Opening an online store would be nearly impossible if you had to build an entire ecommerce website from the ground up. After all, just because you have a great eye for curation or unique access to desirable goods doesn’t mean you’re a computer programmer who knows how to build a basic website, nevermind how to integrate ordering, payment, processing, and shipping functionality.
This is why Shopify has become one of the world’s most popular ecommerce solutions: Its ease of use. It’s a user-friendly, plug-and-play website builder with streamlined ecommerce solutions.
If you’re reading this article, you’re already curious enough about designing a store with Shopify. But is Shopify right for you, and what are the nuances of setting it up? Read on for everything you need to know, from what the website is to how to set up a successful Shopify store through shopify.com.
Table of Contents
- What Is Shopify?
- How Does Shopify Work?
- Is Shopify the Right Ecommerce Platform for You?
- How To Create a Successful Shopify Store in 12 Easy Steps
- Keep Refining Your Shopify Store
What Is Shopify?
There are only a handful of well-established sources offering a fully integrated ecommerce website to online businesses who want to create and manage an online store without building an ecommerce store from scratch. Shopify is one of them. They offer the complete package, including shopping cart, payment services, shipping, analytics, and more.
But what exactly is Shopify?
Simply put, it’s a subscription-based software service that provides online business owners with a platform on which to build a fully functioning online store. When we say fully functioning, we mean exactly that: a responsive website complete with website hosting (including SSL) and shopping-cart solutions that allow you to manage, market, sell, and organize shipping for a single product or multiple products.
How Does Shopify Work?
The Shopify plan is straightforward: Choose a subscription plan, pay a subscription fee, get access to the ecommerce platform and its tools, set up your site, and start to sell products.
Unlike all-in-one ecommerce solutions—think Amazon, eBay, and Etsy—Shopify allows you to create a standalone website with its own domain name and URL (if desired). And unlike the aforementioned, it does not require you to be clustered with other ecommerce companies or competitors.
Is Shopify the Right Ecommerce Platform for You?
If you’re a small business interested in creating your own ecommerce website, Shopify is a fine choice. But it’s important to make sure it has all the features you need before you invest the time it takes to program and use Shopify.
For example, Shopify has limited options for content creation and content layout, so if you want to set up a blog that’s equal parts shop and editorial, you may be better off working in WordPress and exploring ecommerce plugin solutions like Shopify Lite or WooCommerce. (Other popular solutions out there include BigCommerce, Magento, and more.)
But since you’re here and you’re still reading, you probably want to know how to make the best shopping ecommerce-business website ever using Shopify. You’re in luck. We’ll cover that next.
How To Create a Successful Shopify Store in 12 Easy Steps
One of the main reasons store owners opt to use Shopify is because they offer a complete, easy-to-use, plug-and-play ecommerce solution. This means you don’t need to be a programmer or web designer, or even understand the first thing about how to sell products, create payment gateways, or start drop shipping. You just need to follow the tips in this guide, and you’ll be able to come up with a beautiful web design. Move forward step-by-step, and you’ll be running a successful Shopify store in no time.
1. Conceptualize Your Shopify Store and Product Offerings
You probably already have a shop idea in mind. Now it’s time to flesh out your vision for your store.
Conceptualizing your store is the biggest upfront commitment. It’s also the one that takes the most brain power. Shopify has worked out the “how” for you. This part is the “what.” As in what is this business and brand? What does it sell? What problem does it solve for consumers? What is its visual and written personality like?
There’s no computer plugin to manifest and articulate your vision for you, so roll up your sleeves and get excited! This is where creativity reigns. Bonus: Other than procuring products, all of the work here won’t cost you a penny. Take a little time to complete the following, and you’ve got everything you need to start your Shopify store.
Decide on the Theme for Your Shop
Only you know what kind of things you plan to sell. Whether they’re physical products, digital goods, or services, the types of things you feature in your store should seem like they belong together and make sense as a brand or a collection.
