Shopify vs Shopify Plus – is Shopify Plus worth it? (industry expert's comment)

Whether you’re already a Shopify merchant looking to upgrade your plan, or a brand looking to migrate from a different platform, you might be wondering if Shopify Plus is your best next step. Find out more about what signs our experts think should make someone seriously consider an upgrade - and why it's ultimately worth it. 

Before we dig in though, it’s important to compare and gain a clear picture of the plans available. It isn’t only the options 'Shopify' and 'Shopify Plus' that you'll be presented with.

 

A quick comparison of your Shopify options

The current five pricing plans for Shopify are – from the least to most sophisticated – Shopify Lite, Basic Shopify, Shopify, Advanced Shopify and Shopify Plus.

Shopify Lite - As its name suggests, is really for those who are only just getting started selling online. It doesn’t even give you your own shopping cart, but does allow you to add products to your website or blog and accept credit card payments. Nonetheless, you might consider it if you are currently a young entrepreneur or small business with just a few products to sell.

Shopify Basic - Basic Shopify goes some way above this, giving you two staff accounts for access to the Shopify admin and Shopify POS. You’ll get an online store, the ability to sell on online marketplaces and social media, and the option to assign inventory to up to four locations – that is, wherever you store products, such as retail stores, warehouses or pop-ups. 

You might like the idea of Basic Shopify if you intend to post and sell hundreds of items. But it does – of course – lack some of the next-level Shopify plan’s perks, such as professional reports, international domains and the ability to sell in multiple languages. The Shopify plan may therefore be for you if you expect to initially sell hundreds of products, before scaling up rapidly.

 

Shopify Advanced

Features - Pick Advanced Shopify for your ecommerce store, and you’ll also get an advanced report builder and third-party calculated shipping rates – in other words, the ability to show calculated rates with your own account or third-party apps at checkout. And if you intend to regularly introduce new product lines and ideas to your store, Advanced Shopify may therefore make a lot of sense for you. This plan also allows you to assign inventory to up to eight locations, as opposed to the Shopify plan’s five and Basic Shopify’s four. Its features, relative to Basic Shopify or Shopify, could be just the thing for scaling your business. 

Pricing - Priced at $299 a month at the time of typing, Advanced Shopify comprises an expanded version of the functionality of the other plans we’ve covered so far. 

Accounts - this plan offers 15 staff accounts (an adequate limit for many firms) compared to the five offered by Shopify and the two possible with Basic Shopify. 


Shopify Plus vs Shopify Advanced

These two sound similar going off their names alone, so are they? The short answer is... not really. This being the range-topping Shopify plan, Shopify Plus really is the option to go for if you wish to get the very most out of Shopify’s complete functionality, including exercising the greatest control over your backend. It’s a true enterprise-grade solution for the highest-volume merchants, having been used by such household-name giants as Sony, Clarks and Unilever.

Pricing

Shopify Plus is a different beast to the other platform options, as signalled by its pricing of $2,000 per month, although variable fees are available to higher-volume businesses. Considering brands on other enterprise platforms like Magento are charged a similar fee, whilst also having to pay 1000s for hosting and yet more for development, Shopify Plus should be considered a strong contestant for ecommerce brands ready to compete.

Further, you're likely to cost-save on Plus if you're looking to run several store-fronts (one per country, for instance), rather than paying $299 per store on Shopify Advanced. Upgrading to Shopify Plus, you'd be able to manage all those stores under one plan.

Support

When on Shopify Plus, you will also get access to a team of Merchant Success Managers (MSMs) and innovative Solution Engineers. There to answer questions from you or your Shopify expert agency, the MSMs can also raise issues with people higher up in Shopify.

Hosting

Not only will your Shopify Plus site be fully hosted, but you’ll also get 200 TB of storage and no transaction fees to pay. It’s an excellent solution for many businesses that don’t wish to spend much time on order management and instead intend to plough greater resources into marketing and design. Naturally, then, a lot of larger ecommerce brands will – and do – gravitate to Shopify Plus.

Automation

Another big advantage Shopify Plus offers, is its potential for automation. One Shopify Plus-exclusive feature, for instance, is Launchpad; a smart promotional tool that allows you to schedule, coordinate and execute events like sales, inventory restocks and product drops.

Then, there’s the significant attraction of Shopify Flow, which is great for automating everything from customer interactions to inventory and order management, and only available for those on Plus.

Customisation

While the plain Shopify plan does allow you to customise the shopping experience, it doesn’t give you scope to do much with the checkout itself, beyond changing how it looks. Shopify Plus, though, enables you to go further, by also customising your store’s checkout functionality.

So, you don’t have to make do with just the usual two-page checkout – variations such as a one-page or three-page checkout are possible, too. This can be done by using Plus-exclusive feature Shopify Scripts. As the term suggests, these are small pieces of code that allow you to give your customers more personalised experiences in their cart and at the checkout stage.


What Industry Experts Have to Say

Tim Sumner, Solutions Engineer at Shopify Plus

"I try to encourage the merchant to think about the longer term, what other systems they might need to put around Shopify. Will they need a PIM system if they’re going multi-currency or multi-language? Will they need an IMS system to accommodate multiple warehouses? Do they need a personalisation and/or loyalty solution to improve the customer experience and not waste real estate? These are all things I want them to start considering since Shopify takes away the hassle of worrying about scalability, maintenance and security, so their business really does start to grow fast. When it does, you’d be surprised how quickly they need these other things in place.

