How to Build an E-commerce Website and Sell Products Online

July 28, 2022

e-commerce website

Are you looking to start an e-commerce business? The time couldn’t be better.

Global e-commerce sales are expected to surpass $5.5 trillion in 2022 and reach $7.385 trillion by 2025. But while the market is clearly there, you may still be reluctant to launch your e-commerce business, especially if you have no web development and design experience.

The good news is you don't need an extensive background in web development and online store management to start an e-commerce business. Once you know the basics, including the options to build an online store, how to find reliable developers, the best e-commerce platforms, and how to customize your store, you can easily boost your online business.

That's exactly what we'll cover: the key steps to creating an e-commerce website. But before we get into the technicalities, here's why you should pursue this business idea in the first place.

Why build an e-commerce website? 

With most business happening online, setting up your online storefront is imperative. Here are some reasons why many businesses choose to build e-commerce websites.

No significant upfront investments

One great thing about building an e-commerce website is that it doesn't cost that much. Over the years, hosting and e-commerce solutions prices have decreased significantly, allowing you to get your online store up and running without breaking the bank.

Manageable workload 

Building an online store is not as intense as starting some other businesses. In fact, once you learn the basics, an online store can be a great side hustle. It’s also time-efficient. For example, adding new products, adjusting prices, or uploading new product images only takes a few minutes.

Online shopping trends 

The number of consumers who prefer online shops to their brick-and-mortar counterparts continues to grow. E-commerce sales were close to $5 trillion in 2021; by 2040, over 90% of recorded purchases will be made online. Bottom line, the market is there, and consumers are changing their buying behavior in your favor.

Lots of products you can sell 

One of the most appealing things about running an e-commerce website is the variety of products you can sell.

  • Tech products
  • Fashion items
  • Furniture
  • Food
  • Toys
  • Hobby items
  • DIY

With different products to sell, you can quickly adapt to changes in your target market and become relevant to your target customers simply by introducing new popular products or product categories.

2 ways you can build an e-commerce website 

You can start your online store in two ways.

1. Building a site from scratch 

Building a site from scratch means you have to go through many steps, from designing the online store to building all the elements and putting them together into a working website. If you’re not familiar with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and don’t have much free time, you need to hire developers.

Tips for finding reliable e-commerce developers 

If you decide to build a website from scratch, you need to work with e-commerce developers. Developers create custom site elements and code functions like automating e-commerce processes.

But how do you find the best developers for your needs? Here are some tips to help you find reliable developers for your project.

  • Check their previous experience. Closely review developers' portfolios to assess their expertise and experience in building the kind of website you need and using the best e-commerce software to do it.
  • Give them a test problem to solve. Pick a feature of the e-commerce site and ask developers how they would use it to gauge their problem-solving skills.
  • Look for reviews and testimonials. A good e-commerce developer or company will have numerous reviews and testimonials online. Review sites can guide you through relevant reviews and testimonials.
  • Ask for cost estimation. Experienced e-commerce developers should be able to provide a detailed cost breakdown based on website functionality and other parameters in your project requirements.

Pros of building a site from scratch

  • More control over your site. Some website builders turn the source code into metadata – a short description of that data – making it difficult to move the website to another host. It works great on the website builder platform, but other platforms may have trouble reading the data completely. Building it from scratch gives you complete control over your site and the ability to move it around if needed.
  • Get the functionality you want. You have no limits when adding additional features to your store and customizing them to provide a specific customer experience.
  • Custom hosting options. When you build a website, you can choose your web hosting provider, go the cheap and easy route, or invest a little more and get a powerful provider. With site builders, you're stuck with their default hosting option.
  • Better performance. A custom built-site has fewer lines of code than website building platforms. This can make the custom site faster and less hackable.

Cons of building a site from scratch

  • Higher costs: Developing a site from scratch is generally more expensive than using site builders because builders are automated and use the same code for all sites while developers code your site from scratch.
  • More work involved: You can expect to be more involved in custom development than when using a site builder. You need to work with developers, provide feedback, and make revisions.
  • Post-launch maintenance: Whenever you want to fine-tune something on your website post-launch, you need to work with developers, which can be time-consuming and budget-intensive.

