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by Michael P. Hill September 27, 2017

As much as we love Shopify here (we are, after all, one of the top Shopify theme developers out there), it’s also just a important that merchants ultimately find the right ecommerce platform for their particular business model.

While Shopify is certainly powerful and full featured, there are some cases where using Shopify could pose more challenges that a store owner should carefully consider, as well as some possible workarounds for these limitations. 

Highly customizable or configurable products

Stores selling highly configurable or customizable items may find Shopify’s 100 variant limitation to be an issue.

Although there are apps available that can expand this ability, it’s always important to consider the downsides of adding another layer of programming on top of the core functionality.

If you sell, for example, items such as jewelry, electronics, furniture or other products that users can add and remove multiple options to, Shopify may not fully support this due to this limitation. 

Shopify variant limit

For example, a sofa that comes in five colors, five fabrics and five sizes could generate well over 100 total variants, which is over the default Shopify limit. 

If you need a single page checkout (and you probably don’t)

Stores that absolutely need to use a one page checkout or have total control over the checkout process will find Shopify’s checkout customization options to be limited.

Shopify single page checkout

Although the checkout does allow you to select some colors, fonts and add a custom header and change the wording of most elements, you can’t add features such as “upselling” or special notices within the interface. It’s also not possible to make it a single page.

That said, it’s important to keep in mind that Shopify has tested its checkout process across, literally, millions of both completed and abandoned checkouts and has created an optimized experience that has many of the same qualities of a single page checkout — just not on a single page.

If you need to sell in multiple currencies or languages

At this time, all orders on a single Shopify store must be processed in that store’s native currency. While you can add a  Shopify currency converter or app to illustrate the costs of items in the user’s native currency, once the checkout process begins, the dollar figures will revert to the store’s default monetary setting.

Shopify currency converter

The same goes for creating stores in more than one language or detecting a user’s location and sending them to an appropriate page.

Shopify can also only support a single language per store unless you add a third party app, which can be complicated and can cause issues with your Shopify theme and other apps.

Another alternative to both of these issues could be to create separate Shopify stores for each locale you want to sell in, each with its own default language and currency. However, keep in mind this can require some additional accounting and legal footwork to become an official business in that country or region and be able to hold a bank account there. You will also have to pay the monthly Shopify fee for each store you have online, even if they are identical except for the language/currency.

If you’re using the same inventory pool for all of your stores, you’ll also need to sync data between stores, which can cause further complications that you should carefully consider.

If you need to sell wholesale

By default, all customers pay the same price for items in your store. Sometimes, however, you may want to start offering select businesses or individuals the ability to order items at wholesale rates.

Unfortunately, Shopify does not support this functionality by default, though there are many apps or customizations that can be done to add this support. However, like with any app or customization, this introduces the possibility for conflicts and code issues, so consider that first.

A good, simple alternative, is to issue wholesalers unique discount codes (random ones work best) that give them a flat discount across each order they place. If you need to sell some items at different wholesale rates, you could consider using separate discount codes based on the product or collection being purchased, but keep in mind, since you can only use a single code per order, wholesale customers would need to place multiple orders if they are ordering across product lines.

Wholesale is also an option on Shopify Plus, Shopify's enterprise level ecommerce solution.

If you need to sell subscription items

Shopify’s CEO himself has said that the Shopify platform isn’t ideal for selling subscription based products, whether it be monthly boxes or kit style items such as meals or crafts. He’s also gone on record that he doesn’t see this as a space Shopify will be entering in the future.

While there are numerous apps out there that let Shopify become a subscription based ecommerce site, here, again, you will be adding an additional layer of complication on to your store, which introduces the probability of app and theme conflicts.

All that said, Shopify typically can handle “whatever of the month” type subscriptions a bit better. You still may need to do some manual legwork to assemble and ship items each month, but collecting payment, including for multiple plan lengths, can typically be done using Shopify’s existing variant features.

If you sell products or services that require scheduling

While there are apps available that let you add scheduling capabilities to Shopify, the platform itself isn’t great at handling scheduling, especially more advanced features such as letting customers cancel appointments.

One possible workaround for this, however, is to set up your available times and dates as variants with an inventory of 1 (or, if you have more than one “slot” available, that number). This will then “remove” the slot from your “inventory” and prevent it from being booked by someone else.

Keep in mind, however, that this isn’t a perfect solution. It won’t, beyond the original order confirmation email, remind customers of appointments and canceling and rescheduling appointments would require contacting a store staff member.

Another good alternative to this options is to simply let customers email or call to make appointments — this way you can discuss their specific needs and address any unique scheduling challenges that may arise.

Michael P. Hill
Michael P. Hill

Michael P. Hill is a Shopify, Shopify theme, content marketing, digital marketing and product management expert based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelphill or connect on LinkedIn.

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