What is Shopify?
Shopify is an eCommerce platform that allows you to build an online store. Shopify was started in 2004 by Tobias Lutke and, it’s currently headquartered in Ottawa, Canada.
Shopify is a hosted solution and software-as-a-service tool, which requires a monthly subscription to be accessed.
Shopify is listed in TSX, NYSE stock-exchanges with the ticker symbol as SHOP.
Shopify is an eCommerce platform that many recommends for building a flexible yet scalable online store with a feature set that enables customization.
The goal of Shopify was to make anybody able to create their online store from scratch with ease. In our opinion, they have reached that goal.
All the sales channels available to sell on are:
- The main online store
- Point of Sale (POS)
- Facebook Shop
- The Buy Button
- Wholesale (Shopify Plus Plan)
The sales channels are free to add to your store, but additional fees from the platforms might be applicable.
Name – Shopify Inc.
Number of online stores – Over million merchants
Revenue in 2018 – $1.08 Billion
Expected revenue for 2019 – $1.545 billion to $1.555 billion
Amount of online shopper through Shopify merchants – 218 million (2018)
More details can be found on the Q3 2019 Shopify Financial Results.
Easy To Use and Get Started
The process of starting a Shopify store is a simple one, and getting started can be achieved within hours of creating an account.
Whether you are designing from the ground up or using Shopify premade themes, the process of building the store can be done fast.
Shopify is for businesses that want to expand their offering online with a complete and simple solution. A benefit is that it offers everything you need to sell online successfully. For example, you don’t have to worry about hosting a website.
Creating the store doesn’t require technical skills to get started. Technical capabilities do expand your opportunities in customization of your store, but it’s not necessary for starting.
All you need is to create the store:
- A subscription and account
- Preferably a custom Domain (technically not required)
Online Store Security
A core benefit of Shopify is security and reliability. A modern online store has to be secure, and personal and financial data has to be safe.
A Shopify store is safe for your online shoppers as well for you as the owner.
99.8% uptime promised by Shopify, is a key for online store reliability. It means your customers can reach your store at any given time from anywhere in the world.
Every store comes with SSL certificates that improve security and trust in your store.
Over a million merchants ranging from small and medium companies to large corporations, run their online stores through Shopify.
Design Friendly Online Store
Shopify currently has eight free themes that are beautiful and professional. Every theme has different purposes, whether you’re selling a single product or a product line.
The free themes are a starting point for further customization, but for starting, they are all you need.
The free themes, at least, are build conversions in mind to achieve the best initial user experience to boost sales.
The paid premium themes offer more unique designs that businesses can match their branding. Paid premium themes can cost anywhere between $140 – $180, and they can be previewed completely before purchasing.
Every Shopify theme is, whether paid or free, are fully responsive and optimized.
Another Shopify benefit of the themes is that you can create dedicated landing pages for your online marketing campaigns. The use of landing pages can increase conversion considerably.
eCommerce has shifted to mobile, and it’s estimated that the portion of mobile in all eCommerce will be 72.9%. Mobile searches are increasing, and the need to have a mobile-first experience is crucial for successful online stores.
In Q3 2019, Shopify merchant’s traffic was 81% mobile, and 71% of orders were mobile.
From the get-go, every Shopify theme is mobile-optimized, which is a great benefit as you don’t have to worry about it when designing your page.
A Shopify store can also be managed through its mobile app, which makes it easy to manage on-the-go.
Shopify, for the most part, is feature ready for running an online store, but it does come with limitations. These limitations can be lifted with the use of Apps from the Shopify app store.
The large app store has functionalities for every need an online business might have.
Apps provide much-needed flexibility as you can try out features on the go to see what is needed to run your store.
App functionalities range between marketing, conversion optimization, analytics, SEO, upsells, fulfillment, inventory management, customer support, and much more.
Apps are either paid or free, and the paid apps are added to your Shopify billing. Paid apps are usually paid with monthly subscriptions.
Customer Support and Community
For starting online store owners, everything can be overwhelming, and Shopify’s customer support is a great benefit to have on your side.
The customer support is available at all times via email, chat, or phone. They make sure your store is never offline and ready to help with any questions.
The vast community of store owners in the Shopify Community forums can help you with feedback, advice, and support.
Shopify resources is a great way of learning new aspects of running online business and stores. Blogs about increasing sales, marketing, and success stories can be found there.
Payment Gateway Integrations
Secure and reliable payment providers can be integrated into Shopify, and it’s fairly simple to integrate most payment provider and their gateways into your Shopify store.
