You’re finally launching your Shopify store after all the hard work you put into it. It’s exciting, but can quickly become overwhelming.
A million thoughts run through your mind. You aren’t sure you’ve completed everything necessary for a smooth launch day. Are all of your products loaded correctly? Have you created a marketing plan to promote your store? Does your website look trustworthy?
Instead of running around aimlessly as you start a business, entertaining every frantic thought, take a methodical approach to your launch. Ease your mind and stay organized with this handy Shopify store launch checklist.
Your Shopify store launch checklist
- Add your chosen sales channels
- Add a custom domain
- Review your checkout experience and payment options
- Prepare your standard pages
- Review your email notification settings
- Conduct a content audit
- Install an analytics tool
- Focus on ecommerce search engine optimization
- Optimize all images on your website
- Have a pre-launch marketing plan
- Adjust your tax and shipping settings
- Make it easy for shoppers to contact you
- Install only the essential apps
- Set up your billing information
1. Add your chosen sales channels
Data from Statista shows the number of US digital buyers is expected to reach 291.2 million by 2025. Consumers now expect an omnichannel experience from brands, especially during busy shopping seasons, and retailers need to reach buyers where they are.
Want to reap the benefits of multi-channel retailing for your ecommerce store? Find out how to choose the top social media and marketplace channels that will work best for you, then add the available sales channels to your store.
Here are some examples of online sales channels you can add to your Shopify store:
All sales channels connect with the core of your Shopify business, so you can easily keep track of orders, products, and customers across all platforms.
Cupshe, which generates more than $50 million in annual revenue, attributes 35% of its sales directly or indirectly to social selling.
When ORO Los Angeles launched Shopping on Instagram, it lifted month-over-month revenue by 29.3%—an increase directly attributable to the platform.
And when Sarah’s Treats & Treasures opened a sales channel on Amazon, it quickly gained traction on the platform. Now, Amazon is responsible for 76.8% of the company’s orders.
2. Add a custom domain
Adding a custom domain to your site gives you brand recognition and makes it easier for people to remember your URL.
You’ll want to conduct a domain name search first to see if your business name is available. If it is, and the name isn’t already a trademark in use by another business in your industry, you can purchase your custom domain name directly through Shopify.
If your custom domain name isn’t available, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go back to the drawing board. Here’s where you can flex your creative muscles. Pepper, for example, uses wearpepper.com for its URL.
You can also use a different top-level domain (TLD). A TLD comes at the end of a URL: .com, .edu, etc. You’ll notice that many websites use different variations, such as .gov and .org. Today, there are tons of TLDs to choose from.
Common TLDs in ecommerce include .store and .shop, but you can get creative here too.
3. Review your checkout experience and payment options
Before you drive any traffic to your store, ensure people can actually complete a purchase. According to Baymard Institute, the average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate is almost 70%. It’s wise to fix any errors and remove friction at checkout, otherwise you risk losing more sales.
When testing your checkout process, make sure:
- Shipping rates are surfaced on the checkout page
- Discount codes can be applied in the cart
- A shopper can edit their cart’s content
- Familiar payment methods, such as credit card, PayPal and Shop Pay, are available
- There is an option for order status tracking
- The contact page can easily be accessed in case order editing is needed
- An email notification is sent to confirm a purchase
- A language and currency switcher and a shipping policy clearly stating who pays duties and taxes are both available if offering international sales and shipping
With Shopify Payments, you can place a test order on your site with a live payment gateway to make sure everything works.
4. Prepare your standard pages
It’s important to have a few pages that visitors can browse to learn more about your company. In Shopify’s research on what wins buyer and customer trust, we found that shoppers to a brand new store are looking for answers on whether the store is an upstanding business and if it treats its customers fairly.
Free: Shopify Store Trust Checklist
Shopify’s research team conducted a series of in-depth interviews with North American shoppers to learn how customer trust is formed in online stores. This checklist is a summary of their findings, created to help business owners understand what essential aspects of their online store experience creates trust among customers, along with the trust-busting mistakes to avoid.
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Based on our research, these are the landing pages we most recommend online stores include in their sitemap:
Homepage. Your homepage is arguably the most important page on your site. It’s often the first place people land and, if not, the second place they go. The homepage is a place to establish the overall look and feel of your website and ensure you have clear navigation to browse your store. Link to your category pages and product pages from your homepage.
