With regards to the creation and launch of an online ecommerce store, there's a hundred and one different things to consider, right from basic theme to advance functionalities. The most critical aspect, however, will also be the base on which you're going to build your online empire. And of all the dozens of free and paid platforms, Shopify is one of the most popular, mainly because of the depth of customization and competitive pricing. The customisation options are so comprehensive that they allow you to change almost any aspect of the set templates. Shopify is also a preferred option for web developers thanks to its top-notch security features and fully responsive design. Even the process of building and launching your website is simplified with Shopify, let us see how.
Step 1: Sign Up & Registration
For starters, you'll have to visit the Shopify.com website and create a quick account via the signup page. Just enter a few details on the signup form and click on 'Create your store now'. Make sure to create a store name that is unique to your brand or products, otherwise the platform will simply ask you to select alternative names. After your initial signup, you'll be prompted for other details, like your name, current address, country of operation and a mobile number. The platform will also ask you about your products.
If you're still in the early trial phase of your online business, you can simply choose 'I'm just playing around,' from the 'Do you have products?' field. Once you're done updating the relevant data, just click on 'I'm done'.
Step 2: Start Setup
Once you've signed up with Shopify, you'll be automatically directed to your online store admin interface, which allows you to begin customising the look of your store's, upload product info & images, and set up payment and shipping options for customers.
Step 3: Choose & Apply a Theme
Before you can set up your store's products and other design elements, you're going to have to apply a basic theme that will set the overall look of your ecommerce website. Shopify has a proprietary theme store that gives you themes that are guaranteed to offer full customer support by trained professionals.
All of Shopify's themes feature with a detailed list of modifications that can be applied without any coding knowledge whatsoever. Shopify's premium themes naturally come with more modification options, but the platform's free themes are more than enough for most business needs. Shopify's USP is that it allows you to modify pretty much every aspect and design element, with little or no limits on what you can achieve through HTML, as well as CSS.
Make sure you find the right theme for your store by:
Browsing the Store - Log on to Shopify and check out their theme platform at themes.shopify.com, and browse from nearly 200 variations before making a choice between free and paid. You can filter the themes by industry, price and most recently used, or as paid or free.
Checking practical functionality – Your website's theme will set the overall mood for your website, which makes it important to choose the right one. The theme should also be responsive and scalable, among other flexible features. Read some of the user reviews for the theme you like, to ensure that it's a practical option.
Applying theme - Once you decide on the right kind of theme for you store, click on the green tab that will prompt you to reaffirm the theme installation. And when you're sure, just select the 'Publish as my Shop's Theme' option. If you don't like the overall feel of the theme or would want to change it at a later time, you can do so via Shopify's theme manager.
Step 4: Customizing Shopify
As mentioned earlier, Shopify's popularity stems from its depth of customization, which allows users to make the minutest changes that could potentially change the entire look of your ecommerce store. This means that any extra effort put into your website's design will ensure a uniquely authentic website, one that stands out from the ocean of websites.
You can reach your theme's customization options by clicking the 'Themes' button in the navigation bar, found on your admin interface. This will lead you to two buttons on the top-right edge of your screen; one which contains three basic settings, and the other that allows for theme duplication. It is recommended that you duplicate your theme, just in case you make a mistake when configuring your website. There is another button called 'Customize Theme', which will direct you to the page where you can fine tune your store's basic functionalities. You can get the right combination with a little bit of trial and error.
Additionally, some themes enable users tore-locate certain design components on pages that enable you to display the product images, either on centre, left, or right alignments. You can even choose to display numerous social media widgets on your site.
Step 4.1: Adding products
Your products are your livelihood, and uploading product information on your platform should be done with diligence. You can begin the process by accessing the navigation menu on your left, and pressing the 'Products' button. This will direct you to a blue 'Add a product' button, on the top right corner of your page. You can use this option to upload an entire catalogue of your inventory, including images, videos, item descriptions and user reviews. You can upload images in an order because you can organize them later on, allowing you to perform bulk folder uploads.
Make sure to pay special attention to content that will improve your SEO ranking, including item name, keywords in descriptions and URLs. Detailed information about different product variants will ensure that customers are fully informed and your listings are unique.
Clear and realistic product images typically make the difference between a sale and a pass, so ensure that the images you upload showcase your products in their best light. Make sure to highlight appealing angles and specifically mention any unique features. Try keeping all your images within the same or similar dimensions in order to maintain consistency throughout your website. This shouldn't be a problem, especially if you're using proprietary images. Once you've filled up all the relevant details in your listing, make sure you click on the 'Save product' button at the upper and lower right corners of your screen, otherwise you might lose the progress you put into creating the listing.
Step 4.2: Configuring Collections
Collections are groups of products or services that have similar features, which appeal to site visitors, and are created in real time from users search history and shopping patterns. Items can be featured in an unlimited amount of collections, because they are based on user search patterns. Collections can be placed anywhere on your website, but are typically placed on the homepage, and on the navigation menu bar. Showing customers products that they might already be interested in will save them the time of going through your entire catalogue, and might also foster a quicker sale!
