In this post, I am going to go through Shopify and some of the other technology to make the process of setting up your own shop. Launching a store is a massive undertaking, but it is made easier by the World Wide Web.
This is one of the easiest ways to open an online store. Shopify offers a 14-day free trial for each and every store you wish to open, so giving it a try will cost you nothing and, during that time, you can experiment with shop design, plugins, inventory selection, payment processing and other aspects of the site.
After your trial, pricing is available at $29, $79 or $299 per month depending on the features you need. The Basic Shopify plan at $29 per month is more than adequate for most beginning online retailers.
When you sign up for an account with Shopify, the system will ask you to name your store and it will then assign you a site address. Choose a store named “Lincoln,” for example, and your site address will be “lincoln.myshopify.com.” While you’re always welcome to keep this site address as the home of your store on the web, you’re more than likely going to want to change it to something better, and not focused on Shopify.
Upon joining Shopify, after entering your shop name, the system will ask you a few questions about the type of shop you are opening and then ask for some personal details. After that, you’ll be on the main dashboard page. Simply click on the “Add Domain” button here and then either buy a new domain from Shopify or follow the instructions to connect one you’ve already purchased from a different registrar.
The next step in opening your virtual store is to figure out how you’d like it to look. You can do this by clicking the “Customize Theme” button on your dashboard screen. Click on the “Explore Free Themes” button to check out the options available as part of your Shopify package. You can make a Shopify site this way, but at Lincoln Collective we develop a Shopify site. With a custom-developed site, you get what you want and something different to everybody else. If this is something you are interested in drop us a mail.
Once you find the template you like, click the “Add” button in the pop-up window. Then, somewhat counterintuitively, scroll down and click the “Actions” button and select “Publish.”
After your theme is selected, click “Customize” and you’ll be able to add pages, change photos, add text, create a blog, customize your header and footer, and more.
Of course, no matter how good your online shop looks, it won’t really do much for you if you don’t have any products displayed. There are two basic ways to populate your page with products. The first would be if you already have possession of the physical products you want to sell.
To set up your products, click the “products” text link in the left-side menu. Then click “Add product.” This will take you to a page where you can enter your product title, images, variants (like sizes and colours), shipping weight and other details. You can also set a “Compare At” price, which will show next to the actual price on your site as a crossed-out amount, letting customers know that they’re getting an item for less than the suggested retail price.
If you don’t already have products to sell, you could consider drop shipping, a system whereby someone else warehouses and ships your products for you. You basically become the middleman, marking up products you find and selling them through your online store, while another company (or set of companies) manufactures, stores and ships your products.
While your Shopify template will automatically place each product you add on its own page, you might want to add additional pages to your site for such things as FAQs, contact forms and shipping information. If so, it’s as easy as clicking on “Online Store” in the side menu, choosing “Pages” and then clicking “Add page.”
Enter the details on the next page. If you want to include a contact form, be sure to select the “page.contact” option from the drop-down menu on the right.
Once you have created a new page, it will be available for you to link to from other areas of the site. You can also include a link to the page in your footer by clicking on the “Navigation” link beneath “Online Store” in the menu on the left. This is also where you can adjust what appears in the menu at the top of your site.
Adding a blog to your site is equally straightforward. Choose “Online Store” in the left-side menu, then “Blog posts,” followed by “Create a blog post.” After writing your post, be sure to click the button next to “Visible” in the upper right. Also, you might want to copy the first paragraph of your post and paste it into the “Excerpt” area.
Once a blog post is created, add it to your homepage if you’d like by clicking “Online Store,” and then the blue “Customize” button on the right. Click on the “Add section” link on the left and choose “Blog post.” You can also adjust the flow of your home page here by clicking on the six dots to the right of the choices in the left-hand column and dragging the item to the position in which you’d like it to appear.
A Shopify store automatically comes with credit card processing as part of your monthly fee. Shopify charges you 2.9% plus $.30 for every transaction they process. Your store also comes with the ability to process PayPal payments, although you’ll need an account of your own in order to activate that service.
This feature of a Shopify store can be a huge cost-saving. If you were to set up an online store on your own, you’d have to contract with a third-party credit card processor such as Authorize.net, who would not only charge you a per-transaction fee in the same neighbourhood as Shopify, but they’d also likely hit you with a setup fee in the hundreds of dollars, as well as a monthly maintenance fee which tends to be in the $30 range. When you’re just starting out, those extra fees can put a lot of drag on your launch, so using Shopify’s payment gateway is a smart move—unless you already process payments on another site with a third-party provider.
To set up payment processing, click on the word “Settings” next to the gear icon in the bottom left-hand column, then click on “Payments.” If you’re happy to use Shopify as your processor, click on “Complete account setup,” and follow the steps provided. Otherwise, click on “Change provider” (top right) and choose another processor.
Shopify has an impressive set of email templates baked in, which are sent out to your customers during certain trigger points in the shopping and purchasing process. To access them, click on “Settings” again and navigate to “Notifications.”
Here you can tailor which notifications you send to your customers—such as order confirmations, tracking information and notes about cancelled orders—and edit exactly what those emails say. You’ll need to feel comfortable working in a bit of code, as the email templates are displayed in HTML, but it’s pretty simple to figure out where the text is and make amendments as needed.
If you’re looking to set up shop fast on the web, you’re really not going to do much better than Shopify—especially if you’re not too familiar with the under-the-hood workings of the internet. The interface is super smooth and navigating around the site comes pretty intuitively. There is also great customer support in the form of the site’s super-responsive live chat, a feature that is disappearing faster and faster these days from online companies.
If there are any downsides, it’s that you may find the site a little constrictive if you really have a need for out-of-the-box design or functionality. Also, because you’ll need to purchase an app to add enhanced features like email or discount popups, the monthly fees can climb pretty quickly. Still, the site—even in its un-enhanced-by-apps format—provides plenty for a beginning e-retailer to sink their mouse into.
Want to get a custom build Shopify store or need some help with an existing store? Have a look at our portfolio or contact us.