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App Development
10 minutes read

How to Build an eCommerce Website From Scratch

by Alvaro Insignares
App Development
10 minutes read

There has never been a more advantageous time to start an eCommerce business, so if you want to know how to build an eCommerce website from scratch, you have come to the right place. 

There are a lot of intricacies and technical web development knowledge that you will need in order to build a successful eCommerce website, but for the sake of this post, we will look at some of the broader considerations you’ll need to take into account without getting too deep into the technical details. 

Whether you are a business owner who wants to create an eCommerce site to reach more people or an entrepreneur who is starting their first online business, this post will help you focus your efforts and guide you through the important considerations you need to think about for your eCommerce website. 

Build an eCommerce Website: The Start

The first step when creating an eCommerce website from scratch or starting any business, online or otherwise, is to brand your business. You need a name for your business, a logo, color scheme, typeface, and anything else that you can think of that can be used repeatedly to strengthen your brand. 

Once you have figured out the basics of your brand, the first thing you need to do for your eCommerce site is secure a domain name. Ideally, your domain name will be your business’s name. This keeps things simple for users. 

If your business name is too generic, you might have difficulties getting that name for your domain. If you can’t get a domain name that aligns with your business name, it might be a good idea to go back to the start and think of another name for your business. 

The other major concern you need to consider at the beginning stages of building an eCommerce website is what type of products your online store will sell. Ideally, you will be selling products that are in demand, but you need to be careful because products that are very popular will have more competition. 

Part of starting an eCommerce business is doing research to determine which products offer your business the most interest with the least amount of competition. If you can find a specific retail niche to operate in, you will have a built-in audience ready to engage with your online store. 

Finally, you need to think about what business model your eCommerce website will follow. Will your eCommerce website function as a marketplace, a business-to-business seller, or a business-to-consumer online store? The business model you choose will affect some of the other decisions you will make later on, so be sure to really think about what kind of business you want your eCommerce website to be. 

Building an eCommerce Website From Scratch Vs. Using a Website Builder

What does building an eCommerce website from scratch even mean? In the most basic terms, a website built from scratch is custom-coded from top to bottom. The alternative is a website builder, which gives non-technical people the ability to create good-looking websites without having to learn how to code. 

Website builders provide a number of technical back-end services like hosting, domain routing, and DNS. If you build a website from scratch, you need to set up and maintain your own server. This includes pointing your domain name, email, and other web services at one another, providing your own security, and fixing your server if it breaks. 

Website builders like Shopify also provide a number of other valuable services including, payment gateway integration, API integration, plugins, and a website that is already pre-optimized for eCommerce. 

When you build an eCommerce website from scratch, you will need to account for and maintain all of those considerations on your own. However, depending on the website builder you choose, you may be limited in the APIs and plugin tools you can use. When you build from scratch, you have more maintenance and security responsibilities, but you also have a lot more flexibility to choose the tools that you want. 

Once upon a time, custom-coded websites looked a lot better than websites built with a builder because there were not a lot of customizable front-end options included in website builders. Today, most website builders allow you to completely customize the front-end or look of your website via custom themes without having to custom code the back-end or set up the server. 

Website builders offer a lot of advantages, but it still may make more sense for you to build your eCommerce website from scratch. You’d want to consider a completely custom build if you want to use APIs and other tools not available on a website builder, if you have a check-out process that varies from the standard procedure, you want to choose a payment gateway with better terms for your business, or you want complete control over every aspect of your website. 

It is important to note that some website builders will charge commission fees or even limit the number of products you can upload or list at a time. If you do choose to use a website builder, make sure that you understand all of the terms and conditions.

Important Things to Consider for Your eCommerce Website 

When you are ready to build your eCommerce website, the things you need to consider first and foremost are the following:

  • Products
  • UX
  • Payments 
  • Shipping 
  • Policies

There are more web and mobile app development technical aspects you’ll need to cover in order to bring your online store to life, but as previously stated, this post is not going to delve into the technical aspects of development too deeply. 

