How to Build a Successful Online Store

Creating an online store with a website builder is a great way to start a new business. However, I understand how overwhelming it can be.

The best part of building an online store is that it doesn’t have to cost much money. In fact, some eCommerce website builders are free to use.

The value of online retail sales in the U.K. alone for 2019 is predicted at £76 billion. It’s expected that by 2040, around 95% of all purchases are expected to be via eCommerce.

We’ve created a guide to show you how to build an online store in a few easy steps. I promise you I’ll keep this as simple as possible. You’ll have an online store in no time; something you can be proud to call your own.

Using one of the many eCommerce platforms on the market, building an online store can be easy, affordable, and most of all quick. I’ve signed up to some of the big names in the industry to give you honest reviews so you can decide what’s best.

 

Step 1: Find the Best eCommerce Website Builder

As I’ve mentioned, using an eCommerce website builder is a great way to build an online store. Using a builder, you won’t need to know any coding languages or have any experience in the area. All you need is some great eCommerce software and a business idea.

Below are some of my personal eCommerce website builder recommendations. This should give you a good enough idea of what they offer.

BuilderFeaturesBasicAdvancedFree Trial
 

SHOPIFY

Multichannel IntegrationVisit Shopify
Abandoned Cart Recovery
Free SSL Certificate
 

WIX

Multichannel IntegrationVisit Wix
Abandoned Cart Recovery
Free SSL Certificate
 

BIGCOMMERCE

Multichannel IntegrationVisit BigCommerce
Abandoned Cart Recovery
Free SSL Certificate
 

SQUARESPACE

Multichannel IntegrationVisit SquareSpace
Abandoned Cart Recovery
Free SSL Certificate
 

WEEBLY

Multichannel IntegrationVisit Weebly
Abandoned Cart Recovery
Free SSL Certificate

 

Step 2: Choosing a Pricing Plan

All of the eCommerce website builders above either has a free trial or a free account to use. I’d recommend signing up to each of them so that you can test them out for yourself. Once you’ve decided on your favourite builder, it’s time to move onto step 2.

If you’re happy with one of the free plans on offer, by all means, continue with that. However, most eCommerce website builder will have limitations on their free plans. Whether this be branded adverts, a subdomain or no eCommerce features, it’s worth checking what’s on offer.

I’ve researched each of the eCommerce plans that the website builders above have. Below I’ve listed these out in a table that should be easy to glance at and make a decision. If affordability is your deciding factor, this should be helpful.

BuilderSHOPIFYWIXBIGCOMMERCESQUARESPACEWEEBLY
Price (monthly)£21.66£13£22.37£15£9
PlanBASICBUSINESS BASICSTANDARDBUSINESSPRO

 

Step 3: Purchasing a Domain Name

A domain name is essentially your website address. If you look at my website, my domain name is ukwebhostreview.com

This is what visitors to your website and online store will remember, and what they’ll type into an address bar. Your domain name should be memorable as well as easy to type and spell. One wrong move and you could be sending customers off to a competitor instead!

Most eCommerce website builders like Shopify, Wix and BigCommerce will allow you to purchase a domain through them. However, it can often be more expensive. Some domain names can be obtained for free, whereas others can be purchased for a mere 99p per year.

Tips for Choosing a Domain

  • Choose the correct TLD: A domain TLD is known as the top-level domain. This is the end part of the domain, such as .com, .co.uk, .org, etc. Choose a TLD that is appropriate for your website. If your main target audience is based in the U.K., choose a .co.uk domain.
  • Think of a unique name: A unique name sets you apart from the crowd. It shows that you think out of the box, yet aren’t too obscure.
  • Include keywords: Including a keyword in your domain can help you to be seen higher in search engine rankings. The higher your website ranks, the more traffic you’ll likely receive to your website.

 

Step 4: Choose a Template

When you sign up to an eCommerce website builder, you’ll have access to templates/themes. These make it easy for you to design a professional-looking website without having to learn how to code.

You can see below the vast array of Shopify themes available for their customers:

Shopify has both paid and free themes to choose from. You can search by specific features you want to be included, such as marketing banners, Twitter feeds, and lots more.

Think about Features

When you’re choosing a template for your online store, it’s important to think about what features you’d like. For example, some templates will be mobile responsive (whereas others aren’t). Some may include social media integration, maps and image galleries.

When you think about the features you want, ensure you research the theme or template well beforehand. This is especially crucial if you’re paying for a theme or template.

Think about Design

Whilst it may not be an obvious consideration, different templates offer different designs. Some templates are parallax, which means they are a one-page website. If you need multiple pages for your online store, be sure to check your theme or template first.

