In this post I’m giving away some of the things I wish I had known when I was setting up my first Shopify store. It’s kind of a “thank me later” list in a way.
So, you’re in the process of setting up a Shopify store—maybe even your very first one. Wouldn’t it be great if you somehow knew those vital tips that can spare you the beginner’s headache and will save you valuable time, money and effort?
Well, in our agency we’ve built a large number of Shopify stores in the past few years. So, I know a few things about building e-commerce stores that bring you revenue, and about figuring out the options that will benefit your store greatly both in the short and in the long term.
Don’t worry; every single tip here is dead easy to implement, though. No coding or any other special knowledge is required. I’m giving you 7 super-useful bits of my experience with Shopify in condensed form.
So, on with the tips.
1. Reduce the risk of refunds
Choose the right payment capture settings
If you are selling products that are not readily available, or stock is not in your control, I strongly recommend that you go for manual capture of payments for your store and save yourself some trouble and unwanted expenses.
In your Shopify admin, go to Settings > Payments and scroll down to Payment capture.
“Capture” is Shopify’s lingo for payments approval. You get to choose whether your store accepts payments automatically or manually, the latter meaning that you need to explicitly approve all payments before they go through. This is ostensibly a no-brainer, because who wouldn’t want payments to go through immediately once they’re made by the customer?
Sometimes, though, you do need to capture payments manually.
A typical example of that would be when the products in your store may not be readily available, or even when they go regularly out of stock.
This could be because they’re hand-made and you actually assemble them after an order is placed. Or, because inventory management is out of your control, such as when you have a supplier or using dropshipping partners.
In such cases, there’s always an increased risk that something might go wrong, and for whatever reason you end up either unable to ship an item in time, or unable to ship it at all.
As a result, the risk of having to issue a refund is particularly high. This means extra time on your part to communicate with the customer and pay them back, and also unnecessary expenses because services such as PayPal will keep their commission even when you refund a customer.
By choosing to manually capture payments, you have full control over this situation. The customer authorizes the payment, which means that your money is secured, but it only goes through when you say so—when you are confident that the order will be shipped.
You just need to remember that this is a store-level setting and you cannot turn it on selectively for individual products.
2. Increase your revenue with abandoned checkout emails
Make sure you’re sending them out properly
Being able to claim back the carts your customers have abandoned is very, very important.
We may not like it, but the majority of a store’s visitors will leave at the checkout stage without ever completing their order. In March 2020, for example, 88% of online shopping orders worldwide were abandoned according to this survey, so by doing nothing about it you’re simply letting revenue slip through your fingers.
Abandoned carts, however, can be reclaimed and will bring you back a significant part of that lost revenue.
Shopify has taken care of that by sending automated abandoned checkout emails to remind visitors to complete their purchase. There are, however, a couple of things you should be aware of.
Go to Settings > Checkout and scroll down to Abandoned checkouts.
- Make sure you’ve checked the Automatically send abandoned checkout emails box in Settings > Checkout, otherwise no emails will be sent out. You can also set how long after the abandonment the reminder will be sent.
- Click the Customize email button to tweak your messages and make them personalized and relevant. People always respond far better to a message that’s interesting and makes sense as opposed to a generic, bland email.
Should you choose to use an external email management system such as AWeber, or Klaviyo, remember to uncheck the Automatically send abandoned checkout emails box. If you don’t, you’ll end up sending out cart abandonment emails twice, which is more likely to confuse the recipient rather than intrigue them to complete their purchase.
3. Make your life easier by making your shipping charges more flexible
A well-hidden feature that you can activate anyway if you know how
Very often in an online store you need to set specific rules that tell your platform what to charge for shipping in different cases.
For example, you may want to charge different rates for shipping the same parcel to specific Cities, or a range of ZIP codes. Or maybe you want to offer free shipping for orders, say, above $50, but only as long as your order weighs less than 2kgs (since, usually, heavier parcels cost more to ship), in which case you probably want to charge the customer for shipping. You might even want to connect your store directly to your shipping partner and have them accurately calculate shipping costs based on your agreed rates and display those automatically at checkout.
These types of complex shipping calculations are not pre-built into your native Shopify functionality. Thankfully, there are apps for that.
