Building Online Stores

How to build an Online Store: 9 Easy Steps to start Selling Online

Building an online store is a fantastic way to make a bit of extra money. But it’s difficult to know where to start.

The good news is you don’t need lots of money, time or technical knowledge to build an online store.

Ecommerce sales currently account for 17.2% of all retail sales, with online shopping itself growing 13.7% year-on-year. There’s really never been a better time to get online.

By following our easy steps, you’ll soon have a functioning online store of your very own.

Ecommerce platforms are the easiest, cheapest and quickest way to build an online store. Our top three are Shopify, Wix and BigCommerce.

In this guide, we’ll show you the best way to create an online store.

Online store builders and ecommerce website builders – what’s the difference?

We refer to Shopify, Wix and BigCommerce as ‘ecommerce website builders’ and ‘online store builders’. There’s nothing to be confused about. These terms both mean the same thing: they’re referring to platforms that help you create an online store.

1

Find Your Perfect Ecommerce Website Builder

An ecommerce builder is an online software which lets you build your very own online store, without needing advanced tech skills, coding knowledge, or a dozen computer screens. All you need is an internet connection and a great business idea!

When starting an online store, the first step is choosing the right online store builder.

There are loads of online store builders out there. Some are cheap, some are expensive, some are reliable, and some… aren’t.

With so many options to choose from, we thought we’d make it a little easier to pick the right one for you. We’ve listed our recommended ecommerce website builders here:

Features
Basic
Advanced
Multichannel Integration
Cart Recovery
Free SSL Security
Multichannel Integration
Cart Recovery
Free SSL Security
Multichannel Integration
Cart Recovery
Free SSL Security
Multichannel Integration
Cart Recovery
Free SSL Security
Multichannel Integration
Cart Recovery
Free SSL Security

Above are just the top five ecommerce website builders, based on our research and testing. There are many more ecommerce platforms out there, including:

  • Volusion – best for analytics
  • GoDaddy – easiest to use
  • 3dcart – good, but there’s better out there
  • Big Cartel – only free ecommerce builder

Further Information

Why Should You Use Online Store Builders?

Gone are the days where you had to throw hard-earned dollars at a computer programmer to help you start an online store.

Instead, your online store builder will:

  • Host your store, giving it a place to live on the internet
  • Let you buy or connect your domain name – yourstore.com, for example (Wix eCommerce will even give you one for free for a year)
  • Keep your site up and running, making sure your store doesn’t crash
  • Sort out security certificates to keep your customers’ details safe when taking payments and handling their data
  • Let you sell a range of products, such as physical, digital, and service-based goods
  • Give you marketing tools to promote your business
  • Provide you with tailored sales features like shipping discounts and automated inventory tracking

Yes, but what about Magento or WordPress?

Making an online store is also possible using a code editor like WordPress and a web hosting service like BlueHost.

The downside is that building a store on WordPress needs much more technical skill. You might even need to hire a developer, which gets very expensive.

Ecommerce website builders are incredibly ease to use. Our recent survey found that despite some initial doubt, 83% of you would be capable of using a website builder.

Which Ecommerce Website Builder Should You Choose?

We know the choice can feel overwhelming, but it all comes down to the purpose of your online store.

Having researched each ecommerce website builder thoroughly, we’re in a great position to tell you which platforms match your needs.

  • Shopifybest all-round ecommerce platform. Perfect for stores of all sizes, it has a brilliant inventory system, scalable plans, and the best sales features on the market. The massive Shopify App Store lets you grow your business at your own pace.
  • Wix – best website builder with ecommerce functionality. Wix is a website builder first and foremost, and is perfect for any business which revolves around its brand. Easy customization, solid sales tools, and attractive designs makes this builder a top choice.
  • BigCommerce – most scalable ecommerce platform. BigCommerce has the best in-built features around, so you won’t need to rely on apps to scale up your business. Impressive multi-channel integration and fantastic SEO will power your store to success.
  • Squarespace – best designed templates. If you want to really let your products shine, then Squarespace is for you. It combines stunning templates with a strong inventory and great analytics, making it a great choice for small and medium businesses alike.
  • Weebly – great value for money. If you’re a small business looking to make those cents stretch an extra mile, Weebly can save you both time and money. Easy to use, with some great additional features such as blogging, Weebly is a good place to start out.

If you need a large-scale store, or even have big aspirations to scale up, you’ll want to use powerful platforms like Shopify or BigCommerce.

These ecommerce website builders help you sell in bulk, and have powerful analytical tools to help you track your finances, marketing campaigns, and onsite visitors.

If you just want a website to sell a few products on, then website builders like Wix, Squarespace and Weebly are the perfect fit.

They’re super easy to use, let you customize the design of your website freely, and give you the capacity to sell online.

