How To Set Up a Successful Shopify Store in 12 Easy Steps

Opening an online store would be nearly impossible if you had to build an entire ecommerce website from the ground up. After all, just because you have a great eye for curation or unique access to desirable goods doesn’t mean you’re a computer programmer who knows how to build a basic website, nevermind how to integrate ordering, payment, processing, and shipping functionality.

This is why Shopify has become one of the world’s most popular ecommerce solutions: Its ease of use. It’s a user-friendly, plug-and-play website builder with streamlined ecommerce solutions.

If you’re reading this article, you’re already curious enough about designing a store with Shopify. But is Shopify right for you, and what are the nuances of setting it up? Read on for everything you need to know, from what the website is to how to set up a successful Shopify store through shopify.com.

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What Is Shopify?

There are only a handful of well-established sources offering a fully integrated ecommerce website to online businesses who want to create and manage an online store without building an ecommerce store from scratch. Shopify is one of them. They offer the complete package, including shopping cart, payment services, shipping, analytics, and more.

But what exactly is Shopify?

Simply put, it’s a subscription-based software service that provides online business owners with a platform on which to build a fully functioning online store. When we say fully functioning, we mean exactly that: a responsive website complete with website hosting (including SSL) and shopping-cart solutions that allow you to manage, market, sell, and organize shipping for a single product or multiple products.

How Does Shopify Work?

The Shopify plan is straightforward: Choose a subscription plan, pay a subscription fee, get access to the ecommerce platform and its tools, set up your site, and start to sell products.

Unlike all-in-one ecommerce solutions—think Amazon, eBay, and Etsy—Shopify allows you to create a standalone website with its own domain name and URL (if desired). And unlike the aforementioned, it does not require you to be clustered with other ecommerce companies or competitors.

Is Shopify the Right Ecommerce Platform for You?

If you’re a small business interested in creating your own ecommerce website, Shopify is a fine choice. But it’s important to make sure it has all the features you need before you invest the time it takes to program and use Shopify.

For example, Shopify has limited options for content creation and content layout, so if you want to set up a blog that’s equal parts shop and editorial, you may be better off working in WordPress and exploring ecommerce plugin solutions like Shopify Lite or WooCommerce. (Other popular solutions out there include BigCommerce, Magento, and more.)

But since you’re here and you’re still reading, you probably want to know how to make the best shopping ecommerce-business website ever using Shopify. You’re in luck. We’ll cover that next.

How To Create a Successful Shopify Store in 12 Easy Steps

Shopify: Webpage Dashboard

One of the main reasons store owners opt to use Shopify is because they offer a complete, easy-to-use, plug-and-play ecommerce solution. This means you don’t need to be a programmer or web designer, or even understand the first thing about how to sell products, create payment gateways, or start drop shipping. You just need to follow the tips in this guide, and you’ll be able to come up with a beautiful web design. Move forward step-by-step, and you’ll be running a successful Shopify store in no time.

1. Conceptualize Your Shopify Store and Product Offerings

You probably already have a shop idea in mind. Now it’s time to flesh out your vision for your store.

Conceptualizing your store is the biggest upfront commitment. It’s also the one that takes the most brain power. Shopify has worked out the “how” for you. This part is the “what.” As in what is this business and brand? What does it sell? What problem does it solve for consumers? What is its visual and written personality like?

There’s no computer plugin to manifest and articulate your vision for you, so roll up your sleeves and get excited! This is where creativity reigns. Bonus: Other than procuring products, all of the work here won’t cost you a penny. Take a little time to complete the following, and you’ve got everything you need to start your Shopify store.

Decide on the Theme for Your Shop

Only you know what kind of things you plan to sell. Whether they’re physical products, digital goods, or services, the types of things you feature in your store should seem like they belong together and make sense as a brand or a collection.

For example, offering gardening shears in an online gardening shop makes perfect sense. Including a line of dietary supplements, not so much.

Make sure you conceptualize a clear vision and narrative of what your shop is about and decide on the types of products that fit your shop. (Clothing? Memorabilia? Food products? Digital magazines? Quilts? You get the idea.)

Come Up With a Business Name

There are two reasons to spend time conceptualizing your business name. The first is obvious: The name sets the tone for your brand. Sometimes it tells people what you’re about (Hello, The Home Depot). In other instances, it may be metaphoric (Amazon) or just fun (Lululemon).

The second reason is availability of the domain name and matching social media usernames. While not every name under the sun has been scooped up as a URL with the preferred “.com” domain, most basic ones have. You’ll need to be creative or combine basic and unexpected words to find a URL that works.

Or you can use Shopify’s default, which is “.myshopify.com” Just remember that shorter and easy to spell is better.

Want to play around with options? Use Namechk.

It used to be that you had to hire an expensive designer to come up with a cool logo. Now you can hold a design contest and get competitive bids from designers around the world. Or better yet, design it yourself for free using a free logo maker.

