Shopify Guide: Pros, Cons, And How to Make it Work
Shopify was built by a couple of guys who were frustrated with the process involved to sell their snowboards online. Their mission to solve this problem was to create a platform where anyone could launch a store in 5 minutes.
This unique selling proposition is at the heart of what makes Shopify great. But there are some lessons you need to learn before Shopify will support you as an entrepreneur.
This article will act as a brief guide to Shopify, covering its pros, cons, and how to make it work for your business.
- Shopify’s Pros
- Shopify’s Cons
- How to make it work for you
Elite user experience
Shopify’s main selling point is its user experience. The Shopify team has dialed in the online selling process and created a mature set of tools that help business owners get everything organized quickly and simply.
Some of the highlights that Shopify does exceptional well are:
- Creating and managing products
- Retrieving and processing orders
- Deep integrations with popular courier services
- Order analytics and reporting
- Coupons, discounts, and sales
When you boil down an online store, these are the functions that really matter. Shopify has gone out of its way to add robust features with a neat interface.
Ecosystem of plugins
The Shopify App Store now boasts over 4,000 apps! There’s an app for just about any extension you could want to add to your website.
An extensive plugin library is an advantage of Shopify over other eCommerce platforms, like BigCommerce, because it means you can quickly install a new feature without outlaying big money on development fees. It also means that if the plugin you’ve installed breaks, there’s a team responsible for getting it fixed.
Large range of themes
Shopify also provides a very generous range of free themes. If you’re prepared to open your wallet to buy a higher-end theme. the range becomes significantly greater.
If you settle on a theme, but you’re not 100% happy, that’s not the end of the story. Web developers can help customize your theme.
Developers can help
If you need tweaks to your theme, plenty of developers are experienced with Shopify’s liquid templates and prepared to help. And with Shopify’s recent announcement of adding GitHub support, more developers will likely experiment with the platform.
Having a few things modified in a theme to your liking can make a massive difference and save you the cost of building the theme from scratch.
Unlike WordPress and WooCommerce, Shopify is a proprietary product that handles hosting for you. It has a payment gateway. There are no additional steps or software that you need to plug in to get it working. It is a proper turnkey solution.
Shopify comes packed with everything required to start a store which is great for everyone looking to test a concept or get their shop moving quickly without having to learn how to connect different pieces of the puzzle.
Great point of sale system
Shopify comes with a point of sale functionality that integrates seamlessly with the rest of the platform. The point of sale system comes with a mobile app and card reader, a hardware warranty, and all the bells and whistles any brick and mortar store could hope for.
There’s no debate for anyone running a physical shopfront tossing up between Shopify and WooCommerce. You will not regret choosing Shopify for its point of sale system.
Google advertising integrations
Shopify is the only eCommerce platform that offers native integration with Google’s Merchant Center. This opens a world of possibilities for your advertising campaigns since your store suddenly has more dynamic and data-driven access to Google’s enormous customer base.
The Google Merchant Center automatically pipes products from Shopify onto the front page of Google when users search for particular products. Cutting out the step of entering your website to view the products makes the shopping experience simpler.
Proprietary software comes with some downsides. Firstly, you’re at the mercy of the product owner as to whether they increase their prices, give you the necessary support or take the platform in a direction with which you disagree.
This downside is only noticeable with Shopify when your shop traffic starts picking up, and the small costs start adding up.
It also means that you cannot dedicate more server resources to your store since Shopify controls and manages its infrastructure.
Proprietary systems usually have the most expensive developers because the systems are typically annoying to program. Until recently, Shopify didn’t offer any kind of simple version management for code changes. Multiple developers couldn’t be making changes in the same area of the store simultaneously without introducing issues.
Even with Shopify’s recent Github integration and changes to improve the developer experience, it’s tricky to find an affordable, experienced developer partner.
Plugins damage performance
When you first fire up your Shopify store, the performance will be great! It loads quickly, passes Google’s Core Web Vitals assessment, and doesn’t have any problematic code.
However, as soon as you start installing plugins, that will change quickly. Plugin developers often disregard the performance effect their plugins have on a website. Even if a single plugin doesn’t tank your site’s performance, the chances are that adding multiple plugins will start adding weight and render-blocking.
This problem isn’t unique to Shopify, but it’s amplified because of the huge plugin ecosystem.
Mediocre content management
Shopify’s default blog is OK. It’s nothing special and lacks some of the features more mature blogging platforms have, such as content permissions, inbuilt SEO optimization, and advanced styling options.
Shopify’s sub-par blog can be a bit of a sticking point if your shop is relying on content marketing.
How to make it work for you
The pros of Shopify heavily outweigh the cons. Some of the cons can even be managed by an experienced webmaster or developer.
Just because you’ve committed to using Shopify doesn’t mean it’s going to work straight out of the box magically. There are still steps you’ll need to take before your store is ready to bring in the big bucks.
1. Pick a theme or go custom
A professional-looking design is essential for any online store. People are increasingly skeptical of online retailers. Picking the right theme helps allay their fears by reiterating that your business is trustworthy.
A good theme also comes packed with some other nice features like sliders, opt-ins, pop-ups, feature images, and special product sections just to name a few. These special features can help you achieve the most out of your store.
If you can’t find a theme that fits your needs, or you want to look truly unique, then you should talk to a professional that can help design a store that will convert users. A custom theme is significantly more expensive, but it will typically yield greater results.
2. Carefully pick your plugins
Google is becoming more critical of how fast websites load and their general performance. They’ve created metrics to measure website performance, and plugins can negatively affect your site’s ability to pass this audit.
Before picking a plugin, make sure that it’s backed by a healthy community and has a decent number of downloads. Or, if you want to go the full twelve yards, you could reach out to the support or development team and ask them what kind of performance impacts they see.
3. Tune your descriptions and SEO
Once you’ve set up your products and feel your store is pretty much ready, make sure you go back and check what kind of keywords you’ve written into your product descriptions. There are a million articles on how to do keyword research. Make sure you investigate what related keywords are bringing in traffic for each of your products.
4. Set up Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console
This trio of Google products will help you manage external scripts, monitor your traffic trends, and understand how users are finding your site.
These products are all free and easy to install.
5. Test and iterate
The only way to know if your products, website copy, or design are resonating with your audience is to run tests.
Test everything you can. Pick a product name or image, find a variation and use a platform like Google Optimize to run a split test to see which version drives the most conversions.
If you’re not testing, iterating, and improving your site, it will never grow!
Shopify is a well-balanced eCommerce platform that allows users to spin up an online store in a matter of minutes. It boasts a wide range of mature functionality that makes the life of a small online business owner easy.
With a native payment gateway, a massive ecosystem of plugins, a great selection of themes and templates to choose from, and a thriving community, it’s hard to argue that Shopify is the wrong choice for any business.
It’s not without its problems. Performance can suffer at the hands of too many plugins, you don’t truly own your website since the platform is proprietary, and the blog content management tooling isn’t the best available.
Despite these issues, any store selling a quality product and receiving ongoing attention and refinement will be on the path to success.
|Author’s Bio: Lori Wade is a writer who is interested in a wide range of spheres from eCommerce to web development and new technologies. If you are interested in the above topics, you can find her on LinkedIn. Read and take over Lori’s useful insights!|