Goal: Help you level up your business by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me and my clients improve sales, traffic, conversion rate, and the overall business.
Getting traction on a Shopify store is hard. I know because I started one in 2015, created various products, built a team, scaled up, then sold my shares to free my time for other projects.
Aside from owning a store for 7 years I was also a Shopify developer for almost 10 years, and a consultant for a couple years.
Here I’m going to share tips based on my experience as a store owner + working on hundreds of Shopify stores to help improve their website and increase sales.
About my store
This article isn’t about store, it’s about helping you ✊, but if you’re curious where my experience comes from check it out at treetribe.com. It’s a nature inspired clothing and lifestyle brand that plants a tree on every sale. When I left we had planted over 450,000 trees around the world. 🌲🌍
Tips for Shopify Store Owners
- Have a purpose
- Run Google Ads and set up Google Shopping
- Think in terms of ROI
- Try wholesale
- Sell on Amazon
- Build a brand and be a cool company
- Try out lots of apps and sales channels
- Create / Sell the best quality products you can
- Create an affiliate program
- Be a customer
- Set goals and prioritize
- Start a blog and post regularly
- Handle customer service from time to time
- Hire developers to create features for your site
- Ask for help
Have a purpose
If your about page says something like “We sell premium products at a fair price and have great customer service”, then you don’t have a purpose and you will likely struggle with getting sales and a loyal customer base.
Shopping on Amazon is so easy but you don’t get that feeling of being a part of a community or supporting a small business or brand you like. Buying on Amazon you could be buying from anyone, but there’s a huge selection of products so branding and story telling aren’t as prominent as on your own site.
Having a purpose / mission creates an emotional connection with your customers + helps you develop your brand into more than just an online store.
The purpose of my store was to plant trees on Earth and inspire people to be more connected with nature.
What are you passionate about? How can you integrate that into your brand to give it more purpose?
Thought experiment: ask yourself “why should people buy from me instead of a random seller on Amazon?”. That can get you thinking about what you can do to make a good experience / emotional connection with your customers.
Run Google Ads and set up Google Shopping
I’ve heard this at least a hundred times: “I’m getting traffic but hardly any conversions, what should I do?”. The question is flawed because it leaves out data, so my first response is to ask how much traffic per month, what are the traffic sources, and what’s the conversion rate. I’ve often seen this scenario to learn that they don’t know where the traffic is coming from, or that they’re running social media ads they created themself without doing any A/B testing.
Google Ads usually convert better than social media ads, unless you have a buzzworthy products that get lots of shares organically or you are working with a professional social media marketer.
For small teams and low budget, I recommend setting up Google Ads and Google Shopping. Google Ads are easy enough to set up basic ads that convert. A professional will make them convert better, find new keywords, A/B test, and create a scalable system, but for starters you can create basic ads that will get shown to people searching for your keywords.
Google Shopping is great because your products show up in shoppable cards when people are searching for your type of product in Google. They’re already in buying mode, you just have to present a compelling reason for them to buy when they land on your page.
Some links to help with this if you don’t have a marketing person:
- Shopify’s official Google channel documenation
- Shopify Google Shopping Integration: 6 Easy Steps
- For Google Ads you’ll get an email sequence with tips when you sign up, if you’re doing this yourself reading a guide or 2 will help too.
Think in terms of ROI
Don’t be afraid to pay for apps and services. You’re running a business – if something generates a positive ROI then it’s a win for your business.
When you’re first starting out $15/mo for an app may seem like a lot, but it doesn’t matter what it costs, it matters if it generates your business a positive ROI.
If an email marketing person costs $1,000 per month but generates thousands of dollars in sales + new customers, you’re growing your business.
I remember when $1,000/mo was a high business expense, now it’s all just numbers, and if the numbers calculate to more profit than expense, I do it. I’ve seen clients go from hundreds of dollars monthly ad spend to 10’s of thousands per month. Spending $10k/mo on ads stings, but if you’re generating 5x that in sales that’s good scale (assuming you have a decent profit margin).
Hire a marketing person as soon as you have a proven product market fit. If you have inventory and have a conversion rate of at least 1% you should be able to scale that up with good marketing. If you hire a professional you’ll probably increase your conversion rate anyway because they will know how to target your customers better.
I like to hire for marketing on a 1 – 3 month contract, with a focus on setting up automated marketing systems. If the marketer is generating new traffic and sales beyond their rate, keep them going indefinitely. If they aren’t pulling a positive ROI, but you had them set up systems (like ads, emails, etc), then you now have that system that you can keep running.
