If you’re looking to become one of the 627,000 new U.S. businesses that open their doors this year, it’s time to give some thought to your website.
Whether you’re opening an online boutique or creating your website to complement your brick-and-mortar store, you’ll need a well-designed site that’s hosted on a trusted web-hosting platform.
There are dozens of great choices to consider, and Shopify is one of our favorites!
Before you dive into creating your website, we’ve put together an in-depth guide on how to start a Shopify store for success.
In just a few minutes, you’ll not only know if a Shopify site is the best choice for your new business, but you’ll also be ready to begin the process of customizing the site yourself!
Why Use Shopify
Before you begin getting started with Shopify, it’s a good idea to learn a bit about the service and how it aligns with your business goals.
Shopify is one of the most commonly used sites for e-commerce stores that specialize in both physical and digital B2C products. Over 1.7 million businesses use Shopify to sell their products. Although it can be used to sell services, Shopify is best suited to companies like online boutiques.
You can integrate the products listed on your Shopify site with other large selling platforms like Etsy, Facebook, and Amazon. If you already have a website for your products up and running, you can use Shopify’s buy button to give visitors the option to buy products there using Shopify’s secure payment processes.
Once you set up your Shopify store, you can expect reliable customer service, SSL-encrypted data, and mobile-friendly configurations. Shopify is an especially great option for new businesses who are looking for a high-functioning website with plenty of customization options.
Shopify Pricing – How Much is Shopify?
For businesses that are just starting out, Shopify is considered one of the most affordable platforms. Businesses that require more services will need to use one of Shopify’s more expensive plans.
Shopify offers three pricing options.
- Basic Shopify Plan is $29/mo. + 2.9% and 30c per transaction
- Shopify Plan is $79/mo + 2.9% + 30c per transaction
- Advanced Shopify Plan is $299/mo + 2.4% and 30c per transaction
- Shopify Plus Plan is $2000/mo. and 2.15% per transaction
Plans above are listed monthly but do offer a 10% discount for annual plans and a 20% discount for biennial plans. You can upgrade or downgrade your plan at any time.
Shopify also offers a free 14-day trial period to familiarize you with some of its features. Once you upgrade to a paid plan, you can integrate your domain name with the site.
Getting Started – How to Start a Shopify Store
Once you decide on the best Shopify plan for you, you’ll have access to your new website!
You may want to get started with the design right away, but it will benefit you to have the following information in hand first.
- A strong business name and idea
- Your logo
- High-quality pictures of your products
- An understanding of your pricing model
Knowing your brand identity and its range of products will make the rest of your website development much smoother. Without these details, you may spend hours creating an entire look for your website, only to scrap it later.
Adding Products to Your Store
The very first thing you should do on your Shopify website is to add some products to your store. Aside from being the entire reason that visitors are visiting your site in the first place, your product listings have the biggest impact in determining how your site looks and which functions are the best choice for you.
Start listing some items and see for yourself!
To add your first product, go to Products > All Products > Add Product in the Shopify dashboard.
Then, you’ll enter information for each product…
Your title is the first piece of information that your customers will learn about what you sell. Short, simple, and unique titles will give your products a better shot at being memorable.
Make sure that no two product titles are the same. Otherwise, search engines will get confused. We’ll explore this later in the article.
Here’s your chance to explain what makes your product so special. Include key details of the product, as well as information that they won’t know just by looking at the picture.
Keep your product description short and sweet. Search engines love content that is organized and easy to read. Your product description can be just another way for your to better your site’s standings on the search engine results page.
The media section for each product listing is your opportunity to add photos, videos, and even 3D models of your products. Customers will base their trust in your products on the quality of your media – and consistency is key here.
All of your media should represent your brand identity. Photos and videos don’t need to be shot in the exact same style but they need to be cohesive.
It’s important you use the same aspect ratio for product media. Imagine how jumbled a page would look if all of its product images are different heights and widths.
Also, keep in mind Shopify’s photo resolution requirements. All photos have a minimum of 800 x 800 pixels (or 1000 x 1000 if you’re selling on Amazon or Etsy), but Shopify recommends using photos that are at least 2048 pixels wide.
Alt-text is the text used to describe each picture that you’ve uploaded. Just double-click on the picture and the alt-text option will appear.
