If all goes well with your Shopify store, there comes a time when your store’s growth leaves you wanting more in the way of features and functionality. There are the three base Shopify tiers – Basic Shopify, Shopify and Advanced Shopify – but if you’re looking for something even more advanced, there’s Shopify Plus, a super-premium plan with a super-premium price tag.
Despite the high price tag, you might be wondering if Shopify Plus is right for your store. Unfortunately, few online resources provide genuine or honest accounts of their Shopify Plus experience, or what value they derive from it. Most blogs are unlikely to share any first-hand experience and are simply re-hashing the Shopify Plus sales pitch (and deriving some affiliate marketing income in the process).
My store has been on the Shopify Plus platform for over two years, and am hopeful that my insights will help other merchants who are also thinking about taking the plunge.
Shopify Plus Pricing
Let’s start with pricing, because for many Shopify stores, the high monthly fees for Shopify Plus are going to be an immediate dealbreaker.
Shopify Plus platform fees start at $2,000 per month with a 12-month minimum commitment.
With such a high monthly fee, it goes without saying that unless you are making upwards of several hundred thousands in revenue per year, Shopify Plus is going to be unaffordable and out of the question.
Keep in mind that the 12-month contract minimum means you can’t cancel the contract for at least a whole year, so you’re really making a $24k commitment paid in 12-month installments. That’s a big commitment!
Once you exceed $800,000 in monthly sales, you will be charged platform fees based on a percentage (0.25%) of your sales.
One unpleasant surprise I found was that the platform fees are not exempt from sales tax. If your store is based in a high-tax state like California, be sure to budget up to 10% more (~$200) in platform fee costs.
What got me interested in Shopify Plus
I first became interested in Shopify Plus when I could not figure out how to customize my store’s checkout page. The default checkout pages are decent for what they are, and there are good technical reasons for why Shopify intentionally limits access to modifying the checkout pages.
That being said, the checkout pages are very critical for the customer’s purchasing journey. Abandoned checkouts and checkout page optimization are analyzed and studied extensively in the ecommerce industry, and with good reason. With that in mind, I had two primary objectives in modifying the checkout pages:
- Improve conversion rates and average order value by adding helpful information about the purchase and shipping options
- Reduce customer support load by improving and managing expectations about shipping times and delivery
I then found out that the only way to customize the checkout pages is by having access to the checkout.liquid file in your Shopify admin’s theme editor, and this requires a Shopify Plus subscription.
At that time, I was making around $100k in monthly revenue, with a healthy 40% net profit margin. Suddenly paying $2000 per month just for a platform subscription went against all of my instincts of running an efficient online business, but viewed in percentage terms, the $2000 per month represented 2% of my revenues, which allowed me to shift my perspective a bit and think about the potential revenue and profit increases that could go well beyond the 2% cost.
I decided to reach out to the Shopify Plus team and determine whether or not it would be worth it for my Shopify store.
Getting sold on Shopify Plus
After entering my store’s information on the Shopify Plus contact form, I was called by a Shopify Plus Sales Concierge representative who asked me a few standardized lead qualification questions. I don’t believe there are any firm minimum revenue qualifications, but I would not be surprised if stores making less than $10k-$20k per month in revenue are disqualified at this stage.
I was then put in touch with a Shopify Plus Merchant Growth Consultant, whom I will subsequently refer to as my salesperson.
During the first introductory call, my salesperson asked a few probing questions about my business to learn about my needs and pain points, as any good B2B salesperson does. I explained my desire to customize the checkout pages, and that I was interested in learning more about the additional benefits of Shopify Plus. My salesperson was very friendly, enthusiastic and professional throughout, which definitely gave me a positive impression and feeling that I would be in good hands.
The next several sales calls consisted of demo sessions (via screen-share) showing me how the Shopify Plus admin looks and functions, as well as how the multi-store feature operates.
My experience through this process was a mix between feeling like the entire sales process was very scripted, and my salesperson going above and beyond where they could. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a sales process being scripted, but after seeing the same “see how brand X increased their revenue by Y% after switching to Shopify Plus” sales pitch, it’s hard not to feel like you’re listening to a timeshare presentation.
On the other hand, my salesperson did put me in touch with several non-sales facing staff at Shopify who were able to answer some additional questions I had, like about how the checkout.liquid modifications work and whether my intended checkout page modifications would be possible. I thought that was a very nice and effective gesture, as I’m quite sure that is not a part of their standard sales process, and that gave me the confidence to know that Shopify Plus would give me what I was looking for.
The penultimate sales call consisted of my salesperson making a financial case for Shopify Plus on my behalf. This consisted of screenshots of Excel financial “models” which showed that a 5% and 30% increase in conversion rates would lead to a $5k and $30k increase in my monthly revenues, respectively ($100k revenues x 5%/30%), both of which would ostensibly justify the additional $2000 per month outlay.
