Learn how to create an ecommerce website that is beautiful and high-performing
Like any business, you want to sell more of your products or services online. But to do so, your company needs a powerful ecommerce website — and maybe you’re unsure of how to create one.
Instead of settling for less, businesses must embrace ecommerce technologies of the future that have suddenly become requisite for the present. Partially due to the pandemic, ecommerce is rapidly on the rise — accounting for 13% of all US retail sales in 2021.
A great ecommerce website is vital for brands. It allows for more data collection about your shoppers, enables nearly unlimited customization, widens your target audience boundlessly, is affordable to set up and maintain, and lets you sell constantly — even while you sleep.
If you’re new to the world of ecommerce, don’t worry — in this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to design an amazing ecommerce website, including:
- What an ecommerce website is
- Design differences between B2B and B2C ecommerce websites
- How to build a high-performing ecommerce website
- The advantages of using Adobe Commerce as your ecommerce platform
What is an ecommerce website?
Fundamentally, an ecommerce website is an online portal that allows businesses to sell goods or services to customers around the world. Although you might hear “ecommerce website” and “online store” used interchangeably, they’re two different concepts.
Online stores focus solely on selling products or services on the internet. This is usually a tactic used by brick-and-mortar retailers who have a physical storefront and want to sell their goods online as well. These retailers use their own systems to collect reviews, market their businesses, and process payments.
On the other hand, ecommerce platforms support a brand in its entirety, facilitating or handling business operations. An ecommerce website functions as a holistic platform where business owners not only list their products but also manage their marketing, email list, payment processing, reviews, and so much more in one place.
Type of ecommerce websites
Although ecommerce websites are in a league of their own, they usually fall into one of four categories.
- In a business-to-business (B2B) model, the ecommerce website sells exclusively to other businesses. So instead of selling products to everyday shoppers, a B2B brand would only work with business entities — for example, selling specially packaged toiletries to hotel chains.
- Business-to-consumer (B2C) ecommerce websites target everyday consumers. Business-to-consumer brands typically sell products, but they could sell a service too. For example, if you sell kids’ flip-flops to ordinary shoppers, you’re B2C. But you’re also B2C if you sell digital services, like meal planning, to the general public.
- A consumer-to-consumer (C2C) ecommerce website typically acts as the middleman between consumers who are trading goods or services for money. For example, if you sell your old PlayStation console on eBay to another consumer, you’re engaging in C2C ecommerce. Platforms like Craigslist are also considered C2C.
- This reverse ecommerce model involves consumers providing a product or service to businesses. The most common form of consumer-to-business (C2B) ecommerce is affiliate marketing agreements or commission-based advertising, like Amazon Affiliates or Google Ads.
Design differences between B2B and B2C ecommerce sites
While C2C and C2B are legitimate business models, your company is more likely B2B or B2C. It’s important to understand how you do business, though, because your model will have a tremendous impact on the design of your ecommerce website. In fact, there are three major design differences between B2B and B2C ecommerce sites.
B2B shoppers are famous for taking their time, so their intention may not be to buy something from you right now. B2B buyers are often on an information-gathering mission, so their goal is to learn about your offerings and see if they can trust you. They’re on your ecommerce website to read blogs, check reviews, and watch demos.
B2C buyers, on the other hand, tend to buy on impulse. They’re likely ready to buy something when they visit your website, so calls to action like “buy now” are appropriate. Be sure to include product demos, photos, and user-generated content to make impulse purchases more appealing.
Both B2B and B2C websites need to be sleek, modern, and mobile-optimized. They should also pass assessments like the Google PageSpeed Insights speed test.
But B2C buyers don’t have that kind of patience. These consumers tend to shop more emotionally, so B2C brands should use less text and more imagery in their ecommerce website designs. It’s also important to have a quick checkout process for B2C shoppers — whereas B2B buyers tend to pay via invoice or purchase order, so it’s less important to optimize their shopping portal.
Businesses rarely make decisions in a vacuum, which means that B2B shopping tends to be long and drawn out. With multiple decision-makers at the table, B2B shoppers require a lot of reassurance from your brand in the form of quality content, quantitative metrics, customer testimonials, and webinars. This also means your B2B website will likely have more URLs than a B2C website.
The B2C purchase process usually involves just one decision-maker who’s buying lower priced items, so it happens quite quickly. Even so, 95% of shoppers check reviews before they buy anything, so make sure your B2C ecommerce website design includes reviews on every product page.
How to build a high-performing ecommerce website
Regardless of whether you’re designing a B2B or B2C ecommerce website, you’ll still need to follow similar steps. After all, an ecommerce website is one of the most powerful tools for modern businesses, so how you build it is key.
Want to learn how to build a powerful and striking ecommerce website that will set your business up for success? These eight steps will help guide you through the process.
Step 1 — Pick your ecommerce platform
Remember, ecommerce is about much more than simply listing products online. It involves moving your business onto a platform that handles everything from taxes to payment processing to marketing.
