An introduction to e-commerce platforms
With regards to beginning an online store, there are numerous things to mull over. A standout amongst the most questions is, which platform are you going to use to run your e-commerce site?
We utilize Shopify on the grounds that we trust it offers the most customisation whilst remaining competively priced. The administrator interface is by a long shot the most effortless to use out of the three little to medium e-commerce platforms. The other two being Volusion and BigCommerce.
In terms of customisation, Shopify allows on each part of their formats to be changed somehow. You can likewise change the functionality of most parts of the site. On top of this, they have one of the biggest app stores, which is great for adding more functionality.
The main drawback to Shopify is not having the capacity to completely modify your checkout (unless utilizing Shopify Plus ). For security reasons Shopify confines access to this page. However the checkout comes completely responsive so it will work consummately for clients shopping on mobile.
Setting up Shopify
Joining Shopify and beginning your store couldn't be easier and they offer a 14 day free trial to get you started.
To start your Shopify store, you must create an account.
1: Sign Up
To begin, visit Shopify.com . Fill out the sign up form to register.
Enter the required details and afterwards tap the ‘Create your store now’ button.
Your store name should be special; if it's already taken Shopify will request that you pick something else.
2: A Few More Details
After the first screen you will be requested to complete a couple more fields, these incorporate your name, location, country and a contact number.
You will also be asked what you aim to sell. If you're simply trying out Shopify to see you like it, you can select ‘I'm just playing around’ in the "Do you have products?" dropdown bar, and answer ‘I'm not sure’ in the "What will you sell?" section.
Once this is complete, click ‘I'm done’.
3: Start Setting Up
After you've joined you'll be guided straight to your store administrator screen. Now you can begin to customise and tweak your store's look, uploading products and setting up payments and shipping.
Your home admin screen tells you everything to help get you up and running.
Choosing a Theme
There is an official Shopify theme store. These themes are fully supported by its designers, so you know your store is in safe hands.
Every theme comes with a comprehensive list of modifications that you can do yourself without having to touch a line of code. The paid-for themes come with extra alterations, however that’s not to say you can’t achieve a great looking site with a free one.
If you are wanting to make wholesale changes to a theme there few limitations as to what can be achieved by accessing the HTML and CSS. Do not worry if you haven't got any coding experience. Shopify has an international group of web design agencies that they call 'Shopify Experts' you can hire to fully customise your site. I will take this opportunity to mention that we are the UK's No1 rated Shopify Experts (not that we're bragging).
To find a theme that suits you, we recommend the following:
1: Browse the Themes store
Log into your Shopify account and visit the Theme Store at themes.shopify.com . Here you will find over 180 themes to choose from, this includes a great selection of free ones too.
You can filter your selection by paid or free, industry or by features. There is an option to sort themes by popularity, price, and most recent.
The Shopify Theme Store.
2: Check the Functionality and Reviews
When you have found a theme that you like, click on the theme's example image. You'll be given additional information about this theme i.e. whether the theme is responsive.
Further down the page are some reviews from store owners, giving their opinion on what they think of the theme.
Step 3: Preview the Theme
To view the theme in action, select View Demo. You will see this underneath the green ‘Preview Theme in your Store’ button.
If the theme comes in a selection of styles, you can view demos of these different styles by clicking on them.
4: Get the Theme
Once you’ve chosen a theme you like, click on the green button.
Shopify will ask you to confirm if you want to install the selected theme.
Simply, click Publish as my Shop's Theme.
Don't worry if you don't feel 100% about your theme choice, you can always change your mind.
5: Finish up
After the theme has been installed, Shopify will inform you, and will be given the option to Go to your Theme Manager. Click this.
The theme manager shows your published theme (your 'live' site) and unpublished themes below (previous and testing versions of the site).
Many Shopify themes will let you make simple changes that can dramatically alter the appearance and style of your store. So you can rest assured that you won't end up with a website looking like a thousands others.
These stores are all built using the same theme.
