The Move to Shopify Plus: Everything you Need to Know
6 Min Read
This blog post is the shortened version of Corra’s extended Shopify Plus Guide you can read here. We interviewed Louis Pan, a Solutions Strategist who specializes in the Shopify Plus platform and technology roadmap.
The notion that Shopify Plus isn’t scalable or that it’s too simplistic for enterprise retailers is inaccurate.
Corra client, MVMT Watches has experienced multi-million dollar success on the Shopify Plus platform (read the case study here) and Staples Canada just launched a headless solution using Shopify Plus on the back end.
But, can it do everything you need it to? Can it support the types of promotions you’re envisioning for your brand? Will it allow you to bundle products? Can you customize the checkout? Let’s explore these frequently asked questions further.
At face value, Shopify Plus may seem inflexible by nature but you’ll find most so-called “limitations” can be addressed and solutioned. Louis Pan, Solutions Strategist and Shopify Plus expert says our answer is usually, yes, customizations can be enabled to sell any way you need to sell. Or we’ll find a third-party app for that. It’s just a matter of figuring out the requirements for the project. Here are some FAQs we get along the way.
Shopify vs Shopify Plus. What’s the difference between the two?
You may be thinking, what is Shopify Plus? And how is it different to Shopify? There are various advantages of moving to Shopify Plus. In addition to better rates offered to Shopify Plus merchants using Shopify Pay, Plus merchants also have access to Plus-specific APIs, Shopify Scripts, Shopify Flow, and the Checkout.liquid file. These provide them even more ways to customize, integrate, and automate their ecommerce experiences and operational workflows end-to-end. On top of that, Shopify Plus merchants can expect a multi-site management solution (announced at Shopify Unite 2019) in the future, that will allow them to easily navigate and manage multiple Plus stores within a single admin view.
How much is Shopify Plus?
When it comes to platform costs, Shopify Plus has done an excellent job leveling the playing field for small businesses in the age of Amazon. Shopify Plus starts from as low as $2000 per month for a single license making it a relatively inexpensive alternative to many enterprise solutions on the market. Platform fees also provide development sandboxes and clone stores for that brand to expand internationally. For multi-site or very complex B2B storefronts, more than one license may be required, so we recommend coordinating closely with the Shopify Plus team to ensure everyone is on the same page. Shopify Plus is a fully-hosted, cloud-based platform–meaning that the hosting costs and operations are handled by Shopify Plus’s capable team and included in the platform cost. This can be a major area of savings. Other costs to consider for Plus include third-party plugins for anything from calculating taxes to connecting online purchase history with CRM (customer relationship management) data, which can range in price. In the unlikely event that integration is required to a system that doesn’t have a public app, there may also be some costs associated with the development and hosting for a custom app. For more information, you can read How Much Does Shopify Plus Cost, our extended blog post on the topic.
I have complex integrations, can Shopify Plus support my greater ecommerce ecosystem?
The short answer is yes–with the necessary customizations. We have a client in the luxury fragrance market who came from a robust enterprise platform with margin calculation, gross sales, tax collection, etc. all previously custom built. They moved to Shopify Plus with Corra for an easier to use platform that simplified their business processes. There’s a trade off there because Shopify Plus out of the box is very cost-efficient, but in this case, there’s also a need for building custom apps. We usually weigh this trade off with clients as a consultative engagement, giving strategic guidance on their ecommerce business as a whole.
Will I be able to achieve the custom look and feel that’s unique to my brand?
Occasionally, we get merchants that doubt whether they’re able to achieve their desired look and feel with Shopify Plus themes. With the right customizations and designers that specialize in commerce, you definitely can. It comes down to copy, brand elements, imagery, video, interactivity, and customizing the grid in any number of ways. There’s really an art to the hierarchy of information, shot selection, and understanding which imagery to place where. Visual Designers and UX Strategists that specialize in web and ecommerce are crucial for this. When Corra was redesigning Faherty’s site the aim was to create a shoppable lookbook, so we chose content blocks to fit that narrative.
I’m a B2B business. Am I too complex for Shopify Plus?
