Practical Ecommerce

Why FringeSport uses Shopify

FringeSport has used Shopify for six years. I started on the platform after reading an early Tim Ferriss blog post, where he pimped the brand. We’ve never looked back.

I get a lot of pushback on this from my ecommerce friends, who typically view Shopify as too expensive and too inflexible. But Shopify has been good to FringeSport. We’re not planning on leaving anytime soon.

In fact, your ecommerce business should probably be on Shopify, too.

Shopify allows me to be an expert at my business. I don’t have to be an expert on the technical aspects of an ecommerce platform.

In this post, I’ll address how Shopify makes it easy for FringeSport to rock online. I’ll also describe a few frustrations I have with the platform.

Reasons to use Shopify

Easy beauty. Shopify is a templated ecommerce platform. If you are non-technical — which I am — Shopify makes it simple to slap in a free or low-cost, beautiful, mobile responsive template without having to understand code.

If, after two months (or years), you don’t like the template you choose, you can switch to another one in about five minutes without breaking your category structure or URLs.

All the features you need; 95 percent of the features you want. Shopify is built with everything you need, and most of what you want. You get a logical category structure, a great (PCI compliant) checkout, search-engine-friendly pages, basic inventory and product management, and more. Plus, there is a point-of-sale option for brick-and-mortar stores.

KISS — Keep It Simple, Stupid — design. I was vice president of a $50 million (annual sales) ecommerce retailer that used enterprise-class everything. One of the things I learned there is that enterprise class is great — for expensive specialist employees and corporate behemoths. For ecommerce businesses below $30 million in annual sales, keep it dead simple. Dead simple makes it easier for management to understand the systems and to train employees to be great at their jobs, versus training employees to be experts at a software suite.

I can train an employee to use Shopify in less than a week. The employee needs no HTML or any other code experience. I need zero full-time developers.

Search engine optimization. SEO is huge for ecommerce. Shopify’s architecture makes it easy to make search-engine-friendly pages. We’ve successfully maintained top Google rankings in our niche for our primary keywords, despite being much smaller that some of our competitors.

App ecosystem. As best I can tell, Shopify is the number one platform for small-to-midsize ecommerce companies. The platform has a store to buy third-party apps to extend our store’s functionality. This is similar to Apple’s App Store for iPhone apps. Shopify has the most and best apps out there.

Developer ecosystem. Need a custom fix for your Shopify store? Contact a developer from the Shopify forums or from Upwork (formerly Elance, the site to hire freelancers). The developers for Liquid, Shopify’s language, tend to work cheaply. I’ve had good experiences. But no developers are required for most web changes.

Pricing. I’ve seen lot of people complain about Shopify’s pricing. But I’ve found it to be fair or even cheap for the features. And Shopify is good about grandfathering existing merchants into older, cheaper pricing when it increases the prices for new customers.

Uptime. In the six years that FringeSport has been on Shopify, the platform has gone down three times: two 15-minute outages and one for 2 hours. And I’ve seen Shopify stores withstand Shark Tank broadcasts, which can wreak havoc on smaller ecommerce platforms.

New features and upgrades. Shopify is constantly evolving and improving. Existing stores receive the new features, usually at no additional cost.

Frustrations with Shopify

While there are many reasons to use Shopify, there are also areas that frustrate me. Here are my major complaints about the platform.

Five percent of what we want to do is impossible. For example, we would like to use credit card tokenization to allow customers to save their credit card details on the platform. As best as I can figure, this is not an option on Shopify.

Blog feature is bad. Shopify’s default blog software is terrible. There are few apps to make it better, and it is not possible to bolt on WordPress that lives on your domain, such as www.yourstore.com/blog.

Transaction fees. Shopify’s pricing now includes transaction fees on every tier except Plus (enterprise). I’m sure this is good for Shopify. But it can be a tough pill for Shopify’s merchant customers to swallow. As my revenue increases, so does my platform cost.

What do you think? Am I missing the boat as a Shopify fan boy?

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  1. Carlos Rivera May 5, 2016 Reply

    Great extensive review of the platform. Sounds like it works great for you, and I am happy to hear about Shopify’s many benefits.

    The transaction fees would be a hard pill to swallow. But I understand, as it appears ecommerce’s SaaS model as a whole is moving towards similar pricing structures.

    • Peter Keller May 5, 2016 Reply

      Thanks Carlos! It’s really a great platform- and the “Plus” option eliminates all transaction fees.

      Additionally, their in-house payment processing may be a good choice for ecommerce merchants starting out, and this option minimizes the effective transaction fees on the platform.