How to Start a Shopify Store

By Matthew Guay - Published August 30, 2018 -

You are reading: Chapter 5 of 8

The easiest way to start an online store is with Shopify. Got a business name and some products to list in your store? That's all you need to start a store.

Shopify is a web app that makes starting a store a simple as making a Facebook Page. Sign up for the free trial, fill in details, and within a half hour you can have a full store open for business—one that'll cost around $30/month to run after that. You won't have to worry about updating software or coding your store's pages. Instead, you can focus on your customers and products—the real reason you wanted to start a business.

Here's a step-by-step guide to get your first Shopify store launched.


Starting a Shopify Store

Shopify Setup
Have your business name and address ready—that's all you'll need to start your store

Go to shopify.com, and enter your email address to make an account. Shopify will ask you a few survey questions about whether you have an existing store and then have you enter your name and address—where you should add your business address if you have one.

shopify trial screenshot
It's time to start your store by listing products

Shopify will automatically make a new site for your store at yourname.myshopify.com—in fact, you can open it right now. But first, let's dive right in and start adding your product listings.

1. Create Product Listings in Shopify

Adding product listings to Shopify
Add as many or few details as you want to your products

From the dashboard in the Products section, click the Add a product button to start adding the stuff you want to sell. For each product listing, you can add:

  • Title: a name for your product.
  • Description: formatted text that describes your product.
  • Images: photos of your product; include at least one.
  • Date: an option to set a date when the product will be available. It's a bit hidden, but click the calendar icon beside Visibility to set a date for the product to launch (or, optionally, uncheck Online Store under Visibility to
  • Product Type: the category of your product, perhaps shirts or gadgets. Each product gets one product type, and you can choose from any product type or add a new one.
  • Vendor: selling branded goods? List the brand name like Nike or Tide here. Note that each product can again only have one vendor.
  • Tags: keywords to identify your products less formally, as an easy way to add terms like retro or winter to your products.
  • Price: your product's price, typically not including sales tax for US-based stores. Check the Charge taxes on this product to have Shopify calculate sales tax automatically based on your business location.
  • Compare at Price: want to list a suggested retail price or a price from another major vendor that's more expensive than your listing? Add that price here, and Shopify will show customers how much they're saving.
  • SKU (stock keeping unit): a code to keep track of your internal product stock and inventory. You can add an existing code if you have one, or make a new code for your products—it's for your internal management.
  • Barcode: if you're selling branded goods, or already have your products in a store, they'll likely have a UPC (or Universal Product Code). Or, if you're selling books, they'll have an ISBN code. Add that there to keep your stock organized and help customers search for products in your store.
  • Weight: your product's shipping weight, to calculate shipping prices.
  • Harmonized system code: a code published by the US International Trade Commission to identify your products for international customs. Could be helpful to add for each product if you plan to sell internationally.
  • Variants: options for your product, including size and color, which you can add to your listing. Be sure to include info about each variant in your product description and images.

You could list everything—or you could make things simple and list the core items: Title, Description, Photo, and Price. Everything else is extra, but they can keep your store organized and help customers find what they need.

Shopify variants
Shopify shows only the tools you need

Some options will show up as you're working. Say you add variants to your product. Shopify will add sub-listings for each one, where you can customize each variant's price, SKU, and barcode numbers.

When finished, save your product. You can now add more products or jump to the next step and continue setting up your store.

Import products into Shopify
You can bulk import products from eBay, Magento, or a spreadsheet

Adding each product by hand can be time-consuming, so Shopify offers a simpler option: Import. Back on your main Product page, click the Import button in the top right corner to bulk import product listings. If you already had a store on eBay or Magento, click the Import products from another platform link and follow the steps to bring in those products.

Otherwise, you can import products from a .CSV spreadsheet file. Check Shopify's import guide for tips on setting up your spreadsheet, as you'll need columns for your product name, price, description, vendor, and more. Also, make sure each product has a unique name or Handle as Shopify refers to the product name with imports.

2. Organize Products Into Collections

Shopify Collections
Choose products for collections, or let Shopify do the work based on your product info

Adding all that info to each product is time-consuming. It pays off, though, because it gives you a simple way to create Collections or sets of products in your store.

