When you're just starting an eCommerce business you know you have a long road ahead, with plenty of critical decisions to make. One of those decisions is determining which eCommerce platform will work best for you, your business, and your website.
We know this can be a complicated and confusing part of the eCommerce process, so to help you better understand your options we've taken a look at one popular eCommerce platform, Shopify, and examined the reasons this choice may be the right one for you.
We’ve already featured Magento as another option to consider. As we continue exploring the various choices you have when it comes to selling your product online, we’d like to focus this week on Shopify. Here are some of the pros and cons of this particular platform:
Keep Your Own Domain Name
You can either register a brand new domain name using Shopify or keep and configure one you’ve already registered with another provider. This makes it easy for your current and future customers to find your website with a simple search. Shopify even guides you through this process to make it easier to get your own name on your website.
We’ve written before about the importance of security in eCommerce and we can’t say it enough. When your customers buy products from you online, they’re trusting you and your website with their data. You really can’t be too careful, particularly given the number of high-profile security breaches. With Shopify, you’ll recieve a free SSL certificate with industry standard 128-bit encryption — that’s the same level of encryption used by banks all over the country. While other eCommerce platforms might charge you hundreds of dollars each year for the certificate, it won’t cost extra with Shopify.
Shopify is also certified Level 1 PCI-DSS Compliant. With many other eCommerce platforms, it’s up to you and your web developers to ensure your website isn’t hosting or directly processing credit card information. But Shopify has already done all of the legwork to make sure every online store it powers follows the strict guidelines of PCI-DSS Compliance. They’ve taken out a lot of the guesswork when it comes to ensuring the safety of both your customers and your company.
Don’t have the warehouse space, manpower, or time to fulfill your shipments from online orders? This is not a problem when you use Shopify. They’ve already integrated with Fulfillment by Amazon, Shipwire, and Webgistix, and have plans to partner with more fulfillment services in the near future. It’ll cost a little extra, but for the time and space it could save you, it might be worth considering. All you’ll have to do is send a bulk merchandise shipment to whichever fulfillment service you elect to use, and they’ll handle the picking, packing, and shipping.
Flexibility in How You Sell
While we’re focusing specifically on eCommerce platforms, we know you might be making in-person sales, too. Shopify allows you to use the same software regardless of where you’re selling — online, in-store, even from your phone. They’ll also sync your inventory across all selling points, so you’ll always know exactly what’s in stock. You might be visiting a trade show or market, or maybe you’ve wanted to try a pop-up shop. Shopify gives you the option to branch out in new directions.
Unlimited Bandwidth and Product Space
Yep, you read that right. No matter what pricing plan you go with, you’ll be able to host an unlimited number of products on your website and enjoy unlimited bandwidth. This is definitely a major perk to using Shopify. When customers visit your website, your entire range of products will be available to them and you’ll never be charged based on how many site visitors you get.
Unlike the free, open-source Magento, you’ll have to pay to use Shopify. While this is standard for hosted platforms, you’ll want to compare the features of Shopify to what other eCommerce platforms have to offer before making a final decision. There are three main pricing plans starting at $29/month for basic service and going up to $179/month for unlimited (there’s also an ultra pared-down starter plan for $14/month, although its features are quite limited by comparison). In addition to the flat monthly rate, you’ll also be paying credit card fees which vary according to your plan (that is to say, the more expensive plans have lower credit card fees).
Shopify boasts 100+ professionally designed themes, as well as the ability to customize them to reflect your unique business. While it’s true that these themes are technically customizable, what they don’t advertise is that the process is not entirely straightforward. Rather than using a common scripting language like PHP, Shopify has created its own language called Liquid. While there’s a basic introduction to Liquid on their website, and a pretty robust forum to help with any confusion, having to learn Liquid could be a barrier to entry for many folks. However, if you do elect to implement Shopify as your eCommerce platform, CQL can help you customize its many themes, along with providing a number of other eCommerce-specific services. You should also be aware that there are fewer than 30 free themes to choose from — the rest will cost you an additional one-time fee.
No One-Page Checkout
Most web developers will tell you to make your checkout process as quick and easy as possible. The more hoops your customers have to jump through in order to buy your product, the more likely it is that they’ll become frustrated and hesitant and abandon the cart. Many businesses therefore prefer a one-page checkout process, which is not currently an option with Shopify. The only customization options you’ll have with the checkout page are surface-level changes, such as uploading your own banner and changing the colors of the checkout button. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with whatever Shopify offers, and that could potentially harm your conversion rates.
Just like we discussed with Magento, there are a number of advantages and disadvantages to using Shopify as your eCommerce platform. Before you make any decisions, you’ll want to do additional research and see what best platform best fits your needs. In the meantime, feel free to contact CQL and tell us exactly what you’re looking for. We’d love to help you and your online business thrive.