Shopify Explained: An 100% Unbiased Review From Inside (Updated)

Shopify Explained: An 100% Unbiased Review From Inside (Updated)

Looking for the best platform to accommodate your eCommerce dreams? Trust us, we know the struggle.

We’re PageFly, Shopify’s number 1 rated page builder app on the Shopify App Store. We completely understand an emerging merchant’s desire to find the best eCommerce solution available.

That’s why we’ve created this extensive, honest and unbiased Shopify review. We’re hoping that the information you’ll find below will guide you to making a decision on your ideal platform.

Read on below, or simply skip to the end for our final analysis!

Outline 

01. How Does Shopify Work?

When deciding to take the plunge into the whirlwind world of eCommerce, it’s impossible not to come across Shopify.

For all intents and purposes, Shopify is eCommerce. It’s what makes eCommerce such an incredible sector for budding entrepreneurs and it’s what makes vastly successful enterprises out of very modest beginnings.

Essentially, Shopify works like this:

  • For a monthly fee, Shopify allows you to build a digital store on its website.
  • By having your store on Shopify, you can use all of Shopify’s incredible arsenal of tools to build, run and scale your business. These include a page editor to help build your store how you want, an inventory management system to keep on top of stock, and social media integrations to help grow your store outwards.
  • In addition to the monthly fee, Shopify also takes a small percentage of any sale that you make. That means that the better your store does, the better Shopify does.
  • All the technical work of running an online store, like hosting and coding, is taken care of by Shopify.

The crux of Shopify’s business model is this: you should be able to sell products online, no matter who you are.

That’s why Shopify is the true all-in-one eCommerce solution; it has absolutely everything you need, regardless of your plan, to get your store soaring.

For a more detailed explanation of How Shopify Works, check out this video: 

02. Shopify FAQ

Remember, every budding merchant is in the same boat when it comes to getting started on Shopify. We all have burning questions we need answering before we put our eCommerce dreams in Shopify’s hands.

Here’s a few of the biggest questions we see:

01. What is Shopify? 

Shopify is an ‘eCommerce solution’, which means that it is a piece of software that allows anyone to set up an online shop. Shopify provides the building blocks through helping merchants to design their store, then provides operation systems (such as orders, payments and shipping) to ensure that merchants can fulfill customers’ orders.

02. Is Shopify free?

During its 14-day trial period, yes, but otherwise running a shop on Shopify costs a minimum of $29 per month. That’s without the costs of optional but highly recommended apps and store templates. You can find out more about Shopify’s costs in our next section

03. Is Shopify legit?

Shopify is a 100% verified company based in Canada. It’s a publicly listed company with shares on the stock exchange, meaning that its operations are open and that it’s highly trustworthy. To date, it has hosted over 1,000,000 stores and is regularly reviewed between 4 and 5 stars.

3.1. Is Shopify safe?

Shopify has spent a huge amount of money on the security services it uses to protect merchants, stores and the personal info they hold. Shopify reviews their security protocols thoroughly and often, and any updates that are needed are rapid and universal. Of all the eCommerce solutions, we consider it to be the safest.

3.2. Does Shopify protect buyers?

In short, no. Shopify has no obligation to protect the customers of stores in its platforms. While we may call them ‘Shopify stores’, Shopify actually owns no part of any store and therefore has no responsibility for the actions of the store owners. This is fairly standard for all eCommerce solutions, but whether it placates disgruntled buyers is another matter.

3.3. Can you get scammed on Shopify?

Well, you can get scammed anywhere, unfortunately, and Shopify is no exception. However, while there is no protection for buyers, there is a little bit for sellers. If you run a store in the U.S and are using Shopify Payments, you’re entitled to Shopify Fraud Protect. This, for a small fee per transaction, will reimburse you for any disputed transaction with a customer as a result of a fraudulent chargeback.

03. Shopify Cost & Expenses

Naturally, if you’re looking into trusting Shopify with your future in eCommerce, you’re going to want to know how much it will cost you. In this section of the Shopify review, we’ll take you through 3 key features, 3 competitor comparisons and an overall review of Shopify’s pricing set-up.

3.1. Pricing

Shopify charges for its services in a few different ways. Finding out exactly how much of what you have to pay can get pretty confusing, so every comprehensive Shopify review needs to break down these costs bit-by-bit.

This Shopify review is for beginners, so we’re keeping it to the basics. We’re going to look at the 3 primary Shopify plans and what they might cost for your store, starting with the main distinctions:

  Basic Shopify Shopify Advanced Shopify
Price per Month $29 $79 $299
Online Credit Card Rates* 2.9% + 30¢ 2.6% + 30¢ 2.4% + 30¢
3rd Party Payment Processors** 2.0% 1.0% 0.5%
Shipping Discounts Up to 64% Up to 72% Up to 74%

* This is the amount that Shopify takes from each credit card transaction on your store.

** This fee only applies if you opt to use a payment gateway other than Shopify Payments

As you can see from the table above, it’s not quite as straightforward as a single fee to pay to Shopify per month. The monthly fee constitutes one part of what you pay Shopify, but you’ll also pay a credit cardfee and possibly a payment processing fee.

These two additional fees comprise what we call Shopify transaction fees. They’re vital to understand if you’re looking to fully grasp your cost commitments to Shopify.

Let’s take a look at the credit card fee and payment processing fee separately:

3.1.1 - What is the Shopify Credit Card Fee?

Shopify’s credit card fee is the amount of money you pay to Shopify for every sale made by credit card or debit card on your store.

It works in 2 parts:

  • A percentage of each sale: For the Basic plan this is 2.9%, for the Shopify plan it is 2.6% and for Advanced Shopify it is 2.4%.
  • 30¢ from each sale: This is a flat rate that Shopify takes from each of your sales, regardless of what plan you’re on and what the price of the product is.

