Discover how top retailers hit 10% conversion rates by using these eCommerce optimization tips that increase trust and interest from customers.

The global average conversion rate for eCommerce stores is 2.32%. Some online 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 eCommerce 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. Retail Conversion Tips: Reassure eCommerce Customers of their Financial Safety

Curious to find out how the world’s top retailers grow their conversion rates? 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 credentials

Alibaba’s security credentials

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. eCommerce Optimization Tips: 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. Great eCommerce Optimization Tips: 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. Retail Conversion Tips: 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 much needed security boost.

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. eCommerce Optimization Tips: 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. eCommerce Optimization Tips: Help Customers Buy with Guides, Ideas and How-Tos

Creating content that helps customers choose products offers three benefits:

  • Helps your store get social shares and traffic.
  • 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.

10 eCommerce Conversion Optimization Tips from the World’s Top Retailers Summary

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.

Here are several questions about applying conversion science to ecommerce sites. These questions came from the sponsors of the GP Ecommerce Summit in Bucharest, Romania.

  1. Can we consider Conversion Rate Optimization a real science?

What defines a science? The Scientific Method.

  1. Assume we know nothing about a problem
  2. Research it
  3. Develop hypotheses
  4. Select the most likely hypothesis for testing
  5. Design a test that isolates that hypothesis
  6. Run the test using sound statistical methods
  7. Evaluate with post-test analysis
  8. Draw a conclusion
  9. Use the new information to formulate new hypotheses
  10. Repeat

I’ve just described our six month Conversion Catalyst process to you. We “science the sh*t” out of websites. Without the science, we make bad decisions, emotional decisions, decisions based on superstition and myth.
There is also a component of sport in conversion optimization. We are in this to win. While we must be objective, we like to find revenue and hate when our tests are inconclusive.

  1. What are the first steps you have to take if you wish to increase your conversion rate on your e-commerce website?

My recommendation is that ecommerce sites focus on the value proposition their offering. This is a combination of your categories (what you sell), your shipping policy, your return policy and your brand.
Zappos built an amazing online brand by putting its value proposition front and center, “Free shipping both ways. 365 day return policy. Empowered customer support people.”
What is your value proposition? Fast delivery? Local manufacturing? Free installation? Donations to charity with every purchase? Emphasize it on your site, in your cart and throughout checkout.

  1. How do you create a good landing page and what are the best ways to test it?

The best landing pages keep the promise of the ad, link or post that brought the visitor there. They make an offer that matches the promise as exactly as possible. They show the product, even if it is a service or a PDF or a video series. Good landing pages provide proof points that are specific and supported by fact. Good landing pages build trust by borrowing from customers and customers. Good landing pages make the call to action the most prominent thing on the page. And good landing pages don’t add any distractions, such as social media icons, links to other pages or corporate site navigation.
This is the chemical equation for landing pages: Offer + Form + Image + Proof + Trust = Landing Page

The chemistry of the landing page

The chemistry of the landing page

  1. Can persuasive writing help you sell more online or do you need more than that? For example, how do you test a good headline?

Most of our biggest wins come from copy changes, like headlines. We are even testing different kinds of testimonials on one site to see which build the most trust. The words are very important. This is related to the value proposition I discuss above. When you learn the emotional language that brings visitors into your site, you learn something about your audience. This insight can be used anywhere.

  1. What is an important point you want to drive home?

There is a wave of ecommerce sites rushing to rebuild their sites using responsive web design (RWD). This is in part due to Google and Mobilegeddon, but few can ignore the growing influence of mobile devices on our revenue. This rush to RWD is a mistake for many businesses who will find themselves with a poorly performing mobile site and a lower conversion rate on their redesigned desktop site. Tragic.
You should embrace your mobile visitors, and there are alternatives to RWD. I’ve seen some redesign horror stories and some pretty amazing success stories. Mobile design is still too new for there to be best practices, but our testing tells us what successful mobile designs should begin to look like.

  1. How do you remember the ecommerce market in the USA from 10 years ago?

Ten years ago, we didn’t have the data tools we have today. We relied much more on qualitative research. Most of my work was building out personas, making content recommendations and working with “best practices”. Google Analytics was young. We had been using server logs to get unreliable data on visitors. Only a few years before I had written my own web analytics package to get an idea of what was working on my sites.
Today, we have amazing qualitative and quantitative tools to uncover problems with our websites. We enjoy powerful testing tools to help us determine exactly what effect our changes will have on our businesses. We are creating revenue in the laboratory using science and creativity. We have moved from the tool-building phase into the human creativity phase. It’s a very exciting time to be an online business.
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For those of you who optimize, and benefitted from a more efficient online store or higher lead conversion rate this holiday season, we straighten our lab coats and salute. You should enjoy one of our more cheerful holiday treats.
For those that aren’t going into this holiday season with a 20%, 30% or more revenue lift from this year’s optimization efforts, we offer this cautionary tale set to the music of Timbaland feat. One Republic.

