Shopify Review: Best Ecommerce Platform for Small Businesses
This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
In our review of the best ecommerce platforms, Shopify came in first with a 4.68 out of 5 rating, based on our evaluation of price, site builder features, sales and marketing, product management, and ease of use. Shopify is a complete ecommerce platform that lets you build an online store and sell on multiple sales platforms, making it ideal for multichannel sellers.
What We Like
- User-friendly and intuitive interface
- Scalable platform
- 24/7 support
- Print discounted postage straight from Shopify
- Powerful reporting tells you which items are most likely to sell
- Access to hundreds of additional features and integrations via Shopify app store
- Costs at least $29/month for full ecommerce store
- No low-stock alerts without upgrade
- Shipping calculator requires an annual plan
- Shopify themes are not that customizable
- Third-party apps can be pricey
- Advanced features like reports, fraud analysis, gift cards, and real-time shipping rates only available on higher-tier plans
When to Use Shopify
- Businesses with online sales as a profit driver, as Shopify’s toolsets are powerful and allow you to scale your online business effectively
- Online stores wanting to do social selling, as Shopify has exclusive partnerships with Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to allow in-app purchases
- Multichannel retailers, as Shopify is our recommended multichannel POS system
When to Use an Alternative
- Storefronts needing an online ordering solution: Square Online is a better fit as it lets you build a site for free.
- Restaurants and online food ordering: Tock to Go is a user-friendly and economical option specifically designed for restaurants.
- Enterprise ecommerce businesses: You can choose your own payment processor with BigCommerce for lower rates. It does not charge a fee or markup for connecting an outside payment processor.
Shopify is our top pick for an ecommerce solution because it offers online store, social selling, and point-of-sale (POS) solutions. It provides affordable pricing plans, with lots of room for scalability as your business needs grow.
Our Shopify review finds it’s best for small businesses in general, especially those that focus on selling online. It’s also a flexible solution for multichannel sellers because it has features like express checkout with Shop Pay and installment plans with Shop Pay Installments.
While Shopify is our recommended ecommerce platform for small businesses, there are instances where Shopify’s ecommerce solution is not the right fit for your business. There are Shopify alternatives that can fulfill a specific business need that Shopify cannot.
Shopify Deciding Factors
Supported Business Types
Ecommerce, multichannel retailers, dropshipping, print-on-demand, physical and digital goods, subscriptions
Standalone ecommerce site, buy buttons, social selling, marketplaces
Monthly Software Fees
Very competitive; robust and scalable plans
Starter plan ($5) for social media checkout links
14-day free trial
Setup and Installation Fees
Payment Processing Options
Shopify Payments and more than 100 payment processors
Payment Processing Fees
2.9% + 30 cents when using Shopify Payments; plus 0.5% to 2% in transaction fees when using third-party payment providers
24/7 live chat, email, and phone
Best for: Small storefronts wanting to add an online store
Best for: Growing online businesses that need a scalable platform
Best for: Artists and creators wanting top-rated templates
Best for: Businesses with existing websites
Monthly fee from: $12
Monthly fee from: $29.95
Monthly fee from: $33 (for ecommerce functionality)
Monthly fee from: $0 (Free)
Since our Last Update: Shopify Rate Increase
January 24, 2023 Shopify announced a price increase for its software subscriptions.
This new pricing is effective immediately for new sellers. Current Shopify subscribers can lock in their current rates by opting for an annual subscription before the new pricing takes effect for current sellers on April 23, 2023.
Shopify pricing plans come in four tiers, with all plans providing free unlimited website bandwidth and a “Buy Button” that you can add to your social media channels. All subscriptions also come with the following features:
- Unlimited products
- Sell in 133 currencies
- Shopify POS
- Gift cards
- Online sales channels
- Fraud analysis (when using Shopify Payments)
- Manual order creation
- Discount codes (i.e., welcome codes for new customers or exclusive discounts to your social media followers)
- Customer support (24/7 live chat and phone support in English; 24/7 email support in multiple languages
Shopify’s lack of a free plan prevented it from earning a perfect 5 out of 5 in our pricing evaluation.
Read our comprehensive guide to Shopify pricing.
