To be honest, it is not easy to start an online business, many things can go wrong, and profit is hardly seen even after a few months. Many people, like me, focus on the wrong things, which won't actually make a sale. Then we all would complain about how hard it is to launch an eCommerce store. But now, let me tell you this, it doesn't have to be that way, especially when you have a platform like Shopify to help.
What I have found is that if you do things step by step with a great determination, it is much more productive and can increase your chance of success by a lot. Once you get going, it has already got better. Below, I'm going to share a detailed tutorial about how to start a successful Shopify store. It won't be the perfect plan, but it will be exactly what you need to kickstart the journey.
In the article, I will try to give all the knowledge I have through my own experience. I also strongly suggest that you follow your notes and experiment with ideas to create your success. Once a store is up and running, you will be on a constant road of learning and adjusting, so be mentally ready for that. With that in mind, let's get started.
Shopify is a Canada-based eCommerce platform that was created in 2006. You can use Shopify to build your online store or sell in person with its Shopify POS. A monthly fee gives you access to a cloud-based admin dashboard, where you can enter store data, process orders, and add products.
Moreover, you will be able to choose from a rich selection of free and paid design templates. The themes are modern, clean, and responsive on all devices. You can edit the chosen theme to many extent to fit your brand more without knowing about web coding. There is also an app store with thousands of integrations that can enhance a store's functionality in marketing, customer service, product management, and more.
One important thing about Shopify is that you get a secure, reliable hosting for your website through subscription. You don't have to worry about crashing during peak traffic or threats of hacking, thanks to a free SSL certificate and 99.8% uptime on all Shopify stores. Finally, your payments give you access to 24/7 customer support via phone, email, and live chat. You can also use Shopify's Help Center to solve smaller and common problems.
You can sign-up for a 14-day free trial (which is now extended to 90 days during the time of COVID-19) to test the platform yourself. During the trail, you can even make your first sales and receive the profit. Shopify's pricing starts at $9 a month for the Lite plan - used for an existing website. However, their basic plans start at $29 a month, then increase to $79 a month for the middle plan, and reach $299 a month for the advanced plan. Most first-time store owners start with the Basic plan of $29/month.
In short, Shopify has everything you need to quickly begin selling on your very own store, online or offline.
Why should you start a Shopify store?
Shopify is an excellent option for merchants of all sizes. Here are some brief reasons why you should choose Shopify to start a successful online store.
- Easy to use: This is one of the biggest reasons that merchants love Shopify. It is built for average users with no developing skills. You can add products, process orders, and create discounts - which normally would require additional employees. With a drag-and-drop editing tool, you can design your website easily like a pro designer.
- Detailed admin dashboard: In the backend, you will find reports and features that help you understand the store's performance. You can find the best-performing products, view the number of orders, and even watch the visitors in real-time to see what stage of the funnel they are in. This in-depth information lets you scale your business better.
- Low startup cost: Its relatively low fee to start at $29/month is quite affordable for any starters. Even the mid level plan at $79/month can be a good starting point if you have the budget.
- Tons of apps & themes: There are apps for almost everything, such as image background removers, product sourcing, countdown timer, and much more. Free apps are gems that are really useful if you find the right one, such as Proofo by AVADA (that is us). There is also a variety of beautiful and responsive themes to make your store look attractive
- Good for dropshipping: If you look for Shopify, there is a high chance that you are interested in dropshipping. It is the platform of choice for dropshippers thanks to integrations like Oberlo or Spocket - which make the dropshipping process a lot simpler.
- Many support options: You can access support 24/7 via phone, live chat, or email. The community forum is friendly, and self-help options are available. Working with merchants all around the world, support available outside of regular business hours is a savior.
Now, if you are convinced that you should start a successful online store with Shopify, it is time to learn the step by step. And you may just go ahead and sign up for a Shopify account right now, since Shopify is offering a 90 day free trial during the pandemic. There is no better chance to get started.
10 Steps to start a successful Shopify store
The next 10 steps will help you start a successful Shopify store with tips on everything from finding a money-making idea to figuring out your management strategy to finally launch your product.
1. Identify your business idea
Finding a business idea is something you should approach systematically by learning from what has worked for other entrepreneurs. No matter if you are only testing a low investment side hustle or are going all-in with an awesome idea, the best approach to find a product to sell are:
- Align with your personal interests: What are your hobbies in the spare time? Are there products related to your likings that you can sell? Do you have a solution for a common frustration you and your peers have?
