If you have been shopping around for the best eCommerce platform to power your store, you probably keep coming across Shopify. It is an industry leader and consistently rated among the top three platforms.

While Shopify is certainly an impressive tool, there may be more choices out there to address your needs. Learn more about the eCommerce software’s pros and cons so that you can make the best buying decision.

Shopify eCommerce store builder benefits and disadvantages

SHOPIFY PROS


There is no denying that Shopify eCommerce platform comes with a long list of pros. Here are just a few of the highlights.

Turnkey solution: Shopify is out of the box ready. You don’t have to worry about investing time and money in the setup process. Once you sign up, you can start designing and building your store.

Fast and easy setup also means that you can start selling and earning revenue as soon as possible. You won’t have to spend months or even years building your site.

Important built-in features

Hosting: Shopify uses their powerful servers to run your store. That also means that they handle any technical problems. You don’t have to worry about running and troubleshooting your own servers. For beginners, this is a huge plus.

Security: Shopify is PCI DSS compliant. This means that they meet industry standards for credit and debit card security. Your customers can feel confident that their financial information is protected.

Shopify is PCI DSS compliant

In addition, your store comes with a free SSL certificate. This layer of protection works to encrypt sensitive data. It is another way protect shopper information. Some eCommerce website builders will make you purchase a certificate and pay to have it installed.

SEO: It is easy to be an SEO expert with Shopify. Their built-in features make eCommerce SEO practically fool-proof. The program automatically creates a site, integrates with any additional analytics programs and lets you to update meta descriptions and tags. All you have to do is fill-in-the-blanks and your site will launch as search engine friendly.

Shopify web page SEO screen details

Ease of Use Interface: High marks for ease of use go beyond design features. While the editor is great for beginners, so is the rest of the dashboard. Anyone can easily find their way around. The organization make sense and the setup is both visually appealing and clearly signposted.

App Store: The Shopify app store has thousands of add-ons that you can use to expand your site features. While some of them require a one-time fee or monthly subscription, a lot of them are absolutely free. With new apps being added all the time, there are no limits to what you can do.

Shopify App Store

Shopify POS App: Shopify goes beyond online sales. With the POS app, you can easily sell products at live events. Take your wares to markets, fairs, pop-ups and other gatherings. The app makes it easy to conduct transactions on the fly.

Speed: Fast loads times are important for several reasons.

  • 1. Search engines reward sites with faster load times. Slow servers can actually negatively affect your rankings.
  • 2. Online shoppers are impatient. It doesn’t take much to cause a potential customer to leave your page. Having to wait on your website can drive them away.
  • 3. It looks unprofessional. You only have one chance at a good first impression. A sluggish site won’t instill confidence in your site.

Customer Support: As a Shopify customer, you have 24/7 access to customer support. You can contact them by:

  • Phone
  • Email
  • Live chat
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
Shopify excellent customer support options.

Also, as a business owner, you will have access to a variety of CRM tools. You can use these to create pleasant shopping experience and manage orders. All these features are built-in and ready to use from day one.

Essential Marketing Tools: Once you have a site, it is time to start marketing your products. Shopify makes it easy to optimize your pages with sitemaps, meta tags, descriptions and social media integration. Other marketing tools include:

  • Customer tracking and reporting
  • Ability to create promotions and offer discounts
  • Newsletter and email templates
  • Blog capabilities
  • Responsive design for mobile devices
  • Extensive app store

You have everything you need to run a comprehensive marketing campaign. Any additional tools can be added through the app store. There are plenty of free and reasonably priced options.

Design

Shopify Templates Store

One of the biggest costs of starting an online store is hiring a developer to design your site. Hourly rates can start at $100 and go well beyond $200. It doesn’t take long to rack up a hefty bill. This puts custom design out of the price range of a lot of startups.

Fortunately, with Shopify, you won’t need a professional developer. Anyone can create a site. The WYSIWYG editor makes it easy to customize pages. You don’t need to know how to code in order to make changes. If you have problems, you can contact customer support or use their resource tools. They provide:

  • Extensive FAQ pages
  • A community forum
  • A knowledge base
  • Website building university.

The platform is perfect for beginners, but versatile enough for more seasoned entrepreneurs.

Responsive Website Design

Shopify responsive templates.

The majority of shoppers use their mobile devices to browse and make purchases. If your website isn’t responsive, you will struggle to convert sales. Shopify offers themes with responsive design so that your website will look good on phones, tablets and laptops. Customers can easily view your products and pay where ever they are.

Plenty of Free Themes

ECommerce platforms vary pretty widely in how many free themes they offer. Shopify falls in the middle of the range in this category. Currently, you can choose from 10 free themes. Premium themes range in price from $80 to $150. While 10 might not sound like a lot, the quality of their free themes is well above the competition.

Shopify Website Templates

It also helps that Shopify free themes are well designed and easily customized. The WYSIWYG editor allows you to make simple drag-n-drop changes. You can also access the theme’s code and customize details through HTML or CSS. Adjust sizing, swap out colors, and add images with ease.

