Today building an online store is easier than ever. As a result, eCommerce stores have been exploding in popularity.
Before, you’d need to hire a professional developer to build the complex elements required to sell products online. But, with today’s web builders you can literally drag and drop your way towards creating your first eCommerce store.
Below you’ll learn how a website builder can help you build an eCommerce store in record time, the benefits to doing so, and the steps you’ll want to take to get started.
Why Use a Website Builder?
When you’re building an eCommerce store you have a lot on your plate. You not only have to research your market, name your store, determine what products you’re going to sell, set your prices, calculate shipping, and market your store, but you need to build a website on top of all that.
To make your life much easier, you can simply choose from dozens of professionally designed and created eCommerce themes available with a website builder. Then, all you have to do is customize them to your liking.
This will not only save you a ton of time, but it takes the guesswork out of designing a store that looks good and converts.
What to Look for in an eCommerce Website Builder
You’re going to have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to choosing the right eCommerce website builder for your needs. There are a ton website builders out there, but ultimately you’ll want to choose a builder that’s best suited to the needs and goals of your store.
Here are some features to keep an eye out for:
- An extensive theme selection with niche-specific theme choices.
- A selection of responsive themes that look good and function properly on any screen size.
- A drag and drop builder to quickly customize your eCommerce site.
- Bundled eCommerce features like inventory management and coupon creation.
- A high-performance hosting environment behind the builder.
- A solid support team to walk you through any issues.
Once you’ve settled upon an eCommerce website builder, it’s time to start creating your store.
If you’re still unsure about what builder will be best suited for your needs, then take the new Gator builder for a spin. It includes all of the features above and more.
How to Use Gator to Create Your eCommerce Store
Building out your eCommerce store with a website builder is a pretty simple and intuitive process. If you’re using the Gator builder, you can follow the simple steps below.
1. Select Your Theme
Gator has over 100 responsive templates you can choose from, all of them designed by skilled professionals knowledgeable about web design best practices. And to save you time and make the choice easier, they’re categorized based on common types of websites, so you can quickly find a template that matches the kind of online store you’re starting.
Every Gator template is responsive, so you don’t have to worry about doing any extra work to make sure your website looks good on mobile—which is crucial in an era when a significant amount of online shopping happens on mobile devices. But you can also quickly check and see how your website will look on a smaller screen during the design process by clicking on the mobile icon at the top of the editor.
Take some time to browse your options and find something you like. The closer your template comes to the design you have in mind, the less work you’ll have to do to bring it line with your vision. And when you get your website done faster, you can launch your store and start making money sooner!
2. Customize Your Design
Once you’ve selected your template, get to work customizing it for your business.
Easily move any element on the page to where you want it to be by clicking on it, dragging it to a new spot, and dropping it into place.
Add unique copy and change out fonts and text size by clicking on the text already on the page, or adding a new text box. You can do that by clicking on the plus sign in the editor, or in the Sections setting on the menu on the left side of the page.
Change out the images included in the theme by uploading your own in the Style section on the right side of the screen, and add new ones by selecting Images when you go to add a new section.
In the left side menu, you can add Elements to the page, such as buttons, contact forms, a map to your business site, and your social feeds.
Also on the left side menu, you can easily change out the color scheme and backgrounds in the template, and add any new sections to the page you want included.
3. Decide How to Organize Your Site
Organizing your website well is important both to make sure it’s intuitive for your visitors and to improve your SEO. For an eCommerce store, a good site organization requires considering two main things:
- What are the most important pages to include on your main menu.
- What are the most customer-friendly categories to divide your products into
Your main menu should include the most important pages on your website. For almost all businesses, that will include your Home page, About page, and a Contact page. For customers that provide services, it may also include a portfolio or gallery that collects examples of your work.
For those with product-based businesses, you can include a general Products link in your main menu with the main product categories listed underneath it. Or you can include the main product categories in the menu themselves, if there aren’t that many.
In Gator you can update the Menu by scrolling over it, clicking on Pages Menu, then selecting Manage Pages. You can drag different page names to the place in the menu you want them to be in.
Delete a page from the menu by clicking on it, then clicking on the trash can that shows up to the right. And add a new page by clicking Add Page and filling in the information for it in the form that comes up. Gator will helpfully create a unique URL for you that reflects the page name, but you can edit the URL if you’d prefer it to be something else.
When determining the best categories to use, try to get inside the heads of your customers and think about their priorities when looking for your products. If you sell floral arrangements, useful categories may include the main occasions people buy flowers for (weddings, sympathy, romantic gestures, etc.), price points, or the primary colors present in an arrangement. Think about what customers most consistently ask for when coming to you.
In Gator you can manually create your most important category pages in the main editor, and also add more categories in the Store app, as you’ll see later in step #5.
To add relevant subcategories that will show up in the dropdown for your main menu pages, add a new page for each subcategory and drag it underneath the page you’ve added to the main menu. You can use this page to highlight all the relevant products that fall into the category, and to optimize your site for the relevant SEO keyword.
Figuring out your site’s organization will help you determine the different pages you need to create, which prepares you for our next step.
4. Create Your Main Pages
Your template will come with a number of pages already created. Now you just need to make any changes to the pages already supplied so they match what you need, and add any new pages you want to the site.
Common pages to consider creating (or modifying) in this step include:
- Your homepage that communicates your unique selling proposition (USP) and highlights your most popular products.
- An about page that tells visitors what your store is about and highlights your mission.
- A gallery or portfolio that showcases your work.
- High-level category pages that group similar products based on attributes your customers will be looking for
- A blog where you can post educational information, product updates, and more.
- A contact page that tells customers how to reach out and get in touch, and includes your address and hours if you have a physical location.
For any pages you create that don’t come supplied with your theme, you can simplify the creation process by copying a similar page you already have and going from there.
For each of these pages, take a few minutes to optimize them for SEO for keywords relevant to your online store. And consider opportunities to promote your email list or include CTAs to drive sales wherever relevant.
5. Upload Your Products
With the above steps taken care of, it’s time to start adding your products to the website. In Gator, click on Store in the menu on the left side of the page, then Manage Products and Orders.
This will take you to the Gator store app, where you can start adding your products.
The app will walk you through the process in a number of easy steps. Select whether it’s a physical product or service. Fill in name, pricing info, and your description. Upload your product photo. And voila! You’ve created your product.
You can add each product you’ve added to the relevant pages on your website by going into Elements, selecting Products, and dragging the product box to where you want it on the page.
6. Setup Your Payment Processor
Without setting up and integrating a payment processor your customers will have no way of actually paying you. In the Gator store app, you can get your payment information set up by clicking on Settings, then Payment Providers.
The app makes it easy to add PayPal and Stripe to your store, so you can securely process credit card payments.
7. Setup Your Order and Shipping Details
Also in Settings, you can fill in the main information needed to complete orders, such as shipping costs, the address order emails will be sent to, and the tax rate that should be applied to all orders. Filling all these in will help automate the process when orders come in, so that you have an easier time processing them in a timely manner and tracking them over time.
You can also add relevant legal documents, tracking details for shipments, and create templated customer emails to automatically go out when orders are made, shipped, and delivered. In the Advanced Features section, you can enable discounts, offer variations of products (such as by size or color), and simplify the shipping process with Shippo integration.
Finish Your eCommerce Store and Launch!
With Gator, you can build out a simple eCommerce store in a matter of hours. And while stores that include a lot of products or categories will take more time than that, adding everything you need will be a simple process.
The faster you can get your website up, the sooner you start making money from it. Dive right in and start building now!
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.