Building a Sustainable Testing Culture

Building a Sustainable Testing Culture

Published by

October 29, 2017

Which is more dangerous to your e-commerce store: your data or your intuition?

Answer: If you’re using one without the other, they could both be disastrous.

The case for intuition without data being more dangerous:

A few years ago, a study of 800 Fortune 1000 marketers to review their relationship with data revealed marketers used data to make customer-related decisions on 11 percent of the time. The other 89 percent, they relied on intuition.

Without data, intuition could lead you anywhere. You might blow up a highly successful onboarding process on a hunch. You might change your checkout flow to solve a cart abandonment issue, when all you needed to do was add a few confidence factors. It’s the epitome of flying blind, no matter how good you think your gut might be.

The case for over-reliance on data being more dangerous:

In the same study, marketers revealed on the opposite end of the spectrum, 11 percent of the time they “couldn’t get enough” of the massive data streams we have access to now. They used data for every decision – and made decisions based on data too often. Without a proper testing structure, iterating based on every blip or bump in your data can be just as dangerous as flying blind with only your intuition to guide you.

The truth is, the best way to make decisions for your e-commerce company is through combining data and intuition – and creating a sustainable testing culture to help grow your revenue.

More e-commerce companies should make a commitment to creating a culture of testing. We’re talking about a comprehensive, end-to-end approach to qualitative and quantitative information, functional design and effective split testing, a commitment that stretches from your C-suite to your interns. When everyone in your company approaches problems with a testing mindset, you’ll have a solid foundation for growth.

Why (a) Testing (Culture) Matters

In an excellent Harvard Business Review article (quoted by ConversionXL’s Peep Laja in his article encouraging continuous optimization), Dan Ariely notes that companies want to give weight to intuition or expert opinion because that’s what we’re conditioned to do: drive toward answers.

“When we pay consultants, we get an answer from them and not a list of experiments to conduct. We tend to value answers over questions because answers allow us to take action, while questions mean that we need to keep thinking. Never mind that asking good questions and gathering evidence usually guides us to better answers.” – Dan Ariely, HBR

When confronted with more questions than answers, or answers you can’t be sure of, testing is the risk reduction process you’re looking for.

Even if you’re not testing, you’re going to make changes to your business. That’s the nature of business, after all. You’ll change your web properties, your app, your messaging, your checkout process – you’ll change all of that at some point, because you understand that businesses can’t stagnate. Things move too fast. You need to iterate. You need to stay ahead of complacency.

But what are you changing? And why? Are you relying on intuition without data? Or data without context?

Creating a testing culture that prioritizes optimization should be a natural stage for serious companies.

Testing Culture that Prioritizes Optimization
Testing Culture that Prioritizes Optimization – source: Medium

Organizations need a testing culture and a testing mindset because a testing culture:

  • Removes the risk of changing the wrong things and moving your business in the wrong direction.
  • Ensures you always know what your customer wants through qualitative testing.
  • Gives you a way to contextualize your quantitative data to make real analysis.
  • Helps you become so practiced at the cycle of hypothesizing, testing, adjusting, analyzing and iterating that when you need to make major changes and conduct major tests, you can trust your process and your results.
  • Instills a “challenge everything” mindset in your team, which means no lazy conclusions or wild guesses make it into your business decisions.

Guiding Principles of a True Testing Culture

Effective A/B Testing Checklist
Effective A/B Testing Checklist

Before you start emphasizing optimization and creating your testing culture, make sure you fully understand these guiding principles:

1. Testing isn’t about proving yourself right

Intuition has its place, but you shouldn’t go into your tests with the intention of confirming or disproving your hunches. Keep your agenda clear. Your results and analysis can show you a concrete way forward when you have a lot of options, but be wary of influencing your analysis with preconceived notions.

2. Start at the beginning

As recommended by Optimizely, you’ll want to build testing into everything you do that could involve making a lot of assumptions, especially early on. Optimizely uses the example of your information architecture and content strategy, but this could be applied across a lot of areas in an e-commerce operation.

3. Testing belongs to everyone – encourage collaboration

By design, testing should remove the rule of what ConversionXL’s Peep Laja calls a HiPPO (highest-paid person’s opinion). A testing culture should encourage team members to work together to form tests and give input on analysis.

For instance, a test run by the marketing automation team might turn up results that your customer success team would find extremely valuable, or your sales team might have valuable input for a copywriting split test based on what they know about sales-qualified lead behavior. If your team tests in silos, none of that information would be shared.

Part of collaboration is keeping everyone informed. Transparency about who’s doing what can help avoid duplicate work or incomplete analysis. You can use something like this testing roadmap, similar to a product roadmap, to keep everyone abreast of what experiments are going on.

Collaboration - Testing Culture
Collaboration – Testing Culture – source: Online Behavior

4. Some tests should be about short-term wins

Not every test measures something earth-shattering. Part of a testing culture is infusing the testing ideology into everything you do, so that means sometimes you’ll be testing something small, like an inline CTA v. an image-based CTA. But “smaller” tests don’t need to result in small results – if an experiment over those CTAs gains you one percent more conversions, then you’ve gained a lot for little effort.

Balancing quick wins with longer-term “major” tests (like full homepage tests) also means your team gets more testing experience and can stay nimble to respond to unanticipated changes in your customer base.

5. Embrace functional design

Everything you do to any of your customer-facing properties – including your website and apps – will affect your customer’s experience. Functional design involves finding the balance between optimized design and aesthetically pleasing design. All elements should have a function and exist for a reason, and testing helps you find that reason. Combining the aesthetic sensibilities of design with the functional practicality of CRO helps you create e-commerce experiences that are both enjoyable and optimized.

6. Nothing is “done”

Testing should beget more tests. As we quoted Dan Ariely saying before, “good questions and gathering evidence guides us to better answers.” The more good questions we can pose around the “why” and “how” of our business decisions, the better our answers will become.

Maintain an attitude of cycles. It’s all too easy for to complete a big project like a website redesign, call it “done” and not revisit it again for years. If you maintain the attitude that nothing is “done” and everything needs to be tested on a schedule, you’ll avoid becoming outdated or drifting away from what your customers want.

Focusing on the Long Run

Testing takes time, but the results are worth it. Applying testing to business decisions results in incremental but sustainable gains (Forbes found as much as 241 percent ROI). “Move fast and break things” results in a string of fast moves and broken things, but not necessarily a clearer picture of where you should go and what you should be focused on.

A testing culture breeds the sort of sustainable momentum that builds lasting companies. Employees who ask “why” before “how.” Processes designed to eliminate waste and promote efficiency. A company focused on long-term goals rather than short-term puffs of smoke.

In an industry obsessed with the latest and greatest, companies dedicated to meticulously building testing into their culture can experience the kinds of results others can only wish to see. Companies built on testing culture will build what its customers want, and their customers will respond accordingly.

This article is the last article in a five-part series, The Foundation of A/B Testing for E-Commerce Growth. To read the rest of the series, click here.

Thinking about creating a testing culture within your organization, but not sure where to start? We work with high-traffic e-commerce companies to build testing systems for continuous revenue gains – schedule a free consultation with us to see if we can help.

Building a Sustainable Testing Culture
This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series eCommerce A/B Testing

More e-commerce companies should make a commitment to creating a culture of testing. We’re talking about a comprehensive, end-to-end approach to qualitative and quantitative information, functional design and effective split testing, a commitment that stretches from your C-suite to your interns. When everyone in your company approaches problems with a testing mindset, you’ll have a solid foundation for growth.

How to Create Effective A/B Tests from Scratch

Create Effective A/B Tests

Published by

April 28, 2017

So you want to create effective A/B tests? Did you ever compete in a science fair as a kid? You came up with a hypothesis – a plant grows much better in direct sunlight, for instance – and then created a scientifically sound experiment to test your theory.

You made sure to control for only what you were testing – sunshine – by using all the same types of plants and soil, and the exact same amount of water in every experiment. You grew your plants in various amounts of sunlight and recorded the results. When it was done, you created a three-sided board to display your results and analysis.

The controlled-variable science experiment analogy applies perfectly to creating effective A/B tests for e-commerce stores.

Of course, you’re dealing with way more variables and ambient noise than a kid growing plants for school, but the principles stay the same.

Effective A/B Testing Checklist
Effective A/B Testing Checklist

Step 1: Where to Begin Testing

We constantly emphasize to our clients that effective testing is a long-term game. It’s not always a popular stance in the era of “move fast and break things,” but the whole point of testing is so that you move in only the right directions and don’t waste time or money breaking big things that matter.

Effective testing begins with you.

Testing begins with your mindset, your resources, your e-commerce store – everything that’s available to you and unique to you.

Strengthening your understanding of the testing process and integrating testing into your team’s process gives you ability to reel off successful tests consistently – thus raising your revenue through improved conversions.

Testing is a way to build up a systematic approach to optimizing conversions across your entire organization. It’s not something you just “start doing” or “implement” overnight. Like our favorite weightlifting analogy, it’s a process. No one walks into the gym and lifts 300 pounds on their first day. First you need to learn how to lift properly and how to fuel your body for effective lifting.

Step 2: Figuring Out What to Test

Since you’re not jumping in and lifting 300 pounds on day one, you’re also not rolling up your sleeves and testing a complete redesign of your homepage on day one.

Even if you already have a little testing experience, we usually recommend against our clients starting with full-page redesigns. If you have no testing experience at all, definitely start with something smaller.

It’s important to start with a balance of something that gives you a true lift but also won’t take forever to set up and run. You’ll want to be able to work quickly through the process of setting up, monitoring and analyzing the test results with your team and testing agency.

Getting through some tests early on also shows you right away any flaws you might have in your testing approach and how to fix them before you start testing something huge, like crucial design elements on your highly-trafficked homepage, for instance.

Here are some ideas on tests you can set up:

  • Customer flow through your checkout, removing clutter
  • Copywriting, or specific words you use in headlines, buttons and more
  • Use of social proof
  • Use of security indicators
  • Colors
  • Navigation and search improvements
  • Videos, animation or none
  • Calls to action elements, including colors, copy, and location
  • Fonts and text size
  • Identifying and removing distractions from pages

It’s also worth mentioning here that you should be sure your testing tool is capable of and configured to measure the right things – and that you’ve chosen the right measurements for the test you’re running.

