Setting up a Shopify store is exciting, but challenging. Unlike the marketplaces, you’re free to build your own website and completely own the creative process. But that means there’s a ton to do, and you can quickly feel overwhelmed with it all.
That’s why we wrote this guide! To take you from setting up, to choosing the right theme, to managing your orders so awesomely that you’ll have time to tweak your webstore a bit more.
In this guide:
Not gonna lie, there’s a lot of work involved. So we decided to give you the QuickStart version to get things up and running. Here’s the link to the official Shopify manual if you want to get your store absolutely perfect before selling. If you’re more like “meh, just show me the basics for now” then here you go.
This is fairly self-explanatory, and you don’t need to type in credit card details to get the free trial. If we'd taken a screenshot of this all filled in, you’d see that we chose the store name “Bath Bombs Deluxe” for absolutely no reason. Long day.
Tell them if you’re already selling stuff, and what your current revenue is (bit nosey, but ok). Depending on what answer you choose from the dropdown, more questions appear. Star signs of everyone in your family tree, your blood type, that kind of thing. All jokes aside, it’s probably a good thing to answer the questions so Shopify can help you get the most out of it.
Fill in your personal info so Shopify can see where you’re selling from.
When you first enter your store, you’ll see 3 actions for you to start with. The first one is to add your products.
The second action to take on the Home page is customize the theme. So if you click that, you’ll be taken here. On a side note: we’ll be diving into how to choose the right theme for your store a little later in the post.
And if we click into the Free Themes, there are some pretty nice designs to choose from:
And onto the third item on the Home page set up list: Add Domain. If we click into that we get this page and the choices to buy a new domain, connect an existing one or transfer one. Choose whichever one is applicable for you. We don’t recommend that you stick with the default primary domain that Shopify gives you (mystorename.myshopify.com) as it’s not easy for people to remember which ain’t great for brand awareness.
Set up your payment provider so you can, you know, get paid. Click on settings (bottom left) and go into payment providers. You can choose from a list of options. Unfortunately we had to crop just the top portion of the page as the free trial bar ruined the screenshot (sigh).
Once this is all finished, your basics are done and you’ll be able to launch your new store!
Ok, so you’ve got 3 standard plans and a couple of extra ones to choose from if the main ones don’t cut it for you: Basic, Shopify, Advanced, Plus and Lite. The only plan that doesn’t come with a 14 day free trial is the Plus.
The fees are broken down like this:
Check out this handy table that shows you a breakdown of each plan and what you get (links to info about Lite and Plus are at the bottom).
We wish we could be like, it’ll all be super cheap and you won’t need much. But no, we have to be realistic. There are some sneaky costs that could bite your business in the butt if you’re not prepared for them. Liz Hull over at Merchant Maverick made these observations about extra costs:
Development – There are a lot of moving parts when setting up and running a Shopify store and it can be tricky to get all the systems and integrations working as they should. You may need to bite the bullet and outsource some work to a developer.
Hull points out that “Shopify experts are available for hire. The cost of their assistance ranges from a few hundred dollars into the thousands.” Ouch. But having said that, would it turn out more expensive investing tons of your own time learning how to do it yourself? Coding ain’t exactly easy.
Web Design – At the end of the day, this is your business and we’re sure you want everything to be perfect. So if you find yourself not really liking the free website themes that Shopify has to offer, you may find yourself paying for a premium theme or hiring a website designer. Which can really add up, especially if you want to hire a top notch designer (a great designer can charge in the region of $10,000 for a website).
Add-Ons – Ah, the cookie jar. Shopify offers a lot of apps. Hull notes that even sellers who are starting out may need some extensions from the Shopify App store to get what they need from the platform. And then once that is sorted, there is still “plenty of room for expansion via more advanced features and apps.” It can be quite hard to avoid temptation to make the site just that bit better.
Liz also mentions about the cost of third-party solutions like CRM systems, accounting software and shipping software as these can increase your monthly expenses.
The thing is with Shopify is that you have the opportunity to create a unique website to showcase your products, which is an opportunity you don’t get on the marketplaces. Although this freedom to truly build your own brand is liberating, it can also get messy if you’re not sure how to go about the design of your Shopify store.
Web design matters. A lot. So much so that “94% of people cited web design as the reason they mistrusted or rejected a website.” Which is fair enough. If a website looks shoddy, you don’t feel “safe” giving that business your money. What must the products be like if they can’t even bothered to build a decent website, right?
