Shopify Review: The Ultimate Master Guide

9.5 Out Of 10

ServiceseCommerce & Website Builder
SupportEmail, Chat, Forums, Videos & Knowledge Base
UptimeExcellent (100% in the past 6 months).
Best forAny product-based online store
StrengthsMany features and great support
WeaknessesLimited Blogging Tools
PromotionGet Free

There are many options available for online shopping. Shopify is an all in one eCommerce solution. I have used it to manage several online shops and consult with clients since 2009. This is my Shopify review – 11+ Shopify pros & cons for your online shop.

First, some background.

There are many options available for online stores. Your choice of the best eCommerce Platform can have as much impact on your business as choosing a location or building for your physical store. While it’s not essential for a business, it can have a significant impact on your ability to grow your business or make you lose your way.

What is Shopify?

Shopify is a -hosted eCommerce platform, which provides everything you need for an online storefront.

Create an online catalog to help you set up your product and sell it. Check out Shopify’s plans. A detailed post has been written about Shopify and its workings.

This is similar to hiring a general contractor instead of hiring subcontractors and being the contractor. While you are still in control of the project, the general contractor will use their expertise to help make it happen. Real estate is my favorite analogy.

Differences in Shopify with Other Options

The approach has its pros and cons. We’ll discuss them. Shopify competes with BigCommerce, Volusion. These three companies offer turn-key eCommerce solutions that can be used to create your own store using WordPress + WooCommerce .

These hosted solutions are competitive with eCommerce “marketplaces”, such as Amazon, eBay, and ETSY. I have written more about Shopify and Etsy. You can also read my article Shopify’s competition with website builders like Wix.

Shopify also offers a “Buy Button” function that lets you use Shopify to sell products online (Pinterest and Facebook), as well as offline such as at farmer’s markets, tradeshows and other events.

That’s why I’m going to be looking at Shopify’s online shop package less. The Buy button is only available as part of the Lite Plan. However, it competes with PayPal & Square and offers full online store options.

Shopify is a publicly traded company that offers audited software and industry-leading security.

Be aware of possible get-rich-quick schemes that Shopify may be involved in. Shopify’s popularity has brought in a lot of fraudsters and scammers. This is mostly a problem for shoppers who are involved in dropshipping and have chargeback issues.

Shopify software is available to legitimate Shopify store owners. Shopify is an eCommerce solution, not a business. Shopify is not a one-stop shop. You still need to research a market and find the product you want to sell. Shopify makes the whole process safer and more straightforward.

Shopify: Is it worth it?

It depends! It depends! It’s true. Shopify is a tool. You might not need it. Shopify might not be worth the effort if you only sell one digital product through your blog.

It would be possible to use a WooCommerce plug-in or a PayPal button on your WordPress website. Shopify would be a great option if you are looking to manage a multi-product eCommerce site with inventory, marketing tools and customer records.

Shopify Pricing

Shopify offers only four plans. You can upgrade your account at any time as your business grows, just like with other online services. The Shopify Lite plan is a great introduction to Shopify. It does not include a product catalog and can be used as a replacement for Stripe or PayPal.

Employee Accounts12515
Inventory Locations458
Online Credit Cards Rates2.9% + $0.302.9% + $0.302.6% + $0.302.4% + $0.30
In-Person Rates2.7%2.7%2.5%2.4%
Non-Shopify Fee2.0%2.0%1.0%0.5%
Country-Specific DNSYesYes

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Shopify Alternatives

If you are looking to start an online shop, there are many other options than Shopify. While Shopify is great for physical products, there are better options such as ThriveCart and SamCart.

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BigCommerce Review




$29.95 – $299.95+ per month


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The Best eCommerce Platform

Pros Of Shopify

Shopify reviews are plentiful online. They often include user-generated reviews that are based on personal experience and anecdotes. This is fine, but I have a different approach. Shopify has been a partner of mine for many years. I have worked as both a store owner and as a consultant to Shopify stores. There is no “best” option. You choose the best choice for your store, based on your goals and resources.

With this in mind, here are the pros and cons of Shopify compared to BigCommerce.

Fast Web Hosting & Security

Here are the results from a speed test I did for my local coffee shop, which runs Shopify.

Running an online store presents two challenges: your website must be responsive and you must have it super secure for credit card processing.

Every tenth of a second that a customer takes for your page to load is another second that they could leave your site and choose to go to the competition. Studies show that customers will wait for websites to load for up to four seconds before abandoning the site. This is even more true for eCommerce sites.

