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E-commerce platforms rely on sales to survive. If you operate one of these websites, you know how important sales are for your business.
Whether you sell products exclusively online or have an eCommerce site in addition to your brick and mortar store, you need high conversion rates to be successful.
On average, eCommerce sites in the United States convert at about a 3% rate.
If you’re hovering somewhere around that number, you might think your website is already optimized for high conversions.
Even if you think you’re doing well, there’s always room for improvement.
In fact, some of the top performing websites, such as the Google Play Store, have a conversion rate close to 30%.
Companies such as the Dollar Shave Club have roughly a 20% conversion rate.
Do you still think 3% is sufficient?
Whether you sell products exclusively online or have an eCommerce site in addition to your brick and mortar store, you need high conversion rates to be successful.
If you want to improve your conversion rates and generate more sales, all you need to do is make some changes.
For the most part, these changes won’t cost you much money but will bring a massive return.
You could double, or even triple, your conversion rates in just a few months by implementing some of these conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategies.
Those of you who don’t know how to optimize your eCommerce site for conversions are in luck. I’m an expert in this space and have plenty of experience consulting businesses about their CRO.
I’ve come up with a list of the top 15 ways for eCommerce sites to increase their conversions.
First, let’s take it from the top.
What is conversion rate optimization?
In layman’s terms, conversion optimization is the process of increasing the number of visitors who take a desired action on your site.
Any number of activities can count as a conversion. It depends on your goals.
Signing up to an email list, creating an account, making a purchase, and downloading software are all examples.
Here are some more examples:
The more often these conversions happen, the more revenue your business receives.
In theory, it’s pretty simple.
In practice, it’s a little more complex than just getting more people to take action.
Why so? You need to get the right people to take the right actions at the right time.
That means there are quite a few pieces that need to be moved to ensure your conversion funnel is working as it should.
What can conversion rate optimization do for your business?
1. You can have a fighting chance against Goliath competitors
Every time I think of competition, I think of this simple yet profound quote:
The strong eat the weak.
It’s true in life, and it’s true in business.
E-commerce is extremely competitive. Just look at the increase in sales within the industry over the span of eight years:
New players are entering your space every single day with the sole goal of snatching up your customers.
The only way to combat this is to make your customers so loyal to you that the competition doesn’t matter.
That can’t happen without first moving them through your sales funnel.
There’s one mistake I see small eCommerce businesses make all the time.
They focus on traffic generation without first having the systems in place to:
- convert that traffic into leads;
- convert leads into loyal customers.
If you already have some traffic coming in, I recommend you spend some time optimizing your conversion funnel.
Because guess what? You may not be able to bring in as much traffic as larger sites. They have more resources, larger teams, and bigger advertising budgets.
You may not even be able to compete on price.
But you can still have a competitive advantage if you make use of conversion optimization.
2. You can learn more about your user’s behavior
The way users interact with your site is everything.
It’s the closest you’ll get to read your prospects’ minds.
It tells you what they’re looking for, what they respond to best, and what turns them off.
This means you can give users exactly what they want when they get to your site. Conversions would happen much faster because web visitors would have what they need at hand.
But you shouldn’t just glance at your analytics and make changes to your site based on that one analysis.
You need to monitor user behavior over time.
It’s the only way to notice patterns you can capitalize on.
Get a solid grasp on how to navigate Google Analytics. It’s one of the most powerful free tools for analyzing user behaviour on your site.
Salesforce found that 56% of businesses rely solely on Google Analytics for their web analytics. Only about 11% don’t use it at all.
Here are a few things you can track right now:
- Where are your web visitors coming from? You can target these sources to get more visitors.
- Which channels are driving the most traffic? This will tell you where to focus your time and resources.
- Where on your site are visitors spending the most time? This will tell you where users’ interests lie.
- How “sticky” are your site pages? Check your bounce rates for that info. You want them to be low.
These are just a few ideas. User behavior has many aspects.
How do you get this info?
First, find the behavior reports within your Google Analytics account:
You’ll see several subsections, each with insights on how visitors interact with your site:
Hopefully, you already have Google Analytics fired up.
Go through the reports, and collect all historical data.
Identify what’s yielding the most results, and double down on it. Then, you can pinpoint underperforming areas and improve them.
These insights are crucial not only for conversions but for every aspect of your digital marketing.
