A great-looking website may impress business managers, investors, and casual onlookers, but concentrating on appearance can easily miss the point. E-commerce conversion rates depend on far more than how a site looks. Here are four essential factors no serious retail business should overlook in the quest for online success.

1) Trust and Credibility

If you expect a customer to hand over their credit card details, you need to make sure they trust you completely. This means two things.

First, you should do everything you can to show that you’re a real company run by real people, and not just a shadowy website with nothing behind it. This includes posting clear contact details, security seals, accreditations and awards, and so on.

But it also means delivering a credible sales pitch. You need to portray your products accurately and believably, losing any over-the-top hype.

One of the best ways of doing this is to publish genuine reviews and testimonials, including ones which are fair but not necessarily brimming with praise. An occasional criticism will make the glowing recommendations far more trustworthy.

2) Showing Expertise

Unless you’re trading purely on price, you need to show the customer why they should buy from you. Do they believe you’re an expert who can provide great service, both before and after the purchase? Can they rely on your advice?

Expertise is best demonstrated by developing plenty of high-quality content alongside your pure sales pages. Establish your brand as a leading expert in your niche, and a major barrier to purchasing will be overcome.

3) Easy Choice

Of course, the product you’re selling actually needs to be worth buying. But that’s of no use if the customer can’t find what they want, quickly and easily.

Design your website from the ground up with clear, logical navigation and a capable search function. Never leave the customer unsure what to do next.

Also, avoid presenting the customer with too many options until they’re already some way into the sales funnel. Too much choice is easily overwhelming, so save minor refinement options until the buying decision has been made.

4) Simple Checkout Process

And once a customer has decided to buy, the checkout process should be as smooth as possible. Don’t require unnecessary logins or account creations. Never suddenly introduce shipping charges, no matter how small. Avoid asking for information which isn’t absolutely essential to the transaction. Make the experience frictionless or you’ll turn too many customers away at the final hurdle.

There’s no doubt that first impressions count. But relying on a stunning site design to wow your customers isn’t going to provide long-term success and profit. Fashions in design come and go, but the basics of retail business sense will win out in the end, whether online or off.

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