Shopify is a powerful marketing machine that has driven incredible growth. It's an excellent choice for the store owner who needs to do it themselves, on a shoestring budget, who does not sell complex products and who does not plan to run a hybrid - a store that serves multiple customer bases such as retail and wholesale.
Due to its sheer market share, there is a robust marketplace of apps that can be added to shape the store to fit most needs. There is an equally robust selection of themes and developers who can assist with any size project. They have a terrific knowledge base which I strongly recommend store owners use as it teaches the basics for e-commerce in general and online marketing. This learning should be done prior to developing a plan for your site. That will help root your project for success.
Unfortunately, it's also oversold based on name recognition even when the platform is a poor choice for a specific business. There are both policy and technical limitations that impact suitability.
Shopify stores require many apps, which adds monthly costs and can greatly slow your store down. While ALL online stores end up with some app use, because this allows you to choose the features you want and need, much of what is native in other carts like their most direct competitor, BigCommerce, is not. So you'll spend more money each month and it can be harder to get a fast site.
Among the stores that should probably NOT use Shopify:
- Sells items that are generally prohibited on the platform which includes weapons, weapon-related items, sex objects, tobacco (for some odd reason Vape is currently on the platform but for how long is anyone's guess), alcohol.
- Sells items allowed but that don't qualify for Shopify Payments which expands the above list to include supplements, CBD, vape products and other items.
- Just as above, any store that can't qualify for Shopify Payments or who has good reasons to use another payment gateway. Why? Because if you don't use their payment gateway which they profit from, they will take 1/2-2% of your gross revenues soley because you are using another gateway. For small merchants, this isn't much, for big ones it's a significant cost.
- Stores with multiple price structures or catalogs - such as those who offer VIP tiers or wholesale clients. Why not? Because you can't create true customer groups which on other platforms let you segment the catalog and content for each customer group. Groups are really important for B2B. To accomplish multiple audiences on Shopify requires either a separate app (at an added cost) or multiple storefronts, or ShopifyPlus (which is still creating multiple sites). This can greatly increase your operational costs and work efforts.
- Stores with complex products - these are items with many options, also known as configurable or customizable products. While Shopify does offer the ability to offer up to 3 options per product with a maximum of 100 skus per product, this limit is very easy to exceed. There is also no native path to add modifiers such as those one would use for personalized products (like custom embroidery. While these issues can be overcome with apps, that adds both load time and costs.