Add-Ons

Another benefit of Shopify software is that they are constantly expanding their app store. If you can’t find a certain tool or app, chances are that it will be available soon. They are constantly looking for ways to improve and meet customer needs.

Shopify flexible software platform will continue to grow with you and the changing market. Currently, there are thousands of plugins to choose from and that number keeps growing every day.

Shopify has also streamlined the integration process. Once you purchase or download an app, it will be easy to launch immediately. Typically, there is little to no set-up involved. Expanding the functionality of your store takes just a few clicks.

SHOPIFY CONS


Pricing

You may have noticed that there are quite a few free self-hosted options on the market: Magento, Zen Cart, PrestaShop. While the Free tag can sound appealing, there is a catch. You have to be fluent in coding in order to use these eCommerce shopping carts. Otherwise, you will have to hire a developer to design your store. In that case, the “free” cost quickly disappears.

In addition, self-hosted options can also come with hidden fees. You may have to pay extra for payment gateways, security certificates and other features that are built into Shopify.

Essentially, self-hosted options are best for those with technical knowledge. If you are a beginner, then Shopify is still a great value. It is well-worth the monthly subscription to be able to quickly design your own site.

Customization Difficulties

Some users complain that Shopify themes are difficult to customize. Shopify invented their own coding language called Liquid. If you are used to other languages, there will be learning curve.

The upside is that you are not locked into using Liquid. Users still have the option of using HTML, CSS and JavaScript to make changes. Only those who rely on PHP will potentially encounter problems.

Marketing Tools Are Very Basic

Another common complaint is that the built-in marketing tools are too basic. This is a hard argument to make stick though. Shopify sites come built-in with all the tools you need. If there is a gap, all you have to do is visit the app store. Any user has unlimited access to the best marketing tools available.

Organization

Shopify has made some interesting choice when it comes to category names. They can be confusing and make it difficult to navigate the site. This takes away from the user experience and create an unnecessary learning curve. While this con is easily overcome, it is still annoying.

Migration

If you decide to switch platforms, Shopify does not make it easy to migrate. While this is common practice, it can also mean losing some of your store information. The best you can hope for is a CSV export of your site. This is a good reason to take your time choosing an eCommerce platform. Take advantage of any free trials so that you won’t have to worrying about migrating down the road.

Who is Shopify Best For?

Shopify is actually well suited for most of the people out there looking to start an online store. It caters to the vast majority of people who don’t know code. This means a huge savings when on designing and developing a storefront. Basically anyone can build and launch a store within a matter of hours.

Shopify also has one of the best pricing plans on the market. You can upgrade and downgrade as needed. Even the basic plan comes with all the features you will need and access to the app store. While there are credit card fees, these are standard.

Shopify Alternatives

While Shopify is a great platform that speaks to a massive audience, there are other options out there. Volusion, BigCommerce and Magento are often ranked at the top with Shopify. And for good reason. All of these platforms are competing for a share of the same market. They are all working hard to earn your business.

However, in the end, Shopify software platform still comes out on top for several reasons:

  • 1. Best themes. While the other big players may have more themes, Shopify’s themes are better designed and more professional looking. Sure, this is totally a matter of opinion and personal taste. If you want to see for yourself, use the free trials to do some looking around.
  • 2. Super user friendly. Magento is an open source program that will require some technical knowledge. BigCommerce and Volusion offer drag and drop editors, but Shopify receives high marks for ease of use.
  • 3. Unlimited features. With Shopify, you never have to worry about overages. You can add as many products as you like and enjoy unlimited storage and bandwidth. There is no need to pay for an upgraded package.
  • 4. Customer service. Shopify sets the standard for excellent customer service. Users have a long list of ways to reach a representative 24/7. Other platforms make you pay more for direct access.
  • 5. Constant updates. If you take a look a Google trends, Shopify continues to gain traction. Its competitors aren’t fairing quite as well. A lot of this is due to Shopify’s commitment to improving its features. Shopify continues to adapt to the market and add new features as needed. You won’t have to worry about it going out of date.

While Shopify stands out as the best choice for beginners without coding experience, that doesn’t mean it is the best option for everyone. If you have coding experience, you may find that Magento is more easily customizable. Or you might find the perfect theme on BigCommerce.

Shopify does have mass appeal, but it is always in your best interest to shop around before committing to a platform.

Conclusion: Do the Pros Outweigh the Cons?

Without a doubt. In fact, many of the cons that users mention don’t really hold traction. Any drawbacks will only affect a very small portion of users.

It has never been easier for the average person to design and launch an online store. This is great news for entrepreneurs across the world.

There are no longer any huge barriers when it comes to technical knowledge or budget. For around $30 a month, anyone with a computer can build a professional website with Shopify. It is a great time to strike out on your own and Shopify is a big part of that movement.

Mark is a serial entrepreneur and editor of www.aawebmasters.com. He has a love for web design, online marketing, social media and eCommerce. He enjoys working with a variety of web professionals on a number of projects.