A basic ecommerce website shows customers a list of products sorted into categories, displays product descriptions, and prices, and allows customers to securely transmit billing, shipping, and credit card information to the store owner. That’s all fine, but if you really want to harness the power of online sales, you will want to integrate into your site more advanced design elements and features that have been proven to increase sales.

Good photography is critical.

There is a reason I am listing this as number one, it is one of the most important elements of a good ecommerce website and it is the one thing that everyone can do but seems to forget. Consumers buy when they are clear of what they are getting and one of the best ways to do this is to spend the time taking great images of your products. It sounds so simple, but so many failing websites I see have terrible images and it just seems to be out of laziness.

Additionally, consider technologies that allow customers to either zoom in on the images for greater detail, or at least access a larger version of the image so they can see some detail. I realize more detail opens you up to intellectual property theft, but that is a risk of doing business on the Internet. If theft of images is a true concern, consider watermarking or tagging your JPEGs, but understand that this is add to your workload as images need to be processed correctly ahead of time.

Streamlined purchase flow

Many failing websites I see are failing simply because they are too confusing. When analyzing websites, it is critical to put yourself in your customers shoes and think about how many times they will need to click to complete a sale. Of course, large sites with hundreds of products will require more clicks, but it is simply unacceptable for a website with less than 10 products to force a user to click through 4 or 5 different pages just to add a product to their shopping cart, but I see it all the time. Good design is not just for show, it anticipates what customers are looking for and simplifies the process of closing the sale.

Streamlining purchase flow should also go for the checkout process. I prefer single page checkouts where you have a shopping cart view and once a user clicks on “Checkout”, there is just a single page where they will enter all their billing, shipping, and credit card information, then a “Complete Checkout” button going to a thank you page. Less steps means less opportunity for the customer to change their mind about completing the sale.

On-site checkout

The checkout process on your site should be focused in your customer’s needs, not the convenience of the shop owner. The goal is to lower cart abandonment by making the checkout as fast and convenient as possible. Therefore, a one-page onsite checkout process should always be available. Nothing says amateur website more than going through a checkout process only to be sent offsite to a PayPal login and having to complete a second checkout. I have abandoned many purchases over the years because I simply could not take the time to retrieve my forgotten PayPal password.

Take the time to work with a good developer, spend the money to install a proper SSL certificate, or sign up with a hosted ecommerce solution that has an onsite checkout process.

Related products and upsell capability

Your ecommerce website should have the ability to tie products together as related to increase addon purchases. One of my favorite websites that does proper addons is Newegg.com. Computer technology can be very confusing. On Newegg’s website, I can view a product, but the site also tells me what other products are compatible. If I am looking at a laptop, the website will show me software and addon hardware that is compatible with that laptop. Not only does that make me confident in buying, it shows me that this is a company that spends the time to think through what they are presenting, and it gives me confidence that they will follow through with the purchase and support later.

Upselling is another strategy that should be considered. Whether on the product page, or in the shopping cart view, there should be an area showing additional products to consider, related or not.

Consider volume discounts

Upselling is great, but to really push sales, consider offering discounts for larger sales. Most ecommerce websites that I have worked on offer free shipping over a certain purchase amount, and give customers an easy way to see additional products they can add to their cart in a click or two.

Social sharing

One of the number one questions I get from business owners is how to get more traffic to their websites. Well, one answer is social media and you should be making it easier, not harder, for your customers to share information about your company with their friends on social media.

The best way to do encourage sharing is to simply create a single click sharing button on your product pages. One click, the customers Facebook feed pops-up, and they click “share” and your website is now on the feeds of all of your customers friends.

Consider video

One of my favorite examples of the best in ecommerce websites is zappos.com. Zappos started out mainly selling shoes, which for me is a tough sale over the Internet. I like to try on my shoes, touch them and feel them, before I buy. Zappos understand this and one of the ways they have given their customers the confidence to buy is just about every product they sell include a video of someone showing the shoe, bending and flexing it, and then trying it on. It is exceptionally effective. In an environment where consumers are less and less likely to read, they may be willing to watch a quick video.

Customer ratings

Letting your customers provide feedback directly on each product page is a quick way to build credibility for your product. I always read the customer reviews on Amazon.com before making a purchase. If you are worried about negative reviews, keep in mind review can be moderated, meaning they won’t show up on your site until you approve of it. This gives you the opportunity to address a negative review and convince the customer to change it before posting.