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 already 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 possible reasons for such a decision include:
# 1: One can be not completely sure if a custom website is what they truly need to meet their business goals.
Thus, they stick to a cheaper and less time-consuming option to just test the idea and maybe provide their customers with a 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 all at 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 make a simple landing page for potential clients to visit.
There are several well-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 the relatively low price and a faster building process out of the competition, a custom platform can be seen as an absolute winner.
However, don’t get confused, as neither of the two options is necessarily 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 the better option.
# 1: You definitely know that the idea you have will work. You might know it if:
- You already successfully trade on third-party services.
- You’ve made an 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, if certain features aren’t extensive enough, or the web hoster can’t handle the number of users your website gets 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 adding.
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. That can be either not enough for your business needs, or hard to scale and adjust to the goals once the company starts to 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 the development of 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 because it solves a certain problem. Thus, to have high sales and a good conversion rate online, you should know what problem you are solving 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 bread knife won’t cut meat properly and thus, complain about how dull their knives are.
Solution: You can add the description/explanations, write instructions on the packages, mark each knife with its purpose (for bread, meat, fruits & vegetables, etc.), and so on.
However, if you already have a successful commerce business offline, just think about your product(s) 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. Alternatively, you can add something extra to the product to make it unique.
For example, don't only sell clothes but also offer a patch with a client’s name or let them choose a logo to bring additional value.
In case you already have a client base, you can offer your online products to them. It can significantly help you to keep your business alive in case you're not able to find the right market to offer your services to in the beginning.
What is your target audience?
We are not here to teach you how to do business, of course. And most probably, you already have an offline store or a simple eCommerce website made with the help of such website builders like Wix, Shopify, etc.
However, 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 that into account, we can say that directing your online marketing campaigns on elderly might not be reasonable enough to allocate a budget for.
Yet, who DOES buy such things on the Internet for them? Of course, it’s their kids and, maybe, grandkids.
So, why not adapt your marketing strategies and business goals 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. ThIS service provides demographic information (such as sex/gender, location, age, etc.) about the 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 wanting to do it, you need to complete several procedures, depending on the country you live in.
This may include company registration, opening a bank account, paying fees to the State budget, collecting constituent documents, etc.
The same goes for eCommerce websites: to build one 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 like parents give a name to their newborn child — you have to pay for it.
The final name can either be SEO-friendly or just memorable which is still good for your company’s brand and marketing. Alternatively, it can be an 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 that means 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 the name were Finey, you could name the platform phinee.com. It’s readable but unique and will most likely be recognized the 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 a 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 a computer connected to the Internet — this is called a web server.
So, 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.
The type of hosting.
There are several types of website hosting:
- Shared hosting.
The name speaks for itself — your platform will be stored on the same server as many other ones.
It’s a great option for beginners since it’s quite affordable, however, if one website on such a 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 a personal drawer in a shared dresser.
And the best thing here is that negative situations 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 or the budget to hire an approriate person to manage the server.
There are some other website hosting types 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 following requirements:
- 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 these requirements aren’t fulfilled and the domain name belongs to someone else, you won’t be able to get the certificate.
Once you get the certificate, your website will be marked with the https protocol instead of http, which is an important step for e-Commerce websites development.
📦 eCommerce Shipping
Many online stores put in a lot of effort to improve their websites: post bright pictures, make full descriptions, secure all payments and personal data, but some customers still may take that 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 into account the package size, weight, origin and destination addresses, insurance, and tracking.
Apart from that, you should also consider your expected profit 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 shipping payments.
# 1: Free shipping
Technically, 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 a while wardrobe to the USA from 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, flat-rate 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 for with the help of postal codes.
It works great for businesses who want to provide a simple and fast delivery for local customers.
However, if you’re a bigger corporation or have a wide range of places that you ship your products to — 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 purchased orders.
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 one closest to most of your target audience.
However, additional costs will most likely emerge for you — you’ll probably have to pay for storing and the “pick and pack” service.
Finally, you most likely won’t be able to use your personal branding on the packaging which is the disadvantage if such things are a 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 — a friendly note as a reminder to be careful and not to cut oneself.
- 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 looks pleasant, and consider placing a note with warm wishes or anything that shows your care, and exceed customers’ expectations by giving more than you promised.
Of course, all of these things are not obligatory and most likely, safe and reliable packaging should be enough. It’s just a possible way to stand out and bring additional value.
However, before you can ship products, you have to pack them for transporting which is also quite an important stage.
Depending on the 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 too strong of a 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 ranging between $10 and $500. They mostly differ from one another by the level of security and actions that are taken in case packages get lost or damaged.
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 that one should add during website development for eCommerce.
Online shops can be dedicated to any type of product. Thus, you might need some additional features.
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 in adding 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 — name and phone number should be enough. And most importantly, do not make it obligatory. Let the customers choose :)
However, it can be useful at some point.
For example, once users close your website without having an account, all of the items are deleted from the shopping cart.
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.
However, 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 the width of your product range (meaning whether you provide one type of product or your items vary from furniture to make-up for example).
# 3: Product Lists 📃
To successfully design an eCommerce website, you’ll most likely need to add lists of products you want to offer in your eCommerce store.
Lists can be placed on the main screen and then 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” lists.
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” lists.
These ones are intended to show customers new products that are now available for purchase on your eCommerce website. The products on such lists don’t have to be exclusively new. Maybe you used to offer them offline and now want to make them available on your site as well.
- Lists with discounts.
If you have a lot of a particular product, you can give customers a discount for it to sell it much faster; you can create a list of items that are on sale.
# 4: Product Screen 📊
This feature serves as a product page where the information about the products you offer is delivered to potential customers.
It can consist of:
- HD product photos. It should be visible from different sides, the photo should also be brighted.
- Product description. This 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 these items are placed.
# 5: Shopping Cart 🛒
The shopping cart works the same as during offline shopping experience — customers place the items they want to buy there. Besides, the checkout process (confirmation of the order, personal information of the customers, delivery choice, payment choice (e.g., credit card or another payment option)) takes place here.
The main features any shopping cart can have is allowing to:
- Changing the color/size/quantity of the chosen product(s).
- Comparing products (sometimes customers want to compare the new model of a product with the older one by price and characteristics)
- Choosing the delivery option.
- Paying for the order.
# 6: Payment Gateway 💳
It’s pretty obvious that to be able to sell products in the first place, 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 payment 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 Pay, 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 an FAQs page with a wide range of pre-written answers.
- Offer a 24/7 phone support system for emergencies or helping with the checkout process (for example, if the website keeps declining 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 on your eCommerce site where you will manage everything.
For this exact purpose you may need an Admin Panel which allows you to:
- Manage lists of products. That is, changing the status (available/sold out), disabling 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, the conversion rate, revenue, amount of 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 other questions about eCommerce website development, feel free to reach out to us - we’ll gladly answer them!