Women-owned businesses are growing faster than businesses owned by any other demographic group. Women launch more than 1,200 new businesses every day, and women-owned companies lead growth in 8 of the 13 fastest-growing industries.
Despite the outsized role that women-owned businesses play in the greater economy, women have long been underrepresented in many areas, particularly equity capital distribution. Recent years have seen an increase in the volume of applications for small-business loans for women, yet average funding amounts themselves actually decreased. In addition, women often experience greater difficulty securing as much financing; women entrepreneurs received 31% less funding, on average, in 2018 than their male counterparts.
That’s why we’ve assembled this resource of small-business loans for women, including where to apply.
Although many women entrepreneurs take advantage of grants in addition to loans, we’ve focused solely on loans because of the often-lengthy application processes and stringent eligibility criteria inherent in many grant programs.
The Small Business Administration (SBA)
The first port of call for many women entrepreneurs hoping to secure small-business loans is the Small Business Administration (SBA).
The SBA serves as a resource for entrepreneurs seeking funding, connecting them with lenders. Borrowers provide the SBA with details about their ventures, which the SBA then uses to determine which lenders are most appropriate for that specific business. This ultimately saves borrowers time and effort by ensuring that applicants are submitting loan applications to financial institutions that can meet their needs.
Some loans, such as the 7(a) Small Loan, are administered by the SBA itself, although the SBA does authorize certain private lenders to make loan determinations on its behalf. This means that although the SBA itself often isn’t the lender, it can and does make eligibility and credit decisions that directly affect whether or not a loan offer is made.
One type of loan is directly administered by the SBA via the 8(a) Business Development program. This initiative aims to provide resources to typically underrepresented communities. Applicants must certify their businesses before submitting an application, but this program is designed to be more accessible to women entrepreneurs than other programs are. To qualify for the 8(a) Business Development program, applicants’ businesses must be at least 51% owned by an individual who qualifies as economically and socially disadvantaged per the Code of Federal Regulations, and whose average adjusted gross income for three years is $250,000 or less.
The SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO)
Women seeking loans to launch their own businesses can also find qualified lenders by contacting the SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO). This office connects borrowers with Women’s Business Centers (WBCs), which are dedicated regional offices that help women prepare to launch their own businesses.
WBCs do not administer loan funding directly but assist entrepreneurs with every other aspect of preparing to launch a business, from writing a business plan to one-on-one coaching.
What you’ll need to apply
There are several documents that prospective applicants should have on hand before contacting the SBA:
Most lenders won’t ask to see a copy of a resume before making a loan decision, but a summary of professional and academic qualifications may help borrowers establish greater credibility
To be matched with prospective lenders, business owners should use the SBA’s Lender Match tool to provide the SBA with some preliminary information. Borrowers can expect to be contacted by an SBA representative within two business days.
Private lenders specializing in loans for women-owned businesses
While there are hundreds of organizations dedicated to providing women entrepreneurs with the support and resources to launch their own businesses, there are comparatively fewer organizations that administer small-business loans for women hoping to start their own companies. In the vast majority of cases, loans are typically provided by private lenders.
Shopify Capital makes it easy for founders to get funding based on their history with Shopify. Eligibility is based on a store’s merit—not gender.
If your Shopify store meets certain criteria, you may be invited to apply for a loan via Shopify Capital. There’s no formal application required; eligible borrowers are prequalified, so there’s no need to worry about submitting extensive paperwork.
Once prospective borrowers have reviewed and agreed to their pre-qualified loan terms, funds are typically dispersed within two to five business days. Repayment terms are flexible and are calculated as a percentage of net sales. That means borrowers will never have to worry about meeting higher fixed repayments during slower periods and can repay more when sales are stronger.
Kabbage is a small-business funding specialist that offers small-business loans to women-owned businesses via Kabbage Funding.
Kabbage has provided more than $9 billion in funding to almost 200,000 businesses since 2011 and specializes in business lines of credit. Unlike loans, which are often dispersed as lump sums, business lines of credit can be drawn upon at any time as long as the borrower does not exceed the maximum figure as agreed in their financial agreement.
To determine eligibility, Kabbage evaluates a range of criteria. This includes annual revenues, the length of time a business has been established, and the industry or sector in which a business operates. Unlike some lenders, Kabbage is more forgiving when it comes to credit score; prospective borrowers must have a credit score of 560 or higher to qualify. However, the annual percentage rate (APR) can be high—between 24% and 99% in some cases—which can have a significant impact on repayment terms.
This partnership between Bank of America and the Tory Burch Foundation has helped more than 2,500 women entrepreneurs launch businesses in 17 states. In 2019 alone, the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program invested $100 million to help women-owned businesses get the funds they need.
Similar to the SBA, the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program connects prospective borrowers with community development financial institutions (CDFIs), a network of private lenders that specialize in loans designed for underrepresented communities. There are currently CDFIs in 13 states.
Union Bank is one of the few lenders in the United States that offer financing under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.
Union’s Business Diversity Lending Program offers financing similar to its traditional loan programs, but with eligibility criteria that are much more generous, making the loans more accessible to women and other underrepresented communities.
Union offers a range of financing options to businesses that qualify, including fixed-rate, secured, and unsecured loans, as well as financing for commercial real estate. To qualify for financing via Union’s Business Diversity Lending Program, businesses must have been in operation for at least two years and at least 51% owned by a woman, a member of a minority group, or a military veteran. Eligibility is restricted to United States citizens, and borrowers must not exceed annual sales of more than $20 million.
OnDeck Online Term Loans
OnDeck is an online lender that specializes in short-term loans.
This type of financing is ideally suited to specific short-term goals, such as investing in new equipment or hardware, launching a new marketing campaign, or expanding to an additional physical location.
One of the key advantages of OnDeck’s term loans is the speed with which borrowers can be approved. Unlike traditional bank loans, OnDeck can disperse funds to eligible borrowers in as little as 24 hours, or, in some cases, even on the same business day that their agreement is finalized. This makes OnDeck’s online term loans a potential stopgap solution for sudden, unexpected financial challenges.
Borrowers can apply for term loans as little as $5,000 or as much as $500,000. APR varies, from 9% at the low end up to 99% at the maximum. Repayments can be made daily or weekly for periods of up to 36 months.
To qualify, borrowers must have been in business for at least three years, must have a minimum credit score of 600, and must have at least $250,000 in annual revenue; a personal guarantee is required in many instances.
Funding Circle is another online lender that offers short-term loans to small businesses. Like OnDeck, Funding Circle loans are typically processed much faster than traditional loans, and borrowers can receive funding in one business day.
One of the advantages of Funding Circle loans is their comparatively lower interest rates. The APR of a Funding Circle loan varies from 12.18% to 36%, making Funding Circle loans highly competitive among similar private lenders.
Submitting an application to Funding Circle can take just a few minutes. Prospective borrowers are contacted by a Funding Circle representative within one hour, and loan decisions are often made in a day or less. If borrowers are approved, funds are typically dispersed by the following business day. Loans range from between $25,000 to $500,000 and can be repaid over terms of up to six years, with no penalties for prepayment.
Find a loan that’s right for your business
Women entrepreneurs may want to shop around and compare loan terms before submitting an application for financing or taking on a significant financial obligation. The good news is that submitting prospective loan applications or seeking more information about private financing won’t affect your credit score, and credit bureaus won’t penalize you for shopping around.
Before committing to any financial decisions, it may be worthwhile to consult a lending expert at a local community-based bank, speak with an SBA representative, or contact an SBA Women’s Business Center to connect with an adviser who can recommend financing options that work for you and your business.
FAQ on small-business loans for women
Before submitting an application for a small-business loan, it’s important to understand which types of businesses qualify for this kind of financing. Here are some commonly asked questions about small-business loans for women.
How do female entrepreneurs get a loan?
One of the fastest and most direct ways for women entrepreneurs to get a small-business loan is the SBA Express loan program. Offering loans of up to $350,000, the SBA Express loan program typically processes applications in 36 hours. Interest rates are variable, and collateral is not required for loans of up to $25,000. Credit decisions are made by qualified SBA lenders.
How do you qualify as a woman-owned small business?
To qualify as a woman-owned small business (WOSB) in the United States, your business must be:
At least 51% owned by a woman/women who are United States citizens
Managed and controlled by a woman, and a woman must hold the highest position/role in your company
Are there small-business loans for women with bad credit?
Shopify Capital can help women entrepreneurs with lower credit scores. Loans made via Shopify Capital are pre-approved based on merit, not creditworthiness. If your Shopify store meets certain criteria, you may be invited to apply for business financing through Shopify Capital. Repayments are calculated as a percentage of net sales, meaning you repay more when sales are strong and less during slower periods.
Are there small-business loans for businesses impacted by Coronavirus/COVID-19?
Yes. Many financial assistance programs have been put in place to help entrepreneurs mitigate the impact of COVID-19. This Shopify resource on government relief programs contains both federal and state/provincial financial resources for entrepreneurs in both Canada and the United States.
The first time I set up a Shopify store, I remember staring at the blank canvas before me not knowing where to start.
I agonized over picking the perfect theme. I started building my homepage before adding any products. And I spent a lot of time trying to get the wrong things exactly right before I launched.
Looking back, the mistakes I made are not uncommon for first-timers. That’s why I wanted to create the kind of resource I wish I had when I started—a walkthrough of all the decisions that go into setting up a ready-to-launch online store that anyone can follow along with.
The example I’ll be using in this guide is the simple hot sauce store pictured below. I’ll be peeling back the curtain to show you the thinking that went into the product listings, homepage design, copywriting, shipping settings, and the dozens of decisions involved in translating a business idea into an online store.
If you haven’t already, you’ll need to start a free trial of Shopify. The 14-day trial should give you more than enough time to build a store that’s ready to launch if you follow this guide and keep in mind that you can continue to add products and improve your store after it goes live.
When you start your trial, you’ll be prompted to enter a store name, which will become your default URL (e.g., storename.myshopify.com). You won’t be able to change this, but you will be able to buy a custom domain (e.g., yourstore.com) later on, so don’t worry about picking the perfect name right now.
After answering a few questions, you’ll find yourself inside your own Shopify account.
Here’s a quick checklist of what you should have before you begin and what I’ll be working with to build my store:
A business idea. Since so many hot sauce brands brag about being “the hottest hot sauce ever,” I thought it would be fun if my example store, Kinda Hot Sauce, sold great-tasting mild hot sauces for the semi-adventurous. If you don’t have a business idea yet, you can browse our list of business ideas for inspiration.
A business name. I used Namechk to see what domains and social media profiles were available before settling on my final business name. Since some .com URLs are hard to come by, I went with kindahotsauce.shop as the domain. Don’t know what to call your store? Learn how to come up with a catchy business name.
A logo. I worked with a designer to come up with this logo for a “challenger brand” that’s clever, mischievous, bold, and spicy (tongue-in-cheek for a mild hot sauce company). I prepared a .png file with a transparent background so it’s easier to resize it without losing quality. You can follow our guide to create your own logo, for free or by hiring a designer.
Products to sell. You can sell physical products, digital goods, or services in your Shopify store. My products aren’t real, but I’ve tried my best to make them realistic. I’ll be adding four products to the Kinda Hot Sauce store: Hot Enough Habanero, Born to Be Mild Thai Chilli, The Friendly Ghost Pepper, and a three-pack hot sauce bundle. If you don’t have any products to sell yet, you can read our guide on how to find a profitable product idea or use one of the many product sourcing apps available on Shopify.
Photos. Clean product photography helps you put your best foot forward. I’ll be using mockups of my hot sauce bottles on a white background, along with some stock photos for lifestyle imagery. If you’re on a budget, you can shoot your own product photos, even with just a smartphone camera, or use free stock photos until you can shoot your own custom lifestyle photos.
Tip 💡: If you’re unsure where to perform an action in Shopify or want to quickly navigate to a specific location, you can use Shopify’s smart search bar to go directly to specific products, pages, or settings.
