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CAN SHOPIFY PLUS BOOST YOUR BRAND'S GROWTH?

LET'S FIND OUT

Over the past couple of years, I have worked with over 200 Shopify brands - more than enough to understand the limitations of this platform.

Those limitations are in place for a reason - you can’t provide 99.99% uptime to 200,000+ businesses without sacrificing something in the process.

The question is, if you’re a sizable, rapidly growing ecommerce brand, can you make do with a basic Shopify plan? Or do you need to think bigger, if you want your business to do well?

Today, I’ll do my best to answer this for you: why should you consider Shopify Plus for your brand, and when does it make sense to switch?

What is Shopify Plus?

Shopify Plus is a premium ecommerce solution for emerging brands and high-volume businesses. It’s a great fit for ecommerce brands earning $50,000+ per month. If your business is still working up to this milestone, you should stick with a less expensive Shopify plan.

Shopify understands what goes into making a great brand. More importantly, they understand what stuff is critical to success, but not core.

By taking care of the critical components, Shopify lets you focus on your brand’s core needs.


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Shopify Plus Benefits

1. 99.99% Uptime + Premium CDN

Shopify maintains a big cluster of servers at Rackspace. Shopify uses Rackspace cloud for certain services while the core application runs on bare metal servers. Their devops team makes sure they are way over-provisioned to handle any potential traffic spikes.

Thanks to this setup, Shopify can automatically scale with demand, meaning that your site is always performing at its best. With little to no revenue lost to tech issues, every marketing campaign you ever run will achieve maximum effectiveness - at no extra cost.

But that’s not all! Shopify also serves content using a premium CDN operated by Fastly to ensure images are loading at lightning-fast speeds. And that’s huge for sales and conversions!

In 2008, Amazon announced that they found a 100ms increase in page load time decreased sales by 1 percent. Google also found a 500-ms increase in search results display time reduced their revenue by over 20 percent. It is because of such findings Google began using site speed as a ranking factor in their search algorithm.

In my experience, Shopify Plus merchants see a ~120ms savings in response time per request when compared with regular Shopify stores. So, if you are earning more than $99.5k/mo then Shopify Plus theoretically pays for itself in that 1% increase in sales.

2. Early Access + Exclusive APIs + Increased API Limits

As a Shopify Plus customer, you get early access to key innovative features and new integrations to help your business stay ahead of the competition. You will also be able to utilize the exclusive Shopify Plus APIs such as Multipass (Single Sign On), Shopify Scripts, Discount, Gift Card and User endpoints. In addition, Shopify increases your API limits by a whopping 500%!

Not sure what you can build? Check out these cool apps that make use of Shopify Plus APIs.

Shaky integrations between third-party vendors and consultants can lead to costly bugs and inefficiencies, which poorly represent your brand. Fortunately, Shopify has high standards when it comes to approving an app or theme into their app store.

Shopify’s well-documented, robust and well-exposed API makes it easy to build custom integrations when you can’t find an app to meet your brand’s needs. And if you are not sure, you can always send a quick email to your account manager (we’ll get to this in a moment).

A good example of a custom integration is brands that sell alcohol online. Such brands require stringent compliance checks that can become a nightmare to setup properly on any platform. For a great example of how Shopify Plus helps with that, see this case study from Uproot

3. Dedicated SSL + Fully Branded Checkout Experience

One of the features most lacking in Shopify’s basic plans is the ability to customize the checkout experience. A fully branded, SSL-protected, tailor-made checkout is a feature merchants have been requesting for a long time.

Well, Shopify Plus merchants can take advantage of all of those features!

But perhaps most importantly, when you’re using the fully branded checkout, the checkout page will remain on your main URL, instead of the usual checkout.shopify.com.

You read that right: visitors will never leave your domain while making a purchase. A custom SSL certificate for your store’s checkout also provides a seamless transition from browsing to buying.

Not only will this make your store more professional, a custom SSL is proven to boost SEO and increase your Google ranking.

If that wasn’t already enough, Shopify Plus merchants get access to an additional checkout.liquid theme file and a checkout.scss.liquid asset file. By having access to these additional files, you have full creative control to design a custom, responsive checkout experience that allows you to make style enhancements such as:

  • Have customers register on one page and fill in their shipping and billing on another
  • Use loyalty apps from the Shopify app store on checkout, letting people pay with points
  • Put reward or abandonment popups on the checkout page to increase revenue
  • Add an exit modal offering a limited time discount to decrease cart abandonment

Customizing the checkout experience can easily increase your checkout conversion rate by at least 10%. With $50,000 revenue per month that increase will result in an additional $5000 in sales per month, which is huge!

