5 Essential Elements of a Successful Online Store

Sometimes it feels like eCommerce stores are popping up everywhere – and for a good reason. As a business model, selling products online has a lot of potential for revenue, without a lot of overhead or maintenance costs.

There are plenty of technologies that make it especially easy for merchants to open up web-based stores, although when it comes to website infrastructure and content management, many agree that WordPress is the way to go for eCommerce.

WordPress sites don’t cost a lot to design (there are even thousands of reasonably viable free themes), and when it comes to ongoing, post-launch expenses, you’re basically only looking at your hosting plan.

(Image Source: Pixabay)

But from the entrepreneur’s perspective, not every eCommerce store launched eventually becomes profitable. Sometimes it is because of poor branding-product-market fit, or maybe terrible customer service, or maybe it wasn’t marketed wisely. And then there are onsite user experience (UX) and conversion rate optimization (CRO) factors – basically, everything relating to what happens along the journey from first visit to checkout. 

Successful eCommerce stores have beautiful layouts, a good product selection, and a few other elements that we’re going to address right now.

If you’re missing any of these elements, it could be the difference between being a successful eCommerce store and one likely to close up shop in the months ahead.

1- Make Navigation Simple

We don’t use paper maps anymore when we’re going on a vacation. Instead, we use a GPS-powered navigation app. It’s faster and easier to use, and it gets us where we want to go.

The principle is the same when it comes to your website navigation. Your navigation menus should be fast, easy to use, and get the user where they want to go.

Don’t mess it up with too many multi-layering options, flashy animations, and all that other junk that makes it slower and harder to use. While it may look “cool,” it could end up costing you in the end. Menus that aren’t usable can cause people to bounce out, never to return.

2- Optimize Your Website For Search Engines

Have you really done everything you can to make your website and products as discoverable on Google as possible? Search engine algorithms are getting more advanced.

With each new ranking algorithm update, the search experts’ advice changes. One minute they recommend going all in on schema, the next they say it’s all about local citations.

Is your website truly optimized for both your reader and the search engines? If you aren’t sure, you can find out using the SEO Site Checkup tool to see where you rank.

Example Audit Results for CNN.com from SEOSiteCheckup

As you can see, CNN’s homepage is doing fairly well, managing a score of 70. According to the audit, they need help with keyword usage.

So, even though CNN has a good score, even they can do some things to increase their SEO and website performance.

What grade would your website get? While we would all like to receive a 100, most websites simply aren’t fully optimized for search engines and user engagement.

Using this simple tool, you can make sure that your website is optimized for everyone – the readers and the bots alike.

3- Have Clear, Detailed Product Descriptions

Next, you need to make sure that your visitors know exactly what they are buying.

Nothing is more frustrating than buying a product, only to find out that it’s a miniature version of what you thought was a great deal. Now you’ve got a product return on your hands and it’s going to cut into your bottom line.

But that’s only if someone buys a product that they thought was something else. What about all the people who are looking to learn the specs and benefits of a product in order to feel confident about trusting the purchase? If you don’t provide those details in a clear and compelling manner, then people simply will move on.

And while we’re on the topic of well-written descriptions, make sure that they’re not full of typing errors and/or misspellings. Nothing undermines visitor trust than sloppily written copy.

If you aren’t sure that everything is perfect, type your content into Grammarly, and let it tell you what needs to be fixed.

Example text in Grammarly

Something else you can do is make sure that are plenty of product photos and videos for the visitor to look at. Words can only say so much, but a photo and/or video can provide so much more.

Obviously a ceiling does exist, but in general, the more context and media you can provide, the better off you’ll be. Don’t overwhelm the visitor, but make sure that they have everything they need to make an informed, confident buying decision.

4- Make Sure ‘Add To Cart’ Buttons Are Prominent

A good eCommerce website includes a whole lot of marketing assets to help nurture visitors towards being ready to purchase, and these require calls-to-action (CTAs) in order to be effective. Your site needs to recommend that people check out your articles, videos and more product pages. It needs to suggest that people interact with you via social media and opt in to your email list.

But on the other hand, you need to make sure that you aren’t so focused on nurturing leads that you’re basically dissuading them from buying. Most of your website visitors won’t be ready to purchase on the spot, but what about those who are?

You want to capture the impulsebuy as soon as they decide they’re in. If you give them too much time to rethink their impulse decision, they may decide to wait another day, or against buying it at all. Do not make them have to hunt down your “Add To Cart” buttons – this is the most desirable next step they can take, after all, so the CTA needs to be the most enticing one on the page.

Generally, unless you count manual onsite live chat, eCommerce stores don’t have salespeople, and therefore, the extent to which you can proactively influence individuals; purchasing decisions is severely limited. People take comfort in following instructions, so instruct them to buy your products.

5- Make The Checkout Process Easy And Fast

Once they’ve decided they are done shopping, don’t make the checkout process complicated.

Make it a three-step process.

  1. View Cart
  2. Verify Details
  3. Make Payment

Anything more complicated than that and you’re simply adding friction and running the risk of losing the sale.

Recent research indicates that the top reasons people abandon their virtual shopping carts during the checkout process all involve some kind of unwanted surprise. They might get hit with shipping fees that were unexpected, or they might be required to register for an account needlessly.

Don’t give your customers a reason to walk. Make sure everything is transparent, smooth and as friction-free as possible.


There are literally thousands upon thousands of successful eCommerce stores in all kinds of product markets. Consider yours to be among them. If you are struggling to succeed, you should make sure that these five elements are addressed in your eCommerce website.

If they aren’t, it’s time to do some work.

Focusing your efforts on these five elements will help to improve your user experience and make it easier for them to find and buy your products and/or services.