Is Shopify worth it? Which Shopify plan is best? – Honest 2020 Shopify review

Shopify is at the moment the most popular e-commerce platform. And indeed there are currently more than 1 million stores online that are run on the company’s ecommerce solution. But is the service worth what they charge for it? After all, popularity doesn’t always equal value for money.

In this honest review we give our/my answer to the above question as well as go through the most important elements of Shopify. This review has been structured so that straight at the beginning of this page I aim to answer the question of if Shopify is worth the money and time & energy that go into launching and running a Shopify store, then from below the two sections related to that question, you can find a more detailed review of Shopify.

Is Shopify worth the money in 2020?

Yes. As Shopify is, at least in my opinion, at the moment the best e-commerce platform and also reasonable cheap it is easy to conclude that Shopify is worth the money. That obviously assuming that you have already decided that you want to get into ecommerce (in the next section on this page we explore if Shopify/ecommerce is also worth the time and energy). If you are worried about the cost of Shopify’s plans, it is good to compare their cost to what running a physical store would cost, and obviously with a physical store it is nearly impossible to reach as many customers and generate as much revenue as you can with an online store.

If you would like to consider Shopify’s “value for money” in terms of a star rating, I would give the platform 4.5/5. Full 5 stars would probably require the platform to be free to use, which is obviously not practical from the company’s perspective and thus is likely never going to happen. However, if Shopify’s pricing does make you want to explore some alternatives to Shopify, it might be worth checking out our list of the cheapest ecommerce platforms that we feel are worth recommending (for what it’s worth, Shopify is actually is one of the platforms on that list). Open Shopify store.

Is Shopify worth it? (money + time + energy)

Above I have tried to answer the question of if Shopify is worth what they charge. However, it has become apparent that some people have a more fundamental question about Shopify (and by association usually also about ecommerce): is it actually worth using Shopify? Or in other words, is using Shopify good use of time, money and energy. And I would say that, yes, Shopify can be worth it, but only if you have a proper plan for what you want to do and achieve & are willing to put in the work. That as despite of what some people might say, using Shopify is not easy money. You won’t simply launch a store and instantly make millions by running some targeted Facebook ads. That is just not going to happen: in 2020 ecommerce is simply too competitive for that to be possible.

However, if you have a good idea of what/who your target market is and are able to provide true value (that doesn’t have to be the same as cheap prices) to that target market & are willing to work hard, Shopify can over the long-term certainly be worth it. And maybe even so much worth it, that it ends up having a huge positive impact on your life. Open Shopify account.

More detailed Shopify review:

Can you trust Shopify:

Shopify is currently listed in the New York Stock exchange (you can see the latest information here) and at the time of writing this has a market cap of more than $100 billion. The fact that the company is publicly listed means that there is an added amount of transparency about its business when comparing the company to many other companies that provide a similar service.

At the moment there is no indication Shopify would be dishonest or that it might disappear. And indeed it is quite possible that Shopify is the most reliable e-commerce platform provider.

When it comes to your personal Shopify store, it is good to note that all their plans include, for example, a free SSL certificate, which adds an layer of security to using your online store.

Also, on a personal level I can say that during the last 5 or so years that I have followed Shopify closely and also used some of their services, I have never seen any indication of them being nothing but safe and honest in their operations. By the way, there is more information about how safe Shopify is, on this page.

Plans and pricing – which Shopify plan is the best?

Depending on how you count them, Shopify has either 3 or 5 plans (its debatable if Shopify Lite and Shopify Plus are plans in the sense that the three others are). And regardless of it is 3 or 5, it might be difficult to know which Shopify plan is best for your or your company’s situation. And that is where we hope to help you. From this page you can find our opinion on what is the best Shopify plan for most users as well as information about the situations for which some other plan might be the best choice.

Which Shopify plan is the best for certain individual or a business depends ultimately on three things: 1) how much they are willing to spend, 2) which features they see as crucial and 3) how much sales they expect to generate. The first thing is quite self-explanatory, but the other two might need little bit of elaborating on.

The second thing matters because the features of Shopify’s plans can differ and the third factor matters because the transaction fees Shopify charges depend on the plan you are using – the more you spend on the plan itself the lower they are. And that leads to the fact that a plan that is more expensive in terms of its monthly price can actually be cheaper overall.

Best Shopify plan for most users – Basic Shopify

Shopify’s $29/month-plan, Basic Shopify, includes all the most important features one needs from an ecommerce platform and is priced reasonably, and as such it is for most store-owners the best Shopify plan. Before 2020 it might have been more difficult to say if Basic Shopify or the plan called just “Shopify” might be the best choice for most people, but in 2020 Shopify added the gift cards -feature to the Basic-plan, and that made this plan clearly the best choice for most businesses and individuals.