2. Add your products
What’s an online store without anything to buy? Adding products should be one of the first things you do, because your products are what you’ll design the look and feel of your website around.
There’s a number of decisions we’ll be making on this page, so let’s break them down into steps.
Write your product title and description
Product pages are where customers go to learn about a product and decide whether or not to buy it. Details matter, and sharing the right information in the right way, from pricing to sizing, through text or visuals, can make all the difference. If you’re not sure what to include, you can look at other online stores in your market for inspiration.
Your product title should make it clear what the product is. This is what customers will see as they browse your store and what will help them find what they’re looking for in your catalog. Try to keep it short and use your product description or variants (more on those later) to surface other specific information or product options, such as colors or sizes.
For our first product title, we’ll just use the name of our flagship hot sauce, Hot Enough Habanero.
Product descriptions describe and sell your product. They’re also a common source of writer’s block. The good news is you don’t need to be a professional copywriter to write a compelling product description. You just need to:
Know who you’re speaking to. Think about what your customer needs to know to feel confident buying your product and try to communicate it in your description.
Highlight incentives. Do you offer a generous return policy or free shipping? Are your products eco-friendly? Consider what features, benefits, and offers really matter—and cut the fluff. Many stores mix text and icons to quickly communicate these selling points on their product pages.
Anticipate common questions or objections. What might make a customer hesitate to buy? Are they afraid of buying the wrong size? Do they need to know what your products are made of in case they have allergies? Do they need to know that your products are ethically made?
Make your text easy to scan. Make your descriptions easier to read with short paragraphs, bullet points, subheadings, bolded text, etc. Then ask yourself how quickly a visitor can pull out the information they need.
Help customers see themselves using your product. Customers can’t taste, feel, touch, or try on your products. Outside of product photos, you can bring your products to life by listing the materials you use, including a sizing chart, or sharing the story about how they’re made—it all depends on your product.
For a product like hot sauce, we can confidently assume customers care about the following details in particular when making a purchase: ingredients, flavor, quantity, how spicy it is, and what it pairs well with. So I’ve done my best to make all this information accessible at a glance for my store’s visitors.
Upload product photos or other media
In the Media section of your product page, you can upload any visual media that helps you share richer details about your products: photos, GIFs, videos, or even 3D models.
Presentation makes all the difference. Help customers imagine owning your product. Help them see it in action or proudly displayed in their space. Here are a few points to remember:
Use high-quality photos that put your products in the best light. Avoid blurry or low-resolution images.
Try to maintain the same aspect ratio (i.e. the ratio between the width and height) across your product photos so that all your photos appear the same size. This consistency creates a cleaner, more professional appearance for your store.
If you’re on a budget, most modern smartphones are capable of shooting high-quality product photos and you can use free photo editing tools to touch them up (like remove.bg, which lets you remove the background for free).
After uploading an image, you can click on it to perform basic edits, such as cropping and resizing. You can also edit the Alt Text for accessibility to describe your photos to people who cannot see them. For example, I’ve written “a 150ml bottle of Hot Enough Habanero by Kinda Hot Sauce” to help anyone with a visual impairment shop with me.
I’ll be using a single photo of a hot sauce bottle on a white background. But for products where the customer might need more visual information, such as clothing or jewelry, using multiple photos that offer additional angles or details can help improve customer trust.
Set your price
Now it’s time to set the listing price for your product. This is what customers will pay to buy your product.
Optionally, you can use the Compare at price field to communicate what the product would typically cost, especially in the case of a sale. For example, if we wanted to show savings on buying our hot sauce three-pack, we could enter the original price of three bottles here. However, I caution against using this without good reason, especially if you’re selling premium products as it could cheapen their perceived quality.
The Cost per item field is also optional. If you like, you can use it to track your profit margin for an individual product. On the Shopify plan or higher, this lets you track profit in your profit report.
While there are some exceptions, businesses that sell goods and services have to collect taxes each time someone orders from them, so we’ll check that box and configure our tax settings later.
To keep it simple, we’ll assume that my per-product cost, or the cost to produce and package one bottle, is $5. If I sell each bottle for $15, I’ll be making a healthy margin that leaves some room for discounts and marketing.
Hot Enough Habanero
Born to Be Mild
The Friendly Ghost Pepper
Kinda Hot Sauce 3-Pack
In reality, pricing is rarely so straightforward. Several variables can influence how you price your products, such as shipping costs, raw materials, overhead like rent or employees, the cost of your time, and, perhaps most important, the perceived quality of your products.
Tip💡: Don’t assume that lower prices will necessarily result in more sales. Customers often use price as a shortcut to assess quality. If you are selling a premium product, don’t be afraid to price it as such, especially if you can justify it with compelling and professional branding.
You can always revisit and adjust your prices based on what you learn after you start marketing. You may discover that customers are actually willing to pay more for your products or you may find creative ways to cut costs and increase the average value of every order you get.
If we were dropshipping or using a print-on-demand service, we wouldn’t need to track inventory. But since Kinda Hot Sauces makes, sells, and ships its own hot sauce, we want to keep track of inventory in Shopify to know how much we have left of each sauce and how much more we need to produce as orders start coming in.
If it’s your first time selling online, you might see a few unfamiliar terms here, so we’ll quickly run through them.
SKU. A stock keeping unit is used to track and manage your inventory for specific products and variants. Create a consistent system using numbers or letters that makes it easy for you to identify what the exact item is at a glance (e.g., MHS-HEH tells me it’s the medium hot sauce Hot Enough Habenero).
Bar code. Bar codes (ISBN, UPC, GTIN, etc.) are typically used if you’re reselling products or eventually want to add scannable bar codes to your items for easier inventory management. We can leave it blank for now since we’re making and selling our own products.
Quantity. This is how much of a specific product you have on hand. If you have multiple locations holding inventory and have them set up in Shopify, they’ll display here. In the case. of my example, I’m starting out with a small batch of 10 bottles for each hot sauce and using my own space to hold inventory.
Since it doesn’t take long to make more of my product, I can turn on “Continue selling when out of stock.” But you can turn this option off and mark items as “Sold out” if your inventory is limited or it takes longer to replenish your supply.
In the shipping section, you’ll enter details that will automatically calculate shipping rates and print the appropriate shipping labels for each order.
For my Kinda Hot Sauce store, we’ll check “This a physical product” and enter the following information:
Weight. The weight of one bottle on its own. I’m going to enter 0.5 lbs.
Customs information. This is important if you plan to sell internationally. We’ll put “Canada,” since Kinda Hot Sauce is made in and shipped from Canada, and use the search bar to find the Harmonized System code for condiments, which is 21309.
Setting the actual shipping costs and options that you’ll offer to your customers will come later on in this tutorial.
I’m not going to be setting up variants for my products, but I still want to cover how since many Shopify store owners do.
If your product comes with different options, like sizes or colors, instead of adding each one as its own product, you can simply add them as variants of the same product. Each variant can have its own image, price, tracked inventory, and individual settings associated with it
With variants, you can even add additional product options, for example, offering multiple colors that come in different sizes.
When you add variants to your product and hit save to refresh the page, the Media, Pricing, Inventory, and Shipping sections we covered above will need to be set for each specific variant.
Since our product comes in one size and doesn’t have any variants, we’ll leave this section alone. If you’re selling distinct variants of the same product, however, be sure to edit each variant with the appropriate product page information. For example, a photo of an orange t-shirt for the orange variant if you offer different colors.
Organization and product availability
In the Organization section, you can label your products to help group them together and make it easier to manage your store’s product catalog, curate products for customers to shop, and apply rules or discounts to specific products. Here’s what each label means:
Product availability: You can choose from a multitude of sales channels, like Facebook Shops or Amazon, to list your products on, which we’ll go into later. For now, just make sure your product is available in the “Online store” or it will be hidden.
Product type. A product category that you can use to identify certain products (e.g., t-shirt). Each product can have only one product type. We’ll just use “Hot Sauce.”
Vendor. This is the manufacturer, wholesaler, or third-party vendor for the product. You can filter your product list by vendor, which can speed up ordering inventory. Kinda Hot Sauce is the manufacturer, so we’ll list it as the vendor.
Tags. Tags are keywords that you can associate with your product. You can add multiple tags to a product to help customers find it through your online store’s search bar. You can also use tags to automate actions in your store, like adding a product with a specific tag to a specific collection. I’m going to leave this blank since I don’t have any reason to use tags yet.
Collections. Collections are important. They let you organize and curate your products for specific purposes and audiences. For example, an apparel brand could create a collection based on products for women, products for men, a summer sale, or new arrivals. The same product can be included in multiple collections. We’ll be setting up our collections after we’ve added more products.
Search engine listing preview
The search engine listing preview is where you can customize how a page appears in search engine results. It’s also where you can improve the discoverability of your products through search engines like Google.
If you know what keywords your target customer is using to search for products like yours, you can work them into this section to increase your odds of showing up in search engine results over time.
I used Ubersuggest, a free keyword research tool, to gauge how often people search for keywords related to my products. I spotted “habanero sauce” (5,400 searches a month) and “mild hot sauce” (590 searches a month) and “medium hot sauce” (50 searches a month) as keywords I may want to work into my product page.
We’ll go into more depth about SEO later, but here are some quick tips for optimizing this section in the meantime:
Page title. Write your page title so that it includes your target keywords while still being short and descriptive enough to click on. I’m going to focus on “medium hot sauce” since it’s the most relevant to this product. Aim for under 60 characters if you can so it doesn’t get cut off in search results. I’ll be using “Hot Enough Habanero | Medium Hot Sauce” as my page title.
Description. Use this space to surface any compelling information that might persuade searchers to click through when they see a link to your product in search results or on social media. I try to keep it short and sweet while expanding on the information presented in my page title.
URL and handle. Keep this simple, unique, and meaningful for people who are using search engines to find your product. I’ll be using “/hot-enough-habanero”.
Once we’re done, we can hit Save and preview our product page to see what it looks like. We can change the little details, like colors and fonts, later on when we start customizing our store.
You can repeat this for each product you want to add to your store, while keeping in mind that you don’t need to add all your products in order to launch.
Organizing your products into collections
Now that we have at least a few individual products listed, we can start organizing them into collections under Product > Collections in Shopify.
Collections can be created to curate products to target a specific audience (e.g., products for children), a theme (e.g., bestsellers), or product category (e.g., accessories). You can decide if you want to manually add products to certain collections or automate what gets included/excluded based on price, Tags, or other conditions.
Collections serve a variety of purposes, such as:
Pulling certain products that you want to display in a section on your homepage
Linking to Collections of products in your navigation or on your homepage to help different audiences quickly navigate your catalog
Curating items you want to put on sale (you can apply discounts to specific Collection of products)
For now, I’ll be creating a collection for our medium hot sauces. That’s because I want to only include my three individual hot sauce products while excluding the three-pack bundle. This way, I can show off the individual flavors and highlight the bundle separately.
I’m going to fill out the Collection title and description based on how I want to greet visitors when they land on this Collection page. The Search Engine Preview can be filled out using the same best practices we followed for the product pages. You can also set a Collection image, which will be pulled to represent your Collection when we get into customizing the look and feel of your online store.
3. Create key pages for your online store
So far, we’ve focused on products. But your online store needs to do more than just have products to purchase. It needs to help shoppers understand your business, give them reasons to trust you, and make other essential details available to customers who are looking for them.
You don’t need to have all your pages ready for launch, but some of the most helpful ones to create include:
Contact page. This page gives customers clear ways to reach you if they have questions or points them to a place to find answers, such as an FAQ page.
About page. An About page connects personally with customers, explains your business model, and/or shares the reason you started your business. A persuasive About page can go a long way in earning trust for new online stores.
FAQ page. A frequently asked questions page helps alleviate some of the more common customer support inquiries.
About pages are a great way to embrace the “small” in small business and earn trust as a new store.
You can have a video introducing yourself as a founder, links to awards and press mentions, images that explain your supply chain, or include anything that helps this page tell your customers who you are and what you’re about.
For Kinda Hot Sauce, we’ll be creating a simple About page, written like a letter to the customer that explains our philosophy and our reason for starting the business.
