What is Shopify: A Simple Overview for Small Business

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Among the many e-commerce platforms available online today, Shopify is the most popular for both big and small online businesses. Here is a simple overview of Shopify for small business owners.

The company began around the year 2006, and after seven years of providing remarkable service to both entrepreneurs and buyers, it currently hosts more than 500,000 stores with about 1 million active users.

shopify small business

Image via Shutterstock By Andrey_Popov

What Is Shopify?

Shopify is an online e-commerce platform that allows you to create your own online store.  It’s ideal for small businesses who sell both digital and physical products.

One of the biggest benefits of Shopify for small business owners is that it’s a “hosted solution” which means that you, as the business owner, don’t need any advanced technical skills to quickly create and manage an online store.  Shopify offers dozens of templates that are easy to use and can be customized to match your brand.  If you happen to have some technical skills, Shopify has you covered because you can also customize the HTML and CSS code to meet your needs.

Because Shopify is a Saas (Software as a service) there is no software to download or update, you simply pay a subscription fee each month.  Here is a rundown of the basic fee structure:

shopify pricing table

Shopify offers several different options which allow you to start small and scale your online business.  For example:

The basic plan does not actually allow you to construct a fully-functional, standalone online store: rather, it

  • lets you sell via your Facebook page
  • allows you to use Shopify in a physical location to sell goods or manage inventory
  • gives you access to Shopify’s Buy Button, which allows you to sell goods on an existing website or blog.

The Buy Button works similar to a Paypal ‘Buy Now’ button, but because it links back to Shopify, more sophisticated options regarding tracking orders and their fulfilment status are available.

Using the Shopify Buy Button allows you to integrate Shopify into a site built on another platform – for example SquarespaceWix or Wordpress; this is a useful feature for users who are generally happy with their existing website but wish to integrate some Shopify e-commerce functionality onto it.

As you move up the pricing scale, you’ll encounter the ‘Basic Shopify’ plan for $29 per month; the ‘Shopify’ plan for $79 per month and the ‘Advanced Shopify’ plan for $299 per month. Unlike the ‘Lite’ plan, all of these plans do allow you to host a fully functional online store; unlimited file storage and bandwidth are also included.


What Are the Prohibited Products to Sell On Shopify?

Though Shopify lets you sell anything, whether it is physical merchandise or digital products, certain things are prohibited. And just like any other company, Here is a list of prohibited products on Shopify:

  • Age restricted products or services, (alcohol, adult content, gambling, tobacco, weapons).
  • Airlines, cruise lines, timeshares, travel agencies, and travel clubs.
  • Bail bonds and bankruptcy lawyers, securities brokers, sports forecasting, odds making, etc.
  • Bidding fee auctions.
  • Chain letters.
  • Check cashing, wire transfers, currency exchange, foreign consulates, virtual currency, etc.
  • Child pornography.
  • Collection agencies.
  • Copyrighted content
  • Deceptive practices, scams, “get rich quick” scams, multi-level marketing, etc.
  • Escorts, international dating services, mail-order brides, prostitutes, sexually-explicit chats, emails, calls, sexually oriented dating services, etc.
  • Essay mills.
  • Flea markets, Fortune tellers.
  • Human hair, fake hair, or hair extensions.
  • Illegal content.
  • Marijuana dispensaries and related businesses.
  • Pharmacies, pharmaceuticals, pseudo pharmaceuticals, substances that mimic illegal drugs. etc.
  • Pornographic material, widgets that allow access to pornography, fetish gear, and any sexually oriented products or services.
  • Sexually oriented massage parlors, sex clubs/shows, topless bars, strip shows, and other adult content.
  • Selling social media activity.
  • Telecommunications, telemarketing, pre-paid phone cards.

How to Optimize Your Shopify Store?

small business woman using shopify on ipad

Close-up Of Woman Doing Online Shopping On Digital Tablet At Home via Shutterstock by Andre_popov

The competition between thousands of digital businesses is getting tighter. It does not mean that once you opt to use Shopify as your jumpstart platform, your sales will automatically grow. You still need to go through the toughest part of the business: marketing your products.

Online or digital marketing is the most convenient and reliable way to sell products today. Though traditional marketing or “word of mouth” is still an excellent approach, advertising via different social media channels is much better. It is also easier since anyone can connect Shopify to various social media.

For one to have steadily increased sales, optimizing the use of your chosen platform is crucial. For beginners, here are some useful techniques to use the power of Shopify to its extent.

