At this point, if you’re following the series, you’ve chosen a product to sell, picked a stellar business name, and found a great supplier to dropship your products. The next step is actually creating a website for your new online store. We recommend Shopify to create your store because it is one of the largest growing and easier to use platforms out there.
How to Create a Website for Your Online Store
This guide is broken in to the following steps:
- Create a Shopify Account
- Buy Your Domain
- Setup Your Settings
- Choose a Theme
- Customize Your Theme
- Upload Your Products
- Set Up Your Inventory Data Feed
Let’s jump in!
Create a Shopify Account
Head over to Shopify and sign up for their 14-day free trial.
Enter your store name, which you should have already chosen. If not, head back to our How to Choose a Perfect Business Name guide. Then just an email address and password.
The email address can be changed once you create your store, so don’t worry about it being email@example.com for now, it can just be your personal email. I’ll cover setting up an email at your domain in the next section.
You should now see a screen like this:
Once you’ve created your account and have a store set up, you’ll want to buy a custom domain.
Buy a Custom Domain
Right now, your store URL will be “yourstore.myshopify.com”. We don’t want that.
If you’re serious about creating a profitable store (which I’m assuming you are, or you wouldn’t be reading this), you need to buy a custom domain.
Head over to the “Online Store” tab on the left sidebar.
From here, choose the “Domains” tab.
Click “Buy new domain” and this window will pop up. Type in the URL you came up with using BustAName. It should be available.
Setup Your Settings
Before you get in to the fun design part (I think it’s fun, at least), there are a few things in the settings you’ll want to configure.
The general settings just has your address, time zone, legal business name, etc.
Remember when I said you can change your email to your unique domain email? This is where you do it.
If you’d like an firstname.lastname@example.org email address, the easiest way is through Google Apps for $5/month. The first month is free.
Also make sure you enter your legal business name.
Here you can choose the various ways people can pay for their stuff on your store. While there are tons of ways you can set up if you know how, I recommend just setting up Shopify Payments for credit cards, and PayPal.
Of course, in order to take PayPal payments, you need a PayPal account, so if you haven’t made one already, do so now.
The other payment option that may be important is Amazon payments. I’ll talk about this more when I get in to the multi-channel selling portion of the guide, but for now you can leave it alone. Unless you already sell on Amazon, of course!
Here I would switch accounts from off to optional, so you can start collecting that valuable customer data (emails, addresses, phone numbers, oh my!)
I’d also change it to customer agrees to promotional emails by default.
Further down you can generate Terms of Service, Privacy Agreements, etc. This is important, so generate them – but make sure you have the correct legal business name and contact email! If you don’t, you’ll have to manually adjust those pieces when they appear in the documents, which is a pain.
Other than that, change what you want on this page.
Woo, shipping! Go all the way down to the bottom and you’ll find a button to add a dropshipping service.
This takes you to a page with a few apps. I recommend ignoring the ones Shopify recommends and getting an app called ShipStation. Set up your account with them, and you’ll be good to go.
As I mentioned before, I’m not a tax professional and can’t give you advice on taxes. Take a look at Shopify’s guide.
Here you can customize the automatic emails your customer receives when they buy an item, among other things. Shopify does this automatically but they are pretty robotic, so you might want to put some personal flair in there.
I know, we skipped a few. That’s because those three don’t really need to be messed with before opening your store.
Under online store, you can set up the all-powerful meta description. As I explain for products further down this page, this is for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) purposes. Basically, it is how your page will show up in Google search results.
This is also the page where you turn off your store password and open it up to the public! Wait until you’re done, though!
Choose a Theme
The Shopify Theme Store has tons of themes – some are free, others go for anywhere from $50-$180.
You really don’t need a paid theme if you’re not ready to make the investment. There are tons of free themes that work great. Shopify has a list of some great responsive free themes.
Personally, I love the Vintage and Music themes because they are very minimalistic and the most important stuff is above the fold (meaning user’s don’t have to scroll down the page to see them). They also have an optimized look for mobile, which is becoming more and more important.
