Shopify eCommerce Website Builder
It's difficult to choose an eCommerce website builder because these days there are so many of them available.
From the cheap as chips “site builder” that you get free with your hosting account to expensive independent solutions costing hundreds every month making your way through the labyrinth of choices is no fun.
This review of Shopify seeks to give you all the necessary information you need to help you make an informed decision.
The first thing that springs to my mind when reviewing any site builder software of substance is “Can you export your site?”.
This is a fundamental requirement in my view because if you are going to build something that is not “Open Source” and therefore freely available then what happens to your beautiful site if and when your provider goes bust, gets taken over or bought out?
Corporate takeovers and buyouts are a common occurrence these days especially in the fast-moving tech industry, and these can contribute to your site going offline and being able to export a backup has to be a prerequisite.
Shopify does support this, and there are also several “Apps” available that will help you with this so that you can export all of your data to a spreadsheet CSV file or XML format. You may need some help to get it imported into something else but at least you can do it, and that's all you need.
Since it's inception in 2005 Shopify continues to hit the numbers and has just released growth figures that show it is expecting a huge revenue surge in 2016 so clearly, it must be doing something right and a record amount of retailers have signed up to the platform in the fourth quarter 2015.
So What Is It That Makes Shopify So Attractive To Users?
Whether you are starting a new online shop or an experienced old hand the key to online success is to spend as little time as possible messing around with the back-end technology and as much as possible on website promotion and customer service. Getting bogged down in the technical details of building an online store can be the death knell for every start-up.
Using a third party that has done most of the spadework for you and makes it easy to implement themes, plug-ins and Apps is what makes it so attractive and combined with its excellent support platform which provides endless design hints and tips it is a “one stop shop” in its own right.
Let's have a look in more detail at what Shopify offers:
24/7 Customer Support
Many people who run online stores also have a day job and so getting support at untimely hours is crucial to them. Shopify offers 24/7 round the clock support via Email, Live Chat and Phone support so beginners through to experts can get their questions and problems answered and resolved quickly.
There are five international dedicated support phone numbers (UK 0800-808-5233 ) and a forum where you can ask for advice and assistance on any problems you want to overcome.
I always find forums are a great place to ask questions because you often get answers that you never expected.
Themes And Templates
You want your store to look great right? There's no point in a brilliant product that doesn't display correctly and show off its good looks.
The Shopify theme store contains over 100 responsive themes that you can easily customise to fit your brand. Shopify actively encourages designers to submit their themes, and there is bound to be one to suit your style requirement. There are both free and premium themes with some of the best ones costing around $180 (£100 roughly). That's a whole site design for what most designers charge for a logo.
The themes are split into different industry categories (Art & Photography, Clothing & Fashion, Jewellery & Accessories, etc.) to make them easy to find, and any theme submitted has to pass a Spotify quality check. Theme designers are only allowed to submit a maximum of two designs per month to keep the quality high and ensure developers are only presenting their best professional work.
Apps And Tools
One of the reasons I love Joomla is because of the vast array of third party PlugIns and solutions, but Shopify also has an App store where you can choose from over 1,000 Apps to overcome your particular challenging situation. Everyone is different, and everyone has their individual idea of how a customer should be served hence the need for custom “Apps”.
These Apps are paid for, but they save you the expense of hiring a custom programmer to do a once only job, and they help out many people – so the total cost is a fraction of getting a custom programming job done.
Your store includes hosting as part of the monthly payment fee, and bandwidth is included as well. I guess the huge amount of stores that never get to be “huge” make up for the few that draw massive audiences and so offering free hosting and bandwidth is an excellent sweetener.
Far more preferable than mucking about with your dedicated server or VPS and having all the management headaches that are associated with that.
You'll also get an SSL certificate that uses 128-bit encryption to keep your information away from prying eyes and all of your data gets backed up automatically which is another manual task that often gets overlooked.
Payment Processing Fees
Very often the “hidden” cost of doing business, credit card payment processing fees can make or break your online business.
Credit card rates decrease as your monthly plan increases so 2.9% if you are on the “Lite” plan down to 2.4% for the “Unlimited” plan.
That compares very favourably with most payment processors.
The $9 entry level price tag should be ignored as all it gives you is a Facebook “Buy Now” button but if that's all you need?
$29 a month is a very decent monthly fee to run an online store and even once you factor in one-time only purchases of themes and Apps that help you make the ultimate customer journey it is still a massive saving over doing the same thing with Magento or a CMS with eCommerce bolt on capability.
If you are serious about making an online business, then the “Pro” package with advanced tools like abandoned cart recovery and gift certificates should be the option for you.
A multitude of themes, excellent customer support and low running costs make this a good alternative to commissioning your custom website.