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Whether you are considering starting a new business or want to shift your physical business online, Shopify is a useful tool for getting your ecommerce store off the ground. Shopify seamlessly guides you through the process of creating a website and setting up your store to do transactions online. It even has the increasingly popular iPad POS abilities, so you can use it to better run your physical business. The best part about it is that it is easy enough for anyone to use.
I have a fair amount of experience setting up ecommerce stores using various other store builders. I had read about Shopify in USA Today and thought I would give it a try. My wife has been on my back about helping her set up an ecommerce store to help her sell her art pieces. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to try out Shopify’s usability. Below, I will catalog Shopify’s easy set-up and main features.
Before we get started, though, I want to point out the importance of stores having an online presence. For businesses that provide a product, it is imperative that these products be available online. More than 6% of all retail sales are done online. This may not sound like much, but consider that this number has doubled in the last four years and continues to climb exponentially. By having an online presence, you can get a slice of that pie while it is still warm.
Shopify’s goal is to help small businesses grow by offering affordable plans that cater to businesses’ needs. Shopify offers five plans varying in price and benefits. Based on the offerings of each plan, the pricing is pretty reasonable when compared to other ecommerce store building companies. Each plan’s fee covers bandwidth and Shopify domain names, so you do not have to worry about acquiring your own URL or hosting site.
Shopify’s most inexpensive plan is the Starter plan, which only costs $14 per month. This is great for people just starting out with the site and who do not have a bunch of different products. This plan includes the hosting, templates, secure checkout, and pretty much everything you need to get started. This is the only plan that does not offer the ability to sell unlimited product types. There is a limit of 25 products, but that is generally all one needs starting out.
The next most basic plan is called “Basic.” This is what we went with. It costs $29 per month and includes unlimited bandwidth and product. Unlimited product is important for any business looking to diversify, especially clothing providers. For clothes, each color and size is considered a product. So, for example, an extra-large green shirt would count as one product. As the plans get increasingly more expensive, the cost for credit card transactions decreases. For the Basic plan, there is a 2.9% + $.30 fee for each online credit card transaction. This fee is 2.5% + $.30 for iPad POS sales. The plans also offer more storage as they get more expensive. The Basic plan provides users with one gigabyte of storage.
The Professional plan offers everything the Basic plan has plus more and better features. The Professional plan costs $79 per month. It provides ecommerce stores with 5 GB of file storage, abandoned cart recovery, and professional sales reports. It also has lower rates for credit card transactions: 2.5% + $.30 for online sales and 2.3% + $.30 for POS iPad sales.
The Unlimited plan builds upon this by including unlimited file storage, advanced report builder, and real-time carrier shipping. The Unlimited plan is $179 per month. The credit card rates for Unlimited are 2.25% + $.30 for online sales and 2.1% + $.30 for POS.
Finally, there is an Enterprise plan for companies that do over $1 million in sales per year. This is a highly-specialized package. Shopify encourages these big money sellers to call them, and they will pretty much set everything up for them. Shopify also claims to be able to handle extremely heavy traffic citing an instance where one of their customers sold 25,000 products in one hour!
A great aspect of these plans is that they are month-to-month. This means users can switch plans, upgrade or downgrade, from month-to-month to fit the needs of their business. Also, there is no start-up fee. Best of all, there is a fourteen-day trial, so you can actually use Shopify and get a feel for what your business needs before picking a plan.
Getting Set Up
Now that you are on your fourteen-day trial, Shopify makes setting up your store’s site incredibly easy. It guides you through each step. The first step is filling in your store’s information. It is tempting to blast through these fields entering the first things that come to your mind. I would caution against this. The information you enter in these fields may be the first impression people get about your company.
You will want to research your industry to figure out what your customers want and how you can concisely state that you will give them this. SEO is important. Be sure to use techniques and keywords that will help your shop show up in search results.
The next step is to add your products. Shopify makes this easy by providing fields for all of the necessary information such as title, description, price, keywords, inventory tracking, and weight (for shipping). You can also upload images of your products here. This is another section where SEO is critical. Use accurate descriptions rich with keywords that will lead people to your product.
Next, you can customize the design of your site. There are over 100 options to choose from, so you can be sure your site will be unique.
Shopify gives you the option of having a free .myshopify domain. Or, for $9 per year, you can register a domain that does not include the Shopify name. I recommend this option to avoid confusing your brand.
Finally, you can set up the shipping and tax rates for your products and specify what payments you accept. Shopify offers secure payment methods using SSL. It is also set up to accept all major credit cards, PayPal, and even money orders and COD. This is also where you should clearly state your store’s refund policy.
Now that you have your site set up and running, let me tell you about some of Shopify’s flashier features. There are too many features on the site for me to cover them all here. I strongly recommend touring the site to find out what features are best for your business’s needs. I am just going to focus on the unique features I enjoyed the most. The features this review will cover are
Shopify tracks how much traffic is coming to your site and what products people are looking at. It also tracks where the traffic is coming from and presents it in easy to read charts.
Each ecommerce store comes with a blog. This is crucial for SEO and to really engage your customers and to attract new ones. This is where you can go into great depth about your products.
Approximately one out of every three items placed in an online shopping cart is abandoned. Shopify allows stores to follow up with customers who have products in their cart to see if they would like to purchase the product.
Shopify gives ecommerce stores professional reports detailing sales from month-to-month and breaking it down into a variety of categories. Users can see what products are selling and what types of payments customers are using.
With the advanced report builder, the reports are more customizable. You can play around and get data using reports that fit your business’s needs. I learned about this on the Shopify site. I did not spring for the higher-end plans that include this feature.
One of the most underrated marketing tools out there is the webpage that comes up after a sale is complete. Shopify allows the user to completely customize the page to include links to the store’s social networking sites or to show other products the purchaser might want. This feature is key for any online store.
Shopify is the real deal. The ecommerce stores that have used Shopify have sold over $2 billion worth of products. And, it is easy to see why it is so popular. Though my wife chose to have me, the tech guru of the house, set up her store on Shopify, it is easy enough for anyone to use. If one has troubles, there is 24/7 tech support.
I recommend Shopify to anyone who wants to sell products online. If you already have an online store, I would still recommend comparing what you are paying to Shopify’s low rates. You may want to switch. I know I will be using Shopify in the future for any other ecommerce stores I decide to build. It is just the most user-friendly, cost-effective option out there.