Shopify makes it very easy to get started with eCommerce. It’s the one thing they’re good at. It’s far from the worst option for a non-technical individual to get started with their first online store.
The problem is that anyone serious about scaling their online store is going to outgrow the platform very quickly. In fact, we here at Deebly refer to Shopify as the “Fisher-Price My First eCommerce Store.”
That’s why if you’re serious about your online business, we have 5 reasons why you need to get the fuck off of Shopify.
1. You’re stuck within the confines of your theme.
Shopify has many themes to choose from, many of which actually do look quite nice. The problem is, no theme is going to be exactly what you need for your site, and you’re going to want to make customizations.
Unfortunately, Shopify is not friendly to customization, and its themes are largely static. You can’t really add specific modules or styling, you can’t change the layout of any of the elements on the page, and in some extreme cases, you can’t even change the colors or typography of anything.
The only real way to get exactly what you want is to pay a developer to customize the theme for you by either modifying the base code of a prebuilt theme or writing an entire custom theme from scratch.
However, each of these two options comes with its own pitfalls…
2. Theme updates overwrite all modifications
So you’ve come to realize the theme you chose (and maybe even paid money for) isn’t going to cut it out of the box, especially given that even ad tracking pixels have to be installed within the theme, even if there aren’t any cosmetic changes being made.
Grown up eCommerce platforms like WooCommerce (built on WordPress) or Magento don’t have a problem with this, as you can create what is called a child theme, which isolates your changes made to a theme so that if a theme’s manufacturer pushes an update, your changes are kept safe within the child theme.
Shopify has no such safety net, so you’re either stuck keeping your theme perpetually at the same version as when you made your customizations, or losing all of your changes.
The face of someone who just lost a week of data to an update they didn’t know about
On the other hand, if you do apply updates, you lose all of your customizations and have to start from square one once again. As mentioned before, this also includes things like website tracking pixels, which means your data analytics is going out along with your other theme changes.
3. Creating a Theme Requires Specialized Development Skills
Perhaps you want a lot of customization done to your site, and/or you don’t want to take the risk of having your changes overwritten, so you feel like it’s worth it to write an entire theme from scratch.
If you’re a professional web developer, no problem. Shopify themes are written in a templating language called Shopify Liquid. It’s a Shopify-specific variant of the base language, Liquid, with both Shopify Liquid and the base language having been created by Shopify. Its basic syntax is mostly based on HTML with different variations of Moustache-like syntax used to handle objects, tags, and filters.
If little or none of that preceeding paragraph made any sense, chances are you’re going to have to hire a developer. Shopify’s recommendation is to hire one of their official Shopify Experts, which are individuals vetted by Shopify and determined to be qualified to perform relevant tasks (including development) on a client’s Shopify store. However, because Shopify can be such a difficult platform to work in once you get past the absolute basics, Shopify Experts don’t come cheap. Expect to pay considerably more per hour than a standard freelance web developer.
Liquid also is used in very few places outside of Shopify, so if you think you might save money hiring a developer that isn’t an official Shopify Expert, know that while the hourly rate might be lower, you are almost certainly paying for that developer to learn Liquid. Any money you save on the hourly rate will be made up for (and probably then some) by the additional development hours spend figuring out the ins and outs of Shopify Liquid. Hiring an already experienced Liquid developer who isn’t an official Shopify Expert is also probably not going to save you much, as again, with Liquid being such a specific framework, they’re probably still going to have a higher hourly rate.
If this doesn’t look fun to you, making a Shopify theme probably won’t be either.
4. You can’t use two coupons/discounts at the same time
This one never seems like a big deal when it is first brought up to people. After all, how often is a store going to want to allow customers to stack on the savings and eat up all of their profits? Nearly every coupon you come across out in the wild says something to the effect of, “…cannot be combined with any discount or offer.”
With this one though, the devil really is in the details. Shopify has discounts in the form of codes, but also automatic discounts that apply either for everyone across the board, or whenever a certain condition (maybe a number of items in cart) is met. The problem is, Shopify won’t let these stack with discounts or coupons either, so if you issue a coupon to your customers, but then try to apply some kind of blanket promotion on your site (maybe a buy two get one free sale or something) you end up with your users getting an error when they try to use their coupon at checkout. In really extreme cases, the user could even be prevented from checking out entirely.
Don’t even think about offering a deal on shipping while trying to use a coupon…
Sorry, we don’t have a plugin for that shape of hole. Would you like to hire a Shopify Expert to build one into your theme?
6. The plugin ecosystem is limited
Certainly someone has solved this issue with a plugin right? There are hundreds of plugins that can be added to a Shopify store, and this coupon issue has been a problem since the dawn of the platform. Unfortunately many have claimed to have cracked this nut, but nobody has truly succeeded, and most of the results are spotty at best.
A lot of this problem stems from Shopify having a well-intentioned but limited plugin ecosystem. Other platforms such as such as Magento and WordPress allow for anyone to create and publish a plugin, and for any site admin to install any of these plugins. This leads to a massive and diverse plugin ecosystem that allows for nearly any problem one can think of to be solved.
The flaw in letting just anyone create a plugin is that unskilled developers can sometimes create plugins that break easily or even compromise the site experience. Shopify has decided to combat this problem by making it so that plugins can only be installed through their own plugin shop, after they have gone through a vetting process. While this is great for security, and sometimes even site experience, it does mean that many of Shopify’s multitude of problems and limitations go unsolved.
If we’ve convinced you that maybe Shopify isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and you’re looking for other eCommerce solutions, we typically suggest WooCommerce for most small to medium-sized businesses. For those approaching enterprise-scale, usually BigCommerce or Magento is going to fall more in line with more complex business needs.
Feel like this is a bit much to tackle on your own? Your ol’ buddy Deebly is happy to help! We have an entire team of eCommerce experts well versed in all of the major eCommerce platforms. Contact Us to get started
We even know Shopify and are happy to help if we still haven’t convinced you to leave.