What Is Shopify? The Best Online Store Platform Explained!

Written by Franklin Hatchett

Our goal at EcomElites is to help readers get the information they need, we partner with companies to help bring you that information. If a purchase or signup is made through our partners, we receive compensation for the referral. Learn More

Our goal at EcomElites is to help readers get the information they need, we partner with companies to help bring you that information. If a purchase or signup is made through our partners, we receive compensation for the referral. Learn More

Shopify is a platform that allows you to build an online store. It started back in 2004 when the Canadian founders built an online store where they could sell snowboarding equipment. They were unhappy with how the online store was built and decided that they should make a new platform that should make it really easy for online sellers to build an online store.

what is shopify

Over the years, Shopify grew and became one of the biggest platforms in the world. Today, its main office is in Ontario, Canada. It has expanded its services from just a web builder to an all-in-one platform for anyone who wants to build an online store.

With Shopify, you can create your store, upload your products, do SEO, charge one-time payment or recurring payments, do marketing, and even charge money offline with the Shopify POS.

Shopify offers its services to about 175 countries. It supports more than 800,000 online stores, and the total value of the products sold here is about $41 billion as of the end of 2018. So, what is Shopify? How can it help you?  let's take a look.

What Is Shopify?

Shopify is an online platform where anybody can build an online store. Before Shopify was born, you needed the services of a website designer and builder to create one for you. That service is costly, and at minimum, you need to spend $1,000.

That cost does not yet include the backend systems you need like FTP file server, web host, and the domain name. Then, you have to contact a payment gateway company, submit your application, provide your documents, and so much more.

Shopify changed all that. With the platform, you can build an online store in literally less than 30 minutes. The site is so easy to use, and all you need to do is to register, choose a business name, choose a theme, and then upload your products.

Shopify simplified everything, and the things you need to be able to put your own online shop is in the platform. You do not have to worry about hosting, domain registration, file servers, payment gateways, and coding. Everything is pre-built, and you can use all these services with just a click of a button.

What Can You Sell On Shopify?

You can sell almost anything on Shopify. It really depends on you. The thing is. Shopify does not support products that are generally illegal, like prohibited drugs. If you explore Shopify’s Acceptable Use Policy, you will find out that there are general rules about items that you cannot sell.

Here is a list for you:

  • Harassing materials – you cannot sell materials that are racist, or those that inspire violence, defamation, threats, and abuse. Hateful content is also not allowed.
  • Intellectual property – you cannot sell products that are owned by others and claim them as yours. It is alright to be a retailer, but you cannot brand an iPhone as your product.
  • Personal information – you are not allowed to sell personal information, like email addresses of people.
  • Self-harm – you cannot sell materials that promote self-harm, like a noose used for suicide.
As long as your products meet these conditions, you can sell them on Shopify. You can even sell digital downloads but you must ensure that you have the right to distribute these downloads or goods, or that you have the copyright to them.

What Apps Can You Use With Shopify?

Shopify has an app market where you can find thousands of apps that you can use to make your store look beautiful, or make your website easier to manage. There are also apps that can help you make more sales or apps that will make product sourcing and uploading much easier than doing it manually.

Here are some of the best apps you can use in your store to increase sales or make product sourcing easy:

  • Spocket – this app allows you to search for winning products. Spocket shows you how much a product costs, how it is performing, and how much you can sell it for. You can move the products from Spocket to your store with a click, and then process the orders in the Spocket Dashboard.
  • Printful – this is a company that offers print-on-demand services. You can use the Printful app to post blank products, and then ask your customers to send you their own designs. Once they order, you use the Printful app to order the product, and Printful will print and ship it to your customer.
  • Smart SEO – this is an app that will check your website if it is SEO optimized. If you use this, you will make your products a lot easier to find in Google search.
  • Affiliatly – this is an app where you can set up an affiliate marketing campaign. You can ask other people to market your products for free, but you will pay them a commission if they make a successful referral.
  • SMART Bundle Upsell – this upsell app automatically shows customers product suggestions. You need to program the bundle, and give it a lesser price. As the customers browse, they will see these bundled products, and they are more likely to buy it.

Related: 27 Best Shopify Apps For Your Ecommerce Store

There are many apps in the Shopify platform. You can use apps that show discount banners, email subscription apps, marketing apps, product tabs, shipping calculators, and a lot more.

How Much Does Shopify Cost?

Since Shopify is going to host your online store, it does charge a monthly subscription as you use it. There are four plans that you can choose from, and these plans offer different kinds of benefits and features.

