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Shopify 101 Part 1
Welcome to Shopify 101 Part 1.
This will be a solid reference guide to be able to wrap your head around what everything means and where everything is located.
Some of this is going to be a repeat of the WordPress 101 guides. Since everyone doesn’t read from the beginning of the Substack, I’m going to repeat myself some.
No matter what type of business you’re building, you should read from the beginning of this Substack.
You will learn things in each section that you can apply to your business even if it’s not labeled in a way that makes you think you will. The alternative is that I make every post 10k words and repeat myself on many aspects in every article.
Before we start, I’d like to thank BowTied Gator and BowTied Fawn for giving me access to biom to use in this series so I don’t have to dox stores that I own or have access to. They’ve each written guest posts on this Substack that you should go read (the links on their names).
(It was in no part a deal to switch toothpastes to get access to their store. My brand loyalty isn’t bought off that easily.)
Why You’re Using Shopify Over Wix/SquareSpace/WordPress
I’ve written on platform choice before, but in short, it’s just a better solution. Let’s quickly run through why you’re choosing Shopify over other platforms.
First, Shopify has much more scale, customization, and integrations than almost any other platform other than WordPress.
With Shopify, you don’t have to worry about load balancing on your servers, setting up payment processors, hiring a dev team, dealing with most 3rd party integrations via API, etc.
The downside of that is if you’re in the grey market. Shopify won’t be ideal as you’re likely to get booted by their payment processors or Shopify itself. Leaving your site dark until you work it out with Shopify or rebuild on another platform like WordPress and get a payment processor known for handling products in the grey.
Outside of that, you should absolutely go with Shopify.
I was asked about Magento and Salesforce Commerce Cloud as a comparison. I won’t dive too deep into those but the main reasons are cost, speed, and ease of use. If you go with either of those platforms, you are absolutely going to need a dev team. With Shopify, much much less so if at all.
The conversation changes when you’re dealing with a large networks of stores and API connections that print at the speed of the Fed. Even then, I wouldn’t say Commerce Cloud is better, but it’s the platform of choice for so many retailers.
Personally, I hate Commerce Cloud. Every change seemingly needs a developer to get involved and Salesforce tries to lock you into their CRM/marketing solutions. I’ve never seen a large retailer use Shopify but I imagine it’s due to needing more access to the backend servers at such a large scale and other customizations not available in Shopify.
So unless you have an IT org with 10’s of people, Commerce Cloud and Magento are probably out. If you do, you shouldn’t be taking platform choice advice from this newsletter. Go talk to your devs.
Different Shopify Plans
The 3 Shopify plans are essentially the same except for a few things.
Credit Card processing fees
Third-party calculated shipping rates
The 2 most important options to consider for most people are credit card processing fees and staff accounts.
This is where 90% of you should start unless you have more than 3 people that need access to the store.
If you want ecommerce automations, better reporting, or need 4-5 people to have access to your store, this is where you want to start. If not but you’ve got a meaningful amount of sales going through your store, you might want to pick this option just to save on credit card fees and the slightly better shipping discount.
The monthly difference between the Basic and Shopify plans on a yearly plan is $50/month but you pay 0.3% less in credit card fees. $50/0.3% or $50/0.003 is $16,666.67.
If you’ve reached that on a monthly basis, you need to upgrade just to save in fees. Let’s just call it $15k when you account for the shipping discount.
There’s a different calculation if you use Shopify POS or a 3rd party payment provider but you can do those calculations yourself.
The difference here is just a slight step up from the Shopify plan.
15 staff accounts
Lower transaction costs
Automatically collect international duties/taxes
The real differentiator here is an extra 0.2% decrease in transaction costs. The cost difference is $220/month. Running the same calculation yields an extra $110k in sales needed to make up for extra cost.
So at $125k per month, you’re going to want to upgrade.
This is where the cost starts to increase drastically. Shopify plus starts at $2000 per month with an extra 0.25% knocked off of your transaction fees.
This puts you needing an extra $680,000 in revenue to counter the transaction fee difference. $805k all in.
Here’s where Shopify still gets its money no matter what. They’re like a casino in this aspect…house always wins. Any sales on Shopify Plus over $800k, Shopify takes a 0.25% cut. No matter if you use their payment gateway or not.
Convenient number, right?
So if you’re doing $900k a month in sales, Shopify plus is $2000 + ($900k - $800k)*0.0025 = $2250 a month.
One caveat here. If you’re a nonprofit, you can bypass that 0.25% cut and always pay just $2k a month.
So if you’re not a nonprofit, and the cost is going to be the same above $800k/month, why would you upgrade?
24/7 chat support with Shopify “Tier 1 gurus” without the wait times (this is actually huge)
Assigned launch manager if you’re transferring to Shopify
Access to a “Growth Team” to help you with SEO, Analytics, CRO, etc.
Better API calls for 3rd party integrations
Shopify Audiences which leverages their database of all customers that have shopped on Shopify to target ads to. They’re essentially acting as a data broker like LiveRamp. (haven’t used it so can’t speak to how good it is)
Multiple stores in one account for sub brands or multiple countries/regions
Unlimited staff accounts
Headless ecommerce which I won’t touch on
If you’ve made it this far, go talk to your team and contact sales. If you know someone that’s a Shopify Partner, let them make the introduction so that they can get the commission (20% recurring of the Shopify Plus cost).
