Apr 5, 2021 - Justin Emond

Wait, Shopify Plus Can Do That?

My favorite part about talking to prospects about Shopify Plus is when I get, “Wait, what? Shopify can do that?!” Content created by other platforms certainly contributes to preconceived notions about Shopify Plus’s limitations. However, the source of most of the misunderstandings about what Shopify can and can’t do are derived from the market confusion around Shopify and Shopify Plus, and the relative youth of the Plus platform.

Shopify Plus officially launched in 2014, and while it could handle massive scale from day one, it took several years of product development to really make the feature set strongly differentiated from the core Shopify product and more comparable to other enterprise ecommerce platforms. Consider that the two platforms Shopify Plus has disrupted most since 2018 — Magento and Salesforce Commerce Cloud — were launched in 2008 and 2004 respectively. Shopify Plus built in four years what SFCC took fifteen years to create.

This market confusion and relative youth don’t change what Shopify Plus can and can’t do, but they do change what people think the platform can and can’t do. Let’s dispel some myths.

Myth #1: Shopify Plus has poor analytics and reporting 

The argument that Shopify Plus has limited analytics capabilities is often presented as a killer limitation to the platform for serious, larger-scale merchants. But this thinking is a bit deceptive because it raises the broader question of how merchant analytics should be done to drive revenue growth.

The truth is that out-of-the-box most of the leading, modern digital commerce platforms have a decent set of analytics capabilities built in. But to point out the limitations of in platform analytics is to advocate for a flawed strategy for any large scale brand; we call it the carboat problem.

Since cars became mainstream in the United States, enthusiasts have tried to build a car that is also a great boat. It seems every decade there are mechanical amateur savants that can’t stop the urge to tear apart a beloved car, make it float, and add a propeller. 

Here is a carboat in action:
 

Inevitably, the problem with carboats is that it turns out when you try to build something that is a great car and a great boat it turns out to be a shitty car and shitty boat.

And so here lies our lesson about analytics: Are Shopify Analytics a strong choice for a large-scale retailer? Probably not. But that isn’t because of a limitation in Shopify: No built-in digital commerce analytics platform is a good choice for a large-scale retailer. A large-scale retailer should be leveraging a comprehensive data strategy that industrializes insights for the merchant. To do that right requires an external set of tools, but that is a post for another day.

Myth #2: Shopify Plus doesn’t support international e-commerce

A common argument against Shopify Plus is that its multi-everything capabilities are weak (meaning multiple country currencies, language, and fulfillment). This may have been true a few years ago, but certainly isn’t true today.

Shopify Plus offers a variety of strategies for handling stores that operate in more than one country. While fulfillment often drives most of the decisions for how you architect an international approach, Shopify supports both single- and multi-store approaches. Individual Shopify instances can serve customers in their native currencies from browse (category landing, PDP, promotions) to buy (cart, checkout, and payment), and blended multistore architectures can have different stores serve different groups of multi-country experiences.

The truth is, international use cases don’t make Shopify skip a beat.

Myth #3: Shopify Plus doesn't let you have pixel-level control over the front end

Unlike non-transactional marketing websites, digital commerce sites tend to have similar templates for category landing pages, product detail pages, search, cart, and checkout. Shopify takes full advantage of this factor by offering a variety of stunning Shopify Themes you can quickly purchase, customize, and deploy for your own brand.

But you don’t have to start with a Shopify Theme. You can build an entirely custom front end experience from scratch, controlling every pixel. Shopify’s template language, Liquid, is a simple yet powerful template language for themers to create beautiful experiences. Liquid is open source, so organizations know they are investing in an extensible platform.

But the ultimate market validator for Shopify’s front end language is not Shopify at all, but Salesforce, whose Commerce Cloud is a major competitor to Shopify Plus. Salesforce values liquid so highly they use it to power one of their most important products: Desk.com.

Myth #4: You can’t customize the backend

We recently did this massive custom SAP integration for a Shopify merchant, and as part of that work, we needed to add a new reverse logistics flow function built into the Shopify admin itself. This was crucial for two reasons: 1) The merchant team handling order issues needed to stay within one system to be efficient; and 2) it was important to standardize the handling of this function to maintain correct inventory levels across a variety of fulfillment channels.

We turned to the trusted Shopify Admin API to build a custom application to handle the integration with a scalable, maintainable architecture.

Myth 5: Shopify won’t support my payment gateway needs

The tiny island-chain nation of Vanuatu has a total population of less than 300,000. Even on this tiny island in the middle of the South Pacific, Shopify supports nine different payment gateways. Shopify supports a wide range of payment options around the world and is fully capable of supporting the local consumer customs in different countries.

When we encounter a supposed payment gateway used by a new client, that doesn’t often disqualify Shopify Plus as a usable platform, but prompts a question about what that merchant actually needs from a gateway provider and what migration options might be available. After all, using a migration to a new digital commerce platform to simply replicate what you have today is a failure of a project. But that is a post for another day.

Summary: Before believing the often-mentioned limitations of Shopify Plus, reach out to us for a chat. If Shopify can’t do it, we will tell you. Shopify isn’t a fit for every use case, but it is a fit for an increasing number of digital commerce use cases—large and small—that attempt to create so much fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the platform.

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