How To Start an Ecommerce Business Website
Ecommerce is booming – want in? According to Digital Commerce 360, consumers spent more than $860 billion online with US merchants in 2020, up nearly an incredible 45% year over year. With online’s share of total retail sales now above 20%, perhaps you’re thinking of starting an eCommerce business or expanding your physical storefront into the virtual world. Either way, you’re going to need a website.
Starting an Ecommerce Site
There’s no rulebook for starting your own eCommerce website. After all, much of it will depend on your industry, customers, and goals. However, there are some general factors to consider for any eCommerce website.
Choosing Your Domain
If you already have an existing business, choosing a domain name should come easily. If you’re starting a new eCommerce business, choosing a name may require a bit more thought. While you can usually get your domain name from the shopping platform you choose (more on those later), it may be in your best interest to purchase a domain name to build your brand and credibility (e.g., yourstorename.com) without having to share the domain with the shopping platform (e.g., yourstorename.yourchosenplatform.com).
A few other things to consider:
- Make your domain name short, catchy, and easy to spell. This will make it more memorable and easy to navigate to. There are many domain name generators that suggest ideas and tell you how much it’ll cost to buy the domain.
- Don’t limit yourself to a domain name that’s restrictive if you plan to expand your offerings in the future. For example, if you sell shoes but plan to expand into clothing, “
- Make sure your name does not violate any trademarks and that it’s not too similar to a competitor or you could be facing a lawsuit.
Creating an Engaging Website
You know what they say about first impressions. If you’re an online-only company, your website will be a customer’s first touchpoint with your brand so you want to be sure it’s professional-looking (and if you’re expanding to the online world, you want your website to do your brick-and-mortar business proud). Of course, being professional doesn’t mean sacrificing your brand’s unique personality. Personality can help separate you from your competition, but it should still be presented in an engaging and inviting way. Some food for thought when designing your eCommerce website:
- Design in ways that are attractive to your target audience. For example, a site aimed at young urban professionals will probably look very different from a site aimed at rural retirees. So, let your website convey the "tone" of your business through copy, visuals, the presentation of your products and services, etc.
- Use your website to develop or grow your brand by making it visible on all pages and keeping branding elements consistent (logos, colors, font, etc.). This will help your customers recognize your brand from others in the marketplace.
- Make your site user-friendly regardless of your target audience. This means creating an easy-to-navigate site, organizing your products into categories, providing a search function, and being mobile-friendly. Some eCommerce businesses get carried away with heavy objects, large-sized photos, flash files, and video. While these can be great “decorations,” they can become overwhelming and impact loading times. Remember, aesthetics should never compromise site performance and usability.
- The purpose of your website is to turn shoppers into buyers, so create strong calls-to-action (CTAs) throughout to encourage purpose. BUY NOW is an obvious one following a product offering, but if you’re offering deals, be sure to highlight those in your CTA instead (e.g., GET 20% OFF, PURCHASE NOW WITH FREE SHIPPING, etc).
- Unlike a physical store, your customers can’t physically sample or try out your product (though augmented reality is getting us closer). So, create strong product descriptions to help your customers understand the product and get them excited about it. Good product descriptions will also reduce the number of returns you receive because customers will know what to expect.
Wondering how to manage an eCommerce website after creating it? If you set it up using an eCommerce development company it’s not hard to do. Check out our blog to learn more about them.
Choosing Your Online Shopping Platform
As mentioned earlier, you can set up your eCommerce website through an online shopping platform, or you can simply choose a platform that will integrate with your own domain. Of course, the popularity of eCommerce means there are many eCommerce shopping carts out there, so you’ll want to be sure you choose one that’s right for your business. When choosing your eCommerce shopping platform there are ten things to think about.
- Setting up your eCommerce website will require some initial investment. Make sure you choose a platform that’s going to be affordable for you even if you aren’t making a lot of sales right out of the gate (building a presence and getting conversions can take time).
- If you’re just starting out, you probably don’t have an IT expert on hand to help on the technical side of things. So, make sure you choose a platform that’s not overly complex and that has user-friendly backend features. If you do choose a complicated platform, make sure there’s customer support available (it may surprise you to know that not all platforms offer this).
- Some platforms have features that are best for specific products. If your offerings are limited to a specific type, you may want to consider a platform that works best for your product type.
