What Is Shopify? – A “Shopify For Dummies” Guide

Asking yourself the question: “What Is Shopify?”. This is the completed Shopify For Dummies guide for anyone looking for answers on the mysterious platform…

Shopify is one of the most used products for selling goods online. It launched in 2006 and now powers over 500,000 active online stores, helping to generate billions of dollars in sales each year.

“It lets you organize your products, customize your storefront, accept credit card payments, track and respond to orders – all with a few clicks of the mouse.”

What types of products can you sell? How much does it cost?

These are some of the common questions asked about Shopify and just glimpse into the flood of information you’ll find in this guide.

What Is Shopify Used For?

Shopify enables ANYONE to build and manage their own online store. It’s pretty much “eCommerce for dummies”  – so simple that someone who hardly has used the internet before can start selling online.

From the web-based interface you can log in into your store and manage products, edit your design/layout, and view and process your orders.

To explore all its features you can sign up for the free 14-day trial. You do not need a credit card to use the trial but you do need to set up payment information before launching your store.

How is it beneficial to you?

According to 2017 stats, 8% of all transactions are done online.  Moreover, that number is expected to rise up to 16% by 2019.

If you create your own eCommerce store and attract a decent number of audience, you can take advantage of the growing online commerce industry.

What Is a Shopify Store?

A Shopify Store is where you market and sell your products. After creating an account or signing up for the free trial, you can start editing your online store.

To help create a custom store that matches your brand, you get to choose from a selection of themes. The Shopify Theme Store includes close to 100 paid and free themes covering a wide range of styles that you can customize to suit your needs. Each theme includes customization options that require no coding skills. However, you also have the option to use custom HTML and CSS to edit elements.

With the simple user interface, you can easily upload logos, add slides to the homepage, or adjust the color scheme and fonts. After choosing a theme and editing your store, you can begin adding products to the store.

All plans allow you to add unlimited products.

When adding a product, you can upload images, write a description, set the price, and include any other relevant details. Shopify also gives you the ability to organize products into groups such as clothing for men, women, or children.

The next step in creating a store is selecting a payment gateway. Shopify has its own payment gateway with a set fee based on the plan that you choose. You can also integrate third-party payment gateways.

What Does Shopify Cost?

Shopify offers a 14-day free trial and several paid plans. All three plans include an online store, unlimited products, multiple sales channels, Shopify payments, and the Shopify POS app.

Basic Shopify Subscription Cost

The basic package costs $29 per month and allows you to create two staff accounts. It lacks some of the features provided by the other plans, such as gift cards, professional reports, and advanced report builder.

The transaction fees vary between plans. With the Basic plan, Shopify charges 2.2% + $0.30 per online credit card transaction. You’re also charged 1.7% for in-person credit card transactions. Using a different payment provider results in an additional 2% flat fee.

Standard Shopify Subscription Cost

The standard packages costs $79 per month and increases the maximum number of staff accounts for five. The transaction fees are lower, with a 1.9% + $0.30 fee for online credit card transactions.

In-person credit card transactions cost 1.6%. You’re charged 1% for transactions involving other payment providers. With the Standard plan, you also gain the ability to create gift cards. You can sell gift cards through your store the same as any other product or give them away to customers as rewards.

The Standard plan provides you with valuable professional reports. You can filter data based on customer purchasing habits such as one-time customers, returning customers, and customers by country.

Advanced Shopify Subscription Cost

The advanced plan costs $299 per month, allows up to 15 staff accounts, and lowers the transaction fees even more. You’re charged 1.6% + $0.30 for online credit card sales and 1.5% for in-person sales. When using other payment providers, you’ll receive an additional 0.5% charge.

This plan includes calculated carrier shipping, allowing you to integrate with third-party shipping services. Give customers up-to-date shipping rates and additional shipping options.

With the Advanced plan, you also receive access to a custom report builder and advanced customer reporting. Analyze and track at-risk or loyal customers.

Getting Started With Shopify

Getting started involves selecting from a group of monthly plans and then building your Shopify store.

Here’s a video I put together that runs you through all the steps involved in starting a store. If you’d prefer to read these steps instead then go ahead and skip to below.


Here are the steps to setting up a Shopify store:

1. Shopify Free Trial (2019)

You can start off your Shopify free trial for 2 weeks without any financial commitments. Use these two weeks to set up your store, put some products and see if you can start making sales without paying any monthly subscription fees.

2. Start Your Shopify Subscription

When your trial expires you will need to choose your subscription plan to continue using the platform. I recommend starting with the Basic subscription at the beginning to save on the amount you are spending every month. You can always upgrade later if you discover a need to.

2. Shopify Templates – Choose Your Store’s Design

Now that you’re all set up, you can start building your store. First, select a theme from the Shopify templates. A theme sets the look and feel of your store. There’s hundreds of templates to choose from. Once you have decided which theme works for you, you can install it on your store.

3. Shopify Products – Upload The Product You’ll Be Selling

Next, start putting up products in your store. You can either sell your own product or import them from a website such as AliExpress.

Oberlo is a great plug-in that allows you to quickly add products from AliExpress to your store. Start filling in information about your products – the title, description and everything else you need to get started.

what is shopify - oberlo product picker

4. Shopify Apps – Install Your Extra Features

Shopify provides access to thousands of apps for increasing the functionality of your online business. The Shopify App Store includes free and paid apps that offer a wide range of beneficial features. With the right app, you can:

  • Display customer reviews on your store
  • Manage your online marketing campaigns
  • Print labels, packing slips, and invoices
  • Display a free shipping offer on your site
  • Complete an SEO audit of your store
  • Create impressive contact forms
  • Sell digital products on your store

As with plugins for WordPress, the apps can help simplify the way you manage your site or help attract more customers.

