If you’ve never built a website before, it can feel like an overwhelming task — even more so when you want to build one to display and sell your products effectively.
The good news is that anyone can easily build a custom e-commerce website. You just need to know how to choose the right software and platforms that suit your needs and the steps to set up a fully functional online store.
- Building your website is time-consuming but saves you the expenses of hiring a website designer; e-commerce platforms can be a big help.
- Choose the right software for your e-commerce website, and ensure you get the best platform for your business’s unique needs. Evaluate costs and how well the platform can serve you and your customers.
- There are several steps to building an e-commerce website, from choosing a domain name and theme to testing and launching.
Should You Build Your E-Commerce Website or Hire a Website Designer?
Building an e-commerce website can be daunting and take up a considerable amount of time and resources. This is especially true if you don’t have experience creating websites from scratch or managing all business operations yourself.
Website designers, by trade, are highly skilled in building business websites and implementing all the features you need to make your e-commerce venture successful. But these services are a huge added cost, and unless you’ve made room for such expenses within your e-commerce business plan, a website designer is likely out of the question.
What about e-commerce platforms?
It’s never been easier to create your e-commerce website from scratch. Multiple e-commerce platforms can help even the least tech-savvy business owners build stores with all the bells and whistles.
These platforms make it easy to build an entire e-commerce website with user-friendly templates. Also, you can add essential e-commerce components, such as shopping carts, payment processing, and shipping software options.
How Do You Choose the Right E-Commerce Software Stack?
A custom e-commerce website involves many moving parts, so choosing the right software is a crucial first step. Let’s look at the tools and features you must consider before launching your online store.
Online entrepreneurs are spoiled for choice when selecting an e-commerce platform. The trick is finding the best platform for your business’s unique needs. Evaluate how well the platform can help your business grow, the running costs of the platform, and how well it serves both you and your customers.
Here’s what to consider when evaluating e-commerce platforms:
- Value: What do you get for each plan — and does it hit that sweet spot of cost ratio to features?
- Ease of use: Is it simple to use the platform with intuitive tools, familiar interfaces, and supportive tutorials or tours?
- Features: Does the platform offer tools that support your business, including marketing integrations, plug-ins, reporting, and management? How effective are the features?
- Security: Which measures does the platform take to protect your business? Does it offer Payment card industry (PCI) compliance and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates?
- Support and improvements: How well does the platform help when you need it? And will it continue to grow with your needs?
Another option for online businesses starting an e-commerce site is using a website builder. However, it’s worth noting that website builders don’t come with the same extensive e-commerce functionality as e-commerce platforms.
Generally, website builders offer limited tools that enable you to create a basic website and lack sophisticated features like application integration and store customization tools.
Website builders are a good choice for businesses without a tremendous amount of inventory to manage or those wanting to add a lot of content, like blog posts, to their websites. If you want to make selling online successful, e-commerce platforms offer everything.
Consider these factors as you compare website builders:
- Customization options: Can you change the look and feel of a template or add your own code?
- Ease of use: Is the navigation intuitive with built-in tools, such as an in-app photo editor?
- Value: Can you get a free plan or trial to give the builder a test drive? Are there extensive features on paid plans that justify the cost?
- Security: What does the website builder do to keep your site and your customers’ data safe?
- Templates: Are the templates attractive, updated, and generally high quality? Can you find many to choose from?
- Support: Can you get help when needed, whether it’s from a human or support center articles?
- Recent improvements: Has the builder done anything lately to step up its offerings?
If you do go the website builder route, you’ll need to select a web hosting provider, keeping the following factors in mind:
- Plan value: What plans are available, and do they offer a good value?
- Ease of use: Is the dashboard easy to navigate?
- Support: How fast can you get help when needed, and is support genuinely helpful?
- Features: What features does the host offer, and how do they compare to similar competitors?
- Security: Does the host offer SSL certificates, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack protection, backup services, and scans for viruses and malware?
- Speed and uptime: Does the provider offer a fast, stable environment for your website? How does it perform in tests, and what kind of servers does thehosting company use?
- Recent improvements: What has the host done lately to update its technology and services?
Payment processors enable you to take payments from customers easily. Some e-commerce platforms offer built-in tools, or you can connect your website to external tools.
Here’s what to take note of when comparing payment processors and payment gateways:
- Cost: With some payment processors, you’ll be expected to pay an initial setup fee and monthly fees. On top of that, most processors charge you a percentage of each transaction made.
- User experience: Bad checkout experiences frustrate customers and will discourage them from making any purchases. Demos are a great way to check out each provider’s functionality before committing.
- Customer support: The provider’s customer support function is one of the most important tools in your e-commerce software stack. Check out what options it has ― phone, email, support ticket, and knowledge bases ― as well as when and how often the provider is available to help rectify any problems.
Shipping software does everything from calculating shipping costs to tracking your products to the customer’s door. These tools can also help you keep track of inventory and provide detailed reports to optimize operations.
The main features to look out for are:
- Shipping label creation
- Shipping rate management
- Inventory control
- Reporting tools
- Returns management
- Tracking and customer communication
How Do You Build an E-commerce Website Step-by-Step?
Now that you know the software stack, you must create your e-commerce website. Review the steps involved in getting it operational.
1. Choose a domain name
First, you’ll need to choose a domain name to identify your website and form the website’s address. Select a simple, easy-to-remember domain name, and avoid those too similar to existing websites.
If you’re struggling to land on the best domain name for your business, you can also use domain name generators to help you get creative.
2. Decide on the tools for your e-commerce software stack
We’ve gone through the tools you’ll need for your e-commerce stack. Now it’s time to select your business’s best options and ensure they integrate seamlessly. Consider your budget, check out user reviews, and ask for vendor demos to help you pick the right options.
3. Choose a theme and add your products
Most e-commerce platforms allow you to choose a theme template you can customize using a drag-and-drop builder. This helps you set the scene for your brand from the outset. Select a template that highlights your products well and allows you to add the level of detail customers need.
The next step is adding product photos and descriptions. Since you’re operating an online store rather than a physical shop where customers can try your products or even see them in person, great product photography and descriptions are necessary.
Give customers the chance to see products from several angles and be as descriptive as possible when crafting product descriptions. Bluboho does an excellent job of displaying multiple product images and a well-thought-out product description.
4. Create other valuable pages
Creating other pages for your website helps guide the customer, answer their questions, and streamline the purchase journey.It also lets the customer know you care about your products and are committed to being as helpful as possible. You can also inject your background and branding into these pages to help create better customer relationships.
As well as a product catalog and home page, here are a few pages to create:
- Terms and conditions
- About us
- Contact us
- Shipping and returns policies
5. Test and launch
Before you launch, make sure everything is in working order. This way, you can avoid any kinks in processes before they occur.
Here’s a quick list of what to check before you launch:
- Proofread all website copy and product descriptions, including product prices
- Ensure all your tools are working in harmony and that integrations are completely functional
- Check all links on the website are working and direct the customer where they should
What Should You Research Before Building Your Own E-commerce Store?
Even with the advent of so many intuitive and user-friendly tools to help you build your own e-commerce website, it’s crucial to choose the right tools to help your store succeed. This research stage is critical. Although there will always be bumps in the road, in-depth research will help you make the right decisions early on.
Making a list of each tool’s pros and cons shouldn’t be time-consuming. Our experts have reviewed the best e-commerce platforms to help you decide the best fit for your products.