Shopify stores are so fun to start for the first time. However, if you don’t know all the Shopify tricks, building an online store can be a bit nerve-wracking. New store owners often over optimize the wrong things while overlooking a few essentials.
Here, we’ll take a look at the Shopify tips that’ll help you master the basics while making sure you’re focusing on the right things.
1. Use AB Testing as Your Business Grows
AB testing (also known as split testing) is when you show different groups or segments of visitors (usually two) two different designs or functionalities on your website, with the intention of determining which one drives more clicks, revenue or results.
The purpose of AB testing is to constantly work on your website’s user experience by putting data behind any ideas that you have to increase key metrics, such as conversion rate. You can also use AB testing in your email marketing or on marketing platforms, such as Facebook Ads.
Look at AB testing when your business starts to get bigger, because it can be a little technical and costly to get started, and you’re not likely to see useful results in your early days of trading.
When you are ready to AB test, you may find a good solution in the Shopify App Store, although I tend to use VWO or Google Optimize (which are not available in the Shopify App Store, but they both work well with Shopify websites).
2. Include a Search Function
One of your key objectives as an online retailer is to bring your customer to a product they’re likely to buy, in as few clicks as possible. Website visitors who use the search feature on a website have a higher conversion rate than those who don’t, so it’s important to ensure that you have a reliable and helpful search feature.
An effective search function is an important part of a good user experience, especially if you have lots of products and variants on your store. Online shoppers can be impatient and will rarely scroll past the first page of a collection.
Try and use a Shopify theme that has the search feature inbuilt. If your desired theme doesn’t show it in the demo, reach out to the theme’s support team to ask if it can be added.
Failing that, you can also use an app to insert a search bar into a theme, such as the Smart Search Bar and Filters app by Rapid Search (available in the Shopify App Store). I like this app as it is compatible with every Shopify theme. It also has some nice features, such as ‘typo tolerance’, and a predictive search function than auto-completes when a customer starts to type. If a customer doesn’t know what to type, they’ll be shown a drop-down list of your store’s most popular products. It has a free plan, and it’s an app I recommend you check out as part of your overall user experience strategy.
3. Check Your Page Load Speed
Also known as the average load time of a page on your website, your page load speed is the time it takes in seconds for a page to load on your website. A poor average load time often correlates to a low conversion rate, so if you see your conversion rate suddenly dip, it’s a good idea to check your page load speed. In addition, Google now ranks faster stores higher in its search engine results.
So what is a good average load time for a web page on an online store? You can find articles online that suggest aiming for less than two seconds is ideal, however I don’t remember the last time I saw a website load a page that fast. If your average page loads in less than four seconds, I think that’s okay.
Shopify ranks your site speed a little differently by providing a score out of 100, which is recalibrated each day using Google’s Lighthouse performance metrics. The higher the number the better, with the score system using other similar online stores as a benchmark.
To check your site speed ranking in Shopify, go to your Shopify admin → Reports → Analytics → Behavior → Online Store Speed, and you’ll see your store speed score at the top of the page.
As with anything technical, you can always hire a Shopify expert to help you out (experts.shopify.com), but you can also take action in your store to help improve your site speed:
- Remove any apps you aren’t using.
- Consider using a theme that’s optimized for performance, such as Shopify’s Dawn, which is free.
- Large image and video files can slow down your site, so try and keep the sizes and formats within reasonable limits.
4. Optimize Your Logistics
Logistics is more than just a means to an end when it comes to sending out your customer orders; it’s one of the key parts of a customer’s overall experience. Amazon has been the industry leader for years, using fast delivery as a way to grow its business. In my experience, when an online store offers fast delivery, conversion rates increase in comparison to stores with slower delivery times.
To ensure your Shopify store is optimizing the logistics experience for your customers, consider:
- Speed: Ensure you’re using reputable shipping carriers that deliver quickly to your target regions. I suggest using Shopify Shipping if it’s available in your country, as the shipping partners are world class.
- Price: If your margins allow it, consider offering free shipping on orders above a certain value. One strategy is to offer free shipping just above your average order value (AOV), or just above the average selling price (ASP) of one of your products, in the hopes of encouraging customers to order a second unit.
