Starting an ecommerce business is hard work with many steps and decisions that need to come together at the right time. To help, we have put together a comprehensive resource list, compiled from Shopify's most popular blog posts. These posts have been placed into a logical order based on how you would research, build, launch and grow a profitable ecommerce business.
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You've spent months building your online store and preparing your marketing strategy. You launch your business and cha-ching!, you make your first sale. Now what?
Many new ecommerce entrepreneurs tend to neglect their fulfillment and shipping strategy. The reason tends to be the fact that the world of shipping is complex and confusing. However, a well educated shipping strategy is a core element of every successful ecommerce business.
In this post, we round up of some of the most practical and important tools, resources and apps to help you develop a rock solid shipping strategy for your business.
Tax season is here, and it can feel like there’s an endless list of tasks to get through to file your return. This step-by-step guide will help you get organized so you can get a jump start and file your 2014 tax return well before it’s due.
Update - The Build-A-Business Contest is back. Visit the contest page for more info on this year's competition.
The Shopify Build a Business Contest
This started out as just an idea between Tobi, Shopify’s CEO, and Tim Ferriss, NYT Bestselling author of the 4-Hour Workweek. Before he started writing his book, Tim created a business that let him automate nearly everything and travel Europe while working, and Shopify was built with just this kind of automation in mind, to help you run an ecommerce website without any hassles. When we all met, it seemed only natural that we would work together, because in Tim’s own words, “Shopify is exactly the product I wish I could have used when I built my own business originally.” We wanted to give everyone with an idea the chance to put it into action. Everyone wants to be their own boss, have more independence, and we thought since the tools are already available, a $100,000 grand prize might be just the incentive to get you started. And here we are:
A Business for Life
Starting on January 1st, compete to build the highest-grossing business over 6 months. The two best months are used to determine the winner of the competition, who will receive $100,000. More winners will receive $5,000 in other categories, and there will be some great surprises along the way. Although the competition starts on January 1st, you can and should start an account now so that you get a head start learning. Throughout the competition you will receive great tips and expert help from people in different fields, including Tim and Tobi, and you’ll have the great support that Shopify is known for.
The business you’re registering must be new, and even if you’re not the winner, at the end of the six months you should end up with a great business of your own.
Here is a quick summary:
- $100,000 grand prize
- $120,000 total in prizes
- Only new businesses are eligible to enter.
- Contest runs for 6 months starting January 1st but you can register and start working on your business now.
- The best two months of sales are counted.
- Even if you don’t win the prizes, you should end up with a viable business at the end of 6 months.
- The steps and details in the new, expanded 4-Hour Workweek will be used as ground-zero for instructions.
- Contest open to US businesses only. The tools and guidance will be available to all entrants, though so you are encouraged to enter no matter where you are.
Register at the Store Contest Page to get started.
I’m outside the US, can I still participate?
We welcome you to the contest and you will have full access to the tutorials, guides and video addresses that we are creating and posting over the next 6 months. However, you will not be eligible for the prizes.
We are planning on posting international leader boards as well so you will be able to compare your store to the American crowd.
You are a Canadian company but Canadians cannot participate?
Believe us, we are as frustrated about this as you are. We spent countless hours on the phone with lawyers over the last few months trying to make this truly international, but in the end we simply could not offer the contest the way we did if it were available in Canada or in Europe.
Without going into too many details, the crux of the matter is the legal classification of the contest as a game of skill vs. a game of chance. Some agencies see our contest as a game of chance. Apparently they believe that being a successful entrepreneur and building a great business online has more to do with luck than with skill. Unfortunately games of chance are governed under Lottery law, which makes them essentially impossible to run (or even outright illegal).
Can I move my existing online store over?
Obviously we would love to have your business on Shopify. However, the spirit of this contest is to encourage new businesses to be created. Maybe you already have an idea for a new business that is only semi-related to your existing store? You should try this idea and you will be free to enter the contest with this. You can contact our sales team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are planning to move your existing business to Shopify as well please contact our sales team and we will be able to give you special discounts.
What about a brick and mortar store?
It’s a fantastic time to move your business online. However, much like with existing online stores – see previous point – the spirit of the contest is to encourage new businesses. Moving an existing brick and mortar store online is not going to be a valid new business unless you can clearly demonstrate that you are not taking advantage of the existing offline business.
Is there a maximum order price?
Yes, only the first $5,000 of each order will count towards the contest. We put this rule in place to stop used car sales men from sweeping the contest.
Can I sell Real estate, Pianos, Cars?
Sure thing. However, only the first $5,000 of each order counts towards the contest. No you can’t get 100 orders placed by the same person for $5,000 each either. We check for this :-)
Can I sell digital goods?
