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Shopify test report 2021: experiences from Germany
Shopify has been providing e-commerce solutions since 2006 and has grown to be one of the largest platforms in the field. The system was developed by the German emigrant Tobias Lütke because he was dissatisfied with the solutions offered for online shops. His goal was one To create an opportunity for everyone to sell products online and remove all technical hurdles out of the way.
Did he succeed? We get to the bottom of this question in this Shopify review! The tests were not carried out in a demo system, but in various online shops in live operation. You will get ours in this article Shopify real-world experience. Stay tuned!
Why is Shopify so popular in Germany too?
With inexperienced shop owners, the easy entry and the comparatively favorable conditions contribute to the popularity of the system. Medium-sized and established online shops also benefit from the Canadian provider's range.
Since changing the shop system is associated with a lot of effort and risks, a new system should be carefully considered in advance and possible advantages and disadvantages determined. From a technical point of view, does it offer all the solutions that are necessary for your own online shop and how flexible is the system in handling. Is it a future-proof system, is there support and is the system scalable?
Our Shopify experience report tries to transparently examine these points and conveys our own experience that we have gained during our many years of use. What are the strengths and weaknesses and is Shopify suitable for use in Germany? Let's start with the benefits.
Shopify pros and cons
As users, we have followed the development of Shopify directly over the past few years and can provide practical assessments. Our test report is based on this experience and we examine topics that are important for entrepreneurs who want to run a successful online shop.
Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, GAFA for short, are the four global players in the industry. The approach of these companies is to keep getting stuck in a process between customers and providers in order to further expand their respective market positions and to displace market participants. In the beginning, many operators were able to do good business on Amazon.
Ultimately, however, he was never in direct contact with the end customer and was not allowed to communicate with him. So he provided the product, took over the research and the risk, and in the decisive process, Amazon appeared as the provider. Thanks to the know-how gathered over the years, Amazon was able to offer more of its own products and solutions and thereby displace and replace participants from the market. Therefore we try to work independently of these market leaders whenever possible, to secure data sovereignty and to get in direct contact with customers. This is where Shopify enters the market and acts as a versatile toolbox for online retailers.
What this means in our use case is explained in detail in this article. If you want to find out for yourself whether Shopify is right for you, you can try it out for 14 days free of charge. This test is completely non-binding and costs you nothing. Should you ever decide to use Shopify, we will receive a small commission for it, which we can use to support the work on this blog.
Shopify's greatest strength is its ease of use. When registering for the test access, you are guided through the process through simple and logical steps.
Intuitive user interface
Intuitive user interfaces enable quick familiarization with the desktop version as well as with the app for smartphones and tablets. Practical assistance and documentation also enable employees to become familiar with the system quickly. If the online shop continues to grow, additional employees, e.g. for support, can be trained and trained quickly. Instead of the tedious instruction in complex tools, Shopify convinces with well thought-out structures and ensures that new users can quickly find their way around.
If beyond that, a key benefit of Shopify is that it has a very large and vibrant user base. In online forums, Facebook groups and at Shopify itself, there are numerous aids and contact points that explain exactly how you can help yourself or find suitable freelancers without in-depth IT knowledge in Shopify. At the same time, technically experienced users are not restricted in their work processes.
Our Shopify review was surprised at how quickly the shop is configured and how quickly it is possible to sell for the first time. From the registration, to the basic configuration and the creation of the first article, it is possible in simple cases to be able to accept orders after just one hour. With no other solution have we had the experience of setting up an online shop that is ready for sale in such a short time.
High feature adaptation rate
Because Shopify is so easy to use, shop operators tend to use functions that they would otherwise do without due to the effort or, due to lack of experience, would not initially dare to implement them. However, there are numerous tools that help the operator to optimize his shop.
A simple example is the integration of Google Analytics or Facebook's tracking pixel. These are very useful tools for shop owners to improve their own system. Inexperienced shop operators in particular often do without such functions because they fear that the applications or installations involved are too complex and prefer to distance themselves from them. With Shopify, these apps are installed and ready to use in a few minutes and, for example, retargeting measures can be taken with just a few clicks.