2. Building a store using an e-commerce platform/website builder 

The other option is to use a platform to streamline the e-commerce website building process. Whether you choose an e-commerce platform or website builder, you can use pre-built website elements to assemble and launch your online store quickly.

It's usually an easier way than building from scratch. How do you know which is the best option for you? Website builders and developers have one thing in common – there are many!

Then how do you choose a website builder for your project? Here are some pros and cons to consider.

Pros of using a website builder

  • No coding skills required: You can build stunning websites without writing a single line of code, be it HTML, CSS, or JavaScript.
  • Drag-and-drop editors for ease of use: Creating pages for your store is easy. Most site builders have drag-and-drop editors that allow you to add elements to a page layout and navigate easily.
  • Ready-made features: Instead of building features from scratch, website builders give you features you can use immediately to add different functionality to your online store.
  • Access to professionally designed templates: You can use pre-built templates to create a general look and feel for your store and then customize it.
  • Access to customer support: Site builders offer customer support through numerous channels so you can resolve potential issues quickly.

Cons of using a website builder

  • Limited customization: When using a site builder, you can only customize your site to the extent the platform allows.
  • Not enough features: Using a website builder risks limited functionality.
  • Website ownership: If you use a proprietary platform to build an online store, you don't own the entire site and might lose some features if you move the store to another platform.

How to set up your e-commerce site

Setting up an e-commerce site is pretty easy with the right tools and knowledge. Here are 4 simple ways to build one for your business

1. Find a web host and a domain name

You need to host your e-commerce website and choose a domain name to go live. Let's see why these two steps are essential to your business success and how to do them correctly.

What is web hosting? Why does it matter?

Web hosting provides the storage space for the files that make up your website and allows users to access them online. If you use a website builder, you don't have to worry about hosting as these platforms have their hosting solutions and handle everything from maintenance to website security. However, if you decide to work with a developer, you must find and buy a hosting plan.

Web hosting service matters for several reasons:

  • An excellent hosting company is reliable and guarantees your store uptime, so your website is available 24/7.
  • You get hosting bandwidth, the amount of traffic your online store can handle.
  • A reliable hosting company offers solid security to protect your shop and customer data.

Here are some tips to help you find the right hosting for your e-commerce website:

  • Confirm your desired provider has experience hosting e-commerce websites
  • Check subscription plans
  • Look for specific e-commerce site features (e.g., extra security, apps, e-commerce tools)
  • Check if the plan-specific features offer upgrades
  • Ensure uptime and reliability are guaranteed
  • Check support availability
  • Check account limits (e.g., bandwidth and the number of page views)

Website hosting service providers offer a range of features, and knowing how to choose the right one for your business can ensure consistent loading speeds and uptime.

What is a domain name? Why is it important?

A domain name is your online store’s web address, but it's much more. It's the first thing your potential customers see when they interact with your online brand. Customers quickly remember a memorable domain name. Plus, it’s the focus of all your branding and marketing strategies.

Finding a good domain name can be a challenge. The following tips can help streamline the process:

  • Short domain names are easy to remember; keep them to three words.
  • Avoid complicated or unusual words.
  • Use relevant keywords in the domain name to better target your customers.
  • Use your company name as the domain name to avoid confusion.

Some examples of great e-commerce domain names are InspireUplift, Overstock, and Humble Bundle. Now that you know all the basics and the initial preparations required, you're ready for the next step, customizing your store.

2. Customize your e-commerce website

Customize your online store to create a unique look, provide a great customer experience, and make shopping easier for your customers. Here are the most relevant areas to customize.

Website navigation 

Easy navigation is critical to your success as it helps site visitors easily find what they need. Some best practices include highlighting parent product categories, introducing subcategories, and adding a search bar as Waterstones did on their website.

Waterstones website navigation

Source: Waterstones

Deliver exceptional checkout experience

The three pillars for creating your shopping cart checkout pages are clear, simple, and fast. For example, you can introduce a detailed product summary, provide only essential information, add trust marks, and provide information about available support like Best Buy does in its store.

