Before it was known as Shopify, it was an online store called Snowdevil that sold snowboarding equipment. In 2004, three business founders attempted to build an online snowboarding equipment store, but they ended up being dissatisfied with the platforms available on the market. So they built one on their own. Soon after, Snowdevil became known as Shopify and is now the leading ecommerce platform.
Shopify gained popularity fast due to its ease of use, robust functionality, and affordable pricing. You’ve probably heard a lot about Shopify and how it’s one of the best platforms for ecommerce businesses of all sizes. But why is it so popular? And how easy is it to get started?
In this guide, you’ll learn how Shopify works, how to start selling on Shopify, and how to grow your online business.
Shopify: an ecommerce owner’s arsenal
Shopify is a leading ecommerce platform that holds 20% market share. It’s not just popular amongst direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands either — top brands such as Nestle, Red Bull, and Tesla also use the advanced functionality of Shopify Plus to manage the sales and operations of their online stores.
The platform is held at a very high standard in the ecommerce industry. It’s easy to use, offers great design functionality, provides simple payment options, and it doesn’t cost much to get started.
Who should use Shopify?
Shopify is a great platform for small businesses and startups looking for a cost-effective and an easy way to get an online store up and running. Large enterprise brands can also take advantage of Shopify with Shopify Plus, which offers a fully hosted, SaaS ecommerce solution that supports a large volume of orders and website traffic.
New website owners
If you are a new owner of an ecommerce website or just acquired a domain name for an online store you want to launch, Shopify offers one of the best new merchant experiences. The ecommerce platform provides merchants with a selection of different Shopify themes to choose from for building your brand. There is no design and web development skills required. You can easily upload your products in minutes and create customizable product pages in no time.
Small to medium-sized brands
Shopify supports businesses that are established but still run a small to medium-sized brand. It offers a wide range of third-party integrations, which makes it easy to add features and functionality that improves your website and the overall online shopping experience. It’s also a great foundation for a strong online marketing strategy as it provides premium marketing tools, such as SEO features and advanced ecommerce analytics.
Budget ecommerce owners
Shopify offers affordable rates with plans starting at just $29 per month. For this low rate, users have access to the following basic features:
- Full-time support
- An online store that comes with a blog
- Order creation features
- Staff accounts (x2)
- And more
The Basic plan ($29) allows users to sell an unlimited number of products, and Shopify offers default payment providers like Paypal that allows payment through credit cards, bank accounts, buyer credit, or PayPal account balances. Although you’ll have to pay for a pricier plan to get access to advanced features, the Basic Shopify has everything you need to get started without compromising design and functionality.
For brands selling a large volume of orders per month, Shopify Plus websites are a better option. It offers an open API, customizable checkout options, access to advanced Shopify apps, and more dedicated support for your growing brand.
The 10 steps to starting your Shopify store
Although Shopify is one of the easiest ecommerce platforms to get started on, creating an online store comes with a lot of steps and things to consider before pushing the ‘live’ button. Here are the 10 steps to take to get started selling on Shopify.
1. Build your plan
Before you start building an online store, you need to first think through your overall business and marketing plan. Make sure you know the answers to questions like:
- How will my marketing strategy support my online store’s growth?
- How would I like to display and showcase my products online?
- Who is my target audience?
- How will I accept payments?
- What’s my shipping strategy?
- Will I sell internationally?
Your Shopify store will become the foundation that your branding and marketing strategy will be built upon and how you sell products to customers, so it’s important to think through your entire business strategy first before designing and developing your site.
2. Source your products
Before you build an online store, you need to source your products. One of the key ways to succeed in online selling is by finding an affordable and reliable manufacturer or supplier. There are several avenues you can take to source products from working with local stores or suppliers to wholesale distributor options. Another great option is to source from global marketplaces such as Alibaba and Indiamart, which both offer bulk goods at a low cost.
You can check out potential manufacturers by looking up their businesses online, and seeing what they have to offer. Some suppliers offer free trial periods for their services or free samples of their products. Store owners can use this to their advantage to determine whether a supplier is right for them before making an investment.
3. Conduct market research
Last year, Shopify reported 218 million buyers in total made a purchase on a Shopify store. Knowing your target audience and market inside and out will help you offer a product that stands out. You should take time conducting market research, which includes analyzing your industry, identifying gaps in the market, understanding your audience’s needs and pain points, competition and their pricing strategy, having users test your products, and more.
When it comes to building a Shopify website that is ideal for your target audience, you might want to pick a few potential customers and get their insights into what online stores they like and dislike. Ask them what they personally think makes a great online shopping experience and why, and be sure to implement their feedback as you build your online store.
4. Create your brand name and logo, and buy a domain name
Branding starts with a great name. Before you choose a domain name, you’ll want to take time in coming up with a name that holds the essence of what you sell and what your business values. There are a lot of tools online to help you with the naming process, including Shopify’s business name generator. Once you have a name, you’ll want to create a logo. You can hire a graphic designer or even try designing the first logo iteration on your own.
