There are pros and cons to having your entire business e-commerce. One huge pro is that during the pandemic many people ended up buying online, so e-commerce stores tended to do very well. One downside is that you don’t get walk-in traffic and the sales process is very different. In a store, people can see, touch, and try on the product. They know it’s not a scam because it’s right there.
With e-commerce, you have a lot more obstacles to overcome. Building trust is a huge one to increase your e-commerce conversion rate.
In this article, I’m going to give a deep dive into what is important to make your e-commerce website convert better, how to increase the lifetime value of customers, and how to build more trust with your website visitors which will lead to a higher e-commerce conversion rate.
First, where are they coming from? Understanding your e-commerce marketing funnel is key to a conversion rate optimization strategy.
As an e-commerce business, you are solely reliant on organic search rank and digital ads to get people to your website. This can seem like a negative at times but in reality, it is kind of awesome. It allows you to fully control the customer journey throughout your marketing funnel.
What is a marketing funnel?
A marketing funnel is a process by which a visitor discovers you, visits your website, and either purchases or doesn’t. It also includes the post-conversion conversation and any kind of cart abandonment sequence. Your marketing funnel is the most important process an online business has when it comes to generating sales and conversion rate optimization. If even one aspect of your funnel is weak and raises doubt in the mind of the consumer it fails and your e-commerce conversion rate will not be as high as it can be. Marketing funnels can be simple or intricate. This depends on the product, price point, and how people buy your product. A higher-priced item may have a more intricate funnel. A product that requires educating the prospective customer will have its own type of funnel. but for simplicity’s sake, I’m going to use an example of a very basic marketing funnel for e-commerce.
Top of Funnel
This is how people initially find you. Often this is via organic search results or digital advertising. This is an important piece of the funnel because if this fails you don’t get the clicks to even see how the rest of the funnel performs. Let’s take a look at the 2 types of TOF and how they affect your conversion rate optimization.
Organic Search Results
These are people who come across your SERP listing when they search for a product you offer. Of course, your SEO game has to be solid for this to be a viable TOF. E-commerce website SEO is its own beast. You’re typically going after national or global search terms so competition is usually higher.
So let’s say you rank great. Your success or failure here comes down to one thing really, your meta description. With SEO we optimize the meta title and the meta description. A meta title is a great place for keywords as this plays a large role in where you rank. As long as the meta title describes the product then you want it to be keyword rich. The real magic is in the meta description. This is the part people read and makes a big impact on whether they click or not. You want this to speak to the searcher and show them that you have what they’re looking for and ideally position yourself as to why they should click it. Meta descriptions should be written to get those clicks because that will help your conversion rate optimization.
This is a trickier one as there are so many elements at play. Depending on the platform you’re advertising on it can be video-based, image-based, text-based, or a combination. But beyond that, it really matters who you target with your ads. A great graphic and ad copy but poor targeting will lead to mediocre results. Great targeting with a graphic or ad copy that doesn’t resonate leads to the same. So within this aspect of TOF, you need to make sure several pieces are in line and test things out.
Remember, when you advertise digitally with the exception of Google Adwords, you are advertising to a cold audience and these tend to have lower conversion rates. These people aren’t full of purchase intent and actively searching for your product. So the way you need to message them is different. You need to overcome the “who is this company” if you’re not already well known. Then you need to get them interested in a product that they might not even know they want or need to increase conversion rates.
If you nail your targeting, your messaging, and your ad copy/graphics then it will be a successful TOF and this aspect will have a high e-commerce conversion rate.
Middle Of Funnel
This is where they land once they click your SERP listing or digital ad. It needs to be in line with what they learned in the ad or search result. If someone clicks and it goes to a page that is not related, or worse yet, eek, your homepage, your e-commerce conversion rate is not going to be great. The type of page to use varies based on what you’re selling. If it’s a product, you can go right to the product page and make it simple. But if it’s something like an online course, a high-ticket product that needs some education, or a product they might not know much about a landing page is the best option.
A landing page is a web page that is singular in focus. It does one thing, attempts to convert one specific action. Maybe it’s a pre-order for an upcoming product, an email grab, or a free download aka lead magnet. I could go on for days about how to optimize a landing page for a high e-commerce conversion rate but that’s not in the cards for today.
If your landing page doesn’t continue the conversation from the ad or SERP listing it won’t convert well. There needs to be a laser focus to guide people through the entire funnel for the best conversion rate optimization. This is the trickiest to diagnose. With the TOF you can tell it’s failing because you’re not getting clicks. But with the MOF it can be a number of different issues. Slight tweaks in copy, structure, or imagery can solve it. Or maybe it’s the price point. Or it could be that your landing page doesn’t inspire trust. The goal here is to hit that Add To Cart button to boost your e-commerce conversion rate.
