Big brands don't need shiny websites to make sales. They could have a plain HTML website and still manage high conversions, unlike small brands.

As a small brand, there are things you can do with your eCommerce website to realize the same high conversions enjoyed by big brands.

There are underlying psychological principles that guide our purchasing decisions and we'll capitalize on these for this design guide.

First Impressions

It takes half a second for us to form a first impression.

Studies have shown that we form an opinion of a person within 500 milliseconds of the first meeting, or even hearing, that person. And this opinion includes personality traits like trustworthiness and attractiveness.

The moment someone lands on your site, they’re forming a first impression about you and your business.

You see, the thing about first impressions is, you only get one! If someone doesn’t like what they see, they will not come back.

In Steve Krug’s book, Don’t Make Me Think, he states that we don’t read web pages, we scan them.

When someone first lands on your site they are quickly evaluating who you are and what you sell. It takes moments for them to decide if they “connect” with your store.

The best websites don’t focus on pleasing everyone, they focus on their ideal customer. Having a unique site creates a deep, lasting impression. This can be portrayed through your images, words, and colors, and most importantly user experience.

Small brands should work on making a good first impression.

Heri Online is a great example of a site that has a strong brand identity. You can tell if this is your kind of store immediately.

Everything about Free People is boho-inspired from the filters they use on their photos, to their content and unique design. Free People knows that first impressions matter and they’ve done a remarkable job at making sure you will remember them.


There is a reason why the Mona Lisa is, possibly, the most famous painting ever.

For generations, humans have wondered what she is thinking, what she is looking at, and why she is smirking.

People travel from all around the world just to get a glimpse of her. That is how much pictures move us, especially when they are of other people.

Images have the ability to evoke strong emotions within us. They can make us laugh, cry, rage, and spark our curiosity.

We remember emotionally charged events much better than one where a strong emotion wasn’t felt. This is true for images as well.

This is why having really well thought out images is extremely important for your eCommerce store.

If you want people to remember you, let alone buy from you, you have to stand out to a visitor. You have to make a strong impression. What better way than through images?

Eastofafrica, a website that deals in coffee beans from East Africa uses beautiful photography featuring coffee beans and local artifacts to make a statement that builds trust and interest around its products.


Kissmetrics states that video now shows up in 70% of the top 100 search results listings, and viewers are 64-85% more likely to buy your product after watching a video on your website. This is because people prefer watching a video to reading on a computer screen.

Housewares e-tailer found that visitors were 144% more likely to purchase after seeing a product video than those who did not. Their videos showed how simple it was to install their products, as opposed to pages of copy that would bore visitors.

Stacks and stacks traffic that watches videos is 144% more likely to buy than those that don't.

Like images, people connect with videos and remain interested while watching. A lot of the videos that Stacks And Stacks feature are “how to” videos. Customers find these extremely helpful because not all of them are handy men.


The price isn’t always right, sometimes the price is very wrong. There’s a psychology to the way products are priced and some pricing strategies that will increase your conversion rates.

The power of 99

Which seems more enticing $49.99 or $50.00? The difference is only 1 cent but, in the world of pricing, there is a huge difference! This is because when people see a price that ends with 99 they will usually round the number down instead of up. So an item that costs 49.99 people will round it to $40 and change. This is known as the left digit effect and it has a powerful effect on how people perceive prices.

No More $ Sign

Sounds a bit silly, but try ditching the dollar sign. Studies have shown that we think numbers that have dollar signs, commas, and decimal points included, are bigger than the same number that doesn’t have them. For example, $1,234.00 seems bigger than 1234. We subconsciously associate longer verbal lengths with increased numerical value, which makes the first number seem bigger.

Price Anchoring

When Steve Jobs first introduced the iPad he placed a huge $999 on the big screen saying that it’s what “the pundits” were going to price it at. He left the $999 sitting on the screen while talking about other features. He finally came back to pricing saying, “I am thrilled to announce to you that the iPad pricing starts not at $999, but at just $499.” You see the $999 being crushed by a falling $499.

While $499 is nothing to scoff at, the audience had been thinking about the $999 pricing the whole time which made $499 seem like a steal when Steve announced it. This is price anchoring and it has been proven to work.

Product Reviews

Bright Local says that 80% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Companies that allow product reviews have seen the average customer order increase by 42 percent!

People love product reviews, but why?

Firstly, product reviews can provide valuable information otherwise not found in the product description. 

Information like how the product performs when used in certain conditions can usually be found in the reviews.

People also love to make suggestions on how to use or wear an item that others may not have thought of.

Secondly, customers are quick to trust product reviews because it makes no sense for anyone to write a fake review. No one who took the time to say that a large sweater was really too small would be lying.

Finally, there’s the social proof aspect of it. Look at all those people rating and reviewing that product. They can’t all be wrong, can they?

There’s strength in numbers, and the more positive reviews a product has, the more popular it must be.

Cart Abandonment

There have been countless studies on cart abandonment and the number one reason why people abandon their carts is hidden costs.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to you but humans expect honesty, especially from companies. If someone has invested time shopping at your store and are prepared to hand over their hard-earned cash, you better believe they expect a great checkout experience.

Any hidden fees need to appear at the beginning of the checkout process.

I was recently looking at a hotel that was running a 35% discount off any room if you booked before Nov.1. The actual price was around $200 but the discounted price was a very reasonable $130.

Excited, I went through the entire booking process only to get to the very end and see endless fees, many of which were absolutely ridiculous. The total ended up begin more than $200.

Needless to say, I didn’t complete the transaction. What a dishonest way of doing business.

If you have to charge fees on your products, be up front about it.

If you’re honest with your customers at the very beginning, they have a chance to stop and think about their purchase and whether or not the fees will be worth it.


There is so much that goes into making a successful eCommerce store. Do not be fooled into thinking you can open up a store in 10 minutes, change around some colours on your theme and expect to be profitable.

If you want a profitable store you have to understand the psychology behind why people purchase online and how to incorporate that into your store’s design.

Many of your competitors are opening stores with little to no knowledge on the subject which gives you the upper hand.

Start by putting some of these principles into place on your eCommerce store.

Better yet, test changes to see if they actually increase your conversion rates.