Shopify uses Collections to let you group your products, feature them on your homepage, and make it easier for customers to find items that go together. You could create a collection of all your blue products, say, or group a gadget and the accessories that go with it. You could make a random collection of your favorite products or the newest things in your store—it's your choice.

To add one, click Products in the side menu and select Collections. Add a name, description, and image as with a product. Then, you can choose to select items for the collection manually, or you can add conditions—the best way to make categories that you don't have to manage. Choose the product variables to watch—the product tag, vendor, or weight, a word in the name or description, or whether it's in stock. Then enter the words or values to filter for, and add any other conditions you want.

Say you want only blue products that are in stock from Vendor X. You'd add a condition for Product vendor is equal to Vendor X, a condition for Product tag is equal to blue, and a final condition for Inventory stock is greater than 0. Then you can choose to display the products alphabetically, in price or date order, or however you'd like.

3. Add a Domain Name

The best part about having an online store is customizing it to showcase your branding. There are two ways to do that: with a custom domain name and with a custom theme.

Your site's Domain Name—or the address customers will type in their browsers to visit your store—is perhaps the most important. You need something unique, ideally a name that's still available with a .com extension, as that's what most people will expect when they type your site's name in.

Shopify includes an Add a Domain button in your dashboard, where you can either add an existing domain name or buy a new one. If you already own a domain name, click the Add button and enter your domain name. Then in your domain registrar's settings, you'll need to set Shopify's IP address as your A record—follow Shopify's steps to set up your domain to get it right.

Or, to make things easier, you can buy a domain from Shopify for around $13/year. Enter a name you'd like to use for your site, and Shopify will register it or suggest alternate domain names if that one's not available.

Your store also needs an SSL certificate along with your domain to enable secure transactions, so your customers can safely enter credit card numbers and other private info even over open WiFi networks. As a nice bonus, Shopify will obtain one for your domain, so you don't have to worry about that.

4. Customize Your Store Theme

shopify themes
Choose a theme that works the way you want—then customize it with your style

Now that you have a domain name and product listings, it's time to make your store look great with a Theme, a customized design that changes your site's entire design and layout.

Back on the dashboard, select the Themes button to customize your existing theme (the default white Debut theme) or select a new theme. Shopify includes six default free themes, along with a Theme Store where you can choose from dozens of free or paid themes from designers around the world.

Select the themes you like to preview their details and variants, as some themes include multiple color or typography options. All themes on the store are guaranteed to work with Shopify's core store features, and some also add extra features like a video slideshow, zooming photos, Instagram and other social media integrations, drop-down menus, and more.

You can view a demo of the theme to see if you like it—and with paid themes, click the Preview button to see what your store would look like with that theme. Then, purchase the theme and click Install. From the Theme Manager page, you can then customize the theme.

shopify theme editor
Edit the text and images in any section of your store site—and tweak fonts and colors from the General Settings

Shopify themes are designed to be simple to edit with text, colors, images, and typography. They work with Shopify's existing product listing tools, especially product collections. Themes are where the collections you made before come in handy; most themes let you choose a featured category to list on your store's front page and promote to your customers.

customize text in Shopify

While you can't move, say, an image to any spot on the page you want, you can rearrange, add, or remove sections to customize the front page. Say you want to customize the description of your store, and add a video under that.

You'd click the Rich text box in the left sidebar, and add the text you want with basic formatting. Then, go back to the main menu and click the Add Section link near the bottom. Select Featured Video, click Add, then enter a link to your video on YouTube or Vimeo. Go back again to the first tab, and you can drag that new video section underneath your store's description.

Most Shopify themes are designed around graphics, with images for your store's name or logo, as the main banner on the front page, and to showcase your products and collections. For some additional branding, you can also tweak your store's colors and fonts, choose if your shopping cart shows up in a separate page or as a popover tab, as well as include links to your social media accounts from the General Settings tab.

Select the item you want to change, and tweak each setting with a live preview on the right. You can change colors for most parts of your site, choose from a selection of Google Fonts typefaces, pick between a drawer or full page for your shopping cart, and add banners to your checkout experience.

One thing you should add: a Favicon. That's the small icon that'll show in the top of the browser when people visit your site, or in the bookmarks list when they save it to visit later. It's a tiny way to make sure people know they're on your site. Grab your logo image, then use a tool like Faviconer or Favicomatic to convert it into a favicon. Download that image, then add it to your Shopify store design here.

