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What is it like to use Shopify?
It’s been about 6 mo. since I moved my website from a catalog website on WordPress to an online store on Shopify. In this review I’ll let you know my experiences have been with Shopify, and help you decide if it’s right for you.
Before I made the switch I did a lot of testing and research on other online store platforms. Ultimately I decided on Shopify. Shopify’s killer feature is simplicity. What I learned from my testing of other platforms is that building an online store is more complicated than a standard website.
It’s your main business tool.
The platform you choose for your online store will not only be what you use to help you build your website, it will also be the main tool you use to run your business.
This is an important thing to keep in mind. You aren’t just building a website with information on it.
When deciding on a platform I think it’s important to make sure that it is effortless for both customers and employees to use. Which means all of the complexities should handled by the platform.
A good commerce platform should feel simple to use, even though the truth behind it is that it is very complicated.
- Processing Orders
- Viewing your stores performance
- Nice looking store themes
- Over all interface
- Designing custom pages or blog posts
- Manually changing online orders
- Customizing the cart page.
How good is Shopify and helping you create a great online store?
Shopify is designed to help you sell online, and it does a lot of things to help make sure you are successful.
The best thing to me about Shopify is simplicity. It’s a well designed platform that’s easy to use. All of the complexities of building an online store are handled for you. Everything you need is contained within the Shopify system.
This means that you can spend less time dealing with the technical side of building an online store, and more time focusing on doing the things that will help you generate sales on your store.
When you first log in to the back end of your online store you are greeted by the Shopify dashboard. It’s my favorite thing about Shopify. The dashboard has all of the basics and more.
On the dashboard you’ll find:
- Orders that are ready to be processed
- Number of visitors to your site
- Most viewed products
- Recently used search terms
Shopify dashboard cards
What really makes the Shopify dashboard stand out are what Shopify calls cards. These cards go beyond the basic stats of your website, and provide you with insightful and actionable information.
The Shopify cards are like an online store coach, pointing out metrics that can help you to optimize your website and improve sales.
Some of the cards that I have found helpful have been:
- Notifications about missing meta descriptions on pages
- Information about the cities most likely to have potential customers
- Failed customer searches
- Pages that have a high bounce rate
And there have been plenty more. Not only does Shopify provide you with this data, they often include a link to an article to explain why it’s important and how to use this information. This information is valuable to both experienced users and people new to selling online.
Order Processing and user interface
The user interface is generally well designed and easy to use. If you have a team or employees that will be helping you manage your online sales it will be very easy to get them up and running.
When I introduced our team to Shopify it took very little explanation or training to get them processing orders, adding and modifying products and creating pages and blog posts.
The basics of what you and your team will be doing day to day on Shopify are intuitive and easy to do.
Different ways to sell, one platform
With Shopify there are 3 different ways that you can sell your products.
The obvious way is thru your online store. Customers visit your website and place an order thru your website.
If your operation is like ours you might also take orders over the phone, or at a physical store location. You can do both of those using Shopify.
Phone orders can be taken using the website dashboard. You can manually create a draft order. You then have the option of receiving payment over the phone, or you can email an invoice to the customer who can then pay for the order online.
Sell In Store
If you sell in store Shopify offers a point of sale app. This app works on iOS and Android. It allows you to take and process orders in person. The great thing about this is that if you have customers who place orders in multiple ways, you can have all of their sales history in one place.
Separate status for fulfilled and for paid
Some of the other platforms that I looked at lumped the fulfilled and the paid status under one status indicator.
Depending on your payment workflow it can be nice to have these separated. For example if you have a sales team that takes orders over the phone you may also want to have them receive the payment during the call. When they receive the payment they can mark the order paid. Your fulfillment team can then package and ship the order and mark it fulfilled separately.
With a separate status for paid and fulfilled you can handle transactions in multiple different workflows with fewer mistakes.
Organizing communication with your team
Below the orders is a time line where you can see all of the interactions that you and your store has had with the customer. You can also add a comments and tag other staff. The comments here are only visible to your staff.
It’s a great place to add notes about the order that might need to be reviewed later. We’ve been using it to fine tune the shipping costs. The shipping department will tag me in a comment with the actual cost of shipping that item. Then I can open up the order and cross check what the customer was charged for shipping and what shipping actually cost us.
View conversion details for a specific order.
This gives you insight into how someone arrived on your site. How many times the visited before placing and order. This is a great way of learning about what pages and marketing strategies are working to drive sales.
The best way to find out if Shopify will work for your needs is to give it a try. Free two week trial of Shopify.
Getting help with your online store
One of the things that I have been impressed about with Shopify is the ability to get help with your online store.
Shopify is well documented
If you need to learn something about how your online store works, or how to do something on your store. There is lots of information available. Most of it is right in the Shopify help center. For me it has been a very easy to use resource.
Getting help directly from Shopify
If you need help directly from the Shopify team, you can actually get it! I’ve had good luck with calling them, online chat and email. It’s nice to have a platform with real customer support.
Adding functionality or customizing your store
If you want to add functionality or customize your store the easiest way to do that is with the Shopify app store. The Shopify app store is filled with tools to help you get the functionality that you need.
We’re using 2 apps. One is called Boxify and help us more accurately calculate shipping.
