You want to optimize your ecommerce site, but where do you begin? What do you look for? What page elements are worth evaluating?
At Conversion Sciences, we have a checklist that our team goes through when evaluating a new client website, and today, we’re going to share that checklist with you. This checklist includes virtually everything you’ll want to consider optimizing while putting together your own A/B testing campaign.
This is not a list of everything you should test. It’s a list of everything you should consider testing. Optimizing an ecommerce site requires strategy and prioritization. It would take an eternity to test every single item on this list using proper testing procedures.
But if there is anything on your site worth testing, I can tell you with 99% certainty that it’s on this list.
To make navigation easier, we’ve broken our ecommerce optimization checklist into 8 distinct categories. Select the category you wish to optimize in order to get started or simply scroll down to start with item #1.
- Sitewide Optimization
- Homepage Optimization
- Category Optimization
- Product Page Optimization
- Shopping Cart Optimization
- Checkout Optimization
- Dashboard Optimization
- Thank You Page Optimization
Section #1: Sitewide Optimization
1. Sticky Elements
Sticky elements are items that remain fixed on the screen as the users scrolls up or down. The most commonly stickied page elements are the header navigation bar. Stickied elements tend to attract focus and distract from other page elements, which means they can work both for and against you and should be including in your testing.
Elements to Consider in a Sticky Header or Footer
Elements that can be added to mobile and desktop stickies
2. Dropdown Menus
Dropdown menus are pretty straightforward and a staple of ecommerce sites and websites in general. They offer a quick understanding of the site’s information architecture and ready access to subcategories.
3. “Supernav” Dropdown Menus
“Supernav” Dropdown Menu
If you look at many of the largest online retailers, you will notice that certain dropdown menus expand into large fields with more items and added visual elements. We called these “supernavs” here at Conversion Sciences and they can be a powerful tool for highlighting specific offers, deals and product categories. They can be difficult for a visitor’s eyes to parse, so use carefully.
4. Hover or Click?
Should your dropdown menus open as soon as the user’s mouse cursor hovers over them? Or should they activate upon an actual click? It may not seem like a big difference, but it’s a potential item to test for. If poorly implemented, they can be a barrier to site navigation.
5. Re-Order Navigation
One of the most common problems we encounter is sub-optimal navigation ordering. Categories aren’t properly selected and ordered. Menus and menu item placement seems almost random. There is an argument for placing the most clicked navigation items toward the left or top. You can determine this using a heatmap report from CrazyEgg, HotJar, ClickTale and similar user testing tools.
6. Add Navigation Links
Another common problem we encounter is a lack of obvious navigation links to popular products or product categories. Ecommerce stores include feature images and headlines somewhere on the front page, but forget that they need to be added to the primary menus as well. Redundancy is not a vice, and when discussing your bread and butter products, it’s typically a virtue.
7. Change Link Copy
Your main navigation communicates your offering. Choosing the right words helps those who never click on your navigation. When testing navigation language, it is common to see an increase in conversions but no increase in clicks on the navigation elements we’re testing. Navigation is a way to communicate your value proposition and offering.
After determining that all the right links are present, look at the word choice for each link. Is there a more accurate or intuitive way to define that category or other link heading? Could you be more specific? More general? Are certain categories selling like crazy when the user enters the website directly via the product page but rarely being clicked on via navigation?
8. Visual Cues
Visual cues are visual elements that point the eye in a specific direction. Make sure that your visual cues are working for you rather than against you.
9. Add Value Proposition
It’s amazing how many ecommerce websites completely lack any discernible value proposition. While creating a unique value proposition can be a bit more difficult for stores offering numerous products, it doesn’t mean you should skip it altogether. Look for ways to define your value and pitch why visitors should continue shopping on your site at every opportunity.
Value Proposition Elements
Quickly give the visitor a reason to stay.
- Are you the cheapest, highest quality, or do you have the biggest selection?
- Do you have a generous return policy or warranty?
- Do you serve a niche in the marketplace?
- Do you have a unique brand voice?
