Getting started with an ecommerce site and knowing where to start can seem overwhelming particularly if you have no prior experience. This could be the reason why Shopify has become the most popular ecommerce platform in the world offering “themes” to help any business owner set up an attractive and responsive site in no time with limited knowledge.
Although Shopify has made the process of building a site simple, in doing so they have created so many options when it comes to themes that it can be difficult to decipher which is the best for your business and what will help you serve your customers best.
We spoke with Shopify experts at Chorus Commerce to bring together our list of the top 6 premium Shopify themes available in their app store, who are they best suited for and importantly what they offer which could help improve your ecommerce site.
What are Shopify themes and how can they help?
Shopify themes are templates that can be used with Shopify to help style your site, improve user experience and allow you to display your products in the best way possible.
The theme you choose will depend on the style of your store, your industry and how many products you sell.
There are hundreds of themes to choose from with Shopify which can make it hard to choose a design that works for you, which is why we’ve collated the top 6 premium Shopify themes for retail businesses in 2021.
All of the themes have been tried and tested by Shopify themselves meaning they are mobile responsive so they work well on both mobile and desktop which is essential in 2021.
One great feature with Shopify is that you can try premium themes before buying them, allowing you to test out a few themes to make sure you get the right fit before publishing your site online.
Why should I use a premium theme over a free theme
With Shopify, you have two options, free and premium paid themes.
Free themes are a great starting point for new Shopify users and small retailers, it costs nothing to choose a free theme and start selling online. They offer plenty of functionality and design capabilities out of the box.
For more information on free themes and the best options available check out our guide to the 5 best free Shopify themes for retailers.
Premium paid themes are a great option for brands looking to take their ecommerce store to the next level. Paid themes offer better flexibility, more options to scale your site, better product catalogues, more filtering options, and generally better designs out of the box. Add your branding to one of the paid themes and you can really set yourself apart from your competitors.
Premium themes also offer direct support from the theme creator so you can get some help along the way when getting setup.
Choosing a theme with strong design should be a huge factor in your decision, as many as 75% of customers don’t trust poorly designed websites. First impressions are important and 95% of these impressions are based on the appearance and design of your site.
With a premium theme, you will have more built-in features, a smoother check out process and greater mobile usability which not only works well for design but directly impacts your SEO performance and Google ranking.
Let’s take a look at how you can choose a premium theme for your Shopify ecommerce site.
Key points to consider when choosing your Shopify theme
With so much choice, what should you be looking for when you are choosing the right theme for your ecommerce store?
We spoke with Mark Kelso, a Shopify expert and director of Chorus Commerce , to help you focus on what really matters when choosing your Shopify theme.
He recommended looking at four key areas before making a final decision with your theme.
Put simply, your homepage is the window to your ecommerce store, it needs to look good.
Your homepage is the first impression visitors will have of your store and therefore it is important to make sure it is clean, easy to navigate, and accurately reflects your brand.
When choosing your Shopify theme, make sure it gives you the opportunity to add your branding, that it lets you display your products, and it lets you clearly message what you’re all about on the home page.
We’ve found the best performing websites do this well, and it really helps improve your ecommerce sales.
Some features you’ll want to have for your homepage include:
- Clean navigation - less is more when it comes to your menu.
- Strong focus on images (this could be a large featured image block).
- Product categories - the option to display the categories of products you sell.
- Products - single products that you want to highlight on the homepage, like your best sellers.
Customisable Page Templates
One of the biggest mistakes made with Shopify sites is the lack of customisation. These themes, although are a great way to build out your ecommerce site, making it look professional are intended to be customised.
Far too often businesses will simply upload their images and change the titles and when considering there are hundreds of thousands of businesses using the platform all using the same themes you need to ensure you are making your store unique to your brand.
Particularly if you are a business wanting to invest in SEO and building the community aspect of your business with a blog, consider the blogging functionality of the theme you choose.
Some themes offer more page customisation than others, so if you’re going to be building a blog you will want to ensure you can add images and grids so as to appeal to a wider audience.
Most important page templates to look for:
- Home page - we just covered this in detail, but your homepage is super important, so choose it wisely.
- Strong category pages - make sure your category pages focus on your product imagery, and that you have plenty of filtering options.
