This article is a very handy guide taking you step by step as you learn how to launch an eCommerce store. Oberlo co-founder Tomas Slimas created this tutorial based on what he learned from his own eCommerce success story. There are dozens of great tips that will allow you to focus on what matters and start making sales as quickly as possible. The best part is that you can complete the whole process in about half an hour. Who knows, the next 30 minutes could mark an exciting turning point in your life as you embark on a journey as an eCommerce entrepreneur. Let’s get started.
To be honest, it took me 12 months to launch my first eCommerce store! I followed conventional strategies to begin with. I incorporated myself, looked for wholesalers, underestimated my marketing budget, developed a great looking store, manually added thousands of products… and never made a sale.
Today, after selling my eCommerce business with $3M annual sales and with 7 eCommerce stores on my CV, I understand what I did wrong and found a way to fix it.
I did what most people do — I concentrated too much on creating a great looking store instead of actually trying to make a sale.
People think that if you are launching an eCommerce business that you should do it the hard way. When you’re a first-time entrepreneur, figuring out how to start an eCommerce store seems pretty complicated. They mistakenly think that the website design is the most important part, though it’s really all about the marketing and getting sales.
What I have found is that it’s much more productive to learn and create along the way. Your first step is to simply launch your eCommerce store. You can explore ad campaigns and logo designs at a later time, like once your store is up and running. As dictated by one of my favorite quotes: “Get going, get better”.
Below I’m sharing a detailed tutorial about how to start an eCommerce store with dozens of products in under 30 minutes. It won’t be perfect, but it’ll be exactly what you need to get going.
In this example, we will build a full category women’s jewelry shop that sells cubic zirconia accessories. I strongly suggest that you follow the guide as it is written and try implementing additional features and ideas after you know how to launch a Shopify store.
How to launch a Shopify store with Oberlo: Set Up a Store (~ 5 minutes)
1) How to launch a Shopify store: Pick a name
Picking a name is important but don’t spend too much time on it. Think of something random and simple. For my women’s jewelry shop I came up with: Catherine Hill Jewelry, Sparkle Glam Jewellery, Sparkle Jewelry Online.
I recommending adding ‘store’ or ‘shop’ because you will need to find an available internet address (domain), and it’s easier to find an available one when there are several words in the name.
Come up with a list of 10-15 brand name ideas. Make sure the name you come up with isn’t trademarked and has an available .com domain address. Dot com domains tend to rank better in the search engines.
A useful tool for coming up with an eCommerce store name is the Shopify Business Name Generator. You can add a keyword or two that you’d like to have in your name and it will provide you recommendations. If you click a domain name you’ll have access to purchasing it directly on the website as well.
2) How to launch a Shopify store: Create a Shopify account
In the old days, you had to get a server, upload an eCommece system to it, hire someone to change it according to your needs, and pay to maintain it. It was expensive, time consuming, and the final result was still a slow and ineffective website.
Thankfully, Shopify and other alternative software have simplified the process. You can create your eCommerce store in just a few clicks and all of the server setup and maintenance is taken care of for you.
Go to Shopify.com, click ‘start your free trial’, enter your store name, and create your shop.
Your store is now ready!
3) How to launch a Shopify store: Fine tune your settings
3.1. Add Your Store Payment Option
Add your PayPal email address under Shopify Settings > Payments Section. Later, you can change, remove, or add additional payment options.
If you don’t have a PayPal account, register at PayPal.com. It will take about 5 minutes.
3.2. Generate Required Policies
Shopify offers a handy tool for generating terms and conditions, standard privacy, and return policies. Just go to Shopify Settings > Checkout > scroll down to Refund > Privacy > TOS statements section to generate each policy sample.
3.3. Add Free Shipping Rate
The sourcing tool I recommend will offer most of the products with a free delivery option. I suggest adding a free shipping rate for all of your orders, as well.
Go to Shopify Settings > Shipping and delete all shipping zones that are “Domestic,” and under the “Rest of World’ select ‘Free International Shipping’ under ‘Price based rates.’ Don’t forget to check off “Rate: Free shipping rate.”
3.4. Create an Online Store
Shopify allows you to sell your products across multiple channels like Online Store, Facebook Store, Brick & Mortar store, etc.