So, let’s say for example that I’m selling a watch from my Shopify store, which is on the Basic Shopify plan. I list the price of the watch at $150 USD, so how much of that amount can I expect to see once the money goes into my store’s account?

Store Price Basic Shopify Plan Flat Rate Fee Total
  - 2.9% - 30¢  
$150 - $4.65 $145.35

It should be mentioned that if you’re planning on selling lots of low-profit items, rather than a few high-profit items, then you’re going to feel the pinch of that 30¢ much more. It barely makes a dent in my $145.35 total when I’m selling a $150 watch, but what if I’m selling $2 toothbrushes? That flat rate fee alone is going to be eating a serious amount of my profit.

That’s why the Shopify credit card fee is crucial to take into account when considering not only what Shopify plan to go for, but also what to sell on your store.

Okay, so what about the other part of the transaction fee - the payment processing fee?

3.1.2 - What is the Payment Processing Fee on Shopify?

To understand the payment processing fee, you’ll need to understand what a payment gateway is.

A payment gateway is the service that facilitates secure transactions between customers and the businesses they’re buying from. The best example of a payment gateway is PayPal, which facilitates millions of secure transactions on the internet every day.

If you use PayPal to receive transactions on your store, you will be subject to Shopify’s payment processing fee, which is 2% (for Shopify Basic), 1% (for Shopify) or 0.5% (for Advanced Shopify) of every transaction on your store.

Another example of a payment gateway is Shopify Payments, which is a payment gateway operated by Shopify.

For a more detailed explanation of How Shopify Pricing works, check out this video

3.1.3 - Pros of Shopify Payments

  • Slash your fees - If you use Shopify Payments on your store, you won’t incur the payment processing fee. You will still have to pay the Shopify credit card fee, but you won’t be subject to the additional 2%, 1% or 0.5% charge for using a 3rd party payment gateway. 
  • Smooth syncing - Shopify Payments is super easy to set up on your store; it’s actually much easier than downloading a 3rd party gateway and linking it with Shopify.
  • Not exclusive - Shopify Payments doesn’t demand to be the monopoly gateway. As long as you’re using it on your store, it allows your customers to pay via other gateways, such as PayPal or Square, with no additional fee. 

Shopify Payments is sounding pretty good right? Well, what kind of in-depth Shopify review would we be offering you if we didn’t tell you about the drawbacks?

3.1.3 - Cons of Shopify Payments

  • Limited to certain locations - The fact that Shopify Payments operates only in 16 countries is for sure the biggest reason why it’s not employed universally by all Shopify merchants. Those countries and territories are: Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong SAR China, Ireland, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and USA.
  • Gives Shopify more power over your affairs - While, in the vast majority of cases allowing Shopify to handle the processing of store payments goes without issue, there are also times when it does. When a customer of your store has initiated a chargeback, you get hit with the bill and a fee. When there’s a problem with a single customer’s order, you may find the funds for your entire store frozen.

Once you’ve got a payment gateway, and if you can roughly estimate demand on your store, try out our interactive Shopify pricing calculator. This is a tool that factors in your store’s average orders per month and average order value (AOV) to calculate exactly how much each plan will cost you moving forward.

If you want to know more about the limitations and allowances of each plan, check out a more in-depth review in our article on Shopify plans and pricing.

3.2. Cost of Extras

Besides the 100% vital pricing costs, there are two semi-vital extra expenditures that you’ll need to consider when establishing your Shopify startup costs.

We’re talking about apps and themes

3.2.1 - Apps

As great as Shopify is, it can’t have it all. That’s why Shopify allows for 3rd party companies (like us!) to create apps that can help you in pretty much every facet of setting up and running a store.

Shopify app store

At present, there are over 5,000+ apps that span store design, marketing, orders and shipping, customer care, dropshipping and so much else.

Around 50% of apps are free to use, which naturally means that 50% are not. The range of cost between paid apps is vast; they can be anything from $2.99 a month to $2,000 a month. 

You will learn what apps you need when the time comes, but it’s certainly best to set aside a part of your startup budget for investing in apps. We’ll go a bit more into Shopify apps later in this article.

Read more Shopify reviews on vital apps to start your store.

3.2.2 - Themes

One of the most daunting considerations for Shopify newbies is the idea of creating a website from scratch. Setting up a store is one thing, but web design is a whole different kettle of fish, right?

Well, actually, not with Shopify themes.

shopify theme store

Shopify themes are store templates created by 3rd party companies. If you’re designing a store for the first time, they can give you a big step-up by providing you with fully responsive templates composed of sections laid out in the perfect manner.

Like Shopify apps, there are some Shopify themes that are free and some that cost money. Generally speaking, one theme comes with 3 designs and costs between $100 and $180.

 Also like Shopify apps, we’ll discuss them later in this article

Check out these themes that you can get for free.

3.3. Payment to You

So far in this Shopify review, we’ve talked mostly about how much you have to pay towards Shopify. Well, this is very much a two-way system, and you, too, deserve your profits!

It basically works like this:

  1. A customer orders something from your store and makes a payment with their card or online wallet at the checkout.
  2. The money passes through the payment gateway you have set up on your store. This could be Shopify Payments, PayPal, Authorize.net, or anything else we talked about up here
  3. The funds are held by the payment gateway while they are authorised, captured, cleared and transferred through the secure system.
  4. A few days later you’ll have the money, minus the standard Shopify deductions, in your bank account.

How long this process takes depends on a number of factors. Firstly on the country in which your store operates, secondly on what payment gateway you choose, and thirdly whether it’s a weekday or a weekend.

