Howdy? Welcome to Bharaji where my mission is to help everyone start and grow an ecommerce business.
I am B, main contributor to this site. I have been experimenting recently with Shopify and thought it would be a great idea to share with you some of my learning. I hope you pick few insights along the way that may help you start a Shopify store or grow your existing one.
I created my first store back in May 17, 2018 and believe that 6 months is a good chunk of time warranting a review of what I have done so far, what’s working, and some pitfalls to avoid.
I make no claim of being a Shopify Expert but I can confidently say that more than 300 hours of videos viewing, research, and hands on testing qualify me to some extent to talk about how to get started with Shopify the right way.
I created 3 stores while testing, 2 of which are still running with the 3rd one closed to cut down on my costs. I earned some money along the way, not enough to retire on a sunny beach - yet.
I also lost some, probably more than I would have loved to but hey that’s part of the learning curve.
Here is what I am covering in this post:
What Is Shopify?
Shopify is an all-in-one ecommerce platform that allows you to create your own online store. It provides you with several themes that can be customized to meet individual users’ branding requirements.
One of the key selling point of Shopify is that users without technical or design experience can create beautiful online websites.
As stated on their website, Shopify powers ambitious entrepreneurs all over the world with more than 600,000 stores, 1,000,000+ active users and $72B+ sold on Shopify.
I can tell from my own experience that it is one of the most user friendly ecommerce platform out there.
How To Use Shopify?
This section is not about a tutorial on Shopify. There are many great free videos on Youtube doing a fantastic job in teaching how to use Shopify. You can also find free training materials on Shopify at https://www.shopify.com/academy
I will share with you how most entrepreneurs use Shopify to earn an income online.
The widely business model used is called Dropshipping although some use Shopify to sell their own line of products or services.
Some people will also mention print-on-demand as a separate business model, although I see it as a form of dropshipping as well. For argument sake, I will briefly explain dropshipping, print-on-demand and selling your own products or services.
I have noticed that most people involved with dropshipping use Aliexpress for selling physical goods.
Dropshipping in a nutshell is when you play the middle man between the supplier and the customer. You buy a product at a certain price and resell it with a margin to cover your costs and profits.
Image credit: Entrepreneur Hub
You don’t invest in inventory or whatsoever. You only buy the product when you have an order on your store. The supplier sends it to your customer without you seeing it or touching it. This is inventory arbitrage. Your risk is almost nil.
This is not a new concept. Many fortune 100 companies such as Amazon, Walmart use a similar business model.
The most popular suppliers for droshipping with Shopify are:
With print-on-demand you put up a design on a product through a printing partner. Generally t-shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs and so forth. The products are unique and customized based on your design. The dropshipping principle still applies here.
When someone orders the product on your store, the printing partner gets it, prints the said product and ships directly to your customer without you seeing it or touching it.
Image credit: Printful
There is a bit of time and money to be invested in design research and you may have to pay a monthly fee to some partners.
The most popular Print-on-demand partners are:
Selling Your Own Products Or Services
Shopify facilitates the selling of your own brand of products or services.
You can create and develop your brand from scratch and take it to the world!
Some good branded stores on Shopify are:
What To Sell On Shopify? (Niches/Products)
The sky is the limit when it comes to what niches to get into or products to sell on Shopify.
Aliexpress for instance has a gazillion of products you could potentially sell. It does require a bit of digging and testing to find a high converting product.
To get your creative juice flowing, here are 5 niches proven to work on Shopify: Survival, Fishing, Hunting, Home/Kitchen and Phone Accessories. Pick any of these categories and drill down to find a product on Aliexpress you could resell for a profit.
How Much Is Shopify And How To Start Your First Store For Free
But you will have to pick a plan later for you to unlock Shopify’s potential.
They have several plans to accommodate a wide range of entrepreneurs but their most popular ones are basic shopify, shopify and advanced shopify.
They do have a starter plan called Shopify lite as well as an enterprise-grade solution (shopifyplus) for high volume merchants.
Before jumping headfirst into building a Shopify Store, I highly recommend you immerse yourself with some of the free training materials on the subject. You have Youtube Videos, Facebook Groups and even Shopify own free materials.
Most importantly I would advise against buying a Shopify Course right away without you doing some due diligence.
I have a list of recommended resources at the end of this article to get you going in your learning journey.
My $1,500 Shopify Experiment
Starting a Shopify store is not my first stab at becoming an online millionaire. I have earned some stars in affiliate marketing, amazon fba, website designs and many more side hustles not worth mentioning here.
Back in May 2018, I decided to take a closer look at what Shopify has to offer and add another strike to my side income streams.
My plan was pretty simple: build a Shopify store for droshipping on Aliexpress. Add some print on demand products into the mix and rack up some steady income.
I used Facebook as a main traffic and marketing platform.
Where to start: niche store or generic store?
There are two schools of thought out there about what type of store to build when dropshipping: some strongly believe in starting a niche store while other recommend a more generic store (or superstore).
Each type of store has its pros and cons. I did both.
You build your store around one particular theme or niche market. All the products on your store would be in that market. With niche stores, you have higher conversion rates. One major downside is that it can fizzle out easily if it’s a trend.
I built a niche store that I had to shut down because I could not make it profitable.
There is more opportunity with generic stores. You are not confined to a specific niche. You can test different products from various niches. This gives you an edge to quickly adapt and scale easily.
