There are numerous Online Store Builders that help you create a successful online store. As an example, you can launch a beautiful storefront and scale your business with BigCommerce. As well as, create an attractive Amazon Store or even Shopify Store. But that’s just a scratch to various platforms for eCommerce websites.
eCommerce Websites are the most important online tools that your business needs. In fact, it’s your online shop. For instance, research has it that buyers are shifting to online shopping. Given the huge number of people who have access to smartphones and computers.
But, choosing the best eCommerce platform is not an easy task. The market is wide and there are many factors to consider. Your choice has a lot of impact on your online business, so it’s important to give it enough thought before signing up.
Also, it is important to realize, trading, be it barter exchange or buying and selling of goods and services has been prevalent for centuries. And of course, no one can be self-sufficient. In that case, this brings out the need for demand and supply of goods and services.
But, before we learn how to create a shopping site, let’s first define what an online store is below.
What is an Online Store?
Basically, an Online Store is a website through which customers place orders. It may represent a small local store, a major retailer, an e-commerce store, or an individual who sells projects through a third-party site, such as Amazon.
It is important to realize, an online store can operate under a number of business models. Including business-to-consumer, business-to-business, or consumer to consumer. But, to operate an online store, you’ll need a product catalog, a shopping cart, and other items.
There are also various platform builders that offer a wide range and complete array of business applications such as online ordering solutions.
As well as, loyalty, text alerts, inventory, scheduling, customer-facing technology, cloud kitchens display systems, and more. In short, it’s what a POS system wants to be when it grows up.
Some of the requirements for an online store are;
- Domain Name & Web Hosting
- Dedicated IP Address
- Shopping Cart Software
- Merchant Interface & Products Catalog
- Online Payment Processor
- Shipping Costs & Tax Calculator
- Identity UPC Bar Codes
1. Domain Name & Web Hosting
An online store requires a domain name to set up its online presence. The business owner registers a domain name with a registrar and links it to the online store. The domain name is a store’s online identity.
A web server hosts an online store and e-commerce hosting provides the functions required to create, operate, and manage an online store. Web hosting features include the shopping cart software, SSL protocol, database support, payment processing services, security features, and other functions. E-commerce hosting is a service that web-hosting service providers offer in addition to the webserver needed to host the site.
2. Dedicated IP Address
An online store’s web server has an IP address that allows the user to connect to the server. In turn, an online store encrypts the data that flows between a browser and a web server using the SSL protocol to protect customer data. A private SSL certificate ensures customers the website is secure.
3. Shopping Cart Software
Shopping cart software, or e-commerce software, powers an online site. The software supports the online store catalog and order processing. You can purchase this software through various vendors or hire a developer to create a shopping cart for you.
4. Merchant Interface & Products Catalog
A shopping cart interfaces with a merchant account with a financial institution that’s required to process a credit card payment over the Internet in real-time. You obtain the merchant account needed for your payment system from a bank. The payment system can integrate with the billing system.
The product catalog is a virtual gateway that provides customers a listing of available products and their descriptions, their classification as well as a retrieval function. It consists of category pages and product listing pages. Using the product catalog, the customer can order goods, make payments, access customer service, provide feedback, and perform other functions.
5. Online Payment Processor
An online payment processor allows an online store to accept credit card payments. A payment gateway validates the credit card data and then processes the transaction. After decreasing the payment amount by the processing fee, the gateway deposits the remainder into the online store’s bank account.
6. Shipping Costs & Tax Calculator
Shipping costs can be calculated after the customer places an item in a shopping cart. After or before the order is finalized, the calculator then determines the shipping fee based on the criteria entered by the online store customer. For example, shipping costs may be calculated on the basis of weight, destination, and other criteria.
An online sale is not complete until taxes have been calculated. The online store site manager updates the tax rates on a periodic basis. You can also purchase software that automatically updates the tax rates. Some shipping companies provide software to merchants to ensure the rates are current.
7. Identity UPC Bar Codes
If you are interested in selling merchandise through a distributor or retailer that uses scanner technology, you will need a UPC bar code. UPC stands for Universal Product Code and is the standard used by retailers to allow inventory, pricing, and checkout to be controlled electronically. The process of obtaining bar codes for your merchandise is straightforward but involves some expense and paperwork.
Using the Data Driver tool, assign unique bar codes for each of your items. Obtain a digital file of your bar code. If the packaging has not been developed, the bar code can be incorporated into the packaging design. If the packaging is already in place or doesn’t allow for printing bar codes, bar codes will need to be printed separately and affixed to the items.
How do I Build an Online Store?
We could all do with a little extra money here and there. And building an online store is the perfect way to bring in some additional income. In fact, ecommerce sales are expected to make up 17.5% of retail sales worldwide by 2021!
Whether you already own a brick-and-mortar store and you’re looking to expand online, or you’re taking your first steps into the world of ecommerce with your first ever store, there is a need to know how to build an online store from start to finish.
Furthermore, building an online store has never been easier with ecommerce builders like Shopify and WordPress Plugins like WooCommerce. Web hosts such as Bluehost are also making the process of building with WordPress faster and more beginner-friendly.
Step 1: Choose an Ecommerce Website Builder
As for eCommerce Websites builder, it’s online software that lets you build your very own online store. In that case, without needing advanced tech skills, coding knowledge, or a dozen computer screens. All you need is an internet connection and a great business idea!
When starting an online store, the first step is choosing the right online store builder. There are loads of online store builders out there. Some are cheap, some are expensive, some are reliable, and some aren’t. And with so many options to choose from, I thought I’d make it a little easier to pick the right one for you.
Here are some of the best;
Click on each to learn how it works and you can use either to create an online store.
