What Is Shopify & How To Use Shopify In 2021

July 16, 2021

If you’ve just begun looking into shopping cart software, chances are you’ve run into Shopify.

What is Shopify? In short, it is an all-inclusive online selling platform with a monthly subscription. Easy enough. But how does actually Shopify work? Once you choose your pricing plan, you can create and develop an online store to promote, sell, and ship your products to customers.

Shopify is popular due to its low startup cost and easy-to-use interface. Shopify is an excellent solution for many merchants, although it’s not perfect. Keep reading for more information about what comes included in a Shopify subscription, how to use Shopify, what products you can sell with Shopify, and the merits and disadvantages of the software.

What Is Shopify?

Shopify is cloud-based software that operates on a monthly subscription model; it gives small business owners access to an admin panel where you can enter store data, add products, and process orders. The software is easy to use and comes with an easy learning curve, so you can get your online store up and running quickly.

Create Product on Shopify Store

Because Shopify is easy to use, if you’re comfortable finding your way through the setup process on your own, you probably won’t have any trouble. If you’d like a little more support through the process, check out our step-by-step Shopify guide to setting up your account and building your store.

You’ll be able to choose from a rich selection of free and for-purchase design templates. These themes are clean and modern, and Shopify provides a variety of editing tools that you can use to make your chosen theme fit your brand.

shopify themes

What’s more, a Shopify subscription includes secure, reliable site hosting for your website. You don’t have to worry about your site crashing during peak traffic or hackers hijacking your transactions. With 99.98% uptime and a free SSL certificate, Shopify has you covered. Of course, you’ll need to choose your subscription level from these choices:

  • Basic Shopify: Priced at $29/month, Basic Shopify allows two staff accounts, up to four locations, access to online marketplaces and social media, and unlimited products in your online store.
  • Shopify: Priced at $79/month, the Shopify plan allows five staff accounts, up to five locations, access to online marketplaces and social media, and unlimited products.
  • Advanced Shopify: Priced at $299/month, Advanced Shopify allows 15 staff accounts, up to eight locations, access to online marketplaces and social media, and unlimited products.

See our complete Shopify pricing guide for more details on these plans, their features, and more.

Shopify boasts that it’s an all-in-one solution. With a Shopify subscription, you should have everything you need to quickly begin selling on your own site. If you need assistance, your monthly Shopify payment entitles you to comprehensive 24/7 customer support. You’ll be able to contact support via phone, email, and live chat. And you can also use Shopify’s knowledgebase to solve smaller problems on your own.

What Is Shopify Lite?

Designed for sellers who don’t want or need a full online store, Shopify Lite is an eCommerce tool that lets you add a sales element to any webpage. That includes social media posts on sites like Facebook and your blog or existing website. For a $9 monthly subscription fee, Shopify Lite users can add a” buy button,” or an embeddable product card and checkout. For example, it’s easy to use Shopify Lite to monetize your Instagram posts.

But that’s not all you get from a Shopify Lite account. You’ll also be able to accept credit card payments or create invoices for wholesale, phone, or custom orders. You can even use Shopify’s point of sale (POS) app to accept payments in person using your iOS or Android device. Read our full Shopify Lite review for more information on how this subscription can fit in with your eCommerce sales strategy.

What Is Shopify Plus?

Large businesses — those doing more than $500,000 in sales each year — may want to make their online home with Shopify Plus. It’s Shopify’s enterprise-level plan, and it comes with a price tag of $2,000 per month or 0.25% of eligible transactions each month. Like all versions of Shopify, Shopify Plus is elegant, simple, and easy to use, although this top-tier version comes loaded with impressive features, such as unlimited selling capacity and special tools like Shopify Flow for automation. It is designed for wholesale and global sales and offers guaranteed priority customer service.

Contact Shopify for pricing information for your business, and read our full Shopify Plus review for more details.

What Can I Sell On Shopify?

Shopify supports many different types of eCommerce businesses. Shopify users can sell physical products, digital products, or drop-shipped products on Shopify (so long as none of the products are illegal). Shopify sellers use the software to market a wide variety of products like:

  • Handcrafted goods
  • Beauty supplies
  • Home goods
  • Outdoors gear
  • Clothing
  • Digital products
  • Online classes
  • Events
  • Gift Cards
  • eBooks
  • And much more!

According to a recent study, the highest trending Shopify items for 2021 are doormats, household storage containers, kitchen towels, bike saddles, handheld device accessories, and toy kitchens and play food — so if your business involves one of those categories, Shopify is an especially good choice.

When it comes to selling goods on Shopify, almost anything goes. The only hard and fast rule is that you can’t sell anything illegal, and the following products are prohibited: alcohol, tobacco and e-cigarettes, fireworks, drugs, video game currency or credits, firearms, and weapons.

This list of excluded products is subject to change; for example, over the past year the policy regarding CBD products was updated and Shopify now allows sales of CBD products lawfully derived from hemp. Be sure to check for the latest news on restrictions before you start building your Shopify store.

