10 Essential Things Your E-Commerce Site Should Have

By Ann Davlin. Filed in Web 2.0

Shopping, it’s a woman’s thing right? Well, not anymore. There are many online stores with a wide range of tech gadgets which can make any man glued to the screen for hours. Also, there are numerous web stores that cater for kids, parents and teenagers as well. In general, eCommerce websites engage web customers and they are ready to struggle for each and every one of them. These days, you can’t really say that online shopping is a niche market, aimed at a small audience anymore.

I’m not going to talk about the advantages of online stores, we all already know that the system works. What I do want to talk about now are the home page designs and layouts that could really help your online business flourish.

Running a good e-Commerce website

Surely, there are no universal features or design options which guarantee that your online shop will be elevated to the top throes of popularity but there are several general essentials and even desirable things which should not be ignored when creating an online store.

So, first of all — there should be a clear understanding of the main goals of e-Commerce home pages:

Make Your Online Shop Sell

It sounds strange but there are many stores which are designed without a thought on making a sale. They look cool but they are absolutely useless when it concerns shopping. For these sites, it is enough that they are equivalent to the online presence of the brand or physical store, but all the site does was put a big ‘Buy’ button in plain view. Some businessmen, developers and designers don’t draw their attention to such details.

Show the advantages of Your products

A list of product categories or a grid of them can be the perfect thing to help your online store. Special deals and new arrivals are also good to coax the common web surfers to buy. You probably know that there is a huge chunk of online surfers who don’t know what they want exactly; they just want to hang around. Your goal as an online seller is to tap into that market and show them what they are missing out on.

Make Your Website Visitors Trust You

People watch what they spend on; so it’s only natural to expect that they want to know everything there is to know about the product they’re going to buy, the purchase process, payment methods, the delivery service, warranties etc, that will help them secure a decision and commit to a transaction. So, make sure that you have linked to the appropriate pages from your home page. Such foresight will save much of your support team’s time, and reduce the number of customer’s pre-sale help requests.

And now, we’d like to suggest to you several features which will probably help you to improve your web store usability and increase its profitability. Note that these features are desirable but not obligatory.

1. Clear Logo

A clear and remarkable logo is a business card for both startup shops and branded stores. When it comes to online shopping, a recognizable logo is is a reassuring symbol and an element of trust of the company or organization. The more popular brands can afford to create an online store with a fashionable home page displaying minimum features. A well-known logo or a mascot, a beautiful image or video and the ‘Buy’ button wil suffice for such designs.

Chanel

ECommerce Clear Logo

Sony

Sony Ecommerce Logo

Adidas

Adidas Clear Logo

Mexx

Mexx Clear logo ecommerce

Samsung

Samsung Clear Logo

2. Deals, Freebies and free shipping

People usually decide very quickly whether they like a website or not, that’s why you should grab their interest in a matter of seconds upon their entry to the site; otherwise they will just find some other shop with a more attractive home page. And nothing attracts better and faster than shopping deals. Millions of people lose their minds during sales and discounted periods, and buy anything at slashed prices just because it’s on sale.

Some are attracted by free shipping, some by the major mark downs — but almost everybody is interested in one kind of promo or another. Thus, discounts and special deals are usually the first things that website visitors look for. Alluring promises and unique prices stimulate visitors to spend, spend, spend. So, it makes sense to position eye-catching banners with discount offers on the upper part of the home page of an online store.

Free shipping is also a crowd favourite. You are now selling to the world, not just to the local market, so you should take the shipping costs into account. To save themselves from unwarranted shipping expenditures, many online stores usually adjust the minimum order price to include shipping costs. As for the customers, buying from big retailers and online brand stores usually result in major if not multiple purchases. Hence, the order price for free shipping is marginal and not a deterrent for these buyers. Moreover, buying things on the Web even without the holiday deals may even be cheaper than in shops and boutiques — that’s why minimum price limitation is acceptable.

eToys

eToys Deals Section

Forever 21

Forever21 Free Shipping Discount

Victoria’s Secret

Victorias Secrets Deal

Kohl’s

Kohls Deal Shipping

AbeBooks

AbeBooks Deals

3. Latest news and most popular products

When there are news, a sales period or upcoming events that buyers should know about the product, the home page is the best place to house them. Do not make it too hard for buyers to find exclusive deals and hot prices. Moreover, recurring customers will more likely look through several ‘new’ items on sale rather than spend half an hour browsing through the full inventory for something new and trendy.

Look at the following 5 famous online stores which know very well how to draw their customers’ attention to their products and promotions:

Apple

Apple Popular Products

Amazon

Amazon ecommerce Site

Tilly’s

Tillys News on ecommerce

Sunglass Nut

Sunglass Nut News

4. Brand Products

It’s not always possible to predict what the next customer will be looking for, but it doesn’t mean that you should place all your products directly on the home page. What you can do is have the most eye-catching and interesting offers readily accessible. This trick makes a huge difference for retailers who have a huge product catalog.

If you have branded goods on sale, then display them upfront. It’s a great attention-grabber especially with first-time visitors who don’t know what exactly they are looking for. Moreover, there are many large retailers which provide an opportunity to ‘shop by brands’. Customers can find what they need through more targeted and effective channels like those practised in the following 5 websites.

Mom and Popcorn

Mom and Popcorn Brand Products

Toolup

Toolup Brand Products

School Specialty

School Speciality

Beauty

Beauty Brand Products

5. Shopping Cart, Login Box and Search Box

The shopping cart, login box and search box features are usually placed together at every eCommerce site. It’s almost impossible to imagine a store without a shopping-cart function included. The most popular shopping cart icon is a simple basket so it makes sense to choose something similar for your site. Many stores also provide their customers with private accounts where it’s possible to check all their previous and current orders.

