10 Steps to Build an eCommerce Website from Scratch

Are you taking your business online or a budding entrepreneur starting a new venture? This article has all you need to build your eCommerce site and more!
How to Build a Ecommerce Website From Scratch

Every sci-fi buff knows that digitized reality is one of the likelier “futuristic” concepts that are close to coming true, alongside machine automation and artificial intelligence (move over, interstellar travel—we’re not going to experience you any time soon). In truth, many integral facets of society have become digitized, with trade being one of them in the form of eCommerce. It has continued to grow as a viable medium for the past few years and continues to do so today.

Recently, it has not just persisted but also grew exponentially. Online businesses are steadily overtaking traditional stores, and economies are seeing a paradigm shift in trade and a mass migration of businesses to digital platforms.

The way it went before the internet was you had to have the ideal location, a large capital, a physical store, and much more when starting a business. Now, anybody with a proof of concept and a whole lot of gusto can go into the eCommerce business. So if you’re starting a business, just go online and get started building an eCommerce website from scratch—we’re going to walk you through the process.

Read more: How Do I Start an Ecommerce Business in 2021?

 

Why should I build an eCommerce site?

Wait a minute, you say. You get the tangent that the future demands innovation, but you don’t get why an online store can be more beneficial than a physical store.

So before we get to the step-by-step of how you should build an eCommerce website, let’s talk about why it’s more than worth your consideration:

1.) People are more likely to spend online

The internet is a vast frontier that anyone with a clicker and an address can use to visit anywhere—at least virtually. This means supply is no longer as big of an issue as it used to be if one doesn’t mind paying extra shipping fees and meeting the demands if you build an eCommerce website.

And that was before the pandemic. In 2020, US eCommerce sales saw a 44% increase, amounting up to over $861 billion—a number that experts earlier projected would be reached in 2022. Naturally, lockdowns and closing business contributed to this, but the trajectory is expected to continue.

It’s safe to say that eCommerce is a big money sponge. You could make an argument that when physical purchasing once again gains in momentum, eCommerce sales will drop, but it’s looking like it’s here to stay. It’s a good idea for any entrepreneur to explore all avenues; else, they miss out on the profits.

2.) Convenience is King

Another reason why people might prefer making purchases online? It’s a lot more convenient. Many factors make physical shopping more difficult, and that’s time, effort, distance, and, more recently, the risk of compromising your health.

ECommerce is more accessible, especially for those with disabilities. There is no need to go out of your way to a store when you don’t have the time, drive, or ability to do so. Transactions are much easier and faster, and people are more likely to buy something if it isn’t a tiring timesink.

Naturally, eCommerce is not completely without challenging factors, but there are many hindrances that you take out of the equation.

3.) Websites cost less than brick and mortar

It used to be that capital needed for starting a business included a boatload of expenses for the storefront alone. This includes paying for the location itself, furniture, decorations, renovations, permits, and paperwork. That’s not all—maintenance fees will include paying for utilities like electricity, water, airconditioning, wifi (in some cases), rent, supplies, and so much more.

A lot of these can be cut down if you build an eCommerce website. You will still have expenses due to the platform and web hosting for your eCommerce website, but all in all, you will likely be spending less when maintaining an eCommerce store than with a physical storefront.

4.) Better visibility for your products

With a traditional storefront business, your customer base and visibility will be limited to those in your area. Physical advertisements will also only get you so far.

If you build an eCommerce website, on the other hand, you rest assured that your products are likely more accessible and visible to a wider audience.

Websites also can target their marketing efforts so that their online presence is specific to their target market.

