“In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.” – David Ogilvy, co-founder of Ogilvy & Mather.
The last 30 years or so have ushered in a new kind of business model that lets firms and individuals buy and sell things over the internet. According to Statista, worldwide retail e-commerce sales amounted to $3.53 trillion, and e-retail revenues are projected to grow to $6.54 trillion in 2022. E-commerce has created unprecedented opportunities for entrepreneurs to reach markets that would have otherwise been almost impossible to reach.
Step by Step Guide to Building Your Own E-Commerce Website
The rapid evolution of the transport and shipping industries has bridged the gap between the manufacturer and the consumer, and online stores are steadily becoming substitutes to “traditional” retail stores as consumers are turning to the internet to find a more extensive selection of products.
With e-commerce, consumers benefit from comparison shopping, a wider variety of products, and better prices. They can see reviews from other customers, and they are continuously trading the immediate gratification of getting a product instantly for time savings.
Today, over 1.92 billion people are buying things online. So without further ado, here’s how you can get started on your e-commerce business.
Choosing Your E-Commerce Business
The first thing you need to do is to research business ideas and learn the business models. Service-based business, physical products, software, and digital product sales are some of the more viable options. You have to think of an online business as an investment.
Therefore, you shouldn’t take the decision of what type of business it’s going to be or what you are going to name it lightly.
There is a vast array of business ideas to consider. Building physical products businesses online is much easier than you may think. From printing on-demand lifestyle clothing, selling second-hand products, natural skincare products for women, handmade jewelry, smart home products, kids’ toys and games, the options are virtually boundless.
Once you’ve decided on your business, you’ll need to choose a niche to cater to. A niche is a focused, targeted portion of a broader market that you serve particularly well. Having a niche allows you to concentrate your efforts on a single area of expertise and connects you with a focused and interested audience.
This is essential for growing your business. A niche gives your company a clear direction for developing content or choosing which products fit specific demographics.
Sourcing Products to Sell
Once you’ve chosen your business and focused on your niche, the next step would be to decide how you will source the products to sell. One of the most crucial aspects of running a business is finding quality products to sell.
Most sellers use a combination of methods, including working with a manufacturer or wholesaler, hiring a dropshipper, and DIY products or services. Here’s how you can source your products.
DIY Products or Services
If you already make your own products like handmade jewelry, candles, arts, and prints, an e-commerce website will give you a broader reach. Not only will you have full control over your brand, but the startup costs are typically low. However, you’re going to need to invest a lot of time and energy into developing your brand and making it unique.
Directly From the Manufacturer or Wholesaler
The next option is to source your products directly from the manufacturer or wholesaler who may be domestic or overseas. With this option, you can benefit from greater control over the entire process from factory to consumer and lower prices per unit.
However, this will require a significant capital investment because factories usually deal with large minimum order quantities (MOQ). The great thing about MOQs is that they are almost always negotiable.
Hiring a Dropshipper
This option offers a less risky way to start your eCommerce business. Dropshipping is a method of product sourcing where a store doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock. With the dropshipping model, an online store can purchase a product from a third party and have it shipped directly to the consumer, meaning the seller doesn’t have to deal with inventory, packaging, or fulfillment.
Once you have chosen your business, focused on your niche, and how to source your products, the next step would be to build an e-commerce website.
How to Build an E-Commerce Website From Scratch
Today, building an e-commerce website and selling products online is within reach for anyone and can potentially be done within a day or two. The three most common ways to build an e-commerce website are to use a website builder, build with WordPress, or hire a web designer.
Before you do anything, you need a domain name and a web hosting plan. You need a domain name that will identify your brand. You can purchase one from sites like or GoDaddy, Bluehost, Pressable, Dreamhost, Flywheel, SiteGround, and Namecheap. You can then connect your domain with your website builder. The other option is to purchase your domain name directly from a website builder.
You can use a website builder such as Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Magento, Wix, Squarespace, Strikingly, Weebly, SITE123, Jimdo Creator, and 1&1 IONOS. Factors like pricing, template design, ease of use, sales features, and help and support will have to be considered when choosing the one that best suits you.
If we consider Shopify, for example, you can get a 14-day free trial. After setting up your account, you will be able to add products and manage your inventory, organize your products, manage your web page and blog content, and accept orders.
