How to Build an eCommerce Website from Scratch & Start Selling Products Worldwide
Magento, Shopify, WooCommerce, or a custom-built online store?
There are multiple ways to build an eCommerce website from scratch. The method and technologies that a store relies on have a direct influence on future success and sales growth.
We have created this article to define the best way to make an online store. The following aspects that are reviewed will uncover the details of how to create an eCommerce website from scratch and bring your business to the worldwide arena:
- available options that can be used in eCommerce website development
- reasons to build an eCommerce website from scratch and the main benefits
- step-by-step process of how to build an eCommerce website from scratch
- budget and timeline required to create an online store
How to Build an eCommerce Website from Scratch: Options Comparison
While there is no doubt that a new eCommerce website has some huge potential for growth, the choice of the optimal development method is still debatable. Let’s find out the best way to build an ecommerce site.
Here are the most popular solutions that are used to build an eCommerce website from scratch, but not all of them will actually lead to success.
This is one of the most popular eCommerce website builders and is characterized by ease-of-use and features that are specifically sculpted for eCommerce. Its annual cost ranges from around $350 to $6,500 and can extend beyond this due to an additional fee for each sale you make.
The platform is delivered in three versions. Magento Open Source is the free solution, while Magento Commerce and Magento Commerce Cloud are paid solutions, with the latter being hosted. The prices start at $22,000 and $40,000 accordingly and depend on the revenue a business generates, and thus can reach up to $125,000 and $190,000.
Friendly advice: When asking how to create an eCommerce website from scratch with Magento, calculate how much you will need to pay for its set up and development, even if you decide to use the open source version.
Very often when business owners are wondering how to build an eCommerce website from scratch, they come across this name. WooCommerce is a very popular eCommerce platform that is attractive thanks to the fact that it is free.
However, the provided functionality is quite limited, which is why you would need to buy additional extensions to implement the necessary features. The price varies greatly, and the final amount that businesses pay directly depends on the complexity of the store being built.
This eCommerce website builder is also quite popular among those who are looking for ways to build an eCommerce website from scratch. When compared with competitors, you may notice a shortage of available apps and free themes. The price ranges between $359 to $2,700 per year. Each plan has a limit on online sales per year that curbs business growth.
You may wonder which website builder is best for eCommerce and which one to choose. There is no exact answer due to different needs for each online store. The table below compares Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and WordPress eCommerce website builders and shows their main specifications and costs.
Note: Do not make preliminary judgments, as we will further explain why it is more reasonable to custom develop an eCommerce website rather than with the help of the following web builders.
|Application||small & personal online shops||medium & big stores||small & personal online stores||a proprietary platform for small & medium stores|
|Free option||14-day trial||yes||yes||15-day trial|
|Subscription cost||~$348 - $3,588/ annually||$22,000 - $190,000/ annually||free, requires installation of paid extensions||plans: Standard - $29.95; Plus - $79.95; Pro - $249.95/month|
|Domain cost||$14/year||$10-15/year for new domain hundreds or thousands for an aged domain||$14.99/year||$12.27+/year|
|Hosting||included||$4-100+/month for Magento Open Source & Magento Commerce
included in Magento Commerce Cloud
|$3.95 - $5,000/month||included|
|~ Total Cost$ (annual)||~ $350 - $6,500+||~ $22,000 - $190,000+||~ $350 - $7,000+||~ $400 - $3,000+|
eCommerce website builders are more suitable for small and mid-sized sites without plans for extensive scalability, usage of new technologies, or an innovative online sales approach.
When considering how to create an eCommerce website from scratch, it might be a good idea to keep in mind the following disadvantages of eCommerce web development with the help of ready-to-use eCommerce website builders.
- Not all website builders are designed for eCommerce
- Bottlenecks while you build an eCommerce website and the inability to scale an online business
- Need for coding experience and technical knowledge when using some eCommerce website builders
- Expenses like hosting, domain, themes, plugins, development, etc, are still required
- Need to hire an experienced web development specialists
- Limited set of provided functionality
- Website design choices can be limited to what the tool has to offer
- eCommerce websites are very similar and do not necessarily transfer the unique feel and touch of a brand
When thinking about how to build an eCommerce website from scratch, keep in mind that custom websites stand out thanks to highly customized and exceptional UX/UI design and sets of features that are tailored to meet all business requirements.
Custom eCommerce websites are created to meet the specific needs of a business and are developed from scratch with a modern tech stack to handle high traffic loads, as well as apply a unique and user-friendly interface.
