Shopify review for small businesses
It might be costlier than some of its rivals, but if you want to create a scalable ecommerce site, you can’t put a price on Shopify's quality sales features and support
The platform behind more than one million online stores worldwide, Shopify is a great choice if you’re looking to create a fully kitted out, fully optimised, scalable ecommerce website.
Of our top six ecommerce platforms for small businesses, we ranked Shopify third, thanks to its comprehensive range of quality sales features, customisation capabilities, and excellent help and support.
We should also mention that Shopify received our highest score for customer satisfaction, with 93% of users saying they would recommend it to a friend.
However, this sophistication comes at a price, and the design features can be a little trickier to use than some of its competitors'.
Based on extensive user testing, this review will help you decide whether Shopify is the right ecommerce platform to use for your online store.
We’ll delve into price plans, pros and cons, and finish off with an in-depth analysis of the factors that matter most when building an online store.
Shopify was created with one purpose: to help you build an online shop.
This means that unlike some of our other top ecommerce platforms – which are website builders first and foremost – ecommerce considerations have been factored into every feature, every theme, and every design tool.
Put simply, you can be sure that every aspect of your Shopify online store has been optimised to help you make sales and grow your business.
We’ve already highlighted Shopify’s industry-leading range of sales features, as well as its glowing customer reviews. But it’s also a great all rounder, scoring highly for a number of the key metrics we use to determine our ranking. Its non-commerce website features are genuinely useful and well-designed, and it has the second best help and support on offer out of our top online store builders.
The only area it falls down on is value for money, gaining only a 3.4 out of 5 from our testers, which put it in sixth place for that area.
As we’ve just discussed, when you compare it to other ecommerce platforms, Shopify doesn’t get you as much bang for your buck. However, its premium plans compare almost pound for pound with rival ecommerce-specific platform BigCommerce, which Shopify outshines on most metrics.
The features offered by each payment plan don’t differ wildly, so you’re not going to be missing out on vital functionality if you opt for the Basic plan. The main differences are that you’re allowed more staff accounts as you go up the pricing scale, and additional fees and rates applied to payments decrease.
For example, with the Basic plan, you’ll be charged 2% on any payment made through any payment provider other than Shopify Payments. With the Advanced plan, you’ll only be charged 0.5%.
All prices below are based on an annual subscription. Shopify offers a 14-day free trial, but you can’t start selling any products or services until you sign up for a premium plan.
- Unlimited products
- Abandoned cart recovery
- Online credit rates: 2.2% + 20p
- Professional reports and analytics
- 5 staff accounts
- Online credit rates: 1.9% + 20p
- Advanced report
- Calculated shipping rates
- Online credit rates: 1.6% + 20p
Shopify also has Shopify Plus, an enterprise solution for much larger brands. This offers custom apps, extensive integrations, and much more strategy and support for scaling businesses.
We’ve ranked Shopify as our third best ecommerce platform for small businesses, based on extensive user testing and assessment of the six key factors that matter most to you – the small business owners.
Those six factors are website features, sales features, design flexibility, help and support, value for money, and ease of use.
Each factor was given a score out of 5. Those six scores were then combined to get the overall score.
Shopify achieved a respectable 4.5 out of 5. It also came top for sales features, first for customer satisfaction, and second for help and support.
Shopify misses out on full marks for SEO because it doesn’t offer any keyword support. However, the Shopify App Store gives you access to a range of great third party apps that can help to optimise your online shop.
When it comes to marketing, again, your best bet is to make use of Shopify's extensive third party integrations for business promotion. The one thing it does offer is customised ‘shout out’ messages to customers, which you can set to appear when orders are placed, when an item has been shipped, and when a customer creates an on-site account.
Products and inventory
Shopify gives you a lot of freedom when it comes to products. You can sell services, digital items, and physical products within all pricing plans, and at no additional cost. There are also no real limitations on how many products you can have visible on your site (unlike many other platforms).
In the backend, Shopify’s inventory makes it super easy to navigate and manage all of your day to day product admin. You can also draw sales from multiple channels into the same location.
The only thing we’d mark it down for is that digital products are only available when the relevant app is purchased.
Shopify supports all major payment options, including Shopify Payments, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, and PayPal. However, your location may restrict your access to certain platforms.
If you're using Shopify Payments (its own personal payment gateway), Shopify won’t charge you any transaction fees. So, if you're accepting a credit card payment of £100, you'll only pay 2.2% + 20p on top of that payment, which is deducted from the £100 payment before it’s deposited in your bank account.
If you're not using Shopify Payments, Shopify will charge an extra transaction fee. In this case, you'd pay an additional 2% of that £100. This will be included in your monthly invoices, and it doesn’t include the credit card rates that'll be charged by the gateway you're using.
Shopify stores can be integrated with various other channels. Under Facebook, for example, you can sell via the Facebook shop tab, Instagram, and via Facebook Messenger. Amazon, Pinterest, eBay, Buzzfeed, and Kik are also all supported, but only when your currency is set to dollars.
The starting price to have multichannel integration on your store is $21.75 (when a three year upfront payment is made).
Checkout and shipping
Shopify’s checkouts are probably the most customisable of any of the ecommerce platforms. You can add your company logo, change colours, and even amend the fonts used to make sure that your checkout matches your business brand to the letter.
