eCommerce marketers know that there’s no magic bullet to success. When you’re managing a wide range of product categories and dozens, hundreds or even thousands of SKUs, you need to manage your strategy – and time – carefully and focus in on the most profitable approaches.
The most effective brands are able to join up their SEO initiatives with the content they use to engage shoppers while guiding site visitors towards a purchase through customer journey management and conversion rate optimisation.
In this guide I’ve outlined what we at Blueclaw have proven to be some of the most critical steps to increasing eCommerce sales.
Conversion rate optimisation and managing the customer journey from search to sale isn’t just about technical performance – the goal for eCommerce brands should be to drive action by creating a user experience that is integrated, seamless and makes life easy for the customer.
So – let’s get started!
SEO is fundamentally about intent. Potential shopper who land on your site after making a search by definition have something they’re interested in finding.
That may be information about products or trends, or a more specific desire to purchase.
A joined-up SEO and CRO strategy will anticipate (where possible) the intent behind each top search, and aim to make sure that the most meaningful page is the one that visitors encounter first.
Prior to being on your site, they will have a mental model of what they expect, what they’re looking for and how to find it – way before they even landed on your site.
In eCommerce, choice is often abundant and presenting a first-time visitor with the product that perfectly matches what they had in mind when typing in ‘party dress’ or ‘mom jeans’ is pretty unlikely.
Part of the solution, is making sure that there is a readily accessible, usable and (most importantly) effective on-site product search function to help visitors find their own way to their ideal product.
Econsultany found that on-site search allows users to convert 1.8x more and generate between 13.8%-40% in revenue, and for fashion sites these are even higher… not rookie numbers at all!
On-site search is about making the user travel across your site fast and easily with the intent that they know what they are after and once they have found what they are looking for you can cross-sell and provide a better experience, thus convert! It basically allows the intent of the user to be influenced and convert more.
Most eCommerce sites will have an on-site search function – but it’s all about how valuable it is to shoppers, and how immediately usable it is to encourage them to use it at all.
Remember, the figures above are only for shoppers who made use of a search function – not just sites that offered one.
At Blueclaw we advise that the search functionality is capable of finding product names, model/item numbers, product suggestions and predictions, spelling correction and contain an expansive library of terms for products e.g. “hair dryer” and “blow dryer”, the ability to include symbols or abbreviations and even base the searches on foundations of contextual filters.
Search functionality should be thought of as an important tool with its own potential for optimisation as part of the wider user journey.
Make onsite search functionality visible, and give it importance on every page with a clear and easy to use search button – if the visitor has to squint to see your page’s tiny magnifying glass symbol clear it’s not going to be used – and you’re not guiding the user towards the best way to navigate your site.
Include breadcrumbs so the user doesn’t get lost as they search through your site, make it clear what they are searching for and take advantage of the “no-result-found” page and present possible solutions or suggestions.
With around 20% to 50% of all conversions bring driven by testimonials and word of mouth, it’s so important to collect as much useful user feedback as possible!
This is called “Social Proofing” and can be more important than low prices in influencing customers’ decisions. Fred Reichheld’s book The Ultimate Question states that “businesses had on average 2x the revenue increase by simply increasing their overall brand advocacy by only 12%”.
Adding to this argument, Google’s Zero Moment of Truth report found that the average consumer used around 10.4 difference sources to influence them before converting.
So you can see how important real people’s opinions of products are. Simply adding these to your site can easily increase sales and demonstrate trust throughout, making the customer feel involved and giving them a voice. This in turn can help you gather insight and develop your brand further and create solid value proposition.
To further this, integrate your social platforms into CRO and allow customers to buy on any platform. Engagement is key, so if customers engage more on Instagram, for example, having them be able to purchase the products there can easily increase revenue.
This can happily save you money on social ads and saves the user time and effort. Companies such as ORO LA saw a 29.3 % lift in their month-over month revenue directly from this!
Another form of trust is making the switch from HTTP to HTTPS. This allows Google to mark sites with an SSL Certificate and label the site secure.
eCommerce sites that produce the dredded “not secure” warning run the risk of massive drop off and loss in revenue. Include secure badges in checkouts and within the footer to instill a visual trust with the customer as this demonstrates your authority and how the customers’ data is safe with them.
Potential shoppers arrive on your site with preconceived ideas of how to navigate it based on all of the time they’ve spent on other people’s sites.
They travel the web, gaining experience, learning visual cues and understand the conventions of the web. So when it comes to design, you shouldnt be afraid of taking inspiration from industry leaders and adapting them to your own brand.
To put it simply, most people don’t like change.
This is where a fantastic, beautiful and innovative site design can really fall short.
Users get used to a certain journey and it helps them be less confused and causes less conflict. Compare your site with competitors, test your site and see where friction occurs, understand how mobile and desktop conversion can be different. Ask questions of the functionality, seek improvements and see the wins!
Of course there are exceptions to the rule but sometimes forms of innovation can be risky. But sure to slowly test these and see if your audience can navigate and use your site well or better than you hoped for.
