How to Successfully Sell on Shopify and Run a Profitable Ecommerce Business

How to Successfully Sell on Shopify and Run a Profitable Ecommerce Business
Charlene Boutin
Charlene Boutin Apr 22, 2020 — 10 min read
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So you’re finally launching your own ecommerce store – awesome!

While there are many platforms to choose from, like BigCommerce and WooCommerce, Shopify is still the most popular one, with 500,000 active stores and 40 billion dollars in sales.

It comes fully loaded with everything you need to launch an ecommerce store, with or without a developer. But for newcomers in the ecommerce world, all these features can definitely be intimidating.

And here’s the secret – creating and launching your store is only part of the job if you want to successfully run an ecommerce business.

Want to know how to sell on Shopify? In this post, you’ll find a detailed newbie-friendly guide. We’ll walk you through the initial store set up and cover some proven tips on building an email list, using popups, optimizing for search engines, and more.

What is Shopify?

Shopify is an all-inclusive platform that allows you to sell your products online without having to build an entire shopping platform from scratch.

It provides you with:

  • Domain and hosting
  • Shopping cart software
  • Order management
  • Easy website design tools
  • Free and paid website themes
  • Tools to build your brand
  • Free stock photos
  • And much more

And because Shopify provides all these tools, even brands with their own developers often choose to save time by using the platform.

You’ve probably been shopping online on Shopify stores without realizing it!

Why should you sell on Shopify?

First off, Shopify doesn’t leave its new users alone in the dirt to fend for themselves. If you’re a beginner in the world of ecommerce, they provide tons of support through their online academy, podcasts, blog, and guides.

You can also get 24/7 support if you get stuck.

Because Shopify is so popular, you’ll also find a rich selection of plugins on the Shopify app store to add more oomph and functionality to your own site. That fact alone makes Shopify worth it.

Anything you need to make your business thrive can be found either on the app store, or easily integrated with Shopify, even if it’s not available on the store.

Finally, Shopify provides you with a 90-day free trial. Yup, you read that right.

90 days is plenty of time for you to set up a minimum viable store and decide for yourself whether you like the platform or not.

How to sell on Shopify: getting started

First things first – you need a Shopify store.

Step 1. Set up your account

As mentioned above, you’ll get a free 90-day trial when you sign up for Shopify. Your first step is to sign up for that free trial and choose a store name:

How to sell on Shopify – getting started

It only takes a minute or two to set up your store, and then you’ll have the option to answer a few questions about yourself. You can also skip that if you prefer.

However, you won’t be able to skip entering your business address, so make sure you have one on hand. If you don’t have a brick and mortar store and don’t want to use your home address, consider getting a PO box.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll be greeted with your admin dashboard:

Shopify admin dashboard greeting

First off, don’t panic! There’s a lot to look at here, but let’s not get overwhelmed.

If you already have products to sell on Shopify, you won’t need to browse product sourcing apps, but just be aware that it’s a possibility for you.

Before you choose a theme and start designing your website, I’d suggest clicking on Add Domain. Otherwise, your domain will remain yourstorename(dot)myshopify(dot)com. Not super professional.

You can either connect an existing domain or buy a new one. If you buy directly from Shopify, prices start at $14 a year, which isn’t bad at all.

Connect your store domain to Shopify

Step 2. Choose a theme and create your Shopify website

Now that you have your own domain, let’s click Home and customize your theme. You can choose to shop for paid themes or check out free Shopify themes, depending on your budget.

The free theme store has a very limited number of designs to choose from, but if you’re just getting started, they can do the trick.

Free themes for your Shopify store

However, I strongly advise you to pick a responsive theme. If your Shopify store only looks good on desktop, you’re going to leak potential customers big-time. Online shoppers who have a bad experience in your mobile store are 62% less likely to buy from you again.

And on Shopify, 69% of sales come from mobile devices, so definitely don’t overlook your mobile shoppers.

When you pick a theme, it will appear in your theme library. For example, I added the “Narrative” theme to my demo store below. Click Customize to start playing around with it.

Customizing store theme in Shopify

I could write an entire article just on designing your website, but I’ll keep it short. Your theme comes free of images so you can add your own, and you can easily drag new sections from the left section of the designer window.

Shopify store layout customization

Notice the small icons at the very top? You can use them to toggle between the mobile, the desktop, and the full-width modes.

