A beautiful website can impress anyone upon first touch.
It can scream “premium” and aid greatly in company branding.
But beauty and the “wow factor” alone doesn’t lead to sales.
Not if your user flows and general user experience isn’t optimized properly.
That just leads to a bounce.
Most marketers and businesses think website aesthetics are tantamount to success. And while that may be somewhat true, aesthetics without function is a recipe for window shopping.
A combination of page elements, a premium feel, and site architecture are required to maximize conversions.
Your site should look and feel amazing.
Here are four ways to balance both design and conversion optimization for more ecommerce sales today:
1. Simplify Options & Reduce Choices
When thinking about ecommerce or selling products in general, most people think that offering more products is better.
And that notion isn’t inherently bad or misguided. It actually makes sense in theory:
More products = more choices = more potential people to appeal to.
For example, selling t-shirts for just women narrows your target market down a lot more than if you were selling to both men and women.
More products in different sectors allows you to target more markets.
Win win win, right? Not so fast. It’s not all sunshine and daisies.
Just because you’ve got a product catalog with 1,000 SKUs doesn’t mean you’ll be selling them like hotcakes.
In fact, studies show an opposite trend when it comes to total product choices.
Take the paradox of choice for example: while having more choices is a crucial element of freedom, it can often cause a psychological burn-out.
This was proven by a viral, landmark study done by a professor in a California gourmet supermarket which studied the impact of products on choice and buying decisions. Though this study was conducted a long time ago, the lesson is still extremely relevant today.
Setting up a local marketing booth using a local jam/jelly company, in two shifts, the booth offered taste tests of either six or 24 different types of jams.
Every few hours, they’d simply rotate the selection.
What they found was conventionally shocking:
Each customer who visited the tasting booth tasted two jams, regardless of total offering sizes.
More importantly, 60% of shoppers visited the booth when 24 jams were present. Only 40% tested when six options were available.
But, despite a lower percentage of visits, the six-option booth converted 30% of tasters, while the 24-option test only converted 3%.
Fewer choices led to a 10x increase in conversions.
So, why did this happen?
Decision fatigue is simple: as you are forced to make more (and more complex) decisions, the quantity of decisions drops dramatically:
In fact, decision fatigue often leads to decision avoidance, where a person simply abandons their potential decision in the process.
Does that sound familiar? *cough cart abandonment cough.*
This jam study found that “people who had more choices were often less willing to decide to buy anything at all.”
It’s like trying to order food at a restaurant with a menu the size of your local phonebook. *cough Cheesecake Factory cough.*
Your conversion momentum becomes stagnant.
This happens every single day in the ecommerce world, where the average cart abandonment rate is 76.9%.
There are too many options. Too many steps.
To combat this, try simplifying your menus to reduce choices, or offering a knowledge base software of information that people can turn to for instant gratification / answers:
Recent research from the Harvard Business Review expands on this idea by saying that “what seems like merely aesthetic design choices may actually be the way your customers learn to trust you (or don’t). And that will influence whether they decide to make a purchase.”
Simplification in design and structure can have huge impacts on signaling trust in ecommerce.
For example, MailChimp excels at reducing any decision fatigue by creating simple pricing pages:
Instead of listing out hundreds of features and benefits in a list format for each plan, they reduce choices. Each one lists pricing and the exact target market fit: New business. Growing business. Pro marketer. This allows a new visitor to find their plan ASAP.
Another example of simplifying design choices is from Doris Sleep, a luxury bed pillow company with pillows made in the USA from recycled materials. Their elegant 3-product layout showcases their product’s top features while reducing choices and making it easier for consumers to buy:
Similarly, online jewelry store Vrai & Oro uses simple product categories based on their common customer pain points:
Giving just three choices for customers, they reduce typical decision fatigue seen in their industry, where competitive sites list hundreds of thousands of options based on cut, size, length, material and more. This strategy has helped them generate $2 million in annual revenue.
A Neil Patel case study found that less is indeed more. Reducing the size of Crazy Egg’s homepage by 60% led to a 13% increase in conversions.
Sometimes, less is more. And that’s certainly the case with ecommerce.
