Retail season is just three months away.  Surprise!
Come again?! Yes it’s true. Between the months of November and late December, many businesses who generate significant profit online will experience an increase in traffic and (hopefully) sales.
How do you know if your website is fully prepared to take full advantage of the holiday rush? Instead of Santa Claus loading up his sleigh with merchandise from your warehouse, you could see an increase in shopping cart abandonment, low sales, and a whole lot of tears in your eggnog.
Most online businesses generate the majority of the year’s profit during the holiday season. This can make ecommmerce sites a little nervous. Business managers get conservative, locking down the site and taking no risks for months before the blessed start of the shopping season.
They seem to be just waiting until the season is over with their eyes closed, praying to the retail gods that things will go well.
Don’t be that guy this year. Pick the right strategies to optimize in time for retail season. Here’s how some of the top online retailers prepare for the rush of retail season. These are high-stakes, low risk ideas that you can put in place before Black Friday darkens the holiday sun.

Idea One: Don’t Jump Into A Total Site Redesign

Many businesses think they have to change with the holiday seasons. The fact of the matter is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” What you think is broke is often perfect to your visitors.
Instead, enhance what’s already been working on your website. Brian Massey said it best himself last Christmas. In the weeks before the holidays he realized his house was still decorated for Halloween.
Rather than taking down his skeletons and spending money on new decorations, he took a more creative approach. He added a special twist of his own to the unique decor. When his 17-year old daughter and her friends came by the house, he received positive reviews and praise. Remember, the opinion of your visitor matters the most.

The Tim Burton approach worked well for holiday decor

The Tim Burton approach worked well for holiday decor

Idea Two: Identify Where You Get Conversions and Leads

We work with many eCommerce companies from high-end jewelry and gloves to furniture sales. Our job is to analyze this behavior and data to best optimize your online business. The Channel Report in Google Analytics helps us locate streamlined conversions and where clients see significant sales by traffic source. With the Overview section, you can make an Advanced Segment to locate which specific sites are the source of your leads and how those leads navigate your website to become a customer.
Let’s say we want to focus on our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn social efforts. Here’s how we set up one advanced segments:

This is how we traditionally set up segments in Google Analytics to better analyze site conversions.

This is how we traditionally set up segments in Google Analytics to analyze site conversions better.


Now that you know where your conversions are coming from, you need to understand what components on your site aid in these conversions. If we want to see how one of each of our landing pages performed, we would create an Advanced Segment that highlights our goal URL. This will help us determine which landing pages converted best. Perhaps your home page needs to be better optimized, or maybe you can cut back on ads that deliver unfavorable results.
We can also gather data on which devices lead to more conversions, whether visitors are new, and how many sessions each channel produces. It’s important to understand the type of traffic comes to your site, how visitors move through your site, and which features deliver the most conversions. This data will help you better craft your next step in prepping your eCommerce strategy.
[sitepromo]

Step Three: Lay Out Your Conversion Roadmap and Retargeting Ads

I was recently asked to be a groomsman for my best friend’s wedding. Great, I thought. Bachelor parties, booze, and a whole lot of money down the toilet. We recently had a fitting at The Mens Wearhouse. Look at us! Aren’t we a great bunch of guys?

While getting fitted for tuxes for our friend's wedding, we decided not to rent shoes.

While getting fitted for tuxes for our friend’s wedding, we decided not to rent shoes.


After all was said and done, we decided to not to rent shoes for $20. Think about it: that’s almost the price of half a decent shoe. Since most guys can use a good new pair of shoes, we decided to check out several online shoe stores to find the right style and avoid another brutal trip to the mall. Let’s be real, no one enjoys shopping with six other dudes that have absolutely no sense of style.
We scoured the web and came upon a pair of great looking shoes on Nordstrom.com, but we said no to purchasing. They were just too expensive.
The Retail Giant, however, was kind enough to fill my Facebook Newsfeed with wonderful retargeting ads. Thanks a lot for the added temptation.
After leaving Nordstrom.com without purchasing an item, they decided to retarget me on Facebook.

After leaving Nordstrom.com without purchasing an item, they decided to retarget me on Facebook.


Did I mention that we were shopping for a “wingtip” style shoe. This fact wasn’t lost on Nordstrom. They tracked my shopping activity and knew what I was looking for. Since my initial search on their website just didn’t ring up a sale, they decided to retarget me with a similar wingtip shoe that was significantly marked down in price.
Nordstrom knew I was looking for a wingtip style shoe and have even recommended several pairs that are more affordable.

Nordstrom knew I was looking for a wingtip style shoe and have even recommended several pairs that are more affordable.


Had this shoe been in the wedding party’s price range, we would have definitely been a customer. It fits the motif of the overall look for the wedding and is a killer shoe. It’s also discounted, a big plus.
But wait, there’s even more to this landing page. Drumroll please. Nordstrom included a “People Also Viewed” section on the right of this page, listing two additional wingtip style shoes in a more affordable price range. Well done guys, well done. Unfortunately for Nordstrom we were still too cheap to buy, but it was still a solid effort.
Remember to lay out exactly how you will navigate a variety of customers through your funnel. Think of your email subscribers, returning visitors, new visitors, and don’t forget your impulse buyers.
Once you’ve segmented your visitors, analyze their behavior. Did they convert? Which items did they purchase? What was their overall spend? By knowing these key statistics, you can craft better retargeting ads and email offers that resonate with their buying habits. What kind of ads will you be showing site visitors, customers, or shoppers who abandoned their cart? Nordstrom.com knows their stuff. Now how can you turn lost opportunities into sales?

Idea Four: Brainstorm High Converting Lead Generating Campaigns

You need some ammunition for retail season that brings in new customers and sales. Early fall is a great time for executing high converting lead generating campaigns. We’re talking giveaways, contests, and special offers. Since web optimization is a given for increasing conversions, we’re going to talk about email list building campaigns for leads.
Let’s take another look at our friends at Nordstrom.com. I noticed they were having a special giveaway on their site. It didn’t look obnoxious like some online giveaways, and I was intrigued by the red letters at the top left corner of the site that said “Want a $1,000 Gift Card?” YES. I DO. So I clicked on it.

Screenshot 2015-07-22 01.07.43

Click the red letters! Win money.


Once I checked out the official rules, I was taken to an additional landing page to sign up for the giveaway.
Screenshot 2015-07-20 19.49.31

Keep your giveaways simple. Too many rules or procedures turn people away.


This contest has a very particular call-to-action: write a review on one of their products you’ve purchased. Once entered, I was sent an email with a CTA to continue shopping. Campaigns like this are simple to generate a moderate lead flow and are rather common.
Be creative with your giveaways. Don’t make the contest too complicated, and always offer an incentive to those who enter, like a special coupon. They are not likely to win, but you will, especially since you’ve given them a reason to buy.
Again, you want your email list to be as fat as possible come the holiday season, especially if you find that your list converts higher than your site traffic.

