How to build an eCommerce website from scratch step by step

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Now is the ideal time to start selling products online. Whatever you are selling, there are more customers than ever online. Building a custom eCommerce website from scratch will ensure customers find your products and you can steadily grow an online business.

For those new to the world of eCommerce, let’s look at the steps you need to take to get started. Don't worry if you’ve never built a website before. There are a number of simple solutions that should help you get set up fairly easily to launch an eCommerce marketplace.

Also, if you would prefer someone else take care of this, there are numerous agencies and freelancers who can build websites. However, selling online means having more than just a website. As a minimum, you need a marketing plan and to invest time and potentially money in marketing and online advertising.

New eCommerce website owners also need to think of how to choose the best eCommerce solution for their business, how they will process orders, payments, ship products, and potentially issue refunds. Let's take a look at the various steps you need to take, and why building a custom eCommerce website is only one part of a larger plan and process.

Why do you need an eCommerce website?

  1. Create a consumer email list and communicate with them directly. Your website allows you to promote now to consumers and website visitors, which is one of its most significant benefits. Selling now to clients on your website will enable you to get their contact information, unlike marketplaces where those who purchase your goods become the marketplace's customers. You may advertise new items, provide discounts, and email marketing campaigns to your consumers if you have their email addresses.
  2. Execute innovative marketing initiatives. The mere fact that you have a website doesn't guarantee that clients will find you in droves. You will need to put forth an effort to attract customers once you have a store. Driving traffic to your website using a combination of SEO tactics and a robust social media presence is the first step in capturing clients. While it's only sometimes simple to build up the correct campaigns, you have far more freedom in how you may help consumers discover and purchase from you.

Your e-commerce strategy must include having your website and mobile app. Thanks to it, you may develop your brand, win over devoted clients, learn new things, and use innovative marketing techniques. Discover our Mobile eCommerce App Development Guide [2023] to learn more. 

However, relying solely on one sales channel can also be detrimental. Diversifying your online sales channels might be beneficial as e-commerce grows more cutthroat. That's why we will tell you how to build an online store from scratch in detail.

How to create an eCommerce website from scratch: cost & timeline

You have two available options for you at this point:

  • Use a pre-built theme and perform some customization shortly (the cheapest one)
  • Develop your own, optimized precisely for your needs (the most expensive option)

Whether you use a pre-built theme or planning to develop your own, you will need to use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to accomplish the list of functions. To optimize that process and make it run smoothly and cheaply, you need to have a perfect understanding of the following points:

  • Your main page, product page, and product collection page visual structure, including the interactive elements
  • Your SEO expectations and opportunities across the structure of your page + add some extra budget for Google Rich Snippets that require either JSON Schema markup or HTML Schema markup (depending on your selected platform)

Understanding these 2 points will be helpful, as it will optimize your development budget and build an eСommerce website from scratch more cost-effective.

If your funds and terms of launch are limited - the best solution is to start with a pre-built theme, having it customized for your needs.

How to get started in eCommerce: 7 steps

#1: Business and marketing plan

You can't work on the assumption that getting an eCommerce website online will magically generate customers. You need a plan. Working out marketing is the most effective way to turn an idea into an audience, and from that, a customer-base. Understand your customers, and the steps you need to take to get their attention and drive traffic to this new website.

How detailed the plan needs to be, and how long it might take to implement, depends on whether or not you've already got an audience. That means, a group of people already interested in what you are doing/creating. If that is the case, then it makes monetising that audience somewhat easier. Once you’ve worked out a plan, move onto the next step.

#2: Register a domain and email

Websites require domain names. Aim to pick one that’s easy-to-find, and fits your brand name as closely as possible. Although .com is the most common domain ending, there are numerous others depending where you are based, alongside tailored options for online retailers, such as .shop. Make sure to register an email too, which you can do using G Suite (a Google product), or numerous other services. That way, when customers get in contact everything is going through the same domain (instead of Gmail, or Yahoo, etc.), which looks more professional.

‍#3: Create branding

Branding is so important when it comes to eCommerce. You need to stand out. You need something that clearly identifies your business. If possible, draft ideas yourself, and then work with a designer, unless you’ve got professional design skills and software. Use this branding on the new website, and also on every social media platform; consistency is crucial when it comes to branding.

