The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Successful Shopify Store
You're here because you have a dream. You’ve got the spirit of an entrepreneur.
You want more time with your family. You want more financial freedom. You’re tired of working so hard for someone else’s dream.
And you can see the possibilities of starting an online store.
But if you’re like me, it’s all a little overwhelming. You wish there was someone who could take your hand and walk you step by step through the process. . .
Say Hello To Your Personal Shopify Guide
My name is Grace. I’m a mom. I’m a wife. And I’ve been running successful Shopify stores for over 7 years.
But it didn’t happen overnight.
I made just about every mistake possible when I was getting started.
But through trial and error, I developed a One Product Shopify Store Method that was profitable, scalable, and most importantly, allowed me to make a living while putting my family first.
It’s the method I used to grow 4 different Shopify stores with over a million dollars in revenue.
And it’s the method I’ve taught over and over to others who are now growing successful online businesses.
But First, the Bad News
8 out of 10 online stores will fail within their first 24 months.
Once upon a time, all you had to do to sell online was choose a product, stake your claim on a website or in a marketplace like Amazon or Ebay, and start counting your profits.
If you built it, they would come. And if you had what they needed (or wanted), they would buy. Simple.
But e-commerce is no longer the wild west. It is streamlined and highly competitive.
Amazon has become a household name, offering consumers just about anything with a single click, and reporting an astronomical$410 million in average daily sales.
Shopify boasts over1,000,000 merchants in 175 different countries. Then you have Etsy, Overstock, Ebay, and so many others to compete against.
And Now, Some Good News
Even though competition is fierce, online shopping is exploding.
There is still a lot of money to be made online.
But you have to get it right.
Building a Value-Based Business
Consumers are smarter than ever. They research, they read reviews, and they compare brands. . . because they can. Everything is just a click away.
But ultimately, the shift that is happening with today’s consumer, is that they want more than just a product.
They want to buy into a brand that they believe in. They aren’t just comparison shopping. They’re shopping for value-based businesses whose heart and mission is in the same place as theirs.
That means that you have to take a drastically different approach to selling online in order to stand out and make it.
You need to give consumers a reason to shop with you.
You can still find “coaches” and “courses” that teach this “if you build it they will come” approach to online selling.
That isnotmy approach.
A word of warning. This article is a lengthy read. But if you’re serious about starting a Shopify store, there are no shortcuts. Bookmark this web-page, pour yourself a cup of coffee, get ready to take some notes, and let’s dig in.
Here’s exactly, step-by-step, what you need to do to start a successful one product Shopify store today:
1. Find One Person With a Burning Problem
How do you have a successful Shopify store?
Sell something people want.
Consumers have more options than have ever been available in the history of retail. So how do you find what people really want?
Start with the problem.
This step alone is the most fundamental part of starting any e-commerce store. But it’s not sexy, and it’s not easy. So most people skip it.
If you take the time to define your market, you’ll be ahead of 90% of the pack.
This was the biggest mistake I made with The Bali Market (one of my Shopify stores). I love Turkish towels, so I decided to sell them.
I didn’t start with the person or define the problem my product would solve. And it cost me a lot of headache, backtracking, and money to fix my mistake.
I’m telling you right now, if you want to make it harder to be successful, go ahead and skip this step. Seriously. Try it.
When you take the time to understand who you’re selling to, why they should care, and what problem your product solves them, everything else in your business is easier.
Writing product descriptions is easier. Writing social media captions is easier. Knowing what photos you need for your website…
When the person you’re serving is fully defined, every aspect of your business becomes clearer.
If I were starting a Turkish towel business again (and doing it right the first time), here’s what this first step might look like:
So now, I know what the product needs to do and how it needs to look.
This last step is so important because as a tiny business owner (it’s just me), I can’t afford to “spray and pray” with my advertising. Nor do I have the time or the capital to create a brand awareness campaign.
If I know where to find my target market, I can go right to them and advertise effectively.
2. Source the Product That Solves the Problem
You don’t have to invent a brand new product. To invent something new takes time and capital. Plus, you never know how the market will receive a brand new product.
Instead, choose a product that already exists, but make it better suited for your target market.
This was how I was successful with The Bali Market. I didn’t invent Turkish towels. But I took a different approach.
Many online retailers had bright, funky patterns best used for the beach. Others had a ton of options. So I took the approach of having just a few styles in classic colors, and presented them to a minimalist target market.
Here’s a few ways to find manufacturers:
To findreal manufacturers online, search for trade shows that feature your type of product: home goods, baby, gifts, resorts. There are trade shows for nearly every niche. Find the trade show websites, then peruse the vendor list. Better yet, attend one of the trade shows to meet them face-to-face.
It’s a tedious process, but it’s effective.
