What is Shopify?
Shopify is one of the leaders in the e-commerce space, and perhaps the easiest-to-use tool to build your online store with. Their mission is to build a hassle-free platform for setting up your e-commerce business.
No matter if you’re just starting out (and have no website or e-commerce experience at all), or if you’re looking for a way to take your business to the next level, our Shopify review promises to have something to suit you!
But is Shopify really as great as the marketing material says? Is it really the most beginner-friendly platform out there? Let’s find out!
This Shopify review – updated for 2017 – talks about every important aspect of the platform and answers the most common questions asked by budding e-commerce business owners. It explains how to use it, who’s it best suited for, and whether or not having a Shopify store is the right path for your business. We also talk about the important aspect of pricing and compare Shopify to other alternatives available on the market.
In simple terms, Shopify is an online platform for all forms of e-commerce. It allows you to set up your online store and sell whatever you wish (goods and services). You can organize your products, customize the way your store looks, accept payments (online and credit cards), track and respond to orders, and you can do it all within Shopify’s interface.
Shopify is a fully integrated e-commerce solution, providing ready-made online shops that you can tweak and customise til your heart’s content. Shopify has the capacity to be feature heavy out of the box, but that doesn’t drag load times or the slickness of using a Shopify site. Payment plans are based on monthly billing, but for anyone running a profitable store, these should quickly become negligible costs.
Using Shopify is quite intuitive and easy to grasp right from the get-go. You just have to sign up, and then you’re taken by the hand through the whole process.
To start with, you get to choose from over 100 optimized online store designs – so you don’t need to either have design skills yourself or hire a designer. The designs that Shopify offers are really top-notch and optimized to generate good conversion rates from your visitors.
Does Shopify include web hosting?
Yes. One of the convenient benefits of Shopify is that it also takes care of hosting your store for you. This means that you don’t need to sign up for any external web hosting service. Everything is neatly handled in just one place. Shopify uses an optimized server structure, built specifically with e-commerce in mind, so you know that you’re getting the good stuff.
Who’s Shopify best suited for?
Shopify stands apart from other e-commerce solutions mainly due to its multipurpose nature.
First of all, Shopify is extremely easy to set up and get going, so it can be used by beginners who have never gotten their feet wet in e-commerce.
Secondly, the whole tool is very affordable (more on that in a minute), so it’s an attractive choice for small businesses that are just starting out and want to minimize on costs.
Thirdly, Shopify offers many template designs/structures for you to take advantage of, so you don’t have to hire anyone to help you with the store. You can literally build, style, and launch your online store all on your own.
Fourthly … we’re almost done … Shopify also offers offline solutions – you can use Shopify in your actual brick-and-mortar store, integrating it with the operation that you have already set up.
And finally, Shopify scales really well, so it will be able to grow with you regardless of the number of products you have on offer, the volume of your sales, and the number of customers that have bought from you.
If we were to point out the absolute perfect user, the kind of user who will get the most out of Shopify, we’d say that it’s beginners . People and business owners who are just starting out in the e-commerce space and want to get the best solution possible, while at the same time minimizing the costs as much as possible, will find Shopify to be the most beneficial.
Which brings us to one particularly important part of this Shopify review:
Pricing – how much does Shopify cost?
Before we list the plans available, we should to mention that there is a 14-day free trial available. It unlocks all the features, so you can test the platform thoroughly before committing to any of the premium plans. You can also cancel your trial account at any time.
Here’s the official pricing table:
Which Shopify plan is best?
It depends on your requirements. The option that’s the most sensible for anyone who wants to launch a new online store is $29 / month. It lets you in on all the features you might need, and also handles the payments and the technical back-end of your store.
If you want to, you can hook up a custom domain name to your store (either buy it through Shopify or import from a third-party domain registrar). If not, your store is going to be available under something like
As part of the $29 / month price tag, you get access to:
- Shopify’s online store module (the thing you came here for),
- the Point Of Sale (POS) system (allowing you to collect payments offline through an iPad),
- the Facebook and Pinterest modules (sell directly on Facebook and Pinterest),
- the Shopify Buy Button – allowing you to add a custom “buy button” on any website (not necessarily your online store).
