Shopify Plus is a relatively new release of popular SaaS ecommerce platform, Shopify, specifically designed to meet the needs of mid-level and enterprise-level online retailers.
Shopify Plus is, in my opinion, most appealing to merchants looking for a platform with lower technical overheads, managed scalability and simple admin and order management functionality. Currently going through a growth phase, lots of mid-level online retailers are moving over to Shopify Plus, particularly in the US – examples of well-known merchants who have migrated include Gymshark, Skinny Dip, Citizen, The New York Times, Finisterre, Shore Watches, Herschel, Pavers and Hawkers.
Whilst personally I don’t view it as a direct competitor to Magento 2 Enterprise Edition (due to Magento having increased flexibility and a vastly different proposition), the main platform I work with, I’ve found myself recommending it to clients more and more as it fits a section of the market that I feel isn’t suited to Magento.
If there’s a lack of complex requirements from the merchant around the core features of Magento (such as managing large catalogs, non-standard product attributes and product types, multi-store requirements, complex integrations with bespoke systems etc), or any significant on-going development requirements, Shopify Plus is likely be the perfect solution.
Benefits of using Shopify Plus
Shopify has a lot of great benefits for those retailers that are suitable for the platform, some of which include:
Competitive pricing / cost of ownership
The pricing structure for Shopify Plus starts from a $2,000 flat-fee per month (which most merchants that I’ve worked with have been on) and increases based on GMV (0.25% of transactions through Shopify) and the number of storefronts you have. Once you exceed turnover of somewhere in the region of $800,000 per month online, the pricing increases fairly considerably, with a maximum possible cost of around $500,000 per year.
The thing to remember with Shopify Plus is that there are no ongoing maintenance costs, no support retainers, no hosting fees etc. The only likely additional charge comes if you’re using an external payment gateway (not Shopify payments, its own gateway), which incurs a 0.15% transaction fee.
Obviously, most merchants will want to use their developer / agency for ad-hoc front-end tweaks, complex module installs etc – but you do also have an account manager on-hand from Shopify to help with a lot of these tasks.
A hosted SaaS platform
By using a hosted, SaaS platform like Shopify, as opposed to a self-hosted solution like Magento, it means that you could be taking the time and money you’d normally be spending on hosting management / preparing for peaks etc and putting that into your marketing and product development.
Although there are benefits to a self-hosted solution, for merchants who are fed up of managing hosting relationships, dealing with downtime and handling issues with peaks, Shopify Plus is a very appealing proposition (in a similar way to Demandware / Salesforce Commerce Cloud).
Easy to manage / maintain
Shopify Plus has a very low maintenance overhead, with no system updates, module upgrades or security patches to worry about. This is all handled by Shopify as part of your license cost.
In addition to this, Shopify Plus users are assigned an Account Manager who is able to help with technical issues and provide basic guidance around growing the store (finding the right apps, front-end suggestions, fixing bugs and issues etc). This reduces the need for a support / maintenance retainer, which would be required (and in some cases mandatory) with other platforms.
Shopify Plus also has a very straightforward admin interface, which is essentially the same as the Shopify back-end. This makes things like order management, product management, creating and editing categories etc, a lot easier than some of the other common platforms on the market.
This simplicity won’t suit all businesses, but if it fits your requirements, it’s likely to make your teams’ lives a lot easier.
Shopify Plus is also designed to scale, taking the pressure off ecommerce teams around key trading peaks. This is covered as part of the monthly license fee and is managed fully by Shopify’s internal engineering team.
Who is Shopify Plus suitable for?
For me, the real target market for Shopify Plus is split into two categories – large brands with small and simple catalogs (like The NYT) and growing / mid-level single currency / region retailers with relatively simple requirements and product catalogs (like Finisterre).
I’d imagine that over time, Shopify Plus will develop its catalog management (e.g. how it handles things like product attributes and product types) and multi-store capabilities to increase suitability for larger and more complex projects. Although there are third parties and workarounds for things like internationalisation (e.g. using a PIM or ERP to pass data into different Shopify stores) and complex catalogs (various apps), I’d personally say it’s not really a competitor to solutions like Magento or Demandware / Salesforce Commerce Cloud.
How does Shopify Plus compare to Magento?
In most cases I’ve seen where people are looking at Shopify Plus, they have also looked at Magento 2 CE or EE. As I touched on earlier I don’t really see these two systems as direct competitors, purely because I don’t think Shopify Plus is built for complex stores, international stores or B2B stores currently – which are Magento’s biggest strengths / markets.
That said, with the use of third parties and apps, there aren’t many things that Shopify Plus can’t achieve – it’s just a case of it not being as naturally flexible as Magento – with examples of native functionality in Magento that would be tricky to match with Shopify Plus including visual merchandising, all of the new B2B features, tiered pricing, attribute management, options for managing different customer groups, some of the native product types, managing international nuances etc.
There are various things that Shopify Plus has natively that Magento doesn’t (e.g. direct Amazon integration), but they’re less likely to be show stoppers or something that can’t be achieved to the same / a higher level with Magento.
I would say that Shopify Plus is a very, very strong solution for mid-level retailers and brands who generally don’t have complex requirements. Taking Magento, for example, Shopify Plus is going to require a lot less maintenance and on-going development work, plus a lesser degree of technical knowledge.
I’ve recommended a few retailers onto the Shopify Plus platform, purely because I thought it was better suited to their ecommerce team’s skill-set, the type of retailer they are and the core requirements. I also wrote this more detailed piece on Shopify Plus’s suitability for large stores.
For more on this topic, see: Preparing for a Magento 1 to Magento 2 migration.