Even before the pandemic drove most retail businesses online, eCommerce was on the upswing. Many small businesses that have served customers in-store for years have been slow to get a website up, but know they can’t wait any longer.
At the same time, many new entrepreneurs are treating the changing economy as an opportunity to start new eCommerce businesses. Both groups have one thing in common: you need to create an eCommerce website.
In the early years of the web, creating an eCommerce site was difficult. You’d need to hire a professional developer to build the complex elements required to sell products online. But now that the internet’s a common part of our lives, new web tools have become available to make the process easier.
Now anyone, no matter your level of skill, can build an eCommerce website. All you need is an intuitive website builder.
Below you’ll learn how an eCommerce website builder can help you build an eCommerce store in record time, the benefits to doing so, and the steps you’ll want to take to get started.
Why Use a Website Builder?
When you’re building an eCommerce store, you have a lot on your plate.
You have to research your market, name your store, determine what products you’re going to sell, set your prices, calculate shipping, and market your store. And somehow you need to build a website that looks professional, communicates your brand, and convinces people to buy your products on top of all that.
It’s a lot.
And for people with limited web experience, the website may look like the most intimidating part. But it doesn’t have to be. With the right website builder, you can let technology do most of the work for you. You input some basic information and—bam!—you’ve got a professional-looking eCommerce website, that only needs a few tweaks to make it yours.
A website builder takes a lot of time, energy, and cost off your plate. And it means one less item on the to-do list you have hanging over your head as a business owner.
What to Look for in an eCommerce Website Builder
You’re going to have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to choosing the right eCommerce website builder for your needs. There are a ton website builders out there, but ultimately you’ll want to choose a builder that’s best suited to the needs and goals of your store.
Here are some features to keep an eye out for:
- An emphasis on building a mobile-friendly website. In our world of ubiquitous smartphones, mobile can’t be an afterthought. Make sure your website builder defaults to creating websites that work well on mobile.
- Smart technology that does most of the work for you. The more your website builder does automatically, the less work you’re stuck handling.
- An image library included. This is more nice to have than required, but images play a key role in the online experience, so having access to a library of them will make building a visually stunning website much easier.
- eCommerce features built in. Your website needs to be able to sell things, that means you need features like inventory management, tax management, and coupon creation.
- An affordable price. Your business probably has a limited budget, and you don’t want your website builder to cut into the cost of other things your business needs. Luckily, you can find powerful website builders that only cost a few dollars a month.
- Bundled website features. If your website builder comes with other important website features you need, like web hosting, an SSL certificate, and a domain name, it saves you the extra cost of buying them separately. And it saves you from having to manage them all through separate accounts.
- A reliable, accessible support team. Anyone new to running a website may face questions or issues they need help with. Go with a website builder backed by a company that promises 24/7 support from skilled representatives.
Once you’ve settled upon an eCommerce website builder, it’s time to start creating your store.
If you’re still unsure about what builder will be best suited for your needs, then take the new Gator Website builder for a spin. It includes all of the features above and more.
How to Use Gator to Create Your eCommerce Store
Building your eCommerce store with a website builder is a simple and intuitive process. With Gator, almost all of the work will be completed for you once you provide some basic information about your business.
1. Choose Your Category
Gator will automatically select a design for your website based on the type of business you have. Your first step is therefore to fill in what category your business falls under.
Once you start typing a description of your business category, Gator will provide a dropdown list of options you can choose from. Make your selection and click Continue.
2. Name Your eCommerce Site
If your eCommerce business already has a name, this step’s super easy. Just fill in the business name here.
If you’re still trying to figure out what to call your eCommerce business, then you’ll want to take some time to figure out the best business and domain name that’s available and suits your brand. Then you can fill in your site’s name.
Notice that once you add your business name in the website builder, it will automatically fill in at the top of the site. As you move through these steps, the information you provide will be applied to the preview window on the right side of the screen, so you can see your website take fruition as you go.
Having good visuals on your website is important to creating a memorable visitor experience and ensuring your website looks professional. The next step is to choose your background image.
You can choose here from the library of free images that come with Gator, and the website builder will supply some suggestions based on your business category. Or you can load your own image file by selecting Upload on the right.
Anytime you click on an option, you can see how it will look on the site in the preview window. You can take some time to play around with different choices and see which you like best.
4. Select Your Font
Your images will make a big contribution to your eCommerce website’s visual identity, but it’s just one part. Font plays an important role too. Gator will provide a selection of font pairings you can choose from. Select the one that feels the most appropriate for your brand.
As with the images, you can see how the font selection looks by clicking on the option and viewing the preview window on the right.
5. Choose Your Website Color Scheme
Your online store’s color scheme will be one of the main things visitors associate with your visual brand.
If you have an existing business, think about the color scheme you use for your current brand materials, such as signs, business cards, and advertisements. If you’re building a new eCommerce business and haven’t developed a visual brand identity yet, then this is a good opportunity to do so!
The website builder provides suggestions of colors that go well together, and you can click on different options to see how they look in the preview window before you make a choice.
Make your selection and click Continue.
You want to make it easy for visitors to find their way around your website. Websites typically have a menu across the top of the site, or behind a hamburger icon that reveals the menu once you click on it.
