A Quick Guide to Improve Your Ecommerce Conversion Rate


There are online shopping experiences we love and those we loathe. Sometimes it’s hard to pin point what exactly makes one experience better than another, but with the average cart abandonment rate hovering around 69 percent, it’s safe to say that even the best have room to improve. So the question is, how do we better the user experience (UX) to capture more revenue from the traffic we already have?

Even if you have low cart abandonment or a high conversion rate, those numbers aren’t telling you the whole story. Measuring the success of a website is not as simple as comparing your conversion rate to the industry average. Factors like traffic quality, time of year, and current campaigns make it nearly impossible to make a grounded comparison even among similar experiences. At the end of the day the best course of action is to improve your current conversion rate, not just beat someone else’s.

So where do you start? In this guide we review online retail elements and recognized improvements that significantly impact a user’s perception of your website. Improve a website’s UX is one of the most fundamental ways to increase online sales and revenue. The quality of UX is not measured by individual parts of an experience, but rather the totality of factors that impact a perception of a website. A great user experience is intuitive, easy, and engaging. Keeping this holistic view of UX is essential as you seek to improve your eCommerce conversion rate.

1. Checkout

For online retailers, checkout is the final step and the closest to actually putting money in the bank, so any increase in performance here has a direct impact on your website’s revenue. The average eCommerce website checkout has about 5 stages, so try to stay below that. If your checkout seems longer than normal to your shopper, you risk a high rate of abandonment during checkout. A good rule of thumb is to aim for a 60 second minute checkout process. Every checkout should have a linear flow that guides users through each step, letting them know exactly where they are along the process.

One choice that will arise when building a checkout process is whether to use a single page or multipage experience. For mobile, a single page checkout is often preferred. The ability to scroll and swipe with vertical forms makes it easier to complete in the mobile environment. For desktop, my personal favorite is a tabbed layout with clear indicators of which step you’re on. This lets the customer track their progress and estimate how long it will take to complete. Remember each business will have a unique audience with subjective preferences. The only way to know for sure what will perform best is to experiment with multiple variations.

Every part of the process should keep guiding users on to the next step.The exact flow of a checkout process will vary depending on your business, but asking for an email address is a common first step. By asking for an email upfront, you are capturing a key piece of information that allows you send a follow-up email if they abandon their cart later on. Just make sure the email goes out quickly before they purchase somewhere else.

When it comes to payment options, give about 4 to 6 to begin with. Eventually you may be able to pair down to 2 or 3 depending on which is most popular. Besides credit cards, I suggest adding PayPal and Amazon Payments as alternative options because of their popularity and security.

After the purchase is complete remember to bring the newly-minted customer to a thank you and order summary page. Here you can let them know delivery details, how to contact customer support, and offer an opportunity to continue shopping with personalized recommendations. There are a lot of excellent checkout process out there, so don’t reinvent the wheel. Keep it simple, clean, and clear. Here are a few good examples.

ecommerce conversion rate

Huckleberry Checkout- Easy to view the entire process. Free shipping allows for fewer questions, but credit card payment is the only option.


ecommerce conversion rate

Bose checkout – A tabbed layout. An email is asked for first, and important information stands out clearly.


2. Shipping 

Offer free shipping if you can, it makes a huge difference for customers. Shipping costs bum everyone out, and they can motivate your customer to check with a competitor to see if they can get a better deal. Be sure estimated arrival dates are given when selecting a shipping method. Adding a zip code selector early on—like the product page—you can soothe a customer’s fears that they will receive their package by a certain date.

3. Forms

With forms it’s best to ask for the least amount of information. Long forms create friction, elongate the checkout process, and are ZERO fun to fill out. I even recommend eliminating optional fields as they clutter the process. Consider adding progressive profiling, which replaces fields that have already been captured with a new set when the user encounters another form on your site. This lets you ask more information about your customer without repeating the same questions.

Make forms as easy to fill out as possible. Pre-fill information whenever possible and provide inline validation so that if something is incorrect, the customer will know right away. Label each form field clearly and consistently. If you have both optional and required fields, indicate the difference with an asterisk, color, or other visual indicator.

ecommerce conversion rate

Overstock.com – Inline validation


4. Trust

Building trust is done throughout your website, not just on one page. Errors such as brand inconsistency, typos, and slow load times can give your visitor pause about the security and legitimacy of your site. Address common questions, like return policies, on the product page, cart page, and during the checkout process. Simply adding a phone number on your homepage or menu bar goes a long way toward reassuring customers that you’re worthy of their trust.

It should be obvious that when asking customers for credit card information, you need to make them feel as comfortable as possible. To that end, include credit card symbols and logos from your credit card processor. Trust seals that are issued by security organizations are also an important visual indicator of security.

An article from Internet Retailer exemplifies the impact that trust indicators can have on online shoppers. OrientalFurniture.com conducted an A/B test between a variation with a BuySafe Inc. seal (the seal linked to a security and price guarantee), and one without.

