Today, Shopify is without a doubt one of the very best ecommerce website builders around. Although it’s very easy to use, it’s also very easy to make mistakes if you dive in head first without considering what it is you want to achieve.
Ironically, what makes Shopify so simple is exactly what makes it tricky: it’s unrivalled flexibility. Shopify isn’t a single tool; it’s a fully flexible solution made up of a huge variety of building blocks that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. So how do you know which of these building blocks are best, and how can you make sure you don’t overlook an essential component?
The answer: make a Shopify checklist and ensure everything is ticked off before launching your online store.
While each business will have their own unique needs based on what they want to achieve by launching an online store, we’ve created this simple 8-step Shopify checklist which covers all the basics, helping growing retailers derive the most value from their digital ventures and ecommerce efforts.
Your Simple Shopify Checklist
Here are 8 things most businesses should consider before launching their Shopify store:
1. Know where your customers are
One of the first steps towards building an ecommerce website through Shopify is to add sales channels. This will allow you to market and sell your products through a variety of different sales platforms, such as Amazon, eBay, and your Shopify site, while managing all orders and inventory through the single Shopify interface.
And in order to choose the right sales channels, you need to know where your customers are.
Although you can choose to sell only through your ecommerce website, research suggests that multi-channel retail is on the rise because consumers no longer purchase only through one website; they browse and compare different channels, opting to purchase through the platform that best matches their needs. Although they shop around, they still want a seamless buying experience.
Researching the platforms that your target demographic are statistically most likely to use can be useful in identifying the right sales channels to add to your Shopify setup. Interestingly, Shopify includes many social selling options, including Pinterest and Facebook, as social commerce begins to boom. It has been reported that more than half of all retail brands have now implemented social commerce features.
2. Know what your customers want
So you now know where your customers are, but do you know what they want? At this stage of the launch, it’s a good idea to try and put yourself in your audience’s shoes, considering what it is they are most likely to want to see, do, and experience when browsing your store. Think about the overall customer experience and try to match customer needs with some of the available Shopify’s apps.
Shopify apps integrate seamlessly with your ecommerce store, and form some of the most important building blocks of your retail website. The types of apps you’ll need really depend on who you’re aiming to appeal to. A currency converter app, for example, may not be needed for businesses targeting local customers, but could be massively beneficial in engaging with audiences in cross-border selling.
Some apps will form the basis of any good ecommerce website, such as apps which enable customers to easily make returns to your store, or apps which display product reviews from previous buyers. Others can be used to boost loyalty at a later date, such as gamified pop-ups. While these ‘extras’ may not be required at launch, it’s worth knowing what’s available to you should you need it in the future.
3. Plan and add content
Your products will make up just one part of your ecommerce website; content will make up the other part. Static content is an essential aspect of any website, although it is often overlooked when creating a Shopify sales channel.
At a time when ‘belief buyers’ are on the rise — buyers that look to purchase from brands that share their own values and beliefs— providing company information is hugely important.
It’s reported that around 60% of today’s buyers want to learn about a brand’s values before making a purchase, and website content is perhaps the best way to share information about your company. A content marketing plan is an essential step in launching a Shopify store, with pages such as the homepage, contact page, and FAQ page forming some of the first pieces of content to be created. For the rest of your planned content, look at these ecommerce blog examples and use them as an inspiration to add blog to your online store.
Optimization should always play a strong role in content creation, although it’s important to remember that there is a difference between SEO and ecommerce-specific SEO. Shopify SEO, which is built-in to the web builder tool, can be beneficial, with editable page titles, meta descriptions, and image attributes, along with both product pages and blog pages for adding new, fresh content to keep audiences engaged.
4. Incorporate your brand image
Perhaps one of the most common mistakes that retailers make when building a Shopify website is that the finished product looks like a Shopify website. While the association with Shopify isn’t an issue, what does cause a problem is the lack of association with your own brand.
Here is an example of a Shopify store that founds its own brand voice, and keeps it consistent across all channels.
In the Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey, US Key Findings report, it was found that one of the biggest frustrations for online shoppers is ‘inconsistent experiences from channel to channel’. Building your Shopify website to incorporate aspects of your own brand is one of the biggest and most important things that you can do to create a consistent message and associate your website with your business.
There are many ways in which Shopify allows you to incorporate your overall brand to your retail arm, including:
- creating custom domain
- using your brand’s own colors and font
- adding your logo
Remember that this branding and your brand’s message should be carried throughout your entire network, including any existing website, your social media profiles, and even your physical locations.
