How To Start An eCommerce Website From Scratch in 2020: A Beginners Guide

Introduction

Setting up an eCommerce website can be quite a tough task. You need to find reliable products to list on the website, decide on the layout, and even take care of the SEO. There’s so much that goes into designing an eCommerce website!

To stand out from the competition, you also need to do things differently. This is a necessity because there are more than 2-3 million eCommerce websites around the world. You need to have something unique to offer to your customers that would make them want to purchase from you.

It’s thus necessary to chart out a path to  such that everyone would want to throng to your store. Let’s take a look at how you can set up your eCommerce website right from scratch in 2020.

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Method to Develop Your eCommerce Website

Method to Develop Your eCommerce Website

1. Decide the Product

The first step in setting up your eCommerce store is that of selecting your product or products. Decide whether you wish to set up a single product eCommerce store or multiple products eCommerce store. It’s based on this decision that you can choose how you want your eCommerce store to turn out. It also helps you decide on a website builder and eCommerce store manager.

For instance, a single product store can even work with a one-page website. On the other hand, you’d need a more complex website to handle multiple products. It’s thus extremely important to decide your product or service right in the very beginning.

If you’re going for a single product, make sure that the product is good enough that people would want to come to you. This challenge is slightly lesser for multiple product websites where you may be able to get shoppers who want a variety of products.

In addition, you should consider the demand of the product locally too. See if the items that you’re selling are available locally and check their rates too. Remember, you need to beat out the local competitors as they would be able to deliver things quicker to the customers.

After considering all these factors, choose your products and then move on to the next step.

2. Decide on Your Business Model

The next step for setting up your eCommerce store is to decide on a business model. This should include how you intend to sell your products and through which modes. You can either keep your eCommerce store as the only place to purchase the products or also list them on other major platforms such as Amazon. It’s crucial to decide on this before launching your store so that you have an idea of what you need to do to take things further. This will also come in handy when you need to manage your inventory at a later stage.

3. Choose a Business and Domain Name

Once you’ve decided on a business model and the products that you’re going to sell, you can move on to naming your business. Choose a business name that is both catchy and relevant to the sort of products that you wish to sell. While the latter wouldn’t be very important in the case of a multi-product store, it would matter a lot when it comes to single-product stores.

After naming your business, you also need to purchase a domain name for your website. This domain name should ideally be the same as your business name. This makes it easier for your customers to remember your brand and website. It also improves your brand recall.

However, you can choose to go for a shared domain if you have limited financial resources. When you do so with an established brand, it can help you reach your target buyers easily. As your business grows, you can then get a dedicated domain name for your business. The custom domain name will also help with your SEO and brand recognition.

4. Select Your eCommerce Website Builder

Building an eCommerce store without the support of an eCommerce website builder is a tough task. It helps to have a builder that can help you design and manage your eCommerce website with ease. These website builders can be accessed even for those without any knowledge of coding. All you need to do is drag and drop elements to design your website. We’ve listed some of the best website builders and eCommerce platforms at the end of this blog.

5. Select a Web Hosting Plan & Platform

Once you’ve decided on a website builder and have a domain name for your website, you need to zero in on a web hosting plan. If you’re not going for an eCommerce website builder that offers hosting too, then you need to do this step. Else, you can skip to the next step.

A website can’t be hosted without purchasing a hosting plan. The hosting plans can be purchased from any of the web hosting companies online. However, you should be selective about the plan that you decide to buy. For instance, if you’ve got a limited budget and are just starting out, you should probably go for a shared hosting plan. In this, your website will be hosted on a shared server with several other websites. While the bandwidth offered here will be less, it’s great for new websites.

When your traffic starts increasing, you might want to switch your web hosting plans to private hosting or cloud hosting. Cloud hosting can help you get the maximum bandwidth possible, and this can help you keep thousands of visitors on your website at a time.

In addition to your hosting plan, you must purchase an SSL certificate for your website. This will help in securing your connection with visitors through a Secured Security Layer (SSL). The SSL certificate makes the browsing experience of your visitors safer, and this will increase their brand trust too. Google also recommends that every website should have an SSL certificate. Once you’ve decided and purchased your web hosting plan, you can move on to the next step.

