How to Sell on Shopify: The Ultimate Guide to Starting Your Store

August 19, 2021
by
Sean Flannigan

How to Sell on Shopify: The Ultimate Guide to Starting Your Store

August 19, 2021
by
Sean Flannigan
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Over the years, selling your stuff online has gotten increasingly easy (and competitive). What began as a very technical endeavor involving web developers and designers has become a very intuitive experience for the average person.

Shopify has been at the leading edge of making ecommerce easier. They have aspired to become the platform that has it all. And they’ve succeeded.

So, now pretty much anyone with a computer can start their own store, which is amazing. On the flip side, the competition is fierce. 

In this post we'll cover (just click to jump right to it):

If you want to start a Shopify store, now is a great time to do it. 

And, you are in the right place to figure it all out—from how much it’ll cost you and the standout benefits to what merchandise you should think of selling and how to customize your store. We got it all.

So, settle in and we’ll get into it. 

What is Shopify?

In the world of online retail, Shopify has gained popularity at a pace unlike any other. To put it simply, Shopify is a subscription-based ecommerce platform that gives anyone the power to build an online store quickly. 

All without looking like a Geocities site (look it up to be transported back to the 1990s).

Based in Ontario, Canada, Shopify got its start back in 2006 when founder Tobias Lütke wanted to open a snowboarding gear store but couldn’t find a great platform to build it with. 

shopify homepage anyone anywhere can start a business
Image: Shopify

Since that time, Shopify has grown immensely. In May 2021, they reported having over 1.7 million businesses operating in 175 countries on the platform. 

According to BuiltWith, Shopify makes up 24% of all ecommerce stores in the world, a very close second to WordPress’ platform, WooCommerce. And they are catching up quickly.

In the US, Shopify has just become the most popular platform with 29% of stores choosing it for their ecommerce needs.

builtwith ecommerce usage chart shopify 29 percent
Image: BuiltWith

Why sell on Shopify?

There are a ton of reasons to sell on Shopify. Chiefly among them is all you get right out of the box. 

You can put together a slick mobile-friendly storefront complete with hosting, shipping options, checkout, payments, and marketing functionality within a day.

Other platforms get you some of the way there but Shopify has it all included from the jump.

Who should sell on Shopify?

Brands of all sizes can be found on Shopify. Stores built on Shopify are so widespread that you’ve likely shopped on several in the last few days alone.

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands

Some of the most successful brands on Shopify are direct-to-consumer brands. 

apres protein drink homepage
Image: Après

They sell everything from minimal wallets and sleeping bag blankets to beard grooming gear and clean protein drinks. With Shopify, DTC brands can quickly put together an amazing store with all the parts they need to be successful online.

Enterprise brands

Big household names like Hasbro, Heinz, and Fitbit also call Shopify home. With the breadth of offerings available from the platform, brands can scale up knowing they won’t outgrow it. 

Shopify makes it easy for enterprise companies to manage everything from one place—multiple stores, employee accounts, marketing plans, etc.

Microbusinesses

Even the smallest of businesses can start building on Shopify. The cheapest plan available starts at only $9/month, so the cost of entry for brands with fewer needs is super manageable.

As your business grows, there are Shopify plans that can fit your bigger goals.

#cta-visual-pb#<cta-title>Customize your store, all sizes welcome<cta-title>Whether you run a microbusiness or a huge brand, you can create an amazing custom Shopify store with Shogun.Start building for free

What should you sell on Shopify?

The options for what you can sell online are endless really. It’s up to you to figure out whether what you want to sell is something that people want to buy. 

Items you cannot sell on Shopify

First, let’s cover a handful of things that you cannot sell on Shopify: alcohol, CBD, tobacco products, pharmaceuticals, weapons, and more. 

So, don’t try to sell those things on Shopify. Your dream of opening a medieval sword and mead supply store will just have to wait.