Customize Your Theme
Once you’ve chosen a theme, the next step is to customize it to fit your liking.
You can change the colors, the font, add a logo, you name it. To do all this, go to your Themes tab under the Online Store tab. From here, click the “Customize theme” button.
Play around with the theme editor as much as you’d like. You can always undo it if you mess something up, so don’t worry about ruining anything.
If you don’t want to go through this process, or aren’t sure how to make the website look good, we can build the website for you. Just click the little chat bubble in the bottom right of your screen, and tell us what you need.
You’re probably going to want to create a custom logo for your website as well.
I could write a whole article on just this process, but for now I’ll keep it short and give you some outside resources.
Click the “Add a product” button in the top right. You’ll now see this screen:
There are more details to fill out when you scroll down, but for now we’ll stick with the upper half of the page.
1. Product Title
This is the title of your product that your visitors will see. For example, if you sell bicycle helmets, you might just call it “Bicycle Helmet” or “Boy’s Bicycle Helmet” or “Red Dragon Bicycle Helmet”.
Typically, you’ll want to try to be as descriptive of the item with the title as possible without making it too wordy. Here’s a nice guide to giving your products a great title.
Keep in mind if you have multiple variants of the same product (like color, size, etc.), there is a variant section as well which we will cover in the second half of the page.
2. Product Description
This description will show up on the product page for your customers. If you have a dropshipper, they should have given you the product description, but you may still want to write your own.
You’ll probably want to include some things about the item, such as:
- What it’s made out of.
- Who it’s for.
- What size and color it is (if you don’t have variants).
- The benefits to your customer.
Try to create a more emotional description as opposed to just describing the product. For more tips on writing great product descriptions, check out Shopify’s guide.
3. Product Images
Ahh yes, product images. Possibly the single most important piece of the product page to drive sales.
Hopefully your dropshipper has provided you with plenty of high-quality images at all angles of the product. Better yet, they’ll give you a 360 video or something more interactive.
If they didn’t give you the greatest images, you may have to take them yourself. Don’t worry – you don’t need a super expensive fancy camera to take good images. All you need is a decent smart phone, some lights, and a white backdrop.
Shopify has yet another great guide on how to capture amazing product photographs from your home, if that’s the route you decide to take.
4. Product Type
Simple enough, this is just the “type” of product it is.
The example they give is “Shirt”, but you could also categorize it as a polo, long-sleeve shirt, v-neck, etc. Try to keep these types consistent, as it will make the products easier to categorize when you start selling tons of different items.
5. Product Vendor
This is the vendor you purchase the product from. You can put your suppliers name here (not recommended), or you can put the brand’s name here (Ex: Nike), or you can just put your business name here. The brand name probably makes the most sense, and again makes things easier to categorize.
6. Product Collections
Here is where you can make your own “bins” of products. You can have a collection for t-shirts, certain brands, certain sizes, colors, images… you name it!
You have to make the collections on the actual “Collections” tab on the dashboard. You can’t do it from the products page itself.
Keep in mind customers will see these and be able to browse your different collections, so try to make them with the consumer in mind. Also, you can make collections for sale items which is pretty helpful!
That’s it for the first chunk – let’s look at the next fields.
This is the price your customers will pay for the item (excluding shipping). You’ll probably want to leave the “Charge taxes on this product” box checked.
While Shopify handles the taxes for the state you signed up your account in, it’s still a good idea to know how to handle taxes. For a better understanding on this, check out this guide. Also, check out Shopify’s article about sales tax.
2. Compare at price
This price will be shown to consumers with a slash through it, next to your regular price.
You can use this to increase sales using a psychological trick called the comparison bias (sometimes called the framing effect or comparison effect). Basically, when a customer sees a higher price, then the lower price, it seems like a better deal.
3. Stock Keeping Unit (SKU)
The SKU is the number above the barcode on your product. It is NOT the barcode number.
