Growing a multi-million dollar ecommerce store is tough work.
You’ve probably experienced at least one sharp growing pain as you scaled your ecommerce store to what it is today.
Some of the biggest challenges you run into are:
- Your inventory just grew from 3,500 to 10,000 SKUs, where do you put it? How do you organize it?
- You needed to hire three people yesterday, you have 30 resumes for each job, and no time to review them or interview for jobs that you know will help you be more effective—in two months.
- Should I keep spending thousands of dollars on SEO, or should I divert some of that to Conversion Optimization?
I recently put in 100 hour work weeks for four months to help us migrate from Magento to Shopify Plus.
When you’re tired, overworked, and trying to hit some big revenue numbers, it’s tempting to view more traffic as the solution to all of your problems.
“We need to sell 30% more of XYZ product … let’s drive more traffic to it.” said every Manic Marketer ever.
Unfortunately, more traffic isn’t the answer. At least, not always.
In fact, there’s an excellent chance you have all the traffic you need to successfully sell the products you have in stock.
You don’t have a traffic problem; you have a conversion problem.
Just this past month, I made some changes to the navigation for a client’s website, Dollar Hobbyz, that increased their site-wide conversion rate by 15% which directly improved sales by 66% for the category that was affected.
When you’re the largest in your niche, this kind of lift in conversion rate translates to several thousands of dollars a week from making a few slight changes. What makes this even more exciting is that site-wide traffic is actually down 6% this month because we’re entering our offseason.
Traffic is down, conversions are up, revenue is up = boss is happy.
If you want the details, Nathan Peck, the Director of Marketing for Dollar Hobbyz discusses the changes we made to the navigation in the bonus section at the end of this article.
You have to be relentless about testing new ideas to increase conversions on your website. And to help you come up with winning ideas to test, I’ve reached out to some of the best minds in Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) to share some unique ideas for ecommerce.
1. Reduce Choices: Your Product Filters
From Michael St. Laurent, Optimization Strategist, WiderFunnel
Image via Annie Selke - Pine Cone Hill
One of the areas of an ecommerce website that gets neglected the most is the faceted menu or left-hand filter. It’s easy to add more and more facets, drill-downs, and options - but then you’re left with a mess that makes it difficult for the shopper to use this optional navigation effectively.
Michael St. Laurent offers up an idea that increased sales by 23% by cleaning this section of the website up.
“We ran an experiment on the product category and search results pages that featured an elongated left-hand filter. We had tested this filter previously and knew that there was some sensitivity to its structure.
We wanted to explore further.
In Variation A, we wanted to reduce choice for the visitor by collapsing the left-hand filter, which is counter-intuitive for many companies. In fact, a lot of our e-commerce clients want to give visitors as many functionalities and options as possible, but this can be overwhelming to your visitors.
As Barry Schwartz writes in The Paradox of Choice, more choices lead to fewer decisions. Sometimes, it's better to reduce decision-making for your visitors to guide them into taking the action that you want them to take.
This is an excellent example of designing for probability over possibility - we saw that reducing distractions and focusing user attention on a few key points could have a significant impact on conversion rates. And it worked: with this collapsed filter, our client saw a 23.6% lift in sales.”
2. Eliminate Abandonment: Your Checkout Page
From Michael Kuehn, Senior CRO Advisor
Image via Amazon
Often when I’m optimizing an ecommerce store, I ask the question, “What does Amazon do”? While Amazon isn’t perfect, and there are certainly times when what Amazon does won’t work for your niche, but I find that the extensive testing Amazon does can give you some insight into general best practices for ecommerce.
One of those areas is getting rid of the navigation when someone’s in the “checkout funnel” of your website.
Michael Kuehn is a CRO advisor and has used this method with consistent results. He walks you through a simple way to test this out on your website.
“Using your test tool (VWO, Optimizely, etc.), hide the <div> for your navigation elements within the global header once you the user has indicated an intention to checkout.
Intention can be determined based on progressing past the "item added to cart" step - typically either entering the shopping cart or step 1 or checkout. Integrate your test with your GA or other analytics accounts to get the most accurate tracking. I've tested this with some clients with consistent lifts in purchases as a result of fewer distractions.”
3. Make "Buying" Unavoidable: Your Product Pages
From Luiz Centenaro, Owner at HammockTown
Image via UnderCoverTourist
How can people add your products to their cart if they can’t find the button?
