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A Complete Guide to eCommerce Optimization (2021)


So, you’ve launched an online business venture, huh?

That’s great. 

Whether it’s dropshipping, Amazon Affiliate marketing, info products, Software as a Service (SaaS), or whichever eCommerce venture you’ve embarked on, online is where the riches are these days.

While your enterprise might be profitable, I’ve got some good news for you. You can still grow even more.

How?

Through smart eCommerce optimization. By fine-tuning what you are already doing, you can close more sales and maximize profits.

In this guide, I will give you 12 proven eCommerce optimization tips to boost your online business. But before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s discuss your store’s vital but unseen foundation—the store architecture.

eCommerce Architecture: Your Online Store’s Foundation

How you set up your store determines whether it becomes a booming success or a dismal failure.

At the heart of online store architecture is keeping things simple. The goal is to make it super easy for customers to find what they are looking for. Experts recommend that every page should be three or fewer clicks from your home page. 

Translation: customers must find what they are looking for fast. This ensures they shop right away.

Let’s say you sell shoes. Your store’s architecture should look like this:

From the three major categories down to the six shoe types subcategories and then individual product listings underneath, the site has a marvelous structure.

Clean. Clutter-free. Collocated.

That’s exactly what you want. 

An excellent online store understructure that supports growth and increases conversions.

12 eCommerce Optimization Strategies To Supercharge Sales

Now that you’ve established a firm foundation, it’s time to get into the essence. Let’s explore 12 eCommerce optimization tactics to lift conversions and sales.

#1. Polish Up your Virtual Storefront aka Homepage

Your homepage is the gateway into your funnel. It’s your store's main front window, the page through which most visitors will arrive. 

So your storefront must make a good first impression on visitors, otherwise they will bounce off. Here's how to design a conversion-friendly online store homepage. 

  • Signature Product
    Present your signature and most-profitable product front and center so shoppers see it immediately. You will lure more potential customers to check it out because it's apparent. 
  • Special Offer 
    Nobody wants to miss out on a good deal. People always want to squeeze maximum value from their limited resources So make sure you showcase all the special deals you are running, so shoppers see them on arrival.
  • High-quality Hero Image
    Humans are visual. So when people land on your page, they’ll glance at the biggest element on the page, the hero image. If it looks awful, they’ll click away and you’ll lose sales. Use a stunning image so they stay on the page.

Partake Foods feature their popular 5-in1 Baking Mix on their homepage.

An optimized homepage gives you a start, but you must do more.

#2. Have a Prominent Unmissable Search Bar

Your visitors are there to shop, right? 

They aren’t there for fun and games. They are actively looking for products that suit their needs. 

Accordingly, make it super easy for them to hunt for what they want by making your search bar enormous. So immense nobody can miss it. 

Instinctively, shoppers will move towards it.

Your visitors will start browsing right away. That’s what you want. For shoppers to kick-start their shopping journey seconds after they arrive without even thinking about it. Most leading online retailers use this proven tactic.

Amazon, the eCommerce behemoth, uses a giant search bar.

Tell me, who can miss that search bar? It almost covers the entire width of the page! Amazon knows how to use the magical powers of a prominent search bar to sway shoppers and get them shopping pronto.

#3. Personalize Customers’ Shopping Experiences

Today’s shoppers are picky.

They want a super smooth, personalized shopping experience. Modern shoppers insist on individualized red carpet treatment whether they are new buyers or regular customers. Anything less and you risk losing them. As per research by Epsilon, 80% of customers are more likely to buy when companies provide personalized customer journeys.

Below are quick tips on how to personalize shopping experiences.

  • Cater to all devices
    To serve your customers’ needs, give them a pleasant shopping experience regardless of the device they are on. Whether they use a desktop, tablet, or mobile device, let them enjoy shopping with you.
  • Product recommendations
    Use customer data like browsing history to show them products tailored to their previous activities. For instance, you can display cheaper alternatives in the same category a shopper visited before. Or present ‘You May Also Like’ items similar to what the shopper has shown interest in. 
  • Geolocation
    You can also use Geolocation Software to suggest the relevant language and currency for the customer based on their specific location. This technology also allows you to recommend products that are popular in that city or region.

Houzz offers first-time shoppers a personalized search experience.

