Someone recently asked me for my top tips for Shopify beginners and this really got me thinking. If I had to pick just a few of the most common mistakes and pitfalls, what would it be?
I’ve condensed it down as much as I can and if you are a beginner with Shopify then hopefully this can save you a lot of time, money and “sweat equity”.
This is mostly written from the perspective of dropshipping, print on demand and sourcing products from China but this can apply to any sort of ecommerce store. There are certain fundamental problems that almost all failed Shopify stores have in common.
7 Shopify Tips for Success
1. Find Your Audience
There are a lot of ingredients that make a Shopify beginner successful. One of the most important ingredients to find your audience.
What is your audience? These are all your potential customers.
You need to understand that you are not Amazon or Walmart. If you try and sell products to everyone you will end up selling products to no one.
Here are 5 important questions you need to ask yourself before you even get your Shopify subscription.
+ Is my audience clearly defined?
Do you know the demographics of your audience and do you know what it is they like and what they are looking for? What is their problems and/or pain points that you are looking to help them solve?
+ Can I target my audience?
If you plan on running Facebook ads, can you target your audience on Facebook? If you are buying traffic from Google Ads, what keywords can you use to target your audience?
Is there search volume for those keywords and what does the competition look like? If you plan on doing SEO, do you even stand a chance at ranking for those keywords?
It is essential that you use a tool like SEMrush to find keywords that have a decent volume AND low competition. If you don’t then you will probably never rank and never get much traffic.
+ Do they have a clear and definite problem I can solve? OR do they have a clear passion that I can tap into?
Products generally fall into one of 3 categories:
– Products that solve a pain or a problem.
– Products that satisfy a passion or a hobby and
– Products that are unique and/or quirky and that have a wow-factor.
(we are ignoring general consumable products that people can buy in supermarkets).
+ Do I know exactly where they hang out online?
Knowing where your audience hangs out online is super important. If they are not on Facebook then you probably can’t target them. It depends a lot on the demographic and the niche but make sure you know where they hang out. You need to “stalk” them to learn what their needs are.
We are all part of many “tribes” and we are all attracted to people and things that interest us. When people are part of a group they tend to display similar behaviour to others in that group.
It is this fact that allows us to sell relatable products to groups of people who share common interests or problems.
You need to spend a lot of time trying to understand the audience you are trying to sell to. The better you understand their pain points the more effective you can be at communicating and helping them solve their own problems with your products.
2. Find Your Product(s)
Most Shopify beginners start by trying to find products first. I am not completely opposed to this; there is one important distinction. You need to always consider your audience and your products together.
The golden formula for success is this:
Show the right product to the right audience at the right price.
Your product and your audience always goes hand in hand. Your ultimate goal with selling products is not just to make money. Your goal is to help people solve a problem or satisfy their interests and passions.
The degree to which you can achieve this will determine your success.
If you are a beginner I would encourage you to find very small and very targeted audiences. It makes it so much easier to nail down a product or products that they would love and buy.
The worst thing you can do is to sell niche products to a general audience or sell general products to a niche audience.
If you start with products that are proven to sell then you start with a huge advantage. There are many tools that can help you.
3. Avoid General Stores
I’ve written a more detailed post about general stores, niche stores and one product stores and I would encourage you to read that in detail before you even think about opening your Shopify store.
Most beginners follow a flawed logic. They think that the more “winning products” they have in their store the better the chances of people buying.
Hence, a general store. These are stores that sell anything and everything. While there is a way to make these stores work well, for a beginner I would strongly discourage this. It used to work well 5 or 6 years ago but now it just looks like spam.
One of my top tips for a Shopify beginner is to start with a niche store. Pick a nice that you know or that you are interested in. It will set you apart from the “me too” dropshippers and help give you direction. Niche stores generally convert much better than general stores anyway.
4. Clear, Simple and Professional Store Setup
Setting up your Shopify store can be a daunting task if you are unfamiliar with Shopify. It is a super simple platform though and you will quickly get the hang of it.
The best stores are simple, clear and free from gimmicks and gadgets. The overall look and feel of your store will go a long way in creating trust with customers.
Avoid Spammy Looking Stores
There are far too many dropshipping style stores. I can now spot them from a mile away. Customers are also catching on and these spammy looking dropshipping stores are fast becoming ineffective.
What does a spammy store look like? Its usually a cookie cutter store that was bought from some market place for a few hundred dollars.
It is filled with common Aliexpress products and filled with images straight from Aliexpress. It has lots of bells and whistles with countdown timers, alerts, fake notifications and trust badges scattered everywhere.
These stores are also very incoherent and the color schemes and graphics usually do not match up.
Get a professional theme
Your store needs to look utterly professional if you were to stand a chance. Succeeding with Shopify and ecommerce is not easy. The competition is fierce.
If you are not graphically inclined and do not have the skills to customize a Shopify theme then you need to invest in a good one. I recommend any of the themes by Out Of The Sandbox as they look great without any editing.
If you can’t afford a great theme yet, I suggest you just use Shopify’s Debut theme and make use of Shopify’s support to help you customize it.
Make sure that you at least get a professional logo designed. You can get one for $5 – $10 over at Fiverr.com.
Be careful with people selling (for cheap) or giving away paid themes in Facebook groups. There was recently someone who coded these themes to jack people’s sales and they can do some serious damage to you if they can get into your store. Its not worth it.
Don’t go overboard with apps
When you set up your Shopify store as a beginner you will be tempted to use all the bells and whistles at your disposal.
There are a lot of apps that can add a lot of really cool features to your store. Avoid this at all costs. Focus on setting up a basic store free from distractions.
