How To Build An Ecommerce Website

More and more people are jumping onto the ‘working online’ bandwagon and there has never been a better time to get on board. A ridiculous amount of business now takes place online and even those who used to be averse to internet shopping had very little choice during the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing more awareness to ecommerce.

If you are looking to start your own ecommerce business then you’re going to need a website. But if you don’t know how to build an ecommerce website then you probably feel a little overwhelmed. Don’t panic though, there are a lot of platforms out there with some incredible tools that make getting started easier than it has ever been. So, kick back for five minutes, grab a cup of coffee and let us talk you through some easy steps on how to build an ecommerce website. 

A Step By Step Guide To ECommerce Websites

Ecommerce simply refers to the trading of goods or services online. In this day and age, internet based sales are on the rise and in the USA alone last year more than 13% of all national sales were made online. As we’ve already mentioned, there’s never been a better time to sign up and start your own ecommerce website. After all, we’d bet the Jeff Bezos never imagined the kind of success he would have and look at him now. 

Finding A Domain Name

A domain name is simply a fancy term given to your website address, which might also be called a URL. In any case, this is what users will type into their address bar to access your website. You might think of this as the ‘home’ of your business. 

It is essential to spend a good amount of time thinking about the name you will give to your website. For starters, it needs to be catchy enough that it will stand out from the crowd but also easy enough to remember that users aren’t sitting and racking their brains just to remember what website they’re trying to access. That said, you’ll also need to choose something that reflects the kind of product or service that you are selling. 

Doing this will have two clear advantage; primarily, your audience will know from the off what to expect from your business. But more importantly, by using relevant and even key phrases in the name of your website, you will find that it ranks much better on search engines.

A good example of this is if you sell vegan friendly cosmetics. You want to include as much of that information in your business name (and URL) as possible. You might go for something like ‘SharonsVeganCosmetics.com’ Of course, you can get as creative as you like provided you stick to the rules we have discussed above. 

Now that you have your name, you will need to purchase a domain name. Now, keep in mind that there are a lot of web hosting services that let you have a domain name for free but this will often come with their own branding attached. WordPress is a good example of this; if you wanted a free domain, you’d end up with:

SharonsVeganCosmetics.wordpress.com

You can see how that doesn’t quite have the same effect and it takes away from how professional your website looks. For the most part, domain names aren’t expensive and you’ll often get a good deal for the first year; there’s always some sort of offer on. 

Some of the best places to buy a domain name are Bluehost, Google Domains or GoDaddy. All you will need to do is input the name of your business and your domain will be generated. If the domain you want is already in use, you’ll be given a selection of alternatives. Using a .com address is the best option but you may be able to use .net or .co if you really have your heart set on a particular business name. Otherwise, it’s back to the drawing board.

Choosing The Right Hosting Platform

There are a ton of ecommerce platforms out there nowadays so you will be somewhat spoiled for choice but there are some that are better than others. The platform is where your website will live and you’ll choose yours based on several factors. 

For example, if you want to build an almost free website from the ground up then using WordPress will allow you to do that. However, this does come with the drawback of having much more limited features but it will work if you’re just looking to dip your toe in the water. On the other hand, there are some super advanced dedicated ecommerce platforms for those who want a more serious option.

A dedicated ecommerce platform is incredibly easy to use and in no time at all you will be ready to launch your fully functional ecommerce website with all of the latest features. What’s great is that, once you have set up the initial website you will be able to expand upon this and add things like email marketing, shipping labels, secure payments and much more. Of course, this level of website does come with a cost attached but you might be surprised to learn that it isn’t going to break the bank. On average, you’ll only need to pay around $30 per month for web hosting fees.

There are many choices out there, but the big three are Shopify, 3DCart and Big Commerce. Let’s take a look at these;

  • Shopify is great if you are just starting out but it’s also excellent for people who are looking to get into drop shipping. 
  • 3DCart is best for people who are working to a strict budget since plans start from as little as $19 a month. 
  • Big Commerce is great for small businesses and is ideal if you are a multichannel seller. This one has the most options and can be purchased for a starting price of $29.95 monthly.

The great thing about all of these platforms is that they all come with a free trial so if you find that they don’t work for you, you can try something else.

You don’t need to stick with dedicated ecommerce platforms, there are plenty of other website hosting companies out there that offer the opportunity to build all kinds of websites including ecommerce. Platforms such as Wix are excellent and widely used by a lot of small businesses. The advantage of these websites is that they come with a huge number of templates so you can build an ecommerce website without being a web developer.

