Whether you’re new to e-commerce or have been running an online store for some time, there is always room for improvement. Even if your enterprise is already enjoying reasonable success, the e-commerce sector doesn’t stand still and is becoming even more competitive. Therefore it’s valuable to reassess your strengths and weaknesses on a regular basis – only by doing this can your business grow.
In this article, we focus on improving conversion rates – a crucial element of any online store. By addressing these five areas of your e-commerce website, you should find your conversion increase, along with your profits.
Ease of navigation
Driving traffic to your site is all well and good, but if it is clunky and difficult to navigate then you’ll struggle to encourage people to buy your products. After all, if consumers can’t find what they’re looking for, they can’t buy it.
Start by carefully sorting your products into intuitive categories so that they can be found easily. For example, if you sell smartphone accessories it’s a good idea to create clear sub-categories for popular models. The navigation bar itself should also be as clear and intuitive as possible, so avoid getting too fancy with the design – usability comes first in this case, so place it horizontally at the top. In addition, it’s a good idea to make your search bar omnipresent, so your customers can search no matter which page they’re on.
If you’re satisfied with the navigational design of your site, but you’re still struggling to encourage people to add items to their cart and convert, it may be that your call-to-actions need some work. In e-commerce, call-to-actions largely consist of ‘buy now’ or ‘add to basket’ links, but not exclusively. For example, you should also include a clear call-to-action to collect email addresses for your mailing list. In this case, offer something of value such as a small discount to sweeten the deal.
The most important aspects in terms of implementation are design and placement. Bold and bright colors that stand out from the background are especially useful for attracting attention. The homepage, or storefront, is a great opportunity to use a large hero image to promote a product range or special offer – just be sure to keep above the fold so it’s immediately accessible.
A/B testing is the process of assessing the efficacy of two different versions of a webpage or an individual element. You can use this process for anything from call-to-actions (as discussed above), to copy and page layouts. As with a scientific experiment, first monitor the performance of a control version (A), and then monitor the variation (B) for the same length of time.
The criteria for success, and therefore the metrics you assess, may vary depending on what you’re testing; conversion rate is the most important in the context of this article, but you could also test for bounce rate and click through rate. Remember that other UX aspects of your site will contribute to your conversion rate, not just strictly transactional ones. For more information and inspiration on A/B testing, see here.
Speed and reliability
Consumers have little patience for websites that are slow to load, or are prone to technical issues. When confronted with these problems, visitors to your site will simply leave and buy from a competitor instead. A good place to start is by hosting your e-commerce site using a reputable company to reduce the risk of downtime. Some companies, including 1&1, combine hosting with e-commerce website building and marketing tools in one package, so it’s well worth investing in.
As for speed, there are multiple methods, but two of the most common and effective ways are browser caching and image optimization. Browser caching temporarily stores data in a visitor’s cache when they first load your website, meaning that data doesn’t have to be fetched from the server on subsequent visits. Find out how to enable caching here. Optimizing images is crucial for e-commerce, since most online stores contain a lot of product photos. Review your images and ensure they’re JPEG format, compress them, and crop them to match the width parameter on your website.
There are few things more annoying for customers than having to click through to the checkout to find out how much post and packaging costs. To increase your chances of conversion, provide this information upfront so the customer knows exactly what to expect.
Ideally you should offer free shipping, at least for items over a certain value – this makes it a lot easier to close the sale, and you can always offer next-day delivery at extra cost. If for whatever reason you can’t offer free shipping, include an element on product pages for users to calculate the shipping cost based on their zip code. This way, you prevent them from having to navigate to a different page.
There are obviously more ways to optimize your conversion rate. What’s important is for you to start addressing those area and implementing what’s suggested, one change at a time – the sooner the better.