To build an ecommerce website, you need to pick the right ecommerce platform for your goals. While several options are on the market, there are three main types of platforms you can choose from, including:
1. Open source
When something is “open source,” it means that users have total access to its source code. This means users have full control over their ecommerce platform and the freedom to customize it as they see fit. If your brand wants the option to hyper-customize the ecommerce experience and you have the internal resources and coding know-how, open source is a great option.
One of the most robust open-source ecommerce solutions is Adobe Commerce. The platform not only gives you all of the basic ecommerce features you need to run a business but also provides:
- Plug-and-play extensions from an online marketplace
- Access to implementation partners, if needed
- The power to personalize shopping experiences
Software as a service, or SaaS, is essentially an ecommerce platform subscription service. The major upside to this type of platform is that it has low startup costs and often includes maintenance in a monthly subscription fee. Growing brands or those with limited internal resources often go with a SaaS model to save time, although it isn’t as customizable as open source.
3. Headless commerce
Headless commerce is a more technical option that’s popular with large enterprises. With headless commerce, a brand separates the systems that would normally tie the front end of a website (what shoppers see) to the back end of a website (what the development team sees).
Headless commerce allows brands to test out changes on the front end of an ecommerce platform without damaging the back-end setup. This way, enterprises can cherry-pick the right tool for the job and launch initiatives more quickly.
The API-based headless capabilities from Adobe Commerce are agile, fast, and flexible, allowing you to deliver seamless customer experiences across every channel and device
Step 2 — Keep it simple (and beautiful)
When designing an ecommerce website, it can be tempting to add a lot of images and walls of text. You want to knock shoppers’ socks off — but in ecommerce, less is more. Go with a website design that’s simple, elegant, and beautiful.
In practice, that means:
- Making content scannable. More than 80% of users admit they skim written content. You can’t expect shoppers to read every word on your website, so make your content scannable. Break up big paragraphs with headers, bullets, or other formatting. If you need to say a lot in a small amount of space, consider creating a video instead.
Using high-quality images. Without images, consumers remember just 10% of what you say. With images, they retain 65% of the information. Work with a graphic designer or professional photographer to use high-quality images on your website to improve retention, tell a compelling story, provide visual text breaks, and make a good impression.
Implementing flat design. Flat design is a website design aesthetic that’s both simple and beautiful. Two-dimensional images and bright colors are common with flat design, which not only appeals to shoppers but also loads quickly on mobile devices.
Optimizing for color psychology. Color has a surprisingly profound effect on human emotions and decision-making. For example, blue tends to evoke feelings of trust, which can influence conversion rates. Red gets people excited, and black connotes feelings of luxury or elegance. Colors say a lot without using any words at all, so if you need to say more in less space, use color psychology to your advantage.
When in doubt, keep things simple to preserve the beauty of your new ecommerce website. If you want to build a new site from scratch or take your current one to the next level, look no further than these inspirational ecommerce website designs.
Step 3 — Make branding a priority
Your business likely has competition — so why should shoppers choose you over everyone else in the market? Branding is an essential part of ecommerce that helps your business stand out and clearly differentiate itself in even the most saturated niches.
Since just one in three consumers trusts the companies they buy from, you need to add branding elements to your ecommerce design to show you’re legitimate.
Be sure to add branding to your website design in the form of a:
- Tagline or mission statement
- Custom font
- Consistent aesthetic or photo filter
- Color scheme (color increases brand recognition by an impressive 80%)
- Tone or personality
While website branding is a must, it needs to be consistent with the branding your business uses on its emails, social media, and other marketing materials too. It’s a good idea to create branding guidelines for your ecommerce business so everyone on your team uses the brand consistently across all platforms.
Step 4 — Employ user-friendly navigation
In addition to using a simple design for your website, it’s important to keep the navigation simple as well.
This means every ecommerce website design should include:
- Product categories that make sense
- Product filtering for ease of use
- A robust site search feature
It’s also a good idea to follow W3 accessibility guidelines when setting up your website navigation. Since approximately 20% of internet users report having some type of disability, accessibility is an essential characteristic of an inclusive site. After all, the more people who can successfully navigate your website, the more people your business can serve.
Step 5 — Make it responsive
Today, ecommerce sites are all but required to be mobile-friendly and responsive. Since nearly $3 out of every $4 spent online is transacted through a smart device, mobile-friendly design is a must.
Many ecommerce website design templates are responsive out of the box. However, if your brand is customizing its ecommerce setup, be sure to follow these mobile-responsive best practices to impress shoppers on any device:
- Use lazy load on all images
- Use responsive designs that adjust based on device settings
- Limit or eliminate pop-ups
- Minimize web page load times
- Avoid using Flash
- Size buttons appropriately for smaller screens (44 px at a minimum)
- Compress files or minify code
Step 6 — Make purchasing painless
While ecommerce is supposed to be convenient and easy, brands sometimes add barriers to the purchasing process unintentionally. During the website design phase, it’s critical to streamline the checkout process as much as possible. Follow these best practices to make the checkout process easier on your shoppers:
Don’t opt them into marketing. You can give shoppers the option to opt in to marketing messages if they want, but don’t automatically enroll them on your list just because they made a purchase.
