How to Build an eCommerce Website (2020) | Plenty of Pixels

How to Build an eCommerce Website (2020)

By Mark Stathatos on 07 Dec 2020 No Comments

Having trouble building an eCommerce website? It can be quite a daunting task if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Why not let us help?

In this article we’ll cover everything you need to know.

Some of the things you’ll learn in this post include:

  • What an eCommerce website is
  • Why you should build an eCommerce website
  • What you need to build an eCommerce website
  • The best eCommerce platforms
  • How to build an eCommerce website
  • eCommerce website best practices
  • How to market your eCommerce website

Ready to dive on in? Enjoy!

 

What is an eCommerce Website?

Given you’ve landed on this article, you probably already know what an eCommerce website is. If you don’t however, we’ll cover that now. 

An eCommerce website is a website on the internet that sells products and services. It’s the virtual equivalent of a business storefront.

 

Why Should You Build an eCommerce Website?

So, why build an eCommerce website? What advantages do they have over having an actual, physical location? A real storefront?

eCommerce websites have numerous advantages over having a physical, storefront location. Some of these include:

  • Low Set Up Cost
  • Increasing Popularity of Smartphones
  • Search Engine Visibility
  • Larger Market
  • Convenience 

Low Set Up Cost

One of the best aspects of an eCommerce website is that it’s really cheap to set up. You really only need a domain name and web hosting, which can be as cheap as $100-$200 a year.

This is opposed to an actual storefront, which is much more expensive. Some of the costs you’d need to consider include:

  • Rent, leases and bonds
  • Licenses and permits
  • Utility costs
  • Cleaning
  • Employees salary costs
  • Cash registers and point of sale systems

Increasing Popularity of Smartphones 

Ever since the iPhone hit the market over a decade ago, smartphones have become the norm. Most people now have easy access to the internet, which makes eCommerce stores ideal. 

Consumers can now make purchases from anywhere, at any time, on demand.

Search Engine Visibility

When most people have a problem, question, or seek information today, they use Google. In fact, 85% of consumers use Google for product research before making a purchase.

Having an eCommerce website on the internet puts you in prime position to be visible on Google. You can also create a wide net of content to draw in insane amounts of web traffic.

Larger Market

Running a business online with an eCommerce website opens you up to a larger market. You can reach and ship to customers all over your country, and the world.

Regular storefronts are limited to the locale they are in.

Convenience

Having an eCommerce website, run over the internet makes it easy and convenient for consumers. No more having to drive to a shopping mall, waiting in line, hoping they have stock left.

eCommerce on the other hand, delivers straight to your door, at affordable prices. All you have to do is press a button online.

What Do You Need to Build an eCommerce Website?

To set up an eCommerce website, there are a few things you’ll need.

  • Domain name
  • Web hosting
  • SSL certificate
  • Payment gateway/processor
  • CMS/Website builder

Domain Name

What It Is

A domain name is the address of your website. It’s the unique component that you get to choose. The “Amazon” in Amazon.com, if you will.

Technically your domain name also includes the “top-level domain” too, which is the .com, or .net at the end. This is because Amazon.com is not the same as Amazon.net two separate websites.

Why You Need One

You need a domain name because every website must have one. Your website cannot exist online if you don’t have one. It’s one of the first steps to creating any website.

How Much Does It Cost?

Generally speaking, domain names cost around $10-$12 to initially purchase, and another $10-$12 to retain annually.

So, the first year will cost $20-$24, then $10-$12 each year after.

This is ofcourse, if you’re buying an original domain name. You can bid for existing ones, but it’ll cost way more. You’re most likely not going to be doing this, but we should mention it anyway.

In any case, do your research and due diligence.

 

 

Web Hosting

What It Is

Web hosting is essentially access to a server, which allows your website to be on the internet. It’s kind of like a drivers license, except for your website.

Various companies offer web hosting services to both businesses and individuals, for commercial and personal use. 

Why You Need It

Like a domain name, you can’t have a live website without web hosting. Without it, your website will be offline, where no one can see it. 

How Much Does It Cost?

Web hosting can cost as little as $50 a year, to as much as $10,000+ a year. It all depends on how much web space you need, and how many visitors your website will get.

Assuming you’re just starting out, you’ll only need a basic plan you’ll probably only pay between $50-$200 a year… That’s very affordable. 

SSL Certificate

What It Is

An SSL certificate is a digital certificate that authenticates and encrypts your website. This is especially important when it comes to eCommerce, as you’re dealing with people’s personal, sensitive information.

