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How To Build An eCommerce Website

Kas Andz

October 12, 2021

Table of Contents

8 Steps To Building An eCommerce Website

Build Ecommerce Site

eCommerce is exciting, the latest and greatest way to shop these days. With more than $2 trillion annually being spent, the sky is truly the limit.

Whether you’re considering opening a new business or have an existing one already, the need for a digital presence, beyond the brick and mortar shop is not only a bonus to your business, but may very well easily become the core and essentials of your business.

Before we get into how to build an eCommerce store, let’s look at some of the benefits.

  • Less overhead: Your website replaces that store front leading to savings oncosts for staff, rent, electricity and more.
  • Better control over inventory: With everything being digital, following your inventory levels is instantaneous and easier to manage.
  • Tracking: Tracking sales, historical tracking and an overall business view is made that much easier with digital works.

The 12 steps to building an eCommerce Store

1. Purchase A Domain Name.

Nothing crazy here, but your website has to live somewhere. Go to a registrar such as namecheap.com and find the name of your website. If you already own a store, you’ll want this name to be as close as possible to your current name for consistency. For example, if your business name is “SportsWear” you may want to try and get SportsWear.com …if its not available, you’ll need something close, something like SportsWearOnline.com or even use a different Top Level Domain (TLD), such as .net

Most domains will cost you less than $9/year to maintain, so it’s the easiest investment from that standpoint.

2. Choose A Platform 

You will need a platform to run your eCommerce business from. Firstly, you technically can do it from scratch with a programmer, but we strongly do not recommend going this way as it often leads to longer starting  times, higher costs , and difficult maintenance. If for some reason you need a highly customised platform that no other platform (see below) can provide) then this may be the only option.

If you’re looking for a plug and play option, we recommend Shopify due to its ease of use, unlimited and unbridaled support lines, and finally its plugins that enable you to customize it almost any way you want and can think of. Shopify also works with any niche, so it’s really the best option in our opinion.

There are others who specialise in plug and play eCommerce platforms, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Wix Stores: Wix stores, presented by the same folks that brought you Wix itself would be our 2nd choice for providers. The system prides itself on Wix’s platform making an easy to access editor and backend system. Wix Stores promotes 500,000+ customers (so still way behind Shopify) but they are growing at a great speed. Wix Stores doesn’t yet have the reach of Shopify in terms of 3rd party connections but does work well within its own platform. If you are already using Wix, then this may be an option if you’re looking for a lower level eCommerce platform compared to Shopify.

Wix’s Vertices

Arts & Design

Food & Beverage

Beauty & Cosmetics

Fashion & Apparel

Sporting Goods

Toys & Games

Square One: Square One is designed for smaller businesses looking to get off the ground. It has a simplistic website designer functionality that is great for less tech savvy members. The challenge (compared to Shopify) is that once you’ve grown out of your britches, you’ll probably need to migrate to Shopify or another solution. For obvious reasons, we still go with Shopify.

BigCommerce: BigCommerce is all in its name, a platform polar opposite from Square One, designed for large scale eCommerce stores. Their specialty is SEO (making sure you’re found online) which is super important when you’re looking to be found compared to Amazon. A great solution, but we prefer Shopify which  also gives superior SEO and all its other features.

BigCommerce Verticals

Fashion & Apparel

Health & Beauty

Sporting Goods

Food & Beverage

Home Furnishing

Automotive

B2B (wholesale & distribution)

CBD

Squarespace: Squarespace (not to be confused with Square One) is an excellent platform that offers state of the art templates for building your website and promises hassle free experience. This is a great option for artsy and perhaps more sophisticated product lines. Shopify provides great templates as well as several more integration options to make your experience second to none.

Squarespace’s Verticals

Arts & Design

Food & Beverage

Beauty & Cosmetics

Fashion & Apparel

Toys & Games

Network Solutions: Network Solutions is designed for small businesses but does require you to be more technologically savvy in terms of hosting and other nitty gritty items that Shopify takes care of automatically for you. The benefits are price and the discounts available for this solution, but we prefer the package that Shopify offers.

Web.com: Web.com is one of the older solutions similar to Shopify. Web.com boasts easy to create websites and overall website management. The infrastructure is designed again for small businesses which means that once you are successful instead of a simple upgrade, you will probably need to migrate to something else, namely Shopify. 

WordPress: Yes, WordPress itself has its own eCommerce platform. WordPress, which has a commanding presence in terms of websites that use its functions,  has added a new solution to their eCommerce platform. The issue is the same as for the usual WordPress platform, it’s difficult to use unless you are tech savvy, even at the developer level. The SEO benefits are natural, but unless you know what you’re doing, you’ll need serious tech support. Shopify blows this one out of the water.

