How to Set Up an Online Store

How to Set Up an Online Store

(Step-by-step Guide for Beginners)


Hey, are you looking to run your own Online Store?

If you're new to this, you may think that you'll need to hire a programmer to build your store, which will usually cost you 4 to 5 digit figures to get your store up and running.

Setting up an ecommerce store doesn't have to be difficult, and it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg.

In fact, you'll be able to set up a working online store by yourself in only 5 mins (I've helped a ton of friends and l'll show you how below).

Hello, I'm Ray.

How can I help?

Before we start...

There are several ways to build an Online Store, but nothing I've found balances the ease of use by beginners and power and scalability for advanced stores like Shopify does.

Learn more about Shopify.

Built for Beginners

Shopify is super easy to set up. All you need is a computer with a web browser and an internet connection (you'll see below). It is made with the beginner in mind.

Powerful & Scalable

Even though Shopify is super easy for beginners, even many seasoned Online Store owners have switched over from other platforms to Shopify due to its reliability, powerful feature set and ability to be customized for advanced users. You know that you're on a platform that is highly scalable for future profitability.

Examples of Stores running on Shopify:

Black Milk Clothing: Australian fashion store specialising in leggings.

Black Milk Clothing

Elva Fields: a fashion accessories store

Elva Fields

(Image Credits: Shopify)


Qn: Will I be able to do it by myself?

Shopify is super easy to set up. All you need is a computer with a web browser and an internet connection. It is made with the beginner in mind, no coding required.

But don't take my word for it. Check out the detailed steps below and you be the judge.

Step 1: Set Up a Shopify Store

Before we start, I do need to let you know it will cost you a bit of money.

The main costs of operating a Shopify store is your domain name (mystore.com for about $9/year) and shopify fees ($14/mth for starter plan).

As you'll notice, starting an Online Store is WAYYY cheaper than operating a brick and mortar store with high monthly rental costs.

Setting up a store is incredibly simple, you just need to take the following steps:

#1 - Sign Up for Shopify

To start using Shopify, all you need is a store name, your email address and a password.

That's it really!

Once you've signed up for a free Shopify trial account, you can login to your dashboard to manage your store, and it's a fully working store waiting for you.

To visit your storefront, go to mystorename.myshopify.com

To login to the Admin Dashboard, go to mystorename.myshopify.com/admin

Dashboard (where you manage your store)

Shopify Dashboard

Storefront (what your visitors see)

To find out if Shopify works for you, the good news is that it has a 14 day free trial without need for any credit card information, so the best way to learn more about Shopify is to try it out yourself (go ahead, it's easy!).

Click here to find out more about Shopify.


#2 - Get a Domain Name

Once you've signed up with shopify, you'll be provided a link to your store as mystore.shopify.com. This is great as a starting point, but you'll probably want something that you can call your own e.g. mystore.com.

Use this tool to check if the domain you want is available.

There are 2 ways you can obtain your domain name:

  1. Purchase a domain name from Shopify (recommended) directly for $12/year. When you do so, the set up is easy as Shopify will handle it for you.
  2. Buy from other registrars: If you've already bought a domain name from other registrars, you'll need to point your Shopify store to your domain name. 

Read how you can do either of the above.

With just these 2 steps above, which should only take you about 5 minutes, you will already have a live working Online Store! It's that easy!

Click here to get started with Shopify.

It only takes 5 minutes and a few clicks to set up an Ecommerce Store!

Click to Tweet

Step 2: Change the Design

Shopify Themes

The great thing about Shopify is that you can basically change the look of your ecommerce store, simply by changing your theme.

Once you have a Shopify account, you'll be provided with a default theme. I'll show you how you can change your theme to something that you like.

Best part is - your job is only to choose a free or premium theme and install - no coding required!

One thing to note - you can change your theme at any time, without affecting your products or sales data! Your theme is really a 'skin' to how your store looks.


Installing a Shopify Theme

There are numerous free and paid themes in the Shopify Theme store to choose from.