This question depends on how you’re running your B2B business operationally. Certain B2B-like functionalities are available through the Shopify Plus wholesale channel plugin: creating contacts, company-specific price lists, quoting functionality, things like that. Shopify Plus has those wholesale capabilities out-of-the-box that offers a self-service style B2B storefront with a gated portal. For more complex requirements (custom discounting or bundling, etc.) you’ll need to spin up a separate Shopify Plus instance. In 2019, Shopify acquired the B2B platform Handshake and we’re looking forward to seeing what they produce together.
Will Shopify Plus let me bundle products?
Shopify Plus doesn’t come with this functionality natively–we would need to build a custom app for that. Corra recommends starting with an MVP (minimum viable product) and planning customizations as needed. Sometimes it’s a matter of weighing business objectives and understanding what percentage of your sales are attributed to bundling products. If it’s only a small percentage you’ll want to consider if it’s worth the cost trade off to build a custom solution for this–but it’s definitely doable.
Can I customize the checkout?
Yes, Shopify Plus owns this piece of the funnel fundamentally but it’s a common misconception that the checkout can’t be customized at all. With Shopify Plus, merchants do have a level of customizations they can implement on checkout. Some structural customizations aren’t achievable without rebuilding a custom checkout experience, which is essentially like building a custom app. Merchants often ask for a one-step checkout. When this happens, we really want to understand the reasoning behind this. The current checkout experience has been rigorously tested and optimized. It includes a simple CTA (call-to-action) on each page, allowing customers to focus on each section. Based on Shopify Plus’ research and user testing, it doesn’t impact conversions. In fact, the highest converting brands on Shopify Plus: Kylie Cosmetics, Fashion Nova, and MVMT, all use the standard checkout. If there’s something specific the merchant is trying to customize in the checkout, chances are, we can figure out a way to do it.
Can Shopify Plus support our multi-site architecture?
From an architectural standpoint, if you’re running multiple storefronts they’re still treated as individual Shopify Plus instances with their own catalogs–even with the release of a unified dashboard for multi-site Shopify Plus clients. If you have complex catalog management requirements, it may make sense to look into a third-party product information management (PIM) system, custom apps or direct integration. It comes down to your business priorities and requirements. If managing multiple catalogs in disparate admin panels is a pain point for you, we can certainly build out a solution.
What if we have a complex catalog with hierarchical categories?
Shopify Plus has a flat category structure rather than one where categories have an inherent hierarchical relationship to each other. You can think of this as similar to folders and subfolders on a PC. In platforms with hierarchical categories, these are often called “parent” categories or “root” categories and their “child” is a sub-category. While the underlying data structure of Shopify Plus does not support categories defined by different hierarchical levels explicitly, this can be achieved implicitly for purposes of user navigation and product categorization by manually applying tags in Shopify Plus. Category hierarchies using tags can then be created to mimic true hierarchical catalog structures.
Does Shopify Plus have a headless offering?
Headless architecture divides consumer-facing concerns from system concerns, reducing the need to dive into the back end and get your hands dirty with every iteration of your commerce strategy. It gives your marketing and CX teams the freedom to experiment and implement revenue-driving improvements and frees up your technology teams to explore new acquisition channels and interfaces.
Most companies would kill for our velocity. The speed with which our development team is able to deliver solutions from ideation to production is triple what I’ve seen anywhere else.
Richard Bremner, Head of Technology, Koala
Shopify Plus has a very compelling Headless offering with robust GraphQL functionality out-of-the-box. This is known as their Storefront API. When we think of a front end communicating with a back end via an API (REST, GraphQL, etc.) we can use the analogy of email versus iMessage. REST is more structured like an email and GraphQL, like iMessage, allows you to communicate efficiently with more specific, bite-sized pieces of information. You want to use GraphQL because it generates a faster experience for your visitors.
Any additional questions we didn’t cover?
If your area of concern isn’t on this list, reach out and we’ll do our best to find an answer for you. Additionally, if you’re a merchant looking for a Shopify Plus partner agency, contact Corra today. We’re more than happy to introduce our services and guide you through the process.