During the Covid-19 Pandemic, we’ve learned that a lack of online presence might lead to businesses failing. Lockdowns across the globe showed us that retailers cannot rely solely on the local market and physical stores when selling goods. Ecommerce becomes a number one solution in those uncertain times. It not only helps retailers to win new customers but it’s also an answer to changing shopping behaviour as more of us buy from online stores.

More and more retailers have decided to set up online shops. If you’re one of them it’s useful to know what are the elements of a successful ecommerce website. Here is a list of online store features that we think are must-haves for every ecommerce site to ensure they perform optimally.

An online store needs an intuitive interface

A well-structured website is not only easy to use but it’s also intuitive, which means that users understand how to navigate within the page and can find what they’re looking for. Intuitive design directs visitors where they want to go and doesn’t distract them. In fact, easy to navigate online stores have a higher rate of completed purchases and the lowest rate of abandoned baskets. All of this is thanks to the instinctual shopping process and website elements being located exactly where the user expects them to be.

Think about the search bar or menu bar

Think where you look for them. It’s usually at the top of the page. Think how confusing it would be if they were placed on the very bottom. Distracted or confused users quite often abandon the website and go elsewhere. Somewhere where they don’t have trouble finding what they’re looking for. Intuitive design makes online shopping an easy, quick and painless process. That’s why it should be the number one aim for any ecommerce site.

Mobile-friendly ecommerce website design

According to statista.com in 2021, 66.7% of online shopping happens on mobile phones and that share grows every day. Online retailers recognised the potential of mobile accessibility and quickly adjusted to consumer needs.  Big ecommerce platforms keep investing in smartphone and iPhone applications to make their goods available to everyone everywhere.

You don’t have to build the app to reach mobile users

The mobile-friendly design of your ecommerce website will make it as easy to use as if it was on the desktop. Making sure that content automatically adapts to multiple devices, whether it’s a laptop, mobile or tablet is an essential move of every website owner, especially if they’re selling their goods online. With responsive design, your website can be accessed from everywhere, at any time, which increases sales.

Security system

There is no doubt that security is one of the most important features of every website, especially ecommerce. With the increase in everyday financial transactions and sensitive customer data such as payment method details, shipment information or passwords held online, having an effective security system in place is essential. An SSL certificate and firewall are absolute must-haves. If you store customer data, you should also think about 2-step verification and a captcha system because a secure ecommerce site is a trusted one and that should be your aim.

Scalable infrastructure

Another very important aspect is the scalability of the website infrastructure. Your online store should grow with your business, which means its capacity should adjust to increased traffic and product range, with servers keeping high web performance by delivering content as fast as possible, no matter the speed of the bandwidth, at the same time. The ability of an ecommerce store to scale has a direct impact on your business expansion, therefore it’s one of the very first aspects to consider when choosing an ecommerce platform.

Shopping cart and payment integration

An obvious but fundamental element to consider: the shopping cart.  You cannot have an online store without it. It must be easy to find and easy to navigate, which is the opportune moment to highlight that a short and simple checkout process is the answer to the biggest nightmare in online retail. An abandoned basket. Make sure your shopping cart is where consumers expect it to be, in the top right corner. Ensure that it’s easily accessible and always shows an accurate number of items.

The checkout process should be simple

And it shouldn’t demand too much information from the user. Technically speaking, you only need the customer’s name, payment method, shipping address or email address. Give your customers various payment options. Let them choose between using one of the online payment options or a credit/debit card. Every ecommerce store owner should make sure that their online business has a well-integrated payment system.

A great way to ensure that even the most hesitant visitor will buy your product or buy more than one, is suggesting products they might like or highlighting products that other people have bought. ‘Related items widgets’ create the need for that thing they hadn’t even thought of five minutes ago, yet now they really cannot resist.

The wish list tab gives you a piece of great information about your clients. It tells you what they’re thinking about buying. This can be used widely in targeted marketing campaigns, like newsletters or Google Ads. One thing you can be sure of is that ecommerce stores with a ‘wish list’ and ‘related items’ features, sell more.

Customer reviews

Nothing creates more sales than social proof. It shows potential customers that what you’re selling is worth buying. Reviews and customer testimonials are very valuable to retail businesses. People trust the opinions of others, especially online. What your potential customers are looking for is confirmation of your service or product quality, whether you can be trusted and if there is good after-sales care.

They will most likely look for reviews on your social media channels in the comments or reviews section, 3rd party review or comparison websites or rely on influencers’ recommendations. Your ecommerce website should not only include reviews and ratings under every product but also share your social media or Google ratings and links to 3rd party reviews.

Online store CMS

A content management system is there to help retailers manage their online store. From a CMS you can edit and publish content such as product photos and descriptions, logos, banners, blogs, and store information, etc. A CMS helps you customise your store and keep it up to date.

Order Management and logistic integration

When selling physical goods, you need a well-integrated order management tool that will not only help you keep the inventory up to date but also supports operations like refunds or exchanges, order cancellations and repairs. Order management requires integration with a good logistics system for seamless order delivery, whether you sell from your store or use drop shipment services.

Ecommerce shop analytics

Integrated reports and analytics give you priceless information on your top-selling items, who your customers are, what they look for and where they come from. All this knowledge can be used to improve your online store and target the right audience for your products and services. Most ecommerce solutions have built-in analytics tools, but you can easily integrate your website with Google Analytics for even more in-depth data and effective ad campaigns.

FAQ page, return policy and clear shipping information

Transparency will save you time and money. Make all essential information, like your return policy, shipment info, prices, acceptable payment methods, etc. available in one place. As you sell online, you cannot immediately address every question, but you can certainly create a list of potential questions with your answers. It’s the same with a return policy and shipping info. Let your customers know how you deliver purchased goods, how much it will cost and on what terms they can return it, in case they don’t like it.

Contact us page

Last but not least – contact page and contact information. Let your customers know how they can contact you and when they can expect your reply. Good communication is a solid basis for every relationship, online business isn’t the exception.

Build an online store you would like to buy from

Building an ecommerce store is a very complex and time-consuming process. It requires both IT knowledge and business skills, but when you know your objectives, it’s easier to start. Everyone wants their online store to be unique and they all are, regardless of which platform or ecommerce solution you choose, yet there are some common elements that each ecommerce website should comprise to serve your business, and your customers at the same time.

About the author

Weronika Kuzior

Weronika Kuzior

Business Researcher