Shopify Plus is a hosted, cloud-based enterprise eCommerce platform designed for high-volume online retailers who need to keep up with their customers’ demands. Shopify Plus provides scalability and flexibility in a package that lets its customers focus on the retail side of their business, not on the technical needs of running it. Shopify Plus’s current clients include Red Bull, Budweiser, and General Electric.
Fully Hosted SaaS Ecommerce Platform Overview
If you have or are building, an online store and you are much more interested in the store part than the online part; a fully-hosted SaaS eCommerce platform may be just what you need.
SaaS stands for Software as a Service. With this, you receive access to all the software you need to run your store plus the computer servers that you need to run the eCommerce software on.
This comes as a package for a monthly fee, along with people who keep the computers running efficiently, the security updated to keep your data safe, and maintenance and updates to the software; in short, the technical online side. This service is also known as a subscription service as you pay a monthly fee.
You are left to focus on the store side – setting up the online store, marketing, advertising, customer support, inventory control and everything else associated with retail. Your online involvement is to update the content of the web pages in your eCommerce store, everything that the customer sees, and to monitor how your business is doing.
Enterprise eCommerce refers to those retailers whose sales are more than around $500,000 per year. Some eCommerce software companies place this dollar value even higher.
The key to the enterprise level designation is high-volume traffic and anticipated strong growth. These retailers need an eCommerce solution that will grow rapidly with them and can handle the frequent spikes in their business.
Shopify Plus Benefits
Development & Maintenance Costs
It’s simple: any development and maintenance costs are optional. The Shopify Plus team looks after the technical side of running your online store — the security, maintenance, updates, system efficiency, and storage of your information are all taken care of and optimized.
Your optional development costs are if you want to hire someone to setup or transition your online store in Shopify Plus for you. We have a series of articles that identify Shopify Plus Experts who are accredited by the company who can do this for you.
You know how much running your Shopify Plus online store is going to cost you per month. Your monthly pricing plans are predictable and pre-negotiated with the company. There is no set price, but various reports have indicated that the starting price is around $1200 per month and goes up from there depending on what service and traffic levels you need.
The predictability of your monthly costs continues as the Shopify Plus plan has no sales transaction fees. Of course, you will still have to pay your credit card fees, but there’s no additional fee imposed by Shopify Plus.
Compare this to the unpredictability of a non-hosted option, in which you’re paying the hosting fee plus the transaction fees of your payment gateway plus the really unpredictable fees of your developer who’s trying to keep up with all the software changes and make sure that everything still works together.
And what price is peace of mind for a worry-free technical environment worth to you?
Shopify offers a free 14-day trial for which you don’t need to give them your credit card number.
Enterprise Grade Features
Shopify has all the features you expect in an enterprise eCommerce platform. These include automated shipping, order printing, and direct feeds into accounting, inventory, and other management systems.
Some of the most notable features are:
- 99.9% server uptime; 200 terabytes of storage and over 7,000 CPU cores
- unlimited bandwidth, and unlimited products and sales volumes
- 70 payment gateways, including Bitcoin
- over 1000 apps in the App Store
- ability to create your own apps and extensions through the API and development tools
- supports Google’s Enhanced eCommerce Analytics engine
Shopify Plus removes the frustration of dealing with multiple customer support team members by assigning you your own dedicated account manager. This person is your one point of contact for all your questions, concerns and needs with your Shopify Plus store.
Your account manager learns your business and knows the history of your store. They will also work with you to make store customizations that aren’t available in the standard software.
Shopify Plus subscribers also have access to Shopify ’s 24/7 phone support along with the Shopify Plus priority support phone number and email address.
A single point of focus is also another advantage of using a hosted eCommerce platform. The development team has just one focus – Shopify Plus on a single platform. It may not seem like a big deal, but many web development firms work across different platforms and languages, which splits their time, focus and talents.
The Shopify Plus team’s time is single-focus, and they are very experienced in what they do. This results in faster fixes and resolutions to your problems.
The whole point of enterprise eCommerce is to support businesses that have high traffic, and the computer servers have to work efficiently and reliably to deal with this. You don’t want to worry about that; your worry should be whether your business process and inventory can handle all those new clients and transactions.
Shopify Plus has the hardware and supporting infrastructure in place to handle large numbers of eCommerce transactions securely for all their customers. They can handle hundreds of thousands of transactions at a time and have a reliability figure of 99.9% uptime.
Shopify Plus sets no limit to the sales volume, the bandwidth, or a number of products you can have, so you can just keep on growing. And no matter how much you grow, your site won’t crash.
Integrated and Extremely Customizable
You don’t have to have a cookie-cutter look to your Shopify Plus store-front as you can customize the templates in any way you want. And the same goes for the functionality. Shopify Plus doesn’t have every tool every client would need to be built right into it – that would make it an extremely unwieldy platform.
