The 12-Step Shopify Store Launch Checklist

Deborah Mecca
May 8, 2023

Since its inception in 2006, Shopify has changed the way we do business. Before that, shop owners had three basic retail choices: a brick-and-mortar storefront, an e-commerce business in someone else’s space (think Etsy), or the complicated task of setting up and coding their own website.

Shopify was a game-changer, and not just because it’s so easy to use. It also offers store owners tons of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) options for both design and the customer interface.

However, if you take a low-effort approach to your Shopify store, you’ll fail to leverage some of the most powerful benefits it offers a business owner. You’ll also fail to provide your new store the boost it deserves, resulting in conversion rates that are lower than your true potential, and making the entire process less fulfilling for you.

That’s why it’s so important to nail your Shopify theme and use the right tools in the Shopify app store. If follow this launch checklist, luckily, you can do just that.

Ready to supercharge your shop for record-breaking sales? Let’s get started.

1. Add Your Sales Channels

First up on your Shopify launch checklist: adding all your sales channels. It’s great to have your own e-commerce platform, but you want to reach every potential customer out there, and a lot of them aren’t going to stop by your digital storefront until you have a larger following.

Therefore, when you’re just getting ready to launch, it behooves you to set up your e-commerce store with additional sales channels. You can sell on Facebook and Instagram, for instance, and also integrate with Amazon to reach the millions of people who use it every day.

If you’re interested in wholesale, you can set up a password-protected storefront through Shopify’s wholesale channel. You can also put your products on Handshake, a marketplace that dramatically expands your sales outlets.

2. Set Up Your Custom Domain

A custom domain name is important for online store owners, which is why it’s No. 2 on your Shopify launch checklist. Any URL that has another business’s name in it dilutes your brand, so you should purchase a custom domain and link it to your online shop.

Make sure this name reflects your business name so that the transition from social media or ads to your site isn’t jarring. You’ll also want to mirror your biz name in your social handles, which is required by some social apps (like Facebook) to sell in their marketplaces.

Setting up a domain name isn’t hard, but it is rather finicky sometimes. Follow the steps from the Shopify Help Center to get it right.

3. Update Tax and Shipping Settings

Tax settings and shipping details are among the most boring aspects of running your own shop, but they’re also among the most important. A devil-may-care approach to either of these can mean major heartache for you down the road.

Always double-check your sales tax settings, international and domestic shipping rates, any special pricing for handling, and your own business tax information in the system. That way, whether it’s paying your taxes or complying with your state’s sales tax requirements, you’re doing everything right.

4. Test Checkout Process and Payment Options

Behind taxes, checkout process functionality may be the most snooze-worthy item on the Shopify launch checklist. However, you’re only hurting yourself if you don’t get your Shopify payment methods and payment options right, because that’s how you make your money.

Ensure that your ecommerce website has options for PayPal, credit cards, and any other kind of payment gateway you choose to use. Triple-check that your return policy shows clearly on product pages and that it can be seen in, or directly before, the shopping cart.

Once you’ve done all that, place a test order to be sure that everything appears and functions properly. This ensures that your customers can spend their money with your store—and that your revenues grow.

Developing Standard Pages for Your Online Store

5. Develop Standard Pages for Your Online Store

Most websites contain an assortment of quote-unquote “standard pages.” Users have come to expect these pages on most sites, and have become to site navigation and the overall user experience. They include:

  • Homepage, linked via the logo or banner
  • Individual product pages featuring product descriptions and add-to-cart buttons
  • Shopping cart where customers can view the items currently in their cart
  • Contact page with location and contact information, such as email and phone number, or contact form
  • Customer support or FAQ page showing answers and solutions to common customer queries
  • Online store policy page
  • Sitemap

Make sure your site includes all of these before you launch so that customers can find their way around with ease.

6. Optimize Store with SEO Tactics

Believe it or not, your Shopify site will be indexed by Google and other browsers. That’s why good SEO (search engine optimization) matters even if you don’t have a blog or another well-oiled content marketing machine.

Many e-commerce businesses forget this, though, so their product listings and pages languish in obscurity. You can avoid this by searching the Shopify app store for plugins to help with SEO, so that you don’t have to become an expert in digital marketing.

One thing to do no matter what: label your images. Each PNG or JPG you use should have image alt tags. This tells the user what the image is, even if it is broken or loads slowly, or if they are vision impaired and using a text reader. This is very important for SEO rankings and can be done without an app, so be sure to do so.

7. Set Up or Review Automatic Email Notifications

Automatic email notifications can let potential customers know when you have new products, send them order confirmations, or send cart abandonment reminders to encourage the completion of a forgotten purchase. They’re a great way to stay in touch with your buyers and boost sales.

Shopify does include email functionality, and we recommend you go through the provided email templates and tailor them to fit your messaging, brand colors, and logos. You can also create a customized email marketing campaign using the same templates. That way, every message from you is instantly recognizable.

8. Install Google Search Console and Google Analytics Tools

Want your site to stand out? Google Search Console (GSC) helps make that possible, with a raft of analytics tools and metrics to help you measure your performance. Since Google ranking is so important, this is an invaluable addition to your Shopify launch checklist, as it helps you monitor and troubleshoot myriad site issues that may arise.

The same goes for Google Analytics (GA). GA can also help you find broken links, which can drag your shop’s SEO down and make it less likely for new customers to find you. Plus, it pulls data from your website and apps to let you know how they’re performing and suggest improvements.

9. Develop a Pre-Launch Marketing Plan

Your pre-launch marketing plan doesn’t have to be complex, but it should provide a well-developed roadmap of your marketing strategy before you go live.

Decide the media through which you’ll announce your shop – social media? Your website? Mailers? You’ll also want to figure out how to announce it – a simple declaration? Discount codes? A soft launch? An honest-to-goodness in-person launch party?

You should also outline your main marketing arteries after the launch – a newsletter? Regular social media posts? Affiliate marketing? You shouldn’t use every strategy, as you probably won’t be able to maintain all of them if you choose too many. But at the same time, be sure to operate on enough channels to make sure your Shopify store doesn’t fall into the Giant Black Hole That Is The Internet after you press “publish.”

10. Install Essential Apps for Marketing & Sales

Marketing and sales apps are key if you want to streamline your business and increase your profits. Offering customizable products, for instance, opens up the number of potential customers you can sell to, while upselling encourages them to scope your other offerings before they check out.

For that reason, your Shopify launch checklist should include the right apps. Product Customizer will help you significantly increase the number of ways you can tailor your listings—meaning your customers can personalize your base products to meet their own needs. From colors to fonts, dates to custom pricing, you will benefit from dramatically increased functionality compared to standard Shopify options.

Another good app? In-Cart Upsell, which uses AI technology to suggest additional products to people while they’re checking out. If you have complementary items that match the one in the shopper’s cart, this app makes sure they know about them.

11. Add Your Billing Information

Billing information matters. Shopify takes a cut of the profits for your Shopify store, but rather than deducting them from what you make, they’ll bill you separately. They will also charge you for your monthly plan as well as any apps you use in the store.

As such, before you can accept payments, you need to have a credit card on file. Use your business address for billing if you have one, and make sure this reflects your business name or DBA if applicable.

12. Launch Your Store!

Congratulations, Shopify store owners, you did it! You followed the checklist and are ready to bring all sorts of new customers to your shop. Remember that, even if this list feels long, it’s so worth setting up your shop for success ahead of time rather than scrambling to retrofit it later.

Setting up the details like your finances, your social integrations, and your product customization options are critical factors to get right before you launch to set your store up for long-term success.

So don’t wait any longer. Follow these tips and launch the shop of your dreams today!

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