What are some of the significant advantages and disadvantages of hosted platforms like Shopify? Is a hosted platform an ideal solution for my business?
How does the pricing structure of Shopify compare with other hosted platforms like WooCommerce or Volusion?
Is Shopify ideal for my business?
Can Shopify scale?
Is Shopify efficient and reliable?
Stay tuned as all these questions will be extensively answered in this blog.
Undoubtedly, Shopify is an excellent eCommerce platform for businesses that are looking to build an online store.
Being an outstanding platform doesn’t mean it is ideal for every business use case. There are certain limitations that platforms like Shopify have which must be considered before finalizing on the most appropriate one.
There is a constant debate amongst eCommerce enthusiasts regarding which platform is the best-suited for any business.
These lines suit the occasion the best,
What works for me may not work for you,
and what works for you may not work for me,
So, let’s mind our own business (literally!).
Now, let’s have a look at some advantages and disadvantages of Shopify. We will also be covering what business use-case should opt for hosted platforms like Shopify.
NOTE: This review is unbiased and is based upon evaluating several parameters to present our readers with valuable information regarding its primary advantages and disadvantages.
Let’s dig in…
One doesn’t need to worry about a damn thing if one employs Shopify.
The primary goal of any business owner is to increase sales without being bogged down by technology and other administrative tasks. Businesses generally avoid wasting their valuable time on handling technology when they can focus on making sales and acquiring clients.
Thus, the significant advantage which Shopify provides for such businesses is overall assistance in managing the store’s technological requirements. Shopify also provides a clean and crystal clear interface.
Let’s take an example of a popular functionality of Shopify,
Shopify has a “Buy button” functionality which let users use Shopify as a ‘Point of Sale (POS)’ or ‘Inventory’ option. This allows customers to simply click to buy your products across multiple social platforms online like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, WordPress, and Tumblr.
This sort of functionality would take-up a lot of time for self-hosted platforms to implement, whereas it is readily available in Shopify.
2. Customer Service
Customer service can be touted as one of the primary reasons that customers love Shopify. When you opt for building and running your store all by yourself (with something like WordPress and WooCommerce) you don’t have anyone to turn to when things go awry. The developers charge a bomb in consultation charges, and online forums are often unresponsive.
Shopify has an enormous database of FAQs, email & chat support, along with phone support, most importantly with a knowledgeable rep on the other side.
When you are focused on running your eCommerce store – this safety-net of continually having someone at your back with answers is worth the Shopify subscription price alone. So on this point, Shopify especially shines.
One of the significant challenges of running an online store is that you have two requirements from your host – Firstly, you need it to be screaming fast, and secondly, super secure, if you are processing credit cards.
Several studies conducted over time shows that a customer will wait utmost 4 seconds for a site to load before leaving. Basically, for every 1/10th that a customer expects for your page to load is a second that they might instead leave and go to your competition.
An efficient all-in-one solution like Shopify streamlines the security and compliance side of the business and covers a whole range of issues like hackers, compliance, caching – which often comes up with hosting an online store. Shopify pays bounties to Cybersecurity experts to hack-proof their systems.
There are a variety of factors that go into website speed, and Shopify can handle speed & security efficiently and effectively. They provide 100% SSL, keep their sites fast, and at the same time integrate with payment providers well so that one always get paid, and customers are never waiting for the page to load.
4. Many choices for storefront themes
Among Shopify main advantage are the beautiful storefront themes they provide. They can design your website to look elegant and professional, which helps in retaining customers. They boast a wide range of design templates for almost every business needs like Jewelry & Accessories, Tech, Art & Photography, Food & Beverage, Furniture and so much more. Each theme is carefully designed catering to the desired audience.
You have the option to filter them and choose whether they are mobile-only or responsive as well as use free or paid themes.
5. The App Store
Shopify comes packed with a ton of built-in features. However, every business has different requirements which cannot possibly be accommodated at once. Addressing this anomaly – Shopify took a page from Google and Apple by starting its ‘Own App Store.’
Apart from their core features, businesses can now download hyper-specialized apps which plugs-in to your Shopify platform and provide you with the desired feature. This makes the platform light-weight and at the same time provides the required features which cater to your specific business needs.
Shopify, by default provides the platform with a list of core features, additionally it enables developers to offer specialized products that plugin seamlessly with Shopify platform.
Some of these apps are paid while most of them are free. Let’s have a look at some of the best Shopify apps which can help in increasing sales.
- OptinMaster can be touted as one of the best Shopify apps out there. It is an instant way for businesses to generate leads and increase sales. Optin has proven to instantly increase sales of business like Cosmetic Capital by 300%.
