Last week we discussed the difference between website builder platforms and ecommerce platforms. We found that an ecommerce site would be ideal for businesses that have a wide variety of products and the focus of their online presence will be solely online sales.
This week we’d like to take a look at Shopify, which is an ecommerce builder that is a bit pricier than any website builder we’ve looked at, but has a huge selection of application integrations for businesses. Let’s take a look!
Shopify’s pricing is more expensive than most other website builders we’ve come across but it’s quite reasonable in the world of online store builder. There is a 14-day free trial that will allow you to test the features and applications that make Shopify expensive. Hidden on the right side of Shopify’s pricing page is a $14/month option, closer to the prices we saw with Squarespace, Wix, and other website builders. If you’re just starting to consider an ecommerce platform, this basic plan might be a good place to start. But once your sales picks up and you would like a better system to manage inventory, fulfillment, customer services and to save on payment processing fees, Shopify can be one of the best e-commerce platforms out there to save you time and money.
To get started, I signed up for my 14-day free trial of Shopify. The first thing I am asked is if I’d like to use Shopify’s POS system. Shopify’s POS system is available to businesses that have a large amount of inventory both online and in store. For an extra monthly fee, their POS system will allow you to easily manage inventory both online and in store. The Shopify POS system is similar to Square’s plug in — plug the Shopify POS device into your phone, iPad, etc. to make sales anywhere. They suggest this plan is best for retail stores.
Next I fill out my information.
And add some basic information about my business.
Now I’m ready to start setting up my shop. They ease you in by starting off with 3 steps that are crucial to your website: adding a product, choosing a theme, and setting up a domain.
I’ll start with adding a product. Below are all the basic options when adding a product. As you can see, it’s easy to list different product variations. They even show you a preview of how your product will show up in search engines.
The second step is to choose a theme. Because I own a (fictitious) jewelry store, I will browse the “Accessories” themes.
There aren’t as many themes to choose from as there are in the website builders, but all their templates look pretty nice. It is clear from the templates that the focus of my site will be the products — products show up on the home page of every theme.
The third step is to add a domain to my website. Businesses have the option to connect an existing domain, buy a domain, or use a Shopify domain (ending in .myshopify.com).
The main navigation menu for settings and editing my online storefront can be found on the lefthand side of the page. To edit my storefront, I click on Online Store from the menu. This will take me to the storefront overview, where I can click edit your theme to make changes to my existing page.
Here, the editor works similar to other website builders we’ve tried out.
I can add my own logo by clicking on header in the righthand side menu. By clicking on Home Page I can add a slideshow of my products to the homepage.
There is a Products menu in the main navigation that will allow me to add more products and review current products. After editing a product, I can see what it will look like by clicking on the View button in the upper righthand corner. Here’s a preview of my first product.
I can customize any page by clicking on it in navigation menu, and I am able to add features that I might want by using the right hand side menu. Below is my product page. As you can see, the tags that I selected when I was uploading show up on the left side of the product page, allowing customers to sort products easily by tag.
Lastly, by using the right hand side menu, I can customize the cart page and checkout experience of my customers, as well as create “collections” of my products, and add social sharing of my individual products.
1. Payments: Shopify offers a number of different payment options, including Stripe, PayPal, GoogleWallet, and Bitcoin. They even have a manual payments option, which allows you to set up payment from customers through money order, cash on delivery, or a bank deposit. Read more about different payment gateways here.
The last step to set up payments is to choose whether to allow automatic payment authorization. Most merchants decide to allow automatic authorization, which will automatically charge a users credit card when the order is placed, so the merchant sees the money automatically. Manual authorization will allow the card to be authorized first. The merchant has to capture the payment manually. (This can be useful in some scenarios such as pre-orders or out-of-stock items.).
2. Checkout: The Checkout menu allows you to customize the buyer experience while checking out. You can set whether or not to allow/require customers to make an account before checking out, customize what information you need from them, and various defaults (i.e. default the billing address is the same as the shipping address, whether the customer consents to promotional emails, etc).
3. Shipping: Shopify shipping options allow you to choose your shipping rates by location and weight of the package.
You can also also activate various other options for shipping, including fulfillment and dropshipping. For example, to use Amazon’s fulfillment services, you will create an Amazon seller account, send your products to Amazon to store for you. When a customer orders a product, Amazon will take care of it for you, as well as provide customer support.
4. Taxes: Taxes in the U.S. vary by county, which can get complicated if you’re selling across the whole U.S.. Shopify makes it easier by calculating the sales tax of your item by the shipping address indicated by the buyer. You can also override this by including tax in the price of the item, or adding tax to the shipping rates.
5. Notifications: Shopify has a whole slew of email templates that are sent to customers at various steps of the ordering and delivery process. These templates are customizable.
To access Shopify’s multitude of available applications, I click on the Apps navigation in the left side menu.
There are hundreds and hundreds of applications to choose from in the Shopify app store. You can sort by category, popularity, etc. and they offer tons of free apps.
I want to convert my website visitors into customers by giving them an incentive to shop once they come to my website. For this, I will install one of Shopify’s most popular applications, Better Coupon Box. This is a free app that will popup a coupon to everyone who visits my website. Shopify shows me how to use Better Coupon Box with an introduction video.
The video sold me on the application, so I clicked the green “Get” button to install the app.
After installing, I am redirected to the Better Coupon Box page to fill out the details of my popup. I can do this in a few simple steps by creating a message and coupon code, entering in any social applications I want my customers to use to follow me, and set the time frame of validity for the coupon code.
Lastly, I can choose how aggressive I want my popup to be — whether I want it to be a call to action (button) or a popup on the first page, second page, etc.
Another thing worth mentioning is Shopify’s reporting system. The reporting system is viewable in both table and chart form, and allows you to:
- See reports for products, orders, payments, and taxes
- Measure your sales by amount or order count across any time frame (day, year)
- See how sales vary month-to-month
- See reports for a particular date range
- See where your traffic is coming from
Shopify has a lot to offer that website builder tools do not. However, their editor and settings are more complicated because of all the extras they offer, they have less templates to offer, and arguably their websites are not as beautiful as ones created using Squarespace and other popular website builders. But most merchants opt for an e-commerce platform instead of a website builder because the extra features such as dropshipping, inventory management, reporting, discounted payment processing are critical for their business. Shopify’s application add-ons are easy to set up and incredibly useful if your online store needs more sophisticate tools for sales, marketing, tracking inventory, and many more.
Shopify is highly regarded as one of the best online ecommerce website tools. If your business is highly dependent on online sales, Shopify is definitely worth a try!
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