Getting relevant potential customers to land on your website in the first place is only part of the story when it comes to selling your products online. There are many different factors that can influence whether people visiting your ecommerce website will actually complete a purchase or not. In this guide, we look at a variety of different areas of the ecommerce user journey that can be optimised to drive more conversions and, ultimately, can increase your revenue significantly.
Ecommerce conversion rate optimisation is an often neglected part of the marketing journey. Every online business is different, but a small and sustained increase in conversion rate can make a huge difference to your bottom line.
What is ecommerce conversion rate? - Conversion isn’t just the final step; ecommerce CRO is essentially about meeting the needs of your potential customers at every stage of the buyer journey on your website, ultimately culminating in a completed purchase.
For most retailers, the journey shouldn’t simply end there either. Unless your products are a once in a lifetime purchase, repeat custom should also be considered in your wider ecommerce CRO strategy. If your customers are not going to be in the market to buy again, how can happy customers be leveraged as part of your CRO strategy to encourage other potential customers over the line?
It’s important to benchmark your website’s performance in key areas when you’re looking at ecommerce CRO – and we’re not just talking about actual transactions. We cover benchmarking against your industry as a whole further down the guide, but first, you need to decide what exactly you should measure and why.
The whole of the user journey has to be taken into account when choosing the metrics to measure your business against, as every stage is important in the conversion path as a whole.
Who are you currently attracting to your site and through what kind of activity and channels? Is one channel performing better than the others in terms of average time on site, number of pages visited, conversion rate or transaction value? What is different about the visitors coming through this channel? Look at assisted conversions too – what is the crossover like? Is there a specific type of customer or persona who is likely to have several touchpoints with different channels?
It’s important to have a joined-up strategy so that all of your marketing channels are pushing in the same direction.
Break down the visitors from each channel and analyse what their actions on the site look like. Where do they enter and leave? What stage of the buying journey are the majority of them at? Are they high up the funnel and not anywhere near ready yet to make a purchase? How are these site visitors being nurtured so that they come back when they are ready?
If you find that you are attracting a really high proportion of top of the funnel visitors, what can you do differently to target users who are a little further in their journey?
We’re not pretending that this kind of analysis is a quick and easy process – but the impact that even small changes can have on your business can be transformative. You’ll need time and resource to plough into ecommerce conversion rate optimisation, which can be tricky to ringfence from your marketing budget or get extra spend for, so getting buy-in from whoever holds the purse strings is essential.
If you’re trying to illustrate the importance of CRO to your ecommerce business stakeholders, nothing compares to cold hard cash. Calculate the difference that a small improvement of CVR will make to the overall revenue. If your website’s CVR is below average for your industry, what difference will it make in monetary terms if you manage to hit the average figure?
For example, one of our retail clients has an ecommerce CVR of 2.31% on their organic search channel and an average order value of just over £100, which means that organic traffic is currently bringing in around £170,000 in revenue every month.
If that conversion rate were to improve to 2.5%, so a 0.19% increase, that would equate to an additional £14k of revenue per month. If it were to hit 3% CVR, they would be turning over at least another £50k per month, or another £600k per year.
Benchmarking against yourself at a previous point of time will show any progress that your site is making, but how does this compare to your competitors or your sector as a whole?
Comparing your business against various CVR benchmarks does have some value, but this also needs to be caveated against the reality that every business is different and their marketing activity to push conversions can vary widely. Two retailers selling similar products can have a similar target market, similar levels of brand awareness and similar top line channel activity, but wildly different conversion rates. Learning from your competitors is a valid ecommerce CRO tactic, but it’s important not to lose sight of the differences between your businesses and the things that make your brand unique, which can work in your favour when it comes to driving conversions over the line.
Adobe’s 2020 report into consumer electronics compares this ecommerce sector against others in the below graphic in terms of sitewide conversion rates (US data):
2019 research from Episerver shows a conversion rate comparison using data they analysed across 158 retail and consumer brand websites. This kind of information can be useful to benchmark your own traffic sources against as a general guide, but with a fairly small sample size, these stats should probably be taken with a small pinch of salt.
An ecommerce CRO analysis is never really finished. There are a limitless number of rabbit holes that you can go down, depending on the type of information you want to dig into. In an ideal world, there would be a limitless budget and endless time for CRO for every ecommerce brand but, unfortunately, most companies don’t have this luxury. The key is to ascertain the most important areas of insight for your specific business, which can sometimes be easier said than done, to ensure that your time and resource is focused on the elements that will have the biggest positive impact on your revenue.
A good starting point for a CRO ecommerce strategy is to try to get an overview of lots of different areas of the conversion journey and site performance along the way, which should help to highlight those parts that need more attention and further analysis as a priority.
It’s important to also consider micro-conversions as well as straightforward sales transactions. Common types of conversions that aren’t sales but can give great insight into your audience’s user journey include: adding products to basket, adding a product to a wishlist or saving products to look at in more detail later.
Not everything in this checklist will be relevant to every retail website, but we think it will provide a good overview of information that will help bring to light areas that will need further CRO investigation.
Heatmaps have long been used for ecommerce CRO, as this visual representation of user behaviour can be a great way to find out whether areas of a web page are functioning as they should. Are people using the navigation as you expected them to? Are they concentrating their attention on what you think they should be?
The most commonly used type of heatmaps tracks mouse movements and clicks on a webpage. What do people hover over and what do they click on? It can show how people are reading the content and engaging with various elements on the page. Are videos being watched? Are people clicking on images expecting them to link somewhere?