2016 is just around the corner. Don’t be singing this song next year.

Sing along to the instrumental video at the bottom of the post.

I’m holding onto hope
Got the holidays coming ‘round
It’s Black Friday night
But my cart don’t make a sound
You tell me that you need me
Then you go and simply bounce
But wait…
You tell me that you’re sorry
Then you bought from someone else, and said…

That it’s too late to optimize, it’s too late
I should have hypothesized, it’s too late

I want another chance, make a call, add to cart, click through
And I need you like a heart needs a beat
(But that’s nothing new)
Yeah yeah

I offered you a discount, fifteen percent, it’s true
And you say
Sorry like the buyer Google let me think was you,
But I’m afraid

It’s too late to optimize, it’s too late
My shoppers were traumatized, it’s too late
Woahooo woah

It’s too late to optimize, it’s too late
No calls to super-size, it’s too late
I shouldn’t have compromised, it’s too late
I just didn’t realize, it’s too late
My site wasn’t quantified, it’s too late
I’m going to be down-sized, it’s too late
And now I am ostracized, it’s too late
A hanky to wipe my eyes, it’s too late

I’m holding onto hope
Got the holidays coming ‘round…

 

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What has the Conversion Scientist been reading lately?

AdExchanger: Why Do Mobile Users Not Buy On Mobile?

We believe that mobile traffic is every bit as important as desktop traffic. Many businesses walk away from their mobile traffic because it doesn’t convert well. This is a mistake.
Two points found in this article drive the point home:

  • App and Mobile Functionality (sucks)
  • Mobile Represents a Different Type of user

Spend some time on your mobile site. Don’t just create a responsive version of your desktop website.
Read more.

Marketizator: 25+ Tools That Conversion Rate Optimization Pros Can’t Ignore

I often say we’re living in a golden age of marketing, in which we can find data to answer almost any question we have. And these tools aren’t expensive. Every marketer can benefit from these tools with a little curiosity and patience.
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Nielsen Norman Group: Long-Term Exposure to Flat Design: How the Trend Slowly Decreases User Efficiency

I reviewed 47 wordpress templates for a competition earlier this year. 98% of them used a “flat” design approach. Of course, we’re seeing this style of design pervade websites.
Is this a good thing? Nielsen Norman Group says we can use flat designs if we follow some smart guidelines.
Read more.
Got suggestions for what we should be reading? Share them with us!
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You can find the most inane demographic information about Facebook users, the amount of time they waste on the site, how many of them are grandmothers, where to find a browser extension that will make all of those pictures of your friends’ kids turn into pictures of cats, and lots of other quasi-useful information that make for great click-bait.
Millions of people visit Facebook every single day without fail, and many of them are money-spending Millennials. Conventional wisdom says that, if you run a business, you probably should be on Facebook because that’s where the customers are.
Facebook has become an object beyond criticism. Or has it?
There’s also a lot of other data out there about how Facebook isn’t doing all that much for businesses. If you consider all of the time needed to build a following and curating content, it becomes too expensive to reach your Facebook members. There are alternatives, apparently.
An infographic from selfstartr makes the argument that Instagram is where you should be placing your bets on organic marketing instead of expending all your effort with Facebook. When a business posts on social media and doesn’t pay for it, that’s what we mean by organic marketing.

Facebook Organic Marketing is Dead or Dying

According to an article on Clickz, even people who defend marketing on Facebook aren’t saying organic marketing on social media helps increase conversion rates because “Most organic social media posts aren’t directly selling, because selling is rarely interesting enough to drive engagements.” This article lumps all social media sites together, including both Facebook and Instagram, but treating them the same way ignores a lot of data.

People actually really like interacting with brands on Instagram

People actually really like interacting with brands on Instagram.


Instagrammers engage at a much higher rate than Facebookers. Not only that, there’s a very strong chance that your followers aren’t even seeing what you post on Facebook since only 6% of your followers see each one.
Facebook's algorithm for what shows up in newsfeeds means that no matter how far someone scrolls, they may never see what you posted.

Facebook’s algorithm for the newsfeed means that no matter how far someone scrolls, they may never see what you posted.


