Believe 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?
- What is the best way to design my product pages?
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?
What you ought to know is that you can sit and doodle your pen for days and weeks, and things will never be perfect.
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.
WHICH ECOMMERCE WEBSITE BUILDER TO USE TO BUILD YOUR ONLINE STORE?
“Choose an 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 other builders to find one that is as close to perfect as it could be.
So don’t let the concern of picking the “perfect” online store builder stop you from moving forward.
1) Shopify (500,000+ 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.
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 780 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.
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, this is how Shopify Plus can help you grow even more.
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.
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 does 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.
3) Wix eCommerce (388,000+ 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.
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 mentioned, 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.
4) 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.
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.
5) 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.
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).
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, Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace. Each has their own pros and cons, and we discuss them in much more depth in our detailed reviews:
- Shopify eCommerce Review
- BigCommerce eCommerce Review
- Wix eCommerce Review
- Weebly eCommerce Review
- Squarespace eCommerce Review
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.
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