“Bryan, how can I set up an online store?”
This is one question that I often get from my valued subscribers. Trust me, just a few years ago, I was in your shoes.
I’m happy to say that today, there is more opportunity for you than ever before in Ecommerce.
Below, I’ll show you exactly why I think Shopify is the best online store builder,
Then I’ll show you how to start your online store with Shopify today. If you’d like to skip to the Step-By-Step Online Store Setup Guide, click here.
We all dream of growing our business and turn it into a full-time source of income.
But the thing is, building an online store from scratch isn’t all cakes and bubbles. When it comes down to it, you’ll realize that you have absolutely no idea where and how to get started! Your mind is swamped with questions, stopping you from getting the ball rolling and taking decisive actions.
What payment methods should I use? What should my company logo look like? What would be the color scheme? What domain name should I use? How should I advertise my products/services? Should I build it myself or should I hire a professional? How should I even build an online store from scratch?
The list goes on and on, and you need answers FAST!
Which eCommerce Platform Or Store Builder Should You Use?
Your choice of platform can have a huge impact on your business. It’s as important as choosing a building or location for a physical shop!
It may not be the only basis for your business’ online success, but it can certainly make or break your business.
I’ve been using this eCommerce platform called Shopify (see my review here). I love using Shopify because it’s really easy, gives you many customization options, and it’s competitively priced.
Overview of Shopify
With Shopify, you can promote and sell your products/services online in a beautifully crafted storefront.
Additionally, your site is designed with mobile in mind, which means you can tap into the business potential of a wider audience.
That’s right, your site will work perfectly for customers who are shopping online using their smartphones and tablets! And if you have an existing website or blog, Shopify will help you transform it into a full-blown eCommerce site with just a few simple clicks. Yes, that’s how powerful this eCommerce platform is.
However, Shopify isn’t the only eCommerce platform out there. There are two other major brands, namely BigCommerce and Volusion. These two other platforms are good, but there’s something about Shopify that makes it the top player in the online retail game. It’s just the most polished, easy to use solution, and it’s integrated very well with services like automated shipping and fulfillment companies and much more.
Why Choose Shopify?
Shopify is quite simply an amazing platform to build your eCommerce site on. It used to be that building an online store was a time-consuming task (not to mention that it took a lot of know-how). But with Shopify, setting up a full-blown eCommerce site only takes a matter of minutes.
Shopify is a Canadian-based company that’s committed to providing turnkey eCommerce solutions. With their software, you’ll have everything you need from end to end so you can set up and start selling your products online without having to put all the pieces together yourself. It’s a lot like hiring a contractor, except that you’re still in control and you use their expertise to make your project happen.
That’s a good enough reason to choose Shopify, right? But it comes with a lot more perks and benefits – and these are what we’ll get into right now.
It won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
As a business owner, you can spend money and save money at the same time. Shopify will help you in both areas. With prices starting at just $9, you can open a full-blown eCommerce site without breaking the bank!
The affordable themes, built-in features, and add-ons mean that you can launch your online shop without spending too much on operating costs.
With integrated features like abandoned shopping cart recovery, the need to install third-party apps is reduced.
Shopify also acts as a payment gateway, which means you can offer competitive credit card rates. The money you’ll save along the way is one of the reasons many people are attracted with Shopify.
Instant, out-of-the-box deployment.
Shopify comes loaded with amazing themes and the inherent simplicity that comes with it mean that you can start selling your wares right out of the box! It’s a turnkey eCommerce package that gives you the basic eCommerce functionality you need to get your online store up and running. They make the process of building an online store less intimidating for everyone, by providing an eCommerce solution that’s easy to use on both sides. For you, the business owner, Shopify provides a clean, simple and functional dashboard so you can easily customize your site. Meanwhile, your customers will be greeted with a user-friendly shopping experience. The way Shopify handles products, filters, and collections make navigation a breeze. And at the end of the buy path, there’s seamless shopping cart and checkout system. Talk about an amazing shopping experience!
Add-ons to expand your site’s functionality.
Shopify has largest app store for added functionality on your site. From adding customer reviews and printing FedEx labels, to installing a live chat system, their free and premium applications allow you to provide an even better shopping experience to your customers. What’s more, installing these apps is quick and easy!
Provides options for shipping.
Shopify makes shipping simple by allowing you to set shipping fees to either be at a fixed price or based on the weight of individual items.
It’s not just for the geeks.
You don’t need to be a web developer, web designer or programmer to be able to use Shopify because they’ll handle the coding for you! With more than 100 beautifully crafted themes to choose from, you can have a fresh and unique eCommerce site in no time.
Regarding customization, Shopify lets you configure almost every aspect of their themes in some way. You can even change the functionality of most parts of your website. There’s a stark difference between Shopify and Volusion, which only has one theme that doesn’t have a lot of customization options.