Popular niches

But, outside of those particular items, there is a whole world of possibilities. A good place to start is researching some of the most popular niches. While niches come and go, you can start riding the wave while it’s there.

Here are some of the most popular niches right now:

  • Home exercise equipment
  • Eco-friendly products
  • Pet care
  • Home improvement
  • Dieting and supplements
  • Beauty and skincare

#cta-paragraph-pb#Figure out what to sell by checking out our big guide to trending products for Shopify.

Trending products

The products that are popular at any one time can be hard to predict. But you can watch what people become obsessed with in real-time and react in your own store.

The pandemic changed how we interact with our homes and how we dress in those homes. As a result, the products we collectively got curious about changed too.

So you started seeing an increase in sales of loungewear, home office products, bikes, yoga mats, etc. Some of those products remain popular while others will fall down to previous levels as life goes back to normal.

Research what is trending now and start selling it for some quick sales. A great tool to start measuring consumer interest over time is Google Trends. As you search for various products, you’ll see how much people are searching for them and whether it is trending up or down.

google trends chart for massage gun
Image: Google Trends

The term ‘massage gun’ took off near the end of 2019

Benefits of Shopify

Shopify is replete with benefits, so it’s no wonder so many people start their online business on the platform. 

Here are a few of those benefits:

Easy setup

With a simple and intuitive admin dashboard, creating your online store is so easy. Everything is included, so you don’t have to worry about servers or pulling in developers to stand up your store. 

Just start building and selling.

Customization

With a ton of themes available (both for free and for purchase) and the ability to customize the look of your store, Shopify makes it easy to create a totally on-brand experience for your store without having to rely on technical resources.

Hosting already included

Don’t worry about finding a hosting provider for your online store. Just use Shopify and it’s included. Just buy the domain you most love and they will handle the servers.

Affordability

With price points that fit each level of business, Shopify is an affordable way to get a store started. Once you start selling, you’ll make up that cost in no time.

Mobile optimized

When you create your store on Shopify, mobile responsiveness is built in. Which is huge, because people are increasingly shopping from their phones. With Shopify, you won’t miss out on that valuable traffic.

Customer support

Help is there when you need it. 24/7 customer support is available via phone, email, or live chat so that you can keep your store humming along without delay.

Marketing & SEO

Ecommerce depends on great marketing and strong SEO. Shopify delivers with SEO features, marketing analytics, and promotional tools to help drive more traffic to your store and grow your conversions.

Security

Consumers need to feel safe when they are shopping online. After all, every time they buy online, they are giving out their personal and financial information. 

Shopify keeps security protocols in place and their payment platform is secure to help your customers feel at ease when shopping.

Shopify Apps

The Shopify App Store is full of valuable upgrades to your online shop. 

Shopify has a number of free apps that they offer that can help you buy wholesale products, provide local delivery, show off product reviews, print labels, and more.  

There are also a ton of apps from third-party companies that can solve your biggest ecommerce problems—from accounting and marketing to fulfillment and store customization.

#cta-mini-pb#Customize your Shopify store with ease.Start your free trial here.

How much does Shopify cost?

This question has a few answers. Shopify has a ton of incredible features for all sizes of ecommerce businesses. Not every brand needs every feature they offer. So they have levels.

Depending on your needs, you could pay as little as $9 a month or as much as $2,000+ a month.

Add to that the cost of any Shopify apps you may need or the possible addition of a brick and mortar payments management service and you will get the outlines of what your new store will cost.

The three core plans

shopify pricing plans page

When you land on the Shopify pricing page, you’ll see the above. You can, ostensibly, choose from these three plans: Basic Shopify, Shopify, and Advanced Shopify.

By the one-line descriptions alone, you can get a sense of who these plans are for. But, let’s briefly describe each.

Basic Shopify. This plan gives you your online store with as many products as you like, discounts and gift cards, abandoned cart recovery, 24/7 support, shipping label printing, discounted shipping rates, in-person checkout capabilities, 4 inventory locations, multiple currencies, fraud analysis, and more. 

