Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

How to Maximize the Conversions for your Online Store in 13 easy steps

If A/B testing and Conversion Rate Optimisation sounds too daunting for you, our friends from Shogun have broken it down into 13 easy steps to improve eCommerce conversions, divided into the different aspects of the customer journey.

It’s been the norm for marketers and business owners to separate channels when it comes to commerce. Online shopping was separate from shopping. Marketing efforts and tactics to maximize conversions for online shopping were segregated and treated differently.

Today, the lines between the channels are blurring, especially from a consumer perspective who see the two as one and the same.

Shopping is shopping.

How often are consumers shopping online?

Far more consumers are shopping via the web than ever before, and the number of online purchases continues to rise. According to an April 2017 survey shared by Statista, 40 percent of web users in the US said they purchased items online several times per month, and 20 percent say they purchased items or services online on a weekly basis.

But, not every online shopping trip ends in a purchase

While more consumers are embracing the web for purchases, there are still some who choose to purchase offline. While 42 percent of consumers will research online before making a purchase through an online store, around 14 percent will take those purchases to a local retailer after researching a product.

Unfortunately, despite more consumer spending with online stores the average abandoned cart rates continue to hold at almost 70% (69.89% according to a 2018 report from Baymard Institute.)

There’s no super-secret sauce to winning customers over and you don’t need an expensive, exhaustive redesign of your entire storefront. In reality, there’s a lot of simple things you can do to increase conversions that require minimal effort and very little testing.

I’ll take you through some of the simplest and most-effecting changes you can start implementing right now. But first, let’s do a quick refresh so we understand conversions online.

What Are Conversions (in an eCommerce context)?

A conversion isn’t just a sale, although that is the most-measured goal.

A conversion rate is defined as the percentage of visitors who land on your site who complete a desired action. For an online retailer, there are a few different conversion goals that are typically measured like:

·         A user adding products to a wishlist

·         A user adding products to their cart

·         A user completing a purchase

·         A user signing up for a newsletter

A customer making a purchase is the conversion most companies chase, and that’s fine. Just recognize that other conversions have their value as well since a customer adding to a wishlist or joining a list can result in a purchase later.

Your conversion rate optimization strategy should ultimately incorporate tactics that drive different types of conversions in line with your business goals.

 

What is a Good Conversion Rate?

Most businesses can expect an average conversion rate of 1 to 2 percent. Not only does this vary somewhat by industry but also by device. According to data shared by Invespcro and Monetate, the average global ecommerce conversion rate was 2.86 percent in 2018, split between 3.83 percent on desktop and 2.03 percent on mobile.

If you’re in that 1 to 2 percent range, you’re par for the course – but there’s always room for improvement. A lot of factors can impact conversion rates, including:

  • Device type, as mentioned above
  • Product type
  • Traffic source
  • Seasonality
  • User experience
  • Customer trust
  • Customer education
  • Pricing
  • Demand

You can address some of the biggest things that impact a customer’s decision to make a purchase by following this checklist of simple, low-effort conversion optimization tactics. What customers see and read on your site can have a significant impact – sometimes the greatest impact – on conversions. These are some of the most common elements that, adjusted, can impact whether a customer takes the desired action on your site.

 

What are some common steps to improve conversions for eCommerce?

Customer-facing optimisations

1. More engaging multimedia

When we shop in a physical store it’s common to pick up a product, read the package, turn it in our hands and look it over while we consider the purchase. You should make every effort to replicate that product immersion in your online store.

The two best ways to do this is to include images of product from virtually every angle, and to include a video that showcases the product. That’s a good start, and here’s how to take it to the next level to really push the conversions higher:

  • Use larger images – bigger, high quality images produce better conversion rates
  • Show products in context – let customers see how a product is used and how it can benefit them
  • Include people in your visuals – People are naturally drawn to look at faces which can help humanize a product and a call to action, and add credibility
  • Use high quality images – Schwann’s ,according to Peep Laja of ConversionXL, has one of the highest conversion rates among eCommerce sites thanks to their juicy images

how to write a good product description that sells - vitamix classic blender use good images

Good product images and videos are part of writing a product description that sells.

2. Improve product descriptions

While there’s plenty of evidence that many people skim instead of reading content online in detail, there’s still plenty of customers who dig into a product to educate themselves and make sure the purchase they’re making is the right one.

