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13 things your online store absolutely needs

1- An intuitive navigation system

Make it simple and easy for visitors to seamlessly navigate their way around your online shop.
When planning your online store’s navigation links, think like a person who knows nothing about your business and what it sells.

Don’t use hamburger navigation menus in the desktop version of your online store. 

Make sure the main navigation menu is in an expected place (people expect the navigation to be at the top of the webpage).

2- Make it clear what you’re selling as soon as someone arrives on your homepage

A big mistake I see many online stores make is not making it clear exactly what they sell and who they sell it to near the top of their store’s homepage.

Online shoppers don’t have time to figure out what you sell. If it’s not clear, they’re going to leave your shop soon after landing on it.

Make it easy for them.

3- Thoughtful product descriptions

Product pages are the most important pages on your online store. They make or break a sale.

Write thoughtful product descriptions for your ideal customers.

Read this in-depth guide on how to write product descriptions that sell (this will help you in all areas of your marketing):

https://www.threecolts.com/blog-articles/10-ways-write-product-descriptions-sell

4- Professional photography

Images and copy sell your products. If your product photography looks unprofessional, potential customers will view your brand as unprofessional and you’ll lose out on potential sales. It’s as simple as that.

Product photography is an investment in the growth of your business.

Get smart and strategic with photography; use images to communicate your brand’s message and to resonate with your ideal customers.

5- A mailing list sign-up form with a sign-up incentive

Many online store owners make the mistake of assuming that visitors will buy from them on their first visit to the website. They won’t.

Average conversion rates are between 2 – 3% (and that’s on the higher end).

It’s essential to nurture a relationship with people interested in your products, getting them to the point where they want to buy from you. Email marketing is an effective way to do this.

But don’t just have a sign-up form on your online store asking visitors for their email addresses. Offer them a sign-up incentive, such as a % discount on their first order.

6- An active Facebook Pixel

Even if you’re not doing any Facebook or Instagram ads right now, it’s important to install the Facebook Pixel on your online store.

Why? Because this pixel collects important data about your online store’s visitors (as long as they’re logged in to Facebook in the same browser). In the future, you can use this data to create ads that only get shown to people who’ve visited your store and you can use this data to create lookalike audiences for your ads. Smart strategy.

7- Abandoned cart reminder emails

Every online store experiences abandoned carts – visitors leaving the checkout process before completing payment. 

I’ve written a guide about how you can improve abandoned cart rates (including how to set up abandoned cart reminder emails):

8- A streamlined and fast checkout process

Keep your cart and checkout simple. Remove distractions. Only require the necessary information and don’t force shoppers to sign up for an account.

Make sure the checkout process doesn’t lag. This is why I love Shopify; super-fast cloud hosting ensures the checkout process is fast, even on high traffic shopping days like Black Friday.

9- Google Analytics with enhanced eCommerce analytics set up

Sync your store with Google Analytics to gain valuable insight into who visitors your store, when they visit, from where and from what devices.

Go one step further and set up enhanced eCommerce tracking. This can seem quite complex to do, but it’s worth it because then you’ll get accurate conversion rate data and be able to visualize sales funnels and see where in the checkout journey shoppers abandon their carts.

This is an amazingly in-depth guide I follow to set up enhanced eCommerce tracking on Shopify stores:

https://www.digitaldarts.com.au/google-analytics-shopify

10- Legal pages

Every online store needs legal pages. These include terms and conditions, privacy policy, shipping policy and returns and refunds policy.

Include an FAQs page on your store to answer common pre-sale questions and improve the customer’s experience.

11- Transparent and competitive shipping costs (free shipping when possible)

The number one reason for abandoned carts is shipping costs that are high (and only revealed on the checkout page).

Make it easy and quick for your store’s visitors to find shipping costs.

Try to offer free shipping. This does wonders for conversion rates. Alternatively and to boost the average order value, offer free shipping on a minimum order amount.

12- Social reviews

Build trust and authority by using social proof in the form of customer reviews. Display these reviews on your homepage and on product pages.

13- Payment logos

Show visitors the various payment methods your online store offers by placing MasterCard, Visa, etc logos in the footer (bottom section) of your online store. This also helps to build trust in your brand.

Two features I think your online store should have (but are not absolutely necessary)

An active blog

A blog is a great way to: Improve the organic search engine ranking of your online store, educate your customers, communicate the benefits of your products, build brand awareness and create original, engaging content to share on social media that leads back to your online store.

I highly recommend that a blog forms part of your overall marketing strategy.

Live chat

This is another great way to build trust in your brand and is a valuable customer service tool.

You can even build a chatbot that answers’ visitors common questions about shipping costs, delivery times etc and point them in the right direction of products they’re looking for.

Hi - I'm Megan Hodson

I’m a Shopify + WordPress web designer with 16+ years communications, marketing and digital design experience, including working in eCommerce since 2010.

Our studio collaborates with brave-hearted small businesses around the world, helping them create beautifully-functional websites that convert.

We specialise in:

Shopify Stores: We help you plan and design stunning, user-friendly online shops that are easy to manage and scale alongside your business. Learn more.

Website Transformations: Is your website feeling outdated? We’ll work with you to create a fresh, modern space that reflects your brand and delivers a seamless user experience. Learn more.

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