One major downside is the lower conversion rates (not always though). I built one generic store that is still up and running.
As you can imagine, in my case I could not get the niche site to work.
My $1,500 experiment was with the niche store that I closed down. I learned from my mistakes and applied the insights to my generic store that is still going strong.
I decided to go with the Dog niche and built a store around that. I made it general enough so that I could sell anything related to dogs.
I picked the Dog niche because I kept hearing the “experts” say to pick something people are passionate about. Sure enough many pet owners are very passionate about their pets: Dogs, Cats, Horses, etc.
So where did I go wrong? I am not a pet owner let alone passionate about Dogs. I simply thought if marketers are racking up in this niche then surely I can make something work.
You need to pick a niche people are passionate about but more importantly it should be something you are also passionate about. If you don’t have any passion for your chosen niche then have some form of interest to make you want to learn more about the niche.
That’s the only thing that will keep you motivated when the going gets tough.
In my case, I concluded that I had no particular interest in the Dog niche and it was becoming a hassle to immerse myself into the niche and test all these products to find a winner.
I could not connect or relate directly to the niche. Result: I gave up. Maybe too early but I needed to cut my losses and move on.
When you pick a niche and planning to run traffic from Facebook, use their Audience Insight tool to assess the size of the niche. Anything above 500k active users is good enough to start testing.
Product selection is the next task once you pick your niche. With all these products on Aliexpress, which ones will do well on your store? In my case, I took a simple route: pick the best selling products in the dog niche.
Hence I uploaded the following: mala bead yoga bracelets (with dog head), oil painting by numbers, pet dog water bottle, dog socks, jackets and many more. I had 25 products in total in my online store.
Needless to say that I managed to sell only a few units of a handful of them!
Getting the best selling products is a good start but it’s not enough to generate sales. You need to do some additional research to see if the product is still trending, has a buyer audience on your traffic source (in my case Facebook).
One good practice is to check on Google Trends, EBay Watchcount and Amazon to validate that the product is still in demand.
My Traffic Source
As previously mentioned, I used Facebook exclusively as my traffic source.
This is where the rubber hits the roads. Indeed you can have the best Shopify Store and products but if no one knows about it or nobody visits your store then you can’t make a dime.
You hear the “gurus” say that you can make ten and thousands of dollars with a $5/Day budget in Facebook Ads. I have news for you: this is not quite accurate!
When I give you the breakdown of my $1,500 experiment you will clearly see that most of my costs came from my Facebook Ad Spend.
I had high CPM and CPC with little to no positive ROI.
I watched so many Facebook ad videos with each expert contradicting the other that I almost lost my mind! I finally settled with bit and pieces of each strategy that seemed to make sense to me.
When it comes to advertising your store with Facebook, make sure that you have a strategy you stick to. Most people telling you that you can make boat loads of money with Facebook Ads fail to mention that it’s highly dependent on the “maturity” of your Facebook pixel.
They all have very seasoned pixels which don’t require a lot of precise targeting to be effective.
When you are just starting off, Facebook needs a lot of data gathered through your Pixel to optimize your ads. This is how Facebook knows where your buyers are.
My costs breakdown
- Shopify Fees (including 1 app) : $273
- Facebook Ad Spend : $1,138.37
- Aliexpress costs of goods : $88.86
- Revenue from sale : $307.55
You could look at these numbers and say boy you bought some good for $88.86 and brought in $307.55. That’s a profit of $218.69!
Nope. When you factor in ad spend and operational costs (Shopify) you can clearly see that this was a loss of $1,192.68. Not the type of business you want to run.
Although, according to more veteran marketers in Facebook advertising and Shopify, it takes time to turn a loss into profit. You have to be prepared to lose money on Facebook in the beginning.
The experts showing you all these screenshots of $10,000 daily sales sometimes fail to mention that this is revenue only. You need to take a closer look at their ad spend and other “hidden” costs to grasp their real profits.
Here are my Top 2 Facebook Groups you could join to interact with likeminded entrepreneurs using Shopify to run their businesses.
This is a closed group run by Justin Cener a Shopify Expert who specializes in POD (Print-on-Demand). He also shares some great insight on other business models such as dropshipping with Aliexpress. He does have a private Mentoring Bootcamp and other products of his own.
His Youtube channel can be found here
A very popular Shopify group with more than 29k members. No question is stupid here. Ask anything you need help with and you will have many members coming to the rescue.
Other Facebook Groups you could join:
Some Shopify Experts to follow on Facebook
The brain behind smartmarketer.com. Ezra is one of the leading eCommerce experts in for working in the field for over a decade. His YouTube channel
Jon is from Canada and made over $4,000,000 on Shopify. YES, it’s 4M! Has his own ecommerce platform and sells his training and courses. His YouTube Channel
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I am planning on updating it regularly to keep up with the trends in the Dropshipping community with Shopify.
As mentioned in the beginning this was not meant to be a tutorial on Shopify but rather an attempt to share my results with Shopify and how you could start your own store.
You don’t need to invest in some pricy courses to get your first sale online.
In fact most of what you need to start your online journey is available for free on youtube channels, facebook groups and even on Shopify own library.
I have tried to point you to some resources that I hope will get you started in the right direction.
Feel free to share this article with anyone who could benefit from it.
Don’t hesitate to drop me a line through the contact page or comment below.