When someone visits my store and they’re not quite sold on making a purchase, I want them to be met with an endearing and heart-felt message if they choose to visit my About page to learn more.
Since we’ll be relying mostly on text, I’ll use the formatting options available in the toolbar to make the copy more eye-catching.
Just like you did for your products, you should also customize the Search engine listing preview section of your pages based on what you want the URL to be and how you want the page to appear in search engine results.
Your Contact page is what customers will look for to ask a question or get support.
Most Shopify themes let you create one easily. Simply create a new page, go to the Template section on the right side, and choose the Contact template. This should add a form to your page. You can then write some instructions to help customers get in touch or even link out to other pages, like an FAQ, to help shoppers troubleshoot their own problems first.
There are also live chat apps you can install to make support even more accessible to shoppers.
Policy pages are standard practice for online businesses. They give your customers a place to understand how you conduct your business and what to expect from you. They also help protect you in case of a customer dispute.
Under Settings > Legal in Shopify, you’ll be able to generate templates that you can customize according to your business and local laws:
Return policy. What’s your policy regarding returns and exchanges? How long do customers have to initiate a return? What condition does the product need to be in? A generous return policy can help customers buy from you with confidence.
Terms of service. Your terms of service policy is an agreement between you and your customers outlining how you will operate and what rights you reserve.
Shipping policy. A shipping policy helps you set customer expectations around shipping costs, manufacturing times, and delivery speeds for the regions you ship to.
(Please note that these templates aren’t legal advice and should be adapted for your store.)
4. Customize your online store
Now that we’ve got some products in our store and some pages ready to go, it’s time to head over to Online Store > Themes in Shopify and start thinking about what we want our website to look like.
Choose a theme
The first step is to choose a theme: a template we install in our store that we can use as a starting point to design our website. The Shopify Theme Store is home to both free and paid themes, each with its own set of styles and features.
Some themes were made for larger product catalogs, while others are for single-product businesses. Others are made for certain industries or types of businesses, such as the Express theme for restaurants.
Each theme comes with multiple styles, so be sure to shop around for a theme and style based on how large your product catalog will be and the kind of aesthetic you want for your store.
Consider whether the theme you’re looking at has any built-in features you need, like a search bar that auto-completes queries or a section that displays press mentions. Keep in mind that you can also find free and paid Shopify apps that add additional functionality to your store.
Don’t pick a theme based on colors or fonts. These are all things you can customize later. You can even make your theme truly unique by hiring a Shopify Expert to customize it for you.
You can try out and a paid theme before you purchase it for a one-time fee.
Above all, keep in mind that you are not stuck with the theme you pick. If you change your mind later, you can preview other themes, install them in your current store, and customize them without having to recreate your products or pages.
After playing around with a few free themes like Debut and Narrative, I narrowed it down to Brooklyn (Playful style), because Kinda Hot Sauce has a small product line and doesn’t require many features to launch on the right foot. I like the modern layout of the product grid, the simplicity of the navigation menu, and the emphasis Brooklyn puts on visual branding.
Design your homepage
Each theme is made up of sections that you can rearrange, add, remove, or temporarily hide. Sections can help you decide on the presentation of your store’s homepage and try out different layouts.
Prioritize first-time visitors and help them quickly understand what your business is and what you sell.
Accommodate returning visitors and make it easy for them to navigate to the products and pages they’re looking for.
Try to build interest in your products and trust in your business with every scroll.
Create clear paths for your visitors to take based on their intent to purchase. You might highlight an About Us page for people who want to learn more about your business, or your various Collections to let visitors self-select the products they’re interested in.
Design your homepage with the assumption that many of your visitors will be browsing it on their mobile devices.
You will revisit and rework your homepage over time. Don’t let the pursuit of perfection keep you from moving forward with your launch.
For Kinda Hot Sauce, I’m going to use these Sections to do the following:
Slideshow (with a single slide)to capture interest immediately with clever copy that explains why this isn’t your typical hot sauce brand. “Not the World’s Hottest Hot Sauce” breaks expectations while communicating what my brand is about with the tagline, “Spice that’s nice.” I’ve also added an overlay and increased the Overlay Opacity to ensure my text is legible when ti displays over my image.
Featured Collection to showcase the three different hot sauces in the Medium Hot Sauce collection I made earlier. I’ll expand on the impression made in the Slideshow with a bold statement about my products: “Delicious hot sauce doesn’t have to be deadly”.
Image with Text to sum up my brand’s positioning and surface my store’s reason for being with a link to its About page. I’m going to use my logo as my image for now, but you could use a photo of you, the founder, or an image that represents your brand well.
Newsletter to entice people to join my email list. Not everyone who visits my store will be ready to buy. By offering them a reason to opt in to my email list (mildly spicy recipes in this case) I can build my email list when I start driving traffic to my store.
Featured product tohighlight my 3-pack hot sauce bundle (and the savings they’ll get) to uncertain customers. I put this last to offer one last path to purchase for customers who scroll to the end of my homepage without clicking anything.
In the future, however, I could expand my homepage to include a Section that explains exactly how hot “hot enough” is, or a blog post gallery sharing recipes that involve my hot sauces. I won’t know for sure if the decisions I make on my homepage are the right ones until I start marketing, but I feel good about this layout.
As you design your own homepage, prioritize information ruthlessly. Less is usually more. Instead of trying to cram as much as you can onto your homepage, direct visitors to supporting pages that help sell them further on your business or explain non-essential information.
Customize your navigation menus
The Header section is where you’ll make changes to the topmost area of your online store, which includes your navigation menu, cart, and logo.
We’ll focus mostly on creating a clear navigation menu, as this is how people will find their way around your website.
There are three main forms of navigation you can set up in the header section:
Main navigation. This is the top menu where you can prioritize the main navigation paths you want to offer customers. You can create submenus (i.e., dropdown menus) under each item to avoid cluttering it.
Footer navigation. This is where you keep links to non-essential pages that might distract new visitors but still need to be available for those who need to find them. Most online shoppers will know to look here for information like your return policy or contact page.
Search. You can enable the search bar in the header to help visitors directly navigate to what they’re looking for. This is especially useful if you have a large catalog of products and many pages on your website.
You don’t want to overwhelm people with too many options from the get-go. Instead, you can organize your navigation to prioritize the actions you want visitors to take—with a focus on shopping, of course.
One menu item can have multiple dropdown levels to gradually feed visitors more options based on what they’re looking for. For example, you can group multiple Collections under one menu item focused on products for women—that way you don’t immediately overwhelm men who shop with you with options that aren’t for them.
For Kinda Hot Sauce, I’m going to create a simple navigation structure where I:
Surface my medium hot sauce Collection and 3-pack bundle under a “Shop” menu item.
Nestle my Our Story and FAQ pages under an About menu item.
Include my Contact page, for now, knowing that I can move it to the Footer in the future if I come up with another menu item that serves my goals better.
I’ll also be creating another menu for my Footer to surface my non-essential policy pages at the bottom section of my website.
Tip💡: You can create a dropdown menu without linking out to a page by entering a # under Link instead of a URL and dragging any submenu items you want to include under it.
Set your colors, typography, and other theme settings
Colors and typography play a big role in your online store’s visual identity. Under the Theme Settings tab in the online store editor, you’ll be able to customize the look and feel of your overall online store, including colors and typography.
Even if you’re not a designer, you can still pick font and color pairings you feel good about using the following tips.
Consider the psychology of color and how different colors make people feel (e.g., red makes people feel hungry, yellow suggests safety, and purple can have a royal quality to it).
Use contrast to highlight important features of your homepage, such as buttons.
Use a tool like Coolors to cycle through different color palettes to find colors you like and their associated hex code.
Don’t be afraid to go with your gut or just keep it simple if you’re in doubt (even if it’s just a simple black and white color scheme).
I came up with the following color palette for Kinda Hot Sauce because I want it to look bold and colorful. I probably won’t end up using all of them, but I have enough to mix and match to find a combination I like:
Try to pick two fonts (a maximum of three) to use across your store.
Choose a body font that is easy to read (sans serif fonts like Helvetica are generally easier to scan on a screen).
Use a tool like FontJoy to experiment with different font pairings.
For our store, we’ll be keeping it simple with two fonts:
Accent text: Roboto
Body text: Roboto
Tip 💡: While you’re in your Theme Settings, you can set a Favicon (usually your logomark), which is the icon that will display in browser tabs, bookmarks, and other locations. If you look at the tab of this page, you’ll see the Shopify logo. That’s our favicon.
Customize your checkout
Under Theme Settings, you can also customize the look of your checkout. At the very least, it’s a good idea to add your logo to your checkout to give it a branded feel.
If you need to, you can also customize how your checkout works by clicking through to your checkout settings (or going to Settings > Checkout).
Here’s a quick rundown of the choices you can make regarding your checkout:
Customer accounts. You can choose whether you want customers to create an account at checkout. This can be useful if you’re running a wholesale or members-only store. We’ll be disabling it for our store since we don’t want to introduce unnecessary friction to our checkout experience.
Customer contact. You can let customers choose how they want to be contacted by you after placing an order (email or SMS text messages). I’ll select “Customers can only check out with email” for now to keep it simple and focus on building an email list I can market to.
Form options. Here you can decide whether extra information like a first name or company name is hidden, optional, or required at checkout. Since we don’t need all this information to fulfill every order for Kinda Hot Sauce, I’m going to make most of them optional.
Order processing. You can find options to streamline the ordering process or add an additional confirmation step. To save customers some time, we’ll use the customer’s shipping address as the billing address by default and enable autocomplete for addresses.
Email marketing. You can build your email list as you build your customer list by letting customers sign up during checkout. Since email is a key pillar in many online marketing strategies, we’ll make sure this is turned on so we can sell our hot sauce to potential and existing customers on our email list.
Abandoned checkouts. When a customer reaches your checkout and decides not to complete their purchase (it can happen for any number of reasons), you can set up an automated reminder email for these shoppers. We’ll set up our automated email to go out 10 hours after someone abandons their checkout, while our store is still fresh in their minds and they may have more time to reconsider their purchase.
When in doubt, prioritize choices that reduce the friction of checking out for the majority of your customers.
Ask for feedback
Feedback is a gift, especially when you’ve been spending so much time working on your online store. Fresh eyes can often spot areas to improve that you don’t and provide invaluable insights you can use to make tweaks to your store.
By default, your store is password-protected, but you can give people the password to check it out. You can find your password (or change it) under Online Store > Preferences.
Some other great places to go for feedback include:
People close to you who you can rely on to give honest, constructive feedback
Subreddits that your target customers may subscribe to
When I shared Kinda Hot Sauce for feedback, the following areas were mentioned to focus on for improvement:
The copywriting on my product pages could be more focused on who my brand is for (responsible hot sauce lovers).
A few people called out how “charming” the About page was and how it made people want to buy from this business. I could carry this charisma into the rest of my copywriting and campaigns when I start marketing.
Take both the good and the bad with a grain of sale as you incorporate feedback into your store. The best form of feedback you’ll get is when you start actively marketing your business.
5. Set up shipping
Shipping can be one of the most complex considerations involved in running an ecommerce business. Between product weights, packaging costs, shipping destinations, carrier rates, and your potential profit per order, there are a lot of variables to juggle.
Luckily, we can boil it down to a few main approaches, which you can even blend together depending on the unique needs of your business, to find a shipping strategy that works for you:
Offer free shipping. Free shipping can be an effective incentive for customers to shop with you, whether it’s applied to certain products, order amounts (e.g., if they spend over $50), or regions of the world. Keep in mind that you will need to factor this into the retail price of your products if you plan on absorbing the cost of shipping on behalf of your customers.
Charge real-time carrier rates. Shopify integrates in real-time with various carriers like USPS and Canada Post to generate shipping options and live pricing. This allows your customers to choose the exact service and price they want. You can take advantage of discounted rates through Shopify Shipping.
Charge a flat rate. Flat rate shipping works best when your products have similar sizes and weights, making actual shipping expenses easier to predict.
