What is Shopify?
Shopify is a cloud-based e-commerce platform that giant brands and new entrepreneurs alike use to create online storefronts.
Shopify has a large customer base, and with time the platform has become extremely adaptable for different types of users. It takes minutes to set up a store and customize it to your liking. There are hundreds of extensions available to turn your store into a multinational, multilingual platform enterprise e-commerce operation.
To meet these different needs, Shopify offers three subscription levels ranging from $29/month to $299/month. We’ll discuss these further in a later section.
Who should use Shopify?
Small to medium-sized brands
Shopify’s user-friendly interface allows less tech-savvy people to create and run successful online stores. It supports businesses that are just starting out, or are already established and have small to medium-sized operations. The Shopify App Store offers multiple integrations that help create a fully functional online store that offers a one-of-a-kind customer experience. It has SEO features and other marketing tools, providing a strong marketing foundation for brands trying to make a name in the market.
Companies like Tesla and Nestlé use Shopify to manage their e-commerce functions. However, for companies with such large operations, Shopify Plus websites are more viable. Shopify Plus websites offer an open API and have more customizable as well as automation options for brands. The plan also comes with advanced omni-channel and multi-channel selling features.
New website owners
If you’re looking to create a new website, or have just started an online store, Shopify is your best friend. The e-commerce platform gives a range of themes to pick for your store. You don’t require any technical skills in particular to develop a website and have it up and running. Within minutes, you can create your product catalog and customized web pages for the ultimate customer experience.
Shopify vs Other Platforms
Shopify vs BigCommerce
BigCommerce is best suited for companies with big operations. The platform is built for large enterprises offering a wide range of products, or for startups looking for immediate expansion. This platform, however, isn’t as user-friendly as Shopify. While you can use customizable templates to enhance the functionality of your store without having any particular coding knowledge, users must possess some knowledge on web design to efficiently use the platform’s advanced features.
Shopify vs Magento
Magento is an open-source solution, having both self-hosted and cloud-hosted options, and is more suited towards brands that have IT and development teams on hand. Magento lets you keep 100% control of your e-commerce business, unlike Shopify where you can only customize certain aspects of your websites or storefronts. Having full control of the Magento platform means regular bug updates that need to be done by your own team, and requiring entire site integrations.
Shopify vs WooCommerce
WooCommerce is not your typical standalone ecommerce platform. It’s a free plugin that can turn your WordPress account into a fully functional site. Since it’s actually a plug-in, it doesn’t come in comparison to Shopify.
WooCommerce is more applicable to those who already have a website. This could be an issue if you don’t have a website, or beneficial if you just want to integrate a plug-in to speed up traffic and sales.
Shopify vs SquareSpace
SquareSpace is the ideal platform to use when you’re looking for a sleek and simple website. However, it offers limited customisable options for your store. However, when it comes to really flesh out your store with additional features, Shopify’s app store comes to the rescue.
Shopify vs Wix
Wix has long been touted as beginner-friendly and being targeted towards those online stores that are small or have less than 100 products. Shopify, on the other hand, is more targeted towards businesses that may start off small but are looking to quickly expand and grow.
Wix definitely scores points in product presentation and it has features to extend your brand beyond your actual store, in the form of a website, a blog, or email marketing campaigns.
Selling on Shopify
1. Build your plan
There is no business in the world that you can jump into without a plan in mind. A Shopify store is no exception. Before you start signing up, there are various questions you need to ask yourself regarding your store. Here are some examples of the questions you should be asking yourself:
- What is your marketing strategy?
- How do I want to display my products to the buyers?
- Who is my target audience?
- How will I accept payments?
- How will I handle shipping?
- Will I be selling 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 whole business strategy first before designing and developing your website.
2. Set up your Shopify account
To start your Shopify journey, you (obviously) have to create an account. The best part is that you get a free 14-day trial, and don’t need to enter any credit card details for it. This period gives you enough time to navigate through the platform, become accustomed to it, and see if it’s suited for you.
When you get started with the free 14-day trial, you will be required to enter your email address and password, and create a store name. The store name here is very important as it will be the name customers will use to find your store. It will also be part of your URL as “my-store.myshopify.com”.
Once Shopify creates your account, you will be asked for some other preliminary information, including your name, business address, phone number, what you’re selling, and your business’s revenue (if applicable). You can also add billing information, set a store currency, and add a custom domain name. After all of this, you will be guided to the Shopify admin through which you can begin the process of setting up your store.
When your 14-day free trial expires, your account will automatically be disabled, and in order to re-activate it, you will have to select a paid plan.
3. Enter a Domain Name
A domain is a URL that links to your website, for instance, acde.com. Customers will type this when they look for your store online. Shopify gives you a primary domain name which users see in the URL tab when they browse your website.