5. Focus on communications
Touch points are an essential component of both nurturing and maintaining customer relationships, and Shopify allows users to select and optimize email templates to confirm orders, notify of dispatch, send delivery tracking details, touch base, or even remind visitors about items in their abandoned cart. Setting up and customizing these emails is one of the first things you should do when launching an online store.
Keeping audiences ‘in the loop’ has never been more important. According to the MetaPack Delivering Consumer Choice report, almost all of today’s shoppers believe that receiving an email confirmation to provide peace of mind that the order has been received is very important, and the majority also want to be kept up-to-date with shipping so that they are able to track the status of their order easily online.
Shopify also allows businesses to personalize their emails to their customers, which has fast become essential at a time when many shoppers are actively searching for personalized shopping experiences. With Shopify, it’s possible to change the language of your emails to match buyer location, add names, or even add custom text with a draft order invoice, customer activation code, or cart recovery details.
Off course, great communication doesn’t stop at sending order confirmation emails. Today, customers expect a solid live chat support. If you do not want to bother with third-party live chat tools such as Intercom or LiveChat, look into Shopify Ping, a Shopify’s own live chat tool that does come with certain limitations – it is available on iOS only.
6. Locate your analysis tools
Although analytics are not an essential part of launching an online store, they are an essential part of operating your online store, especially if you want your Shopify store to be successful. At this point in the launch process, it is worthwhile finding out which analytics tools are likely to be most beneficial to you in the long run, locating these tools, and understanding the best way to capture and analysis information.
The easiest way to do this is to take a look at the integrated Shopify analytics tools that are included alongside the other website building blocks. These tools cover all the basics, including showing you your return customer rate, online store conversion rate, and average order value, which can all be beneficial as you work to hone and streamline your efforts as your ecommerce store becomes more established.
However, it’s also important to look towards the future and ensure that any tools you decide to use are scalable, so they can follow the growth of your business. It may be that the built-in Shopify tools don’t quite do everything you need them to do, so it’s a good idea to understand what sort of tools would meet your future needs. For starters, you might want to look into Merchant Center and Google Shopping.
7. Generate a marketing plan
By now, you should have most of the basic building blocks of an online store. What’s next? It’s important to remember that having an online store is pretty useless unless your target audience is able to actually find it!
Shopify really is just stage 1 of a 2-stage ecommerce plan. Alone, it’s not enough to succeed; your online store needs to be promoted and marketed to bring traffic to your new website.
Shopify is known for being quite a cost effective option, so if you are a small retailer with a limited budget you’re probably going to be looking at some of the lower cost and free advertising techniques that you can use to boost your online visibility. Fortunately, there are many of these options available, and it’s well worth getting lining up some opportunities now to let customers know where you are.
Good options to start off with include linking to your ecommerce website through your existing brand website, if you have one, or letting your social media followers know that you now offer online sales by publishing a range of posts. You may also wish to look into generating press releases to send to media contacts (you can work with an agency to achieve this) or finding some guest posting opportunities.
8. Become a customer
Although it may feel as though you now have all the basics in place to launch your Shopify store, there is still one very important step on this Shopify checklist that you need to take before you can start trading to the public. You need to become your own customer!
The key to hitting the ground running is to check:
- how your website works
- how it navigates your customers through their online buying journey
- how the orders are generated
Visit your website and use it in the same way that your customers would. Try searching for products to check your SEO, and browsing the categories to make sure everything is where it should be. Look closely at your images to ensure they’re displaying your products in their best light, and place a mock order to make sure that your shipping charges and tax rates are set to the correct amount. Test, test, and test again.
What may be beneficial is asking your friends, family, or business partners to help you out here. When you’ve built your own website from the ground up, it can be easy to overlook some minor flaws, and a fresh set of eyes can really help you to see your online store from another perspective.
This may seem time consuming, but having everything ready for your first customer can help boost your reputation.
Building a Successful Online Store
There has never been a more important time for retailers to ‘go digital’, and Shopify is one of the best tools for achieving digital success, especially for businesses without an in-house development team.
However, while Shopify is simple, it still needs to be approached from the best angles in order to help you achieve your ecommerce goals. By following this intuitive 8-step Shopify checklist for launching your online store, you’ll create a strong foundation on which you can further grow and develop your business.
Author: Robert Brandl
Robert’s passion has always been web tools that make your life easier. That’s why he founded the WebsiteToolTester, where you can find reviews and tutorials for the world’s best website builders and e-commerce platforms.