A 7-step recipe for building an eCommerce website from scratch
You’ve got your business plan in hand and products in the works. Your eCommerce business is nearly ready to launch.
Now, there’s one final question left to answer: How do you go about building your eCommerce site?
This step alone can feel like a big undertaking. After all, there are tons of nitty gritty details, research, and design considerations to juggle when you’re first learning how to start an online store from scratch.
Fortunately, this handy guide can get you started with all the essential tips for building a site that’s unique and professional.
01. Pick the right eCommerce platform
When you’re building a site from the ground up, you can choose to host it yourself or tap an eCommerce platform.
Hosting a site yourself gives you total control, but it’s expensive and time-consuming. Self-hosting means you must handle website development, maintenance, and security all on your own. If you’re not technologically savvy, you’ll need to hire a professional who is.
Alternatively, you can choose to use a hosted eCommerce platform. Cloud-based platforms like Wix for eCommerce make setting up your store easy. Look for a platform that offers an easy-to-use website builder, plus tools for managing multiple aspects of your business, from marketing and sales, to inventory management and fulfillment.
Keep in mind the most common reasons why eCommerce sites fail when selecting your platform, alongside these five considerations:
Mobile friendliness - Seek a platform that offers responsive themes and templates, ensuring that the elements of your online store will automatically adapt to fit various screen sizes. Check out all of Wix’s online store templates, which are all designer-made and mobile-responsive.
Security - Your platform-of-choice should offer fraud prevention, data backups, and other eCommerce website security measures that keep your site and data well-protected. In addition, if you plan to accept credit card payments, PCI compliance is a must.
Reliability - Given that every second of downtime puts your sales in jeopardy, it’s crucial to find a platform that has the infrastructure and resilience to handle any volume of traffic to your site. Ideally, it should support limitless scalability and take measures to prevent eCommerce site crashes, especially during peak selling periods.
Back-office tools - Select a platform that supports all the major functions, apps, and automations that you need to grow your business in the right ways. Think about the tools necessary for managing your inventory, product listings, shipping solutions, orders, and more.
Multichannel capabilities - As you grow your business, chances are that you’ll want to expand your reach with the help of third-party marketplaces, social media, and other channels. Get ahead with a platform that lets you manage your sales and marketing channels from a single dashboard.
02. Select a theme and start customizing
Your online store serves as the face of your brand.
Selecting the right theme is essential for reinforcing your brand image, as well as guiding users towards the right actions once they land on your site.
Needless to say, you’ll want to pick a theme that fits with the category of merchandise that you’re selling—be it fashion, furniture, food, or another product type. Sift through the themes offered by your eCommerce platform.
From there, you can customize your theme as needed through your platform’s editor. Or, tap a professional designer, like one of Wix’s Marketplace professionals, to help out. At this stage, you’ll want to think about:
Images - It’s best to upload your own product photography, including ones that aren’t product-specific but serve as compelling header images, background images, or lifestyle photos. If you’re in a pinch, Wix offers a gallery of free, high-quality stock photos to choose from.
Fonts and colors - Select a typeface and colors that align with your eCommerce branding. Check that your copy is easy to read and that buttons are easy to spot. Be intentional about your design, taking into consideration how colors and patterns have the power to communicate various moods, memories, and values.
Your homepage - Consider the most crucial information to provide upfront for your customers to see (think: if your business were opening a brick-and-mortar location, what signage would you show at the front of your store?). Highlight your most important products, messaging, and/or offers on your homepage. You could even embed posts from your Instagram or Facebook feeds, or add product reviews that showcase your brand’s authenticity.
Navigation - Keep your navigation clean and well-organized. As a general rule of thumb, visitors should be able to find any product they need within three clicks or less. Add site search, sorting options, and filters to your pages to further assist your customers with finding what they need faster.
The mobile experience - As you finetune your website, don’t forget to check on the mobile experience. Check that any text, images, and buttons appear as they should on smaller screens. Create a hierarchy of the most important elements to show first,
03. Create your product pages
Product pages can’t be rushed.
Get them right and you’ll not only encourage sales, but you’ll also spark cross-sells and upsells that can lead to bigger purchases.
Be deliberate about how you format your product pages. Think about the questions—and assumptions—buyers may have when they’re not able to physically see or touch your products.
Remember that the devil is in the details: Often the most high-converting product pages are rich with information, provide multiple images, and include some sort of social proof.
As you build out your product pages, pay close attention to the following elements:
Product names - Your product names should include at least one easy-to-recognize descriptor in the title. For example, if you’re selling headphones, include “earbuds” or “headphones” somewhere so that it’s easy to search.
Product images - Add multiple high-quality images taken from several angles to give your customers a 360-degree view of your product. Where appropriate, use video and/or informational graphics to provide even more context. If your products come in multiple colors or styles, include images of each variation.
