How to Develop an eCommerce Website
Online shopping is what makes the life of many people easier — it saves time, provides a wide range of products, and allows them to compare many sellers and find the best suitable offer.
It’s expected that next year 2.14B people will buy goods and services online at least once which is double what it was 5 years ago.
It shows us that eCommerce will be dynamically developing for the next few decades. Just imagine: 95% of purchases are projected to be conducted online by 2040.
Even though the market is quite full, there’s enough space for new players to join with their online store or start doing an existing commerce business online, and now it’s the best time for it.
To find out how you can do it, hold the line — we’ll try to cover all possible questions you may have. :)
💼 Which Tools You Can Use to Create an eCommerce Website
On the market, there are a lot of eCommerce website builders, and some companies prefer to start off with one of these options.
The reasons for such a decision can be various:
# 1: One can be not completely sure if the custom website is what they truly need to meet their business goals.
Thus, they stick to a cheaper and less time-consuming option just to test the idea and maybe provide their customers with Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to get feedback.
# 2: Some business owners may not be ready to allocate a budget for a custom platform.
It’s easier for them to pay a certain amount of money monthly than to spend more once.
# 3: It’s also possible that you might need a website for marketing purposes.
Your online marketing campaigns have to lead somewhere, right? Website builders can help you build a simple landing page for them to go back to.
There are several most known eCommerce website builders on the market:
📐 Top Reasons Why You Might Need a Custom eCommerce Website
Regardless of website builders’ affordability, many business owners opt for a custom platform.
Certainly, if we take such advantages of website builders like relatively low price and faster building process out of the competition, a custom platform can be seen as an absolute winner.
But don’t get confused, neither of the two options is better than each other, it’s just that one’s more suitable for a certain case than the other.
Let’s take a closer look at when an eCommerce website from scratch can be a better option.
# 1: You know that the idea you have will work. You might know it if:
- You already successfully trade on third-party services.
- You’ve made MVP that came out successful after a certain testing time.
# 2: You’ve overgrown the stage where a website builder was covering your business needs.
For instance, certain features aren’t extensive enough, or the web hoster can’t handle the number of users your website has every day, and so on.
# 3: You need a specific set of features or additional integrations that a website builder can’t offer or doesn’t allow to add.
Even if it does, non-custom experience from website builders can be a little overpriced.
We won’t mark this part as the reason since it’s more of an advantage which basically explains the key difference between website builders and custom platforms.
Builders offer a limited number of features and templates. It can be either not enough for your business needs, or hard to scale and adjust to the goals when the company will grow.
Practically, flexibility is something that custom platforms can’t be surpassed in. That’s what makes this option beneficial in the long run and more preferable for those who appreciate agility.
✅ Top Questions to Ask Yourself Before Developing an eCommerce Site
Before starting developing your eCommerce platform, it’s reasonable to make sure that you fully understand what, where, and to whom you’ll offer your products.
So why don’t we go through the main aspects of these parts of eCommerce to highlight what’s really worth attention.
Is there a demand for your product?
First things first, to sell something you should be sure that people are ready to buy your “something”.
How do you know that there’s a demand for your product?
Most likely, it’s demanded since it solves a problem. Thus, to have high sales and conversion rate online, you should know what problem you solve with your product.
For example, if you sell knives, what problem can you solve? There are a bunch of them:
- Problem: A simple one but it’s a great illustrative example. People need to cut food for cooking.
Solution: You offer them a knife. Most people use knives every day — so here’s the demand.
- Problem: People struggle with having dull knives in their kitchens and can’t easily cut food.
Solution: You offer them a knife grinding device when they buy your knives (for free).
- Problem: People don’t know that a knife for bread won’t cut meat properly, thus, complain about how dull their knives are.
Solution: You can add the description, write instructions on the package, mark each knife for its purpose (for bread, meat, fruits & vegetables, etc.), and so on.
However, if you already have a successful commerce business offline, just think about this in an “online” way since not everything that people buy offline will be suitable for eCommerce.
Where will you sell your product?
In the context of eCommerce, selling schemes are completely different from offline ones. That is, the market where you run your offline business can be already taken online.