Bottom Of Funnel
This can be so many different avenues. If you did a lead magnet or grabbed an email then the BOF is going to be the email sequence you send to sell the product or service. If it’s selling a product it’s the actual purchase and post-purchase engagement.
A weak marketing funnel here is a little more ideal. Because if you’re getting a great ad or organic search click-through rate, and people are spending time on the landing page you can figure out the few things that might be causing a low e-commerce conversion rate. This is where the best tools are using event tracking, heat maps, and user recordings to see what the on-site behavior looks like and see what can be done to improve conversion rates. Then split testing to make adjustments based on the data and testing versions that seem to solve the challenge. Once you fix this you can see your e-commerce conversion rate skyrocket.
Once you have them through the funnel and they are an official customer comes the retention segment and within this, your goal is to keep them as a customer and increase their lifetime value.
The key to creating a great marketing funnel is experience and testing testing testing. E-commerce conversion rates can almost always be improved.
10 On-Page Elements That Effect E-Commerce Conversion Rate Optimization
Website Layout Effect On Conversion Rate
The structure of the website they land on plays a huge role in your e-commerce conversion rate. For a product page, there are so many factors at play. Is the imagery great? Does the imagery show how it looks, how big it is, the different variations, etc.? It’s amazing how many ads and SERP listings I click that don’t really sell the product. Especially with cold traffic from social media ads, the burden is on you to convince the user 1. that your product solves a pain point you clearly mirror, 2. that it’s the best product to solve this pain point, and 3. that they can trust you to deliver. Using a layout that mirrors the psychological process buyers go through and presents this messaging in a way that makes sense is so important and will increase your e-commerce conversion rate.
Website Content And Conversion Rate
The words we use show so much about us and have such an effect on our conversion rates. The way in which content is written makes a huge difference in conversions. Remember, most people skim content. So work with this. Small chunks of text, bolding, and blockquotes, summarize things so skimmers can still take away what you want them to from the messaging.
When crafting landing page or product page content it’s important to think about the way your content reads. It’s not about you, it’s about the e-commerce website visitor. When I go to a site and I see the word “We” a ton of times I know the content sucks and the e-commerce conversion rate is low. It shows the brand is tone-deaf and egocentric. The visitor wants to know what’s in it for them. Less about you, and more about their challenges and desires.
You also want to make sure that the content is well-written and uses proper grammar. Poorly written content with typos hurts the trust factor and will lower your e-commerce conversion rate.
High-Quality Product Images + Lifestyle Images Effect On Conversion Rate
Images sell. Crappy images will drop your e-commerce conversion rate. Using great images, ideally completely unique, that back up the content is so important for any e-commerce website. By showing great images of the product and of people in the demographic you’re targeting you are creating a connection. Building trust in the product but also showing them people like them creates affinity and will increase your e-commerce conversion rate. A solid blend of product and lifestyle photography makes all the difference. They serve 2 different purposes.
Discounts’ Effect On Conversion Rate
Unless you are a real luxury brand the need to offer discounts is real. Pretty much every e-commerce brand offers some kind of discount to increase the e-commerce conversion rate. Usually, it’s for signing up for the email list. Discounts can be leveraged in a lot of different ways to drive conversions. The pre-first conversion discount should be good enough to get them to trade their email address for it. 5% sucks, 10% is ish, and you really want to shoot for 20% to be competitive and higher if you want to get really aggressive.
If you’re offering a discount higher than 20% you really want to make sure your email marketing game is really effective. That way taking a bit of a hit on the first purchase doesn’t matter because you know your LTV is much higher than that first purchase.
Product Reviews Effect On Conversion Rate
Over 90% of customers read customer reviews about a product before purchasing, often right on the product pages. Reviews have a large sway on conversion rates how could you not? When someone is buying something online it’s important to see what other people say about it. Because even if you offer free returns and exchanges it’s still a hassle to return something and wait for the refund or exchange.
If you don’t have reviews on your product page people may look elsewhere. And if someone can’t find reviews of the product or at least your online shop, the likelihood of a website conversion drops. No one wants to be the guinea pig.
Make sure you have reviews on your product pages and make sure you have a system to collect reviews from recent customers to improve your conversion rates. It’s likely you will need to be a bit aggressive with your review request sequence. It can take a few emails before someone just goes and does it.
Tip: Don’t filter to only show 5-star reviews. This looks staged. Having a few lower reviews actually builds trust. Having a less-than-stellar review isn’t going to kill your conversions as long as you also address the reviewer’s concerns. Ignoring it will hurt you. But addressing it kindly and working to resolve it just reflects good customer service and lets visitors know that if they run into an issue you will be responsive. This will increase your e-commerce conversion rate.