Product descriptions are such an important part of the conversion process. You never want to leave a shoppers’ questions unanswered. That can derail your sale or, worse yet, send them to a competitor in search of answers.

A common approach retailers take is to use the manufacturers description of a product, but this is a mistake for multiple reasons. First, they’re usually barebones, boring descriptions highlighting just the specifications and provide little in the way of answers. Second, countless other retailers are using the same descriptions which creates duplicate content and can impact your organic search visibility – it’s bad for SEO.

Instead, create super-rich and engaging descriptions that capture your audience’s attention and leave no questions unanswered:

  • Use short, punchy, engaging copy and not walls of text
  • Use a handful of bullets to highlight the benefits of the product features instead of just listing features and specs
  • Use customer’s words – harvest the words customers use in social and in reviews and use their words to describe your product to make key benefit points stand out
  • Put important information first – don’t waste the first few lines on text that doesn’t help the customer understand the product
  • Tell a story – inject storytelling to bring a product description to life and make it more engaging (and more related) for your customer.
  • Eliminate fear, uncertainty, and doubt to minimize friction. Understand common barriers and objections your customers have and write descriptions that address those questions and doubts.

Don’t let that all overwhelm you. It might seem like you’ll be packing a ton of content into your product descriptions but in reality you can achieve all of the above with minimal copy.

how to write a good product description for ecommerce seo - salt lady lamp example

The product effortlessly weaves in product benefits and power words.

The description touches on all the points above using short, precise copy that’s easy to skim and ensures the customer is informed.

3. Add social proof

Social proof is a huge part of shopping no matter the channel. Studies have shown that nearly 70 percent of consumers look to product reviews prior to making a purchase. In fact, product reviews are 12x more trusted than brand messaging.

Consumers trust the word of their peers when they want to make a purchase. The last few purchases you made likely involved checking product/service review.

Part of your conversion optimization should be leveraging unbiased reviews of others. There’s a number of ways to include this in the shopping experience and they’re incredibly easy:

Testimonials – Virtually every eCommerce platform includes basic integration for reviews. Other 3rd party integrations, like Yotpo, offer expanded testimonial and review features. It’s critical to includes customer testimonials on each product page as reviews have been shown to increase conversions by as much as 34 percent.

maximise ecommerce conversions - social proof testimonials referralcandy guestpost

Real time data – When there’s a rush on a product it can generate interest and trigger a fear of missing out in customers. Incorporate this into your store with an app like FOMO, which triggers a social proof notification pop-up on your site showing every time someone purchases a product. This real time social proof can be the factor that prompts the conversion on a product.

maximise ecommerce conversions shogun referralcandy guestpost - social proof real-time behaviour FOMO

User-generated content – Remember what I said about including videos of your products? Rather than create your own explainer videos, turn to your customers instead. User generated content featuring customers using your products is great for social proof and adds that extra level of engagement to your product pages. You can either incorporate videos (and images) directly on your page or integrate a social feed that pulls UGC from sites like Instagram.

maximise ecommerce conversions shogun referralcandy guestpost - social proof real-time instagram feed social

(Editor: Referrals are a form of strong social proof, being as they are a real-time user-generated testimonial from a happy customer.)

4. Focus your call to action

If you want your customers to take a specific action then you need to tell them exactly what it is you want them to do. A call to action allows you to steer the customer toward the next step in the shopping process.

Too many calls to action, or CTAs that aren’t visible, can result in distracted customers that never make it to checkout.

Here’s how to make your CTAs more effective to increase conversions in your online store:

  • Make your CTA stand out with contrasting colors to set them apart from the rest of your copy and design elements
  • Use large buttons to draw the attention of shoppers
  • Use action-oriented CTAs that promote urgency with words like “Buy Now” and “Place Your Order Today”
  • Personalize CTAs with words like “Sign me up” and “Add to my wishlist now”
  • Place your CTA above the fold so it’s visible right away – don’t make them scroll for it

Starbucks Rewards does a great job of hitting key points with its CTA to make it stand out with actionable text while still keeping with its color scheme.

maximise ecommerce conversions shogun referralcandy guestpost - starbucks rewards

Here’s another example from Amazon’s add-to-cart CTA.

Amazon is a perfect example of how to make a primary call to action stand out among all the other on-page content, including the images and product details and pricing.

Amuze homepage referral program call to action examples

An example of a prominent call-to-action for Amuze’s referral program

A Better User Experience

The content on your site may play a big part in the conversion process, but even a beautiful and well-crafted product page can be sabotaged by a poor user experience.

