The Quickstart Guide to Launching a Shopify Website

The way we live our lives, conduct our business and communicate with each other has changed. If you’ve had to shut your brick and mortar doors due to COVID-19, don’t wait to transition to ecommerce.

The survival of your business depends on it (sad truth) but you can survive this new reality and ultimately thrive in the online space. Here’s a quick start guide to getting an ecommerce website up and running right now.

Fair warning, while I call this a Quick Start Guide, it is pretty comprehensive. I’ve gone through set up with enough clients to know those common questions and concerns that might be running through your head. There’s a lot of information and extra recommendations, but you can get through launch within an hour. You got this!

1. Create a Shopify Account

Shopify is a leading ecommerce platform. Millions of brands and retailers rely on Shopify from local mom-and-pops to big players like Rebecca Minkoff, Kylie’s Cosmetics and John Masters Organics.

It’s the perfect tool to start your business, but more importantly its the best tool to grow your business. There’s nothing worse than gaining momentum only to outgrow your website. Shopify is completely scalable. There’s plenty of quick and easy features to get up and running, but its also developer-friendly so customizations and more advanced features are no problem to add on in the future.

Sign up here for an extended 90-day trial.

Fill out your email and name, then pat yourself on the back because your store is set up! Next, complete the business information and address as best as you can. Once you click complete, you’ll be directed to your dashboard. 

2. Complete Your Settings

I recommend getting your settings out of the way. That way, when you customize your storefront, you’ll have content and products to fill the preview. From your dashboard go to your Settings in the lower left corner. There’s 14 sections – you’ll want to go through most of them.

Here’s the essential list:

General: just make sure your business info is correct. Your store address will appear on the checkout page, legal pages, and on the order notification email.

Locations: This will specify where your products are shipped from. By default, it will be your store address. If you’re shipping from a different location, enter it here and set it as the default. You can also add multiple locations and apply inventory levels at each.

Payment Providers:

  • Shopify Payments is the best option to accept all major credit cards. The transaction fee is the lowest (as low as 2.4% + $0.30). Click the blue Complete Set Up button and enter in your banking info. Now, you can accept credit cards and get paid. Woohoo!
  • I’d also recommend connecting your PayPal account. Options are nice to have for customers. Please note, it has to be a business PayPal account. Again, click the Activate PayPal Express Checkout button and fill out the required fields. Voila.
  • Lastly, scroll down the payment authorization. I recommend you capture payment automatically. That means you get paid at the time of the transaction. If its set to manual, then you will need to login to Shopify and manually click the capture payment button on each order. I only recommend manual capture on items that are made to order, or may be out of stock. It’s easier to contact a customer and say sorry, then have to issue a refund.

Checkout: Some simple checkboxes will complete this page.

  • I recommend setting accounts to optional at checkout. That means customers can choose to create an account on your website to save their information for future orders. Return customers should always be nurtured.
  • Scroll down the the email marketing section and click the pre-select option. This will automatically add customers to your email marketing list unless they actively uncheck the option. Always be list building 

Shipping: By default, there’s shipping zones and rates already set up.

  • Products will say 0 right now. Don’t worry. Products will automatically be added here.
  • Shipping location will be your store address. Click manage to update if necessary.
  • Domestic shipping will show some options, with a free shipping on orders over $50. Click the … in each row to edit or remove them. In the popup, give the shipping rate a name (it will be seen on the checkout page) and a rate, based on weight or amount.
  • Rest of the world is automatically enabled. Click the … to edit the countries you will ship to, or click delete altogether. If shipping globally, Shopify provides USPS and DHL as default carriers with live rates based on your product weights. I recommend offering just a few options by unchecking the box for automatically adding future shipping options, and I would add a handling fee to make shipping worldwide worthwhile.

Almost done!

Taxes: Tax rates are calculated and applied automatically based on your store address. This should be all set, but please check with a tax expert to confirm.

Gift Cards: Shopify has enabled gift cards for every Shopify plan (score). If you want gift cards to have an expiration, enter it here.

Notifications: These are set up automatically and the defaults are perfectly fine. The store owner will receive order notifications, and the customer will receive an order confirmation, order updates, and shipping updates if you enter a tracking code on their order.

