Shopify is one of the hottest tools for creating your own eCommerce website and accepting payments on it. After rolling out their Shopify 2 changes in 2013, merchants now can also use Shopify to accept in-store payments. It can be a great fit for small- to-medium-sized businesses that want to sell goods via their website, an occasionally in-person, but that don't want to spend the time and money of a custom eCommerce solution and merchant account integration.
Shopify is a Canadian-based eCommerce site that offers merchants a way to sell products online with very little effort. They began this service using third-party payment processors such as PayPal. As of 2013, Shopify integrated Shopify Payments, providing merchants with a means of collecting payments directly as well as continue to use third-party processors if desired. Shopify Payments ties store inventory and sales directly to real-time reports and it's a clean and easy-to-navigate venue for customers.
Shopify is global, but it's up to you as the merchant to decide your market. If you want to keep your merchandise in the U.S., that's your choice. If you'd prefer to go global, then you're free to use that option as well. Shopify Payments accepts multiple currencies and can display up to 50 languages (although instructions are only in English). You can translate your shop according to your needs and expand your business at the speed you desire using this format.
You cannot use Shopify Payments without paying for one of three options provided by this service. You can sell online only, in-store only, or a combination. Over 50,000 merchants use the online service, which began in 2005. The original software, developed by Tobias, Daniel Welnand, and Scott Lake, became one of the groundbreaking programs for building easy-to-use online storefronts. During the rollouts to Shopify Payments and other merchant-friendly features in 2013, the site experienced some glitches that may haunt this company for a while. Those issues are listed under "complaints" below. Beyond those problems, we really like this platform and its merchant services for small- and medium-sized businesses.
You can try out Shopify's online features and its setup for 14 days free, no credit card required. Don't worry about cancellation fees, because they don't exist. If you like what you see at the end of those 14 days, you can pick the plan you want and enter your credit card details at that time. Shopify is a month-to-month opportunity, but merchants also can sign up for one- to two-year contracts with some savings.
Below is a detailed review of Shopify offering. The review is broken down into the following categories.
Depending upon the type of business you own, some of the following features may or may not be important to you. To learn more about any given feature, just click on it.
Shopify plans to roll out more features over the next few years. They already include the ability to take multiple currencies, split transactions, and free online real-time reporting and inventory management. If you plan to use another merchant account service other than Shopify for your Shopify store, note that the following parameters may not apply.
|Microsoft Dynamics GP||Possibly|
|Windows / Blackberry||No|
|iPhone / iPad||Yes|
|Alternative Transaction Types:|
|Snail Mail Orders||Yes|
|American Express (AMEX)||Yes|
|Add Tips to Bills||Yes|
|eCommerce / Shopping Cart||Yes|
|EMV Chip Cards||Yes|
|Loyalty / Gift Cards||Yes|
|eChecks / Electronic Checks||App|
|Welfare Benefits (EBT/SNAP/TANF)||Yes|
|Security / Fraud Prevention:|
|AVS Fraud Protection||No|
|PCI DSS Secure Transactions||Yes|
|HIPAA Compliance (Healthcare)||No|
|Trust Account Debiting (Legal)||No|
|Fleet Cards (Petroleum)||No|
|Online Menu Orders (Restaurants)||Yes|
Shopify also offers a full blogging platform, 70 payment gateways outside their own Shopify Payments system, flexible shipping rates, the ability to work with fulfillment centers, social media integration, and a 99.94% uptime. If you want the rundown on all the features, you can find them at Shopify's website.
Shopify provides merchants with an expanded version of their services called Shopify Plus. That program basically provides merchants with a virtual staff that consists of a project manager, a dedicated account manager, and priority support for a web-based business. Merchants who buy into this option also receive many other perks.
Almost every merchant account services company uses either Interchange Plus or Tiered Pricing (to learn the differences read here). Where companies allow us to disclose pricing information, we show the deals that our secret shoppers were able to achieve. When companies offer both Interchange Plus and Tiered Pricing, we try to get a quote on both options.
