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6 Steps to build an ecommerce website

Eccomerce has experienced astronomical expansion in 2020, with estimations that 10 years of growth took place in just 90 days at the beginning of this year. But according to the Small Business Association, 36% of small businesses still don’t have an ecommerce website. If you’re one of those businesses, then you’re missing out on a huge untapped audience of potential customers.

However, if you’re used to managing a brick-and-mortar business, the leap to digital may feel daunting. Don’t let that deter you from this necessary business decision. It’s easier than you think – just follow our six steps to building the perfect online store.

1. Choose the right ecommerce website builder

When building a website, you generally have two options: coding it from scratch or using a website builder. If you have extensive coding experience and would like to completely customize every aspect of your site, then coding may be a good method for you. However, if you’d like to get started with a website quickly, easily, and without any technical know-how, then using a website builder is your best bet.

While there are dedicated website builders available, most ecommerce platforms come with built-in website builders designed specifically for online selling. Also, building your website through your chosen ecommerce solution will keep everything synched on the same software, cutting down on the potential back-and-forth in case of any issues.

Before you decide on a website builder, and if it should be hosted or self-hosted, you need to consider all of your business needs and compare them with the software’s available features. For example, if you’re running an apparel business with a wide variety of clothing, you’ll want to go with the option that allows for unlimited categorization.

2. Design your website’s look

Now that you’ve chosen your website builder, it’s time to start building. Above all, your website needs to be easy to use for your customers – or else it will fail at converting them. To do this, make sure that you have the following features on your site:

  • Clear Navigation Menu: This is usually near the top of the page, clearly showing visitors your categories. A drop-down menu is ideal for navigation because it allows for nested categories.
  • Search Bar: For more precise searches, a search bar near the top of the page is preferred. The search bar should be easy to find and functional.
  • Featured Products: Showcase your best products, your sale items, or any other products you’d like customers to see as soon as they visit your website.

Aside from features, your website needs to meet aesthetic standards. In fact, according to Kinesis Inc., 75% of customers trust a business based on their website’s design. Make sure that your website isn’t too cluttered or distracting, stays in line with your brand’s colors and fonts, clearly showcases your logo, and is responsive (which means that it works on both mobile and desktop devices).

You’ll also want to add any necessary content pages to your website. The most important ones include:

  • About Us page
  • Contact Us page
  • FAQ page
  • Returns Policy page

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3. Add categories and products

Your online store is nothing without any products. On an ecommerce website, products are generally organized into categories and subcategories, which make it easy for a shopper to find what they’re looking for in your store. As you upload products to your website, assign the proper categories to each of them.

ecommerce website categories

With category pages now populated with products, you’ll also want to populate them with content. This helps your website rank higher on search engines, because it gives you an opportunity to add some keyword-specific value. Target for the keyword that best aligns with your category.

Product pages themselves also need to be merchandised, optimized for aesthetics, usability, and search engines. Be sure to include the following on your product page:

  • Images: Include several high-quality images that show every angle of the product. Add a video to make things even more engaging.
  • Price: Make the cost of your product clear for customers to see. If your product is on sale, you can show the retail price crossed out and the sale price above it.
  • Product Description: This should be unique and not the exact same product description as the manufacturers’. Align the product page copy with your brand and offer valuable information.
  • Options or Variants: If your product comes in different sizes, colors, or any other type of variation, you should include those options on the product page.
  • Customer Reviews: Once you start selling products, customers will want a way to leave feedback and reviews. Additionally, customers will want to check reviews before buying.

Product pages are also the perfect opportunity to upsell and cross-sell related or complementary products. You can add an optional extended warranty for technology products, or matching socks to go with a pair of shoes. Think about adding a “Related products” section to showcase other products that a customer may be interested in based on their interest in the one they’re looking at.

4. Integrate with your chosen payment methods

Your online store may now have products, but you need to set up a way for customers to actually pay for them. This is where payment methods come in. Choose the best payment method that works for your business, industry, and customers.

Some of the most popular payment methods for ecommerce are Stripe, Square, Authorize.Net, and PayPal. Some customers may prefer to pay with digital wallets or cryptocurrencies for added security – if this is the case, consider adding support for methods like Apple Pay and Bitcoin. Each payment processor charges its own transaction fee on each order, so keep that in mind when making your choice.

If your business is classified as a “high-risk” business, you should look into payment processors that accept high-risk merchant accounts. Or, if your business needs to accept payments from international customers, it’s important that you have options available that accept those transactions.

To keep your business legal, you need to be charging customers the appropriate tax rate on their orders. You can either manually add tax rates to your online store or integrate with automated tax calculating software.

5. Set up your desired shipping methods

Once your customer buys a product, the next step is shipping it out to them. At this point, you’ll want to integrate with your preferred shipping method. If your business is located in the United States, the most popular options are USPS, FedEx, and UPS. For international shipments, you may want to use DHL, CanadaPost, Australia Post, Royal Mail, or ParcelForce.

Each carrier offers a variety of shipping services that differ in price and speed. Offer the options that best fit your customer’s needs. For example, if you sell flowers or food items, you’ll want to have rush shipping available.

It’s also a good idea to add real-time shipping rates to the checkout process. The number one cause of cart abandonment is unexpected shipping costs, so if customers are able to see an estimate of that cost in their cart and at checkout, they’ll be much more likely to go through with the order. It’s also important that you include delivery date estimates so that customers know how long they can expect to wait for their order to arrive.

6. Launch your store and start optimizing

Now that your website is fully built and has all of the necessary features for selling, it’s ready to be advertised and continually optimized. The best way to bring organic traffic into your website for free is by optimizing it for search engines – this is referred to as SEO.

Here’s a few things you can do to start optimizing:

  • Target Keywords: Research keywords that are searched often, have low competition, and are relevant to your business. Through website content, you’ll target those keywords to rank higher on search engine result pages (or SERPs).
  • Optimize Page Load Times: If your website is taking over 3 seconds to fully load, then you may suffer from a high bounce rate (the rate at which users instantly leave your site). To make pages load faster, make sure that images aren’t too large and that there aren’t too many dynamic elements.
  • Track Analytics: Connect your website to analytics software like Google Analytics to track important metrics about your site. With this data, you can see how people are finding your site, how much traffic you’re getting, what your conversion rate is, and more.

Don’t wait to build your ecommerce website

While it is much easier to get your online store built today compared to 20 years ago, there’s still work involved. You need to make the right decisions about your website builder, your site’s design, products and categories, shipping and payment methods, and marketing.

It’s needless to say that building a website isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it project. An ecommerce website takes continued work to keep it up and running and constantly converting new customers. Make sure to update your site regularly, analyze what’s working and what isn’t, and make changes when necessary.