Content, social media, and email marketing are all areas that can benefit from analyzing user behavior.
Here’s the other thing about using analytics for conversion optimization: It prevents you from making changes to your site based on a hunch.
You’ll have concrete data to base your decisions on, and that’s how you avoid making costly mistakes.
3. You can maximize your profits
Put simply, more conversions lead to bigger profits.
But know this: you need to tighten every aspect of your sales process.
There’s no point in optimizing for conversions at the top of your funnel if you can’t keep momentum as web visitors move through the funnel.
The best way to capitalize on all customer touchpoints is to first map your customer journey.
This is a map that illustrates the path your customers go through when they interact with your business.
Once you have that figured out, deciding what to optimize at each stage should be obvious.
Here’s an example of a customer journey map:
4. Your customer acquisition cost will be lowered
Conversion optimization is the silver bullet for reducing your customer acquisition costs (CAC).
Here’s the textbook definition of CAC:
In short, it’s the price you pay for acquiring a customer.
This one metric can make or break your business.
If it costs too much to convert a customer, your profit margins will be restricted.
Larger profit margins, on the other hand, give you more flexibility in your market. You’ll be able to serve your customers with more value and secure a spot as a dominant player in your space.
What does conversion optimization have to do with all this?
Here’s a scenario.
Let’s say you’ve decided to optimize your site for more conversions.
With a few strategic changes, you see a 3% bump in conversions.
The amount of traffic to your site hasn’t changed. Your ad spend is still the same. The only variable is what you’ve done to optimize your site.
The 3% increase in conversions means you’ll be acquiring more customers, resulting in more revenue, without employing more resources.
Granted, it may cost you to make changes to your site. However, the result is still the same.
Your CAC will decrease while your ROI increases. Now, that’s a sweet deal.
Now that I have explained a few of the reasons that you should focus your efforts on your E-commerce conversion rate optimization here are 15 conversion rate optimizations that you should test today.
Top 15 conversion rate optimization wins to tests
1. Simplify your website
Websites with simple designs have higher conversion rates.
Depending on your company, you might have hundreds or even thousands of products for sale on your website. But trying to cram all of those products onto one page is ineffective, and it’s crushing your conversions.
Clutter overwhelms the customers. Instead, focus on your top selling products or items with the highest profit margins.
Let’s look at a globally recognized brand as an example. Here’s Apple’s homepage:
When in doubt, it’s always a great idea to look at successful companies as examples. Apple is an industry leader, and their website is about as simple as it gets.
Think about the number of different products they offer. They have all kinds of different desktop computers, laptops, phones, and other electric accessories, not to mention the digital products like software and music.
If they tried to fit everything they sell on their homepage, it would be an absolute mess.
Instead, they promote one product and have a navigation bar at the top of the screen that lists different categories.
This makes it really easy for shoppers to find exactly what they’re looking for.
In the fourth quarter of 2017, Apple reported $52.6 billion in revenue— a 12% increase compared to the fourth quarter of 2016. It’s safe to say they don’t have a problem with conversion rates.
2. Include a search box
Users should be able to browse through your products quickly and conduct searches without fuss.
That’s where a prominently-placed search box comes in: 30% of site visitors use search on an ecommerce store.
The quicker you can get customers what they want, the quicker you make the conversion.
That’s the point of navigation.
As such, it should be simple and distraction-free.
Add-to-cart buttons and checkout signs must be clearly visible.
3. Have clear CTA buttons
I’ll admit. The right-colored CTA button won’t make your sales funnel.
But it can certainly hurt you.
Don’t think this is a major problem?
These statistics show the many ways businesses neglect their CTAs:
If you don’t have a color that stands out and compels visitors to click through, it can take away from the user experience.
This is where color psychology can come into play. Make sure you choose the right colors for your ecommerce site, and your CTAs will perform as they should.
It’s not just about color though.
The words you use have far more impact. I recommend using words like “now” and “today” that convey urgency.
These are just a few elements.
Here’s a good rule of thumb for deciding how your web pages should be designed.
Step #1: Decide the primary goal of the page. Zone in on one thing.
Step #2: Decide on the secondary goals of the page. These should be related to your primary goal.
For instance, let’s look at product pages.
The goal is to get users to add products to their carts, right?
Your secondary goal can be a catalyst to get your primary goal moving along. For example, you may decide you want more persuasive product descriptions, more social proof, etc.