However, it is good to note that because the gift cards -feature was added to Basic Shopify due to the COVID-situation, it is at least theoretically possible that Shopify might in the future stop including it in the Basic-plan. But it is probably even more unlikely that they would remove it from those people who signed up for the Basic-plan while it was a feature of it. Go to Shopify’s website.

“Shopify”-plan – best if you like reports and generate a decent amount of sales

In terms of their features the most important difference between Shopify Basic and “Shopify” is the fact that with the $79/month “Shopify”-plan you have access to “professional reports”. Those can be useful in gaining a deeper understanding about what works and what does not when it comes to your store’s success. However, they are in no way mandatory for running a successful ecommerce store.

While the differences in features between “Basic” and “Shopify” -plans might not be hugely important, one thing that can matter a lot is the fact that there can be significant differences in the transaction fees Shopify charges depending on which of those two plans you pick.

If you are using Shopify’s own payment system the transaction fees for online credit card payments are with Basic 2.9%+30c and with “Shopify” 2.6%+30c. Already that obviously matters, but the difference for people who are not using Shopify’s own payment system is much larger: on Basic extra 2% is charged on transactions made using some other payment provider and on “Shopify” extra 1% is charged. And unfortunately Shopify’s own payment system is available only for about 15 countries (including, for example, USA, UK, Germany and Canada, see full list of supported countries).

And so by quick math, if you are using some other payment provider than Shopify Payments, you need to generate only slightly over $5000 in monthly sales for the “Shopify”-plan to be actually cheaper than the Basic-plan. (Math: $79-$29 = $59, $5000*0,01 = $59).

Advanced Shopify – best for large, but not huge ecommerce businesses

The difference between “Advanced Shopify” and the “Shopify”-plan is lot like the difference between “Shopify”-plan and the Basic-plan: you get couple more features that you could most likely survive without and your transaction fees go down a bit. In practice the transaction fees for Advanced Shopify are 2.4%+30c for online credit card payments when using Shopify Payments and extra 0.5% on top of the other payment gateway’s fees when using some other payment solution than Shopify Payments.

Shopify Plus – best for major ecommerce businesses

Shopify Plus costs at least $2,000 month, and that obviously means that it is not the ideal Shopify plan for most businesses or entrepreneurs. But if you already have an existing and successful ecommerce store that you are just looking migrate to Shopify’s platform or you know that your online store will become a massive hit, it might be a good idea to contact Shopify and see if Shopify Plus might be the perfect choice for you. Current Shopify Plus clients include, for example, Heinz, Gymshark and Hawkers.

Shopify Lite – best if you are looking to generate ecommerce sales through an existing website

Shopify Lite is not a full-fledged ecommerce solution, but rather an app or a plugin with which you can sell products on an existing website. Due to its limitations/features, Shopify Lite is the best choice when you already have a popular website and an audience that is eager to buy products. So, in practice Shopify Lite could, for example, be a good fit for a fashion or a hobby blog. Shopify Lite costs only $9/month, which means that using it is an inexpensive way to explore the possibilities of ecommerce.

Free trial and discount

Shopify offers new customers a 14-day free trial. Starting the free trial does not require a credit card and even during the free trial you can get a good idea about which type of features you need from an ecommerce platform.

Shopify also offers a discount. The discount is available for longer than monthly subscriptions, and is in practice 10% for one year subscriptions and 20% for two year subscriptions. Go to Shopify and pick your plan.

Actually using Shopify to run your store:

Once you have signed up you can log in to your admin panel directly on Shopify’s website. Once logged in you can use the easy-to-use admin panel to edit your store. All the parts of the admin panel are easy to use. When adding a new product you simply write the details of the product in couple fill-in boxes and upload the image of the product (if you would like to) and hit the “save product” button. The same logic works for other parts of the shop too, including for an example adding the shipping fee and creating discount codes. It is also nice that the admin panel has the feature to add information about the quantity of each product you have immediately available for shipping to the customers.

Order notifications: one very obvious, but still an extremely, nice feature that Shopify offers is the notifications when someone makes an order. When an order is placed the systems sends you an automatic email that includes all the important information about the order so that you can process it. It is also possible to set-up text message notifications, which work well for an example in USA and Canada.

In case you want to publish content related, for an example, to the items you are selling in your store that is also easy by using the features that allow you create new pages and post new blog posts.

In addition to the option of editing your store the back-end offers you also detailed reports of all the important things such orders and sales.

