Do you have an idea for a new product that you would like to bring to market? Would you like to work around your hobby selling products related to your passion?
Creating a website to sell products is easier than opening a physical store.
It’s actually simpler than you might imagine, and it comes with several extra benefits:
- Upfront costs are minimal: No need to pay high rent to be in a high traffic location.
- Your audience is much broader: You’re no longer limited to selling to the people walking by the front of your door.
- Profitability skyrockets: Use marketing techniques in autopilot and serve as many customers as you want.
- Sell 24/7: Your website never closes and email marketing never needs a day off.
- Great scalability: Grow without making huge risk investments in better locations, bigger stores or more employees.
- Gather information about your clients and products thanks to different analytic tools, giving you valuable insights that will help you to grow your business.
You can succeed having only an online store, but you can also leverage your physical business by complementing it with a digital version.
eCommerce is a great opportunity for current store owners, but also for new entrepreneurs looking for an easy way to sell products online.
- Quick summary on setting up an online store
- How to build an online store (step-by-step for beginners)
- Creating an online store: The final conclusion
Quick summary on setting up an online store
In this guide we’ll be discussing how to create an online store from scratch.
The process might seem long but that doesn’t mean it’s complicated.
If you follow this step-by-step tutorial you’ll see that it’s a matter of performing a series of small tasks until you get a fully functional online store.
None of them are complex and we’ll be with you every step of the way.
Those small tasks include:
- Choose an eCommerce platform.
- Create your store foundation (domain + hosting + WordPress).
- Set up your online store with SureCart.
- Define your products and customer journey.
- Grow your online store.
How to build an online store (step-by-step for beginners)
Let’s see the whole path to building an online store in more detail.
Step 1: Choosing an eCommerce platform
When it comes to creating and managing an online store you need a platform that:
- Lets you showcase products to visitors.
- Lets them add those products to a shopping cart.
- Handles the payments, and taxes and VAT (if applicable).
- And many other things.
Luckily there are dozens of platforms to choose from.
And that’s precisely the problem.
Which one should you choose?
Factors to consider when choosing a platform
Choosing the right eCommerce platform is a big step in your online selling journey.
It can be very tedious migrating from one platform to another, so don’t rush making a decision.
The best thing you can do is to write down your main requirements before starting to look for a solution.
That will streamline the process of finding and choosing your platform.
Every business is different, but think about the need to:
- Sell digital downloads.
- Accept installment payments.
- Offer a specific payment gateway.
- Use advanced sales techniques.
- Integrate with your favorite email marketing tool.
Having a clear understanding of what you need will streamline the process of finding and choosing a suitable solution.
Here are some criteria that might help you with your list.
- Ease of use: Are you willing to invest time and effort in learning how to use an advanced eCommerce platform? Or do you instead prefer an out-of-the-box solution?
- Design and customization: Not all eCommerce platforms allow you to customize your store. Would you mind having a store similar to those of your competitors?
- Integrations: Do you have any pivotal app or software for running your business? Would you mind integrating it via Zapier or SureTriggers?
- This includes payment gateways: Your customers might prefer or need a different solution than PayPal as it may not be available in their country.
- SEO: Is ranking your products on Google one of your main selling strategies? If so, you need a fast platform with some built-in SEO features.
- Customer support: Will you need personal assistance during the setup and management of your store? Or are you comfortable resolving issues on your own?
- Security: Do you want to be in charge of protecting sensitive customer information or would you prefer to leave that responsibility to the platform?
- Product restrictions: Are you selling sensitive products related to health (like vaping) or aimed at adults? Some third-party solutions won’t let you sell certain items.
Those are some of the main points you need to consider when planning your online store.
Ideally, your eCommerce solution will also have to provide:
- Scalability: So you can handle a large volume of traffic and sales.
- Mobile responsiveness: More customers are shopping using their smartphones than ever.
- Reliability: You don’t want to put your business and clients in the hands of an unreliable platform.
Those above are important, but the most critical factor is definitely cost.
