How to Build an Online Store 2018 | Start Selling Online Today

Last updated on June 4, 2018

how to build an online storeIf you’re on this page, I think you’ll agree with me when I say:

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.

What you do need to know is what tools to use and how to use them.

Learning how to create an online store from scratch can be daunting (we know from experience). We wanted to build an online store for our business so that it would provide us with a full-time income. But when it came down to it, we had no clue where to start! That’s why…

…we’ve written this post, so the same thing doesn’t happen you.

How do you add products? What about shipping costs? How will your customers pay?

We’ll answer these common headaches (and more) in this guide.

We’ve focused on building an online store using ecommerce store builders. We’ll show you how to:

  • Pick the best ecommerce platform for your online store
  • Build an online store using your chosen ecommerce platform
  • Test and preview your online store

Follow our steps and by the end you will have a functioning online store.

Ecommerce platforms are the easiest, cheapest and quickest way to build an online store. Our top three are Shopify, Wix and BigCommerce. These builders power millions of stores built by ordinary web users like you and me, so you’ll be in good company.

  • You don’t need any coding knowledge
  • You can stop using the service whenever you want
  • And you can sign up to a free trial before you commit to buying

In this guide I’m going to show you the best way to create an online store. Whether you want to build a store for your business, or sell online for a bit of extra income, you’re in the right place.  These store builders are used by some of the biggest brands in the world. Just take a look at this household sportswear company that’s used Shopify to create its online store…

Shopify Example Store Gymshark
Just like some of the biggest brands in America, you can use ecommerce platforms to create your dream online store. Take a look at this example from Shopify-built Gymshark.

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

1

Find Your Perfect Online Store Builder

To start an online store, step 1 is to pick the right online store builder.

We’re assuming that you’ve worked out the essentials of your business. You know your store’s name. You know what you’re going to sell.

These details matter, but don’t get too hung up on them right now, because they could all change as your business grows.

I can’t emphasize this enough:

The most important thing is to launch your store and get online. With any of our ecommerce platforms, you’ll be able to make changes when you need to.

Seeing as you’re investing your money, you probably want to know you’re getting it right?

That’s only natural.

These ecommerce platforms cost as little as $17/month to use. If your store is making sales, this will soon seem like a small price to pay. They also offer free trial periods, so you can test them before signing up (we’ve got more on this later).

If you’re ready to get building, you can compare our top three ecommerce platforms for making an online store in our comparison chart below:

Best Ecommerce Website Builder
Top Choice

5 out of 5

Template Design

5 out of 5 stars

Ease of Use

5 out of 5 stars

Features & Flexibility

5 out of 5 stars

Popularity

5 out of 5 stars

Pricing

5 out of 5 stars

Best For Small Businesses

4.5 out of 5

Template Design

4.5 out of 5 stars

Ease of Use

5 out of 5 stars

Features & Felxibility

4 out of 5 stars

Popularity

4 out of 5 stars

Pricing

4 out of 5 stars

Best Large Business Website Builder

4.5 out of 5

Template Design

4.5 out of 5 stars

Ease of Use

4.5 out of 5 stars

Features & Felxibility

4.5 out of 5 stars

Popularity

4 out of 5 stars

Pricing

4 out of 5 stars

Why Should You Use Online Store Builders?

They are a one-stop-shop for learning how to build an online store from scratch. Think of them like real-life builders that help you set up your brick-and-mortar store.

Shopify, Wix and BigCommerce all let you:

  • Customize templates to build an online store with your personality
  • Upload products and sort them into categories
  • Connect with different payment options, such as PayPal
  • Manage deliveries with shipping providers

They also manage your online store’s technical needs.

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

Online store builders 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

Yes, but what about Magento or WordPress?

This guide will show you how to start an online store using Shopify, Wix and BigCommerce. 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 technical skill. Or you’ll have to hire a developer, which gets very expensive.

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

Website builders make getting set up online so quick and simple! (Results taken from 1881 survey respondents)

This is why we’re focusing on easy-to-use builders.

The difference between our recommended ecommerce platforms and complex solutions like Magento and WordPress is like the difference between flatpack and handcrafted furniture. With flatpack, you can furnish your room very quickly and without any design skill. Want the quickest route to building your online store? Look no further than our ecommerce platforms.  

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.

How Do You Pick The Right Builder To Create An Online Store?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Different store builders offer different features. And different stores have different needs.

Here’s who Shopify, Wix and BigCommerce are best for:

  • Shopifybest all-round ecommerce store builder. If you have more than 10 products, and need a platform that will scale with your business, Shopify is a great choice.
  • Wixbest for small businesses (it’s the easiest builder to use) Perfect if you have 10 or less products to sell.
  • BigCommercebest ecommerce platform for large businesses.

Prices depend on which builder and plan you choose. None of our online store builders will break your bank. But at this stage, don’t get too caught up on how much Shopify, Wix and BigCommerce cost. Focus on the features you need and which builder offers them.

