If you are looking to build a website to sell a large number of products then Shopify is a tried and tested solution with features built to make your life easier.
Founded in 2004, Shopify was created when its founder wanted an easy, convenient solution to the e-commerce problems he was facing as an online snowboard seller. Then, he realised that his self-hosted e-commerce shop platform could benefit businesses all over the globe.
Shopify is one of most popular ecommerce website builders in existence – and is particularly attractive to small businesses and dropshippers – allowing its users to create online stores quickly and easily for both their digital and physical products, without the requirement that these users can code.
As a result of this, Shopify now hosts over 1.5 million online stores.
Like most website builders, Shopify will present you with a range of templates/themes on which you can base your e-commerce website design.
In comparison to other web builders, Shopify has fewer themes to choose from – with no more than ten available for free – although over 60 additional templates can be purchased through the platform (or externally, for a slightly lower price). However, each template is responsive, well-designed and looks professional.
Once you have selected your theme, you can begin editing your website. Unlike its competitors, Shopify doesn’t have drag-and-drop editing capabilities, but you will still be able to customise your e-commerce store from a menu on the left of the Shopify interface, where you can edit the features of your theme or your web content.
From the outset, and after you’ve settled on a theme that you’re happy with, you’ll be prompted to add products to the back end of your website.
For each product, you’ll be given the option to add images, text, add variants of the product, and edit Google product search results, in addition to adding stock, barcodes, SKU references, shipping weight, pricing, tax, and more.
As a result of Shopify’s well designed web templates, this data is fed through the platform to make the customer’s buying experience as seamless as possible, while ensuring ultimate ease of management for the seller.
Moreover, Shopify allows you to export product data from a CSV file easily, so you don’t need to worry about adding each product from scratch if all your data is compiled and ready to go.
When it comes to shipping, Spotify allows you to configure your shipping how you like, so you can set free shipping rates, flat rates, price-based rates, weight-based rates, and calculated shipping rates, in addition to being able to set shipping zones easily. More than this, Shopify’s stock control and shipping suite offer order management, label printing and multi-site stock holdings.
One of Shopify’s biggest plus points is its Point-of-Sale functionality which allows businesses to expand beyond the online world, as the Shopify POS functionality aids in the creation of physical stores.
Resultantly, sellers are able sell their merchandise in a pop-up shop, at events, from stalls or even from a retail outlet.
To aid you with your physical store, Shopify provides sellers the option to purchase POS hardware including barcode readers, receipt printers and tills, which work in tandem with the Shopify POS app to ensure that your online and physical store are synched, and your stock is updated each time you make a sale from either shop.
While the POS Lite features will cater to sellers with fairly simple needs, to benefit from the full range of POS features, you’ll need to upgrade and purchase the Shopify POS Pro add-on.
The Shopify POS Pro features include: the option for customers to buy online but collect in store; product exchange; the option to create custom printed receipts; and the ability to credit staff with the sales that they made, among a number of other functionalities.
Additionally, the Shopify interface allows you to manage numerous sales channels. In addition to your online store, you can turn your Instagram posts into shoppable product listings, add a tab to your business’ Facebook page – to allow your customers to browse and purchase your products via that page – and make use of the ‘buy button’, a feature from Shopify which can be embedded in any website/blog, to allow customers to make quick purchases of your products, even if they’re not currently browsing through your Shopify e-commerce store. You can also manage your Amazon listings from your Shopify interface.
While commerce sites such as Ebay can’t be directly managed through the Shopify interface to start with, you can unlock Ebay functionality by acquiring third-party apps. Indeed, a number of additional functionalities – that aren’t instantly available through the Shopify platform – can be obtained via the purchase of additional third-party apps, to allow sellers to unlock even greater functionality on their Shopify account.
The first advantage that Shopify offers to users is that – unlike some of its competitors – sellers can manually edit their online shop, without code, using the Shopify editing menu, in addition to being able to insert code if you want to customise your e-commerce site further, making it a suitable choice for both website building beginners and seasoned coding pros.
More than this, Shopify is easy to use – truly anyone can build an e-commerce shop using the platform. More than simply having an ergonomic user interface, the site aims to make things as easy as possible for sellers – for example, US, Canadian and EU tax rates are applied automatically by the site to save sellers the hassle of calculating it themselves.
In addition to being easy to build your first e-commerce site through Shopify, it is also quick to do – you can easily create the e-commerce site of your dreams in a weekend, allowing you to ‘go live’ as soon as possible start selling and to begin reaping the rewards.