All this for just $29 per month.

Shopify. This plan, simply called Shopify, has everything from the Basic plan plus additional staff accounts (5 total), standard reporting, deeper shipping discounts, lower credit card charges and transaction fees, an extra inventory location, and the ability to set up international domains and pricing. 

This one will cost you $79 per month.

Advanced Shopify. Finally, the Advanced plan has all the features of the Shopify plan plus 10 more staff accounts, three additional inventory locations, advanced reporting, third-party shipping rates calculation, and even lower credit card and transaction fees. 

This plan will cost you $299 per month.

Enter Shopify Lite and Shopify Plus

If you scroll down a bit more on that pricing page, you’ll find a couple of extra plans that represent either end of the business spectrum—Shopify Plus and Shopify Lite.

shopify plus and shopify lite pricing page section

Shopify Plus. When you’ve outgrown even the Advanced Shopify plan, don’t fret because there is yet another plan for you to stretch out into. With this plan, you get the ability to grow internationally with multiple storefronts, languages, and currencies. 

On top of that, you get drastically lower credit card and transaction fees, a dedicated Launch Engineer to help build your store, unlimited staff accounts, exclusive apps, API integrations, wholesale selling channels, better analytics, and much more.

Big international brands like Allbirds and Heinz use Shopify Plus to do more with their stores. 

This plan starts at $2,000 per month and there is variable pricing above that based on your store’s needs.

Shopify Lite. As the name suggests, this is a lower-end plan that fits the smallest of brands. It’s Shopify without the Shopify store. 

Use the Buy Button on your own website—be it WordPress, Tumblr, or Squarespace—to sell whatever you want or use the card reader and point of sale app to sell in person.

This plan is just $9 per month.

Shopify in-product offerings

One of the greatest things about Shopify is how they’ve brought so many aspects of the ecommerce experience under their umbrella.

For most things you want to do, Shopify has something ready for you to use—be it shipping services, payment options, help with funding, dropshipping capabilities, marketing tools, or in-store functionality.

Let’s briefly cover each of these offerings.

Shopify Shipping

Shopify shipping landing page get your orders out the door
Image: Shopify

Sellers can utilize Shopify’s built-in shipping service, which can save them up to 88% compared to traditional shipping services. Essentially, they can get bulk pricing and pass it on to their customers.

Each country where this is available will have different exclusive shipping carriers.

Shopify Capital 

Starting a small business is a costly affair. That’s why Shopify offers a quick loan process that can open up funds within days of getting an offer and is payable as a percentage of your sales.

Shop Pay

Shopify has even gotten into the payment services industry with Shop Pay, which allows shoppers to pay more quickly with pre-filled forms, to pay in installments if they wish, and to plant trees with each purchase.

It even tracks orders for your customers!

Shopify Fulfillment Network

For businesses that want to sell but don’t want to actually carry and ship the products, Shopify has you covered with their fulfillment network. 

With warehouses located throughout the US, they can take care of storing, packing, and shipping your products in the most efficient way possible to get to your customers faster. Watch out, Amazon!

Shopify Email

If you don’t want to branch out to take care of your email marketing efforts, Shopify can help you there too. 

With email templates that can pull right from your store and analytics to help you assess your campaigns, this service might be the perfect fix for those that don’t want to juggle tons of platforms.

Shopify Inbox (formerly Shopify Ping)

For managing customer chats, Shopify has created another service that lets you customize responses, reply from anywhere, and analyze your chat metrics.

Shopify POS

For in-store transactions, Shopify POS Lite and POS Pro will help you unify your online and brick-and-mortar storefronts.

POS Lite comes free with all Shopify plans. POS Pro will cost an additional $89 per month and includes features that will serve businesses with bigger physical store needs.

How to start selling on Shopify

Creating a new online store for your promising new business is so exciting! Selling on Shopify is an excellent choice, as you’ve seem from all they offer brands both big and small. 

