How to set up your own ecommerce website

Electronic commerce has come a long way since its origins in the mid 1990s. Banks and financial institutions have a wide variety of options for businesses and web developers to install reliable and industry-standard payment systems, browsers are far more standardized than they were even as recently as five to ten years ago, and content management systems make it easier than ever to get an attractive and functional site working without re-inventing the wheel or investing an inordinate amount of time or money in development.

For those business owners more interested in turn-key solutions, there are numerous providers offering e-commerce management services where the store is already built, the payment systems are already in place, and all a business needs to do is fill the shop with their products. These kinds of “shop-in-a-box” services are growing more functional and more standardized by the day, and their popularity is growing as a result. There’s a fair amount of learning involved. “If you think you’ve reached a point in your career where you have nothing new to learn, you’re wrong, and you’re probably going to fail,” says Ollie Smith from merchant account processing comparison site ExpertSure.

With all these options, how can a business know which is the best way to proceed? Here are some things to consider.

Business Logic

One thing any business owner will need to keep in mind if they plan to set up their own e-commerce site without using a turn-key provider is the programming for their server. Web pages alone can’t process the business logic necessary to maintain security or obtain authorization from a merchant payment processor.

Programming e-commerce business logic isn’t particularly difficult or time-consuming. In fact, most of it is rather standardized, even if the site shares a client-side payment option with mobile apps or other kinds of in-product payment processing. But it does require a minimum of two development tiers. One is the client itself, which presents prices and options to the customer. The other is the server, where the client’s purchase is processed and forwarded to the payment processor for authorization.

Digital Security

Another detail that will facilitate electronic commerce and possibly even give a new company’s store a search engine boost is the installation of an SSL certificate. Any site giving customers the option to pay by credit card must have a certificate installed in order to offer those customers a secured connection when they make their purchase. In almost every case, such a certificate can be provided by the web host where the site is installed.


If the details aren’t particularly important or if your company is interested in getting a store up and running in the shortest possible time, a provider like Shopify, Wix or Squarespace is often a better choice. Companies like Wix and Squarespace not only offer web hosting, site design tools and e-commerce integration, but they have numerous pre-built components anyone can use to build a site in short order.

Shopify can do roughly the same things Wix and Squarespace can, but its offerings are more geared directly towards a catalog-like storefront, while the other two providers could be utilized to build a general-purpose web site without necessarily including a retail option for guests.

Building a good e-commerce site and generating revenue with it is a significant undertaking, and should be approached with the same seriousness as building a brick-and-mortar shop.

While you won’t have to deal with light fixtures and making sure all the employees have keys, every task common to retailers will need to be addressed, and you’ll have to find a way to get traffic to your store if you plan to sell much. The good news is, there are viable options for all these goals. It’s really just a matter of choosing the right option for your business.