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 using Shopify actually worth the money, time and energy that go into running a Shopify store?
In this Shopify review I give my answer to that question as well as go through the most important elements of Shopify.
Is Shopify worth it? (money + time + energy)
If you are interested in making money online, the odds are that you have come across videos or guides that talk about making money with Shopify. However, as with many things it can be difficult to know how much of those videos and guides is just hype and how much of what is said in them is true.
And the big question is if Shopify is actually worth it? 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 2021 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 to that target market & are willing to work hard, Shopify can especially over the long-term certainly be worth it. Open Shopify account.
6 arguments for why Shopify is worth it in 2021
- Free trial and relatively inexpensive pricing – you don’t have to invest a lot of money to see if Shopify is for you.
- Shopify is easy to use – you also don’t have to put a lot of time into learning how to use Shopify.
- The potential upside of starting an ecommerce store is massive – an extreme example of this is Amazon.
- Ecommerce is still growing extremely rapidly – there is room for a lot of ecommerce stores.
- The skills you learn by running a Shopify store can be beneficial also for a lot of other things.
- Even highly profitable Shopify stores are still being launched regularly – this is obviously the ultimate argument for why Shopify can still be worth it.
How to find examples of Shopify stores that are successful in 2021:
It can obviously be at least somewhat subjective if Shopify is worth it or not: others can be happy to put time and energy into using Shopify if they could make extra $200/month, while some others might not consider Shopify worth it even for extra $2,000/month. As such it is nice to know that you can actually easily find examples of real Shopify stores and of their profit numbers. And maybe the best way to find those examples is by going to Exchange Marketplace, which is a marketplace owned by Shopify for Shopify stores.
Quick tips on how to succeed with Shopify in 2021
- Pick a product category that you are interested in: this should help with being able to describe the products in such a way that you can convince people to buy from your store.
- Try to find a product category that is not saturated. I.e. do not sell the exact same products as everyone else.
- Be aware of the possibly long shipping times: If you are using Shopify with dropshipping it can easily take 2 or 3 weeks for people to get the product(s) they bought from your store. That delay is a much bigger issue for some products than for others – try to sell products that people don’t mind waiting for.
- Start small: there is a learning curve with Shopify and online advertising, and as such it is advisable not to spend too much money before you actually have some experience.
Shopify review 2021:
Shopify pros and cons (review summary)
|Trustworthy||There could be more free themes and the paid themes could be cheaper|
|Free trial & reasonably priced||The platform and the themes could be available in more languages (it is possible to translate your store’s texts, but it takes some effort)|
|Easy to use||There should be more flexibility for editing store URLs|
|Themes look professional|
|Great customer service|
Does Shopify seem like a good fit for you? Try it for free.
Can you trust Shopify (full review starts):
Shopify is currently listed in the New York Stock Exchange (you can see the latest information here) and at the time of updating this has a market cap of more than $190 billion. The fact that Shopify 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.
And 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.
On the practical level of your own Shopify store’s safety, it is nice to know that all regular Shopify plans come with, for example, a free SSL certificate for your store. An SSL certificate adds a layer of security for a website/store.
Bottom line: at least at the moment there is no indication that Shopify would be dishonest or that it might somehow suddenly close down. And indeed it is quite possible that Shopify is the most reliable e-commerce platform provider on the market in 2021. In case you are interested to read more about Shopify’s safety, you might want to see this page.
Plans and pricing – which Shopify plan is the best?
Depending on how you count them, Shopify has either 3 or 5 plans (it is debatable if Shopify Lite and Shopify Plus are plans in the sense that the three others are). And regardless of if it is 3 or 5, it might be difficult to know which Shopify plan is the best for your or your company’s situation. And that is where I hope to help you. From this page, you can find my 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 a 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 a little bit of elaboration.
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 highly 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 of 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 (“Shopify Payments”) 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 Payments is much larger: on Basic an extra 2% is charged on transactions made using some other payment provider and on “Shopify” an extra 1% is charged.
The importance of the different transaction fees on payment methods other than Shopify Payments is highlighted by the fact that Shopify’s own payment system is available only for about 15 countries (including, for example, the USA, UK, Germany and Canada, see the 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 a 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 on Advanced Shopify are 2.4%+30c for online credit card payments when using Shopify Payments and an extra 0.5% on top of the other payment gateways’ fees when using some other payment solution than Shopify Payments.
Shopify Plus – best for major ecommerce businesses
Shopify Plus costs at least $2,000 a 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 to 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.
Looking for more cheap ways to do ecommerce? See our list of the best cheap ecommerce platforms.
