Build an ecommerce website step by step
We need to go back to 1994 to find the origins of online commerce when a certain Phil Branden Berger bought a Sting album for $12.48 and paid for it via a secure payment site with his credit card. Gaining in popularity over the years, online commerce is now firmly rooted in our habits, whether to buy clothes, books, furniture, shoes, games, works of art, etc. This mode of consumption demonstrates even more its necessity when people do not have the opportunity to go to the stores. In fact, in May 2020, online sales brought in $3.9 billion in Canada, an increase of 110.8% over the previous year.
Today, it is almost essential to have an online platform if you have a physical business: not only will you be more accessible for your local customers, but you will also benefit from increased visibility outside your region, and even international exposure depending on your field of activity and your objectives.
Where to create your online store?
Different solutions exist to create your online store, either for free or for a fee. There isn’t necessarily a better platform than the other, but the most SEO friendly platforms are WooCommerce for WordPress, Shopify and Magento.
A Canadian platform that appeared in 2006, Shopify has quickly established itself on the Internet and is now the most popular eCommerce solution worldwide.
Particularly adapted for small sites, the management of categories and products is not optimized enough for a large site. The installation is quite easy, and in only 1 minute, you can start building your website!
In short, Shopify: perfect for the novice in the field.
In operation since 2011, WooCommerce is designed for both SMBs and large companies; to date, nearly 400,000 customers are doing business with WooCommerce.
WooCommerce not only offers a vast collection of features in a compact WordPress plugin, but it is completely free. Since WooCommerce is open source, you will have more control over your website, but it will also require a little more knowledge about hosting, domain names and website design.
Winner of the Best New Open Source Project award in its first months of operation in 2008, Magento was acquired by eBay in 2011 and then passed into the hands of Adobe in 2018. It is also a community of more than 250,000 merchants worldwide.
Magento is primarily aimed at medium and large businesses. It is the platform of choice to manage large catalogs. It is therefore possible to create your eCommerce site but beware, Magento is probably the most complex eCommerce CMS to handle.
Which platform to choose for your online store?
Each one having its advantages and disadvantages, you might prefer one or the other depending on your objectives and budget, as well as the ease with which you want to be able to optimize your pages for search engines. In addition, there are also free solutions; but keep in mind that although the base may be free, some extensions or applications may be required that you may have to pay for later. It is also important to define your long-term needs for your online business before starting with a platform, to avoid unnecessary CMS (Content Management System) migrations.
Our advice: plan for the long term! Your project may be small today, but you will be very satisfied to have chosen a CMS capable of supporting the growth of your business in the future.
How do I create my online store?
As you can imagine, creating an online store is not a snap of the fingers. If you want to sell online and attract the attention of consumers on the internet, you will have to think not only about a name for your website, but also about a design representative of your brand.
Many free and easy to implement themes are available when starting a website, which could be the preferred option of the most skillful. However, you may also want to ask for help from web designers and developers for the creation, modification, or any other stage of the design. If you decide to ask for professional help to launch an online store, the price will vary greatly depending on your needs in terms of technology and production time; in general, you can expect to pay between $2,500 and $50,000 (sometimes even more for larger projects).
Our advice: do not put ALL your efforts into the design of your website! Although important for your brand image, it’s only a detail of your entire project. The design is also often at the origin of “emotional” decisions that play no role in the conversion of your website.
At the beginning, don’t think too much and keep it simple! Choose a “good enough” design with a pleasant user experience and build from there. There is always room for improvement later…
Know the different laws and regulations that govern online commerce.
This is a crucial step that should not be overlooked! Exchange and refund policy, distance selling contract, registration of your business, Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, intellectual property rights, etc. It’s better to be informed before you start, especially if you’re setting up in a foreign market!
Research is the best way to make sure you start off on the right foot, with all the knowledge you will need to avoid making any mistakes.
Reserve your domain name.
What will your website be called? This is the first question you will have to answer. If you naturally choose the name of your company (if available), you will then have to find a host for your website as well as a CMS (Content Management System). The latter will greatly facilitate the management of your site as well as possible updates of the theme for example.
You can also opt for a turnkey solution where the choice of the domain name is included with the subscription of your CMS or even your host, for some providers.
Everything depends on your level of comfort with the creation of a website:
WordPress.org requires a domain name and hosting to be installed. Shopify and WordPress.com on the other hand include these steps in their setup process. In any case, it all comes down to the same thing.
Choose a theme
Now it’s time to think about the design and visual presentation of your site, but also about the functionalities you will need. Also think about your visitors; after all, they are the ones you want to attract to your site to sell your products, right? Your site must therefore be user-friendly and meet not only your needs, but also those of your future customers.