“After several weeks of testing throughout September and October, the retailer says visitors who saw BuySafe’s seal and bonding option were 7.6% more likely to make a purchase than consumers who did not see the seal.”

Make sure your customer knows that their satisfaction is important to you. Consider offering a satisfaction or money back guarantee with every purchase. Also be sure to let your customers review your product. Don’t worry too much about bad reviews here and there—they can actually help you. Reviews are a huge source of trust when it comes to eCommence and can even benefit your SEO rank. If you need more product reviews, just ask. Send an email after the customer has had a chance to evaluate the product.

ecommerce conversion rate

Kitchen Aid – Reviews, demos, and guides are all available on the product page


5. Product display

Products should look their absolute best on your website. Invest in a good product photographer. Displaying large, high-resolution images of your product from different viewpoints can make a world of difference. Another option to make your product stick out is to add a video of your product in action.

Besides conveying the quality of your product, it’s important to create a trigger that will help push customers toward the purchase. Build a sense of urgency with limited-time offers, product scarcity, and time-sensitive deals. These elements are strong motivators that drive customers to checkout sooner rather than later.

For each product page, personalize the experience with product recommendations. There’s a good reason 86 percent of the top 1000 retailers use online product recommendations. Product recommendations have been attributed to up to a 50 percent increase in average order values, up to a 150 percent increase in conversions, and up to a 300 percent increase in revenue. In some cases, online retailers have seen total website revenue increase from 5 to 20 percent just by adding relevant recommendations.

ecommerce conversion rate

Patagonia – Product images are large and show the product in different environments. The page also includes demo videos.


6. Product copy

It cannot be overstated how important it is to prominently place the value proposition on the homepage and product pages. Make sure that the product copy matches tone and style across products. Every word is an opportunity to inspire your customer to take action, so even product descriptions should be action oriented. If you have a lot of dense product information, try using bullet point to highlight features and benefits.

Give visitors multiple opinions of your product by adding testimonials and customer reviews. Has your product received any awards or media coverage? If so add award badges and quotes from media coverage.

7. Category pages

Category pages absolutely need sort and filter functionality. The more products you have, the more of an imperative this becomes. Categories such as featured, new releases, season, activity, price, rating, and size are common, but add as many  you think will be relevant. Visually, make sure each product photo is in a styled similarly. For the layout of your category pages you’ll want to test whether a continuous scroll or multiple pages is preferred among customers. Make the preferred style default, but give users the option to switch between the two.

ecommerce conversion rate

Birch Box – Category pages are organized in a simple grid and are easy to navigate. Star reviews, special offer tags, and teaser information makes a compelling reason to continue.


8. Live chat

If you have the resources, live chat can be a great investment for connecting with customers. According to a survey by Internet Retailer, 77% of online retailers that use live chat said it was a critical communication tool especially during the holiday season. They also reported that proactive chat invitations led to higher conversion rates compared to chats initiated by the customer. One thing to keep in mind is that live chat tools can slow down website speed if not implemented properly.

9. User accounts

We all have more user accounts than we want, so don’t make your customers create another one—guest login should always be an option. Nevertheless capturing email addresses through account creation is valuable; incentivize account sign up with special discounts, faster checkout, access to order history, and exclusive offers. Remind users of account benefits throughout the site. Make signing up for an account as easy as possible. One of the most convenient ways for user to make an account is through social login, which requires no new passwords or user names.

ecommerce conversion rate

Adidas – The value proposition for creating a user account is delivered throughout the website experience.


10. Cart

A cart icon should be visible throughout your site and should show the number of items currently in the cart. Hovering or clicking the cart icon should display the products as line items, with cart total, and ‘check-out’ or ‘view cart’ calls-to-action.

11. Search functionality

Many eCommerce sites have excellent search functionality, but it’s underutilized. Ensure that search bars are clearly visible throughout your store. When it comes to eCommerce every search result should point the user somewhere—no results is a conversion killer. Automatic suggestions are one of the most powerful tools for helping customers and should be a priority. Be sure to include pictures in search results so customers can browse faster.

Final thoughts

The outlook for online retailers is once again looking bright. In 2015, more than half of all retail sales took place online according to the U.S. Commerce Department. In non-adjusted estimates, online sales totaled $341.7 billion in 2015, a 14.6 percent increase over $298.3 billion in 2014. However, the competition among businesses to get a share of this growth is intensifying.

An excellent UX is crucial for staying competitive in the digital economy. When you improve your UX, you delight your customers and they’re more likely to return. What’s more is that repeat customers are your most valuable. Nearly 40 percent of online retailer revenue comes from returning customers—even though they only represent about 8 percent of all visitors. Continuously optimizing your UX is the best way to compound the value of your visitors—if you haven’t updated your experience recently, now is the time.



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