Our Experience: Shopify offers a variety of tiered payment options. They offer three choices, including the ability to sell online, to sell online and in a store, or to sell only in a store. All three levels carry different price points. Additionally, Shopify offers three prices ranges within those three options that feature different features, perks, and charges.
While this setup sounds complicated, I had no trouble understanding the rates and how they apply to the three selling options.
Each tier offers different amounts of file storage, with the "Unlimited" offering - surprise - unlimited storage. The Basic Plan doesn't include gift cards, professional reports, or abandoned cart recovery notifications, which are included in the Professional and Unlimited options. The Unlimited option includes advanced report builder and real-time carrier shipping. All levels include 24/7 support, a discount code engine, a free card reader, no transaction fees, fraud analysis tools, and unlimited products (limited only by file storage).
Selling In Store
This level includes the ability to use unlimited registers (depending upon the number of iPads you own), 24/7 support, and unlimited products. Add gift cards and professional reports to the Professional level, and an advanced report builder to the Unlimited level.
Selling Online and In Store
This level offers a combination of features mentioned in the previous two levels.
I feel that using Shopify without an online store is a financially irresponsible choice for any merchant, because merchants can purchase a merchant services account for less than that $49 per month Basic fee. Plus, we can find other storefronts that are less expensive for online selling or the combination of selling online and in a shop; however, Shopify offers more features than the storefronts we're considering. On the plus side, Shopify is not an auction site nor is it a junk store, so your upscale merchandise can find a very nice home in this well-designed format that carries some top-notch products.
If the monthly fees blow your socks off, remember that this fee is covering any money you might pay for servers, shopping carts, and other features that you'd have to obtain on your own to open an online venue. Shopify is rich in resources for its merchants, providing tools that you might not find anywhere else. Plus, their support system is, in my opinion, outstanding.
Like any other merchant services account provider, Shopify has its Terms of Service (TOS). We scoured that information to find any fees that might be above and beyond those stated above:
|Fine Print Fees:|
|Setup / Application Fee||None|
|PCI Compliance Fee||None|
|PCI Inaction Fee||None|
|Online Reporting Fee||None|
|Monthly Minimum Volume Fee||None|
|Accept International Pymt Fee||Yes, varies|
|Voice Authorization Fee||Possible|
|Monthly Min. Process Fee||Possible|
|Daily Batch Fee||None|
|ACH / Direct Deposit Fee||None|
|ACH Charge Fee||Possible|
|ACH Return Fee||Possible|
|Chargeback Fees||Yes, $15.00 each|
|Online Reporting through either Resouce Online or Paymentech Online|
|24/7 Phone and Email Support|
Our Take: We were sold on Shopify until we read some complaints (see below). Like any other credit card processor, Shopify wants to make money on your transactions. Be aware that there is a transaction fee for any card payment you accept as a merchant unless you use the Shopify Payments program. Currently, that charge stands at 2% over and above any charges you pay to your other credit card processors or third-party processors.
Additionally, the add-ons add up. At this time you have a choice of about a dozen free themes for your shop. You'll need to pay varying prices for other themes. Shopify also provides apps that are big business for this company and for developers. We found a few more "gotchas" in the fine print:
You might save money with your own terminal or card reader, but Shopify limits that choice. You can find all this information in Shofipy's documentation, along with tools to streamline your efforts and to avoid paying more than you intend (including excessive FANF fees and PCI compliance fees) when you open your Shopify storefront.
While your transactions usually take place electronically, the actual device that you use to swipe a customer's card is referred to as "the equipment." This equipment includes hardware and, often, software or apps for that hardware to function properly.
Shopify didn't require any hardware until 2013, when they added an iPad-centric POS system that integrates online and in-store sales. Merchants can utilize this payment option when selling merchandise in a store or at a show. I was impressed with the options allowed in this setup, especially when payment setup takes all of five minutes.
I also was very impressed with some merchant details that other eCommerce sites fail to offer, such as the ability to create customer profiles, collect email addresses, receive alerts about abandoned shopping carts, and more...Shopify pays attention to every detail and notifies the merchant. This service frees up a lot of time for small businesses that cannot afford support staff.
