How to Start an eCommerce Website using Shopify
** For all video learners, feel free to check out my quick video version of this article.
What is Shopify
In the words of Shopify…
Shopify is a complete ecommerce solution that allows you to set up an online store to sell your goods. It lets you organize your products, customize your storefront, accept credit card payments, track and respond to orders — all with a few clicks of the mouse.
In other words, it’s a place where you can build an eCommerce website. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s 100% drag and drop, such as Wix or Weebly, but it’s becoming easier and easier to create websites without coding knowledge.
In my unbiased opinion, it’s become the best platform to build an eCommerce site for small to medium size businesses.
Over the past five years, Shopify has developed into the powerhouse eCommerce platform, mainly because of their new features:
- Amazing 24/7 customer service
- Organized and clean back-end order management
- Easy to use order shipping label creation
- Amazing apps available on the Shopify Marketplace
- Affordable pricing (more on this below)
- and so much more…
How Does Shopify Work
The first thing you’re going to want to do while creating a website using Shopify is to sign up for their 14-day free trial. Now that you have created your Shopify account, let’s dive into the dashboard.
Let’s jump into this looking left to right
Dashboard Navigation Bar
- This is how you access your dashboard.
- Press this tab to view all orders, abandoned checkouts, and draft orders. I typically press this button to view all orders and fulfill my orders.
- This button will display all products, transfers, inventory, collections, and gift cards. Compared to other eCommerce platforms, Shopify does a great job organizing your backend, especially if you have a lot of products.
- This will display all of your existing and partial customers. This is the tab to export and import data on your customers.
- This is where all of your reports and data lives on Shopify. I have a love/hate relationship with Shopify’s reporting tools. In the “Basic Plan” you can only access so much reporting on Shopify. I personally just connect Google Analytics to my Shopify account and use that for the majority of reporting. However, I am missing out on some customer data with the Basic Plan.
- Here you can create and manage your discounts and promotions. Do you want to create a unique 20% off discount code for your favorite blogger? Feel free with the discount tab AND better yet, you can create as many as you’d like! So, if you’re running an influencer marketing campaign with 200 micro-influencers, you can create (for free) 200 unique discount codes to give to each influencer.
- This is one of my favorite features on Shopify, the Shopify App Marketplace. In this marketplace, you can search for different apps that will help your store. From review to drag and drop page builders, the Shopify App Marketplace has it all. The majority of the high-quality apps do cost an additional fee, usually in the $10-40/month range. I’ll dig into this deeper in the “Best App” section below!
- This will open a handful of sub-tabs, such as themes, blog posts, pages, navigation, domains and preferences. All of these tabs are related to adjusting your overall website. From designing the site to adding your domain, it can all be found under this tab.
The rest of the dashboard is pretty boring and original, I won’t waste much time on this subject.
The fun part, choosing, designing and editing your theme! You’re going to want to click on this tab here, to enter the Shopify Theme Store. This is another great feature about Shopify, eye-catching, eCommerce themes. Some are free, while there are a handful of paid themes too. Most of the paid themes range in the $180 range.
Try to pick a free theme when first creating your site. You can do so much customization, it doesn’t usually make sense to invest $180+ on a theme unless you’re an established business.
Here are a few of my favorite free and paid themes.
Free Shopify Themes:
Jumpstart is modern, eye-catching, and has been around for years. It’s priced great (free!) and works best for small inventory businesses. If you have 1-10ish products, this theme is for you. Jumpstart definitely works well with paid advertising too, because it’s set up similar to a direct response landing page. It converts well and I would recommend it!
Venture is another great free Shopify theme. This theme works really well with large inventory businesses, but it definitely has a little bit of an outdated vibe to it… If you’re starting out in dropshipping and plan on having 50+ products, consider the Venture theme.
Paid Shopify Themes:
Now on to the paid Shopify Themes! Once again I’d only recommend purchasing a theme if you’re an established business. If you’re brand new, there are better things to spend your limited budget on… BUT that’s just my two cents 😉
The Empire Paid Shopify Theme screams Amazon to me! Which… isn’t a bad thing. Everyone and their brother shop on and Amazon regularly and are familiar with the look and feel, this theme could improve your conversion rate. It comes in at $180, which isn’t too bad if you’re happy with the majority of the theme. This is a terrific theme for big stores with a lot of inventory, like Amazon!
