Ben Blackler

17 Ways to Improve Your Website’s Ecommerce Performance

16 February 2018, Ben Blackler



ecommerce conversion optimisation
I hope the key Christmas trading period was good for you. Of course, in ecommerce, there’s no time for resting on laurels and I’m sure your plans are beginning to take shape for the coming year.

With that in mind, I think you’d find the latest research from Visualsoft a useful reference. Their study not only identifies the 17 factors they think are key to maximising your ecommerce sales, but surveys how the UK’s top e-tailers are performing against each of those criteria.

So buckle up, here we go…

1. Page Speed

I’m showing my age but back in the days before broadband, I remember testing page load speeds and being happy with anything less than 30 seconds! Clearly, times have changed and the new definition of excellence is under 4 seconds for a site to load on a mobile device – research shows that 50% of people expect a site to load that quickly.

However, only 2% of the 240 e-tail sites tested reached that threshold. Worse still, 54% of e-tail sites took over 9 seconds to load, and 12% took over 15 seconds. Google estimates that these sites will be losing a minimum of 29% of all potential visitors through load time alone!

2. Effective Use of Social Media Channels

Here’s a couple of useful benchmarks for you – 6%* of overall traffic to sites now comes from social sources, a staggering 300% increase over the last 12 months. For mobile sites, the proportion is even higher at 8%. The question is – is your social traffic performance at or above those levels? And has it grown that markedly in the past 12 months? If not, your social channel may need some attention.

As expected, Instagram and Facebook are the two big hitters – with e-tailers averaging c2 million followers on each. Twitter trails in a poor third with an average of 180,000 followers per brand.

*Salesforce Shopping Index Q2 2017

3. Effective Use of Multichannel Options

A minority of e-tailers are taking advantage of all the multichannel options at their disposal. For example, did you know that recent studies suggest that more purchase journeys start on Amazon than on Google?

Retailers such as Primark have taken advantage of this trend by launching stores on both Amazon and eBay. It’s a simple way to open up your product range to a whole new segment of consumers but one very few online brands are exploiting at present.

4. Effective Use of Google Tools

You may be familiar with Google’s Shopping ads, but what you may not know is how they’re fuelling the growth of US e-tailers. According to data from Google in the US, Shopping ads accounted for up to 5% of online sales on the other side of the pond in 2015. That figure reached 14% in June of last year.

In fact, they’ve been so successful that the EU has launched an investigation into potential uncompetitive practices. However, while the sun shines, e-tailers should make hay – just over 30% of those in Visualsoft’s survey aren’t at present.

5. Effective Use of Apps

Research has shown that for those e-tailers that have a mobile app and a site, most of their mobile sales are driven by the app.

Despite this, around half of the e-tailers included in the study had a mobile site but not a mobile app. And even those that do offer an app need to make sure they’re not just replicating their mobile site experience – shopping apps can quickly fall by the wayside if they don’t take advantage of the extra functionality that mobile ‘native-ness’ brings.

6. Offering a Responsive Website

For 98% of the e-tailers in the surveys, this box is ticked. For the other 2% – well, I’m not sure what they’re thinking. Between half and two-thirds of all online sales now come from a mobile device. Without a responsive site, they’re fighting in a competitive market with one hand tied behind their backs.

7. Effective Use of Onsite Search

OK, so if you’ve ticked boxes 1 to 6, then you’re maximising your site traffic. But are you maximising the conversion of those prospects when they reach your site? In this regard, site search is crucial. Research shows that those using a site’s search function are more than twice as likely to convert.

That’s no doubt because these people have a specific product in mind and therefore a strong intent to buy – but if they can’t find what they want, a potentially easy conversion is lost. The secret is offering relevant autocomplete options and/or well-targeted product suggestions/recommendations, and making sure this functionality is optimized across all devices.

8. Effective Use of Navigation Options

Intuitive navigation is also key to conversion. With so many options and such short attention spans, shoppers just will not persevere when faced with confusing navigation. Studies indicate that half of shoppers will make use of a navigation menu to begin narrowing their search, but that a bad experience with navigation makes 37% of shoppers frustrated enough to abandon a site and never return.

