• Shopify eCommerce

    Goes under the microscope

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2014 Shopify Review

The Good Responsive design templates make your online store front beautiful and adaptable… woohoo! Many key eCommerce software providers are not up-to-speed with responsive design templates (themes) so we love that Shopify has a selection of them. Just be sure to specify 'responsive' in your theme search to get the…

Review Overview

Security ( PCI / PA DSS Compliant ) - 9
Ease-of-Use - 10
Customer Support - 10
Marketing Features / Features - 8
Search Engine Friendliness - 8
Level of Customization - 9
Overall Value - 8
Design Features / Templates - 10
Social Media / Social Commerce Intergration - 10
Mobile Commerce Intergration - 10
Scaleability - 8

9.1

Top Platform

If you're in the market for a web based, hosted eCommerce solution, Shopify can truly be a one-stop shop experience that is easy to work through, even for beginners. They are a ZippyCart top pick and would be a great fit for most online businesses. If you don't mind spending the extra money and having a web site that is stocked with 3rd party vendor apps, your store will thrive with their top notch tools and what seems to be unlimited feature / app options.

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9

The Good

Responsive design templates make your online store front beautiful and adaptable… woohoo! Many key eCommerce software providers are not up-to-speed with responsive design templates (themes) so we love that Shopify has a selection of them. Just be sure to specify ‘responsive’ in your theme search to get the qualified results. (See ‘Design’ for a more thorough explanation.)

The Bad

You have to be careful when setting up your budget with Shopify as they charge for features that other top carts include for free, including but not limited to cart abandonment, SEO work, upsell features, and mobile templates. They also charge a 1-2% transaction fee on top of their monthly rates for all but their unlimited package. ( Since this review, Shopify has done away with transaction fees. )

Cool Features

To make things easier on their merchants, Shopify offers extras like an iPhone app that helps manage your store and domain registration services (so you don’t have to buy from an outside vendor, like GoDaddy or Register.com). They also have an incredible selection of add-on apps in their AppStore.

Zippy Carts Expert Review of Shopify

This is an older review of Shopify, for the latest review click here.

Store Set-up /Designs

With just 5 steps to set-up your online store, Shopify is one of the most easy-to-use software options on the market today. Their simple process includes 1) adding products 2) customizing your design 3) choosing your domain name 4) configuring your shipping and tax needs and 5) setting how your store will handle their payments.

 

Shopify's Robust Theme Store
Shopify’s Robust Theme Store

Merchants may either add products individually or bulk import them by CSV. Those new to eCommerce will be relieved to know that clear examples and instructions are provided to aid in this process.

Customizing your design is often the fun part of setting up a new store but can also be time consuming and frustrating. To help save time and future headache, ZippyCart recommends that you look towards ‘responsive’ themes and skip having a separate template for mobile. Responsive Themes are simply templates that are built to adapt to changes in browser screen size, which is excellent for a consumer base that switches between PCs, tablets and mobile devices. This allows for a uniform store front look that your audience will recognize, no matter which device they are shopping through. Shopify is one of the few to offer responsive themes and they have 75 in their line-up, 9 of which are free. If you are not interested in responsive designs but want to avoid a generic looking web site, have no fear, there are more than 100 professionally designed themes available with Shopify, 19 of which are free. Mobile eCom is on the rise, however, so most eMerchants would probably benefit with Responsive Templates… Mobile Themes are an extra $80 if they’re not included in your template design.

Changing Colors with Shopify's Store Editor
Changing Colors with Shopify’s Store Editor

Shopify is a WYSIWYG management system that allows complete access to the HTML so you (or a technically inclined designer) will be able to access the code for design changes, image optimization, etc. You may also be interested in Shopify’s own template language, Liquid, as it’s the go between for those not comfortable with HTML.

Yes, with Shopify, you’ll have complete control over the look and feel of your website. That is a major draw for many eMerchants and another reason why Shopify is a Zippy favorite.

SEO / Marketing

Before we talk about Shopify’s SEO and Marketing, we have to talk about Shopify’s AppStore. Why? Because Shopify works more like an al a carte solution than the typical hosted eCommerce solution does. In fact, Shopify is pretty limited when you first fire it up and you’ll need to add features to your online store front by visiting the AppStore and its hundreds of choices. While some will love the competitive edge this allows, others may not want to be bothered by researching the vast selection to figure out which best fit their needs. Apps and extra add-ons are time consuming to add individually and are not always cheap. A few examples of apps that appear on the top of the popular recommendations are SEO Meta Manager – $30, Yotpo – free, Product Upsell – $9.99 – $59.99 monthly and Ship Station – $25 – $65 monthly. Also, be careful of those apps that charge for each use!