For instance, if you’re testing the effectiveness of two landing page headlines and you’re measuring conversions as “clicks on the CTA button,” your results could be skewed by visitors’ reactions to the CTA button itself, which wouldn’t have anything to do with the headlines.

This example from Copyhackers shows this issue in action. Although the instance on the right saw an almost 124% higher conversion rate, it’s hard to know whether to attribute the lift to the page copywriting or the button CTA copy changes:

Copyhackers - Create Effective A/B Tests
Copyhackers – Create Effective A/B Tests

Keep your experiments single-variable (just like in your school science experiments) by changing only one thing at a time.

Step 3: Setting Up a Statistically Significant Test

Perhaps the hardest part of A/B testing is making sure your test will mean something.

By that, we mean making sure that when you’ve gone through all the work of setting up, running and analyzing your test, you need to know those results mean what you think they mean.

For instance, if you run a test trying to figure out what color to make your homepage button, but you only get 20 visits, and 15 think it should be blue, while only 5 think it should be green, you could conclude that it should definitely be blue…except that’s not a lot of visits, and what if the next 7 people pick green? Your results would feel way less conclusive.

The issue here is a sample size that’s too small. A lot of sample size calculators exist for figuring out how to run a statistically sound and significant test, but many inexperienced testers fall prey to the illusion that they can enter in their parameters and the calculator will spit out perfect, exact answers to the number of observations or length of test necessary.

You need at least 1,000 transactions – or around 25,000 uniques – in order for any kind of testing to make sense.

Testing guru Evan Miller summed up this fallacy and issue so perfectly that we couldn’t say it better:

When an A/B testing dashboard says there is a “95% chance of beating original” or “90% probability of statistical significance,” it’s asking the following question: Assuming there is no underlying difference between A and B, how often will we see a difference like we do in the data just by chance? The answer to that question is called the significance level, and “statistically significant results” mean that the significance level is low, e.g. 5% or 1%. Dashboards usually take the complement of this (e.g. 95% or 99%) and report it as a “chance of beating the original” or something like that.

However, the significance calculation makes a critical assumption that you have probably violated without even realizing it: that the sample size was fixed in advance. If instead of deciding ahead of time, “this experiment will collect exactly 1,000 observations,” you say, “we’ll run it until we see a significant difference,” all the reported significance levels become meaningless. This result is completely counterintuitive and all the A/B testing packages out there ignore it, but I’ll try to explain the source of the problem with a simple example.

We generally recommend using Evan Miller’s A/B test sample size calculator to help avoid this issue, and to make sure you’re keeping an eye on statistical significance at all times as you set up your tests.

Step 4: Monitoring Your Test – Patiently!

This step may actually be the toughest part of testing, because we’re wired by human nature to want to peek at our ongoing tests.

The advice not to peek at your tests is everywhere, and sometimes our clients will assume it’s because they’ll somehow ruin the test by looking early.

Here’s the secret: nothing will happen if you peek at your test early.

The reason a lot of testing consultants and experts will warn you against it is to protect you from yourself. It’s almost impossible to resist acting based on what you see when you look early. Even if you try not to, you’ll have that information in the back of your mind. It’s best to just not look!

Step 5: Running Your Tests the Right Duration

This ties in with “Step 3: Setting Up a Statistically Significant Test” because when you stop a test depends a lot on when you’ve experienced enough observations of an action to make your test statistically meaningful.

For instance, if you calculate that you need a certain number of observations to reach a sound test, then you can stop your experiment after you’ve reached that number.

This reinforces the need to calculate your sample sizes based on significance and not to simply run your experiments until you see significant change.

Here’s an example from Evan Miller showing why stopping the experiment in the latter situation is problematic:

Example A: Experiment run until a statistically significant number of observations reached

Example A
Example A

Example B: Experiment run until statistically significant difference in instances of the observations

Example B
Example B

As you can see in the second example, in two scenarios the test was stopped too early. This gives you completely skewed results that would over-emphasize the percentage change of conversions – probably leading you to make a change to the thing you’re testing, potentially to your detriment.

Step 6: Analyzing the Results Properly

Your first action when you reach this step? Check your results. Then check them again. And maybe again, for good measure. (Ask our founder Emir about the time he saw a very popular testing software serving the control treatment to 100% of a client’s visitors while the software showed an active test running the entire time.)

Fancy software and shiny calculators can tell us a lot, and they make testing a lot easier than in the olden days, but because we’re optimizing for humans, we need to always give everything a human eye.

At Objeqt, we calculate and validate our results using chi-squared tests like this one:

Success Rate Significance
Success Rate Significance

If you’re relying solely on software like VWO and Optimizely, then you should know those two tools have hidden all of the information about their actual analyses – presumably to keep their methodologies secret as they engage in a shootout for testing supremacy.

We’re not saying you need to doubt all results from VWO or Optimizely, but it does become impossible to independently verify your results when the actual analysis is hidden behind an opaque black box.

Remember how our overall testing method combines quantitative analytics and qualitative user research before we reach the testing stage? We do that so we always have a human perspective on data – and so we have cold, hard data to counteract human biases. This complementary relationship between data and your creativity and instincts also applies when analyzing your test results.

Your New Motto: Move Deliberately and Improve Things

In e-commerce and business in general these days, we constantly hear the refrain “Move fast and break things.”

We understand the sentiment behind it – this mindset encourages you to experiment and try things, put ideas into action as quickly as possible, and move on to other things if the actions fail to pan out fast. It helps organizations avoid stagnation or endless planning loops without action.

The problem, though, is it also encourages hasty testing and iteration based on potentially incomplete results.

Testing requires patience, but it doesn’t mean stagnation. Applying science rather than gut instinct all the time results in making changes proven to result in higher conversions – and thus, higher revenue.

Creating a testing system and integrating a testing mindset and process into everything you do will help you create sustainable gains across the board. Rather than running headlong without a destination in mind, you’ll move steadily and inexorably toward your goals – and those revenue gains.

This article is fourth in a five-part series, The Foundation of A/B Testing for E-Commerce Growth. To read the rest of the series, click here.

Want to conduct effective A/B tests to grow revenue for your e-commerce store…but not sure how to get started? That’s literally what we do. Schedule a free consultation with us to see if we’re your kind of testing agency and how we can help.

Create Effective A/B Tests
This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series eCommerce A/B Testing

Testing is a way to build up a systematic approach to optimizing conversions across your entire organization. It’s not something you just “start doing” or “implement” overnight. Like our favorite weightlifting analogy, it’s a process. No one walks into the gym and lifts 300 pounds on their first day. First you need to learn how to lift properly and how to fuel your body for effective lifting.

Know Thy Customer: Why You Need Qualitative Research for Effective CRO

Why You Need Qualitative Research for Effective CRO

Published by

March 28, 2018

A while ago, we started working with an e-commerce client who wanted us to help optimize their checkout page for conversions.

On the surface, they had everything they thought they needed to A/B test: $5 million in annual recurring revenue stemming from high traffic, plus a solid analytics program and the ability to analyze that data.

FREE Download: Save yourself from the missed steps and trial + error and get our bonus document on tools and applications we recommend and use for CRO research.

They’d been running some tests on their own and doing a good job, carefully measuring results and making sure the conversion sample sizes were large enough to be statistically significant.

When we started working with them, though, they couldn’t solve the mystery of their checkout page.

They’d tested a lot of things – colors on the checkout page, the placement of various elements, etc., and they couldn’t figure out why their data told them people abandoned their checkout process on that page at an alarming rate.

We looked at the tests – they were solid.

We looked at the data and analytics – also solid.

Then we asked, “What do your customers say?”

They hadn’t thought to ask. So we helped them ask.

As it turned out, their trust elements were scaring people away. The company, proud of its commitment to security, had recently added, “We are now using Komodo, the best security there is,” to their “verified by Visa” and SSL certificate info – and it was scaring people away.

“Why would they need the best security? It seemed like maybe there was a reason, like something bad had happened in the past,” one customer told us. Others echoed those sentiments.

We ran the tests based on that idea, and they confirmed – the line about Komodo had to go. We ended up replacing it with just the logo mark instead.

And then we helped the company set up a robust customer research program, the qualitative complement to their already successful quantitative analytics program.

There were two lessons at play here that we see a lot in testing and conversion rate optimization:

  1. Challenge your assumptions through testing, and
  2. Put your data into human context, always.

The human brain is only knowable to a point.

We can spend forever crunching datasets and watching people interact with our pages and products, and we still might not have the faintest inkling of what’s going on in their minds as they consider whether or not to buy our product.

Data can tell you a lot, but to get context, you need to talk to people.

Source: Nielsen Norman Group
Source: Nielsen Norman Group

How to Approach Qualitative Customer Research

The category “customer research” encompasses a lot of things, but for e-commerce stores, we prefer to think of four major ways you can approach it:

Calling and interviewing customers

This is the most straightforward method and the one that’s been around the longest. Marketers and sales professionals have been utilizing customer calls for decades.

Most often, you’ll do this by recruiting people from your website or because they’re existing customers. That can be done through some kind of automated form or during the follow-up phase via email.

Many e-commerce operators will also compensate the customer for their time with a discount or some other offer. We’d recommend trying a friendly, non-incentivized approach first, but understand that a lot of times incentives can help you get more calls confirmed and spend less time trying to get people to agree.

Regardless of how you recruit or incentivize the customer, you should move the conversation to the phone. Email surveys can be a good tool (see below), but if you’re looking for a candid conversation about your product, an in-person conversation works best. You’ll be able to ask follow-up questions and hear their tone.

You can also supplement phone calls with on-page chat apps like Intercom or Drift. These won’t replace voice or face-to-face interviews, but they can lower the barrier to having a conversation with a real customer.

Tracking interactions

Some of these tactics will overlap with quantitative analytics and usability testing a bit, but tracking interactions gives you the ability to consider your customer’s actions in the context of your real page.

