One of the most common questions among Shopify dropshipping beginners is whether to choose a free or a paid Shopify theme.
Does it even matter if your Shopify store has a free or paid theme?
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Or maybe you should just move on with whatever theme you felt cute about…
To find this out, let’s first understand the significant differences between the two categories.
- Shopify Free vs Paid Themes: Differences
- Who Should Get a Free Shopify Theme?
- Who Should Get a Paid Shopify Theme?
- Conclusion: Should You Pick a Free or a Paid Shopify Theme?
Shopify Free vs Paid Themes: Differences
1. Page Loading Speed
The free Shopify themes are usually faster to load as they’re almost bare-bones structures for your website.
The paid Shopify themes, however, can be relatively faster than the free themes, but this can vary from theme to theme.
For example, eCom Turbo would load faster than the Turbo theme by Out of The Sandbox.
Although free Shopify themes cost $0, the cost of paid themes can range from as low as $17 to as high as $480, to my knowledge.
On top of that, if you do decide to hire a developer to customize your theme or if you want to get a theme created from scratch, then there’s no upper limit to its price.
3. User Interface / Ease of Use
Based on the paid themes I’ve seen, I’d say that the free themes are always easier to use and customize, even as a developer.
But the customize section of the paid themes is different. Too many features and buttons will quickly overwhelm you, especially if all of this is new to you.
So, it’s always better to go with a premium Shopify theme for which you can access the tutorials – either from the seller himself or from the affiliates and/or reviewers.
4. Features & Apps
One good point about Shopify, in general, is that it has lots of free and paid apps in its app store. And you could install as many apps in your Shopify store as you want to add almost all the features to a free theme that a paid theme would have.
But not to mention that doing this would make your store so bulky that it’ll take millennia to load the pages.
Trust me when I say, most of your customers will probably not have superfast internet at their disposal. So, this would make the situation even worse.
On the other hand, as many of these features are inbuilt into the premium themes, you can expect the theme sellers to have optimized their themes to load as fast as possible.
You should also note that not all the premium themes have all the features, while some paid themes can have all the features. However, you don’t really need every last feature on the earth.
Mind that using too many conversion-booster features can make your store look spammy and non-trustworthy to your customers.
So, you shall decide with a sound mind whether you need those provided features or you could be better off with the other lower-priced paid theme.
5. Conversion Rate
Generally, the conversion rate varies due to various factors like the product, the marketing angle, the product page copy, website design, and so on.
But in an ideal situation, where everything else is kept the same besides the Shopify theme, you should expect a higher conversion rate on your store.
I can’t give you an exact number on this as every theme claims a different conversion rate growth; I’d say it won’t make much of an income difference if your revenue is, let’s say, under $100k.
Basically, at a 100k revenue, a change of theme would give you around $500 to $2500 growth.
Tell me, honestly, does that extra $3k amount feel much in front of $100k?
That’s why I couldn’t care less when I see a theme claiming, let’s say, a 3-4% growth or a 116% growth because after converting that into a dollar amount, it barely makes a difference.
However, if your monthly revenue is around a million dollars, it may start to make sense to consider this extra revenue generation.
If you’ve got some experience with web design or at least graphics design, or if you have a creative mind, you can quickly work around a free Shopify theme to give your store a unique look and branding.
But for most of us non-creative dropshippers, going with one of the finite numbers of Shopify themes would only make our store get lost in the crowd of 1,000,000 Shopify stores.
I’m sure many of those sellers use a free theme on their online stores.
When lots of dropshippers are using the same products, same ads, same Shopify themes, and same/similar-looking product pages, then the visitors get confused. After a point, they don’t even know if they’re checking out the same store or a different store.
That’s the exact reason why I see during my product research:
People are commenting under Facebook ads about how that seller’s product was terrible or never arrived (making other people not buy from that store)… and then the seller explains that the said person never bought from their store.
Besides overcoming such confusion and misunderstandings, the other benefit of branding your store using a premium theme is higher profit margins.
You can charge a premium for your products if you look like a premium brand. The best part is that the customers will justify the prices in their minds on their own.
I mean, do you really think products from companies like Apple, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, etc., are actually worth that much price or if they cost even 10% of that price to get manufactured?
The funniest part is that some of these companies still feel the need to cut off their advertising costs. Instead, they market their products off your back – by literally bathing your product with their logo either from top to bottom… or through the colossal size of the logo on, let’s say, a Belt buckle.
