Shopify Starter Guide: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners
Looking to open your online store but don’t know where to start? With over 1 million businesses powered within its ecosystem, Shopify provides an ideal e-commerce solution for entrepreneurs to launch and grow retail brands without needing advanced technical skills.
In this comprehensive beginner’s Shopify starter guide, we’ll explore what Shopify offers, the pros and cons of using the platform, detailed steps for setting up your store, tips for customizing your shop, and advice for managing and marketing your Shopify business.
Let’s dive in!
Shopify Starter Guide: Understanding Shopify and Its Benefits
Shopify is an all-in-one cloud-based commerce platform for independent small to midsize retail brands offering powerful e-commerce capabilities without needing to code your solutions.
Specifically, Shopify equips entrepreneurs to:
– Quickly build and customize online stores
– Accept and manage online payments securely
– Automate order processing and fulfillment
– Run email and SMS marketing campaigns
– Track sales analytics and order data
– Manage inventory across channels
– Process local retail POS purchases
– Sell across multiple sales channels
Plus, mobile shopping cart management, shipping label printing, front and back office system integrations, and more.
Shopify handles all complex technical tasks so store owners can focus entirely on product curation, branding, content creation, and sales growth instead of infrastructure.
Let’s examine some of Shopify’s key benefits in more detail:
Easy Custom Online Store Builder
Shopify offers an intuitive drag-and-drop store builder requiring zero coding knowledge or HTML skills to launch beautiful storefronts efficiently.
Fully Customizable Design and Features
While quick and simple to set up, stores remain fully customizable – change design themes, add features, and integrate apps to realize your brand vision without limitations.
Secure Payment Processing
Shopify Payment processing means customers never leave your store during checkout for trusted and secure credit card transactions powered by Stripe and PayPal via bank-level security.
Inventory and Order Management
Built-in inventory management, order tracking, and fulfillment processing options automate the administrative heavy lifting through one central dashboard.
Customer, Cart, and Purchase Data Analytics
Shopify offers detailed sales reports and analytics around your visitors, shoppers, buying patterns, conversions, promotions, and more to optimize retail efforts. Access all critical commerce data in one place.
Beyond selling through your Shopify storefront, extend your products to other channels like online marketplaces, social platforms, POS systems, and brick-and-mortar retail—centralized control.
Shopify’s economies of scale pass on affordable pricing for small businesses. And no expensive servers, hosting, or network infrastructure costs involved.
From startups to large Fortune 500 companies like Kylie Cosmetics, MVMT, and Allbirds, Shopify offers essential commerce functionality at every growth stage – all through an easy-to-use central dashboard built for entrepreneurs.
While offering tremendous value, Shopify still has some downsides to consider depending on your business needs…
Shopify Starter Guide: Potential Drawbacks to Understand
While Shopify shines in many regards, a few limitations exist to acknowledge:
Payment processing charges apply to all sales beyond the subscription costs:
– 2.9% + $0.30 per online charge
– 2.7% for in-person (POS) payments
These rates are competitive, but fees add up, so ensure sufficient margins.
Limitations for Highly Complex Stores
While feature-rich, some advanced retailers selling extremely specialized inventory may find Shopify lacking in sophistication relative to custom enterprise systems, costing exponentially more.
Less Self-Control Over Server Infrastructure
Since Shopify manages hosting infrastructure, technical tweaks to servers and databases lie outside your control unless upgraded to Shopify Plus. This proves rare for most merchants, however.
Having explored both the benefits and drawbacks at a high level, we’ll now step through getting Shopify set up from scratch so you can experience the platform firsthand…
Shopify Starter Guide: Getting Started With Your Shopify Store
Ready to give Shopify a spin? Here is the process to launch your basic online store from start to finish:
Choose Your Shopify Subscription Plan
Start by selecting one of six pricing plan tiers (billed monthly) aligned to your sales volume and key features needed:
1. Basic Shopify – $29/month
Given lower transaction rates and essential features to launch, it is best for startups.
