I recently decided to try out Shopify to build a small ecommerce site for one of our clients. While ecommerce is not a specialisation at Cantaloupe we do know a thing or two about how it should work. Here’s a quick rundown of my findings:
Shopify has debuted in South Africa under the UAfrica umbrella and, if you’re going for Shopify as your ecommerce platform of choice, then you should consider signing up with UAfrica (https://www.uafrica.com/) as opposed to with Shopify (shopify.com or shopify.co.za) directly. The main two reasons are that they a tad cheaper and the support from Uafrica is really good.
Shopify has a nice selection of free templates along with other options available for purchase. I was pleased to see most of them are responsive – best for browsing from a mobile device. Shopify integrates into Facebook so you can easily integrate your store into your Facebook page and have visitors shop from there.
The interface is easy to use and the support documentation is pretty good.
Uafrica even help by recommending delivery partners and payment gateway partners based on their own experience. Thanks Mario – it helps when people have first-hand experience of the platform because they are running their own online stores on Shopify.
Ufrica hosts quarterly meetups in major cities which are a good opportunity to meet other Shopify users and get to hear how they are using the platform.
With every upside there is a downside…..here’s what stood out the most:
The monthly hosting fee works is based on the number of products in your store. Variations of products count as a product so hosting can get expensive for example hosting a thousand products is R299. You may be wondering what a variation of a product is: in our case we have artwork with an option of three different frames. Each different frame option for the artwork counts as a product. So then one artwork with three different frame options counts as three products in terms of the hosting package. You can get to 1000 products pretty quickly in this way.
Plugins are available at a monthly fee
Shopify doesn’t come standard with a gallery plugin, you’ll need to buy one. And this observation is something I found for most of the plugins available for Shopify: plugins are available at a monthly fee. This model can become really expensive once you add up your costs annually. For example some gallery plugins are available at $7 per month – at this point in time (due to a weak Rand / Dollar exchange) that’s R100 / month or R1200 / year.
There are some plugins available for outright purchase and, to me, this makes much more sense. The gallery plugin used on The Bead House website is from Shopify Ninjas and is called Image Gallery for Shopify (basic) at R650 for the outright purchase.
I would say Shopify is the ideal platform for non-complex products where there is not a lot of variation; and where you can buy the plugins you need outright and not for a monthly fee. Its good as a light-weight platform but if you need more specialisation and are looking to keep hosting costs down then I would recommend investigating Magento and Woocommerce.
This post does not intend to cover an exhaustive list of pros and cons, and I’m certain more can be added. In the end one should carefully consider requirements and cost structure before deciding on a platform.
IF you have a lot of products (more than 10) It’s worth learning how to format product information into an excel spreadsheet so you can import the products and pictures in one go. This can save a lot of time loading products on the site and waiting for the screen to refresh.
Of course this applies for an ecommerce site on any platform. Oh, and be prepared for a bit of paperwork when it comes to signing up for your payment gateway and courier partner. This applies regardless of which ecommerce platform you use.
View the site here www.thebeadhouse.co.za