Ever had one of those friends who buys the latest iPhone but only uses it to take selfies and send IMs? Annoying, right? Yet, that’s exactly the same thing you’re doing to your eCommerce site when you’ve not optimized the heck out of it.

Your eCommerce site is a full time employee that works round the clock, trying to  net you conversions and make you money. But this employee needs to be given all the right tools and resources to achieve all its deliverables.

And that’s why we’re here. We want to look at some of the tweaks you can make to your eCommerce website which will improve the shopping experience and increase conversions.

1. SEO

An eCommerce site is still a website, so you still need to optimize it the same way we do blogs and websites. That means looking after off-page optimization such as friendly, transparent URLs (so people know what they are getting when they choose a link) and the right target keyword to help your products show up when people search.

One of the important issues from an SEO viewpoint is avoiding duplicate content, which is sometimes difficult when you are listing the same types of products.

A cool way to fix this is by concentrating all the options for a particular product on one page and using canonical URLs to give the main product page the SEO juice. Take Amazon for example. Amazon has all the color variations for their products on the same page—buyers only need to click to see the right preview and product description. In addition, variations in the product itself are available from a tabbed box below the color options.

eCommerce sites typically have a lot of duplicated information, say, for different products in the range. A canonical URL tells search engines which is the preferred one. If your site runs on WordPress, the WordPress SEO plugin makes it easy to identify a canonical URL by typing it into the correct box.

Don’t forget to use semantic markup for great looking search results and to help mobile users find your products. And optimize images, too.

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Also, register for Google’s Free Online Directory – Google my Business.

2. Trust

The difference between choosing one site and another to purchase the same product isn’t just about price (even though that usually comes into play). Shoppers have to trust your business before they part with their cash.

Check your analytics and you’ll see that visitors to your website look at your About Page to see who you are, checking out your location and contact details (also useful for local search) and visiting your social media profiles. Make sure you have all this information, then back it up with trust signals for the products and services themselves.

Humans are social animals. People tend to follow the lead of their peers. If everyone else appears to be using something, you can be sure others would want to get in on the action. Social proof is an influential selling tool that can be used to convert your website visitors. Use existing customer success as leverage. Adding social proof, via customer testimonials and/or case studies, to your eCommerce website almost always increases conversions.

Don’t forget to include “trust” seals, such as from Interswitch or MasterCard (for online transactions) which will bolster confidence.

3. Speed and User Experience

One of the most important aspects of an eCommerce website (or any website for that matter) is page load speed. A slow loading site equals lost revenue. Syncshow believes that you just have two seconds to get people interested; for every second after that you will lose 10% of your visitors.

Going by that math, that means it takes just 7 seconds for half your visitors to disappear. It’s no wonder Google is looking for a sub-1-second page load!

Speed up your site by optimizing images, your CSS delivery, enable browser caching and compression.

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Navigation is another key UX issue. If you’re shopping online, it can be pretty frustrating if products don’t appear in the logical place in the navigation. Nobody wants to keep looking for specific product info. Try to figure out nifty ways to present all information your customers would need to make a purchase decision.  Smashing Magazine has some excellent tips on categorizing and listing your products to help shoppers find them more easily. As they point out: “If they can’t find it, they can’t buy it.”

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When planning your navigation, think in terms of how users look for your products. Some customers know exactly what they want, while others are buying gifts and need suggestions. Let your site’s navigation make it easy for customers to find what they need, no matter which type of buyer they are or what stage they are in in the conversion funnel.

You could also create categories and suggestions that are different from the usual suspects on every other eCommerce. e.g. shop by occasion, shop for your boss, shop for your fiance, shop for him/her, shop for a birthday gift, a graduation gift etc

4. Shopping Experience

As your inventory grows, finding a particular product can get difficult. Sometimes looking for a specific product can feel like trying to locate a needle in a haystack. So, ensure that your site search works well. That means creating appropriate tagging for all products while keeping the customer and his potential search keywords in mind.

To improve customer loyalty, conversions and sales make sure relevant information about related products, delivery times, return policies and more, are easily visible to customers. Having all relevant information gives customers a feeling of security while making purchase decisions.

Second, make product descriptions interesting. Avoid generic descriptions; instead, make sure the description identifies the problem the product solves for the reader. Obviously, you should only attempt this if you’ve nailed your customer research. Once you know who your primary target audience is for a product, you can get creative in writing product descriptions that speaks their language.

You can even provide more in-depth product descriptions such as entire pages dedicated to buyers’ guides, which will also help with SEO since Google favors long-form and in-depth content. Use split testing to see which product copy provides the best conversions.

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Finally, don’t neglect video. Video is a great way to show people what they are getting and how to use it. And with the growing importance of video for mobile and social media users, there’s even more reason to make this a key target for optimization efforts for your eCommerce site.

5. Seal the Deal

Shopping cart abandonment is a major issue for eCommerce sites and that’s why re-marketing is so important. People abandon shopping carts for several reasons. Some do because they ran out of time, some because they don’t want to create an account or because the process is too complex. Sometimes they leave because they get a nasty surprise about shipping costs or they can’t pay with their preferred payment provider or method.

And then there’s the issue of load time (see point 3). Delayed load times can increase your cart abandonment rate significantly (it bears repeating).

Smart marketers can turn these abandoned carts into sales — they already know what products the consumer is interested in. Even if the user don’t put something in a cart, you still know what products they looked at on the site. Various messaging vehicles paired with incentives and promotions can be used to address this and push more people to make the plunge.
Other things you could try to reduce shopping cart abandonment include:

  • Show people how far they are in the process so they know something is happening.
  • Reduce the number of pages needed to complete a transaction.
  • Ensure that shoppers know up front whether a product is available or not.
  • Keep the checkout page simple so that there are no distractions.
  • Create resumable carts so that shoppers who come back later can resume shopping immediately.
  • Tweak your Calls to Action.

And there you go. Take these five prescriptions and call us in the morning. If symptoms persist after trying all five, please consult a doctor, (or a priest).

Feature image via phptravels