You can actually see what websites have an SSL certificate and which do not. Ones that do have one will have a “https” in the URL address.

You can also click the lock symbol and view the actual certificate.

Why You Need One

You need an SSL certificate for your eCommerce website because it ensures your buyer’s information is secure. This generally includes their:

  • Email address
  • Physical address/mailing address
  • Payment information

How Much Does It Cost?

Just like web hosting, the cost of an SSL certificate can vary, depending on your needs. It can cost as little as $8 a year, or as much as nearly $4,000 a year.

Given you’re most likely a small business just starting out, an appropriate SSL certificate should be fairly cheap.

 

Payment Gateway/Processor

What It Is

Payment processors are companies that facilitate the transfer of money between customers and merchants. They handle the transaction and payment details. They also help with chargebacks, refunds and other concerns.

They offer eCommerce websites payment gateways online, as well as point of sale systems for physical locations. 

Why Do You Need One?

Payment processors and the gateways they provide allow you to accept payments from your customers online. Without them, you can’t effectively charge customers for your products and services. They’re simply an essential component to running an eCommerce website. 

How Much Does It Cost?

The price of using a payment processor varies, depending on your needs. Typically they charge a flat percentage on every transaction usually around 2.9%, plus $0.30. Some also require you to pay a monthly fee.

 

CMS/Website Builder

What It Is

CMS (content management system) and website builders are essentially tools that help you actually create your website. They create both the backend code of your website, and the frontend, visual/live result.

Now, technically a CMS and website builder are two different things. What’s important however is they both accomplish the same end result: creating your website. They just go about it in separate ways. 

Why Do You Need One?

Because without a CMS or website builder, creating a website is extremely technical. Think endless lines of code, like the Matrix.

This day and age, you don’t need to unnecessarily complicate this. 

How Much Does It Cost?

Many CMS platforms are free, while most website builders cost you money. It varies quite a lot, so you need to do your research.

 

The Best Platform For Your eCommerce Website

Acquiring everything you need to build an eCommerce website might seem like a daunting task… But don’t worry, it’s really not.

There are a variety of different platforms designed specifically for creating an eCommerce website. They have absolutely everything you need.

To save you the time of finding these platforms, here are the best 2 we recommend:

  • WordPress + WooCommerce
  • Shopify

WordPress + WooCommerce

WooCommerce is WordPress’ own eCommerce platform that can be used for any website using the CMS. It’s actually just a plugin for WordPress, which makes it seamlessly fit with both new or existing websites.

Some of the features of WooCommerce includes:

  • eCommerce designs and templates
  • Unlimited products
  • Unlimited sales
  • Product data import/export
  • Unlimited product images/videos
  • Payment processor integrations
  • Social media and email integrations
  • Product shipping (US ONLY) 

Technically WooCommerce is free, but there’s a catch to get full functionality you need to buy add-ons. If you’re just starting out however, you probably won’t need them. 

Arguably the best thing about WooCommerce is that it’s free. You still need to factor web hosting, a domain name, and a SSL certificate, however.

It is very easy to use, is simple to install, and is also cheap. If you’re a small business, or just starting out in the eCommerce world, WooCommerce might be ideal for you.

Shopify

Shopify  is one of the most popular eCommerce platforms available today. It runs as a SaaS application on the cloud, so it integrates well with other software.

It offers its own CMS, which allows users to completely customize the layout and functionality of their eCommerce website. There are integrations with payment processors like PayPal and Stripe, and shipping with DHL, Express, UHL and others.

There are 3 different pricing plans that vary in features, depending on your needs.

  • ($29/month) Basic Shopify 
  • ($79/month) Shopify
  • ($299/month) Advanced Shopify

Every plan comes with web hosting, an SSL certificate, and a free domain name, if you don’t already have one. The free one will be a .myshopify.com, so if that’s a problem, you should buy one, which Shopify offers.

The eCommerce platform is affordable, and is easy to master. It also has a robust analytics dashboard, which makes marketing campaigns effective. This is a great option for both small and medium-sized businesses.

 

How to Build an eCommerce Website (7 Steps)

For the purposes of this guide, we’ll cover how to build a WordPress-based WooCommerce website.

 

Step 1: Conduct Market Research

The first step to building an eCommerce website is to figure out what products/services you want to sell. You might have an idea already, but if not, let us help.

A good place to start would be your hobbies, interests, and passions. What are you into? What kind of knowledge and expertise do you possess? 

Write down a list of ideas.

