eCommerce 101: Setting Up Your Shopify Store on the Cheap

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You’re just starting your online store, and you need to be frugal about it. We get it, and we’re here to help. 

Whether you’re selling your own products or reselling others’, there are plenty of ways to DIY your way into a great, functioning and attractive online store. While there are lots of paid apps and services that help you develop your website, here are a few free ways to get around them. 

Optimising Your Website

Add A Search Bar

Search bars are known to improve conversion, and make the user experience much more tailored, unfortunately, most searchbars do cost money to add. Try Instant Search which is packed with analytics features and offers a free one-month trial, then a $20 small business plan.

Make Your Product Page Stand Out

Take a look at some of these DIY aesthetic tips to making your product page feel more welcoming and appealing to your visitors. It covers writing product descriptions, displaying your products clearly, and cross-selling.

You should also add a product reviews feature, which is free to get and helps your customers understand your products better, plus lets you get real feedback and communicate with your shoppers. In fact, 63% of customers are more likely to purchase from sites with user-generated reviews.

Don’t Let Photos Slow You Down

Amazon estimates that for every 1 second extra their product page takes to load, they lose nearly $2 billion. If your product page is taking more than three seconds, check to make sure all of your photos are sized optimally. Luckily, Shopify has a few free features, such as their image resizer. If you’ve got a bunch of photos to resize or edit at once, use a free app such as Hextom, which can save you a lot of time.

Need stock images? Don’t pay for them - here are 22 free sites that have all the stock images you need.

Selling Your Products With Gateways and Channels

Payment gateways are the mechanism that collects your customers’ money and disburses it to your bank account. Shopify supports dozens of payment gateways, allowing your customers to use one they’re familiar with. Payment gateways include both credit card fees and transaction fees, so the more you’re using, the more you’re paying. However, Shopify offers their own payment gateway which eliminates transaction fees, which lowers your costs immediately. Shopify Payments allows your customer to enter any type of major credit card, so for the majority of Shopify store owners, it’s a no-brainer. Offering Apple Pay is also a free gateway – learn how to activate it here.

Sales channels are slightly different – they’re the integrations with other platforms that let people purchase through your store. So, for example, someone who sees your product on Amazon or on Twitter can buy directly from that site, instead of having to click a link to your standalone website. Many sales channels offer free integrations, including Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Pinterest and Instagram. Note that some sales channels, such as Amazon, offer free integration apps but need a business membership that is paid.

Analysing Your Data

It’s important to monitor how you’re doing, right from the start. Shopify includes some free analytics on indicators such as product, but you can learn quite a bit more by combining a few analytical tools. Google Analytics offers a free package and there are dozens of free Shopify apps that help give you insight into your site. Try, for example, Compass which works with your Google Analytics to give you 30 trackable measurements on one dashboard.

Spreading The Word

Getting your products on multiple social media platforms is crucial for any serious ecommerce site. There are apps that help you manage multiple platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Try Social Autopilot, which lets you write all of your own messages in advance and then posts them for you any time you open up a new product. You can also check out more information about selling through Instagram or Pinterest.

Designing Your Own Theme

Of course, one of the most important parts of your store is its first impression to customers. The look and feel of your Shopify store can be edited by going to Online Store → Themes. There are quite a few free Shopify themes that are ready-to-go, have good functionality and are visually appealing. If none of those catch your attention, try tweaking one of them until you’ve got what you’re looking for.

From your admin right-hand sidebar, you’ll find each section of your theme. You can adjust colour, size and style of any section, including headers, footers, body, etc.

Did you design a custom theme you’re proud of? Make a bit of passive income by selling it to the Theme Store. Not all theme submissions make the cut, so be sure to check out Shopify’s theme guidelines.

Keeping Track of Shipping

There are several types of shipping services out there for your Shopify store. Cost-effectiveness will depend on how many orders your company fulfills per month, and are either pay-by-label or pay-by-month. Shippo is a pay-by-label shipping assistant that gets you commercial rates in the US and helps you create shipping labels for domestic shipments in 20 countries. Shipping Easy is a monthly plan with commercial rates that is FREE if you ship under 50 orders per month. And there are apps that help you and your customers track your shipments while minimising copy/pasting errors, such as AfterShip.

Communicating With Your Customers

One of the most basic features you should have as an ecommerce store owner is a business email. MailChimp is by far one of the best free email management tools, which lets you design and test email marketing campaigns, create beautiful and dynamic newsletters and track what people are interested in. There are paid plans for more features, but getting started with a free account can go a long way.

Next Up In Our Series

We’re rolling out a series on launching your own ecommerce business. Last time it was about what kind of store to launch and how to brand it. Next up: some DIY photography skills.

Questions about making it happen?

Elkfox is here to help you get the most out of your Shopify store, and help you navigate the most cost-effective ways to sell online. Contact us today for help with Shopify and Mailchimp.