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 nice 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 a couple of fill-in boxes & upload the image of the product (if you would like to) and hit the “save product” button. A quite similar method works also for many other parts of your shop including, for 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 extremely nice feature that Shopify offers is notifications when someone makes an order. The way that works in practice, is that when an order is placed in your store, the system sends you an automatic email that includes all the important information about the order. That is obviously helpful, for example, for being able to process the order quickly. Exactly how you “process” the order depends (obviously) on what kind of sourcing and shipping methods you are using.
In case you want to publish content related, for example, to the items you are selling in your store that is also easy by using the features that allow you to create new pages and post new blog posts. Publishing informational or even casual content can be, for example, a great way to build trust with your customers.
In addition to the option of editing your store, the back-end offers you also detailed reports of important store-related things such as orders and sales.
Changing themes and comments about the templates:
When you first start using Shopify, you will initially be assigned a very simple store theme. And if you are a believer in “small is beautiful”, that might actually be the theme that you want to use for your store even in the long term. That is because the initially assigned theme contains everything that an online shop needs, but nothing more: no flashy graphics or complicated navigation bars.
However, if you would like to change your theme that is fortunately extremely easy. Simply from your admin panel go to Sales channels -> Online stores -> Theme Library and choose if you want to upload a theme, explore free themes or visit Shopify’s theme store.
If you go to Shopify’s theme store (which contains both free and paid themes), choose a theme you like, 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 updating this, Shopify offers a bit over 80 themes for their customers, and often within a given theme there are actually different versions of it. Out of all the Shopify themes, only 10 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 $150 to $350.
That 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 for at least the next three years, the price per month is less than $10/month.
Additionally, there is actually a way to find cheaper Shopify themes: there are 3rd party theme marketplaces through which you can find Shopify themes that cost less than $50.
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 a couple you yourself like and then asking for opinions from people you know – preferably from ones that are also likely to actually buy from your store, or at least know the topic quite well.
When comparing Shopify’s themes to the themes offered, for example, by Squarespace it can be concluded that the 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 customers to change to your store), 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. And indeed digital products like that can be quite lucrative, especially when considering that you likely won’t need a lot of capital to get started with them.
Shopify customer support experience
The CEO & co-founder of Shopify, 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, I obviously had to try Shopify’s customer service.
I contacted Shopify’s customer service at 3:40 PM CET time via the live chat feature offered on their website. I was immediately connected with a customer service rep (no 5-minute wait like on some sites!) and asked my question. I asked a question that is not the easiest (e.g how expensive is the cheapest monthly plan) and was provided a clear and concise answer within 30 seconds. And the information was correct.
It is also nice that Shopify seems to send a copy of the chat discussion to your email address after the discussion is over. This can be useful for future reference.
In addition to the live customer chat Shopify also offers telephone and email support.
All in all, I give full points to Shopify’s customer service. And you might be happy to know that it seems that I am not the only one who has had a positive experience with Shopify’s support: it seems that the company is quite widely praised for the quality of its customer support.
Easy. That is the one word that constantly comes to mind when using Shopify – everything about 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 ready to help you.
Negative things about Shopify:
As you can see from above my thoughts about Shopify are mainly very positive. However, there are a couple of things that are slightly annoying about Shopify:
- 1) if you are looking to launch your store in a 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’ inner pages is impossible.
In the grand scheme of things, both of above mentioned cons are obviously relatively small problems. Go to Shopify.
Questions and answers about Shopify:
Is Shopify good for a small business? Given the affordable pricing and the fact that you don’t have to spend a lot of time on learning how to use it, Shopify can certainly be good and worth it also for small businesses. However, it is good to remember that some small businesses are such that launching an online store (with Shopify or otherwise) might not benefit them greatly.
If you have doubts about if Shopify and/or ecommerce is worth it for your small business, I would recommend signing up for Shopify’s free trial and spending a couple of hours testing the platform. After that, you should have a good idea about if Shopify and ecommerce are a good fit for your company’s situation.
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 price for .com domain names is $14/year when bought through Shopify and buying a domain via Shopify is, based on my experience, extremely easy.
Is it easy to connect a domain name to a Shopify store? Yes. If your domain name is registered at some other service provider than Shopify, you just need to some small changes at the registration service where your domain is located and if your domain is registered at Shopify, it seems to be even easier/automatic.
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.
Do Shopify plans include free hosting?
Basic, Advanced, Plus and the plan called just “Shopify” should all include free web hosting. The Lite plan does not include hosting as the website you might use it on, is not located at Shopify. When it comes to the Lite plan, it is nice to remember, that its affordable pricing should leave enough money for buying a good web hosting package, if needed.
Is it easy to change your Shopify plan?
Yes, you can both upgrade and downgrade your plan easily.