You’ve got something you want to sell online. All you need is a website to sell it from, and you’re all set, right? Well, not so fast. eCommerce website development is not that simple. It’s a challenging process that requires heavy lifting either by your team or one you outsource.
You need a glitch-free, well-designed, secure website that does much more than provide a place for customers to make a purchase. With the right functionality, your website can also help convert leads to sales and increase repeat business by targeting each stage of the customer journey.
If you’re ready to think about launching your eCommerce site, you’ve probably put in a lot of work already to get where you are. When you finally put your product out in front of the world, you want to give it every chance to succeed.
There are a few ways to get a website up and running. You’ll want to carefully consider your website development options before deciding while also ensuring you fully understand everything an eCommerce site should do.
What Are the Options for Launching a Website?
Let’s discuss the three main ways you can get an eCommerce website live:
- Hire a professional website developer to build your site
- Build your website from scratch
- Use a website builder to avoid the hassle of coding
Hiring a Professional
The first option is to have a professional web developer build your site. This option is the easiest when considering your time commitments and the worry associated with launching a new website
Of course, you’ll need to spend some time consulting with the developer, but you can offload the time-consuming coding task. And if you do your due diligence before selecting someone to take on the task of website development, you shouldn’t have to worry if your site will have the functionality it needs to have.
Hiring a developer means getting a site built to your specifications by someone who knows how to do the work. This relationship is a particularly good option if you have unique needs that a standard out-of-the-box site may not offer.
This option is also the most expensive, however. A professionally developed website can easily cost you more than $10,000, with the price increasing with each additional feature.
When researching prices, make sure to have a comprehensive list of your requirements, so you aren’t surprised by additional costs down the road. You should also ask about updates and technical support. This website will be an ongoing budget item for your business rather than a one-time output.
It’s also essential you craft a professional website development proposal that outlines the tasks which each party will have responsibility, the stakeholders involved in the process, the preferred methods of communication, the expected timeline for the development of the site, the elements the final product should include, and so on.
You’ll also want to consider your timeline if you hire an outside firm to build your site. Depending on their current workload, it could take several weeks to get your site up and running.
Building Your Own
The biggest pro of building your website is the ability to completely customize it without the high price tag of a professional developer. The biggest con of building your website is the time and effort you’ll need to put in to ensure you get it right.
While some DIY projects are fun and low risk, your eCommerce site is not low risk. At stake are your leads, conversions, customers, and sales.
Think of getting a customer to purchase as a problem your website should solve. Consider using a problem-solving framework if you’re leaning toward coding your site. But keep in mind that the advice you’ll find is specifically for developers, so if you don’t have much coding experience, you might quickly find yourself out of your depth.
It may be feasible for you to build your website. But just because it’s feasible doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right choice. Code is a high-value commodity. Conversely, these days, you can find no-code tools for building entire apps, not just websites, if you want to give it a shot. It may take some digging, but it’s possible.
The important thing is to make sure you know what it means to build your own eCommerce site if that is what you choose to do. You need a customized website, regardless of whether it is a single vendor eCommerce website or multi vendor optimized for the ever-evolving eCommerce world, no matter what direction you choose.
Using a Website Builder
Your third option, quickly becoming the most popular, is to use a website builder for your eCommerce site.
Think of this option as building your website without needing to learn how to code. These website builders have done the coding already, and you can choose which blocks of code to use. You can mix and match designs and features to find the right combination for your needs.
You’ve likely already heard of many of the existing eCommerce solutions. Top competitors include Wix, SquareSpace, Shopify, WordPress, Magento, GoDaddy, Weebly, and more. The number of website builders is growing, which is good news for you.
As website builders compete for your business, they offer more advanced solutions at affordable prices.
A modern website builder should provide the following:
- An evolving library of design templates
- Secure payment processing
- The latest marketing capabilities
- Continuous security updates
- Ongoing technical support
Another pro to using a website builder is timing. You can create a website almost instantaneously with many of these solutions.
The hardest part about this option might be choosing which platform to choose. Try prioritizing your desired features and setting a budget before beginning your research.
What Should An eCommerce Website Do?
