Online retail is a lucrative business. Major brands, niche communities and side hustles have all found success in the world of ecommerce. If you can manage your online store in the right way, you can have a serious money-maker on your hands. What is the key to a stunning store that won’t shut its virtual doors after a couple of months though? We all shop online and think we have an idea of how to run an ecommerce store, but what are the everpresent qualities found across all the top websites that are essential to finding success?

Easy navigation

The journey is better than the destination, right? If a website suffers from poor design in terms of UX and navigation, it will be toxic to first-time visitors. An easy to navigate website doesn’t need to literally hold the user’s hand throughout the process, but it should aim to make it as simple as possible and avoid causing any irritation.

Online stores with the best user experience and design take into consideration how the user has arrived on the landing page and what their state of mind is. Think of user navigation as two journeys, one for casual browsers and one for users who have arrived from a specific campaign. Browsers will need the website to navigate them to essential information, where they can find the products and any existing sales, offers and campaigns happening. Alternatively, users who arrive on a specific product or campaign landing page need to be shown exactly what they were told they were clicking on, and the goal of the navigation is to guide them through the buying process towards the basket or offer alternative products.

Testing how your website reacts to these different kinds of experiences is essential for improving them. Tools such as User Testing can offer you that kind of valuable insight. Great website design and user navigation isn’t about overloading the senses and giving visitors as many options as possible, it’s about offering a clear and conscious path throughout the website tailored to the user’s purpose and needs.

Adaptable CMS

Your CMS is the backbone of your website, and thus the backbone of your business. The qualities of a great online store aren’t only what’s visible at surface level, but what’s happening in the background.

A great CMS for ecommerce needs to be adaptable and allow for simple updates to improve the customer journey of design of the website on the fly. Ecommerce store templates such as Shopify have seen increased popularity for this very reason, with their simplified design and adaptable template being just what online store owners need to make changes with minimal effort. If you can’t react to issues user’s are having or industry changes, your ability to grow your store will stall.

It’s just as essential that the CMS is as easy to use behind the scenes as it is for a first time visitor to navigate the front end. The everyday realities of managing an online store such as taking orders, issuing refunds and updating offers needs to be as streamlined for the sake of your business and staff.

Informative product pages

There’s no point having a great website or a fluid CMS if your product pages aren’t up to par. Users will forget the great journey and web design if what they want from the website is confusing to understanding. These are the most important pages on your online store, and will determine whether you’re about to make this venue profitable.

If top online stores like Asos Marketplace are anything to go by, minimalism is in. In fact, a simple design is key to capturing the audience’s attention on a product page, guiding them to the most important parts of the part. Great product pages don’t overload with needless information, understanding the user doesn’t want a useless wall of text and one image. Instead, the want web-readable content, thorough product imagery and video demonstrations where possible. All of this comes together to capture the user imagination.

There is room for innovation in product pages, as experimentations with VR proves. However, the best product pages know how to keep things subtle and give the audience exactly what they came to see. Don’t try and distract them into buying with lots of information, a clear process and decision are much more powerful.

Security and trustworthiness

Online stores receive a lot of traffic, the key is making that traffic stick and retaining them as customers. While a well-designed product page can entice a user into making a purchase, a lack of security will make them reconsider and leave the store.

A secure website is one of the most important factors you should consider before launching your store. There are a number of essential security considerations all online stores must make, but no SSL protection or an unsecured checkout are things you can’t afford to forget.

On top of being secure, your website needs to be trustworthy. This is about convincing your visitors that you’re a legitimate operation. Social proof in the form of testimonials and reviews from previous clients and customers, back up by a recognized review platform, is essential for a modern online store to have or else be ignored for a competitor a customer feels more comfortable with.

Don’t turn down getting this kind of approval in favor of an overthought design. It may not fit in with the vision you have in your mind, but it’s essential for gaining loyal customers.

Ecommerce is a battlefield. Missing one of these major parts of a web store can cost you valuable customers and damage your reputation. Don’t risk it, but also don’t limit yourself to these qualities. Do thorough customer and competitor research to be as prepared as possible before you launch.

This is a guest post by MicroStartups.

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MicroStartups is a business community that celebrates inspiring startups, small businesses, and entrepreneurs. Whether you’re a solopreneur or a startup making your way in the business world, we’re here to help. For the latest news, inspiring stories and actionable advice, follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.

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