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When it comes to e-commerce stores, there are a handful of platforms that are considered the top choices—especially for small or medium-sized businesses. Common options include WooCommerce, Big Cartel, Wix, and Wordpress. However, one platform has steadily risen through the ranks to become the market leader and the foremost solution for many e-commerce-first businesses.
Shopify is a 360 solution that tackles everything from managing payment gateways to providing APIs to create native shoppable experiences with social media platforms and wholesale marketplaces, manage email outreach, review aggregation, and more.
But as with any solution, not everyone will feel like Shopify is a fit. Before signing up for the platform, be sure to review the pros and cons first.
Advantages of Using Shopify for Business
Like many other e-commerce hosting platforms, Shopify prides itself on being a user-friendly, plug-and-play style e-commerce solution that enables online sellers to get up and running within a matter of minutes. Here's what folks find most appealing about the platform.
1. User-Friendly Interface
One of Shopify’s biggest selling points is that you don’t need to know how to code to create a website on their platform. From easy-to-implement templates to a drag-and-drop style page builder, the site is incredibly user-friendly and quick to get up to speed with.
Users love its customizability and structure; the platform allows you to modify everything from shipping settings to adding local currencies, with plugins enhancing the functionality even further in areas where Shopify falls short.
2. Suitable for Businesses at Each Stage of Growth
Shopify is a solution designed for large and small retailers with options to support businesses wherever they might be on their journey.
Even plans opting for the Basic package still get support for an unlimited product inventory, access to multiple sales channels, and the ability to track inventory at up to 1,000 locations—assuming you have warehouses, physical retail shops, or pop-up shopping events spread across the country.
Likewise, Shopify is one of the standard integration options when working with third parties. This includes social platforms like TikTok or Facebook or even wholesale platforms like Faire to build out your B2B business model. Are they the only platform that supports this? No, they’re not. However, as you reach out to third-party stores that rely on a dropship model (i.e. social media networks, Wish, WhatNot, and more), you’ll quickly find that Shopify is the default ecommerce solution they support.
3. Customer Support Offered 24/7
No matter whether you choose the Basic plan or the two premium options (Shopify or Advanced), you’ll still get 24/7 customer support. More importantly, there are multiple ways to contact a real human when you need help. Choosing from live chat, email, or phone support is a life send.
Additionally, there’s a Shopify community where you can get help from other customers who have been in the trenches alongside a robust FAQ database.
4. Enhanced Payment Processing Solutions
One of the areas where Shopify really excels is in their enhanced payment solutions. While you can avail the standard options like major credit cards and PayPal, the platform also supports buy now pay later solutions like Affirm or Afterpay.
Shopify is also one of the few payment platforms that offers a free card reader for you to use either in store or at pop-up events. This gives you more flexibility to meet your customers where they are.
And thanks to third-party plugins, you can also accept international merchant payments if there are specific countries or regions that you want to target. This allows you to widen your target audience without struggling to figure out how to accept payments in foreign currencies.
5. Robust App Store
One of Shopify's foremost strengths is its best-in-class third-party app store. These apps cover the gamut from translating your store into multiple languages, to capturing emails and launching campaigns, and helping you capture cookie consent preferences.
👉 Check out Enzuzo's dedicated Shopify app for privacy compliance and cookie consent banners.
Additionally, your Shopify store integrates with social platforms like Facebook and TikTok to create seamless native experiences on Facebook, Instagram, or even TikTok Shops to boost revenue and expand your customer reach. Its these partnerships with household names that continues to set Shopify as the leader of the pack.
6. Marketing and SEO Support
Again, thanks to Shopify’s app store, you can sync your marketing efforts across channels without having to fight your backend to do so. Some solutions like simple newsletter signup are native solutions you can use without requiring a trip to the app store. Similarly, within the control panel you can natively create coupon codes or discounts.
But, if you want more robust solutions like access to SMS marketing, or even cross platform connections to marketing-first solutions like Klaviyo, MailChimp or more, you’ll need to take a trip to Shopify’s app store.
👉 Check out our list of the best up-and-coming Shopify apps
7. Easy Web Design Solutions
One of Shopify’s biggest draws is that the platform is meant to be user-friendly and accessible to those without technical skills. This is never more apparent than when it’s time actually to build out that storefront. There are plenty of templates available on Shopify that can quickly be loaded into your site builder and customized in no time. From changing fonts to adding colors — and of course your own imagery and copy — you can quickly create a website that fits your brand image and ethos.
8. Speedy Web Hosting and Enhanced Security Protocols
You should always prioritize a well-performing page and a website that safeguards customer information. Thankfully, this is an area where Shopify excels. Shopify is a self-sufficient host, meaning that they’re not sending your traffic to a third party and back again. Coupled with a very secure backend to protect payment processing, and encryption to protect data transfers — even if you’re sending data to any of those 1,200 in-house apps — means that you can use the platform with peace of mind.
Disadvantages of Using Shopify for Business
There’s a lot to love about Shopify, but as with any service there are some pain points to be mindful of. While these might not be deal breakers for everyone, some people may find that these are enough to make them reconsider using Shopify.
1. Pricing Structure
While Shopify is transparent about their plans and associated pricing, it doesn’t take long to realize that what you see isn’t what you get. The three plans, Basic, Shopify, and Advanced, are priced at $39, $105, and $399 respectively. There’s a discount if you pay for the whole year in advance. It breaks down to $29, $79, and $299 per month for each price tier if paid annually.