Large range of functions: Shopify as an all-round carefree package
All important functions are already provided in the standard delivery of Shopify and, depending on the individual requirements, there is very little need to add further components.
This becomes clear in the area of payment, one of the central functions in e-commerce. The question of which provider processes the payments under which conditions is fundamental for an online shop and price calculation. Are current security aspects taken into account when implementing the payment process and how easy is the integration?
With its in-house service, Shopify Payments, Shopify offers a convenient and internal solution. With this service provided, you can process credit card payments in a few minutes or integrate more specialized services such as Apple Pay, Google Pay or, if desired, Amazon Pay. Useful providers such as PayPal can be activated with just a few clicks with this "out of the box" application. A large number of other external providers are available and can also be quickly integrated.
Newsletters and emails
With almost every other provider in the field of e-commerce, it is necessary to use an external provider in order to send out newsletters on a regular basis. Here, too, Shopify offers the advantage that these functions are integrated into the system. Since the beginning of 2020, newsletters can be sent to existing customers with Shopify Email without the use of external services.
This previously very simple implementation will be able to send transaction-related emails in the future. The use as a cross-selling or upselling measure or a reminder that there are still items in the shopping cart will be exciting options in the future.
The internal order overview is structured in a very understandable way and all essential processes can be controlled from it. Thanks to installed apps, direct communication with logistics partners is possible and the creation of shipping labels, delivery notes and invoices is done directly from Shopify. All other functions for order processing can also be controlled internally and without the use of external services.
Anyone who uses other sales channels in addition to Shopify (Amazon, eBay, specialized marketplaces) can connect the shop system to various ERP systems. We use Shopify in combination with the German tool Billbee and sevDesk.
Apps and themes
The lush range of functions of Shopify serves all the important functions for the operation of a successful online shop. If necessary, this offer can be expanded with targeted apps.
A large number of providers provide apps for different areas. These include:
- Product presentation
- Integration of videos
- Logistics and shipping
- Accounting and bookkeeping
The same applies to design. In addition to the standard designs, numerous themes from other providers are available. In the marketplace, you select the template you want and then load it into your own shop easily and without programming knowledge. These themes offer cheap to free alternatives for a wide variety of tastes. Technology-savvy users or specialized freelancers can also develop individual designs and layouts on the code level. Thanks to the large community, there is practical help, a variety of topics and competent specialists.
The large number of apps enables the operator to use a wide range of functions and services. Interfaces to numerous applications, such as accounting or bookkeeping, are offered. Using the REST API developer interface, the common industry standard, developers can create versatile links and automate processes.
Huge user base
Shopify stands out for its large user base. As a result, developments are pushed forward quickly and there is a lively community that promotes the exchange of knowledge between users. There are currently more than 1,000,000 shops in 175 countries. Shopify is also enjoying increasing popularity in Germany. The network of freelancers and agencies who have specialized in Shopify, so-called "Shopify Experts", offer a wide range of services for shop operators.
Support can also be found quickly on the usual freelancer platforms. You can solve the most common adjustments quickly and cheaply with Fiverr.
Safe, stable and performant
Due to its widespread use, Shopify takes extensive measures to keep the system up to date and to ensure the security and stability of the system. The hosting included in a Shopify plan is provided in high-performance data centers and maintained by experts to ensure maximum server uptime. Shopify is the first e-commerce solution to provide a content delivery network (CDN). This worldwide server network ensures that users all over the world can quickly access the desired shop.
Practical experience: In our shop, depending on the season, we had more than 75,000 users per day on our site. Despite the huge onslaught, we could not measure any delays in loading times, so we put the full focus on taking care of the numerous orders.
In addition, the provider takes care of the legal requirements in e-commerce with specialized lawyers. Shopify wants to comply with current case law and make this service easily available to its users. The legally compliant shop function, contemporary data protection and a worldwide server network set technical and legal standards for successful e-commerce and high availability.
