This report features tips and best practices designed to help boost your ecommerce performance by increasing conversion rates. It provides reference information for those just starting out, as well as grounding in emerging trends or those already involved with ecommerce.
What Is Conversion?
Before we get too far into this report, it’s important to understand exactly what is meant by “conversion”. Really, it is nothing more than being able to get people who visit your online store to buy a product or products. They convert from being a visitor to being a buyer. It may also mean being able to get those visitors to take another action that might lead to a sale down the line. They might sign up for email alerts or a newsletter. They might add items to their wish list, or they might do something else completely.
However, in most instances, conversion really just means the number of site visitors who buy a product featured on your website. To calculate your conversion rate, you simply need to take the number of purchases for the site, and divide it by the number of visits your site has had. The result is your conversion rate.
While creating this report, we have combined basic and advanced practices to enhance your conversion rate. We’ve outlined tips and techniques that apply to both seasoned website owners and online merchants, and those just getting their feet wet in the industry.
Why Does Your Conversion Rate Matter, Anyway?
If your website is generating income, you might wonder why you need to be concerned about your conversion rate in the first place. That’s natural. If you’re making money, it might seem as though there is nothing wrong. It’s the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The problem is that your site’s conversion rate is more than just a yardstick by which to measure your sales. It’s actually a sign of how well your site is meeting the needs of would-be customers who visit it. A low conversion rate could mean that your site is not meeting their needs.
For instance, a low conversion rate might mean that your site loads slowly. It might also mean that your products are difficult to find, or that your checkout process is slow or not correctly encrypted to ensure security. Your site might not provide the right number of payment options for your customers, either.
Your website’s conversion rate is also an indicator of traffic quality – whether you’re actually attracting your real target audience or not. If you’re attracting the wrong visitors, they’ll only view a page or two and then will “bounce” to another site. You’ll need to dig into your marketing and ensure that you’re actually targeting your ideal customers.
You also need to make sure that you’re effectively using SEO both on your website and in your marketing collateral. Of course, your promotions must also be used effectively in order to attract the right visitors. For instance, if you sell fitness gear, but you’re not attracting people who want to improve their fitness, your conversion rate is going to be very low.
Determining the cause of high visitor numbers but a low conversion rate can be a real challenge. There are simply so many factors that pinpointing one or two can seem impossible. Use your website analytics to shed some insight here. Determine where you’re losing customers (at checkout, on your product pages, on your policy pages, etc.) and then determine what you can do to change that.
Thankfully, there is always something that can be done to improve your sales conversion. Whether you’re in the highest rungs of the industry or you’re converting at the average of 3%, there are solutions to help improve that number and generate more profit.
Once upon a time, boosting your conversion rate meant that you needed to drive more traffic to your website. However, times have changed. Today, merchants realize that you could have all the traffic in the world, but if those visitors are not your target audience, then your conversion rate will still be low. After all, if someone isn’t interested in what you have to offer, they’re not going to buy no matter how low your prices or how many payment options you accept. In addition, getting people to your website is just the first of several important steps to converting a visitor into a customer.
The first thing you should do, well before you start promoting, is to ensure that your site is correctly optimized for conversion. You’ll need to consider your website design, your server performance, product descriptions and the checkout experience here. Each of these elements can impact your visitor’s experience for good or ill.
Yes, promotions can be important, but it is even more important that you build trust with your audience, incite their interest or curiosity, and then meet their needs in the ways that they demand. Only then can you strategically promote your products.
Make Sure They Can Find What They Want
One of the most disheartening and frustrating experiences for an online shopper is not being able to find the products they want. If they cannot find the product(s) they want to buy, they’ll leave your site even if your prices are low. You can improve this in a couple of different ways.
First, you need to ensure that your product search feature is up to par.
This is actually one of the most important steps to improving your conversion rate. Make sure that the search bar is large and highly visible, and that it stays consistent from page to page within your website. Autocomplete is another important aspect – your customers should be able to type in just the first few letters of the product they’re searching for and autocomplete should provide several relevant options, reducing their search time.
