How to Build an Online Store – Don’t Sweat All The Details

Last updated on May 16, 2016

how to build an online storeBelieve it or not, a frequently asked question that we get from our friends and website visitors is – “How do I build an online store?

Learning how to build an online store from scratch can be a daunting task. We know how it feels as we were once in your shoes just a few short years ago.

We wanted to build an online store to kick start a side business with the dream of growing it into a full time income.

But when it came down to actually getting the ball rolling, we had absolutely no clue where to get started!

Here are just a few questions (out of many more) that overwhelmed and pretty much paralyzed us from moving forward and taking decisive actions:

  • Should we use PayPal? What other options are there?
  • How should we price our products?
  • What should our color scheme be for our brand? What about the logo?
  • Which domain name should we get?
  • Where do we get customers? How do we use advertisements?
  • Do we need to hire a coder / designer to help us?
  • How to build an online store from scratch?

The list goes on and on and the ones above are just a very small list of what was overwhelming us.

 

BUILDING AN ONLINE STORE – DON’T SWEAT ALL THE DETAILS

“Don’t let all the tiny details paralyze you from building your business. You will never have all the answers – so just get started right now!”

Now, we can’t tell you how to price your product, or how to build your brand.

But we can tell you one thing based on our experiences, is that whatever your answers are to these questions, more often than not (for most businesses), they will continue to change and evolve as your business grows.

So our first advice to you, is “don’t sweat all the details”.

We know we know, it’s hard….

“I MUST get all the details PERFECT before starting….”

“Everybody tells me to plan EVERYTHING out before press the start button.”

We get it and we’ve been there. The online store (especially your first one) is a reflection of who you are, and so it has to be perfect.

But does it have to be perfect before you start?

How to build an online store - perfectionism

What you ought to know is that you can sit and doodle your pen for days and weeks, and things will never be perfect.

Never.

Perfectionism can actually hurt your progress.

Your strategy, products, everything, will change and evolve as you grow, as you collect feedback from your shoppers, as you test things and find out what works and what don’t.

So don’t sweat the details, and just get going.

Get started – this is the key to gaining momentum, achieving small (yet meaningful) victories, and eventually success.

We’re not saying that those are not legitimate questions. They are very legitimate, but they are not questions that should stop you from getting started.

You can figure out the answers to those questions along the way.

And don’t worry too much about how much it costs to build a website either.  Gone are the days where you have to throw thousands of hard earned dollars at a computer programmer to help you build a website – and you won’t know for sure if they will run away with your money.

Nowadays, you can build your own ecommerce online store for a set, transparent, monthly fee.  If you want to stop using the service, you can walk away at any time.

Worried about hiring a designer?  You don’t have to any more.  Here are some free, professional looking ecommerce storefront templates for you to use.  One less thing to worry about!

 

WHICH ECOMMERCE WEBSITE BUILDER TO USE TO BUILD YOUR ONLINE STORE?

“Choose a ecommerce builder that is flexible and has the potential to grow along with you as your business grows.”

What we can be helpful with, is share with you which ecommerce online store builder are available for you to build your ecommerce store.

After all, you do need a website to get going, right? Once you have a store up, you can then start to collect feedback, test your ideas, and start to make changes (if necessary) to grow your business.

Your first version of your online store does not have to be perfect, but just a store to get you started. Having a “primitive” version of your store is better than not having anything.

So when you are choosing your builder, keep in mind to find one that is flexible and can grow alongside with your business.

Before introducing a few tools that can help you build your online store, we just want to make sure you appreciate that these website builders are just tools. They are here to help you build your business.

Many people mistaken that their online stores are their business, but they really are not. Your website is not your business. You, the entrepreneur, the “mastermind”, is the business, since you are the driving force behind it.

We just want you to appreciate that if one online store builder doesn’t work out for you, your business will not die (figuratively). You can always test out another one to find one that is as close to perfect as you it can be.

So don’t let the concern of picking the “perfect” online store builder stop you from moving forward.

 

1) Shopify (275,000+ Active Online Stores)

Shopify is one of the best online store builders in the market today. They are easy to use, has well over 100 professionally designed templates to make your website look stylish and worthy of shopping on, and provide 24/7 support.

how to create an e-commerce online store - shopify

One of the highlights of Shopify is their App Store, which contains hundreds of additional tools that you can bolt on to your online store when you are ready, especially when your business really starts to grow and expand.