To ensure that your customers’ credit cards are PCI compliant, you must also route them through additional security layers. Although many stores use third-party vendors (such as PayPal and Google Wallet), this can slow down the connection.

Shopify, an all-in-one platform, allows you to leave that part of your business to professionals and let them deal with compliance, hackers, caching and any other issues that arise when hosting an online shop. Shopify offers security researchers bounties that allow them to hack-proof their systems. Shopify is secure and legitimate. They are a publicly traded company that has made huge investments in security and software engineering.

Website speed is a complex issue. Shopify, however, can manage speed and security at a global platform level. Shopify offers 100% SSL and keeps their websites running fast so customers don’t have to wait for pages to load.

All the Necessary Features

It doesn’t matter if you’re building your own eCommerce platform or looking for an all-in-one solution, it can be quite difficult to put together an online store.

You can take the product down to its bare bones and let someone pay. But to make it right, you will need other features.

Integrated payments are what you want. You want to be able to add and remove products easily. You also want to be able customize the appearance of your store. And you will need to implement solid analytics to track all (something that Volusion makes difficult to implement).

Shopify was a great platform for me to manage online stores for clients and myself. It also allowed me to easily upgrade or remove key features without any extra charges.

Amazing Customer Support

Comparing my experiences building an eCommerce store using something like WordPress + WooCommerce and managing it with Shopify, I find that customer support is the main reason why Shopify is my choice.

You can’t rely on anyone to help you build it or run it if you don’t have the funds. Shopify is fast to respond. Shopify’s customer service has been great. It is quick, accurate, and helpful from both a store owner and a developer perspective.

They offer a large database of FAQs, chat support, and phone support with real people.

Shopify’s subscription is well worth it if you are focusing on your online business. Shopify excels in this area.


If you can’t get people to visit your online store, what good is it? Shopify excels in marketing. Shopify does not offer the most advanced marketing tools (as part of the main package – they offer more in their App Marketplace), but they do offer the essentials and do them really well. SEO is one example.

Shopify makes it easy to create landing pages for marketing campaigns, such as email, Google Ads and Facebook Ads. This is a major difference between other all-in-one platforms (and some DIY ones).

Shopify’s clean, crawlable code is perfect for SEO. You can create custom Title tags and meta descriptions (see screenshot). This is in addition to the essentials like Search Console and sitemaps.

Although they do not allow root access or FTP access, I have always been able as a consultant to implement technical items using their front-end code editor. They actually have all of the technical details for me (e.g. Schema and SSL, Canonicals and Sitemaps), so I can concentrate on content strategy.

Shopify is an excellent choice if you are looking for a platform that can do all of your marketing, including SEO and Google Ads.


Good web platforms should offer at least two levels of customization. First, it should look good straight out of the box. Second, it should be easy to modify without hiring a professional developer or graphic designer.

WordPress is an excellent example. It looks great right out of the box. You can purchase tons of themes and then apply them. However, you also have the option to hire a professional to design a high-end website.

Shopify also has this ability, and I am proud to say that Shopify is a great example of this. Shopify is powered by a theme system. There is a default Shopify theme, as well as a few other Shopify themes that come with the package. You can also choose from a variety of custom-built themes through their marketplace. Shopify also makes their theme system open-source so that developers or designers can modify it to create any kind of shop they want, no matter if you’re a small boutique or a large enterprise.

You can start your website with a theme free of charge and then upgrade as often as you feel you need. If you prefer, you can also use their drag-and-drop layout tool.

Shopify App Store + Buy Button Add-Ons/Plugins

Shopify has a lot of features. Shopify is not able to provide all features that store owners require. Shopify decided to take a cue from Apple, Android, and Facebook by creating an App Store.

Shopify offers the platform and all its core features. It also allows third-party developers to create hyper-specialized products that seamlessly integrate with Shopify’s platform. These themes include both paid and free options, which go beyond the Shopify default template. Shopify App Store offers apps that can be used for dropshipping, sales features, payment gateways, social media integration, product review apps, and more.

This setup means that you don’t need to worry about finding a developer for every feature you request. It’s likely that the Shopify App store has it… and it will cost you a lot less. And, it will work exactly as promised.

