In this article
“I want more sales.”
Ahh, the dream of most ecommerce retailers.
After all, more sales = happier entrepreneur.
However, the question remains: how do you get more sales?
One way to do so is to focus on converting more website visitors into customers (also known as conversion rate optimization.)
Imagine you are currently getting a 5% conversion rate. That means for every 100 visitors to your website, you’re turning 5 of them into customers. If you can increase your conversion rate to 7% (or maybe even 10%), you are essentially spending the same amount of money… and getting MORE returns!
To do that, you can follow certain ecommerce best practices.
These best practices were discovered either through research or the experience of successful online stores.
Which also means that these are merely "best practices" for other people. To get the best results, test them on your own store to see if they work for you.
With that said, here’s 24 ecommerce best practices you should test on your website:
24 Ecommerce Best Practices To Test On Your Online Store
1. Stop Using The Sliding Carousel
The carousel has been popular with ecommerce retailers because:
- That’s what most people have been doing.
- It looks kinda cool
- It showcases the products the store sells in one clean swoop.
It’s time to stop.
Research from the Nielsen Norman group discovered that sliding carousels like this annoy users.
Users would much prefer to take their own time to read the content on the website, and will abandon it if they are unable to get the information they want.
Also, sliding carousels cause banner blindness.
Look at this image:
[caption id="attachment_22497" align="aligncenter" width="416"]
This eye-tracking study clearly shows that users conveniently ignore the sliding banners and move straight to the content of the website.
Nobody is checking out the products in your sliding carousel.
2. Use Better Quality Images
Was your cousin your last photographer? Unless he is a trained photographer, start replacing your images with high-quality ones because you're losing sales.
Take a look at this case study from Visual Website Optimizer:
Czech eCommerce retailer Mall.CZ improved their sales by 9.46% by using larger product images with the product description.
Wouldn’t you want an additional 9% improvement in sales? (I bet you would.)
The reason for this is because high-quality product images actually help potential customers imagine the product in their hands.
If you’ve noticed customers checking out products in an offline store, you’ll see that they will pick out things they like and examine them closely in detail.
Since they cannot physically touch the product from your online store… High-quality images help them to better imagine owning the product -- which improves your conversion rate.
3. Inspire Trust On Your Website
Let’s be honest:
Unless you’re already a well-established brand like Louis Vuitton, most people don’t know what your brand is. They might not have even heard of it before. Neither have they ever visited your website.
So, why should they trust you at first glance?
They have no reason to. Not unless you give them one.
Here are some suggestions you can add to your website to up the ante on the trust level:
A - Trust Badges
Look at this 2nd case study from Visual Website Optimizer:
Express Watches, a UK-based retailer of Seiko watches wanted to eliminate customer anxiety over whether the watches they sold were real or merely imitations.
To test if adding trust badges (or elements) would help in improving conversion rates on the website, Express Watches ran an A/B test where:
A (control): An image of the watch was shown with the copy “Never Beaten On Price”
B (variation): An image of the watch was shown with the copy “Seiko Authorized Seller Site”
A 107% increase in sales. Which effectively doubled Express Watches’ sales for the month.
ConversionIQ also ran a similar experiment where they added the standard trust badges (McAfee Secure trust mark and the Norton Secured trust mark) to several websites.
In a test with an Internet Retailer Top 200 supplier, adding the McAfee Secure trust mark improved conversion by 3% for all traffic and 12% for new visitors.
Adding the Norton Secured (SSL) trust mark also helped US Cutter, a supplier of vinyl cutting supplies increase conversion by 11%.
B - Press
Positive press coverage is a great way to instill credibility in your business. So if you have been featured in any notable publications in your industry (for e.g Forbes, GQ, Esquire etc.), then consider adding them to your homepage to show new visitors that you are legit.
Your customers will look for reviews of your products before they purchase anything. Since you can’t prevent potential customers from seeking reviews of your products, why not guide them to it?
Adding customer-submitted reviews to your product pages will help improve trust in your products and help customers make better decisions.
The best part?
It improves conversions too. Diamond Candle, a scented-candle store boosted its product page conversion rate by 13%. Express Watches (our friend in the above example) tested the addition of inline customer reviews to their product pages -- and improved their conversion rates (from traffic to sales) by a whopping 58.29%!
