Big Brands That Use Shopify
As a marketing agency offering both web development and web design, we often get asked questions about which website platform (or CMS) is best, and also get requests to make comparisons between the likes of Shopify, WordPress, Magento, etc.
The short answer to these questions is “it depends”. It depends on things like whether SEO is important to you, whether you intend to offer ecommerce, which marketing agency you intend to partner with, and many other factors.
Increasingly, in recent months we have a number of clients asking specifically about the Shopify platform.
Often they have been recommended Shopify as a vastly superior alternative to WordPress, and usually have been given information from a 3rd party about how “the biggest companies and brands use Shopify“.
Sometimes our clients have seen a convincingly-written articles like this one that make many bold claims about which companies and brands use Shopify, and yet contain no supporting evidence to back up the claims. Note that the article doesn’t link to any of the companies mentioned to illustrate which website they’re referring to – it doesn’t tell you if the Shopify site they’re referring to is an obscure subsidiary website that the company owns, or whether it is their main website.
Our examination of the source code of all the main websites of the big companies mentioned in the above article doesn’t reveal any of the usual tell-tale bits of code saying “cdn.shopify.com” – see the screenshot below showing what would normally be present on a Shopify website:
So we can only assume the article is untrue, i.e. ‘fake news’, or else it’s referring to websites other than the named company’s main websites. Or maybe they’re all using Shopify Plus, which is a totally different bespoke-built platform that takes many months to deploy, and is not the quick-fix low-cost option that the article is promoting.
So we decided that it was time to confront some of the myths surrounding Shopify head-on, and then let people make an evidence-based educated decision on what platform is best for them.
Shopify definitely seems to be the platform with the most business advisors and magazine articles promoting it’s benefits, but is it really all it’s made out to be? Read on to find out…
So, what’s the excitement with Shopify?
According to Shopify and their many promotional agents, fast-growth and multi-million revenue companies use their CMS web platform including Gymshark, Redbull, Lindt and some other really big brand companies (see below for a fuller list).
Putting aside the marketing intention for a moment, the message received and being perpetuated by some business owners is that these brands have grown so fast – or at least been enabled to grow to such heights – by their choice of Shopify as their eCommerce platform. “Get Shopify and turn your SME into the next Unicorn” is the impression some appear to have gathered.
An Important Difference: Shopify, or Shopify Plus
The excitable stories promoting Shopify as the “website platform the big companies use” are often misleading as they refer to ‘Shopify’, but they’re actually talking about ‘Shopify Plus’ which is a totally different animal. It’s a bit like saying that all the top celebrities drive a ‘car’ – this is true, but without stating which kind of car – Ford, Citroen, Tesla, Audi, etc – that information doesn’t tell you much. It’s nearly as bad as saying that a WordPress WooCommerce website is better than a Shopify website, when just like cars, there’s a massive range of ‘WordPress’ websites to choose from – some are better, some are worse, so it’s important to know which option is being talked about.
Shopify vs Shopify Plus
There’s a lot at stake in the names here. The Shopify that millions of start-ups, SMEs and general marketing practitioners think of is the developer’s standard Shopify product – which starts at a mere £19 a month. For most eCommerce customers, the £49 or even the £259 a month will probably be needed in order to remove the limitations of the starter level.
Check out the most up-to-date pricing of Shopify on their website.
Shopify Plus, however, has a minimum fee per month of $2,000; with no other pricing options available publicly you need to talk to them to get a quote for the level of development you want. Their PLUS business model takes it fair and square into the bespoke web developer, the only real difference is you pay every month and are locked into them for as long as you use the site. In approximate terms, the monthly cost of Shopify Plus is a good guide to the one-off cost of building a website using the “legacy” (to quote Shopify) route. What they call legacy is having a professional website built on an open-source platform such as WooCommerce (WordPress), Drupal or BigCommerce – or competing closed-source Magento.
In addition to monthly charges, Shopify also earns revenue from payment card commissions.
Is Shopify worth it?
With their two types of CMS, Shopify caters to micro-businesses and multi-million online companies.
We have no doubt that Shopify are great web developers (with admirably clever marketing skills too) and they cover the needs of many businesses looking to increase their online marketing and sales.
The basic Shopify CMS has a simple and intuitive backend so is easy to develop, meaning you could most likely build it yourself or at least use any general marketing agency or brand designer.
