10 Ecommerce Conversion Optimization Lessons from the World’s Top Retailers

10 ways ecommerce sites can boost conversions

The global average conversion rate for ecommerce stores is 2.32%.

Some stores, however, manage to get rates as high as 10%.

Just how do they do it?

Some may attribute it to the quality of their products. Others might point to the quality of their traffic. But if you dig deeper, you’ll find that the world’s top retailers invest in creating an optimized experience for their customers.

For a store struggling to convert browsers into customers, there’s a lot to be learned from these retailers. So in this post, I’ll show you how some of the world’s best performing stores use conversion rate optimization to get more customers.

1. Reassure ecommerce customers of their financial safety

A third of your customers hesitate to punch in their credit card details because of recent data breaches at major retailers. Reassuring customers that that their credit card information is safe at all times is a proven way to improve conversion rates.

For example, when you try to checkout on Alibaba.com, you see a bunch of badges assuring the buyer of the store’s security credentials:

Alibaba's security credeintials
Alibaba’s security credeintials

On NewEgg.com, you’ll see similar badges on the site’s footer:

New Egg's credentials
New Egg’s credentials

On ThinkGeek.com, there’s a separate section on its website detailing the site’s payment security protocols:

Think Geek's payment security protocols
Think Geek’s payment security protocols

WalMart.com has a separate section on its website to educate customers about its privacy and security policies.

Walmart's page devoted to online security
Walmart’s page devoted to online security

2. Offer multiple payment options

Some of your customers prefer to use their credit cards, some others like to use their existing Paypal balance. By limiting available payment options, you make it harder for customers to finish their purchase. In fact, one survey found that 56% of customers expect multiple payment options at checkout.

Take a look at the number of payment options Alibaba offers through Alipay:

Alibaba payment options
Alibaba payment options

Note that Alipay also localizes the payment form. If you’re accessing the site from China, you’ll see methods that American customers don’t.

Note that Alipay also localizes the payment form. If you’re accessing the site from China, you’ll see different methods available to you than a US-based customer
Note that Alipay also localizes the payment form. If you’re accessing the site from China, you’ll see different methods available to you than a US-based customer

Amazon isn’t far behind either. It also offers multiple payment options on its checkout page:

Amazon's payment options
Amazon’s payment options

Most payment processors will let you accept payments via credit cards, debit cards and even bank transfers. You can also integrate Paypal on the checkout page to give customers another option to buy your products.

3. Make cart contents visible at all times

“What items are in my cart right now?” This is a question your customers have likely asked themselves as they browse through your products.

To get an answer, they have to click on the ‘Cart’ icon and navigate away to another page. This halts the customer momentum and creates friction in the purchase process.

Remove this friction by making the contents of your visible at all times.

For example, once you add a product to your cart on Quiksilver.com, you can see the cart contents by simply moving your mouse over the cart button.

Hover view of shopping cart on Quicksilver
Hover view of shopping cart on Quicksilver

Macy’s does the same. After adding a product to the cart, the cart contents are shown by hovering the mouse over the shopping bag icon.

Hover view of Macy's shopping cart
Hover view of Macy’s shopping cart

Customers easily see what all they’ve already added to their cart without navigating away from the page.

4. Enhance trust by emphasizing awards, testimonials and certifications

With revenues of $2.6B, NewEgg is one of the largest private companies in America. Yet, NewEgg uses several trust markers on its site to assure customers of its legitimacy.

Scroll to the site’s footer and you’ll see a link to its awards and rankings. On this page, NewEgg offers a comprehensive list of all the recognition it has received:

New Egg's many awards and certifications
NewEgg’s many awards and certifications

In an industry (computer parts sales) where authenticity is crucial, such external validation helps assure that customers of the retailer’s trust worthiness.

NorthernTool.com takes a different approach – it highlights how the business has been “family owned and operated” for 30 years in its footer:

Northern Tool offers assurance by stating how long it has been operating
Northern Tool offers assurance by stating how long it has been operating

Try creating a similar page on your site listing any public recognition you might have received. This can be a blurb from a prominent publisher, an award, or a testimonial.

