Recent events have accelerated what was already a powerful trend to new heights. While devastating to physical retail stores, the COVID-19 epidemic has brought many first-time buyers online out of necessity and a substantial portion of them will remain there. The late adopters have joined the party and anyone not shopping online by now probably never will.
The size of the market and the opportunities available continue to attract new entries while established sites are in constant upgrade mode. Massive amounts of time and resources are invested into producing an amazing site and generating traffic but too many operations often fail to do the little things that can influence the most important metric of any commercial site—conversions.
In the race to build the most impressive online store, there is a long list of things that are frequently overlooked but have a huge impact on decisions to buy. Getting more out of existing customers is easier and more profitable than trying to gain new ones, so any campaign to boost revenues and conversions should start there.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of 18 Ways to Boost Ecommerce Conversions. It’s a back-to-basics checklist of the fundamentals that will get results while pushing your conversion rates to new, more profitable heights. Optimizing these visual, procedural and technical aspects of your operation can deliver more revenue than launching an expensive promotional campaign. For both ROI and customer experience reasons, focusing on increasing conversions should be your highest priority.
Let’s dive in!
Table of contents
- Do more than just offer products for sale – recreate the in-store experience
- Use clear, obvious and easy-to-find CTA’s
- Never let them see the same home page twice
- Use Secure Checkout (and make sure customers know you use it)
- Be transparent about shipping costs
- When you do offer free shipping, BE SURE THE WHOLE WORLD KNOWS ABOUT IT
- Prioritize abandoned cart recovery strategies
- The omnichannel approach is the only approach
- It’s still true in the online age – create a sense of urgency
- Don’t make them search for the search bar
- Understand the significance of first purchases
- Are you sure you want to leave us? Use exit intent strategies
- Use micro-conversions
- Mobile responsiveness is a must
- Keep loading times to a minimum
- Only use the very best product images
- Social proof
- Offer registration-free guest checkout
#1 Do more than just offer products for sale – recreate the in-store experience
“Hi, it’s nice to meet you. Do you want to buy this?”
That’s basically what you’re doing when you put a price next to an image of the product and expect to sell it.
Today’s consumers want much more than a single image and short description (or no description at all) before adding a product to a cart. Every item should have additional images or product information that can be accessed with one click at most. This helps to draw interest and answer questions at the same time. If you’re not recreating the experience of shopping in a physical store, then you’re failing to deliver a key element of the process. Make it easy for shoppers to see and learn everything they’re looking for instead of rushing to get them to “Buy now!”
Remember the funnel concept and anticipate what customers expect to see and learn before reaching for their credit cards. Supply all the information and materials you can and let them get there at their own pace.
#2 Use clear, obvious and easy-to-find CTA’s
You’ve probably heard the expression “Don’t make me think!” when it comes to web design. It’s about making processes super simple and intuitive and always making the path forward clear. If a customer ever has to stop and wonder what to do next, then you’re doing it wrong—you’re making them think. Adding a product to a cart or to a list or buying it now should be as easy as possible. That means having CTA buttons that are easily found and visually distinct from the rest of the page.
Avoid layouts that are too busy and use negative space for a clean, simple design where your CTA can stand out. Your “Add to Cart” button should be especially prominent and always near the top of the page. This point is especially important for customers on mobile devices (more on that later). Remember, “Don’t make me think!”
#3 Never let them see the same home page twice
With the tools available today, there’s no reason you can’t provide a fresh, new experience every time a customer visits your store. Dynamic content—different content displayed for each customer on the basis of their behavioral and purchase histories—is no longer an optional “extra”, but an expected standard. It’s now even possible to deliver a unique, tailored experience for anonymous users. Yep, welcome to 2021.
When customers frequently see the same content in your store, they wonder how committed you are to meeting their needs and expectations. Why should they bother visiting at all if they already have a good idea of what to expect? Apply data gathered from previous visits to instantly construct a customized experience for every customer, every time and watch your engagement and conversions rise.