Our comparison chart gives an at-a-glance view of the best online store builders in the market, or to dive deeper into the specifics of each builder, try our article on the best ecommerce platforms.

If you really don’t know which ecommerce website builder to go with, don’t worry. We’ve put together a short four-question quiz. It will help you zoom in on the best builder to start an online store.

website builder quiz

Test Your Ecommerce Website Builder

If you’re serious about building a successful online store, then you need to test out your ecommerce website builder before launching your business site.

The best way to do this is with a free trial – or a few!

Don’t just try one – you can experiment and compare different online store builders to find the best fit for you and your business.

Follow the links below to sign up for a free trial:

When playing around with ecommerce website builders, ask yourself:

  • Is it easy to choose a template/theme and make custom changes?
  • Are the templates suitable for your business?
  • Is it easy to add products and categorize them?
  • Can you edit the navigation to include sub-menus and new pages?

You want to find a platform that’s not only easy to use, but offers everything you require. Once you’ve decided what you need, spend some time looking over our comparison chart to find a builder that ticks all your boxes.

After that, take it for a spin! The key is to work out which builder you find to be the most natural to use, and which is the best fit for the type of store you want to build. Take a few for a test drive and see which suits you best.

Looking to build a website without an online store?

This guide focuses on creating an online store. The steps are specific to ecommerce. You can get general steps for building a normal website here.

Further Reading:

You can also read our reviews of Shopify, Wix and BigCommerce to find out more:

Shopify Review

Wix eCommerce Review

BigCommerce Review

2

Choose The Best Plan For You

Once you’ve tested a few builders and are happy with your choice, you need to sign up to the right plan so you can get building.

Different levels of plans come with different features. As you’d expect, the more you pay, the more you get. Which plan suits you best depends on the size of your business and your growth ambitions.  

If you’re looking to create an ecommerce store, you will need a paid plan. Uploading and selling products requires more complicated software than building a normal website.

Plans start at just $12 per month (Weebly’s Pro Plan). That’s less than an large pizza from Domino’s!

Here’s a quick look at the starting prices of the top five online store builders:

Ecommerce Builder Weebly Squarespace Wix Shopify BigCommerce
Price/month $12 $18 $20 $29 $29.95
Plan Pro

Business

Business Basic

Basic Shopify Standard

 

These prices represent the cheapest plan which lets you sell online – with Weebly and Squarespace you’ll need to upgrade to remove transaction fees and sell more products.

If you’re launching your first online store, Basic Shopify, Wix eCommerce and BigCommerce Standard will easily give you enough firepower.

When learning how to make an online store, a rule of thumb is: the more products and revenue you have, the better plan you need.

How Many Products Do You Plan On Selling?

If you’re not planning to sell a lot of products, a simpler plan with lower rates may be suitable. There’s no product limit on any of BigCommerce or Shopify’s main plans.

However, the more products you sell, the more upgrading to an advanced plan makes financial sense.

This is because of transaction fees. If you’re generating a lot of dollars in revenue, even a slight drop in fees can boost your bottom line.

How Much Do You Want To Pay?

To start an online store, you’ll need an ecommerce plan.

Shopify Basic and Standard BigCommerce both cost under $30 a month, whereas Wix eCommerce starts at $20. If products are flying off your virtual shelves, these sums seem very trivial.

Don’t worry if you’re not sure which pricing plan to sign up to. Speak to an advisor at your store builder and they’ll be able to help.

What Features Do You Need?

Remember, different stores have different needs. Shopify and BigCommerce may be more expensive, but they offer more features. Wix eCommerce is good for the bare essentials.

The more you pay, the more you get, as this table of Shopify’s features shows: 

Plan Basic Shopify Shopify Advanced Shopify
Monthly $29 $79 $299
Monthly price paid annually $26.10 $71.10 $269.10
Key Features

Online store

Unlimited products

Unlimited bandwidth

Multichannel integration

Abandoned cart recovery

Discount codes

Staff accounts (2 max)

Print shipping labels

Shopify POS app

Access to Shopify App Center

Everything from Shopify plan

Staff accounts (5 max)

Gift cards

Professional reports

Everything from Advanced Shopify plan

Staff accounts (15 max)

Advanced report builder

Third-party calculated shipping rates

Best For Launching a full-fledged online store Growing your online store Scaling up an established business

Another example would be greater customer segmentation on BigCommerce’s Plus plan. You can keep loyal customers coming back by setting up a rewards program.

Can You Build An Online Store For Free?

Yes! Big Cartel’s free plan currently allows you to sell online without having to pay any monthly fees. Be warned, though – its free plan is incredibly limited.

