5 Critical Steps in the Ecommerce Website Development Process

Just last year (2018), ecommerce accounted for 14.3% of all retail sales in the U.S. (Digital Commerce 360), and the market is continuing to grow as we move further into the digital age. With ecommerce on an upward swing, now is a great time to join the movement and start your online business.

Getting started with the ecommerce website development process, however, is often considered one of the most daunting aspects of joining the world of online retail. With so many things to consider, from what type of CMS you should use to what features you’ll need, knowing which step should be your first step can be tricky.

Whether you’re building your first ecommerce system, or planning to move your existing site to an even better one, there are several steps you can take to begin moving in the right direction. Here are just 5 critical steps you should take to start your journey in developing an ecommerce site.

1. Evaluate your target audience & their needs

Possibly the most critical step in developing a successful ecommerce website is taking a look at your target audience and determining how you can build a website that meets their needs. When you take your customers into consideration, you’ll be able to create a site that they want to come back to again and again.

Jeet Banerjee, entrepreneur and founder of the Income Incubator, says, “The biggest challenge people have is building something that their target audience or niche really wants.” Banerjee mentions that he believes this is likely the reason 9/10 startups fail.

Understanding your target customer includes identifying the demographic you’re intending to reach and how those users’ interact with the Internet. By conducting marketing research and developing buyer personas for your potential customers, you’ll have a better idea of what your ecommerce site should look like, and then, you'll be ready to move onto the next step.

2. Choose a platform that aligns with their needs

Once you’ve clearly defined your target audience’s expectations of your site, it’s time to start nailing down the specifics of your site’s specs, and the first thing you’ll need to pinpoint is what CMS (content management system) will house your site.

Your CMS will lay the foundation for what your site has to offer—some popular examples include WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. While there are many things to consider when selecting your CMS, three factors you certainly won’t want to overlook include 1) scalability, 2) flexibility, and 3) security. You can also check out our comparison: Choosing Your CMS: Drupal vs. WordPress in 2019.

In addition to these facets, you’ll want to consider what type of ecommerce store plugin is typically used with your CMS of choice. For example, WordPress users typically use WooCommerce, while Drupal users use Drupal Commerce. Each ecommerce plugin has its own sets of pros and cons, making them worth evaluating alongside your potential CMS.

3. Determine what features your site will need

When you’ve chosen a CMS that aligns with the needs of your business, and that can give the most to your target audience, it’s time to narrow down what features your site will need to function as it should.

Most ecommerce store plugins come with many features built-in (for example, Drupal Commerce includes a shopping cart to product catalog management), but there are additional ecommerce features your site may need. For instance, most every ecommerce store needs a payment gateway to invoicing tools.

In addition to these standard features, you’ll want to consider what features your specific store and audience may need. Perhaps your store will need to reach across borders. In that case, you’ll want to consider if you’ll need a multilingual plugin to accommodate users that speak languages other than English, or maybe a plugin for automated currency exchange.

For other potential ideas, take a look at these 7 Ecommerce Website Features to Boost Your Bottom Line.

4. Establish a minimum viable product

Now that you’ve selected your CMS and ideal features for your site, you might be tempted to run with your vision and move beyond the scope of what your site is ready to be. According to UpWork, 74% of Internet startups fail due to premature scaling, while those that scale properly scale up to 20 times fasters than those that scale prematurely.

For these reasons alone, it’s worth considering building the MVP (or minimum viable product) version of your ecommerce site, before you take it to the next level. Keeping those ideal features in mind, creating your MVP asks you to determine the minimum number of functions your site needs to function and meet your customers’ needs.

While you may have many great ideas for what your site could be, starting with your MVP allows you to test your initial idea with your customers. From there, you can see how your users’ engage with the content and tools you’ve provided them with, and of course, you can build upon your ecommerce site from there.

5. Hire an ecommerce web development team

With a basic plan laid out for developing your ecommerce site, it’s time to hire an ecommerce web development team. The type of team you choose will largely depend on your CMS of choice, as most web development teams specialize in building with that framework.

As a team that has built many ecommerce and membership systems ourselves, we have found that no CMS really compares to Drupal when it comes to providing support for online businesses. While we know that Drupal isn’t the right tool for every ecommerce business, here are 6 Signs Drupal is the Ecommerce Solution for You.

If you’ve already decided that Drupal is your ecommerce CMS of choice, you might also consider checking out What Skills Should Your Drupal Developer Should Have?. Having even a superficial understanding of your CMS of choice can help you to better assess if the developer you’re interviewing is prepared to make your vision come to life.

Start on your ecommerce website development today! 

For over a decade, ClikFocus has built ecommerce and membership systems for businesses of all sizes using Drupal. Your project is unique, and we value creating custom ecommerce systems tailor-made to what makes your business stand apart from the rest.

Ready to start the ecommerce website development process? Contact us.