A lot can change in a year or two, especially in a fast-paced, fast-growing industry like ecommerce. What seemed fresh and exciting 12 months ago—parallax, hamburger menus, ghost buttons—is now unexceptional, even outdated. These days, mobile is mandatory, micro-moments are all the rage, and the “buy” button is the most important icon on the internet.

For online sellers, the choice is simple: keep up or get left behind.

If you’ve been using the same theme for a year or more, you might be thinking about changing it up. Maybe your current theme doesn’t support all the latest features. Maybe you want more control over your site’s design and functionality. Maybe your business has evolved and your current theme no longer reflects your brand.

The good news is that changing your Shopify theme is a relatively straight-forward process. Before taking the plunge, here are the six steps you should take to ensure a smooth transition:

Identify aspects of your current theme you want to keep.

When your site starts to feel stale and outdated, it can be tempting to tear the whole thing down and start from scratch. Resist. Before doing anything rash, you should take a step back and jot down some notes about your current theme. What’s working? What do you want to change? How has your business evolved since you launched your store?

It’s important to keep a record of any customizations made to your store’s template files. While you won’t lose your navigation, pages, blog posts, products or collections by changing your theme, you will lose any revisions made to your Edit HTML/CSS and Customize theme pages. Users often make on-the-fly changes to these areas and forget about them, so it’s a good idea to review your code and note all the additional snippets of code that have been added.

Conduct a competitive analysis.

Whether you’re selling children’s clothing or juice cleanses or auto parts, one of the best ways to get ahead and stay relevant to your customers is by keeping an eye on your contemporaries and competitors. How else are you going to keep on top of your industry’s hot new products, revolutionary marketing techniques, and winning social media strategies?

Though it’s always good practice to keep up with the Joneses—you can use services like Track Maven and Visual Ping to be notified when competitors update their sites—it’s especially important before making any major changes to your store. Look for things like how they’re displaying products, whether or not they’ve enabled ratings and reviews (if they are, read them!), which payment gateways they’re supporting, what type of navigation they’re using, and other product-specific details. Make a list of everything your competitors are doing differently and then ask yourself: how can I emulate what’s working?

Survey your customers to find out what they think.

If you want to know how to make your store better, ask the people who use it. Surveys are one of the best—and simplest—ways of finding out what matters to your customers. Use an email or onsite survey to ask them what they think about your online store, what’s missing, and what they’d like to see added or changed. Don’t be surprised if they tell you something you’d never have thought of otherwise.

Know what to look for in a theme.

Now that you’ve done your research and nailed down some priority features for your new theme, you’re ready to start browsing Shopify themes. Try not to get too caught up in aesthetics. As we’ve said before: function trumps fashion. Don’t be wooed by beautiful typography and demo images you don’t own and can’t use.

Instead, stick to your list and try filtering for some of those desired features. You can also sort by industry or price point. Shopify has a rigorous submission process that ensures a high quality of design and functionality—but, like everything, you tend to get what you pay for.

Make sure your chosen theme checks all your boxes, pay attention to the reputation of the developer and their customer support, and for the love of algorithms, make sure it’s responsive!

Prepare some new content and photography.

A shiny new theme can do a lot for a store, but it can’t do everything. I mean, have you ever tried putting lipstick on a pig? You can’t just splash a fresh coat of paint over your cumbersome navigation and lacklustre product photography and expect a total transformation. Even the best themes will look mediocre without a good base to work from.

Switching your theme is the perfect time to invest in high-quality, professional photography. Why? Because good photos increase conversion rates. Consumers want to be sure the product they’re looking at matches their expectations, and the bigger, clearer, and more varied the images are, the better they’re able to do that. Create some relevant, compelling content for your blog and homepage—then let your theme work its magic.

Take a “before” snapshot

No, we don’t mean a screenshot for nostalgia’s sake (The WayBack Machine has you covered there). We mean a snapshot of your analytics so you can eventually compare and contrast how your store performed under two different theme designs.

Look at everything, but pay particular attention to the percentage of new visits versus returning visitors, average order value, bounce rate, page views per visit, landing and exit pages, and, of course, conversion rate and total revenue. You may also want to calculate a compound metric like revenue per unique visitor or per session.

In a few months, take an “after” snapshot and see how far you’ve come. Here’s hoping it’s a long way (baby)!

Now comes the fun part!

Dotted your i’s, crossed your t’s and ready to make a change right now? Then go check out our catalogue of best-selling Shopify themes and see if anything catches your eye.

 

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