The Ultimate, Epic Guide to Create a Successful Online Business (October 2016)


Ecommerce is hotter than ever right now, but what are the numbers attached to this exponential growth? Well, in 2017, ecommerce sales are estimated to reach around $434 billion, and this is US alone. Customers are going online to shop and more recently they started doing that right from their smartphones, so in the near future these numbers will grow even more. If you want to sell, you need customers and those customers want new, innovative products and a website that lures them to keep on browsing.

These ecommerce strategies will help you develop a sustainable tactic and focus on what you should do to succeed, from targeting the right customer to having a kick-ass social media strategy.

Table of Contents

1. Make an amazing first impression
2. Why photos matter
3. Improve your site’s navigation
4. Have a unique idea
5. Craft a strong USP (Unique Selling Proposition)
6. Start blogging
7. Create a mind-blowing About Us page
8. Develop a successful SEO strategy
9. Target the right visitor with the right product
10. Use Live Chat to help potential customers make faster decisions
11. To coupon or not to coupon
12. Improve shopping cart experience
13. Develop a successful shipping strategy
14. Ask for feedback
15. Rethink your newsletter approach
16. Show people your site is secure and trustworthy
17. Use the power of Social Media to promote yourself
18. Implement an Affiliate Program for your store
19. Don’t neglect mobile users
20. Choose the perfect ecommerce platform for your store

1. Make an amazing first impression

In order to make a sell, you need to keep your users engaged and clicking through. It takes about 50 milliseconds for users to decide if they like your site or not. You want and need to be as creative as possible. It can be something as simple as the header or your store’s name. These tips will help you choose the right name and URL for your store.

A first impression can last for years,  so invest in the best design possible, choose the right template and deliver a unique experience for your users.

BarCamp OMAHA decided to focus on the area above the fold, and went for a kick-ass vibe. Do you want to keep on scrolling? Of course you do. The rest of the page is even more exciting. Think about your niche and note down 2 or 3 design approaches that would work for you and then talk them out with your website designer. Go big and bold if you think this approach will work for your visitors.

Bar camp Omaha

The second example is more stylish and minimal, but it works very well, considering Noble Isle sells luxurious bath products. What was the first thing that captured your attention? The rich color palette and the ingenious logo are very clever as they infuse a sense of opulence without being over the top. Gold fonts can look extremely good if used properly.

Noble Isle

Brunch Box delivers a chic brunch for two with a very obvious French touch. The moment you land on their website you know exactly what they’re selling: a brunch in a box. They have a simple logo and choose to display the products in an Instagram style photo that is more than suited for their users. All other info, like contact or social profiles, are displayed in the footer to keep the design clean and simple.

Brunch BOX

2. Why photos matter

Your customers will remember 80% of what they see and a staggering 20% of what they read. Big product photos along with great web design are the two main areas you should focus on if you want to have an eye candy ecommerce site.

Cool photos check list:

  • use an all white background to let your product stand out
  • go big in size to catch your user’s interest and to let him know exactly what he’s buying
  • enable zooming so your customers can see every little detail
  • provide product photos from all angles
  • if you don’t want to or don’t have the right equipment, rely on a professional photographer (not cost-effective if you sell hundreds of items)

Free People is the perfect example. They have very cool and modern product photos, you will get lost on the website, clicking product after product. It’s addictive. On the main page they always have a lot of offers and products grouped by category, but they constantly change the pictures so you get a whole new vibe with every revamp they do.

Free People

In a totally different niche, Minted has a very fancy and colorful look. They almost always use decor to accompany their products, thus making them Pinterest friendly. If they also offered product zoom, everything would have been perfect. This way it’s a bit challenging to see the small design details and this is a huge downside.


“A picture is worth a thousand words” Arthur Brisbane

Product photography numbers:

  • 66% of your customers would like to see alternative angles of your product
  • for 75% of them the quality of the photos is the most important feature
  • 61% want to be able to zoom in on the product photo

Need free images for your blog or to highlight your photos? Bookmark all these 20 sites that offer free photos for further reference. Most of them have super modern and captivating photos.

You want to have a stress free navigation, allowing visitors to easily find what they’re looking for because if they can’t find it, they can’t buy it. The following strategies are easy to apply and proved to be very effective:

Add a ‘What’s new’ category
Your returning customers will want to see your latest collection. They don’t want to browse the old stuff while searching for new products. Include a ‘New products’ tab in your main navigation to make it more visible and also to tempt new visitors to stay on your site.

H&M has a ‘New Arrivals’ subcategory for each of their main categories: ladies, men, kids and home. From there on, you can filter the products based on category, size, color, or trend. With just a few clicks the customers find exactly what they want. Useful and time effective.


