An ecommerce site is a website that sells products, digital content, and other goods and services to people. Online sales are one of the fastest growing markets in the world, with online merchants opening thousands of new stores every week.
Since there is no sign that this trend is going to end any time soon, you may be considering starting your own ecommerce website. But how?
While you can go out and pay a web developer up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars to build a site for you, it can be done from scratch on your own with just a few steps. There are some popular companies that can help you build an e-commerce website from scratch.
Create A Business Plan
Like any business, in order to have an ecommerce website, you must have a plan in place for your business. What are you going to sell? How are you going to get customers to your site and how are you going to keep them coming back again and again?
By making a business plan, you need a step-by-step guide that you will follow to set up your website. This will help you know exactly what you need to have in place before making your website live.
Unless you know how to code and can create a website by hand from scratch, then you’re going to need software. There are many software companies out there like Adobe DreamWeaver or Microsoft Expression, and depending on what version you buy these programs, can run anywhere from $50 to $300.
But don’t worry if you don’t have that in your budget; you may decide to go with open source options to creating a successful website.
What To Consider In A Website Building Service
Here are some of the most important things to consider when looking for a service to build your website:
Web hosting is one of the most important decisions that you can make for your new site. If you pick a web hosting plan that is small or does not last, then your site can crash, or even disappear. Therefore, make sure that you choose a web hosting service that is reliable. You can learn about the reliability of a web host by reading reviews or asking around in forums.
Accepting payments is crucial for any online business. With the right tools, you’re your customers come back time and time again and increase your profits. Popular payment methods include Paypal (which works with all different currencies), credit cards, and even cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
When it comes to running any business online, you must consider the security of your customers. You do this with integrating an SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, to your website. The technology secures the internet connection and prevents unwanted access to data such as credit card information from being invaded.
If a website URL starts with HTTPS instead of HTTP, then you know the site has an SSL certificate and the site is secure.
Website Builder Platforms
Here are some of the most popular website builder platforms.
Shopify is a leader in the ecommerce industry for a reason. Their website builders, themes, and integrated elements are number one in the market for building clean professional websites from the ground up with just a few simple clicks.
Shopify’s primary focus is ecommerce, so they are specifically geared toward building this kind of site for as little as $29 a month. There is also a ‘Lite’ plan available for only $9 a month, which allows users to add a Shopify buy button to an existing site (which can be on another platform). Importantly, the industry- standard encryption SSL certificate is included with all their sites.
Every Shopify plan includes unlimited free web hosting for all their sites. Global servers offer lightning fast speed with very little downtime. Shopify also offers unlimited bandwidth, automatic site backups, and integrated site infrastructure to make the site easy to navigate.
Shopify allows you to accept most major credit cards, as well as PayPal. It also offers a premium service, Shopify Payments, that eliminates the use of third-party providers so the fees are cheaper.
The platform offers a secure shopping cart for all its websites. Additionally, the function is available to hide the shopping cart if that fits the design of the site or desire of the business.
Shopify offers customers an easy way to build and customize an online store. They offer a free SSL certificate so your customers know their personal information is safe. They also offer multiple different options for accepting payments.
There are some things that are unique to Shopify that may be difficult for individuals used to other platforms. For example, while Shopify does have a blogging platform, it is extremely basic and can be a headache for diehard bloggers that are used to blogging platforms such as WordPress.
WordPress is a blogging platform that offers many different themes and plug-ins so you can add ecommerce functionality to your website. The biggest drawback to WordPress sites is that themes and plug-ins must interact correctly, or you have a problem.
A plug-in might cause problems with your theme, or vice versa. And when you are dealing with customers and selling products, the last thing you want is for your site to be buggy or not working at all.
With a WordPress site, you will need to go find your own web hosting service. WordPress recommends Bluehost, DreamHost, or SiteGround for their customers. Each offers its own benefits, so fully research each one if you decide to go this route.
By using plug-ins, you can accept payments on a WordPress site. There are two main options: the WooCommerce and WPForms. Both of these offer the ability to accept PayPal and Stripe payments. WooCommerce has the ability to increase payment ability with add-ons.
A shopping cart is not automatic in WordPress. However, there are plug-ins that will allow a shopping cart to be added to a site. Additionally, SSL certificates can be added to a WordPress site by using a plug-in; these are not automatically part of every WordPress site.
WordPress is the most popular website platform in the world, so there are lots of options for customization. The sheer number of plug-ins and themes make WordPress a great choice for those looking for the ability to totally customize their e-commerce website.
As you may tell, WordPress by itself does not have much to offer in terms of ecommerce functionality. Everything beyond individual blog posts must be done using plug-ins, which can be extremely frustrating for new users.
Wix has really flooded the market recently with all their adds on TV and YouTube. They claim to make building a website simple and easy. And this is mostly true.
Wix is considered to be a universal website builder, meaning you can build a blog site or an ecommerce site; they do not have any specific focus for their website builders.
And because Wix is not solely focused on providing the best ecommerce platform, the options are somewhat limiting for individuals and businesses that want to grow beyond what Wix may offer.