It takes just a fraction of a second for a prospective customer to form an opinion of your site and online store. If they stick around, every seemingly-minor frustration with the shopping experience creates one more barrier to conversion that could force them to exit and shop elsewhere.

Creating a comfortable user experience that makes it easy for a customer to find a solution is critical to improving conversions. Here’s where you should start looking to improve the user experience.

5. Check analytics

The best way to identify any issue with user experience is to check the analytics for your online store. This data can help you visualize your eCommerce funnel and identify the leaks, or points where customers are starting to drop off.

In a multistep funnel it’s natural to have some visitor drop off at various points along the way. What’s not natural would be for a significant portion of traffic to fall out or exit at the same point. This could indicate a major friction point or user experience issue in the design and functionality of your site.

Here’s an example from ConversionXL that shows pages with a suboptimal conversion rate in Google Analytics:

maximise ecommerce conversions shogun referralcandy guestpost - check analytics better user experience

That example comes from a great post on ConversionXL showing 10 reports you can use in Google Analytics to find leaks in your funnel.

6. Minimize clicks

One way to improve the user experience is to make the customers shopping experience as easy as possible. From a customer perspective that means making it easy to find the products they’re looking for. One of the top reasons for shopping cart abandonment is complex navigation or a complex checkout process, so find ways to make navigation easier for your visitors.

  • Make sure products are categorized properly with a hierarchy that makes sense from a consumer perspective
  • Present filter options that make it easy to narrow down product options
  • Make the browse filters easy to find and navigate
  • Implement product search on your site with a search bar that’s easy to find
  • Make sure products are optimized for on-site search (brand name, descriptive name, product/manufacturer name)
  • Provide quick product views to avoid forcing visitors to click into a product for the most basic details

There’s no set rule about how to minimize clicks and improve navigation. This is based largely on the design of your online store and the volume of products and categories. If you suspect navigation might be an issue but you’re not sure where to start, consider a service like UserBrain where real people test site usability to help you identify major friction points.

7. Streamline your checkout

Another area to pay close attention to with the user experience and conversions is the checkout process. For a business owner it may seem straightforward: The customer clicks checkout, enters their information, confirms the sale and the purchase is done.

However, there’s a lot more going on during checkout that can bring a purchase to a halt. The decision to purchase doesn’t happen until they click the final confirmation and there are elements along the way that can create doubt, frustration, and force them to change their mind.

Here are simple things you can do to streamline the checkout process and greatly reduce cart abandonment rates:

  • Add a progress indicator showing how many steps are left to completion. This is especially important for multi-part checkouts
  • Add trust signals like security certificates and credit card logos in the checkout process
  • Make it easy to “continue shopping” from anywhere in the checkout process
  • Make it easy to update the cart including removing, adding, or updating products
  • Allow guest checkout – forced account creation is one of the top causes for cart abandonment
  • Show shipping details and costs early on – hidden costs are another cause for cart abandonment
  • Recommend related products – no one likes to be surprised they needed an adapter or accessory
  • Only gather the necessary info – reducing the number of form fields has been shown to increase conversions
  • Minimize header and footer links to eliminate distractions during checkout

 

Operations-Centric Optimisations

Some of the changes you’ll make to improve conversions are all about showing the customer that you generally care about them, their business, and ensuring they’re happy. Customer-centric changes are some of the easiest to adopt and implement and can have a lasting impact on first-time conversions while also improving customer retention and customer lifetime value.

8. Add support channels

Most online brands offer a general means of contact if there’s a question or an issue. Customers look for this when they’re considering a first-time purchase from a new brand. You can put them at ease and increase the odds of a conversion by making it easy for them to reach you.

Beyond the standard email or contact form be sure to list a phone number to contact your customer service team. Other channels you can start using and list for support include:

  • Adding social support through sites like FB and messenger
  • Add a live chat (text or voice, or both) option on your site during business hours
  • Implement a knowledge base with common questions and answers
  • Add a community aspect to your support community with a forum or groups where visitors can get help from staff and other customers

The more support channels you offer, and the more visible they are, the more comfortable customers will be with making a purchase.

9. Solicit feedback

One of the best ways to cater to customers is to build your business around what they want. When you solicit regular feedback from customers and implement changes based on that feedback you show them you care and you’re willing to listen. Not only will existing customers be more likely to purchase from you and make more customer referrals, but the changes you implement will likely create a better shopping experience that contributes to converting new customers.