- Single product page - single product pages are where you sell your product, make sure you can add product details, images, reviews and recommended products (a great way to increase sales).
- Blog (not required, but super useful for SEO).
- About page - this can often be overlooked, but a good “about us” page, or “story” page can really build brand trust with your audience, and it’s let’s them know what you’re all about.
Advanced search features
Considering 43% of visitors when online shopping head directly for the search bar it is important that you take the search into consideration when choosing your Shopify theme.
This will be dependent on the size of your product catalogue and what it is that you sell but your search will determine how easy it is for visitors to navigate through your store and find the products they need.
Some themes will also offer fuzzy search (predictive search i.e the algorithm understands query even if misspelled) which will increase the usability of your site and ensure customers have the best experience with your site.
Most important things to look for:
- Easy to use search functionality, preferably in the menu.
- Good search page.
- If the theme has fuzzy search, it’s a good bonus as it provides better contextual results.
Something else to consider when choosing your theme if you intend to sell globally is offering multi-currency. Some Shopify themes will allow visitors to toggle between different currencies removing the need to work out the exchange rate themselves.
This makes it easy for customers to browse through your products and drives home that your business operates internationally.
Top 6 Premium Shopify themes
User score: 70%.
Best for: Larger retail stores, homeware shops, food suppliers.
Our favourite features: Clean design, responsive search.
Empire is a theme primarily targeted at bigger stores with a large catalogue of products. This theme is intended to mimic the likes of ecommerce giants Amazon and is focused on displaying as many products as possible.
Empire offers a huge number of plug-ins and customisation options.
If using this theme it is expected that you will have a great number of products and therefore they have made it easy for visitors to navigate through your site and filter content with a highly responsive search bar and fuzzy search.
Empire also allows visitors to get specific with their searching filtering products on everything from, style and colour to price making it simple for them to find what they need in your store no matter the size of your catalogue.
Although Empire is focused on those stores with large numbers of products, the theme is still clean and attractive, not overpowering the user with content. There is also the ability to add promotional tiles seamlessly so that you can subtly promote products, advertise discounts and show offers without appearing “spammy” enticing visitors to take action.
With Empire, you will be able to create the simplest buying experience for your visitors. If offering the option of click and collect there is the ability to engage local shoppers, highlighting the spots where kerbside pick up is available.
Also with Empire theme you will be able to add image hotspots on images so that shoppers can click to get more context on items easily and quickly buy if they prefer. This is great for encouraging purchases in your blog, and it’s a great way to link products together.
User score: 93%.
Best for: Clothing brands, Jewelry stores.
Our favourite features: Clean and simple design, high resolution images, customer testimonials and comments.
Broadcast is another popular theme with a focus on strong product photography. Broadcast is a common choice for fashion retailers, as it allows you to showcase products in a beautiful way and is for businesses focused on style.
If you are a clothing retailer, you will be able to take advantage of this themes video banner and lookbook features in order to better showcase your products. Broadcast offers a larger number of customisation features, but it’s real strength is for stores who are wanting to keep their design simple and clean.
Broadcast is focused on simplicity which is also applicable to how visitors interact with their site. This theme offers quick view options allowing customers to view certain products without having to leave their page and also enables colour swatches so visitors can easily toggle through a variety of colour variations of certain items.
Something users loved about this theme is how it allows them to interact with their customers and build their communities. Broadcast offers the ability to turn on user comments on it’s blog section as well as a space within the site for customer testimonials allowing you to build buyer confidence & trust which is super important for ecommerce stores.
User score: 95%.
Best for: Clothing brands, outdoor brands, bike and athletic stores.
Our favourite features: Mega menu, responsive search, built in multi-currency.
Impulse is another Shopify theme targeted at businesses that are heavily invested in image and brand photography. This theme however also supports those businesses with larger product catalogues offering mega menu options and a highly responsive search bar.
With Impulse you will get an attractive design but also the option to add a huge amount of content, from your product catalogue to promotional side bars and headers. Your visitors will be able to navigate easily using this Impulse with it’s extensive menu options as well as its custom collection sidebar listings.
