Conversion rate optimization in 187 steps

The core of conversion rate optimization revolves around getting more visitors to purchase a good or a service. In this blog post you will find no less than 187 specific and free tips that I suggest you print and utilize when optimizing your e-commerce website from A-Z.

The tips are based on more than 100 e-commerce website user tests.

Front page
When a customer first visits your website, it takes no longer than 50 milliseconds for her to decide whether she like it or not. Being exposed to a numerous amount of ads every day, the brain makes a range of unconscious decisions on behalf of us. In doing so, we no longer have to make conscious choices constantly. As a result, the first impression you give on your front page becomes a critical part of the conversion rate optimization discipline.

Optimize your front page by:

1. Creating a simple impression
2. Making it clear to the customer why they should trade with you (use a tagline)
3. Giving the customer one great message when visiting your website (creates composure and sales)
4. Avoiding front page banners being ignored by the visitors, i.e. “banner-blindness”
5. Placing meta-features such as shopping cart, Wish List etc. in the upper right corner

About us + telephone number
If you do not already have an “about us” section on your website, you should consider creating one as the page builds trust by displaying and explaining that there are humans “behind the screen”. Trust and a sense of safety is a central part of conversion rate optimization.

1. Tell about the people behind the company
2. Show pictures of your employees in order to build trust
3. Insert your telephone number as a clear part of the checkout flow, and all other pages if possible

Optimize on-site search features
Not being able to find the desired product accounts for approximately 30% of all lost orders. The same could be the case for your website if the search and navigation is flawed.

Optimize your search feature by:

1. Giving it a notable position on your website, e.g. under the top navigation
2. Helping the customer avoid misspelling by implementing “type ahead” and “did you mean?” features
3. Avoiding empty search results
4. Handling long keyword phrases
5. Providing a feature to filter and sort search results
6. Displaying best selling products according to category within the filters, preferably with a link to the filters
7. Using checkboxes and not links as filters
8. Avoiding filters with scroll
9. Not displaying filters that cannot be selected
10. Placing filters on the left side of the screen, not the centre
11. Displaying all relevant product information in the search results (price, delivery time, inventory level etc.)
12. Making search results easy to scan with bullet points or similar
13. Avoiding content-based search engines such as Google
14. Testing performance of horizontal vs. vertical search results
15. Aligning search and navigation thus ensuring a seamless experience of page composition, sorting and filters
16. Avoiding automatic search within one category – let the customer choose to search within distinctive categories
17. Considering whether you need an “advanced” search feature
18. Making it possible to search both “content-” and “function-based”
19. Ensuring that the search engine can handle synonyms, abbreviations, plural and singular, product state (news, offers etc.), formats and so on
20. Using search features as known from Google and Bing, i.e. “ ”
21. Making it possible to search for help / content as on Dell’s website
22. Letting the customer to compare products

Optimize your navigation
The website navigation is a crucial indicator of your commercial success or lack of the same. Several websites have a complicated navigation which leads to lost orders and customers who are unlikely to return.

Optimize your navigation by:

1. Making your navigation noteworthy
2. Inserting the menu point “Home”
3. Highlighting the menu point of the current page – it has to stick out
4. Utilizing a feature such as mouse-over on the menu points with a link to a second-level product category
5. Inserting a left aligned menu on the front page with direct links to second-level product categories
6. Making the navigation path clear to the customer with the use of breadcrumbs
7. Placing the page title correctly, making it clear to the client where she is and what the page is about
8. Inserting a “drop down” menu for fast navigation to second level
9. Making a clear connection between the left-hand navigation and the products being displayed in the middle of the page
10. Displaying relevant information for the client in the product overview – e.g. “Jeans”. Is the product in stock? what is the lead time? Etc.
11. Making the occurrence of multiple pages clear in the product overview with pagination: Page 1, 2, 2 – “Next >>” and “Display all”
12. Displaying a navigation at the bottom of the page
13. Making it clear to the customer where she can navigate to (e.g. with a top navigation where she is able to easily navigate to level 1 and 2)
14. Making it easy for the customer to adjust the product range with filters and sorting options
15. Making it easy for the customer to navigate back and forth between product overviews and product pages
16. Ensuring that the navigation focuses on sales which creates space to sell products in the middle of the page
17. Avoiding a content based navigation where all content levels clutter the left side menu
18. Utilizing a top navigation if you have less than 10 product categories
19. Utilizing a left side menu if you have more than 10 product categories
20. Ensuring that customers can navigate to products via brands, offers, news etc.
Product pages
The information relevant to a product page varies according to the type of company you manage. However, I have identified a variety of principles within conversionrate optimization that are applicable across all product ranges.