This has been one of Shopify’s “killer” features over the past year that has helped them to outperform many of their direct competitors. Shopify integrates with many companies, making it easy to find the right solution for you (e.g., email and retargeting), etc. *

This includes contractors. Shopify offers a Shopify Expert program and Shopify Partner program. This allows Shopify merchants to get curated assistance with everything, from creating a Shopify account to optimizing SEO to building a product page to designing a website.

Shopify has also made significant investments in its Buy button. It can be confusing to sell products separately from your website. It also gives merchants a lot more flexibility if they already have a website.

Shopify is one of the few platforms that can pull off this feat with ease. They have a business development team who focuses on creating new apps and finding new developers to solve problems. Shopify’s App Store is a big pro for me.

Company Structure and Size

Shopify is a publicly-traded company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. They are growing rapidly and have many growth initiatives.

Wall Street earnings pressure can have some negative effects on customers (see Pricing section under Cons). It also means the company is mature and focuses on eCommerce and capital access.

This is important because of Amazon, the gigantic elephant of eCommerce.

Amazon can be both a blessing or a curse for independent eCommerce sellers. Amazon has a large market…but it is ultimately a feudal arrangement. To build your brand and online store, it’s better to steal from Amazon.

Shopify’s eCommerce heft is a great help. Shopify doesn’t have an Amazon-like marketplace, which is a good thing as you are building your own sales channels. Shopify has the most up-to-date tools to help you compete against Amazon. Shopify offers a number of sales channels, including an app that syncs inventory with an Amazon seller account. They also have giant initiatives such as POS systems and business branding tools.

Cons of Shopify

Shopify is not the best platform. A Shopify review would be incomplete without mentioning the cons. Let’s take a look at the six cons of Shopify eCommerce.

Shopify Pricing

Shopify Pricing & Plans

Pricing for ecommerce can be confusing. It can be frustrating quickly, due to the many subscriptions and fees involved.

Shopify is able to offer more transparency in pricing and overall value than its competitors. You can get the best pricing …. if you fully invest in Shopify. But there are some caveats. These caveats are what make Pricing into negative tradeoffs.

Here are 4 aspects of pricing that you should be aware of.

First, Your monthly price is the price that you pay each month for a particular level of features. Shopify offers a Lite Plan starting at $9 USD per Month and going up from there. The Lite plan is for sellers of Buy buttons only. Shopify’s Basic Plan starts at $29/mo and goes up from there. This is the most affordable price you can compare to other providers.

Second, your Platform Transaction Fees is an additional fee that you pay to a platform in a percentage of sales. Shopify used to charge transaction fees on all plans. However, this is no longer the case if Shopify is your payment processor.

These should be taken into consideration when cross-comparing. Shopify could be more costly if you have an existing 3rd party processor such as, Square or other. Shopify Payments may be less expensive if you have one. Compare carefully.

Third, Your credit card fees used to be fairly standard – and they are for the most part still are. Shopify Payments has its own POS and processing network, so you don’t need to use a third party processor. Shopify Pay charges fees, not or PayPal. This can help you save a lot of time and money.

Comparing can be confusing and Shopify has some lock-in issues. Shopify Payments can save you a lot of hassle and time if your processor is not yet installed. However, it may increase costs if your processor is already in place.

Fourth, Your add-on or plugin fees These are third-party apps, plugins, and bits of software you can buy to improve your store. These are usually one-time purchases. However, transaction fees can sometimes be charged. Shopify offers a large app store. Some are free while others are paid. Budget for these items when you plan your store.

Shopify’s apps are almost always better than native features built into other platforms – but can easily increase costs compared to native features…especially for inventory management & wholesaler features. You can also read Volusion and BigCommerce for more Shopify native features.

Shopify’s pricing is a “con” with a caveat. Shopify’s built-in credit card and no transaction fees are a huge plus, but the monthly price and add-on fees can add on to that. Shopify is generally slightly more expensive than Volusion and slightly less than BigCommerce, except when you sign up for Shopify Payments. At that point, the scales could tip back. You should compare prices based on features and service.

Shopify is like all hosted platforms. It will be more expensive than a store you own. But, self-hosted shops (like WordPress+ WooCommerce ) can have very expensive development requirements sometimes – especially if your setup is larger.

Shopify pricing is more expensive if you have technical knowledge and a small shop. Shopify’s pricing is a great value if you only want to manage and market your store (and have a clear understanding of the monthly costs). To manage Google Merchant Center and Schema, you don’t need to hire developers.