On the admin screen, select 'Themes' from the left navigation menu. This page allows you to see your live theme in a box at the top. In the top right-hand corner of that box will be two buttons. The first one is of three dots, this button gives you some basic settings changes. One of these allows you to make a duplicate of the theme.
We would highly recommend you do this incase you make changes you don't like. Once duplicated, the second button says 'Customize Theme'. Once selected you will be taken to a page that controls the functionality of your store. Take this as an opportunity to have a thorough test of all the settings and features so you can find out what your new theme is capable of.
Your themes custom settings.
Changing colours in your theme.
Changing fonts in your theme.
The most common features include:
uploading slides and images to a homepage carousel
adding item functionality to product pages
choosing how many items appear on each line of collection pages and how many products show
Some themes will allow you to reposition elements, such as showing product images on the left, right or center of the page. You can choose whether you want to display social buttons.
Navigating to the left and select 'Products'. You will see a blue button saying 'Add a product' the top right-hand corner of the page. Use that screen to add as much detail about your products. Use this as a chance to help your SEO by including name, description and URL. Also include as much detail about variations to help give customers plenty of information about your items.
This is the screen where you can upload product pictures. When the images have uploaded you are able to rearrange them, so don't worry about uploading them in particular order.
The Product screen, be sure to fill out as much information as possible.
Product images really help to make a sale. Make sure you show off your products in the best light possible and highlight special features with zoomed in photos. To keep your store tidy we would suggest keeping all images to the same dimensions. Unless, of course, you want a Pinterest style collection page.
Once everything has been filled out, remember to click the 'Save product' button in the top (or bottom) right hand corners.
Setting up collections
A collection is a group of products that have a common feature that customers might be looking for when visiting your store. For instance, they may be shopping for:
clothes for men, women, or children
items of a certain type, i.e. lamps, cushions, or rugs
items in a particular size or color
seasonal products like holiday cards and decorations.
Products can appear in any number of collections. Normally, your collections would display on your homepage and navigation bar. This helps customers to find what they're looking for quickly, without searching through the entire catalog.
The Collection set up screen works exactly the same as the Product screen
Manual and automatic collections
When you create a new collection, you are able to select how products should be included. Here are the two choices:
Manually - Add and remove products in a manually, very useful when you want full control of a collection. An example would be a "Buy the outfit" collection where you match a coat, top, sweater, trousers and shoes together.
Automatically - Set up selection conditions to automatically include products that meet a particular criteria. A good use of automatic collections is to include all products with a certain tag. Your collection will automatically update when you add a new product with that tag. This will save you time and stop you from having to remember to manually update the collection.
A payment gateway is service that allows you to take payments from customers directly from your site. Price and commission rates are important, but it is also important to see what additional features they can offer. No payment gateway is the same.
Here are some things to consider when choosing a suitable payment gateway:
1. Transaction Fees
When taking a payment, some gateways keep a small percentage or flat fee (sometimes both) for using their service. Compare these based on anticipated sales figures.
2. Card types
Find out what types of card are accepted. All accept VISA, Mastercard and most accept American Express. Paypal is also popular for e-commerce payments.
3. Offsite Checkout
Some gateways take payments on their own servers. As a result, the customer is taken away from your store checkout and instead, pay via a different form provided by the payment gateway. Once everything has gone through they are then redirected back to your store and the confirmation page. This allows you to get around Shopify's limitations of a non customisable checkout.
If you decide to go with Shopify's payment gateway, there are no additional fees. However, if you choose a payment gateway outside of Shopify you will receive transaction fees. Depending on your Shopify plan, you may be able to save on these extra costs. Shopify plan rates are as follows:
Basic 2.4% + 20p
Professional 2.1% + 20p
Unlimited 1.8% + 20p
Depending on how many transactions you make month-to-month it might be worth upgrading to take advantage of the saving.
If you live in the US or UK your site will automatically ultilise Shopify Payments. To complete this, select the 'Complete Shopify Payments account setup' button found in Settings > Payments. If you choose to go with a third party gateway you can use the 'enable payment gateways' button on the same page.
