E-Commerce Website Optimization: 6 Online Retailers Share Their Most Successful Tactics

If you’re an online retailer, chances are you’ve been optimizing your website and business operations. However, finding out what works can be frustrating and time-consuming. We spoke with 6 online retailers to learn about their best tactics that helped them succeed in the e-commerce industry. Here’s what they had to say:

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Grainne Kelly, Founder of Bubblebum

The BubbleBum website was initially designed to be an e-commerce platform. After many format changes, changes in the checkout software, and lots of advice, we settled on a site that was as effective as it could possibly be for a few products. We beta tested the site using several checkout options and colors of buttons. Some designers advised that red was the wrong color to use for a buy button, as red spells danger. Others advised that it was the best color to use for the buy button, so we had to test all options. We were also told not to use the same colors as our brand palette, as it would merge into insignificance on the page. Then, we were told that we should not use a color unless it was on the brand palette.

We found out that the red button was actually the best color, but even though consumers were clicking it they were not converting to sales. As our customer was unlikely to come back to order frequently, they did not have to set up an account. Therefore, they were required to input their creditcard details at the point of purchase. This is a major deterrent for a lot of consumers. We worked out that this was where the consumer was dropping off of the website. Instead, we put an Amazon button there so that we could measure conversions. We found that the consumer was buying the seats on Amazon irrespective of whether we stood on our heads or not and, subsequently, we decided that the website was more of an informational brochure as opposed to an e-commerce site.

The information is now concise and not geared at “selling”, but rather it is more a way of communicating with the consumer and helping them make the right decision regarding their purchase. Interestingly, the work that we did on our website increased the conversion rate on Amazon too, so it was not wasted. So what did we learn? Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to what the consumer wants. You just have to trial and error it and keep tweaking

One piece of information I would like to focus on is about a number of products BubbleBum is selling. As Grainne pointed out, having more products isn’t always the best option for your website.  Keeping it simple with products and design is always the best place to start. Something as simple as the color of the checkout button can raise your conversion rates.

By shortening their product bios, BubbleBum was also able to make their site more consumer friendly while creating less clutter on their landing pages. Small tweaks like this can have a dramatic impact on sales and how your brand can appear to a potential buyer.

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Lisa Chu, Black N Bianco

Having a high percent conversation rate is the foundation to running a successful online business. Through experience and a lot of testing I was able to find a few strategies that really helped increase my conversion rate. First I created a homepage that resonated with my audience. The homepage is the first thing my customers see and I wanted to make a positive first impression.

Through a lot of research I was able to create a professional layout with a playful visual design that represented my brand. Little details like the banner and the model photos played a huge part to incorporating a trustworthy business. My main objective with the homepage was to create a powerful value proposition that would entice my customers to continue looking through the site. The more time they spend on my website the higher chance it would lead into a sale.

Another strategy that helped increase my conversion was highlighting and showcasing past customers wearing my product. Nothing brings more credibility to my business than positive experiences from previous customers. My conversion rate increased from 3% all the way up to 5-6% after I implemented a photo gallery of my customers. From my own personal experience consumers online are always looking for the best value. Finding different and unique ways to provide value was the key to increase my conversion rate.

Adding images of real people wearing your product is a guaranteed way to increase the amount of time shoppers spend on your website. As Lisa said, showcasing their product being worn by past customers was a big hit. By showing new shoppers happy former customers it ensured brand trust. Plain text reviews are also great in proving to new customers they will enjoy their purchase.Big high-quality images don’t always lead to more conversions, but they do reduce bounce rate significantly. For Lisa, the photo gallery DID lead to a higher conversion rate. Black N Bianco also uses Instagram to showcase their products.

Adding videos that explain your products is also another way to increase the amount of time a consumer stays on your website. For Lisa, the longer someone was on the site the better chance they had at converting a sale. So they focused and created a strategy to increase the average page time. Pay close attention the average page time on your site and see what you can do to keep shoppers on your website longer.

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Jeff Moriarty, Moriarty’s Gem Art

We are an online jewelry business and over the past 6 months we have made two key changes to improve conversions through our website, as well as traffic. This helped greatly during Christmas and Valentine’s Day. One of the biggest things we did was to include videos with our products. Selling high end jewelry, customers expect too see all the angles of the item. They won’t have it in their hands until after they purchase, so we need to make sure they know exactly what they are getting.

This does take more time, which is why we haven’t done it with everything yet, but it is a good investment. We have seen a 25% increase in conversion on product pages that have videos over those that don’t yet. We have also implemented a system to get reviews from customers after they receive the item. An automatic email goes out 2 weeks after we ship their purchase. The customer then reviews it and those reviews go live on the product pages. We see about a 10% increase in the conversion rate of product pages with reviews than those without. Visitors want to see what other people have to say about their purchase before making the same themselves. It’s very easy to setup. You can even use cheap services such as MailChimp to get this type of thing running on your own website.

Jeff also wanted to focus on increasing the average time a shopper stays on a page. To do this they implemented video. This is a bigger time commitment, but Jeff understood the value in giving the shopper every angle of the product. Trying to duplicate an in-store shopping experience is quite difficult / not possible at the moment. Allowing the shopper to interact with an image or video to look more closely at a product is a great way to try and simulate the feeling of shopping in a brick and mortar store.

