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How to Create a Free Online Store

How to Create an Online Store

Having an eCommerce website is an advantage in itself. There is hardly a business that does not strive to go online and establish secure and reliable web presence.

Actually, it’s no wonder as the number of people, who shop online keeps increasing with every passing day and the tendency towards business digitalization becomes more than just a vague idea.

According to recent stats, eCommerce sales options keep increasing. Thus, the overall revenue availed from sales made on the web in 2017 constituted around $2.3 trillion and this number is expected to become twice higher by 2021 to reach $4.5.

How to Create a Free Online Store

Only in the United States, shopping online currently exceeds 10% of retails sales, while the worldwide number of purchases made on the web by 2040 is estimated to exceed 95% of the total amount. These figures and trends speak for themselves and this is what makes the urge for eCommerce website development so crucial. It’s high time to talk about the ways of web store creation and the best systems that work best for this purpose now.

There are two major ways to get a profitable and professional web store. You can either order website development from third-party pros or launch them on your own. Both options have their pros and cons.

  • When ordering an online store from web designers, you do not only pay more, but you may also have problems in future. What’s more, you won’t know the essence of your eCommerce website structure. Each time you need to edit your website, you’ll have to contact the web developer and pay for these services over and over again.
  • The second option is to start a web store from scratch on your own. If you use the right tool, you will be in charge of a project, being aware of all the nuances, specifications and details as you’ve developed it yourself. You’ll also have the documented evidence of your domain and website ownership rights, which is a notable advantage for any website owner.

Launching a full-featured eCommerce website requires certain budget. If you decide to use a free CMS, you’ll still have to invest into hosting, domain name, themes and plugins. Website builders sometimes offer free plans, but they definitely lack functionality, when it comes to eCommerce website development and you don’t need a web store with poor functionality, do you?

The only reasonable solution in this case is to choose a website builder that works best for your eCommerce web design needs and invest into one of its paid plans. It is better to pay for the features and options that will definitely ensure the desired result.

How to Create an Online Store for Free

To launch a large-scale web store that will bring your profit by growing you customer base in the long run, it makes sense to set aside impractical and inconvenient options, leaving the most suitable one. You won’t go without a quality and full-featured website builder that will work best for your tasks.

There are many eCommerce website builders that make it possible to create online stores. Some of them are specialized, while others offer this option with other functionality features. Which of them will be the best option for your project? This depends upon its scale, your personal objectives, web store size, budget and time you are ready to invest into a project and several other crucial criteria.

We have also provided the basic guidelines on how to get started with your eCommerce website development with ease. Let’s get started now or jump to the secion you’re interested in:

Step 1. Find Your Perfect Online Store Builder

Prior to starting an eCommerce website, you should pay special attention to the choice of the right website builder that will come up to this crucial mission most. The quality and functionality of the system you will pick, will further affect the design, flexibility and feature set of your online store. Let’s have a look at the most popular and full-featured platforms you can use to start a worthy web store.

Shopify – The Best eCommerce Software

Shopify Home Page

Shopify – is the world-known eCommerce software that currently empowers more than 600,000 large-scale online stores across the globe. The system mainly targets large businesses and provides an extensive feature set required to cover their web design needs.

Shopify comes with impressive advanced marketing, design customization and promotion tools users may choose from when working on their projects. The highlights of the system include its POS software, responsive eCommerce designs to fit various niches, powerful integration and synchronization options, high end eCommerce features, enhanced security and search engine optimization tools, stunning product display and management features etc.

See also: Shopify review.

Wix – The Best Online Store Website Builder

Wix website builder

Wix – is the all-in-one website builder, which comes with a powerful integrated eCommerce engine. Thus, the system allows creating full-featured online stores for small and mid-sized businesses.

Wix is currently among the leaders of the web design niche, which grants access to myriads of eCommerce features. These include, but are not limited to in-built shopping cart, multiple payment options, product creation and management features, abundance of marketing and web store promotion tools.

The website builder comes with a separate eCommerce template section, where you may choose between hundreds of mobile-ready designs. The real Wix highlight is its Wix ADI editor, which automatically creates a web store for you based on the business data you submit. If you have coding skills, however, and wish to use them while working on our website development, then you can easily switch to the standard Wix Editor.

