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What Is Shopify And How Does It Work? (2024)

what-is-shopify-and-how-does-it-work?-(2024)
What Is Shopify And How Does It Work? (2024)

Every day, millions of people use Shopify to power their businesses. From online side hustles and neighborhood shops to global retail giants, Shopify makes commerce better for every store.

So what is Shopify, and how does it work? Ahead, explore Shopify’s store management software and selling tools. Learn how to customize Shopify for your needs, and why it might be the right platform for your next business idea.

What is Shopify?

Shopify is a complete commerce platform that lets anyone start, manage, and grow a business. You can use Shopify to build an online store, manage sales, market to customers, and accept payments in digital and physical locations.

Shopify’s reputation as a commerce leader comes from listening to the experiences of millions of business owners. By supporting solopreneurs and enterprise brands, Shopify has built the features and products that power today’s businesses and will shape the future of commerce.

How does Shopify work?

Shopify bundles commerce activities into a single platform, with one admin to monitor the entire sales process, from receiving an order to post-sale analytics.

With Shopify, business owners can sell in multiple places, including on their website, on marketplaces and social media, and in person through brick-and-mortar locations. Inventory and customer information can be synced across channels for simple management.

Shopify is a secure, cloud-based and hosted platform, which means you can safely access your data from any compatible device with an internet connection. This gives you the flexibility to run your business from anywhere.

Demo ecommerce store using a Shopify theme
Customizable, responsive online store themes like Be Yours allow your brand to shine across mobile and desktop.

Commerce businesses require an array of tools to manage tasks like inventory management and shipping. Connecting these systems can cost business owners time and money. That’s why Shopify bundles technologies to create a complete picture of your business activity: your Shopify admin.

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Two browser windows stacked illustrating how to start an online store. The top shows an ecommerce store with a hovering cursor

This step-by-step guide walks you through how to set up an ecommerce website and build a profitable online store.

What’s included with Shopify?

Shopify is a buildable product that includes a core offering across several plans. Store owners can stack additional products on that base layer, customizing components and integrating apps to create a personalized experience for their business’s needs.

Base layer: Shopify’s core product

Every Shopify plan* comes with everything you need to turn your idea into a business and start selling: an online store with customizable templates, tools to sell across channels, Shopify’s fast and secure checkout, and built-in marketing features. This is the foundation upon which Shopify’s other products and applications are built.

Here are some of the features included with your Shopify subscription:

  • Customizable themes. Shopify’s free online store themes have built-in support for animations, including dynamic scrolling and hover effects.
  • AI features to help you get more done. Generate on-brand content, set up auto-reply, and write product descriptions with Shopify Magic.
  • Access to millions of mobile shoppers on the Shop app. Personalize your mobile store and extend your brand in a matter of clicks. Shop Stores includes customizable collections, categories, and navigation—just like your online store.
  • The world’s best checkout. Shopify plans come with the world’s highest-converting one-click checkout that’s trusted by the biggest brands.
  • A custom domain on Shopify. Select and host your domain securely with Shopify, with full control and configuration to customize easily.

*The Shopify Starter plan is designed for social selling and may not include some of the base features described above.

???? How Stellar Eats Increased Conversions by 3.5%

When baked goods brand Stellar Eats switched to Shopify’s one-page checkout, it reduced friction for customers, lifted conversions by 3.5%, and increased revenue over the next two years.

Read the case study

Layer 2: Shopify’s additional products, plans, and services

Every independent business is unique. And as your store scales, its needs evolve. That’s why Shopify offers powerful upgrades that can be added to your admin—many for no extra cost. Whether it’s access to capital or accelerated payment options, Shopify-exclusive products can be stacked within the admin.

Shopify POS

You can sell in person with Shopify POS, using plans and hardware that let you sell on the go or across multiple brick-and-mortar retail locations. Shopify retail plans include everything you need to sell online, too—and all your retail and ecommerce sales are synced in Shopify.

A person taps a credit card on a Shopify POS device
Take payments anywhere using Shopify POS Go.

Shopify Plus

Ready to level up? Shopify Plus is a customizable enterprise solution, featuring a scalable, powerful platform for high-volume businesses. Join some of the world’s best brands, including Ruggable, Knix, and Magnolia and sell everywhere with one platform, packed with powerful insights and automations. Sell more, move faster, and unlock strategic partnerships.