One way you can keep them on track is by making sure the “Add to Cart” button is always right in front of their eyes — no matter how far they scroll down your product detail pages.
Luiz Centenaro set up an experiment to test this and found a 15% lift in mobile conversions.
“We set this test up using jQuery variation code and tested it across thousands of Product Detail Pages (PDP). We set this up using Experiment Engine and saw a 15% lift in mobile conversions and flat results on the desktop.”
Making the “Add to Cart” button always present helps people to convert by making it easy for them to visually the next step—the next step for them to get the great product that they’re excited about and the next step for you to push them through your sales funnel.
4. Activate the Value: Your ROI Tool
From Ashli Norton, Co-Founder at Kuia
One thing that can help you get leads, backlinks, and social shares, all to build up awareness and traffic, is creating a tool that will help your users out in some way.
Ashli Norton was part of the team that created a tool for Autopilot and found that tools could generate more leads than just doing a quiz alone.
A good idea of how to apply this for ecommerce would be an app that takes a picture of your face then recommends the glasses that would fit perfectly with your eye, ear, eyebrow, cheekbone, etc. and even shows you what they would look like without having to mail them to your door.
Aaron Orendorff showcases this in action by a company called GlassUSA on Entrepreneur.
5. Don't Let Them Leave: Your Exit Pop Up
From Nathan Resnick, Founder of www.keystokickstarter.com
Image via Foundr
Being relentless about testing everything means testing the small things and testing them often. If you haven’t tested an Exit popup on your site yet — do it now. If you have, then don’t get excited about the 2% conversions you’re seeing.
Instead, A/B test them.
All of them.
Over and over again.
Nathan Resnick has founded several
“Change the style of exit pop up including call to actions, text, image, and more. A lot of people just test one or two things and end up leaving a lot of money on the table. By testing each of these items, you can usually see conversion rate increases of 20% or more.”
Nathan points out that you should go beyond just testing the text — you should check the images, the calls to action, the colors, the timing, and everything that could have an impact on driving your conversion rates higher.
Not only will you get better conversions from it, but you’ll learn what resonates with your audience that you can carry over to other areas like your product pages and social media.
6. Customers Sell Better: Your Reviews
From Yoav Aziz, Product Growth Manager at Yotpo
Image credit: Exo
You might think that no one could sell your products as well as you can.
But, you’d be wrong.
Your customers are much better at selling your insect protein bars, radio controlled car parts or witty t-shirts than you are.
That’s why reviews are so influential.
Apparently 288 people have tried a bar made from the protein of crickets and enjoyed it enough to leave a review. Chirp chirp.
Product reviews are one of those things that are hard to get started, but you know you need to do it. When you first launch your reviews application, and you have three reviews, 2 of which are from your mom, it’s hard to see how adding reviews will help you sell more product.
You could be missing out on a 20% increase in conversion or more if you neglect adding reviews, though.
7. Personalize Referral Traffic: Your Welcome Bar
From Sezgin Hergul - Growth Marketer at Moodnode
Image via CloudMagic
If you’ve ever used Product Hunt, you’ve likely seen a version of this. A bar across the top of your site, a popup, or something that specifically speaks to the language of the traffic coming from that referral can go a long way to gain trust from new visitors.
“Back when I was in UsabilityTools, Quora was one of the top referrals regarding conversions. We even managed to close a few sales in the span of 3 months. Seeing this, I wanted to increase the free trials coming from Quora. I set up AddThis popup on the main page and the pages that had the highest traffic from Quora. The popup only fired if a traffic came from Quora.
After testing this two weeks. We managed to get 20% increase in sign ups from Quora.”
The bottom line here is that people appreciate when you take the time to add some personalization to their shopping experience. This is perhaps one of the most low-tech and affordable ways to start incorporating that into your store.
8. Ensure Everything (Actually!) Works: Your Deadends
From Gab Goldenberg, Conversion Rate Optimizer
Regardless of your sitewide conversion rate, let’s imagine that you have 1,000 customers that are actively going to purchase from you today. But, your website wasn’t quality check properly—this is how your funnel could look.
Out of 1,000 customers that were going to purchase from you, only 120 were able to complete their transaction because of poor QA. This is obviously an inflated worst-case scenario—but you get the point.
This advice from Gab might have you saying, “duh” — but don’t discredit it without actually doing it.
I do this at least once a quarter. I get my hands on every single device possible and explore every single page. You can use Chrome’s Webmaster Tools to simulate a lot of different devices and different resolutions, but I’ve also found that there’s no substitute for actually getting the device in your hand and navigating the website as a user.