WooCommerce – The Best Shopping Cart Plugin For WordPress

Try WooCommerce now

WooCommerce – is a free open-source WordPress shopping cart plugin, which allows creating online stores that differ in size and functionality. The plugin will be of great help to users planning to start small and mid-sized online stores as it has a strong and narrow eCommerce focus.

The major WooCommerce highlights include unlimited web store design customization options, but it’s desirable to possess at least basic web design skills to work with the CMS in general and with the plugin in particular. WooCommerce also stands out from the crowd due to the abundance of inventory management tools that contribute to better product management as well as Geo Location support (MaxMind) that allows selecting geo-specific parameters based on user IP.

Step 2. Get A Domain Name For Your Store

It’s impossible to launch a web store without a domain name. This is actually the name of your website – the one, which will help customers find your store on the web. Thus, a domain name should be understandable, memorable and not quite long. It should also be associated with your brand name not to puzzle users.

There are different types and kinds of domains you can find on the web. Some web building services offer them by default, while others require registering them with third-party systems. This mostly depends on the platform you work with. Most website builders, however, offer domain names as a part of their paid plans or even as special offers that are sometimes free for a specified time interval.

However, if you decide to get your own unique domain name, here is the list of must-have steps to be completed to make it a success:

  1. Check the availability of the preferred domain name;
  2. Search for the best domain which ideally fits your brand needs;
  3. Pick a name;
  4. Complete the registration process;
  5. Verify your domain and prove your ownership rights.

There are also multiple nuances you might need to consider, when choosing a domain name for your online store.

Step 3. Pick and Customize Your eCommerce Template

Whatever website builder you will eventually go for, it will offer a collection of niche templates you’ll be expected to choose from. The number of themes and their customization options may differ with regard to the platform you’ll work with.

Some services offer hundreds of templates that are additionally categorized into extra sections based on the niche you focus on. This simplifies the search. Others, in their turn, may come with a limited set of templates, which somewhat restricts your creative freedom yet lets you concentrate on the customization options more. As to CMS, these systems offer both built-in templates and lots of free and paid variants available on the web. Explore the options your system offers and make your choice then.

Step 3. Pick and Customize Your eCommerce Template

As soon as you are done with the template choice, you’ll have to proceed to a more responsible process – design customization. To give your web store personalized and high end appeal, go to the dashboard of the system and explore the set of design customization tools it provides.

Even if you are not a coding pro, you’ll be able to select the background and the color palette of your website pages, its layout and structure, fonts, styles, titles, text parameters, medial file integrations options, footer and header settings as well as lots of other elements that affect your website design in the long run.

Take your time to experiment with the options to create a truly unique online store design that will stand out from the crowd, especially against niche competitors.

Step 4. Add Products to Your Shop

Now that you’ve already created and customized website design, it is high time now to actually add products to it. You will either have an opportunity to create a separate page for each product or just a products section, where you will upload the items you plan to offer for sale. This mainly depends upon the website builder you will go for.

What you need to specify, while adding products is their name, category, price, physical parameters like weight and dimensions etc. Mind that some platform set limitations according to the number of products you can add, parameters you can specify or product variants. This frequently depends upon the terms of a plan you choose to subscribe to.

The major criteria to uploading products include:
  • Detailed descriptions, which should describe your products in the most favorable light to boost customer engagement rate and depict their major characteristics;
  • Quality images, which should obligatory go with high resolution to reflect all the sides and features of a product you have in stock (shopify, for example, offers an advanced Augmented Reality Feature to showcase the 3D model or a product you intend to sell);
  • Proper product categories, which should be specified correctly to simplify users’ search (you can sort out the products by their special features, price range, featured items, filtering options or any other information you consider important).

Step 5. Set Up Payment and Shipping Methods

Having added the products, it’s high time to move forward to the next step. This includes setting up of payment and shipping methods. Let’s start with the payment options first.

Setting Up Payments

Modern website builders often take care of this issue for you by optimizing payment processes so that you could offer several popular payment options to your customers. The more options you are ready to offer, the more chances you have to convert a regular user/website visitor into a buyer.

eCommerce website builder make it possible to connect your web store to a variety of payment systems. The most popular of them include PayPal, Apple Pay, Visa, Stripe, Mastercard etc. Some systems offers dozens of extra payment solutions, but these ones are the most widespread and globally accepted.