Idea Five: Structure Your Email Blast With Offers and Take Leads Through Your Funnel

Spend some time thinking about how to dial up the value on your email blasts for the holidays. People who give you their email address are inviting you to their already very full inbox, so make the most of it. There are lots of ways to do it and many elements to email marketing. The offers below can translate into high converting emails: which tactic would work with your business?

A New Arrival

Some shoppers love to splurge on the latest and greatest. Add this to the top of your email. Perhaps even include it in the email subject line. Local Austin jeweler Kendra Scott has a unique approach to their email blasts. In this email we see the new arrival promo at the top.

This is an email promo for Kendra Scott's new Mystic Bazaar collection.

This is an email promo for Kendra Scott’s new Mystic Bazaar collection.


Now what if customers aren’t interested in buying anything new? Although we commend Kendra Scott for featuring new arrivals at the top of their email, the flow becomes rather confusing after that. It’s literally a maze of jewelry! I found it difficult to look at additional products and offers.
Omg. Too confusing. Where do I click?!

Omg. Too confusing. Where do I click?!


See what I mean? Focusing on a subset of customers who are likely to convert is a great idea, but your entire email needs to be easy to navigate or it’s a waste of space.

A Bestseller

You know this product will sell with or without a marked down price. You can sell this product with your eyes closed, so why not include it in the email? Having analyzed countless email blasts from CountryOutfitter.com, I was surprised to know that they continuously included a new pair of boots in their campaign. Repetition can be a good thing for sales.

CountryOutfitter.com knows their boots sell. Each week they include a different style of boot in their email blasts

CountryOutfitter.com knows their boots sell. Each week they include a different style of boot in their email blasts

Theme Your Emails

I once tried to get a job at a high end furniture store fresh out of college and was lucky enough to be invited to interview for a marketing position. It was a very fancy and expensive store. Who wouldn’t want to spend $10,000 on a dining room table made from reclaimed Grecian wood?
An important lesson I learned from that interview was how furniture salesmen increase their commissions by including add-ons that compliment the purchase, from furniture displays to the final sales pitch.
“Would you also like some table lamps, a rug, and perhaps this painting of a naked man to compliment your one-of-a-kind love seat from Romania?”
Someone willing to drop a small (or medium) fortune on a couch is likely to be willing to drop even more to make sure the couch isn’t sitting in an empty living room – or worse, a living room where the other decor doesn’t match the couch.  That’s where the money comes from.
Here’s a great example of how one online retailer themes their email blasts similarly to furniture store displays. This particular campaign was all about skulls.
Screenshot 2015-07-22 16.45.15
And you can’t buy a skull sweater without getting the matching purse and mug. Do you really want to be the fool with the skull sweater drinking out a cat mug and carrying a hobo bag?  Absolutely not.

You must purchase the matching accessories!

You must purchase the matching accessories!


Even better, every item in this email is 20% off. HotTopic, eat your heart out.

A Coupon Code or Free Shipping

Adding a coupon code or a free shipping incentive (like “get $50 off a purchase of $100 or more” or “free shipping when you spend $50”) will help visitors spend a specific amount of money or help them purchase an item that is designed to be a quick money maker.

CountryOutfitter.com includes a free pair of flip flops with the purchase of $75 or more.

CountryOutfitter.com includes a free pair of flip flops with the purchase of $75 or more.

A Promotional Story

For those brands engaged in a content strategy, adding a promotional story to an email blast can help drive serious traffic. Here’s how a competitor of CountryOutfitter.com sent their email blast the day Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton announced their divorce. They used a headline announcing the divorce in their email subject line, along with a photo of the couple at the top of the email.

Miranda Lambert & Blake Shelton divorce, but Country Fashion retailers are making money.

Miranda Lambert & Blake Shelton divorce, but Country Fashion retailers are making money.


This email was more than just the Country Music story of the day. When visitors opened the breaking news email, this retailer included a CTA to shop above the story, and free shipping for all orders $75 or more.
Below the breaking news image was a “Shop Now” image directing traffic to a product page. Although this traffic may not be interested in shopping and would much rather read up on Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, you can still segment this surge in traffic for retargeting ads (remember the Nordstrom.com example?).

Step Six: Give Your Leads A Reason To Return To Your Website

Set an expiration date to your coupons, create limited time offers, or activate that retargeting ad that will make visitors come back for more. One of the most interesting findings I came across while gathering data for this post was a feature on RebelCircus.com. At the top of the site, there was a ticker that gave shoppers exactly one hour to use a coupon and make a purchase.

You've got 1 hour to make a purchase! The agony.

You’ve got one hour to make a purchase! The agony.


When I returned to the site, the clock was still ticking. I was kind of afraid my computer would blow up if I didn’t purchase one of their skull t-shirts. They definitely get a thumbs up for creating a sense of urgency when shopping.

Idea Seven: Gather Data From Your Campaign, Analyze It, and Prep For Next Year

This can be the fun part, or the not so fun part, depending on how the season went. Gather your data from Google Analytics. Dissect the info and highlight the pros and cons of your retail campaigns. Where did you see more conversions, email signups, and social media engagement, and how did this affect your overall strategy?
Your marketing plan should always continue to change and refine itself over the seasons. Your approach this year should be a lot different from next year’s. But when you just can’t get the answers right, or no longer have the time to optimize give Conversion Sciences a call. We’d be happy to bring good tidings of joy to your business this Holiday Season.e was still decorated for Halloween.
Rather than taking down his skeletons and spending money on new decorations, he took a more creative approach. He added a special twist of his own to the unique decor. When his 17-year old daughter and her friends came by the house, he received positive reviews and praise. Remember, the opinion of your visitor matters the most.

The Tim Burton approach worked well for holiday decor

The Tim Burton approach worked well for holiday decor

Idea Two: Identify Where You Get Conversions and Leads

We work with many eCommerce companies from high-end jewelry and gloves to furniture sales. Our job is to analyze this behavior and data to best optimize your online business. The Channel Report in Google Analytics helps us locate streamlined conversions and where clients see significant sales by traffic source. With the Overview section, you can make an Advanced Segment to locate which specific sites are the source of your leads and how those leads navigate your website to become a customer.
Let’s say we want to focus on our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn social efforts. Here’s how we set up one advanced segments:

This is how we traditionally set up segments in Google Analytics to better analyze site conversions.

This is how we traditionally set up segments in Google Analytics to analyze site conversions better.