Every customer who signs up can choose a personal login and password for further access. Besides, owners of such accounts can receive special discount offers from the store owners and participate in different promotions or sales.

If you deal with a large online store that has a wide choice of goods then the search box is a must-have. This will also prove popular with customers who demand a specific product that they just need to locate from your online store to make their order.

M&S

M S Search Box

Marchand de Trucs

Marchand De Trucs

Walmart

Walmart Search Box

Chronicle Books

Chronicle Books Search

6. Payment Systems Icons

eCommerce websites deal with many customers from all over the world and they each have their own preferred payment system. Moreover, there may be technical limitations to a payment method or option, and that’s why it would be better to clarify payment options in advance. For instance, some eCommerce websites don’t accept international credit cards. Others require the customer billing address and the delivery address to be in the same country as the official store’s location.

Online stores commonly use credit and debit cards, gift vouchers, cash on delivery, PayPal, etc as their main payment system. You can easily find these payment icons at the footer or on the top right corner of sites. As you can see with the following examples, payment details should be displayed on the home page in plain sight.

Play.com

Play Com Payment Icons

Brand Neusense

Brand Neusense

Thomas Pink

Thomas Pink Payment Icons

Shoon

Shoon Payment Options

Chocomize

Chocomize Payment

7. Social Media Links

It’s said that almost 20% of online purchases are accomplished after surfing through social media sites. People are inclined to take in public opinion. Social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are the best, if not fastest, source to get the info you need on just about everything.

Moreover, social media accounts bring excellent opportunities for self-promotion: online communities can help to identify the most active and influential customers, or find new ones who are not familiar with the web store yet. For online shops, it’s a good channel to keep customers abreast of the latest news, or special deals which are oriented towards Facebook or Twitter followers only. Here you can find some successful examples of social network usage:

Inkefx

Inkefx

Nineteen 47

Nineteen 47 Social media

Benetton

Benetton Social media Icons

Newegg

NewEgg Social media approach

Bass Pro Shops

Santas Wonderland Social

8. Phone numbers and online chats

With online shopping, buyers interact with sellers via computer networks making transactions that aer no longer geographically bound. When there is a problem however, customers would more likely prefer to have someone they can talk with. This is the core of the need for a store support team; 24/7 hotlines and live chats are highly appreciated forms of value-added customer service.

If online purchases can be done all day and all night long, there is a need to provide 24-hours customer services to solve the majority of pre-sale and after-sale questions. Moreover, people can go online from their working places or from home, so a purchase — and any accompanying enquiry — may come at any time of the day.

Just as an example, below are 5 online stores which provide quick and professional round-the-clock help.

Wiltshire Farm Food

Wiltshire Farm food

FourEleven

FourEleven Phone Number

Lulu’s

Lulu's Phone Number

BigBrownBox

BigBrownBox Phone Box

Versapak

Versapak Phone Number

9. Store Finder

A store finder tab is a must-have option for web stores that have several local or national retailers. Many conservative customers who prefer to check out the actual store itself may visit the website but only to find the nearest shop location or branch.

More likely, one will find this option on the top or bottom right corner of the site. If the store has a wide trade network then it will be good to create a special store location search box for a country, city, zip code or address search. Check out the store finder tabs on these eCommerce websites.

John Lewis

John Lewis Store Finder

Next

Next Store Finder

Flowers

Flowers Store Finder

Books-A-Million

Books a Million

Keurig

Keurig Store Finder

10. Trustmarks

Trustmarks are small images or logos that show a security guarantee by an external party indicating that it is safe to shop on the site. Some of these trustmarks come from Network solutions, McAfee, Verisign, BBB, TRUSTe, GeoTrust, etc. Such accreditation certificates give customers a sense of security and gives them confidence in sharing their private information. Visitors would be more inclined to make a purchase if they know that their payment details are safe from prying eyes.

It should also be noted that trustmarks don’t matter for big brand stores. They don’t need to pass security and privacy tests to confirm their reliability because they already have a good reputation.

Apart from trustmarks, a clear design, convenient menus, detailed product descriptions and user reviews are also important for creating better online reputation. Just note that trust plays an important role in a customer’s willingness to part with their money.

Softmart

trustmarks Softmart

Krista’s creations

Kristas Creations

True Religion

True Religion Trusted

3balls

3Balls Trust Icons

eCost

eCost Trust Buttons

Bonus: How-to guides

How-to’s are not obligatory. It is however a way to arouse visitors’ interest in purchasing something that they may not be familiar with. For customers who are making major purchases, like a refrigerator or a new LCD TV, they would like guides or at least to know which specifications to look into before making a purchase. This tab has nothing in common with the help desk, which usually answers technical questions and solve problems associated with a purchase.

Here are 3 online shops with informative and worth viewing how-to guides.

Blue Nile

Blue Nile How To

US-Mattress

US Mattress How to Guide

The Home Depot

Home Depot How to Guide

Conclusion

And that’s it! We hope that the tips above will help make your online website the perfect go-to page for potential buyers. With all the time, effort and finances put in to generate your online presence, these minor suggestions may actually help make or break your business. If you have other ideas that would be helpful, be sure to leave them in the comments section below.

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Editor’s note: This post is written by Ann Davlin for Hongkiat.com. Ann is a young inspired blogger who is always open to trying new things. She works at MotoCMS - a website builder and website templates provider.

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