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How to Build an E-Commerce Website from Scratch

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Yuri Musienko
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Regardless of whether you’re a newcomer to eCommerce or a successful seller on Amazon, Airbnb, or TaskRabbit, you need your own website. It will help to stand out from the competitors and greatly cut commission costs: 70% of clients would like to purchase goods online or to book rooms in the hotel on the seller’s website and not on the marketplace because it’s cheaper this way. From our article, you will find out how to create your eCommerce website from scratch, how to make it successful, and how much it costs.

Step 1: choose your business model

At first, you need to define two things: how you will make a profit and how your website will stand out from the competitors. In most cases, answers to these questions depend on whether you are a manufacturer or an intermediary.

If you’re the manufacturer. The creation of an eCommerce website for this group of businessmen is a part of a marketing strategy: presence and sales online. This website is usually made for little money with a focus on design and not on a big number of features or some unique value offer. It’s generally believed that product or service is this unique offer itself. These projects make money on the sales of course: profit = revenue – expenses.

If you’re a commercial intermediary. These are marketplaces, multi-vendor platforms, websites that make money on affiliate programs and other eCommerce projects. These websites seek to stand out from the competitors by means of the unique design and better user experience, that’s why such projects have a higher budget than the websites, which are created by manufacturers of products and services.

Websites-intermediaries make money in many ways:

  • Commission. Platform charges interest rate of a small percentage or fixed sum of every trade transaction. Airbnb, Steem, Amazon make money like that.
  • Payment for a post. The supplier pays for a publication of a post for sale of a product or service. Craigslist, Amazon, eBay, and Etsy make a profit in such a way.
  • Paid features. The basic functionality of the website is free but the users have the opportunity to enable additional features (ad blocker, reservation, expert’s help, fast delivery, etc.) for an extra payment. Websites like Yelp, Amazon, Trulia, and IMDb do this.
  • Subscription. Monthly (or annual) payment for access to the platform like Netflix, package of additional services (Upwork), free products / content (Xbox Game Pass), or one particular product / service (WoW and Amazon Prime).
  • Advertising. Paid announcements, banners, recommendations, mailing, a place at the top of the listing, or a place on the front page of the site and other types of advertising. Almost all websites on the Web use this way of monetization.

Step 2: decide on the website features

If there’s one product. For such websites, it’s recommended to create one-page landing pages (it’s easier for the visitor to make a decision to «scroll down», than to «click to another page of the website») with product description (use cases, advantages), call-to-action button and integration with payment gateway (not in every instance).

An example of such a project is the IWanttoDrawaCatForYou website. It’s created by Steve Gadlin. Steve used a sense of humor and drawing skills to create a simple website, where people can order funny cat drawings (for $9.95). Obviously, it was an experiment, nevertheless, as is often the case, people loved it and the experiment became a real business.

Design of IWanttoDrawaCatForYou website is simple and plain, but it works

Another example — landing page of the Muzzle app for Mac (disables screen notifications). The page visitors see the animation that demonstrates spam of notifications and a call-to-action button, which can stop this spam.

Demonstration of the problem, the solution to which Muzzleapp.com sells, is at the core of website design

If there are many products. To create eCommerce platforms, which sell many products or services, you need a catalog, flypages, search and filters, ratings and reviews, profiles for sellers and customers, and other features. Depending on product type, these features are implemented using completely different approaches. Specifically, clothing sales need photos, videogames need videos, WordPress themes — demo-pages, real estate — photos and a map, services — portfolio.

Examples of such websites are not far to seek — these are Craigslist, Airbnb, Upwork, Coursera, Amazon and other marketplaces. When it comes to small businesses, then the good example is the Helbak website, on which Malene Helbak sells her own ceramic and wooden products for kitchen and interior. Both her website and her products combine the simplicity of Scandinavian design and exquisite colors.

Design of Helbak website is created based on the design of products that it sells.

Another example — online store FreshFronks, where you can buy three types of organic nut milk. The website also looks simple, but the jump to the product page here is done by the click on the animated photo of the jar. Simple, beautiful, and interactive – this increases the conversion.

Step 3: choose an approach to the website creation



How to Build an E-Commerce Website from Scratch key takeaways:

#1. Step 1: choose your business model
#2. Step 2: decide on the website features
#3. Step 3: choose an approach to the website creation

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Yuri Musienko
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