There’s a catch though. To be able to do all of the above, you need to have the third-party calculated shipping feature enabled in your Shopify plan, which doesn’t really come with the entry-level plans by default.
And here’s the tip you need to know so you can have this with any Shopify plan.
In Shopify’s pricing table this feature is seemingly only available with the Advanced, $299/month plan.
However, it’s actually available with any other plan for a small additional fee of $20/month (at the time of writing) but that’s not explicitly stated. To activate the feature for your store, all you need to do is contact Shopify’s support and make a request.
You can even get it for free if you pay for your plan annually, in which case you also get a 10% overall discount on your plan. How cool is that?
This is a huge topic, because third-party calculated shipping allows you to do some crazy stunts with calculating shipping rates, or connecting your store directly to your shipping partner for cost calculations. I’m planning to write about it all in a separate post, so stay tuned for that.
4. Save yourself a huge amount of time by properly organizing your products
How to take advantage of collections
Shopify lets you automatically organize your products in collections, which is an extremely useful but oftentimes underused feature. Let me rephrase that: You NEED to use automatic collections.
Let me explain, it’s simple.
In Shopify a collection is, well… a collection of products that you want to have grouped together. For example you can make a collection of pillows, of discounted products, or a collection of Christmas gifts. Obviously, these sound a lot like your menu categories but, trust me, they’re way more useful than that.
So, if you have a collection of, say, all your Adidas products, then every time new Adidas items come in you need to add them to that collection. Now, imagine a store with 20 or 30 collections of different kinds (or even more—which isn’t uncommon at all) and new products arriving every so often. Adding every new item manually to one or more collections can become a nightmare. What if a particular product goes into the Adidas collection, the shoes collection, the autumn collection and the women’s collection at the same time? This cannot possibly be done manually for every single item.
Worry not, because there’s a very clever way around this. The solution is to use your available product’s organization information.
If you spend just a little bit of time organizing your product types and your tags system, then everything else is done pretty much automatically and you save yourself huge amounts of time.
First thing you have to do is create your collection.
Go to Products > Collections and click the Create collection button to make a new one.
Define its type as Automated.
In the CONDITIONS section, choose all conditions and type the information that you want it to look for, in order to populate itself with products —for example you may choose the vendor’s name Adidas. Click Add another condition and proceed with adding the product types product shoes, and yet another condition for the tags you need (such as autumn, women, pillows, christmas, blackfriday etc.).
This way you’ve created a new Collection that includes all the above criteria. You can create separate collections as well, for each one of those criteria, in pretty much the same way. So you can have one for the brand (Adidas), one for the category your product falls under (Shoes) and another for everything women apparel related.
Now, let’s say you want to add a hypothetical new Adidas product to your store.
Go to Products > All products and click the Add product button.
That’s where you fill in the title, description, media and all the necessary information for the new product. While you’re there, on your right there’s the product organization section. This includes the product’s vendor, its type and the tags you’d like to assign to it. So you can go ahead and add Adidas for the Vendor, Shoes for the Product Type and any other tag you need to identify the product properly (such as autumn, women, etc.).
Click save, and boom! The product automatically goes straight into the right collections. You can have the same product appear in the Adidas brand collection, in your Shoes collection and in your women’s products all at once. Simple as that.
5. Make it easier for visitors to purchase the products they’re after
How to make sure your store does predictive search
With predictive search enabled, as your store’s visitor types characters in the search box, they get a results list that updates automatically with every keystroke. What’s great about these lists is that they include much more than just individual products. They also present to your visitor product categories and brands from your store that are relevant to the particular search being made. They also suggest similar search terms found in product titles.
Predictive search allows your customers to get to what they’re looking for much, much faster. It also presents them with a number of extra options about products they may not have realized they’re interested in before they started searching.
Predictive search is designed to make users happy.
But there’s a catch, because predictive search is not always readily available with every Shopify theme . This is how to avoid falling in the trap.
Unless you can code (or unless you have access to a developer who can), your only option is to base your store on a Shopify theme which takes advantage of the Ajax Predictive Search API, and has it already incorporated in its functionality. But not all themes have it among their default features.