- Tracking: One of the most common reasons for a customer to email an online store after they’ve placed an order is to ask where their order is, so don’t forget to add tracking to your orders when you’re fulfilling them so that your customers are updated. As you grow, platforms like Starshipit are great for automating tracking for your orders.
Customers care about how quickly they can receive their orders, and how clearly tracking and order updates are communicated to them, so it’s important that your store offers a competitive logistics solution.
5. Optimize Your Site for Mobile
A website doesn’t just translate by itself from desktop to mobile — both versions require proper design consideration when you’re building your store, so pay equal time to both.
Make the effort to change things that aren’t looking great on a mobile device before launching — this is known as optimizing for mobile, or having a mobile-optimized site. Most online stores that I work with receive more than 50 per cent of their visits from mobile users, so it’s important to design your store with a mobile-friendly user experience in mind.
Shopify allows you to preview your site in both desktop and mobile view while you’re building it, so be sure to check the mobile view from time to time.
To check and adjust your website design in mobile view, follow these steps:
- From your Shopify admin, go to Online Store → Themes.
- Find the theme that you want to edit and click on Customize. Make any changes you require.
- Click on the Mobile icon to see the changes from a mobile device perspective.
6. Fix Broken Links
Broken links are links or URLs that lead to a page that doesn’t exist, typically resulting in an ‘Error 404 Page Not Found’ message. Broken links can occur for a variety of reasons — maybe it links to a collection page or product that no longer exists (perhaps the product has sold out, so you removed it from view), or a URL has changed, and you forgot to redirect the old URL to the new one.
Google sees broken links as a sign of a website that has been neglected or is of lower quality, and so it punishes such websites with poor search engine rankings, which may damage the search engine optimization (SEO) work that you’ve done. A broken link also provides a poor user experience and can lead a customer to bounce (leave your online store) — it may even make them question whether your website is trustworthy.
Regularly check for broken links so you can redirect site visitors to a working link — or at least to a similar page, product or collection, or your homepage.
There’s an app I use for checking and redirecting broken links — Broken Link 404/301 Redirect by Giraffly (available in the Shopify App Store). It has a free plan and you can have a broken link report sent to your email each day. You can even use the app to bulk edit or redirect broken links!
7. Set The Right Price For Your Products
Check, double check and triple check the pricing you’ve decided on for your products.
As a rule, if you’re sourcing products directly from a manufacturer or creating your own brand (as opposed to buying from brands and re-selling) then you should be aiming for 70 per cent profit margin on the product — sometimes called the mark-up. This allows you enough wiggle room for marketing, wages, promotional activities and any other costs of running your business.
The profit (or product) margin, or mark-up, is the profit you make before any costs of sales are considered, factoring in only the cost price of your product and the sales price you are selling at. Your gross margin factors in your cost of sales (such as shipping costs and merchant fees), not just the product costs.
If you’re buying and reselling the products of established brands, a gross profit margin of 45–50 per cent can work, but remember that the lower your gross margin, the less you can spend on your operating expenses, including marketing expenditure, so the rule may change to 40 per cent gross margin, where 20 per cent covers operating expenses, leaving a 20 per cent net profit.
After you go live, you can check your profit margin in the Profit by Product report. If you see anything with too low a profit, consider increasing the price or removing it from your product range after it sells out.
8. Use Social Media To Promote Your Shopify Store
The purpose of using social media in the context of an online business is to build and engage with an audience, ideally within your target market or target demographic. When social media is used well, it can expand your reach through users sharing your content. The overarching objective of building an engaged audience on social media is to then convert them into paying customers.
Here are a few tips to help you maximize your store’s social media strategy from the get-go:
- Master the major platform(s) for your target audience. Find out which social media platforms your target customer uses, and try and master those first. You can’t be all things to all people, so select the right channels and nail them.
- Always reply to comments. Two-way communication is a great way to boost engagement on your social media platforms.
- Keep your posting consistent. Not too often, not too little — once a day is plenty to begin with. Use a scheduling tool so that you can block out an hour or two a week to schedule all your social media content — that way, you’re not doing it on the fly.