Contact page. A Contact page offers shoppers reassurance a store is authentic. List a phone number, email, and retail address (if there is one). If potential customers can’t contact you with questions, you could be missing out on lots of sales opportunities.
About. Your About page is where shoppers go to learn more about your company, your brand, and the people behind your products. Many store owners overlook this page, but it can be an effective sales tool if approached in two ways:
- Shoppers often are trying to make sure a business will be around for the long term. An About page is a chance to show your store is real.
- Many shoppers are interested in a business’s mission and purpose and whether the business shares any of their values. Sharing your brand’s purpose, principles, and why the business was started can win you new customers who support similar causes.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). At launch, you might not have lots of information around which questions customers will ask the most. To craft an effective FAQ page, you can predict inquiries and also look at competitors to see what questions they answer on their websites.
Universally, customers often have questions about shipping, return policy, and how to get in touch. Ugly Brands has a searchable FAQ page where you can browse topics and see related topics.
5. Review your email notification settings
Email is a powerful tool if you want to start an online store. On your Shopify store, there are several automated emails you’ll want to customize before launch. Edit your email templates and create sequences that nurture your list and ultimately drive sales.
Dollar Shave Club uses a branded template for its shipping notification emails.
- Welcome series
- Abandoned cart notifications
- Order confirmation
- Shipping notifications
6. Conduct a content audit
Sometimes you’ll be so close to your work you won’t notice small mistakes like spelling, grammar, or broken links. Reviewing backward—starting with the last paragraph and working your way to the top—will help you spot errors you may have missed.
When it comes to your copy, consistency is one of the most important things to remember. Adopt an editorial style guide, whether it’s MLA or AP. If you want to get creative with spelling or make up your own words, that’s OK, as long as it’s on brand, but be sure to be consistent across your site.
On the technical side, you want to look for broken links and 404s in particular, as well as any image-rendering and mobile responsiveness issues. Check out your site on different browsers and devices so you can understand if a bug is universal or device/browser specific.
Hire experts with proven Shopify-specific skills
Looking for a second set of eyes to ensure your store is ready to launch? The Shopify Experts Marketplace helps connect you with experienced Shopify agencies and freelancers you can hire to audit your store, help with web design, and give additional guidanceHire expert help today
7. Install an analytics tool
Analytics are important to set up from day one. This data will give you valuable insight into your visitors and customers.
Your Shopify store will have its own set of analytics reporting built-in, but you may also want to install a third-party tool. Google Analytics and Google Search Console are the two most well-known and popular analytics tools, but you can also look at SE Ranking, Piwik, and Adobe Analytics. You can even use a combination of tools to analyze your business, but we recommend you get used to tracking these basic ecommerce metrics first.
8. Focus on ecommerce search engine optimization
Forty-six percent of product searches begin on Google. If you’re launching an online business, you want to make sure your website shows up when customers search for terms related to your product. This helps you generate consistent, high-quality traffic you don’t have to pay for.
New to ecommerce SEO? Here’s how to rank your store in search engines:
- Keyword research. Find and discover search terms related to your products.
- Keyword optimization. Use chosen keywords in product descriptions, category descriptions, H1s, URLs, meta titles, and file names.
- Schema markup. Help search engines better find your content and serve enhanced results in Google.
- Design a sitemap. Build a sitemap that provides information about your website’s content to Google. This will help Google crawl your site easier and categorize your pages.
- Optimize site speed. Choose the best hosting company, invest in a content delivery network (CDN), and compress images to help your website load faster and improve customer experience.
- Invest in content marketing. Create blogs to rank for target keywords, educate readers, and get high-value backlinks from other websites.
9. Optimize all images on your website
Slow-loading images can hurt your site’s user experience and performance in search engines, and slower load times have been shown to lower conversion rates. It’s important all your marketing and product images are optimized for the web to ensure fast load times.
Shopify handles the technical complexity of keeping your images fast, because we know speed matters for online stores. Here’s what else you can do to improve load speed and optimize your images for web:
- Be descriptive when naming your images. This helps with the SEO ranking of your site and product pages. Use keywords that you’re trying to rank for.
- Optimize your alt attributes carefully. Alt attributes are used for web accessibility and SEO. Again, be descriptive and consider your target keywords.
