Shopify Could Be Called 'Nickle and Dime-ify'
Recently, two business friends told me to check out Shopify. They said they were using it to manage online stores. Since my company Bridge offers e-commerce software to 200+ retailers, I was curious to see how Shopify compared.
I signed up for an account as if I were a retailer.
I thought the sign up process was pretty easy. They didn't even ask me for a password. They automatically gave me one that I could change later.
I then set about adding a sample item--a Vietri mug. I could only load a picture for my item by browsing to my local computer. (In comparison, Bridge allows retailers to grab images from a manufacturer's website and skip relying on images from their local computer.) I then noticed how Shopify's product addition feature gives little weight to an item's brand or department. These are very important in managing items. When a store owner has just three items on a website, he or she doesn't need to worry about organizing items by brand and department. But most stores have 1k+ items on their site. Shopify's product tools do not seem to be up to the job of managing many items due to how the software lets you enter items in the first place. Retail stores may be destined for headaches with Shopify's product administration tool because it lacks basic organizational features from the get go.
Then I attempted to edit the mug that I had just entered. Shopify's method for editing existing items appears to have been designed during the George W. Bush administration. To edit an existing item, I had to go back and forth between a front-end and back-end system. (In contrast, Bridge's software integrates the front-end and back-end systems thereby making editing items quicker and more intuitive.)
Since most gift shops offer gift cards, I then tried to add gift cards to my Shopify store. I was surprised to learn that this feature--which comes free with Bridge's free accounts--is $79/month from Shopify. I have to ask: why? That's $960/year to offer gift cards. Gift cards are just like products. Why the needless pay wall?
I then tried to add a gift registry to my Shopify store. Sadly, there is no built in gift or bridal registry feature with Shopify. Gift registries are the #1 way that indie stores succeed online. Shopify directed me to an 'app store' where it suggested I pay some strangers $5 to $40/month for gift registry software. (Gift registry software comes free with Bridge's software.) I looked at some stores using this third-party software. The software seemed dated and not easy to use. I thought I may get a better impression if I could use a free trial and play with the features in my own Shopify store. To do this, the third party wanted my credit card information before I could even try gift registry software. Based upon what I'd seen on other sites, I decided to pass.
I then looked to see how my customers could review my store. It turns out reviewing my store (and items) requires another third-party app that charges $5/month. A common question was occurring in my mind was: why are basic features like reviews not built into Shopify?
I then investigated Shopify's app store in general. It appears that Shopify's model is to give businesses a bare bones, nice looking site and then nickel and dime the store when adding each feature. It's akin to a car sales person selling you a car with no tires nor windows nor windshield wipers. Then, having third-party providers sell you these items. Shopify prefers to sell you a car with no tires because it takes a commission on your app store purchases. The more features that Shopify doesn't offer out of the box, the more it can sell you after you sign up.
After my experience above, I went back to my two friends. One uses the store to sell his own goods. My other friend builds apps for Shopify. My friend who builds apps for Shopify told me that Shopify puts stores on "par with million dollar platforms." For starters, a million dollar platform is Macys.com. Shopify does not even come close to giving you a macys.com site. Shopify out of the box gives you a $100-ish site that looks nice but is primitive on the backend. It can be enhanced if a store spends thousands of dollars on tweaking, upgrading, and custom coding. Many website programmers charge tens of thousands of dollars to set up and manage Shopify stores. Notably, my friend is one of these programmers. I'm starting to see why app developers like Shopify and promote it: the Shopify platform is slanted in the third-party developer's direction vs. in the retailer's. Every feature that Shopify leaves out providers more room for third-party developers to sell this feature. My question is: why is Shopify not offering by default the essentials of what a store needs to survive online? Not including a review feature, gift cards, and easy product management are big holes in this platform.
Shopify reminds me of computers in the 1980s. One would not buy a functioning computer back then; one would buy the parts and put them together. Steve Jobs at Apple saw how inefficient this was and changed the computing world by offering a computer that was assembled and ready out of the box.
We need a 'Steve Jobs' moment in the online retail software world. I hope that a company starts selling nice websites that are assembled rather than in pieces like Shopify. With Shopify, you really just get a store in pieces and have to put it all together and keep paying more and more. Shopify should really be called 'Pieceify' or 'Nickel and Dime-ify'. Or maybe more fittingly for me: 'Damn-if-I Know Why Shopify is Popular.'
Now (spoiler alert: here comes the plug for Bridge) Bridge offers retailers all the essentials they need to open and run an online store. Prices start at $0/month and plans include all of the features missing from Shopify. Sign up for a free Bridge account
and see the difference for yourself. What are the drawbacks to Bridge? Bridge doesn't look as pretty as Shopify. But pretty websites don't sell more. Facebook is the most popular website in the world, it looks good (not great) and has shown us that built-in features and content are what customers want. They don't care about a website's pretty backgrounds nor slideshows. You can see this fact by the popularity of: Amazon.com. From our experience, stores that succeed online look nice (enough) and more importantly have functional features and lots of products. Bridge offers its retail customers exactly these things. Bridge stores have tons of built-in features and tons of content, including seamless integration with 50,000+ products. To continue our earlier metaphor, Bridge gives your store a car with tires, windows, and windshield wipers. With Shopify, your car is stuck on the lot without tires while you haggle with third-party providers. With Bridge's software, you can immediately drive off the lot in comfort. :)
Shopify upon sign up:
- Hard to manage lots of items.
- No built-in review feature.
- No built-in gift card feature.
- No built-in gift registry software.
- Completely empty store.
- Lots of add-ons but for a price.