Features exclusive to Shopify Plus include:

  • Customizable checkout with app integrations. Extend your checkout in a way that’s app-based, upgrade-safe, higher converting, and integrated with Shop Pay.
  • B2B process automation. Get more from your existing apps using Shopify Flow.
  • Custom audience lists. Using Shopify Audiences you can fine-tune customer acquisition, thanks to smart algorithms that predict relevant customers.
  • Duties and import taxes calculation. Sell across borders through your online store with Shopify Markets.
  • Plus,24/7 dedicated tech support.

???? Learn more: Shopify Plus Pricing, Features, and Resources

Commerce Components

Commerce Components by Shopify (CCS) is a modern composable stack for enterprise retail. With this solution, the world’s largest retailers like Mattel and Glossier can integrate components of Shopify with their own systems. CCS provides access to Shopify’s foundational features—like a checkout that converts 72% better than the average checkout—plus flexible APIs to build dynamic customer experiences that integrate seamlessly with preferred back office technologies.

And many more

Other Shopify products available as add-ons for most plans include:

  • Shopify Collabs. Get matched with the best influencers and affiliate marketers to represent your products and push traffic to your online store.
  • Shopify Inbox. Turn online store browsers into buyers with the power of chat marketing.
  • Shopify capital. Access the cash flow you need to scale your business.

See all Shopify products and features.

???? Why Bombas Migrated to Shopify Plus After Shark Tank Success

With Shopify Plus, Bombas found that scaling is seamless. The company can perform mass product uploads quickly, across multiple ecommerce channels, using a back-end system that’s clean and easy to operate.

Read the case study

Layer 3: Apps built by trusted partners

Shopify’s App Store features thousands of apps built by third-party developers to customize your online store.

Need a particular function for your business? There’s likely an app that can help make it a reality. Whether it’s a smart SMS app, custom size charts, online store recommendations powered by AI, or apps to streamline social ads, just check the app store.

A webpage from Shopify's theme store
Browse apps by category and sort by the newest and most popular apps among Shopify store owners.

If you can’t find the app you’re looking for, there’s also a marketplace of Shopify Expert Partners you can hire to build custom solutions for your business.

The fine print: Shopify pricing and plans

Shopify plans range from the Starter plan, perfect for creators selling on social media channels, to Shopify Retail plans for brick-and-mortar, to enterprise solutions for high-volume global brands. These include Basic Shopify and Advanced Shopify plans for every level.

Shopify pricing for plans ranges from $5 per month for the Starter plan to upward of $2,300 per month for Shopify Plus.

Three core Shopify plans for online stores are:

  • Basic Shopify plan: Perfect for small businesses.
  • Shopify plan: Ideal for growing businesses.
  • Advanced Shopify plan: More functionality for medium and large businesses.

There are no transaction fees for stores using Shopify Payments. However, if you choose a third-party payment provider, there will be additional fees.

Shopify plans include a free trial.

Additional plans include:

  • Shopify Starter: Made for creators and those selling through social and messaging apps (without the need for a dedicated online store).
  • Retail Plan: For retail stores and in-person sellers (Shopify POS).
  • Shopify Plus: A solution for enterprise Shopify merchants.

✏️ Note: Check the pricing page specific to your region for accurate pricing information.

7 reasons to choose Shopify

Woman works at a laptop surrounded by books

When starting a business from scratch or looking to migrate to a new commerce partner, there are many solutions on the market. Is Shopify right for your brand?

Consider the unique benefits below, then compare Shopify with other commerce platforms to discover which is right for your business.

1. Shopify supports you across the ecommerce ecosystem

Online, offline, and everywhere in between, Shopify is home to a large, diverse set of entrepreneurs, store owners, developers, and commerce partners.

2. Shopify takes you global

Shopify empowers entrepreneurs around the world to build, connect, and scale their businesses. With businesses in more than 175 countries, Shopify provides entrepreneurs everywhere the platform, building blocks, and tools needed to sell locally and across international borders.

3. Shopify empowers creative expression

Shopify believes there should be diverse voices, stories, and experiences in commerce. That’s why the product is designed with the greatest amount of extensibility, flexibility, customization, and freedom of expression.

4. Shopify lets your brand shine

Your brand is the star. That’s why Shopify works hard in the background of your branded ecommerce website. Tell the story of your brand and products using themes that support customization, video, and other features to bring your store to life for stand-out buyer experiences.