Optimize your product pages by:

1. Removing left side navigation (This is only advisable given that effective breadcrumbs are implemented)
2. Creating a clear space with access to relevant product details in the upper left corner (above the scroll line)
3. Ensuring that the customer has all relevant information relating to the purchase decision
4. Displaying all information about inventory, lead time, shipment, return policy and payment security
5. Testing simple up-selling structures, such as “Buy 2 and save” or “Buy more and save”
6. Making a sizable product thumbnail that enables the customer to evaluate the product without enlarging the image
7. Avoiding the use of images from suppliers if the image quality is inadequate
8. Highlighting product details such as a special flat screen TV, a special design feature on a pair of jeans etc.
9. Displaying enlarged pictures on a grey tone background in order to create a natural focus on the image
10. Evaluating the profitability of displaying catwalks, videos, pictures of handheld products etc.
11. Letting the customer experience the product by showing a trailer, searching in a book etc.
12. Utilizing collaborative filtering in order to maximize sales
13. Only utilizing up-, cross- and additional sales on relevant products
14. Testing the products recommended from collaborative filtering before launching it on the website
15. By displaying “People who bought X, also bought Y” in the right hand side of the screen, thereby making it clear that more products are present below the scroll line
16. Letting the customers review your products
17. Cross selling related (e.g. Jeans) and other products (e.g. t-shirts, socks etc.) from the same brand
18. Additional sales of 2, 3 or larger quantities that the customer can purchase in a bundle
19. Adding the possibility to customize the product, i.e. tailoring an antivirus program according to the customers need/wishes
20. Composing guides and videos when selling complex products

Add to cart
While a lot of your potential customers are clicking the “add to cart button”, the disturbing reality indicates that 40-60% of them never finalize their order. As a result, this is an area where you with respect to conversion rate optimization can achieve the greatest commercial success. Read more about “add to cart”

Make it clear to the customer that a product has been added to the cart by:

1. Leading the customer directly to their shopping basket when pushing the button “add to cart”, if the average orders contain few items
2. Greytone the page and display a pop message: “The product has been added to your basket”, if the average orders contain a wide range of items
3. Adding the website navigation to the displayed pop up message
4. Giving the customer a “Purchase for an additional 50 £ and get free shipping”-offer when adding a product to the shopping cart
5. Being careful with aggressive selling within the shopping cart
6. Design a notable cart
7. Making it easy for the customer to find the product again once it has been added to the cart

This is achieved by:

1. Placing the shopping cart in the upper right corner
2. Adding a clear shopping cart-logo
3. Naming the shopping cart correctly – “Shopping cart”

Optimize the shopping cart
Cart abandonment is a conversion rate optimization discipline ignored by several companies, and unfortunately for them I have found that up to 71% leave the shopping cart without finalizing the order. This is by large the causality of comparison shopping where customers compare the prices of the shopping cart across several websites before making the purchase decision.

Optimize the shopping cart by:

1. Displaying product images
2. Displaying all relevant product information for each product (colour, size, inventory etc.)
3. Adding links to relevant information about lead time, shipping cost, safety and payment options
4. Making it possible for the customer to save the cart for later
5. Adding clear “Proceed to checkout” buttons in top and bottom
6. Adding an update link next to each product rather than an update button in the bottom
7. Displaying the shipping cost, and if possible offering free shipping for purchases over 50 £
8. Not taking the customer away from the shopping cart if she clicks on a help link
9. Having a “Continue shopping” button, making it easy for the customer to continue with their shopping
10. Displaying the various payment options you provide along with an explanation of any potential credit card fees
11. Displaying telephone number, opening hours and potentially a chat

Login & create account
Within conversion rate optimization 30-50% of customers abandon the purchase if they are required to create an account.

