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When should I upgrade to Shopify Plus?

Written by Jamie on 3rd July 2020
Read time: 10 minutes
When should I upgrade to Shopify Plus?

This is a question we get asked a lot. The price jump from Advanced Shopify ($299 per month) up to Shopify Plus (from $2000 per month) is clearly substantial so naturally merchants are both cautious about upgrading and curious as to what Shopify Plus can bring.

Very sensibly, merchants are also keen to be relatively certain that they’re going to get a return on their investment.

The general sweet spot for upgrading to Shopify Plus is when you’re turning over upward of £1m per annum. However, that still doesn’t mean you should upgrade, it just means you’re more likely to be in a position where you should. 

So, to help you with your decision, I’ve broken down the key advantages Shopify Plus can bring and split them in to several sections:

Deal breakers

If you can’t do without any of these features, then now is likely the time to upgrade to Shopify Plus if it makes financial sense for you.

You could use an app

If you need one of these features, make sure you’re certain you can’t replicate the specific functionality you need with an app, which probably won’t cost anywhere near the Shopify Plus monthly fee. If you can’t, or you can but you also have a strong need for something in the deal break section, then consider Shopify Plus. Do however bear in mind that using native functionality in Shopify Plus is typically going to be more reliable and robust than a third party app.

It depends on your circumstances

If your circumstances means one of these features makes sense, then now’s the time to look at Shopify Plus.

Sweeteners

These features alone are not a reason to upgrade. However, if you’re looking to upgrade anyway, these might make the deal a little sweeter.

Here goes... 

Deal breakers

Customised checkout

This one’s a big one. As you may already know, there are zero options for customising your checkout in Shopify. In a way, this is a good thing. Shopify’s checkout is tried and tested to optimise conversion so why mess with a winning formula? 

Well, there’s a couple of reasons actually:

Customised styling

For many brands, ensuring everything is consistent, including the checkout, is incredibly important. A customised checkout can also give your site a professional edge. It could be argued that customers might be put off purchasing from your professional site if it has exactly the same checkout as a store selling a few jars of jam.

Shopify Scripts

With Shopify Plus, you have the ability to write simple scripts to run on your checkout that can control the logic of how things work. For example, you can offer automatic discounts when customers order over a certain amount or offer different shipping rates or payment methods for certain product combinations.

PCI Level 1 Compliance

This one is extremely important for large corporates, very high volume stores or retailers that simply want to demonstrate the absolute best level of security possible. In fact, we have previously worked with a client who upgraded to Shopify Plus for this reason alone. 

Despite Shopify Plus costing $2000 upwards per month, PCI Level 1 compliance can make this relatively decent value. If you were using a self hosted eCommerce platform then you would be looking to spend 10s of 1000s a year to maintain compliance to level 1.

EV SSL Certificate

Another one of those features that can be essential for creating trust with you customers. EV stands for extended validation. It gives customers more confidence because you will have had to have gone through further validation to prove you are who you say you are. Additionally, you will appear more professional and trustworthy because the little padlock that appears in the address bar will be accompanied by your full company name. 

These certificates are included free as part of your Shopify Plus plan. EV SSL certificates usually cost between $100 and $900 a year. 

Unlimited bandwidth

Standard Shopify can handle all levels of traffic a normal store can expect. However, what happens if you have a massive spike in traffic? This is not uncommon for very large stores on Black Friday or when a national TV advertising campaign is running. 

Shopify Plus gives unlimited bandwidth and will take pretty much whatever you throw at it. It just won’t go down! For a self-hosted platform you can expect to require a team of experts, complicated hardware and a hefty price tag to achieve anywhere near the same level of resilience.

Improved API

Shopify’s API is brilliant and one of the key features (in my opinion) that makes Shopify the leading platform. 

With standard Shopify, you might occasionally find that API calls are throttled to stop you from overloading the system. With Shopify Plus, they understand you might have a much higher requirement for access to data and so they increase the limits. 

You also get accessed to three key additional API methods: 

  • Gift Card - the ability to create and manage gift cards through the API

  • Multipass - manage authentication across multiple websites for single sign on

  • Staff accounts - manage staff accounts with the API 

These can be very useful if you use other systems for controlling gift cards or staff accounts and need to integrate them. The multipass API is essential if you want to offer single sign on for your customers across multiple websites or systems.

You could use an app

Automatic discounts

I mentioned this previously as part of the customised checkout section. It’s not possible for an app to allow you to style the checkout but it’s certainly possible for an app to apply automatic discounts.

