Ready to start selling products online? Whether you are selling products or services, Shopify is one e-commerce solution to consider. Setting up your online store for the first time is relatively quick and painless — depending on how many products you have and how long it takes you to decide on your design from their many themes, of course. In this article, we’re going to look at the Shopify platform, from decision to launch.
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What You Can Sell on Shopify
First of all, let’s start with what you can sell on Shopify. Overall, if it’s a digital product, physical product, drop ship product, or service that isn’t illegal to sell online, you can sell it on Shopify. If you visit their sitemap and look under “Ecommerce by Industry”, you’ll find a listing of the most popular verticals using their platform. These range from art to wine.
Shopify’s pricing plans are mostly based on the number of products you carry and the space you need on the server for images and files.
There is even a starter plan for up to 25 products and 1 GB of file storage for $14 per month. Assuming you don’t need to edit the theme you choose or to offer customers discount codes, this is a great plan for those just starting in the world of e-commerce.
Shopify also allows users to refer their friends. When you refer five people, you will get a Shopify plan for free.
Comparing Shopify to Other Platforms
Want to compare the Shopify experience to other e-commerce platforms? Instead of creating comparison charts, Shopify decided to get creative. Find out what ex-customers of other platforms think about Shopify by looking under the “Comparisons” section on the Shopify sitemap page. They have testimonials from users who have moved to Shopify from over 20 other platforms and services including BigCommerce, Magento, Amazon Webstore, and 3DCart.
One thing that Shopify has that most other platforms do not is the Shopify POS, which allows businesses that also have physical store locations to synchronize both their online and offline sales. So now, instead of two systems, you would only have to manage one.
Setting Up Your Online Store
You can start your Shopify store with a free, 14-day trial that you can sign up for on the main homepage or using the Free Trial button in the menu bar. The first thing you will do is create a store name and enter your preferred email and password.
Note that your store name will be included in your store’s URL. Even though you can change this later, it’s best to think of something simple like you.myshopify.com. If you go with multiple words, you’ll end up with your-business-name.myshopify.com. If you’re not planning to redirect a URL from your main domain (such as store.yourdomain.com to you.myshopify.com), then you’ll definitely want to keep your store name / URL in mind.
Once Shopify creates your account, you will enter your basic details — name, address, phone number, and what you’re selling. Then, you will be taken to the admin dashboard for your store.
Here, you will find the six steps you need to create your store.
1. Add your products.
First, you will want to add products to your store. For physical products, you can enter them manually, bulk upload them from a CSV file, or import them from other platforms like Magento and eBay. For digital products, you will need to first install an app for digital product delivery, then add your products using that app. You can learn more about selling digital products from Shopify’s online manual. If you’re selling services, you may want to consider an app like Product Options to allow you to customize your service offerings.
You can have up to 100 variations per product in your Shopify store that fall into three options such as size, color, and finish. Options are product specific, so you can have one product with a set of options, and another product with a different set of options.
Keep in mind that options don’t have to be limited to physical products. You can create options for anything. For example, instead of just selling a digital e-book, you could sell three options for your e-book: one option that is just the e-book, another that is the e-book and additional supporting materials, and a third that includes everything and access to a private member forum.
You can learn more about setting up products in the Shopify Documentation.
2. Customize your design.
Next, you will want to add a custom design to your Shopify store by choosing a theme. The Shopify theme store has a great variety of designs to choose from free to paid and sorted by industry.
Assuming you do not have the starter plan, you can edit your chosen theme by using the theme settings editor or template editor to modify the coding (HTML, CSS, and JS). On most themes, you will definitely want to go into the settings to modify the footer, as that is where you will add your social links, payment methods, and other details.
3. Set up your domain name.
If you want to use a custom domain for your store as mentioned earlier (yourdomain.com or store.yourdomain.com instead of you.myshopify.com), you will set it up in this step. The Shopify online manual has all of the documentation you need to set up your custom domain, from purchasing one from Shopify to using one you already have.
