How to Build an Ecommerce Website From Scratch (2023)

Not to state the obvious, but ecommerce has exploded in the past few years. We’ve seen nothing short of a revolution as individual entrepreneurs and businesses create online empires.

And if you’re here, you’re probably experiencing some FOMO. Of course, that’s understandable, given the massive amounts of cash these businesses are raking in.

You want to start your own ecommerce website, and I’m gonna show you how. As someone who’s found success with their online venture, I’m qualified to give you the skinny on every part of building your site.

So without further ado, let’s hop in.

Before Starting Your Site…

You need to establish a few things before getting off the ground.

1. Know Your Objective

You’re delving into the world of ecommerce, and you need to know what you’re looking for. Are you creating a marketplace, selling products, or a combination of both?

2. Get Organized

You’d be surprised how many people start building an ecommerce website with zero organization.

Outline all the steps you need to take, such as setting up a payment gateway, creating an inventory system, and creating an attractive layout.

3. Research

Do your due diligence and research everything from the competition to the latest and greatest features.

What works? What doesn’t? What do people expect from a modern ecommerce website? You get the picture.

4. Identify Your Target Market

You’re doomed from the get-go if you don’t know who you’re building your website for.

What age range are you targeting? What type of products do they like? What style of branding are they attracted to?

how to define your ideal customer

5. Be Tenacious

This is arguably the most crucial step since most people quit before getting off the ground.

You’re not going to find success overnight, and you must stay tenacious throughout the process. So from the sketches to the launch, be ready to be seriously patient as you figure things out.

Just think about Dr. Michael Morbius. He wouldn’t have been able to successfully create the Morbius Particle Accelerator if he had given up in the middle of the process.

Now, let’s move on to the actual building part.

Building Your Ecommerce Website

buildling your ecommerce site

It’s buildin’ time.

1. Create a Shopify Account

Long story short, Shopify is easily the best platform to run an online store.

From dedicated customer service to the one-click checkout, Shopify has everything you could want in an ecommerce website. Plus, if you opt for their advanced package, you’ll get access to product reviews, loyalty programs, and more.

Wix is a decent second option, but it’s not as feature-rich as Shopify. It also has clunkier coding (causing slow loading times) and less third-party compatibility.

It’s also worth mentioning that the ecommerce subreddit hates Wix but loves Shopify.

Lastly, Woo Commerce is also a valid option. However, it requires much more technical ability than Shopify. I only recommend Woo if you’re comfortable with tech.

How to Create a Shopify Account

Creating a Shopify account is relatively simple:

  1. Go to Shopify.com and click “Create Your Store.”
  2. Next, enter your business information, like your store name, address, and contact information. You can change this later.
  3. Select a plan. Choose a plan based on the features you need and when you plan to start selling
  4. Choose your payment method. Shopify accepts a variety of payment methods, including Stripe

Shopify offers a free trial, so it’s risk-free to experiment with their platform.

2. Choose Your Domain Name

Your domain is your web address. More specifically, it’s the URL people type in to access your store.

Your domain name should be memorable, concise, and in line with your brand. Note that it doesn’t have to match your shop name exactly, but it should be similar.

For example, “Jimmy’s Legal Attire” could be “jimmywear.com.” You can purchase your domain name directly from Shopify or use a domain registrar (like Namecheap) and hook it up.

3. Choose Your Shopify Theme

The next step is to find a theme that matches your brand’s aesthetic.

shopify themes

If you’re tech-savvy, you could always go for a custom theme, but this is unnecessary in most cases—especially when getting off the ground. Instead, you can use one of Shopify’s tried and tested themes.

I recommend going for a minimalist theme, as this helps guide the eye directly to your product without distracting them.

Highest-Converting Shopify Themes

Here are the Shopify themes I’ve found that convert most effectively:

  1. Flex. I love Flex because it has an eye-catching design that attracts the right kind of customers.
  2. Streamline. Streamline has so many features it’s like having a mini-website builder. Plus, it has a modern look and feels that’ll make your store look professional.
  3. Narrative. Narrative has an advanced color picker so you can tweak the colorful elements of your theme. It also has advanced product search and filtering for a better customer experience.

4. Add Your Products

Now that you have the foundation, it’s time to start adding products to your store.

Adding products is simple and straightforward. All you need to do is hit the “Add Product” button and fill out the necessary info, like the product name, price, and quantity.

You can also add product descriptions, images, and videos so your customers can look down and get a better feel for the product.

5. Configure Your Payment System

One of the most important steps in setting up an ecommerce website is configuring your payment system.

Shopify supports over 100 payment methods and currencies so that you can choose the most convenient one for you. You can even set up a Shopify payments account that allows customers to make payments in their local currency.

That said, I recommend using Stripe. It’s easy to set up, secure, and integrates seamlessly with Shopify. Plus, you can accept major credit cards and payment methods like Apple Pay and Google Pay.

6. Get Your Policies In Order

Don’t forget to set up your policies! This includes setting up a return and refund policy, shipping policy, and terms and conditions.

These policies are essential components of ecommerce since they help you protect yourself from legal trouble and avoid customer dissatisfaction.

