Selling products online sounds complicated because doing it on your own is.
But, thanks to eCommerce website builders like Shopify, you don’t have to do it on your own. They do the heavy lifting (coding, building processes, calculating taxes, etc.) for you while you focus on other aspects of running your business.
All you have to do is design your shop using their intuitive drag-and-drop page builder (and fulfill your orders, of course). Plus, you can start with one of their professional (and free!) templates, so you don’t get stuck staring at a blank screen for hours on end, wondering what to do next.
Whether you own a brick-and-mortar shop or are looking to set up something brand new, Shopify is an excellent platform built to help non-designers/developers get their new stores online… as fast as possible.
In this review, I cover the great things about Shopify, the not-so-great things, their pricing plans (plus which one I recommend), and a breakdown of their online reputation.
Let’s get started!
Summary: High-Level Pros and Cons of Shopify
I signed up for a 14-day free trial and built a fake online shop to see how Shopify stands up to its competition. Throughout the process, I took note of the things I enjoyed about the platform, as well as the things I didn’tlike.
So, here’s a high-level overview of my experience (in case you don’t want to read the full review – no judgment, here!).
What I like (AKA the good stuff):
- Very easy to use and customize
- Built specifically for selling products online
- 12,000+ apps to add functionality to your store
- You can try themes before buying them
- Huge shipping discounts on all plans
- Automatic tax calculations
What I don’t like (AKA the not-so-good stuff):
- Less-than-ideal industry reputation
- No free plan (only a 14-day free trial)
- Only 9 free themes to choose from
- You don’t get a free domain name
Shopify is for businesses that want to sell their products online and is one of the easiest website builders to use. They also have an app store with over 12,000 apps that help add functionality to your website if you want extra bells and whistles.
Furthermore, they offer massive shipping discounts on all plans, and their eCommerce suit automatically calculates taxes based on your tax settings. So, you don’t have to worry about manually adding taxes or knowing when to charge them.
Related: Does Shopify collect sales tax?
But, they don’t have a great reputation in the industry, nor do they have a free plan (aside from a 14-day free trial). Their selection of free themes is rather small compared to other builders (like Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace), and they don’t offer a free domain name.
What I Like About Shopify
As I went through the process of building an online store with Shopify, most of my experience was great. So, I want to walk through the things I particularly enjoyed about Shopify and why they matter to small business store owners interested in DIYing their website.
1. Very Easy to Use and Customize
Shopify is one of the easiest website builders out there. Everything is organized intuitively, and it’s very easy to get the hang of. In about ten minutes, you’ll know exactly how to customize your new online store.
Furthermore, your dashboard is simple with a left navigation menu that lets you navigate to different areas and manage different parts of your shop. You can look at new themes (both free and paid) and even try them out + customize them before you buy them.
When you’re ready to start customizing your website, all you have to do is click the “customize” button. From there, you can:
- Choose which page you want to work on
- Edit your theme settings including colors, typography, and animations
- Add new sections to existing pages
- Add new blocks within existing sections
- Reorder sections/blocks on any page
- Change the color scheme of each section
- Add your own images and copy
- Upload different images for mobile
- Delete things you don’t want
- And more
All of your customization options are easily accessible from one place so you don’t have to spend hours trying to figure out where to find what. And oftentimes, this level of simplicity means you lack customization options.
While Shopify isn’t the most customizable website builder, you have a decent level of control over how your website looks and behaves. To edit a section, all you have to do is click on it in the left navigation menu to access its features.
Shopify is simple, intuitive, AND highly customizable. Plus, they have a dedicated YouTube channel to help you learn everything you need to know about using their platform.
2. Built Specifically for Selling Products Online
If you want to sell products online, Shopify is the website builder for you. It’s actually more than just a website builder because it features all the tools you need to create a beautiful website, track inventory, ship your products, and accept credit card payments with its built-in payment gateway.
Shopify exists solely for businesses that want to sell their products online. So, you know you’re getting the best of the best and every tool you need to create a seamless online experience for your customers.
They don’t try to be a jack of all trades. They’re great at what they do because they specialize in one thing – helping you make more money by selling more of your products online (plus figuring out taxes, managing inventory, and actually shipping things).
3. 12,000+ Apps to Add Functionality to Your Store
Want to enable online ordering for your restaurant? Maybe you want to add a loyalty program to incentivize customers to spend more money and refer their friends. Perhaps you want to create product videos that truly showcase what makes your business unique.
Good news! There’s an app for that.
The Shopify app store has over 12,000 unique third-party apps you can download and install to add extra functionality to your website. From pop-up forms to image optimization to minimizing carbon in your shipping supplies… the app store has everything you need.
