Well hello again, seeker of e-commerce truths. In the first installment of our E-Commerce Checklist series, I told you how to step up your product page game by writing better names/descriptions, using better images, adding product reviews and harnessing the power of video.
This second installment tackles how to increase your conversion rate by focusing on your site’s look, feel and overall user experience.
Before you invest any money in paid search campaigns, display advertising or social media ads, it’s imperative that you get your homepage and site structure down cold. You can drive all the traffic in the world, but if you don’t optimize your site design for conversion, you won’t get a return on that investment.
Turning shoppers into buyers starts with a quick glance at your homepage.
The 3-second test
Put on your “customer hat” (mine is a customer fez) and take a look at your homepage. Now ask yourself two questions:
- Can shoppers tell what you sell within three seconds?
- Would a shopper trust his or her credit card to you?
If you answer no to either or both questions, it’s time to work on your site. There are a number of areas you can improve to impact conversion, but let’s start with the most basic: design.
Use a clean design that focuses on your products
When someone visits your online store, it should be painfully obvious what you sell. The best way to do this it to keep your store design clean and professional, with lots of large, high-quality images. A busy, cluttered design distracts shoppers from what you want them to do: view — and ultimately buy — your wonderful products.
Here are two examples of stores selling the same products in very different ways.
It’s a pretty stark difference. Example A is almost all text. You really have to look around for clues that they sell bicycles. That doesn’t get you excited about buying from them. Meanwhile, Example B has bikes all over the place. Plus they use the word “bicycle” in their logo, tagline and various other places around the site. There’s no way someone will think they sell organic dog cologne or sleeveless tuxedos (both ideas are copyrighted by me — no stealing!)
Note the use of a rotating image container on Example B (we call this a “carousel” in the biz). This is a great way to show off your products. At Bigcommerce, we have a carousel builder that lets you easily add images and text to show off your goods. If you sadly don’t use our platform, you can find some bolt-on carousel solutions or have a developer add one to your site. Another great way to use a carousel is to display promotions — more on that a bit later.
In a consumer study by Oneupweb, 70.8% of shoppers said that having products displayed on the homepage is an influential factor in purchasing. When choosing images to feature, remember that it’s a proven best practice to display your most popular products. It may seem a little counterintuitive at first: after all, if they’re so popular, why not promote a product that doesn’t get as much love? It’s because you want to show off products that are proven crowd-pleasers so they help increase a shopper’s interest in your store. Hopefully you already know your bestsellers; if not, you can use tools like SumAll or Google Analytics to figure it out.
Another important difference between the two sites is that Example B has a much cleaner, professional design. Not only is it product-focused, but it looks like they spent some time and money in building it. That really helps credibility. That same Oneupweb study found that 76.5% of those asked rated a site looking credible and trustworthy as an important influence in purchasing, and 66.7% said that a site needs to be visually appealing.
A final reason why Example B wins in our Conversion Optimization Thunderdome (two pages enter, one page leaves): it features simple, easy-to-use navigation. There are just a few major categories on the top nav row, and each expands on mouse-over to show all the related sub-categories. Contrast that to Example A, which throws every subcategory on a left-hand nav column. It not only looks messy, but it turns browsing into hunting. You’re not trying to overwhelm shoppers with the width and breadth of your catalog; you’re trying to make it easy for them to peruse your site and find products they like.
One final point so I don’t seem like I’m throwing the fine folks at Example A under the bus: the image I’m using is from an older design. They’ve since reworked their site to make it more product-focused and navigable. Good for them!
Make it easy to call you
Another way to help increase your credibility with shoppers is to display your phone number prominently on every page, preferably right in the site header. This lets people know you’re not a fly-by-night operation, and that they can buy from you with confidence. It also gives them the sense that if they have any issues with your products or your store, help is just a phone call away.
Here are a couple of Bigcommerce stores who know what’s up:
Address Pain Points
You may have noticed that some of my site examples have copy that calls out certain policies or features, like free shipping or a return policy. That’s a great way of addressing possible objections someone might have about buying from you before they even think to raise them.
Here’s another example to refresh your memory:
See how they mention free shipping, their easy return policy and their low-price guarantee at the top of the site for all to see? Those are all potential pain points that they’ve addressed so visitors can shop without worrying about them.
Shipping is the most important to address, because it’s the top reason shoppers abandon a shopping cart. A Forrester study showed that 44% of carts are abandoned because of high shipping costs. And of course price is always an issue, and return policies are a big deal for online stores.
