In eCommerce, you’re either converting, or you’re losing – there’s really no middle ground. Every missed opportunity not only costs you a sale, it could cost you a lifetime customer. The stakes are high. Luckily, there’s no shortage of case studies, examples and advice out there from website who have found ways to keep customers coming back. We’re going to look at a few of those pieces of advice and illustrate how real businesses have implemented them.
A little something to keep in mind…As we launch into it, I want to remind readers that when it comes to conversion rate optimization (CRO), there are always exceptions. What I’m sharing are best practices, examples and actionable tips to implement – but I would encourage you not to take my word for it. Yes, I know you’re sick of hearing it – but test everything. What works for some – even most – may not work in the context of your site, even when there are statistics to back up the recommendation. With that stored away, let’s dive in and see what some of the best in the business are doing right:
Lesson #1: Close the “Abandoned Cart” Gap
More than half of those who begin shopping on your site won’t finish. In fact, calculated across 22 different studies, the average abandonment rate for a shopping cart is 67.5%. Reasons for abandoning shopping carts vary, but the most common included (multiple responses were allowed) not being ready to purchase (57%), saving items for later (56%), excessive shipping costs (55%) and items not qualifying for free shipping (51%).
It’s not just shipping costs that matter - time factors in, too. In another study, 38% of those who abandoned carts did so when shipping time was in excess of 8 days and nearly 25% abandoned when no shipping time was shown.
Solution: Remarket to those not ready to buy.To bring people back to complete their purchases, a remarketing strategy is key. Example 1: Yankee Candle took count of over 41,000 visitors who had filled an online cart within the previous 60 days but not completed the purchase. To push them over the finish line, Yankee Candle remarketed to those potential customers with text and display ads offering discounts.
- An e-mail immediately after abandonment that reminds them of their cart and provides further information about the products inside
- Another e-mail 24 hours later providing insight as to how the customer could get in touch with customer service reps
- One week later, a message is sent offering free shipping.
Solution: Alleviate Those Deterred by ShippingShipping costs are a big deal to consumers; both the time taken and the cost required.
- Ask yourself: If you could increase your conversions by a potential 55%, is it worth it to implement free shipping? If so, free shipping is clearly the way to go for online shopping.
- If you DO offer free shipping, advertise it front-and-centre throughout your site. This is one of the most common reasons people abandon carts and provides a good incentive to buy when available.
- Don’t hide your shipping costs until the very end. Consumers want to know as soon as possible and feel annoyed when their final cost differs from what’s initially shown in the cart.
Lesson #2: Learn the Art of UpsellingYour eyes may roll when I quote, “Do you want fries with that?” – but the fast food industry has perfected the art of the upsell, and you should too. There’s an old “60x60” rule: 60% of customers will buy an additional product worth 60% of the one they just bought when offered an upsell. There are a lot of ways to go about upselling, from the intrusive to the incredibly subtle.
Common Upselling Approaches
- "You might also like/Other customers also bought" – We’ve all seen Amazon’s not-so-subtle reminders that there are other products out there we might enjoy. Amazon makes their recommendations more powerful by personalizing them to the user.
- "Free Shipping for Orders $___ & Up" – Nothing incentivizes a larger purchase like the prospect of free shipping, especially when the buyer is within striking range of the free shipping total. To make this more persuasive, display relevant purchases with prices that would bring the buyer within the total, as shared by Woon Cherk in his May YouMoz post.
- "Discount When you Order Two!" – For items commonly bought in multiples, offering a small discount for buying additional products can increase sales numbers.
- Reverse Rejection With Payment Plans – As noted by Neil Patel in this post, one way to recover a failed upsell is to offer the same, more expensive product again, but with a payment plan attached.
Lesson #3: A Big, Quality Picture Says a Thousand WordsAlthough it will make SEOs squirm, a picture can often tell a better story than reams of text. Clean, clear imagery is essential for products like clothing, furniture, décor or anything with a heavy stylistic component. Size of imagery matters too. In a study by econsultancy, they found that increasing image size (whether product, button or background) increased conversions in all three tests conducted.
No Stock Photography – EVER!Of course, quality matters. In a study by the Nielsen Norman Group, stock photography was largely ignored, while descriptive, detail-orientated, “information carrying” photos were viewed heavily. The trouble is that stock photos rarely convey any meaning. Visitors see them as meaningless placeholders instead of conveyors of trust, enthusiasm or credibility. In fact, they can have the opposite effect. There are more excellent reasons not to use stock photography (and how to get around it) here. But, back to images.
Why are images so powerful?Images fill in the details and answer unspoken questions – Customers tend to shop with their eyes. The ability to zoom in on an image to get the fine-grained details will explain a product in ways no paragraph ever could.
Lesson #4: Color is Great… But Don’t Forget ContrastWe’ve all heard stories about how changing the color of a button resulted in a 1,000% higher conversion rate. We’ve also read the color studies related to emotion – red is supposed to create urgency, blue creates trust, green feels fresh and so on. And while the science behind color is certainly compelling, it’s not the most aggressive gorilla in the ring. When it comes to driving conversions, contrast can be more important. Customers are actively seeking the most critical information. Show it to them using contrast to draw the eye. It’s one of those super simple concepts that even big brands can miss.
