Navigating the Shopify Plus jungle

7 must read tips to choose the right Shopify Plus agency

7 must read tips to choose the right Shopify Plus agency

Seb Harris

14 minute read10 Feb 2021

We’re going to start with a few assumptions.

If you’re here, we’re going to assume you’ve decided Shopify Plus is the e-commerce platform for you. Like us, you know it's the best platform on the market for building your e-commerce architecture. And you know that it’ll help your business take that next step, ensuring you stay ahead of the competition.

If you’re still unsure about Shopify Plus, read here for our analysis.


We’re also going to assume that you’ve decided a Shopify Plus agency is a good idea. Perhaps you know you don’t have the time or the skills to build the website you’re looking for. Perhaps you want a Shopify store that’s not just a few tweaks of a theme, but rather an immersive brand experience that’s optimised for conversions. In either case, you’re going to need the services of a specialised team.

If these assumptions ring true, we’re going to bet that it’s quite likely you’re lost in a labyrinth of Shopify agencies. Not knowing which way to turn, as more and more offer their services with each Google search.

Sound familiar?

Don’t worry. We’re here to offer some advice for finding the right Shopify Plus agency for your business and the specific project you have in mind.

Disclaimer: there may be some bias. We’re a proudly certified Shopify Plus partner. We began working in 2016 and were one of the pioneers of the platform in Europe. Our goal here is to help you determine the right Shopify Plus agency for your company. Each one may be specialised in the same platform, but they can be as different as night and day.

Here are our 7 steps for picking the right Shopify Plus agency.

Shopify Plus partner vs Shopify expert

At the start of your search for the right Shopify Plus agency, you’ll have thousands - perhaps even tens of thousands - of agencies to look through. Our first step to filtering down the options is to separate the experts from the partners.

Shopify has two methods of agency accreditation. The first is ‘Shopify experts’. To be fair to them, agencies in this bracket are recognised by the platform. There's an expert directory on Shopify’s website. But in truth, the process to achieve this status is easy. Essentially any agency working with the platform can successfully become a Shopify expert. We can all but guarantee that every agency you look into will claim to be one - whether they’ve been accredited or not. So when everybody’s claiming the same thing, it’s difficult to know who has the real Shopify expertise and who’s just good at spin.

The second accreditation bracket is the Shopify Plus partners. These are the real masters. Again, they’re vetted by the platform, but the process is much more rigorous. Plus partners must have a proven track record of success on large, technical projects for a long list of clients. They don’t simply claim to have expert knowledge, they’ve proven it time and again.

After entering this exclusive club, Shopify Plus partner agencies receive direct support from contacts at Shopify, and are handed access to an extensive database of resources. Each Plus partner across the globe contributes to this pool of knowledge, providing the community with the most up-to-date experiences, practices and techniques. Any client that gets onboard with a Shopify Plus partner subsequently has access to this global network of Shopify expertise.

Our first piece of advice, then, is to sidestep the experts, and go for those who really know what they’re talking about: the Shopify Plus partners.

How to find them? Handily, Shopify has a directory of every single Plus partner around the world. Each of them are listed under their office location, the industries they serve and the services they provide.

Whilst this narrows down the search from the thousands to the hundreds, the number of Plus partners on the directory is still enough to cause a headache. Let’s get more precise.

"Our first step to filtering down the options is to separate the experts from the partners."

A Shopify Plus partner to suit your company, brand and project

As mentioned, each Shopify Plus partner is listed under three filters - location, industry and services. Location may be important to you, but in our opinion the latter two are the most crucial. From our experience working with clients worldwide, geographical distance doesn’t hinder a project’s success. Instead, choosing the right Shopify Plus agency means finding the one that fits both your business’ industry and the services you’re in need of.


Every Shopify Plus partner has a portfolio of previous work within either one or a small number of industries. Start by filtering for your industry, then work your way through the websites of each agency.