10. Shopping Cart Dropdown or Modal
Shopping Cart Dropdown
When a customer clicks on that shopping cart icon in the navigation bar, what happens? Are they taken straight to the checkout page or does clicking trigger a dropdown or modal display? Customers wishing to review their shopping cart might prefer a dropdown. Customers wishing to get straight to checkout might be annoyed by the extra click. You’ll need to test to know how your visitors are responding.
Pro tip: Be sure to instrument your cart dropdown or overlay for tracking by analytics. It’s part of the purchase funnel.
11. Sitewide Search
Similar to navigation dropdowns, the search bar is a huge part of how visitors interact with an ecommerce website. Should yours be bigger? Should the written prompt be different? How should it fit into your layout? These are all important questions to ask when evaluating your overall navigation layout.
12. Related Items Based On User History
Related Items Based On User History
Upselling will reliably increase your average order value. Are you suggesting alternative or related products to browsers within your search algorithm? Where and how are you suggesting those products?
13. Header Content
If a visitor doesn’t find what she’s looking for in the body of a page, she will return to the top of the page. Your header should provide a next step.
Elements to consider in the Header
- Company Logo
- Value Proposition
- Return Policy
- Phone Number
- Value Proposition
- Click to call (Mobile)
- Live Chat
- Sitewide Promo
14. Footer Content
In its lonely home at the bottom of the page, footer elements don’t get seen as much by visitors. This is usually the basement location for search optimization copy and keywords. It can also be the last resort of a frustrated visitor. Consider all of the elements you would consider for the header. Check your heatmap reports as well. You might be surprised by the number of clicks you’re getting in your footer.
15. Channel-Dependent Pages & Elements
A group of power shoppers was recently discussing the retargeting ads delivered by one major apparel retailer. They unanimously decried the ads that featured a desirable product, and then dropped them on a page that didn’t have that product. Keep the promises you make to your visitors.
What can you offer visitors coming in from different traffic channels? Are they directed to channel-specific pages? Are they served dynamic content? This can have a massive impact on your success in converting users from each channel.
16. Email Collection Modal
Email Collection Modal
Email subscribers purchase at a significantly higher rate than social followers or new browsers. The question is how do you attempt to attract new subscribers? While users claim to find them annoying, popup modals tend to be very effective at converting visitors to subscribers.
17. Discount Modal
For ecommerce sites, one of the most effective types of modals is the discount modal. Users are already there to buy. Accepting a discount is a no-brainer.
18. Live Chat
Section #2: Homepage Optimization
19. Hero Shot
Your homepage’s hero shot is the above-the-fold area incoming visitors see as soon as they arrive. It’s one of the most important pieces of real estate on your website, and a top priority for split testing.
20. Dynamic or Static Heroes?
Dynamic Hero Shot
Should you utilize dynamic elements like sliders or other moving graphics? Or should you keep the page static? It’s important that you catch visitors’ attention here, but what that attention catches on is equally important.
Rotating carousels slow load times and only improve conversion rates if ordered properly and times perfectly. Large video backgrounds can bring a page to its knees, making the site seem slow and cumbersome.
21. Homepage Header Navigation
While many sites choose to keep their navigation consistent across the entire website, if there is any page where customization can be beneficial, it’s the homepage. This is the gateway to your business, and experimenting with different looks and functions on this specific page can be beneficial.
22. Homepage Value Proposition
Homepage Value Proposition
Just like you need to emphasize your value throughout the website, it is especially important that you present unique value on the homepage, and more specifically within the hero shot. Some ecommerce stores emphasize quality. Others emphasize price. Others emphasize special offers like discounts or free shipping. You’ll need to test to know what works best with your audience.
23. Should You Add A Video?
Promotional videos provide a fairly consistent boost to website conversion rates, although I have yet to see many examples of them being tested on eCommerce stores. If you are struggling to differentiate your brand, it’s definitely something to think about and consider testing for. Be cognizant of increases in load time.
24. Primary CTA
Does your homepage have a primary Call to Action (CTA) or a handful that stand out? If so, how can those be optimized? If not, should you have one or more?
