shopify

After the release of Shopify for WordPress a couple of days ago I was eager to get it out for a test drive. Could this really be an alternative to WooCommerce, especially for those who didn’t need a lot of features? As promised, here are the results.

Shopify & Me

I have known about Shopify and their offerings for a couple of years, that said, I never actually used them – there always was something keeping me back. My biggest concern would usually be integrating it with the existing offerings of a client; If that client was already running WordPress, I saw adding Shopify as a way of adding a lot of unnecessary extra clutter (Never mind about the need to manage 2 interfaces) . Now that we can integrate it properly into WordPress, this barrier may no longer be there.

On top of that, I’ve set up quite a few download-only stores – Shopify used to have storage limits in place (100 – 500 – 1 GB for each of the plans if I recall correctly), to my pleasant surprise these are no longer there. All in all I was quite excited to experiment with this product.

Signing Up

Setting up an account is pretty straight forward: We head over to the Shopify website and follow the prompts – There’s a 14-day free-day trial, though you can’t actually start selling without selecting a plan and entering your credit card details.

The interface of Shopify is pretty clean, sure much cleaner than the average WordPress admin. It was at this stage that I realized that there may be value to having a seperate interface to manage products, and just leave WordPress to what it does best: managing the content of pages. I always get lost in WooCommerce, especially if there quite a few add-ons involved that have set up shop all over the place.  Seeing the Shopify admin after being exposed to WooCommerce was quite an enlightment (Take note WooThemes!).

What Shopify offers out of the box is pretty basic, but arguably it’s all that most stores will ever need –  I would argue that this solution is ideal for SME’s who don’t have a big budget to manage their online store. I set out to create my first product, a fictional e-book ’20 SEO Myths’

Shopify Product Setup
Product as set up in Shopify

 

It’s important to keep in mind what you see above is only information for administrative purposes: With the current WordPress integration, your customers will for example never see the description that you entered into Shopify.

Apparently, creating an e-book is something slightly unusual for Shopify: I was surprised to find that Digital Downloads is not something that is included by default,  and I had to install the Digital Downloads add-on first ( Fortunately, it’s free!) With that out of the way, I was able to finish the setup of the product and jump to WordPress to make it visible on my site.

 

Adding Products to WordPress

First of course, we need install the Shopify for WordPress plugin. The plugin adds a Shopify button in the left bottom of the admin bar, where you can connect with your Shopify store.

Shopify for WordPress prompt after install
Shopify prompts you to connect when first navigating to the plugin settings. This must be one of the most straightforward setups I’ve ever seen.

After having done so, Shopify for WordPress  adds a button at the top of the content editor. This may feel a bit weird, especially for those accustomed to WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads. For the sake of keeping things organized, there may be a point here in creating a custom post type yourself with the GenerateWP Post Type Generator (or Custom Post Type UI for the non-coders) to keep things organized in WordPress, especially if you start selling more than say, 5 products.

Shopify sits inconspicuously in the top bar of your editor, next to Add Media
Shopify sits inconspicuously in the top bar of your editor, next to Add Media

Anyway, I continued setting up the page (Great opportunity to play with my ACF Flexible Content Fields ). As mentioned before, the plugin is basically an adaption of the Buy button that the company has been offering for a while now.  The plugin give you two options, either the simple buy button (leaving you to manage all the other information visible) or you can also go for the thumbnail, price and button combined. The plugin then produces a shortcode that you can then freely place in your content.

Shopify for WordPress Add Product prompt
Shopify for WordPress Add Product prompt

I personally wish that there would be a bit more freedom here, or at least a third option with button and price (no image). Option 1 would leave you with forcing to make sure that the price is correct at all times (this can get really annoying, especially during promotions) or Option 2 leaves me with something that belongs on a catalogue page, rather than an individual product page. Speaking on catalogue pages: it looks like you would be forced to create those manually. This makes Shopify for WordPress effectively unsuitable at this time for sites with more than a couple of products, simply because you and your customers would lose track of things.

Another thing bugging me is styling: To my surprise, Shopify for WordPress doesn’t given any room to allow you to do that: Shopify does allow some customization when exporting buy buttons from the Shopify admin, and I’m slightly baffled that this hasn’t carried over to this WordPress plugin. Even in Shopify, you are simply unable to change the font size, only the colors. I really hope that they add this in a future version. It really makes it look odd and out of place:

 

Shopify for WordPress in action without customization
It’s simple to add a Shopify product to WordPress; much more effort is however required to make it fit with your theme.

 

To complicate the issue, Shopify serves an iFrame, and I have been struggling to actually properly adapt it – Once I have experimented with it more, I hope to post the code here to help out others having trouble.

The buy button leads you to a pop-up where you can enter your payment details to check out, a demo of it can be found here. Perhaps they can create an option where the checkout is embedded in your site in the future. That would make things look far more professional than they do now. I haven’t seen any conversion data on this, but I seriously wonder how many customers you lose when you let them checkout through a setup like this.

Conclusion

Shopify has still quite some strides to make if it wants to become a serious contender in the WordPress space. As I noted earlier , some competition is definitely welcome in the WordPress e-commerce space that would keep WooCommerce on their toes. For now, it’s potential is limited only to companies selling a couple of products – if you’re selling only a single product for example, Shopify provides you a lot of benefits without the hassle that WooCommerce is from time to time. That said, you need to accept that there are also visual limitations, making even this aplication questionable. If you’re not willing to compromise on that , I would recommend sticking with WooCommerce for the time being. I would love to see that Shopify develops this plugin further. One can dream, but it would be pretty damn awesome if Shopify can be fully integrated into WordPress site one day. Hope you enjoyed this Shopify for WordPress review, I will revise this post as the plugin (hopefully) improves!

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