Shopify: Logo samples

See more logo templates and make them your own in a few clicks!

Gather Inventory

You can’t open a store if you don’t have anything to sell, so make sure you amass some inventory to start with, whether they’re digital products, actual physical goods, services, or a combo of all three. You can and should modify your offerings based on shopper interest, but you have to start somewhere!

Take Great Photos of Your Products

Shopify: Taking great photos of your product

You’ve got the goods, now you need a way for online shoppers to view them. Since consumers can’t physically show up to your store and browse, images are the most powerful selling tools you have.

Make sure they’re bright, clean, clear, and high resolution. Use a tabletop studio box for the most even, controlled light and a blank white background. Or use natural or studio lighting followed by Adobe Spark’s Remove Background tool to make your product image appear on a white background.

Shopify: Removing a background

Additional images showcasing various perspectives or in context (think showing a table runner on a table) can also be helpful, depending on what you’re selling.

Don’t rush out and buy a fancy camera if you don’t have one. With a few smartphone photography tips, you can take pro-looking photos from home!

See more tips and tricks for making your product shots shine!

2. Open Your Shopify Account

Shopify: Creating an account

Let’s start at the beginning. Before anything else, you need to open a Shopify account. But hey, it’s risk free. The platform offers a free 14-day trial before you have to commit to a pricing plan and start making monthly Shopify payments to use their subscription.

Look for the “Start free trial” button in the upper right-hand side of the page and follow the prompts. (When it’s time to decide on a pricing plan, do a Google search of Shopify reviews to learn whether you can get by with basic Shopify or would be better off paying a higher monthly fee for more features.)

You’ll be prompted to answer a few questions and enter a store name (this will be your Shopify URL: [yourstorename].myshopify.com). Once you commit, the name cannot be changed.

However, you can buy and replace it with your own custom domain name later (PinkFrogsforSale.com or whatever you want—provided the URL is available). You can also upgrade from a basic plan or downgrade from a more expensive plan at any time.

Violà! You have a Shopify store. Now it’s time to populate it.

3. Add Your Products To Your Shopify Shop

Adding products to your strore

You’ve already decided what to sell and captured your items with great photography. Now it’s time to bring them to life in your online shop.

Uploading your products to your Shopify product pages is simple. As Shopify explains it:

“From your Shopify admin, go to Products > All Products.

From the products page, click Add Product.

Enter a title for your product, along with additional details.

Click save.”

Shopify explains all the fields for product details on the product page. Some are required and some are not. Below is a list of most of the fields, as described by Shopify.

Just when you think you’ve filled in all the categories for your product page, you’ll see there are more fields running from the top to the bottom of the right-hand side of the page. These focus on product availability and organization, and you’ll need to fill them in, too, as they help you manage, sort, and display your products, as well as sales and discounts. Fortunately, once you get the hang of it, it will be easy. Look for these sections:

So far so good? Save your product page, add some more products, and then move on to the next step.

4. Create Product Collections

Creating Product Collections

Now it’s time to organize your products in Shopify. The goal is to group items together in ways that shoppers might look for them. If you had a brick-and-mortar fashion store you wouldn’t merchandise the cat socks next to the football jerseys, right? Same idea with your online store.

Set up opportunities for customers to browse complementary or related products so when your customers look for that football jersey, they might stumble upon a must-have team sweatshirt, too. And for the cat-sock lovers? Perhaps they discover cat-themed pajamas that inspire them to press the buy button and whip out their credit card.

So how do you create collections? Start by deciding what kinds of items you’d like to group together. If you’re running an apparel store and have tons of sock offerings, perhaps you have collections for kid’s socks, animal-themed socks, wool socks, men’s socks, women’s socks, bestsellers, and so on. Think about collections based on a theme, product category (in this case socks), or target audience (cat lovers).

Collections do more than group specific items for browsing. They also allow you to:

To create a collection, fill in the Collection title and description, be welcoming, straightforward, and descriptive, and don’t forget SEO-friendly keywords. Add a leading image if you’d like. Then check the Search Engine Preview to make sure your collection appears the way you want it to in search results. Create as many collections as make sense for your online store. And don’t worry: You can always edit, add, or delete collections.

5. Create Your Other Important Online Store Pages

Phew! You’ve done all the hard stuff. Now it’s time to add important foundational elements to your online store by filling in pages about your business. These are the pages customers expect to find when they visit an ecommerce website, and they’re important both in letting customers know essential information about you and in building trust.

Start by navigating to Online Store > Pages. Not sure what to include? Visit some of your favorite shops and look at what they’ve done. In general, you’ll want to create the following pages:

6. Use Themes To Customize Your Store

Man wearinh sunglasses

Okay, you’re almost home. It’s time for window dressing! This is when you put the final polish on the look of your shop by using themes. Themes are design templates that help visually bring your store to life. They give you preset and customizable ways to add design elements to your website. You can add a vibrant splash of color, stylized typography, and other visual storytelling elements.