#4 Use Secure Checkout (and make sure customers know you use it)
Assuring customers that their personal data is secure—and their credit card information in particular—should always be a priority. Many first-time buyers are especially reluctant to make a purchase if they don’t have complete confidence in an online store because of doubts about secure transactions. Failing to provide this reassurance through the use of established, trusted services and platforms is a common mistake that results in lost sales.
Use familiar tools like an EV SSL certificate to establish a feeling of safety and security when shopping on your site. Also, make sure your customers know their personal information is safe by displaying the shields and certificates of the platforms you use. Using these mediums adds a layer of protection that today’s e-customers expect so why keep it a secret?
#5 Be transparent about shipping costs
Making shipping free for everything, all the time would be a huge boost to your ecommerce but we all know that just isn’t possible. And as much as your customers would love to pay $0.00 for every delivery, they understand that shipping costs are involved with online purchases. What they don’t understand, however, is why they sometimes see an amount that is very different from their expectations when they make it to the checkout stage. There are few better ways to send customers running for the exit than to surprise them at the last minute with shipping fees well beyond what they were ready to pay.
The lesson here is simple—introduce shipping costs as early in the process as you can.
On the subject of shipping costs, it’s also a good idea to prominently display any information about temporary or seasonal reductions in costs, promotions that qualify for free shipping or cart amounts that are near a threshold that will qualify customers for free shipping. When you do display this information, make sure it gets seen! Again, don’t ignore or avoid the subject because you think it scares customers away. Be open, be transparent and avoid surprises when it’s time to finalize the transaction.
#6 When you do offer free shipping, BE SURE THE WHOLE WORLD KNOWS ABOUT IT
Yes, we’re staying on the same subject as the previous point but this time looking at it from a different angle.
Customers love free shipping and it will certainly boost your conversion rate. Making it work financially from your end is a separate matter and of course it’s not always possible for a number of reasons. Our focus here is what to do when you can offer it.
If you offer free shipping, even for a limited time or only with qualifying purchases, make sure you announce it on the product pages, on the cart page and at checkout. Remind customers at every point that they are getting something for FREE! and so now is the perfect time to buy! Again, how you make free shipping work is up to you but there is no doubt that it will impact conversions immediately.
#7 Prioritize abandoned cart recovery strategies
Around 80% of products placed in carts are left there without a purchase being made. But, as the saying goes, this particular problem can definitely be turned into an opportunity.
There’s no reason to give up on abandoned carts. If a customer has already made it 98% of the way to a conversion, why not help them with the last 2% instead of waiting for someone else to start the process from the beginning? Focusing on abandoned carts can deliver quick wins for any online store. There are effective strategies available to bring customers back to complete their purchase, even for non-registered, anonymous users. Pop-ups, email and web push notifications can all be used to remind them about what they left behind and you can even sweeten the deal with discounts or other incentives if you want.
Reaching out to customers to complete a transaction they’ve already started is a fully-automated process that can deliver excellent ROI. The number of products sitting in carts in your online store is much higher than you think—how much income would you get from converting, say, just 10% of them?
#8 The omnichannel approach is the only approach
Customer touch points are spread across an increasingly wide range of mediums. The challenge starts with the offline / online divide. Those online interactions take place on multiple platforms. Those platforms are accessed both on desktop and mobile. With every click and page visit, customers are telling you what they’re interested in, but how can you keep up when your communication is so fragmented?
This is where omnichannel capabilities come in, usually in the form of a unified customer relationship management tool (CRM) that is fully integrated with all the channels and platforms where you’re active. A CRM specifically designed for ecommerce puts you another step ahead.
A comprehensive omnichannel approach is the only way to gather, manage and apply the signals that your customers send you every day. With omnichannel capabilities, you can create more detailed and accurate customer profiles across all touch points. A page visit here creates new dynamic content there, a product added to a cart on one platform triggers a reminder on another. Without an omnichannel approach, you’re only hearing part of what customers are telling you. When you can listen and respond to everything, you’re a step closer to a conversion.
