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What is Shopify, and how does it work? What is a Shopify store? What can I sell there, and how can I get started? You might ask these questions because you are just at the beginning of your journey as a merchant and are thinking about which ecommerce platform to choose. Or maybe your current platform doesn’t satisfy the needs of your growing business, and you want to launch the store based on a more robust software.

In any case, this guide will answer major questions a Shopify beginner can ask.

What is Shopify? 

It’s an ecommerce platform that allows any business to set up an online store and sell their products worldwide or locally. Shopify has more than 50 million visits per month, 3.08% conversion rate and 1 million businesses, which makes it one of the most popular ecommerce platforms in the world. 

How did it all start?

In 2004, Shopify was an online store and had no intention to evolve into a platform. The first version of the store had its own niche: it was called Snowdevil and sold snowboards. The ‘snow’ motif maintained for a short time even after Shopify became an ecommerce platform. The only thing that changed was the name — Jaded Pixel. 

Why did a retailer become a platform? At that time, the founder, Travis Hutke, couldn’t find a good option to launch his store and created an ecommerce platform himself.

Shopify, as we know it today, was founded in 2006 in Ottawa by Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand, and Scott Lake.

In 2009, the company turned a profit. By now, it has grown from 5 employees to over 4,000 across the globe and powers over 1,000,000 businesses worldwide.

Why should I choose Shopify for my store?

Free Features

You don’t need to pay for your store design. This is a substantial advantage, which you can’t have if you make a website, for those who only start their ecommerce businesses. On Shopify, a free theme is loaded onto your store automatically, and you can start customizing it to match your brand style. You can also add your own photos. If you don’t have this opportunity, don’t worry, you can choose any from thousands of stock photos made by Shopify photographers.

Detailed Shopify Admin

You can easily understand how your Shopify store is performing due to a whole range of reports. For example, you can:

  • View the number of orders within a given timeframe;
  • Find your best-performing product or service pages;
  • Watch a real-time view of your website visitors, see at what stage in the purchase funnel they’re now and understand what made them leave your store without a purchase. 

Variety of pricing plans

There are five pricing plans to choose from. You don’t have to choose one at once and stick to it to the end of your life. The pricing policy here is very flexible. You can try each plan for 14 days before paying. Choose the plan according to your budget and business size. If you’re on a tight budget, you can start with Shopify Lite for $9 per month. As your business grows, you can change the plan for more advanced options and end up with Shopify Plus. What is Shopify Plus? It is an enterprise-level plan which helps merchants to grow their personnel and sell in high volume.

Ability to sell anywhere

Shopify lets merchants sell almost anywhere, as long as there are customers, of course. You can do it online and in-person, or even via social media. Simply add social media buttons to your product or service page. Remember, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube can bring decent income if you use them for business.

Plenty of Apps

There are Shopify apps to facilitate your business in every possible way. For example, you can try a countdown timer, quantity discounts, and free shipping bar to encourage shoppers to buy; one-click checkout or a  sticky cart to drag attention to certain offerings and speed up the checkout process; and much more. Currently, the Shopify App Store offers more than 2700 apps.

Great Support

The platform has its own blog where ecommerce experts share their best selling tactics and newcomers ask questions. What’s more, Shopify launched Shopify Academy, free ecommerce courses for merchants where you can learn about the pitfalls of having your own business and get qualified help if something goes wrong.

How does Shopify work?

The platform is designed for those who want to sell products or services online but have no experience in web development or coding. You simply don’t need it.

Signing up is intuitively simple, and you get a 14-day free trial period to test the platform’s subscription options. All Shopify features are available out-of-the-box and are customizable. Once your design is chosen and the products are demonstrated, you can start selling right away with the built-in shopping carts. The platform integrates with more than 70 payment gateways with checkouts. You can set any of 50+ languages, which is especially important for the stores that target local customers. A full marketing suite with features like abandoned cart recovery, price breakdowns, and SEO help to convert indecisive visitors into buyers.

What is Shopify used for?

Below, you’ll find a range of products or services that you can sell on Shopify. But this is not the limit. Shopify welcomes anything that can be sold, as long as it’s legal.

  • Physical and digital products. A physical product can be something hand-crafted or manufactured (e.g., bath bombs, t-shirts, gift boxes, food). Digital products could include ebooks, audio downloads, or design patterns.
  • Services. No matter if you are a designer, a life coach, or a psychologist, your customers can book your in-person or online consultations.
  • Classes and tutorials. Customers can book face-to-face tutorials or distance learning classes from you through your online store page.
  • Memberships. For example, you can have member-only access to your content on your website or member cards to pilates classes.
  • Experiences. Ticket offers can range from travel and adventure to whiskey tastings, workshops, and museum visits.
  • Rentals. This could include accommodation or props, such as costumes, dresses, or jewelry. 

How much does Shopify cost?

Shopify’s pricing depends on the type of business you’re running and your budget. Here are the five subscription plans:

  • Shopify Lite – $9 per month
  • Basic Shopify – $29 per month 
  • Shopify – $79 per month 
  • Advanced Shopify – $299 per month 
  • Shopify Plus – pricing plans start at around $2000 per month. You can receive the exact quote if you contact Shopify

More on that in our article “Shopify Pricing: Q&A for Beginners.” 

What do I need to start selling on Shopify?

So you decided to launch your shop on Shopify. What are your exact steps?

  1. Sign up.
  2. Subscribe to one of five pricing plans.
  3. Set up your store.
  4. Add products or services to sell with detailed descriptions and images.
  5. Integrate apps from the Shopify App Store to schedule sales and other deals.
  6. Work on SEO. Set up Google Analytics.
  7. Optimize your store pages for mobile devices. You can also find apps for that on the Shopify App Store.

How can I grow my Shopify store?

Shopify allows even inexperienced merchants to set online stores. Yet, the chances that they will generate sales and grow their business are slim because of the great competition among businesses.

If you face such a situation, don’t pull your hair thinking your products and services are too bad for people to buy them. You simply need to put some extra effort, and you’ll get recognized. Here are a few ideas about what you can do:

Start advertising campaigns. You can launch an ad campaign in social networks. Instagram, Facebook, and Google are the most popular ad engines to date. Launch the campaign in advance to create some hype. Yes, products and services need hype to get noticed! 

Content Marketing. SEO will bring relevant traffic back to your store, boost conversions, thus increasing the store ranking. There’s a built-in SEO toolkit in Shopify which helps merchants do the basics like add keywords and optimize the site structure for search engines. But usually it’s not enough. We recommend to use professional SEO services. They will help to configure all the Shopify SEO features and Google Analytics correctly, and solve technical issues that almost every shop faces.

Social Media. Build an audience before launching a store on Shopify. For example, start an Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter account a few weeks before going live. 

On a final note

If you’re looking to sell products online, consider different platform options. We don’t claim it is ideal for every business case. You may find the platform too expensive or insufficient for all the rich content like videos and carousels you want to have in your store. So if you haven’t decided yet whether Shopify is your go-to option, we recommend to get a professional consultation and discuss the issues that matter for your business. 

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