There’s no better time to start learning how to build an ecommerce website than today.
Ecommerce is on the uprise. The 2021 Adobe Digital Index Report estimates U.S. ecommerce spending to hit anywhere between $850 billion to $930 billion in 2021 and top a trillion dollars in 2022.
The best part is that you can start an online business right away. With the availability of different ecommerce platforms to build your website, creating an ecommerce website is easy. Read this blog to learn how to build an ecommerce website step by step.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Why You Should Build an Ecommerce Website
- What You Need To Build an Ecommerce Website
- How To Build an Ecommerce Website Step by Step
- How To Market Your Ecommerce Website
Why You Should Build an Ecommerce Website
An ecommerce website is a digital equivalent to a physical storefront that enables users to buy and sell physical goods and digital products or services online.
If you haven't already thought about learning how to build an ecommerce website, here are a few reasons to do so:
1. Online Shopping Is the Future
Government-mandated lockdowns and closures of brick-and-mortar businesses forced consumers to turn to online stores to meet their needs.
As a result, top ecommerce sites — such as Target and Amazon — and small businesses enjoyed stellar growth during the height of the 2020 pandemic. Not only that, but reports estimate that the 2020 pandemic accelerated the shift to ecommerce by five years.
Post-pandemic, consumer behaviors are expected to favor the convenience ecommerce offers. Looking ahead, some of the top trends in ecommerce to look out for are omnichannel marketing and a focus on customer experience.
2. An Ecommerce Website Opens You Up to the World
To new business owners, ecommerce promises a worldwide customer base.
Physical stores confine entrepreneurs to selling in their area and during the store's operating hours. But with an ecommerce website, you can sell to anyone, anywhere, at all times of the day.
With an ecommerce website, you don't even have to persuade people to buy — they come to you. When you employ search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, people can search for the products they want and find your store in the search results.
3. An Online Store Costs Less To Run Than a Physical Store
Running a brick-and-mortar store incurs costs such as rent, utility bills, furniture, and maintenance. Running an online store requires minimal costs, such as paying for web hosting and marketing.
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What You Need To Build an Ecommerce Website
Knowing how to build an ecommerce website is crucial to get the best out of your online store efforts. However, it isn't as simple as setting up a personal website.
Besides the need for a domain name and web hosting, creating an online store also requires ecommerce-specific features such as payment processors, shopping cart functionality, and checkout tools. If you want to know how to make a website to sell stuff, here's what you need to create an ecommerce website from scratch:
- Domain name (try to use your business name).
- Web hosting (preferably one made for ecommerce, as these have specific features).
- Ecommerce platform.
- Payment gateway.
Remember, although the elements you need for building an ecommerce website require an investment, it's still far more cost-effective than creating a physical store. If you want to get started right away, keep reading to find out how to build an ecommerce website.
How To Build an Ecommerce Website Step by Step
1. Determine what you’ll be selling.
2. Choose an ecommerce platform.
3. Set up your ecommerce website.
4. Personalize your ecommerce website.
5. Create product pages.
1. Determine What You’ll Be Selling
When learning how to build an ecommerce website, one of the top reasons entrepreneurs may encounter issues is a lack of product strategy.
Many new retailers make the mistake of turning their online shops into marketplaces that sell everything, thinking they can attract more customers with more products. However, when you try to sell to everyone, you end up selling to no one.
Successful ecommerce businesses choose product niches with focused audiences.
Some advantages of choosing a niche are:
- Focused business.
- Establishes credibility.
- Regular customers.
- Less competition.
Looking for Product Ideas
If you don't know what to sell or what niche to get into, determining the following will make the process easier:
- Product: What you're going to sell. Will it be physical or digital products? Will you be creating a new product or reselling an existing product?
- Target audience: Who you’ll be selling it to. Are you selling to other businesses (B2B) or directly to the consumer (B2C)?
- Business model: How you're going to sell it. Are you going to keep an inventory of products, or are you going to be dropshipping products?
Some ways to come up with product ideas include:
- Selling what you know or love.
- Determining a pain point, or an unmet or underserved need.
- Doing market research.
How To Do Market Research
Undergoing the process of learning how to build an ecommerce website could go to waste if no one wants to buy what you're selling. Market research helps determine whether the products you're aiming to sell are in demand. Here are some ways to do market research:
- Look for trending products. Look at ecommerce trends. Use a tool like Google Trends to check how a keyword has performed over time.