Some of these Apps are free, and some are paid. But they are well worth it as these apps can help you automate a lot of your operations, such as inventory management, shipping, marketing, bookkeeping, social media, etc.

Shopify already includes a lot of these basic tools in their core platform, but these are just additional tools you can pick and choose from if you want to, providing you with a lot of flexibility over the longer term.

(Watch which this short video walk-through demo from Shopify to get a sense of how easy it is to create your own ecommerce website, without knowing anything about codes!  Click on this image below)

Shopify also has well over 500 qualified experts that can help you set up your store, design your store or tweak / customize it. You don’t have to hire them if you don’t want to, but they’re there to help you if you need them, which makes Shopify a very well rounded service to help you build your online store.

Shopify has over 70 payment gateways to help you process your sales. They are all integrated with Shopify so don’t worry about finding the perfect one quite yet. Just start building your store.

1) See our comprehensive review on Shopify here

2) Here are also some case studies / examples of how other people have used Shopify to build some very successful businesses online.

3) Shopify Plus (Enterprise Level Users) – If you’re in the big leagues and your business generates 6 to 7 figures in sales per year, Shopify Plus can help you achieve more.

Try Shopify Free for 14 Days

 

2) BigCommerce (95,000+ Active Online Stores)

BigCommerce is another strong candidate you should consider if you are asking the question “how to build an online store”.

They are a direct competitor of Shopify, and they do offer you a bit more ecommerce related tools than Shopify. BigCommerce is well known for the comprehensiveness of their tools. So if you can’t find certain features with Shopify, you just might be able to find them with BigCommerce.

how to build an ecommerce online store - bigcommerce

They offer you some really professional looking templates to dress up your storefront, and they also have an App store to help “extend” your online store’s functionality if you need more tools.
If you need help tweaking your store, create a customized design or even to set things up for you, BigCommerce do have experts that you can hire to help you get this done.

Having said that, BigCommerce is flexible enough that if you want to add more features and make changes to your store down the road, it can be done either by yourself, or with the help of hired experts.
BigCommerce has over 60 payment gateways integrated into its platform, so you will find one that works for you.

Try BigCommerce Free for 15 Days

 

3) Wix eCommerce (100,000+ Active Online Stores)

Wix is a pure drag and drop website builder, where you can insert content such as text, images, slideshows, pretty much anywhere you want on your webpages.

Similar to Squarespace and Weebly, they don’t offer you the most advanced ecommerce tools such as what Shopify or BigCommerce offers you, but if you don’t need to build a complex / advanced online shop, Wix is a good solution for you.

how to Build an online store website - Wix

You can set up and sell products with different variations of the same product (such as different size or color of the same item), and Wix offers you an integrated shopping cart where you can connect to your payment processors such as PayPal, Authorize.net and you can conduct offline payments.

As entioned, Wix’s range of ecommerce tools are not as comprehensive as pure ecommerce builders such as Shopify or BigCommerce, but they provide you with enough tools to build a solid online store so you can sell your products.

So if you are not considering building a very advanced ecommerce website, or selling a lot of products, then Wix is great website builder for you to test out as they give you tons of flexibility as to how to build your website with their drag and drop tools.

Try Wix for Free

 

4) Squarespace Commerce

Shopify and BigCommerce are both powerhouses in the world of online store builders. But if you don’t need all those tools and features as you plan on running a simpler storefront, then Squarespace is a good candidate for you to consider.

Squarespace is not a dedicated e-commerce builder, but they do have quite a good set of tools to help you sell either physical or digital products online.

You can have full control over product variants, inventory management, generate coupons, configure shipping costs, sales taxes, customer email lists and other basic helpful tools for you to get started and become successful.

How to build an online ecommerce store squarespace commerce

Squarespace has always been known to have very stylish, polished and professional looking templates. So if you want to look good, and don’t need all the ecommerce bells and whistles, they are worth exploring.

If you need help, or just don’t have time to set up your Squarespace website, there are Specialists for hire which can not only help you set things up, but also help you customize your design, perform some custom coding or even full service packages (pretty much like hiring your own website creation and design team).

Lastly, Squarespace is a cheaper option than Shopify and BigCommerce (that is if you don’t need the full e-commerce power offered by Shopify / BigCommerce).

Try Squarespace Free for 14 Days

 

5) Weebly eCommerce (441,000+ Online Stores)

If you don’t need all the advanced features that Shopify or BigCommerce offer, and you want to use a website builder that is in our opinion one of the easiest to use, then Weebly is a builder that you want to seriously consider using to build an online store.