Magento: Magento ranks for SMB businesses that have already achieved presence, as well as brand recognition, developers and skill to build your own site. The platform is indeed very powerful and has over 5,000 optional extensions. Sounds nice, but requires a much longer development time and a bigger budget than most of its competitors. Shopify takes the cake in terms of power and simplicity.

Magento’sVertices

Beauty & Cosmetics

Consumer Electronics

Fashion & Apparel

Food & Beverage

Home Furnishing

Sporting goods

WooCommerce: WooCommerce is an open-source WordPress plugin owned and developed by WordPress (see above). It is one of the most popular eCommerce options on the market and runs on 30% of all stores on the internet. The challenge being the building and maintenance of the site on the WordPress platform which can suck up a lot of development time and cost.

For those willing to put in the time and the coin, WooCommerce has a reputation for being one of the best eCommerce platforms for small businesses (of course that already have a site on WordPress), or who are on a shoestring budget, but still want a good online presence. It has 1000s of 3rd party themes and plugins, giving it a great deal of flexibility to accommodate most needs. Shopify boasts the same positives without having to deal with WordPress and can scale for large businesses as well.

Woo Commerce’s Vertices

Beauty & Cosmetics

Consumer Electronics

Fashion & Apparel

Food & Beverage

Home Furnishing

Big Cartel: Big Cartel is an eCommerce platform by artists, for artists. This SaaS site builder focuses on creators who need a place to sell artwork, clothing, jewelry, and photo prints. An excellent solution if you are working within this particular niche with beautiful templates to choose from.

Big Cartel excels at being one of the best eCommerce platforms for artists and aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking for another option to Etsy. Big Cartel knows their niche and the builder itself is simple to use, and helps artists put their best foot forward.

Shopify’s templates match 1 to 1 as well as having more available plugins and 3rd party solutions to match any need.

Big Cartel’s Vertices

Arts & Design

Clothing & Apparel

Makers

Photographers

Salesforce Commerce Cloud  Salesforce Commerce Cloud is a high level eCommerce platform that offers a complete range of features, plugins, integrations, and capabilities that make it a perfect fit for international companies that process several millions of dollars in orders. 

Salesforce Commerce Cloud excels at being the choice for enterprise companies with complex requirements. Again, this is not for beginners and indeed a complicated but highly able solution that has many solutions to cover practically any business application, whether B2C or B2B. In addition, as a Salesforce product, Commerce Cloud benefits from Salesforce’s robust platform.

The downside (if you couldn’t have guessed) is that it’s complicated. Shopify keeps it simple and is robust enough to keep up with even the fabled Salesforce!

Salesforce’s Vertices

Beauty & Cosmetics

Fashion & Apparel

Sporting Goods

Toys & Games

Food & Beverage

Cars & Automotive

Parts & Manufacturing

Chemicals

Other B2B applications

Volusion: Volusion, first created before the turn of the millennium back in 1999, is one of the longest-lasting eCommerce platforms in the market. It still remains popular despite its competition with the creation of recent competitors like Shopify, with over 30,000 stores using the system and having generated over $28 billion in sales. 

Volusion is the best when it comes to eCommerce platforms for new companies and startups and small businesses who want to get started quickly but still have room to grow within their chosen option. Unlike other solutions that require you to go through an app store or integration, many important features are already included as part of the standard dashboard. Volusion shows its age in many areas, but it’s still a robust system that serves most business needs. While Volusion holds its own, it doesn’t hold its candle to how far Shopify has progressed both in capabilities and in popularity.

Volusion’s Vertices

Beauty & Cosmetics

Consumer Electronics

Fashion & Apparel

Food & Beverage

Home Furnishing

Sporting goods

This is a lot of information, but keep in mind that you don’t want to migrate to another solution later on, hence again, we recommend Shopify for all of your eCommerce needs.

3. Get All The Paperwork You Need For A Legitimate Business.

For new businesses that didn’t pre-exist, every business needs to be registered with your local city, state, or country. Before you get started, contact your local authorities and ask them what you will need to make your new business happen.

In most locations it’s a fairly straightforward process and the registration tends to be smooth. Remember, you’re creating a business, and that means jobs, government authorities are happy with that!

You may need a business plan before opening the business or other documents at the ready. Again contact your local authorities and get all the information. This is one area you cannot afford to skimp on!

As well, depending on the type of business you are running, you may qualify for special categorisation of business which may entitle you to various discounts or other benefits. Make sure you get all the information down.

4. Find A Theme That Matches Your eCommerce Vision.

Shopping is an experience, both in brick and mortar stores as well as online. If you walk into a Bed Bath and Beyond and the colour scheme is all dark and gray, it’s not going to give you the feel or look that would invite your desired buyer in to want to buy. 

Shopping online is the same. Bed Bath and Beyond’s physical stores are going to want to look a lot like their digital counterparts as well; warm and inviting. 

