ecommerce optimization

It can be dangerous to delay asking for the sale on your website. Optimizing for buyer intent helps you ask at the right time.

You should hire me.
I’m good at what I do, have helped some pretty awesome companies achieve killer results, and I reckon I could help you achieve similar levels of success.
If you’ve got copywriting or PPC optimization needs, I’m your man. Click here to pay your deposit now and secure my revenue increasing services!

Crappy pitch, right? Even overlooking the dreadfully generic benefit, poor copy, and woeful CTA there’s still something important missing.

An omission which would stop you from reaching out and laying down that deposit I so desperately want.

That something is your complete lack of knowledge and trust in me.

99% of the people who read this will never have heard of me. They’ll have no idea who I am, only a vague idea of what I do, and absolutely no inkling as to whether or not I’m good at it (save for my poorly worded benefit brag).

This is first contact for you and I. And for a first contact, that pitch is far too aggressive.

Unfortunately, this is the exact approach I see countless brands across the globe making day after day. They think all they need is a hard pitch, a well optimised landing page, and some relevant traffic.

But that’s not how sales are made.

No one makes big purchase decisions based on impulse. It might work for low cost items, but for big-ticket products or high end services you’ve got to foster a little trust before a pitch will be effective.

You’ve got to establish yourself as an authority; a provider of the highest quality. Only then will a hard pitch for high-priced products work.

This is the element missing from so many campaigns. It’s the element that not only makes the sale, but keeps your customers coming back to you time and time again.

It’s a shame that more business don’t focus on building relationships. And if I had to hazard a guess why, it’s because very few understand that…

Not all your Leads are Ready to Purchase

In fact, very few are at the point where they’re ready to open their wallet.

If you’ve spent any time in marketing and sales you’ll have heard the statistics. It takes anywhere between 6 and 12 touchpoints with customers to make a sale. You’ve probably also seen countless images like the below.

Customer touchpoints

Customer touchpoints

Source

There’s an element of truth to these beliefs. The view of a wholly linear sales funnel might be outdated, but the principle stands.

People don’t trust you enough to purchase after a single interaction.

Check the modern consumer’s browsing habits and you’ll see what I mean. Modern users jump from site-to-site, they use various devices, abandon, reengage, and complete purchase journeys at completely random times.

It’s honestly a bit of a mess. But figuring out how to make the most of the modern consumers scatterbrained approach to online purchases doesn’t have to be. And it all begins with…

Ignore the Concept of Touchpoints

When you follow the old linear journey and the belief that you must have X touchpoint for the sale it blinkers your focus.

The thought of there being a set number of touchpoints to make users purchase is absolute bullshit. I don’t walk into a store 6 times and on the 7th feel as though I must buy something simply because I’ve hit my touchpoint limit.

The same is true for the online purchase journey. People don’t buy based on the number of touchpoints alone. They purchase based on value.

Let’s put this in real terms, I recently assisted a client in optimising their PPC campaigns. When I took over, all campaigns targeted industry related keywords before directing users to the primary landing page.

If we imagine the client was in the real estate space, that meant searches like the below all directed to the same page:

  • What are the house sale processes in [area]
  • the best real estate broker in [area]
  • what’s in [neighborhood] for [kids/elderly/students]

The client believed that if customers stopped by his site often enough, they were eventually bound to hire him. He thought this repeated hard pitch was guaranteed to wear his customers down until they bent to his will.

It didn’t work well for him because, whilst he had a frequently visited site, it offered no value.

If he had instead offered something of value related to the user’s search, then people would have remembered him. Something like:

  • An eBook/guide explaining the house sale process
  • A sales page explaining why he was the best
  • A neighborhood guide that detailed all relevant areas

Taking this approach gives people what they want. It offers the value they’re searching for and would raise him in their estimation.

You have to shift focus to the customer. You have to examine the reason the user comes to your page/site, understand the problem they’re facing, and optimize to address that problem.