If you offer free shipping, have a great return policy, offer a price guarantee or do anything else that can help shoppers decide to buy from you, make sure to display them loud and proud on your homepage. And try to make them as detailed as possible given the small space. It’s much better to say “Free shipping on $99+ orders” than just “Free shipping*.” Be as clear as possible about your consumer-friendly policies so that the expectations are properly set from the start. Nobody wants to be surprised by shipping costs at the last minute because their order didn’t meet your minimum.
Clearly Display Prices and Shipping
And speaking of unexpected surprises, another thing nobody likes is feeling deceived by prices or shipping costs. It’s important to be as clear as possible in your pricing.
You already know that 44% of carts are abandoned because of high shipping costs, but the same study showed that 25% were abandoned because the product cost more than expected and 22% because shipping costs were listed too late in the process. So a full 91% of carts are abandoned for price- or shipping-related reasons.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you, in the Oneupweb consumer study I mentioned earlier, a crazy-high (but completely understandable) 95.5% of respondents cited clearly stated pricing and shipping information as an influential factor in making a purchase decision. Don’t be a victim!
Make sure a product’s price is clearly stated, whether on your homepage or on the product page itself. If at all possible, try to calculate taxes and shipping on add to cart so that your shoppers know the final price before they ever get to checkout.
Remember how I told you earlier that 76.5% of shoppers surveyed said that a site looking credible and trustworthy was an important factor in their decision to buy? One easy way to improve your credibility is by borrowing some from trusted organizations.
By associating your store with groups and brands shoppers trust, some of that trust rubs off on you. Studies by McAfee and VeriSign show that online sales can increase by up to 36% when a retail site displays familiar trustmarks.
So get validated by groups that represent security and good business practices such as VeriSign, TRUSTe and the Better Business Bureau, then display their logos prominently in your site’s header or footer. It’s also a good idea to add logos of the major credit cards and other payment methods you accept, as well as those of major brands you sell.
Some more examples from our fantastic clients:
Reviews and Testimonials
If you read the first entry in this series, you already know that featuring product reviews can improve sales by up to 18%. And my favorite study ever by Oneupweb showed that customer reviews and testimonials are considered an important purchasing factor by 40.9% of respondents. But why save all that goodness for your product pages?
You can pull a few of your most effusive reviews and add them right to your homepage in the form of testimonial quotes. Bonus points if you can get a photo to go along with the quote and customer name — seeing that real people have purchased and liked your products or services will increase your credibility with shoppers.
Here’s a familiar example:
As you can see, this incredibly sexy website uses testimonials on the homepage, all with great quotes, customer names and images.
About Us Page
One way to set your store apart from the literally bajillions (okay, that’s literally not a number) of people selling online is to tell your unique story. The easiest way to do that is with an About Us page that you link to in your site nav. With Bigcommerce it’s especially easy, because we build in an About Us page. But even if your platform of choice doesn’t, it’s worth the effort.
Here are a couple of Bigcommerce clients who understand the awesome might of the About Us page:
If you click through on each image, you’ll see that both owners tell a personal story about how and why they started their stores. That builds a connection with shoppers and gives them a good reason to buy from these stores over others.
Think about what makes your e-commerce story unique, endearing, funny or memorable. Then tell your shoppers on an About Us page.
Another way to entice shoppers to buy from you — especially new customers — is to display a promotional offer on your homepage. Everybody loves a deal, and when you offer a percentage off certain items or discounted/free shipping, a new customer is more likely to give you a try. After they experience your amazing service and delightful products, they’ll come back for more at full price.
If you have a homepage carousel like we talked about earlier, it’s easy to create simple graphics that display your special offer. If the offer is a percentage off items in a certain category, make sure you link to that category right form the promo image so shoppers know exactly what they can get the discount on. If the offer requires a promo code, display that in the graphic largely and in chargely.
Here are a couple of promos that I like:
Why? Both link to a category page that includes all on-sale items. The first promo really catches the eye with a high-contrast background color and large type, while the second places a focus on the offer, includes an end date to add a sense of urgency, features a product shot and loves America.
Another type of promotional graphic that’s become increasingly popular lately is the promo strip. The nice thing about that option is that it sits right under your main nav bar, meaning it’s visible on every page of your site.
No matter how you decide to display your offer, picking the offer itself is critical. How do you choose? Testing! Start with something you know you can afford — like 20% off one of your higher-margin products — then test multiple variations until you find something that hits the sweet spot. When looking at your analytics, focus on sales from new visitors, as that’s who you’re really targeting with offers.
Even after you find a deal that converts, don’t just set it and forget it. You need to regularly refresh your promo creative and continue to test new deals.
Hopefully that will give you plenty to work on until the next post in our series. Future installments will focus on marketing, SEO and more. Thanks for reading! Please pose questions, offer comments or write e-commerce-related haikus below.