Perhaps the only real downside to using Shopify is that you can’t fully customize your checkout. By this, I mean Shopify won’t let you access the checkout page for security reasons. However, the checkout – just like the rest of your site – is fully responsive so it works fine for customers shopping on mobile devices.
How You Can Start Your Store Right Now
By now, you will have most likely decided to give Shopify a shot. Don’t worry, they’re giving you a FREE 14-day trial so you can get a grasp of how it works before you even shell out your credit card!
So, let’s get started!
To begin your Shopify experience, you must sign up for an account.
Go to Shopify, where you can browse the features and sample stores.
Once you’re ready to sign up, scroll further down, to the signup form.
Enter the necessary details, then click the big green button: Create your store now.
Tip: Make sure that you provide a unique name for your online store. Otherwise, Shopify will ask you to provide another name.
More Important Details
After the initial screen, you will be asked for a few more details, including your street address, country, state (if applicable), phone number, etc.
Once you’re done providing the necessary information, you will also be asked if you’re already selling, as well as the amount of revenue your business makes in a year. You will also be asked if you’re setting up a store for a client, in which case you must tick the checkbox.
Once you’ve completed this, click the Enter my store button.
Enter Your Store
Once you’ve completed the signup process, a confirmation email will be sent to you. In the email, you’ll be given a link to your store’s admin page. To log in, you must enter your email address and password.
Now, you’re all set to customize your store’s look, upload products, set up payments and shipping, etc.
Give Your Online Store A Much-Needed Makeover!
Before you think about stocking up your shelves, you must snazz up your store with a beautiful theme.
Shopify has an official theme store where you can find hundreds of beautifully crafted, responsive and highly configurable themes to suit your business. These themes are guaranteed to have full support from the theme designers so you know your online store is in capable hands.
All of these themes include a list of modifications that you can make without touching a single line of code. There are also a number of premium themes with more customization options, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a professional-looking site with a free theme.
Browse the Shopify Theme Store
Once you’re logged into your Shopify account, locate the “Customize the look of your website section”, then click on “Select a theme”.
You will then be directed to Shopify’s online store, where you can find free themes. If you want more options, click on the “Visit the Theme Store” button found at the top right corner of the screen.
Here, you can sort themes by free or paid; by industry (i.e. Art & Photography, Health & Beauty, etc.); or based on specific features. You can also filter themes based on how recent they were released, as well as price and popularity.
Check the Theme Demo, Details, and User Reviews
Finally found a theme you like? Simply click on the theme’s sample image and you’ll be given more details about it, including its core features, whether or not the theme is responsive/mobile-ready, available styles, etc. You can even see the theme in action by clicking on “View Demo”, which is found below the green “Install theme” button.
Here’s an example of a free theme called “Pop”.
Scroll further down and you’ll find reviews from those who have used the theme.
Get the Theme You Want
If you like what you see, click on the “Install theme” button. Shopify will then ask you to confirm that you want to install the theme. Once you’ve confirmed, click on “Publish as my shop’s theme”.
Don’t worry if you’re not sure whether or not it’s the perfect theme for your store. You can always change it whenever necessary.
Once the theme has been installed, click on the “Go to your Theme Manager” button. From the theme manager, you’ll see published themes (the ones you installed or recently activated) and unpublished themes (themes you previously installed).
If you wish to change the theme’s colors, fonts, and other elements, click on “Customize theme”. This is the perfect time to play and experiment with various settings so you can find out what your site is capable of.
Enjoy your newly installed theme!
Make a Few Tweaks
Most Shopify themes let you make simple changes that can significantly change the look and feel of your online store, so rest assured that your site won’t end up looking like somebody else’s.
Once you’re done customizing the theme, it’s time to add your products!
Add Your First Product
A store won’t be a store without products to sell! Now that you’ve given your site a virtual makeover, you’re ready to stock your site full with merchandise.
From the dashboard, select “Products”.
Click on it and you’ll see a blue “Add a product” button. From there, you can add as much detail as you want about your products. This is when the actual work begins. For each product you add, you must enter a few information, including:
- the name of the product
- product description
- product image
- type of product
Include as much detail as possible to help inform customers about your products. This is also the screen where you can upload images of your product. If you add multiple images, you can rearrange theme so you don’t have to worry about uploading them in any particular order.
Make sure that you upload high-quality images to showcase your products to their best. Post close-up images that highlight any special features of your products. Keep it neat by keeping all images in the same dimensions.
You will also be asked for some advanced product info. This is optional, but it will come in handy for organizing your stock, especially if you’re selling a wide range of products. These include:
- Compare at price. Compare your prices to the competition.
- SKU (Stock Keeping Unit). The code used to track the stock in your inventory.
- Optical machine-readable lines that represent your product’s data.
Once everything is filled out, click the “Save product” button found at the top and bottom right corners of the screen.