While I can’t speak on a large retailer using this, for a small retailer, this is a god send.
I’m currently in the process of unraveling a POS for a single unit location and their website. Not pretty. Not cost effective. Not easy to setup.
Selling online and in store means you have manage inventory for both platforms seamlessly. This generally requires you to make a costly connection between your POS and website which usually requires dev work and a 3rd party. Not cheap and easy if you’re a 1-2 unit retailor with an online presence.
I won’t dive too deep into this as it doesn’t apply to much of my audience, but if you’re a small retailer standing up an online store, take the time to switch everything over together.
Here’s a few benefits of doing this.
The hardware is going to be cheaper. Hell, you could literally have your in store POS be your phone if you wanted to. Not recommended.
You can take your POS with you. If you sell at popup shops or anything like that, all you need is WiFi.
You can sell even without WiFi. I don’t remember if this has been launched yet but if you don’t have access to internet, you can still make sales and all of your orders will be uploaded when you connect to WiFi again.
Unified CRM/loyalty data for marketing
The setup is going to be much easier than configuring Shopify/Woocommerce/etc. with your POS or trying to integrate selling on different channels like Amazon/Etsy/Walmart/etc.
Automatically send purchase orders from Shopify, inventory analysis, demand planning, inventory alerts, etc.
I understand most of my audience doesn’t care but Shopify POS is truly a game changer in how small B&M businesses do business if they also sell online. Most small retailers are 20 years behind the times and Shopify can bring them up to a world class solution in less than 3 months with minimal capital.
Basic Terminology & Layout
I’m not going to go through the structure of a website, what everything means, and waste everyone’s time. Review the WordPress post if you don’t know the difference between main content and a sidebar.
I want to touch on the things that are different than WordPress and what you need to know about it.
When someone is talking about Shopify, similar to WordPress, they’re talking about the core framework. Each of these platforms use similar terminology and work the same way.
Framework - WordPress is built on PHP while Shopify is built on Ruby on Rails. On WordPress, even non-devs might have to mess with PHP files occasionally. On Shopify, unless you’re developing an app, you’ll never touch Ruby code. This would be analogous on Shopify (not the same but analogous) as messing with the Liquid files (another language). As a beginner, you shouldn’t be messing with the theme’s liquid and json files but for those interested, this is where you can find them.
Once you get inside, it looks something like this allowing you to edit pretty much anything you need to.
Cart & Checkout
I won’t explain what a cart and checkout is but unless you’re on Shopify Plus, you can’t change it much outside of your logo, fonts, colors, and making some fields mandatory or not.
Product pages are also referred to as PDPs (Product Description Pages). We’ll dive deeper into these later but know that you’re URL structure is going to be a certain way and you’re SOL if you want to change it.
Every product structure is
Shopify calls PLPs (Product Listing Pages) collection pages. Again, you’re SOL if you want to change it as your collection pages will follow this structure.
Every blog archive that you want to create has to follow the below structure.
It’s a pain. I know. It’s the way Shopify works. There’s a lot less flexibility in URL structure than there is with WordPress. Get used to it.
If you’re used to WordPress, think of it in terms of categories where you’re forced to put the category in the URL while also having the /blog/ right beside it.
Same as the archive with the actual URL piece that you want.
You guessed it.
So why is this important?
If you’re converting from another platform, there’s no way to make all of your URLs the same. You need to put in redirects for every single URL so that traffic and link juice gets redirected.
If you’re used to WordPress, replace the word “plugin” with “app”. It’s the same exact concept.
If you’re unfamiliar, apps are additional pieces of software added to your store to make up for the limited functionality of your theme or Shopify in general.
They can also slow down and mess up your site. Hence the importance of picking a good theme that works for your products, design, and needed functionality. We’ll get to themes later on.
Shopify is fully managed hosting. No configuring an SSL certificate. No load balancing when you have sudden increases in traffic. No security plugins to update and monitor. Fully managed.
Until you get to real size, the only thing you really have to worry about is keeping your login credentials safe.
I’m not even going to recommend you use a page builder…
There’s 4 reasons you should use a page builder in my eyes.
You’ve been transported in time to before July 2021.
You care more about design than your time and focusing on things that will make you money.
You’re not going to take my advice on buying a good theme and there’s functionality that you just have to have.
You’re a masochist who enjoys a page builder changing so much code on your site that you’ll never be able to track it all down if you decide to unsubscribe to their service.
July 2021 is oddly specific, huh? Well at the end of June 2021, Shopify launched Online Store 2.0. For the most part, this made page builders useless if you pick a good theme. Online Store 2.0 allowed theme and app developers much more flexibility in a stores design and functionality.
Shopify redid the architecture allowing for sections on every page, allowed apps to work in tandem with the themes’ sections, and a host of other updates.
This is going to be a long series ranging from 4-6 posts. Probably 15k words in total. The rest of the outline is already 500 words before adding any substance to the outline. Expect the next post in the series to be sent out later this week.
As always, if I get anything wrong, missed anything, or you have any questions, please let me know so I can fix it going forward.
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Disclaimer: Nothing written here should be construed as legal for financial advice of any kind. These are opinions and observations, written by an anonymous cartoon Opossum, built up over years working in e-commerce & affiliate marketing.