Jeff has also seen success by implementing an e-mail drip campaign focused on collecting reviews. For Jeff, reviews are helping him sell more. 72% of consumers say positive reviews make them trust businesses more. This true in Jeff’s case as well. Pages with reviews are converting 10% higher. You can read more about different ways to implement trust signs and trust signals here!

Jeff uses MailChimp for his campaigns and we believe that’s the easiest/best platform to use regardless of your experience. Testing the drip emails will also be key in creating successful campaigns. A/B test the time frame each email gets sent out and the content of the emails to discover the best method for your store.

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Stefanie Parks, Founder of Derm Warehouse

We try to give customers incentive to purchase from our site once they land there. We offer free shipping on all purchases and provide a free skin care sample with every order. In addition to that, we have a pop up on our site that offers customers a discount on their purchase if they sign up for our email newsletter. Finally, we offer special promotions from time to time such as free gift with purchase or discounts for spending a certain amount.

Derm Warehouse is using free shipping and popups to drive sales. Free shipping is the #1 criteria for making a purchase. In fact, 93% of shoppers feel that free shipping will encourage them to make a purchase. Derm Warehouse is capitalizing on this trend by offering free shipping on everything in their store. You may think offering free shipping could hurt your margins, however, BigCommerce has recently published an article that can help increase your average order value up to 30% just from including free shipping. Offering free shipping has been a home run for Derm Warehouse. There is no doubt it will generate more sales for your online store as well.

Implementing popups has also been a successful lead generation tool for Derm Warehouse. This pop-up offers a discount in exchange for their email. Each month a newsletter is sent to shoppers that have opted-in that offers discounts. Research shows that the average opt-in rate with these pop-ups is around 20%. These newsletters are a great way to turn a one-time buyer into a returning customer.

Another great tactic Derm Warehouse uses is the ability for orders to auto-renew every 30, 60, or 90 days.

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This is a great strategy if you are selling items that can expire or need to be refilled, like skin care products or health supplements. Since implementing this tactic, Derm Warehouse has seen a substantial increase in repeat orders.

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Dave Hermansen, Store Coach

1) Put trust seals near Add to Cart buttons and at the top of your shopping cart and checkout page. Adding image seals like Free Shipping, Satisfaction Guarantee, Low Price Guarantee, etc. to the places where people move one step closer to buying has always helped boost conversions on our websites.

2) If you are a site that doesn’t really sell things that are repeat customer items, always make it look like you are running a limited time sale – even if you don’t really change your prices. A generic “30% Off Sale” or “Fall Sale” doesn’t work nearly as well one that says “Sale Ends Sunday” (and every week has a Sunday).

3) Create a comprehensive buyer’s guide for every category of products that could benefit from one. Nothing helps steer people toward the better, more profitable products and helps them feel confident in their decision than a well written buyer’s guide. When you help people understand which product meets their needs the best, people are much more likely to hit the Add to Cart button and are also less likely to go looking elsewhere on the web for answers to their questions. Link to that buyer’s guide early (top of the appropriate pages) and often!

Dave Hermansen has spent 13+ years in the e-commerce industry and runs more than 50 different e-commerce websites! Offering time-sensitive discounts creates a sense of urgency for shoppers. As Dave mentioned above, offering a generic sale does not provoke the shopper to buy immediately. Creating time-sensitive discounts capitalizes on a shoppers impulsivity. Conversion XL published data that agrees with Dave. Take it or leave it discounts work better than generic sales.

Creating a buyer’s guide has also helped Dave reduce comparison shopping and boost sales. Here’s a great post from Smart Insights that includes an easy-to-follow guide on the best way to use buyer’s guides to boost SEO. A good buyer’s guide helps shoppers dive deeper into product information. If a buyer’s guide is done well a visitor will not need to look for product information anywhere else.This falls in line with a recurring theme of this post: if a shopper stays on a page longer they are more likely to buy a product.

Dave provides a lot of helpful tactics on his website and also offers a free membership to Store Coach!

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Max Robinson, Scotland Shop

The one thing that has really helped us to improve the performance of our site is image compression. It wasn’t until we worked with a consultant that we realized just so how much images were slowing our site down by. Worse still, the images were also causing certain pages to display incorrectly on mobile devices. It took us a while initially to compress every single image, but since doing it we’ve noticed huge improvements in both speed and conversion.

One topic we haven’t covered is image optimization. As Max pointed out, having large images that aren’t native can really hurt your conversion rate. In fact, 40% of shoppers abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. By compressing images, Max was able to cut down on page load time, leading to a higher conversion rate. Optimizing images for mobile should be a focus for all retailers heading into the future as mobile sales will continue to rise. You can use tools like Google’s Website Optimizer to test the loading times on your website.

Thank you to all of the retailers that provided these helpful tips on optimizing an online store. Hopefully, their advice can help you turn your website into a conversion machine!

Some of the key takeaways from this article are:

  • Focus on keeping shoppers on your website longer
  • Optimize images to load faster but don’t sacrifice image quality
  • Offer time-sensitive discounts that create urgency
  • Use pop-ups to generate leads
  • Use reviews and trust signs to make shoppers feel more comfortable about the product

Matt Neely is the Marketing & Social Media Director for PriceWaiter.com

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