You’ve just completed your product listing!
Working With Collections
With Shopify, you can group your product together into so-called “collections” to make it easier for your customers to discover. For instance, your customers might be looking for:
- Clothes for kids, men, or women
- Specific type of item, like pillows, shirts, lamps, etc.
- Items on sale
- Items in a specific color or size
- Limited or seasonal items like holiday home décor
Products can appear in any number of collections. They usually appear on your storefront to help potential buyers find products without the need to click through an entire catalog.
Manual and Automated Collections
When creating a new collection, you must specify how your products should be added into it. You can do so in two different ways:
- You can manually add and remove products that appear in a collection.
- Set up selection conditions to automatically include products that meet specific criteria.
Setting or Changing Selection Conditions
From the “Collection” page, look for the “Conditions” section. Take note that if you’re adding a collection for the first time, the Conditions section will appear like this:
If you’ve already saved the collection, you won’t see the options for choosing manual or automated selection. The Conditions section will show the conditions that are currently set:
Generally, you define your collection’s conditions by:
- Choosing an option from the first dropdown list
- Choosing a condition from the second dropdown list
- Providing the necessary details in the third field
Payment Gateways on Shopify
The best online stores provide multiple payment methods so customers can conveniently make transactions using their preferred payment gateway.
For those who don’t know, a payment gateway is a service that lets you accept credit card payments online via your online store. With Shopify, you can connect to more than 70 different payment gateways across the world.
Shopify allows the use of external or third-party payment gateways. Using a third-party payment gateway means that your customers must leave your store in order to complete the checkout process. Therefore, I highly recommend that you select a direct payment gateway instead of a third-party one so your customers can complete the transaction within your store.
Activate a Payment Gateway
From your Shopify dashboard, click “Settings”, then click “Payments”.
On the Payments page, you can start adding one or more payment options, which include:
- 1 of 70 credit card gateways
- 1 of 4 PayPal accounts
- Log in and pay with Amazon
- Other payment methods like CoinBase and BitCoin
- Manual payments like COD and bank deposits
You can use the dropdown menus to choose a payment method. Then, click “Activate”. Afterwards, you need to follow the in-admin setup instructions for that particular payment gateway.
Special Considerations Regarding Payment Gateways
There are some things you need to keep in mind when selecting payment gateways. For instance, some gateways keep either a small percentage or flat fee (or both) for letting you use their service. You need to compare these based on your anticipated sales.
What’s more, you need to know what types of card are accepted by your preferred payment gateway. All of the gateways accept Visa and MasterCard, while most accept American Express. PayPal is also rising in popularity.
As mentioned earlier, Shopify also lets you use third-party payment gateways for offsite checkout. This means that some gateways will take the payment on their own servers, via their own form. The good thing about this is that you have a bit more control of the checkout process, plus you can avoid the limitations imposed by Shopify regarding access to the checkout page.
The payment gateway transaction fees will automatically be added on top of Shopify’s own transaction fees. But as of this month (November 2015), shops based in the UK and US can use Shopify Payments. You can save plenty of cash on these extra fees, depending on your chosen Shopify plan. Here are the rates for each plan:
- Basic – 2.4% + 20p
- Professional – 2.1% + 20p
- Unlimited – 1.8% + 20p
Depending on the amount of transactions you make every month, you might want to consider upgrading to a higher plan to take advantage of these savings.
For business owners in the UK or US, your online store will automatically use Shopify Payments. To complete the process, simply click the “Complete Shopify Payments account setup” button founds in the Payments settings page. If you want to use a third-party payment gateway, click on the “Enable payment gateways” link found on the same page.
Launch Your Online Store
Give yourself a pat on the back because you’re almost done setting up your first eCommerce site! We’ve pretty much covered all the basics of setting up a Shopify store but before your site can go live, you need to add a few more details about your business, as well as set the tax rate and confirm your shipping rate. You can do all of these in your Shopify dashboard, from the “Settings” tab in the left-hand menu.
From the settings menu, click on “General”. On this page, you need to ensure that all the necessary business information is filled out.
I highly recommend you use the Google Analytics feature. This will come in handy if you wish to keep track of your customers and site visitors.
- From the dashboard, click on the “Products” tab, then click on the name of a given product.
- Scroll down to the “Inventory & Variants” section, then click on the edit link next to the “Product variant” to open a dialog window.
- From here, make sure to tick the checkboxes for “Charge taxes” and “Requires shipping”, if you need to include them with your products. Some online stores don’t charge taxes or shipping fees on products like digital goods. But for other items like shirts and mugs, you will likely need to charge both tax and shipping. Also, if you’re planning to ship your product to customers, don’t forget to include the product’s weight in the appropriate field.
Are your shipping rates too narrow? Don’t have enough product options in your store? You may lose out on some sales! But don’t worry because Shopify will only calculate a shipping rate for your customers based on the rules you define in the “Shipping” page.
