If you’re looking to build an online store, you’ve no doubt come across Shopify. They’ve got a pretty good reputation, some high profile endorsements and a slick marketing campaign.
I use Shopify but also Bigcommerce for my stores. There are things I like and dislike about both.
Preface: Noobs like Shopify
I’ve read numerous interviews or listened to podcasts where some dude that’s just started their first store is telling you about their success and how you should most definitely use Shopify because that’s what they use and it’s simply the best and don’t even waste your time with anything else. I’ve seen this numerous times which is the only reason I mention it.
Now look: I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade. I’m very supportive of people just starting out and that’s truly great if you’re seeing success as well. It just annoys me when people give advice like it’s gospel when they’ve only just started themselves. This applies to a lot more than choice of shopping cart, of course.
I’ve crunched the numbers on a few occasions after hearing an interview and figured, hey, this guy isn’t actually making much money! The revenue might sound impressive but how much are they actually taking home? It’s great if you’re just starting out and you have my support but just don’t act like you’re an expert. How can you say Shopify is the best if you have nothing to compare it to? It’s the blind leading the blind.
With that mini rant over, I figured I’d tell you a few things I actually don’t like about Shopify.
Things That Annoy Me
1. Really Bad “Out-of-the-Box” SEO
I can’t speak for every Shopify theme here but the fact that I experienced this on the default, basic theme was a bit of a worry. I decided to stick with the default theme for a store of mine. It was clean, simple; all I needed.
This wasn’t my first store and I’m not new to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), so I knew how it should be setup structurally and am aware of on-page issues. It really bugged me then, when I realized the default theme was quite obviously creating a huge amount of duplicate content (a big Google no-no).
If I wanted to add text to my homepage, I needed to first create a page with the content, then assign that page to the homepage. Simple enough and even quite logical. The problem, however, was that it also published the page and content on a separate URL. So the same content was visible and published on my store at www.mystore.com but also www.mystore.com/page/frontpage.
This wasn’t evident at first until I checked what pages of my site were indexed in Google. But sure enough, I found the second URL (where the content shouldn’t have existed) sitting nicely in Google’s index. Great.
A similar thing was happening with my product page URLs. I setup my product pages with nice long descriptions, where the URL would look like this: www.mystore.com/products/my-great-product. And with all my products up, on the surface and to the untrained eye, the store looked normal. You could navigate and click your way around the site just fine.
However, at the default settings of this theme, I noticed something off with some of the URLs. While products featured on the homepage would link to the correct product page URLs (www.mystore.com/products/my-great-product), if you were viewing a category page, the links to product pages would look something like this: www.mystore.com/category/products/my-great-product.
Either URL would take you to the identical product-listing page and therein lies the problem. For all my products, the same content (product descriptions, titles and images) existed at 2 URLs, again creating a nice bit of duplicate content.
So I had a duplicate of the homepage content sitting on the site and each of my products existing on 2 separate URLs, both being linked to from different places in my site.
In the grand scheme of things, will a tiny bit of duplicate content affect your rankings in the Search Engines? No. But would something on this scale? You bet! It was a mess.
Because I knew what I was looking at and aware of it, I was able to solve both issues relatively easily and Shopify is certainly versatile enough to be setup well for SEO. What annoyed me was the fact that these were the default settings. And the issue with the homepage being duplicated was just straight up bad design of the theme. I was basically brushed off when I brought it up in the forum and even ended up using a paid app to keep the separate homepage URL out of Google’s index (I’ll get to that).
3. Transaction Fees!
Shopify’s transaction fees are very inflexible.
In order to accept credit cards on your store you will need a payment processor of some sort and with Shopify, you are very much encouraged to use Shopify Payments. This is fair enough on their part and if you’re new to starting an online business and you don’t have a merchant provider already, Shopify Payments is a super quick and easy way to get up and running (saying that, it’s just as easy to get an account with Stripe, the company that powers Shopify Payments). Anyway, their standard rates (2.9% + $0.30 per transaction) are pretty reasonable.
However, the problem comes when you start doing any sort of volume in sales. And don’t presume you won’t ever do a significant enough volume of sales to worry about this. That’s not a very good attitude to start but also, even a handful of sales of a high-ticket product could have you in the 5 figures of revenue.
