Shift4Shop is a platform that delivers the essential features of our favorite ecommerce site builders while being easy to set up and market to new customers.
Maybe best of all, though, is the fact that you can use it with no monthly bill whatsoever. If you use the Shift4 payment gateway, you’ll never have to pay for anything except transaction fees. You can literally get an online store up and running for absolutely no money down. And, if you want to expand your shoppers’ payment options, the monthly Shift4Shop plan that utilizes PayPal as a gateway remains affordable.
Shift4Shop Compared to the Best Ecommerce Website Builders
We’ve covered the best ecommerce website builders in detail in a different post, and Shift4Shop made our top list for its great customization and affordability. But, as you’ll see later in this post, Shift4Shop has some flaws that could make it a less-than-perfect fit for some store owners. Check out our top alternatives below:
Web.com makes it easy to deliver convenient shopping experiences to your customers with its advanced inventory management features, easy order fulfillment, and large selection of payment gateways and integrations. Start today and get 60% off an annual plan.
Wix was made specifically for novice site builders, making it the easiest way for an inexperienced entrepreneur to build a professional web store in mere minutes. Try any Wix plan on a 14-day money-back guarantee.
BigCommerce is a robust ecommerce builder that is highly scalable, delivering advanced SEO and marketing tools to store owners. Test out BigCommerce free for 15 days and upgrade when you’re ready.
Shift4Shop: The Good and the Bad
Shift4Shop is a feature-rich platform that’s also free to use. We found that you get access to the bulk of its features without having to pay extra. But there are also several shortcomings that we identified which might mitigate or negate the value and convenience of using Shift4Shop for free.
What Shift4Shop Is Good At
Even though you may never pay a monthly fee for using Shift4Shop, you get access to several standout features. From deep store analytics to easy product management and more, there’s a lot going for this platform. Shift4Shop stacks up well against other options that can easily cost you $10 per month or more.
Free forever plan
Finding an affordable yet full-featured ecommerce platform can feel like searching for a needle in several haystacks. That is, until you discover Shift4Shop, a robust solution that won’t bill you monthly as long as you use the Shift4 payment gateway and process a minimum of $500 in sales per month.
That’s right—without paying for anything but transaction fees (2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction), you’ll get essentials like access to 100 responsive site themes, a free domain, free site migration, and unlimited product listings, plus advanced features that rival Shift4Shop’s pricier competitors. You can tap into an integrated CRM, a tax calculator, streamlined checkout for your web store, shipment tracking, and a whole lot more. Again, all of this is accessible for free.
For cash-strapped small business owners, not having to pay expensive upfront costs or monthly subscription fees means more working capital to dedicate to a growing business.
It’s a huge help for your business if you can find an ecommerce platform that helps you hit the ground running quickly. Beyond its affordability, Shift4Shop is also designed to be easy for any user to set up.
When you log into Shift4Shop for the first time, you’ll be greeted with a step-by-step guide to get everything up and running. It’s as simple as picking a theme for your web store that matches your brand identity, adding your products, setting up shipping rates, enabling payments, and finally connecting your domain.
Before you know it, your store will be live and ready to rake in sales.
Once your store is set up, handy popup widgets will guide you through the basics of processing orders, managing product listings, and taking care of your customers.
Shift4Shop makes day-to-day management easy, too. Add products, images, and media to your store using the sidebar menu or an import/export feature if you have a .csv file of your inventory. More advanced users can leverage the built-in HTML editor to make granular changes to page code. And, if you ever get stuck, Shift4Shop offers a live chat support feature and community forums with helpful advice.
Whether you are a large or small business, driving online traffic to your store and converting more customers is essential to continued success. With Shift4Shop, you get an ecommerce platform brimming with powerful SEO features that help boost your ecommerce site’s visibility—and sales.