Again, from your Shopify dashboard, go to the “Settings” tab and click on “Shipping”.
From the Shipping settings page, check if you’ve set a weight-based shipping rate then adjust it according to an item’s specifications.
Check If Your Order System Works
Now, you’re almost set to launch your website! But before anything else, you must test your order system first to make sure that it works the way you want it to.
The great thing about using Shopify is that they allow you to test your order system using their Bogus Gateway. From your Shopify dashboard, click “Settings” and go to “Payments”.
Reminder: If you have activated a credit card gateway, must deactivate it first before continuing. To do this, simply click “Edit”, then “Deactivate”.
From the “Accept credit cards” section, click on “Select a credit card gateway” to open a dropdown menu. Scroll down the list to “Other”, then click on “Bogus Gateway”.
Next, click “Activate” (or “Reactivate” if you’ve previously used the Bogus Gateway).
Now that you’ve activated the Bogus Gateway, go to your storefront and try to place an order as if you’re a customer. For this, you don’t have to use genuine credit card details.
Test a Real Payment Gateway
If you want to test the system with a genuine transaction, simply follow these instructions:
- Set up the payment gateway you wish to test.
- Place an order from your store and complete the checkout. This time, you must use genuine credit card details.
- Cancel the order immediately to get your money back and to avoid paying transaction fees.
- Log in to your payment gateway to check if the funds went through.
Easy-peasy, right? But the thing is, can you do this for free?
The answer would be YES! You just need to make sure that you cancel and refund your order soon after you place it. Otherwise, the transactions fees will appear on your bill. However, you can still cancel after paying your bill to Shopify, except that you’ll receive the refund in the form of a transaction credit on your account. You can use this to pay future transaction fees.
Get A Custom Domain Name For Your Shop
Before you can get your site live, you must first register a domain name. A domain name serves as you and your business’ online identity, so you need to choose carefully!
For your eCommerce site, you are given two choices. Firstly, you can purchase a domain directly through Shopify. It’s a more straightforward process because Shopify will handle all the setup for you, plus your domain will automatically be added to your store. Doing so will save you a lot of time, especially if you have no knowledge hosting a website (make sure to check out my starter guide for setting up a website). domains purchased from Shopify usually cost from $9 to $14 per year, which is quite cheap!
Your second option is to purchase a domain from a third-party domain provider like NameCheap or BlueHost. These domains usually start from around $10 per year.
Purchase a Domain through Shopify
Obviously, the easier way to get a custom domain name is through Shopify. Domains bought through them will automatically be configured to work with your root domain and two subdomains: www.yourstorename.com and shop.yourstorename.com.
Here’s how you can buy a domain through Shopify:
- From the dashboard, click “Online Store”, then click “Domains”.
- Click the blue “Buy a domain” button found at the top right corner of the screen.
- From the dialog box, type in the domain name you wish to purchase.
Pick a domain name extension (i.e. .com, .net, etc.) in the dropdown menu next to the dialog box. Price varies depending on your chosen extension.
- Click “Check availability”. If your chosen domain name has already been used, you will have to try another domain name.
- Read the ICAAN policy and Domain Registration Agreement. Once you’re done, check off the box next to “I have read and agree to the ICAAN policy and Domain Registration Agreement.”
- Once you’re done, click “Confirm purchase”.
Add a Third-Party Domain Name in Shopify
Do you already have an existing domain? Here’s what you need to do to put your new Shopify store live:
- From the dashboard, head to “Settings”, click on “Domains”, and add your third-party domain name by clicking on the “Add an existing domain” button.
- Update your DNS records by logging in to your domain registrar and making the following changes:
- Replace the @ or main A record with the IP address: 188.8.131.52
- Add/replace the www CNAME with yourstorename.myshopify.com (your store’s Shopify link without the “http” at the beginning).
- Remove any passwords on your storefront. Otherwise, your customers won’t be able to access your site even when it’s live.
- Set your domain as primary whenever necessary. You can do this by going to “Settings”, then “Domains”. From there, you can choose your primary domain by using the dropdown found at the top of the page.
Don’t forget to check the “Redirect all traffic to this domain”. This means that traffic to all other domains will be directed to your primary domain, which is essential for good SEO.
- If you wish to add more domains, simply repeat steps 1 and 2 with your other domain names. All of these domain names will redirect to the “Primary” domain which you can change any time with the “Set as primary” option next to each domain name.
And that concludes my guide to setting up an online store with Shopify. It’s online retail made easy, don’t you agree? By using this eCommerce platform, you can have a unique, beautiful, and fully functional online store in just minutes. You don’t even have to be a coding wizard! Instead of maintaining the site, you can spend most of your precious time doing what’s really important: growing your business by marketing your products.
Congratulations on your new online store. Happy selling!