Amazon excels at Full Funnel Optimization, making it easy for consumers to shop from the moment they begin their product search until they check out. Here are five key elements of this strategy that other retailers can emulate.

Michael Scharff, CEO, Evolv Technologies

Michael Scharff, CEO, Evolv Technologies

A ubiquitous presence across a range of media platforms, Amazon has come a very long way from Jeff Bezos’ mid-1990s ambitions of creating an online bookstore.

The US-based behemoth is peerless in retail ecommerce: in 2018, Amazon reported $277 billion in gross merchandise volume, compared to eBay’s comparatively underachieving $89.83 billion

To get to where it stands now has taken two decades, thousands of engineers, intelligent strategy and an untold number of risk-laden maneuvers. 

Amazon tests, learns and optimizes the entire user experience continuously.

That isn’t their crowning glory, though: maintaining dominance (via constant optimization and expansion) is. Amazon now provides vendor services ranging from dynamic pricing to 1-hour delivery, all while offering a truly enormous selection of products.

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So where does that leave everyone else? The truth is, while directly competing with the most dominant force retail has ever knownis not an imminent reality for most in the ecommerce game, learning from them and understanding the key components of their success should be a priority.

Before I dive into the 5 main things I see as crucial elements of Amazon’s excellence, one key point should be emphasized:

Amazon deploys what I call Full Funnel Optimization. It doesn’t just optimize a single page. Amazon tests, learns and optimizes the entire user experience continuously—from the first advertisement touch point, to the pages that users return to on their hundredth visit and beyond to delivery and even post-purchase engagement.

This holistic focus is what has kept customers coming back, kept vendors happy, and put Amazon in a league of its own. Full Funnel Optimization could just revolutionize the way you run your business, too.

Let’s take a look at the 5 core practices which any ecommerce retailer can and should be focusing on.

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Clean layout for effective engagement

Amazon doesn’t win any awards for prettiest website—and it doesn’t have to. With due respect to any designers reading this, pure visual aesthetics are not the most important considerations of good ecommerce page design. ‘Good’ in Amazon’s case means high-converting, period.  

Amazon doesn’t make its visitors do any more work than they need to when searching for what they’ve come for. Keep page layouts simple and predictable to minimize bounce rates and maximize conversions.

Maintain customer loyalty by providing what the customer is expecting and wanting.  The easiest way to lose a prospect is to make their visit incoherent and confusing. It’s an experience that most online shoppers won’t inflict on themselves a second time.

Engaging product detail pages

Social proof is becoming more valuable than ever.  The way we shop has changed—the world is more connected, and opinions on everything can be found almost everywhere. 

It’s important to ask why customers should, and would, accept you as a trustworthy source of product information.

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Trustworthiness and authenticity is hard to earn online. If, however, you can show potential customers exactly what people just like them thought of a product, trust and interest will be more implicit.

Seamlessly incorporated imagery and videos also go a long way in engaging, instructing and influencing consumers. Over two-thirds of consumers would now rather learn about a new product via video, compared to a mere 15% preferring text-only.

Bestseller scores

Amazon’s Best Sellers Rank (BSR) is a score calculated primarily on, you guessed it, sales.  BSR incorporates both recent and historical figures.  It is updated hourly, a truly impressive commitment to data reporting—and a truly useful signal for shoppers. Whether it’s a vanity metric for vendors or not, the score is a simple way for potential customers to feel informed.

An air of safety and trust is hugely important for an ecommerce platform.  You’ll also see Amazon use scoring in other areas. It’s particularly relevant for customers looking at buying secondhand items—an area in which buyers are far more cautious.

For your site, consider how using data-driven scoring can provide the right, authentic guidance for customers and even give them the confidence to buy.

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Recommended products

This is another handy little social proof mechanism.  As much as we all flinch at the idea of being another nodding sheep or crowd follower, that is how the majority of us humans work.  Knowing that others have gone in a certain direction and ended at a particular conclusion can help shoppers feel like they’ve found a shortcut—and a trusted one.

Before implementing a recommendation plug-in on your own site, make sure that all recommendations have to be provided from a similar category to the one the product is contained in.  This is especially true if you are a retailer with a broad range of catagories: no one wants to be recommended cat food when shopping for light bulbs, even if those products have been placed in another shopping basket together.

Easy checkout

If someone has signalled interest in a purchase, they don’t want surprises.  No added extras, no complicated calculations, and definitely no claims of a single delivery fee only to be provided with a variable model.  As the rule goes with the clean layout, the simpler and more predictable this process is, the better.

If your checkout is not provably, undeniably safe and frictionless, you will inevitably hemorrhage sales. Putting time and resources into optimizing a checkout process is a truly worthwhile investment.

One more idea…

As a bonus, the dominance of Amazon isn’t borne from any one of these learnings, but rather how these practices and others across the Amazon shopper experience are all orchestrated and work together harmoniously. This is the power of full funnel, continuous optimization.

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In conclusion?  Full funnel optimization is paramount to ecommerce success

Make your user’s experience smooth from start to finish.  No complicated design or confusing navigation—just intuitive journeys and social proof hints built in throughout.  Don’t give your customers any reason to abandon their purchase.  The less friction the better.

Of course, full funnel optimization isn’t an easy job or an overnight fix.  It has hundreds of potential elements, but with the right guidance and know-how, you can deliver the  very best elements of Amazon’s model right to your own customers.

Using machine learning, Evolv’s technology enables companies to test multiple versions of a web page at once.

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