Here are the four Shopify plans:

  • Lite – this costs $9 per month. The lite plan does not allow you to build an online store. What you get in this plan is a point-of-sale or a payment gateway. You can post your products in your social media channels like Facebook, and then you can charge your customers through the Shopify platform.
  • Basic – this basic plan costs $29 per month. Despite being called basic, this is packed with features where you can build a successful online store. Included in the online store is the free use of several themes, an online store, a payment gateway, hosting, domain, and SSL Certificate. With this plan, you can start posting your products and complete the sales process.
  • Shopify – this plan costs $79 per month. Apart from all the features in the Basic Plan, you will also have access to selling gift cards, professional reports, and USPS Priority Mail Cubic® pricing. The shipping rates for this plan can give you a discount of up to 72%, while the Basic Plan has a maximum discount of 64%.
  • Advanced – the cost of this plan is $299 per month, and you will get features that you cannot have on the first three. Examples of these features are 15 staff accounts, advanced report builder, third-party shipping calculators, and up to 75% discount on shipping.

The Lite version is great for those who do not want to maintain a website but still want to sell on social media like Facebook or Etsy. The Basic one is great for beginners who are just starting out on their online business. The Shopify plan works best for those who are already making sales and want to expand, and the Advanced plan works best for large businesses that sell large volumes of products.

Shopify also offers an Enterprise account. This is an account that has no specific price because Shopify will charge you depending on how you want to build your website.

Here are the fees:

  • Basic – 2.9% + 30¢ for credit card purchases made online, 2.7% + 0¢ if you charged the customer offline, and 2.0% per transaction if you do not use the Shopify payment gateway system (like if you use  PayPal or 2Checkout).
  • Shopify – for this plan, the fees in the same order are 2.6% + 30¢, 2.5% + 0¢, and 1.0%.
  • Advanced – for the Advanced plan, you will pay smaller fees. These fees in the same order are 2.4% + 30¢, 2.4% + 0¢, and 0.5%.

All these fees are on a per transaction basis. The only monthly fee that you have to pay is the subscription for the plan. If no one bought an item, then you do not have to pay these fees.

Related: Shopify vs Wix: What Ecommerce Platform Is Going To Be Right For You?

Shopify Pros And Cons

Just like anything else, Shopify is not perfect, but it is one of the best platforms in the world. Check out the summary below for the pros and cons of using this platform for your online store.


  • Easy to use – you do not need to be a computer programmer to build a site. Everything can be done with a click of a button.
  • Low cost – the capital you need to put up an online store that is fully functional is only $29.
  • Lots of options – the platform has an app market that allows you to upgrade your website. It has a lot of payment gateways, themes, and features that will help you build a website and manage your business easily.


  • Expensive apps – while there are many free apps, their functions are also limited unless you upgrade.
  • Transaction fees – overall, you may be paying around 5% to Shopify for every transaction. This does not include the fee that you have to pay to the payment gateway. If you are using PayPal, it will charge you another fee for receiving money through its system.

Best Themes For Shopify

There are ten free themes in Shopify right now. But so far, the best two to use are Venture and Brooklyn.


Venture has three styles, and the main differences are the colors used for the text and backgrounds. Choose a color that fits the mood of your store.

Here are the features of this theme:

  • End to end slideshow – the slide show on the home page occupies the entire width of the screen. This is great for showcasing products that need to be bold.
  • Multi-column menu bar – you can create several sub-menus from the top menu. This will make site navigation easier for your customers. These menus will also show photos instead of text.
  • Single Feature – this is a feature where you can showcase one product only, and it will be shown on the middle of the homepage. This is a great way to show a product that you want to sell the most, as it captures the attention of your customers.


Brooklyn has two themes called Classic and Playful. Both have wide sliders, and you can choose to display a video on your home page instead of the ordinary photo or banner.

Here are the features:

  • Dynamic Product Display – for this feature, the store will adjust the spaces between your photos so they do not look uneven. If there are four slots for photos in a row and you only used three, they will be spaced with the right distances.
  • Slide Out Cart – this is a feature that allows your customer to add a product in the cart, adjust the cart contents like size or number items, and then slide it out so he can continue shopping
  • Slide Show – both styles have slideshows where you can upload product photos, banners, or announcements

There are many themes in Shopify, but the free ones are the best for starters. In case you want to change themes in the future, Shopify now has a functional transfer feature where the contents of the previous theme can now be transferred automatically to the new one.

Related: 13 Best Free Shopify Themes For 2019 (The Ultimate Showdown)

How To build A Shopify Store (9 easy steps)

Building a Shopify store is easy. The online platform does not require any computer coding knowledge. It is like setting up a Facebook page where you just need to fill out details and upload pictures.

Here are the steps to build a successful Shopify store:

Step 1: Sign up for an account

The first thing to do is to sign up for an account by clicking on the FREE TRIAL button. Shopify offers you 14 days to try the website for free. During the sign-up process, you need to pick a plan, and then add your billing information so Shopify can start billing you once your free trial is over.

Step 2: Add a domain name

During the sign-up process, you need to be ready to add your domain name or store name. This store name is how Shopify will identify you from the rest of the Shopify users. You cannot change this name, but you can change your actual domain name.

What does this mean? You can use Clothes123 as your store name, and you cannot change this anymore. But you can use a domain name later like www.Clothes101.com, and this is how a search engine will drive people to your store.

Step 3: Choose a theme

The next thing to do after signing up is to choose a theme. Currently, there are ten free themes in Shopify. If you want a better-looking theme or a theme with more features, you need to go to the Shopify theme store and buy one. The price starts from $16, and there are themes that can even cost $10,000.