For one, optimizing URLs is a breeze. You can customize page names, hide headers and footers, and automatically generate canonical URLs. The built-in 301 redirect editor streamlines the process of pointing old URLs to new, better pages. Whether you want to redirect an old product page or change your website domain completely, Shift4Shop makes it simple.
To reach more mobile shoppers, AMP pages can be enabled with the click of a button. Beyond that, sitemaps for XML, products, categories, and manufacturers are automatically generated to help search engines index your site. This SEO toolkit helps you grow your online business with greater ease.
Managing your inventory and product offerings is a vital element of any ecommerce platform. With Shift4Shop, it’s easy to upload, categorize, and promote your products.
Effortlessly add or remove products to adapt to changing inventory or demand. Shift4Shop’s data visualizations give you an at-a-glance view of what’s selling well, what’s stagnating on your shelves, and what’s ready to be restocked. You’ll always have your finger on the pulse of your inventory.
And, as we mentioned earlier, adding new products is as easy as clicking the Products tab on the sidebar menu and filling out a few fields (such as product name, SKU, variations, categories, and product description) or importing a whole batch of them via .csv file.
You get complete control of organizing your inventory and how your products are displayed. Use unlimited product categories to create subsections for product types, sale items, seasonal favorites, or other custom groupings. Drag and drop products to change how they’re sorted on your online store’s pages.
Shift4Shop knows that high-quality product images are key to driving sales. Because of that, they offer unlimited uploads of photos and videos, plus on-page image features like zooming, so your customers can get an up-close-and-personal look at what you’re selling.
During holidays or special occasions, you can enable gift-wrapping options to provide an extra special touch. And, with the on-page Q&A widget, your customers can ask questions directly through the product page, allowing you to respond quickly via email. No more guessing games or confusion, just helpful answers and happy shoppers.
Analytics and reporting
Track the performance and health of your online business over time Shift4Shop’s interactive data visualizations. You can drill down into information on individual products or customers to get deeper insight into what’s going well and who your best repeat shoppers are.
Wondering if that big sale event made a dent in your inventory? Curious how many customers paid by credit card versus cash app last month? Shift4Shop’s reports have you covered. From products and orders to SEO statistics, the key details about your business are at your fingertips.
With these user-friendly analytics and reports, Shift4Shop gives you the power to make data-driven decisions that drive your business forward. You’ll have the insights to reward your most loyal customers, adjust marketing campaigns, or reorder popular products ahead of periods of high demand.
With Shift4Shop, you can reach new groups of customers through a few different methods. Tap into its built-in blogging capabilities to share your expertise. Easily create and distribute engaging email newsletters to stay in touch with your fans. Or, build Facebook ad campaigns targeted to your ideal customers.
Say you own a clothing store and want to promote your seasonal products or apparel for an upcoming event. With the Shift4Shop newsletter tool, you can easily design an eye-catching email featuring photos of your offerings. With a few clicks, your message is on its way to thousands of inboxes, potentially bringing in much more revenue for your business.
With the right tools and message, marketing your online store to tens of thousands of potential new customers is within your reach.
Providing online shoppers with a mobile-friendly ecommerce experience is non-negotiable these days. Customers want to buy things while they’re on the go, and if your store isn’t optimized for mobile, you’re leaving money on the table.
Fortunately, Shift4Shop understands this and built their platform with mobile at the forefront. Their sites’ responsive design means your online store will look just as good on a smartphone as it does on a desktop. No pinching or scrolling needed. Shift4Shop also utilizes Google’s AMP technology to turbocharge your mobile pages so they load lightning fast.
Even better, Shift4Shop offers its Online Store Manager mobile app so you can manage orders, inventory, site and product changes, and more from wherever you are, whenever you need to.
Shift4Shop’s Potential Drawbacks
While you’re getting a lot for little to no expense with Shift4Shop, there are still some limitations we’ve identified as potentially detrimental to some store owners. Follow along as we delve into these potential drawbacks and see if any of these could make more trouble for you than Shift4Shop is worth.