Right now, we want to create an Online store. Go to Shopify Settings > Sales Channels and add Online Store as your sales channel if it hasn’t been added automatically.
3.5. Buy a domain (optional)
Buying a domain is optional but recommended. Currently, your URL looks like this: [storename].myshopify.com. You might want to change it to look more like a standard website: [storename].com.
You don’t have to do this right away, though. Note that there will be a cost for changing the name (usually about $13 per year). You can set this up later once you decide if you want to invest further money into your eCommerce business.
It is important to note, however, that a custom internet address provides social accountability when you start advertising your site, which can increase your sales significantly. Also, the sooner you purchase the domain for the store, the less likely it is for someone else to buy it later on.
To buy a domain, go to Shopify Online Store > Domains Section > Buy New Domain.
P.S. You’ll need to confirm the domain before it starts working. The confirmation email is in your email inbox.
P.S. You’ll need to confirm the domain before it starts working. The confirmation email is in your email inbox.
4) How to launch a Shopify store with Oberlo: Add Products and Categories (~ 10 minutes)
A traditional eCommerce model works like this: First you buy several hundred products, then you wait for them to be delivered, stock them in your garage or a small warehouse, and when someone places an order you ship them to your customer.
This model works well for bigger companies, but for new companies, it can have extra costs (storage space), risks (unsold stock), and annoyances (not having a popular item in stock and ready to ship).
Luckily, today there is an alternative to this model: dropshipping. Dropshipping allows people who are just figuring out how to start ecommerce store to get started quickly so that they can spend more time and energy on generating sales. With dropshipping, you aren’t required to hold any inventory and don’t need to ship, which also saves you time and money.
Simply add products to your eCommerce store, and when an item sells, pay the supplier who then ships it directly to your customer. There is no need to pay for extra storage space and no need to worry about what to do with unsold stock.
From here onward, we’ll focus solely on dropshipping because the alternative requires extra capital, time and risk. There are two ways to obtain dropshipped products for your eCommerce store:
- Contact a wholesaler and land a dropshipping deal. You will soon realize that it is hard to find good suppliers who provide dropshipping services. If you find a company, they usually do business only with established, profitable businesses. This is not the best option for a new startup business.
- Use sourcing tools and apps. Connect your eCommerce store with the app (see recommendation below) and import products directly from a dropshipped products database within minutes.
There are several dropshipping apps, but I would suggest downloading the free trial from Oberlo. Oberlo is an app that allows you to import dropshipped products from AliExpress to your eCommerce store within minutes. Items sold in your store will be shipped directly to your customers in just a few clicks. AliExpress offers a wide variety of products at very low prices, which is why it is an ideal partner in the beginning when you launch your store.
Here’s how we’ll use it:
1) Create categories
Product categories are called collections on Shopify. If you’re selling women’s jewelry your collections will be (from top to the bottom): Earrings, Rings, Necklaces, Watches, Bracelets, etc.
Just go to Products > Collections > Add New Collection > enter your collection name and select your collection conditions.
2) Install Oberlo app and add products
Adding products with Oberlo is simple. There are several different import methods, but the fastest way to do this is to go to Oberlo’s Featured Categories page and import entire products categories. The video below shows me installing the application from Shopify App Store and importing a featured category of women’s clothing.
Alternatively, you can just use the in-app search and import products one by one.
When it comes to selecting products for your store, choose products based on high order volume, high star rating and shipping costs. For order volume, anything over 30 orders with a high star rating is fine. You just want to ensure that other people have been happy with their purchases. When it comes to star rating, 4+ only. You want to ensure that people are happy with the quality and manufacturer. When it comes to shipping costs, if free shipping is offered great but if ePacket is offered you can provide your customers with faster delivery times.
5) Add Content (~ 5 minutes)
Content is extremely important. This is an area where you should devote your focus on and spend more time on in the future. For now, the following sections should be enough to start with: About Us, Terms and Conditions, Privacy and Returns Policy, Shipping & Delivery Information, Track Your Order link, Contact Us.
To create a page, go to Shopify Online Store > Pages > Add Page.
1) About Us
This page eventually needs to look unique, but this will take quite a bit of time. In the meantime, copy and paste one of the pre-generated ‘About Us’ pages from the list below and edit it to suit your store later.
