Shopify Review: Easily Setup Your e-Commerce Website
Online sales for the U.S. market for this year are expected to hit $224.2 billion, a 15.4 percent increase over last year and the numbers are only going to continue to skyrocket over the coming years.
With more and more consumers shopping online, it’s time to stop dabbling in ecommerce and get serious about your online business.
Online stores aren’t a new concept, but up to this point the solutions out there for the average small business owner have been limited and complicated to use.
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The folks at Shopify saw the need for a more user-friendly platform with plenty of customization options to help retailers of all sizes showcase their products in the online marketplace.
Shopify quietly entered the ecommerce arena in 2006. By the end of 2012, there were 41,910 online shops up and running, located across 101 different countries, with almost 8 million customers. A total of 9.9 million orders were processed to the tune of $742 million USD in 2012.
Until now, Shopify has just been testing the waters but just recently, after years of beta testing and listening to user feedback, they unleashed Shopify v2.0, making them the ideal solution for any business ready to move into the online marketplace.
What Makes Shopify Stand Out From The Rest?
Hosted by Shopify: Shopify is an online platform, not a software solution. You don’t need to download a shopping cart and payment processing program or add a sub-domain to your website and then hire a programmer. The biggest benefit, though, is bandwidth. All of those programs eat up bandwidth, especially once your store becomes popular. With Shopify you don’t have to worry about your site crashing and you don’t miss any sales.
Use Your Own Domain: With Shopify you can use your own domain name, which makes your online store much more searchable. If you want to test the waters first, you can run it as a sub and then add your domain name later, but trust me, you’ll want that domain name on there from the very beginning. When you see what this platform can do you’re going to be tempted to transfer your entire site over to Shopify.
Unlimited Selling Potential: Let’s do a little comparison shopping here. With Etsy you’re limited to selling either handmade or vintage items. With Zazzle you have to be an artist. With Amazon you can’t sell digital products. And with Ebay the rules seem to change every day. Sell whatever you want on Shopify – it’s your online store.
High-Quality Themes: This is where Shopify really shines. Take a look at any item on any of those other platforms and it just looks boring and dull. Their navigation is confusing and the whole shopping cart/check-out process is a convoluted web of click after click after click. Shopify’s professionally designed themes let you present your products in their best light. You online store looks just as inviting and professional as desginer boutique. You even design your own navigation and the check-out process couldn’t be easier.
Unlimited Customization Options: Sell your custom product on one of those other platforms and everybody just remembers they bought it on Amazon or Ebay or Etsy. You’re doing nothing to build your own brand. Even the most basic, free theme at Shopify is completely customizable right from the dashboard with no coding knowledge necessary, including, headers, fonts and font colors, buttons, backgrounds, the whole works.
User-Friendly: Preview and change themes with just one click from your dashboard. Shopify offers several premium themes that run around $150 to $180 but honestly, the free minimal theme allows you to customize every single aspect of your shop – right from the dash – so don’t feel like you need to invest in a premium theme to get started.
Navigation: List products individually to get the SEO benefits, and then divide them into collections to make it easier for your customers to find what they’re looking for. Put links wherever you want.
Multiple Payment Gateways: Customers can use MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover, PayPal, Cirrus, Western Union, and Stripe – you’re covered worldwide.
Shipping Options: Sell digital products, ship your own physical products or easily integrate a fulfillment center, and shipping is automatically calculated for each order.
Taxes automatically calculated: No need to worry about the tax laws from country to country. Simply add in the countries where you’ll be doing business and Shopify automatically does the calculations on each individual sale.
Email Notifications: Build trust and increase credibility with automatic customizable email notifications that keep your customers informed during every step of the order and shipping process. Reduces customer complaints and strengthens your online brand. And your customers will be seeing your name, not Amazon or Ebay’s.
Blog Included: Now, here’s where Shopify goes above and beyond. In fact, in my opinion, this feature makes Shopify a no-brainer. With each store you set up you also get a blog. You can set up pages and posts, just like any other blog. You can even configure a frontpage or homepage to showcase your store. But it’s all hosted on Shopify, under the same domain. This has four major benefits:
- SEO – Every blog post is another URL with your keyword and the name of your store, making it easier for you to compete in the Internet Marketplace.
- It saves you money – Shopify includes the blog in every package so you save yourself the hassle of setting up a separate blog, plus you save the monthly hosting fees.
- Customer engagement – Attract and engage readers just like you would with any other blog. Insert links, images and videos with no limitations. You can even schedule posts for the future, just like your regular blog.
- Search Engine Optimization – Your blog at Shopify is just as optimized as any blog you’d build yourself – probably more so. Use H1, H2, and H3 tags for headings and sub-headings, assign tags and categories, and add a post description.
Build Your List: Like I said, you’re doing nothing to build your brand when you sell on those other sites. With Shopify you can use any third-party email service provider and set up a page or post with an opt-in form to build your email marketing list. Shopify and MailChimp have been working together and MailChimp has a ton of features that make it easy to integrate into your shop with just a quick copy and paste. But you can also use Aweber or any other email service provider you choose.
Social Media Options: Your readers can connect with your own personal accounts via Twitter, Facebook YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Vimeo and Google +.
Google Analytics: What’s the point of having a blog if you can’t track your stats? Just copy and paste your Google Analytics code into your Shopify dash and track everything like you do on your regular blog.
Top Five Reasons To Use Shopify
So far I’ve talked about other easy-to-use ecommerce options, like Amazon, Ebay and Etsy, and I think we can all agree that while they might be easy to use, they do nothing to showcase your products and they do nothing for your brand.