The other key aspect of growing with Plus is the three apps you get. Shopify Flow is incredibly useful for automating lots of tasks on the back end. Tagging customers, hiding and alerting on low stock items, checking on why refunds are occurring etc. The list of what merchants can automate really gets longer and longer all the time, so this is a key aspect of the product and I want them to use it aggressively.

Launchpad is a great tool to plan product launches or sales periods. Here I want the merchant to be thinking about what they can plan ahead from an eCommerce point of view, so they can dedicate that mental energy elsewhere.  They also don’t have to stress staff to stay up till midnight on the day before Black Friday (because we all know how fun that is).

Finally, I want merchants to look at the Script Editor, the last of the three Plus-exclusive apps. Very often, merchants have never gone this far with their conversion and discounting strategies in the cart. It is a great opportunity to learn how to become more aggressive in discounting, bundles, free shipping thresholds or using peer pressure to close. Scripts really is a blank canvas in the cart and merchants should really use this to its fullest potential.

These are some of the bigger topics I discuss with merchants but there are so many more."

 

Lisa Popovici, Co-Founder & COO of Cartloop

“While the Shopify platform comes with all the fundamental tools and features to make your brand look highly professional, Shopify Plus is the option you need to go with if your brand is growing at a fast pace, you need to cover a high volume of orders, therefore you need a more efficient infrastructure.

Some of Cartloop’s brands have made the switch due to its customization capabilities, such as the checkout customization feature, which allows merchants to add a free product via a discount code, create extra custom fields, login via social media and much more... 

Also, as our main way of gathering new marketing subscribers is done at this step, having a personalized checkout page increases the chances of shoppers subscribing to your marketing updates, hence more sales and nurturing opportunities.”

 

Edward Scott-Finnigan, Independent Ecommerce Consultant

"Over the many years I've worked in ecommerce, I've learnt to embrace simplicity wherever possible. I think that's why I, along with over millions of other businesses, have gravitated to Shopify to simplify technical, operational, or commercial challenges.

However, as Shopify (and more importantly, the brands and merchants who rely on Shopify's platform) have matured, complexity has ultimately creeped in. Whether you're selling pet supplies, the latest fashion, coffee subscriptions or just drinks-to-make-your-tummy-happy, one can often identify a list of areas that will drain resource if left ignored.

Order volumes, integrations, customer services, marketing, CRM, ERP, expansion; these are just a few suspect reasons that may require you to evaluate when to upgrade to Shopify Plus. Or, at what rung of the ladder you should take your first step towards migrating to the Shopify ecosystem.

Mainly, out-of-the-box Shopify Plus provides you with 10 instances to work with. This is great for multi-brands or merchants operating in multiple countries. Plus, the additional support directly from Shopify is extremely valuable.

Yet, I'd say my favourite feature of Plus is Shopify Flow. It allows you to build out automated tasks, which can help you manage promotions, retention efforts (like rewarding loyalty), order management, risk management, inventory, merchandising and so on - ultimately, supporting you in improving customer experience, without you having to work on it 24/7. The automation it allows your business can be truly game changing!"

 

Julia Neuhold, Product Marketing Manager at dotdigital

 "Shopify Plus brings great advantage to merchants, particularly those experiencing high growth. Most dotdigital customers we speak to are looking to scale their business in some way, such as expanding internationally, or are looking to automate processes as much as possible.

Our Shopify Flow integration really helps here. It allows them to use any event in their store to trigger an action in dotdigital Engagement Cloud. Adding new customers to mailing lists and automation programs, and sending out those crucial post-purchase emails couldn’t be easier.

Another benefit is the ability to manage multiple storefronts with Shopify Plus. This means that merchants can sell their products globally by adapting to local requirements, or expand their offering with sub-brands.

This expansion is fully supported by dotdigital. Merchants can either connect all stores to one Engagement Cloud account, collating all store and engagement data and getting in-depth performance reporting across all stores, or treat marketing and reporting for each brand separately with child accounts. Either way, Shopify Plus merchants have the perfect conditions to expand and thrive."

 

Dan Beynon, Head of Technology at Underwaterpistol

"In a previous role, I worked at a furniture brand who's revenue were at a point where the slightest increase in conversion rate meant a massive uplift in terms of monetary amount. So, control over the checkout process was becoming important in order to improve the company's efficiency and bottom-line.

As I handled most of the tech in-house, I suggested upgrading from Shopify Advanced to Shopify Plus due to the platforms customisation features, such as using Shopify Scripts for automatic discounts, or Launchpad to automate certain sales periods needing to go live at midnight, for instance. 

Before the upgrade, a big part of my research included looking at the increased cost on a monthly basis, such as projected costs for the rollout of additional stores. Using Shopify Plus then made sense purely from the standpoint of being able to run several stores under one uniform hub, rather than outlaying costs for several Shopify Advance plans per additional store."


What’s Next?

Are you still unsure as to the Shopify solution that may best serve your requirements and ambitions as a merchant? If so, don’t hesitate to contact our team at Underwaterpistol today.