The Startup Shopify Theme is a modern and retro (kind of looks like my blog!) and is definitely designed up to date. Occasionally I’ll come across themes that are noticeably out of date, this isn’t. It looks great and I could see this converting well for single or small inventory businesses. It’s priced at $180 and funny enough, this is the first theme I ever purchased a few years ago!
These are just a few of the many Shopify Themes on the market. There are several other sites where you can purchase a Shopify theme. You can also just leave your blank theme and hire an eCommerce developer off of Upwork or even off of the Shopify Expert Directory. (FYI, the Shopify Expert Directory is a directory of “Shopify Experts” from web developers to graphic designers and photographers.)
Now onto Shopify Apps… my favorite! There are hundreds of paid and free apps available on the Shopify Marketplace so it may be a bit overwhelming. Thankfully for you, I’ve been using Shopify for the past six years and feel like I know them all. Well.. at least all the good apps.
Judge.me – Reviews
Judge.me is (in my opinion) one of the best review apps on the Shopify Marketplace. A few years ago I was using YotPo, which is definitely a fan favorite for eCommerce businesses, but the pricing kept increasing with my growth. After a few months, the price got to the $100+ range, so I knew I had to switch review apps.
I then came across Judge.me and haven’t looked back. First off, they have THE best customer service out of any of the Shopify apps I’m going to mention here. Every time I e-mail the Judge.me team, I hear a response in an hour or so. One thing I’ve noticed with a lot of Shopify apps is the customer service is horrible or non-existent, this was not the case with Judge.me.
Besides amazing customer service, Judge.me has great prices. I started off with their free plan, then a few months later I ended up switching to their most expensive plan, which is $15/month… Yeah, you read that right! I went from $100+/month to $15/month.
Now onto the actual functionality… The backend is plain and simple, but you can do (almost) everything all of the other review apps do too. Compared to YotPo, it may appear that you’re missing out on a lot of features, but for small to medium size eCommerce businesses, you’re not.
I would 100% recommend giving Judge.me a shot! I have zero affiliation with this company, they are just one of those businesses that have left an everlasting positive impression on my life.
Klaviyo – Email Automation
Ezra Firestone introduced Klaviyo to me during one of his webinars and I fell in love. Klaviyo is an e-mail automation software that specializes in eCommerce. I struggled for years trying to find a good e-mail marketing fit until I found Klaviyo.
*One comment I want to make is that this IS NOT for everyone. Klaviyo charges quite a bit (roughly $50/thousand contacts) but it’s an awesome product. I created several e-mail funnels from abandon cart to retention funnels, so Klaviyo for sure paid for itself.
One thing I loved about Klaviyo for my eCommerce businesses is how easy everything integrates into my business. Everything on Klaviyo is pretty much in the “eCommerce Language” so it’s very easy to understand and piece together. All of my revenue that was attributed to Klaviyo passed back to my campaigns, so tracking revenue was a breeze.
Klaviyo comes with a handful of template funnels, which is great for beginners that don’t know where to start. They also have a handful of eye-catching, modern e-mail templates available.
From a functionality standpoint, it’s amazing. No questions asked.
Now onto customer service… this is usually a tipping point for me. If a company has a great product, but horrible customer service, I still usually look in another direction. I always try to find a partner that wants to work with me. Just like Judge.me, Klaviyo customer service is great. Not only are they helpful, their tech support is really informational and always seems to help me with my problem.
My only complaint with Kaviyo is their pricing, but this is a luxury service, so what do you expect? When was the last time you saw a new Ferrari priced at $5,000? It’s a luxury product, so it deserves to be priced accordingly.
If you can’t afford Klaviyo, here are a few other tried and true affordable alternatives.
- Contact Contact
Privy – Exit Intent
Think of the last time you were about to exit a website and… BOOM you get attacked with discounts, offers, and anything else imaginable to get you to stay on the website. That’s an (exaggerated) version of Privy. Privy is yet another awesome affordable Shopify app on the market.