6. Design Your eCommerce Website

Remember, the design of your eCommerce store is everything. You need to ensure that your customers can find what they’re looking for with ease. They shouldn’t have to search a lot to find their desired products; that will only make them want to navigate away from your website. As a rule of thumb, try to minimize the number of clicks it takes for them to reach the product page.

Try to design your internal search such that they can find their products using multiple keywords. Also, distribute the products into relevant categories through which your visitors can find them.

Here are some of the elements that you need to design well.

a) Product Pages

Product Name

This should appear in large and clear. It should be easily visible to your customers. Try to include as many keywords as possible in the name too. This can make it easier for your customers to find the product.

Product Description

The product description must be available on the product page. It should be crisp and must cover everything that the customers would want to know about the product. This means that you should include product features, specifications, dimensions, etc. You can also consider adding a detailed description at the bottom of the product page for all those who wish to learn more about your product. The key here is to allow the customer to get as much information as possible about your product.

Call to Action Button

The call to action (CTA) button is a must on every product page. Using this button, your customers can move to the payment gateway to purchase your product. This is why the placement and design of your CTA button are of the utmost importance. You must design the button such that it stands out. Ideally, the color of the button must be in contrast to the color of the background. In addition, you should consider the text in the CTA button too. This text must be catchy enough for your customers to click on it too.

Product Photos

Remember, humans are visual creatures. You must add a visual element to your product page to catch their attention. This is where product pictures come in. You must add loads of pictures of your products to help your customers understand how the product looks. Make sure that the image quality is nothing short of stellar.

Product Videos

In addition to product photos, you should also consider adding a video or two of your products. The videos can convey a lot more information in a shorter span than images or text. This makes them more engaging and fun for your customers. Make sure that the quality of your videos is good too.

Product Reviews

Yet another important element that must be present on your product page are product reviews. They help in showing your visitors what your customers feel about your products. It gives them the perspective of your customers, and this means social proof. Genuine and positive product reviews can help in getting conversions with ease. You must encourage your customers to write reviews and put up photos of your products as well.

Shipping Information

Yet another aspect that should be covered on your product page is the shipping information. You must clearly display the mode through which the products would be shipped and preferably the costs associated as well. Remember, the more information you provide your customers, the more will they trust you.

b) Blog

You should consider developing a blog for your eCommerce website where you can provide useful information about your products to your visitors and customers. The blog doesn’t necessarily need to promote your products; its purpose should be to become a valuable resource for your audience.

According to a study by the Nielsen Norman Group, people generally tend to read roughly in the shape of an “F.” This is why you should try to write the content of your blogs such that the most hard-hitting text is right at the top and towards the left of the page. This would ensure that your visitors would become interested in the content and read the entire blog post.

c) Home Page

The home page of your eCommerce website will probably be the first page most visitors will come across. This makes it necessary to ensure that this page is well-optimized and has all the requisite information available. All the navigation options must be present on this page, and the search bar must be added as well. Do ensure that the search bar is big and prominent so that your visitors can quickly locate it on the page.

The idea is to help your visitors easily reach their desired product pages from the home page. One way of getting your homepage right is by doing numerous A/B tests. In these tests, you can change one element of the page and test two of its combinations while keeping all other elements constant. By checking the response to them, you’ll be able to figure out which configuration works better.

By conducting A/B tests for all the major elements of your home page, you can find the perfect combination that works best for you. However, remember that A/B tests aren’t a one-time thing. You need to keep testing the way visitors interact with your page regularly to ensure that your page is always optimized.

7. Set Up Payment Gateway

After developing your eCommerce website, you need to set up your payment gateway. This will help you accept payments from your customers online. A payment gateway allows you to provide multiple options for payments to your customers. There are loads of reliable payment gateways out there, such as PayPal and Stripe that you can integrate with your eCommerce website.

While choosing a payment gateway, be sure to check the payment methods that are offered by the service providers. Ideally, your customers should have the option to pay via Net Banking, Debit and Credit Cards, Mobile Wallets, and even Cash on Delivery (COD). Remember, the more the number of options you’ll provide, the better are the chances of your customers purchasing from you.

8. Find Your Shipping Partner

The next step in setting up your eCommerce website is that of finding a shipping partner. Unless you have your own delivery services, you’ll need to find partners for getting this done. Be it a courier operator or specialized eCommerce logistics agency; you need to find a trusted one for your brand.