Shopify POS Compatible Hardware: This kit, which currently sells for just under $700, includes a stand for iPad Iar/Air 2, or iPad 2,3, or 4, a card reader, a wireless receipt printer, and a cash drawer in your choice of black or white.
Card Readers: A variety of card readers currently are available from "free" to $99.
Accessories: Shopify offers a variety of barcode scanners and readers, receipt printers, cash drawers, stands, and gift cards. Prices vary, and they also offer accessories for the accessories such as receipt paper.
Shopify POS Software: This app appears to be the only software provided, which accompanies the card reader sand merchant account for mobile devices. The software allows for purchases by credit cards or cash and syncs in real time with inventory in stock. Merchants also can set up custom payment plans or use "split tenders" with partial payments, deposits, layaways, or payments through two different payment types.
Nothing free here, unless you buy into one of Shopify's options for online payments. At that time you'll receive a free card reader. I feel the prices are reasonable, but be aware that Shopify has a large inventory of tools for merchants such as design templates and apps, and few of them are free. We haven't seen complaints about tools not working, so I feel I can purchase from Shopify with some confidence.
Shopify can handle payments from and for merchants in the United States, Canada and abroad.
I generally don't like long-term contracts or termination fees in merchant services agreements, because the ability to cancel keeps the credit card processor on its best behavior, including the willingness to make you happy if there's a dispute. Plus, this ability to cancel gives you the ability to move on if you find a better deal.
Shopify provides month-to-month usability with no termination fees. Merchants can opt for a one- or two-year contract that could reduce rates. We haven't seen any information about how much reduction you might experience, but any savings is good as long as you're happy with Shopify. I would suggest that you try Shopify for a few months before you tie into a long-term contract.
All you need to do to cancel a month-to-month contract is to send an email to Shopify. If you purchased a domain name through Shopify (yet another feature), that domain name won't be renewed; but, you can take it with you and apply it to another site. Don't cancel your store in the middle of any given month, as it appears you'll receive a payment for that full month.
On the other side of the coin, Shopify can suspend or terminate your account if they suspect fraudulent activity in connection with your site. Shopify doesn't expand on this action, so we suspect they look for wild fluctuations in sales or excessive chargebacks.
The merchant account services industry is multi-layered. Understanding how those layers fit together can be confusing (Read More in this Article). A good thing to know, however, is whether or not your company is a direct processor (good if yes) or, if not, then to know who they process with and whether or not that processor is reliable. The second thing to know is whether or not the service or sales staffs are in-house or outsourced. In-house staffs are preferable for you, as these staff members may have more access to sources that can resolve your issues.
Processor: Shopify Payments is an in-house credit card processor that is capable of instant payment approvals and real-time reporting. Shopify also works with more than 70 gateways for third-party processing.
Account Sales: Shopify doesn't seem to maintain a sales program other than word-of-mouth and online presence. They have a very transparent site for merchants who are seeking an online venue. We also liked the forums and their "gurus" who can mentor shop owners. I would suggest that you read through the forums and check out their support systems first before you make any decision. Shopify doesn't seem to delete comments - even negative ones - from their forums, so these conversations can provide you with more information than any sales spiel.
Account Service: Shopify offers customer service via phone, email, live chat, forums, "gurus," and a support center for their merchants. This support is offered 24/7, which makes sense for serving global business. We found an equal amount of praise and complaints regarding Shopify's services, and we've noted those comments below.
As part of our review process, we try to test merchant account service companies' claims by placing test calls and working through the customer service process.
1/3/2015; TIME: 4:35 pm EST
Call to Customer Support
We encountered a two-tiered phone tree (if you opened a shop, press 2, if not, press 1) when we called, and a recording in English notified us that if we didn't want to wait for the next "guru" to talk with us, we could leave a callback number. Within seconds, Trevor picked up on our call. He sounded like he was talking from an underground tunnel (probably speaker phone). We didn't hear any chatter in the background, so we could assume that Trevor was responding from a basement somewhere.
Trevor was very nice, friendly, and - most importantly - he answered all our questions, including information on chargeback fees, the difference between a "guru" and a support tech (basically none), and if the support team was in house or outsourced. His response was that the support team was a combination of both resources.
