28 Ways to Simplify Your e-Commerce Checkout and Boost Online Sales
e-Commerce websites, whether for products, services, or even donations are a thriving and competitive marketplace. Websites need to be easy to use, modern-looking, secure, and mobile to appeal to the most prospects, and optimizing your business site can increase the number of customers, increased average sale, or both. Here are some best practices from some of the top e-commerce sites you can use to simplify your checkout process and boost sales for your site:
- Set Goals: Before a website design or redesign project, set goals and a scope for your project. Are you trying to increase sales, or monthly subscriptions? Perhaps you’re trying to increase registered customers and improve your email list as well. Make a list of your prioritized e-commerce website goals and outline the scope to help guide your project and determine your course of action.
- Design Well: Good design speaks volumes. It helps direct customers to research, read, sign up, or purchase what you would like them to do. But perhaps more importantly, good design also makes it easy for them to find you. Don’t overload your product pages with excessive verbiage, or make it difficult to find purchasing buttons. Think about Amazon with one-button purchasing. The better designed your e-commerce site is, the easier it will be to use, and the more likely it will be successful.
- Create Buyer Personas: This is an exercise in getting to know and understand your target customers. Write 1-2 pages on each buyer type for your business. If you’re an office supply store, you may have office managers, home office employees, and moms shopping for school supplies. As you write their descriptions, consider what motivates them. Is it cost or convenience? How old are they, and how do they interact with you and your competitors? This will help you decide how to market to them and how to design your website to specifically cater to their needs.
- Understand the Buying Process: Once you create buyer personas, you need to understand the buying process. For example, do you need a shipping address before you can calculate shipping and taxes? Determine the information you need at each step so you can appropriately direct customers through each screen on your website.
- Minimize Verbiage and Images: A certain amount of text and images is appropriate for describing your products, but too much can distract away from a purchase. Offer just enough of a description to make the sale, but not so much that people can get lost in reading the details and forget to purchase. Either way, make sure it’s easy to add the item to their cart.
- Optimize for Search Engines: One of the first places prospective customers will search for products is search engines, and primarily Google. Product or category pages which are optimized for search engines can help to attract the attention of search engines and thus, include them in the thousands of searches conducted daily for various products. Make page titles and product names prominent, make image file names the same as product names, and use industry and product-related terms to optimize for search.
- Optimize Landing Pages: Landing pages can be optimized for purchase. For high-frequency, or quick sales, landing pages should have minimal links to other pages on your website and direct people to purchase quickly. This can help turn customers and move them through the sales process.
- Enhance Website Speed: Research shows that slow load times on web pages will deter customers from purchasing. We’ve all waited five or ten seconds for a YouTube video to load; customers are less forgiving of annoying delays. Remove large image or video files, and work on other ways to make sure your pages load quickly.
- Offer a Mobile-Ready Site: Over 30% of e-commerce transactions are completed through mobile websites. By offering a mobile-ready website, you can offer your products to customers who are on the go, or perhaps only have internet access through a mobile device. In 2015, mobile e-commerce sales exceeded $104 billion, so you don’t want to miss out on the sales opportunity. That said, don’t just offer a mobile version of your website, test your own site to optimize the mobile user experience.
Target The Right People: Once your e-commerce site is complete, you need to target the right people and invite them to your website. Don’t just purchase an email list and blast them; make sure you are targeting the individuals who will find your products relevant. Consider using paid social media ads, search engine ads, and other options – in addition to emailing your existing list — to bring them back to your site. Even better, give them a compelling reason to return such as a coupon or special offer.
- Send Messages at the Appropriate Time: Do your customers check email first thing in the morning, as many office employees do, or after 8:00 or 9:00 p.m., once the kids are in bed? Consider your buyer personas and make sure your email, social media, and other marketing messages are posted at the optimal time to appeal to as many customers and prospects as possible.
- Market using the Proper Channels: If your customers are retirees, you probably won’t find them on SnapChat. If your customers are teenagers, they probably don’t read their emails. Refer back to your persona exercise and see which channels –email, social media, traditional media, etc., — appeal the most to your customers and prospects.
- Have a Call to Action: Whether posting on social media or implementing an email campaign, you must have a call to action. Social media posts and email messages that direct people to “click” show significantly higher actionable rates than those that do not. Make sure to ask people to click, get more information, and sign up for your email list.