Now that you know where your conversions are coming from, you need to understand what components on your site aid in these conversions. If we want to see how one of each of our landing pages performed, we would create an Advanced Segment that highlights our goal URL. This will help us determine which landing pages converted best. Perhaps your home page needs to be better optimized, or maybe you can cut back on ads that deliver unfavorable results.
We can also gather data on which devices lead to more conversions, whether visitors are new, and how many sessions each channel produces. It’s important to understand the type of traffic comes to your site, how visitors move through your site, and which features deliver the most conversions. This data will help you better craft your next step in prepping your eCommerce strategy.
[sitepromo]

Step Three: Lay Out Your Conversion Roadmap and Retargeting Ads

I was recently asked to be a groomsman for my best friend’s wedding. Great, I thought. Bachelor parties, booze, and a whole lot of money down the toilet. We recently had a fitting at The Mens Wearhouse. Look at us! Aren’t we a great bunch of guys?

While getting fitted for tuxes for our friend's wedding, we decided not to rent shoes.

While getting fitted for tuxes for our friend’s wedding, we decided not to rent shoes.


After all was said and done, we decided to not to rent shoes for $20. Think about it: that’s almost the price of half a decent shoe. Since most guys can use a good new pair of shoes, we decided to check out several online shoe stores to find the right style and avoid another brutal trip to the mall. Let’s be real, no one enjoys shopping with six other dudes that have absolutely no sense of style.
We scoured the web and came upon a pair of great looking shoes on Nordstrom.com, but we said no to purchasing. They were just too expensive.
The Retail Giant, however, was kind enough to fill my Facebook Newsfeed with wonderful retargeting ads. Thanks a lot for the added temptation.
After leaving Nordstrom.com without purchasing an item, they decided to retarget me on Facebook.

After leaving Nordstrom.com without purchasing an item, they decided to retarget me on Facebook.


Did I mention that we were shopping for a “wingtip” style shoe. This fact wasn’t lost on Nordstrom. They tracked my shopping activity and knew what I was looking for. Since my initial search on their website just didn’t ring up a sale, they decided to retarget me with a similar wingtip shoe that was significantly marked down in price.
Nordstrom knew I was looking for a wingtip style shoe and have even recommended several pairs that are more affordable.

Nordstrom knew I was looking for a wingtip style shoe and have even recommended several pairs that are more affordable.


Had this shoe been in the wedding party’s price range, we would have definitely been a customer. It fits the motif of the overall look for the wedding and is a killer shoe. It’s also discounted, a big plus.
But wait, there’s even more to this landing page. Drumroll please. Nordstrom included a “People Also Viewed” section on the right of this page, listing two additional wingtip style shoes in a more affordable price range. Well done guys, well done. Unfortunately for Nordstrom we were still too cheap to buy, but it was still a solid effort.
Remember to lay out exactly how you will navigate a variety of customers through your funnel. Think of your email subscribers, returning visitors, new visitors, and don’t forget your impulse buyers.
Once you’ve segmented your visitors, analyze their behavior. Did they convert? Which items did they purchase? What was their overall spend? By knowing these key statistics, you can craft better retargeting ads and email offers that resonate with their buying habits. What kind of ads will you be showing site visitors, customers, or shoppers who abandoned their cart? Nordstrom.com knows their stuff. Now how can you turn lost opportunities into sales?

Idea Four: Brainstorm High Converting Lead Generating Campaigns

You need some ammunition for retail season that brings in new customers and sales. Early fall is a great time for executing high converting lead generating campaigns. We’re talking giveaways, contests, and special offers. Since web optimization is a given for increasing conversions, we’re going to talk about email list building campaigns for leads.
Let’s take another look at our friends at Nordstrom.com. I noticed they were having a special giveaway on their site. It didn’t look obnoxious like some online giveaways, and I was intrigued by the red letters at the top left corner of the site that said “Want a $1,000 Gift Card?” YES. I DO. So I clicked on it.

Screenshot 2015-07-22 01.07.43

Click the red letters! Win money.


Once I checked out the official rules, I was taken to an additional landing page to sign up for the giveaway.
Screenshot 2015-07-20 19.49.31

Keep your giveaways simple. Too many rules or procedures turn people away.


This contest has a very particular call-to-action: write a review on one of their products you’ve purchased. Once entered, I was sent an email with a CTA to continue shopping. Campaigns like this are simple to generate a moderate lead flow and are rather common.
Be creative with your giveaways. Don’t make the contest too complicated, and always offer an incentive to those who enter, like a special coupon. They are not likely to win, but you will, especially since you’ve given them a reason to buy.
Again, you want your email list to be as fat as possible come the holiday season, especially if you find that your list converts higher than your site traffic.

Idea Five: Structure Your Email Blast With Offers and Take Leads Through Your Funnel

Spend some time thinking about how to dial up the value on your email blasts for the holidays. People who give you their email address are inviting you to their already very full inbox, so make the most of it. There are lots of ways to do it and many elements to email marketing. The offers below can translate into high converting emails: which tactic would work with your business?

A New Arrival

Some shoppers love to splurge on the latest and greatest. Add this to the top of your email. Perhaps even include it in the email subject line. Local Austin jeweler Kendra Scott has a unique approach to their email blasts. In this email we see the new arrival promo at the top.

This is an email promo for Kendra Scott's new Mystic Bazaar collection.

This is an email promo for Kendra Scott’s new Mystic Bazaar collection.


Now what if customers aren’t interested in buying anything new? Although we commend Kendra Scott for featuring new arrivals at the top of their email, the flow becomes rather confusing after that. It’s literally a maze of jewelry! I found it difficult to look at additional products and offers.
Omg. Too confusing. Where do I click?!

Omg. Too confusing. Where do I click?!


See what I mean? Focusing on a subset of customers who are likely to convert is a great idea, but your entire email needs to be easy to navigate or it’s a waste of space.

A Bestseller

You know this product will sell with or without a marked down price. You can sell this product with your eyes closed, so why not include it in the email? Having analyzed countless email blasts from CountryOutfitter.com, I was surprised to know that they continuously included a new pair of boots in their campaign. Repetition can be a good thing for sales.

CountryOutfitter.com knows their boots sell. Each week they include a different style of boot in their email blasts

CountryOutfitter.com knows their boots sell. Each week they include a different style of boot in their email blasts

Theme Your Emails

I once tried to get a job at a high end furniture store fresh out of college and was lucky enough to be invited to interview for a marketing position. It was a very fancy and expensive store. Who wouldn’t want to spend $10,000 on a dining room table made from reclaimed Grecian wood?
An important lesson I learned from that interview was how furniture salesmen increase their commissions by including add-ons that compliment the purchase, from furniture displays to the final sales pitch.
“Would you also like some table lamps, a rug, and perhaps this painting of a naked man to compliment your one-of-a-kind love seat from Romania?”
Someone willing to drop a small (or medium) fortune on a couch is likely to be willing to drop even more to make sure the couch isn’t sitting in an empty living room – or worse, a living room where the other decor doesn’t match the couch.  That’s where the money comes from.
Here’s a great example of how one online retailer themes their email blasts similarly to furniture store displays. This particular campaign was all about skulls.
Screenshot 2015-07-22 16.45.15
And you can’t buy a skull sweater without getting the matching purse and mug. Do you really want to be the fool with the skull sweater drinking out a cat mug and carrying a hobo bag?  Absolutely not.