You must put effort into finding a reliable shipping partner because the last thing that you’d want is your products not reaching your customers. Additionally, you must look into the shipping charges as well. Try to find operators who offer to ship for affordable prices as you don’t want the shipping costs to bulk up the overall cost of the products.

Now that you’ve understood the basics of creating an eCommerce website, let’s look at the two most popular methods of creating eCommerce websites.

Popular eCommerce Website Creation Methods

The two major options for hosting an eCommerce website are Shopify and WooCommerce+WordPress. While the former charges a minimum of $29 per month, the latter comes without any additional fees. Let’s look at how you can set up your eCommerce website in both in 2020.

1. WooCommerce

Setting up WooCommerce is relatively simple. However, it’s prerequisite is that you must be using WordPress to run and design your website. This is because WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress. In addition, your website must be self-hosted i.e., it can’t be a subdomain such as “xxxxx.wordpress.com”.

Image via WooCommerce

For this reason, you need to first find a web hosting service provider such as BluehostGoDaddy, and Hostgator. You should also consider purchasing an SSL certificate and get a dedicated IP address.

Most prominent web hosting service providers give an option for one-click installation of WordPress. This makes the entire process of starting a WordPress website very simple. Once you’ve installed WordPress, you need to pick a theme for your website.

There are loads of free WordPress themes available out there, but if you wish to get something more, you can choose from a whole lot of paid themes. These are available on WordPress themes stores such as Envato Market and Storefront.

The next step is to install eCommerce functionality using WooCommerce. You can achieve this in three ways:

OPTION 1

Create an account on woocommerce.com and wordpress.com. Once you’ve done that, you can select from:

• Auto-installation of WooCommerce on WordPress

• Downloading the zip file and installing it yourself

• Get a pre-installed solution from a trusted host

OPTION 2

Search for the WooCommerce plugin through your WordPress Dashboard. You can do so by:

• Head to Dashboard > Plugins > Add New > Search Plugins

• In the search bar, type “WooCommerce”

• Install the plugin and activate it

OPTION 3

Download the WooCommerce plugin and upload it to your website manually. This can be done by:

• Downloading the WooCommerce plugin

• Go to Dashboard> Plugins> Add New> Upload

• Select the downloaded WooCommerce plugin and install it. Once it’s installed, activate it.

That’s it, WooCommerce is set up and ready to go. You can start adding products to your store and customize the layout of your product search and display pages. In addition, you can choose to get some extensions that can give your WooCommerce store added functionality.

While these extensions are paid, they can make your store more dynamic and easier to handle. Additionally, they can help in improving the overall shopping experience as well. Extensions include payment gateways, bookings, shipping, and more.

2. Shopify

Shopify makes it simple for businesses to launch and manage their eCommerce stores. It’s only natural that the process to set up the eCommerce store is straightforward as well. Let’s look at how you can create your eCommerce store in Shopify.

shopify

Image via Shopify

1. Sign Up

The first step is to sign up on Shopify by visiting its website. Before you head to this step, you need to have your store name in mind as the form will ask you for this name. Find a unique name for your store. Else Shopify will ask you to choose a different name.

After entering your store name, you’ll also be asked to enter certain other details like your name, address, country of residence, etc. You’ll also need to enter your products and then click on “I’m Done” when you’ve completed your form.

2. Set Up Your Online Store

Once you’ve signed up on Shopify, you’ll be redirected to the admin screen of your store. Here, you can start customizing your store. This involves uploading products, setting up your payments, and more.

You don’t need any web hosting because Shopify handles the hosting for you. This also means that you won’t need to take the trouble to maintain your server. Additionally, your server downtimes will be lesser too.

3. Choose Your Themes

One of the reasons why Shopify is so popular among marketers is the fact that it has loads of themes on the offer. In addition, these themes come with complete support from their designers so you can expect your store to run smoothly.

All the themes allow you to make modifications without the need to do any coding. This helps you customize the theme to your requirements quickly and effortlessly. In addition, the premium themes allow even more modifications so that you can design your website exactly the way you want it to look.

If these changes aren’t enough, then you can make larger changes by using HTML and CSS coding. Even if you don’t have any coding experience, you can always reach out to agencies that call themselves Shopify Experts. These agencies can personalize your website completely based upon your requirements.