And probably some apps you didn’t know you need.
Installing apps is easy and takes just a few clicks. From there, you can update your settings, customize the look and feel, and add them to your site in a matter of minutes.
4. You Can Try Themes Before Buying Them
If you’ve built a website before, you know the pain of buying a new theme, adding your own images, and customizing the design to match your brand… only to have it look less-than-great.
With Shopify, you don’t have to go through that pain, which can save you a lot of money, time, and a headache or two. You can install a theme on your website, add your own images, products, branding, copy, etc. before actually buying it.
So, you can see exactly what your website looks like before making any investments. If you don’t like how it turned out, no problem. You don’t have to spend anything to try out something else.
To test out a theme, click the “try theme” button. From there, Shopify adds a trial theme to your online store. Once it’s installed, you’ll see what it looks like and have the option to customize it.
After you click “customize theme”, you can edit everything right from the same window. You can access everything as if you already bought it. Nothing is hidden in your trial theme, so you can see the theme’s capabilities, limitations, and quirks before spending a penny.
When you’re done customizing, you can always come back to it from your dashboard. Here, you can choose to delete the trial, preview it, buy it, or customize it further. Any theme (free) or theme trial (paid) you add will show up here, as well.
5. Huge Shipping Discounts on all Plans
Shipping is one of the hardest things to manage as an online shop owner. Most people expect free shipping, but that means you have to cover the costs. Standard shipping expenses can add up really fast, especially if you’re the one paying for it.
To help mitigate this, Shopify offers exclusive shipping discounts on all their plans (except Shopify Lite). So, you can save up to 72% on shipping fees to help reduce this extra financial burden placed on you or your customers.
6. Automatic Tax Calculations
It’s no secret taxes are confusing. Are you responsible for charging state taxes in your state or the customer’s state? How do you know when to charge taxes and when not to? Navigating federal, state, and local taxes isn’t easy.
But, Shopify helps simplify the process with automatic tax calculations. Tax calculations are based on your business location and any special situations you want to include.
You can always edit these so you’re in complete control of when and how taxes are calculated + collected without having to manually add them to the right orders. Plus, if there’s anything you aren’t sure about, you can learn more about taxes in Shopify’s Help Center.
You can always edit these, so you’re in complete control of when and how taxes are calculated + collected without having to manually add them to the right orders. Plus, if there’s anything you aren’t sure about, you can learn more about taxes in Shopify’s Help Center.
7. Customer Support
Shopify has one of the most accessible customer support teams in our website reviews. Customer support is available 24×7 by live chat, email, and phone. Especially when creating your first site, it’s nice to know someone can answer your question any time, day or night.
What I Don’t Like About Shopify
As with every business, the great features come with their fair share of less-than-perfect quirks. Throughout my experience with Shopify, I noticed a few missing features and minor downfalls of the platform.
So, I want to walk through those and talk about why they matter.
1. Less-Than-Ideal Industry Reputation
Most of the reviews I found online weren’t actually from Shopify customers. They’re from users who purchased something and never received what they bought in the mail. While that’s never a good situation to be in, Shopify doesn’t have much control over what their customers do or don’t do with their platform.
With that said, Shopify could do a better job of making these awful situations easier. From what I can tell, they have a standard set of instructions to follow if this happens to someone buying a product from a Shopify store.
But, they aren’t very helpful and usually don’t result in a resolution. However, there are several reviews from actual Shopify customers with issues around:
- Fraudulent purchases made through their shop
- Shopify holding payments from customers for no reason
- Scammy businesses selling fake products
- Account closures with no warning
Shopify does respond to every review with a clear explanation of what happened and a solution. So, unlike some of the other website builders out there, they do seem to care and take frequent action to make their customers happy.
2. No Free Plan (Only a 14-Day Free Trial)
If you’re looking for a platform you can try unlimited for free, Shopify isn’t that platform. Other site builders offer a forever free plan with limitations or advertising, but that’s not an option. And you only get 14 days to try it out.
This isn’t a lot of time, especially if you’ve never used Shopify or have other obligations to take care of aside from your business. But, you can request a free trial extension. I’m not sure what requirements you have to meet to get one, but it is possible.
3. Only 9 Free Themes to Choose From
Site builders like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace have hundreds of free themes to choose from.
With Shopify, you only have nine options. With that said, all of the free themes look great and are easy to customize, so I wouldn’t necessarily say this is a deal-breaker. However, their paid premium themes can give your store a unique look, though they are quite expensive (ranging from $140 – $180).
Furthermore, using one of their free themes means your website will look similar to a lot of other Shopify stores. But you can always customize your theme and add new sections to make your shop stand out from the rest.