- If you’re paying for a platform, why should you be tracking inventory by hand? Consider looking for a platform that will help with inventory management.
- Look into which platforms your competitors are using and identify what you like or don’t like about their sites. This may help you decide whether to use one of the same platforms – and there’s nothing wrong with that. If it’s working for someone else, make it work for you!
- One of the advantages of most pre-built platforms is that they allow integration with other technologies, as well as with social media sites, which will help increase your customers and your sales. So, be sure the platform you choose offers the integrations you need.
- Can your platform grow with you? Some are made for small businesses and aren’t designed to handle hundreds of SKUs. If you expect to grow quickly, make sure you choose a platform that can accommodate rapid scaling.
- Today, with data breaches frequenting the news, consumers are more aware of security than ever before, and PCI and GDPR compliance are a necessity. If your site becomes compromised, or simply looks shady, you’ll lose customers, sales, and trust – and could even be on the hook for legal costs. So, be sure the platform will help keep your site’s security intact at all times.
- Not all platforms allow third-party payment processors, and it’s best to provide customers with as many payment options as possible.
- What shipping methods are native to your platform? Today’s customers expect fast and affordable shipping options so you’ll want to be sure you can offer that in order to compete effectively.
For more, check out our blog 10 Best eCommerce Platforms for Startups + Pricing Comparisons.
Creating a Search-Friendly Website
Unless you enjoy the brand awareness of say, a Nike or an Apple, most people will find your eCommerce website through search. So, it’s important that your company comes up when someone does a Google search for the types of products you sell. There are a number of ways to make your website more searchable:
- Implement search engine optimization (SEO) strategies on your website by integrating keywords and developing content that will help you rise to the top of searches and help you build an online presence.
- Today, the majority of searches are conducted on mobile devices (more than 60%). In addition, Google now prioritizes websites that fare well on mobile content before considering a website’s desktop version. So, it’s important that you create a mobile-friendly website that will automatically adjust to the smaller screens of phones and tablets.
- Consider making your site a knowledge center and a destination for consumers. This can be done by including well-written and researched content, such as in a blog (this is especially useful if you’re selling a complex product). Including this type of content can improve your search ranking and helps position you as an authority on the type of products you sell.
Engaging with Ecommerce Web Analytics
Tracking net sales is important, but you also want to understand which marketing channel works the best to promote your products, which months have the most and least amount of orders for inventory planning, which products are the most popular with customers, what content is most consumed by customers, and so on. By understanding your site’s web analytics, you will begin to understand your buyer’s behavior and be able to market to them and meet their needs better.
Analytics can specifically help you with the following examples of data:
- Average amount of time your visitors spend on your site
- Number of pages navigated by customers per visit
- Number of visitors that visit your site for the first time
- Percentage of visitors that re-visit your site
- Percentage of visitors of a certain page that make a purchase
- Percentage of visitors that visit a certain page but leave with no purchase
- The profit that you get from a customer throughout the period for which they remain as your customers
- The amount of money you have spent before having made a sale
- And more
With a greater understanding of these values, you’ll be in a better position to determine if there’s an issue with your products, pages, or the site in general. For example, if you have a high bounce rate on a product purchase page, people are viewing it but clicking away without converting. Why? Perhaps because it’s priced too high or the item doesn’t match the product description. That’s something you’ll need to get to the bottom of, but with analytics, you’ll have a starting point.
Managing Shipping and Fulfillment
After you’ve created your eCommerce website and you’re ready for shoppers to become buyers, you’ll need to have a packaging and shipping plan in place. When you’re starting out, you might be managing shipping on your own, with multiple trips to and from your post office or carrier’s office. However, as your business grows and packing and shipping becomes unmanageable, you’ll want to consider a third-party logistics (3PL) company like The Fulfillment Lab.
The Fulfillment Lab offers a wealth of benefits to e-commerce companies (we covered many of them in our blog, 10 Reasons to Use a Fulfillment Center for Your Ecommerce Shipping). With The Fulfillment Lab, you’ll have access to:
- User-friendly, proprietary fulfillment software offering dynamic integration with eCommerce shopping platforms
- Mass-volume fulfillment with international shipping from 14 locations across the globe
- Fulfillment marketing offering customized packaging, inserts, labels, and more to grow brand awareness and cultivate brand ambassadors
- Lighting fast scalability as you grow or during high-demand periods