4. Add Products

The next step is to start adding products to your eCommerce store on Shopify. For this, you can head to the “Products” section on your dashboard. Here, you’ll be able to see a button that says, “Add a Product.”

You can then add the requisite details of your products. These include the product name, description, URL, etc. You must pay attention to the title and description as these are instrumental in improving your SEO. It’s crucial to understand that you should include as many details as possible so that your customers can get a thorough idea of your product.

Think of all the possible things that would come to a customer’s mind while looking at your product and add them all.

Next, you’ll be directed to a screen where you can upload photos of your products. Once you upload the product images, you’ll have the chance to rearrange them to ensure that the best one appears first. As mentioned before, product images are crucial for the success of your eCommerce store, so upload the best ones you’ve got. You should also try to keep the dimensions of every image constant. This will help in making your store look tidy. Lastly, click on the “Save Product” button.

5. Finishing Touches

You need to enter a few final details before you can get your store live. These include your business information and the Google Analytics feature. The latter would help you track the progress of your eCommerce store. You can also get a better understanding of your target audience through it.

It’s also necessary to add your tax information before getting your website live. If you’re planning to charge taxes to your customers, you will have to select the checkbox for Charge Taxes. You can also select the Requires Shipping checkbox if your product needs to have a shipping charge associated with it.

Lastly, you must test your order system using Shopify’s Bogus Gateway feature, where you can simulate a purchase. After enabling Bogus Gateway, you can head to your store and place an order just like you would on any eCommerce store. Once you reach the payment gateway, you can enter Bogus Gateway as the name on your card.

For the credit card number, you can 1 for a successful transaction, 2 for a failed one, and 3 for an exception. As for the CVV, you can add any 3 digit number. Lastly, for the expiry date, you can enter any date from the future.

6. Add Domain Name

The final step in getting your eCommerce store ready on Shopify is that of adding a domain name to your website. Every Shopify store needs a domain name, and this can be purchased from any domain name providers, including Shopify. If you purchase it from Shopify, the process is straightforward. However, you may need to redirect DNS records if you purchase it from another provider.

Once you’ve added your domain name to your Shopify store, your store is ready to go live. You can start promoting your store to your target audience and being your selling process.

Now that you’ve understood how you can open your eCommerce stores on Shopify and WooCommerce, let’s look at some of the other options out there.

Best eCommerce Tools

Best eCommerce Tools

While Shopify and WooCommerce are extremely popular eCommerce platforms, there are many more out there that may fit your requirements better. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular ones.

1. BigCommerce

BigCommerce is an amazing eCommerce platform that can help you not only build but manage your store with ease. Its easy drag-and-drop website builder helps you develop your website from scratch seamlessly. In addition, it’s got loads of themes that you can customize to fit your requirements and launch your store in minutes.

BigCommerce

Image via BigCommerce

Additionally, you don’t need to worry about your web hosting, just like Shopify. This is because BigCommerce is a completely hosted eCommerce platform. Their experts work continuously to ensure that your server downtimes are minimal.

BigCommerce can also be integrated with WordPress, and that allows you to get the best of both worlds. Its basic package is priced at $29.95 per month, and its most expensive package costs $249.95 per month.

2. Oberlo

Oberlo is yet another popular eCommerce tool that features a user-friendly interface. You can seamlessly add, customize, and track your products through this platform, hence making it easy to manage your sales. It can be added to your Shopify store and will help you with all the dropshipping requirements.

Oberlo

Image via Oberlo

Oberlo also offers some advanced features that can help you manage your store better. These features include finding alternate suppliers, tracking sales, etc. The best part about Oberlo is that it’s free to use for small eCommerce stores, which process 50 orders monthly and have up to 500 products. On the other hand, it’s got paid plans that go all the way up to $79.90 per month.

3. Big Cartel

Big Cartel is an eCommerce store builder for all those who wish to run creative businesses online. Thus, artists and other creative professionals will find this an amazing place to host their stores. It’s got a host of free themes from which you can choose your favorite ones and customize your store to fit your requirements.

Big Cartel

Image via Big Cartel

If you’ve got some coding knowledge, you can code and create your very own eCommerce store here as well. It’s got all the tools that you need to manage and fulfill your orders and track your store’s sales. The best part is that Big Cartel costs only $9.99 per month for starters, and its most advanced package is also reasonably priced at $29.99 monthly.

