How to Build an Online Store From the Ground Up

How to Build an Online Store From the Ground Up

Every day, more people choose to do their shopping online. You can't deny the convenience of buying the products you need right from your living room, and e-commerce has become a huge industry spanning all types of retail. Business owners all over the world have seen the advantages of selling online and today it's nearly unheard of for a company not to have a website — and those who don't are missing out.

Breaking into the world of e-commerce can be very profitable, but it's understandable if you don't know where to start. After all, a lot goes into the creation of an online store, and building one can seem overwhelming at first. This guide will lay out the basics for you so you can get started quickly.

Step 1: Decide What to Sell

First of all, what are you going to sell? You may already know. If you already have a brick-and-mortar location or an established business, this question is answered. However, it's not unheard of for an individual to have dreams of an e-commerce store long before she settles on a market, so you may still be deciding.

If you're still considering what to sell, think about what types of products you're interested in. It's much easier to run a business relating to your passions and knowledge. You'll also need to evaluate the options you have available, like space for warehousing and the budget you can put toward inventory. Fortunately the options are pretty endless — and you can make it work even with very little space and starting capital if you take a route like dropshipping, creating handmade items to order or selling digital downloads.

Ultimately, you need to find a niche that you're comfortable with and can work with your business plans.

Step 2: Name Your Business and Choose a Domain

Your business name should reflect what you sell in some way — that will make it easier for prospective customers to find you. It should be memorable and not overly complicated. You'll have to think about your domain name as well, so don't choose one that will be hard to remember or difficult to type into a browser. Today, the standard is to avoid hyphens in domain names and just press your business name together into one word. That's the easiest form for customers to remember, and also the easiest type of name to tell someone in conversation. If you're talking about your business to an interested stranger, you don't want to have to spell out your store's web address character by character.

Step 3: Choose an E-Commerce Platform

This is another step that can cause a lot of indecision. There are a large number of available e-commerce solutions, and trying to compare them all side-by-side can be exhausting. Included features, ease of use, and scalability are all important factors, and you'll also need hosting for your e-commerce website.

3dcart is very easy to start out with because it covers all of the above, and also lets you build a complete website to go with your products and shopping cart rather than having to plug your cart into a site built on a different system. There's a 15-day free trial and a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you'll have time to decide if you want to stick with it.

Step 4: Design Your Store and Configure Settings

Now we're getting into the fun part. Start designing by choosing a theme and customizing your colors and images. When you add your own graphics, logo and branding, you'll watch your store evolve from a starter theme to a truly personalized e-commerce business presence. As you follow the rest of the steps, continue to make tweaks to your design until you're completely satisfied, and before long you'll have an online store that matches your vision.

While you're designing, dig into your store settings and set your store's name, time zone, slogan, and other basics like contact information and currency used. Other settings can wait until you've added products.

Step 5: Add Products to Your Store

The way you present your products can make or break your sales. Make sure you take excellent product photos — you'll want high-resolution images that can be zoomed in so customers can see the details. Include photos from multiple angles, and if your products have different options like color or size, display those as well. It's also a good idea to have an action shot or two, so customers can see your product in use.

Your product information is crucial, so ensure you include all the details: sizing information, technical specifications or anything a customer would need to make an informed purchasing decision. The better your product photos and descriptions, the fewer returns you'll get.

Step 6: Configure Your Payment Processors

Now it's time to give your customers a way to pay you! You can accept credit cards and more by connecting your payment processor accounts with your online store. Because PayJunction is fully integrated with several e-commerce platforms, configuring it on your online store is easy. For example, on 3dcart, simply choose PayJunction from the list of available Payment Gateways and enter your login information. If you also want to take PayPal, Apple Pay, Bitcoin, or any other alternate means of payment, you can add those by following similar steps.

Now is also a good time to configure your tax information — with 3dcart you can easily add specific tax percentages to be applied to any sale based on country, state or a range of ZIP codes.

Step 7: Set up Shipping Methods

Connecting your store to major shipping carriers can display real-time rates to your customers and also provide you with quick label printing, access to tracking numbers and more. You can configure your shipping methods with restrictions if needed, like regional or weight specifications per method. You can also consider offering flat-rate or free shipping. Much of this depends on the needs of your business.

Step 8: Set up Your Business Email Accounts

To maintain a truly professional feel for your business, you need official email accounts at your domain name. If you're using 3dcart, you'll have access to free email accounts and a web interface with which to check them. Other platforms may require you to set up your email boxes with your domain registrar or by other means. You will probably need one email address per employee, including yourself.

Step 9: Test and Test Again

You're almost ready to go, but first you need to test your store. Look for any issues that need to be fixed, including poor or confusing navigation, bugs, missing or forgotten pages, products that need better descriptions, misspellings or incorrect information — anything and everything that could turn a customer away. It's good to have fresh eyes for these test runs, and as many pairs as possible, so if you can recruit others to test your site, all the better. Place a few test orders as well, to make sure all your payment and shipping settings are configured properly.

Step 10: Go Live!

Once setup, design and testing are complete, you're cleared for launch. Point your domain name at your store — once you do this, it may take a day to go into effect, so be patient. Once that connection is made, your online store will be live at the domain name you chose and completely ready to take orders. Now you can begin marketing in earnest to spread the word to customers near and far.

Congratulations!

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Have you built an e-commerce component into your business model? What were some of the challenges or takeaways from that process? We’d love to hear from you!

About the Author

Gonzalo Gil is the founder and CEO of 3dcart, a leading online store builder ranked as the best e-commerce platform for SEO. As an e-commerce expert, Gonzalo works with businesses of all sizes to help them build their online presence and succeed selling online.

About PayJunction Contributor

PayJunction welcomes writers in the merchant services, cloud, security and mobile spaces to contribute to its blog!

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