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Published: Jan 18, 2023 14 min read
Woman UX designer working on her laptop to build a website

If you own a business, running an e-commerce website allows you to reach a wider audience than having only a physical store. Rather than being limited to a specific geographic location, consumers from all over the world can access the website and view your products. It also adds a layer of convenience for your customers, as they can shop from the comfort of their homes and have their purchases delivered directly to them.

E-commerce websites come with features that allow you to easily track and analyze customer behavior, helping you improve your marketing and sales strategies and increase revenue. They help you establish your brand, improve customer loyalty and are a great way to make money from home. Read on for important points to consider when deciding on how to build an e-commerce website.

8 steps to build your own e-commerce website

Creating an online business can be a complex process, but you can break it down into eight manageable steps.

1. Take your pick between an e-commerce platform or a website builder

The first thing you'll need to do is decide between using a dedicated e-commerce platform or a website builder with e-commerce features and add-ons.

Dedicated e-commerce platform

A dedicated e-commerce platform is a specialized tool designed for creating online stores. These platforms come with a range of built-in features and tools that make it easy to manage your store and sell products online. Popular e-commerce platforms include Shopify, BigCommerce and WooCommerce.

The main advantage of using an e-commerce platform over a website builder is that it’s specifically designed for creating online stores, so you can be sure that it’ll have all the features and tools you need to manage the store and sell products online.

In addition, e-commerce platforms tend to be user-friendly, allowing you to create a professional-looking store relatively quickly with one of their pre-built themes. They'll also help you with your e-commerce SEO needs.

The primary downside of using a dedicated e-commerce platform is that they’re often more expensive than a website builder and you usually need to pay a monthly subscription fee to use the platform. You may also be somewhat limited in terms of customization, as the platform will have a predefined set of templates and design options that you'll need to work with.

Website builder with e-commerce features and add-ons

If you don’t want to use a dedicated e-commerce platform, you could use a website builder with e-commerce features and add-ons. A website builder is a general-purpose tool that can be used to create any kind of website, including online stores.

Most website builders come with a range of pre-designed templates and design options that you can use to create a professional-looking website, and many of them also offer e-commerce features that you can use, including built-in shopping carts and payment processing features.

Unfortunately, website builders often have limited scalability, so as your business grows, you may need to switch to a more comprehensive platform. Depending on the website builder you use, you could have limited control over the design and functionality of the online store. This limits your ability to differentiate your business from competitors.

2. Purchase a domain from a domain registrar

It’s important to purchase a website domain from a domain registrar when building an e-commerce store. A website domain identifies your site on the internet. It’s like your website's address, and it allows customers to easily find and access the site. Having a domain also helps to establish your brand and credibility as a business. Additionally, many domain registrars offer extra features and services that can be useful for e-commerce stores, such as email hosting and website building tools.

3. Create your brand identity

Having a strong brand identity is important for any business, but it is especially important for e-commerce businesses. A brand identity is a combination of visual elements and messaging that creates a unique and recognizable image for a company.

In the e-commerce world, where customers often cannot touch or see products in person, a strong brand identity can help to distinguish a company from its competitors and build trust with customers.

Business name, logo, slogan and statements

A business's name, logo, slogan and statements are important elements of any successful e-commerce store. These elements help to establish a brand identity and create a lasting impression on customers.

A business name is the first thing that customers see and should be memorable and easy to remember. A logo can help create recognition and establish a visual identity. A slogan or tagline is a brief phrase that captures the essence of the business and can help set it apart from other brands.

Mission statements and company values can help define the business and provide customers with a sense of what it stands for. This helps build trust and loyalty among customers.

In addition to creating a positive impression on customers, these elements can also help with your e-commerce SEO and make it easier for customers to find the business online.

Color palette, typography and shapes

The elements used in the design process are also important to consider when building an e-commerce store. They can play a significant role in creating a positive user experience and ultimately driving sales.

The color palette can set the tone and mood for the store and help to accentuate the difference between your brand and the rest. A warm and inviting color scheme can create a sense of trust and comfort for potential customers, while bold and vibrant colors can grab attention.

The typography used on the site also affects the user experience. Choosing clear, easy-to-read fonts can improve the legibility of the site and make it easier for customers to find the information they’re looking for. Using a consistent font style throughout the site helps create a cohesive and professional look.