5. Use HTTPS/SSL to enhance ecommerce security

After the recent string of data breaches at major retailers, your customers are obviously nervous about data security.

Adding a SSL certificate to your site – particularly the checkout pages – can help restore some of their confidence.

This is particularly true for users on modern browsers like Chrome or Firefox which highlight SSL certificates in the address bar.

Take a look at the SSL certificate visible on NewEgg after you add a product to your cart:

New Egg's SSL certificate
New Egg’s SSL certificate

This is a quick, cheap way to give your store a security boost. Plus, it might also help with your SEO since Google favors sites with HTTPS/SSL.

6. Humanize your company to increase trust

If you scroll down to the footer at Overstock.com, you’ll see something unique: a link to the CEO’s Twitter feed.

Overstock gives you an easy way to access its CEO
Overstock gives you an easy way to access its CEO

Remember: people like buying from other people, not faceless corporations. For large businesses like Overstock, this is a particularly big problem. Adding the CEO’s Twitter feed on the homepage shows that there are real people with real values behind the business.

That’s just one way to humanize your store. Another way is to tell customers your origin story, your mission and your key people on your About page.

Here’s how Zappos does it:

Zappos humanizes itself by proving it has a sense of humor
Zappos humanizes itself by proving it has a sense of humor

By calling its CEO/COO/VPs “monkeys”, Zappos tells the customer that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Zappos takes this far beyond the About page. It also offers customers and other business owners tours of its offices, conducts Q&A sessions to help them understand Zappos’ culture, and shares its reading lists and core values with site visitors.

Sharing information about your company's culture has a humanizing effect
Sharing information about your company’s culture has a humanizing effect

You don’t have to go that far, of course. Even something simple as a company blog can go a long way in creating more trust.

For example, take a look at Patagonia’s employee blog: The Cleanest Line.

Patagonia's employee blog shares their outdoor adventure experiences and insights, it doesn't directly sell any Patagonia products
Patagonia’s employee blog shares their outdoor adventure experiences and insights; it doesn’t directly sell any Patagonia products

7. Offer unique methods to visualize or test products

Putting up high resolution imagery is old hat in conversion optimized design. To stand out from the competition, you have to find more compelling ways to help customers test or visualize your products.

MyHabit’s (an Amazon deals site) 360-degree videos are a great example of this. The video plays seamlessly when a customer hovers over the video button, showing off the product in rich detail.

360 degree views on My Habits
360 degree views on My Habits

Not all products require a video or 360-degree images though. For stores with limited items, creating dedicated landing pages is a great idea as well.

See how Apple does it for all its products:

Apple uses clean and unusual shots to display their products
Apple uses clean and unusual shots to display its products

Of course, not all product presentations have to be visual in the traditional sense. Costco sells printers by mailing prospective customers a sample page from the printer.

A mailed test page is a clever way to show customers how the product performs without setting up a physical store
A mailed test page is a clever way to show customers how the product performs without setting up a physical store

This is a clever way to show the customer how the product actually performs without actually setting up a physical store.

8. Assure customers of free shipping at a single glance

In a survey of holiday shoppers, 93% of respondents said that free shipping drove them to take action. Free shipping also ranked as the second biggest factor in ecommerce purchases.

Telling customers front and center about your shipping policies is a good way retain visitors. Place this declaration in a highly visible area above the fold, preferably before customers have even had a chance to browse through your products.

For example, ASOS shows its shipping policies right below the navigation menu:

ASOS's prominent shipping policies
ASOS’s prominent shipping policies

This tells both local and international customers whether it’s actually worth spending time on your store.

JCPenney does something similar – you can see exactly how much you need to spend to get free shipping.

JCPenney's shipping policy
JCPenney’s shipping policy

This acts as an incentive as well. Customers who are unwilling to pay for shipping might bump up their order value to avail free shipping benefits.

Stores with physical locations can go a step beyond free shipping and highlight in-store pickup on their homepages as well.

For example, on Macy’s, you’ll see a big banner advertising its order-online, pickup in-store policy:

Macy's shipping policy is unique so is very easy to find
Macy has a unique return policy, so they’ve made it very easy to find.