Yes, in fact we worked hard on finalizing support for digital goods just in time for the launch of the contest. Since early December you can now tell us that certain items in your store don’t require shipping addresses and/or taxation. If an order consists of only items that don’t require shipping then Shopify will not ask for a shipping address during the checkout.
If it is software you are selling then we recommend you install Fetchapp from the Shopify App Store. With Fetchapp you can automatically send out software bundles and licence keys once orders have been placed.
Can you sell a combination of affiliate products and your own products through Shopify?
Yes absolutely. In fact we highly encourage our customers to source extra products that round off the product offering. A lot of our customers started by selling just a single product and later on started cross selling related products between their stores for additional sales.
I’m a programmer. Can I extend Shopify with new features?
Yes. This is what we created the Shopify Platform for. The Platform is fairly similar to the Facebook platform and allows you to add all sorts of interesting capabilities to your store. You can browse through existing apps at the Shopify App Store and you can find the API docs here.
Can I use a drop shipper like Doba for products?
Yes, Shopify even integrates directly with drop shippers and fulfillment services such as Shipwire, Webgistix and Amazon fulfillment. These services are really the key to fully automate your online store because manual shipping is labor intensive. At Shopify we have something called the App Store, which allows you to add extensions to your store (think a mix of WordPress plugins and Facebook apps). We know there are currently a few developers working on a Doba integration.
Why do you judge based on revenues? Aren’t profit margins a better measure of how healthy a business is?
It happens all the time. When building a new online business, many entrepreneurs become scattered and distracted in both strategy and execution, trying to move in too many directions at the same time. This lack of focus ends up causing a lack of real movement for the business in any one particular direction, and can ultimately lead to failure.
In this post you'll learn exactly why focus is so important, three critical elements of your business that you absolutely must have focus in, as well as how to achieve it.
For many small business owners, Twitter is an invaluable online marketing tool - especially if you know how to make your tweets go viral. It can drive traffic to your online store and allow you to engage both prospective and existing customers.
But many people still struggle with finding the time to tweet regularly - especially busy entrepreneurs. It can also take time to grow an engaged audience of followers willing to amplify your brand and share your content.
So what’s an online store owner to do? Simple, we recommend taking advantage of some of the most cutting-edge Twitter tools out there to make your time spent on the social platform as seamless and automated as possible while still maintaining a human touch.
Here's 10 great Twitter tools for small business owners.
This is a Guest Post by Chandra Clark
Stop me if this sounds familiar: You walk into a business or click through to one online, and pretty much immediately notice half a dozen things the proprietor could, and maybe should, be doing better. Ah, objectivity. It’s easy to see what other people are doing wrong. The question is, can you be as critical of your own operations? It’s a skill you need to practice.
Women entrepreneurs in particular seem to suffer from something I call “I have to do it all myself” syndrome. Perhaps it’s because a lot of us are perfectionists, or perhaps we feel like we have to do it all because we’re not getting a lot of support from our partners. Either way, this syndrome is holding you back, big time. Here are five ways this is hurting your business:
It's something every entrepreneur hopes to get for their business but also something many find difficult and elusive to achieve.
Before moving to my current in-house position as the Public Relations Manager at Shopify, I spent my entire professional career at a handful of PR and IR (investor relations) agencies in both Toronto and New York City. Having worked on numerous B2B and consumer tech accounts in various stages – from startups to Fortune 500's like IBM and Oracle – I’ve learned that for many businesses, PR is a mystery. They see competitors in the press and they can’t figure out the magic formula to make it happen for themselves.
For most small businesses and online entrepreneurs, PR is a work in progress. Unless you’re working on a big launch, which are usually not regular occurrences, it’s about building a relationship with media outlets and the appropriate reporters.
Below are six strategies that you should keep in mind when looking to get your name in the press, as well as five tools to help you make it happen.
I recently spoke at a panel on ecommerce at Ottawa’s main public library and wanted to share some notes I took while answering questions from the audience and from the kind librarians who set up the event.
Hi there! This is Edward, the Developer Advocate who runs the App Store. I’m in charge of cool-hunting awesome tech then mashing up API’s and business plans into Shopify apps that make merchants money and add further functionality to merchants online stores.
When Alex Ikonn and his wife Mimi realized how hard it was to find good hair extensions, they knew they had stumbled on a business opportunity.
They took their problem and solved it by creating Luxy Hair - an extremely successful online store selling hair extensions for women.
And the coolest part? Their business is powered almost exclusively by tutorial-style YouTube videos.
Their YouTube channel was created in 2010 and since then has amassed 1,474,246 subscribers and 173,657,125 total video views.
In other words, Luxy Hair is the perfect example of an audience enabled business that relies on a loyal community of fans instead of other channels like SEO and paid advertising.
I caught up with Alex to find out how they took their site from idea to million dollar business.