Pro Tip:You’re not likely to find good recommendations on a public Shopify sellers Facebook group. A good manufacturer is hard to find and most people aren’t willing to share their source. It’s best to ask non-online retailers for recommendations. You never know who’s friend of a friend has an uncle who makes your product. Remember, not all manufacturers are overseas. They might be the next town over.
3. Product Testing and Market Research
When I was looking for Turkish towels, I tested over 8 different manufacturers before I found the right one.
Every company claims to have high quality products. But even though every towel was made from Turkish cotton in Turkey, there was a noticeable difference in quality from one manufacturer to the next.
If you want to avoid a customer service nightmare, avoid poor quality products.
A high quality product is not just a differentiator, it’s a necessity when building a brand.
A huge factor in building a sustainable business is getting as many 5-star reviews as possible (I’ll share more on how to get reviews later). The easiest way to get good reviews is by selling a product peoplewant to leave a review for. So don’t skimp on quality.
After testing and finding my top choices, I ask for feedback from customers or potential customers.
This is market research.
Remember, in this example, I’ve identified my target market as people who live on houseboats. That means I’m going to search out people who live on houseboats and ask them what they think of my top towel choices.
I’ll send them samples, ask them to test and use the towel, then give feedback. It’s best to send surveys that look as professional as possible.
Asking for feedback or conducting market research in a Facebook group is not always welcome. You’re asking for their time and opinion. You may have to “pay to play.” So again, ask around and use any personal connections to connect with a market research group.
Once you get feedback, study it, adjust the product as necessary, then place your first order.
My first order was for 500 units. At the time, it felt like a lot, but I quickly learned it was not enough.
Had I used the process of finding my one person with a burning problem, then doing intensive market research, I would have been much more confident in placing my first order.
Every product is different, so there’s no exact number you should start with. Crunch the numbers to see what you think you can reasonably sell, including how many products you will use for giveaways, and order accordingly.
4. Start An Email List Geared To Your One Person
You’ve probably been told you need a websitebefore you start an email list. As Dwight Schrute would say: FALSE.
If you want to launch a successful Shopify store, growing an email list comes first.
Mind blown, yet?
The first 100 subscribers are the hardest. But spend the time and effort to get those first 100 out of the way.
You do this by connecting with your target audience and offering information about your product and how it helps with the problems they have. There is no room for timidity here.
Ask for the email address of every person that you talk to about your business that expresses even a little interest. At this point in building the business, you’re a novelty, like a cute, little puppy dog.
You’ll be surprised at how willing they’ll be to give you their email address if you can convey even a little of your excitement.
People also love being a part of an exclusive group.
Offer an incentive to anyone who joins. Provide a free sample. Invite prospects to be part of your market research and to have a say in the final product. Or add a “founding members” page on your website to commemorate the commitment of those first people who believed in your business.
5. Find A Fulfillment Center
I spent years fulfilling my own orders. I thought I was saving money this way, but I was actually holding my own business back.
There were times when I didn’t want to get more orders because I physically couldn’t fulfill them, or I just didn’t want to spend the time to do so.
When I finally made the switch to a fulfillment center (also known as a 3PL - 3rd Party Logistics), I had all kinds of problems. The time and money I spent creating my own packaging and fulfillment systems didn’t translate to a 3PL.
I had to change packaging and change my SKUs. This meant that the transition to a 3PL took more revenue, more time, and compromised the customer experience.
Word to the wise: Get set up with a fulfillment center from the start. It removes a lot of friction and eliminates revenue loss when you do make the move to a 3PL.
Pro Tip:Try to find a 3PL as close as possible to where you live. Issues come up all the time. If your 3PL is local you may be able to fix a problem with a quick trip to the warehouse. Also, if they know you personally, you’re more likely to get issues solved more quickly and special requests granted.
6. Write Your Product Description For Your One Person Addressing Their Burning Problem
Rember step one? We defined your audience. Now you need to use that information to craft product descriptions that will connect with this audience and their problem.
Your product can have many different uses and solve many different problems. It probably has several features and many benefits.
But as the saying goes, “if you try to please everyone, you please no one.”
In your product description, speak just to your specific audience and show them how your product solves their specific problem.
I have an extremely picky eater. She’s never eaten a vegetable in her life. Food is a constant battle and her diet consists of mostly bread, cereal, and yogurt. I came across a product targeted at picky eaters. The product description referenced getting kids to eat more than chicken nuggets.
I would be thrilled if my child ate chicken nuggets.
If this product was truly geared for extremely picky eaters, the description might say, “get your child to eat more than 2 or 3 foods. That’s a distinct difference that speaks to moms like me.
That’s why knowing your audience and getting feedback is so important. When you collect feedback, you can use your prospects exact words in your product description.
