Lots of leads but low conversions? Your website and user experience could be sabotaging your sales.
For business owners who’ve spent time and money on marketing, it’s the worst-case scenario: there’s a promising influx of traffic to their site and then… nothing.
One by one, every potential customer falls away. The leads go cold. All those visits only convert to a pitiful number of sales.
Where did it all go wrong?
The truth is that only a tiny percentage of website visits – between 2 and 7 percent, on average – ever convert. And, as Shaun Johnson, the co-founder of global customer experience platform Maisie, explains, some browsers simply can’t be convinced to spend. “At least 50 percent of cart abandonment is due to people not actually looking to purchase – they're just browsing.”
But that still leaves a large number of visitors with genuine intent to purchase – and who could very well purchase from you – but are instead deterred by a poor user experience or technical issue.
To improve your conversion rate, we’ve covered some of the most common conversion killers threatening e-commerce businesses – and explained how to fix them.
10 ways to improve your e-commerce conversion rate...
"At least 50 per cent of cart abandonment is due to people not actually looking to purchase.”
Imagine visiting a brick-and-mortar store and trying to find your way to the checkout to buy a product, only to be hampered by a confusing store layout, overly chatty salespeople or long checkout queues. Eventually, you might just give up and abandon the purchase.
It’s the same for online shopping. In fact, 94 per cent of consumers say that simple, straightforward navigation is the most important feature when it comes to browsing websites.
“All website visitors should be able to get to the product they want within two clicks,” says Anaita Sarkar, founder of Sell Anything Online. “Any more than that, customers bounce away.”
A common culprit when it comes to low e-commerce conversion rates? Posting about a product on social media, only for customers to click on the ad, navigate to the landing page and be unable to find that exact product or product page quickly, says Sarkar.
To improve navigation (and conversion rates) on your e-commerce store start with clear product categories, a site search feature and compelling call to actions (CTAs), says Johnson. And always ensure that social media ads direct to specific landing pages or product pages (not your homepage.)
UK book retailer Waterstones is a prime example of an excellent site search. The search bar is displayed prominently on the homepage and integrates an autosuggest function, which enables website visitors to find the exact product they’re looking for with minimal effort. The autosuggest function also removes the risk of losing conversions due to user spelling error, which would otherwise bring up an empty result.
"All website visitors should be able to get to the product they want within two clicks."
Asking customers to create an account when they shop with you is a great way to grow your customer database and subscriber list. However, it can also lead to customers abandoning their shopping cart.
“Forcing people to create an account in order to purchase is a major conversion killer,” says Johnson, who adds that the secret to increasing e-commerce conversions is to smooth the path to purchase – not create barriers during the checkout process, like requiring account creation.
He advises that retailers should always offer a guest checkout option (with automatically populated fields to make checkout even smoother) and also offer the option of creating a customer account once the purchase is completed.
Leading sportswear brand Adidas have optimised their checkout conversions with a short, self-contained checkout form. The page also has no navigation bar to tempt users to abandon cart, which makes the path to purchase clear, and is likely to boost conversion rates.
For customers, there are few things more frustrating than adding a product to their cart only to be confronted with extra fees such as shipping or taxes.
“This frustration will be more acute for lower priced products,” says Johnson.
Want to reduce the pain of shipping costs – and increase your conversion rate? Consider building all or some of the shipping costs into the product price so you can charge less or offer free shipping.
Alternatively, if offering free shipping is not feasible, try to negotiate better shipping rates (remembering that shipping prices have eased since the pandemic) or look at ways to upsell customers so that they qualify for free or discounted shipping.
There are any number of shopping channels available to consumers – from desktop to social commerce - but when it comes to improving your conversion rate it increasingly it pays to think mobile-first.
“Brands still build websites based on a desktop format, even though 80-90 per cent of customers are shopping on mobile [devices],” says Sarkar.
Depending on what platform your website is built on, optimising for mobile can be as simple as ticking a box. But there are a few key elements that a mobile-friendly website must have.
“Ensure that all the CTAs, menus and buttons are easy to access on a mobile device. A tip here is to also test on both Apple devices and Android devices because different phones display sites differently,” says Sarkar.
Johnson adds, “Also, make it easy for people to save products to their cart on a mobile device and then enable them to access the cart later on a laptop/desktop where they prefer to make the purchase.” Many point-of-sale systems have a built-in saved carts feature, including Square.
