Shopify Plus vs Shopify & Shopify Advanced – When to Use or Upgrade to Shopify Plus

Shopify Advanced and Shopify Plus are versions of Shopify platform, offering different levels of flexibility and feature-sets for different sizes of business. Lots of retailers will start on a lower plan of Shopify and then gradually upgrade as their turnover or requirements change, getting to a point (which is different for different retailers) where Shopify Plus starts to make sense. The most common reason for upgrade (in my experience) has been for functional (needing Plus-only features) reasons – for example adding new stores for international expansion, wanting to offer multi-currency, or just saving time via features like launchpad, flow etc.

Almost all of our clients across the business use Shopify Plus, but this hasn’t always been an obvious, clean-cut option – with clients launching new proof-of-concept stores in particular often looking at Shopify Advanced initially. We’ve been asked about this a lot so I decided to write this post to help retailers decide whether to go straight to Shopify Plus or start on a lower package (or upgrade from Shopify Advanced). If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch via my contact form or drop me an email.

Introduction to Shopify Plus

Shopify Plus is the highest tier of Shopify’s offering and it’s designed to allow for the functional needs and scale of larger retailers, with success stories including Gymshark, Kylie Cosmetics, AllBirds, Colour Pop, Fashion Nova and plenty of others.

Shopify Plus has a base license fee of $2,000 per month, which moves to a GMV percentage (of 0.25%) when you exceed $800,000 gross turnover in any given month. This remains very competitive against most other mid-market and enterprise-level platforms when you look at licensing in isolation or as part of a broader TCO comparison.

Introduction to Shopify Advanced 

Shopify Advanced is still a very feature-rich version of Shopify’s powerful SaaS-based platform – but it comes with less functionality and benefits (with the gap also increasing all the time). Shopify advanced costs a flat $299 per month and Shopify Payments rates are the same as Plus (with a higher cost for using an external gateway). You’re also limited to one store with Shopify advanced, meaning a retailer with two stores (e.g. UK and US) would be paying $598 per month (2 x Shopify advanced) and the accounts would be isolated.

Other versions of Shopify

The are 5 versions of Shopify in total, these are:

  • Shopify Lite – Shopify Lite is basically a starter version for people selling via other channels and not yet needing an online store itself. These other channels could be via a blog, POS, Facebook etc. Higher rates for payments.
  • Basic Shopify – Ideally suited to startup retailers, basic Shopify provides a lot of the core functionality needed but, again, with higher rates around payments. There are some features missing, such as gift cards and you’re limited to 2 users. 
  • Shopify – Same as basic, but with more competive rates and more features, such as gift cards, report builder, more POS features etc. You also get up to 5 users with Shopify.
  • Advanced Shopify – as detailed above.
  • Shopify Plus – as detailed above.

More recently, I’ve only really been working with Shopify Plus (aside from helping my fiancé with a Shopify store a few years ago and a store I setup ~8 years with a friend), but I’ve had to look into other versions quite a lot for various reasons – including assessing when Shopify Plus users need to upgrade as part of a project (keeping costs low), which is generally down to limited numbers of users, a need for multiple stores or things like scripts not being available. This piece is generally written based on Shopify Plus vs other versions generally.

So, based on my experience of using Shopify, here are the reasons why people tend to upgrade or go with Shopify Plus.

Need for Shopify Plus clone stores

Clone stores is probably the most common reason why a client has only looked at Shopify Plus, be it for international stores, different channels (e.g. a separate wholesale store) or a staging store for example. Shopify Plus comes with 10 clone stores, which allows for a good level of scale – beyond that you just pay a higher monthly fee (for additional stores). I think the highest number of stores any of our clients have had has been about 15, which was primarily for local international stores.

Although the clone stores operate in isolation, this is often a big plus for retailers operating on the Shopify Plus platform and it allows for proper localised international stores, amongst other things. Most of our clients then also have a staging or test site set up to aid bigger store changes and test deployments etc.

Multi-Currency

Shopify Plus also has multi-currency functionality, which is still relatively new. Although basic, this feature can be really valuable for retailers and allows for very quick support for lots of mainstream currencies, including local payment, via Shopify Payments.

The multi-currency feature allows for the following currencies, but pricing is based on a fixed exchange rate (so you can’t manage local price lists via this feature). The most common use for Shopify multi-currency would include localising currency based on a user’s IP, but you can also force a currency based on a URL.

The supported currencies for Shopify multi-currency are:

  • Australian $
  • Canadian $
  • Danish Krona
  • Euro
  • Hong Kong $
  • Japanese yen
  • New Zealand $
  • British £
  • Singapore $
  • Swedish krona
  • United States $

This is good for retailers looking to prove the concept of new markets or very simply allow for international traffic – but it’s not a scalable solution for internationalisation. You also need to ensure that the apps you use are compatible.

Wholesale channel

Shopify Plus users are also able to use the Shopify wholesale channel, providing a host of features for setting up a basic (but very easy to manage) wholesale offering. I’ve written about Shopify’s wholesale channel in more detail here, but the core features of the Shopify Plus wholesale channel are:

  • Restricted access, stripped-back wholesale store
  • Easy to assign access to specific customers and groups of customers
  • Support for tiered pricing
  • Customer-specific pricing
  • Customer-specific product availability
  • Customer-specific payment options
  • Draft payments + credit limits
  • Ability to set purchasing limits etc

Although basic, I’ve found Shopify’s wholesale channel to be a really good solution for managing low volume, simple wholesale offerings. It’s super easy to set up and the on-going management is really straightforward too. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to the wholesale channel with Shopify likely to introduce B2B / wholesale improvements following their acquisition of Handshake earlier this year.

