Just a few years ago, it was often quite cumbersome to create your own online store. In the worst case, you could code something on your own, and spend a lot of time integrating payment solutions and more in a secure way.
Nowadays, there are complete solutions such as Shopify, which makes the whole process much easier. On the whole, I recommend Shopify for you who want to open an online store. It works great wherever you may live.
Tips and things to keep in mind before starting an online store
Map your niche and market
Given today’s range of products, it is important that you think about how you can stand out from the crowd.
Consider whether it is worthwhile to niche yourself into a “sub-niche” to avoid too tough competition (instead of, for example, “lose weight”, niche further, in the style of eg “lose weight for men over 60 year”).
For example, you can do a competitor analysis or a SWOT analysis to better understand the competitors.
In connection with that, you can also think about how to stand out and offer something unique that your competitors lack.
Either way, you need to understand your market before you dive into it.
It is also good to think about how you get customers who return to your online store.
Some niches are better suited than others – if you sell products for weddings for example, it will be difficult to get customers to return over several years…
Once you have mapped your niche and market, it will also be easier to understand which products your target group will appreciate the most.
Define what your brand stands for and how you want it to be experienced
For example: should your brand be perceived as innovative, cool or serious?
How your brand is perceived is an important component of how much your customers spend on products.
Design is also an important aspect of your user experience for your store.
Decide which products to sell
A tip is to look at products that sell well and are popular in other stores and on comparison sites.
For example, look at top-selling products on Amazon and Ebay.
Why do they sell products so well? What do they do better than their competitors?
Choose a good name for your online store
Choose a name that is easy to remember, easy to pronounce and that you can register as a domain name for your Shopify store.
You can, for example, register domain names via Hostinger.
Avoid names that refer to specific types of products (this makes it difficult for you to niche yourself differently if the market changes).
Let go of cumbersome domain names with both numbers and letters.
Document a basic process for your online store
Think through the process properly – for example:
- Should you use dropshipping, or have your own warehouse?
- What payment solutions do you need to be able to support?
- What happens if a customer is not happy with the products they bought?
Based on the process, you can also think about which apps you need to add and integrate with in Shopify.
Three additional tips for getting started with your Shopify store
1 Make an estimate of how much different things may cost, based on what your budget is.
Include things in the budget such as: purchases, storage space (if needed), the Shopify cost itself, design and printing of different materials.
Also consider other overheads – such as packaging of goods, shipping, taxes and customs costs.
2. Make a prototype of your online store first (create an account on Shopify to try) before you start selling.
3. Think about how you market your online store.
How should customers get there? Do you need a complementary website for your online store?
You may also need to consider search engine optimization (or paid marketing, or marketing through social media or influencers) so that more users find your online store through Google, for example.
You can also look at Google Trends to see if the products you offer are seasonal (for example: skis probably sell better in the winter than in the summer).
Shopify: Pros & Cons
Shopify is a complete solution for creating your own online store, used by millions of companies around the world.
In my opinion, this is a great alternative if you want to get started running your own online store for your business.
Shopify is well suited for both small and medium-sized companies. It is also an option that can be scaled up over time, so you do not necessarily have to switch to another platform as your online store gets bigger and bigger.
1. Fast system support and good customer experience
No one likes to queue (unless they have to) for more than a few minutes when shopping.
The most common reason for a lost “conversion” (sale) is that the customer cancels their purchase because it takes too long to complete the purchase online.
Surveys show that close to 40-50% of all canceled purchases are due to the fact that it takes too long to complete a purchase.
The customers who actually complete the purchases, even though they have to wait, will have a bad customer experience.
In general, it is unlikely that these customers will return to a website that, for example, loads slowly or that has made them wait too long at checkout.
Today, speed and service are considered important success factors, not only in physical stores, but also more online.
I’m sure you do not want to lose more than half of your potential sales, that’s why you should choose a platform with high quality performance for your webshop.
Shopify’s performance is considered to be one of the best on the market. They use a World Wide CDN, which loads quickly wherever in the world your customers are.
Your online store will have a good so-called “Uptime” which means you do not have to worry about the system being down.
2. Stylish design and layout
Design and appearance are important and even here the platform stands well against other alternatives in my opinion.
