What is Shopify?

What is Shopify?

Learn about Shopify, the ecommerce platform that has made setting up and running an online store easy for merchants around the world.

Written by Jason Stokes

8 min read

The Rise of Ecommerce

As we move through 2023, the growth of online shopping has continued to evolve and is becoming one of the most popular web-based activities across the globe, with global ecommerce sales surpassing $6.5 trillion during 2023, according to a report by Manaferra. This number is expected to continue to increase over the next few years and the demand for businesses to deliver ecommerce services is bigger than ever before.

This growing market has created many opportunities for businesses to capitalise on the benefits of ecommerce, whilst eliminating the need for bricks and mortar stores and all the expense that brings. One of these opportunities is Shopify and in this article we are going to provide a detailed guide to help answer all your questions around ‘What is Shopify?’ and how it works.

Here in this article we will outline the following:

  • What is Shopify
  • How does Shopify work
  • History of Shopify
  • Benefits of Shopify
  • Shopify Considerations
  • Shopify Theme Development and Bespoke Websites
  • Shopify Apps
  • How to start selling on Shopify

We hope this will give you a better understanding about the features and benefits Shopify can bring, but also the considerations you’ll need to make before you commit to it.

Shopify - What Is It?

Shopify is a subscription-based, hosted ecommerce platform and allows businesses around the world to set up their own online store. Thanks to the platform, hundreds of thousands of people have been able to start their businesses and trade successfully online, however Shopify itself remains hidden, like the pipes and cables that keep your home functioning from behind the walls. Shopify’s customers are the brand names. With the help of Shopify, all size businesses can build a shopify store and sell their products.

Shopify stores are completely customisable and offer a wide range of themes to ensure the perfect appearance to suit your brand. It provides everything from website templates, plugins, reporting tools and many other features to help you build a successful online store. No matter what technical skills you have, a Shopify store can be set up very easily and can be seamlessly integrated with your social media accounts.

What Is Shopify Plus?

The difference with Shopify Plus is that it is specially designed for enterprise-level brands and provides much more flexibility with its support options. It offers a robust set of features that enterprise-level brands can benefit from, including full access to the checkout page code file and full access to running advanced functions like API calls which standard Shopify does not provide. So if you are a larger operation or high growth merchant, Shopify Plus would be the best choice.

History of Shopify

Shopify was originally pioneered back in 2004 by three friends, Tobia Lütke, Daniel Weinand and Scott Lake. The trio had tried to open an online store for snowboarding equipment but were unimpressed by the ecommerce products available at the time. Lütke, a computer programmer, made the decision to build his own and the founders launched Shopify in June 2006.

The platform has gone from strength to strength in the years since its launch. Business integrations (for example with Amazon), rapid growth, and integration with other software have all contributed to it becoming a global powerhouse when it comes to ecommerce. It now provides the platform for over 500,000 businesses in 175 countries, with a combined customer base of 131 million people.

How Does Shopify Work?

Shopify is a scalable solution that hosts everything from brand new startups to established global organisations such as Budweiser. It allows merchants to organise their products, customise the storefront, accept credit card payments , track orders and respond to customers with ease.

It is a subscription-based software which means you pay a monthly fee to use their service but due to its incredible tools, you can design your online store without any coding. Whether you want to add products or process orders online, Shopify lets you do it. Not only is Shopify a great alternative to brick and mortar stores, the platform also makes it so much easier to run your business.

Graphic by Crazy Egg

Shopify Theme Development and Bespoke Websites

Shopify allows for theme development to amend the look and functionality of a store within the structure of a pre-existing theme. Each theme is a group of template files which include all of the building blocks and supporting assets you’ll need to improve the design of your ecommerce store. You can also choose from a variety of pre-designed themes which are mobile-responsive and free of charge. Then there is a premium themes selection available to merchants who require more options. With all the pre-built themes, you can edit the theme content by adding, removing or rearranging sections, as well as change the colours to suit your brand.

It also has scope for bespoke creation of websites to make a unique store to match the vision of the store owner for their online retail space. With Shopify theme development, merchants can customise their own unique store theme from scratch and optimise the code, speed and much more. Through Shopify theme development, you can control every aspect of your storefront and set it up for your individual user’s needs.

If you need assistance with theme development or a bespoke build, you can recruit a Shopify expert to do the hard work for you!

How Much is Shopify?

It has a variety of plans and pricing to match any business’ needs so as a store owner you can select the right plan for you and upgrade to higher plans as your business grows. The basic subscription cost for using the Shopify platform starts from approximately $29 a month which gives you access to a whole range of features and tools. If you choose to go with Shopify Plus, an annual licensing fee starts at around $2,000 per month.

Benefits of Shopify

If you are looking for a fast and reliable ecommerce solution for your business, Shopify is the ultimate platform. It provides an all-in-one software for customising your own online store which is fully cloud-based so that you can run your business anywhere with an internet connection. It has all the features your ecommerce website needs, from integrated payment processing, social channel integrations for selling your products from one centralised place to brand and logo maker tools.

