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 build a custom e-commerce website easily these days — you need to know how to choose the right software and platforms that suit your needs, and what steps you need to set up a fully functional online store.
Here, we’ll explore:
- Building your e-commerce website yourself vs. hiring a website designer
- How to choose the right software for your e-commerce website
- How to build an e-commerce website step-by-step
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Building Your E-Commerce Website Yourself vs. Hiring a Website Designer
Before we get started on how to build your own custom e-commerce website, let’s take a look at another option.
Building an e-commerce website yourself can be daunting and take up a huge amount of time and resources, especially if you don’t have experience in creating websites from scratch or are managing all business operations yourself.
Website designers, by trade, are highly skilled in building business websites and implementing all of the features you need to make your e-commerce venture successful. Their services, however, are a huge added cost, and unless you’ve made room for such costs within your e-commerce business plan, a website designer is likely out of the question.
It’s never been easier to create your own e-commerce website from zero. Multiple e-commerce platforms on the market can help even the least tech-savvy business owners build their own store with all the bells and whistles they need.
These platforms make it easy to build an entire e-commerce website with user-friendly templates and the ability to add in essential e-commerce components, such as shopping carts, payment processing, and shipping software options.
How to 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’ll need to consider before launching your online store.
From Shopify and BigCommerce to Magento and Volusion, online entrepreneurs are spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting an e-commerce platform. The trick is finding the best platform for your business’s unique needs.
Not only do you need to consider how well the platform can help your business grow, but you’ll also need to consider 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:
- Feature set: This will vary from business to business, but features such as content management capabilities, third-party integrations, multiple payment options, robust product catalog and, most importantly, user-friendliness, are all must-have features.
- Running costs: All e-commerce platforms will offer a variety of pricing plans — generally, the higher the costs, the more advanced features and customer support you’ll receive. Study each platform and pricing tier carefully. There are often extra costs for adding common features and functionality that you’ll need to account for as you grow as well as upgrading costs.
- Customer support: This is an extremely important detail that’s often overlooked. When something goes wrong, you need to know that the vendor will try to fix issues immediately. Some vendors only offer 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. support while others don’t offer any support on weekends.
- Scalability: There’s no use in selecting a platform that can’t grow alongside your business. If you’ve got big growth goals in mind, thoroughly check the platform’s ability to support the features you’ll need in the future.
Another option for online businesses is website builders, such as Wix and Zyro. 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 a limited set of tools that enable you to create a basic website and come without sophisticated features like application integration and store customization tools.
Website builders are a good choice for businesses that don’t have a huge amount of inventory needing to manage or those who want to add a lot of content like blog posts to their website. For businesses who want to make selling online successful, e-commerce platforms offer everything they could want.
If you do choose to go the website builder route, you’ll need to select a web hosting provider. When selecting one, you’ll need to keep the following factors in mind:
- Available storage
- Monthly traffic limits
- Loading speed
- Customer support options
Payment processors enable you to easily take payments from customers. Some e-commerce platforms offer built-in tools like Shopify Payments, but you can also connect your website to other tools like PayPal and Stripe.
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, as well as pay 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 of checking out each provider’s functionality before you commit.
- Customer support: As one of the most important tools in your e-commerce software stack, you’ll need to know how robust the provider’s customer support function is. Check out what customer support options they have ― phone, email, support ticket, and knowledge bases ― as well as when and how often they’re available to help rectify any problems.
Shipping software like ShipBob and Easyship 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 help you 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 to Build an E-Commerce Website Step-by-Step
Now that you’ve got an idea of the software stack, you’ll need to create your own e-commerce website, let’s look at the steps involved in getting it operational.
1. Choose a Domain Name
First, you’ll need to choose a domain name that will identify your website and form the website’s address. Try and choose a simple, easy-to-remember domain name, and avoid domain names that are 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 the best options for your business and make sure that they integrate with each other seamlessly.
Make sure to 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 that you can customize using a drag-and-drop builder. This helps you set the scene for your brand from the outset.
Make sure you choose a template that highlights your products well and allows you to add the level of detail that customers will need.
The next step is adding product photos and descriptions. Since you’re operating an online store rather than a physical store where customers can try out your products or even see them in person, great product photography and descriptions are a necessity.
Give customers the chance to see products from several different angles and be as descriptive as you can be when crafting product descriptions.
Bluboho does a great job of displaying multiple product images, as well as 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 that 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 that you should create:
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs) page
- Terms & 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 that all of 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
How To Build Your Own E-Commerce Store: Do Your Research Beforehand
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 make sure you’re choosing the right tools that will help your store become a success.
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 already reviewed more than 60 of the best e-commerce platforms to help you decide which is the best fit for your products.