Shopify has a selection of free themes and paid themes. With a free theme, you can view a demo or just go ahead and try it on your site. With the paid themes, the good thing is that you can try before you buy. Because it would be pretty devastating to pay out $180 for a theme that actually looks awful with your products.
Definitely, definitely hit that “Try Theme” button so you can see what it looks like with your own products. Just viewing the pre-made demo won’t give you a good enough idea.
When you try a theme, it won’t be published on your live website for everyone to see. The preview is for your eyes only while you’re making a decision whether to buy it.
Let’s work through some essentials to think about when browsing themes. There are a lot to choose from, so having a checklist of sorts is a good idea.
First of all, how much are you selling? And how much are you planning to sell? Any expansion plans? It’s really important to not get caught up thinking about the short-term only. Because, as Zachary M at TaskHusky notes:
“Some themes work really great supporting hundreds of individual products (SKUs). Others just don’t do as well. And you have to think a little bit ahead of yourself. You don’t want to build out a new site now and then have to redo it again in six months because your product line is expanding.”
Luckily, Shopify have made it super easy to see which themes are best for small inventory levels and large. It’s a good idea to assess the size of your inventory before browsing through all the themes, in case you fall in love with one that isn’t suitable for your store!
To avoid a ton of work and expense later, Michael P. Hill at Out Of The Sandbox advises you to make sure you’re happy with the foundational elements like:
Hill points out that changing these elements are usually the most difficult to do. So yeah, pick a theme where these are already taken care of, so you can focus on customizing other parts.
Your products should be presented in the best light if you want healthy sales figures. But if you don’t have an eye for design, what does that even mean? Looking to Zachary M at TaskHusky again for this one because he has such great tips.
He says it’s good to go for an ornate theme or solid color background if you’re selling “visually simple products like lotions and creams, books and training materials . . .” to make the products stand out.
If you’re selling things that are already quite eye catching, then he advises that you choose a clean and simple theme because you don’t want visual overload.
And lastly, if your products include bold colors then it’s best to choose a theme that’s “light and neutral so as not to distract.” And you don’t want to end up with color clashes.
Confusion and a frustrating user experience are the enemy of conversions. We have to bear in mind that shoppers don’t want to have to work hard to make purchases so we need to make it frictionless and easy for them to buy. Or they’ll just take their money elsewhere.
Julian Foulds at SellerSmith says that “your theme should follow a logical ‘flow’ that naturally leads traffic from the main page, to the products page and finally to purchasing.”
He also says that one of the best places to start with creating that smooth customer flow is by making sure that your pages aren’t overly complicated when they don’t need to be. He advises you check that “key elements like the navigation bar are in a standard location” and also that you use easy to understand product titles to encourage people to click through your site.
Key takeaway: Shoppers won’t work hard to navigate your website. You need to make it ridiculously easy to do so.
We all swoon a bit over fancy techy features that look good. But do you actually need these features, and will you use them (realistically)? Any elements that are just sitting on your site use extra resources and could cause slower page loading times. Slow loading times = frustrated users = they leave your site quickly = Google gets the message that your site isn’t great = hurts your ranking.
This is not always the case if it’s a good theme without a bunch of bloated code, but it’s something to be aware of. Rule of thumb: if it’s not crucial, cut it.
It’s easy to forget about the Shopify Blog feature when you’re filling up your store and stressing over color schemes. Your blog is a great way to help your audience and build brand authority with them. The plate that it’s served on also needs to look good or people won’t stick around to read it.
Joe Callon at Statement Agency observes that the blog design is often forgotten about by designers and it’s usually the case that it’s added on at the end. So yeah, it’s wise to make sure that the blog design doesn’t look like it was chucked on as an afterthought and goes well with your other imagery. Especially because Shopify instructs designers to include featured blog posts with images on the Home page of each theme. The front page of your store.
Callon says that in terms of blog design, you should look for “the capacity to include tags with your posts for easy navigation and a bit of SEO assistance, as well as large, beautiful featured images”.
When you're playing around with the theme, use the buttons at the top to see what your site will look like on different screen sizes. All themes should be mobile responsive as standard, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure you’re completely happy before buying.