Custom eCommerce website development has the following benefits:
- Ability to cover specific eCommerce business needs
- Easy scaling and feature customization
- Easier website support and maintenance
- Faster and easier bug fixing process
- Unique design instead of templates or themes with no room for customization
- Opportunity to be unique and apply interesting interface and design elements (illustrations, animations, branding)
- Adaptability of eCommerce website to different device sizes (responsiveness)
- No issues with load times, thus lower bounce rate [consider that 40% of users leave a site if it does not load within 3 seconds]
- Unlimited functionality of your choice
- Possibility to quickly adopt the latest technologies and stay one step ahead of competitors
- Ability to build an eCommerce website from scratch and make it unique by adding an attractive and innovative interface along with design elements
- Complete ownership of website code and design
- Ability to choose the best hosting provider that will sustain your load
Do you want to develop a custom eCommerce website?
Our team has a vast experience in building eCommerce projects from scratch. We can explain to you all the details involved in this software development process, technical aspects, and provide you with the website cost and timeline estimate.
Reasons to Build an eCommerce Website from Scratch
If you are wondering how to build an eCommerce website from scratch but still have doubts about whether the efforts are worthwhile, take a look at the statistics above.
The following are aspects that support the idea of creating your own eCommerce website, namely:
- More purchases
People prefer to buy online. In fact, the number of digital buyers will reach 2.14 billion worldwide in 2021. Retail eCommerce sales worldwide are predicted to reach $6.54 trillion in 2020. This means that there is a huge opportunity for growth that should push business owners to think hard about how to create an eCommerce website from scratch.
- Lesser investment
If you compare the prices for building an eCommerce website with the cost of opening a physical storefront, you will notice a tremendous difference in budgets. This is often the main reason why business owners start asking how how to build an eCommerce website from scratch.
Convenience is why online shopping has gained traction during the last decade. You should keep this aspect in mind when trying to figure out how to build an eCommerce website from scratch.
- Reach a wider pool of clients
The vast majority of customers start product searches online. If you do not have an online store, there is no way for these customers to find your merch. SEO combined with digital marketing helps to build an eCommerce website from scratch and increase its chances for success.
In 2017, mobile sales accounted for nearly 58.9% of all digital sales. When wondering how to create an eCommerce website from scratch, consider adding the development of a custom app in one of the next project phases.
- Use of innovations
The integration of VR and AR in shopping will definitely change the way we shop in the near future. If you build an eCommerce website from scratch, think about this aspect.
To sum things up: These thoughts on how to build an eCommerce website from scratch are justified by the enormous market and amount of money that is circulating within the industry. Despite the high competitiveness, there is still a lot of space for new players, so we will explain further how you can conquer the world of online sales.
We at MLSDev do know how to build an eCommerce website from scratch and what it takes to create not just an eCommerce website, but a successful project with thousands of users. Take a closer look at the GoPuff project illustrated below.
Check out detailed information from the GoPuff Case Study where we show our experience in building eCommerce websites and complex projects.
GoPuff is an on-demand delivery service and online store with thousands of daily users in 20+ US states. The main idea behind GoPuff is to make shopping stress-free and fast, be it day or night. Users get products delivered to their doorsteps within 30 minutes.
Feel free to drop us a line to receive a relevant consultation and knowledge in the field.
How to Build an eCommerce Website Step by Step
1. Conduct market analysis and study competitive online stores
Launching an online store without knowing your competition is like trying to find your way in the dark. It is impossible to decide how to build an eCommerce website from scratch without thorough market research. Define what products or services you are going to offer and learn which shops have the same offerings; only then should you create your own online store.
2. Define goals and KPIs for your retail business
This is one of the most important aspects to cover before you make any moves to create an eCommerce website from scratch. Depending on whether you are going to resell products or offer those manufactured by you, you may need to consider your pricing strategy, the level of revenue you will need to generate, how to allocate expenses, and other financial aspects of how to start an eCommerce business and make it financially profitable.
3. Identify USPs of your products and online service
To build an eCommerce website from scratch, you need to take time to decide your positioning on the market. Select a unique and easy-to-remember name and find an eCommerce domain name that your customers will remember long after making a purchase. As well, investigate how you can be different from your competitors and what your unique selling proposition will become.
4. Select partners for delivery and packaging
Depending on whether you want to create an online store for a local or international market, you might need to take care of finding companies that will take on delivery and packaging. This issue should be addressed while you are still thinking about how to build an eCommerce website from scratch.
5. Get all the paperwork done
It is important not only to know how to create an eCommerce website from scratch but also to make it a legitimate business. Study your local laws and regulations, or hire a company that will help you with the paperwork to circumvent legal problems.
6. Choose and hire a reliable web development vendor
Finding a company that knows how to code an eCommerce website from scratch and all the ins and outs of the best eCommerce practices is the most important part of eCommerce store development.
