Tips for setting up your Shopify store
Running an ecommerce business the easier way with Shopify
The last 12 months has fundamentally changed how consumers shop. Instead of a trip to the high street, many more now shop online and place orders on their laptops and smartphones. Is your business ecommerce ready?
Shopping has gone digital and one of the easiest ways to take advantage of this digital revolution is to set up your online store on Shopify. It means running a business that is open 24 hours a day - with potential customers from anywhere around the world.
Today, there are over 800,000 active Shopify stores, which together generate close to £100 billion worth of sales. At Rangewell, we can help you secure the finance you need to join them
What is Shopify?
Shopify is the simple choice for small and new businesses coming to digital retailing for the first time, because it provides a convenient way to build a store without requiring you to learn any of the technical skills needed to build one.
Technically, Shopify is a cloud-based SaaS - or software as a service - system that provides solutions to build and manage ecommerce sites. With it, you can create a fully customized site with themes and apps designed to start your business quickly without learning to code at all.
You pay a monthly fee for the service, which gives you access to an admin panel where you can control every aspect of your store, add products and process orders.
It also includes secure, reliable hosting for your website. You won’t have to worry about the performance of your site during peak traffic or about hackers. Your business is secure and running on the most stable platform you are likely to find.
Shopify is a Canadian-based company, and its service is priced in Dollars.The three most common subscription plans are Basic, Shopify, and Advanced, which range from $9/month to $299/month.
You will also want to take advantage of Shopify apps, which are what makes an ecommerce store on Shopify so powerful. With them you can deliver email marketing, add customer reviews, get in-depth analytics, or publish your products to Facebook and other social media platforms.
Shopify can help you add an ecommerce store to your existing bricks and mortar operation - or provide a route to a start-up business. It is possible to start a business on Shopify with the minimum subscription and basic services and to call in stock from a supplier as you need it. This is known as dropshipping and it means that you don’t need to pay upfront for stock - avoiding warehouse costs and picking, packing and postage.
Many businesses have started in this way and gone on to major success. But you will need to invest in your Shopify presence, and especially on your promotion online to bring in customers.
The simple steps to getting started with Shopify
- Set up your account. You need to register an account on Shopify. They offer a free 14-day trial to let you test your ideas before really spending money and this account will be automatically cancelled at the end of the trial. You will need to give your store a name and you will be asked if you are already doing business, along with some other administrative questions.
- Choose a domain address. The domain address is the URL that identifies your site and through which customers can find your store. Shopify will give you a primary domain written as examplestore.myshopify.com, but you can always purchase or connect your own domain. Having your own domain will help you look more professional. Look for relevant keywords that people may use when they’re searching for you online. A good domain name will give the idea of your products even before one enters your site - and help your SEO ranking.
- Select a theme. Your Shopify theme is the way your store looks and it is what your visitors will see when they visit the site. Shopify have a huge variety of themes waiting for you to pick - some free and some that you pay extra for.
- Choose your apps. The Shopify Store has a huge range of apps to help you with sales, marketing, inventory, analytics and much more besides.
- Arrange your payment details. Shopify makes it easy for you to ge paid and they provide a range of payment systems, including cards, PayPal and Apple Pay. You can decide which you want to work with. Whatever you choose, the Shopify system will process payments and transfer the amount - less a small deduction - to your bank account.
- Add products. You can upload individual products manually or automate the process with a CSV file.
- Market your business. You need to promote your store and get your customers coming in. Online marketing will bring a steady flow of traffic to your site. Visitors turn into customers, and customers can turn into repeat business.
What should you sell?
Your niche will be the key to your success online. You could focus on a single product line then expand to multiple lines depending on your budget and resources.
If you are looking at Shopify as an extension of a Bricks and Mortar business, you can simply sell what you sell in your shop - although you may soon find that being able to deal with a far larger audience suggests new potential products which will prove even more popular.
The cost of stock may be kept to a minimum with some lines and in some sectors, keeping a very small inventory and ordering direct from suppliers but, as with any retail store, you may be faced with a need to carry a reserve of stock worth anywhere between a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
However, if you are new to ecommerce, you could consider dropshipping. With dropshipping, you don’t hold inventory. Instead, you order the product from the supplier to ship directly to the customer under your name.
This could save money, and be ideal if you are starting out. You will have no warehouse cost, no stock to pay for upfront, and no picking and packing and delivery costs.
Of course, there are downsides too. You don’t have any control over stock and fulfilment, so if the suppliers are out of stock then there is not much you can do. You will also be at the mercy of your supplier - but your customers will be expecting you to deal with any problems or delays. Another thing to consider with dropshipping is that your margins will be tighter because you're not running the risk of holding stock that won't sell.
However, as with any retail business, you will need to find suppliers and decide on the products and the price points that are going to maximise your sales revenue. This will not always be easy. Some suppliers will refuse to do business with you altogether as a start-up or even as a solely ecommerce business. Others will refuse to supply in small quantities.
Build a business plan
Once you have found a product you want to sell and a supplier who wants to provide it, you need a business plan. This is simply a document made by you to describe your business, products or services, how to earn money, the leadership, staffing, operation model, financing and other essentials to success.
Your business plans can help you set clear goals and have an action plan to achieve them. This will also help you realistically estimate budget and cost and help you see the costs involved in your business.
