One significant advantage of using Shopify is the ease with which you can create your own store. Shopify guides you through the process of creating, designing, stocking, and maintaining your own store. Smaller companies have folded, changed, or been acquired by larger corporations over the years, leaving customers unsure of what to expect.
However, with Shopify, you can be confident that your website will be fully functional and accessible because Shopify’s popularity ensures that Shopify professionals will provide the technical expertise required to keep all of its websites running smoothly.
This article discusses the numerous features that Shopify e-commerce stores provide, the basic platform of the small-business solution, and how to perform basic navigation and item creation.
We go over the various packages and explain how Shopify makes money from this service. Finally, you learn how to make more money with your Shopify store by marketing, building customer relationships, and analyzing data.
Table of Contents
Why Open a Shopify Store?
Although Shopify allows you to order different levels of solutions, each solution includes a powerful base platform. Here are ten features that every Shopify store can take advantage of:
- Built-in shopping cart: You can put an unlimited number of products into your Shopify store. Its shopping-cart software displays those items to your customers and allows them to add or remove them from their personal shopping baskets. The software then communicates with shipping companies and tax tables to display customers’ costs when they check out.
- Detailed sales reports: Shopify offers a variety of detailed reports that allow you to see what is selling, what is being clicked on, and what is being searched. You can even see which websites send you the most traffic and which pages on your website are the most popular.
- Inventory tracking: Shopify has you covered if you don’t want to sell out of your hottest product or if you need an alert when your available inventory gets too low. It keeps track of your inventory and automatically stops selling a product when it reaches zero.
- Unlimited space and bandwidth: You can unwind if you have large image files, audio, or video. Each account comes with an unlimited amount of storage and an unlimited amount of bandwidth to send those massive files every time a customer knocks.
- Mobile app and support: Shopify not only optimizes your store for customers using mobile devices, but its mobile app also allows you to manage your store operations on the go, as all of your data is synced between your store and your mobile device.
- Secure technology: Customers can enter information safely with Shopify because you can create secure web pages using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology (with a free SSL certificate) that encrypts sensitive data (such as credit card numbers) when customers send it to you. Shopify will ensure that your store is Level-1 PCI-compliant, protecting your customers’ data.
- Search engine optimization tools: Shopify allows customers to leave SEO-friendly product reviews on your website and assists you in customizing important SEO practices such as meta tags, titles, and headers.
- Social media integration: Shopify allows you to integrate your website with your various social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr. Shopify offers features such as Facebook Buy buttons, which allow customers to purchase products while remaining on your Facebook page.
- Automatic backups of your website: Shopify takes a daily snapshot of your website and allows you to switch between those versions. If you inadvertently lose data, you can quickly restore the previous version. Shopify performs backups without asking or reminding you.
How To Set Up a Shopify Store in 7 Steps
When you’re ready to set up a Shopify store, follow these steps:
Step 1: Go to the Shopify home page at www.shopify.com, and click the Start Free Trial button. You can also start a free trial by clicking the Start Free Trial button in the upper right corner of the screen. Shopify asks for your email address, password, and the name of your store. Later in the process, you will select the plan that best meets your requirements. (For established e-commerce or offline businesses, the standard and advanced Shopify plans are recommended.)
Shopify provides more than just e-commerce solutions. Put Buy buttons on your social media pages or find other ways to use Shopify’s technology to power your business if you want to have a Point of Sale system.
Step 2: Answer some additional questions about your business goals and then click Next. Shopify will want to know if you are a new seller or an established store that is transitioning to Shopify. It also wants to know your current annual revenue and whether you are creating a store for a client or for yourself.
Other options may appear based on your responses, such as the section “Let us help you kickstart your business while you play around.” Depending on the options you select, Shopify will send you videos and information to assist you with online business tasks such as creating a logo or finding a product for sale. Take advantage of Shopify’s library of support resources.