Shopify (as well as others) have 100s of themes to choose from to make sure that the look and feel that your site visitors experience is the same as the products and services you offer. 

5. Prepare Your Products.

You have got your business papers, your website, and your theme. Now it’s time to add products (or services)! Most platforms grant you easy access to build products and product variants for your store. This is probably the most tedious (but also the most important) part of building your eCommerce store…the actual stuff you’re selling!. 

Make sure that each product has a few images to go with it and make sure to explain each product as much as possible to give your site visitors the information they need to make the right purchasing decisions for them. 

Remember, if you’re selling something that has variants, things like size or colour (shirts for example) make sure that they are all stored and located in your shop in the correct position so that it’s easy to find. Most builders allow you to build a “main” product like “t-shirt” and then make variants that go along with it such as size (large, medium, small) to color (blue, green, yellow).

As we said, this will take probably the most time, but you’re doing it for your customers, and ultimately yourself.

Before you begin the process, we recommend you map out how you want things to look, such as building departments “clothing”, “sports gear” etc, this will give you an easier time building the products because you know where everything goes.

Tags: most builders let you add tags to your listings. This enables your products to be found easier on search within your site. We highly recommend this option.

6. SEO

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is going to be key in the eCommerce industry. When people go and search for a product, you want your product and store to show up first. SEO is hard work and is a technical science of how to work with the various search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo! etc.). 

The basic idea is to have the keywords on the page that people are searching for, for example, if someone is searching for “Summer t-shirts” you’ll want those exact words in that exact order appearing on your website for your t-shirts.  

Web tools like SEMRush tell you which keyword strings are most used.

It can get complicated, which is why we recommend using a marketing agency to help you out (also so you can run your business). You’ll as well need help with other ad formats such as email marketing, PPC and more.

7. Ways To Pay

So far, great job! You’ve gotten registered, made your site, and people are ready to buy! Wait! What are they using to buy with? 

This is a balancing game, the more ways you have for your customers to pay, the better off you are (they’ll never get stuck with a way they can’t pay). This is usually the best path.

Many vendors like yourself tend to shy away from certain pay methods like American Express, simply because the transaction fee is much higher than its competitors. 

You need to see what’s right for you, but again, usually, the more accessible ways to pay, the merrier.

8. Fulfillment

Once the customer has found the product, added it to their cart and paid for it, you now have to do the dubious task of sending them the product!

Depending on the size of your operation, you’ll either need to self store your products for sale or get a warehouse. Most eCommerce stores tend to use space in existing warehouses around the country (Amazon is a popular one) to fulfill their orders. Shopify and most other platforms have an automatic connection to Amazon and other warehouses that you’ll need to set up as a part of your build. 

FAQs

Should I use eCommerce platforms like Shopify?

If you have limited time or expertise and a minimal budget, it would be an excellent idea to go for the eCommerce platforms like Shopify or Wix. They are your simplest-to-use tools to start selling online.

You can improve how your website works on these platforms by implementing conversion rate optimization and search engine optimization efforts. 

However, the best way is still to build your website from scratch. Fully custom eStores are not limited by what any platform allows.

Also, eCommerce platforms are usually more product-conducive than subscription or service-ready.

How can I make sure that people will buy from me?

Consumers today are looking for the easiest way to get goods and services. So what you should do is to remove as many barriers as possible from them getting what they want.

Look at your eStore in the eyes of a shopper and see what you have to add or remove to make things easier for you. The best principle to guide you are conversion rate optimization practices.

What can I do about cart abandonment?

Cart abandonment is a regular problem that all eStores have. And some studies say that stores will have up to 80% of cart abandonment.

However, you shouldn’t worry too much about it because people leave their carts for many reasons, and about half of the time, it’s personal. For example, someone had something more important to do like go number two and rush to the toilet.

But, of course, you won’t want to lose potential customers. To recover abandoned carts, you can use email marketing.

For example, you can send them an email reminding them of what they were about to purchase and offering them a time-limited discount if they push through with the purchase.

What should I do for a global audience business?

Today’s trend is retail that goes beyond borders and it is simple to create a system by which you can source products from one country and deliver them to another.

What you have to do is follow the same guidelines in this article but, additionally, find a shipping service or system that will allow you to reach your market.

To make things better, you will have to do international search engine optimization because of the keywords in different languages and query styles you will have to consider.

Should I outsource my eCommerce marketing?

Yes. If you are a business owner, your time is most probably already spent on operations.

Hand the technical work to a separate team so you won’t have to stretch yourself managing multiple rigorous tasks.

Marketing has its own entire world of requirements that you cannot do alone while you take on other vital aspects of your business.

Should I engage in social media?

Yes, you verily must engage audiences in social media and other online platforms.

The more places in the digital world you can appear, the wider your net for getting shoppers to use your eCommerce store.

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