Go to Dashboard > Themes

Choose Visit the Theme Store

After browsing a selecting the theme you want, click Get Theme

Shopify Free Theme

You'll be asked to log in and the theme will be in your themes area.

By default, installed themes are not activated, so be sure to click publish to use it.

Looks easy, doesn't it?


Choosing a Theme

What to look for in a theme?

Mobile-Responsiveness: Responsiveness means your store will look good on all mobile and desktop devices. With more people buyings on the go, for sure you'll want your store to be mobile friendly to potential customers.

This video below will explain what responsiveness means.

Design: You'll probably want to choose a good design that ties in with what you're selling, as it will help you build an identity around your store.

Qn: Should I go for a premium theme?

I'll highly encourage you to install and play around with free themes first. This gives you an idea what you like / do not like about any particular theme, and gives you an idea what you want to look for. The good thing is you can change your theme any time!

That said, you do not have to limit yourself to the free themes available in the Shopify Theme Store. There are also premium themes within the store, and outside of the store - e.g. Themeforest where you can purchase premium themes.

Premium theme makers may have spent more time coming out with better designed themes, and they may also add features to build a more holistic site.

​If you've purchased/downloaded your theme outside of Shopify, you can install it using the following method.

Ray's Take

First, start with a free theme. You can always change it later!

Step 3: Add Products

Adding products is extremely easy in Shopify.

You can simply use the inbuilt editor to put up descriptions, images, price, etc.

Add Product

Step 4: Accept Credit Cards and PayPal

It's nice to set up an online store, but I'm sure you want to know how you can get paid!

In order to accept popular online payment methods like PayPal and Credit Cards, there are some things you’ll need to know first (like payment gateways and transaction fees):

Once you’ve set up some of the above required accounts, you can integrate these payment methods onto your Shopify store (it’s easy).


Accept PayPal

The first thing you need to do before you can accept PayPal, is to sign up for a Business or Premier account (click here to find out more). Both types of accounts are free.

Click here to sign up for a Paypal account.

Next, go to the Payments section in your admin.

Once you have a PayPal Business or Premier account, you can choose from the 3 PayPal payment methods provided, namely Express, Advanced and Pro.

The various PayPal methods will be shown to you.

In my following example, I'll be using the Express Checkout method (which has no monthly fees, but per transaction fees on each sale).

On clicking Activate, you'll be prompted to log in to your PayPal account.

Click Grant Permission.

That's it! Your customers can start paying through PayPal on your store!

I'm not kidding! It really is that easy!

Or did you you wish for more steps? 😉

Bonus Tip: PayPal Express also allows customers to pay using Credit Cards. However, this option is intentionally obscured by PayPal, so customers may miss this option entirely.

Ray's take

Sign up for either a Premier or Business account with PayPal for free. (No big difference between the 2)

Use PayPal Express to allow customers to checkout using PayPal.

Even though PayPal express allows checkout by credit card, the checkout flow isn't ideal, so do implement another credit card checkout method below.​


Accept Credit Cards

You can also easily accept payment through Credit Cards with any of your payment gateways (fees vary amongst providers).

Read this article first about accepting credit cards on your Online Store.


Shopify Payments

A notable payment gateway is one that Shopify has come up with. It is easy to use, and since it's Shopify's system, easy to select and use.

If you're a new store and want to avoid monthly transaction fees and only pay fees per transaction, I'll highly recommend you use Shopify Payments.

It truly is the easiest way you can start accepting credit card payments with the least fuss.

It's also a great affordable option!

Go to Payments

Select Shopify Payments as your Credit Card Gateway.

Shopify Credit Cards

You can choose to receive cards from Visa, MasterCard and/or American Express. 

Shopify Payments

Now, to actually receive the money into your bank account, configure your bank account by clicking EDIT

Shopify Payments

Simply put in your Routing number and Account number details into the field.

Make sure you save these changes.

Shopify Payments

With that, you can accept credit card  payments from your customers.

Easy, isn't it?​

(Image credits: Shopify)


Other Credit Card Payment Gateways

If you still want to use more "traditional" payment options like Authorize.net, setting up is a matter of inputting your credentials - no programming needed.