5. Shopify is the most integrated commerce platform out of the box

Shopify not only centralizes entire commerce businesses but also offers access to the widest set of commerce integrations built using a shared technical framework. This ensures Shopify has breadth and depth across themes, apps, channels, products, and experiences.

6. Shopify eliminates unnecessary complexity

Independent business owners wear many hats, especially in the early days of starting a business. That’s why Shopify offers a simple and accessible platform that seamlessly integrates tools and channels in one place. Business owners opt into only what they need, eliminating clutter and streamlining operations.

7. Shopify is built to grow with you

No matter your technical maturity, growth, size, complexity, or location, you will never lack access to technology and features to build your business. Shopify offers plans and products that flex with you as you scale or evolve.

???? Old World Kitchen’s Leap From Etsy to Shopify

The Polder family started their handcrafted wooden spoon brand by selling door to door before launching on Etsy. Now, they sell both through the marketplace and a standalone ecommerce store.

Read the success story

Surface your brand everywhere, sell anywhere

A sale card sits in a retail merchandising display

Shopify helps you transform your brand vision into a real commerce experience, so that you can sell to the right customers in the right place—online, offline, and everywhere in between.

Sell through an online store

Sell to customers browsing on desktop or mobile through a dedicated online store, customized with your branding. Personalize the front end of your website with custom storefronts to create a unique, seamless online shopping experience for your customers.

Sell across social sales channels and marketplaces

Promote and sell your products across multiple channels from one centralized place—Shopify. Grow your audience by selling where your potential customers shop, across social media and popular marketplaces including Facebook, Walmart, and more. Integrate sales channels with apps that sync inventory and data.

Sell in the Shop App

Make it easy for customers to quickly check out, track orders and shipment details, and discover your business with Shop App, a digital shopping assistant powered by Shop Pay.

Sell in person with retail tools

Sell in person, backed by data you need to sell online, with Shopify’s all-in-one POS system. Provide customers with a frictionless shopping experience, manage staff, track inventory, and more. From full POS solutions for multi-location brick-and-mortar stores to on-the-go hardware for selling at markets, Shopify has you covered.

Start selling in person with Shopify POS

Shopify POS is the easiest way to start selling in person. Take your brand on the road and accept payments, manage inventory, and sell everywhere your customers are—farmers’ markets, pop-up events, and anywhere in between.

Discover Shopify POS

Make customer connections with Shopify

A demo of Shopify's built-in analytics for store owners
Insights built into Shopify’s admin help you understand your customers to deliver timely and marketing messages.

Insights built into Shopify’s admin help you understand your customers to deliver timely and marketing messages.

Shopify gives business owners opportunities to build and own long-term customer relationships through a suite of built-in features, app integrations, and automations. These include:

  • Shopify Markets. Expand your reach by selling to customers around the world. With Shopify Markets, you can go global and sell to customers anywhere—all through a single online store.
  • Customer engagement and marketing tools. Reach the right person with the right message at the right time using Shopify’s customer engagement and marketing tools. Leverage segmentation, email marketing, automation features, and more to drive relevance and engage your audience.
  • Messaging tools. Talk to customers and manage conversations from anywhere with Shopify Inbox. Create automated messages and get insights to focus on chats that convert.
  • Powerful marketing insights and analytics. Make informed decisions for your business and understand customer behavior using marketing insights and data provided by Shopify’s reports and analytics.
  • B2B on Shopify. Deliver customized experiences your B2B customers will love. With Shopify, you can manage both your B2B and DTC customers, orders, storefronts, and inventory, all from one place.
  • Shopify Forms. Use this free email capture app that works seamlessly with the rest of Shopify—think discounts, Shopify Email, marketing automations, segmentation, and more.
  • Customer segmentation. Group customers based on their unique behaviors and characteristics, such as how much they’ve spent or where they’re located. This lets you personalize your messaging and drive revenue.

The tools you need to grow and thrive

A demo of Shopify Shipping screens
Shopify Shipping and other built-in features streamline your online store operations.

Shopify Shipping and other built-in features streamline your online store operations.