On the other side of the coin, there are alternatives out there like Magento that will give you a really high-quality presentation and help build your brand, but they involve either expensive software and some pretty hefty design skills or they’re well outside the price-range of most online business owners. Others, like Volusion, just don’t offer even a third of the features that Shopify offers, and none of these other options offers a blog.
Shopify is designed to make it easy for anyone to set up their first online store. If you can build a WordPress or Blogger blog then you can build an eye-catching, high-quality Shopify store. Yet it’s also sophisticated enough for even the largest online business.
You can add an Amazon store to your existing blog, but your customers end up making their purchases on Amazon. You can set up an Ebay or Etsy shop and your customers remember “Ebay” or “Etsy.” But with Shopify you name your shop and use your links to send visitors directly to your own online store. With the included blog/website capability, you don’t have to worry about trying to “blend” your ecommerce site and your website because it’s all the same package.
Rarely will you see an Etsy listing pop up on the first page of the Google index. Yes, you’ll see Amazon and Ebay there but a lot of shoppers want other alternatives – especially high-quality alternatives. Again, Shopify’s blogging capability gives you the opportunity to compete for keywords and get your listings ranked. When searchers arrive at your blog – there’s your store!
4. No Leakage
Look at any item on Amazon or Ebay and there’s an unbelievable amount of leakage. Amazon and Ebay don’t care if your product sells, they want to make sure some product sells – so they offer visitors alternate purchasing options all over the page. Only you control what visitors see in your Shopify store.
How Affordable Is Shopify?
With the introduction of Shopify v2.0 it’s more affordable now than ever before. Again, let’s do some comparison shopping.
A Basic membership with Shopify includes free setup, you can use your own domain if you’d like, you have unlimited bandwidth, 1 GB of storage and you can list up to 100 products at a time. The fee is $29 a month with a two percent transaction fee. Remember, even the basic membership includes all the features discussed above, including the customizable theme I mentioned.
If you sell nothing you’ve only spent $29 a month, which is less than some hosting plans you might be using for your blog or website. So you really haven’t lost anything. You’ve actually gained a more professional website that’s user-friendly for you and improves the shopping experience for your customers. It won’t be long before you’re kicking that old site to the curb.
For $59 a month, the Professional plan allows you to list up to 2,500 products, gives you 5 GB of file storage, lowers the transaction fee to only one percent, and gives you the capability to issue discount codes to your customers.
For larger stores, the Unlimited plan allows you to list an unlimited number of products, gives you unlimited storage capacity, allows you to use discount codes, and there’s no transaction fee – for just $179 a month.
Shopify recently introduced a Starter package, too, for business owners who want to test the waters. For $14 a month you can list up to 25 products. They create all your web pages and set up a shopping cart that accepts credit cards and PayPal. And right now, for a limited time, they’re offering a free, two-week trial period for anyone who wants to check it out.
How Does Shopify Compare to Amazon?
Now, how does this compare to selling on Amazon? Amazon charges $39.99 a month, plus a 15-25 percent selling fee if you want to list more than 40 items at a time. Less than 40 and you pay 99 cents plus the 15-25 percent selling fee for every sale.
We all know what products look like when displayed on an Amazon page and it’s not a pretty sight. The layout leaves a lot to be desired and you have to be an html whiz to make your product descriptions stand out. There’s nothing there to make your products shine.
And let’s not talk about the Amazon review system. You can’t remove negative comments and while you can do your best to make that customer happy, that negative comment is always going to be there. With Shopify you’re communicating with your customer every step of the way – directly – so there’s never a problem keeping your customers happy.
How Does Shopify Compare to Ebay?
Again, we both know what an Ebay listing looks like. And we also know about the rampant scamming that goes on at Ebay.
If you’re planning to build a strong, reputable ecommerce site, Ebay shouldn’t even be on the table these days.
How Does Shopify Compare to Etsy?
Etsy also does nothing to showcase your products. It’s a picture and a space for rambling, unformatted text. It doesn’t look professional at all. As far as fees go, Etsy charges 20 cents per listing and your listing can stay active for up to four months. They collect a 3.5 percent transaction fee from every sale.
You’ll see both Amazon and Ebay listings at the top of the Google index and in the paid ads column on the right. However, clicking these links does not necessarily take you to a product.
Shoppers who want to shop Ebay, Amazon or Etsy will go to those sites directly and browse until they find what they’re looking for. But searchers who haven’t made a buying decision yet want more information, so they skip those paid ads at the top of the index and scroll down to the websites and blogs that offer more information – sites like your Shopify store with it’s own blog.
What Are You Going To Sell In Your Shop?
As I mentioned earlier, you can literally sell anything you want on Shopify. (As long as it’s legal, of course.) You can sell digital products which means it’s great for authors and people who create their own digital how-to ebooks. You can sell physical products, including clothing, accessories, shoes, tools, appliances, gadgets, electronics, and, well, the list is endless.
Personally, I think Shopify is also a unique platform to promote any service because of the blog that’s attached to your shop. Most service-providers don’t have the time it takes to run a full-blown blog and still take care of their customers, yet that’s exactly what you need to do if you want to attract the search engines. So the fact that your Shopify shop has its own attached blog makes it much easier to handle your entire online business.
Why not give it a try? The folks at Shopify are currently offering two weeks free so you can get in there and kick the tires. Check it out. I guarantee you’ll be impressed once you see that dashboard and everything you can do with your new shop.