Should Design Studios Move Their Websites to Shopify?

You have a design studio, but also offer templates and/or courses. Should you make the move to Shopify? Let's dive into the pros and cons of this big decision.

Should Design Studios Move Their Websites to Shopify?

Lately we’ve been asked a lot, “Should my design studio’s website be on Shopify?” After all, if you’re a Shopify designer, shouldn’t your own website be on Shopify as well? Not necessarily. Let’s break down the pros and cons for someone who has a design studio but wants to sell some templates or courses on their website too.

Pros of having your studio's website on Shopify

If you’ve productized your offers

Perhaps the service you sell is very productized. For example, the price and deliverables are the same each time like in a VIP or Intensive day. You could treat these offers like a product, and streamline the purchasing process. However, you'd still need to have a contract, and possibly split payments — we'll get to this later. Also, if you sell templates like we do, then having a 'store' on your website is a no-brainer and allows you to make sales while away from your desk. 

Templates could save you time

Shopify's product pages use templates, meaning that you only need to fill in the product information and the page will automatically populate, making it very fast to create new product pages. This is great if you have a lot of offers that are similar and can use the same template. If all your offers are quite different, then you'd have to design each page separately. 

Great for reporting and analytics

Because Shopify is designed to sell products, if you have products to sell - digital or physical - it’s great to have Shopify’s detailed reporting. You can see unique data such as the source of customers and who has abandoned their cart (these could be hot leads to follow up on!). It’s worth considering if you’re happy with your current CRM’s reporting capabilities and if you're ready to spend time taking action on new insights.

Insights for e-commerce email marketing

If you are selling a lot of products, you will likely want to use an email marketing platform like Klaviyo. Shopify has an easy integration with Klaviyo, and Klaviyo provides excellent customer insights, and can trigger flows based on customer behaviour on your site. However, if you are currently using ConvertKit as your email marketing tool, the integration is not as smooth. This will require the Professional Zapier plan to pass along information between the two, so this is an extra cost that should be considered.

Cons of having your studio's website on Shopify

It’s built specifically for product-based selling

All of Shopify’s features are optimized for product sales, not for selling services. If you don’t have many of your services productized and you tend to custom quote for every project then Shopify might not save you time. This is because you'd end up needing to create draft orders and custom contracts for each product anyway. A general rule we tell clients is for sales to be at least 50% product based before moving to Shopify to make the most of the platform.

You may be replacing your favorite tools 

Your favorite CRM for contracts, scheduling and payment plans may not integrate optimally with Shopify, and you may have to switch to using Shopify apps that you’re not familiar with. These CRM features may get separated into 3 different apps, and the apps are unlikely to be as good as what you're used to. 

You might not get the design flexibility you’re used to

Shopify doesn’t have the same drag & drop page editor that you may be used to on a platform like Squarespace. Instead, ‘section’ templates are used like building blocks to design a page. Other platforms offer section layouts curated for service providers, while on Shopify they’re made for ecommerce, so you might not find what you want. Some things you might find tricky are displaying your work or laying out large chunks of text on service pages.

A limit on page length

You can only add 25 sections to a page with Shopify. So if you’re creating a sales or service page with lots of information, you might run into problems. Long pages are normal for service based businesses, whereas for ecommerce it’s usual for them to be short.

You might need lots of product page templates

On Shopify you can create a template to use with multiple products. If you’d like a different layout and design for each product, you’d have to create a template for each one. On a platform like Squarespace you don’t use templates for each product. This point could be an upside or downside depending on your needs and how many products you have.

Blogs are basic

If you want a blog on your website either for articles or for displaying portfolio projects, Shopify’s is very simple and may take some work to get it looking how you’d like. With Squarespace, you can change the layout from article to article. This is really handy for displaying portfolio projects that might have different images you’d like to display at different sizes for example. In contrast, Shopify uses an article template so all blog posts will have the same layout.

Themes are an additional cost

Squarespace, Webflow and Shopify are priced similarly, but with Shopify you also have the cost of the theme to think about which could be around $300-$400 for a good one. We always recommend buying a theme from Shopify’s theme store because of the premium look, feel and additional features. This is great for ecommerce as you’ll make use of those features, and Shopify is the obvious choice for ecom, but if you’re on the fence about the platforms it may not be worth paying for features you don’t need. 

Split payment options can be limited

If you sell courses with split payments, Shopify might not be the best option. Most ‘buy now pay later’ payment providers have restrictions against B2B businesses and/or digital productsIf we look at Shopify’s most popular subscription app, it costs $99/month and isn’t designed for course creators, so could take a while to get it to do what you want. Whereas Thrivecart is designed for course creators, and has a one time payment of $495.

For our own course, we find that Thrivecart integrates better with our email marketing tool and we like that the checkout offers customization specific to our course (e.g. adding testimonials right there in the checkout), rather than taking students through our regular Shopify checkout. It’s designed exactly for digital products like ours.

What's the verdict?

Ultimately it comes down to:

  • What is the current problem you’re trying to solve and what are your goals? What are you looking to improve on your website, systems and client experience?
  • How productized are your services & offerings? Looking at your monthly sales, how much of it comes from productized offerings?
  • Do you already know the platform? Will it be easy for you to rebuild pages and bring your design to life on Shopify, or will it require learning something new or outsourcing the build?
  • The ease of regularly updating content on Shopify (for you personally!). Will it be easy for you to regularly make updates to your portfolio and blog on a new platform?
  • Do the best business tools for you integrate well with a Shopify cart? If your CRM and email marketing tools don't integrate, are you prepared to leave them?
  • Do you have the time right now to set up new systems? And will it make you more sales? Will moving platforms ACTUALLY improve your business in terms of providing a better service for customers, and making you more sales, or is this another form of productive procrastination?

Ultimately you are the only one who can make this decision. It’s a big decision as it requires a full website rebuild and setup (possibly including moving all your blog content over), setting up products, integrating contract, scheduling and invoicing tools, and more. With all the work and time that it’ll take to make this happen, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. 

It’s important to think about your goals for your business when you’re creating your website to save switching platforms in the near future (which can be very time consuming). If the majority of your offerings are (or will be) products then Shopify could be a great option as you’ll use all of their extensive selling features. But if you mainly sell services, which are not productized, we recommend going with another platform that will be designed for your needs. 

Shopify is constantly adding features, so who knows whether this will all change in the near future. Regardless, it’s usually best to use tools that were specifically designed for the job in hand - they’re faster to set up and they have all the features you need. Using workarounds can be time consuming and result in errors and additional costs.

We recommend having solid reasons to support your decision before spending valuable time and money switching platforms and systems. 

Service Based Websites FAQ

Is Shopify good for service based businesses?

Shopify is best suited for product-based businesses. If a brand's services are productized, then they may be presented to customers as products that they can easily checkout with. However, integrations for scheduling, contracts, invoicing and payment plans are limited since these are not usually requirements for ecommerce store owners.

Can you sign contracts on Shopify?

Apps and integrations can allow for customers to be required to sign a contract before or after purchasing. However, this is not a native feature of Shopify.

Can you have payment plans on Shopify?

Some payment providers on Shopify offer "pay in instalments" or "buy now pay later" options. However, these providers do not work with all types of businesses. For example, they may refuse to offer their services to businesses that are B2B, or for digital products.

Can you have a blog on Shopify?

All Shopify stores support having multiple blogs, with tags to categorize or filter posts by. Shopify's blog posts use an article template, meaning that the content uses the same layout for each post.


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