Basically, you need to make sure you have something to fall back on if you run into any problems. Joe Callon advises that you check out how detailed the documentation is and see how easy it would be to get in touch with the developers. There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to fix something yourself and not being able to get help.
He also says that reviews are a good place to go to get an idea of how responsive the theme support team is, and any issues that come up a lot. So have a read through and see if there’s anything in there that you wouldn’t want to put up with long-term!
It’s good to have some tools in your back pocket in case you need them further down the line. If you launch your store with a new theme, and want to improve your conversions, check out:
If your website load speeds are lagging, check out:
Yep. Even if you don’t use Fulfilled by Amazon for your Amazon listings, you can still get Amazon to fulfill your orders from other sales channels.
If you are using FBA, then your existing inventory in Amazon’s warehouses will be used to fulfill all your orders. If you’re not using FBA, you can arrange to have some stock sent to Amazon. The proper name for this service is Multichannel Fulfillment.
We wrote all about how you quickly send orders in bulk to be fulfilled by Amazon here. (The post focuses specifically on eBay, but everything in there also applies to Shopify orders.)
Here’s how you manually fulfill multiple orders at once inside Shopify:
As for the tracking information being sent out, it depends if you’re using Shopify Shipping (only available in the US and Canada). With Shopify Shipping, you can buy your shipping labels in bulk (up to 20 at a time) and the tracking info is sent out automatically, if you purchased tracking of course.
If you’re not using Shopify Shipping, then unfortunately you'll need to add the tracking numbers manually (urgh), either during the order fulfillment process or after. SPOILER: We’ll show you a better way shortly in case you decide that the manual route wastes too much time.
You shouldn’t have to take on a bunch of extra work just because you don’t use Shopify Shipping. Your time is worth too much to waste! Order management software can solve the problem for you.
Here are some screenshots from inside ChannelGrabber to show you how easy it is:
1. Select the orders (just pretend it says Shopify!). Although this is a teachable moment, as you can do this for orders from multiple channels and ship them at the same time.
2. Click “Ship” to print your labels as normal with ChannelGrabber’s multi-courier integrations.
3. Once the orders are packed up and ready to go, you click “Dispatch” to process in bulk. Your sales channels are updated, and your customers get an automatic shipping confirmation email complete with tracking information. Did we mention you can do this for all your orders coming in from different channels?
It’s a right pain having to log into all your different channels to collect lists of unfulfilled orders to pick, pack and ship. And it’s a colossal waste of time. Thankfully, there is a way you can quickly create one list that includes all your unshipped orders. We wrote a post about it here, complete with screenshots.
Yep, and you can do it in just a few clicks. The best way to create attractive, fully customized invoices quickly for all your sales channels is by using a good order management system. You can also create invoices that are tailored to each selling channel.
Find out more about bulk invoicing here.
Shopify is becoming a bit of a multichannel platform itself, offering integrations with Amazon, eBay and Etsy. There are a few drawbacks though.
The Amazon app has several limitations which wouldn’t exactly make the order management process easier. For instance, you can’t use the Amazon integration for Fulfillment by Amazon or Seller Fulfilled Prime offers. And the integration doesn’t fetch your customer messages from Amazon Seller Central either. So you would need to remember to log into your account to check for any important messages before going ahead and fulfilling orders. It also has a low rating of 1.8 stars (as of January 2019) based on 114 reviews.
The eBay app seems to be better than the Amazon one with a rating of 3.4 stars (as of January 2019) based on 215 reviews. There are talks of bugs, glitches/syncing issues and a lack of technical support in the reviews though which is something to be wary of.
In terms of Etsy, it’s a paid app that comes with a 7 day free trial. In the reviews department, it has a rating of 4.4 (as of January 2019) based on 11 reviews.
It honestly depends on which sales channels you’re selling on, or planning to sell on. If you’re just using Shopify and Etsy then that would probably be fine. It’s the Amazon and eBay apps where you might find yourself on shaky ground.
And if you’re using all these channels, then why pay out for the Etsy integration if you’re having trouble with the other ones? Chances are you would need to invest in another solution anyway to help you efficiently manage your Amazon and eBay orders.
So bearing all that in mind, it kinda makes sense to invest in just ONE order management solution that can manage all 4 channels (and others) in one location.
Here’s what to look for in order management software:
Well, what do ya know? ChannelGrabber offers all of that and more. Book in for a demo to see exactly how we can help your business.
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