The second option is to build your e-commerce website with WordPress. WordPress is an open-source website creation platform and has numerous pre-made themes that are great for an online storefront. Although WordPress in itself is free, you will have to pay for a domain name. You can register your domain name as well as get your WordPress site hosted from the same provider.
The next step would be to select a highly customizable e-commerce plugin such as WooCommerce. WooCommerce has a backend that allows you to build and organize product pages and has a quality shopping cart and checkout process.
The great thing about this option is that it’s free, but it also offers free and paid extensions. WP eCommerce is another viable option for physical products. For digital products, you can use Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) as your plugin.
The alternative option is to hire a web designer. One of the key benefits of hiring a web designer is that you get to have complete creative control over your website’s design and functionality. This also means that you can make changes whenever you want. Unfortunately, because the process is relatively more complex, you will need to dedicate a lot of time, energy, and money to the project.
How Much Does It Cost to Build an E-Commerce Website?
Depending upon how simple or complex the e-commerce platform is, the cost is a vital component when deciding the e-commerce website development platform to use for your business.
Of the three options, website builders are usually the cheapest ones. Typically, website builders will range from free up to around $500 per month.
However, the website builders mentioned above have an average price between $6 and $50 per month. This will cover your hosting, security, free themes, and built-in features. A lot of website builders will usually include a free custom domain in their plans.
Still, a domain name will cost you $12 per year on average. Some of these website builders do offer free plans, but they have limited features such as low storage and bandwidth limits, basic customer support, and generally no e-commerce features.
WordPress is technically a free, open-source platform, but you will have to pay for plugins, hosting, and themes. Various factors can affect the overall price of building a WordPress website, but hosting is the main one. You may be able to get away with using free themes and plugins.
Besides, hosting is probably the most important aspect of getting your website online, so it would be helpful to attain a quality hosting provider. Bluehost comes highly recommended as the number one WordPress hosting provider. Bluehost is a quality hosting provider with hosting plans that range from $2.95 to $49.95 per month. Other hosting providers also range anywhere between $11 and $50 per month.
Suppose you want a custom or complex website and are not familiar with using WordPress. In that case, you may need the assistance of a web developer, who may charge you anywhere between $30 and $100 per hour.
Fortunately, there are many resources on the internet that can guide you through the process, so a web developer may not be necessary. Other costs may include plugins, themes, hosting, security, and will vary from one hosting provider to another. It is also important to note that website builders provide these services for free.
Using a Web Designer
The costs of using a web designer are probably the most difficult to estimate because they vary from one developer to another and from agencies to freelancers.
Yet, using a web designer is the most expensive option and will cost you anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000, with some agencies charging even more for much bigger e-commerce websites. If you are working on a tight budget, then using website builders or WordPress would offer more affordable options.
The Technical Skills You Will Need to Run a Successful Website
Setting up an e-commerce website is only the first step to building a successful and sustainable business. There are many skills you will need to master that are specific to doing business in the digital world. Here are the most important technical skills.
Content writing may include writing blog posts and articles but also blog descriptions, category descriptions, and website blurbs specifically targeted at your niche. If done poorly, you may risk losing potential customers.
Though, if done correctly, good content writing may go a long way in enhancing your brand image. Moreover, great content plays a significant role in positive SEO (search engine optimization) for brands, bringing in new customers directly. Accordingly, the importance of unique and relevant content cannot be understated.
In the age of AI, data is one of the most valuable commodities. Collecting consumer data has been one of the major contributors to the success of the world’s largest corporations.
Website visitors always leave traces of essential data whenever they visit a website. Which product had the most views? Which products were purchased the most? Which products were added to the cart but were not purchased? How many visitors does the website get daily? The list of questions is perpetual, and you can derive so much useful information from this data. This information can then be used for further website development or for understanding your market even better.
Digital Marketing and Paid Advertising
Digital marketing refers to promoting and selling products and services online with the help of marketing tactics such as social media marketing, email marketing, and search marketing. Understanding how to leverage social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube can significantly increase your website traffic.
Social media also allows you to create a relationship with your customers. Paid advertising such as Facebook and YouTube ads allow you to target a specific demographic or audience. This is crucial for growing your niche and increasing sales.
Today, e-commerce offers a new way of doing business, and the average person can benefit from that. You will have to adapt to challenges and changes along the way. You may also need to make certain sacrifices, but it will be a worthy learning curve. You will also need to be creative, understand how to utilize resources available to you, and master the technical skills and aspects of running an e-commerce website successfully.