As a default setting, your primary domain is written as my-store.myshopify.com, but you can purchase a different custom domain or connect a custom domain that you already own. You can have only one primary domain; you can choose your root domain or a subdomain as your Shopify store’s primary domain. You can go to Bluehost or GoDaddy if you choose to buy a new domain. If you have a unique company name, you can always choose this as your domain name but sometimes your choice of domain name may be unavailable as someone else might already be using it.
4. Adding your products
To start adding products to your Shopify page, you can navigate to the Products Page on your Shopify admin. Now, if you already have all your products listed in a CSV file, or you’re migrating products from a different platform, software such as a PIM, or marketplace, you can use the Shopify Bulk Upload option.
If you have to add products manually, there are a number of ways in which you can organize those and choose how to present them to your customers. Shopify will ask for various fields when entering your products. This includes the product’s title, description, price, images, SKU code, shipping information, and any product variants.
The product’s title, description, and images can have a huge impact on your store’s success and SEO ranking, so make sure to optimize each.
Once you have created your product catalogs, Shopify allows you to group them into different collections for customers to find them, for example, sale items, seasonal products, etc.
5. Choose your Shopify theme
Your Shopify theme is what your customers will see when they come to your store. Choosing an aesthetic and highly functional theme is important in engaging customers on your site, and delivering a professional image.
To select a theme for your Shopify store, go to “Customize Theme” from the “Home” tab to pull up your theme options. On this page, you’ll have a variety of options to choose from that will customize the look and feel of your Shopify Store.
Shopify themes are predesigned store designs that you can use to feature your products without having to hire a designer or a developer to create a beautiful online store front for your business.
Initially, your store is using the default “Debut” Shopify theme. It’s free and it looks fairly good. If, like many e-retailers, you want something with a more unique look or different options, you can click on “Explore free themes” to see a variety of other themes (and their variants) that you can choose from.
You can also buy themes from the Shopify store or use a site like ThemeForest to see hundreds of potential options. The only real advantage of picking a theme from the Shopify Theme Store is that you can instantly add and customize your new theme. If you pick a theme from an external site, you’ll need to download the theme and then click “Upload theme” to add your new theme.
Once you’ve decided on a theme, you’ll need to click “Actions > Publish” to activate it. However, there is still a lot of customization needed once you’ve picked out a theme.
6. Installing relevant sales channels
One of the advantages of using Shopify for your business is that your online store is just one of the many sales channels you can use to sell your products. You can connect your products to additional sales channels to meet your customers where they are, while keeping track of your products, inventory, and reporting in the same Shopify account so you always know what’s going on in your business.
While you don’t have to connect all of them right away, it’s good to have them in mind when you’re ready to explore new ways to get your products in front of the right shoppers.
7. Adding Apps that enhance the functionality of your store
While the basic Shopify options are enough to have a store up-and-running, there’s a possibility that you’ll need to add some additional features to help give your store that boost and lock in sales.
In this situation, you can either hire a developer to create a custom solution or check the Shopify App Store. The Shopify App Store offers hundreds of apps that you can add to your store.
For example, when adding your products, you might want to consider a tool that enables you to optimise your product descriptions and share them with your channel partners. A PIM solution helps streamline product feeds across Shopify. For this function, the Apimio PIM is available on the Shopify store and comes with a 14-day free trial.
If you want to send your customers reminders when they abandon carts, you can use Pushowls. It sends automatic email notifications to anyone that comes to your Shopify store and abandons their carts. Cart abandonments are common in ecommerce, and can damage your sales and conversions. Read our guide on how you can reduce your store’s CAR.
There will always be customers who would want to return their products. As a matter of fact, having a return and refund policy on your Shopify store will build trust for your brand amongst customers. You can use the Return Magic app on Shopify to set up your returns.
I would recommend you always check the Shopify App store before hiring a developer as there’s a good possibility you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for. It’ll be more convenient and cost effective for you to purchase those apps. You can also read the reviews before adding an app to your store. Some developers charge you a monthly fee to use their app, while others only charge you a one-time fee.
Keeping that in mind, think about all the features you want to add to your store and how those will add value to your site and customer experience, and then find the right apps for the functions.
8. Set up shipping
Shipping costs can become a headache. Trust us on this one. So it’s absolutely vital that you have these figured out before you take your first order. Determine your shipping rate and method beforehand: do you want to charge a flat rate? Will you have a varying rate depending on the size of the package? Do you want to offer free shipping? Create a list and weigh the costs. Free shipping largely depends on your retail pricing.