Add a progress bar. Shoppers can be impatient, but a progress bar gives them an idea of just how easy it is to complete their purchase.
Limit fields. Users should fill out no more than eight fields maximum during checkout. Some industry evidence suggests that five fields can yield the most results, so keep fields to a minimum.
Secure the transaction. Use a secure payment processor and an SSL certificate to show shoppers that their financial information is safe with you.
Integrate with payment options. Shoppers likely already use Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, or Amazon. Integrate with various payment options so they don’t have to manually enter their credit card info when it’s time to check out.
Allow guest checkout. Requiring a sign-in can be a boon to your data team, but shoppers want to use guest checkout. In fact, allowing guest checkout can increase conversions by 45%, so allow people to shop without creating an account.
Step 7 — Lockdown quality security
Just 21% of shoppers trust brands to keep their data secure. When user trust is on the line, quality security solutions are crucial, especially with personally identifiable information (PII) and payment data.
Take steps to lock down your ecommerce website design, including:
Updating your site. Outdated ecommerce platforms have known bugs that hackers will exploit. If your platform doesn’t provide automatic upgrades, make sure your IT team updates it ASAP to protect your shoppers and your reputation.
Ensuring compliance. Your site likely needs to comply with regulations like GDPR and CCPA. Look into these requirements and make sure you follow them exactly — otherwise, you risk breaches and the regulatory fines that come with them.
Using strong passwords. This might sound like a basic suggestion, but 37% of breaches come from stolen or weak passwords. Use strong, unique passwords for all of your ecommerce assets.
Preventing phishing attacks. User error is one of the most common ways hackers breach ecommerce websites. Train your team on common phishing scams so your platform stays protected.
Limiting data collection. How much information do you truly need about your customers? The more data you store, the greater the harm will be in the event of a breach. Work with your data team to ensure you’re properly disposing of unnecessary data to minimize customer exposure.
Implementing two-factor authentication (2FA). This extra measure makes it more difficult for nefarious parties to infiltrate a website because it requires a code or a token to log in. It’s a good idea to require 2FA for both the back end of your website as well as user-facing logins.
Step 8 — Leverage user data and feedback to make improvements
Once you launch your ecommerce website, the hard work is done. But it’s never truly over because ecommerce platforms are continually changing and improving.
After you launch, it’s important to continually gather, collect, and analyze data. This will help you make improvements to the platform based on customer needs, changes to your products, and pressure from your competitors.
The advantages of using Adobe Commerce as your ecommerce platform
There are several ecommerce platforms you can choose from — but Adobe Commerce, powered by Magento, stands out as a top solution among them. Let’s take a look now at some of its advantages.
Endless out-of-the-box features
While Adobe Commerce is an open-source platform that’s completely customizable, it also comes with plenty of features right out of the box, including:
Live search. The AI-powered search tool helps shoppers find exactly what they’re looking for right away.
Inventory and order management. Get real-time visibility into your goods on one platform.
Shipping solutions. Integrate your store with ShopRunner to offer two-day shipping and better manage package volumes.
Marketing and SEO capabilities. Optimize your product listings for Google searches, personalize shopper experiences, and even offer promotions or discounts.
If your business needs to hit the ground running, Commerce comes with virtually everything you need to start an ecommerce business.
Unlike other ecommerce platforms, Commerce is completely customizable. You aren’t locked into cookie-cutter themes or inflexible settings. Add product recommendations, integrate with third-party services, and maintain complete control over your website design in Commerce.
Mobile accounts for more than 70% of all ecommerce sales. Since most of your shoppers are on mobile devices, a platform like Commerce makes it easy to sell to shoppers no matter their location. Commerce uses agile progressive web applications (PWA) to improve the mobile user experience and boost sales in the process.
Integrated B2B functionality
B2B buyers have different needs, but the longer buying process can be a challenge for ecommerce brands. Fortunately, Commerce comes with plenty of world-class features that are perfectly suited for B2B ecommerce brands to improve the shopper experience, such as:
- Self-service portals
- Custom pricing
- Digitized quote requests
Scale and support
Adobe is a global leader in digital experience, digital commerce, and much more. Hundreds of thousands of businesses rely on Commerce, which is a robust solution for both SMBs and enterprises.
If you ever have questions or concerns about Commerce, simply get in touch with our team for quick help. We also provide resources tailored specifically to developers so your team can keep moving forward.
Design an ecommerce website that sells
A powerful, user-friendly ecommerce site is a must for scaling a competitive business that thrives in a digital-first market. Follow these eight steps to build an ecommerce website that turns heads and generates more sales. With an ecommerce platform like Commerce, it’s never been easier to build a thriving online business.