You must purchase the matching accessories!

You must purchase the matching accessories!


Even better, every item in this email is 20% off. HotTopic, eat your heart out.

A Coupon Code or Free Shipping

Adding a coupon code or a free shipping incentive (like “get $50 off a purchase of $100 or more” or “free shipping when you spend $50”) will help visitors spend a specific amount of money or help them purchase an item that is designed to be a quick money maker.

CountryOutfitter.com includes a free pair of flip flops with the purchase of $75 or more.

CountryOutfitter.com includes a free pair of flip flops with the purchase of $75 or more.

A Promotional Story

For those brands engaged in a content strategy, adding a promotional story to an email blast can help drive serious traffic. Here’s how a competitor of CountryOutfitter.com sent their email blast the day Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton announced their divorce. They used a headline announcing the divorce in their email subject line, along with a photo of the couple at the top of the email.

Miranda Lambert & Blake Shelton divorce, but Country Fashion retailers are making money.

Miranda Lambert & Blake Shelton divorce, but Country Fashion retailers are making money.


This email was more than just the Country Music story of the day. When visitors opened the breaking news email, this retailer included a CTA to shop above the story, and free shipping for all orders $75 or more.
Below the breaking news image was a “Shop Now” image directing traffic to a product page. Although this traffic may not be interested in shopping and would much rather read up on Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, you can still segment this surge in traffic for retargeting ads (remember the Nordstrom.com example?).

Step Six: Give Your Leads A Reason To Return To Your Website

Set an expiration date to your coupons, create limited time offers, or activate that retargeting ad that will make visitors come back for more. One of the most interesting findings I came across while gathering data for this post was a feature on RebelCircus.com. At the top of the site, there was a ticker that gave shoppers exactly one hour to use a coupon and make a purchase.

You've got 1 hour to make a purchase! The agony.

You’ve got one hour to make a purchase! The agony.


When I returned to the site, the clock was still ticking. I was kind of afraid my computer would blow up if I didn’t purchase one of their skull t-shirts. They definitely get a thumbs up for creating a sense of urgency when shopping.

Idea Seven: Gather Data From Your Campaign, Analyze It, and Prep For Next Year

This can be the fun part, or the not so fun part, depending on how the season went. Gather your data from Google Analytics. Dissect the info and highlight the pros and cons of your retail campaigns. Where did you see more conversions, email signups, and social media engagement, and how did this affect your overall strategy?
Your marketing plan should always continue to change and refine itself over the seasons. Your approach this year should be a lot different from next year’s. But when you just can’t get the answers right, or no longer have the time to optimize give Conversion Sciences a call. We’d be happy to bring good tidings of joy to your business this Holiday Season.

If it’s backed by data, it’s not sexist. At least that’s what we tell ourselves. If the data says it’s true, it’s not stereotyping. We all know men and women shop differently. Except when they don’t. So this daring infographic, conspiring with the numbers to perpetuate some of our favorite stereotypes definitely caught our eye.
We were intrigued because you could replace the word “Men” with “Relational Shopppers” and the word “Women” with “Transactional Shoppers” and this infographic would still make sense.
We’ve written about relational versus transactional buying behaviors before. Did you tune us out? Just like a man, amiright ladies?
If we were to take the low road, we’d gleefully embrace the stereotypes presented here. However, we’ve chosen to take this opportunity to redirect our attention to two important buying behaviors that you can use to increase sales on your website.
Yes, there are real differences between men and women. Take a few deep breathes if this comes as a shock.
The infographic from eCommerce Platforms affords us the view that men and women tend to fall on either side of the transactional/relational buying divide. Women tend to be more transactional whereas men are more relational.
What’s transactional about women’s shopping preferences? According to the infographic:

        

  • They are responsive to marketing emails, coupons, and sales.
  •     

  • They are more selective about products and are more likely to buy something that fits all of their requirements.

And what’s relational about men’s shopping preferences?

        

  • They need detailed product descriptions and product comparisons.
  •     

  • Their need is immediate, so they’re less likely to be shopping just for the sake of shopping.
  •     

  • They are less interested in discounts.

Different buying behaviors of men versus women

Different buying behaviors of men versus women (women are pink and men teal)


Some statistics that sum it up best tell us that price is less important to men that it is to women. The greatest fear of a transactional shopper is paying too much and, as women are more likely to do, will shop longer to get a bargain. Relational shoppers see the shopping process as part of the cost. Like men, they will pay more to reduce shopping time.
Shopping behaviors of men versus women

Women’s behaviors are in pink; men’s in teal.


That stereotype that women love the experience of shopping holds up if we’re to believe that they shop based on future needs and that they are more likely than men to be shopping for other people as well as themselves. It’s the opposite for relational shoppers and men. Shopping needs to be easy and uncomplicated.
[sitepromo]

Move Past the Stereotypes

Not every woman is a transactional shopper and not every man is relational. But designing for your stereotypically transactional woman will pay off for transactional men as well. Relational shoppers will respond to relational buying cues regardless of their sex.
As I studied this infographic, I couldn’t help but think about my own (female) shopping behaviors. I mentally went through a checklist for each item that supposedly applied to me and which did not. Turns out, I’m kind of a dude.
With this realization, I was immediately taken back to my middle school and high school days when my older, cooler brother asked me to go to the mall with him. If that was the road to his approval, obviously I was going to be into shopping. New favorite hobby, right? Wrong. I hate shopping!
I went back through the entire infographic, checking off his behaviors this time. Turns out, he’s kind of a girl.
For the most part, I’m pretty girly and he’s a bro, but we don’t fulfill gender expectations when it comes to online shopping. What stuck out the most to me is that my needs are immediate and his rarely are. If you don’t have an immediate need, why else would you be looking to spend money except that you enjoy the experience?
future vs immediate needs
It’s the same idea with impulse buying or being logical with your purchases. I almost always spend a lot of time mulling over whether I actually need something, and I try to think through all of the ways that buying a particular item is going to make my life easier or how often I’ll use it if I buy it.
impulse vs logic
A more subtle character trait is how we choose what we’re going to buy.How to choose which product to buy
Here are a few of my brother’s most trusted review sources.