Have a ‘Recently viewed’ feature
It’s beyond annoying to shop around for something and to decide you want to revisit a product you saw a few clicks backs, but finding it isn’t that easy. The user has options: use the back button, navigate to that category again or check the browsing history.

Pottery Barn makes this very easy. Whenever the users find themselves on a product page, they have in the right a ‘Recently Viewed’ tab, so they can navigate through the latest browsed products.

Pottery Barn

Use drop-down menus
John Lewis and Amazon are two websites using this to their advantage. The navigation process is a lot smoother and it requires fewer clicks, thus making your visitors happy and less stressed. However, you have to be absolutely sure that your website won’t have to face the dreaded hover tunnels issues – when you have to follow a certain path, so the menu won’t close. A great strategy is to make the menu open on click, thus ensuring that all your customers can navigate easily.

John Leweis


IKEA didn’t follow this path and chose to opt for both category pages – explaining exactly what you will find there -, and drop-down menus. On the category page they feature the products belonging to the category the user clicked on and displays them while allowing price or name filters.

Ikea web design


4. Have a unique idea

It’s unbelievably competitive opening up a new ecommerce store. Being creative and selling something that people didn’t even know they needed should be your starting point. What can you craft? What are your skills? What products do people secretly want? It can be something as simple as a shop with only pink home furniture and decorations, or your own product.

Browse Pinterest, Instagram, Amazon, Luvocracy or Lyst and see what’s new, what gets a lot of good buzz and see what you can do with that.

Visit these sites to find what’s trending lately:

BearBrand – style for the urban beardsman! Had no idea there’s a market for that. Apparently, their more than 47k Facebook fans and Instagram followers beg to differ. These guys sell a lot of stuff, from moustache combs to beard oils and they seem to keep on going.


Boxed identified a huge issue – massive shipping fees for bulk, heavy goods – and fixed it. A lot of their products have free shipping which is almost impossible to find elsewhere, and a wide variety of products, from household stuff to beauty care. One of their biggest selling points? This one:
“Did you know an average trip to a local warehouseclub takes over 180 minutes? Boxed gives you back 179 of them.”

Boxed theme

Suck UK sells “The greatest gifts on earth!”. Would you like to get a customizable cookie stamper or a tongue shaped bookmark? Yeah, you don’t need them, but it would be cool to have them, right? They also have retail stores to cater to those who like to walk around town in search of the funkiest gift ever.


If you want to know more about site navigation, check this study. It shows exactly how menus have changed between 2011 and 2014 for 23 websites.

5. Craft a strong USP (Unique Selling Proposition)

Why do you need a unique selling proposition? There are around 110,000  ecommerce websites! Yes, you read that right: 110,000. You don’t need to, you MUST have an awesome unique selling proposition if you want to make those sales.

Every business has that “something” that sets it apart from others, you just have to sit down and figure what it is. Another option is to do your own research and look closer at your competitors. What are they focusing on? What are they missing? Could you bring that to your customers?

FiftyThree designed a very cool stylus and their USP is simple: “Think with your hands”. In just four words their customers find out what these guys are selling: a pen that works so smooth it actually allows you to be extremely creative.


Changing the focus, we have TOMS, a for-profit website that has a different approach. Each time they sell a pair of shoes, they give one pair to a child in need and when they sell their eyewear, they donate an undisclosed amount to save the eyesight of those in developing countries. Their unique selling proposition couldn’t be more suited: “One for One”!


Don’t know where to start with your own UPS? Sam Horn, author of the popular book “POP!: Create the Perfect Pitch, Title, and Tagline for Anything” developed this W9 questionnaire to help you break down the core of your business and craft the perfect USP:

W1. What am I offering?
W2. What problem does my idea or offering solve?
W3. Why is it worth trying and buying?
W4. Who is my target audience?
W5. Who am I and what are my credentials?
W6. Who are my competitors and how am I different from them?
W7. What resistance or objections will people have to this?
W8. What is the purpose of my pitch?
W9. When, where, and how do I want people to take action?

USPs to get you inspired:

A diamond is forever. DeBeers
Ideas worth spreading. TED
The Ultimate driving machine. BMW
Gives you wings. Red Bull
Open your world. Heineken
When it Absolutely, Positively has to be there overnight. FedEx

6. Start blogging

When you blog you can increase the number of visitors by 50%  and have 885 more leads per month. These are huge numbers that can bring in a lot of extra revenue.

Publish often!
Ideally, you would have around 3-4 new articles published each week, but not everyone has that much free time, so start slow. You can come up with at least one article a week, right? If possible, you can consider drafting 5-7 posts and schedule them so you don’t have to deal with blogging for the next 5-7 weeks.