25. Should You Highlight Popular Products?
Highlight Popular Product
Should you highlight popular products or products you are looking to push? How prominently? Where on the page?
26. Should You Highlight Special Deals?
Highlight Special Deals
If you are advertising a promotion in the marketplace, your main landing pages should mention the promotion. You can highlight special deals on the homepage, category pages, product pages, and even in the cart. Consider a small deals bar, big hero shot, or sidebar displays.
27. Should You Include Testimonials?
Customer or influencer testimonials can build trust and advance the value proposition on almost any page of the website.
28. Should You Highlight Top Categories?
Should you promote specific products or highlight product categories? Should they be displayed in your hero shot or somewhere else on the page?
Section #3: Category Optimization
29. Faceted Search
Faceted search allows browsers to adjust their selection criteria on the fly, allowing for very customized searches. If you offer a large inventory and don’t have faceted search, it’s something worth re-evaluating.
Consider testing the order of faceted search categories. Also play with unrolling some categories in the facet menu by default.
30. Sidebar Navigation
Sidebar navigation is one of those things that can help or hurt. While sidebar lists can guide a visitor to the products they are looking for, the tyranny of choice can make a page overwhelming. Sidebar navigation may help on some pages and hurt on others. Our testing indicates that it really depends on your site and your audience.
31. Adjust Image Sizes
In general, more detailed images perform better than stock manufacturer images. Ecommerce layout is all about maximizing the value of limited space. Are your images too small to make an impact? Are they too big, obscuring other important information?
32. Category CTAs
Should you just list your categories or include CTAs to prompt entrance? Are your category CTAs effective or do they need to be improved?
33. List View or Grid View?
On category and search results pages, visitors will have a preference for grid layouts or stacked list layouts. List layouts are easier for comparison. Grid layouts fit more products onto the screen. You may give visitors an option.
34. Modify Row & Column Count?
For sites with heavy traffic, sometimes something as simple as modifying the number of rows or columns can impact your conversion rate. Should you have 8 products per row or 3?
35. Category Page Product Information
Deciding what to display on category pages is critical and worthy of a series of tests. What product information should you display with each item? The options are almost limitless.
- Product Image
- Product title
- Product description
- Star rating
- Product options
- Stock availability
- Video or animation
Every audience will react differently.
36. What Type of Information Should Be Filterable?
There are many different ways to classify and categorize products. If you don’t offer enough filters, you can make searching difficult for users. If you offer too many options, you can create unhealthy friction in the browsing experience.
37. Endless Scroll or Pagination?
Do you break categories with hundreds of options into pages or do you use endless scroll? Most large retailers currently use pagination, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for every eCommerce business.
38. Should You Include Special Badges?
Editor’s choice, top picks for 2017, new items, bestsellers etc. Should you include special badges or keep all things equal?
Consider some of these.
- Editor’s choice
- Best Seller
- Limited Time
- Hot Item
- Free Shipping
- Save 25%
Section #4: Product Optimization
39. Primary Product Image
Your primary product image might just be the most important single element of your product page. Does the image optimally display the product? Is it high quality? Is it big enough?
40. Add to Cart Button
Where should the Add to Cart or other CTA button go on the page? How big should it be? What color should it be? What should the copy say?
41. Price Placement
Where should you list the price? How big and bold should it be? Should you make it look discounted even when it isn’t?
42. Product Reviews & Ratings
Product Reviews & Ratings
User reviews have become a core part of eCommerce, as modern consumers place more and more weight in feedback from other consumers. Should you display reviews or ratings? If so, where? How obvious should they be? Should you only show reviews if they meet a certain threshold?
43. Product Value Proposition
Should you dive right into the product description or include a one or two sentence product value proposition?
44. Shipping & Return Policy
Are your shipping and return policies obvious or hard to find? Do they encourage trust in your brand or make users skeptical? Weak policies can result in lower conversions, particularly with first-time customers.
45. Product Sizing Chart
Are you including a sizing chart to help potential buyers understand your product dimensions? If so, is this enhancing the user experience? If not, should you add one?
