Step-by-step guide: How to create an online shop

Step-by-step guide: How to create an online shop

E-commerce is booming, so it is relevant to maintain an online presence. The competition never sleeps, which is why businesses need an online shop to push their own brand and, above all, their products. Whether intuitive, secure or flexible - shop systems like Shopware combine everything in one and offer a good basis for first steps in the e-commerce sector.

Table of contents

  1. What is an online-shop?

  2. Good reasons for an online business

  3. Shop system vs. shop construction kit

    1. Shop construction kit

    2. Shopware as an all-encompassing shop system!

    3. Define target group and buyer persona

  4. 6 steps to a high-performance online shop!

  5. Step 1: Choose a shop system 

  6. Step 2: Customize & set up template

  7. Step 3: Personalize & build trust

  8. Step 4: Set up products

  9. Step 5: Connect payment gateway

  10. Step 6: Clarify the legal network

  11. Step 7: Start marketing measures

    1. E-mail marketing

    2. Social-Media marketing

    3. Social or Google Ads

    4. My Business entry (Google)

  12. FAQ

What is an online shop?

An online shop is a platform that offers companies and individuals the opportunity to sell their products and services. An online shop includes design, content, product images as well as a logical structure and legal measures.

Good reasons for an online business

Online shops are a lucrative business model, as the ecommerce industry continues to grow rapidly. Both in the social networks and on the internet, it is important for a company to establish an online presence in order to attract more potential buyers. Starting on a platform like eBay is a good idea, but the commissions for shops are up to 20 % and which is not very lucrative for smaller brands.

An online shop is an alternative where it is worth investing money. Social commerce strategies can also be used to sell products to a selected target group via social media.

Shop system vs. shop construction kit

There are a number of shop construction kits as well as shop systems that leave shop operators spoilt for choice. Both represent valid options for one's own online shop. The desired range of functions should play a decisive role in the decision.

Shop construction kit

With shop construction kits, it is now easier than ever to lay the foundation for one’s own online shop. A big plus: Shop operators do not need any programming knowledge. In most cases, all it takes is a monthly fee (between 10 and 70 Dollars) and an entrepreneur can start their own online shop. Definitely not witchcraft! For founders with little start-up capital and only a few products, this solution is perfect.

But besides the easy implementation, a construction kit also has disadvantages, such as the implementation of a professional business strategy. Especially when it comes to a large shop with a multi-faceted product range, shop systems are the better choice, as there are many limitations with construction kits.

The number of payment methodsis limited with construction kits, other negative functions are:

  • Search and filter functions

  • Individual design adaptations

  • They do not always comply with the complex, legal framework conditions (consequence: warnings)

The advantage of content management systems such as WordPress: Plug-ins give shop operators much greater design freedom.

Shopware as an all-encompassing shop system!

A shop system offers more possibilities for self-employed people or start-ups than a construction kit - so an investment is worthwhile. The higher start-up costs therefore have a positive effect on the design choices. In addition, shop operators have a wide choice of payment methods. From a turnover of more than 30,000 Dollars per month, a shop software is worthwhile.

Whether B2C or B2B - Shopware offers comprehensive e-commerce solutions. With a high-performance Open Commerce platform, shop operators take their business to a new dimension and benefit from maximum flexibility and scalability, as well as security at the highest level. Whether start-up or global player - with Shopware, every business realizes its requirements and retains the rights to its own data thanks to unrestricted access to the source code.

Other known shop systems are:

  • Wix

  • Shopify

  • Gambio

Shops for Enterprise Customers

Apart from the systems already mentioned, there are of course also requirements that a shop system for very large shops must fulfil and here too there are solutions on the market, such as Shopware’s Beyond edition. It is perfectly equipped for enterprise commerce and helps large companies, among other things, to enable a perfect shopping experience, to facilitate returns processing and to work with customer-specific prices.