When looking for vendors, take the following aspects into account:
- experience in software development
- successful eCommerce websites they have developed
- reviews of previous customers
- consider whether they provide ongoing development and support
Do you want to know how to choose the best web development company?
Check out our article Outsource Web Development Wisely: Useful Tips, where we have carefully described the process of eliminating the risks during web development outsourcing.
7. Decide on the eCommerce website features
Along with the eCommerce web development company, create a list of features for the first version of the website, as well as for further iterations and upgrades.
8. Set up a scalable eCommerce project architecture
While you might want to start with a small or medium-sized store, do everything with the future in mind. Web developers should know how to build an eCommerce website from scratch based on a scalable project architecture that will sustain high loads and will not interfere with business expansion.
9. Create a customer-centric UX/UI design for online store
Make an eCommerce website that is not only visually attractive, but that has a user-friendly and feature-rich design. Experienced web designers will know how to create an eCommerce website from scratch and design the best purchasing process that will increase the chances of converting visitors into customers.
Wondering how much you will need to spend on website design?
In the article Ultimate Guide to Website Design Cost we have reviewed the main steps of the design process and the main cost-forming factors. Check it out!
10. Plan and start a marketing strategy
Building an online store is not enough, as you need to make it easy to find it among thousands of other stores. Start building a marketing strategy long before you make the first steps to build an eCommerce website from scratch.
The general recommendations include:
- Start with SEO techniques and keywords that should be woven into the content throughout your website
- Create a strong digital marketing strategy, including advertisements, special offers, discount programs, etc.
- Start PitchBox relationships with media
- Conduct personalized outreach
- Participate in, or organize, events, etc.
The goal here is to make your potential customers aware of your store. It is crucial to include this step if you want to know how to build an eCommerce website from scratch and make it successful.
11. Test, deploy, and launch your eCommerce website
These aspects are crucial as they are the final steps before a website goes live. For instance, thorough testing will allow you to spot any problems or bugs and fix them before they create any problems for customers and prevent them from proceeding to the checkout page.
12. Connect with your shoppers
After you successfully build a web store and have it up & running, do not stop! Connect with your customers, invite them to share their opinions, study their behavior, and use the collected data to plan further online store development and improvement. During this stage, you might get valuable information on how to build an eCommerce website from scratch and which features should be added in future stages.
Want to know each and every detail that makes up the success of online projects?
Our team has evaluated top strategies, 100+ reports & statistics, as well as applied our 10-year experience as a software development company to create the following Guide on How to Make Your App Successful: A Detailed Step-by-Step.
How to Create an eCommerce Website from Scratch: Custom Development
Returning to the technical implementation of an eCommerce website, the question - “how would you build an eCommerce website” - is still open. Generally, the eCommerce website development process consists of the following services involved in custom software development:
- Business analysis (project backlog and functional specification creation)
- UX/UI design for web
- Web back-end and web front-end development
- Quality assurance and testing
- Project management
- Ongoing support and development
Do you want to know all the ins and outs of the cost-forming factors of web development?
Check out our article How Much Does it Cost to Build a Website where we have reviewed all aspects of the development process and provided a detailed cost estimation for a custom website.
eCommerce Websites: Core Functionality
Now that you know how to build an eCommerce website from scratch, it is time to move to the core features that form the basis of any eCommerce website. In general, the set of features is almost always the same for every online store. At the same time, some of them can vary to meet specific business needs.
Registration can be performed with the help of different variants, including social networks, email, phone number, or two-factor authentication for increased security. When considering how to create an eCommerce website from scratch that users will love interacting with, think about adding a few possible options for registration and authentication.
- Search and review products
One of the main goals of any eCommerce site is to provide customers with an easy-to-navigate interface and a way to find the needed products within milliseconds. You should remember this while you are trying to decide how to build an eCommerce website from scratch. A robust search feature helps customers easily navigate a website and quickly find products that they are interested in.
The user profile is also an integral part of eCommerce websites. When considering how to build an eCommerce website from scratch that will convert visitors into loyal customers, think about this feature as a must-have. In their profiles, users can add data for delivery services, provide personal information, create and update lists of favorite products, and view order and payment history.
- Products page
If you are considering how to build an eCommerce website from scratch, this feature is among the most vital for your store. These pages should include all the information about a product, including its photos, short and long descriptions, and all the data that might be useful for customers, like the size, special characteristics, and so on.
- Checkout system
This system consists of two major parts – cart and payment options, like Braintree, Stripe, PayPal or any other system that is popular in your country. When thinking about how to create an eCommerce website from scratch, this feature should be placed at the top of your list, as even the most simple eCommerce websites cannot operate without it. This is why it is important to build a website with a shopping cart.
