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

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4.6 out of 5
  • Website features
    4.2
  • Sales features
    4.5
  • Design functionalities
    3.9
  • Value for money
    3.0
  • Help and support
    3.8
  • Ease of use
    3.5

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.

As of November 2021, all of our top six ecommerce platforms for small businesses have been reevaluated to ensure our information is accurate and up to date.

In this new ranking, Shopify has been bumped up a spot into second-place, with an overall score of 4.6, 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: 4.6 out of 5.

However, this sophistication comes at a price, and the design features can be a little trickier to use than some of its competitors'. Luckily, Shopify's wealth of apps means with a little bit of learning, you'll be able to get it to do anything you need it to.

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 overview

Shopify Ecommerce
4.6
Shopify’s superb features and extensive app market give ambitious ecommerce businesses everything they need to scale rapidly.
  • FREE TRIAL 14-day free trial
  • PRICE FROM £20 per month
  • Preempts and predicts what a merchant might need next in all aspects of creating a website
  • Best range of apps and extensions
Summary Shopify is perfect for users looking for that all in one online store solution. Its ability to predict what a merchant will need next when creating a website is a brilliant feature, and its countless apps give you complete control over your business, enabling you to grow through diverse multi channel integration options and automated SMS and email marketing. It is definitely better suited to store owners with complex, larger inventories and because there are fewer built in features, using the platform can get expensive compared to other feature-filled competitors like Squarespace and Wix.
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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, on which is achieves a huge 4.5 out of 5, 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 3 out of 5 from our testers, which put it in joint fifth place for that area.


Shopify pricing

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.

0 out of 0
Price
Plan main features

Basic Shopify

Shopify

Advanced

£20 per month

£53 per month

£199 per month

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.


Pros
  • Multi-channel integration, giving you the ability to sell via multiple social media platforms
  • Offers the highest number of sales features, averaging 61/65 across the 13 sales specific areas evaluated
  • Really supports users with the more difficult tasks, such as shipping and accountancy
  • Shopify is an entirely customisable platform – should you require a bespoke feature it can assist, directly within the builder, on the template you choose, or through its app market
Cons
  • Shopify imposes transaction fees if you don't use its own payment gateways - meaning it's not the best for value for money
  • Limited trial period with restrictive design flexibility
  • Pick your template wisely, as you will need to reformat your entire site if you decide to switch themes once your website has gone live

Our methodology: How did we evaluate Shopify for small business?

0 out of 0
Best for
Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
Pricing
Visit

Wix

Shopify

Squarespace

Square Online

BigCommerce

GoDaddy

All-round ecommerce platform for small businesses

Best range of apps and extensions

Best for ease of use and great design

Best value – start selling for free

Best sales features

Creating a simple online store

4.8
4.6
4.6
4.3
4.2
3.9

£13-£22 per month

£6.50-£11 until 20th January

£20-£211 per month

£15-£30 per month

Use code “STARTUPS10” to receive a 10% discount on all Squarespace plans

 

£0-£54 per month

£22-£216 per month

£19.99 per month (first term savings available)

We’ve ranked Shopify as our second 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 massive 4.6 out of 5. It also came top for customer satisfaction, second for sales features, and third for website features.


Website features – 4.2

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.


Sales features – 4.5

Products and inventory

Shopify gives you a lot of freedom when it comes to products. You can sell services, digital items (using an add-on) 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.

Payment options 

Shopify supports nearly 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.

Multichannel integration 

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.

Internationalisation 

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.

Sales analytics

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.

Security features

Shopify has excellent security functions. The platform 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.

Accounting 

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.


Design flexibility – 3.9

Shopify’s range of themes is limited, but they are well designed and attractive for visitors to view. 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.

There is also limited social media integrations, with Shopify Basic permitting Facebook ads but not Instagram stories.


Help and support – 3.8

When it comes to help and support, Shopify shows an average performance. It has a fairly typical number of help features, and it's higher price point means we've marked it down slightly in this category.

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 – 3

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 – 3.5

Based on user testing, Shopify scored a fairly average 3.5 out of 5.

The platform 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.


Shopify verdict

If you’re looking to build an ecommerce empire, look no further than Shopify. It's perfect as an all-in-one solution, with particularly impressive sales features, and will give you all the support you need to optimise your online store and grow sales. That's why we awarded it our second-highest overall eCommerce platform score of 4.6 out of 5, and our highest customer score of 4.6 out of 5.

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 compared to rivals.

But customisability isn't far away thanks to the app's huge number of apps that make it a particularly strong option for scaling businesses that want to get an online store up and running quickly.

Try Shopify today!


Shopify FAQs

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.


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Henry Williams headshot
Henry Williams Content Manager

Henry has been writing for Startups.co.uk since 2015, covering everything from business finance and web builders to tax and red tape. He’s also acted as project lead on many of our industry-renowned annual indexes, including Startups 100 and Business Ideas, and created a number of the site’s popular how to guides.

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