Shoppers can select topics that interest them so they only see relevant results.

#4. Make your Product Photos & Descriptions Sparkle

Product photos and descriptions are an integral part of the online store conversion formula.

They work in tandem.

When shoppers browse product pages, the photo draws them first. Therefore, it must be dazzling. Here’s a quick rundown on how to craft irresistible product photos that mesmerize shoppers.

  • Display multiple angles to highlight particular aspects of the product.
  • Use a light background such as white or gray so your product shines.
  • Make use of 360 product photos for more appeal and to give shoppers a plain idea of what they are buying.

Once the photo attracts them, they check the product copy. For starters, your copy must go beyond the product’s features. Show visitors how the product will benefit them. Sell the sizzle, not the steak. Don’t use dry product descriptions from the manufacturer, Create personalized juicy ones as chocolate brand Recchiuti does.

They deserve brownie points for drawing prospects in with a captivating image of their chocolates as well.

Also, tickle the emotions through sensory words. These words are more descriptive, more memorable, and more powerful than ordinary words. Studies show using sensory words causes more people to buy.

It’s also important to keep your copy crisp and concise. Don’t be verbose otherwise you will cloud meaning and scare visitors off.

For SEO purposes, write distinctive descriptions for both product and category pages to help Google grasp what the page is about. Similar descriptions confuse search engines.

#5. Simplify Your Checkout Process 

When a shopper reaches the checkout point, they are on the home stretch of their shopping journey.

Make the checkout process as friction-free as possible so you don’t lose sales at the last minute. An unoptimized checkout process not only leaks sales, but it also frustrates buyers. Imagine how put off someone becomes when they’ve taken the time to hunt for what they want and put it inside the cart, only to meet a brick wall at the last moment.

Here’s how to optimize your checkout so shoppers go through with their purchase.

  • Reduce the number of steps
    People avoid hard things and gravitate toward what’s easy. That’s how humans are wired. Too many steps that require too much info causes shoppers to pull back.
  • One page checkout
    A lengthy checkout process that spans two pages looks daunting. So some shoppers bailout. Fit your entire checkout into a single page. It looks simple and doable.
  • Offer guest checkout
    Forcing eager shoppers to open an account before they checkout causes them to bolt. Offer a guest checkout option so new shoppers buy easily without the hassle of signing up. For a SaaS product, offer a free trial.

PandaDoc teases prospects with a no strings attached free trial.

Because they remove the friction of filing in credit card details, they land more leads.

#6. Embrace eCommerce Videos From A to Z

Video is a powerful conversion-driver in eCommerce. 

Look at these impressive numbers on the conversion prowess of videos:

  • Higher conversions: 64%-85% of shoppers are more likely to buy after viewing a product video.
  • Search enhancement: stores that use product videos have a 53x higher chance of getting a front-page Google result.
  • Stay longer: customers stay 2 minutes longer when engaged with video.
  • Offline impact: using video in online stores gives a 6% boost in in-store sales (yes, in-store shopping will be back).

I’m sure you now realize the tremendous power of video to influence buyers both online and offline.

Beneath are several ways of using video to hike conversions and sales:

  • Explain how to use a product.
  • Tell a tantalizing brand story.
  • Zoom in on your product (close-up).
  • Leverage influencer endorsement.
  • Use interactive videos.
  • Display video testimonials.
  • Share a message from the CEO.

Essie shows potential customers how to use their nail polish through a short video.

The video makes it easy for shoppers to appreciate the value of the product more than still images.

#7. Offer Flexible Payment Options

Maybe you’ve experienced it.

You visit an online store. And guess what? It’s your lucky day. All your favorite products are available at a good price. You excitedly add them to the cart and head straight to checkout. 

After you fill in all the required details, you get to the method of payment. Lo-and-behold, your preferred method isn’t available! Ugh. You leave in a huff. Research reveals up to 25% of shoppers abandon their packed shopping carts because their favored payment option was missing. Now, that’s a lot of lost sales.

To maximize sales, avail many payment options to your customers. You don’t have to provide all the countless options out there. Focus on those preferred by your audience, as Somnifix does.

With five payment options, customers have the leeway to pay using their favorite method. 

