5 Reasons Why Shopify can be Risky for your Business

October 23, 2019
We talk to lots of startups that begin their eCommerce journey with a Shopify website. Shopify is easy to use and you can start selling in a matter of hours. However, there are risks that come with that ease that you may not be aware of.

1. Ownership

There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing parts of your small business but at the end of the day the business belongs to the owner. Strong businesses thrive online and if your platform can shut you down at ANY time, for ANY reason, WITHOUT notice who really owns your website?
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Shopify has the right to shut down your site for any reason, at any time, and without telling you before they do it.

“We reserve the right to modify or terminate the Services for any reason, without notice at any time.” ~ 5.1 Shopify Terms of Service

One of the many great things about WordPress/WooCommerce is that you don’t have to worry about ownership of your site. All you need is a backup and a host to get you site up and running in less than 30 minutes. If it wasn’t bad enough that they have ultimate control over any store on their platform

2. Copyright Credit

Brand identity is a crucial part of establishing a positive image with the public. It’s important to make sure a consistent marketing message is being broadcast to the consumer market. As a business owner once the companies you work with are allowed to use your copyright and trademarked material to promote THEIR services you could run into some possible problems. Well, that’s exactly what Shopify does.

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Shopify gives themselves rights and a license to use your name, trademarks and logos to market their service.

“Shopify shall have the non-exclusive right and license to use the names, trademarks, service marks and logos associated with your Store to promote the Service. ~ 9.4 Shopify Terms of Service

We’re not claiming that Shopify is using this material inappropriately but I am pointing out potential risk to Shopify users.

3. Payment Processing

There are some card processing companies that exist (at least in the United States) where a negotiated rate can be achieved often times lower than the apparent standard 2.9% + some minimum per transaction. Other platforms offer bank transfers, cash on delivery, and other sales methods which can reduce a business’s operating costs.

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You are required to use Shopify payment processing with your POS on no others.

“If your POS Services are enabled with Shopify Payments, you cannot concurrently use any other payment processing service. The payment gateway used for your POS Services must be the same as that used for your Online Services, if applicable.” ~ 10.2 Shopify Terms of Service

4. Website Themes

Many times as businesses grow there are ways to creatively increase efficiency. You website can work to your advantage in this way by molding to your own unique business processes. This often requires customization to the website by integrating with other available tools. With how quickly technology advances it is necessary to be flexible as a business owner, take advantage of new technology and pioneer a new creative path to conduct business. However, if your website in a proprietary platform such as shopify, you will be limited on the things you can do.

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The IP rights to your Shopify theme actually belongs to the designer and Shopify gives the designer legal right to take action against you if you use the theme in the wrong way.

“The intellectual property rights of the Theme remain the property of the designer. If you exceed the rights granted by your purchase of a Theme, the designer may take legal action against you, and, without prejudice to our other rights or remedies, Shopify may take administrative action such as modifying your Store or closing your Store. ~ 12.3 Shopify Terms of Service” ~ 10.2 Shopify Terms of Service

If knowingly taking on the possibility of lawsuit (or unknowingly if you didn’t read the agreement) from Shopify’s third party vendors isn’t risky enough, Shopify won’t be there if the theme vendor decides to pack their bags and move to Barbados to study flying fish Shopify won’t have your back.

5. Technical Theme Support

Many business owners need help with the technology side of their business. That’s why it’s important to have good support. WordPress is powering a huge portion of the word’s websites and there is no shortage of people that know how to work on WordPress websites.

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Technical theme support is not backed by Shopify.

“Technical support for a Theme is the responsibility of the designer, and Shopify accepts no responsibility to provide such support. Shopify may be able to help you contact the designer. ~ 12.4 Shopify Terms of Service”

We all do it. Our friend shows us a cool new app to download or you discover an awesome website that makes your life easier with a simple subscription. We set up our account and we click through all the long and daunting steps of filling out too much personal information to get to that last checkbox, “I accept the terms of service.” We boldly check the box and click the submit button knowing that there was a link to a long legal document we should probably read but really don’t have time.

When you are running a business, one of the most crucial things to be aware of is risk. Knowing where your company is vulnerable and mitigating the exposure of that vulnerability will help ensure you have a healthy organization. When opening a Shopify store you are going to want to read their terms of service carefully. Here’s a hypethictical situation to describe the thousands of different crazy situations business can get themselves into.

Imagine you are selling tee shirts and your business starts picking up momentum. It’s enough where you feel comfortable quitting the day job and focusing on your own company full time.

A couple months in you are doing very well. Sales are increasing each month and customers are happy. You come out with a tee shirt design that a certain group of people have been requesting which could spark conversation. The owner of your website platform sees it but they don’t like it and they shut your site down.

Now all your momentum comes screeching to a halt. Customers are trying to figure out where to buy your products. You’re frantically trying to stay up on the customer service calls while you try to figure out why your website is banned. Now Google can’t find any of your URL’s and you lose all the SEO juice you’ve built up.

A week or so goes by and you get the product issue figured out and your site goes live again. You’re SEO is still damaged from broken links and your customers are wondering why they can’t buy the design they wanted. People start leaving negative reviews and now you have to repair the damage. If your site is on Shopify, this “red flag story” could potentially happen to you because you’ve agreed to Shopify’s Terms and Conditions.

Avoid the risk of thousands of situations all together by running your site in the open source platform WordPress. You can replace Shopify all together with ease and flexibility of WooCommerce and the page builder theme Divi by Elegant Themes. Read more articles on how to do this yourself or contact Western Web Doc to build and support a website that you own.

By David Curtiss

I am a freelance website designer and developer. I enjoy helping people start businesses and writing about entrepreneurship.

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