As Brian mentions in this piece:

A landing page has two very focused jobs:

  1. Keep the promise made in the ad, email or link that brings visitors to the page. We call this the Offer.
  2. Get the visitor to take action on the offer.

The offer is what I want to bring attention to here. People at different stages of the customer journey need different things from you.

Your traffic generation makes a promise that attracts them, your pages need to reflect and deliver on that promise.

So the first step is to stop directing users with different needs to a single hard sales page. You first need to optimize each page for buyer intent.

What Do I Mean Buyer Intent?

I’m sure you’re aware of the different stages of awareness and how they impact the length and detail of your landing pages.

If you’re not, I’ll offer a very quick explanation. Basically, the less aware someone is of your brand, the longer your landing page usually is.

Someone who’s having their first contact with your brand will need more information before they take any action.

On the other hand, someone who knows your brand well, understands the products you offer, the benefits, and maybe has bought something from you before won’t need as much information. All they need is the bare essentials of the product and offer.

The guys at Copyhackers put a great image together explaining this.

Awareness and Long PagesIt’s some killer advice. But, it’s excluded something something the marketing community has generally overlooked.

Buyer Intent

Length of page is great when considering the stages of awareness, but it doesn’t take buyer intent into consideration. Not all people buy products for the same reason.

Some products and services are indeed universal and customers from all walks of life purchase for the same reason. In those cases, you only have to consider the stage of awareness.

Take the below, once again from Copyhackers, as a perfect demonstration of a universal buyer intent.

Copyhackers address "Universal" buyer intent.

Copyhackers address “Universal” buyer intent.

The above would resonate with all people suffering from substance abuse. It’s a perfectly optimized page for those seeking help because intent, in this case, wouldn’t deviate between different people.

But in cases where buyer intent will differ, you have to consider what the user’s intent is and optimize accordingly.

I’ve chosen an extremely obvious example to highlight this in Upwork. Upwork is a great place to hire cheap freelance work (and a terrible place to offer freelance services).

The site ranks well for all terms relating to freelancing on both the client and freelancer side.

However, they have two distinct sides to the site. One is optimised for those who are looking to hire a freelancer, the other is for those looking for work.

Upwork optimized each of these pages for different buyer intent.

Upwork optimized each of these pages for different buyer intent. 

Both are optimized for different intent. They’re focused on a service which overlaps, but are completely different in their approach because they’re trying to convert two distinct groups of people.

I know this example is something of a copout because, whilst the services overlap, they have very different demographics with different goals.

However, it proves the point that the same service can have different pages targeting different buyer intent. Each one is aimed at providing a high level of value to its respective audience.

Optimizing for buyer intent in this way should be a common practice in every business’s marketing.

For example, eCommerce product pages should be optimised not just for the product, but also for who might be shopping. A woman shopping for jewelry herself will need different information than her partner who’s buying it as a gift.

Unbounce have good examples of this. They’ve built campaigns (from the look of it both PPC and SEO campaigns) that direct users to pages that mirror explicit needs and the search terms users are using.

For example, a search for “consulting landing page builder” directs to the below page which is set up to sell their consulting specific landing page templates.

This page is targeted specifically to consultanta building landing pages

This page is targeted specifically to consultanta building landing pages

Pop in a similar search for “SaaS landing pages” and you get the below.

This page is similar to the previous, but targeted at SaaS businesses.

This page is similar to the previous, but targeted at SaaS businesses.

Both are specific to the search term and offer the answer the user is looking for.

The service wouldn’t change as the end goal is still to get the user to sign up for an Unbounce account where, if I’m not mistaken, they’d get access to all of the free templates outlined on both pages.

The difference is simply in focusing on the need of the customer. If you want to implement something similar to the above, here’s what you need to do.

Focus on the Immediate Value

I’m a huge proponent of the one page, one purpose rule.

Whatever you’re selling, your landing page should only have one purpose. Anything more and you’ll just end up confusing yourself, and your customers.

However, buyer intent will dictate that immediate conversion goal. Let’s again imagine that my goal is to understand landing pages and that I’m a complete newbie to marketing.

