One of the most common questions among the Shopify dropshipping beginners is whether to choose a free theme or a paid Shopify theme?
Does it even matter if your Shopify store has a free theme or a 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 major differences between the two categories.
Shopify Free Vs Paid Themes: Differences
1. Page Loading Speed
The free Shopify themes are usually faster to load they’re almost bare-bones structure for your website.
The paid Shopify themes however can be relatively faster than the free themes, but this can vary from theme to theme.
Although free Shopify themes costs, well $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. There will be too many features and buttons that would easily overwhelm you especially if all of this new to you.
So, it’s always better to go with a premium Shopify theme for which you can get access to the tutorials whether 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 in the premium themes, you can expect the theme sellers to have optimized their themes to load as fast as they can.
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 it that using too many conversion-booster features can actually make your store look spammy and non-trustworthy to your customers.
So, you shall make your buying decision with a sound mind on whether you need those provided features or could you be better off with the other lower-priced paid theme.
5. Conversion Rate
In a general sense, 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 a $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 when you convert that into a dollar amount, it barely makes a difference.
However, if your monthly revenue is around a million dollars, then it may start to make some sense in considering this extra revenue generation.
If you’ve got some past experience with web design or at least graphic or if you do have a creative mind, then you can easily 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 getting lost in the crowd of 1,000,000 Shopify stores.
I’m sure that a huge number of those sellers are using 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 how that seller’s product was bad or never arrived (making other people not buy from that store)… and then the seller explaining 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.
If you look like a premium brand, then you can charge a premium on your products. The best part is that the customers will on their own justify the prices in their minds.
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 the advertising costs and rather market their products off your back by literally bathing your product with their logo either from top to bottom or through the huge size of the logo on let’s say as a Belt buckle.
So, you see how looking like a premium brand could benefit you.
7. Inventory Handling Capability
Both free themes and the paid Shopify themes can easily handle large 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 do 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 about what the customers would like.
An easy way to go with this is by making a sound choice after checking the themes used by your successful competitors.
But don’t just take that at a face value.
You must use your smartness and conclude if that theme will actually align with your brand, serve your customers right; or are those stores using it simply because they didn’t know any better.
For a person 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 on my stores without much-needed changes. For example, Turbo Shopify theme’s Seoul template if I’m creating 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 off 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, then you shall use a free theme on your Shopify store.
On second thought, however, I’d still recommend you to get a paid theme that could serve multiple niches or even a general store. So, that your dilemma doesn’t cause you to lose sales in the name of saving some money by avoiding to pay 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 Extra Budget
There’s 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 in your budget and can still seem to be a worthy purchase.
After all, you don’t want to buy a theme just for the sake of it as it’d only mean wasting that money away.
2. No Free Theme For Your Niche
If you have a creative mind, then it may not be an issue. But otherwise, you’d be better off with a theme whose demo template is specifically made for your niche, so that you can easily get started with a few tweaks around the corners.
However, still, make sure to check if that theme also has a few important conversion boosting features. Ultimately, you’d want to install apps as few as possible to your online store.
3. You Have A Specific Design In Mind
You’ve checked your competition and you’ve seen a few successful eCommerce stores in other niches. Now, you already have a rough idea of what do 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, then 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 themes and paid themes have their 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 through 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.
But if that doesn’t happen, then check out this list of amazing paid Shopify themes.
Now, tell me in the comments below about which theme have you decided to get for your Shopify store? I’m sure that your decisions and explanation could help others to further ease their Shopify theme choosing decision.