Lesson #5: Take Only What You NeedCustomers are protective of their privacy, and asking for too much information or information that customers feel is irrelevant can cost you the sale. In a study by the Baynard Institute, 61% of businesses asked for “unnecessary information” during the checkout process. What do customers find “unnecessary”? It depends on the transaction:
- Multiple contact points (phone, e-mail, address)
- Personal information (demographics, age, etc.)
How can you get around this?Remove fields for information that is not absolutely required, make these fields “optional”, or explain WHY you need the information. Customers are more likely to surrender personal info if you truthfully explain its use. For example, pointing out that you only need their phone number in case you need to contact them about their order is a reasonable request and alleviates concerns.
Lesson #6: Keep Pathways ClearPaths to purchase and conversion should be absolutely free of hurdles, confusion and distraction. The masters are experts at keeping their buying process streamlined. Here are some basic principles to keep in mind:
1) Don’t Get Cute With Navigation; Remove AmbiguityWhen it comes to finding your products, category names are of crucial importance. This is not the time to be “clever”, customers need to find what they’re looking for, and quickly. Brands like Philips have taken one extra step in removing ambiguity by adding images to their navigation menus. That visual cue reaffirms to customers which section it is they’d like to visit.
2) Allow Filtering… But Be Careful.Filters can cut down on shopping time by answering the questions your customers are already asking:
- Which one is cheapest?
- Which is most eco-friendly?
- Which ones are in stock?
- Which ones come in my size?
- Which products are most highly rated?
3) Use Breadcrumbs to Help Customers NavigateNot only is the breadcrumb format better for SEO, it’s also better for customers. Customers will frequently want to browse multiple items within a category – don’t make it hard on them to go backward and see more products.
4) Make Checkouts BrainlessWhen it comes time to check out, don’t convolute the process. While most ecommerce companies understand that showing trust signals are important and that they should offer multiple payment options, other nuances of the shopping cart experience aren’t always as well understood.
- Keep calls-to-action front and centre, and make sure they stand out at every stage. Do not obfuscate your calls-to-action with other buttons or ambiguous wording. For example, a “Continue shopping” option belongs nowhere near another button intended to drive them down further in the checkout process.
- Don’t make them register. A Toluna study showed 25.6% of customers would abandon a purchase if forced to register first. Registration pushes customers away from the task at hand: buying.
- Eliminate unnecessary navigation or links – and please, PLEASE don’t throw pop-ups for surveys or other such nonsense at them during the checkout phase. Wait until they’re done buying.
- Use numbered stages or a progress indicator to show customers how close they are to completion and alleviate worries that their time will be wasted.
- Be sure that a customer can see what’s in their cart at every stage of the transaction. The cart must always be visible. Enable a customer to make quick, easy changes to the cart as well to avoid them migrating back to the rest of the website.
- While the checkout area should be self-contained to avoid distractions, design should match that of your website. A new design is jarring and erodes trust.
- Avoid form failure by clearly marking mandatory fields, keeping forms limited to only crucial information (as already discussed) and using dropdowns/radio buttons to simplify and expedite the process.
Lesson # 7: Personalize Your Follow-UpMuch ado is made about personalization throughout the buying process. We see personalized up-sells, welcome messages, shopping carts and so on. However, there’s far less being said about what happens after you’ve already made the sale. As it turns out, personalization here is just as important as anywhere else. First pointed out to me by Gregory Ciotti, a study from the Journal for Applied Psychology tested whether or not waiters were able to increase their tips using different levels of personalization post-meal – in the form of mints. The study found that when waiters delivered a few mints with the bill and returned a few moments later announcing that they brought a more mints, tips increased by 23%. This was a 20% increase over the tip percentages seen when a single mint was brought with the check, with no mention of the mint. As noted by Ciotti, “People enjoyed the follow up much more so than the mints they received: the fact that the waiter came back to see if anyone needed more mints left a positive impression after a critical marketing moment, the initial time after the sale.”
So, how does this apply to Ecommerce?The more creative Ecommerce businesses have found ways to surprise and delight customers after the sale. As a fun example, online video game merchandiser Fangamer includes a custom, hand-drawn packing slip with each and every one of their orders.
- Follow-up e-mails, both non-promotional or congratulatory or with special offers
- Surprise freebies in shipped packages
- A personal phone call asking for feedback on the product/service level
- Unexpected callouts on social media
Lesson #8: Social Proof is Powerful for TrustIn a much-cited stat from the Nielsen Trust in Advertising report, 92% of consumers said they trust reviews from people they know – but a startling 70% trust consumer opinions online. Most importantly, perhaps, is that 63% of consumers saying they are more likely to buy from a website that displays reviews. As an online retailer, displaying reviews, testimonials and ratings on-page stands to benefit you in an enormous way. In another study published by the Washington Post, it was discovered that social proof was actually a greater motivator than the chance to save money. As noted by TechCrunch, there are five kinds of social proof:
- Expert Social Proof – Approval coming from someone considered a credible expert.
- Celebrity Social Proof – Approval from someone famous.
- User Social Proof – Success stories, testimonials, ratings and reviews from those who have used a product or service.
- Wisdom of the Crowds Social Proof – Highlighting popularity or trustworthiness by citing large user statistics.
- Wisdom of Your Friends Social Proof – The influence of your peer group on your purchase decisions and opinions about products and services