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If you’re building an online store, one of the cheapest, easiest and most effective ways to do it is through an eCommerce platform. Shopify is one of the most popular platforms, and with good reason. It’s simple, lightweight, relatively cheap, and comes with an editor that makes designing attractive stores a breeze. Let’s break down the pros and cons, so you can know whether it’s the right platform for you.

One of the most important decisions you’ll make when you decide to bring your store online is choosing the best eCommerce platform. One especially popular shop builder is Shopify. We take a look at what makes this the go-to choice of many entrepreneurs who are taking their stores online, and when and where it’s maybe not the right choice.

Is the Shopify eCommerce platform right for you?

Shopify by the Numbers

Right now, Shopify powers 275,000 eCommerce sites. Since its founding in 2008, it has generated over $17B for small businesses. It’s the most popular platform, ahead of its competitors Magento and WooCommerce, and is well ahead in terms of small businesses. A lot of this is due to its relative simplicity: WooCommerce requires a bit more gruntwork on the server end of things, and Magento is almost impossible to handle if you’re not a developer. Shopify is hosted for you, relatively cheap, and requires almost no code.

Why Shopify?

It requires almost no setup or code knowledge, and has a robust toolkit that allows almost anybody to design an attractive eCommerce storefront. There are hundreds of templates for every conceivable industry. There are paid premium templates, and there are also plenty of free templates for the store owner on a budget.

It also has a wide variety of apps and plugins to help you customize your store: inventory management, social media, customer service, metrics and reports, fulfillment and more. You can streamline a lot of the hassle by correctly selecting plugins, leaving you free to concentrate on building your brand. I’ll caution a little restraint here: one common problem we see is owners grabbing every single plugin they think might be useful and driving their own load-time into the floor. I’m not going to go deep on the data about customer retention and load time, but know that it’s a silent killer. Pick apps and plugins that are necessary, not those which are fun.

Shopify has a fantastic tool called Abandoned Checkout Recovery. Two out of three potential customers never make it past adding items into their checkout cart because other things distract them. If there’s no follow-through with them that’s a heck of a lot of lost profits. For Professional and Unlimited plan subscribers, the abandoned checkout cart recovery service lets them track and email these would-be customers to follow up with them regarding their intended purchase.

Shopify also delivers when it comes to mobile eCommerce solutions, which gives customers an easy way to shop and pay for purchases on a mobile device. In addition, it has functionality that allows you to do store management through your mobile device. You can check sales stats, peek through customer data and manage sales orders, all from your phone.

Why Not?

The Shopify eCommerce platform is a bit of a walled garden: you can do amazing things so long as you paint inside the lines, but if you want to grow beyond them you’re going to be in serious trouble. I talked earlier briefly about Magento: it’s a beast of a platform that’s very hard to use, but it’s much better at handling large scale sites. It’s harder to make a Shopify store that really stands out, because you’re relying on the same inflexible underlying structure as everybody else.

I don’t mean to sound excessively negative—Shopify is #1 for good reason, and that’s because it is designed around small businesses, run by people who don’t have a lot of technical expertise. There are a lot more businesses like that then there are Coca Colas and Lambourginis, so they’ve managed to snag a much larger market share. Even the pro plans lack the transaction capacity and customization options of a more heavy-duty enterprise platform. Shopify is a great place to start, but if you end up expanding then you might start running into problems and need to think about migrating away from the platform.

Will the Shopify eCommerce Platform Make Me Rich?

That’s a question we get a lot, and it’s really a bit of an odd question. It’s like asking will a shop make me rich? The answer is: well, it depends. It depends on what you’re selling, and how well you market it, and whether you’re willing to be patient—80% of eCommerce stores close within a year because people see them as a get-rich-quick scheme, but if you were to shut the doors on a brick-and-mortar store after only a year because you weren’t already a millionaire, people would rightly laugh at you. The Shopify eCommerce platform facilitates good business, but doesn’t automatically generate it. Shopify can’t be realistic, reasonable, persistent and patient—those things fall to you.

Is that it?

Hopefully not! If running an eCommerce storefront were that easy, everybody would be doing it. If you’re looking to read about an alternate method of acquiring stock, check out our Guide to Dropshipping with Shopify. If you think it might be good to bring in a professional, consider talking to our creative design team or our experienced Shopify developers. Here at CodeClouds we’ve got over 5 years’ experience making amazing websites. Enquire today and see how we can make your storefront brilliant.