Changing themes and comments about the templates:

When you first start using Shopify it will by default launch your website with a very simple theme called Launchpad Start. If you are believer in “small is beautiful”, this might actually be the theme that you end running your store with in the long term. It contains everything that online shop needs, but nothing more; no flashy graphics or complicated navigation bars. However, if you would like to change your theme that is extremely easy. Simply in your admin panel go to themes -> upload a theme and in the small pop-up window that comes choose to go to the Shopify theme store. When you are in the theme store simply choose a theme you like (free or paid), click on it and follow the simple instructions to activate it as your store’s theme. As returning customers can get quite confused if the look of your store changes radically, it is good to spend a considerable amount of time when choosing the theme you would like to use for your store, so you don’t have to abandon it.

At the time of writing this, Shopify offers bit over 70 themes for their customers, and often within a given theme there are actually different versions of it. Out of the all the Shopify themes, only 9 are free and for the rest of them you are required to make a one-time payment. For the paid themes the cost per theme is $140 to $180.

The cost per theme might seem like quite a large amount, but it is worth keeping in mind that it is very easy to recoup the investment if the theme entices people to make more orders from your store compared to a situation in which you would be using a free theme. It might also be a good idea to mentally split the cost of the template for the duration you plan to use the theme: if you for example believe that you will use it at least for the next two years, the price per month is less than $10/month.

The mentioned number of the templates means that there is one for practically any type of store. It doesn’t matter if you are selling mattresses or scented candles, you will always be able to find a template that fits your needs perfectly.

Due to the fact that the different Shopify themes tend to go best with different kinds of stores, it is impossible to say what the best theme would be for your store. Personally I would suggest narrowing the choice between themes down to couple you yourself like and then asking for opinions from people you know – preferably ones that are also likely to actually buy from your store, or at least know the topic quite well.

When comparing the themes to the themes offered, for example, by Squarespace it can concluded that themes are at least as good.

What type of products should you sell in your Shopify store?

As mentioned there is a theme that fits every need. However, there are some products that are better for selling online than others. When considering the products you would like to sell, you should, for example, think about how much competition there is in the product category (for a new store in a crowded marketplace it can be hard to convince customer to change to your business), how high profit margins the products offer, are the products easy and cheap to ship and are returns likely? Even though most store-owners naturally go with selling physical products, there is nothing stopping you from selling, either exclusively or alongside with physical products, intangible service-type products, such as online courses or ebooks.

Shopify customer support experience

Shopify is widely praised for it’s quality customer support and in fact the CEO & co-founder of the company, Tobias Lütke, has said that one of the things they really focus on is providing quality customer care to their customers. However, it is clear that almost everyone says only positive things about the customer support provided by “their” company. So we obviously had to try it.

We contacted the Shopify’s customer service at 3:40 PM CET time via the live chat feature offered on their website. We were immediately connected with a customer service rep (no 5 minute wait like on some sites!) and asked our question. We asked a question that is not the easiest (e.g how expensive is the cheapest monthly plan) and were provided a clear and concise answer within 30 seconds. And the information was correct. So when it comes to the customer service we give full points to Shopify.

After the chat is over Shopify sends a copy of the chat log to your email address for future reference.

In addition to the live customer chat feature Shopify offers also telephone and email support.

Shopify summarized:

Easy. That is the one word that constantly comes to mind when using Shopify – everything on Shopify’s platform seems to have been built with the idea that a person running a Shopify store would not have to be tech-savvy and thus you really don’t have to be a computer genius to use Shopify. And if you do happen to run into problems it is good to know that there are plenty of guides available as well as the friendly & knowledgeable support is ready to help you.

Negative things about Shopify:

As you can see above we are mainly very positive about Shopify. However, there are couple things that are slightly annoying about Shopify: 1) if you are looking to launch your store in language that is not automatically supported by Shopify (most big languages such as English, German and French are) you will have to manually translate all the different parts of the website when using a ready-to-go theme. It is not difficult, but it takes time. And 2) changing the URLs of some of your shops’s inner pages is impossible. In the grand scheme of things both of those are obviously quite small problems. Go to Shopify.

Questions and answers about Shopify:

Do Shopify plans include free hosting? Yes, Basic, Advanced, Plus and “Shopify” should all include hosting. Lite does not include hosting as the site you install on it, is not hosted at Shopify.

Do Shopify plans include a free domain name? No. But you can buy, for example, .com domain names through Shopify. At the time of writing this the cost for .com domain names is $14/year when bought through Shopify.

Is Shopify likely to raise their prices in the near future?

Given how stable Shopify’s prices have been for the last 5+ years, it is not very likely that they would suddenly raise their prices. That especially as Shopify is currently growing extremely rapidly and it is unlikely that they would want to jeopardize that.

Is it easy to connect a domain name to a Shopify store?

Yes. You just need to do couple small changes at the domain registration service where your domain is located, and in case you don’t yet have a domain registered, you can also register one through Shopify.

Is it easy to change your Shopify plan?

Yes, you can both upgrade and downgrade your plan easily.

Last update: 27th of September, 2020.