Finally, make sure that your theme adapts to different media (PC, tablet, smartphone) and that it remains user-friendly, regardless of the device from which your site will be consulted. More and more people are browsing the Internet from their phone, so it would be wise to choose a theme that can be easily viewed from a smartphone. Don’t hesitate to check if your site is mobile friendly!
In 2020, adapting your website to any device is no longer a step ahead, it’s the norm! More than half of all website visitors come from a cell phone. If your website is still not up to date on this, you are seriously behind your competitors.
Are you ready to give up 50% of your internet traffic?
Your website architecture
It is now time to think about how to structure the information on your site. This step is especially important because the architecture is the backbone of your site, so it must be taken with the utmost care. Remember that a well-organized site structure allows search engines, as well as users, to better understand the navigation of your site.
To create the architecture, you will need to think about the following points:
- Terms and expressions specific to your industry,
- The hierarchy of pages into categories, sub-categories, and individual pages,
- A URL structure that respects the site’s architecture.
You will also need to define a list of product tags; these are keywords that are associated with products and allow users to filter their searches to find what they want more easily.
Create the different pages (legal and others) of your website.
Now it’s time to set up your product pages as well as the page(s) indicating the terms and conditions of sale, return and refund policy, accepted payment methods, etc.
Also, remember to create frequently visited sections:
- About us
- Contact us
Set up metadata on each of the pages.
When you create your pages, don’t forget the metadata including the page title and description. Each metadata must be unique to the page it describes.
Metadata helps both search engines and users from the SERPs understand what the page contains.
Be careful not to stuff your metadata with keywords, this practice is not recommended and will not help you get a better ranking on Google! Instead, try to write attractive titles that will make users want to click.
Price your products and write their description.
At this stage, you’ll need to take special care in writing product descriptions to make them SEO friendly, so you’ll need to choose targeted keywords to attract as many visitors to your site as possible.
Also think about adding quality images as well as their alternative texts (alt text) on each page of your website.
Moreover, it is at this stage that you can set up a tax calculation system according to the province of residence of your buyers in Canada and, if you wish to do business internationally, add a tax calculation system according to the country. Don’t forget to activate the different currencies for your orders outside of Canada!
Put the spotlight on your Newsletter
Would you like to notify your customers that they have forgotten an item in their shopping cart? Notify them of a current or upcoming promotion? That they can subscribe to your newsletter? You will need to set up a notification system for your users. Many CMS have extensions that allow you to set up notifications, otherwise you can opt for an email marketing platform that will integrate with your CMS.
Building an email list is one of the most important assets for your business! If you manage to build a list of several thousand contacts, you will be sure to be able to monetize this audience at each new launch. Think about it, it is always cheaper to communicate with your direct audience than to acquire new customers.
Fill out your inventory
Of course, it is important that users can buy your products! Therefore, it is important that these products are present in your inventory and that it is correctly set up so that your consumers will never be frustrated if they find the desired product is no longer in stock.
Choose a payment and delivery service and establish its rates.
If you have already ordered online, you have probably seen that several payment options are available. Establish the payment methods allowed on your site and choose which carrier you want to deal with.
Set your delivery rates in case the delivery is not free, as well as the way you will manage refund requests and thus product returns.
Connect your social media.
To increase your online presence, nothing is better than a good social media strategy! This way, you will be able to interact with people, organize contests, get their opinion on this or that… the possibilities are endless!
Therefore, don’t forget to place on your website, in a visible way, links to your different social networks so that you can keep in touch with your current and future customers!
Validate your Google properties
It is important that you validate the ownership of your site in the Google Search Console on the one hand and in Google Analytics on the other hand. The first platform allows you to study the performance of your site and more specifically to understand how you could optimize the visibility of some of your pages to generate more organic traffic.
When you are in the Google Search Console, don’t forget to submit your sitemap in order to guarantee the good visibility of your pages.
Google Analytics is a useful platform to study the behavior of users on your website and thus better define your marketing objectives.
You are now ready to put your website online! By having followed all these steps, you will have put all the chances on your side to benefit from a well-structured site offering a good visibility:
Now that you have your website, it is important to regularly feed it with unique and quality content, so that you always enjoy optimal visibility and bring your site and your social networks to life. You will thus contribute to develop the loyalty of your customers and you will go looking for new customers!
The LeadStream team is made up of consultants in digital marketing, regardless of your industry. Whatever your needs or budget, we can help you build your online store, maintain, or update your website.
Any more questions? Visit our complete FAQ.
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