What Are The Pros & Cons Of Shopify?

As you may expect, while Shopify is an excellent option for many merchants, it isn’t for everyone. Here’s a brief list of the reasons merchants choose Shopify, followed by a list of common customer complaints:

Shopify Pros

  • Easy To Use: This is by far the biggest reason merchants love Shopify. Shopify is built for the average user, not skilled developers. It’s simple to add products, create discounts, and process orders. Web design is user-friendly and even easy with Shopify’s drag-and-drop editing tool.
  • Low Startup Cost: Shopify’s relatively low monthly fees make setup affordable. How much does Shopify cost, you ask? The basic plan costs $29/month, and the mid-level plan is priced at $79/month.
  • Beautiful Themes: Subscribing merchants can choose from a variety of free, mobile-responsive themes. Premium (paid) themes are also available for merchants who want more options.
  • Good For Dropshipping: Shopify is the platform of choice for many dropshippers. Shopify’s dropshipping integrations with top names like Spocket and Oberlo make dropshipping from your Shopify admin a lot simpler.
  • Lots Of Support Options: You can access technical support every hour of the day through phone, live chat, and email. Self-help options are available as well. Customers like that Shopify’s support is available outside of regular business hours.

Shopify Cons

  • Limited Functionality: Shopify comes preloaded with almost all the features small businesses need to build an online store. However, every business has some specialized requirements, and Shopify typically does not have the features to meet those specific needs. This is where add-ons come in. Many merchants end up needing to purchase a handful of add-ons to make this shopping cart work the way they need it to.
  • Costly Add-Ons: While Shopify offers almost every basic feature, the software is lacking many advanced features. You’ll have to find these features in the form of add-ons, which are not free. The cost of adding just three add-ons can double your monthly fees.
  • Transaction Fees: Although most shopping carts have dropped their transaction fees entirely, Shopify has retained its 0.5% to 2.0% fees (depending on your pricing plan). You do have the option to have Shopify waive these fees when you accept payments through Shopify Payments. However, Shopify Payments has its fair share of complaints, and it may not be the best payment processor for everyone.
  • Strained Customer Support: While Shopify has been known for responsive customer support in the past, more recent customer reviews voice mixed reports on the support team. Some users are impressed by the support they received, while others complain that Shopify support representatives were not able to help them resolve their issue.

How To Use Shopify To Build Your Shop

Are you wondering how to sell on Shopify? The way to get the most out of your Shopify subscription is to play to the software’s strengths. Shopify offers a few feature modules that you can use to boost your administrative power and expedite daily processes.

Look Into Shopify Payments

If you’ve read our review of Shopify, you know that one of Shopify’s biggest drawbacks is its transaction fees. Shopify charges between 0.5% and 2.0% on every transaction you make using its platform (depending on your plan). However, if you choose to use Shopify’s in-house payment processor, Shopify Payments, you can have those transaction fees waived. Another benefit is that Shopify Payments offers reduced processing fees to clients on higher-level Shopify plans.

Take a look at the Shopify Payment’s rates below.

Shopify pricing plans

A word of warning: Many Shopify customers complain that they aren’t permitted to use Shopify Payments. Make sure you read through the Terms of Service before you count on enabling Shopify Payments.

You should also look into your other options for payment processing before you commit to Shopify Payments. Sure, it would be great to get your transaction fees waived, but you may find that another payment processor can offer you a better deal. It’s best to do your research and crunch the numbers before you commit to any processor. For more information, view our full article on the pros and cons of Shopify Payments. And to learn how to select a payment processor, take a look at our Beginner’s Guide to Payment Processing. It explains everything from understanding rates and fees to negotiating for the best deal.

Utilize Shopify Themes & Templates

Shopify is best known for its ease of use and modern web design. Here’s a sample of Shopify’s themes:

shopify mobile friendly design

In particular, I’m a fan of Shopify’s drag-and-drop editor, Sections. The Sections editor lets you edit the look of your homepage using simple drag-and-drop design tools. I love how easily you can rearrange pieces of your web pages. If you want more control, Shopify also lets you change the look of your site through editing your site code.

Become Multichannel With Shopify POS

If you’re a multichannel merchant who sells in-person as well as online, Shopify is an excellent choice.

Shopify makes it easy to sell in brick-and-mortar and pop-up shops with its in-house POS system. When you sign up for Shopify’s eCommerce store, you’ll also automatically gain access to Shopify POS. Shopify POS lets you easily complete in-person retail transactions and process credit card payments. Your online store and POS system are synced so that every inventory change you make on one platform appears on the other.

If you’d like more specific information on credit card processing and ease of use, we’ve written a full review of Shopify POS.

Try Selling Digital

Shipping is one of the biggest hassles involved with online selling, and it can really cut into your profits. Selling digital products allows you to benefit from all the perks of selling online while eliminating one of the major downsides.

