Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur looking for a relatively easy way to start your own business, or a retail business owner ready to expand your business online, building an eCommerce store is a lucrative move to make.
But if you lack web design experience, the process of building an online store from scratch can look intimidating.
If you’re already doing the work to start a new business or run an existing one, creating your eCommerce website is one more task to add to an already overwhelming to-do list. And if you anticipate it being a big job, that probably makes it an easy task to procrastinate.
But every day you put off getting your eCommerce site up is a day of missed sales and profits. Time is money here. Not only do you want to move forward on this sooner rather than later, but you ideally want to get your website up fast once you start.
Getting an eCommerce website online quickly—without having to learn to code—is possible. What you need is an eCommerce website builder.
Below you’ll learn what an eCommerce website builder is, how it can benefit your business, and what to look for in a website builder for beginners.
What is an eCommerce Website Builder?
eCommerce website builders are similar to classic website builders, except they have integrated tools which make selling products online much easier.
A good website builder will take care of all the basic design elements of your website for you, so all you have to do is make some tweaks to the copy, images, and layout to bring it in line with your vision.
And a beginner website builder will have an intuitive website editor that makes that part easy as well. If it’s a well designed product, you won’t have to worry about a long training process, you should be able to figure out how to make the changes you want as you go.
An eCommerce builder uses this same process, but also comes equipped with additional tools to help you manage and grow your eCommerce store. That will include easy options for creating product pages, built-in inventory management tools that make it easy to keep track of the products you’re selling, and compatibility with payment processing functions.
3 Key Benefits of Using an eCommerce Website Builder
Even if you have an incredible product, you can’t build a business around it without giving people a way to learn about it and (securely) make a purchase. In our modern era—and especially in this phase of COVID-19—an eCommerce website is the best way to achieve that.
Learning how to build an eCommerce website from scratch is a lot of work—you’d have to not only learn how to code, but also put in the time and effort required to create your website step by step. And an eCommerce site requires a whole extra set of functionalities that would translate into additional skills and steps you’d have to deal with. But none of that’s necessary anymore.
An eCommerce website builder streamlines the process of building your website and processing online transactions, so you can focus on all the other (many) parts of running a business.
Here are a few of the biggest benefits an eCommerce website builder brings:
1. Easy to Build a High-Converting Website
When you’re building an eCommerce business, you don’t just need a website. You need one that does a specific job: getting people to buy your products. This means you’ll need to integrate product placement with the rest of your site, have product category pages, individual product pages, and a lot more.
A lot of website builders power many successful online stores, meaning they have data on the types of design elements that get results. A good eCommerce website builder will supply a base design for you that incorporates web design best practices and increases your likelihood of turning visitors into customers.
2. Help With Marketplace Integration and Payment
Beyond just showcasing your products in a way that makes visitors want to buy, you’ll also need to offer them a secure way to pay you through your business website. Most eCommerce builders give you the option of integrating multiple payment processors. These can ensure an easy and secure checkout process for your customers.
3. Tools to Manage Inventory
Are you still using a pen and paper to manage your inventory? Most eCommerce website builders make it incredibly simple to manage and set up your business inventory from a single dashboard.
You’ll have the ability to offer product customization options, as well as real-time inventory updates, so you always know how much you have in stock. Having all of this automated makes it much easier to know when you need to restock products, or even run discounts to help move the rest of your current inventory.
What to Look for in an eCommerce Website Builder
There are a lot of eCommerce website building software options out there. So, let the list of eCommerce features below help you sort through the noise.
You might have different requirements based on your store needs, but knowing what some of the most common features available are will help you make a more informed decision.
1. Easy to Use
The main reason to use a website builder is ease of use, so this has to be a given. If a website builder has a big learning curve or requires reviewing a lot of tutorials—what’s even the point?
Most website builders on the market are built with beginners in mind, so you don’t have to settle for one that causes confusion and frustration. Look for one that takes most of the work of building a website off your plate, and makes doing the rest intuitive.
That could mean a tool with lots of templates and a drag-and-drop website editor. Or, you could go a step further and look for a smart website builder that creates a website for you using automation, then makes any additional tweaks you want to make simple. You’ll end up with far less work to do on your own, will save a lot of time, and can essentially outsource a lot of the decisions around your website to the tool.
Most business owners have a strict budget to work within. Your website’s important enough to treat as an investment, but that doesn’t mean you want to spend any more on it than you have to. The right website builder for you therefore must be one that fits into your budget.
Luckily, you can find a number of website builders that are affordable—even on a small business budget. In some cases, as with the Gator website builder, you can even get one for free bundled with the cost of web hosting. Free is pretty easy to fit into any business budget, no matter how tight the purse strings.
3. Inventory Management
If an interested customer finds their way to your site, and sees a product they’re interested in only to find it out of stock, you’ll probably lose them for good. You want to do everything you can to avoid that! Good inventory management tools are how you do that.
