If you took a shallow glimpse at the complex world of SEO, you’d be forgiven for coming away with the impression that being found by prospective customers — ideally through organic traffic — is the key to ecommerce success. And it is extremely important, yes, but it isn’t everything. It’s just one part of a greater puzzle, because if you can’t convert that traffic, it’s useless.
Conversion, of course, is the act of turning a possible sale into an actual sale. It’s the last step in the path: the handshake that seals the deal. And since it’s critically important to ecommerce (for obvious reasons), there’s an entire system — known as Conversion Rate Optimization, or CRO —- dedicated to making the most of it.
For ecommerce brands to fully use the traffic they work so hard to receive, they need to understand how to engage in CRO, and to that end they need to be aware of the basics. In this piece, we’re going to look at 7 CRO essentials that are vital for boosting sales. Let’s begin.
Every ecommerce store has a checkout, naturally — orders can’t be processed without them. However, not all checkouts are created equal, and a strong checkout phase is astonishingly powerful for an ecommerce conversion rate.
Think about the pressure that goes into the decision-making process. The closer someone comes to buying, the more intensely they’ll be thinking about everything involved: what they’re trying to buy, when they can receive it, what they can do with it, what might go well, what might go wrong… With that intense thought comes a risk of second-guessing.
A well-designed checkout anticipates everything that might cause someone to back out (worries about return policies, concerns about quality, uncertainty about shipping timescales, etc.) and provides reassuring content to make the path to conversion optimally smooth.
Social proof (in the form of user testimonials and reviews, chiefly) is more important than ever before. Buyers are reluctant to trust companies that have been known to provide questionably-accurate information in the past, but they’re still perfectly willing to listen to their peers. They trust them to tell them the truth, good, bad, or otherwise.
Ecommerce brands need to do everything they can to turn social proof to their advantage. This will primarily include offering as many believable and comprehensive product and brand reviews as possible, and by strongly encouraging happy customers to provide glowing feedback.
Any store will a mainstream ecommerce CMS will have in-built review options that should serve them well, or they could try third-party extensions. Something like Trustpilot can work wonders if implemented effectively. There’s also the option of providing a curated social media feed to show that others are currently enjoying the products being considered.
Calls to Action (CTAs)
It is far from adequate to simply reach the point of intended conversion on a page and add a basic hyperlink. There are two big reasons for this:
- Firstly, ecommerce decision-making is an ongoing process right up to the point of payment, so the persuasive content can’t end before the “Add to Cart” action.
- Secondly, it’s entirely possible for shoppers (particularly those who aren’t great with computers) to miss buying options, get frustrated, and leave as a result.
A good CTA is big, bold, clear, enticing, and perfectly placed. It also isn’t solitary. While you shouldn’t include a CTA every paragraph, you may want to include two, three, or even more in a single page if it’s long enough to warrant them. Wherever you think someone’s interest might be piqued, add a CTA, because there’s no guarantee that they’ll read the entire page.
Online attention spans are very limited, and if a prospective customer thinks of a question that they need answering before they buy, they’ll leave rapidly if they can’t find an answer. That’s where chat functions — either live chat systems or sophisticated chatbots — become invaluable. You can be there at the checkout stage to answer pressing questions, and turn those near-misses into hits.
As with social proof, this is something that can easily be configured through free or cheap add-ons. Take a look at some of the services available for mainstream platforms and see which one might work for you. Initial setup should be straightforward enough, and once you have everything in place, you’ll quickly see a return on your investment.
To be maximally effective (which is stated by the “optimization” part of the name), CRO must consider the entire marketing and sales funnels. From first interest to checkout, a potential buyer goes through numerous steps — they land on the site, read some reviews, do some comparisons, leave, come back later, read some more reviews, then maybe think about buying.
Through event tracking (which is easy to implement through Google Analytics), you can see how leads progress through the various steps, noting the points at which they drop out of the funnel. If your product pages and checkout are converting extremely well but your marketing emails aren’t, then that’s a problem — event tracking will show you where your weak points are so you can work on them.
How an ecommerce website looks has a significant effect on how the brand is perceived, how appealing the products seem, and how likely the shopper is to trust that they’re doing the right thing when they’re about to complete their purchase. Even if you the best value propositions and product quality levels around, an inferior design will seriously undermine your efforts.
This is why negative space (leaving significant gaps between content chunks) has become a cornerstone design element for CRO-concerned ecommerce brands. Not only does it provide a cleaner and more professional feel, but it also makes the content (and CTAs) seem more important and vibrant by giving them some room to stand out.
If you’re unsure about how well your website is meeting current standards, do some investigation. Check out other websites in your niche, look at top brands, and get inspired by the range of online businesses for sale (sellers need to follow best practices to maximize value). Thankfully, negative space is easy to implement, so it could be a quick win.
Abandoned Cart Emails
Sometimes, nothing you do throughout your marketing funnel is good enough to stop someone getting to the very last step and then backing away. Whether they get distracted, change their mind, find a better deal elsewhere, or can’t pay using their preferred gateway, they abandon the item(s) in their cart and leave altogether.
It’s very unfortunate, because you know when it happens that there was genuine interest, and you did enough to bring them to the point of conversion, only to see them leave. But it doesn’t have to the end of their customer journey with you. You can bring them back.
The way to do this is through abandoned cart emails. By integrating your CMS with email automation software, you can trigger reminder emails to send to existing customers who placed items in their carts but never purchased them. If someone simply got distracted when they were about to buy, a basic email inviting them to complete their purchase might bring them back and earn an unexpected conversion.
There you have it: 7 Conversion Rate Optimization essentials that ecommerce brands can’t afford to overlook. By turning their stores into conversion machines, they can ensure that they derive maximum value from their relevant leads.
Patrick Foster is a writer and ecommerce expert for Ecommerce Tips. He finds it greatly frustrating when a great marketing funnel is ruined at the last second by a bad checkout experience. Visit the blog for some actionable advice, and check out the latest news on Twitter @myecommercetips.