- Good scheduling tools include Loomly.com, later.com and sproutsocial.com. They aren’t available in the Shopify App Store as they connect to your social media channels directly, not to your Shopify store.
- Experiment and report. Keep a reporting spreadsheet where you track your posts’ audience engagement levels. A good metric to monitor is to divide the total amount of likes and comments (engagement) per week by the number of posts. If you see your average engagement rising, you’re posting content that your audience appreciates.
Don’t post on social media because ‘all businesses have to these days’. Put thought into your content, and if it’s not your strength, consider outsourcing your content creation to an expert.
9. Link Your Social Media Profiles
It’s commonplace for a website to have links to its social media accounts on the homepage, usually in the footer, so it’s a good idea to set that feature up in your new store so that customers can find out more about your business, particularly if it’s a new venture.
Several of the free Shopify themes come with the ability to link your social media accounts via social media platforms, for example:
When you’re choosing a theme, don’t forget to search for key features in the theme store to find your ideal theme — for example, search for ‘social media’ to view themes that have features geared towards using social media channels.
10. Get Your Product Mix and Inventory Levels Right
The right product mix and inventory levels can make the difference between a roaring success and a fizzling failure. Before you go live, take a look at your product mix alongside that of your nearest competitor. If your competitor is selling something similar but has ten, 20 or 30 times the range size, you’re going to find it very difficult to take a customer away from them — which is essentially what you’re trying to do.
The fewer products you have in your product range, the less likely you are to make a sale due to the lack of options. The way to combat this is to invest properly in inventory and make sure you’re holding just as much variety as your genuine competitors. I’m not talking about department stores with millions of visits each day, but medium-sized competitors who you know your target market shops with, and who you know to be successful — or at least popular.
Don’t skimp on product — going into a new online business with three varieties of socks, T-shirts or backpacks is unlikely to be a life-changer for you, so get busy sourcing products!
On the inventory front, don’t bend to the whim of pushy suppliers. Order what is right for you and try not to be tempted into reaching supplier MOQs (minimum order quantities) that you know aren’t possible.
If you’re selling apparel, make sure you know what sizes or variants are most popular. If you sell out of your bestselling sizes but have too much of the other sizes, the chances are you won’t have enough money generated from profits to repeat an order of the best sizes only, which puts a huge strain on your cash resources. What’s the point of reordering your best sizes if all your profits are tied up in the less popular sizes on your shelves?
11. Keep An Eye on Shopify Reports
One of the great assets that Shopify provides its sellers is its suite of reporting and analytics tools that can be found in the Shopify admin (go to Analytics → Reports).
Here are my top three reports to keep an eye on:
Sales: Who doesn’t love a Sales report? Shopify has a range of out-of-the-box sales reports sitting under the Sales menu of the Reports section. This is a great place for your bookkeeper to come and do their end-of-month financials, or to simply check how sales are progressing from month to month, week to week, or day to day.
Profit by Product: Given I’ve gone on and on about protecting your profit margin, it seems only fitting to include this profit margin report in my top three! Use this report to ensure your profit margins remain on track.
The Profit by Product report relies on you having input your cost prices when you created products. It then calculates your profit margin, so that you can check if your actual profit margin is the same as what you had planned.
ABC Analysis by Product: I’m a big believer in analyzing inventory as a means to grow your business. Knowing your ABC inventory status is imperative for determining whether or not your buying and replenishment is satisfactory.
The ABC Analysis by Product report gives your inventory a grade based on the sales that those products drive.
12. Add All Your Policies To The Footer
The most common mistake new store owners make is forgetting to add policies to their website. When customers browse a website, they often look at the return policy to make sure they can get a refund in the event of a product failure. You can also add legitimacy to your website by adding policies. Trust can be built this way.
Fortunately, you don’t have to create your own policies manually. Shopify lets you adopt or modify the policies you want.
Policy templates can only be generated in English and for checkouts set to English. In case your store operates in another language, you will need to create your own store policies.
However, keep in mind that your site’s policies must be followed. You must accept refunds when a customer requests them if you accept refunds in your policies.
You can find the policies under Legal in your settings.
Your store policies are automatically linked in the footer of your checkout pages after you add them. In your store navigation, you should link to the policies your customers might need to see before checking out.