How to Build an eCommerce Store from Scratch
The modern shopping experience doesn’t involve a trip to the mall, perusing shelves of electronics, or leafing through racks of clothing. For most, it involves a quick Google search, a price comparison, and a seamless digital checkout process.
Ecommerce stores have enabled a fast, efficient, and enjoyable form of shopping that’s also potentially lucrative for entrepreneurs.
Don’t be intimidated by the multiple, detail-oriented steps you have to take in order to build a successful online store. It is simpler than it seems.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to create an ecommerce store from scratch. Read on to learn more.
Step #1: Choose a Domain Name
Like any Internet business, the first step to starting an ecommerce store is getting a website. Pick a domain name that reflects the kind of products you’ll be selling and your brand.
It’s critical to purchase a web domain from a secure, accredited provider and to obtain an SSL certificate, which provides end-to-end encryption for your website. It’s similarly important to choose domain privacy in your web hosting plan. It will help to protect your personal information from getting in the hands of cyber thieves and spambots.
Step #2: Pick a Web Hosting Plan
Select a web hosting plan that allows you to integrate the site with digital payment processing tools, like PayPal, and online shopping cart options.
Make sure the plan also includes an easy-to-use website builder. Unless you have the means to invest in professional web development, you and your employees will be building the site in-house on a limited budget. The easier the website builder is to use, the less time you’ll waste on design and data entry.
Finally, double-check the terms of your hosting plan to see exactly how scalable your website’s bandwidth is. Some web hosting plans will make you pay more for scalability. In the event that your ecommerce store takes off quickly, those plans won’t allow your website to accommodate all the additional traffic. Find a web hosting plan that doesn’t have set bandwidth limits or that will easily scale should your site experience a massive spike in traffic.
Step #3: Legally Form Your Business
Do not sell a single item before you register your business and obtain a vendor’s license. You cannot legally purchase wholesale products and then resell them without both of these necessary state and/or federal filings.
Step #4: Set Pricing
At this stage of your ecommerce business, you have to start stockpiling your inventory. You will need to collect a great deal of information about each product you want to sell and to analyze that product’s unique benefits.
As part of that process, you’ll start negotiating with vendors over prices and shipping rates. You’ll also be researching your potential competitors and examining what their prices are.
Consider your prices, your business’ overhead and operational costs, shipping costs, and your competitors’ prices.
Based on the data you’ve gathered, create a pricing structure that will sustain your business. Your goal should not necessarily be to make a profit, but to be cash flow positive.
In other words, your pricing structure should let your ecommerce store generate enough revenue to pay debts, cover expenses, reinvest in business growth, and buffer the business from major financial losses.
Step #5: Set Up Shipping Options
Shipping is what separates an ecommerce checkout from that traditional mall shopping experience. As a result, it’s incredibly important to research and compare shipping costs from different vendors (USPS, FedEx, DHL, and UPS) and to ultimately choose a value-focused shipping option for your customers.
Before you settle on a shipping vender, there are a couple of careful considerations to make. First, think about the kind of packaging your business will use, such as the size of the packaging and the type of materials you prefer. Second, consider whether some or all of your products may require special shipping needs. For example, delicate products are well-suited for ground shipping.
Perhaps most importantly, you as an ecommerce business owner must decide who pays for shipping: your business or your customer.
Most ecommerce stores handle shipping costs in one of four ways:
- The business gives the customer free shipping no matter what and absorbs the cost.
- The business offers what it calls “free shipping,” but in fact, increases the price of all products to cover the cost of shipping.
- The business only provides free shipping up to a specific product size or after the customer spends a specific amount of money on an order.
- The business charges a flat shipping rate regardless of package size or order size.
Step #6: Create and Implement an SEO Strategy
Content is often the most neglected part of an ecommerce store. The eye-catching photos, web design, and easy scrolling take precedence over the short, punchy copy that describes each product.
Instead of waiting for the last minute to create copy and optimize it, develop your content as you develop your site. You don’t want to have a beautiful, completely functioning ecommerce store without organic traffic.
Get professional SEO assistance from a marketing expert, including primary, secondary, long-tail, and negative keywords, metadata, and high-quality link building. Infuse these strategies into your web content in preparation for your site to go live.
After the site launch, track how each page performed and review their performance on a monthly basis. SEO is a trial-and-error process. You may need to tinker with keywords and add more valuable, long-form content to your site.
Step #7: Launch Your Site
If you’ve followed this guide step-by-step, your site should be ready to go live. Remember to review each step before you hit Publish. After you launch the site, check to see how it works on desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
Reach Out to Experts Before, During, and After You Build Your eCommerce Site
Interested in creating a one-of-a-kind ecommerce store? The expert marketers and web designers at iPage can help. Reach out to our team with your questions about ecommerce web building, hosting, and SEO. We offer 24-hour phone and live chat customer support. We also maintain an online repository of help articles and a comprehensive online help center.