Just know that that monthly fees may be associated with many of these payment gateways.

The following payment gateways are accepted - you'll most likely find a gateway suitable for you in your country. You do need an account with these payment providers.

Ray's take

The easiest way to accept credit cards on Shopify is to use Shopify Payments. It is both cost effective and easy to implement.


Offline Payment Methods

Sometimes, it may also make sense for your business to accept other 'Offline' payment methods. 

The following are considered 'offline' methods, as the transactions are not fully automated offline:

Cash of Delivery, Money Order, Bank Deposit, and more...

Offline methods also circumvent the need for transaction fees (in most cases).

In these offline methods, you basically specify a set of instructions for the customer to pay you. Once they do and you verify the payment, it's up to you to go back into Shopify and change the status to Paid.

Step 5: Set Up Shipping Rates

Adding shipping rates for your products through Shopify is simple - You can easily set fixed shipping rates for each location.

You can base each shipping rate by order price, or order weight.

When actually planning to ship your customers' orders, you'll probably want to find the cheapest shipping costs, and easily affix shipping labels that you can print from home.

For that, you can install a great app called Shippo. Check it out here.

Step 6: Add More Features (Optional)

You can also add great additional features (Apps) to supercharge your Shopify store with just a few clicks.

Some of them include: Shipping, Product Reviews, Email Marketing, and more...

Now, this step is 100% optional, but you might just find a couple of apps that helps you run your store better.

Here's how to install them, and some of my recommended apps:


Installing Shopify Apps

Installing Shopify apps is simple. Go to Dashboard > Apps

Click Visit the App Store

You can browse or search for app by its name

Shopify App Store Search

After choosing the app you want, click Get App

Shopify Get App

You'll be asked prompted to install, so click Install

By default, installed apps are not activated, so be sure to activate it.

Recommended Apps

There are a lot of Shopify apps that can make your Online Store even more powerful.

If you're thinking "Where do I start?", here are some great ones that will supercharge your Online Store and sales.

Shipping Labels Printing (Shippo)

Shipments Tracking (Aftership)

​Sales Analytics (Vantage)

​Mailing List (Mailchimp for Shopify)

To install, in your Shopify Apps area, search for the below app names to install them.

Shopify App Store Search

Aftership (free/premium)

  • Autotrack all your shipments - UPS, USPS, Fedex & 200+ couriers (Free)
  • Display tracking results on your store (Free)
  • Notify customers when in transit, out for delivery, delivered and exceptions (Premium)

Yotpo (free/premium)

  • Boost your shopper's confidence with tons of reviews
  • Automatically send review request emails to your shoppers and allow them to leave a review right in their inbox!
  • Generate highly qualified traffic and more sales

Persistent Cart (free)

  • Increase revenue by recovering abandoned cart

Let's say John registers an account on your store and adds 5 items to his shopping cart while at work, but he decides to check out later. Later, he’s back home and opens his laptop, logs in with his account...oops! The cart is empty. He then leaves your store and you lost money.

-- This is the case of a store without a "persistent cart".

This app will save all the items in the cart when your customer is logged in. When they switch to a different computer or logout and login, the previous items are added back into the cart.

This is something that every store should install so as not to lose potential sales!


Mailchimp for Shopify (free/premium)

  • Connects your Shopify store to your Mailchimp account
  • Customers automatically added to Mailchimp
  • Create targeted email campaigns based on buying behavior.

In order to make use of this app, first get a free Mailchimp account. This allows you to have 2,000 subscribers and send out 12,000 emails each month.


Order Printer (free)

  • Print invoices, labels, receipts, packing slips and more
  • Customize and create templates to suit any need
  • Print in bulk to speed up your shipping process
Order Printer

Better Coupon Box (free)

  • Popout a coupon box to convert visitors into social fans, followers, and increase your sales
  • Better User Experience for you and your customers
  • User-friendly and responsive design. Works on all devices.

