12 Essential Ecommerce Website Features

Posted by Paul on April 12, 2013

Whether you're looking to build a new ecommerce website or review your existing one, here are some of the features to look for that will get you the best return on your investment (not necessarily in order!)

  1. Control
    You need to have full control of the products, images and information pages on your website. This means that you should easily be able to log in through a web based interface and edit prices, descriptions, product photograpy, taxes, discounts etc.

  2. Branding
    Your ecommerce website needs to look professional, inspire trust and convey your brand values. The website design is your shop front and just like on the high-street, the more appealing it is, the more sales you'll make.

  3. High Quality Product Photography
    Unless your customers are very familiar with your products already, the quality of your product photography will have a big part to play in the decision to purchase. Many suppliers provide good quality photography to their distributors but if not, consider having your own taken. You'll either need to be handy with a digital SLR and have a suitable lighting setup or get these taken for you to stand a chance of them looking professional.

  4. On-Site Search Engine Optimisation
    Very imporant (but not more so than the website itself) is the search engine friendliness of the website. You need to make sure that each product and category have their own page on their own URL and that you can control what that URL is.

    For example:

    is far better than:

    You should also be able to control the meta-title, meta-description and image alt tags. Making sure there are lots of keyword-rich product descriptions and information pages is also key. Which leads us on to the next feature...

  5. Blog
    Once your product descriptions are well-written and keyword-rich consider writing weekly blog articles. Your ecommerce website should make it easy for you to do this.

  6. SSL Certificate
    Using an SSL certificate on your site adds security and is essential for many payment gateways. The big green padlock also reassures customers and trust is still a major factor in buying online for many.

  7. Contact Details, Delivery, Terms, Privacy
    Following on from the trust factor, it's important to have an address, email address or contact form and phone number on a contact page. You also need pages detailing your terms and delivery times to avoid misunderstandings. These are essential and increase customer trust.
  8. Payment Gateway
    You'll need to collect payments and the important things to consider are how the payment experience is for the customer. It has to be easy, quick and to appear trustworthy. You also need to consider the transaction fees and how the gateway provider handle disputes. Chargebacks and reversals can be costly when the gateway provider always favours the buyer without investigating each case properly. Generally we think keeping the user on the website rather than sending them off to a bank's payment page is more professional.

  9. Social Media
    A facebook "like" button can be a fantastic for marketing. The two main ways to use this would be per product - in which case the product appears on that person's news feed and their friends will then see a link to your product along with their friend's endorsment, or a like button of your facebook page. Once someone has liked your page, you'll be able to post statuses about your products that will display and should hopefully cause them to come back.

  10. Email Marketing
    You're missing an opportunity if your website doesn't allow customers to sign up for email offers when they purchase, register or just visit the site. Some shopping cart platforms support sending out email offers to users but we'd recommend just connecting this data to a purpose built email marketing platform like MailChimp.

  11. Amazon and eBay Integration
    Your products are likely to get more exposure on these channels initially than on your own website so listing on these is a good idea. Because of the specifics of each type of listing it can be best to manually list products on each platform but then link stock levels and order processing in one place with an inventory management tool such as Linnworks.

  12. Google Shopping Feed
    By publishing an XML product feed of your products to Google Merchant Center, you will gain traffic and exposure. This service has until recently been free but Google may start charging for you to list on their product comparison channel.

So this is by no means an exhaustive list but by making sure all of the above are covered, your ecommerce venture should have a very good chance of success. If there's anything glaringly obvious I've missed please let me know in the comments!

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