5 Tips For Building A Shopify E-Commerce Site


During the past few months we’ve had the opportunity to work with a client, Modgy, on restructuring their e-commerce site on Shopify. Modgy creates modern home goods – like luminaries, vases, portable dog bowls, and their newest product: wine glass shades. Their products are awesome for apartment or dorm living where space is limited. Or, for homes with children who run wild and could break a vase or tip over a candle. I don’t have kids, but from what I understand, this encompasses pretty much every household with small humans.

Building an e-commerce shop on Shopify is pretty simple. It’s an out-of-the-box solution that most computer-literate business owners can manage. But creating a custom shop that fulfilled the unique needs of our client and took full advantage of Shopify’s capabilities presented some challenges. Needless to say, we learned lots of tricks for working with this particular e-commerce platform and wanted to share 5 tips for building a Shopify e-commerce site.

1. Tags = Categories, not SEO

One of my assumptions, that I quickly learned was wrong, is that Shopify product “tags” actually refer to categories, or filters, within a product line, not tags in the SEO sense. When creating a product on Shopify, you can add a tag, which will place the product in a subcategory. For example, Modgy has luminaries with great designs for weddings, so when creating the Lila Ivory product, I added “weddings” to the tag area in Shopify. As a result, the luminary displays under the wedding sub category on their LUMIZU Luminary product page. Shopify does have sections on each page for the page title and meta description, so it’s just a matter of understanding that tags in Shopify have no bearing on SEO and should only be used if you want to create categories within a product line.

2. Create a Test Site

It was important for us to be able to share the Web site with our client before it was live because we were drastically changing the design, content and organization. In Shopify you can create pages and mark them as “hidden,” but they can only be previewed within the theme currently live on the site. Also, we couldn’t make changes to the navigation and page organization without impacting the live site. The best solution was to sign up for a Shopify Partner Account. This provided our own instance of Shopify where we could create the site in a test environment and the client could view it fully functional (with the exception of the full check-out flow) while leaving their live site untouched. When we did make the switch, we imported the test pages from our parter account into Modgy’s Shopify account. Editing each product description was still manual, but creating a test site served our primary need of sharing a functional site with the client for approval.

3. Email Junkies Look Elsewhere

If your business or your client wants to send triggered emails that are a bit sophisticated, you probably want to add an app to your Shopify account or use a third-party service. Shopify has basic triggered emails, but we found that for some of our client’s unique email use cases – like specific messaging to wholesalers who just created a new account – we didn’t have enough flexibility within Shopify to customize the message and still use triggered functionality. Our solution has been to use Madrill in conjunction with Zapier to provide a simple and more flexible way to customize transactional emails that can be triggered, but don’t require the client to work with code. In our instance, asking the client to take a small extra step outside of Shopify is worth being able to provide wholesalers with custom messaging to ensure they actually make a purchase after signing up.

4. Step up your analytics

Shopify provides the basic info you need regarding orders and visitors, but if you really want to dig into SEO or user behavior on your site, you need to step it up…to Google Analytics. We’re not talking paid services here, good old Google Analytics gets the job done. We also use Google Webmaster Tools, which I encourage. Our experience with clients has been that Google Analytics can be intimidating, which is probably why a lot of businesses on Shopify just use the provided analytics. If you’re one of those clients, ask a marketing friend to give you a quick tutorial. It’s definitely worth it and pretty straightforward once you know your way around.

5. Combined Retail & Wholesale Storefront

Crystal pulled a little magic out of her hat on this one. Modgy requires their Shopify site to fulfill both retail and wholesale orders and they were having issues with wholesalers mistakenly purchasing retail products. Solving for this required some tinkering under the hood. Neither of us are software engineers, but luckily, Crystal knows her way around code enough to be dangerous. She solved this by taking advantage of Shopify’s use of the Liquid Programming Language to segregate which site navigation loaded on the site based on whether a user was signed in as a wholesalers or not. Here is the code she used and the breakdown of how it works:

{% if customer.tags contains "wholesale" %}
{% layout 'wholesale' %}
{% else %}
{% layout 'theme' %}
{% endif %}

if a customer is signed into a wholesale account
then load the “wholesale” layout
if the customer is NOT signed into a wholesale account
then load the default layout

Simple as that! This solution in conjunction with strategically placed messaging, allowed both the retail and wholesale sides of the business to run simultaneously within one website.

At the end of the project we can both say our experience working with Shopify was positive. In fact, their support team is very responsive, which is always refreshing. The platform is a good fit for small businesses looking for standard functionality and it’s pretty simple for businesses, marketers and designers to work with. That being said, having a few tricks up your sleeve never hurts. If you’re building a Shopify site and interested in more detailed explanations of any of the tips we described, either of us will be happy to share. Just post a comment below or  hit us up.

1 Comment

  1. Carole Blaney

    Very interesting. Need to set up new eCommerce site for retail/wholesale and gives me better idea of what to consider, and better understanding of Shopify. Thanks.


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