This post was written by Anthony Capetola. He is the Marketing Manager for Sales & Orders, Management Software for Google Shopping, Premier Google Partner, Google CSS Partner, and Elite BigCommerce Partner. He manages the entirety of paid search as well as inbound marketing efforts for the company.
It’s essentially a no-brainer:
Whether you’re just starting an ecommerce business or you’re already an established online seller, the higher your conversion rates, the better off your business will likely be.
On the surface of things, an increased conversion rate simply means more revenue for your company. The more products you sell, the more money you make. Again: no-brainer.
But, there’s much more to why increasing your ecommerce conversion rates will benefit your business.
The key, here, is that conversion rate refers to the ratio of paid customers you generate to the number of potential customers you generate over the same period of time.
That said, an increased overall conversion rate inherently lowers your cost of acquisition (since more of your potential customers will have become paying customers). In turn, your average customer’s lifetime value will also increase immediately (i.e., since it costs less to generate each conversion, each new customer begins their lifecycle at a higher level of value than previously).
So, it’s not just that a higher conversion rate will increase your revenues. What’s more important is that a higher conversion rate can lead to a major increase in profits for your company.
Now, on the other side of things, a rather low conversion rate doesn’t simply mean you’re not making lots of money – and it doesn’t mean you’ve just lost “potential” money, either. That is, the opposite of what we said earlier is also true: a decreased conversion rate essentially means a higher cost of acquisition – and, in turn, a smaller profit margin.
The takeaway here is pretty simple:
It is essential that ecommerce companies do everything in their power to keep their conversion rates as high as possible.
In this article, we’re going to discuss a number of high-level approaches to optimizing your ecommerce website, in turn making it more likely your visitors will end up converting into paying customers. As we go through each strategy or tactic, we’ll also provide a variety of real-world examples of brands “doing it right,” as well.
But, before we dive into a discussion of these strategies and tips, we need to understand just why an individual might decide to leave your ecommerce site empty-handed in the first place.
Why Ecommerce Shoppers Don’t Convert
Realistically speaking, there are an infinite number of reasons an individual consumer might choose not to make a purchase at a given point in time.
To narrow these reasons down to what are perhaps the most common, we’ll need to break down our potential pool of consumers into two groups:
- Browser Abandoners: Those who check out your ecommerce site, but don’t add anything to their cart or make any purchases.
- Cart Abandoners: Those who check out your site, add a product (or multiple products) to their cart, but still don’t make a purchase.
Often, Browser Abandoners leave a site without making a purchase due to:
- Not finding what they’re looking for
- A poor overall on-site experience
- Poor product pricing
(Or, the case may very well be that they weren’t intending to make a purchase in the first place, and were “just browsing.” More on this in a bit.)
On the other hand, Cart Abandoners may abandon a purchase for some of the following reasons:
- Extra costs such as shipping, taxes, or other unexpected fees can drive customers away before they finishing checking out. In fact, a quantitative study from Baymard Institute found that 60% of shoppers abandoned their carts for this very reason.
- A clunky or unsafe checkout process which led to 28% of US shoppers to abandon their cart.
- According to Baymard Institute’s study, 8% of shoppers abandon their carts due to a lack of payment or delivery options.
- Poor customer support
(Note: This isn’t to say these reasons are unique to each “type” of shopper; there’s definitely some overlap, here. And, again, this definitely isn’t an exhaustive list of the reasons people end up not buying from your site, either.)
At any rate, the point is that even the smallest of issues along the path to purchase can affect a potential customer’s buying decision – for better or worse. That said, you’ll need to ensure that every single aspect of your site is optimized in a way that nudges even the most noncommittal visitor ever-so-slightly toward converting.
Calculating, Understanding, and Acting on Conversion Rates
Earlier, we described “conversion rates” to mean “the ratio of customers you generate to the number of visitors to your ecommerce site you generate.”
To calculate your conversion rate, you’d simply use the following formula:
(# of customers in a given time period) / (# of site visitors over the same time period) X 100
So, for a rather simple example, if 10 people visit your site, and 1 of them makes a purchase, your conversion rate would be:
1/10 X 100 = 10%
While this number certainly can give you a high-level understanding of whether things are going well (or not-so-well)…that’s really all it will tell you.