Your website visitors will see alt-text for an image if it does not load. Using alt-text will also make your website more accessible for those with vision impairments.
Alt-text has another bonus – it’s helpful for your SEO rankings.
Add all of your product options – like size, color, or material – to the variants section. Once you distinguish each product, you can list the corresponding prices, quantities, and SKUs.
Shopify lets you create 3 options for each product and up to 100 variants of the item. A variant is a combination of product options. For instance, one variant would be the size, color, and material of an item.
100 variants may seem like a lot. But because it is a combination of all available options, it actually ends up limiting products with a variety of features. You’ll need to get help from a development team or experiment with a product variation Shopify app to have more options.
Set the price for each item you sell using the price button. You can show customers when an item has gone on sale by using the “compare” feature. Here you can list the original price and the new price.
The product pricing options also let you decide if you’ll apply a tax to the item, depending on your area and tax status. Don’t worry if you’re still unsure.- it can be easily changed later.
This part of the product page helps you keep track of the items you’re selling and communicates to Shopify what it’s expected to do should you run out of a product.
Add SKUs (stock-keeping units), bar codes, and quantity information for each product. SKUs and bar codes can help you track when products are sold and returned. But the quantity field is the most important dataset for inventory.
After you list the quantity available, you can decide if you want to let Shopify continue selling products to customers even if they are out of stock or display a “sold out” indicator instead.
After you’re happy with all of the information listed for your product, it’s time to list your product as active. Using the product availability option, you can decide if you want to make your product available or hide it.
If you end up using other selling channels, this is also where you’d mark the product as active or not.
Shipping Shopify Products
The price you charge for shipping will vary on your business model. While most customers appreciate free shipping, you’ll have to decide the best method for you.
There are a few ways to include different shipping options on your site.
The first would be to hold your inventory and ship it yourself.
In this case, you would calculate and enter the shipping information under each product manually. You can type in the weight of the product and customs information for international shipping options, and Shopify will calculate the price.
You can also use the dropshipping method. In this case, you would sell products on your site but would not hold them as inventory. When a customer purchases a product from your store, you’d buy it from the supplier and choose it shipping to go to your customer.
If customers would like to return an item, the Shopify app store offers the free app AfterShip Returns Center. It includes a pre-paid label for customers to send it back to your store. Return methods are flexible, including getting back store credit, refunding to the original payment method, or exchanging an item.
Shopify Store Pages & Menus
This is the last step before you get to design your website – we promise.
Like it’s wise to upload your products before you choose your design, it’s also a good idea to get a rough idea of your web pages. You’ll get a much better idea of what templates work for your store.
Consider some of the following web page ideas that you’ll include in your store.
- Every website will have a homepage
- About Us
- Product Category
Except for your home page, you should have all of your website pages added with a rough idea of what content will be on each page before you pick your theme. It will be difficult for you to change the design on these pages after you choose your theme.
A homepage is better to create after you’ve decided on a template because Shopify gives you custom homepage design options. For instance, if a template has great designs for supporting pages but an unappealing one for your homepage, you’ll be able to edit it to fit your taste.
With all of your pages (minus the home page) created, you can add your navigation menu to your site. Go to Online Store > Navigation.
Here, you’ll have a choice to add the main menu or a footer menu.
For the best user experience, you’ll include the most relevant pages to your main menu, like your about us page, blog, and all of your product categories. On the footer menu, common pages include FAQS and Partner Programs.
Some pages like the Contact Page are included in both menus so that customers looking to reach out have no obstacles when doing so.
Now it’s time for the fun part!
Although you’ll get the best results with a professional web design team, the Shopify web design templates guarantee a beautiful site no matter your level of experience. You can even choose a theme and hire a web design team to customize it even further.
Shopify offers both free and paid themes. Both can be found on the Shopify Theme Store. The variety in Shopify’s themes allows you to pick one based on your product, your style, and even your method of selling to the customer.
Shopify now has a new drag and drop editor as part of its ‘Online Store 2.0’ format, which allows you to pick up and move elements of each page wherever you’d like. Keep in mind that there is only one free theme with this new update, so your options may be limited if you’re not looking to upgrade.
