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How to Build an E‑Commerce Website

Need to build a website for your online store? This guide will walk you through how to build an e‑commerce website that keeps customers coming back.

E-commerce websites first started to grow in popularity when Amazon launched its site in 1995. A lot has changed since then, but one thing that has flourished is the desire (and some might say need) to make purchases online.

If you're wondering how to build a successful online store, this guide will help you understand what makes e-commerce websites different from other types of sites, what you need to build one, how to choose a hosting provider, and how to ensure the short- and long-term success of your online store.

Choose a domain name

Your domain name is the name of your website—it's what people type into the address bar of their browser to access your site. It has two parts, the name itself and a suffix, or extension, that goes after it. For example, in “,” “mailchimp” is the name and “.com” is the suffix.

For the name, it's best to choose one that matches your business name (if that domain name is available) or is close or strongly alludes to your name. For some businesses, it works to use an acronym, with the first letter of each word in the business as the domain name. For example, others may choose to abbreviate their business's name and use that for the domain name.

It can be easier to get a domain name that matches your business name if you choose a suffix other than “.com” because there are so many .com sites already registered. The same can be true for “.net” or “.org” because they're also very popular. But don't worry—there are hundreds of other extensions to choose from. The flip side is that you want your potential customers to remember your web address, including the correct extension, so you might not want to choose one that's too long or obscure.

Above all, make sure your domain name is easy to remember and share with others. Choosing one that is overly complex will make it more difficult for potential customers to directly access your site, which could lose you sales.

How to get a domain name

You can buy a domain name from a domain name registrar. A domain name registrar registers your domain name under your identity or business and prevents anyone else from having the same domain name.

Some people also purchase additional extensions with the same base domain name. For example, you may decide to buy not just the .com, but also the .net, .org, .biz, and .tv, to ensure that if a customer types in the wrong suffix, they can still get forwarded to the correct site.

Your hosting provider gives you the space your site needs for its online presence. Keep in mind that some website builders, including Mailchimp, can provide hosting for you. Before starting to use a website builder, be sure to verify whether or not you'll need a separate hosting provider.

The hosting company provides a place for your website on the internet and gives you the storage space and bandwidth to ensure your site runs the way it should. Bandwidth is the ability to handle the data that's transferred back and forth between your customers and your site. You need bandwidth to ensure a seamless experience for your visitors. If you don't have enough bandwidth, it could slow things down, negatively impacting the user experience. Adequate bandwidth makes it easy for users to:

  • Navigate from one page to the next smoothly
  • Watch video content
  • View images of products, including close-ups

You should have enough bandwidth so that visitors don't even think about how seamless their visit is. This way, they can focus more on your products or services than on how your page is functioning.

For an e-commerce site, storage space is vital because you may have hundreds or thousands of product images or videos, which may take up considerable space. Therefore, you'll want to ensure that you use a hosting provider that meets your current space requirements and gives you room to grow. As you add more products or services, you may need more storage than when you first launched.

How to choose a hosting provider

When you create an e-commerce website, you need to choose your hosting provider carefully. While virtually any hosting provider with web-building tools can meet the needs of a typical website, an e-commerce site requires specific considerations. Here are some factors to keep in mind when choosing a e-commerce solution:

  • Accommodation of higher traffic demands: This ensures your site can handle the transactions and browsing of many visitors at once.
  • Greater uptime: Uptime is the time a site is accessible on the web. You should always inquire about the amount of uptime you can expect because downtime can mean lost sales. Be sure to ask if there are specific times when uptime may be a challenge, such as during peak selling seasons.
  • SSL encryption: Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption protects your customer's personal and financial data. It disguises the data while it's in transit. This way, if someone were to intercept the data between the customer's browser and your website, they wouldn't be able to read crucial details like credit card numbers or home addresses. This security is provided in the form of an SSL certificate on your site.
  • Automatic backups: An e-commerce site should have regular, automatic backups. If the site were to go down, you would need to be able to revert to a backup that includes product names, descriptions, images, and videos as soon as possible. This aids in business continuity and resiliency, which lets you bounce back after an unexpected event.
  • Adequate storage: Ideally, you want to choose a hosting provider with expandable storage. As your business grows, you may need more storage to accommodate the increasing content on your site.
  • A fast database: With an e-commerce site, the data pertaining to each item you sell is stored in a database. The site pulls information from this database to present to the user. This may include prices, images, descriptions, videos, and anything else associated with each item. A fast database enables shoppers to see accurate, complete information, making it easier for them to make a purchasing decision. On the other hand, a slow database may result in delayed images or other critical information, which can cause visitors to lose interest.

