The COVID-19 pandemic led to an extra $183 billion in online spending over the past year. And this surge in online shopping isn’t likely to slow down any soon, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.
In fact, ecommerce sales are expected to hit $1 trillion in 2022. To make the most out of the current accelerated ecommerce marketplace, you need to start selling online by building an ecommerce website.
If you’re planning to take your business online, I’ve got some good news for you.
Building an ecommerce website has gotten much easier than before. All thanks to the modern website builders and dedicated ecommerce platforms that are extremely user-friendly and cost-effective. They make adding ecommerce functionality to your website as easy as a breeze.
Want to learn more?
This guide to building an ecommerce website will walk you through the step-by-step process to start selling online.
Table of Contents
Why Should You Build an Ecommerce Website?
Before I show you how to start building an ecommerce website, let’s understand why it matters.
Building an ecommerce website can help you reach new markets and continue selling if your brick-and-mortar store has to be closed due to pandemics like COVID-19 or protests.
With an ecommerce website, you can sell your products to consumers around the world. Your business sales will no longer be limited to local consumers.
You can offer unique shopping experiences to your customers online by using artificial intelligence and machine learning. You can give personalized product recommendations and offers with the right messaging on your website and via emails and social media promotions.
Doing so can help improve your conversion rate and, thereby, increase your sales and revenue.
It can also help you build a recognizable brand that consumers trust and look up to. Remember, reputation is everything in the business world.
Your Step-by-Step Guide to Build an Ecommerce Website
Building an ecommerce website is simpler than you may imagine, especially when you’ve got solutions like WordPress and BigCommerce. These solutions can do most of the work for you and help you build an ecommerce site without any coding knowledge.
However, you’ll still need to make many important decisions to plan, create, launch, and promote your ecommerce website.
Let me help you get started.
Step 1: Conduct Market Research to Find Your Niche
First things first, you need to identify what type of products you would like to sell and if there is a decent market demand for those products.
It is also important to consider your interests and passion while choosing your niche. Building a business requires a lot of hard work and persistence. And if you are selling something that you are interested in, it will help you stay motivated.
When you pick a product for your ecommerce business, you should ensure that:
- You have professional experience in related fields and are familiar with the industry
- The product solves a customer pain point.
- People will be interested in your product and will be willing to pay for it.
- Your product idea aligns with the latest trends and demands in your industry.
- Your product has a low investment cost and a good profit margin.
- You have something unique to offer than your potential competitors.
Pro tip: Picking the right products to sell on your ecommerce website is essential to your success. So, take your time deciding which products to sell and to whom.
Step 2: Get a Domain Name
One of the initial steps to take your business online is to pick your business and domain name.
Here are a few tips for selecting a domain name:
- Make sure that it is closely connected to what you sell.
- It will be great if your domain name includes a keyword or a key phrase that helps customers know what you sell up-front. This will also help you rank well in search engines.
- Keep it short.
- It should be easy to type, pronounce, and remember. Avoid using special characters, numbers, hyphens, and creative spellings in your domain name.
- Avoid legal and copyright issues.
- Buy a “.com” domain name as it is the most popular TLD (top-level domain). If it’s not available, you can consider buying “.store” or “.online” domain names.
Once you have a few ideas for your domain name, you can purchase it using GoDaddy, Bluehost, or other domain registrars.
All you need to do is to visit the domain registrar, search for your selected name, and see if the domain name is available.
If you want to run an ecommerce business that sells organic beauty products, you can look for the “organicskincareproducts.com” domain name. You’ll realize that this domain name is already taken.
However, you can buy “.online” and “.store” domain names with the same business name, as suggested by Bluehost or other domain registrars.
Or, you can look for similar alternatives available with the “.com” extension using domain name generators like DomainWheel. Choose any of the suggested names that are relevant to what you want to sell.
Step 3: Buy Web Hosting
The next step to building an ecommerce website is to get a web hosting plan. Bluehost and HostGator are two of the most trusted web hosting providers in the market.
When you’re just starting out, it’s considered best to buy Bluehost’s Basic plan, which is also their most popular plan.
However, when hosting an ecommerce store, I recommend buying Bluehost’s Pro plan that includes options to accept WooCommerce payments, add products, and use pricing templates.
Also, check out: 7 Bluehost Alternatives for Your Business Website
Step 4: Choose Your Ecommerce Platform
There are many options when it comes to deciding on your ecommerce platform. You can either use a website builder, an online store builder, or a dedicated ecommerce platform to set up and run a successful online store.