Our comparison chart gives an at-a-glance view of the best online store builders in the market. It has helped thousands of our readers to find the right builder to start their online store:

Best Ecommerce Website Builder
Top Choice

5 out of 5

Template Design

5 out of 5 stars

Ease of Use

5 out of 5 stars

Features & Flexibility

5 out of 5 stars

Popularity

5 out of 5 stars

Pricing

5 out of 5 stars

Best For Small Businesses

4.5 out of 5

Template Design

4.5 out of 5 stars

Ease of Use

5 out of 5 stars

Features & Felxibility

4 out of 5 stars

Popularity

4 out of 5 stars

Pricing

4 out of 5 stars

Best Large Business Website Builder

4.5 out of 5

Template Design

4.5 out of 5 stars

Ease of Use

4.5 out of 5 stars

Features & Felxibility

4.5 out of 5 stars

Popularity

4 out of 5 stars

Pricing

4 out of 5 stars

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

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

Test Your Online Store Builder

Shopify, Wix and BigCommerce all offer free trial periods. Use them to try out your preferred builder and make sure you made the right choice!

Step two is to sign up for a free trial and experiment. If you’re serious about building a successful online store, this step is essential.

How can you take advantage of a free trial?

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

Don’t let trying to find the “perfect” online store builder stop you from moving forward. In our experience it is much faster and more accurate to give them all a try without feeling you have to commit to one straight away. Keep an open mind.

Each store builder comes with quality customer support. If you want to know how to build an online store from scratch, there’s a lot of help on hand. You can ask an agent for help, or read a ‘how to’ guide.

“Using online store builders’ free trials is like trying on pairs of glasses before you buy them. You can check how they feel and what the color and style looks like, and how easy you find using them.”

You need a builder you’re comfortable using and that can meet your ambitions for your store. The easier you find it to use, the less time you spend fixing errors and the more time marketing your store.

When playing around in Shopify, Wix or BigCommerce, ask yourself:

  • Is it easy to choose a template 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?

The key here is to find out which builder you find the most natural to use and is the best fit for the type of store you want to build. Don’t move on from step 2 until you’ve found a builder that’s easy to use.

3

Choose The Best Plan For You

Once you’ve tested your builder and are happy with your choice, step 3 is to sign up to the right plan so you can get building.

Different levels of plan 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 plans.  

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.

The best part?

Plans start from $17 a month. That’s less than an extra large pepperoni pizza from Domino’s!

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.

We’ve compared the features available on the basic and advanced plans of our top ecommerce platforms below. 

Our chart looks at three of the most important ecommerce features: customer support, abandoned cart recovery and SSL certificates. For a full list of features, follow the link to the store builder’s page.

Features
Basic
Advanced
Premium Support
Cart Recovery
Free SSL Certificate
Premium Support
Cart Recovery
Free SSL Certificate
Premium Support
Cart Recovery
Free SSL Certificate

Not sure what the features in our chart mean to you?

Let me explain…

Chart Features Explained:

1. Premium Support

When you make an online store, the more support you get the better. That’s why we included it in our chart. The premium support available from our online store builders is like employing a full-time business partner. Shopify, Wix and BigCommerce have support available over phone, Live Chat and email.

2. Abandoned Cart Recovery

This is a hugely important feature. We’ll go into greater detail in just a moment, but here’s the lowdown: cart recovery emails customers that have got all the way to your checkout but then given up on the purchase. BigCommerce claims this can help you recover 15% of lost sales. Think of it like sealing up the leaks in a holey in bucket.   

3. SSL Certificate 

We’ve got more on this later, but SSL certificates secures the data travelling through your store. It stands for Secure Sockets Layer and means your customers look at your site in HTTPS. The safer customers feel on your store, the more likely they are to spend money.

Still not sure what plan is right to help you start your online store?

Pause for a second.

Now ask yourself these questions:

How Many Products Do You Plan To Sell?

If you’re not planning to sell a lot of products, a simpler plan with lower rates may be suitable.

The more products you sell, the more upgrading to an advanced plan could make 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.There’s no product limit on any of BigCommerce or Shopify’s main plans. But you may want to upgrade to get Abandoned Cart Recovery if your store’s generating a lot of traffic.

Wondering why this matters?

Try this top tip to increase your sales…

Remember, Abandoned Cart Recovery emails customers that have left your store’s checkout and invites them to revisit the sale. You can recoup sales that may have slipped through the cracks! Not something most people think about when researching how to build an online store from scratch.

How Much Do You Want To Pay?

Our three top-rated builders’ ecommerce plans start from $17 for Wix eCommerce.

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

Shopify Basic and Standard BigCommerce both cost under $30 a month. If products are flying off your virtual shelves, these sums will seem very trivial.

Think of it like setting up your brick-and-mortar store. You invest your time and money in establishing your shop. The same is true for your online store. But the good news is it’s much cheaper and less risky. You pay a transparent monthly fee, so if things don’t work out straight away you haven’t wasted a load of money. And because it costs far less to set up online, the return on your investment can be much higher!

