Shopify vs Shopify Plus comparison: find the right fit as you scale
You’ve settled into your eCommerce site, your marketing campaign is humming along, and you’re consistently drawing new visitors to your Shopify store. Things are good, but you might also be wondering: what’s your next step to continue growing online?
For thriving businesses on the Shopify platform, upgrading to Shopify Plus can seem like a no-brainer. Framed as their premium, enterprise platform, it’s true that the Shopify Plus version offers some significant upgrades over their standard platform.
But those features come at a premium cost, and if they don’t fit the current stage of your eCommerce growth, that might be money that can be better spent elsewhere — like a sitewide Shopify overhaul or revamped marketing campaign.
So how do you know when it’s time to upgrade, and when you should focus your time and money elsewhere? Let’s dive into the Shopify review!
The Shopify Plus review
What does your site get out of a Shopify Plus upgrade?
Before we start, it’s important to understand exactly what Shopify Plus brings to the table. As a rule of thumb, you can think of it as providing a little more of everything. There’s nowhere that your options with Shopify Plus will be more limited than with the basic Shopify platform, so it’s always a matter of weighing the ROI those improvements will bring with them.
For now, let’s evaluate the additions in terms of education/support resources, development options, and marketing tools.
What sort of support can you expect as a Shopify Plus user?
In terms of your support resources, let’s start with the good news: Shopify Plus users get the VIP treatment, and an upgrade comes with additional guidance to help you get the most out of the platform.
That starts with a “Launch Engineer”. Basically, a dedicated account manager tasked with supporting your store setup and migration. They’ll also work connecting you to any partners or integrations you might need to hit the ground running.
Think of it as bringing on an extremely specific agency partner: your Shopify Plus rep will have a granular understanding of the platform that’s hard to match, and help with technical issues as well as strategic recommendations to help your business thrive. But bigger picture planning and the right marketing tactics for your business aren’t part of their scope.
With that said, Plus also provides resources to help you better understand the platform as your business grows. Their “Merchant Success Program” includes a partner directory, community resources, and even a “Shopify Plus Academy” for training and support that will help boost your team’s knowledge and skillset. In other words, think of it as paying to develop internal expertise, rather than hiring a strategic partner who can cover those skillsets.
How does Shopify Plus features affect your development toolkit?
Things get a little more interesting when it comes to the development options available in Shopify Plus. In short, the main selling point is additional — and more granular — customization for your site.
Shopify already provides access to Shopify’s host of custom templates for your store, as well as some standard customization options through the platform’s editor. What Shopify Plus offers is direct access to their “Liquid” programming language, allowing you to make direct, bespoke changes to your store.
While that sounds exciting, it’s important to ask yourself whether you have customization needs that aren’t addressed by either the standard templates, editor customization, or by the legion of 3rd party apps and integrations pre-built to work in Shopify’s ecosystem. Additional control over your site’s layout is great — but is it worth the extra cost if a standard plugin can already do the job seamlessly?
For larger businesses bringing their own systems and infrastructure to the table, it might merit the cost! But if your business is driven primarily by eCommerce, and your Shopify store is your primary platform, it isn’t incredibly likely that you’ll run into problems that can’t be solved with standard Shopify features and tools.
With that said, Shopify Plus does offer improved API options to help integrate custom or in-house apps with your storefront. It even provides extra Shopify-designed apps to support wholesale, mass data migration, and more.
Any of those options can be hugely beneficial — if you’re already selling at scale or have indispensable internal applications that weren’t built with Shopify in mind. If not, you may be better served by strategic guidance to help you find the right tools for your store and properly take advantage of the Shopify features.
What does Shopify Plus offer your marketing efforts?
Of course, it’s also important to consider the additional Shopify Plus features when it comes to growing, scaling, and marketing your business. Maybe you need better automation to deal with a growing number of customers and don’t know if standard Shopify will cut it. Or you’re unsure of how to properly integrate your store into your marketing campaigns and want to know if Plus can help.
There are some notable differences between versions of the platform, but once again the big question is: can you meet your marketing needs with the tools and integrations available on standard Shopify? If not, the investment in the tools offered by Shopify Plus may be the best way to help you recoup your costs.
For example, Shopify Plus users can access the Shopify Flow app, which helps to expand your marketing automation directly from your store. Shopify Flow will let you easily track reviews, schedule campaigns for pre-orders, and sort customers based on purchasing habits, lifetime spend, and other behaviors.
These are all indispensable tools as you scale up your marketing! But with the right support, you can get many of the same Shopify features from third-party platforms like Hubspot and Klaviyo, which are designed to integrate not only with your store but with marketing pillars like Google and Facebook ads. If you’re working with a team that’s only familiar with Shopify, the tools offered by Flow might be worthwhile. But if you already have marketing efforts underway, those third-party options might be a better, more seamless, and more cost-effective fit for getting your store involved.
Similarly, Shopify Plus offers expanded options for the platform’s native analytics dashboard, providing more granular detail. But for businesses already proficient in — or running campaigns through — the industry-standard Google Analytics dashboard, it may be more cost-effective to address any friction with GA integration, rather than investing in expanded Shopify analytics options.
Start exploring the possibilities for your store
If it seems like we’re encouraging you to take a second look before diving headfirst into Shopify Plus, consider it an endorsement of the incredible flexibility and support already built into Shopify’s base platform.
For larger businesses or those that need to fit eCommerce into a larger legacy system, a Shopify Plus upgrade can pay dividends. But as you grow, Shopify offers a wealth of different routes for expanding features, automating work, and scaling sales.
The trick is finding the right roadmap and set of tools for your business. If you want a bit more guidance, check out our downloadable guide to scaling your sales on Shopify, or join us in exploring other sides of the platform on the Mercury blog.
Sean Robinson, Junior Copywriter
The comfort zone is the most dangerous place to be in.