When we tested Big Cartel, it scored very poorly compared to other ecommerce builders like Shopify and BigCommerce, with people finding it the hardest online store builder to use. In fact, Big Cartel trailed in last in our research with a lowly 2.9 stars out of 5!

Even on a paid plan, we don’t recommend Big Cartel unless you’re selling single, one-off items like artworks. You need coding skills to use Big Cartel and it really lacks serious features.

On the free plan you can only sell 5 products with one image displayed for each. It’s fine if you want a really basic online presence to sell through, but if you have ambitions to grow, you’ll want to upgrade to a premium plan.

The Upside of Upgrading

The truth is, you get what you pay for. Basic plans are great for starting out, but you unlock more advanced features when you upgrade. This chart looks at three of the most important ecommerce features: multi-channel integration, abandoned cart recovery, and SSL certificates.

Features
Basic
Advanced
Multichannel Integration
Cart Recovery
Free SSL Security
Multichannel Integration
Cart Recovery
Free SSL Security
Multichannel Integration
Cart Recovery
Free SSL Security

Not sure what the features in our chart mean?

Let us explain…

  1. Multi-Channel Integration

…is the ability to sell across social media, like Facebook and Instagram, and/or marketplaces, like Amazon or eBay. With social media’s popularity constantly rising, selling through different channels is now more important than ever.

Shopify and BigCommerce let you sell directly through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Amazon, eBay and many more. Squarespace currently give you license to sell on Instagram too.

  1. Abandoned Cart Recovery

This is a huge feature. We’ll go into greater detail in just a moment, but here’s the lowdown: if customers leave your website with items still in their cart and without checking out, cart recovery will send them an email to keep them engaged.

More than 3 out of 4 online shoppers leave a website without completing a purchase, and BigCommerce claims it can help you recover 15% of lost sales. Not bad!

  1. SSL Certificate

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates secure the data travelling through your store, and mean your customers look at your site in ‘HTTPS’. The safer customers feel when browsing your store, the more likely they are to spend money.

Once you’ve chosen an ecommerce website builder and picked your perfect premium plan, the next steps are:

  • Pick an ecommerce template
  • Customize your store’s template design
  • Add products to your store
  • Set up payment methods
  • Sort out shipping settings
  • Preview, test, and publish your online store

Compare our top five ecommerce store builders’ plans:

Shopify Pricing – for a full list of Shopify’s plans, including price and features

Wix Pricing – every plan available from Wix and what you get

BigCommerce Pricing – find out more about BigCommerce’s different plans

Squarespace Pricing – a look at Squarespace’s plans and beautiful templates

Weebly Pricing – detailing what you get on each Weebly plan

3

Get A Domain Name For Your Store

A domain name is the bit in a URL that identifies your store’s name.

A good domain name is key to launching a successful online store. It builds trust with customers and helps establish your brand.

Let’s say you’re Nike (we can all dream). Below is Nike’s URL, with the domain name in bold:

https://www.nike.com

This is the primary domain. It’s what customers see in the address bar and Google searches. Think of your domain name like the sign that hangs above a real-life high street store.

You can buy a domain name through Shopify, Wix and BigCommerce for around $10 to $20 per year. Alternatively, you can use a domain name registrar such as Domain.com to purchase a domain, and link it to your online store builder.

4 Tips When Choosing A Domain Name:

  • Pick the right country code – if you’re selling to US or international customers, choose a .com domain. Country-specific codes are only really suitable if you’re selling to consumers in that country.
  • Avoid brand names including a brand or product name in your domain can get you into legal trouble.
  • Be unique play with words to stand out from the crowd, but don’t be too obscure. You’ll risk losing search traffic from customers looking online for your products.
  • Add a keyword adding a popular search term to your domain name helps you climb search engine rankings. The higher you rank in Google, the more traffic you get; the more traffic, the more sales.

For example, if you sell personalized t-shirts, include ‘t-shirts’ in your store’s URL. You’ll attract new customers who happened to be searching for t-shirts.

Our tip: Once you’ve registered your domain name for the year, set a calendar reminder to renew it before the expiry date.

Choose And Buy Domain Names On Shopify, Wix and BigCommerce

How to buy a domain on Shopify

How to buy a domain name on Wix

How to buy a domain on BigCommerce

Already Own A Domain Name?

If you already own a domain name, don’t worry. You can transfer the name to your online store builder and cancel the agreement with your original provider.

Or, if you want to stay with your domain provider, you can link your domain to your builder page. To do this, contact your current domain provider.

For ease of use, we’d recommend sorting out a domain with your builder. It makes learning how to build an online store from scratch even more straightforward!

4

Pick Your Ecommerce Template

With templates (sometimes known as themes), you can make your site look good without being a design expert, or touching any code!

