Shopify

Introduction

Shopify is the easiest way to create an online store that rivals anything offered by big companies like Amazon and Walmart.

You can sell all kinds of products (digital, physical, services). You can have product pictures and customer reviews. Your store can be as simple (or complex) as you want it to be. There is no software to download. No programming knowledge is required. The setup process is no more difficult than creating a really elaborate Facebook page. Shopify offers a free trial (no credit card required) so you can create a fully functional online store in under an hour.

Shopify provides many modern and stylish web site templates (themes) so you can create a professional online store without needing any design skills.

Features

  • Display product images.

  • Use your own domain name (e.g. mybusinessname.com).

  • Issue virtual gift cards and discount codes (with expiration dates).

  • Offer product variations (e.g. selling a t-shirt in different colours and sizes).

  • Add an unlimited number of products. There is no need to worry about bandwidth/number of customers visiting your site.

  • Allow customers to rate products and leave reviews.

  • Create sub-accounts for your staff so they can help manage your store (without gaining full access).

  • Manage inventory by setting the number of units available for each product in your store; automatically display a notice to visitors when you are sold out.

  • Allow visitors to sign up for a wait-list e-mail alert that will automatically notify them when a sold out item is re-stocked.

  • Provide a shipping calculator for each product of your products so customers can get customized shipping rates based on shipping carrier, destination and package weight & dimensions.

  • Automatic SSL-protection and PCI Compliance. (This is a security requirement for processing online payments. There's nothing to set up; it's all done for you.)

  • If you interact with customers in-person, you can use your Shopify as a POS (point of sale) system to enter an order and accept payment. (A great solution for anyone who runs a store or on-location work like landscaping or carpentry.)

Analytics

Shopify provides powerful analytics that generates charts, graphs, tables and spreadsheets for all sorts of things:

  • Most Popular products.

  • Search engine (Google, Bing, etc.) keywords (i.e. the words people use to find your site using a search engine).

  • Daily/weekly/monthy sales totals (revenue and number of units sold).

  • Shopping Cart Abandonment (Visitors that went to the checkout page, but never completed a sale.)

  • Number of return visitors/customers.

Blogging

For your blog posts, you can set the excerpt and tags, change the URL slug, add a featured image, and optimize SEO (i.e. custom posts titles and descriptions for Google).

However, unlike Squarespace and WordPress, you can NOT schedule posts to be automatically published later or change the status of a post (e.g. draft, pending review, etc.).

Note: You can create a blog on a separate site using a different provider and have a URL like blog.example.com (rather than example.com/blog).

Add-ons

In addition to Shopify's built-in features, they also offers add-ons created by other companies. It's like an app store for web design. Using Shopify add-ons, you can add advanced functionality to you site (e.g. A/B testing, drop shipping, inventory management, etc.).

Support

Shopify has offers toll-free phone support. If you need help, just pick up your phone and call them. You can also get help via e-mail, online chat, and message board.

Conclusion

There are many ways to create an online store--Shopify is the easiest and most comprehensive, but it's also the most expensive. Shopify plans start at $19 per month, but it can go up to $299.

Squarespace's low-end plan offer more built-in features than Shopify's low-end plan. But Shopify is much easier to use.

Note: Both services use their own proprietary software, so there's no way to seamlessly migrate to a new provider. Yes, you can export your product listings and certain sales data, but you will essentially need to recreate your store on a new server/platform.