There are about 100 themes available, and all are adapted for mobile use. Most themes have 2-4 style variations.
In addition to the theme “start a webshop clothes” you will find several templates that are suitable for everything from cosmetics and jewelry to engines and tools.
There are about ten free alternatives while the other templates cost approx. 130 bucks.
You can also adjust afterwards so that your layout differs from the “default”.
In other words, your web shop will look both professional and unique with colors and fonts in your brand, etc.
3. Registering as a user is free and fast
You can register quickly with a few clicks. I also like that they offer new users a free period (14 days).
If you decide that the system does not live up to your expectations, you do not have to pay anything.
As soon as you get started and start uploading information about your products, your webshop is live and you can start selling.
4. Integrated sales solution with several sales channels
Today, one of the most important challenges for traditional retailers is to integrate their various sales channels and create a seamless shopping experience for their customers.
This is also something that Shoppify knows and has solved in a smart way in its system. The platform supports channels with ready-made integrations for, for example:
- Amazon – You will easily be able to connect your webshop to Amazon FBA if you have this need.
- Pinterest – Many users connect their products directly to the webshop.
- Facebook and Instagram – Very easy to install so you can sell your products on Facebook and Instagram.
- Mobile apps – Sell your products on your own apps that you have developed.
- Droshi and Oberlo – Two great dropshipping apps that allow you to import dropshipping products into your webshop. (A really good solution for those who want to test new products live!)
5. Shopify and lots of other payment solutions.
Maybe you sell products outside of your country and need to handle different currencies, taxes or payment systems?
You should also investigate which is the best payment solution for your webshop for each market where you plan to operate.
The system comes with several built-in payment services such as PayPal, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay or Authorize.net and 2Checkout.
Your customers can also now pay with klarna, which is of course appreciated in the Nordic market.
The system is also fully integrated with more than 50 different languages.
Your store will be able to accept direct payment via credit card, which makes the shopping experience much smoother for your customers and especially for you.
6. Combined sales channels
Some systems on the market are similar to Shopify in terms of design etc.
But some platforms out there are not easy to integrate with other sales channels in your company.
Once again, I appreciate the opportunity to be able to sell products seamlessly, regardless of sales channel.
You will be able to handle both digital and physical products at the same time.
You will also have access to a free app that you can use to categorize your products in a smart way.
For example, you can categorize your products as online products and manage the specific deliveries via email or a downloadable database.
You can also specify specific shipping terms that apply to each product and the different product categories that you work with.
In addition, you can also sell products for drop shipping. (Read more about this below)
7. Shopify POS
If you have a physical store today and you want to expand your sales channel to include an online store, you may want to take advantage of the platform’s POS system (Point of Sale).
You can integrate Shopify POS in your physical store so that data is shared between POS and your online store.
You thus have all the data in one place and can advantageously handle sales, customer data, stock figures, etc online and offline, with one and the same platform.
The platform also offers its users more specific solutions such as receipt printers, card readers, etc. that are fully integrated with the system.
8. Useful “apps” to broaden the store
As you may have noticed, I really appreciate the flexibility of the platform.
If you need a special functionality that is not included in the standard package, you can visit the platform’s App Market to download the apps (features) you need.
There is a large selection of apps and new apps are constantly being added.
As a customer, you have access to about 4,000 apps and the range is constantly increasing as new functionality develops.
Shopify also has a number of tools that can be used for free for those who are in the process of starting a business online.
More on this. (Can also be used by those who do not register as customers.)
9. Increase sales with recovery of abandoned shopping carts
There is a smart feature for abandoned shopping carts that is created to help you track down visitors who did not complete their purchase checkout.
This feature was previously only available for the more expensive packages. But now the feature is available to all users.
This functionality means that incomplete purchases are stored in a database. You can follow up with automated emails and thus win back some of the “lost customers” who have canceled their purchases.
The feature has been shown to significantly increase the conversion rate for online sales.
Disadvantages of the system:
- Pricing for apps and themes hurts Although you can get many useful apps from the app market, many of them are not free. There are about 600 free programs but about 2000 apps you have to pay to use.
- Poor functionality for blogging It is common for online stores to attract customers by linking to a blog to write about topics related to the products sold on the site. Shopify’s functionality for creating stylish blog posts is really lousy. The tool takes a long time to use and the result is acceptable at best. There are apps to download with better functionality but they cost extra.