Trust Signals Effect On Conversion Rate
There are a lot of shady e-commerce companies these days. Especially if you look at the world of Facebook/Insta ads. Consumer trust in e-commerce has dropped due to the number of scams that exist. Due to this, it’s important that trust factors are integrated into your e-commerce website, especially on your product pages.
Reviews as discussed above are one way to build trust but don’t stop there. Other things that build trust may seem minor but they accumulate. Having easy-to-find contact information is a big trust signal. Shady companies don’t want emails or calls so they may only use a form that they can ignore if they choose. But adding a contact email and better yet a phone number can go a long way in making the customer feel that if there is an issue it will be easy to get in touch with you.
Social Media is also a trust-building factor. Having social media accounts and linking out to them is a solid way to increase perceived trust. This shows that you are active digitally but also makes for another great point of contact to ease a potential customer’s mind.
Showing the payments you accept also increases trust and your e-commerce conversion rate. Integrating things like PayPal and ApplePay shows that you are on the up and up. And these payment methods make it easier for a customer to fight a charge if the company happens to not send them the product. So it creates more peace of mind by adding these.
If you are a member of any professional organization or things like the Better Business Bureau and TrustPilot show the badges on your site. Trust badges really help to increase trust.
Value Proposition Effect On Conversion Rate
A value proposition is what explains your product, and why they should buy it. Fluff doesn’t work to convert. You really need to express the features and benefits while addressing your target market’s pain point or desire you are solving.
Your value proposition should be one sentence and easily absorbed in 5 seconds. It’s the distilling of why they should buy it. Not why YOU think they should buy it, let’s make this very clear. But why THEY would think they should buy it. There is a big difference here.
Without a strong value proposition, your e-commerce website visitors are likely to be confused. And if not confused, they will be uninspired.
Some aspects that can help understand crafting a value proposition are terms like quality, speed of results, duration, etc. Differentiation is the key when trying to improve an e-commerce conversion rate.
Some examples of good value propositions.
Lyft “Rides in Minutes”
Target “Expect More, Pay Less”
Evernote’s “Remember Everything”
Fundly “Raise Money for Anything”
Thumbtack “Consider it done”
GoPro “Shoot. Thrill. Share.”
Kinsta “WordPress Hosting For Sites That Mean Business”
Shopify “The Platform Commerce Is Built On”
Checkout Process Effect On Conversion Rate
If your product pages are converting well you’ll get a lot of Add To Cart, but if many don’t complete the purchase there’s likely an issue with your checkout process. Your checkout process can be seamless or a mess. And guess what, if your checkout process doesn’t inspire trust and security and offers ease of use you are losing conversions. If someone knows the price when they click “Add To Cart”, (which they most certainly should) there are only a few reasons they would abandon the cart.
- They were just browsing
- Some aspects of pricing, typically shipping, turned them away
- Your checkout process made them less than confident
Not much you can do for the browsers other than implement a great cart abandonment system.
The shipping cost issue is between you and your profit margins. But pro tip, free shipping is great for conversions. Don’t see it as an expense. See it as the cost of being competitive in the e-commerce world.
Does your checkout system inspire confidence? If you using Shopify for your e-commerce website then your checkout process is pretty good and standard. But other e-commerce solutions can make for a weird checkout process that can affect your e-commerce conversion rate. Keep this in mind. The visitor is taking a perceived risk if you are not a large brand. The risk of getting hacked or simply getting ripped off. Both of which are a major hassle. You can offset this by offering PayPal or ApplePay integration. But still, if your checkout process looks old, and dated, and veers too far from the standard people are used to your bottom-of-the-funnel conversions will suffer.
Email Sequences Effect On Conversion Rate
There are so many aspects to email marketing sequences that can have a huge impact on your conversion rates. On the basic level having a solid welcome email, in the system is important. This is typically where you give them their discount code and the rest of the sequence is meant to lead them to use it.
Cart abandonment sequences are a total win. I mean it would likely have been a lost cause. Setting up a great cart abandonment structure can really drive sales that you would have lost. The best practice is the send the first email about an hour after they left the cart while it’s still fresh in their mind. Show the product, offer a discount, expedited shipping, etc. Send cart abandonment #2 12-24 hours after they leave. And if you want one more a day or 2 later. I like the really load up the 3rd email with a better discount because at that point they were likely not going to convert so if you can still make a nice profit it’s a win. A solid email marketing sequence can do wonders to improve your e-commerce conversion rate.
Valued Customers’ Effect On Conversion Rate
So many e-commerce businesses fail on this front. In many businesses, it’s a pretty small percentage of people that buy often or make bigger purchases. You need to be aware of your VIPs and treat them accordingly or else you’re at risk to lose your biggest revenue sources. Answering their emails as fast as possible is a give-in. But how you reward them for their loyalty makes all the difference. You should have people with a high LTV in their own category and they should get exclusive deals and options to pre-order that they KNOW others don’t get.