In other words, while your overall conversion rate may help you indicate that a problem exists, it won’t tell you much about what the actual problem is (or how to fix it, either). As we said earlier, there are any number of reasons for an individual consumer to decide against making a purchase; it’s up to you to figure out what these issues are – and to fix them as quickly as possible.
It’s also worth noting that, when calculating your overall conversion rate, you’ll inevitably be including visitors who – for whatever reason – never intended on making a purchase in the first place. Additionally, it’s likely that certain consumers will visit your site multiple times before actually making a purchase – with each non-purchase visit counting against your conversion rate.
The point is, your overall conversion rate is merely an “on-paper” stat that can often be misleading. To get a better understanding of your ecommerce website’s true ability to generate conversions, you’ll need to assess the conversion rates for multiple steps along the buyer’s journey.
For example, if your overall conversion rate seems to be suffering, you might want to look at the following:
- The rate of purchases to (specific or overall) product page views
- The rate of purchases to cart additions
- The rate of cart additions to product page views
- The rate of payment processes to initial checkouts begun
Depending on a variety of factors (e.g., your sales funnel, the setup of your website, etc.), you might also want to get even more specific, here. For example, you might want to figure out how many people ended up making a purchase after viewing a specific piece of content (compared to the total number of people who viewed said content).
Piggybacking on that last point, you’ll also want to compare your conversion rates among different audiences. For example, you might compare the conversion rates of:
- Multiple segments (based on personas)
- Mobile and desktop users
- Registered and non-registered visitors
Again, the goal is to paint a more detailed picture of where and how your visitors’ experience with your website is going off the rails. In turn, you’ll be able to focus on making specific improvements to your site (and business) in order to streamline the path to purchase for your potential customers.
What’s a “Good” Conversion Rate, Anyway?
If you’ve read up to this point, you probably won’t be all that surprised to hear that the above is a bit of a trick question.
I mean, if you’re asking what the average conversion rate for ecommerce sites is, SmartInsights reports it to be 2.86% as of Q3 2018.
There are two things worth mentioning, here:
First of all, as we pointed out earlier, this high-level statistic doesn’t tell you much at all. It may be a wake-up call to those whose conversion rates fall below the average, sure – but it doesn’t offer any sort of advice as far as how to proceed.
Secondly, these numbers are merely the average conversion rates of the average ecommerce company. Not to be all pep-talky, but you’re not here to be average, right? The only thing checking out the average conversion rate will do is make you feel as if you’re doing “good enough” – which can ultimately cause you to stagnate and miss out on a lot of extra business.
So, while it’s definitely good practice to ensure you’re at least keeping up with your industry’s average conversion rate, it’s much more beneficial to focus on making your current conversion rate better than it was the last time you measured it.
Unless your conversion rate is a steady 100% (spoiler alert: it won’t be), it can always be higher. While having a ballpark idea of what’s considered a “good” conversion rate in your industry can keep you grounded and realistic, you should always look for ways to improve your conversion rates over time.
Ways to Increase Your Ecommerce Conversion Rates
While we’ve pretty much hammered home this message by this point, it’s worth reiterating once more:
In order to increase your overall conversion rate, you need to focus on optimizing each and every touchpoint your visitors have with your ecommerce site. The goal, here, is for every aspect of your website to get your visitors more deeply engaged with your brand, and to get them moving closer and closer to converting.
With that in mind, let’s now take a look at the major areas to focus on as you optimize your ecommerce website to increase your conversion rates.
1. Appeal to Consumer Psychology
We’ve actually talked about this at length here on Wisepops’ blog before:
In order to keep your visitors on-site and moving along the sales funnel, you need to know what motivates them to engage further with their favorite brands in the first place.
In other words, you need to understand your potential customers on a deeper, more psychological level. You need to know what they love, and what they hate; what makes them comfortable, and what frustrates them; what spurs them to take action, and what drives them away.
In truth, this tip is more of a prerequisite, in that it encompasses everything else we’ll be talking about in this section. That is, consumer psychology should be at the forefront of your mind when making any changes or improvements to your ecommerce website (or to your business as a whole).
That said, it’s also important that your visitors find the overall structure and design of your ecommerce website to be pleasant from both a functional and aesthetic standpoint.
