How To Build an Ecommerce Website

How To Build an eCommerce Website From Scratch

Ecommerce websites have become integral to the global retail framework in the past decade.

Given the rapid increase of internet access, the convenience of online shopping, and the pandemic that compelled many brick-and-mortar businesses to move to an eCommerce model, it should not be a surprise that eCommerce businesses are here to stay.

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If you sell goods and services, it sure makes sense to have an online presence in this day and age. An eCommerce website helps find new customers, generate leads or sales, and enhance brand credibility.

Even better, if you want to build an eCommerce website from scratch, you can easily do so. Many eCommerce template-based solutions require little technical know-how to build a website.

Alternatively, take the help of a specialist web developer to do the work for you.

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How To Build an eCommerce Website Step-by-Step

If you research enough, you can make decisions that result in a magnificent eCommerce site that scales up and evolves with you in the years to come.

This blog post walks you through the steps for building an eCommerce website with examples and actionable tips.


1. Choose an Appropriate eCommerce Platform

A fast and flexible solution helps you manage your website, marketing, sales, and operations from the backend. You are better able to streamline operational efficiency and drive memorable customer experiences.

With the ever-growing need for online shopping, there has been a surge of eCommerce platforms on the market. As of July 2022, WooCommerce was the leading eCommerce software platform with a market share of 36.68%.

Market Share of Ecommerce Software Platforms (July 2022)

Market Share of Ecommerce Software Platforms, as of July 2022
Source: Statista

There are two primary types of eCommerce platforms to choose from.

SaaS as a Software (SaaS)

A SaaS eCommerce solution is delivered as a cloud-based system that is accessed via an internet browser instead of getting downloaded to a business network or desktop PC.

WooCommerce, Shopify, BigCommerce, and Squarespace are popular eCommerce SaaS examples.

WooCommerce homepage
WooCommerce Homepage

SaaS boasts robust security, higher scalability, and ease of use. It asks for a monthly subscription fee, making it a cost-effective option for eCommerce businesses with limited budgets.

Open-Source

Open-source eCommerce platforms are free to install and offer excellent customization capability. You have complete ownership of your data, and your website can integrate with virtually any business system.

However, open source requires advanced coding knowledge.

Security breaches are also a concern, requiring a dedicated development team for site maintenance. All in all, going for this option can be more costly compared to SaaS. Magento, OpenCart, and Drupal Commerce are popular open-source eCommerce platforms.

⚡Check also ➡️ Shopify vs WordPress: What is better for an eCommerce website?


2. Carefully Select and Purchase a Domain Name

This is pretty straightforward. You need a domain name that fits well with your eCommerce business. Do not overthink the process. Check the availability of your domain using Namecheap.

If your preferred name is not available, you can choose something else that is available.

In most cases, you should be able to buy a domain name with your hosting (right at the stage of registering your account).

If not, use domain registrars such as Namecheap, to make the purchase as low as $10 per year. A domain name should be easy to remember and preferably not too long. Avoid hyphens and numbers, as that is not considered best practice.

Namecheap Homepage
Namecheap Homepage

Read more ➡️ What Is the Fastest Web Hosting? [Quick Answer]


3. Choose an eCommerce Theme or Template

How your store looks and feels is critical to engaging customers and generating more sales.

Whether you are building your eCommerce site with WordPress, Wix, Shopify, or anything else, you will have access to pre-built, customizable templates, and themes.

Think about the following parameters when selecting a template:

  • A smooth navigation that allows customers to move from one page to another
  • A branded homepage that tells the type of business you are in a single glance.
  • Easy customization options that enable you to have a font and color scheme matching your branding include images and videos and embed social media links and live chat apps.

You also need to ensure the theme you choose delivers quick load times, is mobile-friendly, and is cost-effective (free and paid options available). 

Learn more ➡️ WordPress Themes vs WordPress Plugins: What’s the Difference?


4. Create Product Categories and List Your Items

How neatly the product pages are laid down is a crucial factor of an eCommerce website, as that is what engages customers and makes them react positively to you.

Therefore, for starters, categorize your products appropriately, so it is easy to find similar products under one tab. Categories can also be used with filters to enable customers to sort through specific brands or price ranges.

Secondly, write crisp and compelling product descriptions.

Make sure your product page copy is straight to the point and answers the following questions:

  • Who is the product for?
  • What are the product’s primary uses?
  • What are the main features of the product?
  • Who can use the product?

Write the description in bullet points and formatted in different font sizes to make the content easily scannable.

One of the best examples of eCommerce websites that do product descriptions right is that of Patagonia, an outdoor gear seller.

The product description on Patagonia
The product description on Patagonia

The product highlights are structured in a short paragraph. Specifications are in bullet points. The page also has enough videos and photos to help the customer make an informed decision.

Also, include critical information about the product, such as shipment and delivery timelines, return policies, and guarantees.

Note that there are many ways to convey your message. Sticking to product descriptions alone to convey your message will certainly not be enough.

By exploiting different content formats, you will increase your reach and make potential customers more informed. As a result, they will be more likely to make a buying decision.

Lastly, take your product imagery seriously. Since your customers cannot touch, feel, or wear your products before buying, the least you can do is use high-quality product photos (ideally taken from all angles) and/or videos.