It’s also worth mentioning here about the Shopify transaction fees. Whilst not part of the pricing, if you’re not using Shopify Payments, you’ll be charged their subscription transaction fee on every order processed in your store. To learn more about Shopify transaction fees, visit the Shopify site.
Is it easy to use?
In today’s online space, every tool out there promotes itself as ‘easy-to-use’. But few actually are. The tough part about being easy-to-use is that a truly friendly platform should be usable right from day one, and not once you invest hours of your time learning about it. In that manner, anything could be labeled “easy-to-use.”
Shopify’s e-commerce platform doesn’t share this problem. You don’t need to be a Shopify expert to set up shop and you can easily launch an online retail store within a matter of minutes. The main traits that separate Shopify’s ease of use from everything else out there are:
- The platform gives you an already working online store structure, so instead of building a store piece by piece, you can just adjust the pieces that are already there (tune them to your liking) but essentially the core of the platform works right away (more on this in a minute).
- You get to choose from ready-made designs (templates), so you don’t have to possess any design skill either (again, more on this in a minute).
- The templates are also automatically responsive in design meaning that your site will be optimized for mobiles as well as desktops and tablets.
- Online payments are handled for you – no need to actually work with sensitive credit card data yourself. And you can even sell your products directly to your Facebook contacts (among other things).
- You get your product catalog handled through an easy to grasp module within Shopify (more on this in a minute too).
All of the above add up to a really reasonable solution – something that’s truly targeted towards novices and doesn’t require any technical skills.
Okay, to the nitty-gritty of this Shopify review:
How does Shopify work? – building your online store and selling online
Right after taking care of a standard sign-up form (your name, email, etc.), you get to use Shopify’s wizard that will help you get through the whole building process of your e-commerce store. First, they ask you about the things you’re going to be selling:
Giving the most accurate answer here will make your future experience with the platform even easier, so try not to select something at random.
Next, you get to choose from a handful of the most popular options (the first one – “Create an online store” is what you’re likely here for):
In the next step, you will have the option of selecting a design for your online store and decide on how it is going to look:
The online store designs in Shopify
No Shopify review can skip the design talk! Onward!
Shopify offers contemporary, sophisticated designs – over a hundred of them(!) – so you are sure to find something that suits your style and the personality of your e-commerce store. Additionally, everything is optimized to be viewed on desktop, mobile and tablets.
When picking your design, you don’t need to pay much attention to what kind of products are on sale within that demo template – this is only example stock, and you can sell whatever you wish through whatever design template you select.
The theme we selected to test in this review is called Solo. It’s a simple, minimalist design yet functional for most purposes.
Whatever template you decide to go for, you can make adjustments – a couple of tweaks here and there – to make it look exactly how you want.
Shopify’s customization interface provides a range of options neatly displayed one after another, so you can just go through them from top to bottom and fine-tune every little detail about the design.
The things worth doing right away are:
- changing the colors to your default company colors
- adding a logo
- selecting what should appear on the homepage (screenshot below).
Basically, Shopify’s e-commerce store builder is very intuitive and easy to use. Instead of giving you a blank canvas, where you’d have to pick the elements one by one, you get a ready-made design, and through the options panel you can adjust the elements already there (plus add new ones).
This is a very beginner-friendly approach because it’s not confusing at all, and allows anyone to just jump in and create a quality store design for themselves.
How to edit text on the page
To work with the text on the pages, you need to go to the Pages section in the dashboard:
There, you can pick the page that you want to edit and then use an editor screen that’s likely to be familiar to you thanks to tools like MS Word or Google Docs.
How do I add and manage my products on Shopify?
Since you’re reading this review, you’re more than likely interested in finding out how to use Shopify to add and manage your e-commerce store inventory (or whatever it is you want to sell), so it’s high time we talk about how this is done!