Vantage (free)

  • Better understand your customers, marketing and operations
  • Run powerful marketing campaigns to drive repeat visits and up-sell
  • Find new prospects, grow your business and be more profitable

Unless you're on the Professional or Business Plan, Shopify does not provide you analytics reports. The great news is that you can use Vantage as a free source of analytics, right in your Shopify dashboard!


Shippo (free)

  • One-click, automated label printing
  • All carriers integrated: USPS, Canada Post, FedEx, UPS, DHL , Hermes (UK) and more
  • No set up or monthly fees - only $0.05 per shipping label
Shippo

Improved Contact Form (free)

  • Add a "contact us" webpage and popup contact widget to your store
  • Customizable contact form fields (name, email, phone etc)
  • Intelligent contact form tells you where your visitor is located and what pages were viewed before contacting you
Improved Contact Form

Step 7: Add Pages & Navigation

You'll also want to have pages for the customers to navigate your store.

Some common pages you might create:

  • ​Home
  • Shipping & Delivery
  • Exchange Policy
  • Terms & Conditions
  • Testimonials
  • About Us
  • Contact Us

To add a page, go to Pages in your admin area.

You can use the simple to use built-in editor to add text, images, tables, videos, links etc.


Arranging Menu Items

To arrange your menus, go the Navigation in your admin area.

Give a Name to your menu. Some themes may support multiple menus (e.g. main menu, footer menu etc).

Add the links you want to attach to the menu by adding a Link Name, and where it Links To...

You can also rearrange the links by dragging them up or down.

Useful Tips

Manage Your Store with Mobile App

Shopify also have mobile apps for you to manage your orders on the go. How convenient!

Facebook Store

You can also easily have your entire store on your Facebook page, by following the simple steps here.

Shopify Embed Facebook

Shopify Point of Sales (POS)

If you run a physical storefront in addition to your Shopify store, Shopify has an integrated solution that is perfect for you.

With Shopify, you can get a fully working Shopify POS with just the iPad or iPhone app. The best part is, all your inventories, sales and customer data are integrated, so there's no need to cross check any of them!

Shopify merchants in the US / Canada can get a free card reader to start accepting payments in their store or on the go!

Running a Blog

Shopify has an inbuilt blogging tool, which you can use immediately if want to set up a blog. 

The inbuilt blogging tool is really easy to use and to start with, but bear in mind that it is more limited compared to other great blogging tools like WordPress. If you do want to use the inbuilt Shopify blog, you need to know that:

  • Shopify doesn’t have an export function for blogposts - this means you’ll have to manually copy and paste blog posts if you do move to a WordPress blog in future
  • Shopify’s blogging tools are basic - this means that you cannot use 3rd party plugins, include sign up forms, social sharing buttons etc

If you wish to develop a more complete blogging option, you can create a link to your hosted WordPress blog instead. (learn how to build a WordPress blog)

Sumome

I wanted to make a special to a very useful, free tool that exists outside of Shopify's App Store that can boost your marketing efforts significantly.

Sumome is a great tool that can help your store significantly with email marketing and social sharing.

Lead Generation

Sumome comes with a suite of easy to use lead generation features to encourage visitors to sign up for your mailing list. (You'll need to have your own email service provider (e.g. Mailchimp) which will easily integrate with their lead generation features).

List Builder

Sumome List Builder

Smart Bar

Sumome Smart Bar

Social Sharing

Sumome also allows you enable easy sharing options to share your blog posts, pages or images for free.

Share

Sumome Share

Image Sharer

Sumome Image Sharer

Installation

Since Sumome exists outside of the Shopify App Store, what you need to do is copy and paste a bunch of codes to get it onto your store.

Don't freak out! See the video below. 🙂

Email Marketing

A mailing list is the best way to engage your customers and visitors who were interested enough to give you their email address. Converting a visitor to a customer takes a lot of effort but it’s far easier to keep them as repeat customers – so long as they remember you.

Using email newsletters to run promotional campaigns is the best way to keep your customers buying again.

Step 1: Sign Up for an Email Service Provider

Step 2: Incorporate Opt-in Forms on Your Shopify Store

Step 3: Send Emails to Your Customers

Ask Me Anything