Don’t be afraid to run ads just because they cost money. Organic traffic is awesome but it takes a long time to get going (once it does it’s nice though!).
One time my store did a deal to sell 10,000 units to a large corporation for holiday gifts. That was awesome!
We did plently of deals with small and medium sized businesses too, that’s a good starting point.
If you develop good branding you’ll get people reaching out all the time asking about wholesaling and carrying your products in your store (or doing gifts). If you’re not getting those requests yet, do some research and find stores that you think would be a good fit and send them your wholesale information.
Eventually you’ll want to create a price sheet + a PDF / document to show your wholesale info and what your brand is about, but for starters just send a link to your product catalogue on your site and general pricing information. Setting prices can be complex if you want, or you can just set a standard rule like 50% off the retail price, ideally you do tiers to incentivize buying more units and giving your wholesale partners an opportunity to get a better margin.
I would hire someone to help you setup a wholesale system and policies, but for just starting out, you can basically just sell products in bulk at a discount.
Sell on Amazon
Yes the fees on Amazon seem high and are painful, but the easy sales and additional customers make up for it. I’ve known people that run their whole business off 1 product on Amazon. I actually used Amazon as a product test ground first, then got traction and built out the website and scaled the business.
If you’ve never sold on Amazon you’re in for a pleasant surprise to see how easy sales come in (unless you’re in a super competitive niche, but even then you can still get some sales quickly with little effort).
I consider Amazon a partner where I pay them a commission for introducing new customers to my product. This amounts to a steady stream of sales + ever growing customer base. You don’t get direct access to those customers, but you can work strategy by creating good packaging and insert cards with your company info, website, and social media links. If you have a compelling story that customer may check you out and become a fan, now they’re in your ecosystem.
Bonus: you can significantly expand your international customers by entering more Amazon marketplaces. Ship in bulk to international Amazon marketplaces, include your shipping cost into the price of the product, and now customers in those locations can buy your product “locally” without expensive / long international shipping.
To sell on Amazon you create an Amazon Seller Central account then list your products. There are some settings and steps along the way but once you get set up it mostly runs itself.
I love automation because I love saving time. I actually ended up starting a side business based on automation because of manual tasks I was doing while running Tree Tribe.
That business turned into a Shopify app called Order Automator – check it out in the Shopify app store here, it might save you and your team hours of work + countless tedious tasks every month. You can also do smart automatic tagging to create customer segment lists for marketing, and some other functions that help store owners.
I got obsessed with automation after constantly grinding trying to grow my business, and feeling like I hardly had free time.
Here are some of my favorite automation tactics to get you started:
- Automate traffic generation with guaranteed ROI (pay per conversion) with Klickly
- Automate abandon cart and email marketing with Klaviyo (tips in this guide)
- Get on 3rd party marketplaces and automate the ordering and fulfillment (Example: list on Etsy and use Etsy Marketplace Integration app to import orders to Shopify and into your existing fulfillment flow)
- Automate fulfillment with Shopify Fulfilllment Network, Amazon FBA (guide here), or another fulfillment partner like ShipBob.
- Automate cross selling and upselling on your site with an app like LimeSpot
- Automate Instagram posting to your website + lifestyle images + shoppable images with Covet Pics (guide here)
- Automate review requests with Judge.me
- Automate backlinks and referral promotion by creating an affiliate program
- Automate store backup with Rewind
- Automate customer service, social media posting, and marketing by hiring (free your time to create more products, form partnerships, and make strategic decisions that advance the biz)
- Automate A/B testing with Theme Scientist
For more automation ideas (like chat bots, which I’m not familiar with), check out Expert Shopify Automation Tips & Tools to Boost eCommerce Sales.
Build a brand and be a cool company
Be different, have a mission, and create a brand rather than just selling products.
Hire a designer to create a professional logo that represents your brand and builds trust. I’ve seen so many struggling sites have no logo, or an obvious self created or copied image for a logo. Your logo and about page are essential for building trust with random website visitors.
Put effort into an About page and connecting with your customers. This is obvious for a passionate brand owner but for the tons of sites I’ve come across seeking help when they have a 1-2 paragraph generic about page and no mission, this is for you 🙂.
You can build a successful store dropshipping products, I’ve seen my friends do it, but after dropshipping exploded in popularity this has gotten wayyyy harder. If you’re dropshipping, think of ways you can set make a fun or engaging shopping experience so people buy from you. Experiment with rewards programs, creating messaging around your brand and vision, finding ways to engage with your customers.