Cost can be divided into three main categories:
- Initial costs: The first investment you’ll have to make to start your online store, such as a custom domain, a theme or hosting.
- Recurring costs: Many initial costs will be recurring over time such as platform or plugin subscriptions.
- Fee transaction: Some platforms charge a fee for every sale you make.
We would suggest avoiding platforms that charge a transaction fee as it’s a tax on your success and that’s unfair.
Type of platforms eCommerce platform
There are 3 main types of eCommerce platform you can consider when it comes to creating your online store:
An eCommerce marketplace it’s a platform that lets you create your store within their website.
They usually allow you to do this free of charge, but in exchange, they’ll charge you a transaction fee for every sale made.
eCommerce marketplace examples: Etsy, eBay or Amazon.
Pros of eCommerce marketplaces:
- Easy setup: They need to have as many stores as possible. So they’ve streamlined the process of creating stores.
- Clients: These marketplaces have search engines and thousands of people looking for products, so it will be easier to start selling.
Cons of eCommerce marketplaces:
- Competitors: Your store will be listed alongside your competitors and other stores that can take away the attention and budget of your potential buyers.
- No customization: You won’t be able to change many things since all the stores will have to look alike.
- Transaction fees: The vast majority of eCommerce marketplaces will charge you a transaction fee per sale.
- Lack of control: Many marketplaces don’t even give you clients’ data, and you’ll have to agree with all the requirements or changes in the terms and conditions they want to apply.
Cloud-based eCommerce platform
Cloud-based eCommerce platforms provide all the necessary tools to run and manage your online store without having to stick to their marketplace.
They let you run the software on their servers in exchange for a monthly fee and usually a transaction fee.
Cloud-based eCommerce platform example: Shopify.
Pros of cloud-based eCommerce platforms:
- Ease of use: Their main value proposition is a user-friendly interface that makes it easy to set up and manage online stores.
- Great potential: Cloud-based eCommerce platforms are ready to grow with you scaling up their servers and letting you install third-party extensions to expand their capabilities.
Cons of cloud-based eCommerce platforms:
- Pricing: The monthly costs might be affordable, but the transaction fee will hurt your benefits along the way.
- Limitations: You’re still tied to their servers and rules so:
- You have limited control: It can be more difficult to make certain customizations.
- You have limited ownership: You don’t really own your store, so you are at their mercy in terms of pricing, updates or data management.
- Lock-in: As you are working with specific tools, migrating to another platform may be difficult and costly.
DIY eCommerce platform
The last type of eCommerce platform is similar to the cloud-based platform.
You’ll get the tools to create and run your online store, but you’re free to use them wherever you like.
This is usually done by installing an eCommerce plugin on your own website.
Example of DIY eCommerce Platform: WordPress + SureCart (or WooCommerce).
Pros of DIY eCommerce platforms:
- Full control: Using your own solution will give you more control over the design, functionality and features of your online store.
- Data ownership: You can easily export your products and client data for backup or migration purposes.
Cons of DIY eCommerce platforms:
- Learning curve: eCommerce plugins are easy to use, but you’ll have to set up WordPress and configure a few parameters.
- You’re in charge of everything: You’ll be responsible for updates and keeping your store secure.
Comparison of popular eCommerce platforms
There are a plethora of eCommerce platforms available, each with its own set of features and capabilities.
We’re going to take a look at some of the most popular so you can quickly compare their features and pricing and continue thus with the setup of your online store.
|Type||Marketplace.||Cloud-based eCommerce platform.||DIY (WordPress+Plugin).||DIY (WordPress+Plugin).|
|Ease of use||Straightforward.||Straightforward.||– WordPress knowledge is recommended.|
– The plugin has a small learning curve.
|– WordPress knowledge is recommended.|
– The plugin is really easy to use.
|Design and customization||Very limited.||Limited.||Very flexible.||Very flexible.|
|Integrations||Very limited.||– Through apps.|
|– Through extensions.|
|– Few native.|
|Payment gateways||+10.||Over 100.||Around 80. Some of them paid||Stripe and PayPal. Razorpay and others planned.|
|SEO||Very limited. Not worth it as you’re driving traffic to their site.||Limited. Many things you can’t control.||Good, but the plugin slows down WordPress.||Great. Headless solution that doesn’t slow your site.|
|Security||Their responsibility.||Their responsibility.||You’re in charge.||You’re in charge.|
|Upfront / recurring costs||– $0.20 USD for each listed item (four-monthly).||– From $29/mo.|
– Extra paid apps might be required.
|– Free plugin.|
– Extra paid extensions might be required.