Hershel Supply and Selfridges publish quite often on their blogs and the articles are short and have pictures worthy of their own Pinterest board. This strategy works best in niches relying heavily on design and visual cues.

Herschel Supply


Deliciously Ella and You Make Do had a different approach. They had their blogs first and then decided to have their own stores. Having a lot of visitors/followers helped them build a more powerful and relevant ecommerce site as they already knew their audience.

Deliciously Ella


You make do

What to publish:

  • personal experiences/opinions so your customers get to know you/your business
  • products you recommend
  • tips from your niche
  • contests
  • about your store’s history

As an added bonus, read my 19 explosive content marketing tips and see what advices you can implement in your blogging activity.

7. Create a mind blowing About Us page

Your About Us page is a window into your business and you want it to be appealing and fresh. Around 7% of visitors coming to a homepage click to see the About page. Those who see it convert 30% more than those who don’t visit it and spend on average 22.5% more. This alone should be enough to get you started drafting this page.

An honest, updated and well designed About Us page can spark curiosity and, who knows, generate some unexpected sales from people who were just browsing.

Yellow Leaf Hammocks sells 100% hand-woven, customizable hammocks and they have a kick-ass About Page. The visitor gets all his questions answered and the graphic design and photos keep him engaged and interested to see more. Priced decently and in various sizes, these hammocks are crafted by people who otherwise would struggle to survive. Motivating, touching, life-changing and a very noble cause, Yellow Leaf Hammocks proves what an About Us page is all about.

Yellow Leaf Hammocks

Did you know that “one special cookie can change your world?” This is the first thing you see when you’re on the “our story” on Fruute. You will find out the story behind these sweet treats and how a mom’s passion for baking ended up to be a very successful business. Here you will find all natural cookies, tarts and gift baskets that will make your mouth water.


Mujjo sells leather Apple accessories and touch screen gloves. On the About page they share their story, how they started designing the popular knitted gloves that are touchscreen friendly, and how then they expanded to making sleeves for Apple products. They also decided to use this page to promote some of their products in order to keep the visitor longer on the site.


What to share on this page:

  • the story of your brand
  • a video or several captivating photos that portray your brand
  • your partners, if you’re not alone
  • one or two testimonials

8. Develop a successful SEO strategy

A list of 1,000 tips on SEO wouldn’t be enough to even focus on the things you should do and, most importantly, DON’T do, in order to increase your position in search engines. In 2013 there were 2.2 trillion Google searches, but 90% of the users clicked only on the first 3 results, so if your product is ranked last on your page you rely only on the rest 10% to find your site.

Optimize the product page. This means using keywords but not to the extent where you end up overstuffing your content. Relevant product keywords in your headers and image alt tags should be enough to help your rankings.

Use friendly URLs. The visitor doesn’t want to see a trillion characters, so, again, you should use the keyword you’re trying to rank for and very little of something else. Keep it clean and user friendly!

Make the most of user generated content. This isn’t costing you anything and it also provides fresh and unique content for search engines. Add social media plugins and allow users to quickly review the products they just bought.

Avoid duplicate content. Archives, tags, incorrect pagination and even basic products filtering generate duplicate content and drag your site down. Use your robots.txt and block them for being indexed, along with any other features that create duplicate content. Writing unique product description instead of using the one provided by the manufacturer is the smart way to go, as Google will set you apart from your competitors who use the same product text.

Keep pages with out of stock items. Don’t delete these pages, especially if you rank high with them; instead, show related products or your newest collection.

Have a  well-thought-of internal linking system. This will reduce your bounce rates as people have something to click on. Recent studies show that 69% of people base their browsing on these links. Don’t overcomplicate it, try to think from your visitor’s point of view. What would be relevant to him?

Link to other sites. Despite random rumors you might have heard, linking won’t ruin your rankings. Instead, it will show the visitors that you want to provide helpful content and you don’t mind linking to those sources. This will paint you as genuine and reliable.

Use Analytics. This is kinda of a no-brainer. You simply can’t afford to skip on using Analytics to have a deeper knowledge of everything that happens in your store. Don’t know where to start? Check this 10 Google Analytics tools guide that will help you keep track of everything that happens in your store.  Do you sell a lot to mobile users or most of your purchases are made from a desktop device?

When it comes to high class SEO, Zappos is the perfect example.

Optimized product page:

  • they use simple and more targeted product keywords
  • instead of adding a product description that is forced and stuffed with keywords, they list the product’s features in a bullet point list
  • they also have a related product featured to keep the user engaged and, why not, increase the chances of an up-sell
  • the slider with products viewed by customers who viewed the same item has the same purpose


Use friendly URLs:

  • Zappos uses the keyword in the title, with very little something else
  • always include the brand or collection as well, it helps your rankings



The guys at Moz put together an  awesome guide with SEO tactics to Love vs Leave. Browse the slides and update your SEO strategy.