I have to admit that I did not find these arguments very insightful, as these calculations are not very difficult to perform on your own as long as you have a solid grasp of numbers and core metrics. Furthermore, my salesperson was not able to provide much insights into how realistic the 5% and 30% conversion rate improvement assumptions were, beyond repeated references to brand X having Y% revenue increases. (To play devil’s advocate, this was early on when Shopify Plus was still new, so their data points were probably more limited, and of course these are just rough base-case and best-case scenario guesses and actual results would vary significantly from store to store).
In the final sales call, we wrapped everything up and I was also offered a 1-month free promotion offer if I signed up by the end of the month. I provided my salesperson with my online business’ official legal name and other details, after which I was presented with a final contract proposal for me to sign via DocuSign.
A detailed review of the contract language did not reveal any red flags or inconsistencies, which was definitely a good sign. At this point, the ball was in my court, and all I had to do was (digitally) sign the contract.
Before I wrap up this section, I think it would only be fair to point out that my pointed criticism about the scripted sales process should be taken with a grain of salt, and represents my experience only.
Shopify Plus is being marketed to a wide range of merchants, with the only common denominator being a certain level of scale. Some might already have a strong brick-and-mortar presence and brand, and might be less familiar or comfortable with conversion rates and doing those calculations themselves.
There’s also personality and preference – some people prefer and respond to the getting-to-know-you process of building sales relationships, while I prefer hard data and evidence whenever possible.
How I decided to sign up for Shopify Plus
$2000 per month, or $24k per year, is not at all a trivial amount of money, and is likely a significant hurdle or barrier for many merchants who are considering signing up for Shopify Plus. In fact, given the 12-month commitment, it was probably the biggest financial decision I had made for my business at that point.
I spent the next few days thinking about what $2000 per month could get me instead: a part-time employee’s wages, 1000-2000 square feet of warehouse space, or a even a fancy cargo van. In hind sight, I was struggling to reconcile the fact that many expenses result in tangible value (e.g. larger warehouse space) but some are more abstract and intangible (e.g. code modifications to improve conversion rates).
I was also on the receiving end of a barrage of Shopify Plus merchant benefits during my numerous sales calls with my salesperson. I truly believe that many of the other Shopify Plus benefits are indeed valuable for some merchants, but I had no idea whether they would be helpful for my business. For example, what revenue impact will having a dedicated Merchant Success Manager have on my business? Will it help me generate $5k more per month? 10% more? What even is a Merchant Success Manager?
After a few days of thinking this through, I decided to come up with my most compelling reasons for signing up for Shopify Plus. Below were my reasons:
- I had a high level of confidence that the modifications to the checkout pages would result in at least a 2.5% increase in conversions and average order value. At $100k revenue per month, I would derive at least $2500 per month in extra revenue, and $1000 per month in extra profit (based on 40% net margins).
- I estimated that I was receiving at least 40 customer support emails pertaining to shipping and general store policies that could have been prevented by having additional information on the checkout pages. Using a somewhat arbitrary estimate of $20 in time cost per customer support email (and subsequent DSAT mitigation), this would represent at least $800 in time cost saved per month.
- Payment processing fee reduction from 2.4% to 2.1% per transaction, worth $300 in savings per month at $100k revenue per month.
- I had sufficient cash flows and a healthy profit margin to afford paying 2% out of my revenues
- My store was showing a strong growth trajectory and future potential
You’ll see that I’ve completely disregarded the other benefits of Shopify Plus, like access to Shopify Flow, dedicated Merchant Success Manager, etc. Sure, they might be nice to have, but for my analysis, I wanted to assume the worst case and assign no value to these benefits. After all, I came for the checkout page customization, so that is what this analysis should focus on.
Ultimately, I felt that my estimates above were quite reasonable, and this exercise helped me confirm that even with quite conservative goals for improving my checkout page performance, I would be breaking even on the $2000 per month fee.
Did it feel silly paying so much money to be able to edit a few lines of code? Definitely, and I did continue to think about what other things $2000 per month could get me. Ultimately, though, I realized this is the nature of software and when it comes to making a business decision, I would need to look purely at the dollars and cents.
With the end-of-month rapidly approaching, I decided to take the plunge and signed the DocuSign document.
Was Shopify Plus worth it for my store?
After signing the contract, my salesperson provided me with the contact information for the Shopify Plus support team. I reached out to the dedicated phone support line and was pleasantly surprised at the competence and professionalism of the agent who assisted me in getting access to checkout.liquid theme file. Most helpfully, the agent even created a duplicate of my store for development and testing (an unexpected benefit of the multiple-store feature of Shopify Plus), and I was on my way to making edits to my checkout pages.
