Our rating(4/5)
Popular ecommerce platform that does everything you need it to do – if you can afford it.
Shopify is a Canada-based ecommerce platform with all the important tools needed to run an online store. The system can connect with POS sales and extra features, but it’s not the cheapest solution if you want more than the basics.
  • Highs: Lots of additional tools can be added. Wide choice of online payment options. Integrated with in-person sales. Dropshipping option.
  • Lows: Steep price curve. Most templates cost £110+. Could be more user-friendly. Customer support not always helpful.
  • Best for: Small-to-medium businesses wanting a relatively simple interface, but with the most customisation options for an online store.

How Shopify works

Shopify is one of the original ecommerce platforms, with over 1 million users across many countries including the US, UK and Canada where the company is based. It is fully hosted, so the website and payments are run by Shopify for a subscription cost.

After completing a brief sign-up form, you get a 14-day free trial allowing you to pick a website template, build the online store, add products and most other things included on a paid subscription. Once subscribed to a paid plan, you can start accepting payments in the online shop and connect it to a unique domain name.

Shopify Payments

VisaMastercardMaestroAmerican ExpressApple PayGoogle Pay

Others accepted

Manual payments (e.g. cash, bank transfers), PayPal, Shopify Pay, Amazon Pay, third party processors, long list of international payment providers incl. BitPay, Alipay Global, ePay etc.

Given its presence in many countries, Shopify is able to accept online payments in many different ways. The preferred method is ‘Shopify Payments’ accepting Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, American Express, Shopify Pay, Apple Pay and Google Pay. You can also connect nearly any other payment system popular in your country, for instance SagePay and Worldpay in the UK.

The paid plans directly integrate with Shopify’s own point of sale (POS) system for iPad and Shopify card reader. This makes it an excellent choice for those primarily selling online (because that’s what Shopify is best at), but also in person.

Shopify pricing and payments

An oddity of Shopify is the requirement to pay in US dollars instead of pounds sterling. This is a reflection of their customer base being mostly American.

Currency aside, Shopify’s three main plans for building a web store include Basic Shopify, Shopify and Advanced Shopify. There is a fourth plan called Shopify Lite, but this is just for ‘buy buttons’, not for managing an online store. A Shopify Plus plan is also available, but this is only for enterprises, large and/or high-volume businesses.

You can choose to pay monthly, annually, every other year or every third year upfront. You can save money the more you pay upfront, but then the price is a lot higher and you cannot get the money refunded. It is therefore quite a commitment to go for any other plan than the pay-monthly ones.

Plan Monthly* Yearly* 2 years* 3 years*
Basic Shopify $29/mo $312
($26/mo)
$558
($23.25/mo)
$783
($21.75/mo)
Shopify $79/mo $852
($71/mo)
$1,518
($63.25/mo)
$2,133
($59.25/mo)
Advanced Shopify $299/mo $3,192
($266/mo)
$5,640
($235/mo)
$7,884
($219/mo)

* VAT not included. All US$.

Shopify plans
Monthly* Yearly* 2 years* 3 years*
Basic Shopify
$29 /mo $312
($26 /mo)
$558
($23.25 /mo)
$783
($21.75 /mo)
Shopify
$79 /mo $852
($71 /mo)
$1,518
($63.25 /mo)
$2,133
($59.25 /mo)
Advanced Shopify
$299 /mo $3,192
($266 /mo)
$5,640
($235 /mo)
$7,884
($219 /mo)

* VAT not included. All US$.

Each subscription includes the ability to accept payments via Shopify Payments, but card rates vary between the plans. Card fees are highest on Basic Shopify and lowest for Advanced Shopify. If you’re a high-volume business, it might therefore make sense with the higher plan as the card rate savings could justify it.

With Shopify Payments, you are also able to add additional payment methods to your checkout options, such as PayPal and Amazon Pay. These other methods have separate costs payable to those providers – Shopify does not add anything on top of those as long as you also have Shopify Payments activated in your online store.

Transaction
charges to
Shopify
Shopify Payments
– online
Shopify Payments
– card reader
Other payment
gateway
– online
Basic Shopify 2.2% + 20p 1.7% 2% + fees to other provider
Shopify 1.9% + 20p 1.6% 1% + fees to other provider
Advanced Shopify 1.6% + 20p 1.5% 0.5% + fees to other provider
Transaction charges to Shopify
Shopify Payments – online Shopify Payments – card reader Other payment gateway – online
Basic Shopify
2.2% + 20p 1.7% 2% + fees to online gateway
Shopify
1.9% + 20p 1.6% 1% + fees to online gateway
Advanced Basic
1.6% + 20p 1.5% 0.5% + fees to online gateway

Shopify Payments also handles in-person payments through Shopify card reader – these fees are a bit lower than for online payments. There is no 20p charge added to the percentage rate for transactions on credit card terminals like you see with online payments.

If you use a different card reader than Shopify’s own model, transactions will just be marked as complete in the system and no Shopify transaction fee will be charged. You will, of course, have to pay transaction costs to the other payment provider in this case.

If you deactivate Shopify Payments and instead use another payment gateway for online transactions, Shopify will charge a 2% transaction fee on Basic Shopify, 1% on Shopify or 0.5% on Advanced Shopify. This is in addition to the transaction costs paid to the external payment provider.

There is a selection of free website templates, but most cost a one-off price ranging between $100-$180 each (most of them are $140-$180).

Image: Shopify

Shopify checkout buttons

Examples of Shopify checkout buttons that are customisable.

It takes three working days from the time a customer pays in your online store until Shopify sends the payment to your bank account. Then it takes 24-72 hours for the transaction to appear in your bank account. This means the payout time can be up to six working days with Shopify Payments.

Features

All three Shopify plans allow you to build and run a full ecommerce store with blog included. You can add unlimited products and sell on social media or another website through pay buttons via the Shopify system. Let’s go through some important features available on all plans.

Product catalogue: Add any products, services or gift cards to the product library, or import them in one go if they’re in a spreadsheet. Choose what sales channels (online store, point of sale etc.) you want to sell them through, track inventory levels, add variants, SEO data and more to each item. Out-of-stock items can be hidden automatically and search filters added to your website so customers can find products easily.

Image: Mobile Transaction

Shopify edit product page

‘Edit product’ page via Shopify dashboard.

Order management: The order section lists all sales alongside payment and fulfilment status and customer details. Connect with fulfilment solutions like Amazon and Shipwire to make the dispatch system more efficient.

Discounts and promotions: Set up a variety of discounts to incentivise customers, e.g. discount codes, Buy One Get One Free offers and timed or persistent offers. Promotions are powerful tools for growth.

Abandoned cart recovery: A proven way to increase sales conversion is sending emails to customers who abandoned their shopping carts. Shopify can do that automatically.

What, then, are the differences between the price plans? Most built-in ecommerce features are the same for everyone, except for:

Feature Basic Shopify Shopify Advanced Shopify
Staff accounts 2 5 15
Gift cards
Professional reports
Advanced report builder
Calculated shipping rates via third party
Basic
Shopify
Shopify Advanced
Shopify
Staff accounts
2 5 15
Gift cards
Professional reports
Advanced report builder