Companies using Instagram have the potential to reach 100% of their followers. If your customers scroll far enough down on their feed, they’ll see what you shared. Keep in mind that when we say that engagement with brands is lower on Facebook, it’s not necessarily because people don’t see posts from brands. Millions of companies are creating content on both social media sites, but a much smaller group of people bother interacting with brands on Facebook.
Interactions on Instagram are more passive than on Facebook. Instagram has more barriers to content going viral, and you can’t see whether seven of your friends have double-tapped the same image (on Facebook, your newsfeed tells you what your friends Like). In other words, interacting with brands on Instagram isn’t as visibly social as it is on Facebook. Turns out, this model isn’t bad for business.
Engaged users are worth more on Instagram.

Engaged users are worth more on Instagram.


To sum up: Instagram users engage at higher rates and spend more money than their Facebook counterparts. How much time are you putting into creating content for your Facebook followers when only a handful of them see it and even fewer care?
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There’s Still Time to Be An Early Adopter

How many of your competitors are on Instagram? The market on Facebook is pretty saturated, so your eCommerce company is probably one of many. That might not be the case on Instagram.

What's keeping you from using Instagram?

What’s keeping you from using Instagram?


Don’t dismiss Instagram because whatever you’re selling doesn’t photograph well. Kissmetrics makes a pretty persuasive argument that it doesn’t matter: you can find a creative way to get around that problem. It also addresses some other misunderstandings that might be keeping you from creating a business account.

Is Instagram the Way to Millennials’ Hearts?

Facebook began with exclusivity. Only students at certain colleges could join, and no one else was welcome. No parents, certainly no grandparents, and absolutely no businesses. People caught marketing their business ventures weren’t welcome and would be immediately reported.
If that’s Facebook’s origin story, maybe it’s not surprising that people react with derision when it feels like their newsfeed is bloated with paid and unpaid ads. It’s inauthentic when someone tries to sell you something in a setting that’s supposed to be just your friends. Facebook’s original model didn’t have a place for that kind of interaction.
Instagram, however, was born into a world where businesses were already an integral part of social media. By the time Instagram launched in 2010, Facebook was already trying to be an everything-to-everyone social media site. Instagram’s focus was more narrow. Just photos.
Facebook is so broad that you can post your Instagram photos to Facebook. People use Facebook as a catch-all, so when they need something more focused, they go elsewhere.
People tend to use Instagram to follow interests instead of friends. They can see what their friends are doing on Facebook. Remember that you can potentially reach 100% of your followers on Instagram since it’s just chronological instead of using an algorithm. That doesn’t work well when you’re trying to keep up with other people’s lives, especially if they don’t post often.
Keeping up with an interest is easier because someone can follow lots of similar users. That’s a real advantage for businesses because data exists on the best times to post. It’s more acceptable to re-post similar images because followers may not see both and get annoyed.
Instagram is fertile ground for attracting Millennial consumers. This generation loves transparency, engaging with people and organizations with similar interests, and creative marketing. This group is huge. More than half of US adults age 18-29 are already on Instagram.
My takeaway from this study is that people think Facebook is kind of a drag. It’s necessary, but not all that fun. Two thirds of users engage with brands on Instagram compared to less than a third of the users on Facebook. Stats like that make me think about the quality of engagement on Facebook versus Instagram.
There are countless articles about customer service and customer complaints on social media, but it’s tough to find any information about using Instagram as a platform for complaints. Maybe Instagram will bring you higher-valued conversions and make social media enjoyable again.
Why-Brands-Should-Embrace-Instagram-Instead-of-Facebook-INFOGRAPHIC-by-selfstartr
Thanks to selfstartr for sharing.
 
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If you’ve ever read the book The Design of Everyday Things you may recall one of the stories. It tells of a typist asked to evaluate the design of a new keyboard. She reported back to the keyboard designer that she liked the new design and didn’t find any faults with it. The designer asked if they could watch her use it. What they observed was that she kept making a particular typing error over and over again.
The new design had moved some keys around, so the typist kept hitting the wrong key. She was used to the old layout. When they asked her about it, she blamed herself and not the design because the key was clearly labeled.

I Blame Myself

A couple of weeks ago, my favorite artist released a new album. It’s always a long time in coming, so album release day felt like Christmas morning to me. I even woke up early, ready to download it and spend my whole morning listening to it.
After about a decade of not spending money on music, I decided 2015 is the year I wanted to start doing it again. This year I also bought Taylor Swift’s newest album and the soundtrack for a deeply cool movie, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. I bought both on Google Play, and as we mentioned in a different post, spending money on Google Play is distressingly easy.
When I went to work buying Joanna Newsom’s latest, I expected a similarly unremarkable experience. I thought two taps to purchase and one tap to play would get the job done. But her album wasn’t for sale on Google Play, so I decided to buy it directly from her record label, Drag City.

