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The Basics - Every Ecommerce Website Needs And More

Setting up a successful ecommerce website takes time and planning. There are some fundamental components that all websites must have though in order to make navigation and the overall sales transaction as easy as possible for customers. If a website is lacking in certain features it is likely to deter customers from the start or cause many to abandon their shopping basket at the last minute.

Logo and website name

Every business must start with an identity and this is build upon the name and logo. Business branding is a whole other world in itself, but when setting up an ecommerce website, logo clarity is essential. Obviously, well-designed logos tend to work better at attracting customers and keeping them on your website. However, a website devoid of any logo (good or bad) is unrecognisable to customers, and often reduces trust levels. Your URL goes hand-in-hand with this, so make sure it matches the business name, avoiding any symbols, numbers or ‘cute’ misspellings. Customers should be able to relate the two.

Search bar

Just like with the in-store shopping experience, many consumers head to ecommerce websites to browse the products. Navigating a store and navigating a website are very different though. Particularly if you have an expansive inventory and deal with a large number of products, customers need to be able to easily find what they are looking for. A search bar is essential, locating products by keywords. Some customers head to an online platform to fulfil a sale for a product they saw in-store, so make their shopping experience run as smoothly as possible to ensure they do commit to buy. 

Product details

(ASOS are particularly good at providing clear product specifications and details)

Another major difference between in-store shopping and online shopping is, of course, physicality. Customers lose the element of touch with online shopping so product details and images must be concise and transparent. Products images should be good representations of the end product a customer will receive. Specification details must match the condition, functions and particularities of a product too. Clarity eliminates ambiguity and can prevent poor product feedback from customers.

Shopping cart icon

Customers don’t want to run around in circles trying to make a sale. The shopping cart icon on an ecommerce website should update respectively as a customer adds items to the basket, and provide clear instructions for following through the transaction. Statistics show that even the most successful ecommerce businesses have between 20% and 30% of customers abandon their shopping carts before paying. This is largely down to an overcomplicated or messy process.

Make the website customer friendly so that they can easily login or create an account, before filling in their details and paying. It’s also a clever idea to make the shopping cart connected across platforms for logged in customers. With the rise of technology, many consumers use their mobiles or tablets for shopping purposes so linking these with a normal desktop platform can increase the ease during ecommerce sales.

Delivery and returns information

As well as outlining delivery costs during a sales transaction, there should be a separate page on your ecommerce website detailing delivery options. The more delivery options you offer, the more likely it is for customers to buy from your website. A clear returns policy should also be outlined within a page. It is a good idea to direct customers to this during a sales transaction so that they understand your policy before buying. Many businesses create an FAQ page where customers can head to to find out answers to basic questions. Page anchors can lead them to specific queries relating to delivery or returns.

Customer support, contact details and privacy policy

Contact Keyboard


However you choose to structure your website, customer support should also be included. If you are a relatively small business with minimal inventory you may not need to have a vast customer support team and an FAQ may suffice. For large ecommerce platforms or multichannel businesses though, customer support is essential. Interactive support chats have proved effective as well as forums or question ‘wizards’ which guide customers to a solution.

Back to basics, your contact details (landline, mobile, address, email etc.) should be easy to locate on your website, and are best placed in a header or footer, as well as on their own separate page. Terms and conditions and privacy policies must be on all websites that sell a product or service, for legal reasons. Although most people don’t actually read them, they provide peace of mind for customers more than anything and clarify that you are a brand that can be trusted.

Social media/share icons

The social platform is becoming increasingly important for businesses and sales through social media are just starting to creep in. If your business isn’t already signed up to social accounts then that’s the first place to start. Although certain platforms are more relevant to specific business sectors, all businesses can benefit from social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram, if the accounts are used in the right way.

Connect your website to your social accounts by including static links to the various accounts. Social plays a bit part in the customer process and can drive sales to your website in the first place. Make it easy for customers to share your products or content too by including social share buttons to product pages and any written or visual content you post (ie. in the form of a blog). This provides free advertising for your brand with your customers being able to spread the word on their favourite networks.

Interactive content

Social leads on to interactive content on a website. Blogging is just one way to prompt discussion from your customers. Having quality content on your ecommerce website is now necessary in order to keep up with the latest marketing trends. Forums and community areas are also places your customers can head to to have their word on the latest topics relevant to your brand. Link all content to the social channels to achieve maximum interactivity.

Email newsletter subscription

Mailing tablet


Despite the expansion of social media platforms, never underestimate the power of email marketing in your marketing strategies. Offering customers the chance to subscribe to your email newsletters is another powerful content marketing strategy. Emails can be used to:

  • notify customers of your newest products
  • advertise sale seasons or offers, and discount codes
  • include personalised recommendations
  • provide relevant and interesting content

Having an email subscribe button system on your website is also one of the simplest ways to get hold of your customer’s details – perfect for retargeting and marketing purposes! Many websites offer newsletter templates to get you started.

Personalised recommendations

As well as including personalised recommendations in your email newsletters, it’s worth considering adding this to your website as well. This can be activated once customers are logged into their account. Recommendations can be based on similar products they have already purchased, or relating products that may work as an accessory or add-on to a previous sale. It is a way of pointing customers in the direction of other products and can entice sales.

Highlight sales, new items and popular products

Every business wants to sell itself in the best way possible which is why highlighting sales, new items and popular products on your homepage is so useful. Direct customers towards any offers straight away. Discounts act as an incentive for customers to commit to buy. Sales banners instantly grab the attention. Featuring any new items or popular products is another good strategy for increasing sales. Show off your brand’s brilliance by focusing on your new and shiny products, or your best tried-and-tested ones.

For more support growing your business or creating successful multichannel retailing, get in touch with us at Options Mail Order. We provide database solutions to operate across sales channels. Our blog has a number of helpful articles to boost your business’ development.

Posted Tuesday, 31st March 2015