- Product ratings and reviews
Another important feature is to allow users to give product reviews. Customer testimonials increase trust in your store, which can result in higher sales and revenue.
When starting an eCommerce site, do not forget about the creation of an admin panel. This is the part of eCommerce website building that is not visible to customers, but is dedicated to ease-of-use for a store’s administrators. A system like this should include features for catalog management (categories, brands, products), as well as content management (pages, blog, home-page banners, system messages), etc.
If you are still not sure how to build an eCommerce website from scratch that will be useful for you and users, take into account the following information. To make data-driven decisions, store owners and administrators need to have access to statistics and analytics.
An interactive dashboard with reports, charts, and statistics allows you to see how products sell, the overall performance of a store, and compare data from specific periods that might help identify some specific patterns in customer behavior.
- Integration with services
When wondering how to build an eCommerce website from scratch, do not forget that a robust and fully-fledged website needs to be integrated with a number of services, including delivery (e.g. USPS, FedEx), email marketing tools for promotions (e.g. MailChimp, MailerLite), and other services that customers need.
Note: It is important to stress that even though this list of features looks huge, even if you build an eCommerce website from scratch and add all of them, the user interface should look clean and simple. The most work is done on the back-end (behind the scenes) and the end-users should not see the key operations.
How to Build an eCommerce Website from Scratch: Key Considerations
The guide on how to create an eCommerce website from scratch would not be complete without mentioning these important aspects influencing development, namely :
- Domain name – a short and descriptive domain name that users will be able to easily remember
- Hosting – an important part of any website, as the right choice of hosting influences the overall performance of a store and its security
- Server set-up – well-planned backend that will be able to handle a mass amount of eCommerce data
- Security – HTML protocols and SSL certificates that will ensure the safety of your store, personal data of customers, and their payment details
- Website localization – depending on whether you are building an eCommerce website site for a local or international market, you might need to translate its interface into a few languages and add the support of different currencies
How to Make an eCommerce Website from Scratch: Cost & Timeline
It is impossible to decide the best way to create an eCommerce website without first learning about the budget that will be needed and how much time the development may take.
The final price of a custom eCommerce store development will range between $50,000 - $240,000+ depending on the eCommerce website requirements. In terms of the timeline to build an eCommerce website, based on requirements, it may take 3-5 month to build the basic version, 6-9 months to create a medium version, and 9+ months to build a large and complex eCommerce site.
Generally, the cost and timeline to create an online store depends on the following factors:
- Software development vendor (local or outsourced, hourly rates, etc.)
- Design complexity and level of customization
- Scope of functionality and its complexity
- Integration with 3rd party services
- eCommerce website hosting, domain, marketing, SEO and other expenditures
The table below summarizes the rough eCommerce website cost and its timeline based on the website’s functional complexity and design elements.
|Basic version (core features + responsive design)||Medium version (more features + more complex design)||Large version (complex design, development, & support)|
|Cost||~3-5 months||6-9 months||9+ months (ongoing)|
Want to know how much it will cost to build a custom eCommerce website from scratch?
Check out the article How Much Does an eCommerce Website Cost?, which provides an in-depth analysis of all the costs that come into the creation of an online store, for its basic and more advanced version; feature-set included.
Bottom Line: MLSDev Expertise to Build an eCommerce Website from Scratch
Online presence is a great idea when starting a new business or expanding an existing one. Here is our final piece of advice on how to build an eCommerce website from scratch and ensure its success:
- Find trending products that customers will buy. You may use solutions like TrendHunter and Google Trends to identify them
- Align your business with your passion, as you are about to invest a large amount of your time on it
- Come up with an innovative concept or service idea
- Find the best web development company that can help you with the technical aspect
- Promote your online store and always strive to make it better
Building an eCommerce website is not an easy task, which is why you should carefully choose the vendor to create a store that will be easy to use and that the user will want to use. As it has been already mentioned, our team does know how to build an eCommerce website from scratch and scale it successfully so that we can share our expertise with you.
To conclude, there are multiple reasons why it might be a good idea to create an eCommerce website from scratch. By opting for custom web development, you get an online store with a unique touch and feel, features that are tailored to your business needs, high performance that does not depend on third-party software, and ownership of all the code, design, and features that are used in development.
Are you ready to create your own online store and start selling products worldwide?
Get in touch with MLSDev for a consultation and free quotation to help you decide how to build an eCommerce website from scratch. We have broad experience in the eCommerce industry and know how to apply innovative technologies to create stores that will be able to keep up with the competition.