Rather than having to look at a datastream and figure out what actions the numbers represent, tracking the way customers interact with elements of your page shows you exactly what actions they take – and don’t take.

This can include things like heat maps, analytics, scroll mapping, referral tracking and more.

Sample Heatmap
Sample Heatmap

Surveying customers

This one’s easy to lump in with interviewing, but surveying is a lower-barrier way to get customer feedback while still providing you useful information. If you’re having trouble getting enough people to agree to phone calls or other in-person interviews, surveying can fill that gap.

You should take their results separately from your interviews, however, as there won’t be as much nuance since you can’t ask follow-up questions or clarify answers on the spot.

To gather surveys, you can implement a user form on your website – you can even call it your store’s annual survey – and then ask questions about customer demographics, how they use your product, and what they want from your product and experience on your site. The goal here is to understand how your product fits into the context of their lives.

Usability testing

This type of customer research offers you “live” tracking – rather than relying solely on something like a heat map, which shows aggregated activity after the fact, usability testing lets you watch users interacting with your website in real time.

This comes in handy when you’re trying to understand how your customers physically interact with certain elements on the page. It won’t necessarily tell you why, but watching users can give you a lot of insight. It’s especially useful for multi-stage operations like onboarding or checkout sequences, or to see if elements of your page are as intuitive as you think they are.

(It’s worth mentioning that sites like UserTesting ask the tester to narrate their thoughts as they’re navigating your page, giving you insight into actions and thoughts.)

Best Practices for Surveying

Just get started

Sometimes the hardest thing is getting started. We get that, so our advice if you’re thinking about implementing a customer research program is to just start. Try one thing first, just one campaign.

If you have an email list (and you really, really should), then start there. Examine what areas of your e-commerce site you’d like to work on optimizing first, and create a brief survey asking about customers’ experiences in that realm. Then send it to your email list with a friendly introduction asking them to do you a favor.

You can expand to including that survey on your website, and then move toward asking questions through chat. Starting to add a customer research component to your CRO doesn’t mean you have to sign up for all the fanciest tools right away – just ask your customers about your product and their experience on your site.

Craft the right discovery questions

You wouldn’t ask a personal trainer about stock tips or a stockbroker about a workout routine – don’t ask your different audience segments the same questions.

Generally speaking, you have three main types of people you want to reach through your customer research efforts:

  1. Qualified nos
  2. Customers who bought moments ago
  3. Existing customers

And in general, you’d like to find out four things from each of those groups:

  1. Uncover where customers come from
  2. Discover appeals
  3. Understand reservations
  4. Understand position relative to your competitors

Depending on your goals, you could craft an endless variety of questions to get at those answers, but here are a few you can start with:

  • Why did you choose us?
  • What do you use us for?
  • What value have you gotten out of it lately?
  • What new things would you like to see?
  • Are there any aspects to our products or shopping experience that you find frustrating, or which you’d be likely to change?
  • What’s the one thing that nearly stopped you buying from us?
  • What was your biggest fear or concern about using us?
  • What was your biggest challenge, frustration or problem in finding the right product online?
  • Where exactly did you first find out about us?
  • What persuaded you to purchase from us?
  • Please list the top three things that persuaded you to use us rather than a competitor.
  • Which other options did you consider before choosing our product?
  • Which of our competitors, both online and offline, did you consider before choosing our product?
  • How were you recommended to us?
  • Did you take a look at any of our competitors?
  • On a scale from 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?

Combining Quantitative and Qualitative Research to Identify Testing Opportunities

Of course, asking people what they’re thinking, even in the most targeted and unbiased of ways, doesn’t always get you information you can use.

People might lie. They might not understand a subconscious thought process. They might misremember. They might tell you what they think you want to hear.

Source: You Should Test That
Source: You Should Test That

Humans are, well, human.

So relying solely on customer research isn’t a good idea either. The best foundational base combines insights from your analytics and customer research to give you more three-dimensional insights.

We always call this the “foundation” of your testing process, because taken together, your qualitative and quantitative data can tell you what to test.

There’s an infinite number of things you can test on any page at any time. Remember our client from the beginning of the article, the ones wondering what on earth was wrong with their checkout page? They tested so many things, but only the combined analytics and customer research data pointed them toward the right thing.

If you spend the time and make the effort to build out a reliable analytics program and a customer research program, you can rest assured that the tests you develop and run will provide actionable results.

FREE Download: Save yourself from the missed steps and trial + error and get our bonus document on tools and applications we recommend and use for CRO research.

This article is third in a five-part series, The Foundation of A/B Testing for E-Commerce Growth. To read the rest of the series, click here.

Why You Need Qualitative Research for Effective CRO
This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series eCommerce A/B Testing

We can spend forever crunching datasets and watching people interact with our pages and products, and we still might not have the faintest inkling of what’s going on in their minds as they consider whether or not to buy our product. Data can tell you a lot, but to get context, you need to talk to people.

You Can’t Improve What You Can’t Measure: Why A/B Testing Starts With Analytics

You can't improve what you can't measure: Why A/B testing starts with analytics

Published by

October 29, 2017

The most common question we get from e-commerce shop owners is “When can I expect to see results from our A/B testing?”

It’s a natural question. You’ve decided to invest in the more sustainable and long-term gains you can get through a conversion rate optimization (CRO) program based on A/B testing. You’re looking beyond just traffic as a revenue growth track, and you’re ready to start seeing results from testing – now.

And we understand – we’re in it for your results, too. We also want to see you get the best possible results from taking the time to set up a strong testing program and create revenue gains through deliberate experience design changes. We balance a desire for long-term revenue growth with short-term “quick wins” to build a pervasive testing culture.

Those are the exact reasons why we’re completely honest with most people and tell them: we don’t know when you’ll see results.

A/B Testing Variations
A/B Testing Variations

The exact amount of time it takes to see results depends on a lot of factors. Oftentimes, e-commerce businesses need to set up the foundations of a testing process from the ground up. It depends on what your goals are, and what “results” means to you.

Most of the time, when we first start working with a client, we don’t start with testing at all. We start with understanding your business and the first step in that process is analytics.

The Relationship Between Analytics, Testing and CRO – or “The Gym Analogy”

Our favorite super-simple definition of CRO comes from the folks at Qualaroo. CRO is (emphasis ours):

…the method of using analytics and user feedback to improve the performance of your website.

And then they simplify it even further. CRO is:

…finding why visitors aren’t converting and fixing it.

We love how both get straight to the point, but we highlighted the words “analytics” and “user feedback” in the first definition because those two things are the key to why some organizations succeed at testing and CRO – and some don’t.

CRO is about figuring out where to close those holes in your funnel and improve your visitor experience. You can figure out what you need to do through targeted A/B testing.

But if you can’t trust the numbers underpinning the whole enterprise are accurate…what’s the point? That’s where analytics come in.

A properly set up analytics program provides the accurate data you need to support a testing and optimization strategy. It forms the foundational bedrock of the whole process.

Let’s use what we call “the gym analogy.”

You may see this pop up throughout our blogs because it’s such a useful analogy for understanding the process of testing and CRO.

You hire a personal trainer because you want to be able to lift 300 pounds. On the first day, you ask, “When will I be able to lift 300 pounds?

If you asked, “When will I be able to lift 300 pounds?” your personal trainer would never say “Five months.”

Your personal trainer would probably explain that the ability to lift 300 pounds comes from a variety of factors, including how often you’re going to work out, your nutrition level, the types of exercises you’re doing, your existing strength level, your musculature and more. They would never just say, “Five months.”

As you begin your workout regime, you’ll see a lot of “small wins” on the way to 300 pounds. One day, you’ll be able to lift 100. Another day, you’ll notice you’ve lost weight and gained muscle. And eventually, through meeting a number of small goals, you’ll be able to lift 300 pounds.

In our analogy, your workout routine and all those great exercise habits represent testing. And the foundational thing you need to lift weights? Weights, and weights that you can trust actually weigh what they say. That’s the analytics part of the analogy – data you can trust to form the foundation of your system.

What Makes a “Proper” Analytics Setup

So what makes an analytics setup trustworthy and accurate? There are a few major elements:

1. The Right Tools

You’re only as good as your tools. Here at Objeqt, we’re big fans of industry standard Google Analytics, and here’s why:

  • It’s free. This is a major one. We’re respectful of our clients’ budgets and a “free, powerful enough” tool always beats a “paid, slightly-more-powerful tool” in our opinion. The fact that anyone can sign up for Google Analytics without having to worry about pricing themselves out of their own testing process gives it a major thumbs up in our book.
  • It’s an industry standard. A lot of people in CRO and e-commerce use Google Analytics. This means once you’re set up with Google Analytics, you have lots of options. There are a ton of resources, so you can work with it yourself. Or you can work with a consultant – and most professional testing and CRO consultants should know their stuff in Google Analytics.
  • It’s easy to use and scale. A lot of tools require a lot of study before you can move past the simple early metrics and really get into the meaty stuff. Not so with Google Analytics. Whether you’re looking at very standard KPIs or really diving in, the tool doesn’t get in your way or require hours of tutorials to become proficient at setting up experiments like this one:
Google Analytics Tracking Code
Google Analytics Tracking Code

For more information on how to install Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager you can read our blog posts on Google Tag Manager.

We also like CrazyEgg or its alternatives such as Mouseflow, or HotJar, the useful tools that tell you about your users’ click and scroll habits using heat maps. In essence, CrazyEgg and other tools track where your visitors click, where they start or stop scrolling, and where they linger, through heat maps like this one:

Sample Heatmap
Sample Heatmap

These types of tools provide useful information for understanding customer behavior. All the tools can show the data in multiple types of heat maps, such as:

  • Click maps, that show where your visitors click on your website
  • Hover maps, that track the movements of the mouse pointer
  • Scroll maps, that track the vertical movement of the screen as visitors read your content
  • Uniquely, MouseFlow offers attention heat map that shows the amount of time visitors spend on each section of the page

Of course, their usefulness does not stop there. Every one of these tools features session recorder, where you can watch the interaction of each individual visitor. Their creators have included a few more options, such as form and funnel tracking or extremely useful session recording. HotJar also offers possibility to create surveys and polls.