Numbers of Staff Accounts
Numbers of Locations
Up to 4
Up to 5
Up to 8
Up to 64%
Up to 72%
Up to 74%
Online Transaction Fees
2.9% + 30 cents
2.6% + 30 cents
2.4% + 30 cents
In-person Transaction Fees
Additional Fees for Using Third-Party Payments
Sell In Multiple Languages
Up to 2
Up to 5
Advanced Report Builder
*Shopify collects sales taxes in certain states where it is required by law. The prices stated here do not reflect such taxes. The provider also offers a 10% discount on annual plans and a 20% discount on biennial plans (lump-sum payment).
Basic Shopify lets you build your own online store, market your website with its blogging functionality, and sell on other channels (e.g., Amazon, Facebook, and Pinterest).
The Shopify, meanwhile, plan includes all of the features in Basic, plus advanced capabilities—like cart recovery, gift cards, and expanded reporting capabilities. With this plan, sellers using Shopify Payments to process credit cards pay a lower processing fee; if you sell more than $25,000 per month, this package may be for you.
On the other hand, Advanced Shopify is designed for high-volume sellers that use all the capabilities of the Shopify plan but still need additional features—such as real-time shipping rates and customizable reporting. If you sell more than $110,000 per month, this plan is the most ideal.
As your business grows and your needs go beyond what’s offered in Advanced Shopify, you can contact the provider for a customized ecommerce package through Shopify Plus, the company’s enterprise solution. This starts at $2,000 per month and includes custom-discounted processing fees.
In the News:
- In March 2022, Shopify Flow, which offers the ability to set up automation to ecommerce workflows in online stores, became available to all merchants on the Advanced plan.
- In August 2022, Shopify introduced a new entry-level plan, Shopify Starter ($5/month), which provides you with a checkout link and allows you to sell through social media channels.
Shopify Payment Processing
Shopify has built-in payment processing, which allows you to start taking payments immediately without the hassle of setting up a third-party solution. However, you are not locked into using Shopify’s payment system and can choose to integrate with your preferred third-party provider.
The only catch with using a third-party processor is that Shopify will charge an additional fee ranging from 0.5% to 2% per transaction. So, most small businesses, especially those just starting, are better off using Shopify’s built-in solution, Shopify Payments.
Read our Shopify Payments review and learn how to use Shopify Payments for your business.
Shopify also has PayPal Express Checkout and Amazon Pay, so you can easily enable those payment types in your settings. Under Alternative Payment Methods, there are a few dozen other payment methods you can enable, including many buy now, pay later (BNPL) options like Klarna, crypto payment through Coinbase, and many international payments.
Shop Pay (One-Click Checkout Option)
In The News:
Shop Pay Installments is adding new monthly installment options for all US merchants. Buyers can now opt to purchase products in four interest-free biweekly payments or in monthly installments of up to 12 months on orders between $50 and $17,500.
It is worth noting that using Shopify Payments gives you the Shop Pay feature and the ability to set up a local currency on your checkout page. Shop Pay allows your customers to save their payment details between Shopify stores for faster checkout. It’s similar to Apple Pay or Google Pay in that shoppers can complete orders in one click.
Learn how it works in our Shop Pay guide.
Overall, Shopify offers a lot of features to build your website, including free and paid themes, free SSL certificate, blogging platform, and granular control over elements like product pages and SEO. It also has the most extensive third-party marketplace we have reviewed, offering more than 7,000 extensions. If there’s a feature your online store needs, it’s a near certainty that you’ll find it in Shopify’s app store.
However, Shopify doesn’t include a free domain in its subscription plans.
With Shopify launching its new website builder, Online Store 2.0 (OS 2.0), last year (July 2021), along with new themes, it was able to offer more customization options than its previous version of the website builder, a WYSIWYG editor.
Your Shopify store already comes with a full blogging platform and content management system (CMS), allowing you to set up your store and include website pages such as about, contact, and blog pages. The recently implemented OS 2.0 introduces sections and blocks which offer modularity, flexibility, and, to some extent, drag-and-drop capabilities.
Shopify’s website templates are sleek and stylish and come with most features needed to help you run a store effectively. It is perfect for those averse to coding as it is easy to set up global designs such as font and color choices for your store. With OS 2.0, you can also add, edit, and rearrange content blocks on the front end—no code needed.