Selecting themes in Shopify and BigCommerce is easy. All you have to do is select a template from your builder’s marketplace.

shopify ecommerce templates
Shopify has a range of feature-packed, stunning templates for you to build your online store’s design

With Wix, Squarespace and Weebly, it’s very similar. You’ll start by choosing a template, which are split into different categories. Each category represents a different industry. For example, you’ll have templates for Blogging, Business Services, and Online Stores.

Squarespace has the best quality designs on the market, so if you need to really make your products stand out, it’s a great place to start looking.

How Do You Pick The Right Template?

Ask yourself these three questions to find out which template is right for you:

  1. What features do you want your store to have?
  2. What style of homepage do you want?
  3. How do you want customers to move around your store?

Let’s look at these in more detail…

What Features Do You Want Your Store To Have?

Features are a key part of how to build an online store. Ask yourself what’s important to your online store: do you need maps, galleries, or an about us page? What about videos on your homepage?

Some templates come with more features than others. Think about what features your store needs, then make a list.

When searching for a theme in your builder’s marketplace, filter by features. Narrowing down the options can help you find the theme that best suits your needs.

What Style Of Homepage Do You Want?

Your homepage is the first thing your customers see. It’s like your shop window.

Customers should be able to tell from one glance exactly what type of business you are.

Your homepage could be a simple image, a slideshow or a video. Decide which to choose based on your business goals.

For example, stores selling luxury products should let stylish images do the talking. Stores selling more complicated products might want a simpler image, accompanied by more text.

How Do You Want Your Customers To Navigate Your Store?

Most shoppers will leave a website after 10-20 seconds. It’s crucial they can find what they’re looking for without any hassle.

A smooth navigation bar is integral. It lets your customers move around your site easily and will reward you with more sales.

A clunky navigation is like a road with loads of potholes and no street signs. Customers will get frustrated because they won’t be able to find what they’re looking for.

Lay your pages out left to right, starting with the most important page. Don’t include pages that aren’t important to your business – include them as dropdown menu items.

Your navigation bar should also be easy to read. Internet users scan a page in an “F” shape, so stores that have a distinctive header and sidebar on the left of the page work best.

When it comes to color, you want something that’s inoffensive and that fits your industry. Read our guide on picking the perfect color here.

build an online store with shopify
Using an ecommerce platform, you can design an online store with a clearly laid out navigation bar. Retailer SWL has done just that with Shopify!

Picking Themes on Shopify, Wix and BigCommerce:

Choose From Shopify Themes

Choose From Wix Themes

Choose From BigCommerce Themes

5

Customize Your Ecommerce Template

Once you’ve selected a template/theme, head to your store’s admin tool to start customizing.

Customizing is easy, and you can change just about anything. This includes your:

  • Text Size and Font
  • Color Scheme
  • Images
  • Positioning of Products
  • Features
  • Embedding Social Media

The list goes on.

Most online store builders will also allow you to embed apps. These are found in the app market, and can be used to cover any features you need that the platform may not already have inbuilt.

Want to see an example of a good ecommerce store theme in action?

This online store was built using Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) in just a few minutes. Here, you can see how easy it is to edit and customize the template – simply replace images, text, add videos or change the color scheme to suit your own branding and design:

customize wix store
The excellent templates available from top ecommerce platforms make creating a stylish online store easy...and fun!

In-depth Template Advice:

Three simple criteria to help you choose your website template design

Free ecommerce website templates – inspiration from great templates

How to choose a color scheme for your website – pick the right color scheme

6

Add Your Products

Now you’ve created a stylish online store using a template, you need to add your products.

zero gravity product page
ZeroGravity.com is an online store built using Shopify, and has designed its product pages to match its unique products

Using an online store builder, you have great control over your product pages. The image above shows how you can combine style with minimalism to create a unique look.

The main things you need to add a product are:

  • Name
  • Price
  • Category
  • Weight (for physical products)
  • File (for downloadable products like ebooks).

Different ecommerce website builders have different limits on:

  • The number of products you can upload
  • The number of options for each product (the same product but in a different size or color)
  • The number of product variants (a combination of two options: for example, a blue t-shirt in size medium)

Make sure you check that each builder’s limit meets your business’s needs.

Builder Weebly Squarespace Wix Shopify BigCommerce
Product Limit on Cheapest
Ecommerce Plan
$25 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Price/month $12

$18

$20

$29 $29.95

 

Shopify and BigCommerce let you sell unlimited products on their cheapest pricing plans, but other ecommerce website builders may limit you on lower-tiered plans.

Three key ingredients to uploading great products are:

  1. Product descriptions
  2. Product images
  3. Product categories

Below we’ll take a look at all three.

How Do You Write Winning Product Descriptions?