One of the Shopify pros is that it looks great out of the box, offers amazing custom Shopify themes options, and can be completely customized by a developer/designer.

Their customization setup is a con. They use a different setup to customize their themes than using PHP. While it’s a great feature in certain ways, it can also be irritating for those who love to customize things but not do full customization.

Because they are in PHP, I am used to editing WordPress templates. Shopify Liquid is something that is completely new to me and other first-timers.

Although it is easy to set up and they offer incredible support in the Shopify forums I still find it somewhat confounding to have to learn Liquid to modify my store’s theme.

Content Marketing

eCommerce is hugely dependent on content marketing. Content marketing can increase your organic traffic, increase your social shares, grow and educate your customers.

Shopify has built-in blogging software, but it is not as good as WordPress. Although it does the job, it is better than other options. However, I would love to see it improve.

My rule of thumb: If you have a blog and a store, then adding WooCommerce is a good idea. However, If you’re an online store that uses a blog to market your products then Shopify is a good choice.

Shopify Jargon

Shopify’s learning curve is like any other eCommerce platform. However, the Shopify jargon is slightly more confusing than others. Their Liquid theme setup, the use of “collections” instead of “categories, and various other minor edits to their store layout are all reasons why I don’t like how they set it up.

Once you have figured out Collections, they are great – but readers often mention Shopify’s categorization, particularly, as opposed to Volusion, which tends more to inventory features.

Shopify Dashboard isn’t intuitive until you realize it’s an eCommerce business view and not an online store view. The channel level is where you manage your store (see video below).

Although it’s not a major con, other solutions such as BigCommerce have made this con much easier.

Vendor Lock-in

Even though lock-in is not a problem for all-in-one eCommerce, it was something I had to mention in my Shopify review. The deal is that if you ever want to move your store to another platform, it will not be easy. This makes it difficult to choose an eCommerce platform. You need to think about the future and not just how much you can spend now.

Shopify is a great platform to grow your business. Shopify has the features, pricing, support, scale, and support to meet your needs, whether you’re a new shop or an established business. You don’t have to upsell to get the next plan. Everything is clear and transparent.

If you ever wanted to leave, however, you can export your product information to CSV. All other information is gone. This is true for BigCommerce and Volusion. However, it’s still something to be aware of when shopping online.

Initial Setup

Shopify’s initial setup is the biggest problem with using Shopify to host your online store. Shopify 2 has made it much easier to set up your online store. But, it’s still not a simple process. Although it’s simple in some ways, I feel they oversell it. It takes some technical knowledge, especially to correctly redirect your domain name.

Shopify is not going to make you rich in 15 minutes if you expect to be making money within the next few hours. Shopify is a good company that does the right thing and doesn’t let you make mistakes.

Shopify Video Review

Shopify: Should you Use It?

Shopify is a great choice if you’re looking for an all in one eCommerce solution that will allow you to manage your entire online store.

You might also be interested in BigCommerce if you’re looking for something cheaper and easier to set-up (see my Bigcommerce review).

Take a look at other options with my top eCommerce platforms.

This post will help you find the best website builders for selling products.

If you’re a brand looking to find an enterprise solution, I wrote about my Shopify Plus experience – Shopify Enterprise Solution.


What does it cost to sell on Shopify

Shopify plans start at $9/mo, and can go up depending upon the different features. Although they do not charge any transaction fees, credit card companies will charge them their fees (though this is less if Shopify is your payment provider). While many sellers might choose to buy premium themes or apps, they are not required to begin.

Is Shopify really free?

Shopify is not free, but they offer a 14-day trial. Shopify charges a monthly fee once you have paid. Shopify doesn’t charge a setup fee, nor any other extra cost. Shopify Lite is the cheapest option and starts at $9 per month.

Which is better: Amazon or Shopify?

It’s better to sell on Amazon or Shopify depending on your business model, marketing plans and business goals.

Amazon is a marketplace that allows you to charge a fee to sell. Shopify allows to integrate a shopping cart and inventory as well as orders, design, customer management , and order tracking .

Shopify requires a greater commitment, but allows for more flexibility and freedom. If it makes sense, you can sell with both.

What does Shopify do?

Shopify is an eCommerce platform designed to sell digital and physical products. Multiple locations are possible, including a website, mobile and physical storefront. Shopify allows you to manage inventory, payments, shipping, and more.

You can find more information in my article: What is Shopify? & How Does Shopify Work?

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