Then, when you’ve got a solid list, check to see whether there’s any actual eCommerce potential. This is important because there’s no point in selling products and services that have no market.

You need to find a niche that not only aligns with you as a person, but with consumers, too.

To conduct market research, there are a number of strategies you can use:

  • Check Amazon best sellers
  • Google “your niche idea + store”
  • Use Google trends to find out how popular your idea is
  • Check out Facebook groups
  • Look at Instagram and Twitter hashtags
  • Search on Pinterest
  • Check niche subreddits and forums

 

Step 2: Get WordPress Hosting

You’ve got a solid idea for an eCommerce website, backed by market research great. 

Now you’ll need to choose a WordPress host. They’ll provide you with: 

  • Web hosting
  • A domain name
  • An SSL certificate. 

Then, when you’ve got those things, you can start building your eCommerce website on WordPress.

Here are some WordPress host options.

WordPress Hosting Options

 

Bluehost

Bluehost offers an extremely cheap WordPress hosting service plan, costing only $2.75 per month. Dubbed the “basic plan,” you get:

  • A free SSL certificate
  • 50GB of web storage
  • Free domain for 1st year

If you’re looking for the lowest possible price, then this might be your best bet.

 

 

Siteground

Siteground offers an affordable $6.99 per month “StartUp” package, which includes:

  • A free SSL certificate
  • 10GB of web storage
  • Free CDN and email

NOTE: Does not include a free domain name. You’ll have to purchase one, and the rights to it for a year. This will generally cost $24 $12 for buying it, and another $12 for keeping it for a year. After the first year, it’ll continue to be $12 annually.

While not as “budget” as Bluehost, Siteground has a strong reputation for great customer service.

 

Step 3: Setting Up Your WordPress WooCommerce Website

The WordPress host you choose should have a “one click installation” that instantly installs your WordPress website.

You should then arrive on the WordPress dashboard.

The first thing you should do is head over to Settings page and fill out your site title and description.

You should also enter your email address in the Administration Email Address form.

You’ll be sent an email activate it. Authorizing your email will give you better control of your website. Vital information related to your eCommerce website will be sent to your email inbox.

Then, to finish, you can complete all the time, language, location and date related forms.

Step 4: Install and Set Up WooCommerce

Now that we’ve installed our WordPress website, it’s time to install and set up WooCommerce.

Start by hovering your mouse cursor over the Plugins menu, and click on Add New.

In the search bar, enter “WooCommerce” and click on Install Now when the result appears.

WordPress will now install WooCommerce for you when complete, click Activate.

You will now be sent to a WooCommerce setup page. You will have to fill out forms regarding:

  • Store Details: Your address, country and postcode. 
  • Industry: The industry your eCommerce website will operate in.
  • Product Types: What types of products you’ll be selling.
  • Business Details: How many products you want to display, are you selling elsewhere, and marketing details.

Try not to add anything yet. Uncheck JetPack plugin we’ll add some plugins later.

 

Step 5: Add Your Products With WooCommerce

Now that the setup is complete, you can now get started adding some products.

Start by hovering your mouse cursor over Products and select Add New.

You will then need to complete a form, providing a title and description for your product. Look at other similar products on the market for inspiration for what to write.

Next, you’ll want to create a product category for your product. Scroll down to Product categories and click Add new category.

Once that’s done, complete the Product data box, which includes product type, pricing, inventory and shipping information.

Then, you should complete the Product short description box. This is your product description for category pages.

Lastly, add an image for your product by going to the Product image box and selecting Set product image.

If you want to take it a step further you can include a gallery of images for your products. Go to the Product gallery box and select Add product gallery images. Try to get pictures of your product from different angles, and on different people.

Repeat this entire process for as many products as you need.

 

Step 6: Set Up Payments, Tax and Shipping

With your products out of the way, we now need to deal with payments, tax and shipping details.

Head on over to the Settings section of the WooCommerce menu.

An interface should appear.

Everything you need regarding payments, tax, and shipping will be located here.

Payment Setup

Click over to the Payments tab and enable and set up the payment methods you want to use.

If you want to use Stripe, you’ll need to install the plugin WooCommerce Stripe.

Tax Setup

To set your tax settings, you need to scroll down on the General tab and check the box to Enable taxes.

After doing this and pressing save, a Tax tab should appear at the top.

The tab will include a complete page of forms you’ll need to complete.

What you input into the forms will depend on your own, unique tax situation.

Shipping Setup

The shipping tab will allow you to add shipping zones. These are geographical regions that your customers will be able to see when on your eCommerce website.