When you write an About Us page, in the future, make it personal. Tell a story about why you started the brand. Show pictures of yourself to show that there’s a human behind your eCommerce business. My favorite example of a company who has created a fantastic About Us page is Luxy Hair.
2) Shipping & Delivery Information
Most of the sellers on Oberlo have very similar delivery prices and timeframes, so it is best to copy and paste this standardized shipping & delivery page.
3) Terms & Conditions and Policies
You may remember that these pages were generated during the first step of this tutorial. Simply copy them from your settings page and paste into separate articles.
4) Contact Us
Keeping in close contact with your customers is very important. Make sure you place a clearly visible ‘Contact Us’ link on your eCommerce store. To create a contact page, click the Add New Page button and change the page template to contact.
6) How to launch a Shopify store: Design Your Store (~ 10 minutes)
Mastering design is an important part in the process of creating an ecommerce store. How you present your eCommerce business helps build trust with customers. Thankfully, Shopify automatically assigns a default theme to your eCommerce store and it already looks great, so you do not need to change this unless you want to spend the time to customize it. A customized site can help enhance your brand, but it is not necessary to do that when first launching the store.
Don’t buy a new theme until you’ve generated enough sales for it to be paid for through your eCommerce business. There’s no need to make big purchases in the beginning. You can still create a beautiful website through your banner graphic, color scheme and other visual elements.
1) Create Menu/Navigation
Go to the Shopify Online Store > Navigation section > select edit ‘Main Menu’ card and list all your collections there.
2) Upload Main Banner
You can create a cool looking banner in just a few minutes. Use Google ‘banner editing tools’ or click here: Canva.com. Select banner dimensions (1200x360px), upload an image of one of your products, select background, insert a few lines of text, add a ‘Buy Now’ button, and you’re finished.
You can also use Canva’s templates to design something visually appealing. They have shapes you can incorporate into your design to make things pop. Don’t be afraid to look through Canva’s templates for inspiration to design a banner that wows. Their website is user-friendly and allows even someone with little design experience to create a unique banner.
You can now insert this banner into your eCommerce store by going to Online Store > Themes > Customize Theme > edit Homepage Slideshow.
3) Editing Featured Products
If you navigate to Customize Theme > Home page > Featured Products you can choose a collection for featured products. If you create a collection like you did earlier, name one featured, use tags called ‘Featured.’ Every time you add a new product that you want to showcase add the ‘Featured’ tag to the tags section and it will automatically appear on the Home Page under ‘Featured.’
4) Setting up your Footer
You can find Footer Settings in Online Store, Themes Section, Customize Theme page, and Footer Settings. There you can decide what you want to see in your footer menu. I usually hide ‘Latest News column’, because we haven’t created any blog posts yet 🙂
Now go to Online Store, Navigation section, select Footer Menu, and list all the articles you created before:
Congratulations, you have just launched your first eCommerce store!
Although it didn’t take a long time, it is still an excellent achievement. You are now running your own store as an entrepreneur.
You should also remember that you’ve only figured out how to start an ecommerce store, now you need to figure out how to take it to the next level. Owning an eCommerce business is about trying to improve your sales, customer service, customer experience, and most importantly, yourself.
To create a successful eCommerce store, you’ll need to focus your energy on marketing your store via ads, content creation and building an audience on social media. When combined, those three things can have a powerful impact on your brand in the long-term. Right now, you need to put your brand out there for everyone to see as people won’t just magically find you. Just as Shopify and apps like Oberlo make running your eCommerce business easier than ever before, there are plenty of accessible marketing tools and tutorials available online. We recommend using Facebook Ads to boost your sales. Remember, that it’s best to jump right in to this aspect of your eCommerce business because learning by doing will be more effective than coming up with a complex marketing plan right from the onset.
Write down a list of things you want to achieve with your eCommerce business, and begin the learning process. Begin by committing one hour every day to improving your eCommerce store so that you can further edit your website, find new ways to boost sales, and continue learning how to grow your eCommerce business.
With hard work and a sales push on your side, the possibilities are endless. Focus on why you started this eCommerce business in the first place and let that drive your determination to succeed. No matter where your eCommerce adventure takes you, rest assured that you’ll learn so much more about yourself and witness your levels of creativity, determination, and perseverance reach new heights.