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How to Set up a Shopify Store

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:MediumLanguages:

Setting up a Shopify store is very straightforward. Begin by signing up at Shopify, then add your products, select a theme, configure the back office for shipping, tax, and payments, configure a custom domain, and launch your store!

”A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.“ – Lao-Tzu

An online store is the first step in your eCommerce entrepreneurial journey. Actually, the very first step is an idea, an inspiration, and I assume that you already know your unique value proposition? If not, Shopify can help along every stage of the process.

Tip: perhaps start by browsing the list of business ideas on Shopify’s blog?

Setup a Shopify storeSetup a Shopify storeSetup a Shopify store
Setting up a Shopify store (illustration by twiri)

How to Set up a Shopify Store

Back to the job at hand. This tutorial will help you to test your idea by setting up a Shopify store. In short, it involves the following steps:

  1. Sign up at Shopify
  2. Add your product(s)
  3. Select a theme to showcase your product
  4. Configure back office (shipping, tax, payments)
  5. Configure a custom domain
  6. Launch

Let’s dive straight in and create our Shopify store!

1. Sign up at Shopify

Shopify will create a store for you in less than a minute. Go to shopify.com, fill in your data, done.

The setup form includes only one potentially confusing field: the store name. This is a permanent and unique store name across all Shopify stores, so make sure you enter this correctly. You might want use your brand name with some numbers to make it unique. For example “my-brand-99”.

You’ll need this permanent store name to access the store admin panel with the URL https://my-brand-99.myshopify.com/admin

Later, you can (should) add a custom domain for the storefront, for example, https://mybrand.com.

Congratulations, you get an online store! With that done, the store dashboard shows you tips for the next step.

Next step tips at your store dashboardNext step tips at your store dashboardNext step tips at your store dashboard

You now have 14 days to launch your store, and when the trial period ends you should pick a paid Shopify plan. Browse my previous tutorial for pricing details.

2. Add Your Product

Price policy, online store design, shipment, everything depends on the products you sell. For this reason adding products is the next step. In your store backoffice go to Products > Add product, fill in the title, description, SKU, and price fields. Add product media, images, video, or even 3D models.

Next up, add productsNext up, add productsNext up, add products

From an SEO perspective content is King. And you are the best person to describe your product. Be sure your product description is unique and answers all customer questions. List the product materials. Is it eco-friendly? Detail the return and refund policies. Explain the history of how you made your product. If you resell, explain why the visitor should purchase from you? Reassure customers by explaining your pre and post-sale support.

Media

Showcase your product with high-quality images. Use lifestyle images that help customers see themselves using your product. Nowadays, you can create high-quality media with your smartphone, or (once you earn some money) you can always hire a professional photographer.

Lastly, you can organize products in collections. Check the following help pages for details about Products and Collections.

3. Select a Shopify Theme

Your store’s theme plays a key role in beautifully showcasing your brand and products. There are thousands of Shopify themes; small with basic features, or huge with hundreds of options and pre-made configurations.

How should you select the perfect theme for your store? Here are some tips:

  • create a list of key features for your store, what blocks and information you need to place on the home, collection, and product pages
  • review the available themes and pre-built demo stores, video tutorials, and user manuals
  • pay attention to the number of sales and customer’s reviews
  • don’t hesitate to ask pre-sale questions

Where Can I Find Shopify Themes?

You may want to start with the Shopity theme store. Here you’ll find about 75 themes, including some free themes if you are limited in budget. You’ll also find premium themes with 2-3 pre-made styles, and a low amount of the theme features. These themes have a standard price of $180 USD. Be ready to install additional apps to add more features to your store.

Next, is the Shopify category at Themeforest. Themeforest has over 1,200 premium themes. Some themes are as simple as those from Shopify theme store, some themes include hundreds of pre-made demos. The price on Themeforest varies from $19 USD to $99 USD. It is easy to get lost in such a wide variety of themes, so I recommend you sort themes by the best sellers and pay attention to the top 10 themes. Remember to check comments and reviews to see what existing buyers think.

Bestsellers Shopify themes @ themeforest.netBestsellers Shopify themes @ themeforest.netBestsellers Shopify themes @ themeforest.net
Best selling Shopify themes at themeforest.net

Check out these collections of Shopify themes to see if any suit your project:

If you have an unlimited budget, you may consider hiring a Shopify Expert agency to build a unique theme for your business.

More Than Design

The “design” is the most obvious theme feature, but you should also pay attention to available features. The more features a theme has, the less money you will need to spend on additional Shopify apps.

