Not sure where to start with your online store? Have you heard of Shopify but aren't sure how it works? If so, this in-depth discussion is designed for you. We will look at the basics of Shopify, its features, its costs, show you how to set up your store, and discuss some tips and tricks to help you get it off the ground.

And yes, we will see when Shopify is a bad idea and it is better to use something else. Unfiltered.

What is Shopify?

Shopify is an all-in-one sales platform that enables small and medium-sized businesses to easily start their own e-commerce and begin selling to their customers wherever they are. It works as a SaaS ("software as a service") tool, offering a wide range of technology products needed to easily create and maintain an online store. 

It allows you to operate both online and in person and provides you with the tools to easily manage customer orders, payment processing, shipping and taxes. With Shopify, you can easily customize your store design with themes, add products, as well as set up payment options and marketing and promotion strategies.

What can you sell on Shopify?

With Shopify you can sell almost anything from physical products to digital services such as ebooks, themes, graphics and email templates. You can even sell handmade soaps and other items from the comfort of your own home. 

Shopify simplifies listing and managing products, accepting payments, and promoting your store. via e-mail and social media. 

The more years go by, the more Shopify proves perfectly suited to serve as a unified platform for multichannel sales. From a physical store checkout, to a virtual POS via App, to - of course - the online shop. The benefit of a single synchronized and easily managed warehouse is often underestimated.

But the benefits do not end there.

Shopify is perfectly optimized for the smartphone experience and has super easy payment systems

What benefits does Shopify offer?

Why Shopify:

  • Easy to use: Shopify is an intuitive and easy-to-use e-commerce platform. You do not need programming skills to start selling or install a site on your own server.
  • High customization: Shopify offers a wide range of quality design themes that can be modified and adapted to meet the needs of your store. With Shopify, you can easily add advanced features via app.
  • Customer Support: Shopify offers a dedicated customer support team that is available 24/7. Keep in mind, however, that the level of support depends largely on your subscription level and how saturated support is. In general, it pays to start with the documentation.
  • Integrations: Shopify is integrated with a wide range of third-party services and applications, including Amazon, eBay, Google Analytics and Facebook Ads.
  • Security and scalability: Shopify is a secure and scalable platform, offering a range of hosting and security options to ensure a smooth shopping experience.

How does Shopify work?

As we have seen, Shopify is a cloud-based e-commerce platform that offers online stores a suite of customizable sales tools with a wide range of features. Shopify focuses on offering an all-in-one solution that can handle all of a store's needs, from the payment process to logistics. It is good to stress this point: Shopify is "in the cloud" and "all in one." For better or worse, it means that in a few minutes you can launch a store and you will have everything you need. BUT it will not be on your server, it will not be 100% flexible, the code is not yours, the data is not yours.

A self-managed e-commerce, on the other hand, is a website that is created and managed independently, without the help of an external platform. In general, self-managed ecommerce requires that hosting be purchased or rented, a graphic theme be chosen and installed, a shopping cart be placed, a payment system be developed, and a shipping system be configured. While some self-managed e-commerce platforms offer a similar suite of tools, most systems require the installation of additional modules and plugins. However, it is all in your hands, scalable to your liking, modifiable down to the single line of code.

SaaS all-in-one
Software as a service has revolutionized the market. But not all that glitters is gold

What are the different plans?

With Shopify, you can choose from five different pricing plans,. The Basic plan costs 21 Euro per month and obviously offers e-commerce and features such as shipping and discount codes. The Shopify plan costs 59 Euro per month and offers even more features such as automations and many more users. The Advanced plan costs 289 Euro per month and gives you access to advanced features such as sophisticated reports, abandoned cart retrieval, and third-party calculated shipping rates.

Note the different plans also differ in fixed and variable transaction fees. As the cost of your Shopify plan increases, typically the "fees" decrease.

We directly report Shopify's table updated as of January 2023 and with the three different plans:

Depending on your needs, any of these plans could be suitable for your business.

How to set up your Shopify store

Once you have an idea of what you would like to sell, it's time to set up your Shopify store. Setting up your store is easy with the intuitive setup process and you can get started in minutes. The most important part is obviously importing products and choosing and customizing themes.

