Step-by-step guide: How to build a custom e-commerce website
Since it started in the 1990s, online shopping has transformed business, giving brands worldwide the chance to show off and sell their products. Now, since the pandemic, online shopping has grown even more, and there is lots of competition between different platforms. One way new platforms can stand out is by creating a unique website that reflects their brand and draws in customers.
A personalized online store is no ordinary shop — it’s a virtual representation of a business. By using unique designs and features, these sites offer customers a better shopping experience and help them remember the brand.
Custom e-commerce development is important for businesses wanting to stand out and compete in the online world. In a busy marketplace, a unique site can help attract specific customers and share what’s special about your products. Plus, unlike ready-made solutions, a personalized online store gives you complete control over everything: the platform’s design, third party integrations, shipping, and payment methods. You can adjust it to fit your changing business needs and market trends.
This guide will show you some different ways businesses can build a custom e-commerce website, including without having to start customization from scratch. We won’t discuss detailed steps like deployment, QA testing, and establishing secure payments, as these are typically handled by your vendor or built into the platform you choose for the backend. Instead, we will focus on the major steps that require decision making, such as choosing the way of crafting the e-commerce platform in the first place, choosing a design, and determining how to effectively promote your product.
What is a custom e-commerce website?
A custom e-commerce website is a tailored online platform specifically designed and developed to cater to a particular business’s needs. Unlike standard online stores, a custom e-commerce website bears unique functionalities, aesthetics, and capabilities that align with your brand identity and meet your audience’s unique shopping expectations.
Differences between pre-made and custom e-commerce websites
Pre-made e-commerce websites often come as cookie-cutter solutions that get your online store up and running quickly. They consist of predefined templates and themes, with limited functionality, design, and customization options. In contrast, custom websites are created from scratch, involving a team of web designers and developers.
Although pre-made websites are cheaper and quicker to set up, they may not be unique, and their functionalities may not accommodate your business’s specific needs fully. However, a custom e-commerce site, while initially more costly and time-consuming, provides significant return on investment in the long run in terms of brand differentiation, customer retention, and scalability.
When there’s something in between: custom visuals and out-of-the-box functionality
There’s a middle ground when it comes to building a custom e-commerce website. You can opt for custom visuals in your e-commerce website’s frontend while utilizing an out-of-the-box function.
Custom visuals are the aesthetic and appeal elements of your e-commerce site, including colors, designs, product display layout, and more. These can be tailored to echo your brand identity and attract your target audience. On the other hand, an out-of-the-box solution, like WooCommerce or Shopify, provides the operational part of your website, such as processing orders, managing inventory, and customer relationship management. These management tools come with sophisticated features and integration options, saving you time and resources from building a backend infrastructure from scratch.
This fusion approach combines the best of both worlds: having a unique, customer-enticing storefront with an established, user-friendly admin panel. The solution is reached with the use of Next.js Commerce 2.0 template we’ll discuss later. For now, let’s answer the question of where do you start in building your custom e-commerce platform anyway?
Step 1: Planning your e-commerce website
Defining your products or services
The first step towards building your custom e-commerce website is defining what you’re selling. While it may seem straightforward for businesses that sell physical products, it can be intricate for those offering services. Be clear and detailed about your offerings, outlining products’ specifications or services’ extent. Not only does this inform the website’s design and structure, but it also dictates how the products or services will be displayed and explained to the customers.There are three main types of e-commerce websites:
|Business to business (B2B)||B2B e-commerce focuses on transactions between businesses, where products or services are sold from one business to another. It often involves bulk orders and long-term partnerships.||Alibaba.com|
|Business to customers (B2C)||This type of e-commerce involves businesses selling products or services directly to individual consumers. It is the most common form of e-commerce and is seen in online retail stores.||Amazon.com|
|Customer to customer (C2C)||In C2C e-commerce, consumers sell products or services directly to other consumers through online platforms. It enables individuals to become sellers themselves, facilitating peer-to-peer transactions.||eBay.com|
Identifying your target audience
Identifying your target audience is key in planning your website. Understanding your customers helps you create an e-commerce platform that resonates with their needs, habits, and preferences. Consider factors like their age, location, lifestyle, online behavior, and purchasing power. Design your website to align with their browsing habits, device preference, and expected shopping experience. This targeted approach ensures your website connects better with your audience, resulting in higher conversions and customer retention.
To uncover invaluable insights, leverage tools that delve into the concerns and interests of your audience. Resources like Google Trends, answerthepublic.com, and Census Bureau insights can be your guiding star, leading you in the right direction.
Planning website structure
Once you are clear about your offerings and your audience, begin planning your website’s structure and design. A well-structured website makes it easy for users to navigate, find products, and complete purchases. Plan out the layout of your pages, categorization of your products or services, and how users will move from one part of the site to another.