Speed of development
The tremendous pace at which new features are developed and deployed is another benefit of Shopify. During the Corona lockdown, Shopify provided solutions with impressive speed for companies to offer and control the coordinated collection of goods on site. Clever functions, such as the implementation of a tip function, were a clever highlight for restaurants and catering establishments. This shows impressively that Shopify reacts quickly and can implement innovative solutions in creative teams in very short reaction times.
The POS function, i.e. the possibility of using Shopify as a cash register on site or in a retail store, underlines the versatility of this solution. Installation is carried out via an app on a tablet or smartphone and serves as an extension of the actual shop. Accept online orders and have them picked up in the store in a coordinated manner or place the order on site and control the subsequent shipping: Shopify shows its flexible side here and skilfully rounds off its offer with this function.
Thanks to its flexibility and innovative approaches, Shopify can be seen more as a tool case than a pure e-commerce solution. In many companies in Germany and in retail in general, digitization is not yet very far advanced. This results in a lot of untapped potential through the creative use of Shopify.
In addition to the functions for local operation, Shopify shines with other options. These include
- Recurring sales
- Subscriptions and memberships
- Integration of further communication channels such as Instagram shop or Facebook shop
- Google Shopping and Feed Management for price comparison sites
Shopify advantages at a glance
The advantages of Shopify are impressive and offer versatile solutions for shop owners. In the following list we want to summarize the advantages:
- Simplicity and good service
- Large range of functions
- Carefree package
- Expandable with apps and themes
- Great distribution and community
- additional sales channels
Of course, there are also opportunities for improvement in Shopify. Precisely because changing a system is associated with a lot of effort, disadvantages must also be mentioned in advance in order to be taken into account in the decision. During our several years of use, some points of criticism have already been dealt with, which keeps the number of disadvantages low. Overall, therefore, there are only a few points of criticism.
Price and fee structure
The overall simple price model can be disadvantageous for individual companies. First, an overview: There are various models with a basic fee of currently 29-299 dollars per month for running a shop with Shopify. In addition, there is a variable percentage and a fixed amount of 25 cents transaction fee for a sale via Shopify Payments.
A simple example with the basic plan:
- Shopify in its smallest version: $ 29
- Use of Shopify Payments: 2.4% fee + 25 cents fixed fee per transaction
This price structure can turn out to be disadvantageous in established shops that are already doing numerous transactions. However, there are ways to optimize these conditions.
By switching to the medium plan, the transaction costs are reduced to 2.1%, in the highest level they are even 1.8%. The use of other payment providers reduces this fee to 0.5%, plus the flat rate of 25 cents per transaction.
In order to determine which model is right for you, it is worth doing the math. Based on your own situation, you calculate the various constellations in order to find the right model. Switching to another model is possible at short notice; the corresponding setting option can be found in the admin area of your own shop.
Watch out when comparing prices!
When comparing costs with other solutions, it must be taken into account which costs can be expected in the previous areas. How much effort is required to set up and what fees can be expected for maintenance. Do you have to hire freelancers to help you set up or run the shop? Many of these functions and requirements are taken care of by Shopify and are available to the user at no additional cost.
Depending on your own situation, it is worthwhile to assess these factors in advance and take them into account when making a decision. Shopify basically offers an interesting starting position and long-term perspective for many situations. In individual cases, for example with strong seasonal fluctuations in sales, your own solution can be more interesting than relying on the all-in-one solution from Shopify.
The downside: “Real” multilingualism
Shopify makes it very easy to sell in multiple languages and currently in up to 133 currencies. From the user's point of view, all possibilities are given to operate internationally.
There are currently only restrictions from a technical point of view. Instead of a real language version, for example via a subdomain or language-specific URLs, the target language is only determined when the page is viewed. Shopify uses the browser settings to find out the language set and provides the appropriate content in real time.
The real-time conversion of currencies currently works according to this principle. Currencies and content are replaced in real time. From the user's point of view, this is absolutely reliable - from a technical point of view there are currently deductions here. For SEO professionals or for shops with a strong tendency towards internationalization, this aspect must be taken into account when making a decision.
No individual check-out possible
In this Shopify review, we have always emphasized the flexibility and ease of customization. The situation is different when you check out. This process cannot be adjusted by the operator and is largely controlled by Shopify. Check-out means entering the address and payment data, i.e. the functional flow of the payment process.