The costs of getting started on Shopify
On top of the monthly subscription, there are extra charges you need to consider, including credit card payments and transaction fees.
But of course, there will be other costs. They may seem lower than traditional retail costs, where you will need expensive high street premises, but as you grow they may still include:
- Staff costs
- Inventory management
- Equipment maintenance
- Storage / warehouse costs
- Refunds and returns
- Marketing and advertising
- Product photography
- Transactional / processing fee costs
Marketing your Shopify store
Shopify can help you set up your store, but you will need to take care of marketing to bring people into your store, just as you would in a bricks and mortar business.
The key to successfully marketing your Shopify site is to drive relevant, targeted traffic onto your site.
It’s easy to think that everyone is going to be a customer, but trying to reach every person on the planet is going to get pretty expensive, pretty quickly. By focusing on specific customer segments and focusing your marketing strategy on targeting those customers your marketing spend will go a lot further.
Instagram and Facebook are a good place to start with social media. Provide content that links to your site - make sure it inspires, educates and entertains your followers. It’s the easiest way to build an engaged following. Content marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to market your Shopify store.
Try creating 3-4 content categories to keep your content consistent. It also helps Google to notice your site as an authority on your specific topics. So if you run a make-up business, you could post style tips. If you’re a travel booker, you could post a destination of the month.
The focus with your blogging and content marketing strategy should be on providing value to your website visitors.
You can then share your blogs on your social profiles as well as getting ranked on Google search results.
- Look at Paid Advertising. Google will help you set up PPC ( pay per click) campaigns. These help you get in front of customers when they’re searching for businesses like yours on Google Search and Maps - and you only pay when someone clicks on your ad.
- Building a strong brand is important. A brand is more than just a name or a representation of the products you sell. It’s a fundamental asset for capturing customers and building closer ties with them. It extends throughout your entire digital marketing strategy, from email marketing to Messenger and SMS. Every communication with a customer needs to align with your brand to deliver a consistent experience.
- Choose your personality. Create a persona for your company and a language and messaging that will resonate with your ideal customers, and employ it consistently throughout your Messenger, email and SMS marketing campaigns.
- Build your email list. Email marketing is still one of the most vital channels for online stores. Place an email subscription form on your website to capture visitors. When they subscribe, you can nurture them into paying customers.
Marketing can be a major challenge - and you may want to call in an expert which will mean another set of costs to cover.
Funding for ecommerce businesses
The costs of setting up an ecommerce site with Shopify may be very low - but turning that site into a rewarding business will take work and investment.
You may need external funding - and this in itself can be a challenge. Lenders understand traditional retailers and can make judgements on whether or not to lend based on years of experience. What’s more, bricks and mortar retailers may have assets, such as the premises they operate from or the goodwill that they have built up.
None of these advantages apply to ecommerce. Many lenders will not look at applications in the sector because they simply do not know enough about it. Ecommerce businesses tend to suffer from cashflow shortages even when things are going well - but banks are often unwilling to help. Fortunately at Rangewell, we have a team of ecommerce experts who understand the challenges you face when it comes to funding.
And because we take a more entrepreneurial approach, we have developed an understanding of the sector and can provide a range of solutions.
The most popular of these is a line of credit. A business line of credit is a flexible funding product that enables businesses to draw on funds as and when needed. It’s very much like an old-style overdraft. In fact, it is often known as an overdraft replacement.
A line of credit provides a pre-approved reserve of credit that you can call on as you need to at short notice. It’s a good option for ecommerce businesses that need short-term cash to cover expenses, for example, online ad costs and new inventory.
When orders and cash comes into the business you can pay off what you have borrowed - which means that the cash you have taken out and repaid is ready to be taken out and used again.
You pay interest only on the amount used - ensuring you avoid fixed costs and commitments which are unavoidable with a traditional term loan.
This type of funding has another important advantage. It helps keep pace with the growth of your business, because the more business you do, the more cash you generate, and the quicker you can repay the amounts you take out.
As your business grows, you can apply to extend the line of credit you can call on - ensuring that your further development is supported and that you can bring in stock to meet the demand your Shopify presence generates.
The level of funding you can arrange for your Shopify business will depend on the level of custom you can demonstrate. If you can show a record of successful selling, and ideally growing demand for your products, the lenders we approach on your behalf should be able to feel confident that your business has the scope to repay the funding they provide.
The ecommerce market continues to grow at a pace and, sadly, few lenders are able to keep up with the potential it offers.
They may find it difficult to lend to a business that has no physical presence and may not even carry its own stock - because it is outside their lending criteria.
But at Rangewell, we take a different approach. We know that your ecommerce business is a new type of venture - and we understand the potential that it offers and the kind of funding that you need.
As experts in all aspects of business funding, we know the lenders who share our understanding, and can help you secure the funding you need from them.
So whether you are just setting out in ecommerce, or an established Shopify trader ready to make the most of the potential your business has started to display, we can find the lenders who will work with you to provide the funds you need.
We are on your side. We know that lenders will vary greatly in what they offer, and even a fraction of a percentage point can make a substantial difference to what you actually pay each month. It means that getting expert support to find the most appropriate funding deal is essential to make the most of the potential of your ecommerce business.