Your product descriptions need to be convincing, but here are three things to avoid:

  • Complex jargon
  • Clichés
  • Long sentences

Here’s an example of a good product description:

firewire surfboards product description
The Firewire Surfboards online store was built on BigCommerce, and combines a detailed product description with multiple images and even a product video to draw in customers.

A detailed product description can be the difference between making a sale and not.

The retailer presents the technical features of their tool box, then explains its benefit to the shopper.

Another thing to keep in mind when writing product descriptions is SEO (Search Engine Optimization). This is where you will rank in Google when customers search for products like yours. The higher you rank, the more traffic you get.

The more traffic, the more sales. Include some of the keywords relating to your product when writing descriptions. Say you’re selling vintage trainers – include ‘vintage’ and ‘trainers’ in the description.

How Do You Take The Best Product Images?

Like the description, your images should accurately reflect what you’re selling.

Here are a few pointers when learning how to make an online store that looks good and sells.

  • Use high-quality images never select images that are blurry or too small
  • Make sure each image is the same size Use a tool like Photoshop to resize your images to the same dimension
  • Take your own photos – Use a good smartphone (like an iPhone X) to take your own photos, if you can
  • Provide a 360-degree option make sure customers can view your products from all angles
  • Add product variation images make sure shoppers can look at the product in the full range of colors
  • Add a zoom option give your customers the chance to view your product’s detail (This is a feature you’ll want to check your chosen builder provides)

Last – but by no means least – ask: are your product images optimized?

You can easily optimize images using a free online compressing tool. This basically reduces the file size of your image without affecting the quality too much, and can do wonders for your site speed!

Images are a great way of showing off your products. But the more images your store has, the longer it can take to load, so optimizing is super important.

Finding the right balance between top-quality images and site speed is crucial.

What About Building Product Categories?

Product categories are different areas your products can sit in, which make it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for on your store. Examples of categories include men’s, women’s, accessories, new in, and sale.

The easiest way to create category ideas is to ask yourself: what would you want if you landed on your site?

We recommend no more than five categories. Any more and you risk confusing your shoppers with too much choice.

Here are the key things to consider when building your product category page:

    • Price Range – displaying price ranges on your category page adds clarity and prevents customers browsing products they can’t afford
    • Featured Products – a good way of leading your customers down your preferred shopping path
    • Filtering Options – let your customers filter by size, price or brand name. The more options you can give them, the happier they are and the more money they will spend
    • Give Extra Product Information – your customer has navigated to a specific section of your store. It’s fair to assume they want more information about the products they’re viewing

For more information on product guides, check out our article here:

How to Design a Customer-Winning Product Page for Your ecommerce Store

7

Set Up Payment Methods

Next, you need to set up your payment method. This is a crucial part of converting a browser into a buyer.

Ecommerce website builders make this easy for you. They optimize the process so you can hit the ground running with the best (and most effective) payment options.

Ecommerce website builders help by connecting you directly to multiple different payment options, such as PayPal, Visa, Apple Pay and Mastercard.

Builder Weebly Squarespace Wix Shopify BigCommerce
Key Payment Options PayPal

Stripe

Square

PayPal

Stripe

Apple Pay

PayPal

Stripe

Square

10+ extra payment options

PayPal

Stripe

Apple Pay

Amazon

Shopify Payments

100+ extra payment options

PayPal

Stripe

Square

Amazon

Apple Pay

World Pay

Digital wallet payments

What Payment Options Can I Add?

The three most popular ways to accept payments on your ecommerce store are:

  1. Merchant account and payment gateway – you partner with a bank, then they accept payments for you and channel the money into your business bank account
  2. Payment gateway packages – you use all-in-one software, which will connect your store’s shopping cart to the card processing network
  3. Simplified credit card payment processing – you use a service that integrates with your store’s checkout, such as Shopify’s own payments gateway. Your shoppers won’t have to leave your site to complete a purchase

How Do I Choose The Best Payment Method?

Work out how many sales you expect to make and what type of person will be buying your products.

Find out where your customers are from. If you have customers from different countries, make sure you meet each nationality’s needs. Shoppers in Canada, for example, have different payment preferences from shoppers in Texas.

Don’t pick a payment method without working out your store’s needs first.

What About Security?

Security is a big worry for online shoppers. But you can take all their worries away if you make your site secure. And it’s easier than you think!

Online store builders sort this out for you with SSL certificates.

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. It encrypts your users’ data, making their online shopping experience with you totally secure.

Most ecommerce platforms include this in their plans, but if they don’t, they will have it as an add-on.

So, what does this look like? Have a look at the homepage for this store we made using Shopify. You can see the green padlock circled in the top left corner:

Shopify security green padlock example-min
Ecommerce platforms take care of your store's security. Customers will feel safe spending their money on your site.