2. Shopify – $79/month
Provides gift cards, professional reporting, and abandoned cart recovery features. Outstanding value/feature balance.
3 – Advanced Shopify – $299/month
More staff accounts, third-party calculated shipping rates, and advanced site reporting. Ideal for growing brands.
4. Shopify Plus – Custom Quote Based on Sales Volume
Enterprise-grade, fully customized, and scalable Shopify solutions include wholesale channel access, custom workflows, dedicated account reps, and more.
All subscriptions beyond Basic offer a free 14-day trial to experience the Shopify dashboard and backend without committing.
Important: Pay close attention to transaction fees per plan during trials to understand the all-in costs at various sales volumes.
Shopify Starter Guide: Select Your Shop Domain and Set Up Store
Register a new .myshopify store domain on signup or connect an existing one you’ve purchased separately.
Tip – Register your own domains (plus .com alternative extensions) for long-term brand control, not subdomains.
Next, select one of Shopify’s beautiful pre-made template themes to apply to your storefront pages for modification.
Publish Your First Product
Walk through Shopify’s step-by-step product creation wizard to build out your catalog. Just enter details like:
– Title and description optimizing keywords
– Inventory availability
– Media like photos
– Shipping and variants
Add all your products to Shopify to have your initial catalog ready for customers and fulfillment activation.
Set Up Secure Payment Processing
To securely accept real payments by credit card and alternate methods, set up processing at Settings > Payments. Consider enabling:
– Shopify Payments powered by Stripe to avoid manual reconciliation of payments from separate providers. Fully integrated.
– Alternate payment methods like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and PayPal allow one-click checkouts.
– Automatic currency conversion supporting 200+ currencies and languages.
Install Your Theme, Pages, and Navigation
Return to your Shopify theme customizer dashboard through Online Store > Themes. Install your selected theme, then customize images, colors, fonts, and layouts.
Create core store pages and top-level site navigation next so customers can easily find what they need.
Pages to make:
– About Page
– Shop Page
– Contact Page
– Shipping & Returns Page
Turn on theme features like collections for aggregating products. Publish a blog and set up categories if selling an extensive catalog.
Need More Info on Creating Your Blog? Check these out:
Connect a Domain & Go Live
The final activation step involves connecting your custom domain name to point to your new Shopify store by updating name server records from your registrar. This displays your brand URL versus the default Shopify subdomain.
Tip – Add an SSL certificate to enable HTTPS encryption for secure checkout. Services like Cloudflare offer these for free.
Once connected, officially launch your store! Start driving traffic through promotions and add payment methods to sell your products live.
Ongoing Store Management and Growth
With all the startup heavy lifting complete, most of your time now focuses on store management and marketing to drive sales.
Key aspects to continually optimize in the backend:
Improving Site Design and Layouts
Use themes to regularly test refreshed designs and layout iterations that increase conversions by better showcasing products and calls to action.
Adding New Products and Content
Publish additional products into your catalog along with category pages, blog posts, and guides to engage visitors. Content builds repeat traffic, which converts to sales.
Closely track which items need restocking. Fulfill orders promptly. Identify your fastest-selling items to focus promotions on and consider dropping stagnant products that do not resonate.
Analyzing Performance Metrics
Review key analytics like traffic volume, conversions, page views, advertising ROI, and fulfillment costs to improve operational efficiency.
Building an Email Subscriber List
Email subscribers convert at higher rates. Offer lead magnets in exchange for emails to build your audience for marketing launches and promotions.
The beauty of Shopify is that once the core store infrastructure is built, most administrative tasks become streamlined, allowing energy to concentrate on product offerings and customer experience – the core of every retail business.
Next, explore tips for further customizing your Shopify store’s design and functionality.
Shopify Starter Guide: Customizing Your Shopify Store Design and Features
While Shopify handily builds a polished storefront out of the box, you can customize almost every aspect through:
Modifying Theme Design and Styles
Edit colors, fonts, text sizes, buttons, page widths, and backgrounds to match your branding. Tailor header menus, footer branding, and iconography. Adjust component positioning for optimal layouts and conversions.