Let’s discuss some of these options to build your ecommerce store.
Build an Ecommerce Website on WordPress
You can easily build your ecommerce website on WordPress. Hosting providers like Bluehost offer one-click WordPress installation to make it easier for you.
If you have a WordPress website or blog already, you can also turn your existing WordPress site into an online store.
You can install ecommerce plugins such as WooCommerce and BigCommerce to add ecommerce functionality to your WordPress website. This includes adding product pages, secure payment methods, shopping cart and checkout options, shipping options, and more.
Head to Plugins > Add New > search for “WooCommerce” or “BigCommerce” and then install the plugin.
Here’s a list of some of the best WooCommerce plugins for your ecommerce website.
With these plugins, you’ll be able to:
- Choose from enticing themes to finalize your online store’s design.
- Showcase physical and digital products along with their variations, pricing, etc.
- Leverage WordPress’ SEO advantage to rank well in search engines
- Accept secure payments from 100+ payment gateways like Stripe, PayPal, etc.
- Configure shipping options with WooCommerce Shipping solution.
- Automate sales tax calculations.
- Reach your target audience more efficiently with HubSpot, Facebook, and Mailchimp integrations.
Check out 15+ other website builders that you can use to build your ecommerce site.
Build Your Ecommerce Website with Dedicated Ecommerce Platforms
You can also build your online store using dedicated ecommerce platforms such as BigCommerce. It is an intuitive SaaS solution that offers everything you need to build an ecommerce website and sell online.
With BigCommerce, you’ll get:
- Storefront design options such as fully customizable and responsive themes, Page Builder with a visual editor, checkout customization, mobile optimization, etc.
- 70+ discounts and promotions options
- Custom product recommendations
- Digital payment options like Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, PayPal, etc.
- Online marketplace integrations to allow you to sell products on Amazon, eBay, etc.
- One page checkout feature
- Inventory management solution
- Social channel integrations with Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to encourage social commerce
- Multi-currency payment processing
- Global content delivery network (CDN) to ensure your site loads quickly
- Easy-to-use shipping solution
You can also use Shopify, 3dcart, and other ecommerce platforms to build your ecommerce website.
Most online store builders and ecommerce website builders offer easy drag-and-drop editors to help you build your site without any coding knowledge. However, you can still consider hiring a professional web developer to save time and design an impressive ecommerce store.
Step 5: Plan Your Ecommerce Website Structure and Elements
Regardless of the ecommerce platform you choose, you’ll need to plan the structure of your online store and figure out what functionalities you want to add.
Your ecommerce website should have the following elements:
- SSL certificate
- Navigation menu and search bar
- “About Us” page that tells your brand’s story
- Product category pages to make it easier for shoppers to find the products they want to buy
- Product pages with product photos, product descriptions, pricing details, etc
- Wish list functionality to help shoppers save products that they would like to buy later
- Secure checkout process and payment gateway options
- Blog content that you’ll update regularly with articles related to ecommerce to get more exposure for your brand and products
To help you understand the essential ecommerce website design elements, check out the infographic below.
Also, check out my post on the 6 components of ecommerce website design.
Step 6: Pick a Theme for Your Ecommerce Website
Pick a theme that aligns with your vision for the ecommerce site. It will act as a foundation for your website design and functionality.
When picking a theme, you should consider the following parameters:
- Does the theme offer user-friendly navigation menu options?
- Does your homepage design align with the aesthetics of your brand?
- How many built-in ecommerce features and customization options does the theme offer?
- Is the theme compatible with standard ecommerce plugins?
- Does the theme offer cross-selling and upselling capabilities for product pages?
The goal of your ecommerce site should be to encourage users to shop online. Too many elements or a cluttered design can distract shoppers. So, you should choose an ecommerce theme with a modern and clean design.
100% PURE, an organic and natural beauty products ecommerce brand, has a minimalistic and clean website design that makes navigation a breeze for their new customers.
You can see products with top reviews and customers' most favorite products on the homepage itself. The hello bar highlights that they offer free shipping. The product images are of high quality and drive attention.
When starting out, it is best to start with a free theme. Once your ecommerce business starts making money, you can switch to a paid theme with greater functionality.
Here are a few ecommerce themes that can be a good starting point for building your online store:
- Haat WooCommerce theme
- Cornerstone BigCommerce theme
- Vault BigCommerce theme
- SuitUP Shopify theme
- Divi WordPress theme
You can check out 25 more ecommerce template options here.