I have always been a big fan of exit intent discount offers, not because I think they’re fun but because they work! It always shocks me how well they convert on my eCommerce sites. This is definitely one of the best and easiest ways to acquire leads for your business.
Privy recently released the “Spin to Win” exit intent pop up, which converts even better yet. If you want to be successful in eCommerce or any online business, you need to implement an exit intent app immediately. Not everyone is in the right place to make a purchase, but with an exit intent offer you will grab their e-mail and can follow up.
You can use an e-mail automation software, such as Klaviyo or MailChimp to follow up with these leads. I’m almost confident this will be your highest converting e-mail funnel (besides abandon cart follow up!).
I haven’t even touched on the best part about Privy… It’s free! (kind of) I have always used the free Privy account perfectly fine, however, they do offer upgrades starting at $24/month. Do what best suits your business, but for all of the newbies, the free Privy account will be more than enough.
Zipify Pages is a drag and drop page builder built by the legendary online marketer, Ezra Firestone. Ezra is the creator of Smart Marketer and several eCommerce brands and has been quite the inspiration for me over the years. He definitely should’ve been included in my 7 YouTube Channels to watch blog post! Well back to Zipify, I have used Zipify Pages several times and have had kind of mixed results.
Let’s start with the price point. At $67/month, it can be a bit too steep for small businesses. But is it cost-effective compared to hiring a developer? Eh… I pay my developer from India $100-250/page she builds, so at $804 per year, it’s a little hefty.
However… if your business can afford to pay $67/month and is sick and tired of having to hire a developer to create every page, you should give this a try! And for several reasons.
- Ezra Firestone and Zipify team are awesome. I have had a few brief conversations with Ezra in the past and I have nothing, but positive things to say. He taught me SO much about Facebook advertising.
- Ezra knows direct response marketing. The templates that are available on Zipify Pages will convert well with paid traffic. There’s honestly quite a bit of value in that feature.
- No more developers! I love the team of developers I work with in India, but it can be so annoying to have to wait a week or two to have a page developed. You can create a page within a few hours using Zipify.
If you can fit it into your budget, I’d recommend giving Zipify Pages a shot and checking out Ezra Firestone’s advertising content. He’s an unreal marketer and a great guy!
One Click Upsell
Here’s the idea behind One Click Upsells. After a customer purchases, rather than sending them to a “Thank You” page, it directs the user to a “One Click Upsell”… and it converts SO well.
This right here should get a 10-30% conversion rate depending on the offer, so in better terms, it’s going to MAKE YOU MORE MONEY! I have no affiliation with this app (I wish I did!) but I still really recommend using it.
My last (but not least) favorite Shopify app is ReCharge. ReCharge is a subscription app that syncs VERY well with Shopify! Unlike other Shopify subscription apps, this integrates right with your Shopify cart.
Another thing that’s great about ReCharge is that it’s only $19.99/month… Yes, you heard that right. How can something so great and efficient be priced so well? I’m not sure!
I’m going to have to reach out to the ReCharge team and congratulate them on their amazing app.
Here are a few other Shopify apps I have used in the past few years.
- Instagram Feed
- Tidio Chat
Now onto the scary part… pricing! For an eCommerce website builder, Shopify is priced competitively. I’ll go into depth below on other eCommerce builder alternatives, but I believe the pricing is pretty fair.
There are four Shopify plans to choose from after your 14-day free trial expires. BTW, make sure to click here to grab a 14-day trial account!
Basic Shopify – $29/month
Everything is in the name. This is the most affordable and basic account you can create on Shopify. For three out of the five years I’ve been a Shopify user, I’ve had the Basic Shopify plan. It’s everything you need plus more!
The only feature I felt was missing is the analytic features. Shopify provides basic analytics on sales and customers, but really detailed customer analytics aren’t available until you upgrade to the Shopify* plan. Upgrading from $29/month to $79/month may be too big of a stretch for small businesses.
Shopify* – $79/month
This has very similar features to the Basic plan, however, you get great analytics and the ability to create gift cards. Is it worth an additional fifty dollars for two extra features? Maybe. The analytics section is quite valuable, so it’s something to consider.