To discover their preferences:

  • Run an experiment
    You can start by using the popular options in the region where your customers come from and see which ones stick.
  • Check your analytics
    Simply go to your analytics dashboard and analyze the data. Pick the payment options getting the most conversions.

It’s all about your audience. Their money. Their rules. Their way.

Don’t bleed sales through limited payment options.

#8. Maximize Customer Reviews And Testimonials

While we like to think of ourselves as free-spirited independent thinkers who know what they want, human psychology shows otherwise.

Humans get swayed to a large extent by what they see other people do. In other words, we follow the herd. That’s the tendency reviews and testimonials tap into. One study showed 93% of customers read reviews before they buy a product.

For your reviews to have an impact, follow these 5 simple guidelines:

  1. Only use reviews from verified buyers.
  2. Display both positive and negative reviews—it’s more authentic.
  3. Use reviews in emails, next to products, and even on checkout pages.
  4. Reward people who leave reviews so you get more of them.
  5. Make leaving reviews quick and painless.

To garner many testimonials, send an automated follow-up email and ask for one from happy customers. Ask for video testimonials from those who shared the most fascinating ones. 

Use the testimonials on product pages, homepage, paid ads, and social media. You can even have a dedicated testimonials page to impress shoppers by the sheer weight of the number of recommendations. 

Marketer Hire uses a testimonial type of listings for customers to order the services of their experts.

The testimonial is effective because it highlights specific results achieved by the expert. They also included a photo of the marketer to humanize the brand and connect with prospects.

#9. Give Shoppers a Mobile-friendly Shopping Experience

It’s undeniable.

We live in a mobile-first world. Mobile devices are an inseparable part of the modern lifestyle. These mouth-watering numbers reveal the significant growth of mobile commerce:

  • 85% of online shoppers in the US have shopped via mobile.
  • Mobile shoppers spend 2x more than other shoppers.
  • Mobile commerce sales will reach $420 billion by the end of 2021. 

Source: BuildFire

In short, if you don’t optimize for mobile, you will leave money on the table. Here’s how to give shoppers a delightful mobile shopping experience in 5 simple steps:

  1. Make sure your site is mobile-responsive so your content automatically fits into the screen size a visitor is using.
  2. Use minimalistic design so it’s easy for visitors to select the right product categories and click on your CTAs.
  3. Go light on text-heavy content—be concise.
  4. Get rid of exasperating pop-ups and ads that block content and are sometimes hard to get rid of.
  5. Compress your images and videos for faster load speeds.

Chubbies know how to cater to mobile shoppers.

They use a bare-bones design with a clickable image that fits perfectly into the small screen. Apart from that, they use a few words.

#10. Leverage Scarcity and Urgency Triggers 

Humans abhor loss.

Psychologists say the pain of loss is 2x stronger than the pleasure of gain. Whenever shoppers feel a product is scarce or about to go away, the loss aversion tendency kicks in.

Here’s how to take advantage of this strong bias:

  • Give low stock warnings, so shoppers act when they see the stock diminishing.
  • Display countdown timers to give shoppers a visual fright when they see the clock ticking.
  • Offer time-limited discounts to prompt shoppers to buy because they see they will lose the product if they don’t act in time.
  • Offer free delivery for a limited period because people love free stuff. Restricting the time they can get free delivery urges them to act faster.
  • Run holiday-bound deals since people enjoy shopping on holidays and they know the specials will disappear once the holiday is over.
  • Give rewards to a specific number of customers, so shoppers rush to buy before swift people fill the quota.
  • Run today-only specials where shoppers know once the day is over, the sale is over.

Clothing brand, American Apparel displays a low stock notice on fast-moving products. 

On seeing the urgent notice, shoppers are more likely to get over the buying line quickly.

#11. Offer Shoppers Generous Hard-to-ignore Incentives 

Times are hard.

People are always on the lookout for ways to stretch the value of their dollars. Therefore, if you can stimulate them to buy by offering them rewards, they’ll gladly take the offer.