- Price:Starts at $49/month
- Targeted promotions (like free shipping banners, sales, etc) to visitors based on device, referral source, onsite behavior, and location.
- Integrations with your popular email marketing, CMS, and CRM platforms.
- Reducing cart abandonment by gathering email-ids or showing an offer just before visitors leave website.
- Retargeting campaigns to improve conversions with onsite retargeting
b. Referral Candy
- Referral Candy is a top-notch network marketing application available on the Shopify app store. It gives customers incentives to refer to their friends. There are multiple options of reward selection, which can be availed in any form.
- Their system includes automatic reward delivery, referral reminders, and dashboard where one can track referrals.
- Automatic reward delivery
- Referral reminders
- Referral tracking
- Lifetime referral incentive
c. Plug in SEO
- This app is our pick for one of the best free Shopify apps because it helps you find, troubleshoot, and fix SEO (Search Engine Optimization) issues, so you drive more web traffic to your eCommerce store.
- This free application automatically looks for issues with page titles, Meta description, focus key phrase, speed, structure, and more. It also includes code snippets which you can use to fix any problems yourself.
- There is a pro version which cost $20/month and provides additional features like structured data support, bulk editing, and multilingual SEO.
- Price: Free
- Meta description assistance
- Meta tags assistance
- Most used keyword identifier
- Printful provides on-demand designs for merchandise such as T-Shirts, bags, mugs and a variety of other products. They possess in-house designers who can help create products for you. In this way, you don’t need to warehouse your own product and can simply appoint Printful to do it for you.
- Printful directly takes orders from your store ships them out. There is absolutely no hassle of managing inventory or print-shipping labels.
- Price: Varies depending on the product to sell
- On-demand product creation
- Inventory management
- Chimpify is an all-in-one marketing platform for businesses of all sizes. It helps users to design websites, call-to-action and landing pages. Chimpify also provides statistics of the evaluated data.
- Not all retailers need or even require email marketing for their business, but some can’t possibly go without it. It’s not a core feature of Shopify – but Chimpify integrates itself seamlessly with Shopify to provide all the above services.
- With such setup in place – one doesn’t have to be bothered about finding developers every time if you want a specific feature. Some sort of application may probably be in the App Store, which is a lot cheaper and works exactly as advertised.
- Over the past few years, the app store has turned into one of Shopify’s “hallmark features” that puts them way ahead of their direct competition.
- It is not even fathomable for other platforms to pull this off correctly, but Shopify does it so efficiently and effectively. They have a business development team that works explicitly on developing new apps and bringing new developers to solve problems. Their App Store is a huge pro for the organization with different needs.
eCommerce platforms majorly acquire customers through online search results.
For Example, Amazon gets 2.25 Billion Search Results online, and if you are a beginner in this domain SEO becomes even more critical.
The significant advantages of SEO for an eCommerce website are listed below,
- To drive traffic to your site
- A cost-efficient way to increase sales
- To improve your customer base
- Increase revenue
- SEO gives recurring buyers
- Builds brand identity
Understanding the buyer’s persona for your particular business use-case is immensely important for converting a lead to a customer. A user would generally follow a designated pattern of writing to search for any product online.
Let us suppose James wants to purchase a mobile phone. For doing that he’ll likely search for details like product price, reviews of the product, reselling price, brand value, etc. So his expected query could look like,
- Product Name + Price
- Product Name + Reviews
- Product Name + Features
Google usually takes three days to update your schema. So, if your schema is set at $100, and your product is priced at $70. You’ll likely lose customers because people generally click on the lowest price amongst options.
Thus, it is critical that your schema updates in real-time ai.end the changes in price are exhibited as soon as modifications are made.
My customer, James, was losing $1000/day due to bad SEO!
James owns an eCommerce website where he sells electronics. He gets 2000 inquiries in a day with an average order size of $100. James wasn’t even aware that he was losing $1500/day because of bad schema. His schema took 3 days to update during which he lost 30 customers costing approximately $1500. Customers deviated to a cheaper option witnessing higher price at James website.
Are you making the same mistake?
I am sure you would visit the website quoting the lowest price. After all, a good deal is like money right in your pocket.
2. Poor CMS
Content marketing is an excellent medium for marketing for eCommerce stores. You can not only grow your brand and educate your customers, but also boost organic traffic and increase social shares.
The Content Management System (or CMS) of Shopify doesn’t let business owners publish rich content like blogs or vlogs. Although it possesses its own blogging platform – it is not the greatest, especially if you are used to WordPress. It may get the job done but it definitely needs to be improved upon. Besides, exporting blog posts is not a pleasant experience on Shopify.
