The Shopify platform is built for selling products online. Physical products are its foundation, but you can sell digital products using Shopify as well. In addition, it has shipping options, payment gateways, tax features, a built-in online store, and the ability to connect a POS for in-person selling.
Who is it for?
Shopify is for people who want to sell physical products online. You can also sell digital products or memberships and connect with the Thinkific platform to sell online courses.
If you have a brick-and-mortar store, Shopify is an option for your POS and your online store to keep everything connected in one platform.
Who is it not for?
If you're not selling anything on your website, Shopify is not for you.
I also don't recommend Shopify for anything but very basic blogging. If you're going to do advanced blogging, you may want to do that on a different platform and connect to Shopify for the selling part of your business.
Also, Shopify is a relatively simple platform for setting up an online store. However, you may need a customized website or a different platform for more advanced selling features, very high traffic volumes, many locations, or other larger business needs.
If your brick-and-mortar store has a POS that's not Shopify, you may want to consider if a different platform would integrate better with your POS.
If your business is online courses, I would consider other options. While Shopify + Thinkific is one option, others may not require two platforms.
Finally, if you run a "knowledge commerce" business that requires upsells, customer pipelines,and other advanced e-product features, Shopify may not be for you.
Shopify offers an e-commerce platform with an online store, basic blog, email marketing, and POS available for in-person selling. You can keep track of inventory, run sales or add discount codes, and sell gift cards.
Also, you can run different locations and offer various payment and shipping methods to your customers.
Cost range and plans available
Shopify offers Basic, Shopify, and Advanced plans for its regular Shopify plans. These plans range from $29 to $299 per month, depending on your plan and payment schedule.
Basic plans have limited reporting and do not allow 3rd party shipping rates. Only occasional in-person selling works for this plan. You can have up to four inventory locations on this plan and two staff member accounts.
The mid-level plan adds standard reports and is more geared toward online or in-store selling. You can have five inventory locations and five staff member accounts on this plan. It also has lower per-transaction fees, better shipping rate discounts, and some features for international selling.
The Advanced plan moves to advanced reports, up to eight inventory locations and eight staff accounts, and lower credit card rates and transaction fees.
For in-person selling using Shopify's point of sale system, the Lite version is available with the other plans but the Pro version is an extra fee. And don't forget hardware.
Shopify also offers a Plus edition of their platform for enterprise-level customers. On the other end of the spectrum, they offer Shopify Lite.
Shopify Lite is a way to add products to your website or blog and accept payments for a minimal monthly fee.
Maintenance and hosting
Shopify is a hosted solution, meaning that your website is stored on Shopify's servers. Therefore, you do not have to purchase separate hosting for your Shopify website and online store.
However, the theme and apps you use on your store may require updates to get new functionality added. For example, one theme I worked with added the ability to recommend related products, but an update was required to get that functionality.
Some apps will backup your online store for you, and that is something I recommend.
You can also export your inventory, products, orders, and customer information to have manual records of all your store information. Of course, if something happened to your store, you would still have to rebuild your website, but you could at least import the significant components to restore your business.
Templates and page builder options
Shopify has free templates as well as templates available for purchase. There are also page builder apps, although that adds a monthly cost. You can use code to customize the look of your store as well.
Shopify makes it easy and accessible to start an online store or add an online store to your brick-and-mortar business. In addition, the app store allows you to add a variety of apps to make sure you have the functionality you want for your website and store.
Shopify was created for selling. The platform has SEO tools, automatic tax calculation, various shipping and payment options, and email automation all set up to help your customers buy from you.
Watch out for
The apps that are so handy in adding functionality to your store also add up in cost. So while Shopify has a competitive base price, how many $10/month apps can you add before the cost spirals out of your budget?
The blog and email marketing tools are rudimentary at best. I'd recommend using specific tools built for those functions for things like advanced blogging, email analytics, or email automation. Extra tools can add cost as well.
Also, while it is possible to customize a lot about your Shopify store, you may want to start with a platform that focuses on customization if customization is your goal.
Shopify makes it easy to get started selling online. You can get your store up and running without having to worry about a lot of technical difficulties. Especially if you are selling physical products or adding an online store to your brick-and-mortar business, Shopify can be the best option.
Here's the link to the Shopify platform, if you'd like to explore it.