Shopify Payments have a detailed answer to this question, but it’s entirely possible that you’re not using Shopify Payments. Each payment gateway has its own rules for how it collects the payment from the customer and transfers it to you.

There are over 100 gateways to choose from, so we can’t cover all their practices in this single Shopify review! You’ll have to check for yourself on your respective payment gateway’s website.

3.4. How does Shopify’s Pricing Stack Up?

So now you know, by-and-large, how much Shopify will cost you to run an online store. But how does the overall cost of a Shopify store fare when compared with the alternatives?

Shopify reviews its prices regularly to stay competitive. It’s not the cheapest - there are free eCommerce solutions out there - but it’s certainly not the most expensive either.

Magneto Open Source Commerce
  Free $1,500 p/mo

Magneto is typical of free Shopify alternatives in that the money merchants save on a monthly plan is, more often than not, spent on hiring developers. The company focuses their efforts on B2B (Business to Business) eCommerce rather than B2C (Business to Consumer), meaning that, unless you can afford $1,500 a month for the upgrade to Magneto Commerce, you’ll get left behind on this platform.

Read more about Magneto expenses

Ecwid Free Venture Business Unlimited
  Free $15 p/mo $35 p/mo $99 p/mo

For a decent store of any kind of potential with Ecwid, you’d need to invest in at least the Business plan, which allows for stores of over 100 products, product filtering and social media integration. Still, at $35 a month, Ecwid represents a pretty good deal, and what’s more attractive is the fact that they charge absolutely nothing in transaction fees, regardless of the plan you choose.

Ecwid is much more limited in its functions compared to Shopify, however, considering that it acts merely as a widget for your existing blog or social page, rather than a standalone store.

Read more about Ecwid expenses

Amazon Individual Professional
  $0.99 per item sold $39.99 p/mo

As the 3rd biggest company on the planet, you may be tempted to put your trust in selling on Amazon. The price for the Individual plan is good for getting started, but losing a minimum of $0.99 per sale is never a good long-term strategy. The Professional plan is a decent price, but is more limited in its customisation options than Shopify. Both plans incur numerous additional fees, including delivery, storage, fulfilment, referral and so on that can leave you with very little return on your investment.

Read more about Selling on Amazon

3.5. Overall Rating for Shopify’s Pricing

On the whole, for the services that Shopify provides, it’s got a pretty fair pricing system. The monthly plans are priced reasonably and the additional transaction fees lie in the nice middle ground between unrealistically cheap and extortionately expensive.

Compared to the alternatives, Shopify offers the most comprehensive service and is therefore priced slightly higher. Yet, the fact that it is generally easier to make higher profits on a more established platform means that Shopify pays for itself quicker than other eCommerce solutions do.

Plan Pricing 4/5
Transaction Fees 4/5
Cost of Extras 3/5
Overall 3.5/5

You can start your Shopify journey for free with a 14-day trial. No risk, no hassle - just a two-week opportunity for you to discover the best of the platform.

Get started by clicking the button below! 

04. Shopify Feature Reviews

It goes without saying that one of the most important parts of any Shopify review is a dive into its core features. You don’t only want to know how Shopify works, but you want to know how Shopify works for you.

Since 2004, Shopify has played the vital supporting role in helping to establish and operate over 1,000,000 stores. It’s a feat that would in no way be possible without serious diligence paid to the features at the heart of its system.

Let’s take a look at 6 of the most important:

4.1 - Product & Store Types

If you’re looking to set up a store on Shopify, you’ll be pretty spoilt for choice at first. That’s because Shopify has seriously expanded its scope for products in recent years, and now caters for several different product types across many different kinds of store.

4.1.1 - Product Types & Options

Let’s have a look at the 4 main product types that it’s possible to sell on Shopify:

01. Physical products - Naturally, stores selling physical products make up the vast majority of Shopify’s user base. If you think of a physical product now, we practically guarantee there’s a Shopify store selling it.

02. Services - From consultations to appointment bookings and classes to home services, Shopify caters for merchants who want to advertise and sell services to customers.

Read more about selling services on Shopify

03. Digital goods - These are products that are sold for download or for streaming, such as music, videos, PDFs and plug-ins. If you’ve got a downloadable product, Shopify can help you sell it. 

Read more about selling digital goods on Shopify

04. Subscriptions - One of the most lucrative product types on Shopify is subscriptions. Successful subscription merchants sell products that routinely run out, such as coffee pods, food boxes and protein powder.

Read more about selling subscriptions on Shopify

No matter what type of product you choose to sell, Shopify boasts countless features to get them flying off the virtual shelves. It’s vital, however, to note that most of these features are found across its product option apps, which may cost money to download

A couple of options are to harness the power of upselling through bundling your products together, or make the most of cross-selling by offering recommended products.

You can also add a huge library of variants to your products, such as colour, size and style. Giving the customer choice in this way gives them a secure feeling of control and flexibility, which can be the difference between an abandoned cart and a sale.

While many of these features are crucial to running a successful store, it is the bane of many Shopify merchants that these relatively basic additions have to be found in the Shopify App Store.

For instance, Shopify doesn’t allow more than 3 options for a product. For so many merchants in the clothing and sophisticated electronic niches, this simply isn’t enough; they would have to purchase an app that allows them to extend the 3 option limit.

4.1.2 - Store Types

Shopify’s vast and ever-expanding product range naturally means an increase in the range of stores selling those products. Over 1 million stores now operate on Shopify and the breadth of their operations has never been wider.