#4: Build an eCommerce website

When it comes to building an eCommerce website, you have a wide variety of options. You might want to start on another platform, such as Etsy, eBay and Amazon. But at the same time, you’d benefit enormously from having your own website too, especially if you want to grow and scale, and not have another company cut into your profit margins.

There are a number of well-known eCommerce website builder platforms you could take a closer look at: Magento, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce. Another option is to use a drag-and-drop website builder that comes with an eCommerce plugin, such as Squarespace, Wix, or numerous others.

What about WordPress? That’s another option, providing you've got some confidence and experience building websites from scratch.

When building a website yourself, one of the most important decisions is which theme to go with. There are hundreds of options, and of course they can be tweaked and customised, usually without you needing any coding skills. Picking a theme has a huge impact on the website. It determines how your customers perceive and experience it, which means the theme needs to be aligned with the audience you want to attract.

If you are selling boutique clothes for women, then you need a theme that makes it look and feel as though your customers are in a boutique store. Whereas, selling protein powder for those who do a lot of weights needs a more sports, fitness-focused look and feel.

The theme also influences the functionality. Before deciding the theme, and how it should look, you need a list of the features your store needs. If you are only selling 10 to 50 products, and many fit within a few categories, then a simple theme, and clear functionality should be all you need.

Whereas if you are selling hundreds of products (say for a new fashion eCommerce brand) under dozens of categories then you need something more robust, with considerably more functional features. At the same time, the user experience needs to be friendly, quick, easy-to-navigate and of course, mobile-first.

Whether you go with a more technically involved option, which should provide greater functionality or a drag-and-drop solution, the aim should be the same. Create a website that is easy to navigate and user-friendly, loads quickly, is mobile-enabled, and can be tweaked and improved to drive even more sales every month. We have created a Marketplace eCommerce checklist so that you can snitch some useful tips for yourself.

#5: Map out the shipping, customer service and payments journey

You’ve got your first order! Brilliant, now what?

As payments come in, orders need to be shipped out. Setting up an eCommerce website also means connecting a payment processing service, or provider, such as PayPal, Stripe, Apple Pay, and a wide range of other options. Make sure this is then connected to your primary business bank account.

Before launching a website make sure you know every step of this journey, and have clear Terms & Conditions online so customers know what happens if they want a refund. Unfortunately, returns and refunds are a normal part of running an eCommerce business, so it makes sense to keep money in a separate account until the refund timescale has elapsed, in case you need to pay any money back.

#6: Connect Google Analytics

An essential part of having an eCommerce website, or any website, is analytics. You need to know where web traffic is coming from, what pages web visitors are clicking on, and what makes them click away. You can also integrate a number of other data-based services, such as software that helps you re-target potential customers with adverts after they leave your website.

The more you know about web visitors, the more easily you can make improvements to the website, scaling it quickly and effectively.‍

#7: Launch and be ready to scale

Once everything is ready, and you’ve got products online and marketing in-place, now is the time to launch and scale. Let people know your store is online. Start promoting it and driving traffic. As you generate more and more sales, you can start thinking about scaling. Getting a bigger, shinier, all singing and dancing website built, for example, is a great way to drive even more sales and revenue from eCommerce.

How to build a custom eCommerce website step by step

Choosing your platform to build an online store

The ease with which you may launch and manage your online business depends heavily on the eCommerce platform you choose, which is the critical point where the answer is how to build an eCommerce website from scratch.

Self-hosted vs. hosted

There are two primary categories of eCommerce platforms: hosted and self-hosted. The platform provider manages hosted platforms, and the company operates self-hosted platforms. Everyone has benefits and drawbacks.

The following are typical hosted platforms, also referred to as software as a service (SaaS):

  • Shopify
  • BigCommerce
  • Zyro

Hosted platforms are typically more straightforward than self-hosted ones, especially for novices. Businesses don't require technical expertise or understanding because the provider manages all platform-related technical issues, including SSL certificate and website security, payment gateway, and web hosting, helping you build an eСommerce website from scratch a bit faster.

While running the self-hosted website, you will be responsible for hosting, security, and other digital aspects, like while running the WordPress site, whether you want to create one from scratch or utilize an existing one.