Beauty retailer Sephora – which operates both in bricks and mortar and online – does a brilliant job of integrating mobile to enhance their customer experience. When shopping on a smartphone, a Virtual Artist makeover tool helps consumers choose a new look while they earn rewards to shop.
In store, customers can scan barcodes to read product reviews and watch how-to videos for the various types of product application.
"Brands still build websites based on a desktop format, even though 80-90 per cent of customers are shopping on mobile."
Buying online requires a certain amount of trust. In the absence of being able to visit a store in person to touch and feel products while also meeting the salesperson, online shoppers must trust that a brand will deliver products in good condition and within the time frame specified.
“The perception of trust goes a long way when it comes to a customer spending money on a site,” says Sarkar. “[Elements] like a lack of testimonials, an out-of-date or bad website with issues like badly written copy, lack of payment options and no social media presence don’t engender confidence in the consumer and will negatively affect conversion rates.”
One way to combat this is to include what Sarkar calls “trust badges”, which could also be described as “social proof”. Examples of social proof that may boost your conversion rate include:
US beauty brand Lashify lists the number of team members, loyalty customers and days of operation to add credibility and boost conversion rates.
There are few things that undermine consumers’ trust in a brand as much as poor-quality imagery. In today’s visually driven world, where shoppers are inundated with photos on social media every day, it is vital that e-commerce imagery is crisp, cropped properly and color-corrected.
Fuzzy, low-resolution photography or images that have been stretched out of proportion create the perception that a brand is not well-resourced or doesn’t pay attention to detail.
“If images are not shot professionally, customers can tell,” Sarkar warns, suggesting this “will affect their perception of your brand because badly shot or phone images are signs that the business is not trustworthy.”
Create professional-looking images by employing a photographer or learning simple DIY product photography. To maximise the impact of imagery, consider zoom photography functions, video or 360-degree moving imagery.
In essence, increasing low conversion rates means making it as easy as possible for customers to purchase from you.
One way to do this is to look at the checkout process and allow your customers to pay with a method that suits them.“Not every customer is keen to use credit card or bank account details,” says Sarkar.
In fact, increasing numbers of shoppers expect buy now pay later (BNPL) payment options at checkout.
Compared to debit and credit card use, BNPL spending increased by 660 percent between January 2020 and May 2022. In the US, BNPL is becoming especially popular with younger generations, with Gen Z spend rising 925 percent in the same period.
In fact, 58 percent of Gen Z shoppers in the UK, US and Australia have used BNPL in the past 12 months.
In our increasingly digitally driven world, convenience and speed are a baseline customer expectation, and this should be a factor when you're considering the reasons for low conversion rates.
Research shows that 41 percent of shoppers expect to receive their delivery within 24 hours while 24 percent hope to receive it within two hours. Furthermore, 62 percent of shoppers in the US say that fast delivery is the most important component of a positive customer experience.
That’s why it’s important to offer a range of deliver options – from standard shipping to expedited or express delivery – to improve your conversion rate.
"Stats show more than 50 percent of customers will abandon a site if the page takes more than three seconds to load."
Much like delivery times, customers expect speed when it comes to website loading times.
“Stats [by Google] show more than 50per cent of customers will abandon a site and not come back if the page takes more than three seconds to load,” Sarkar says.
Studies have found when pages load in one second, the average conversion rate is almost 40 percent. At a two-second load time, the conversion rate already drops by 34 percent.
But not all loading times are created equal, and Sarkar advises you should “always optimize mobile site speed first, before desktop”.
To keep your site speed as fast as possible (and boost conversion rates), ensure you’re using a performance-optimized hosting platform and that all images are compressed and optimized, as large image sizes are often the biggest cause of slow loading times. Other ways to reduce loading time include optimizing the redirects on your pages and enabling browser caching.
Displaying a product that is out of stock or not available in the customer’s preferred size or colour is perhaps one of the most obvious conversion killers.
“This [conversion killer] can be overcome with better demand forecasting, or just-in-time restocking as inventory gets low,” Johnson advises.
If you know you’re having a sale, a popular sales season is approaching, or you are running targeted ads, ensure inventory is available.
And if high demand means you do inadvertently run out of stock? Give shoppers the option to add their name to a waitlist for when more stock arrives. This is not only a better customer experience. but it reinforces a sense of exclusivity and demand for your brand, and will increase conversion rates.
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