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Entrepreneurship is easier than ever thanks to eCommerce. From individuals to small to medium-sized brands, anyone with an idea and a product to sell can start a business online. All you need is an eCommerce system to get your business off the ground.
Shopify is one of the simpler ways to start your own online business. Even if you've never made a website or sold anything online before, you can set up a Shopify store and start selling your shirts, designs, and more right away. That's thanks to its intuitive design and easy-to-use tools that can help you create and grow your store.
Not that long ago, if you wanted to sell stuff online, you'd need a website with a shopping cart, and that's it. Nowadays, your best bet might be to sell directly through social networks where you already have fans and followers. Shopify makes that easy. With a buyable pin on Pinterest, a dedicated store on your Facebook page with Messenger integration, and connections to eBay and Amazon to cross-sell on those marketplaces, you can sell stuff wherever your customers already are.
Or, you can sell to them directly in person. For brick-and-mortar stores, the Shopify POS system lets you accept credit card payments from the Shopify website or iOS and Android apps, complete with a credit card reader to accept payments. Even if you don't have a store, you could use its POS tools to sell products and accept credit card payments at product events, fairs, bazaars and more—or even use it to accept payments for services directly at your customers' homes and businesses.
At the heart of every Shopify store is a simple yet powerful system that helps you manage your products and sales records. A detailed dashboard welcomes you with an overview of the day’s sales, orders that need to be processed, and other important details. The left sidebar helps you manage your store, with sections for Orders, Products, Customers, Reports, and Discounts. Everything else—the tweaks and changes to be fine-tuned—can be found in the Settings page.
Adding products to your Shopify store is quite simple and straightforward, which should make it easier to get your products online. Just enter the most basic details of your product: a title, a product description, product images, pricing, and shipping weight. Then, you can later categorize and/or segregate products based on collections, vendors, product type, and tags. If you’re selling a product that differs in size or color, you can add variants and determine the pricing for each variant.
Creating digital products and services isn’t quite as simple, though. While you can sell both using Shopify, you’ll need to take a couple of extra steps to do so. On the Shopify App Store, you’ll first need to add the free Shopify Digital Downloads app to your Shopify account to be able to deliver digital files with a purchase. Once you've added it, customers will get a direct download link after checkout via email, and you can set download limits as needed. Once done, you can then revise your store’s email templates so your customers know exactly what to expect or do when paying for a digital product or service.
Then, it's time to check on your purchase process. For that, Shopify lets you create test orders to see if there are any problems or issues with the buying process. The last thing you want is your customers being driven away because of some unsuspecting hiccup with your checkout process, after all.
And if you need more tools, there's tons of other extensions at the Shopify App Store. You can create a loyalty program, print invoices, labels, and receipts, or provide product recommendations to increase upsells. Each app has its own extra price on top of your Shopify account, but there are a couple of free apps you can start off with. There's also Shopify themes, which give you an easy way to tweak your store's design and customize it for your products and style.
But that may not be as important, if you're focused on social network-powered sales. And that's what's great about Shopify. If you want a full-featured online store, it's perfect for that, with themes and apps to make your online store just the way you want. If you have a real brick-and-mortar store, Shopify can help you add credit card payments cheaply. And if you just want to sell directly to your fans on Facebook and Twitter, it's perfect for that too—or you can do all three.
It's more than just a way to build a web presence for your store; it's a tool that can help you add any type of digital sales you want. That's what makes Shopify one of the most popular eCommerce tools for small businesses.
→ Learn how to start your own business and online store with Zapier's The Ultimate Guide to eCommerce Software book, which includes a complete step-by-step guide to building a store in Shopify.
Originally published Feb 22, 2016; updated June 13, 2018 with new screenshots, pricing, and details.