9. Target the right visitor with the right product

Product recommendations deliver a personalized shopping experience and can increase your order value with as much as 40%. In other words, you can’t afford not to use this strategy. Out of 1000 UK online shoppers, 53% like seeing products that are recommended based on their previous buying history.

Amazon was among the first retailers to successfully implement this and eventually everyone jumped in. This infographic is an illustrated history of the first 20 years of Amazon and it shows some of the strategies Jeff Bezos used to make the client hit the Add to cart button. They use an “item-to-item collaborative filtering” that surrounds the user with product he didn’t even know he needed. This algorithm is based on what he has in the cart, his previous Amazon browsing history, products he likes or he already bought. How many times have you found yourself looking for a stapler and ending up buying a stapler, among many other things? The power of suggestion does wonders and Amazon knows that.



GovX uses the ‘recommended product’ feature. After the visitor clicks on the first product that interests him, he will be recommended 4 more products, complimentary or from the same category. Smart and simple, plus a nice change to do some up-selling.


Around 70% of online shoppers prefer stores that use personal information to provide a more relevant shopping experience. Bottom line, any ecommerce site that wants to stay in the game has to come up with a personalized shopping experience for its customers.

What features to implement:

  • recommended for you
  • similar products
  • complimentary products

10. Use Live Chat to help potential customers make faster decisions

“The more things change, the more they are the same.” Alphonse Karr

Ecommerce is stronger than ever, but nothing beats that human interaction you have in an offline store.
What percentage of online shoppers do you think agreed with this statement: “Having my questions answered by a live person while I am in the process of my online shopping is one of the most important features on a Website”? If you don’t have a ‘live chat’ feature on your site you should, because the answer is a mind blowing 44%

Proactive live chat – live chat’s annoying sister.
Can this upset some of your users? You bet, but it will also drive in sales that otherwise wouldn’t happen. Your live chat agents will approach clients with a non-intrusive popup message and ask if they need assistance. Depending on the live chat software you’re using, you can even set up the waiting time or the required keywords for the popup to appear. This live chat strategy makes your user feel like he’s in a real store, having all his questions answered by a shop assistant.

Provacances has the Live chat button above the header which makes it very unlikely to be spotted. Instead of the gift card contest which is in fact a newsletter subscription, they should have placed the Live chat there.


After the “Don’t do this” example we have Lexus and Romwe, two very different sites that have good chat strategy. The buttons are placed right and also highlighted to ensure maximum visibility. This is proof that in almost all niches users need help in choosing the right product, whether a new car or a new pair of jeans.



Schuh went a step further and introduces Live chat video. While some customers like this interaction, most will be reluctant to having a video chat with a stranger. However, if users want, they can opt for text instead of video.


Place your live chat button in the most visible spot. You want it to be visible at all times, whether the user is scrolling or reading a product review.

Live chat statistics:

  • 31% of online shoppers are tempted to buy from a site that offers live chat
  • 46% think this is the perfect communication medium
  • 62%  of buyers who have used live chat are more likely to buy again from the same website

11. To coupon or not to coupon

Pricing is tricky. You have to offer a lower price than your competition while making a profit. This small guide focuses on the best 3 pricing strategies. After getting this covered, you have to determine what coupons and discounts strategy you use. If you have a one of a kind product or handmade items, promotional offers aren’t a must. Plus, they can do more harm than good.

Around 75% of mobile platforms buyers use coupons which can lead to a huge loss if you have year-round promotions and most of your visitors come from mobile devices.

Crate&Barrel uses in-your-face strategy, making the promotion code box visible. In fact, their checkout page is very clean and simple with just a few up-sells visible at the bottom of the page and their current promotion at the top.

Crate and barrel

Jo Malone decided to go for a busy look and this makes the offer code box less noticeable. That’s a great strategy, as customers can’t complain you don’t offer discounts. However, not everyone will be aware of the fact that they can actually use them, and most will skip this step.

Jo Malone

Remember, 10% off isn’t a huge deal for you, but it can be a huge selling point, especially if your competitors have a lower discount or none at all.

These discounts will benefit your brand and also show customer appreciation:

  • first time buyer’s discount
  • volume discount
  • member discount
  • free shipping
  • returning customer discount

12. Improve shopping cart experience

Window shopping has never been so popular! Your users cram their carts with items they would want/like to buy, but 71% of these carts are abandoned. Why? Well, for a lot of reasons. High shipping fees, slow website or website time-out, not enough payment options (check this article on how to choose the right payment gateway for your store) or just because they were simply browsing and had no intention to buy something.