However, even if Shopify’s content editor is user-friendly, it is still not as flexible as Wix’s drag-and-drop builder, for example.
Take a look at how we built our demo store in our how to set up a Shopify store guide.
Shopify has nine free and more than 80 paid themes (starting at $180.) The newest free theme, Dawn, is the flagship theme that rolled out OS 2.0’s changes. All available themes include multiple styles and are mobile-commerce ready (if not mobile-first.)
Shopify includes marketing tools that can help boost sales, including discount codes, gift cards, and product reviews. It doesn’t have a built-in loyalty or rewards program, but this can be added through the app marketplace.
One of Shopify’s biggest advantages is having an abandoned cart recovery feature available even on the basic plan, compared to other ecommerce platforms that offer the feature in higher-priced tiers.
Setting up abandoned cart recovery emails helps you interact with customers who don’t place or finish their orders in an effort to lure them back. You can customize your emails, add schedule triggers, and add discount codes as a way of enticing customers back to your store. You can also customize confirmation emails sent to customers when they place an order.
Learn more about shopping cart abandonment.
Shopify offers a built-in email marketing tool, Shopify Email. Everyone on a paid Shopify plan is entitled to send free emails each month. You get to customize your email look with templates and schedule their delivery, but advanced email marketing features such as automation and customer behavior segmentation are not available.
Since our last update:
Shopify increased the number of emails you can send per month, from 2,500 to 10,000, at no extra cost. This increase comes with new email marketing features such as customer segmentation and marketing automation tools and is available across all Shopify plans.
Shopify’s websites are all mobile-friendly, which gives you an advantage when it comes to Google indexing. It is easy to set up headings, meta tags, and descriptions for your store and product pages. When you add products, Shopify also prompts you with SEO best practices. It also offers an automatic redirect system when you change a URL, so you don’t generate 404 errors.
The main thing missing from Shopify’s SEO set is keyword support—something that BigCommerce has. It is also difficult to edit URL structures and sitemaps, and you don’t have access to the robots.txt file.
However, most SEO experts weigh in that despite Shopify’s SEO disadvantages, it still offers an advantage for your store’s SEO. On-page SEO is easy to implement, automatic redirects and site map generation are provided, and site speed and uptime have stellar performance.
Third-party Integrations/App Extensions
Since our last update:
Shopify rolled out an admin update on how to access and launch your Shopify apps.
- You can now access your apps by clicking on the search bar, clicking on Apps in the sidebar, or opening the app launcher using keyboard shortcuts CMD+K / CTRL+K.
- You can pin your most-used apps in the sidebar to make them accessible anytime, anywhere in your control panel.
- You will regularly receive a curated list of recommended apps based on your previous app installs and the apps used by similar businesses.
Shopify’s app store allows you to customize the shopping experience in your store. This allows you to move beyond Facebook and Instagram and incorporate tools—such as your own chat service, targeted ads, affiliate programs, profit calculators, and shipping solutions.
While most ecommerce platforms have their own version of Shopify’s app store, the main difference is that Shopify has a tremendous amount of available apps—from dropshipping to email marketing to customer segmentation. If there’s something your store needs, it’s a near certainty that you’ll find it in Shopify’s app store.
While apps can be pricey (for example, QuickBooks integration starts at $19/month), these can certainly save you time and money compared to developing custom solutions.
Shopify offers a range of selling solutions, including in-person sales, a standalone site, the option to add a shopping cart or buy buttons to an existing site, and the ability to sell on social channels and marketplaces.
It gives you the ability to sell unlimited products (physical and digital goods) and provides store management tools to help you fulfill orders efficiently, like product pages, inventory management, fulfillment and shipping solutions, and built-in marketing and analytics tools.
The “Products” tab gives you an at-a-glance view of the products you have on hand and how many are coming in, and it allows you to manually set actions to take when inventory runs low. Additionally, each item you sell has an editable product page where you can input and modify variants such as descriptions, prices, and shipping.
Adding products to your Shopify store is intuitive. You can choose to set them up one by one from its interface or import them via a CSV file. Product information such as title, description, images or videos, price, and SEO options can easily be filled in on the product page.