Of course, everything these tools do can also be achieved using Google Analytics event tracking in conjunction with Google Tag Manager and Page Analytics. However using heatmaps and session recordings adds an important visual dimension that may help gain insights faster.

2. The Right KPIs

The right suite of analytics tools get you started on the right track, but next you have to set up what you’re measuring with those tools.

The things you can measure are almost infinite, and which ones you select will depend on your ultimate goals, but here’s a list of some you can consider to start with:

  • Cart abandonment rate
  • Cart abandonment point (where in the process)
  • Checkout conversions
  • Traffic to sales pages
  • Unique visitors
  • Returning visitors
  • Scroll depth
  • Length of time on page

Once you’ve determined what you’re going to measure, you can set up your tools and platforms to deliver you data on a regular basis.

3. The Right Analysis

Of course, having the data isn’t the end-all, be-all either. You have to know what to do with the data and how to analyze it to see what it’s telling you.

For instance, if you’re looking at your cart abandonment data and you’re seeing a lot of dropoffs right after you ask customers to fill out a form, you could start thinking of tests designed to find out why. Is your form too long? Does it happen too early in the process? Do you require too many fields? All of this stems from being able to read your data.

The Other Side of Research

Of course, data can only tell you so much. For the best possible research-backed foundation for your testing program, you’ll need to talk to your customers.

How to ask your customers the right questions to get information to complement your data is a topic for another day, but it’s important to remember: once your analytics are set up, your job isn’t done.

This article is second in a five-part series, The Foundation of A/B Testing for E-Commerce Growth. To read the rest of the series, click here.

If you’re enjoying our posts on the philosophy and process of A/B testing, subscribe to our free A/B testing email course!

You can't improve what you can't measure: Why A/B testing starts with analytics
This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series eCommerce A/B Testing

CRO is about figuring out where to close those holes in your funnel and improve your visitor experience. You can figure out what you need to do through targeted A/B testing. But if you can’t trust the numbers underpinning the whole enterprise are accurate… what’s the point? That’s where analytics come in. A properly set up analytics program provides the accurate data you need to support a testing and optimization strategy. It forms the foundational bedrock of the whole process.

e-Commerce Growth: Understanding A/B Testing

e-Commerce Growth: Understanding A/B Testing

Published by

October 29, 2017

Imagine you had a goal to ride a bicycle a hundred miles.

Of course, you’d want to make sure you knew how many miles you’d gone. You’d want to strive for that first 10, that first 20, the huge milestone of 50. You’d want to make sure you kept putting a lot of effort and energy into riding that bike so you could get to 100 eventually.

But you’d also make sure you were using the right wheels. You’d also check to see that your seat was the best kind for you, and that your pedals were the right type. You’d want a professional to look over your chain, brakes, alignment, and everything else that makes your bike run as efficiently as possible.

Because if you’re putting tons of energy into just hitting distance markers, you might be able to hit those goals faster and more easily with a tuned-up bike, right?

We should think about e-commerce the same way. The goal is always revenue, always more miles, but instead of thinking constantly about traffic and the sheer effort it takes to keep growing traffic base, what if we thought about the efficiency of the store at the same time?

Ultimately, there’s two ways to improve the revenue of your e-commerce store:

  1. More traffic to your properties
  2. More conversions with your existing traffic

We get super focused on growth and traffic, and for early stage e-commerce stores, we encourage that laser focus. Your store flat-out can’t be successful without traffic. Without traffic, improving your conversions won’t accomplish much, and you’ll lack enough data to even run tests.

But once you’re seeing a solid traffic base and you’re wondering what else you can possibly do to improve your numbers, start thinking about your website in a different way. Instead of, “How do I get more people to visit my site?” start thinking, “How do I get more people who are already visiting to take the actions I want?”

We’re talking about the art and science of conversion rate optimization (CRO), of course, and the main mechanism to conduct CRO – A/B testing, or split testing.

At its most basic, A/B testing sets up one change in one variable, and records any difference in your customer behavior to help you determine if you should make the change or not.

So you have the control, which is exactly what you’re already doing, and then the same exact page with one thing changed:

A/B Testing
A/B Testing

We go a lot more into how to set up effective A/B tests in some of our other posts, but it’s important to keep your tests scientific by only changing one element at a time.

For instance, if you’re trying to figure out if adding an interstitial helps or harms your sales page conversion rate, don’t also change the copy and button colors at the same time. You won’t be able to tell which change caused the uptick or drop in conversions.

It takes some patience, but isolate exactly what you want to improve and change one thing at a time.

Why to Divert Some Attention from Growth Toward CRO

Let’s back up for a minute before we jump further into “What is A/B testing?” and answer “Why A/B testing?”

If growth is so important, why does it make sense to stop focusing solely on growth and start paying attention to CRO?

Because when it comes to getting the best results for your effort, it’s hard to beat the incremental changes and potentially huge gains you can get through optimizing based on testing.

For example, let’s say – as the example below shows – that you have 10,000 visitors to your site during a given period. We’ll call it 10k visitors a month, for simplicity.

Shopping Conversion Funnel
Shopping Conversion Funnel

So every month, 10,000 people visit your site. Of those 10k, 60% visit your shopping area, 30% place an item in their cart and 3% make a purchase, leaving you with 54 conversions, or customers who bought.

Imagine that through some small tweaks like adjusting your sales messaging or shopping cart process, you could increase all of those numbers by 2% at each stage.

Now, 62% of visitors make it into the shopping area. 32% of them put something in their cart. 5% buy it. Instead of 54 purchases, you now have 99, or almost double!

And if you could replicate those small gains across every important area of your web property, you’ve doubled your conversions without making any effort to grow your traffic.

That’s why testing matters. You could carry on running your store as usual, working on growing your traffic, and making changes to your website based on your intuition or what you’ve seen other stores pull off successfully – but nothing will work as well as honing in on what you should be doing based on durable testing.

Difference can be visualized like this:

Conversion Rate Optimization Impact
Conversion Rate Optimization Impact

A strong e-commerce operation may still get some conversion jumps without testing, but a statistically strong and properly set up testing program makes that line follow a much more exponential curve, as successful tests build on successful tests.

The Four Building Blocks of A/B Testing

If you’re ready to add optimization to your toolkit for growing your e-commerce business, that’s excellent. Let’s talk broadly about the things you’ll need to succeed.

Testing mindset

This may feel a bit fuzzy, but it’s the most important thing to arm yourself with before you start working on your CRO. At Objeqt, clients come to us at a variety of success levels and for a variety of reasons, but the first thing we work on is testing mindset and approach to testing.

Here are the things we believe about testing:

  • Testing produces the most sustainable lifts of any tactic you could employ
  • Testing should be done consistently and continuously
  • Testing requires patience to generate the best results
  • A successful testing program should combine short-term successes and long-term goals
  • The entire organization should adopt a testing culture where data- and research-driven testing leads to actionable changes
  • Testing significantly minimizes an organization’s risk exposure
  • Conversion improvement is as or more important than traffic for revenue growth

We talk about all those principles in detail in other posts, but those ideas form the basis of our testing philosophy.

If you’re new to testing, or if you’re thinking of testing as a quick and easy “hack” aimed solely at boosting revenue, we’d encourage you to carefully consider your longer-term goals.

Testing requires patience, and your testing philosophy should be geared toward discovering the right adjustments to make to deliver a better customer experience and sustainable gains for your store – not a quick boost and then on to the next thing.

Traffic for statistically sound tests

As a wise person once said (probably): There’s no replacement for traffic. Get it or you can’t test.

It might feel arbitrary and exclusionary, but there’s a reason behind this idea. If you run split tests with too few visitors, your test results might not be statistically sound.

For instance, let’s say you’re running a test about changing your call-to-action button on a landing page. You only have 10 visitors to that page, and 4 pick red and 6 pick green.

On its surface, 60% for green seems pretty conclusive, but when it’s only a difference of two visitors, it’s hard to justify changing all your buttons to green with any confidence. You might run the same test another day and the results could be swapped because there’s just not enough traffic to test.

The Kissmetrics sample size calculator tells us that this test isn’t statistically significant:

Kissmetrics Sample Size Calculator
Kissmetrics Sample Size Calculator

There are a lot of automatic calculators out there to tell you how many conversions you need to run a statistically sound test, including Optimizely, VWO and our personal favorite from Evan Miller.

Each calculator runs a bit differently. If you have any questions about your model or what a calculator is telling you, we’ll always recommend working with an expert contractor. You get the double benefit of putting a specialist in charge of your testing, and you get to go back to what you do best – leading your e-commerce business.

Quantitative research (analytics)

Analytics needs to come before testing.

This can sometimes be a hard sell for store owners who already have enough traffic to begin a testing program – if that’s the case, most of the time the business is doing well and has had some success with traffic growth tactics.

It’s hard to say, “OK, now it’s time to properly set up a system for accurate quantitative research and analytics data gathering, and only then will it make sense to test!”

But this goes back to that crucial testing mindset – why test if you have a weak research foundation that ensures your test results will be useless? Or worse, dangerously incorrect?

We have a few posts that go into way more depth on how to properly set up an analytics program, including this one that we recommend starting with.

Qualitative research (customer research)

Analytics forms only one part of a solid research program. As we like to tell our clients, you can’t improve what you can’t measure – and data only tells you so much.

Complementing your analytics with a comprehensive customer research program yields the kinds of customer insights you’d only dream about otherwise. It’s crucial to try to understand your customer deeply and predict what will be important to them as they experience your website – before you start testing.

You have an infinite number of things you can test, but not all of them will make a difference to your customers. So you can use this deep research to hone in on the important things and only spend your time testing those.

Testing for Sustainable and Continuous Optimization

So now your bike is as tuned up as it’s ever going to be, and you’ve also put in all the effort growing your stamina and physical ability – you’re ready to cycle a hundred miles. Congratulations!

But bike technology changes. Parts wear down. Things fall out of alignment. Your needs change. If you’re ready to go your next hundred miles, you’ll need to continuously tune up your machine, right?