(Wouldn’t you want that?)
Using customer-submitted photos and reviews also helped Diamond Candle grow their Facebook Page to 469,661 fans.
Isn’t that a double win?
D - Phone Number
What better way than to show potential customers that you are legit by giving them a real physical number to call?
Flowr tested placing a phone number on the website to see if they could improve conversions. They ran an A/B test where:
A (control) - no phone number
B (variation) - phone number
They managed to improve their conversion rate by 0.5%. Not fantastic, but a positive trend for them to continue further testing.
Side benefit: most companies shy away from taking phone calls, so if you’re available for a chat with your customers, you will stand out and they will love you!
E - Physical Address
Similar to the phone number, this helps show visitors that you are legit as you are physically located somewhere.
4. Answer All Relevant Questions On Your Website
Because you’re not there physically to answer all their questions, it is important that you provide every single piece of information your customers need to make a decision.
Don’t overestimate what your customer knows. Lay everything out for them, from Frequently Asked Questions to your Return Policy, and from Delivery Dates to your Shipping Policy.
Be clear and transparent in your transactions with them, and your customers will trust and love you.
5. Add Live Chat Support To Your Ecommerce Store
The difference between an offline salesman and an online store is that a salesperson can answer queries by the potential customer on the spot… which often results in a sale.
In an online situation, you don’t even know why visitors bounce away from your website. If they have on-the-spot concerns or objections, you can’t handle them because well… there is no way to.
Unless you leverage live chat.
Customers value personalized interactions - in fact, 75% consider calls the most effective to get a quick response.
By installing a live chat system on your eCommerce store, you empower your visitors to ask questions about your products… while giving you a chance to close them on the spot.
That’s how Intuit did it too.
By adding live chat to different parts of their website (e.g checkout process, product comparison page etc.), they improved their conversion rate by 211%!
Interested now and want to add live chat to your online store? Here are a few services you can consider:
6. No Clear Value Proposition
What is a value proposition?
According to Peep Laja, founder of Conversion XL, a value proposition must:
- Explain how your product solves customers’ problems or improves their situation (relevancy),
- delivers specific benefits (quantified value),
- tells the ideal customer why they should buy from you and not from the competition (unique differentiation).
Your value proposition is the MAIN reason why your customers buy from you.
If a customer lands on your website -- and has no idea why they are there, or what you sell… they are going to bounce.
That’s why you need to make it crystal clear to your potential customers why they need you, and why they should choose you.
Here are a few examples of value proposition done right.
Dollar Shave Club:
Study them, get inspired, create your own and test them.
7. Test What Products To Display On Your Homepage
FSAStore.com, a one-stop-destination where visitors can buy FSA eligible products tested simplifying their homepage by removing sub-categories.
The result? A 53.8% increase in revenue per visitor.
Similarly, the Weather Channel simplified its homepage and focused on one main call-to-action. The result?
A 225% improvement in conversions.
These two case studies teach us one simple guideline for eCommerce site designs:
Keep Things Simple.
Many eCommerce stores tend to flood their homepage with every single product they sell, leading to confusion, distraction and low conversion rates.
Instead of featuring every product available, test to see which one deserves to be on your front page (or maybe even none at all.)
The product you feature on your homepage should generate curiosity or increases the desire of the visitor to purchase, not drive them away.
8. Your Website Is Not Responsive
If you have not realised by now… More and more of your customers will begin to shop in your online store via their mobile phone.
In fact, according to CMO Council, mobile eCommerce will contribute 24.4% to the total revenue of the eCommerce sector by the end of 2017.
This means that in order to provide a seamless user experience for your visitors, you HAVE to consider mobile as part of your marketing strategy.
How do you do that?
By making your website responsive.
Make sure your website will resize to any device so that your visitors do not get frustrated while surfing your store on their phone.
Plus… It is now a must if you want to rank well on Google as the big G has been punishing un-optimized websites since 2016.
Wait… Still, need more push..?
Then let Offspring, a UK sneaker store show you how they:
- Improved 15.19% in mobile conversion rate
- Created 102.58% in mobile revenue year on year
- Increased organic traffic by 25.59%
- And improved mobile usability score to 100/100
By shifting to a mobile-responsive design.
