Many factors go into crafting a shopping experience that results in a consumer making a purchase. From the building blocks of the ecommerce site itself to driving shoppers to the site, there are many ways to get shoppers to convert.

When a consumer lands on a retailer’s ecommerce site, what makes that shopper commit to the purchase?  

It could be several factors, including—but not limited to—robust search results, photos and videos on the product detail pages or a seamless checkout experience. The usual suspects had to be enhanced and upgraded even more when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020 and more shoppers moved online. And retailers’ quick pivots to turn their attention to ecommerce helped boost online sales and conversion rates. The median conversion rate for the Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 retailers in 2020 was 2.9%, according to the 2021 How to Improve Conversion Rates Report.

Here are 10 tips that online retailers found helpful last year that helped them boost their conversion rates:

1. Enhance site search.

A robust site search that auto-fills and includes imagery will help shoppers find what they need faster. And consumers are more likely to make a purchase if the search process is seamless and easily leads them to their desired product.

Online trees retailer FastGrowingTrees.com implemented Searchspring’s Search & Autocomplete tool in early 2020. The search provides autocomplete, which means the shopper gets a list of several options as she types her search. For shoppers with a broad search term in mind, the search bar suggests specific items in a visual dropdown as they type, which includes product images and ratings. Additionally, the search results can be filtered using facets that populate based on the product type, such as plant growing zones or sunlight levels.

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From January to mid-March, shoppers who use its search are 6.1 times more likely to convert. And now,30% of revenue is attributed to search, with 28% of orders attributed to search. Shoppers’ average order value without search was $223.45, while shoppers’ AOV when using search was $250.38. 

2. Improve product detail pages.

Improve product detail pages by adding high-quality images, detailed descriptions. A trust badge on the product detail page also gives consumers confidence that they’re buying from a trustworthy retailer. Retailers also should offer payment options such as PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay.

In online-only knives retailer Frontier Blades’ case, improving product pages was the catalyst for higher online sales and conversion rates. After doing so, Frontier Blades’ conversation rate increased 21% year over year to 1.40% from 1.16%.

3. Highlight customer reviews.

Customer reviews give shoppers even more confidence to make a purchase when they see how their fellow shoppers rate a product.

“Procuring and publishing reviews on our product pages has proven to be a very effective technique for increasing conversion,” CEO Bill Joseph of Frontier Blades says.

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For example, after four consumers left reviews on a product, that product’s conversion rate increased 775%, while another product had a 500% increase in conversion rate after receiving two reviews. 

4. Include incentives to checkout.

Incentives and perks such as free shipping or free gifts with purchase can push a shopper to commit to checking out.

Frontier Blades’ has a free shipping banner across every page, which drives shoppers to complete their purchase, CEO Bill Joseph says.

“Through improving your product pages, you place your business in the best position to not only acquire more traffic from search, but also translate that traffic into conversions,” Joseph says. 

5. Returns matter.

When it comes to returns, half of shoppers like to see a straightforward, easy return policy, according to Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights February survey of 1,047 online shoppers.

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“There is nothing more frustrating than not knowing the return window or the procedure for facilitating returns by channel,” says Lauren Freedman, senior consumer insights analyst for Digital Commerce 360.

Our research shows that 63% of shoppers want a risk-free shopping experience, which means a free return shipping option. Among the Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 merchants, 29% of retailers have adopted such a policy. Customers will be hoping for even greater adoption moving forward.

6. Don’t leave out international shoppers.

Adding multiple languages and currencies will enable international shoppers to purchase.

Vincero Watches, an online-only watch brand, launched country-specific versions of its website using technology from global ecommerce vendor Global-e Online Ltd. 

Four months after the country-specific pages went live in the spring of 2020, co-founder Aaron Hallerman says international conversion rates jumped 31%, along with a big jump in foreign orders in its leading non-U.S. markets.

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“Selling internationally can be challenging,” Hallerman says. “And to assure you provide your customers with the best experience, you need to overcome many logistical barriers.” 

7. Put new elements to the test.

When adding new features to an ecommerce site—whether that be a new landing page, different navigation or more visual elements—plan to A/B test these features to find which best converts shoppers.

Instead of just making changes and hoping for the best, cookware retailer Made In Cookware used personalization vendor surefoot to A/B test web design changes to ensure they were improving the site experience. In a test of using video on its product pages, 30.9% of the shoppers that had the option to view the video watched 100% of it, co-founder Chip Malt says. Plus, consumers who watched the video were 26% more likely to add the item to their cart, he says. 

“For us, it’s all about the user experience,” Malt says. “We have no retail footprint. You can’t touch and feel us. We’re solving a problem with the best professional cookware. How do we tell that to consumers without being able to touch and feel it?” 

8. Invest in important technologies.

Invest in the technology that is best suited for your ecommerce site. That could be an augmented reality feature, a new ecommerce platform, 3D images or other features.

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Home Depot rolled out augmented reality capabilities in its app and for the mobile web about four to six months prior to the pandemic striking the U.S. in mid-March.

Home Depot developed the technology in house. Justin Burleigh, vice president of ecommerce and interconnected experiences, says two-thirds of its online traffic comes from mobile shoppers, so it made sense to invest in and roll out a feature that serves consumers where they already are—their smartphones. “While it’s been an industry trend that people are shopping on their phones, we’ve seen that accelerate from an engagement perspective during COVID,” he says. “People are really living their digital lives on their phones.” 

But the proof is in the conversion: Consumers who engage with Home Depot’s augmented reality feature typically convert two- to three-times higher than those who don’t use it, the retailer says. 

9. Draw the right shoppers in at the right time.

Digital marketing is key to drawing shoppers in. Especially in times of COVID-19 and beyond, being more than a brand promoting products and sales can help shoppers connect with a retailer. Plus, social media channels such as Instagram are growing as drivers to boost online sales, but email remains king.

Athletic apparel retailer lululemon athletica Inc. increased its investment in digital marketing, which enabled it to boost conversion, strength and online sales. Thus, ecommerce became 43% of total revenue, according to its fiscal third-quarter earnings ended Nov. 1, 2020. 

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Lululemon credits some of that digital marketing boost to its email campaigns to educate shoppers about its MIRROR workout program, which has generated about $150 million in revenue since it acquired it in June 2020. The retailer is not alone in that sentiment76% of digital marketers say email is the most effective marketing tactic, with social media close behind at 61%.  

10. Go beyond direct-to-consumer websites.

Many online retailers got their start or are expanding to online marketplaces. When retailers and brands sell on marketplaces, such as those operated by Amazon.com Inc. or eBay Inc., they don’t always have control over critical assets that may impact conversion rates like site search or email marketing. However, marketplace sellers can improve details on product pages, such as titles, images and descriptions.  

For online apparel marketplace Jane, encouraging its sellers to offer free shipping has resulted in lifts in conversion. The 2020 average conversion rate on Jane.com was 4.49%. When the marketplace offered sitewide free shipping in the fall, in which all sellers did not charge a shipping fee on orders, conversion grew to 6.05%. The marketplace offered a similar promotion in other seasons and saw similar results: Conversion was up to 5.79% in the spring and 5.50% in the summer. 

This is an excerpt from the 2021 edition of How to Improve Conversion Rates. The report is now available as a downloadable PDF for $399. It is also included in our Gold and Platinum memberships, which provide deep discounts on a package of all Digital Commerce 360 ecommerce reports published in the current and previous years, plus access to certain Digital Commerce 360 databases of America’s Top 500 and Top 1000 web merchants.

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