How To Build an E-Commerce Site for Your Business in 2024
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There’s no denying that consumers like convenience and variety. In recent years, e-commerce has allowed customers to shop for everything from clothing and jewelry to furniture and food from the comfort of their couches.

The e-commerce market is also expected to grow over the years as more and more consumers discover the convenience and ease of shopping online. All of this proves that having an e-commerce site is a lucrative option for businesses.

Savvy business owners know they have to adjust accordingly and adopt an e-commerce business model to give their customers access to products online. If you’re ready to join other online retailers, you need a website that reflects your company’s goals and caters to your customers’ preferences. This step-by-step guide will show you how to:

1. Do your market research

The first step to selling a product is to make sure there is an audience for it and that the market is not overly saturated with too many similar products that could prevent customers from choosing yours. Having a bit of competition is good—it provides options. However, you don’t want to be caught in a situation where your business and products get lost among a sea of others.

Before investing time and capital into your e-commerce website development, it’s wise to use these available tools to determine whether demand is high enough for your business to succeed:

  • Google Trends: This valuable tool analyzes how popular certain keywords and search terms are in different regions and languages and can measure their growth over time. Business owners can use Google Trends to understand the patterns behind consumer purchasing behavior.
  • Social media: Use social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to widen your online presence. You can also see what products are trending and how product owners are marketing them to consumers.
  • Amazon: Research the best-selling products on Amazon and read reviews to gain insight into what people like and dislike about the items they’re buying.  
  • Consumer surveys: If you already have a customer base that used to shop with you in-store, why not ask about their e-commerce preferences? Various survey sites make it easy to create a poll and send it to your existing email list.

2. Choose a domain name and hosting provider

There are two main things to remember when choosing a domain name: It should be the same as your business name or relevant to your product, and it should be easy for your audience to remember.

You can use a domain search website like Instant Domain Search to check if your preferred domain name is available to buy, or the hosting provider you choose will offer this service. You’ll need a hosting provider to make your e-commerce website accessible on the internet. These providers also offer various services to maintain and improve your website, including security protection, email, and assistance with your website platform.


3. Pick an e-commerce website builder

Now that you have your products and domain set, it’s time to build the website. There are a variety of e-commerce website builders and many features to choose from for your site.

Examples of these features include:

  • Themes: Choose something relevant to your business, brand identity, or even the specific product you are selling.
  • Blog posts: This provides another opportunity to increase traffic by incorporating SEO-friendly blog posts about your industry.
  • Facebook Pixel: This allows you to take data from your website metrics and use it for your Facebook ads to increase traffic and boost sales.

One of the most important elements to consider when choosing a builder is how well it supports e-commerce initiatives. For example, is it relatively easy to add product pages with fields for search engine optimization (SEO) keywords, product descriptions, photography and inventory? Some of the most popular e-commerce-friendly builders include Shopify, WordPress, Wix, Woocommerce, and Squarespace.

Know that online store builders have limits, such as the number of products you can upload or the number of options for each product. So before signing up with one, make sure the limits meet your business’s needs. You might have to upgrade from a free to a paid plan, but at least you’ll know there’s room for growth.

Your business might be best served by hiring a web developer to build your website to make sure everything is done effectively. A trusted web developer can also be a great resource for suggestions if you aren’t sure which builder to select for your site.

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4. Plan your site structure and key pages

Before you begin building your website, plan how you want it to be structured and organized. Let these three questions guide you:

  • How do you want to present your online store to your customers?
  • What features and key pages do you want to have in your store?
  • How do you want your customers to navigate and move about in your store?

A successful e-commerce website starts from knowing your customers. It’s important to build a user-friendly store that allows your customers to browse with ease. Simplicity is your friend. You don’t want potential customers to leave your website because it’s complicated and has too many click-throughs. Make it easy for your customers to find what they’re looking for, whether it’s your products, how-to instructions or your contact page.

Essentially, you’ll need the following elements in your online store:

  • Menu navigation and a quick access search bar on the homepage
  • Product pages with descriptions, photos, pricing, and customer ratings and reviews
  • Product recommendations based on customers’ previous searches or purchases
  • “About” and “Contact” pages
  • A streamlined shopping experience and checkout
  • Optimized for mobile responsiveness

Of course, your website should be visually appealing. Generally, your website should have a cohesive look and color. That’s why it’s recommended to have a theme throughout. You can test a few e-commerce templates or themes to see which works best in showcasing your products and incorporating your marketing strategy.

While you’re still in the design phase, consider if you want to add pages like blogs or tutorial videos on how to use your products down the road. It’s important to think about your marketing strategy now, so you can structure your website to accommodate such pages after its launch.

Similarly, if you are a brick-and-mortar business looking to expand your customer base through an e-commerce website, consider using design aspects like colors and logos already associated with your brand. Get local customers to visit your website by offering in-store pickups or returns and making sure stocks available in-store are automatically updated online.

5. Customize your site with expert assistance

The biggest consideration for your e-commerce website is the user experience. To make the customer experience more fulfilling, there are a multitude of customized and complex themes, widgets, apps and plug-ins that can further enhance your site’s functionality.

To make sure you’re taking advantage of all the benefits of these e-commerce features, you’ll need creators with the following expertise:

  • Web designers create the design and layout of a website to combine sounds, pictures, graphics, and video clips seamlessly.
  • Web developers build and maintain websites to integrate your goal for your storefront and enhance customer experience. For example, a web developer can help you capture customer information for email marketing.
  • Front-end or back-end developers are engineers of user experience who connect the technology with your customer. They’re valuable partners as you test, optimize, and update your site.
  • SEO experts can help you perform keyword research, search engine optimization, and website optimization. All of this improves your chances of showing up on major search engines like Google.