Another consideration here is what’s called “faceted search”. Essentially, this is the ability to search through products using specific criteria. For instance, you might sort similar items by brand, size, color, quality, customer rating and more. Another aspect of faceted search is the inclusion of synonyms and common misspellings in product types, names, manufacturers and the like.
You might think that because you run an online store as opposed to a brick and mortar shop, that you’re immune to the need for good merchandising. Nothing could be further from the truth. Merchandising matters, even online. In fact, it might matter more online than anywhere else. Once a customer finds a product they’re interested in and clicks on it, you must ensure that you’ve done your due diligence when it comes to merchandising.
What does that mean? Actually, it’s not that complicated. You need high-quality images of the product in question, and you need more than one. You should feature images from different angles, so that potential buyers can get the best view possible. You should consider adding video if possible. You also need to pay attention to the product description. Ditch the pre-written descriptions and tailor them to your particular audience.
Another consideration here is to provide your customers with access to reviews and ratings from other buyers. This provides credibility and authenticity, and builds trust. Think of it as a form of social proof that also provides valuable content to engage your visitor and help them make an informed buying decision. Another benefit of including reviews and ratings is that they often answer questions that potential buyers have, such as about sizing, color, fit, functionality and more. That can reduce calls to your customer support department (or emails to the same).
In addition, you need to ensure that there are multiple pathways for customers to reach the same item. That requires that it be featured in more than one product category. For example, a women’s running shoe could be featured in the “sneakers” category, as well as the “fitness footwear” category, under the brand name of the manufacturer, and in other ways, all of which provide multiple routes for the customer to find the same product.
Finally, you need to upsell and cross-sell. Basically, this boils down to offering related or similar items (think Amazon’s “also-bought” feature), or suggesting more expensive items on the same page. You can also suggest items that add value to the purchase (new laces for those shoes, or polish to keep dress shoes looking sharp).
Your Calls-to-Action Matter
If you think that calls to action (CTAs) are limited to long-from sales pages and the like, it’s time to rethink your stance. Essentially, every single link and button your website needs clear labeling that tells your customer exactly what will happen when they click. Make no mistake – these are CTAs, and they’re vital.
You need to keep your CTAs short and concise, and whenever possible, they should start with an action word (verb). For instance, “add to basket” clearly tells your customer what will happen when they click the button, but it’s also a slight encouragement, telling them what to do.
All of your CTAs should be easy to see and should stand out from the other text on the page. Use tools like font size, color, and underlining to highlight them. You should also make the more important calls to action stand out more than secondary ones. For instance, “proceed to checkout” should be more visible than “add to wish list”.
Make sure you apply these rules to secondary calls to action, such as signing up for your newsletter. By highlighting secondary calls to action, you can engage with customers who are in your target audience, but who are not quite ready to make a purchase.
Website Speed Is Crucial
Once upon a time, everyone had dial-up Internet and it really didn’t matter how quickly a site loaded. Today, that’s not the case. With most Internet shoppers having high-speed broadband connections, they’ve come to expect the ecommerce sites they visit to load quickly, whether they’re landing on the first product page or heading to the checkout. Did you know that a quarter of all online shoppers will abandon their shopping cart if it takes more than about five seconds for the page to load?
You’ll need to delve into site performance and load times to figure out where improvements are required. Google Page Speed is a free tool that can help you determine load times for different pages on your website, but you’ll need to dig deeper. The goal is to identify bottlenecks and eliminate them, streamlining and speeding up the experience for your website visitors. There are a few key things you can do here, including the following:
- Caching should be enabled for the entire site, including full-page and query caching.
- Inactive CMS pages should be cleaned up, and products or promotions that are outdated should be removed.
- Shopping cart lifespan should be limited.
- Old orders should be archived.
- Disable functions that are not being used.
- Limit how many promotions you run at the same time.
- Static content and HTML files should be served by a global content delivery network (CDN).
Mobile Friendly Is a Must
The days when you could safely ignore mobile devices and focus on designing a website strictly for desktops and laptops are long gone. In fact, more people use mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to shop ecommerce websites today than ever before.
