10 Essential Ecommerce Design Elements for a Successful Store

If you’ve worked any kind of retail, you know that selling a product to a customer is hard enough when they can see it, touch it, and try it on. With the evolution of the ecommerce site, the job of the retail salesperson just got that much harder. Sure, now it’s easy for people to find exactly what they want, and get it delivered right to their home, but how do you make sure that your product is exactly what they want? Well, much like a physical store, it all comes down to the functionality of your ecommerce site, your online store.

In order to sell, and we mean really sell your product, you need to have an ecommerce site that is engaging, beautiful, and user-friendly. But saying that is a lot easier than actually putting a site that works that flawlessly in motion. So we’ve decided to give you a break and help you identify which design elements your ecommerce site needs to really succeed. Whether you’re just starting up an ecommerce site, or you’re looking to maximize the productivity on your existing site, you need to know what sets good ecommerce sites apart from the great ones. Here’s 10 essential ecommerce design elements you can implement into your site for a successful store:

#1 Killer homepage

Chances are, if you’ve got an ecommerce site, you’ve got a product that you believe in. Whatever it is, from a piece of clothing to a really cool gadget, you make it differently, and you make it better. This is what you need to convey to your customers, right off the bat. Your homepage should showcase your brand, your best product, and it should should put those promotions front and center.
patagonia homepage

Check out Patagonia’s home page. What’s more compelling than owning the rights to the world’s first neoprene-free wetsuit? Clearly, they have a corner on the market here, and they’re showing it off, as they should. What’s more, you’ll notice they advertise their free shipping offer, which drives sales, and they display just two clear navigation menus. One takes them to the store, and the other takes them to Patagonia news articles that jive with their brand. An excellent example of a home page.

#2 Quality product photography

If you’ve got an ecommerce site, you have to remember that your clients are visual. If they can’t see what it looks like, they probably won’t buy it. Since you’re an online store, your customers don’t have the ability to physically look at, try on, and feel the product, which means you have to over deliver on the pictures. The better your pictures look, the more inclined people will be to buy your product. Take this new Denali one-piece from The North Face for example.


The North Face Denali Product Pic

Um, it’s giant pajamas for adults. BUT, the picture makes the product look pretty slick, and the image of the model hanging out at the campsite in her new Denali one piece really sells it. The North Face’s customers can now envision themselves chilling in the woods with their high-tech onesies sipping coffee and chatting around the campfire. If The North Face had said “hey check out our new onesies!” and hadn’t included any pictures, customers would probably just close out of the window with a look of confusion.

This is a perfect example of product photos making all the difference. You’ll want to test to see whether flat product photos or lifestyle photos of your product in the field work better for your conversions, but try to incorporate both for best results.

#3 Great product descriptions

Beyond quality product pictures, your ecommerce site needs to have decent product descriptions. People aren’t just going to spend their money on anything. They need to have a reason to buy your product, and once they learn more about it, its specs, how it will help them, and how it will make them look good, they’re far more likely to buy.

Take FrankBody for example. They’re a highly specialized beauty care company that only sells a few different skincare products, and largely online. But, they’re making a killing. Why? Well, the answer might just be in their product descriptions. Check it out:


Frank Body Ecommerce Product Description

Not only do they have a cute intro description, but they also include descriptions of each ingredient in this particular product, a coffee-based body scrub. They give their clients the full ingredient list, and explain exactly which ingredient does what. This kind of information and clarity drives ecommerce sales, especially in the natural product niche that they’re targeting.

#4 Related products sidebar, and organized product collections

If you’ve done any kind of online shopping, you know ecommerce sites tend to recommend you additional items that will go with what you’ve already purchased. This happens for a reason: people usually click on, and buy those recommended items. Your ecommerce site has to have a “you might also like” section, if you’re looking to drive conversions and sales. Think about what you’d put on a mannequin if you were displaying an item in the store. How would you drive add-on sales in store, and how can you do that online? Once you know what you want to push, include those things in your related products sidebar, or consider grouping similar products together in a collection.

This isn’t exclusive to clothing either. Here’s a great example with Yeti’s Rambler collection:

Yeti Rambler Ecommerce Collection

They put literally every product that was small enough to be hand-held into one collection, and called it the Rambler collection. They gave it a compelling description, and showed clearly what each of the options was.

This makes it really easy for your customers to find exactly what they’re looking for, and also to find things that go with it. Clothing collections, for example, might have only options that are completely mix and matchable. Your goal should be to make it as easy as possible for your customers to find what they’re looking for, and then make it equally as easy for them to just add one more thing that goes along with it.