Advanced Shopify – $299/month
The Advanced Shopify plan is something I’ve never purchased, yet a few of my friends have it, so I have seen it first hand. It’s definitely for very large $1,000,000+/year businesses. From third-party calculated shipping rates to even more advanced reporting, this seems to do it all.
Shopify Plus – A lot/month
Now, this is for the big BIG Shopify businesses. Think of the Kylie Cosmetics and Boom By Cindy Joseph’s of the world. Shopify doesn’t disclose Shopify Plus pricing, but I’ve heard it’s in the $2,000-40,000 price point. Pretty steep for an eCommerce business!
Now onto my favorite Shopify feature, their support. Shopify (and Uline.com!) has the best customer service I have ever experienced. The call time isn’t usually too long and the support reps are always positive and helpful. I’m definitely a phone person, but for people that prefer IM, give their live chat a shot. It’s even faster than calling!
The best part about Shopify’s customer service is that they are 24/7 365… and yes, I have called them at some weird times before! They definitely don’t respond to customer questions as fast during the weekends or holidays, but they still do respond.
Shopify Stores For Sale
Has this article been a bit too overwhelming? Well then maybe it’s time to consider buying a Shopify business instead of making one from scratch. I would definitely talk to a LOT of potential Shopify business owners before making a purchase decision. I have seen a lot of overpriced Shopify businesses on the market, so please beware.
I’d recommend taking a look at the Shopify Exchange for potential Shopify businesses for sale.
The Shopify Exchange is a marketplace where you can buy and sell new and seasoned Shopify websites. I occasionally will scroll through the active listings and sometimes find interesting businesses. To purchase a solid business on here, I’d expect a budget of $25-100k.
If you’re still not sold on Shopify after all of this info, it may be worth looking in a different direction. Here are a few Shopify alternatives available on the market. I have used all of these and still recommend Shopify.
Who hasn’t seen a Wix YouTube pre-roll advertisement? Probably the same person that hasn’t seen a Tai Lopez YouTube pre-roll advertisement… no one! They are everywhere! I can’t even imagine either of their marketing budgets.
Wix is an interesting platform and is definitely more “drag and drop” than Shopify. You can literally design most of the pages in any which way. I HIGHLY doubt you will need any coding experience to create a good looking site.
The pricing is pretty scattered, but it ranges from $17 to $35/month. Wix also has an app marketplace, but I don’t think it’s much compared to the Shopify Marketplace.
Wix Conclusion: If you’re looking for a complete drag and drop solution, give it a shot. It’s a beginner platform if you ask me.. There just doesn’t seem to be that many large websites built on Wix.
UltraCart is a website builder I used years ago. It’s similar to Shopify, yet still different. UltraCart mainly just provides you with the backend, you’re left with coding and developing the entire front end of your eCommerce site. The main reason I migrated to UltraCart is that I loved their backend system and how I had the ability to COMPLETELY customize my site, including my checkout.
One disadvantage to Shopify is that you cannot edit or design the checkout process. It’s on Shopify’s server for security purposes, so you can’t do too much customizing. Using UltraCart, you can customize and design the checkout however you’d like. The advantage to a custom check out process is unlimited split testing and one click, post-purchase up-sells!
You can sort of create a one-click upsells using Ezra Firestone’s One Click Upsell app, but it’s still not a perfect integration.
Clickfunnels isn’t a great alternative, but I thought I should include it because it’s a good platform for eCommerce owners. This program is a drag and drop sales funnel creator. I actually use it in conjunction with Shopify, but if you’re in the direct response marketing world, you could definitely just use Clickfunnels. Compared to creating long-form sales funnels (tripwire, webinars, etc) it’s worth it.
It’s priced at $97/month, but they’re offering a 14-day free trial right now. Check out the link here to get a free 14-day Clickfunnels account.
Is Shopify Worth It
Now the moment of truth, is Shopify worth it? In my opinion, absolutely! It’s a great platform that works great for small and large businesses. It’s a phenomenal place to build your first eCommerce site, but on the flip side, you shouldn’t have growing pains anytime too soon.
Please put in the comments below what eCommerce platform you use and what you love about Shopify!