Shopify Ecommerce Review 2021: Our Results Revealed

Shopify logo

By Dan Barraclough | Updated: 16 March 2021

Is Shopify the best ecommerce platform out there? Read on to see how it performed in our research…


shopify logo

Website featuresSales toolsDesign functionsValue for moneyHelp and supportCustomer scoreEase of useTotal rating

4.2

4.73.83.83.84.64.0

4.2

The only way to provide a balanced Shopify ecommerce review is to use it first-hand. Luckily, that’s exactly what we did.

To put Shopify through its paces, we created our own Shopify store, and reviewed its sales tools, website features, design functions, help and support, value for money, and ease of use. Each category got a score out of five, in order to provide a clear breakdown of Shopify’s strengths and weaknesses.

We also invited everyday users to try Shopify. This gave us an overall customer score, which represents how much these users enjoyed using Shopify, and how likely they’d be to recommend it. At the top of the page, you can see how Shopify performed in each individual research area.

In this review, we’ll talk about what we learned in our research testing, discussing Shopify’s pricing, features, benefits, and more to help you decide whether it’s the right option for your business. Now let’s get started…


What are Shopify’s pros and cons?

ProsCons
Multi-channel selling – integrate your Shopify store with numerous other social media channels and online marketplaces to reach new audiences and boost sales Transaction fees – Shopify imposes its own transaction fees if you don’t use Shopify Payments
Superb sales features – offers the most (and best) sales-specific features of any platform we tested, including an online invoice generator Reformatting issues – you’ll need to reformat your entire website should you decide to switch themes after you’ve gone live
Customisable platform – create a unique Shopify store by installing different apps or tweaking your theme’s features Costly apps – installing apps can rack up a lofty bill quite quickly
Shopify offers a 14-day free trial so you test its tools before committing Try Shopify Free

What are Shopify’s features and benefits?

Overall, we were very impressed by Shopify and its ecommerce and website features. It’s easily one of the best ecommerce platforms out there.

Our research revealed that Shopify offers the highest number of sales features of any platform we tested, ticking off a whopping 61/65 features across the 13 sales-specific areas we reviewed. That means Shopify offers everything you need to successfully sell products online, and then some.

User-friendly inventory management tools

Shopify inventory

Shopify makes it really easy to add single or multiple products to your inventory, providing in-built stock management tools and revenue reports to help you keep track of sales. We found it very easy to navigate, with plenty of prompts to ensure you’re never stuck for too long.

Excellent multi-channel integration

shopify multi channel selling tool

Selling to multiple online audiences is important for growing your business. That’s why Shopify makes it really easy to start selling your products directly from social media platforms – including Facebook Messenger, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest – and from other websites such as Amazon, eBay, BuzzFeed, and Kik. Just note that your currency will have to be set to USD.

Shopify turns multi-channel selling into a breeze Start Selling on Shopify

Large app store

shopify app store

You can choose from over 1,200 apps to give your website extra capabilities in areas like marketing, shipping, finance, and more – and that’s on top of Shopify’s in-built features. This flexibility makes it a really customisable platform, allowing you to tweak your Shopify ecommerce store quickly and easily, unless you want to switch themes after publishing – in that case, you’ll need to reformat your entire site by yourself.

There are some free apps, but most of them charge subscription plans or one-off fees. It’s easy to rack up a hefty monthly bill, so be wary of installing too many costly apps.

 Supports 100+ payment processors

Shopify payment processors

Shopify supports over one hundred payment providers from around the world, meaning you can accept more payments from a wider variety of audiences. The most popular platforms include PayPal, Stripe, Apple Pay, and Amazon Pay, but you’ll need to pay transaction fees unless you use Shopify’s own processor, Shopify Payments.

Attractive themes

Shopify ecommerce themes

Shopify offers 10 free themes and 64 paid themes that cost between $140 and $180 (£100 and £130 or so). There are fewer free options than most other website builders, but Shopify still came third in our ‘design functionsresearch, scoring 3.8/5. Every theme has been created by professional designers, and they’re all mobile responsive to ensure that your website looks great when displayed on any device.

You can search for Shopify’s ecommerce themes by industry, with choices like health and beauty, sports and recreation, and electronics. You can also search by collections, such as minimalist style or grid-style layout. Overall, picking and customising themes feels pretty seamless.


How much does Shopify cost?