Regarding functionality, you need to be absolutely certain your visitors can easily accomplish whatever they’ve set out to accomplish on your site. This includes:
- Browsing your product catalog (and specific product category pages)
- Searching for specific products
- Discovering and consuming supplemental content
- Completing each step of the purchasing process
Basically, your goal should be to design your website so that your visitors are never left asking themselves, “Okay, how do I get where I need to be?” If they have to ask that question at any time while navigating your site, there’s a good chance you’re going to lose them.
In addition to being easily navigable, your site should also be pleasing from an aesthetic point of view, as well.
It may or may not come as a surprise to you, but studies have shown that 75% of an individual’s perception of a brand (in terms of quality and trustability) comes down to the aesthetic appearance of the brand’s website. Unfortunately, this means that even if everything else about your website (and your brand as a whole) could be on point, you’ll still face an uphill battle trying to increase your conversion rates if your site looks like this:
(Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggerated example; we’re going to guess your site doesn’t look anything like the above-jumbled mess.)
Now, it’s impossible for us to give laser-focused advice in terms of what “aesthetically pleasing” means to your audience; obviously, everyone’s taste is different.
Some may appreciate a more simplistic design:
…and others might appreciate a more “active” site:
Your goal, here, should be to design your website in a way that both matches your brand’s overall “feel,” and also meets the expectations of your target audience. By appealing to your site’s visitors from an aesthetic point of view from the moment they land on your page, you stand a much greater chance of having them engage further with your brand.
2. Deliver Valuable Content
There’s no denying that a strong content marketing strategy can do wonders for your ecommerce business in a number of ways.
Focusing specifically on increasing conversions, the importance of providing valuable content to your prospective customers cannot be understated. According to data collected by Content Marketing Institute, content marketing:
- Creates more than three times the amount of leads as paid search campaigns
- Builds trust and increases the propensity to make a purchase among 61% of consumers
- Leads to a nearly 600% increase in conversion rate (compared to companies that don’t use content marketing at all)
Of course, it’s not enough to merely create any ol’ content and assume your conversion rates will quickly explode. Rather, the content you present your audience members needs to:
- Help them solve a problem related to your industry
- Showcase the value of your brand’s offerings
- Stand out from the myriad other pieces of similar content throughout the web
Again, there’s no “right” way to approach content marketing as an ecommerce company; it’s more about what your audience wants to read, watch, and learn about.
That said, your main focus should be on enabling your audience to get the absolute most they can out of the products you offer.
For example, home decor and furniture company One Kings Lane uses its blog to provide interior decorating tips, tours of aesthetically-pleasing locales, and anecdotal stories from the world of home decor.
While such content typically doesn’t directly lead to increased conversion rates, it does serve to provide value to your potential customers – in turn making them more likely to purchase from your company at some point in the near future.
Bonus Tip: A great way to increase conversion is to repackage your content into a quiz or assessment, which you can embed in your site. The participant learns something useful, while you collect data which is used to recommend the most appropriate product(s) at the end of the quiz.
3. Engage Visitors Via Popups and Overlays
Since you’re here on Wisepops’ blog, we’ll go out on a limb and assume you know how effective popups and overlay forms can be for growing your mailing list and boosting sales.
But, as it was with content marketing, your site’s popups need to be created and presented strategically in order to effectively engage your visitors. This means, among many other things, that your popups should:
- Offer something of value to incentivize conversions
- Be timed so as to not disrupt the customer experience
- Match your brand, and speak to your target audience
Take a look at the following screenshot:
In the example above, fashion retailer Carbon38:
- Offers a pretty decent 15% discount to site visitors
- Shows on the company’s main page as an immediate incentive for new visitors
- Matches the sleekness (and “chicness”) of its clothing line
A well-placed popup offering massive value to your potential customers is often the difference between a conversion and abandonment.
4. Create High-Quality Product Pages
As you surely know, just because someone clicks on a product page, that doesn’t mean they’re going to end up making a purchase.
As we mentioned earlier, there are a number of reasons a consumer might click on a product page. Perhaps they’re looking to learn more about a specific product, or compare brands between prices. Or, they could simply be clicking around the web out of sheer boredom.
Or, of course, they could actually be looking to make a purchase – and will likely do so, as long as the product page gives them what they need.
In any and all of these cases, an attractive, information-rich product page will, at the very least, allow your visitors to engage further with your brand’s offerings – and could potentially lead to major conversions, as well.