To make an informed decision, you need a good understanding of what a high-performing eCommerce website does. The final transaction is a comparatively small piece of the greater puzzle.
Important Aspects of an eCommerce Website
When customers land on your page, you want them to stay, and your design plays a huge part in whether they do. Unfortunately, you can lose close to 40% of online shoppers due to a bad layout.
One important element of modern design is utilizing AI to its full advantage. You need to have a chatbot available at all times that acts as your 24/7 customer service representative. These bots are always at work, and can help your company put out fires and deliver basic customer service during nights, weekends, holidays and other times when your human customer service reps aren’t available.
You’ll want to provide high-quality images of your product, but site speed will also be important, and large images can slow down your site. Therefore, you must format images properly to be appealing but not drag down your site speed.
Checkout & Payments
The checkout process requires payment processing. A good website builder will offer this, but finding a payment processor will be a separate task if you go another route.
Protecting consumer data is extremely important. Without the proper security certificates, Google may completely omit you from search rankings, and any compromises can lead to lost customers.
Only some customers visiting your site will purchase on their first visit. A well-placed form can help capture email addresses to continue nurturing your leads.
And once you have those emails collected, it’s essential that you’re also doing the necessary work on the backend to ensure the email campaigns you fire off will have solid deliverability and isn’t blacklisted so your emails won’t end up in too many spam inboxes!
Once you’ve got email addresses in your database, the ability to automatically send emails based on behavior is key to your marketing campaigns.
Popups triggered by exit intent give you one last chance to keep a customer on your site.
59% of online shoppers consider the ability to shop from their phone important. That’s a large chunk of your audience you might miss out on if you don’t optimize your site.
You want your website to provide customers with a seamless online shopping experience and be a conversion toolkit for prospects. A good website will help you move your leads through each customer journey stage.
That customer journey starts with driving awareness of your product or your services. After all, there’s no chance for your eCommerce store to be successful if enough people aren’t aware of how you can make their lives better or solve their problems. Great awareness starts with a strong content marketing plan.
The Customer Journey
There are five stages in the customer journey, and each one is critical to your success.
Awareness and Consideration cover the time it takes for a customer to decide to buy your product finally. Retention and Advocacy are the stages where you find your repeat customers and those spreading the word about your product.
There is a reason website builders offer functionality for each stage of this journey.
Consider the following statistics on the importance of a clear customer journey:
- More than 80% of shoppers do research online before making a purchase.
- The average shopper visits a site between two and four times before making a final decision.
- Repeat customers spend 67% more than first-time customers.
It’s important to build features such as forms, popups, and autoresponder emails to help turn browsers into shoppers and one-time buyers into repeat customers.
These may seem like additional features you don’t necessarily need, but they are critical pieces of successful eCommerce sites. Therefore, you should factor the availability of these features into your decision-making.
If you don’t use a website builder, you can get this functionality using software that allows you to add conversion tools to an existing eCommerce site.
You’re in a good place to decide now that you know more about your choices for a site build and what functions the site should include.
Whatever you decide to do, don’t cut corners; your site is far too important to the success of your business. If eCommerce were easy, eight out of ten online stores wouldn’t fail within two years of starting.
If you’re considering hiring a developer, create a list of features and use it to make sure you request everything you need and get a realistic price estimate. You want a scalable, flexible website responsive to your growing business. Don’t forget to ask them for a timeline.
If you’re considering building your website, ask yourself if your coding skills are up to the job and how much time you have to spare. And more importantly, ask yourself what your website should look like once it’s live and available for your customers to use.
Unless you’re a skilled developer with plenty of time or an unlimited budget, you might want to consider going with a website builder. These customizable solutions have multiple integrations already implemented to get a full suite of features ready to use immediately.
If you’re leaning toward a customizable no-code website builder, you have a different decision.
And if you’re still unsure, check out this blog post about whether website builders are worth it.
Then you’ll be ready to decide!
Author Bio: Kris Hughes is an eCommerce content creator and content strategist who has worked in the industry and around it for over the decade, most recently as the Founder of Austin, Texas based consultancy Zanate Ventures.