All you have to do is follow the instructions on the screen. You can choose the sales channels you want to use and add even a single product to your store to get started. You will obviously need to configure settings such as taxes, shipping logic, payment gateways, and more. Once you have completed this step, you are ready to start selling!

About Payment: Shopify Payment is an integrated online payment service that enables Shopify stores to accept credit card, PayPal and Apple Pay payments. It offers users an easy and secure way to make payments directly from their online store. Shopify Payment is integrated directly with your Shopify store and allows you to easily manage your transactions, view statistics, and manage your refunds.

In this sense it is an alternative to Stripe.

How to customize your store

Shopify offers a variety of ways to customize your online store.

With the Theme Customizer, you can easily edit themes in a block editor. You can change fonts, colors and images. In addition, you can vary the layout of your home page or other pages.

To access the Theme Customizer, go to Online Store > Themes and select the theme you have chosen. From there, you can select the "Customize" option to start the online store editor. With just a few mouse clicks, you can create a unique look for your store that reflects your brand and style.

Adding products to your store

Now that you've set up and customized your store, it's time to add products and get serious.

Shopify makes it easier to add products than a traditional e-commerce. All you have to do is click the "Products" tab in the Shopify control panel, then click "Add Product." From there, you can enter all the necessary details about your product, including product title, description, images and price. You can even set variations of your product such as size or color.

We generally advise our customers to do a bulk import with the dedicated feature. Simply export a sample product and Shopify will create an Excel file for you with the template to fill in. You can directly download a facsimile (see image). At that point, just press "import" and choose the duly filled file. The only real difficulty in this process is pre-loading the image files on an FTP or HTTP server and entering the URLs into the Excel table.

If you don't know how to do it, surely your marketing agency will be happy to help you out!

Shopify's massive import is a boon. Just compile an Excel/CSV file template.

Marketing and promotion of your store

Promoting your Shopify store is essential to its success.

Social media is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal when it comes to marketing and promotion. If you already have a following and a strong online presence, you can use social media to increase your visibility.

Don't forget, of course, to link the Shopify shop to your main website. We hope you have chosen a similar theme and configured a third-level domain so as not to throw your users off with too different an interface or by changing domains.

You can publish organic content on your channels, create marketing campaigns in Facebook and Google Ads, and automate from the Shopify control panel. You can also set up promotions and activate discounts (coupons) to increase sales.

When Shopify is a bad idea

Obviously Shopify has limitations and is not the classic hammer with which you can build a house. Hammer that doesn't exist. I want to remember.

In general, we do not recommend it for clients who demand a lot of customization in terms of site visuals, brand identity, and functionality. Shopify's themes are professional, but by their nature limited and certainly not "stellar" in visual terms. They are in no way compatible with serious adherence to a visual brandbook or sophisticated brand identity created by an art director or web designer. On this it is good to be clear.

How you need to understand that the functionality allowed by Shopify is limited to the natural functionality of the platform and the installable apps. If you need something and it is not found in the app store, that is a problem. Because Shopify's front-end language(Liquid) is mastered professionally by few developers, and almost all of them outside of Italy. More than once we have witnessed companies that put all their eggs in Shopify's basket easily and without prior analysis by a competent agency, only to find themselves tossing the site and starting over because they could in no way implement a feature they needed for their business.

Also, Shopify owns the data, not you. This implies some complexities for GDPR and does not allow you to do big analytics, unless you leverage the API. You don't own the code, you don't own the server. If you don't like some inherent functionality you have to deal with it.

Finally: the initial savings in using Shopify versus an in-house solution may be short-lived. If you took a look at the pricing table, when things start to get serious in terms of sales and functionality Shopify costs quite a bit of money. Both as a price of the plan and of commissions with Shopify Payment, which is in fact the almost forced choice.

So what alternative do we suggest?

Generally WooCommerce is more than sufficient for all SMBs, and even for large entities. We will discuss this in an upcoming in-depth discussion. It is the "next step" to Shopify for almost-totality of cases.