My first search might be “what is a landing page?”, with that search I’d find the below ads.

There is one ad for "What is a landing page?" on the results page.

There is one ad for “What is a landing page?” on the results page.

One ad from Wix,which leads to this page.

Thsi page does not tell the reader what a landing page is.

Thsi page does not tell the reader what a landing page is.

The intent for me was to educate myself on the basics of landing pages. Does this page do that?

No (the dictionary response did a better job)! Again, it’s focused only on the sale and getting people to sign up.

It tells me that I can try a free landing page and create a stunning site, but doesn’t answer the question I asked. If I were truly seeking for information on landing pages, I’d bounce almost immediately and forget Wix within minutes.

What they should have done was provide something that educated me on the basics of landing pages.

That could be a comprehensive beginner’s guide blog post or even an eBook/guide behind an email gate.

The value for people at the highest level of awareness is not being answered here. And there’s a huge gap that could be filled.

What about those later in the purchase journey for landing page services searching “how to create a highly optimised landing page

Search results for “how to create a highly optimised landing page”

Search results for “how to create a highly optimised landing page”

There’s a couple of potentials in here. The WordStream result is the highest relevant result so we’ll use that in this example. If I click though, I find the below.

This page is highly relevant to the search term “how to create a highly optimised landing page”

This page is highly relevant to the search term “how to create a highly optimised landing page”

Does this answer the question I asked and is it targeted at those with an intent to learn more about the perfect landing page?

Hells yeah it is.

It’s exactly what I’d need at this stage. I’m looking for information on what makes a great landing page, and that’s exactly what I’m being offered. If this were a real search, I’d likely stop my search here to see what this guide is all about.

If they’d linked to the main WordStream page and tried to sell me their service I’d leave because I’m not interested in purchasing just yet. But no, they perfectly answered my question and offered the value I need.

Whether you’re running PPC campaigns or are optimising your SEO to bring in relevant traffic, ask yourself about the user’s intent. Ask yourself what’s the most valuable thing you can offer them right then and there. What’s the offer they won’t be able to refuse?

Stop thinking about the sale, and start thinking about the value.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll create more valuable touchpoint that create a longer lasting positive image of your brand. And once that touchpoint is down, you need to focus on the next step.

Build a Solid Follow Up Based on Previous Action

We all know email as the ROI king. As such, much of the follow-up information out there is focused on how to build relevant email sequences.

It’s all great advice and can really help in driving revenue numbers up. However, it’s also something that’s been covered time and time again.

So rather than flog a dead horse, I’m going to link to a great post on some awesome email campaigns from Jacob and move on to something that’s not covered as often.

What I want to cover is a tactic I recently stumbled across from Ezra Firestone of Smart Marketer. It’s a relatively simple idea (as all great ideas are) that details how to offer value through some smart retargeting. A strategy which helped Ezra sell 84,000 units in three months.

Here’s the image of the sequence in action (and a link to a podcast where he explains it)

How to add value through retargeting.

How to add value through retargeting.

What I love about the sequence is how it’s focused on value which is in direct contrast to how most advertisers run their business.

If you check out a store, you’re usually just then served the same ad across either the display network or through Facebook ads.

The same ad the visitor abandoned is offered through retargeting.

The same ad the visitor abandoned is offered through retargeting.

Source

An example of a "hard sell" retargeting ad.

An example of a “hard sell” retargeting ad.

There’s that hard sell mentality of “well, they looked at the product so shove it down their throats until they buy”.

But with Ezra’s method you’re focusing on providing a more logical user journey packed full of value.

You can see how the initial video ad kicks things off. Ezra explains that he breaks things down by the engagement.

If they watch less than 25% then they’re not retargeted and tagged as a poor lead.

Between 25-75%, he’ll retarget them with more value building content. Something to establish the brand and product in a favorable light.

Over 75% consumed indicates a highly interested user, and so they’re sent to a long form sales page.

