Software as a Service (SaaS) for ecommerce has become a big hit over the past few years; you pay a monthly subscription fee for access to an all-in-one solution for your ecommerce store. With these solutions there is no need to build your own site, sign hosting and payment processing agreements, or do any of the manual work to get started; simply sign up to a monthly plan, configure the site in the way you want and start taking orders. You might choose to use Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce, Big Cartel or another SaaS ecommerce provider; we suggest Shopify because of the large user base, blog and forum support, but take a look around and choose one you’re comfortable with. Setting up a Shopify store might be the solution you are looking for:
Choosing WordPress or Shopify?
Why should you use a SaaS solution over WordPress? In short it is a tradeoff between functionality and simplicity. Shopify is incredibly easy and simple to set up and get started with, but you might find a lack of functionality eventually hinders the growth of your business. On the other hand WordPress will take longer and cost more to set up, but will generally be able to scale with you as your business needs grow.
If you are planning on setting up a pure ecommerce business with very little complicated functionality, a Shopify site might be for you. It will be easy and cheap to get started, and you can test out your business without spending a lot of time and money developing a site. You can always migrate the business in future to a more robust platform if necessary.
If your website requires some proprietary coding or a specific piece of software, or you’re running a technology site, you may have to go with a WordPress or Magento CMS and a custom-built plugin for that function. Depending on the complexity, you may even need a custom built site for more involved functionality. It’s worth doing your research to see if there are any plugins (WordPress) or apps (Shopify) that have already been built to achieve your purpose, before going out and commissioning development on a big project.
Getting Set Up On Shopify
Ok, so you have decided that your business should get started with SaaS and Shopify is the platform you have chosen. Follow the below steps:
- Head to www.Shopify.com and click on Get Started, entering in your details and store name (you can change the name later if needed).
- Choose “Online Store”, unless you have a physical shop and are looking for a POS system with Shopify
- Enter your details and complete the quick questionnaire, and click Enter My Store
- Congratulations! You now have a basic store ready to customise. Your store won’t be live yet, and that’s a good thing as you have to set it up still. You will have 14 days as a trial, and when you are ready to go live you have to select a plan which will involve a monthly fee (From US$14-179 per month) and a percentage fee of each transaction (0.5%-2% depending on the plan).
- Time to start making it your own! Start by clicking on Home ->Select a Theme, and browsing the list of free themes. More free options are available in the Theme Store, as well as a number of premium themes for sale between US$140-180. Find the one you like and click Get Theme to install it on your Shopify store.
- Set up your domain. You’ll want your shop to look professional, and that means having your own domain name (not the standard www.mystore.shopify.com). Click Home -> Add a Domain. If you already own a domain you can add it here, or you can follow the steps to have Shopify help you find and buy a domain for your store. Note, it may be cheaper to go out and register your domain separately through a 3rd party domain registry company.
- Start adding your content. Although Shopify is quite user-friendly, you may want to enlist the help of a friend with an eye for design to help you plan out your look and feel of the site. This will help you make good decisions about fonts, colour schemes and layout of the site, and will ultimately tell your customers a lot about how professional your company is.
- Link to your social media accounts. New customers will almost certainly view your About Us page, and your social media channels. Make sure these are accessible so that customers feel comfortable with your business from the beginning.
- Your store will be password protected from public view until you sign up to a monthly plan. Choose the lowest cost plan to begin with, and when you’re ready to start selling pay your money and go public! Remember: you need to have stock available to ship immediately if necessary, so make sure you have product available when you go live.
You’ve Set Up Your Shopify Store, Now What?
You’ve built your Shopify site and are ready to sell; what’s next? Here are a few ideas.
- Set up Google Analytics. In your Admin panel, go to Settings -> Online Store -> Google Analytics. Follow the prompts to include your GA code on each of your Shopify web pages. See the previous link for more detail on Using Google Analytics.
- Install helpful apps. “Plug in SEO”, “Mailchimp for Shopify”, “Persistent Shopping Cart”; these are just a few of the apps that will help you optimise your store.
- Start promoting on social media. Visitors won’t just accidentally stumble across your new store; you need to start building a following and driving traffic. The best way to do this? Build a following on social media, and encourage them to visit your site. Read more in Section 4 about growing and marketing your new business.
- Get connected to the Shopify Blog. New ideas and apps are being created daily, so stay ahead of the curve by keeping in touch with the large community of bloggers, forum-posters, and ecommerce entrepreneurs out there. You’ll find valuable tips and additions to your site if you stay in touch and listen to what’s working for others.