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10 tips for mastering e-commerce conversion rate optimization

According to a recent study conducted by Compass, the average conversion rate for e-commerce stores is just 1.4%, with top performers achieving around 3%.

While this may come as no surprise to anyone who manages or markets an e-commerce store, the reality is that the average marketer sees only one sale delivered from every 100 visits.

Do you want to be just average? Or do you want to be better than the rest? Better than your competitors? If so, you need to ensure that your conversion rate is better than average and converts as many visitors into purchasers as possible. You need to aim to achieve a conversion rate which exceeds 1.4% and comes in closer to 3%. Achieving higher may be possible in some industries, however for the most, 3%  should be seen as the upper target.

Luckily (or perhaps unluckily), most e-commerce stores suffer from some common issues. Issues which, in many cases, are relatively quick and easy to fix.

Here are 10 tips for mastering e-commerce conversion rate optimization:

1. Never Underestimate the Power of a Search Box

With an estimated 30% of visitors using the search box of an e-commerce store to quickly find the products which they’re looking to buy, it’s important to take the time to ensure you are using this to your advantage.

First, ensure that you clearly display a search box in a prominent position in your store. That means that it shouldn’t be hidden away in the footer of the site or even below the fold. Make it easy for those looking for it to find your search box and don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

The search box should, in most cases, sit within the header section of your site. However it’s not uncommon for this to now be the primary above-the-fold focus on some stores. Why? Because it’s disruptive and does a fantastic job of leading a consumer on their journey through your store. What could be clearer than offering the opportunity to search for products rather than trying to navigate menus?

This has become almost commonplace in the travel industry, with hotel and flight searches taking center stage.

It’s not only seen in the travel space, however, and there’s becoming a real justification to do something a little different and offer this sort of search option when selling everything from fashion to electronics.

Take a look at these eight great examples of great e-commerce site search on the Lemonstand blog.

Secondly, ensure that your site search returns relevant results. All too often, users search for a product only to be returned no results. This is a surefire way to pass your hard-earned traffic over to your competitors.

If for any reason you don’t stock a product being searched for, look at ways to return an alternative or, at the very least, get creative with how you can encourage a different search to be made or navigation to be made in a different way. For some inspiration, check out this post from which shares 50 ‘no results page’ examples.

2. Offer Universal Free Shipping

Charging for shipping (especially when your competitors aren’t) can be a conversion killer for e-commerce stores. It’s absolutely vital that you regularly monitor what your competitors are offering in order to be able to at least match what they’re doing or, ideally, better it.

Not all stores will be able to offer completely free shipping as this, of course, depends on upon the products being sold and the costs associated with dispatching an order. Where possible, however, take the time to experiment with the effect which removing all shipping costs has upon both revenue and profit.

Offering free shipping allows consumers to make purchase decisions based solely upon the price of goods and makes it far easier to compare the total cost of an order between different retailers. This can be an especially useful tool if you offer the lowest total cost and are retaining low-value consumables.

In instances where you are unable to offer free shipping on all orders, test the effect of decreasing the ‘Free Shipping Over…’ threshold.

In short, keep a close eye on what your competitors offer on this front and explore ways to not only match but better their pricing.

3. Implement Independent Reviews

As a consumer, reviews collected by a retailer themselves often raise a slight concern as to their authenticity. At the end of the day, if you read a review directly on a merchant’s e-commerce store, what’s to say that it is genuine and hasn’t been left as a result of gifting or offering financial incentives? Trust is one of the reasons for a poor conversion rate of an e-commerce store.

Whilst many retailers have recently claimed that less than 2% of reviews are spurious, experts suspect that the actual percentage could be far higher.

It’s important that marketers give consumers a reason to trust the reviews and ratings left by previous customers and the easiest way to do this is to sign up an independent reviews platform. While Trustpilot is perhaps the most established and widely-used option available, both Feefo and Reviews offer comparable solutions, all of which work in the same way.

Reviews and ratings can still be embedded and shared on your e-commerce store and consumers love the fact that, in most cases, the platforms are automated while allowing independent, third party, reviews to be collected.

4. Offer Live Chat Support

Love it or hate it; live chat can work wonders for e-commerce stores looking for additional ways to engage with potential customers and clients and to be there to answer quick and easy questions from those who would prefer not to pick up the phone or wait for an email reply.

If a user has a quick question which they want answering before completing a purchase, they may not have the time available to pick up the phone or await an email response. Live chat, however, can usually deliver an answer in these cases within just a few minutes.

If you’re not offering answers to questions within product descriptions and fail to offer a simple solution to allow these to be asked, there’s a chance you’ll lose the sale.

