Listen to Shopify Plus Launch Review
Shopify is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms in the world, hundreds of thousands of sellers are launching their shops on Shopify every year. At this point there is no doubt that Shopify is a solid choice for small shops, but how does Shopify stack up for enterprise uses? I would like to share my thoughts, struggles, and time migrating a client to Shopify Plus.
Beginning of the Shopify Plus Journey
I have a client that wanted to add a subscription model to their existing PrestaShop website. We looked at the different modules on the market and spec’ed writing out a custom module for the subscriptions. Subscriptions in PrestaShop are hard to do alongside of normal products, because of the way the cart is designed, so in the end I recommended we migrate everything to Shopify Plus and use an existing integration.
The decision to recommend Shopify Plus was a two pronged decision. They wanted to offer subscription products, and they also wanted to reduce the number of billable hours from the support we were providing with their PrestaShop site. That is the heart of what made Shopify Plus seem like a solid decision.
The Shopify Plus sales team
Around the time I was discussing the options with my client, the Shopify Plus sales team actually reached out to him to try to get him to switch to Shopify. Weird coincidence, but nothing more, at least we had someone to talk to about switching to Shopify where we could evaluate the cost/benefit of the migration. The Shopify Plus sales team were great at answering our questions, and addressing our concerns. We talked about the site’s needs, our concerns, and the features that Shopify had to offer. During the honeymoon phase, before the contract was signed, we were told lots of great things. How we could drop our Mailchimp account because Shopify was introducing their own mailing service. How the migration would actually be free because Shopify has a migration app to migrate PrestaShop to Shopify. Everything was great, they set our expectations, let us know what to look out for, it was a great process. Until it wasn’t.
We were sold up the river
Once the contract was signed, everything changed. The migration app Shopify promised, it barely existed and after a month of working with their development team to try to get it functional, we scrapped the idea and realized we were on our own. At this point we decided to take use Cart2Cart because Shopify ended up recommending them when things went south with their “fully working” migrator app. That was another $4,000 expense in just getting set up. One thing no one ever mentions about Shopify is that their api is slow. Its slow as an old dog. Importing data to it, even using a service, was frustrating for an enterprise size shop. If you are planning on migrating an enterprise shop to Shopify, don’t be disillusioned, there will be downtime. The speed of their api makes it unavoidable.
Back to the migration. We migrated, from the best of my memory, around 200k orders and 400k user accounts, and 1200 products including variants. It took a solid 5 days to migrate that. Once the migration was finish, the shop was immediately 5000 orders behind the live shop. So we migrated those. That took another couple of days. Then we were only a few hundred orders behind the live shop. In the end we realized we needed to bring the live shop down, so we could get all the orders, customers accounts, and stock to be in sync. This was not something we had expected or prepared for, but it was the reality.
Day before launch
This was an exciting day in the whole process. We have been through about a month of trying to get their free migrator app to work, and decided to use a third party service. But the big day was finally here. And then we got an email from Shopify risk management. The email basically said about 5% of the skus on the site were not allowed to be sold using Shopify payments. This set off a flurry of emails from everyone trying to figure out what to do. We emailed Liza our Shopify sales person for help. In short her answer was I am in sales, you have signed the contract, contact someone else. We argued with the Shopify risk management team to no avail. We looked over the Shopify Pay terms and conditions to see if there was any clue there. None what-so-ever. The Shopify Pay terms and conditions were overly broad and did not address the products that were flagged at all. They fell under this clause “Nutraceuticals, pseudo-pharmaceuticals and other products that make health claims that have not been approved or verified by the applicable local and/or national regulatory body”. Which honestly is wrong.
Reading this from the US its pretty easy to be like “oh well I can see what they mean, our FDA does not regulate products like that”. That’s not the case in other countries though. In Canada for instance, where Shopify is based, these items are heavily regulated. If you sell a health product, they have to be tested by a 3rd party. The government maintains a list of claims you can make about that product. You also have to be licensed, with a specific license number for each product in that class you sell. Its not a broad license, if you produce and sell vitamin C, you need a license specific for vitamin C. Complicated ass system. But all of that was for mentioning that my client had the licenses for everything he sold. If you make an unsupported claim, you lose your license. Everything was supported, licenses had been in place for a decade, still no go on 5% of the products a day before the launch.
Let me take a minute to just drill into how overly broad their list is. Lotion? Dry skin is a medical condition and lotion could not be allowed. Oil of Olay? One of their main ingredients was what was flagged. So take it as a warning, you cannot sell Oil of Olay products on Shopify.
About 3 months after we started the process we finally got launched on Shopify Plus. Out of every site I have ever migrated, upgraded, relaunched, this one was the worst. Shopify made the process as painful as possible with their misrepresentations and what I feel like were outright lies. We were led on, with false promises and inadequate audits, which left my client hold thousands of dollars in raw materials that he could not sell using Shopify Payments. We were finally launched, though, so it was time to see what Shopify was really made of for the enterprise market.
Stay tuned for the next article in this series, in it, I will give a review of Shopify Plus itself after a year of using it. What to expect, what to plan for, and what to avoid.
About the Author: Lesley Paone
Lesley has worked in e-commerce for over a decade, and is the founder of dh42. Starting out with PrestaShop and brancing out into other platforms like Shopify. He loves all things e-commerce and loves a challenge, in his spare time he helps moderate several forums on SEO, e-commerce, as well as the PrestaShop forum. If you have any questions for him about any of his articles just use our contact form to contact him.