4. You Don’t Get a Free Domain Name
A free domain name is a common feature among other page builders if you sign up for an annual plan. But with Shopify, you don’t get a free domain name. However, you can buy one from them if you don’t already have one.
This is a good idea if you want to avoid connecting your domain to Shopify, although it isn’t difficult to do on your own. Shopify domains are a bit more expensive – $14/year – than other providers (but less expensive than Squarespace).
However, you do get a lot of extras included with your domain name. These features include:
- Automated set up (so you don’t have to touch DNS records)
- Ability to manage subdomains (i.e., blog.yourdomain.com)
- Over 50 different extensions to choose from (.co, .com, .edu, etc.)
- Unlimited subdirectories to organize your shop
- Unlimited forwarding email addresses
- Free WHOIS privacy
Shopify’s Plans & Pricing
Shopify has three standard plans plus Shopify Lite and Shopify Plus. The biggest differences between the standard options are shipping discount percentages, reporting options, and processing fees.
Shopify Lite — $9/month
This plan is significantly different from the others listed here. This one doesn’t include an online shop or website. This is the perfect option if you already have a website and want to add eCommerce capabilities to it.
Lite lets you create a catalog of products you can embed on the website you already have. So, if you went with another website builder and don’t want to use their eCommerce tools or they don’t have eCommerce tools, you can integrate Shopify Lite.
Shopify Lite includes:
- Embeddable buy buttons
- Embed single products or entire collections
- A custom shopping cart
- Full design control
Tier 3: Basic Shopify — $29/month
This is the cheapest all-in-one Shopify plan. It includes everything you need to get your new online shop started without the hassle and headaches of other e-commerce solutions. Plus, Shopify is built specifically for eCommerce stores, so you know you’re working with a top-notch platform.
The Basic Shopify plan includes:
- An online store, website, and blog
- Unlimited products
- 2 admin accounts
- 24/7 support
- Multiple sales channels
- Up to 4 locations
- Manual order creation
- Discount codes
- Free SSL certificate
- Abandoned cart recovery
- Gift cards
- 64% shipping discount
- Shipping labels
- Fraud analysis
- 2.9$ + $0.30 online transaction fee
- 2.7% in-person transaction fee
- 2% for other payment processors
- Shopify POS (for in-person payments)
This is perfect for anyone just getting started or looking to create a professional online store to sell their products. It has everything you need to get started but pretty high processing fees.
So, if you plan on selling at higher volumes or you end up outgrowing the capabilities of your basic account, you can (and should) upgrade to the Shopify plan.
Tier 2: Shopify — $79/month
This plan offers a deeper shipping discount and lower processing fees. Aside from those two things, it’s almost exactly the same. So, if you find yourself paying a ton in processing fees or for shipping, you may want to upgrade to this plan.
The Shopify plan includes everything in Basic plus:
- 5 admin accounts
- Up to 5 locations
- Professional reporting
- 72% shipping discount
- USPS Priority Mail Cubic pricing
- 2.6% + $0.30 online transaction fee
- 2.5% in-person transaction fee
- 1% for other payment processors
I only recommend choosing this plan if you’ve outgrown the Basic plan.
Tier 1: Advanced Shopify — $299/month
If you run out of admin accounts or are interested in lower transaction fees, this plan may work for you. It also includes advanced reporting and higher shipping discounts. So, if you’re selling high volume, it may make sense to upgrade to this plan.
The Advanced Shopify plan includes everything in the Shopify plan plus:
- 15 admin accounts
- Up to 8 locations
- Advanced report builder
- Third-party shipping rates
- 74% shipping discount
- 2.4% + $0.30 online processing fee
- 2.4% in-person processing fee
- 0.5% for other payment processors
I only recommend choosing this plan if you’ve outgrown the Shopify plan.
Enterprise Level: The Shopify Plus Plan — $2,000+/month
If you run a very large store or manage very high volumes, this plan may make sense for you. Brands like Heinz, Allbirds, GymShark, and HiSmile currently use the Shopify Plus plan. They all leverage Shopify Plus to manage and maintain tens of thousands of orders a month.
They also claim you can set up and start selling within 90 days thanks to their team of experts and a rock-solid platform built to handle large volumes. Furthermore, this plan includes:
- 60% faster checkout process
- AR, video, and 3D media on product pages
- Advanced discounts and shipping rates
- Customizable checkout page
- Unlimited transactions and products
- Manage multiple stores, accounts, and workflows
- Advanced automation and tax calculations
- Done for you high-volume migration and account setup
- No transaction fees for Shopify payments
- 0.15% transaction fees for other processors
Is Using Shopify as Easy as it Sounds?