- Capitalize on trends: If you notice a specific item that seems to be popping up everywhere, or you have an idea to innovate a popular product, those can be great business ideas for your online stores.
- Research existing products: Check product reviews to see if there are common complaints about some popular products, and see if you can fill in a gap on the market.
Remember this, all you need is just one idea to get started. Many successful Shopify businesses launched with only one signature product and expanded into complementary products from there. From the ideas, you can start testing whether customers are willing to pay for your products or not.
There are many ways to do this, such as setting up a store to take preorders, creating a beta version to sell, or launch a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, and more. When in doubt, start selling as soon as possible to learn from customer feedback and understand how your products can be improved.
2. Have a business name
Now, once you have a product idea, start finding a name for your business that states clearly what you do. It should also be short and memorable, and not already used in your industry. It is not an easy task, but you can achieve that with a bit of effort and imagination. If you feel stuck, try some free business name generators.
Your business name should have these following characteristics:
- Original: You don't want just to avoid similar names, you want to make sure that your business name is not used by any competitor. You can run a trademark search in the countries you do business, and search on Google and social media sites. The same goes for URLs, do a domain name search before you register anything.
- Short and simple: You want your visitors and customers to remember your name quickly, and the best way to do that is using short names. One or two words is ideal, if you use three to four short words, create a memorable phrase.
- Industry-relatable: If your industry tends to have a common tone in the business name, consider using the similar tone too. That said, if there is a chance to have a name that really stands out and is still relatable, definitely go for it.
3. Signing up for Shopify
With a great idea and an awesome name, it is time to visit Shopify. You can use the signup form to create a new account. Just enter the required information and click the 'Start free trial' button. In the old days, you would have to buy a server, upload your store system, hire someone to customize, and pay to maintain the site, but Shopify has simplified this process. Once you sign up, all the server setup and maintenance is taken care of for you.
After the initial screen, you will need to fill in a few more details, including name, country, address, and contact number. There will also be questions about your products and your aim to sell. If you are only trying the free trial to see how things work, you can select 'Im just playing around' and 'I'm not sure' to move on.
Once you have completed, click on 'I'm done'.
4. Set up an online store
After you have signed up, you will go straight to your store admin screen. Here, you can start customizing your store, setting up payments and shipping, and uploading products. You will want to choose your theme or template now to make sure your store looks good. Head to Shopify's theme store.
The available themes are all guaranteed to have responsive designs on all devices and support from the designers. You can make comprehensive modifications to your selected theme without touching a line of code. The premium themes cost between $140 to $180 and have more modifications, but you can still have a great looking site by using the free themes.
You can filter the themes by cost, features, and industry to select. There are also filter options for popularity, price, and most recent. Once you've found the one you like, see the demo to have more information, and read some reviews to see what other business owners using the theme talk about it. If the theme comes in many styles, you can select different styles for your store later.
If you have decided on a theme, just click on the purchase button. Shopify will ask if you are sure that you want to install the theme, you can confirm by clicking on the 'Publish as my Shop's theme'. Don't worry if you are not sure yet, you can always change it back later.
After the theme is installed, you can go to your Theme Manager, see the published themes (the one you installed for your store), and unpublished themes (other installed themes that haven't been used). After this, your store is basically set up nicely.
5. Edit Shopify settings
You will need to tweak a few settings to make your Shopify store run smoothly. In the bottom left corner of the dashboard, click on the 'Settings' section with the gear icon. Fill out all the store details in the 'General' part, this will cover all the information customers need to know about your business. Next, we will get to other necessary settings.
- Payments: Payment gateway is the method a customer would do transactions with your store. Naturally, PayPal is the default method, but I highly recommend Shopify Payments for no transaction fees if you are eligible. You can sign up for Shopify Payments by providing your business information, product information, personal details, and bank account details. Other than that, you can remove, change, or add additional payment gateways like Amazon Pay, Stripe, Google Pay, and more.
- Checkout: You can modify your checkout settings to your own references with your store's logo, fonts, colors, and more. You can also choose if you want your customers to create new accounts when they check out. For new stores, keeping this option as optional is best so buyers can check out as guests.
- Legal policies: Your store needs clear terms and conditions, return politics, and privacy claims to protect yourself and the customer during the buying process. Shopify offers some handy tools to auto-generate these, you can access through
Settings > Legal. You can edit the Shopify templates to your own rules.