5. Shopify Payments – Receive Your Customers’ Money

Above all, you need a payment gateway installed on your store to receive payments from your customers around the world. It allows your store to accept credit cards, debit cards, PayPal payments or other alternative payment options. Shopify comes with a ton of payment gateways ready to install with a click of a button.

Shopify Payments provides a way to accept all major payment methods without using a third-party payment gateway. The payment gateway comes with all plans. It eliminates the hassle of dealing with third-party providers and entering the credentials into your account. With Shopify Payments, your stores automatically accept major credit cards and other payment options. By giving potential customers more ways to pay, you increase your potential sales.

6. Shipping Rates – Configure Your Shipping Costs

Afterward, you need to decide on your shipping rates. Simply put, the shipping rate is the amount of money you charge to have your product shipped.

There are different ways you can go about setting your shipping rates. For instance, you can charge a flat rate which means you charge the same amount every time a customer makes a purchase. Likewise, you can set varying rates depending on the country of origin or based on the item purchased.

7. Shopify Integrations – Connect To Other Websites

You also have the option of selling products on other online marketplaces, social media sites, and your existing website. A variety of sales channels are supported, including:

  • Facebook
  • Amazon
  • Pinterest
  • Messenger
  • Instagram
  • “Buy” button on your own website or blog

8. Shopify Domain Name – Brand Your Store

After the 2-week free trial, you need to have your website online for people to find it.  In order for this to happen, you need to have a domain name. Shopify will give you a domain name out of the box. However, if you want something a bit more unique, you can purchase your own domain name.

That’s all you need to know to get started!

For more details, check out this article: Shopify step-by-step article on how to set up your store. Get started right away and don’t forget to use this link to take advantage of the 2-week free trial

9. Start Selling!

That’s it! If you have followed those 8 steps then you will have everything in place that you need to start selling!

eCommerce For Dummies – Getting Your First Shopify Sale

Recently, the Shopify team reached out to me and shared a 21-part video training series on how to get your first sale. So if you prefer to undergo training facilitated by Shopify themselves, then head over to How to get your first sale on Shopify training series. On the contrary, if you think that doesn’t work well for you, don’t worry. You can stay on and I will share the step by step process on how you can get started.

What Is Shopify Plus?

Shopify Plus offers enterprise-grade solutions for larger businesses with higher volumes of sales. This plan includes many extra features to help expand your business:

  • Advanced apps
  • Customizable checkout
  • Unlimited staff accounts
  • Dedicated 24/7 support
  • Shopify Plus Academy
  • Nine expansion stores
  • Backend automation

With other plans, you can only build one store per account. Plus allows you to build nine expansion stores. The extra stores are useful when expanding into new markets, especially if you need to cater to a different type of customer.

To help you get more out of this enterprise-level plan, you gain access to the Shopify Plus Academy. The academy is an online resource full of training videos, live workshops, and tutorials covering every aspect of the platform.

Another useful feature is Shopify Flow. This tool provides automation for backend processes such as email marketing campaigns. It simplifies the way that you handle customer interactions, giving you and your staff more time for other tasks.

Who should use Plus? Businesses that generate $1 million or more in revenue each year tend to benefit most. This plan offers the infrastructure needed to take your online business to the next level.

What Is Shopify Lite?

Shopify Lite is a stripped-down version for those who want to sell products online without creating a store. You still get an overview dashboard and the ability to manage unlimited products. You can also sell your products through social media channels or a “Buy” button on your website or blog. Using the Shopify POS app, you can sell in person.

The main differences between the Lite plan and the Basic plan include:

  • No online store
  • Only one staff account
  • No phone support (email and live chat only)

With this plan, you are getting just the resources for selling products. If you already have a website but need to simplify your inventory management and payment gateways, this may provide a more convenient and affordable solution.

What Is Shopify Pay?

Shopify Pay offers customers an accelerated checkout process. This feature is only available when using Shopify Payments on your store.

If you enable Shopify Pay, customers have the option to save their credit card, shipping, and billing information. This saves them time when completing future purchases.

Shopify stores the information on its PCI-compliant servers and only shares the data with your store when the customer places an order.

The next time that the customer makes a purchase, they are taken directly to the order review page. He or she receives a six-digit code via text message. After the code is entered, the order is processesed.

What Is Shopify POS?

Shopify POS allows you to complete transactions in person while syncing sales with your account.

The Shopify POS app acts as a point of sale (POS) system on iOS or Android devices. With a custom shopping cart and the ability to accept multiple payment methods, you may sell products anywhere, such as markets or special events.

With the Standard and Advanced plans, you can add extra features to the POS system. Using register shifts, you can track individual employees and hold them accountable when balancing the register. You also gain unlimited staff PINs for adding staff accounts to the POS system.

What Is Shopify – Wrap Up

In the end, Shopify offers one of the easiest eCommerce solutions. Instead of using a variety of platforms and services to handle payments, inventory management, and marketing, Shopify provides everything that you need to sell online.

To start building your own store, you just need to sign up for the free 14-day trial. Just remember that you cannot go live until you choose a paid plan.