Research and Data Collection

Data collection and analysis is critical to running a profitable online business. Shopify gives shop owners access to reporting features that allow you to see how customers interact with your page.

Remember, there is a difference between analytics and reporting.  Reporting just gives you the numbers, but analytics is the function of digging underneath the numbers so that you can understand your customers’ behavior and get new ideas about how to make improvements that give you what your customers want while increasing your sales and profitability.

Here’s a simple process for coming up with meaningful questions to ask of your data:

  • Walk through your site looking for problem areas. Basically, you’re trying to break your store, to find something that’s not working as expected.
  • Write down the problem areas, concerns, questions, etc. that you identify during the walkthrough.
  • Turn to your analytics to confirm the problem areas and concerns, and answer the questions.

For step one, it helps to have a structured walkthrough process. For example, set a few important factors ahead of time to eliminate your subjective opinion and biases:

  • Friction: is anything difficult? How can you make it easier? Is anything preventing your visitors from buying?
  • Distraction: is anything distracting your visitors from taking your most wanted action, whatever that might be? For example, adding a product to cart or checking out.
  • Motivation: what’s adding to or subtracting from the motivation of the visitor? Are they motivated enough to complete your most wanted action?
  • Relevancy: is everything on the page relevant? Is there anything that’s irrelevant or unimportant? Is everything on the page working in favor of the most wanted action?
  • Clarity: is the value of the product or service clear? Is the next step clear? Is the most wanted action clear? Is anything confusing?

Make the Best Use of Landing Page

The landing page is the first page where your customers go to when they enter your digital store. And since many are offering the same products and services on the same platform, Shopify owners must be strategic about what they put on their landing pages. Here are a few tips about what content to include in your landing pages.

1. Include Testimonials and Reviews

Collecting testimonials should be a regular part of your business. Make sure that you have a process is in place either via Google or in real life to collect testimonials.  Be sure to request permission from your customers before you use their testimonials online and always try to use an image where possible.  Any testimonial will do, you can even ask customers to submit testimonials via video or social media and use them on your Shopify store.

2. Use the Power of Digital Media

Digital media closes the gap between online stores and shoppers. It helps in providing visitors a better, and hopefully, the same experience of what an actual shopping is. This way, online shoppers can immerse themselves in the product and later get to know it more which could lead to purchasing the product.

Though it is becoming a norm, online shopping still feels less without having real contact with the actual product. To create a better experience for potential clients, amp the landing page with visuals: videos and photos.

The Abandoned Cart Technique

shopify small business abandoned shopping cart

When a customer abandons his cart, automatically it is seen as a failed transaction. However, for some savvy entrepreneurs, these failed deals are not a failure at all. It is an essential ingredient in making future sales. How? Using various email mail tools and techniques, you can send messages directly to the customer who, for some reason, abandoned his cart. Give him updates and excellent offers. And to lure them to go back and do shopping at your store, offer them special promos such as discounts, buy 1 take 1, and free shipping. The primary key is that shop owners must be creative when it comes to their marketing tactics. After all, attracting potential buyers is not the only aim, making them feel significant and grateful for visiting the web store is also part of the process.

Entice them to Buy More Product

Upselling is the most common technique in online selling. Some customers do not plan their shopping, so to further make more leads, make sure the site pops up a page of recommended products before the customer proceeds to checkout.

Blog Frequently

Based on a study, statistics say that blogging is still a number one powerful tool in digital marketing. According to it, businesspeople and marketers who put blogging at the top of their priorities are thirteen times more likely to get a positive return on investments than those who do not. So to efficiently optimize one’s Shopify store conversion rate, it is best to have a regular posting of different contents that are related to the business.

Show Potential Buyers the Store’s Credibility

Customers are smart, especially nowadays that a lot of online scammers and thieves exist and take advantage of people’s needs. For a web store to look more credible and trustworthy, testimonials and reviews are not enough. Owners must remember that photos are essential. Incorporate pictures of the actual office, the people working in it like say, customer representative, or anything that can build up the potential client’s trust.

In conclusion, effective online marketing constitutes an excellent conversion rate. And in today’s modernized way of product marketing, it is essential for any aspiring entrepreneurs to learn how it works as well as to be creative in generating new concepts and strategies. After all, marketing is just all about incorporating the style or “the how to’s” to what is currently on trend and folks like to see, do, and hear.

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