Shopify is easily one of the easiest and most intuitive website builders available. Furthermore, you can start your free 14-day trial in just a few clicks (no credit card required). From there, you can build your entire website without limitations.
When you’re ready to launch, you can upgrade to Shopify Basic for $29/month.
They have 9 free themes to choose from plus countless paid themes as well. Plus, you can have multiple themes installed at the same time to test them out and see which one you like best.
And you can try and customize paid themes before buying them to make sure they’re the perfect fit for what you’re looking for. When you’re ready to customize one of your themes, all you have to do is click “customize”.
This takes you to the page editor where you can build out your entire website. Inside the page editor, you can customize colors, fonts, spacing, images, products, pages, and menus. Plus, you can add new sections or delete existing sections to design a truly unique website.
Shopify also includes Search Engine Optimization (SEO) functionality built-in, so potential customers can find you.
Everything is easy to use and Shopify provides numerous training videos and tutorials to help you get familiar with the platform. Furthermore, you can always reach out to their customer service team with specific technical questions.
Shopify found the perfect intersection of simplicity, ease of use, and customization so you can launch your new online shop… ASAP. Without staring at lines of code or spending days learning how to use it.
Exploring Shopify’s Reputation
Shopify has been around for 15 years, and they’ve been accredited by the Better Business Bureau since 2015 with an A+ rating. With that said, they’ve had 192 complaints filed against them.
The most recent complaints mention:
- Being unable to contact customer support by phone
- Having issues with Shopify developers and experts
- Several high-risk orders causing accounts to be locked
- Money from sold products being held
However, after looking through most of these complaints, it appears Shopify notified customers about upcoming changes and did their best to inform customers about how to handle these issues.
Furthermore, a Shopify team member responds to every complaint with the next steps and a potential resolution. You can read the full list of customer complaints here.
Shopify Reviews: BBB
Shopify has an average of one-star out of 62 customer reviews on BBB. Most of these reviews aren’t from actual Shopify customers but from customers of online stores using Shopify to sell their products online.
However, there are several reviews from Shopify users. These negative reviews mention a lack of customer service, payments being held for review, and accounts being closed without notice. You can read the full list of BBB reviews, here.
Here’s what one of their most recent customers has to say:
“I am trying to resolve an issue for two days. When I try to go through my account it doesn’t work. When I call it doesn’t work. There is no chat or email. It is incredibly frustrating that a company can say they are here for you 24/7 knowing what I am going through and now I cannot work on my site.” – Richard B. (June 3, 2020)
Shopify Reviews: TrustPilot
Things don’t look much better on TrustPilot. Shopify has an average of 1.5 stars out of 643 reviews. Out of these, 12% rate them above average and 84% rated them as bad.
However, most of these bad reviews aren’t from actual Shopify customers. They’re from people who’ve been ripped off by stores using Shopify to sell their products.
With that said, Shopify should certainly do a better job of helping people in these situations and vetting their own customers before allowing them to take money from the public. They claim to have a strong vetting process, but the massive number of scam sites says otherwise.
Furthermore, there are several reviews from Shopify customers, and not all of them are negative. You can read the full list of reviews, here or check out what these customers had to say about their experiences:
“We opened a hosting and uploaded a website to Shopify.com but, after uploading 850 articles, Shopify definitively closed the site saying that “lifepharmausa.myshopify.com is in violation of Shopify’s Acceptable Use Policy”. No response to our request for explanations. We advise those who want to open an online business not to waste time with Shopify.” – Chostner Ltd (June 6, 2020)
“I’ve had nothing but superb customer service from the Shopify support team over numerous issues I’ve had. A great example of how customer service should be.” – JC (May 28, 2020)
TLDR: Shopify Reviews Overview
Most of the Shopify reviews I found online weren’t from actual Shopify customers. So, their average ratings from a small business owner’s perspective are hard to come by.
With that being said, I do hope Shopify improves its customer service practices to help buyers who get scammed by fake Shopify stores. Furthermore, they need to do something about the alarming number of fake shops built using Shopify’s platform.
Final Thoughts on Shopify’s Page Builder
If you’re interested in creating a responsive online shop that’s easy to set up, manage, and scale, Shopify is a smart choice. Their website builder is very intuitive and easy to learn without sacrificing essential customization capabilities.
They use a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) type of page editor, so you know exactly what your new site looks like without having to waste time-savings and refreshing to see your new changes.
You can get started today with a free 14-day trial to take Shopify for a test drive to see if it’s the right eCommerce platform for you (no credit card required). Furthermore, each paid plan comes with an entire suite of important features specifically designed for online stores.
So, you can rest easy knowing they’re experts at what they do.
Click here to start your free 14-day trial!