Shopify, founded in 2006, is a commerce platform that allows anyone to easily sell online, at their retail location, and everywhere in between. Shopify offers a professional online storefront, a payment solution to accept credit cards (such as Authorize.net and PayPal), and the Shopify POS application to power retail sales.
Shopify currently powers over 60,000 retailers in 100 different countries, including Tesla Motors, Gatorade, Forbes, Amnesty International, Encyclopedia Britannica, CrossFit, and many more.
Features (compared vs Magento)
The Shopify platform includes a content management system that allows users to manage inventory, edit HTML and CSS code, create coupons and discount codes, and accept online payments online with Paypal and major credit cards.
|Proprietary||Free and Open Source|
|Relatively easy to set up with excellent customer support||Requires skilled and experienced developer|
|Minimal Customization||Extremely customizable|
|App Store with about 400 apps||Huge community of developers and extension companies|
|Better for smaller businesses with limited sales||Ideal for larger online sellers with lots of room to grow|
|Pricing starting at $14/month||Free|
|Hosted Managed Solution||Requires dedicated server specializing in Magento hosting|
|One storefront on one platform||Multiple storefronts / languages / currencies on one platform|
|Configure apps within third party admin||Integrate extensions into Magento Admin|
|Products organized by tags||Hierarchal organizational structure for products (categories and subcategories)|
One of my favorite Shopify features is the manage products page. The ability to create a simple product on one page is an ease of use. You can add your pricing structure, SKU, and UPC (if you are selling on a 3rd party or you are doing Google PLAs, you must have this in product feed).
There is a decent search engine module that features the page title & meta description (both seen in Google organic results) and you can update the URL handle and slug to be more SEO friendly.
The ease of use of the Shopify platform is great for the first time eCommerce store owner. It makes it easy for your management and associates as well.
To merchandise products, you simply have to select "Collections" and great your category listings. Be careful to hit the finer details, and Shopify makes that easy.
Add a powerful description, image, and Search engine information. It may take time to do this manually, but over time you will want to have this as you grow your small shop to a hopefully strong brand.
The other sizable perk of going with the Shopify platform is its plethora of preinstalled applications. There are some solid providers in the marketing place, from Mailchimp (email marketing), Beetailer (Social media ecommerce - 3rd party sales), Shipstation (Fulfillment service), StoreLocator, and eCommHub (inventory management). The applications can be as little as two-click installations and provide an easy API connection to the service.
Some of the negatives that I have come into contact with are the lack of styles and look and feel that you have access to. While you have small modifications you can make to preexisting themes such as logos, colors, and fonts, you can not brand the website for high-fidelity designs.
Another negative is that the users are a bit upset with how expensive the add-ons can become. Since Shopify is focused on minimalism right out the box, most store owners have to buy add-ons to increase the functionality of their store.
While I said the access to the applications is great, almost all the "good" applications need a monthly subscription to run.
Lastly, and this is from the developer within me (yes, I do development as well) is that the checkout of any store is NOT on your domain. Rather, it forwards to the checkout.shopify.com URL. It’s possible that seeing the domain change may scare off some customers, but I haven’t seen any studies to verify the claim.
If budget is a concern, you’re just getting started, and don’t have a relationship with a developing company (like me), then Shopify is your best bet. But, if you want to get started right and are willing to invest some money, as one would invest to open an appealing physical store to sell products, then go with Magento, it is a better long-term investment overall.
Shopify has four levels of monthly payment plans: Basic, Professional, Business, and Unlimited. Depending on each plan, the company charges fees ranging from 0-2% on each transaction. All of Shopify’s plans include unlimited bandwidth and free setup. The company also offers a free 14-day trial. I have personally seen a website do $199,100+ in a day so the bandwidth is not an issue.
Shopify is a good platform to get started selling online, without assistance from a web design or development company. The downside is that websites running on Shopify look too generic and don’t allow for much customization. To verify this go on Shopify’s website and see that even some of the best websites that Shopify showcases and prides itself on are too general and non-comprehensive. If you've done your research and decided Shopify is not for you, there are plenty of Shopify alternatives so don't dispair.
For a startup, $14 is worth the chance to see if you can get your idea off the ground. I have completed Project Management contracts using Shopify and the speed to market is hard to beat in the industry.
Get access to even more useful resources on everything ecommerce when you sign up for The Ecomm Manager Newsletter.