46. Cart Success Modal or Navigate to Cart?
Cart Success Modal
When a customer selects “Add to Cart”, does a modal popup or does it take them off page and directly to checkout? Modals tend to make it easier for users to continue shopping, while direct checkout navigation is more streamlined when you are expecting a single purchase.
47. Related Item Fields
When users are looking at a product, are you suggesting related or alternative products for them? This is Amazon’s #1 methods for increasing cart size.
48. Detail Sections
We believe that the Product Page should provide all of the information necessary for the visitor to buy. How you fit this information onto the product page is a question worthy of testing.
The options are many.
Visitors know how to scroll, so it may be find to simply list everything out, like Amazon. The question then becomes, what order?
You may have success with tabs or rollout sections that reveal the information with a click. Heatmap reports will give you an idea of which sections are most important. The most important should be open by default. Sections can be ordered top-to-bottom by visitor interest.
It’s important that key information is displayed pre-click, but it’s also important that non-essential information is available without being distracting.
49. Additional Social Proof
In addition to reviews, there are other forms of social proof that can be experimented with on your product pages. This could look like social sharing, displaying how many customers have already bought the product, influencer testimonials, etc. While reviews are fairly ubiquitous, other specific types of social proof might be even more powerful in your niche.
50. Trust Indicators
Could additional trust indicators improve your product page conversion rate?
51. Add to Wishlist
Wishlists let customers tell you exactly what to sell to them. If you don’t have a wishlist feature on your site, you should probably add one.
52. Additional Image Thumbnails
Additional Image Thumbnails
In addition to the primary product image, it’s important to evaluate additional images and the thumbnails displaying them. Are you including enough additional images? Do the image thumbnails displayed do a good job of showing off the product? Are they in the best possible order?
53. Project Scarcity
Are you including signs that indicate the product is scarce or in danger of running out? Whether legitimate or not, projecting scarcity on your product page can sometimes increase the conversion rate.
54. In Stock or Out of Stock?
Should you include copy indicating when a product is in stock or out of stock?
55. Image Hover
Should users be able to explore an image by hovering their mouse over it, or should you require them to click to explore the image?
56. Display Shipping Time
Should you display the estimated shipping time on the product page or wait until the customer begins checkout?
57. Promotion Messaging
Should you display special promotions on the product page, and if so, where?
Section #5: Cart Optimization
58. Proceed to Checkout Button
Proceed to Checkout Button
Where should the Proceed to Cart or other CTA button go on the page? How big should it be? What color should it be? What should the CTA copy say?
59. Cart Page or Straight to Checkout?
Should clicking on the shopping cart icon take users to a cart preview page or skip straight to the first page of checkout?
60. Continue Shopping Button
Where should the Continue Shopping button go on the page? How big should it be? What color should it be? What should the CTA copy say?
61. Discount Code Validation
Discount Code Validation
What happens when invalid discount codes are entered? Is the automated validation system bug-free and optimized to keep users engaged with the checkout process? Have you tried giving users who enter invalid codes a small, limited-time discount to encourage them to make the purchase?
62. Product Descriptions
Should you include product descriptions on the cart page? If so, how long should they be?
63. Product Images
How big should the product images be on the cart page? Where on the page should they go? Can you use them as a visual cue to draw users’ eyes to your primary CTA?
64. Upsell Items
Should you include related items, recently viewed items, or other upsell-focused items to the shopping cart page? If so, where on the page should you places them?
65. Visual Contrast & Hierarchy
You might notice that Amazon’s shopping cart page is very monochromatic. It all sort of looks the same, and while it’s not necessarily confusing, it doesn’t draw your eyes to anything in particular. Meanwhile Yandy.com’s shopping cart has contrasting colors with a very distinct visual hierarchy. The eye is clearly drawn to the checkout box in the middle-right of the page. Which style will work best for you?
66. Payment Options
Are you offering enough payment options? Are you letting your customers know about the options you currently provide? Should you make additional payment options obvious at the beginning of the checkout process like Yandy.com, or should you reveal them more subtlety when it’s time to process payment?