A managed hosting option may be used to lessen technical problems, but the plugins and themes available can be restricted.

WooCommerce, a flexible content management system, makes it simple to sell products online. You may utilize many open-source eCommerce platforms and solutions in place of WordPress.

The benefits of building an e-commerce website from scratch

Benefits to create eCommerce website from scratch is supported by the following factors:

More purchases

It's not a secret that online purchases have shown outstanding growth over the past ten years, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. The power of eCommerce was demonstrated to the worldwide community of merchants, and we have seen the 2x time growth in Shopify merchants. If you have the shipping and fulfillment side wholly covered - it's just a matter of time and marketing to start generating even more profit than a casual brick-and-mortar store.

Lesser investment

E-commerce is much cheaper than retail (keep that in mind while looking for how to build an ecommerce website from scratch), as instead of paying $18.5 per square foot, you have to pay hosting price + your chosen platform fees. Also, digital advertising is more flexible than an offline parent, as you can track each element's click, conversion rate, and profit with the scope of analytics services. It's simple, fewer investments, faster results, and more profit.

The following advantages come with developing a custom eCommerce website:

  • Simple customization and scalability
  • More straightforward support and upkeep
  • The faster and easier procedures for fixing bugs
  • Possibility to stand out and use unusual interface and design features (illustrations, animations, branding)
  • Unlimited features of your choosing
  • The ability to swiftly embrace cutting-edge technology and keep pace with rivals
  • Worldwide sales opened in a matter of a quarter, not a decade

Key Takeaways

  • Building an eСommerce website from scratch may be challenging, but it benefits your business.
  • Be prepared for proper planning and imagine each element and function of your future e-commerce website to choose between readymade and custom websites shortly.
  • Think about SEO and your long-term promotion strategy, and be sure to include it in your development plan
  • Take care of the analytics before you launch


How long does it take to make an eCommerce website from scratch?

The exact timeframe for creating a custom e-commerce website has yet to exist, as it depends upon your request and some other basic information.

For example, developing a simple store for 10-20 products with essential graphic elements is straightforward.

But, when you have 1 000 products and wish to have the integration with your warehouse fulfillment center, and as a bonus, you need to show the recent delivery times on a front-end based on a customer's location and a network of promotional pop-ups connected to the list of triggers. That task takes much longer, as content management, design confirmation, testing, and other processes will affect a lot.

Is SEO important for eCommerce?

Yes. SEO is essential for every eCommerce store, and there is a simple reason. If you don't have organic traffic - you either have no traffic or own paid one from Google or social media advertising. If your profit margin suddenly gets close to zero, you will have no other option than stop your sales process. In comparison, SEO's primary goal is to provide high-quality traffic to your products and collection pages lifetime. In our experience, it takes 6 to 12 months to have a massive impact on organic sales, and usually, they keep growing along with your domain rate.

What is the advantage of a custom website over using a readymade template?

Flexibility. The custom website is made to be the perfect match for all your e-commerce needs. Meanwhile, it can contain some core features, but only some of you need to bring your idea to life.

If we talk about readymade templates with page builders, you may face a massive need for HTML and CSS customization of sections that look like something you were looking for but are different from what you wanted them to be.

Readymade templates are a win-win option for the soft launch or short testing, but they are pretty hard to scale and optimize

How long does it take to build a custom eCommerce website from scratch?

That is all about your requirements. Each detail, feature, function, and automation you would love to implement takes time to develop and test. The more you have - the more it takes.

How much does it cost to build a custom eCommerce website from scratch?

Custom website development has a different price. You may see the advertising telling you that your website might be done for about $300-$500, but be sure that in that case - it will be pushed over the readymade template, and that is different from what you are precisely looking for.

As with the timeframe, the cost of your website development depends on your requirements.

Do you have experience in developing eCommerce websites?

Yeah, we have years of experience in developing eCommerce websites. Our team of skilled developers and designers can create a custom eCommerce website that suits your business needs and goals. We know how to choose the best eCommerce CRM software in 2023 and use various technologies and platforms to create high-quality and functional eCommerce websites.

If you have a specific project in mind, we would be happy to discuss your requirements and provide you with a detailed proposal. Please feel free to contact us to learn more about our eCommerce development services and how we can help your business succeed online.

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