You’re finally launching your Shopify store after all your hard work. It’s exciting, but can quickly become overwhelming.
A million thoughts run through your mind. You aren’t sure you’ve completed everything necessary for a smooth launch day. Are all of your products loaded correctly? Have you created a marketing plan to promote your store? Does your website look trustworthy?
Instead of running around aimlessly as you start a business, entertaining every frantic thought, take a methodical approach to your launch. Ease your mind and stay organized with this handy Shopify store launch checklist.
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Why a launch checklist is so important
Your store looks great, your products are loaded and ready to go, and you've set up all of your social accounts. Are you forgetting something?
With so many moving parts, it’s easy to miss a simple but critical step in a successful business launch. When you need something to go well, a checklist can help reduce ambiguity and streamline the work that must get done.
Pilots and astronauts use a checklist for every flight. After checklists were created for the B-17, pilots flew 1.8 million hours with 18 B-17s without incident and proved to the government that the aircraft was safe. Furthermore, a study from the New England Journal of Medicine famously found that checklists help decrease complications and mistakes in medical care.
“Good checklists, are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything—a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps—the ones that even the highly skilled professional using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.”
—Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto
Even when the stakes are much lower, the pen to page approach is still a powerful way to cut through the fog and surface the can’t-miss tasks. So, it can even make sense to create a simple, effective checklist when you’re launching your Shopify store. Let's explore how to do just that.
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Your Shopify store launch checklist
- Add any available sales channels
- Add a custom domain
- Double check your payment gateway
- Prepare your standard pages
- Review your email notification settings
- Conduct a content audit
- Optimize all images on your website
- Install an analytics tool
- Have a prelaunch marketing plan
- Adjust your tax and shipping settings
- Make it easy for shoppers to contact you
- Install only the essential apps
- Set up your billing information
1. Add any available sales channels
A 2017 survey from the Harvard Business Review found that just 7% of consumers shop only online; the consumer base is growing increasingly multi-channel; in fact, 73% use multiple channels to conduct a single purchase with a brand.
Want to reap the benefits of multi-channel retailing for your online store? Find out how to choose the sales channels will work best for you, and then add the available sales channels to your store.
Here are some examples of sales channels that you can add to your Shopify store:
All sales channels connect with the core of your Shopify business, so you can easily keep track of orders, products, and customers across all platforms.
Cupshe, which generates more than $50M in annual revenue, attributes 35% of their sales directly or indirectly to social selling.
When ORO LOS ANGELES launched Shopping on Instagram, they lifted MoM revenue by 29.3%, directly attributable to Instagram.
And when Sarah’s Treats & Treasures opened a sales channel on Amazon, they quickly gained traction on the platform. Now, it’s responsible for 76.8% of their orders.
2. Add a custom domain
This is usually the first thing I do when I’m opening a store, but depending on how you work, it might be the last thing on your mind. Adding a custom domain for your site will give you brand recognition and make it easier for people to remember the URL.
You’ll want to conduct a domain name search first to see if your business name is available. If it is, and the name isn't already a trademark in use by another business in your industry, you can purchase your custom domain name directly through Shopify.
If your custom domain name isn’t available, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go back to the drawing board. Here’s where you can flex your creative muscles. Pepper, for example, uses wearpepper.com for their URL.
You can also use a different top-level domain (TLD). A TLD is the .com part, but you’ll notice that many websites have different variations, such as .gov and .org. Now, there are tons of TLDs to choose from.
.store and .shop are common TLDs in ecommerce, but you can get creative here too. Driftaway Coffee’s website is driftaway.coffee, for instance.
3. Double-check your payment gateway settings
Here’s a quick one: Before you drive any traffic to your store, you’ll want to ensure people can actually complete a purchase. Place a test order on your site with a live payment gateway to make sure everything works. You can refund your order immediately afterwards.
4. Prep your standard pages
It’s important to have a few static pages for visitors to browse and learn more about your company.
Here are a few pages I recommend most online stores include in their sitemap:
Homepage: Your homepage is arguably the most important page on your site. It’s often the first place people land and if not, the second place they’ll go. Make sure you have clear navigation to get to your store, as well as the other important static pages listed below.
Contact: If potential customers can’t contact you with questions, you could be missing out on lots of sales opportunities. On your contact page, provide information on all of the ways shoppers can get in touch with you. Consider including a contact form so they can send you a message without ever leaving your site. The Mood Store provides all the necessary contact info on their page.
About: Your about page is where shoppers go to learn more about your company and your brand. Many store owners overlook this page, but it can be an effective sales tool if approached with the strategy.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs): At launch, you might not have lots of information around which questions customers will ask the most. To craft an effective FAQ page, you can predict inquiries and also look at competitors to see what questions they answer on their website. Universally, customers often have questions about shipping, return policy and how to get in touch. Ugly Drinks has a searchable FAQ page that they built on Zendesk.