Mobile has actually outpaced desktop access. Today, four out of five online shoppers are using a mobile device rather than a desktop or laptop. They’re also using those mobile devices to compare your products and prices with competitors, to search for ways to save money and more.
There are several key considerations to be made when optimizing your ecommerce site for mobile users. One of those is to ensure that you’re using high-quality but lightweight images. If your customers have to wait a long time for a page loaded down with heavy images to load, you can bet they’re going to go elsewhere.
You also need to make sure that your site is simple and easy to navigate from a smartphone or tablet. However, it should relate to the navigation used with desktops and laptops so that your customer has a streamlined, similar experience on all devices. They should be able to move from one to another to another without having to stop and figure out what’s different or what button they need to click to get where they want to go.
You have more than one option when it comes to optimizing for mobile. You can choose to create a store app (think of Amazon’s iOS and Android apps, for instance). This can speed up load times and also make the checkout process faster. However, your customers will have to have the app to buy from you.
You can also set up your website so that it automatically detects the device being used and resizes and reformats itself to that device. For most ecommerce companies, this is the simplest and most affordable solution, and your customers will likely appreciate it as well.
Stick with Your Customers Even If They Leave
Abandoned shopping carts are a huge problem for most ecommerce sites. Your customers might leave their shopping cart for any number of different reasons, as well. However, that doesn’t mean you’ve lost the sale. If you stick with your customers with persistent shopping cart functionality, you can create a seamless shopping experience for those who switch back and forth between devices.
Really, this is all about cookies. You need a long-term cookie for every device that a customer uses to access your website. This ensures that they’re able to add items to the cart from each device, without interruption. For instance, a customer might add a pair of shoes to their cart in the morning from their smartphone, and then go back that evening from their laptop to add accessories or something else. With long-term cookies on both devices, the shopping cart is constantly updated and sticks around (persistent). In addition, your customer only has to log in one time for this to happen.
Another way to help reduce the incidence of abandoned shopping carts is to use email reminders. You should have the email address of every customer who’s registered with you (it should be a requirement when they create an account to shop your site). If they leave their shopping cart with items in it more than a specified period of time, you can automatically send a reminder email that they have pending purchases, or to notify them that their shopping cart is about to expire and they need to log in to save the items.
Of course, you should also allow your customers the ability to save items for purchase later, or to add to a wish/want list and the like. This lets customers who are not quite ready to make a purchase save items they want until they’re ready to buy. Finally, it might be worth adding a live chat function to your checkout page so that customers can ask important questions and get the answers they need.
Don’t Complicate the Checkout Process
Think about your experience in a brick and mortar store. You’ve gone in, looked around, spent time comparing products, and finally found the one you want to purchase. Now, you just want to pay and leave. Holdups at the register only make you frustrated and irritable. The same thing applies to your online customers. All they really want to do is pay and get their item shipped. They don’t want to jump through hoops to check out. Make sure that your checkout process is streamlined, simple and uncomplicated.
In fact, there’s good evidence that says even requiring your customers to register and create an account before making a purchase can decrease your conversion rate by almost 25%. Your checkout page should be just that – a single page. It should only require the bare minimum of information (name, shipping address, billing address, shipping method and payment type). Anything more than this and you are adding unnecessarily complications that could cause your customers to abandon their cart and go to a competitor.
In addition, make sure that you’re not cluttering up the checkout page with “also-bought” items or other product recommendations. Distractions need to be limited to the barest minimum, to make it easier for your customers to buy and leave, and to ensure that they do not abandon their shopping cart.
It’s also an important consideration to tell your customers that their information is protected while checking out on your website. You don’t need to use paragraphs of text to do that. A few logos will do the trick. For instance, PCI compliance logos can offer peace of mind, as can site encryption logos and the like. It’s all about making your customers feel at ease and eliminating worries that paying with their card or PayPal account on your website could put their financial information in the hands of a hacker or identity thief.
Give Customers More Than One Payment and Shipping Option
Each customer to your website has unique needs and wants. It is crucial that you meet those requirements. For example, some customers want their item in their hands as quickly as possible, while others are happy to wait longer periods to save a few dollars. Others will refuse to buy at all if they have to pay for shipping. Yet other online shoppers will only use a PayPal account and never a credit card, while some might prefer something completely different. You must cater to all of these and more.
