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Shopify Plus: A Comprehensive Review

As a Shopify Plus Partner, we have drafted a comprehensive overview of the platforms features to help you understand what it has to offer. It’s a long post, so grab a coffee and let’s get stuck in…

Shopify is one of the global leaders in connecting sellers and buyers online, and Shopify Plus was created as a customised and staffed hosted platform for large and growing businesses.

In fact, Shopify Plus is Shopify’s enterprise e-commerce platform, designed specifically for high growth and high volume online stores and brands.

This Shopify Plus review will cover an overview of the platform and then dive into the key features and benefits of using it. Disadvantages of the platform and primary competitors will also be discussed.

By the end of this review, you will have all the information you need to decide whether Shopify Plus is the right platform for your online business.

Shopify Plus Overview

Shopify Plus was designed to be targeted specifically at high growth and high volume customers looking for a custom experience without over-complication. Shopify created this offering for large businesses that may not have the technical expertise to manage and run their own in-house e-commerce solution.

Shopify is a hosted e-commerce platform, which means that the e-commerce software and the server are sold as a package for both Shopify and Shopify Plus. This means Shopify takes care of customising the server to work with the software platform and ensuring that the software smoothly integrates.

Some of the benefits of this are that you do not have to manage the technical backend, and the software is typically easier to use compared with a self-hosted e-commerce platform. With a hosted platform, you’re not responsible for website maintenance or technical updates. Shopify looks after keeping it running, while you look after the customer-facing aspects such as the design and marketing contents.

In other words, users of hosted platforms, such as Shopify Plus, don’t have to deal with installing servers, handling bugs, implementing new features, solving bandwidth issues, or even order management.

Advantages of Using Shopify Plus

Here are the ten primary advantages of selecting Shopify Plus as your hosted e-commerce solution:

Multi-Channel E-commerce

Shopify Plus is a multi-channel solution that allows your business to sell everywhere your customers may wish to buy. As with the standard Shopify platform, this includes being able to sell your products on the main website, on mobile and through social platforms such as Facebook.

In addition, Shopify Plus also allows businesses to sell their products directly in-store through the platform, and it also supports wholesale transactions.

Sell Globally and Market Locally

When you sign-up for Shopify Plus, it includes up to nine clone stores for your business. These allow you to clone your original online store and modify it for separate markets or countries that you sell to.

You achieve the efficiencies of uploading new products only once and maintaining one overall global business, while also being able to customise offers and marketing to individual areas, target markets or customer segments, and modify different currency and language options.

With this functionality, you can provide a unique experience to each select audience in a way that aligns with their buying tendencies and market trends.

API Resources

Shopify offers a powerful suite of APIs and tools to all customers on the platform. As a Shopify Plus merchant, you also gain exclusive access to the following three API resources:

  • Gift card. The Gift Card resource allows you to accept gift cards as an alternative payment method. It can be used to create, retrieve, update, and delete gift cards for your store. Plus, you can manage your gift cards in a variety of ways, such as creating and sending unique gift card codes to an email list.
  • Multipass. Multipass is designed specifically for merchants who have a separate website and Shopify store. This resource allows you to carry over customer accounts from your non-Shopify website without having the customer create a new login. It enables a smoother experience for customers and eliminates the need to synchronize customer databases.
  • User. – This resource allows you to retrieve information about staff accounts on your Shopify store. As the store owner, you can use it to add, remove, and edit staff accounts to manage access to your site.

Specialized Apps

Shopify boasts a robust API and lots of built-in integrations with common and high-demand providers for companies to use. To ensure you can integrate whatever you need, they also offer an extensive App Store full of popular and well-vetted extensions.

All of the offered extensions are basically pre-packaged snippets that you can easily paste into your store to add in desired integrations or build out additional store features.

While Shopify has a large offering of apps for the standard platform, there are specialised apps that are exclusive to Shopify Plus members.