The first thing you should do is configure the general settings about your store. For this, go to Settings from the left sidebar:
There, you get to set every piece of standard information, like your store’s name, address, timezone, currency, and so on.
The next important step is configuring the online payment options that you’re going to be offering your customers (under Settings / Payments).
Shopify allows you to accept credit cards through various gateways (there’s a good selection of those), and even set up Bitcoin payments if you want to go that route. Plus, there are also manual payments available, like bank transfers or cash on delivery.
Does Shopify accept paypal?
Yes. Shopify is also conveniently integrated with PayPal (as soon as you open a store, you’re set up with a PayPal Express Checkout account).
What is Shopify Payments?
Shopify Payments is the simplest way to accept payments online. It comes fully integrated with your store eliminating the need to set up a third-party gateway and/or merchant account and there’s no need for the laborious task of inputting the credentials either. Shopify Payments allows you to manage your entire business and financials in one convenient place.
Shopify Payments allows you to:
- Automatically set up to accept all major cards as soon as your Shopify store is up and running.
- Select your card rate based on your Shopify plan. If you change your mind later down the line, Shopify of course makes it easy for you to change it as and when you want.
- Track your pending payout balance and your payout schedule from the Shopify admin.
- View how much you’ll receive for any order or charged in payment fees since payments are linked to their corresponding orders.
- Easily recover lost sales from chargebacks using chargeback responses compiled by Shopify for any affected orders.
- Depending on where you are in the world, you may not incur additional transactions fees above the card rate e.g. United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia.
Should you choose to operate with Shopify Payments, you will be exempt from Shopify’s subscription transaction fees. These are only payable by store owners who choose to use a third-party payment processor on top of their gateway or merchant account provider’s credit card fees.
Other online store settings
Apart from the payments, Shopify lets you set every other important store setting. Here’s what’s in the options menu:
Just to discuss a few in a little more detail:
- In Settings / Checkout, you get to choose if your customers are required to open user accounts with your store or not. You can also select how much data you need from each customer when making a sale.
- Also in Settings / Checkout, you can set your order processing workflow, the checkout language, your refund policies etc.
- In Settings / Shipping, you can set everything related to your shipping costs. This also includes international shipping.
- In Settings / Taxes, you can take care of all the tax-related (boring) realities of your business. Shopify helps you with the maths here.
- In Settings / Notifications, you can set both how your e-commerce store will be contacting customers, and also what sort of messages you will get whenever a new order comes in.
How to add and edit your products in Shopify
Accessing the store module is simple, just select Products from the left sidebar:
There, you get to set everything related to the items/services that you’re selling in your online store.
Again, things here are extra easy to grasp. For instance, to help you get started, Shopify displays a large button for adding your first product:
In the next step, it gives you an editor-like window where you can input all the important details.
The most important parts:
Title and description
This is the main description of a given product – it’s what’s going to be displayed to the customers.
Below the title/description block there’s place to upload your product images. The nice thing here is that it works through drag-and-drop, so just grab an image from your desktop and drag it onto there.
The next step would be to set the pricing for your product. There are a handful of options here which you can see in the screenshot above.
Visibility and Organization
Finally, you can set if the product should go online right away and be available to your customers. You can also categorize it for better browsing and management experience.
Once you’re done with all that, you can just click the Save button, and your product is now online.
How to list your products on the homepage
The one thing you’ll probably want to do is showcase some of your products on the homepage of your e-commerce store. In Shopify, this can be done through the theme customization panel that you used when adjusting your design right after sign-up (left sidebar: Online Store / Themes).
Clicking on Customize Theme brings you to a page where you can pick what exactly is going to appear on the homepage:
Basically, you can select whatever product, or whatever category of products. You can also realign the product blocks on the homepage, or even display an entirely different piece of text there. It’s up to you.
In this example, we decided to display two products on the homepage inside the Featured Products block:
Reporting – AKA. checking how your store is doing
Selling is one thing, but knowing where your business stands and reviewing it regularly is another. Shopify has you covered here as well.