During the Sale
- Reduce Friction and Distractions: In addition to reducing verbiage and images, you also need to reduce friction across the purchasing process. Do you have 46 required fields to complete before you can make a purchase? Does the customer need to complete all shipping and billing information each time? Expedite purchasing by creating a customer login process; customers will in turn find it easy to purchase from you, and will return.
- Test Everything: Whether you’re testing email messages, product pages, or landing pages, test different buttons, verbiage, button sizes, colors, and locations to see what offers the best conversion rate. Many email marketing systems offer built-in testing options, where you can see if a red or green button works best, or if “Buy” or “Add to Cart” creates more sales. See what works best for you and continue to tweak as necessary. A word of caution here: many people will have personal feelings about what they think will work best. Use the data you’ve created to show what works best and implement that.
- Optimize Your Conversion Rate: As you optimize elements of your e-commerce site, continue to do so until you’ve determined which configurations and options make purchasing the most simple. Some website content management systems and website analytics systems can help you analyze your conversion rates and optimize it.
- Add Urgency: Many travel sites will tell you that there are only two tickets at a certain price, or only five rooms remaining the weekend you want to visit. Florists often remind you that Mother’s Day is this weekend. If none of are applicable to you, perhaps you can have a sale, or coupon you can offer to customers. Whatever the method, an element of urgency will help compel those sitting on the enceto make a purchase.
- Ask for the Sale: Any salesperson will tell you that you need to ask for the sale if you are going to expect to make one. It follows then that you need to ask for the sale on your e-commerce site as well. Have buttons that prompt customers to add products to their cart and move to checkout.
- Bundle: Many clothing retailers, including Amazon will show you products related to the featured product. Whether it’s “customers also looked at,” or “buy this product and these other two,” it serves to help increase the average sale total. In the case of Amazon, bundling doesn’t necessarily mean a discounted price, but can help increase the likelihood that customers will be willing to spend more.
- Bulk: For items that would make sense to be purchased in bulk, offer a bulk option. If you’ve ever purchased promotional products, you’ll often see tiered pricing. Buy one t-shirt at $15, 2-10 at $12, 11-25 at $10, etc. If you offer bulk purchasing, customers might be convinced to additional product.
- Offer a Subscription: Have you ever noticed that your local NPR station, or the Dollar Shave Club, or one of the hundreds of “monthly box” services, offer a subscription for regularly consumed items to automatically ship? Consider offering a subscription service for beauty products and toiletries, pet food, cleaning supplies, and other items that are regularly used, which will highlight the benefit of becoming a long-term customer.
- Offer Assistance: Whether customers have questions about products or the purchasing process, offer assistance – the faster the better. Some websites even have a pop-up chat window if customers stay for an extended amount of time without clicking. They might ask, “Hi there, can I help you?” to make customers more likely to ask any questions they have and proceed toward the sale.
After the Sale
- Add Them to Your Mailing List: It’s much easier to convince a previous customer to purchase again. You have their billing and payment information, and purchase history. Because of this, you need to add them to your email list to send them updates, new product releases, and coupons. Be sure to check your local regulations on the requirements for adding contacts to your email list.
- Offer Incentives or Rewards to Return: One way to add customers to your email list is to promise rewards, coupons, and other incentives. The customer already has an affinity for your site. Reward this with special offers just for them.
- Gamify the Buying Process: Just as ice cream and hair studios offer stamp cards for a free sixth purchase, you can gamify your buying process as well. Whether it’s for purchasing frequency, sharing products with their friends, or some sort of referral process, you can gamify the buying process to increase affinity.
- Offer Incentives to Complete Transactions: Some e-commerce sites will offer customers coupons to complete an incomplete transaction. Customers who have filled their cart without completing checkout have already expressed a desire to make a purchase, so marketing dollars spent to nudge them to make a purchase would be much more effective than trying to convince a cold prospect.
- Use Retargeting to Help Complete Transactions: Have you ever looked at items at Overstock.com and American Eagle without making a purchase? For 30 to 90 days, banner ads will follow you on various ad networks convincing you to return to complete your purchase. Much like incomplete transactions, customers who have looked at products on your e-commerce site are also relatively more likely to purchase than cold prospects. By using retargeting ads, you can attempt to bring them back to make a purchase.
By implementing these best practices from some of the top e-commerce sites, you can simplify and optimize your purchasing process, and increase the amount of revenue from your website. What are some of your favorite best practices? Leave them in the comments below!