Mobile preview mode for your Shopify theme

If you don’t want to design the site yourself and have some budget to get your store off the ground, you can choose to hire a developer or a designer who is comfortable with Shopify.

Step 3. Add your products

Now comes the fun part – adding the products you want to sell.

If you don’t have your own products, you can use a product-sourcing app right inside of Shopify.

Product-sourcing apps available for Shopify users

Again, sourcing products and dropshipping could be a standalone topic, so I won’t dive any deeper than that here.

If you do have your own products, you can navigate to the Products section in your admin panel and either add products manually or import them in bulk.

When importing in bulk, you’ll have to use a CSV file that’s formatted correctly. Shopify provides you with such a file so you don’t have to figure it out by yourself.

Otherwise, you can add products one by one with an intuitive interface:

How to manually add products to Shopify

You can customize pretty much anything about your product, such as:

  • Title and description
  • Media files that go with it
  • Product type, collections, and tags
  • Pricing and “compare at” price, which will show price as reduced from a higher price
  • The cost per item (customers don’t see this)
  • Inventory details
  • Whether or not you want to track quantity and continue to sell when out of stock
  • Weight and customs information
  • Product variants

And that’s basically it! Once you’ve set up your theme and uploaded your products, you have an online store that’s ready to roll.

Now let’s make sure you actually sell your products.

How to sell more products on Shopify

Setting up your Shopify store is just the tip of the iceberg if you want to run a successful business.

Now let’s move to the tactics that will help you make more sales from day one.

Outline your email marketing strategy

The money is in the email list.

This saying is cliché by now, but it still holds true.

For every dollar spent on email marketing, the average return is $42.

Why is email so powerful? Think about it this way. When visitors land on your Shopify site, your store is just a tiny blip in their browsing history.

They may or may not buy. But if they don’t, chances are, they’ll never land on your store again.

Email marketing changes that. When you get access to your customers’ email addresses, you essentially purchase real estate in their email inbox.

The easiest way to get people to join your list is by offering some type of incentive in exchange for an email. Providing free shipping and discounts to new subscribers is the tried and proven tactic if you’re planning to sell on Shopify.

Then, if you send the right type of email campaigns, you’ll give them a reason to visit your store again and again.

Pretty sweet, right?

So make it a point to use email marketing as a central piece of your strategy.

Right now, there are more email marketing services than anyone can count. But if you’re here to learn how to sell on Shopify, Klaviyo is your best choice.

This handy email marketing tool integrates directly with Shopify, which means less manual setup for you. But even without this integration, Klaviyo can hold its own due to the list of powerful features. With Klaviyo, you can:

  • Segment your customers based on anything, including events, location, the date they joined, engagement level, profile, and other metrics.
  • Analyze tons of data points and run predictive analytics to reduce your churn rate, figure out the lifetime value of your average customer, and smart email send times.
  • Personalize automated emails with merge tags and dynamic content.
  • Optimize your email campaigns with A/B testing.

Use various tactics to get email subscribers

Having a good email marketing tool is important. But before you get to send your first campaign, you need to collect that list of email subscribers. The best way to do that is by using a combination of list building tactics.

For instance, you can integrate a user-friendly form builder like Getsitecontrol to prompt your users to take action and become part of your mailing list.

Want to see how other businesses use email opt-in forms? Check out a slide-in widget Tattly uses to offer rewards and perks in exchange for a sign-up.

Tattly uses a slide-in to invite customers to join their email list

Want to add a similar slide-in to your website? Consider this template powered by Getsitecontrol:

Hit the See live preview button to see the widget in action and follow the instructions to publish it on your Shopify store.

Now, going back to Tattly, they also use a floating bar that offers their customers 20% off online orders if they subscribe. I love this type of banner because it’s showy without being too in-your-face, and it offers a very specific reward.

Sticky bar with an email opt-in form used by Tattly

If you’re ready to offer discounts, a traditional modal popup will work great too, especially if you trigger it with the exit intent.

In case you’re not familiar with the term, exit-intent popups display only when shoppers move towards the “X” on their browser. Leather Head Sports does this beautifully. Check out their example below.

Exit-intent email subscription form with a lead magnet

The goal in all these popup examples is to get your visitors to take action and join your list before leaving, even if they don’t make a purchase.

Add call-to-action popups to optimize conversions

Of course, building your email list is crucial, but it’s not the only tactic in your arsenal to successfully sell on Shopify.