- Perform keyword research. You can start by looking through major online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay. The Amazon Best Sellers page is a gold mine for keywords you can break into niches and sub-niches.
- Do competitor research to discover how other businesses in your chosen niche are performing. SEO tools like Ahrefs and SEMRush help you see data such as the keywords your competitors are ranking for, as well as top content and traffic sources.
Obtaining Your Product
Once you’ve validated your product ideas with market research, you can now source products. If you plan on selling digital downloads, create a digital product. If you plan to sell retail products, look for reliable suppliers.
2. Choose an Ecommerce Platform
Now that you know what you’ll be selling and where to get it, you can start following the practical steps in our guide on how to build an ecommerce website.
The first step is choosing an ecommerce platform. Different kinds of ecommerce platforms are available — each differs depending on the ecommerce platform features you find important, such as security, scalability, and ease of use.
You can choose from:
- Ecommerce marketplaces, such as Amazon, eBay, or Etsy, are perfect for those just starting in ecommerce. Marketplaces get a high volume of web traffic, giving your new store the exposure it needs. However, marketplaces charge high transaction fees and can be very competitive.
- Ecommerce solutions, like Shopify or BigCommerce, are recommended to store owners who struggle with technology. Their easy-to-use interface makes setting up an online store easy, but customization options are limited.
- Custom ecommerce websites built on platforms such as WooCommerce (ecommerce for WordPress) and Magento require some level of coding skill. However, their scalability and customizability make up for it.
- Website builders, such as Nexcess’s StoreBuilder, combine the ease of an ecommerce solution with the customizability of an ecommerce website at an affordable price.
3. Set up Your Ecommerce Website
After choosing your ecommerce platform, you can start setting up your ecommerce website. Remember to utilize ecommerce website best practices to maximize your success. If you're creating an ecommerce website from scratch, remember to choose a web hosting provider and buy a domain name.
If your ecommerce platform does not include it, don’t forget to sign up for an SSL certificate and get a payment processor that accepts standard payment methods such as credit cards, Stripe, and PayPal. It might also be worth accepting other payment options to welcome more potential customers.
4. Personalize Your Website
Learning how to build an ecommerce website can be compared to the process of building a house.
If setting up your ecommerce store is building the foundation of a house, the next step is decorating the home — or designing your website.
If you set up your ecommerce website on WooCommerce, the next step is choosing themes and plugins. Themes are templates that make up your website design, while plugins are the pieces of code that give your website functionality.
The only thing you need to do is look for website design tips, which we’ll discuss in the section below.
Website Design Tips
One of the questions often asked when learning how to build an ecommerce website is “what makes a good website design?”
A well-designed website takes user experience into account. It is easy to use, fast-loading, and pleasing to the eyes.
1. Ensure your website loads fast. A quick-loading website does wonders for your SEO. Website visitors are less likely to purchase from a website that has a slow loading time. Although uncommon in ecommerce websites that sell products, you can learn how to make a one-page website easy to use.
2. Consider website navigation. Navigation refers to the way users move through your website. It contributes to user experience, which is why it is considered an SEO ranking factor. Some good website navigation practices to employ include:
- Following the three-click rule: Users should not take more than three clicks to get to a page.
- Making the most important information accessible.
- Incorporating responsive website design.
- Having a sitemap to help search engines and users navigate the website easily.
3. Ensure your homepage is presentable. Your website homepage serves as your ecommerce shop’s storefront and is your potential customer’s first impression of your website. If you're wondering how to create a homepage, check out our homepage design ideas.
5. Create Product Pages
The last step in learning how to make an ecommerce website is building product pages.
Product pages are an essential part of an ecommerce website. Great product pages not only showcase products to potential customers but also contribute to search engine rankings.
Optimizing your product pages is one of the best things you can do to increase sales, and here’s how you can do it.
- Use high-quality product images.
- Write convincing product descriptions.
- Include online reviews.
Use High-Quality Product Images
High-quality product images are an essential component of product pages because customers cannot see or touch your product. Product videos are also recommended to demonstrate how the products work.
Product photography tips:
- Take your own pictures to prevent copyright issues. If you don't have a separate camera, you can learn how to shoot product photos with your smartphone.
- Use natural light as much as possible.
- Touch up photos with photo editing software.