TOOBYDOO has a smart strategy and allows customers to checkout as guests. This allows users to save a lot of time and nerves having to think of a username and password only to have to activate the account by mail.


Use your checkout page as the last up-sell option. The Body Shop displays their best offer on this page to catch those undecided customers who don’t know if they should pay or continue shopping. Think smart, but avoid cramming it with a ton of products.

The Body Shop

EatBoutique allows its customers to know exactly how many steps they have to go through until they can finally pay up. Show a progress bar and most importantly, don’t confuse with unnecessary steps or questions.

Eat Boutique

Apple is often used as an example of a highly optimized ecommerce site and for a good reason too. Their shopping cart page is very simple and it doesn’t fillup the page with a lot of shipping fields. The user has to fill in his zip code and he’s done.



Be aware of these shopping cart statistics:

  • 73% of your customers are likely to look for free shipping options
  • the highest abandonment rate is in consumer electronics, around 74%
  • high shipping costs account for around 44% of abandoned carts and only 6% due to slow shipping

Need more inspiration? Go through these 12 creative checkouts and see if you spot something that inspires you.

13. Develop a successful shipping strategy

Now, customers expect to see the “Free shipping” banner on every online store they visit, and 78%  look for the cheapest shipping available.

The most common shipping options right now are:

Free shipping

We’re all bargain hunters and the phrase “Free shipping” instantly makes you want to keep on scrolling, even if you weren’t tempted to buy anything. Analyse your costs and if you can afford to offer it, then go ahead. This works best in the clothing, beauty products or accessories niches as in most cases the packages are small or average sized. Free shipping is the most important factor now and it also encourages customer loyalty, so choose wisely.

Tattly is a temporary tattoo store that decided to implement the free shipping policy. Their products weight just a few grams, so shipping costs are very low and this strategy didn’t make a hole in their revenue. Instead, this has the potential to bring in more customers because they’ll most likely be tempted to buy when they see free shipping. A huge flaw is that they don’t have a banner that informs about this. You have to visit their FAQ section and check how much they ask for shipping.



The second you land on The Wedding Garter Co you feel tempted to browse around as you see they have free shipping. This is a better strategy compared to the one used by Tattly. If you offer your clients something for free, make this your winning card and display it in the above the fold area to increase its visibility.

Wedding Garter Co

Free delivery over a certain order value
Next to free delivery, this is the second best thing. It’s a very popular option seen on big websites like ASOS, The Hut or Free People and can increase your orders exponentially.

“Free Shipping. 4 bottles or more. Domestic US only.” In just a few words you know that you get free shipping if you buy at least 4 bottles. Faucet Face went for the shortest path and opted for an approach that attracts customers instantly.

Faucet Face

Flat rates shipping
A hassle free method, this allows you to offer a flat fee for every order. Daniella Draper uses this strategy and before proceeding to billing customers can see the shipping rates and then decide if they want to complete the order or not.

Daniella Draper

Shipping rates based on weight, order total or distance
This is more challenging to set up as you need to figure out exactly how much it will cost you in order to get some estimates.

Tinkering Monkey offers shipping rated based on your address. Customers simply have to select their country, city and zipcode to find out what shipping rates they can choose from.

Tinkering Monkey

Shipping rates strategies

Make shipping rates available only at checkout
I bet KUTOA makes some delicious bars, but I don’t know if they have a very successful shipping strategy. You can only find the shipping rate only by filling all the fields, which is both time consuming and unnecessary if you end up finding those prices too big.


Implement a shipping calculator
Simple Sugars uses a calculator that allows you to know the exact shipping costs without having to click to checkout. This increases your transparency and makes customers feel that they have control over their shipping fees.

Simple sugars

Bold and Noble went even further. After you add a product to your basket you are redirected to your cart where you find out how much you’ll be charged for shipping.

Bold and Noble

Shipping numbers:

  • 97% of consumers consider tracking an order a very important feature
  • 58% of shoppers would like to improve free or discounted shipping
  • increased shipping costs cause 55% of abandoned carts
  • the second reason for revisiting a store is free shipping, fast shipping being ranked number 14
  • consumers are 82% more likely to use a store if they don’t have to pay for shipping
  • 58% of shopping transactions in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2014 had free shipping
  • you can increase your order value by 30% if you have free shipping

14. Ask for feedback

It’s amazing how many ecommerce sites decide to go without the customer reviews field. 77% of online shoppers bother to read a review for the product they intend to buy and 90% of them make a decision based on what they read.

All these numbers and statistics apply to the whole web. You might have positive reviews on your site, but you also have to check what your customers say about you on other blogs and forums. Are they satisfied? If not, contact them and see what should have been different. You have to keep in mind that people used Google to find your site and they’ll use it again to do a “background” check on your product.

