So you’re looking to start selling products or services online? Great news, it’s never been easier than it is right now. With build your own website services such as Squarespace, Shopify and WordPress, to name but a few, there’s never been as many options out there to get selling online. Here are a few tips on how to build an e-commerce website from scratch:

1. Decide what critical features you need and want.

Before you get started building your own e-commerce website, you’ll want to make sure you know exactly what you are going to build. Don’t worry, things will change. And your website can be updated in the future. But as a general rule, you’re going to want to make sure you know what you’re trying to build, before you start building. You wouldn’t build a house without blueprints right?

2. Get comfortable with the platform you’re choosing.  

You may have already used some of these platforms before, or maybe some are completely new to you. Familiarise yourself with the platform that you are going to be using, whether it’s WordPress, Squarespace, or another platform. Make sure it does what you want it to do, understand the nuances it might have, and learn what you’ll need to add to the site to make it successful. You can find out pretty much all of this through free guides, blog posts and YouTube videos, so don’t be scared to do the research.

3. If tech isn’t your thing, it’s time to bring in a professional.

Be honest with yourself. Yes, I know how tempting it can be to only focus on the fact that it won’t cost you any money to do it yourself, but the hours build up. You’ll need to learn not just how to use your platform of choice but how to build and develop with it. Plus the time just getting all the imagery in place, writing content, and maintaining it afterwards… You should be focused on building your business, not necessarily on just your website. Plus, websites (even e-commerce ones) aren’t as expensive as many people think. Read more: How does much a website cost?

4. Look at world-leading e-commerce sites for inspiration.

Before you try to reinvent the wheel, look at the behemoth companies that have honed and evolved their e-commerce business. These are websites like Amazon, eBay or even your competitor’s websites. You’ll find certain patterns in product layout, the checkout process, and more. Take note of repeating patterns as these are often used to make things easier for clients to purchase. Your layout and purchasing process should be about removing barriers and creating a simple flow from discovery to purchase.

5. Think long-term over short-term.

Whatever business you’re in, or whatever you think you want to do right now, you want to build a website that can grow with you. Make sure the system is scalable. Part of this is making sure it links with other marketing tools, such as social media or newsletter/email marketing. Even if you don’t “need” those features right now. There’s nothing worse than getting something online that works right now, but offers no opportunities to build on in the future.

6. Think about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).

Your website being found online is going to be just as important as the products you sell, or the price point you choose. If you’re building the website yourself, you’ll want to dedicate a couple of hours researching the basics, to make sure that you start being found for something, even if it’s just branded terms to start with. If you are working with a professional, you’ll want to ask them about basic SEO and make sure you understand a little bit about it.

Related: Your Website Experience Matters More than Search Engine Optimisation | SEO for Small Business: Search Engine Optimisation Basics

7. Think of your website as an active, living space.

Too many businesses create a website, build out the e-commerce system, spend all this time, or money on creating an online presence and then simply move on to other tasks. The website sits there, starting to look like a deserted ruin from a post-apocalyptic film. Your website needs to be alive. It needs to be updated regularly, and it’s going to need consistent and regular input. Plan for this early, otherwise you might be disappointed with the results.

8. Distribution! Get the message out there.

You’ve built your website, now what? You can’t just sit there waiting and hoping for the best. So what’s your plan for distribution? If you think it’s easy to get your website to the number one position, then you’re not going to like this. You need to be constantly sharing your website. And, even more so, you’ll want other people to be sharing your website. You’ll want other sites, blogs and publications to be linking back to your website to help you climb the rankings. It might be time to start planning for this too.

9. During all of this, remember, it’s for your customers, not for you.

Whatever you do, during all of this process and all these different parts, ALWAYS put yourself in the shoes of your potential customers. Ultimately, you’re not building a website for you, you’re building a website for your customers. Make sure that’s at the forefront of your decisions and that you are not making decisions based on your personal experience or prejudice. This is especially important for design decisions. Watch out for moments of “because I like it”, when you should be making decisions based on what customers like and will find useful.

How to Build an E-commerce Website

Well, to summarise, you’re either going to dig deep, and start to learn all the smaller nuances you’ll need to know about websites, or alternatively, you’ll employ a professional or a team of professionals that can help you. You need to remember, it’s not just the build that counts, you’ve also got to think about what happens next.

How are you going to market your new e-commerce website? Are you going to create blog posts on a regular basis? How about building an email newsletter list? Who’s going to generate regular social media content? You see, the website is just the first small step, but it’s the holistic view that makes all the difference.

If you’re looking for help on how to build an e-commerce website from scratch, feel free to get in touch with the team here at Social INK. We’ve done this more than once and we can make sure you get started on the right foot.

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Chris Bruno
Chris Bruno

Chris, founder and CEO of Social INK, has devised and consulted on more digital marketing and social media marketing campaigns than you can shake a stick at. He’s also got a bit of a thing for online advertising and social media advertising.