You can see a great example of a custom Shopify Plus checkout flow below (I used Uproot as an example).

Step 1: Clicking ‘Complete Checkout’ from the cart dropdown redirects customers to a custom registration page. Being that Uproot sells alcoholic beverages they require all of their customers to create an account so they can verify they are of legal age to buy.

Step 2: After verifying age, customers are taken to a custom checkout page. There is a custom message for state as Uproot only ships to select states. In addition, they give users the ability to pay with Uproot Reward Dollars.

Step 3: When a customer clicks to apply and pay using their Uproot Rewards Dollars, a custom modal pops up promoting Refer-a-Friend and other methods to obtain Uproot Rewards and promote customer loyalty. Plus, it’s an excellent way to get more customers!

4. Shopify Scripts

Shopify’s Script Editor allows you to write scripts in Ruby that can modify the prices and properties of line items in your customer’s cart. You can use scripts to automatically apply discounts to a cart based on its items and properties.

The Script Editor app lets you create scripts that are run each time a customer adds items to their cart. Scripts can have many uses, from discounting products with specific tags to running promotions such as “buy 2, get 1 free”. Scripts are written with a Ruby API that allows a great deal of control and flexibility.

The Shopify Script Editor app uses the new Scripts API to allow merchants to create scripts that allow them to offer discounts and create sales without being required to use a discount code at checkout.

5. 24/7 Dedicated Support + Account Management

Sure, I know what you’re thinking: Shopify already offers 24/7 Chat + Email + Phone support to merchants of all sizes! So what could possibly be different?

Here’s the difference: Shopify Plus merchants get a unique priority support phone number and email address (Shopify Plus merchants all have the same priority number).

Not only is this great for critical and time-sensitive issues, but saves you from repeating yourself to a new Shopify Guru each time you need help!

Even though most of the time Shopify does a good job at handling support queries, it’s during high-volume times (such as Black Friday) that you really appreciate having a dedicated account manager.

First, you are rarely put on hold while they search for a solution - like you may experience when talking with the non-dedicated support by Shopify Support Gurus.

Second, most account managers working on Shopify Plus brands have been in the ecommerce space for a few years and understand the Shopify platform inside and out.

All of this saves you time not just in a time of crisis when you’re struggling with tech issues, but even on the regular - like when you’re searching for the right app, or wondering if something is possible on the Shopify platform. Your account manager will get answers fast!

Basically, your dedicated Shopify Plus team acts as an extension of your team, allowing you to focus on the core, without sweating the technical details. You will also have access to a sales engineer, account manager and project manager to help you make the most out of using Shopify.

Apart from being your main day-to-day contact for everyday questions, your account manager will update you bi-monthly on new apps and features you may benefit from. They will proactively follow up on your success and discover your needs to make sure your brand is doing well.

In cases when you want something extremely custom such as a ERP/CRM connection, you have access to a Shopify Plus project manager that can help scope your project and source expert talent. This service alone could save you countless hours you would spend interviewing to find a reliable Shopify Expert!

6. No Transaction Fees + Any Payment Processor

Shopify understands that big ecommerce brands usually already have negotiated rates. With that said, they let you use any of their 70+ third-party payment processors with no additional fee.

What that does is save the 0.5% transaction fee Shopify normally charges for brands using a third-party gateway on their Unlimited plan. If you haven’t yet negotiated your own rate directly with a third-party gateway, you can still use Shopify’s negotiated rate of 2.4% when you use Shopify Payments.

I have worked with some Shopify Plus clients that have negotiated their processing rates to between 1.8-1.9%. As a U.S.-based business that processes $50,000+ per month with an average order value of $60, you can independently negotiate a rate of 1.99% + 30 cents with Bank of America for payments made with Debit, Visa, MasterCard and Discover (unfortunately, Amex would still be at 2.99% + 30 cents).

There are a number of factors that go into account when negotiating your own rate, such as:

  • The items you are selling
  • If you’re selling domestically or internationally
  • What percentage of your sales are international

When compared to the other Shopify plans, you can easily save 0.4% of your revenue by moving to Shopify Plus, savings of $200+ per month.

Shopify also open-sourced ActiveMerchant, which abstracts the interface between different payment providers worldwide to allow Shopify to support well over 70 payment gateways now.

This means that anyone can write an integration for a payment gateway without waiting on Shopify. Shopify will of course have to update their config with a couple lines to accept the new gateway, but that is it. So you can easily integrate your payment method of choice into your Shopify Plus store!


