A quality website—as a platform to display your expertise, educate and serve your customers, and drive sales—is critical to the success of your e-commerce business. This is especially true as the prospects for online retail sales continue to rise. In fact, by 2025, researchers estimate that the worldwide value of e-commerce retail sales will reach $8.5 trillion. Fortunately, using today’s tools and resources, building an e-commerce site to deliver the look, feel, performance, and the overall experience you want for your customers is easy. Follow these steps to learn how to set up your e-commerce site. 1. Select Your E-commerce Platform Start by selecting your e-commerce platform, which may also be referred to as your Content Management System (CMS). There are many great e-commerce platforms to choose from and the right option for your store will depend on your budget, desired user experience, and your specific e-commerce store needs. Here are a few contenders, many of which offer both free basic plans or paid plans that come with additional features necessary to run your online store: Wordpress - Wordpress is one of the most popular and customizable CMS options, especially if your e-commerce website will have other functions such as a blog, review, or contact page. Wordpress offers several e-commerce features—such as one-click payments and paid subscriptions—and allows you to sell physical or digital products easily. Shopify - Shopify is another popular option to serve as the main interface for your e-commerce store. You can get a free three-day trial to see how it works. This platform also makes it easy to add products and descriptions, upload images, and manage inventory. Squarespace - Squarespace is another all-in-one platform that lets you build a website and set up e-commerce features, so you can sell products and collect payments. Squarespace has several design themes and features to help you sell products, including marketing tools like an email list and the ability to integrate your social media accounts. Ecwid - Ecwid helps you sell, market, and manage your e-commerce store. Ecwid also integrates with Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and Google Shopping. Wix - Wix has an all-in-one e-commerce platform and allows you to manage shipping, payments, and marketing from one unified dashboard. Wix enables your e-commerce store to handle high-volume sales (up to 750 simultaneous transactions per second). You can also use the platform for dropshipping and selling internationally. 2. Choose And Purchase A Domain Name Once you’ve chosen an e-commerce platform, you can start the registration process to set up your store. During the setup process, you’ll need to choose and purchase a domain name. This is the website address everyone will use to access your store online. For example: www.awesomeproducts.com. If you already have a domain name, you can transfer it to your e-commerce store. Or, you can go to a domain registrar to purchase a new domain name. Consider visiting GoDaddy.com to research domain names and see if your desired name is available for purchase. 3. Choose a Design Theme or Hire a Developer One of the first things you’ll need to consider when setting up your e-commerce website is the design or theme for your site. Some CRMs provide free or affordable website design themes ready for you to use. You may be able to customize these themes yourself, or you can hire a web developer to alter the theme or create something new from scratch. When choosing a theme, it’s a good idea to browse other websites to gather ideas and see what you like. Determine which colors or branding you want to use, how you want the product page to appear, and if you want to add any eye-catching graphics or product features to the home page. Some websites like Wix make it easy to install your theme and design your website using drag-and-drop features. Other platforms are more complex to customize, so you may want to consider working with a professional. The benefit of hiring a web developer is that it takes most of this task off your plate, especially if you don’t want to deal with the design aspect or don’t have the skills in this area. Website design can be tedious for some people or even extremely time-consuming if you don’t know how to make certain changes to the design. If you want a more custom website theme, ask for referrals or visit outsourcing sites to find a credible developer. Make sure this person has experience with your selected e-commerce platform, whether it’s WordPress, Ecwid, or some other CRM. 4. Create Product Listings and Pages Once your e-commerce website is set up, it’s time to list your products. Creating product listings through your CMS by adding the name of the product, a photo, and a detailed product description. Depending on what you're selling, be sure to include all the details a potential customer would look for, such as the size and color of the product, ingredients, recommendations, and more. Also, include the price and be sure to factor in costs for shipping, fulfillment, or any other fees you might incur with each sale. When you set up an e-commerce site, you typically need additional web pages such as an ‘About’ and ‘Contact’ page. Be sure to add these pages to share some basic information about your store. Also, it may be a good idea to add a review or testimonial page later on. Another thing to consider is how your e-commerce site is organized. If you have tons of products, consider creating page categories based on the type of product or a specific need your customer has. For example, if you’re selling skincare products, some of your category pages may include topics like dry skin, acne, serums, and moisturizers. Shoppers love product category pages because it helps them find what they need faster. 5. Set Up A Payment Gateway Next, set up a payment gateway so customers can easily place orders online and pay without hassle. Many online retailers use third-party payment options, such as PaPal or Stripe, which allow them to accept credit card payments. Authorize.net is another payment gateway option that has a 2.9% processing fee, plus $0.30 per order, similar to PayPal and WePay by JP Morgan. Keep in mind that many of these payment gateways redirect customers to another website to make their payment. For example, when retailers use PayPal as an option, it redirects the customer to sign in to their PayPal account to place their order. When using third-party payment options, it’s important to make sure the tool is secure and encrypts all the data to protect your customer’s private information. Narrow down your best options by determining if: It is PCI-compliant - PCI compliance is a set of security standards businesses must meet when accepting credit card payments. It can easily integrate with your CMS - This makes it easier for a customer to make a purchase directly from your e-commerce site to avoid any unnecessary frustration. The fees make sense - Make sure the payment system is not too expensive for you or your customers and watch out for any hidden fees. 6. Preview And Test The testing stage is crucial for your online store. You want to ensure shoppers can view all your products and that your website loads quickly. Also, you’ll need to test your payment options and make sure you set up features like a sales tax calculation through your payment gateway and integrate shipping fee options if you plan to ship physical products. Depending on the CMS and payment system you’re using, you may be able to set up a test order and walk through the customer shopping experience to see how it works. Pay close attention to what you see on the confirmation page after placing an order. If it just immediately redirects the user back to your website’s home page, this could be a problem. You want customers to know that their order is confirmed and see a summary page once they place an order. As a marketing tactic, you might even add a bonus offer or limited-time discount to the summary page. However, the bottom line is to have some type of confirmation page showing the items that were purchased and make sure the order gets sent to you or your fulfillment center, so it can be delivered to the customer in a reasonable timeframe. It’s best to have a few people test out your e-commerce site because someone may catch an error that you didn’t notice. 7. Launch Your Site The last step is to publish or launch your e-commerce site! Hit save and publish if you haven’t already, and announce your new e-commerce store to social media and your email list, if you have one. You may even want to consider setting up a paid advertising campaign to boost traffic to your store, whether that’s through Facebook Ads or another platform. During this time and ongoing, make sure you are able to provide exceptional customer service to answer customer questions or address issues promptly. No business is perfect all the time, but it makes a big difference when your customers know they can count on reliable customer service. Summary A good e-commerce store is essential to growing your ecommerce business and sets the tone for your brand’s quality and reputation. Think of it as the lifeline of your business and you can treat it as such by taking the time to carefully walk through these steps and choose the right tools and resources to start building an e-commerce website. As your sales get rolling, continue to show the same care to continuously improve the experience on your website. Lendio helps connect e-commerce business owners with business financing options. Learn more about ecommerce financing.