Shopify does offer a free URL that consists of [yourshopifystore.shopify.com], but having this type of URL will not help your site rank well. So purchasing a domain name and investing in proper website hosting is ideal if you want to build a powerful website that ranks well in search engines.
5. Start designing
If you’re still hesitant about using Shopify to build out your online store, you can get a feel for Shopify through a 14-day free trial. To help you get the most out of your first Shopify store, Shopify has a handful of design and support guides you can access here that will help you navigate all your design options. You can try a few different themes, play around with the customization options, and create a few different product page layouts before choosing a consistent look and feel for your entire website.
6. Upload products to Shopify
You can access a product’s details from the ‘Product’ page located in the admin panel. From there, users can easily add products or update the information, such as its price or availability, of existing ones. If you have multiple products to upload, you can easily import all products at once using a CSV file. Be sure to have well-written product descriptions, product photos and/or videos, and customer reviews.
7. Determine how you will handle shipping
Before you launch your site, you’ll want to think through how you will fulfill and ship your orders. You have a few options here: You can fulfill orders yourself, dropship, or partner with a 3PL that takes care of the entire fulfillment and shipping process for you.
Once you decide on your shipping strategy, you can offer multiple shipping options based on where orders are coming in from and adjust shipping rates accordingly. Note: Be sure to post your shipping policy on your site so it’s easy for customers to find.
8. Set up Google Analytics
Before you launch your website, you’ll want to start tracking website performance from day one. Make sure you have Google Analytics set up so you can track website traffic and other online store metrics. You can set up Google Analytics under ‘Settings.’
9. Run marketing ads and promotions
Promoting your ecommerce business is crucial for growth, and social media and online ads are still the best ways to promote your online store. You can start an ad campaign on Facebook or Instagram, or take advantage of Google Ads.
Unlike selling on a platform like Amazon, having your own store means people will need to be able to find you. It’s worth looking into organic marketing techniques, such as producing SEO-rich content in the form of blog posts and using keyword tools such Ahrefs or Moz. Since Shopify has an SEO tool built in, creating pages that are SEO-friendly is simple. However, if you want to take this seriously, there are a lot of things to consider, for starters, a Shopify SEO guide can help you with that.
10. Continuously improve
Once online orders start coming in, it’s important to keep improving your site on a regular basis. Providing customers with new features and better ways to shop is essential for maintaining customer loyalty and growing your business. Consider adding a survey to your website asking for feedback from online shoppers. That way, you can gain insights on how to improve cart abandonment rates with valuable feedback from website visitors.
Your Shopify ‘go live’ checklist
So you have your logo, product pages, and you’re ready to get the word out. That’s great! But before you go live with your new ecommerce store, there are some things you should double check first. Here are some of the most important steps that are commonly overlooked.
1. Post your returns and exchange policy
Before you start selling products through your Shopify store, you’ll want to create a returns and exchange policy and make a page for it so it’s easily found on your site. This helps build trust with potential shoppers and make them feel comfortable making a purchase from you. If you need help with what to include in these policies, check out this guide on ecommerce returns policies.
2. Double-check sales tax collection
Another thing to get sorted before your store goes live is sales tax. To avoid any tax collection issues later on, make sure that each product on your website has its tax price included on it. Your payment provider can provide what’s needed to report information from credit card purchases as well.
3. Post your privacy and cookies policy
4. Run a test purchase
Don’t wait until your first order comes through to troubleshoot. Shopify makes it easy to test your order system before issues arise. Using Shopify’s Bogus Gateway, you can simulate a transaction by using a real payment provider and immediately cancel the order. Using this process, you can make sure that your Shopify shipping settings are correct, verify that your checkout page is optimized, and even test your post-purchase email notifications.
5. Include an FAQs page
New customers that visit your store will have questions about your products, your shipping policy, and more. An excellent way to address these barriers to purchase is by including an FAQs page on your website and adding a link to it in your footer. This helps answer any common questions customers might have before they reach out to your customer service team.
6. Install plugins from the Shopify Apps Store
Shopify has all the basic features needed to run an ecommerce store, but the Shopify App Store takes your ecommerce business to the next level. There are thousands of apps available that can help enhance your online store by providing solutions for email marketing, returns management, customer service apps, online reviews, SMS, ecommerce fulfillment, design, and more.
Becoming a successful Shopify shop: how to ramp up growth
Once your store is live and you’re seeing orders come through, it doesn’t mean you’re done building your business. Having a great online store that attracts the right customers is just the start. If you want to attract even more customers and create an end-to-end ecommerce experience, you’ll need to think of your online store as the hub and how other parts of your business plug into it. Here are some best practices to help you be more successful on Shopify.
