Bigcommerce shopping cart software

How to build an online store with Bigcommerce

Hosted shopping carts, like Bigcommerce, offer a quick and affordable way to build an eCommerce site without requiring any technical or Web design skills.

Bigcommerce provides cutting edge Web design with great SEO (Search Engine Optimization), mobile support and plenty of integration with 3rd party platforms (like eBay) to help drive sales.

In addition, Bigcommerce has already handled over one billion dollars in eCommerce transactions so you can be sure of a safe and reliable platform on which to build your business.

This article will provide a step by step, beginner's guide to creating your own online store using Bigcommerce.

1. Get started

All you need to start building an online store with Bigcommerce is a store name (which you can change at any time if you want). Once you have that, you can go ahead and choose a hosting plan based on how many different products you plan on selling.

Enter your store name into the space provided, and click Start my free trial now.

That's all there is to it. No credit cards, no fuss.

2. Create your store

The next step is to provide Bigcommerce with some information about yourself and what you intend to sell. Most of the options are fairly self explanatory, and your page should look something like this:

Creating your store with Bigcommerce

Remember, if this is your first eCommerce store you should select New to eCommerce from the final select list (Select level of experience) . Once you have filled everything out, click Create my store now at the bottom of the page.

It may take a few minutes for the system to build your store in the background. If everything goes to plan, you'll see a "Yay, your store is ready" message, and a Visit your store button.

3. Getting started with Bigcommerce

Click on the Visit your store button to go to your account's dashboard. There you will see a list of tasks that Bigcommerce has done on your behalf. Below that there is also a list of tasks for you to get up and running:

Starting a Bigcommerce online store - Bigcommerce dashboard

The important parts of this page are:

  1. View site & notification icons (top, center-right) – provides administrator’s view of the site as it will appear live, plus notifications about your account
  2. Account email address (top, right) – allows you to change your account, password, and logoff
  3. Help (bottom, left) – provides access to the support resources (discussed below)
  4. Settings (bottom, left) – configure your account & store for everything from payments and tax, to account details, and advanced store features and server configuration
  5. Orders, Products, Customers (menu, left) – manage the business end of your store, including configuring product categories and options, order shipments, and more
  6. Marketing (menu, left) – explore various marketing and advertising channels, including email marketing
  7. Analytics (menu, left) – understand visitor behaviour on your site, including cart abandonment

It's a good idea to bookmark this page as you will be using it all the time. Even once the store's setup phase is complete, this page also provides a great overview on how well your store is performing – customers, orders, earnings, etc.

4. Design your store

You can now go ahead and create a design for your store. Click on Settings, and then choose Design from the Store setup column to bring up the template selection page:

Designing a Bigcommerce store using responsive theme templates

From here you can browse and select any one of up to 50 different themes to use on your site.

Obviously, the type and number of products you will sell should play a part in which template you choose. Some are better for smaller stores with few products, and some cater for sites selling lots of products.

In general, it is better to go with a lightweight, clean design template because this has SEO benefits (i.e. lightweight Web pages load faster), and is less likely to distract or confuse customers.

Once you have chosen a template (or decided to use the default theme - Classic (white)), it is possible to customize them further by editing the template files.

You can either do this online (remotely), or download them, work on them, and upload them again.

For now, if you have little CSS or HTML experience, it is better to move on and get your store up and running. You can come back to this section at any time.

Note that you can also work on your Logo (amongst other design related things), so it's worthwhile spending a bit of time browsing each of the tabs on this page to get a feel for what's available.

5. Add a product

Click on the Products menu item, and select Add to bring up the Add a Product dialog:

Adding a product to your Bigcommerce store

The page is divided up into four sections (Summary, Description, Shipping, and Availability.

Don't fall into the trap of adding 'copy-and-paste' product descriptions from manufacturers' websites. If you don't add unique, interesting and relevant information in the Description (which should include all sorts of informative, fun and engaging stuff like videos and pics) you simply won't attract organic search traffic.

It's also super important to provide a visual aspect to your products, so make sure that you click on the Images & Videos tab at the top of the page and add one or more product images and YouTube clips (if available).

Once you have finished adding all the relevant information and details about your first product, click on Save & Close, or Save & Add Another if you want to keep going.

If you have made any errors, or missed out any required options, Bigcommerce will notify you before saving the product.

Once everything is in place, you can browse to the product URL to see it live by clicking View store icon towards the top right of the page and locating the product.

6. Integrate with a Payment gateway

Having a product available on your store is a step in the right direction, but it's only one side of the coin, because in order for customers to buy it they need to be able to make payments.

This means that you need to create an account with one of the payment providers listed by Bigcommerce. To get started, click on Settings and then choose Payments from the Store Setup list:

Chosing a payment gateway service provider

Remember that you need to register an account with the provider of your choice before you can integrate it into your store. The easiest one to use is PayPal, but you can probably find cheaper options with a bit of research.

7. More about the dashboard

Once you have products, categories, options, payments and a theme setup, you are starting to get closer to launch.

Bigcommerce dashboard provides and overview of the store, sales, and an online store management interface

It's important that you familiarize yourself with everything here because there are plenty of great features available to enhance your store, drive Web traffic, increase conversions and make money.

Here are a list of some of the most important features worth exploring - with their menu navigation for quick reference:

  • Tax: Settings >> Store Setup
  • Live chat support: Settings >> Advanced Settings
  • Domain: Settings >> Server Settings
  • Email marketing: Marketing >> Email marketing
  • Analytics: Analytics
  • Apps: Apps

In particular, it is important to get your own domain so that you can start building up your store's visibility in the search engines. By default, the trial store is held on mybigcommerce.com, and you want it to be your own store's domain before it goes live.

You can also set up discount coupons, gift certificates and all sorts of other great features that you would expect from a professional eCommerce site.

Hopefully this step-by-step guide to starting an online store using Bigcommerce's leading hosted shopping cart software has shown just how quick and easy it is to start your own store.

With the eCommerce industry growing like crazy, now is the time to start your online business.

Have you used other online store builders? How does Bigcommerce compare with them? Share your eCommerce tips and experiences in the comments.

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