If you want to set up a user friendly online shop that’s professional, secure and creates an effortlessly simple buying experience, take a look at this
I’ve just spent the last couple of days playing around with Shopify for Insider’s Edge and I’m impressed.
Before I dive into my review, if you were already thinking of trying Shopify and want the short version, give it go. You get 14 days to play around with it free (you don’t need to enter any card details) so there’s nothing to lose. I’m yet to come across anything that tops it in terms of design, security, power and simplicity.
That’s not to say it’s perfect (there are a couple of niggles which I’ll go over in a minute), but the key point is this: setting up a shop on Shopify is easy.
You could easily spend hundreds of hours (or pay someone thousands of pounds) trying to create and code a shop and it still wouldn’t be as good as this.
Here are some examples of shops which already use this platform, to give you a feel for how it looks from a customer’s perspective. Some of their more high profile clients include Wikipedia, Budweiser and Google:
(*Keep your eyes peeled for my upcoming interview with Emily Rees, creator of Edge of Home).
You might have a business which sells spare plumbing parts… or a homemade jam… or art prints… or vintage clothes. There are very few businesses that wouldn’t lend themselves to this.
How does Shopify work?
When you log in for the first time, the very first thing they ask you to do is choose from one of their ready made templates. When you find one you like, click select and that’s it – your shop is created. The actual process of creating a shop takes a few minutes.
There’s an extensive range of free layouts on offer. If none of them take your fancy you can choose a premium template (which has been designed by a third party) if you want to, but to be honest it’s not necessary. In my opinion the free ones are actually the best and once you upload your logo and products it’ll look bespoke anyway.
The next step is to start adding your products. From the home screen you just click ‘Add a product’ and follow the steps.
It looks like this:
Again it’s very straightforward. You just put in the name of the product, add a short description and then upload a photo.
It’s then just a case of putting in the price and entering the shipping details (if you want to). One of the things I really like about Shopify is that it lets you track your inventory if you want it to – so that you always know how much stock you have available.
It might sound ridiculous but that really does cover the basics. There’s very little else to it. If you want to make stylistic tweaks to your shop there are a wealth of tutorials on the site and a very active forum to help you.
4 simple tips to save you time setting up your Shopify shop
1. Set Up a Custom Domain
You can use your own domain name with your Shopify shop (for example www.mybrilliantshop.com).
You don’t have to have your own domain, but I’d highly recommend it. It only costs a few pounds to set up but it’ll make your shop look infinitely more professional. Without a custom domain your shop name would be www.mybrilliantshop.myshopify.com which just doesn’t sound as professional.
If you haven’t already got a domain name, I recommend registering one with these guys, Namecheap (that’s who I use) or the registrar of your choice.
2. Take photos of your products in advance
This just speeds up the process. Snap some pictures of your products (preferably against a white or an uncluttered background) and save them on your desktop. Then when you come to add each product you’ll be able to set them up quickly.
3. Write an ‘About Me Page’
‘About Me’ pages are one of the most clicked on links on websites, so make sure you’ve got a good one. Be passionate, honest and friendly and you’ll come across just fine. It doesn’t need to be a great 20,000 page tome. People just want to know that you’re not some faceless corporation, so 300 – 500 words should suffice.
4. Have your logo ready
It’s not compulsory to have a logo (you could just use a text name) but a bit of imagery will make your brand much more memorable. If you don’t have any design skills, don’t worry. Check out one of these freelancer websites where you can get a logo made in no time for as little as $5. You can see my article about where to find great freelancers (or elancers) here:
If you’ve got all this set up in advance you’ll be able to speed through the process.
How long, realistically does it take to set up a Shopify shop?
You could set up one up in a few minutes but if you want a really slick, professional shop with around 10+ products that you’d be proud to share with friends, I would set aside about 2 hours.
What are the downsides? (And how to get around them)
There are a couple of downsides with Shopify. The first one is the blog feature. Shopify have provided a very credible blogging capability as part of the platform, but to be honest it’ll never top WordPress’s offering. My first tip is this:
1. Keep your blog separate (on WordPress)
I always prefer to have my editorial/blog content on WordPress because it gives you so much more scope for customisation and marketing. If you haven’t got a WordPress blog you can see my quick guide to setting one up here:
2. If you’re just starting out, save money and go for the ‘basic’ plan
The second ‘downside’ with Shopify is cost. I’ve put downside in inverted commas here because I personally think Shopify provides excellent value for money. Still, it’s a considered purchase at $29 a month (around £18.69 a month), for the cheapest plan.
The only difference between the basic plan and the professional and unlimited plan is the card rate you get on customer payments – if you use Shopify’s own payment processor.
On ‘basic’ plan that rate is 2.4% + 20p per sale, on ‘professional’ it’s 2.1% + 20p and on ‘unlimited’ it’s 1.8% + 20p. So if you’re just starting out it’s worth going with the basic plan and monitoring your sales.
If you’ve got an established business and are already selling hundreds of products a week you might want to opt for one of the more premium plans to lower your costs.
It’s worth repeating that all the plans are fully featured in terms of functionality, so you don’t miss out on anything by going with the basic.
Bear in mind the monthly plan includes all your hosting as well. Decent web hosting isn’t cheap and you could easily pay $29 for a good hosting package – with Shopify it’s all included.
3. Set yourself up with a free Mail Chimp account
You’ll definitely want to be able to communicate with your existing and potential customers to gather leads via both your shop and your blog. Even if you have no plans to email them to begin with, it’s worth getting this set up now so that you can start to gather names.
Shopify plugs in with a bunch of different email broadcasters but they recommend and offer full support with Mail Chimp. I also recommend Mail Chimp because they offer a platform that’s so user friendly and simple.
Not only that, it’s FREE for your first 2,000 subscribers. This is an incredible offer and frankly if you’ve got more than 2,000 subscribers you’re doing extremely well and can afford to go on a paid plan.
As far as I’m concerned, Shopify offers the best ecommerce platform I’ve come across, hands down.
You can create a professional looking shop online in minutes and in a couple of hours you could have several products listed and something that looks totally bespoke.
They handle all the payment processing (so there’s no need to apply for a merchant account which can be a major headache) and the navigation and design is superb.
I personally think that paying less than £20 a month for a full featured professional shop which gives you all the functionality of something big brands would spend millions on is incredible value.
If you’ve got an online business or are thinking of setting one up, I highly recommend checking out their free trial.