Vibrant imagery makes the product look more appealing, keeping the customers browsing – just how Harry’s, a men’s grooming products seller, does.

Harry's product image
Visually appealing product image on Harry’s website

5. Add Other Pages to Your eCommerce Website

Your homepage and the product pages are the stars of your store. However, you still need to create supporting pages for compliance. The list includes:

  • Terms of website use page
  • Cookie policy page
  • Privacy policy page (A must if you operate in the UK/EU)
  • Shipping and returns policy page

In addition, have an “About Us” page that captures the essence of your eCommerce brand and narrates why you started the business. The human appeal will help connect your target audience and boost conversions.

The “Our Story” page of the Singaporean online clothing store, “Love, Bonito” brings out the essence of the brand.

"Our Story" page on Love,Bonito website
“Our Story” page on Love,Bonito website

You may also want to add an FAQ page (covering questions on your return policy, guarantee/warranty, and tracking orders), a sizing guide (for clothing and shoes), press mentions, a “Contact Us” page, and even a blog.


6. Set Up Your Payment Gateway

After you have populated your eCommerce site with your products and relevant pages, we come to the most critical part of selling online – setting up a payment method.

You can use a third-party payment gateway like PayPal, where the customer is redirected to its site for payment completion.

Stripe also dynamically adapts to the customers’ location and supports coupons, tax rates, and shipping charges (if applicable), giving them the flexibility to use all the major cards (Master, VISA, Diner’s Club), and mobile payment services (e.g., Google Pay).

Stripe Homepage
Stripe Homepage

Before you select a payment gateway, ask yourself:

  • Is the payment gateway safe? Is it PCI-compliant? 
  • Does it include payment fraud protection?
  • How easy is it to integrate it into your site?
  • What are the fees that the customer must pay?

In addition, factor in the shipping costs, especially if you charge a variable or flat fee to ship to different locations.

Depending on your payment gateway, you can define provisions in the backend to automatically charge shipping expenses, sales tax, and other fees at checkout.


7. Sort Out Your Shipping Settings

Since you are running an eCommerce store, you will likely cater to customers worldwide.

You must, therefore, determine how you will ship the orders, how much it will cost, and whether you want to charge your customers for delivery.

Shipping settings on Wix
Shipping settings on Wix

The point is no customer wants to pay additional for shipping. In fact, if they see free shipping, they will be more inclined to make a purchase. And if you add a shipping cost towards the checkout process, be prepared to see abandoned shopping carts!

So make sure you decide on the shipping costs beforehand. In addition, draft an ironclad policy that covers information about your shipping costs and carriers.

Are you offering shipping for free, a variable charge, or a flat fee? Who are you shipping with? Can you name the major carriers you have partnered with? Also, if you do not have plans to ship outside your home country, clarify that on the homepage! 


8. Preview, Test, and Make Your eCommerce Site Live

Once you have done the work, preview your custom store and check whether all pages open properly and the links work. To make it easier for you, here is a checklist you can follow for an effective site audit:

  • Click every CTA button and internal links on your site. Do the product categories and filters work? Is your main menu functional?
  • Run a test on an order. Are you able to add products to the cart? Did the payment get processed easily? Did you receive a confirmation email?
  • Test the site on various web browsers, including Chrome, Safari, and Firefox.
  • Is your eCommerce site mobile-optimized? Are the dimensions correct? Are the buttons clickable on the small screen?

If the site does not look good on mobile or tablet, most links are broken, and the payment processing method is faulty, you are signing up for failure. Therefore, take your time to fix the issues and only hit the “Publish” button when you are 100% sure.

⚡Check also ➡️ How To Publish a WordPress Site (in 7 Easy Steps)


In a Nutshell

Announce the launch of your eCommerce site through social media (using appropriate strategies), email, and influencers. If budget permits, run paid ads on Google, Facebook, and Instagram to attract your target audience to come and browse through your store.

The creation of an eCommerce store does not have to be a complicated process. It is easier than you might expect.

If you have the right tools (or talent), you can quickly get it set up and running. Even if you are using a website builder that is fairly easy to use, you can take the help of a professional web developer who knows about setting up an eCommerce store for you, customizing its layout, installing appropriate plugins, and even purchasing the domain name.

When considering hiring a developer, check out their portfolio and client testimonials. Confirm the timeline within which they can deliver the website.

Make sure the developer shares your version and can build an eCommerce website you want – without compromising on quality and user experience and burning a hole in your pocket.


Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to build an eCommerce website?

The cost of developing an eCommerce website varies on multiple factors, such as the eCommerce platform chosen, the type of CMS and site builder used, and the size of your online store.

However, the total cost for building a small-to-midsize eCommerce site could range from $1500 to $6000. On the other hand, an enterprise-level eCommerce store with additional plugins could cost you anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000.

How long does it take to build an eCommerce website?

There is no particular timescale for setting up an eCommerce site. It depends on the number of product pages to be added, the extensive functionality and variety of add-ons, plugins, and features to be integrated, the amount of content required, and so on.

However, to give you a number, it takes at least six weeks to get the site ready and tested. It could take more if your online store is large-scale.


⬇️Further Reading:

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Article by:

Nick Huss

Nick is a HubSpot Certified digital marketer and website enthusiast with years of experience. He loves creating new sites, testing novel concepts, discovering amazing tools, and sharing all his findings with the World.

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