So, you see how looking like a premium brand could benefit you.
7. Inventory Handling Capability
Both free and paid Shopify themes can easily handle extensive product inventories, given that they’re designed to do so.
Some themes work best with a one-product store, and some work better with a multi-product store.
Besides this, you also need to consider how your product collections will be laid out and shown on those themes and which one you feel like using to showcase your product collections.
Free or paid, a theme layout should be able to uplift your brand and represent your style and vision or not. It’s not about what you like but what the customers would like.
An easy way to do this is by making a sound choice after checking the themes used by your successful competitors.
But don’t just take that at face value.
You must use your smartness and conclude if that theme aligns with your brand, serves your customers right, or if those stores are using it simply because they didn’t know any better.
For someone like me who is not good at designing aspects of an online store, I always choose the Shopify themes whose available templates can be directly used in my stores without much-needed changes.
For example, Turbo Shopify theme’s Seoul template if I create an online store around gadgets like headphones, speakers, or microphones. Of course, I’d change the colors and do some little tweaks to align it with my brand.
Who Should Get a Free Shopify Theme?
1. You’re on a Budget
Look, there’s nothing wrong if you don’t have lots of money lying around you. So, if you want to save every possible dollar for the marketing of your products, then you should get a free Shopify theme. Just make sure to choose the one that aligns best with your brand.
2. You’re in the Testing Phase
Not to be confused with the product testing if, for some reason, you’re still not sure about going head-on into the Shopify business. Maybe you’re a bit on the fence and want to see some traction before you start investing big.
In such a case, a free theme would be better for your store.
3. You’re Unsure About Your Brand
Many dropshippers, in the beginning, have no idea if they’re making the right choice with doubts about:
a) their product,
b) if their product will sell,
c) if they even to continue in that niche or inventory size.
If you’re also facing one of these dilemmas, you shall use a free theme on your Shopify store.
On second thought, however, I’d still recommend getting a paid theme that could serve multiple niches or even a general store. So, your dilemma doesn’t cause you to lose sales in the name of saving some money by avoiding paying for a premium Shopify theme.
Take a look at this theme, as it’ll serve you and your pocket best in this indecisive situation.
Who Should Get a Paid Shopify Theme?
1. You do Have an Extra Budget
No doubt having a premium theme in your store will make a noticeable difference. If you can afford this, then you should. There’s nothing more to it than that.
But of course, as there’s a full price range of the premium Shopify themes, you can easily find and stay with a theme that’s within your budget and still seems to be a worthy purchase.
After all, you don’t want to buy a theme just for its sake as it’d only mean wasting that money away.
2. No Free Theme for Your Niche
It may not be an issue if you have a creative mind. But otherwise, you’d be better off with a theme whose demo template is specifically made for your niche so that you can quickly get started with a few tweaks around the corners.
However, check if that theme also has a few vital conversion-boosting features. Ultimately, you’d want to install as few apps as possible to your online store.
3. You Have a Specific Design in Mind
You’ve checked your competition and seen several successful eCommerce stores in other niches. Now, you already have a rough idea of what you really want in your Shopify store, be it features or the layout. Then you should find and buy a premium theme that satisfies your specific needs.
But you should never go out of your budget to afford it. If you don’t have much knowledge or experience with eCommerce, you’d be shooting in your foot by spending more than you would make through your store.
Conclusion: Should You Pick a Free or a Paid Shopify Theme?
Both free and paid Shopify themes have perks and disadvantages over each other.
Free themes don’t put a burden on your pocket and load faster, even on a slower internet, yet look appealing to the eye. But they don’t have that many (if any) features to aid you in generating more sales.
Paid themes, on the other hand, offer lots of inbuilt features to boost sales. They also make your store look more branded, premium, and trustworthy, given that you don’t mess it up yourself by experimenting with colors and design. But most good premium Shopify themes start at around $100 to up to $350, and not everyone can afford them.
So, I hope that this insight did help you in deciding what theme you should pick for yourself.
However, to ease your decision-making process, I’d recommend getting either this paid theme [ review here ] or this freemium theme [ review here ], as I’m sure one of these will satisfy you.
But if that doesn’t happen, check out this list of unique paid Shopify themes.
Now, tell me in the comments below about which theme you have decided to get for your Shopify store. I’m sure your decisions and explanation could help others further ease their Shopify theme choice.