Today, one of the easiest options to start making money online is to build your ecommerce website.
According to Statista, retail ecommerce sales worldwide amounted to 3.53 trillion in 2019, and account for over 17.2% of all retail sales, making it one of the fastest-growing industries in the world.
When we shop online, most of us just browse through online catalogs, select our favorite products, go to the checkout section, choose a payment option, and then wait for our orders to be shipped directly to our homes. The process may not seem that difficult to the unaware customer; however, it requires a lot of moving steps for the retailer.
Fortunately, thanks to cutting-edge software, now you don’t have to be a software programmer if you want to create your online business and build your ecommerce website. Even if you have never made a website before, you can now easily set up your e-store in a few simple steps.
What You Need to Build Your Ecommerce Website
Building your ecommerce website is a bit different from creating a regular website or starting a blog. Aside from getting a domain and hosting, you will also require an ecommerce platform that caters to all your online shopping needs, set up a payment plan and option, and actually create and manage your products.
But even before doing all that, you will first need to figure out what products you are going to sell.
Find your Niche
The first thing you need when opening up an ecommerce store is to figure out what products, whether physical or digital, that you want to sell. You don’t want to end up building an online shop for something that people don’t want to buy. Therefore, to avoid this unfortunate fate, you will first need to conduct sufficient market research.
While browsing the internet, you will encounter a wide variety of ecommerce websites. Some of them seem to be specialty websites that offer certain types of garments, jewelry, or electronic gadgets. Other online stores may host everything from watches, food, books, CDs, sports goods, fashion items, and more, and are akin to department stores.
At the outset, it is a good idea to decide on a niche product that you can sell and market to a particular group or demographic. Then, if you are successful, you can gradually expand your products.
When deciding on which item to sell, it is essential to see how much demand there is for it. Many buyers typically buy items from local vendors since they ensure faster deliveries, more convenient payment options, and easier refunds and replacement in case of a wrong order.
Search Trending Products
One way to make sure your product has a fast buy rate is to select items that are currently trending among the masses. However, make sure you do not jump onto the products that are declining in popularity. Instead, choose the ones that are expected to trend and grow even more popular in the coming years. This can help you earn money quickly in the short term, as well as in the long term.
Here are some tools that can help you select the best products for your niche:
- Google Trends: Google Trends shows how popular a certain keyword is by analyzing its past and future results. You can use this tool to determine whether your chosen product is growing or weakening in popularity.
- TrendHunter: TrendHunter allows you to see a whole host of products and services that are trending across the world, and helps you categorize these products based on their respective industries.
- YouTube and Instagram Influencers: Anyone who spends time on YouTube and Instagram follows a few influencers who regularly promote their products. One of the most followed influencer types is beauty gurus on Instagram. You can follow them and check out the products they endorse. These products usually sell well and can suggest a feasible niche for you.
- Amazon Bestsellers: The Amazon bestsellers lists give you a range of the most popular products that customers are buying. You can go over to the category and click on the one that interests you. Browse through the products, check their reviews, and see if there is a gap in the market that you can fill.
All the above tools can help you choose the product that is high in demand. Remember, though that the product you choose should not just cater to local demand, but should also be something you would love to market and sell.
Align with your Interests
By exploring the resources above, you can narrow down the list of items you want to sell, and the type of niche market you can enter. However, if you don’t have a passion for that product, it may be challenging to sustain good sales over a long period of time. To make sure this doesn’t happen, ask yourselves a few questions:
- Do you care about the product you have chosen?
- Does fulfilling the needs of your customers matter?
- Do you have knowledge about the items you would be selling?
- Do you see yourself working in the same niche for 5 years?
Get Your Domain Hosting
When you finally set out to build your website, the first thing you need to do is to grab a domain name and hosting provider.
A domain name is your website name, as well as a chance to showcase your brand. For example, the domain name for bookseller Barnes & Noble is the part highlighted in bold: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/.
This is your primary domain, which advertises your online store.