1. Get a logistics partner
Without a proper fulfillment and logistics strategy, having a great Shopify store isn’t enough. You’ll need to think through how you’re going to fulfill your orders affordably and on time. A third-party logistics (3PL) provider, such as ShipBob, offers a full suite of retail order fulfillment services to help support business growth.
Not all Shopify fulfillment solutions are the same, so it’s important to partner with one that focuses on all-things fulfillment and keeps the unboxing experience in mind. When sourcing the right tech-enabled 3PL service, make sure they bring the following to the table:
- Order management: A 3PL can provide visibility into the entire order management process. With ShipBob, you can filter orders by status and where they are in the fulfillment process. This helps you get a quick overview of all orders that require action, manage subscription orders, and make changes to your orders post-purchase. When you map your store’s shipping options to ShipBob, you can automatically share tracking information with customers.
- Inventory management: A 3PL stores and manages inventory for you, freeing up more time to focus on other business-related tasks. For instance, ShipBob’s technology includes built-in inventory management software, plus a free data and analytic reporting tool that offers insights into demand forecasting, inventory allocation, and more.
- Distributed inventory: Some 3PLs like ShipBob offer a growing international fulfillment network that allows merchants to split inventory across locations to speed up delivery times and reduce shipping costs.
“We built our website on Shopify, as we are very comfortable with them. Shopify and ShipBob work very well together. All I had to do was click a couple buttons and they were connected. The integration and visibility of the two systems keeps everything very simple. I really like ShipBob’s dashboard. It’s our backend logistics that keeps us up-to-date on everything that’s happening.”
Tim Fink, Co-Founder of EnduroSport
2. Double-down on marketing and brand awareness
Although it’s become relatively easy to get your online store up and running, competition remains high. You’ll always want to look for ways to improve your marketing strategy and stay competitive without overspending on ads. If certain channels are generating more sales than others, focus more time and money on them.
Instead of fully relying on paid ads, work on other unique ways to lower customer acquisition costs, from owned content and social media to retention strategies like email marketing and subscriptions boxes.
The key here is to get creative. Founder of BK Beauty, Lisa J, established a successful makeup brand by sharing her vast knowledge on makeup with her brand community via fun, beauty-related videos on YouTube. Her video content has built so much awareness around her brand and products that she now has over 150,000 YouTube subscribers.
Promoting fast and/or free shipping (e.g. adding a free shipping banner to the top of your homepage), is also a surefire way to stay competitive. By promoting free shipping, you can attract more customers, increase average order volume (AOV), and improve customer lifetime value (CLV).
3. Make your online store mobile-friendly
More than half of US-based shoppers have used a mobile device to make a purchase online. Here are a few ways to ensure your Shopify store is mobile-friendly:
- When choosing a Shopify theme, make sure it’s mobile-friendly.
- Minimize text on product pages.
- Run a site speed test and find ways to improve load time.
- Edit the mobile menu to make sure it’s easy to shop your store, and view your shopping cart from a smartphone.
4. Showcase customer reviews
Consumers don’t just want to hear what you have to say about your brand. They want to know what other people have to say about it, too! Keep your customer reviews publicly displayed, so when a new potential customer is making a purchasing decision, they can easily view all the positive reviews related to a specific product.
Reviews not only showcase your brand loyalty but also provide shoppers with the opportunity to clear any doubts they may have about a product or service. For instance, if an online shopper is looking for a pair of jeans, he/she/they might look at the reviews to see if the jeans run small or big.
ShipBob can help your Shopify store reach new heights
ShipBob is a tech-enabled 3PL that easily connects to your Shopify store so you can get started with outsourcing fulfillment in no time. Once an order is placed, it gets automatically sent to our fulfillment team, so our fulfillment experts are able to pick, pack, and ship orders quickly.
“We researched 3PLs and found a great solution in ShipBob. They worked really well with our core tech stack, which centered around Shopify. On top of that, we utilize leading technologies, including Klaviyo, Bold Commerce, Smile.io, Octane AI, Shogun, and Refersion, with all of whom ShipBob also has a strong partnership.”
Gerard Ecker, Founder & CEO of Ocean & Co.
ShipBob offers an Amazon-like experience with fast shipping, including a 2-Day Express Shipping Program that guarantees 2-day shipping coverage for customers in the continental US, and a growing international fulfillment network.
Download: ShipBob & Shopify Plus: The Winning Fulfillment & Ecommerce Tech Stack
Shopify is an easy-to-use and affordable ecommerce platform that startups to enterprise-level ecommerce brands have found success on. Shopify was built to make the online shopping experience easy for merchants to set up shop in no time. But there’s a lot more that goes into selling on Shopify — including the post-purchase experience.
ShipBob partners with Shopify merchants to provide a premium order fulfillment service unlike any other. Learn how ShipBob works by clicking the button below.