Venngage’s 2018 state of Lead Gen sums this up better than I can, saying:
“Focus on selling and you’ll get rejections. Focus on value and you’ll get conversions.”
And sometimes, the best way to do that is by doing more with less.
2. Checkout Process Optimization
For B2C marketers, conversion rate optimization often hones in on the central part of an online store: the checkout process.
If you haven’t invested time, money and research into your checkout experience, you could be missing out on big wins.
If cart abandonment rates are high for you, there is likely something missing.
After all, you’ve gotten shoppers this far. They’ve added your products to their cart with the intent to buy.
But then out of nowhere, the momentum flatlines.
Why? It’s likely that you aren’t communicating the right information within the checkout process.
The primary reasons for online shoppers to abandon carts almost always have to do with shipping costs, the process itself, or bad navigation:
On top of this data, AdWeek found that 69% of shoppers believe returning a product would be a complicated process, and therefore, they don’t buy.
The truth is, you have to make shipping, returns and buying as clear as day if you want conversions.
For instance, Hitcase simplifies their checkout process with transparent shipping and fast buying options like PayPal:
Have you ever been seconds away from purchasing, only to input your zip code and have $15 shipping added onto your bill?
Or, have you ever clicked on the cheapest shipping option and gotten a delivery estimate of 4-12 business days?
I’d be willing to bet that you abandoned your cart ASAP.
Why? Because we live in an Amazon world. Amazon accounts for 60% of all online retail sales.
64% of American households have Amazon Prime, not considering just ordering on Amazon in general.
They have it because shipping and checkout costs are transparent and guaranteed.
You can bet that if your checkout process doesn’t live up to the Amazon experience of simple, easy to use and transparency-focused, your conversions won’t skyrocket.
Rothy’s is a prime (pun intended) example of combining branded, flawless design with CRO when it comes to the checkout process.
They make it clear that returns are easy and efficient with a simple three-step process:
When checking out, expanded shipping information is available to curb any cart abandonment:
With detailed, transparent information for each shipping type, you’ll know exactly when you can expect your item in the mail.
A dynamic banner at the top of the page delivers targeted messaging on the top pain points of cart abandonment:
Bohemian Traders is another example of an ecommerce brand that has optimized the checkout process successfully. One-click shipping integrations, trusted payment providers and minimized information requirements have netted them 166% year-over-year revenue growth.
Did you know that you can even use chatbots to optimize the checkout process by notifying people of items left in their cart? They take just minutes to set up.
In your design and checkout process, communicate everything and anything you can to prevent a loss in momentum.
That means shipping costs, times and deadlines. It means taxes and any additional fees.
Simplify everything by focusing on the top reasons for cart abandonment.
3. Stop Using Instant Pop-ups; Use Exit Intent Instead
We’ve all seen it in ecommerce:
You land on a given store for the first time. Before you can even slide the cursor to select a category or page, you’re met with a lightbox pop-up, asking you for your email in exchange for 15% off:
But this doesn’t work.
Let me explain why.
The average buyer takes anywhere from 7-13 touches before buying.
Meaning they’ve interacted with your site, social or other channels where your product is listed up to 13 times before making a decision.
Have you ever instantly searched and bought from a brand you’ve never heard of?
Probably not. If you did, the purchase was probably just a few dollars or zero-risk.
A 15% off coupon isn’t going to make someone skip research and analysis. These visitors are too cold. So the reason this tactic doesn’t perform well is the same reason cold outreach doesn’t.
At least not more than it can hurt your business.
Data shows that pop-up or lightbox ads upon entry don’t work.
When someone doesn’t know your brand, what you sell, or what brand space you occupy, they won’t buy.
In fact, these pop-up style discounts upon entry are just like ads. People are rapidly installing ad blocker for this very reason.
Interruption. Simply put, they’re intrusive and annoying. Not to mention people feel they are going to be exposed to viruses and malware. People shouldn’t have to use a VPN like Hola or simply hope you’re using the wisest web hosting choice free from hackers to browse your store in peace.
