Evaluating Shopify: Is It the Right Choice for Your Store?

David Hemmat
Apr 12, 2020

Shopify was founded in 2004, back when many businesses weren’t even thinking about starting to sell online. It’s come a long way since then and today powers thousands of successful online stores.  

Reasons you should use Shopify

Our team at Resolve Digital offers development services for Shopify based eCommerce solutions, and often engage in conversations with our clients about whether Shopify is right for them. While these discussions are held on a case by case basis and require a good understanding of our customers’ businesses, capabilities and plans for growth, we’ve been able to pull together some general advice that can help you decide whether or not Shopify is a good fit for your organization.

You are already on Shopify and are happy with it.

As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. If your team is currently using Shopify and getting satisfactory results, there is no reason to jump ship right away. Many of our clients do end up moving away from Shopify as they continue to grow, but this is usually out of a need for more flexibility in what they are able to create and implement, cost concerns (on most plans Shopify charges a percentage fee of all transactions), the desire to own their own code or other managerial reasons. Shopify does offer a “Plus” plan for about $2000 per month which expands reporting capability and increases the API’s request rates. That said, if you are looking for more flexibility you will probably end up looking elsewhere.

You are just starting your business and have a small budget.

For entrepreneurs looking to start an online shop to sell their products, Shopify is a great tool. If budget is a concern and you aren’t looking to spend a few dozen grand on a custom made eCommerce shop, Shopify will let you set up on a free trial, select a template and start uploading products right away.

We regularly refer customers that are in the idea stage of their business, or are looking for a proof of concept directly to Shopify. Once their businesses are starting to grow successfully and their needs can no longer be met with what Shopify has to offer we can help them transition to something more robust.

You just need a basic eCommerce Shop

A Shopify site is much like a Betty Crocker box cake. Everything you need is in the box, and you will get a delicious cake as long as you follow the instructions. That’s all fine and dandy as long as what you need is a basic cake. You aren’t going to get a wedding cake, or a cake with any type of exotic flavoring, because that’s not what a box cake is meant to be. In the same vein, Shopify provides a basic eCommerce experience that you can set up in a few hours with no special skills. You can use their wide array of plugins from the Shopify App Store to augment the out of the box functionality, but you will most likely not deviate too far from the core.

Sometimes businesses have a particular need that is not being met by their Shopify site, in which case a team like ours can build a custom app to help resolve that problem.

If you find yourself having to regularly do custom Shopify app development then it’s probably time to consider switching to something more flexible.

You don’t want to spend a lot on maintenance

Custom built eCommerce stores require a decent amount of maintenance. While services like Heroku help manage infrastructure, it is important to make sure that your custom site is running the latest version of the framework it is built on and all of the latest security patches are installed. This is true for pretty much every language and framework out there from PHP to Ruby on Rails. While these changes are usually incremental, there is occasionally a larger migration that needs to be made and this can mean a significant investment. If you are willing to pay a monthly fee to Shopify you generally won’t have to think about this.

So what if Shopify isn’t for me?

There are fortunately many other options out there, here are some of the top ones.

If you are looking for something that works right out of the box:

Squarespace: Squarespace is a great solution for out of the box marketing sites and recently started to offer eCommerce solutions similar to those in Shopify.

Wix: Wix has been along as long as I can remember, it was one of the first drag and drop style website builders offering a fully online experience. Wix now also offers eCommerce stores.

If you are looking for a more robust solution that will allow you more flexibility and growth:

Solidus: Our personal favorite at Resolve Digital ❤️, Solidus offers a well built open source solution for eCommerce. The Solidus platform offers all of the basics an eCommerce site needs but also allows our team to build, extend and modify anything in the code, enabling us to offer our clients superb customer experiences and increasing revenue. Solidus is built on Ruby on Rails and has an active development community. Learn more about Solidus.

Spree Commerce: Another one of our specialties here at Resolve Digital, Spree is the base from which Solidus was built a few years ago and they share much of the same DNA. While the codebase has diverged from Solidus’ quite a bit in the past couple of years, it also offers an excellent choice for a flexible and robust eCommerce store. Spree Commerce is actively maintained and also runs on Ruby on Rails. Learn more about Spree Commerce.

Magento: A powerful eCommerce platform, Magento is built on PHP and has been around since 2008. Over the years it has grown into a feature rich solution, with the drawback of being incredibly code heavy from years and years of code being added to it. Magento powers a good number of successful online shops, and is maintained by Adobe, who purchased it in 2018. Learn more about Magento.

WooCommerce: Offering an eCommerce solution that sits on top of Wordpress, WooCommerce is a popular choice for companies that have an existing Wordpress site. With Wordpress powering about 35% of all sites on the internet, it is no wonder WooCommerce has seen significant growth over the years. Learn more about WooCommerce.

If you are looking to build something truly innovative:

Over time we’ve come to learn that few projects are truly something that’s never been built before. Especially in eCommerce, most sites need to do a lot of the same basic things: have a cart that users can add services or products to, allow them to check out and manage their orders. That said, we occasionally come across a company that is looking to do something that is really just not what any of the eCommerce frameworks mentioned before can do well. In those cases, we would recommend going the custom development route and building from scratch. At Resolve Digital we have quite a few clients that offer their digital services or products online without the use of a traditional eCommerce cart experience and we help them design, build and maintain these solutions.

Still not sure what direction to go?  

Our team at Resolve is happy to get on a call and listen to the challenges your company is facing in setting up your eCommerce solution. We can offer a free consultation to help put you on the right path for your eCommerce journey.

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