It’s also a good idea to highlight your return policy if you’re selling products customers are anxious buying online. For example, AutoZone gives customers assures customers that they can return their purchases in any store, no questions asked.

Auto Zone's shipping polices
AutoZone’s shipping polices

9. Create product pages that fit your customer personas

Your customers will use your store in different ways. Some will dig through technical specs, while others will browse through dozens of reviews before pulling the trigger.

Creating product pages that fit each of your customer personas is crucial for a high-converting ecommerce experience.

For example, NorthernTool.com gives visitors an option to print out reviews for the product:

Being able to print easily is important for Northern Tool's personas
Being able to print easily is important for Northern Tool’s personas

This is necessary since a lot of NorthernTool’s customers are older people who prefer to read on paper instead of a computer/smartphone screen.

In contrast, NewEgg’s customers are very tech savvy. To appeal to these users, NewEgg gives a detailed rundown of each product’s technical specifications:

Technical depth might overwhelm users on another site, but New Egg's personas demand it in order to make a purchasing decision
Technical depth might overwhelm users on another site, but New Egg’s personas demand it in order to make a purchasing decision

Such technical depth might overwhelm users on another store, but for NewEgg’s savvy customers, this is a necessity for making a purchase decision.

10. Help customers buy with guides, ideas and how-tos

Creating content that helps customers choose products offers four benefits:

  • Helps your store get social shares and traffic.
  • Improves your SEO by attracting backlinks and expanding your keyword footprint.
  • Increases ecommerce conversion rates by helping customers choose a product that fits their requirements.
  • Increases average order value by recommending higher priced products to customers.

This strategy is particularly effective for stores that sell difficult-to-buy products such as DIY supplies, computer components, etc.

For example, Lowe’s creates a ton of content aimed at helping DIY enthusiasts. This content is displayed prominently on the nav bar under “Ideas & How-Tos”.

Lowe's free how-to guides
Lowe’s free how-to guides

eBay takes things one step further by letting users create guides of their own. Such user-generated content (UGC) helps eBay attract a massive amount of targeted search traffic.

User generated content UGC helps eBay attract a massive amount of targeted search traffic
User generated content UGC helps eBay attract a massive amount of targeted search traffic

Kate Spade ditches the buying guide in favor of a Tumblr blog. This blog curates styles, pictures and even quotes that help customers choose while also propagating the Kate Spade brand.

Kate Spade Tumblr
Kate Spade Tumblr

For a number of upcoming retailers, content is the foundation of their entire store. For example, men’s fashion retailer MrPorter was originally a blog that turned into a store. Even today, its online magazine is the central focus of the store.

MrPorter's online magazine
MrPorter’s online magazine

Creating such helpful content can be a potent strategy for getting more traffic, more conversions and bigger orders.

Conclusion

Globally, conversion rates for ecommerce stores vary considerably. While a few stores struggle to get 2-3% conversion rates, top retailers convert as many as 10 out of every 100 visitors.

To get such high conversion rates, top retailers use a number of tactics. These range from mitigating customer risk to creating quality content that helps people choose the right products. By using similar tactics on your store, you can radically increase conversion rates and boost your revenue without a change in your traffic or product-line.

Key Takeaways

  • Use security badges, multiple payment options and third-party rankings, awards and certifications to underscore your store’s safety and trustworthiness.
  • Reduce friction in the buying process by making your cart visible at all times.
  • Tell customers about your shipping and return policies as soon as they land on your site.
  • Create product pages that address FUDs specific to your customer personas.
  • Create content that helps customers buy in order to get higher conversion rates and more traffic.

About the Author

Khalid Saleh headshotKhalid Saleh is the co-founder and CEO of Invesp Conversion Optimization, a leading provider of conversion optimization software and services. Invesp’s Pii powerful A/B testing engine allows users to test unlimited variations of a landing page and offers them a quick turnaround on ROI. Follow Invesp on Twitter, Youtube and Google+ for latest conversion rate optimization tips.

Feature image by Polycart via Compfight cc.

Categories: Ecommerce