The website builder provides a few main options for how to structure your eCommerce website so people can find the navigation features. Try out different ones to see how they look in the preview, and select the one you like the most.
At this stage, consider what main categories you’ll use to organize your website. The number of items you’ll include in your main menu will influence which navigation structure makes the most sense. If you’ll have a lot of products that will fall into several categories, you’ll want an option that leaves room for a larger menu.
You want to make it as easy as possible for people to figure out how to contact you. The eCommerce website builder puts your contact information right on the bottom of your main page.
Add your address, phone number, and the best email address for customers and prospects to use. You may have to scroll down to see the information populate on the page in your website preview window.
Click Finish, and the basic structure of your eCommerce website will be in place!
8. Customize Your Homepage Copy
Now you start customizing your website to your specific brand and business. Change the words on the page so they represent your business. Anywhere you see text, click on it and you’ll be able to update it.
You’ll also see a menu pop up right above the text with formatting options you can add as you go.
If the website builder added text blocks to the page that you don’t need, you can easily remove them by clicking, highlighting the text, and removing it with the Delete button on your keyboard.
9. Customize Your Images
Every image the website builder added to the page can be replaced with another one of the free images in the library, or with one you upload. Click on the image, then click Select Image from the menu of icons that shows up.
You can search the library of images available, or click on My Images to add your own.
From the same menu of icons that shows up, you can select:
- Edit image to make changes to the image itself
- Link to add a hyperlink to the image
- Edit alt text to add alternative text to the image (which is good for SEO)
10. Move and Remove Sections
If there’s a section on the page now you don’t want, or think should be higher or lower on the page, click on it and look in the top right corner. You can use the blue arrows to move the section up and down the page until you get it where you want it. Or use the red trash can icon will delete it completely.
By the time you get your homepage looking the way you want, you’ll be an expert in the skills you need to edit your other pages.
11. Add Your Online Store
For an eCommerce website, the store portion of your website is one of the most important parts.
Look at the menu on the left side of the page to find the Store icon. When you click, it will open up a page that walks you through the steps of adding your store.
For payment methods and shipping charges, the website builder allows you to go with its default recommendations. If you’re not sure what to choose, stick with the default options or skip these steps for now.
12. Add Your Products
One of the steps in the setup process is to add the products you’ll be selling. Fill in all the details the form asks for.
This information will become the product page, so even though the form won’t require you to fill in all fields, you should if you can.
A few suggestions for your product pages:
- Use your product description to provide a clear explanation of what the product is and what it does, and to make a case for why your visitors would want to buy it.
- Be thoughtful about the language you use on the page. Do some keyword research to figure out what your audience is searching for, and incorporate the keywords they’re using into your copy. This will both appeal more to your target audience, and help with SEO.
- Load a high-quality product photo. Anyone buying a product online will have to trust the photo on the page to see what to expect. Make sure your photograph looks great and gives an accurate portrayal of what customers will get.
Once your store is created, when you click Back to Editor, you’ll see that it shows up automatically as part of the website menu.
13. Add New Pages
Now that the basics are in place, start creating additional pages and getting your website organization into place. To create a new page, click Pages in the menu on the left side of the screen. Select New Page, then Page.
If you want this page to become one of the main categories of your website that shows up in the menu, leave the “Parent page” section blank and leave the “Show in navigation” option selected.
If you want your new page to show up in the drop down menu under another page, select the parent page it should go under from the dropdown.
Fill in the name of your page, and the website builder will automatically create a suggested URL based on your page name. You can go with its suggestion, or edit it to one you think is more intuitive or better for SEO.
Each page you create will start out looking like your homepage. That makes it easier to create an Ecommerce website where each page matches stylistically, since you’re starting with the same colors and structure each time. But you’ll want to make enough changes to differentiate it visually, while also making the content of the page match its unique purpose. So go through and update the images and copy on the page, and move and remove sections as needed.
Repeat the process with each page you want on your website.
14. Proofread and Test
If your eCommerce business sells a variety of products, creating your pages, loading your products, and getting all the pages organized in the right way on the website may take some time. Once you’ve got that done, you’re close to ready to launch, but not quite there yet.
Now you need to double check that everything looks good and works the way it should. Go through each page of the website and read back over it, twice. Proofreading is how you catch embarrassing errors like typos, and fix sentences or phrases that have awkward wording. While you’re on the page, go ahead and test out every link on it as well to make sure they all work and go where they should.
Now, see if you can enlist a friend or family member (bonus points if it’s someone that matches your target demographic) to spend some time on your website to make sure it seems intuitive. Ask for feedback about how well it’s designed and organized. Did they find anything confusing? If their feedback is positive, you’re good to go.
15. Publish Your eCommerce Store!
Once your website is done, click Publish in the top right corner of the website editor.
Since Gator comes with free website hosting and a domain name, those things will already be in place. You just need to press that button to take the website live.
Get Started Building Your eCommerce Site Now
With Gator, you can build out a simple eCommerce store in a matter of hours. And while stores that include a lot of products or categories will take more time than that, adding everything you need will be a simple process.
The faster you can get your website up, the sooner you start making money from it. Dive right in and start building now!
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.