– Hosting ($60/yr)- Domain ($12/yr).
|– Free plan|
– Pro plans from $99/yr
– Hosting ($60/yr)
– Domain ($12/yr).
|Fee transaction from the platform||6.5% of the displayed price.||Up to 2% if you don’t use Shopify Payments.||No.||No.|
|Best for||Handmade products.||Selling hundreds of physical products that include variations.||Selling hundreds of physical products that include variations.||Downloadables, subscriptions, online courses. Physical products without variations.|
For more details read this in-depth WooCommerce vs Shopify vs SureCart comparison.
Step 2: Creating the foundation of your store
Once you’ve decided on the tool you want to use, the next logical step is setting everything up.
We’ll be using SureCart for this guide.
SureCart is a DIY eCommerce platform that requires a WordPress website to operate, and that’s precisely what we’ll build in this step.
Registering a domain name
SureCart allows you to create your online store anywhere. You’re not forced to use Etsy’s domain for your eCommerce or build it within eBay’s infrastructure.
That freedom comes with the responsibility of buying your own domain name.
You’ll need to use a domain registrar company for that, such as:
We’ll be using the latter for this example as it’s very popular and offers good prices.
The process will be similar in any of them so feel free to pick a different one.
All you have to do is search yourdomain.extension, and if it’s available, add it to the cart, fill in your information and pay.
The prices range from $1 to $15 per year depending on where you buy it and the extension of the domain.
Choosing a hosting provider
You now have the address (URL) of your online store.
Now you need the commercial real estate, the hosting plan where you’ll store all the digital content.
As with domain registrars, there are many alternatives here:
We’ll be using the latter as Cloudways is fast, reliable and affordable.
From the Cloudways plans page select the one that meets your needs.
As you’re starting out, the $10/mo standard plan is more than enough, so choose that and sign up.
After you get your Cloudways account you’ll have to configure the server, which sounds more complicated than it really is:
- Select WordPress as the application.
- Choose the location where most of your customers will be based.
- Leave everything else as is (you can name your app, server and project as you like though).
- Click on Launch Now.
After a few minutes your server with the WordPress application installed will be ready.
It’s time to connect the domain and the hosting.
You’ll do so from Applications > Domain management > Add domain > Three dots menu > Make primary.
This will tell your hosting server where your domain is.
You must also tell your domain where your hosting is. For that you’ll need its IP address.
You’ll find it in Cloudways > Applications > Access details > Public IP.
Copy that number and go to your Namecheap account > Domain list > Manage > Advanced DNS > Add new record.
And add there 2 records:
- A record:
- Host/Name: @ or blank.
- Value/Target: The IP address you’ve just copied.
- TTL: Automatic/Default.
- CNAME record:
- Host: www
- Value: your domain name (e.g. nameofyourstore.com)
- TTL: Leave default
Don’t forget to save the changes!
Domain names will take around 24-48 hours to propagate across the internet so don’t worry if it doesn’t work right away.
The foundation of your online store is ready.
Getting an SSL certificate
Customers will need to share sensitive information like credit card numbers on your website. You need to ensure that this information flows securely from their browser to your web server.
That protection is what you’ll offer with an SSL certificate. An SSL certificate enables encryption for all connections to your website. It’s an essential security precaution and mandatory for credit card transactions in many regions.
From the customer point of view the SSL is in charge of showing “https” instead of just “http” in the address bar.
Browsers warn users if they are visiting a page without SSL and therefore not secure, so installing an SSL certificate is a mandatory step.