In terms of stores, Shopify caters to any and all types:

  • One-Product Store - A store that sells just one single product. These are often brands like Truff hot sauce, that developed a sensational product offline before bringing it to the online world through Shopify.
  • Dropshipping Store - A store that directs customers to existing products sold by manufacturers. Dropshipping is essentially advertising through a Shopify store for products that don’t belong to you. Still, if you approach it as professionally as Notebook Therapy, the potential profits for this kind of store can be immense.
  • Print-on-Demand Store - A store that offers the merchant’s printed designs on clothing, homeware and other goods. This kind of store is great for illustrators with their own graphic style, or even for designers, like Classic Dad, who know how to put text and colour together.
  • Multiple Stores - A bunch of stores that sell different products, possibly in different countries, all run by the same owner. This kind of store is popular with large enterprises with operations all over the world, or even with smaller businesses that want separate storefronts for their regular and outlet products.

The ultimate goal is to have a store and product catalogue working in tandem. No matter the type of store you choose to operate or the type of product you choose to sell, there are many ways to strike that optimal balance that appeals precisely to your audience.

Variety of Product Types 5/5
Cross-Selling and Upselling Features 4/5
Variety of Product Options 3/5
Accommodation of Different Store Types 5/5
Overall 4.5/5

Check out our Shopify reviews and guides for what you can be doing to optimise the product pages on your store.

4.2. Marketing Tools

A great store and a great product will only get you so far. If there’s no awareness of your brand’s existence, then your eCommerce gem will remain firmly hidden.

Luckily, there are so many avenues through which to market your products on Shopify. The platform makes it super easy to do, too, even if you’re approaching digital marketing completely from scratch.

Let’s take a look at 4 of the key ways Shopify helps you grow awareness of your brand:

4.2.1 - Blogging

Having a thorough, well-researched and well-written blog is the way to attract organic traffic (that’s visits without ads) in eCommerce. There’s simply no better long-term marketing strategy for your store than offering written and video content about your niche.

Shopify blogging

That being said, starting and maintaining a successful blog is not easy. It requires some serious time and dedication to establish the foundations of your blog and keep researching and pumping out great content that attracts visitors to your Shopify store.

Being such a crucial part of eCommerce, no Shopify review would be complete without a dive into the dizzying world of blogging on Shopify:

  • Who’s it for? The merchants who get the most out of Shopify’s blogging platform are those with small budgets and non-existent followings. So, pretty much everyone who starts up on the platform. Blogging on Shopify is free and unlimited for store owners, making it readily available for every merchant.
  • Is it easy to use? Shopify’s blogging interface is super simple to use. It’s highly unlikely you’d need any help using it unless you’re looking to inject some meaty HTML code. Of course, it’s ease of use is because it’s a rather basic platform, and it lacks some of the flexibility of other platforms like WordPress, Squarespace and Wix.
  • Shopify or WordPress for blogging? Another battle for the ages. The simple answer is this: if you’re blogging to attract attention to your Shopify store, use Shopify’s blogging facilities. WordPress allows for more flexibility and expansion, but requires more of your precious time to keep running.

We’ve got loads more on the specifics of the pros, cons and how to get established in our in-depth review of Shopify blogging.

4.2.2 - Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Let’s make no bones about this, SEO is an unyielding behemoth in eCommerce. Having a good SEO score spells good news for your store; having a bad SEO score means you basically have no store at all.

For the uninitiated, each of your Shopify pages will have an SEO score, which is the level to which Google perceives that page to be a good result for a certain keyword typed into its search engine.

For example: someone types the keyword ‘Shopify page builder’ into Google and this is what they see:

After all of the paid ads, PageFly is the second organic result to come up (after the official Shopify app store itself). That didn’t happen by accident, that’s because we’ve spent years meticulously building our SEO score for that particular keyword, and it’s become a great source of organic traffic for us.

Now, Shopify doesn’t require you to know the brain-fryingly complex algorithms of Google’s ranking systems, it just needs you to know the very basics. Shopify itself actually takes care of much of the rest, including:

  • Having a reliable CDN (Content Delivery Network) that means page loading speed is super fast, which is good for SEO.
  • All basic SEO-friendly features built-in, such as a sitemap, 301 redirects, URL personalisation and so on.
  • Featuring an app store full of easy-to-use apps that can help to boost your SEO score across any page.

Still, Shopify is not perfect for SEO. It has the same limitations that other large eCommerce platforms have. We already mentioned it’s all-too-basic blogging facilities, but it also attaches strings to your URL for your pages, which complicates things somewhat for Google (we’ve got the full lowdown of pros and cons in our review of Shopify SEO right here).

Overall, however, Shopify can definitely be considered a positive for SEO rather than a negative. For beginners to the big wide world of SEO, just know that your basic SEO needs are met by the platform. If you choose to expand your blog and SEO efforts in the future, that’s always something to consider with a bit of experience under your belt.

Want to know all about optimising your store for Google? We’ve got a full in-depth Shopify review and guide for getting started with SEO.

4.2.3 - Cross-Platform Integration

Right now, if you’re looking at a Shopify review, you’re probably not thinking too much about immediately branching out from the platform.

True, it shouldn’t be in your very first plans for your store, but having the ability to integrate your store cross-platform and start selling on Facebook, Instagram and even directly on Google, can expand your store beyond what you’ve ever expected.

Social media channels like these are rapidly becoming the way to shop for many customers. In very recent times, most of the friction between idly scrolling through a feed and clicking on a ‘buy’ button has been drastically reduced by Facebook Shops, Instagram Shopping, TikTok Shopping and an expanding pool of others.

So, it makes complete sense that Shopify forged ahead with efforts to form a seamless connection between their platform and the shopping platforms of social channels.