A Wix website includes web hosting with their websites; however, if you would like to have a personalized domain, you must use their Premium plan. Additionally, you cannot use any other web hosting service with a Wix site.
Wix web hosting is limited to 500 MB of storage and 500MB of bandwidth. For larger ecommerce sites, these limitations are going to cause problems.
Wix uses vCita Online payments to process payments for their websites. Payment buttons, as well as form capture, are options that can be set up for a Wix ecommerce store.
A shopping cart is automatically added to a Wix website and users have the option to customize their shopping cart for a more personalized shopping experience. Wix users also have the option of securing their site with an SSL certificate, but it must be enabled. Also, Wix does not allow a third-party SSL certificate.
Wix includes free web hosting when you use their service. They also offer easy integration with their payment processor, vCita Online. A shopping cart is automatically added to websites and offers multiple customization options.
One thing that Wix has against them is that they lack control and full customization of your website’s design and function although they are admittedly improving at a rapid rate.
Another drawback to Wix is their web hosting; not only do they refuse to allow users to find other web hosting options, the storage and bandwidth are minimal by industry standards. These limitations were fine when Wix focused on blog sites, but for an ecommerce website, these limitations are way too small.
BigCommerce offers a range of options for an ecommerce website. The website builder makes it possible to improve sales by linking with social media, as well as other shopping platforms such as Shopzilla or eBay.
Where BigCommerce falls short is that they are not great for niche websites or small businesses; they target medium to large ecommerce partners. And if you are looking to build a website yourself, then you may not be in those categories…yet!
BigCommerce includes web hosting with their membership plans. You also have the bonus of being able to buy new domain names or use an existing domain name that you already own.
BigCommerce web hosting on the Google Cloud platform features unlimited bandwidth and super-fast speeds. Average connection times are under 10 milliseconds.
The platform has a wide range of options for accepting payments for an e-commerce site. Included by default is PayPal, as well as offline payment methods, such as COD (cash on delivery) and in-store payments. Additional payment gateways can be added for individualized needs.
BigCommerce includes a shopping cart with their payment platforms. Their shopping cart software offers the ability to email customers when they have abandoned items in their carts. This can capture sales from customers who otherwise would have vanished without purchasing.
BigCommerce offers a free SSL certificate with any of their plans. However, there are some added requirements in order to enable the SSL certificate, such as a custom domain name.
BigCommerce offers a website builder that easily links with social media and other selling platforms like eBay. They offer unlimited bandwidth and fast connection times for your customers. A shopping cart is included and ever offers the ability to email customers that abandoned items in their car. In addition, SSL certificates are free with any of their plans.
BigCommerce has limitations in accepting credit card payments. They use Stripe for integrated payments, which means that Stripe must approve your site content before they will allow you to accept payments through their system.
BigCommerce is also slightly more expensive than most of its competitors, though this is mostly offset by its volume and add-on options.
Volusion is one of the oldest ecommerce building platforms on the internet. They offer a specialized service designed for small and large ecommerce businesses. They offer 24/7 support as well as other great integration tools.
Where Volusion fails for most ecommerce businesses is that you need to have some understanding of coding to maneuver the tools to fully customize your site. Using Volusion will not likely allow you to have your website up and running within a very short amount of time.
Volusion includes web hosting with all their plans. However, the bandwidth use with each plan varies from 1GB to 10GB, so sites that require more bandwidth will automatically cost more per month than smaller sites. Additionally, Volusion’s hosting, like BigCommerce, is on the Google Cloud Platform.
In order to accept online payments with Volusion, a payment gateway must be added to the site. Volusion also offers Volusion Payments as a way for their customers to accept online payments. One major drawback is that Volusion Payments requires approval.
Volusion’s shopping cart software is included in all their sites and they offer both live and abandoned carts integration to assist store owners with understanding their customers’ buying habits. Unfortunately, when customers abandon their shopping cart, email reminders must be done manually.
All Volusion’s unlimited plans include a free SSL certificate and the SSL certification will automatically renew every three months. If you decide to purchase a third-party certification, it will cost $99 (one time fee) to have it installed on your website server.
Volusion offers 24/7 support and includes web hosting with all of their plans. They offer a payment gateway and built-in shopping cart to all customers. Finally, if you buy an unlimited plan, you will receive a free SSL certificate.
The biggest drawback to Volusion, if you can get past the need for more web development understanding over the competitors, is the bandwidth limitations. Most ecommerce sites do not want to be limited, because by nature they use more bandwidth than many other types of sites.
Another major issue with Volusion is their lack of responsiveness. Instead of offering websites that will automatically resize for mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, Volusion automatically redirects the visitor to a mobile version of the site, completely ignoring any options for people to get a good experience on a tablet.
In a head-to-head comparison, Shopify is the clear winner for individuals or small businesses looking to enter the ecommerce arena, while BigCommerce comes in a close second due to their platform being aimed at larger businesses.
Shopify also offers unmatched support and a simple to use platform that does not require any special knowledge to build and operate a successful ecommerce site. Alternatively, while BigCommerce does offer support, different plans have different options and credit card payment options isn’t possible for an ecommerce site on this platform