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July 22, 2016

Our Solutions to 3 of Shopify’s Biggest Limitations

E-commerce |Shopify |Technical |Industry

We love Shopify. It is one of our most recommended ecommerce platforms, offering unrivalled ease of use, reliability and performance. We strive to give our clients the best online store possible and Shopify’s template engine allows us the freedom to create unique and customisable page designs. However, in doing so we can hit unexpected obstacles along the way. Here we will list the most common limitations we have experienced during our many years of using Shopify, providing our solutions to working around them too.


1) Content Management

First and foremost Shopify is tool for selling products online. Although it gives you the chance to create blogs and other non-shop related pages, it isn’t as flexible as some other systems available and does fall down in certain areas.

Products

There is only one free text field available for each product and this can limit any other information you might want to display on the product page itself. Content such as tabs (showing delivery & returns information or size guides etc.) or further information about how a product was made are not possible out of the box. The same can apply to Collection pages too, so don’t expect to be able to add anything more than an image and a block of text here.

Non-Shop Pages

If your online store is a small part of a much larger website and you require easy management of large amounts of content then Shopify might not be the best solution for you. For example, if you wanted to write a blog article about one of your best selling products, you wouldn’t be able to display it or any other related products within the article. It might be worth taking a look at more suitable content management systems (CMS) if this is a deal breaker.

Suffolk Latch Co. product page

Suffolk Latch Company uses a combination of Theme Settings & Metafields 2

Our Solution

For UK based window and door furniture supplier, Suffolk Latch Co. we used a combination of Shopify Theme Settings and the very flexible custom field app called Metafields 2. This great little app, albeit a paid app, gives us the flexibility to create multiple free text areas so we can design a great looking page allowing us to display the information you need.

**UPDATE:**

We have since been using a free tool called Shopify FD, a Google Chrome extension that offers a far more user friendly option compared to Metafields 2.

2) Collection Filters

Another common ecommerce feature that unfortunately Shopify doesn’t support, are filters, the ability to refine a bunch of products using toggles, usually seen in the sidebar of a collection page. If you have a large catalogue of products, collection filters become a vital tool for your customers. Filters allow customers to refine the list of products according to their preference, such as colour, size, price etc. making the buying process much quicker.

Tchibo Collection Page

Collection filters allow customers to drill down to specific products

Our Solution

The Shopify App Store boasts a wide range of apps that solve this issue but for world renowned coffee supplier, Tchibo, we took advantage of an app called Filter Menu by Power Tools. Although a paid app, it gave them the control they needed for their product collections.

3) Selling Abroad

Shopify caters for selling internationally but does have its limitations. Whilst you can customise the majority of your Shopify store, it is impossible to customise Shopify’s uniformed checkout system and is an element of your store that only Shopify has direct control over. This can impact your customers in two ways:

The area where your customers add billing and shipping information can only ever be in the one language, cannot be translated and customers can only pay in the one currency, usually relating to the country your store is setup in.

3.1 Multiple Languages

Out of the box, Shopify is multi-lingual but only to a point. Your storefront, transactional emails and checkout can be in any language of your choice. Whilst this makes Shopify a viable option for most store owners, things are not as straightforward with Shopify’s checkout system. The area where your customers add billing and shipping information can only ever be in the one language and cannot be translated.

3.2 Multiple Currencies

Shopify supports multiple currencies and displays product prices using real time conversion, however Shopify’s checkout system can only process payments in just the one currency, usually the country your store is setup in.

Vaara - A multilingual Shopify site

Vaara's Shopify proposition in the UK & in Russia

Here’s an example scenario covering both of these topics: –

Your Shopify store is setup with English as the default language and your Shopify theme is multi-lingual offering a French translation. Product prices are also setup in GBP & Euro. A customer is browsing your store in French and has a couple of products in their cart and would now like to pay for them in Euro’s. Like all customers, they have to use Shopify’s uniformed checkout system to do this but text and product prices have automatically resorted back to English and GBP forcing as they are the store defaults. Without anyway of changing the language and currency back to French, as you can imagine, could be quite uncomfortable for your French customers and could even lose custom because of it. Even powerful apps such as Langify do not have this level of control.

Our Solution

Womens sportswear brand, Vaara required a dedicated Russian version of their predominantly UK based Shopify store. Knowing that some products sold better in Russia than in the UK, we created two separate Shopify stores for each country, setup to match the most suitable currency and language. Furthermore, Vaara were able to take advantage of this separation by customising home and collection pages to target each sector individually placing higher priority on those products that sold better within each country.

Provided store owners can justify the cost, Shopify Plus could also be a viable option as it allows you to create up to 3 stores for this exact purpose. Furthermore it also gives you complete control over the checkout system, allowing your customers to checkout using their preferred language and currency.

Naturally, inventory is the obvious concern with managing multiple stores but data across all stores can be synced automatically using services such as BrightPearl.

Conclusion

To some, Shopify may not seem viable but these few limitations are a result of a well engineered foundation that takes a lot of the hassle away from store owners. We have been building websites over many years and Shopify has to be one of the best platforms we’ve used. Not only is it low cost and crammed full of features but it takes away the stress of PCI compliance, payment gateways and ongoing server management costs. In fact you can read a bit more about all of that in one of our previous articles, Shopify or Magento: Which e-Commerce platform is right for my business?.

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