5.) The phenomenon of mobile shopaholism and the ability to purchase anywhere

Outerbox presents these mobile phone statistics:

  • 77% of American’s own a smartphone
  • Over 230 million U.S. consumers own smartphones
  • Around 100 million U.S. consumers own tablets
  • 79% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last 6 months
  • Almost 40% of all eCommerce purchases during the 2018 holiday season were made on a smartphone.
  • eCommerce dollars now comprise 10% of ALL retail revenue
  • 80% of shoppers used a mobile phone inside of a physical store to either look up product reviews, compare prices or find alternative store locations
  • An estimated 10 billion mobile-connected devices are currently in use

We can surmise that the mobile eCommerce market alone is rather hefty itself. Mobile phones make it easier for people to purchase or browse products as soon as they decide they want them, and they can do so anytime and anywhere.

This means more potential traffic and more potential sales for your eCommerce store from catching impulse purchases. Time tends to erode interest, and people can sometimes just forget, so instant access will only be good for business.

 

What’s the Catch?

Building an eCommerce website from scratch will not be all peaches and roses, and that goes for running one. Despite its numerous benefits, there are a few things you must consider if you want to start selling products at an eCommerce store.

  • Security. Fraud is an issue that is not exclusive to eCommerce, but cybersecurity is a league of its own. Extra steps need to be taken to keep your website safe from spam, viruses, and malware seeking to gain confidential information. Also, online identity verification is an important part of the transaction and must be prioritized.
  • Competition. ECommerce is relatively easy to get into, so you naturally have to expect that you aren’t the only one with the same idea. Competition is tough and numerous, and you have to be savvy if you want to survive.
  • Logistics issues. The lack of a physical store may result in transaction slowdown, and some processes may be affected by things out of your control. Shipping is one thing, as often you’d have to rely on a third-party company that will hold your reputation in their hands. Also, returns and refunds can be more complicated.

 

What You Need to Start Your Ecommerce Website

A domain name.

This will serve as the address of your eCommerce site. Your domain name must be aligned with the branding of your online store.

A web-hosting provider.

Web hosting refers to where your website is stored. Your chosen web-hosting company will dictate your website security, speed, and domain name. Some of the better-known providers are:

  • Bluehost
  • Dreamhost
  • HostGator.

An integrated payment processor.

Being a business and store, you need to choose from payment gateways to process cash transactions. There is a multitude of options, including:

  • Paypal
  • Due
  • Stripe

Platform or website builder to build your store.

This acts as the foundation of your eCommerce website. A website builder will come with many tools that you can use to create an eCommerce website from scratch and will let you customize the elements to your liking.

Your chosen eCommerce platform can often come with content management tools. It will determine most other parts on this list, as some website builders provide web-hosting and better integration with certain tools. Some website builders include:

  • WordPress.org
  • Wix
  • Squarespace

Initial capital to create your products.

It may be cheaper to build an eCommerce website from scratch, but you’re still going to need funds to serve as capital for the products you will sell.

Digital presence.

Before you start selling products, you need to make sure that you have a good presence.  One reason you want to create an online store, after all, is to take advantage of a larger reach. When you build your eCommerce identity, it helps to maintain a good marketing strategy and social media presence and maximize search engine optimization.

 

Steps to Building an Ecommerce Website From Scratch

ECommerce is a wellspring of opportunity for your business. Even if you are starting a storefront, it’s important to have an online store for the chance it can provide your business to grow much faster.

However, it’s not a simple task to build an eCommerce website from scratch. In fact, before actual eCommerce website development, there are many things you need to consider.

Here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Decide on what you want to sell.
  2. Choose your business model
  3. Find your domain
  4. Choose your platform
  5. Customize your web design
  6. Optimize based on the customer perspective
  7. Set up payment gateways
  8. Secure your website
  9. Choose your shipping partners.
  10. Simulate the process before launch

 

Step 1: Decide on what you want to sell.

Before you ever start selling products, you have to know what you’re selling first. An online store is not a store without products, after all.

First and foremost, it’s helpful if your products align with your passion. Passion begets drive, and you need to keep your business moving, so it’s never a wrong idea to sell products you want to sell. You can also look at trending products and different niches as this is a good way to determine which products sell.

Finally, you need to review the market and competition thoroughly. It will be hard to build an eCommerce website from scratch without the lay of the land. This can help you look at how your competitors conduct their business and what potential customers respond to, helping guide building your web store.