#9 It’s still true in the online age – create a sense of urgency
Creating a sense of urgency has long been a component of traditional retail but ecommerce methods can make it particularly effective. Giving customers a reason to buy now can be the deciding factor behind any purchase. Timed promotions, limited offers, countdown clocks—they all put the focus on completing the transaction as soon as possible.
With the right ecommerce tools, you can go even further. Real-time displays showing stock levels or how many other customers are viewing a product page and countdown clocks for same-day shipping can all create the sense of urgency you need to close a sale. When integrated with email campaigns, your store can use targeted messages that promote sale items or timed special discounts and get outstanding open and click-through rates.
Shouting “Buy now!” doesn’t give shoppers a reason to buy now. Strategies that lead customers to come to that conclusion by themselves work much better.
#10 Don’t make them search for the search bar
When it comes to search bars, size and location matter. If you don’t have a prominent, visually distinct search bar on your ecommerce site, change it right now. Make it a little oversized and place it in the middle of your page or on the right-hand side. Tons of eye-tracking research and A/B tests have already been done on this and the results are in—there’s no need for you to reinvent the wheel here. If you don’t believe us, pick any successful ecommerce site and look at their search bar.
See, we told you so.
Why is this important? Because a wider search bar gets more search requests simply because it looks more inviting. A large visual element on your site attracts attention and a search bar makes customers think about what else they might be interested in. That means more engagement, more time spent on your site and higher chances for everything that leads to a conversion.
#11 Understand the significance of first purchases
It’s a cliché in ecommerce but it’s true—getting customers to make their first purchase is the hardest but most important thing you can do. It’s also true that 98% of visitors to your site won’t buy anything, so getting even a small portion of them to change their minds can be a great source of sales.
A special offer for first-time buyers can be just what you need. In exchange for signing up to your newsletter, you can offer a discount coupon, free shipping or some other reward that’s only valid for their first order. This helps to break the psychological barrier and establish the trust that comes with making a successful purchase. Do your job right and you’ve got a chance at repeat business. Also, using this strategy not only gives you a shortcut to an easy sale, but you gather valuable customer data on the signup form that you can use immediately for personalizing their future visits. Score! Remember that gathering data is right behind making the sale when it comes to the success of your ecommerce operation.
#12 Are you sure you want to leave us? Use exit intent strategies
Exit intent tools turn visitors into subscribers and customers. They work using methods you’ve probably seen as a site visitor yourself. When a customer begins to leave a site, a pop-up appears with a text like “Leaving so soon?”, along with some kind of encouragement to stay. They’re great for reducing abandoned cart rates, creating leads and keeping customers on the site.
It’s important to remember that exit intent tools, like some other items on this list, don’t have to achieve a massive success rate in order to help drive conversions. They’re a component of an overall strategy. If exit intent tools can deliver, for example, a three percent improvement and the other components each do the same, together they can have a dramatic effect on the revenue you get from the same level of traffic you already have. Focusing on increasing that traffic is fine, but remember you can also profit from making the most of what you have now.
#13 Use micro-conversions
Attracting, engaging and converting customers often requires a long-term strategy. Making it possible for customers to take smaller steps along the way before they commit to making a purchase can help. Enabling micro-conversions can slowly build the trust and engagement you need.
These can be any transactions that involve clicks, email addresses or anything else besides money. Getting someone to sign up to your newsletter is a micro-conversion. So is downloading an ebook or guide, answering a question on a forum or anything that helps to establish a connection. Think of them as early stages in a sales funnel with a payoff that may be far in the future but still worth pursuing. Again, small bits of data and casual engagement are better than none at all. Keep nurturing their interest in any way you can and let the natural progression make its way towards a sale.