The other app we are using is Cloud Cart Connector. This allows us to sync or Shopify orders and product inventory to our accounting software, Quick Books Online.
What if you need a customization that’s not offered in the app store? That’s where the Shopify experts market place comes in.
If you need some custom modifications to your store Shopify has a Shopify experts marketplace. Here you can post the details of the modifications you need and get multiple quotes from qualified expert developers.
I’ve done had 2 customizations done this way. With each project you receive multiple proposals form developers. With each proposal you can see the ratings and reviews from other Shopify store owners on this developer.
When you’ve selected the developer you want to work with you can give them access to your site right thru the dashboard. You can set their permissions. You don’t need to share any passwords or create any additional accounts.
It’s really simple and in my experience I’ve gotten good results.
Building Your Website With Shopify
Shopify websites are theme based. The design of your website is based on the theme that you choose. There are many great looking themes to choose from. Some are free. Some you have to pay for.
One of the downsides of Shopify vs something like WordPress is that there are not a lot of easy to use tools for designing your own pages, so choosing the right theme is really important.
My advice is to spend some time thinking about the theme that you choose.
In particular take a close look at the layout of the product pages.
Make sure that the layout and formatting of the product pages matches the kind of content that you envision putting on the product pages.
The theme that I chose is called Impulse. It’s a paid theme. It fits the over all brand look of our company; it also offers some nice features like, page sections for customizing the look of your home page, and the ability to add recommended items to product pages.
Designing pages and blog posts
With Shopify there is very little control over page or blog post design. There are very basic text controls similar to the old style WordPress editor. These controls allow you to make basic modifications to your text. You can add headers adjust the text styling add add links to text.
You can add images and set their size and alignment. It also allows you to decide the alignment of images and if you wan to allow text to flow around the images.
Those basic controls are your only options for designing pages and blog posts.
If you want to do any more advanced styling like add rows and columns you either need to install an app with a monthly fee, or code it yourself.
If don’t know how to code and aren’t creating lots of custom pages my advice would be to hire a Shopify expert to create your custom designed pages for you. I have a feeling that this would cost around $50, and may be a better value then using an app with a monthly subscription.
What could be improved
There is a lot that I really like about Shopify, but there are some places where I would really like to see it improve.
The Shopping cart and check out.
The overall design of the shopping cart and check out is really good. It flows well and helps your customers get their items quickly and easily. I really like it. I’ve used it many times myself when I’ve ordered from websites that use Shopify.
One thing to note on the check out screens is that these can not be modified. The design of it is fixed. It’s a good thing that it’s a good design!
Changing an order
When a customer places an order on your store. You can’t change it. The only option that you have is to cancel the order and have the customer place it again.
I can understand the thinking behind this. You want to be sure that the customer is getting what they want and that your aren’t changing the order after the fact without their knowledge. However when a customer calls you and just wants to make a simple change to their order. It would be nice to be able to help them with that instead of only being able to cancel the order and ask them to place a new order. There are some Shopify apps to help with changing orders. I haven’t had a chance to try them myself to see how they work.
Shopify by default only calculates the shipping of one item at a time, as if each item ships by itself. If you have a lot of items in your store it gets very complicated to calculate shipping when multiple items may ship together.
Fortunately there are apps to help. We’ve had good luck by adding an app called Boxify. On each item you enter its weight and dimensions. You tell Boxify all of the different size boxes you have and it calculates not only the weight of the items but what items will fit in what box. With a few adjustments I’ve been able to get this to calculate shipping for orders and have it help us to not lose money on shipping.
Shopify uses it’s own programing Language called Liquid. Instead of something more common like PHP. I was a bit worried about this at first. I’m not a code expert, but with a tutorial and a code example I can usually figure out how to make basic modifications.
For someone who is not a code expert I actually found Liquid very easy to understand, but if you already know something like PHP you might find needing to learn another programming language frustrating.
Search Engine Optimization
One of the big things that you will see as a negative about Shopify is that it is not well structured for Search Engine Optimization.
Our original WordPress webisits had several high ranking pages. So far we have not seen any penalty for switching from WordPress to Shopify as far as rankings go.
With a bit of focused SEO work we were able to actually improve the rankings of some of our pages. We moved one listing from about page 5 to the first and second listing on google.
If you focus on the basics of good quality SEO and the things you can control. Shopify will perform just fine for most people.
My final advice
Shopify is an excellent platform. It is the platform that I would recommend to most people who are looking to build an online store. It’s very easy to use and very refined.
Shopify has designed their platform to help you succeed and it shows. The tips on the dashboard are timely and help you to improve your store.
If you need help with your store it’s easy to contact the Shopify team directly for customer support.
You can easily add functionality to your site with Shopify Apps or by using the Shopify experts marketplace to hire a developer to make custom modifications to your website.
When you choose Shopify you are in good company. Many independent online sellers use Shopify as their e-commerce platform.
Sites using shopify
As a customer I’ve used stores built on Shopify, and it provides a great experience for customers.
There are some inconveniences with Shopify. But I think where it matters, helping you to sell online, Shopify is very good at that.
If you are looking to build an online store. I would look at Shopify first. Their platform is well developed, it widely used by all sorts of different types of companies.
The best way to find out if it will work for you is to give it a try! Here’s a link for a free two week trial of Shopify.
If you have any questions about Shopify leave them in the comments bellow!