Need a targeted email marketing campaign or a customer rewards program? It’s easy to extend Shopify Plus with extensions and integrations from third-party vendors. NetSuite and SAP, for example, provide easily integrated software.
You can also add functionality to your Shopify Plus store through extensions, which are small chunks of code pasted into the main code.
Shopify Plus has an App store with a well-chosen selection of over 1000 apps to choose from. Some apps and extensions are simple enough to install yourself, but others may require the help of a developer.
Shopify Plus has released Scripts, which allows developers to write their own customizations for the platform. So if you can dream it up and find a developer, you can have the functionality you want.
Security (PCI Compliant)
Shopify Plus has the same level of security as that used by banks – Level 1 PCI DSS. This is the gold-standard of security. Shopify Plus implements continuous risk assessment of their data and annual on-site assessments.
Customers Feel Special
The standard Shopify platform directs customers to checkout under a Shopify web domain that lacks the look of the online store; it’s without the store’s branding or website navigation. This, at best, confuses customers and, at worst, frightens them from completing their purchase.
Shopify Plus shoppers, on the other hand, remain in your store to checkout, so they have security and confidence in seeing that they are buying from you.
Another way customer feel special is the speed with which you can resolve any complaints or issues they have with your store. Your direct relationship with your account manager is a vital part of this and can significantly help you create a positive customer experience with your own clients.
Multi-channel Sales Functionality
Whether you’re extending your bricks-and-mortar store into the online realm or transitioning from an existing online store, the ability to sell across multiple channels is often a key to the growth of enterprise-level businesses.
Shopify Plus has a point-of-sale feature that lets links up to real-world stores so you can sell online in your physical store. You can also sell across social media platforms, such as Facebook and Pinterest, to extend your marketing reach.
Those retailers considering global expansion will be interested in the more than 70 different payment gateways that Shopify Plus offers, including Bitcoin, which allows you to sell in multiple geographic regions.
You have access to all the Shopify themes to create your Shopify Plus store, and all the themes are mobile-responsive. This means the themes detect the screen size of the mobile device and adjust their own size to match. This is good for all your customers and for the search engines, who give search results priority to websites with this feature.
Shopify Plus is designed to make marketers’ lives easy. Creating and updating the customer-facing side of your store is simple and straightforward and everything your need is accessible from the dashboard.
Behind the scenes, it’s equally as easy to run analytics to crunch the statistics of visits and conversions as well as sales figures; and you have a diverse choice of reports to use.
Many enterprise-level eCommerce businesses enter the global market, and Shopify Plus makes this easy to do. Built-in features for international marketing include geo-targeting, language and currency tools.
Shopify Plus Disadvantages
API or Custom Backend Limitations
With any hosted platform, you always run into limitations as to what changes you can make. Shopify Plus offers a large amount of customization on the customer-facing side, but limited ability to modify the back-end. You don’t have access to FTP or the database – everything has to go via the front-end or the API.
If you are using a particular inventory provider, for example, and the software doesn’t easily integrate with Shopify Plus, you will need to hire a developer to work hard to make the integration work.
Once you have developed your Shopify Plus store, or migrated your Shopify store there, you’re locked in, whatever happens to Shopify as a company. If you decide to move your store somewhere else, you can only take the information that Shopify Plus lets you export.
It’s actually all your data, but it’s still not the same as having access to FTP and all the databases on your own servers.
You also have to develop some expertise in-house about using Shopify Plus. Customizing your store and maintaining it requires someone to learn the ins and outs of Shopify Plus and to develop some platform-specific knowledge. Shopify uses its own coding language, Liquid, so knowing HTML or CSS doesn’t help here.
Limited Discount Options
This is a limitation on how you set discounts in your online store. You can only set a discount to one condition at a time: to a collection or a product or a price. For example, you can’t discount all items over $20 by 10%. Depending on how many cuts you intend to offer and how you want to structure them, this may be a serious concern.
Shopify Plus Competitors
Shopify Plus vs. Magento Enterprise
Shopify Plus and Magento Enterprise Edition are direct competitors in the enterprise eCommerce field. The main difference is that Shopify Plus is a hosted solution and Magento Enterprise is self-hosted so that you have to find a web hosting service to run the software for you.
Magento also offers a hosted version, Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition. This platform uses the same codebase and provides the same flexibility as Magento.
Both Shopify Plus and Magento Enterprise are PCI security-compliant, with Level 1 PCI DSS certification. The main difference is that, as a hosted platform, the Shopify Plus team looks after the security for you.
With Magento, you’re responsible for maintaining the data security, and any breaches in it are your concern and responsibility. It takes time and effort to monitor and fix these, not to mention all the worry.