#14 Mobile responsiveness is a must
Ecommerce passed a fascinating and meaningful tipping point a couple of years ago when, for the first time, more than half of all online transactions were completed using mobile devices. While mobile will never completely replace desktop transactions (uh...right?) it is clearly now the dominant platform for online sales.
If you’re not using a dedicated mobile app, your site needs to be 100% perfectly dynamic. This means that it automatically adapts to fit the dimensions of various screens on mobile devices. Understand that you simply cannot be successful, and perhaps not even survive, if your site isn’t completely mobile friendly. You have to fully recreate the same experience on your full site for mobile visitors—not a limited version, not most of the functionalities, all of it. Mobile users expect full functionality and convenience and if you don’t offer that, they will go elsewhere.
Remember that this extends beyond optimizing your site’s display for mobile. Your CTAs and all clickable content must be larger and easier to detect on the screen and interact with. Product images must be of very high quality and easily enlarged at high resolution.
Take out your phone and visit your own site—do you think it’s easily navigated by a first-time visitor? If not, you’re probably losing business at this very moment.
#15 Keep loading times to a minimum
Here’s a problem that kills many sales before they even get started. Long loading times are a major factor behind high site abandonment rates. Fair or not, you have a window that lasts for about three seconds before online customers will get tired of waiting. Optimizing your site’s loading time is a task that requires constant attention, both on the back and front ends.
This issue is often overlooked by those who aren’t aware of the difference that just one or two seconds can make. Some estimates put site abandonment rates at 40% once five seconds have passed without loading. Plus, many customers can interpret long loading times as representative of the quality of your operations generally. Given a choice between long loading times and waiting versus snappy performance and quick results, where do you think customers will go?
#16 Only use the very best product images
Just like long loading times and secure checkouts, the quality of the images you use on your site sends subtle clues to customers about the general level of professionalism in your online store. After all, if a site compromises on the quality of the graphics it uses, what else does it compromise on? Images of poor or unimpressive quality will be understood as a proxy for the quality of your store.
There are also more obvious reasons for providing customers with the best product images possible. Being able to see the product, up close and in high resolution, answers many customer questions. When they can see everything for themselves, it can remove concerns or doubts about whether or not they are interested. It can also help to reduce emails, calls and chat requests to your Customer Support since customers can answer many of their own questions by examining pictures.
Again, recreate the physical shopping experience as much as possible with quality product images.
#17 Social proof
Is there anyone left who doesn’t read reviews before making an online purchase? Probably not, and that should be a lesson for you.
There’s a good reason why it’s hard to find a successful online retailer that doesn’t include customer reviews. Social proof in the form of reviews and ratings not only gives new customers information about a product’s quality, but reassures them that they are making a good choice if the product is unfamiliar to them. It helps to remove doubts and make them confident that they will be happy with their purchase. From there, it’s just a short step to the checkout page and a successful conversion.
While reviews are the most common kind of social proof, there are other ways to use it on your site. Familiar examples include displaying the number of people who have bought or viewed a product in a certain time period, “Best Seller” labels and “Customers also bought…” suggestions. Another very effective social proof mechanism comes from the creation of multiple product categories—the more, the better. Why? Because more categories means more #1 products and that’s the strongest social proof there is.
Conversions are easier when customers believe they’re making the right choice, and that is made easier through social proof.
#18 Offer registration-free guest checkout
Checking out as a guest instead of setting up an account has quickly become very common for the simple reason that it delivers instant results.
It makes sense, right? Why derail the flow of the checkout process and put it all on hold while you make them fill in field after field when all they want to do is pay and go? Keep barriers to checkout low and customers will step right over them. Besides, if they make a purchase you’re going to get their personal details for the shipment anyway so why slow things down when they’re marching straight to the checkout lane?
Registration-free checkout can be also expedited through easy integrations with Facebook or Google that enable one-click jumps straight to the payment method page. Leave the demands to open an account back in 2009 where they belong and make it as easy and inviting as possible for all customers, but especially first-timers, to get what they want, pay and go.