Installing Apps and Integrations From Shopify App Store
Add features like loyalty programs, product reviews, email popups, special offers, and sales countdown timers through apps. Connect existing external tools across marketing, fulfillment, accounting, support, and more through 2500+ integrations.
Adjusting Server Configuration
Enabling Wholesale Pricing Tiers
For supporting reseller partners, use Apps to set up wholesale pricing levels and approval processes, giving approved retailers discounted pricing on bulk orders only visible after login. Protect margins.
The vital takeaway is extensive design and functionality personalization can help differentiate your store from competitors while matching your brand image accurately. Don’t be afraid to test new layouts and features continually. Shopify grants the flexibility to stand out.
Now, let’s explore recommendations for attracting customers and managing day-to-day business operations efficiently.
Shopify Starter Guide: Essential Marketing and Operations Tips
With your uniquely customized store now ready, driving steady sales requires focused marketing and dialed-in business operations:
Leverage Influencer and Affiliate Partnerships
Recruit influential bloggers, media outlets, and other non-competing e-commerce stores to promote your products in exchange for commissions on resulting sales. Effort multiplies reach.
Run Retargeted Social and Search Ads
Pixel past site visitors then remarket promotions to them across channels like Facebook and Google based on their browsing history and interests. Pull them back to purchase.
Send Regular Email Newsletters
Email subscribers return more frequently and spend more over their lifetime compared to one-time buyers. Send regular curated product highlights, special discounts, and new arrival updates.
Highlight Unique Selling Points
Articulate differentiators, making your products distinctly better through all branding. Shoppers buy more on factors besides lower prices, like quality, expertise, curation, sustainability, or cause-based commerce.
Prioritize Customer Service
Shoppers return when cared for individually. Be available across multiple communication channels and respond promptly and thoroughly. Delight them using personal touches like handwritten notes with shipments.
Streamline Order Fulfillment
Stick to advertised shipping times using tools like automating post-purchase emails, creating shipment packages in bulk, buying discounted labels, and tracking delivery statuses automatically.
There are endless proven e-commerce growth strategies to implement, but focusing on customer satisfaction through service, communication, and community pays dividends long term for sustainable brands.
Shopify Starter Guide: Wrapping Up Our Beginner’s Coverage
We’ve covered everything Shopify offers along with setup fundamentals, so you’re fully equipped to determine if their platform fits your business needs, customize your store, and begin selling.
The process involves upfront effort, but Shopify smoothens operations while granting you complete creative control over your brand destiny thanks to equal power and simplicity.
Now, you can feel confident joining over one million other small businesses leveraging Shopify to launch their retail ambitions. Your future loyal customers eagerly await your ideas. Let’s give them something exciting to discover – the wheels are in motion to bring your concept to life!
Have you used Shopify before, or are you considering it? Share your most significant questions or concerns below so we can provide guidance or inspiration to help convert your product visions into reality through e-commerce.
Shopify Starter Guide – Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re exploring using Shopify’s e-commerce platform for the first time, you may have some common questions about features, setup, payments, and best practices.
We’ll address more common Shopify getting started FAQs and competitive e-commerce platform alternatives here.
-General Shopify Questions
What types of businesses typically use Shopify?
Shopify works well for small to midsize independent retail brands, physical product companies selling through multiple channels, multi-product brands, cause-based commerce companies with a mission, businesses accepting online and in-person payments, and creatives or artisans.
Can I register my custom domain vs .myshopify?
Yes absolutely. You can connect your custom domain name purchased separately, allowing you to use your actual company URL versus myshopify. Just point your A records to Shopify’s servers per their guidelines during setup.
Is transaction pricing the only cost?
No, you also pay monthly SaaS subscription fees based on your selected pricing tier. Also, consider any design, content, or marketing costs needed to launch successfully.
Can I contact Shopify for personal setup help?
