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Your complete guide to eCommerce website development

eCommerce website development

Since pre-pandemic times, eCommerce has been the engine powering growth throughout the retail sector. Nowadays, to succeed in retail, you'll undoubtedly need an online presence.

Still, knowing what you need to do is simple; knowing where to start is trickier—especially given the vast spectrum of online shopping experiences available on the web. How do you pick the right eCommerce platform? How do you optimize your product strategy? What’s the best way to track all of your analytics?

Luckily, there’s a proven process for developing and creating an eCommerce website that meets your business needs without breaking the bank. And it’s a lot simpler than you might think. Let’s dive in.

Start building your eCommerce website today with Wix.

What is eCommerce website development?

Simply put, eCommerce website development is the process of creating an online platform where you can sell products or services to customers over the internet. This process involves several key elements.

First, it includes the knowledge of how to make a website. You’ll need to design the layout and structure of the site to ensure a user-friendly and visually appealing experience consistent with your offerings and branding. Secondly, it encompasses technical development, which can involve coding the website (if you’re building it from scratch), setting up secure payment gateways and ensuring the site's compatibility with various devices and web browsers.

Additionally, eCommerce site development includes implementing features like shopping carts, product catalogs and customer account creation to enhance the shopping experience. The ultimate goal is to create a seamless, secure and efficient online shopping environment that meets the needs of both your business and your customers.

what is ecommerce website development

How to develop an eCommerce website

No matter how tempting it might be to dive right into tinkering with digital tools and layouts, you’ll want to first invest time into making a plan. That way, your eCommerce website has a strong foundation informed by your goals and insights. Here’s how you can get started in nine simple steps:

01. Define your online brand

If you want to start a business, the first step is to define at the highest level what you want your online store to do. Even if you already have a brick-and-mortar shop, you should conduct research to align your digital offerings with customer needs.

To understand your online audience, survey potential customers and study the competition so that you can build a detailed persona that outlines your customers’ shopping habits and priorities. Know which online channels are important to your customers and their typical purchase journey so you can prioritize your investments in areas like social media and fulfillment services.

Defining your brand also means establishing the building blocks of your brand. If you don’t already have a business name in mind, now is the time to research it, taking into account meanings in all the languages you expect your customers to speak. Need some help here? Wix’s free Store Name Generator suggests ideas, which you can follow up with a domain name search to check website domain name availability. Factor in which social media handles and user IDs are available, too, before making your selection.

Wix business name generator

02. Set business goals and build buy-in

With your customer profile in mind, develop overarching goals for your eCommerce business that will guide your development priorities. Is your aim to boost brand awareness and social sharing of great content? Is it to drive in-store appointments or generate direct online sales? Your eCommerce site will likely need to serve a mix of these targets.

Determine which goals will take precedence within different sections of the site, and enlist help from relevant departments or divisions. For example, if you’d like to proactively reduce customer service costs, or direct their energy to more pressing matters, ask your customer support team about the most common requests or complaints they hear from customers. You can then compile that information into a written FAQ section for your website.

For example, check out Wix merchant Izzy Wheels. Together, sisters Ailbhe and Izzy Keane have designed a range of removable wheelchair wheel covers that match the vibrant, colorful style of Izzy, who was born with spina bifida and is paralyzed from her waist down. The pair features an FAQ page on their site that proactively answers questions about sizing, fit, shipping, returns and more.

Izzy Wheels homepage

03. Select the right eCommerce platform

When you’re ready to create your website, decide if it’s something you’ll be handling yourself or with the assistance of a website-building platform—ideally, a platform with robust eCommerce tools and features available. While the former lets you retain total control over your site, the latter allows you to manage and scale your business with built-in eCommerce solutions that take the guesswork and effort out of doing it separately.

Wix offers a comprehensive solution for getting your online store designed, launched and operational, which makes it one of the best eCommerce platforms for sellers of all sizes. Apart from your website, you can also offer products across multiple sales channels, including native mobile apps, external eCommerce marketplaces, social media platforms and in-person with a built-in point-of-sale (POS) system.

To get started, browse Wix’s library of hundreds of eCommerce website templates. These professionally-designed layouts can easily be customized to your liking, either manually or with the help of AI. From there, it’s just a matter of filling in the blanks and building a beautiful website.

Wix ecommerce platform

04. Organize your product categories

After learning the ins and outs of your selected platform, map out how to integrate and organize the site’s core content from your product catalog. In addition to traditional product categories, think outside of the box to create unique options that align with your type of business. Consider:

  • Standard categories: Offer options according to product type, such as “earrings” and “necklaces” for a jewelry site. Research which words your target audience uses to describe items by studying keyword popularity using tools like Google’s Keyword Planner. As a Wix user, you can also use the built-in Semrush integration to find keywords that will help your site rank higher.