And e-commerce stores are the same way. Testing helps store owners establish a proven process and system for optimizing the most important aspects of the customer experience on a continuous basis.

This article is first in a five-part series, The Foundation of A/B Testing for E-Commerce Growth. To read the rest of the series, click here.

Want to learn more about how you could grow your revenue through effective testing? Let’s talk! Book a free consultation with one of our experts and we’ll identify your exact next steps.

e-Commerce Growth: Understanding A/B Testing
This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series eCommerce A/B Testing

Once you’re seeing a solid traffic base and you’re wondering what else you can possibly do to improve your sales, start thinking about your website in a different way. Instead of, “How do I get more people to visit my site?” start thinking, “How do I get more people who are already visiting to take the actions I want?”

We’re talking about the art and science of conversion rate optimization (CRO), of course, and the main mechanism to conduct CRO – A/B testing, or split testing.

Fast Loading e-Commerce Websites Convert Better

10 Tips to Speed up Conversion on e-Commerce websites

Published by

April 28, 2017

While you might be able to brush it off as a minor annoyance, you may not realize that slow loading times cost you customers and better website rankings, and cause visitors to hit the back button before you even have a chance to convert them. You don’t have to leave all of that money on the table – you just have to learn to grab it faster. We’ve rounded up our best CRO tips for speeding up your site and improving conversion rates at the same time.

Time is Money

In no area of business is this aphorism more true than e-commerce. The longer your page takes to load, the more money you lose. For conversion rate optimization (CRO), prioritizing speed on every page and in every part of the sales funnel is vital, because slow loading times are the silent killers of e-commerce stores.

“A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.” – Kissmetrics & Amazon

One study commissioned by Akamai (with Forrester Consulting) found an even more troubling figure. Not only do users abandon pages that fail to load within 3 seconds, 79% of respondents said they wouldn’t return to the site to buy again. Slow sites don’t just lose customers on the day they’re slow – they lose them forever.

But time isn’t just money – it’s also search engine rankings (which leads back to money, because if people can’t find you, they can’t buy from you). As of 2010, Google’s algorithms ensure that website speed impacts search ranking (More recently, slow-performing mobile sites are also penalized with lower search rankings).

Consider this too: Your competitors are getting faster. In 2014, the median load time of the top 500 e-commerce home pages was a whopping 10 seconds. In 2015, Strangeloop found that the typical e-commerce site took nearly 5 seconds to load (with 10 seconds still being the average for the top 2000 retail sites). In 2016, Google’s Maile Ohye stated that “2 seconds is the threshold for e-commerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under a half second.”

For now, having a speedier site can still act as an important differentiator for your business. Soon though, maybe even within the next few months, it will be a necessity to keep up with everyone else.

Better load speeds improve:

  • User experience
    KISSmetrics found that 40% of customers will leave a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Additionally, every 1 second delay further decreases customer satisfaction by 16%.
  • Conversion rates
    Before they were acquired by Ensighten in 2014, TagMan ran a test on page speed and conversion behavior. They found that a one second delay caused a 7% loss in customer conversion.
  • Revenue growth
    Whittington Consulting found that a mere one second delay means that websites earning $100,000 per day will lose approximately $2.5 million in annual sales.
  • Search Engine Rankings
    Google has factored your website’s speed into your search engine rankings since 2010. So the slower your e-commerce site, the less likely customers are to find you.

Ready to speed up your e-commerce store? Don’t worry – it’s not hard, but slow speeds are death by a thousand tiny cuts. For best results, you’ll have to address the large and small things that make a big difference in load time.

10 Fixes for Slow e-Commerce Stores

Find a new host

Cheap and free hosting solutions are tempting on the surface, but they come at a high cost – especially if you’re trying to run a business.

Opt for Self-hosted

You’ll really feel the difference between hosted and self-hosted when your e-commerce store starts reaching into the hundreds or thousands of products.
When you need a lot of customization, have to set up complex multi-national web properties, or want to use your own domain for checkout (or require a high degree of integration with your shopping cart software) – in other words, when you need everything to be just so, you’ll want a self-hosted platform. You can, theoretically, do anything with them (as long as you have or can hire the expertise). This becomes more important the larger you grow.

WooCommerce and Magento are two of the most popular self-hosted e-commerce platforms on the market today. Magento is a standalone product (owned by eBay); WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress. Both are open source, which means you can build on or modify your platform according to your needs (and there is a lot of community help available).

But, when you need something that is simple and works, has 24-7 technical support, and is extremely reliable under most circumstances, hosted works well. Shopify and BigCommerce are hosted options – there’s nothing to install or maintain, you just log in and they take care of everything for you. But, if you want something off-menu, you’re out of luck.

Look into your design

Optimize the code of your webpages/themes.

When choosing a new theme, you can check your page’s load speed in the theme’s demo using tools like Pingdom, which I talk about in more detail at the bottom of this article.

Kill Plugins Slowing You Down

With so many plugin options available, it’s easy to succumb to the temptation of just one more, which is why so many e-commerce stores wind up with ridiculous loading speeds and sluggish response times. The best WooCommerce sites have as few plugins installed as possible.

Plugins Slowing Down Websites - sample from WordPress
Plugins Slowing Down Websites – sample from WordPress

Do you have one “must-have” plugin you just can’t bring yourself to unload? Chances are high you can find another plugin, with similar features, that won’t slow your website to a crawl. It’s well worth your while to look.

Minify CSS, HTML & JavaScript

With every new plugin you install or added functionality, code gets a little more bloated. Instead of combining JavaScript and CSS into one file each, your e-commerce website is instead linking to individual files on every page. Try to minimize this as much as possible. The minifying process also includes reducing file size by eliminating unnecessary spaces, notes, comments and characters (these can double the size of a file when left in).

Enable Compression

If your e-commerce site is self-hosted, you can usually find the “Enable compression” option in your server’s settings. If your e-commerce site is hosted, this may be done automatically (or not).

Enable Compression in order to Increase Website Speed
Enable Compression in order to Increase Website Speed

Compress Images

You want a lot of product images on an e-commerce site, but those images come with big file sizes unless they’re optimized. Plugins like WP Smush for WooCommerce or Shopify’s free online image resizer help you reduce the file size of images in your media library, with very little quality loss. Any image over 100k is in desperate need of a smush.

Reduce Image Size

Wait, didn’t I just say that? No – image size and compression are different. Reducing image size means actually making the pixels smaller. For example, if you want a 200×400 product image on your site, that is the size the picture should be on your server. Essentially, the process should look like this: Download your image (or upload the image from your SD card/phone/etc), then manually compress and resize them. Make it a habit.

Reduce Image Sizes
Reduce Image Sizes

Cloud-source content

Also known as browser caching, moving your static files from your website to a Content Delivery Network (CDN) like MaxCDN – in the cloud – is ideal if you receive lots of traffic. A CDN is a network of servers located around the world, so when someone clicks onto your site, they see the static content almost immediately because it’s loaded from the nearest server. Store CSS, Javascript files and images off-site to streamline your entire e-commerce process and improve loading speeds.

How CDN works
How CDN works

Optimize for Mobile

If you’ve optimized everything else, your mobile version should be fast – but is it responsive? Google Chrome lets you check how your website looks in different mobile versions from your computer. Click on the menu (the three vertical dots on the top right), click on “More Tools,” and “Developer Tools.” A window with code will pop up on the right, and at the top is a toggle function.

Optimize for Mobile
Optimize for Mobile

Move Render-Blocking Down

This one requires more technical expertise, but essentially, you want to move all JavaScript code from the header and body (above the fold) to the footer (below the fold) – for your entire website. This article goes into the in-depth how-to. If your technical knowledge is limited and you’re using WordPress, the Autoptimize plugin can help with this.

Your End Goals

Ideally, you want your website to…

  1. Load in under 1.8 seconds.
  2. Be under 3 mb in size.
  3. Have a performance grade above 75 (Pingdom is my favorite tool for this).

To calculate that last one, you’ll need a tool like Pingdom (which I am not affiliated with, but highly recommend).

Pingdom - Check Website Speed
Pingdom – Check Website Speed

Pingdom will help you analyze your e-Commerce site’s entire performance, including load times. It will also help you compare different designs against each other, to find the one that is right for you.

Do you agree with my list? Let me know in the comments which plugins you depend on to keep your e-Commerce site running smoothly.

10 Tips to Speed up Conversion on e-Commerce websites

While you might be able to brush it off as a minor annoyance, you may not realize that slow loading times cost you customers and better website rankings, and cause visitors to hit the back button before you even have a chance to convert them. You don’t have to leave all of that money on the table – you just have to learn to grab it faster. We’ve rounded up our best CRO tips for speeding up your site and improving conversion rates at the same time.

Time is Money

In no area of business is this aphorism more true than e-commerce. The longer your page takes to load, the more money you lose. For conversion rate optimization (CRO), prioritizing speed on every page and in every part of the sales funnel is vital, because slow loading times are the silent killers of e-commerce stores.

SEO Tips & Tricks You Can Apply to Improve Your e-Commerce Store Search Engine Placement

Basic SEO You Can Apply to Improve Your Search Engine Placement and how to make it work with CRO

Published by

October 16, 2017

Anonymity isn’t a luxury e-Commerce sites can afford—you can’t sell products if nobody knows you exist! That’s why even the simplest e-Commerce site needs to think about their SEO. In this article, we have provided five e-Commerce SEO tips below to improve your search engine rankings.

The good news is you don’t need to be a wizard to work a little SEO magic and get your e-Commerce store noticed. With the right plugins/extensions, some great content, and a few other DIY tricks, you’ll be able to organically boost your SERP ranking and win new leads.

Here are five basic SEO strategies you can use to improve your e-Commerce website.

Focus on Unique Content

Hargreaves Hill Brewing Company
Hargreaves Hill Brewing Company

Great content is the backbone of SEO. When Google crawls your website for indexing, your content is one of the main things it considers. It also examines how your users interact with your content—whether they stay to read or if they’re bouncing elsewhere immediately.

The very best e-Commerce sites always:

  • Offer unique value – Whether we’re talking about product descriptions, homepage text, or image meta data, it’s important that this copy is original and valuable. Create content that offers genuine value to your customers that they can’t find elsewhere and replace manufacturer descriptions with your own wherever possible.
  • Add product descriptions – Every product should have a unique description. Google uses these descriptions to bring people to your page; people use these descriptions to talk themselves into buying your product. In recent years, a trend towards more exciting and engaging product descriptions has allowed companies to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. Just read the J. Peterman catalogue for inspiration.
 J. Peterman catalogue
J. Peterman catalogue
  • Optimize page titles – Home page, category, and individual product page titles are among the most important elements of your website, SEO-wise. Certain plugins (which I talk about more below) will help you ensure that your titles appeal to both search engines and visitors. Never write just for the Search Engine though – it’s people who truly make or tank your SERP ranking.
  • Includes keywords and phrases – Try to include words and phrases that your users search for in your product descriptions. Make sure your keywords are included naturally into your product descriptions, and avoid “keyword stuffing.”
  • Never duplicate pages – Sites that contain duplicate pages don’t rank as well on Google. Take care to avoid creating duplicate content, and eliminate it whenever you realize it exists (e.g. if you’ve accidentally created identical search and category pages).

Remember, the very best content is informative, well-written, and accessible. It should use clear, concise and compelling language that tells your visitors instantly what value your page offers, while still sounding friendly and welcoming. Also see the article we wrote on what makes a great e-Commerce page.

Improve Your Site Speed

e-Commerce SEO tips - Improve Your Site Speed
e-Commerce SEO tips – Improve Your Site Speed

A second or two might not seem like a lot of time, but it can feel like an eternity when you’re waiting for a website to load or a sale to process. WooCommerce businesses have to be especially on the ball, as many real world examples have proven:

  • Walmart, which boosted conversions by 2% for every 1 second they reduced load times.
  • Shopzilla, which increased revenue by up to 12% after their average load time dropped from 6 seconds to 1.2 seconds.
  • Auto Anything, which bumped sales by 13% when they cut their page load time in half.
  • Amazon, which loses 1% of their sales for every 0.1 seconds a page takes to load.
  • Google, which lost 20% of their traffic and ad revenue after their page load time jumped from 0.4 seconds to 0.9 seconds.

More recent data continues to corroborate these examples. Radware’s 2015 study revealed just how closely page load time and customer conversion are linked:

Radware 2015 Study Pageload Results
Radware 2015 Study Pageload Results

Fortunately, you can take some simple steps to improve your page load times. To find out how, check out our ten tips on how to speed up your e-Commerce website.

Practice SEO

Yoast SEO Tools for WordPress and WooCommerce
Yoast SEO Tools for WordPress and WooCommerce

I’ve written before about the anatomy of a perfect e-Commerce store design, and a lot of that advice applies here. You want your website to use plenty of big, beautiful images and have a clean, simple layout. Some other tips include:

  • Keep navigation simple – Make it easy for both search engines and your visitors to find your most important pages. Make sure your website includes a sitemap that allows users to easily find what they’re looking for.
  • Optimize for multiple platforms – If your website isn’t responsive on mobile and desktop platforms, your SERP ranking will take a hit. Make sure that your site display, navigation, and speed remain high quality even on mobile devices.
  • Think about URLs – When Google crawls your website, your URL should give it a clue as to what your page contains. Strings of numbers won’t rank nearly as well as something clear like /baby-toddler-toys/.
  • Use the right plugins – Even if you’re a beginner, you can rely a lot on SEO plugins – many (but not all) of which are designed for for example for WordPress WooCommerce stores. Some of the best include:
  1. Yoast SEO for WordPress plugin – This plugin makes maintaining good on-page SEO easy. It includes templates for your post titles and meta descriptions, a way to avoid duplicate content by setting up canonical links, and the ability to create primary categories for your products to clean up site navigation. The premium version adds even more value, by including a redirect manager and the ability to optimize products for multiple different keywords.
  2. Yoast WooCommerce SEO plugin – Designed for WooCommerce, this plugin includes the ability to use breadcrumb links (also in the Yoast SEO plugin), but will also help you clean up your sitemap and produce unique content tailored for WooCommerce SEO. It also makes it easy to share your content across social media. And speaking of social media…

Don’t Forget About Social Media

Social Media SEO example
Social Media SEO example

Are you using social media to boost your e-Commerce business? According to WeAreSocial’s Digital in 2016 report, nearly 1/3 of the world’s population is tapped into social media. This means that a site optimized for social media will not only rank better on search engines, but it will also reach more customers.
Social Media Plugins for WooCommerce Sites:

  • Login With Social Media – Allows users to login and checkout with simple one-click registration through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Windows Live, VKontakte, Instagram, PayPal, and Amazon.
  • WooCommerce Wish List – A wish list plugin lets your users create custom catalogs and remember products for later purchasing. Logged in users can also share their wish lists with friends and family for easy shopping suggestions
  • StoreYa – StoreYa imports your WooCommerce store to your Facebook fan page. Facebook remains the most popular social media network worldwide and it’s fast becoming one of the most popular platforms for e-commerce.
  • Social Coupon for WordPress – When customers share your product pages they get special discounts—encouraging more shares, more traffic, and more sales! You can even advertise these benefits on your checkout pages, shopping carts, and product pages.
  • WooCommerce Instagram – A picture tells a thousand words, which is why WooCommerce relies so heavily on beautiful pictures to hook users and sell their products. Showcase your photos on Instagram for even more exposure.

Social Media Plugins for Other e-Commerce Sites:

Shopify

  • Facebook Store lets you show and sell products directly on your Facebook page, allowing customers to not only buy your products, but share them easily with their friends.
  • Social Media Stream displays your posts from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest and Tumblr on one page, helping you increase social media followers (and reducing time spent embedding pictures into posts)

Magento

  • AddThis works for Magento and WordPress, and is one of the most popular methods for sharing products on social networks (you choose which). It’s similar to SocialShare, a Magento extension that makes it possible to configure a share button for Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Pinterest.
  • Social Login lets users log in to your store via their social profiles, letting you know who’s looking (and shopping) at your site.
  • Facebook & Twitter Promo is an extension that increases the number of your social media followers (and buyers) by letting you configure promotional codes to offer visitors to your store if they start following you on your chosen social networks.

BigCommerce

  • Yotpo offers a social review system that makes it easy for your customers to write and read reviews of your products on your website – very important for social proof!
  • Justuno Social Bribery is a pop-up app that offers customers coupon codes when they sign up for emails and newsletters, or Like, Tweet or +1 your products. It also enables behavioral-based offers that can reduce cart abandonment and increase conversions.

With so many people interacting and sharing through social media, it’s no wonder that Business Insider found that e-commerce referrals through social media rose almost 200% between 2014 and 2015. If social media isn’t already integrated into your WooCommerce site, there’s no time like the present to start.

Use HTTPS on Your Completed Website

Use HTTPS on Your Completed Website
Use HTTPS on Your Completed Website

Data breaches continue to be the number-one threat facing businesses, so it’s essential that you protect your customers’ information. Google also used HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) as a ranking factor since 2014 — so sites with better encryption get preferential SERP results.

Standard HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) is fine for personal blogs, but if you’re handling sensitive information (such as payment options or personal data) for your customers, it leaves their information vulnerable. HTTPS solves this problem by encrypting data using an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate.

An SSL certificate provides you with three layers of protection:

  1. Encryption
  2. Data Integrity
  3. Authentication

Note that to change your URL from HTTP to HTTPS you’ll need to get and configure the necessary SSL certificates on your server. You should get these certificates from a reliable certificate authority (CA) and get a certificate with the highest security possible (2048-bit key). Make sure your certificate gives you the coverage you need.

The good news is that switching your website to HTTPS normally isn’t very time-consuming — your hosting company can usually handle most of the process. Most hosting companies offer packages which include an SSL certificate and take care of the installation on your behalf. You just have to handle the easy work: changing your links from HTTP to HTTPS.

Here’s what you should do:

  • Change your address and your Site Address to start with https instead of http under your Settings > General tab.
  • Update your site links to link directly to the HTTPS resource or use protocol relative URLS for other domains.
  • Redirect users and search engines who may be looking for your HTTP site, using server-side 301 HTTP redirects.
  • Make sure that Google can still crawl and index your HTTPS page using Fetch as Google.

You do not need to submit a change of address to Google to move your site from HTTP to HTTPS.

e-Commerce SEO Tips Conclusion

Basic SEO doesn’t have to be a headache and it shouldn’t eat up your time. The best thing you can do for your website is install some simple plugins and brush up on Google’s official guidelines.

The bottom line is that you should provide your customers with unique and useful content, make your products easy to find and share, and ensure that every shopping experience is painless and secure. When you do these things, you’ll already be taking simple steps to ensure that your website receives better search engine placement – and serves your customers better. As you can see by following the simple e-Commerce SEO tips outlined in this article you can get started right away. So what are you waiting for?

Basic SEO You Can Apply to Improve Your Search Engine Placement and how to make it work with CRO

Anonymity isn’t a luxury e-Commerce sites can afford—you can’t sell products if nobody knows you exist! That’s why even the simplest e-Commerce site needs to think about their SEO.
The good news is you don’t need to be a wizard to work a little SEO magic and get your e-Commerce store noticed. With the right plugins, some great content, and a few other DIY tricks, you’ll be able to organically boost your SERP ranking and win new leads.
Here are five basic SEO strategies you can use to improve your e-Commerce website.

Shopping Cart Abandonment Ultimate Guide

Ultimate Guide to Shopping Cart Abandonment

Published by

October 16, 2017

According to Shopify, shopping cart abandonment causes online retailers to lose 67.45% of sales. Baymard Institute, a web research company based in the U.K., puts the average slightly higher at 68.81% (the current peak of a steady increase they’ve observed over several years).

That’s right: For every 100 customers on the brink of buying, 68 of them leave without purchasing.

But here’s a more positive percentage point: Business Insider Intelligence estimates that 63% of abandoned purchases are recoverable. You can win 42 of those wayward customers back.

Current Sales Shopping Cart Abandonment Calculation Example
Current Sales Shopping Cart Abandonment Calculation Example

What is cart abandonment?

Shopping cart abandonment is when online shoppers add items to their ‘carts,’ but fail to complete the purchase (while leaving those items in their carts).

Most online retailers are flummoxed by shopping cart abandonment. Why would a buyer express interest in your product, to the point of adding it to their cart, and stop just short of entering their credit card or PayPal information? What drives shopping cart abandonment?

Why cart abandonment happens

BI Intelligence surveyed shopping cart abandoners in June 2014 (the most recent statistics we could find). There was a nearly even split among three top reasons:

  1. Shipping costs made the total purchase more than expected (aka. Unexpected costs) – 58%
  2. I was not ready to purchase but wanted to get an idea of the total cost with shipping for comparison against other sites. – 57%
  3. I was not ready to purchase, but wanted to save items in the cart for later. – 55%

These three are so simple to address – and just imagine the impact a few minor alterations could make to your bottom line. But before we go into solutions for the Top Three, let’s look at the rest of the list:

  1. My order value wasn’t large enough to qualify for free shipping. – 50%
  2. The estimated shipping time was too long for the amount I wanted to pay. – 37%
  3. I didn’t want to register/create an account just to make a purchase. – 28%
  4. My preferred payment option was not offered (ie. debit card, PayPal, Google Checkout, etc.) – 25%

These four are more complicated, and not all of them can or should be fixed depending on your business strategy.

Number four, for example, “My order wasn’t large enough to qualify for free shipping,” is a result of a technique that works really well (most of the time) to increase purchases: setting a minimum purchase for free shipping. We recommend A/B testing to find out whether your profits rise more from setting a free-shipping minimum, or by offering free shipping on everything (eliminating that reason for cart abandonment).

Number five is also a little tricky because it depends on what shipping options are available to you, and what you’re willing to pay for speed. But, this reason tends to turn up more often around the holidays, when there are gift-giving deadlines, so you might want to consider offering expedited holiday shipping if it makes financial sense to do so.

Six is easily fixable: Don’t require purchasers to register or create accounts just to buy. Most e-commerce stores make this an optional step, with the other option to “purchase as guest.” If you really want to capture customer information, you could always offer a coupon code valid on registration.

Seven, though at only 25%, is one we’ve all probably done. When your credit card is in your wallet, and your wallet is across the house, and there isn’t a PayPal option – it’s easier to abandon the cart than make those 60 steps to your wallet and back to retrieve your credit card. If possible, include a payment option that doesn’t require having a credit card physically in-hand.

How to reduce the 3 Top Reasons for shopping cart abandonment

Shopping Cart Abandonment Top Three Reasons
Shopping Cart Abandonment Top Three Reasons

To review, the top three reasons cited for shopping cart abandonment are:

  1. Unexpected costs
  2. Wanting to know the total costs before making the decision to buy (or to compare with other sites)
  3. Wanting to save items for later

Unexpected costs are the worst. Often, they’re shipping costs, or even especially high tax. Now, people understand that shipping costs money and that taxes are unavoidable, but they don’t like to be surprised. That feels like you’re sneakily trying to slip something past them.

It’s an easy fix: Add an “Estimate Shipping” button in your cart page, before you ask customers to enter their billing information.

This, incidentally, will also address (if not solve) the number-two reason, though you won’t be able to prevent customers from shopping around to compare prices. But, if you make it easy to see the total cost and your competitor doesn’t – you’ll likely win that sale anyway.

You could, however, go another route and offer a price-match guarantee, or, if you know you have the best prices around, give customers the option to “Compare our prices with [insert competitor].” This saves your customer some leg-work, keeps them on your page, and establishes you as the best deal in town.

Then there’s reason number-three: Saving items for later. Many online retailers solve this by adding a wishlist function. If you don’t have a wishlist, you can expect customers to treat your shopping cart as one, leading to confusion and frustration on your part.

See if you can count how many strategies Modcloth employs on its Cart page to prevent abandonment.

Modcloth Shopping Cart Example
Modcloth Shopping Cart Example

From top to bottom, they:

  • Put a time-limit on their “Flash-sale,” even going so far as to put a Countdown, for added urgency.
  • They include two options for those who aren’t ready to buy: “Default to Wishlist” and “Save for Later.”
  • They have a minimum-purchase for Free Shipping (and will tell you exactly how much you need to spend to get it, making adding just one more thing to the cart all-too tempting).
  • They include the Estimate Shipping button.
  • And, they invite you to Apply a Discount, so you can see the discounted total right away, rather than waiting and wondering if it will show up on the billing info page.
  • They also offer PayPal Checkout, for those of us who can’t be bothered to dig out our credit cards.

It’s a brilliantly constructed cart page designed to reduce abandonment and maximize purchases. Even so, you can’t win’em all.

After cart abandonment

If, even after you’ve implemented every best practice to reduce cart abandonment, you’re still seeing carts loaded and forgotten, you still have options.

Ad retargeting

According to AdRoll, which clearly has a vested interest, only 2% of shoppers convert on their first visit to an online store. Retargeting, they claim, brings back the other 98%.

What is ad retargeting? Retargeting, essentially, tracks people who visit your site and displays your ads to them when they visit other sites (like Facebook).

Facebook Retargeting Shopping Cart Abandonment example
Facebook Retargeting Shopping Cart Abandonment example

Does it work? Absolutely. The average click-through rate for display ads is .07% – but the click-through rate for retargeted ads is around .7%. For cart abandonment, specifically, showing cart abandoners the product they’ve selected works incredibly well. When PeopleTree, a fair-trade fashion retailer, used retargeting on their non-converting visitors, they saw 30% of those visitors return to their website (plus additional sales worth 6% of turnover within the first month).

Email recovery campaigns – The step-by-step process we’ve seen work

“Oops! You forgot something!” is a playful take on the email recovery campaign, in which cart abandoners receive an email campaign “reminding” them that they’ve left items in their carts. The more personalized these emails are, the better the results, but many people find them annoying. After all, some might have forgotten, but others abandoned their carts on purpose (likely for one or more of reasons we’ve cited above).

According to ConversionXL, cart abandonment email campaigns are “the biggest money maker by far, plus it’s conversion rate to sale (due to customers being deep in the buying cycle) is a lot higher than most other campaigns due to buying intent.” Get this right, and you stand to win – big.

How it works:
Create a multi-step checkout that asks for the email address up-front. Using pre-submit tracking, you capture those email addresses even if the user doesn’t hit the “next” button.

Then create a series of one to three emails that trigger when a shopper leaves an item in their cart and leaves the page. Make sure you use mobile-responsive email design.

The emails auto-send at set intervals. Send the first email within 24 hours, the second within two days, and the third within a week.

For best results, each email should include a picture of the item, a strong call-to-action to get the user to complete the purchase, and some purchase-anxiety-reducing measures like:

  • Adding reviews and testimonials about the item, or about purchasing from your store.
  • A guarantee, refund policy information, and your ‘easy-return’ policy.

What you don’t want to do is to use accusatory language, or language that sounds creepy. We’ve seen variations that begin with “Dear [name], we noticed you left your [product] in your cart today…” Nobody likes to feel watched, or like they’ve done something wrong.

It’s much more effective to take a customer service-oriented approach by sending the email from a real person’s address, including a picture of that person, and asking questions like:

  • Was there a problem?
  • How can we help?

Use the responses to identify points of real friction you can fix to optimize your sales funnel.

Test it

Now, we believe that no business in this modern age should have to resort to “guessing” whether a strategy works. So we encourage you to test the efficacy of your cart abandonment email campaign by running the following test.

  1. Define a group of cart abandoners who receive your new email campaign.
  2. Define a group of cart abandoners who receive no email marketing campaigns.
  3. Then, after three months, compare the revenue per customer for each group.

These are the easiest sales to save

When customers abandon their cart, they’ve already expressed more interest than most. In fact, they’re telling you a valuable secret: They want to love you. But something is holding them back, and with the right conversion rate optimization strategy, you can find out what it is, fix it, and reap the rewards.

Ultimate Guide to Shopping Cart Abandonment

According to Shopify, shopping cart abandonment causes online retailers to lose 67.45% of sales. Baymard Institute, a web research company based in the U.K., puts the average slightly higher at 68.81% (the current peak of a steady increase they’ve observed over several years).

That’s right: For every 100 customers on the brink of buying, 68 of them leave without purchasing.

But here’s a more positive percentage point: Business Insider Intelligence estimates that 63% of abandoned purchases are recoverable. You can win 42 of those wayward customers back.

What Makes a Great e-Commerce Product Page?

What Makes a Great e-Commerce Product Page

Published by

October 16, 2017

e-Commerce product page one an online store, they’re more important than any other pages on your website – even your homepage (Your homepage, after all, primarily directs traffic to product pages). Product pages are your workhorses, the ones primarily responsible for closing the sale after your marketing efforts have delivered visitors to them.

They also bear much of the responsibility when you lose a sale.

When you do them right, product pages increase conversions, differentiate you from your competitors (even when your products are similar or identical), engender trust, and even create brand advocates.

In short, a great e-commerce product page will:

  • Sell more.
  • Stand out.
  • Win fans and influence people, creating brand advocates.

But here’s the thing: There’s no single precise formula for what makes a great e-commerce product page. Each store is as different as their target audience, and product pages that succeed are those that best capture that originality. That said, we’ve identified 14 elements that have proven to increase conversion rates for our e-commerce clients.

14 Elements We’ve Seen Increase Conversion Rates of e-Commerce Product Pages

An accurate product title

Product titles have to set up (or reinforce) an accurate expectation for the lead, an expectation that begins the second that lead sees your ad on Facebook or your snippet on their search engine results page. This month we’ve started seeing ads, especially on Facebook, that try to catch people by setting them up for one expectation, and delivering something entirely different. Consumers are sensitive to the possibility of being scammed, and nobody wants to feel like a dupe. But even perfectly legitimate e-commerce stores can look sketchy if their ad, landing page, website, social media presence, and product pages aren’t consistent (in design, content, and product titles).

