December 27, 2007 | 18 Comments »
When it comes to e-commerce, there are literally hundreds of options available to sell products online. Everyone seems to offer some kind of e-commerce system which they say is easy to setup and use. So how do you choose which system to use? Each one has it’s strengths and weaknesses, however for simple, straightforward e-commerce Shopify is an ideal solution.
Strengths of Shopify
Cost – As always, the cost is always an important factor when determining which e-commerce solution to use. Shopify has multiple plan levels each with their specific cost, but in general the average website will be paying a monthly fee of $24 and 2% per transaction. Many other (decent) shopping cart systems can cost around $500 just for the software. Shopify is a hosted solution meaning you don’t need to pay for web hosting and they have their own SSL certificate. With hosting being $10-15/month and SSL certificates about $10/month, that basically covers the monthly Shopify cost meaning the only thing you really pay them is the 2% per transaction fee. For smaller shops with few transactions or small transactions, this 2% is not very much and can easily be overcome with a slight shipping cost increase.
Simple setup – With Shopify, you can literally have a new store up and running in just a few minutes (using one of their default, basic templates). Just create an account like you would on any other website and you’re basically ready to start selling.
Easy to use administration – Novice web users can usually figure out the administration area of Shopify. Adding collections, products, managing orders, etc. is very easy compared to many of the overly complex and poorly organized interfaces you typically find in other solutions. Most other shopping cart administration areas take weeks of fiddling with before an average user gets the hang of it.
Simple update process – When Shopify releases updates to their system, you don’t have to do anything. Because they are a hosted solution, they make the updates to the core and it automatically applies to every website using their system. With other shopping cart systems you have to update your own cart when the makers release a new version. For many online retailers, this means paying their web developer to do this. With Shopify, updates are free.
Templating system – Shopify is hands down the easiest e-commerce system to customize the look and feel of. This is why we at AshWebStudio can setup a Shopify store much cheaper than any other solution available. With some cart systems we have used it has taken upwards of 30-40 hours to apply a design to whereas Shopify is significantly less.
Weaknesses of Shopify
Lack of features – Shopify’s ease-of-use is likely the result of not having enough features to overly complicate it. If you just want to sell simple products, you’re fine. If you want to take advantage of more complex features available in other commercial products such as recommended products, email product to a friend, contact forms, saving wish lists or other proven features which help sell more products you are out of luck. Shopify can really only be used for basic e-commerce.
Slow improvement process – It takes ages for Shopify to release new features which are truly beneficial and improve it’s core feature set. Since Shopify is a hosted solution, you can’t modify it yourself to improve upon it like you could if you bought a cart system and installed it yourself. There are no extra plugins you can quickly add either. You’re stuck with the features they have and there isn’t much you can do about it. The developers also do not post any plan of action for what features they are working on and when to expect them. If Shopify was open-source this would be understandable, but for a paid solution they should at least offer customers some kind of timeline for new features (even if they don’t stick exactly to a timeline, at least knowing they are working on them would be a huge benefit).
Why we recommend Shopify
Although Shopify does have it’s limitations, it does not mean it should be written off. The cost, ease-of-use and simple templating system make it an ideal solution for startup online retailers looking to get the most bang for their buck. Shopify allows new stores to have a solid system that can look great and be easy to use without a huge investment of many thousands of dollars.