How to build an ecommerce website: Resources to get you started

A smooth omnichannel experience, with content that can be reused and repurposed to meet changing customer needs, demands a composable content platform.
July 7, 2023


What if you could snap your fingers and, like magic, the exact product you planned to buy simply appeared at your doorstep? With ecommerce, it’s (sort of) possible — albeit less instantaneous, and with no wand-waving and lamp-rubbing included.

Ecommerce brings traditional shopping to the modern, digital plane. It enables customers to browse, compare, and purchase physical or digital products and services online rather than in person at brick-and-mortar stores. Customers can shop from home or anywhere else they’d like (at any time of day).

here are other benefits too. No more fighting traffic. No more hiding from overzealous salespeople. No more leaving empty-handed because the item you wanted was out of stock.

Digital storefronts also offer impressive benefits for the brands that run them. Ecommerce businesses use these sites to process orders, accept various online payment options, such as credit card or PayPal, and more easily manage shipping and logistics.

Plus, there’s less overhead for launching and maintaining these shops than that of physical stores — this does not necessarily equate with success, however.

Contentful is your solution for opening shop

Whether you’re a small business launching a single offering or an experienced enterprise aiming to be the next Amazon or eBay, having an ecommerce store with just the basic functions isn’t enough to attract and retain customers in today’s competitive and crowded marketplace. 

What’s the key to turning browsers into buyers and really raking in revenue? Establishing a seamless, omnichannel experience with compelling content that can be reused and repurposed to meet changing customer needs and preferences. This demands a composable content strategy and platform that supports it.

A solution like Contentful Composable Content Platform lays the foundation for a customizable tech stack while unifying and structuring content for reuse. When paired with a powerful ecommerce tool, digital teams new bandwidth, and business capabilities, your small business will be able to build unexpected and exciting online shopping experiences. 

Continue reading for a step-by-step overview of how to launch an ecommerce website using Contentful. For you visual learners, here’s a quick video walkthrough.

1. Lay the foundation for your composable ecommerce stack  

Already have an ecommerce site? Migrate your content to Contentful

Depending on how long you’ve been in the retail game, you might already have an online store up and running. Maybe it was built using ecommerce website builders, store builders, or content management systems like Shopify, Adobe Commerce, and WooCommerce. Perhaps you went with a more generic site builder like Wix, WordPress, or Squarespace.

Either way, you already have a registered domain name, an SSL certificate, web hosting setup, and many of the basic ecommerce functions in place. Where you need a little help: the content management side of things. Where to begin: migrating your content to Contentful.

While there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to migration, we do have a few resources we recommend to get you started. 

This image is manually tagged with the keyword phrase "green grocery basket." (Ideally, the image file name should also include this keyword phrase, e.g. green-grocery-basket.png.)

New to ecommerce? Build your site from scratch with Contentful 

Don’t have an ecommerce site up and running yet? Looking to scrap a legacy-built site and start from scratch? We have just the thing: our ecommerce website starter template. Made for beginners, it contains basic ecommerce content models and a source code repository to shrink your development timeline.

With the content bones of your pre-existing (or new) ecommerce platform securely in place, it’s time to integrate a purpose-built app or tool to support those all-important ecommerce features. You know, the ones that allow you to manage product pages and enable customers to make the smooth transition from adding items to their shopping cart to hitting the checkout. 

Contentful simplifies this process by playing nice with other apps and integrations — whether they are third-party or custom-built. These microservices, which are similar to plugins, connect and communicate with one another via application programming interfaces (APIs). The Contentful Marketplace offers a collection of leading ecommerce apps, which help streamline the integration process.  

Below are just a handful of the ecommerce-centric apps you can connect in one click. For the most up-to-date listing, visit the Marketplace

  • BigCommerce

  • Commerce.js

  • Commerce Layer

  • commercetools

  • Emporix

  • Kibo Commerce

  • Saleor Commerce

  • SAP Commerce Cloud Connector

  • Shopify

  • Shopstory

  • Swell

  • Ultra Commerce

2. Expand storefront features and business capabilities

As mentioned, high-quality offerings, pretty homepages, basic online catalogs, and practical payment processing flows aren’t enough to get a brand noticed (much less inspire purchases) in a cramped ecommerce marketplace.

Winning digital shopping experiences must be expansive and well crafted — they have to make customers feel something. A composable content and ecommerce solution gives teams the tools to create these experiences through extensibility.

Let’s go back to the Contentful Marketplace for a moment. Ecommerce tools aren’t the only integrations offered here. You can also find tools that tackle analytics, streamline collaboration, aid with delivery and deployment, enhance team productivity, oversee digital asset management, simplify marketing, and support search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

There are also several tools to help you localize, personalize, and translate content to build tailored experiences no matter how diverse and growing your customer base is. Your brand might not need all these features right away. But we’re pretty confident you’ll need several of them as you scale.

And that’s the beauty of building an ecommerce website using Contentful. You can add, subtract, or swap out integrations whenever and as often as you’d like. This gives online businesses the agility to utilize the best of the tools — perhaps those favored by their content creators and engineers — to build out the digital experience customers are asking for even as those asks ebb and flow. In many ways, adding a new tool to your tech stack is even easier than adding a new product to your site!