Not only that, but reviews also improve your SEO rankings as they provide fresh and unique content, increasing your long tail rankings and bringing in new visitors.

Expedia uses Feefo to display their customer reviews. This strategy outsources your worries regarding approving and providing a platform for those reviews. Users also have the chance to tweet or share on Facebook a review, thus increasing your exposure.

Both GraceShip and Just Bedding have the feedback button available at any moment during scrolling, regardless of the page the user visits.

Just Bedding relied on Usabilla, a tool that lets visitors share their feedback both for products or certain aspects of the site. A huge downside is the fact that potential customers can’t see the actual feedback left by others, they can only submit theirs.

Just bedding
GraceShip made the reviews visible when you click on the Testimonials tab placed in the left side. Transparent and very easy to browse through.

Aplliances Online has a very bad approach. These guys have thousands of products reviews and they should make this one of their strongest selling points. Instead, they chose to list it in the footer, a place no one looks, unless they want to contact you or to look at FAQ.

Appliances online

Fear those bad reviews?
You shouldn’t, 68% of consumers trust a site more when they see both positive and negative reviews and this is normal. No matter how awesome your product/service is, there’s always that one guy who didn’t like it. Also, if someone is searching for bad reviews, it means he’s already considering buying, but he wants to find out more.

Consumer reviews stats:

  • 73% of customers have more trust in a brand after reading positive reviews
  • 67% of consumers say they read up to 6 reviews until they feel they can trust a certain business
  • 68% say they are more inclined to recommend a local business if it was trustworthy and professional
  • having product reviews on your site, 63% of your customers will make a purchase
  • consumer reviews can increase your sales by 18%

15. Rethink your newsletter approach

In Q3 2013, 2.53% of online sales were generated by emails, while all social networks barely hit 0.22%. Do you know the estimated email ROI? It’s 4,300%, an unbelievable number! Yeah, some statistics say that people tend to get annoyed when their inbox is crammed with tons of emails, but they still end up checking it and buying something.

Check the following approaches and see how you can successfully convince visitors to sign up for your special deals and updates.

Have a more direct approach
Lookmatic, ACK Surf and Little Joe Woman greet you with a newsletter popup when you land on their websites. Easy to get rid of, but visible for those who want to get exclusive offers or new products announcements. To increase your chances of getting new subscribers, lure them in, sell your mailing list like ACK Surf does: “Best mailing list out there. Exclusive focus on beaches, babes, beers,
and new products.”


Ack Surf

Little Joe NY

Design by Humans and Prinnnt went even further and offer an incentive for signing up. The first one has a 20% off for the next order, while Prinnnt offers a 10% off deal for those who like one of their social accounts. It’s easy, and the user doesn’t feel like he’s being forced to do it.

Design by Humans


Be creative
Cultivated Wit shows they have a more upbeat attitude and this is obvious when you scroll down and get to the newsletter signup field. The “Receive our propaganda” line is funny and tempting, it feels like you just have to sign up. If you look left, where they have the social button, you chuckle again as you read “Monitor our private lives.” It’s all about being fresh and knowing your audience.

Cultivated wit

16. Show people your site is secure and trustworthy

“Secure shopping-cart systems are essential for maintaining the integrity of the payment process” Ella Nevill

Online data is very sensitive, so more and more customers are extremely careful before placing an order. That’s why you have to check all the bulletpoints to make sure your site is secure and trustworthy. In 2012 alone, online retailers lost around $3.5 billion as a result of online fraud. While bigger stores may be able to handle this, a business that sells customized soap will hit rock bottom fast.

These techniques will reduce the risk of online fraud:

  • picking a secure platform
  • using strong SSL authentication
  • tracking all your orders
  • asking for strong passwords
  • running PCI tests

Shopify uses its strong security measures as one of its best features. They have a lot of pages that provide details over their security strategy and they even have a page where you can report a safety hiccup and possibly get rewarded for it.

Ecommerce security

Big Cartel and Lemon Stand aren’t that transparent with their security (this doesn’t mean they aren’t secure), but they provide a lot of input so you, as a future ecommerce store owner, can decide faster what platform suits you.


Lemon stand

Regardless if you use Shopify, Big Cartel or Lemon Stand, you have to keep your eyes peeled and make sure they have incredibly high security features. If you don’t know what to look for, check this article and then contact them, asking for an email where they explain exactly what SSL policies they have.

17. Use the power of Social Media to promote yourself

Social media is big and every ecommerce site should have a short term and long term strategy to gain more popularity on social networks. While Pinterest and Instagram may not be suited for all niches, the two big names (Twitter and Facebook) are a must. Set your profiles and be as active as possible, without spamming your fans.