Step 2: Choose your business model.

Choosing a business model is a big part of setting up an eCommerce website from scratch. You can set up your eCommerce store to sell on your website, or you can become a multichannel seller.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Selling on your eCommerce website means you only have to focus on setting up and directing traffic to your product pages. Going multichannel may help your products be more exposed to your target audience, but you may have to sell your products alongside competition in your chosen eCommerce platform. 

Multichannel selling means that you set up an eCommerce store in eCommerce platforms, like Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, and the like.

Step 3: Find your domain.

Now that you’ve picked your products and decided on your business model, it’s time to brainstorm a domain name. As mentioned earlier, your domain name serves as a placard and address for your eCommerce site, as such, it should be:

  • Aligned with your products
  • Easy to understand
  • Catchy and encourages brand recall
  • Able to set itself apart as a unique brand from other eCommerce websites, especially the ones in a similar niche as you.

A good domain name with all the above factors can aid an eCommerce business simply by being straightforward with its delivery. A clickable domain name can help generate leads, encourage purchases, and establish a brand image. Moreover, it serves as the main way for customers to find you.

Most website builders usually offer free custom domain options but will include the platform’s name, likely affecting brand image. So it’s important to distinguish your eCommerce business by purchasing a domain and having a trusted web-hosting company host your eCommerce website.

This also means that you must not change your domain name often, if at all. Customers might not be able to keep up and mistake you for a different eCommerce business. That’s why it’s important to think about your domain name when you build an eCommerce website from scratch, as being consistent with your name can only be good for your company’s identity.

Step 4: Choose the right platform for your eCommerce website

When it comes to this step, you have the option of hiring a web development company or coder or building the website yourself.

Thankfully, the self-route is no longer as difficult. Most website builders are easy to use and do not demand prior coding experience. You can build your eCommerce website with just a few clicks and sell your products with built-in, user-friendly tools to make everything easier for both you and your customers.

You may not be able to do as well as an eCommerce website development company, but you have enough platforms, each with its pros and cons. For instance, a platform like Wix will walk you through the step-by-step of website building but will have fewer options than building a WordPress website, which is filled to the brim with customization but has a steeper learning curve.  Some platforms are integrated for creating an online store, like Shopify, an eCommerce website builder.

Read more: Best User-friendly Ecommerce Platforms to Explore in 2021

Step 5: Customize your web design.

After you build an eCommerce website, it’s time to spruce it up with some customization. When customizing your website, there are two general factors that you need to keep in mind: aesthetic design and UI design.

Fussing about your website’s look is important as it can help you establish visual branding and strengthen brand recall. Luckily, most website builders have templates for you to choose from.

Step 6: Optimize based on the customer perspective

The second factor is ensuring that your functionality website design choices are on the mark, especially from your customers’ perspective.

This means not only adding tools and widgets that improve the back-end processes but also customer experience. This includes but isn’t limited to:

  • User-friendly user interface
  • Buttons and tools that are accessible
  • Website speed
  • Visual elements

This is important because websites that do not perform well on the side of customers have a higher bounce rate, referring to the number of visitors that leave immediately after visiting the website. Not many have the patience to wait for everything to load.

A lot of factors can affect your website speed, and this includes your hosting provider.  It’s important to note that some platforms offer free hosting, but this can affect your website speed due to your eCommerce website not being prioritized.

Another is your chosen visual elements. Your photos and videos, beyond being easy on the eyes, must not take too long to load, lest your customers may lose interest.

Beyond your website’s performance, a smooth customer experience also includes how your customers can navigate the process of purchasing on your online store.

This means setting up product categories so customers can easily access said products, adding proper tags, and the like. This can make sure that easily move from product selection to the shopping cart quickly.

Step 7: Set-up payment gateways

Money exchange is a key part of any eCommerce transaction. That’s why when you build an eCommerce website from scratch, you have to keep in mind that this part of the process should be problem-free.

