When you opened your eCommerce store, where did you see yourself in five years? As a small and consistent merchant providing an excellent, personal service, or a global supplier of high-quality products?
For many merchants, the goal is sales growth. Achieving this is a mix of reputation, product, and service. Unfortunately, you can’t control any of these things 100%, but you can proactively keep them in check by paying attention to some of the main eCommerce issues buyer’s encounter. This may include:
- Slow loading pages
- Hard to find products
- An unintuitive user experience (UX)
- Unappealing products
- Confusing Information
Before we take a look at how to keep these things in check, let’s see how your store’s conversion rate compares to the competition.
What Constitutes an eCommerce Success?
For this article, eCommerce success can be measured by conversions. A conversion is when someone completes a goal you have set. For eCommerce stores (and the purposes of this article), this is typically a sale.
eCommerce conversion rates have decreased in 2018, according to historical data. In Q4 2018, the average rate across all industries in the US was 2.96%. That means that 2.96% of visitors to the average eCommerce store would make a purchase. In Q2 2018, that number was 2.63%. A small, but significant drop.
One report by ComScore suggests that increased concerns regarding security, a lack of easily accessible information, inefficient UX, and hard to find products are some of the main reasons for this decline. Other sources suggest that a shift in the market has led to this change.
Looking at conversion rates across industries, the difference is stark. Arts and Crafts, for instance, manages to achieve a conversion rate nearing 4.0%, while the Baby and Child sector remain below 1.0%. Before deciding how much your store needs to improve, check the average conversion rate in your industry. If you feel your number is still too low, continue reading.
1. Increase Conversion Speed
Speed is king in the world of eCommerce. Multiple studies have confirmed slow loading eCommerce stores have lower conversion rates.
A 1-second page delay results in:
- 16% less customer satisfaction
- 11% fewer page views
- 7% conversion decrease
What can you do to avoid this?
Check Your Hosting
There are two primary periods of concern you should prepare for: traffic spikes and downtime.
Traffic spikes can easily be managed in modern hosting with an auto scaling feature. True auto scaling allows for an automatic increase to site capacity when it’s required. This is perfect for sales events or when one of your products goes viral and saves you from having to upgrade your entire solution for an extended period of time.
Downtime can be more of a problem. Support is your solution. You’ll want a team that’s available 24/7/365 and with physical access to the data center your site is stored in. That means hosting with a provider that owns their own data center. This way, if something does happen to your eCommerce store, you’ll know that you’ll be back up and be converting potential buyers as soon as possible.
In addition to the points above, your hosting solution should be optimized for your application; especially if you’re running the caching heavy Magento.
Another good thing to check is your DNS provider. The difference between a good DNS provider and a bad one can be lots of conversions or none at all.
Once you’ve checked that your hosting provider is optimized for eCommerce, the next step is to see if your server is bogged down with bloat.
Begin by removing all unnecessary plugins and extensions from your CMS.
If you’re using Magento, go to System -> Magento Connect -> Magento Connect Manager. Scroll through the list of installed extensions and select the ones you no longer need. On the drop-down menu, select uninstall and then click Commit Changes.
If you’re using WooCommerce with WordPress, head to your admin panel, then Plugins -> Installed Plugins. From here you’ll be able to see all the plugins you currently have installed and remove those you don’t need.
We recommend committing these changes to a dev site before doing so with a production environment. This allows you to see how they will affect your site from a buyer’s perspective.
Basic Website Optimization
There are optimizations non-specific to eCommerce but that will help to increase speed and keep conversions up. These are simple website optimizations that anyone can do – regardless of whether they have any technical knowledge.
2. Plugins & Extensions
Modern CMSs know that the functionality required for different sites is, well, different. One store may be perfectly happy using what’s available by default, while the next needs an extra something. With plugins and extensions, that something can easily be found and added.
There are a number of plugins and extensions perfect for boosting conversions. We highly recommend looking into tools to:
- Run A/B tests
- Manage opt-in forms
- Promote your content on social
- Optimize SEO
- Deliver high-quality, non-invasive Calls to Action
Before installing a new plugin or extension, ask yourself: Will it boost conversions? If that answer to that question is yes or maybe, install away. If it’s no, find something else.
We’ve created our own Magento extension designed to decrease load times in Magento. We’ve called it Turpentine and it works by improving the already efficient Varnish with noticeable improvements to the cache hit rate.
3. Optimize the Buyer’s Journey
As we looked at earlier, one of the main reasons for an industry-wide decline in conversion rate is hard to find products.
To combat this, you want to make it as easy as possible for a buyer to find what they are looking for. This means more than simply directing them to your sales page; it means placing them on a journey.
A traditional buyer’s journey consists of three main stages:
- Awareness – Aware of a need for something new
- Consideration – Analyzing the different options available to them
- Decision – Final purchasing decision (a conversion)
These stages are often embodied as a funnel. This funnel mimics how the number of people decreases as they journey down the funnel. No store has a 100% conversion rate.
A buyer’s journey is often unique and forcing a myriad of different audiences down only a handful of funnels will mean fewer sales and lower retention. As a store owner, it is important for you to manage these stages in accordance with the data you collect from successes and wins.
Yet creating content that keeps visitors engaged can be a tricky process. Where do you start? Here are three methods that we’ve seen work incredibly well in the modern digitally-driven buyer’s journey.
Create Stand Out Content
Create content that does more than just duplicate what the competition is doing. Try to find what type of content your audience wants. Look beyond the data if you have to.
Create Longtail Content
Perform a long tail keyword analysis to see where you should be directing some of your content and SEO efforts. Short tails are great for sales pages, but optimizing for long tails is the best way to target your audience – especially if they’re niche.
Nurture Leads With Personalized Outreach
Do more than just personalize the “To” field in emails. Reach out to your audience directly. Finding influencers and people who already do this effectively is a great shortcut. You can also optimize on-page content. Check out these WordPress AI and machine learning plugins for delivering personalized content at the right stage of the funnel.
4. Create a Story With Emotion
One of the most effective ways to optimize eCommerce conversions is to change the fundamental way in which you are selling your products.
Buyers want an experience when they buy from you, not just a list of technical specifications (most of the time). This directly addressed one of the reasons for a decline in conversions: a lack of interest in products.
Hubspot has created a really useful article on how to use emotion to sell. They’ve gone with six different emotions (to start). Depending on your audience and the product you’re trying to sell, you appeal to a different emotion.
For instance, if you’re working for a non-profit and trying to boost eCommerce conversions for a donations package, altruism is likely your best option (unless that donation package comes packed with chocolate). If you’re trying to increase conversions on the latest Mercedes though, you’re probably better off going to envy and a sense of keeping up with the Joneses.
All of this leads into our final method for optimizing eCommerce store conversions:
5. Test, Test, Test
Testing should be the bedrock of your conversion optimization strategy.
It’s unlikely you’re going to hit a jackpot every time. Even after years of working with the same audience and products, there are going to be times where your tests misfire or miss the mark. Trial and error let you refine your conversion strategy and improve.
There is always room for improvement, regardless of how well you’re already doing.