4. OpenCart

OpenCart is one of the best free eCommerce tools available out there, just like WooCommerce. This feature makes it a very attractive eCommerce platform. It’s also an open-source platform, which means that you can easily customize it to fit your requirements. However, you’d need some coding knowledge to make these changes.

It’s also got built-in SEO that can make it easy for you to rank your store higher in the SERPs. You can also manage your products, orders, customers, and taxes easily through its well-designed admin dashboard.

OpenCart

Image via OpenCart

You can also choose to go for one of their themes and extensions that can help in expanding your store’s functionalities. It’s due to these reasons that over 342k businesses worldwide use this eCommerce platform.

5. Weebly

Weebly is a great platform that makes the entire process of developing an eCommerce website very simple. You can easily alter their themes by using its drag and drop website builder. However, it can be quite difficult to customize your website completely using Weebly. This makes it a great platform for those who want to make only a few changes to their themes.

Weebly

Image via Weebly

The platform provides some amazing features for its product pages. You can seamlessly upload multiple images and videos of your product. Additionally, it’s got cool features such as adding a discount based on what a user has on their cart. You can also integrate social media and some marketing tools to your website.

It’s also got loads of payment options that you can add to your website to make it easier for your customers to purchase from you. Its plans start from only $8 per month.

6. PrestaShop

If you’re looking for a free eCommerce platform, then PrestaShop is yet another free platform for you. It offers a wide variety of features that can make it a powerful competitor of Shopify and WooCommerce. You choose from their plethora of themes and modify your store to fit your requirements.

PrestaShop

Image via PrestaShop

It makes the store management operations simple with its intuitive admin dashboard. Here, you can manage customer relationships, track your stats, and even manage your orders. However, it can be difficult to scale your eCommerce store using this platform, and thus, it’s a great one for smaller businesses.

7. Magento

Magento is a great eCommerce platform that allows you to design a unique shopping experience for your customers using its latest technology. This platform by Adobe makes eCommerce simple for both small and big brands alike with its out-of-the-box features.

Image via Magento

You can design a solid eCommerce website using its page builder that offers a drag and drop method of website building. Additionally, you can do customer segmentation and personalization using the platform. It’s also possible to integrate loads of third party applications.

Scaling your business is made easy through this platform, and you can also manage your sales and ad channels through it. Be it inventory management, shipping, order management, or business intelligence and analytics; this platform has it all sorted for you.

The community edition of this platform is free and open-source. However, the paid versions can be extremely costly.

8. Ecwid

Ecwid is an eCommerce platform that lets you create a high performing eCommerce website. It’s a freemium platform that’s free to use for those who wish to sell up to 10 products, and this makes it an attractive option for small businesses.

Image via Ecwid

However, even if you wish to go for its paid plans, they are fairly affordable. One of the best features of this platform is that you get unlimited bandwidth and storage. This means you can upload the highest-quality of media and also get loads of traffic on your website.

In addition, Ecwid doesn’t charge any transaction fees, and that can help you increase your profits as well.

Final Thoughts

eCommerce stores are all the rage today, and with the cut-throat competition, you need to get everything right to ensure that your store stands out of the crowd. For this, it’s crucial to first decide on the product/s that you plan to sell through your store. You must also create a business plan before starting your eCommerce store.

Choose your business and domain name carefully. Ideally, both should be the same so that customers can remember them with ease. Post that, you must select your eCommerce platform and then purchase a web hosting plan if needed.

Put effort into designing your website, especially the product pages, the home page, and the blog. Conduct A/B tests to ensure that your layout is well-optimized too. Once that’s done, you should look for a reliable payment gateway and integrate it with your website. Try finding ones that are trusted and offer loads of payment options to your customers.

Lastly, you should find a shipping partner who will take the products from your brand and get them delivered on time.

Two of the most popular eCommerce platforms are WooCommerce and Shopify. While the former is free, it must be used on WordPress and requires a web hosting plan. The latter is a paid platform, but hosting is included in it.

Apart from these platforms, there are a host of other eCommerce platforms out there that you can use for your business. These include the likes of BigCommerce, Oberlo, and Magneto.

To understand more about eCommerce, you can check out this complete guide to eCommerce. Alternatively, you can register for the eCommerce Freedom FREE Online Workshop that will help you understand how to set up your eCommerce store and manage it to generate profits.

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