Ezra only pushes the sale on those who are most interested and most likely to convert. For those who aren’t ready, he focuses on the value they need to make an informed purchase decision.

This pre-sell engagement tracking and retargeting is an incredible way to build value with your customers and, for Ezra, led to $18,000,000 in sales form a single page.

It’s also not just a viable method for eCommerce. If we look once again at the WordStream example above we can apply the same processes.

They could track all users to that landing page (which I’m sure they are) and track how many make it through to the “thanks for downloading” page. Those who don’t might benefit from a retargeting campaign that either linked back to that page, or one with more information that offers the same download.

For those that download, you could retarget with the next logical step in their customer journey.

After downloading the basics of landing pages, you could retargeted with an eBook or article on the best landing page services for beginner CROs and copywriters through Google Display Network, Facebook Ads, and of course the follow-up email campaign.

You could also see if user’s are ready for the hard sell at that point.

This multi-touch campaign focuses on value. It provides the user with multiple touchpoints but, unlike most campaigns, doesn’t feed everyone you’ve contacted to your sales page.

Instead, it offers them the next logical step ensuring they take it with your brand. You’re still hitting those multiple touchpoints, but you’re packing each one with value which builds more trust in you and your brand.

Multiple Touchpoints Build Trust, But Only if Optimised into a Comprehensive Customer Journey

Each step you optimize needs to be focused on the immediate value the consumer is most looking for. However, you also need to keep your eye on the overall conversion goal.

As a starting point I’d recommend starting as close to the money as possible. Look at how you can optimize the sale and work backwards. Doing so brings more immediate gains, but it also means that with each subsequent optimization you’re simply adding more fuel to the fire.

You’re not optimising a stage for which there is no logical follow up established.

So stop focusing only on grabbing the sale. Look at the immediate value you can offer and build it into your wider conversion funnel. Do that, and you’ll see more people buying from you and becoming long term advocates of your brand.

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.

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

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 Checlist

110 Point Ecommerce Optimizaiton Checklist Cover

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 Checlist

110 Point Ecommerce Optimizaiton Checklist Cover

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.

We were very surprised by the marquee results of a TrustRadius survey on Conversion Rate Optimization.

While 72% of the companies surveyed have implemented some CRO processes, only 18% of them consider CRO as “Part of their DNA”.

We would speculate that many of these 18% of companies are in very competitive commodity industries, such as travel, office supplies, and pet apparel. In other words, they had to optimize or die.
These aren’t the only industries in dire need of optimization, however. While CRO isn’t a zero-sum game, you do not want to find yourself playing catch-up with your competitors. As this survey shows, CRO is a key competitive advantage online, just as SEO has been.
TrustRadius is in a unique position to conducted a survey of businesses. They offer some of the most helpful reviews of business software on the Web, and were able to get 4100 companies to complete the survey. This is statistically significant stuff.
Here are some of the highlights from their survey.

  • 58% of companies spend more than $10,000 per year on digital analytics, while 44% spend that much per year on A/B testing tools.
  • 59% of companies have plans to spend more this year than in the previous year on digital analytics tools, but only 48% plan to increase spending on A/B testing tools. Download the TrustRadius Buyers Guide to see what they are spending that money on.
  • The vast majority of companies (91%) use between two and ten digital analytics tools regularly.

Check out the full report now and then give Conversion Sciences a call to see what you can do to inject CRO into your DNA.

As Conversion Scientists, we obviously eat this stuff for breakfast.  We’ll show you how much money you could be making with our 120-day Conversion Catalyst™ program.  It’s free, and it’s invaluable.
Jump on a call with us at (888) 961-6604.  You’ll be glad you did.

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?

Click it to enlarge the Magic of Fire Product Page.

Click to enlarge the Magic of Fire 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.

Risk reversal on Magic of Fire Product Page

It’s not flaunting, but at least it’s there.


If you've got free shipping, flaunt it.

If you’ve got free shipping, flaunt it.


