by Michele Nachum
Published on 14 February 2012
Okay, quick disclaimer here. I LOVE shopping - and if I had endless disposable income I would shop everyday. What's more, I love shopping online because I can privately select what I want and not be rushed. So getting the chance to review Shopify, a very robust eCommerce solution, and create my own dream store, was a lot of fun. What's more, Shopify makes the experience incredibly easy so you can actually enjoy your work. So, if you are thinking of building an eCommerce site or already have one but want to make a switch, take a gander at Shopify.
What Does it Look Like?
Shopify is kind of cool. It offers you the chance to choose your template and design, so that your online store is your own. The best part, the user-interface is intuitive to navigate and very straightforward. Once you sign up, you are presented with a dashboard and from there Shopify offers instructions that will lead you through the entire start-up process step by step until you can navigate on your own. It will even tell you what you are missing and need to do to in order to complete your store. The ribbon at the top of the screen is your guide and allows you to monitor your orders, save information about customers, add in products, take out products, print out analytics, input multiple sizes, as well as utilize the collections and promotions tabs to help display and promote your online store.
If you already have an online store and decide to make the switch to Shopify, Shopify does offer a few options to switch over without having to start from scratch. Shopify recently launched "make-the-switch". This automatically loads your store with products from a Magento, WordPress or Ebay account.
Basically Shopify has thought of everything and just taking 30 minutes to go through the solution should be enough to get the hang of it. And by the way, back to the "cool" part - Shopify even has an App Store. Awesome.
Creating your online store:
As mentioned above, the process of getting started and creating your store is very simple. Shopify takes you step by step allowing you to choose themes and colors as well as inputting your logos and other photos that will align your online store with your company brand. After setting up the themes, Shopify will prompt you to to add in your products. You don't have to add all of them in right away - I would do a test first to make sure you like what you see and then go from there.
Like any good eCcommerce solution, Shopify will ask you to add in both photos and copy for each product. Once you do that, you can also add in information such as the size, product vendor, weight (if applicable), colors and pricing - which even includes taxing.
You can also organize your products through the collections tab. For instance you can create a shirt collection and another for pants if you are selling apparel. If you are selling electronics, you could add in a collection for tablets and another collection for PCs - you get the gist. Here is roughly how it works: you click on the collections tab and follow the prompts to create a title for your collection. Once you do that, you can then insert photos and information. When you are done, Shopify creates your collection and then allows you to insert the products that are part of the collection.
Customers and Orders:
The fun part of Shopify is creating your store and making it look awesome and dynamic for your customers. But eventually you will have to get down to business and manage your eCommerce site - and Shopify does a nice job helping you with that.
In the Customer tab, you can add in customer information such as mailing addresses, emails and other pertinent information. If you already have a customer list, you can import that data as well while you are in the Customer tab so you don't have to re-key in all of your data. Having your customer information all in one place enables you to later track analytics of your customers' buying patterns like who is buying what and how much are they spending and more. This will also help you later when you want to promote new products or services directly to your customers.
Also in the Customer tab you can track a customer's order - so if there is a problem, it will be easy to ascertain the order progress.
Likewise, the Order tab allows you to monitor, filter and even bulk actions all of your orders as well as check to see how much your customers spent as well as the status of the order.
Blogs and Pages:
In addition to populating your site with products, you can also set up a blog as well as web pages that offer your customers more information about your business. This is a really important section of the solution because Shopify is allowing you to implement a valuable SEO tactic - which is the more information and keywords on your site - the bigger possibility your site will show up in searches. In the Blogs and Pages tab, you can create About Us and Contact pages as well as post articles about your business as well as trends relating to your product line. For example, if you are selling health food products, you might pen a post that talks about the virtues of eating well and staying away from fatty foods that can raise your bad cholesterol.
You can also create and maintain a blog. Shopify offers you basic editing tools to design your pages and blogs such as multiple fonts and colors, as well as the ability to insert photos, logos, script and more.
Shopify has numerous tools to create coupons and other promotions to entice your customers to your site. In addition to coupons, you can create discount codes as well as use several features available to you such as the Google Web Optimizer which is built into the Shopify solution and allows you to gain a better sense of how your site is being viewed by customers. A number of online advertising tools from Google AdWords to Yahoo Sponsored Search are also compatible with Shopify.
Implementing a promotions plan that resonates with customers is never easy - even for us veteran marketers. Therefore, Shopify has a pretty well-stocked Help, Blog and Wiki sections with explanations and advice on promoting your store.
Agressive storage plans
Shopify already includes unlimited bandwidth on all plans but they made a very aggressive move recently by announcing that they've increased file storage amounts by a factor of 10X.
Customers on the Basic plan get 1GB , Professional 5GB , and Business 10 GB of file storage. The storage limit increase means you can store more product pictures, documents, videos, and other files you use in your online store.
A lot of online services these days include mobile phone-friendly features - especially as phones and tablets become the de facto "PCs." Shopify Mobile (available for iPhones) allows you to view your administrative site and implement basic tasks such as fulfilling orders, inventory management, capturing payments and much more. You can get this free app in the Shopify App Store.
Is it for you?
Not all businesses need an online store, but if you sell products or services, having an eCommerce site is pretty much in the cards. Shopify does an excellent job of backing your online store with helpful tools and apps and the solution is very easy to implement - you do not need any HTML or programming experience to use Shopify. I was impressed with the amount of instruction Shopify offers its users through the Help and Blog sections. Overall, Shopify a very good product to have as you develop your eCommerce presence.
Ratings: ease of use 5/5, features 5/5, value 5/5 and ease of deployment 5/5