Offer local pickup/delivery. You can also give local customers the option to pick up their online order at one of your locations, setting specific notification settings, pickup instructions, and other details for each location.
For Kinda Hot Sauce, since it’s located in Canada, we’re going to set up our shipping in the following way to illustrate some of the various approaches you can take:
An $8 flat rate to ship to Canada and the United States
Free shipping to Canada/the United States when you spend $30 or more
Real-time carrier rates for the rest of the world
About Shopify Shipping: With Shopify Shipping, you can get discounted rates, print shipping labels in Shopify, and manage order fulfillment all in one place.
Setting up our shipping zones
You can implement your shipping strategy under Settings > Shipping in Shopify. Here, you’ll be able to create shipping zones where you can set your rates for shipping to customers in certain countries.
Setting conditional shipping rates
Within the shipping zone we just created, we can use the Add rate button to create specific rates based on certain conditions. For example, we can offer free shipping based on the condition that an order reaches a certain value threshold. Or we can increase the shipping rate if the order exceeds a certain weight.
Generally, you can save time and money on shipping while making more per sale by encouraging customers to add more items to their order. So we’ll use free shipping on orders over $30 (two bottles of hot sauce or the three-pack bundle) as an incentive for customers to spend more.
Setting up real-time calculated shipping rates
Real-time shipping rates are based on the shipping details you entered when adding your products and package dimensions on the Settings > Shipping page. Customers can then choose their preferred service and rate at checkout.
You can also adjust these rates to include a handling fee to account for extra costs, like packaging or your time, on top of the courier service’s rates.
6. Set up taxes
As a business that sells goods or services, you have to collect taxes to send to the government each time someone orders from your store (some exceptions apply, such as for digital goods in many jurisdictions).
Shopify will help you automatically handle most tax calculations using default sales tax rates around the world. Even so, it’s a good idea to conduct some research or ask a tax professional to ensure you’re charging the correct amount of sales tax.
You can override the default tax settings if there are specific requirements for your region, such as taxes for specific products or for shipping.
Go to Settings > Taxesin Shopify to set up your tax regions. Here you can edit the default rates if you like, or apply overrides if specific conditions apply in your region or to your products.
Since Kinda Hot Sauce operates in Canada, we’ll set up our default tax rates for Canada. If you have a tax number you can enter it here or you can do so later. You’ll be able to see how much tax you’ve collected under Analytics > Reports.
None of this should be taken as tax advice and you should consult with a tax professional if you’re uncertain about your tax situation. Shopify doesn’t file or remit your sales taxes for you.
7. Setting up payment gateways and payouts
We’re in the final stretch! Next up is deciding how your store will accept payments and how you as a store owner will get paid.
Go to Settings > Paymentsto set up your payment provider. Shopify has made it easy to start accepting all major forms of payment with Shopify Payments. As long as you operate your business in one of the supported countries and aren’t considered a prohibited business, you can activate Shopify Payments in just one click and pay 0% in extra transaction fees. You can also choose from over 100 third-party payment providers here or offer your customers additional payment options, such as PayPal.
In my case, I’ll Complete Account Setup for Shopify Payments by entering my business and banking information. I can also Manage my settings for Shopify Payments and do things like:
Choose the payment options I want to offer, like different credit cards (e.g., Visa), and accelerated one-click payment options like Apple Pay and Shop Pay. Shop Pay is Shopify’s one-click payment option that lets any customer of any store with Shop Pay enabled save their payment information for future purchases.
Sell in multiple currencies, which will automatically convert your prices into the customer’s currency if you enable it. Since we’re selling mostly in Canada and the US, we’ll add the US dollar and the Canadian dollar to our enabled currencies.
Set your payout schedule. You can receive your payout daily, weekly, or monthly—it all depends on your preferences when it comes to your cash flow.
Toggle extra fraud prevention measures such as CVV and postal code verification to add an extra layer of security.
Customize how you appear on your customer’s bank statements. We’ll use KINDAHOTSAUCE to make our brand recognizable to customers on their credit card statements.
The currency you sell your products in can be set under Settings > General. I’m going to be selling in US dollars since it will be familiar for both US and Canadian customers.
8. Prepare your store for launch
With all the work we’ve done so far, we could actually launch our store now if we wanted to. We would just disable the password protection under Online Store > Preferences, which is the final step to flip the open sign and let people in to start buying our products.
In fact, if you’re in a rush to go live, you could skip some or all the following steps and revisit them later when you have time.
But in this tutorial, I’m going to ensure that my store not only makes a strong first impression and offers a smooth customer experience at launch, but is also in a good place for me to start marketing.
That said, here are the final steps we’ll be going over:
Adding a custom domain
Installing relevant sales channels
(Optional) Customizing your email/SMS notifications
Setting up your store for marketing (tracking and analytics)
Adding a custom domain
Buying a domain is like claiming land on the internet. That’s why it’s called a “web address.”
A custom domain is a fully branded URL that replaces the default URL that was created based on the store name you chose at setup (e.g., you could buy yourstore.com to replace yourstore.myshopify.com as your public URL).
Since the .com is taken, I’ll be buying the .shop extension for KindaHotSauce through Shopify. KindaHotSauce.shop is now my store’s URL.
Installing relevant sales channels
One of the advantages of using Shopify to power your business is that your online store is just one of many sales channels you can use to sell your products. You can connect your products to additional sales channels to meet your customers where they are, while keeping track of your products, inventory, and reporting in the same Shopify account so you always know what’s going on in your business.
While you don’t need to connect all of them right away, it’s good to have them in mind when you’re ready to explore new ways to get your products in front of the right shoppers.
Not every sales channel will be relevant for your unique business, but here are some that are worth highlighting:
Shopify POS. Our point-of-sale solution for accepting in-person payments and easily syncing physical retail sales with your online Shopify store and inventory.
Marketplaces. Many shoppers start their purchasing journey on marketplaces like Amazon or eBay.
Google channel. Google is the most popular search engine in the world. With the Google channel, you can run Google Shopping campaigns and list your products for free in the Shopping tab in Google search results.
Buy button. If you have an existing website or blog where you want to sell your products, you can install the Buy button sales channel to embed your products onto another webpage, allowing customers to purchase them and check out there. You can even create checkout links to send directly to a customer and have them jump straight to checkout.
You can quickly add sales channels by clicking the + button next to Sales channels or view our full list of sales channels in the Shopify App Store. Then, on your Product pages under Product Availability, you can choose which products are available on which sales channels.
I’ll be considering the Facebook and Instagram channels for sure since a brand like Kinda Hot Sauce will rely heavily on social media marketing.
Customizing your email notifications (optional)
Shopify comes with a series of ready-to-use automated email and SMS notifications to let customers know about order confirmations, status updates, and more.
I’ll be leaving them alone for now, but if you need to customize these for any reason—to communicate specific information or simply reflect your brand better—you can edit these notifications under Settings > Notifications.
Setting up your store for marketing
Marketing is different for every business, but regardless of your strategy, it’s important to set up the right foundation as soon as you can so you can get the most out of your efforts as you drive traffic to your store.
In particular, I want to cover the fundamentals of nearly every ecommerce marketing strategy that are important to know for new store owners.
Shopify Reports (under Analytics > Reports) not only helps you monitor traffic and sales generated by your store across all your sales channels but also serves as a treasure trove of great insight for improving your business over time.
You can learn where your traffic and sales are coming from, your overall online store conversion rate, traffic and sales over time, and more.
Have you ever visited an online store, considered a product, but left without buying it, only to see an ad for it a few days later? Or have you ever seen an ad for a product from a business you’d never heard of that seemed like it was made for you?
That’s made possible through something called the Facebook pixel, an intelligent code that learns from how people interact with your brand and your website—from liking your social media posts to making a purchase—and makes it possible to personalize how you advertise to them over time.
The Facebook pixel learns from all the traffic you send to your online store, so if you plan on advertising on Facebook or Instagram at any point in the future, it’s important to have your Facebook pixel set up.
You can get clear instructions on how to set it up for your Shopify store by using our free Facebook Marketing app (note that this process will require you to also set up a Facebook page and ad account for your business).
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Many shoppers turn to Google and other search engines as part of their purchasing journey, whether it’s to find a product they saw or heard about through a friend or they’re conducting some comparison shopping for a purchase.
Helping your online store’s pages and your products appear in these search results can create passive streams of relevant traffic for free. However, it takes time to grow this source of traffic.
You can lay the right foundation through a practice called search engine optimization (SEO), which we were first introduced to when we set up our Products and Pages in our store.
Another area of your store where you’ll want to keep SEO in mind is the Title and meta description fields, which can be found under Settings > Preferences. For Kinda Hot Sauce, I want to make sure I include my brand name and a description of what my business is about, based on the keywords people might search for to find my business.
You can use a free keyword research tool like Ubersuggest or Keyword Surfer (Chrome extension) to estimate how many times people search a specific query in a month and what types of searches happen around that keyword. Estimated monthly search volumes aren’t always 100% accurate and the more popular a search is, the more competitive it usually is.
Always remember that the job of a search engine is to show the most relevant results to the user, so you should try to prioritize keywords that are directly relevant to your business.
Let’s take Kinda Hot Sauce as an example to illustrate some of the key findings that can come out of even the simplest keyword research:
“Medium hot sauce“ and “mild hot sauce” come up with 480 and 40 estimated monthly searches, respectively. Since they relate closely to what my business is about, I can prioritize them in my homepage title and description.
Many people also search for a variety of recipes for spicy foods (e.g., “how to make crispy hot wings”), meaning I could introduce a blog later on to create content around searches related to recipes that involve hot sauce.
While I’m here, I’m also going to add a Social sharing image to make sure that I create a strong first impression whenever a link to my store is shared on social media or in direct messages.
9. Launch your store 🚀
I’m finally ready to launch! Is my store perfect? No. But I feel good enough about it to bet time and money marketing it and learning from the feedback I get to make it even better over time.
I can remove my password page (under Settings > Preferences) and start telling the world I’m open for business.
The journey ends here for this demo store. But it’s just beginning for you. Here are some next steps and resources to help you ramp up your business after launching:
Youtuber Joe Andrews, also known as BluMaan on Youtube has been creating content on haircare and style for over a decade. As his community grew, Joe decided to create hair products based on the feedback that individuals shared with him and launched BluMaan, the company. In this episode of Shopify Masters, we speak with Colin Chik, who’s the current CEO of BluMaan to hear how Joe and the team have launched the company based on community feedback, how manufacturers can be your mentors, and why working with micro-influencers is a great investment.
Don’t miss an episode! Subscribe to Shopify Masters.
Shopify Shipping: Did you know that you can buy shipping labels for your orders at home and print them with a regular printer, get shipping insurance within the United States, and receive discounted shipping rates with certain carriers with Shopify Shipping? There are no additional fees, carrier account, or app required– this is included with your Shopify plan. So check out Shopify Shipping today at shopify.com/ship for more information.
Launching products inspired by community feedback
Felix: How is a community involved in the brand and the product?
Colin: Well the brand was actually created by the community. So in 2014, our founder, Joe decided that he really wants to make a hair product. So he posted a video on YouTube asking people what they wanted in a hair product, such as type of hold, the finish, and what the market really lacked. And from there, they started formulating a new product. Our BluMaan Original Meraki. The community really pushed our product a lot. We did testing with the communities. So we sent out samples throughout the whole year, trying to get people’s opinion. What made it good, what’s bad about it. And even when the company first started, a lot of the community members took volunteer positions, like our customer service, our product development, our marketing team were all built with the community members. So that’s what makes us kind of unique compared to a lot of brands because we’re built by the community directly.
Felix: How did the community begin?
Colin: So the community was really built on Joe’s following. Joe is a YouTuber for those who don’t know. When we built the community, he was about 250,000 followers on YouTube. And his vision was that he wants to connect with every one of his followers on YouTube on a more personal level. So he literally responds to every message that gets sent to him on YouTube. And he talks to them a lot. And one day he decided, let’s make a community together on Facebook. So he created a group and he really marketed on his channel to push people into this group. And his philosophy was he wants to make a group where people can share hair tips, hairstyles, product reviews, and just bring his fans into more community talking like aspect.
