By Diego S.

Shopify vs Shopify Plus: Which one is right for you?

When it comes to setting up an online store, choosing the right eCommerce platform is crucial. Retail eCommerce sales amounted to 5.2 trillion USD worldwide, and that figure will grow by 56% over the next years, reaching 8.1 trillion USD by 2026, according to Statista

With such a huge market, everyone can get a piece of the action, and why not do it using Shopify? After all, it powers 19% of the eCommerce stores in the world. With its massive online presence, we all know what Shopify does. However, Shopify does more than power mom-and-pop stores across the world. Its premium headless option, Shopify Plus, is the backbone of brands such as Sephora, Victoria Beckham Beauty, Le Sportsac, and Red Bull. 

If you’re still new to Shopify, or you feel that traditional Shopify is clipping your wings and want to go headless, this is the article for you. I’ll compare Shopify and Shopify Plus, highlighting the pros and cons of each platform to help you determine which is the best fit for your store. 

Whether you're a small business just starting or a large enterprise looking to scale, we'll cover everything you need to know to make an informed decision.

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      What is Shopify? 

      You know Shopify. Shopify is an all-in-one eCommerce solution allowing businesses to create and operate online stores. It offers users many features, including website-building tools, customizable themes, payment processing capabilities, customer management tools, and more. 

      In short, you can pop up a Shopify store and get selling quickly.  

      Let’s take a look at Shopify’s monolithic architecture.

      What can you do with Shopify?

      • Customize your store design: Shopify offers a wide range of customizable templates and themes that allow you to create a unique and professional-looking online store. 

      • Manage your inventory and orders: Shopify makes it easy to keep track of your inventory levels and manage your orders. 

      • Use plugins: Shopify hosts a vast marketplace of apps and plugins that can help you add new features and functionality to your store.

      • Create and manage your products: Shopify allows you to create and manage your products easily, with options for creating product variations, setting up SKUs, and even integrating with inventory management systems.

      • Analyze and optimize your store: Shopify provides powerful analytics tools that allow you to track key metrics like traffic, sales, and conversion rates. 

      What is Shopify Plus? 

      Shopify Plus takes everything from Shopify to the next level adding enterprise-focused capabilities and including cloud hosting and greater support for third-party API integrations. In my opinion, Plus is superior to its traditional sister because it unlocks headless commerce. 

      By separating headless commerce, and your back-end infrastructure from your front-end customer touchpoints, eCommerce stores get more control over their shopping experiences. 

      This includes powerful integrations with third-party applications such as analytics tools and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems and unlimited customizations to tailor the platform to meet your unique needs. 

      Shopify Plus also boasts automated scaling with no downtime during peak demand periods and dedicated support from experienced professionals, so that’s also a Plus *badum tsss* 

      Here’s how a typical store built on Shopify Plus works under the hood:

      Shopify Plus relies on composable architecture using best-of-breed technologies built by Shopify or its partners. This freedom of action allows merchants to build and scale their stores using the best tools for the job rather than being constrained by traditional Shopify’s monolithic architecture. 

      What does this mean in practice? Well, let’s explore how a Shopify Plus store would look 

      This store, let’s call it Paw-Paw Pet Supplies, has a complex product catalog that requires search and merchandising management. Paw-Paw also has clients in other parts of the world and needs localization. Marketing also wants to allow user-generated content, create a loyalty program, and offer some personalization. All of that is on top of a headless content management system built with Next.js and Vercel for lightning-fast speed. 

      Sounds like a lot, right? 

      Luckily for Paw-Paw, Shopify Plus makes it easy. 

      • Headless Content Management System:  Dato CMS, Hygraph, or Sanity

      • eCommerce: Shopify Plus 

      • Front-end: Next.js

      • Search: Algolia

      • User Generated Content: Stackla, Yotpo

      • Personalization: Frosmo, Ninetailed

      • Hosting: Vercel, Hydrogen, or Netlify

      • Loyalty manager: OpenLoyalty

      While there are many moving parts, and the infrastructure is a tad more complex than what you’d expect from a traditional Shopify store, the possibilities for customization are far greater. So if you want to go big, go Plus or go home.

      What can you do with Shopify Plus?

      • Scale your business: Shopify Plus is built for high-volume and enterprise-level businesses. It offers advanced features and capabilities that allow you to scale your business and handle large amounts of traffic and sales. With Shopify Plus, you can easily handle millions of orders, thousands of customers, and hundreds of products.

      • Custom development: Shopify Plus provides advanced customization options, including hiring a Shopify Plus Expert or using the Liquid code to create custom functionality. This allows you to create a unique and tailored eCommerce experience that stands out from the competition. Additionally, Shopify Plus offers access to the Shopify API and webhooks, which enables the use of advanced integrations and third-party apps.

      • Multi-language and multi-currency support: Shopify Plus allows you to create a store that supports multiple languages and currencies. This is especially useful for businesses that operate in multiple countries and want to provide a localized experience for their customers.

