What Is Shopify and How Does It Work? (2023)

Illustration showing the many parts of the Shopify product working together

What is Shopify?

Shopify is a complete commerce platform that lets you start, grow, and manage a business.

Our expertise and leadership in commerce comes from the experiences of millions of merchants on our platform. Their successes allow us to forecast and build the right features to not only power commerce today but to help shape and define what the industry looks like tomorrow.

How does Shopify work?

Shopify unifies all of your commerce onto a single platform. 

With Shopify, merchants can build and customize an online store and sell in multiple places, including web, mobile, in person, brick-and-mortar locations, and pop-up shops and across multiple channels from social media to online marketplaces.

Shopify is completely cloud-based and hosted, which means you can access it from any connected compatible device and we’ll handle software and server upgrades and maintenance for you. This gives you the flexibility to access and run your business from anywhere with an internet connection.

On any given day, a commerce business requires an array of tools to manage products, inventory, payments, and shipping—and they spend a lot of time and money stitching the disparate systems and data together. Shopify groups those technologies together and ensures that you can easily access and integrate any other business tools you need to make Shopify work for your business. 

Think of Shopify’s product as layers you can choose from to build the right stack for your business:

Layer 1: Shopify’s core product

This is what you get as soon as you buy any Shopify plan. It includes everything you need to turn your idea into a business and start selling: templates for the look and feel of your store, tools to sell in multiple places online and in-person, integrated payment processing, the best-converting checkout on the internet, SEO and marketing tools—these are all part of Shopify’s core product. This is the foundation upon which our other products and applications are built.

And for those who want to fine-tune their store and experience, you get access to Shopify APIs and development tools to customize your store’s capabilities even further.

Layer 2: Shopify’s additional products and services

Every independent business is unique. And as businesses grow, their needs evolve accordingly. That’s why we offer our customers powerful upgrades to help them grow their business on our platform. From easier access to capital to accelerated payments options, these products and services are exclusive to Shopify customers and are designed to help independent business owners have a leg up in the market.

Layer 3: Apps built by trusted partners

Shopify’s App Store has thousands of apps and features built by third-party developers to customize your store without ever once touching the code. Anything you can dream up, there’s an app that can help make it a reality. You’ll find the most cutting-edge tools to grow your business in the App Store, whether it’s the latest SMS app or the hottest new social media network’s ad tools.

There’s also a marketplace of Shopify Experts that you can hire to build custom solutions for your business. And if you want to dabble with the code yourself, you can do that, too!

Why Shopify?

  • Shopify supports the entire ecommerce community. Online, offline and everywhere in between. We are home to the largest, most diverse set of entrepreneurs, merchants, developers, and partners.
  • Shopify is global. We empower entrepreneurs around the world to create, connect, and innovate their businesses. With merchants spanning more than 175 countries, we provide entrepreneurs everywhere the platform, building blocks and tools needed to win in commerce.
  • Shopify empowers creative expression. We believe there should be more unique voices, stories and experiences, not fewer, and that’s why we design our product with the greatest amount of extensibility, flexibility and expression. 
  • Shopify is the most integrated commerce platform out of the box. Shopify not only centralizes entire commerce businesses but also offers access to the widest set of commerce ecosystem integrations built using a shared technical framework. This deep integration and access ensures we have breadth and depth of themes, apps, channels, surfaces, products and experiences.
  • Shopify absorbs unnecessary complexity. We know the world isn't designed for independent businesses to start, scale and succeed. That’s why we make it as simple and accessible as possible to maximize entrepreneurs’ access to growth tools. 
  • Shopify is built to scale with you. No matter your technical maturity, growth, size, complexity, location—you will never lack access to technology and features to build your business, and you will never outgrow Shopify as your needs change, scale or evolve. 

Create commerce; everywhere

Shopify helps you to transform an idea, a dream, a vision into a real commerce experience online, offline and everywhere in between. 