So, before you pick your theme you want to make sure predictive search is included. When you preview any theme, predictive search should be fully functional. You can tell it’s there by checking if you get results that change with every character you type in the search box. If they do, then you can check that off your requirements list.
6. How to make your products even more easily discoverable
Try putting some unusual terms in tags. The results might surprise you.
Not many people realize this: In Shopify, apart from product titles and descriptions, tags are the only other searchable product field, which means that you can include all sorts of weird terms to make your products easily discoverable.
No kidding. Let me show you how you can use this to your advantage.
In your online store it’s up to you to make products easy to find by including relevant terms in product titles, descriptions and tags.
By relevant terms I mean words and phrases that users are likely to search for when looking for a particular product. For example, if you were selling the Adidas NMD sneakers series in your store, you should have made sure words pertinent to each individual model were included in the respective titles, such as Pharrell Sun or Pharrell Pale or Chanel or Oreo – these are all names of NMD models.
Similarly, even more words that are directly relevant to these sneakers should be included in each product’s description, such as a description of their color, or the words Adidas originals, or collectible or Pharrell Williams.
And this is where the product tags come in handy, because they are invisible.
This is your only chance to attach unusual terms to a product such as misspelled or seemingly less relevant words, or even longer phrases if they help visitors find the product. No one will ever see these words and phrases, although they’re still searchable. In the NMD shoes example, it would be a good idea to include as tags misspelled versions of words from the products’ titles, such as Pharrel, Pharell, Pharel, Wiliams or Channel.
Use your imagination and go wild with this one. You don’t even necessarily need to try and guess unusual phrases that your customers might type in the search box, since Shopify provides a report for that as well.
7. Instances when Shopify apps can help a lot, out-of-the-box
At the agency we’ve found that we end up using Shopify apps from certain app categories in the vast majority of the stores we build, no matter what vertical or country they’re in. I thought you’d like to have some tips on the main areas in your store where you should be using apps from day 1.
Discount apps will sort out your sales and discounts
One of the things that you cannot do on Shopify natively is schedule discounts and reduce a product’s price by a set percentage. There are several apps that offer this functionality though, which makes managing sales a breeze.
Using these apps, you can easily apply a discount either to a group of specific products or to a particular collection, a task you’d otherwise have to do for each product separately. They are also extremely useful when you want to schedule start and end dates for a sale. You don’t want to have to switch off your sale manually at midnight on a Sunday, believe me.
We’ve really come to love Sale Discount Wizard, because it gets the job done and it’s packed with useful features, but there are several other apps that can help you save up on these menial, time consuming tasks.
Instagram feed apps are now essential (since July 2020)
Instagram changed its API back in July 2020, and native Shopify themes sections stopped working as a result. The solution is an Instagram feed app to replace this functionality. There are a few to choose from, with most decent ones being free with extra paid features.
Shopify Email will take care of your email marketing
This is an integrated email marketing campaign tool which is really easy to use, even if you’re new to all this. It has a very simple interface, you get email templates to use and it doesn’t require any setup. You manage everything though your Shopify dashboard, so you can start your email marketing immediately. It’s also conveniently free if you’re sending out up to 2,500 emails per month. After that, as of October 1, 2020 you’re charged $1 for every 1,000 emails you send. It’s the perfect startup tool for your email marketing, from which you can upgrade to a more advance solution later on.
Product Reviews is a must
Reviews are crucial for your store, because they are the first proof a potential customer has about the quality of your products and the reliability of your services. Shopify’s own Product Reviews is a very simple and easy to use app for collecting reviews for your products. It’s one of the tools that will definitely help you boost your sales.
You should seriously consider all this for your Shopify store
Some of these tips took us a while to figure out in the agency. Others required quite a bit of trial and error and testing on different e-shops before we could decide on the best way to go about setting up certain parts of a store.
Hopefully I’ve saved you all this trouble.
Consider applying as many of these tips as you can in your own store, and you’ll see a noticeable difference in productivity, admin time saved and, more importantly, revenue. Do let me know if they worked for you.
Meanwhile, we’re putting together a longer list with even more tips for Shopify beginners. If you’re interested, leave me your email below and I’ll send it over as soon as it’s out. I might also send you more stuff like that in the future, but I’ll never spam you — that’s a promise.