Revenue from online shopping is expected to surpass $1.5 trillion this year, representing a huge opportunity for online retailers. Improvements in the mobile experience and the increasing convergence of online and in-store shopping are fueling the rise of e-commerce.

Even though the opportunity is immense, many online retailers still struggle to increase conversion rates. Customers are shopping, but how can retailers drive more shoppers to complete their purchases?

Here are seven powerful tips that will increase your conversion rates and transform more “window shoppers” into buyers.

Shopping Cart Abandonment: Creating a Strategy

Once the customer reaches the checkout page, they’ve completed nearly all the required steps in the purchase cycle. Then, they slip through your fingers. The customer stops, leaves the page and never returns. What went wrong?  

Shopping cart abandonment is not uncommon. In fact, 89 percent of shoppers have at one time abandoned their online shopping cart, according to a report published by Forrester Research. If you want to increase conversion rates, you must understand why.  

For starters, consider that shoppers are constantly “comparison shopping” during their online experience. As they reach the end of the buying cycle, they may quickly compare your prices with other retailers’. In fact, 71 percent of shoppers say the reason they shop online is to find a better deal.

Before hitting the “place order” button, they must first answer the burning question, “Does another retailer offer a better price, free shipping or a coupon?” These are just a couple of the potential reasons why customers are leaving their carts. Here are a few more to investigate.

  1. Checkout is too hard. There are too many steps, or you’re requiring them to give too much personal information before they can complete the purchase (more on this a little later).
  2. Checkout is not optimized for mobile. Mobile accounts for over 50 percent of all e-commerce traffic. A non-responsive mobile interface can lead customers straight to your competitors.
  3. Shipping isn’t free. Many online retailers, such as Amazon Prime, have set a precedent for free shipping. At checkout, customers get sticker shock when they see the total price after shipping is added. Suddenly, the purchase seems like a bad deal.
  4. Customers are stuck. Maybe they have a question, but simply don’t have time to call and speak with customer service to get an answer. Many companies are solving this problem with live chat.

To truly understand why customers abandon carts, it’s important to test. Make one change, such as offering free shipping on orders, and measure your conversion rates. Are more customers converting? If so, you may have found a key contributor to your poor conversions.  

Create Better Search Capabilities

The ability to search and quickly find relevant results is a critical need for customers. About 30 percent of e-commerce visitors use internal site search, yet only 15 percent of companies have dedicated resources to optimizing the site search experience.

Focusing on search has serious payoffs because people who use search functions tend to spend more money. One company found that only 10 percent of customers used search functionality, yet close to 40 percent of the site’s revenue came from those searchers.

Tools such as Google Analytics offer insight into the search terms the majority of your customers use. For example, you may find there are thousands of searches on your website for coffee tables, but if you haven’t configured your search to support that term, the results will not be relevant. Or worse, the only result will be a “no results” page. That’s when your shopper walks away  without converting.

Consider: Are the results of your existing search function configured around the terms your shoppers are most likely to use, and are those results highly relevant to your shoppers?

Not sure where to start to improve your search functionality? Here are a few simple tips.

  • Put More Emphasis on the Search Bar. Make it easier for shoppers to find the search bar. Put it at the top of the page, give it a bold color, and make it stand out. Then measure your results.
  • Fine-tune Search Results. Let’s say someone is searching for blue couches. After completing the search, analytics show that you have a 40 percent exit rate. Find out what went wrong. Maybe the product is discontinued or maybe it’s out of stock. If so, rather than sending your searcher to a “no results” page, provide your customer with other relevant options and recommendations. For example, include pictures and descriptions of related products to improve your conversion rate.
  • Isolate Underperforming Terms. Are customers using search terms that aren’t performing well? If so, find and isolate these terms. Make changes to recapture and convert some of those searchers who would have previously moved on to competitor products and sites.

Reach Customers at the Exact Point of Relevance

Surprisingly, the majority of customers who abandon shopping carts get no follow-up communication from the retailer. Not only does the customer slip through the cracks, but so does a large chunk of revenue. In fact, only 14 percent of top web retailers use e-mail campaigns to retarget shoppers who abandon their carts online.