Some of these include:

  • Launchpad. Launchpad is a full-scale automation tool built to schedule, monitor, coordinate, and execute revenue-generating events such as sales campaigns, product releases, and content changes or inventory restocks. It allows you to monitor any flash sales effectively and track the success of all your sales by viewing the built-in real-time analytics dashboard.
  • Script Editor. Script Editor allows you to write and run Ruby scripts so that you can modify the prices and properties of line items in your store’s cart, such as creating discounts based on the items in a cart.
  • Script API. This app allows you to integrate the script API into your store, which works hand-in-hand with the Script Editor to support the creation of customised scripts. You can use these two apps in concert to create line item scripts, shipping scripts, or payment scripts to customise the user experience.
  • Bulk Account Inviter. This app allows you to send out one mass blast of customer invitations to activate their accounts for your new online store.
  • Shopify Flow. Shopify Flow allows you to create workflows that can automate common tasks in your store. Shopify Flow is a first-of-its-kind e-commerce automation platform that reduces manual tasks and frees your entire organization to focus on what matters: growth. Some examples of workflows it can automate are:
    • Flagging and cancelling high-risk orders
    • Tagging high-value customers
    • Identifying and adding tags to products based on their title or SKU
    • Sending reordering requests when your inventory levels become low

Exclusive Wholesale Channel

The wholesale channel is exclusive to Shopify Plus members. It was designed to support businesses that sell to other companies (B2B) as well as to individual consumers (B2C.) This channel allows Shopify Plus merchants to use the Shopify platform to sell products in bulk to other businesses.

As a Shopify member you have three main methods for supporting wholesale customers:

  1. Using discount codes
  2. Using the wholesale app
  3. Opening a separate second store (that is not integrated)

As a Shopify Plus member, you also have access to the wholesale channel, which is the preferred method as it allows you to create a separate, password-protected storefront that is an extension of your online store. You also have exclusive access to expansion stores, so if you wish to create a second store, you have the ability to integrate the two, unlike regular Shopify merchants.

Custom Checkout

Shopify Plus merchants have the ability to customise the look and feel of their store’s checkout experience. As a Shopify Plus member, you have access to checkout.liquid, including the checkout.scss.liquid. These theme templates and layouts allow you to enhance your checkout pages without creating additional template files. Using these tools, you can modify your checkout to provide a better customer experience. Some customisable options include:

  • Warnings
  • Error messages
  • Modals
  • Feature detection
  • Field states
  • Custom web fonts
  • Additional scripts
  • External assets
  • Buttons
  • Main breakpoints

Launch Engineers

As a Shopify Plus merchant, you gain access to Shopify’s Launch Engineers, which are Shopify-assigned project managers. The Launch Engineers main priority is to make sure their Shopify Plus merchants launch their new stores successfully and on time.

Launch Engineers have a technical background, and they work alongside you to ensure you experience a smooth transition, whether you’re migrating over your business from another platform or building it from scratch.

Some of the services provided by a Launch Engineer include:

  • Coordination of timelines, deliverables, and project roles.
  • API integration for data transfers and connecting ERPs, PIMs, OMSs, CRMs, and 3PLs.
  • Access to seamless replatforming tools like nChannel and Cart2Cart.
  • Assistance with theme selection, customisation, and mobile support.
  • Guidance through domain set up, redirects, product taxonomies, and documentation.
  • Help setting up your custom SSL certificates.
  • Platform training and 24/7 priority support during migration and beyond.

Working with a Launch Engineer, the average launch time for a new Shopify store is 90-120 days.

Priority 24/7 Support

As a Shopify Plus merchant, you are granted access to 24/7 priority phone and email support for the life of your store. This means that you are able to talk with an experienced Shopify support team member whenever you need, without having to wait on hold.

Stable Pricing

Pricing plans for Shopify Plus members start around $2000 USD per month and increase depending on your business’ specific needs, such as traffic levels. However, pricing remains constant from your initial sign-up. Plus, while it may seem like a large fee, for enterprise-level businesses it is often cheaper than building an in-house system and paying for a web developer, hosting, and other associated fees.

In addition, you are able to budget for the monthly fee, without worrying about extra unexpected costs. If you go the self-hosted route, you may have unplanned costs for bug fixes, feature requests, and upgrades or changes. Not to mention, there is no need to budget for servers, bandwidth, or cloud hosting fees.

Scalability

As a large and growing business, web infrastructure becomes more complex, and it becomes critical that you ensure your platform can support hundreds or even thousands of customers while running sessions simultaneously.

Opting for a hosted system like Shopify Plus that has reliable and robust infrastructure can ensure traffic can be efficiently scaled while maintaining a fast, efficient and secure experience for each customer.

