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The Shopify Store Checklist: What You Need to Get Started

by Dirk Llorens Oct. 8, 2021

Setting up a Shopify store can be an exciting business opportunity. Whether you are launching a side-hustle and selling something you produce at home, or you are looking to launch a retail empire on Shopify, the early steps are very much the same for everyone.

Online sales are hitting record numbers, and it is possible for virtually anyone to join the huge numbers of retail sellers, as over $6 trillion is estimated to be spent online by the year 2024.

Luckily, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to create a successful Shopify store. There are tried-and-tested methods to make sure nothing is forgotten and that you fulfill all of your responsibilities. In this guide, we’re bringing you multiple steps to follow to ensure that you get everything right upon launch, and give your store the best chances for success. Whether you’re already selling on Amazon and Walmart, or whether your own eCommerce store is the first step into selling online.

Follow our checklist and boost your chances of success.


Before Launch


Before you even think about launching your store, there are many steps to take to get the ball rolling. Though it is tempting to rush ahead and launch as soon as you can, it isn’t always the best idea, and spending some time in the preparation phase can make all the difference.

Shopify has over 250,000 stores, and not all of them succeed. Many fail due to the lack of preparation and research.

Pre-launch checklist:

  • Research your product – A lot of sellers fail to do adequate research on the products they are going to sell. Make sure that there is a market in place for your products, and check up on the competition.
  • Register a business and take care of income tax – This is vital. We’re no tax advisors, but you need to make sure that you consult the professionals and register the business with the relevant authorities in your area. There are likely to be tax benefits to the proper registration and the correct steps to set up a business.
  • Set up your account and password-protect your store. The process of setting up a Shopify store is incredibly simple, if you can set up a Facebook account, you can set up a Shopify store. Password protect it so you can make alterations in a sandbox without people seeing the store.
  • Set up payment providers, delivery methods, sales tax, currencies, and other store defaults. This is where some of the store setup options can feel overwhelming. Take some time to make the relevant decisions for shipping and store defaults based on where you live and the type of products. You probably shouldn’t charge $0.99 if your item is going to cost $20 to ship. Payment processing accounts are relatively simple with companies like Stripe and PayPal.
  • Set up a custom domain if required. A custom domain looks so much better than a subdomain, and it is great for building trust. Showing consumers that your store is trustworthy is something Shopify focuses on helping stores with.


Setting Up and Launching Your Store


A lot of the pre-launch steps to take involve the “back end” options. The next focus is both on the products and the look and feel of the storefront.

You will likely have an idea of how you want the store to look already. Perhaps it needs to fit with your branding.

On top of that, you have the challenge of populating the store with the products in question.

The checklist for the “launch” phase includes:

  • Make sure you can fulfill your orders. Whether you are dropshipping or you are going to hold physical stock, it is vital that you have a way to ship the items once they are ordered. This could mean working with a warehousing or fulfillment center.
  • Install a theme and customize it. Beginners can do this by using one of the included themes that have already been developed by Shopify. If you are launching a bigger store, you could work with a developer or web designer to create a unique theme for your store.
  • Organize categories and navigation. You could think of this as the infrastructure of the whole store. The best eCommerce sites manage this very well. Think of how many products are sold on Amazon, and how well it tends to be categorized. When you want to navigate through their platform, it’s really simple to get to the products you need. If you fail to set up your product categories and tags, it will be much harder as your store grows. A full guide can be found here. If you need different sizing or other options for products, it can be more of a tough task.
  • Add store plugins. If you’ve ever used WordPress, you’ll know roughly how plugins can enhance running a store, and help with the user experience. There is a resource for plugins on Shopify, which can help with everything from upselling to customer retention.


Testing the Store


Testing your Shopify store is the next step.

Once you think it is time to launch, it is time to test the store as if you were a customer. Place a dummy order, and check the way that the platform works. Are all of the choices you want on the platform? Can your customer easily select different sizes or alter the other setting,s or get the item shipped to their location.

Shopify knows that people need to run these tests, especially before a big launch. If you have an email list with 10,000 people on it, you could be missing out on some serious revenue if the store doesn’t work as it should upon launch. Testing is your key.

You don’t even have to use real money for the tests. In Shopify’s words:

“You can place a test order by simulating a transaction through Shopify's Bogus Gateway, or if you're using Shopify Payments, then you can test your configuration by using Shopify Payments test mode.”

Check that all of the following aspects of your store work as expected:

  • Finding items through categories and searches.
  • Adding items to the basket including the different sizes.
  • Shipping for all of the different locations in which you want to sell, including the correct amounts.
  • Email notifications and post-checkout pages on your website.
  • Canceling and refunding orders. There is a Shopify guide to testing this.

Only when you are confident that every aspect of your store is in working order should you launch.


Promote Your Store


Of course, the process of promoting your store is one that can start long before you actually launch. However, once you have launched it is time to follow the checklist for promoting. Of course, this is different for every seller, so it is not necessarily essential to follow every step of this Shopify checklist. However, you do need to ensure you have a thorough strategy for driving customers to your store.

  • Launch a blog to drive traffic to your store and keep customers updated.
  • Make sure your store is mobile-friendly, this is one of the top tips for promoting a Shopify store in 2021 as even more people move to ordering on mobile devices.
  • Set up paid advertising. PPC campaigns on Google, or even social networks such as Facebook and Twitter can be a way to drive traffic and sales.
  • Optimize for SEO. Improving your chances of ranking on Google is one of the best ways to boost sales for the long term. 60% of users click on one of the top three results, so it pays to be near the top.
  • Launch special promotions and discounts. This provides you with an opportunity to hook new customers in and build trust for the long term.
  • Ensure your shop has social profiles and a mailing list. Keeping customers hooked in can ensure that you actually retain customers and send out special promotions in the future.
  • Launch an affiliate program. This is one of the best ways to get your products mentioned and promoted elsewhere on the internet. You simply provide a financial incentive if someone refers a sale. This can be a powerful tool if bloggers link to your site.

Marketing is not as simple as following the steps above, or everyone would be launching successful stores. However, these are some of the basic steps that you can take to drive some initial sales to the website and get your store up and running.


Summary – Nailing Your Shopify Launch


Though the very basics of launching a Shopify store are pretty straightforward, getting it right is a challenge. Some estimates claim that around 90% of Shopify stores fail. Of course, it comes down to your own ambitions for the store and the sales levels you aspire to, but nobody wants their Shopify business to fail.

Following the steps on this checklist can help you to ensure that you get off on the right foot, and that you don’t forget any of the absolute fundamentals when setting up your storefront.