67. Shipping Time
Should you reveal estimated shipping time on the cart page or attempt to use it here as a selling point? Or should you save it for another point in the checkout process?
68. Shipping Cost
Should you display the shipping cost (or lack thereof) on the cart page or save it for elsewhere in the checkout process?
69. Price Display
How should you display product pricing on the cart page? Should it be highlighted? Minimalized? Should discounts be displayed next to the original price?
70. Project Scarcity
Are you including signs that indicate the product is scarce or in danger of running out? Whether legitimate or not, projecting scarcity on your cart page can sometimes increase the conversion rate.
71. Trust Indicators
Could additional trust indicators improve your cart page conversion rate?
72. Remove Navigation?
One question you have to ask is where in the checkout process (if anywhere) should navigation options be removed. Having general navigation options can sometimes be distracting and prompt cart abandonment. Should you remove navigation on the cart page or after users begin the checkout process?
73. Promotion & Coupon Entry
Should you allow users to enter promo codes and coupons on the cart page or wait to provide that option on the payment processing page or some other page in the checkout process?
74. Cart Visual Design
Cart Visual Design
Could a redesign improve your conversion rate? Are parts of your cart page visually unappealing? Does the page design reflect your brand? Should it be more design heavy or more minimalist?
75. Quantity Change Functionality
Should users be able to change the quantity of a given item in their cart from the cart page? Adding this functionality often enhances the user experience.
76. Multiple CTAs
How many CTAs are displayed on your cart page? How many should their be? Should their be multiples CTAs for the same link? Should their be multiple different CTAs? You’ll need to test to find out.
77. Add to Wishlist
Should you provide users with the option to add cart items to their Wishlist from the cart page?
Section #6: Checkout Optimization
78. Guest Checkout
Should you require all users to create an account or allow a guest checkout?
79. Add “Use Billing/Shipping Address” Checkbox
Use Billing Address
Most consumers have a billing address identical to their shipping address. Including a relevant checkbox that lets them copy/paste improves the user experience. At this point, most consumers expect this feature and will be annoyed if it’s not available, potentially even to the point of abandoning the checkout process.
80. Shipping ETA
Should you display the estimated time of arrival (ETA) before the order is placed? If so, there are quite a few different options and placements for offering shipping options and presenting the ETA.
81. Validation Errors
Validation errors and their accompanying notifications are a fundamental part of the checkout user experience. Any errors or sub-optimal elements can significantly hurt your conversion rate. Make sure that error notifications are obvious and specific, helping users quickly enter the correct info and proceed with checkout.
82. Checkout Copywriting
The copywriting throughout your checkout process is incredibly important. It’s not enough to just write something and leave it. If you want optimal results, you have to test.
83. Remove Sitewide Navigation?
One question you have to ask is where in the checkout process (if anywhere) should navigation options be removed. Having general navigation options can sometimes be distracting and prompt cart abandonment. Removing them, however, can sometimes annoy customers. You’ll need to test before you make a call.
84. Create Account Prompts
If you make account creation optional, where should you prompt guests to create an account? Should you prompt them multiple times or just once?
85. Add Trust Indicators
Could additional trust indicators improve your checkout conversion rate?
86. Add Risk Reversal Indicators
Money-back guarantees. Return policies. Quality assurance. Consumers fear risk, particularly when they are first ordering from your business. Highlighting policies that lower risk for the consumer is a great way to increase conversions.
87. Abandonment Remarketing Strategy
Do you have a pixel collecting data on your checkout page for remarketing ads? If not, you should.
88. Checkout Order Form
When collecting data from users, there is essential data that absolutely MUST be collected to deliver the product, and then there is non-essential data that is helpful for segmentation and marketing. The first category is just a matter of optimization. How can you request that info in the best possible way? The second category requires you to find a balance. How much can you ask for without creating too much friction?
89. Single vs. Multipage Checkout
There are case studies where splitting up the checkout process to multiple pages increased conversions. There are case studies where condensing the process to one page increased conversions. You’ll need to test to find out what works best for your audience.