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Other Shopify Plus Benefits:

  • Advanced Reporting and Analytics with Google’s Enhanced Ecommerce Analytics
  • Discount on select Shopify App Store apps (you can see the full list of exclusive deals)
  • Ability to accept subscription billing and mix cart (subscription + single item purchase)
  • Become a Google Trusted Store which also helps with SEO ranking on Google
  • Shopify POS included for as many locations as needed (a $40/mo value)

Additional Benefits of Shopify (If on a Different Platform):

1. Hosted Solution

With a self-hosting solution, you are responsible for debugging errors, installing new modules specific to your exact ecommerce platform version and environment setup. This can lead to expensive maintenance and development costs, as not all available resources match your specific configuration.

By taking on the hosting for you, Shopify removes these headaches easily. In addition to no upfront costs and maintenance fees, Shopify’s highly distributed solution significantly reduces your IT hardware and labor costs.

You also don’t have to worry about unexpected expenses when upgrades or installations go wrong. Or even worse, getting hacked like the Magento Guruincsite malware infection, which gave hackers access to customer databases and resulted in over 7,000 websites from being blacklisted by Google. Won’t happen with Shopify.

(Source: Magento security news)

And then you can use the resulting savings towards R&D, as opposed to development costs!

2. Certified Level 1 PCI DSS Compliant + Discrete Fraud Detection

Shopify’s accessor, Coalfire Systems Inc, is one of the top cyber security audit and advisory providers in the world. By performing continuous risk management, it is Coalfire Systems’ job to ensure Shopify is protected from hackers and fraud by conducting annual on-site assessments and continuous risk management.

You can rest easy knowing that customer data – including credit and debit information – is protected by the same level of security offered to banks and other high-profile organizations.

Shopify filters every order through their industry-leading fraud detection process. You can review suspicious orders at your convenience, cancel bad orders, and ban fraudulent users from your site forever.

3. Continual Optimization + Automatic Feature Upgrades

Shopify is continually testing their platform, pushing updates and new features to their platform automatically without causing downtime or asking you to upgrade anything.

You can also take advantage of continuous A/B testing to vet only the best ideas and make data-driven decisions to maximize revenue, improve your branding, and Shopify experience.

4. Default Tax Rates Added Automatically

Finally, Shopify sets up some default tax rates for your own country (and its provinces, states, or territories, if applicable) - a great time saver, especially if you’re dealing with complex regulations like EU’s new VAT law!

Shopify Limitations (and Workarounds for Plus):

Shopify’s philosophy has always been focused on improving the user experience, as opposed to simply adding features. If you want a platform that’s easy to deal with and cuts out most of your daily tech concerns, Shopify Plus is hard to beat.

If you’re after a platform that’s as feature-rich as possible, it might not be the best option for you… unless you don’t mind investing in a few apps to substitute for the features that aren’t there.

Let’s talk about some limitations Shopify merchants could face. They may include:

  • Multi-language: though Shopify is pushing theme designers and developers to publish themes that support multiple languages on Shopify, there is still a little ways to go.
  • Multi-currency: you can display product prices in multiple currencies using real-time exchange rates, however, the checkout page shows the rate in your base currency.
  • Sub-categories: There are a few workarounds, but depending on your needs you may have to build a custom theme. This should be a non-issue once more themes are added.

With Shopify Plus, you can make your store more accessible using multiple currencies and unique pages for different regions by setting up to 3 storefronts on the same Shopify Plus account.

What About The Alternatives:

Benefits of Shopify Plus aside, having witnessed eBay shut down Magento Go and Amazon close their Webstore service in 2015, I recommend spending time to understand a company’s core business model before choosing a platform to rely on for your future success.

The exact reasons for eBay’s Magento Go and Amazon’s Webstore closing may differ, but it comes down to the fact they were not in it for the long haul. Shopify is not a marketplace looking to gain more revenue by attaining greater control of their customers.

This is Shopify’s core business, not a side-project. Please don’t be someone who spends tens of thousands upfront to build a custom solution only to have to deal with the headaches and possible downtime… and then migrate to a more reliable ecommerce platform anyway!

So… Is Shopify Plus Worth It?

Short answer: if you can afford it, then definitely yes!

Depending on your needs, Shopify Plus starts at $2,000 per month. But before making a decision one way or another, you should consider letting a Shopify Plus Sales Engineer help you gather requirements so you can make an informed decision if the platform right for you.

If you have questions about Shopify Plus, or want to make an informed decision about switching to Shopify, let us know. You’ll get a free consultation, no strings attached. As certified Shopify Experts, we know the platform inside and out, and will guide you through all the pros and cons!

So drop us a note if you want some help!

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