- Shipping rate: An online store often attracts customers with free delivery, and you can set this as default too. But if you want to modify this, go to
Settings > Shippingand you can set shipping preferences for shipping zone, minimum order price, and specific shipping rate.
With all the changes above, always remember to click 'Done' or 'Save' to keep your progress.
6. Add your products
Now, we can start adding products into your Shopify store and customize the names, photos, descriptions, and other details like tags or collections. Before you begin, set a mindset that you are going to make your products look good right from the start, this means all the content needs to be as attractive as possible. This will get you a lot of love from the visitors in the future, as well as saving time from needless headache.
We are going to look at the most important parts of adding your products to your successful Shopify store, which are:
- Description: Create a product description that can provide enough information that makes visitors want to buy your products immediately. Your brief description needs to say what problems it solves, what customers gain from using it, and what makes it different from other products on the market. Keep your text tone casual and positive, and also break it into digestible chunks with headings, bullet points, and a lot of visuals.
- Images: If you are doing dropshipping, you may not need to care about this, but every store should take product photos of their own. If you are selling popular products, you can use stock photography from websites like Unsplash. For taking your own images, try to create high-converting images with your brand's personalities. You can rearrange the uploaded images, so don't worry about setting them in any particular order.
- Pricing & Inventory: Shopify's product pricing section has three fields: price (main price), compare at price (to inform a sale), and cost per item (to calculate profit margin). You can also track your product's inventory by clicking on the 'Track quantity' checkbox and showing the number of items available to purchase. When the number turns to zero, Shopify will display "Out of stock" so people can't place orders while you refill the stock.
- Collections: Collections are necessary to group your products into relevant categories. Just go to Products > Collections > Add New Collection, here you can enter the collection's name and select the conditions. For example: If you are selling jewelry, your collections will be something like: Rings, Earrings, Watches, Bracelets, Necklaces, etc.
- About Us page: This page actually has a huge impact on your product sales, since people tend to buy from stores that they feel connected. Your 'About Us' page needs to look unique, personal, and tell a story about how your brand started. Show pictures of yourself to increase credibility. If you don't know what to write, you can try some About us page templates, generators online.
- How to add About us page in Shopify?
- Top 6 product description generator tools
- 8+ Best Shopify Image Editor Apps
- How to Add a Product Image on Shopify
Once everything is filled out, remember to hit the 'Save product' button to save what you have accomplished so far.
7. Plan workload and solutions
At this point, you are really close to launching your successful Shopify store, but you need to have a bit of planning before starting the journey. Estimate how much work you will need to do and what skills you will need to learn in the future. This will guide your timeline and your investment in the store.
If you are doing business by yourself, you will be limited by the time you have in a day. If you are going to hire help, you will need to think of those costs and the time involved in finding suitable employees or freelancers. Here are some basic skills that you will need to consider learning or hiring:
- Design: You will need to make some design decisions for your business, from having a new logo to specific colors. If you want to customize your theme, website design would be required too.
- Photography: As mentioned, you would need photos for your products. Other photos to show your working process and source of materials can help too.
- Marketing: As an integral part of any business, you would need multiple skill sets for marketing. Start by identifying which marketing activities can bring the biggest benefit for your business, and make a list of the skills needed for that. Do some research to understand some common promotional tactics that your industry's companies use, and see if you have the skills required to implement them. You can always hire experts to do tasks for you.
- Shipping: A shipping strategy is needed to cover key details like shipping price, packaging solutions, and locations that you can ship to. How you sell nationally, internationally, or just locally will be affected by your shipping strategy, so set some goals to change as your business grows.
- Help: you may not always need this, but if there are new projects, see where you can hire help and how these will benefit you. You can hire a virtual assistant for routine tasks or collaborate with experts for larger projects, and work with influencers to promote your business.
Once you have a good understanding of what you need to accomplish and who will be doing the work, use a bit of workload management to make your life easier. Find time management tools like Trello or Asana to list, assign, and track tasks. These are especially helpful for online teams, but your company's structure is still the most important.
8. Launch a Shopify store
Now, you are ready to take the last step: launching a successful Shopify store. The preparation you have done so far is a solid foundation, so your lauching process can be smooth and impactful. While every launch is unique in its own way, there are some elements that you can adjust to make your store stand out.