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

Keep in mind that with BigCommerce you must upgrade to a more expensive plan once you hit a set sales threshold. The limits are high, so if you’re selling small volumes this won’t trouble you.

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.

This could be better analytics on Shopify’s advanced plans. The more you know about your customer, the better you can make your store. Another example would be greater customer segmentation on BigCommerce’s Plus plan. You can keep loyal customers coming back by setting up a rewards programme.

There’s no blanket answer to what plan should you choose.

Start with deciding what you want from your store, and what features you need to get there.

Are you looking to scale your ecommerce store into a full-time income? Or are you happy to sell a small number of products for a bit of extra cash?

Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, compare what your builder’s plans have to offer.

For example, a core business goal might be to boost sales during quiet periods (like weekends). If so, you’ll want a plan that offers email newsletter integration.

Use our comparison table below to get started:

Compare our top three 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.

4

Get A Great Domain Name For Your Store

Now you’ve chosen an ecommerce platform, and signed up to the right plan, it’s time to build your online store.

First up, you need to pick a domain name.

Hang on, what is a domain name anyway? 

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

Builders like Wix do offer free plans, but there’s a catch. You’re tied to a Wix subdomain name. For example, it would look like this:

https://cheaptrainers.wix.com.

This is why free plans are not suitable for businesses. It hurts your credibility if your store doesn’t have its own name. An important lesson in how to create an online store is: the less your customers trust you, the less likely they are to buy from you.

You can buy a domain name through Shopify, Wix and BigCommerce. Prices for a custom domain name cost around $10 to $20 per year.

A good domain name is key to launching a successful online store. It builds trust with customers and helps establish your brand. Think of it as your online identity!

4 Tips When Choosing A Domain Name:

  • Pick the right country code – if you’re going to sell to US or international customers, choose a .com domain. Country-specific codes are suitable if you’re selling to consumers in that country. Avoid .cc addresses because they’re associated with spammers.
  • 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. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, don’t feel like you have to use the same name. Your domain name could refer to your business’s concept. 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. And you’ll attract new customers who happened to be searching for T-shirts. If you want to know how to build an online store, thinking about where your customers are coming from is very important.

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

Choosing And Buying 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. This might be a company like GoDaddy or 123-Reg. Your builder will take care of the admin.

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 your domain with your builder. It makes learning how to build an online store from scratch more straightforward!

5

Pick and Customise Your Ecommerce Template

Now you’ve chosen an online store builder and secured your dream domain name, the fun can begin.

Step 5 is to pick and customize a template (or theme).

“Think of a template as a showroom for a property. You start with all the structure and furniture that you need. But you’re now free to tweak the style and change the layout. You’ve got the base to work with, but you can still make it your own.”

With templates, you can make your site look good without being a design expert. Or touching any codes! If you’re creating a new online store, we recommend you don’t hire a website designer.

Don’t base your decision on color or font. You can change these if you find a new style you want, or if your business needs change. Many online store builders let you edit your template if your current one isn’t working.

Selecting and editing themes in Shopify, Wix and BigCommerce is easy. All you have to do is select a template from your builder’s marketplace. Then head to your store’s admin tool to start customizing. Play around with your theme’s color scheme, font and number of products displayed.

You can add logos or design assets you’ve already got for your online store to your template.

Here’s the bottom line:

Finding the best theme for your store is important. Your colors, style, feel all reflect your brand and your products. If you look professional and stylish, you will make more sales. Look dodgy, and your performance will suffer.

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

Here’s one we made used on our Shopify store:

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

Let’s run through some key questions to consider when choosing a template for your online store…

How Do You Pick The Right Template?

OK, so you need a template for your online store. But there are so many to choose from, how do you pick the right one?”

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 with some detail…

What Features Do You Want Your Store To Have?

Do you need maps, galleries or an about us page? What about videos on your homepage?

How to make an online store successfully needs planning. 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. You can narrow down your options to find the theme that best suits your needs.

Don’t waste time with a template that doesn’t have the features you need. Template features are a key part of how to build an online store. They give your site the functionality it needs to be successful.

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 in no doubt when they land on your homepage what type of business you are.

Your homepage could be a slideshow of images, a video or a simple image with some text on top. 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 with more text.

How Do You Want Your Customers To Navigate Your Store?

Your navigation bar is how customers will move around your store.

It’s very important shoppers can find what they’re looking for. A smooth navigation bar that works is like a freshly-laid road with clear signs. Your customers will be able to move around your site 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. The more clicks customers have to make, the less likely they are to buy.

Knowing how to start an online store successfully is all about putting your customers first.

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.

Choose a background color that’s inoffensive. Your customers should be able to read your navigation bar. 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 for customers.

Shopify Homepage Navigation Example
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 & Customizing Themes on Shopify, Wix and BigCommerce:

Choose From Shopify Themes

Choose From Wix Themes

Choose From BigCommerce Themes

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 your builder’s templates, step 6 is to add your products.

After all, selling products and making money online is what this is all about isn’t it?

