The internet influences every area of our lives. We use it for working, socializing, entertainment, education, and research. We also use it to shopping.
There’s now a generation of adults who have only known a world where the internet exists, and as they, and the generations that follow, spend more money, ecommerce will continue to grow. Currently, 43% of shoppers use the internet and social networks to research products before purchasing, e-commerce revenue in the U.S. was estimated to be $768 billion last year and it is expected to exceed $1.3 trillion in the next three years, according to Statista.
According to the Nasdaq, by 2040, it’s estimated that 95% of purchases will be done through ecommerce. If you are in the retail space, creating an e-commerce site can allow you to get a share of that pie. Luckily for you, we laid out a 13 step process that will help you create a successful ecommerce website in no time.
Let’s look at how to make an online store work, with a step-by-step process to get you started. Here is an example of top ecommerce website templates you can check.
The foundation of every website is a content management system (CMS). There are a number of different content management systems to choose from open-source platforms such as WordPress to beginner-friendly all-in-one website builders such as Shopify or Squarespace. Which is right for you and your online store will depend on your budget, experience, and unique e-commerce needs.
Here are the most popular content management systems for e-commerce websites:
WordPress: The world’s leading CMS that is also one of the most customizable.
Shopify: Shopify is a flexible e-commerce platform with tons of stand-out features. The platform is trusted by millions of businesses worldwide, generating billions of dollars in gross merchandise volume. Shopify plans start at $29 per month.
Magento: The king of e-commerce for giant online stores
For help deciding which is the best CMS for your e-commerce needs, learn more about the best e-commerce platforms.
Once you have decided which CMS to use, the next step is to create an account–unless you choose WordPress. If you are planning to build your e-commerce site with WordPress, your next step is to get a web hosting plan. The best web hosting services come with a free domain name, a free SSL certificate and one-click WordPress installation, eliminating the need to manually connect your domain and hosting to WordPress.
In the instance where your chosen CMS does not give you the option to get a domain name, register your domain using a domain name registrar. For help choosing one, check out our article on the best domain name registrars.
This is pretty straightforward. You need a domain name that will perfectly identify your brand. Don’t overthink the process. Using a site like GoDaddy, you can purchase a domain name for under $10.00.
The first thing you need to consider is a theme for your website. Themes are ready-made templates that give your website a consistent look and feel. All subscription platforms have tons of templates to choose from, so whether you’re building your e-commerce website with WordPress, Shopify, and Magento or anything else, you will have prebuilt templates and themes to choose from.
Keep in mind that while free templates are generally available across most platforms, some also offer paid templates. For example, both WordPress offer premium themes that range in price from around $30 to over $200. The benefit is that many offer more unique designs, which can help businesses that want a specific look to reduce the amount of time spent customizing their chosen theme.
You’ll need to gather the following elements and information to create your business website:
Logo and brand imagery : All e-commerce platforms let you create a simple type logo, or you can use a third party platform like Canva to create your own logo using free logo templates.
Product photos, descriptions and data : Consider this checklist of information to include on your website, plus a few tips to help you market products effectively
Great product photos: You can capture great product photos with a little creativity and a cell phone camera. Be sure to take photos from several angles and show your products in use, if possible.
Product videos: Authentic, real-world videos are proven sales tools, and you can also capture these with your cell phone.
Detailed product descriptions: Create great product descriptions that cover every detail. Include the size, weight and material for each product you sell and add answers to frequently asked questions. Use keywords in product titles and descriptions where it makes sense to achieve search engine ranking.
Product options: Options like size and color are called variables, and e-commerce platforms let you create multiple variables for items that come in different sizes, colors, etc.
Product SKUs: Make sure you have your internal stock keeping units, or SKUs, plus any manufacturer’s codes on-hand. Sometimes buyers will search using a manufacturer’s code, so these are good to include in product data.
Product pricing: Many e-commerce platforms give you single-item and group pricing options, plus sale and discount pricing. Some even let you track your product costs for reporting.
Item size and weight: E-commerce platforms use item size and weight to determine real-time shipping costs and to print labels. This is optional, but can be a handy timesaver that automates your shipping process.
Inventory: Insert a stock amount for each item and your e-commerce platform will track your inventory as products sell down.
Your story (About us)
This is your chance to connect with potential buyers, so make the “About Us” section of your website sing. Share your personal journey and embellish it with photos and videos and make it entertaining and engaging to keep buyers coming back for more.