Their drag and drop builder interface is simple to use, so the learning curve is far lower than the other online store builders we’ve highlighted in this article.

how to build an online store weebly commerce

However, the drawback, as mentioned, is that they don’t offer the most comprehensive set of tools, which is okay if you plan on creating a simpler store.

You can still set up a store that offers multiple products, with variations for each product (different color, sizes, etc), have a fully integrated shopping cart using either PayPal, Stripe or Authorize.net, so that your shoppers never leave you website to ensure a consistent, fluid experience, set up coupon codes, automatic email notifications, etc.

Again, although Weebly is not as comprehensive when it comes to e-commerce features, they are hands down the easiest to use if compared to the other builders mentioned in this article.
So if you don’t need advanced tools, and want to set up a functional store quickly, Weebly is worth checking out.

Try Weebly for Free

 

CONCLUSION – HOW TO BUILD AN ONLINE STORE

Learning how to build an online store to sell products online is not a straight forward task. But it can be much more complicated and stressful if you let all the micro details paralyze you from getting started.

When we first started building online stores, we worried about all the details which in retrospect didn’t really matter as much, as most of what we thought were the answers turned out to different after a while.

Instead of spending days agonizing and researching to inform ourselves, we should have just started building our store, then tackled those questions as we went along. This approach would have saved us so much time.

Having said that, to get you started, we do recommend you take a look at Shopify, BigCommerce, Squarespace, Weebly and Wix. Each has their own pros and cons, and we discuss them in much more depth in our detailed reviews:

You will see much more in-depth analyses of what we think of each builder.

Remember, there isn’t a right or wrong builder. Each will have its own quirks, so it’s worth investing the time to study them a bit, then sign up for perhaps 2 of them and play with them for a bit. This is the only way to get a good sense of which one will work for you.

Don’t worry about whether each builder can do all 2,000 things you have in mind, especially with Shopify and BigCommerce. You can almost always find workarounds for them as both are very flexible platforms, and they have experts for hire to help you if you want to pursue that route.

They key to launching a business, is to launch it. Take action, build an online store, and then start tweaking it as you move forward.

See our e-Commerce Online Store Builders Comparison Chart

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Jeremy Wong

About Jeremy Wong

Maybe just like you, at first we didn't have a darn clue about how to build a website, nevermind write half a line of code if our life depended on it! We wanted to build a website to start a side business, and felt overwhelmed, confused & scared about how to actually do it, which builder to use, and making wrong decisions. After years of trials & errors using different website builders, we're here to share our experiences with you.

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Jeremy Wong

About Jeremy Wong

Maybe just like you, at first we didn't have a darn clue about how to build a website, nevermind write half a line of code if our life depended on it! We wanted to build a website to start a side business, and felt overwhelmed, confused & scared about how to actually do it, which builder to use, and making wrong decisions. After years of trials & errors using different website builders, we're here to share our experiences with you.

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26 Responses to How to Build an Online Store – Don’t Sweat All The Details

  1. Awais Jan May 25, 2016 at 12:36 AM #

    Thank you for the post. I was searching something like this as I am new to the thought so its very helpful for me. The way you have described opening online store is brilliant and now everything is clear to me. I have a question in my mind, would these builders provide us an app for android and ios??

    • Jeremy Wong
      Jeremy Wong May 25, 2016 at 6:57 AM #

      Hi Awais,

      Unfortunately, you will have to hire a developer to build a separate app for you.

      Most website builders now offer responsive designs, so your ecommerce store will look good on mobile devices when people are visiting your online store using a mobile web browser. However, if you want a completely separate, dedicated app, then you will have to construct it separately.

      I haven’t seen any website builders that offer users the ability to build a separate Android or iOS app, yet.

      Jeremy

  2. Maria Vazquez May 17, 2016 at 8:03 AM #

    New to the thought of opening my own online business….just reading as much information as I can and this article has been the most helpful. Thank you so much!!

    • Jeremy Wong
      Jeremy Wong May 18, 2016 at 7:47 AM #

      Hi Maria,

      Thanks for your comment and glad our discussions here are helpful!

      Jeremy

  3. Stephen May 17, 2016 at 12:27 AM #

    I have a question I have already built a website, and am trying to incorporate an online store function for potential customers can order products and services. However I want any store pages and parts to match the layout and background of the website to ensure a consistent approach throughout and when I’ve looked they are mentioning templates which I do not think would work to give a consistent approach. would you be able to tell me if there are ones that can allow the website design to flow through to the online store.

