Online shopping is just easy. Or, it should be. E-commerce websites have the potential to grow a brand, increase sales, and build brand loyalty. However, if your site is arduous to navigate and doesn’t provide enough information, you might end up alienating potential customers rather than luring new ones. While site-building options might seem endless, here are 5 essentials for any e-commerce website that shouldn’t be overlooked.

1. Shipping Discounts

A surprise shipping cost may lead to lost sales, so shipping deals are a must have for a successful e-commerce website. Regardless of how great your products are, nobody wants to pay and arm and a leg to get them shipped. Free shipping or discounted shipping offers will help convert people browsing your e-commerce site into paying customers. Advertise your free shipping, and all other discounts for that matter, on the masthead of the site as well as under the navigation menu and next to the button where customers add items to a cart.

2. Photos

While well worded product descriptions are a good addition to your website, professional photographs of the items for sale are far more enticing. In fact, they’re a must for improving sales. Because Internet users tend to scan rather than thoroughly read the pages they visit, a catchy picture will often draw more attention than a poetically worded paragraph about the product. Keep product descriptions short and sweet, and devote more space to images than words. Ideally, you can include multiple images of each item for sale, showing different angles and close-up shots of important features.

3. Search Field

If visitors to your website can’t find what they’re looking for, how can they buy it? Build an internal search engine into your e-commerce site, and put a search field in the masthead at the top of the site. The easier it is for visitors to execute a search on your site and get relevant results, the quicker they can add items to their shopping carts and become paying customers. Make the search field noticeable, and encourage people to use it. Of course, this also means you need to be diligent about tagging your products with key words so customers get the best results when the conduct a search.

4. Contact Information

It might sound obvious, but don’t become so overwhelmed with your product images and template details that you forget to include contact information for your business. Build a “Contact Us” page and put a link to it in the website masthead. If potential customers become frustrated with your site, or have an issue, they need to have an easy course of action to get help – or they’ll just click away and may not come back. Provide a phone number and email address, and clearly display the hours during which you’re available to respond.

5. Customer Reviews

Encouraging customers to interact with each other gives your site some credibility, because it shows that you have other, real paying customers. It also gives happy customers a chance to instill confidence in your products to visitors who have not yet been converted. Lastly, customer reviews will add key words to your website, which improves site SEO, another key element to any e-commerce website. Of course, you always run the risk of receiving some negative reviews, but the potential benefits of customer reviews outweigh the pitfalls. Once you’ve established these basic features on your website, you’ll be off and running. Finding just the right template, voice, and other bonus features is the icing on the cake after you’ve built a solid foundation. Guest post by freelance tech writer, Hugh Yearsley for WhoisHosting Visit their site to obtain more information and read webhost reviews.