Limited number of staff accounts pre Shopify Plus

On non-Plus versions of Shopify, there are limits to the number of staff users you can have on your store – which can be a really big thing, especially during a build. Our average Shopify Plus project requires maybe 5 people from the client’s team to have access, multiple people from the development agency and then our team (consultants), an SEO resource, any third party handling any integration, any other consultants etc. This can add up really quickly.

Shopify Advanced is fine in theory, limiting you to 15 staff accounts – this is then unlimited when you move up to Shopify Plus. On the lower plans, you’re limited to 1,2 or 5 accounts, which isn’t generally enough for going through a Shopify Plus build in my experience.

Shopify Scripts

Shopify scripts is another plus-only feature that allows users to create rules for offering promotions / discounts, shipping logic, payments etc to different customers or based on different variables. This is a really useful feature that has been critical for most of our clients that use Shopify Plus – examples of where it’s been used include complex promotions, bundling, wholesale-only shipping options, tiered pricing and bulk order discounts, shipping discounts and lots more.

Scripts can be edited directly in Shopify (via the Script Editor) and are very simple to create and manage, as far as scripts go. There are three types of scripts, which are line item scripts, shipping scripts and payment scripts – each of which can control their own scope within the cart and checkout.

Shopify Scripts has been needed in order for a number of our clients to meet requirements with Shopify, so other versions of Shopify wouldn’t have been suitable – this is likely to be the case with any complex retailer looking to move to Shopify.

Shopify Flow

Shopify flow can be hugely useful for Shopify Plus merchants, allows for rule-based automation of various types of tasks or functions. Shopify Flow essentially allows merchants to create an action based on a trigger and then variables – which could be anything from canceling an order to disabling a product to checking dimensions of an order to assigning a customer to a VIP group or even creating wholesale accounts.

I’ve used Shopify Flow to automate a lot of manual tasks with clients and it’s a really valuable feature for Plus users. Some examples of things we’ve used Shopify for includes:

  • Fraud flagging on orders
  • Changes to the theme based on customer tags
  • Changes to ordering options based on product availability
  • Assigning customers to the wholesale channel
  • Assigning tags to orders for custom order flows

These are just a few examples, but Flow has got me out of a few tricky situations in the past.

You can also use Shopify Flow with third parties now too, which examples including Klevu, Loyalty Lion, Klaviyo and Yotpo. This is likely to get better and better and its a really nice value-add for plus users.

Whilst fraud scoring is a feature offered across Shopify plans, the ability to control how orders are handled requires Shopify Flow, which is only available to Shopify Plus users. Flagging orders based on fraud scores of order data is a really common use case for Shopify Flow. Shopify has been rumoured to be creating a more robust fraud solution for Plus users for some time, but this hasn’t yet surfaced. 

Shopify Launchpad

Shopify launchpad is an app (maintained by Shopify) that allows Shopify Plus (plus-only app) users to schedule various admin tasks in advance. This is a really important feature for a lot of retailers and it’s generally a good value-add for retailers moving over to the platform as it’s very stable and reliable (unlike this feature with some other platforms).

Shopify launchpad allows users to schedule things like adding or disabling of products, general merchandising changes, theme changes, landing page updates etc. 

Checkout flexibility

Although the Shopify checkout is well-known for being locked-down and rigid (generally not a bad thing in my opinion), Shopify Plus users are able to customise more than users of other plans, as a result of having access to the checkout.liquid file. 

This allows for things like broader styling, adding scripts, custom messaging etc and can be really useful for users needing to add in additional functionality, such as custom fields or options for example. I usually use WeMakeWebsite’s build for Emma Bridgewater as a good example of a customised version of Shopify’s checkout – with it featuring various custom fields and messaging.

Platform support / account management

As part of the Shopify Plus license, merchants are assigned a Merchant Success Manager, who is responsible for helping the retailer use Shopify Plus and generally get more from the platform.

I’ve not found MSMs to be super infuential, but they can be useful. In most cases, our involvement on a project (as consultants) has some cross-over with them, so we don’t interact with them as much – but they can help to answer questions on the platform and raise issues with people higher up in Shopify. 

New features

Shopify is introducing new features all the time – with Unite 2019 alone bringing tens of announcements for new features or enhancements. I was lucky enough to be at this event and was hugely excited by some of the upcoming releases, including:

  • Proper multi-store capabilities
  • More advanced shipping logic / management
  • More flexibility around the Shopify checkout
  • Broader use of Shopify sections

These are just some of the ones that I was most excited about, but the key here is that most (if not all) of these are going to Plus only. These features alone are enough to justify the $2,000 license fee for most retailers – it’s worth looking at this or trying to get more detail out of Shopify on what’s coming and timelines when making this decision.

Paul Rogers

Paul is an experienced eCommerce Consultant, specialising in all aspects of replatforming, requirements gathering and platform selection projects.

Paul has worked with most mainstream eCommerce platforms and has supported complex replatforming projects with retailers from all over the world. Paul also works on customer experience projects and solutions-focused work with various platforms - primarily Magento and Shopify Plus.

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