Besides, as an offline business, you compete with both offline and online companies. The same thing is here: if you sell clothes, your competitors aren’t only online stores, but the ones near your customers’ homes, in malls, and so on.
Thus, to launch your eCommerce website, you should find a place to offer the products.
There are two ways of doing it:
- Create a new market. This implies finding a product that nobody provides or a market where a certain value isn’t brought.
- Use a niche market. That is, provide an existing product but on a smaller or more specific market. Or you can add something extra to the product to make it unique.
For example, sell not only clothes but offer a patch with a client’s name or let them choose a logo to bring additional value.
In case you have a client base, you can offer your online products to them. It can significantly help you to keep it float if you wouldn’t find the right market to offer your services in the beginning.
What is your target audience?
But what you should know is that the target audience you have offline might not exist online or be a little different — in an online experience certain things change.
Let us explain.
Imagine that you’re selling crutches. Your target audience could be seniors and people with injuries or physical disabilities.
Let’s talk about seniors. According to Pew Research, ⅓ of seniors have never used the Internet and some of them simply don’t have it, not to mention eCommerce services.
Thus, their presence on the Internet is relatively poor.
Taking it into account, we can say that directing your online marketing campaigns on elders might not be reasonable enough to allocate a budget for.
But who buys such things on the Internet for them? Yes, of course, it’s their kids and, maybe, grandkids.
So why not to adapt your marketing strategies and business goals to this fact and instead of saying “It will make you feel young again” try to use “Give your loved ones the youth they once had back”, for instance.
If you’re not sure what audience on the Internet uses your product the most, you can check it on these services:
- Google Analytics. The service from Google that provides demographic information (sex/gender, location, age, etc.) about users on your platform.
- Social Media resources. Facebook Audience Insights, per se. You can find a lot of information on this service: education, their language, relationship status, family members, topics they’re interested in, and so on.
❓ What Do You Need To Start an eCommerce Website?
You can’t start running a business whenever you want, right? Apart from willing to do it, depending on the country you live in, you need to complete several procedures.
It can be company registration, opening a bank account, paying fees to the State budget, collecting constituent documents, and so on.
Same thing for an eCommerce website. To build it and, most importantly, start selling you have to fulfill certain requirements and obtain a TLC certificate.
So, let’s see what you need to do to start selling online.
Domain name 💭
While the design is the face of your platform, the domain name is how people will remember you.
For example, the domain name is wikipedia.com.
Unfortunately, you can’t just pick any domain name for your platform just as parents give a name to their newborn child — you have to pay for it.
This name can be either SEO-friendly or memorable which is good for your company’s brand and marketing. Or it can be exact-match with your company’s name like Aliexpress and aliexpress.com.
To make it SEO-friendly, you can add the words like store, shop, market, bazaar — anything meaning a place where you buy things — and add any word describing what you sell.
Let’s take our previous example — crutches. Your domain name could be crutchshop.com.
Besides, it can be fun and memorable, and resemble your brand’s name. For instance, if this name were Finey, you could name the platform phinee.com. It’s readable but unique and most likely will be recognized next time a customer sees it.
Some customers may associate it with Phinée — a character from Greek mythology which will make it memorable as well.
But it’s just an example to represent the idea. It’s not the task for an e-Commerce website developer if you work with them — here the choice is fully yours.
Hosting provider 👐
To make your online shop visible on the Internet, the data has to be physically stored on the computer connected to the Internet — this is called a web server.
Thus, website hosts or hosting providers are organizations that have these data centers and store the data there.
To get some visualized information you can check out the video from one of the most popular eCommerce websites development providers GoDaddy:
There are two main things you should consider when choosing a website host:
The amount of traffic you expect to get. This is a really important one since most providers charge you fees depending on the amount of storage and bandwidth you need.
Type of hosting.
There are several types of website hosting:
- Shared hosting.
The name speaks for itself — your platform as well as many others will be stored at the same server.
It’s a great option for beginners since it’s quite affordable, however, if one website on such server glitches, the whole system will do the same.
And it can decrease the loading speed of the platform since everybody uses the server simultaneously.
By the way, if you use website builders like Shopify, the web host will be provided by them.
- Virtual Private Server (VPS).
This option costs a bit more but offers better hosting conditions.