#5 Super-easy checkout

Another important web-design element for an ecommerce site is going to be your checkout process. It sounds simple and straightforward, but there are a ton of companies out there with bad checkouts. Your checkout should make it easy for customers to order varying quantities of an item, it should remember what was in their cart the last time they visited, and if you can, it should remember their credit card for a speedy checkout. The easier it is for your customer to hit “buy,” the more they’ll appreciate your company, and your site, and the more likely they are to buy from you.

#6 Efficient, user-friendly operations

If your site isn’t user friendly, what are the chances that someone shops there? Very low. Your site has to load quickly, it has to be optimized for mobile shoppers, and it really really needs a proper search functionality. There’s nothing more frustrating to a customer than not being able to find what they’re looking for, so make sure your search bar is always working, and that it brings up relevant results. The quicker and more efficient your site, the more likely people are to use it, and then come back and use it again.

#7 Ratings and Reviews

As soon as you can incorporate a review section into your website, do it. The modern consumer is beyond informed, and loves nothing better than a ton of reviews. Encourage your customers to review products after they buy them, and make sure you use a detailed review section. Ask how the garment fit, if it ran true to size, if they liked the fabric and color, etc. The more information you get, the better.

And sure, you’re probably going to get a negative review once in awhile. It’s a good idea to take that as an opportunity to show them how great your customer service is. Comment on their review, and ask if there’s anything you can do to improve their experience. If you resolve the issue, they may take down that negative review, and even if they don’t, other customers will see that you reached out to help that unsatisfied client.

#8 Promote deals, freebies, and free shipping

Research has shown that consumers go crazy for deals. Sometimes the deals don’t even make fiscal sense, but for some reason, people tend to lose their mind on a sale. So, it’s a good idea to offer deals once in awhile, like 20% off their order of a certain product you’re pushing. Alternatively, you can advertise freebie incentives, where the customer can spend a set dollar amount, say $65, and receive a free water bottle, tote, etc. along with their order.

Your absolute best promo option will always be free shipping. People love the idea of being able to get what they want delivered to their door at no extra cost, and most people will spend to a minimum, whether it’s $15 or $75 just to get that free shipping. So, like we mentioned before, make sure to display these offers and promotions front and center on your homepage to really drive traffic and sales.

#9 Social media links

Another ecommerce design element that will boost your conversions and sales in a big way, is ensuring you have your social media links displayed on your site. Research has shown that almost 20% of online purchases are made after a consumer converts over from a social media site, so it needs to be simple for your customers to follow you on social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all great places to post news and special events your company might be having, and in turn get more traffic. Check out a social post from this company, IdealFit, for example:

IdealFit Giveaway Ecommerce Social Media

They use their social media pages 100% to their advantage by promoting free giveaways of new products.

“Give my stuff away for free?!”

Yep. Wanna know why?

Because even though they’re giving their product away for free, in the hour that’s passed since that giveaway offer was posted, it’s had 374 shares, and 481 reactions. In fact, to even be entered to win, IdealFit followers have to like and share the post. Say each person that shared the giveaway had only 100 Facebook friends. Based on the amount of shares in the first hour alone, that’s 37,000 additional people who will see this post, and learn about the IdealFit company. Kind of a big deal, right?

Clearly, it’s important to have social media accounts that you regularly update, post to, and advertise on. It’s one of the easiest way to reach new customers, and increase your online presence.

#10 Test, optimize, and test again

While this isn’t really a design element, it is a very important point that we feel shouldn’t be left out. No matter what design elements you’ve incorporated, and what you’re still working on, you need to make sure you’re constantly evolving your site in order to get the highest conversions possible. It’s a good idea to do a lot of A/B testing on different elements on your site. This testing could be something as simple as seeing which button color drives the most conversions. Alternatively, you could embark on a mission to figure out if consumers trend towards lifestyle photos of products, or flat, blank white background photos.

Whatever you tackle first, make sure you’re monitoring the results closely. How else will you know what works and what doesn’t? The more you optimize your ecommerce site, the higher your sale rate is going to be, so make sure you’re dedicated to constantly improving your site, for the benefit of both your customers and your company.

If you have questions about incorporating any of these ecommerce design elements into your online store, or you’re looking for some help getting your ecommerce site’s inbound marketing strategy off the ground, make sure to get in touch!

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