Shopify_product_page_example_Zoku
Using an online store builder, you have great control over your product pages. Here’s some inspiration from ice pop mold maker Zoku

The main things you need to add a product are:

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

Different 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).

Check each builder’s limit and make sure it can meet your business’s needs.

Below, we focus on the core aspects of adding products to your online store. Read on to get up, running and selling.

The three key ingredients to uploading great products are:

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

How Do You Write Winning Product Descriptions?

Your product descriptions are a key part of convincing customers to buy. Make sure your copy is clear and legible and double check for spelling mistakes.

Your descriptions should be eye-catching, but also describe the product. Using the manufacturer’s descriptions as a reference point helps provide clarity. Your customers should get the information they need.

Three things to avoid if you want to write good product descriptions:

  • Complex jargon
  • Clichés
  • Long sentences

Highlight the product’s benefits by explaining how it can help your customers. But make sure you don’t misrepresent the product. That leads to refunds and negative reviews.

Here’s an example of a good product description:

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

The retailer presents the technical feature of their tool box. Then it explains the benefit to the shopper.

Have one eye on 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, for example. Include ‘vintage’ and ‘trainers’ in the description.

How Do You Take The Best Product Images?

Product images are crucial to selling your products.

Why?

Think of them like the front cover of a book. Even if your book is well written, people are unlikely to pick it up if the front cover is poor quality. In the same way, your product might be great, but no one will buy it if the image is poor.

Like your description, your image should accurately reflect the product.

Imagine if you picked up a book because you liked the cover design, but the story had nothing to do with it. You’d be angry and go back to the bookshop for a refund.

Your product image should not include features that the customer isn’t going to get.

So how do you choose the best images for your ecommerce store products?

Here are a few rules of thumb 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 Paint to resize your images to the same dimension.
  • Take your own photos – Use a good smartphone (like an iPhone 8) 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. The more you can show off your product, the more likely you are to make a sale.

But wait, there’s more.

Last (but by no means least), ask: are your product images optimized? Images are a great way of showing off your products. But the more images your store has, the longer it can take to load.

Customers don’t like to wait. If you need a lot of images, that’s fine, but run them through an optimizer before uploading them to reduce their size.

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

What About Building Product Categories?

Now you’ve got top-quality product images and descriptions, what’s next?

Help your customers by collecting related products together in categories.

Sorting products into categories makes the shopping experience more enjoyable for your customers.

Think of it like your local supermarket. Supermarkets arrange products so customers can find what they need. Bread is next to the sandwich filler. Pasta next to sauce. It makes sense. Customers are happy and spend more money.

Your ecommerce store should be the same. People should be able to see where everything is. If they can, they’re more likely to reward you with orders!

Shopify products page my store
Using a powerful ecommerce platform you can break your products up into collections. This helps your customers browse your store and find the products they want to buy!

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

This is a key part of grasping how to build an online store.

Say you sell baseball equipment. You could split products into: clothing; bats and balls and shoes. When splitting up your products into categories, think ‘what would the customer want?’

You’ve heard this advice a million times but it’s worth repeating.

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:

    1. Price Range – displaying price ranges on your category page adds clarity and prevents customers browsing products they can’t afford.
    2. Featured Products – a good way of leading your customers down your preferred shopping path.
    3. Filtering Options – let your customers filter by size, price or brand name. The more options you can give them, the happier they’ll be and the happier they are, the more money they will spend.
    4. 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.
Shopify Example Harry's Product Page
Using an ecommerce platform, you can create stylish pages for your products. Here’s some inspiration from Shopify-powered shaving retailer Harry’s.
7

Set Up Payment

You should now have added your products to your online store. You’re ready to start selling and making money.

But how are customers going to pay you?

Step 7 is setting up your payment method. This is a crucial part of converting a browser into a buyer.

Ecommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce make this easy for you. They have optimized the process so you can hit the ground running with the best (and most effective) payment options.

You’ll make more money if you make it easier for your customers to pay! Think of it like real-life shopping. If you go into a shop and they only take check, how likely are you to purchase? Ecommerce platforms help by connecting you to multiple different payment options like PayPal, Visa, Amex and Mastercard (as we will find out in a moment).

But first, what the heck is a payment method anyway?

A payment method is how you collect money from your customers. Online store builders let you accept payment through several different methods (one of the reasons they’re perfect if you’re wondering how to start an online store).

People like to choose how they pay. The more options you can give them, the more sales you will be able to make. Once you’ve set up a payment method, your customers will see it when they get to the checkout.

Here’s what you need to know when adding payment options to your online store:

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. The bank accepts payments for you and channels the money into your business bank account.
  2. Payment gateway packages – you use all-in-one software. The software that connects your store’s shopping cart to the card processing network. Top payment gateways for small stores include PayPal. Builders let you partner with hundreds of third-party gateways. You can accept cards from all over the world.
  3. Simplified credit card payment processing – you use a service that integrates with your store’s checkout. An example is Shopify’s own payments gateway, powered by Stripe. The shopper doesn’t have to leave your site to complete a buy.