The brand is what people talk about to their friends, and what will help you gain fans.
When I say “be a cool company”, I don’t mean your products need to be cool (though that’s a great goal for any niche), but I mean how you run your business. Be friendly to interact with, be fair to your customers, make shipping and returns easy, do things that make your customers smile.
Treat your customers like friends and family, and use that mentality in customer service when dealing with angry or difficult customers.
The philosophy I like to use when setting customer service policy is “what would I want to happen if I was the customer”. Refunds and returns may sting, but that’s a natural part of owning a retail business. I’ve seen businesses charge a “restocking fee” for exchanging a product. That’s a bummer if you’re the customer and ordered the wrong size.
Scenario 1: Customer sees a restocking fee and just decides to return the item for a refund because they don’t want to pay an extra fee.
Scenario 2: Free exchanges means that customer gets the product they want and leaves happy with the interaction.
Scenario 2 sounds like a win-win to me. Happy customers recommend you to their friends (and buy more products in the future).
Try out lots of apps and sales channels
Shopify apps are awesome, allowing you to extend the functionality of your store for a fraction of the cost of building it from scratch.
Klaviyo because it’s an awesome email marketing app that generates sales on autopilot, and Judge.me because it’s a great reviews app (my favorite after testing all of them). Reviews are key for adding trust, start collecting reviews right away and use a powerful reviews app to build a system (like automated review asks, rewards for people that leave 5 star reviews, etc).
Check more app recommendations here: Best Shopify Apps. And whenever you work with a Shopify partner (developer, marketer, etc) ask them what are some of their favorite apps and why.
Create / Sell the best quality products you can
Life as a business owner is so much easier when you have good quality products.
Higher quality products cost more, but the long term payoff is huge. When sourcing manufacturers you’ll get tempted by lower prices but to me quality is the #1 factor.
- Fewer complaints and returns
- More repeat customers
- Great reviews and referrals
- Loyal customers that think of you first next time they’re shopping for what you’re selling
- The feeling that you and your team get that you’re contributing value to the world and making people happy
It’s really cool seeing people share their stories of owning your product for years and they’re still using and loving it, raving about the quality. That’s a happy customer that inevitably has told the same story to their friends and family members at some point. Offline marketing is hard to measure, but it’s definitely effective (think of when you discover a brand or product because your friend recommended it).
Create an affiliate program and work with influencers
I love affiliate programs! I’ve operated them and also been an affiliate myself so I seen how the system works + the motivation when you’re incentivized.
An affiliate program is a system for rewarding people for referring customers to you. With online stores, you typically give a 5% – 25% of the sale to the affiliate that referred the sale. You decide on the number based on your margins and product price, feel free to experiment and offer different tiers or bonuses.
I like Refersion for Shopify sites. By the way, that link is an affiliate link. Copy the link and you’ll see a parameter attached to the url for attribution. I recommend Refersion because I’ve used it for years and have tried other affiliate programs and think this one is the best.
That’s how affiliate marketing works – think of it as a grass roots marketing strategy – rather than spending money with big companies like Google, Facebook, etc, partners (affiliates) promote the products they use and like and in return get a commission, at no additional cost to the person signing up / purchasing the product.
Affiliate program bonus: in addition to getting more sales you’ll naturally get more backlinks. Just look at the Refersion example here. Because I think Refersion is great I’m including them in this article, they now have another backlink to their site that helps improve their SEO.
Working with influencers that have an audience can be a great way to boost your sales and get exposure to new customers. If you have good products people will naturally promote them, but you can accelerate and scale that by incentivizing people monetarily to promote your products.
Tip: research people with a following on social media, that fit your niche or are your ideal customer and invite them to your affiliate program. If you can make a single sale off giving away 1 free product, that’s a success (assuming you have a near 50% margin, or a decent life time customer value in relation to the cost of the product).
If you want to shop around for affiliate programs, here are 17 affiliate apps for Shopify.
Be a customer
I’ve worked with clients that browse their website every day like a customer, and clients that rarely go to their own site, the ones that browse it often steadily come up with new ideas and tests to improve their conversion rate. Do that.
I like to do this from the full flow: do a google search or click on an ad, browse the site, buy a product. See what products get recommended to you, see what the messaging says (chat boxes, about page, product description, etc), go to the cart page, look for incentives or discounts (free shipping at $X), go through checkout, read the emails, open the box when it ships to you and note the experience of all this.