If you haven’t decided on a company name, it is a good idea to do so while deciding your domain name. You don’t want to decide your company name beforehand, and then realize that the domain name is not available. You can use a domain name that is different from your business’s name; however, a domain name that reflects your brand name develops more trust among customers.
Hence, you should ensure that the domain name is available from the very beginning.
You can buy a domain name through various web hosting services like Bluehost, Hostgator, SiteGround, and more.
Here are some tips to consider when choosing a domain name:
- Picking the right country code: if you are marketing your products to the United States or international customers, a .com domain is the best choice. There are many country-specific domains, like .au for Australia, .co.uk for the United Kingdom, and .jp for Japan, but they are only appropriate if you are selling solely to local customers.
- Uniqueness: A very general-sounding domain is not great from an SEO perspective, and won’t help your business stand out from the crowd. To attract customers, be creative and unique, but don’t go so overboard that your domain name does not match your core business.
- Keyword: Adding a keyword that generates a high number of search queries can help you rank better in the search engine. That means more visitors and sales for you. For example, if you are opening an online shoe store, it is not a bad idea to add the word “shoes” in your domain name, so that people looking to buy footwear can identify you and come to your site.
Select Your Ecommerce Builders
The next step is choosing the right ecommerce software, where you can set up your store.
Thanks to ecommerce building websites, now people don’t have to hire software developers for thousands of dollars to set up their online store; they can do so themselves.
There are dozens of ecommerce services out there that offer online store building capabilities for varying prices. However, some ecommerce builders are better than others. Some good examples are BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and Shopify. These builders come with various pricing plans that are suitable for both small-scale and large-scale businesses, have a lot of built-in features, scalable plans, great SEO, and multichannel integration.
A good ecommerce builder can:
- Provide you with a free domain name for your store
- Ensure your suite remains active and running
- Offer you marketing and promotional tools
- Provide you with security certificates
- Give you customized sales features
Selecting a Plan
Once you have selected the ecommerce builder of your choice, it is now time to select your plan.
Ecommerce levels of plans come with different features and pricing. When you pay more, you get more value-adding features. The type of plan you select depends on the specific size and needs of your online store.
BigCommerce, for example, starts with a standard plan of $29.95 per month and goes to an Enterprise plan which can run to up to hundreds of dollars a month. WooCommerce is free, but there is a price associated with buying a domain name and a theme.
When deciding which package to buy, remember that the more products you sell and the more traffic you expect, the bigger your plan needs to be. Therefore, people who are just starting their online stores should opt for a basic plan. Once they start growing, they can scale up to a bigger plan with better features, like abandoned cart recovery, advanced security features, and more payment processing options.
Picking the Right Theme or Template
Selecting a theme that reflects the look and feel that you want for your business is pretty easy with templates from ecommerce marketplaces. Most big ecommerce website builders come with free themes that you can use without paying anything. However, they are limited in number, and many people may not find what they are looking for in them. Therefore, paid themes are often a better option.
You can search for themes based on categories that represent a different industry.
Tips for Selecting Templates
You need to do a bit of self-analysis to see which template is right for you. Some questions to ask are:
- What kind of features does your store need to have?
- Do you need to have pages other than product pages like About us, Galleries, and Maps?
- What style of homepage do you need? For example, a store selling luxury goods needs to have an elegant, classy, and modern template.
- What kind of navigation do you need- can customers move around the store in a way that you want?
Customizing your Template
Once you have decided on the theme you want, you can go to your store’s backend and start customizing it. This includes changes in the font and text size, the color schemes, the images, positions of the products, adding plugins for more features, and embedding social media widgets.
All big ecommerce builders will also allow you to add additional apps to your store; these apps are available in the website builder marketplace, and can be free or paid. They can be used to fulfill any ecommerce need that is not being covered by the inbuilt features.
Creating Product Pages
Once you have successfully created a stylish template, you need to create your product pages and add your products. An ecommerce website builder offers you great control on your product page, and allows you to conveniently add, name, categorize, describe, upload, and price your items.
Depending on your platform and the plan you are using, you may have some limits on the number of products you can list, the number of options for each product, or combinations of product variants.
