How to Setup an eCommerce Store

Online sales are booming at the moment. To capitalise, you need an effective online store. Read my step-by-step guide to find out how.

written by

James Examply

last updated

June 23, 2020

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Did you know that online sales around the world are expected to grow up to $4.8 trillion by 2021? That’s a lot of money, and a lot of sales! If you are a business owner and you don’t have an online store, there is no time to waste. 

If you think that building an online store is going to be too expensive and too complicated, I can assure you it won’t be. I’ve built many online stores over the years, and I’ve reviewed some of the different tools that are available. 

You don’t need to have coding experience to create an e-store, as was once the case. Thanks to the likes of Shopify and Wix, building an e-store is straightforward. Read on to discover the steps that you need to take.

Why Should You Create an E-Store?

There are a number of reasons why I would recommend all businesses to set-up an e-store if they sell physical products or indeed digital products. This includes the following:

Purchase-funnel clarity

One of the great things about an e-store is that you are going to be able to get valuable insights about your customers. You will be able to track their every click. This can pave the way for marketing opportunities, as well as understanding the purchasing process so improvements can be made. This is simply not possible when it comes to purchases that are made in-store. 

24/7 shopping 

With an e-store, you are going to be available to customers all of the time. No matter whether it is 2 am or 2 pm, someone can access your online store and make a purchase. This sort of accessibility is a massive competitive advantage.

Sell to a bigger scope of customers 

The main reason why you should set-up an e-store is that you are going to be able to sell to a much bigger scope of customers. With a physical store, you are limited to the customers in your local area. Online stores have the ability to sell to customers all over the world.

Working on laptop

Choose an E-Commerce Website Builder

The first thing you need to do is select an e-store builder. This is a type of online software that gives you the ability to create your own online shop, without requiring coding knowledge or advanced tech skills. 

I have reviewed five of the best e-commerce website builders here, so I would recommend reading this so you can find out a bit more about the different options that are available. 

To choose a website builder, you really need to think about what you’re looking for from the software. You may find Wix is the best solution for you, while someone else may prefer Squarespace or SITE123

Shopify is the most popular e-commerce platform. I would recommend this if you’re planning to go all out and create a fully-fledged e-commerce store. It’s best suited to those with a turnover of more than $1,000, with 10+ products to sell.

Shopify

For smaller stores, my recommendation would be Wix. Wix has a ton of designs and features, yet it is really easy to use. It’s not as powerful as Shopify, but it is more than adequate for smaller stores especially. 

A lot of the website builders out there today offer free trials, or they have a free account, which you can use to get a feel as to whether the software is going to be right for you or not. There are a few things you should be looking at when determining whether or not you should go for a specific site builder. This includes the following:

  • Are you able to edit the navigation with ease?
  • Can you add products and categorise them?
  • Are you happy with the templates and can you find one that is going to be right for your business?
  • Is it easy to make custom changes and to edit the template?

Choosing a Plan

Next, you need to decide what sort of plan you want. I’ve given a full overview of the prices for the best e-commerce website builders in my review piece. Most e-store builders have various plans available, with the more expensive plans offering a greater number of features.

Wix business and e-commerce payment plans
Wix payment plans for online stores

When choosing a plan, I would advise you to think about the sort of features you need. While a cheaper plan may be tempting, it can actually work out better economically to go for a more expensive plan. This is especially the case if the fees per transaction reduce. 

Can you build an online store for free?

Yes; it is possible. Weebly, for example, has a free plan available for e-stores. However, I would never recommend choosing a free plan. Why? Because there are too many limitations!

Most free plans will heavily restrict the number of products that you can sell. Not only this, but you’re not going to be able to use your own custom domain and your website will have the site builder’s branding, which is not good for business.

recommended

Best for features and scalability

Most popular eCommerce site builder

also great

Creative and beautiful eCommerce sites

Best for omnichannel eCommerce

Best for ease-of-use and multi-language stores

Get a Domain Name

The next step is getting a domain name. This is the name of your website. For instance, the domain name for my website is websitebuilderadvice.com. 

This is something you’re going to need to pay for. You will typically pay a yearly fee to the registrar to secure the right to the domain name. This can be renewed every year. Some companies will offer longer contracts on domain names.

Site123 add domain

It is important to note that you will not get any site features or building tools. Your domain name is just that: a name.