Overall, I was satisfied with the response to our call. Trevor carried a Canadian accent, but we still understood every word he said, and I was impressed with his overall knowledge about Shopify's policies and procedures.
We scoured the web to find past and current customer complaints about this processor. Then, we investigated those complaints that seemed legit, and provide our verdict on how well the processor handled the issues. Most complaints about Shopify are found right on their site, where viewers can read about problematic issues in the forums. In other cases, merchants posted complaints online with the BBB or in articles we found about this storefront service.
This is a serious complaint, because technical glitches - especially where prices are concerned - are serious for the merchant. We read several complaints that focused on product pricing changes or other alterations in items that merchants uploaded. Those changes were unnoticed until the merchant realized that the item was selling for a fraction of the cost that it was selling for originally. The vast majority of these complaints were lodged in 2013.
We suspected that most of those glitches occurred when Shopify was rolling out its new payment options and features. When we called support, we asked about those complaints and were told that we were correct. Additionally, we learned that many of those conflicts were resolved with the merchants who suffered losses during that rollout. Of course, we haven't seen any comments from the merchants about Shopify rectifying those issues, but we've also not seen any complaints about this issue recently.
Many complaints centered on hidden fees, and most of those fees concerned storefront theme designs, apps, and other features.
We cannot ever know how much a merchant reads about a merchant service before he or she tries it out. Based upon that lack of knowledge, all we can say is to be sure to read the fine print before you use a merchant service provider's products. Kudos to Shopify for simplifying their TOS, but I was disturbed that their simplified explanations really didn't cover the details. Read ALL the fine print before proceeding with any processor services. Shopify isn't totally transparent, but they do answer most questions online without a call to customer service.
COMMON CUSTOMER COMPLIMENTS
We found a lot of compliments about the "gurus" and customer service.
We'd agree, even though we only made one call. We were happy with our representative's good nature and his ability to answer a wide range of questions without putting us on hold or referring us to another person. Plus, I like the ability to read through forums and other materials. I learned a lot about Shopify's positive aspects as well as the few negative issues from those resources.
The merchants who praised Shopify's services also said that their tools were very easy to use and that the ability to process payments now seemed much easier. They also were happy with the new price structure, which apparently is less expensive than the previous price structure through third-party processors.
We haven't used Shopify, but we're impressed with their professional-looking storefronts, their overabundance of tools for the merchant to use, and their support systems.
|PCI Compliance Fee||$0.00|
|Online Reporting Fee||$0.00|
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About the Reviews: These reviews, and for that matter any reviews, are inherently subjective, and should be regarded as our opinion, not as a statement of fact. Selecting a merchant services provider is an important decision, and we urge you to use no single source of information as the basis of that decision.
About the Pricing: This pricing is an estimate based on limited available information. In some cases, the Processors' pricing information was provided directly by the company, in others, we obtained it from public information, through calls to the company, or through past or current clients of the company. Where, despite these efforts, we were unable to obtain any information about certain fees, we used estimates based on similar providers in the industry. While we're working, in some cases, with the company directly to get more accurate pricing, even in those circumstances, we can't guarantee the pricing's accuracy. Complicating all of this, is that for some companies individual salespeople are given authority to modify terms on a deal by deal basis. In any case, if you know of an error, please let us know and we'll fix it.
About the Calculations: With respect to your estimated savings, this is based on a lot of factors and some hard math. The reason we do it, along with the "Actual Gross Rate" calculation is that every Processor prices their product differently (e.g. interchange v. 3 tier v. 4 tier v. flat v. membership, etc.) and some make it intentionally complicated or opaque. Trying to convert their pricing structure to a consistent "Overall Cost of Processing" is the only way you, the merchant, can do an apples to apples pricing comparison and know whether an offer is actually a good deal. Our system isn't perfect but we're trying.
Conclusion: In sum, these rankings, ratings, and scores are inherently subjective, and should be regarded as our opinion and not as a legal statement of fact. Moreover, use these prices and estimates at your own risk, and make sure to verify the pricing you see here in any formal contract you receive. Finally, if you do find something wrong in our pricing, terms, etc., tell us and we'll try to fix it.
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