Let’s take a look at how you can get it up and running.

Set up account

A great place to start with any new platform is to sign in and start setting up all your account details.

It’ll first ask you for your email address, your (highly complicated) password, and your store name. 

Then it invites you to tell them ‘a little about yourself’, wherein you describe your business and the fields automatically adjust to your answers to get the best picture of what you need.

shopify setup tell us a little about yourself page

Then you add your business address so they can pay you (which is always nice). Then you get to ‘Enter my store’ and it leads you to your Shopify dashboard.

shopify store setup add address to get paid

Here is what you’ll see if you, like me, started with a free trial and have not yet picked a plan. My Pickle Emporium even has Point of Sale already in my dashboard since I indicated that I would be selling both online and in-store.

shopify dashboard trial home

Get a unique domain

If you do nothing, your domain—the main URL customers would enter to pull up your store—will simply be [your store name] dot myshopify dot com. While not too difficult to remember, it isn’t all that elegant.

Click on the Online Store section of your dashboard (along the left side), then click on Domains. There you will see your default domain name and have multiple options. 

You can connect an existing domain, transfer a domain, or buy a new domain. If you don’t already have a domain and you want to create a new one, you’ll choose the big green button that says, ‘Buy new domain’.

default shopify store domain name

That will bring you to a new screen where you can search for available domains. Hopefully, the one you love isn’t already in use! Then you can buy it and your new simpler URL will be so easy to remember.

buy domain on shopify dashboard isellpickles.com

Find your perfect Shopify theme

Now you can focus on the look of your store by finding a great theme that fits your brand identity. Right off the bat, you’ll get the Shopify default theme, which you can customize by clicking the green button.

shopify online store theme customization

You can also find more themes at the bottom of the page. You can just explore the free themes Shopify has available or look through the whole Shopify Theme Store to see the paid options available. We’ll cover that more below.

Add your amazing products

Obviously, your store won’t go too far without the addition of the wares you are planning to sell. Just click Products along the left side of the dashboard and you’ll be able to start adding your fancy stuff to your online inventory.

products on dashboard add product button green

On the Add product page, you’ll be able to enter vital information like the product’s title, description, images, pricing, SKU, barcode, shipping details, variants, and SEO. This is a good place to be thorough.

add product on shopify store dashboard

Explore Shopify Apps for the gems

When you are fresh to the Shopify dashboard and you have not added any apps to your store, you will see some suggested apps to use when you click on Apps in your sidebar.

new shopify store customize with apps

To see the whole Shopify App Store, click on the big green button at the top of the page. You’ll be served a personalized page in the App Store.

There are tons of apps you can choose from to customize your store experience, both on the store owner side and the customer side. 

Shopify has some free apps you can add—like the Buy Button channel and Product Reviews—but mostly there are a host of subscription apps that can help you run your store smarter. For instance, there are lots of apps out there that are dedicated to inventory management.

And, of course, for customizing your store pages, there is the Shogun Page Builder app. (Had to mention it.)

Start marketing your cool new store

After you’ve got that all covered—your products are situated on their product pages, you’ve told your story on the About page, your homepage is looking lovely—it’s time to tell the world about it.

Shopify has some built-in marketing functionality to help you start creating ads, optimize your mobile experience, recover abandoned carts, and more. You can pay for other apps to cover things like email marketing, affiliate marketing, and more.

Outside of that, get thyself on social media and start showing what you got. With the influx of traffic, you are sure to start selling.

Outside of these steps, Shopify will send you a series of emails helping you start up your store. They even have a handy Get Started page with videos that will give you the lowdown on their policies, how shipping and payments work, and how to make sales.

Tips for successful selling on Shopify

Now that you’ve set up your store, it’s time to make it work for you

It’s great to have a little time to marvel at the amazing storefront you’ve created (so pretty!), but once you’ve gotten that out of your system, you’ll want to find ways to increase sales to that lovely store.