Step 7: Add Products to Your Ecommerce Website
The most daunting step of building an online store is to create product pages.
Your product pages should include:
- Product name
- Product description with keywords
- Pricing details
- Product variations and customization options
- Compelling CTAs
- Shipping & return policies
- Expected delivery date
Your product page should provide all of the information that a potential buyer would need to know including its basic details, durability, use cases, and benefits.
Include high-quality product photos that highlight the key features of your product from different angles. You can also use 360° photos, a zoom-in feature, and in-context images and videos to attract new customers.
Home decor and furnishings brand, Pottery Barn, creatively uses in-context product images to encourage customers to buy their items.
I mean – Who wouldn’t like to recreate this Christmas look in their living room?
Don’t forget to optimize your product pages well to boost conversions and drive more sales and revenue.
Step 8: Set Up Payment Methods and Shipping Process
While website design, easy navigation, and impressive photos can encourage users to buy a product, you need to offer the right payment method to close the deal.
When choosing payment integrations, you should:
- Analyze whether the payment gateway is safe.
- Look at customer reviews to see if people had problems making secure payments using that payment solution.
- Keep the payment processing and transaction fees in mind.
- Check if you’ll be able to accept payments from international customers.
- Make sure that it is PCI compliant to avoid fines, lawsuits, and losing customers’ trust.
Along with payment integrations, shipping is an integral part of running an ecommerce business. You should:
- Determine your shipping policy. Will you offer free shipping or do shipping at a variable rate based on the buyer’s location?
- Choose your shipping partner.
- Consider whether or not you will ship products to international customers.
- Decide on which shipping software you’ll use for your new ecommerce website.
Step 9: Launch and Promote Your Online Store to Start Selling
Once you’ve put everything together, it’s time to launch your ecommerce business website to sell products online.
However, setting up your online store is not enough. To turn your website into a successful online business, you need to come up with a robust marketing strategy.
Understand who your target audience is, what matters to them, and how you can encourage them to shop online from your store. For this, you can include a number of different strategies in your marketing efforts such as:
- Search engine optimization (SEO) to rank your online business website in search results
- Email marketing to reach your target audience with offers, discounts, and personalized product recommendations
- Social media marketing to build an online presence for your ecommerce business and gain more traction
- Influencer marketing to spread the word about your ecommerce business quickly and generate more sales
- Affiliate marketing to drive referral sales in a cost-effective manner
While promoting your ecommerce business, you should follow the latest ecommerce marketing trends to generate quick results. If you need help growing your online store sales, feel free to reach out to me anytime. Just fill out the form on my contact page to get started.
1. How much does it cost to build an ecommerce website from scratch?
With so many easy-to-use website builders out there, you can build an ecommerce website without hiring any web designer and developer. However, you’ll still need to pay for the domain name and web hosting, which can cost you between $50-$100 per year.
If you want to hire a professional to design a custom ecommerce website for you, then it can cost over $10,000. The actual cost will depend on the ecommerce platform or online store builder you choose and how complex the website will be.
2. How do I create an ecommerce website?
To create an ecommerce website, you should buy a domain name and web hosting, choose an ecommerce platform, and plan the site structure. Accordingly, pick a theme, create essential pages, add products, and start selling online.
You can look at the online stores or ecommerce websites of your competitors to get inspiration.
3. What is the cheapest way to build an ecommerce website?
The cheapest way to build an ecommerce website is to:
- Choose the best ecommerce website builder or online store builder to build your website. WordPress with WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and Shopify are a few ecommerce website builders that can help.
- Pick a free ecommerce theme that offers all essential built-in ecommerce solutions.
- Use drag-and-drop editors to create your website on your own. This will help you save the cost of hiring a professional developer.
- Focus on product photography to attract customers.
- Leverage email marketing, content marketing, SEO, affiliate marketing, and other channels to boost online shopping on your website.
- Improve your website’s functionality and design over time with the profits from your ecommerce sales.
Basically, start with minimal investment and grow your ecommerce brand over time.
Ready to Set Up and Run Your Own Ecommerce Website?
Building an ecommerce website has become easier because of powerful ecommerce platforms and online store builders with built-in ecommerce features.
You just need to make the right choice for your business model, website structure, payment processing and shipping software, sales tools, marketing strategy, and more. Most importantly, choose the right ecommerce platform to build your online store.
Do you have questions about building your ecommerce website and making money from it? Reach out to my team of experts to take your retail business online and market it efficiently.