In order to increase the amount of customers that proceed to checkout, I recommend that:

1. You do not force the customer to create an account in order to shop on your website
2. You do not have a page with both “login” and “Create account” buttons, but rather utilize an Amazon-style login page with one button should you wish to use required login
3. You lead the customer directly to the first step in the checkout process and making it clear that she can finalize her order without an account. In this step, you should communicate the advantages of creating an account and how simple login really is for existing customers

Create a checkout flow with a funnel-design
Once a customer decides to purchase the items in the cart, there’s only one thing in focus – to complete the order. In order to support this process, I recommend creating a “funnel-design”. The sole purpose is to create a friction-less ordering process for the customer, a core part of conversion rate optimization.

Make it easy for the customer to complete the order by:

1. Making a funnel-design and removing the homepage navigation
2. Making it impossible to click on links leading away from the checkout flow
3. Saving the customer data as she moves back and forth in the checkout flow
4. Letting the customer adjust the order before she approves it
5. Assisting the customer with guiding text in the top of the individual pages
6. Designing a step-indication that let the customer know where she is in the process and how many steps there’s left
7. Adding buttons in the right hand side of the checkout flow, allowing the customer to continue to the next step
8. Adding “<< Go back” links in the left side of the page – both top and bottom
9. Designing a checkout flow that moves to the right, and not downwards on the page
10. Only implementing a one step checkout if it easy to use
11. Creating a natural left side attention where the customer can fill in her information, select drop down menus etc.
12. Summarizing the order in the right side of the page within step 1 and 2 – and letting the customer edit the order
13. Adding telephone number and opening hours on all pages within the checkout flow
14. Linking to important information relating to “security”, “payment” etc. on all pages within the checkout flow
15. Consistently using the same buttons throughout the checkout flow in order to build trust (“Jumping the buttons”)
16. Making it easier for the customer to fill in her details, by giving input fields a yellow background color and making the text-input bold
17. Utilizing Ajax technology to avoid loading the full page every time a customer changes minor details on their order
18. Informing the customer about why you need sensitive information such as email, telephone number etc.
19. Creating a natural and logical order for the customer when it comes to typing their details in to a form
20. Using “help?” or “help “ instead of “?” as help icons
21. Not displaying any open fields that the customer doesn’t have to fill in
22. Avoiding the use of grey-toned fields, radio buttons and similar that the customer cannot select
23. Asking the customer to fill in delivery address and contact information in the first step
24. Considering what information you need in the second step (such as selection of delivery and payment method)
25. Explaining why a possible credit card fee has to be paid
26. Writing “It’s possible to edit your order on the next page before processing the payment” next to the “Continue >>” button on the step before “Approve the order”
27. Making it clear when the order is approved by having an “approve”-button in both top and bottom of the page and possibly credit card information
28. Making it clear if the customer has to accept any terms
29. Adding a “Proceed to payment >>” button on the same page as the order is being approved if the customer is to finalize the payment in a payment window
30. Adding the links “<< Go back” and “View your order” as a minimum within the payment window, allowing the customer to go back and view their order
31. Having the payment window in the same design as the checkout flow
32. Creating an “Approve order & pay” page where the customer is able to view, edit and pay for the order (DIBS Enterprise)
33. Giving the customer a “waiting”-page as soon as the button “Approve order and pay” has been clicked
34. Planting unique selling propositions in the consciousness of the customer on the “waiting”-page
35. Adding the top navigation on the receipt-page
36. Letting the customer know that a copy of the receipt has been sent to their email
37. Letting the customer close the receipt-page by adding a “home” button
38. Adding a “what’s happening now?”-text if the customer has any further tasks after completing the order
39. Asking the customer whether it was easy to complete the order or not
40. Letting the customer know how the payment will be labeled on her bank statement
41. Asking the customer to say “Yes” to products she can buy and not forcing her to say “No”
42. Trying to create additional sales as a service
43. Trying to delimit the amount of products you want to create additional sales with
44. Ensuring a design that lets the customers use the website without the need for any help-texts

Delivery
How you’re delivering a product has a significant psychological influence on the customers collective purchase experience. Even though it sounds simple to deliver the right products on time, I find that many ecommerce businesses “forget” to satisfy such a fundamental need.

