Shopify: The Pros and Cons of the E-Commerce platform

In this article, we set out to establish positives and negatives of Shopify platform, whether you’re a start-up or an established firm. E-commerce can be a confusing world, especially if you’re starting out your journey. Everyone has a favourite, or experience on different platforms, and with that comes opinions – some valid, some not.

At Black Lab Digital, we’ve done our time on a range of e-com platforms from Magento through to WooCommerce on WordPress, and even complete custom builds. While each one has plus points and is even better than Shopify for some applications, we find ourselves regularly advising client’s that Shopify if the platform for them.

What is Shopify?

Shopify is an e-commerce platform that allows complete beginners and professionals alike to easily create an online store that is easy to manage and run. They take the hassle out of hosting, domain management and all the things that can seem daunting to non-technical users.

Founded back in 2006, Shopify has always been a platform for the masses. It is now one of the world’s leading e-commerce platforms, trusted by over 800,000 stores and receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in investment to continue the evolution of the platform. 


As mentioned, Shopify is an easy tool to allow users to launch and manage their online stores. The basic subscription package takes care of everything a fledgeling online retailer needs for just $29 per month. There are plans available for bigger for more ambitious store owners or larger retailers. Whatever plan you find yourself on, Shopify is brilliant at supporting subscribers, whether with email or live chat support or the range of apps available to enhance a webshop.

 
If you are considering Shopify, what are the positives and negatives?


As with any system, there’s going to be things about it that are positive and negative. With Shopify often a compromise is apparent because to achieve one thing, Shopify can’t allow you to do something else. With that in mind, let’s have a look at the good and bad points of the platform.

 
Pros:

Ease of use – Shopify is unbelievably easy to use and manage. The friendly CMS is clearly organised with the controls where you would expect to find them. A lot of the management is done via settings and simple editors, with no requirement for complex coding. 


Designs/templates – Shopify and other suppliers have a multitude of templates that can be customised and turned into a store, even by the uninitiated. Additionally, if you go down the route of a custom design, the system is also easy for developers to work on. 


Security – As standard Shopify serves you with secure hosting, providing you and customers with peace of mind that data is carefully processed and encrypted where necessary. 


Scaling – unlike other e-com platforms Shopify supply the hosting as part of your package, that means the system will cope with increasing demand with ease. Your site will be able to handle a couple of visitors right up to hundreds or thousands at any one time. There naturally is a limit, but for 99.9% of businesses, the fast and reliable hosting solution will make running the store a breeze. 


Apps – Shopify has an app store, allowing you to plug additional functionality out of the box to your site. Some apps are free and many have premium paid-for features. This gives owners and managers the ability to improve the customer experience with little effort. 


Payment Gateway integration – Shopify allows for simple integration with a multitude of payment gateways; they even have their own, ‘Shopify Payments’ which is the easiest to install. From Sage to WorldPay and everything in between they have you covered. 


Community and support – The eco-system is supported in a variety of ways, firstly Shopify offers live chat, email and phone support to help you with technical queries to questions about upgrading your plan. On top of this, they have a vast library of documentation on how to use the system and the wider community is incredibly active in answering questions on forums or developing guides. 


Baked in systems – So many of the standard e-com features that you’d expect to see are already baked into the Shopify system. These take very little setting up, taking the worry out of creating a great user experience. The list of features is long, but for example, customer notifications, shipping/carriers integration, reports and customer accounts are all available out of the box. 


Sales channels / POS – want to sell via instagram, facebook or attending a location where you need to sell? Shopify allows you to integrate with these sales channels seamlessly and the Point Of Sale functionality loops your digital store with the real world joining everything up effortlessly. 


Cons:

Limited content page designs – Even with premium templates, general content pages have limited design, in fact, the templates are very plain and simple, providing limited scope to create an attractive layout. Using a custom build process or a page builder will help you develop a better page. As standard, this isn’t ideal for creating engaging pages around your brand. 

Locking out of the checkout process – Shopify handles all the security but to do this Shopify doesn’t let you adjust the checkout process. There are some minor customisable elements you can change, but ultimately you’re locked into the process Shopify sets out. 


Payment fees – Even with Shopify payments, they charge a fee per transaction on top of your processor fee (Sage or PayPal for example), possibly charging more than some other suppliers. However, it’s worth bearing in mind you’ll be saving expense elsewhere when using Shopify.


URL Structure – Shopify uses subdirectories for all pages, including content pages which aren’t ideal for SEO. For example, the url for the about page would be: www.yoururl.com/pages/about-us. Unfortunately, there’s no ability to adjust this. 


Regulations – Shopify, like many large firms, have terms and conditions of use, this might mean that your product or service cannot utilise Shopify. Shopify has a clear list, and it’s worth checking before incase your offering is at odds with their terms of service.


Bull Brand: A Shopify Success Story

We’ve seen many of our Shopify clients develop successful stores using the platform. One that stands out is Bull Brand, back in 2016 Black Lab redeveloped the shop and placed it within the Shopify environment. The shop has seen evolutionary development, gradually enhancing the site to the needs of customers driven by analytics.

Shopify has allowed the shop to grow, from generating a modest few hundred sales per month to managing 400+ each day. This flexibility has ensured that the shop, now four years old, has scaled and coped with the increased demand. Bull Brand has found that the simple CMS system ensures staff can be quickly trained to run and manage the shop; this feature has been important as recent growth in sales has required more staff members to help process orders. The robust and secure nature of the system has ensured that there a rarely any technical issues to deal with, meaning they can focus on running the shop and are not concerned with a downtime.


Should you consider it?

Now you’ve seen the positives and negatives of Shopify, do we think you should use it? Our answer would be yes. Whether you’re new to the market or have years of experience in regards to selling online, we think you’ll find Shopify is the ideal platform. It’s not for everyone as the limitations of the system mean that some functionality can be difficult or costly to implement. However, in our experience, this becomes apparent very quickly during the scoping phase. 

If you’re looking to start your eCommerce journey, whether with Shopify or not, we’re confident we can help you get up and running, being the partner you can rely on. 

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