For example:

  • Your return and refund policy should include the details of how a customer can return an item and how long it will take for a refund to be processed.
  • Your shipping policy should include delivery times, taxes, and shipping methods.
  • Your terms and conditions should outline the contractual relationship between you and your customers.

Take the time to do this right, or you’ll land in hot water later.

7. Create a Blog

Before launching your site, you must add a blog. This enables you to build organic search traffic while SEO blog content.

Thankfully, Shopify offers full support for blog content. It’s not as extensive as WordPress/WooCommerce, but it’s still more than enough to utilize blog content to drive traffic and leads effectively.

How to Add a Blog With Shopify

Adding a blog to Shopify is quite simple:

  1. Go to “Online Store > Pages > Add Page.”
  2. Name your page
  3. Select “Blog page” from the page template drop-down.

Then, write 2-3 cornerstone blog posts. They’ll be rough starting out, but they’ll get you started on what will eventually become a massive revenue source for your store—if you’re consistent with it.

Related: How to Start a Blog

8. Test Your Site On Mobile

One quick but crucial step before launching: check how the site looks on mobile.

testing your shopify store on mobile

Over 50% of online purchases are made on mobile devices, so you must ensure that your site looks great on phones and tablets.

The easiest way to do this is to use Shopify’s mobile preview feature. Simply go to your Shopify dashboard and click “Preview.” Then select “Mobile” to view, and if it passes the smell test—great.

If not, go back and make it work.

9. Launch!

Finally, it’s time to launch. Congratulations!

When you’re ready to release your ecommerce site, hit the “Go Live” button in your Shopify dashboard, and you’ll be ready to go.

You also want to do an initial round of promotion. You don’t need to launch a massive ad campaign immediately, but you should reach out to anyone you know and spread the word.

Finding Success in Ecommerce

The truth is that getting started is the easy part of ecommerce. Tons of people dream of finding financial freedom with ecommerce, but precious few actually achieve it.

I’d be remiss in sending you on your way without telling you how to find success, so in this next section, you’ll learn how to (actually) make your store a hit.

1. Be (Extremely) Consistent & Patient

As I touched upon when starting this article, one of the biggest mistakes most folks make is expecting to make money immediately after launch. In all likelihood, that’s not gonna happen.

Consistency and patience are the keys to finding ecommerce success. You must consistently add content, promote your products, and interact with customers.

Then, you need to be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your ecommerce empire won’t be either.

To give an example, my friend’s store didn’t get many sales initially.

But refusing to give up, he lowered his products’ prices, adjusted his overall cost structure, and made a few changes to its web design. After that, it was patient and watched its revenues—slowly but surely—take off.

And hey—maybe your store will explode on liftoff. But in any case, you gotta be prepared for it to take some time.

2. Invest in SEO

I mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating: SEO is the lifeblood of most ecommerce stores. You really want to invest in getting it right.

If you’re unsure of how to go about it, you can always work with an SEO consultant or agency. But there are also plenty of DIY tools, like Moz Pro and Semrush, that can help you out.

It’s also important to ensure that your webpage design and content are up to par.

Google’s PageSpeed Insights measures your Core Web Vitals to confirm whether or not your site functions well for users, and GTMetrix shows exactly how fast it loads.

3. Use Popups Strategically

Pop-ups are a great way to boost engagement and conversions, but you need to use them strategically.

For example, rather than having a generic popup that appears as soon as someone enters your site, consider using an exit-intent popup. That way, you’ll be able to capture the attention of visitors before they leave your site.

You can also use popups to encourage users to sign up for your newsletter, promote discounts, or direct them to your social media accounts. Consider which option would be most beneficial to your customers and adjust accordingly.

4. Leverage Social Media

Social media is one of the best channels for promoting ecommerce businesses. It allows you to interact with customers, build awareness, drive traffic, and make sales.

Make sure you create accounts on at least one major social network—preferably Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. Then post regularly, like, comment, and respond to customer inquiries.

Try Posting Under Your Name—Not Your Brand’s

When promoting your business on these networks, consider posting under your name instead of your brand’s. This way—rather than coming across as a faceless business—you’ll be a real person engaging with your customers and building relationships.

This “personal branding” approach has produced insane results for founders. I would know—I don’t run an ecommerce store anymore, but I do get tens of thousands of dollars worth of leads from LinkedIn and Twitter for my writing and consulting services.

5. Be Careful With PPC Ads

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads can effectively drive traffic and sales to your store. Create an ad in Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) or Meta Ads, set your budget, and carefully optimize your ad campaigns.

Conveniently enough, Shopify has its own advertising platform, which works in Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, and Facebook Ads.

But be warned: PPC ads can get pricey if you don’t know what you’re doing. So ensure you understand each platform’s rules and do your due diligence before investing.

And finally, you’ll need to create a well-thought-out landing page and funnel to get the most out of your ads. If you don’t, you’ll just be wasting your ad budget.

Only One Thing Left…

You’ve heard everything I’ve had to say, now all that’s left is the hardest part—getting started. Most people’s dreams of financial freedom stay dreams, but you’re going to put yours into action.

Don’t procrastinate. Go open your store, follow all the steps you’ve learned today, and get ready to make your dreams a reality.

If you have any questions, comment below. Otherwise, get out there!PS: I have a more comprehensive ecommerce guide aimed towards people who are just getting started with the whole concept.

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