How to Create a Free Online Store

As a web store owner, you can actually accept payment in ne of the following ways:

  • Credit Card payment processing – this means that you will perform credit card transactions during the checkout procedure directly at the website;
  • Payment gateways – this implies the use of the all-in-one payment software that will connect the shopping cart of your web store to the credit card processing network;
  • Business accounts – this means that you will have to sign a partnership agreement with a bank that will accept the payments made by your customers to further redirect the money to your own business account.

There is hardly a method that works equally well for all customers. This basically depends upon their special needs, location they come from, payment systems they have got used to, frequency of performing the transactions and some other crucial parameters. And, of course, you shouldn’t forget about secure payments. Fortunately, most website builders comes with integrated SSL Certificates that contribute to confidentiality and safety of user data and all the payment details.

Setting Up Shipment

Speaking about shipping parameters, they also depend upon the website builder you use. Each system is unique and, thus, it may offer special shipping parameters based on a number of factors.

The major shipping options website builder may offer include:

  • Dropshipping;
  • The use of shipping management tools;
  • The use of printable shipping labels;
  • Cooperation with shipping providers.

Whatever shipping option (or even several of them) you choose for your web store, you’ll have to submit the type of package you need to deliver, the location and the target destination and some other special details about the parcel.

As soon as you set up what product you get ready to shop and where, you’ll need to pick the type of delivery. This is where you will choose between free shipping (this also depends upon your budget and destination), flat rate (fixed price irrespective of the product type), real time quotes (calculation of the final shipping cost by a number of product-related factors), local/store pickup (when customers get their orders individually).

Do not forget to specify the types of shipping services you work with. This information will especially be useful for those customers, who expect their orders to be delivered quickly. Among the most popular delivery couriers, it makes sense to mention FedEx, USPS, Canada Post etc.

Step 6. Preview, Test And Publish Your Online Store

Is there anything else you have to do prior to publishing a website? Yes, there is: you just cannot make your website accessible online to the target audience until you make sure of functions well. So, the only step left is testing your web store.

If you use ecommerce website builders, this task will be somewhat simplified for you. This is because these systems always offer testing and previewing the website before the final publication. Here are the major aspects you need to check:

  • Proper Web Store Functionality – check whether all the links and buttons are active and clickable and whether they actually redirect users to the specified pages or sections. Do not forget to check the usability of the navigation menu, try to leave comments and perform other required actions;
  • Check the Content – no matter what web store you launch, you certainly add much content to its pages. Take your time to thoroughly read all the info and all the texts not to overlook ridiculous mistakes. This is also the right time to check proper application and optimization of images;
  • Test the Checkout Process – a web store is always about purchasing something which highlights the importance of correct checkout. The best way to test the feature is to place an order and then refund yourself. This is how you will not only test payment options, shipping set up parameters, proper shopping cart performance, application of discount coupons (if any, but you will also check the way the payment refund system works;
  • Responsive Look – most contemporary website builders create responsive online stores by default. And this is no wonder. According to ReadyCloud research, around 7 out of 101 customers prefer browsing mobile websites instead of using mobile apps on their devices to place orders on the web.

How to Create a Free Online Store

This means that contemporary world is moving towards the digitalization of the shopping process, increasing the demand for mobile-optimized online stores. The fact matters a lot for business owners, who just start their eCommerce career and wish to get the most out of their conversion rates. It’s been estimated that small and medium online stores get up to 30% higher conversion rates from mobile phones, especially if compared to large entrepreneurs.

It’s expected that around 55% of all sales made via eCommerce platforms will be made through mobile device by the end of 2021. So, it’s definitely important to test the way your newly created web store works on tablets, smartphones and other gadgets.

Now that you are done with all the must-have test steps, you are ready to publish a web store to start driving traffic and increasing the sales volumes as well as your profit.

Step 7. What’s Next?

Right after you choose an eCommerce platform and start working on its development, we recommend considering the following aspects:

  • An online store has to be convenient, product cards have to be informative, while order and shopping cart buttons have to be at hand;
  • Use an online assistant. This approach works well for users, who have doubts or just wish to specify the nuances. It can help boost conversion rates, so, don’t overlook such an opportunity;
  • Dispel the fears. Provide quality certificates and cash back guarantee, demonstrate the benefits of the purchase. Mind that managers/consultants have an important role in this process;
  • Offer more than your clients expect. Make up special offers. Combine the products and provide discounts for a second product. Everyone likes bonuses, keep that in mind;
  • Stay in touch. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t overload your clients’ email boxes with spam messages, but it really makes sense to make mailouts providing information about the assortment updates, special offers, versatile bonuses etc. sometimes. This contributes to a notable goal – to convert a one-time client into a returning customer.