Upwork’s independent talent database is the perfect place to find and engage with professionals who can perform these services for your e-commerce site. You can connect with an e-commerce developer or a web developer who has experience with the specific platform you want to use, such as Shopify.

6. Set up your e-commerce payment system

Since the primary purpose of your e-commerce store is to sell products, it’s crucial to have a user-friendly payment system. You’ll want the purchasing process to be as easy as possible for your customers. Consider offering different payment methods as well.

A payment gateway is a technology used by business owners to accept debit or credit card purchases from customers. The term refers not only to the physical card-reading devices but also to the payment processing portals found in online stores.

Luckily, setting up your online store with Shopify, BigCommerce, Square Online, or other e-commerce website builders makes it easier to integrate with payment processors like PayPal and Stripe. However, make sure you know how much each payment option will cost you in fees or commission charges.  

Most e-commerce website builders offer different shipping options where you only need to add an origin address and package type. However, make sure to discuss how to integrate shipping options with your site with your web designer or developer. Here are the different types of shipping you can offer:

  • Free shipping: Free shipping is a great selling point. But not all businesses can afford to offer it. However, you might be able to offer free shipping if customers meet a threshold amount. This way, you can offset your cost and increase average order value since consumers are likely to spend more money to qualify for free shipping.
  • Flat rate: Flat rate means your customers pay the same shipping cost for all orders. This option is best if you sell items that are relatively similar in size and weight.
  • Real-time shipping quotes: Shipping prices are calculated according to the product’s size, weight and destination. This option is best if you sell large and heavy items that are expensive to ship.
  • Store pickup or local delivery: This is an excellent shipping option if you operate a physical store locally. Shoppers are also comforted by the fact that they can return items in-store. Make sure you set up your website so that available in-store products are automatically updated online, as well.
  • Shipping rate by order price: This option offers a reduced shipping cost for customers who spend a certain amount.

7. Optimize your site for SEO success

Now that your site is set up with products and prepped to receive orders, you need visitors. Generally, you have two main options to gain visitors: advertise or optimize your pages with SEO best practices. No matter what method you use, your goal is to show up on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

But advertising through Google Ads and pay-per-click (PPC) can be costly. Therefore, your next best choice is to optimize your website SEO and gain free organic traffic. Don’t know where to start? The following sections will show you how.

Do keyword research

Identify what problems you solve for your customers and create a targeted, intent-based keyword list. Focus on long-tail keywords for higher conversion—website visitors who turn into buyers.

For instance, if you sell washable rugs, visitors who find your website from the short-tail keyword “rug” might gain you a lot of traffic but not enough conversions. On the other hand, if web users find you through long-tail keywords like “stylish machine washable rugs,” their probability of buying your product is higher.

This is because a shopper looking for a specific product is ready to buy. So if you have the design they’re looking for and it’s within their price point, the customer will likely order.

You can conduct keyword research with many helpful tools, such as Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, and Ubersuggest.

2. Pay attention to your site architecture

Site architecture refers to how you organize your site for customer experience. Your website needs to make sense to your target audience. For example, if you sell jewelry, your product pages should be grouped according to categories, such as earrings, necklaces and bracelets. Your shopping cart should also show payment methods and shipping options.

3. Apply technical SEO practices

Technical SEO refers to practices directly related to your website design and construction. This is important for your optimization because it affects your page layouts and load times. Technical SEO includes paying attention to your product’s URLs, internal links, and schema markups.

An internal link is a link from one page on your website to another page. Links within your website help search engines find and rank your webpages and help your customers navigate to the page.

Schema markup is added to the webpage to create an enhanced description—the rich snippets you see in search results. Schema is important because it provides context to a webpage, which search engines like Google use to rank webpages. For example, a typical product schema markup includes the product name and price, product image, description, URL, and brand name.

If nothing in this section made sense to you, don’t worry. You can connect with an SEO expert through Upwork to help you optimize your website.


8. Track visitor and marketing metrics


It’s crucial to be aware of and understand your website’s analytics, especially traffic sources and demographic statistics. When you know where your website traffic is coming from and the demographics that make up that traffic, you can adjust your marketing strategy to target that audience specifically.

Marketing tools like Google’s Ecommerce Tracking can help you gain access to data regarding your sales amount, the number of orders, billing location, average order values and other valuable information. To see e-commerce data in your reports, you need to enable e-commerce and add code to your site to collect the data and send it to Google Analytics.

If you aren’t adept at editing HTML and coding in JavaScript, get help from experienced web developers. Upwork connects you with the right independent professional who can help customize your website’s key metrics.

9. Adjust according to visitor behavior

As you gain data about your customer’s preferences, use the insights to adjust your web design, marketing strategy or new products. For example, if you find that one product is more profitable or popular than the rest, you could offer it in different variations or colors.

Nowadays, customers value personalization and customization. In fact, customers are willing to pay more for the experience qualities that matter most to them, such as convenience or a friendly, welcoming experience. A thank-you page after your customer hits the “Order” button or a handwritten note with their order goes a long way when building customer loyalty. Look for such opportunities and adapt to changes as they happen.

Build your e-commerce site right with the top independent talent

With e-commerce sales expected to surpass $563 million by 2024, it’s essential to invest in a fully functioning, high-quality e-commerce website that attracts customers to your business and gives them easy access to your products.

It takes more than simply following these steps, however. You’ll need the right team of skilled independent workers who have the technical background and experience to get your website running smoothly. When you use Upwork, you’ll be connected to independent professionals who can effectively and efficiently perform the work needed to launch your dream online business into reality.

Author Spotlight

How To Build an E-Commerce Site for Your Business in 2024
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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