Everyone knows the point of an ecommerce site is to generate sales. Sure, leads are nice to have, and if you can find ways to drive leads (and traffic, for that matter) through the ecommerce front, then you’re definitely doing something right.
However, all these are for naught if your ecommerce site isn’t making any money — which is its main purpose. And this is exactly where conversion rate optimization can be of help.
Among several other things, CRO addresses the most basic element of ecommerce marketing: branding.
Ingredients for Effective Branding
But before you delve into a branding strategy for your ecommerce site, you need to understand your own business first, ideally by asking these questions:
- What is your ecommerce site’s goal?
- What does your product/service do?
- What problems does it solve?
- What is the general public’s perception of your business?
- What are your customers’ views of your business?
Note that it’s not enough to just be able to answer these questions. You can do an even better job if you actually promote your answers on your ecommerce site.
For example, a “Mission” or “Corporate Responsibility” page lets you broadcast your company’s values. A “Custom Reviews” page shows visitors you care about customers and their experiences while on your site.
If you compare your conversion rates before and after implementing such changes, and see a spike in conversions, then you’ve successfully evolved your brand for the better.
While there are several CRO techniques you can use to build your ecommerce site’s branding, for now I will focus on hacks with a direct impact on increasing your conversions and retaining existing customers.
1. Build Your Credibility with Logos, Security Badges, and Partnerships
As you probably know by now, several things can go wrong on your ecommerce site. The best protection against these issues is to solidify your brand’s reputation as a trustworthy and reliable company.
CRO comes in by optimizing several elements that affect your conversion rates. For landing pages, it can be something as simple as the following:
- Making your brand or company logo more prominent
- Adding security seals
- Adding trust badges from organizations like the Better Business Bureau
- Using trust signals like partnerships or features on high-profile sites (news, review sites, etc.)
Any symbol that can help promote a sense of reliability and safety will encourage visitors to trust your brand with their money.
The example above uses trust signals in the form of recognitions, mentions, and features on major news and magazine companies. In this case, the Google AdWords guide’s author, Perry Marshall, is leveraging his connections with USA Today, the New York Times, CNN, and Fortune among others to gain the potential customers.
Is it a new technique? Not at all. Is it effective? Absolutely.
2. Offer a Working Search Function
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes.
You know what product you’re looking for, its name, its model number, and other relevant details about it, but the website (your website) isn’t showing you what you’re looking for. Sounds frustrating? You can bet it is.
A study by ThanxMedia learned that in-site search plays such a critical part of the ecommerce shopping experience, that it’s involved in more than 40 percent of online purchases. Yet you’d be surprised to know that in another ecommerce study, this time by Baymard Institute, half of premier ecommerce sites don’t have a prominent search function.
The study, which included Amazon, NewEgg, Target, and Gap among others, learned that the common mistake these sites made was having a search bar that didn’t stand out.
Case in point: Gap’s home page (at the time of the study), which has a barely noticeable search function.
It makes perfect sense when you think about it. If you want people to buy your products, you need to make it easy for them to find it.
3. Have Consistent Landing Page Design and Content
According to MarketingSherpa’s Landing Page Optimization Benchmarks Report, layout plays a huge role in website performance. In fact, when analyzing which elements had the most significant impact on conversions, layout came out on top.
So why should you be consistent? What’s the big deal?
As your leads move through the conversion funnel, different page elements that change the layout or design of a page can be jarring. This can make it more challenging for users to navigate through your site’s pages.
Consistency also applies to the information (i.e. your copy or content) on the assets involved in your conversion funnel, such as your paid search ads and your landing pages.
Having inconsistencies in your facts and calls to action can present a huge red flag for potential customers.
For example, if your AdWords ads claim you’re offering product X for a price of $99.00, but your landing pages show a higher price, you can bet your customers will leave abandon the funnel ASAP.
This kind of inconsistency hurts your brand image, a consequence that’s far harder to quantify in your reports.
4. Get your USP Straight
Remember that question I told you to ask yourself earlier?
“What does your product/service do? What problems does it solve?”
Your answer to that will be your unique selling proposition (USP) or unique selling point. It’s what sets you apart from the competition—your X Factor, if you will.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s not enough to know what your USP is, you need to communicate it to your target market through your ads, your landing pages, social media channels, and content marketing assets.
If necessary, you need to spoon-feed that information to your audience
Let’s go over one of my favorite examples of a succinct USP: FedEx.
“When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” and “The World – On Time”
It’s simple, on point, and tells FedEx’s customers what they can expect from the company’s services. Can’t think of a USP? Big Commerce offers 3 examples of basic USP starting points:
Products – The quality and uniqueness of your products and services.