It’s amazing how quickly brand loyalty can shatter. And then it’s pretty vicious if people feel unappreciated and taken for granted. You not only lose their revenue but likely the revenue of everyone they know. so value your customers with the highest LTV. Don’t be stingy. Give them discounts, freebies, and opportunities that show them you really value them.
Top 9 E-Commerce Conversion Rate Optimization Tools For 2023
Clarity by Microsoft (Free)
Tools like Hotjar can be great for heat maps and visitor recordings. This data is critical to understanding conversion rate challenges with your website. The biggest downside was the cost and the lag time tools like Hotjar added to a website load speed. This is ironic for a tool that’s supposed to help increase conversion rates to slow the website down when a slow website is a conversion killer.
Enter Clarity by Microsoft. This free program gives you heatmaps and user recordings all without slowing your website down. Clarity also syncs with Google Analytics to make data review that much easier.
Tip: As soon as you install Clarity, make sure to pop into “Settings” click “IP Blocking” and block your IP so the data doesn’t get corrupted.
Google Analytics (Free)
Google Analytics is the standard tool for conversion rate optimization. It’s free, loaded with conversion data, and easy to use. One of the most valuable conversion tools for conversion rate optimization is the conversion funnel. This shows you where users are dropping off on your website based on how they get there.
Google Analytics can be intimidating to set up, but once you lock in the settings, filters, and views the data it gives is world-class. And since the update to GA4 it has gotten even better, tho certainly more difficult to set up.
Google Search Console (Free)
There’s a reason Google Search Console is the conversion rate optimization tool of choice for conversion rate optimization agencies, digital marketing consultants, and conversion-driven website owners. GSC gives you deep insight into how your Google traffic sees your website. It also helps you see which keywords are sending traffic to your site where they’re being sent from and where they’re coming from.
GSC also lets you know how your website is performing on different devices and platforms like mobile, tablets, and desktop computers. Best of all, it’s free!
GTMetrix is one of my preferred website speed testers. It gives a lot of data and shows you where you need to improve and what needs to be done to get a faster e-commerce website load speed. For free you can also set up monitoring. It will run a speed test daily and you can check the results to make sure you are apprised of how your site is loading.
Pingdom is another speed-testing tool. It’s more simplistic than GTMetrix and is a little more user-friendly to non-tech people. It still shows great data and what is making your site load slow. I tend to use both these tools along with Google PageSpeed to get a full picture of how websites are loading.
But hold on Gabe, isn’t Ahrefs an SEO took? And yes, it is, but organic search results are where a lot of your conversion funnels begin. A common TOF issue when organic search is your entry point is keywords with low search intent or keywords that are ambiguous. Learning about SEO is a huge benefit when it comes to CRO. They should work hand in hand to create a truly powerful conversion experience. The wrong keywords will lead to low conversions. The right keywords but the wrong layout and messaging lead to low conversions. But the right keywords with high search intent where the user clicks and is met with copy that speaks to their need is like printing your own money.
The better we know our prospects the better we can convert them into customers. Sparktoro is a tool that blew my mind the first time I used it. And ever since has become a tool I rely on to gain audience insights.
Simply put, Sparktoro lets you input a keyword, a website URL, or even a social media account to see what other websites, social media accounts, and media sources your prospects visit or follow. It also provides common words and hashtags used by the audience you’re researching.
Wynter is a conversion rate optimization tool and messaging testing platform where for a reasonable price you can have real users within your preferred demographic and lifestyle visit your website and give feedback. There are a number of different testing options; full-page messaging, value proposition testing, email testing, etc.
I’ve used this on several e-commerce conversion rate optimization projects and got great results. Remember, the people viewing are paid, so that isn’t as good as organic visitors, but it is still insightful if you set it up correctly and ask the right questions.
9 Way Too Common E-commerce Website Practices That Are Driving Your Visitors Crazy
A header that is cluttered, and overloaded with text, images, and icons that makes it nearly impossible to navigate.
Videos that autoplay with audio on. (NOOOOOO!)
When the pop-up close icon is too small to use without zooming in.
Landing on a site and getting instantly hit with the cookies popup and a promo popup. Space it out. Trigger the popup on the scroll and not on page load.
When a scroll or time-based popup brings you back to the top of the page when you close it.
Crappy, generic headlines that don’t really mean anything.
Chatbots that block navigation and site function.
Live chat showing availability when it’s not actually being monitored.
Having to hunt for what to click to navigate the site.
As you can see a lot of parts come together to create success as an e-commerce business. The more seamlessly you can integrate all of these the higher your conversion rate will be. And that’s really the bottom line. If you don’t think your e-commerce website is converting as much as you think it can feel free to get in touch for your free consultation.
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