The blog layouts in Shopify are quite limited, so if you want to do something unique, you’d have to set it up on another blogging platform like Tumblr, and then run it on blog.yoursite.com.
This can be a hindrance for the business owners who want to promote their products through content.
A good CMS is therefore critical to ensure effective marketing for your eCommerce website especially if content is your go-to marketing strategy.
3. Scalability – Not future ready
eCommerce solutions like Shopify and BigCommerce are perfect for small businesses considering their modest expectations in terms of sales and profits.
An online shop built on Shopify will witness scalability issues in the long run. As soon as your customer volume and transactions start increasing with time – You will need to switch to better solutions, as Shopify might not be able to cater to your expectations. Most of the hosted solutions including Shopify cannot efficiently handle eCommerce stores with millions of customers and a wide range of products.
While growing an online store requires scaling many metrics and areas including handling traffic – Many other parameters break down very quickly when you use a system like Shopify. The underlying architecture is simply not equipped to handle these use cases, and most importantly the plugins built for it are significantly worse. Besides, you will likely hit a brick wall at some point where you will require a complete revamping due to these inherent limitations.
Let’s take a perfect example of two products A, and B.
They both have almost similar specifications. They get featured on TechCrunch as the best product ever made. Thankfully, the team was expecting something like this, and they kept an inventory of 100,000 of both product A and B. They seem to be doing pretty well and by selling 20,000 units/day. Everything seems to be working like a fairytale.
Unfortunately, they are about to run in some major issue.
- Some customers start requesting switching product A for B.
- The accountants are unable to work as they aren’t equipped with a cost of sales or even a profitability chart.
- Due to mismanagement, the warehouse team starts making mistakes by shipping by sending orders to the wrong customers. Some customers receive both A & B and some none!
How can Shopify resolve these issues?
The answer is NO. Shopify isn’t equipped with any built-in functionality to address such issues. Not even third party integrations can solve the purpose, and they eventually hang.
If Shopify breaks down even in such trivial use-case with just 2 products – There is no possible way where it would be able to scale up when your business grows to accumulate millions of users and thousands of daily transactions.
These restrictions in terms of design and code change are bound to surface.
Thus, to avoid the frustration and keep future expansion in mind, entrepreneurs generally choose to keep control in their hands by investing in custom solutions.
Hence, for someone who is looking to build a big ecommerce brand, partnering with experienced ecommerce developers and working on a custom ecommerce solution is the right strategic decision.
4. Product Search and Filtering
Shopify search mechanism isn’t as efficient as it should be. In fact, a majority of users operating on Shopify platform aren’t content with the search solution that comes with out-of-the-box version of Shopify.
Let’s understand this problem better with an example,
When you search for a “sneakers’, you will get back a listing of “Sneakers”; what you don’t get is the option to further narrow down your search e.g. the ability to narrow your search to only red sneakers. Besides, if you tried filtering down to red sneakers you’d be filtering across all products and not just sneakers.
Additionally, Shopify’s out-of-the-box version provides only basic search functionalities that does very little to assist the user. For instance, if you type the name of a product incorrectly, there are no results and no corrections, plus there are no suggestions whilst typing, which might otherwise avoid this scenario.
Even as simple as Men > Accessories > Bracelets level can’t be built within Shopify.
This is one of the major hindrances which Shopify users face with the platform. It is essential for online stores to organize their products in systematic hierarchy for SEO purposes, and Shopify’s inability to solve this anomaly efficiently is a major setback.
Shopify can be undoubtedly deemed as one of the biggest and most successful eCommerce platforms out there. And rightly so, it has successfully been able to build customer trust in short time. But that doesn’t mean it is right for businesses of every magnitude. There are a few flaws which may mar business owners not opt for this platform. However that doesn’t deem Shopify as an inefficient platform. It is one of the best platforms out there for small and medium-sized business owners looking to start out in the eCommerce marketplace.
It all boils down to the fact of what you are expecting out of this platform as no eCommerce solutions is perfect.
Engineerbabu helps in creating custom as well as hosted eCommerce solutions for businesses of any size. We can serve as the middle ground for organizations looking to start in the ecommerce domain or ones who are looking forward to expanding their offerings. Why we say this is because we’ve efficiently helped our customers scale up their eCommerce website to handle millions of users. Take a look at our case study of our eCommerce customer “Ondoor,” who now have expanded their offerings to cover 70 cities across India.
We can achieve this for you as well! Give us a call, and we’d love to guide you on this journey.