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Dispelling the 4 Biggest Myths About Shopify Plus

Aug 02 '18

Myth #1: Shopify is a rigid platform that limits what you can do

I have heard the same criticism applied over the years to a variety of technology platforms. The problem with this kind of critique of any platform—is that it’s entirely the wrong way to think about a problem.

And often thinking the right way about a problem is a hell of a lot more important than coming up with a solution. Think of it like this.

Most technology platforms—whether content management systems, digital commerce platforms, customer relationship management tools, or whatever—exist somewhere on a spectrum between flexible/expensive and inflexible/inexpensive. Everything in life has a price; you just have to decide what you’re willing to pay for vs. what you’re willing to sacrifice. Flexible systems let you customize more, but they also assume less about what you are trying to do, which translates to a higher implementation budget.

Think about it: The popular Symfony PHP framework is far more flexible than Magento, and you can certainly build an ecommerce site with it, but as a low-level code framework, Symfony makes so few assumptions that you have to build nearly the entire UI and UX yourself.

Meanwhile, Magento makes lots of assumptions like, “You want to run a store,” and “You want to have your own theme at checkout,” and “You want customers to create user accounts.”

In some ways, Magento is more flexible than Shopify Plus; that is absolutely true. But labeling Shopify Plus as a rigid platform is faulty thinking; after all, all systems are rigid in some way. The real question is, where is it rigid, and does that rigidity limit your ability to achieve your critical use cases?

If you are building a standard browse-and-buy commerce experience, Shopify Plus is likely a good choice, unless you hit one of the inflexible areas of the platform, like deep CMS integration, custom purchase flows like desktop software subscriptions, or if you are selling non-standard goods like event tickets. If one of those describes your use case, then rigidity is a critical consideration; if not, then who cares?

Myth #2: You can’t integrate Shopify with custom complex backend systems

We have integrated websites with a wide variety of backend systems over the years, including CRMs like Salesforce, ERPs like NetSuite, shipping regulation platforms like ShipCompliant, and crazy systems like the AS/400.

You have many integration options when it comes to Shopify Plus:

  • You can use an existing public app from the Shopify App Store to integrate Shopify Plus with your backend system

  • You can create a custom Shopify Plus app that responds to webhooks to react to specific events, like the completion of an order, or the deletion of a customer record

  • You can write custom code in your backend application to use the extensive Shopify API to add, update, delete, and extract information from your Shopify store (you can even use GraphQL if you want to be really fancy)

  • You can build a custom Shopify app that serves as a message bus queue system (like RabbitMQ) to coordinate complex data flows between systems

There are many ways to integrate a backend system with Shopify cost effectively while maintaining website performance.

Myth #3: Shopify Plus is the same as regular Shopify, so it’s not ready for enterprise businesses

Shopify Plus was released in 2014 and started to gain momentum in 2016, as the feature set became more differentiated from the regular version of Shopify. Shopify Plus includes a variety of crucial features that large businesses need, including:

  • Support for wholesale workflows

  • Customizable checkout

  • More API endpoints, which support more complex and deep integrations with backend systems

  • Single sign-on: Multipass; you can use your own identity provider with Shopify

  • A point of sale platform: provides seamless retail integrations

  • Shopify Flow: an incredibly powerful automation engine for building custom workflows to make repetitive tasks more efficient, all without writing a line of code

We recently finished a project for a large business (revenue in the billions) that included a tricky integration with a third-party service to help with regulatory compliance for browsing and purchasing. During the development phase of the effort, we proudly demoed our work for the client to show off that is was feature complete.

The client was pleased, but our discussion involved a new team member who had not been involved with the project, and who made a bunch of new, tricky requests, despite an already tight timeline.

Undeterred, the engineering team huddled, came up with a plan, and was able to extend the integration to cover all of the newly requested use cases, in less time than was budgeted by the project manager.

Myth #4: Shopify has a smaller ecosystem than Magento, increasing risk to large organizations that adopt the platform

One of the major benefits of the architecture of the Shopify Plus ecosystem is that it is a true platform business. (A platform business model is when you have two—or more—sides in your ecosystem, and growth on one side actively promotes growth on the other, creating a virtuous cycle.)

AirBNB is a famous example of a platform business. The lodging business really has two kinds of customers: people who rent apartments and homes (tenants), and people who rent their properties to people (landlords). As more landlords list their homes on AirBNB, the greater the selection, and the more attractive the platform is to tenants. At the same time, as more tenants use the platform to book places to stay, the more attractive the platform is to landlords.

Shopify Plus operates the same way with app developers and merchants: The more apps people create for merchants, the more attractive the platform is to merchants. The more merchants that use Shopify, the more potential customers app developers have, incentivizing the creation of more applications, and increasing the platform’s value.

And just like Magento, Shopify Plus has a large ecosystem of free and pay apps, and a healthy community of technology, agency, and solutions partners.

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