However, you have to avoid constantly trying to sell something. People want to know the story behind the brand too, interesting statistics regarding the niche you’re in, how to use/style your products. Heck, you can even throw in one or two cat videos.

These 7 both paid and free tools will help you develop an effective social strategy, from helping you figure out when it’s the best time to post, to identifying the latest trends you should focus on.

The first example is Amazon; their site has social buttons on all product pages, in the upper right corner. You can bet they have topnotch SEO social media experts working to develop the best strategy, so you can test this and see if it works out. A while back they had these buttons on the right side too, but lower, visible after you scrolled once or twice.


Lookmatic too uses more visible social buttons to increase the chances of customers actually seeing those buttons. The full page layout makes the visitor focus on their pair of glasses. Very few other details, not to distract him.


The incredibly popular jewelery store Dannijo has taken the celebrity world by storm a few years ago and it’s still holding on strong. They thought of a genius way to mix Instagram with selling their glam jewellery. Basically, they showcase all their products in Instagram pictures and by simply clicking that picture you get a “Shop this look” popup. This increases their chances of a sell because the customer has an exact picture of how big, excellent crafted and stunning that piece of jewelery is in real life.



Social media numbers to ponder on:

  • 37% of consumers have recommended a business on Facebook, up from 32% in 2012
  • visitors greeted by a video stay 2 minutes longer on a site and are 64% more likely to buy something
  • Facebook, Vimeo and Youtube are the highest converting platforms
  • The highest average order value is $66,75, reached by Polyvore
  • 30% of twitter users gear up in holiday shopping mode before October
  • 71% of online shoppers are swept into buying something based on social media advices
  • 48% of consumers like a brand on Facebook because they want to benefit from their discounts and promotions

18. Implement an Affiliate Program for your store

Affiliate marketing can generate up to 90% of the total revenue, these numbers varying depending on the niche and number of affiliates. Setting up your own affiliate program or using networks like Comission Junction or Shareasale, to name just two, can be challenging, but it can generate a lot of revenue.

Steps to a successful affiliate program strategy:

  • Choose a platform
  • Make the ‘Terms and Conditions’ very clear
  • Decide the commission structure
  • Use decent thresholds
  • Choose a payment method
  • Provide the tools – banners, statistics, tracking, free shipping discounts, etc.
  • Target the right affiliates

Nasty Gal, Reiss, Think Geek and The White Company use renowned affiliate platforms because they didn’t want to go through the hassle of having their own affiliate program. If you can afford to pay various fees to have this outsourced, these platforms are a godsend.

Nasty gal



The white company

On the other hand, Dream Essentials and StartLogic have their own platforms. This means all the points listed above are theirs for the taking, but they also score bigger profits because they don’ have to pay fees to various platforms.

Dream essentials

Sstart Logic

19. Don’t neglect mobile users

With 70% of mobile searching leading to an action in under an hour, ecommerce sites should have a strategic plan to conquer this market as well. If customers end up on an unresponsive site, 40% of them will go to a competitor site. Taking action fast and using a responsive design is vital and it will increase your sales.

Currys is very responsive and easily adapts to the device the user is visiting from. Taking into account that 33% of all UK page views come from mobile devices, and the fact that users don’t have the patience to scroll endlessly until they find the category they’re looking for, all ecommerce site should have a flawless design, regardless of the platform.


A more popular website, Starbucks, has a minimal and clear design that looks brilliant both on mobile and on desktop. On the main domain they usually display their latest promotions and if you’re on your smartphone, the navigation is pretty easy, sexy and bugs-free.


Mobile ecommerce statistics:

  • your users want a website that loads in less than 3 seconds
  • last year only 4.5% of the Top 500 internet retailers had a responsive website
  • 51% of all emails are accessed on mobile devices
  • coupons were used by 75% of mobile buyers
  • an extra second of load time makes 7% of users to shop somewhere else

20. Choose the perfect ecommerce platform for your store

If 10 years ago it was almost impossible to have a hands-on system that allowed launching your store in cyberspace, today you have perhaps too many options. What to choose? The guide bellow outlines some of the strongest features Magento, WooCommerce, Shopify, BigCommerce and Volusion have, so you can decide faster what is better for you.


This is a self-hosted, paid ecommerce platform, established in 2004. A favorite among smaller stores or those who don’t have development skills, Shopify is home to more than 120,000. Read my full Shopify review here.

  • helps you get your store up and running in no time
  • free trial so you can give it a go without having to pay for a whole month
  • high class themes, probably some of the best ecommerce themes out there
  • more than 100 apps and addons to further customize your store
  • one thing that keeps people away from Shopify is their fees, from 0.5% on their most expensive plan to 2.0% for the cheapest one

Which sites are using it?



