Commonly Asked Questions When Launching a Shopify Store

Commonly Asked Questions When Launching a Shopify Store

Launching a Shopify store can seem like a daunting experience, especially for first-time store owners. Getting it right hinges on knowing how you want to run your business and nobody knows that better than you. In this post, we answer some of the most commonly asked questions to help you navigate the process with confidence.

A note before proceeding: we are not legal, tax, or compliance professionals, all recommendations below reflect our agency knowledge and experience. Please consult the appropriate professional if you have additional questions or get in touch with us and we’ll point you in the right direction.

How do I update or add products and/or inventory?

In Shopify’s early days, product and inventory management was simple. Shopify has since matured along with the businesses that rely on them and now there are several layers to the product and inventory management process.

Additionally, you’ll want to complete steps in the following sequence in order to successfully add products and manage inventory.

  1. [If you sell physical goods] Start by adding your location(s). These are the places from which you ship your goods. Physical products require a location when added to Shopify.
  2. Use the Shopify product admin import/export functionality or manually add each product via the admin.
  3. Use the Shopify product inventory admin import/export functionality or manual editor to add your inventory.
  4. Set states for your inventory. These define the status of your products, whether it’s “Committed”, “Unavailable”, or “On hand” and available to purchase. NOTE: For most new store owners, these states require some additional explanation: ”Available” is inventory you can sell, that isn’t part of a draft order, for example.“Committed” is inventory that is part of a placed order but hasn’t yet been fulfilled.“Unavailable” inventory is for units reserved for draft orders or set aside by apps. These are stocked at your location but are not available to be sold. “On Hand” is the sum of “Committed”, “Unavailable”, and Available inventory.
  5. If relevant to your business, configure in-store pickup. Unlike other options, pickup can be manual. You’ll need to verify that each item is in stock, notify customers that it’s ready, and change the item status to fulfilled once it’s been picked up.             

Helpful resources:
Shopify: Adding and Updating Products
Shopify: Inventory States
Shopify: Setting Up Pickup for Online Orders

How do I set up shipping options in my store?

One of the biggest challenges we see with stores is how they manage shipping costs. If stores don’t manage this strategically, these costs can significantly eat into margins. On the other hand, charging customers for shipping and handling can cause them to abandon their cart at checkout. According to the Baymard Institute, 48% of abandoned carts can be attributed to additional costs like shipping, handling fees, and taxes.

Before you set up shipping for your store, you’ll want to answer a series of questions for your business:

  • Do we want to offer free shipping? Generally, you can choose to have either flat-rate shipping, free shipping, or carrier-calculated shipping. Just because you offer “free” shipping, doesn’t mean you need to eat the cost, you can account for shipping costs by folding them into item costs.
  • Do we have a preference for shipping carriers? If you’re using a third-party carrier and you have an eligible account, you may be able to connect your carrier to your Shopify admin and display carrier-calculated shipping to your customers at checkout. Before you make a choice, you may want to look at Shopify’s documentation, as it walks through various carrier options and their capabilities.
  • Do we want to provide shipping to all domestic areas of the United States?
  • Do we provide international shipping?
  • Do we need to offer pick-up or local delivery?
  • Do we have different rates for different products?
  • Do we charge a handling fee? Similar to your shipping fee, you have the option of baking this cost into a product markup.

Once you’ve answered these questions you can begin configuring “shipping profiles” in the Shopify admin. These are sets of rules for specific products and specific “locations” from which you fulfill your goods and “shipping zones” or groups of countries or regions you deliver your products to. If you’re not running a complex business with many different products shipping to and from different locations, don’t worry. By default, you’ll always use a default “general” shipping profile.

Helpful resources:
Shopify: Shipping and Delivery
Shopify: Shipping Profiles
Shopify: Managing your fulfillment locations
Shopify: Setting Up Shipping Zones
Shopify: Enabling Third-Party Carriers

How do I set up payment options?

One of the most important steps in setting up your store is setting up payment options. After all, without them, you can’t get paid. You have several things to consider: Shopify Payments or third-party payment processing providers, accelerated checkout, and third-party subscription services. We’ll discuss all of them below:

Much like your shipping, which payment provider you choose should be informed by the nature of your business. For example, if you sell subscription-based products, you may need to use Shopify Payments as your primary payment gateway. Even if you are not selling subscriptions, Shopify Payments offers additional benefits such as Shop Pay, which allows customers to save their shipping and payment information.

You can also use Accelerated or express checkouts that allow customers with Shop Pay, PayPal, Meta Pay, Amazon Pay, or Apple Pay to save customer payment and shipping information. Some of these may also offer the ability to skip the cart and go directly to checkout from the product page. Why are these important? A 2019 study found 30% of U.S. shoppers said they would abandon their shopping cart if asked to re-enter their credit card number.

If you are selling subscription services, you can consider third-party services, such as ReCharge Payments and Skio.

Helpful resources:
Shopify: Payments
Shopify: Third-party providers
Shop Pay
Shopify: Getting Paid
Shopify: Accelerated Checkout

How do I set up taxes and how can I file resale taxes easily?

