If you own a business and are considering taking that business online, it’s always worth trialling your store before heavily investing.
There is no doubt in my mind that third party online selling platforms like eBay and Amazon have greatly benefited countless enterprising individuals across the world. But whether someone currently owns a brick-and-mortar store and is looking to expand their customer base, or they are thinking of beginning to sell products online, the pros and cons of all available options should be carefully reviewed, including selling on the abovementioned platforms or through their online store.
Certainly, online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon have a definite advantage, especially when it comes to their reputation, market base and infrastructure. But along with the good comes the bad. Among the drawbacks of these platforms are the associated fees (they can get ridiculous) and the challenge of keeping inventories in sync. Over the last few months we have been working with a number of businesses to explore the options available when setting up an online store, and of all the options we have looked at there is one which stood out above the rest, Shopify.
Expanding your business is not an easy decision, especially when you have to consider the amount of security needed, not just of your own systems but also you customers personal and financial details. That’s why we always advise looking into third party systems when starting out as badly managed data, or the news of data being lost, could mean a business finishing before it’s even begun.
But it’s not all plain sailing which is why we make sure we explain the good and the bad that Shopify has to offer, allowing entrepreneurs to make a more informed decision.
One of the things that I love about Shopify is its speed and the high amount of security it offers for customers. When creating a website, especially an online store, every second counts and can spell the difference between a sale and abandonment. It’s crazy how quickly a customer can move on if the product doesn’t load fast enough, but that’s where we are right now and if you want to make sales, fast loading pages and images are a must. As for security, Shopify handles various aspects of security, from dealing with potential hackers to compliance, so that you can focus on more important matters like getting great products on your site, writing engaging descriptions and promotion.
Another definite plus about Shopify is that it provides a wide variety of features that makes it easier for you to manage your online shop. These include payments, managing your online store front and customising the appearance of the store. On top of that, Shopify also offers sellers analytics which can allow us to track customer behaviour and help us make the necessary adjustments.
Online sellers also rave about Shopify’s topnotch customer support. In contrast with third party websites or even online stores built on different platforms, with Shopify, you can get the response you need, and quickly.
After opening an online shop, the next order of business would be enticing potential customers. This, I think, is another area where Shopify stands out. From the get go, Shopify will provide you with the tools to market your shop online. These include marketing campaign essentials like email templates and SEO tools. Getting your on-site SEO on Shopify right is easy with checklists to make sure you’re labelling everything you need to label to ensure Google (and other search engines) can see it.
Finally, Shopify also offers themes that allow you to customise your store and have it up and running in no time at all. The free ones are quite basic but if you want further customisations for your store, you can purchase more advanced themes (and apps) from the marketplace.
I did say that there were some negatives and the main one is that compared to other platforms, Shopify can be a bit pricey, especially if we add up the monthly costs and other fees. The basic package is $29 a month, but the more you pay for your monthly package the lower your transaction fees, so working out how much you’re going to sell should tell you which package to be on. If you’re just starting out, start low and let your membership grow with you.
Also, since I know most website owners love tweaking their websites, it should be noted that Shopify can be quite a handful to customise. One major reason behind this is the way Shopify Liquid is set up, which is not based on PHP. It’s written in Ruby which means you’ll need a specialist programmer to make any changes beyond those offered by Shopify.
The other element of setting up a store with Shopify is that you’re locked into their platform, I’m not referring to Lock-in as in you can’t move elsewhere, but from what I’ve seen it isn’t simple. Although it is a great platform and is scalable, there might be a time when you would want to move to a different platform or indeed your own domain and this may take some specialist help. I’ve seen wizards (the online process kind, rather than the Lord of Rings kind) which can move a Shopify site to Magento but nothing that makes moving to your own space and storage as easily. If you have please let me know in the comments.
So don’t let anyone tell you that setting up an online store is simple, but with options such as Shopify it can be a lot simpler than building your own ecommerce platform. Think about how much you want to spend on creation and monthly fees as well as where you might want to take the store in the future, but for my money, Shopify is one of the better options out there.