Making your store 'live'
Before your store can go live you will need to add some extra details about your company and how you plan to fulfill deliveries and pay tax.
Make sure all business information is complete on this page. Be sure to take advantage of the Google Analytics, this can prove an invaluable resource for tracking your sites visitors.
Go to the Products page of admin.
Click on the name of any product.
Scroll down to the section "Inventory & variants."
Click the edit link next to your Product Variant which will open a dialog window.
Make sure the checkboxes beside Charge taxes and Requires shipping are ticked if you need to include these with your products.
Stores selling digital goods won't need to charge taxes or shipping. But a T-shirt store will most likely need to charge both.
If you are going to ship your product to customers, enter the product's weight in the appropriate field.
If your shipping rates are too narrow, or there aren't enough options, you could lose out on sales. Shopify will only calculate a shipping rate based on the rules that you outline in the Shipping page admin. To ensure you don't lose out on sales:
In the store admin, go to the Settings > Shipping page .
In the "Shipping rates" section, look if you have set a weight-based shipping rate. Adjust it accordingly to your product's specifications.
Test your order system
To test if your order system is working okay, you can simulate a transaction using Shopify's Bogus Gateway.
To use the Bogus Gateway:
In the Admin, click Settings > Payments to go to your Payments settings page.
If a credit card gateway is enabled, deactivate it before continuing. (click Edit > Deactivate, then confirm your deactivation).
In the Accept credit cards section, choose 'Select a Credit Card Gateway' to open up the drop-down menu.
Scroll down the list to Other, then select (for testing) Bogus Gateway.
Click Activate (or Reactivate, if you've used it before.)
Go to your store and place an order as any customer would. At checkout, enter the credit card details instead of genuine numbers.
Testing a real payment gateway with a genuine transaction
Make sure you've set up the gateway you want to test out.
Make a purchase from your site, and complete the checkout using genuine credit card details.
Cancel the order immediately and refund yourself to avoid paying transaction fees.
Log in to your payment gateway to make sure these funds went through.
Is this free?
Yes - just be sure to cancel and refund the order soon after you place it, you don't want to be charging yourself!
If your billing cycle hits after you've placed the test order, but before you've had chance to cancel it, the transaction fees will appear on your bill. If this happens you can still cancel after paying your bill to Shopify, and you will receive the refund as a transaction credit on your account. Transaction credits can be used in future to pay transaction fees.
In order to get your site live you will need a domain name. You have two choices for this. Firstly, you can buy a domain name from Shopify and it will be added to your store automatically. This saves time, especially if you have no previous experience of hosting a website. This type of domain typically costs $9-$14 USD per year. Secondly, you can purchase a domain name from a third party such as GoDaddy. These prices start from $1.99 USD a year. The downside to this is you'll have to redirect the DNS records yourself which can be daunting for first timers.
Here's how to put your new Shopify store live on a third party domain name.
Add the new domain in Shopify
In the Shopify admin, go to Settings and then to Domains. Add your domain name using the 'Add an existing domain' button.
Update DNS records
Login to your domain registrar and make the following changes to the DNS records:
Replace the @ or main A record with the following IP address: 18.104.22.168
Add or replace the www CNAME with storename.myshopify.com (i.e. your store Shopify link without the http bit, which can see on the domains settings page).
Remove any storefront passwords
Otherwise no one will be able to access your site even once it's gone live.
Set as primary if relevant
Whilst in Settings > Domains, you can choose your main domain by using the dropdown at the top of the screen:
Make sure that you check the 'Redirect all traffic to this domain'. This will redirect traffic from all other domains to your primary domain. It's crucial for good SEO.
Adding other domains
Repeat steps 1 and 2 with the other domain names you own. All domain names will redirect to the 'primary' domain, which you can change at any time with the 'Set as primary' option.
Note: the number of domain names you own has no influence on SEO.
It's as simple as that. In principle you can have an extraordinary looking and completely working e-commerce store in just a couple of hours, without being an expert. This will leave you with more time to invest in growing your business instead of maintaining a website.