It’s important to note that whilst working in the same industry, each Shopify Plus agency will have a different approach and different aesthetic. Two agencies working with businesses in the Food and Beverage industry, for instance, won’t make the same types of websites - the look and the feel will be different.

So you need to find a Shopify Plus partner that’s not only working in your industry, but speaks to your brand. One that understands and supports the way you see business, and can relate to your target audience. How to do this? Look for agencies that have made designs you like, have development processes you’re in favour of, or have previously worked with brands you respect.

Find one that ticks these boxes and you won’t just have a development agency by your side, you’ll have a proactive e-commerce partner.


But you can’t just look for the Shopify Plus partners working within your industry. If you’re in the Fashion industry, but you specifically want UI/UX development and strategy for your new platform, you’re going to need an agency that does both.

Again, filter your search on the directory and work your way through the corresponding Shopify Plus partners. Check out their websites, but don’t forget that there’s people behind the platforms! Reach out to the agencies you like the look of and find out about their particular skills and interests. (At some stage you’ll need to write one or two of these agencies a pitch. If you don’t know how to do this, check out our tips on the process here.)

The Plus partners will know whether they’re the best fit for your project, and they’ll be honest with you about that. If you’re lucky, they may even point you in the right direction of a more suitable Plus partner, should they be unable to take on your proposal.

Alternatively, you can ask Shopify for a referral. Their partner managers know every Shopify Plus partner inside out, and will help you match expertise to your specific project.

Recap - where have we got to?

Starting with the thousands of Shopify agencies around the world, we’ve now narrowed it down to probably a handful of Shopify Plus partners. This is a big decision to make, so getting in touch with each of them is definitely a good idea. But to help you out, we have some further suggestions for finding the best Shopify Plus partner for you.

Try not to limit yourself

Don’t spread yourself too thin. Choose an agency that gives you enough scope to continue a partnership into the future.

What do we mean? Well, today you might need a new design. But further down the road maybe you want a new technical integration, and therefore need a developer. If you pre-empt this by choosing an agency covering a few bases, you can keep the partnership ongoing. The more you work with an agency, the more they understand your business, its goals and its aesthetics. And the better the work becomes as a result.

However, take care when following this advice. What we don’t advise is to find the agency that offers the most services, and therefore covers the most bases. An agency that offers everything - design, development, online marketing, email marketing, content creation, copywriting, photography etc. - is unlikely to provide the very best in many (or any) of those services. Their approach will likely be confused, as they try to offer as many services as they can but without any sense of coherence.

Keep in mind what it is you’re trying to achieve, and then think laterally about the services that are truly essential to the task. You want a successful Shopify Plus e-commerce platform, right? That means strong development and design. It means a clear strategy for how best to implement the aforementioned developments and designs. And it means data-driven insights that keep every move optimised toward conversion. Anything else might look nice on the agency website, but it isn’t a service that directly leads to reaching your primary goal.

That’s why we focus all our attention into these four essential areas - design, development, data analytics and strategy. Each informs the other, resulting in a unified system for building successful e-commerce platforms. We don’t waste time and energy on services that aren’t primed for this specific purpose.

A client comes to us today in need of a new design. Later down the line, data analytics give insights into a new e-commerce strategy that will boost conversion. This strategy has new development requirements and sparks new ideas about design. And so on. If the client wants expertise on other areas of e-commerce (online marketing, 3D modeling, email marketing etc.) we partner with the best external agencies and connect them to a vast network of services. But our role remains focused and coherent. We believe it gives the right scope for clients to form long term partnerships and subsequently produce a better standard of work. Take a look at our portfolio.

"Don’t spread yourself too thin."

Futureproof yourself

Technology is always on the move. E-commerce development technology is no different. The best Shopify Plus partners will know this. They’ll keep up to speed with the latest trends and standards, and they won’t let their work fall behind.

But not all agencies think this way. Some are driven more by convenience than innovation. They’ll have their way of working and they won’t change. These agencies will keep you moving sideways. They won’t take you forwards.