Look for an eCommerce website builder that comes with inventory management features included. Keep an eye out for features like alerts that will tell you when inventory is getting low, the ability to enter product stock, and the option to stop selling products when there’s no inventory left.
4. Payment processing
You can’t sell products without a way to take payments. Every eCommerce website needs a secure way to accept credit card payments from visitors. If possible, you may want to provide a couple different options. Many consumers will be more likely to complete the checkout process if you make payment easier by accepting a payment option they use frequently, like PayPal or Stripe.
Many eCommerce website builders will come with payment processing options built in, making this part much easier.
5. Easy tax calculations
One of the benefits eCommerce has over storefront businesses is that your customer base isn’t limited by geography. You can be based in Maryland and sell products to a customer in Texas. But this presents a complication: different states have different sales tax laws. And you do not want to be on the wrong side of any of them.
Managing sales tax information for all the different states would be unreasonably complicated, so look for an eCommerce website builder that has tools that automate sales tax calculations for you.
6. Easy shipping features
Shipping is hands down one of the most important parts of running an online business. Getting orders out in a timely manner is key to providing a good customer experience. And making sure shipping costs are low enough to customers that they’ll buy, while not costing you too much to make a profit is a complicated, but important balance to find when running your online business.
An eCommerce website builder should make it easy for you to set your shipping rates. Even better if it makes it easy to offer any shipping-related deals to customers, such as free shipping for orders over a certain amount. If you’ll be using a third-party tool for shipping, such as Shippo, you’ll also want to make sure your website builder is compatible with it.
Many consumers are as comfortable making purchases on their phones as they are their desktop computers. That makes mobile-friendly websites a must.
Because of how common mobile use is today, any website builder worth its salt should default to creating sites that work well on all screen sizes. But don’t take for granted that will be the case, so check to make sure the website builder you consider prioritizes the mobile experience.
8. Image library
The images you choose for your website will play a big role in the visual experience people have when they visit it. But creating original, high-quality images is a challenge, and you don’t want it to be the step that holds up the process of getting your website up and running.
If your website builder comes with an image library included, finding good-looking images that make sense for your website will be a lot easier and faster.
9. Coupon functionality
Offering customers a great deal is a reliable way to increase conversions. Coupons can be a tool to encourage loyalty in your customers, and drive more sales during a slow period. Plus, discounts can be a smart way to get rid of inventory that’s taking up costly storage space.
Make sure your website builder provides the functionality to offer discounts and coupons to visitors, so you can take advantage of one of the most important and effective sales tools available.
10. Blogging features
Adding a blog to your eCommerce website is a smart way to build up your website’s SEO (search engine optimization) authority and publish helpful content that builds trust in your brand.
Granted, a blog requires a lot of ongoing work, so it may not be something you want to dive into on day one. But you want to know the option’s there for you when you’re ready. When choosing your eCommerce website builder, check to ensure it provides easy options for adding a blog to your website and maintaining it.
11. Social and email integration
Creating your eCommerce website is a big step, but the bigger job happens after you’ve published it. Now, you have to promote it.
Marketing a website is a lot of work, so any way you can make the process a little easier is worth it. A website builder that integrates with your social media channels and email marketing software is a good start.
12. Built-in analytics
Running a successful online business requires paying attention to what works, and evolving your business strategy as needed. To learn what your audience responds to, you need analytics.
While you can (and should) make use of the powerful analytics tools provided by Google Analytics, a website builder that has analytics built into its dashboard will make staying on top of your metrics more convenient.
13. Customer support
A good website builder will be easy enough to use that you likely won’t need much help with it. But even the most intuitive of tech products will occasionally require support. You want to know it’s there if you ever need it.
Look for a website builder that not only offers customer support, but ideally one that provides 24/7 customer support in the channels you prefer, such as email and live chat.
14. Logo maker
This isn’t a requirement for an eCommerce website builder, but it’s nice to have. Your logo will be the main visual marker of your business. Hiring a professional graphic designer to create one for you can be well worth it, but it tends to be costly and take time.
If you want to get one made in a way that’s quicker and easier, a website builder that includes a logo maker will save you time and money.
Bonus: Domain registration and web hosting
Every website requires a domain name and web hosting plan in order to be available to visitors online. If you invest in a website builder that comes with a free domain name registration and web hosting plan (or a web hosting plan that comes with a free website builder, depending on how you look at it), you both save money and keep the three main services your website requires in one place. That makes keeping your accounts current and making sure everything is up to date and working together less work.
Build Your Online Store with an eCommerce Website Builder
Using an eCommerce website builder with the right features gives you a serious leg up in creating your website. When you offload the main work of creating a website to the right technology, you can focus on running your store and marketing to get new customers.
Hopefully, you’ve found the information above useful in helping you find the top eCommerce website builder for your needs. Once you’ve found the right platform for your web hosting needs, then start building and launch your store.
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.