Below are 5 incentives you can offer to drive conversions:

  1. Free Shipping
    Did you know that up to 63% of eager shoppers abandon their shopping carts because of high shipping costs? If you offer free shipping for sizable orders, you will lure back some of those deserters and turn them into sales.
  2. Discounts
    Whether it’s a dollar value or percentage discount, slashing the price is an excellent way to spice up your offers. Provide discount coupons so shoppers easily claim their price reductions.
  3. BOGO
    BOGO or buy one get one free is a proven deal sweetener. In this tactic, you offer shoppers who buy a particular product a free product on top. If you get your pairings right, you get tons of extra sales.
  4. Free Gift
    There’s something about a gift that melts people’s hearts. By offering shoppers a free gift, no matter how small, you motivate them to buy just so they can have it.

 

Mattress store Zoma tempts shoppers with a discount.

It’s a powerful offer because it includes:

  • A dollar value reduction of $150.
  • A specific day when it ends (Sunday).
  • A countdown timer.
  • A coupon code for easy redemption.

#12. Nail your eCommerce SEO Strategy

A whopping 87% of shoppers today start their product searches online.

This is good news.

Get your eCommerce SEO strategy right and you’ll attract hundreds of purchase-ready shoppers to your store organically every day all year round.

Let’s go over three building blocks of eCommerce SEO: 

  1. Turn head keywords into product categories
    To make it easy for search engines and customers to find what they are looking for, organize your products into distinct categories. Target low-hanging long-tail product keywords not highly competitive main keywords.
  2. Master on-page SEO
    On-page SEO involves optimizing title tags, description tags, and product/category pages.
    • Title tag
      In your title tag include action-trigger words like buy, click, or discover to inspire visitors to take the desired action. Apart from action-filled words, you must also tease potential customers with proven click-friendly words such as sale, lowest price, guarantee, or X% off. It also pays to work common search expressions into your tag copy, e.g. best, cheap, deals, etc.
    • Description tag
      Lead with your target keyword at the beginning if it sounds natural. Also include expressions that encourage buyers to click through and check out your products, e.g. free shipping, on sale, same-day delivery.
    • Product & Category Page
      Sprinkle your keyword generously on your product pages but don’t overdo it otherwise you will sound ridiculous. Two or three times is enough. Also, create unique descriptions for each product and category to make it easy for search engines to crawl your store.
  3. Build links to your store
    Building links to your store’s homepage and product pages is an essential part of SEO success. Here’s how to get links: get listed on niche directories, ask for links from suppliers, guest post on high-profile blogs, build a top-notch blog, and reach out to websites that sell complementary products or services.

Pet food retailer Chewy has a good grasp of eCommerce SEO strategies. They rank on the front page of Google for the lucrative keyword ‘cat food’.

Not only did they use ‘cat food’ as a major category in their store. They also broke it down further into long-tail keyword subcategories ‘dry cat food’ and ‘wet cat food’ respectively.

Admittedly, SEO takes a while to gain traction. But once things work, the benefits compound over time. SEO is the gift that keeps on giving.

Make eCommerce Analytics Your Friend 

In optimization, data is your friend.

Without analysing your eCommerce metrics, you risk missing conversion opportunities because you make baseless gut-based decisions. Here are four crucial types of data you must pay close attention to.

  1. User behavior data e.g. browsing and search history.
  2. Traffic acquisition data e.g. paid ads, direct, or organic traffic numbers. 
  3. Sales data such as average order value (AOV) and lifetime customer value (LCV).
  4. Conversions data that shows the specific actions people take from arrival on your site until they become buying customers.

Having data on hand isn’t enough. You must develop a keen eye that cuts through all the tons of figures and unearths valuable insights you can use to grow your business. Learn how to pick and interpret data patterns to drive conversions.

eCommerce Optimization Pays Off Handsomely

Thankfully, you don’t have to start from scratch to increase your eCommerce business profits.

Use the above strategies to enhance what you have going for you. All it takes is improving your site, one step at a time. Touch up product photos and description copy. Personalize customer experiences. Add a bit of personalization. Tweak a keyword. Keep at it. Gradually you will see your conversions and sales rise.

 

About the Author

Neal Taparia is the co-founder of Imagine Easy Solutions, a portfolio of online educational services that reached over 30 million students yearly. Neal sold the business to Chegg (NYSE: CHGG), where he stayed there as an executive for three years. He's now pursuing a new initiative, Solitaired, which ties classical games with memory and attention training.

 

 

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