Best Made Co


When you have sites like Harpers’s Bazaar or Olympus as your long term customers it’s quite obvious that you offer an outstanding platform. 240,000 merchants can’t all be wrong.


  • it’s free and nothing beats free
  • requires a lot of expert developing and this narrows it down a bit
  • a lot of extensions available, some paid, some free
  • backed by a huge community, so the chances of not having your questions answered are pretty low
  • Super effective SEO

Which sites are using it?

Stella & dot




This platform was designed by the genius guys from Woothemes and it’s the go to system if you’re a hardcore WordPress fan. It does the job and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg, You might read my WooCommerce vs Shopify comparison.


  • easy to set up even if you’re not a coding enthusiast
  • free without any hidden gizmos
  • super high flexibility that translates in highly customizable design
  • built in analytics to keep an eye on your orders and customers
  • it supports hundreds of payments gateways so you don’t feel restricted
  • works only on WordPress sites

Which sites are using it?

Porter and York

Over clothing

The spectator shop


A bit of a smaller platform, but they’re very dedicated to helping their clients make more sales. Read more about them in my Bigcommerce review.

  • no transaction fees, so you get 100% out of your sales
  • trusted by 55,000 store owners
  • the lowest plan, silver, has 1.5% transaction fee
  • 24/7 support on all three channels, phone, email and chat
  • 60+ payment options, so you can choose the one that fits your store best
  • very few apps, unlike Shopify
  • excellent SEO strategy to help you better rank in search engines

Torie and Howard

Mapi cases

Blue Key Studio

With over $16 billion in sales, this platform has been around since 1999 and in Internet years this is like forever. One of the biggest shopping cart systems to date, Volusion has its ups and downs, just like any other system.

  • requires a bit of HTML and CSS knowledge
  • no transaction fees, regardless of the plan you have
  • pricier plans compared to other ecommerce platforms
  • kickass layouts for a modern looking store
  • sometimes their servers decide to crash and burn, so your store will be offline all this time

DV farmshare

The native state

Chalk Ink

Start with baby steps. Read interviews with people who took the ecommerce industry by storm. These 7 interviews are a must. Look at your website and note down every little improvement you can do. It can be something as simple as a newsletter popup to get more subscribers or a new layout.

Figuring the perfect system is quite tough, so the best advice you could hear right now is to get started. Buy a domain, choose a platform and start selling. You won’t make a profit just by thinking about opening the ecommerce store you’ve always wanted, you have to take the first step.

And remember:

If you’re competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering. Jeff Bezos


Catalin Zorzini

I'm a web design blogger and started this project after spending a few weeks struggling to find out which is the best ecommerce platform for myself. Check out my current top 10 ecommerce site builders.

26 Responses

  1. eCommerce reach from any sort of medium is indeed a huge reality. The probabilities concerning its massive growth and hence the website strengths as required (pretty much luring for users of course) is going to necessitate one to pull their socks stronger enough to secure their market shares; inevitably so far!!!

  2. Hi,

    I’m writing for advice on implementing my e-commerce store on the website.

    I am in the process of developing an online store and I’d like to display the inventory to customers. We’re selling seats in a class and I’d like to show how many spots are remaining. Is there a plugin and a free server that would make this possible? I don’t need an e-commerce platform, I just want an inventory counter or something like that.


  3. This is a lot of great information, it’s definitely epic. I absolutely love this. I have several clients that have ecommerce sites and I will be able to test and apply these tips to provide better value to them.

    Thanks so much!


  4. Very useful! I want to set up an e-commerce site selling natural beauty products. Shall I start it with a blog and later an online shop or do them at the same time? Shall I start my blog on platforms e.g. wordpress/ blogspot or incorporate it in my online shop (say using Shopify template)?

  5. Dear Catalin, Great site with lots and lots of information. But I just picked up one sentence from your web to use it in my website. Do you know what is that line? It is the “first impression that lasts for years, so I am gonna invest in the best design, right template and so on for my users.

  6. Hi
    Thanks for the great info. I will have to follow through on some of the suggestions for SEO with my own blog.

  7. Very nice post. Thanks for the sharing the eCommerce selling advice. I will surely follow your advice.

  8. Hi Catalin,
    This one is a very interesting post. Really this helps other bloggers to create a successful online business.

  9. Salut Catalin, this is one of the most comprehensive posts of how to bootstrap an ecommerce website that I found on the internet. Thanks your review I have chosen Magneto for my ecommerce .

  10. I’ve recently started a website, the info you offer on this site
    has helped me greatly. Thank you for all of your time & work.

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