how to build an online store from scratch

Do you want to sell online? In this article, you’ll learn exactly how to do this, and to learn from my personal experience, trial and error along the way.

When I first wanted to create an online store, I was unsure about how to set it up and wanted to ensure that looked professional (minimalist, clean and artistic), was user friendly and that it provided powerful functionality that ensures I would make more sales.

I also didn’t want to make any mistakes in the coding, in the setup, that would prevent my store from succeeding. I learnt a lot, and in this post I want to share these lessens. I’d then then to explain to you how to build an Online Store from scratch.

I recommend that you sign up to Shopify to set up and manage your store. Whilst there are other eCommerce platforms available, like WooCommerce, these just cannot provide you with the range of functionality and benefits that include your stores look, feel and performance like Shopify can. Most of the time, these other eCommerce platforms come at a huge cost to your store… mostly lost sales and revenue.

The biggest suggestion I have for you is to consider the entire package BEFORE you set up your online store. If you decide to go with Shopify, then your hosting, security certificates and other features will be included in your plan, but if you go with a provider like WooCommerce- you will need to purchase hosting, a security certificate too, and hefty payment processing fees on each sale which will end up costing you more in the long run.

I’d also suggest that you consider the time investment you are willing tom give to your store, and how you want to run the business (automation vs manual work). Shopify is much more equipped for automation.

When I first set up my online store, I first tried to create creating it for free via WordPress and WooCommerce (Paid for Site but used the free WooCommerce plugin). Since switching over to Shopify, now I realize that I could have started profiting sooner, and saved a lot of wasted time and energy in the process.

How To Build An Online Store From Scratch

If you have no experience and no idea as to how you will create an online store, you’ve probably got a lot of questions, just like these:

  • What do I need to start an online store?
  • How much does it cost? Is it possible to set up a store for free?
  • What are the best online store (ecommerce) website builders?
  • How do I automate my online store and business so I can work less?

These are common questions, and they show that you’re on the right tracks to getting set up.

What follows below is our tutorial and guide that will aim to answer all the questions above and any more that you may currently have.

Step One: Choose Your eCommerce Platform

There are many online eCommerce platforms out there that you can use to host/create or run your store through. Some of these are very expensive, and others seem to be free.

The two most common and widely used, which are hosting thousands of online business are: Shopify and WooCommerce.

Shopify is an all-in-one package, where you pay a monthly fee and receive web design, eCommerce, and product management tools. You simply choose a template, upload your products and start selling online.

WooCommerce is different, as its a plugin that must be installed on a WordPress website. It provides a number of tools, but you need advanced technical knowledge to configure your hosting, identify and source a WooCommerce friendly website theme and a number of configure a number of other elements.

As I have experience of using both of these above, I will delve deeper into what they both are and whats included.

First, lets start of with WooCommerce.

What is WooCommerce?

WooCommerce is a technically-free eCommerce platform for WordPress (but you need to pay for numerous elements on your WordPress which makes this actually quite expensive).  It is a plugin that you will need to download and install on your cPanel and WordPress.

What this means for you, is if you go with WooCommerce, in order to create a store and get started; you will need to purchase:

  1. A Domain (around $15 per year)
  2. Hosting (around $10-30 per month)
  3. SSL Certificate – Protects your own/customers data ($60 per year)

So as you can see already, this solution is not exactly “free”. There are a number of costs still involved in order for you to create this store.

In essence, once you have purchased these three elements above, you then need to appropriately set it all up. Point the domain to your hosting, install the certificate on your domain, install WordPress, Upload and Install the WooCommerce plugin etc. I could go on….

From there you need to essentially create all of your product pages manually, and configure all of the settings. You the need to select a payment provider and learn all of the various fees that apply for each sale (I wish I had known this from the start!)

There’s also a lot of steps in order to create your store, and there are a lot of functionality missing that ensure that your customers can purchase successfully on your site. For example, there is not the ability to incentivize with popus, countdown timers, scarcity timers etc.

Added to the fact that a WooCommerce store doesn’t look that great, nor are you able to really customize it beyond a certain extent.

Having been there and used WooCommerce for two stores, I couldn’t recommend it to anyone looking to get start with a store online. It takes too long, is too difficult, and is actually quite costly when all aspects are considered.

Thankfully there’s a solution….

What is Shopify

We’ve actually written a full article on Shopify that explains what it is and how to use it. You can read that here.

But ultimately, Shopify is an eCommerce Platform that enables you to not only create a fully-customizable store, but host it on their web servers (as part of your plan).

