When it comes to ecommerce website conversion rates, an average figure of 2-3% is usually banded around. In our experience this figure can vary anywhere between 0.2% and 7% depending on the industry in question.
Going with a figure of 2%, this means you need, on average, 100 visitors to generate 2 sales. The real issue is that a customer can, and often will, bail out of your website at any given moment. Some visitors might just not be committed enough to make a purchase, whilst others may genuinely get spooked by something and keep their credit card firmly in their wallet.
Refining your website to increase your conversion rate is an interesting yet long term exercise. To get started here’s a number of useful things to work on:
Position of Add to Cart buttons
Ensure your website’s add to cart buttons are clearly visible and not hidden beneath the fold of the page. Top-right is starting to become most popular, although there is no standard.
Don’t use the same button style for every action
Use a specific button style for the primary action on each page. For example, your Add to Cart button should look suitably different to your Continue Shopping link, and on the checkout your Next Step button should be styled differently to the Previous Step link.
You can use not only colour but position and size to focus the user and help increase conversions.
Number of steps in the checkout process
There is some debate over whether it’s better to have a checkout process consisting of a single or multiple steps. If you opt for multiple steps, ensure there aren’t too many. Once a customer reaches the checkout they’re almost committed to making the purchase, so don’t throw too many obstacles in their way. Physiologically 10 steps can look like a mammoth amount to complete even if each stage only requires a small amount of information, whereas 3 or 4 steps would appear to be more manageable.
Provide a range of payment options
Whilst most sites accept Visa and MasterCard, consider providing other methods of payment such as American Express and PayPal. Some sites also accept bank transfer whilst others still allow customers to pay by good old fashioned cheque. Or, you could really get with the times and accept Bitcoin. The point is, don’t assume that every customer has a Visa or MasterCard debit or credit card.
Install an SSL certificate even when using a third party payment gateway
If you provide an account login area, or if there are steps making up your checkout process prior to the actual payment page, you should secure these with an SSL certificate. Not only is this good practice from a security point of view, but omitting this could lead your customers into believing that the entire process is insecure before they even get to the payment step.
One of the most common reasons for website abandonment is slow load times. Few people have the patience to sit around for longer than 7 seconds waiting for a page to appear. If you can get your load time down to 2-3 seconds then you’re doing well. Work at increasing your website’s speed by optimising images, minifying code, reducing round trips by combining resources, and loading resources from a separate content delivery network. The hosting of your site also plays a big part in ensuring things load quickly – ideally your site should be hosted on a good quality server located in the same region as your target audience.
A diverse range of web browsers means you should test your site across a number of different platforms such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera and Safari. Different browsers have their own quirks and it’s better to test for these rather than leave your customers to contend with them.
Responsive, mobile friendly design
With online mobile usage set to exceed regular desktop usage this year, don’t neglect customers looking to browse your website on their mobile phone or tablet. A “responsive” design is specially developed to adapt to the screen size of your user’s device and display content sensibly, whilst avoiding problems such as navigation hog and fat finger syndrome.
Create a sense of trust. For example, be sure to publish a bricks and mortar postal address to show that you’re a real business. An “About” page can add some personality to an otherwise “online only” store. Creating supplementary information related to your products can help you appear to be a trusted authority within your industry. For example, if you sell sofas, create a Sofa Buying Guide. If you sell cameras, create a History of Photography page. Whilst you’re mostly interested in selling products, your customers are craving information. If you’re the one to satisfy this desire, people are more likely to remember you for it and view you as an expert in your field. This is also a big factor in ensuring that your customers don’t just simply shop by price.
Make your contact details available for customer queries
Whether it’s your phone number or email address, provide at least one mechanism for customers to contact you if they have a query regarding a product.
Don’t assume your customers always know what to do next. Whilst it’s easy to provide guidance to someone in person, your website visitors are all on their own. Your calls to action should help to guide your customers through a sales funnel, hopefully resulting in a purchase at the end.
Monitor cart abandonment
Capture as much information from your customer at the start of the checkout process, in particular their email address. If they drop out of the checkout part way through, you can retrieve their partially completed order and contact them to see if they need assistance. This is a method of potentially salvaging otherwise lost sales.
Don’t put barriers in your customers way
Don’t force your customers to register at the checkout. If this is a necessity then substitute the word “register” for something else. For example, “Checkout as a new customer” instead of “Register as a new customer”. Online retailer ASOS did this and halved their abandonment rate.
Don’t use a captcha that visitors find difficult to answer. Consider alternative spam filters or, dare I say it, filtering spam manually.
Don’t ask for too much information. Do you really need to know your customer’s title or date of birth? If so, consider asking for additional information once your sales funnel has reached its conclusion. If at this stage the customer doesn’t complete the additional information, at least you’ve not lost the sale.
Be sure to tell your customers whether an item is in stock or not. If it’s out of stock, consider telling them when it’s due back in. Even better, provide an alert system to notify the customer when this happens.
Don’t validate information too tightly, or alternatively provide useful hints. Do you insist that your customer’s first name must be more than just their initial? Does their password choice need to be between 5 and 10 characters? Consider loosening your validation requirements or providing hints next to form fields explaining the requirements of that particular input box (for example, “Please enter a password at least 5 characters in length and no more than 10 characters”). What you don’t want is the user having to submit a form several times to figure out what your requirements are for each field.
Ensure your delivery information and returns policy are clearly shown.
When a customer is thinking of buying a product online, 2 of their concerns will be delivery timescales (and costs), and how they can return an item if they’re unhappy with it. Delivery and returns are a thorn in the side for online retailers, but sadly they’re a necessary evil. Don’t skirt around the issue and ensure the information is readily available for your customers to see.
Be careful where you upsell
When a customer adds an item to their cart it’s becoming increasingly common to show a page of related items and ask if they would like to also buy any of those. For example, when adding a camera to the cart, the site could suggest a particular tripod that the customer might also be interested in purchasing. Whilst upselling is important, the method just mentioned can be disconcerting to less experienced users who might get confused and think they have additional items in their cart that they didn’t add. Furthermore, there’s an argument that upselling should be avoided at all costs on the checkout page where order abandonment is likely to be at its highest, and your primary aim is to get the customer to make payment for what they’ve already chosen.
Published October 12th, 2016. Written by Gareth Mueller