Your product page will have a huge impact on how much traffic you can attract and how many customers you convert. Even though you cannot control the number of visitors you have, you can make your product page rank high in quality.
Here are some ways to make an amazing product page:
Picking Product Names
A good product name can have a major impact on sales. Just consider the beauty industry and see the kind of creative names they come for their lipsticks, blushes, and highlighters. With names like Burberry Lip Velvet Crush and Marc Jacobs Beauty Dew Drops Coconut Gel Highlighter, who wouldn’t want to buy them?
Naming your products can be difficult, but it can also be very fun. The key is to make your product name appropriate to the image of your brand. A beauty brand that caters to mature women won’t want their product names to sound too cute or girly, but more refined and sophisticated instead. So, focus on names that are comprehensible rather than so creative they seem completely ridiculous.
Writing a Sellable Product Description
Your product description needs to be attention-grabbing and convincing, so you should avoid using clichés, complicated jargon, and run-on sentences. A good product description is short and sweet and will list all the benefits the customer will get when buying the product.
Some things that you can add in your product descriptions are:
- A couple of sentences detailing the problem that the product solves or the need it fulfills.
- A line or two about how you will feel once the problem is solved.
- A few sentences about how your product achieves the desired results and what features it has.
Most successful brands focus on the benefits the product provides rather than a list of its features. For example, if you are running a shoe store, the benefit you provide is comfort for feet. If you are offering high-end shirts, the benefit is increased confidence and a sense of sophistication.
A good product description also offers you numerous SEO benefits, so make sure you add your most important keywords in your description. It can help you rank better on Google, make your brand more visible, create more brand awareness, and attract more buying customers.
Building Product Categories
Product categories are different areas where your products are positioned. This makes it easy for customers to find the specific item they are looking for without having to browse through all the items on display.
If you have a small-scale store, five categories of products are more than enough, because you don’t want to stretch your brand too thin or risk confusing your customers.
Some things to consider when categorizing your items are:
- Featured products: This can help you take your customers to your preferred shopping path
- Price range: This can show customers only the products that they can afford.
- Filtering Options: These can include the color, size, or brand name. The more filtering options you offer your customers, the easier it will be to pinpoint their specific product, and the happier the customer will be.
Shooting Product Photos
This is one of the key areas where you shouldn’t even think about skimping. Look at the success of Instagram to see how relevant good photos are these days. Additionally, the images and photos on your ecommerce website can help the customer determine the quality and professionalism of your brand. So your photos should have these few considerations:
- Only use high-quality images. Never use tiny images that are incomprehensible, blurred, or pixelated.
- Make sure all your photos are of the same size.
- Use a good smartphone or a digital SLR camera to take your own photos the way you want.
- Make sure your customers can view your product from all angles.
- If you offer product variants, make sure your customers can view the product in the full range of colors or specifications.
- A zoom feature can also allow shoppers to view your product in greater detail.
- Make sure you optimize all your images through an image optimizer. This reduces your file size and allows them to show up more quickly on your website, improving site speed.
Getting paid for the items that you are selling is the whole point of an ecommerce website. You can get your payments accepted on ecommerce websites through payment gateways and credit card processors.
A lot of us are familiar with PayPal, and it is a very good idea to set up a PayPal option on your ecommerce website since many people don’t keep their credit card information on them at all times. It is also easier to shop online using mobile devices.
PayPal is super-easy to set up. The gateway charges you a small percentage of each transaction that they get to keep; however, this is pretty standard throughout the industry.
You can also accept credit card payments, mobile payments, and recurring billing through gateways like 2Checkout.com
Getting Approved for Payment Processing
A valid form of identification (like a state ID or a driver’s license), a bank account for depositing proceeds from the sales, a federal tax ID, and a clean credit history are needed to make the process easier and smoother. You should also add a cover letter with your application, explaining how you think you have a successful business model.
All these things are required since these payment processors do not take big risks on business that do not seem like they will be successful, so you need to convince them. Therefore, the application process should not be left for last.