Step 3: When Shopify prompts you for the address of your business, fill in the appropriate fields. Shopify needs to know the location of your business in order to set the proper currency and tax rate for your store.
Step 4: Click the green Enter My Store button to finish initializing your account. Shopify starts your free trial and takes you to your newly created Account page. The left menu contains all the major sections you will need to run your online store, so pay attention to all these options.
Step 5: Click the blue Select a Plan button to pick your Shopify plan. You are directed to the page where you can choose a plan for your store. To get to the same plan page, click Settings from the left menu and then Account.
Step 6: Review your options, and click the appropriate Choose This Plan button to sign up for that particular plan. You are prompted to enter your billing information and to save a credit card for when your Shopify trial period expires. Fill out the prompts as directed, then select a billing cycle (month by month, annual payment for 10 percent savings, or biennial payment for 20 percent savings).
Step 7: To finalize your order, scroll down to click the Start Plan button. You need to select the check box to agree to Shopify’s terms of service.
If you want to learn more about starting a Shopify store, you might consider having a look at the eCommerce course Start and Scale by Foundr.
How To Configure Your Shopify Store
After you sign up with Shopify, you can control all aspects of your account. Go to www.shopify.com and click Log In at the top right of the screen. Enter your email address and password that you created when you signed up with Shopify, and that will bring you to your account home page.
From the home page, you have access to the four main parts of your account:
Orders: Review all the orders your store has received, and use the tools to fulfill those orders with steps like printing shipping labels.
Products: Review the catalog of products you have for sale in your store. Here you can make updates, add and delete products, and review your inventory (if you set up Shopify to help keep track of your inventory count).
Customers: You can get a better picture of your store’s customers here. When a customer places an order with your store, Shopify stores all of their information. Existing customers can also be added or imported into your Shopify customer records.
If you do not want your customers to create accounts in order to use your online store, you can disable customer accounts, making this section ineffective. You must decide whether you want your customers to go the extra mile to create accounts and whether this will benefit them (and you) more or less.
Analytics: You can manage all of the reporting features from here to see how your store is doing. The standard and advanced Shopify packages include more robust analytics features, but they are intended for more established stores that would benefit from in-depth customer analysis.
The Settings page is located at the bottom of the left menu and will be your most-used section at first as you configure many elements of your store throughout the entire setup process.
1. Construct your catalog
Before we get into designing your site, let’s take a look at the heart of any thriving e-commerce store: your “catalog” or list of products for sale. What is a store without merchandise?
Shopify has a central section called Products that allows you to enter your products for sale and track the inventory level as people place orders. You can always update your inventory, organize it by different product data fields, and even import your entire product catalog at once.
When adding a product to your store, follow these steps:
Step 1: From the Store home page, click the Products link.
The main Products page is displayed. The first time you go to your Products page, you see the option to add your first product or set up an import of products. For this example, we go through the steps of adding a product directly.
Step 2: Click the Add Product button to get started. The one-page Add Product form appears.
Step 3: Complete the following information fields.
- Title: Enter the name that you want your customers to see as the name of your product.
- Description: Enter the item description in this field. Write a description for your product that you want customers to see when they’re looking at your item on your store page. Use the command buttons at the top of the text box (similar to Microsoft Word) to format your description so that it will show up on your store with specific font sizes, alignment, and so on.
- Images: Click the Upload Image link to specify the path where the digital image of your product is stored on your computer and upload it to your store.
- Product type: In this field, you select a category to assign to your product (for example, shirts, pants, socks, shoes).
- Vendor: Enter the manufacturer or brand name of the product in this field.
- (Optional) Collections: If you want to create a special collection (think custom category, for example) to assign your product to, this field is where you type in the collection name tied to the product. For example, you could create a Clearance collection, a New In Stock collection, or a themed collection like Movie Heroes.
- Tags: In this field, you can define tags, or “keywords,” to be associated with your item for search capabilities. These tags won’t be displayed to your shoppers on the product page.
Step 4: Scroll to the pricing and shipping section and enter more details about your product.