Sending these prospective customers targeted e-mails may result in higher conversions. Using this strategy, improved conversion rates by 263 percent. In a three-part e-mail series that targeted customers who abandoned their shopping carts, SmileyCookie enabled customers to quickly return to checkout to complete their transaction. Here’s what they did.

  • Sent the first email immediately. Within the follow-up message, “Oops … was there a problem checking out?” customers found an easily accessible link to return to their carts.
  • Followed up with a discount. If the customer did not respond, within 24 hours another e-mail would arrive to their inbox. This e-mail offered the customer a small discount to complete the purchase (10 percent off, for example).  
  • Provided a larger discount. If the customer still did not respond, a final e-mail was sent, offering an even larger discount if the customer completed the purchase (up to 20 percent off).

On average, the above strategy recaptured 29 percent of abandoned shopping carts and transformed those previously lost sales into conversions. The e-mail open rates were also high. The first email received a 54 percent open rate, the second 50 percent and last 23 percent.

Build More Trust with Customers

Some shoppers are nervous about providing their personal details and payment information to a company they haven’t yet done business with. You can recapture these lost sales by building customer confidence in the security of your business. But how?

Check out Groupon’s website. You’ll see a sidebar that includes payment FAQs to reduce any concern about the security of your credit card or payment method. They also include a “promise to you” section and a “trust certificate.”

Review your checkout page. Does it assure shoppers that their personal information and payment details are safe? If not, make some changes, then watch your conversion rate for an increase.

Offer Free Shipping

There is a good reason why over 50 percent of merchants offer free shipping. Free shipping drives higher conversion rates. A study conducted by an e-tailing group found that free shipping is the number one factor that drives customers to make a purchase. Moreover, the lack of free shipping is the number one reason that customers are not happy with their online shopping experience.

In another study, 93 percent of respondents said that free shipping on orders would encourage them to purchase more products – and data backs this up. Orders with free shipping had an estimated 30 percent higher value than those without.

When you offer free shipping, not only will more customers buy, but the average order value of each purchase will be higher. This alone could generate huge results for your company.

It worked for online retailer 2BigFeet. They decided to test out free shipping and measure the results. When they offered shipping at no cost to orders over $100, conversions increased by 50 percent!

Checkout Versatility: Provide a Frictionless Experience

Customers shopping online want the experience to feel easy, smooth and fast. However, some companies require customers to create an account before completing a purchase. For some customers, that’s asking too much. You’ve created friction (and cart abandonment). Instead, try a different approach to drive higher conversion rates.

Nike gives users three options to complete their purchase. They can sign into their account, checkout as a guest or use their PayPal account.

Also consider Tom’s Shoes. They give users three checkout options: one for registered customers, one for new customers and one for customers who want to login with a social media account for a faster checkout process.

Check out your checkout. Are there any points where customers may be facing resistance? If so, make some changes and measure the impact on conversion rates.

Test Simple Changes … Such as Buttons to Drive Greater Conversions

Have you heard about the $300 million button story? One company had what they thought was a simple setup, yet the setup was preventing many customers from completing their purchase.

The company used a checkout form that was straightforward, one that customers encounter all the time. It included two buttons: Login and Register. So how could these two buttons lose the company millions in sales? The problem wasn’t actually in the form itself, but instead, where users encountered it in their buying journey.

Customers reached the form after filling their shopping cart with items and clicking on the checkout button. Now they were stuck. They couldn’t complete the purchase without first logging in or registering. At this point, customers abandoned their carts in droves.

The company solved this problem by removing the Register button and replacing it with  a “Continue” button with a message that explained that customers didn’t need to register to make a purchase.

The results were remarkable. Customer purchases rose by 45 percent, resulting in $15 million in additional revenue the first month. After the first year, the company increased revenue by $300 million. The lesson? Don’t require users to register to complete their purchases.

Don’t Just Meet Customer Expectations, Exceed Them

Online customers are demanding. Retailers work hard to meet those demands, providing the minimal amount of friction during the online shopping experience. When you achieve this, customers will visit you with more frequency and you’ll build greater loyalty.

Ultimately, conversions are driven by relationships. When you carefully observe customer behavior, identify where you’re losing customers and understand why. Then you’ll have the insights you need to create relationships that drive higher conversion rates.


For more ways E-commerce retailers are increasing their conversion rates and  revenue, check out  40 Retailers Results Using SLI.