  • Facebook - Unsurprisingly, the world’s biggest social network has the world’s biggest potential for eCommerce. Even for small budget Shopify merchants, running an ad campaign through Facebook Ads is an affordable option and a way to reach audiences that fit their niche. Not only that, but it also gives newbie store owners a much better idea about their ideal buyer persona.Looking to see what Facebook can do for you? Check out our definitive guide to Facebook Ads.
  • Instagram - Instagram has one of the best engagement rates of any social media channel, purely because of its image-centered content. It’s popular practice for Shopify merchants to have an integrated IG feed on their store, but the best innovation in Instagram Shopping is that it turns your Instagram page into its own profitable storefront, complete with anything in your Shopify product library available for purchase within a few clicks.

Shopify integration

Expanding the reach of your Shopify store into Instagram is becoming more and more essential. We’ve got a full article showing you how to do it.

  • Google - Google Shopping has been on a meteoric rise since it was introduced in 2012. Shopify merchants can place a Google Ad for their product and see it at the top of the results pages (even ahead of text ads). We don’t need to tell you how valuable an ad on the world’s biggest platform that brings visitors straight to your Shopify store can be!

Shopify Google integration

Massively expand your store’s reach with our 10 Foolproof ideas to optimise your Google Shopping campaign.

How good is Shopify for Cross-Platform Integration?

We’d say it’s pretty fluid. Setting up the connection between your Shopify and social channels can be a little tricky at first, but the rewards can be monumental.

Protip: You can use the Facebook Channel app on the Shopify App Store to better integrate your Shopify store with your Facebook and Instagram pages. Likewise, the Google Channel app makes it easier to get your ad up on Google.

4.2.4 - Overall Rating for Shopify’s Marketing Tools

The most driven Shopify merchants are all about expansion through marketing. They know that they have a reliable platform from which to do it, even if it can sometimes seem a little more limiting the further your store progresses.

Blogging 3/5
SEO 4/5
Cross-Platform Integration 5/5
Retargeting 4/5
Overall 4/5

Read more Shopify reviews and guides on Marketing:

4.3. Templates & Design

As we mentioned before, Shopify doesn’t let you go it alone when it comes to store design. Its comprehensive Theme Store gives you a giant leg up with, at present, more than 70 full-store templates designed specifically for use on Shopify.

Shopify’s templates are all designed by 3rd parties, but a dedicated team at Shopify review each one to ensure that it passes the quality controls necessary to earn a place in the Theme Store:

  • All templates must be responsive, meaning that they work perfectly on all screen sizes and resolutions. This is especially important in the rapidly growing mobile eCommerce (or ‘mCommerce’) market.
  • All templates must be free of extra coding, so that users can alter what they want without having to learn the code behind it.
  • All templates must come with multiple designs. Each template comes with either 2 or 3 style options, giving Shopify merchants a great range of choice for their stores.

Of course, the work is not done once a template is downloaded. 38% of your store visitors will click off your site if it doesn’t look good (Adobe), which is a decision they usually make after  0.05 seconds (Lindgaard et. al).

Over a third of your potential customers evaporating in the blink of an eye (in 3.5 blinks of an eye if you’re being pedantic) makes an incredibly strong case for getting your web design right.

Unfortunately, Shopify’s store editor is pretty woeful. In the current world of drag-and-drop website building, the rigid and unyielding design features that Shopify has can stifle creativity and the chance to build something merchants can truly say they’re proud of.

Again, it’s Shopify’s army of apps that come to its rescue here. There are a handful that let merchants drag-and-drop their store into existence with ease, all without the need to code.

As Shopify’s #1 rated page builder app, PageFly understands the limitations of Shopify and the need for great design better than anyone. Over 60,000 stores have been built using PageFly’s simple drag-and-drop features, library of 70+ elements and collection of 50+ templates, amassing the app 4,000 reviews and an overall rating of 4.9.

Feel free to check us out on the Shopify App Store!

Template Variety 4/5
Template Efficiency 4/5
Shopify Editor 2/5
Page Building Apps 5/5
Overall 3.5/5

Floored by the thought of trying out 70+ templates? Don’t worry, we’ve done that for you! We’ve personally used and thoroughly vetted every theme we’ve ever reviewed.

Read more Shopify reviews on Shopify Themes:

Overall Theme Reviews

Individual Theme Reviews

4.4 - Order Management & Reports

The ultimate goal of so many merchants is to advance their store to a point that it basically runs itself. Shopify’s comprehensive order management system is a big help towards that goal, and its reports, while sometimes restricting, can give you valuable insight into what to do to achieve a self-sufficient store.

4.4.1 - Order Management

Order management refers to the entire process between a customer placing an order and the customer getting that order. It involves dealing with ordering, paying and shipping, and should naturally be as streamlined as possible.

Order management

Once a product has been ordered on your store, it will turn up in the ‘orders’ section of your dashboard. On Shopify, there are two ways that you can proceed from here:

  1. Manually - Capture the payment, package and ship the order, and archive the order yourself. This is the best method for new and small businesses, as it’s the most cost-effective.
  2. Automatically - Capture payments automatically and use a fulfillment service to package, label and ship your order. This method can involve a bit of effort and money to set up, but its ability to save you uncountable hours of your time is what makes it a popular option.

No matter which method you choose, you can rest assured that every event during the order process is tracked by Shopify. Payment events are stored in your ‘payment timeline’, meaning problems in transactions can be addressed with your customers with full clarity.

While order fulfillment (that’s the packaging, labelling and shipping part) is the responsibility of the merchant, Shopify does have a few great tools and services to help out:

Apps

You’ll find about 1,000 apps in the Shopify App Store that help with order fulfillment. In addition to helping you find a carrier and helping you to organise shipping through them, there are also apps for tracking orders, printing invoices, and dealing with returns.  

order management app

Shopify Shipping

Available to stores in the USA, Canada and Australia, Shopify Shipping is a service whereby merchants can get access to preferential shipping rates that have already been negotiated by Shopify and shipping carriers in those 3 countries.