Joanna Newsom's artist page was my first touchpoint with Drag City

Joanna Newsom’s artist page was my first touchpoint with Drag City


I couldn’t actually remember the name of her record label, so I got there by a search, and I bypassed the homepage entirely. My first impression of the page was positive but ultimately irrelevant since I knew that I would definitely be spending my money on this website regardless of my experience because I really wanted this album, and it wasn’t readily available everywhere.

Strategic Use of Invisibility

After a moment I saw that there isn’t a buy button anywhere on this page, nor are there any prices. Apparently, I needed to find a product page to get to that information. Like most people comfortable with technology, I scan and click links quickly and with little thought.
I ended up in a loop where I clicked “Joanna Newsom” two or three times before my brain caught up with my finger. I was just taking myself back to the same page over and over again.

I needed to find my way to the product page, but I kept ending up back on the artist page.

I needed to find my way to the product page, but I kept ending up back on the artist page.


The page I wanted was strategically hidden behind the album image and the name of the album. Despite the page’s every attempt, I made my way to the product page. This wasn’t to be the last time I felt sheepish.
Which download do I want?

Which download do I want?

This Product Page is FLACed Up

I already disclosed that I don’t buy music often (I’m more of a book and movie person), so maybe it’s unsurprising that I was caught off-guard by one of my purchase options: the FLAC Download. Is that a normal thing now? It better be because 1) I had to do a Google search to figure out whether I needed to adopt FLAC instead of MP3 and 2) I was irritated that I had to leave the website to find answers instead of Drag City just telling me on this screen.
Not everyone is going to find their way back like I did.
My search told me that I don’t care enough to know more about FLAC downloads to spend an extra dollar, so I selected MP3 and moved on to the next step.
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The Payment Method Shell Game

Technical errors are always a problem. In this case, the inconsistency happened in the all-important cart. Sometimes when I visited my cart, I was given the option to purchase with Paypal. Sometimes it wasn’t.

Option 1: No PayPal

Option 1: No PayPal


Option 2: Checkout with PayPal

Option 2: Checkout with PayPal


I saw both of these screens in the process of writing this article. If I didn’t feel like I absolutely needed this album right this instant, I would have just bailed without a PayPal option. For some people it’s the borrowed trust that the PayPal logo provides that would cause them to stay. If I have to get off my couch and find my credit card to buy something, I can probably live without it.
Since I was borderline desperate, I journeyed onward regardless, perhaps even going so far as to walk across the room to fetch my purse.

How to Treat Your Repeat Buyers Like Dirt

I had high hopes that I was almost done using this website when I got to this page.

I had high hopes that I was almost done using this website when I got to this page.


The first time I went through this process my purchase was a cinch. Replicating it for this post didn’t go the same way, however. The first time around I created a new account and moved on. I assumed it would be even more straightforward after I had my own account.
When I logged in with my new account, however, I wasn’t taken to the next step in the purchase process. I was taken to Drag City’s homepage.
So here is how they treat return buyers: Find music. Add music to cart. Click checkout. Login. Get sent back to the beginning.
I thought it was because I typed my password incorrectly. It felt like I had done something wrong. I felt bad. Being a returning customer is not nearly as easy as being a new one, apparently. I persevered.

Here’s Your Order. Not.

When I finally made it to the through to a screen thanking me for my purchase, I didn’t know what do from there. Where was my download? How was I going to be able to listen to my album? Had I just sent my ten bucks into cyberspace never to be seen again?
I searched through Drag City’s FAQs and even tried to find a customer forum where I could find the answer to those questions, but I came up with nothing. My emailed receipt also got me nowhere. I returned to the browser where I ended my purchase to see if I’d missed a message telling me what to do next, but that also left me empty-handed.
Me dumb. That is the message.
I ended up emailing their customer service to ask what was up, but I felt incredibly stupid about it. I felt self-conscious, like I’m sure my dad feels when he calls me for the seventh time to ask how to use his TV remote, but it seemed like the only option. And dang, after all it took to get there, I couldn’t just give up.
My story ends rather anticlimactically because about an hour later, I got an email back letting me know that I would receive my download via email, and I should please let them know if I didn’t receive it. I had indeed received it – but about ten minutes before customer service got back to me. It was weird.
It was great customer service with a quick response, but I prefer not to feel like an idiot, even if it results in a kind email from a stranger.
You may think it’s not fair to compare a small business website to an e-tail juggernaut like Amazon, but it is. If I had decided I didn’t want to support Drag City, using Amazon would have been so much easier. Amazon loves taking people’s money, and Drag City makes it feel like a burden.

My Amazon search result for the same album

My Amazon search result for the same album


Just my search result on Amazon gave me more information than Drag City’s entire Joanna Newsom page. And notice the “Available for download now” message. The last time I spent money on a digital download from Amazon was probably about five years ago when I purchased an episode of Vampire Diaries, and even that long ago, the whole process went very smoothly. I definitely didn’t have to wait an hour for an email.