According to comScore, offering multiple payment options increases your conversion rate by up to 32%. That’s a significant number, and one that no one can ignore. In fact, many customers stated that if the website they were patronizing hadn’t offered the payment type they preferred (PayPal, for instance, or BillMeLater), they would not have purchased anything at all. There’s also the fact that offering customers the type of payment option they prefer significantly eases the process for them, making them not only more willing to make this purchase, but future purchases.
Now, let’s talk about shipping. This is a make-or-break point for quite a few online shoppers. Only 2% of customers in the comScore survey said that they didn’t care one way or another about shipping. In addition, a startling 40% of holiday purchases had free shipping. Now, free shipping after a customer has spent a certain amount is almost universal today, and that’s definitely an important practice to have in place on your site. However, you should go farther. Provide your customers with flat rate shipping, or offer discounted or free shipping on bundled purchases even if they don’t meet the minimum amount.
Ultimately, it’s all about removing barriers for your customers, and helping them to say yes, rather than no. The more you can do for them, and the better you can make their overall experience, the more likely you are to get that resounding “yes”.
Personalize the Experience
Today’s consumers are much more demanding than they were even a few years ago. They not only appreciate personalization, but many have come to expect that. Thankfully, it’s not that difficult to learn more about your customers and then give them more of what they want.
It really comes down to audience segmentation. You need to learn as much as you can about your customers, and that requires you to know the answers to questions like these:
- Where do they shop?
- What are their interests?
- How much do they spend?
- How often do they buy products?
- What products do they purchase most often?
- What interests do those product purchases indicate?
In addition, you’ll need access to demographic information, including age, gender, geographic location and the like.
Combine all of that data with other information, such as the OS on their device, where they’re accessing the site from, items they’ve browsed but not purchased, and you can begin to personalize not only their shopping experience on the site, but your communications with them through email.
Once you have your audience segmented, you can start assigning value. For instance, repeat customers would have a higher value than a browser who hasn’t yet taken the time to register with your website. Based on these values, you can segment your marketing efforts to ensure that you’re spending the most time and money reaching the people who matter most and who have the most value to your business.
Price promotions should only occur after you have optimized your site and ensure the best usability and performance. However, understand that using price promotions too often can have an adverse effect on brand perception among your customers. For example, if you continually run deep discount programs, your customers may begin to perceive your website as a “bargain basement” retailer.
There are quite a few different options when it comes to price promotions. You can use coupons to increase conversions. These can be sent to customers via email, or they can be made available through your social media accounts. And make no mistake – customers love coupons. A study in 2012 by JiWire found that 34% of respondents had used a coupon within the previous three months.
Of course, using coupons too often can backfire. Customers may hold off on making a purchase, expecting you to have a coupon soon. That will have a negative impact on your profitability over time. Use coupons wisely, and make sure that the discounts offered, as well as the frequency of issuing coupons is in keeping with your brand identity.
In addition to coupons, you can use a number of other promotions to help increase conversions. For instance, you can offer bundle deals to save customers money, or you can offer a reward/loyalty program. Both of these can build customer loyalty and make a difference if a would-be buyer is on the fence about making a purchase.
Keep It Up
Don’t think that improving your conversion rate is a once-and-done sort of thing. It’s not. This should be an ongoing process that is done continually. You must constantly evaluate, optimize, add new products, improve your product listings and upsell/cross-selling capabilities.
It’s also important to remember that while not everyone who browses your products will make a purchase, some will browse now and come back later to buy. You’ll need to bear that in mind as you optimize to ensure that every customer has a reason to shop with you, whether now or down the road.
Magento to the Rescue: The Tools You Need for Success
Optimizing, streamlining and refining your website can be a challenge, but there is a solution. Magento Enterprise Edition offers a full suite of powerful tools, allowing you to attract and retain customers, improve and streamline the purchase process, grow your business, enhance loyalty to your brand and even customize and refine your own website. It offers scalability, outstanding performance and can provide powerful solutions for businesses seeking growth and success.