You can also edit the required information boxes for your customers, including whether you need their full address or just the first line and postcode, whether you need their full name or not, and whether you need their phone number. Most of Shopify’s themes also allow you to attach a discount box to your checkout.
Shopify gives you a lot of support when it comes to shipping, integrating with a range of major providers, and allowing you to give customers multiple options. You can manage everything from your shipping dashboard.
Shopify only allows US users to download printable labels, but you can buy shipping labels with ready to scan barcodes.
International and exporting businesses are well catered for by Shopify.
Let’s start with the themes. If you opt for a theme in any specific locality, Shopify will automatically adjust the checkout and any system messages to the correct language.
Your customers are able to change your storefront into either French, German, Japanese, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, or English at the click of a button.
Setting up international shipping functionality is just as easy. Simply go to settings, and add and amend shipping zones and rates to your liking. Taxes and shipping rates will then automatically be adjusted to the customer’s location during purchase.
Available with every premium plan, Shopify’s analytics tools are excellent, providing granular data and actionable insights on your customers' behaviour. Using Shopify’s reports, you can improve your marketing, upsell to the most suitable target audience, and create promotional pricing and product bundles.
For example, if your online store has a search bar, you can see what terms your visitors are using to search for products in your store, as well as search terms that don't give any results.
The ‘online store conversion over time report’ shows you the percentage of visitors that make a purchase over a selected period of time, and provides key insights like
time grouping, sessions, added to cart, reached checkout, sessions converter, and conversion rate.
Shopify is PCI Compliant, meaning that all stores are maintained under a secure network. Cardholder data is protected, while Shopify regularly monitors and tests networks, implements strong access control measures, and maintains an information security policy.
Shopify Payments merchants outside of the US (and not on Plus) now have 3D Secure to verify credit card purchases. This is a 2-step authentication that confirms the cardholder's identity, and protects both the buyer and the merchant from fraud.
Having 3D Secure can help merchants to be compliant with upcoming regional regulations. Orders that are verified with 3D Secure benefit from a liability shift, so that if there is fraudulent activity, the onus is on the credit card issuer, not the merchant.
Shopify deserves full marks for its accounting services, with a number of invaluable tools and services that make what is often the most painful part of running a business so much easier.
With Shopify’s invoice generator, simply fill in the required information and create an invoice on the spot. You can save, print, or email it directly to your clients. It uses a professional layout, which includes all of the necessary details for clean, consistent, and accurate billing practices.
Although Shopify automatically calculates most taxes, you can override tax rates to control how much tax you charge for a particular product, and to handle exceptions and exemptions. You can also specify unique tax rates for shipping destinations or to tax-exempt customers.
And, if you do need additional functionality, Shopify supports more than 40 other accountancy apps.
Shopify’s range of themes is limited, but they are well designed. You can choose from 10 free ones, with an additional 50 available at a cost of between £115 and £187.
Each industry theme comes with a curated selection of the features Shopify believes will be the most useful for a business operating in that sector.
Unlike other ecommerce platforms, you can change your theme at any time, and any information such as navigation buttons and products will be reconfigured in your new theme. However, non-product imagery and self-coded elements will have to be redone.
Help and support
When it comes to help and support, Shopify ticks every box.
If you request help within the editor, Shopify takes you directly to an extremely useful knowledge and help centre, which is clearly presented and easy to use. You can filter or refine your search depending on what you’re looking for, and they use a combination of visuals and text to aid your understanding.
However, the article which appears as the first search return isn’t always the one that’s most relevant to your query, so it’s worth scrolling down a little if you don’t immediately find what you’re looking for.
Specialist advanced support and a dedicated support agent are available with the Shopify Plus plan.
Value for money
While it is more expensive than most of our other top ecommerce platforms, the quality of Shopify's sales features and help and support shouldn’t be discounted by ambitious, scaling businesses.
Ease of use
Looking across all scores from our testers, just under half of the tasks from our ease of use test were scored as ‘very easy', which is about average.
On top of that, Shopify uses consistent typography and simple, understandable language, and has easy to identify icons, which makes it easy to create the online store you want. It also features an undo button, and allows keyboard shortcuts.
If you’re looking to build an ecommerce empire, look no further than Shopify. Its sales features are second to none, giving you all the support you need to optimise your online store and grow sales. Just ask its users, 93% of whom would recommend Shopify to a friend.
If design is your primary concern, Shopify might not be for you, as it offers a limited range of themes and limited options for design flexibility. But if you just want to get a fantastic, scalable online store up and running, you probably don’t want to waste time tweaking and changing templates anyway.
Does Shopify have a free trial?
Yes, Shopify has a 14-day free trial, which allows you to create and publish an online store. However, you won’t be allowed to sell products or services until you sign up for a paid plan.
Is Shopify worth it?
This really depends on your ambition for your online shop. While it might be pricier than a non-ecommerce specific builder, its rich sales features are all but essential for businesses that want to build large scaling online stores.
More simplistic ecommerce platforms simply don’t offer the support, sales functionality, and analytics capabilities that you need to manage the selling and shipping of lots of products.
Can I trust Shopify?
Yes, Shopify is PCI compliant, and SSL certificates are built into every Shopify website. This means all cardholder data is protected, and that strong access control measures are maintained.