The internet is a powerful tool. Whether you’re an established business or just starting out, it is completely worth your time and money to invest in an e-commerce website so you have a online presence to service potential customers. I can’t express to you how much this has helped me in my own personal business endeavors to have a website up and running to direct customers to, so that they can buy products and easily obtain information about my brand and company right from their smartphone or computer. You might be asking yourself, what does it take to setup an e-commerce website? Do I need to hire a professional website designer for $100, $1000, or $10,000 to build the website and make it look presentable? What about accepting payments? What about (insert any doubt here).
The answer to all these questions can be summed up easily in one sentence: Building, designing, managing, and collecting payments from customers can be done easily and straightforward, given the right tools I am about to show you. You DO NOT need to know a single thing about CSS/HTML/PHP or any other programming language. If you can read and write in your native language, you can make a website. How do I know this? Because when I made my first e-commerce website, I didn’t know a single thing about website design, web hosting, or all the other issues business owners run into when trying to sell products online. This guide will show you it all, from start to finish. It’s up to you to follow along and make your e-commerce dreams a reality.
So let’s get started, shall we?
What do I need for an E-Commerce website?
To create an e-commerce website, you will need the following:
- A method to collect payment from customers, such as a bank account, a PayPal account, or Google Wallet.
- A domain name (Where customers will go access your store)
- A website host (See below my recommendations on this)
- Lastly, you will need an e-commerce website platform (more on this later)
Step 1: The Basics
In order to setup an e-commerce website, you will need a website domain name. The domain name is what your customers will type into Google in order to find your products online. The domain name for this website is “www.wiyre.com” – your website domain name can be whatever you want, as long as it’s available and not already taken by another business. It’s extremely important when you’re choosing your domain name to use a “.com” domain name extension. You could use a domain name like “.biz”, or “.net”, but it’s simply not a good idea. If you want to hear the in-depth explanation of why this is, I summed it up quite nicely in this blog post. If you’re just reading this and don’t already have a domain name, don’t go out and buy one yet – I have a trick to show you how you can get your domain name for free in the next paragraph.
In addition to a domain name, you also need a hosting provider. The hosting provider, explained in as non-technical terminology as possible, makes it possible for people to access your website. Sending data back and forth from a website is done every time a customer visits your site – you need a hosting provider in order to make your website “live”, so to speak.
So with the array of hosting providers out there, which one is best? In my personal opinion, I use BlueHost religiously for my web hosting needs. The reason is because not only do they have an incredible track record for website uptime (~99%!), they also are incredibly reasonable with pricing ($5.95/mo for a one year plan, or $3.95/mo for a three year plan). I could go on and on as to why BlueHost is the best hosting provider out there, but the bottom line is this:
- BlueHost has 24/7 support, helping you with every aspect of your hosting plan (Once set up, you could essentially forget it exists, because that’s how efficient BlueHost is at running everything. If you do need help, you can reach them on the phone, through chat, or email)
- You can have unlimited domains on one hosting account. This means all of your business websites don’t need their own hosting account, you can use one hosting account with BlueHost for -all- of the domains.
- Unlimited space. Unlimited storage. Unlimited Email Accounts. <— Critical!
- 1-click installs for WordPress, E-Commerce, and other CMS platforms
- Last, but certainly not least. When you sign up with BlueHost, they give you a domain name for free.
I swear by BlueHost because they have provided me with everything I need and more. If you’ve made up your mind and decided to use Bluehost as your hosting provider, you can click on the banner below to setup an account. If you want some details on purchasing the BlueHost hosting plan, or are not sure what the BlueHost checkout options mean, follow Step 2 in this post.
(Note: I do make a commission from BlueHost off of every sale I refer to them. I am not a BlueHost employee, but I DO personally use BlueHost for every website I own. This commission helps me host my website so I can keep writing content and purchase coffee in the dead of night to keep my caffeine intake as high as it is. If I helped you out, go ahead and use the link above for BlueHost!)
So now that we have the domain name and a hosting package, what’s next?
Step 2: Choosing an E-Commerce Platform
There’s a ton of E-Commerce platforms out there. I’ve the cut the list down to two, Shopify and WooCommerce. Below, I am going to talk about each one, the pro’s and con’s, and which one I recommend depending on your business needs. There are other E-Commerce platforms out there like Magento and Volusion, but I don’t recommend them because of the learning curve, and they are usually geared towards huge companies that need to worry about multiple servers and processing millions of orders.
Shopify is my first e-commerce platform recommendation. I use it personally to sell products online. The great thing about Shopify is that they give you a free 14-day trial to test out everything, so if you totally hate it (I doubt you will, but you never know) by the end of the 14 days, just cancel and forget about it. There are over 80 different ways to accept payments, so you can integrate PayPal, Stripe, Google Payments, and even Shopify’s own payment processor. Pricing starts at $29/month, with a 2% commission on all sales. There are other payment levels available depending on your needs.
The other cool thing is that setting up your store is -so easy- to do, there is a full themes page which showcases both free and paid themes. Most of the themes can be custom designed inside of the settings page to change the color, layout, and other details incredibly easily.
Shopify also has a great collection of plugins. You will use plugins to help sell content and a perform a slew of different tasks. (Example: A coupon plugin, which shows coupons next to products you want to sell quickly). There is a plugin for nearly everything, from shipping products to communicating to customers, to keeping stock of inventory. Installing a plugin is easy, there is a custom plugin section in your Shopify admin section that makes it easy to control the settings of each one. Shopify has the advantage of being incredibly easy to get to know. The learning curve is very low, and if you do run into trouble, there is free customer service available 24/7. Not many E-commerce platforms offer this. One downside is that customizing anything beyond what the theme allows you customize (like inserting custom icons or text in certain places that your theme doesn’t support) requires you to dive into some code.
WooCommerce is a alternative and a very popular E-Commerce platform that runs alongside WordPress. If you want to learn how to setup a WordPress website, you can read my guide on that here: So, you want to make a website. The advantage of using WooCommerce is that you can customize almost everything about your store. With that said, there is a bit of a learning curve to get used to WooCommerce and WordPress as a whole. If you have no prior experience with WordPress, it might be worth it to watch an introductory guide on YouTube or read a how-to for the basics.
What Shopify doesn’t have, WooCommerce probably has, that’s because it has a plugin list that can be combined with WordPress (we’re talking over 100,000 plugins, literally a plugin for almost everything). You can choose a custom WooCommerce theme, or stick with a theme from WordPress. There are both free and paid options available, with WooCommerce-specific themes usually costing a bit more than the standard WordPress theme. If you’re looking to go this route and need some advice on WordPress themes, this guide will teach you everything you need to know about choosing a good theme.
WooCommerce is a solid, albeit initially confusing e-commerce platform to sell products online. They do not take a commission off of your sales (although you can bet PayPal, Stripe, and the other payment plugins will!). There is no telephone, chat, or email support for WooCommerce (although you could try and post your question in the WooCommerce Forums to see if someone more knowledgeable could lend you a hand). If you get stuck, you’ll stay stuck until you work around the issue or get someone to help you out.
So you now know the options you have when it comes to e-commerce. Below, under which platform you’ve chosen, select the topic you want to know more about and we will get into specifics of each one. If there’s something you don’t understand, something missing, or you have something to add, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
- A complete review of WooCommerce (Coming Soon!)
- How to setup WooCommerce (Coming Soon!)
- How to choose the right theme for your WordPress Website
- 10 WordPress plugins that make E-commerce easy (Coming Soon!)
If this helped you at all, I’d really appreciate it if you shared this article with someone who could also benefit too!