You still share a server with others but the main difference is that you have your own space within this one server.
It’s like having one personal drawer in a shared dresser.
And the best thing is that negative occasions in other spaces can’t influence yours.
- Dedicated server.
It’s the option with the maximum control over the server since the whole “dresser” is yours. And sure thing, it’ll cost you a pretty penny.
Usually, they’re used by owners with high website traffic levels and those who have the technical knowledge to manage the server. Or ready to pay an appropriate person for doing it :)
There are a couple of website hosting types more but they’re quite demanding in terms of technical knowledge.
So, if you’d like to know more, you can read this article.
TLC (SSL) Certificate 📑
First of all, we need to make one thing clear.
Transport Layer Security (TLC) is an updated version of Secure Socket Layer (SSL). Both of them are a kind of standard which you need to comply with to have a secure internet connection.
Speaking of eCommerce, you’ll need this certificate to accept payments within your website.
If you’re compliant with TLC, it means that:
- Users’ personal data is secured.
- Frauds can’t read or steal data from your website.
- The information transferred from point A to point B is encrypted.
You can simply buy this certificate whenever you want once you fulfill the requirements. They are:
- A unique IP address. You can use one certificate for one address.
- A Certificate Signing Request (CSR). It’s a piece of text that contains information about your organization and the website.
It’ll be used for the certificate and coding.
- Validation documents.
Before selling you this certificate, authorities that do it may check governmental databases to see if your company is registered, pays taxes, and isn’t involved with crimes.
- Correct info in WHOIS record.
It’s the place where your company’s name and contact information is associated with your domain name.
If this isn’t so and the domain name belongs to someone else, you won’t be able to get the certificate.
Once you get this certificate, your website will be marked with https protocol instead of http, which is an important step for e-Commerce websites development.
📦 eCommerce Shipping
Many online stores make a lot of effort to improve their websites — post bright pictures, make full descriptions, secure all payments and personal data, but some customers may take it for granted.
The first time they physically get a shopping experience in an eCommerce store is shipping.
Thus, if it’s not organized well enough, it can be repellent for customers and worsen the whole user experience.
To prevent customer outflow, we’ll explain to you how to organize shipping for your online store step-by-step.
The problem is that many eCommerce website development companies don’t pay enough attention to this part - and we believe it to be mistakenly underestimated.
Form of payment 💸
To correctly set the price for the shipping you should take package size, weight, origin and destination addresses, insurance, and tracking into account.
Apart from that, you should also consider your benefit from selling the product (if the cost of a tea bag is 1 dollar, the price with your profit margin can be 1,5 dollars).
And after you set the price, the question how you’ll set up payments for the shipping comes up.
There are several ways you can organize payments for the shipping.
# 1: Free shipping
Technically, the shipping is never free — there’s always someone who pays for it. But to make it look like it’s free you can do the following:
- Pay for the shipping yourself — you pay.
- Increase prices to cover shipping costs — customers pay.
- Insignificantly increase the price to cover a part of shipping costs — 50/50.
- Set a minimum cost, weight, or number of items needed to get free delivery.
These are the main form of payments for “free” shipping in terms of eCommerce.
# 2: Flat-rate
This type of payment is also quite popular among online shops.
Flat-rate implies the same price for shipping regardless of weight, number of items, destination, etc.
It’s of high importance here not to overcharge your customers as well as not to undercharge them.
If your range of products isn’t too wide and their weights and sizes and nearly the same, flat-rate pricing for shipping may work well for you.
However, imagine shipping the wardrobe to the USA when you’re in Germany for 10$, and charging the same amount for sending 5 pencils to the nearest city. Doesn’t make sense, does it?
Thus, if you offer a wide variety of products, it probably won’t be cost-effective and reasonable.
Shipping method 📬
Another important question is how you can organize the process itself.
There are several popular options.
# 1: Real-time carriers
You can cooperate and integrate with famous post service providers like USPS to use real-time carriers.
Sure thing, they will be different for different countries and regions (Canada Post for Canada, for example). Or you can use an international provider (FedX, PonyExpress, etc.).
# 2: Local delivery
In this shipping method, you basically customize the area you’ll provide delivery with help of postal codes.
