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When I came on board at SoYoung, one of my first tasks was to migrate our eCommerce platform from Magento to Shopify, with the goal of being able to manage all of our e-commerce requirements in house. Magento, while functionally powerful, was going to require a fair bit of outsourced support to keep running and achieve the high-end brand image that I was seeking for SoYoung.

I have been using Shopify hands on for a little over two years now and, overall, I like it. I’m a brand guy at heart and I love the way Shopify takes it all the technical issues off the table so that I can focus on photography messaging and the little details that make the site sing.  But it’s not without its issues. Below I cover the pros and cons of Shopify – the good stuff first, and then the things that really bug me!

What I like about Shopify

Speed to launch

Shopify makes it easy for even a web novice to launch a professional e-commerce presence in a matter of days or even hours. The user interface and architecture of the product is intuitive, allowing a small business owner to effectively manage his/her online store without expensive development help. Despite being completely newbie, I got our first site up by myself in about a week and subsequent versions have been even quicker. 

Quality Themes

Shopify has a wide selection great looking themes, allowing you to put together a very professional looking site without hiring expensive designers. Premium themes by third-party developers will run you $150 or more, however, Shopify also has a growing number of beautiful, free themes available. Note that creating a well-branded site will still depend on having high-quality photography and visual assets in place. But if you do, you’ll find that Shopify’s themes present them in an ideal light.  

Payment Gateways Support

Whether you’re simply selling locally or looking to take your business to international markets, Shopify takes the pain and confusion of setting up payment options for multiple currencies in multiple countries off the table. You can literally just enter your banking information into Shopify and begin selling in whichever market you are targeting

Market adoption and development community

Shopify is clobbering the competition when it comes to hosted e-commerce solutions. In addition, Shopify had a successful IPO two years ago, meaning it is well funded to tackle competition. When committing to a software platform, it’s good to know that yours is likely to be around for a while.

App Model

Shopify’s dominance in the entry-level e-commerce space has given birth to a vibrant community of 3rd party developers who create apps that enhance Shopify’s out of the box functionality. If there’s something you’re looking to do with your store, chances are someone has developed an app to accomplish it. While these will add to your monthly fees, the large pool of contributors ensures competition meaning most are reasonable and priced according to the value they deliver.

Excellent customer support and product investment

Shopify’s deep coffers have allowed it to invest heavily in product development and excellent customer service. New features are constantly being added and if you ever have an issue, a helpful “guru”  is just a phone call or chat screen away. I’ve found their customer service to be consistently excellent.

What really bugs me about Shopify

Limited Shipping cost models

Since it was designed primarily to meet the needs of single orders for small businesses, Shopify does not do well with complex orders, such as those made by wholesalers. For instance, if you are looking to calculate the real time cost of shipping for an order that involves multiple boxes and product sizes, forget it. We currently pay over $100/month to a third party app developer – this is more than Shopify charges us for its entire platform, more than doubling our monthly base costs.

Limited Discount models

Another frequent complaint about Shopify is its ability to handle complex discount models. Currently, Shopify only allows you to offer one simple discount code per order – a dollar or percentage amount off. Any other upsell scenarios, such as a buy one get one free offer,  involves purchasing a premium app.  This essentially hacks Shopify into creating multiple variants of a product at different prices, which in turn can mess with internal systems such as our inventory system. Because of this, SoYoung has been limited to offering only the most basic of discount models.

Requirements for multiple instances/ storefronts

If you have more than one warehouse and set of inventory to manage, as we do, you will need more than one Shopify site. SoYoung actually has four sites -one for our US retail, one for our US wholesale one for Canadian retail and one for Canadian wholesale- which makes our web presence cumbersome to update and manage. 

Limited options for customizing site architecture

Shopify’s ease of use is largely due to the restrictions it imposes on site architecture and.customizability. While anything is possible with the help of the developers, this means incurring additional costs and opening yourself up to further complications by messing with the core code. In the end, Shopify does many things well enough that you may find its limitations are bearable, but sometimes I just want to add a sidebar promotion to a specific page, rather than the whole site – which is a no-go. 

Customization Costs

Shopify does have a vibrant community of developers and experts that can help you achieve nearly any goal you would like to with your Shopify site.  However, since Shopify employs a proprietary code language, Shopify experts will typically cost you more than a WordPress or HTML developer. In addition, messing with Shopify’s code breaks the software’s warranty, so any future problems you run into may be even costlier still. Also, alterations may limit your ability to use third-party apps that depend on Shopify’s out of the box code base.