  • Storefronts (Online Store: Custom Storefronts). Personalize the front end of your website to create a unique, seamless shopping experience for your customers.
  • Social Channels Integrations / Sales Channels. Promote and sell your products across channels from one centralized place—Shopify. Grow your audience by selling where your audience is across social media and popular marketplaces.
  • Shop App. Make it easy for customers to quickly checkout, track order and shipment details, and rediscover your business with Shop App, a digital shopping assistant.
  • POS / Retail. Sell in person, backed by data you need to sell online, with Shopify’s all-in-one POS system. Provide customers with a frictionless shopping experience, manage staff, track inventory, and more.
  • Creator Tools. Empower creators by providing them with the tools they need to not only produce content but build a thriving business.
  • Store Data, Media and Content. Tell the story of your brand and products using content and data. Build upon foundational elements like metafields, support for media files, and more to bring your store to life for stand-out buyer experiences. 
  • Brand/Logo Growth Tools. Build your business with easy-to-use tools to create your brand. Leverage our logo maker, slogan maker, QR code generator, and more tools for growth.
  • Domains/Hosting. Select and host your domain securely with Shopify, leveraging full controls and configuration to customize easily.

Connect to every customer

Shopify gives merchants opportunities to build and own long term buyer and customer relationships. 

  • Checkout. Accept orders and payments online using the most powerful checkout in the world. Customers add products to their cart, then go through your checkout process to enter their shipping and payment information before the order is placed.
  • Shopify Markets. Expand your reach by selling to customers around the world. With Shopify Markets, you can go global and sell to customers anywhere—all through a single online store.
  • Customer Engagement/ Marketing Tools. Reach the right person with the right message at the right time using Shopify’s customer engagement and marketing tools. Leverage customer segmentation, email marketing, automation features, and more to drive relevance and engage your audience.
  • Messaging/Inbox/Chat. Talk to customers and manage conversations from anywhere with Shopify Inbox. Create automated messages and get insights to focus on chats that convert.
  • Marketing Insights & Analytics. Make informed decisions for your business using marketing insights and data provided by Shopify’s reports and analytics.
  • Shop App. Make it easy for customers to quickly checkout, track order and shipment details, and rediscover your business with Shop App, a digital shopping assistant.
  • B2B on Shopify. Deliver customized experiences your B2B customers will love. With Shopify, you can manage both your B2B and DTC customers, orders, and inventory all from one place, with separate storefronts. 
  • Selling Strategies. Drive conversions by offering shoppers unique and custom pricing and promotions. Leverage selling plans like pre-orders, try-before-you-buy, raffles, creative discount strategies and more to encourage shoppers to make the purchase. Build predictable revenue streams, turn one-time customers into recurring, and increase customer loyalty with Subscriptions Apps and APIs.
  • Merchandising. From visual displays to product bundling, special offers, and more, merchandising can help you promote and sell products in your store. Merchandising with Shopify is an effective way to drive brand recognition, boost sales, increase inventory turnover, and improve the customer experience.

Business catalysts to grow and scale

Shopify helps accelerate the entrepreneurs’ journey to success.

  • Central Admin. Manage your business easily from a central location. With Shopify’s Admin, you can access all of the different parts of your business from one place.
  • Back Office / Shopify Fulfillment Network / Deliver. Centralize everything required to manage fulfillment, inventory, shipping and more with Shopify. Leverage our Shipping Partner Platform, an integrated ecosystem of third-party logistics (3PL) partners, to manage your supply chain. From order set up to printing labels and tracking—keep the backend of your business running smoothly. 
  • Banking: Balance + Capital. Manage your money and funding through Shopify’s banking solutions: Balance and Capital. With Balance, you can manage your account from one place, and Capital provides you with fast, easy access to funding so that you can accelerate growth.
  • Shop Pay & Installments. Enable customers to checkout quickly using encryption to save their details, allow them to pay in full at checkout, or let them split payments into installments. With Shop Pay, you can delight your customers by offering fast, flexible payment options.
  • Mobile App. Use the Shopify app to run your business wherever you are. With it, you can manage your Shopify store on-the-go, respond to information in real-time, manage orders, and more.
  • Automation / Flow. Connect with customers at critical moments in their journey using Shopify automations. After establishing criteria and crafting content, you can leverage always-on marketing messages that run automatically to help drive conversions.

