How to find a high converting Shopify theme for your online store

by Michael P. Hill

How to find a high converting Shopify theme for your online store

When searching for the perfect Shopify theme for your store, it’s important to consider not only how a theme looks and functions, but also how its features, design and functionality help with boosting conversions — and make you sales.

However, with such a wide variety of themes available from a variety of sources, it can be hard to sort through the noise and find a Shopify theme that will not only make your store look great, but increase the likelihood of making sales.

Best practices

Most of the highest converting Shopify themes will use tried and true best practices for both web design and ecommerce design, including:

  • Large photo galleries
  • Easy to see “add to cart” and other action buttons
  • Well thought out placement of product descriptions
  • Clear and easy ways to check out after adding an item to the cart

While it may seem that “best practices” mean that many Shopify themes have a similar layout and framework, there’s a reason for that.

Best practices aim to reduce the “cognitive load” on the end user — the online shopper, in this instance — by sticking to conventions for placement, icons, interactions and wording, so that elements in the shop are familiar to the shopper, even if they’re visiting your site for the first time. They will immediately grasp the “lay of the land” without having to think too much about it, and can just get on with shopping.

High converting Shopify themes

These layouts and approaches to design are used because they’ve been proven to be effective in not only engaging customers in your store but also making them start down the conversion funnel — and, hopefully, ultimately become a customer by making a purchase.

The best practices have been used across tens of thousands of online stores — and have resulted in countless sales.

In general, theme developers with multiple themes in the official Shopify theme store are more likely to have these best practices “baked in” to their themes, because Shopify requires an extensive review process before a theme is accepted into the store.

Themes in the official theme store are also required to meet and maintain a minimum sales threshold — so designers and Shopify try to ensure that every theme offered in the store follows best practices so it will be widely adopted.

While other Shopify theme marketplaces may offer what appear to be more exciting or creative Shopify themes, it’s important to remember that these themes may have little to no review before being put on sale.

In many cases, these themes only sell a handful of copies — if even that — because, not only may the design or code quality be lower, and the support services less reliable, but the theme ultimately doesn’t convert visitors into customers.

Gimmicks don’t always equal sales

Many Shopify themes, especially ones sold by theme developers who don’t meet the stringent requirements to sell at least one theme in the official Shopify theme store, use a variety of features that may be very intriguing:

  • Unique, non-traditional navigation systems
  • Alternative collection or product page layouts
  • Different takes on how customers add products to the cart
  • So-called “mobile first” features

However, by definition, many of these features may look slick but they are actually little more than fancy window dressing that do little to help increase sales — and can even cause conversion rates to plummet.

More advanced designs and features in Shopify themes typically haven’t had the advantage of being tested across as many stores — so it’s a bit of a wildcard as to how they will perform.

In fairness. these design approaches aren’t always necessarily “bad” and, could, in some cases, by effective — but may be “ahead of their time” or too confusing or complex for your shoppers to use.

It’s essential that you know your target audience and their style, in order to weigh the cost of going with a really unusual theme or design — will it truly speak to them and be more likely to convert, or will it just be unexpected and confusing, ultimately leading to lost sales?

Quality Shopify themes that make sales

High converting doesn’t mean boring

At first glance, it may seem like using Shopify themes that use ecommerce best practices means that your store won’t look unique.

This isn’t the case.

First, while the basic “grid” or “structure” of your site may look similar to others — ultimately these layouts work for the the majority of Shopify store owners, so they are a great starting point, especially if you’re new to the ecommerce game.

A full featured, flexible Shopify theme will come with a variety of settings that you can easily edit, such as typography, colors and other elements of your store to match your brand.

Other elements that can have a big impact and give your store a unique look without affecting design best practices are the use of quality photography and other imagery.

Finally, at the end of the day, if your store is making sales, having a store that has a similar basic layout as others ultimately doesn’t matter. Don’t let your own desire or personal preferences to have a more unique look stand in the way of interfering with proven best practices.

Making a decision

Shopify theme high conversion rates

Ultimately, however, the choice of your theme should be a business decision you make not only based on your store’s needs — but also considering your audience.

For example, if your store targets a highly tech savvy audience, it’s entirely possible that your shoppers will not only understand and appreciate innovative features and designs, but they could increase your sales.

That said, it’s important to not let your own personal preferences or goal of having the slickest site around get in the way of having a store that has the best chance to convert. Even if you consider yourself the “target” audience, it’s still worth considering how a certain theme may resonate with your actual shoppers.

For most stores where the typical shopper is looking for a straightforward way to browse your products, add an item to the cart and buy it, tried and true Shopify themes can be the best route to go, especially if you’re a new store and not exactly sure who your target audience is yet.

Michael P. Hill
Michael P. Hill

Michael P. Hill is a Shopify, Shopify theme, content marketing, digital marketing and product management expert based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelphill or connect on LinkedIn. While comments and feedback are always appreciated, Michael regrets that, due to the volume of inquires received, personal responses are not possible. For specific assistance or support with Out of the Sandbox themes, visit the help center.



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