What Is Shopify, How Does It Work, and What Can You Sell With It?

Cindy F. Cape

If you plan to open an online store, you may be worried about managing the website, shipping the products, and many such processes.

Luckily, e-commerce platforms like Shopify can help you with all these activities. In this guide, we explain what Shopify is, how it works, how much it costs, and what you can sell on it.

What Is Shopify? What Can I Do With It?

Shopify is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company that runs a cloud-based e-commerce platform of the same name. The platform helps set up and run your online store and offers various tools to manage inventory, logistics, shipping, etc. It charges a monthly subscription fee depending on the plan you choose.

To set up a professional-looking website on Shopify, you don’t need any prior coding or graphic design expertise. Plus, you get a fully-hosted website, which means you don’t have to worry about maintenance, upgrading software, and security.

How Does Shopify Work?


shopify logo
Image Credit: Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine/Wikimedia Commons

Shopify works by offering website hosting, designing, marketing, and several other tools for monthly subscriptions. The following are some benefits you can enjoy working with Shopify. However, do note that some features are reserved for higher-end subscription plans.

1. Set Up an Online Store

Setting up an online store on Shopify is quick and easy. You can choose from the available free templates and themes to customize the look of your website. You can create multiple web pages, showcase your products, enter product details, and sell them internationally.

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Editing content and customization on the website is very simple. So, you don’t need to hire a professional to do this for you. Shopify also provides video tutorials and resources to help you navigate through the platform.

2. Market Products on Multiple Platforms

With Shopify, you can run ads on Google and marketing campaigns on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. You can also manage your corporate blog to market and increase your web traffic. Shopify offers SEO tools you can use to rank your website on search engines.

3. Process Payments


phone calculator and cash on desk

Shopify supports more than 100 payment gateways and about 130 currencies. If you choose to process your payments via an external payment gateway, you’ll have to pay anywhere from 0.5% to 2%.

However, you can avoid paying transaction fees if you use Shopify’s native payment gateway Shopify Payments instead.

4. Manage Shipping

For shipping your products, you can either choose a third-party shipping carrier or Shopify Shipping, a built-in service that automatically connects you to eligible shipping partners as per your location.

With Shopify Shipping, your shipping costs are already calculated for you with respect to your shipping partner and delivery location. Plus, you get access to features like live tracking, printable shipping labels, etc. But if you choose third-party carriers, you have to do all the work manually.

5. Sell in Physical Stores With Shopify POS


Man With Shopping Cart

Shopify POS (point-of-sale) app allows you to sell your products in physical stores. With any subscription plan, you can access Shopify POS Lite. The app runs on retail devices like barcode scanners, receipt printers, etc.

The app syncs your Shopify store inventory on these devices, allowing you to manage customer orders, process payments, etc. If you don’t already own these devices, you can shop them on the Shopify hardware store.

6. Get Website Analysis and Reports

Shopify also offers detailed reports and analytics of your store. For example, with the Advanced plan, you can visualize and download reports of your website visits, total sales, customer return rate, conversion rate, best-selling products, frequently abandoned products, and more.

Keep in mind that the features vary based on the plan you choose.

7. Access Shopify App Store

Not only can you customize your e-store, but you can also expand its functionality by installing add-ons from the Shopify App Store. In the store, you can find a range of both free and paid add-ons. From email marketing to managing returns to push notifications, there’s an app for everything you can think of.

8. Get Funding With Shopify Capital


woman holding dollar bills

Shopify’s funding program, Shopify Capital, offers funding options in the form of loans and advances for eligible stores. This program supports small businesses to scale their ventures.

However, Shopify doesn’t make it clear as to the parameters it uses to judge your eligibility. You’ll simply be notified if you qualify and can apply after that.

9. Curate Marketing Emails With Shopify Email

With any Shopify subscription, you get access to its email marketing tool, Shopify Email. This tool helps you run email campaigns and create professional-looking emails. You can pick from the available email templates and add product images from your online store to create customized emails.

Shopify also offers analytics for your email campaigns. You can track the number of emails opened, products added to the cart, products purchased, and the click-through rate.

Shopify Pricing

Plan Price Best for
Lite $9/month Individuals who want to sell on an existing website.
Basic $29/month Startups and small e-commerce businesses.
Shopify $79/month Growing businesses looking to scale their operations.
Advanced $299/month Established brands that need advanced analytics and reporting.
Plus Starts at $2,000/month MNCs, high-volume merchants, and wholesalers.


What Can You Sell On Shopify?

You can sell a range of products and services on your Shopify store. The obvious ones are physical goods, including handcrafted goods, beauty supplies, home goods, outdoor gear, and clothing. But, you can also sell digital products and services like eBooks, gift cards, online courses, consultations, etc.

Pros of Shopify

  • Intuitive UI
  • Enjoy 24/7 support via phone, chat, or email
  • Get easy access to popular shipping carriers
  • Choose from hundreds of add-ons from the Shopify App Store
  • Encrypted payment processing

Cons of Shopify

  • Subscription plans don’t include all essential features
  • Transaction fee for third-party gateways
  • Expensive add-ons
  • Inadequate content management
  • Complicated migration process

Is Shopify the Right Fit for You?

Shopify is a beginner-friendly platform; you don’t need to be an expert to set up a great-looking online store and start selling your products. The interface is easy to use, and the platform is quite flexible as you can pick and choose different themes and features.

However, the subscription plans don’t include all essential features. You’ll often find yourself paying for every little thing; combined with add-ons, Shopify is quite expensive. So, if you’re looking for free customization options, it’s better to research and find other alternatives.


Shopify alternatives
The 7 Best Alternatives to Shopify

We’re taking a look at the best alternative Shopify platforms, in case the popular e-commerce platform isn’t for you.

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