  • Themed and seasonal categories: Group items according to occasions, seasons, functions or solutions. Jewelry categories might include occasions like “black-tie bling” and “office accents,” as well as pieces organized by gemstone type, earrings to suit different face shapes and so on. During the holidays, gift categories are a must, including items curated for specific recipients and price points.

  • Social categories: Consider adding modules to your website that leverage engagement and purchase data to show which items are trending, best sellers or “most shared.” For example, you can add a gallery to your Wix store recommending related or “best-selling” products to your customers. Simply navigate to the page on which you want to add your gallery, find the “Add” panel and click “Add Elements” on the left side of the Wix Editor. Select “Store,” click on either “Related Products” or “Best Sellers,” and then drag your gallery to the page.

related products store carousel

05. Develop a robust content strategy

In addition to basic product information, your eCommerce site should feature a range of content that showcases your brand and offerings to full effect. Make a plan to develop content for launch and provide fresh contributions to encourage shoppers to return. Content categories can include:

  • Product content: Consumers are hungry for information about your products, with 87% always or regularly heading online to research something before buying it. Specs, size charts, customer reviews, care instructions and clear photos are just some of the ways you can flesh out product detail pages. If you have a large product catalog but limited time, try Wix’s AI text creator to create hundreds of product descriptions in minutes (see AI in eCommerce), all from a few simple prompts.

  • Marketing content: Content that communicates the essential qualities of your brand can take many forms, from describing the company’s origins to deep-dive blog posts that showcase expertise. Promotional emails and social posts help carry the brand connection across touchpoints and present an opportunity to blend content and product selections in a compelling way.

  • Customer service content: Gartner states that a whopping 88% of customer journeys start with self-service. Cater to this with comprehensive, easy-to-find information about shipping and return policies as well as any product guarantees, store services and other important information about your online shop.

To see an example of content strategy done well, check out the product pages for Wix merchant Fieldstone. The outdoor sporting apparel brand features beautiful lifestyle photos of their clothing in action, along with information about sizing, materials and fit on each garment product page.

t-shirt product page at Fieldstone, a Wix merchant

06. Integrate order fulfillment

Clicking “submit order” isn’t the end of the eCommerce customer journey; it’s merely the beginning of the all-important fulfillment phase. Whether they receive the goods they bought online via home delivery or store pickup, shoppers factor the fulfillment process into their overall impression of your brand. The post-purchase experience is so important that four in 10 shoppers won’t return to retailers after a bad delivery experience.

To ensure a smooth customer experience, your eCommerce site should be fully integrated with order management and shipping tools. Check that pricing, policies and timeframes display accurately, and test store pickup routines so that you’re confident that instructions and store signage provide continuity and clarity.

Wix merchants can choose from multiple fulfillment methods, including self-fulfillment, connecting to a fulfillment app like ShipBob or adding your own fulfiller. While self-fulfillment is likely the easiest and least expensive option for new businesses, you may want to consider switching to a fulfillment service as you scale.

ecommerce order fulfillment

07. Set up secure payments

Consumers appreciate having options when buying something online, so tailor the available payment options according to your target audience’s preferences. Digital wallets like PayPal and Apple Pay are now more popular than credit cards, and will soon account for 54% of all eCommerce transactions. These payment methods enable shoppers to skip entering their financial information directly onto a website, speeding up eCommerce checkout and boosting security.

In addition to digital wallets, consider supporting services that let you “buy now, pay later,” which have grown nearly 17% this year compared with 2022. Store credit and direct eCheck debit from bank accounts are also worth considering.

For Wix merchants, Wix Payments makes it easy to set up a variety of payment methods. You can accept leading debit and credit card brands like Visa, Mastercard and American Express, and—depending on your location—you can also set up Apple Pay, Tap to Pay on iPhone, Pix, Boleto, Pay Now by Klarna and others. Additionally, Wix POS is available for those who sell in person.

To connect Wix Payments, go to “Accept Payments” from your website dashboard. Click on “Complete Setup” under “Wix Payments.” From there, select your business type, fill out your personal and/or business details, then click “Submit.”

If Wix Payments is not available in your region, or you’d like to connect your store to a different payment provider, you can choose from over 70 payment gateways offered on Wix worldwide.

setting up eCommerce payments

08. Subject your site to extensive tests

You may think you’ve dotted all the Is and crossed all the Ts, but you won’t know for sure until you put your new eCommerce website to the test. This important step in the development process helps prevent glitches and mishaps once your site has launched, and it provides a final opportunity to perfect customer-facing features as well as backend workflows. To thoroughly vet your site, test it in these ways:

  • View it on multiple devices and browsers: Try different combinations of smartphones in addition to desktop and laptop computers with multiple browsers.

