In this post, we’re going to focus on 5 things you should concentrate on to improve your e-commerce website.
Improving your e-commerce website is something that any store owner would be interested in. This article isn’t going to be “light”, we’re talking hardcore vision and tactics here.
Each of the following things will take time to improve and implement. You can’t rush it. It’s going to take you a long time to cover everything here.
Do me a favor – open up your Trello or a Google Doc or whatever you use to keep track of things and have it ready to take notes as you run through this article. There’s a lot of information here and it’s probably going to spark a few ideas.
Once you’ve brain dumped everything on the page, you’ll need to pick something to start with. I recommend you go with whatever will be the lowest hanging fruit for you. This will be different for everyone.
Let’s get started.
Improvement Area #1: Customer Friendliness – How Friendly Is Your Site For New Customers?
Organisation of your store is EVERYTHING.
If it’s not easy for a brand new customer to navigate your site and find out information about your products then you’ll be pushing shit uphill.
It’s important that your site structure is easy to visualise, understand and navigate.
Take a brutally honest look at your site. If you were brand new to it, having just come from a Google search and landed on the homepage, what would you think?
Does the first “call to action” jump out at you? Are you using the right call to action?
If you have lots of products, is there a nice simple way to see all the categories those products belong to?
Your store should have good searchability and this means two things:
- The site is actually searchable via a product search box (important if you have lots of products)
- Organised via categories
Beyond searching it’s also important that your category pages and product pages are well explained. Never under-estimate customers and their potential for being confused and err on the side of providing too much information.
It’s good practice to add enough information to a page so that you answer all of the questions you can think of that a customer might get confused about when they’re on that page.
Lastly, your site should look nice and be professionally designed.
If you can’t afford a professional designer (and let’s just agree, they can be pricey and out of reach and your money might be better spent elsewhere), then you should look at a nice templated design that will see you through the initial growth period.
The main things to look for in a design, in the beginning, is that one that is least complicated looking with plenty of negative space. Negative space is white space, the amount of space around elements on the page. It makes things appear less complicated.
If you follow these basic rules you’ll be giving your customers a pretty good experience.
Improvement Area #2: SEO Friendliness – Are You Visible, Searchable and Giving Google What They Want?
When it comes to store SEO there are tons of guides out there, but the thing is you don’t need a laundry list of advanced tactics. You just need to get the basics right.
Here are the basic SEO things that you absolutely need to get right:
The main heading tag
Headings on your page are some of the most important elements that let search engines know what your page is about.
The very biggest heading on your page should be what is called an <h1> tag. You can tell what it is by right-clicking on it and clicking “Inspect” in most modern browsers. You may need to turn on “Development Tools” to see this option.
If the heading is NOT an <h1> tag, meaning the text looks like <h1>Your Heading Text Is Here</h1> then you need to get in touch with your theme author (to slap them) or better yet, find a developer to fix it.
The H1 tag should be the main keyword you are targeting for that page. This will either be the product name or a keyword that explains what the page is about.
The page title
Woah, hang on? Page title and main heading… aren’t they the same thing?
Well, the short answer is: sometimes. But sometimes you might want to make this shorter or more closely aligned to your keyword than you can make your product’s title.
It’s the second most important thing to get right as far as SEO for your store is concerned.
The Page Title (sometimes called the Title Meta) is the set of words shown on the tab in your browser. It’s also a hint to the search engines of what to use as the blue linked text in the search engine results.
The length of it varies because, contrary to popular belief, it’s actually based on the width of the characters in the sentence, not the number of characters.
Being that Google is moving to mobile first indexing, it’s important to use a tool that will help you calculate the optimal page title length.
Set a custom meta description
While a custom meta description will NOT affect your rankings, it does indirectly.
When you set the meta description of the page you are giving Google a suggestion of what to use in the description part of the search result and the visual representation of this can affect the conversion rate of the search result listing. This, in turn, affects the ranking because listings that are clicked on are more likely to appear higher in the rankings.
Long story short, set a custom meta description for each page that sounds nice and will get people to click through to the article.
Short product description snippet
On product pages, it is important to provide a shorter snippet of 50-150 words that describe the product.
I think you should use your main page keyword here (often the product name) as this bit of text is an important descriptor for the rest of the page.
Not only is this good for your customers, it is also picked up by search engines.
Longer form content
Product pages need to cater for a number of different types of people. Among them the “data hungry” folks who want lots of information to chew on.
The idea behind providing a long-form description as well as your short description is the search engines know about this “data hungry” crowd. They know they love extra information if it’s available.
I know it’s a lot of work to provide long descriptions for ALL of your products, but once you do it, you will be very much rewarded with better product pages and better rankings.
Videos & imagery
This part is subjective, but based on my own research and having consulted on hundreds of e-commerce websites and seeing thousands of stores via the products that we sell, giving your customers images and video is just as important as providing long form descriptions.
Just as some people are “data hungry” there is another segment that is what I call “visual learners”.
These are the types of people that learn better by doing and seeing. If you can give them that experience with your products then you’ll be ahead.
Great product images, 360-degree views and especially video is the best way I know how to cater to this segment of your audience.
Improvement Area #3: Create A Funnel – Map Out The Customer Journey On Your Store
What is a funnel?
A funnel is a set of steps that describe the journey your customer goes on in order to become a paying customer.
The more you know about these steps the smarter you can be about acquiring customers.
What you are doing is qualifying people and narrowing down to just the ones that will become customers.
