Essential Shopify Checklist
The following are the essential pieces of information needed to start your Shopify store. Don’t let anything fall through the cracks—get up and running as quickly and smoothly as possible with this Shopify checklist.
If you do not have a domain name, first check and see if it’s available.
If it is, you can purchase it through Shopify for a low rate. (Some extensions are excluded, such as .mx.) If you purchase through them there is no other set up required, making this a great option for the technically challenged. However, should you decide to move off the Shopify platform and keep the domain name, transferring the name to another platform is a bit tedious, but doable.
If you purchase a domain name from another provider like GoDaddy, 1and1, Bluehost, etc, you will need to go through a simple procedure to tell Shopify to add the name to your account. That process is outlined here.
If you purchased your domain name through Shopify, you will not get email included (meaning, no firstname.lastname@example.org). You will have to set up email yourself. Many small businesses use Gsuite, an affordable service, to host their email accounts.
If you purchased your domain name through another provider, you will likely be given the opportunity to host email accounts with them.
Shopify integrates seamlessly with Google Analytics (though you are free to use another service like KISSmetrics). In order to get the full benefits of Google Analytics with Shopify, turn on eCommerce tracking from within your Analytics account. Here is how to do that. Once you sign up, you’ll get an account number you can plug into Shopify.
A favicon is the little icon that appears to the left of a website’s title in the browser window/tab. It’s 16px × 16px (32px × 32px on retina displays) and is often a minimalistic version of the site’s logo. Have something ready to go or the site will default to Shopify’s favicon.
Shipping Services & Costs
Where will you be shipping your products, how, and for how much? It’s up to you to decide.
Shopify bases shipping rates on zones—as specific as city, or general as continent/the rest of the world. So, have your zones figured out before you launch. Then, you can set zone rates based on weight or order amount, or let a shipping service calculate it.
For example, shipping within the US and Canada might be a flat rate of $5 for orders under $50 and free for $50+, sent with UPS; and calculated by FedEx for the rest of the world. Or, you can offer customers a range of options/costs (standard, expedited, overnight, etc).
If you are on the Advanced Shopify Plan or higher, then you can use USPS, Canada Post, UPS, or FedEx account credentials to display calculated rates at checkout and ship with these services. Other services have their own apps, too.
Entirely optional, a fulfillment service (also known as a 3PL) will store, pack (sometimes), and ship your orders. If you are using a 3PL, be sure to consult with them about their shipping and handling process, as you may need to configure Shopify a specific way.
If you wanna get paid, you gotta accept payments! A payment gateway acts as the intermediary between your bank and the customer’s credit card (or other payment account such as PayPal, Google Wallet, or Bitcoin). The gateways you can select from depend on the location of your business’s bank account. If the account is located in the US, UK, Australia, or Canada, you can use Shopify’s own payment gateway to capture payments for no transaction fees. Authorize.net, stripe, and PayPal are other popular gateways, but they have fees around 2% per transaction.
If the account is located outside of the above countries, there are many other gateways you can choose from, each with their own transaction fees and rules.
You will need to prove to the gateway that you are legitimate business. For Shopify Payments, this means providing your business’s:
- legal structure (sole proprietor, LLC, etc)
- employer identification number (EIN)
- address and phone number
- bank account number
- bank routing number
If you want to accept PayPal, you must have a merchant account. You can use PayPal as your only gateway (it will accept credit cards for non-Paypal users), or use it in conjunction with another.
Taxes are complicated, no bones about it. Perhaps this is why taxes are the #1 most overlooked thing about setting up an online store. Before you even think about setting your tax rates, consult with an eCommerce tax expert. They will help you determine if you must charge taxes, for which products or services, and for how much. In general, you’re required to charge county, municipal, and state taxes for regions your business has a presence in (nexus).
I recommend the app TaxJar for all my US-based clients. It makes organizing and remitting your taxes a cinch!
Finally, decide if your prices will display inclusive or exclusive of tax. UK stores must display their prices inclusive of tax.
I recommend deciding on your collection organization before you enter products. A collection needs to know what goes inside of it using product type, tag, vendor/brand, title, price, or weight.
Say, for example, you sell men’s shirts and you want to set up collections like so:
- Under $20
- Brand X
- Spring Colors
- Short Sleeves
- Long Sleeves
- Tank Tops
Under $20 and Brand X are easy enough (price and vendor rules), but what about colors and sleeve length? Here you might use tags for colors, and set product types as Long sleeve shirts, Short sleeve shirts, and Tank tops. Tags and product type are not required product fields, but because you know what your collections are, you can use them to your advantage (rather than leaving them blank or, say, setting product type as ‘shirt’ across all products, which isn’t useful.)