- Price: Every product must have a numeric price.
- Compare at price: Think of this field as the “original retail price” and the price field as your sales price. When you use this field, your customers see both prices, with a line through the “Compare at price” number and the price highlighted.
- Cost of item: If you record your item cost in this field, later on the Analytics reporting will help you calculate profit, not just revenue, for your sales.
- Stock Keeping Unit: This is your ID field for the product, so create a unique identifier for each product. This is an internal measure so don’t worry about the public having to decipher this field. You can enter letters, numbers, or both in this field.
- Barcode (ISBN, UPC, GTIN, and so on): This field should contain the identifier that came with the product, like a manufacturer’s UPC number, ISBN number, or a GTIN (Global Trade Identification Number). If the product doesn’t have one of these numbers, you can leave this field blank.
- Inventory policy: You can pick from a drop-down list of options. If you pick Track Inventory, a new field appears where you can assign the initial quantity of units for this product. (As orders are received, Shopify keeps track of the inventory level and decreases the quantity accordingly.) If you pick Do Not Track Inventory, no quantity information will be assigned to your product entry.
- “This is a physical item”: Check the box if the product you’re adding is a physical item. If you’re selling a digital item, uncheck this box.
- Weight: Put the numeric weight of your item in this field. You can define the unit of measurement in the drop-down list next to this field.
- (Optional) Country/Region of Origin: If you ship overseas, you can assign the country that’s the origin country for your product, and Shopify will include this when the customs paperwork is prepared.
- (Optional) Harmonized system code: If you ship overseas, you can assign an internationally recognized harmonized system code for your product, and Shopify will include this code when the customs paperwork is prepared.
- Fulfillment service: This option is mainly for the Advanced Shopify users, who have more real-time shipping options. For everybody else, the service is Manual as you fulfill your product sales. Make sure the “This product requires shipping” check box is selected for any product that’s a physical product you have to mail out.
- Variants: If you offer the same product in different sizes or colors or other options, don’t create individual product entries for each option. You simply click the Add Variant link and assign an option name and option values, one line at a time. Do not use any other internal punctuation, such as a colon or semicolon, between the options. Shopify is looking for a comma between each option.
- Click Save Product to store the item. When you save the product, Shopify takes you back to the Products page, confirms that the product was saved, and offers you links to view (the product) in your online store or create another product.
- Repeat Steps 2 to 5 for any additional products.
2. Get ready to open your store for business
Before you decide that your store is going to go live and be open for business, we recommend that you research and plan your store first. See what you like and dislike on other websites and come up with a plan for your website.
When you’re ready to open your store for business, you should first think about the following steps:
Step 1: Design your store.
You must create the web pages that will showcase your products. You can create a main menu and then organize the pages you create into a simple navigation structure between a main menu and a footer menu at the bottom of the screen to define the navigation of your store.
Building the actual store necessitates some design work, and Shopify offers hundreds of free and premium web templates from which to build your pages. You can also hire a Shopify Expert to create a completely unique design for you. These Experts are pre-approved professional designers, marketers, and developers who can assist you with the development of your store.
Step 2: Add products.
We cover adding products to your catalog in the previous section, “Constructing your catalog.”
Step 3: Set up payment methods.
You need to decide how you want to handle payment processing for your store. Shopify integrates with over 70 payment gateways around the world, from services like PayPal or iDEAL to systems like Bitcoin. Shopify also offers its own gateway, which offers competitive rates and allows you to accept credit cards.
Step 4: Set up tax rates.
You must be aware of tax-collection policies in this day and age of Internet sales. They differ by state, and new legislation is being considered as this book is being published. Most states currently require you to collect sales tax from customers who live in the same state as your business.
In an increasing number of cases, you may be required to collect sales tax from customers who live outside of your business state. For specific information, contact your local Chamber of Commerce, accountant, or state government’s business office. At a minimum, you need to set up the tax rate for your local business area.