Go ahead and fill out the form you can make multiple shipping zones. For example you might have domestic shipping, and/or local free/pickup.

When you’ve created all your shipping zones, make sure you order them right. You want your local shipping zones listed first, because it’s what’ll show up first for individuals in that zone.

To reorder the zones, just click and drag to the selected zone to the top of the order.

Step 7: Choose an Appropriate WooCommerce Theme

The final step to building your WordPress WooCommerce website is to choose a theme.

A theme is essentially a preset design layout for your entire website. It’s really important because it’s your brand, and presentation affects how your customers see you.

There are thousands of themes out there, free and paid. Not all of them are worth your time, nor are they optimal for a WooCommerce website.

To save you the time, here are 3 free themes that work well for WooCommerce:

  • Ocean WP
  • Astra
  • Storefront

NOTE: All themes can be found on WordPress hover your mouse cursor on Appearance and click Themes.

Ocean WP

Ocean WP is a free WordPress theme that is extremely flexible, making it optimal for WooCommerce. It’s also got several eCommerce features built in, such as:

  • Cart pop-up
  • Floating add-to-cart bar
  • Quick view for products

Astra

Astra is one of the most popular WordPress themes out there, used for multiple purposes. It’s known for its minimalistic design, which makes it ideal for WooCommerce.

 

 

Storefront

Storefront is a free theme, designed by WooCommerce themselves, so you know it’s good. Although it’s not as customizable as other themes, it’s extremely compatible.   

 

eCommerce Website Best Practices

There are a number of eCommerce best practices you should follow and implement.

Keep it Simple (Good Site/Link Architecture) 

The rule with web design, and eCommerce especially, is to have a “shallow” link architecture. This means that the pages of your website don’t stray too far from your homepage. You should always be 3 clicks within your homepage. 

Here’s a diagram.

The reason why this is ideal is because it makes your website easily navigable. It also helps SEO by making your website easier to crawl, as well as pass link juice.

Wish List

A wish list is a great feature that your eCommerce website needs. 

It makes it easy for family and friends to buy gifts for individuals. It’s also a great way to essentially save an assortment of items, so one can come back to it later. Kind of like a shopping cart, but for holding it for a longer time.

Shopping Cart

If your eCommerce website doesn’t already have a shopping cart, then you must get one. It’s a standard feature for the majority of stores because it allows individuals to save items they want.

People don’t look at one item then go straight ahead and purchase it. They look around and view multiple items before going to checkout. It’s really no different than shopping at a supermarket in real life.

Shopping carts also work well with follow up emails when the cart is abandoned.

Feature Lots of Reviews and Testimonials For Social Proof

Did you know that more than 50% of consumers online look at reviews every time they make a purchase?

Looking at reviews and testimonials has become standard procedure for consumers online. They look to see what others are saying about a said product or service. This is not surprising, as this is an effective way to ensure you get 

As an eCommerce website, you should litter your website with reviews and testimonials to boost social proof. To your potential buyers, this suggests self confidence, which makes them more likely to become customers.

Your eCommerce platform/CMS/Web builder should have features that allow you to have a rating system on product pages.

You can also create an individual, dedicated page to testimonials on your website.

Contact Page

Ensure that you have a contact page a place on your website where people can reach you. This goes without saying, but having a good contact page can be huge.

To get the most out of your contact page, do these things:

  • Include your phone number
  • Include a physical address, if possible
  • Include a contact form that goes to an actual active email address
  • Respond ASAP

About Us Page

Like your contact page, your About/About Us page should have extra attention given to. This shouldn’t just be an ordinary history of your eCommerce website/brand, it should be more.

Here’s what you can add to it, to take it to the next level:

  • Tell an origin story
  • Give a reason why what is your purpose?
  • Outline goals
  • Show names and faces for transparency 
  • Include any awards, testimonials, social proofs

When an About/About Us page is done correctly, it can take your eCommerce website/brand to the next level.

Product Names

When it comes to product names, the best practice is simple: be transparent. The last thing you need to do is confuse consumers with what it is you’re selling. Lots of people try to be too cutesy and creative, which backfires hard.

Bottom Line: A simple name for a solid product or service will sell. The wrong name could sink it. 

Product Descriptions 

Each and every product should have a unique description of about 1 or 2 paragraphs length. Here’s what it should include: 

  • Identifies a problem that it (the product) solves
  • Provides scenarios of positive outcomes, thanks to the product
  • Specifically details how the product alleviates the problem
  • Includes features

Never underestimate the power of a persuasive product description. Copywriters make millions a year writing stuff like above. 