You can add new collections to your store in two ways; manually, buy creating individual manual collections, or by assigning pre-set conditions that will automatically include the products or services that meet specific search requirements.
Step 4.3: Payment gateways
This is the section that makes it all worthwhile, and needs special attention. Payment gateways allow you to receive payments customers, with your website being the point of sale (POS). Setting the rate and commission limit is crucial, but consider the features you get from every gateway, as all of them are not created the same. You might have to offer a certain payment method simply because it's the most commonly used. Consider these factors when deciding on the kinds of payment gateways you want on your website.
Transaction Fees – Pretty much every payment gateways charges some sort of commission or flat rate for using their services. Some charge a lot more than others, so choose one that will fit with your predicted sales numbers.
Card Types – Credit cards and PayPal are the two most common forms of online payment in the United States. There are a number of cards provided by payment solution providers like VISA, MasterCard and American Express. It's best to choose a service that gives you all three.
Offsite Checkout - Certain gateways redirect users to their own payment interfaces on their host servers. This third part remote payment gives you more control over the entire checkout process.
It is important to remember that payment gateway fees are exclusive of Shopify's transaction fees, so it's important to factor in all the additional overhead costs because customers don't want to bear that burden. Thankfully, U.S. and UK-based Shopify customers are allowed to use the 'Shopify Payments'' feature to help save on the additional costs. U.S. or UK ecommerce stores will use this payment method by default, once you've completed the 'Complete Shopify Payments account setup'. You can also enable third party payments by selecting the 'enable payment gateways' link.
Step 5: Taking your Store Online
One you've set up your theme, uploaded your product data, and configured payment gateways; you're almost ready to take your site live. But before that happens, you're going to have to provide a some more data, including additional details of your business, tax payments, and logistics.
General - Ensure you've filled up all your relevant business contact information on the 'General' page. It is recommended that you use the in-built Google Analytics, which you can later use to track visitor patterns.
Taxes – Being a business, you're going to have to make a provision for tax payments on all your transaction. You can do this by going your admin interface's Products page, choosing a specific product and selecting the “Inventory & variants” option. Select 'edit' next to the 'Product Variant; this will open a new dialog box. Depending on whether you need to charge tax and shipping, make sure you check the boxes next to the respective “Charge taxes” and “Requires shipping” options. To help with logistics, ensure that you mention the product's weight along with the item description.
Shipping – Setting shipping rates is another sticky issue- too low and you risk having overheads eat into your profits, too high and you risk discouraging customers from making a purchase. Shopify only calculates rates based on predefined rules set by you in the admin's Shipping page.
- From your admin interface, access your shipping page via the settings menu.
- Check for any weight-specific shipping rate within the “Shipping rates” page, and make necessary adjustments where necessary.
Step 6: Domains
The final step in taking your ecommerce website live is to create a domain name. You can do this via two options; buy your own domain name from Shopify. Or purchase a third-party domain name from domain service providers. Buying Shopify's domain will automatically apply them to your ecommerce store, saving valuable development time.
With an average cost of 9-15 USD a year, Shopify's domain service offers convenience at a price. Third party domains can be purchased for as low as 1.99 dollars per year, the only issue being that you need to manually redirect DNS records. A third party domain is recommended because its costs a fraction of Shopify's plans, here's how to get it done:
1. Attach new domain – You'll have to add the new third-party domain manually, via Shopify's control interface. Choosing 'Settings' from the navigation menu on the left, then choose domain, and add a personal domain name by selecting the 'Add an existing domain' option.
2. Update DNS data – Updating your DNS records is a must for third-party domain access. Do this by logging in and making the following changes to your domain registrar:
- Change the main default A data with this IP address: 22.214.171.124
- Replace the Shopify 'www CNAME', using 'storename.myshopify.com,' which is basically your Shopify url without the 'http' extension.
3. Disable Storefront Passwords – Make sure your remove any domain access passwords, failure to do so will restrict access to your website even after it goes live! This will discourage visitors, or worse, make them think that your website is fraudulent.
4. Set a relevant primary – Select your primary domain name from the dropdown list in the 'Domain' menu, accessible from the 'Settings' tab.
5. Adding additional domains – Optionally, you can reiterate steps 1 & 2 and add other domains that you might possess. Remember that all the domain names divert to the 'Primary' domain specified, which can be changed at any point of time via the 'Set as primary' located next to every domain name. Just remember that the quantity of domains you possess will have no bearing on your SEO results.
In all practicality, you can design, populate and launch a sophisticated website within an hour using Shopify's easy to use interface. The best part is that you don't need to possess expert level web skills to use it, allowing you to create an ecommerce website quickly, so that you can focus on other core aspects such as marketing and logistics. Using Shopify couldn't be any more tempting as the company offers a 14 day free trial period, which doesn't begin charging you until the 14th day!