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Study the competition

Be sure to check out what your competition has done with their online stores. There are plenty of great e-commerce websites you can take inspiration from—and you can also think about what you can do better.

By studying the competition, you'll see what works and what doesn't. This way, when you create an e-commerce website of your own, you'll know what to include and what to leave out. You can do this by analyzing what the competition offers and figuring out how to offer more than they are.

Conduct market research

Conducting market research can help you build a successful online store.

First, identify your target audience, including factors like age, gender, location, income level, and interests. Knowing who your potential customers are will help you customize your e-commerce site and marketing efforts to their specific needs and preferences. 

Use tools like Google Analytics, social media data, and customer surveys to gather data on customer behavior. Pay attention to metrics such as website traffic, bounce rates, time spent on site, and conversion rates to identify patterns and trends in how users interact with your website. 

You should also study industry trends. Stay up to date with industry news, reports, and publications to identify emerging trends and developments in the e-commerce website space. Pay attention to changes in consumer behavior, technological advancements, and competitive landscape to inform your strategic decisions. 

Create a wireframe

An important part of how to build an e-commerce website is to create a wireframe. This will determine the layout of your site and how user-friendly it is. The easier your site is to navigate, the more likely consumers will use it. You can successfully build an e-commerce website by creating a low, medium, or high fidelity wireframe. The differences between the three types lie in the details, with low fidelity being the simplest. By the time you get to the high fidelity wireframe, you have the basic layout of your website mapped out.

Design your website layout

Designing the layout of your e-commerce store is a crucial step in the development process. You can use an e-commerce website builder to help you get started if you don't have any professional design experience.

The wireframe you created is the blueprint for your site's structure and functionality, ensuring a user-friendly experience for visitors.

When designing your e-commerce website, consider factors like ease of navigation, visual appeal, and alignment with your brand identity. Outline the main pages and sections of your website, such as the homepage, product pages, shopping cart, and checkout process. Determine the hierarchy of information and prioritize elements based on their importance and relevance to your target audience.

As you progress, you'll add more detail and refinement to the design, including visual elements, typography, and interactive features.

You can't sell your products as well if your customers don't see them first. A crucial part of e-commerce website building is to upload the highest quality pictures of each product you sell. Ensure that every image is the same size so that your site looks polished and professional. You'll also need to provide pictures of your products from every possible angle so customers can get a full view of each item.

Product upload best practices

To ensure your products stand out on your website and appeal to shoppers, follow these best practices when uploading product images: 

  • Prioritize high-quality images that accurately represent your products: Clear, well-lit photos with high resolution can significantly enhance the visual appeal of your products and instill confidence in potential buyers. Invest in professional photography for detailed shots of each product.
  • Be consistent: Consistency is key when presenting your products. Maintain uniformity by ensuring that all images are the same size and format throughout your e-commerce website. This creates a cohesive and polished appearance, contributing to a positive user experience and reinforcing your branding. 
  • Provide multiple images: Provide multiple images of each product from different angles to give customers a comprehensive view. Include close-up shots to highlight specific features or details and showcase any unique selling points. Consider including lifestyle or contextual images to demonstrate how the product can be used or integrated into everyday life. 
  • Add accurate product descriptions: Accurate product descriptions are equally important as compelling visuals. Clearly communicate key details such as product specs, dimensions, materials, and available variants or options. Use descriptive language that discusses the benefits of each product. 

Implement a payment service

A payment service is central to an e-commerce site's function because it lets customers purchase your products directly from your site. If you already have a brick-and-mortar store, an effective online payment solution can increase your sales volume by giving you another way to do business.

  • You may have customers who are unwilling or unable to travel to a physical location.
  • Your customers might be used to online buying experiences like those provided by Amazon and expect to be able to purchase from the comfort of their homes or while on the go.
  • Online shopping makes it easier and faster for customers to compare products, so the ability for them to make a purchase immediately after choosing your product can boost your bottom line.

Your payment solution can integrate with your business's bank account, an online payment provider like PayPal, or a mobile payment solution, such as Square. Furthermore, you can accept a wide variety of payment methods, including direct bank transfers, credit card transactions, and those provided by online payment solutions. It may also be possible to accept cryptocurrencies, depending on your payment preferences and provider.

