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10 Ecommerce Optimization Tips to Increase Your Store’s Conversion Rate in 2017

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Welcome back to our Ecommerce Checklist series. In the first installment, 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 shows you easy, implementable steps to increase your conversion rate by focusing on your site’s look, feel and overall user experience — also known as ecommerce optimization.

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.

Example A:

Example B:


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 programmer/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!

Want more examples of beautiful ecommerce design? Check out our breathtaking list of 78 stores who showcase the best in online store design.

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 have implemented this quick ecommerce optimization:

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.

Trustmarks

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?

One easy ecommerce optimization opportunity: 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.

Homepage Promo

Another way to optimize your site that entices 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.

Happy ecommerce optimizing!

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.

Leave a Comment
  • Hello,
    Nice Post. Reviews and Testimonials are the trust factors for the users. Amazon provides the true reviews for their products, this gain the trust among the users and improve the conversation rate and loyalty of the customers is also increase in the services. know the other 25 ways that will help in improving the conversion rate of an eCommerce store:http://bit.ly/2nmBLfz

  • great article david.

  • Excellent article, there’s a lot of great tips here. I’m really passionate about Ecommerce Store. I found an interesting article regarding ecommerce development here you can find it http://bit.ly/1WeOTSF

  • Ecommerce Checklist #2 — We definitely found the part about the
    three-second test to be very valuable. Trust is really a huge deal for
    consumers so you need to craft a website that seems legitimate and
    deserving of consumer trust. Even minor tweaks can have a substantial
    impact. For example, research shows that adding a security seal to your
    homepage can actually increase conversion by close to 8%.

  • BSLugnut

    Great article series on improving our sites!

    When it was stated to, “display your most popular products” is this by units sold or by viewed? As the

    units sold, can be identified from within the store, while using Google Analytics for pages/items

    viewed.

    Could you clarify what “two pages enter, one page leaves” means?

    What is the “bounce rate”?

    When will the Ecommerce Checklist #3 be relesased? Will it include checkout cart optimization?

  • Just in the process of launching a new look and feel Big Commerce front end. Hopefully I have included all the important stuff but this post reminded me about the phone number and a few other things to consider as we get a further down the line, thanks!

  • Great read David and I like all the examples. “Make it easy to contact you” would cover the part Make it easy to call you better, because different consumers prefer different ways to contact you. So my advice would be to add phone number, e-mail and live chat!

  • Liz

    These are extremely helpful tips and I am going to implement as many as possible.
    The website examples are very helpful. As an online shopper as well, I tend to look for those things when shopping myself; site appearance, trust seals etc.

  • Joel

    I Like this article…

    good points with not much extra text,,,,,

  • David Callaway

    Great point, Jeff. This has been suggested on Bigcommerce Ideas and we’ve been working on it. In fact, the product manager in charge just posted an update today! Looks like you may even be able to get in on piloting the feature. Bigcommerce Ideas: Support for Google Trusted Stores

  • Hi David,

    Speaking of trustmarks, is there any word on the Google Trusted Stores program being integrated into BC? Putting on my customer hat as you suggest gives me the feeling that alone would give more trust than all the other seals combined.

    jeff

  • Great tips! I’m always looking at ways to improve conversions. Most people don’t even know what split testing is all about. But testing is the name of game in marketing online for sure. Thanks for sharing! Bookmarked so I can come back to this.

    Jordan.

  • Foursteps

    A helpful article. I found the bit about addressing the pain points particularly useful. It’s given me a couple of great ideas for my site.

  • PlaygroundOnline

    Thanks. It was an Informative read. Having a customer-friendly website is one of the strengths of any E-Commerce website that helps to gain more customers and attract attention.

  • Great article! Customer reviews are indeed one of the best ways of driving conversion up. Combine a pro-active post-purchase review collection system with third party aggregated product reviews and you’ll have the best of both worlds – and no reason to leave your site until that transaction is complete.

  • Great post, I think increasing conversions is one of toughest battles for new e-commerce stores (us included).

    Any feedback on our site – http://pranked.com.au/ – would be great.

    We got some new side banners going up soon and want to focus on increasing customer trust (which is hard when your a joke shop!)

  • Nice information and examples ….
    I am totally agree with fact that website design can make big changes in organisation performance. Clear design can influence the customer and win the customer delight.

  • Great post!! Would love a bit of feedback from our site – http://www.chesterjefferies.co.uk. We have had some bad experiences with cowboy SEO companies too so I’m looking forward to your write up on that!
    Thanks

  • David Callaway

    Thanks, Richard! Checkout/cart optimization is definitely on the topic list for this series (probably next). Hoping to get that out late this month.

  • Nice Article Dave!
    You probably already covered this in another article but checkout cart optimization is critical for a successful sale,do you have any thoughts on that? Or something you’ve written?

    We optimized one site and reduced the pages to sale by 50% and sales went up 500%! I think an expeditious pathway to a confirmed sale is paramount. Would love to hear your thoughts on this subject some day.
    Richard

  • David Callaway

    Solid haiku, Dave!

  • Great post. This is what I have been telling people for years – especially getting products up front, getting your phone # out there and showing trust signals.

    An additional thing we do is to put our phone number in our meta description. It may hurt our click through a little, but it definitely generates calls.

    Finally, ecommerce haikus? Here’s the one we show on our site when the cart is empty:

    You have no products
    Help fight cart abandonment
    Click Add to Cart now

  • Excellent stuff and I liked the Aussie examples.
    Shipping cost still can be a big blockage to sales that needs to be tested as part of testing program we are testing total profits using Shipping vs reduced shipping vs free shipping in split tests. Free seems to win on most products where the shipping cost is >$9.

  • I really enjoyed reading this post. A small thing can change a lot for an e-commerce business.I am agreed that “reviews are the best friend” for an online store.Thanks

  • Great post and a great read. The phone number topic one that I will need to address!

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