It probably looks something like this:
Hopefully your supplier has provided you with the SKU’s and UPC‘s for all your products. If not, well… good luck. You’re going to need to use Google to find them, and that’s not fun.
4. Barcode (ISBN, UPC, etc.)
This is just the number under the barcode, just as is shown in the image above.
5. Inventory Policy
This field has two options: Track or don’t track.
If you want to track inventory yourself (have fun!), leave it at don’t track. Otherwise, allow Shopify to automatically track inventory for you, and set the number to the number of products available.
If you’re dropshipping, keeping track of inventory is going to be pretty tough since you never really know how many items your supplier has on hand at any given time. You’ll have to be on top of their inventory levels to monitor anytime an item goes out of stock, then manually update your store.
If you don’t keep up on it, you’ll have angry customers on your hand in no time and this will hurt sales and reputation.
Obviously, this is a huge pain in the derrière. That’s why data feeds are so important. Check out the next section to learn more about that, and skip all this manual entry.
Tags are another way to help you categorize items, as well as to help people find the right products when they search your store via the search box.
Two sections down, one to go!
Here’s how much the product weighs (including the shipping box and packing). Based on the shipping settings you set up, this will determine the customer’s shipping cost.
2. HS Tariff Code
I actually had no idea what this was until I started writing this guide, because I’d never used it before.
Apparently, it stands for Harmonized System Tariff code.
It’s basically the code the U.S. puts on certain products to determine import/export fees. Hopefully, your supplier will also “supply” you with these codes (see what I did there?).
If not, Shopify has a link right there to look up the codes.
Finally, after all this talk, we’ve made it to the variants section!
Here is where you’ll enter different colors, sizes, types, etc. of the same product so people can choose which variant of your product they would like.
For example, if you have a shirt that comes in all the shirt sizes S through XXXL, each of those would be a variant. Further, if you have different colors that also come in those sizes, you would need a variant of each color and each size. So if you have 3 colors, that would mean 21 different variants!
Again, big pain in the posterior. Again, skip to the data feed section to skip all this nonsense.
Once you begin adding variants, further information is needed:
It will ask you for a price, SKU, Barcode, and Inventory Quantity for each item (if you chose to have Shopify track inventory for you). You need to fill these out for each item.
If you add multiple variant types (like size and color), the system will automatically create a variant for each size and color (like large red, large blue, small red, small blue, etc.)
If you want to add more details (like compare at price or weight) to the variants, you can do so by first saving the product page after the variants have been created, then editing the individual options.
4. Search Engine Listing Preview
FINALLY, we have the search engine listing preview.
This is important for your pages SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Basically, it will help people find your products on Google.
What you change here is what people will see when they find your product on Google.
These are examples of meta descriptions you see when you search Google.
The Page Title is the blue text at the top.
The Meta Description is the paragraph beneath the URL and title.
The URL and Handle is the green link below the title.
Again, I could write an entire article on setting up your product page for SEO (which I may in the future, if enough people ask me about it), but for now check out another of Shopify’s excellent guides.
I hope you’re still with me! If not, that’s OK. Don’t worry – this next section makes this entire section on adding products mere background knowledge.
Set Up Your Inventory Data Feed
So by now you’ve probably either realized manual product data entry is a waste of time, or you already have a data feed to get started with. Either way, let me share the easy way to inventory data management (and, you’ll find out in a future article, inventory data management across multiple channels).
Did your supplier give you an XML or CSV file?
If he did, you could simply upload it to your shopify store. However, the formatting may be incorrect and have to be changed, and it may not come out right. Even if the format is correct, you will still have to manually update it any time your supplier changes their product data.
I hope this helped you create your first ever store! If you have any questions, leave us a comment or shoot us a message via the chat bubble in the bottom right.
This article is one of a series on the Ultimate Guide to Opening an eCommerce Store in 2016. The other parts of the article are:
Step 1: Finding a Product to Sell
Step 2: Choosing a Perfect Business Name
Step 4: Creating Your Shopify Store (You are here!)
Step 5: Marketing Your New Store
Step 6: Selling on Multiple Channels