Over 100 payment providers from around the world, work with Shopify currently.
Shopify’s gateway is called Shopify Payments, which sadly isn’t available worldwide, and many stores have to rely on other gateways to accept payments.
The scalability of a Shopify store is one of the great benefits of it. Whether you are selling a handful of products to a dozen customers or hundreds of products to millions of customers, Shopify is a scalable eCommerce solution.
For example, when scaling up marketing campaigns, the last thing you want on your mind is that can your online store handle the increased demand. For most store owners scaling customer traffic or inventory management will not be an issue.
Note for product categories is to properly choose or change a theme to present the products desirably.
Shopify stores can use many of it’s marketing tools and functionalities to promote their business. Functionalities such as gift cards, coupons, email marketing, SMS marketing, and abandoned cart recovery.
Shopify Costs, Fees, and Plans
Shopify currently has five plans to choose from:
- Shopify Lite – $9/month
- Basic Shopify – $29/month
- Shopify – $79/month
- Advanced Shopify – $299/month
- Shopify Plus – Fees are negotiated
Every plan can be paid annually, biennially, or monthly. There is a 10% discount for annual subscriptions and 20% for biennial subscriptions.
All the plans minus lite, include everything you need to run a whole online store.
Differences between Shopify plans:
- Professional reports are only available on the Shopify-plan and up.
- An advanced report builder is only available on the advanced plan.
- Gift cards are only available for the Shopify-plan and up.
- Real-time carrier shipping is only available on the advanced plan.
- Point Of Sale (POS) is available for Shopify or higher plans.
- Staff accounts
- Basic – 2 Staff accounts
- Shopify – 5 staff accounts
- Advanced – 15 staff accounts
Shopify prices, plans, and features are consistent with other competing eCommerce platforms.
Shopify Plus is an enterprise-grade solution for larger companies and high volume merchants. It comes with all the features from the other plans but provides more features that larger companies can utilize.
Plus features include I.A :
- API support
- Merchant Success Manager – hands-on customer support
- Better integration with CMS, ERP, PIM, and CRM
- Wholesale and B2B eCommerce
- Multicurrency support built-in
- Advanced security features
- eCommerce automation tools like Shopify Flow, Launchpad, Shopify Scripts
- Dedicated IP Address / SSL
- Deeper localization for international markets
- eCommerce migration services
Shopify Plus is highly customizable to the business, and the cost is negotiable.
Shopify Plus customers:
Shopify Transaction Fees
Shopify payments come without transaction fees and cost of use is just the online credit card rates, which differ with different plans:
- Basic – 2.9% + 30¢
- Shopify – 2.6% + 30¢
- Advanced – 2.4% + 30¢
Shopify payments are available for the following countries as of now:
- Hong Kong SAR China
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- United States
For using third party payment gateways, Shopify applies a transaction fee on top of what you would pay for your gateway. The fees differ between plans:
- Basic – 2%
- Shopify – 1%
- Advanced – 0.5%
If you’re not able to use Shopify payments, the transaction costs will be a major concern for your bottom line. Calculating the transaction cost between plans is important, especially at scale.
A great Shopify benefit is that it starts collecting user data for analytics right away from the setup. Shopify Analytics Dashboards offers user data that can be used to optimize and measure the results of your Shopify store.
Compared to many analytic tools, Shopify analytics automatically tracks the main conversions of your online store funnels:
- Add to cart
- Reached Checkout
- Sessions converted
All of the above are important to measure the effectiveness of your online store at any given time. Only through studying your conversion funnel metrics can you truly optimize it and increase sales to the next level.
A session in Shopify analytics is a period of continuous activity from a visitor.
Shopify metrics that it collects and displays:
- Total sales
- Online store sessions
- Returning customer rate
- Online store conversion rate
- Average order value
- Total Orders
- Top products
- Online store sessions by traffic source
- Online store sessions by locations
- Online store sessions by device type
- Online store sessions by social source
- Sales attributed to marketing
- Sales by traffic source
- Top referrers by sessions
Regularly tracking these valuable metrics, you will always have a quick reference point on how your online store has done and how it’s doing.
When looking up analytics on Shopify, use the “reports”-tab to gain a deeper look at what’s going on in your online store. Main metrics, can be quickly tracked with the “Dashboards”-tab. With reports, you can export and print them to gain a deeper understanding of the metrics for later uses.
An important note to take in is to use other web analytics tools as well as Shopify analytics. Shopify analytics is more superficial data and only shows metrics keen on selling.