My brother's review sources

My brother’s review sources


Nope, you don’t know these people. They’re just a bunch of his friends.  On the other hand, I used to be a librarian, so the reviews I trust look a little different.
My review sources

My review sources


I also noticed an area where marketers could easily get my brother to spend more money.
The online shopping experience
He has never really been into social media, but he recently joined Instagram, and it felt like our family dynamic changed overnight. I now get a play-by-play of his life complete with as many hashtags as he can imagine.
Documentation of a very successful shopping trip

Documentation of a very successful shopping trip


Since he’s still new to social media his hashtags are mostly jokes, but eventually he’s going to realize that he can use them so that they’re searchable. When that day comes, I’m sure I’ll be flooded with hashtags about Yeti coolers, Bud Lite with Lime, and whatever brand makes those flip-flops with the beer bottle opener in the sole. He will absolutely love sharing and being able to see how other people are using all of the things he loves.
Since I’m on the other end of the spectrum, I don’t have a Facebook screenshot to share about the Warby Parker at-home try-on sunglasses that just came in the mail. You just won’t find me posting about my online shopping experiences. Instead I’ll be posting cute pictures of my cat.
This is Frankie, and she's wearing a cute hat.

This is Frankie, and she’s wearing a cute hat.

What’s the moral of the story?

There is actual data to support the claim that, in general, the shopping behaviors of men and women are different. But there is also plenty of evidence that stereotypes don’t always hold up or that individuals are complex in their buying behaviors. And even that transactional versus relational shopping behaviors are situational.
When it comes to increasing conversions for your own business, being able to generalize about your buyers could be helpful, but not as helpful as using data specific to the visitors of your own website, not just the internet as a whole.  What if all of your customers are just like my brother and me?
Infographic describing the differences between men's and women's shopping behaviors
Thanks to ecommerce-platforms.com for sharing.
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We came across this infographic from ecommerce-platforms.com, The History of Commerce from Cattle to Bitcoin, and realized that conversion optimization has been around as long as commerce. Conversion optimization is the art and science of making more money from what you have. It is about getting more currency from the investments you’ve already made. Today we tend to associate optimization with websites and traffic, but making more from what you have goes back as far as 9000 BC.
Take for example, cattle trading.
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Farmers and shepherds optimized their herds by encouraging procreation. This made more “currency” from the stock they had. To this end, they were known to play romantic music and light candles to encourage an amorous atmosphere. In extreme situations, the shepherds were known to get the animals drunk, hoping for a hookup or two.
Unfortunately, this didn’t work with cowry shells. It was never clear what would make mollusks feel more amorous toward each other. So, optimizers invested in snorkeling gear hoping to find more of the rare shells. While it was centuries before the technology was perfected, this is considered the origin of SCUBA diving.
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This is also most likely the origin of the phrase “For just a few clams.”
When leather money was invented, conversion optimization consisted of stretching the skins, hoping to get more from each leather bill.
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We refer to this kind of optimization when we talk about “Stretching your dollar.”
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As early as the 1500s, native Americans used VWO (Visual Wampum Optimizer) to get more from their money. This is an early forerunner of the Visual Website Optimizer tool we use today.
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With the invention of Travelers Cheques, the slogan, “Don’t leave home without them” entered the American vernacular.
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Savvy optimizers knew the way to hang on to more of their money was to not spend it. They adopted a new version of the slogan, “Don’t leave home.” Unfortunately, a whole generation of young adults seems to have adopted this motto, much to the chagrin of their parents.
The banks got into the optimization game with the invention of ATMs. They were able to charge us for the privilege of giving us our own money. Optimization revealed that banks can charge higher ATM fees when the machines were placed in strategic locations.
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For example, banks learned that they could charge as much as $10 in fees for machines placed near car impoundment lots and in Las Vegas casinos.
With the advent of Bitcoin, optimization has come full circle. In 9000 BC, optimization was all about farming. Bitcoin is created from “farms” of computers doing near impossible calculations.
Bitcoin currency
And, based on the unpredictable behavior of Bitcoin entrepreneurs, alcohol would almost certainly have to be involved.
Today, the best way to get the most from your investment in traffic and web properties is to call a Conversion Scientist. During our href=”/contact/”>free consultation, we’ll tell you exactly how to optimize your online business and get an “unfair” advantage over your competition.
How would you have optimized the currency from the other eras in the infographic? Tell us in the comments.
History
History of Commerce: From Cattle to Bitcoin, infographic created by Ecommerce Platforms.
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What are online shoppers looking for?  No matter what you’re selling, knowing the answer to this question is the first step to figuring out how to give them what they want.
The Conversion Scientists here spend their time testing ecommerce sites, and they know that the recommendations in this infographic can work for your online store. But not always.
For example, you should be careful about offering more shipping options. [pullquote]Though 50% of the people in a survey said they wanted more shipping options, our tests have shown that too many choices reduces sales.[/pullquote]
Online shopping is constantly growing, and now over two thirds of consumers shop online at least once a month. A whopping 0% never shop online, that is, 0% of people who respond to shopping surveys. Don’t you love statistics?
Numbers like that are pretty solid motivation to figure out exactly what’s going to make a person press the buy button, and an illuminating infographic sharing tips and trends for eStores is a great place to start.
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It probably comes as no surprise that offering free shipping helps nudge people into spending money, but it may be surprising just how much it matters.  For 80% of online shoppers, free shipping makes them more likely to buy something. More than three fourths of online shoppers will add items to their shopping cart if it means not paying for shipping.
With the US spending billions of dollars in ecommerce, how much money are you losing by not offering free shipping?
Customers are also much more likely to convert if they know they can easily return an item they no longer want.
This is another factoid with a catch. You must state your “shipping both ways” return policy such that the visitors see and understand it. This usually takes some testing of language and placement. [pullquote]Too many ecommerce sites have an amazing return policy that is invisible to their shoppers.[/pullquote]
Of online shoppers, at least half of them will use their smartphone or tablet to make purchases over the course of three months.  Having a mobile strategy is crucial to serving those potential customers, especially since many of them won’t do any comparison shopping if they’re using an app to shop.

Give Shoppers What They Want Infographic from Alight.com

Will any of these ideas work on your ecommerce site?

Conversion Sciences turnkey testing team will find out what will and won’t work. Get a free consultation and quote from an experienced website optimization expert and find out how much revenue you’re missing out on right now.
Thanks to Alight for sharing.

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Feature Image Photo Credit: Fosforix via Compfight cc

They had tried everything, and if you looked at their site, you would find a competent site from an optimization standpoint.
Products were presented in a clear way. Navigation made sense. Product pages handled most desires for information. Still, they struggled with a low conversion rate.
This company was not a customer of ours, but I gave the owner a few ideas and some Google Analytics reports to look at. In one of those reports, he found a culprit. But the news isn’t as good as it sounds.

Having a Team with Time to Investigate

Before I reveal the secret, I’d like to highlight the value of giving your business time to digest what it knows. This means that someone is given the mandate to pull out of the day-to-day rush, and begin answering important questions about your website.
Is something broken on one of the many browsers visitors use to buy? This is the source of many of our “wins.”
When we make a change to the site, does it impact our bottom line? This is the purpose of improving your site, is it not?
Is there some suspect traffic? This turned out to be key to our story.
Even if you have dedicated optimization people, do they have this important time to be rigorously curious?