It’s a super useful way to save time and money and is recommended for all merchants living in the USA, Canada or Australia. There are plans to roll Shopify Shipping out to other countries in the future.

Shopify Fulfillment Network

To streamline order management, Shopify has recently launched the Shopify Fulfillment Network. This is a series of warehouses that Shopify finds in close proximity to your customer base, where you can store your products, manage your inventory and have products shipped at lightning speed.

Having a reliable system that takes all the work out of your hands can be fantastic for growing businesses. However, the lack of control is not for every merchant, not least those that want to provide a specialised experience for their customer.

There’s a lot to know about SFN before you decide if it’s right for your store. Check out our full review of Shopify Fulfillment Network here.

4.4.2 - Reports

Shopify reporting

Shopify’s comprehensive reports put your store on the track to success

Growth is the name of the game with Shopify. The pure thrill of the platform is in the steps you take and the decisions you make to develop your store. And for that, you’re going to need consistent, useful feedback.

That’s where Shopify’s reports come in. Shopify collects valuable data from your store and its customers, then presents it to you through graphs and tables over a set period of time.

Broadly speaking, Shopify reports are split into 6 categories:

  1. Overview - A boiled down version of every basic metric you need. It includes your sales, your average order value (AOV), where your customers are coming from, and other important bits of data.
  2. Products - A deeper dive into the performance of each individual product. That’s a look at how it is selling, how it has sold and how it stacks up with the rest of your inventory.
  3. Marketing - A look into the buyer’s journey; how well you’re attracting them and how well you’re converting them from curious visitors into paying customers.
  4. Behaviour - A look at how visitors act on your site. This metric lets you see where your customers are dropping off before they reach the cart, and also how many pages they view before leaving or taking a converting action.
  5. Sales - A deep dive into where your store is making its money and what avenues are proving less fruitful. Sales reports can show you your orders, gross sales and discount value over time, along with others that can shape your pricing and campaigns in the future.
  6. Custom - This is a collection of all the metrics that you want. You can create a single dashboard that shows the reports that mean the most to you and the ones that you feel are most crucial to the shaping of your store.

As comprehensive as they are, the big drawback to Shopify’s reports is that they’re not available for all plans. 

The biggest takeaway from this is that the super important ‘sales’ reports are not available for Shopify Basic users. This is a big hindrance of the plan, as knowing and understanding the mechanics of a store’s sales is quite often the difference between a beginner store and one with some telling growth.

For context, one of Shopify’s main competitors, BigCommerce, provides full access to reports across all plans. That being said, its reports are a bit more basic than Shopify’s, and while still fairly comprehensive, they lack some store-defining metrics.

One last bonus for Shopify’s reports: they’re super easy to read. Seriously; we’ve even got a guide for mastering Shopify reports data in less than 10 minutes!

We’ve also got a guide on how to track that most crucial of metrics - your conversion rate!

Order Management 4/5
Shopify Shipping + Fulfillment Network 5/5
Reports 4/5
Overall 4.5/5

4.5. App Integration

A lot of the credit that Shopify enjoys actually goes to the 3rd party apps that operate on its system. Since 2009, apps have played a crucial role in filling in the gaps in Shopify, creating elegant and fully integrated solutions for areas in which Shopify has traditionally been lacking. 

Shopify app store

We mentioned before that the best practice is to invest in a few apps to get started, with a view to introduce more later down the line. You might want to look into 3 or 4 initially before settling on a solid 10 that work for you and your niche.

The categories of Shopify app include:

  • Store Design -Apps to help with the design and layout of your store’s pages.
  • Sales and Conversion - Apps to help you drive bigger and more sales.
  • Marketing - Apps to help you get the word out about your store.
  • Orders and Shipping - Apps to help with the logistics of order and delivery.
  • Customer Support - Apps to help you talk to and support your customers.
  • Reporting - Apps that give you detailed analytics on your store.
  • Inventory Management - Apps to help manage large inventory lists across many stores.
  • Productivity - Apps to help automate work and cut down time spent on menial tasks.
  • Finding Products - Apps to help dropshippers find products for their store.
  • Finances - Apps to help with stuff like taxes and profits. 
  • Trust and Security - Apps to help keep your store and customers secure.
  • Places to Sell - Apps to help expand your store’s potential to other platforms.

With over 5,000 apps on the Shopify App Store (a number which is growing quickly), there’s a serious amount to unpack here - way too much for a single Shopify review! 

All you need to know for now is that the sheer variety in Shopify apps far surpasses that of its competitors. Apps are rated and reviewed clearly on the Shopify App Store, meaning that it’s hard to end up with a duff app that doesn’t do the job it promises.

However, it’s quite frustrating for many merchants that Shopify relies so heavily on its apps. If there’s an existing feature that needs improving or a basic one that needs introducing, Shopify’s support are all-too-quick to point merchants to the app store, where they’re forced to pay for apps like extended product options, upselling sections and sales pop-ups that should really be basic features of the platform.

App Variety 5/5
App Quality 5/5
Shopify’s Reliance on 3rd Party Apps 1/5
Overall 3.5/5

Read more on Shopify Apps:

Overall App Reviews

Individual App Reviews

4.6. Shopify Support

shopify youtube

The Shopify YouTube channel is one of 6 ways that Shopify offers help to merchants.

Being a piece of software with a high percentage of beginner merchants, Shopify needs a comprehensive support service to ensure no one is left behind.

On official Shopify review sites, such as Website Tool Tester, Shopify usually receives a good or very good score across all its support channels. From personal experience, the level of support we’ve received at PageFly has also been good.