I made the following edits:
- Reminder of the generous warranty and free returns policy
- Calculated delivery dates for each shipping option (rather than the default X business days from ship-date)
- Reminder that adding $XX to their order would qualify for free shipping
All in all, I was able to make all the edits I had originally envisioned, and I was pleased with the results. After a few test transactions on the development store, I was ready to launch the new checkout page.
So, the $2000-per-month question: was it worth it?
Below are the results comparing the 12 month periods before and after implementing the checkout page customizations.
|Before Shopify Plus (12 months)||After Shopify Plus (12 months)|
|Average Order Value||$184||$219 (+19%)|
|Reached Checkout||3945||7658 (+94%)|
|Completed Purchase||3083||5512 (+79%)|
|Conversion Rate*||78%||72% (-6%)|
The Shopify Plus sales team will likely want to take the top line revenue numbers to add to their list of success stories and emphasize the 113% growth. But of course, the reality is that much of this growth came from a higher number of customers who reached checkout (+94%) which in turn are mostly from my SEO and blog writing efforts, and it would be unfair to attribute this increase to Shopify Plus.
Average order value did increase by 19%, and this may be the result of showing customers the reminder of adding $XX to their cart to receive free shipping. There are of course other unrelated factors that may be at play, like shifts in product availability and even general macroeconomic conditions. Nonetheless, this is a sizable increase which definitely helps make the case that I have reaped some of the benefits of adding a customized checkout page.
Most surprisingly, conversion rates dropped by 6%. Could it be that my checkout page edits were actually harmful and led to fewer converted sales? Maybe, but the more likely explanation is that the nature of my inbound traffic changed. With an increase of 94% in customers who reached checkout, I would not be surprised if these new customer segments are less decisive, more price sensitive, or simply purchasing a different mix of products. (More analysis would be helpful).
So, what’s the verdict on Shopify Plus? I would say that for my store, the results are inconclusive. With so many different factors at play, it’s hard to definitively pinpoint cause and effect when it comes to your Shopify store. The best way to truly determine the benefits of a Shopify Plus activated checkout page would be to run an A/B test with sizable samples of randomly assigned checkout page styles.
Given these results, I’ve decided to renew Shopify Plus for another year, but I will certainly keep an eye on this. If I do get around to performing a robust A/B test and it turns out the difference in revenue or profit does not justify the $2000 per month expense, that would definitely be grounds for terminating my contract.
A wide range of benefits for a wide range of Shopify stores
Shopify Plus comes with a wide range of benefits and features, and I would imagine that most Shopify Plus merchants would be able to take advantage of only a few of them at a time. My experience is a case-in-point: I signed up only for the ability to customize my checkout pages, and have set my expectations around not deriving any value from the remaining features of Shopify Plus.
Other Shopify Plus merchants might not care at all about customizing the checkout pages, and might sign up mainly for the Merchant Success program, or for the improved IT infrastructure. The only real common thread among these Shopify Plus benefits is that they are things that larger ecommerce stores are likely looking for.
It would be great from a Shopify merchant’s perspective if Shopify were to offer these Shopify Plus offerings a-la-carte with corresponding pricing that is more affordable than the $2000 per month rate. I’m sure they have their reasons for keeping it the way they do, but the reality is that it is essentially an all-or-none proposition, and that’s OK.
My takeaway is this: don’t feel like you need to take advantage of all or most of the Shopify Plus benefits to feel like it is worth it for your Shopify store. Each store is unique, and each business owner is unique, so their needs are also unique. As long as you derive enough value from Shopify Plus, that’s enough of a business reason to sign up.
In conclusion – should you get Shopify Plus for your store?
I’ve shared my Shopify Plus experience with my particular Shopify store, where my revenues and average order value increased significantly after making the change. Whether or not the increases can be attributed to Shopify Plus is difficult to prove, and in fact, my conversion rates actually saw a drop.
Ultimately, whether any given Shopify store should upgrade to Shopify Plus is a dependent on the unique circumstances of each store, but at a minimum, all of the following conditions should be met:
- You have the cash flow to afford $2000 per month in additional expense
- You are willing to commit to $24k worth of expense (over a year), and are willing to accept that it may not result in any increase to your bottom line
- You have a reasonable level of confidence and business justification that one or more features of Shopify Plus will increase your profit by (or prevent losses of) at least $2000 per month
Shopify Plus unlocks some powerful and helpful features, but don’t let it distract you from focusing on the fundamental value-add that your business offers. Whether it’s a unique product design, excellent customer support or great digital marketing, if you don’t have a strong business model to start with, Shopify Plus will not help you solve those deficiencies.
Instead, think of Shopify Plus as a way to enhance an already successful ecommerce to allow it run even better and offer more for your customers.
Good luck with your store!