Rent a Conversion Scientist

It’s expensive to hire. That’s why we’ve configured Conversion Sciences to provide conversion optimization services that are completely turnkey at a fraction of the employee rate.
You can have someone experienced, curious, and very good with data analysis finding undiscovered gold on your website. Our value proposition is simple. [pullquote]We will find the money to pay for our conversion optimization services, and a whole lot more.[/pullquote]
With Conversion Sciences, you get a team for less than the cost of an employee. And our fixed monthly fee covers everything:

  • Analytics setup
  • Testing
  • Design
  • Development
  • Administration

We’ve been so successful that 97% of our clients have continued with us after our initial engagement.

For Established Businesses

You don’t have to be an enterprise to take advantage of our talents. You only need have an established online business with around five hundred monthly transactions.
To be sure that we can keep your business from leaking dollars, schedule a free call with a Conversion Scientist.

The End of the Story

With some free advice, the owner of this ecommerce business found that his conversion rate had been artificially suppressed by visits from a robot called Halebot, like Halibut. This was very fishy (sorry).
So, while his website changes did improve his conversion rate, Halebot made it look like his conversion rate was going down. Had we been working with him, we would have discovered this early on and would have removed this invalid traffic from the equation.
We didn’t put any more money in his pocket, but, with just a few minutes of thought, we showed him that he was on the right path.
Let us put you on a path to growth with the traffic you are already getting. Schedule the call now.
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Photo Credit: wplynn via Compfight cc

This infographic from Ecommerce Platforms gives us some insight state of eCommerce in 2015.  It’s looking like online sales are going to increase to well over a quarter of a billion dollars (yep, you read that right:  billion!), and even though retail sales online are still a relatively small percentage of total sales, brick-and-mortar shops are still feeling the pinch.
What piece of the ecommerce pie will your business get? It depends where you are. Note how much European shopping behaviors vary by region.
The 10% increase in ecommerce revenue is up for grabs. Your ability to capitalize will be based in large part on the conversion rate, or revenue per visit that you get from your site.
[pullquote position=”right”]A 10% increase in buyers plus a 10% increase in conversion rate could deliver you 21% growth in topline  revenue in 2015.[/pullquote].
The State of eCommerce in 2015
 
Thanks to ecommerce platforms for creating this.
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Ecommerce website decisions are often made without thinking about the impact on sales. In this article, we show you an unfortunate example of this and offer four lessons your ecommerce website can learn from them.

What is the last thing you want your visitors to see when checking out?

This, maybe?

Frys 404 page received during checkout

This is the wrong page to see in a checkout during the holidays.

This is the page we found when we clicked a button that is very important to a Fry’s Electronics, named “In-store Pickup”. It is the button visitors use to check out if they want to pick something up at one of Fry’s stores.

Frys in-store pickup button caused a 404

The In-store Pickup button in the lower right generated the error.

This is one of the most important buttons on the site, doubly so near Christmas when shipping gifts becomes an iffy proposition.

Fry’s has gone to in the hopes of getting visitors to click this. It’s a shame it doesn’t work all the time.

We were able to get past it by starting over. Then, they did this:

Frys requires visitors to confirm their email address

Frys.com requires visitors to confirm their email address and think up a password.

If I’m picking up in the store, why do I have to create an account?

Creating often results in higher abandonment rates. It seems that something as innocuous as picking a password can generate enough friction to scare off ready buyers.

The highest converting sites offer a guest account, and still ask for a name and email address.

For Fry’s, the value of creating an account is gaining the contact information of a person who might become a repeat customer.

However, the visitor doesn’t see the value of creating an account until the step asking for a credit card. Fry’s will save my credit card for me. Unfortunately, many buyers won’t ever see this.

The advantage of creating an account at Frys

The advantage of creating an account is that Frys.com will save my credit card information.

I let them bully me into this because I was buying a product that was hard to find. Otherwise, I may have chosen another retailer.

Our advice to Fry’s is to call Conversion Sciences and then consider some rules for shopping cart success.

The Complete 110 Point Ecommerce Optimization Checklist

110 Point Ecommerce Optimization Checklist Download

Free. Click to Download

Never, ever, ever have errors in your Shopping Cart.

It’s just crazy. We make hundreds of changes to websites each year, and we don’t break the site (knock on wood).

Fry’s will never see this error. Yes, it’s eleven days before Christmas. Yes, I can tell them exactly how to recreate it over and over and over.

For us, QA takes  a room full of devices of every (popular) make and model. Old iPads. New iPhones. Old Windows XP machines. Internet Explorer versions. Android versions. Safari versions.

Conversion Sciences QA Station

The Conversion Sciences QAtion Station has devices, operating systems and browsers from all eras.

Part of our job is knowing which ones to test.

I’m running a garden variety version of Windows 8 and a Chrome browser. I shouldn’t get this error.

If you require that your visitors create an account, sell them on why.

Explain that you’ll keep their information on file, that you’ll be able to contact them if something goes wrong with the order, that they will be able to track their order. Hell, offer them a discount for creating an account.

Otherwise, you’re asking too much.

Guitar Center offers a guest checkout and a social sign-in.

Guitar Center offers a guest checkout and a social sign-in.

Offer in-store pickup.

I wouldn’t have gone with Fry’s if my son’s keyboard was available elsewhere, but now that I know I can pick products up, I’m checking Fry’s first.

If you have a retail presence, invest in the store pickup model. Sears does a great job with the in-store pickup service.

Tell me the shipping cost before I checkout.

Many buyers will add something to the cart and enter checkout just to find out the cost of shipping. In Fry’s case, this behavior cause the error.

I went to check-out and to see if it could be shipped before Christmas. When I saw that they wanted me to create an account, I went back and decided to pick it up. When I clicked the in-store pickup button, KABOOM! I got an error.

So, not only is their site broken, but the requirement to create an account drives visitors to the broken path. More people seeing this error because they have to create an account before seeing the shipping costs. This means more will go back and click the deadly “in-store pickup” button. Worse, many will just say, “No thanks.”

This is why free shipping and flat-rate shipping is so powerful. It removes this variable from the visitor’s equation. It’s done; taken care of; not an issue; put to bed; signed off on.

That’s what we want for our visitors.

The most determined visitors will get through just about any poorly designed checkout process. The rest? It’s a coin toss, one that ecommerce sites will lose more often they want to.

The Complete 110 Point Ecommerce Optimization Checklist

110 Point Ecommerce Optimization Checklist Download

Free. Click to Download

High shopping cart abandonment rates are frustrating. So, we rounded up 10 eCommerce checkout usability techniques to charm your visitors into shopping on your site again and again!

There are many good reasons for shopping online rather than in person. But, even for those who regularly navigate the pitfalls of the Internet rather than the crowds at the malls, there are some frustrations that send customers screaming into another room, vowing to never again push the “Proceed to Checkout” button.