These will help advance your primary goal.
Step #3: Make your primary call to action the most prominent element. This way you’re deciding for the user which action they should take.
Step #4: Include your secondary calls to action and nothing else. You don’t want to have anything on your page that doesn’t lead web visitors to your primary and secondary calls to action.
For creative elements, I always recommend split tests.
This is how you’ll know for sure which version of your site provides the smoothest user experience.
You should also always make sure your call-to-action buttons are clear.
They should be bold, standing out from other content on your website.
You can even put a box around the CTAs, clearly separating them from other text on each page.
Take a look at how The North Face does this on their website:
It’s clear which buttons on their homepage will direct customers to the right page.
Even though they have lots of different options, their website isn’t cluttered, and it’s organized in a professional way.
This makes navigation easy.
Now their customers can find what they’re looking for faster and start adding items to their carts.
Look at how the CTA button changes when a customer views an item:
Now the button is even more apparent because it’s red.
It stands out, so it’s clear what the customer should do.
Don’t hide your CTA buttons.
It should be easy for customers to navigate and add items to their carts.
Big, bold, clear, and colorful call-to-action buttons can help improve your conversion rates.
4. Highlight items that are on sale
Most online shoppers—86% of them— say it’s important for them to compare prices from different sellers before making a purchase.
It’s no secret price is an important factor when it comes to a purchase decision.
That’s why you shouldn’t hide your discounted items.
Take a look at how Macy’s highlights markdowns on their homepage:
The website is absolutely plastered with buzz words like:
- X% off
That’s why they are able to get higher conversions than their competitors.
Customers love to get a deal.
Buying something that’s on sale makes your customers feel better about spending money.
All too often I see companies try to hide their sale items.
They would rather sell items listed at a full price.
That’s a big mistake.
Instead, highlight discounted products and services.
You can always try to cross-sell or upsell to those customers later by enticing them to buy something else through other marketing efforts.
5. Display multiple pictures of the product
You shouldn’t be selling anything based on just a description.
Your customers want to see exactly what they’re purchasing.
Make sure your images are high quality and portray the item in question accurately.
Here’s a great example from Lululemon to show you what I’m talking about:
There are six different pictures of just one pair of shorts.
They show the product from different angles and even zoom in on some of the top features like a pocket that’s designed to keep a cell phone secure.
Pictures are much more reliable in relating information about a product than a written description of it.
You can apply the same concept to your eCommerce site.
Sure, it may take you a little bit more time to set up each product.
You’ll have to take more pictures and include additional images on your website.
But I’m sure you’ll notice a positive impact in terms of your conversions after you implement this strategy.
6. Include a detailed product description
In addition to photos, you’ll want to thoroughly describe what you’re selling. With items like clothing, it’s usually self-explanatory.
However, if you’re selling electronics or something that has a bit of a learning curve, an accurate and detailed product description could help you close the sale.
Think of it like this. If a customer were to walk into a physical store, there would be employees to answer questions and help explain how different products work.
Shoppers don’t have that luxury when they browse online. It’s your job to make sure they aren’t confused about a product.
Even if you’re selling something simple, such as a t-shirt, point out how it differs from others. Does it keep you cool when it’s hot? Does it keep you warm when it’s cold?
These are things that can’t be determined from a photo alone.
Check out how Amazon accomplishes this with one of their TV wall mounts:
Just like companies in our previous two examples, Amazon is another industry leader across the globe. They know how to sell products online.
While the photos are helpful, the description really helps the consumers.
It explains which kinds of TVs this mount is compatible with as far as size and weight are concerned. The description also covers the various mounting patterns based on what kind of TV you have.
Without the description, you wouldn’t know how far off the wall the mount comes or how close to the wall you can push it.
Not everyone is an expert in mounting televisions. The majority of people probably never have to do this. And unless you install home theater equipment for a living, it’s probably not something you’ll do more than a few times in your life.
For a unique and somewhat niche product like this, accurate descriptions can really help drive the sale.
7. Offer easily accessible customer service
Even if your website is very informative, some customers may still have questions while they’re shopping. But what if there’s nobody there to assist the consumer when they’re shopping online, unlike in a physical store?
Conversions rates drop.
Do your best to replicate that customer service experience. You may have photos, videos, and a great description, but customers will still have questions.