      • Advanced analytics and reporting: Shopify Plus provides advanced analytics and reporting capabilities that allow you to track key metrics such as sales, traffic, and conversion rates. It also provides real-time data and insights, which can be used to optimize your store's performance.

      • Priority support and dedicated account management: With Shopify Plus, you get priority support and dedicated account management. This means that you'll have a dedicated team of experts who will work with you to ensure that your store is running smoothly and can help you with any questions or issues that may arise.     

      Read more: 24 Inspiring Shopify Examples to Get You Excited in 2023

      Key differences between Shopify and Shopify Plus

      Differences at a glance

      -ShopifyShopify Plus
      ScopeGreat if you’re starting out or are still growing.Brands with customization needs and room to grow.
      Shopify pricing and costs$29 to $299 per month.$2,000 to $40,000 per month
      Features and functionalityGood for startling, limited once you scale.Unlimited functionalities supported by APIs.
      Customization optionsConstrained by themes and limited due to its architecture.Unlimited customization options.
      ScalabilityLimited once you’ve reached certain size.Meant for you to grow as much as you can.
      SupportShopify live chat and forums.24/7 customer support.
      Shopping cartMost payment gateways integrate with Shopify.The same with enhanced gateways and ACH support.

      Scope

      Shopify is a great option for entrepreneurs just starting out and needing an efficient way to build their online stores quickly and easily without requiring coding. 

      It includes all the essential features any eCommerce store needs, including payment processing, inventory management, customer accounts, tax calculation tools, shipping options, and more. All plans include a 14-day free trial so that you can see if it’s right for your business before committing to it long-term. 

      On the other hand, Shopify Plus is designed for larger businesses that need more advanced features such as custom integrations with third-party apps, access to enterprise-level reporting tools and analytics dashboards, dedicated support staff working around the clock to assist customers quickly and efficiently with any issues they may have in running their store on the platform.

      It also offers higher transaction limits than its smaller counterpart (up to 1 million monthly orders).  

      Pricing and costs

      The cost of each plan varies depending on which features you choose to include in your package. Shopify offers three different packages (Basic Shopify, Shopify, Advanced Shopify) ranging from $29/month to $299/month plus additional fees based on usage and transaction costs (2% - 0.5%). 

      For example, Basic Shopify includes all the essential features at a lower price point but does not include some more advanced features in more expensive plans like shipping discounts or abandoned cart recovery campaigns. 

      Shopify Plus pricing tiers are based on your monthly order volume but typically range from $2k - $40k per month, depending on how many transactions are processed on your site each month. 

      The Shopify Plus plan is significantly more expensive than the standard one, but this is due to its increased features and capabilities. Shopify Plus charges a fixed monthly fee of $2,000 and an additional 2% fee on sales. 

      Additional fees may apply for certain integrations or services. In contrast, Shopify’s standard plan starts at just $29 per month and charges a transaction fee of 2%. The lowest tier plan does not include some features like professional reports, abandoned cart recovery, and third-party calculated shipping rates that come with Shopify Plus. 

      Features and functionality

      Shopify Plus offers additional features not available with the basic Shopify plan. These include advanced marketing tools such as customer segmentation, automated campaigns, A/B testing capabilities, and reporting analytics that give merchants insights into customer behavior patterns. 

      Among the Shopify Plus benefits, we also find third-party customizations such as complex shipping rate calculations and complete customization options for checkout pages and order management systems. 

      Additionally, Shopify Plus has built-in support for larger stores (up to 8 million SKUs), making it easier to manage high orders without experiencing performance issues. 

      In comparison, Shopify’s standard plan is limited in terms of functionality. It lacks many features offered by Shopify Plus, such as automated campaigns, order fulfillment automation, and customization options for checkout pages or order management systems. 

      It also cannot handle large amounts of data as efficiently as Shopify Plus can due to its smaller computing power capacities which limits scalability potential compared to what is available from Shopify Plus. 

      Customization options

      Both plans offer considerable customization options, but there are some key differences between them in terms of flexibility in creating a unique customer experience for shoppers. 

      With Shopify Plus, merchants have access to unlimited themes and design options, allowing them to create a Shopify-based store while still having access to advanced, API-based customizations that give merchants granular control over their shopping experiences. 

      With traditional Shopify, merchants do not have access to these tools, but they can still customize their store by making minor changes to existing themes or adding code snippets if they have coding knowledge. 

      Scalability and growth potential

      Shopify Plus is designed specifically for fast-growing businesses looking for enterprise-level solutions, so it naturally offers increased scalability potential when compared with traditional Shopify, which doesn’t make scaling up smoother for larger stores moving lots of data quickly around their server infrastructure. 

      Merchants using Shopify Plus benefit from its enhanced performance capabilities, enabling reliable service even when traffic spikes occur due to promotions or special events like Black Friday deals. These features are essential for high-volume stores that need fast-loading times regardless of how much data they are processing at any given time. 

      Shopping cart 

      Both platforms offer their own shopping cart software so customers can quickly check out without having to leave your site. 

