Shopify is a widely popular e-commerce platform, particularly among smaller businesses. Unlike open source e-commerce platforms, it is a hosted solution, making it easy for sellers to get up and running quickly as they do not need to worry about configuring web hosting. The platform itself is designed to provide a complete out-of-the-box solution. Businesses simply need to choose a theme, add their products, and start selling.
While it is a great option for smaller businesses, the platform has many limitations. Over time, many businesses find themselves outgrowing the platform. Shopify offers an enterprise solution called Shopify Plus that it hopes can help retain mid to large-scale commerce companies. But the platform falls short in this regard.
Its name, Shopify Plus, is indicative of what the solution offers. At its core, it is more or less the same as Shopify, with some extra window dressing added to it. In this post, we’ll look at some of Shopify’s greatest limitations and when you should consider a Shopify migration to an e-commerce platform better suited to your growth.
Managing the backend of your e-commerce system is a cumbersome task with the Shopify platform. There is a limited amount of functionality built into the native solution. As a result, businesses often find themselves using dozens of apps to provide the features they need.
Moving between the different apps is tedious and many were not designed with other apps in mind. Many apps don’t play well with APIs and your third-party theme may not support the apps you want to use.
If you want robust e-commerce functionality, you’re better suited using a microservices-based architecture. With microservices, you can choose the best solution for each backend function. This allows you to have a handful of high-quality services instead of dozens of apps.
Shopify limits the number of product options you can have per product to three. For example, if you wanted to configure variable products with attributes for size, color, pattern, and material, you would be unable to do so.
Additionally, products are only able to have 100 variants. If you want to offer products with unique customization options (like this), you are better off using a different platform. Items such as apparel products with various attributes will need to be broken out into different SKU sets. This greatly inhibits product discovery as not all options for an item will be available on a product detail page. It also clogs your category pages with repetitive items.
Another flaw with Shopify is the lack of true product categories and a structured taxonomy. The platform uses collections instead of categories. Unfortunately, there is no way to change this. You can not nest collections as you would categories like Women > Tops > T-shirts. This inhibits a smooth site navigation as there is no clear hierarchical structure. Additionally, the /collection slug is an unchangeable part of the URL.
Visiting a product through a collection page will take you to a different URL than if you were to visit that item directly. Shopify does what it can to create canonical links for each product but overall the permalink structure is a big problem from an SEO perspective. If you need to manage a large catalog with thousands of SKUs, an e-commerce platform with structured and flexible taxonomies is a better option.
Another severe limitation of Shopify is the inability to customize the checkout experience. You are able to make small changes to the frontend display but you are unable to add additional fields. You are also unable to modify the functionality or checkout flow. Because the checkout process is one of the most important parts of any e-commerce store, all merchants should be wary of the inability to tailor it to their needs.
These are just a few of the critical limitations of the Shopify platform. There also isn’t a solution for mobile apps and you are susceptible to payment gateway lock-in. Orders paid using anything other than Shopify Payments are subject to additional fees.
If you want complete control over your e-commerce platform, it’s time to consider other alternatives. Headless commerce platforms like fabric provide unlimited flexibility for designing frontend experiences and adding backend functionality. With headless commerce APIs, you are not locked into any one solution. You can connect the services you need and change them as you see fit.