Step 4: Upload your products

Once you have selected your theme, it is time to upload your product photos. This is also where you need to type the product descriptions and the price. To add a product, just click on the Products link at the left-hand side of your admin panel, and then click Add Product at the top right. This will take you to a section that allows you to add a product name, add a description, put tags, and add photos.

Step 5: Edit your preferences

This is the part of the build where you need to set your preferences, global pricing rules, and change the settings. All of these are found in the Settings page.

If you click Settings at the bottom left of your admin panel, you will see a lot of options about your website where you can make changes. You need to explore all of these to make your website function in the way you want it to.

Step 6: Build your pages

The next step is to build your pages. These are your About Us, Contact Us, Terms and Conditions, Shipping Policy, Returns, and so much more. You can add pages if you click on Online Store at the left side, then click Pages under that, and then click Add Pages on the top right.

Step 7: Choose Apps

There are thousands of apps to choose from, and you can add these apps by clicking the Apps link on the left side of your admin panel. After that, click on Visit Shopify App Store at the top right.

After doing this, you can explore apps that you can integrate with your store. Many of the apps are free, and there are some that require a subscription. The costs of the apps vary, but you will find affordable ones for as little as $10 per month.

Step 8: Launch your blog

To make your products visible in search engines, your website must have content. Also, you have to make sure that the blog post entries are helpful to people. A blog is one way of getting free traffic. The more value you provide to people, the more search engines will love you and show your website at the top search rankings.

To write a blog, just click on Online Store on your admin panel, click on Blog Posts below that, and then click on Add Blog Post. On this page, you can write the blog title, the content, upload images, and then hit the Save button.

Step 9: Start marketing and selling

The last step is to start marketing your products. You can do this by posting advertisements on Google or Facebook. By this time, you must have already configured the payment gateway for your store. Before you market your goods, make sure that your website has products, pages, terms and conditions, a payment gateway that works, and at least two blog contents.

If you are ready, you can go back to the admin panel and make your website public.

The rest of the process is business maintenance. Focus your efforts on driving traffic and sales, and then add or remove products to your store. As you move forward to your online selling journey, you must keep on exploring techniques to increase your sales, and also explore the app store to find out if there are software systems out there that can make your store better.

Shopify Main Features

With the exception of the Lite version, Shopify offers several features that each plan  has. Even if you get the Basic Plan, you can still take advantage of these features to build a successful and professional online store.

These are the most important features available in all plans:

  1. Online store – you can build a combined e-commerce and blog site
  2. Unlimited products – you can upload as many products as you want
  3. Staff accounts – a staff account refers to a person who has administrator access to the website. For Basic, you can have a maximum of two, five for Shopify, and 15 for Advanced.
  4. Sales Channels – apart from uploading your products on your online store, you can integrate the store with social media channels like Facebook or Amazon. Every time you upload a new product on Shopify, this will also show on your Facebook or Amazon shop.
  5. Manual order creation – a customer does not have to go to your website to buy. You can create a manual order from the app if you sold the item in person, and this order will still be part of your sales.
  6. Discount codes – you can create codes that a customer can type inside a box upon checkout. If this code is used, the checkout system will automatically apply the discount that you programmed.
  7. Free SSL Certificate – an SSL Certificate allows browsers to identify your website as safe. Without this, browsers will not even display your page.
  8. Domain hosting – with Shopify, you do not have to buy a domain name from another host. If you want to name your website as ABC.COM, you just need to type this while signing up. If it is available, Shopify will charge you for the domain name. If you want, there are also free domain names, but the .SHOPIFY.COM will be used as part of your website address.
  9. Shipping discounts – you can enjoy shipping discounts from USPS, UPS, and DHL Express  and print the shipping labels. The discounts for the three plans are 64%, 72%, and 75%.
  10. Print shipping labels – you can print shipping labels from the platform, and then paste it on your packaged items. The next step is to drop this to the shipping office or have them pick it up if that service is available in your area.
  11. Payment gateways – there are over 100 payment gateways to choose from. You can charge your customers with their credit cards, debit cards, PayPal, and so much more. The availability of these payment gateways depend on your country.

Shopify also offers an app market. This is where you can buy apps that you can use on your store to make it look different. You can use apps that have different functions, such as pop-ups, discount wheels, games, show frequently bought together items, personalized product suggestions, email subscriptions, and so much more.

What Is Shopify Final Thoughts

Overall, Shopify is one of the best platforms to use if you want to build an online store. The good news is that the management keeps on adding new features that would benefit the users. In a recent announcement, Shopify is now going to launch a fulfilment center. This is good news as Shopify will now be taking care of the shipment. All you need to do is to send your products to their warehouse, and they will take care of shipping it, all you have to worry about is marketing your products.

We give Shopify a 5 star rating. it really is the best platform when it comes to easy of use. Anyone can use it to start a store online! If you would like to checkout some alternatives we wrote this article.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}