ZippyCart sees the Shopify AppStore as a progressive move and believes many other solutions will be following suite soon. Still, we’re hesitant to trust the inner workings and updates in our online stores to many different 3rd party vendors and are split between preferring the Apps option or a traditional built-in feature system.

That being said, if used carefully, the AppStore is considered by many to be one of the best features of Shopify. It allows a freedom of choice that’s rarely found with other solutions and almost any feature you can think of is available. The possibilities seem endless when compared to other top eCommerce solutions.

Want to include social media (like FaceBook) to your store? It’s added in the AppStore. Extra marketing perks, sale completion incentives, customer luxuries? All added in the AppStore. Have fun… or find a trusted eCommerce solution that has already narrowed down and included all the tools and features you’ll need.

Shopify's Quick Start Guide
Shopify’s Quick Start Guide

Is the Shopify AppStore set-up for you? It’s really up to you to decide if choosing your own apps from an amazing array is what’s best for you and your business.

Oh, and just to cover the standard options, the basic SEO that is covered in out-of-the-box Shopify software includes page title, description and URL customization. If you want to do more SEO work (and you should), you’ll have to… you guessed it, visit the AppStore to find and add-on!

Security

Shopify is on top of the game when it comes to security as they sport Level 1 PCI-DSS compliance. Levels of PCI-compliance are determined by transaction volume and level 1 allows eMerchants over 6 million Visa transactions per year. They also keep your information secure by providing free 128-bit SSL certificates.

Your online store will also be free and secure from excessive downtimes or slow page loads as Shopify uses a large CDN network that has servers located through-out the world.

Product / Store Management

The administrative console that drives Shopifystore is laid out well and easy to use, which should make selling your product an uncomplicated experience. They also offer a Shopify for iPhone app that allows you to access and manage your store while you’re on the go, from any IOS device. ZippyCart is a huge fan of having this mobile management option as accessing your product, customer and other sales data from a mobile device can make eMerchants workday more convenient.

Adding Products Through Shopify's Control Panel
Adding Products Through Shopify’s Control Panel

The admin dashboard is fairly straightforward and easy to understand. You’ll have 1-click access to stats on your orders, customers, discount programs, products, and collections. You can also manage your blog, themes, apps and more. If you want customer and product management features that go beyond their out-of-the-box basics though, you’ll be spending some time in the AppStore. Want to chat with your clients? You’ll have to add that for an extra fee. Do you like the sound of gift certificates and upselling? Again, hit up the AppStore for your options. After adding a few of the ‘suggested apps’, however, you’ll be mastering the latest tools and features that will keep your store on top of its game.

In addition to making sure your products look good, they also offer a very flexible product import and export tool. We found importing to be a breeze because unlike most carts, Pinnacle Cart doesn’t require you to use a template to upload products.

The Shopify shopping cart is a global competitor as it is available in 50+ languages, taxes and currencies, overs over 70 payment gateways and accepts credit cards from across the world. They try to keep shipping options basic with rates that are figured by weight or with a fixed price.

Customer Service

Online business owners who partner with Shopify will have no problem getting their question answered as there are many easily accessible resources in the Shopify system. You can email, access online documents or forums, or email any time of day.

Contact support by phone: ” Contact support by phone: 24/7; numbers are easily found here
Submit a support ticket: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Forums and online documents: Accessible anytime
Email your ‘person’ – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (response times vary)

We had good experiences getting through to Shopify and the buzz on the web says they go above and beyond the typical support and customer service.

Managing Shipping Through Shopify's Control Panel
Managing Shipping Through Shopify’s Control Panel

Overall Value

Shopify is an excellent solution that is on the pricey side. To get started, they offer 4 levels of eCommerce plans, all of which include free set-ups, unlimited bandwidth and use of your own domain. Their options range from a monthly $14 STARTER to a $179 UNLIMITED package, before apps are added. As you probably imagine, the STARTER package quite limited. While it does offer the standard unlimited bandwidth, it only allows 25 products and 1 GB of file storage. The UNLIMITED package is premium in its features and even includes real-time carrier shipping.

The tricky part of judging overall value with Shopify is that it’s one of the few carts that still charge a 1-2% transaction fee on their lower 3 eCommerce package options. It’s assumed that the transaction fee keeps the monthly fee lower but current Shopify rates are mostly are in line with the top carts’ industry standard, aside from their inexpensive STARTER option. And of course, they also charge for many of their special feature and apps so it’s best you budget with a plan in place and don’t just look at their monthly package rates.

Shopify's Pricing
Shopify’s Pricing

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