Can Spelling Mistakes Impact Ecommerce Conversion?

There’s little research on the impact of spelling and grammar mistakes on conversion. But Charles Duncombe, CEO of JustSayPlease, a U.K.-based ecommerce and travel company, is a stickler for getting it right. He knows firsthand the impact of spelling mistakes on an ecommerce site. He says that one spelling mistake on, JustSayPlease’s retailer of socks and hosiery, had an 80 percent impact on conversion. Here is Duncombe’s story.

The Launch of

Charles Duncombe

Charles Duncombe

Ten years ago, Duncombe was in a bar and happened to overhear two girls bemoaning how difficult it was to buy tights — pantyhose. From this snatched conversation, an idea germinated, which resulted in being created. Focusing on quality products coupled with great service and the convenience of the Internet, the fledgling site quickly developed a loyal following and enabled the company to expand into other niches. Ten years later, Duncombe now runs a company — JustSayPlease — employing 50 people and generating $20 million per year across multiple websites in hosiery, lingerie, travel and mobile telephones.

It seems at first glance to be an eclectic mix of business sectors, and Duncombe admits that there’s not as much cross-fertilization as he’d like. “Frankly, holidays and mobiles came about by accident, via a business connection.” Going forward, Duncombe sees a cluster of sites in the fashion sector, targeting a female audience. is the first site in this new cluster, where cross selling between sites should be easier.

This experience has led Duncombe and his team to focus not only on traffic but also on the conversion process. “I’d prefer a thousand visitors a day and make money, than a million and make no money,” said Duncombe.

Misspelling Hurt Conversion

In focusing on conversion, his team noticed that there was a prominent spelling mistake on one page. On the tights category page, a simple misspelling of the word “Tights” — the misspelling was “Tihgts” — was causing the page to perform badly. Once fixed, conversion of visitors to the page jumped by 80 percent.

Spelling "Tights" as "Tihgts" on the product detail page harmed that product's conversion rate.

Spelling “Tights” as “Tihgts” on the product detail page harmed that product’s conversion rate.

As a result, the company implemented a process of conversion reviews to try to spot the conversion leaks. “Using Google Analytics’ ecommerce module, every month as a team, we review the best and worst converting pages.”

The company has learned that it’s not only spelling mistakes, but also copy that dates rapidly and poor grammar that cause conversion problems. “We’ve found that we have to be very careful with any references to products which date them to a particular season. It’s particularly important in fashion. For example, copy that refers to a product being ‘Featured on the Autumn 2010 catwalk’ or ‘As Seen in Look Magazine 2008’ can be a big turn off. It goes to the heart of your sites credibility,” says Duncombe.

So what are the key lessons we can draw from this?

Monthly Page Performance Reviews

If you are not already doing so, implement a process where you review top and bottom performing pages each month. Check for spelling errors, poor grammar or clunky copy; check that all the links work and that the product images are crisp and download correctly. Although press mentions and third party references are very valuable, avoid using these in any way that dates a product.

Check for Out-of-Stocks

If a page’s performance has changed significantly, also check the product’s availability history. Out-of-stock items damage your credibility and frustrate customers to no end. Make sure you’re not featuring out-of-stock products on your category or home pages, or that out-of-stock products are not featured in banners. On your product detail page, offer customers the option to be emailed when products come back in stock. If you can, state “More expected soon” with your out-of-stock message, assuming always that there are more on order. While these email campaigns are a bit more effort to set up, they can be very lucrative in capturing email addresses and driving both revenue and customer satisfaction. They may also satisfy the customer sufficiently that they are happy to wait and won’t go shopping elsewhere.


There’s no substitute for page testing, and in your monthly performance reviews, try and figure out why your best performing pages work better than others. This should help to identify hypotheses for testing. Seemingly miniscule changes can have a significant impact, and it’s pretty much impossible to second guess what’s going to work better. Google’s Website Optimizer is free and straightforward to use. We explained it, in fact, just yesterday, at “Using Google Website Optimizer for A/B Testing.”

Charles Nicholls
Charles Nicholls
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