- Main Menu/Navigation: This shows up on every page of your website as items across the header, or as a list of icons in the sidebar. Your visitors would use this to find information and products on your store. So you can edit the navigation section to make an effortless browsing experience at Shopify admin > Navigation section > Main menu. To make the top part of your page more colorful, you can use AVADA's Free Shipping Bar to alert free shipping policy or sales.
- Main Banner: Create a cool looking banner or hero image to capture visitor's attention right the way. Remember, this is the first impression, so try to make your image as impressive as possible. When people see it, it will make them think: "Wow, I want to buy this!"
- Featured Products: If you go to Customize Theme > Home page > Featured Products, you can select a collection of featured products. These will be showcased on the homepage under the tag of 'Featured'. These are your best or newest models to impress visitors, so pick your best cards.
- Footer: In Online Store > Navigation > Add menu, you can create a Footer and decide what to show here. A custom background can be attractive, and you can link to your other important pages to keep the visitors on your site longer.
That is all! Ready? Then you can publish your online store now! You have successfully launched a new Shopify store.
Read more: How To Launch or Publish Shopify Store
9. Market your business
Now that you have launched your Shopify store, the hard work of marketing your business begins. While many new store owners would promote their physical products in person, an online store's reputation relies on doing one thing well: driving targeted traffic. Depending on your budget and resources, marketing tactics would vary to help you acquire the first customer.
Here is a list of our resources on marketing a business that you can save and implement. Get serious, get focused, because money is still running out of your pocket until you make some sales. You need to start driving traffic and converting that into revenue as soon as possible:
• How to Market your Business with Facebook • Advanced Content Promotion Strategies to Drive More Traffic • Ecommerce Link Building: The Easy Guide To High Ranking • Ecommerce Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Business • Ecommerce Copywriting: How to Grow Businesses with Just Words • The Ultimate Guide to Ecommerce Email Marketing • Stages Of Inbound Marketing For Online Business • Ecommerce SEO: An A-Z Guide to Increase Organic Traffic Growth
10. Test, Analyze, and Adjust
On the Shopify admin panel, you will find both analytics dashboards and full and analytics reports. Based on your pricing plan, you can get access to three more report categories of behavior, acquisition, and marketing if you use the Shopify plan or above. These will give you a lot of metrics that you can use to get insights and grow your Shopify store.
In order to not get lost in a matrix of data, here are some key metrics that can help you understand customer behavior on your site before making a sale.
- Traffic: First and foremost, you should monitor the number of visitors that are visiting your shop. See where they are coming from and how many of them there are. Once you see which channel helps people find your store, you can make better decisions about marketing and location shipping.
- Conversion rates: This metric shows if your visitors are converting into customers, which can be shown in three numbers: the people that add items to their carts, the people that reach the checkout, and the people that go on to purchase. Each of these groups belong to a funnel that you can adjust to have better sales performance.
- Total sales: This is a make-or-break metric for your Shopify store, so you clearly need to monitor it closely. Look at a few months of data to see the trend in your sales, and ask yourself to explain why. For example: If you notice a spike in sales in March, see how your marketing performed that month and could it be a starting point for a new campaign.
- Average order value: Your average order value shows how much an average customer spends in a single cart on your store. And it shows the performance of your product mix, discount strategy, and more. You can increase this metric without getting new sources of traffic, so it is a powerful metric to optimize.
- New vs. returning customers: Ideally, it is easier and cheaper to have a returning customer, but everyone's a new customer at a point in time. So you want to see a balance between new and returning customers, and see what percentage of new customers become regular buyers over time.
To run a successful Shopify store, it will be a constant process of analyzing and adjusting based on the given metrics. But if you do it well, you are more likely to see more opportunities for your business to thrive. Have some test campaigns once in a while to see which suits your brand and note, that is the way to have steady success.
Congratulations, you have just created your new online store! It was just the starting stone, but it is still an excellent achievement. Now, you are a businessman (or businesswoman), an eCommerce entrepreneur, and, soon enough, a successful Shopify store owner. To keep things running smoothly and profitably, you will need to focus your energy on improving sales, customer experience, customer service, and yourself.
Have a list of achievements that you want to accomplish with your store, and start putting your brand out there so the world can see. Steadily, you will find new ways to boost sales and keep learning methods to grow your business. With hard work and dedication, I'm sure you can succeed. Focus on why you started in the first place and let the momentum drive you ahead.
If you have any questions or need advice, contact me through the comments section. I will be glad to help you! And, as always, best of luck on your eCommerce journey!