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How to get Shopify support from the team best suited to help you

by Michael P. Hill

How to get Shopify support from the team best suited to help you

As a Shopify store owner, getting the support you need to create and run a successful business is important — but, inevitably, it can sometimes be confusing who to contact for advice or assistance.

Because the Shopify platform is at the center of a whole ecosystem of related products and services such as Shopify themes and apps, as well as services such as development and design, there are multiple support teams that you’re likely to interact with over the course of setting up and running your business.

The ‘aftermarket’ effect

Shopify itself comes with a core set of features and functionality. Layered on top of that are premium themes and apps — all of which change how Shopify looks or behaves.

To speak in analogies, subscribing to Shopify’s platform is like buying a new car with the manufacturer’s default options and equipment.

Adding a premium Shopify theme to the platform would be like having aftermarket changes made to how the car looks — such as window tinting, custom upholstery or adding a spoiler.

Apps, meanwhile, are equivalent to aftermarket changes made to a car that change or improve its functionality, like adding a portable GPS device, a remote starter or even upgrading the engine.

When you buy a car, you can expect the car manufacturer to be responsible for any issues with the car’s basic features — or what it had when it rolled off the assembly line.

However, if you run into an issue with the window tinting you had done at a local auto body shop, you wouldn’t hold the car manufacturer responsible if the wrong color was installed. The same goes for that souped up custom engine work you had done.

How this works with Shopify

So in terms of our analogy, Shopify is the original "manufacturer" who created the basic functionality of running an ecommerce store.

As such, Shopify’s support team should be your first stop for issues you have with the Shopify platform. In fact, this support service is built into your monthly Shopify fee

Likewise, if you upgrade the look or functionality of your store with a paid theme or app, then you’ve established a business relationship with those developers and, by extension, they should provide customer service for those components.

Contacting the right person first is key to not only solving your problem or getting your question answered — but doing it in a timely manner so you can get back to running your business.

Here’s a guide to the various people who provide support — and what questions each is best equipped to handle.

Shopify gurus

Shopify gurus are what Shopify calls its support representatives, who are viewed as playing the key roles of both technical support and customer success agents.

Shopify gurus

Gurus are paid employees of Shopify — and therefore are considered an “official” source of technical support for using the Shopify platform. In the automobile analogy, you can think of gurus as a car manufacturer’s customer care team.

When to contact Shopify gurus: Shopify gurus are the best source for getting help with the Shopify platform itself — including adding and managing products, inventory, shipping, payment methods and other similar functionality.

Shopify gurus can also help you with your Shopify account and billing issues that come up as well as as basic support for the themes and apps developed in house at Shopify.

When not to contact Shopify gurus: While Shopify Gurus are a great resource, they aren’t the best place to turn if you’re having trouble with third party Shopify themes, apps or custom work you’ve had done.

Shopify Experts

On the other hand, there is also a large community of Shopify Experts. These are a wide range of designers, developers and consultants who provide additional services to expand the base Shopify platform.

Shopify Experts

Going back to the car analogy, Shopify Experts could be equated to a local car dealer or service center.

While car dealerships are licensed to use car manufacturers’ logos and names, as well as sell and provide service to the cars themselves, they are independently owned companies with their own employees.

Dealerships are typically expected to maintain a certain baseline level of service in order to prevent poor service from tarnishing a car manufacturer’s brand.

It’s worth noting that “Shopify Expert” is an official label which is vetted and bestowed by Shopify itself, but, just like with local car dealerships, you may still find some variety in expertise, pricing and customer service within the Expert community.

When to contact Shopify Experts: When you need more complex changes made to the core functionality or appearance of an existing theme — free or premium — Shopify Experts are often a good place to start. And if you ever encounter issues with the work an Expert did for you, contacting the original Expert is the best route.

When not to contact Shopify Experts: Many Shopify Experts have the skills and experience to help you with a wide range of things — but you’ll definitely pay for their time. If you’re on a budget, it can be good to reference the Shopify help center, your theme developer’s help center (here's ours) or the app developer support materials, instead of paying for an Expert’s assistance.

Shopify theme developers

Shopify theme developers such as Out of the Sandbox are typically focused on one main task — building themes to serve a wide range of merchants and control the overall look and feel of a shop.

Shopify themes

This includes creating all of the code that defines various settings and features within the theme, to control elements such as layout, typography, and section styling. The theme developer also creates the options you see in the Theme Editor, and determines how each one looks and works within the store.

When to contact your Shopify theme developer: If you’re having trouble controlling the fonts, colors and layout of your premium theme using the settings under the “Customize” button, your Shopify theme developer is likely the best place to turn for assistance.

However, most Shopify theme developers, including Out of the Sandbox, don’t offer in depth assistance with customizations beyond what can be controlled via the theme settings.

The reason behind this is simple — Shopify themes have a pre-set group of options that are advertised in the theme description and shown in the theme demos, which have been included in the cost of your theme. Making changes or additions beyond these options typically involves writing new code — which can be complex and time-consuming, and outside of the theme developer’s purview.

When not to contact your theme developer: Theme developers would not be the first choice for getting help with basic Shopify features — you’d be best to speak with a Shopify guru instead. Similarly, if you’re having issues with your theme not working after you’ve installed an app, then the first person to reach out to should be the app developer.

Shopify App developers

Shopify app developers create add-ons, or apps, that expand Shopify’s base functionality just like a standalone GPS unit adds navigational features to a car manufactured without one.

These features can range from the simple to very complex — and as such, app overload can be a huge challenge for a Shopify store owner.

When to contact your app developer: If you’re having issues with how an app looks or works, start with the app developer. They are the ones most familiar with how the code that controls the app works — and in some cases they may be the only ones with access to make any changes or bug fixes needed.

An app developer should also be your first point of contact if you’ve installed an app and your store suddenly stops working. One way to test if the app is the ‘problem’ is to temporarily disable it to see if things improve.

When to not contact your app developer: App developers generally can’t help with theme issues unless they involve a direct conflict between the app and the theme code. If your app developer needs a copy of one of our themes in order to improve their app’s compatibility with it, please contact us and we would be happy to provide one.

Something to keep in mind

In general, the basic rule of thumb is to contact the person/team who created the part of the Shopify universe that is causing the issue.

Like with our car analogy, particular components or upgrades in cars are handled and installed by different vendors or companies along the way, so they are the best person to contact first rather than the original manufacturer (in this case, Shopify).

Identifying and contacting the correct support team right from the get-go is ultimately beneficial to you as a store owner.

Not only will you avoid potentially being referred multiple times to someone else instead, but you’ll also get the best assistance. That’s because the folks who created the code or feature in the first place are the most familiar with it, and can therefore troubleshoot it most effectively.

On the other hand, a support team who didn’t create the theme, app or functionality in question could potentially spend hours researching an issue they aren’t familiar with, and are ultimately not in the best position to solve.

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. While comments and feedback are always appreciated, Michael regrets that, due to the volume of inquires received, personal responses are not possible. For specific assistance or support with Out of the Sandbox themes, visit the help center.