- Shopify (for a large online store)
- Wix (for a smaller one)
- WooCommerce (it works best on WordPress sites)
- BigCommerce (suitable for an enterprise business)
- Amazon (best suited for a Dropshipping business)
We all know that choices can be overwhelming at times. But it all comes down to the purpose and size of your online store.
Step 2: Choose the Best Plan for You
Once you’ve tested a few builders and are happy with your choice, you need to sign up for the right plan so you can get started with building your store.
However, different levels of plans come with different features. And as you’d expect, the more you pay for these plans, the more you get. Which plan suits you best depends on the size of your business and your growth ambitions.
Equally important, if you’re looking to create an eCommerce store, you will need a paid plan. Bearing in mind, uploading and selling products require more complicated software than building a normal website.
Plans start at just $12 per month (Weebly’s Pro Plan). That’s less than a large pizza from Domino!
Step 3: Get a Domain Name for Your Store
To simply put, a domain name is the naming bit in a URL that identifies your store’s name. And more often, a good domain name is key to launching a successful online store. It builds trust with customers and helps establish your brand.
Let’s say you’re jmexclusives (“Keeping It Simple & Profitable”). Below is the josephmuciraexclusives (short form for jmexclusives) URL, with the domain name in bold:
Meaning, this is the primary domain. And it’s what customers see in the address bar and Google searches. Think of your domain name like the sign that hangs above a real-life high street store.
You can buy a domain name through Shopify, Wix, and BigCommerce for around $10 to $20 per year. Alternatively, you can use a domain name registrar such as Domain.com to purchase a domain and link it to your online store builder.
Step 4: Pick a Template for your eCommerce Store
With templates (sometimes known as Child Themes), you can make your site look good without being a design expert, or touching any code!
In reality, selecting themes in Shopify and BigCommerce is easy. All you have to do is select a template from your builder’s marketplace.
With Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly, it’s very similar. You’ll start by choosing a template, which are split into different categories. Each category represents a different industry. For example, you’ll have templates for Blogging, Business Services, and Online Stores.
Squarespace has the best quality designs on the market, so if you need to really make your products stand out, it’s a great place to start looking.
Step 5: Customize your eCommerce Store Template
Once you’ve selected a template/theme, head to your store’s admin tool to start customizing.
Customizing is easy, and you can change just about anything.
This includes your;
- Text Size and Font
- Color Scheme
- Positioning of Products
- Embedding Social Media
- Search Engine Optimization
And the list goes on. Where most online store builders will also allow you to embed apps.
These are found in the app market and can be used to cover any features you need that the platform may not already have inbuilt.
Step 6: Start adding your Store Products
Now that you’ve created a stylish online store using a template, you need to add your products.
By all means, using an online store builder, you have great control over your product pages.
As an example, the image above shows how you can combine style with minimalism to create a unique look.
And in general, the main things you need to add a product are;
- Weight (for physical products)
- File (for downloadable products like ebooks).
Different ecommerce website builders have different limits on:
- Products numbers that you can upload
- Options for each product (the same product but in a different size or color)
- Product variants (a combination of two options: for example, a blue t-shirt in size medium)
Having said that, make sure you check that each builder’s limit meets your business’s needs.
Step 7: Set Up your Payment Methods & Sort Out Shipping
Next, you need to set up your shop payment methods. This is a crucial part of converting a lead customer into a buyer.
After all, eCommerce website builders make this easy for you. They optimize the process so you can hit the ground running with the best (and most effective) payment options.
Not forgetting, eCommerce website builders help by connecting you directly to multiple different payment options. Such as PayPal, Visa, Apple Pay, and Mastercard.
Up to this point, you’ve added products and payment options for customers to buy them. Next up is making sure you can deliver those products. However, to understand how to build an online store, you need to understand how shipping options work.
Different ecommerce website builders come with different shipping options.
Step 9: Preview, Test & Publish your Online Store
You should now have added your products, customized your store’s template, set up your payment and shipping, and sorted out your store’s settings.
You’re very nearly there! But, there’s one important step to go before you’ve finished creating your online store: testing it. Not to mention, eCommerce website builders make it very easy to test and preview your online store before publishing.
Testing your store is the best way to make sure you’re satisfying your customers’ needs. While at the same time, before you hit publish, the last thing to do is double check your store’s settings! Without proper settings, your store won’t be able to run properly.
Eventually, people love WordPress because it’s such a powerful and customizable platform. Over a third of all websites are built using WordPress, and it’s easy to see why. You get total control over your website’s design, features, security, and more. Making it both customizable and scalable.
But, the foundation of any good WordPress website, be it a blog or an online store, is good quality, reliable web hosting. Web hosting is like your website’s home on the internet – without it, no website could appear online.
If you pick a poor quality hosting provider, your online store could crash, get hacked more easily, load more slowly, or run into any number of problems that will affect your sales.
Instead, you need to pick a top-quality web host – and there are tons of different providers to choose from, all with different strengths and weaknesses.
For WordPress, I recommend using Bluehost. It has WordPress specific plans to make your life easy and your site successful. And has even been recommended by WordPress itself as the number one provider for WordPress users!
And with WordPress, you can use WooCommerce as your preferred store builder.
Finally, I hope the above-revised guide on how to start an eCommerce website was useful to you or even your team.
But, if you’ll require additional support or help in building your own online store, please feel to Contact Us.
All in all, you can also share your thoughts, contributions, and further questions in the comments section. Below are more useful and related topic links.
- Bluehost | Why is it the Best Host for WordPress Sites?
- WordPress Sites Builder | What are Themes and Plugins?
- ThemeForest | WordPress Themes & Website Templates
- Envato Elements | Website Themes, Designs & Templates
- Personal Blog Guide | How to Start a Free WordPress Site
You can also see 31 Beautiful Examples of Shopify Stores.