If you are looking at moving into or improving your eCommerce capability you will likely have come across the Shopify platform. In this post, I am going to give you an overview of what Shopify is and the feature set so you can make a decision if Shopify is the right eCommerce platform for your business.
So, What is Shopify?
Shopify is a cloud-based eCommerce platform that simplifies setting up and operating an online store. Standard features include unlimited products, unlimited bandwidth, fraud detection, payment processing, and a range of marketing features (including discount codes and the ability to sell on social networks like Facebook).
In brief, Shopify is a fully featured and cost-effective eCommerce platform that any business can use.
Shopify was created circa 2005 by a group of friends who were disappointed with the software that was available to set up and run an online store.
Shopify has since gone from strength to strength, securing over $100 million in funding, and now runs stores for huge brands including Budweiser, Tesla Motors, Red Bull, and rapidly growing dynamic startups like Gymshark.
Simply put, Shopify is the best eCommerce solution currently available. Rather than face months of development and five-figure development costs, businesses can now set up a Shopify store and start uploading products in minutes.
And as new opportunities arise, such as selling on social media platforms like Facebook, Shopify simply adds those features, keeping your business at the cutting-edge of eCommerce.
Features: What Can Shopify Do?
For starters, you can sell online, and the platform allows you to manage your products, customers, and orders via the admin panel. But that is just the tip of the iceberg and Shopify has a range of features that make the platform an ideal choice for a pain-free eCommerce experience.
The following are the key features to consider when evaluating Shopify against other ways to sell online.
You can buy a domain through Shopify (the easy option) or configure your domain’s DNS to point at Shopify.
Shopify is a fully managed cloud application. This is just a fancy way of saying that the platform exists on the Internet. So, unlike other platforms like WooCommerce under WordPress or Magento, you don’t need to arrange any additional website hosting.
The hosting then comes with no real limits with regards to storage (number of products) and bandwidth (how much data your store requires).
SSL Certificate for HTTPS
The hosting provided comes with a free SSL certificate which is super important keep your clients’ data secure and the Google gods happy!
Shopify does not provide email beyond a simple forwarding service. However, if you can, configure your domain to work with third-party cloud-based email systems like Gmail or Zoho Mail. Or, you can edit your DNS to run your email on any third-party system you choose.
If you register your domain through Shopify then this can be done easily within Shopify (our recommendation would be Gmail for business).
Security & Maintenance
Being a managed cloud platform, there is no need for maintenance or any security fears. You can be confident that your site is safe and secure and you have no technical exposure.
Other platforms like WordPress, whilst not inherently insecure, require maintenance to stay secure – with Shopify you have no such concerns.
The real win here are jobs that you simply don’t need to worry about as the platform takes care of all of this within the standard monthly bill or eliminates the need for them entirely.
Running an online business is competitive. So, the last thing you need is losses from fraudulent orders. Fortunately, Shopify has advanced fraud analysis to help protect you from chargebacks.
Compliance is another headache for store owners. Yet, using best-of-class systems like Shopify and MailChimp will ensure that you are fully compliant. For those of us in (or selling to) the EU, this is hugely important with GDPR coming into force in May 2018.
Shopify Design: Making Your Store Look the Part
Shopify has hundreds of professional themes. Some free. Some premium. And you can also enlist the help of a professional web design agency to aid you in the creation or customisation of a theme.
What level you go to here is dependant upon your requirements, but typically, a premium theme with some customisation will get you a professional-looking store for a very reasonable price.
And, of course, all Shopify themes are mobile optimised so they will display correctly and you can accept orders from users on smartphones and tablets.
Shopify now has its own payment processing platform called Shopify Payments. Payments are handled securely and directly on your own site with a streamlined checkout. And, if you need to use another payment gateway or provider, Shopify supports all the big ones.
There is even a mobile app to take payments in person should you need to deal with a physical customer. Digital payments in the real world. It’s a flexible and powerful solution for payment processing.
Reporting & Analytics
Shopify has a powerful reporting interface, allowing you to better understand trends and how customers are using your store. And, through integration with Google Analytics, you can closely track the results from inbound marketing channels.
Marketing is important. We would say that as a digital marketing agency. However, Shopify truly is a powerful marketing platform and provides an array of features to market your business across the search and social landscape.
Marketing features include:
- SEO – Shopify robustly handles the basics of on-page and technical SEO
- Social Media Integration – Shopify allows you to sell directly on social platforms
- Integrations with Portals – sell on Amazon and eBay through Shopify
- Discount Codes – easily run offers
- Email Marketing – integrates with email marketing platforms
- Abandoned Cart Emails – increase conversion rates
- Blogging – blog directly on your Shopify store
And then Shopify is extendable with over a thousand apps that allow you to supercharge your digital marketing. From setting up feeds for Google Shopping Ads to smart integration with MailChimp – if you want to do it, there is likely an app for it!
There is a rich support environment with phone support, live chat, and a huge knowledge base covering pretty much everything you could need to know to run your online store.
Best of all is the running costs. Prices start at $29 per month. So, for us UK folks, £20 give or take. This then scales up as your business grows all the way to Shopify Pro for corporate customers.
The days of Shopify being a tool just for small businesses are over and this is a powerful, scalable solution that can grow with you as you grow your business. And when using Shopify Payments, your transaction costs will be lower than with many third-party payment gateways.
Our Thoughts on Shopify
If you have read this far you can probably tell we are pretty fond of Shopify. Our general approach at Bowler Hat is to use best-of-class platforms for whatever we do.
This is how we operate ourselves and what we recommend for our clients. We use WordPress for B2B marketing sites, WP Engine for hosting WordPress sites, MailChimp for email marketing, and Gmail for our office email – all best-of-class solutions.
And, when it comes to eCommerce, our belief is that Shopify represents the best current platform for the majority of businesses.
The key points that make Shopify attractive to us are:
- Easy to use
- Comprehensive feature set
- Affordable and scalable
- A range of marketing features
- No technical exposure, maintenance, or security concerns
When looking at eCommerce software, rather than asking whether you should use Shopify, you should assume that is the case and look to see if there are any reasons why Shopify is not a good fit for your requirements.
I certainly hope this helps you make an informed decision if you are moving into the world of eCommerce or looking to improve your current store.
If you would like some impartial advice or help setting up a Shopify store, drop us a line.