The more apps you install, the slower the web page. The slower the web page, the fewer sales you’re likely to make. I recommend only using apps that you really need. Don’t forget to test the theme’s speed. As of May 2021 Google will include speed data to ranking signals. Test your store’s speed with the PageSpeed Insights tool.

Test theme page speed with PageSpeed Insights toolTest theme page speed with PageSpeed Insights toolTest theme page speed with PageSpeed Insights tool
Test theme page speed with PageSpeed Insights tool

4. Configure Back Office

As a store owner you’ll likely spend more time in the admin than on the front end of the website. So let’s get things configured. 

Shipping

The array of shipping options may scare you–product weight and size, shipping destination, product packaging, carrier rates–your future profit depends on you managing all of these things successfully. Begin with these basics:

  • Free shipping: this may serve as a key trigger to purchase from you. Shopify allows you to offer free shipping depending on the product type, minimum order amount, or location. Don’t forget to include shipping costs in the final product price.
  • Flat rate is a good choice for stores with similar products and fixed customers’ locations (countries like the Netherlands, which is geographically small and has reliable infrastructure).
  • Carrier rates: more complex, but suitable when you ship worldwide and have physically large stock. Shopify software is integrated with many carriers like DHL, USPS, allowing shipping costs to be calculated in real-time so your customer can select the best carrier and shipping price. 
  • Consider getting an additional discount with Shopify Shipping.
  • Lucky U.S. merchants may use the Shopify Fulfillment Network.

To begin configuration the first step is to add your store location within your admin by going to Settings > Locations. Next, specify your shipping zones and rates by going to Settings > Shipping and Delivery.

Configure Shopify shippingConfigure Shopify shippingConfigure Shopify shipping

In the example above I have two zones: US and Rest of World. In the US I have two rates: Economy (free for orders over 50 $USD) and Express (10 $USD flat rate). The price for International Shipping is a 20 $USD flat rate for anything up to 20kg.

If you want to dive deeper into Shopify’s Shipping options, read The Beginner's Guide to Ecommerce Shipping and Fulfillment by Thea Earl, and check out the Shopify help page for a full list of shipping and delivery options.

Taxes

Like every business, you’ll be expected to pay taxes to your government as a proportion of your revenue. You’ll also be expected to collect some form of VAT on most products too. You’ll find exceptions for some product types and locations, but I strongly recommend you consult with a tax professional where you run your business.

In your admin go to Settings > Taxes to configure your tax options, and determine whether your prices already take taxes into account, whether tax should be determined on your customer’s country of residence, whether shipping rates should include tax, and whether VAT should be charged on digital goods.

Configure taxes at Shopify storeConfigure taxes at Shopify storeConfigure taxes at Shopify store

Later, you can review the amount of collected taxes by going to Analytics > Reports.

Warning: This information on this screenshot is not tax advice. You should consult a tax professional if you have any questions about your taxes. Shopify doesn’t file or remit your sales taxes for you.

Payments

Very importantly, you also have to decide how to accept payments. 

Select from over 100 third-party payment providers and give your customers additional payment options like PayPal, Klarna, or AfterPay. If you are from one of the supported countries and don’t have time to compare payment providers, go with Shopify Payments to make things really easy. Only Shopify Payments allows you to configure checkout in multiple currencies. 

Set up the payment method at your Shopify storeSet up the payment method at your Shopify storeSet up the payment method at your Shopify store

With that done, go to Analytics > Reports to complete your back-office configuration.

5. Configure a Custom Domain

At this point your store is ready to go; disable the password protection, and you can show, sell, and ship your products! But one important part of your brand is missing: a custom domain.

Instead of using whichever shopify.com subdomain is generated by default, purchase a unique domain from Shopify or another registrar company. Perhaps you’ll pick a .com domain, like yourBrand.com, but you may also like the .shop domain extension or something else. The choice is yours.

Once you have your domain, go to Online Store > Domains and update your DNS record.

Add custom domain to your Shopify storeAdd custom domain to your Shopify storeAdd custom domain to your Shopify store

Note: If this task is too difficult for you consider asking for help in the community forums or hire a Shopify Expert.

6. Launch Your Shopify Store

Remove the password page at Online store > Preferences and tell the world that you are open for business.

3, 2, 1 🚀

Congratulations! That’s how to set up a Shopify store! GLWS (good luck with sales)!

Obviously at this point your store has zero visitors, and you have only one order from your mom. But don’t worry. Having built your Shopify store now put your efforts into driving more traffic, adding blog posts to describe your products or services, analyze your traffic, learn from your customers and competitors, and optimize your store.

More Shopify Tutorials

Learn more about how to set up Shopify, follow our free course How to Build a Shopify Store, and follow Tuts+ on YouTube for more videos and Shopify theme roundups!

Free Shopify Course

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