Fees & Payments

When you are first looking at the Shopify, you’ll primarily be concerned with the monthly service charge. However, once you start selling in significant volume on your store, the transaction fees really start to add up. – typically as high as 3% of your order. This calculation is not so much of a factor if you’re selling say $100,000 in product a year, however at $1,000,000 the calculation changes, and you may start looking for cheaper options. On the other hand, you will always be paying some level of transaction fees, so if you’re looking to save a percentage point, you would have to be selling a significant volume for it to represent a substantial difference.

Shopify has raised it credit card fees in the past and while our sites were grandfathered, when we needed to change the service level on one of our sites (ie. pay them more per month), we lost our grandfathered credit card rate and got bumped up!

There is also a delay of 7 calendar days (In Canada) between the date that an order is paid and the date that the money is deposited into your bank account. Other territories may have a different payment delay.

Blog Support

Shopify is a very strong content marketer itself, and they are constantly promoting the benefits of this approach on their own blog, but its product does a lousy job of supporting content marketing. After becoming frustrated with Shopify’s blogging capabilities We set up a separate blog on WordPress, but it’s poorly integrated with our storefront and represents yet another platform for us to manage.

Conclusion: The Pros and Cons of Shopify

Despite some of my pet peeves with Shopify, it is the system I recommend to anyone launching an e-commerce store, and I believe it is the leading solution on the market today for small to medium sized business. No software is perfect for everyone and I guess I just have to take my lumps with Shopify like nearly every other system we run.

More on www.indiebrandbuilder.com

I co-run www.soyoung.ca and document my experience in building a 7 figure brand at www.indiebrandbuilder.com
Shopify Staff
Shopify Staff
18 0 6

Hey Jeremy, 

I first want to thank you for your ongoing and valuable contributions to the forums! This is a great post and as a member of the Support team at Shopify, I really enjoy reading quality feedback like this!

I will just touch on the Pros for a moment and say that it's great that someone with your experience is enjoying those integral parts of our product. We always appreciate positive feedback! 

Let's talk about some of the things that bug you about the platform! 

Shipping cost models: Shipping models can be a pain point for any business owner, on any platform. Shipping needs are like snowflakes, I've found, no two businesses are the same. Shipping needs range from the extremely simple (Merchants packs own items and drives to the post office) to extremely complex (Freight, wholesale as you mentioned). In box with Shopify, we like to provide solutions that will work for the majority of merchants, while our vibrant third party app developers (I love that you described them like that- true to form!) fill in the niches for more complex shipping needs. If you have any suggestions about what could make our in-box shipping models work better for more merchants, I would love to submit a feature request for you! We rely heavily of feedback from merchants like yourself to develop the platform to meet everyone's needs. 

Limited Discount models: I can absolutely see where you are coming from here. It is my understanding that at this point, discount codes do not stack, to avoid opening the Pandora's Box of the "Extreme Couponing" trend. This has the ability to hurt a lot of our new entrepreneurs, but for higher volume shops like yours, there does seem to be some room for growth here! Again, I would love to get an email from you about some feature requests and general feedback from you! 

Limited options for customizing site architecture: You hit the nail right on the head with the ease of use here. It's very important to use for the website building portion of our product to be accessible to everyone. I will say that with the emersion on the new Sectioned Themes editor, that we may see some amazing development in the area going forward. 

Customizations costs: Sometimes doing some fancy custom coding can be costly, but just keep in mind that all Shopify Experts are freelance developers, who have their own pricing structure. It is always good to shop around and make sure to find the appropriate developer for the job and which is in the price range that you feel comfortable with. 

Fees and Payments: Like any merchant service, there is a pricing structure and payout schedule for Shopify Payments. It may differ from the pricing structure and payout schedule of other merchant services, so we want every merchant on Shopify to know that they can shop around and choose the merchant service that is best for their business. This may vary greatly depending on the product sold, types of sales channels offered, or any other variable. Shopify Payments has some pretty competitive rates by the time you break it down (some merchant services also have a monthly fee), and having your payout information in the Admin is pretty handy as well. Also keep in mind that with higher volume of sales, you can choose a higher tiered plan with extra features and enjoy a lower credit card rate. 

Blog Support: Content marketing is how a lot of our merchants get their traffic. We have a blog system that gets displayed differently depending on the theme that you have, but in itself is fairly straightforward. Since your site relies heavily on content marketing and is currently requiring you to use another platform, I would love to get some specific details from you on what works and what doesn't. This is what the feature request is there for and I would absolutely love to get your feedback!

Overall: These are some very valuable insights on both the Pros and Cons sides. I just want to thank you again for your detailed feedback! I really enjoyed reading and thinking about you post. Look out for an email from me :)

Shopify Expert
149 0 27

Hi Jeremy, about "Limited Discount models" I suggest you give Automatic Discount a try. It works pretty great and won't mess your inventory. About the other things, I can't help much :D