What is Shopify?

Natalie Miller
Natalie Miller
April 15 · 15 min read
Shopify start page on a laptop screen

Shopify is a revolutionary eCommerce platform that is insanely functional and boasts plenty of great features.

It is primarily an online store builder that possesses all the tools for businesses to start selling online successfully. Shopify online stores have stellar functionality and great power.

A walk down the Shopify memory lane

Before Shopify could ever be the company it is today, it started as its very own online store named Snow Devil.

Snow Devil was an online sales portal that sold snowboards and was created in 2004 by Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand, and Scott Lake.

Over the next two years, Tobias Lütke would get increasingly frustrated with the limited functionality of the existing eCommerce software. As a developer himself, he understood that their website could have a lot more functionality than it had.

So, the initial dream was to sell online. Their snowboards would be the product, and Snow Devil the online store, that Tobi developed on his own.

However, soon the trio saw scope for more. People were looking at their store and liked what they saw. Hence, they asked the trio whether they could use the same eCommerce software.

In 2006, the three launched Shopify. Their very own eCommerce platform. No longer was there any focus on selling snowboard. Instead, they had now launched an entire platform that could cater to store owner upon store owner. Their very own Shopify ecommerce platform was born.

‘’Over 1.75 million merchants use Shopify as their primary platform for selling online. Over 457 million buyers came to and shopped at Shopify stores. Shopify boasts over 7,000 apps in its App Store’’. source

Pretty solid reason to start your own website using Shopify. Shopify works for businesses of all sizes, from a small business to beast-like enterprises.

Create your own online store with Shopify

Master E-Commerce Platform

Shopify is an E-Commerce platform that you can use to build your online store.

You are able to create an online store that boasts your products/services that people can purchase in real time.

It’s a phenomenal platform that has many features that will allow you to offer your online visitors a user friendly browsing experience.

In addition to this, it also offers offline usability in the form of their POS system which stands for ‘Point of Sale’ that you can do in person, i.e., when a customer comes to your store and makes a physical purchase.

Shopify allows everyone from individual entrepreneurs, over small and mid-sized businesses to large corporations to build and manage their own online stores.

Having an eCommerce store built on Shopify will bring your business a lot of flexibility and functionality, as they are constantly working on improving their service to their merchants.

With a Shopify store, Shopify merchants can start selling on Shopify without a problem and comparatively quickly. Regardless of the size of your business, there are many Shopify plans that are available to power any kind of online business.

Shopify offers many benefits to merchants, including a user-friendly interface, reliable hosting, and a wide range of customization options. One of the best Shopify features is its extensive app store, which allows merchants to add important functions to their online stores such as customer reviews, email marketing, and abandoned cart recovery. It allows merchants to offer special discount codes on products. Merchants can easily take advantage of the clever fulfillment process to keep track of their inventory.

Shopify also offers 24/7 support, making it a reliable and stress-free platform for online businesses. Overall, Shopify is a valuable ecommerce solution for merchants looking to grow their business.

Shopify Pricing

There are 5 different Shopify plans available to merchants. Let us take a look at the Shopify pricing below.

These different plans ensure that businesses, regardless of their budget, size and needs, find a Shopify plan that suits their requirements.

5 Shopify Plans

Starter (previously known as Shopify Lite)

https://www.shopify.com/starter

Basic Shopify

https://www.shopify.com/pricing

Shopify

https://www.shopify.com/pricing

Advanced Shopify

https://www.shopify.com/pricing

Shopify Plus

https://www.shopify.com/plus

We've gone into detail on each of the above plans, their costs, and the pro's and con's that come with each of these plans – which businesses benefit best from each of the Shopify plans and how they work. The Shopify features and the Shopify cost to each plan is important to compare. Read more about it on our Post about 'Shopify Plans and Pricing'.

Shopify Design

Templates on the Shopify Store

When you ask yourself 'What is Shopify?' One of the answers is often 'A great place to find templates for your online store'.

This is true. But to be fair, Shopify is so much more than this but the themes that they offer are pretty exceptional too. Their Shopify theme store allows you to pick some of the very best templates out there.

With the themes that Shopify offers, you can create the online store of your dreams.

Shopify's online store builder is exceptional and easy to navigate. It has everything you want on there, it will have little icons you can use to show you have social media, it has little icons to show which payment methods you process eg. credit card, PayPal, ApplePay etc.

There are free themes and there are themes that need to be paid for.

As you can imagine, the ones that are free come with a certain generic look. They are wonderful and can handle quite a lot of changes in colours, fonts etc. but they are not exactly perfectly suited for businesses with high demands.

The paid themes on the other hand come with more flexibility and functionality but – you have to pay for them, so that's the down side there.

It really depends on what you need, Shopify offers themes for every kind of business.

If you don't know what you need, then why not sign up for the 14 day free trial that Shopify offers. You're not bound to continue with them after these 14 days. This period is meant to give you a taste of what being a Shopify merchant feels like. It is a good opportunity to take advantage of as you will see which themes are available, if it's easy to make changes yourself, or if you need a dev team, if Shopify has the right features for your business etc.