Customer service pages : Great customer service keeps shoppers coming back, so use the customer service page of your e-commerce website to clearly set expectations. Key elements here include:
Shipping rates and times: State your typical shipping turn-around, the rates you charge and average delivery times.
Returns and exchanges: Cover your returns policy and clearly state who pays for return shipping.
Add a Sales Tax Calculator (Optional): Additionally, you may want to consider adding a tax calculator to automatically calculate sales tax, shipping and any other fees at checkout.
Your e-commerce website menus help shoppers easily navigate your website content. Most platforms let you create a main menu bar, along with footer menus and sometimes top and sidebar menus. Experiment to see which combination works best for your product collection and content.
WordPress e-commerce platforms require a bit more work to set up marketing features. For example, you can connect WooCommerce to top email marketing services like MailChimp using free plugins. However, you need paid plugins to connect your products directly to social media accounts for social commerce.
Wait, more research? Yep, starting any business requires tons of it. You’ve already looked at–and hopefully found–a niche market, a target audience, and some potential products to sell. Now it’s time to strategize how your business is going to stack up.
In the business world, this step is known as the SWOT Analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Every business should be doing SWOT analyses regularly to monitor how they are stacking up against their competition. The exercise defines things to work on and provides the bitter pill of reality many business owners need to take. Don’t worry–it’s not a suicide pill from a spy novel. It’s the red or the blue pill from The Matrix. Which will you take?
Here’s a look at each component of your SWOT analysis, along with a few things to think about as you complete the exercise. The SWOT analysis belongs in the “Market Analysis” section of your business plan.
Strengths: Your business’s strengths are the things that you do well. How is your business set up to succeed? Maybe you’re the first person to have an idea and the first person to offer the next hot product. That’s a significant strength. Or maybe you are an expert in your niche and are positioned with a guaranteed customer base. The strengths are the things your business should start with and should play on.
Weaknesses: Every business has weaknesses. These are things that you should be aware of and making efforts to improve. For many startup business owners, a weakness is being new in a field or not knowing enough about SEO and marketing techniques. Analyzing these weaknesses is imperative. If your weakness includes things you need to learn, you now know what you need to go out and learn. Or, in other words, you know what your first new employees need to be experts at.
Opportunities: Opportunities are things you can do that may benefit your business. For example, when the coronavirus pandemic broke out in 2020, many businesses identified it as a threat. But others say opportunity as well. How many businesses made enormous amounts of money selling masks during the early days of the pandemic? Pharmaceutical and medical supply companies certainly didn’t see the pandemic as a threat to their business models.
Threats: Threats are sometimes obvious and sometimes very difficult to forecast. If you are selling luxury goods, an economic downturn may be a threat. A competitor’s new product could be a threat if it shakes up your niche industry. Every business is facing threats. Even the biggest companies in the world face global and local threats every day. For example, supply chain issues can wreak havoc on even the most advanced industries.
Can something be both a threat and an opportunity? It certainly can, and it all depends on your outlook and how you play your cards.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a vital part of your business strategy when setting up an eCommerce site. This is your primary method of attracting customers. SEO ensures that Google, Bing, and the other major web searchers will find your site and index it for future use.
You don’t just want your landing page to have good SEO–you need it with every product.
Now that you’ve got your site up and you’ve populated it with products, figure out how you’re going to get traffic to your site. Will you purchase Google Adwords? Perhaps social media advertising on Facebook or Instagram? The choice is yours, and it ties directly into the other decisions you’ve made up to this point. Your niche and your target audience should tell you a lot about how to market to them. So, how do you find your people?
Before launching the e-commerce site to your customers, you must check the site thoroughly. Every button and every link on the site must be working. Even 404 error web pages should be designed according to the theme.
Run tests to see if you can add products to the cart and process the payment. Most platforms will allow you to test payment processing without actually charging your credit card. Be sure to check if all the emails are getting sent to the right inboxes after a purchase has been made or declined. And last but not least, check how your site looks and functions on mobile devices. If possible, try to check out the site’s performance on different web browsers.
Once you have tested and double-checked everything, from product descriptions to category pages, you are ready to launch.
Announce the launch of your e-commerce store through your social media pages, guest posts on popular retail blogs in your niche, influencer marketing and to your email lists. If you have the budget, you can also go for paid advertising on Facebook, Google and other platforms.
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