March 7, 2021

How good is Shopify for International Ecommerce and Online Exporting?

Dr Peter Mowforth

Whatever you do in life, having the right tools is often the most important factor for success. By success we mean being able to do things quicker and easier. Also with lower cost and with the maximum possible growth and profit.Shopify is a popular product that now dominates the market for small and startup online traders. Costs can start from as little as $29 USD per month for a very basic online store and cart. An example would be a startup company with a single niche product. A limited budget case-study is NeptuneRake. Any business with a small development budget and a limited cash-flow should see Shopify as a great way to establish their first trading website.Once a business starts trading online, the first priority is invariably to sell to local customers who know them. Thereafter, across the same country. Fulfilment is quicker, cheaper and easier at short distance. Also, there are no problems with overseas tax, duty or legal compliance. Additionally, trust tends to be higher with businesses that are more local.

Internationalisation with Shopify

With a growing business, at some point, trading internationally will become a requirement. At this point you will want to know how effective your ecommerce platform is at selling to other countries.Shopify can show prices in a different currency which it does by taking real-time feeds from major banks. These are used to translate into, for example, US dollars or Euros. With most templates, this shows up as a multi-currency dropdown menu.  However, once the customers proceed to the cart, the system will then undertake the transaction in your own local currency. For example, if you bank in the UK and you are selling to a customer in Germany. The German customer will see the price in the cart and on their credit card bill in British Pounds.Consider if you want to have customers seeing your store with geographically localised content and geographically localised currency. The only way to achieve this in Shopify is to create multiple localised storefronts. Each bank account needs to be tied to a separate Shopify store. Most people doing this move from a basic Shopify setup to using the Shopify Advanced Package This makes financial sense if you have only two or three extra territories. If you then need Shopify that sell to lots of countries then the best option is to move to Shopify Plus. With Shopify Plus the system allows the user to clone the site to then setup new instances targeting different territories.Shopify doesn’t provide any out-of-the-box solutions for multiple language support. However, some multi-language apps such as WeGlot or Langify may assist.

Shopify limitations

Although it is technically possible to use Shopify for selling Internationally, there are four major problems:

  1. Back-end and third party Integration: Because Shopify solves multiple territories with multiple sites, every separate site has to have its own separate integration. This quickly becomes inefficient, technically complex and expensive.
  2. Analytics and Dashboarding: Ecommerce Managers need real-time understanding of how the overall business is operating. With separate sites this is hard to do.
  3. SEO: If internationalisation is achieved using a single site (a .com for example with folders for different countries) then there is a boost to SEO. This is achieved by having a strong single domain rank. Spreading your global footprint across different websites will result in lower performance. You only gain advantages to SEO from multiple websites if you are a very big company with large resources.
  4. Cost: While Shopify is great for small simple sites, it is not well-suited to complex multi-channel operation. The resulting complexity quickly makes Shopify much more expensive than using other ecommerce platforms.


Any business that expects to be selling in multiple overseas territories should not use Shopify. It should migrate to an ecommerce platform that is capable of scaling a business. This includes running international operations from single domains. For many businesses, Magento is the obvious choice. Magento can provide unlimited separate store fronts with unlimited channels from single domains as required. Although the initial setup cost for Magento is almost certain to be higher, running costs are lower. On top of that Magento is much more scalable and flexible. In our experience, once a Shopify-based business is turning over a few hundred thousand Pounds and is planning on selling multi-channel and internationally then that’s the point to change platform.

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