Regardless if you’re tech-savvy or a complete beginner, as Shopify does not require any coding or previous website knowledge, its a great solution.

They provide all inclusive plans, and for a small monthly fee, you can use their quick and easy store builder without the need for complicated coding knowledge or web design experience.

You also are provided with an SSL certificate as standard, fantastic page speed load times, a tonne of free apps that boost your customers experience and improve site user friendliness and they also provide 24/7 customer support to help you if required.

Essentially, all you need to do is purchase a domain and a Shopify plan, connect the two and then build your store in your Shopify Account. It’s so simple.

The reason in why this Online Store builder is so powerful, is because you can literally get completely set up and have a professional, powerfully designed and easy to use and manage store in 15 minutes.

I’ve used Shopify to create three separate stores (example here) which I have since sold for a $2500 profit.

I love the ability to completely control the entire store in the back end, and the clean interface that’s easy to use and understand. And even better, I’ve never touched any code in my time using the Shopify platform.

Plus, there are hundreds of free extensions that you can install on your site that help persuade your visitors to make a purchase. These have been incredibly rewarding for me, and I’ve actually been able to increase my conversions by 30% since switching as proven by a dashboard analytics. 

Shopify vs WooCommerce

approx $10/yearDomain Nameapprox $10/year
From $10/monthHostingIncluded
$60/yearSSL CertificateIncluded
NoneMonthly FeeFrom $18/month
Manual set-upSite backupsIncluded
Manual set-upAnalytics Ready to go

Having spent a lot of time testing, using and refining both eCommerce platforms, I can only recommend Shopify.

On average, it has taken me around 15-20 minutes to create a store on Shopify, compared to 2 1/2 hours on WooCommerce – plus I’ve been a lot more satisfied with the store at the end on Shopify every time!

Not only this, there are a lot of powerful features, like the ability to automate orders and fulfill them on your behalf. This is something that WooCommerce is completely unable to provide.

Not only this, but WooCommerce is very resource intensive, meaning it requires a lot of memory to work effectively. This memory is intrinsically tied to your hosting plan, and in order for your store to be quick and not crash, you’ll need to be spending quite a bit in monthly hosting fees to cover it.

My stores kept crashing on WooCommerce, leading me to look for alternatives.

I have never experience this issue with Shopify, namely, because their hosting (which is included in a plan) is the fastest available.

If you sign up to Shopify through this link, you can get a 14 day trial. In this time, you can set up a store and see what you think prior to converting over to a paid plan.

You can even do this on a free-domain (Shopify URL) so that you do not have to even purchase a domain before you start. If you did want to continue and switch the stores domain to your own branded www….com domain, then you can do that later.

This way, you can essentially set up an online store completely free for 14 days with ShopifyUnlike what is possible with WooCommerce where you will need a domain/hosting before you even get to this stage.

Step Two: Identify/Select Your Products

Depending on where you are, the first step will always be to know and understand what you are going to sell.

If you know this already – if you are selling your own product, or know what products you want to sell/dropship from marketplaces like AliExpress then you can go ahead and skip this step.

If this is not you, and you’re not quite sure what to sell on your store here are some suggestions for Niches and Products that sell well:

  • Clothes
  • Fitness Products (Supplements/Equipment etc)
  • Gadgets
  • Technology
  • Jewelry

You can even add personalized branding to these kind of products to create a reputable market brand.

Step Three: Sign Up to your eCommerce Platform

So by now you hopefully have decided to set up and run your store through Shopify.

I trust that you’re making the right decision, and being sensible by creating a store that you can trial for 14 days before you invest in a domain and hosting.

However, if you decide that you don’t want to sign up to Shopify, skip this step-by-step tutorial and jump to the next section whereby you can see what other things you need to do to build an online store from scratch.

Creating Your Store in 15 Minutes with Shopify

Even if you’re a complete beginner these are the steps you are going to need to follow to go from no-store to live-store:

Step 1: Sign Up

Head to Shopify and click the Get Started button.

how to build an online store from scratch

Enter your email address, set a memorable password and enter your unique store name – this can be your new brand/business name (I suggest this name is the same as the domain you  have already/may purchase later so first check if it is available if this is you).

14 day free trial for shopify

After you click ‘Create Your Store’, there are a few questions which asks what you are looking to sell. This is just for Shopify research and is not important for you and your store, just type what you think is relevant and then Click on the Enter My Store button when you’ve answered the questions.