This has two important benefits for your business:

  1. Customers will feel safe shopping on your store.
  2. Google will reward your store with higher rankings.

Shopify, for example, comes with inbuilt SSL Security and gives you access to over 100 payment gateways. These include Visa, PayPal, Amazon and Apple Pay.

How Much Are These Payment Options Going To Cost?

Different payment methods come with different fees and charges.

Fees are often rolled together, so take time to untangle them. Make sure you’re clear on exactly how much you’ll be paying and what you’ll be paying for.

Credit card fees are unavoidable. They’re levied by the card provider (Amex, for example) and then passed on by the builders.

The general charge for using payment processors varies, typically from around 1% + 10p per transaction to 3% + 30p per transaction.

If you use Shopify’s own processor, Shopify Payments, all transaction fees are waived on their end.

This means if you were to accept a credit card payment of £100, you’ll only pay the rate of 2.2% + 20p on that payment, direct from the individual payment processor.

8

Sort Out Your Shipping Settings

You’ve added products and payment options for customers to buy them. Next up is making sure you can deliver those products.

To understand how to build an online store, you need to understand how shipping options work.

Different ecommerce website builders come with different shipping options. See the table below for more info on which options each ecommerce website builder provides:

Builder Shopify Wix BigCommerce Squarespace Weebly
Dropshipping ✔️ ✔️
Shipping management tools ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Printable shipping labels ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Pre-setup shipping providers ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️

To begin shipping products, you’ll need to add an origin address and package types. Below, we cover the boxes you need to tick when setting up shipping on your store.

What Is Your Shipping Origin Address?

This is important if you ship products from an address that’s not your office. You should input a separate shipping origin to ensure shipping rates and taxes are correct.

Once you’ve added your address, you can print shipping labels and get quotes.

What Shipping Zones Do You Want To Ship To?

Shipping rates vary between the countries and regions (zones) you ship to. Online store builders let you charge different rates to customers depending on which zone they’re in.

If you’re a US based store, for example, you can charge cheaper shipping to customers in a state closer to your distribution center.

Your store builder admin page will show which zones you ship to, along with all of your individual shipping rates.

What Are The Different Shipping Options?

Once you’ve set up where you want to ship products, you can decide how you deliver them.

It boils down to understanding the types of shipping that are available:

  • Free shipping – if you can afford it, free shipping is a fantastic selling point.   Quick tip: offer free shipping over a certain order amount. This could offset the costs to you of offering free shipping, and top up your average order value.
    • Right for: You, if you can afford it. Get your calculator out and check. If you’re selling cheap products, it’s more difficult to make free shipping profitable, so it works best when selling luxury items.
  • Flat rate offer the same shipping rate, no matter the product. Flat rate shipping is very useful for marketing. You could promise ‘$5 shipping anywhere in…’ and choose your state, or even select the entire US.
    • Right for: Stores that sell lots of similar items.
  • Real-time quotes – calculate shipping prices by factors including order size, weight and destination. Customers like this option because it’s honest and transparent.
    • Right for: Stores that sell products with different weights. It’s good for large items that would be expensive to ship for free, as you can cover your costs without charging too much.
  • Store or local pickup invite customers to pick up their order as an additional option. This is great for offering the personal, face-to-face business experience.
    • Right for: Stores selling large products with a limited shelf life, or stores with a recognizable local presence.
  • Rate by order price – for example, offer reduced shipping if customers spend a certain amount. It’s a great way to reward high-value customers.
    • Right for: Stores with expensive items or lots of loyal customers.

Shipping Services

By using online store builders, you can offer customers different levels of shipping.

If a customer wants, they can pay more to have their order delivered faster.

You’ll need to pick a courier to deliver your products safely to your customers. Popular couriers include:

  • USPS
  • Canada Post
  • FedEx

Ecommerce website builders like Shopify and BigCommerce have partnerships with popular and reliable couriers. This makes your life much easier, as it gives you access to shipping discounts and real-time shipping rates.

 Shipping: Final Checklist

We know that’s A LOT of information to take in.

So here’s a checklist of the shipping essentials you should have sorted out when building your online store:

  1. Added a shipping origin address
  2. Partnered with a courier (Fedex, for example)
  3. Entered package weights
  4. Selected a shipping option (free shipping, for example)
9

Preview, Test… And Publish Your Online Store

You should now have added your products, customized your store’s template, set up your payment and shipping, and sorted out your store’s settings.

You’re very nearly there…

But there’s one important step to go before you’ve finished creating your online store: testing it.

Ecommerce website builders make it very easy to test and preview your online store before publishing.

Testing your store is the best way to make sure you’re satisfying your customers’ needs.

When previewing and testing your store, here’s the key things to check:

Does Your Checkout Work?