Most themes have space for a collection banner image, or even a video. Check with your theme or your designer if you have one what your options are and make sure you have the assets should you want to use them.
Will your products have options, such as size, shape, or color? How many options will they have? Think strategically about this—and keep in mind Shopify only lets you assign 3 options to any product.
Let’s say you’re selling a long sleeve and a short sleeve shirt in different colors. You could sell them like this:
Or like this:
In Catalog 1, you’ve opted sell products with options. Meaning, once the customer clicks inside the product, he will be presented with color options (aka, variants):
In Catalog 2, you’ve opted to sell products without options; that is, there is nothing else to select (of course in real life clothing almost always has a size option, but let’s pretend here there isn’t).
Stores with small inventories and/or good filtering systems might benefit most from selling products as in Catalog 2 so that the store looks more fleshed out, and so customers can see many offerings right away.
Stock Keeping Units (SKUs)
You can totally make up SKU numbers, set them to equal barcode numbers if you have them, or do anything else!
Each discreet combination of variants needs a SKU. In both examples above, you are selling six SKUs:
- Short Sleeve/White
- Short Sleeve/Black
- Short Sleeve/Olive
- Long Sleeve/Black
- Long Sleeve/White
- Long Sleeve/Red
Personally I like SKUs that have some meaning, so I would do something like SS-WHT, SS-BLK, SS-OLV, LS-BLK, LS-WHT, LS-RED. But you can use whatever makes sense for your businesses.
In Catalog 1, each product will have three variant SKUs reflecting the color options.
If a product doesn’t have any variants/options, as in Catalog 2, each gets just one SKU:
For each option you add, you double the variant count:
- Short Sleeve/White/Small – SS-WHT-SM
- Short Sleeve/White/Medium – SS-WHT-MD
- Short Sleeve/White/Large – SS-WHT-LG
- Short Sleeve/Black/Small – SS-BLK-SM
- Short Sleeve/Black/Medium – SS-BLK-MD
- Short Sleeve/Black/Large – SS-BLK-LG
- Short Sleeve/Olive/Small – SS-OLV-SM
As a general rule, each SKU should have its own variant image. You can get away with reusing images across sizes in the same size family (regular, youth, child, plus), but colors, prints, and other notable features should have a differentiating image.
Product Meta Data
Each Shopify theme has its own product display options, but most themes do not come with the option to display meta data separately from product description. Meta data is any bit of extra information that is useful to the customer, such as care, materials, or shipping time/origin. If your design calls for meta data and it does not appear in the same area as the description, you need to make sure your theme can handle it, or that a developer can make it happen.
Many themes do have a space for a Size Guide, but it’s usually set up as one guide for every product. Again, if you have or want a size guide, make sure your theme can handle it the way you want.
Individual products and variants can have their own settings for:
- Taxed or not
- Fulfillment service
- Weight (required for calculated shipping)
If for some reason the red long sleeve shirts weigh 3 lbs., cost $50, are taxed, and are shipped from a warehouse in China, but the other variants are 8 oz., $20, untaxed, and ship from your garage, you can make it so! Be sure you are clear on your product/variant options before entering products.
Shopify does not come with a wish list feature out of the box. Check out the apps that will help.
Be aware that related products out of the box are quite limited: they are random products found in the same collection as the product you are looking at. Should you want more robust related products, you will need an app or a developer to make it so.
Shopify has a return policy generator, but it includes language for all kinds of products that probably don’t apply to you. You don’t need a lawyer or specialist to write a return policy, and it doesn’t have to be long-winded or complex. Just be sure to include:
- What customers can and cannot return
- Time limits
- Other stipulations (condition, tracking number, etc)
- Who pays return shipping
- Refund or store credit
- Other fees such as restocking
Included a link to the return policy in the site’s footer.
Like above, this language does not have to be fancy. You should include estimated or guaranteed shipping and handling time, shipping services used, shipping zones/rates. Link to it in the site’s footer.
This language is required, and is legally binding. I would urge not using a template or boilerplate language. There are lots of services online that will craft custom and air-tight TOS and privacy policies—please consider them!
Shopify includes customer accounts. Customers can use these to track orders and order history, and save shipping addresses and wishlists (if installed). These are optional, so decide if you want to allow them before you start building so you can test.
Shopify’s notification emails—for order and shipping confirmations, refunds/cancellations, abandoned carts—are rather…dull. Check how they look by going to Settings > Notifications. You can preview the email right in Shopify or send yourself a test. Check to see that they have all the information you want to send to your customers, and take out anything extraneous.
And that should cover it! Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments.