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Beginner’s Guide To Building A Successful E-Commerce Web Site

  • Written by  Katie Swett Miller, Weebly

0aaaKatie Swett WeeblyOver the past decade, the volume of businesses that have established an online presence is astounding. It’s estimated that in the U.S. and Canada alone, there are approximately 1.3 million e-Commerce sites. Given this explosion of online stores, how is someone with little-to-no experience supposed to create an impactful web site that cuts through clutter, drives sales and fosters customer loyalty?

Having observed many small businesses go from blank landing page to a three million dollar-a-year business, the Weebly team has taken notice of the best practices that help your online store drive business and repeat, happy customers.

Create A Design And Layout That Reflect Your Unique Brand

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The key to getting started is doing just that — ditch the long to-do list and begin publishing a framework. A creative domain name, an attention-grabbing photo, and teasing upcoming features/launches with “coming soon” text are good starting places to begin generating momentum.

Once you’re ready to dedicate additional resources into fully designing your site, start with a color palette that reflects the look and feel of all your brand touch points offline. Make sure when people land on your site it feels the same as the look of your Instagram feed, your store, your packaging and any place they will interact with your company.

When considering the site’s design, less is more. Keep a clear call to action (shop, book, learn more) front and center so it’s obvious what you want visitors to do when they land on your site. Whereas you may feel compelled to fit everything on one screen, drop-down menus and white space can be instrumental in designing a beautiful and engaging e-Commerce platform. Just be sure to keep fonts, colors and style consistent throughout.

Make Sure Your Products Look Picture-Perfect Across All Devices

Once products are available to promote on the site, it’s absolutely crucial to incorporate striking product and lifestyle photography that accurately represents products’ features and how they will be used in the ‘real world.’ Video and gifs have become extremely popular, as they are more likely to catch the eye of a potential customer. Try adding a video that showcases your best work or a behind-the-scenes perspective of your last photo shoot or creative process.

Another critical design component is ensuring your products look just as good on mobile devices as they do on a desktop. Close to 60% of all traffic to a Weebly site is coming from a mobile device. Our sites are optimized to be mobile first, but it’s always good to visit and go through the checkout flow from a phone or tablet to make sure everything looks great on the small screen, and that your purchase process is seamless across any device.

Leveraging The Power Of Word-Of-Mouth

Audience growth can happen in a variety of ways, but the biggest factors come down to effective email marketing, an active social media presence and a regularly updated blog. Asking visitors if they’d like to sign up for email updates and promotions allows first-time visitors to become repeat customers. Integrating social media handles into all aspects of your marketing plan is vital to promote easy content sharing capabilities that, in turn, help drive traffic.

Social media is also a great place to analyze consumer sentiment, take polls on new product colors and to share brand moments of how your product comes to life. Finally, a blog is an effective way to engage with customers and express yourself by providing a voice for your brand and building organic SEO. Some popular topics for blogs include seasonal offerings, new product launches and major company announcements.

The True Power Of Online Reviews

First-time visitors to your online store may need encouragement to gain trust in your brand and the quality of your products. Cue the power of online customer reviews, which can lead to new sales and hopefully, repeat customers. According to PeopleClaim, 70% of customers consult reviews or ratings before making a final purchase. Integrating automatic prompts into your email marketing platform by asking customers to leave a review on every purchase is an effective way to solicit feedback organically. Positive reviews go a long way toward building a credible reputation, and even negative reviews can be managed strategically. Responding to unhappy customers with timely and exceptional customer service can serve as an effective strategy to address the complaints of upset customers, and may even encourage them to update their review or remove it altogether.

Authenticity Is King

With Millennials being the most ethically conscious generation of consumers, businesses should aim to create a site that accurately represents products while also reflecting the brand’s personality. Bring your brand to life by sharing what inspires you, how your business started, and the process of how it came together. If you source your product locally or from sustainable resources, shoppers want to feel a connection to supporting an authentic brand. A well-written and inspiring “About” page can be just as important as a product page on your online store.

Be Human

Starting an online store can feel incredibly exciting, yet overwhelming and daunting; most new business owners believe it requires a perfect homepage, thousands of Instagram followers and professionally curated, custom artwork. However, some of the most important aspects of e-Commerce success lie within small details, such as a personal touch, carefully shot product photography and simple mobile integration.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that your web site visitors are people like you, and not faceless algorithms. If you were interested in making a purchase online, what would you hope to see and how would you want to be addressed? A brand that resonates cannot be faked — to be authentic necessitates transparency. If you create compelling stories and look to build a consistent and responsive image, that’s what will entice customers to shop with you.


Katie Swett Miller is Director of Product at Weebly, an e-Commerce and web site hosting company recently acquired by Square.  She oversees customer facing Weebly products that help entrepreneurs grow their business through the platform. She spearheaded the creation of Weebly's email marketing platform, insights dashboard, and Facebook Ad creator. Miller also leads the team that builds the core web product and 5-star rated Weebly mobile app. She is passionate about building products that delight customers and allow them to express themselves digitally while encouraging growth. 

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