Automation

Exclusive to Shopify Plus is Shopify Flow - some pretty impressive automation software that will help you save time by automating business operations. 

It has a fantastic visual editor allowing you to connect events and actions, a bit like familiar automation software such as IFTTT or Zapier. 

But what would you possibly need to automate? Here’s a few examples: 

  • Automatically send a reorder email to your supplier when stock levels go below a set number

  • Send a notification to your logistics team when a customer selects next day delivery

  • Send a slack message to your onboarding team when a wholesale order is placed by a brand new B2B customer

  • Flag up a return when it’s over £100 so you can investigate further

  • Hide products when they go out of stock 

The great thing about Shopify Flow is that you can now save workflow templates and share them with others. There’s already templates you can download online that are ready to go.

Scheduling

Also exclusive to Shopify plus is Launchpad.  

With Launchpad you can automate an entire promotion by scheduling discounts, messages and even a theme change. So when it comes to Black Friday, you can get everything set up weeks beforehand and just sit back and watch it all happen. 

Just a quick note on that - our app Auto Schedule can already do some of this, and we’re working on it every day to bring more features!

Custom price lists / wholesale

Sometimes you might want to offer certain groups of customers different prices. Most often, this will be when you’re also dealing with wholesale customers who you will allow a discount for buying in bulk. 

Now there are apps available for standard Shopify to do this. However, they can sometimes be a bit clunky and it’s arguably better to have this all managed in one place.

Sell on more channels

Shopify Plus acts as a central inventory manager, similar to platforms like ChannelAdvisor, integrating with marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and all the big social and messaging platforms. This means you can manage all your stock in one place while selling across multiple platforms.

It depends on your circumstances

Nine additional stores

With Shopify Plus, you can create nine additional stores alongside your main one, meaning you can run ten stores in total. This can be useful for the following reasons:

Running multiple brands 

If you run multiple brands under one organisation, similar to how the Buy It Direct Group run, amongst others, Laptops Direct, Appliances Direct and Drones Direct, then this could be useful for you. However, if being able to run multiple stores is your main reason for upgrading to Shopify Plus, then you might want to do some maths. At $299 per month for Advanced Shopify, you can run six stores for $1,794 so if you want to run six stores then perhaps consider simply running 6 individual Advanced Shopify sites.

Internationalisation

One of the most popular reasons for running multiple stores is so that you can create stores for different regions. This is indeed a great idea if you’re looking to expand your business into new locations. However, there are features that are either already available in standard Shopify or coming very shortly that you should consider:

Multiple currencies

This is already available. However do bear in mind that your customers will only be able to pay in their own currency if you are using Shopify’s payment gateway (Shop Pay). If you’re not, then there are apps available that let your customers switch currency but they will still need to pay in your currency when they reach the checkout.

Multiple stores

Coming very soon. Shopify has recently announced that you will be able to add additional domains to your store. But there’s a key difference between this and how Shopify Plus operates. With Shopify Plus, you can have completely separate stores with different products and anything else you want to change. With standard Shopify, you’re effectively pointing different domains to the same store, but with the ability to change text and currency for each domain. So, the sites would look very similar but could have different text translated for a different territory and a different currency selected by default.

Sweeteners

These are by no means deal breakers, but they can certainly be nice if you’re in the right position:

Lower/negotiable credit card fees

With Shopify Plus, everything becomes negotiable. The monthly fee and the fees you pay for each credit card transaction. 

As standard, the fee is 1.6% + 20p which is the same as the Advanced Shopify plan. However, you only really stand a chance of negotiating this down if you are selling a lot of products. Still, worth a shot!

Development environments

If you’ve worked with WordPress or a similar web platform, there’s a good chance you might have also had access to a development environment. Sometimes called staging, or a sandbox, a development environment lets you play around with new functionality or styling without affecting the live store. 

Conclusion

In a nutshell, upgrade to Shopify Plus if:

  • You absolutely must have the highest level of security possible
  • You need to be certain your store can handle very high volumes of traffic
  • It is extremely important to be able to customise your checkout
  • It's essential that your third party systems can access gift cards and staff accounts
  • You must provide single sign-on to your customers across multiple sites
  • You need to spin up over 6 stores

You should consider upgrading if:

  • High levels of automation would be very beneficial for your store
  • You need to provide multiple pricing tiers or wholesale prices
  • You want to sell across multiple channels and use Shopify to manage everything

I hope this helps you with your decision. If you’re still not sure then feel free to get in touch!

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