When testing your store, pay special attention to the checkout process. Make sure:

  • Orders work across all payment methods
  • Your shipping options and charges are correct and visible
  • The items and price in your cart are correct
  • Discounts/promotions apply
  • Taxes show once a shopper enters their location

The simplest way to test your checkout is to place an order and then immediately refund yourself. This is also a good chance to test the refund process, as well as your email notifications.

Do Your Store’s Functions Work?

Next up is making sure your store actually works.

Make sure any clickable button or link is working. Hammering away on their mouse with no reward will frustrate your customers.

Your navigation bar should be easy to maneuver. It should feel like sailing around a calm lake, not swerving around potholed roads with lots of dead ends!

Ask friends and family to test your site and get some feedback.

Have You Checked Your Store’s Content?

Many merchants make the mistake of launching an online store that’s full of content errors. This makes your store look amateurish.

Go through your store with a fine-toothed comb and check for poor spelling and grammar. This is also a good opportunity to check all your pictures – make sure they’re all optimized for site speed and accurately promote the product.

Does Your Store Work On Mobile?

By 2021, mobile commerce is expected to account for 54% of all ecommerce sales. In short, it’s vital that your site works perfectly no matter what device your customer is using.

This is one of the biggest benefits of using an online store builder. They make it easy to check what your store looks like on different devices, as well as how it functions.

Your store needs to be responsive on mobile, tablet and desktop. You can test this in your builder’s preview mode, and toggle to the mobile icon to start experimenting.

Have You Tested Your Store On Different Browsers?

Your customers won’t only use different devices – they’ll use different browsers too. Online store builders support most major browsers, including Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer, so you should be fine.

Just take five minutes to check and make sure!

Sort Out Your Store’s Settings

Before you hit publish, the last thing to do is double check your store’s settings! Without proper settings, your store won’t be able to run properly.

Head to the Store Settings section of your platform and fill out your preferences for each of the following:

  • Language: select the language your customers will see onsite
  • Currency: choose your preferred currency
  • Timezone: setting the right timezone helps track your orders
  • Address: display your contact information
  • Store Name: as it’ll appear on your store’s emails, homepage and online searches
  • Contact Details: a public phone number and a customer-facing email address
  • Order settings: set whether to add tax to your product price or not
  • Product settings: you can decide which information to display to the customers, like product weight or rating

If you’re not sure what these and other more obscure settings mean, ask your online store builder’s support team.

How To Build An Online Store: Recap

To summarize our 9 step process for creating an online store:

  1. Pick an ecommerce website builder
  2. Choose a pricing plan that works for you
  3. Get a domain name for your online store
  4. Pick an ecommerce template/theme
  5. Customize your site
  6. Add your products
  7. Set up payment methods
  8. Sort out your shipping settings
  9. Preview, test and publish your online store

Ecommerce website builders are very intuitive, easy to use, and help you launch a store without any technical coding knowledge or designing skills.

Start your online store-building journey with one of the top online store builders listed below:

Best all-around ecommerce platform

4.7 out of 5

Top Choice
Ease Of Use

4 out of 5 stars

Design Flexibility

4 out of 5 stars

Customer Score

5 out of 5 stars

Help and Support

4.5 out of 5 stars

Value For Money

3.5 out of 5 stars

Website Features

4.5 out of 5 stars

Sales Features

5 out of 5 stars

Best website builder with ecommerce functionality

4.3 out of 5

Ease Of Use

4 out of 5 stars

Design Flexibility

4 out of 5 stars

Customer Score

4.5 out of 5 stars

Help and Support

5 out of 5 stars

Value For Money

4.5 out of 5 stars

Website Features

4 out of 5 stars

Sales Features

3 out of 5 stars

Most scalable ecommerce platform

4.2 out of 5

Ease Of Use

3.5 out of 5 stars

Design Flexibility

3.5 out of 5 stars

Customer Score

3.5 out of 5 stars

Help and Support

3.5 out of 5 stars

Value For Money

4 out of 5 stars

Website Features

4.5 out of 5 stars

Sales Features

4.5 out of 5 stars

How To Build An Online Store: FAQs

Which is the best online store builder?

Our independent research found Shopify was the best overall ecommerce platform, combining ease of use with a range of powerful selling tools. For more specifics on what to choose, Squarespace has the sleekest templates, BigCommerce is best for scaling businesses, and Wix gives you the most creative control.

Does Wix have ecommerce features?

Yes, Wix comes with some impressive ecommerce tools. It’s free to make an online store with Wix, but you will need to upgrade to an ecommerce plan to actually sell products. This means you’ll need to be on at least the Business Basic plan costing just $20 per month.

Which is the cheapest ecommerce platform?

