Ready to finally launch your online store in 2024? Shopify is a top choice for ecommerce businesses starting out or scaling: Shopify powers nearly 4.9 million websites. It has a powerful suite of tools to help you build and manage an online store without coding—but there are, of course, a few Shopify limitations.
As a site you’ll use every day, it’s important to know the pros and cons of Shopify. Here are the top six limitations to Shopify and workarounds you can use to get past them.
1. Limited design customization
Shopify is created to be a drag-and-drop, out-of-the-box solution. For most small business owners who aren’t website designers or developers, that’s a good thing. You can create a beautiful, functional online store without a single line of code. The downside of this is that you may run into roadblocks where you want to make a visual change and can’t. This is especially true for content-heavy websites with a blog or extra content outside of product pages.
Workaround: Carefully choose your theme upfront (a premium theme may be worth it in the long run!), thinking ahead to how it will serve your store as you scale. If you get stuck, you can use your 60 minutes of free design support from Shopify (Basic Shopify plans or higher), contact the theme developer, or work with a Shopify partner to customize your theme.
2. Product upload limits
While Shopify promotes itself as “unlimited” products, there are some restrictions. Once you reach 50,000 product variants in your store, Shopify will throttle your uploads to limit you to 1,000 product variant uploads per day. Trying to upload more than 1,000 variants after this threshold can result in a failed upload.
Workaround: If you’re a large retailer, you can upgrade to Shopify Plus to remove this limit. For most Shopify stores, Shopify Plus isn’t worth the cost. To avoid frustration, use an app that gives you upload visibility like Ablestar Bulk Product Editor. Rather than sending an upload blind, you can view your publishing status and resume the update the next day if you hit your limit.
3. Selling digital products and services
Shopify’s primary purpose is to sell physical items, so its tools to sell digital products and services are limited. For example, if you sell food products but also offer virtual or in-person cooking classes, you need a way to set up your service offerings on your site.
Workaround: First, follow these instructions to configure your product as a digital product or service in Shopify Admin so no shipping charges apply. You can use an app like BIG Digital Downloads or Filemonk to sell digital products like ebooks. If you also want customers to book an appointment time while paying for their service, use a third-party app like Appointly or Sesami.
4. Bulk product edits
Shopify Admin has a lot of benefits, but here’s one major downside. In Shopify’s native interface, you can either edit one product at a time or use Shopify’s bare-bones bulk editor in a table format. That means that product updates (including price changes for a sale) could take hours or even days.
Workaround: Your options are to 1) Edit your products with a spreadsheet (see frustration #4 below) or use a third-party app to manage bulk product edits. We designed Ablestar Bulk Product Editor as a user-friendly hub for uploads and edits with edit previews, logic, and visibility into your publishing status. (Need more details? Visit our Shopify bulk editing guide.)
Shopify user GN Kitchen and Bath shared how they use Bulk Product Editor: “I love this app! I’m ABLE to modify, update and fix many different fields within this app that Shopify just doesn’t even offer. I also use it for my stock feed on a daily basis. I highly recommend this app to anyone.”
5. Scary spreadsheet uploads
When you update your store, you want to feel confident. Shopify’s CSV option for bulk product updates doesn’t leave you feeling this way. First, you need to reformat your product information to fit their requirements: a single character out of place could cause you to delete or overwrite your product data.
When you upload a CSV document with changes, you can’t preview the changes or see the publishing status of your update. There’s no log of updates to refer to in case you run into issues.
Workaround: With Ablestar Bulk Product Editor, you can edit products in bulk in a user-friendly, visual interface with the ability to preview and undo all changes. If you want to continue using spreadsheets to update your products, you can use one of many formats, map your fields (and save the settings), and keep publishing visibility and the ability to undo your edits.
Yellow Deal, who uses Bulk Product Editor to manage their product catalog, left this review: “This app has been a lifesaver. It’s so much easier to edit hundreds of products without the fear of having to re-upload the entire listing every time!”
6. 100-variant limit
Here’s another limitation you should know: Shopify limits you to 100 variants per product. This might seem high, but it’s easier than you think to reach. Imagine you’re selling a shirt that has 10 color options, 5 sizes, and a long-sleeve and short-sleeve option. That’s 100 variants right there.
Workaround: To overcome Shopify’s variant limit, you have two options. First, you can split your product listing into two or more, eg. creating one product listing for short-sleeved shirts and another for long-sleeved.
Build a powerful online store with Shopify apps
While Shopify has some cons and limitations, it’s overall a strong ecommerce and website builder tool. With Shopify’s native interface, partner ecosystem, and apps, you can build a powerful, customized store to sell online and build the business of your dreams.
Ready to supercharge your product management? Get started with Ablestar Bulk Product Editor.