When you launch your eCommerce site, a lot of thought goes into which payment processors you’re going to use, which eCommerce platform is best for your store, and what other tools you’ll need to successfully start your business, such as SSL certificates and other trust and security measures. However, a lot of times companies leave money on the table; they get caught up in running the business and driving traffic to the site rather than making the site most efficient and effective for the people that are already visiting.
Instead of letting prospective clients float away, there are some points to consider when tweaking your site or making minor changes that are proven to increase conversion rates and help you create more value from the site traffic you already have.
Improving eCommerce Conversions
- Answer “Why?” before “How?”
If I sold you a pair of headphones by showing you what each button does and how to turn them on and off versus telling you why these headphones are the best headphones, I’d probably lose the sale. Yet many times, we write about all of the features of our product and how to use it because that is what’s easiest for us. We use the product, so we can show you how to use it. However, that’s not what customers care about at first. Remember the first rule of selling: How can you solve the customer’s pain, problem, or predicament? They have a headache, so give them some aspirin. Tell them why they need what you have.
Which brings us to the next point on this list…
- Stress Benefits over Features
When a customer buys your product, what they really want is a better “them” or a better life, not necessarily a product. Use your “customer glasses” to view your website – their values and needs should come before your products’ features. Then use those values, needs, and the better lifestyle that will result from purchase to direct your product page copy and images.
Will those headphones block out all of the noise around me? Show me a picture of someone looking peaceful while wearing them amid chaos. Sell me the benefits I’ll get from the super-duper noise-cancelling features. Tell me about how I can sleep on a plane while children go nuts around me and the guy in seat 13D snores like he has sleep apnea on level 87. Sell me the life I want, not your product.
- Images are Important
If possible, limit text / copy – less is more. When you’ve written your product descriptions, go back and change every feature to a phrase about how it makes the customer’s life awesome. Then cut out the 30% of your copy that’s irrelevant or fluff. There’s always something you can cut. In the wise words of Mark Twain, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Take the time to be succinct and effective. If you want customers to read, then don’t waste their time.
If you’re selling physical products, have great images and several of them if possible. Check out your own browsing behavior: I will almost always look at all pictures for a product. Even when Amazon sometimes glitches on my phone and one image is replicated ten times over, I still look through all of the images for a product. Use images to sell along with your descriptions.
Note that there are some times you should break this rule. If you’re selling high-end products like some TVs or good speaker systems, more copy and features are necessary so that people can geek out over the refresh rate of their TVs. Products that will look similar usually require more focus on features. Always know your audience so you know which rules to break. If you’re not sure, test long versus short copy to see which converts better, but only change one aspect of the product page at a time so you can isolate what works.
- Images are Still Important
Not only should you use images of the product itself, you should also try to demonstrate the product in action or use images to sell the life customers want. Your images should elicit emotions just like your copy or descriptions do. For example, go back to my headphones scenario. Yes, I’d like to see pictures of the headphones I’m buying, but if you show me a picture of someone keeping calm and carrying on in a maelstrom of craziness and din, I’ll identify with that photo and really want to have that calmness. Mirror your customers and users in your photos so that they can slip into the photo and see themselves using the product.
Update: KISSmetrics just posted an article on effective images for eCommerce that seconds this idea.
- Reduce Checkout Barriers
If your eCommerce platform allows for it, always allow guest checkout and/or easy registration in the checkout process. If you can reduce barriers to purchase, conversions will increase. Keep only what’s absolutely needed in your checkout. Channel Amazon if possible – ever notice that, once you get to checkout, that’s the only thing you can do? Put the blinders on and guide people towards completing the checkout process as swiftly and easily as possible.
- Simplify Browsing
Many eCommerce platforms provide product search functions or widgets. Use them. If you have the ability to drill-down product using categories or tags, make sure customers can see this. It helps the ones that are just browsing, and the first time they can’t find a product or get frustrated by using your site, they’ll probably leave and never come back. You’ve already done the hard part by getting them to your site, so make sure that they stay there and find something to buy. Include categories in navigation or have category breadcrumbs at the top of the page.
- Hide and Rename Coupon Fields on Cart Pages
This one is a bit counter-intuitive for people, but imagine you’re the customer for a minute. You’d want discounts, right? Discounts are great. However, you probably don’t have a coupon code. If you see a space for coupon codes on the cart page, what would you do? RetailMeNot, here I come! Guess what? I just left your cart sitting there while I look at cat gifs or something equally as distracting. Let’s not let customers leave us so easily.
There are a couple of ways to handle this one. First, you can usually do a little bit of editing to your cart page template to hide the coupon code fields. If this appears at checkout, customers are less likely to leave the page sitting around with payment information already typed in. You can also decrease the tendency for customers to leave by renaming this field. “Coupon” sounds like something they want to go digging around for, but if you rename this field “Promotional Offers”, “Discount Codes”, or something similar, customers that already have coupon codes named the same way will know where to put the information, but less people go abandoning carts to browse for discounts who don’t have them already.
- Leverage Fear
People hate to miss out on something or feel like they let an opportunity slip their grasps. Use this to your advantage. If you can display low stock messages, do it. This creates a sense of urgency and can push people that are on the fence into buying so they don’t miss out on a deal or an item they want. Check out Gustin Jeans to see what I mean – they only make a certain quantity of jeans based on fabric they have, so people hop on board to reserve a pair since they know they’ll miss out if they wait. They’ve sold out a campaign within 3 minutes because of this model.
This also works well with timed promotions, such as offering free shipping for a few days in a month. Make people feel like they need to buy now to take advantage of the human tendency towards loss aversion.
- Demand Action
The last thing you should be conscious of are your calls to action. If you don’t ask for a sale, you’re not going to get it. Ask the customer to do what you want them to do, and make it obvious. Want some help with design? Check out this infographic from KISSmetrics on how colors affect purchases.
Want me to add something to my cart or check out? Make sure I know that’s what I’m supposed to do next. Adjust whatever CSS is necessary to make sure I see exactly what I should see.
Sell me a longer drive or more control over my golf shots, not a titanium driver with a carbon fiber shaft. I want to brag about a reduced handicap, not the specs on my driver.
When in doubt, always test site changes one at a time, and bear in mind that simpler sites tend to convert better than more complex sites. Always keep your customer’s experience and viewpoint in mind even though it’s harder to slip into that mindset than one of a store owner. Your wallet will tell you it’s worth it 🙂 .
Read More on How to Improve eCommerce Conversions
- Want to know more about features vs. benefits? Check out this article on using benefits to sell from CrazyEgg. Also, check out their advice on using copy for conversions.
- Chris Lema has some insight into the Cart66 site redesign and how it’s geared towards selling.
- SteamFeed has some great articles on improving eCommerce site usability and increasing conversions and customer happiness.
- Tweaky has some advice on increasing eCommerce conversions on your site’s product pages.
- Shopify has some pointers on writing effective product descriptions to improve ecommerce conversions.