Felix: So you mentioned that this community actually lives on a Facebook group. He drove the new members into the group from his YouTube channel. Can you speak about the ways to engage a community?
Colin: So one of the things that our founders did was, they actually were really into the community. So they talk a lot in the community, post some of the personal stuff that’s happening with their life, responded to people’s posts, their questions. And ultimately they created another separate group. We call it the VIP is of BluMaan’s community. So these are moderators. So we got volunteer moderators that really love the group, and really help push more discussions within the group. Even today we have about 20 moderators that constantly do posts, respond to people, and really become really helpful leaders in that group. And I think that’s really important in getting the community started and building that activeness within the community.
Felix: How do they collaborate or congregate?
Colin: It’s just a little moderator group. It’s just a separate channel to just talk about posts that they don’t like or people that are being disrespectful, or they discuss new ideas or new giveaways within the group. So we let those moderators take control. A lot of the things like, what kind of giveaways, what kind of promotions stuff like that within their group. So it’s not really run by the company as much.
Felix: What works to continually grow this group, outside of Joe driving this?
Colin: Having really meaningful discussions. Not necessarily just about like men’s grooming, but on our group, if you go to our group, if you ever do go to our group, there are people to talks about their daily life, like one of our community members at one point posted pictures of his newborn baby and how much he loves his life, wife. There are more personal or more empathetical discussions are in the group. And that’s the stuff I really want to promote a lot. And those attract a lot of new users we feel.
Felix: Are there ways for you to encourage this meaningful discussion?
Colin: That’s a really hard question to answer. I think the way that we treat our moderators really helps get them excited about our group. Like we treat them like if there are team members are employees of BluMaan every single day, and we really give them all the special treatments such as like, let them try out our new products and stuff and show them the results of what’s happening with our group. Like allowing new people to join, how people left and the happiness level of the group really motivates them in participating.
Felix: Now, when it comes to things like giveaways, how does that work?
Colin: We did do quite often. I think every quarter we do one giveaway and these giveaways are done by the moderator and our marketing team in house. So they communicate with each other and then they basically come up with an idea and we’ve tried to work with other sponsors, like other brands, so do a collab giveaway or whatnot. And yeah, it’s been pretty successful in that area. When we do a collab giveaway, so we work with other brands. They give out our products to their fans as well. So we kind of cross-promote our community with their customers, our community really likes it because they get to experience new brands or new giveaways. The decision for the type of products and everything that is on our giveaway. We’ve actually given out airplane tickets or a vacation package before, dinner with Joe, we try to make things exciting and different each time, it’s never going to be the same, never going to be like just BluMaan products.
Questions to ask your community for product development
Felix: What kind of questions do you ask a community when creating a product?
Colin: First, identify what’s missing on the marketplace, and the product that you want to try to introduce. For Joe, he realized there’s a very big disconnect in high quality and natural product in the hair space, and especially direct to consumer online. So that’s where his approach came from. And from there he just asked, Hey guys what are the products that you guys like? So what are brands or products that they’ve been using for the last couple of years? And from there, as you asked, what are the advantages of that product? And what do you dislike of each of the competitor’s products? And you take all the good stuff and we move all the bad stuff and basically try to make your ideal product and then find a lab or chemists to make samples to create that product.
Felix: What was the actual specific problem that you guys have recognized before asking them more about the products that they’re buying in this space?
Colin: So for this space, a very high hold product that gives a really matte finish, and it’s still healthy for the hair. Because one of the biggest things for men is like, we need our hair to be very healthy, to have that beautiful shine or beautiful look. So that was the biggest thing for us was the hold, matte finish, and the natural ingredients in the product.
Felix: What are some of the answers went into the creation of your product line?
Colin: So one of the big things that people really didn’t like of a hair product was, it was really hard to get on people’s hair. When you wash it, shampoo a lot of products were made out of oils, or wax that didn’t wash up properly. And it created a lot of tugging. And then when you create a lot of tug on your hair, you kind of lose your hair even faster, especially for men, right? And in men, hair loss has been a big issue. So that being said, people wanted ingredients in the hair product that promoted hair growth to prolong their hair. And the hold is very important. A lot of men noticed that like you put your hair product in the morning by noon, it starts flopping. That’s another issue that we noticed. Those are the three main, biggest problems that we notice.
Felix: How do you decide what you should actually add now today in the product you go to market with today?
Colin: For us, I think we do more of a pole. We actually do a lot of surveys and stuff on our community to determine what are the main features that they’re looking for. And basically want to look for something that’s more like 70 or 80% of the people that did do the survey, that wanted a special feature. And that would be the feature that we try to aim for.
How manufacturers can be great mentors
Felix: What’s the next step once you have an idea of the results that you want to achieve with a product?
Colin: So one of the things that most people don’t realize is Google is full of resources. You can literally Google anything. So when we first started, we literally Googled a manufacturer that we want to work with. And Google came off a lot of good results and you basically have to email every manufacturer, talk to them, see how much it costs to do your R&D for your prototype, and just work with your manufacturers, tell them exactly your situation. Don’t lie about how big your company is. Just be very honest. It gives you a lot of perks with these manufacturers because a lot of manufacturers really love working with small companies or startups.
Felix: What are they looking for in a startup that makes a startup attractive to a manufacturer?
Colin: Because the thing with a startup is they can become a really big company really fast and there’ll be more dedicated using that manufacturer over a long period of time. And a lot of CEO’s from these manufacturers love helping young entrepreneurs. It’s just a thing that they really love helping these people succeed. And some of these CEOs, from our manufacturers, are kind of mentors and it tells us like really insider stuff about our industry that we would not have been able to Google.
Felix: What other things have you discovered that the manufacturer has been helpful for your business, that you think other entrepreneurs might be underutilizing?
Colin: Okay. So if you’ve built a really good relationship with a manufacturer, they will sometimes tell you about like trade secrets, like what are the upcoming products that other people are manufacturing or the trends that they see. For example, they’ll tell us ingredients that are becoming more popular and new ingredients. How other similar competitors that we’re at the space that we’re in, how they’re doing the marketing, even approximate quantities of orders that they’re even doing, and strategies of their supply chain or manufacturing and even their payment terms.
Felix: What are some early mistakes that you guys might’ve made that you want to warn other entrepreneurs from making when they’re working with the manufacturer?
Colin: There’s a lot, always prototype and always do a first batch sample, prototype and your first batch might not always match. We had situations where it didn’t match and we had to redo the whole first run. So don’t just assume everything’s going to be exactly like the prototype. Especially for our cosmetic industry. When they do the lab sample or the prototype sample they did in a lab. But when it comes to their full batch manufacturing, these machines are larger, even as a slight change in temperature or a slight change in the percentage of the ingredients may affect the product significantly.
Felix: How many prototypes did you guys go through for the first product?
Colin: The very first one I believe they did about 50 prototypes, 50 iterations, on average at BluMaan we do easily sometimes past the 50 Mark. One of our products took over two years to prototype. It happens all the time. We believe that that product would be a really good add on to our product line. And it’s something that we really needed. We are also a lot of demand from our community, demand from our customers, and we just wanted to make it perfect. There’s a lot of companies that do make products and they don’t really care about the full quality of the product as much, but for us, we wanted to make it perfect every single time before we launched our product. And that’s why our product development cycle is significantly longer than the average company.
Felix: How do you actually figure out if a product is good enough or if it needs a certain tweak?
Colin: So all this is based on feedback from people. So when we first create a prototype for a new product, we actually give it to our team to try. So we have log guys working in our office and they will try it out, and they’ll with Joe and then write down their feedback, the feedback is sent back to our product development team. And that is sent back to the lab exactly what we were missing or whatever you would like to see more. And we constantly do this until our team on a majority basis like the product. And once that is done, we then send it out for mass testing. So we send it out to our community team that tests our products on a regular basis and they come back with feedback. And if it does not good, we go back to the drawing board and we formulated again or tweak it until we get it where the team and the community are happy with it. And then we’d do another test after, in-person test. So we usually host at my small little event at a barbershop or whatnot, and we invite our followers, a couple of more dedicated followers to come in and actually try the new product beforehand and see how they like it. If any part of this testing phase people are not fully satisfied, they would really go back and retweak again. And sometimes, you can’t really tweak it all the way to perfection. In which case we will have to totally reformulate it again and start from step one again.
Felix: What are some examples of things that you have discovered that the team thinks is perfect but hen you release into the community, they notice certain things?
Colin: One of the things with hair products is every man has different types of hair, so there’s fine hair, there’s coarse hair. And people have curly hairs. So different hair requires a different type of product, unfortunately, different requirements mostly on the hold side, for fine hair the hold is very different from our coarse hair basically. And because our office is… we don’t have like a broad variety of hair types. So that’s why there’s going to be a difference between the community and our office team.
Felix: So what’s the point of doing in-person trials?
Colin: So it goes back to the type of hair as well. People in the community and people in our office, there’s going to be some type of a demographic that’s missed, right? So we want to put those people into the in-person from just randomly picking people from the community. And also it gives a little incentive for people in the community that when you’re a part of this group, you might be chosen to do an in-person. And it’s a huge bonus, you get to meet Joe. You get to try a new product, and you get free products to going there.
Felix: What are some examples of how differently people use your products?
Colin: So not many people realize that there’s such thing as a pre-styler and does a post styler. So a pre-styler is when you use a product when your hair is slightly damp and then your blow dryer to activate it, to create that better hold more volume, especially for finer hair. And then there’s post styler when you use the product after your pre-styler, so your final product that you use. And those two products may not be the same. You may be using the BluMaan Original for pre-styler and use BluMaan Cavalier Clay as a post styler. So that’s one of the different ways of using our products, and these can be mixed around. So some people might not like our Original as a pre-styler, but they’re like our Monarch for our pre-styler. And there’s always that mix and match. That’s one of the things that are very different for different people with different hair types.
Felix: You mentioned first start with a small batch run. How small are we talking about?
Colin: You always should be asking minimum order quantities. However, if you have a really good relationship with that manufacturer, they’ll actually do even that smaller batch than that. Small batches might still be at over a thousand units.
Why working with micro-influencers is beneficial
Felix: Once you get back a thousand units, what do you do with those?
Colin: We basically try to send it to influencers. For marketing-wise, we sent to influencers. We would give it out to our community leaders. We’ll give it to our office people to try it out. Our product developer would heavily test the product, make sure that’s really consistent in all units. We sent it to our founders and just do vigorous testing to make sure that same as the prototype was given to us.
Felix: What’s the marketing plan, or how do you guys launch a new product or a new product line to the community?
Colin: So one of the first things that we really wanted to try in our operations side is seeing how many units we going to actually create. And that is like more towards the number side of things. How much money are we willing to invest in? How much can we even afford to invest and still have money for the marketing side, especially for a startup with very limited resources? This is a really crucial part of launching a product we can overproduce and we shouldn’t under produce, right? And once the budget is created, we give to a marketing team and a marketing team works with a budget. We also give the product to our sales team, our B2B distribution team, and they determine how much products that they actually need. And we actually… how we allocate the products. So we’ll say, okay B2B gets 30% of all our products that new launch, feed direct to consumer gets the remaining. Then from there, we actually have a playbook that we have for launching new products in BluMaan, and they follow the playbook while adding in a new something new to it. Something that they want to test out during launch.
Felix: Can you give us a high level of what that playbook looks like?
Colin: Basically how to create hype for a product, being mysterious kind of create that buzz for the new product, how to get people’s attention for the product. And they say which marketing channels we’re targeting, how we’re going to target it, and most cost-effective way of targeting these channels. In my opinion for new entrepreneurs, you want to look at your competitors, what they’re doing. Usually with they’re spending a lot of on paid ads, or they spend a lot of money on like influencers. There’s a reason why they’re doing that. It’s usually because the ROI does make sense for them. Usually I would say, just follow what they’re doing, but doing a smaller scale. So if they’re targeting large influencers, for example, you always target micro-influencers. Because micro-influencers cost less usually doing it for free compared to large influencers. So it’s easier to just follow what people in your industry are doing and not make that mistake. And then when you do have that extra money, they can try different channels that your competitors are not trying.