How Do I Choose The Best Payment Method?

Do your homework first.

Let’s dig a little deeper.

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

Analyse your market (retail if you sell clothes, for example). Check which payment options your competitors are offering. Do your best to copy them. There’s no shame in learning from the best.  

Find out where your customers are from. If you have customers from different countries, make sure you meet each nationalities’ 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. It would be like buying a new piece of furniture without doing measurements. Sure it looks nice, but how do you know it’s going to fit?

What About Security?

Payments are secure because of the certificates supplied by your builder.

Remember, Shopify, Wix and BigCommerce all provide SSL Certificates. This is a massive benefit to using online store builders.

Let me explain.

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It’s a certificate that means shoppers can view your site in HTTPS. This protects data communicated through your store. You will get a green padlock in the URL next to your store.

Have another look at the homepage for the 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. They know their data is secure.
  2. Google will favor your store with higher rankings. It favours HTTPS sites. As we’ve said, the higher you can rank for key product searches, the more sales you can make.

With Shopify, for example, you get access to over 100 payment gateways. These include Visa and PayPal. Your security certificates come included with your Shopify shopping cart. Customers’ data gets the same level of protection as a bank.

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 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.

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 do this you need to set up your shipping settings (step 8). To understand how to build an online store, you need to understand shipping options.

Keep reading and you’ll find out how.

Different builders come with different shipping options. Play around in your builder’s settings and admin tool to find settings that suit your business. You can partner with major delivery companies like UPS and Fedex. And you can integrate your store with fulfillment apps to expand your shipping functionality.

To begin shipping products, you’ll need to add an origin address and package types.

Below, we cover the boxes you need to tick to set up shipping on your store.

What Is Your Shipping Origin Address?

Important if you ship products from an address that’s not your office. 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 countries and regions (zones) you ship to. You can charge different rates to customers depending on which zone they’re in.

Say you’re a US-based store. You can charge cheaper shipping to customers in a state closer to your distribution center.

Your store builder’s admin page will show which zones you ship to. It will also show your rates.

Wix online store setting up shipping
A key stage of learning how to make an online store is setting up your store's shipping settings

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 available (and what business they’re right for):

So what’s the answer?

  • Free shipping – if you can afford it, free shipping is a fantastic selling point. More and more internet shoppers expect free delivery. 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 at high volume, it’s more difficult to make free shipping profitable. It’s easier if you’re selling luxury items.
  • Flat rate – offer the same shipping rate, no matter the product. Very useful for marketing. You could promise ‘$5 shipping anywhere in…’ and choose your state or even the entire US. But do your homework and make sure you can afford it. You need to figure out how much it costs you on average to ship an order. This is good practice for any ecommerce store owner.
    • Right for: Stores selling 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 transparent. They feel they’re in control and know you aren’t inflating shipping fees to squeeze money out of them. They may reward you with more sales.
    • Right for: stores that sell products with different weights. Also good for large items that would be expensive to ship for free. 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 items or products with 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.

We like how easy ecommerce platforms make it for you to understand every aspect of how to create an online store, including shipping. If you’re in any doubt about which shipping option is the best for your store, don’t hesitate to ask your builder’s customer support.

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.

 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

Sort Out Your Store's Settings

It’s not glamorous, but a big part of building an online store is sorting out your store’s settings. Without proper settings, your store won’t be able to run properly.

Your settings are like the boxes you need to tick to open your physical store.

When you open a shop, you need a till, a name above the shop window, an address and so on. You could open your shop without any of these, but it would look empty and amateurish.

Let’s get to it…

Head to the Store Settings section of your builder’s admin and fill out your preferences for each of the following (we’ve broken them down into essential and non-essential tasks)

Essential…

  • Language: select the language your customers will see on your store.
  • 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, online searches.
  • Contact Details: a public phone number and a customer-facing email address. Providing contact details is a great trust signal.

Non-essential…

  • Order settings: set whether to add tax to your product price or not.
  • Product settings: you can decide what information to display to the customers. This includes aspects like product weight or rating.

Feel a bit overwhelmed?

Don’t panic.

We know there’s a lot of information to take in when figuring out how to build an online store.

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

Shopify Store Settings
When building an online store, you need to get to grips with your ecommerce platform's settings.
10

Preview, Test...And Publish Your Online Store

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

You might be thinking you’re ready to launch your online store and start selling online?

You’re very nearly there…

But there’s one important step to go before you know how to create an online store…

…testing your online store.

Launching your online store without testing is like throwing a concert without rehearsing. You don’t know if all the notes sound right. You don’t know if the instruments work, or if the tunes are right for the audience.

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

You can see what your customers see. Testing your store is the best way you can make sure you’re satisfying your customers’ needs.

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

Does Your Checkout Work?

An online store without a working checkout would be like a shop with no till. 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
  • Tax shows 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 and email notifications. If you’ve followed our steps on how to create an online store, everything should work perfectly. But how will you know unless you test it?