- Hire a product photographer for professional photos.
Write Convincing Product Descriptions
Part of learning how to build an ecommerce website is knowing how to write compelling product descriptions.
Product descriptions are marketing copy that provide information on the product’s salient features. It complements the product images by convincing customers to purchase the items. Using keywords in product descriptions can also help you rank in search engine results.
Here are some tips for writing product descriptions.
- Determine where your audience is at on the sales funnel.
- Do keyword research to find long-tail keywords. Keywords with navigational and transactional intent are often used in product pages.
- Use bullet points to describe product features. Using bullet points makes it easier to create a product description template.
- Tell a story to appeal to the customer’s emotions. Few people realize that the ecommerce decision-making process is primarily an emotional journey.
- Use “power words” that convince buyers to purchase.
- Check for spelling and grammar errors.
Include Online Reviews
Nine out of ten online shoppers say they read customer reviews before purchasing an item, saying they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and that online reviews have influenced their purchase decisions.
Online reviews give both the business and its potential customers an unbiased look into other customers’ opinions. Whether the review was good or bad, getting them is a good sign that your customers care enough to let you know what they think.
Tips for online reviews:
- Invite customers to give you a review. You can offer incentives such as discount coupons to encourage them to do so.
- Highlight positive reviews. Good reviews are testimonials that help build trust.
- Respond to negative feedback appropriately. Bad reviews tell you what your business can improve.
Lastly, before putting your website up, remember to organize product pages into product categories to aid website navigation. Learn the best practices for managing and optimizing product category pages.
How To Market Your Ecommerce Website
So, you’ve learned how to build your ecommerce website and have already put your website up. The next step is marketing your ecommerce website.
Although the ecommerce space is still young, you're up against several competitors, especially with how easy it is to create an ecommerce website. Investing in marketing efforts ensures a visible online presence, giving more people a chance to buy your products.
Some of the most common ecommerce marketing methods include:
1. Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing refers to the use of social media to grow your website. Social media increases brand awareness while driving traffic to your website. It also empowers you to reach your audiences where they're at — social media websites have targeting features that enable you to market directly to your target audience.
Remember to also use the right social platform for your goals. You can use each social media platform differently and target specific social media audiences.
For instance, Facebook is best for growing a community, while Twitter comes in handy for sending out quick real-time updates. Instagram and Pinterest are great for showcasing products because of their visual nature.
Lastly, you can use platforms like TikTok, which can be a great marketing tool to demonstrate how products work. It also allows you to reach the younger Gen Z audience.
2. Email Marketing
Email marketing is the practice of sending emails to a segmented list of subscribers to turn new customers into regular customers. It is an effective way of driving traffic to your website because nearly everyone checks their emails.
Use your email list to share new product offerings, deals, company updates, and recapture abandoned shopping carts.
3. Video Marketing
Video marketing is the practice of using videos to promote your product or service, educate your customers, and increase engagement on your social media channels.
Including video in your ecommerce marketing strategy has proven to increase conversion rates. Some video marketing ideas include:
- Product demonstration videos.
- Event videos.
- Live videos.
- Virtual tours.
- How-to videos.
- Customer testimonials.
4. Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing involves reaching out to influencers to promote your brand and products to their audience. It’s especially effective on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok.
5. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is a marketing model wherein the company shares a percentage of profits with third-party publishers for every successful sale made through their affiliate link. Besides promoting products, affiliate marketing is another way for influencers to make money.
6. Content Marketing
Content marketing is an inbound marketing strategy that involves distributing valuable and relevant content to establish your identity as a thought leader and build up your website’s SEO authority.
Some ways to incorporate content marketing include:
- Blog posts.
- Longform content.
- White papers.
If you're planning to use multiple marketing strategies, create a digital content strategy to organize what you post and where.
Final Thoughts: How To Build an Ecommerce Website in 5 Steps
Now you know how to build an ecommerce website step by step. You also know that ecommerce is here to stay.
Learning how to build an ecommerce website takes time, effort, and a little capital, but it’s a worthwhile investment.
If you want to build an ecommerce website having to develop it from scratch, WooCommerce is your best bet. It is based on WordPress, which makes it open source and user friendly.
It's quick to get started — and managed WooCommerce from Nexcess handles the maintenance so you can focus on your new ecommerce business.
Check out our WooCommerce plans to get started today.