Felix: You mentioned targeting on these channels. What do you mean by that?
Colin: So there are different channels out there right now, even new channels, such as a TikTok for example, that’s a really new social media channel. When we say targeted, like find a way that we can fit our product into that channel without being too salesy, be more subtle, and just get our product in front of people. So people know about it rather than to just sell it.
Felix: What’s the channel that you guys almost always want to spend Lots of effort and resources on?
Colin: Influencers has always been our biggest market for us. It’s actually different types of influencers. So when we first started, we focused more on the men’s style and fashion and men’s hair, and we’re slowly moving away from that more to lifestyle, like athletics, kids even. So those are different channels within Instagram that you can try to target, or untouched markets basically. One of the thinking behind it was that these type of influencers especially in our market, fashion influencers. They tend to be over-saturated, they market a lot of different products like skincare, multiple different hair products. And it doesn’t seem less authentic a lot of times, if you see an influencer marketing three or four different hair products, you really trust in that influencer in their hair product selection, it’s kind of hard to do. So, so what we realize is markets that, or channels of types of influencers that don’t haven’t ever marketed hair products before seem to be a better fit and a better return on investment.
Felix: How do you make sure that an influencer is a good fit for the brand?
Colin: So to find the right influencer, we are too much at brainstorms and look at, these are the influencers that are coming through our door and they determined like, Hey, does this person have good hair, does this person have high engagement? Like, are the followers very dedicated to them? What’s the response rate when you do a post, and how saturated they are in their paid ads. Right? So even if they never did a hair product before, if they’ve done a lot of like promotions, that’s also really not the best sign for us. It wants someone who doesn’t really do many promotions, maybe just support one or two brands kind of thing. And that’s what we look for. Micro-influencers are really good in ROI. In general, they tend to have much higher engagement. They cost a lot less than a major influencer and they really put more effort because they’re still small. So they really put that effort in and making their content better.
Felix: Now, when you identify a micro-influencer or influencer at all that you want to work with, how do you get in touch with them? And what’s the pitch that seems to work?
Colin: I think one of the biggest things is that do they feel comfortable and that does it really represent them when they represent this brand, right. Does this brand fit their lifestyle or fit them? And I think that’s the most important part of getting influencers to take on this brand as an ambassador or to promote it.
Building an online store that’s brand-aligned
Felix: So let’s talk a little about the website. So is that all done in house?
Colin: The first iteration of the website on Shopify, we actually didn’t do Shopify to be started. We actually did on Google commerce in the beginning and that was done in house. Then we switched to Shopify and it’s been amazing. Shopify is amazing. We started with a theme first and then we customized a theme. And later on, we hired a Shopify, a web design firm to help us make the next one. So the credit theme was made by an agency, it was a lot more costly, but it had a really good return.
Felix: What are some things that you guys wanted to fix essentially the new version of the site?
Colin: So one of the things that, has been the problem for us was identifying our brand. So a lot of our marketing materials were too scattered because it was made by, a lot of times we’ve made by volunteers, right? Because the volunteers did our marketing for us a lot of times, and it was really inconsistent. So our website design didn’t really match our branding. So first literation we try to make it closer to our branding and make everything consistent of font and et cetera. And on the last revision, the third revision, we really focus just on the branding. And that really helped with the conversion rate.
Felix: What did you like tactically change on the website to improve the branding?
Colin: So one of the things is making sure that all our photos or our assets on our website match the type of people type of demographic we’re targeting, having high-quality images, having those men with a nice hairstyle that could be created with BluMaan products, making all our images consistent as well like each product shot it must be very consistent to the next one. A lot of people don’t really do that. Font, the font colors, the color of the website should match the packaging of your product. That’s another thing that we didn’t do really well in the beginning and the messaging as well, the copywriting must match our actual product, and what the message that we try to communicate to our customers.
Felix: Are there any tools or apps that you guys rely on?
Colin: There’s definitely a lot, actually Shopify has a lot of great plugins. One of the first plugins we have to install with us, we call No Fraud. That saved us thousands of dollars a year. We used Privy the popup, product reviews, plugin. Recharge, for recurring bill payments. We have some SEO plugins, and even an inventory planner as well.
Felix: And we talk about the popup on the site. What is the popup? Is it to collect email addresses? What’s the attention of the popup?
Colin: The public intention was to get subscribers to our email list, to give them offers, launches, updates, and really just collect the info as well as giving them like coupons as well.
Felix: What is the incentive, what was worked for you guys to get someone to subscribe to the email list?
Colin: I believe one of the best things was actually understanding our customers in that area. Our popups actually asked like, what type of hair you have, and we try to recommend when they get their first email recommend what type of product that would fit best for the hair. And that’s one of the biggest things, what product works for your hair? And even in our customer service, we get that question asked a lot, like what is the best hair product for me and it’s not always necessarily going to be a BluMaan product. And we allow our customer service to even promote other products or even competitors’ products, as long as it works for our customers.
Felix: What tool do you use for email what’s the software that you guys use to power all of this?
Colin: Email software, we use Retention Science. It’s an AI-powered customer data platform.
No matter the size of your business or how long it’s been around, you can use Instagram to drive sales. Why? Instagram has a vast network of potential customers and a multitude of online selling tools to help brands build their audience and start making money online!
In fact, Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users worldwide—with 500 million using it daily—so there’s a massive opportunity for brands to gain international exposure.
If you want a slice of that pie, it’s time to start using your brand’s Instagram presence strategically. In this article, we’re diving deep into how to make money on Instagram with your business.
Let’s get into it.
There are tons of reasons why Instagram has the potential to be a great sales channel for your business.
Here are just a few:
The Pros & Cons of Selling on Instagram
There are positives and negatives to using any online platform so here’s our take on Instagram’s most notable pros and cons:
It’s free to set up an Instagram business account, so anyone can get started
71% of US businesses are already using Instagram in one form or another, so you’re in good company
Instagram’s number of active users is impressive—there’s a vast audience out there just waiting to find your brand, especially if you’re targeting a younger demographic
An Instagram business account provides tons of audience insights, so you’ll get a better idea of who your customers are, and what they respond to
Creating Instagram ads is simple
If you’re selling products that lend themselves well to beautiful imagery like fashion, beauty, and lifestyle products, Instagram is an ideal marketing space for you
There’s lots of competition
You can only access the “swipe up” links feature if you have 10,000 followers or more
When you make a business account, your account will be labeled as a business which has the potential to repel some customers because it might feel sales-driven to them
Also, with a business account, you won’t be as visible on users’ feeds because Instagram’s algorithm prioritizes posts from users’ friends over brands. As such, you don’t have as much post authority with a business account as you do with a personal one
Some of Instagram’s shopping features aren’t appropriate for all businesses—such as brands selling services, digital products, or high-risk products
12 Different Ways to Sell on Instagram
Now that we’ve covered why you should be using Instagram for your brand, let’s jump into how you can make money on Instagram with your online business.
These are the 12 things pretty much all brands can do to encourage their audience to actually make a purchase from their Instagram profile. Some of them you might know exist, but some of them you might not! Instagram has some tricks up its sleeve—and as we said, they add new features often to help make it even easier for brands to engage with their audience.
If you want to put your brand’s Instagram to use and optimize it as much as possible to encourage conversions, then you’ll want to do these 12 things.
Create an Instagram Shop
In Instagram’s own words, your Instagram shop provides consumers with, “An immersive storefront for people to explore your best products.”
You can use your organic posts and Instagram stories to share your products, encouraging shoppers to find your products via the Search and Explore options. And then, when a customer taps a product tag on your post or a product sticker in your story, they’ll see a page with a:
And a link to your website where they can buy the item
So, as you can see, your Instagram shop is basically a landing page where your audience can easily view products, explore your range, and, most importantly, find out where to buy your products. Since so many Instagram users use the social media app for product research, it’s well worth your time and effort to make it easy for them to find out more information about your products through your Instagram shop. Shoppers can also browse your shop via your Instagram profile, so make sure you use it to communicate your brand story as much as you can!
To get these set up, you have to create a Facebook Catalog and Facebook Shop first. This may seem like extra work, but if you’re serious about expanding your store’s reach, you may as well work these two platforms in tandem anyways, right? Plus, there’s no other option. Facebook owns Instagram so it is what it is!
So, why should you add shopping tags? Creating shoppable Instagram posts marks any image that you use a shopping tag on with a shopping bag icon in the top right-hand corner of your image. This indicates to users that the product is for sale and if they click on the tag, they can learn more about the product. Users use these tags to check out pricing, see additional product photos, review the product description, and click through to buy the product.
Once you add products to your Facebook Catalog and Shop, you can use your Instagram Business account to tag products in your photos using the “Tag Products” option. The images you upload to your feed will look just like regular posts, but there will be that little shopping bag icon users can click on.
Include Swipe-Up Links in Your Stories
This is a pretty straightforward process, but this feature is only available to Instagram accounts that have over 10,000 followers or are a verified user.
Including swipe-up links in your Instagram stories is a super important way to sell products through your Instagram profile. Since you can’t add links to Instagram grid posts, Instagram stories are the only way you can seamlessly direct traffic from your Instagram profile to your website.
Keep in mind, however, that the proportion of your followers who actually watch your stories is typically a lot lower than your actual follower account. So don’t be disheartened! You won’t have your entire following watching your Instagram stories, but the ones who are will be your most engaged audience, so they’re worth their weight in gold.
If you haven’t already tried it, adding swipe-up links is simple:
Take a photo or upload one to your Instagram Story page
Open your Instagram Story tool and find the link icon (it looks like a chain) and click it
Click “URL” to add the link to a web page
Copy or type in the link you want to include
Enter or copy-paste that link in the spot available in your Instagram Story
Publish your Instagram Story
Take a quick look at it to verify the link works!
Again, the link icon will only be available to your Instagram profile if you have over 10,000 followers.
Use the Giftcards Sticker
Instagram has now made it possible for businesses to sell gift cards through their Instagram stories. This is a pretty new feature—in fact, it only launched in April 2020. At that time, the platform announced that businesses could share gift cards, food orders, and fundraiser stickers to make life easier during COVID-19 lockdown.
You can add a gift card sticker to your Instagram story using the “stickers” option in the Instagram app stories creator. When users see a story with a gift card, they can tap on it to purchase. It’s important to know that you can only add one gift card sticker per story, so if you offer multiple gift card denominations, you’ll have to create separate story slides for each of them. Your followers can also reshare gift card stickers to their own stories, but you won’t get notifications when/if they do.
Adding a gift card sticker is pretty simple:
Go to your Instagram profile and tap “Edit Profile”
Where it says “Public Business Information” tap “Action Buttons”
Where you see “Select a Button,” choose “Gift Cards”
Add a gift card partner to sell your gift cards
Instagram can point you in the direction of their gift card partners in North America, Europe, South Africa, Mexico, and Asia-Pacific
Add the link to the website from where you’re selling your gift cards
Move the gift card sticker to where you want it to appear in your story. If you’re going to change its color, you can do that by simply tapping the sticker
Share your story
Once you’ve done that, you’re now ready to start selling gift cards on Instagram!
If you sell services instead of products, you may want to use the “Reserve,” “Get Tickets,” or “Book” buttons instead of the “Gift Card” button. Please note that if you add “Gift Cards,” these other stickers will be removed.
Add a Link Tree to Your Instagram Bio
What’s a link tree? A link tree is a way of optimizing your Instagram traffic by working around Instagram’s rule that only permits one link in your Instagram bio. With a link tree app, you can insert and share multiple links via your singularly alloted Instagram bio.
A link tree app allows you to transform the link in your bio into a menu. From the said menu, you can then link out to more than one product or page. This makes it so much easier for your audience to access your products!