  • Browse as a logged-in user and a new visitor: Returning customers who log in may encounter glitches that first-time viewers don’t, unless you test both scenarios.

  • Test heavy traffic conditions: “Stress test” the site for sudden spikes in visitors and peak-season sales. Testing tools create simulations that evaluate your site’s ability to withstand a barrage of traffic. With Wix, this is automatically monitored for you. Last year, for example, Wix conducted an eCommerce holiday load test and found that Wix stores can process up to 750 transactions per second.

  • Try multiple fulfillment variations: Create test purchases complete with delivery to different regions and in-store pickup orders. This will ensure your processes are in working order and estimated delivery timelines are accurate.

mobile ecommerce

09. Launch, track and monitor

When your site is ready to debut, consider rolling it out gradually with a “soft launch” to existing customers or a group of testers before making a grand opening complete with promotion and advertising. Stand by to receive and act on feedback in the initial days that your site is live.

Once your site is fully live, closely monitor your analytics and traffic. Identify any pages or features that cause visitors to abandon your site and make adjustments, zeroing in on the most effective layouts, functionality and calls-to-action. As a Wix user, you have access to built-in, data-driven insights via Wix Analytics, as well as Wix Stores reports to shine light on everything from your conversion funnel to your most abandoned products.

Over time, compare current and past performance to capitalize on trends and adopt new eCommerce strategies. Keep tabs on industry benchmarks and competitor offerings, and periodically conduct a performance audit of site features to ensure you’re providing the right mix for your audience.

ecommerce analytics

Important factors for eCommerce website development

When you’re building your eCommerce website, there are a few general factors to consider with utmost importance. They are:

  • Security: Sixty-two percent of consumers feel that fraud is an inevitable risk of shopping online, but it doesn’t have to be. To protect against vulnerabilities, look for eCommerce technology (like Wix Payments) that is compliant with PCI standards for handling credit card data. As you design your checkout process, limit the collection of sensitive data and map out integrations to ensure financial information isn’t being passed from system to system. Wix users have the benefit of enterprise-grade website security with experts managing everything from threat prevention to real-time detection and rapid response.

  • Privacy: When it comes to collecting personal information, weigh the benefits and drawbacks carefully. Consumers are most willing to share information related to what products they want to buy, such as style and size preferences. They’re more reluctant to share personal data like age and income. In addition, pay attention to evolving privacy regulations in the U.S. and abroad, which require companies to give consumers control of the data they share.

  • Mobile and responsive design: According to Tidio, mobile commerce has been on a steady upward trajectory since 2019, with sales projected to exceed $510 billion in 2023 and $710 billion in 2025. To serve consumers on small screens, use responsive designs that adapt layouts according to screen size. Test input forms for ease of use on tiny smartphone keyboards, and make buttons and links big and widely spaced enough to tap with a fingertip.

  • Site speed: Fifty-three percent of shoppers expect an eCommerce site to load in three seconds or less, and 50% will abandon their cart if pages load too slowly. Slow is not an option for a successful online store. What’s more, when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), Google considers site speed as a ranking factor. A quick site has a better chance of placing higher in organic search results. As you debut new features, it’s important to make sure site speed doesn’t lag. You can monitor real-time website performance from your Wix dashboard, or you can use a tool like Google’s free speed test.

  • SEO: Speaking of search engines, they’re still the most popular way to conduct shopping research, according to PwC. Your eCommerce website should have a search-engine-friendly design built in, and allow you to customize headings, labels, media filenames and text descriptions for maximum impact. Rich content can help boost your site’s authority, with a hierarchy of internal links to support key pages. Wix offers a comprehensive suite of SEO tools that let you monitor and adjust your SEO strategy as necessary.

  • Future-proof agility: Your eCommerce site needs to check all the boxes for your customers’ needs right now—and it’s equally important to be able to adapt to future needs you can’t yet anticipate. Regardless of what type of technology solution you use, you need a flexible system that allows you to add on, extend and integrate new functions as they become available.

Ecommerce website development FAQ

What is the best eCommerce platform?

Ecommerce website technology comes in all shapes and sizes to match the wide variety of business needs in the marketplace. Wix’s comprehensive, end-to-end solution has a balanced mix of out-of-the-box functionality and custom capabilities that appeal to independent, entrepreneurial retailers. You can add new modules, access expert resources and integrate solutions from leading fulfillment and marketing partners through the Wix App Market.

How can you build an eCommerce website?

How much does it cost to build an eCommerce website?

Do you need to hire a developer to build an eCommerce website?

Wix eCommerce Expand your eCommerce reach
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