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.”
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One Republic’s breakout hit in 2007 was “Apologize.” It’s a very sad-yet-beautiful tune.
It’s also one of those songs that our brains like to play with.
“It’s too late to order fries. It’s too laaaaate.”
Every year when September rolls around, my brain hears a different word than “Apologize.”
“It’s too late to optimize. It’s too laaaaaate.”
Do you hear it? Many of the businesses we work with have huge spikes in traffic during the November and December holiday season. Unfortunately, if we hear from them in September, we have to confess that they’ve missed the window to do meaningful conversion optimization before the holiday rush locks everything down.
“It’s too late to optimize…”


It may not be too late to optimize.

Right now, it’s not too late to optimize. We can make meaningful progress on your conversion rate before Black Friday and Cyber Monday hit.
If you would like to ride the holiday season with 10% or 15% more sales, we can help you.
But we have to start soon.
Contact us now and ask about our Conversion Catalyst™, our proven 120-day process for finding improvements quickly and scientifically.
Optimize so you don’t have to apologize.
You tell me that you need me, then you go and cut me down.
You tell me that you’re sorry, didn’t think I’d turn around, and say.
It’s too late to optimize. It’s too laaaaaate.

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If Psychology is the practice of understanding a person through their actions and behaviors, isn’t website optimization pretty much the same thing?
The folks who invited me to speak at the Chinwag Psych Conference in London think so. Here’s why.
What a person says they are feeling and thinking doesn’t let a psychologist know what is going on in their subconscious. It’s the subconscious that drives our behaviors more than our rational, conscious minds.
No, the psychologist has to read between our words, evaluate our unconscious behaviors to begin to see deeper.
A Conversion Scientist can ask a web audience what they expect from a website and why the did or did not buy. The answers will be rationalizations, and often will contradict the actual actions of these visitors.
We have to read between the lines, watching their online behavior. Our analytics database is like our couch.
In the end, both the psychologist and the Conversion Scientist must speculate as to why people behave the way they do.
The psychologist may recommend additional therapy. They may prescribe medication. If they are good, they will monitor the patients to see how the treatment worked.
After seven years of website optimization, I may need medication.
The Conversion Scientist may prescribe building trust, stronger language, more social proof, better images and more. And we always measure the effectiveness of these “treatments.”
So, if you’re in London on May 15, you should come and see an amazing lineup of psychologist-marketers. Nathalie Nahai, Craig Sullivan, André Morys, and Bart Schutz round out my list of favorites.
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P.S. Get nine articles that I’ve personally selected to round out your knowledge of website optimization. Signup right here.

World Market Opacity What parts of your ecommerce product page are seen in the crucial first seconds of a visit?

What’s the worst and the best thing that could happen to your e-commerce site?
The answer is that a Conversion Scientist tried to buy something from you.
It’s good because, we are very likely to write about our experience. It’s bad because we are going to point out what you’re doing wrong.
We recently tried to buy some stand-up desks for some of the team here at Conversion Sciences. Like so many shoppers, we found ourselves paralyzed by choice.
In true Conversion Scientist form, we decided to collect some data to help us with our choice. We compared desks at National Business Furniture, Rakuten and World Market. However, our decision to buy was based on how their product pages performed, not on price and features.
We invented the game Product Page Roulette.
Find out which site won our dollars (and probably the dollars of many other visitors) in my Marketing Land column An Expensive E-commerce Game: Product Page Roulette.


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Please Click to Tweet one of these

Why the @WorldMarket site is winning the ecommerce game.
Tweet: Roulette is a game of chance. Your product pages shouldn’t be a game of chance. http://ctt.ec/0Kv4R+ @bmassey via @MarketingLand
Tweet: The job of the product page is to provide what the visitor needs to decide to “Add to Cart.” http://ctt.ec/bN7e1+ @bmassey
Tweet: Eye-tracking simulators estimate what an eye-tracking study would tell us without the expense. http://ctt.ec/n5EGO+ @bmassey
Tweet: When your marketplace offers a spectrum of prices and features visitors are paralyzed by choice. http://ctt.ec/96a3c+ @bmassey
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