Learn the 3 easy steps to creating an e-commerce site

Michael Gabrian

by Michael Gabrian on 07/28/2017

3 easy steps to building an e-commerce site

A lot of companies out there do very well without having an e-commerce site. These are typically local companies only serving local customers. This is totally fine. These businesses have their personas developed and targeted.

But what happens when your personas are moving more into the e-commerce world?

Well, you’ll have to follow them. And doing so isn’t impossible, heck, it’s not even that difficult. It’s just a matter of building a site for your customers to find you at.

Let’s talk about how to build a successful e-commerce site in 3 easy steps.

“You can’t wait for customers to come to you. You have to figure out where they are, go there and drag them back to your store.”
- Paul Graham

Choosing a platform

The first step to building an online store is to think about which platform or integrations you want to use. If you have a complex product or buyer funnel, a large number of products, or require some special functionality or features, I’d suggest creating a custom e-commerce site.

If the cost of a custom e-commerce site is too much, don’t worry, you have plenty of great options.

Let’s talk about 3 of your options.


Shopify is a pretty straightforward website builder that you can use to create product pages and sell on. It’s well-known for it’s ease of use and simplicity. It’s ideal for beginners, small businesses, and startups, but is also a solid option for larger companies.

The pros

  • It doesn’t require much technical/development experience
  • You have tons of themes that are mobile responsive
  • Plans start at $29 and come with all of the features you’ll need to get started
  • One of the most widely used platform

The cons

  • There will be transaction fees if you don’t use Shopify Payments
  • Less included tools than BigCommerce
  • Requires you to upgrade your plan as you reach a certain sales dollar threshold


BigCommerce is pretty comparable to Shopify in that they both require little technical options and have various plans for companies of all sizes, but there are a few key differences like bonus tools available, etc. Let’s go over some of the pros and cons of each.

The pros

  • All account tiers have access to a lot of cool features like coupons, discounts, and gift cards
  • Several mobile responsive themes to choose from

The cons

  • Not as many add ons and apps as Shopify
  • Less themes than Shopify

Building a custom platform

When building your own e-commerce platform, you have complete control over it; design, features, functionality, tools, etc. Whatever you can afford to include, you can add to the site.

But when is this the best call for you?

Building your own from the ground up will be significantly more money that $30 a month. Depending on complexity, it could be tens of thousands of dollars.

Another thing to keep in mind is how complex your product is, what the buyer funnel should look like, and any other functionalities that should be integrated into the site. Shopify and BigCommerce are great options but they are simple in nature. The buyer lands on the product page, picks a color and size, adds it to cart, completes purchase. What if your product isn’t that simple? What if there are a lot of decisions that need to be made when buying your product?

In any of these cases, building your site from the ground up might be the best call.

Designing your site

A lot of E-commerce platforms provide drag and drop options so you don’t need to be technically savvy to actually build out your site. So, doing it alone will save you tons of money, but, and that’s a big but, your design isn’t just a pretty face for your site. It should be designed with the buyer’s journey in mind, allow for a smooth user experience, and be created with data-driven decisions behind every aspect. So I would highly suggest hiring a designer, freelancer, or agency to do some of the work for you.

Your home page

The first things you should think of are your personas, your goals, and your buyer journey. If a visitor lands on your home page, what’s next? Where did they come from and how will that help you determine their interests?

With navigation in mind, minimalism and simplicity is always a good option, especially with an e-commerce site. The worst thing you could do is have a noisy site pulling attention all over.

Keep in mind the goal of the home page is to get the visitors off the home page and on with their journey. How do we do that? Extravagant images of your products? Hypnotic text? Well, both are great options that should be included, you should have a clear call to action that leads to the next step.

Your product page

I wrote a pretty large article recently on the basics of a successful product page on an e-commerce site, but let’s brush over the basics again, shall we?

Product photography

The presentation of your products should reflect their quality, as well as your company’s. So definitely get some professional photos done covering all angles and with some kind of zoom functionality.

The copy

You should use language that your personas can relate to. If you’re not properly speaking to your audience, you’ll see it in your conversion rates.

Here are some points to keep in mind:

  • How does my product/service help my personas accomplish their goals or overcome their challenges?
  • What are some of the best word choices to use for your personas?
  • What do my personas value?

Understanding these points will help you understand your persona and what to say to them.

The call-to-action

For the sake of the buyer journey, you’ll want a clear path for the visitors so they know how to convert. We use calls-to-action to do this.

Here are some tips:

  • It should stand out
  • It should be clear and action-oriented
  • Use urgency ("buy" vs "buy now")
  • Use first person (your & my)
  • A/B test them to see what works best for you

You should also consider secondary CTAs like:

  • Add the product to a wishlist
  • Contact us with questions
  • Get an alert when we get more of the product in stock
  • Social sharing buttons

Social Proof

I have three huge reasons you should have reviews for products on your site:

  • It's a great way to earn some credibility and trust
  • Detailed positive reviews could help new customers connect better with your product
  • Social proof is a powerful thing and it can help calm worried minds

In a world where most people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, we can’t afford to leave these out.

Yes, they provide a sense of credibility but they also give you the possibility of learning how to improve on your product as well.

Monitor performance

I would definitely recommend some form of analytics to track the metrics and success of your website. You’ll want to know how many people are coming to your site (new vs repeat visitors) and what they do on your site. Do they convert or do they get stuck somewhere? Knowing this information could help you get a feel for what needs to be changed or updated.

To conclude:

As you can tell, you have plenty of options for how you can build your e-commerce website. You could build it yourself with a simple platform or you could have a freelancer or agency do it for you for a more professional look and feel.

Think of the complexity of your product and your own design and technical skill.

Have questions or ideas you’d like to include? Comment it below!