11 Things Not to Do in E-commerce Conversion Rate Optimization

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11 things not to do in ecommerce cro

It was all about the “bad and the ugly” practices in e-commerce conversion rate optimization when SiteTuners CEO Tim Ash teamed up with Luke Diaz, Customer Account Executive at Optimizely. In the webinar called “Optimizing E-commerce Sites: What Not to Do and Why,” the two presented 11 practices that are detrimental to increasing your conversion rate. 

1.Burning hours on the “perfect” design

Design may be the holy grail of your homepage, but some website owners spend too much time and money perfecting the new design only to find out later on that it’s outperformed by the original. The takeaway here is not to spend too much time chasing perfection - get a medium to good fidelity design, test it, then iterate upon  that.

2.Moving something familiar

Return visitors are important, and changing placement of something familiar will alienate them and result in a drop in clicks. When moving things around, consider two factors: severity of the click drop and the amount of time you’ve put something in its new location. Luke warns that sometimes the new design may perform worse temporarily, and then people come around and start using the new design afterwards. So, it’s important to let the tests run long enough for the shock of the new to subside. Tim adds that the proper methodology of changing and seeing which design is inherently better or worse is to test it on new traffic.  

To identify what to test, Luke suggests using software like Crazy Egg and ClickTale. They help you with ideation by telling you where people aren’t clicking and which parts of your navigation are completely overlooked. 

3.Making assumptions about your visitors on the homepage

Don’t assume things about your audience that’s not backed by data, especially if you have products that are very targeted to a segment of your demographic. Luke gives as an example - the homepage of DealChicken.com, a daily deals web site, which has large banner of pastel-colored silicon watches that immediately alienates the non-pastel-colored-silicon-watch-wearing first time visitors. 

4.Obsessing over your homepage hero and failing to measure all stages of the funnel 

You could be spending a lot of time creating that large image that takes up valuable homepage real estate but only attracting lesser qualified buyers. Make sure you track purchase conversions downstream. Don’t just focus on the homepage - check the click-through rate, search, the product page exit rate, add to cart success, and your share tools engagement.  

5.Using hosting services without fail-safes

Luke gives an example: an e-commerce site that uses third party hosting services that specializes in images for their purchase call-to-action. When the hosting service went down, the e-commerce site’s Add to Cart button was removed. 

6.Beating the big  drum 

This is what Tim calls putting just one big message or a large banner on the homepage without consideration to the business’s value proposition or conveying what the site sells or does.  Remember that the primary purpose of your homepage is navigation. If you need to recommend new products to your visitors, Tim suggests three ways to incorporate new product discovery:

  • Call out “featured” or “new” products within each product category. It’s generally not advisable to have a “new” or “latest arrival” category on the homepage. 
  • If you have a more complicated decision to make in your wizard, you can surface new products more frequently. 
  • Cross-sell or upsell new products on the product detail page, or add them to the cart page before the visitor checks out based on what they already have in the cart. Sometimes you can even show your new products on the confirmation page after the purchase is completed.

If you have storewide promotions or need continuity for an offline campaign you’re running, and you need some visual scent for your visitors to follow deeper into the site, devote 30% of your homepage to these events and 70% for your permanent navigation. The worst case scenario is when you use 50% of your homepage for promotional stuff. 

7.Using technological gimmicks

Tim gives an example: on the product page of Hugo Boss visitors have to highlight a portion of the image for that part to be enlarged. The problem with this is that it’s a confining experience when the visitor only sees a tiny part of the image. If you’re going to enlarge the image, make a picture that’s going to take up the whole screen, so the customer can see the largest possible version. Don’t clip the image and make the customer pan around to see different parts of it. Hugo Boss also does this in a way that the enlarged image covers the call-to-action block and the Add to Cart button. 

The takeaway is to think through the technological gimmicks you’re going to implement and make sure they’re not detrimental to your site’s user experience.

8.Having too many choices and an unclear CTA

E-commerce is different from things in life that people generally like exploring - books, videos, and music. In e-commerce, too many choices destroy usability. Customers will not invest the time to look at your navigation bars or the large collection in your catalog. Instead of using valuable homepage real estate for a rotating banner or product level stuff, use it to organize your products into a few simple product categories with images of constructed collages representative of those categories. For advanced visitors, have an advanced navigation to drill down one more level with popular sub-categories.  

Just as choice is not your friend when you’re presenting your products, you also don’t want to overwhelm your visitors when you want them to click the call-to-action button. Make your CTA visually dominant by making other elements of the page benign and boring and taking away embellishments.  

9.Not making the site look trustworthy 

Visitors form their impressions of a site within a 20th of a second.  They judge a site based on professionalism and presence of transactional trust symbols. Transactional trust symbols also matter on the product detail page because that’s when customers think hard about adding a product to the cart.  

The takeaway is to move up your most important trustmarks. Put them above the fold. Trust symbols at the footer do not serve your purpose of influencing the customer as 85% of web users do not scroll down to the bottom of the page. 

10.Visually distracting your customers

A site can be professional and classy yet fail because of graphic design that undermines the purpose of selling.  If you put what look like giant billboards on the page, your visitors won’t know where you want them to look. Putting embellishments on the page that does not directly support the conversion action results to the marketer’s loss in control of visual emphasis on the page. A giant commercial for one product on the site merely distracts the customer from permanent navigation or from discovering other useful things on the site. 

11.Having Multiple Personalities 

Motion is another homepage problem that can distract your customer from completing the conversion action. The visitor can’t help but look at what’s moving because that’s how our brains are wired.  If you have any kind of motion or carousel on the page, it will keep jerking your visitor’s attention. 

Using a carousel or a rotating banner also conveys that you don’t know how to prioritize and you can't identify what deserves permanent real estate on your homepage.  Again, your homepage should mostly be static navigation and a little of promotional stuff. Throwing everything on the wall and seeing what sticks is basically guessing, and the problem is your guesses are irrelevant to most of your customers. 

Jumping into a/b tests will not get you anywhere if there are fundamental missteps that you have made when deciding something about your site. Get rid of the worst mistakes by following the best practices above, and hack away at the rest of the smaller ones with tests. 

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