    • Jeremy Wong
      Jeremy Wong May 18, 2016 at 7:43 AM #

      Hey Stephen,

      I’m guessing that the website builder you are using doesn’t have ecommerce functions? Or else their online selling tools (such as product pages) should match your overall website design.

      If you are using an external ecommerce widget (such as Ecwid), then it will be more challenging to have the widget match your overall design. However, if you can edit HTML / CSS, you might be able to configure the external widget to mimic your overall site design.

      Alternatively, if synchronizing the design is critical, and that your current web builder doesn’t offer ecommerce tools, then you can consider changing web builder platforms. We have some online store builders here that you can check out.

      Jeremy

      Jeremy

  4. Emma April 28, 2016 at 10:34 AM #

    I’m looking to add an online store to our website but where the items are free (so maybe it’s not a store?!). We’re a small nonprofit looking to be able to offer a handful of items and rather than just using an order form on google forms we wanted something that would look professional, is easy for the end user and also automatically set items as out of stock when appropriate.

    I don’t mind paying, especially if it means we can customise the site with our own branding etc but I’m not sure paying for something like Shopify is the right way to go. Do you have any recommendations?

    • Jeremy Wong
      Jeremy Wong April 28, 2016 at 7:30 PM #

      Hello Emma,

      You probably don’t need an advanced ecommerce builder like Shopify. Maybe something simpler like Weebly or Wix will get the job done quite easily.

      To be honest, I’m not entirely sure if you can set your price to zero and give away your products using Weebly / Wix, but worth a try (they’re free to sign up to test). You can easily set your inventory to zero (out of stock) and can also brand your website with your own logo / colors. That’s not a problem at all.

      Good luck!

      Jeremy

  5. Anjum Bashir April 19, 2016 at 1:46 PM #

    Good Article. I am a beginner and wants to start online store. Margin is very low so I don’t want to spend at all atleast in starting and can’t share my tiny profits if any with shopify and others. I want everything free. Let’s see now how you can guide us.

    • Jeremy Wong
      Jeremy Wong April 20, 2016 at 11:05 PM #

      Hi Anjum,

      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, there isn’t such a thing as “free lunch” so there will be a certain level of fees to get started if you want to set up a fully functional store. If an online store builder tells you that you can do everything for free, be careful about that as they have to make money someone to support their platform.

      If you want to minimize your cost, Shopify isn’t a bad choice as long as you use their Shopify Payments to power your check out cart so there isn’t any transaction fees.

      Their lowest plan is $29 per month, and you probably will have to aim to earn more than that if you want to build a viable business. Yes, it’s probably tough at the beginning when you try to gain traction, but that’s the norm when one is starting a new business. Keep in mind that when you start to sell more products, your monthly fee with Shopify will remain the same at $29 per month. So your profit margins will expand as your business grows.

      If you want to use good tools, you’ll have to share some profits to access those tools. The good thing is that if those tools are not working out for you, you can always cancel them. At least give them a try.

      Jeremy

  6. Brian Collins April 12, 2016 at 8:25 AM #

    Jeremy,
    I currently sell on ebay and want to start building my own online store front without them. I own my domain name and sell clothing, accessories, toys and antiques. Over 3,000 items with average sales of 7k per month over the past 3 years. I read a few of your posts and want to get your opinion on which you think would work for me. Any guidance would be great.
    Brian

    • Jeremy Wong
      Jeremy Wong April 13, 2016 at 5:13 AM #

      Hey Brian,

      Since you’re running a higher volume business, I’d suggest you take a look at either Shopify or BigCommerce. Both are top notch ecommerce store builders, and will give you most of the tools you need to build an independent, successful online store.

      I think Shopify has a better platform and ecosystem (see our comparison between the two here), but BigCommerce offers you a full integration with eBay Marketplace. So in your case, it allows you to sync up your eBay store along with your ecommerce store (if you proceed with BigCommerce).

      Pay close attention to BigCommerce’s pricing plans. Their structure is a bit different from what you’d normally expect, as the plan they “put you on” is determined by how much you sell, not by what you decide by yourself. I’ve highlighted the differences in our Shopify vs BigCommerce discussion (I’ve linked to this post in my sentence above).

      Good luck!

      Jeremy

  7. Mercy January 27, 2016 at 12:32 PM #

    Jeremy, thank you for posting this article, it has been a big help!