      On regular Shopify, customers are given the option of using either Apple Pay or Google Pay for secure payments, while on Shopify Plus, customers have access to both these options plus Stripe Connect for expanded payment options such as ACH transfers or wire transfers for large orders or international payments.  

      Who should use Shopify? 

      Small businesses and startups

      If you’re starting a new business or just getting into eCommerce, Shopify is a great choice. It's simple to set up and comes with everything you need out of the box, from product catalogs, checkout pages, and more. 

      You start small either by yourself or with an agency– simply select one of the many themes available, add your products, customize the look and feel of your store, then get selling. 

      Shopify also offers plenty of tools that make it easy to track sales, manage inventory levels and boost customer engagement through promotions – so you can focus on growing your business without worrying about keeping things running smoothly in the background. 

      Online merchants with limited resources

      For online merchants working with limited resources – staff or budget-wise – Shopify is an ideal choice. Its low cost of entry makes it accessible even if money is tight right now; there are various plans available depending on how much you want to invest in setting up your store. 

      Plus, once you've built your store through Shopify's interface, there isn't much else you have to do; its automated features take care of product management and customer service tasks, while its analytics help you better understand what’s working (and what’s not) so that you can continue optimizing over time as needed. 

      This means less time spent managing manual processes, allowing merchants more time to focus on marketing their business effectively without worrying about other backend operations taking up their attention. 

      Businesses looking for a simple user-friendly platform 

      Shopify isn't just for beginners; many experienced online merchants are using its intuitive design and range of features too. From detailed reporting tools allowing users to monitor performance metrics like conversion rates and average order values, to integrations offering access to marketplaces like eBay and Amazon - Shopify has all the necessary tools for businesses looking for a simple platform that offers user-friendliness above all else. 

      With its drag-and-drop editor, merchants can quickly customize design elements like colors, fonts, and images and add content like banner images or blog posts – all without needing HTML coding knowledge or having someone else manage these tasks for them. Whether it's creating promotional campaigns or optimizing content on product pages, optimizing a Shopify store is a relatively simple task.

      Who should use Shopify Plus?

      Large enterprises and high-volume merchants

      Shopify Plus is powerful. It offers features and customization options not available on standard Shopify plans, making it the ideal choice for businesses looking for that extra oomph. Shopify Plus is remarkably reliable and can easily handle a high sales volume and traffic. 

      For large enterprises and high-volume merchants, Shopify Plus provides a comprehensive eCommerce platform tailored to their needs. The platform is specifically designed to support their growing business, with features such as unlimited product listings, unlimited file storage, advanced order management, in-depth customer segmentation, and 24/7 customer support. 

      Additionally, the platform includes more complex features such as product bundling, custom APIs, integration with third-party apps, and store credit management. This makes it easier for businesses to handle large inventories or multiple global stores quickly and efficiently. 

      Brands looking for advanced features and customization options

      Customization is something Shopify Plus understands well. Merchants can create automated marketing campaigns using triggers like abandoned carts or customer loyalty programs. Advanced analytics offer real-time insights into customer behavior so businesses can make informed decisions about optimizing their store’s performance. 

      Customizable themes allow brands to create unique experiences across all channels, including online stores and social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook shops. Businesses can also leverage tools such as app extensions or gift cards for added customer engagement or improved customer retention strategies. 

      Brands with a high traffic volume 

      Shopify Plus is up to the task. The platform's reliable performance allows merchants to scale up easily during peak periods, while the seamless integrations guarantee accurate data reporting regardless of order size or frequency. 

      The unlimited staff accounts provide additional flexibility so businesses can easily add extra help if needed without paying extra fees for additional user licenses on other platforms. 

      Implementing headless commerce with Shopify Plus

      Before you go headless with Shopify Plus, you must take a handful of things into account:

      • Do you really need to go headless?

      • Do you have the developer muscle or an agency partner to help you out?

      • Have you defined what a successful implementation means to you

      • Do you have a user journey for both shoppers and stakeholders?

      • Do you have an idea of how you want your tech stack to look like?

      • Do you have a project leader to spearhead the adoption of headless commerce?

      Closing words

      The beauty of eCommerce is that it levels the playing field for small businesses, enabling them to compete with larger brands and expand their reach globally. With the right eCommerce platform, the sky is the limit for your business. 

      No matter which version of Shopify you choose—traditional or Plus—you’ll be able to get your eCommerce business up and running quickly with plenty of helpful features at your disposal. 

      Regular Shopify is ideal for small businesses looking for a straightforward online store solution while larger enterprises may find more value in upgrading to the premium package offered by Shopify Plus which gives them access to additional features and unlocks headless architecture. 

      So if you're an eCommerce store owner considering taking your business up a notch, then consider taking advantage of what these platforms offer!

      Ultimately, whichever platform you choose, you can rest assured knowing that both Shopify and Shopify Plus offer powerful eCommerce solutions that can help take your business to the next level.

      Want to build a Shopify online store?

      Don't worry, we got your back. Contact us, tell us about your project, and we'll help you pick the right technology stack for your eCommerce project.

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