Issues since rebranding
Shift4Shop was known as 3dcart before a November 2020 rebranding. Unfortunately, and much to the chagrin of its customers, this caused deeper changes beyond just a new brand name and identity.
For one thing, site speeds slowed to a crawl for many after the rebrand. One user left a review, reporting their site speed tanked from averaging just over one second to taking over 10 seconds to load. If your store experienced these slow load times, it could mean permanently losing impatient customers who won’t wait around for a site to load in their browser. While occasional slowdowns are typically no big deal, a long-term drop in speed needs to be addressed.
Constant, unannounced updates have been another post-rebrand annoyance. Sometimes, these can create new bugs. But, more often than not, it’s another source of downtime that can disrupt your business. Each update requires Shift4Shop users to examine their sites in order to ensure that these updates didn’t create new issues for them to resolve.
Another loss during the rebrand was the Smartermail email platform, forcing customers to find a third-party email solution. For some, this extra cost and hassle likely came as an unwelcome surprise. While using a third-party email service isn’t an insurmountable problem, Shift4Shop’s handling of this change left many customers frustrated.
Difficult page editing
While Shift4Shop offers a nice setup experience, with plenty of guidance on how to initially tailor your site theme and elements. But, once you complete that walkthrough, returning to the homepage editor is oddly challenging.
From your dashboard, you’ll need to use one of two routes to edit your site content. Either click Content in the sidebar menu, then click Site Content to be taken to a menu allowing you to edit the content on your home page, terms and conditions page, menu bar, or extra pages.
In order to add or edit pages that aren’t your home page, you’ll need to click the confusingly titled Footer Extra Pages. Despite the misleading name, this section actually allows you to edit all your pages, not just footer content.
Or, to edit your homepage content, you can also click View Store at the top of your dashboard. That will take you to a preview of your homepage, but you’ll still need to click the 4 icon in the top-right, then click Launch Page Editor on the next screen in order to edit the content. That’s way too many steps to get to such a basic function in an ecommerce platform.
These unintuitive design capabilities can be very frustrating. Fortunately, if you have some technical skill or a developer on your staff, you can opt for a more direct approach by editing HTML code. But, for most site owners, this process can be headache-inducing when they just want to make little design tweaks or content edits.
Lack of pricing transparency
Shift4Shop seems like an attractive ecommerce platform for businesses on a tight budget. Their website touts an end-to-end solution that’s completely free to use (save for processing fees). While they do make mention of their $29 per month paid plan for using PayPal as a payment gateway instead of Shift4, the brand tends to lack transparency about costs.
First and foremost, we had to do a lot of digging just to find out what the per-transaction processing fees for using Shift4 were (they’re 2.9% plus 30 cents). And, it took creating a full-fledged Shift4Shop account and starting the setup wizard before we got full clarity on the difference between the free plan that uses Shift4 for payments and the PayPal-enabled plan. We’ll discuss that in detail a little later on.
There is little mention of what other aspects of the platform can incur charges to a user of Shift4Shop. A page for the enterprise-grade version of the platform vaguely refers to a dedicated Enterprise Plan, but provides no pricing details or even a link to get more information.
On top of that, key features—like advanced site search functionality or landing pages connected to email campaigns—may only be unlocked via paid add-ons in the Shift4Shop marketplace that can cost $100, $300, or more per month.
Poor customer service
Shift4Shop markets itself as an intuitive ecommerce platform, but even the most user-friendly platform needs to be bolstered by quality customer support. However, many store owners have found this to be more of a source of significant frustration than helpful assistance.
According to numerous reviews, responses have sometimes taken weeks to reach users (if they ever arrive at all), even for urgent support requests. Their support portal alone seems to be overly complicated, and requests often get passed from one specialized team to another. More often than not, support agents appear ill-equipped to resolve technical issues, frequently blaming third parties or offering unhelpful responses.
