Website Tips For Online Retail Success

Online shopping is a very different experience.

It’s not like browsing in a physical shop. Here your eye can wonder freely over the rails and shelves to spot those spontaneous purchases.

What’s more, the shop owner can affect your mood with music and scent, and create a multi-sensory experience by encouraging you to touch, feel and see the products up close.

Done well, you can end up walking out with things you had no intention of buying or didn’t know existed!

In comparison online shopping is much more functional.

Your main tool is your website and as such it must reflect and address this need.

Visitors to your online shop have the following questions. And if you want them to hang around, you need to answer them quickly:

  1. Do you have what I am looking for?
  2. Does it do what I need?
  3. What are the variations, options, choices?
  4. How much is it?
  5. When can I get it?
  6. Can I trust you with my order?

So how can you ensure your online site hits the mark?

“Model the A listers”

Didn’t we say that about blogging last week?

Yes we did and it applies here too.

The big retailers have done their research and they know what works best. I’m not suggesting you copy their websites (obviously) but take a good look and then see how they implement the top ten tips.

In addition, look at the websites you use for your online shopping.

What do you like? What annoys you? What can you learn from your reaction as a customer?

Then use this research to tweak and enhance your own offering.

1. Keep it simple

Make it super easy for your website visitors to work their way around your website.


  • Need to find what they want,
  • Get all the information they need, and
  • Purchase it without getting lost and having to click the back button and so on.

So use a consistent look and feel on all the pages and put things were people will expect to find them.

2. Clear site navigation

Use a simple and consistent website navigation with a clear category and product hierarchy. Look at the example below. At a glance you can pinpoint the pages where items you are looking for will be found.

Simple Navigation and Clear Breadcrumb

In addition, make good use of the website breadcrumb so that visitors know where on your website they are.

3. Quality pictures

They say a picture is worth a 1000 words and that’s definitely true in terms of ecommerce.

It’s critical you have a good clear image of the product. Even better have multiple images showing all aspects of the product. Depending on what you’re selling, it’s good practice to have a picture of it in use. It allows shoppers to visualise and imagine themselves owning it.

4. Detailed product description

Aim to answer the questions a potential buyer might have about the product.

Give as much detail as possible, without overload. But keep a flexible eye and if you get questions about a product consider revising your description so the question is answered for others to see.

Warning! Don’t just use the stock product descriptions given to you by your suppliers. Be original, show you understand your products and your customers’ needs. Your customers and Google will love you for it.

5. Search, Sort & Compare

With a clear, simple and consistent nagivational menu you might think you don’t need a search function.

You do.

You see some people just prefer to search rather than navigate and that means you must provide them with that opportunity. Remember the rule, make it as easy as possible for someone to buy.

Online retail needs a quick and easy search function

Here are some further tips:

  • Include pictures in your search result.
  • Allow website visitors to filter and sort products so they can narrow down their choice.
  • If you offer many similar products allow potential customers to compare product choices.

6. Related and recommended products

Amazon do this exceptionally well.

It’s all about “up selling” to customers who are already interested in buying from you.

Offer related and recommended products and where possible include customer product reviews. That third party endorsement is very powerful.

Offer related products

7. Simple shopping basket

Make the shopping basket easy for customers to add, remove, or change quantities of a product.

Also make it easy for them to go back and review the products they have added. It allows the customer to feel comfortable and in control and safe enough to add products they might buy without feeling compelled to make a decision.

Always make additional costs crystal clear. Tell them of any shipping costs before the final payment page and keep costs clear. It will help build trust.

And do make their shopping basket visible on every page.

Shopping Basket on every day

8. Checkout and customer registration

Don’t ask potential customers to fill out a registration form just to get to the checkout page – especially if your additional charges were not given on the shopping basket page. Do this and some people will just click away.

Make it your rule to only ask for the details you really need to process the order.

Any additional information simply increases the risk the customer won’t proceed.

Here are some ideas to further simplify the process:

  • If the billing and shipping address are the same allow your customer to easily copy the details.
  • Offer customer registration as an option to make it easier for the customer when they come back next time.
  • Offer a range of payment options. Paypal is like marmite, people love it or hate it. So offer it but offer something else too.

9. Offer a potential customer a way to stay connected to your business

If a visitor doesn’t purchase today encourage them to stay in touch. This could be your social media channels or a newsletter sign-up.

Always include your social media icons in your sidebar or footer (and ensure you are active on the ones you promote). And for newsletter registration just take the details you really need to email the newsletter to them.

10. Give evidence a potential customer can trust you

  • Have your phone number and email address clearly visible on every page.
  • Ideally have a real postal address on every page too, or at the very least on your contact us page.
  • Have a returns policy and
  • Don’t forget your terms of sale and privacy policy.

In addition display any security logos (such as safebuy) or logos for membership programs you have joined.

Then in your checkout process use copy that increases your credibility and answers any potential customer fears.

So there you have it, 10 top tips for making your online shop rock. What works for you in yours? Tell us in the comments below.

micro business actionToday’s Micro Action

Take 15 minutes to review your website.

  • Is it as simple to use as it can be?
  • Ask someone who’s never used it to go through the entire process of selecting a product and purchasing it.
  • Finally action any difficulties they mention.

Jo Waltham

Jo Waltham is the techy person behind the Micro Business Hub. She builds websites for micro businesses and bloggers at Callia Web where she also provides general tech support with WordPress, email and hosting. So if you are looking for a little techy help then do get in touch.

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  1. This is a really comprehensive post, thank you for packing so much information in! Whenever, we build an ecommerce website for a client we try to bear in mind, throughout the process, that the most important person in this relationship is the buyer. It sounds obvious, but how many online shops have you seen that just seem to be designed for the programmers or the graphic designers? Great visuals, but how do I buy? Great functionality, but how do I find my way around the site?

    My passion is building websites that are designed for humans to use, and I applaud it whenever I see an online shop that cares enough to put the customer first in every part of the site, from browsing to checkout. Where cross-selling suggestions are designed to add to the experience as much as upsell 🙂

    Great post!
    Ash Mashhadi recently posted..Is Your Social Media Advice Damaging Your Business?My Profile

  2. Absolutely agree Jo, great helpful content. With most people suffering information overload and limited time an online retailers website must grab attention within 3-5 seconds!

  3. As a checklist for online retailers this one’s fantastic, great article! It’s surprising how many shops you visit don’t have all 10 steps in place. Like Ash said, too many businesses build a site focused on what they want it to do, not what the customer needs it to do. We’re big believers of the ‘MUM test’…

  4. Hi
    I have used the steps in your post whilst developing our website which was launched in January this year after much research. I have to say you won’t go far wrong following them
    they are spot on. We are waiting for our social buttons and SSL certificate logos to be added to our site and then I think we have fulfilled all 10, but I am always looking for ways to improve the site.
    Thanks for a great post

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