The design needs to be attractive, engaging, and reflective of your brand identity. It should also cater to your audience’s preferences. If your target audience is younger, consider a more vibrant and dynamic design. If you’re catering to a more professional audience, a clean, minimalist design might work better. However, the details of the interface will be discussed further. For now, interaction is the key: think of what blocks and pages you’d like to see.
Remember that simplicity often breeds the most usability. A clean, intuitive design coupled with straightforward navigation fosters a more positive user experience, decreasing bounce rates and encouraging return visits. This planning stage sets the foundation for further building and designing your custom e-commerce website, ensuring it effectively serves both your business and your audience.
Step 2: Building your custom e-commerce website
When considering how to build a website, there are various options available for customization levels. You can choose to use website builders and make minor design adjustments by utilizing pre-designed templates. However, this approach won’t result in a fully customized e-commerce platform. Alternatively, you can combine a familiar website builder’s backend with a customized frontend and design. The third option is to build the website completely from scratch, which is the most time-consuming and expensive but provides all the desired functionalities. Let’s begin by exploring the out-of-the-box solutions.
Pros and cons of popular website builders
Choosing the right e-commerce platform is vital, as it forms your online store’s backbone. Popular platforms include Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, and BigCommerce.
Shopify is known for being user-friendly with numerous built-in features, ideal for beginners. However, it is not always the best for SEO, and customization options can be limited.
WooCommerce is great for WordPress-based websites, offering powerful customization capabilities, but it can be complex for beginners.
Adobe Commerce (Magento) is highly versatile and scalable but may require a steep learning curve and development skills.
BigCommerce has robust built-in features and high scalability level, but it might not be as beginner-friendly as Shopify and can be pricier.
How to use popular platforms for functionality but have a unique design with Next.js Commerce 2.0
How to build a custom e-commerce website that combines great visuals and familiar functions? Next.js Commerce 2.0 is a useful tool for businesses looking to use popular e-commerce platforms for their administrative needs while also having a unique design for their online stores. This template offers a combination of performance, scalability, and customization options.
It supports various popular platforms such as BigCommerce and Shopify, mentioned before. By integrating Next.js Commerce 2.0 with a popular e-commerce platform for administrative purposes — most prefer Shopify — businesses can build a custom e-commerce website that ensures high performance. This approach allows businesses to take advantage of established platform capabilities while also establishing their brand identity and effectively meeting their audience’s needs.
If you are interested in a solution like this, please let us know by filling out a short form.
Importance of mobile-friendliness
And another important thing to keep in mind when building a custom e-commerce platform is to remember about resolutions. Given that 75% of Internet traffic comes from mobile devices, it’s crucial to ensure that your e-commerce platform supports mobile-friendly designs. A mobile-responsive website provides a seamless shopping experience for customers using mobile devices, resulting in increased engagement and sales conversions.
Step 3: Designing the user interface
Importance of intuitive and attractive design
The design of your e-commerce website deeply influences your visitors’ first impressions and dictates their subsequent actions. A clear, intuitive, and attractive design not only ensures seamless navigation but also enhances user engagement and conversion rates. It reduces bounce rates and encourages customers to explore your offerings more deeply and feel more confident in making purchases. Your website design also communicates your brand’s ethos and character, thereby creating trust and brand recognition.
Best practices for e-commerce interface design
Implementing best practices in e-commerce interface design can significantly enhance your site’s usability and effectiveness.
- Simplify your e-commerce interface design to improve usability and effectiveness.
- Avoid overly complicated and cluttered designs that may confuse users.
- Make sure your design is responsive and mobile-friendly for a seamless experience on mobile devices.
- Prioritize clear and easy navigation, concise and compelling content, and easily identifiable calls-to-action.
- Use high-quality images and optimize loading speed for a smooth user experience.
- Incorporate customer reviews and testimonials to enhance engagement and conversion rates. Shoppers tend to purchase more when they see user generated content.
See the difference between two websites selling bikes.
Why is it important to have a customized and recognizable design?
Building a custom e-commerce website with a recognizable design gives your e-commerce website a distinctive identity, setting it apart from the competition. It allows your brand character to shine through every page and interaction. Such a custom design can be created to perfectly suit your brand elements, including colors, fonts, branding, imaging, and content tone.
In the post pandemic research by Stackla, 88% of respondents said that they were more supportive of brands that were authentic. Whereas 31% of shoppers have left the e-commerce platform because it wasn’t personalized enough. Thus, the digital representation of the brand should be very consumer-focused. The more real and user-friendly content the better.
By expressing your brand’s unique selling proposition and ethos through your design, you are likely to resonate more deeply with your target audience. This recognition not only enhances trust and loyalty but can ultimately increase return visits and customer retention, contributing to the overall success of your e-commerce business.
