Plan your Shopify Store

I’m starting a Shopify store, what should I do first?

I’ve taken some liberties with Julien’s question here to produce a better title. Here’s his original query:

“I’m starting a Shopify store, what can I do everyday to work on it?”

When I saw this, I thought “wow, I hope he hasn’t started putting it together yet.” Because most people go about this back-asswards. Here’s the usual (and wrong) sequence:

  1. I want to start an ecommerce store / sell stuff online / work in my underwear
  2. That is a cool widget! I bet I can sell a ton of these!
  3. Find product supplier
  4. Set up store. Load products
  5. crickets.

It doesn’t have to be this way, In fact, it should never be this way.

Here’s how to start setting up an ecommerce store

  1. I want to start an ecommerce store / sell stuff online / work in my underwear
  2. That is a cool widget! I bet I can sell a ton of these!
  3. Quick and dirty research on product sourcing
  4. Customer avatar creation – you may need multiple avatars
  5. Product research – data and more from your manufacturers
  6. Product research – hunt your competitors
  7. Much, much, more…

Let’s take a look at my response to Julien. He was certainly appreciative, but I have to believe he was a bit taken aback by just how much prep is need to do this properly.

Hi Julien,

You don’t say where you are in your journey, so I am going to assume you have your products lined up, and are about to build your store.


If you plan things a little more in the beginning, you’ll thank yourself later, and be much happier with the final result. In my experience, the two things most people rush over in the beginning are their product pages /supporting information and their customer research.

Customer research has to come first, before anything else.

If you haven’t already, build a customer avatar. You may need to build more than one. Use this free resource to get started.

Once you have that done, you will use your Avatar (let’s call him Bob) to figure out where you need to be and how to get there.

You’re about to start selling widgets, and Bob loves his widget. I bet Bob goes somewhere online to talk about it. Find that place. Widget forums, widget sub-reddits, comments and questions and reviews about widgets on your competitions websites, and on . Maybe widget people hang out on twitter.

Wherever they are, find them, because they’re going to give you gold. Gold like this:

  • Common issues and problems with widgets and how to solve them.
  • What people who have widgets do with them.
  • What the actual widget users (not the manufacturers) of widgets think are important features and options.
  • The things they think and say about your competitors (and you someday!)
  • How long they expect their widgets to last
  • The best sources for widget info, reviews and tests (you want this to be you, as soon as possible)

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

By the time you finish tracking down our buddy Bob, you’re going to know a hell of a lot about widgets. Not only that, you know where the widget lovers are. You can speak their lingo.

Customer research shows you where your traffic is going to come from

And now you know something else as well. Where the traffic is.

“People are always talking about generating traffic. It’s weird. The internet is nothing BUT traffic. Find yours and stand in front of it.”

Unless you’re selling something so new and different that there is nothing even similar, the traffic is out there.

I just taught you how to find it. Now all you have to do is stand in front of it with your little Facebook ad, or tweet, or whatever the correct format is.

Ok so we’re through with customer research, and we know where they are and how to talk to them and what they want to know about your widgets.

You just became a product knowledge expert

Stop and think about your store. It’s different now, isn’t it?

Far more than just a list of products – it has rich, robust product descriptions that include things like novel widget uses, safety tips, and more.

There’s a unique and lengthy FAQ page, and a form where people can sign up for Widget News, while they ask your resident Widget Wizard their burning widget questions.

Time to go to the source for product details

So now you’re finally ready to start working with your products. Go to your manufacturer(s) and make sure you have everything they have about the products:

  • copies of manuals
  • literature
  • product images
  • Images from last years trade shows
  • videos
  • scrape their social accounts and pull anything usable there as well

Now talk to the people there, and not just your inside salesperson – although you should ask her to let you know in advance about models that are being discontinued, new models that are coming soon – know what they’re up to.

Talk to the Social Media / Advertising manager and let him know how you want to help with all of their promotions. It won’t be long before you’re the go to guy, and the first to know when something’s about to happen.

Remember all the Bob hunting you did? You’re going to be his favorite seller. You are the one who knows where the widget lovers hang, and if you can get this guy working with you on the regular, you’re going to be ahead of the curve with new product info, launches and more.

Talk to the service dept. What kinds of things happen to widgets out in the world? They have some great stories for your blog. And they’ll clue you in to the stuff that customers do that hurt their widgets, and how to prevent it.

This is another thing that most sellers overlook. They never talk to these guys, and it’s an enormous waste of a valuable resource. This is your chance to be “that weird sales guy who calls us with questions and stuff”.

When a customer send’s in a widget that simply can’t be fixed, where do you think they will send them? that’s right – straight to you. They know that you know your shit, and are less likely to create work for them with bad advice or incorrect product info.

OMG can I finally just build my freakin’ store?

So now we’re done, right? Nope. It’s time to take a look at the competition. This post isn’t the place to go into everything you need to do here, but suffice it to say that you need to be on them like a duck on a June bug. To the extent that you can, research them as if you’re going to be selling their stuff. More content ammo for the Shopify cannon you’re building.

Now, finally, you’re ready. Maybe. Pick a theme that seems to have the features you need, download the sample product CSV file from Shopify, and set your new store up with just a few products. Look at it.

Given the material you have to work with, are the products displayed to their best advantage? Do you need tabs on your product page? If so, are they there?

Remember the App store can go a long way towards turning a plain vanilla theme into a conversion monster, so if your pick is good except for just a few features, see if you can add them.

Are your guys all over Facebook? How’s the Facebook widget look? Is it where you want it? How about other Social Media sites that are important to Bob?

I could go on (just ask any poor soul that’s been trapped in a marketing conversation with me) but I’ll end this here. Believe it or not, just doing the above will put you past most of the other sites out there, right out of the gate.

Julien, I truly hope this helps you get started. Please fell free to get hold of me if I can be of further service. I’m pretty easy to find.