Sales Channels: By default, your products are available on your online store (your website) and  in person through point of sale app, which you can get on your phone. I recommend adding your social media channels here, namely Facebook and Instagram.

  • Click the blue Add Sales Channel button and select Facebook Shop. Connect your account by logging in to Facebook and selecting your business page.
  • Once that’s complete, you can add Instagram. Instagram will be verified through your Facebook page.

Billing: You’ll need to add your billing info before your trial expires to pay the monthly Shopify fee, transaction fees, and any app subscriptions.

Legal: You can create your own refund policy and legal pages, or create them from templates by clicking the button below the text field and customizing them. Please consult with a legal expert to make your policies.

Done with the boring stuff! 

3. Add Your Products

Collections: By default, there’s only 1 collection called Homepage. This will come in handy when you want to feature a couple of products on the … homepage! Click Create Collection to add more collections. Add a title, and I also recommend making the collection Manual. 

Products: Click the Products menu link and click Add Product. The essential pieces of a product include:

  • Title
  • Description
  • Image
  • Price
  • SKU
  • Inventory (or uncheck the track inventory button)
  • Shipping Weight (or uncheck the physical product button if its a digital product)
  • Variants: If you product has different options put a check in the box next to variants. The option name (like Size) goes into the Option 1 field, with the options (like Small, Medium, Large) in the field next to it. Enter the name and click comma (,) to create the option. As you enter them, rows will be added below where you can update unique SKUS, prices, and inventories.
  • Organization in the right column: Product type is just for internal use (it will not be seen on the frontend). Vendor should be used if you have products from multiple brands. Collection is important and used to create collection pages on your main menu. Tags are optional and work well for large inventories that need extra level of filters

Gift Cards: Since gift cards are available on every plan, let’s make your’s enabled. Click Gift Cards under the Products menu, and click Create Gift Card. That’s it. Now you can Edit Product to update the description, image, and variants. By default, it shows values from $10 – $100.

Alright! That’s all the backend stuff. Let’s move to the frontend.

4. Pages and Links

Pages: Click Pages under the Online Store menu. Try to give each page a name that will quickly and easily explain to your audience what can be found on that page. I suggest you start with About, Contact and FAQ. 

Navigation: Next click Navigation under the Online Store menu. Open the Main Menu and click Add Menu Item and click on the Link field to choose any page, collection, product, and more.  It is usually good to keep your main menu at 5-7 links. You don’t want to overwhelm your audience with too many options, so try to simplify it as much as you can and guide them to the most important places on your site.  Go back and open the Footer Menu to add any leftover pages. This is a standard place for support pages, policies, and contact information.

5. Customize Your Website Design

Click Themes under the Online Store menu. By default, you’ll be using a free theme called Debut. Click Actions > Preview to see how it looks, and browse more themes from the Theme Library.

Click the blue Customize button next to your active theme to open the editor. Use the Theme Settings tab to personalize colors and fonts, and use the Sections tab to create your header, footer and homepage. I recommend you start with a slider (or large intro image) and strong unique selling position statement, a product list (aka Homepage collection). Don’t spend too much time here. Everything to sell your products is done, so don’t let the design hold you up. Post-launch, check out my website design tweaks to convert more users into paying customers.

6. Add Your Domain Name

Click Domains under the Online Store menu to add an existing domain name or buy a new one.

7. Launch

Now launch! Click the Pick a Shopify Plan from the blue bar across the bottom of the screen to complete your setup and go live! 

For most small businesses, the Basic Shopify plan is a good fit. As you grow, you can upgrade for more features.

Remember, websites are never done. It will always be updated with new features, new sections, and imagery. I can’t say this enough: Live is better the perfect. You can always continue to edit while you’re live. But launch so you can generate sales. That’s the most important thing. 

Please note, this post does contain an affiliate link to Shopify. If you create your account through the links in this post, I will make a small commission. I only support companies I absolutely love and use myself. I stand behind them 100%.

Click here to get your Shopify website launched and send me a link. I’d love to take a peek 🙂

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