9. Improve Your Website Loading Speed
I’ve got bad news.
According to Neil Patel:
- 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
- A 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
- And…. A 1-second page delay could potentially cost a $100,000/day eCommerce site to lose $2.5 million in sales every year.
I’m sure you’ve experienced frustration when a particular website you’re trying to visit takes forever to load.
And that’s the same frustration your visitors are experiencing… if your website loading speed is poor.
Not sure how long your website is taking to load? Check your website loading speed using HubSpot’s Website Grader.
Simply input your URL and Website Grader will tell you how fast (or slow) your website is.
If it’s doing great, then well done. Keep ongoing.
If it’s slow… then follow CrazyEgg’s website speed checklist to hasten it up. These are the elements you should look at:
- Minimize HTTP requests
- Reduce server response time
- Enable compression
- Enable browser caching
- Minify resources
- Optimize images
- Optimize CSS delivery
- Prioritize above-the-fold content
- Reduce the number of plugins
- Reduce redirects
10. Simplify Your Navigation Bar
Cognitive load is the mental effort required to process and learn new information.
Similarly, cognitive load in user experience design is the amount of mental processing power needed to use your site.
The higher the cognitive load, the tougher it is for the user to find the things they want, the more likely they are going to bounce off your website and never come back.
That’s why it is important that you simplify your navigation bar -- and make it easy for the visitor to direct to where they want to go.
Here’s an example of what I mean:
Herschel uses a simple, proven horizontal navigation bar with visual cues that tells the visitors where to find what they’re looking for.
This significantly reduces the number of clicks the visitor needs to go to where he wants to go… which results in more sales for Herschel.
In fact, take a look at this case study by Frosmo:
A simple navigation bar change (changing the “watches” tab to “men’s watches”, “women’s watches” and “children’s watches”) helped online watch retailer Saat & Saat increased conversions by 62.5%.
That’s how important getting your navigation bar right is.
11. Have An Omnipresent Search Bar
According to a study by eConsultancy, 30% of your visitors will use internal search and visitors who used search will convert better than those who didn’t.
That’s why it’s important to get your internal site search right.
For starters, make your search bar obvious. Don’t make your visitors search for your search bar (no pun intended).
Something like this works great:
Don’t worry about making your search bar like Google’s. The main aim of your search bar is to help your visitors find the products that they are looking for.
Focus on these 2 functionalities:
- Precision - the percentage of retrieved search results that are relevant
- Recall - the percentage of all relevant results your search system actually retrieves
And you’re good to go.
12. Offer A Guarantee
This is a concept called risk reversal, pioneered by the marketer Jay Abraham.
By employing risk reversal, you reduce the risk that burdens the customer during a sales transaction. You also reduce buyer’s remorse, the sense of regret that hits customers when they made a purchase.
Not only that, a generous return policy indicates to your customers that you are confident in your product.
Zappos is a huge proponent of this strategy, famously offering a 365-day money-back guarantee.
13. Create Scarcity
We are drawn to things that are hard to come by and exclusive. If things are rare, we think that they are more valuable. It becomes urgent, something we desperately want.
And that is why it is one of the most effective conversion optimization strategies.
Don’t give your customers time to think over their decisions. By enforcing scarcity, you create the sense of urgency that encourages them to act now.
In fact, this is how Xiaomi grew so fast, through repeated flash sales:
This is also a commonly-used tactic in booking websites, where they often highlight the word “Selling Out!” to get you to purchase faster.
There are many ways to enforce scarcity, and it’s up to you to test and decide which is more effective.
As a start, here are some suggestions:
- Flash Sales
- Last Day Offers
- While Stocks Last
- Limited Release (like Yeezy’s)
14. Declare Free Shipping
55% of shoppers abandon carts due to shipping costs, declares eConsultancy. An E-tailing Group study showed that 70% of the participants identify “free shipping” as critical to the purchase. A Forrester research study showed that the #1 reason behind cart abandonment is shipping charges.
Free shipping works.
In fact, in an experiment done on NuFace, a facial lifting eCommerce store, NuFace’s orders increased by 90%. Additionally, their Average Order Value also improved by 7.32%.
If you can afford it, make sure you test including free shipping in your offer.