Make sure you give them several options to reach a customer service representative:
- live chat
Offer as many options as possible so each customer can contact your company based on their personal preference.
You also need to have support ready at all hours. As an eCommerce platform, I know you’re aware that customers all over the world have access to your website 24 hours a day.
Let’s play out a scenario. A customer is interested in one of your products but has a few simple questions. They try to contact customer support but don’t get an answer.
They won’t complete the purchase process. But if their questions get answered right away, your conversion rates will improve.
Try to offer an online shopping experience they would get inside a physical store, with a sales associate available to assist them.
Look at how Apple does it. They offer a live chat for shoppers on their website, and it looks like this:
They make it super easy for customers to get all their questions answered online.
This is especially important if your company sells products that may need some extra explanation.
Realize not all of your prospective and current customers may be experts in your industry.
Although your product descriptions may be accurate, it’s possible there’s some terminology the customer doesn’t understand.
Rather than forcing them to pick up the phone or do outside research, offer them a live chat. Receiving this type of help can be the deciding factor that leads to a conversion for this customer.
8. Include all your contact information
On top of providing customer service, you should have as much information as possible about your company available on your website.
Clearly display your:
- phone numbers
If this information isn’t on your site, it could appear sketchy. Customers may think you’re not a reputable company.
What if they have a problem with their order? If your contact information isn’t available, how will they get their issue resolved?
That uncertainty could prevent people from buying things on your website.
9. Simplify the checkout process
How long does it take for someone to complete a purchase once they’re done browsing on your website?
Studies show 27% of shoppers abandon their carts on an eCommerce website because the checkout process is too long and complicated:
On average, the number of steps to check out on an eCommerce website is 5.42.
If you’re somewhere in that average range, nearly 30% of your prospective customers think your checkout process is too long.
Think about how much money you’re leaving on the table.
The more steps a customer has to take to complete the checkout, the more likely they’ll abandon the cart.
It gives them too many reasons to back out.
Don’t give them an excuse. Finalize your sale.
Get back to the basics, and narrow down the information you actually need from the customer:
- shipping information
- payment information
- email address to send a receipt.
That’s really it.
You don’t need to know their favorite color or who referred them to your website.
While additional insight may be beneficial to your marketing department, you still have plenty to work with from just those few pieces of information.
Based on the shipping location, you know where the customer lives. You have their name from their payment information. And you have a way to contact them via email.
Now you can send them a confirmation email as part of an actionable drip campaign to try to cross-sell and upsell products based on the customer’s current order or location.
You can even personalize that message since you know the customer’s name.
Don’t force your customers to fill out a form that’s longer than paperwork at the doctor’s office.
Simplify your checkout process and only ask for essential information needed to complete the sale.
10. Offer multiple payment options
Someone wants to buy something on your website, but they can’t because you don’t accept their preferred payment method.
This should never be the reason for you to miss out on conversions.
While I realize some credit card companies may charge you higher rates than others, it doesn’t mean you should restrict payment options for your customers.
Try to accommodate as many people as possible.
While I’m not suggesting you need to accept cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, you should be accepting every major credit card, e.g.:
- American Express
You should even offer alternative payment options such as:
- Apple Pay
Here’s an example from American Eagle:
They accept nine different payment methods on their eCommerce site.
You need to offer as many options as possible for your customers.
It all comes down to convenience.
Some companies may just accept MasterCard and Visa.
They figure those are popular options, so everyone must have one, right?
But here’s the thing: you don’t know everyone’s financial situation.
While someone may have a Visa, it could already have a high balance on it, forcing them to use a different payment method.
Others may want to use their American Express card or Discover card because they get better rewards there.
And some people may not want to use a credit card at all if they have a sufficient PayPal balance.
The more options you offer, the greater the chance you’ll appeal to a wider audience.
Don’t assume everyone wants to pay with the cards you accept if that selection is limited.
Assume people will find a similar product elsewhere, where their preferred payment option is accepted, which will crush your conversion rates.
11. Include user reviews
Consider this: 88% of shoppers say they trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations.
That means nearly 90% of people trust a stranger’s opinion online as if it were coming from their spouses, best friends, or family members.
Furthermore, 39% of people say they read product reviews on a regular basis, and only 12% of customers say they don’t check online reviews.
Basically, this means customers want to see what their peers have to say.
Encourage customers to review products they’ve purchased, and display those reviews on your website.
