Build an online store website: Easy Steps to Start Selling Online
Ecommerce sales currently account for 18% of all retail sales, with online shopping itself growing 15% year-on-year. There’s really never been a better time to get online.
Ecommerce platforms are the easiest, cheapest and quickest way to build an online store. Our top three are Shopify, Wix, and BigCommerce.
We conduct our own research to decide which website builder is best for different purposes. Take our quiz to get a recommendation that’s personalized to your needs.
In this guide, we’ll show you the best way to create an online store.
Online store builders and eCommerce website builders – what’s the difference?
We refer to Shopify, Wix, Weebly and BigCommerce as ‘ecommerce website builders’ and ‘online store builders’. There’s nothing to be confused about. These terms both mean the same thing: they’re referring to platforms that help you create an online store.
The good news is you don’t need lots of money, time or technical knowledge to build an online store. By following our easy steps, you’ll soon have a functioning online store of your very own.
Find Your Perfect Ecommerce Website Builder
An ecommerce builder is an online software which lets you build your very own online store, without needing advanced tech skills, coding knowledge, or a dozen computer screens. All you need is an internet connection and a great business idea!
When starting an online store, the first step is choosing the right online store builder.
There are loads of online store builders out there. Some are cheap, some are expensive, some are reliable, and some… aren’t.
With so many options to choose from, we thought we’d make it a little easier to pick the right one for you. We’ve listed our recommended ecommerce website builders here:
Shopify – best all-round ecommerce platform. Perfect for stores of all sizes, it has a brilliant inventory system, scalable plans, and the best sales features on the market. The massive Shopify App Store lets you grow your business at your own pace.
Wix – best website builder with ecommerce functionality. Wix is a website builder first and foremost, and is perfect for any business which revolves around its brand. Easy customization, solid sales tools, and attractive designs makes this builder a top choice.
BigCommerce – most scalable ecommerce platform. BigCommerce has the best in-built features around, so you won’t need to rely on apps to scale up your business. Impressive multi-channel integration and fantastic SEO will power your store to success.
Squarespace – best designed templates. If you want to really let your products shine, then Squarespace is for you. It combines stunning templates with a strong inventory and great analytics, making it a great choice for small and medium businesses alike.
Weebly – great value for money. If you’re a small business looking to make those cents stretch an extra mile, Weebly can save you both time and money. Easy to use, with some great additional features such as blogging, Weebly is a good place to start out.
When learning how to make an online store, a rule of thumb is: the more products and revenue you have, the better plan you need.
How Many Products Do You Plan On Selling?
If you’re not planning to sell a lot of products, a simpler plan with lower rates may be suitable. There’s no product limit on any of BigCommerce or Shopify’s main plans.
However, the more products you sell, the more upgrading to an advanced plan makes financial sense.
This is because of transaction fees. If you’re generating a lot of dollars in revenue, even a slight drop in fees can boost your bottom line.
How Much Do You Want To Pay?
To start an online store, you’ll need an ecommerce plan.
Shopify Basic and Standard BigCommerce both cost under $30 a month, whereas Wix eCommerce starts at $20. If products are flying off your virtual shelves, these sums seem very trivial.
Don’t worry if you’re not sure which pricing plan to sign up to. Speak to an advisor at your store builder and they’ll be able to help.
Add Your Products
Using an online store builder, you have great control over your product pages. The image above shows how you can combine style with minimalism to create a unique look.
The main things you need to add a product are:
- Weight (for physical products)
- File (for downloadable products like ebooks).
Different ecommerce website builders have different limits on:
- The number of products you can upload
- The number of options for each product (the same product but in a different size or color)
- The number of product variants (a combination of two options: for example, a blue t-shirt in size medium)
Make sure you check that each builder’s limit meets your business’s needs.
Shopify and BigCommerce let you sell unlimited products on their cheapest pricing plans, but other ecommerce website builders may limit you on lower-tiered plans.
Three key ingredients to uploading great products are:
- Product descriptions
- Product images
- Product categories
Below we’ll take a look at all three.
How Do You Write Winning Product Descriptions?
Your product descriptions need to be convincing, but here are three things to avoid:
- Complex jargon
- Long sentences
Here’s an example of a good product description:
A detailed product description can be the difference between making a sale and not.
The retailer presents the technical features of their tool box, then explains its benefit to the shopper.
Another thing to keep in mind when writing product descriptions is SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
How Do You Take The Best Product Images?
Like the description, your images should accurately reflect what you’re selling.
Here are a few pointers when learning how to make an online store that looks good and sells.