You may find glitches in your process, or get new ideas to improve the customer experience. All these little experiments incrementally add up to increase your conversion rate and make your customers happy and ready to spred the word about your products.
Set goals and prioritize
When you have a small team (or solo to start) your task list seems infinite. Keep a list of ideas but keep a separate list for priorities and goals. I like to pick 1 goal for the day / week / month. Then every day / week I’m accomplishing something that moves the business forward.
Once your site starts getting traction you’re going to start receiving lots of spam emails… lots! These are annoying and will waste your time, just mark them as spam and move on. Every once in awhile a cold email pitch might have some value but in my experience 95%+ are garbage or irrelevant. If you don’t mark them as spam you’ll often get repeat followups in your inbox.
I used to take these meetings and hire some, but in the end found most of them to be a waste of my time. Instead, when I have an idea for growth, I seek out a good fit.
Ask yourself “what’s the most important thing I can do for this business right now”, then focus on that task. Maybe it’s adding a new product, or creating a marketing campaign, or increasing your conversion rate… whatever it is knock em out one at a time and you’ll continually be leveling up your store.
Start a blog and post regularly
Blogging is an excellent way to generate organic search traffic + make your site more lively.
I’ve seen a few different strategies for ecommerce blogs, here are some ideas to try:
- Create product guides
- Answer questions customers search for related to your product types
- Publish events or news in your niche (example if your site is music related, show festival news)
- Create lifestyle type articles that appeal to your demographic customer (like traveling tips if you sell products for travelers)
Blogs also give you an opportunity to show your personality. This is another opportunity to gain trust from potential customers. Many ecommerce stores don’t have a blog, differentiate yourself by sharing that content with your audience.
Regularly adding new content is also a signal to search engines that your site is regularly updating and adding new content, positive signals for getting crawled and ranking pages.
Handle customer service from time to time
To the owner / manager of the business: When you’ve reached the point of having customer service handled by a member of your team, and they’ve been with you for while and do a great job managing it on their own, it’s easy to forget what it was like doing customer service, interacting with your customers on the ground floor.
To stay in the loop and keep that connection with your customer base, I recommend taking 1 week from time to time to manage customer service.
I did this once or twice a year and every time learned more about how customers interact with the brand, got new ideas, and felt a positive experience talking with enthusiastic customers. Ask them for feedback to, you’ll get some good tips about their experience and how you can improve it.
Hire developers to create features for your site
Shopify is awesome because you can get a full website (via themes) and extra functionality (via apps) at a super low cost compared to having it built out from scratch.
That’s great, but consider customizing your theme and adding features unique to your store, to set your brand apart and enhance the customer experience.
Some ways to make your theme more unique and fit the vision of your brand:
- Create a set of graphics in the style of your brand (example: product highlights, shipping graphics, badges, etc)
- Add features that give your customers more options (example: create a section on the cart page where they can select a gift wrap option and add instructions. A developer can add that, bonus is you now have added an upsell option as well)
- Create an interactive shopping guide where customers can navigate through questions or options to narrow down the type of product they want to buy
- Create a custom cross sell widget where customers can see options to buy related products (for example if you sell clothes and having matching tops and bottoms, have a “complete the outfit” widget). Apps can sometimes do stuff like this but if you create it for your store only you can fully customize it to do exactly what you want
If you have ideas but no developer, contact Speed Boostr to share your idea and get a quote on making it a reality.
If you’re editing your theme yourself, make sure you’re backing up your live theme before working, and only work on backup themes, so you don’t affect the live site while editing or in case something goes wrong. If you’re new to editing Shopify themes, I recommend reading this guide: How to Safely Edit Your Shopify Theme.
Ask for help
The Shopify forums are vibrant with action and Shopify partners helping out where they have expertise.
If you have a question about features, apps, ideas, shipping, anything you’re unsure of drop a question in the forums. The community is full with helpful Shopify partners and staff.
I understand first-hand the challenge of starting a store from scratch and bootstrapping to a sustainable business, I feel you! And I hope this post gave you at least a few ideas to level up your business and free your time.
Last tip, if you’re passionate about your businesses mission keep at it and improve it every day, you’ll catch some breaks along the way and a lot of small wins that collectively add up to big wins. If you’re not passionate about your business, if it’s just a money making vehicle, put your thinking hat and see how you can evolve it to align more with things you care about.
Enjoy the adventure! 🤘