Who is to blame for negative shopping experiences?

Re-living my buying experience in excruciating detail began to make me think “I don’t know why this bothered me at the time. It seems pretty obvious in hindsight.”
Some websites have very poor design, and users will openly criticize it, but others have design flaws that are subtle. After spending a few minutes using the navigation and thinking about the purpose of the page, a visitor will figure it out, but they may blame their own alleged stupidity for being slow on the uptake.
It’s one reason that self-reporting is so notoriously inaccurate: the reasons we think we behave a certain way aren’t always clear. It’s also why tools like heat maps are so eye-opening. It’s also why I was mad that I got up early on Nerdy-Christmas Morning only to have this experience be the thing that woke me up.
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Feature image by greg westfall. via Compfight cc and adapted for this post.

During the holiday shopping season, everyone seems to turn into Santa Claus. An infographic from Slant states that “nearly 2/3 of the top 1,000 e-retailers offered discounts” last year.
Frankly, I’m more than a little surprised that it was only two thirds. Offering discounts during the holidays kind of seems like a given. Everyone does it from the largest brick-and-mortar chains to the smallest Etsy shop. These sales are so pervasive that I imagine there’s a good deal of social pressure to give deep discounts, and as a consumer, I’d probably be a little curious about why a business isn’t taking that route.
How did the discounting trend get started in the first place?

FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, is a very real phenomenon.

FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, is a very real phenomenon.


The fear of missing out is an emotional trigger that undeniably leads to people clicking the purchase button in higher numbers. And when I think about companies moving away from discounts, I’m reminded of the epic fail that was JC Penney’s rebranding and decision to stop using coupons in favor of lowering prices across the board. When the coupons went away, so did millions of dollars.
But what if discount culture isn’t helping you reap the benefits you think it is? Slant’s infographic makes the case that maybe you should reconsider discounts. If the thought of losing out on the upcoming money-spending frenzy that is the holiday shopping season is frightening, this infographic isn’t just dropping bad news on you and fleeing the scene. It also gives actionable solutions that are proven to drive sales.

Why Discounting Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

Ultimately, the benefits of discounting are short-sighted. (And there was quite a bit more going on with JC Penney than getting rid of coupons. This is a prime example of a blunder that could have been avoided with split-testing.)

The short-term benefits of discounting aren't even all that convincing.

The short-term benefits of discounting aren’t even all that beneficial.


Cornflakes experienced a 500% increase in sales! That’s insane! I can clearly picture that email subject line turning up in the inboxes of the whole Cornflakes marketing crew. Too bad there’s a “but” in that sentence.
Groupon ran into this problem. Consumers love it, but it can be bad for businesses. One massage therapist complained that “everyone who came in for his promotion got a massage and then walked out. Most of them didn’t spend anything beyond getting the freebie. He lost money on the promotion itself and there was no way to recoup that loss.” That article about Groupon has both pros and cons, but the cons are big.
Discounts can hurt not only your business, but your brand. Slant’s infographic states that “81% of hoteliers [are] discounting more now than they were five years ago, with 75% saying this has done damage to their brand.” That’s an awfully big sacrifice for a boost in sales that isn’t even sustainable for more than a day.
All these sales mean you must be offing crappy merchandise.

All these sales mean you must be offing crappy merchandise.


The lower prices give your best item the intrinsic value of an outlet mall. To me, that means it’s kind of what I’m looking for, but I anticipate the Banana Republic outlet mall sweater I just bought is going to unravel much sooner than if had I bought it at a retail Banana Republic.
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Is Discounting Just Treating the Symptoms?

Why are you offering discounts in the first place? To boost sales.
Which means people aren’t buying.
You may believe that you can’t keep up with competitors because they’re offering discounts. Are you certain that they would buy if your competitors didn’t discount? If so, then you are essentially resorting to bribery.
What are the reasons shoppers don’t buy from you?
Only 2 percent of online shoppers convert on their first visit to an online store.
If only 2% of shoppers are converting right away, you either need to figure out how to boost impulse buying without a sale or put in more effort to get customers to return.
Free shipping is an example of an impulse booster. If the power of free shipping hasn’t been drilled into you enough, consider this.

People are four to five times more likely to buy the first bag.

People are four to five times more likely to buy the first bag.


Are you getting that these are the same exact bag? And you’d be paying the exact same price? Understand what you’re losing when you don’t offer free shipping: 61% of shoppers would abandon what’s in their cart if free shipping isn’t an option.
Equally important as free shipping, 61% of shoppers read reviews of products. Consumer reviews are even more important than the product descriptions.
61 percent of customers read reviews before purchashing

Are Loyalty Programs the Anti-Coupon?