You can take this a step further and hire strangers to test your site.
A few great sites that do this are:
Lastly, if you have the budget for it, and you make enough changes on your website, you could consider hiring someone full time to be your QA engineer.
One small break in the site can cost thousands of dollars an hour for many of us - making the cost of a good QA engineer seem like it’s paid for if it even keeps the site running correctly for a few extra hours each month.
9. Sell Off-Site: Your Multichannel Options
From Michael Ugino, CMO at Sellbrite.com
Image via WebRetailer
Most of the conversion tactics I’ve recommended are on your website. But if your goal is to increase your conversion rate, one of the keys is showing up where your customers are.
If all your potential customers are hanging out at Amazon, eBay, Rakuten or another marketplace, your conversions are going to zero if you’re not selling there yet.
I reached out to Michael Ugino of Sellbrite to get his thoughts on when to go multichannel to improve your conversions.
“Every single day I speak with merchants who have yet to try selling outside their ecommerce store. It’s one of my favorite conversations because there is just SO MUCH OPPORTUNITY out there to expand your ecommerce footprint and grow. Considering the consistent, predictable cost of sales (generally a 10-15% commission), it’s easy to forecast how profitable a new channel can be for your business.
And best of all, it’s super easy to get started with the expansion.
Occasionally I hear legitimate reasons for not adding individual channels (distributor agreements, category restrictions, etc.), but by and large, the reasons I hear most often are eliminated with the right software solution:
‘I work with a 3rd party fulfillment service and need to ship my orders quicker than I can on a marketplace.’
The marketplaces have faster shipping requirements than any shopping cart ever will. A good multichannel solution will import all of your orders rapidly throughout the day so you can ship them quickly or send them to your 3PL.
‘I don’t use any SKU system for inventory organization, everything I sell is built to order.’
The right inventory tool will help you get started with SKU management AND keep things organized (2 wins in one!).
‘My business is small, and I’m already overwhelmed; I can’t handle the extra work of managing even more listings and inventory.’
In general, any suitable tool makes work more efficient and productive. You should find yourself with even more time than you originally had, and with twice the result. This argument drives me nuts! :)
‘My products are all unique, and I don’t think they would do well in a major marketplace.’
Have you heard about Etsy? Amazon Handmade? EBAY!?!?!?!?
No matter the size of your business or the type of products you sell, there are both opportunities to grow and tools to help you make it happen. When it comes to expanding to multiple channels, find something that is easy to use and offers great customer support. After all, you’ll want to spend most of your time learning about your new sales channels, not learning new software.
BONUS: Fix Your Navigation
From Nathan Peck, Director of Marketing at DollarHobbyz.com
Image via DollarHobbyz
I told you to stay tuned to read about what helped a client of mine increase their sales by 15% almost overnight.
The key rested in getting to know our customers. We sent out a survey asking them about how they use the site — and we realized that over 50% of our users are using a feature that we weren’t using to sell over 7,000 of our newly listed items.
If people can’t find your products, it’s going to be hard for them to buy them.
Nathan Peck shares how we improved the navigation on our website and increased our sales by over 15%.
How are people finding products on your website?
Have you set up the heatmaps to track that?
Have you asked your customers?
Use this information to find the holes in your navigation so people can find your products, making it much easier for them to purchase them :)
You don't have a traffic problem
Increased traffic is great, but it’s NOT the answer.
When you’re running out of ideas for increasing your traffic without doubling your ad spend, it might be worth creating a testing strategy. Relentlessly test everything on your website starting with some of the unique ideas we’ve just discussed.
These are the nine ideas we discussed above to get you on the right path:
- Reduce Choices: Your Product Filters
- Eliminate Abandonment: Your Checkout Page
- Make "Buying" Unavoidable: Your Product Pages
- Activate the Value: Your ROI Tool
- Don't Let Them Leave: Your Exit Pop Up
- Customers Sell Better: Your Reviews
- Personalize Referral Traffic: Your Welcome Bar
- Ensure Everything (Actually!) Works: Your Deadends
- Sell Off-Site: Your Multichannel Options
BONUS: Fix Your Navigation
About the AuthorWilliam Harris is the Founder of Elumynt, an ecommerce growth marketing agency, and the outsourced VP of Marketing for several VC backed SaaS and ecommerce companies. William is also a contributor to leading publications as well as a speaker at industry events like IRCE.
Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.