Here are some tips on how to increase the likelihood that website visitors will become buyers.

Ari Weil, strategic product and marketing leader, Akamai Technologies

Ari Weil, strategic product and marketing leader, Akamai Technologies

Conventional wisdom would have us believe that the slowest page on a website should be the first thing “fixed” when it comes to performance tuning. Well, that’s not always the case.

A common example: The checkout page should be the fastest, best-performing page on an e-commerce website, right? The reality is, more often than not, the exact opposite is true. That’s not to say that the checkout page can or should consistently take longer than the two seconds the average consumer is willing to wait for page to load. But if consumers make it to checkout, they’ve likely made up their mind and will move forward to purchase even if they experience some lag (of an extra second or two—after that you erode customer trust).

In contrast, users will often abandon a site—and, worse, seek out a competitor—if the product page for an item they’re interested in purchasing isn’t loading. And with reason: who has time to wait around for an image of a waterproof phone case to load when hundreds of other sites sell it?

Users don’t need to come to your website to see your social feed, so don’t compromise your website’s real estate for a Twitter sidebar.

Capturing a customer’s attention and maximizing his or her full user experience is key. So here are some tips on how to reel consumers in—and avoid casting them out—during their visit to your website.

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Have an Entry Point Perspective

While the end goal of any e-commerce site is to ultimately convert browsers to buyers, placing full emphasis at the end of the buyer journey is the wrong approach. Instead, focus on where your visitors are entering your site and what each of those individual journeys look like. Are they reaching the landing page through a Google search or being re-directed from an advertisement to a specific product page? Paying close attention to where exactly a visitor enters a site empowers you with a full picture of their journey and can help paint a better picture of the root cause of abandonment, including underperformance.

Emphasize Experience

Categorizing a website with different types of page experiences can help best determine which aspects of your site have the most influence. For example, are you currently running a promo? Think about what type of experience you want to provide visitors to determine where the promo should take users next. If implementing A/B testing or personalized ratings and reviews, make sure everyone involved in updating content to the site understands the impact on optimization to best avoid interrupting the user experience.
Pro tip: Users don’t need to come to your website to see your social feed, so don’t compromise your website’s real estate for a Twitter sidebar that not only crowds the space, but hinders the customer’s overall shopping experience.

Plan for Peaks

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Retail website traffic will always have its peaks, especially during the holiday season. It’s crucial to prepare your site to handle the absolute greatest volume of traffic coming at it during these busy periods—which often includes a lot of extra bells and whistles on your end, too. For example, if you’re an online game or toy store, your site automatically applies coupons for visiting customers and your site is running a promo for Hatchimals (this year’s hottest holiday toy), at the same time, your site traffic is steadily 65% higher, can your site handle and scale with the peak?  Testing for this kind of surge and having a plan in place for a potential crash are absolutely critical to capturing those holiday dollars.

Consider Cross-Dimensions

User behavior changes across various dimensions can have a dramatic impact on website performance. A key factor to consider is target audience. If your brand is global, think about the nuances of a consumer’s behavior based on geography and what your website can achieve—from translations to special shipping pages. Also consider the device and mechanism through which your site is accessed. There are key behavioral differences when it comes to browsing on a desktop versus a smartphone, and navigating a website vs a mobile app. To maximize customer engagement and engender trust in your users, make your page performance rival that of behemoth e-commerce sites like Amazon.com and have a clear strategy for what you expect users to do on each.  For example, many companies find success using their website for retail experiences and mobile apps for brand-building and loyalty.

Data is Your Friend

The key to making all of above achievable? Data. And not just any data—real visitor data. Synthetic data monitoring that emulates users within steady browsing contexts no longer cuts it. Only data collected from your actual site visitors and the devices they use will allow you to uncover the key patterns and actionable insights needed to help keep your website’s and application’s performance at optimal levels for a smooth visitor and buyer experience. For example, your data may show that this week, many visitors are abandoning the landing page for one of your most popular products. Having that information at your fingertips can empower your development team to investigate and uncover any underlying performance issues, like an image that won’t load or a video demo that is causing the page to crash.

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Data shows that when it comes to shopping, the early bird always catches the worm. Once a user converts and moves to buy a product, they have committed to buying. And while they can and will abandon a shopping cart, too many sellers focus heavily on the performance of that experience and are losing purchases earlier in the process. Focus on the entire journey, beginning with entry point pages through the full buying experience. And learn from data to optimize on an ongoing basis.

Akamai provides content delivery network services to 327 of the Top 1000 online retailers in North America, according to Top500Guide.com.

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