Shopify scored 3.8/5 in our value for money research, which is lower than all of its main rivals (BigCommerce, Wix, and Squarespace). Its price plans aren’t the cheapest out there, and some of Shopify’s ecommerce capabilities come from costly third-party apps – which makes it one of the more expensive ecommerce platforms in general.

Shopify offers a 14-day free trial period plus three core price plans, which we’ve converted from USD to GBP:

PlanCost (billed annually)Best forWhat you’ll getTransaction fees
Basic Shopify£22/monthStarting a small online storeSell an unlimited number of products

24/7 support

Sell in 133 currencies

2.2% + 20p credit card rates
Shopify£58/monthGrowing your businessEverything on the Basic plan, plus:

Gift cards

Abandoned cart recovery emails

Five staff accounts

1.9% + 20p credit card rates
Advanced Shopify£219/monthLarge online storesEverything on the Shopify plan, plus:

Third party calculated shipping rates

15 staff accounts

Sell in five languages

1.6% + 20p credit card rates
You can try Shopify at no cost for 14-days Try Shopify Free

Is Shopify right for my business?

Shopify performed really well in our research overall, but particularly within the sales tools category ‌– making it one of our top platforms for small businesses. However, no two businesses are truly the same, which means it might not be the perfect choice for everyone.

“I want to grow my small business quickly”

Shopify is designed to help businesses reach new channels and boost sales. It has the best sales-specific tools of any platform we tested, which are all designed to help your business grow. While there are platforms with cheaper price plans out there, you'll struggle to find a platform that boasts better sales and marketing features than Shopify.

“I don’t want to spend extra on top of the monthly subscription plan”

Shopify doesn’t offer the best value for money, scoring 3.8 in our research. This is because, on top of Shopify’s price plans, you’ll likely need to spend money on third party apps, transaction fees (unless you use Shopify Payments), and your chosen theme. Many Shopify alternatives, such as BigCommerce, offer everything you need already built-in, meaning you don’t need to pay for much more than the set price plans.

“I want an easy-to-use platform”

If you’re wondering how to start an ecommerce website with Shopify, you should know it’s a very user-friendly process. Out of all the platforms we tested, Shopify earned the highest customer score with an impressive 4.6/5. This translates into a user-friendly platform that’s simple and relatively stress-free to use. It also means our research participants are likely to recommend the Shopify ecommerce platform to friends and family.


What did our research participants say about Shopify?

Once our participants had created their Shopify store, we then asked them to describe their experience, and how they felt about the Shopify ecommerce platform in general. The feedback overall was very positive – Shopify got the highest customer score of all the platforms, scoring 4.6/5. However, some participants found designing the storefront slightly more challenging than managing the inventory side of things:

“Shopify automates the process of creating a website for you, which is great. Then there's other things, like creating product collections manually: you can just tag items and Shopify will automatically populate the collection, which in the long run seems like a much simpler way to do things. Shopify just had a little bit more going on under the hood than the other platforms.”


“The site’s backend I managed to sort out all fine. But I just expected that, when I was on the storefront editing screen, I would be able to edit anything presented in front of me ‌– but that was not the case.”


“If I ran my own business, I think using an ecommerce platform would be the right method for me, and I’d definitely use Shopify.”

Shopify gained the highest ‘customer score' of any platform we tested Start selling on Shopify

Expert verdict

We’ve now shown you what’s under the Shopify ecommerce bonnet, but let’s recap what we've learned.

It's a user-friendly platform with superb sales-specific features, including multi-channel integration and an intuitive inventory system. This makes Shopify one of the best platforms for large companies and small businesses alike.

There are extra transaction fees to be wary of if you’re on a tight budget, but you can avoid those by using Shopify Payments. And while Shopify doesn’t offer the most creative control, it’s a really strong ecommerce platform overall, designed to help your business grow quickly and easily. Don’t forget it offers a 14-day free trial, too.

Is Shopify the best ecommerce platform? Well, it’s definitely up there. Just check out its impressive scores from our research and testing below:

Website featuresSales toolsDesign functionsValue for moneyHelp and supportCustomer scoreEase of useTotal rating

4.2

4.73.83.83.84.64.0

4.2

As you can see from its sales tools score, Shopify knows its stuff when it comes to selling online. If you want lots of control over your inventory, and the ability to reach new audiences ‌– and you don’t mind a few creative limitations, ‌– then Shopify should be your top choice.

Dan Barraclough

Dan’s a Senior Writer at Expert Market, specialising in digital marketing, web design, and photocopiers, amongst other topics.

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