Just like your customers and users, you as a business have goals, targets, ideals and values. These are things you wish to hit and surpass and hopefully learn from.
The best tip here is to take care of the “low hanging fruit” first. Focus on the smaller changes that are obvious to create the biggest rewards.
To do this, you will want to make small changes, carry out A/B testing and analyse the results from your conversion rates. Of course, you will want to increase the value to the customer too as this is a service you are providing.
The usual process is:
If you want to learn more, VWO has an excellent article that goes more into depth on this.
Examples of testing are:
A/B Testing: A true classic of the CRO world. Basically put, it’s about coming up with an idea, creating a control sample and putting it against a variant sample and seeing which does better.
This is generally element based; maybe it’s a classic, but it can also be a fairytale, so make sure you test for long enough or the changes you make will be low impact.
Multi-Variate Testing: This is like A/B testing but works on the page as a whole. This involves testing lots of different elements on one page and seeing its conversion rate.
Questions to ask to inform your strategy include –
Some ecommerce companies make the mistake of putting all their effort into just generating more traffic and not into what they are going to do with that traffic.
Chris Rourke, CEO of User Vision cautions against coming to the wrong conclusions as a result of A/B testing;
“If you want to know which of 2 versions of the same page / process works best, AB testing can work really well assuming that you get sufficient traffic to base any analysis on, so that you have apply statistics and ensure that the differences are statistically significant.
Sites such as Amazon can get sufficient traffic to robust statistics in a few hours – your site may not be able to.
The other thing to consider is that you need to create the options / hypotheses to be tested – those ideally should be based on insights from users and jot just guesswork of what you think will work best.
For that reason it is not always the best for finding out what users want – you may find that B converts better than A but you’ve no idea what C D etc could look like since it is only comparing options not understanding what other aspect may work for the situation which can be uncovered through other forms of research.”
As markets get ever more competitive, it makes sense to make the most of the traffic you already receive allow take steps to get a greater proportion of revenue from existing visitors. – but analysis must be carried out in a robust and realistic way to develop robust conclusions and commercial outcomes.
At Blueclaw we recommend building out knowledge through use of freely available tools, to develop a greater understanding of your current situation and indicative opportunities.
Using tools like Google Optimize (which is free) or Google Analytics can be a great start to track your progress in conversion rates.
Quick wins to get the process moving would include:
Technical optimisation of the site: Compressing images, minifying code and scripts etc can increase the speed of your site.
With first impressions being made so quickly, your site needs to be faster than the competition – and this is as much for CRO reasons as SEO reasons.
There are many ways to reduce the page load time on your ecommerce site, including:
Optimising for the Mobile-First Index: With more and more users using their smaller devices for basically running their life, it’s ridiculous to ignore the opportunities that mobile first thinking and design hold. This isn’t just having a responsive site, this is knowing why they are using their mobile and what they want from it.
Wording of CTAs: In your head, use “I want to….” before your CTA title to make things clearer for the user to see if it makes sense.
Placement of reviews and testimonials: Placement of elements in general is important, but including the social proof that is needed for generating sales is key. Make sure it’s close to the product description and the CTA is close by – and test to see if its usage can be improved by altering the placement or design.
Make key elements more pronounced: Showing the number of contents in the basket, increasing the size of the search box and checkout CTA etc can help dramatically in increasing conversion – at every step we need to make life easy for customers, because it’s already easy for them to visit a competitor.
Add progress bars to the checkout process and test what you need: This will help with the progressive disclosure – getting the data you need iteratively – and help make things simpler for the user.
Rework descriptions by including social proofing: Try to include reworded reviews in your descriptions. This is content focusing on what the user actually wants and not a load of self-promotional content that doesn’t resonate or build confidence in your products.
So you analysed your collected data and you came up with a perfect idea to increase conversion. You put it to the test in an A/B environment and sadly the control test won.
Well, what now? You gather the information, analyse it, cross reference it with the original data and learn from it.
Sadly not all tests are going to go your way, and it’s unrealistic to suggest you can automatically increase CRO overnight. CRO is a long process, with ups and downs, and lots of learning and understanding.
It takes a team to develop both small and big wins. Remember, it’s really not about reaching your goal, it’s about that journey. Combine your own findings with others, become lean and design around this, the possible user improvement, and the business goals at hand. Test small changes that turn into big improvements to see their full impact and continue to fail if needs be. It’s about learning, finding out what your audience wants and needs, and seeing what you can do to build value, trust and a seamless path to a purchase.
Conversion rate optimisation and customer journey management isn’t just about increasing conversions, it also means a better user experience from search, all the way through to purchase.
Taking each opportunity to implicitly and explicitly empathise with the customer and their requirements while removing barriers and providing a clear path to purchase will lead to a better site, and a better place to browse.
When thinking about conversion rate optimisation, behaviour testing and analytics it’s important to emphasise that customers are people – not just data points.
The goal is not to manipulate users but a way to connect more effectively with them, and through making the experience objectively better, achieve higher rates of conversion and revenue. It’s the very definition of a win-win.