Define target group and buyer persona

First and foremost, before getting started with the online shop, it is important to define the target group. Without a precise picture of the target group to which the content is directed, it is difficult to meet the needs of the site visitors. Therefore, shop operators should ask themselves: Who do I want to sell what to? The shop should be structured according to this guiding question. The design is also important, either to appeal to a younger social media audience (for example, with trendy jewellery and a hip design) or to pick up a target group that wants to buy watches in an online shop with a simple and timeless design.

But businesses need to be careful not to define the target group too narrowly, otherwise purchases will be minimized. Especially when the shop is new, it's significant to try some things out to see what catches on and which target group really buys the product in the end.

6 steps to a high-performance online shop!

Turnover from online trade continues to increase, so every company should not only rely on the physical shop in the city centre, but also build up a presence on the internet. So how do shop operators get a high-performance platform? Only a few steps are necessary on the way to a high-performance website:

Step 1: Choose a shop system

The first question to ask is: What will the shop be used for? Therefore, the first thing to do is to think about the basic demands of the shop system and which factors it should cover:

Payment systems: Which payment methods are popular and appeal to the shop's own customers? Payment providers and shop systems must be compatible, otherwise problems will arise later.

Interface to merchandise management

Filter functions for product settings

Connection to marketing portals

Mobile-friendliness: Can visitors easily access the site from their mobile devices? More and more people are shopping via their smartphone or tablet and use mobile commerce.

Data security: How secure is the respective platform? Customer data is confidential and should be treated as such. (SSL and HTTPS certificates guarantee secure use).

Prices and design scope: For this purpose, shop operators or founders should take enough time to work out a catalogue of requirements before they start. It is worth comparing different systems and looking at the different features in detail to be able to make an informed decision. Whether it's free open-source software, one-off costs or an ongoing subscription - there are options for everyone.

Step 2: Customize & set up template

At the beginning, shop operators should ask themselves whether they want to carry out the technical support themselves or outsource it to an agency. In doing so, they should realistically ask themselves whether they have a knack for it or whether the technical processes only prevent them from pushing their own shop forward. The next step is to either load the online shop onto a previously rented web server or, with a cloud solution such as Shopware Cloud, simply put it online without any additional work. Now it's time to start setting up the shop. The following important functions should not be ignored:

  • Instructions at the respective provider

  • Delivery options and times should be visible

  • Setting up the design

  • Cross-selling functions

  • Encryption of the website

  • Legal measures: General terms and conditions, privacy policy as well as imprint

  • Categories and structure of the site

  • Online shop beginner? Suppliers are happy to help, so don't be afraid to ask!

Step 3: Personalize & build trust

Every website needs a personal touch so that it doesn't get lost in the mass of competitors! From design to content (images and text) to the structure and creation of the site, there are no creative limits! Here, too, it is relevant to orientate oneself to the target group so that the design meets the spirit of the current times and attracts interested parties. The content on one’s own website should always be written in terms of search engine optimization. Thus, more people will find the products when they search on Google and the ranking can get better.

A real challenge is finding the right domain and company name. Brainstorming, googling, looking for ideas on social media - all good sources of inspiration. The company register or German Trademark and Patent Office (DPMA) also provides information on whether the chosen brand name already exists or is unique. The chosen domain name must then be registered so that no one can take it away.

In addition to the design, the trust factor plays a major role in the personal touch of a shop. Most potential leads do not buy from an online shop without first reading the reviews of other customers. Integrating customer reviews (‘Trusted Shops’) increases the trustworthiness of a company. Certifications from other companies additionally support the image of a shop (security badges and seals of approval).

Step 4: Set up products

Which products are to be sold in the shop? Are they physical or digital products? Is there a core product or a wide range of items? Here it is advisable to keep an eye on the market and also the needs of the target groups. In order to remain competitive, high-quality product images should be the decisive factors, along with a clear product name and a reasonable price.

In addition, it is advisable to create subcategories depending on the number of products. For example, a cosmetics brand should create a category for shower gel, one for shampoo, soap, etc., so that customers can easily find their way around the website. Here, it is important to check in advance how many products can be set up on a particular platform. This is not as relevant for a small shop, but for a medium-sized company with a large product portfolio, this becomes increasingly essential when using a shop construction kit. Shop operators should keep in mind that the maximum number of products should not be exceeded too quickly and the shop will have to move again immediately. Furthermore, product descriptions should be integrated for the user to find all the information he or she needs.

