Don't even think about developing an e-commerce website without considering Shopify. This platform has e-commerce dialed in and is built to make you, the merchant, as much money as you can selling products online.
How the Shopify Platform Works
Sign Up for a FREE Account
One really nice feature is that you can get started with Shopify with $0 down. This allows you to build out your store completely and not have to worry about monthly fees of any kind. All you have to do is sign up for the free account and you can start building out your store.
Build Out Your Development Site
After you have signed up then you can design and configure your site and launch only when you are ready. The process for setting up your e-commerce site includes:
- Organizing your products into categories
- Adding all product information
- Choosing payment options
- Configuring shipping rules
- Choosing a Shopify theme
- Adding content your site
- Configuring the navigation
- Choosing a plan based off your needs
Test Your Development Site
After you have built up your store with all the products and content you intend to launch with then it is time to test your website. Shopify's platform allows you to put the payment processor into full test mode so you can test the entire checkout process under multiple situations.
A really nice feature of the development site is that it is password protected. Therefore, only you as the client can get access to view the site until the site is launched.
Launch Your Store
Once you are satisfied with your store's tests then you can launch your new store. The first thing you will need to do is choose the plan that suits your needs. Most stores can easily get what they need for the basic plan at $30/month. If you already have an online store and are migrating to Shopify then you may need one of the larger plans. If you are launching a new store then the basic plan should work for you. In fact, if you are fine without having a custom domain name you can even get started with a free plan.
Once you have chosen a plan then you will need to update your DNS to the Shopify servers. When you update the A record at your domain registrar to point to the Shopify servers then you will need to wait until the dns resolves, typically within hours of the update.
Remove Password Protection
As we mentioned above the development site is password protected. Right before you update the DNS go ahead and remove the password protection from within the account settings. If you do not do this then no one will be able to access your new e-commerce store.
What Makes Shopify a Great E-Commerce Solution?
Length of Time Needed to Launch an E-Commerce Store
If you had product on hand and wanted to start selling product then you could launch your e-commerce store today with Shopify. Typically you will want to put a bit more time and effort into the development of your store but even complex e-commerce stores can be launched within 1 month.
All Inclusive E-Commerce Solution
The ability to have an all-inclusive solution saves a lot of time and money. In the past e-commerce stores needed a hosting solution, dedicated IP address, security certificate (SSL), and payment processor. These were all separate entities typically requiring separate fees.
Payment Processing Included
Shopify has the ability to connect to third party payment processors such as Authorize.net and PayPal. However, we have found it is much more cost effective and efficient to use Shopify's built in payment processor. The fees they charge are very comparable to that of any other processor.
SSL Included in All Plans
Security certificates can cost up to several hundred dollars per year. All of the plans on Shopify allow you to install a security certificate at no extra charge.
The website hosting for your e-commerce store is another expense you will typically have to account for. This is also included in every plan Shopify offers.
With all of these services included here is an example of how much money you save. Here are some typical fees you will have when developing an e-commerce store using your own dedicated server.
Minimum costs per year using a custom solution
- Website Hosting at $20 / month = $240 / year
- Dedicated IP at $5.00 / month = $60 / year
- SSL = $80 / year
- Payment processor at $30 / month = $360 / year
- Total = $740 / year
Costs per year using the Basic Plan on Shopify
- basic plan (everything above included) at $30 / month = $360 / year
Compared to a custom solution you are easily saving $360 per year.
Third Party Integrations and Apps
Shopify has a brilliant business model that encourages developers to create apps for Shopify. Many of the apps are free or require a small monthly fee. The Shopify App Store allows you to add functionality to your store. Here are some examples of functionality you can easily add to your store with Shopify Apps:
- wholesaler logins
- complete shipping solutions and real time rates
- recurring memberships
- pricing tiers
- quantity pricing
- custom reporting
Analytics and Reporting
The default reporting that comes with the basic plan is very useful for most e-commerce stores. Custom reports come with the Shopify plan in which you have more control and can deep dive into more of the analytics.
This is a great feature that allows you to create discount codes based off of price or percentage. The feature allows you to set the maximum amount of coupons that can be used and set start and end dates. A great feature to promote your products and increase conversion rates.
The administration area is very comprehensive. For most store owners it does not take too long to get familiar with the admin area. As a store owner you have full ability to manage:
- all of the content on the website
- product information
- discounts and promotions
Integrated Shipping Solutions
Shipping is no doubt one of the toughest parts of an e-commerce store. While there are a lot of Shopify apps that attempt to make this easier on store owners, the default shipping functionality can be configured to work for most stores. Only with the Professional plan can you show real time rates from carriers like UPS and FedEx.
Email and Social Media Integration
One feature we love about Shopify is the ability to integrate with social media and our mailing lists. For example, if you have a mailing list on a third party system like MailChimp then you can fully integrate it with your Shopify account. When you connect your email list then customers that make purchases will automatically be added to your list. A system like MailChimp will even recognize your promotions and you can re-target customers with current promotions with the click of a button. The reporting feature within Shopify will also recognize conversions from email campaigns and will show this on the reports page.
Abandoned Cart Recovery Feature
This feature is truly brilliant. If a customer has started checkout and entered their information but decides not to follow through with the purchase then it is considered a "cart abandonment". Shopify's cart abandonment feature will allow you to send an email to these customers reminding them that they did not checkout. It provides a direct link back to their cart where they can easily checkout. If you have a Shopify or Professional plan then these emails can be configured to send automatically. If you have a Basic account then you will have to check the abandoned carts page and send the emails manually.
Get Started for FREE!
A great thing about a Shopify E-commerce store is that you can get started right now for FREE. The platform allows you to build, design, and configure your site before choosing a plan.