Is a 2% conversion rate on these entry pop-ups worth losing a large portion of your visitors who get annoyed and leave?
Is it worth damaging your potential credibility, trust or the user experience?
Not when exit intent pop-ups work better because you can control when they fire.
You don’t annoy people and impact the user experience negatively, but you do get the benefits of capturing traffic before someone leaves.
Exit intent also helps to capture more high-quality traffic that has engaged with your content or products, rather than someone trying to snag a coupon code for a one-time buy.
It’s been shown to increase conversion rates by up to 27% in multiple studies.
You can even use exit intent to ensure that people who are about to abandon their cart can save it instead:
Flip the script.
Instead of using entry pop-up boxes with discounts, use them when someone is about to leave:
Now, you can retarget to your heart’s content, leveraging emails’ best-in-class conversion rates.
With exit intent, you get design and CRO benefits to help you minimize the risk of harming the user experience, while also providing a way to increase conversions.
4. Overcome Roadblocks With Heat Mapping
User experience is key to ecommerce success.
Even if your design is great, if the user struggles to find products and checkout, they’ll leave without hesitation.
And that’s where heat and click mapping come into play.
With heat mapping, you can see where the majority of people concentrate on your page. This helps tremendously for long pages that have an ideal amount of content.
For example, this long-form landing page:
According to the scale, blue is cold. It’s bad. It means people aren’t making it down that far, or if they are, they’re spending almost no time there. Meaning people just don’t care enough about it (or don’t see the value).
The heatmap scale can show you directly how compelling or useless your content is. The warmer the color, the better.
If you started a new blog and see that people aren’t getting far down your posts, you may have to rework your content strategy.
Similarly, with click mapping, you can see the hotspots for where people click, allowing you to spot trends or potential problem areas where content isn’t being accessed:
With further analysis, headlines, CTAs, and links can be removed based on their performance, aiding you in achieving a sleek design that optimizes for the top-converting clicks. These insights work especially well for ecommerce product pages, SaaS pricing pages, and online course platforms.
Heat and click maps are diverse tools that will help you analyze what parts of your pages are driving attention and clicks (and which aren’t).
Using heat mapping tools, health food company Wyldsson was able to increase sales by 30%. By analyzing specific issues with their user account creation process, checkout pages, and browser plugin issues, they cleaned up conversion roadblocks.
Getting approval for heating mapping on your site is important and will allow you to simplify your pages, removing any page elements that don’t hold attention.
For example, if you noticed that nobody was interacting with your product carousel, you could easily take it off the page, likely improving speed and user experience without removing a critical design element.
Or, take the example below. On this page, you can see that most clicks are going back to the top menu navigation, rather than the CTA at the bottom:
That’s a huge, potentially revenue-destroying conversion roadblock.
On this landing page, theoretically, people should be scrolling down and clicking to get more information.
Instead, they’re opting out by clicking on different areas of the site.
I.e., not getting any conversions.
Try using heat and click mapping tech to spot potential roadblocks and problem issues.
When designing a site for conversions, most people tend to fall on either side of the spectrum:
- Strictly beauty, or
- Strictly conversions.
But neither of those is optimal.
The feel of your site’s design helps to cement branding. Meanwhile, the optimization of your UX works to improve sales.
A great ecommerce store contains both.
Start by simplifying your menus to reduce choices. Offering variety is great, but overdoing it is a recipe for decision fatigue, killing any shopping momentum your visitors might have had.
Next, focus heavily on your checkout optimization. Checkout optimization is key to reducing cart abandonment, and an area where your sales can easily be improved.
Stop using instant pop-ups, as they don’t align with the typical visitor on your site.
Improve roadblocks by using heat mapping technology to see exact conversion roadblocks that negatively impact the user experience.
With a mix of both design and flow, you’ll be reaping double the rewards.
About the Author
Adam Enfroy is a writer, content marketing consultant, and manages strategic partnerships for BigCommerce. With 10+ years of digital marketing experience, he’s passionate about leveraging the right strategic partnerships and software to scale digital growth. Adam lives in Austin, TX and writes about scaling your online influence on his blog, adamenfroy.com.
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