Unfortunately, their support does not provide 1-to-1 guidance for building stores. You must rely on their self-serve online knowledge base articles or general questions form. For beginners, this DIY experience expects some learning curve navigating their platform.
Does Shopify offer email marketing features?
While you can collect emails through your store and view customer profiles/order data, detailed email marketing campaign functionality requires a third-party app – the most popular being Klaviyo. These integrate subscriber syncing and segmentation tools for sending behavior-based, personalized emails driving repeat purchases. Expect to budget an extra $10-$100 monthly for email marketing capabilities, depending on list size.
-Setting Up Shopify Stores
How long does the initial Shopify store setup take?
If following their guided store setup flow using an existing template, stock images, and minimal products, expect to set aside 10-20 hours for importing products/metadata, theming, page-building, domain connecting, payment configuration, testing, and launch. This accelerates with practice across stores as you create more.
What’s the learning curve? Is it truly beginner-friendly?
Yes, their dashboard and guided flows simplify getting started without coding expertise. But expect a period of getting comfortable navigating Shopify’s vast sea of settings and configurations. Their knowledge-based articles help overcome this learning curve. Power users may eventually find limitations, but most small merchants won’t outgrow provided e-commerce functionality.
How many products can I sell in my store?
Essentially unlimited! Even starter plans support thousands of SKUs, given Shopify’s enterprise-level database infrastructure. Focus on quality over quantity out the gates while establishing operations. Complex order volume and fulfillment logistics pose bigger initial limitations than product amounts.
Do I need a business entity like an LLC first?
No, you can operate your store as a sole proprietor using your SSN initially, then form a business entity later if warranted.
-Managing Shopify Payments, Taxes and Shipping
Can customers checkout directly on my Shopify store?
Yes! Unlike some platforms, direct checkout means transactions are processed entirely on your website without forcing customers to third-party marketplaces. This offers a streamlined, branded buying experience, converting at higher rates. Shop Pay installs quickly, offering accelerated mobile checkout.
Which payment types do Shopify Payments offer?
Domestic and international card payments via Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, JCB, and Diners Club. Growing alternate payment and “buy now, pay later” options include Apple Pay, Google Pay, Shop Pay Installments, and more – over 100 gateways globally.
How are taxes handled?
Shopify automatically calculates local/regional taxes using integrated tax tables for 40+ countries covering over 99% of the world’s GDP. Rates update as tax laws change. Shopify also files US state sales tax returns directly in 46 states. International merchants must still file local VAT /GST returns independently based on jurisdiction regulations, so understand this obligation upfront if expanding globally.
Can I integrate shipping carriers for live rates?
Yes absolutely. Shopify connects with major carriers like USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL, allowing you to show customers accurate shipping costs in real-time. Third-party apps also provide automated rate comparisons across them during checkout. Essential for higher price-visibility and abandoned cart recovery.
Alternatives to Shopify Worth Considering
Wix Online Store is geared for multipurpose websites and offers shopping cart functionality. Limits to 50 store products unless upgrading to premium plans.
Squarespace Commerce – More focused on content-centric sites but growing commerce features. They are also based on pre-made templates.
WooCommerce is an open-source WordPress-based solution offering greater backend control for developers and those familiar with WordPress.
BigCommerce – Top contending SaaS option closest aligned to Shopify in capabilities and approach. Lower middle-market transaction rates.
Magento – Full open source enterprise solution maximizing advanced flexibility yet higher learning curve. Ideal for complex B2B setups.
These present viable e-commerce alternatives depending on your technical capabilities, product catalog complexity, desire for open-source control, and available startup budget.
Starting selling online has never been easier- evaluate your product catalog breadth, customization needs, available support networks, and willingness to learn brand-new platforms.
With dozens of turnkey solutions now existing to shortcut years of complicated coding and infrastructure setup traditionally required pre-cloud adoption, you can genuinely launch and test selling online faster than ever, then switch routes after validating demand.
Hopefully, this FAQ provided answers addressing some of the most common onboarding questions around using Shopify and alternate pathways moving forward. Let us know if there are any other concerns we should cover!