15. Make Your Products Easy To Find
There are some customers who hop on to your store because they already know what they want.
But for the rest… they have no clue. They are doing the online version of window shopping. They want to see what you’ve got.
And that’s why product filters are important.
Product filters sort your products -- helping visitors focus on the items that match what they want (which increases the likelihood of them purchasing something.)
Think about what is important to your visitors, then create filters that are relevant to them.
And if you do this correctly, you’ll be ahead of many of your competitors. Why? According to Smashing Magazine, 42% of eCommerce sites DO NOT use category-specific filters… even for their core product categories.
If you need an example, following major apparel brands are a good way to get inspired on how to do this correctly.
Here's an example from H&M:
16. Avoid Poor Category Names
Being clever doesn’t work.
You might be tempted to create some fun, clever product category names that you think your customers might enjoy.
All your customers want to do is to navigate to the pages where they are interested in -- and then buy your product.
As Hoa Loranger puts it:
“Web users are task oriented and want to satisfy their needs quickly. Deciding which category or link to click requires cognitive effort. For every page, people must review and compare the choices and then decide which one will most likely produce the desired effect. This process can be exhausting, especially if each decision causes doubt. The anguish of being wrong often leads to fatigue and frustration, which in turn causes people to abandon websites. Clever category names cause doubt and hinder site exploration. The more confident people feel about their decisions, the more likely they are to engage with your website.”
Keep your product category names clear and descriptive.
17. Identify Out-Of-Stock Items
Ever had the experience of seeing a product you really like, clicking it and finding it to be out-of-stock?
How did you feel? Frustrated? Angry? Upset?
That’s how your customers feel too.
If your product is out of stock, be transparent about it. Tell them straight up. Make it easy to see that a product is out of stock.
And don’t just remove the item either.
Leave the product there -- and add a “Get notified when back in stock” email sign up button.
Which was what Birkenstockcentral.com did. By doing so, they actually achieved a 22.45% conversion rate on their “Back In Stock” emails.
You can also follow the example from Ministry of Supply here:
18. Write Great Product Descriptions
As every great direct response copywriter would know… A copy is important.
Great copy can be the difference between a sky-high conversion rate and a dismal one. Great copy can be the reason why people remark about your brand… and why people don’t remember a single thing about you.
And product descriptions IS copywriting.
(Check out the fantastic product descriptions written by J. Peterman -- in fact, the descriptions written in their catalogue got them featured in Seinfeld.)
According to a study done by the Nielsen Group, on a full Amazon page, only 18% of the viewing time was spent on the photos. The rest of the time was spent on the text.
As you can see, not optimizing your product descriptions is akin to flushing money down the drain.
While most of your competitors are lazy and resort to copy-pasting the manufacturer’s descriptions, this is the perfect chance to stand out.
Tell a story about the product.
As humans, we love stories. Stories are how we pass down information from one person to another. Fiction, movies, comics, TV shows… They are all stories.
In fact, telling a story around your product will increase its value in your customers’ eyes. Case in point: The Significant Objects Project.
By having writers craft a fictional story around worthless junk from thrift stores, they managed to sell $128.74 worth of junk for $3,612.51.
(That’s a 2,000+% improvement!)
19. Make Your Checkout Process Distraction-Free
68.63% of visitors abandon their shopping carts.
While some of them might be due to indecisiveness or just sudden lack of interest, a lot of it has to do with a complicated checkout process (e.g unclear instructions, too many steps etc.)
Reduce your shopping cart abandonment rate by making it easy to follow through with the process.
Here are some tips:
- Reduce distraction by removing everything else from the checkout page. The customer should only be able to checkout.
- Educate the customers about the number of steps required to finish the checkout by telling them (for e.g Step 2 of 3).
- Don’t force them to create an account, instead, let them check out as a guest.
Here’s an example from Beardbrand:
By making the checkout process nice and smooth, visitors are then more likely to finish the entire process and turn into a customer.
20. Create A Shopping Cart That Remembers The Customer
Do you know what’s the greatest life hack I can provide for boyfriends who are looking for presents to buy their significant other?
Check their shopping cart.
Any items added to the shopping cart is an indicator that she WANTS to buy the product. So read her mind by buying whatever has been added.
That’s why it’s so important to have a shopping cart that remembers the customer. It saves relationships everywhere.