ECommerce websites need to have properly integrated payment options. Luckily most website builders have the option for you to set up eCommerce functionality, allowing customers to pay using Paypal, Stripe, or other payment options.

Step 8: Secure your website (acquire an SSL certificate)

After you build an eCommerce website from scratch, you have to keep it protected.

ECommerce websites tend to move a lot of data online, which means you have to make sure that the connection is protected by a Secured Security Layer (SSL). Doing so gives your website an SSL certificate, which shows your customers that their information is protected and that your business is trustworthy.

Having an SSL certificate also helps in search engine optimization, as Google favors websites that are guaranteed safe.

Step 9: Choose your shipping partners.

Next, your online business has to get your products to your customers. Not only that, you have to make sure that those products get delivered in good condition and on time. To do this, you have to work with shipping services.

The thing with working with third-party shipping is that any mistakes with shipping will go back to you. So, as a business owner with a reputation to maintain, it’s important to thoroughly research your options so you can choose a reputable shipping business to work with.

Some businesses have tools and plug-ins to integrate into your website that help you, and your customers track their orders. You can also work with multiple courier services to always have a backup plan when there are a large number of orders or when one service is experiencing logistics problems. 

Step 10: Simulate the operation process before launching

When you’ve got everything set up, run the purchasing process from scratch. This is a good way to weed out any problems that may occur during any part of the process, allowing you to find solutions instead of having to fumble during the real deal.

 

Additional Tips for Making the Most of Your Ecommerce Website

1.) Plan your online marketing strategies

A successful eCommerce website breathes traffic. A lack of visitors translates to a lack of purchases, which is bad news for business owners like you.

The best way to combat this is to have a marketing strategy prepared. You can do this by having pages on different platforms and social media, paying for or doing your content marketing, and maximizing SEO.

It’s effective to try your hand at content marketing. Creating content relevant to your niche can attract your target audience and establish your online business as an authority in your chosen niche.

2.) Schedule regular site maintenance

You’ve built your site from scratch, now it’s time to maintain it. Business owners have to keep an eye on their investments after all.

There may be things you might have overlooked as you were setting up your site, so it’s good to regularly check on your process, track visitors, engagements, and the like, not only to remedy any flaws in the engine but also to see what you can do to make it better.

 

How to Market Your Ecommerce Website

You need to drive traffic to your site, so here are other ways to get customers to browse on your product pages:

Social Media

Everyone is on social media these days, even your target audience. Have a content marketing strategy and appeal to them with blog posts, art cards, videos, and material related to a trending topic and your business.

  • If you are a B2B seller, create a LinkedIn profile.
  • For B2C, it’s good to have a page/s on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and/or Pinterest.
  • Use built-in tools on these platforms to target specific demographics for boosting. Check the best times and days are for posting content that your audience can engage with.

Connecting with your audience is important, and building rapport will help strengthen brand loyalty.

Newsletter

Encourage your customers to subscribe to your newsletter and produce content specific to email marketing. You can better maintain a loyal customer when you have their email address, updating them on your products and content.

Search Engine Optimization

Computer laptop searching engine optimizing SEO technology concept

Once you have created your content, you should optimize it with SEO. SEO refers to using particular methods to make your content more favored by search engines, allowing it more visibility on the first page of search results.

Aside from creating valuable and relevant content, SEO techniques include using keywords, keeping content fresh with regular updates, and more.

Pay-per-Click Ads

If SEO is too tough and competition is hogging that coveted #1 result, you can always opt for pay-per-click advertising.

This ensures that your site is visible and that you only have to pay for each time a visitor engaged with the link instead of paying for an ad with no interactions.

Read more: 12 Effective Strategies to Market Ecommerce Business

 

The Bottom Line

The process of building an eCommerce website is not so cut-and-dry, and it doesn’t stop there. Marketing and maintenance are crucial to not only keep it going but also to drive it toward success.

This means constantly adding value to the content you provide, the customer service, and of course your products. Providing value to your customers is a surefire way to get them to value your business.

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