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, 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 customize 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 importance of your items).
When you are ready to publish your store, it can either go live at a ‘my Shopify’ 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 optimization (SEO), allowing you to add metadata and page descriptions.
Although you’re still confined to certain template restrictions, Shopify is pretty flexible when designing – the templates are all ‘tweakable’ using the controls provided. Still, with the ‘Basic Shopify’ plan upwards, you also get complete control over CSS and HTML. This build it a good solution for users who want to edit their web design without resorting to coding…or users who want to use CSS and HTML to tweak their site design.
Shopify provides five plans:
Except for the ‘Lite’ plan, all the above allow you to create fully functional online stores. We use Lite Plan, which is excellent if you make a custom-built store without any design restrictions. For no web designer, The Lite plan may be more restrictive in that it doesn’t allow users to create a standalone store but instead permits you to:
It is also possible to use or buy ‘apps’ that add particular bits of functionality to your store (for example, you can buy apps that allow your store to recognize the country they are in and display the products in the correct currency.)
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.
Our Online Store ‘The Print Panda’
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 intend 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 story 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.
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 different 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.
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 a very robust solution. Still, 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 online selling venture!