Four Ways to Increase Conversion Rates

To make more sales, an online retailer can increase traffic, convert site visitors into customers at a higher rate, or, ideally, do both.

On Tuesday, Practical Ecommerce hosted a webinar aimed at helping merchants boost conversion rates. The webinar’s panelists described four distinct areas or ways to encourage shoppers to consummate the purchase.

1. Address Purchase Delay and Shopping Cart Abandonment

On average, 45 percent of online shoppers who place items in a shopping cart will abandon those items without finishing the purchasing process, according to survey data from comScore and PayPal. What’s more something like 31.8 percent of shoppers will not make an online purchase decision for approximately one to two days after initially visiting a retailer’s website, according to a separate study from McAfee.

Together cart abandonment and purchase delay could be the most important reasons that your site visitors are not becoming site customers more often.

In the webinar, panelists suggested that the leading cause of the purchase delay and cart abandonment phenomena was a lack of information.

For example, 46 percent of respondents to the comScore and PayPal study abandoned a cart because the shipping price listed at checkout was higher than expected, perhaps indicating that they had not been given enough information about shipping charges to establish a reasonable expectation. Some 37 percent—more than 1-in-3 shoppers—of those surveyed left the cart to compare prices, and 27 percent left to look for coupons. If competitive-price information, price guarantees, or coupon information had been available on site or at checkout, these consumers would not have had to leave the cart.

The webinar panelists suggested a three-phase marketing pattern that would help online merchants think through the process of providing the kinds of information that shoppers need and want before those shoppers leave a cart to find it.

2. Merchandising Via Promotion, Up-Selling, and Discounting

Webinar panelist Andreas Ryuta Stenzel, who is senior manager for online marketing at TRUSTe, pointed out that sometimes merchants don’t make more sales because they don’t ask or offer.

Consumers often want to be marketed to, particularly if that marketing is helpful, makes them feel special, or offers a discount. Stenzel emphasized the impact of exclusive or limited-time offers, and encouraged merchants to consider couponing.

In April 2010, about 29 million American shoppers visited coupon sites in search of better deals, according to another survey from comScore. There are further indications that there is an entire class of online shoppers that relies on coupon availability to select which merchants to patronize.

3. Build Confidence and Trust Through Aesthetics, Usability, and Brand

Customers won’t buy from online retailers that they do not trust or do not like. This distrust accounts for about 21 percent of abandoned shopping cart and a significant amount of site traffic bounces—when a visitor arrives and quickly leaves again, as if repulsed.

In the webinar, Travis Pinnick, a user interface expert whose experience includes working with UPS and AT&T, made several suggestions for building consumer confidence and trust by addressing site quality, perceived risk, and store reputation.

Site quality, Pinnick explained, has to do with how your site looks on arrival. Is it professional looking? Does it load quickly? Does it function properly without apparent errors or browser warnings?

Perceived risk has to do with the consumer’s understanding of how personal information or credit card data is at risk. Does the site ask for too much too soon? Is it a one-page checkout? Are there verifiable third-party badges on the site? Is there a “padlock” in the browser representing an SSL certificate?

Finally, reputation has to do with the brand perception that shoppers bring with them to the site. Is your business one that they found on Bing and have never heard of before, or were they introduced to your company on Facebook, through a blog, or via your offline advertising?

By addressing these areas, online retailers can set potential customers at ease, which should lead to better conversion rates.

4. Use Standard-Compliant, Modern, and Accessible Code

The webinar’s final panelist, web developer Nick Rabinowitz, pointed out that poor site coding can have a negative impact on your business’ sales. And likewise, clean code that is well written can expedite a shopper’s experience and help you sell more.

Rabinowitz gave a particularly clear example of how screen readers, which are often used by visually impaired shoppers, scan through your site’s code top to bottom. If your site is well written, this is no problem, and all of your shoppers will be able to make good buying decisions. But if your code is cluttered or malformed, the result could be unintelligible for some site visitors.

Summing Up

Address cart abandonment and purchase delay, merchandising, customer trust, and site coding and you should significantly increase sales conversions for your online store.

Click here to view upcoming and archived Practical eCommerce webinars.>

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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