One advantage of setting up products in Shopify is the ability to quickly make your product live in other channels once you connect it to your chosen platforms. Aside from social media channels, you can sell your products in bulk (or wholesale) through the Handshake wholesale marketplace and set up dropshipping.
Shopify lets you sell an unlimited number of physical and digital products. However, take note of the following:
- Lackluster features for digital products: If you want to sell digital goods, you’ll need a separate app installed (either Shopify’s own or a third-party app) unless you want to send customers digital files manually.
- Limited product variants: Shopify limits you to three variants per product. For example, if you are selling shirts, you can define options for size, color, and material. These options can have multiple variants (e.g., Size: S, M, L; Color: Black, White, etc.). Shopify will then generate all possible combinations, which can be up to 100 per product. If you need more, you can use one of the third-party apps available in the App Store. Other ecommerce platforms, like BigCommerce, don’t have these limits and support up to 600 combinations.
- No custom product or work order tools: If you need to add custom fields to a product, such as order customization (e.g., engraving), this also requires the use of additional apps. This could quickly add up in terms of costs and be limiting for stores with complex products. This is another feature that is readily available in BigCommerce.
Shopify has one of the best inventory management systems—all account levels can import items, manage returns, and view basic inventory reports, although the most advanced features require a paid upgrade.
Its free app, Stocky, is available on all plans and lets you manage all of your inventory, including stock transfers, label printing, and purchase orders. Real-time tracking between multiple locations is possible, as well as low-stock order alerts—although you need to set this up manually and not depend on EOQ (Economic Order Quantity) reports. However, advanced inventory reports—such as forecasting and COGS (cost of goods sold)—are only available in the Advanced tier.
Order Management & Fulfillment
You can manage your orders across multiple sales channels in your dashboard and also connect with third-party fulfillment centers and dropshipping carriers. After a customer places an order (in any of your active sales channels), it appears in the Orders area of Shopify. You can create orders manually in the backend to record orders that you’ve made outside of Shopify or send your customers invoices.
Besides fulfilling orders and taking payment, you can tag open orders, add notes to them, review the order’s timeline, or follow up with the customer. You also have the option to automate some steps, including payment capture, digital download fulfillment, and order archiving.
Shopify lets you set up three main methods for product delivery: shipping, local delivery, and local pickup. Shipping rules can be set up easily (e.g., flat rate, free shipping, country or region-based rates) for individual products, collections, or your entire store. For businesses with multiple locations, you can set shipping rates per location within each shipping profile for greater control over costs.
Live shipping rates for carriers like USPS, FedEx, and UPS are only available for higher plans such as Advanced Shopify and Shopify Plus. However, if you are subscribed to a lower plan, you can add live shipping rates for around $20 per month. You can also get it for free if you pay for your subscription annually. You will need to contact Shopify support to request this.
If your online store is based in the US, Canada, Australia, or the UK, Shopify Shipping provides real-time shipping rates from local postal services. With Shopify Shipping, you can print shipping labels straight from your dashboard and take advantage of shipping discounts, especially if you are on higher plans.
You can also choose to have order fulfillment handled through the Shopify Fulfillment Network or with services like Amazon. You can join the Shopify Fulfillment Network (limited to stores within the US and Canada), where your products can be stored, picked, packed, and shipped from Shopify’s fulfillment centers around the US. You can enjoy fast (and even same-day) delivery, free packaging, branded packaging, and discounted shipping rates.
In The News:
As of June 2022, Shopify merchants can start using and benefiting from the Twitter sales channel. You can now display shoppable posts in your Twitter profile through Twitter sales channel features—Shop Spotlight and Twitter Shops—at no additional cost (available only for eligible businesses in the US.)
Currently, US shoppers on iOS devices can view and engage with Twitter Shops, and US shoppers on Android and iOS devices can see the Shop Spotlight.
Shopify allows you to sell products beyond your Shopify storefront. It enables you to do business through other platforms, including Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Amazon, Pinterest, and Instagram. While most ecommerce platforms offer tools to sell on social media, Shopify has the most extensive direct partnerships with platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to enable more seamless in-app shopping, catalog management, and order syncing.