Product descriptions - Your product descriptions should aim to answer frequently asked questions about your product. Include details such as how the product is made and the type of material it’s made out of. Speak to the benefits of your product, not simply its features, and emphasize what makes your product unique. Weave in keywords naturally tool to enhance your chances of ranking high in search engines.
Shipping and return information - Today’s shoppers want to make as few clicks or swipes as possible, so including shipping costs and your return policy on your product page will help create a more efficient journey. More importantly, putting your policies in a clear spot helps to keep expectations aligned, reducing the chance of returns or upset customers.
Product reviews - Incorporate reviews onto your product pages by adding a widget or importing existing reviews from another source. You could additionally display user-generated social content on your page to showcase real-life photos of your product in action.
Cross-selling and upselling opportunities - Include dynamic “related products” banners on your pages to draw attention to other accessories, components, or items that your customers may be interested in while shopping. As another option, upsell your customers on product subscriptions or premium versions of their items.
04. Set up payments
Today’s shoppers expect multiple payment options. Some prefer credit or debit cards. Others prefer digital wallets. Still others may prefer a payment app. We recommend offering as many payment options as possible to give customers exactly what they want.
Your eCommerce platform should include prompts for setting up your online payment gateway. Most will ask you to enter and confirm your business’ country of origin, before determining which payment and currency options are available in your region.
With Wix, you can activate Wix Payments to instantly start accepting all the major credit/debit cards, alongside digital wallets and other popular forms of payment. Wix Payments additionally allows you to manage your entire business from one place, whether you’re looking to review orders or schedule your payouts (among other things).
05. Set up shipping and delivery
While an efficient payment experience will help shoppers convert, an outstanding shipping and delivery experience helps convince them to come back.
To set up shipping and delivery on your eCommerce site, start by determining your objectives:
Do you want to ship your products domestically, internationally, or both?
What shipping policies do you care to offer (free shipping, flat rate, variable fee, etc.)?
Which carriers or third-party logistics providers are you looking to ship with?
Will you be dropshipping?
Which shipping software platforms are you planning to use?
Your eCommerce platform should make it easy for you to set custom rules and integrate your most important apps so that you can deliver outstanding customer service, plus track the cost of shipping with each order.
If you use Wix, you can also enable local customers to pick up their orders from a nearby warehouse or from your closest brick-and-mortar store by setting up store pickup as a ‘delivery’ option.
06. Connect your domain
To get your eCommerce site up and running, you’ll need to either connect an existing domain or create a new one yourself. Your domain name is the name that users will type into their browser to get to your site. Choosing the right name is important for both your branding and SEO strategy, with the latter focused on having a trustworthy and easy-to-search domain name.
You can purchase a domain from providers like GoDaddy, Bluehost, or Wix. The average domain costs between $10 and $20 per year, though with a Wix premium plan, you can get a voucher for a free domain name for a year.
If you already have a domain and want to incorporate it into your eCommerce site, simply go to your site’s settings and connect your domain. You’ll be asked to log into your domain registrar and verify your domain name. The verification process often takes a few minutes, but in some cases it could take up to 48 hours. Once your domain is verified, it will be automatically connected to your new eCommerce site.
07. Test and launch
As eager as you may be to launch your site, it’s critical that you take the time to test it thoroughly. Most platforms will allow you to preview your site before it goes live. This allows you to see exactly what your site will look like, and to make any last-minute changes.
Be sure to test your site across multiple devices—desktop, tablet, and mobile. Make sure that all links, menus, and buttons work properly. Go through the whole user journey, starting with a product search and ending with a checkout.
Once you’re completely satisfied with your eCommerce site’s look and feel, hit publish and take your site live (and then check out our guide on eCommerce website optimization).
Bonus: Connect your store to additional sales channels
While building your own eCommerce site will give your store a “home,” you’ll likely want to explore selling on other sales channels, such as third-party marketplace (e.g., Amazon, eBay, etc.) and social media (TikTok, Instagram, etc.).
By establishing a strong omnichannel retail strategy, you can expand your reach, while engaging users with a clear intent to shop.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure to sync these third-party channels with your eCommerce site. Doing so will make it easier to track inventory across channels and deliver a consistent brand experience no matter where a customer shops for your products.
If you use Wix for eCommerce, you can easily manage today’s most popular marketplaces from one central dashboard. Simply choose the channels you want to activate from your Wix account and go through the step-by-step instructions that are provided for you. By signing up through Wix, you may even receive special benefits, such as higher listing limits or reduced commission fees.
Start building your eCommerce website today
Your eCommerce site is the culmination of your hard work and planning. If done well, it can be the starting point for a lucrative online business.
Start creating an online store today using an all-in-one eCommerce platform that can give you a running start.
Learn more by watching our eCommerce courses:
Allison Lee Editor, Wix for eCommerce
Allison is the editor for the Wix eCommerce blog, with several years of experience reporting on eCommerce news, strategies, and founder stories.