    Wait, there’s more: the Shopify App Store, custom code, and beyond

    Shopify has the widest commerce theme store and app store in the world. 

    With over a million independent businesses selling every type of product in markets all around the world, solving for every single business need is a tall order. And trying to include every possible feature a business might need only makes the product harder to use for the majority of new business owners. 

    Instead, we prioritized making our platform flexible—first and foremost—with the ability to easily address the ever-evolving complexities of running a business. Then we enlist the help of every single developer around the world to join us in our mission, empowering them to build apps, themes, and other integrations specifically for Shopify’s platform. 

    That’s how the Shopify App Store came to be. With more than 9,000+ apps to choose from, Shopify store owners have even more options when it comes to tailoring their store to meet their business needs. Whether you want to add customer reviews, manage your accounting, or add virtual try-ons to your store, there’s definitely an app for that.

    Merchants can find exactly what they need for their store, and new developers can build their business supporting those entrepreneurs. It's a win-win. 

    But you’re not limited to the applications on our App Store. If you want to dabble with the code (or hire someone from our Partner ecosystem to), Shopify makes it possible to customize every aspect of your business and shopping experience:

    • Customize your theme or build a theme from scratch
    • Build custom apps for your store using developer tools and Shopify’s APIs
    • Use APIs to power custom experiences, like selling products in a video game 

    The bottom line is: you don't have to trade ease-of-use for customization and control. With Shopify, you can get your store and campaigns up-and-running quickly, while also creating rich, unique experiences that you see from big brands.

    Get started with Shopify today

    Shopify isn’t just a piece of software or a singular product—it’s an all-in-one commerce platform. More than that, it’s a rich ecosystem that creates value for business owners by bringing together developers, business experts, and shoppers in the shared pursuit of making commerce better for everyone.

    By doing so, Shopify also makes entrepreneurship more accessible to anyone seeking independence. Whether you're a scrappy trailblazer finding your footing or a heritage brand reaching customers around the world, Shopify is built for you.

    And getting started has never been easier! Start your free trial, follow this ecommerce website launch checklist, and start selling online today. 👀 

    Frequently asked questions about Shopify

    Is Shopify good for beginners?

    Yes. Shopify is easy to use and built to support beginners exploring the platform, growing small businesses, and established enterprise businesses. Shopify is here to help you move from first sale to full scale. Get started with Shopify

    What does Shopify cost?

    Shopify has several different pricing plans for businesses to choose from. Basic Shopify is $39/month, Shopify is $105/month, Advanced Shopify is $399/month, and Shopify Plus starts at $2,000/month.

    In what countries can I use Shopify?

    At Shopify, we have merchants in 175 countries. You can use Shopify in 20+ languages and accept Shopify Payments in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States. You can’t use Shopify Payments in US territories except Puerto Rico. Get started with Shopify

    What can I sell on Shopify?

    You can sell a range of products and services on Shopify, including but not limited to: physical products, digital products (e.g., ebooks or email templates), memberships (e.g. subscription boxes, online yoga studio memberships), ticketed experiences, classes and lessons, and more. Take a few minutes to read our official terms of service to be certain that what you plan to sell is legal where you live.

    Where can I sell with Shopify?

    With Shopify, you can sell everywhere your customers are. That means your own website; in person, like your retail store or a tradeshow event; on marketplaces like Amazon and Ebay; on social media channels like Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram; wholesale; and via Shopify B2B. Get started with Shopify

    What do I need to start selling on Shopify?

    To begin selling online with Shopify, you’ll need to add products to your Shopify account, and set up a payment processor. Then, you can choose where you want to sell your products—whether it's by building an online store or selling on social media. To get people to buy from you, you’ll need to market your store so shoppers can visit your site and learn about your brand and products.

    Illustrations by Núria Madrid