9 Ecommerce Conversion Optimization Strategies that Really Work

“If you build it, they will come,” might have worked for Ray Kinsella in the movie, Field of Dreams, but it won’t work for an ecommerce website. Building a website that successfully invites people interested in your products to learn more and ultimately make a purchase takes a little bit of behind-the-scenes effort. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, right?

Of the people who visit your website, how many of them become customers? Every good ecommerce marketer knows that improving that metric will make the difference between whether your ecommerce website is a success, or a failure.

What are ecommerce conversion rates?

Ecommerce conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of taking small, incremental steps to improve your conversion rate. What’s more, no site gets conversion rates perfect, but improving conversion rates is a never-ending process for most companies online—or at least it should be.

You can calculate the conversion rate of your website by dividing the number of conversions you get (over a specific period of time) by the total number of visitors on your site during that time. Then times by 100% to get a percentage. In other words, Conversion Rate = (conversions / total visitors) x 100%.

What is a good ecommerce conversion rate?

Although there are no hard-and-fast rules for what would be considered a good conversion rate, 2.5%-3% is considered a pretty good average. A consistent conversion rate in that range is a good place to start.

It’s human nature to positively impact the things we pay the most attention to. In other words, when we measure results, they tend to get better. So, with that in mind, your first step is to start measuring the number of visitors that come to your website as well as the number of people who convert, or buy your product or service. With those two numbers you can calculate your conversion rate and start impacting that metric.

Imagine watching a basketball game or baseball game without anyone keeping score. It’s keeping score that tells the players, the coaches, and the fans whether or not their team is winning. The same is true with your conversion rate and the effectiveness of your CRO efforts.

9 strategies for ecommerce conversion optimization

Every good marketer knows they need the answer to a couple of important questions to make a sale:

  1. Who am I talking to?

  2. How do I get them to act now, instead of putting it off until later (which means "never" in marketing terms)?

Ecommerce marketers need to ask some similar questions:

  1. Who am I talking to? Do you know what your best potential customer looks like? How did they wind up on your site? Was it the result of an online ad? Was it through organic search? Did you send them an email? Are they a referral? The answers to these questions will help you craft appropriate next steps to help them move down the sales funnel.

  2. Where are they in the customer journey? Speaking of the funnel, where they are makes a big difference. Are they just entering the customer journey by trying to learn more about a best practice? OR do they want to learn about how your product or service meshes with the best practice? Are they ready to make a purchase? It would be unreasonable to assume that everyone who visits your website is ready to buy now.

  3. How do I encourage them to move from where they are now to the next step in the customer journey? Once you know where they are you can offer information or incentives to continue moving forward. For example, if they are on your site to learn a best practice, you can help them move to the next step and learn about what  your product or service does to enable that practice. Most salespeople don’t close the deal in a single phone call and neither will your website in a single visit.

  4. Give them economic ammunition. It doesn’t matter if your product is the cheapest or the most expensive, arm them with the dollars and sense, yeah sense, of why they need to buy from you. Give them reasons to be excited about buying your product.

With these things in mind, let’s talk about some actionable strategies that will help you improve your ecommerce conversion percentage.

Make site speed a priority

If you can’t engage your potential customers in 2-3 seconds, they will bounce and go someplace else. If your page is still loading 5-10 seconds after they land on it, they probably won’t come back. For example, for every second it takes your webpage to load, you should expect your conversion rate to drop by around a percentage or more. No more than 2 seconds is universally considered the ideal page load time. Conversion rate almost drops in half at 3 seconds.

Make it easy to get around your online store

User experience is key. The harder you make it for visitors to find what they are looking for, the less you’ll be able to sell them. And your conversion rate will be in the toilet. Make easy-to-understand site navigation a priority. Use the navigation to help guide them through the customer journey.

If they’re coming from organic search or an online ad, make sure they land on a page that makes sense. If they’re looking for a pair of hiking boots, don’t give them a page that’s talking about jackets. Remember, you only have 2-3 seconds to grab their attention and if you make it difficult for them to find what they want, you’ve lost them.

Know  your customer

Hopefully you have done some persona research and have a good understanding of who would be a good customer for your product or service. You understand their motivation for buying a product like yours, you understand what they like or don’t like, and you have built your website to speak to that specific person. If you have, the next strategy will be much easier.

Make it personal

If you know who your perfect customer is, speak to them. Don’t talk in broad generalizations, by personalizing the shopping experience to them, they’ll appreciate that and buy from your ecommerce store over a competitor that doesn’t. If you have more than one customer type, help them identify where to go within your page content to find what they’re looking for. For example, “Are you interested in the latest trend in hiking boots” or “Learn more about how Goretex helps a jacket keep you dry in the rain.”

Don’t hide the cost

If it’s hard to figure out what things cost, I leave the site. I’m not alone. The number one reason people abandon an online shopping cart is because the price is either hidden or there are unexpected costs added at checkout. The best way to close the deal is to be upfront about what it’s going to cost.

Sharing a little “inside baseball” is smart

In other words, you have knowledge your customers need to make smart purchasing decisions. The more information you willingly share, no strings attached, the more likely they will purchase from you instead of one of your competitors. Don’t be stingy with the information that will help them make an informed decision. Sure, you might lose a sale or two to someone who will try to find it for cheaper, but most of the time, the more willing you are to share the “inside baseball” the more likely you will be to make the sale.

Make it easy to contact you if they have questions

Many times this will probably mean a “live chat” feature, but it could also mean an easy-to-find email address or a phone number. Depending on how urgent my purchase need is, I tend to like chat, but I have been know to make a phone call or two in my day. Sometimes, there are questions the website doesn’t answer.

Ask and include customer reviews

A good review from someone just like them will help your customers make a purchase from you. That doesn’t mean every review needs to be chocolate and roses. If the only reviews they see are glowing, they won’t believe them. Even negative reviews have a place. Address them quickly, make things right, and turn those frowns upside down.

Make it easy to buy

Regardless of whether they want to use VISA, Mastercard, AMEX, Discovery, PayPal, or something else, the more payment options they have available to them, the more comfortable they’ll be to make a purchase.

Other metrics to measure ecommerce performance

In addition to conversion rate, there are a handful of other metrics that you should pay attention to. Because we impact what we pay attention to, it’s important not to waste time on the metrics that don’t matter. Here are some that really do:

  1. Sales and returns

  2. Number of orders

  3. Average order value

  4. Cost of sale

  5. Profit margin

  6. Marketing costs

Keeping track of these metrics will help you efficiently, and economically, improve your conversion rate.

Tools to help you get there

There are a number of tools to help you achieve your target conversion rate. Here are the tools I like to use.

Start with Google

Google has some great tools to help you measure what’s going on with your website.

  1. Google Analytics: You can track visitors, bounce rates, session durations, and common exit pages. As an ecommerce marketer, Google Analytics is someplace you need to get really familiar with.

  2. Google Search Console: Get even more insight into the traffic you have coming to your site. See how your pages are performing. How many people see your organic search listings and click through.

  3. Google Optimize is a free tool that allows you to run A/B testing and multivariate testing to see how shoppers respond to your offers.

There are other Google tools, but this is a good place to start.

FullStory

If you want to learn about what your customers are doing once they get to your website, FullStory uses heat maps and session recordings that can tell you about how they interact with your webpages. Where are they clicking, where are they giving up, and how long do they stick around.

There are dozens of different tools that will help you find this same information, but these are the tools I’ve used over the years to help me. Improving your ecommerce conversion rate isn’t rocket science, but it does take effort. It’s starts with understanding who your customer is and sharing with them the reasons they should buy from you, and not somebody else.


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