5. Add Store Info

Shopify Unlock
Your new Shopify store only needs a bit more info to get launched

When editing your theme, you may have noticed a message about needing to remove your site's password to start accepting orders. That's nearly your last step to get your store launched.

Click the password link—or select Online Store and then Preferences in the menu, and you can remove the default password that keeps your store under wraps while you're setting it up. On the top of that page, you'll also want to add a name and description for your store.

You can also add a Google Analytics code to track your store's traffic, although Shopify will keep tabs on your site traffic for you with its own Reports if you want to keep things simple. And if you plan on using Facebook Ads, you can add a tracking pixel to see if your ads bring in real customers.

You'll be asked to select a paid plan to remove the password, and once you've done that, your store will be ready for customers. There's only one more thing: payments.

Set up Shopify Payments

The simplest way to get paid in Shopify is with the built-in Shopify Payments gateway. Your store will use it by default, though you'll need to add your bank info to get paid. Click Settings -> Payments, select Complete Account Setup under the Shopify Payments box, and enter the rest of your info along with your bank account info.

And that's it. Your store is now open, and customers can buy your products and pay you directly. It was easier than you thought, wasn't it?

How to Manage Your Shopify Store

Your basic store is plenty to get started, with product listings, a customized theme, featured collections of products, and your domain name. Shopify will email you whenever you get a new order, and you could ship the orders to the address in that email.

To run an efficient, well-maintained store, though, you'll want to put a bit more work into Shopify. Here are the tools you need to keep track of your sales, add more info and features to your store, and let your store take care of itself with automation.

Manage Your Orders

Shopify Order Management
Shopify makes it easy to see what you need to ship—and to add notes to remind you about this order

By now you should have the Shopify menu down pat: you'll hover over the left side of the screen, select the item, and then click the sub-item you want. To see your orders, select Order, and you'll jump right to the Orders sub-page. You can open any order, see which orders are paid and which still need to be shipped.

Open your first order to ship, and look through the page. You'll see the products ordered, order total, customer's shipping address, and even a risk analysis where Shopify tries to detect if an order is fraudulent. You can add a comment or note on the order—perhaps to list something the customer said or to note which specific product you sent them—and can add tags to categorize that order. Then, click Continue to print a shipping label with pre-paid shipping from your postal service, or you can make a shipping label and mark the order as shipped.

Now, some orders won't follow through—you'll have customers get started checking out and quit halfway through, or others who want to give you a direct order instead of ordering through your website. For the former, check the Abandoned orders page where you can see what those people ordered and can email them to encourage them to come back. Then, in the Drafts page, you can add orders over the phone or send an invoice to a customer for a custom product.

Add Extra Pages

Shopify blog
You can add custom pages and blog posts to your Shopify store

Your store will include a few pages by default: your store's front page, a catalog of your products along with a page for each product, and perhaps an About page with details about your store. It'll also have a checkout page, which customers will see when they're ready to pay.

Want more—perhaps a way to share news with customers or a page to outline your company's history? Open your Online Store page, and select either Blog Posts or Pages to add to your site.

Blog posts work like blog posts in a WordPress, Medium, or Tumblr blog, and are perfect for sharing news or updates. You'll write a post, with a title, featured image, and tags for organization, and can include tables, images, text, and more in your post itself. Blog posts display in reverse chronological order with the newest post on top.

Pages, on the other hand, stick around. They're the pages in your store's top menu, and where you'll put things like contact forms, store info, directions, history, and anything else you know won't change often. The page editor works much the same as the blog post editor, with one addition: a Template selector. Your theme can include custom templates for different pages, and you can pick from those styles here.

Want to include a Contact form in your store? Most themes include a Contact template—make a page to gather contact info, and select the Contact theme. If your theme doesn't include a Contact page, you can add one with Shopify's theme code editor—or, you could use any online form builder app to build a contact form, and then add its embed code to your Shopify page. That's a great way to add a customized form to your store, too, if you want to survey your customers or gather other data.

Sell in More Places

Shopify sales channels
Shopify lets you sell directly on any site—including your Facebook page

Your online store is a great place to sell products and put all your marketing efforts into one place. The only problem is, you'll have to attract customers to your store. That's tough—and sometimes it's easier to put your products where customers already are.