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 feedback.

Have You Checked Your Store’s Content?

Would you spend your money at a store full of spelling and grammar mistakes?

A lot of people wouldn’t.

Many merchants make the mistake of launching an online store full of content errors. They get so caught up testing buttons and placing test orders that they don’t spot spelling mistakes. But this is the kind of thing that can make your store look amateurish.

When working out how to build an online store, this is one of the easiest steps to trip up on.  

Go through your store with a fine tooth comb and check for bad spelling and grammar. This is a good opportunity to check all your pictures. Make sure they are optimized for site speed and accurately promote the product.

Does Your Store Work On Mobile?

More people are spending money on mobile than ever. If you’re learning how to build an online store nowadays, your site needs to work 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, and how it functions on different devices.

Your store needs to be responsive on mobile, tablet and desktop. In your builder’s preview mode toggle to the mobile icon to start testing.

Have You Tested Your Store On Different Browsers?

Don’t put your feet up once you know your store works well on mobile.

Your customers won’t only use different devices, they’ll use different browsers. Online store builders support most major browsers. This includes Google, Firefox and Internet Explorer, so you will be fine.

That said, it’s still worth taking five minutes to make sure!

Once you’ve previewed and tested your store, you’re ready to publish! You’re live and can start selling online.

PS. You should also be able to teach other small business owners how to build an online store too!

11

Conclusion: How To Build An Online Store

Learning how to build an online store to sell products online is not a straightforward 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 turned out not to matter as much as we’d thought.

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.

We hope this guide has shown you the important things to consider when starting an online store.

Follow our steps and learning how to build an online store will be easy. You’ll be online and selling in no time at all!

To get you started, we recommend you use Shopify, Wix or BigCommerce.

All three store builders are very intuitive to use and help you launch a store without any technical or design know-how.

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

Start you online store-building journey with one of the free trials listed below:

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

Once you’re up and running, read our resources on building a successful ecommerce store.

 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 

Jeremy

About Jeremy

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

About Jeremy

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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Leave a Reply

83 Responses to How to Build an Online Store 2018 | Start Selling Online Today

  1. #

    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.

    • Fred Isaac
      #

      Thanks for the comment Deepak!

  2. #

    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.

    • Fred Isaac
      #

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. #

    Awesome Article, I am trying out to build my own online store with the Google Sheet.
    Please check out this video if you are interested : https://youtu.be/1GfxFFv10iQ

    • Fred Isaac
      #

      Thanks Ben, glad you found the guide useful.

  4. #

    nice article.thank you so much for sharing with us.

    • Fred Isaac
      #

      Hi Rajvisha, thank you for the comment! Glad you like our content.

  5. #

    Hi Jeremy

    Thank you for the wealth of knowledge in your article, its great.

    Are you able to shed some light or provide any links for me to find out how I can source someone else’s products to sell? I would prefer to sell someone else’s products and get them to ship the products. Is this possible?

    Any information will be great.

  6. #

    Amazing, and detailed content, thanks!

  7. #

    Hi Jeremy,

    You, sir, are AMAZING! I had fallen onto your e-commerce website building guidance article by Divine Intervention, last nigjt. I have been in a tight corner for many months because I cannot afford the multi thousands of dollars to pay for my online Home Decor-Brick a Brack boutique business website.

    Now, I am DELIGHTED to know that I don’t NEED that “one-of-a-kind” website, which I had planned to have to start my passionate online boutique.

    I have read almost everything sine qua non I needed to know (about starting an online store) from your article – I am excited about such discovery. Nevertheless, I am clueless about building any websites. Therefore, I would like to know if you, personally, could build my e-commerce site for me because of your brilliant knowledge vis-a-vis this field.

    Jeremy, I have everyting ready (except the boutique website) to open the online store, including website domain name, written contents, goods/merchandises, and independent contractors… PLEASE, help me out with this matter.

    Jeremy, thank you for sharing such best kept secret business website general information with the public. I hope to hear from you, in a near future. Stay blessed!

    Stargee

    • Tom Watts
      #

      Hi Stargee,

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, it really is good to hear that our content is proving useful to our readers!

      However, we don’t run a website building service through WBE I’m afraid.

      If you would like some additional support then we have a ‘how to build a boutique’ guide which should help you get started!

      Best of luck – I’m sure you’ll do great 🙂
      – Tom

  8. #

    Hey Jeremy,

    You got a nice list of e-commerce development platforms here. Especially, the suggestions are very helpful as to how an entrepreneur should start an online business.

    Thanks for the great post!

    • Tom Watts
      #

      Thanks Riyaz,

      Glad you found the discussion helpful.

      – Tom

  9. #

    Great article! Nice reminder not to sweat the details, just start! Thank you!

  10. #

    Nice Content Jeremy.
    We prefer the wordpress plus wocommerce combination. Its is more customizable, and you need to pay just on time.
    Best regards
    Zsolt from Hungary

  11. #

    I am really glad to see that you shared with us how to build an online store. That is really effective content.