  8. Michael January 3, 2016 at 1:14 PM #

    Thank you for writing this article! It is VERY helpful and is exactly what I have been looking for!

    Happy New Year!

    • Jeremy Wong
      Jeremy Wong January 4, 2016 at 2:06 PM #

      Thanks Michael! Happy New Year to you too!

      Jeremy

  9. Mimi August 7, 2015 at 8:27 AM #

    Very helpful article. Question – we drop shop products and have quantity price brackets. As I look at various templates available I haven’t found any that offer the capability of quantiy pricing breaks. Are you aware of any? Thanks.

    • Jeremy Wong
      Jeremy Wong August 7, 2015 at 11:57 AM #

      Thanks Mimi.

      Good question. I’m actually not sure which ecommerce builders offer this function. But if I were to guess, I’d suggest taking a look at Shopify or Bigcommerce. Even reach out to their support team to see if they offer that specific function.

      If not, have you considered using Product Variants instead? So instead of the classic variants set up (yellow shirt, green shirt, blue shirt), maybe test 10 units, 20 units, 30 units, etc. So once you get to a certain level (such as 50 units), you can lower the per unit price. So in a sense, your customers will have to buy a pre-determined set of units, instead of say 42 units. Does that make sense?

      Also, since you’re in dropshipping, take a look at this “Ultimate Guide to Dropshipping” from Shopify. Maybe you’ll find it helpful!

      Jeremy

  10. Postaci May 20, 2015 at 10:34 AM #

    Good view of point.

    Noted by Postaci.ro

  11. Sunny April 20, 2015 at 12:22 PM #

    Which of these have you found has the best inventory linkup with tools like PayPal Here or Square? I find that the shop building part is easy, but finding a service that works great online, but also links to a POS has been difficult. I am currently doing double inventories with PayPal Here inventory for POS and my online shop inventory.

    • Jeremy Wong
      Jeremy Wong April 21, 2015 at 5:13 PM #

      Hi Sunny,

      I think Shopify here can really help you. Not only do they enable you to build a very comprehensive ecommerce website, you can also use their POS tools to power offline businesses. The best part is that they will power both your online and offline business, so you only have 1 single system to manage and all the inventory, payment, etc data are all synchronized.

      Here is more discussion about their POS system and how it can help you.

      Jeremy

  12. VeeA May 12, 2014 at 8:53 PM #

    Excellent article. One can get stuck in the research and development mode and, thus, loose sight of forest as you stare at the trees. Understand the key pros/cons of each platform and your needs (short and long term), test out a few platforms, then make a decision and start building your site. Get 80% done now and start selling, then tweak to get the 20% later.

    • Jeremy Wong
      Jeremy Wong May 13, 2014 at 9:03 AM #

      Thanks VeeA! I absolutely agree. The key is to just get started. Testing and building is the best type of research one could do!

      – Jeremy

    • Reg June 28, 2015 at 8:41 PM #

      Thank you for this article it really helped to put things into perspective as far as where to start, which has been the most daunting part this far!

      • Jeremy Wong
        Jeremy Wong June 30, 2015 at 6:18 AM #

        Thanks Reg! Glad our discussions here have been helpful to you in getting things going!

        Jeremy

        • Tony October 12, 2015 at 2:39 AM #

          Good article. I have a question. I already have a massive customer base. I have a Facebook page with over 200,000 members who are all chomping at the bit to buy products from me. They have been asking me to set up an online store for a long time. So I really want to get it right first time.

          I will not be selling many products at first it will basically be 50 units every month (limited editions) this will hopefully generate interest and a want for the products by making them limited. Also I am new to business and don’t want to bite of more than I can chew.

          Then because of demand I will in crease the amount later. I don’t want to spend a great deal doing this as I will not be making hardly any money at first. Which webstore would you recommend for this, the best value for what I need or even a free one which maybe takes a small comission from each sale like EBay for example.

          Thanks

          • Jeremy Wong
            Jeremy Wong October 14, 2015 at 11:50 AM #

            Hi Tony,

            I’d suggest you take a look at pure ecommerce builders such as Shopify or Bigcommerce.

            It sounds like you need a very strong platform that can scale up very quickly especially if you have 200,000 members. So I would highly suggest you take a look at those ecommerce builders.

            Both platforms can integrate with your Facebook page.

            We also have a discussion here comparing both Shopify and Bigcommerce – just in case you want to know how they compare with each other.

            Jeremy