Everything happens in the Reports section of the dashboard:
Here you will find every piece of data you might need as an online store manager. You can browse through your gross sales by product title, by month, by channel, by payment method, taxes by rate, by traffic, and much much more.
Additional site elements
Although selling is going to be the main activity within your store, you probably also want to include other elements to make your store look more complete, and be overall more appealing to your customer base.
Those things can be done from the Online Store section in the dashboard (we already used it to adjust the store’s theme).
- So the first thing you might want to do is create a blog and add some blog posts. This can be done through Online Store / Blog Posts.
- The other thing you can do is add new pages and edit the existing ones. This is done in Online Store / Pages. (A good starting point here would be to create an About page for your e-commerce store.)
- Finally, you get to set the navigation and pick what should appear in the top and footer menus on your site. This is done in Online Store / Navigation. (You can edit the individual links by clicking “Edit link list.”)
All of the above options will come very handy once you start adjusting your store to fit the exact needs of your business. Shopify delivers just the right number of possibilities here.
How to make your store available to the world
To finally launch your e-commerce store – and start marketing to actual customers (accepting their payments and so on) – you need to unlock it. This is done, again, in the Online Store section of the dashboard:
To fully unlock the store, you’re going to need to select one of the available plans. As we mentioned earlier in this Shopify review, the most sensible one if you’re getting started is $29 / month (entry-level plan). If you ever need more functionality, you can always upgrade later on.
And that is basically it! At this point, your e-commerce store is online.
Conclusion – is Shopify the right tool to set up your online store with?
To summarize this review, we think Shopify is a great, tailor-made platform for those of you who need an online store above all else, and treat all the other elements (such as a blog, additional pages) as an added bonus.
Shopify is really effective at providing you with a working online store solution that’s easy to set up, and then easy to use on a day-to-day basis.
Even though Shopify isn’t expensive by any standard (considering that it’s going to run your whole online business), there are even more affordable solutions out there, like Wix, for example (read our review of Wix).
Here, Shopify dominates completely. The platform is as easy-to-use as it gets, and even a complete beginner shouldn’t have any problems working with it. To add to that, with this entirely hassle-free solution, you can have a new online store launched in a matter of minutes (and we’re not exaggerating).
Shopify has full 24/7 customer support: telephone, chat, and email for all regardless of which plan you’re subscribed to. There’s also a whole knowledge base platform available, with answers to all the most frequently asked questions that users have had asked in the past.
To say it simply, Shopify offers everything you might need as an online store owner. You get full product and inventory management, with the handling of payments, taxes, the reporting of sales, and your e-commerce store is also completely optimized for search engines. But that’s not all; there are also offline solutions – you can use equipment and software delivered by Shopify in your physical store location. That way, you can keep all of your sales info in the same place. Extra handy!
Pros of Shopify E-commerce Platform
Speed and Load Times: When you build an ecommerce site you need it to be fast and secure – two often mutually exclusive goals for all but most often comes with expensive hosting packages. Even fractionally longer load times can send your paying customers on to the next site, costing you potential sales.
Security: With Shopify, your site is ultra-fast, while being totally secure for handling sensitive data and processing payments.
Great Design: Shopify is largely about great design, and you will quickly find there are plenty of templates available, both free and paid, that will leave your site looking aesthetically pleasing whilst also professional.
Add-ons: There are plenty of add-ons available for Shopify, so you can expand the feature set if you need it. That means you probably don’t have to worry about hiring a coder just yet – the easy interface means you can quickly bolt on new features and functions within your site.
Cons of Shopify E-commerce Platform
The Cost: Shopify costs money, both monthly and in terms of individual transaction processing fees (if you don’t choose to operate Shopify Payments). You need to take account of these when comparing packages to get your store off the ground, especially if you intend to sell in volume.
Uniquely Coded: While Shopify can be made to do pretty much whatever you want out of the box, if you do have to explore the back-end, you’re going to be dealing with proprietary coding. In a nutshell, this means that you need someone who knows what they’re doing, and has the time to learn how to work with Shopify particularly, to get the job done. This can increase maintenance costs and result in delays in managing your store.