Online stores are a great retail channel to make money. Without the need for an expensive commercial space, they are also generally a highly affordable way of building a retail business that involves low overhead and low upfront investment. There are many ways to build an online store—most of which do not require any web design experience or technical know-how. Follow our easy step-by-step instructions to learn how.
1. Choose a Website Platform & Create an Account
If you’re new to ecommerce and web design, the best way to build your site will be with an all-in-one site builder, such as Squarespace, Weebly, GoDaddy, or Wix. Each platform is similar in terms of services and features, with slight variations when it comes to design, pricing, and ease of use. Take the time to understand the nuances between the platforms and determine which best serves your small business website. Answer a few short questions below to see which site builder is right for you.
After choosing which platform you will use to build your online store, navigate to that platform and register for an account, where you will input your basic information (e.g., your business name, address, email, and password).
We’ll use GoDaddy as the example as it offers some unique features, such as the ability to sync to other marketplaces, high-quality appointment booking, and the ability to transfer your site to WordPress for when you grow.
2. Select an Ecommerce Plan
Next, choose a plan—and be sure to choose an ecommerce plan. Most site builders offer low-cost plans, so you might be tempted to choose one of those, though you need to make sure that the plan you choose is ecommerce-enabled, because not all plans accept online payments and therefore cannot be used for an online store.
Note: Many site builder platforms offer new users a free trial. If so, you will automatically skip to choosing your template (Step 4) and will be prompted to choose a plan and get a domain name before launching your site.
3. Register a Domain Name
Every online store needs a domain name, or its own web address (E.G., www.yourstore.com). Depending on the website builder you chose, you may get a free domain as part of your plan. If not, register your domain name through a domain name registrar, such as GoDaddy, Google Domains, or Namecheap for around $12 per year.
4. Select an Ecommerce Template
Next, browse and select a template for your online store. Your template will serve as the foundation of your site, so take your time to find one that most closely fits how you ultimately want your site to look.
In GoDaddy from your site’s homepage, click “Theme,” then “Try a New Look.” Browse templates and select the one that best matches how you want your site to look and function.
5. Customize Your Template
After selecting a template, it’s time to begin customizing your template so that it suits your business. Start by adding your logo, updating images and color scheme, fonts, site text and copy, and adding web pages.
Tip: When designing your online store, consider the user journey, or how site visitors will navigate through your site. Make sure that your site is simple, easy to use, and that pages guide visitors to other pages.
6. Add Products
Now it’s time to begin building out the store section of your website. To do this, you will add products individually to your store, regardless of which website builder you chose to use. In GoDaddy, navigate to your shop page and add “Online Store” as a content block to your shop page. From your store, click “Manage” and “Add Products.” Complete the products form for each product listing, including high-quality media.
Tip: If you don’t already have professional photos of your products for your product galleries, then invest in professional photography. Online stores with high-quality images sell more than those with poor-quality images, so it will ultimately be better for your bottom line.
7. Set Up Payment Methods
Now that you have created your product listings, set up the payment methods. To set up payments on a GoDaddy website, navigate to your store page, click “Settings” from the horizontal menu, and select “Payments” from the drop-down menu. Then, choose which payment processor you want to use and follow the prompts to set up that payment method.
For assistance choosing a payment processor, visit our article on the best payment gateways.
8. Add Integrations (Optional)
Site builders offer users a wide array of integrations and apps, which add functionalities to websites and online stores, from the ability to accept recurring payments to embedding reviews from major review sites, such as Yelp or TripAdvisor. The integrations and apps you need will depend on your business type and which features your site builder comes standard with.
Here are 10 common online store integrations and apps:
- Shipping calculators
- Booking calendars
- Recurring payments
- Subscription or membership
- Sales customer relationship management (CRM) tools
- Lead generation tools
- Email marketing
- Abandoned cart recovery
- Social media integrations
- Review platforms (e.g., Yelp)
9. Prepare for Launch
It may feel as though your site is ready to launch, but there are a few last things to do before going live. For example, you will want to optimize your site for search engines to ensure your site is visible to them (e.g., Google). Set up Google Analytics (free), check your site on other device types, check that your SSL certificate is activated, create a 404 page, and double-check that all links are live and all buttons are linked to the correct pages.
Check the following before launching your website:
- Optimize your site for search engines
- Set up Google Analytics
- Check how your site looks on other devices
- Check that your SSL certificate is active
- Check that all links are live
10. Launch Site
Finally, it’s time to launch your online store. In the GoDaddy website editor, click the “Publish” button in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. If you’re using a different website builder, find the button to “Publish” or “Launch” your site, which is generally found in the upper left-hand corner of a site editor.