Customizing your shop

Seeing as how there are so many Shopify stores out there, the need to differentiate your store is bigger than ever.

Themes are the look and feel of your store. They create cohesion across every store page, with consistent use of colors, designs, and fonts throughout the shopping experience.

You can find themes available in Shopify or in many theme marketplaces across the web. Choosing what works best for your brand is no simple task with the number of options available. 

Let’s start by talking about what Shopify has to offer.

Shopify themes

shopify theme store free and paid shopify themes
Image: Shopify

Within the Shopify Theme Store, you can find over 70 themes. There are a limited number of free themes available and many more for sale (costing around $180 usually). 

#cta-paragraph-pb#Check out our picks for the best free Shopify themes and what we think are the best mobile-friendly Shopify themes and the best themes for fashion brands.

When you first create your store, you’ll have their free default theme called Dawn already loaded (previously they launched new stores with the aptly named Debut theme). You can go ahead and use the default theme but it’ll be hard to stand out.

Even after you’ve chosen your favorite theme, you can make it more uniquely yours by customizing the theme and editing theme files. You’ll want to have a good understanding of Shopify’s Liquid code to do this.

If you are really good at customizing Shopify themes, you could even create your own and submit it to the Shopify Theme Store.

If you aren’t the technical type, you’ll probably want to hire a Shopify developer that can help customize your theme in short order. 

#cta-visual-ps#<cta-title>Not Your Average Shopify Store: 25 Gorgeous Custom Landing Pages<cta-title>See how custom pages make these 25 beautiful Shopify stores drive conversions and get inspired to elevate your store’s customer experience.Grab your free copy

Third party themes

Outside of Shopify’s own themes, there are thousands of themes available for purchase at a number of theme marketplaces (even on Etsy!). 

With enough searching on these sites, you could find the theme that fits your needs just fine. With so many of these themes out in the wild, you are less likely to run into another store with your same theme. 

Using Shogun Page Builder to customize your shop

Another option is to create your own customized theme without bothering with coding. Shogun Page Builder allows you to easily create new store pages with a drag and drop visual editor. 

No need for developers!

Start with your favorite free Shopify theme and customize from there. If there’s a Shopify store that you really love, you can easily find what theme they are using and use that as your base to customize from.

Shogun has over 30 quick start templates for all sorts of pages to get you started.

shogun page builder page templates you can choose

Must-have store pages to start 

One great thing about Shopify is that you can build your store with page templates already available from the various themes. 

You’ll find many of the Shopify pages you need to start your store within your base theme as well as in Shogun Page Builder. 

Here are some pages you want to include in your store as you get it up and running:

  • Homepage. The first impression of your brand!
  • Collection pages. Show off your array of products in a flashy way.
  • Product pages. Where you show off your sales skills and get them to click that buy button. Look at these amazing Shopify product pages.
  • About Us page. Tell the world your great story and why they should buy your awesome stuff. Here are some great examples
  • Coming Soon page. Even if you haven’t launched, it’s great to create some buzz with a page that says ‘stay tuned, we’re coming!’ 
  • Shipping policy page. Give your customers all the details about how and when they will receive their orders.
  • Blog. Building out great blog content both informs your audience and draws them to your site.
  • Contact Us page. Another necessary ingredient to earning trust is providing customers a way to contact you.

#cta-visual-pb#<cta-title>Build all these pages and more!<cta-title>With Shogun Page Builder, you can customize every must-have page for your store, super simply.Start building for free

Optimizing Shopify pages 

Once your pages are built, you want to make sure they are completely optimized for driving conversions and sales. 

There are many ways to optimize your Shopify store pages, but a really great way to learn what works best is by experimenting with different versions of your pages.

A/B testing is a valuable tool for your marketing efforts, giving you the unambiguous winner and helping you hone your message as you grow.