It’s worth noting that Shopify’s reviews on Trustpilot are mixed at best. An overall score of 1.4 stars does very little for the company’s support credibility, though it must be pointed out that this is Shopify’s review score from buyers, not merchants, and usually these are victims of scams on Shopify stores.

Shopify categorically denies that they have responsibility for this, seeing as they are not the perpetrators of the scams or the owners of the shops. Still, buyers feel that Shopify should have at least some responsibility in putting a halt to the fraudulent behaviour of merchants on their site.

Regardless, one aspect of Shopify’s customer support that can’t be faulted is its impressive depth. There are no less than 6 channels through which buyers can find help from the platform:

  • Live Chat - Available 24/7 for all merchants, though Shopify makes it difficult to find. Quality of service varies between support agents, but is very good on average.
  • Email - Also available 24/7 and taking on average over 24 hours to respond. Better for big queries that don’t particularly require fast action.
  • Documentation - Thousands of written articles with clear step-by-step processes and embedded videos.
  • YouTube Channel - A large library of videos, though only a small portion is modelled on support and they’re uploaded rather sporadically.
  • Shopify Community - A huge forum with, at present, around 750,000 members and 850,000 posts. Merchants can search the community for similar problems to see if there was a resolution, whether that resolution was from another community member or from a specialist Shopify ‘Guru’.
  • DailyWebinars - One that often flies under the radar. Shopify runs 5 daily and free webinars that cover getting started, migrating stores, syncing with Google and more.

Reviewing Shopify support is always a tricky one because experiences can vary drastically based on a number of factors. While we’ve had good experiences, we can’t claim that everyone will.

Take a look online and you’ll certainly find cases where Shopify support has been very underwhelming. There are also many instances, especially in the Shopify Community, of times when two Shopify gurus have offered conflicting information, which is an inevitable problem of having a large team of support staff.

Still, on the whole, we can’t fault Shopify much in the support department.

Support Channels 5/5
Support Quality 4/5
Ease of Finding the Right Info 4/5
Overall 4.5/5

Impressed by the features? You can check them out for yourself on Shopify’s free 14-day trial. Simply click below to start exploring!

05. Shopify vs Alternatives

You’re probably reading this Shopify review because you’ve heard that Shopify is one of, if not the, best eCommerce solution on the market.

The only way to know that for sure is by stacking it up against the alternatives, of which there are quite a few nowadays.

Is Shopify still the king of commerce after almost 2 decades in the biz? Let’s take a look at some of its biggest competitors!

5.1. Shopify vs Amazon

The only name bigger than Shopify when it comes to online shopping is Amazon. Most people are aware of Amazon as a place to get absolutely anything they want, but fewer people are aware that it’s possible for anyone to sell on Amazon with minimum effort.

Advantages of Selling on Amazon

  • More potential customers - Almost everyone shops on Amazon; it’s rapidly becoming the preferred option to brick-and-mortar department stores. That means that your potential customer base is enormous; much bigger than it is on a Shopify store.
  • Easy and fast delivery - FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) is a system of over 100 gargantuan fulfillment centres around the world. They handle the packaging and fast delivery of your products to anywhere in the world.

Disadvantages of Selling on Amazon

  • Very expensive - As we discussed befor in our Shopify review, you have two plan options with Amazon: small-scale selling (Less than 40 monthly sales) at $0.99 per product and medium-to-large-scale selling (more than 40 monthly sales) at $39.99 per month. But, the real kicker is the commissions, which can result in up to a whopping 15% (compared to Shopify’s 2-3%) going straight into Jeff Bezos’ overstuffed pockets.
  • All competition, little distinction - There’s not much room for customisation on an Amazon storefront - you can change the layout of your store, but your product pages follow the strict Amazon template. Because of the site’s massive global pull, you can expect hundreds of other stores to have done the same and be vying for attention in an overcrowded marketplace.

There’s no reason to limit yourself to one when it comes to the two biggest players in eCommerce. You can create a store on each! You’ll likely find Shopify to be more free to use, but Amazon a great source of potential customers.

Read our full Amazon vs Shopify review here

5.2 - Shopify vs Your Own Website

Setting up your own eCommerce site can be tricky, but immensely rewarding if done right.

Thinking of stepping foot solo into the world of eCommerce? Well, you get top marks for bravery! Setting up your own website from scratch is certainly no walk in the park, but if you’ve got the know-how, you can end up saving money and having total freedom over your store.

Advantages of Selling on Your Own Website

  • You’re the boss - This probably comes as no surprise, but if you’re looking to start your own eCommerce website, you have automatic and total control of everything. You don’t lose out on profits through monthly subscriptions and higher transaction fees, and you also decide exactly how you want your store to operate from top to bottom.

That’s pretty much the only advantage to selling on your own site, but it’s a very alluring pull for a lot of merchants!

Disadvantages of Selling on Your Own Website

  • Expensive and/or time-consuming to start up - Naturally, setting up a store with nothing but code is far from easy. You either need to do it all yourself (time-consuming) or use a web developer (expensive). The biggest draw of Shopify is that it’s neither expensive nor time-consuming to start up.
  • Constant maintenance - Say goodbye to passive income if you decide to run your own website. If you want one that does everything a Shopify store and its army of 3rd party apps does, you’ll need to spend full-time hours and more on updating, fixing, creating new features and so on.
  • Tough visibility - SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is a beast all of its own in ecommerce. Shopify has built-in SEO features to ensure that your store gets placed as highly as possible on Google, but for your own store, you’ll have to have your own knowledge of how it all works.

Yeah, like we said, setting up your own site is not for the faint of heart. If you’ve got plans to do that, it’s best saving them until you have a fully operational and profit-making Shopify store. By then, you’ll have learnt a lot about store operation and management that you can try on your own website with significantly less risk.