You can sign up for the 14 day free trial with Shopify here.

Your Shopify Online Shop

What Shopify does for your Shopify online shop is, it provides you with the foundation to set up and run an online store of your own. Using the above-mentioned template, you will be able to open a storefront, have all your products on your site (there is no limit to the number of products you can have, regardless of which plan you choose) and finally engage with your customers.

The great thing about the service that Shopify offers is that they allow anyone wanting to sign up for one of their plans the option to use Shopify as a trial for 14 days for free.

If you feel like the Shopify theme store is not perfect for your eCommerce website then you can also custom build your website.

Creating a custom built online store is more tricky than working off a theme. It comes with a higher investment and it requires a group of specialised tech developers to assist.

One way of going custom is:

Going headless

If you're not happy with the Shopify themes on offer, then you need to build your own.

Luckily, Shopify supports this. You can still use Shopify as your eCommerce platform but build the user interface i.e. the front-end from scratch.

Headless is a truly phenomenal way to create your own online storefront that suits the unique demands of your customers and allows you to sell products exactly how you like them. From the look of your product, to the option of selling in bundles, down to the check-out experience of your customers. Your eCommerce business will benefit greatly in its configuration and scalability by going the headless route.

Okay, now we're getting carried away with what we're most passionate about – Headless. And that isn't fair to you, dear reader, as you came here for Shopify information. However, if you're keen to learn more about it, here is some more information about going headless. Take a read of our blog 'Headless Commerce – What is it?'

Shopify Dashboard

The Shopify dashboard allows you to have a clear overview of your online business and your online sales channels.

The Shopify dashboard naturally forms part of the Shopify interface. On the Shopify interface you will find topics on the left column like 'Home', 'Orders' 'Products', 'Customers' etc.

Now the Shopify dashboard is the analytic part of your business. It shows you the most valuable information, often in the form of graphs or numeral values. This is the section that Shopify excels in providing their Shopify merchants. The data marks the performance of their online store and the behaviour of their customers.

Being able to see and understand the analytics of your online store is vital to the success of your eCommerce business.

On the Shopify dashboard you will be able to browse the following:

  • Average order value
  • Online store conversion rate
  • Online store sessions by device type
  • Online store sessions by location
  • Online store sessions by traffic source
  • Online store sessions from social source
    (Good to know where you can target your content marketing and for your general marketing strategy)
  • Returning customer rate
  • Sales by POS location
  • Sales by social source
  • Sales by staff
    (Great for Shopify POS which we will get into shortly)
  • Sales by traffic source (Again, brilliant for your marketing strategy)
  • Top landing pages
  • Top products by units sold
  • Top referrers by sessions
  • Total online store sessions
  • Total orders
  • Total sales
  • Sales attributed to marketing

If you'd like more detailed information on the above points, visit the extensive explanation of the Shopify website here.

Shopify App Store

The Shopify App store is where things happen. Shopify apps are useful and simple to use.

You should sign up for the 14 day trial period solely to enjoy testing the Shopify App store! What an experience! You have access to features that allow you to build your own online store. You will also be able to test out the almost countless Shopify Apps. The reason you may need to incorporate apps to your online store is because you can expand on the functionality of your site with apps.

Let’s run through an example:

You have a Shopify online shop. Say you run a cake company and receive daily orders. Each morning you need to add a tag to your list of orders, separating the dates so that you know on which day, which cakes are needed. Tags come with a standard Shopify plan, so no app needed for that just yet. You use your ‘date tag’ and are presented with all the cakes going out on a certain date. Now, you need to somehow accumulate this daily order and pass it on to your pastry team so that they know which cakes they need to bake for that day. This is where you need an app. You need to install an app that allows you to collate all this information onto one document, so this is where an app like Order Picklist would come in handy.

It’s less important to go into detail about this specific app called ‘Order Picklist’ and more into apps in general and what they can do for you. What you’re achieving with Shopify Apps is essentially making everything as streamlined as possible for yourself and your business. Please note, however, that there are countless apps out there, so just make sure that you research the ones that suit your needs best and that also suit your budget (the price varies depending on which app you go for).

The point of the Shopify app store is to add additional 'applications' that Shopify merchants can download to improve their website, however that might look. For one online business it might mean downloading an app that helps them collate their daily orders like the app 'Order Picklist'.

For a different online business it might mean downloading an app that allows their customers to track the shipping process like 'Parcel Panel Order Tracking'. The page to download it will look like the one below and all you need to do is hit 'Add app'.

Other classic use cases for apps include product reviews, advanced search and filter options or a social media feed.

Shopify POS

Shopify POS stands for Shopify Point of Sales.

The Shopify POS app is a system for making sales in person. This is where you can process sales transactions and accept payments for in person-sales.

Shopify POS allows merchants to grow out of only being online retailers, but giving them the possibility to make in-store sales too.

The Shopify POS system is linked to your Shopify store and Shopify admin. It is such a nifty invention for any business wanting to sell to more than just their online audience.

