eCommerce Web Marketing

ECommerce Web Design: From Nice-to-Have to Must-Have in 2021

ecommerce strategy


Online shoppers have absolutely flooded the eCommerce market in the last year, and with increased traffic comes increased scrutiny of the average eCommerce website, as well as increased competition. Everyone loves a site with high functionality that looks great, but as all business owners know, it’s an investment just to stay current. Deciding which upgrades to go for and which to put off can be a tough choice. So which features are a must and which are a bonus for 2021? 

Nice to Have

For when you want to turn heads and stay on the cutting edge of the eCommerce market, these design elements aren’t necessary, but they’re not frivolous either. If you can swing it, any of these could be a great investment in the future of your website and could give you a leg up on the competition. 

Interactive Product Photography

Great product photography is the standard, but the cutting edge is photos that are interactive. When you use a technology like 3D visualization or virtual reality, you transform your visitor from a passive viewer to an active participant in your online store. They’re now turning the product around to see it from all angles the way they might if they were holding it in their hand in a brick-and-mortar store, or actually getting to see what it might look like in their space instead of simply imagining it. 


However, implementing this kind of photography can still be a bit expensive. It is cool and customers love it, but no one is expecting it. If you’re looking for a similar effect with lower cost, try a video showing your product being handled and in action.

Item Availability

There’s nothing like scarcity to drive demand, and having a real-time update of inventory on a product that is running out can be just the boost you need to convert your customer. There’s nothing like seeing a little red text that says “Hurry, there’s only 1 left in that size!” to really kick a customer into gear.


In addition to the motivation to buy before products sell out if you have product stock availability listed on the browsing pages, particularly when a product is sold out, it can avoid the frustration of clicking on the product only for it to show up as sold out when they get to the product page. Neither of these features are necessary, but they can decrease friction and increase urgency, which is a winning formula for higher conversions.

Chat Bots

Every brand is used to handling repetitive questions from potential customers. No matter how clear your description, product photography, and FAQ section are, you’re still going to get a lot of inquiries. But what if you didn’t have to handle them anymore?


Setting up a chat bot on your site can be a great way to streamline your customer service and give your team more time to handle complicated questions. Chatbots reply instantly and work 24/7, and for basic questions, that may be the only touchpoint the customer needs. When you’re doing the cost-benefit analysis of whether or not to invest in this technology, freeing up the time of your human employees can be invaluable.

Kind of important 

No visitor is going to leave your site if you don’t have these features, but these are well on their way to becoming expected in the near future.

Site Navigation 

For web pages that are especially long, it can be an annoyance to have to scroll manually all the way to the top. Having a button at the bottom of a long page, like for a store page that has been adjusted to display 100 items, is a nice gesture. It’s not a necessity, but it’s one of those little touches that goes a long way towards demonstrating that you’re looking out for your customer.

Lots of Payment Options

These days most eCommerce stores are set up to accept debit, credit, and PayPal. However, expanding these offerings is a great way to make the checkout journey even shorter. Adding options like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Venmo can win over customers by providing an even easier checkout process. Typically these payment options are set up through the phone, so if the shopper is able to checkout entirely with data that is already linked to their device, they’ll love it.

Ratings and Reviews

Social proof is one of the gold standards for increasing conversions and winning over customers – and that’s what having ratings and reviews enabled on your products can do. Even a bad review can be a good thing – it can be an opportunity for you to improve the product, or it can even just show potential customers the “worst-case scenario,” which makes them more informed. Unless your products are consistently low quality or the listing is misleading, there are very few downsides to allowing your customers to leave reviews, and future visitors love to see them.

You need this

If your site has these features, consider it the bare minimum for 2021 – if it doesn’t, prioritize adding them immediately. If your sales and conversions are down, any of these could be one of the reasons that people are not buying from your eCommerce site.

High Resolution, Multiple-Angle Product Photography

There is no excuse for poor product photography these days – potential buyers should be able to see multiple, hi-res photos of your product from all angles, including at least one of the product being used. Including dimensions in the photo caption or somewhere in the product description is also a nice touch.

Site Navigation (The Basics)

Customers expect user-friendly website navigation that is as intuitive as possible. This includes things like a navigation menu with multiple tabs, a clear logo or brand signifier that can be clicked on to head back to the home page, and good search functionality. An intelligent search bar can correct for minor spelling errors, search for synonymous words, and provide smart adjacent matches. Product category pages should also include filters for narrowing down products if your site sells many SKUs, like apparel or electronics accessories.

Basic site navigation features like these should fade into the background; they should assist your customer in finding what they need and allow them to focus solely on that mission, without distracting or frustrating them in the process.


Making your website accessible and ADA compliant in 2021 – and making sure you stay compliant every year – is a no-brainer. Unfortunately, many websites are the equivalent of a curb with no ramp for those with disabilities browsing the internet. 

It should be every eCommerce store’s mission to educate themselves and understand ADA compliance and how it applies to eCommerce websites. Making menus navigable by keyboard keys and not just the mouse, forms that allow navigation and correction with screen readers and keyboard keys, and images with “alt” tags are some common ways to make a website more accessible. ADA compliance isn’t just a nice thing for those with disabilities; some functionalities are more convenient for non-disabled users, too. 


Every year there are more and more shoppers who browse on their phone, and every year there are still eCommerce websites that refuse to make their store mobile-friendly. Developing a mobile marketing strategy is a must. Responsive design – design in which your site automatically adjusts based on what device it’s being viewed from – is the industry standard at this point. Just do it.

A Clear and Visible Return Policy

Whatever your return policy is, make sure it’s clear and easy to find by your shoppers. Online shopping is creating a culture of over-buying and returning what they don’t like, but your customers will be very upset if they find out after purchasing that they can only return for store credit. 


The competition is getting stiff in the eCommerce world, and businesses that are coming out on top are keeping their web design fresh and up-to-date. What may seem like bells and whistles today could very well be the accepted norm tomorrow. By investing in quality design, you’re investing in a better customer experience and future growth.

About the author

Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others. 

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