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, ie 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 written for your ideal customer

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 to find out how to write product copy that sells (this will help you in all areas of your marketing):


4- Professional photography

Images and copy are what sell your products. If your product photography looks unprofessional, potential customers will view your brand as unprofessional. It’s as simple as that.

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 store. They won’t.

Average conversion rates are between 2 – 3%.

So it’s really important to think of ways to stay in contact with interested potential buyers. Email marketing is a great way to do this.

But don’t just have a sign-up form on your online store asking visitors for their email address. Offer them a sign-up incentive, such as a % discount off 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 it simple. Eliminate distractions. Only require the absolute necessary information and never 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 always 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:


10- Legal pages

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

It’s always a great idea to also include a FAQs page on your store.

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

The number one reason for abandoned carts is shipping costs that are too 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. Work this into the cost of your products or offer free shipping over 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 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 or chatbot feature

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.

About Meg

I build modern and powerful online stores for driven entrepreneurs who are building their dream lives. Sound like you? Let’s get started on creating your new online store. Get in touch with me here to schedule a call back or request my process and pricing guide.

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Hi, I'm Meg

I’m a web designer based in Stellenbosch, South Africa. I work with awesome clients from around the world.

I specialise in creating user-friendly Shopify eCommerce websites for product-based businesses and bespoke WordPress websites for service-based businesses.

I offer a 1:1 supportive service that takes you from feeling overwhelmed, stuck and frustrated to empowered and excited to share your beautiful new online space.

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