There are a number of elements (required or optional) to a product page, including:
- Product titles and product descriptions
- Product photographs and videos
- Product-specific customization options (e.g., size, color, etc.)
- CTA copy and buttons
- Additional/supplemental information (more on this in a bit)
Take a look at the following product page from Johnny Cupcakes:
As this product page does, your goal is to use the page to bring your product to life in the eyes of the ecommerce shopper (whose main disadvantage is not being able to physically hold or see products before buying them). If your product pages can overcome this obstacle, you should have no problem bringing in paying customers.
5. Use Strategic Pricing
Case in point, CPC Strategy found that 87% of online shoppers say the price of an item is the deciding factor in whether or not they make a purchase.
However, it’s important to note that this data doesn’t necessarily show that consumers prefer cheaper prices. Rather, consumers typically look for the fairest price for a given item when browsing online.
In other words, there’s more to strategic pricing than simply undercutting your competitors. You might price your products so as to make a specific profit-per-sale, or you could be more dynamic with your pricing as demand fluctuates within your industry.
As we’ve pointed out before on Shoplo’s blog, perhaps your best bet is to price your products based on the value they provide your customers. This means seeing your product from the eyes of your specific customers, and working to determine the exact price they’d consider acceptable in exchange for the item in question.
If you can get your value-based pricing strategy down to a science, you’ll not only optimize your chances of generating more conversions – you’ll also likely make much more profit-per-sale, as well.
6. Showcase Social Proof
In terms of increasing conversion rates, social proof is huge.
Case in point, Consumerist found that 70% of online shoppers check out product reviews before making a purchase. Looking at this from a different perspective, of all the people who go on to make a purchase, 70% of them are impacted by product reviews in some way or another.
It’s also worth mentioning that positive social proof typically leads to an increase not just in conversion rate, but also average order value and retention as well.
Now, social proof can be presented in a variety of formats.
As mentioned, you’ll likely want to present product reviews on your product pages (and potentially elsewhere on your site, as well):
You can also present social proof directly on your homepage, as NatoMounts does here:
Or, you could create a dedicated space for more in-depth social proof, such as case studies, user-generated content or video testimonials:
By presenting various forms of social proof to your prospective customers, you show them how other people just like them use your products to great success – and also open their eyes to what they can do after achieving this success.
7. Streamline Your Checkout Process
Alright, so you’ve done everything right up until this point:
- You’ve created an attractive and fully-functioning website your visitors love
- You’ve provided valuable content and information along their path to your product pages
- Your fleshed-out product pages and positive social proof have gotten the customer to move forward in their buyer’s journey
Unfortunately, if your checkout process isn’t streamlined, it will all have been for naught. According to Baymard, of consumers who have abandoned an online shopping cart, 28% of them cite a lengthy or complicated checkout process to be the culprit.
Now, as we’ll get to in a moment, there are certain parts of the checkout process that must be a bit more complex in the interest of catering to the needs of the customer. While you don’t want to make these aspects complicated by any means, you also don’t want to take them out in the name of simplicity. Again, we’ll get back to this.
Where you should aim to cut your checkout process down is any area in which your company stands to benefit more than your customer.
For example, you’ll want to allow new customers to checkout as guests (rather than requiring them to register a new account).
Along with this, you’ll also want to minimize the amount of information required to make a purchase, as well; here, you should only be asking for information that’s absolutely necessary to complete the transaction.
Pro tip: You do want to have additional information on preferences and profile of new customers, so make sure you build in a campaign to get the most interesting customer profile info directly after they made the initial purchase or conversion. Make use the customer psychology in your marketing and use the mental marketing momentum of “in for a penny, in for a pound” of your fresh clients by adding in that “bonus action” in the process.
Finally, you’ll want to avoid being too promotional in any up- or cross-selling initiatives you implement during the checkout process; while you may want to consider including product suggestions right before the customer finalizes a purchase, you don’t want to disrupt them from the task at hand.
To be sure, checkout is one of the least exciting parts of the shopping experience. That said, you want to make sure your checkout process goes as quickly and smoothly as possible for your customers.
8. Offer Multiple Payment and Delivery Options
As we mentioned in the previous section, the only time you want to add steps to the checkout process is when providing options your customers will appreciate.