Products

Before you can build an eCommerce website, you need products. Once you determine what types of products you will be selling in your online store, you need the following things:

  • Pictures 
  • Product descriptions 
  • Reviews 

You likely won’t have product reviews right off the bat since your eCommerce website is just beginning. However, when available, it is very important to add product reviews to your product pages. This helps create trust with your customers and gives them the ability to see what others think of your products.

You should have multiple pictures of the product you are selling. Try to capture the product from multiple angles so customers can get a sense of what you are selling as well as its condition and scale. Good quality product pictures are a big part of creating a great User Experience

You’ll also need a detailed product description for all of your products too. These descriptions are important for customers to read, but they are also critical components of search engine optimization (SEO) as well. 

Your product pages will be the most important part of your eCommerce website. After all, these are the pages that are going to lead to conversions and final sales. Make sure that you take the time to make your product pages as thorough as possible. The more information your customers have, the more comfortable they will be making a purchase. 

User Experience (UX)

Besides product pages, the UX of your eCommerce website is the most important part. If users have trouble using your website, it will be hard to make sales and retain customers. Plus, there is a lot of competition when it comes to eCommerce. 

If your website provides a poor User Experience, you can be sure that your users will find an alternative eCommerce site that provides a better experience. Take your time designing the User Interface elements that will constitute the overall User Experience your website provides. 

Your eCommerce website should not only function in the manner users expect, but it should also look good and provide a pleasing interface for users. eCommerce websites that provide a seamless User Experience are more successful at retaining customers and converting first-time visitors. 

Of course, if you have a motivated buyer, very little will stop them from making a purchase, but you can’t sit back and rely on motivation alone to make sales for your eCommerce business. The User Experience of your website needs to be a top priority when you build an eCommerce website from scratch. 

If you’re not going to invest time and money into creating a seamless User Experience, you might as well just use a website builder because the benefit of custom development is that you can create unique experiences.

Payments 

Before you can move forward with product launch, you need to determine how you will process payments on your eCommerce website. You will need to use a payment gateway, but there are a lot of different options that you could choose from. 

Choosing the right payment gateway for your eCommerce business will depend on a number of different factors including, sales volume, processing fees, and more. Take your time and do research so that you find the best payment gateway provider for your business.

Make sure that you are considering security during this process as well. The last thing you want for your business is to lose or compromise the sensitive financial data of your customers. This can seriously damage your brand’s reputation and cost you future sales. 

Shipping 

A major component of eCommerce is shipping. Since you are running an online business, your customers will be located all over the world. You need to determine how you will ship your goods, how much this will cost, and whether or not you will charge your customers for shipping. 

A lot of online shoppers come to expect free shipping. In fact, if they see free shipping, they are more likely to make a purchase. One way you can offer free shipping is to add the cost of shipping to the price of the product. In this case, shipping wouldn’t be free, but it will look that way to the customer. 

The alternative is to cover the cost of shipping yourself. Many eCommerce websites also give customers premium shipping options like 2-day or overnight shipping. You need to determine if you will offer these options as well or if you will only do standard shipping. 

Policies 

A major thing you need to consider when building an eCommerce website is your policies. For example, will you accept returns? What happens if a product is broken during shipping? There are a number of different issues that can arise in an eCommerce business. 

Being completely digital makes handling some of these issues more difficult, but if you craft clear policies, it will be easier to respond to issues when they arise. This is the time when you need to consider customer support. It might be a wise decision to hire support staff to handle customer issues. This will depend on the volume of your sales and the number of customer queries you receive. 

Remember that ignoring customers or taking a long time to respond to their problems will create a poor customer experience and likely drive them away from your eCommerce business in the future. 

Final Thoughts 

Starting an online business is very exciting and offers entrepreneurs an endless amount of opportunities. However, there is a lot of competition, and you have to take this into account when you build an eCommerce website.

There are a lot of things you’ll have to do in order to successfully start an eCommerce business. If you need help designing a great User Experience, choosing the right payment gateway, or anything else, speak with a development partner. Their technical expertise and industry experience can be a valuable asset to your eCommerce website.

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