There are multiple link tree apps out there but one that we recommend is Shorby. The benefits of Shorby are that you can:
Turn your Instagram bio link into a menu of links
Promote products on other platforms by linking to your other social media profiles
Add stickers to links
Increase your click-through rate by making your links more easily accessible
Boost affiliate sales because as well as adding your own links, you can also use it to add affiliate links
Run Instagram marketing campaigns that convert better by targeting different audience segments with links that are relevant to their needs
So, especially if you’re one of the numerous Instagram businesses that don’t have 10,000 followers yet and you can’t include swipe-up links in your stories, then your Instagram bio is super important. Make good use of it with a link tree app and link out to your products, affiliates, and services so you can make money through your Instagram!
Get on the Instagram Shop Explore Page
Getting onto Instgram’s Shop Explore page is kind of like the holy grail of Instagram store promotions. It consists of stories, products, photos, and videos and each Shop Explore page is tailored to individual Instagram users based on the posts they like and who they follow.
Put simply, Shop Explore is basically a personalized feed of shoppable posts that the Instagram algorithm curates for each user. There’s also a wishlist tab that looks like a ribbon icon so users can save items they’re interested in as they browse. Users also see a list of brand accounts they’re currently following, alongside suggestions for other brands they might want to follow. So basically, it’s a major shopping destination within the social media app and a great way to expand your brand’s reach and discoverability.
According to the latest statistics from Instagram, more than half of its users look at the Explore page each month. That’s around 500 million people! If you land your products here, there’s potential for you to do very well. Not just that, but because the page is such a success, Instagram’s working to add new features to better improve it.
Getting onto Shop Explore is harder than it seems because it’s created by the algorithm, but you can do a few things to help yourself:
Look at the Shop Explore page and see what kind of brands are there. If they’re on Explore they must be doing something right, so see if you can figure out what they’re doing that got them onto that page
Check your analytics to see what your followers like and engage with most. Use that to fuel the kind of content you upload more of on Instagram. If your audience is engaging with your posts, that signals to Instagram that others might like your content too, which can influence the algorithm to put your posts in discoverable places like the Shop Explore page
Create attractive shoppable posts that stand out. Post photos with shopping tags often, write excellent Instagram captions that encourage your audience to engage and post shoppable Instagram stories with swipe-up links (if you can)
Also, since June 2019, Instagram has allowed brands to buy ads on Explore. So, if you have the budget, you could go down this route. Although ads don’t show in the Explore feed, they might be seen by users when they click on a photo or video. Instagram doesn’t want their ads to be intrusive.
Use Product Launch Countdown Stickers in Your Stories
Countdown stickers enable businesses to literally launch or announce new products right from their Instagram stories. This is a great thing to do if you want followers to preview your product before it goes live and be ready to purchase right when it launches. This is especially true for products where you know demand is high and there’s a chance you’ll sell out fast because users get a notification when the product launch countdown timer hits 00:00 so they have the best chance to snag the new launch.
Tip: Using Instagram’s product launch feature is a must if you’re not selling on other online sales channels. It’s a super simple way of creating an “exclusive” feel to your Instagram store.
However, this feature is only available for businesses using Checkout on Instagram. At the time of writing, Checkout is only accessible to brands operating from the US.
If this option is available to you, use Instagram’s Commerce Manager to set up a product launch. From here, enter details like when you want to launch and which products you want to feature. It’s at this point you can arrange for your merchandise to be sold on Instagram exclusively. When you’re ready to launch your product, head to the Instagram app, and hit “Publish.” Just double-check that your products are either tagged or added to your Instagram store—otherwise, no one will be able to see them!
Use the “Support Small Businesses” Sticker
This is a new feature Instagram recently rolled out in May 2020 to help small businesses. Initially, it started as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we think it’s as relevant now as it will be in the future.
The idea is that a small business can use Instagram’s “Support Small Businesses” sticker to show buyers that they’re a small enterprise. This makes it easier for Instagram shoppers to be aware of smaller organizations, so they can support them over international conglomerates if they choose to. After all, consumers, now more than ever, prefer shopping with smaller companies than chain corporations.
Here’s how Instagram describes its small business sticker:
“People can easily show their love for businesses in stories. They can mention businesses directly in the sticker to give their followers a preview of the account. When people use the sticker, their story will be added to a shared Instagram story, so their followers can see it along with other businesses that people they follow are supporting.”
It’s important to note that you can’t actually sell through the Small Businesses sticker, it’s just a way for your audience to spread awareness to their own followers that you’re a small business.
So, encourage your audience to share your small-business sticker on their Instagram stories! The sticker will create a preview of your profile so users can have a look at what you do and what you sell, which can bring new people to your page who want to support an independently-owned brand like yours.
Start Your Own Affiliate Program
If you don’t have your own affiliate program, you should consider getting one up and running. After all, influencer and micro-influencer marketing is a growing industry with a predicted growth of $112.5 million by 2020.
By creating affiliate links, you give Instagram influencers and micro-influencers an incentive to share your products with their followers. Needless to say, this is an effective way of expanding your reach to a broader audience.
Why does this work?
Customers are more likely to act on recommendations from people they trust—which is where influencers come into play. Consumers follow the influencers they follow because they like what they have to say and want to hear more from them!
So although you’re not actually the one in charge of selling your products when it comes to creating an affiliate program, you put influencers in the driver’s seat so they can sell your products to their audiences. It’s a more passive way of selling on Instagram, but it can be highly effective so keep it in mind if you’re wanting to expand your reach to other audiences and getting your product in front of more consumers.
IGTV is Instagram’s standalone video app for iOS and Android users. It can host much longer videos (up to one hour), in contrast to Instagram’s in-feed videos, which only last 60 seconds. For example, you can create product tutorials, longer reviews, behind-the-scenes content, unboxings, and much more. IGTV gives you the ability to provide your audience with fuller, more meaningful content that can help sell your products.
Here are a few pointers on using IGTV:
If you’re uploading from a smartphone or tablet, your video can only be up to 15 minutes long. If you’re uploading from the web, your video can be up to 1 hour long
The file format has to be MP4
Vertical videos must boast an aspect ratio of 9:16
Horizontal videos must have an aspect ratio of 16:9
Ensure that the first three seconds of the video grabs the viewer’s attention so they’ll be more likely to stick around
Don’t forget a call-to-action at the end of your videos, and always insert a clickable link in the description box that takes the viewer directly to your products
IGTV is certainly worth incorporating it into your overall marketing strategy if you plan to sell on Instagram a lot. Try uploading one or two videos to test engagement/reaction before going all-in. Then, you can take a look at the analytics to refine your content as you go.
As we’ve already said, Instagram Shopping allows you to tag products within your posts. Of course, this makes it easier for customers to find and engage with your products. But, if you want to take things a step further, you can use these tagged shopping posts as ads to form part of a paid-for Instagram marketing campaign.
To launch these kinds of advertisements, you’ll have to use the aforementioned Instagram Ad Manager.
Audiences can then tap on these ads, which takes them to a product description page on Instagram. From here, they can choose whether or not to make a purchase.
When you run a stories ad, customers will see a “sponsored” tag in the top right-hand corner and your chosen call-to-action at the bottom of your ad.
To get up and running with Instagram ads, here’s what you need to do: Pick one of your prior shopping posts to run as your ad. Or, create a new ad by tagging products inside of your Instagram catalog. You can use just one product image or several. Then:
Go to Ads Manager and choose “+Create”
Pick an ad objective, such as “Post Engagement,” “Reach,” or “Brand Awareness”
Select an audience
Click “Edit Placements” and then “Instagram Feeds”
Select “Use Existing Post”
Choose which shopping post you want to use as an ad
If you’re not already, give it a try because it’s a sure-fire way to get your products in front of Instagram users so you can sell more and expand your brand’s reach!
Stick to the Basics: Sell Through DMs
Selling through DMs is a grassroots way of promoting your products. It’s ideal if you’re a small business on a budget or new to Instagram selling.
How does this work?
Well, when you post Grid or Story images of your products, your followers can then DM you to buy them.
It’s an excellent way to personally engage with your followers and enhance customer loyalty when you’re just starting out. You can cultivate a close and uncomplicated relationship with your audience, and they can then pay via PayPal links or whatever other payment methods you choose.
This option would really only work for small Instagram accounts where you’re able to actually manage the amount of DMs that come in, but for brands just starting out, this can be a great option!
You can continue to use DM selling as your business grows to reward loyal customers with special offers and exclusive content. You can also provide DM customers with exclusive access to new products by sending photos or video content ahead of launch. So, it could be built into your long-term sales strategy if you want it to be!
Optimizing your Instagram business account for sales and marketing opportunities is a great way to boost your revenue and profits. We hope by following these tips, you’re better equipped to grow your store and brand awareness through Instagram so you can sell more products to more people!
Entrepreneurship can feel like an impossible dream. It’s a big word for something that is actually so simple.
After failing at entrepreneurship early in my career, I became an aspiring entrepreneur for several years until I built up the courage to start again and give it a go. I learned to use my seven startup failures and one successful business as inspiration, rather than a demotivating excuse.
It certainly wasn’t easy, but after six years of grinding it out, I finally found a way to create another online business. This online business charges for ebooks, online courses, digital content, coaching services, and consulting to a handful of internet businesses.
Not feeling good enough is something I became an expert in before getting started with my latest online business. After attending Startup Grind Meetups and listening to the Foundr Podcast, I realized that this feeling is incredibly common. Feeling like you’re not good enough is part of the business journey. It’s completely normal and should be embraced in an effort to overcome the feeling.
Think of business as nothing more than an interest.
The words “passion” and “purpose” easily confuse aspiring entrepreneurs. They seem grandiose and unachievable. You can wait your entire life for some magical moment or transformation.
The word “interest” is simpler to understand and apply.
You may not have a passion or a purpose, but I’m willing to bet you have an interest. What is it? Knowing your interest is key because business is nothing more than an interest. If you have an interest in something, it can be a business. You can use that interest as the first step to start a simple business.
Entrepreneurship is nothing more than charging money for something.
This is the most important point of the article. If you are charging money for anything, you are an entrepreneur.
If you got paid to coach the basketball team, then you’re an entrepreneur. If you got paid to tutor a college student, then you’re an entrepreneur. If you got paid $20 to cut someone’s hair after work, you’re an entrepreneur.
Let’s go even further: If you have a regular 9 to 5 job, then you’re an entrepreneur who already has one client. And the best part is you can sell your skills to more than one client. People let non-compete agreements stop them from doing part-time entrepreneurship, but with the right advice, you can have multiple customers you bill your time or outcomes to.
You are good enough to be an entrepreneur if you have at least one deposit hitting your bank account already.
The setup costs are a lot less than you might think.
VC money can make us think we need to have millions of dollars to get started. Here’s what I started with:
A free WordPress website
An old version of Microsoft Word
A PayPal account to receive payments online
A home internet connection
An old desk
The internet was the only thing I really paid for, and – let’s be honest – I was always going to have internet. So, essentially this entire business setup was free and cost nothing.
The start of a business idea is an experiment, and you can do it for free.
The best startups were created during recessions.
The economic environment can stop many aspiring entrepreneurs from giving it a go. It can seem smart to sit and wait for the crisis to pass.
But here’s the thing: A recession is a code word for “SALE.”
Ads are cheaper to buy in a recession; traffic is cheaper to acquire during a recession; freelancers will put their prices down during a recession; subscription companies might offer lower monthly plans during a recession.
If you can, you want to start a business during a recession when there is less competition and everything is cheaper. Startups like Uber, Square and Airbnb all came out of the 2008 recession, proving how much opportunity can exist.
You can de-risk your entrepreneur journey with a four-day workweek.
If you have dreams of being an entrepreneur and want to de-risk your journey, an easy solution is to work a four-day workweek. The current economic client makes it easier because companies are looking to save money and offering to be paid for one less day a week can help. You can then use your extra workday, the weekend, and after hours to start your little business.
As you learn more about business and find ways to monetize, you can then slowly wind back your days even more until you go all-in on your business. Or you could have a normal career and a side business for diversity.