Next select online store, because this is what you are setting up and not a brick and mortar (physical store)

It will then ask you for some personal information. This includes your name, address and phone number. This is all used to set up your stores accurate currency to display properly.

setting up shopify

Step 2: Add Your Products To Your Store

Once the above info is provided, you will then be taken to your own Shopify Store’s backend. This is such a innovative platform, because it even shows you an easy to follow step-by-step process of what you need to do to set up your shop. At the top, it asks you to add your product(s). I recommend that you do this first, and you can do that by simply clicking the “Add product” button.

adding products to shopify

Once you click this button you’ll be taken to a very user friendly screen that enables you to edit the many elements of your product page. All aspects of the product can be changed, including Adding Images, changing the Product Name and Title, Product Description and Price. These will all appear on your product page when you hit save. You can add as much information or as little as information as you like.

Step 3: Customize Your Store

Once you’ve added one/ or several products depending on your preference, next its best to head back to the home backend dashboard. The next option in the list lets you Customize the Look of Your Site, which you can access by clicking this exact button.

This interface enables you to fully customize your entire/parts of your site, including logos and colour schemes. If you wanted to, you could change all of these many aspects. I advise instead, that you click the button: Visit the Theme store. Don’t be put off here, the majority of these themes are free!

customizing shopify

Now take a look through the thousands of themes. These are all desktop/mobile friendly, responsive, fast loading, professional, clean and store optimized because they have been officially approved by the Shopify teams.

To keep your costs low, I suggest you click “Free” in the filtering, and then install a free theme. You can always change this theme at a later date, but for now, its a great place to start.

looking for a theme for your shopify store

Step 4: Setup Your Domain

Once your theme is installed, the next step is choose a domain. This will make your site look proffessional to your visitors.

connecting domain to your ecommerce store

Please note: Whilst a domain is advised it is not essential. If you decide not to purchase a domain (through Shopify, or a domain provider elsewhere like Namecheap) then your stores domain by default will be Yourstorenameonsetup = the name you titled your store in step one above.

If you do decide you want a domain, head back to the central dashboard and click on the button: Add a Domain. You can either use a domain registered elsewhere (which you will need to update the DNS to point to Shopifys hosting) or you can buy a domain directly from Shopify. The latter is more expensive by a few dollars but will not require you to change settings at your hosting provider. If you are a beginner, or this part worries you, just go through Shopify.

Buying a domain through Shopify is easy – you first enter the domain name you like and then go through the steps to purchase it.

At this point you will also be asked what Shopify plan you would like to sign up to (that will activate beyond the 14 day trial)

Once your domain is installed on your site, or you have updated the DNS records at your hosting provider for a pre-registered domain,  then you simply enter your domain into your browsers search bar, hit enter…. you should now see your online site!!!

Step 5: Activate Payments

The last step you need to complete, is to complete is activating payments on your store. This essentially allows you to take money from your customers. To do this, from the central dashboard click the “Payments” button.

This section allows you to select from a variety of payment processors. These include Stripe and PayPal. Shopify also provides its own payment processor that is very easy to set up.

Simply go through the steps and you will have now activated the ability to accept payments on your site. So when a visitor orders, you will have money waiting in the account that you set up (Stripe/PayPal etc).

Once you are happy, and you have gone through all the steps above, you can now click on the Launch Website button. This makes your store live and accessible to everyone on the internet. Your store will be seen by anyone visiting your domain.

Congratulations! You now have a fully functional Online Store that you have built from scratch!

Step Four: Time to Market

Now that you have a live online store, you can start to market your products to your target audience and potential customers. There’s a lot of ways to do this, with the most effective displayed below.

Social Media
Social Media, and sites like Instagram, are a great way to get your products out there and known.

Unrivaled Review Extra Tip: Statistically, I have noticed that when using Instagram, by liking pictures and having my store URL in the BIO of my page, I’m able to sell a lot more than when the link is not there .

Search Engine Optimization is essentially the ability for your site (store), products, and pages being found by your customers in the search engines. You want to appear at the top of the search engines and theres a lot that goes into this that is outside the scope of this post. It’s something to definitely consider now your store is set up.

Shopify also enables you to enhance your SEO, because you have the ability to alter key SEO fields on each of your  products pages. This includes keywords and Meta Data. This will help you to get free organic search traffic ton your products that will increase your sales without any addiitonal work.

Starting a Store from Scratch– Final Comments

At this stage, I hope that you know how to build an online store from scratch quickly, easily and effectively.

Like any online business, a lot of your success resides in your platform, and the ability to have a safe, fast and secure website. This is where Shopify shines, and why it is a significant and fantastic solution for you.

So If you’re ready to get started, head over and start your 14-day free trial of Shopify now.

trial this ecommerce builder