If you’re looking to start an e-commerce business, there are thousands of articles about how to take the leap and make your first sales.
If you need to dial in a specific facet of your website or add an app to your website, there are reviews and YouTube tutorials galore.
Very few articles give you straight talk on the how to keep your business on a fast track, however. As a WooCommerce developer, I can tell you that to keep riding the success train, you’ve got to keep your eyes on one thing: optimization.
When you’ve got a stable business and cash is flowing in, it’s easy to leave money on the table. There are a hundred and one ways to pick it up again, but too many businesses get hung up in the nitty-gritty details of perfecting their site.
In the meantime, it’s estimated that 68% of online shoppers drop things into their cart and never purchase them. Think about that. If the average order on your site is $100 and you have 1,000 monthly checkout visits, that means you’re bleeding $68,000 each month. The yearly losses are sickening -- $816,000!
I’m here to keep you from reinforcing that statistic. Let me give you the big picture on where to look and what to tweak when you’re trying to find those pockets of profit that are just waiting to be scooped up.
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Planning for optimization is like the old Chinese proverb about planting trees:
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
Since the internet wasn’t around 20 years ago, I should say that the prime time for optimization was three months ago -- but the second best time is still right now.
I’ll make an exception to this wake-up call for those of you who haven’t created opt-in forms to build an email list. If you haven’t built that lifeline for your business, you really do need to drop everything and do that immediately.
Start Where You Are
Whether you’re using WooCommerce, Shopify or another e-commerce platform, you need to dig into the details around your site’s functionality to see precisely where you might be losing visitors or missing sales. Many sites have default settings or themes that make initial setup easy, but if you don’t adjust them to meet the needs of your unique business, you’re losing ground.
I don’t know too many business owners who want to maintain the status quo, let alone start the slow slide into mediocrity. Reaching the next level requires some in-depth knowledge about the ways that customers interact with your store’s website.
Look over your customers’ shoulders
It’s great if you know your site inside and out, but do you know how your customer sees it? When you review its inner workings, even if you’ve done it a million times, you’re always using your priorities as a performance gauge.
Remember that your customers have different expectations, so you might be blind to little problems or distractions that keep them from clicking “buy now.”
Here’s how to review your site for these problems that prevent sales:
-- Look through your site online -- and especially on mobile. More people are using phones or tablets to do their shopping, so make sure your site looks as smashing in that format as it does on a laptop. There are several sites, from Google to Browserstack that let you test your site.
-- Enlist family and friends to run through a purchase and give their opinion of the experience. Chances are that they’ll give you a favorable review even if they had some issues, but this is an easy way to look for major problems. Compare their comments with feedback you receive from other people.
-- Reach out to repeat customers. Choose a select group of people who have made several purchases from your store, and ask them to give you feedback on your website. If you offer them a content upgrade, a discount or advance notice of specials, you’ll probably get a good response and they’ll feel part of your inner circle.
-- If you have a brick and mortar store and an online store, get on-the-spot feedback. Ask your walk-in customers to make their purchase online even if you hand it to them in person. Don’t pass up this chance to literally see your site through their eyes and hear their instant reactions!
-- Go high-tech with tools like UserTesting and Jaco. These sites gather customer insights without customers feeling like they have to be nice because you’re standing right there. Users record their impressions, and you get to see exactly what’s confusing or enticing.
Gather hard data
It’s one thing to hear a customer’s preferences, and it’s another to see precisely what copy or images influence their behavior. These are some of my favorite tools when I evaluate the effectiveness of a webpage.
--Heat Maps allow you to see exactly where people are clicking on your website. In one glance, you can see what’s working and what’s being ignored. No more guesswork about making the right changes! Make sure you test for at least a week so you have enough clicks to have an accurate record of trends.
-- Content Analytics is a free tool that lets you see when people stop scrolling down the screen to read more content. This info is very important if you have an offer that doesn’t seem to be working. With this tool, you’ll be able to see if people are getting to the offer before they click away.
Pimp your homepage
There are dozens of ways to clutter up your website and create distractions for visitors, even if you think you’re adding stellar features. I’ve cleaned up dozens of low-functioning websites, and I’ve also placed features that are proven to get clicks and increase profits.
If you want a powerhouse first impression for your business, take a look at my go-to solutions:
-- Put your best sellers front and center. Visitors always want to know what other people are buying, so make a list of the merchandise or services that sell consistently and make them easy to access.
-- If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth 10,000. As phones and tablets make up more of online ordering, people are finding it easier to watch a video than to scroll through pages or menus to get the details on products. Video creation can be time-consuming or expensive, so you may want to reserve videos for your best selling products.
-- Do you speak their language? International businesses should consider adding different translations of your homepage to make their best customers feel at home. Check Google Analytics to see where your customers live and decide which languages are most utilized by your customers.