The surfaces and the look and feel can of course be customized in order to keep the break between the shop and the check-out to a minimum. The adjustments are therefore limited to the style. You can use your own background images, the font, colors and the shop logo. Here you can see the checkout of Happy Coffee (Christian Häfner) as an example.
But positive things can also be derived from this supposed disadvantage. It enables even inexperienced shop owners to use a conversion-optimized check-out process and the operator no longer has to worry about every little detail. Shopify follows current user experience recommendations and best practices from its own extensive wealth of experience. After the order has been placed, the user comes back to their own theme and the thank you page can again be completely customized by the operator.
As a possible Shopify disadvantage, it should be noted that there are restrictions in the case of special requirements or very large shops when checking out at the time of this experience report, which can have a negative effect.
Blog and content function
In the case of an existing website that has already acquired a large number of users through extensive content or blogs, the functions available for creating content may not be sufficient. Content pages and guides can be easily created in the usual intuitive way.
With a view to SEO requirements, added value and search engine optimized content can be created and published. However, compared to a specialized content management system such as WordPress or other common CMS, the options are limited.
For shops that focus on content marketing to reach customers, it is therefore advisable to integrate Shopify into the CMS than the other way around. With a link on a subdomain, this can be represented in a technically clean manner and both systems run in parallel. With this implementation, operators have more flexibility and options to create content with functional tools than to create it in Shopify with the simple on-board tools.
Is Shopify suitable for use in Germany? Conclusion of our experience report
Shopify is a suitable solution for small and medium-sized online shops in Germany and worldwide. It offers one of the few options to avoid the dominant platforms and to have data sovereignty yourself. From our point of view, this is one of the most important questions in online trading: who has the relationship with the customer and who has the data?
To distinguish it from other shop systems, Shopify has very little to do with administration itself. The provider relieves you of a lot of work and at the same time takes care of the further development of the entire system. In view of this aspect, we find the price model to be justified.
A big advantage of Shopify is that it is very easy to use. The operator and employees find their way around quickly and the control of the shop and its processes is very uncomplicated overall. Many functions are self-explanatory and the scope of functions is specifically expanded through the integration of apps. Numerous interfaces, extensions and themes round off the offer comprehensively and also meet special requirements. The growing pool of freelancers who can customize and help with problems also offer operators additional options for optimizing their own shop. The lively community enables uncomplicated and creative exchange between operators and offers numerous contact points in the event of problems.
Online shops that already generate very high sales or that rely on strong internationalization should take a look at Shopify Plus. This premium service is already used by companies such as Tesla, Red Bull or Reebok and represents a flexible enterprise platform.
We have been using the system for years and are enthusiastic about the implementation. The opportunity to test the system for 14 days free of charge gives you the opportunity to get your own picture of it. If you were curious about our articles, you can try Shopify for 14 days free of charge here.
The most common Shopify questions
Yes, you can cancel Shopify on a monthly basis if you choose the monthly model. Alternatively, you can pause, upgrade or downgrade whenever you want.
At the beginning it is advisable to pay monthly until you have determined the requirements for your shop.
Shopify is a pure SaaS solution, which means that the software runs entirely in the cloud. So you don't install Shopify on your own server, but the provider takes over the entire hosting, including maintenance, for you.
You can manage your online shop conveniently in your own browser or via the mobile apps.
You are free to choose! If you wish, you can pay out every working day, once a week or once a month. This is where Shopify Payments is really great!
Yes, in any case! The company is now listed on the stock exchange, and has been offering incredible added value for online retailers around the world since 2006. More than 1 million small and medium-sized businesses rely on Shopify - so you can do that without hesitation.
The German emigrant Tobias Lütke developed and built Shopify together with a friend. Originally they developed an online shop for snowboards and gradually made the technology available to other companies.
Yes, Shopify is great for beginners too. On the one hand, the tool is very easy and intuitive to use. On the other hand, there is a lot of support from Shopify itself and the numerous users with all questions that arise.
In our opinion, Shopify is the best software solution to sell online.
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