Prices – The affordability of your products and services.
Support – The reliability of the support they get from a company after buying a product or service.
5. Fix Your Landing Page Copy
Fixing your landing page copy is probably the fastest and cheapest CRO technique to increase sales.
The only problem is that there are so many approaches to optimizing your content—and believe me when I say that there’s no one size fits all solution to improving copy.
Copy Hackers offers a terrific infographic explaining how a landing page comes into play in the conversion process. Basically, if your landing page copy fails to do its job of convincing visitors to believe in your product’s value, the entire conversion funnel falls apart.
One way of evaluating your copy is to work backwards, beginning with your call to action (CTA). Is it persuasive enough for readers to want to take action? If not, go back to the drawing board.
Landing page copy should be succinct, focused, and directly convey what the visitor gets by making a desired action, be it filling out the opt-in form, or clicking on the “Add to Cart” button. Simplicity rules the day, not some clever or alliterated slogan.
6. Strengthen Your Product Pages
When visitors arrive on your product page, you have every reason to be excited. They’re just one step away from making the purchase.
One way of increasing the chances of that happening is to ensure the product images (and I mean all of them) are high quality, original, and show the product from different angles and perspectives.
The point behind this is to give visitors everything they need to know about the product, avoiding any unpleasant surprises when they receive the product after purchase. Another reason? You want to minimize the chances of visitors using your site to scout for products, only to buy them in-store.
Not all ecommerce sites may be able to include things comprehensive rating systems, product videos, and other fancy bells and whistles (which by the way, can also slow your site down). But the least you can offer are:
- High-quality product images
- Updated indicators for product availability
- Comprehensive product description
- Wishlist feature
- Basic product rating and review system
7. Offer Optional Registration
Many marketers would gasp at the idea of allowing customers to buy products on their site without having them register as a member first. Indeed, it closes the door on potential data-mining activities. But given the high interaction cost of registration, it may not be worth forcing people to do it.
In fact, one study by the Nielsen Norman Group shows that the majority of their surveyed users complained about registration, and offers this insight:
“One-time shoppers were particularly annoyed by required registration, since they were doubtful that they would ever return to a site, and did not want to create an account or have the site remember anything about them. They appreciated sites that allowed them to make a purchase without requiring them to create an account.”
The site featured on the image above even forces users to subscribe to a newsletter, with no option to opt-out. That’s sure to annoy anyone who knows any better. As marketers, we shouldn’t be surprised at all. Registration just involves too many steps that take far too much time than they should.
- You add a product to the cart and proceed to checkout
- The site prompts you to register as a member first
- The site prompts you to verify your account
- You go to your email inbox to find the verification email
- You check your spam folder because it’s not in your inbox
- You click on the verification URL
- Finally, you pay for your purchase!
See what I mean? Registration is simply too high an interaction cost that risks visitors leaving your site altogether.
8. Use Social Proof to Gain Their Trust
In the big anonymous world of the Internet, online shoppers crave familiarity through social proof. And it’s remarkably powerful stuff.
Social proof is the phenomenon of other people’s actions and choices influencing our decisions. In the context of online shopping, it’s letting people’s customer feedback shape our own perception of a product or service.
If we see people reacting negatively to a product, the less likely we’re going to buy it. Conversely, products with great feedback are more likely to encourage us to buy them.
A study published on the Wall Street Journal in 2010 perfectly demonstrates the power of social proof in consumer behavior. In the study, researchers sought to determine if social proof was a more powerful purchase motivator than saving money, or helping protect the environment. The goal was to convince them to buy electric fans over air conditioners.
They did so by testing 4 different messages:
- They could save $54.00 a month on electricity by using an electric fan
- They could reduce greenhouse gases by up to 262 pounds by using an electric fan
- They were socially responsible by using an electric fan and saving energy
- 77 percent of their neighbors used electric fans to reduce energy costs
As it turns out, the fourth message appealing to positive social proof was most effective.
CRO techniques for leveraging social proof include testimonials (like the one in the image below), social media buttons (likes, retweets, and shares), case studies, and systems that show the number of customers that have bought the product.
These are just a few of my favorite techniques. With some care and testing, you could easily avoid the issues many marketers have encountered, ensuring your conversion rate stays healthy.
As always, these methods, while great, should all be tested. As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t a one size fits all approach to ecommerce CRO. A hack that works for one site may not work for yours. Still, these strategies have been proven to work across many large ecommerce properties.
Do you have any ecommerce strategies that have worked wonders on your conversion rate?