Well, maybe not really, but there are frustrations for online buyers that are better avoided if your intent is to maintain a healthy conversion rate. Statistics show that online shopping carts are often abandoned. Frequently cited complaints from regular shoppers include the following:

  • Unexpected add-on charges during checkout
  • High shipping charges
  • Complicated checkout procedures
  • Inefficient or time-consuming processing
  • Excessive security checks or, conversely, concerns about security
  • Unacceptable delivery options

If you suspect that your conversion rate should be higher, but you are unsure how to boost your sales figures, there are some relatively simple strategies you can try.

A usability study of the top 100 e-commerce sites produced the following statistics: There were an average of 5.08 steps required for checking out, and 24% of the sites required previous account registration.

Logical and not surprising, right? Other findings, however, were a bit surprising. Two-fifths of the sites asked for validation of addresses, half requested the same information twice or more, and even the top 100 sites violate eCommerce checkout usability techniques and guidelines about one-third of the time.

So, what’s a customer to do? Mutter a few angry words and flee the site seem to be common reactions.

“Keep It Simple” tops all eCommerce Checkout Usability Techniques

The KISS principle was a catchword for all sorts of business advice back in pre-Internet days, but it applies very well to online checkout. Your customers are busy people, and they want to run into your virtual store and be on to other pursuits in a minimum amount of time. It’s your merchant responsibility to help them do that. Your return? Their money and their eternal gratitude. And, likely, return visits!

Consider the following improvements to your site and your checkout procedures if your conversion rate is slipping. Monitor the results, and see what works for you. Think like your busy customers, and seek to make checkout as simple, as user-friendly, and as efficient as it should be.

The Effect of Language

A key skill most face-to-face salespeople have to master is “asking for the sale.” The way you direct your customers through your checkout process can make a difference.

Make it clear: Rather than a “Submit” or a “Next” button, consider a “Payment Options” icon or a “Pay Now” button. Having clear calls to action gives the user no reason to think and also gives them clear instruction on what to do next and also what to expect.

Consider a Single-Page Checkout for your eCommerce Site

A single page checkout may seem more complicated than breaking it down into several steps and pages. However, this simple move into a single page checkout may improve purchases greatly. UX Magazine reported that a French e-commerce site changed from a multi-page checkout to a single page checkout and conversions increased by 67%!

An example of a one page eCommerce checkout.

An example of a one page checkout.

Editor’s Note: We find that your audience may have a different preference when it comes to single-step checkout. Try both on your visitors before committing to one or the other.

Provide Several Payment Options

The kinds of payment available will depend on the price of your product line and your buyer profile. But offering choices is good and is likely to increase your customer base. So consider them carefully. Having options for credit cards and services similar to PayPal, for example offer the user more diverse payment options.

The key here is to let your visitors pay in the way they trust most= by offering payment choices. eCommerce checkout usability techniques.

The key here is to let your visitors pay in the way they trust most= by offering payment choices. eCommerce checkout usability techniques.

Make it Easy for First-time Buyers and for One-time Buyers

While requiring an account in order to purchase makes sense from your side of the fence, it can be an unnecessary bother for the customer who simply wants to order an item and move on. If you require a lengthy account set-up, you may lose a quick sale, whereas from a quick sale there is a good possibility that you might gain a repeat customer.

After issuing the sales confirmation, ask if the customer would like to open an account, you will be surprised how often the answer is yes at that point. After all, they are already invested into your company if they feel that the level of service that they have received is good and timely, this increases dramatically.

Keep buyers on your site, and be consistent with your branding

If you direct customers away from your site in order to register check out or complete the payment procedure, you may lose them. Just don’t do it!

Third-party shopping carts can make a visitor feel like they’re getting scammed. They often suffer from limited customizability as well.

Only Request Essential Information

Don’t raise suspicions by asking for anything that is unrelated to this specific sale. You can collect background information at another time, in another place — or not. But, the business at hand is completing a transaction, and anything that distracts from that goal has no place on the checkout page.

Instill Trust

Gain your customer’s confidence by having an SSL Certificate; reassure your buyers that you do not share any personal information, and comply with the standards of the PCI Security Standards Council. Display your security badges proudly on your site.

Improve Site speed

Make sure your site is up to date, that the loading speed is fast and that operation is efficient. A savvy online buyer with money to spend will not tolerate wait time.

Even boutique sellers should have state-of-the-art Internet connectivity and be lightning-fast (as much as possible) around the world. It is a shrinking globe after all, and e-commerce is global.

The checkout page should be as attractive and as well-designed as the rest of your website.

Ask for Needed Information only Once

If your site requires a second set of address details for ‘Billing Address’ on your checkout form for example, auto-fill the form to save the customer time and effort.

You will gain a loyal fan base by making the procedure so unexpectedly efficient.

Try Free Shipping

Try free shipping to lower shopping cart abandonment.

Try free shipping to lower shopping cart abandonment.

This seems to be the best catalyst for increasing sales. It is, from all reports, more of an incentive to a buyer than special offers, price reductions or “bundling” offers. If you can’t offer free shipping to everyone all the time, try it on a limited basis. And always be upfront about your shipping charges: Don’t spring those charges only on the checkout page.

Finally, take a lesson from the old-timers: Ask for the sale. Issue a clear call to action on your website in the product descriptions or on an appropriate page. Take a lesson from sites like Amazon. Be unambiguous with buttons such as “Add to Basket,” “Continue Shopping,” or “Checkout Now.” For the success of your business, learn how to simplify your checkouts.

Author Bio: Owen Sondergaard is an avid blogger and data enthusiast. Owen writes for CAMO Software who provides multivariate analysis software solutions.

There’s an old (and probably sexist) saying that I often apply to many online marketing decisions.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it. If you don’t, flaunt it more.

The online store Magic Of Fire has “it.”

  • A great product or service.
  • A bona fide value proposition.
  • Top people working behind the scenes.
  • Customers who will tell your story.
  • A great guarantee, warranty or return policy.

We have a scientific name for guarantees, warranties and generous return policies: Risk Reversal.

Magic of Fire offered an amazing guarantee. It goes something like this:

“Shipping is free. If you trust us enough to buy from us, we promise that, if you have any issues with your product or our service, we’ll pay to ship your item back at our expense and refund your purchase price.”

Now, can you find this promise on their product page?

Magic of Fire Ecommerce Product Page

I put it through our Scanning Electron Microscope and eventually found a “Free Shipping” logo near the bottom of the page. I eventually found a link to their return policy, with the text “100% Satisfaction.”

Cliche is not flaunting. Avoid language like “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “No Risk” and “No obligation.” These no longer mean anything.

If you’ve got it flaunt it.

Risk Reversal Means Never Having to Say Goodbye

When you purchase from a glass and cement store (nothing is brick and mortar anymore), you know that you have an easy out if you don’t like what you bought. You’ll march right in there, slam it down on the customer service desk and demand your money.

