Practical Ecommerce

3 Ways to Improve Ecommerce Conversions this Month

Banner ad retargeting, live chat, and a well-planned series of checkout abandonment emails could boost an online retailer’s conversion rates and sales immediately with a relatively small investment in development time and money.

In the second quarter of 2013, U.S. average ecommerce conversion rates were around 2.6 percent, according to Monetate’s EQ2 2013 Ecommerce Quarterly report.

Even a small improvement in conversion rates can have a significant impact on sales and profits. Consider an Internet merchant that has 1,000 site visitors per month (12,000 per year) with an average order value of $75.00. At the 2.6 percent conversion rate that Monetate reported, this merchant would have about $23,400.00 in annual sales. But, if the seller was able to improve its conversion rate to 3.6 percent, annual sales would rise to $32,400.00, an increase of about 38.5 percent.

There are many things ecommerce marketers could do to boost purchase conversion rates, including employing banner ads that appeal to recent visitors, adding live chat, and initiating a series of checkout abandonment emails.

Retargeting Ad Banners

“Retargeting” can describe a number of marketing tactics aimed at encouraging shoppers to return to a retail site after they have looked at products but choose not to purchase.

One of the most common forms of retargeting is to show shoppers banner ads that show the products they look at earlier. This approach can be effective and is easy to implement.

“Technically all that is necessary is to place a JavaScript tag in the footer of your website,” explained retargeting solution provider, AdRoll, on its website. “This code creates a list of people that visit your site by placing anonymous retargeting ‘cookies’ in their browser. This list allows AdRoll (or other retargeting vendors) to display retargeting ads to your potential customers as they visit other sites.”

The most difficult part of employing retargeting banner ads is actually creating the ads. Pasting the appropriate code into place on a website takes a couple of minutes and, typically, retargeting ads cost the same as other online display ads or pay-per-click ads.

Live Chat

Live chat can help an online retailer answer customer questions, respond to customer concerns, and boost sales. In fact, adding live chat may be one of the easiest ways to improve an ecommerce business overall., and it can be simple to implement.

It is worth nothing that live chat is not new to the web or to ecommerce. As a feature it has been around for years, and there is a lot of data showing the value of adding live chat to a site. For example, a 2010 Forrester Research report, Making Proactive Chat Work, stated that 44 percent of online shoppers liked having questions answered and concerns addressed in the very middle of the purchase process.

Live chat addresses the reasons that shoppers leave a site without making a purchase. It can help identify problems in site design or the checkout process. It can provide insights about how product photography, product descriptions, or even price are impacting sales, and it can be a great marketing tool too.

With live chat is it very easy to identify shoppers’ most common questions or concerns. Those questions can be addressed in blog posts, other site content, or even in social media. In this way, what the merchant learns through live chat becomes part of a content marketing campaign — helping shoppers and encouraging an increase in site traffic.

Live chat is also easy to implement. In some cases, the merchant needs only to add a snippet of JavaScript to its site. The actual chat session may be done via a web interface so there may not even be any software to load. In terms of pricing, live chat can be reasonable. Some providers offer a free plan for very small merchants — Olark, as an example, is free for up to 20 live chat conversations per month — and paid plans might start at $15.00 per month for one operator.

Olark home page.

Olark is an inexpensive live chat provider.

The most difficult part of offering live chat is having someone available to answer customer questions. But merchants can easily control when live chat is available and offering it even a few hours a day is better than not having it at all.

Checkout Abandonment Emails

If an online retailer knows a shopper’s email address, it is possible to remind that shopper about products left at checkout, and recover a significant number of sales.

According to an October 2013 report from Listrak, an email service provider, shoppers abandon a checkout process 73 percent of the time.

To address all of those abandoned checkouts and increase conversion rates overall, about 24.5 percent of the top 1,000 online merchants in the U.S. send at least one checkout abandonment email to known shoppers, and many of those top 1,000 retailers send checkout abandonment email series of up to three messages in an effort to recover or encourage sales, again according to Listrak.

Of the conversion-boosting tactics mentioned here, checkout abandonment emails are relatively more challenging to set up and execute. Nonetheless, it is within reason that an online seller working with a good email service provider could have a robust checkout abandonment email series up and running in a week or less.