For example, offering gardening shears in an online gardening shop makes perfect sense. Including a line of dietary supplements, not so much.
Make sure you conceptualize a clear vision and narrative of what your shop is about and decide on the types of products that fit your shop. (Clothing? Memorabilia? Food products? Digital magazines? Quilts? You get the idea.)
Come Up With a Business Name
There are two reasons to spend time conceptualizing your business name. The first is obvious: The name sets the tone for your brand. Sometimes it tells people what you’re about (Hello, The Home Depot). In other instances, it may be metaphoric (Amazon) or just fun (Lululemon).
The second reason is availability of the domain name and matching social media usernames. While not every name under the sun has been scooped up as a URL with the preferred “.com” domain, most basic ones have. You’ll need to be creative or combine basic and unexpected words to find a URL that works.
Or you can use Shopify’s default, which is “.myshopify.com” Just remember that shorter and easy to spell is better.
Want to play around with options? Use Namechk.
Create a Logo
It used to be that you had to hire an expensive designer to come up with a cool logo. Now you can hold a design contest and get competitive bids from designers around the world. Or better yet, design it yourself for free using a free logo maker.
See more logo templates and make them your own in a few clicks!
You can’t open a store if you don’t have anything to sell, so make sure you amass some inventory to start with, whether they’re digital products, actual physical goods, services, or a combo of all three. You can and should modify your offerings based on shopper interest, but you have to start somewhere!
Take Great Photos of Your Products
You’ve got the goods, now you need a way for online shoppers to view them. Since consumers can’t physically show up to your store and browse, images are the most powerful selling tools you have.
Make sure they’re bright, clean, clear, and high resolution. Use a tabletop studio box for the most even, controlled light and a blank white background. Or use natural or studio lighting followed by Adobe Spark’s Remove Background tool to make your product image appear on a white background.
Additional images showcasing various perspectives or in context (think showing a table runner on a table) can also be helpful, depending on what you’re selling.
Don’t rush out and buy a fancy camera if you don’t have one. With a few smartphone photography tips, you can take pro-looking photos from home!
See more tips and tricks for making your product shots shine!
2. Open Your Shopify Account
Let’s start at the beginning. Before anything else, you need to open a Shopify account. But hey, it’s risk free. The platform offers a free 14-day trial before you have to commit to a pricing plan and start making monthly Shopify payments to use their subscription.
Look for the “Start free trial” button in the upper right-hand side of the page and follow the prompts. (When it’s time to decide on a pricing plan, do a Google search of Shopify reviews to learn whether you can get by with basic Shopify or would be better off paying a higher monthly fee for more features.)
You’ll be prompted to answer a few questions and enter a store name (this will be your Shopify URL: [yourstorename].myshopify.com). Once you commit, the name cannot be changed.
However, you can buy and replace it with your own custom domain name later (PinkFrogsforSale.com or whatever you want—provided the URL is available). You can also upgrade from a basic plan or downgrade from a more expensive plan at any time.
Violà! You have a Shopify store. Now it’s time to populate it.
3. Add Your Products To Your Shopify Shop
You’ve already decided what to sell and captured your items with great photography. Now it’s time to bring them to life in your online shop.
Uploading your products to your Shopify product pages is simple. As Shopify explains it:
“From your Shopify admin, go to Products > All Products.
From the products page, click Add Product.
Enter a title for your product, along with additional details.
Shopify explains all the fields for product details on the product page. Some are required and some are not. Below is a list of most of the fields, as described by Shopify.
- Title: This is the product name that your customers will see. Make it clear and to the point so shoppers know exactly what the product is and search engines have a good chance of surfacing it if someone searches for it on Google.
- Description: Tell shoppers everything they would want to know about the product: materials, size, dimensions, why it’s a must-have. Keep it short, sweet, and informative and always rewrite descriptions if you’re reselling items sold elsewhere online—search engines like unique content. Bonus: The included rich text editor allows you to format your text.
