Stepping into the scene

With platforms like Shopify offering ecommerce solutions to businesses of all sizes, it has never been easier for new and veteran retailers alike to open an online store. Shopify is more than just a platform -- it's an ecosystem -- an ecosystem that has flourished over the past couple of years and has grown to offer much more than a shopping cart on a webpage. You can get a store up and running in a day’s time, and while that puts a lot of power at your fingertips, you may want to weigh the pros and cons of jumping straight into an out-of-the-box online shop. Pre-built themes can be purchased from Shopify’s online store for up to $180, with nine themes being offered for free at the time of this posting.

Regardless of the product you sell, your business is now technology based (and you’re the new CTO!)

Your company’s new tech branch

Your online store is the new technology arm of your business. As the newly appointed CTO, you should define a budget for your new technology branch. Which brings us to the first factor in deciding whether or not to use a pre-built theme or seek development of a custom theme...Cost. Look at your business and see what you can afford to spend, then go shopping while keeping your budget in mind. Remember, with less money invested, you are more likely to invest more of your time. For entrepreneurs who like to dive into things and get their hands dirty, Shopify gives you the tools to take control.

“Clients and customers choose us because of who we are, what we represent and why we do what we do. Our products and services… are merely an expression and extension of why we do it in the first place” - Simon Sinek

Don’t shortchange yourself, or your brand

Your online presence is a huge asset in defining your brand. If you feel you have gone through the hard work of establishing a brand identity, your online store should express that. Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, asserts that customers stay loyal to companies who they identify with. They identify with why businesses do what they do, not just with the products they sell. When you go the route of a custom design, a designer will be using their experience to make sure your brand identity is conveyed through your online store. Your online store should express who you are and why you do what you do, not just sell your product. It is very hard to get that customer experience from a pre-built theme.

Give the window shoppers something to look at

Online shoppers are window shoppers by default, and cannot touch, feel, or test your product. Whether you pay top dollar for a custom theme, or install a free theme, you will need to have beautiful product imagery to upload as content. When you are browsing themes to choose from, one question you should be asking yourself is, do I like this theme? Or do I just like the images? Your store will feel deflated if you take even the greatest of designed themes and insert poor quality images.

Do some window shopping of your own

As with all purchases, shop around. Explore what your options are:

Prebuilt themes:

Know that Shopify is very picky about what themes actually make it into their theme store, and for good reason. Because of this, each theme has a distinct and unique look to it, so make sure you browse all the options. Take your time and look at all of the critical pages and what they have to offer before settling on one.

Custom theme:

Someone once said, “If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” Whomever you decide to hire to build your eCommerce store, know that you are going to be in a professional relationship with that person, and you should look for the typical red flags. How responsive are they to your inquiries? What does their prior work look like? Do they have lasting relationships with previous clients?

Across the board:

Is the store mobile-responsive? Does it work reliably across all browsers? At BVAccel, we QA all work across modern and legacy browsers before it gets pushed live. If a proper QA is not done, you could potentially be closing your door to customers willing to spend money on your product. When looking at themes/previous work, go through the checkout flow. Start at the homepage, then navigate through thee product page. Is it easy to add products to the cart? Once a product is added to the cart, is it easy to proceed to checkout? This flow should come naturally without blockers.

The big takeaway

Most of the time, the bottom line comes down to money. The great thing about Shopify is if your budget for a theme is $0, there are still options to get an online store up and running. If you are managing a brand that has a reputation behind it, you are going to want to respect what you have built, and a pre-built theme is not going to cut it. You are going to want your online presence to be created by professionals with experience in the field. You are investing in your company’s technology, which will prove to be an increasingly valuable asset moving forward in today’s eCommerce world.

Drop us a line and let us know if you need more help deciding between a template or custom theme.