- Use high-quality images – never select images that are blurry or too small
- Make sure each image is the same size – Use a tool like Photoshop to resize your images to the same dimension
- Take your own photos – Use a good smartphone (like an iPhone X) to take your own photos, if you can
- Provide a 360-degree option – make sure customers can view your products from all angles
- Add product variation images – make sure shoppers can look at the product in the full range of colors
- Add a zoom option – give your customers the chance to view your product’s detail (This is a feature you’ll want to check your chosen builder provides)
Last – but by no means least – ask: are your product images optimized?
You can easily optimize images using a free online compressing tool. This basically reduces the file size of your image without affecting the quality too much, and can do wonders for your site speed!
Images are a great way of showing off your products. But the more images your store has, the longer it can take to load, so optimizing is super important.
What About Building Product Categories?
Product categories are different areas your products can sit in, which make it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for on your store. Examples of categories include men’s, women’s, accessories, new in, and sale.
The easiest way to create category ideas is to ask yourself: what would you want if you landed on your site?
We recommend no more than five categories. Any more and you risk confusing your shoppers with too much choice.
Here are the key things to consider when building your product category page:
- Price Range – displaying price ranges on your category page adds clarity and prevents customers browsing products they can’t afford
- Featured Products – a good way of leading your customers down your preferred shopping path
- Filtering Options – let your customers filter by size, price or brand name. The more options you can give them, the happier they are and the more money they will spend
- Give Extra Product Information – your customer has navigated to a specific section of your store. It’s fair to assume they want more information about the products they’re viewing
Set Up Payment Methods
Next, you need to set up your payment method. This is a crucial part of converting a browser into a buyer.
Ecommerce website builders make this easy for you. They optimize the process so you can hit the ground running with the best (and most effective) payment options.
Ecommerce website builders help by connecting you directly to multiple different payment options, such as PayPal, Visa, Apple Pay and Mastercard
What Payment Options Can I Add?
The three most popular ways to accept payments on your ecommerce store are:
- Merchant account and payment gateway – you partner with a bank, then they accept payments for you and channel the money into your business bank account
- Payment gateway packages – you use all-in-one software, which will connect your store’s shopping cart to the card processing network
- Simplified credit card payment processing – you use a service that integrates with your store’s checkout, such as Shopify’s own payments gateway. Your shoppers won’t have to leave your site to complete a purchase
How Do I Choose The Best Payment Method?
Work out how many sales you expect to make and what type of person will be buying your products.
Find out where your customers are from. If you have customers from different countries, make sure you meet each nationality’s needs. Shoppers in Canada, for example, have different payment preferences from shoppers in Texas.
What About Security?
Security is a big worry for online shoppers. But you can take all their worries away if you make your site secure. And it’s easier than you think!
Online store builders sort this out for you with SSL certificates. SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. It encrypts your users’ data, making their online shopping experience with you totally secure.
Most ecommerce platforms include this in their plans, but if they don’t, they will have it as an add-on. How to Sell Products Online – The Ultimate Selling Guide
So, what does this look like? Have a look at the homepage for this store we made using Shopify. You can see the green padlock circled in the top left corner:
This has two important benefits for your business:
- Customers will feel safe shopping on your store.
- Google will reward your store with higher rankings.
Shopify, for example, comes with inbuilt SSL Security and gives you access to over 100 payment gateways. These include Visa, PayPal, Amazon and Apple Pay.
How Much Are These Payment Options Going To Cost?
Different payment methods come with different fees and charges.
Fees are often rolled together, so take time to untangle them. Make sure you’re clear on exactly how much you’ll be paying and what you’ll be paying for.
Credit card fees are unavoidable. They’re levied by the card provider (Amex, for example) and then passed on by the builders.
The general charge for using payment processors varies, typically from around 1% + 10p per transaction to 3% + 30p per transaction.
If you use Shopify’s own processor, Shopify Payments, all transaction fees are waived on their end.
This means if you were to accept a credit card payment of £100, you’ll only pay the rate of 2.2% + 20p on that payment, direct from the individual payment processor.
Sort Out Your Shipping Settings
You’ve added products and payment options for customers to buy them. Next up is making sure you can deliver those products.
To understand how to build an online store, you need to understand how shipping options work.
Different ecommerce website builders come with different shipping options. See the table below for more info on which options each ecommerce website builder provides:
Preview, Test… And Publish Your Online Store
You should now have added your products, customized your store’s template, set up your payment and shipping, and sorted out your store’s settings.
You’re very nearly there…
But there’s one important step to go before you’ve finished creating your online store: testing it.
Ecommerce website builders make it very easy to test and preview your online store before publishing.
Testing your store is the best way to make sure you’re satisfying your customers’ needs.