The likes of Zopim or Olark offer completely free of charge plans which can be a great way to test the water and establish whether live chat works for your business and can help to drive an increase in conversion rate.

Be sure to allow your users to leave a message at times when your support team is offline.

5. Communicate Your Value Proposition

Perhaps the one question you need to ask yourself when considering ways to improve the conversion rate of your e-commerce store is, “What sets you apart from the competition?”

Too many stores fail to communicate their value proposition to potential clients and customers; that is, making it easy and straightforward to understand what makes them different and why someone should purchase from them and not their competitors.

Your value proposition could be your own products, your price point, your knowledge, and experience or even your ability to have purchases delivered faster than anyone else, but if users aren’t aware of it, how can they use it to make a purchase decision?

If your e-commerce store isn’t effectively showcasing the ways in which you add value to customers, take the time to make changes to ensure that it does so in a clear and concise manner.

6. Improve the Quality of Your Product Images

According to a recent infographic by NuBlue which looks at ‘The Anatomy Of A Perfect E-Commerce Store,’ customers no longer want to browse a website, they want to experience it.

This, in many ways, couldn’t be closer to the truth and is one of the reasons why we’ve seen a real transformation in the quality and creativity of product images in recent years.

To get straight to the point; if your product photos are low quality and unimaginative, you will lose sales.

Consumers want to see not only the very highest quality images alongside a product, but also those which present it in an in-use setting. You can no longer get away with product images which showcase your goods on a white background – you must take the time to show them being used.

Invest high-quality, creative images and you’ll undoubtedly get this investment back in a higher conversion rate.

7. Take Time to Perfect Your Product Descriptions

Whilst it may be common sense to most; you’d be surprised at how many e-commerce stores simply use stock product descriptions supplied by the manufacturer of a product.

Not only does this present duplicate content issues, it also offers a less-than-optimal user experience.

There’s a good chance that a user has already touched upon a manufacturer’s stock description at some stage during their buying cycle and for that reason it pays to take the time to perfect your produce descriptions. Yes, a great copywriter won’t come cheap but the resultant increase in conversions from getting descriptions right will outweigh any costs.

Start by compiling a list of your ten most popular products and have a professional copywriter work with you and your team (especially your sales team) to refine and perfect the descriptions. Turn your product descriptions into great stories. Track conversion rates over a monthly period, both before and after rolling out the copy and, in the likely event that you see an increase, you’ll have the confidence to go ahead and invest in having each one of the site’s product descriptions rewritten.

8. Invest in Product Video Content

Video is the closest a consumer can get to a product without actually holding it in their hands, and it’s one of the main reasons why those retailers who make the investment in videos are showcasing significant levels of growth.

When a user is able to see a product up close, they are far more likely to convert; even if they’re not able to physically touch it.

Video goes a long way to bridging the gap between online and offline transactions. It’s strongly recommend that you initially roll out video content across your top performing products in order to be able to justify the production costs associated with filming and producing.

Always ensure videos are prominent and clearly labelled, and work on a page layout which takes this into account.

9. Use Clear Progress Indicators on the Checkout

In 2015, the average basket abandonment rate was 68% – which means that two-thirds of online consumer who add something to their basket are failing to complete the purchase.

ConversionXL  has done a fantastic job of compiling ‘The Ultimate Guide To Increasing E-Commerce Conversion Rates” which highlights some of the key reasons why so many consumers are filling baskets only later to abandon them.

One of the tried-and-tested ways to reduce this, however, is to utilise clear progress indicators on the checkout for your site as this can help to show consumers how many steps are left in the purchase process or, in the case of simple checkout pages, how far through it you are.

10. Offer Multiple Payment Gateways

Last but not least; always ensure that you offer multiple payment gateways.

It may be simpler for you to only accept PayPal, not every consumer wants to use this payment platform and, as such, it’s important that you offer more than one gateway. Look into options to accept credit and debit cards directly as well as considering newer gateways such as Amazon.

By offering more than one payment gateway, you’re effectively covering all your bases and can ensure that basket and checkout drop-offs are not caused by issues relating to accepted payment methods.


The bottom line is that if your e-commerce store doesn’t tick all of the above boxes, there’s more than likely room for improvement and a real chance to generate additional conversions without growing traffic. Conversion rate optimization is not a one-off project, rather something which needs to be baked into your wider digital marketing strategy. Ultimately, increasing your conversion rate means a better ROI from marketing spend and for that reason alone is why it’s something which no marketer should ignore.

If you’re responsible for the marketing of an e-commerce store, do yourself a favour and put in place a plan to action the above tips in the coming weeks.

by James Brockbank
source: SEJ

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