Step 5: Connect payment gateway

This step is also elementary for an online shop, because nothing works without payment. Studies show that potential buyers abandon the purchase if they do not find the payment gateway they prefer. The most common payment models are:

  • PayPal

  • Purchase on account

  • Direct debit

  • Credit card

Some shops offer all four payment models, others only some payment service providers. PayPal is particularly popular: over 432 million people (as of 2022) in the world use this payment method - so it is indispensable for one’s own shop. The first thing to check is whether the shop also has an interface to the corresponding payment method. There are providers with high annual fees as well as cheaper providers or those that do not charge a fee at all. But shop owners need to beware: These providers often have hidden costs such as transaction costs for a purchase. Lastly, the shipping costs and checkout service should be easily viewable.

Step 6: Clarify the legal framework

Data protection is the top priority for a legally compliant shop. For a commercial website in Germany, an imprint is essential, but with the right tools it is also easy to set up. Other legal framework conditions in online trade are:

Price information: Both gross price and VAT must be visible.

Right of withdrawal & GTC: A withdrawal form must be recognizable to customers on the site and sent along with the purchase by email.

Order confirmation: A written form by e-mail is required.

Double opt-in: This procedure is indispensable for sending newsletters, because otherwise there is no consent from the customer to contact them.

Step 7: Start marketing measures!

The shop is ready? This is the starting signal to use targeted advertising measures! Whether Google Ads, newsletter campaigns or actions on social media - there are no limits to creativity here. All options have a common goal: to generate more traffic.

E-mail marketing

Sending regular newsletters is a good way to draw potential customers' attention to your shop and attract leads. These should include discount campaigns, loyalty discounts or general information about new products.

Social media marketing

For many people, social media is as much a part of everyday life as working. That is why it is all the more important to establish a presence there and set up a business profile. Here, shop operators are in direct contact with their target group and can respond directly to questions and comments and interact with them. Social commerce[8] is another area of e-commerce that is growing ever faster. It therefore makes sense to establish a foothold in the social media world and make a name for oneself.

Social or Google Ads

It is possible to place ads on Google (and other search engines) as well as on social media (Instagram, Facebook, etc.). These appear in the search engine like Google and draw in potential customers. Important: Companies always need to set a goal for the campaigns beforehand:

  • Traffic

  • Engagement

  • Conversion

  • etc.

Here, one can flexibly set up how much money is spent per ad. The target group can also be set here for accurate advertising. With pay-per-click (PPC) ads via Google, shop operators also limit the demographic characteristics or search queries for which the ad is played.

My Business entry (Google)

For a shop in the city, Google helps to boost visibility. In order for more potential buyers to come across online stores, an entry on Google Maps makes sense. Here, all interested parties can find the most important data and find the shop.

With these measures, nothing stands in the way of a successful online shop.

Shops for enterprise customers

Apart from the systems already mentioned, there are of course also requirements that a shop system must fulfil for very large customers or shops, and here too there are solutions on the market, such as Shopware in the Beyond Edition. This is primarily for enterprise commerce and offers additional features that serve the needs of enterprise customers.


How do I create an online shop?

An online shop can be created with a shop construction kit or a shop system. While construction kits are usually available free of charge, these are more limited in their possibilities. Shop systems cost a monthly fee, but are worth it in the long run.

What are the basic conditions of an online shop?

When setting up your own online shop, it is important to determine your target group and your goals beforehand. Then it's time to design and implement the concept. Among other things, a payment gateway must be selected and marketing measures must be initiated.

What platforms can I use for online stores?

A popular shop system is Shopware. This makes it easier than ever to set up an online shop that meets all the desired requirements. Shopware is suitable for both the B2B and B2C sectors and offers shop operators comprehensive solutions. Furthermore, it attracts potential customers.

More information about creating an online store