It’ll work great for businesses who want to provide a simple and fast delivery for local customers.
However, if you’re a corporation or just have a wide range of areas you sell your products — probably not the best option.
# 3: Fulfilment warehouse
This is quite a good option if you have a lot of orders daily.
Fulfillment warehouses allow you to automate the shipping. They help to:
- Store items.
- Pick and pack orders.
- Ship the purchase order.
It’s quite beneficial in terms of shipping prices since such warehouses normally have lower rates because of the volumes they ship.
Besides, you could partner with the one closer to most of your target audience.
However, most likely additional costs will emerge — you’ll probably have to pay for storing and “pick and pack”.
Finally, you most likely won’t be able to use your personal branding on the packaging which is the disadvantage if such things are part of your marketing strategy.
The first thing to take into account when starting to design a packaging system is its marketing role. And it’s quite important to remember since sometimes even the best e-Commerce website designers forget about this important aspect.
Generation Z and millennials pay a lot of attention to emotions and appreciate when they’re cared about as someone’s customers.
Thus, to improve user experience and customer retention, think about giving a client a pleasant unboxing experience.
That is, to make the unboxing a part of your marketing. To do so, depending on the type of product you provide, show care, and even love to your customers.
If you offer clothes, careful item placement and a pretty (branded or not) box will be great. Here are a couple more examples:
- Knives — friendly note as a reminder to be careful and not to cut themselves.
- Furniture — advice on where to place the item in addition to the minimalistic and practical design of the instruction inside the packaging.
Generally, try to place everything carefully, so that it’ll look pleasant, put a note with warm wishes or anything that shows your care, and exceed customers’ expectations by giving more than they’re told they will.
Of course, it’s not an obligation and most likely safe and reliable packaging will be enough. It’s just the way to stand out and bring additional value.
However, before you can ship products, you have to pack them for transporting which is quite an important stage.
Depending on products’ size, fragility, and potential danger in terms of transporting, you might need a box with multiple layers of foam rubbers or a simple envelope with stickers.
Quite a popular option nowadays is poly mailers. They’re lightweight, relatively cheap, and don’t take up a lot of space which will positively affect your shipping costs.
However, poly mailers are not suitable for anything fragile since they don’t have strong protection.
Besides, you should decide on whether you’ll use free packaging from various carriers like USPS, DHL, or allocate a budget for designing your branded packaging.
To make sure that everything is transported safely and in case it’s not, you’ll be covered or paid a pre-arranged amount of money, insurance is what you need.
There are various options from the $10 to $500 ones. They differ from one another by the terms they offer level of security, and actions that are taken in case of losing or damaging the packages.
Some eCommerce website owners include insurance costs into the price. But be sure not to “oversure” so that the price doesn’t jump above the clouds.
🔝 Top Features of an Online Shop
In this section, we’ll review the main features to add during a website development for eCommerce.
Online shops can be dedicated to any type of product. Thus, you might need some additional features for yours.
Let’s say you have a shop for clothes. Apart from the listed features, you may need a size table. See what we mean?
# 1: Sign Up & Profiles 🔐
To be honest, there’s no necessity to add the Sign Up feature to your eCommerce website — most work without it.
They just ask for personal details at the checkout to finish the order registration. It can be an address, post office branch, full name, phone number, email, and payment details in an in-app gateway.
If you would like to have it, consider making it as fast as possible — the name and phone number should be enough. And most importantly, not obligatory. Let the customers choose :)
However, it can be useful at some point.
First of all, the items are deleted from the shopping cart once a user closes the website without having an account.
Thus, to allow users to save items or mark them as “Favourites”, an account must be created.
# 2: Filtering & Sorting 🔍
This feature is one of the most important ones for online store development and all eCommerce websites use it.
Customers are likely to have either a clear request or know approximately what they want on a marketplace app.
So to give them the opportunity to find whatever they need quickly, various filters and a search bar are needed.
But the number of filters and their specification will depend on the type of products you offer.
We’ll try to generalize filters. Here’s the list:
- Size (for clothes) & brand.
- New/second hand.
- Delivery options.
Besides, your filtering system will vary not only depending on the type of products but also on the width of your product range, whether you provide one type of product or your items vary from furniture to cosmetics.
