Introduction to Shopify
March 28, 2018
Shopify, in essence, is a combination of a website builder and an online store builder. In addition to displaying and selling products (digital or physical) you can use it to create regular web content as well such as static pages, blog posts, contact forms etc.
Once you sign up with Shopify (there's a two week free trial which is great for dipping your toes) you can then select a 'theme', tweak the design to customise your brand, create some pages and then add your products (along with relevant pictures, prices, weights and so on; shipping costs can be calculated automatically by Shopify based on the details you give regarding postage costs in your country, and the weights of your items).
When you are ready to publish your store, it can either go live at a 'myshopify' web address, or it can be set up with the domain name of your choosing (www.mysite.com etc.). Shopify gives some control over search engine optimisation (SEO) as they allow you to add meta data and page descriptions.
Although you’re still confined to certain template restrictions, Shopify is pretty flexible when it comes to design - the templates are all 'tweakable' using the controls provided, but with the 'Basic Shopify' plan upwards you also get full control over CSS and HTML. This makes it a good solution for both users who want edit their design without resorting to coding...or users who really want to use CSS and HTML to tweak their site design.
How much does it cost you?
Shopify provides 5 plans:
- Lite: $9 per month
- Basic Shopify: $29 per month
- Shopify: $79 per month
- Advanced Shopify: $299 per month
- Shopify Plus: pricing varies depending on requirements
With the exception of the 'Lite' plan, all the above allow you to create fully functional online stores. We use Lite Plan which is great if you plan to create a custom built store without no design restrictions. For no web designer,tThe Lite plan may be more restrictive in that it doesn't allow users to create a standalone store but instead permits you to:
- Sell on Facebook
- Use Shopify to sell goods in physical locations (i.e., for point of sale applications)
- Make use of a Shopify 'Buy Button' which can be integrated on an existing site (this works in essentially the same way as Paypal but allows users to make use of a much more sophisticated back end and inventory management system).
It is also possible to use or buy 'apps' which add particular bits of functionality to your store (for example, you can buy apps which allows your store to recognise the country they are in and display the products in the correct currency.)
How do you get paid?
With Shopify, you have a couple of options - You can use Shopify Payments to process payments (Stripe, basically), Paypal or a wide range of third party payment gateways (Shopify works with over 70 of them). Different transaction fees apply depending on which platform you decide on but they roughly fall into the 1-3% bracket. For our online store, The Print Panda, we use Stripe and we’ve had a great experience using it so far.
Shopify's Buy Button
This is perfect for customers who value a custom built store or users who wish to add e-commerce functionality to an existing website - Shopify recently introduced a 'Buy Button' which, like Ecwid, can be embedded onto a site using a few lines of code. Individual products or collections can be displayed. The Buy Button is available on all Shopify plans, but unless you intent to use Shopify to create both a standalone store and to embed products elsewhere, the $9 'Lite' plan is all you need to make use of it. We have used this on a number of our custom built online stores.
The functionality you get with Shopify's 'Buy Button' may not be as good as that provided by Ecwid: with Ecwid, you're getting a complete store on your site (one which facilitates user account creation, more comprehensive product options, product search, social media sharing of products etc.); the Shopify 'Buy Button' is more about providing basic 'add to cart' and checkout functionality.
Shopify and product options
One restriction with Shopify involves product options: you are limited to three per product.
There are workarounds available - you can use a third party app to facilitate more options, combine two options into one, create separate products, or do some manual coding to add more options...but it's all a bit more complicated than it should be. Ecwid, by contrast, is more straightforward when it comes to product options and doesn't limit product options to such a small number.
Is Shopify for you?
Shopify is great - It offers a quick, user-friendly way to get an online store together quickly and cheaply and is ideal for anyone who doesn't already have a website. It's also a good option for people who have an existing site and wish to sell a product or two on the side with a minimum of fuss.
Most business owners who want to build a standalone e-commerce site will find Shopify to be a very robust solution, but as with any online product though, it's best to sign up for a free trial and test it out yourself before committing to it.
Best of luck with your selling online venture!