There are many other situations when widgets can help you boost conversions, lower bounce rate, and prevent shopping cart abandonment.

For instance, you may want to use:

  • A free shipping announcement bar on selected store pages or sitewide
  • A website exit survey to find out why people are leaving your website
  • An exit-intent popup to prevent people from leaving the store too soon

All these examples can be easily implemented with the Getsitecontrol popup builder. The app requires zero technical knowledge and provides a full-featured trial, so feel free to give it a spin.

Optimize your store content for SEO

Unless you’re paying for traffic, the only way people will find your site is if your products show up on search engine results.

That can only happen if you’ve optimized your store and your products for SEO.

But what does that even mean?

First things first – you’ll need to do some keyword research to figure out what people are searching for in relation to your products.

Using tools like SEMRush, you can see popular search terms, how difficult it is to rank for them, and secondary keywords that can be used to help out your ranking.

Once you know what keywords you want to optimize for, you have two options: edit your product descriptions and images manually or use third-party plugins.

Plug in SEO is great to bulk edit your data, fix broken links, and optimize your blog if you decide to have one. If you have tons of images to edit, Bulk Image Edit can do that, too.

Good news if you’re just starting out – there won’t be anything to “fix”, and you can start proactively creating your store in an SEO-friendly way with these tools to help you out.

Make the most of your product pages

Product pages can be super simple: a title, a short description, images, and buying options.

But there are a few steps you can take to increase conversions once shoppers make it to the product pages.

For instance, you can use the “Compare at” price feature available in Shopify to show a price drop.

If you have limited quantities, make that obvious! Scarcity can be a powerful driving factor in increasing purchases.

Another tip: make your product descriptions interesting. The exact way you do this will depend on your brand’s voice. But the more you make your descriptions stand out, the more people will remember you.

Just check out this fun example from Beardbrand:

Unconventional product description example by Beardbrand

Run sales and promotions

In the ecommerce world, “business as usual” should mean constantly running sales and promotions.

Whether you run a flash sale on a specific collection or a huge 50% off sale for last season’s stock, make it obvious. Use banners, popups, and even entirely new home page designs if it’s an important-enough promotion.

Remember to email your email subscribers to let them be the first to know about your promotions. You should also consider running subscriber-only promotions and coupons that don’t show up on your site – only in emails.

Running out of sales ideas? We wrote an entire post just for that!

Add a review section

You can do an amazing job describing your products and optimizing your website, but without social proof, it might be difficult for potential buyers to trust you, especially if your brand isn’t well-known.

So a review section is a must-have.

Having a star rating scale directly under the product name is already great. Look at how Quadlock uses this feature to display the popularity of their products.

Quadlock uses star scale rating for their products

But notice what Quadlock does in addition to that. If you scroll down the product page, you can read the reviews right there.

Quadlock displays user reviews right on the product page

Plus, there’s no need to hard-code a product review section from scratch. Yotpo is a Shopify App that allows you to collect product reviews and ratings and display them on your product pages.

The best part about Yotpo? Your customers can upload photos of the products directly in their review. This means your site visitors get real proof that your product is shipped as advertised.

Customers can also add questions they have about your products. At this point, you can choose to answer them yourself, or let your community of existing customers chime in for added trust.

As a last bonus, Yotpo also integrates with Klaviyo. This means you can segment customers who offered you a review and even send them automated thank you emails.

Run a rewards and loyalty program

Want to offer points and referral systems to help increase customer loyalty?

Smile is a Shopify app that equips your store to do just that!

Creating a rewards program will help you turn your best customers into a powerful marketing tool. Not only will they come back over and over again thanks to the points they accumulate, but they’ll have incentives to share your store with their friends and family.

Launch your ecommerce empire with Shopify

Selling on Shopify isn’t necessarily easy, but it is possible for beginners, and much easier than starting a store from scratch.

As with any platform, your success entirely depends on how much effort you decide to put into it.

Be smart with your resources and choose tools that are fast and easy to use for the best return on investment. Many of the tools mentioned above are either free or have free trials, just like Getsitecontrol.

Create a Getsitecontrol account today without a credit card to start selling more products on your Shopify store.

Charlene Boutin is a B2B writer for hire specialized in creating compelling case studies, blog posts, and converting copy for digital entrepreneurs and SaaS businesses. When not writing, she can be found prototyping weird games in Unity or playing on her Nintendo Switch.

Main illustration by Icons8

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