-- Remove sliders and carousels that feature different products. Moving images do catch the eye, their conversion rate sucks and they distract customers from making a purchase. You have my full permission to let them go.
-- Offer free shipping right up front! If you provide free shipping, announce it at the top of your website so people aren’t wondering if they’re going to get stuck with a big bill. If customers need to spend a certain amount before you waive shipping costs, add that to the text so they can plan their shopping accordingly.
-- Place special information in priority locations. Once you know which spots on your website attract the most eyeballs (see Heat Maps), put essential info right there. Examples of this are details about your items being handmade or giving them a specific ordering deadline if they want delivery before a holiday.
-- Add in a persistent shopping cart, which remembers items customers selected, but didn’t buy, during their last visit. Distractions abound, so having this reminder truly increases sales.
-- Suggest products to returning customers who still have items left in their carts. Often, customers will think you’re doing them a favor by remembering why they visited your store.
-- Creating a search bar gives customers control of their shopping experience and makes it easier for people to find their favorite items.
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Make your products shine
If you have great merchandise or services, but the presentation falls flat, no one’s going to buy. Major online retailers have raised the game in e-commerce, so here are a few tips I’ve stolen from them.
-- Take a pretty picture. High quality images are great, and videos of the products are even better. Most retailers offers 3-6 shots of almost every product so shoppers can see multiple views. Even a quick 15-second video or testimonial can significantly boost conversions and sales, so start adding in more images.
-- Offer a customer review section near the product description. Reviews immediately increase the trust level with both first-time visitors and loyal customers because you’re giving them access to the perspective of previous buyers.
-- Create shopper-friendly product descriptions. SKUs and inventory information don’t mean squat to your customers, so leave them out. Speak human. Write the descriptions in a way that sounds like you’re talking to a friend.
-- Show your shipping time. We’re all about instant gratification, so make expected delivery times clear before a customer orders. This is especially important for shoppers who are buying for a birthday or a holiday.
-- Suggest a few additional products, but don’t clutter the page. Shoppers love seeing what other customers have purchased, and if the item has some popular accessories or upgrades, this is the perfect place to showcase them!
-- State the price clearly -- no hidden fees or last-minute add-ons! If you are running a sale, clearly indicate the savings too, because everyone loves knowing that they’re getting a bargain.
Streamline your checkout process
When a customer is ready to reach for her wallet and hand over payment, don’t let anything get in the way. Make it easy for them to be thrilled to give you a bit of their money!
-- Use the 10 Foot Test. In this simple little site evaluation, you place an order in your cart, step back 10 feet from the computer screen, and then see if the “Checkout” button is completely obvious. If not, you’re probably losing sales.
-- Let shoppers focus on one big call to action. Remove any other “look here!” distractions and drive them straight to the purchase.
-- Don’t make the customer have to do any extra work. Pre-fill information for them, don’t ask unnecessary questions, and check to make sure the confirmation page loads quickly. You want them to walk away from a completed order saying, “That was easy!”
-- Keep it simple. Don’t switch up the order of certain fields like first and last name, zip code, credit shipping preferences, etc. Save your creativity for other places or your customers will enter the wrong information in the wrong place, creating a headache for both of you!
-- Don’t force customers to register as a member before they order. While it’s great to capture a bunch of data in that pre-purchase moment, it’s even better to have a sale. Save the registration for after the sale or offer a guest checkout option.
-- Remove page navigation altogether so shoppers aren’t tempted to click away to another page. Giving them a limited number of visuals to process during the final purchase increases follow-through.
-- Make your checkout to one page. Today’s short attention spans and a complex checkout process can leave the customer feel they’re wading through an endurance event.
-- Don’t add in hidden costs ever, but especially during checkout. Any disruption -- and especially an unpleasant one -- can trigger a lost sale.
-- Trust factor buttons, like VeriSign and McAfee Secure, should be placed right next to your checkout buttons so people know immediately that you have a legitimate site. This may seem insignificant to you, but it definitely helps conversions!
It seems crazy to think that shoppers will pick up on these details in just a few seconds, but data proves otherwise. I am always surprised to see the increase in my clients’ revenue after making a few of these changes. Make sure you’re taking advantage of every opportunity to improve conversion rates -- and profits.
Keep Your Radar Up
This jam-packed, comprehensive list for boosting conversions and profits is my gift to you. It’s a serious work in progress, so keep checking back to see what’s new. Platforms are updated, themes change, and payment protocols change. Keeping up with all of the small innovations that can impact sales is one of my top priorities, and as I see new strategies, I’ll add them right here.
You don’t have to be a statistic. Losing two-thirds of sales each day at checkout may be a common e-commerce problem, but it doesn’t have to be your problem. Taking a close look at how customers interact with your site can make all the difference.
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