If you are serving a global market this theme will allow your visitors to choose their preferred currency to view products and also if local they can check out possible pick up locations if you offer click and collect.
Impulse's ability to offer multi currency gives your international customers a smoother buying experience which can help improve ecommerce sales.
User score: 93%
Best for: Craft stores, designers, clothing brands, Jewellery stores.
Our favourite features: Simple navigation and search, gives options for sale price display, customisable blog.
Symmetry is a theme which is ideal for those shores looking to have more fun and customisable elements with their design which is why it is ideally targeted at craft shops and designers.
Upon looking at this design you will see elements that are reminiscent of highstreet giants such as Oliver Bonas which is why it has become so popular.
On your homepage you will have the ability to use large images and video content to best showcase your products as well as utilise Symmetrys long-form homepage design.
Unlike many other themes available, Symmetry allows users to organise a large level of content on their homepage in an organised fashion. You can feature blog posts, promotional content or products right on your homescreen within reorderable page rows allowing you to grab a visitors attention without appearing spammy or unprofessional.
Despite being focused on looks, symmetry is not style over substance by any means. With functionalities there to organise your content and create a simple navigation through your site it’s a powerful theme.
One of the stand out features of this theme is it’s multi level menus allowing customers to filter through your products simply and browse all the different items you have on offer.
On the note of user experience Symmetry also offers a quick buy function so that customers can get a better look at products and add them directly to their baskets without having to leave the main product page. This function is particularly useful when considering mobile usability making it easier for customers to scroll through a page and buy with just the click of their thumb.
User score: 99%.
Best for: Small retail brands, Jewelry stores, specialist beauty, artisan food products.
Our favourite features: Modern and clean design, effective navigation and search bar, optimised for larger images.
If you are searching for a clean and modern looking store without overpowering design features, Showcase could be the ideal theme for your business.
Showcase theme is focused on businesses with smaller product catalogues who have attractive and high quality product imagery. It is optimised for larger images and therefore ideal if you are wanting to (as the name suggests) showcase your products through high resolution images or the homepage video functionality.
Whilst Showcase offers a simpler design, it includes some of the best functionalities found on other themes such as a multi level menu and sticky navigation. Even with smaller product catalogues this theme will ensure you visitors can nativage through your site with ease and find exactly what they need quickly.
Showcase is all about showing off your products and imagery and if you are a business where this detail is a focus, this theme’s full screen product gallery will serve you perfectly. Customers will be able to see exactly what you have on offer, get the full experience and be able to examine the details of your products with ease.
User score: 85%.
Best for: Crowdfunding, technical products, specialist products, designer items.
Our favourite features: Technical spec section, Goal tracking tools, customer testimonials and reviews.
So what if you only have a product catalogue of 1-5 products, is there a theme suitable for micro catalogues? Launch is the perfect theme for business with a very small and specialised product range particularly for technical businesses with concepts that are more difficult to articulate.
Launch allows you to be incredibly descriptive offering video content on the homepage to help explain or demonstrate the value of the products on offer.
Something unique to the launch theme is it’s modular-style homepage which allows users to add detailed descriptions, customer testimonials or often technical specs to help explain the features of products.
This theme is designed primarily for business involved in crowdfunding and therefore they have made it simple to track goals through the site which can be relayed across the homepage and other sections on the site.
With the inclusion of video content and high resolution imagery, this theme makes it easy to tell your brand's story and present your value proposition.
Final note to remember
It’s important to remember that within the Shopify theme store there are around 150-180 different themes available all of which have been tried and tested and therefore a great way to start your online store.
When it comes to choosing your theme you should ask yourself these simple questions. How large is your product catalogue? Do you have good images? How do you customers like to shop with you and what value they will get from your page? All these questions will affect your choice.
It is important to remember to make any theme you choose your own with branding. When looking at themes you need to remember that these templates should not simply be replicated with your business name. Look at a theme and consider how it could look with your products and branding.
Also make sure you consider where your business is going and how you want it to grow with your ecommerce store, make sure it’s scaleable. You may only sell a few products now but you don’t want to be restricted in the long run by a theme specifically for small catalogues.
Thankfully with Shopify you can build your entire store whilst testing the theme (or multiple themes), you only have to start paying for it once you go live.
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