Updating your online store needs to be easy and straightforward. Product descriptions, editing website copy, adding customer forms and all of the other customer-facing content must be correct and timely.
In addition, you need analytics to track how your sales are going, what your conversion rates are, how your social media campaigns are performing and a mass of other marketing information.
With Shopify Plus, you can access the functionalities for all of this from your administration panel. Magento Enterprise has none of these functions as defaults, though you can add them through extensions or can create your own. What Magento Enterprise does have, however, are extensions to handle referrals or affiliates marketing.
Search engine optimization is an often overlooked part of online retailing. Over one-third of all purchases are made from initial web searches. With the introduction of version 2, and now version 2.1, Magento Enterprise is on a par with Shopify Plus, with SEO.
Both platforms provide enough tools for more-than-adequate SEO and including the ability to have an integrated blog and social sharing buttons.
Shipping is key to any online business, and both Shopify Plus, and Magento Enterprise integrate with most major shipping concerns, including USPS. Shopify Plus, though, doesn’t tie in with DHL.
As Magento Enterprise is a self-hosted platform, support and apps are essential to the success of its users. There is a strong global community of forum moderators and contributors as well as developers writing apps and extensions.
Shopify Plus has an app store with over 1000 third-party apps, and a very strong customer support team to whom you have priority access.
Shopify Plus vs. BigCommerce Enterprise
BigCommerce is one of Shopify’s main competitors in the hosted, cloud-based, eCommerce field. BigCommerce Enterprise identifies itself with retail businesses making $1 million or more in sales annually. Their clients include Toyota, Gibson, and Payless Shoesource.
The dashboards of both Shopify Plus and BigCommerce Enterprise are based on their respective standard eCommerce platforms —and both of these are easy to use. (See our Shopify and BigCommerce reviews.)
Both platforms come with features straight out of the box and implementing them is straightforward. Shopify Plus does use its own coding language called Liquid, and there’s a learning curve involved in picking that up for the technically-inclined. Up until recently, editing the BigCommerce Enterprise templates has drawn complaints, but the new Stencil theme editor simplifies the process.
Shopify Plus and BigCommerce Enterprise have similar features with unlimited bandwidth and scalability, and 99.99% uptime. Both allow you to sell in multiple channels, and both provide dedicated account managers, though with BigCommerce Enterprise there’s an additional charge for this service.
Shopify Plus pulls ahead with its Traffic APP for a painless transfer of your previous customers to your new Shopify Plus platform without a drop in your SEO. Both Enterprise platforms win out with its integrated one-page checkout.
Shopify Plus has quite a lean platform basic platform, but you can add on functionality and features through a choice of over 1000 apps in the app store. BigCommerce Enterprise provides a selection of 265 apps, but they cover pretty much everything you need.
If you do need something you can’t find, both platforms provide access through their API for developers to create new apps.
All of the website themes with Shopify Plus and BigCommerce Enterprise are mobile-responsive. BigCommerce Enterprise has more themes to choose from if you count the different variations possible for each theme.
Payment processing gateways may be of concern if you are going global. Shopify Plus covers the world with 70 payment processors, and BigCommerce Enterprise has just 38 – but that may be enough for you.
Who is Shopify Plus Recommended for?
We recommend that you take a look at Shopify Plus if you are a retailer who wants an online store and:
- has a large and growing retail store (bricks-and-mortar or online)
- has sales of at least $500,000 per year
- anticipates or plans that your sales volume will continue to grow, with potentially no limit in sight
- has periodic spikes in your sales, perhaps up to thousands of order per minute
- wants to focus on design, marketing, and retail, not on your technical online environment
- wants a unique, customized store-front, automatically adapted for any mobile platform
- wants dedicated customer support and a long-term relationship with your eCommerce service provider
- anticipates expanding globally, in different regions and languages
- believes in multi-channel selling to in order to reach more customers
Why would you use Shopify Plus?
Shopify launched Shopify Plus in February 2014 to satisfy its larger clients who were outgrowing its original eCommerce platform. Shopify did manage to handle some high-volume business, but it wasn’t designed to do so.
If you’re already a Shopify client and you’re not sure if you’re ready to make a move to Shopify Plus, here are the four core extras that Shopify Plus has:
- the checkout on your own domain, with your own branding and website
- a dedicated account manager for support & customized when you are at very high levels of traffic.
- customized integration with inventory and management platforms
- the ability to create clones of your stores for different target countries
If you already have an online store elsewhere and want to move to an enterprise-level platform, Shopify Plus provides a turn-key solution you can move right in to. Your account manager will work with you to ensure that your store doesn’t lose your search page ranking in the transition.
Although it’s relatively new, Shopify Plus already has some heavy-hitter clients and is usually mentioned in the top three of any enterprise eCommerce platforms. User reviews of this software have been overwhelmingly positive.