Cloudways provides free SSL certificates with their hosting plans.
From your Cloudways account > Applications > SSL Certificate.
- Select Let’s Encrypt (there are others, but this one is free).
- Provide your email and domain name.
- Select Install Certificate.
- Enable the HTTPS redirection so all the traffic is redirected to the secure version.
Quick WordPress summary
At this point your WordPress website should be almost ready.
You’ll access the private admin panel from yourdomain.com/wp-admin.
There you’ll find a sidebar with quick links to the different features of the platform: post and page creation, comments and multimedia management, appearance modification, and more.
The admin URL along with the log-in data is available in the access details tab, inside your Cloudways account.
We can’t explain WordPress in detail here but blogs like WPCrafter and Astra have hundreds of in-depth tutorials that can help.
Refer to them if at any point you’re stuck at some point:
- Beginner guide to WordPress editor.
- How to design a winning WordPress blog.
- How to install a WordPress plugin.
- Popular WordPress Themes.
Here we have a video: 9 Things to do After Installing WordPress on Your Website
Step 3: Setting up your online store
The skeleton of your online store is now ready. All you need to do now is set up the store part.
That’s what we’ll show you in this step, using SureCart as our tool.
Installing and configuring the SureCart eCommerce plugin
First of all you’ll need to create a free SureCart account.
You can use it at no cost forever.
You don’t have to invest anything beyond hosting and domain at this point, so pick the free plan.
You can always upgrade later if you want to.
The installation wizard will ask you for some details like:
- The name of your store.
- The URL (remember to use the https version).
- Default currency.
Within the third step you’ll be able to connect your Stripe and PayPal accounts.
The process is very simple since you only have to log in to these services and give SureCart the necessary permissions to use them.
You can connect those services later if you want.
In any case, after verifying your email you’ll see the platform dashboard.
Click on view API tokens.
An API token is like a password used to prove that you have permission to do something. In this case we need a SureCart API token so WordPress can use its capabilities.
When you create your SureCart account a default token is created automatically, so you just need to open it.
And copy it.
Now you need to install the SureCart plugin into WordPress.
Go to WordPress admin panel > Plugins > Add new > Search for “SureCart” > Install it > Activate it.
SureCart will appear as a menu in the sidebar.
There aren’t many options available now since you haven’t connected your account yet.
That’s something you’ll do from Settings > Connection > Paste the API Token.
Both SureCart and WordPress are now connected, and now you’ll see many more options become available.
Setting up payment and taxes
Many plugins work in WordPress without the need of any external account. So, why do you need to connect SureCart and WordPress?
This is because SureCart handles certain tasks like tax calculation.
Some of the workload is done on the SureCart servers. This ensures secure transactions and a faster website for you since the work will be divided.
If you skipped payment gateway configuration, you’ll be able to connect Stripe and PayPal from your SureCart account > Payment processors.
Click connect in each of them and use your credentials to allow SureCart to use them.
Please ensure that you’re connecting the live version of the gateways. Test just works for testing purposes where no real money is involved.
We recommend reading the official documentation if you’re thinking about making some dummy purchases with test accounts.
You can check if everything is properly connected from the WordPress admin panel > SureCart > Settings > Processors.
Further down there is a button to add manual payments.
This will be useful if you want to accept wire transfers or cash on delivery as payment methods.
Taxes are managed from the Taxes tab within SureCart settings.
There are three main sections:
- Store Tax Settings.
- EU VAT Settings.
- Tax Regions.
If you need to collect tax in your business, enable the first option and fill in your company data within the Store Tax Settings section:
You’ll have to scroll down to the bottom of this section to find the Tax Region settings.
Here you control how your store calculates sales tax for each specific region.
The settings here will vary depending on where your business is located and/or the type of product you are selling.
SureCart helps you with the technical process of applying taxes, but you are responsible for setting them up correctly.
We recommend consulting a tax expert to make sure your store is fully compliant with the relevant regulations in your region..