Other opportunities Shopify offers is the ability for customers to enter their shipping and payment details before the order is placed, the option to use customer engagement tools like email marketing and automation processes, the ability to talk with customers using Shopify Inbox to many more powerful features. There are also powerful upgrades available with Shopify to help accelerate your payments and ensure the utmost positive shopping experience for your customers.

Shopify Drawbacks

Shopify Fees - Often users complain about the Shopify pricing being too expensive, including the subscription and transaction fees. Although its basic package starts at $29, if you are a merchant with 2 or more Shopify stores, you’ll be expected to pay $299 a month as the additional features like up to 15 staff accounts and 8 more locations, will be essential for running your business.

Customisation - Shopify offers theme customisation but only enables you to change certain features and functionalities. All customisation is done through Shopify Liquid and many web designers and developers have experienced difficulties when using the Shopify customisation tools.

Content - Shopify allows you to set up a blog and optimise it for SEO purposes. However the default blogging software is not flexible enough for some store owners. There are some limitations with the elements you can share in your blog and the layouts which prevent you adding galleries to a blog. It is also missing blog categories so you have to use tags to group your related content together.

URL Structure - Another downfall with Shopify is that you cannot change the structure of your URLs as they are fixed and you can only edit the text after them. Such as /collections, /products and /pages are unable to be customised.

Shopify Frequently Asked Questions

What can Shopify apps do?

Shopify also has a Shopify app store where developers from around the world have made their custom built Shopify apps available for merchants. These apps provide further customisation, functionality and services for stores - from allowing your customers to create wishlists, tracking visitors as they move around your site and size guides for products, to apps that promote upsell opportunities.

If you have any questions about how Shopify could work for your business, or you’d like to discuss a project, why not get in touch with us?

Eastside Co are the world's premier Shopify Plus agency: a fully inhouse agency with teams specialising in design, front and back-end development, app creation, marketing and SEO. As a Shopify developer, our agency works with businesses around the world to create beautiful Shopify stores.

How do I start selling on Shopify?

Step 1 - Set up your Shopify account by visiting Shopify.com and entering your email address and clicking on ‘Start free trial’. You will need to create a password and submit your store name which can be a brand name. This can all be done in just a few clicks! And Shopify will take care of the server setup and maintenance for your convenience.

Step 2 - Choosing your plan is the next stage and this is when we recommend you to select the Basic plan. You’ll then be taken to the homepage of your online store where you will need to familiarise yourself with the functionality. It is important you remember to connect your domain, set up payments and your shipping settings before you start customising your store.

Step 3 - This is the most exciting step where you can finally start designing your ecommerce store! Be sure to pick a suitable theme that matches your brand and then you can begin changing the storefront. Using strong imagery to make your storefront engaging and stand out.

Step 4 - Now you can add your products to your store by going to the homepage and clicking on the ‘Products’ tab on the left side of your display. Then click on ‘Add Product’ and you will be shown the page builder where you can enter the product details like title, description, images and dimensions etc. You should focus on optimising your products to increase your listings conversion rate. Also don’t forget to click ‘Save’ after this is completed.

Step 5 - If you are not using 3PL or FBA to ship your products, then you’ll need to fulfill your customers orders yourself. The orders placed will be sent to your ‘Orders’ section and it will be unmarked. You need to click on each one and check that once the shipping label has been purchased, to tick on the ‘Fulfilled’ button and get the package delivered to your customer.

What can I sell on Shopify?

Shopify allows merchants to sell both digital and physical products as well as virtual and in-person services. Mainly including the following categories:

Food - Food and drink items are great products to sell on Shopify as the demand will forever be there. For example, packaged snacks, baked goods, coffee and tea are good products to sell on Shopify.

DIY Trade - Business products such as repair parts, components, material supplies and much more are able to be sold through Shopify.

Office Furniture and Accessories - Office items are currently taking a storm on Shopify, such as blank paper sheets, printed forms and janitorial items.

Electronics - Shopify stores can sell many different types of digital electronics and devices as technology continues to advance around the world.

Health and fitness - Gym equipment and home workout items are increasingly popular on Shopify and have become a major trend in recent years.

Homeware - Since lockdown, many homeowners have been spending more time investing in decorating and accessories to improve their property. Making them the perfect products to sell on Shopify.

If you have any questions about how Shopify could work for your business, or you’d like to discuss a project, why not get in touch with us?

Eastside Co are the UK’s #1 Shopify experts: a fully inhouse agency with teams specialising in design, front and back-end development, app creation, marketing and SEO. As a Shopify developer, our agency works with businesses around the world to create beautiful Shopify stores.

Who we are

We are one of the world’s most trusted and experienced Shopify Plus Partners. A full-service, fully in-house digital agency of over 50 talented people, we’ve helped hundreds of ambitious brands exceed their goals.

About Eastside Co

What we do

Eastside Co leads the way in UX-focused Shopify web design, results-driven marketing strategies, and best-in-class Shopify applications and software. We help online businesses escape the ordinary and achieve ecommerce success.

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