The title of this product from Paddywax couldn’t be clearer. Expect to smell leather and oakmoss.

Paddywax e-commerce product page
Paddywax e-commerce product page

Ditch meaningless adjectives

Get rid of’em. They don’t belong anywhere on your product page, on your website, or, dare I say, in your life (you can use them with your spouse – that’s it). Once again, you’re coming up against the natural distrust that the consumer has towards vendors, and just because you say “Fantastic Vacuum Cleaner!” doesn’t mean your moniker is convincing. What you really need are specific details that support why your vacuum cleaner works better, lasts longer, sucks up more dirt, debris and dander and leaves a room so clean, your mother-in-law can’t even criticize it. Copy like that sells because it focuses on the features and benefits that speak to your lead’s primary pain points. Who needs adjectives when you’ve got all that?

Write for the reader first, Google second

SEO is important, but it’s not the most important thing to consider when writing your product title and description. Your reader is the one hitting the buy button – write for them first. But, you also need to get on their radar, which SEO enables you to do. First, have an accurate, descriptive product title, and check Google Analytics for the keywords people use to find products like yours. Use those keywords in your description copy. We’ve also noticed that including the product SKU in the product title is beneficial to leads searching for that exact item.

Include the long and short of it

I think every product should have a short description, of 100 words or fewer, in addition to the longer product description. The shorter description isn’t just the long version shortened, it’s a brief, original outline that works like the extract in WordPress – the little blurb that pops up on search results pages that tells searchers what they can find when they click. The short description gets people on the page, and the long description is where you have the chance to convert them into buyers. Include what the product does, how it’s used, and any other relevant information that sets up the lead to successfully use it. This is where you can really stand out from your competitors, because very few e-commerce companies bother with really good product descriptions. The ones that do tend to rise to the top.

The N’Finity Pro wine refrigerator sold on Wine Enthusiast uses the short & long technique to great effect. See their short description at the top, which is, technically, a value proposition: “a hybrid of the most sought-after wine cellar features in one complete unit. All the convenience of higher-end wine cellars at half the price.”

Nfinity pro e-commerce product page
Nfinity pro e-commerce product page

We’re not done with this product page, because taken as a whole, it’s got everything you need and then some.

Write stand-out descriptions on your e-commerce product page

Some brands positively capitalize on the ingenuity of their product descriptions. The J. Peterman catalogue reads like a choose-your-own adventure novel, drawing as many readers as buyers (and their clothes aren’t even that great). But they’re not just selling clothes. They’re selling a fantasy, which can be very lucrative. Check out the product description under this perfume from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab: “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself. . . . This blend is an artful deception: a sweet gilded blossom lying over a twisted and corrupted core.” Somewhere in there is an actual description of the scent, but it’s the emotion they’re selling more than anything.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab e-commerce product page
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab e-commerce product page

Your product descriptions don’t have to take quite that much artistic license, but here’s what they should do: They should reflect the personality of your brand. Personality stands out, and when it’s authentic, it can’t be copied by your competitors (at least not well).

No matter how artistic your product descriptions may be, do make sure that they clearly state what the buyer will get. An e-commerce study by NNgroup found that 20% of failed purchases (purchase process started but not completed) could be attributed to incomplete or unclear product information that leaves shoppers questions unanswered.

Make your BUY button clear as day

It should go without saying, but there are many, many vague Call-to-Action (CTA) buttons on product pages. Make your button big, easy to spot, and place it above the fold near the product image for best results.

Place your benefits top and center

The best place to list e-commerce product benefits, according to ConversionXL Institute’s heatmap survey, is above the BUY button. That arrangement resulted in the highest number of people seeing the benefits and recalling them afterwards.

Bullet it

Also according to ConversionXL Institute’s research, “people read bulleted text for a longer amount of time than paragraph text.” Though, they note, this depends on your buyer persona. Technically-minded buyers tend to read more text than other buyer types, who would rather have the important points bulleted.

This Livescribe product page cleverly places benefits under the “Features” column in bullet points, while putting “features” under “what you get.” Either way, the combination of these bullet points tells readers exactly what they’re getting. (For an in-depth explanation of features vs. benefits in copywriting, read this).

Livescribe e-commerce product page
Livescribe e-commerce product page

Improve & add more product photos

In the world of Pinterest-as-marketing, you must have professional quality product images. Even hobby-bloggers have professional quality photography these days, and businesses have no excuse for shoddy pictures. We recommend including 6-8 photos of each product from different angles, as well as in use by actual people. Even this chopstick – the simplest product one can imagine – has 3 photos on this Etsy page.

Etsy e-commerce product page
Etsy e-commerce product page

Photos can also be used to do the equivalent of the artistic product descriptions mentioned above – they can sell not just an item, but a fantasy of the lifestyle that goes with it. Modcloth does an incredible job of this on their home page.

Modcloth e-commerce product page
Modcloth e-commerce product page

Add videos, if possible

Videos work well for demonstrating how a product works and giving people a clearer picture of what to expect – which can drive up conversion rates. The more a consumer feels they know exactly what to expect from your product, the more they trust you, and the more likely they are to buy. Videos go a long way in garnering trust, which is why Zappos uses them in nearly every shoe product page. Shoes are notoriously difficult to sell online because every foot is different. It’s an uphill battle to make people believe a shoe will be comfortable and look good on them, but videos bridge that gap.

Zappos e-commerce product page
Zappos e-commerce product page

FAQs & User Reviews

Amazon debuted an interesting feature on their product pages a few years ago: Frequently asked questions from customers that other customers were prompted to answer. This ingeniously served two purposes: It answered questions AND provided social proof from other customers who bought the product. Social proof is also why posting user reviews on your product page work to increase conversions (even if not all of the reviews are positive). It’s a psychological phenomenon where people, essentially, go in the direction they see other people moving in. On the internet, that often means buying the product that has the most purchasers (or reviewers).

One study found that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from people they know; and 72% of consumers trust businesses more when they read positive reviews. According to a Harvard Business School article, reviews (and FAQ answers, presumably) “fill in the gaps by providing a tremendous amount of information on which to base decisions.”
That wine refrigerator from Wine Enthusiast includes both lower down on the same product page:

Wine Enthusiast e-commerce product page
Wine Enthusiast e-commerce product page

“Have a question about this? Ask people who own it.”

Related products & upsells

Pop quiz: What do you need to buy if you’re also buying a wine fridge? Wine, of course! And maybe a bottle opener, and a decanter, and an aerator, and new Riedel wine glasses (get the picture?). When selecting “related products” to feature on each product page, ask yourself: What other products would be useful additions that enhance the experience?

Nick Offerman’s “Build Your Own Damn Stool” kit combines a brand-personality-fueled description with upsell options (personalizing the product with initials) and a related product offered at a discount, the Spokeshave Kit (for shaping wood legs – like the wood legs that come with the stool kit).

Build your own damn stool e-commerce product page
Build your own damn stool e-commerce product page

Social proof & social media sharing

Social proof a concept as old as marketing itself. It’s a psychological phenomenon listed in Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Influence that refers to people relying on the feedback and actions of others to inform their decisions. If they see other people doing something or buying something, they’ll be more inclined to follow suit. Which is why you’ll see more and more product pages including user reviews and testimonials – they prove that other people are trying, buying and enjoying the product.

Hey, you’ve put a lot of work into making your product page not just informative, but downright entertaining. People are going to want to share it – so make it easy. Because what you’re building here isn’t just a customer base, but a fan base. Besides improving conversions, we’ve seen more people sharing product pages because they’re informative, interesting, funny, and useful – or because they’re beautiful. Pinterest is a powerful tool when your images are “pin-worthy.” Adding a widget to your product pages that allow for easy social sharing is simple and well worth the effort.

Notice the simple “Share” icons on the right side of this page, just under ratings and reviews (which is more conversion-raising social proof).

Lucky Scent e-commerce product page
Lucky Scent e-commerce product page

Ensure safety

This is very simple, very basic, but essential: Include language that details how safe it is to order from your site, and use a recognizable, reputable payment system. This heirloom seed company below has a CTA that reads “Proceed to Secure Checkout,” a claim that is backed by the four major credit cards they accept, as well as PayPal “The safer, easier way to pay.”

Secure e-commerce product page
Secure e-commerce product page

Shipping costs, shipping policy & delivery details

From the beautiful to the banal – yes, your product page needs both, because while people will spend money on the dream, they want the details when it comes to shipping methods and cost. Clearly state them on the product page so buyers know what they’re getting, how they’re getting it, and when they can expect it to arrive. If you offer free shipping, say so. What you don’t want is for the buyer to see any surprises once they’re in their shopping cart.

One strategy I’ve seen work very well is to include a message like, “Purchase now for free 3-day shipping” – everyone wants immediate gratification!

Zulily product pages tell you when a product will ship, with an option for more details on shipping via pop-up window.

Zulily e-commerce product page
Zulily e-commerce product page

 

 

 

 

 

 

e-Commerce product page summary

In short, great e-commerce product pages are:

  • Accurate
  • Clear
  • Informative
  • Trustworthy
  • Brand-personality driven (in a way that fits with your target audience)
  • And, most importantly, written to ensure customers ultimately find success with the product

If you have those basic elements in place, you don’t need all the bells and whistles – but the bells and whistles can help you differentiate your brand from all the others out there.

What Makes a Great e-Commerce Product Page

Product pages. For e-commerce stores, they’re more important than any other page on your website – even your homepage (Your homepage, after all, primarily directs traffic to product pages). Product pages are your workhorses, the ones primarily responsible for closing the sale after your marketing efforts have delivered visitors to them.

Hello world!

Published by

April 28, 2017

This is the first post on Objeqt.com. We hope to be posting on a regular schedule about the things we encounter and learn by working with our clients. We look forward to get started and this blog will hopefully be of help for store owners looking to increase their sales.

This is the first post on Objeqt.com. We hope to be posting on a regular schedule about the things we encounter and learn by working with our clients. We look forward to get started and this blog will hopefully be of help for store owners looking to increase their sales.