Jokes aside, making your cart refresh itself is killing your sales. According to Frosmo, 68.63% of visitors abandon their shopping carts. Also, a study by SeeWhy showed 16% of males and 26% of females abandoned their cart because they wanted to complete the checkout at a later date.
If the cart saves the information, the chance of getting the sale is much higher.
Additionally, you can also include personalization through the shopping cart, something Amazon is great at.
By offering personalized recommendations based on 1) what was added to the cart, or 2) what was previously purchased before, you can improve your sales.
In fact, a study conducted by MyBuys showed that 40% of shoppers would buy more from retailers who personalize their shopping experience.
That’s a huge increase in sales you could be getting by adding some personalization!
21. Use Shopping Cart Abandonment Emails
Since we already know many of our potential customers will abandon their carts at some point, we should accept it and take actionable steps to arrest the problem.
The best way?
Use Abandoned Cart emails.
According to Shopify growth expert Richard Lazazzera, one of the elements crucial to the growth of your eCommerce store is the use of abandoned cart emails.
Abandoned Cart emails are emails sent to the potential customer... when they abandon the cart.
Here are some examples:
You could also offer them a discount to encourage them to check out:
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to recover potential customers to your website.
22. Utilize Email Capture
The rise of social media has led many retailers to think that social media would drive most of their sales.
Unfortunately, this is a common misconception.
According to a study done by McKinsey and Company, every dollar you put into email marketing has 40X ROI as compared to other channels like Facebook and Instagram.
Custora says that email is accountable for 7% of all eCommerce transactions.
What does all of this tell you?
Email marketing IS super important.
And that means you have to start collecting the email addresses of your visitors.
How do you do that?
An effective method utilized by many eCommerce stores is the usage of the exit-intent pop-up. An exit intent pop-up is a pop-up that appears when one moves the browser cursor towards the cross to close the website.
Incentivize them to join your email list through the exit intent pop-up by offering discounts, coupons or even money off their current cart (if they are abandoning one.)
Here's an example from Greats:
23. Use Remarketing
Visited a website to look at some products… and then got shocked that now you’re seeing it everywhere you browse on the Internet?
That’s a technology called remarketing.
Essentially what happens is that when you visit a website, a cookie (or pixel) is dropped on your browser -- which allows the eCommerce site to then target ads as you surf.
It’s kinda “creepy” for the end-user, but super effective when it comes to lifting your conversion rates.
In this case study of CareerIndex (done by Think With Google), by utilizing Google Similar Audiences, CareerIndex was able to increase their conversion rates by 73% and decrease their cost-per-acquisition by 20%.
So, how do you start remarketing?
- Install the Facebook Pixel on your store by following this guide.
- Use Perfect Audience and look at your retargeting all at once.
24. Make Full Use Of Your Thank You Page/Receipts
Every customer touchpoint is worthy of your optimization.
And one of the touchpoints which EVERY customer will see -- and often goes unoptimized is your thank you page or your thank you receipt.
There are many things you can do at this very point, but here are 2 suggestions:
A - Delighting Your Customers
This is a great place to make your customers happy, give them a seamless experience and get them to spread word-of-mouth about you.
Take a look at this Thank You Email from CDBaby, quite possibly the most successful anyone has ever seen:
Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.
A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.
Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.
We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Friday, June 6th.
I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year”. We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!
This email resulted in thousands of sales for CDBaby because everyone was so impressed and talked about it.
B - Upselling Your Customers
What is upselling?
Upselling is selling a customer who just bought something that complements what he purchased. After making a purchase with you, he has already indicated that he trusts you with their money.
This is a perfect point to include some upsells.
Here’s an example:
Imagine that you’re custom-making a suit. That means you’re intending for the tailor to custom-fit your jacket and your pants.
However, since you’re already at the tailor, the tailor asks you if you would like to make a shirt that matches the suit. Thinking about how you would match them all together, you readily say yes.
That is an upsell.
The tailor can further upsell you with a matching tie for your shirt, and then a matching belt for your pants.
That is how simple business can increase the average order size of a customer.
There you go.
A huge list of eCommerce best practices you should follow for your eCommerce store.
Not everything will work for you, so it’s up to you to test them to see if they work for your store.