Take an individual business person testing out their first product online; with zero capital cost and only £19 a month budget, Shopify Starter is a savvy option. (Look out for their free trial or £1 a-month special offers)
There’s an article geared towards small to medium-sized businesses by Soft-loft on the cost of Shopify development and ongoing maintenance. Any website that comes ready-to-launch out of the box will be generic, with limited functionality and design.
And then there’s Shopify Plus – a wholly different CMS platform that comes with a lot of customised dev work. Below is a list of the big eCommerce firms that Shopify (actually Shopify Plus) claim among their clients.
Companies And Brands Using Shopify (or Shopify Plus):
- Huit Denim Co.
- KKW Beauty
- Kylie Cosmetics
- Red Bull
- Kraft Heinz
- The Economist
- Holland Cooper
- Rocket Dog
- Lazy Oaf
- David Beckham
- The New York Times
- Netflix (shop)
- Pure Electric
- Good America
- Steve Madden
- Deliveroo (uniform site)
- Emma Bridgwater
- Laura Conrad Beauty
- Victoria Beckham
- Penguin Books
- Cluse Watches
- Harper Collins
- Alexa Chung
What is noticeable about many of the brands using Shopify is that their main route to market has been through social media, and in the case of the long-established ones, decades of traditional marketing. Those like Deliveroo or FitBit have developed their own Apps as their core platform and just use Shopify for a peripheral website, or the likes of Budweiser have an established network of resellers and the site in question is another string to their wider strategy.
Building any valuable brand takes effort, strategy, skill and investment.
Shopify vs Magento vs WordPress – 4 Key Comparison Points
1: Website Development Speed
One of the key benefits claimed by Shopify is the speed of deployment, according to them it often takes 12 months of more to re-develop and launch a website using their “legacy” competing platforms. Whilst Magento can be notoriously time and budget-consuming to get right, the build time and cost of any new website depend very much on its’ complexity and the culture of the developers and brand owner. At UClimb we have created and launched urgent new websites for clients in days, and once built a simple WordPress site in just 1 day. Other projects that need more feedback and decision-making time by the client, and typically take us 2 or 3 months to complete.
2: Best CMS platform for SEO?
Both Shopify and WordPress have inbuilt SEO plugins available to enable you to start gaining traction on search engines like Google and Bing. Used well, the onsite SEO tools will get you entered into the race for your main keyword search terms.
In our experience, the wider range of SEO tools on WordPress, and the ability to make WordPress websites load extremely fast by choosing the very best hosting and a lightweight theme help us achieve SEO results faster with WordPress than Shopify, but we have also proved that it’s possible to rank at #1 for high-volume competitive keywords on a Shopify website too – it’s just it can be a a slightly longer task, due to having less tools available to you.
3: Best for Ecommerce?
When it comes to Ecommerce, Shopify fares both better and worse against WordPress – again, the answer to “which platform is best” is “it depends what you want”.
If you want Ecommerce on WordPress, you need the WooCommerce plugin to create this functionality.
When comparing a basic WooCommerce website with a basic Shopify website (both ‘out the box’ with no premium plugins or modified settings), then Shopify wins the day – it is sleaker and has more functionality on this comparison.
However, if you want to customise your online shop with bespoke functionality, the range of WooCommerce pro (paid) plugins available makes it more flexible and powerful than Shopify.
4: Best for Marketing Agencies and Website Designers?
WordPress websites are used by around 40% of the worlds websites, so it’s not surprising that virtually any marketing agency or website freelancer you approach in the future will know how to edit your website.
In contrast, quite a few marketing agencies do not like or recommend Shopify, because of the restrictions on that platform that limit their creativity and the results that they can achieve.
So by opting for WordPress, you are making sure your website is built in a way that virtually any freelancer, outsourced agency, or in-house marketing operative can easily work with in the future – especially if you keep the build simple by using a page builder like Elementor, and steer clear of excessive customisation.
So if you do decide to go with Shopify for your website, please just bear in mind that you may be reducing the number of SEO agencies, website design agencies, or in-house marketing operatives who will be willing to work with your website. By choosing Shopify, you are also increasing the chance that your website will need a rebuild should you ever decide to change the person or company in charge of editing it.