One of the alternatives to discounting from the infographic is the use of loyalty programs. If discounts and coupons hold appeal for you, and you think they’d work well with your clientele, loyalty programs might be a worthwhile option.

Loyalty programs may hold the appeal you're looking for

Loyalty programs may hold the appeal you’re looking for.


One of our Conversion Scientists is extremely loyal to Southwest Airlines and has gone to great lengths – like booking extra, random flights – to secure a companion. Another one favors the loyalty program at a bicycle shop that gave a steep discount on his new bike.
I personally drive several miles out of my way to a local local grocery store because I get 10% off my purchase every quarter and a few bucks back at the end of every fiscal year. The entire film Up in the Air places an airline loyalty program at the center of the story.
You may be occasionally offering a discount or a coupon to your loyalty program customers, but this person demonstrated that they are unlikely to take the discount and walk away. There’s a level of commitment here that you aren’t going to find with a door buster sale. People don’t commit to brands that they perceive to be low-quality.
Check out the entire infographic for even more conversion boosting tips that will help stop the reliance on discounting.
How to drive e-commerce sales without discounting infographic
Thanks to Slant for sharing.
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Online Sales have a growth rate that’s 10 times more than their brick and mortar counterparts. This in turn encourages retailers to do everything they can to optimize their selling capabilities. With an emphasis on driving e-commerce sales, finding new and innovative ways to spur online sales requires an effective strategy.
If BuzzFeed hasn’t made it apparent already, quizzes have really started to re-emerge over the last couple of years, driving a ton of social traffic and interaction. Using interactive content like quizzes can to attract and engage audiences, generate leads, and increase e-commerce sales.
Here are five examples of successful online quizzes, all built by a quiz building app by Interact.

How Z Gallerie Personalized Their Site to Bring Tons of Leads Per Day

z gallerie style personality
Z Gallerie is a company that offers customers creative furniture and household products from all around the world. They cater to both professional and amateur interior designers alike, with 57 physical stores across the United States and a relatively strong online presence. Z Gallerie created the quiz “What is your Z Gallerie Style Personality?”  to generate leads and to personalize their product line.
Z Gallerie’s strategy is to provide a personalized experience for every potential and current customer. This kind of an approach is heavily present in their personality quiz. After six visual questions, Z Gallerie collects our contact information through a lead capture form. Then they follow up in a personal way through marketing automation.
 

Not all questions have to look like a survey.

Not all questions have to look like a survey.


After completing the lead capture form, Z Gallerie’s quiz delivers your “Style Personality” with a link to learn more about it. Clicking the link directs you to a personalized page with product suggestions based intensively on the answers you chose on the quiz.
The quiz acts to build the Z Gallerie list.

The quiz acts to build the Z Gallerie list.


A personalized approach not only keeps customers engaged, it also allows your brand to recommend products tailored specifically to an individual’s personal preferences based on your quiz. This lets your brand to create a connection with your customers on a level that would convert them into repeat buyers.

With the help of their personality quiz, Z Gallerie generates significantly increased lead acquisition.
Here’s how you can use this strategy for your brand: Create a quiz with personalized results for each individual customer so that you can offer product suggestions specific to that person. This can be done by either recommending one specific product or by assigning people a “personality” that relates to a group of products. Make sure you follow up with marketing automation to keep your customers coming back for more down the road.

Z Gallerie uses landing pages for each of the "Style Personalities" uncovered by their quiz.

Z Gallerie uses landing pages for each of the “Style Personalities” uncovered by their quiz.

How Birchbox Used A Personality Quiz to Differentiate Between Products

birchbox quiz
Birchbox specializes in monthly deliveries of personalized samples with original content and an exciting e-commerce shop. Similar to Z Gallerie’s reason for creating their quiz, Birchbox created the quiz, “Find Your Face Mask Soul Mate in One Minute” to give personalized suggestions on which facemask to purchase.
Where Birchbox’s strategy differs from Z Galleries lies in their execution. While Birchbox followed the same formula of creating a quiz that recommends products based on personalities, they mainly used it to differentiate similar products, most of which were different variations of facemasks.

BirchBox uses the quiz to offer a specific product, with no lead generation.

BirchBox uses the quiz to offer a specific product, with no lead generation.


Birchbox didn’t use their quiz to generate leads, but instead used it to place an emphasis on the perfect face mask for their customers. The quiz established a very personal connection with their customers by offering products tailored specifically to them. Personalized experiences such as these help grow the relationship between customers and retailers.
Here’s how you can apply this method: Create a personality quiz with results based on your customer’s personal tastes. From there, you can recommend the single most suitable product which is awesome because personalized recommendations convert at 5.5 times better than general ones. Who would’ve known?