# 3: Product Lists 📃
To successfully design an eCommerce website, you’ll most likely need to add lists of products you’d want to have in your eCommerce store.
Lists can be placed on the main screen and be compiled depending on the purpose they serve:
- Lists formed by categories.
Let’s take an online store for clothes as an example. Lists can be formed like “Outwear”, “Bottom”, “Shoes”, “Underwear”, etc.
- “Trending” list.
eCommerce sites often create such lists to promote some kind of products to increase sales or show what products are the most popular right now.
- “New in” list.
This one is intended to show customers new products that are now available for purchase on your eCommerce website. It doesn't have to be exclusively new. Maybe you offered a product offline and now want to make it available on the site as well.
- List with discounts.
If you have a lot of items of a particular product, so to sell it faster you give customers a discount for it — you can create a list of items that are on sale.
# 4: Product Screen 📊
This feature serves as product pages where the information about the product is delivered to a potential customer.
It can consist of:
- HD product photos. It should be visible from different sides, the photo should also be well lighted.
- Product description. It includes size, material, price, delivery options, contact information, and payment options.
- Similar goods. You can add a list of similar items to this screen.
- Set of categories. Above the product, some eCommerce sites have sections with categories where this item’s placed.
# 5: Shopping Cart 🛒
The shopping cart works the same as during an offline shopping experience — customers put items they want to buy there. Besides, the checkout process (users, confirm the order, give their personal info, choose the delivery, and pay with a credit card or another payment option) takes place here.
The main functionality any shopping cart should have is allowing to:
- Change the color/size/quantity of a time (if there are various).
- Compare products (maybe a customer would want to compare the new model of any product with the older one by price and characteristics)
- Choose the delivery option.
- Pay for the order.
# 6: Payment Gateway 💳
Kind of obvious that to be able to sell products customers should be able to pay for them.
Thus, you’ll need a well-developed payment gateway to be able to provide a great user experience at all stages.
So to build a website for eCommerce, try to make sure that the payments gateway:
- Is consistent with various OSs, browser types, mobile devices, and so on.
- Allows using all popular payment methods like credit cards, PayPal, Apple & Google, etc.
- Works fast without delays.
- Secures users’ personal data.
# 7: Customer Support ✊
In case some technical problems occur, customers need to be able to ask for help.
Thus, you might need to create a customer support service for your eCommerce platform.
Great customer support should:
- Provide a chatbot and live chats.
- Have FAQs with a wide range of pre-written answers.
- Offer 24/7 phone support for an emergency or to help with a checkout process (for example, if the website doesn’t accept their type of credit card).
- Provide a list of contacts, including email, various phone numbers, links to Social Media, etc.
Apart from the features mentioned, you might need a place for you to manage everything on your eCommerce site.
For this exact purpose you would need an Admin Panel which allows you to:
- Manage the list of products. That is, change the status (available/sold out), disable items, etc.
- Add new products.
- Track current orders.
- Access the statistics. It includes numbers and types of sold items during a certain period of time, conversion rate, revenue, returns, etc.
🤖 Tech Stack For Your eCommerce Website
Many companies offer various integrations for business owners to scale their website.
Some are intended to support and automate existing business processes, others will introduce the whole new experience to your company.
- For payments you can use Braintree, Stripe, PayPal.
- The shipping integrations can be FedEx, UPS.
- For data analysis think about integrating Google Analytics.
- For customer support you can try Intercom or Helpshift.
- If you want to try email marketing, take Mailchimp and Zoho Campaigns into account.
Now that you’re all set and ready for the development of an e-Commerce website, let’s briefly summarize the main steps.
So, the steps of eCommerce website development are:
- Answer the questions listed in the article to understand your ideas more clearly.
- Get a domain name, website host, and an SSL (TLC) certificate.
- Educate yourself on eCommerce shipping methods.
- Choose the features you’d like to see on your site.
- Make sure it’s adapted for all types of gadgets including mobile devices.
- Find an eCommerce website development company aka your Tech Partner and start the journey.
If you have any questions on eCommerce website development left, feel free to reach out to us - we’ll gladly answer them. We’ll find a way to help you!