That's what makes selling products on marketplaces so appealing—and Shopify can help you do that while still managing everything through your main store site. Click the + icon beside Sales Channels in the Shopify menu, and you can add integrations for marketplaces including eBay and Amazon, along with social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. You can even add Shopify to Messenger to chat with customers and close sales right inside of Facebook's Messenger chat.

Shopify on Facebook
A dedicated store on Facebook makes it easy for people to find your products

You could also share links to your blog posts and product listings on social networks. Shopify's integrations, though, let you do more. Its Facebook integration, for instance, automatically lists each of your products in a new Shop tab on your Facebook Page—and can even let customers purchase a product directly from Facebook while adding the order to Shopify along with your other orders.

Shopify Buy Buttons
Buy Buttons let you turn any site into a store

Already have another website, perhaps a blog that has a large following? Shopify provides Buy Buttons that give you an embed code for any product on your site. You'll select a product or collection, choose how you want the product listing to appear, and then copy the HTML embed code to paste into your site. Shopify even includes a popover shopping cart, so customers can make their full purchase without knowing your existing blog or website isn't a real store.

Speaking of real stores: if you have a local business, you can use Shopify's Point of Sale channel to manage that, too. It gives you mobile apps that you can use to ring up purchases and process credit cards in person. You can then track your inventory for online and local sales together to make it easier to run your store.

Add Features with Apps and Integrations

Shopify App Store
From tools to list your products more places to add-ons that give Shopify more features, there's everything in the App Store

Need more features? The Shopify App Store includes tools that help you do almost anything you want with your Shopify store.

Say you want to sell your products on Amazon and eBay too. There are apps for that, both to import your old listings and to cross-post your new products from Shopify to the other marketplaces.

The core apps come from Shopify itself. Check the Shopify profile on the App Store to find Shopify's social integrations, tools to add reviews or downloads to your products, a barcode builder and script editor, and more. Shopify keeps their core app focused on helping you quickly build a great store—and keeps the extras here as add-on apps. And for anything else you might need, there are 3rd party apps for free or paid that you can add to your store, or you could build your own with the Shopify API.

Shopify Zapier Integrations
Zapier's automated workflows to keep your Shopify store running for you

Another great option is using Shopify integrations from Zapier, an app integration tool that works with 750+ apps. You can use it to connect Google Sheets, QuickBooks, MailChimp, Slack, and hundreds of other apps to your Shopify store. That way, you can use your favorite tools to manage accounting, print labels, email customers, and more without having to copy and paste anything from your Shopify store.

Say you want to get an SMS notification whenever you get a new customer—and you want to add your new customers to your MailChimp email list. With a Zapier account, make a new Zap (what we call workflow between apps on Zapier), and select Shopify's New Customer option as the trigger.

Zapier Shopify SMS
Get an SMS whenever you get a new Shopify customer

Then, in the next step, select SMS as the app, and fill in the template to have Zapier send you an SMS message with info about your new customer. Click the + icon beside the Message field to add info from Shopify—perhaps the customer's name, order amount, and more.

Shopify MailChimp
Add your new Shopify customers to your MailChimp list automatically

Now, add one more step, this time choosing MailChimp (or another email newsletter app) to send your customers your newsletter. Select Add/Update Subscriber, then select the customer email address field to the Subscriber Email field along with any other data you want to add.

Turn on the Zap, and now whenever someone new buys something at your store, you'll get an SMS notification and they'll get added to your email newsletter list automatically. It's a simple way to make your store work for you in the background.

You can make your own Shopify integrations, or check out these popular integrations to get started:


Now that you've built your store, it's time to make it your own. Customize it, add the domain name and branding you want, tweak your theme, remove any mentions of Powered by Shopify, and much more in our detailed guide to customizing Shopify.

Or, perhaps you'd like a different option. If you'd prefer to self-host your store, WooCommerce is one of the most popular options. It's powered by WordPress so as easy to use as a blog—and it's free.

Here's how to build your store in WooCommerce.

Go to Chapter 5!

Published August 30, 2018

Written by Matthew Guay.

Image Credits: Shop photo from Alicia Zinn via Pexels.

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