8 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Switching to Shopify Plus
Before launching in, I thought it would be helpful to give some basic information about our company so as to put what I’m about to say in some context. We’ve been around for 5 years. We’re 2 full time people in the office, 1 full time person to work conventions and help the rest of the time in the office, 1 freelance marketing expert, 3 flex-time warehouse staff and we also contract out some other social media tasks. We do sometimes hire Adwords experts to run our campaigns and will also contract work out to web developers for matters that we can’t handle ourselves. We now have 2 permanent stores open, each with a full-time manager and a smattering of part-timers helping out.
As for sales, this is a bit of a sensitive topic. What I will say is that we are the largest seller of Kigurumi in Canada, but not in any country outside of Canada. We’re profitable, but we’re not taking home more than a middle-class income.
We must also acknowledge that our situation is our own fault. If we had only asked more questions, asked the right questions, all of this could have been avoided. So I write this as a warning to others to not make the same mistakes we did. When considering switching to Shopify Plus, you should understand exactly what you are getting into and what the consequences are for your future with Shopify.
There is no going back
The phrase “there is no going back” is the most important thing to keep in mind when switching to Shopify Plus.
First, if you’re thinking about switching to Shopify Plus, then I’m going to assume you are currently using Shopify Advanced.The most important pitfall in switching to Plus is that you cannot return to your old monthly fees or your old credit card rates. And, if you’ve been with Shopify for a while,it may be the case that the rates for Advanced have changed since you first joined Shopify and that the rate you pay now is cheaper than the current rate. You have a “legacy” plan and you have been grandfathered in to the old rate. As long as you don’t move off of Advanced, you can keep this old rate. But, if you do switch to Plus, you will not be able to return to your old rate. You will have to pay the current going rate for Advanced.
Another way that Shopify Plus can put you at a disadvantage when it comes to rates is that even if you are paying the current Advanced rates, Shopify might change those rates while you are on Plus. So again, if you ever decide to abandon Plus, you will have to pay the current going rate for Advanced. And in my experience of the past five or six years, the rates only ever go up.
Shopify can change the rates to whatever they want, whenever they want.
Monthly fee changes
There are two ways the fees can be changed on you while you’re with Shopify Plus.
The first is that the Shopify Plus rate itself can be changed. For us, this meant going from $1,000 USD to $1,500 USD,which is a 50 percent increase. That’s $12,000 per year to $16,000 per year – a price increase of 50 percent with no new features. Ouch!
The other is if the price of Advanced changes while you’re on Plus.With Shopify putting more and more emphasis on getting people to switch to Plus, it would not surprise me if they teased stores with a cheaper first-year rate for Plus, but then simultaneously increased the price of Advanced and Plus during that year. This would basically force stores to pay more whether they stick with Plus or go back to Advanced.
It will involve a lot of work
The second most important thing to know about Plus is that it will mean more work for you. To take advantage of any of the features of Plus will require more time and more effort. There is not a single feature of Plus that will be unlocked just by switching to Plus.
You need to consider not only whether you can afford the extra fees for Plus, but whether you can afford to hire more people to take advantage of the features it offers. Does your current team have enough extra time on their hands? Does your current team have the right expertise to take advantage of the new features?
While you might dream about all the things you could do with Plus, and the Shopify sales person might talk about everything there is to gain, those gains don’t just come with the price of admission.
Your Merchant Success Manager
One specific way that Plus means more work is the Merchant Success Manager (MSM). The way that Shopify will be sold to you is that your MSM will provide all this value to you. The MSM is a representative from Shopify who is like another member of your team. But the fact is that these people are tasked with taking care of many Plus customers. You should not expect them to be proactive in any way. Any help or advice that an MSM might be able to provide you will need to come from your initiative. You will need to schedule meetings and ask for different advice or services. Nothing is going to just drop into your lap. The MSM is not really another employee but just a super-charged support staff member.
Another specific way that Shopify Plus is more work is the scripts feature. This is a cool feature, and it’s one that the Shopifysales team will not stop talking about. This is probably because it is one of the only real features of Plus. But it wasn’t even one that we ever used. The fact is that we never had the manpower or technical knowhow to make use of it. We didn’t have the expertise. For us, there were always 10 other things that were more important and that needed our attention before we could even think about scripts.
The value you could potentially get out of scripts likely depends on your team size and composition. So I’ll end by saying that before you get excited about the potential for scripts, make sure you have the right people that can actually make use of it.
This term is the biggest misdirection that Shopify perpetrates: there is no such thing as a Clone Store. This feature is simply the ability to clone a store. That’s it. Nothing gets combined. That is the entire feature. Any of your stores can just be copied and pasted. That’s it.
We have had two stores with Shopify for a couple of years now, and the two stores are more or less clones of each other. One is for Canada, https://www.kigurumi.ca, and one is for the rest of the world, https://www.kigurumi.com. There are a lot of challenges when it comes to managing two stores, even if they are just clones. Whenever you make a change on one, you need to make sure to make the same change on the other store. If you don’t, then maintaining both will be a bit of a nightmare. We thought Clone Stores might be the solution to all our problems.
I don’t know if the sales representative was being malicious or not, but when we were speaking to them, we were told that the Clone Stores feature would really help us out. It was even mentioned that we would be able to save money by only paying for plugins once. This is not the case. There is nothing in Shopify Plus for you if you maintain two or more stores for different countries.
The only way that cloning stores can be useful is if you are currently managing a single store and you plan to expand to two regional stores. It will allow you to do that initial setup in one go. But after that, you’re on your own. It’s really not much of a feature if you ask me.
Even when you think that you need some feature that’s only available with Plus, it’s possible one of those features will be made available to everyone. Don’t necessarily believe that the only way to get a feature is to join Plus. Sometimes all it takes is time. Shopify could make any feature that is currently exclusive to Plus available to all stores. For instance, I’ve heard about the possibility that scripts will be made available to all stores. It might not happen, but it’s just another thing to keep in mind.
If Shopify ever agrees to something, even in writing, they still might not follow through. It seems that even someone’s word isn’t worth a great deal at Shopify.
We have experienced a few minor examples of this, especially from the sales staff. But the one that stands out for us came from a promise that was made to us about our credit-card rates. When we were first being talked into Plus, we were told about how we’d get even better rates than before. We even did the math and calculated how much we’d be saving. Along with being misled about the potential savings from Clone Stores, we were misled about potential savings from our credit-card rates. The reality turned out to be that our rates increased! When we alerted Shopify to this fact, they offered to restore our rates to what we had before switching to Plus. Great, we thought. Fast-forward a few months, and we discovered that one of our rates was never corrected for one of our two stores. When we alerted Shopify to the fact that they’d been overcharging us for months, their response was that it was our fault that we didn’t notice. And not only would they not refund us for the extra charges, they would not even correct the rate anymore.
After slowly progressing up the ladder of Shopify plans over the years, from a humble Basic plan up to Advanced, we thought Plus was just another step on our journey. We never imagined that it would be such a misstep. I think that the only companies that can really benefit from Shopify Plus are those with a team of at least 12 full-time office staff, and at least one of those must be a software programmer. Without at least that capacity, there’s no way that you can really take advantage of Plus.
Additionally, I would say that you should not be so fast to upgrade. You really need to understand what you’re getting into and do the math. Make sure that you lay out your expectations in writing and that Shopify confirms your understanding of key concepts. I would highly recommend against agreeing to anything over the phone unless you’re recording the conversation.
I think that there are likely companies that can benefit from Shopify Plus, but we’re not one of them.