Product Photos

You know the saying, a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, it’s true. You really need to take the time to get good photos for your products.

If you can, hire a professional and get them to take photos of your product. Take different types of photos, like from different angles, and in different contexts.

A t-shirt for example, should have photos by itself, from the front and back. It should also have photos with people wearing it.

 

Marketing Your eCommerce Website

Now that you’ve created your eCommerce website, and have implemented the suggested best practice guidelines, it’s time to start marketing.

Here are the strategies you should implement:

  • Content Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Influencer Marketing
  • SEO
  • Email Marketing
  • PPC Advertising

Content Marketing

Content marketing involves creating content that provides value to your audience as a way to attract them. You help solve their problems, positioning yourself as an authority. When you’ve gained their trust, they’ll be more likely to buy products and services from you. 

The concept works based on the idea of reciprocity if you help someone, they feel inclined to return the favor.  

Types of content might include:

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • eBooks
  • Podcasts
  • Emails
  • Social media posts

Content marketing is very much a “macro” marketing strategy that the rest of the strategies are beneath. It’s kind of like the book, whereas social media marketing, email marketing, and the rest are chapters.

Bottom Line: Create content across as many platforms as you can. Use it to build a relationship with your target audience, helping them solve their problems.

Social Media Marketing

Due to the inherent, large number of users, social media is ideal for marketing purposes. It’s a strategy that’s used to increase a variety of positive business outcomes, like website traffic, or just brand exposure. 

There are a number of different social media platforms out there here are the ones you should be on:

  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Because Instagram and Pinterest are image-based social media platforms, they are uniquely effective for eCommerce websites.

Bottom Line: Get on social media platforms and engage with your target audience. Get them familiar with your brand, build trust. Funnel the social media traffic to your website, sales, product and landing pages.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is the marketing strategy of reaching out to individuals on social media with large followings. You proposition these individuals, offer them a deal, and they promote you in some way.

The practice is very popular on Instagram.

Bottom Line: Find affordable influencers on Instagram with quality, engaged followers. Get them to promote your brand to their audience.

SEO

SEO (search engine optimization) is a way to maximize your visibility on Google, and other search engines. In simpler terms, it’s how you end up on the first page, at the top, where you’ll get all the search traffic.

SEO is crucial for content marketing strategies that involve drawing in viewers to your website. It plays a vital role with regards to a blog, for example.

It typically involves:

  • Keyword research finding the right topics to target and bring in website traffic.
  • On-page optimization page title, meta description, search intent various different HTML tags.
  • Link building getting authoritative websites to link to your content.

Bottom Line: Identify and target the right keywords to bring traffic to your website. Optimize your content to boost your SERP rankings. Perform outreach to authority bodies in your niche in the hopes of getting backlinks.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is arguably the most effective marketing strategy, due to its personal nature. When you’re able to send emails to an individual’s inbox, you’re directly communicating with them.

The catch however, is that building an email list is rather hard. People are not going to willingly give out their personal email, without good reason.

You can build your email list by creating a blog, which brings in people from Google, thanks to SEO. On every post you make, you should have opt in forms. Feature lead magnets if you want to take it a step further.

Bottom Line: Convert your various audiences on your blog and social media into email list subscribers. Use opt in forms with lead magnets.

PPC Advertising 

PPC advertising is a form of paid advertising you see across various locations on the internet. PPC stands for “pay per click,” which is the way you pay for your ads. Everytime someone clicks on your ad, you pay a specified amount.

You can promote specific product pages and sales pages, or just your website in general. You can even just promote blog content, in the hopes they convert onto your email list.

PPC paid ads can be featured in a variety of locations, such as:

  • YouTube videos
  • YouTube video searches
  • Google searches
  • Facebook
  • Instagram

Although it might seem like paying for ads isn’t worth it, the ROI can be huge. It depends on various factors, like your products and services, your reputation, as well as how good your ads are.

Bottom Line: Use paid PPC ads to exponentially grow your eCommerce website. This is best used when you’re already established, and can afford it.

 

Final Thoughts

In this article we covered absolutely everything you need to know about how to build an eCommerce website.

That includes:

  • What an eCommerce website is
  • Why you should build an eCommerce website
  • What you need to build an eCommerce website
  • The best eCommerce platforms
  • How to build an eCommerce website
  • eCommerce website best practices
  • How to market your eCommerce website

I hope we provided answers to all your problems.

Got any questions? Leave a comment below.