Your website development investments may pay off in 2-4 months granted that you choose the right approach. By investing $20,000, the prevailing part of which will be spent on buying products, you may get the $6,000-$80,00 profit per month, offering 500 product items for sale, for example. This is the average profit rate.

By using dropshipping, you will save money, when buying products. You’ll have to spend some funds to get the plan of the chosen website builder and further website promotion (contextual advertising, social networks).

FAQ:

Question: Which is the best online store builder?

Answer: It makes sense to define the best online web store builder depending upon the goals you pursue when launching and eCommerce project. Shopify works great for large-scale online stores with advanced functionality and vast target audiences.

Wix is a bit more universal system, which allows creating small and mid web stores that work well for beginners due to its ease-of-use and versatility of features offered. WooCommerce is a WordPress shopping cart plugin that allows creating powerful CMS-based web stores yet implies the knowledge of coding basics. What system to go for in the long run? It’s only up to you to decide that.

Question: Which is the cheapest eСommerce platform?

Answer: All website builders offer different plans and terms to launch and manage different types of online stores. However, Wix eCommerce plan is the most cost-effective solution you’ll find. The website builder has special plans for eCommerce or business use with the business Basic Plan being the cheapest solution. Its cost constitutes $23 per month only, while the range of eCommerce features you will avail instead is definitely worth the investment. Wix provides enough storage space to host your web store, multiple payment and shipping options, custom domain name connection, absence of Wix ad banners and absolutely no commission fees for all the transactions made. That’s definitely a worthy offer.

Question: How long does it take to create an online shop?

Answer: The term of the web store creation process generally depends upon its size and the platform you choose for this purpose. If you’ve made up your mind to launch a small web store with Wix, then a day or two will be more than enough to successfully complete the task, no matter what expertise rate you have. However, if you intend to launch a large-scale store with WooCommerce, the process may take a couple of months. This is explained by the complexity of the platform, web store size, product assortment, the need for coding skills and multiple settings to be made.

Question: Are there other alternative to using an eCommerce website builder?

Answer: If you are looking for other alternatives to using eCommerce website builders, you may surely give preference to specialized software or online marketplaces. Etsy or Magento are some of the best solutions in this respect. However, you won’t go without programming knowledge to design a web store from scratch. These systems also take much effort and time to be mastered to the advantage. This will be much more expensive and complicated in the long run.

Bottom Line

Prior to starting building your online store, you need to consider all the details concerning the products you will sell, shipping destinations, suppliers, ways of official registering of your website ownership, methods of its promotion, analysis of niche competitors etc.

Get ready to invest your money and effort into the project and be serious about your platform design and content. The simpler and more appealing and logical it is, the more chances to get money from your potential clients will be.

Whatever your web design intentions are, it makes sense to use reliable web building tools with eCommerce focus.

ShopifyShopify – is a better choice in this case due to the number of features it has, such as powerful general functionality, variety of templates, marketing tools, reasonable cost and power of the system, synchronization with electronic tables and accounting applications. Shopify


WixWix – is more pleasant and convenient to use it as compared to the rest of the systems of this class. Templates are the best here, not to mention the advanced Wix ADI tool powered by the Artificial Intelligence. Wix.com


WooCommerceWooCommerce – is a powerful WordPress shopping cart plugin that allows launching small-to-large online storeы yet also implies the knowledge of eCommerce trends and coding basics. Thus, it takes more time to master the plugin and learn how to use it properly. WooCommerce


Choose a website builder with regard to your objectives, preferences and abilities. Almost all the systems reviewed above come with free trials that allow exploring their options. Good luck!

Howard

About the Author

I'm Howard Steele, the founder and editor-in-chief of this website. With over 10 years of web building I know how complicated and tiresome this task can be for a non-IT person. Can’t decide which service to choose? Feel free to ask me for advice. Just describe your website needs, and I’ll gladly help you.

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