Best buy checkout experience

Source: Ecommercebooth

Opt for a simple design 

When it comes to user experience, online shoppers prefer a clean design to a cluttered one. They don't want to jump through hoops to find what they need. Otherwise, they'll jump off and look elsewhere. Use white space to highlight important sections of the page and user-friendly color schemes that Allbirds makes perfect on their website.

Allbirds' user-friendly interface

Source: Allbirds

Leverage text and images to communicate essential information

While you can customize text and images in your online store, remember that people are there to shop or research products. Offer only relevant information and keep it clean. Don't use unnecessary background images to distract visitors' attention from the products as Chubbies does.

chubbies graphics

Source: Chubbies

Offer only relevant information and keep it clean. Don’t use unnecessary background images to risk diverting visitors' attention from products. For example, Chubbies follows the best industry practices on this.

Provide links to your business policies

Your website should contain relevant information on all pages. Your terms and conditions, return policy, shipping practices, and essential documents should be available through the website footer.

Brand your online store

You can easily add branding to your online store by customizing color codes. You can customize many professionally designed themes to reflect your brand colors and logo. For example, TOMS does a great job balancing its tagline with the color scheme and smart product choices.

Source: TOMS

Add products

Adding products to your online store is a crucial step. When you add them, you provide all the information to include on a product page. Adding products through e-commerce platforms and website builders is straightforward as they all have an "Add New Product" button that triggers a wizard to guide you through the process.

Here are some essential steps to follow when adding products to your online store.

  • Write compelling product descriptions and titles. Product titles and descriptions shouldn't just communicate a product's name and characteristics. They have the power to convert, and if you make common copywriting mistakes, you risk losing conversions and sales.
  • Create product categories. Adding products to categories is paramount to your success. It improves your site’s user experience and helps customers find and explore similar products in a snap.
  • Include product data. Besides adding product descriptions, there is another way to make your product pages more informative. You should include product data such as instructions, brochures, and images to help customers make informed purchasing decisions.
  • Upload product images. It’s not enough to add product images from different angles and ones that show real product applications.

Images you should use:

  • High-quality images (at least 1000 pixels wide)
  • Images in JPEG, GIF, or PNG format
  • Color mode CMYK or sRGB
  • Images without additional details to avoid confusion
  • Image for each product attribute that a customer can change

3. Consider payment methods

By supporting multiple payment options, you can make shopping in your store more convenient for a broader demographic. The easiest way to manage them properly is to use the plugins. These plugins support a dozen payment methods you can add to your store with just a few clicks.

The most popular payment methods include:

  • Credit and debit cards
  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay
  • PayPal

4. Explore the best e-commerce shipping practices

Shipping is one of the most critical aspects of your e-commerce business. It adds to the customer experience and can help you attract more customers and improve customer satisfaction rates.

The following e-commerce shipping best practices can help you create a seamless shopping experience:

  • Offer a transparent shipping policy. Inform your customers about your shipping practices. Add a link to your shipping policies and allow customers to view shipping costs at checkout.
  • Send email confirmations. Ninety-three percent of customers said receiving an email confirming their order is an important step in their purchasing process.
  • Offer delivery options. Some customers are willing to pay more to have their products shipped faster. By offering this convenience, you can improve satisfaction rates.
  • Show expected delivery date. Add a small section to the checkout page to provide your customers with a delivery date estimate.

The bottom line 

Building an e-commerce site and starting an online store is challenging for absolute beginners. Hopefully, the tips in this article will help you streamline your efforts and make informed decisions. Building your store is the first step in making your online brand successful.

Once your site is online, don’t forget to create an ongoing marketing strategy. You have different options, including SEO, paid ads, social media, and blogging.

Content marketing can help you reach potential customers, increase website traffic, generate leads, and get more sales. Learn more about the basics of content marketing and set up a strategy for your business. 

e-commerce platforms
A unified platform for all your e-commerce needs

Manage all your e-commerce operations from a central location with e-commerce software.

e-commerce platforms
A unified platform for all your e-commerce needs

Manage all your e-commerce operations from a central location with e-commerce software.

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