4. Set up shipping and tax rates.
Here, you will choose to add additional shipping costs and taxes to your items or to let Shopify know you have included them in your item price. Shopify includes some basic rates to get you started, but depending on what you sell, you may need to customize more options.
5. Set up payments.
In this section, perhaps the most important after adding your products, you will set up how customers will pay you. Shopify has their payments system, Paypal, and many other options to choose from.
You can see their list of over 50 third-party processors in the FAQ.
6. Open your store to the world.
Once you are ready, you can make your Shopify store public. Until you do, it will be password protected so you can do some testing to make sure things look and function the way they should. As with all things, be sure to do lots of testing so that customers aren’t the first ones to find mistakes and glitches.
While it’s not on the official list of set up steps, you will want to go through your Shopify settings thoroughly. Most of these will be filled out while you complete the above six steps, but a few things (like the place where you add your Google Analytics code), store title, and store description are awaiting configuration in the general settings section.
Choosing Apps for Additional Functionality and Features
Shopify has hundreds of free and premium apps that you can use to enhance the functionality of your online store. The app categories are as follows.
- Accounting — Connect your Shopify store to popular accounting solutions such as Quickbooks, FreshBooks, and Xero.
- Customer Service — Add contact forms, live chat, feedback, and other customer support features to your store.
- Inventory — Incorporate inventory management systems to your online store to help streamline the process.
- Marketing — Everything you need to incorporate email, search, and social media marketing into your online store can be found in this category.
- Reporting — Get additional analytics for your online business using these apps for measuring conversion rates, customer behavior, and sales data.
- Sales — Help increase sales using these apps for customer loyalty programs, product reviews, upsells, and recommendations.
- Shipping — Make product shipment simpler with apps to help manage order fulfillment and connect you with your preferred shipping service.
- Social Media — Get more engaged and connected with your customers on social media using these apps.
- Tools — Here, you’ll find tools that help with all aspects of your online store, including setting up bulk redirects, language translators, fighting fraud, and syncing your blog RSS feeds.
If you’re not sure where to start, the most important things to do with your store would be to configure good SEO settings for your product pages and add email marketing support so customers can join your mailing list. Most email marketing services have directions on how to connect your Shopify store to their system. You can see directions for Aweber, MailChimp, and GetResponse; or search for your own.
What if you want to sell products on your blog? That’s not a problem. Shopify offers widgets / plugins for WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal users. These allow you to add products to your pages, posts, and sidebar. This means that if you are creating content that your target customer base would enjoy, you have a good chance to monetize your site’s traffic by directing your readers to your products.
Another way you can integrate sales into your social strategy is by creating a store on your Facebook page. Shopify offers dozens of Facebook integrations that allow you to turn your Facebook page into an extension of your e-commerce store, helping fans discover your products and ultimately buy from you.
What About Affiliates?
If you don’t mind offering a share of the profits to others, you can enlist the help of affiliates to spread the word about your products. Shopify has several apps that allow you to create your own affiliate program to track referrals made by your customers and supporters.
Where You Can Go to Learn More
Shopify wants you to be successful, therefore they have a great education and support system for their users. You can start with Ecommerce University where you will find e-books, guides, tutorials, and videos to help you learn more about Shopify and online selling as a whole.
Next, you can check out the Shopify Wiki. This section includes everything you need to know about using Shopify and the design / development of your store.
The support section has over 200 articles to help you with any troubleshooting issues you may run into. If you don’t find what you’re looking for there, you can also try the forums, which contain thousands of topics on e-commerce, from accounting to wholesale, and all things Shopify.
Where You Can Get Help
Last, but not least, if you want professionals to help you build your store, you can refer to the Shopify Experts area. Here, you’ll find setup experts, designers, developers, marketers, and photographers that can help you turn your e-commerce store into a thriving, successful business.