What Do I Need to Build an Online Store?
There are a number of different ways to build an online store, but no matter which method you choose, you will need a website platform (e.g., Squarespace or Weebly), a domain name, web hosting, and a payment processor. Many businesses also opt to use additional tools, from inventory management to email marketing and abandoned cart recovery tools. Once you have everything together, including your business concept and inventory sorted, it’s time to build an online store.
Here’s what you minimally need to build an online store:
- Products: This may seem obvious, but before you can sell online, you need to know what you’re selling and create a list of products, or a product catalog. If you don’t already have a business idea, learn how to start an online store.
- Website platform: Build your online store using a platform that comes with built-in ecommerce capabilities, such as payment processing and product listing pages. This not only makes it faster to build an online store, but it also makes it easier to help you to close more sales with ecommerce-specific tools.
- Domain name: Every website needs its own domain name, or web address (e.g., www.yourstore.com). You can buy a domain name directly from a domain name registrar for around $12 to $18 per year, but you can also get one for free through most ecommerce site builders, such as Squarespace and Weebly.
- Web hosting: Websites require web hosting in order to be live and available online. Those building an online store with a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress will need to purchase a web hosting plan from a web hosting company, such as Bluehost, for around $3 to $10 per month. Those using an all-in-one site builder, such as Squarespace, don’t need to worry about web hosting as it is included in all plans.
- Payment processor: To sell online, you need to accept payments online, which you can easily do using a payment processor, such as Stripe, Authorize.net, or PayPal. Note that payment processor fees vary from processor to processor, and the types of payment processors available vary by website platforms.
While it may sound like a lot at first glance, building an online store is easier than you think. Although you might be tempted to skip building your own site and opt to sell through an online marketplace, such as Etsy, those looking to build a business should also have their own site. Platforms such as Etsy are great in that they give businesses access to a large customer base, but this should be in addition to selling online directly through your site.
How Much Does It Cost to Set Up an Online Store?
The cost to build an online store varies greatly, from as little as $30 to tens of thousands, depending on your site needs and requirements. The average small business just starting out can affordably build an online store using an all-in-one site builder such as Squarespace or Weebly for under $30, which includes everything from a drag-and-drop site builder to a domain name, an SSL certificate, and web hosting.
What’s the Best Way to Build an Online Store?
With a laundry list of content management systems and site builders available with ecommerce capabilities, choosing a platform for your online store can be dizzying. Those new to ecommerce are well-advised to use a site builder such as Squarespace, Weebly, or GoDaddy. They make it both easy and affordable to build and manage an online store with plans starting around $30 per month, and include everything you sell online.
5 Easiest Ways to Build an Online Store
Starting at $26/mo.
Starting at $26/mo.
Starting at $25/mo.
Starting at $29/mo.
Starting at $23/mo.
Stripe or PayPal
Stripe, Authorize.net & PayPal
Accept all major credit cards, PayPal & Apple Pay
Accept all major credit cards with Shopify Payments
Wix Payments or PayPal
0% with Shopify Payments or 2% for other processors
2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
Free Domain Name
Free SSL Certificate
Sync Inventory to Marketplaces
Yes: Etsy, Amazon, eBay & Walmart
Yes: Etsy & Amazon
Yes, with the Advanced Commerce Plan ($40/mo.)
Yes, with Stripe or PayPal
Custom coding required
Yes, with the Shopify Subscriptions integration
Book Appointments Online
✔ via third-party apps
✔ via third-party apps
Built-in Shipping Calculator
Weekdays 9 a.m.-9 p.m. ET & weekends 11 a.m.-8 p.m. ET
Bottom Line: How to Build an Online Store
Once your online store is live, you might think that the heavy lifting is done, but building your online store is the easy part. The old mantra of “build it and they will come” no longer holds true in a digital age, and to build a profitable online store, you will need to work to get found online, drive site traffic, and generate sales.
Luckily, using a site builder means that you not only save time and money (compared with hiring a web designer), but you will also get lots of extra features that will help generate visitors and sales. Most site builders come with built-in search engine optimization (SEO) tools, but some, such as GoDaddy, offer unique features such as the ability to sync inventory to major marketplaces such as Etsy and Amazon, giving online stores an easy way to manage multiple sales channels.