A lot of website builders and web hosts will include a free domain name for at least a year with their product.

Because of this, I would recommend spending some time researching all of your options. You will typically find that it makes sense to purchase your domain name from the same place as you’ve purchased your e-store builder.

If you have already purchased a domain name, you should have no issue transferring this over.

Choose an E-Commerce Template

When you choose an e-commerce website builder, you are going to have a number of different templates to select from. They can also be referred to as themes. 

Selecting a theme is very easy, no matter what website builder you use. 

From Wix to Shopify; you will generally be presented with all of their templates, split into different categories so that it is easy to find the right one for you.

Squarespace online store templates

It can be a bit overwhelming to choose from all of the different templates available, I feel you! My advice is to make sure you really think about how customers are going to move around your store.

You also need to think about the style of the homepage you want, as well as the features you want your store to have.

Features are a huge part of any online store. Do you want videos that showcase your product? Do you need an About Us page? These are all the sort of things that should impact your decision.

Customise Your Ecommerce Template

Selecting a template is only the first part of the process when it comes to your online store. You then need to customise it so that it is unique to your store.

E-commerce site builders make it easy for you to do this. You can change virtually anything! This includes the positioning of your products, images, colour schemes, text, and much more.

A lot of the website builders out there, including Wix and Weebly, enable you to use different apps. They have an app market where you can search for the apps that are going to be right for your store. In my reviews, I have revealed some of my favourite apps to help give you a helping hand.

Weebly app center
Weebly app center

Add Products

You can’t have an online store without any products, right?

You’re going to have excellent control over your product pages through using an e-commerce website builder.

The main things that you need in order to add a product are the following: price, name, category, the weight for physical products, and the file if you are selling downloadable products, such as e-books.

Depending on the e-commerce builder you have chosen and the package you have selected, you may have various limits on the number of products you can upload, the options for every product, and the number of product variants.

This is why I always advise carefully considering your needs before selecting an e-commerce builder and package.

So, how can you make sure you upload great products? You need three key ingredients: a good description, excellent imagery, and product categories. 

I will give you a run down on all three. 

Creating an excellent product description

There are three things you need to stay away from if you want your product description to be a success: no long sentences, no cliches, and no complex jargon. 

Your product descriptions need to be descriptive and detailed, but you should never include words for the sake of it. They need to be easy to read and you need to keep SEO in mind too, meaning you should incorporate keywords. 

Effective product categories

A product category is an area on your website where your products will sit. This makes it easy for customers to locate the sort of item they are looking for in your store. For example, for retail clothing websites, categories tend to include: sale, new in, women’s, men’s, and such like. 

The best way to create an effective product category is to ask yourself what you would want if you landed on your website. 

Don’t include too many categories, as this can cause confusion. You can always add sub-categories and shopping filters for people to use. 

When creating a product category, some things to incorporate include:

  • Filtering options – Enable your customers to filter based on brand name, prize, or size. The more options you can provide, the happier they will be and the easier it is going to be for them to find what they are looking for. 
  • Featured products – Lead your consumers down your preferred shopping path by displaying featured products in an attractive manner.
  • Price range – I always recommend that people display price ranges on their category page, as this prevents people from browsing products that they are not going to be able to afford. 

Taking quality product images

You also need to make sure that your product images impress! I’ve got a few pointers to help you out here as well.

You should also take your own photos, and make sure that every image is the same size so that you have consistency across your website.

I would also recommend using premium quality images; never choose anything too small or blurry. After all, you’re supposed to be enticing people to choose the product, so you want to show it off to the best of your ability.

Other tips include adding a zoom option, adding product variation images, and providing a 360-degree option.

And finally, optimise your images! You can get free online compressing tools today, so make sure you use them. This can do wonders for your site in terms of performance and speed it up.

Set Up Payment Methods

You also need to consider what payment methods you are going to add.

The more options you can give your customers, the better.

E-commerce website builders make this incredibly easy for you. The process is optimised, so you can add all of the Payment options you need.

BigCommerce has the greatest number of payment options. They offer digital wallet payments, World Pay, Apply Pay, Amazon, Square, Stripe, and PayPal.

What About Security?

One thing a lot of online shoppers are worried about is security, and rightly so! The last thing they want is for their personal information to be stolen.

A lot of website builders have great security features to help you with this. SSL certificates, for example, are included with most plans. They will encrypt your data, making the online shopping experience fully secure. 