This is what makes them so attractive but simplicity isn’t the only thing that these platforms have. You will also pay much less than a dedicated ecommerce website while still having the option to include some great features. That said, we would only really recommend these if you’re looking to start a side-gig. If you want to grow a viable business, the dedicated platforms will offer you a better chance at this. 

A Note On WordPress Plugins

WordPress is one of the biggest website hosting platforms in the world. It dominates the ecommerce world with more than half of the ecommerce platforms across the globe being hosted here. The great thing about WordPress is that it has pretty much limitless options. No matter what you are trying to build, there will be a plugin for it. 

The best ones for ecommerce are WP EasyCart and WooCommerce; the latter is completely free which is a nice bonus. If you like the idea of using a dedicated platform like BigCommerce, there’s even a WordPress plugin for that. This is great if you want to combine your store with a blog or informational pages which WordPress is famed for. 

Planning Your Website

Once you have picked out the right platform to build an ecommerce website for your business, now comes the fun part; planning your website. This is where you can let your creativity run wild and the only limit is your imagination…and the limits of the platform, of course.

One of the most important things about running a business is consistency and where your website is concerned, this can be achieved through brand image and logos. There are plenty of tools out there that allow you to create a custom logo for free. Even the paid services don’t charge and arm and a leg. 

It pays to take some time to develop a unique logo that will be instantly recognisable to your customers. Think about some of the most famous logos in the world; they don’t even need lettering for us to know what they represent – Nike and Starbucks, we’re looking at you!

Next up, you will need to think about your product information. Each product page needs to have clear images that show the user exactly what to expect when they receive the item. Since these images as well as the descriptions are some of the most important aspects of your website, you will need to pay very close attention to them.

You might also choose to include product videos and you don’t even need a lot of specialist equipment. The camera quality and capabilities of modern smartphones will often produce some very effective sales tools.

When it comes to describing your products, you will need to provide as much information as possible. This will limit the number of customer enquiries and make their life simpler. Things like weight, size, materials, FAQs and more are all essential on each and every product listing. Of course, you may also have some variables such as color or size and this information should be included as well as whether this will affect the cost of the item.

We would also recommend including an inventory on your website. This can be displayed to your customers and the software will automatically update this as items are sold.

You should also include a page that talks about your business, commonly known as an ‘About Us’ page. Here is where you can personalise your business and give your customers a chance to get to know you better. It doesn’t have to be overly professional, allow yourself to have a little fun here and create a brand that is friendly and approachable. You can add photos and videos as well; let your imagination run wild.

Now onto the more serious aspect of running an ecommerce business; the customer service pages. Here you will need to provide your customers with all the information they will need to know about shopping with you. Think about what you would like to know, if you were shopping online and include all of this information here. Some things you might want to include are:

  • Shipping rates
  • Shipping times
  • Do you offer international shipping?
  • Returns policy
  • Privacy policy (this is a legal requirement for all ecommerce businesses)

If you really want to capture the attention of your customers then a blog is a great way to do this. Here, you will be able to add regular content that complements what you are selling. Let’s imagine you are selling electrical goods, you might create blog posts talking about the best of certain products, reviews, gift ideas etc. 

Make sure that when you are planning your website you do not forget to do it in such a way that it is easy to navigate for your users. You should have clear menus that show users what they can access. In most cases, a main menu bar should be included somewhere at the top of the web page. 

Working With Tools

One of the biggest things to do when you build an ecommerce website is to use various tools that will help with different aspects of running the website. If you are using a dedicated ecommerce platform then all of the tools that you will need should be built in already so it makes like a lot simpler. These are things such as tax calculations, payment processing, shipping labels and marketing. However, if you are using any other type of platform then you will have to address these issues manually, using plugins and outside tools. 

When it comes to payment processing and tax, you will want options like PayPal and Stripe, among others. It’s pretty easy to add these payment options and often involves nothing more than a few clicks.

For shipping, it is a good idea to use some form of shipping software as this will streamline your order fulfillment process. Everything you need will be included with this software including allowing you to select couriers, print shipping labels and send out notifications as orders ship.

One of the biggest things involved with ecommerce is marketing; if you don’t market your website, nobody is going to know about it. Again, the dedicated platforms will all have built in marketing tools so you won’t have to worry as much. But if you are using something else then services like MailChimp are excellent for setting up mailing lists. The more time and effort you put into this aspect of creating your website, the better the results. 

Testing Your Website

So, you have come this far and created an ecommerce website to be proud of but there is one final step. You will need to test the website. The best way to do this is process a few orders. Depending on the platform you are using, there may be a tool for this but if not, you can do it manually. If there are any problems, you will obviously need to address these before allowing the website to go live.

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