Aside from the functionality, you should also consider your payment provider's transaction fees. A payment service may charge a fee for every transaction, which can impact how much you charge for your products.

Most e-commerce platforms offer built-in payment services. Some may give you and your customers multiple options, while others may use just one payment service. For example, Mailchimp uses Stripe to process payments. When choosing an e-commerce platform, you'll want to look into the details of what payment services they offer to see if they work for you and your business.

Choosing a payment gateway

Selecting the payment gateway is an important decision that can affect the customer experience involved with payment processing. A payment gateway facilitates seamless and safe transactions. 

When evaluating payment processing options, consider transaction fees, security features, integration capabilities, and customer support. Look for payment gateways that offer comprehensive pricing structures with transparent fee policies to avoid unexpected costs and maximize the profitability of your online business. 

To accommodate diverse customer preferences and enhance convenience, prioritize gateways that support various payment methods, including credit cards, debit cards, digital wallets, and alternative payment solutions. 

Test, refine, and publish your site

Once your e-commerce website is complete, preview it to verify everything works as it should. This means testing links, buttons, forms, and so forth. If you identify any issues, fix them promptly and test again before publishing your site.

Quality assurance and testing

Before publishing your e-commerce website, it's essential to conduct thorough quality assurance (QA) and testing to ensure a seamless, error-free user experience.

Quality assurance involves testing every aspect of your website, including functionality, usability, performance, and compatibility, to identify and address any issues or bugs before they impact your customers. 

After testing all links, buttons, forms, and interactive elements, perform compatibility testing to ensure your website displays properly on various web browsers. Check for any web design inconsistencies, formatting errors, or functionality issues that may arise due to differences in browser rendering or device capabilities. 

Load testing is also important to ensure your e-commerce website can handle high traffic volumes without slowing down or crashing. Use load testing tools to stimulate multiple user interactions and assess your e-commerce site's performance under different load conditions.

Identify any bottlenecks or performance issues and optimize your website's code, server infrastructure, or caching mechanisms as needed to improve speed and responsiveness. 

How is an e-commerce website different from other sites?

An e-commerce website is different from other kinds of websites because its primary focus is to encourage and enable online purchases. Many other types of websites, such as blogs or business-to-business information providers, are geared toward getting the word out and engaging with visitors. While these are also goals of an e-commerce site, e-commerce goes beyond that to generate sales and promote future business with customers.

To ensure that your online store meets the goals of e-commerce, it should have:

  • A mobile-friendly design that makes it easy for customers to make purchases while on the go using a mobile device
  • A template that showcases a marketplace of product images and descriptions and supports product pages
  • A shopping cart feature that lets customers add multiple products to their cart (and remove them)
  • The ability to track customers' actions and enable remarketing to those who have not completed the checkout process
  • Customer support to help you maximize selling and customer engagement opportunities

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Tips for creating a user-friendly e-commerce website

As a business owner, you want to prioritize the customer experience when creating an e-commerce website. This means thinking about how they shop, what they shop for, how they go about making a purchase, and how they engage with other elements of the site.

While the entire purpose of your e-commerce site is to allow visitors to browse and purchase, certain features may help create a comfortable, user-friendly shopping experience that will keep customers coming back.

Here's how you can build an e-commerce website that's user-friendly:

  • Include customer reviews. Customer reviews of individual products or the company as a whole help instill confidence in the minds of shoppers. Some sites even have plugins that showcase social media posts with pictures or mentions of the product.
  • Add a search function. A search function lets visitors look for products, services, or articles that appeal to their interests.
  • Have a navigation bar. A search function lets visitors look for products, services, or articles that appeal to their interests. A well-thought-out navigation bar makes it easier for a customer to quickly go from one page to another while visiting your site.
  • Leverage mini cart pop-ups. A shopping cart is where customers can hold the products they want to purchase while they continue to browse. A great option is to have a mini cart that pops up on a page, rather than leading to an entirely new page, so that shoppers can quickly see what they've added to their cart.
  • Create a blog. A blog helps attract traffic because it contains keywords users search for. As a result, even if potential customers don't know about your business, they can still stumble upon it after searching for a specific term. Incorporating keywords related to your product and business into your blog posts is good search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
  • Ensure the website is mobile-friendly. Mobile-friendly options are important as more consumers shop directly from their mobile devices. In addition to ensuring that your design works well on a small, narrow screen, you can expand your payment options to include mobile payment services.