- Media: This is where you insert product images, 3D models, videos, or all three. Your site’s product view will depend on your Shopify template. If your products are highly detailed, look for a template with the option for product image zoom. This will create a better user experience.
- Pricing: This is the price you will sell your item for. It includes boxes to fill in for price, “compare at price” (for sale items), cost per item (your cost, which is not visible to the shopper), and tax. If you join Shopify Plus you can add a tax code, which connects to a third-party tax service. Such services are helpful in streamlining the sales tax process, from ensuring you charge the most up-to-date sales tax for more than 100,000 jurisdictions to streamlining sales tax reporting.
- Inventory and merchandise tracking: The product page offers additional, optional ways to manage your merchandise, including features to help with inventory tracking or add a SKU (stock keeping unit) or a barcode (ISBN, UPC, GTIN, etc.). There’s also an option to connect with a third-party fulfillment center if you’re not shipping the product yourself.
- Shipping: If you need your product to be shipped, check the box that says, “This is a physical product.”
- Weight: This information is critical for determining shipping costs of physical products.
- Country/Region of origin: This is not about where you are shipping from. It’s about where the product was made or assembled.
- HS (harmonized system) code: This is a tariff code for customs during shipping, and it’s only relevant if you plan to ship internationally. You can search for the correct code right on the product page.
- Variants: Are you offering various sizes or colors of your product? This section helps you do that. Learn more here. Note: If you add variants and save the page, Media, pricing, inventory, and shipping sections will appear, and you’ll need to fill them in for each variant.
- Search engine listing preview: Shopify generates a listing preview that will appear in Google and other search engine results. It includes the product title, the product page URL, and a bit of the description. Keep Shopify’s product description or edit it as you wish. Remember the more relevant keywords the better it is for SEO.
Just when you think you’ve filled in all the categories for your product page, you’ll see there are more fields running from the top to the bottom of the right-hand side of the page. These focus on product availability and organization, and you’ll need to fill them in, too, as they help you manage, sort, and display your products, as well as sales and discounts. Fortunately, once you get the hang of it, it will be easy. Look for these sections:
- Product availability: This is where you identify the channels where you’d like to showcase your product. Your own online store is just one option. Others include Amazon, Facebook Shops, and more. (Learn more about how to make products available on your sales channels).
- Product type: Each item you list is assigned a product type or category. (For instance, if you’re selling various clothing items and adding a pair of pink socks with cats in a tutu to the mix, the category is socks.) Giving each product a type allows the platform to filter and sort products into automated collections. Choose from predefined product types or add your own. A product can only be assigned one product type.
- Vendor: This field is useful if your shop features products from a number of manufacturers, wholesalers, or other vendors. It allows you to filter by vendor, which is helpful when assessing and reordering inventory from a variety of vendors.
- Collections: If you want to showcase a select group of products together, collections is the place to do it. Those cat socks might be perfect for your “Birthday Gifts” collection or your “All Things Pink” collection or both. Use this field to create a manual collection (a hand-curated set of products) or an automated collection (a collection of products that have matching collection conditions), which you can display in your store.
- Tags: This is where you identify the keywords you want associated with your product for search purposes. For those aforementioned socks, the tags “cat,” “pink,” and “tutu” can help customers find the product if they use the search box in your online store. Tags are also helpful for product filtering and creating automated collections. (See more on tag formats here) And in the long term, tags can be helpful for SEO.
- Fulfillment service: Here’s where you identify who is fulfilling or dropshipping orders on behalf of your online store. If it’s you, select Shopify. If you’re using Amazon, Oberlo, or another third-party fulfillment service, learn more about how to select your fillment service.
So far so good? Save your product page, add some more products, and then move on to the next step.