How BioLite Capitalized on Trends to Suggest Products Via Online Quizzes

BioLite power personality
BioLite develops and manufactures advanced energy products that make cooking with wood as clean, safe and easy as modern fuels while also providing electricity to charge cell phones and LED lights off-grid. Essentially, efficient low-energy-required products that you can use or recharge. BioLite created the quiz “What would you do with 10 watts?” to generate leads and to raise awareness on how ready people can be when the power goes out.

This lead generation form is optional.

This lead generation form is optional.


BioLite’s strategy was incredibly simple. Taking into account the fact that BioLite relies on selling their 10 watt-only rechargeable products, they created a quiz in an effort to raise awareness on power outage readiness. After taking their quiz and getting your results, no matter how prepared you may be, BioLite can still recommend products that may be useful in similar situations.
BioLite offers a specific product based on the answers entered into the quiz.

BioLite offers a specific product based on the answers entered into the quiz.


Like most quizzes with a lead capture form, BioLite asked quiz-takers if they would like to submit their contact information to receive updates on environmental friendly products. The form brought in 4,852 leads.
Here’s what you can do to emulate this strategy: Create a quiz that makes people take into account various situations that questions how prepared they really are. This will encourage them to purchase your products in order to be better suited for such situations.

How The Elephant Pants Kickstarted Themselves Into Success Through Quizzes

which pair of elephant pants are you
Before The Elephant Pants – a clothing company supporting the African Wildlife Foundation – came to be as successful as they are today, their humble beginnings clung onto the support they received from a Kickstarter campaign. By creating the quiz “Which Pair of Elephant Pants Are You?” and linking it to their Kickstarter, they were able to generate enough leads to fund their launch.
Like the previous examples that we’ve seen so far, The Elephant Pants also used their quiz to distribute personalized results that recommended a specific kind of product to customers, in this case, a particular kind of Elephant Pants.
The Elephant Pants made sure to add a link at the end of their quiz in the results screen to help fund their Kickstarter. It also opted-in prospective customers to keep them interested and up-to-date with any new developments.
Low and behold, The Elephant Pants Kickstarter was a success, and through quizzes, helped raise over $8,500 which was enough to help the startup launch into a strong business today.
Here’s how to deploy this method yourself: Like several of the examples we’ve looked at prior to this one, create a quiz that recommends possible products that would encourage customers to fund your business so that you can have a lucrative launch. It also lets you develop a strong customer base from the start.

How Aaron Brothers (Michael’s) Artistically Uses Quizzes to Generate Leads

aaron brothers color quiz
Aaron Brothers (Michael’s) takes pride in their merchandise by offering custom framing, art supplies and picture frames. Aaron Brothers also brings the latest fashion designs in framing and home decor. With their artistic sense of style, they created the quiz “What’s Your Color?” for the sole purpose of lead generation.
With an emphasis on art, Aaron Brothers created a longer quiz to determine someone’s color. It was an entertaining piece of shareable content whose sole purpose is to generate leads for the brand. Personality quizzes that categorize quiz-takers into personalities are highly favored on social media, so they get shares on a frequent rotation.
The quiz ended up generating 515 leads and has been Aaron Brothers’ most successful part of their recent color-centered marketing campaign.
Here’s how you can draw out the same tactic: You might be tired of seeing this now, but this quiz is pretty much an exact replica of the quizzes that are so popular all over the internet. That’s the strategy. [pullquote]Reproduce the idea of a popular quiz and use it as a means of generating leads.[/pullquote]

Let’s Recap And See What We’ve Learned

As retailers begin to take note of the wild growth of online sales, they’re beginning to set their eyes on the most effective and innovative ways to join the bandwagon. So what’s stopping us from figuring out the best possible way of driving e-commerce sales?
You’ve seen how popular quizzes are; how they’ve swept the nation’s social media feeds with simple yet entertaining micro-interactions with shareable results. They aren’t just a form of enjoyment, they’re a super secret marketing mega weapon!
Once you’ve set your scope on your target audience, you can use quizzes in a personalized manner as a way of recommending individually-tailored products to customers. Using quizzes to deliver personalized results can help grow a customer base that not only encourages purchases and return buyers, but as a means of generating leads as well!
In the end, quizzes did exactly what these companies set out to do, and that was to drive e-commerce sales in a continually growing industry.

About the Author

JP Misenas headshot
JP Misenas is the content marketing director and audio/visual technician/engineer of Interact, a place for creating entertaining and engaging quizzes that generate email leads. He writes about innovative ways to connect with customers and to build professional long-lasting relationships with them.

