This is a guest post from our friends at BigCommerce
Need an ecommerce website? Tired of losing sales to online competitors?
If you’re not already selling online, there’s never been a better time to hop on the ecommerce bandwagon. After all, you already know ecommerce is big, and while online stores used to be the outliers of the retail world, ecommerce has gone mainstream.
In 2019, U.S. shoppers bought $365.2 billion worth of physical goods from online stores, including $103.13 billion in clothing, shoes, and accessories. Global ecommerce penetration is expected to surpass 65% of worldwide internet users by 2021, although the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to push the actual number of ecommerce users even higher.
And the growth in B2C ecommerce is similar to what we’re seeing in the B2B space. The worldwide B2B ecommerce gross merchandise volume (GMV) rose from $5.83 trillion in 2013 to $12.2 trillion by 2019, and this upward trend is expected to continue.
In this article, we outline the 8 steps you can take to get your ecommerce website up and running — even if coding isn’t your jam.
8 Steps for Building an Ecommerce Website
Building a website can be like going down a rabbit hole. There’s always something new to do, or something you can optimize. But these eight steps will give you the foundation you need to start selling fast.
1. Purchase a domain name.
Your domain name is your online address — it’s the internet equivalent to your street address and zip code.
Avoid creative spellings.
When choosing a domain name, try to steer clear of creative spellings. Ditch the homophones — words that sound the same but have completely different meanings. Words like here and hear, ate and eight, and flour and flower are easily confused, especially by AI speech-to-text systems like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexis.
Avoid hyphens and numbers.
Don’t use hyphens or numbers. Hyphens instantly turn a single-word domain name into two or more words, which makes the domain name tougher to say, remember, and type in. The same goes for numbers. People often forget to include hyphens and numbers when entering a web address, which can mean your target audience winds up visiting another website.
Keep it short, but avoid generic names.
Try to keep your domain name simple, but avoid using a name that’s too generic. You’ll want a domain that is easy to spell and remember, accurately reflects your enterprise, and won’t be confused with your competition.
2. Get your paperwork in order.
Ecommerce businesses are subject to many of the same tax, anti-fraud, and consumer protection laws as brick-and-mortar stores.
Register your business.
You’ll need to register your business with your local regulatory body, secure a vendor’s license, and obtain a tax number.
Consult with an attorney who specializes in ecommerce.
Ideally, you should connect with an attorney who works with ecommerce owners to ensure you fully understand all the risks and potential liabilities and your online enterprise complies with copyright laws and trademarks as well as national and international shipping restrictions.
Ensure your website is COPPA compliant.
For example, you need to ensure your website is compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a law designed to protect kids from online predators. Some jurisdictions have web content accessibility laws, while others regulate the sale of age-restricted or potentially hazardous products.
3. Find your perfect ecommerce website builder.
Choosing the right ecommerce website builder is a really big deal. While industry leaders like BigCommerce, Shopify, and Magento offer similar services and features, each has a number of pros and cons to consider.
BigCommerce consistently ranks as one of the best website builders for small to medium enterprises, thanks to its affordability, ease of use, and security. There are hundreds of ready-to-use templates to choose from, as well as tons of value-added features.
BigCommerce uses cloud-based hosting to achieve an industry-leading uptime rate of 99.9%, which is the digital equivalent of the hours your store is open and accessible to customers and prospects.
Like BigCommerce, Shopify is also known for being affordable, easy to use, and reliable. There are plenty of themes to choose from as well. One drawback, however, is that it’s light on the features. Shopify is best suited for small businesses that want a simple plug-and-play option to sell a limited selection of products, like handcrafted items.
Of the three most popular website builders, Magento is by far the most expensive and most difficult to use.
That said, Magento has a lot to offer users who have the financial resources and technical skills needed to set up and maintain an online store. Magento ecommerce websites look great and offer amazing versatility, but this isn’t the best option for anyone who wants to get their ecommerce website up and running quickly.
Magento has two main offerings — a free, open-source option that’s self-hosted and the Magento Enterprise hosted option that’s price is based on a complex formula that combines your average order value and annual sales. For many ecommerce businesses, these costs can start at $22,000 per year and go well above the six-figure mark.
4. Find a theme that matches your ecommerce website vision.
Now that you’ve selected an ecommerce website builder, go ahead and pick a website theme, also called a website template.