 

 

Step 5: Customising your Template

Most online store builders will allow you to customise your chosen template. Some may even support advanced users who want to directly edit the HTML or CSS within the template. It’s important to think about the things you’d like to edit, such as:

  • Text
  • Images
  • Social media
  • Blog/forum
  • Positioning

Wix’s ADI feature creates a template for you following a few questions. What’s great about Wix is even though your template gets designed for you, you can still edit it and re-position items as you go. Remember though, once you go live with a Wix template, you can’t switch to a different one.

 

 

Step 6: Adding your Products

Now we get to the fun part! Once you have chosen your template or theme, you can start adding your own products you want to sell. Some online store builders let you create a store, but have limitations on products.

Below is a table of our recommended eCommerce website builders along with their unlimited product plans:

SHOPIFYWIXBIGCOMMERCESQUARESPACEWEEBLY
PRODUCTSUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
PRICE (/mo)£21.66£13£22.37£15£9

How to write a great product description

When you add products to your store, you’ll want to make sure their descriptions actually describe what they are. Some of my personal tips for writing a great product description are:

  • Plenty of detail (but not complex jargon)
  • Write with SEO in mind
  • Include technical features if necessary

How to choose the best product images

This is absolutely crucial to winning a sale or not. If your products display grainy images or images that don’t represent what you’re selling, customers will turn away. Let’s take a look at some things that you should include:

  • High-quality images
  • Consistent in size
  • Use your own photos (if possible, rather than stock images)
  • Image variations (if you’re selling something with multiple options like colours, include all of them)
  • Optimise your images (unoptimised images can affect load time and SEO)

 

Step 7: Get paid

When your online store is set up and ready to go, you’ll need to make sure you can accept payments. Most eCommerce website builders will have a variety of payment gateways for you to use. Popular methods include Apple Pay, Visa, and PayPal.

What payment options are there?

Generally speaking, there are a few main ways you can accept payments on your website:

  • Payment Gateway or Merchant Account: This is where you link your business bank account to your website. When you receive payment, this goes straight through the payment gateway into your bank account.
  • Software: Payment gateway software will enable your online store to connect with card processing networks.
  • Integrated Payments: Some builders like Shopify will have their own payment gateways. When a customer purchases a product, rather than directing them away to a payment gateway like Visa, you’ll continue to stay on the same page.

Consider security

Most website builders will include a free SSL certificate. If you’re planning on selling products online, you MUST offer a secure connection for your customers to make payments. Not only does this build their trust with your brand, it also means Google will rank you higher for being secure.

 

Step 8: Set up Shipping

Next up, you’ll want to set your shipping options up so your customers can receive their products. Shipping options can be a little complicated, so it’s key to understand what each eCommerce website builder offers in this area.

SHOPIFYWIXBIGCOMMERCESQUARESPACEWEEBLY
DROPSHIPPING
SHIPPING MANAGEMENT
PRINTABLE LABELS
SHIPPING PROVIDERS

Shipping options

There are lots of shipping options to choose from. Each come with their own pros and cons. Before deciding which shipping option is best, it’s worth understanding what the options are:

  • Free Shipping: Free shipping is a great selling point. Customers love things for free, and if they can receive their products for free, what’s not to love. However, this is something that you will have to fund out of your own product. Consider whether this is something you can afford to begin with.
  • Real-time: This is where the shipping is calculated on factors like size, weight, and the destination of the parcel. Your own costs will be covered, and it provides a transparent view for your customers.
  • Flat rate: Flat rate shipping means that everyone pays the same, regardless of product. This is another great selling point as you can create promotions like “Flat rate £10 shipping worldwide”. Again, you’ll need to consider whether this is profitable for you or not.
  • Local pickup: More and more businesses are now offering local pickup services. Perhaps you’ve seen an Amazon pickup point at your local supermarket? Sometimes it’s handy to be able to order a product to pick up in-store, knowing it will definitely be there.

 

Step 9: Quality testing

Before launching your brand new shiny online store, you MUST test whether everything works. Many businesses will hire a QA team to do this. There are lots of aspects that need to be tested, including user experience, user journey, images, spelling, payment and shipping.

It’s not just about the content either. Functionally, your store must work for all of your customers. This includes multiple devices, browsers, and operating systems. This is no menial task; it must be done right if you want to retain customer loyalty and attract new customers.

If you’re not able to hire a QA team, I suggest you create a visual sitemap of your website and online store. Write down every feature and inch of your store, including functions. If you can’t face the task yourself, but can’t afford a team, see if friends and family can help.

 

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