As you surely know, there are a ton of ways the modern consumer can make an online payment. From PayPal to Apple Pay – and many others – credit cards are no longer the guaranteed mode of payment by today’s standards. That said, you’ll want to look into which payment methods your target audience typically prefers, and be absolutely certain that you’re able to cater to these needs.
You’ll also want to provide a number of delivery options to your customers, as well. Typically, your options should offer a trade-off of sorts between price and convenience; that is, you’ll want your customers to be able to pay more for rush delivery, or to receive cheap (or free) shipping in exchange for a longer delivery period.
By this point in the process, you’ve all but sealed the deal with your new customer. You don’t want to lose them because they logistically can’t pay for or receive their order.
9. Re-Engage Cart Abandoners
Unfortunately, you’re still going to face instances in which a potential customer fills up their virtual shopping cart…then suddenly navigates away from your site without finalizing their purchase.
When this happens, you basically have two options:
- Say “oh well” and move on
- Do everything you can to re-engage your potential customer
(Obviously, you know which side of the fence we’re on.)
As we mentioned earlier in this article, there are any number of reasons for a consumer to bounce from your page without making a purchase. Needless to say, a discussion on how to get these individuals back on track toward converting could be an article in and of itself.
From a high-level perspective, though, re-engaging cart abandoners involves:
- Understanding why they left in the first place – and working to mitigate the issue
- Providing incentives via exit-intent popups, remarketing campaigns, and emails
- Recover orders with special apps (here are abandoned cart recovery apps for Shopify, for example)
A lost customer is only lost if you let them slip away. But, with the right offer, a one-time cart abandoner could end up becoming a loyal brand fanatic.
10. Provide In-Depth Customer Support
As much as you’ll strive to provide in-depth information about your brand, your products, and your processes, your potential customers are still likely going to have a number of questions for you.
Unfortunately, if you can’t answer an individual’s questions (or otherwise provide the requested information) in an effective and efficient manner, you’ll have little to no chance of generating a new customer at all.
While standalone sections of your website – such as your knowledge base or FAQ pages – can be used to address your target audience’s most pressing concerns, you’ll also want to at least consider offering 24/7 support via a variety of channels. By today’s standards, this means you need to have representatives available through email, your social media pages, and live chat – and possibly more.
Additionally, you want to ensure that the process of using these channels is as easy as possible for your site’s visitors, as well. Among many other things, this means:
- Ensuring your contact information is easy to find on your site
- Minimizing the number of steps within the inquiry process
- Utilizing intuitive knowledge base or helpdesk software
The easier it is for your prospective customers to get the answers they need, the more trust they’ll put in your brand to cater to their deeper needs – and the more likely they’ll be to become paying customers.
11. Ensure Your Customers’ Data is Secure
Especially with the implementation of GDPR earlier this year, it’s no secret that the modern online consumer is extra wary about keeping their personal information as secure as possible.
(Case in point, Statista reports that 17% of cart abandoners decided against making a purchase specifically due to concerns with a site’s security.)
The thing is, it’s not enough to merely provide this security in the first place. In order to spur conversions (and minimize cart abandons), you need to prove to your potential customers that their data is safe in your hands.
The simplest way to do so:
Present trust seals on your transactional pages.
As an update to research conducted in 2013 by Baymard, ConversionXL recently published a report detailing the effect trust badges have on online consumers’ propensity to make a purchase. Among many other findings, CXL found that badges from major credit card companies, PayPal, Norton, and Google built the most trust in the eyes of consumers.
CXL also found a number of generational and gender-based differences in this area, as well:
While having proper security measures in place is essentially a prerequisite for ecommerce companies by today’s standards, you need to actually make these measures evident to your audience in order to affect your conversion rate. If they can’t trust you with their personal info, there’s no way they’ll trust you with their hard-earned cash.
As we said much earlier on, increasing your overall conversion rate is often more about making more specific, granular tweaks to your site than it is about making sweeping changes.
Reason being, it’s problems with these more specific touchpoints that often derail an individual from their path to purchase in the first place. Even if every other stage of the journey is optimized to perfection, it only takes one minor hangup to turn a sure thing into a lost sale.
That said, it’s essential that you take the time to put every touchpoint in your buyer’s journey under the proverbial microscope, and consider how it may be affecting your audience’s willingness to make a purchase.
If you can manage to increase the conversion rates of these “mini-steps” along the buyer’s journey, your overall conversion rate won’t be too much further behind.