9. Buying Assistance

No matter how intuitive your navigation and site search are, you can’t keep all of the people happy all of the time. Buying assistance features such as Live Chat or Virtual Assistants can rescue potentially lost sales.

A recent study found that customers choosing a live chat function were 40% more likely to convert than the average. Which makes it rather baffling that Live chat functions were absent from 61% of the leading sites. Make sure it’s not absent from yours.

10. Minimizing the Number of Steps to Purchase

You’ll be aware of the paradigm that the more steps your purchase process has, the more opportunities your prospects have to drop out of that purchase process.

On average, the UK’s leading sites average 3 steps to purchase, however, 29% of e-tailers were gaining an advantage by reducing this to a 1 or 2-step purchase. Over 1 in 10 are losing out, though, with 5 or more steps before purchase, inevitably losing more customers from their sales funnel than they need to.

11. Multiple Delivery Options Available

E-tailers need to cater for both those seeking speed and those who put the economy first. UPS reports that the majority of online shoppers (64%) expect at least 2-day delivery to be an option as a premium choice, even if less than a third of shoppers on average use that option.

By the same token, 32% of shoppers expect a ‘click and collect’ option, even if actual uptake is actually only 9% of purchases. Failure to offer adequate options can be an expensive mistake – 46% of shopping cart abandonment has been attributed to frustration with shipping options.

12. Wide Variety of Payment Options

A lack of payment options can have a similar impact. Research indicates that offering at least the top three most popular payment options can increase conversions by 30%.

Allowing non-bank card payments (e.g. vouchers, mobile payments) can also increase the appeal of sites.

Around 1 in 5 of the e-tailers included in Visualsoft’s research only offered a credit or debit card payment option. The recommendation would be a least to offer PayPal – the most popular alternative – to these base options.

13. Acceptance of Multiple Currencies

Your site is going to attract a proportion of overseas visitors and not allowing them to pay in their native currency is going to cause them considerable uncertainty about how much they’ll be paying – enough to cause them to abandon a planned purchase.

Lack of alternative currency payment options for international customers can lose sites up to 13% of customers according to some industry estimates. Over a third of e-tailers in Visualsoft’s research failed to offer payments in more than one currency.

14. Effective Use of Pop-Ups and Overlays

This particular tactic has a bad reputation, mainly because less scrupulous retailers have used spammy techniques which actually hinder conversion. That’s no doubt the reason that one third of the retailers in Visualsoft’s survey didn’t use this approach. But well designed and well-timed use of overlays and pop-ups can help to turn a ‘leaver’ into a prospect. For example, overlays that pre-empt exit and offer information about deals or opportunities to connect with the brand through live chat can significantly reduce lost customer rates.

15. Effective Email Sign Up

Email databases are the most used method amongst the e-tailers to increase conversion and encourage re-purchase – 90% of those in Visualsoft’s survey encouraged shoppers to sign up for more information. However, not all of them are making that option as high profile as they should, especially on the mobile versions of their site.

16. Use of Cross Selling and Upselling on Product Pages

Of course, Amazon is the masters of the cross-sell and the upsell and most e-tailers follow suit. However, Visualsoft found that 14% of the e-tailers in their sample are not making use of these techniques such as ‘Frequently bought together’ and ‘what other items do customers buy after viewing this item?’

17. Effective Use of Secondary Calls to Action

Wishlists can be an excellent way to lock in intent, and kick off a cycle of related prospect conversion activity if the customer isn’t quite ready to buy. But according to Visualsoft’s research, not all e-tailers offer them. By the same token, a significant number of retailers don’t facilitate shoppers’ sharing their purchases and wish lists through social media – an easy win that’s being missed.

The learning here is that not one of these 17 stones can be left unturned in the pursuit of the optimum online purchase journey. The good news is you’ve got 9 months until the Christmas trading season is in full swing again. There’s plenty to get stuck into in the meantime but plenty of time to do it. Good luck!

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