    I want to say that image editing service will give you better conversion rate from your online store. Thanks a lot for sharing this nice content.

  12. #

    Hi Jeremy,

    Thank you! I find your articles and blog very helpful!

    I have a question:

    What if inside the online store I want to put like a quizz to lead customers to the most suitable product for them? is that possible with wix or any of the simple ones (as I just want so sell few articles)?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Jeremy
      #

      Hello Amir,

      For Wix, you can create custom quizzes using one of their apps in their App Market. Just search for “quiz” in their App Market and you’ll find it.

      Jeremy

  13. #

    Hi I am someone who wants to launch an online shop and I found this article very helpful. I was just wondering about taxes and how can to settle it, could you write something about it? Thank you kindly

    • Jeremy
      #

      Hello Dino,

      The ecommerce builders listed above have built in tax calculation features that you can implement so you charge your customers the appropriate taxes. You’ll have to configure the amount of taxes you need to charge, and remit them to the proper government agencies.

      So the online store builders have the tools available for you.

      Jeremy

  14. #

    Let me ask you this… what if I am only interested in selling one type of product? I think my own on-line website would be good, but maybe I should be considering something else. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks,
    Debbie Hill

    • Jeremy
      #

      Hi Debbie,

      The ecommerce builders listed above could be used to sell only one product. Having said that, you probably don’t need more advanced platforms such as Shopify or BigCommerce. So simpler builders such as Wix, Squarespace or Weebly can probably get the job done.

      Jeremy

  15. #

    Excellent article, Jeremy. Can we use these website to build a market place like Amazon with multiple sellers coming on-board? Thanks

    • Jeremy
      #

      Hi Surinder,

      None of these ecommerce builders have the tools to enable you to build a marketplace. Try searching for “marketplace builders” and you should be able to find some options.

      Good luck!

      Jeremy

    • #

      You can use woocommerce in wordpress to build marketplace.
      I have recently created for my client.

  16. #

    Very good insights Jeremy. One important question though: when going online, we go global. It seems these builders have not thought about the multi-language support for these elements: buttons from the purchaser side, home page, products description, check-out, notifications and T&Cs. Any though or recommendation on this?
    Thanks

    • Jeremy
      #

      Hi David,

      There are a few premium apps within Shopify’s App Store that can help turn your online store into multi-language store.

      BigCommerce will be introduce a multi-language function soon, too. Though I’m not sure when that will be released.

      For some of the other drag and drop website builders such as Wix, Squarespace and Weebly, we have more details here on how to help convert your website into multiple languages.

      Hope this helps.

      Jeremy

  17. #

    Good information Jeremy, thanks for it. I’ve spent couple hours looking for some websites like the mentioned in here. Just one question, what do you think about amazon web services for a online store?

    Thanks

    • Jeremy
      #

      Hey Oscar,

      I haven’t used Amazon web services before, so I can’t provide you with personal experiences. But I think they’re just a hosting service so you need to layer in a website builder.

      All the ecommerce store builders highlighted above are “hosted” website builders. So they come with hosting services and maintain it for you, so you don’t have to configure your hosting manually.

      If you use your own hosting service, it becomes a bit more technical. We have more discussions about that here.

      Jeremy

  18. #

    The blog is very good it is very informative, it make feel less concerned about starting my online store. I have being trying to start but I want to make sure I am doing the right thing and not ending up on many more debts and troubles. Thank you very much for all your advises.

    • Jeremy
      #

      Hello Aracely,

      Glad to hear that you’re finding our discussions helpful! Best of luck on building your online store!

      Jeremy

  19. #

    Hi
    Is shopify working well for europe too? or to aks it better, which e commerce do you recomend to sell in europ?
    Thanks

    • Jeremy
      #

      Hello Negin,

      Yes – Shopify does work well for merchants located in Europe. Here is a list of European payment processors that can be integrated with a Shopify store.

      You can use Shopify to set up your store even if you’re located in Europe, and sell to global customers.

      Jeremy

  20. #

    I would recommend shopify too. It’s pricing is fine. The good thing about it is that you can also create Facebook shop with that tool. I have built my first website on wix however. It was also great. I think wordpress is a bit to difficult for anyone not being familiar with html but if you do, it will pay off as buying only the domain won’t charge you as much as both wix and shopify. If you are lacking time, choose shopify or wix.

    • Jeremy
      #

      Thanks for your input, Natasha.

      One tip for domain names it that you don’t have to purchase it through a website building platform (such as Wix or Shopify). You can just purchase one through GoDaddy, then connect it to your website.

      Jeremy

    • #

      Shopify has definitely been the best choice I’ve made, its the easiest setup even a dummy like me can’t mess it up.

      • #

        how much does it cost?

  21. #

    Hi, all of that sounds so exiting. I would love to start my online business and use Facebook, etc.
    My question, do I need to already have a product or service to sale? Can I find some things to sell online, what can I sell and where to find ideas on what to sell? Do I need a warehouse? Can I just have a virtual store and sell to costumers from an online store with online products?