On product pages, you want to do your best to mimic the in-store experience. That means great images, amazing product descriptions, the inclusion of videos and GIFs, and nudges for related products they may like.

Pricing your wares

If your prices are too low, people won’t trust your product. If they are too high, they will think they are getting the raw end of the deal. Pricing isn’t easy.

The human brain accounts for this complexity and it doesn’t always make sense. 

For example, the reason that candy bar costs $2.99 instead of an even $3.00 is to trick the brain into thinking that it costs closer to two bucks than three. That’s charm pricing for you. And it works.

Another thing you see a lot these days is installment pricing. Split that big number into four pieces and it’s much easier to swallow. It allows shoppers to rationalize the purchase. So, for sellers, this is a no-brainer.

MVMT field automatic watch product page installment payment plan
Image: MVMT

Outside of psychological tricks, there are many pricing strategies out there that are built on real numbers. They have names like markup pricing, keystone pricing, bundle pricing, and more. 

The basic idea is that you need to understand how much you are spending to create a product and then determine how much you want to make on top of that. Other than that, you want to keep your competitors in mind. 

We break that simple process down in this two-step guide to pricing.

Shipping to your customers

The ever-important last step in the customer journey is shipping. You should care as much about your customers’ post-purchase experience as you do about their pre-purchase experience.

We talk a lot about converting shoppers into customers but retaining customers should always be on your mind. The experience they have between purchasing a product and receiving that product may just decide whether they will stick it out with your brand or move on.

Self-fulfillment vs third party logistics

You have a lot of options when it comes to order fulfillment, but the big question is whether you want to hold and ship inventory yourself or if you want to hand over the reins to a fulfillment company.

By fulfilling your own orders, you get total control over your shipments and can add that personal touch. Then again, it takes time, space, and energy to do your own warehousing and fulfillment. 

If that all seems like too much work for your team, you can always find a fulfillment company to help you optimize your warehousing and shipping operations. As I mentioned above, Shopify even has their own fulfillment network you can take advantage of.

Learn more about your options in our order fulfillment guide.

The power of free shipping

Shipping can be costly, it’s true. But you cannot deny the allure of an ecommerce banner advertising their free shipping. The cost of losing customers is certainly higher than the cost you will incur by offering free shipping.

It doesn’t even have to cost you that much. 

People will pay more for products that have free shipping. Sounds a bit like that psychological pricing I talked about earlier. In a survey by Digital Commerce 360, they found that 68% of online shoppers said they didn’t make a purchase at least half the time if a seller didn’t offer free shipping.

It really makes a difference!

Not only that but you can actually increase your average order value (AOV) but instituting conditional free shipping, that is offering free shipping after a certain cart value is reached.

rumpl product page conditional free shipping
Image: Rumpl

So, you remove the risk of giving out free shipping on low-value orders and you push shoppers to add more to their cart. All to zero out that shipping line.

Fast shipping FTW

Finally, people want their orders quickly. And, these days they expect it.

Amazon did a lot to expedite the consumer need for 2-day shipping and now other retailers have to find a way to keep up. To do that, you need to have a great fulfillment system in place to get orders out the door soon after they come through.

Luckily, there are ways that you can offer 2-day shipping affordably on your Shopify store.

Time to start selling with Shopify

Hopefully this post has given you a better understanding of how to sell on Shopify and ultimately run a more successful store. 

It is a formidable platform for running an ecommerce business (you already know that) and it isn’t hard to get started.

With Shopify’s roster of amazing apps and integrations, you can make your store exactly what you want it to be. 

Add to that the ability to fully customize your store pages with Shogun and you’re in business. Now, go and start selling!


#cta-visual-pb#<cta-title>Start customizing your Shopify store today<cta-title>Give your customers the best possible shopping experience by building a powerful, optimized Shopify store that really tells your story.Start now for free

Sean Flannigan

Sean is one of Shogun's tireless content marketers. When he isn't creating exciting ecommerce content, he's probably biking or at the park.