Different channels can share the same content layer, analytics tools, personalization solutions, and inventory management tools, creating a more streamlined user experience. 

This makes it easier to pilot and scale new technology or add new channels. Instead of recreating everything from scratch, web developers can pull in the pieces they need from the existing stack. Individual users also benefit by being able to access and use the systems they need through customized user interfaces, instead of relying on developers for every change.

Graphic of a toolbox with the Contentful logo

3. Create and curate compelling, consistent, and creative content 

While selling products and services, it can be easy to forget that your content is an asset too. The better quality that content is, the more value it offers customers and, in turn, your business. Content isn’t just words on a page and it extends beyond product descriptions. In the scope of ecommerce, its product images, tutorials, FAQs, customer reviews, banners shouting about your latest sale, and so much more.

Would you feel compelled to buy a product or service if it missed most of the content outlined above? What about if the content was different between the mobile and ecommerce site? You’d probably have a lot of questions and qualms about moving forward with a purchase. Without content, ecommerce lacks the context to provide a consistent and clear online presence for your business. A positive online shopping experience is anchored to consistent, yet slightly tailored content that resonates with your buyer. 

The challenge here lies in managing this content effectively — more specifically, organizing and distributing it across myriad channels to target the right customers (not window shoppers but actual buyers). The Contentful Composable Content Platform provides a single hub that centralizes all your content so it’s easy to coordinate efforts and distribute across channels, geographies, and personalized experiences. 

It all has to do with composable content and content models — key considerations for any marketing strategy built on Contentful. For an overview of both and other terminology related to our platform, check out our “Content reusability workbook.”

Icon of a clipboard with a checklist.

How does a composable content platform help ecommerce organizations?

Ecommerce enterprises can use a content platform like Contentful to create inspiring content experiences that can be delivered to any channel. Developer-friendly and designed to fit into your existing tech stack, Contentful helps digital teams assemble content and deliver experiences faster. 

It offers an open platform that adapts to how digital builders work to meet business goals with easy customization and deep integration with any tech stack. Digital teams can reuse and automate content across the customer lifecycle, accelerating digital experience delivery at scale. 

Take inspiration from other Contentful customers

If there’s any truth to the saying, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” we recommend exploring how recognized brands across ecommerce verticals are using — and extending — Contentful to build impressive, customer-loved experiences. Here are a few examples: 

Ace & Tate – Eyewear

The Amsterdam-based eyewear company knows a lot about style — and while its products showcased that successfully, it found its ecommerce site lacking and far too rigid to support stylish and creative digital endeavors connected to special collaborations.

By adopting Contentful and Shopstory, the brand established new creative freedom. Creatives could build out one-of-a-kind sites without dependence on developers.

“[This combination] created a pocket of time [for Ace & Tate] to experiment towards building more exhilarating, customer-loved experiences,” Marcin Nogal, Co-Founder and Design Lead at Shopstory, said. Read the case study.

Bang & Olufsen – Electronics

Before finding composable content, this Denmark-based luxury headphone and speaker brand struggled to connect and manage two websites — one for browsing products and another for making purchases.

Such silos made for a cumbersome buying experience which led the company to seek out a solution that would enable them to unify content and operations across these digital platforms.

With Contentful it did just that and, according to Thomas Krag, former Director of Ecommerce, it saw a 60% increase in conversion rates and a 27% increase in average order value. Read the case study.

Ruggable – Home goods

It’s safe to say midnight is well past working hours, but pre-Contentful and pre-Black Friday, employees of the well-known washable rug brand had no choice but to manually launch their exclusive promotions.

On top of that, their old ecommerce-first solution had no previewing capabilities — which made content error-prone. Looking for more reliability (and shut-eye), the company integrated Contentful with Shopify. The result? An increase in transactions and the ability to schedule promotional content to publish far into the future.

“All we have to do today is check the site to ensure it goes live. It works great,” Associate Director of Product Management Daniel Graupensperger said. Read the case study.

Rapha – Clothing

During Covid-19, digital connections meant more than ever. Understanding this to be true for its cycling apparel loyalists, Rapha dreamt up and built out the Rapha Cycling club.

Powered by Contentful, the community app for mobile devices, which took just 10 weeks to launch, is a space for planning community rides, catching up over coffee, and checking out the newest product drops.

“It’s very rare that I have to resolve issues for our content team. They seem very happy with Contentful,” Ben Bodien, Technology Director at Rapha, said of the platform’s ease of use. Read the case study.

Moving efficiently

Get building so customers can get buying

With content from Contentful as the backbone of your ecommerce website, you and your team can build out shopping experiences that wow customers — and might even place you among some of the brands listed above. 

The traditional CMSes and monolithic ecommerce solutions of yesteryear offer limited user interface capabilities and eat away at developer resources when it comes to managing content or creating new page templates.  With a composable approach to commerce (powered by Contentful) teams can sidestep these issues and create, manage, and scale content within a user-friendly interface. 

Sounds almost too good to be true, right? We have something that’ll convince you otherwise! Check out this two-minute tutorial on increasing sales with composable content.

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