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If you’re setting up a new ecommerce business, you’ve got a lot of decisions to make. The first step is to identify the platform you think will work best for you. That’s by no means straightforward because the proliferation of available options is frankly baffling. Once you start investigating, you’ll have to weigh up the pros and cons of Open-Source, Software as a Service (SaaS), Headless and more as well as the different benefits of self-hosting and cloud-hosting. Once you’ve got your head around all these variations, you can start a proper search. If you’re not starting out but you want to give an existing site a radical revamp then you’ll need to go through the same process.
It’s estimated that there are over 20 million ecommerce sites currently trading. At the last count, there were something like 400 ecommerce platforms, which makes it impossible to consider them all. We mean no disrespect to the scores of providers that have only very small market shares, but for the sake of practicality, you’ll end up consulting lists of the top 10 or 20. This will lead you to high-profile businesses like BigCommerce, Magento, Wix and Squarespace. However, the undoubted market leader, almost synonymous with ecommerce, is Shopify. It has 1.75 million subscribers all over the world and is used for retail operations in every imaginable sector.
When you sign up to Shopify, the first thing you need to do is select your theme. This not only determines the look of your site, but it also provides the functionality that allows you to display your products, create collections, offer special deals and convert visits into sales. It provides all the navigation tools needed to help potential customers move around your site and find what they’re looking for. With any luck, it will also encourage them to buy items in addition to the purchase they came for.
Shopify currently offers nearly 100 of its own themes, while thousands more have been created by third-party designers to work on the Shopify platform. There are many factors to consider in making your choice. Loading speed is every bit as important as appearance, because countless studies have revealed that the average website visitor judges the appeal of a site within just a few seconds. Not only must it look attractive and professional, but it also has to give virtually instant access if it isn’t going to lose visitors before it has a chance to capture their attention. But while look and loading are crucial, there are many more elements to think about.
While every Shopify theme is exceptionally well-designed, not every one of them will be suitable for either your sector or your business. You need to choose a theme that includes all the features you’re likely to require and enables you to do without conversion-boosting apps and costly SEO services. Everything you require should be contained within the theme you select. Like any business, you want to keep costs as low as possible without compromising on quality and performance.
Ask yourself some fundamental questions, such as the size of your product range, the way you’d like to display products, the unique features you want and your familiarity with the mechanics of customization. How much support do you think you’re likely to need? How often will you want to make major changes? To help you evaluate the likeliest candidates, use the demonstration option you’ll find in every theme to test its navigation and display capabilities. Read the reviews of businesses already using a particular theme, both on the Shopify site and elsewhere. There’s no shortage of experience and advice to be found through Google.
You can look for themes on the Shopify website using its search function. Once you’ve drawn up a list of the features you need, you can enter them as search terms to identify the themes which offer them. Here are some examples of the searches you can carry out:
Search engine optimisation
The number of searches you make will depend on the degree and diversity of functionality you’re looking for.
As we’ve already mentioned, not every theme will work for every kind of business. For example, the requirements of a clothing retailer, who will need options for sizes and colors as well as video modelling, are different from those of an electronics retailer or a service business. Shopify allows you to search by industry, immediately narrowing your choice to the most suitable for you. You can also search by collection, a category that groups together similar theme styles which may not be tailored to your industry but provide the visual design, navigation and functionality you need. Use the filters in the sidebar to refine the results further.
What to Look for in a Shopify Theme
Shopify has captured a huge share of the market for a few simple reasons. Compared to many alternatives, it is highly affordable – many themes are free, simple to use, easily scalable and extremely secure. This last point is very important for consumers, who are well-aware of the risks of fraud and identity theft that are inherent in online shopping. Here are some of the most important considerations to take into account during your search.
As with any business investment, cost is a crucial factor. It may be hard to decide how much you’re willing and able to spend until you have some ballpark figures. Once you start to check out specific themes, you’ll get to know the sort of prices you’ll have to pay for the functionality you require. You can then decide how far your intended budget will take you. As we’ve said, even the most expensive themes won’t break the bank, but it’s a good idea to know the cost before you start looking. Prices vary for several reasons.
