How to Build an eCommerce Website from Scratch
Starting your own eCommerce store can be incredibly exciting. Whether you’ve been operating out of a brick and mortar storefront or on an outdated eCommerce platform, a new website is a huge opportunity to update your digital presence. However, as you start to research how to build an eCommerce website from scratch, you may become overwhelmed. Here is our ultimate eCommerce website launch checklist to help you through the process.
Building an eCommerce website from scratch is a massive undertaking. Use the links below to jump down through the article.
One of the most important pieces of your website is the homepage, which is oftentimes the first interaction a person will have with your brand. You should be especially concerned with the information that appears “above the fold,” which is content that is visible when the page first loads before the user scrolls.
Here are a handful of elements to consider including on your homepage:
- Your logo and branding
- Navigation to get to products, cart, etc.
- Imagery and a basic description of your product
- Your company mission / purpose / about us content
- Testimonials to build trustworthiness
- Store / warehouse location if relevant
- Value proposition or competitive advantage
- Contact information
- Social media links
- Email signup
Just like with a traditional storefront, the visual appeal of your online store matters. It should reflect your company and brand through color, typography, and overall design.
Here are a few questions to ask when you plan your website design:
- Who will design the website? Who will write the content?
- Who will provide design and development maintenance?
- What should my domain name be?
- What platform will I be hosting on? What eCommerce provider will I use?
- Will I explore a custom design or use a template?
With an eCommerce store, you also have the added complication of user experience. The user journey of a store is simple: enter through a door, browse, and bring items to the cashier to pay. But the user journey online can be much less linear, and users may hit dozens or even hundreds of pages before they make a purchase.
There are two particular pages on your eCommerce website where user experience (UX) is especially important: product category pages and product detail pages.
Product Category Pages
Product category pages are the main pages where customers do their shopping. They allow a potential customer to sort, filter, and compare products in order to make an informed decision.
Sorting allows customers to control the order of the products that appear. Customers may want to sort by:
- Lowest price first
- Highest price first
- Newest products first
- Alphabetical order
Filtering narrows down the pool of products by looking at the products that have a specific feature or element. Here are a few filters you may want to include for your customers:
- Relevant category (e.g. shirts)
- Shipping speed / type / cost
- Customer review or rating
Product Detail Pages
Product detail pages are your chance to show the value of your products and demonstrate how they stand out from the competition. When designing your product detail pages, here are some elements to consider including:
- Large, high-quality photos of the product
- Product title
- Product description
- Options and customizations available (colors, sizes, etc.)
- Reviews and ratings
No eCommerce website launch checklist would be complete without discussing the elements that tie into your new website. After all, how will you get traffic to your website if you don’t advertise it somewhere? Email and traditional mail can be great ways to establish a customer base. You may also want to consider optimizing your website for Google and other search engines with SEO.
You’ll also want to think about other digital and traditional marketing strategies to keep your customer base returning for more. Opening social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and/or Pinterest can help build a community around your business. All three platforms have both free and paid options designed to keep customers engaged.
You can even look to partner with companies or influencers who will write or film content about your product or service offering.
Checkout and Cart
If you’re new to running a business, or if this is your first foray into running one online, the checkout process may be the most overwhelming part of learning how to build an eCommerce site from scratch. You’ll have to make a few big decisions on payment methods, taxes, and shipping to get your store up and running.
In this day and age, it is expected that eCommerce stores will accept all major credit cards. Most payment processors work with major credit card providers without much customization.
You may also want to consider allowing PayPal transactions. Some people prefer using PayPal for online orders because it is considered to be more secure. This is because the seller never sees or has access to the customer’s credit or debit card number, which can also prevent you from being liable in a data breach.
There are a number of other payment options you may need to consider depending on your demographic and industry, like checks or purchase orders. Getting to know your audience better can help you know what other payment choices you may need to provide.
You’ll also need to make sure your website provides the correct sales taxes and fees according to local, state, and national laws. Some website platforms will calculate taxes for you, while others may require further customization to calculate taxes accurately.
The last part of the checkout you will need to decide on is shipping and logistics. Here are some questions to consider when choosing a 3PL provider or opting to handle shipping and inventory on your own:
- What speeds of shipping will you offer? Who will be responsible for filling orders?
- Will you provide rush orders or overnight shipping?
- How will you handle waves of orders at busy times (like holidays)?
- What shipping carriers will you support? USPS? UPS? FedEx? DHL?
- What are the costs of shipping? Will customers be willing to pay them, or will you take a loss and substitute with profits from the product?
- Can you or your third-party logistics provider negotiate shipping rates with each carrier?
In addition to launching your new website, you’ll need to see how your new or existing order fulfillment system fits into your digital presence. Having two separate systems will take additional time and energy, so finding ways for your website and order fulfillment process to work together is ideal.
Stock / Inventory
Whether you rent space in a warehouse or are still working out of a home office, here are a few questions to ask about how your inventory and fulfillment will function:
- Where will you store your inventory?
- How much inventory will you need to keep in stock? How much room will it take up?
- What packing materials will you need to invest in?
- Is your model for inventory and fulfillment sustainable? To what point?
Customer Service and Support
Once you’ve shipped out your first orders, you may think that the hard part is over. But the unfortunate truth is that more of your time will likely be spent on customer service than shipping orders. Consider these questions before tackling customer service on your own:
- How much time each week will you need to devote to customer service?
- Will customers expect 24/7 assistance? Live chat? A direct phone number?
- How will you handle various types of returns / refunds / reverse logistics?
- Do you need to provide any sort of recycling service?
DIY vs. a 3PL Partner
There are a lot of decisions to be made when it comes to building an eCommerce website from scratch. Even if you are familiar with building simple websites, the store component can add logistical complexity you might not be prepared for.
While it is possible to set up and run an eCommerce store by yourself, you may want to consider working with a third-party logistics and eCommerce provider. Brandfox offers everything from website design and inventory management to multi-carrier shipping and customer service for one flat fee. That means you have one point of contact with no surprise charges and no questions left unanswered.