- Reduce the size of your images. On Shopify, you can keep images at the same quality you’d use for print, but try to keep them at a reasonable pixel size. For example, a typical thumbnail image is 50 by 50 pixels, so there’s no need to upload an image that’s 4,000 by 4,000 pixels.
- Choose the right file type. For most online images, a good rule of thumb is to use JPEG images for photography and PNG images for graphics and icons. Learn about the image file types supported in Shopify.
- Review your thumbnails. Your brand logo is incredibly important. It’s how customers associate the name of your ecommerce business to a visual. Thumbnails show up all over ecommerce sites, so make sure they’re clear across their many sizes on your online store.
- Test your images. You’ll want to know what’s working and what’s not and, more importantly, why. Run some A/B image tests to see which types of images work best (i.e., contextual versus. white background).
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10. Have a pre-launch marketing plan
Once you launch your site, you’ll want to make sure people know about it. The best way to do that is with a pre-launch marketing strategy.
Document your marketing plan so once you go live all you have to do is follow the steps you’ve already outlined.
Again, we can look to Dollar Shave Club as an example. At launch, the razor company set out to disrupt an industry. It created a video to share its vision that quickly gained it brand recognition.
11. Adjust your tax and shipping settings
You’ll want to check that your tax settings and shipping costs are appropriate for the product(s) you’re selling. Otherwise, you could unknowingly eat into your profits by not charging enough. Double check your tax and shipping settings before launching your store.
Depending on where your business and customers are located, you might need to add sales tax. Not sure which tax settings to use? Your best bet is to consult with an accountant familiar with taxes in your area.
12. Make it easy for shoppers to contact you
Remember that contact page we recommended you set up? That’s not the only place where you should have information on how customers can get in touch. You’ll want to include your business address, phone number, and even live chat on most pages of your website, if you can.
According to ICMI, businesses that chat with site visitors have a 48% increase in revenue per chat hour, a 40% increase in conversion rate, and a 10% increase in average order value. Nosh Detox has seen similar results, with orders coming through live chat worth 10 times more than the site average.
For those apprehensive about offering a new customer support channel, we have a great read to help you ace live chat as a small shop: How to Save Sales and Solve Customer Problems with Live Chat.
13. Install only the essential apps
Though there are tons of apps in the Shopify App Store to extend your site’s functionality, not all of them are essential for a brand new business. In fact, some won’t make sense for your online store at all.
When you’re just getting ready to launch, you’ll want to install apps to help with marketing, customer support, and conversions. For example, you could download a social proof app that lets you show customer testimonials on your landing pages to encourage sales. You could also install an app to automate upselling and cross-selling products at checkout or that lets customers create a wishlist.
We’ve compiled a list of free Shopify apps that can help streamline operations in your business, from marketing to shipping.
14. Set up your billing information
If you’re coming to the end of your 14-day free trial, set up your store’s billing information to ensure there aren’t any hiccups when your store finally goes live.
Why an ecommerce website launch checklist is important
Your store looks great, your products are loaded and ready to go, and you’ve set up all of your social accounts. Are you forgetting something?
With so many moving parts, it’s easy to miss a simple but critical step in a successful business launch. When you need something to go well, an ecommerce checklist can help reduce ambiguity and streamline the work that needs to get done.
Pilots and astronauts use checklists for every flight. In the 1930s, when Boeing crashed its B-17 during an early test run, the company instituted a flight checklist to ensure the safety of its pilots.
Thanks to that checklist, Boeing pilots flew 18 of the bombers for a combined 1.8 million hours without incident, proving the plane’s worthiness to the US Army. Furthermore, a study by The New England Journal of Medicine famously found that checklists help decrease complications and mistakes in medical care.
Good checklists are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything—a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps—the ones that even the highly skilled professional using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.
Even when the stakes are much lower, the pen-to-page approach is still a powerful way to cut through the fog and surface can’t-miss tasks. So it makes sense to create a simple, effective checklist when you’re launching your Shopify store.
Start with a plan in hand
Now that we’ve taken a look at the essential launch items for your Shopify store, it’s time to flip the switch and start selling.
Are there any other items you’d add to this store launch checklist? Let us know in the comments below.
Illustration by Eugenia Mello