Taking advantage of some or all of these features will not only make visiting your site a great experience, but it can also translate into higher sales.

Implementing search engine optimization (SEO) strategies helps to ensure the visibility and success of e-commerce websites in search engine results.

Here are some SEO best practices specifically tailored for e-commerce websites:

Keyword research

Conduct keyword research to find keywords and queries customers might be using to find products like yours. Focus on long-tail keywords specific to your brand, products, or industry with high search volume but lower competition.

Optimize product pages

Each product page should be optimized for a specific target keyword related to the product. Use relevant keywords in meta titles, meta descriptions, headings, and image alt tags.

Ensure product descriptions are unique, informative, and keyword-rich while also appealing to customers. 

Optimize for mobile

Make sure your e-commerce website is optimized for screens of all sizes. Google prioritizes mobile-friendly websites, so optimizing for mobile can improve your site's visibility and rankings. 

Site structure and navigation

E-commerce sites should have a clear and intuitive site structure with organized categories, subcategories, and navigation menus to help visitors and search engines easily navigate your website.

A well-structured site hierarchy improves user experience and ensures search engines can crawl and index your pages. 

User-generated content (UGC)

The best e-commerce websites encourage user-generated content such as product reviews, ratings, and testimonials. User-generated content provides valuable information for potential customers and enhances your website's credibility and authority in the eyes of search engines. 

Leverage email marketing and social media for e-commerce success

Email marketing and social media marketing can be powerful strategies for driving the success of an e-commerce website. Here's how you can combine these two channels to maximize your results: 


Integrate your e-commerce solutions to sell online and combine your email marketing and social media efforts to create a cohesive brand experience across channels.

Include social media icons and links in your email campaigns to encourage subscribers to follow you on social media. Promote your email newsletter on your social media profiles to attract new subscribers. 

User-generated content

Encourage your email subscribers and social media followers to share user-generated content, such as product reviews, testimonials, and photos of your products in action. Share this content in your email campaigns and social media posts to build social proof, increase trust, and drive engagement. 


Use data from your email marketing platform and social media channels to personalize your communications and offers. Segment your subscriber list based on demographics, behaviors, purchase history, and engagement levels to deliver targeted content and promotions.

Likewise, use social media insights to tailor your messaging and content to the preferences and interests of your audience. 


Use email marketing and social media advertising together for retargeting campaigns.

Create custom audiences based on email subscribers who haven't made a purchase or engaged with your emails recently, and retarget them with relevant ads on social media to encourage them to return to your website and complete their purchase. 

Exclusive promotions

Reward your email subscribers and social media followers with exclusive promotions, discounts, and offers. Use email marketing to announce limited-time promotions and drive traffic to your website, and leverage social media to create buzz and excitement around these offers. 

Engagement and feedback

Use email marketing and social media to engage with your audience, solicit feedback, and gather insights. Send surveys and polls to your email list to gather feedback on products and the overall customer experience.

Similarly, use social media to ask questions, start conversations, and encourage dialogue with your followers. 

Scale your e-commerce business

Scaling your e-commerce website requires effective growth strategies that encompass various aspects of your operations. Implementing the right strategies can help you increase your reach, increase sales, and achieve sustainable growth.

Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

Add more products to your lineup

Expand your product line to appeal to a wider audience and meet the evolving needs of your customers. Introduce complementary products, expand into new categories, or partner with other brands to offer exclusive products. 

Expand your marketing efforts

Increase your brand visibility and attract new customers through targeted and personalized marketing campaigns. Explore various marketing channels, including search engine optimization, social media advertising, influencer partnerships, and content marketing, to reach your target audience effectively. 

Enhance customer experience

Deliver exceptional customer service and user experience to drive satisfaction and loyalty. Offer personalized recommendations, provide multiple payment options, streamline the checkout process, and invest in post-purchase support to create a seamless shopping experience. 

Leverage data and analytics

Use data-driven insights to make informed decisions and optimize your operations. Monitor key performance indicators (KPIs), analyze customer behavior, track sales and trends, and identify opportunities for improvement to drive business growth.

Mailchimp's e-commerce solutions help you consider all these factors as you build your site. Whether you're looking for the best e-commerce website builder, need help with email marketing, or want to integrate your online store with your email campaigns, we offer a range of tools to support your e-commerce website's growth.

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