And when you do that, your prospect thinks, “Wow! This brand gets me. This isexactly what I need.”
7. Conduct a Professional Photo Shoot
Photography is one place in your business you can’t afford to skimp.
Without fail, when I tried to run my Shopify stores without a professional photo shoot, the business didn’t grow.
Photos are the visual representation of your brand and the way people connect with you, so you’ve got to do it well.
If I’m creating a brand of towels for people who live on houseboats, my photoshoot needs to be on a houseboat. There is no way to authentically sell to your target audience without showing them how your product fits into their life.
For The Bali Market, my actual target market is minimalists. I didn’t have a home that would appeal visually to this audience, so I needed a photographerand a location.
I searched Instagram for photographers and found one with a home that fit the visual representation of my brand. Even though she lives in Minnesota, and I am in Arizona, I make the trip for photo shoots.
My photographer is one of my businesses biggest assets. It’s worth finding the right photographer for your brand, rather than compromising to find one locally.
I've written the full Shopify photography guide for you.
It's the Five Photos Every Shopify Store Needs.
Enter your email to get the FREE guide.
8. Build Your Website
While it might be tempting to jump straight to building the Shopify store, you’ve got to have your foundation already in place (i.e. steps 1-7).
Then, and only then, can you effectively build a Shopify store. With the photos and product descriptions you created to speak and relate to your one person, it’s going to come together with purpose.
Pro Tip:Don’t forget to add Google Analytics with e-commerce tracking from the start. You’ll miss out on a lot of crucial data without it.
9. Write an Epic Blog Post
Everyone tells you that for SEO (Search Engine Optimization), you need a blog. You need to be consistent. You need to post fresh content every day.
While this is good advice, I’ve found a different approach that produces much better results with much less effort.
Instead of pumping out basic blog posts on a daily or weekly basis, I write one quality, epic blog post.
For The Bali Market, I wrote a post called “The Ultimate Guide to Turkish Towels.”
It was hard. It took a lot of time and effort. But it may have been the best investment I spent on my business. That one blog post resulted in over $50,000 in direct revenue. Not to mention the impact it had on my growing email list and on customer lifetime value.
Here’s why an epic blog post works so well.
It speaks to both the reader and to Google.
Google’s purpose is to connect the right people to the right content. They work hard to be the best connector in the world because the more often Google gets search results right, the more you’re going to come back and use it over and over.
When you write an amazing blog post, people take notice, and then Google takes notice.
People take notice because you’re being helpful. They read the whole post, then click through to other posts (or products) linked on the page.
That’s when Google takes notice. They see people landing on your blog post, and spending a lot of time reading it. They see clicks through to other pages. Then Google says, “Okay, this is a great post. Let’s show it to more people.” This moves your blog post up in the search results, eventually making it to the first page.
Here are the steps I take to create an epic blog post:
- Research existing blog posts in my niche
- Conduct keyword research
- Write a blog post that meets a need for my audience
- Send it to a copy editor
- Publish my blog post
- Run traffic to it
- Analyze data
- Keep it fresh and updated
- Collect emails on the blog post
10. Launch to Your Email List
No one ever hit “publish” and their Shopify store and was instantly flooded with traffic and sales.
It’s not Shopify’s job to drive traffic to my store. It’s my job.
The only way to guarantee customers show up on Day One of your Shopify store launch is to have an email list to launch to.
That’s why you have to build your email list early and intentionally. But collecting a list of addresses isn’t going to be enough. You need to actually write to this list, nurturing it, and building hype and excitement for launch day success.
11. Ask For Reviews and Referrals
How do you get reviews?
Give your customers a reason to leave a review: A great customer experience, amazing customer service, and a really good product.
I see reviews all the time where people say, “I never leave reviews, but I love this so much and I just have to share my experience.”
And let’s be real. Customer service for most online stores is pretty bad. It doesn’t take much to stand out right now. Great service is as simple as treating others how you want to be treated.
There are apps that automate the review process. Choose the review app (I use Judge.me) and get it set up to send review requests to customers automatically. The app will send 1-3 emails asking for a review after the customer receives their order.
Set this up right away to collect reviews from the start.
12. Analyze and Repeat
Repeat everything that works. The only way to know what works is to analyze the data.
Look at what products are selling well and order more.
Learn what products aren’t selling, clearance them out, and pivot to new products.
Keep the best-sellers, and phase out the slow-sellers.
Do this over and over again, making sure that all your products are tried and tested top-sellers.
Starting a successful Shopify store isn’t easy. It takes a lot of hard work, commitment, and a strong purpose and vision for your brand. But you can do this. And if you need help, I’ll be here, providing you with content and resources to help you crush your goals.