Read our full Own Website vs Shopify review here

5.3 - Shopify vs Etsy

There’s another player in the eCommerce game that you’ve almost definitely heard of - Etsy. Etsy focuses on the human touch - beautiful handcrafted trinkets, jewellery, and cards made by tiny businesses (oftentimes just a single person). Yet Etsy, like Amazon, works on a marketplace model, vastly different to Shopify.

Advantages of Selling on Etsy

  • Very simple to get started - Etsy caters for creative types who, understandably, would rather focus on their creations than the hassle of setting up their own store. Knowing this, Etsy makes setting up and running a store super easy for their merchants.
  • The benefits of the Etsy name - Etsy’s niche is very specific and has more streamlined traffic than a mammoth marketplace like Amazon or Walmart. People visit Etsy specifically for handcrafted goods, meaning its merchants already have the right kind of customer approaching their store.

Disadvantages of Selling on Etsy

  • Copy and paste stores - The simplicity of designing an Etsy store means that there’s very little room for customisation. Standing out from the crowd becomes harder, which is a huge negative in a marketplace full of items appealing to the same kind of people.
  • Harder to scale - Advancing an Etsy store becomes that much harder when the ubiquity of the Etsy name, coupled with the standardised theme of its storefronts, means that people mostly claim to have bought an item ‘from Etsy’, rather than from a specific merchant on the Etsy platform.

At first glance, it might seem that Etsy works better for beginner merchants than Shopify. It’s true that it’s super easy to get started and get selling on Etsy, but if you’re looking to make a name for yourself, your best chance is for sure on Shopify. Designing and marketing your store might seem daunting to the uninitiated, but Shopify gives you the tools to help you learn and progress.

Read our full Etsy vs Shopify review here or checkout this in-depth comparison video 

5.4 - ...And the Others?

Like we said, Shopify is far from alone in the eCommerce world. We could spend hours telling you about the pros and cons of Shopify in relation to its competitors.

We could, so we have! Check out the rest of our in-depth reviews of Shopify vs various other eCommerce solutions:

  • Shopify vs Ecwid- Ecwid is an eCommerce widget that promotes products mentioned on existing blogs and web pages. Essentially, it turns writing that you’ve already done into micro advertisements that work as mini storefronts for your products.
  • Shopify vs Magneto- Magneto works best for selling B2B, meaning that it helps you market your products to other businesses. A good solution for some, but how does it stack up against Shopify?
  • Shopify vs Big Cartel - A smaller solution perfect for starting a store with zero budget. It’s great for dipping your toes into the eCommerce world, however it means that scaling a Big Cartel store is pretty much impossible.
  • Shopify vs Teespring - Teespring is a solution specifically for POD (print-on-demand) stores. It removes a lot of the obstacles for designers and illustrators to make money online selling their products.

06. Shopify Review - Conclusion + Final Rating

In the end, it all boils down to one very simple question:

Should you use Shopify to build your eCommerce store?

It’s really only a question that you can answer yourself by exploring what Shopify has to offer. As honest and unbiased as we’ve endeavoured to remain throughout this honest and unbiased Shopify review, the final decision rests solely with you.

After all you’ve read, can you see Shopify supporting your eCommerce dream and bringing your store to life?

Let’s take a look at the final breakdown so that you know where you stand before you make any commitments:

Cost & Expenses

Plan Pricing

4/5

Pretty well priced compared to competitors. Fees are well structured, but apps can get expensive.

Transaction Fees

4/5

Cost of Extras

3.5/5

Overall

3.5/5

Product & Store Types

Variety of Product Types

5/5

Many types of products to sell and

good features to sell them, but you’ll

need apps for extra product options. For

stores, there’s lots of types to choose from!

Cross-Selling and Upselling Features

4/5

Variety of Product Options

3/5

Accommodation of Different Store Types

5/5

Overall

4.5/5

Marketing Tools

Blogging

3/5

Plenty of ways to expand your store into other channels.

In-built SEO and social media integrations are great, but blogging features leave a bit to be desired.

SEO

4/5

Cross-Platform Integration

5/5

Retargeting

4/5

Overall

4/5

Templates & Design

Template Variety

4/5

Great variety of templates, but they’re very hard to adapt using the default Shopify editor. Luckily, apps to help with design are abundant and hugely effective.

Template Efficiency

4/5

Shopify Editor

2/5

Page Building Apps

5/5

Overall

3.5/5

Order Management & Reports

Order Management

4/5

Easy to manage orders, made even easier by some great Shopify features.

Reports are great but aren’t available to everyone.

Shopify Shipping + Fulfillment Network

5/5

Reports

4/5

Overall

4/5

App Integration

App Variety

5/5

Apps are numerous and brilliantly designed. Yet, Shopify makes you pay for apps offering basic services that Shopify should provide. 

App Quality

5/5

Shopify’s Reliance on 3rd Party Apps

1/5

Overall

3/5

Shopify Support

Support Channels

5/5

Occasional inconsistency in information, but loads of support channels and general high quality make Shopify support a winner.

Support Quality

4/5

Ease of Finding the Right Info

4/5

Overall

4.5/5

PageFly’s Final Shopify Rating

4.5/5

So there you have it - a solid rating for what we believe is comfortably the best eCommerce solution around. Sure it has its problems, but Shopify as a platform is dependable, expansive and carries the potential to take your store really, really far.

Feel like exploring for yourself? Why wait? Shopify offers a 14-day trial for everyone wanting to discover if it’s the solution for them and their dream store.

Get started today by clicking the button below!

Explore the #1 Shopify Page Builder today.

Try PageFly FREE
FREE Facebook & Google ads audit - improve ROAS, CPC, CTR & increase sales with actionable tips from certified PPC experts. Request Audit