The easiest way to implement this is to use an email platform like MailChimp with eCommerce integration. These platforms allow you to generate automated emails based on customer behavior, like a purchase or a lost customer, so you can ask them about their experience and what you could do to improve.

In Sleeknote’s detailed guide on follow-up emails they shared this prime example of an automated trigger email from Nordstrom:

maximise ecommerce conversions shogun referralcandy guestpost - nordstrom trigger email checkout

If you really want to wow customers, have your team reach out to customers to solicit direct feedback and start a dialogue.

10. Offer Free shipping

Amazon has created a certain standard with shipping rates and many customers are accustomed to free shipping to the point where they practically expect it from most sites. If you don’t offer free shipping there’s a chance they’re going to look for the product elsewhere until they get the best rates.

And major retailers know it.

maximise ecommerce conversions shogun referralcandy guestpost - amazon free shipping tactic

Hard to compete with Amazon when they offer free shipping, unless you do too.

Shipping costs are a major point of friction for consumers that can dramatically impact conversions. According to the Walker Sands Future of Retail 2016 study shared by MarketingLand, 9 out of 10 consumers say free shipping is the number one incentive to purchasing a product.

This might not be possible for every business and you’ll need to calculate your profit margins to ensure free shipping is a viable option. If you can do it, implement it – even if it means setting some restrictions (free shipping after spending $x) or bumping prices slightly to compensate for the loss on shipping.

11. Accept more payment options

You can make life a heck of a lot easier for customers if they don’t have to hunt for their wallet or purse in order to complete the checkout process. Beyond accepting the standard credit cards add as many other payment options as you can to accommodate for the way your customers shop.

Most eCommerce platforms and payment processors offer integration with modern digital payment methods including:

  • Amazon Payments
  • Google Wallet
  • PayPal
  • Bitcoin
  • Apple Pay

12. Develop a Customer-centric return policy

More customers read the fine print than you’d expect. In fact, according to eMarketer many consumers will avoid retailers with strict return policies. It makes sense when you consider they sometimes won’t know if a product is the right purchase until they have it.

maximise ecommerce conversions shogun referralcandy guestpost - emarketer most important reason for purchase

With more than 50% of consumers stating they avoid strict return policies, a policy that favors the consumer (and one that’s easy to locate on your site) will no doubt contribute to improving conversions among wary consumers.

13. Recapturing lost customers

Even after taking action with all the above recommendations you’re still going to experience some lost customers and cart abandonment. To keep conversions up and recapture those lose customers you should also implement some abandoned cart campaigns.

A lot of eCommerce platforms have some built in email templates that will trigger for abandoned carts, but these tend to be very basic with limited customers.

A third-party email service (think MailChimp, GetResponse, or CampaignMonitor) can integrate with your store to help you create more robust abandoned cart emails.

These automated campaigns can be triggered to send after a cart is abandoned and customized to help improve the number of potentially lost customers you recapture.

Here’s some tips to follow when implementing abandoned cart campaigns:

  • Remind them what they abandoned with dynamic emails that show images of what they left in the cart
  • Show similar products to what they left in the cart and present them with other options
  • Use your brand voice and add personality so your emails aren’t a dry reminder
  • Send multiple emails, usually three or four, over a period of several days
  • Consider offering a small discount as an incentive to finish the purchase
  • Include a link that takes the customer right back to where they left off
  • Offer to hold the incentive for a short period to add urgency
  • Add contact information to connect with a support rep in case they have a question/concern

Shopify shared a great example of this type of campaign from DoggyLoot that hits on many of these points:

maximise ecommerce conversions shogun referralcandy guestpost - abandoned cart email

It’s a branded campaign with great copy that shows the products left in the cart along with a link to take the customer right back to the checkout process.

Conclusion

There’s no guarantee that any one specific tactic will increase conversions, but each of the tips in the checklist above work toward creating a more user-friendly and customer-centric shopping experience. When your customers are more informed, you make it easier for customers to shop, and you eliminate friction points, they’re far more likely to breeze through the shopping and checkout experience to convert and make that purchase.

Have you had success with increasing conversions using any of the tips mentioned? Let me know in the comments!

Darren Foong

Darren works on Growth at ReferralCandy. He spends too much time reading fiction, performing improv, and doing things that don't scale. One day he hopes to be quite interesting.