Who is the Developer?
High-profile developers with a lot of experience and proven track records will command higher prices. You’re paying in part for the certainty that their themes are reliable, comprehensive and without glitches (although nothing on the internet can truly be considered 100% glitch-free).
If you’re looking for a high level of customization, then you’ll pay more than if you’re buying a theme that provides take-it-or-leave it default settings with only minimal opportunities to adjust features. You can often add coding to impose customization on a relatively inflexible theme but unless this is something you are confident in doing yourself, you’ll need to pay for third-party coding services in addition to the cost of the theme.
A basic Shopify theme will provide all the fundamental features for a successful ecommerce business, but they tend to be fairly generic. By paying more, you can have a theme which expands the functionality available with elements such as SEO tools and forms.
2. Identify Your Niche
We’ve already mentioned the way both Shopify’s themes and those submitted by independent developers tend to be designed with specific industry sectors in mind. It’s entirely possible to take a theme you like the look of and fit your content to it, but at some point, you may come up against limitations that prevent you from operating as you wish. For example, a theme created for a specialist fine art dealer won’t be equipped to handle the quantity and diversity of products sold by a retailer of clothing and accessories.
We’ve talked about the importance of a theme that loads quickly, but just as essential is its visual design. While it is largely SEO techniques that will drive customers to your site, the main challenge, once they arrive, is persuading them to stay. That means providing an exceptional user experience (UX) and user interface (UI). Navigation should be fast and intuitive – you don’t want visitors to get stranded not knowing how to move between pages or unable to reach checkout without jumping through hoops.
But just as important is the overall look of the site. Any Shopify theme you choose will look professional and stylish, but even though customization may be limited, you can find a theme that gives you the right color palette for your brand and an attractive storefront that’s appropriate for your sector, your image and your products.
More than 50% of all web browsing now takes place on mobile devices, which means it’s also the number one platform for ecommerce. Many themes are now designed to adapt automatically to the mobile format, although some still need a certain amount of manual adjustment. In order to offer the best mobile UX/UI, you should choose a lightweight theme which will load quickly and emphasise the key elements that lead to conversions. The more lightweight themes focus on performance and tend to keep elements like animations and complex scrolling processes to a minimum. They strip your site down to the functional essentials without compromising on aesthetics. Always think mobile.
According to a recent study, ecommerce businesses lose 75% of their sales because a potential customer abandons their shopping cart. You can’t legislate for changes of mind, but you can ensure the checkout process is quick, simple and secure. The theme you choose should make it easy for customers to add items to the cart, ideally with one click, to preview both content and cost as they proceed. Then, when the time comes to make their purchases, the checkout process should be as straightforward as possible. Many banks now interrupt the procedure by sending customers confirmation codes to authorise a purchase and there’s no way around this. But the rest of the process is under your control, so the fewer obstacles to a quick checkout, the better.
There are literally thousands of Shopify themes to choose from. So the question ‘how and from where do I choose a theme for a Shopify store?’ has several answers. The process can be as complicated or as straightforward as you want to make it. As we’ve explained, you can go directly to the Shopify theme store or try one of the many third-party template design sites like TemplateMonster. For excellent value and all-round performance, you should check out Kristin Mark Digital’s RankHigherTheme®, engineered by award-winning Shopify SEO experts who understand the best strategies for customer attraction and retention. This offers enterprise-level performance at a fraction of the average cost.
Our Rank Higher theme series provides a wide range of templates designed for specific industry sectors but easily adaptable to the unique needs of your business. It’s the world’s number one OS 2.0 theme for SEO, speed and sales conversions, chosen by thousands of retailers who want to use the Shopify platform and are looking for the most cost-effective and versatile theme for their business. It is an algorithm-aligned platform (AAP) with optimized code that guarantees the strongest performance in all search engines, whether you access them via desktop, laptop, MacBook, tablet or smartphone. With advanced structured data, non-conflicting product filters, over 90 SEO and conversion boosting features, high loading speeds and exceptional visuals, it simplifies the search for the perfect theme and guarantees satisfaction.