90. Add Progressing Tracking
Letting users know where they are in the process and how far they have to go can encourage them to stick with you, particularly if your checkout process is longer than two pages. This can take the form of breadcrumbs or a progress bar or some other form of visual progress indication.
91. Custom Checkout or 3rd Party Solution?
It used to be that a custom built checkout was the only viable solution for creating a top-of-the-line checkout experience, but that simply isn’t the case anymore. Nowadays, there are some very high quality 3rd party solutions that have hundreds of built-in integrations for any service or function you could possibly think of. In fact, if your custom checkout was built more than 5 years ago, it is very likely you will benefit from switching over to a 3rd party solution.
92. Separate Checkout Subdomain?
Should you include your checkout under domain.com/checkout or checkout.domain.com?
93. 1 Column or 2 Column?
Single Column Checkout
Is there any significant performance difference between a single column checkout and a double column checkout?
94. Sticky Order Summary
Will a sticky order summary enhance the experience for consumers and increase conversions?
95. What To Expect Next
Telling visitors what to expect next at each stage of the checkout process can enhance trust and reduce abandonment. How can you do better at setting expectations throughout your checkout process?
96. CTA Buttons
We’ve touched on CTA buttons a number of times already, but they are just as important to test within the checkout process as they are everywhere else.
97. Promotion Code Entry
If you incorporate coupons and discounts into your marketing, it’s important that your promo code entry field is easy to find.
Section #7: Account Dashboard
99. Order Status
Order Status Dashboard
The goal of virtually any ecommerce business is to create repeat customers. You want people coming back to your site as often as possible, and one way to help facilitate this is with an active dashboard that provides up-to-date information on the status of customer orders. Are you providing your customers with the information they want?
100. Value Building Copy
The account dashboard is prime real estate for customer retention. It’s the portal through which returning customers will interact with your site or attempt to close their account. It’s a great place to have value building copywriting designed to keep them on your customer list. When was the last time your revisited this copy?
101. Reorder & Upsell CTAs
The dashboard is also a great place to upsell customers with special offers and data-based recommendations. Are you taking advantage of this?
102. Bulk Order Options
Would some of your customers buy more if they had a bulk order option?
103. Default Subscriptions
For subscription revenue models, are you providing users with a clear path to upgrade or modify their subscription? Are you re-enforcing the value from within the account dashboard or are you trying to retain customers by making cancellation difficult?
Section #8: Thank You Page
104. Add Survey
Thank You Page Survey
Converting a visitor into a buyer is really just the first step. What you do from here forward is equally, if not more important. Attempting to collect additional information about your new customer is one way to kickstart that next stage in the relationship with a better understanding of the customer.
105. Immediate Upsell
Is the most profitable post-sale option an immediate upsell? Or will that turn off new customers? This is a MUST TEST. Post-sale customers are already in purchase mode and might be in prime position for an upsell, but upselling can also backfire, so again… MUST TEST.
106. Email Signup
Thank You Page Email Signup
While email addresses are often collected during checkout, that doesn’t mean customers want to get your emails. Following up with an incentivised email signup offer prepares customers to receive future emails from you that aren’t strictly order related.
107. Encourage Social Sharing
Certain niches attract highly engaged customers who will happily advertise their purchase to friends, family, and followers. Are you giving these customers easy access to share about their purchases on social media? Is your open graph data setup correctly so that auto-click sharing generates attractive posts?
108. Account Creation
Thank You Page Account Creation
If you offer guest checkout, the Thank You Page is a great opportunity to prompt customer account creation. Is that the best use of this real estate for your business?
109. Encourage Referrals
Referrals are THE highest converting marketing channel in existence. If you can get your customers referring your product to their friends and family, you are virtually guaranteed additional customers. Have you tried utilizing your Thank You Page to encourage referrals?
110. Confirmation Email
Everything you can do via the Thank You Page you can also do via the confirmation email. Check out our confirmation email writeup here.
Are you still here?
That was a lot to cover, and there is no way you’re going to remember it all. If you think this is something you’ll use in the future, go ahead and download the checklist PDF below.
Download the Checklist