Another important thing to remember when choosing your theme is to pay more attention to the structure of page elements rather than the theme’s colors or fonts.
For instance, look at how a particular theme groups images or arranges texts. This distinct look is a key feature of that theme and isn’t made to be changed. Meanwhile, the font you use throughout your website, the background color, and the accent hues you use can be changed easily.
Adding the Home Page
Now that you’ve chosen your theme, it will be time to add your home page to your website. Go to Online Stores > Themes and click the Customize button.
If you’re using the ‘Online Store 2.0’ option, you’ll be brought to the drag and drop editor that we mentioned earlier. You’ll have the freedom to add elements including images, slideshows, featured products, newsletter sign-ups, and featured collections.
Your home page is the first impression that visitors will get of your website, so plan on spending ample time trying out a few designs and testing out which ones appeal most to users. When in doubt, simple is better.
Customize with Logos and Fonts
Once you have your new theme in place and your web pages organized, you can make your website a true reflection of your brand identity by integrating the colors and style of your logo with the look on the website.
If your logo uses a certain font, you can use the same one on your site for a consistent look or a complementary one to add some dimension. The same goes for the colors you choose.
Don’t forget about SEO!
SEO, or search engine optimization, is one of the most important features of your site. Even a site with a custom design won’t be popular on the search engine results page if it’s not search engine-friendly.
If you’re not exactly sure of how to do SEO with Shopify, you’ll benefit from the help of a website development team that can use SEO best practices throughout its design. Your Shopify website will have the most luck ranking higher on the search engine if it’s designed with these ideas in mind.
Fast Loading Time
Search engines use page speed to rank websites, and ones that load more quickly will be ranked higher.
While the speed of your website is determined in part by uncontrollable elements of Shopify’s servers, there are still quite a few factors within your wheelhouse that will make your website faster.
Remove any Shopify apps you’re not using. If you notice that certain images are taking too long to load, you can use compression tools before uploading them. Keep your design simple by using as few fonts and decorative elements as possible.
All of the information on each page of your website will be noticed by crawlers that will then decide how your website ranks on search engine pages. One source of this information is keywords.
Web searches looking for words that match the words appearing on your site will be directed toward you – except that they’ll also be directed toward every other site with those words.
The proper keywords will give your site an edge because they will distinguish you from competitors who appear in internet searches. This is where research becomes your best friend.
Once your Shopify store is complete, it’s not enough to stop there. Keep a steady channel of website visitors by keeping your website relevant and using marketing strategies to make it visible.
Focus on SEO
SEO isn’t just a one-time effort. It requires continued maintenance.
You may find that the high-returning keywords during the first few months of your website’s operations may not be as effective anymore. You should be frequently conducting keywords research to give your website a competitive edge.
Stay aware of Google’s ever-changing algorithm. You may have to adjust your website for it to remain search-engine friendly. The best way to keep your website SEO-optimized without taking too much of your time would be to hire an SEO team.
Create Engaging Content
Every Shopify store comes with a built-in blog, one of the best outlets for you to inform your customers and build relationships with them.
Blogging also gives you the opportunity to include keywords or phrases that don’t sound natural to list under a product.
For instance, if your Shopify store sells clothing, you can create a blog post named “10 ways to style a leather jacket,” with links in your article to the corresponding products you sell. Because this phrase is similar but not identical to your product description, you’ll attract customers who will likely be interested in your items who didn’t look them up directly.
Google has even made a point to mention that posting high-quality content is one of the best ways for your to rank higher and generate organic traffic. If you’re struggling to decide which SEO efforts you want to focus on, content strategy is an ideal place to begin.
Add More Sales Channels
Facilitate customer experiences by adding more sales channels to your website. Shopify allows you to connect Facebook, Amazon, and Etsy.
Platforms like Facebook are one of the best opportunities for your site because you can combine your digital marketing with your store for a customer journey that flows seamlessly.
Build Your Shopify Website
Congrats! Now that you have a better understanding of how to start a Shopify store, you’re ready to get started with the process of designing your website.
With your new store, you’ll officially be an e-commerce entrepreneur. Give your business the best opportunities possible by teaming up with web design and SEO experts.
Get in touch with our team – we’re here to help turn your vision into a working, breathing, profitable business!