How to Build an Online Store

Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners (Updated Apr 2021)

Hi, I'm Ray. 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.

I've helped a number of friends and created this detailed step-by-step Online Store setup guide, which l'll show you below.

Table of Contents

The best way to make use of this guide is to click on the sections below which will navigate you to each areas, then come back here for more.

Step #1:

Set up a Shopify Store

Step #2:
Change the Design
Step #3:
Add Products

Step #4:

Accept Credit Cards & PayPal

Step #5:
Set up Shipping Rates
Step #6:
Add More Features

Step #7:

Add Pages & Navigation

Create a Logo
Recommended Shopify Apps
Useful Tips

Boost Sales

Prefer to follow through a video instead? Watch this here.

Beautiful Stores Built by Readers of this Guide....

Foxy Bear

East West Collective

Everywhere Fishing

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)

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!).

#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!

Step 2: Change the Design

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

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.


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

How to change the theme on your Shopify store.

Recommended Shopify Themes

Ella Theme

Fastor Theme

Themeforest Themes

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.

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):

  • Accepting Paypal on Your Store
  • Accepting Credit Cards on Your Store

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

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.​

Detailed guide on accepting PayPal on your Shopify store.

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.

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

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

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

Make sure you save these changes.

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.

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

Detailed guide on accepting Credit Card on your Shopify store.

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

After choosing the app you want, click 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.

Click here for a list of my most recommended apps.

Recommended Shopify Apps

Shippo

Connect your Shopify store to carriers and discounts.

Aftership

Provide shipping notifications and tracking to your customers. Save time replying to emails on "where is my order?"

Elfsight

Utilize the suite of tools on Elfsight. Especially social tools like Instagram feed.

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 ItemsTo 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.

That's It - You Have a Working Online Store!

With the steps above, you will get your Online Store up in no time!

To make it even easier to follow through, you can watch a Video walkthrough of the guide below.

Have fun!

Everything else from here is just a bonus!

Recommended Shopify Apps

Yotpo Product Reviews

Aftership

Better Coupon Box

Order Printer

Improved Contact Form

Shippo

Elfsight (instagram feed)

Elfsight provides a suite of tools that will be super helpful to supercharge your Shopify store.

In particular, the Instagram feed is extremely powerful, as the future of selling is social!

Other Great Shopify Features to Boost Sales

Manage Your Store with Mobile App

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

Connect Your Shopify Store to Facebook Page

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

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!

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