Step 5: Set up shipping rules.
For your store, you must define shipping methods and rates. You have the option of using vendors such as USPS, UPS, and FedEx. Shopify can calculate shipping rates for each customer based on the weight of the items in the customer’s shopping cart if you define shipping weights for each product in your store. You can also set flat shipping rates that are not affected by the number or weight of items in the customer’s shopping cart.
After you’ve completed these five steps, you should look into the other settings and capabilities Shopify provides you as a shop owner. You can configure notifications, custom domains, and even specific apps for your customers to download and use in conjunction with your store. To make your store look great, you can choose from 100 free and professional themes.
You can include a fully functional blog to assist you in communicating with and marketing to your customers. You can create a robust About Us page to inform your customers about your company and why you started this store, allowing you to better connect with your customer base and differentiate yourself from the competition.
How To Select a Shopify Plan
Shopify provides different levels of e-commerce service based on the size and scope of your business. As your company expands, so can your plan, as you move up the scale to a more robust set of services.
Other services require you to pick your features à la carte by piecing together a plan. Shopify provides a solid foundation for all of its merchants while also providing enhancements for its larger clients to meet the needs of a growing customer base.
Shopify has years of experience in providing various tools, such as e-commerce, retail POS, and even social media Buy buttons or pins for sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and those refined tools help make these packages that much more accessible.
1. Basic Shopify package: Starting out
Don’t be fooled by the name: the Basic Shopify package isn’t a stripped-down, bargain-basement tool with only a few products. This package offers a comprehensive set of features and is an excellent starting point for new e-commerce retailers.
The Basic package includes the ability to create your own store, host an unlimited number of products, and design your site using Shopify tools. Some of the more advanced marketing and reporting techniques are only available in more expensive packages, but most small businesses do not require them.
2. Shopify package: Moving up
The medium solution is the Shopify package, which contains all the features of the Basic Shopify package, but also offers more advanced features that bigger e-commerce stores need to run their enterprises.
Some of the benefits you receive in this standard package include
- Five unique staff accounts (compared with two accounts with the Basic package)
- Better shipping label discounts
- The capability to view real-time advanced professional reporting tools
- The capability to offer gift certificates/cards for your website
- The capability to recover abandoned shopping carts
3. Advanced Shopify package: Building on solid ground
As e-commerce websites grew, Shopify needed a solution for its biggest customers. Although rich functions are important to bigger websites, you should care mostly about scalability — the capability to grow your website’s capability to match an increased number of customers or demand. Therefore, Shopify created the Advanced Shopify package.
The Advanced Shopify package focuses on providing the right amount of capabilities to make sure that the customer’s website brings in lots in sales just as smoothly as they were bringing in their first few orders. This is enhanced with an advanced report builder option and real-time carrier shipping options.
When you sign up for Shopify and decide to use the system after your free trial, you will be charged fees. Unlike some companies, which charge a one-time fee to create an e-commerce site or offer free tools in exchange for ad placements or ownership, Shopify operates on a subscription model with no setup fee. You pay each month that you use its service. There are only two types of fees in your payment to Shopify:
Monthly fee: Shopify charges a fixed monthly subscription fee for using its solution. You can save 10 percent on an annual plan, 20 percent on a biennial plan, or 25 percent on a three-year plan, if you pay for that term upfront. The month-by-month price varies by plans:
- Basic Shopify: $25 per month
- Shopify: $69 per month
- Advanced Shopify: $299 per month
Transaction fee: To handle your online payments, Shopify gives you the option of using its built-in Shopify Payments gateway system or an external payments gateway system. Shopify Payments has no additional fees, and its online credit card processing rates are reasonable. Shopify charges a transaction fee if you use an external payment gateway (such as Stripe or PayPal). Depending on the package you choose, the transaction fee is a percentage of your sales. As your sales increase, the percentage decreases:
- Basic Shopify: 2.0 percent
- Shopify: 1.0 percent
- Advanced Shopify: 0.5 percent
Shopify provides a number of functions with its e-commerce packages, but the company charges extra for some added services. Check out the various options at www.shopify.com to see if they make sense for the business you are planning to operate.