Setting up Product Pricing
In school, we are taught that you can calculate your retail price by figuring out how much it cost to make a certain item and then adding a fair amount of profit percentage to it. However, in reality, things don’t work like this all the time.
For example, if you look at the app industry, most customers are not willing to pay $5 for a certain app, no matter how much time and resources it took to develop it. No matter how revolutionary the app is, if the cap is $5, charging higher than that means the risk of losing business.
Therefore, to determine the price of a product, you need to make price comparisons. Check out what your competitors are selling at and base your price according to that.
Why is it acceptable to pay $37 for a high-end lipstick? Because Givenchy sells lipstick for $38.
Hence, in a nutshell, you need to take into account the comparative pricing. You can certainly stretch it to a higher price, but you need to make sure your product is giving your customers value.
Some other things that you need to factor in are:
- The cost of material per unit
- Your payment gateway transaction cost and other charges
- Your ecommerce website building cost
- Shipping costs
Storage and Shipping Options
Before launching your website, you need to ensure your storage and shipping processes. If you are selling physical products, you will need to work out a storage arrangement with your vendors. Here are some things that you need to consider for storage and shipping:
- Will you store your inventory in a warehouse, or will you use a dropshipping facility?
- Which courier services will you use?
- What size packaging will you need?
- Will your packaging come with promotional material?
- Do some of your products have shipping restrictions?
Types of Shipping Options
The next thing you need to consider is the different types of shipping options that you can provide:
- Free shipping: Free shipping is one of the best selling points. You can provide free shipping if a shopper orders over a certain amount. The greater order value can cover your shipping cost. You can also offer free shipping for luxury products.
- Flat rate: No matter in which city or state your delivery point is, you offer a flat shipping rate for everywhere.
- Real-time Quotes: You can also calculate the shipping fee by factoring in order size, weight, and delivery point. This is a transparent way to show why some deliveries cost more than others.
- Store Pickup: Your shoppers can order online, but they can pick up their products at a physical location. This can encourage a more personal business experience.
- Rush Shipping: You can also charge your customers extra if they want something delivered on an urgent basis.
Get Your SSL Certificate
One of the biggest concerns for online shoppers is security. However, website builders can alleviate this concern by offering shoppers SSL certificates.
SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer, which is a form of encryption that makes your customer’s shopping details totally secure. A lot of big ecommerce websites offer SSL certificates in their plans, but if they don’t, you can always buy it as an add-on.
An SSL certificate will not just make your customers feel secure when they shop, but it will also increase your ranking with Google. Meanwhile, sites without them end up getting subtle warnings from search engines.
SSL certificates come in three levels. When you get a free one, you are only getting the most basic security options. A more advanced SSL option will give you additional monitoring and insurance. Premium SSL offers you much more advanced features; however, the only ones who need to get this level of package are those who handle credit card transactions themselves, rather than through a third-party or run large-scale enterprises.
These days, an SSL certificate is no longer a nice add-on, but a necessity if you build your ecommerce website.
Get your Legal Paperwork Done
Although we’re mentioning this towards the end of our guide, getting all your legal paperwork done should be one of your primary concerns when building your commerce website and launching your e-store.
Make sure you register your business, get a seller’s permit or vendor’s license, and get the appropriate documents for tax and revenue from the Secretary of State.
You will also need proper organization documents, and to keep things in order, you might want to consider hiring an attorney. This may seem like a hassle, but this is not a step that should be overlooked.
Launching Your Store
If you have performed all of the above steps, then you are now ready to launch your own store. However, before you do that, you should check your e-shop to see if everything is in functioning order.
Many ecommerce builders let you run a few sample purchases and preview how an entire shopping experience will work so that when you finally launch your site, your customers won’t have any issues going through to the checkout.
You should also spend some time double-checking for broken links, typos, or glitches.
Once all that is done, it is time to finally launch your store.
This is just a basic blueprint if you want to build your ecommerce. Follow the steps we have outlined to help you get on your way to earning money online. You may not get everything right in the first try, but the most important thing you can do is to experiment, learn new things, and keep going forward.
We wish you the best of luck in your ecommerce business.