apps and custom code that might require help from a developer, smaller businesses on a limited budget can most likely get by using Shopify’s pre-made templates. Additionally, the ease of use isn’t just limited to small businesses, Shopify has been iterating on their e-commerce platform for 16 years and strikes a unique balance between customizability/scalability and ease of use. Shopify is meant to be there for all points of the selling process.

Sales Features: Shopify has an extensive app store with numerous sales features that allow users to elevate and scale their online store. By integrating various Shopify Apps a single Shopify store can be scaled up as an end to end e-commerce solution. From inventory management and warehouse specific apps, all the way to subscription management apps, as well as tools to track analytics, do online promotions, send e-blasts, etc. The extensible architecture of Shopify combined with the breadth of vetted 3rd Party Shopify Apps makes it so users can run an entire eCommerce operation from their own homes from start to finish.

What are the Notable Cons of Shopify?

The three most frequent cons we hear when working on Shopify stores are transaction costs, themes and page builders work until they don’t, and lack of out-of-the-box multi-currency support.

Transaction Costs: Its costs currently sit at 2.9% + 30¢ per online transaction so users should plan to budget additional dollars on top of the flat monthly fee. There are competitors such as Volusion and BigCommerce that do not charge a transaction fee but are less user-friendly.

Themes and Page Builders: Another con is that Shopify pages built with themes tend to be more static and work great until they don’t. What we mean by this is, if Shopify themes and page builders aren’t used strategically then store owners will likely require remediation help from a developer. Though Shopify makes it easy to get started, keeping any e-commerce store in an efficient and successful operating condition often requires dedicated technical resources.

Multi-Currency Support: Lastly, Shopify relies on third-party apps for multi-currency support so it might not be the best option for international selling.

Shopify Current Landscape:

So how to synthesize and make sense of all this “What/How/Why” Shopify information? One useful perspective is looking at Shopify in the context of COVID. Thousands of businesses have had to flee online as a result of COVID-19. This context has resulted in Shopify gaining significant market share because of its ease of setup and use. Businesses are experimenting with new digital tools at an unprecedented rate, and many are taking this as a critical time to adopt online sales tools. Shopify’s low monthly cost, combined with powerful features make it the go-to e-commerce choice for hundreds of thousands of independent businesses. We’re excited about the strides Shopify has made in recent years, and with the current momentum, it seems like Shopify will continue to be on our shortlist of e-commerce platforms.

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