“We’ve got mCommerce covered. Sincerely, the rest of the world.”

What if I told you that there was an under-served segment of your marketplace, a segment that is growing three times faster than your current visitors? What if I told you this segment was using mobile apps at an alarming rate?
Would you be interested in knowing more about this segment? Worldwide venture capital firms are investing in this segment, more than any other right now.
Yes, it’s the mobile commerce segment, that portion of your visitors that will purchase from their phones, install apps for your marketplace and fuel the growth of all of our industries. Mobile commerce is exploding in the US, but this growth pales in comparison to other countries.
If you think mCommerce is important outside the US because they have more mobile users to begin with, you may be missing the point. All countries have a lot of mobile users, and that portion willing to buy on their phone or tablet is growing. While the rest of the world would like to see us resting on our desktop laurels, you can’t afford to oblige them, according to this infographic.
The global trend in online shopping favors mCommerce over desktop eCommerce. That’s not to say that eCommerce isn’t also growing – both mobile and desktop online shopping are steadily increasing, but mobile growth eclipses desktop with a projected growth that’s 300% greater than traditional eCommerce over the next few years.

mCommerce is expected to grow at 300% the rate of traditional eCommerce

mCommerce is expected to grow at 300% the rate of traditional eCommerce


mCommerce is such an international trend that you might be surprised to see that several of the top mobile retailers of 2014 are companies that would be unfamiliar to the average American shopper. (Though the number one retailer is hardly shocking.)
The top 10 mobile retailers of 2014

The top 10 mobile retailers of 2014


It’s true that this mobile trend is all over the world – some Scandinavian countries will see growth of over 50% – but there’s one part of the world that is seeing increases at an especially aggressive rate.
China has the highest number of mobile shoppers

China has the highest number of mobile shoppers


With China’s ever increasing role in our international economy, its number of mobile shoppers compared to other countries is to be expected, and the rest of Asia isn’t far behind.
Asian users are dominating the mobile marketplace

Asian users are dominating the mobile marketplace


We’ve spent a lot of time talking about why we like adaptive web design (AWD) better than responsive web design (RWD) for mobile websites, and one trend we are seeing is the tendency for successful mobile websites to look and behave like apps, so the popularity of apps over browser could signal a change in approach for some companies.
Mobile shopping through apps

Mobile shopping through apps


Check out the full infographic, courtesy of Coupofy.com.
Coupofy.com infographic
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Feature image by Philippe Put via Compfight cc and adapted for this post.

We can hear the bells! With just a few days left in summer, parents are now easing their way out of summer camps, Disney vacations, and scrambling to prep their kids for the new school year.

Retailers reliant on the back to school rush have run out of time to prepare.

How have online retailers done in the months leading up to this peak period in their sales? Our report gives us a hint.

Preparing for Peak Season

There are two ways an online retailer can make the peak season it’s most successful.

  • Buy more traffic.
  • Increase the revenue earned per visitor.

We can determine the amount online retailers are spending for clicks on back-to-school keywords. We can also snoop to see if their websites are configured to maximize revenue from that traffic.

This report is meant for managers of websites with a strong seasonal component. While the report specifically addresses the back-to-school shopping season, the conclusions can be applied to bathing suit sales, Valentines retailers and any online retailer that gets a bump during the holidays.

Online Retailers Vulnerable to Competitors

At least 95% of competing organizations are collecting website analytics. However, only 13% of these organizations have a website optimization tool installed.

Organizations with larger ad spends are more likely to have website optimization tools installed. Oddly enough, those spending above $50,000 a month in online ads are sloppy. They barely out-spend retailers spending as little as $5000 per month on website optimization tools.

The largest segment of retailers is keeping up with bigger spenders in terms of website optimization tool use.

The largest segment of retailers is keeping up with bigger spenders in terms of website optimization tool use.

The website optimization tools we look for in the report are:

  • Click-tracking tools (also called heat map tools) that track where a prospects are clicking and how far they are scrolling. This reveals functional problems on specific pages.
  • Screen Recording tools will record visitor sessions for analysis.
  • Split testing, or A/B testing tools allow marketers to try different content and design elements to see which generate more inquiries.
  • Site Performance tools help companies increase the speed with which a website loads. Page speed correlates with conversion performance.
  • Social Analytics track the performance of social interactions relating to the site, such as likes, shares, and social form fills.
  • User Feedback tools provide feedback directly from visitors on the quality of the site and content.

There are a number of questions to be raised from this data. Do they not have the budget because they don’t invest in website optimization, or do they have fewer tools because they don’t have the budget?

We believe that the lessons learned here can be applied to any online retail business with seasonal sales. Download this report for free by clicking the image below. Let us know what you think.

back to school report cover