Marketing on Shopify
You can spread the message of your business in many ways through the Internet and in the physical world. Most people find that their biggest limitation is time because there are many more programs than there are hours in the day. That’s where technology comes in. Shopify provides several ways to improve important merchandising features, such as the following:
- Built-in search engine optimization: Shopify provides total support for a lot of SEO best practices, like making sure your title and meta tags get filled in correctly for your website pages. They also update your sitemap.xml files so the search engines can detect any website updates automatically.
- Discounts and coupons: Shopify builds in functionality where you can provide specific discount codes as well as coupon codes to appeal to different customer bases and encourage repeat business.
- Social media integration: Shopify builds in buttons and functionality into its themes to allow your customers to share your products and store with their friend networks.
There are lots of ways to connect with your customers. The power of an online business is that you can reach out to each customer individually rather than relying on a network of distributors, middlemen, and retailers to connect products with customers.
A customer relationship management (CRM) system is a piece of software that assists businesses in managing customer relationships, tracking sales and leads, and automating marketing tasks.
Gift certificates are a feature included in Shopify’s Standard and Advanced packages. You can also provide automatic discounts to your customers, whether it’s a one-time promotion, a reward for their first purchase, or an incentive to return for a new order.
Shopify manages the logistics so you can give your customers a simple code that acts as a gift certificate or discount coupon, as well as update their orders as needed.
After you get to know your customers, you can follow up with one of over 400 email marketing apps from the Shopify app store, like MailChimp, and they will help you build and execute an email marketing campaign.
You can easily view your customer history with Shopify and organize customers into specific groups that you can market to directly. You can have the capability for customers to buy gift cards for your store to give to other people, and encourage those customers to write product reviews that would be stored and displayed on your store.
Some of these features are available only with the Standard and Advanced Shopify packages.
Shopify Sales Reports
Shopify offers a variety of sales reports to help you track what’s working and what isn’t, so pay attention to these reports and make informed decisions about how to grow your business.
Simply click the Analytics link from the main Shopify menu to view the various reports under the Overview dashboard. Your sales reports give you a clear picture of how well your website is performing overall. Sales can be analyzed based on a variety of factors such as time of day, customer, channel, and traffic source.
You can also categorize your visitors by location, landing page, or advertising campaign. These reports are available if you have a Standard or Advanced Shopify subscription. You can export the data to Microsoft Excel if you want to do more number crunching.
You can figure out how your customers found you in the first place by looking at their orders. A report that analyzes sales based on the customer’s traffic referral source is available. For each visit, you can see the referring URL of that customer, which is the web address your customer was viewing before coming to your website.
Shopify even connects the orders that originated from these links to calculate the revenue per visit. This information helps you determine how valuable a new customer can be — and how much you should spend to entice that new customer to return.
Pay close attention to the URL if the referral URL comes from a search engine. You can see the exact search terms that the visitor typed into the search engine to find you. Understanding these terms should help your SEO marketing campaigns.
Finally, think about what you can learn that isn’t related to sales or visits. Customers can enter search terms and navigate directly to the product page they need.
To track this type of customer, Shopify also displays the most frequently used words in your own website’s search engine. On a daily basis, you see a ranked list of the top search terms your customers use to find your specific products. Then, compare this list to your inventory.
Examining customer search terms can help you match the right product to the right customer. More importantly, you’ll notice a list of top search terms that don’t have any product results. This displays a list of products that your customers want but you don’t currently have in stock, indicating which new products you should consider carrying in your store.
Congratulations on learning how to set up and launch a Shopify store. It may not have taken up too much of your time, but it is an accomplishment worth celebrating. You are now an official Shopify merchant. Now you just have to start earning money.
Learn more about how to dropship on Shopify.