Let me illustrate with an example set of funnel steps:
- Customer searches for a topic related to your industry
- They land on a blog post on your site because you rank well for the term
- When they go to close the page, they see an Exit Intent lightbox popup
- This leads them to enter their email in exchange for a free bit of information
- The information talks about your products
- They’re browsing around on Facebook later the next day and see one of your remarketing ads for a product related to the information they opted in for
- They come back to your site and hit the product page
- They find it resonates with them and it solves the problem and ends up adding the product to their cart and checkout
- This leads to them becoming a customer
- They see an email from you a month later and come back and buy more
Once you have a funnel like this, you can focus on filling up the top of it with as many people as you can.
Can your store have multiple funnels? Absolutely. And it probably already does.
Think about every single way that a customer can get to placing an order and work your way backwards to the funnels that can be manipulated easiest.
You want to find the easiest funnels to manipulate because then you can start working on getting more people through each step.
Improvement Area #4: Increase Your Product Page Conversion Rates
One of the biggest leverage points to improve your e-commerce store is your product pages – that’s why I’ve spent quite a bit of time on them already.
Many of the suggestions I made in Improvement Area #2 above (SEO) are similar to what you need to do here.
To recap, here’s the top 3 that you need to do first:
- Have awesome product descriptions (both long and short)
- Cater for different types of people (some are visual, some are data driven)
- Apply your SEO best practices religiously (to every page on your site)
After you have done this, there are two other areas that can really help the conversion rate of your product pages.
The first might seem very simple but stick with me. We’re in the weeds now, right down to the tactics.
Make your “add to cart” buttons actually look like buttons
So many designers these days use flat, nondescript boxes that don’t actually look clickable. Sometimes they’re even a weird shape. They also make the mistake of making their button colour the same as the rest of their design.
Ideally, your add to cart buttons should stand out and actually look like buttons.
I personally recommend that your “action” buttons throughout your site should be in a colour that is complementary to the colour scheme of the rest of your site. You can use an online colour wheel tool to figure that out.
Not sure if you have good enough buttons? There’s a quick and easy test that you can do.
Load up a typical product page on your site and get up out of your chair and go stand on the other side of the room.
If you can’t clearly discern the button from the rest of the layout you have a problem and you should be on the phone to your web designer ASAP.
Declutter your product pages
Nothing distracts a person more from the task they’re meant to be doing than giving them a hundred different options.
Declutter your product pages so that the options are clear and simple and only include what is necessary for the page. This goes for your sidebar too.
Ideally, you should also use negative space (aka white space – the space surrounding an object or section on your page) liberally. Giving things more negative space means it has breathing room and can be visualized by the eye more easily. This, in turn, makes it feel less confusing.
Improvement Area #5: The Checkout Experience – Improve Your Cart & Checkout Conversion Rates
If you haven’t measured your cart and checkout conversion rates, do that now.
How? It’s quite simple really.
- Go to your Google Analytics and drag the date selector to cover a few months (the more data the better)
- Go to the Behaviour section and view the visits to three different things: Your cart page, your checkout page and your order received page
- Checkout Visits / Cart Visits * 100 = Cart to Checkout conversion rate percentage
- Order Received Visits / Checkout Visits * 100 = Checkout to Order conversion rate percentage
Once you know these numbers you’re ready to start optimizing with the following.
Give multiple payment options
For some reason that I haven’t been able to 100% figure out yet, some people just hate particular payment providers (often for no logical reason at all).
For example, they might hate paying with their credit card directly via Stripe (god knows why, it’s amazing) or they might hate PayPal fiercely (usually due to a bad experience in the past).
The solution, I find, is to give them two payment options. I do this on all my sites by using both PayPal and Stripe payment gateways. You can use any other payment gateway than your “main” one and get the same effect. Just having the second option seems to take away that friction point.
Be upfront about shipping costs (or better yet, get rid of them!)
The absolute best way to remove any objections about shipping is to not have any shipping costs at all.
But if you can’t do that, be upfront about them as early as possible.
Ideally, if you can do it, geolocate the person visiting your store and give them a shipping estimate on your cart page before they even get to your checkout page and enter their shipping details.
If you haven’t done conversion optimization activities before then these next suggestions might seem extreme.
I want you to remove ALL unnecessary distractions from the checkout page and ideally on the cart page as well.
- The main menu in the header of your site – your header should contain only your logo (the logo should be clickable)
- The footer menu (you can leave the copyright notice and anything else that is not clickable that you want there)
- Any fields on your checkout form that aren’t necessary for the transaction
- Any unnecessary buttons or text that distract from the form or complicate things
This will make your checkout page a streamlined form and there will be nothing else clickable on the page.
In my personal testing doing this provides the best conversion rates on a checkout page (in any industry). My theory is that by the time they get to the checkout page they’re there to do one job: to put their information in and give you their money so they can get their stuff.
Your job is to not bugger up that process!
A common question is “Is it OK to have a button that says Continue Shopping?” Of course, it is!
In fact, I recommend you put this up the top of your page and give them that option to get back to where things have menus and things to click on. The rest of the page though should have no other distractions from the task they’re there to do.
Have You Been Taking Notes?
If you want to improve your e-commerce site it’s important to chunk it down.
There’s so much that you can do to improve it that it might seem overwhelming. Heck, this article alone is over 2,500 words.
I hope you have found some actionable information here.
My recommendation is to go back through your notes and pick an area of focus. Make that your priority for a whole month and see what you can do to improve it. A lot can happen in a month, you might be surprised how it has an effect on your revenue.