Not only are heatmaps a good indication of potential conversion problems if people are missing important information, but when heatmaps are used as part of A/B testing, they can also prove that your changes are working (or not) and having the desired impact on the user journey.
Other types of heatmap include those that measure scroll depth i.e. how far someone is scrolling down a webpage. If you have important information, compelling product videos or a conversion CTA at the bottom of the page but you’re not sure how many people are scrolling down far enough to see this, this type of heatmap can help prove whether this is the case.
A major issue with user testing is that it comes naturally for most people (especially if they are getting paid for their time) to tell you what they think you want to hear about your website – whether they realise that this is what they are doing or not. Biometric testing takes this out of the equation entirely because the body can’t fake its innate reaction to what it sees or does.
Biometric testing on people that fall into your real target audience can have real value for highlighting conversion issues. Capturing data like heart rate, EEG (brain activity), galvanic skin response (perspiration levels), and tracking eye movements and facial expressions can provide a wealth of information about what people find engaging as they try to shop on your site, what frustrates them as they search for what they want, what they are drawn to visually and any usability barriers to the sale being made.
See more about how biometric testing can be used for ecommerce CRO here.
There are many different ways in which Google Analytics can provide information about conversions and transactions on your website. Keeping things fairly superficial at first will help you to get a feel for areas of conversion concern, which you can then dig further into.
Some of the things to look for which can help with your initial review include:
With Google Analytics that has enhanced ecommerce set up, you can review cart abandonment rates within this platform. For a more detailed look at what is happening with users that add products to their basket but don’t complete checkout, you can use Google Tag Manager (GTM) to tag up various elements of pages to better show where on the page the user stopped the process e.g. when they saw shipping costs or estimated delivery dates for the first time.
Your ecommerce platform might also offer shopping cart abandonment software built in as one of your online store features. If not, for a more in-depth look at cart abandonment, you might need to invest in a third party solution. If your cart abandonment rate is incredibly high and you can’t find the reasons for this by using the above methods, this could be worth looking into further as it could make a big difference to your sales revenue.
If you have tested and tweaked all of the main elements that your previous CRO analysis brought to light as being wrong with the ‘business as usual’ elements of your site’s conversion journey, you might wonder where to go next. We have compiled a list of tactics below that could be worth testing to check what impact they have on conversions, if they haven’t already formed part of your strategy.
Depending on what you sell, shipping costs can be a big influence on conversions. If you already offer free shipping on orders over a certain value, consider a trial where you lower this threshold. Obviously, if your business needs to start swallowing some or all of your shipping costs, it needs to be worth your while in terms of increased revenue generated. You might want to consider testing whether a slightly higher product price which will give you a better margin, but alongside free shipping, will be a more profitable tactic for your business. If people see that you are offering free and quick delivery, it can be the push they need to get them over the line with a purchase, even if other retailers might undercut you on the product price.
Understanding which kinds of trust signals your target audience values the most is the first step to making sure that your website is optimised in these areas. This can be very much a test and learn process, especially if you don’t have much existing data that you can use to help. Most people who land on a website aren’t necessarily conscious of what trust signals are or the role that they play, so it’s not always as easy as asking them what they want to see.
Some tests that you can try include:
Next make great use of this kind of signal, having reviews set up at a product level, rather than at a generic retailer level.
We’ve probably all had good and bad experience with live chat or chat bots on websites. On the right kind of site, when implemented well, they can certainly assist with conversions. On the flip-side, a poor experience with something like this can really put shoppers off. Whilst live chat solutions are ten a penny, we’ve had some success using Moneypenny (pictured below) and Zendesk with some of our clients.
2015 research showed that 55% of US shoppers would leave a website without making a purchase if they couldn’t find an answer to their question. These kinds of figures mean that it’s worth a trial or test to see if live chat is something that could increase your site’s conversions.
Matching the right solution with the right kind of products is important. If you’re in the market to buy a cheap new outfit from a fast fashion brand then you’re unlikely to need expert assistance from a real staff member, so a chat bot that can understand and discuss useful info such as shipping times and costs or returns information could be ideal. However, for a complex product, such as consumer electronics or computing, where the potential customer might need some help choosing between different models or understanding exactly what they are looking for, live chat with a fully trained individual on the other end could be a real winner from a conversion point of view.
Currys PC World go one step further, offering ‘ShopLIve’ – a video call (where you can’t be seen but the brand’s employee can be)
Depending on what you sell, the introduction of product videos can make a big difference, especially for higher ticket items or things like electricals, which would benefit from some top level explainer content. Creating your own video content is a big step, but if you’re a reseller then you may find brand/manufacturer-produced video content that you can use, or even a high quality third party review video to embed (with the creator’s permission of course) on your website to test whether it makes a difference to the number of people reassured enough to make a purchase off the back of it.
Ideally, product videos need to be short and snappy; no longer than 30 seconds long. However, if the product is particularly complex, it could pay off to have a longer and more in-depth video that can help convince people that this is the right choice for them to buy.
AO make great use of product videos, inviting people to ‘see it in action’ on product pages.
With ecommerce conversion rate optimisation, small gains in a variety of areas can end up making a really significant difference to your overall revenue. The likelihood is that there isn’t ever going to be a stage when your site’s conversion rate will be perfect, and you can simply stop considering CRO altogether. Improving the customer journey through your website is an ongoing process because your customers and technology are always evolving. However, we hope that the advice in this guide has given you some ideas about how to move forward with your own website’s CRO strategy.If you want some help with forming or implementing an effective CRO strategy on your website, get in touch with our ecommerce CRO agency team today.