Shopify helps accelerate entrepreneurs’ journey to success through features that help manage inventory, streamline shipping, and achieve business goals. These include:

  • A central admin. Manage your business, orders, and customers across all sales channels and store locations in one place.
  • Shipping and fulfillment tools. Centralize everything required to manage fulfillment, inventory, shipping and more with Shopify. Leverage Shopify Shipping to get preferred carrier rates, print labels, and streamline order management.
  • Financial products. Manage your business financials with Shopify Balance, Capital, Bill Pay, and Credit.
  • Shop Pay. Enable customers to checkout quickly using encryption to save their details and use a fast one-click checkout. Delight your customers by offering flexible payment options like Shop Pay Installments.
  • Mobile app. Use the Shopify app to run your business wherever you are. With it, you can manage your Shopify store on the go, respond to information in real time, check insights, and more.

???? Shopify offers a suite of free business tools that simplify business tasks.

Try the image resizer for product photos or social posts, use the slogan maker to create quick campaigns, or generate refund policies in a snap.

With millions of independent businesses selling every type of product in markets around the world, solving for each of their needs is a tall order. Cramming every possible feature into one platform only makes the product harder to use for the majority of business owners.

Instead, Shopify prioritizes making the platform flexible with the ability to add functionality to address the unique complexities of each business. Optional Shopify products and sales channels can be layered on directly from the Shopify admin. And, developers around the world are invited to build apps, themes, and other integrations specifically for Shopify’s platform.

A flexible commerce platform for any business

A customer talks to a retail employee in a cafe

With millions of independent businesses selling every type of product in markets around the world, solving for each of their needs is a tall order.

Instead of cramming every possible feature into a confusing platform, Shopify prioritizes flexibility. You can add the functionality you need to address the complexities of your business.

Optional products and sales channels can be layered directly from the Shopify admin. Plus, developers around the world are invited to build apps, themes, and other integrations specifically for Shopify.

If you want to dabble with the code yourself, Shopify makes it possible to:

  • Personalize your theme or build a new theme from scratch.
  • Build custom apps for your store using developer tools and Shopify’s APIs.
  • Use APIs to power custom experiences, like selling your products in a video game.

With Shopify, you don’t have to trade ease-of-use for advanced features. Get your store and campaigns up and running quickly, while creating rich experiences that can compete with big brands.

Get started with Shopify today

Shopify is an all-in-one commerce platform and a rich ecosystem that connects sellers, developers, business experts, and shoppers in the shared pursuit of making commerce better for everyone.

Shopify makes entrepreneurship more accessible to anyone seeking independence—from self-made TikTok stars to innovative product developers. Whether you’re a creator looking to monetize your personal brand, a scrappy trailblazer finding your footing, or a heritage brand reaching customers around the world, Shopify is built for you.

Ready to start a business? Getting up and running on Shopify begins with a free trial so you can explore everything the platform has to offer. Build your brand, develop your products, and start reaching customers and making in-person and online sales today.

Feature illustration by Núria Madrid

What is Shopify FAQ

Is Shopify good for beginners?

Shopify is built to support beginners and is easy to use. It’s flexible enough to meet the needs of growing small businesses as well as established enterprise businesses. Create your own online store with drag-and-drop templates with no need to code. Accept payments with Shopify’s own payment processor.

What does Shopify cost?

Shopify has several pricing plans for businesses to choose from, starting at $5 per month. The Shopify Starter plan for creators selling on social channels costs $5 per month, while Shopify’s Basic plan costs $29 per month.

Layering on apps from the Shopify App Store may also carry additional costs. Check the pricing page specific to your region for accurate pricing.

In what countries can I use Shopify?

Shopify powers online stores and retail businesses in 175 countries. You can use Shopify in more than 20 languages and accept Shopify Payments in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Business owners in countries where Shopify Payments is not available can use Shopify with approved third-party payment gateways.

What can I sell on Shopify?

You can sell a range of products and services on Shopify, including physical products, digital products, memberships and subscriptions, ticketed experiences, and consulting services. Certain products are prohibited from sale on Shopify. Consult the acceptable use policy before you use Shopify to sell your products and services.

Where can I sell with Shopify?

With Shopify, you can sell everywhere your customers are. That includes through an online store, on the Shop App, in person at a retail store or tradeshow event, on marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay, on social media channels like TikTok and Instagram, and through wholesale.

What do I need to start selling online with Shopify?

To begin selling online with Shopify, you need to source or manufacture products and identify a target audience. You can sign up for a free trial on Shopify to explore the platform before you commit to a plan and build your online store. Before you launch, follow this ecommerce launch checklist to be sure you’re ready to start reaching customers and making sales.

This article originally appeared on Shopify and is available here for further discovery.
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