    What can I sell? What is good to sell? Where to find something to sell without having to buy it first?

    Thank you so much. I am ready!!
    Christine 🙂

    • Jeremy
      #

      Hey Christine,

      It definitely helps to have an idea before building a website. You can take a look at this guide on what to sell online.

      Also, Shopify has some great resources, such as this dropshipping guide, which you might find helpful!

      Jeremy

  22. #

    Hi Jeremy,

    I am newbie and interested to open an online store. However, I am facing problem with the sourcing of products to be sell in my store. I have done a lot of researches and realize that none of the e-commerce website builder provide sourcing services. Do you think that it would be an extra advantages for them if they provide sourcing service to customers?

    • Jeremy
      #

      Hey Queenie,

      That’s always a challenge especially if you’re not sure what you want to sell.

      There are various sources / guides online that will give you some ideas on how to source products. We do have a discussion about this topic here as well. Hope it will at least point you in the right direction.

      Jeremy

  23. #

    Nice!

  24. #

    Hi, Thanks for this amazing and informative article that help us a lot to start an online store and boost our business.

    • Jeremy
      #

      Hey Vinit,

      Thanks for letting us know. Glad we were able to be helpful to your business!

      Jeremy

  25. #

    Jeremy,

    I love it how you find time to answer every comment. Your post is obviously insightful.

    • Jeremy
      #

      Thanks, Varun! I appreciate your comment.

      Jeremy

  26. #

    Hello Jeremy. Thank you for such an informative article. I have been thinking of building my own online store for a while now. My question is, Shopify and these other online store builders are based in the U.S., right? I’m living in the United Arab Emirates, so I would guess these builders are not the right option for me?

    • Jeremy
      #

      Hi Noura,

      It should be fine as these ecommerce builders operate worldwide. If you can access their website, then you should be able to sign up for an account.

      The only thing is that you need to ensure that you can find a payment processor that can collect payments for you (since you live in UAE), and can be integrated with Shopify.

      Take a look at this page here. It seems that Shopify can integrate with a few payment processors that works with merchants based in UAE. So looks like you’re in luck!

      Jeremy

  27. #

    I am stuck. I have a lot decided for my new store. Problem is tying to get product on my website to sell customers. Thank you.

    • Jeremy
      #

      Hey Natalie,

      It’s easy to get stuck and become paralyzed with what to do next. What I’d suggest is take a look at our online store builder comparison table here, or take our Quiz here, and pick at least 2 ecommerce web builders to sign up to. They’re free to test out, and just play around with them to see which one you are most comfortable with.

      All of the ecommerce builders we’ve suggested will allow you to upload products and to set up your online store.

      It’s an investment in time, but well worth it to get things moving forward. I understand it can be a bit scary, but it will be well worth it!

      Jeremy

    • #

      Hello Natalie,

      You need to connect with vendors and convince them why joining hands with your store makes sense. Then comes the stage of deciding commission. It’s a long and exhausting process but there is no way to launch a multivendor store without doing this. You can opt for drop shipping if you don’t want to bother with vendors, shipping, and other tiring details. Connect with me on Twitter (@varunforreal) if you have more queries. Thanks.

  28. #

    Hi Jeremy,
    Thank you for the post. Very interesting!!
    I was wondering what do you think of Big Cartel?
    I just started to make my own brand of jewellery, I am making them on the side as I am working full time.
    I need something easy to use with a really nice design and I wont need a thousand of pictures but enough to show 100 or 200 hundreads product maybe later on espacially as I’m doing different colour for each.
    Thank you in advance for your help! Have a good night
    Leslie

    • Jeremy
      #

      Hey Leslie,

      I haven’t used Big Cartel before so I can’t say if I like them or not.

      I do know that they have a 300 product limit and their theme / storefront design selection is very limited (I just checked and they only have 10 designs for you to choose from).

      For instance, Shopify has well over 100 designs for you to choose from. Shopify also offers you a fantastic ecosystem (such as Apps, Experts for hire) so when you are ready to scale up your business later on, these tools / services are available to you.

      Jeremy

  29. #

    Great read! VERY INSIGHTFUL! Thank you!

    • Jeremy
      #

      Thanks Shelley! Glad you found our discussions here helpful.

      Jeremy

  30. #

    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
      #

      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

  31. #

    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
      #

      Hi Maria,

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

      Jeremy

  32. #

    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
      #

      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

  33. #

    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
      #

      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

  34. #

    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
      #

      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

  35. #

    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
      #

      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

  36. #

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

  37. #

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

    Happy New Year!

    • Jeremy
      #

      Thanks Michael! Happy New Year to you too!

      Jeremy

  38. #

    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
      #

      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

  39. #

    Good view of point.

    Noted by Postaci.ro

  40. #

    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
      #

      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

  41. #

    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
      #

      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

    • #

      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
        #

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

        Jeremy

        • #

          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
            #

            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