Not so much online.

This makes buyers delay hitting that checkout button. They procrastinate, surf other parts of your site and wait for circumstance to save them from making the final decision.

This is especially true if you’ve done a poor job building trust and credibility with your site. The fear is that they will get a lump of coal deposited on their doorstep when they expected a snuggly with a heart-shaped pattern. And they will have no store to storm into.

It sounds “risky.”

Relational buyers will fear getting stuck with the wrong product.

Transactional buyers fear that shipping fees will ruin their great deal, especially if they want to return it (and they will return anything they don’t like).

“Risk reversal” turns “risky” into “safe.”

I recommended that Magic of Fire bring their fantastic return policy right up next to the Add to Cart button on their all-important product pages. I also recommended that they make their free shipping available all over the site, especially in the checkout process.

These two changes alone should deliver a significant boost in conversion rates and revenue per visit.

Does Risk Reversal Really Work?

Magic of Fire’s Mark Oakley called me for a free consultation. After meeting Mark over Skype and hearing his shipping and return policies, I bought a beautiful “star and moon” fire pit for my house.

Zappos has the most famous risk reversal story in the online world. Their 365 day return policy with shipping both ways is one reason their sales reached $1 billion in ten years. That’s amazing growth for a commodity apparel store.

Are you flaunting it?

This is just one mistake that businesses make when selling online.

Businesses who have great products or services with amazing value propositions and great reputations continue to struggle online.

We’re the people who change that.

Jump on a call with us at (888) 961-6604. It’s free, and we’ll show you how much money you could be making with our 120-day Conversion Catalyst™ program.

Update

Mark has apparently taken my advice to heart, placing his free shipping offer all over the site and adding risk reversal near his “Add to Cart” button.

Magic of Fire sitewide free shipping offer.

Magic of Fire sitewide free shipping offer.

The feature free shipping in a visible place on the product pages as well.

Magic of Fire free shipping offer on the Product Page.

Magic of Fire free shipping offer on the Product Page.

Want to find out how this turns out? Subscribe to The Conversion Scientist.

Let me put a finer point on the concept of “flaunting.” This is flaunting:

Make your best risk reversal offers pop on your pages

Make your best risk reversal offers pop on your pages.

This 20 second design may not match your brand, but you should strive to find something that pops for something as important as your risk reversal.

I’ll give a free signed book to anyone who can tell me in the comments where I heard “If you’ve got it flaunt it. If you don’t flaunt it more.”

SwellNoMore is one business that changed its cart for technical reasons, and ended up changing their visitors behavior in the process.
How many steps should your checkout process have? There are conflicting theories.
Some believe that every click, every step offers visitors another chance to abandon the process. They believe that the checkout process should have as few steps as possible.
Others believe that the long forms found on single-step checkouts intimidate visitors, driving them to abandon the process.
Unfortunately, most businesses let their shopping cart software decide for them.
Abandonment rate measures percentage of visitors that begin the checkout process, but never make it through to complete the purchase. A high abandonment rate is very undesirable.

The Battle for Higher Conversion Rates

SwellNoMore.com offers a natural supplement designed to reduce swelling in the face, abdomen and feet. It’s about reducing water retention. The folks behind Swell No More contacted us because they needed to increase visitor retention, however.
They had done what many of you have done to increase sales on their site.
They had hired designers to come in and revamp their landing page. Twice. In both cases, the redesigned pages decreased the conversion rate.
Here you can see the original, current control and the redesigned page that cut conversion rate to about 1/3. Click the images to enlarge them.

swellnomore_com-Best-performing-landing-page.png swellnmore-Landing-Page_v4-1.jpg
The redesigned landing page on the right did not generate as many sales as the original on the right.

They did the smart thing and went back to the original.
They tried an editorial approach to educate their visitors. This reaches a more methodical audience, but doesn’t perform well.

Health Medical Journal Page

Click to Enlarge: The editorial style landing page.


While they were waging this battle, they got blind-sided by a change that they had to make for technical reasons.

Having a Change of Cart?

See what I did there?
Swell No More has a traditional online store, and their landing page used the same cart as this store.
Until they changed it.
The old cart offers a two-step checkout process that hid fields until needed. For instance the fields to input shipping address were hidden unless the “Shipping information same as billing information” checkbox was unchecked. Likewise, the fields for credit card information were hidden unless the radio button for Credit Card was selected.

image image
Unnecessary fields are hidden in the original cart (right) making the process seem simpler. Click images to enlarge.

This seems to have made the checkout process seem faster and simpler.
Compare this to the new cart featuring a one-step checkout process and no hidden fields.

swellnomore_com-New shopping cart step

The one-step online checkout presented an intimidating page.


This checkout page follows many of the best practices for online checkout:

  • The order is shown, including the product images.
  • The “Risk-free Guarantee” at the top and “Doctor Trusted” bug on the right reinforces the purchase.
  • Trust symbols are placed near the call-to action button.
  • All costs have been addressed, including shipping and taxes.

Nonetheless, this cart had a significantly higher abandonment rate then the multi-step cart, but it is not sufficient to blame the steps alone. Fewer visitors were getting through to complete their purchase.

Things That Can Impact Checkout Abandonment

Every time we change something and collect results, we gain information we can put to use on our site. Keep in mind that we are not finding answers, only hypotheses.
Conversion Sciences will run the controlled split tests needed to turn a hypotheses into a reliable, revenue-building result. Start optimizing.
Here are some hypotheses that might explain the difference.

  1. The form on the single-step checkout was too intimidating. Hide fields or return to a two-step process. Or do both.
  2. The more explicit risk reversal message on the old cart was more trustworthy.
    "Return the bottles... even if empty!"

    A detailed return policy can increase conversion rates in your checkout process.

  3. The trust symbols placed above the fold made buyers feel more comfortable.
    Trust symbols lend your page legitimacy, increasing many buyers' comfort.

    Trust symbols lend your page legitimacy, increasing many buyers’ comfort.

  4. The PayPal logo, missing from the new checkout page, made buyers feel more comfortable.
    PayPal

    Third-party financial logos allow your page to “borrow” trustworthiness from known brands.

  5. Placing the shipping and tax information above the fold was more clear.
    Swell No More Order Summary

    One of the biggest reasons buyers abandon checkout is that they don’t know the final cost of their purchase.

Look Beyond the Technical Aspects of Your Cart

Too many shopping carts have been built by engineers and not by professionals experienced in human interfaces. These carts may meet the technical requirements you need, but may chase away the very customers you serve.
No checkout process fits all.
Look for flexibility in your cart vendor so that you can test and tweak to your cart’s desire. Ask them if they have tested their cart in businesses like yours. Ask them what research they have that shows their abandonment rates are low.
Take control of your abandonment rates to increase sales of your products and services.
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