Additionally, Shopify allows you to add buy buttons for your products onto any website you manage. However, it lacks compatibility with sales channels accessible by BigCommerce such as Walmart Marketplace and PriceGrabber.
Shopify also launched Shopify Inbox, an app that lets you talk with your customers and subsequently sell through chat, social media, and email. You can customize your online store chat, saved responses, and more right from your dashboard. At the moment, you can connect through Messenger from your Facebook Page and Shop. Instagram is set to launch soon too.
Shopify has a mobile app that allows you to capture payments, fulfill orders, manage inventory, and email or call customers. All your data (products, inventory, orders, and customers) is synced with the platform. This mobile app is completely different from the POS app. Businesses use this app to monitor sales and view reports. Every time you make a sale, the Shopify app notifies you with a signature “cha-ching” cash register sound.
Shopify Store Examples
Package Free sells beauty and household items that come package-free, drawing inspiration from its founder Lauren Singer’s mission to create less wasteful consumer behaviors. Its product pages utilize product reviews, social media share buttons, and product variants.
Allbirds is a footwear company that offers products from threads made from wool and eucalyptus, simple designs, and packaging made from 90% post-consumer recycled cardboard. Aside from its online store, it uses Shopify to sell on its Facebook page.
Simply Quinoa’s website uses Squarespace, as it has more content, but it uses Shopify for its shop. The design transition and integration are seamless. Its product page features related products, an image gallery, product reviews, and social media share buttons.
- Intuitive user interface
- Community forum
- Help center and knowledgebase
- Webinars, e-books, short courses, and how-to videos are available through Shopify Compass
- Shopify experts (approved ecommerce designers, developers, and marketers) are available for an added fee
- Free stock photos and business tools such as logo and slogan maker, business name and domain name generator, gift certificate template, and more
- API documentation for developers
- 24/7 phone, live chat, and email support
Shopify is one of the most user-friendly ecommerce platforms. You can easily access every feature from each interface window, and all the tools are easily learned and used. Designing and arranging store elements is now easier with OS 2.0. If you have any trouble with Shopify’s features, there’s a wealth of help options, including video tutorials, articles, a forum, and 24/7 support.
It provides helpful beginner guides and extensive documentation. Its help page tries to resolve your problem with how-to articles and tips before handing you over to support staff. One of Shopify’s biggest advantages is having a 24/7 support team to assist with your concerns. Most user reviews attest to Shopify’s support team being professional and very competent.
Here, we considered any standout features, the overall value Shopify provides, user reviews, and feedback based on our own experience testing the platform.
Overall, Shopify’s features are definitely worth more than what you pay for. We test its platform frequently to evaluate how it compares with other ecommerce website builders, and Shopify always outperforms them all. Its backend system is user-friendly, with site building and store management operations easily done even by the non-techie small business owner.
Shopify doesn’t only give you the essential tools you need to build and launch your online store, it also provides built-in marketing tools (such as discount codes, email marketing, and an abandoned cart saver feature) to help you increase online sales. What’s more is that it can accommodate your growth as your business expands. Everything you need can be added as an extension from its app store.
If you are on a tight budget, free ecommerce platforms might be a better option, or if you have a specific business need, a Shopify alternative can be considered. However, if you want an ecommerce platform that can grow with your business at an affordable price point, Shopify is hard to beat.
What Users Say in Shopify Reviews
Shopify has amassed a huge number of online reviews, with a majority of users agreeing with our assessment of Shopify being one of the best ecommerce platforms. At the time of publication, Shopify reviews earned the following scores on popular user review sites:
- Capterra: 4.5 out of 5 based on more than 5,600 Shopify reviews
- G2: 4.3 out of 5 based on nearly 4,200 Shopify reviews
- TrustRadius: 8.8 out of 10 based on about 500 Shopify reviews
When reading through Shopify reviews, I noticed these trends from users:
|User-friendly platform||Limited customization for Shopify themes|
|Very helpful 24/7 customer support||Pricey third-party apps (not all, though)|
|Multichannel selling||Lacks advanced inventory features (need to install a third-party app)|
Methodology: How We Reviewed Shopify
We evaluated Shopify by testing the system ourselves. Then, we graded it against the criteria we use to evaluate the best ecommerce platforms. We looked at affordability along with essential ecommerce features every online store should have such as intuitive site builder tools and scalable sales and product features. Ease of use, customer support, and the overall value each system offers were also considered.