BigCartel is the only platform we’ve tested which offers a free plan. However, there are much better online store builder options that won’t break the bank – Shopify and BigCommerce offer free trial periods and price plans starting from just $29 and $29.95 p/m, respectively.

Do online store builders charge transaction fees?

The truth is, some do and some don’t. Wix and BigCommerce don’t charge transaction fees on any of their ecommerce plans. Shopify charges transaction fees, unless you choose to use its in-house payment gateway Shopify Payments. It all depends on finding one which works for you!

Are there other alternative to using an ecommerce website builder?

Of course, using an ecommerce website builder like Shopify or BigCommerce isn’t the only option. You can sell through an online marketplace like Etsy, or if you have coding skills you could use a self-hosted platform like WordPress or Magento. Check out our comparison of Shopify vs Etsy to see which is the right selling choice for you, or read our review of the Best Ecommerce Software to find out more about hosted vs self-hosted platforms.

How long does it take to create an online store?

It depends on which platform you choose. Building a Shopify or Wix store takes just a few hours, while BigCommerce has a steeper learning curve, so it takes around a day. Coding your own online store from scratch on platforms like WooCommerce will take much longer.

Website Builder Expert aims to provide you with honest data. That’s why we conduct our own research and obtain direct, personal insight.

The purpose of this study was to identify what the preventative barriers are to getting online. We surveyed a total of 1,881 individuals – the majority of which resided within the US – while additional results were captured from a global audience.

Please note: the insight contained within this article is for general information purposes only. For further information regarding the study, please contact Website Builder Expert directly via email at info@websitebuilderexpert.com

88 comments

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  • Avatar
    Anjaneya
    Good, you have explained about online store in a clear way. Thanks!
  • Avatar
    Victoria Grace
    Hi, Jeremy It's a pleasure reading your articles. Keep up providing us with more and more great articles like this one. However, from my point of view, one of the most important aspects of a successful online store is an effective call to action. Inviting your visitors to purchase your product or service requires a straightforward and easy to fill checkout form.
  • Avatar
    Helloman
    For domain name, I prefer to buy it at another company. It happens all the time, Webhosting companies and Website builders are like your landlord, they can hold your Website hostage when the money issue or services get into some sort of disagreement. If your domain is hosted somewhere else, you can just ask that domain company to point your domain and move your Website to another webhosting co. in the future without much hassle.
  • Avatar
    sharon
    I am an SEO and have handled everything online over the years, but for my own e-comm start-up I too was considering getting a custom design and hiring an SEO Writer to do the marketing for me. However after reading your post I think I’ll try to do as much stuff as possible by myself, specially at the early stages of business development.
    1 reply
    • Charlie Carmichael
      Charlie Carmichael
      Hi Sharon, Thanks for your comment. We're glad to hear you found the article useful, best of luck with the business development! Thanks, Charlie
  • Avatar
    Helen
    Thank you for a really comprehensive guide to building an online store. You answered a lot of my questions in a really simple way. For the first time I actually feel I can achieve what I want to do. Thank you.
    1 reply
    • Lucy Carney
      Lucy Carney
      Hi Helen, Thank you for sharing your feedback. I'm glad you found it so helpful! Best of luck achieving your goals - feel free to share it if you think others would find it useful too. Thanks for reading, Lucy
  • Avatar
    Parth Desai
    Thanks for sharing and glad to see that you shared a really effective article with us.
  • Avatar
    Scott Ginsberg
    Cool post, thanks for publishing! Launching an ecommerce store from scratch depends on many factors. But you can be sure to go from zero to live in a way that suits your business best if you choose well For example, if you are an enterprise brand that's replatforming and getting into a new website. That means you likely have significant historical systems and high customization needs. In which case, Shopify may not be the best fit. You will want to build the site on your own using platforms like Magento or DemandWare. Both are worth a look for such a project, but only if your company has a strong dev team and enough capital to build and maintain a site on such a robust platform. Hope that’s useful for ya. Thanks!
  • Avatar
    Deepak
    Thank you. Nice article. By the way, if you want to build an online store at minimum cost then this link is really helpful - Cartment.
    1 reply
    • Fred Isaac
      Fred Isaac
      Thanks for the comment Deepak!
  • Avatar
    GolanManor
    Wow this site is awesome. The pricing, promotion and product selection is really great! Perhaps these products at Get It Im can complement your product line up. Something for mom? Your site is worth recommending to our growing followers.
    1 reply
    • Fred Isaac
      Fred Isaac
      Thanks for the comment!
  • Avatar
    rajvishah
    nice article.thank you so much for sharing with us.
    1 reply
    • Fred Isaac
      Fred Isaac
      Hi Rajvisha, thank you for the comment! Glad you like our content.