Once the pricing is figured out, you have to see the weight of the products you’re selling, and the sort of packaging you’ll be using for these. Following on, you have to determine what regions and countries you will be shipping to. All of this information will be used to calculate your shipping rates that will vary depending on which shipping partner you contract with. You can choose to use a third-party carrier like FedEx, UPS, or USPS, a fulfilment or drop-shipping service, or fulfill orders manually.
Shopify members can also use Shopify Shipping, a built-in shipping suite that gives sellers access to calculated rates through shipping companies including USPS, UPS, and DHL, and the ability to print shipping labels.
9. Set up payment settings
Any online store will only be successful if it offers the customer their preferred form of payment: PayPal, Stripe, Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Amazon Pay, Bitcoin, it should include all. To accept credit card payments on your Shopify store, you can either use Shopify Payments or a third-party payment service provider, such as Stripe. Note that Shopify charges an additional fee to use a third-party provider with its system.
You can also allow customers to pay without putting in their credit card information by enabling payments through PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Wallet, or Amazon Pay. Shopify also provides the option to accept cryptocurrencies as payment, which by the way, is a form of payment we expect to take over e-commerce by storm this year.
You can handle your payment methods from the payment providers section of your Shopify admin.
10. Set up taxes
As a merchant, you will need to charge sales tax and pay those to the government, Shopify helps in handling basic sales tax. You can also configure your tax rates based on which country you’re selling in. Shopify also caters to unique tax laws that you can set up according to your needs and requirements.
11. Store Policies
One of the last logistical steps you must take before opening your store is setting your store policies. This includes your return and refund policy, customer privacy, terms of service, as well as legal information and shipping policies. All these policies will automatically be linked in the footer of your checkout pages.
How much does Shopify cost?
Shopify Lite is Shopify’s cheapest plan at $9 per month. However, with this plan, you can’t actually create an online store. The plan lets you sell via an existing website or Facebook page via a buy button or with a Facebook plugin.
When you sign up for Shopify Lite, you can upload your catalog to Shopify and then integrate it with your third-party platform. All Shopify customers will receive a free mobile card reader when they sign up to process in-person transactions. Note that Shopify charges a 2.7% fee for every in-person credit card transaction.
The Basic Shopify plan costs $29 per month and provides all the basics you need to start an online business. Perks include the ability to upload an unlimited amount of products, add up to two staff accounts, and use Shopify Shipping.
With Basic Shopify, there is a 2.9% + $0.30 fee on all online credit card purchases, and a 2.7% fee on in-person credit card purchases. Shopify will also charge you an additional 2% fee if you use a payment service provider other than Shopify Payments.
The Shopify plan is for larger businesses that also want to sell in physical stores. At $79 per month, users will receive all the benefits of the Basic Shopify plan plus five staff accounts, the ability to accept gift cards, and professional reports on their business’s performance.
Users will also receive POS hardware, including barcode scanners, receipt printers, cash drawers, and shipping label printers, plus unlimited POS staff PINs, and the ability to integrate with third-party POS apps.
Credit card rates are 2.6% + $0.30 for online transactions and 2.5% for in-person transactions. There is a 1% fee for using a payment provider other than Shopify Payments.
At $299 per month, Advanced Shopify is designed for businesses with high transaction volumes and rapid growth. You will receive all of the aforementioned benefits plus staff accounts for up to 15 employees, more advanced sales reports, and the ability to show third-party calculated shipping rates to your customers at checkout.
There are also lower credit card fees. Online purchases will cost 2.4% + $0.30 while in-person purchases will cost 2.4%. There is a 0.5% fee for using a payment provider other than Shopify Payments.
Shopify Plus is designed for high-volume merchants. Users will receive personalized assistance and a completely customizable ecommerce solution. Pricing is quote-based and varies depending on your business’s needs. Reach out for a free quote.
What can I sell on Shopify?
You can sell physical products, drop-ship products, digital products, or services on your Shopify store. As long as there are no legal implications or restrictions or the product or service you’re selling (such as liquor, weapons, or medicine), Shopify will allow it.
There is a section on the Shopify website called “Ecommerce by Industry,” under which you can find the unique solutions for a variety of different types of products, including antiques, electronics, comic books, car parts, magazine subscriptions, music, and wedding dresses.
Well, that’s it! You’re now well equipped to launch and run your own Shopify store. However, setting up a good-looking, and well functioning store is just the beginning. To get the most out of your site, you must optimize it for various functions, such as marketing, SEO, sales, and conversions.
But don’t worry, we have plenty of guides on how you can do that. We got you!
8 Brilliant Ways To Make Sure Your Ecommerce Product Images Stand Out (Quick Guide).
7 Steps to Creating Powerful Product Descriptions that Sell.