This allows you to focus on marketing, production, and inventory, without having to worry about site access, checkout issues, or how your servers are handling the volume.

Shopify Plus Disadvantages

While Shopify Plus is a strong platform with many benefits, here are four of the main disadvantages you should be aware of when considering the solution.

Lack of Backend Customisation

Shopify and Shopify Plus were developed to take away the hassle of worrying about the backend so that merchants can focus their efforts on customer-facing aspects of the website. The downside of this is that if you want to change the backend, you will be limited to the integrations and APIs that Shopify offers. For example, if your inventory provider isn’t currently a supported integration, you cannot easily change this. As a Shopify Plus member, you may be able to get your dedicated Account Manager or Launch Engineer to create the integration, but it’s not guaranteed and may take some time.

Plus, as with any hosted platform, Shopify doesn’t grant you access to the database or FTP, which can be perceived as a risk that some companies are not willing to take.

Publishing Limitations

Shopify and Shopify Plus were designed specifically for e-commerce. If you need your website to include a blog and other forms of content marketing, you will encounter some limitations, as the platform is not a content management system.

While it does have a Page management system and supports publishing, it lacks many of the features found on publishing focused platforms such as WordPress. As a result, many businesses choose to create a subdomain for either their blog or their Shopify store.

In-house Expertise

While Shopify Plus has been designed to be user-friendly, and you’re provided 24/7 support, some in-house expertise will still be required to use the platform and customise your store. Shopify’s custom language, Liquid, is not push and play, so there is a learning curve for whoever is responsible for designing and maintaining your Shopify Plus storefront.

Shopify is currently the largest and most popular hosted e-commerce platform, but that doesn’t mean your business already has this expertise in-house. If you don’t, you will need to factor in the time and cost of either hiring experts, training current staff, or partnering with an agency to manage it for you.

Vendor Lock-in

When opting for a hosted solution, you do not have server access, which can result in complications and delays if you ever chose to migrate your store and data to another platform. If Shopify ever ran into financial difficulties or stopped operating you could be at risk for losing data.

Shopify Plus Competitors

While there are hundreds of hosted e-commerce platforms on the market, there are three main competitors offering enterprise-level solutions that can compete with Shopify Plus.

BigCommerce Enterprise

BigCommerce is currently considered to be Shopify’s main competitor for hosted e-commerce solutions. BigCommerce focuses on setting themselves apart from Shopify by focusing solely on online stores, as opposed to branching out into offline offerings. The company also offers a wide range of integrations and features directly within the main store dashboard, instead of offering them as additional Apps.

BigCommerce offers an enterprise-level version that is less powerful but more affordable than Shopify Plus. Their primary target market is mid-sized online stores and brands that may be considering levelling up but are not ready to commit to the more expensive and robust Shopify Plus solution.

Magento Enterprise

Magento is a well-known and trusted e-commerce platform that is one of the oldest around. Their main offering is a self-hosted, open source software that is typically popular among developers.

However, Magento also offers a custom, hosted solution for enterprise-level customers called Magento Enterprise. This is similar to the basic platform but with hosting and account support provided. Magento Enterprise offers a similar pricing model to Shopify Plus, starting around $18,000 USD annually and increasing based on your business needs.

Shopify

While Shopify’s main offering is not targeted at enterprise-level businesses, it still includes plenty of support features that make it a competitor to be considered. While Shopify’s basic platform lacks the advantages discussed above, it still offers scalability and functionality that may meet your business requirements, depending on your traffic levels. However, the biggest disadvantage is that you do not get a dedicated account manager without Shopify Plus, even if you opt for the Pro or Unlimited plan.

Conclusion

If you’re searching for a hosted e-commerce solution for your enterprise-level business, the advantages of Shopify Plus far outweigh the minimal disadvantages. While there are a couple of competitors on the market, Shopify is one of the most popular solutions for a reason; the platform is reliable, flexible, and scalable.

As a Shopify Plus merchant, the additional 24/7 support and exclusive resources can help you grow your online business quickly and efficiently. Why not reach out to MindArc Digital Agency today at [email protected] to learn more about how Shopify Plus can improve your business? We can help illustrate how the solution can reduce the costs of doing e-business and even help you get signed up for a free demo.

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