These days, setting up shop online only takes a few minutes, several clicks of the mouse, and a small monthly investment -- less than the price of most broadband packages.
Things haven't always been this easy.
Back in 2004, three friends who shared a passion for snowboarding decided to open an online store selling snowboarding equipment. They searched everywhere for a simple way to set up shop, but nothing they found matched what they needed. Eventually, they gave up looking, and one of them spent a couple of months coding a custom store from scratch.
Two years on, in 2006, they decided to share their code to help other people who wanted to sell online. With that, Shopify was born.
One of the most popular eCommerce platforms, Shopify plays host to some 50,000 online retailers. Brands using the Shopify platform include Pixar, Evernote, Amnesty International, Wikipedia and General Electric.
Whether you're selling jewelry you make as a hobby, setting up a drop-shipping operation, or creating an online counter-part to your bricks-and-mortar store, Shopify can work for you. It provides everything you need to open an online store, and you can have it all set up in under an hour.
In this tutorial, we guide you step-by-step through setting up an online eCommerce store on the Shopify platform.
1. Is Shopify Right For You?
Before committing to Shopify for the long term, it's worth considering whether Shopify is a good fit for your business.
Step 1: Know the Benefits of Using Shopify
- You don't need to be a coding wizard or a designer. Shopify handles the coding and provides over 100 professionally designed themes to keep your storefront looking fresh, vibrant and inviting. That's why Shopify is known as the Wordpress of eCommerce platforms - it's a breeze to set up.
- Your store can grow with you. With prices starting at $14 a month, you don't need to be turning over big bucks to make opening a Shopify store a worthwhile investment. Meanwhile, the top end package allows you to list as many products as you like, and charges no transaction fee. No matter how big your store gets, you can stick with Shopify if you want to.
- Make shipping simple. You can set shipping to be a fixed price, or based on the weight of individual products.
- Add Apps to customize your store. Whether you want to print FedEx labels, add customer reviews to your store, or install live chat, Shopify's paid and free apps install in just a few clicks.
With all these benefits, what's the skeleton in the closet? The main issue is cost. Shopify is a tad more expensive than other platforms, especially when their 2% transaction fee for basic users is taken into account. Additionally, what you get in ease-of-use, you lose in customization. If you want to save money and are willing to put in a little legwork on coding and design, then other platforms may be better for you.
You can find more pros and cons of Shopify here.
Step 2: Try it Out For Yourself
Shopify offers a free 14-day trial, and you don't even have to give your credit card details until your store goes live. If you're thinking of setting up shop online, why not give it a whirl? This tutorial will show you how it's done.
2. Sign Up To Shopify
To begin your Shopify journey, you must sign up for an account.
Step 1: Sign Up
Head over to Shopify.com. Here you can browse Shopify's features and take a look at sample stores.
When you're ready to sign up, go to the homepage and scroll down to the sign up form.
Enter your details, then click the big green button: Create your store now.
Your store name must be unique, otherwise Shopify will ask you to choose another name. After you've signed up, set up can take a little while. Sit tight!
Step 2: Confirm Your Details
Next you'll be asked for a few more details about you, including your name, address, country and phone number.
You'll also be asked if you have products, and what you'll be selling. If you're just trying out Shopify to see how it works, you can select I'm just playing around in the "Do you have products?" menu, and I'm not sure in the "What will you sell?" menu.
When you're done, click I'm done.
Step 3: Log Into Your Store
Now your sign up is complete, Shopify will send you an email letting you know your store is set up. In the email, you'll be given a link to your store's admin page. This is yourstorename.myshopify.com.
To log in, go to your store's admin page and enter your email address and password.
Once you've logged in, Shopify provides a dashboard to help you get your store set up.
2. Snazz Up Your Store with a Theme
Before stocking up your shelves, give your shop a virtual makeover.
Step 1: Browse Themes
Having logged into Shopify, visit the Shopify Theme Store at themes.shopify.com. Here you'll find over 100 themes to choose from, including a broad range of free themes.
You can filter themes by paid or free; by industry (such as art, clothing, food, jewelry, etc.); and by features (such as drop-down menu or newsletter integration). You can also sort themes by price, popularity, and most recent.
Step 2: Check the Theme Details and Reviews
Once you've found a theme you like, click on the theme's sample image. You'll be given more information about the theme, such as whether the theme is responsive (i.e. mobile compatible), and other theme features.
Scroll down to find theme reviews, to see what other users think of the theme.
Step 3: Preview the Theme
To see the theme in action, click View Demo. You'll find this next to the Get Theme button.
If the theme comes in a range of styles, you can also view demos of the different styles by clicking on them.
Step 4: Get the Theme
Found a theme you like? Good job! Now click the green Get Theme button.
Shopify will ask you to confirm that you want to install the theme.
Click Publish as my Shop's Theme.
Don't worry if you don't feel 100% sure it's the right theme for you. You can always change your mind later.
Step 5: Customize Your Theme
After the theme has installed, Shopify will let you know, and will give you the option to Go to your Theme Manager. Click this.
Your theme manager shows published themes (the one you installed or activated most recently) and unpublished themes (themes you previously installed).
To customize your theme, such as changing the colors and fonts, click Theme Settings.
3. Add Products
A store isn't a store without merchandise to sell! Now that you've polished up your shelves with a nifty theme, you're ready to stock them full with products.
Step 1: Add a Product
To begin adding products, click the Products tab in the menu on the left.
Then click the Add a product button.
Step 2: Insert Product Details
This is when the work begins. For each product you list, you must enter a wide range of details. These include:
- the product name
- a product description
- a product image
- the type of product (e.g. board games, surf boards)
- the vendor (i.e. the brand, e.g. Apple)
You can also select whether to charge taxes on the produce, whether a shipping address is required (it's not if you're selling digital products or services), and the product's weight to calculate shipping.
Additionally, you can enter SEO information for the product, and you can create product collections, which make it easier for customers browsing for products to find what they're looking for.
You're also asked for some more advanced product information. This is optional, but is handy for organizing your stock if you plan to sell a wide range of products. This information includes:
- SKU. This is the code you use to track the stock in your inventory.
- Barcode. The scannable lines that refer to your product's data.
- Compare at price. You can use this to show off your low prices compared to your competitors.
Step 3: Save Your Product
When you've finished entering product details, click the green Save button. Your product listing is complete.
4. Launch Your Store
That's the basics of setting up a Shopify store. You've got a theme and products. All you need to do now is confirm which payment methods you accept, set your local tax rate, and confirm your shipping rate. All these can be done in the Store Settings tab, which you open by clicking Settings in the left-hand menu.
When you want to launch your store to the world, you'll be asked for your credit card details. Shopify will start billing 14 days after you created your account.