- Poor selection of free themes. I think there should be more free themes to choose from.
- Customizes themes with your own PHP language The platform uses its own developed code language. I prefer to have my platforms and websites developed with standard formats. Several reviews from developers certainly mention that the PHP code is an easy-to-read language, but my guess is that they have their own code language to maintain control.
- High exit barriers If for some reason you would like to change supplier for your wesbhop, you will notice that it is not as simple as you might think.
Choosing a good platform for your webshop is not everything
A smart choice of system is of course only the tip of the iceberg. Before you even start choosing which product you think is best for your company, you should make a business plan where you carefully define and plan the following:
- Market research. In which markets should you sell your products? Use a SWOT calculation to ensure that your products add value to your potential customers. Define price, customer groups, costs, competitors, marketing etc.
- Consider and define barriers to entry and exit. Feel free to use Porter’s 5-power model. Is it easy for you to enter the market? Can you take advantage of existing supplier relationships, customers etc? Can you settle quickly if you should be in need of this and what are the costs associated with this etc?
- Branding Strategy – Ensure that your brand stands for the right quality and that you can win the trust of your customers according to a defined strategy.
- Think about and define a smart logistics chain. Droppshiping vs. own inventory? Local production vs. remote production. Own inventory vs outsourced distribution etc? Investment costs and budget – setting up your webshop will in all probability be one of the absolute lowest investment costs in this context. Do you need to budget at an early stage for all ancillary costs in the form of advertising, marketing, purchasing, warehousing, staff, etc.? How much would you be prepared to pay for all those benefits to your life?
Also, consider getting the help of experts who will give you basic guidance to get started quickly with your online store. This way you save time and avoid typical beginner mistakes.
Range of systems and suppliers
Think about your needs before deciding which platform to join.
There are many options available in the market today and you should of course evaluate and consider the pros and cons of other e-commerce platforms.
In my opinion, Shopify is the supplier that has managed to develop the best tool.
In some cases, I also recommend considering WooCommerce.
For example, it can be an interesting option if you already have a website and you want to integrate or expand your website with an online store.
If you have good knowledge of coding and are technically savvy, WooCommerce is a good alternative.
Personally, I prefer Shopify because of its simplicity.
There are many things you need to take care of when managing an e-commerce website.
Shopify makes all of these processes simple and intuitive for its users, no matter how experienced (or inexperienced) you are.
Can I start my webshop for free?
There is a free 2-week period and you do not need your credit card to register.
The account is thus automatically terminated after you have used the service for two weeks.
The subscriptions or packages that you can then choose to pay for if you want to continue using the system, are based on a monthly basis.
You can also register a full-year subscription and thus receive a discounted price.
It is also important to know that part of the cost of using the system is a transaction fee.
Personally, I like this pricing, because even small businesses, with fairly small sales, can choose to use the product, which in my opinion is the best system on the market in 2021.
Scalable with the Plus service
Shopify Plus is a premium service that means that many really large companies also choose to use the platform.
I will not go into any further details regarding the “Plus” plan. The reason for this is that I have simply never tested the Plus service myself.
- The platform is simple and user-friendly: Most things feel logical and intuitive, you have everything in one place.
- Despite the fact that the platform is easy to use, many people underestimate the challenge of opening an online store.
- One of the largest systems on the market. You get access to newly developed functionality and you have the opportunity to expand to new geographic markets quickly and easily.
- The platform offers a wide range of languages and currency settings. Your customers can choose from many established payment solutions, hence the webshop with Klarna for Sweden, for example. The platform is integrated with all the largest existing sales channels, Amazon, Facebook, Instagram etc.
- Some apps will cost but you get a 14-day trial period for free. You do not need to enter a credit card number to register a free account. Here you can simply test the platform for free.
- Fast system that gives your customers a good shopping experience.
- Good references – both small and large companies use the platform. For example, Budweiser, Tesla and red bull.
- In terms of price, they are in line with comparable competitors. (An affordable option).
- Good platform for dropshipping. Via the free app Oberlo, you can import items from AliExpress to your webshop which are then drop-shipped to your customers.
Also check out this video on Youtube (I do not get paid to show this video, just found it helpful and educational).