There might come a point when your store is making consistent sales and revenue and you start thinking you’ll shop around for a better rate credit card processor. Saving an extra 1% or more on transaction fees can really add up! You can certainly get better rates than Shopify Payments offer. Shopify won’t give you a better rate dependent on your sales volume so the best rate you will get is if you upgrade to their Unlimited Plan at $179 per month, and that still offers only 2.4% + $0.30.
On the other hand, something like Paypal Website Payments Pro is a very good alternative for accepting credit cards on your site, and they give you a better rate depending on your sales volume. Their fees start at 2.9% + $0.30 just like with the Basic Shopify plan, however, a mere $3000.01 to $10,000 revenue per month will qualify you for 2.5% + $0.30 per transaction. That’s already better than all but Shopify’s most expensive plan. And start making over $10,000.01 in revenue per month and you’re looking at a Shopify-Payments-beating 2.2% + $0.30 USD!
Think that revenues out of reach? That’s just 10 sales of a $1000 product. Set your sights higher my friend!
Paypal Payments Pro Fee Structure (for US customers)
I should also point out that it’s quite possible to get a credit card processor with even lower fees; less than 2%.
And I know what you’re thinking: “Okay, I understand. But when I start making more sales I’ll just switch to a different credit card provider and integrate it with my Shopify store.”
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
You can technically do that but unlike other shopping cart software platforms such as Bigcommerce, Shopify will charge you a per-transaction fee alongside the transaction fee of your credit card processor, just for using anything other than Shopify Payments: a whopping 2% per transaction on their basic plans, a cheeky 1% with their Pro Plan and even 0.5% on the Unlimited Plan. Even $179 a month doesn’t let you use your own credit card provider without Shopify taking a transaction fee!
Many other shopping cart solutions don’t charge a transaction fee for using a third party payment processor like Paypal Payments Pro, even on their basic plans. In a best-case scenario, you’ll always be at least 0.5% per transaction worse off with Shopify.
3. No Email Accounts
Most hosted shopping cart solutions similar to Shopify allow you to create email accounts i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org hosted on their server. These can then easily be integrated with your favorite email client such as Gmail, for free. Even the most standard, cheap hosting companies allow you to create email accounts like this.
Shopify, however, don’t. While you can create email address with various prefixes followed by @yourstore.com through Shopify, without a third party application, you can only forward the email address to another email address you already own. So email@example.com can be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a workaround but it’s just not professional. The problem comes when you want to reply to one of your customers. Instead of them receiving the email from email@example.com, your reply will come from your personal email.
In order to setup an email address through Shopify that you can actually send and receive as firstname.lastname@example.org and integrate with your favorite email client, you need to use a third party app such as Zoho (free) or Google Apps ($5+ per month). At best it’s an inconvenience and at worst you actually have to pay for it.
4. Apps a Requirement
Following on from the above point, there are a few times I want to do something pretty basic with my Shopify store and I’m required to use a third party Application from their App store. I’m all for apps and plugins that enhance the functionality of a software product but its annoying when I’m only trying to achieve a pretty basic task. Again, at best it’s an inconvenience and at worst you even have to pay for it.
Going back to my first issue of duplicate content with the homepage text also appearing on another URL, in order to add a simple no-index tag to this page telling Google not to index it, I had to install an app costing $1 per month. It hardly breaks the bank, I know, but it’s just such a simple task and other platforms offer the ability to do such a thing as standard.
So There You Have it
So there you have it, a few little pet peeves of mine about this popular online shopping cart software.
Do I dislike Shopify completely? No. I still use it for one of my stores. It’s incredibly quick to get up and running, very easy to use and pretty versatile with the right help. Your store will most definitely look beautiful with any Shopify theme (though I value things like site structure more) and I’ve been told that the code Shopify use (called Liquid) is one of the best to work with from a developer’s point of view. The support is also very good. Shopify is certainly better than Bigcommerce.
I know some e-commerce training courses strongly recommend Shopify (see my Drop Ship Lifestyle review) so if you’re brand new to e-commerce, your product range doesn’t require a lot of different options and you’re happy with the transaction fees on offer, Shopify can be a great solution. It’s not perfect but, hey, no solution is.