In order to ensure a good delivery on time, my recommendation is:

1. Manage your customers expectations by communicating delivery times on product pages and in the shopping cart
2. Deliver the correct items on time, and preferably faster than expected
3. Ensure that the customer always know where the order is, and when she will receive it
4. Provide your customer with the possibility to view the status of her order on your website
5. Provide the customer with a possibility to receive order status via text-messages
6. Inform customers of any delays on their order
7. Provide the customer with a possibility to cancel the order if it is delayed – you could also consider offering her to buy a similar product as a substitute
8. Take responsibility and learn to apologize – apologize if something goes wrong, even if it’s not your fault
9. Build an automated return-flow if you’re dealing with large volumes
10. Include a return label with every order, thereby making it easy for the customer to return any orders

After sales and Customer Retention
Once you master the art of conversion rate optimization, you can start looking into customer retention as well as after sales to existing customers.

My recommendation is:

1. Try selling on the receipt-page with products targeted according to the products she just purchased
2. Try selling in the receipt-email with recommendations for products next time she’s shopping on your website
3. Account for time when selling. For example, sending a good offer on car rental to a customer who has purchased a flight ticket close to departure
4. Get the customer back on your website, e.g. to review the purchased products
5. Don’t spam your customers by sending identical newsletters to every customer
6. Send targeted sales letters (“newsletters”) to every single customer
7. Capture the customers who has visited your website without purchasing anything by sending product recommendations
8. Structure the communication between you and your customers in order to improve after sales and avoid spamming the customers
9. Create a “recommended to you” page with recommended products for the respective customers
10. Personalize your entire website according to the distinctive visitors
11. Utilize “My account” functions in order to get customers back to your website, and gather all “My account” functions in one area

Sales promotion features
In order to improve your sales and conversion rates, my recommendation is:

1. Use shipping as a sales technique by offering free shipping on purchases that exceeds 500 £
2. Build guides with products relating to a specific style or season
3. Provide the customers with a possibility to shop across brands, news, offers, gift ideas etc.
4. Encouraging the customer to place the order now by informing about limited seats or fast delivery if the order is placed within a specific timeframe
5. Implement short- and wish-lists that can be sent to friends and family
6. Don’t force customers to create an account in order to create a wish-list
7. Make re-ordering of previous purchased items simple
8. Build pages and functions based on “persuasive design”, thereby incentivizing the customers to increase quantity or upgrade products

Improve error messages
Helping customers resolve mistakes and continue the checkout process is a crucial part of conversion rate optimization.

Optimize your error messages by:

1. Displaying in the top of the page that an error has occurred further down on the page
2. Clearly explaining what and where an error has occurred
3. Accounting for any potential errors that may occur – don’t use one generic error message (that nobody understands) per input field, drop down etc.

Help
Besides helping customers resolve any potential mistakes, another important factor of conversion rate optimization is the ability to develop and offer a superior help function.

In order to help your customers the best way possible, my recommendation is:

1. Help the customer where she is
2. Build one central help function
3. Link to pages within the help function when the customer clicks on “info” and “Help?”
4. Make it possible to search within the help function
5. Collect a “Frequently asked questions” within your support centre and implement them in the help function
6. Build step-by-step guides
7. Explain specific terms and phrases
8. Help the customer visually with complex tasks (such as finding the right numbers on her annual statement)
9. Implement a chat function, especially when selling complex products
Buttons

In order to make your website easy to use, I recommend that your buttons:

1. Have a shadow effect making them appear clickable and look as if they were “stepping out of the screen”
2. Have a clear text with a contrast to the button color
3. Have a different color than the rest of your website (preferably green, blue or orange)

I wish you the best of luck with the conversion rate optimization of your website.

Could you make use of this list? Please commend.

Learn about mobile conversion optimization at: Smartphone E-commerce

Posted in conversion optimization.

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