This is also advisable to configure EU VAT Settings if they are relevant to where you operate.
You’ll probably also need to comply with legislation regarding invoices and receipts, something you can set up from the orders and receipts section.
Designing the branding of the store
SureCart lets you make some small adjustments to adapt your store branding.
From the Settings > Design and Branding section you can define:
- Main color for buttons, links and other UI elements.
- Your logo.
- The contact information that will appear on your emails.
You can edit these emails from the SureCart website, since sending them is another task that the tool’s server manages for you.
If you want to modify the general appearance of your store, then what you should do is change or adapt your WordPress theme.
You can choose a template from Starter Templates and import it with a couple of clicks.
- Go to the WordPress admin panel > Plugins > Add New and download and activate Starter Templates.
- Select Appearance > Starter Templates.
- Pick one and follow the wizard to complete the import.
These templates are optimized to be fast and convert well, so they are one of the best options you can choose.
Step 4: Defining your products and customer journey
Your store is almost ready. You have set up your domain name, arranged hosting, installed WordPress and configured your store.
All that’s left is to add products and define how the customer will find and purchase them.
Adding your products
To add products into SureCart you’ll need to go to the WordPress admin panel > SureCart > Products > Add New.
After adding a name you’ll arrive at the product sheet from where you can finish filling out the remaining details, such as:
- Turn on/off the availability of the product.
- Define tax and shipping.
- Adding a product image.
From the pricing section in SureCart you can add:
- One time payments: Including an original price if you are running a sale on your product.
- Installment plans: So you can easily sell more expensive products.
SureCart also offers extra options for your products.
These are especially relevant if you’re selling digital goods, but you can also use some of them with your physical ones.
- Integrations: You can trigger different actions with the sale of the product. e.g. enrolling the buyer into a marital communication course made with SureMembers.
- Downloads: You can add any digital downloads you want to sell, or add extras for your physical products so the buyers get something instantly while they wait for the product.
- Licensing creation: Only useful if you’re selling software.
- Limit per-customer purchases: To avoid extra purchases by mistake.
Filling your product data in SureCart is pretty straightforward.
How are your customers going to find the products and buy them? That’s what you’ll have to think about and define in this last section.
SureCart automatically generates a link that leads the customers directly to checkout for them to complete the purchase.
You can see this by clicking on Copy Links in each pricing plan.
The Buy Link is the one that you need:
As you can see, it shows a pretty minimalist and clean checkout focused on conversions:
You can use that link anywhere:
- Social media updates.
- Email marketing campaigns.
- Clickable images.
- Buttons on your website.
If you want to use the link in buttons it’s better to use the shortcode provided for that purpose:
A shortcode is a small piece of code that will automatically turn into, in this case, a button. That button will redirect to the previous default checkout you’ve just seen.
Notice there is also an Add to Cart Button Shortcode?
This button won’t take buyers to checkout, instead, it will add the product to a nice looking side cart.
This way buyers can add products to a cart while they continue browsing your store until they are ready to buy.
The cart button will follow them along while staying out the way.
You can customize the look and feel of your cart from SureCart > Cart, using the WordPress editor.
For instance you could remove the coupon block, change the text labels or the colors.
You can do something similar with the general checkout from SureCart > Forms, editing the Store Checkout.
Better yet, you can also add new checkouts.
SureCart provides a few templates to speed up the design process.
After picking one you’ll be able to choose:
- What product or products will be included in this checkout.
- You can even select the pricing plan for each article.
- The options the buyer can select. e.g.
- If you’re selling a closed bundle: Customers must purchase all options.
- If you’re selling a single product with 2 different pricing plans: Customers must select one of the options.
- If you’re letting the buyers what they want to buy: Customers can select multiple options.
- A custom thank you page: Otherwise the buyer will be redirected to the default order confirmation page (SureCart has already created it for you)
You can modify the default thank you page, or create a new one for each checkout form.
In the last step you’ll be able to modify the template you originally chose:
- The plus button will allow you to add new content blocks.