You will build mental strength even if your business idea fails.
Whatever business you start might not work out, and that’s completely fine. It’s not because you’re not good enough. The psychological reframe you can use to avoid feeling like a failure is to see your business failures as a way to build mental strength.
Your mind gets stronger through entrepreneurship because you have to back yourself, your ideas, your beliefs, put money where your mouth is, and take a few calculated risks that might not pay off.
It’s hard to feel like you’re not good enough when you focus on the incredible mental strength you’re building in the process.
You can dip your toes in with content first.
Content creation is a great way to test your entrepreneurial skills. All businesses need content, and most of us are creating content and sharing it on social media already in our personal lives. You can take your social media habit and consciously use it for business purposes.
The way I started was by writing a couple of blog posts a week. After some time, I began earning a few dollars from that content and posting it in different places. Then, I charged people, who wanted to do the same as me, for blocks of coaching and an accountability partner.
If you can find a way to charge for content – ads, payment from publications, Medium, coaching, freelancing – you can test your ability to charge money for your skills, and that could lead you into your own business.
You can run mini-tests with Facebook ads and a mailing list.
Another easy way to test a business idea as an aspiring entrepreneur is to set up a mailing list and direct people to it through content and social media. If the call to action on your content and social media posts is strong, then the number of daily email subscribers will trend upwards.
I had an idea for an ebook I wanted to sell and ran a few test Facebook ads to see which title would help a wider audience find my how-to strategies.
I hear aspiring entrepreneurs say all the time that they don’t feel like they’re good enough. Well, I’m here to disagree with that myth. I’m here to tell you that you can be an entrepreneur because it’s as simple as charging money for a skill you’ve acquired. If you need a skill to sell, there are plenty of online courses you can do to acquire billable skills.
Don’t wait your entire life to start your entrepreneurship journey and end up having regrets because you didn’t try. You are good enough.
Tim Denning is a blogger whose work has appeared on on Entrepreneur.com, Addicted2Success.com, and The Mission (On Medium). Outside of blogging, Tim advises tech companies and aims to inspire the world through entrepreneurship and personal development.
How can you harness this phenomenon to capture attention, make connections, and build your brand?
In this article, I’ll take you step-by-step through everything you need to know to produce a successful Instagram Live stream. You’ll learn all about Instagram Live’s features and settings, as well as how to plan and promote your broadcast.
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What is Instagram Live?
Instagram Live is a feature that works within Instagram Stories and allows users to broadcast live videos to other users on the platform.
Instagram Stories are shown at the top of the feed. Any accounts that are currently live will include the “Live” icon.
This notification can be a huge help in exposing your broadcasts to more of your followers.
Plus, your audience can submit their questions and comments on your video in real-time. This can be a great way to get insights and feedback directly from people who matter to your business.
Moreover, you can now post Sticker Q&A’s into your Live Instagram Stories.
Before, it was overwhelming to go through all the questions in the comments during a live session, but now a simple question box allows you to easily sift through questions to answer throughout the live video.
You can take advantage of this feature by posting a Question Sticker on your Instagram Story before hosting a live session on Instagram.
Once Live, tap on the “question mark button” at the bottom of your screen to start answering.
To top it off, after you’ve finished broadcasting your Instagram Live video, you can post it to your Story, where it will be available for 24 hours.
Still, Instagram Live’s potential goes far beyond these tactics.
For example, you can stream Instagram Live to both mobile and desktop users.
For the purpose, you just need to go live, and Instagram will place a magenta-colored “Live” button at the right of your account in the Instagram Stories panel.
So, when someone opens Instagram on the web and views the Instagram Stories panel, they’ll know that you are hosting a live session.
Instagram Live video does away with the crevasse that sits between those who broadcast and those who consume. It provides intuitive real-time interactivity and collaboration. This means it’s the ultimate tool for building strong relationships with customers.
For example, if you plan to go live every Thursday at 7 pm, you can promote this weekly event to your audience. Then, in time, your more engaged followers will look forward to each Instagram Live video.
Step 2: Identify Your Goal
To get the most out of your Instagram Live videos, it’s important to know exactly why you’re doing them.
In other words, what are you hoping to achieve from your broadcasts?
And although you might like to do all of those things, it’s best to prioritize one per broadcast. That way, every part of your Instagram Live stream will be aligned with achieving your goal.
It’s also important to make sure that your goal is in line with your overall marketing strategy.
Once you’re clear about your aim and the main call to action that you’ll use throughout your broadcast, you can determine how long you want your broadcast to be, and which topics and themes you’ll cover.
Step 3: Choose a Format
Ain’t nobody got time for “ums” and “ahs.”
By sticking to a format, viewers will know what to expect and you’ll have a basic framework to keep things interesting and moving along.
Here are four popular Instagram live stream formats that you could start with:
→ Host a Q&A Session
Q&As are simple to execute and extremely effective. The entire format is about collaboration with viewers.
By openly responding to questions in real time, viewers can find the answers to the questions they’re most curious about while getting to know the people behind the brand.
→ Launch or Announce Something New
If you’re launching a new product or service or announcing some big news, why not make it a party? You can promote the launch, interact with your followers, and maybe even give away some prizes!
→ Take Viewers Behind the Scenes
Humans are innately curious beings, and we all love to know what goes on behind closed doors. Thankfully, there are tons of ways you can take viewers behind the scenes, such as:
Take advantage of this opportunity to engage your Facebook followers without having to create more content on Facebook Stories.
Step 8: Go Live on Instagram!
Tap “Start Live Video” and Instagram will notify your followers that you’re live. To double-check that you’re live, look for the “Live” icon in the top-left corner of the screen.
If you’d like to check how long you’ve been live, just tap the “Live” icon and it will show you the timer.
Step 9: Switch Between Camera Views
Today, nearly all smartphones are equipped with both front-facing and rear-facing cameras.
Instagram Live allows you to switch between these cameras while you’re live – just like you would on a video call with a friend.
This is awesome.
When you’re live, you’ll often want to share what’s happening in the moment, and your reaction and comments.
So don’t be afraid to switch it up to keep it interesting!
Step 10: Go Live with Another Account
In August 2017, Instagram released the “Go Live with a Friend” feature. It enables you to add another Instagram account to your broadcast.
This feature is especially useful for conducting interviews or collaborations.
To go live with another account, tap the icon featuring two smiley faces and select who you’d like to go live with. Then tap “Add.”
The other user will receive a notification telling them that you want them to be in your live video. They can then tap “Go Live with @yourusername” or decline the invitation.
Plus, if any of your viewers want to join your Instagram Live video, they can hit the “Request” button in the comments section.
When this happens, you’ll see a notification for each request in the comments section.
Simply tap “View” and then accept or decline the request. If you accept, you’ll have a moment to prepare before the screen is split in half and you are live together.
The icon with two smiley faces will also have a red number showing how many requests you have.
Just tap the icon to see both requests and current viewers. Here, you can either accept a viewer’s request or invite a viewer to join you.
Step 11: Use Face Filters
Your Instagram Live streams won’t always go according to plan – it is live after all.
So, if you encounter a slow patch or you feel the excitement drop, take advantage of face filters. This feature lets you inject a little fun and humor into your broadcast.
To use them, tap the smiley icon with the stars. Then scroll along to find new filters to try!
If you’re looking for a safe bet, start with the puppy ears face filter. Instagram revealed it to be the most-used face filter followed by:
Love with heart-shaped darts
Instagram Live streams are all about connecting, engaging, and relating to your audience in real-time.
So don’t forget to interact in the comments.
If possible, have someone dedicated to answering comments during the broadcast. If this isn’t possible, you can still ask viewers to submit questions and answer them as you go along.
And don’t forget to address commenters and thank some individual viewers by name for joining the stream.
Plus, you can try and use a few Question Stickers to see if it improves your overall engagement.
These simple techniques can be extremely powerful.
Not only will you receive more comments, the dynamic will become more intimate and you’ll also make viewers feel valued. At this point, it’s not you broadcasting to them – instead, it’s a collaborative conversation where you’re all hanging out together.
Step 13: Share Your Instagram Live Stream
While you’re live, make sure to ask viewers to share your live stream and invite others to join you.
If there’s someone in particular that you’d like to share your Instagram Live stream with, you can notify them directly.
To do this, just tap the paper airplane icon and select who you’d like to share your Instagram Live with. Then add a message and hit “Send.”
Step 14: End Your Instagram Live Video
Before you go, be sure to thank viewers for tuning in.
This is also a good time to present a call to action, such as asking viewers to sign up to your mailing list to be notified about future Instagram Live videos, or to follow you on Twitter where you’ll answer questions for another 30 minutes.
When you’re ready, just tap “End” to finish your Instagram Live video.
Step 15: Save and Share Your Instagram Live Video
Once you’ve finished your broadcast, you can save your Instagram Live video to your phone’s camera roll by tapping the “Save” icon.
This can be useful if you think you might like to use snippets of the Instagram Live video in future content. Plus, after a few broadcasts, you can compile the best clips to create an Instagram Live trailer which you can use to promote upcoming broadcasts.
Keep in mind that only the video is saved, and not interactions like comments, likes, and views.
Next, tap “Share” at the bottom of the screen to add your Instagram Live video to your Story so users can view it for 24 hours.
If you don’t want to share your Instagram Live video to your Story, just tap the toggle and choose “Discard,” and your live video will disappear from the app.
Once you’ve shared your Instagram Live video to your Story, followers will see the “Play” icon added to your Story image.
Then, they can tap your Story to watch the video and see comments and likes from the original broadcast.
They can also tap the right or left side of the screen to jump forward or back 15 seconds or tap “Send Message” to reply. If you share multiple Instagram Live replays, viewers will see arrows at the top of the screen to easily jump between videos.
Lastly, when watching your own replay, the number of viewers shown will include everyone who saw it live and in Stories.
Step 16: Post Your Instagram Live Video to IGTV
Until May 2020, you could only share Instagram Live videos as Stories, but they’d be broken up into 15-second clips and disappear after 24 hours.
Today, you can share your Instagram Live video to IGTV as soon as the broadcast is over, courtesy of new updates to the video application.
The option comes at a time when a number of creatives and users are turning to Instagram Live in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whether it’s a yoga lesson, a recipe class, or a virtual concert – live video has become an important channel for creators and audiences to connect with each other.
Given this increase in consumption of live video, sharing your content on IGTV is a great way to reach new audiences and extend the availability of your broadcasts.
To share a recording of your Instagram Live video, select the “Share to IGTV” option after your broadcast ends, select a cover photo for the video, and hit publish.
When using IGTV for Instagram Live, keep these things in mind:
Your viewers will be recounted once you share the Instagram Live video to IGTV.
Live video recordings won’t include any comments or reactions from your original Instagram Live video.
There’s no way to trim or edit your live broadcast before posting it to IGTV.
Despite the few shortcomings, sharing live videos to IGTV is a great way to archive your content so your audiences can catch them more than 24 hours later.
Instagram Live is a fantastic tool to reach and engage your audience in a compelling and intimate way.
And with live video becoming a larger part of people’s daily communications, getting to grips with this powerful medium now is certain to pay dividends in the future.
For best results:
Plan ahead of time. Make sure you know what you hope to achieve, what call to action you’ll promote, and what format you’ll use.
Make sure to promote your Instagram Live stream before and after the event.
Finally, have fun and don’t worry too much about making mistakes – remember, it’s live!
“It’s important to remember that viewers aren’t expecting to see a Broadway actor recite a powerful monologue,” says Jasmine Star, a marketing and branding consultant.
“Don’t feel the pressure of perfection (namely because perfection doesn’t exist in the online streaming world), and instead opt for: 1. Clarity of message; and 2. Approachability.”
Go for it!
Before you leave, have you used Instagram Live before? Let us know about your experience in the comments below!
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Thomas J Law
Thomas is a B2B content writer specializing in SaaS, ecommerce, and digital marketing. To learn more about how Thomas can help you achieve your goals, visit his website at tomjlaw.com.