However, things get tricky when you realize that many of the apps on Shopify’s app store aren’t free. Some charge monthly fees which are tacked onto your monthly bill. And those fees can vary widely. While some apps are just a few dollars a month, others charge upwards of $30 or more per month to use them. This means that even if you opt for the basic $39 per month plan, it’s easy to find yourself paying $100 or more per month after adding on app-dependent features.
👉 Read more about Shopify's pricing plans and tiers.
Likewise, not all of those templates are free either. Yes, you can search for the free-only templates. But if you want more enhanced looks, be prepared to spend as much as $500.
2. Difficult Customizations
Technically speaking, anyone can use Shopify thanks to its plug and play design along with the drag and drop page builder. But, there’s a caveat. All themes have the option for subscribers to shift to the code-only side to make customizations. And this is where it gets tricky.
Rather than use more standard options like PHP for this, Shopify uses its proprietary Liquid which isn’t a standard software for developers. While there are developers that specialize in custom Shopify builds, this does mean you’ll need to do more legwork if you want to create a truly customized Shopify experience.
3. No Email Outreach
Shopify doesn’t natively host emails. There are workarounds thanks to third-party apps, but if you want a centralized solution, this platform can’t provide that. However, if you prefer more robust email solutions like Marketo, Mailchimp, or even Klaviyo, this may not be a major drawback for you thanks to those app integrations.
4. Limited Content Marketing Support
Shopify is an ecommerce-first solution. So as such, this isn’t exactly surprising that their attempt at in-house content marketing might fall a bit flat. Yes, you can run a native blog through Shopify that appears on your store front. But the blog editor feels outdated and clunky, you don’t have access to categories, and you can’t include related posts in new content to help drive traffic to previous material. This is one area where WordPress outperforms Shopify.
5. Difficult to Leave
The best way to put this con is “what happens in Shopify, stays in Shopify.” The platform leverages what’s known as a lock-in feature to prevent subscribers from taking their stores elsewhere. If for some reason you decide that you’ve outgrown the platform, you can’t simply download your design files and skate off to a new ecommerce provider. Instead, you’re limited to a sole CSV file with product information.
In other words, if you decide to join Shopify, be very committed to the cause. But before you start clutching your pearls, just know that this lock-in feature is incredibly common across ecommerce platforms.
Deciding If Shopify Is Right for You
Shopify is the biggest name in ecommerce for a reason—because they provide a functional product that meets so many needs for a wide range of online retailers. But even with that being said, it’s not a catch-all for everyone and may not be the perfect solution for every retailer out there. To determine if Shopify is a fit for your ecommerce business, ask yourself these questions:
- How many customizations are you hoping to achieve?
- Do you intend to leverage plugins or apps to expand functionality?
- Do you want more payment processing solutions?
- Do you intend to sell in-store as well as online?
- How many inventory locations (i.e. warehouse, popup, physical stores, online shops) do you plan to manage simultaneously?
- How many integrations do you intend to manage (i.e. Facebook/Instagram, TikTok, Faire, etc.)
- Are you considering working with other platforms that rely on a dropship model and require an API/plugin to integrate with your sales and inventory backend seamlessly?
Who is Shopify Good For?
Shopify is essentially a brand standard in the ecommerce world. Especially if you’re a small business that’s just starting out or who intends to rely on drop shipping solutions with established platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or even Wish or Alibaba. Creating a direct link to Shopify’s backend is usually a seamless experience. This allows you to expand your visible digital footprint for consumers, without the stress of building a new store on every platform. Additionally, there are API solutions for B2B sales channels, making it ideal for anyone who wants to run an effective direct-to-consumer (DTC) and wholesale program simultaneously.
Likewise, cross-channel inventory management for warehouses, physical stores, and even pop-ups means you always have a handle on available stock so you can proactively reorder as needed. If you like the idea of a plug-and-play style backend or website builder that doesn’t require coding experience, Shopify is also a user-friendly solution for that. Specifically, Shopify is a commerce-first solution meaning that the bulk of your business model or revenue goals should center around selling a good or service (whether physical or virtual) to a target audience.
Finally, the robust app store means you can enhance functionality by accepting additional international currencies, creating accurate language translations of your store to appeal to other demographics, or even enhance marketing and email outreach efforts — just understand that many of those features come at a cost.
Who is Shopify Not Good For?
Because Shopify is not ideal for offline businesses that don't take ecommerce seriously or view it as a core growth channel. The bulk of its features center around the needs of a commerce-based business. Factors like sales reports, inventory management, and even cross-channel selling make this poorly-suited for a business that doesn’t prioritize online orders.
Similarly, large enterprise businesses with over 1,000 inventory locations are not going to fit within Shopify’s pre-determined plans as all three service levels have an upper limit of tracking support for up to 1,000 inventory locations. Additionally, if you want to simultaneously operate multiple storefronts, Shopify isn’t for you as all of their plans will only support one storefront. Finally, even the top Advanced plan only allows for 15 staff accounts, which may be limiting for a true enterprise client.
That being said, Shopify is a go-to solution for many online sellers because it’s easy to use and offers a trusted payment processing service for domestic and international use.
Paige is the growth marketing lead at Enzuzo and host of The Living Lab podcast, providing insightful articles in the privacy space.