4. Create Product Collections
Now it’s time to organize your products in Shopify. The goal is to group items together in ways that shoppers might look for them. If you had a brick-and-mortar fashion store you wouldn’t merchandise the cat socks next to the football jerseys, right? Same idea with your online store.
Set up opportunities for customers to browse complementary or related products so when your customers look for that football jersey, they might stumble upon a must-have team sweatshirt, too. And for the cat-sock lovers? Perhaps they discover cat-themed pajamas that inspire them to press the buy button and whip out their credit card.
So how do you create collections? Start by deciding what kinds of items you’d like to group together. If you’re running an apparel store and have tons of sock offerings, perhaps you have collections for kid’s socks, animal-themed socks, wool socks, men’s socks, women’s socks, bestsellers, and so on. Think about collections based on a theme, product category (in this case socks), or target audience (cat lovers).
Collections do more than group specific items for browsing. They also allow you to:
- Identify items you want to feature on your homepage
- Sort and organize so you can link to specific collections within your store and beyond, such as in newsletters, email marketing, or social media
- Apply discounts to all items within a specific collection
To create a collection, fill in the Collection title and description, be welcoming, straightforward, and descriptive, and don’t forget SEO-friendly keywords. Add a leading image if you’d like. Then check the Search Engine Preview to make sure your collection appears the way you want it to in search results. Create as many collections as make sense for your online store. And don’t worry: You can always edit, add, or delete collections.
5. Create Your Other Important Online Store Pages
Phew! You’ve done all the hard stuff. Now it’s time to add important foundational elements to your online store by filling in pages about your business. These are the pages customers expect to find when they visit an ecommerce website, and they’re important both in letting customers know essential information about you and in building trust.
Start by navigating to Online Store > Pages. Not sure what to include? Visit some of your favorite shops and look at what they’ve done. In general, you’ll want to create the following pages:
- Contact page: How can customers reach you? Tell them here.
- About page: Tell shoppers who you are and what your shop is all about.
- FAQ page: Add some frequently asked questions that you anticipate. Others you will discover through experience, so keep building on your FAQ section. Over time, the FAQ page will become an important part of your customer support team and will help you avoid answering the same questions over and over again.
6. Use Themes To Customize Your Store
Okay, you’re almost home. It’s time for window dressing! This is when you put the final polish on the look of your shop by using themes. Themes are design templates that help visually bring your store to life. They give you preset and customizable ways to add design elements to your website. You can add a vibrant splash of color, stylized typography, and other visual storytelling elements.
To start, navigate to Online Store > Themes.
When choosing your theme, consider your desired aesthetic, the size of your product catalog, and your desired built-in features and functionality. (Do you need sections for press mentions of your business? Do you want to add testimonials? And so on.)
Some themes are multipurpose and some are crafted with a specific type of business in mind, including ecommerce themes (like Brooklyn, the apparel store theme from Shopify). If you end up with a theme you don’t love or you outgrow your theme, you can swap it out and keep the programming you put into it.
When you design your homepage, consider the following:
- Determine your homepage goals and design accordingly. Make sure new shoppers can quickly understand who you are and what you offer.
- Put the important stuff up top.
- Don’t make it cluttered—breathing room is essential.
- Create easy ways to jump directly into shopping.
- Leverage full-width promotional banners, images, collections, homepage slideshows, and even a homepage video if it’s useful. As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” especially with online shopping.
- Make it mobile-friendly. Assume at least 50% of shoppers will be browsing from their iOS devices (iPhones and iPads), android phones, or other mobile devices.
7. Customize Your Navigation Menus
The top of your website is the most important part of your store. It’s the first thing people see when they land on your website, and it’s where they look to find navigation throughout your site. It’s also where shoppers will see your logo, search bar, and shopping cart.
8. Customize Your Checkout
Theme Settings is the place to customize checkout. You actually don’t have to customize it, but you should give it a little love so it shows brand consistency and isn’t bland and generic. Add your logo or go deeper into customizing things like whether customers can opt into newsletters (highly recommended!), need to create an account, or can checkout as a guest.