Take a look at how Johnston & Murphy does this on their ecommerce site:
More reviews means more credibility.
Obviously, you’re going to say only great things about the products you’re selling.
But other customers will be truthful about their experiences.
That’s why consumers trust these ratings and reviews.
Customers share personal stories about the uses of the products they purchased and the reasons for recommending them (or not).
Notice I also highlighted the chat option on the Johnston & Murphy website—a topic I covered earlier.
Don’t be upset if not all your reviews are absolutely perfect.
You’ll get some negative comments.
Those negative remarks can actually help you. It shows shoppers your reviews are legitimate.
Hopefully, the positive ratings will largely outweigh the negative ones.
This will help you get more shoppers to convert and complete the purchase process.
12. Add a video demonstration
If your products are unique, include video demonstrations showing how to use them.
Here’s an example from the Training Masks website:
They have workout videos to show people how to use their product to train harder and smarter.
Since this product isn’t something you see every day, the majority of the population may not know how it works.
But don’t think you can’t use videos even if you’re selling something simple.
For example, everyone knows how to use a piece of luggage, right?
Well, that doesn’t stop Thule from including a video demonstration on their website:
The video shows all the hidden compartments of the bag.
It also shows customers how they can adjust the handles and straps and utilize other features.
In addition, you can include a video demonstration highlighting the features that set your product apart from similar products.
Even if you’re selling something simple, like a shirt, a video can show customers the item’s versatility for different occasions, scenarios, or weather conditions.
You just have to get creative.
13. Don’t surprise your customers with extra fees
Consumers are sensitive to price. You have to be upfront and totally transparent with the prices on your website.
The customer expects to see the same price for the same product on all pages, including in their shopping cart.
Adding hidden charges, taxes, and shipping fees will crush your conversions.
Look at the top reasons for shopping cart abandonment:
Extra costs are the number one reason why consumers abandon their shopping carts.
Look, I realize you’ve got to pay sales tax and shipping isn’t free. But rather than surprising the customer when they check out, include those costs in the original price.
You’ll still get paid enough to make a profit, and the customer won’t be surprised with extra fees. It’s a win-win scenario for everyone.
Plus, it will reduce cart abandonment and improve your conversion rates.
14. Send shopping cart abandonment emails
While you can certainly do things to improve your shopping cart abandonment rates, some customers still won’t always complete their purchases.
You can’t ignore this.
Someone was just a click or two away from buying something on your website. They identified what they wanted and added it to their cart.
It’s going to be much easier to try to get this customer to convert than to find a new customer.
This person is already familiar with your brand and obviously interested in at least one of your products. Sometimes they just need a bit of extra motivation to complete the sale.
Send out a shopping cart abandonment email to remind the consumer of your products. Here’s an example from Oakley:
This product will still be fresh in the customer’s mind—they just left it in their shopping cart. They wanted it, but for one reason or another, it just didn’t happen.
Receiving this email could be enough to trigger an impulse buy.
15. Recommend products to enhance the shopping experience
If your site is using cookies to track browsing behaviour, you can recommend products to your customers based on what they like. Use their previous order history as well to personalize recommendations.
This shows the consumer you care. Their browsing experience is different from everyone else’s.
Here’s an example from Bed Bath & Beyond:
You can also try to upsell to your customers when they add something to their shopping carts. For example, if they buy a pair of headphones, you can recommend a carrying case for them.
Again, it reflects their personal experience. This strategy works.
Research shows that 49% of consumers said they bought something they weren’t initially planning on purchasing after seeing a personalized recommendation.
Your ecommerce site should be making more money.
If there’s one thing you choose to do for your eCommerce site today, let it be conversion optimization. Don’t settle for average.
Take steps to improve your conversion rates. It’s an especially powerful tactic for small businesses.
Because you can get better results by using the same resources you have. It means you can start to scale your business and make headway on your competitors without outspending them.
Whether your business is brand new or has been around for a while, there is always room for improvement.
You can make simple modifications to your eCommerce website to get more conversion and the tips I provided are the best place for you to start.
You can start applying some of these elements to your website right away.
I’m not saying you need to implement all of these strategies overnight. In fact, you may even have a couple of these in place already.
But over time, you need to optimize your eCommerce website if you want to get as many sales as possible. Follow these tips, and I’m sure you’ll see an improvement.
Trust me, they work.