To understand your visitor on a deeper level, you need to have at least other analytical tools available.
Shopify Analytics, Google Analytics, and Facebook Pixel
At least use Google Analytics with your Shopify store to have a greater analytical understanding of user metrics, conversions, and customer profiles.
While Shopify analytics provides you with basic conversions, you might want to track conversion more detailed than it offers. Use Google Analytics Goals to enhance your conversion tracking, and remember to track negative conversion as well.
Facebook Pixel for Shopify stores comes highly recommended as well. The pixel tracks your store’s users, and it opens up the possibility to create effective Facebook advertising. Another plus for pixel is you will gain another dashboard to measure your online store’s user activity.
The combination of Shopify analytics, Google analytics, and Facebook Pixel will provide you detailed data that can be used to increase sales and effectiveness of your store. Install as soon as possible the other web analytic tools for Shopify.
Other web analytics tools can be utilized as well, but installing at least Google Analytics and Pixel will get you further than without them.
Remember to optimize and measure the right goals at any given time. Choosing the right goals isn’t always about optimizing for sales. You want to learn more about your core customers, and that data can be used later on to increase sales.
Research and it’s data is key in running a successful Shopify store.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a major driver of traffic, and sales and having a strategy for optimization is crucial for every Shopify online store.
To be successful at SEO, you need to invest the time and follow procedures to create an online store that can be found with important keywords.
Mostly Shopify SEO is suitable for online stores, but it has some quirks that are not ideal for following a strong SEO strategy.
All in all, Shopify SEO is a benefit as its easy to use, and the basic SEO strategies can be followed with it.
If you want to grow your Shopify store, read our guide on ecommerce SEO.
Here are the pros and cons of Shopify SEO.
Shopify SEO Pros
Every Shopify store is secured and has SSL (Secure Socket Layer) enabled. Not having an SSL can lower rankings, and not having SSL as an online store is especially a critical matter.
Shopify SEO supports on-page optimization by having a custom title tag and meta description configuration with an easy interface in every product and page editor.
301-redirects are easy to create within Shopify and automatically prompted if a page or product URL changes.
As we covered earlier that Shopify tends to have great loading speeds and almost perfect uptime. Loading speeds are a major ranking factor for search engines.
The online store is mobile-optimized, which is essential for growing traffic from mobile searches.
Shopify generates a sitemap that can be added to webmaster tools of search engines.
Shopify generates canonical tags automatically. Canonical tags are used, if there are multiple versions of the same page, to tell the search engines which page is the main one.
Additional SEO features are:
- Ability to change headings in pages
- Ability to change image alt-texts
From the app store, you can find apps that can help your Shopify SEO to be better, like structured data creators.
Shopify SEO Cons
Shopify’s URL structures are not ideal, because search engines prefer simple URLs and Shopify adds prefixes to pages. For example, a product page would be domain/product/yourproduct instead of domain/yourproduct.
A large variety of content makes your users more engaged with your online store, and the creation of multifaceted blog content can be tough to produce within Shopify. The themes limit the design of your blogs in the online store.
File names can’t be changed for SEO purposes inside of Shopify and should be renamed before uploading.
While Shopify generates a sitemap, it can’t be edited.
Shopify Marketing Opportunities
Like any other online store or website, getting traffic and sales to the store will be your main goal after getting everything ready.
We already mentioned the features of SEO for Shopify, but you can’t rely on only organic traffic to get sales.
Consider promoting your new store with Facebook ads and Google Ads.
Both methods of online marketing can be used within Shopify itself. For Google Ads, it’s easy to set up Google Shopping ads with its integrations. For Facebook Ads, it’s easy to set up as well.
If the marketing channels have been integrated with Shopify from the marketing overview-tab, you will quickly see the results from marketing.
It’s recommended to track advertising results in their respective platforms and use web analytics to confirm them. Nevertheless, it’s a neat functionality that gets you started faster, and having the possibility to have a glance at any given time.
Overall, Shopify has everything you need to run an online store. Shopify isn’t perfect when compared to all other platforms, but it holds up strong against them. Its price is suitable and fairly comparable to other solutions out there.
Shopify is great for first-time online store owners and has more advanced features for those who need more.
Shopify is a platform to consider if you’re running an online business that has the potential to grow. When you grow, you can easily scale up your Shopify store to match your current needs, or even downscale it accordingly.
Engaio Digital is an online marketing agency that helps eCommerce companies to grow their online businesses and help them find unique strategies online.