How to Set Up an E-Commerce Store (Part 1)

So, you’ve had a million dollar, billion dollar, e-commerce idea to dropship rocks that look like Harry Potter characters, but you’re slightly...

How to Set Up an E-Commerce Store (Part 1)

So, you’ve had a million dollar, billion dollar, e-commerce idea to dropship rocks that look like Harry Potter characters, but you’re slightly unsure of where to start.

In this guide, we’ll go through everything you need to know: from choosing an e-commerce store builder, tips for optimising your new store, and how to expand into your own mobile app.

Which e-commerce store builder should you choose?

There are so many providers on the market that this is a surprisingly difficult task.

The first step is to have a good framework in place to help you make the most informed decision you can. At StoreLab, we’re big fans of the MoSCoW method…despite the currently controversial name. The MoSCoW method breaks your priorities in the following way:

Setting out your priorities like this makes your requirements easier to apply. For an in depth explanation of the MoSCoW method, click here.

The second step is to make sure you have a good understanding of e-commerce  (although, your billion dollar idea suggests you already do). If you’re unsure or looking for any tips and tricks around e-commerce, please click here to read our blog on the subject.

The third step is to review the 12 key factors of a store builder:

  1. To cloud or not to cloud, that is the question!
    E-commerce platforms can be self-hosted or hosted on the cloud.

    If you self-host, you must find the host, deal with the installation and look after any updates yourself. While this is more secure and gives you greater control over your online platform, it’s more expensive. However, for the data obsessive among you, self hosting will give you greater visibility over your data.

    Cloud-hosted platforms (think hosting a website through AWS or similar) lower the costs and provide you with better customer support, but you will have less control over the servers - and it’s impossible to mould them to your needs.

    Open-source platforms, like Magento, give you better control and visibility as you can see and modify your code directly. Bear in mind, you would be responsible for hosting, security, analytics etc. There are significant potential downsides as well, as they can quickly become too expensive to maintain while demanding a huge amount of technical know-how.

    SaaS ecommerce builders, e.g. Shopify or Wix, are booming in popularity. We expect most people who read this blog will be looking at a SaaS builder. Essentially you rent the platform, making them significantly cheaper to use and faster to set up, keeping the barrier to entry low without any coding knowledge or developer time needed. If you’re looking for something super flexible or bespoke, a SaaS ecommerce builder isn’t for you, however for the majority of cases they are great - both Gymshark and the BBC use Shopify!

  2. The Price!
    Pick the one in your budget that best fits your needs. See below a pricing table of the most popular e-commerce builders.
  1. Integrations
    These are critical factors to think about when looking into your e-commerce provider. Make sure the platform you’re looking at can support all the integrations and plugins you want. For example, if you know you need Klarna, only pick a platform that can integrate with them.

  2. Themes and User Experience
    Think about the last time you went to a website that was ugly, slow to load, hard to navigate or a combination of all three - and more! Did you go back? We’re assuming the answer is no (unless it’s vital to your day to day life).

    Make sure the platform builder you choose allows you to build an easy to navigate, visually pleasing, and engaging website. If it can’t do this, it’s not the right platform for you or your customers. If the theme you love and think makes your website pop is hidden behind a paywall, it’s probably worth investing in. According to research, on average, every $1 invested in UX brings $100 in return.

person using macbook pro on white table

  1. Speed and Scalability
    In a world where consumers want everything yesterday, speed is king. Make sure you check the platforms you’re considering for everything from 404 error pages to how many customers the platform can handle simultaneously at peak times.
  1. Functionality and how easy it is for you to use
    Your new e-commerce platform should hopefully be your new best friend and the lifeblood of your fledgling, or not so fledgling, business, so it’s important you find your e-commerce platform easy to use. Otherwise, you’ll grow to hate it and that will have a significant negative impact on your business.

    When looking at functionality, it’s important to consider the following:
    - Bulk product uploads.
    - Categorisation
    - Advanced features like wish lists, recently viewed or product comparisons
    - Dynamic features e.g. price filtering

  2. Digital Security
    In the digital age, good cyber security is beyond paramount as you’re handling incredibly sensitive data. Make sure you’re happy that PCI compliance, SSL and secure data back ups are good enough.

  3. Multiple Payments
    Make sure it’s simple for your customer to be able to pay for your goods and services. This means offering more than one method of payment.
person holding space gray iphone 6

  1. Can you personalise it to your customers?
    Every piece of research shows that knowing your customer is vital to product marketing. Within that, personalisation is king. The best e-commerce platforms have a recommendation engine built into them: a recommendation engine is a machine learning algorithm that will show shoppers items to buy based on a variety of criteria - including demographics, context, and history.

  2. Is it mobile friendly?
    $432.24 billion of transactions and communication happened through mobile devices in the US in 2022. Everyone is becoming more and more reliant on their mobile phone. The average US adult spends 250 minutes a day on their phone and the numbers are trending up and up! To be competitive, your website has to be optimised for mobile, and to get ahead of your competitors we recommend you get an app. We’ve put this quiz together to help you understand if your business is ready for an app - it takes less than 5 minutes to complete.

  3. Optimised for SEO
    Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is vital to your store's success and the best e-commerce platforms will help boost your SEO score. Make sure the platform you choose has SEO best practices built in and check that key SEO features come as standard e.g. updating metadata.

    If the platform you’re considering cannot:

    - Integrate with Google Analytics
    - Allow you to add a custom domain
    - Allow you to update the XML sitemap

    Then it would be worth investigating a platform that does allow you to do this.

  1. Order Manager System
    Research shows over 80% of online shoppers expect regular communication about their order. Make sure you choose a platform that provides your customers with a speedy and easy order process and experience.

    Features include order tracking, email notifications, and shipping service API, so you know that orders are processed accurately and on schedule.

Best e-commerce platforms according to us.

We know we’ve thrown a lot of information at you in a very short time so to help you make the best decision we’ve put together a quick ranking breakdown of the best e-commerce platforms. If you’re looking for a more in depth review of the top 10 e-commerce platforms, we suggest you check out this article.

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