It is amongst the top eCommerce point of sales solutions. The Shopify POS system is an excellent app that empowers businesses who are Shopify merchants.

It is great for Shopify store owners who are trying to tap into their real life buyers. Whether this be at a few pop up shops or at their retail stores.

You have the choice of either Shopify POS Lite or Shopify POS Pro.

See how Shopify compares the pricing of the two below:

Shopify Payments

Revolutionary.

Shopify payments changed the way online selling works.

Shopify payments is Shopify's very own payment service.

Shopify payments allows your business to accept payments online without the need of a third party payment gateway.

It is an integrated payment service that comes with your Shopify plan – all you need to do is activate Shopify payments on the payments page in the settings of your Shopify store.

If you'd like to set up Shopify payments for your own online store, then go ahead and sign up here.

Of course there are still the usual ones like PayPal, Klarna, Stripe etc. but Shopify has made it easier for their Shopify merchants to accept payments with this. Naturally, if you are able to accept a high multitude of payment methods, you will increase the chances of customers purchasing from you as they will be able to pay whichever way they prefer. This will increase brand loyalty and which will hopefully boost sales.

It has made payment processing simpler and Shopify rewards the merchants who use this by charging lower transaction fees than with third party payment providers.

If you would like to know more about Shopify Payments, then read our blog about it here.

Shopify Pros & Cons

By reading this article, you should now have a great idea of what Shopify is and what it can do for you. Shopify is one of the most popular eCommerce platforms and for good reason – it's easy to use, has tons of features and integrations, and is reasonably priced. However, like any platform, it has its pros and cons. So, to finish this article, let’s take a look at the key things you should weigh and consider before using Shopify.

Shopify Pros

If you read until here, you should already have an idea of why Shopify is such a great eCommerce platform. Let’s go through the biggest benefits in short:

Ease of Use

Shopify is extremely user-friendly, even for those with no technical background. The platform is intuitive and easy to navigate, and setting up your store is a breeze.

Feature-rich

Shopify comes packed with features to help you run your business smoothly. From automatic inventory management to abandoned cart recovery, there's a lot to love here. And if you need even more features, there are plenty of apps and integrations available.

Scalable

Shopify is a great platform for businesses of all sizes. It's scalable, meaning that it can grow with your business as you expand and add more products or customers.

Affordable

Shopify plans start at just $29/month, making it one of the more affordable eCommerce platforms on the market, especially for small businesses. Yet, even enterprise size businesses may find that they can save money by switching to Shopify Plus.

Excellent customer support

If you ever have any questions or require help with your store, Shopify's customer support team is always happy to help out. They offer 24/7 email and live chat support, as well as a huge knowledge base of articles and tutorials.

Shopify Cons

Of course, every software has its pros and cons. Let’s look at the things that Shopify doesn’t do as well or where other options shine brighter.

Limited Design Options

The themes on the Shopify's theme store are clean and modern, but there aren't as many options available as for some other platforms like WooCommerce. This can make it tricky to find a theme that perfectly matches your brand. Thus, you might need to hire developers to customize a theme or build one from scratch to get exactly the design you want.

Percentage-based fees

While Shopify is one of the more affordable eCommerce platforms, there are still some fees to be aware of. For example, if you use a third-party payment processor like PayPal or Stripe, you'll be charged a transaction fee of 2%. If you are running a business with small margins, this can be too much for you.

Push into Shopify Payments

Shopify Payments is a nifty payment solution, especially when starting a business. However, there are downsides to using Shopify Payments: It is only available in certain countries and the payment fees can be significantly higher than with other payment providers. Yet, a lot of Shopify functionality is exclusively available or will only work well with Shopify Payments, like recurring payments or multi currency, which can lock you into using Shopify Payments even if you would prefer another option.

Rigidity

Shopify is first and foremost a platform to host an online store on. It provides the basic functionality to do so for everyone who wants to run a standardized eCommerce business. Yet, it is not the most flexible platform and if you wish to get creative with your process or offering, Shopify might not be able to adapt to your needs.

Conclusion

Shopify is part of the elite pack of eCommerce platforms out there.

The Shopify platform is tech of the highest form. It was created by three people who wanted to sell a product they were passionate about. But not just through an online store, they wanted their buyers to go through an enjoyable experience when purchasing from them.

This humble wish is what set them on a path to create Shopify and is what steered them continuously in becoming the Shopify we all know and love today.

Shopify is all encompassing. It has some of the best features and tools out there. So we think that instead of asking yourself 'What can Shopify do for me?' we hope that now at the end of this blog you now think 'Well my goodness, what on earth can't Shopify do!?'. And the answer to that one? We will leave you to figure that out for yourself.

If you'd like to start selling on Shopify and have your own Shopify account and be a Shopify merchant, we can help you with this! Or if you having an existing website on a platform that you are no longer happy with, please do get in touch with us per email on hello@especial.digital or visit our website here. We'll help you build, create or migrate!

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Natalie Miller
Written by

Natalie Miller

Marketing Manager

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