- You can use SureCart blocks or any type of block.
- For instance, you could use Spectra’s testimonial blocks and show social proof in order to close more sales.
- You can turn the live checkout one into a test one to make a dummy purchase.
- Once you’re ready, just go back to live again so customers can make purchases.
Example of a testimonial block from Spectra added to the checkout.
All you have to do now is just copy and paste the shortcode of the form wherever you need inside your WordPress site.
- In a sidebar widget.
- Inside and informational article.
- At the end of a sales page.
Example of shortcode inside an article (backend)
This way you’ll reduce the steps the user has to go through to finalize a purchase.
Example of shortcode inside an article (frontend)
SureCart gives you the freedom to display your products where and how you want.
You are not limited to writing a short description on a product sheet or displaying all your items in the same catalog with the same style.
You have total control of your store.
Step 5: Growing your online store
Your store is ready, but you still have work ahead.
There are many actions you can take to maintain and improve your online business.
One of the disadvantages of online stores compared to physical ones is that no one will find your store just because it exists.
You won’t be able to sell to customers just passing by.
That’s why you will have to constantly explain to your potential customers where you are, what you sell and how you can help them.
- Social media marketing: Engage in social networks and get your store social media-ready.
- Advertise: Through Google, YouTube, Twitter or Facebook Ads. You’ll probably need to install tracking codes in your WordPress to make this the correct way.
- Directly advertise through influencers: It can be more cost-effective than traditional advertising methods due to the high engagement rates.
- Email marketing: For this you’ll need a good email marketing service and a plugin to grow your email list, like Convert Pro.
- Take advantage of seasonal marketing campaigns like Halloween or Christmas.
- Plan a content strategy.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Google will love the speed that SureCart provides.
There are many other things you can do to rank even higher in the different available search engines.
- Build internal links.
- Improve your WordPress speed using caching.
- Write SEO-friendly content.
- Implement schema markup using Schema Pro.
- Optimize your images.
- Configure AMP.
- Optimize the WordPress database.
- Use an SEO-friendly theme like Astra.
SureCart offers a great performance out of the box. You just have to make sure to use SEO best practices on your website.
Use sales techniques
Don’t limit yourself to just showcasing your products:
- Use coupons to help your customers take the final step. You can create and manage them from the WordPress admin panel > SureCart > Coupons.
- Show countdowns to create a sense of urgency. They are available in Ultimate Addons for Elementor.
- Use advanced sales techniques such as abandoned cart recovery, auto payment recovery, order bumps, upsells, or purchasing power parity.
- All of these features are available in SureCart paid plans.
- Add social proof so customers trust you.
- Use video sales letters to improve conversions.
Create an affiliate program
Creating an affiliate program and letting your own customers or influencers promote your products is a great way of increasing sales almost risk-free.
Later this year SureCart will integrate its own affiliate platform, so you won’t have to use 3rd party plugins for this.
Creating an online store: The final conclusion
These five essential steps will help you build an eCommerce business that will succeed in the long run from scratch.
The tool you choose to manage your eCommerce will play a fundamental role in the creation, maintenance and growth of your online store.
That’s why we recommend using SureCart: It’s easy to use and it has great potential to help you increase your revenue.
Setting up the platform will take you just a few minutes. Once you’ve added a couple of products, all that’s left is defining your customer journey.
Designing your forms, cart and checkouts might take a bit of time, but it’s easy to master.
Creating your store foundation (domain + hosting + WordPress) might be the most technical part, but the steps are very straightforward to follow, so you won’t face any problems.
You could even outsource the WordPress installation completely if you don’t feel like doing it. Many freelancers and agencies provide this service.
The growing tips should get you started on the right foot, but there is always more to learn about eCommerce and especially about marketing.
So continue educating yourself in that area, or hire a specialist to help you take your online store to the next level.
We can’t wait to see your new shiny store, so please share it with us in the comments below!
Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we may receive a small commission. Read disclosure. Rest assured that we only recommend products that we have personally used and believe will add value to our readers. Thanks for your support!
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