Shopify: a Super Easy, Inexpensive eCommerce Platform

I’ve been a staunch WordPress apostle for the past twelve years, and this post may get me labeled as a heretic.

Heresy is any belief or theory that is at variance with established beliefs or customs of an organization or movement. A heretic is a proponent of such claims or beliefs  – Wikipedia

Since Woo Commerce first came on the scene in 2011, I’ve been using it to create online stores for my clients. In 2015, Automattic acquired Woo Themes and Woo Commerce, and since then Woo Commerce has dominated the market now accounting for 42% of all eCommerce sites!

Shopify was started in 2006 by a couple of snowboarders frustrated with the options available at the time to sell their boards online. They decided to tackle building an eCommerce platform themselves and quickly gave up selling snowboards and went full-time into software development.  By 2008, they became profitable.

Recent figures show Woo Commerce powering 3,208,435 eCommerce shops while Shopify has half of that 1, 166 638 installations. So why have I all but defected from Woo Commerce?

Woo Commerce is a free plugin that runs on a WordPress website. WordPress is also a free, open-source software program.  But although they are free, neither one is easy for a non-technical person, without design skills to use to create an attractive, effective online store.

With Woo Commerce, free is not actually free. To run WordPress with Woo Commerce, you need to have a domain name at $9 per year, a good web hosting platform that runs 15 – 30 dollars per month. There’s a fee of about $75 per year to accept credit cards with any payment gateway other than  Paypal or Stripe,

You’ll also need shipping plugins and tax plugins. And, if you have variable products and want to display images of the variations, well, that calls for yet another plugin.

You need to backup and maintain your site every month which usually takes some development skills since the templates also often need updating. This usually runs about 100.00 per month.

You can see very quickly that using Woo Commerce is actually not “free.”  when you are using it to run an e-commerce site.  It’s difficult to break the news to your clients that they need to purchase yet another plugin to do something they need to do on their e-commerce site with their free Woo Commerce plugin.

But worse than the purchase price of these plugins is the fact that someone needs to back up and update WordPress, the WordPress theme, Woo Commerce, the Woo Commerce plugins, and do it often. These updates can be dicey since regularly these plugins have conflicts with each other one, or another plugin has lagged in their updates making it very difficult for most end users to maintain their Woo Commerce websites themselves.

As you can probably tell, I’ve been getting irritated by all of this. And so, I tried Shopify.

First, I just tried just a little taste of Shopify adding a few client products to Shopify Lite (9.00 per month) and then putting them on my client’s WordPress site with Buy Buttons which quickly turned the WordPress site on a little online store. Then I used Shopify Lite to add buy buttons to their Instagram account, which was very cool.

The main difference between Shopify Lite and their next plan at $29 per month is that with Shopify Lite you’re not getting a full online store. Instead, you upload products into Shopify Lite which lets you pull them into an already existing website or social media pages like Facebook or Instagram.

I then moved up to a full Shopify site at 29.00 per month which I found delightful to use. I was able to get an account, upload my products with a CSV file, choose a Shopify Theme and configure it with a front-end drag and drop interface.

I paid a one-time fee of $150 for a premium theme. But, Shopify offers their clients a few savings that make up for that. They give their store owners access to use their payment Gateway with a 2.15% rate and no monthly fee. They also offer Shopify users the ability to use Shopify’s negotiated rates for UPS shipping which is also a money saver for most stores.

Shopify provides hosting and maintains its shop sites. And, although Shopify offers a full library of third-party add-ons for additional functionality, I had everything I needed for this site without them.

Now, I use Elementor with WordPress which gives me the ability to create my own page layouts and designs without coding. Shopify does have drag and drop design addons but the issue with them is that they charge a monthly fee of about $35.00 but to have those elements, you have to keep using and paying for the add-on.  In most cases,  with the drag-and-drop home page interface Shopify offers with their themes, I’ve had everything I needed to make a great little eCommerce website. Shopify hosts the site with unlimited storage, and they take care of backups and updates – easy peasy.

When I took on a client that had a non-technical team,  I knew Shopify was the best way to go for the e-commerce functionality since its clean user interface is very easy to use. The WordPress dashboard is so loaded up with options that it’s just too much for most clients to deal with.

There was a twist though, this business has a brick-and-mortar presence with two full restaurants, a distillery, and five or six shops. I knew that building landing pages and tweaking them as my heart desired or the client needed, was a job for a WordPress website. But, this property also has an online store with over 750  products and a lot of specific functionality that would have required many WooCommerce plugins.

So I decided to use WordPress as the main website for the brick and mortar location landing pages and use a Shopify site for their 750 eCommerce products.  We then designed a header and footer with navigation menus in Shopify to match the WordPress site navigation. Then we developed the product collection pages, the product detail page, and created an add to cart and checkout page.

This new website should launch in March, and I’ll do a post showing all of the bells and whistles. But in the meantime, take a look at Shopify and give it a try. But I’m warning you, it’s an experiment that you may not come back from.

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