Step 4. Setting up marketing strategies for your custom e-commerce platform
Once the platform is launched, marketing strategies should be involved to drive attention to your website.
Proper SEO practices enhance your search engine ranking, making it easier for prospective customers to find you. Keyword research is paramount to SEO, as it determines the search queries potential customers use when looking for your products or related content. Also, we’ve already mentioned that to build a custom e-commerce design which is also mobile-friendly is crucial as search engines prioritize mobile-optimized websites.
Other SEO techniques include optimizing meta tags, URLs, and image alt text. Incorporating a sitemap facilitates search engine crawlers’ task in indexing your site. Using significant keywords that your potential customers are likely to input will increase the likelihood of your website showing up in relevant searches, too.
Built-in SEO capabilities
Unfortunately, many e-commerce websites struggle with SEO due to dynamic content and large product catalogs. However, using an out-of-the box solution can significantly simplify the process.
Next.js Commerce 2.0 template by Vercel with built-in SEO optimization guarantees that your website will perform impressively on both mobile and desktop devices. This enables dynamic metadata to be set for every page, improving search engine visibility. In addition, it provides lightning-fast page load times even for sites with large product catalogs, achieving 90+ scores on Page Speed tests. Fast loading speeds not only enhance user experience but are also a significant factor in Google’s ranking algorithm.
Shopify, a leading website builder, offers robust built-in SEO features. With Shopify, you have the flexibility to customize meta titles, meta descriptions, and URLs for every page, collection, and product. This level of control allows you to optimize these elements to improve your website’s search engine rankings. Additionally, Shopify enables you to optimize image alt tags, which not only enhances accessibility for users but also contributes to better search engine visibility. Moreover, Shopify automatically generates XML sitemaps, making it easier for search engines to crawl and index your website efficiently. There are other alternatives to the website builder, we’re speaking of Shopify as the most representative one.
All in all, SEO is an important component throughout the entire process of building an e-commerce website. It demands constant attention and effort to ensure that your online store is well-positioned to capture organic traffic, improve its visibility, and, most importantly, drive conversions and sales.
Promotion of your e-commerce website
Apart from SEO, there are other marketing strategies that prove to be effective for e-commerce businesses:
Social media platforms. Provide opportunities for both organic engagement and paid advertising to reach your target audience.
Email marketing. One of the most effective channels for customer engagement and retention through personalized email campaigns.
Content marketing. Positions your brand as an authority in your niche by creating valuable and informative content.
Influencer marketing. Collaborates with influential individuals to promote your products or services to their followers.
Affiliate marketing. Partners with affiliates who earn a commission for driving traffic and sales to your e-commerce business.
Online PR. Utilizes online platforms to generate positive publicity and build brand reputation. Remarketing: Targets and re-engages visitors who have shown interest in your products or visited your website.
Required time-to-market to capture the market
Time-to-market (TTM) refers to the duration from product conceptualization to its availability for sale. In e-commerce, this could be the time taken from the idea of starting an e-commerce platform to the site’s launch. Lower TTM gives you a competitive advantage, providing a longer window to generate revenues before the product becomes obsolete.
However, it is important to ensure that quality does not suffer in the process of building a custom e-commerce website. While speed is important, it is essential to prioritize convenience and usability to create a website that meets the needs of your customers, as demonstrated in our example with the bike shops’ websites.There are options we’ve already discussed that offer different timelines:
|Fully custom e-commerce platform||3 weeks||Including app and admin panel development|
|Out-of-the-box builder with a custom design||5–15 days||This solution implements Next.js Commerce 2.0 template and a custom design. The time frame depends on the complexity of design.|
|Popular website builders||Up to 20 hours||This will be made of ready blocks and design templates.|
Understanding these timelines as part of your marketing and promotion strategy can help you plan your launch more effectively, ensuring you hit the ground running once you’ve built your e-commerce website. By integrating your TTM with a tailored marketing campaign, you can optimize market penetration and get a head-start in recapturing your investments.
To build your custom e-commerce website within the timeframe of 5 to 15 days, click the button below.
Building a custom e-commerce website involves defining your products or services and understanding your target audience to design a site that aligns with both your business and customer needs. You then choose the right platform or the way of creating the website before designing your user interface. Once your website is ready, you ensure everything functions as expected, address any feedback or issues, then launch, and promote.
The e-commerce space is dynamic and competitive. Standing out requires a unique, customer-centric site and on-going optimization. By following the steps outlined in the guide and constantly tuning in to your audience’s needs, you will enhance your e-commerce website’s effectiveness, maximizing customer engagement and boosting your sales. And if you need any help along the way, you can always leave us a short note, and we’ll be right back to assist you.