Using Shopify’s native digital product features, you can sell downloadable merchandise. Market your MP3 files, printables, videos, and ebooks. Disable shipping on those products and let customers download digital products right from your site. Load up a few downloadable products and start fulfilling customers’ orders faster, without spending a penny on shipping.

Start A Blog

Maintaining a blog can work wonders for your online store. Not only do regular blog posts boost your SEO rankings, but they also help to build your brand’s identity. Fortunately, Shopify is one of a handful of shopping carts that comes with built-in blog features. You can write, edit, and publish blog posts right in your admin panel.

For most merchants, Shopify’s blog functionality will work perfectly fine, but I should warn you: As with many of Shopify’s features, Shopify’s blogging is pretty basic.

If you want your blog to be the main focus of your online store, Shopify may not be the right choice. You might instead look into the Shopify alternative WooCommerce, which lets you add a shopping cart into a pre-existing blog instead of the other way around. Alternatively, you could use the BlogFeeder app to link your WordPress account with your Shopify store. This app lets you manage your blog on WordPress and then import it to Shopify, which may give you access to more robust blogging features.

However you do it, you should start a blog on your store. It’ll do you good.

Tap Into Shopify Customer Service

We love SaaS solutions such as Shopify for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is customers’ ready access to free technical support. Shopify is one of the eCommerce industry’s leaders when it comes to customer support; the company offers support options in every avenue, including phone support, email support, live chat, written documentation, video tutorials, webinars, and a community forum.

With so many support options available to you, you’ll never have to go it on your own. When you run into a problem, contact support. If it isn’t a dramatic fix, it won’t cost you anything at all.

Take Advantage Of Shopify Add-Ons

Shopify’s Marketplace is packed with a whopping 3,500+ add-ons. Because Shopify comes relatively light out-of-the-box, you’ll likely need to add a few integrations like shipping software, payment gateways, or email marketing software. But with so many add-ons to choose from, you’re sure to find the extensions you need. You can even find some great free Shopify apps that will improve your store’s look and function without costing you a dime.

In particular, you should look into incorporating shipping software to beef up your order processing. Take a look at our top recommendations for shipping software, or look at the abbreviated version below:

  • ShippingEasy: ShippingEasy lets you import orders, create shipments, and pay for and print postage. And fortunately, it is easy to use. Read our full ShippingEasy review to learn more.
  • Ordoro: Ordoro is a shipping solution that includes inventory management (if you choose to pay for it). Customers are especially fond of Ordoro’s dropshipping features. Take a look at the integration page in the Shopify Marketplace and read our Ordoro review to learn more.
  • ShipStation: ShipStation is arguably the best-known shipping software on the market. It integrates with nearly all of the most popular shopping carts and marketing software, and it’s relatively affordable. Take a look at our ShipStation review to learn more about this eCommerce shipping option.

Other Ways To Make The Most Of Shopify

Here are a few final tips on how to get the most out of your Shopify account and boost your eCommerce business:

  • Shopify Shipping: Shopify’s shipping module allows you to integrate with major shipping carriers to calculate real-time shipping rates. You can purchase and print shipping labels directly from your admin panel. With Shopify Shipping, you can even display calculated rates in your customers’ shopping carts. Our full explanation of Shopify Shipping provides more information.
  • Dropshipping Apps: Shopify allows you to integrate with a handful of dropshipping applications, including a popular option called Oberlo. I have seen numerous reports of success with these applications in combination with Shopify.
  • Mobile Management: Shopify offers mobile apps for Android and iOS that will let you manage your store from anywhere.
  • Integrations With Amazon & eBay: Connect your Shopify account with two of the internet’s biggest marketplaces, and process orders from all of your sales channels in Shopify. It should be noted that while we’re glad Shopify and eBay have created these integrations, they have not garnered good reviews with Shopify’s user base. To know more, check out our post about Amazon and eBay integrations with Shopify.
  • Promote Shopify On Social Media: Don’t forget to integrate your Shopify store with your social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest so that your products can reach a wider audience.

How To Start Selling On Shopify With A Shopify Free Trial

If you’re considering Shopify, take the first step to get started and sign up for the 14-day free trial. You won’t have to enter any credit card information to access the trial; you will just need to submit contact information and answer a few questions about your business.

shopify store settings

During your trial, make sure to test every aspect of Shopify’s software. Add products, create marketing campaigns, change your storefront design, and add on an application or two. Make sure Shopify can handle all of your daily operations. Look for any advanced features you may need, such as filtered search, abandoned cart notifications, and pop-up promos, so you can see how those additional expenses will fit into your budget.

Once you’re sure Shopify is the right choice for you, choose your appropriate pricing plan and read our step-by-step guide on how to set up a Shopify store and start selling online.

Pro Tip: As you explore your new platform, don’t forget about Shopify’s vast app marketplace. Shopify offers more than 3,500 extensions and applications that can help fill in any gaps in features you may find. And remember that when you run into trouble, you can always reach out to Shopify’s support team.

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