A Guide to Starting Your E-Commerce Site


With the growing number of online businesses, creating your own ecommerce website requires a great deal of hard work and determination. Doing research on things like which ecommerce credit card processor to go with and which platform to use are just a few things needed to generate online sales and maximize revenue.

Last year, worldwide retail salestotalled roughly $3.35 trillion, with its growth projected to reach a total of 22% of total global retail sales in 2023. As internet adoption and mobile use increases across the globe, the online retail market is likely to grow in leaps and bounds.

Unlike a physical store, e-commerce sites have no physical limitations, allowing you to reach customers from all over the world. Designing a site that showcases your brand in the best light will help you build and launch your online business.

What are the benefits of an e-commerce site?

  • Additional traffic from search engines
  • Less employees needed to manage an online business
  • No physical rental costs
  • Ease of purchasing goods and services for customers
  • Remains open and accessible at all hours
  • Access to more convenient coupons and deals

Step 1: Create a strategy and determine your framework

Before you create a website, you’ll need to make decisions that impact the specific structure and platform you get started with. This includes factors like determining your target market, finding an ecommerce credit card processor, doing inventory management, figuring out order tracking and shipping, and more.

If you start building your e-commerce site without taking these aspects into consideration, you may run into technical difficulties and limitations. Worse, you might have to start again from scratch if your website doesn’t meet your requirements.

Because of this, consulting a professional web designer or e-commerce expert can help you map out your online business and troubleshoot any issues.

Step 2: Select an e-commerce platform type

Software as a Service (SAAS)

One of the most common types of e-commerce platforms is software as a service (SAAS), which is often relatively simple to set up and use for new merchants. It’s named after the fact that users pay a rental fee to use the platform instead of creating or buying the software itself.

Popular platforms include Shopify, BigCommerce, and Volusion. They usually come with customizable themes and a dashboard area for easy user management. Adding products to your store simply involves filling in a template, as the system is designed to be intuitive and user-friendly.

While you don’t need experience in design and coding to use SAAS, you may be limited in terms of personalization and growth. Costs can also add up over time, especially if you have a large volume of transactions.

Open-source Software

In contrast, open-source software such as WooCommerce, Magento, and OpenCart give businesses greater control and more options. Open source means that users can adjust the given code to customize every detail.

However, businesses who use open-source software need to find a hosting plan to host the software and regularly update it to comply with legal guidelines such as payment card industry compliance.

As a result, open-source software tends to be a good choice for business owners who have the technical expertise needed to manage their online store and require greater flexibility than what SAAS has to offer.

Step 3: Focus on effective web design

For potential customers, there’s nothing more frustrating than a poorly designed online experience. As a business owner, learning the basic concepts between good design can be the deciding factor on a successful purchase or an aborted business transaction.

Effective user interface and user experiencetake into account not just how your website looks, but also how it functions. Your website is a tool to showcase your products and services, and it should do its part in convincing a customer to invest in your brand.

Use high-quality media

Having an attractive yet accurate representation of what you’re trying to sell can attract a potential customer’s attention or turn them off your product completely.

To create an interactive experience, try incorporating high-resolution photos, 360-degree views, three dimensional models, and videos. If you upload blurry and pixelated content, users less likely to continue browsing and may take their business elsewhere.

Ensure ease of navigation

As we’ve previously emphasized, convenience is key when it comes to exploring your website. Price filters, search bars, and simple menus can make a huge difference in the ease of use for customers.

Consider the flow of your homepage, ranging from the menu and cart to the product page. Transitions and animations need to be smooth, fast, and effective. Be wary, however, as having a graphics-heavy page that loads too slowly can also be a dealbreaker for impatient customers.

Provide contact information

Just like a physical store, customers need to have access to brand representatives in case they encounter any difficulties. Having a clearly labelled Frequently Asked Questions page, a live chat, and a contact page can remedy this issue.

Potential buyers will appreciate having access to an email address, a phone number, and a physical store location if your business has one.

Step 4: Consider which features you need

Now that your business is set up with the basics, there are additional features that can streamline online operations.

Payment Processing Options

Depending on your choice of online platform, you may need to invest in credit card processing for e-commerce companies. A payment processor is responsible for relaying the data between your customer’s credit card to your bank. They also help ensure that payments remain encrypted and secure at all times.

When you’re choosing a payment processor, you should find one that caters to all major

credit card brands. Currency conversion fees and technical support are other factors that you should also keep in mind.  You also need to consider the kind of business that you have. If you have a high risk business, then you will be needing a high risk merchant processor to take care of it.

Cybersecurity Services

Protecting customer data is crucial if you want to maintain your reputation as a reliable and reputable business. Due to the increasing frequency of cyberattacks, double checking security features on your site can give you some peace of mind.

Ensuring that your business is up to date with the latest security software including extensions and applications is vital. Two-factor authentication and strong passwords should also be enabled for all accounts.

Order and Inventory Management

Keeping track of cancelled orders and tracking inventory will help you keep a handle on your online business. To do so, you can familiarize yourself with the tools that come with your chosen platform. Consider a system that incorporates order tracking and shipping from start to finish, along with emails and text notification for customers.

Step 5: Build user engagement

Even before you launch your website, you should take measures to spread awareness of your e-commerce store in order to maximize user engagement. This can lead to numerous benefits such as repeated visits, brand retention, greater loyalty, and more sales.

Drive traffic to your website

In order to drive traffic to your website, you can rely on several methods. Starting a blog or forum that helps you engage with your target margaret on a regular basis is a good starting point. Developing content in the form of articles and videos can generate interest and add value to your page.

Don’t neglect the power of social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. These can function as effective methods to gauge the effectiveness of advertising campaigns and spread word of mouth through influencers and guest reviewers.

Encourage customer feedback

Instead of always pushing your products or services, stimulate organic conversation with topics that are of interest to your target market. Talk about the physical and mental benefits that your product or service has to offer to develop an online community.

Customer feedback can be valuable in terms of improving your business and building your brand reputation. Always ask for feedback in the form of reviews, short surveys and more to show your customers that you value their thoughts. Lastly, don’t forget to act on their recommendations.

Leverage coupons and rewards

One of the best ways to increase user engagement is to make it worthwhile for the customer. For instance, bundle deals and exclusive coupons in the form of a weekly or monthly e-mail newsletter can keep your customers updated on the latest products and encourage them to make their next purchase.

A competitive loyalty or rewards program can also help customers feel valued and ensure repeat purchases. Customer referrals can also go a long way towards increasing your reach. Offering a combination of free gifts, early product releases, and points for redemption is also a good starting point.

Key Takeaways

No matter what industry you’re in, opening an e-commerce platform can take your sales to new heights. Whether or not you should use an existing e-commerce platform or create your own solution depends on the type of products you're selling as well as your total sales volume.

While smaller businesses may be content with the level of security that popular platforms have to offer, larger businesses may not be content with the level of customization or the web hosting reliance of these avenues.

However, those that have the technical knowledge and financial resources to spare on a tailor-made platform may want the added convenience of advanced cybersecurity features, extensive payment processing options, and other advanced elements.

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