Don’t just assume this is included in the plan, though. Double-check! If it is not, you will be able to add it on. 

You will be able to recognise if a website has an SSL certificate or not because you can look at the homepage and see if there is a padlock in the top left-hand corner.

Shipping Settings

So, you’ve got your payment options sorted, your products are uploaded, and now it is time for those products to be delivered!

You need to understand the shipping options that are available to you. This will depend on the site builder you have chosen. 

You can view your options below for some of the main site builders.

BigCommerce

  • Pre-setup shipping provides
  • Printable shipping labels
  • Shipping management tools
  • Dropshipping

Shopify

  • Pre-setup shipping provides
  • Printable shipping labels
  • Shipping management tools
  • Dropshipping

Wix

  • Pre-setup shipping provides
  • Shipping management tools

Weebly

  • Pre-setup shipping provides
  • Printable shipping labels
  • Shipping management tools

Squarespace

  • Shipping management tools

Test Your Store

You’re almost there! But don’t rush off to publish your website just yet… you need to make sure you test it first!

This is the only way to make sure that your e-store is right for your customer base. The last thing you want is for certain elements of your website to be broken!

Here are my tips:

  • Make sure you test your store on different browsers
  • Test your store on a mobile
  • Check your store’s content
  • Make sure your store’s functions work
  • Check your checkout too

Promoting Your Website

Once you have created your e-store, you will need to promote it. Here are some of the different strategies that I regularly use…

Email marketing 

Email marketing is a great way to get the word out about your store and entice new customers. One thing that customers love to receive via email is special offers, so make sure you send out some juicy emails to get those orders flowing.

Start commenting on other sites 

Another way tog et the word out about your online store is to comment on other websites. You do need to make sure your comments don’t appear spammy, though.

Take the time to craft quality comments that are going to provide value. Include a link to your online store or your blog if you are able to. Not all sites will allow this.

Social media

Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are the main platforms for social media today. You can even sell items via social media.

Social media icons

Social media is important because it enables you to connect with followers of your brand and build strong relationships. 

You need to make sure you do your research so that you target your social media marketing efforts effectively. Don’t merely set up accounts on every platform you can find! You will never have the time to be able to give all of these platforms the attention they deserve. 

This is why it is critical to conduct some research so you know where to establish yourself.

It is also important to make sure you do not merely post an endless stream of promotional messages, with links to your items and nothing else. You need to engage with people and deliver value. 

You should talk about topics relating to your industry, share interesting content, answer any questions you receive, and host competitions too.

Guest posting

Guest posting is another way to get more visibility for your online store. This involves posting interesting content on other websites that are related to your e-store but not in direct competition with it.

For example, let’s say that you sell running shoes, you may decide to post on blogs related to the fitness industry. By doing this, you will be able to reach the right crowd of people. 

Quora

I have definitely noticed a big increase in Quora marketing over the past couple of years, and this is something you can use to your advantage.

Find questions relating to your industry and provide useful answers to them.

Summary

So there you have it: my step-by-step guide on putting together the perfect e-store. I hope that you have found this information useful. With the e-commerce builders available today, creating your own store is easier than it ever has been. If you have any further queries or concerns, please check out the FAQ section beneath or drop me an email and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Frequently Asked...

While there a lot of website builders that offer free accounts for standard websites, many of them do not enable you to create a free e-store. Don’t panic, though; there are some software providers that do, such as Weebly. However, if you can afford to, I would always recommend going for one of the paid options. This is because the free version is heavily restricted in terms of the products you can sell, branding, and domain names.

It really depends on your goals. If you are looking for an e-store that is easy to use, I would go with Wix. If you want a comprehensive e-store builder for someone with a lot of experience, consider Big Commerce instead. You can check out my review on the top five e-commerce builders for more details on them all. 

You are not going to be able to purchase a domain name on a permanent basis. Typically, the longest plan that is available is ten years, after which you will have the option to renew your contract. Most people tend to renew their domain names on a yearly basis.

All of the e-store builders that have been mentioned have different packages in place for building an e-store on their platform. The more expensive the package, the greater the number of features that are available. You also need to factor in the cost of any apps that you are planning to add to the site builder to increase the functionality of it.

There are a number of different things that I would recommend here. This includes collecting information on site visitors, staying on top of SEO, going mobile, testing everything, and making sure that the focus is always on the user.

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