The use of shapes can guide the user's eye and draw attention to important elements on the site, such as call-to-action (CTA) buttons or product images. Using shapes that are in line with the overall design aesthetic of the site can help to create a cohesive and visually appealing user experience.

4. Customize an e-commerce template or build it from scratch

Once you have these elements in place, you can begin building your e-commerce website. Many available platforms make it easy to create a professional-looking website, even if you don't have any technical expertise.

First, you need to consider whether to customize an e-commerce template or build your website from scratch. There are pros and cons to both approaches, so it's important to take into account your needs and your budget.

If you're on a tight budget, or if you don't have much technical expertise, customizing an e-commerce template might be a good option for you. Many e-commerce platforms offer pre-made templates that can be customized with your own colors, fonts and branding. This can save you time and hassle while giving your website a professional and polished look. It does, however, limit the level of customization available, and you might not be able to get the site to look exactly how you’d like.

On the other hand, building your e-commerce website from scratch can be time-consuming and expensive, but it can also give you more control and flexibility. If you have the technical know-how or are willing to hire a developer, building your website from scratch means you can create a unique and custom-tailored website that matches your brand and business needs.

5. Add your products and product descriptions

Once you've decided on a template or design approach, it's time to add your product photos and descriptions. This is where you'll have the opportunity to showcase your merchandise and convince potential customers on making a purchase.

When adding your product photos, use high-quality images and detailed descriptions. This helps customers get a good sense of what they're buying and can help improve your search engine rankings. Organizing your products into categories and subcategories makes it easier for customers to find what they're looking for.

6. Input your tax information, payment options and shipping settings

The next step is inputting your tax information, payment options and shipping options. This is where you'll decide how you'll handle taxes, what payment methods you'll accept and how you'll ship your products.

In order to input your tax information and payment and shipping options, you’ll have to create an account with an e-commerce platform. There are many different options available, ranging from free, basic platforms to more advanced and expensive ones. You'll also need to set up a business checking account.

Once you’ve created an account and set up your e-commerce store, you can access the store settings and customize them to your liking. You can provide tax information, such as the tax rate in your location, to ensure that you are charging the correct amount of tax on your products. Business accounting software such as Xero or QuickBooks can help with this as well as with securing a small business loan, should the need arise.

You’ll also need to choose your payment gateway options and set them up on your e-commerce store. This typically involves connecting your store to a credit card processing company such as PayPal or Stripe. Connecting your website to either of these companies allows you to set up payment options for your customers including credit cards or other online payment methods.

Shipping options are also important for an e-commerce store. In your e-commerce platform, you’ll be able to set up different shipping options and rates, depending on the weight and destination of the products being shipped. You can choose to offer free shipping or other promotions to encourage customer purchases.

7. Preview and test all buttons and features

Once you’ve entered the information above, it’s important to preview and test all buttons and features on your e-commerce store to make sure everything works correctly. This involves going through the entire checkout process — from adding items to the cart to completing the purchase — to confirm that everything is running smoothly.

8. Launch your e-commerce store

After you have previewed and tested your e-commerce store, you’re ready to launch it and start selling your products. This typically involves promoting your store and products through various channels, such as social media and email marketing, that attract customers and drive traffic to the store.

How much does it cost to build an e-commerce website on average?

The cost of building an e-commerce website varies depending on several factors, such as the size and complexity of the website, the type of platform used to build it, your technical expertise and the features and functionalities your website includes.

You can expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars to build an e-commerce website. The ongoing costs of maintaining and updating an e-commerce website can also add to the overall expense. Customers should research different website options and compare prices to find the best solution for their business.

What should you sell on your e-commerce website?

The possibilities are endless. You can sell physical products, digital products or a combination of both. Choose a niche that you're passionate about and have a good understanding of. This will make it easier to market your products and provide excellent customer service.

Are you ready to start your business?

Before launching your e-commerce store, make sure you're ready to start a business. This means having a solid business plan in place, understanding your target audience and having a clear idea of how you'll market and sell your products. It's also important to have a good understanding of the e-commerce landscape and the competition you'll be facing.

Launching an e-commerce store can be a rewarding and exciting venture. By carefully planning and preparing, you can set yourself up for success and create a thriving online business.