Follow these steps when setting up Shopify and other sales channels to ensure successful fulfillment.
Transitioning from in-house fulfillment to a fulfillment partner is a big step for any retailer. So is switching fulfillment providers. Handing off order fulfillment services usually means a company is growing quickly in terms of sales and orders. In order to have a successful and seamless transition, it’s important to set up several standards within your Shopify store and your other sales channels now. There’s certain information your fulfillment partner will need in order to onboard you. By following these steps, you’ll ensure that you don’t waste time and money when you’re ready to make the switch. This article will walk you through a checklist of important things to consider when you set up your Shopify store.
Before you start
What are your goals for your store? Do you want to sell online only, direct to consumers, or in person? What about Amazon? And what about social media channels like Facebook and Instagram? In addition to your e-commerce store, Shopify can enable selling through multiple channels. However, you’ll need to make sure you have systems in place for wholesale and retail. In all cases, make sure you understand the taxes and laws related to your business and the state and country you do business in.
When it comes to fulfillment, you’ll also need to decide whether to fulfill orders in-house to use a fulfillment partner.
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Setting up your online store
First, set up your web domain so customers can find your store by typing in your url. Decide on the name of your store, and create a login and password. Shopify will also ask for the legal business name and physical address of your store, as well as your billing address. As the store owner, you can also create logins for any staff that are also accessing the store.
Next, you must decide on some basic standards for your product listings and customer transactions. It’s important to establish a consistent structure for your products and its size and color variations, which Shopify calls Variants. This will help you to stay organized and avoid shipping the wrong item to customers. A Variant includes attributes like size and color, a SKU (stock keeping unit) name, UPC (universal product code) barcode, HS (harmonized system) code and other attributes.
SKUs and UPCs
For the SKU name, we recommend combining the STYLE + COLOR + SIZE to get a unique SKU name like TSHIRT-BLACK-M. Most systems you will integrate with in the future will have character limits, so it’s recommended to keep this to a maximum of 20 characters if possible.
Next, you’ll need to label your items with UPC barcodes and add them to Shopify. Each SKU must have its own UPC barcode. They cannot be shared across SKUs, or your fulfillment partner will not be able to automatically scan and receive or ship your items. This is critical for accurate inventory management. If you do not have a UPC, your fulfillment partner may charge you a labeling fee each time you send them inventory. Even if you are self-fulfilling now, these are important attributes to have in place before deciding to work with a 3PL. Additionally, every product (or style) must have a variant, and variants should have a size, color, country of origin and HS code. Shopify offers more details here.
Organizing your store
Shopify allows you to choose and customize your theme, which will set the look and tone of your store. It’s important to organize your products in a way that makes it easy for your customers to find what they are looking for. This also makes it easier for you to add more items as you grow. Put them in collections and customize your menu and navigation to help customers find them. Start with something simple, such as Men, Women and Kids. Shopify will also ask you to set the necessary tax and shipping information for each product, so make sure you know the rules for your state/country.
Connect a payment provider
You can enable several payment providers such as Shopify Payments or third-party providers like Ayden, DigiPay and Quickbook Payments, many of which work with easy-to-install apps for Shopify. Also consider whether you want to allow payment without credit cards using PayPal, Apple Pay or Amazon Pay. These options have accelerated checkout buttons that will save a customer’s information so they only need to enter it once. Also select which payment gateways to enable based on what countries you plan to sell to, as well as the fulfillment zones for each location you plan to ship to. Once you’ve decided on all that, choose your default currency.
Set shipping options and strategy
Shopify will prompt you to enter the default weight unit, shipping settings, as well as pickup and local delivery settings. But it’s up to you to choose the shipping options and strategy. It’s critical to get the delivery methods at checkout right.
Best practices include setting up general shipping rates. Choose where you’re shipping from, then select which rates to apply. Learn more about Shopify’s shipping rates setup here. We recommend you start with basic options at checkout that are not carrier specific. This gives you flexibility to charge the customer a flat rate and you can choose which carrier to use that provides you the best rate.
Standard: Use for ground services, which typically deliver in 2-5 days.
Expedited: Use for overnight or 2-day services.
More advanced users can set up price-based and weight-based rates, or even calculated rates from shipping carrier integrations.
Set return policy and RMA process
Having a clear return policy is critical, and it also influences a customer’s decision to buy. In order to process returns, you will need a return merchandise authorization (RMA) and a system in place for customers to request returns and receive an RMA. The RMA will be used to track the item and make sure it’s received, processed and entered in the ledger. In addition, you’ll have to decide whether to process returns manually or through an automated system. You can find a third-party app like Returnly or Happy Returns that integrates with Shopify.
Test your store before going live
Before you launch your store live, you should place test orders to make sure the following work: placing a credit card order, placing a PayPal or other payment service order, refunding an order, cancelling an order, fulfilling and partially fulfilling orders, and archiving orders. As your business grows, you will also have to address stock-outs, pre-sales and back-orders, as well as returns and inventory management, which can be hard to keep track of manually and in real time. This is when a fulfillment partner can really help you scale, because these functions can be automated and updated in real time.
Adding sales channels
There are several other channels in which to sell your products in addition to your own online store. Are you interested in selling on Amazon (Fulfilled by Amazon or Amazon Marketplace)? If so, you’ll need separate systems in place. Shopify has native and third-party apps to get you connected to Amazon, but you’ll need a fulfillment partner to help you truly scale.
Within your Shopify store, you have the option to add Buy Buttons. These are shortcuts to purchase an item in the store that can also be added to external websites and blog posts. You may also be able to sell with Facebook and Instagram, depending on your region, your product type and your Shopify plan.
Additionally, you can really grow your wholesale business by connecting to other retail partners such as local stores or national chains such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Target and Bed Bath & Beyond. However, you’ll need additional integrations with those partners and a fulfillment service in order to really grow and deliver. A partner like MasonHub that has experience working in all these channels is a good choice; whether or not you sell in them now, you can set yourself up for future growth.
It can be challenging to manage inventory for multiple selling channels, which is where advanced fulfillment technology can be a very big help.
What other third-party apps will you need?
Here are some other basic third-party apps and integrations you’ll need to consider when you set up your Shopify store:
- Shipping Carrier Integrations (FedEx, DHL, UPS) or an app like ShipStation or Easyship.
- Returns and Exchanges app (Returnly, Loop, Happy Returns).
- Recurring subscriptions management app (Subscriptions by ReCharge, Bold Subscriptions).
- Shipping Address Validator or another address validation app to ensure you have the correct address at checkout and avoid delivery delays.
- Customer Service management system like Zendesk, Kustomer, or Gorgias.
- International Duty and Tax calculations from Zonos.
- Excelify to help you bulk export/import SKUs, Orders, etc. (This is a bit more advanced, but will help anyone who’s looking to clean up their catalog right before moving to a third-party fulfillment service.)
Use data to gain insights
Make sure you pay attention to the data on your dashboard to understand metrics like the time of day when most customers place orders, what the most popular items are, which items are looked at the most, and what channel any referrals came from. This will help you understand your customers and cater to them. Once you begin gaining traction, this data will also help you manage your inventory. Using a fulfillment partner like MasonHub can take data insights to the next level by enabling pre-orders on popular items, as well as archiving customer profiles and giving you the ability to dictate certain actions based upon a customer’s preferences or actions.
In conclusion, Shopify’s platform is easy and convenient, but there are many other factors you need to consider when you set up your Shopify store. The more you pay attention to these beginning steps and settings within Shopify, the easier it will be to integrate with a fulfillment partner, or switch fulfillment partners, down the road.
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