How do we make sure we’re keeping up with technology, and ahead of our competition? By filling our team with young and eager digital natives. We believe in the power of people that are passionate about their work. The people that actively investigate e-commerce’s newest innovations so that they can try them out themselves. Our designers, developers, strategists, data analysts, and management team all do this - pushing each other to get to the top, and stay there.

And what does this look like in action? Here’s an example: over years of work we heard the same thing from so many clients - Shopify’s multi-language capabilities aren’t good enough. Another agency would have waited for Shopify to change this, shrugging their shoulders whilst telling their client: “That’s just the way it is”. But not us. We took control of the situation and made a solution ourselves: headless Shopify Plus architecture. This innovative approach fixes the problem and gives stores the flexibility of as many different languages as they need. We’ve now rolled this out to dozens of global clients.

As a result of our solution, Shopify invited us to share our knowledge with the full Shopify Partner community during Shopify Pursuit 2020. We also spoke with Jean Michel Lemieux, Shopify’s CTO, about our vision and our reasons for building headless architecture on Shopify Plus.

You need to pick a Shopify agency that works in this way. One that’s looking at tomorrow, rather than getting comfortable with today. That’s pushing against the boundaries, not only working within them. If you don’t, you risk receiving a website with a short lifespan. It might look good on launch day, but it’ll already feel dated two months down the road.

To put it simply, ask yourself this question: Is your company future-focused? If it is, find yourself a Shopify Plus partner with equal ambition.

A partner that suits your budget

Okay so this one’s probably obvious.

You’ve got to stay within the limits of your budget. Each Shopify Plus partner will have a different price plan - some may be negotiable and others may not. But ultimately, even the agency that offers the services you need, and has worked with exactly the kinds of brands you want to be affiliated with, won’t be the best if they’re too expensive.

Pricing is definitely something to speak about when getting in touch with Shopify agencies. Some may have different structures for different clients, and could be accommodating of even the most modest budgets.

We’re a Shopify Plus partner working with large brands on projects ranging from simple custom Shopify themes to technically advanced headless e-commerce projects.

Get referrals

Flicking through an agency’s portfolio, you see a host of end results. And obviously these results are important. But they don’t necessarily speak of the journey it took to reach them. You can’t learn much about an agency’s way of working from simply looking at the end product.

Their previous clients are good sources for this information. They will have intimate knowledge of what it is like to work alongside a specific agency. Asking them about the work process and customer service wouldn’t be a bad idea when making your decision.

We often welcome new clients that have waved goodbye to their previous Shopify agency for a variety of reasons. Often we hear the agency did not live up to their promises, the client felt neglected and forgotten after go-live, or the agency just did not gel with the team.

An agency that clicks

We think people might skip over this final tip more than they should. It might not seem it, but for a successful Shopify development project it’s super important you get on with your chosen agency.

You and your Shopify Plus partner will be working very closely together - and hopefully for an extended period of time. The work can get intense. Deadlines loom. Different opinions and ideas fly around the room. It’s crucial that these situations are built on the foundations of a strong and positive relationship. If not, the project is at risk of falling apart and the website will suffer as a consequence.

Discover whether you and your Shopify agency share interests and/or values. If you have a specific business model, ask the agency if they have built a website for that model before. When we began our project with, Martijn van Rooy came to us with a business idea of applying a subscription service to perfume. We loved the concept, and this mutual understanding formed the base of our working relationship from there on.

Take your time

And that brings us to the end. The Shopify agency jungle is vast and dense, but we hope you now feel equipped to navigate it and find the perfect partner. If nothing else, we hope you realise the gravity of the decision. It's definitely worth taking the time to properly research your agency. Don’t take the decision lightly, follow our steps, and you’ll be well on your way to success!

What's the next step after choosing an agency? Approaching them with a creative brief. If you're unsure how to write on, read our 6 tips for a killer website brief here.

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