Click through the tabs below for a more detailed breakdown of evaluation criteria:
15% of Overall Score
We graded ecommerce platforms based on whether they offer a free plan and monthly scalable pricing options under $100 because most small businesses operate on a budget. We also gave points to platforms that integrate with mobile wallets and popular payment solutions, with bonus points for buy now, pay later financing options and one-click checkouts as these are revenue-driving options for small businesses. Shopify would have earned a perfect score in this criteria save for the free plan provision. However, it does offer a 14-day free trial.
30% of Overall Score
We considered the available templates, customization options, and overall flexibility of the website builder. We also reviewed the quantity and quality of third-party extensions compatible with the software and whether it includes a free domain and SSL certificate, unlimited storage, and built-in SEO tools and site analytics. Shopify earned an almost perfect score again, except for one criterion—it doesn’t offer a free domain name.
30% of Overall Score
We evaluated features essential to online stores, including easy product set up, inventory and fulfillment options, tools for mobile and in-store selling, integrated social media selling, marketplace selling (such as Amazon), and the ability to sell unlimited products (including downloadable files). Since most small businesses take care of marketing themselves, we considered the availability of marketing tools, such as abandoned cart recovery, promotions, and discounts. Shopify earned a perfect score in all criteria, with the inclusion of its abandoned cart recovery feature at its entry plan a primary point of distinction.
15% of Overall Score
Because online stores operate 24/7, we prioritized platforms that offer 24/7 customer support and have multiple customer touchpoints, such as phone, email, and chat. We also awarded points to easy solutions to set up or have guided prompts and a comprehensive help center. Shopify got a perfect score because of its 24/7 multichannel support system and competent support team.
10% of Overall Score
Finally, we considered any standout features and whether or not the software offers an excellent overall value for its price. We also rated the tool’s popularity with small businesses and its compatibility with other small business software. We also awarded points based on our personal experience interacting with the platform and the company’s customer support. The great feedback from our experts’ personal experience dealing with Shopify and the majority of its good user reviews earned Shopify a nearly perfect score.
Shopify Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Who should use Shopify?
Shopify is the best ecommerce platform for small businesses. Startups, those dabbling in online selling, and those serious about growing their online business will benefit from Shopify’s user-friendly, affordable, and scalable platform.
When should I use a Shopify alternative?
There are some situations where an alternative to Shopify should be considered. We rounded up a list of our best Shopify alternatives for the following:
- If you run a brick-and-mortar store and would like to add an online component for pickup or local delivery sales, Square Online is your best option. It lets you build a full website or a simple one-page site for free.
- If you need an online ordering system for your restaurant, an all-in-one POS system with integrated online ordering for pickup and delivery, such as Toast or Tock-to-Go, are better.
- If you have high-volume sales, you might be losing a lot of money with Shopify’s payment processing fees. You might be better off using BigCommerce, which lets you choose your own payment processor so you can shop around for low rates. BigCommerce also offers special low rates for PayPal payment processing, and, unlike Shopify, it does not charge a fee or markup for connecting an outside payment processor. Read our BigCommerce vs Shopify review for a more detailed comparison.
- If you want an ecommerce website on top of a content website, Squarespace is a better option. Shopify is great for ecommerce, but it’s not as fluid when it comes to maintaining content. Squarespace’s drag-and-drop page editor is powerful, and you can learn more in our Squarespace vs Shopify review.
Shopify is the best ecommerce platform and multichannel POS for independent retailers and sellers. Launching your online store with the platform is as simple as it gets. It’s the perfect option for you when you are just starting out—all you need is your inventory and a smartphone. As you grow, you can seamlessly transition into Shopify’s higher-tiered plans.
Shopify provides you with tools to compete with ecommerce giants, such as product reviews, customer live chat, geolocation to change your language or currency based on the visitor’s location, and a customer return portal—and that’s just scratching the surface. With several pricing plans, you can start a small online store and grow it to an ecommerce enterprise all on the same platform.
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