How to Build The Ultimate Ecommerce Store

A simple Google search will show you how much advice already exists on making the perfect eCommerce store.

There are hundreds of resources from webinars to e-books to fill you in on the next best thing in optimizing your online store. While some of these tips are relevant and could work, they largely miss the point.

There are certain things that your store must include in order to achieve a certain level of success.

There’s plenty of advice on increasing sales by offering freebies, high-res photos, referral programs and while it’s not outright bad advice, their suggestions are focused on mini-optimizations, not fundamentals.

Luckily, there are a few simple rules you can follow to make sure you get the basics right. Below, I’ll go over them to help you drastically increase your eCommerce sales.

Ultimate Guide to eCommerce Design

As soon as a visitor lands on your website, you need to immediately establish trust and offer a clear selling proposition.

These two factors are incredibly important in ensuring the visitor will ultimately make a purchase.

Below, I’ll talk about specific ways you can achieve both…

1. Have A Clear Selling Proposition

When a visitor comes to your website, she is immediately trying to answer a few key questions:

  • What are they selling?
  • Do people like them & know who they are?
  • What makes them unique?

The answers to those questions should be front and center.

Consider this experiment by Andrew Youderian, where he made a few simple copywriting improvements and increased conversion rates by 48% and drastically decreased his bounce rate.

Old homepage:

New homepage:

Andrew’s experiment was brilliant. He figured out which product sold the most and provided the highest profit margins. He then showcased this product front and center on his eCommerce store to provide a clear selling proposition. And finally he informed his visitors that his company specializes in this particular product and they’re best in class (#1 Choice).

Not every store owner can narrow down their selling proposition to a specific product. If you’re in that camp, I urge you to explore other ways you can set yourself apart from your competition. Shopify’s recently outlined a few ways you can find your winning differentiator with some amazing examples. First, they suggest you ask yourself the following questions:

      • What materials is your product made from?
      • Where did those materials came from? Who created them or produced them?
      • How are your products manufactured and assembled?
      • Who are they manufactured and assembled by?
      • What are the unique benefits your product offers?
      • What’s your personal story and how does it add value to your products?
      • What do you have to offer that no one else does?

Research shows that 65% of consumers need to hear a brand’s value proposition 3 to 5 times to believe it. So remember the goal is to pick selling points that are clear, concise, and sticky. When people come in contact with your brand, they should instantly know what you’re selling and why you’re awesome.

2. Immediately Establish Trust

“In a noisy world filled with choices, you can’t blame your prospects for ignoring you.”

- Seth Godin

Seth Godin calls it triage. It’s what people do when they’re trying to figure out if you’re legitimate.

Not only do we do this with each other, but we do it to every company, brand or product we encounter. I probably do this 50 times a day without realizing it!

Interestingly enough, research has shown that we can break this process of establishing trust into four areas:

1. Proof of Existence

This might seem like the most obvious thing in the world, but I assure you it’s very important: People want to know that you’re a real business and not shady.

At this stage they’re asking themselves…

      • Who’s running this eCommerce store?
      • Where are they based?
      • Do they have a physical address?
      • Do they have operating hours?
      • Is there a number I can call?
      • Are they based in my country?

Not because they’re actually going to use all of that information, but it proves that you’re a real business, preferably one with a cool story.

2. Legal / Policies

A lot of people don’t see this one coming.

Do you have a return policy? Do you have a warranty policy? Be sure to list them.

Again, it’s highly unlikely they’re going to read through this material and it’s fine if they’re hidden in the footer but it lends your store an air of credibility.

3. Social Proof

Despite how awesome your products are, how incredible your product images are, how expensive your website is, nothing trumps the power of people.

Visitors to your eCommerce store will immediately be asking themselves…

      • What publications were they featured on?
      • How many followers do they have on social?
      • Do people like their stuff? What are their product ratings?
      • What influential people have recommended them?
      • To truly sell at that next level you need to establish some form of social proof right up front – without scrolling.

4. Fulfillment

This part comes later, at the check-out stage.

Potential customers will be asking themselves…

      • How easy is it to return stuff? See the Bonobos return policy for an awesome example.
      • Are they using Paypal or some other secure method of taking payments?
      • How are they getting my products to me? UPS? USPS? FedEx?

Let’s be serious, these are things we do anyway to other people’s eCommerce stores so why should it be any different when people come to your site?

3. Make the Design Idiot-Proof

Great design experiences are simple.

Use standard web design templates for your first iteration. The only thing someone should be “learning” when they come to your eCommerce store is what you do and why you’re awesome.

The design of your website should almost be invisible and look very similar to the most successful ecommerce websites on the web right now. Here are some characteristics they all have:

      • Top horizontal menu bar
      • Footer with legal, company info
      • Instant social validators
      • Banner photo with clear selling proposition

For more info, Joshua Porters has an awesome guide on the 10 Principles of User Experience Design.

Some of the best eCommerce stores I know of follow all of these principles. Here are two of my favorites:


Dodocase is the poster child for successful eCommerce stores and was the first winner of Shopify’s build a business competition. Here’s how they win with their eCommerce store design:


Goldieblox is one of my favorite new companies of the year and has seen tremendous growth. They’ve been featured on Guardian, Good Morning America, Cnet and more and have seen a huge surge in sales. Here’s how they win with their eCommerce store design:

You’ll notice that the biggest players out there aren’t trying to recreate the wheel and introduce fancy new designs. They’re utilizing basic design principles so that the layout & template gets out of the way and the products can be showcased front and center.

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