You can do all this at Settings > Checkout.
This is also the place to set up an automated reminder for abandoned carts (when customers bail before completing their purchase). This can be the difference between no sale and cash in the bank.
9. Set Up Shipping and Delivery
Shipping is an important consideration. The price you charge for shipping can make a difference in both buying decisions for the shopper and profit margins for you. Carefully think through your shipping options and program your Shopify shipping section accordingly.
Options include free shipping, real-time carrier rates (think UPS, USPS, and FedEx), flat-rates, and local pickup and delivery. You might also want to consider Shopify Shipping, which simplifies things with discounted rates and the ability to print shipping labels and manage fulfillment.
While you’re in the shipping section, be sure to set your shipping zones. They set shipping rates for various countries and allow for optional conditional shipping, which does clever things like recalculate shipping rates for shoppers buying multiple items.
Ready to set it up? Do so by going to Settings > Shipping and Delivery. Or learn more about your shipping and delivery options.
10. Set Up Taxes
Having your tax situation set up in advance is critical. It ensures you properly charge and collect the sales tax you’ll need to send on to the government (if applicable; often there is no tax on digital items). If you do this incorrectly, you’ll be mired in paperwork and possibly have to pay out of your own pocket.
So, while taxes are never fun, they’re important and best addressed up front with some nifty automation. Thankfully, Shopify takes most of the pain out of the process by applying default regional sales tax rates to purchases made on your site.
To see what’s what, go to Settings > Taxes. Leave the default rates as is, or edit or override them if there are special taxes for your region or your products.
Once you’re up and running, it’s worth conferring with a tax expert to ensure you’re charging the correct amounts. This way you won’t discover any surprises when it comes time to pay sales tax during tax season.
11. Set Up Payment Gateways and Payouts
Hang in there. Just a few little tweaks and you’re a Shopify expert with a live ecommerce business. Plus, the next subject is the most important part of this entire process: Getting paid!
The Payments section (Settings > Payments) controls how shoppers pay you and how you get that money into your hands. Here you can select what forms of payment you accept (credit card payments, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Shopify’s Shop Pay, Elo, Amazon Pay, etc.).
You’ll also set yourself up for Shopify Payments, which is how funds received from your store are transferred to you (with no transaction fees!), and your payout schedule (or the frequency in which payments are sent your way).
12. Launch Your Shopify Store
You’ll soon find that there is a never-ending list of tweaks you can make to your new ecommerce store. But the brilliant thing about online businesses is that you can change them on the fly, in the moment, whenever your entrepreneurial heart desires. So, no need to address every little detail to get your store off the ground. Instead, get it in motion.
That said, before debuting to the world, you may want to send a password-protected login to friends to browse and proofread your site and offer constructive feedback. Then, once you’re ready, go to Online Store > Preferences and disable the password protection. Voilà! You’re live!
Keep Refining Your Shopify Store
Congratulations! You’ve just laid the groundwork for a successful Shopify store, and it’s live. Time to give yourself a pat on the back, take a breath, and get ready for next steps. You’ve got inventory to manage and customer support to tend to, and you’ll surely get new ideas once you begin monitoring customer behavior and crafting a marketing plan for your store.
But if you’re itching to keep going, there are plenty more advanced Shopify tasks you can conquer, including:
- Adding a custom domain (your own URL) as we mentioned at the beginning of this article.
- Installing relevant sales channels, such as Facebook Shop, product links on Instagram posts, Amazon, eBay, AliExpress, pop-up shops, Shopify POS (Shopify’s point of sale solution for linking your online Shopify store and inventory with in-person payments and physical retail sales).
- Adding your social media icons.
- Installing a Buy button on your blog or other website pages.
- Creating checkout links to send to customers that allow them to go straight to checkout (this is great for Facebook ads).
- Browsing the Shopify app store for more useful add-ons and new features.