A website theme serves as the foundation for the layout, style, and features of your site. You can customize your theme to match your branding by:
- Selecting your text size and font.
- Picking your color scheme.
- Adding drag-and-drop images, including your company logo.
- Positioning your products in a way that fits your overall design vision.
- Integrating video content.
- Embedding social media links.
Most quality online ecommerce site builder tools also let you embed apps found in the app market. These apps let you add specific features to your site that may not be available through your website builder.
5. Stock your online store.
Once you’ve got your domain, signed up with an ecommerce website builder, and picked a template, it’s time to stock your online store. With most ecommerce platforms, this means simply creating product categories and populating the pages with the associated products.
Set up product categories.
Divide your stock into specific categories. Think about the different aisles or sections in a store — you want to replicate that experience in your online shop. Categorizing your stock helps consumers find what they’re looking for faster, which leads to better conversion rates.
Create product descriptions.
Create good product descriptions that are clear, accurate, and free from cliches, complex jargon, and long sentences. Be sure to include details like the dimensions of the product, shipping weight, and colors. Consider writing a few short sentences followed by a bulleted list of product features.
Add product images and videos.
Whenever possible, include images of the actual product. Remember, online stores can’t offer the same tactile experience as brick-and-mortar shops, so you need to provide customers with as much information as possible. You may even want to include brief videos demonstrating the product features or assembly instructions.
Set up an inventory management system.
Inventory management systems enable end-to-end tracking of your entire supply chain, providing you with the information you need to manage your stock efficiently.
6. Select your payment methods.
Selling online means choosing one or more payment methods. The two most popular options are payment gateway packages and credit card processing.
Payment gateway packages.
Payment gateway packages are merchant services that process debit and credit card payments on behalf of ecommerce vendors. These payment gateways handle everything from the secure encryption to the payment authorization and fulfillment, and they also calculate taxes and shipping costs. PayPal, Square, and Apple Pay are among the most popular payment gateway providers.
Credit card processing.
Alternatively, you can opt for credit card processing. This process is basically the same as what’s used in traditional face-to-face credit card transactions where the seller needs to set up a merchant account in order to accept credit card payments. Given the cost and complexity involved, credit card processing is rarely used on ecommerce sites.
7. Sort out your order fulfillment process.
Shipping is everything in the world of ecommerce. The right order fulfillment process can help boost consumer confidence in your brand, leading to a positive brand image and repeat customers.
Set your shipping origin address to find the best shipping options in your area. Aside from hyper-local businesses that handle their own delivery service, this means deciding if you want to use the postal service, a courier company, or a third-party order fulfillment provider. There are pros and cons to each, and the decision often comes down to which option is the most reliable, affordable, and efficient relative to the size and volume of the products you’ll be shipping out.
You’ll also need to decide if you will only offer domestic shipping or orders from international customers as well. If shipping internationally, you should take the time to learn about any export restrictions, customs regulations, or duties that might apply.
8. Preview, test, and publish your online store.
Before launching your ecommerce website, preview and test all the functions to make sure your customers have a great user experience. This is critical to the credibility of your brand because most consumers equate a poorly functioning ecommerce website with equally poor quality products and services.
Does the checkout work?
Try out the checkout process. Does it work as expected, or are there some pain points that need to be resolved?
Are the store’s functions working?
Are all of the clickable internal links functioning? Dead links are a big turn-off for consumers who will likely navigate to another site instead of trying to do business on a website that doesn’t work as expected.
Does the store work on mobile and different browsers?
Does your store work on all devices, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones? What about different browsers? In order to attract and retain customers, you need a website that works across all major browsers and devices.
Have you checked the store settings?
Look at the languages, addresses, contact details, and time zone settings. Is your contact information readily available? Have you included your social media links? Is there a way for customers to reach out if they have trouble with your site or simply need more information?
Ask friends and family to test your ecommerce website.
Consider having friends and family members test your site before you go live, and if that’s not an option, hire a customer experience expert to conduct a comprehensive site audit. Remember, you’ll likely have just one shot at winning over your customers, so it’s important to make a great first impression with a solid, user-friendly site.
Building an ecommerce website is easier than it’s ever been, especially when you choose the right website builder tools. Don’t let a lack of coding skills or tech knowledge keep you from setting up your own ecommerce business. Simply follow the tips in this guide to get your dream business up and running in less time than you’d expect.