Not fun but very important: collecting resale tax. It’s important that if you need to charge resale tax then your store must also reflect this. Through Shopify’s tax engine, you can ensure local legal compliance by setting up distinct tax rates based on customer location and/or product type. You may also set up tax overrides, which can be helpful if you are serving tax-exempt customers, including nonprofits and government organizations.

Shopify offers tax reporting, which can help you keep track of your liabilities and prepare for tax filing. If you need a more robust set of tools, TaxJar is great for small to mid-sized businesses and Avalara is the preferred tool for large to enterprise businesses.

Helpful resources:
Shopify: Taxes
TaxJar: Sales Tax Guide for Shopify Sellers
Shopify: Tax services with Avalara AvaTax

How can I create store policies?

With recent legislation, all brands must be transparent about what customer information they collect and what they do with it. As a result of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), businesses selling to customers in California and Europe have some strict policies that a lot of brands are struggling to keep up with. As new laws in Virginia, Colorado, Connecticut, Utah, and other states and regions emerge, this will become more important to more store owners.

Generally, customers must be able to opt out of the “sale” or “sharing” of their personal information in your store. You may also need to be able to demonstrate that you can delete a user upon request or export all personally identifiable information (PII) at a customer’s request. You can use the Customer Privacy & Compliance app in order to ensure that if a customer opts out, then the opt-out is synced to the Shopify Audiences app as well. Shopify also offers a Privacy Policy Generator that can help you get a quick start. The choices you make here are not just a matter of legal compliance and can have a meaningful impact on your business. For example, Google prefers customer store policies to be on separate pages rather than on a single page. Of course, with all of this, while ECOM DEPARTMENT can offer you guidance on how best to use Shopify, we are not attorneys and cannot offer you legal advice so please connect with your legal professional.

Helpful resources:
Shopify; Data Privacy
Shopify: Adding Store Policies 

Do I need to use a 3rd party shipping app to process orders?

Apps like ShipStation can save you a lot of time if you’re already processing a high volume of orders. If you are just starting out you may want to process orders directly from Shopify while taking advantage of Shopify’s low shipping costs.

To connect your Shopify store to your ShipStation account:

  1. Register with ShipStation
  2. Go to Account Settings
  3. Select “Selling Channels” from the left-hand sidebar and choose “Store Setup”.
  4. Select Selling Channels from the left-hand sidebar, then choose Store Setup.
  5. Click “Connect a Store or Marketplace.”
  6. Select the “Shopify” tile.
  7. Enter your Shopify Domain and click “Connect”
  8. You'll now be redirected to Shopify with ShipStation Application added to your account. Once the application installs, you'll be redirected back to your ShipStation account, where you can make additional configurations.

Helpful resources:
ShipStation: Shopify Integration
Shipping with Shopify

How can I create sales reports to help me with my business?

Shopify offers some out-of-the-box reports, but for some businesses, the reports may be too limited in scope. For more detailed reports we recommend Data Export IO: Reports which has a free plan and allows for scheduled reports to send to the user via email, FTP, and Google Sheets/Drive on basic or advanced schedules.

How do I sell wholesale?

Wholesale strategies allow merchants to offer discounts to specific customers purchasing in large quantities.

If you are a Shopify Plus customer, you can use the Wholesale Channel to create separate prices, shipping options, and payment options. You can also use this to manage products that are exclusively available to wholesale customers. Customers will experience this as a separate password-protected online store. Because wholesale stores are not indexed by search engines, you do not expose these discounted prices to the rest of the world.

Wholesale orders appear as drafts under the Shopify admin. With a draft order you can either send an invoice to be paid using your store’s existing payment methods, send a custom email that lets customers pay via alternative methods, including wire transfer, or accept payment via credit card or mark invoices as paid.

If you are not using Shopify Plus, we recommend using the Wholesale Pricing Discount app, which has great offerings that can accommodate most wholesale needs and requirements

Helpful resources:
Shopify: Wholesale Channel
Shopify: Creating a Wholesale Channel

How can I add an Instagram feed to my store?

You may want to display a customized and shoppable Instagram Feed on your store. If you do, we highly recommend the Instafeed app, which has a free plan and is very easy to use. These minimal and elegant feeds can display both Stories and Reels on your page, building social proof and converting visitors into customers. You can use multiple tags on your posts to turn Instagram followers into customers and control what content automatically appears on your store by hashtag.

Helpful resources:
Shopify: Setting Up Facebook and Instagram by Meta
Shopify: Instagram Shopping

How can I add a form to my website?

Some stores may benefit from having a form on the site so shoppers can get in touch with you. If you need forms we recommend the Hulk Form Builder app which has a free plan and is very easy to use. This will let you design both simple and complicated forms down to every detail, including image upload, it also includes Google reCaptcha to prevent fake submissions.

How can I add a customer service chat to my website?

Your store may also benefit from a customer support or service center. This can be helpful if your customers have frequent questions about your product or if they have any issues that may require assistance. If you are looking at building a support practice, we recommend the Gorgias ‑ Helpdesk & Live Chat app, which has a low-cost starter plan and is highly scalable and has deep integrations with Shopify out-of-the-box.