Practical Ecommerce

The PEC Review: Shopify

There are nearly 600 different shopping cart solutions to choose from.

While many of these carts are functional, a relative few rise to the top in terms of their ease of use, how much creative freedom they allow, and how well they help a merchant present their products.

Shopify is one of these top carts. It can help provide a solid foundation for an ecommerce business. In fact, I am awarding Shopify four out of a possible five stars in this review for rapidly getting online retailers up and selling.

“The PEC Review” is my weekly column created to introduce you to the products or services that I believe will help you improve your ecommerce business. This week let me explain why I think Shopify is an excellent choice for a small online retailer who is just getting started selling online.

Video: Just Starting in Shopify

Easy To Get Started

If I had to sum up Shopify in just one sentence, I would say, “It makes getting started in ecommerce easy.” That ease, especially when a new merchant is trying to figure out how to get products up on the web, what licenses are required, or even how to manage order fulfillment, is what sets this cart apart.

Quick Sign Up

It took me just over three minutes to register for Shopify, including having to fill out the form three times. ( I can be form challenged.) At the end of registration, I had a functional, albeit empty, site running and an administration panel to poke around in.

Shopify confirmation sign-up page.

Shopify confirmation sign-up page.

A Handful of Basic Themes

During the registration, I was given the option to select one of several themes, knowing that I can change themes anytime.

In my opinion, every merchant should have a custom graphic design that makes his or her site unique. But as cookie-cutter themes go, Shopify does a good job of providing several attractive examples.

The company also offers a theme store wherein merchants can buy better themes. And Shopify seems to be encouraging developers to create new themes, although I believe the company could do more.

Product Upload and Import

Adding a product to Shopify is, again, easy. There is a simple web form, easy-to-manage upload, and the option to manage product variations.

As I was working with products in Shopify, I realized that I needed to establish product categories, which are called “collections” in Shopify. In hindsight, it might have made more sense to create the collections first, but adding products to collections after the fact was also easy.

The new-product tool even included a product import feature. Using a template, a merchant can create a comma-separated file (a text-based spreadsheet from Microsoft Excel or similar) that lists products and product attributes, upload that file, and have dozens or even hundreds of products populate the store. There may be minor changes that need to be made to individual product listings, but the tool should be a real time saver.

Blog Posts and Pages

Shopify comes with a built in blog. This is smart. Most online merchants are going to want to blog as part of their marketing efforts. Shopify, it would seem, is trying to offer an all in one solution to new merchants. So including the blog makes perfect sense.

Updating pages was also rather intuitive. I was able to add an image to the About Us page without writing a single line of code.

Sample "About Us" page.

Sample “About Us” page.

Product Presentation

Shopify also does a good job of presenting products. I mentioned above that it took just three minutes to register for Shopify. I should add that I was able to have a couple of products ready to sell and my shipping rules set in less than 30 minutes.

That means that in about a half of an hour, I went from not having a store to having products ready to sell and quite presentable.

four stars

Price

Shopify is free for the first 30 days. After that trial period, that platform has offerings ranging from $24 per month to $699 depending on storage and features. There is also a transaction fee for most offerings, ranging from 2 percent to .5 percent of sales.

Summing Up

While I have not discussed every one of Shopify’s features or even really discussed its flexibility, I hope I have conveyed this fact. Shopify will help a new merchant get started in a hurry. The solution is also very functional and should be able to give a small online retailer a solid foundation for years to come. That is why I have given it four out of a possible five stars here.

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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Comment ( 1 )

  1. Derek Bacharach August 17, 2010 Reply

    I recall there was a write-up done by PE about two years ago when shopping carts were being reviewed. I was sold then and soon signed on and haven’t left. It’s a great alternative to Yahoo’s cart which I had found confusing to use.

    _Editor’s Note: Here’s our ["Cart of the Week" piece](http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/800-Cart-Of-The-Week-Shopify) on Shopify, published back in 2008._