The templates available on Shopify – though few – are well-built and designed to maximise web sales. The Shopify themes are easy on the eye, professional, responsive, and easy to customise, allowing any seller to create a professional sale-rich e-commerce site.
Furthermore, Shopify caters to the multinational seller, as multi-currency selling is possible through the platform and you can create multiple versions of your site in different languages. More than this, Shopify’s stellar shipping service makes international shipping easy to carry out, and easy to manage through the Shopify interface.
Additionally, Shopify is a self-hosted platform, which means that purchasing external web hosting is unnecessary. And, since it's such a large, well-established e-commerce platform, there is a better guarantee that you won’t have to shift your shop to another platform on short notice (if, for example, a hosting platform shuts down) – an event which has caused nightmares for sellers in the past, when using smaller, younger platforms.
Lastly, Shopify’s ease of connecting different sales channels, in addition to the platform’s Point-of-Sale functionality, and the provision of the necessary hardware to connect both online and physical stores, are its greatest assets, and where Shopify leaves its competitors behind in the dust. If you see your business extending through and beyond the online world, then using Shopify as your web builder is a no brainer.
In contrast with its competitors – such as Wix and Squarespace – Shopify does not enable its’ users to edit the layout of their e-commerce shop with drag and drop editing. Consequently, all layout features must be edited through the editing menu on the left side of the Shopify interface.
Moreover, when you come to upload your product images, these images aren’t automatically changed to a uniform size – a.k.a. if you don’t edit the images before you upload them to your e-commerce site, all of the images for your products will be different sizes, which will ruin the aesthetic (and decrease the credibility) of your online store. As such, some pre-upload editing is necessary, which is a bit of a hassle.
While Shopify gives sellers the option to create up to 100 variants for one product, these can only be formed from three product options – for example: size, style and colour – so products which can be personalised to a greater extent (such as the colouring or lettering of a T-shirt, or the colour of laces on a pair of shoes) aren’t a great fit for a Shopify-powered store.
For a basic plan, Shopify offers a pretty comprehensive set of e-commerce shop features, which would usually be spread across the plans of other site builders. The basic plan enables e-commerce and allows the sale of an unlimited number of products, in addition to unlimited orders, and the ability to sell through marketplaces. In addition, sellers are able to take offline payments through their Shopify account.
This plan costs $29 per month, in addition to credit card costs of 2.2% + 20p online and 1.7% offline. So, if you’re just starting out in the world of e-commerce, we recommend beginning with the basic plan, as it offers a lot of functionality for a plan that only costs around £22 (according to the conversion rate in Feb 2021).
The Shopify plan includes all the features from the basic plan, with added gift card functionality, retail hardware support, and reporting. Moreover, sellers can use Shopify in 5 different physical locations.
This plan costs $79 per month (around £60 in Feb 2021) and the credit card costs reduce to 1.9% + 20p online and 1.6% in person.
The advanced plan includes everything from the basic and Shopify plan, but increases the number of potential physical locations that a seller can run through Shopify to 8. Moreover, sellers gain access to 3rd party live shipping rates.
This plan costs $299 (around £230 in Feb 2021), and credit card costs reduce further to 1.6% + 20p online and 1.5% in person.
Shopify is an easy-to-use web builder which strikes a healthy balance between flexibility and usability, allowing both web building beginners and website coding pros to build the e-commerce site they desire, without having to worry about external hosting.
While there are some limitations to the Shopify web builder that you won’t find with some of the platform’s competitors – such as the limited number of free themes available for sellers to use, the absence of drag and drop editing functionality, and the lack of capability to sell items which have many customisable features – Shopify offers a range of incredible e-commerce focussed features that outshine those of its competitors.
Namely, Shopify allows sellers to easily integrate and maximise the effectiveness of different sales channels – particularly, the ‘buy’ button, which allows any website or blog to be embedded with the option to buy, allowing potential customers to buy your e-commerce store products with a quick click of the button.
More than this, Shopify’s Point-of-Sale functionality trumps any similar attempt by the platform’s competitors, providing access to hardware that can be connected to a seller’s Shopify account through the complementing app, allowing for the easy integration of a seller’s e-commerce store with any physical sales points.
So, if you have a business that you want to grow on both the online world and in the physical one, and you’re looking to sell through a number of different sales channels, then Shopify might be the web builder to make your ambitions come true.
On the other hand, if you’re a seller who sells highly – or even moderately – customisable items, or you’re someone who gets frustrated with older, less ergonomic web building editing styles, then Shopify might not be for you.