When we personally contacted support to test this out, we asked about the absence of details for their pricing plans. The agent we connected to said they didn’t know that information, even when pressed to double-check with Shift4Shop’s sales reps. It took us far too long to get a simple, straightforward answer.
Poor customer support like this can have real consequences for your businesses. Unresolved issues can mean days (or weeks) of lost revenue as your online store faces technical difficulties. And, for those looking to switch to another platform, Shift4Shop reportedly makes cancellation an arduous process and has been reported to continue using customer data even after account closure, based on reviews from former users.
Shift4Shop is primarily built to serve users within the United States. The backend, hours of support availability, and default settings are all configured for those running ecommerce stores stateside. If you’re, say, in the United Kingdom and need help from Shift4Shop’s support, you may find yourself waiting hours for them to come online to assist you.
The out-of-the-box VAT setup also leaves much to be desired, though merchants can explore the Shift4Shop marketplace for tax tools that can better suit businesses selling abroad. Regardless, it will take some of your valuable time to find the right solution for this or other international ecommerce needs, like reliable global fulfillment providers.
Shift4Shop Plans and Pricing
Shift4Shop can essentially be used for free, with users only paying for the processing fees incurred by using Shift4 for their sites’ payment gateway. But, details on the two pricing options are scarce on the website. Here, we’ll dig into the actual costs and options available to you.
Forever Free (Shift4 Payment Gateway)
The main takeaway you’ll get from the Shift4Shop website is that you can use it for free and get full access to the platform. That’s true (and a huge benefit to store owners), but there are some key details to be aware of.
In order to use Shift4Shop without paying a monthly bill, you’ll need to use their parent company’s payment processing gateway, Shift4. As long as you process at least $500 in monthly site sales through that gateway, you won’t have to pay for anything except transaction fees (2.9% plus 30 cents).
On this free plan, you get just about everything that Shift4Shop has to offer. All the highlights and features we covered above are included, plus you don’t ever have to worry about limits on your revenue, traffic, products, or anything else. You also get access to the API, unlimited staff accounts, and integrated blogging capabilities to take full control of your online store’s look, content, and management.
It’s nice that Shift4Shop doesn’t punish you or start to charge you as you scale up. But, that $500 monthly threshold can be a bit of a hefty demand on very new ecommerce businesses. If you don’t hit that benchmark, you’ll be charged $29 for each month that you come up short.
But, if you’re confident about your store’s ability to generate hundreds of dollars each month from the get-go, there aren’t many other options that deliver the low cost and rich feature set of Shift4Shop.
PayPal Payment Gateway for Shift4Shop
One of the key limitations of the Shift4Shop free plan is that you can only accept a few different payment methods from customers. The Shift4 payment gateway supports major credit cards Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express, plus the digital wallets Bitpay, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, in addition to PayPal express checkout (but not the full range of PayPal payment methods).
But, if you want to extend more convenient options to your customers, you’ll likely want to pay the $29 per month for PayPal as your Shift4Shop site’s payment gateway. That opens up the full array of PayPal payment options (including Buy Now, Pay Later), plus more digital wallets, Venmo, and more, on top of standard credit and debit card payments.
There are no extra features or bonuses on this option, but the wider range of payment options alone may be worth it. Modern shoppers want to be able to use modern payment methods, and pay later options (like PayPal Pay In 4) can create more sales by reducing the immediate financial burden on your customers.
When we put ourselves in the shoes of a small business owner, Shift4Shop is a very attractive option. By providing free access to a full feature set, store owners can keep costs down and scale without fear.
However, be forewarned about possible support and technical issues. The lack of pricing transparency and the headaches we had with customer support are discouraging. That might negate all the benefits of Shift4Shop’s features and low cost. But, overall, we can confidently recommend Shift4Shop for young or cash-strapped businesses, and it can likely work well for many people who just want a robust platform for online selling that won’t cost them an arm and a leg.