6 Essential Components of an E-commerce Website


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Most successful e-commerce websites have a handful of common elements that make them attractive and easy to navigate. This article examines the six most important components of running an engaging, user-friendly, and popular e-commerce store.

Key takeaways:

  • Every e-commerce store needs essential elements.
  • Having the right elements can make it easy for customers to find and buy your products.
  • An e-commerce website builder can help ensure your e-commerce site is complete and ready to sell.

Important Components of an E-commerce Website

  • Easy navigation
  • Mobile optimization
  • Intuitive checkout
  • Customer support
  • Shipping and return information
  • Calls to action

E-commerce website design and development is endlessly customizable. Outside of general accessibility protocols, you don’t need to follow any specific philosophy to create an incredible online store. However, there are some guidelines to consider that transform a good experience with your e-commerce site into a great one.

Easy navigation

There’s nothing wrong with a unique e-commerce design, but too much variance from web design best practices can backfire by making your site less accessible and navigable. The ease of your customer’s experience should always stay one of your top priorities throughout the web development process.

Amazon is the world’s most powerful e-commerce platform, and an ideal example of an approachable e-commerce design. At the top of the screen is a basic search bar and settings such as your location, cart, and account.

Screenshot of Amazon homepage.
Source: Amazon

Below the top menu bar is a list of categories that make it simple to find different site areas. A larger “All” menu on the left side expands the category list to cover every type of product. Finally, the rest of the screen highlights popular products and collections that you might be interested in.

This general framework of a menu at the top, categories underneath or on the side, and highlighted the majority of e-commerce websites shares products in the middle. While you can make various changes within that structure, you should stick with the basic concept unless you have good reasons to risk something different.

Mobile optimization

Five years ago, mobile e-commerce sales came a distant second to orders placed on a desktop or laptop. Today, more and more purchases are being made through smartphones and tablets, making mobile engagement one of the top e-commerce trends for 2023.

If your e-commerce design doesn’t work well on smaller screens, you’re likely losing a substantial number of potential sales. For example, text located directly on images may be perfectly legible on a computer, but too small for users to read if they’re accessing your site on their phone.

Fortunately, many of the best website builders now come with all the tools creators need to test and improve their mobile site designs. Make sure to visit your site on a few different mobile devices after making changes to confirm that there aren’t any issues on particular device types or operating systems.

Intuitive checkout

If a user makes it to your checkout sequence, you’ve done most of the work involved in finalizing the sale. The last thing you want is for any inefficiencies or technical issues to push them away at the last moment.

A few simple issues with the checkout process can consistently hurt your sales.

One simple way to ensure a higher conversion rate is to make sure that your users keep a persistent cart across multiple visits. If a visitor adds something to their cart but doesn’t place an order, it should still be there the next time they return to your site. Without this feature, they’ll have to search for the product a second time and put it back in their cart to initiate checkout.

Payment methods are another potential barrier for e-commerce shoppers. While some options may be prohibitively difficult or unreliable, such as cryptocurrencies, you should still make an effort to accept as many common payment methods as you can. Mobile customers should be able to pay through a mobile wallet like Apple Pay or Google Pay, or apps like PayPal or Venmo.

Finally, you should always make sure that your visitors can complete their purchase easily even if they don’t create an account. There’s nothing wrong with asking them to sign up or offering a discount in exchange for contact information, but buyers who aren’t interested should still be able to buy what they’re seeking.

Customer support

Your website design should minimize uncertainty and confusion, but users may still have questions or concerns that they can’t find an answer for on their own. In these situations, it’s important to give them easy access to your customer support team.

Customer support is one of the most commonly underestimated aspects of e-commerce sales, particularly for growing stores. Answering customer questions quickly and informatively acknowledges their concerns and leads them to gain more confidence in both your brand and your products.

With contemporary live chat software, it’s simple to stay in touch with your customers. Automated chatbots can answer the smaller queries and point users in the right direction. For example, they might be able to suggest relevant support articles or connect visitors with a specialized customer service agent who can give them more help.

Shipping and return information

On top of the products themselves, customers may also have questions about your shipping policies or rules about returns and exchanges. If you withhold this information until they start to check out, it comes as a surprise and may potentially lose you a sale.

E-commerce vendors should be transparent about basic shipping policies, such as delivery times and minimum orders for free shipping. If you’re experiencing backorders or other processing delays, that information should be posted on the homepage and product pages so your visitors know what to expect.

Calls to action

Getting someone to visit your e-commerce website is a great first step, but you still need to keep them interested and motivate them to make an order. CTAs (calls to action) are critical when it comes to directing user actions and optimizing the customer experience.

One of the simplest ways to engage with your website visitors is to collect their contact information. Even if they don’t make a purchase during their first visit, you’ll be able to contact them later and potentially inspire them to return to your site.

E-commerce brands often provide small incentives to increase their subscription rate. For example, you might display a CTA that offers visitors a 10% discount on their first order when they provide and verify their email address.

You should also make an effort to connect with your site visitors through social media. Many e-commerce website builders include templates that come with built-in social media buttons, enabling users to click through to your social media profiles from your website. Etsy, for example, has links to their Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube pages.

Etsy email subscribe form.

The more time a user spends on your site, and the more actions they take before leaving, the more likely it is that they end up buying something. Strong CTAs are crucial for taking full advantage of each visit and making sure that your potential and repeat customers take the desired actions.

Frequently Asked Questions About E-Commerce Websites

Can you build your own e-commerce website?

Yes, you can, provided you know or someone on your team knows how to design and develop one. If you do not have the necessary coding skills, it is advisable to hire a professional.

If a web developer or designer’s rates are a little higher than what your budget allows, then most of the top hosting sites do offer free and low-cost templates specifically for e-commerce.

Is it hard to build an e-commerce website?

Because the foundations of what makes an e-commerce website successful haven’t changed much — visitors are always going to want the most convenient, up-to-date, user-friendly experience — it’s easier than ever to build one, especially if you go with a template.

You or your web developer and/or designer must stay on top of e-commerce best practices and make updates accordingly. However, you won’t be working without a well-established blueprint to reference.

How should you attract customers to your e-commerce store?

Visitors aren’t going to know about your amazing e-commerce website without a strong SEO (search engine optimization) and marketing strategy to back it up. If you don’t have a background in promoting online businesses, hiring a marketing professional to help you design the right approach to getting the word out is a good idea.

Don’t forget to set up social media sites, either. Regular, organic interactions with potential customers, current customers, and other brands in your industry can help push more eyes toward your inventory.

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