Store: Last but certainly not least is your actual store. Many ecommerce sites have a separate homepage and store page. This page is usually called “shop” or “store” in the site menu and navigation.
5. Review your email notification settings
Email is a powerful tool for online store owners. On your Shopify store, there are several automated emails that you’ll want to customize before launch. Edit your email templates and create sequences that nurture your list and ultimately drive sales.
Dollar Shave Club uses a branded template for their shipping notification emails.
- Welcome series
- Abandoned cart notifications
- Order confirmation
- Shipping notifications
6. Conduct a content audit
Sometimes you’ll be so close to your work, you won’t notice small mistakes like spelling, grammar, or broken links. Reviewing backwards, starting at the last paragraph and making your way up, will help you spot errors that you may have missed before.
When it comes to the copy, consistency is the most important thing to remember. Subscribe to a particular style of grammar, whether it’s MLA or APA is up to you. If you want to get creative with spelling or make up your own words, it’s okay if it’s on brand, but it should be the same across your site.
On the technical side, you want to look for broken links and 404s in particular, as well as any image-rendering issues and mobile-responsiveness. Check it out on different browsers and devices so you can understand if a bug is universal or device-/browser-specific.
7. Optimize all images on your website
Slow-loading images can hurt your site’s user experience and performance in search engines, especially if you’re running a flash sale for your store at launch. It’s important to make sure all your images are optimized for web to ensure fast loading times.
At a glance, here’s how to optimize your images for web:
- Be descriptive when naming your images. This helps with the SEO ranking of your site and product pages. Use keywords that you’re trying to rank for.
- Optimize your alt attributes carefully. The alt attributes are used for web accessibility and SEO. Again, be descriptive and consider your target keywords.
- Reduce the file size of your images. For web, you don’t need the same quality as you would for print. You can also use a free tool like TinyPNG to compress images and further reduce the file size.
- Choose the right file type. Generally, you’ll want to stick with .jpg or .png, but you might also use a .gif for thumbnails or decorative images.
- Optimize your thumbnails. Thumbnails show up all over ecommerce sites, so they have a noticeable impact on page load times. Make sure you use the smallest image possible.
- Test your images. You’ll want to know what’s working and what’s not and, more importantly, why. Run some A/B tests to see which types of images work best (i.e. contextual vs. white background).
8. Install an analytics tool
Analytics are important to set up from day one. This data will give you valuable insight into your visitors and customers.
Your Shopify store will have its own set of analytics reporting built-in, but you may also want to install a third-party tool. Google Analytics is one of the most well-known and popular analytics tools, but you can also look at SE Ranking, Piwik and Adobe Analytics. You can even use a combination of tools to analyze your business.
9. Have a pre-launch marketing plan
Once you launch your site, you’ll want to make sure people know about it. The best way to do that is with a marketing plan.
Document your marketing plan so that once you go live, all you have to do is follow the steps you’ve already outlined.
Again, we can look to Dollar Shave Club as an example. At launch, the razor company set out to disrupt the industry. And they created a video to share that vision, which quickly gained brand recognition.
10. Adjust your tax and shipping settings
You’ll want to check that your tax settings and shipping rates are appropriate for the product(s) you’re selling. Otherwise, you could unknowingly eat into your profits by not charging enough. Double check your tax and shipping settings before launching your store.
Depending on where your business and customers are located, you might need to add sales tax. Not sure which tax settings to use? Your best bet is to consult with an accountant familiar with taxes in your area.
11. Make it easy for shoppers to contact you
Remember that contact page we recommended you set up? That’s not the only place where you should have information on how shoppers can get in touch. You’ll want to include your business address, phone number and even live chat on most pages of your website if you can.
According to Total Retail, businesses that chat with site visitors increase cart size up to 48% and have three times better customer retention. Plus, live chat sessions have also been known to increase order size. Orders that come through live chat for Nosh Detox are worth ten times more than the site average.
12. Install only essential apps
Though there are tons of apps in the Shopify App Store, not all of them are essential for a brand new store. In fact, some won’t make sense for your online store at all.
When you’re just getting ready to launch, you’ll want to install only the most essential apps, and which ones are most important will depend on your business and your industry.
13. Set up your billing information
If you’re coming to the end of your 14-day free trial, set up your store’s billing information to ensure there aren’t any hiccups when your store is finally live.
Start with a plan in hand
Now that we've taken a look at the essential launch items for your Shopify store, it's time to flip the switch and start selling.
Are there any other items you’d add to this store launch checklist? Let us know in the comments below.