With free themes you might need some apps to build in all the functions you want but of you use any of the themes from Out Of The Sandbox then you hardly need any apps at all.
Apps slow down your store and a slow store will affect your sales.
Images, Images, Images
This is a big one and it is very important. Your product images as well as all other imagery on your site needs to look great.
If you are sourcing products from Aliexpress or Alibaba then you will need to do a lot of work on these images. A simple copy and paste from Aliexpress is just not good enough anymore.
The best way is to simply order the product(s) and take pictures with your phone. Trust me, that is a million times more effective than Aliexpress images.
5. Do You Have Enough Cash?
One common question I see pop up over and over again in Facebook groups is “how much money do I need to Start?” There are a million variables and a lot of it depends on what you want to start.
If you want to start dropshipping then you will need to have enough cash to not only set up your store but also be able to fulfill order. The same goes for starting a Shopify print on demand store.
You can probably get set up for under $200 if you use a free theme.
Getting set up is not the problem though. The biggest expense you will have is to buy traffic. If you are getting started on facebook then anything less than $500 will be very tough to really find winning audiences and ad sets.
On Facebook Ads you will most likely need video creates as well which can be another expense to deal with unless you can do it yourself.
With Google Ads you can probably start with a much smaller advertising budget of $250 but you will need to have a much cleaner looking store and pick your keywords very carefully.
Either way, a low budget has one big problem: it is “scared money”. If you count every dollar spent and try and save and cut corners then you will most likely not make good advertising decisions.
I am not suggesting you burn money on ads but you need some wiggle room. You will make mistakes and it will costs you. You want to make sure that one mistake does not stop your business.
In my opinion, a more comfortable budget is $1000 to $2500. This is on the lower end but at least it gives you the opportunity to test 2 to 5 products. Even if you don’t succeed with these, at least it will buy you a lot of data and a lot of experience.
Buying traffic is not the only way though. You can do it with free traffic but this is much slower. You can read my Shopify tips for traffic that you do not have to pay for here >>
6. Sort Out Your Fulfilment
Fulfilment is a big part of running an online store. Many beginners opt for dropshipping because it is so quick and easy to start.
Sourcing products from China is riddled with problems. Dropshipping exasperates this only further. Slow shipping times and poor product quality are the two main problems and either of them can ruin your business.
Your long term plan should never be to dropship. Finding local suppliers is harder but well worth the effort. At the very least you should try and find an agent in China that can do quality control for you and get your products shipped with a faster shipping lane.
Ordering products in bulk and shipping it from a fulfillment center is also a great option and can really add a nice bump in your profit margins.
If you are starting out with Aliexpress products then here are a few important pointers:
- Use Oberlo or a similar app to manage your orders.
- Make sure that there are more than 1 Aliexpress seller with your product(s) in case you have problems with one of them.
-Make sure your Aliexpress seller has been around for more than 1 year (minimum) and that they have a good feedback score.
- Make sure they are responsive and that you can get hold of them via messenger if needed.
- Order the product(s) yourself if you can just to make sure it’s not garbage.
- Check their average shipping times – during the COVID-19 period shipping times are insanely slow and it seems to still be the case until international air travel is fully operational again.
7. Avoid The Guru Trap
There are so many gurus out there and some even have the audacity to sell their courses for $5000. The challenge is that when you are struggling and not making sales, you are very easily led astray. Desperation often leads beginners to buy expensive courses.
While I am certainly not opposed to courses I am opposed to guru BS. Anyone can talk themselves up and post screenshots from 3 years ago – or worse still, photoshop their results.
My golden rule is to never buy a course because you think it will take you from $0 to $1000/day. When you buy a course because you want to go from $500/day to $1000 per day then its a totally different learning experience.
There are more than enough free resources on Youtube for you to get started. In fact, there are too many. I would suggest the following 3 Youtube channels by reputable ecommerce experts.
- Gabriel St. Germain – he hasn’t posted much lately but its still very relevant and excellent information.
- Arie Scherson – lots of great Shopify tutorials and strategies.
- Verum eCom – these guys are the bomb and they have paid course that is only like $100
Just pick one or two channels and focus on the strategies they teach. In ecom there are dozens of ways to succeed. Jumping from one strategy to the next and never really mastering anything is a recipe for disaster.
The fastest and most effective way to succeed is to get yourself a mentor. Having 1-on-1 help is vastly different from courses. I offer mentorship if you are interested or if you would like your store reviewed, please hit me up – I would love to help you personally.
I’ve fallen deep into the gurus trap when I first started and I too pulled out the credit card for a $1000+ course on more than one occasion. I always learned something but none of these courses “made” me successful.
There are a lot of small and subtle differences between stores that fail and stores that succeed.
A Final Shopify Tip for Beginners
These are my top 7 Shopify tips for success if you are a beginner. While all the Shopify beginner tips are important there is an overriding idea that is more important than anything else.
That is your mindset.
It might sound a bit fluffy for some but if you do not have the right mindset you simply can not make it in ecommerce. Beginners who start with a positive and enthusiastic mindset are far more likely to succeed.
You need to eliminate the possibility of failing. If you are skeptical and doubtful that this could work then you probably will meet your own expectations.
The attitude you need to adopt is one of learning. Everything you do will have a result. You can either sulk and get depressed when this result is not what you want OR you can see it as a blessing and a lesson and know how to do it better next time.
Starting a Shopify store is easy. Selling products, making a profit and building a brand and a business is most certainly not easy. It takes a lot of persistence and patience and above all you need to become a student and always have your learning cap on.