Shopify Review (2021) — The Key Pros and Cons

In this Shopify review, I look at one of the most popular online store builders available and provide a complete overview of its key pros and cons.

Our overall rating: 4.4/5

There is an increasingly large number of online store building tools now available, and choosing the right one for your business can feel really difficult. Shopify is arguably the best-known e-commerce solution currently available, but is it actually the best fit for you?

In this review, I’m going to help you find out. I’ll cover the platform’s pricing, templates and selling features in depth — by the end of this post, you’ll have a much clearer idea of whether Shopify is the right solution for your project, or whether you’d be better off with an alternative e-commerce solution.

Let’s dive in — with an important question.

What is Shopify?

What is Shopify?

Shopify is a web application that allows you to create your own online store.

It provides you with a wide range of ‘themes’ that can be customized to meet your own branding requirements, and allows you to sell either physical or digital products.

A key aim behind Shopify is to let people without coding or design skills build an online store themselves (i.e., without the assistance of a developer).

However, people who are familiar with HTML and CSS will be pleased to know that the platform provides access to both.

Shopify's ‘Vintage’ theme
Example of a Shopify theme

How does Shopify work?

Shopify is a ‘hosted’ solution. This means that it runs on its own servers and you don’t have to buy web hosting or install software anywhere.

You don’t own a copy of the product, but instead pay a monthly fee to use it — and so long as you have access to a web browser and the internet, you can manage your store from anywhere.

With Shopify, the key things you need to build and market an online store — like templates, a payment processor, a blog and even email marketing tools — are provided ‘out of the box.’

That said, you can customize your store to meet more individual requirements through the addition of apps — more on these later — or using custom code.

The number of Shopify users — and why this matters

Shopify was founded in Canada in 2006 by German-born entrepreneur Tobias Lütke, who realised that an e-commerce solution he coded to sell snowboards could actually be used by — and sold to — other businesses.

Fast forward to 2021, and the company currently powers around 2.3 million online stores (source: Builtwith) and has over 7,000 staff. According to Shopify, businesses using the platform have generated over $314bn in sales.

These numbers matter because when you choose a hosted solution to build an online store with, you are placing a huge amount of trust in the company providing it.

There have been instances in the past of similar services closing down — for example, Magento Go — resulting in serious problems for their users, who had to migrate their stores over to a different platform at very short notice.

However, Shopify’s large user base and market share makes the prospect of this happening very unlikely.

Now: how much does Shopify cost to use?

Shopify pricing

There are five Shopify plans available, with the following monthly costs:

Shopify Lite — $9
Basic Shopify — $29
Shopify — $79
Advanced Shopify — $299
Shopify Plus — custom pricing.

A couple of quick things to note here:

  • If you pay upfront you can avail of a discount — 10% if you pay for one year, or 20% if you pay for two.

  • Additional fees apply to make the most out of Shopify’s point-of-sale features, which let you sell goods in a physical location. (I discuss these in more depth later on in this Shopify review


There is also a free trial available, which lasts for 14 days (and can usually be extended if you need more time to complete a store).

You can access this free trial here.

Shopify pricing for its most popular plans
Shopify pricing for its most popular plans

Shopify Lite: a cheap way into online selling?

Shopify’s entry level ‘Lite’ plan costs $9 per month and allows you to sell an unlimited number of goods.

This is cheaper than the entry level plans offered by key competitors — but there’s a catch: the ‘Lite’ plan does not actually allow you to construct a fully-functional, standalone online store.

Instead, it:

  • lets you sell physical products on your Facebook page

  • allows you to use your store to sell goods or manage inventory in a physical location

  • gives you access to Shopify’s ‘Buy Button,

     which allows you to sell goods on an another website or blog.

The Buy Button works in a similar way to a Paypal ‘Buy Now’ button — but because it links directly back to your store, more sophisticated options regarding tracking orders and syncing inventory are available.

Shopify buy button
The Shopify ‘Buy Button’

Additionally, you can use a Buy Button to display entire categories of products on another platform (for example, a Squarespace or WordPress website).

If you want to create a standalone online store, though, you’ll definitely need to go for one of the other plans.

Let’s take a look at these now.

Key differences between Shopify plans

All the $29+ Shopify plans provide core e-commerce functionality — you can choose a template, upload a catalogue of products, accept credit card payments, sell gift cards and access a wide range of third-party apps.

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