To start, navigate to Online Store > Themes.

You can find free and paid themes at the Shopify Theme Store or customize even further by designing your own graphics in Adobe Spark, using your brand’s unique look and feel.

When choosing your theme, consider your desired aesthetic, the size of your product catalog, and your desired built-in features and functionality. (Do you need sections for press mentions of your business? Do you want to add testimonials? And so on.)

Some themes are multipurpose and some are crafted with a specific type of business in mind, including ecommerce themes (like Brooklyn, the apparel store theme from Shopify). If you end up with a theme you don’t love or you outgrow your theme, you can swap it out and keep the programming you put into it.

When you design your homepage, consider the following:

7. Customize Your Navigation Menus

The top of your website is the most important part of your store. It’s the first thing people see when they land on your website, and it’s where they look to find navigation throughout your site. It’s also where shoppers will see your logo, search bar, and shopping cart.

The bottom navigation—the footer—is the spot for links to company information (About Us, Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, Return Policy, FAQs, Press Mentions, etc.). Make it clean and always use plain, explanatory terms for navigation text rather than clever ones (think “Socks” rather than “Fab Foot Coverings”).

8. Customize Your Checkout

Theme Settings is the place to customize checkout. You actually don’t have to customize it, but you should give it a little love so it shows brand consistency and isn’t bland and generic. Add your logo or go deeper into customizing things like whether customers can opt into newsletters (highly recommended!), need to create an account, or can checkout as a guest.

You can do all this at Settings > Checkout.

This is also the place to set up an automated reminder for abandoned carts (when customers bail before completing their purchase). This can be the difference between no sale and cash in the bank.

9. Set Up Shipping and Delivery

Delivery man with boxes on color background

Shipping is an important consideration. The price you charge for shipping can make a difference in both buying decisions for the shopper and profit margins for you. Carefully think through your shipping options and program your Shopify shipping section accordingly.

Options include free shipping, real-time carrier rates (think UPS, USPS, and FedEx), flat-rates, and local pickup and delivery. You might also want to consider Shopify Shipping, which simplifies things with discounted rates and the ability to print shipping labels and manage fulfillment.

While you’re in the shipping section, be sure to set your shipping zones. They set shipping rates for various countries and allow for optional conditional shipping, which does clever things like recalculate shipping rates for shoppers buying multiple items.

Ready to set it up? Do so by going to Settings > Shipping and Delivery. Or learn more about your shipping and delivery options.

10. Set Up Taxes

Having your tax situation set up in advance is critical. It ensures you properly charge and collect the sales tax you’ll need to send on to the government (if applicable; often there is no tax on digital items). If you do this incorrectly, you’ll be mired in paperwork and possibly have to pay out of your own pocket.

So, while taxes are never fun, they’re important and best addressed up front with some nifty automation. Thankfully, Shopify takes most of the pain out of the process by applying default regional sales tax rates to purchases made on your site.

To see what’s what, go to Settings > Taxes. Leave the default rates as is, or edit or override them if there are special taxes for your region or your products.

Once you’re up and running, it’s worth conferring with a tax expert to ensure you’re charging the correct amounts. This way you won’t discover any surprises when it comes time to pay sales tax during tax season.

11. Set Up Payment Gateways and Payouts

Hang in there. Just a few little tweaks and you’re a Shopify expert with a live ecommerce business. Plus, the next subject is the most important part of this entire process: Getting paid!

The Payments section (Settings > Payments) controls how shoppers pay you and how you get that money into your hands. Here you can select what forms of payment you accept (credit card payments, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Shopify’s Shop Pay, Elo, Amazon Pay, etc.).

You’ll also set yourself up for Shopify Payments, which is how funds received from your store are transferred to you (with no transaction fees!), and your payout schedule (or the frequency in which payments are sent your way).

Learn more about payment here.

12. Launch Your Shopify Store

Airplane launch

You’ll soon find that there is a never-ending list of tweaks you can make to your new ecommerce store. But the brilliant thing about online businesses is that you can change them on the fly, in the moment, whenever your entrepreneurial heart desires. So, no need to address every little detail to get your store off the ground. Instead, get it in motion.

That said, before debuting to the world, you may want to send a password-protected login to friends to browse and proofread your site and offer constructive feedback. Then, once you’re ready, go to Online Store > Preferences and disable the password protection. Voilà! You’re live!

Keep Refining Your Shopify Store

Congratulations! You’ve just laid the groundwork for a successful Shopify store, and it’s live. Time to give yourself a pat on the back, take a breath, and get ready for next steps. You’ve got inventory to manage and customer support to tend to, and you’ll surely get new ideas once you begin monitoring customer behavior and crafting a marketing plan for your store.

But if you’re itching to keep going, there are plenty more advanced Shopify tasks you can conquer, including:

Happy selling, and don’t forget you can always find helpful resources through Shopify’s help center and Shopify support.